Last night marked the end of my childhood. Sitting in a squishy chair, with a pair of funny black glasses balanced on the end of my nose, an over-priced Pick 'n' Mix in my lap and with my stomach doing backflips in my belly, I watched as the story that has captivated thousands like me finally came to an end.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two.
The story has spanned seven books, eight films, fourteen years, and more money than I could hope to count in a lifetime. It's made household names of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint, and allowed me to convince every small child I babysit that, because I go to boarding school, I can - and will - turn them into frogs if they don't go to bed on time.
But it meant more than that to me. I grew up with these books, and one of my earliest memories is of sitting outside on a chilly evening in Germany, listening to my dad read to me about the odious Dursley family, and whispering the street name to myself. Number Four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.
To me, Harry, Ron and Hermione's world was more than just an entertaining story. Hogwarts, like Narnia, Middle Earth and countless other fantastic worlds, became my second home through a childhood that was not always as pleasant as one would like. Whenever I was sad, I would retreat inside the story, and comfort myself that, at least, I wasn't expected to keep my dignity when faced with Moaning Myrtle in a bubble bath.
But now, if the media hype is to be believed, it is all over. The last book is out, the last movie finished, and the actors and actresses who brought Rowling's marvelous creations to life are all moving on to bigger things in the outside world.
Harry Potter is over.
Or is it?
Can a story, really, end? Is one telling enough to exhaust it? Is it just a fad, like suspenders and mullet haircuts, that, having lived out its glory days, will fade away until nobody remembers it? Will I one day walk into a bookstore and have someone say to me "Harry who?"
I don't think so. Stories aren't that easy to get rid of. Stories aren't one-use goods, seen once and gone with a miserable puff of black smoke, vanishing faster than a house elf. Stories can come back time and time again and, whether it's the first, or the hundred-thousandth time you've heard it, the ones you love will always kindle that little spark inside your soul. They'll always be there, like an old friend or treasured toy from childhood, waiting to welcome you back into the world you have come to love so much, and take you on the travels with the characters who first enchanted you all that time ago, ready to vanish into adventures beyond your wildest dreams.
The last film be over, but, like every true classic - and yes, I think this is a true classic of children's literature - it will never, really, be gone. I, at least, will certainly make a point of reading the story of the green-eyed bespectacled teenage wizard to whatever children, god-children or any other form of young friend or relative I may come to know in future, and I know I'm not alone. That's what stories are for; for sharing and passing on the magic, for bringing people together in the shared love of a tale, whatever it may be.
The franchise has ended.
The story never will.