As the final days of the year count down, I’ve had cause to pause and reflect on this extraordinary past year, and on my seven years at Hogwarts. This has been an amazing, and at times fraught journey. Instead of giving a rote re-telling of the events of the last year and years, though, I thought it might be more valuable for me to pass along to the rest of Hogwarts some of the lessons I have learned in my time here. These are, for the most part, not things I’ve learned in class. And after all, you have access to the wonderful Professors here at Hogwarts, and I don’t want to spoil their lessons for you.
First lesson: I’m sure you’ve heard this often enough, but don’t let other people define you. Don’t let them define your life or your value to the world. One of the very first people I met at Hogwarts was a fellow Ravenclaw who told me I should have been kept permanently at St. Mungo’s. I don’t even remember her name now, but I suppose she just couldn’t see past my eyes. The following year, a particularly nasty temporary Professor told me I must be little more than a Muggle, because she’d only seen me in my glasses (when I couldn’t speak or cast spells). My eyes might not work, but in my opinion, people like that are the truly blind ones.
Second lesson: always remember who you are and where you come from. It helps tell you who you will be, and where you’re going. It can give you strength when you need it most, and can give you grounding when there is none to be had. Of course, you don’t need to be defined by your origins — you get to choose what kind of person you’re going to be! — but even if you’re running headlong away from your upbringing, then you need to understand what you’re running from. For me, the piano has kept me sane, even during a summer that I was tormented with visions of Inferi coming to kill me. I got really good at Bartok because of those horrible Inferi.
And that brings me to the third lesson: no experience is all bad if you can learn from it and make yourself better because of it. Let’s face it: we all say Hogwarts is the safest place in the Wizarding World, but we always wink and nod when we say it, rather like the way Muggles claim that haggis actually tastes good. It’s an act. We all know better. The truth about Hogwarts is that it’s an obscenely dangerous place. I mean, come on — we have a tree that tries to eat you if you get too close; a Kraken in the Lake, and it’s not even the most dangerous thing in there by half, and we’re surrounded by a forest filled with things that will absolutely kill you just for fun. Hogwarts students endure years of trauma and conflict, sometimes being called upon to participate in actual battles against things that think we’re tasty with garlic. Or without. And did you know that the school doesn’t even charge extra for any of that? Education by endurance may be a hallmark of Hogwarts pedagogy, but there’s truth to the Nietzschean concept that that which does not kill us makes us stronger. Just remember to keep on keeping on. Learn what you can from the horrors and setbacks you will encounter along the way. You’ll be a stronger Witch or Wizard because of it.
Lesson four: have a friend. More to the point: have a best friend. This is a person you’re going to be able to tell anything to. I mean anything. And everything. You’re going to spend a lot of time with this person. You might end up taking care of this person at times; they may end up taking care of you at times. You may put each other back together after horrible traumas. In times of crisis, you’ll have each others’ backs, and sometimes that will mean physically defending each other. You’ll spend a lot of wonderful times together, at parties, in the Great Hall, in quiet evenings in the dormitory, inside class and out, and even at their family’s restaurant in Edinburgh washing dishes. You’re going to spend a fraction of your life so angry with this person you want to burn them in effigy, but you never will. And you’re going to make this person just as angry with you too, because that’s just how life happens. And you’ll forgive each other, and keep on being best friends. Because that too is just how life happens — if you’re doing it right. Make sure you’ve got someone like this in your life. They will save your life in more ways than you can imagine.
And that brings us to lesson five: Forgive. Forgive those who do you harm. Forgive those who talk trash about you, who annoy you, who make you mad, who talk you down, who throw obstacles in your way. Half the time they don’t even realize they’re doing it. Don’t forgive them because it makes you superior. It doesn’t, and you aren’t. Forgive them because it feels good, because you can’t hang on to anger all your life or it will destroy you. In our business, we affect the very fabric of the Universe with our intent. Our souls tap into the raw power of life and death, of good and evil. If you decide to use your intent and your soul for dark purposes, even if for what you might think are good reasons, you risk tainting yourself forever with Dark Magic. So forgive and walk in the light. And yes, I know that’s a weird thing for a blind girl to say, but hey — I do have glasses.
It’s been seven years at Hogwarts, and a year as Head Girl and as a Tri-Wizard Champion. I would say that it’s been a crazy seven years, but I really don’t have anything to compare it to. I imagine our experience is insane compared to Muggle schools. I certainly hope it is! When we first get here, we’re all walking into walls, metaphorically speaking. (It was literal for me at first too.) Eventually, we learn our way around the place, around magic, so we’re not walking into quite so many of those walls anymore. At the end of seven years, we go out into the wider world. There will be a whole lot more walls to walk into. Learn all you can here at Hogwarts, make the most of your time here, and maybe you’ll be prepared enough not to walk into quite as many of those walls in the future.
Good luck to all of you at Hoggy Hoggy Hogwarts next year. Who really knows what the new year will bring? And for all my fellow Seventh-Years: congratulations to us all for enduring, for learning, for living, and for keeping on. Good luck out there in the wider (and wilder) Wizarding World.
Head Girl, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
If you had told me seven years ago that I would be Head Boy one day, I would have laughed. If you told me that I would be your Champion, I would have thought you were mad. Seven years ago, I knew nothing about this world and now it means everything to me. This world has opened my eyes to an entirely new world of possibilities and a greater understanding of myself through it. Hogwarts has become my home and now I leave it in your care.
I remember, like it was yesterday, when I took my first steps down Diagon Alley. I had never seen something so magnificent, so bewildering, and, quite plainly, so magical. It took my breath away but that was nothing before I saw our castle. I had never seen anything like it as we sailed across the lake for the first time. There are no words to fully describe what we must have all been feeling in that moment. Excitement, uncertainty, fear. We had no idea what the next seven years would bring for each of us or where we would end up. Then, it went by in a blink of an eye.
My life has changed in more ways than I could have ever dreamed of. The memories I have made along the way, good and bad, have shaped me into the person I am today. However, my final year here has proven, undoubtedly, to be the most profound part of my story so far.
Truth be told, I was terrified to put my name in that cup. I was terrified to become your Head Boy. I was terrified when my name was called that fateful day. I am my own worst critic. The words of others repeated so often in my head that they became my own. They wrote themselves into my very flesh, my very being. I convinced myself I was not worthy, that I did not belong, and I let those thoughts control my life far too often. But what kept me going was that every time I was scared or told myself I couldn’t do it, I kept pushing forward. Call it courage, call it ambition, whichever way you spin it, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to improve my life and that was the most valuable thing I’ve ever done. Do not stop yourself from going after your dreams.
In that spirit, I thought I would share some of the things I have learned in my journey here and I hope that they might help you.
Speak up more. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. Go and talk to that person. Get involved. Be more honest. Don’t lie. Don’t deceive yourself either. Confront your demons. Don’t make yourself believe you aren’t capable. Ask for help. Stand up for yourself and others. Hold onto your convictions and stand by them. Admit when you are wrong. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Know you are worthy. Be proud of yourself. Reflect.
Be ambitious. Be courageous. Be just. Be wise. Be all of those things.
Finally, I urge you all to not confine yourself to what you are told you can be. Do not let others decide your life for you. Have faith in yourself and your abilities because you are more capable than you know. You can achieve things you never thought possible so long as you wholeheartedly believe in yourself and do not forget the things you’ve learned along the way.
So, continue on Hogwarts. Continue being a bastion of hope for others. Bring them into your walls and make them feel the warmth of your touch and the beauty of your soul. Keep them safe from those who threaten us. Allow their growth from inside out. Hold them close for you never know how long it will last.
To all of you, thank you for being part of my journey. The good, the bad, the ugly, this school and every one of you have played a part. I would not have wanted it any other way. I will never forget you. You will always have a place in my heart.
It has been an honour to serve as your Champion and your Head Boy.