Welcome to Day Four of Harry Potter Week, in which I tell a HP-related story from my life. I feel like there are so many important Harry Potter moments from my life – the first time I read the first book, reading Deathly Hallows for the first time, going to midnight premiers, seeing Cursed Child onstage – but today I’m going to tell the story of September 1, 2017.
You can still join in with the rest of HP Week, counting down the days to the 21st anniversary of the first book! It’s gonna be lots of fun!
September 1, 2017
You might recognize this date as the “Nineteen Years Later” from the epilogue of Deathly Hallows.
It also ended up being my first full day in the UK, where I spent the fall studying abroad.
On August 31, I landed at Heathrow Airport, alone, exhausted, and terrified. I spent the night at a (very cheap) hotel near King’s Cross and woke up at 5:30 the next morning to catch a 7AM train to Edinburgh.
If you’ve ever been to King’s Cross Station, you know that the sign for Platform Nine and Three Quarters isn’t actually between platforms nine and ten, partly because you have to have a train ticket to get to those areas. Instead, it’s in the main concourse, clearly labeled with a cart stuck halfway through the wall.
I arrived at the train station at 6AM and took a million pictures of the sign (along with several other dedicated tourists who had arrived VERY early).
All I could think about was today’s the day. I was in the spot that Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and their families would (supposedly) be standing on that very day. I was taking a train to Scotland on September 1st, which basically meant I was going to Hogwarts, right?
The time came for me to board my train (from platform eight, sadly) and it – somehow – became even more magical. I had started rereading Philosopher’s Stone on the plane the day before and stopped right before Chapter Six, which is, you guessed it:
I really felt like I was on my way to Hogwarts. I was reading about Harry and Ron going to Hogwarts (in Scotland) from King’s Cross for the first time, while I was going to Scotland from King’s Cross for the first time. And while I read descriptions of their view from the train (“While they had been talking, the train had carried them out of London. Now they were speeding past fields full of cows and sheep. They were quiet for a time, watching the fields and lanes flick by.”), I was seeing the exact same thing. It was surreal.
Five hours later, I got to Edinburgh, which I immediately fell in love with. As soon as I got the chance, I went straight to The Elephant House, which you might have heard of as the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books.
This was definitely a tourist destination, and I was shamelessly one of them. Since I was by myself, I just sat at my table and read more of Philosopher’s Stone (which I was nearly done with at that point because of that long train ride). Also, from the windows there’s an excellent view of Edinburgh Castle, which some people say is the inspiration for Hogwarts.
And below the cafe is Greyfriar’s Kirk, where you can find gravestones that inspired many character names, including McGonagall, Moody, and “Thomas Riddell.”
Eventually I found my way into the bathroom of The Elephant House, which famously has been graffitied over and over by Harry Potter fans leaving messages.
I got real emotional about the “all was well” one because THAT WAS TODAY. I didn’t have a pen with me, so I didn’t get to add my own message until I came back to Edinburgh a few months later, but I loved looking at the messages and knowing that I was a part of it. It was also cool to think about the fact that this was the day that Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy met and became friends!
I can’t express how magical this experience was for me. I got to take nearly the same journey as my favorite characters on the same day that they would do it. It was my first time in the UK and one of my first times traveling by myself, so I was so out of my depths. But Harry Potter kept me grounded the whole time and gave me an experience that I’ll never forget.
“The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.”
What are your HP stories? Have you ever been to King’s Cross or Edinburgh?