When an approaching end or an important change in my life occurs, I’ll often find myself in a sentimental and excited, but slightly depressed, mood. By trying to understand this reaction I start thinking of my life, myself, things that I’ve gone through, and suddenly, I find myself becoming very philosophical. My experiences are a part of me – they all intertwine with each other and the fundamental things about me to form the person that I am. I like changes and going through new experiences (as I have been through many in my short lifetime), but at the same time I’m afraid that I might change too much and lose some parts of me that I really wouldn’t want to. My Harry Potter-related memories and emotions are certainly parts of me I don’t want to lose. While waiting for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I had braced myself for a life-changing experience, one that would probably match my first trip abroad or the finishing of school. But I couldn’t have possibly been ready for what was waiting for me, as this experience was different from everything that I had gone through so far.
I live in Eastern Europe, and when I was born, my country was still a part of the Soviet Union. We gained independence from the USSR when I was still very young, so thankfully I can’t remember the worst of what the country had to go through in the first years of independence. Things started to get better – people were at last able to earn a decent living, they didn’t have to queue for an hour to buy oranges any more, they could travel more easily, and we could at last say and read whatever we liked. Unfortunately, this new freedom didn’t make everyone happy. Many got angry and tired trying to get rich. Many became depressed, because salaries were too low, or because they couldn’t find a job they liked. So because of those feelings of unhappiness and helplessness, too many people are suffering from the “crisis of virtues” – they choose temporary, material wealth, they want to achieve everything fast and easily, and too few of us are doing anything to help people choose what is right instead of what is easy, and rediscover eternal virtues, like love, faith and respect. Most people either complain about their lives, or simply leave the country. I love my homeland and I’m proud of our nation. However, for a long time I hadn’t thought too much about the need to take action against this crisis because I’d always been quite lucky to find at least a couple of people who shared my views. But then I joined the discussion of Harry Potter books and there were so many people noticing that these books, which tell us about the power of love, choices and friendship, also teach us to take action. As Harry, Ron and Hermione continually lead me by example, I started believing that even a few of people can really change something in this world.
So, the day had come and there I was in a bookshop (small and deserted but for a couple of salespeople and customers) about 100 kilometres away from my home on the 23rd of July. I had come there to get my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’d been wondering about this moment for weeks. I had tried to imagine what it would be like and how I would feel and act. I had never faced a Harry Potter book release before and I wanted to remember every single detail about it. When I took the book in my hands for the first time and walked to the counter I felt such a rush of excitement that I temporarily forgot where I was and what I was doing. I just stared at the cover, already so familiar to me from many pictures and advertisements. I picked the UK children cover as I had purchased the previous Harry Potter books with children’s covers and I didn’t want to break tradition this time. I’ve always associated Harry Potter with my childhood as I was around Harry’s age when I read the first book. It proved to be a welcoming refuge from a frightening world (or boring school lessons).
I remember how my excitement grew with every page that I read of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But this was nothing compared to how I felt clutching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in my hands. It was a magical feeling. Now I remember it, I think, even though the nature of the sensations is completely different, an Imperiused person may feel something like that – all thoughts washed away, only the strange feeling of happiness and a distinct apprehension that I’m still to take part in the greatest quest, that the biggest adventure is still about to happen. And it did.
It would seem that the world around me had tried to prevent me from reading Deathly Hallows because it so happened that this summer I finished school and was thusly forced to join the big world: apply for university and find a place to live in outside my home town. This proved to require much time, as well as effort, especially because I would’ve liked to delay it. I didn’t feel ready for what was waiting for me out there. I didn’t want to leave school where I felt so comfortable and everything was sweetly familiar.
I don’t read Harry Potter in public much now that I am nineteen and I want to seem adult to other people. But more importantly, I probably won’t have the nerve to take one of my Potter books out to read it in a park, for instance. There are too many intolerant people in my town. Many of them want everyone to look and act like they do. These people probably think that by beating you up, they can make you change your views. You’re in trouble if they don’t even like your shoes, and I’m sure that they won’t appreciate an adult reading Harry Potter either. So, I read Deathly Hallows whenever I had a private free moment, and my reading took place mostly at night. I don’t complain about that because night time is my Harry Potter time. I read this last book at the time that I thought suited the book best, and I can’t help boasting a little that I’m very proud of myself for reading it slowly. I was determined to mark unknown words, so that I could understand everything and savour the book. Well, at least until Harry discovered that he had to die. I got so excited and worried about him that my persistence finally failed and I was just eager to reach the end. I finished reading the entire book on the 26th of July, at 5:43 in the morning. It should have been dawn but it was too overcast for sun to be visible. I only imagined (without actually looking through the window) a red blaze on the horizon similar to the dawn that was seen the morning Harry vanquished Voldemort. A strange comprehension came to me, and I couldn’t help thinking that it was not the end that I’d just experienced but the beginning of something I couldn’t yet name.
I was lying on my back with my eyes open and was thinking that I probably wouldn’t be able to relax for some weeks to come, as I would be watching the images of scenes of the book racing in front of me instead of sleeping. But the images I was expecting stopped after a few minutes, and I suddenly started to focus on one character – Dumbledore. Dumbledore, one of my favourite characters in the whole fictional world, an ideal of whom I thought when trying to help my friends with maths, or a particularly nasty piece of genetics that we had to understand for school, and answering almost all questions my teachers gave me. I’ve always wanted to do something important in my life, make a discovery to match, if not the twelve uses of dragon blood, then at least the Wolfsbane Potion. Like Dumbledore, I also want to be able to laugh at myself and the world around me alike, and, like Dumbledore, one of my dreams is to understand as much of this world as possible. So, the controversial Headmaster of Hogwarts has always been the metaphor of what I’ve wanted to become.
I hadn’t expected so much to be written about Dumbledore in Deathly Hallows and was most shocked when I discovered the truth about him. And as I imagined him, there he was, in front of my eyes crying. Suddenly I understood that, though the images of my imagination were sometimes so sharp that I didn’t notice the actual words of Deathly Hallows my eyes were sliding through, I had never clearly imagined Dumbledore until that moment, no matter how happy I was to read so much about him. I know now that I couldn’t see him because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. This book shook my image of Dumbledore so violently and I didn’t want to let that ideal go. While reading I had to keep reminding myself of some of Jo’s words about him, reminding myself that, to me, Dumbledore virtually meant goodness. Nevertheless, I started to acknowledge that his being good didn’t mean that he was as flawless as I thought. Yes, yes, I know that there isn’t a flawless character in Jo’s books, which is why everything seems so real! I also already knew that Dumbledore had made mistakes, but I never imagined that there would be such a secret behind his principles – his modesty, his sadness, his loneliness (everything that I could relate to so well). I could not accuse my favourite character of arrogance and power hunger. For some reason it had always been Snape whom I would blame for being an arrogant sneering git, for not caring about others, for killing Dumbledore. I hadn’t stopped at least for once to consider that these characters might be not as they seemed. I couldn’t believe how blind I’d been about Dumbledore’s true character, but at the same time, I understood that I’d wanted to be blind, to be fooled. It was a comfort that I needed, I needed to believe in consummation of this man and that it was possible to preserve the child in me. Dumbledore, a mysterious, all-knowing character of an unfinished story, was the perfect role model for a child like me. I looked up to Dumbledore, who, in spite of his age, still remained childlike. Ever since when I was able to comprehend that everyone must grow up, I’ve known that I don’t want to do that. I had grown very fond of my Dumbledore and then Deathly Hallows abruptly altered the image of the man who had been my hope. However, because of Dumbledore, I’ve learnt that a time has to come in my life when I have to have courage and be the hero I need for myself, and that is probably the most frightening thing about being an adult. Of course, I know that being an adult has a reasonable positive side as well and I’m rather enthusiastic about that, but that one day I might not be able to feel like a child remains one of my greatest fears. Somehow I have always been sure that as long as I could still wait for a new Harry Potter book the day that I was afraid of would never come.
However, the moment of ultimate truth was there and I couldn’t do anything but read the final book. It’s what adults do, don’t they? They face what they must, even if they don’t like it, and they go through it. The time had come for me to show that I was worthy to leave the realm of play-houses, that I could overcome myself like Dumbledore did and join the adult world. But at times I just felt that I couldn’t possibly read one more page and thought, “Why, oh, why I had to read it now, why couldn’t I have some more time?” Then I would shove the book a little aside and just lay there imagining hexing Voldemort into a slimy mass, or slapping the young Dumbledore in the face to make him come to his senses! Even though I was afraid of what might happen next, I would gather courage to read on as my excitement about finally getting to see so much of serious action and the desire to know the whole story would finally win me over. However, the moments that I relished most were those of unplanned grins, squee!’s and yes!’s. The story was so intense that I was worried my heart might jump out of my chest. Lupin and Tonks! Kingsley at his best! Kreacher becoming friendly to Harry! Potterwatch! But while reading I also couldn’t help noticing that I wanted to cry. I wanted something to soothe my tingling nerves, to sweep away my frustration about so many bad things that happened in Deathly Hallows, to show how much I cared about what was happening. It was a strange force with which tears would spill from my eyes from time to time, bringing only temporary relief. I understand that my feelings probably weren’t as intense as some severe devastation that many other Harry Potter fans were in; I know that I probably felt nothing too unique, nothing different from many other readers. And yet I share those feelings here and now because I’ve got few other places where I can hope to be understood. Until about a year ago when I found out about Harry Potter fandom (or that is, about the online part of it), I hadn’t ever shared my reading experience or my feelings about books with anyone. We didn’t really discuss our emotions during literature lessons at school, and my family (although we otherwise share many interests) just aren’t the types who get too enthusiastic about things like reading. So, it was just me, alone with my feelings about the Harry Potter books. Dumbledore, Harry, Snape, Luna and even Hermione at times were also lonely. I could imagine myself with them and they would always support me, and vice versa. Even though I still can only dream about meeting a Potter fan in person, I also know that there are many people who can understand my Potter passion and who are always welcoming. I haven’t perhaps tasted too much of that but I’m really happy about all of it: (using wonderful Sue’s words from a PotterCast episode) I almost “squee-ed my pants” when I was invited to participate in a debate on Leaky Lounge; I still can’t help being surprised about how nice, respectful and helpful people are there.
And yet, even when I had opportunities available and wanted to participate with other online fans, for quite some days after finishing the book, I still couldn’t make myself to join the discussion about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows properly. I just couldn’t. It had totally overwhelmed me. Every time I tried to think something sensible, thoughts and feelings struck me with such a force that I could hardly distinguish them. One peculiar sensation would stand out – there was a strange weight in my chest, like I had run long distance, and a pressure in my eyes as if I was about to cry. Merlin’s Pants! I didn’t even cry when I received my school-leaving certificate, and where I live if you’re a girl you almost must cry when you leave school. I didn’t feel weepy then, but there I was, nearly sobbing over a book! Who could explain that? And who could explain those moments I was also laughing with my face still wet with tears?
Laughing and crying over a book is something that simply doesn’t happen here where I live. We’re still experiencing a pretty tough time here adjusting to having more freedom. If you want to have a reasonably comfortable life, you still have to put most of your time and energy into your work. When you focus on how to earn a decent living, you simply don’t have any time or energy left to consider such abstractions like making choices and realizing the power of love. It seems some people are trying to forget those virtues because it only makes it more difficult when you have to choose between earning some more money that you really need and your principles.
When I was a child it was easier to ignore what was happening out there because I’ve been unbelievably lucky to have wonderful parents who, even though they don’t appreciate Harry Potter, have done and still are doing everything possible so my brother and I could grow into good people. But I didn’t think about any of this, at least, then. I did something as indecent as dreaming about a flying motorbike in Uncle Vernon’s cupboard under the stairs – I was imagining how I would feel if I had to die in order to save everyone else, what good is worth so much trouble, what the power of choice really means and just exactly how tragic one has to be to meet the fate of Tom Riddle. Many other people in my country would perhaps think that I was a fool to waste time on such things. They would tell me to get a real job, instead of spending the valuable time being uselessly philosophical. But I really enjoy thinking about these eternal principles and I know that it isn’t a waste of time.
However, I can’t deny that there’s one thing which I don’t like about all this. It’s the end, even if an end is followed by another beginning. I hate the fact that this is it. I feel awkward on such occasions. Like Harry, I often can’t find words that are important enough, and sometimes I don’t even know how exactly I feel or how I should act. Now, at the end of one era of the Harry Potter phenomenon, I’m afraid that this will be one of those experiences that changes too many things. I’m afraid I’ll lose the pleasure of dreaming, the eagerness to know everything I grew up with, the interest of discussing Harry Potter and the joy when I’m heard that I’ve only so recently found. But I’m determined not to let that happen. I understand that life can’t remain the same, and that I can’t remain the same after a new experience, especially one like Harry Potter that has such a strong impact on me. I usually try to make the best experiences of what the life offers me. I have a loving family, some friends. I’ve had a few opportunities to travel. So far, my life’s been quite cool and exciting. But I’ve felt as if something was always missing, something that would complete me. Nevertheless, I’m sure that things are going to get better and better. I’m soon to leave my home for university where I’ll hopefully find what I’ve been missing and what will make me feel whole, and where I’m bound to meet people who share at least one of my passions, be it natural sciences, art, or even Harry Potter.
Living partly independently will, of course, make me see my life differently, take more responsibility, but I don’t want that to take away the joys of my life. I hope I’ll still be able to dream, to see how amazing the colours of clouds are, and to happily reread my favourite book for no-one-knows-which time. It is unlikely that any other book will ever make me feel the way I feel about Harry Potter, and even if a time comes in the future when I’m not able to clearly remember what exactly I cried and squee-ed so much about, the experience will still be a part of me. Perhaps I’ll remember this summer and my excitement about a book with a lenient wry smile. I’ll still see the Harry Potter books on my shelf and I’ll always feel that they are a part of me. I can choose not to lose anything that I want to keep, Squeee!