Everybody has a Harry Potter story.
Mine started sometime in 2001. One of my friends who sat in the chair behind me during the Language classes in my 11th grade was a die-hard fan of the HP series. She read the first four books that had been released up to that point during every English and Sanskrit class. And then read them again. And again. And again. I once asked her why a magical world of witches and wizards fascinated a 16 year old such as her, because at that time, in my opinion, a book on magic is probably something that a 10 year old must read.
Instead of explaining the whys and whats, she simply handed me the first HP book, the Philosopher’s Stone. Her handing the book to me at that time was a huge, huge deal because there was a long line of girls who had ‘caught’ places to read the books and I luckily got in the middle. It meant business. Like a challenge. ‘Read this one and tell me you don’t want to read the second book.’ That’s what it meant.
Well, the rest is history!
My Most Favorite Book: Whenever someone has asked me which one of the seven books is my favorite, my answer has always been, ‘The second one: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.’ Now, first things first about this book. While I was half way through this one, I was in the dorm one day, drying out my clothes on the strings. Two of my friends were in the dorm too, having a silly fight. It went on for a good ten minutes and one of them was really angry and yelled at the other, ‘Well, so that’s how you are going to piss me off? I’ll tell you this, Ginny Weasley opened the chamber of secrets.’
And there, just like that she ruined the book for me. I was so annoyed, you have no clue. But the chamber of secrets, although I knew who opened it, is by far my most favorite book majorly because of the reading experience this book left me with. We lived in a huge dorm with about 80 girls in it and had seven common bathrooms. The dorm lights were switched off every night at about 10 pm and this meant no chit chatting or studying after this time. If any teacher caught you doing anything but sleeping, the consequences were pretty bad. But I couldn’t stop myself from reading the book, I just couldn’t go to bed. So every night after my class teacher switched off the lights after night prayers, I would tiptoe into the bathrooms. The common bathrooms always had their lights on. So I read a major portion of the chamber of secrets sitting on an overturned plastic bucket in the bathroom. The bathroom was creepy as hell and except for the fact that it wasn’t a first floor girls bathroom, every inch of this bathroom reminded me of Moaning Myrtle. I basically read the entire book with two freakish fears. One, I was afraid Moaning Myrtle would suddenly show up from behind and drag me into the chamber of secrets; two, a teacher may walk into the bathroom and punish me for staying up late. So there, that’s the most enjoyable read I’ve possibly ever had my entire life.
The Drool over Sirius Black: As the other books came out one by one, I found myself drooling over Sirius Black. I was highly attracted to this man for a really long time. Sirius Black, to me, was a really handsome and valorous knight. Like a prince. I don’t know why I felt that way about him. He was my password to a number of accounts for years. The password to my Gmail, Yahoo, Orkut and Facebook accounts. (Well, don’t try to hack into my account now, I obviously changed the password!) So I had high hopes on the guy who would play Sirius in the HP movies. But Gary Oldman completely disappointed me. I mean, you should have seen the Sirius in my mind. In my teenage mind, he was the hottest imaginary hero that could possibly exist. And that is why while I was in the middle of reading the Order of the Phoenix and someone told me that Bellatrix kills Sirius in the fifth book, I didn’t get angry with them. Because if I had to figure it out on my own, his death, I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It would have been too shattering to mourn his death all by myself. My knowing that he was going to die even before I completed the book gave me time to grieve and accept his death when it actually happened.
The Deathly Hallows Drama: That brings me to the release of the seventh and the final book, The Deathly Hallows, in 2007. This was the last book in the series and this was the only time I had been up to date with all the previous set of books. I was now ready for the release. If you are a HP fan, you should remember all those rumors about Harry may or may not die in the last book. The ones about where J.K. Rowling could be a bitter bitch and kill Harry because for Lord Voldemort to die, Harry had to die too. And this time, I wasn’t prepared learn what happens at the end from someone else. I wanted to read the book and devour the secrets all by myself. So here was my plan for the release of the seventh book. Being a girl from a small town where the book wouldn’t release on the D-day, I decided to go to Hyderabad. I wanted to be there. I wanted to stand outside the book store at midnight and be one of the first ones to rush into the book store when it opened that morning at 6. I wanted to push and pull and put up a fight and get into the store and grab my first ever and last owned HP book.
My mom and dad weren’t really happy with this idea. Mostly because this was an unnecessary expense according to my dad. And of course, he wasn’t entirely wrong. According to my dad, who is a voracious reader himself, HP was a book that was pure magical bullshit that did not contribute to even a pigeon shit size of common sense to growing kids. But when I asked my parents for Rs 2,500 (which was a lot back in 2007) so I could travel to Hyd, stay there for two days and buy a book worth Rs 1,200, they didn’t say no to me. So there I was, happy as a colorful butterfly that just ran into a bottle of honey. But….
My boyfriend at that time was a big tall asshole. Of the highest order. Two weeks before the release of the Deathly Hallows, he acted all jerk’ish and decided to pick a huge fight with me. I was already working real hard on our long distance relationship at that time and to prevent the situation getting worse, I spent my HP earned Rs. 2,500 to travel up to meet him, patch up with him and pacify him with an expensive gift. I never got to live my ‘buy my HP book’ dream. Of course, he sent me an e-copy of the book 3 days after its release and I spent 11 hours reading the book on my stupid P3 desktop. Seriously, if I had known at that time that it wasn’t going to work out with this guy, I would have totally dumped him for the HP experience. I mean, think of it, I would at least have a great story to tell. About how I punched someone in the line, jumped through hoops and broke a glass window at the book store and stole the Deathly Hallows at midnight, got arrested by the police for it, and finally read the stolen book in jail. Sexy, right?
The Popcorn Incident: Thank God for Universal, the HP experience did not end with the books. My first HP movie in the theater was the Order of the Phoenix. I remember watching this at Prasads IMAX. Now this was a time when the HP merchandise wasn’t really popular or out there in India. So when I saw that Prasads was serving popcorn in paper cones that had Harry, Ron and Hermione printed on them, I went crazy with joy. The popcorn was Rs. 20, that in my opinion was very expensive for popcorn. The guy who sold the popcorn to me clearly figured out I had problems because I was jumping up and down after seeing the HP printed popcorn cone. I remember telling myself that I would never throw away the printed paper cone and would keep it with me forever.
But after the movie, in the dark, and in the midst of crying over Sirius Black’s death, I lost the paper cone. I went to the popcorn fellow and begged him ‘Please, anna, can you give me a paper cone, I lost mine. I don’t need any popcorn, just the paper cone. I just purchased popcorn a while back; you do remember me, right?’ The asshole goes, ‘Give me Rs. 20, ma’am.’ I looked at him, flabbergasted. Seriously, come one dude, I just bought your popcorn, and I just watched Sirius get sucked into limbo forever, have some mercy.
But he wouldn’t budge. I finally gave him the 20 rs and took a new paper cone from him. ‘Take your popcorn again, ma’am,’ he said. ‘Fuck you,’ I thought, snatched the paper cone from him and walked away. Little did I know on that day that I would actually get a HP t-shirt for myself five years later and also wear it to the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Yay, me!
The Orlando Universal Studios Saga: I went to visit the twin entertainment parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL in early, early 2009 while I was getting my Master’s degree. The parks were fantastic but they left me highly disappointed with “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Revealed in 2010” signs all over in the park. ‘Damn it, if only I had come to the parks next year.’ I had thought.
Luckily or unluckily for me, I lived in Gainesville for about 3 months after I graduated and was looking for a job. So when a friend of mine who was visiting the United States decided to come and meet me in Orlando, I was super excited. Maybe this was a chance to finally get on to the Harry Potter ride in the Islands of Adventure. But since I was broke and was looking for a job and had zero savings at that time, all I could afford was a ticket to one of the two parks, and I left my visiting friend to pick a park of her choice. My friend wanted to go to the Universal Studios, the one that did not have the HP ride. I went along with her. It tore my heart to go to Universal Studios that day, to have the HP ride in the neighboring park, a few feet away from me and yet not be able to hop onto it. But I told myself, anything for friends. Because if there is anything the Harry Potter books taught me, it’s that you always have to be there for your friends, in the wizarding world and in the muggle world, and respect their choices.
So basically, I had been to Orlando twice, spent $300 on park tickets by this time and still hadn’t experienced the HP ride. Everyone knew my Orlando story. My friends, my co-workers, random HP fans, heck, even my hair stylist. All of them have asked me why I never went back to Orlando again. I have always told them that it just didn’t make sense anymore. To spend about $300 on flight tickets to Orlando, and an additional $200 on the park tickets. I mean, I love Harry Potter and all that, but since I’ve been to all the other rides at the parks, twice, spending $500 only to go see HP felt like real bullshit to me. Not worth it.
I have been cribbing and crying that I probably am the only specimen who has been to Orlando twice and has never been on the HP ride, until someone told me to suck it up. And that’s when I decided to give it a shot. Spend the money. Enjoy the Harry Potter ride. Know how the world of wizardry actually feels. They have a new ride in the Universal Studios too now. Apparently, it has the Diagon Alley too. A whole new experience. And so here I am, finally sucking it up and doing it. As I am sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting to catch my connecting flight to Orlando, and eating my really gross hummus flatbread (I hate airport food), I can only begin to imagine what I have in store for me this weekend. I am super, super, super excited!!!
I almost silently, secretly and very desperately hope that when I walk into Diagon Alley this Saturday wearing my Harry Potter t-shirt, I see the dark figure standing tall in his deep black cloak buttoned up to his neck, his long wavy hair parted in the middle and running down to his shoulders, with his expressionless face whispering out to me, ‘After all this time?’
And I can say unabashedly, ‘Always.’
‘Always, Snape, and forever. You are to me, my fictional knight in a dark shining armor. You were, are and will always be my best fictional love, (after Mr. Darcy, of course). Be it when you were mean to Harry in the books, be it when you befriended Lord Voldemort as a death eater, be it when you killed Dumbledore, be it when I realized that you were the half-blood prince and began calling myself the half-blood princess, be it when you simply walked into a dim classroom, made it dimmer by shutting the windows with a ‘Turn to Page 394’ but remained the most brilliant personality in the room, or be it when you were just being Severus Snape. Because for me, Harry Potter wasn’t about Harry, Ron and Hermione or Voldemort, I didn’t care for the sorting hat, the thunder bolt scar, or for the invisibility cloak, or for quidditch or Hagrid and those unicorns, or for the deathly hallows. I really didn’t care for Harry and Ginny together or for the romance between Ron and Hermione . For me, Harry Potter was always about you. I love you, Severus.’
Everybody has a Harry Potter Story. What is yours?