I can clearly remember exactly where and when I was
when I first discovered Harry. What's harder to remember is exactly who
I was. In the decade plus since I began this journey, I've gotten divorced,
married again, divorced again, quit my job, was a LeakyMod for a year,
participated in a Potter-related podcast, started my career anew, and was
diagnosed with and am now a proud survivor of breast cancer. I am more than ten
years older, hopefully wiser, and in a different when, where and who in my
life, but much of that is due to the lessons that being a fan of Harry
has taught me.
"Seven years there and he won't know himself" 1
My journey with Harry started in the fall of
2000. My then seven year old son was struggling with reading and a coworker of
mine recommended the Potter books as a great way to get him engaged in a
story. An avid reader since the age of four, I thought I had pretty much read
it all and considered myself to be quite sophisticated and worldly when it came
to literature. Had I heard of Harry Potter back on that autumn day in
2000? Well, only because my mother-in-law had purchased the yet unread book for
my son earlier in the year for his birthday. Quite frankly, the thought of having
to suffer through a kid's book was about as desirable as cleaning the toilet,
but I was desperate for my son to start reading. So after work one night, I
dusted off my son's pristine copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,
and dutifully set off to help him discover my love of reading no matter how
boring it might be for me.
I nestled into the armchair with my son, set the egg
timer for thirty minutes and read the following words: "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley,
of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly
normal, thank you very much." 2 Before I knew it, the
thirty minutes had flown by and it was time to start my son's bedtime routine.
As I was readying him for bed, my mind kept drifting back to the story. What
was going to happen to the poor little baby left on the doorstep? What exactly
happened that destroyed such a powerful wizard? How were these magical
characters we were already introduced to going to figure into the remainder of
These questions and more burned through my mind as I
lay in bed trying in vain to read whatever current novel I was reading ’ one
that apparently left me not nearly as impressed seeing as I now have absolutely
no clue who the author or what the title of it was. Still feeling a bit unsettled
by my preoccupation with this "kid's book' I finally gave in to my impulses
and snuck back into my son's room to retrieve the book and continued reading
throughout the night. Thus my love affair with Harry's story began.
"Let us step out into the night and pursue that
flighty temptress, adventure"3
As I mentioned before, I read all of Sorcerer's
Stone in one marathon session during the wee hours of the night in secret
from the rest of my family. The truth of the matter was that I did not want my son
to know I had read on ahead ’ not because I was ashamed that I had spent the
whole night reading a kid's book, but because this story was so special and so
magical (pun intended) that I didn't want to ruin any part of it for him. By
this point in time the first four books had been published, so naturally I made
a trip to the nearest bookstore the next day and purchased Harry Potter and
the Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Goblet of Fire.
Giddy with excitement, I proceeded to devour the next three books over the
course of the next couple of weeks. It was during this time that I made a
fascinating discovery. As I was still only reading with my son for thirty
minutes per night (sometimes I managed to coax an extra ten minutes out of
him.) I started to discover those "Things Hidden in Plain Sight" that J.K.
Rowling is world-famous for because I was in the unique position of reading
both the first book and the consecutive books at the same time. Every reading
session I was having those "aha" moments and discovering something new and fun
that I had missed the first time around. I still remember the moment I realized
that if you took "Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi" 4
and read it backward you got "I show not your face but your heart's desire"
and I literally thought my brain just might explode.
Never before had something so completely captivated
my thoughts, dreams, and imagination as these novels were. It was with great
regret that I finally came to the end of Goblet of Fire and then realized
that it was probably going to be about a year that I would have to wait for the
next book. In retrospect, I'm very glad I was naÃ¯ve enough then to assume she
was going to continue to be able to crank out one book per year.
"You're well out of it, mate" 5
The period of time between 2000 and 2005 was a very
challenging time in my personal life. My husband of eight years and father of
my two children decided he wanted a divorce; I made a horrible decision to jump
right into another train wreck of a relationship, and ended up divorced again
by the summer of 2005. I mean, this last relationship was even more disastrous
than Harry and Cho's, if that gives you any kind of indication of how bad it
was. During this time, my son (and subsequently my daughter) learned how to
read, but neither of them had anything close to the passion for books that I
have and they sadly did not share my love for Harry. I found myself a
struggling, lonely single mom, lacking in adult companionship that I was so
craving at the time, and working a job that I hated with every fiber of my
being. I remember feeling the need to contribute more to life than what I was
currently doing. In other words, I felt a great need to be a part of something
important, but was rudderless and instead drifted aimlessly along the currents
of my life. It was right around the time of my second divorce becoming final in
the summer of 2005 that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince made the
scene and from then on things got a lot more interesting.
Prior to the release of Half-Blood Prince, I
would have called myself a fan of the Harry Potter books. After the
release of Half-Blood Prince, I realized that I was not just a fan, but
a fanatic. Maybe it was because the trio was getting older and I could relate more
to them, maybe it was the romance, the intrigue, the sense of how in the hell
are they going to get everything done. Whatever it was, my moderate intrigue
turned into a full-blown obsession. I immediately began a reread of the entire
series because I just knew that the clues were there if I paid more attention.
I felt like Hermione did when she fell asleep and missed Cheering Charm
lessons. I knew that something vital had just happened and even though I had
read and reread the previous five books, I knew there was so much more to this
than I could glean in one reading. Then the most spectacular thing ever in the
Not being the most internet savvy person in the
world, it wasn't until the fall of 2005 that I realized J.K. Rowling had her own
website. This place was a completely new discovery and it opened up a world I
had never imagined existed. Like Hansel and Gretel following the breadcrumbs, I
found The Leaky Cauldron (affectionately known as Leaky to the community)
through following fan links. To me, the thought of joining an on-line community
was not something I had ever considered before, so at that time I lurked a bit,
spent some time reading through different theories and threads and generally
made excuses to myself as to why I kept visiting, but not joining up.
"I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind [...] At these times [...] I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one's mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one's leisure." 6
In the past, I would have the same pattern: read the
newest Harry Potter book, obsess about it for a few weeks, read the
other books, then put them back on my bookshelf with not many passing thoughts
and go about living my life. Wait a couple of years for the next book release,
read all night long, then wash, rinse, repeat. This time it was different. It
was as if my mind was aflame with thoughts and try as I may; I could not rid
myself of them. In short, I really did need a Pensieve. I would find myself at
the grocery store thinking about R.A.B., I would be at work and all of a sudden
a thought about the trio's task would pop into my brain and I would have to
scribble it down on a post-it. One day I scared my cat because I was in the
shower and screamed when I had the "aha" moment because I realized where the
locket had been last seen. I literally forced the books upon different friend's
family members in the vain hopes they would become as entranced as myself and I
would have somebody who shared this passion to discuss theory, character
traits, and the future of the trio. I finally came to the realization that all
roads led back to Leaky. One day in February 2006 as I was lurking I saw a notice
about a Reading Group starting up. That was the day I joined Leaky under the
handle SoonerGryffindor (my two favorite sports teams in case anybody was
wondering) and officially became a member of the Potterverse. It was if I had
finally found my own personal Pensieve where I could siphon off and examine all
those thoughts, ideas, and inspirations in an environment rich with the
thoughts, ideas and inspirations of other people.
As most who will read this essay already know, mere
words cannot capture the sheer delight that being a Potter fan during
this era was. Since I could literally write an entire essay just about my
experiences on Leaky, I will try my best to be concise here. It was a magical,
thrilling, enchanting, captivating, breathtaking, delightful, charming,
spell-binding, once-in-a-lifetime, kind of thing. I will never forget what it
was like to be on the cusp of something so incredible. From the reading groups,
to film discussions, chat groups and everything in-between it was all amazing.
Nothing will ever be able to replace being lead defense counsel (and getting to
work with some of the most remarkable people on the planet) for Snape's trial
on July 7, 2007. Even though I and my team lost our case, Jo herself managed to
exonerate Snape a mere two weeks later with the release of Deathly Hallows.
The bitterness of that defeat was mitigated in learning that the Prince himself
was indeed Dumbledore's man through and through ’ a topic that was probably the
most hotly debated throughout the entire fandom.
Being a canon freak, I spent most of my time in Great
Wizarding Events, Unfogging the Future, and Notable Magical Names, but I also
re-discovered some of my more academic roots in Obscurus (four years later, I
still think I have brain-strain from the alchemy thread). These places and The
Corner Booth were my favorite hangouts, so I guess it's no surprise that I was
eventually asked to be a mod for both. Like mold, I had stuck to the walls so I
might as well make myself useful.
"Ah, music, A magic beyond all we do here!" 7
In retrospect, one of the best things about being a
member of the community at this period of time was the opportunity to step
outside of the box and get outside of my comfort zone. Nothing better shows
this than the day that fellow Corner Booth and Forum moderator futureweasley
approached me about doing a filk with her. At first I was stunned, me sing a
filk? Seriously? Ron Weasley's teaspoonful of emotional range far exceeds any
musical ability I was born with, but the funny thing about being a Potterfan
(or Ginny Weasley) is that you really do start to think that anything is
possible if you have enough nerve. Through this process I learned a couple of
things about myself. First, I was actually pretty good at coming up with ideas
for and writing filks. Second, you don't have to be particularly good at
something to have a blast doing it. All you need is to be able to take a giant
step out of that comfort zone and be amazed at the great time you're having.
Thank you so much MJ for introducing me to that valuable life lesson.
Writing and singing filks soon led to being one of
six people lucky enough to write, perform and produce their own podcast and my
time with WeasleyCast was absolutely the time of my life. Sadly all things must
end and even though I only have a few bits and scraps that I was able to
salvage from my old decrepit desktop from 2007 when my house flooded earlier
this year, I will never forget the wonderful times and all of the laughter I
shared with my amazing castmates. Scott, Varza, Ranea, Stuart and MJ, you guys
totally rocked my socks! I will never forget the laughter, the recordings that
we had to do over and over because of our laughter, the arguments, the
discussions, and the late night forays together over to the Fat Friar's vat of
wine. Oh yeah, and more laughter.
"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live" 8
As incredibly joyful and fulfilling as this time in
my life was, it was not destined to last forever. Before we all knew it July
21, 2007 had finally arrived. For me it was an astounding journey of almost
seven years and worth every second I had to wait. In some ways I wish it could
have lasted longer, but even when you aren't dreading something, time has an
incredibly annoying habit of marching on. Bills still had to be paid,
appointments kept, and kids raised. Even though one chapter of my life was now
over, new adventures lay just over the next horizon. There are times where I
still deeply miss the daily involvement with the rest of the Potterverse, but
whenever that melancholy sets in, I remember the friendships made and the life
lessons learned. Life after Harry will definitely go on and it will be
much richer for it.
"After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." 9
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."10
So for the next couple of years life went on until
two quite ordinary things that led to extraordinary events happened. First I
turned forty, and then because I had turned forty, I went in for my first ever
mammogram. Which was most definitely not an ordinary experience, unless being
told you have stage III breast cancer is your idea of the mundane. In the space
of one simple morning, my entire world had transformed. Instead of worrying over
what I was going to make for dinner that night, I was instead Googling
everything I could on the different types, subtypes and survival rates of
breast cancer. Would I still be able to work? How was I still going to be able
to raise my kids? Was this really, truly the end of the line for me? Just like
Harry, I can remember sitting there wondering how many beats my heart had left
to beat before I died. It took a few weeks of testing: biopsies, blood tests,
ultrasound, breast MRI, lumpectomy. At the end, it was determined I had a
triple negative tumor, which is automatically stage III (and a very poor
prognosis) whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes.
"It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew, and so do I," thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, "and so did my parents, that there was all the difference in the world." 11
When we first started WeasleyCast, we all wanted to
let everyone know what our favorite Potter quote was. For me there was
never any question. The above quote from Harry has always been my favorite from
the moment I first read it. I always thought that if I were in a similar
situation I would hope that this would be my reaction. With my test results
finally in, I now had two choices: no further treatment and be looking at a 56%
five year survival rate or endure five months of grueling chemo followed by two
months radiation and increase my survival chances to 78%. Being a health care
provider I already knew a lot of the ugly truth about the choice I was getting
ready to make, but not fighting ’ not going into that arena with my head held
high was not an option. I sat down with my oncology team and worked out a
survival strategy. It was not pretty and it was not fun, but in April 2010 I
walked out of my last radiation session knowing that I had done everything I
possibly could have done to give myself the highest survival rate possible. A
few months later, I finally finished my last chemo session. As I write this
now, it has been almost twelve months since my last trek down that long hallway
into the chemo room. Thank you so much Harry for preparing me for this battle.
Finally things are starting to normalize again. My
hair eventually grew long enough for a proper haircut, hurts and scars are
healing, my son graduated from high school, life goes on. Most importantly, are
the lessons learned throughout this journey. Among other things, I've learned
· love my kids like Molly
· let out my inner Luna
· laugh like the twins
· be brave like Harry.
All in all, it's been a very interesting decade and
there's no way I would be the person I am today without having had Harry and
the rest of the fandom as part of my life.
1. J.K. Rowling, Sorcerer's Stone, 58.
2. Ibid., 1.
3. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 56.
4. Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 207.
5. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 866.
6. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 597.
7. Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 128.
8. Ibid., 214.
9. Ibid., 297.
10. Ibid., Deathly Hallows, 328.
11. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 512.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New
York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New
York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.
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