This week marks the 14th year since the founding of Hogwarts Online on July 26, 2005. Before there were Governors deliberating, professors applying, students plotting, there was a simple group friends and together they created Armoise Academy - the foundation on which this storied and beloved site would be built. It took many years to become the leading Harry Potter RPG forum and a lot of hard work from people like Chauncey Clemenceau and Malimar Snute. Then came Ann Omagan, Luna Creevey, Ginny Tonks, and Bella Lombardi who, with Chauncey, set us on the path to greatness.
Also there, was Prof. Patricia Darvus who was interviewed and hired by Chauncey and Ann to teach magical arts. That professor, as it turns out was a 10 year old from the Midwest with a love of Harry Potter. He had just moved away from his home, his family, all of his friends. Somehow, Hogwarts Online felt like home. That 10 year old was me and "also there" is a fitting start to my story because my role on the site, for many years, was a simple member with an extraordinary ability to piss people off. Still, I was there.
I was there when Revan Yakuza, the son of the Dark Lord roamed the halls of Hogwarts and Zenos Dumbledore oversaw the Ministry of Magic. I was there when Katelynn Clemenceau was murdered and when time turned back for a do-over. I was there when Peeves became human and Elizabeth Peevison reigned as the Pirate Queen of Hufflepuff. I was there for the first, the second, and the third Durmstrang and Beauxbatons; when a plague infected Hogwarts and the Heads of House united to defend the school on the shore of the Black Lake; when Rici Devlin was whipping students in the Chamber; when Sorcha Logan drunkenly stumbled off the end of a pier; when Robert Travers swaggered down the corridors; when Felicity Amello roared onto the scene as Mama Lion. It didnt always make sense, but it was beautiful. And I was there.
I was also there when Starlight Night's blessed sweetness was taken from our site too soon; when the forums were hacked and almost destroyed; for every schism and split and exodus, every ban, every scandal, every loss. I was never important, but I was there and I made friendships and gained important life experiences to last a lifetime. They have brought me happiness and made me successful in life.
These experiences, good and bad, are what helped me grow up and they prepared me to eventually take over the site that had been my home (and the home of hundreds of others) for many years. I admit, it wasn't always perfect, we saw our share of vindictive leaders, poor decisions, disharmony, and hurt. I also admit that there were times I feel I may have been responsible for some of those things. People came and went, the activity rose and fell, we moved and got hacked again, but we always survived. When I took over as the owner of this site it was my hope that I would be able to give back to the place and the people who gave so much to me.
With the handling of the announcement of our decision to close Durmstrang, I feel I failed you, by not doing more before hand to take your input into account and adequately explain why the decision had to be made. I worked hard to correct that once I realized my error by taking member input into account and altering the closure plans. It is my sincere wish that moving forward, this mistake will not be made again.
I know that many of you are saddened by the return to a Hogwarts-based site and I understand your pain. However, the one thing that has always set our site apart is our ability to endure in times of hardship. We may disagree or dislike some of the decisions that are made, no matter how much say we have in them, but we always stand together as a community and that is how we have survived. So, I ask you all to stand with me now, to have patience as I strive to be the leader you deserve.
In 15 years, when we all meet again in some virtual reality version of Hogwarts, I want you all to be able to say "I was there" to a lonely 10 year old from the Midwest, looking for a place to call home.
With Eternal Love and Dedication,