After years of judgmental glares from my loving friends at the mention that I’ve never read the Harry Potter series, I finally decided to read it and had just finished moments ago. For those of you staring with the same amount of judgment on the other side of page, and who want me to cough up an excuse—well, I have what some call an addictive personality when it comes to books and TV shows and I knew the moment I picked up the first book I would never put it down until I’d reached the end of the last one. Who has that kind of time! With all my AP classes in high school and literature classes in college, the last thing I wanted to do in my spare time was read more. But those excuses ran dry now that I’m working a part-time job with nothing but time…so I finally picked them up.
And I have to say, despite the fact that my high school English teacher deem them unworthy works of literature (probably because they weren’t laden with immense vocabulary and didn’t require a dozen readings to understand) I rather enjoyed them. Many times in the books, I found myself impressed, not merely by the imaginative world, but with the ability J.K. Rowling had to convey the sense of loss. Many times, after the death of the character, I thought: “This was written by a woman who truly understands loss.” Because the truth is, just as when Sirius died and slipped behind the murmuring veil, more often than not, death does arrive without any pomp or circumstance. While most authors would play up the death of such a major figure, describing him slain in a noble duel with trumpets signaling his valor, death often comes with no rhyme or reason to the best of us and worst of us and the rest of us. The shock that Harry felt, that certainty that Sirius would just come right back out the other side of the veil was equally real, because the passing of a person does indeed feel like a sudden disappearance that does not make sense for the living for whom time continues as if nothing has happened. The utter anger Harry felt towards those ignorant of Sirius’ death, those who just went on doing what they did every day, is the same incredulity that those left behind always feels. The world, as he knew it had ended. How could everyone else not know that? And then, when Harry looked into Dobby’s and Snape’s and several others’ eyes as they breathed their last, those unfortunate enough to watch someone pass in front of them know it truly is the most absurd feeling, that everything from his hair to his birthmark are all there right in front of you and yet, he isn’t. And finally, the oddity that is entering a room that once belonged to the deceased, looking at their belongings, as Harry did in Dumbledore’s office, and seeing every evidence of their existence just mere moments or days before and knowing that the hand that had written those letters has vanished, and your brain strains to understand the disconnect. Death, truly is, as J.K. Rowling titled her first book after the series, a Casual Vacancy.
She, like George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones, understands motives, the struggle to steer in the right direction, that even the good can stray and the bad can have compassion. She conveys the honest, awkward, unreasonable thoughts that would run through anybody’s minds as they did Harry’s, making the series so much less about a lofty hero, above common struggles, set out on a quest to vanquish his enemy and more about a boy, a real boy, thrown into an impossible world.
Perhaps then, this is why I’ve always preferred Harry Potter to the Lord of the Rings and Star Trek to Star Wars, because, even in the most fictional worlds, I crave a shred of reality, the notion that the world could very possibly exist whether past, present or future. I’ve preferred adventure on a smaller, more manageable scale (much like my personality in real life) hence my love of the small wizarding community over the vast world of Tolkein, and the confined setting of a Star Fleet, to the many worlds and aliens of Star Wars. After all, I’ve always been more of a creative non-fiction writer, taking what’s already there and adding to it instead of conjuring something out of thin air.
That being said, I found myself more than a couple times wishing I could conjure fries when I craved them, or clean up my apartment with the flick of my wand (I do have a wand actually, I bought it at Harry Potter World in Florida; I’ve tried, it doesn’t work). I told my boyfriend immediately after finishing the books with a sigh that I wish I could do magic. He chuckled and said he thought the same when he finished the series as a child. I pouted with the behavior fit for an adult and stepped into the shower, grateful to have a boyfriend who tolerates my childishness.
And then I realized that J.K. Rowling has not left us out in the cold and kept all the magic confined to Hogwarts. No, I realized that she, like Dumbledore has been hitting the source of this magic over our heads since the very first book (albeit sometimes, like Voldemort reckoned, a little heavy-handedly). I realized, that us mere mortals, do have a little bit of magic in us, and it’s something I couldn’t put it into words better than the mermaid Aquamarine, from the thrilling, eponymous tween novel:
“…There has to be a reason why everybody wants it so much!”
“Oh yeah? And what’s that?”
“Because love is the closest thing we have to magic.”