The Epilogue

An epilogue is something that appears at a story's end. It provides closure, perspective, or - in the case of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - a glimpse 19 years into the future where suddenly people have receding hairlines and a smattering of cheeky children. 

I have been granted a surprise fifth blog post, and as such, am facing a bit of a problem. How do you continue a blog when you have already concluded it, the loose ends all tied up in a neat, square package ready for owl delivery?

I can't jump into the future to tell you where we end up. The Ministry of Magic is clear on this: the use of Time-Turners are highly regulated and strictly controlled. And anyway, the entire Ministry stock is currently trapped in an infinite time-loop, so there goes that idea.

What I hope I have provided over the course of this blog is perspective. When you truly get down to it, meeting people from the Internet is weird. It's gaining more acceptance, but it's still frowned upon. People think you're meeting pale, lurking strangers living in their parents' basements. Or they assume you're talking about online dating, in which case, meeting people from the Internet is not so uncommon. When you remove romance from the equation, confusion abounds. What do you mean you're meeting a friend from the Internet? How do you make friends online? The kind you tell secrets to, whose voice you've never heard, whose face you've never seen. 

I kept quiet about these friends for a long time. When I joined our group in 2007, I hid within the massive scope of the fandom and didn't latch on to anything (or anyone) meaningful. But then we grew closer. Names started looking familiar, members developed connections, people added one another as friends. These days, most of my friends and family know who these people are (I'm pretty proud of my mother for letting me pack my bags and go on trips to meet them.)  Society is now interested in the evolution of friendship formation. Despite the downside, or perhaps because of it, there is intrigue in this crazy, modern, intimate form of pen-palling. 

I used to call my Internet friends precisely that: Internet friends. In turn, my friends from real life were called Real Life friends. We would separate our Real Life friends from our Internet friends, until we realized just how redundant that was. Some of us formed closer bonds to our virtual companions. Some of us moved to new cities and traversed the invisible, weakening line between "real life" and "virtual life". To me, that line has melted into nothingness.

There is no more division. We live in a new world, one that is wider and webbier than ever before.


RAISA PATEL

Raisa Patel is a writer, crafter and full-time geek. She enjoys baking cupcakes, advocating for social justice, and listing things in threes. Raisa is currently waiting for her Hogwarts letter, which she expects to receive any day now. 

Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  Sites I Follow: The Leaky Cauldron

The Nonexistent End

If you are joining us on this journey for the first time, I would please request that you scroll all the way to the end of this blog and read from the bottom up. If a narrative must come full-circle, this is in your best interest. I promise. 

Recently, I thought about how a scrawny, bespectacled wizard influenced my life for the first time. Not just as a book series, but as a cozy cloak of invisibility that I have worn for most of my life. You can’t see it, but this series took my hand and told me where to go. It gave me formative experiences and friendships that only a communal love can provide. 

It’s a bit like Newton’s Cradle. One sphere is pulled back and released, unseen energy and momentum charging through the remaining spheres. When this energy reaches the final sphere, it absorbs the initial impact and swings outward correspondingly. The entire phenomenon is almost instantaneous. When I was seven years old, my teacher decided to read us Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 16 years later — time that has passed in seconds — I am where I am today because of it.

In our virtual group, we are a strange, blended family that anthropologists could spend years studying (in fact, when our group was still public, we were once the unwitting subject of one man’s study on social dynamics.) Together, we've gone through new jobs and lost jobs, marriages and break-ups, births and deaths. We have expanded into a network of other common-interest groups. We have a YouTube channel, where we answer questions, compare accents, and show our friends where we live. We send each other holiday presents every year. We keep numerous postal services in business with the amount of letters and drawings we send back and forth (although between the two of us, I am pretty terrible at responding).

 A small sample of our correspondence. 

A small sample of our correspondence. 

In Ottawa, it’s not just Sarah, Helene, and I anymore. Other group members have slowly trickled into the fold. Ping moved from Montreal to continue his education and liked us so much he decided to stay. Prabhjot came here from Edmonton to fulfill a residency in family medicine at the Ottawa Hospital.

I decided I wanted to write — scripts, novels, articles, anything — because of the people Harry Potter introduced me to. I won my first writing contest after my experience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. And there’s something else, too.

This summer, I sat on a hot rooftop patio of a coffee shop with Helene. I requested to meet her there so I could ask her a few questions.

Helene graduated from this program, Professional Writing, six years ago.

She answered my questions. She told me to give it a go. So I did. 

 The Ottawa Crew: Helene, Prabhjot, myself, Sarah, and Ping.

The Ottawa Crew: Helene, Prabhjot, myself, Sarah, and Ping.


RAISA PATEL

Raisa Patel is a writer, crafter and full-time geek. She enjoys baking cupcakes, advocating for social justice, and listing things in threes. Raisa is currently waiting for her Hogwarts letter, which she expects to receive any day now. 

Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  Sites I Follow: The Leaky Cauldron

Edinburgh, Scotland

A group of Norwegians and one Argentinian sit in an unremarkable train station in Watford, a town in Hertfordshire, the United Kingdom. They are joined by one Canadian, followed by three Brits. Somewhere, chugging along on an overground train, two Americans and another Canadian sit sheepishly. They did not check the schedule, and they are late.

Like any good story, this one must begin with the dramatis personae. This tale includes Ida, from Oslo, Norway; Jehiel, from Mar del Plata, Argentina; Emma, Emily, and Heather P., from York, Solihull, and Birmingham, England; Taryn, from Calgary, Canada; Joe, from Brussels, Belgium; and Heather L. (who you'll remember from the previous post) and her fiancé Bennett, from Boston, USA. 

 From left to right: Heather P., Emma, Ida, Jehiel, me, Heather L., Emily, and Taryn. We are holding cutouts of the group members that couldn't make the trip.

From left to right: Heather P., Emma, Ida, Jehiel, me, Heather L., Emily, and Taryn. We are holding cutouts of the group members that couldn't make the trip.

At the start of August, 2013,  we decided to embark on an ambitious pilgrimage. We planned – from six countries in six time zones – to travel to the city we considered our mecca: Edinburgh, Scotland.

We began our trip in the unremarkable train station, where from Watford we travelled to the Warner Brothers’ studio where the Potter films were made. Heather, Bennett, and I were the late ones, and our arrival dampened what could have been a magical moment. Instead of emotional introductions after years of virtual contact, we rushed through our hugs and hellos and zipped off to the studios to make our tour in time.

That evening, dining in London, we were finally able to absorb being in one another’s presence. We learned what drinks people liked and the way they pronounced words. The following morning, we congregated at Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station. We boarded our train (from a different, less fictional platform) to Edinburgh and ate Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.  Only later did we realize our trip bore more than an uncanny resemblance to Harry’s own journeys to Hogwarts. 

Edinburgh is the city that broke all our hearts. Everything about it is a stunning juxtaposition of ancient, old, and new. We hiked Arthur’s Seat, a golden-green hill with crumbling red paths. At the top we saw a castle, a Parthenon, and rows upon rows of housing. I jumped into the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest international arts festival in the world. We visited the café where J.K. Rowling wrote and gathered inspiration for the Potter books and the graveyard where she sampled names. We stood in the Balmoral Hotel, where Rowling said goodbye to Harry, where she signed a bust of Hermes marking the completion of the series, where she drank half a bottle of champagne and sobbed.

On this trip, Joe and I walked the Baker Street thoroughfare in London, indulging our penchant for Sherlock Holmes. Taryn and I explored the hallways of the BBC headquarters. Jehiel showed us his phoenix tattoo, the letters "FT" in the centre to honour the first two letters of our group’s name. Emma and I locked ourselves out of our Edinburgh flat, throwing rocks at the windows in an attempt to gain entry. Heather P. taught me invaluable lessons in tolerance and positivity. Emily and I ran away to Paris and Versailles.

At the very end of the Harry Potter Studio Tour, there is a room holding only an enormous model of Hogwarts Castle and its grounds. The lighting shifts with the seasons, highlighted by touching music from the various scores. We stood there for an hour, marvelling at how it looked so wonderfully real.


RAISA PATEL

Raisa Patel is a writer, crafter and full-time geek. She enjoys baking cupcakes, advocating for social justice, and listing things in threes. Raisa is currently waiting for her Hogwarts letter, which she expects to receive any day now. 

Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  Sites I Follow: The Leaky Cauldron

Madison, New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire has a rather alarming motto: "Live Free or Die." Out of all the U.S. state mottos, it’s probably the most extreme – a blatant declaration of independence screaming out from every licence plate.

The first time I went to New Hampshire, I much preferred death to living free. I was doing a four-day hike of the White Mountain range, and was, having as much athletic prowess as a rolling pin, shockingly out of my depth. This time, I was looking forward to an entirely different kind of adventure.

In the late summer of 2012, Sarah, Helene, and I packed ourselves into a rented Ford Fusion and made our way to the Caroll County town of Madison, New Hampshire. There, we would meet three people: Heather, Mia, and Michelle.

 From left to right: Sarah, Heather, Mia, myself, Michelle, and Helene.

From left to right: Sarah, Heather, Mia, myself, Michelle, and Helene.

In 2011, I met Heather for the first time. From Boston, she bravely rode a Greyhound bus through the night to meet us in Ottawa for the final Potter film. The best part about Heather is that she hugs you twice every time you see her. The first is in standard greeting; the second is what naturally happens when long-distance friends meet after extended absences. It’s like she doesn’t believe you’re a corporeal thing in front of her.

Mia and Michelle are twins, biologically fraternal, but you’d never know. When we met, I considered Mia an acquaintance, and I had barely spoken to Michelle. Do you want to know the secret to cementing a friendship that has sprouted in the invisible place where data is sent and received, the network of networks known as the Internet? Cheap wine and a competitive board game. Within hours of meeting, Michelle and I had teamed up and achieved harmony at a cerebral level. It is completely irrelevant that we lost by a significant margin. What matters is that by day three, I was unintentionally mirroring their slanted, southern accents and braiding their hair. It was like we had slipped effortlessly into one another. After the trip, I took to calling them the Sunshine Twins, long before I made the connection that they hailed from a state known for the same virtue.

 The lakehouse in all its thirteen-sided glory.

The lakehouse in all its thirteen-sided glory.

We stayed at Heather’s lakehouse on Pea Porridge Pond. Besides having the distinction of being an alliterative delight, the pond comes in three sizes: little, middle, and big. Heather’s house, red and white and thirteen-sided, sits on the biggest of the lot. We spent the weekend comparing accents and chasing unrelenting spiders off the docks. We hiked a trail off the Kancamagus Highway in Conway, a town north of Madison full of covered bridges that look like long, stretched- out barns.

Minutes before we went our separate ways, Heather adamantly escorted us to one of the world’s largest glacial erratics, the Madison Boulder.

It was mossy and ghosted with graffiti, but something about the fact that an ice sheet laboriously carried this enormous boulder exactly here, from the place of its birth, seemed remarkably fitting.  

 Standing in front of the Madison Boulder.  

Standing in front of the Madison Boulder.  


RAISA PATEL

Raisa Patel is a writer, crafter and full-time geek. She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, advocating for social justice, and listing things in threes. Raisa is currently waiting for her Hogwarts letter, which she expects to receive any day now. 

Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  Sites I Follow: The Leaky Cauldron

The Beginning

“Hello?”

Sarah’s voice is several pitches lower than I thought it would be. It is so unexpected I hang up immediately. Instantly, I am nervous. I never thought the girl with the bright teal eyes and flushed cheeks would sound like this. Unconsciously, I had projected personality quirks onto a profile picture I had interacted with for the past two years. What was I getting myself into?

In 2006, Brett Mosberg, a high-school senior in Chicago, Illinois, created a Facebook group called Fuck This…I’m Going to Hogwarts.  It was made mere hours after the group feature debuted on the site. The name was as uncouth as it was relatable – in a year, group membership grew from 30 of Brett’s friends to more than 500,000 people worldwide. These were the days before the social media website became infiltrated with advertising and privacy concerns. Facebook groups didn’t simply repost the most viral content on the web, they were the most viral content. At its height, the group had more than 938,000 members. It was the largest Harry Potter Facebook group in the world.

As with any tale of success, there are bound to be some pitfalls. In 2011, Facebook decided to archive all of its groups in order to update to a new format. Despite their promises, we lost five years worth of photos, artwork, and reams of threads on canon conjecture. Gone was the record of friendships formed and first-hand reactions to the publication of the final Harry Potter book – the only time the group and a new Potter book release would coexist. We tried creating the group again, but the damage was done. Membership had plummeted by a whopping 99 percent.

However, friendship is an enduring and persistent thing. A group of 30 of us, the closest within the million, reconvened in a small, hidden group on the website. Though we are now a microcosm of our past, our bonds transcend border lines and time zones. We exist in a new kind of together.

In 2009, the year I met Sarah, I had no way of knowing this would be my future. I peered out of my 20th-floor dorm-room window and saw the heads of Sarah and another group member, Helene, bobbing below. Remembering I had just hung up on her rather rudely, I gathered my resolve and walked to the elevator.

 Five years later, Sarah’s voice is still my favourite thing about her.  

 

 Sarah and I the day we met.

Sarah and I the day we met.


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RAISA PATEL

Raisa Patel is a writer, crafter and full-time geek. She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, advocating for social justice, and listing things in threes. Raisa is currently waiting for her Hogwarts letter, which she expects to receive any day now. 

Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  Sites I Follow: The Leaky Cauldron