For the Bartow High School quidditch team, the divide between fantasy and reality is brutal.
Unlike Harry Potter, they are not encouraged by a stadium of cheering wizards in awe of their broomsmanship. There is no hero's welcome for the victors. Playing on the football field was never an option, and the ultimate Frisbee team kicked them off the band practice field. Now they play on a lopsided drainage patch next to a retention pond in back of the school. After the first bloody nose, their Muggle instructor decreed that brooms were too dangerous to be used in the game at all.
"They call us the nerd squad," said red team captain Dorothy Kleissler, 17. "They joke that IB students think they can fly."
So they put on wizard capes and goggles, and run around pretending to fly on invisible brooms. A group of students in JROTC uniforms stops to watch. They are laughing. One picks up a small rock and throws it at the quidditch patch, secure in the fact that if it hits someone on the field, no one will do anything about it. It lands harmlessly, and they go on their Slytherin way.
They don't see the magic.
They don't know that fairy tales can be ridiculous on the outside but true on the inside.
Consider the advice of this geek squad's matriarch, J.K. Rowling, at a Harvard commencement speech in 2008.
"One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality."
So why are fairy tales told and retold for hundreds of years? What is it about Harry Potter?
"It's really about the things we connect to, things that make us a hero," says goalie Caroline Bresnan, 18. "How we deal with bullies, the loss of a loved one, first romance, relationships with friends."
It's about growing up, they say. Harry is a role model. The adventure becomes their own.
"Pablo Picasso says art is a lie that brings us closer to the truth," pipes in blue team captain Katy Piotrowski, 17. "I think art, especially literature, lasts because it is about finding truth in ourselves. That's why parents still read fairy tales to their children at night."
And even children know that brooms are not what make us fly.