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Harry and Me

August 29, 2005

I came late to the Harry Potter party. I saw the movies in the theater as they were released, the first one mostly because Mr. Karen had listened to one of the books while driving with a friend out to Colorado to kayak in 200x and thought it was good, and the next two because we’d seen the first one and liked it. Liking the movies didn’t motivate me to seek out the books, though. I’m not sure why–maybe I figured I had enough to read already without getting involved in a seven-part-not-all-of-them-written-yet series.

Then this past April an e-mail arrived in my in-box at work, one of those questions to the company at large messages that we often get around here. This one asked who had the Focus with the silver sunshade. “That would be me,” I replied, thinking maybe there’d been an incident–someone pulling out of the space next to me scraped the side of my car, maybe. Fortunately, my car was fine; the guy who sent the e-mail had noticed a book on CD on my passenger seat and wanted to know if he could borrow it to make copies of a couple of the discs, as the ones he owned had been scratched beyond repair. Fine with me. I trusted that he actually did have his own copy and wasn’t just going to duplicate all the discs rather than get the book through legitimate means. Besides, it’s always a good idea to be nice to people in the IT department–they can be very helpful.

So I loaned him the discs and when he brought them back we got to talking about our long commutes and how audio books make it better and he asked if I’d read any of the Harry Potter books, that they were really good to listen to. When I said I hadn’t, he offered to lend me his copy of the first one. And that’s how it began. I listened to the first book and liked it and he leant me the second and then the third.

By the beginning of July I was into the fourth book (Goblet of Fire) and really, really liking it, so much that I sometimes listened to it when I wasn’t driving–that’s something I very rarely do with audio books. I decided this one was my favorite; maybe because I hadn’t already seen the movie and so it was all new to me. Of course, I’m still going to see the movie when it comes out. Around the same time I was listening to the book, Mr. Karen and I saw the trailer. I got entirely too excited–that’s Krumm! that’s Fleur! that’s Ron and Harry in their dress robes! I don’t think I was bouncing in my seat, but I can’t be 100% sure. Having to wait until November seemed so cruel. In another very rare for me to do move, I looked up fan sites with pictures from the movie set as a way to try and make the wait a little more tolerable. It didn’t work–I’m still feeling like November is so very very far away.

When the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was released in mid-July, I still had the fifth book to listen to, so I couldn’t join in all the hoopla. That was okay; there’s still another book to come and I’ll surely be caught up with the series by then. I was in the middle of listening to five when Mr. Karen and I drove to Chicago and back, and the thought of all that time in the car with no Harry when I had some to listen to made me a little shaky, but fortunately Mr. Karen didn’t mind coming in the middle (though I didn’t make it clear we weren’t going to finish before we got home, so maybe he agreed to the plan under false pretenses, but too late now–besides, he listened to the fourth book first all those years ago, so he can’t claim I alone messed up his HP chronology).

It was when I finished five that the trouble began. I couldn’t get my co-worker’s copy of six because he and his family weren’t done with it yet, and I didn’t want to buy my own copy because I’d rather use my disposable income on fabric and travel than on a set of CDs I could borrow in just a few weeks. But what was I to do in the meantime? I had Harry on the brain and Harry was all over the internet, taunting me. I had to avoid some parts of my usual online hangouts lest I hear too much about the Half-Blood Prince before it was my turn for the book on CD.

So I did the only thing that seemed to make sense: I started reading fanfic. I know; I’m surprised, too. It feels slightly shameful, like when I was living on the honors floor in college and started reading romance novels I got from my roommate. I mean, sure, even smart girls need a break from rigorous intellectual pursuits now and then, but romance novels? I didn’t exactly advertise the fact I enjoyed them lest I appear unfit for the Honors College. Reading fanfic feels like that, too–a guilty pleasure, but not so guilty as to keep me from doing it.

But where to start? My brain had stored a tidbit I’d read somewhere about a story featuring Draco Malfoy joining the RCMP, so I Googled that and found The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere and I was off. One story was not enough, oh no. I kept reading, following links and confessing to online friends so I could get recommendations from them. I was careful to avoid any post-HBP fic, and yes, there is some already.

I stopped reading fanfic (temporarily, I’m sure) only because I finally caved and bought my own copy of HBP–in hardcover, not audio. I decided not to wait after I was unfortunately spoiled for the big plot point thanks to a click into the blog of a friend of a friend of a person I don’t even know, a blog which evidently thought just using the characters’ first names was good enough to camouflage the truth. It wasn’t. I didn’t want to get spoiled any further, so I went for the hardcover, which was a lot cheaper than getting my own CDs.

This is the first one I’ve read rather than listened to and I was surprised at how much sooner I came to the end–about six hours over two and a half days instead of twenty spread over two weeks like the last book. I was sad when I was done–sad about what had happened in the book, sad that I don’t have another one to look forward to any time soon, and sad that November is still so very far away. But there’s always fanfic…

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