You are eleven years old, and the day you’ve been waiting for all your life has finally arrived. Your name is called, and you approach the stool and the old hat with equal parts excitement and dread. You’ve never thought of yourself as especially clever or kind or brave or cunning, or especially anything, really. But the hat seems to disagree, and shouts out “GRYFFINDOR!” eliciting cheers and applause from the table adorned in crimson and gold.

You are eleven years old, and you’ve just been told, for the first time in your life, that you can be brave. You don’t know if you’ll live up to that expectation, but you do know that you’ll try.
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You  are twelve years old, and excited to return to the place that has become your home. But writing on the wall and hushed gossip in the hallways soon turns your excitement to fear. You and your classmates look at the empty seats in class, and wonder who will be next.

You are twelve years old, and learning that the place that feels like home, the place you feel safest, can’t protect you from everything.
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You are thirteen years old, and all gossip and giggles. Your schoolmates roll their eyes, and write you off as a silly little girl. They might be right, but you are finding that there is so much more to you than that. You cry for days at the loss of your pet, despite your best friend’s attempts to comfort you. He was so young, and it’s not fair.

You are thirteen years old, searching for meaning in crystal balls and tea leaves. You try desperately to find any clue of the future, any hint at what is to come, because the uncertainty is what scares you the most.
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You are fourteen years old, and content to spend your days with family; family not by blood, but by choice: an Irish boy with a crooked grin and sandy, often singed hair; a tall boy with steady hands and a steadier heart; a fierce but beautiful girl made of fire and gold, granite and grace. You try to ignore the nagging voice at the back of your mind, reminding you that nothing lasts forever.

You are fourteen years old when your classmate emerges from what you thought was just a game, carrying the body of a boy who was loyal and patient and good. You realize, with sickening certainty, that everything is about to change, and no one, no matter how clever or kind or brave or cunning, will be safe.
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You are fifteen years old, rumors flying about an unspeakable evil rising, threatening the world you love. At first, you do your best to convince yourself that this is not your war to fight, not your burden to bear. You watch as your classmates return from detention with blood on their hands and fire in their eyes, children with ugly words etched into their skin, and you realize that you can’t stand by forever.

You are fifteen years old when you sign your name to a piece of parchment, with shaking hands and firm resolve. You know that a storm is coming, and you promise your eleven year old self that when it does, you will be brave.
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You are sixteen years old, and the world is crashing down around you. Your classrooms are filled with empty seats, once occupied by students whose parents have been killed, who are now targets themselves. Your friends are rarely out of your sight. You write to your parents every day, even though you know that they are the privileged ones, the ones who aren’t being hunted because of who they are.

You are sixteen years old and you’ve never been kissed. When a firey-haired, impulsive boy comes along, you let yourself get carried away. You allow yourself to get caught up in a silly schoolgirl romance, because you know you may never have a chance to have the real thing.
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You are seventeen years old, and the storm you’ve been waiting for has finally broken. The sounds of battle rage all around you, the screams of the injured, the dying, the mourning. You try to keep your friends close to you, but it is near impossible in the chaos. You see a red-headed boy fall to the ground, and hurl a curse at his attacker as something hits you from behind. Teeth and claws rip at your body, and everything becomes darkness and pain and fear as your body hits the floor.

You are seventeen years old, and you are dying, and you’re so young, and it’s not fair. Your last thought is of a little girl who wanted so desperately to be brave, and you manage to smile, because you’ve finally made her proud.