19 Years Later: Harry Potter & I

The memory is clear as day: the arrival of relatives from the U.S. meant imported goods (chocolates, clothes) from a balikbayan box but this, this time, was no usual clamoring. My Lola, who used to travel back and forth between the Philippines and her adopted home country would always come home to see the rest of her kids (my mom) and grandkids (us).

My sister Mel and I dressed up hurriedly, waiting patiently at my grandmother’s house for her arrival. Our excitement was tripled that day because she was not only 1) coming home 2) with pasalubong but because she was also the 3) bearer of more important packages.

After the tears-eyed embraces, after bellies have been filled with home-cooked meals, all of us would gather in the living room, the balikbayan box the center of everyone’s attention. After boxes of chocolates, more clothes, more socks and canned goods were handed out, she reached to the bottom of the box and pulled out the heaviest parcel and handed them to Mel and I.

We tore the brown packaging immediately. I ran my hand over the book’s cover, the grooves easy on my fingers. Right at the moment, my sister and I were the happiest, newest owners of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

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I’ve been a fan ever since and played my due diligence of Potter mania: watched the movies, bought Harry Potter-ish (quill) pens and (parchment) notebooks, wished I could be a wizard as well, got sorted into the Gryffindor house at Pottermore.

To add to a lifelong affinity of HP, Mel and I planned to attend the midnight book release of the final book of the series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in our local bookstore. As that evening wore on, I had mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness, remembering the first time I ever laid hands on an HP book. But I was also tired and midnight is way past my bedtime.

A store assistant holds copies of the book of the play of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child parts One and Two at a bookstore in London

We didn’t even up going (my sister was also tired and too sleepy for HP) but she went ahead and got the books the next day. She spent three hours that day reading the entire book, constantly sending me updates and near-spoilers. It wasn’t until after about three weeks that I finally sat down to read the final book of the series, which took me about a few days worth of night-time reading.

The script format takes a while to get used to, but it eases you in right away. Since the last book is fantastically also a play out in London at the moment, it makes sense. The play runs until December 2017 and from the looks of it, every night is already sold out.

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But back to the book: Albus Severus Potter, the middle child (out of three) of Harry and Ginny (Weasley) takes center stage along with Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius. Yes, you read that right.

The two, albeit the popularity (or notoriety) of their parents make their way through Hogwarts. They are as endearing as awkward, having to navigate their lives mostly in the shadow of their parents. And just as Rowling’s brand of courage carries forth in her books with Harry and the rest of the characters, so does this one: Potterheads will revel in the decisions-turned-wild-adventures of the two.

While struggling with different situations, both Albus and Severus are guided by ideals of identity marked by a need to prove themselves. It was also interesting to witness Harry’s evolution from a student at Hogwarts to a father of three. In a scene depicting Harry’s most vulnerable, he reaches out to Dumbledore through a painting:

Harry: I need your help. I need your advice. Bane says Albus is in danger. How do I protect my son, Dumbledore?
Dumbledore: You ask me, of all people, how to protect a boy in terrible danger? We cannot protect the young from harm. Pain must and will come.
Harry: So I’m supposed to stand and watch?
Dumbledore: No. You’re supposed to teach him how to meet life.

It’s moments like this that reminds me of why I fell in love with the series in the beginning, in addition to the world of magic. It’s the humanity evoked by the characters of the book, and the universality of its themes. The reason why we kept on reading the book and why we kept on waiting for each movie is that we connected with the stories of the series’ heroes: of love, anger, fear, justice, integrity.

I finished the book reminiscing not only of Harry’s old days of sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs, but of those days when I would read the books back in my hometown, back in the province. I loved reading alone. While I was not privy to any kind of privacy in our house, I usually hunkered up by the window ledges large enough to fit a ten-year old kid. Outside the coconut trees swayed, the light passing through leaves of mango trees. I’d shut the windows from outside, creating a temporary abyss for me and my book. That was enough magic for me.

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