Signs that you're at LeakyCon, America's biggest Harry Potter convention:
• It's last weekend. And you're in Chicago, at the Hilton.
• There are lots of people around you wearing robes. Not bathrobes or dressing gowns. Proper wizarding robes.
• Also, there are lots of people using phrases like “proper wizarding robes.”
• And carrying magic wands. Seriously, wands. There are more people carrying wands than carrying purses. They're gesturing with them, tucking them into their ponytails and waistbands. They're even carrying them on the dance floor...
• There is a dance floor. There are concerts every night — wizard rock concerts. What is wizard rock? If you're asking that question, it's a sign that you're not at LeakyCon. If you're at LeakyCon, you already know wrock is a genre of music entirely inspired by the Harry Potter books. You probably listen to a lot of wizard rock. You probably freaked out and started waving your wand around when the Whomping Willows came on stage and sang “Draco and Harry.”
• Definite sign that you're at LeakyCon: Nobody snickers when you use the phrase “waving your wand around.”
• There are bars at these concerts. With alcohol. But you only ever see people ordering Butterbeer. The bartenders look ready to fall asleep. (You gather that they're not wrock fans.)
• Everyone around you looks about 18, but when you get into conversations, they end up being in their mid-20s and in law school or something. You decide that being a Harry Potter fan is really good for your skin; it keeps you out of the sun.
• You only see two people smoking over the whole four days of the convention. Naturally, they're dressed like Slytherins.
• Lots and lots of people are dressed in costume. There are more than 4,000 fans at the convention, and sometimes it seems like 3,000 of them are dressed like Bellatrix Lestrange.
• There's one guy dressed as Snape — well, actually there are a dozen guys dressed like Snape — but there's one guy dressed like Snape who actually looks just like Snape. People are even calling him “Snape,” as in, “Look, there's Snape, he's throwing away his Coke can. Oh, hey, Snape recycles.”
• You're tired. And hungry. And thirsty. You're getting up early, staying up late and living off bottled water and protein bars because you don't want to miss sessions like “The Ethics of Severus Snape,” “Hagrid and Our Love for Animals” and “Parallels Between Harry Potter and the Arab Spring.”
• There are long lines for everything.
• But nobody is calling them “lines.” They're calling them “queues.”
• And nobody is complaining very much about them. In fact, when really long queues wind past each other, people are giving each other high fives.
• Nobody is complaining very much about anything. When the main bathroom floods, someone slaps a sign on it that says, “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened,” and other people take pictures.
• You start to feel like these are the friendliest people on earth. And not just because so many of them are holding signs that say, “FREE HUGS.” People talk to you in line, in sessions, at the train station ... even when you're wearing your please-don't-talk-to-me face.
• You start to wonder about your please-don't-talk-to-me face — maybe it's broken. Maybe it's always been broken. Maybe you've been wearing a “FREE HUGS” face your whole Hufflepuff life.
That's probably the biggest sign that you're at LeakyCon...
Nobody is cool.
That's not to say that nobody's awesome. Practically everybody is awesome. But nobody is cool. Nobody's over it. You're surrounded by people who really, really love Harry Potter. The books, the world, the stories and music and theater and philanthropy that have grown out of it.
If you're at LeakyCon, you're not worried about being too nerdy or people thinking you're weird because you love Harry Potter so much.
You're at LeakyCon.
You're among friends.
Now that I've told you what LeakyCon is, I feel like I should explain why I was there.
Mostly because I'm a giant Harry Potter nerd. For some reason, I've become an even bigger fan since the end of the books and movies.
But I also have a young adult novel coming out next fall — “Fangirl” — about a University of Nebraska-Lincoln freshman who writes Harry Potter-ish fan fiction. So I wanted to hang out with some actual fangirls, like me, face to face. LeakyCon is as much about being a fan as it is about being a fan of Harry Potter.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1149, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/rainbowrowell