Friday, 15 July 2011

Saying Goodbye - Part 1


Tonight, a part of my life will be gone forever. [cue fainting dramatically on a settee] I am a lucky member of the "Harry Potter Generation". For those of you who are somehow unfamiliar with this concept, it's the people around you who "grew up with Harry", as we are now used to saying. So, for someone like me, how did this all begin? Well, sit back comrades, and let me tell you.

I, as an American, normally would not have read the books until I was eleven years old (1998). By a coincidence, my family was in the UK in 1997 and happened to pick up Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, out of a pile of maybe five copies, stashed in a corner in a shop. My mother picked out the books because my little brother, seven years old at the time, was refusing to read books. My brother's hair was always a mess, he was a bit awkward at his age and had big round glasses. In short, he looked just like that specky nerd on the cover of the book. My mom figured that a boy wizard, about my brothers age, would be interesting for him. Interesting it was.

My little brother, pretending to go into Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station in 1997 (We just guessed at the whole 9 3/4 thing)

[In a moment of regret that we will feel our whole lives, we gave that first (maybe second) edition of Harry Potter to his teacher so she could read it, not knowing what it would become]

That is the beginning of the tale; how did I become such a fanatic?

School is never easy for anyone, and it certainly was not easy for me. In elementary and junior high, I had few friends and was betrayed by many. I managed to connect with one character in particular, Severus Snape.

I originally became attached to Snape in the first book, when everyone has assumed he was the villain trying to get to the Philosopher's Stone by letting trolls into the castle and bribing Hagrid with a dragon. Then we found out that it was actually the stuttering, unassuming Professor Quirrel, and that Snape was all along trying to stop Quirrel. As a ten-year-old, this was an amazing twist, and Snape stood out as Bad-Ass Number One for me. He was also snarky and rude, with lines like, "I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death — if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach," [HP and the Philosopher's Stone] which appealed to my more sinister side.

My adoration for Snape turned to...well... an obsession when I was about 12 or 13 (the ages are all a bit murky here, but I am sure it was closer to 12). I was still in junior high and frankly having a miserable time. I was the know-it-all nerd whom teachers told to stop raising her hand (I also identified a lot with Hermione, along with many girls in my position). I was quite oblivious and desperately wanted friends. I thought I had some, then would find out that they made fun of me, yadda yadda yadda, the usual traumatic childhood stuff. Anyway, I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (number 3 in the series) and discovered that Snape was bullied as a child by Harry's father. Boom! That was it. He was my friend. He would understand.

At the age of 14 I was lucky enough to move across town for school, to the International Baccalaureate Programme. It was basically a haven for all of us know-it-alls around the city. Suddenly, I was in a classroom filled with people all raising their hand and doing their homework and asking intelligent questions, but more importantly, it was a room of Harry Potter fans. So not only did we have that in common, but we were all deeply analytical and loved intelligent discussion.

Our lunchtimes became a round-table Harry Potter discussion forum, where as books 4-6 were released we would debate heavily everything from what the title meant to what would happen at the very end. [On a side note, I was bang-on about Snape being the Half-Blood Prince, thank you very much] We went to every release for books and films, complete with our costumes and characters. One time, we even booked something like 24 tickets for the third Harry Potter film.

My 18th birthday party, complete with a blow-up doll of Severus Snape, thanks guys :)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released the summer we all graduated from this haven of nerd-dom. At our International Baccalaureate graduation, the head of our school gave a speech and compared our experience with the Harry Potter books. Then we said goodbye to our friends and all went our separate ways to university.

The closest ones kept in touch, continually discussing what was going to happen in the final book and writing our own analysis and stories about this happy world.

In case you have not read them (I warned you about spoilers!), Snape killing Dumbledore at the end of Half-Blood Prince divided the Harry Potter world like nothing ever could. Was he good? Was he evil? Him being my best friend during my childhood, I always stood by his side. He probably could have put babies on spikes and I would have stood by him. The thought that he could be evil, particularly coming from close friends of mine, infuriated me so much. I had to stand by him; I had to show my support. So what would a hormonal, obsessive 18-year-old do? She would get a tattoo, and get a tattoo I did. [You can read the MSNBC News Article with my tattoo here :) ]

Tattoo on lower back after the 6th Harry Potter book was released. The moon is for Remus Lupin, my other favourite character and the raven was for Snape.

Then it was it, the last book. The end. Summer of 2007 was an emotionally trying one for me. One of my best friends and I decided to culminate our obsessive fangirl childhood with a trip to Los Angeles while the fifth Harry Potter film was released. We went to the premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Surrounded by hormonal teenage girls, convinced they would marry Daniel Radcliffe, we realised that this was no longer our world. That said though, we were able to stand out from the thousands of teenagers by being the only people truly excited to see Imelda Staunton, enough so that she came over to us, so we felt vindicated
Imelda Staunton, laughing at Lauren listing off random 80s films she was in, if I remember correctly!

We got back to Colorado and the last book was coming out. The local Borders set it up so if you had reserved a book, you would go stand in line in the morning and get a ticket with a number on it in the order you would get it that night (preventing 24 hours of standing in a queue), which was great because they had a full party going on in the 2-story shop. Anyway, a couple of my friends went and stood in the queue at about 4:30 in the morning and we were not the first people there. We got our tickets, and went home to throw an epic party. At about 8pm a group of about 15-20 of us (all in our early 20s) went to Borders, all dressed in costumes to await the ending of the book. It came out, we went home and we read. I passed out at 4:30, woke up at 7ish and kept reading.

Naveen frantically finishing the 6th book before midnight
All of us in costume
Opening the last book for the first time at 5 minutes past midnight
He died. My beloved Severus died. Tragedy cannot begin to describe it. I had lost my best friend. I will not go into his story, but it is tragic. What does a 20-year-old obsessive and heartbroken woman do? She gets a tattoo.

I appreciate that few can understand what it is like to experience a loss, both of the story and of a fictional friend. Both stood by me in my darkest times (only a few examples given here) for the past 14 years. Those who "grew up with Harry" have a unique experience that none other will have. Friends my age who try to read it now struggle because the books are written for the age of Harry (namely children and pre-teens for the first couple). It is a truly once-in-a-generation experience that none will ever understand. 

Tonight I say goodbye; tonight it all ends. Though I knew this day would come, and I know what is going to happen, it just seems so final. The Harry Potter books were my friends, they gave me friends and they gave me a place to call my own. I will probably cry, but whether it is from feeling happiness, sadness, grief or an epic catharsis, I do not know. 

Last night, my partner (who is not a Harry Potter fan) asked, "Why are you even going? It sounds like it is going to be a horrible experience!" and it's a fair question from someone who can not understand. In a way, this could not have come at a more opportune time, when I am starting my life out with him. The one who held my hand and told me things would be okay, metaphorically of course, I will watch him die tonight. Now I will be free to start my life out properly with a man who can hold my hand and tell me things will be okay, and I guess that is what growing up is all about.

I'll update tomorrow with how I actually feel after watching it; if it even affected me at all.  [Update, see part 2 here]

I wrote another post about Alan Rickman and the conclusion of that relationship here

To all of you people who grew up with Harry, this moment is for us. The rest cannot understand, "What would come, would come... and he would have to meet it when it did." - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

All plot and characters mentioned are the property of JK Rowling, thank you Jo.


  1. Erin! those were such good times. I will always have a place for HP in me. Thanks for making me get into the whole thing. I hope your last movie showing was amazing. Mine unfortunately was not. :( I am pretty sure I was the only person crying in the whole theatre.

  2. Wonderful post! I am older than you, but I love Harry, and I love Snape. I just watched the movie tonight, and it was traumatic, horrifying, emotionally draining, but a fitting end. And I still just want to hug Snape and tell him I understand and love him.