The door creaks open and the witch standing next to it ushers 20 people off the line and into Ollivander’s wandshop. Inside, a small lantern flickers in a dark room. Cabinets and shelves reach from floor to ceiling, filled with long dusty boxes each holding a wand. Pressed into a corner, I sweep my eyes through the solemn shadows to see cupboards half opened and an old bell in front of a frosted window. When Mr. Ollivander looks at us from over his spectacles, everyone—even the adults—come to full attention, hoping that somehow a wand will choose one of us as its mate.
Potter purists will grumble that the designers of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter spliced Rowling’s magical geography in the name of commercial sensibility. The newest section of Universal’s theme park, the Wizarding World is organized into Hogwarts and Hogsmeade with the iconic red train, idling at the gates. The castle stands prominently against the treeline, as it should. But Hogsmeade holds some shops that belong only in Diagon Alley though I admittedly didn’t realize at first, completely overwhelmed as I was by the feeling of stepping into one of my favorite stories. As soon as you pass through the gates, the jolly conductor from the Hogwarts Express welcomes you. Don’t ask him to take a picture with your muggle camera. He has no idea what it is and managed to take a nice shot of his own nose on ours. He’s so silly—you just want to hug him.
There’s Honeydukes, Zonkos, and the Owl Post. The Three Broom Sticks is a high traffic stop for refreshments. Seating and service is well organized; and while the menu does not include muggle sodas, you can choose between pumpkin juice, butterbeer, or my favorite, Hogshead Ale. I got an order of fish and chips to accompany my pint and enjoyed them on the outdoor patio.
But it doesn’t matter what you eat or see or ride in the Wizarding World. Like everyone else, you’re there for the wands.
Inside the wandshop, Ollivander chose one little girl to be tested for a wand and the rest of us deflated, stifling our petty jealousies as she picked up a wand made of holly, causing the cupboards and draws to slap open and shut. We laughed as she then waved one made of oak, causing the bells to chime and echo throughout the store. Then, we stood in awe as she held the last, made of heather, flexible, 10 ¼ inches. A breeze kicked up, a light switched on, and I shook my head to the cheesy cheekiness of it. But the little girl stood where she was, quietly holding the wand that had chosen her. A small grin pulled at her lips, the satisfied smile of a Harry Potter purist.