My parents always told me that the year I came of age should be exciting, exhilarating-and if not that, than at least memorable. And though words fail to express many of the emotions I've felt this year, I would have to say that I agree with them on that account.

At times this past year, I couldn't seem to grasp what was going on around me, or I'd just rejected it outright. I'd look around but everything would be blurred around the edges, bent as though I was looking through unshed tears; I'd hear but the sounds would become confused with my own broiling internal thoughts, and the declarations of the world around me would just turn into garbled noise and lose their meaning. And it wasn't like I was living in a void, no, far from it. I was desensitized, numb—yet undeniably overwhelmed—and so was the majority of the wizarding community in Britain, come to that. But the agony of it all was that I recognized these facts. I struggled to break back to the surface of my life, to breath again after the suffocating events I was somehow surviving. To be the carefree seventeen year old girl that I should have been. I guess it could be said that I had a lot on my mind, fraught to sort out everything that was going on in those troubled times, just trying to live again.

Survival, in any case, could be considered a point-of-view. There is hardly anyone who was untouched by the rising of the already infamous Dark Lord Voldemort. I've survived—no, lived through; survival indicates a sort triumph, and there is no triumph when viewing the wake of one of the Death Eater raids—what seems the worst of it: Voldemort's primary ascension into power the summer before I attended my seventh and final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and then through his attempts on my own life as he discovered that Muggleborns, no matter how much he detests them, have the same capabilities for wielding havoc against his regime as Purebloods have.

And I am one of the lucky ones. Whole families have been wiped out in a single raid (and there are multiple raids a fortnight), various of our Aurors have been targeted and picked off, no one knows for certain who they can trust as even Ministry officials have become connected with some Dark deed or another, and the Dark Mark has become both a highly-anticipated and highly-feared sight. To put it mildly, chaos and destruction reign. It has even come to the point that Londoners are scared to leave their homes. I never detailed to my family the troubles going on in the magical world, but my parents must have suspected the worst when with every poorly disguised "gas explosion" or "freak accident" that took countless lives that summer before my 7th year, I became more and more withdrawn.

None of those deaths were by an accident, and it was driving me crazy.

I was fine when I was on my own, figuring that a lone witch wasn't much of a target, but I felt tainted. My dreams, the few I remembered, were comprised almost entirely of desolate landscapes, dark and tattered streets where no one but the vile were found. They peered at me around chinks in smoldering curse-blasted buildings, spat at me through the torn remnants of curtains in shattered windows, leered at my horrified face when I spotted the Dark Mark over my home. Dementors would glide out to meet me as I stood transfixed staring at the glittering constellation in the sky; they would swoop down to steal my soul, and I would be swallowed up into their infernal darkness.

Gradually, though, I noticed that I became increasingly paranoid when I was out with my family; I fingered my wand and threw furtive glances over my shoulder so often that even Petunia, with her nose always high in the air, could not fail to miss them despite the aura of nonchalance I was trying to pull off. I was terrified that at any moment, some Death Eater was going to Apparate in front of us, notice I was a Muggleborn, and Avada my family without a moment's pause. Well, if not my family, then another one. And I would be powerless to stop it.

It wasn't long before I came to the conclusion that I was maturing much too rapidly for my tastes. I needed a way to escape reality, to vent out all my feelings to someone who could understand. Writing letters to my friends in the wizarding world helped some, to know it was the world outside my window that had gone insane and not myself, but the owls were few and far between, and besides, I felt guilty with loading my troubles up on them when they surely had plenty of their own.

But you know what they say: deliverance comes in many forms. Some people find it in drugs, alcohol, writing, music... my deliverance just happened to be in the form of a tousle-haired, bespectacled young man with considerable spirit, who put up a mask of confidence and a "fight, not flight" mentality even though he was really just as lost as I was. We were fighting together, leading together, bonding, grieving, just trying to live through it all together. As the mental walls I'd carefully cultivated over the years to block out his pestering naturally crumbled down, neither of us really realized that we were tumbling down that challenging, imperfect and sometimes confusing path towards loving each other.

Needless to say, this quirky, lively, and somewhat mischievous character called James Potter is the main reason I've made it through the Dark Lord's rising, barely, when so many others have not. I have something to hold on to, a clinging hope that someday we will be able to put this war, this embarrassing and disgusting moment in magical history, behind us and set the world straight. I guess that's the brilliance of being young: to feel you can conquer anything. And, after much deliberation in my head at night when sleep failed or when I sat silent with my dearest friends before the crackling fire in Gryffindor's common room, I've decided that the thought that a better life is possible despite the odds against it... that is what I am living for.

I leave Hogwarts forever tomorrow morning; tonight is my last in this hallowed place of magical learning, my home for the last seven years, and for some reason I can't bear to leave these halls without first leaving my mark. And though the starlight through my window is dim and the light from my little candle nub is growing weaker, making me squint to read the ink I am laying upon this parchment, I am determined to lay out my thoughts—to explain just how I came to be the woman I am, teetering on the edge of something unforgettable, being pressed forward by an inexplicable wind, a mere chance, and nearing the moment of my leap of faith with nothing but time holding me back. I am poised, ready... because by my reckoning, this time it's all or nothing.