You book the plane ticket, and it's official: You're heading to London!
But what that really means is: You’re heading straight into the heart of the wizarding world.
There are so many big decisions to make. Do you bring the DVDs with you on the flight, or just the books? And which ones?
If you've got Amazon Prime, you can rent any of the books for free on your Kindle, which will lighten your carry-on considerably.
The flight can't go fast enough, and the fact that you need a plane to fly to London makes you feel like such a Muggle.
You land in London, and you're ready to see EVERYTHING.
You're walking near Covent Garden, and there's Knockturn Alley. It's eerily quiet.
And across the street: The real-life Diagon Alley. There are bookstores and antique shops all over!
Nothing can get you down — not even the Muggle sights that are way too close to such magical locations.
You wander the streets looking for magical places. You tap every brick. Surely there must be some secret entrances here somewhere.
And the signs are everywhere that the wizarding world is all around you. You turn a corner and, hey, it's the Durmstrang ship!
You hop on the Muggle Underground — it's what Arthur Weasley would've wanted — looking for more.
There are a few Harry Potter walking tours, so you take one. Two hours later, you're ready to rewatch every film in the series.
But soon, you start to get disappointed by ordinary, non-magical sites.
And what's with this money? Pounds and pence? Things would be so much easier if the Brits just used galleons, you think.
You crave even more, so you buy a ticket to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter studio tour, about an hour's journey outside London.
Inside, it's all there. The doors open, and you're in the Great Hall.
The tables are already set. Can't we just stay and eat? The house-elves are probably cooking anyway!
But there's no food, so you keep walking. Look, there's the Gryffindor common room!
There's the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets!
Look at the Hogwarts portraits!
There's a spot for you to practice your wand skills. You're waiting in line behind an 8-year-old in a Ravenclaw scarf, and you're just as excited as he is.
After a few minutes, a strange thing starts to happen: You start to feel a sense of the history of this world.
It seems strange to say — you are aware, after all, that Hogwarts is a place that only exists in the mind of each and every person who reads the books or watches the movies — but still, there's a history here. You look at the Daily Prophet headlines and remember the moments that have come before.
Everything here — that pair of Omnoculars, the Knight Bus parked outside — they're all a part of this world that you know and love.
The walk continues. You step outside, and they're selling butterbeer! Real butterbeer!
You walk past Privet Drive. No one is looking at Privet Drive, because who wants to waste time there when there's magic everywhere else?
You keep walking, and you stumble into Diagon Alley. It looks so different from the one in London.
There are broomsticks floating in shop windows, and gag gifts at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. It's wonderful.
And then you walk into this room, and it takes your breath away. It's the thing you've been waiting for all along: Hogwarts.
The room is huge, and even still, you're looking at Hogwarts in miniature. But it's there, every tower and bridge and doorway. You start to realize how massive this place is.
There's music playing in the background — the Harry Potter soundtrack, naturally — and you've got goosebumps. It's so big, and so grand. You walk around it, and stare up at it. It's incredible.
You start looking around the room, and you feel a sense of timelessness to this place.
Then after three hours of history and magic and possibility and wonder... you step into a gift shop.
Some of the merchandise is really, REALLY tacky, and you're a little embarrassed that it's here at such a special place.
There is Slytherin merchandise for sale, too. You can't understand why it's here. Who self-identifies as a Slytherin? Who is proud enough to walk around in Slytherin colors?
But you're still in awe of this place. And you realize: Your journey into the wizarding world is just beginning.
So you head back to London, and take the tube to King's Cross. You go upstairs, into the main train station. You're not quite sure where to look, but then there it is, right there en route to Platforms 9 and 10.
You grab your belongings at Platform 9 3/4. You collect your breath.
And with all of your thoughts on your friends at Hogwarts, you're finally off.
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