You would think I would remember the circumstances in which we purchased our first Harry Potter book, but you would be wrong. Here is what we can agree on: It was definitely late in 1999, around Christmas, and it was definitely at Mike’s insistence. I thought we got it at Barnes and Noble, but Mike feels certain we got it at Sam’s. We bought it and started reading it (together, out loud) that day, and then read in the car as we drove to High Point to see some family.
While the exact details are kind of hazy, what I do remember is that I didn’t like it all that much to start with. I thought it was too Roald Dahl-y, with the orphan and the cruel relatives. I even said so. But we kept reading, and later that week I remember reading the last few chapters out loud at Mike’s apartment. He fell asleep and I got tired of trying to keep him awake, so I just finished it myself. Out loud, of course – that way he couldn’t blame me that he fell asleep. It wasn’t until years later that he actually ever read the end of Sorcerer’s Stone. When he saw the first movie, he realized that . . . he didn’t actually know exactly what was going to happen.
But something about the ending really captured my imagination – Harry finding the courage to face Voldemort because of his parents’ death, Harry’s mother dying to save him, the questions that Dumbledore refuses to answer. We bought the next two books that very same week.
And now I’m doing my final reread before the last book, my final reread without knowing how it all ends. I thought I might go book-by-book with my thoughts and predictions. So, here goes.
What I think book 1 teaches us:
1. The first chapter is called “The Boy Who Lived.” I think maybe that’s a “contract with the audience” kind of moment, and that Harry is going to live. I have never believed that Harry is going to die, because I don’t think that’s the kind of story she’s telling. But it’s nice to have a more substantial reason on which to base that prediction.
2. The end of Sorcerer’s Stone probably mirrors what will happen in the last book – Harry won’t be able to do the tasks without the help of the people around him (specifically Ron and Hermione), but, in the end, he’ll have to go it alone. I know this isn’t a mind-blowing prediction, but I do like the idea of the first book being a mirror in that way.
3. Without Neville, they wouldn’t have won the cup. I continue to believe that Neville is going to be a key player in the battle against Voldemort. Neville is, by far, my favorite secondary character, and I love how he has grown into a much more brave, capable wizard over the series. I think it’s possible that Neville might not survive book 7, but he’s not going down without taking Bellatrix with him, that’s all I’m saying.
4. For a long time, I have believed that Hagrid is going to die before the series is over. But rereading this book, I’m not so sure. I know the kiddies love him, but I get so sick of him with his stupid creatures and his boneheadedness. I think that J.K. Rowling loves him, too – why else would she waste so much time on Grawp in the fifth book? [I'll just go ahead and say this now - I read an article, I think it was in Entertainment Weekly, in which someone involved with the fifth movie was talking about how they had to cut Neville's "Christmas in the Closed Ward" scene out of the script, based on time. And yet, I look on IMDB and I see that there's a listing for Grawp?! We have time for GRAWP but not THE BEST SCENE IN THAT BOOK? *deep breath*] Because he was Harry’s first companion as he learned to navigate the wizarding world, and because of her great affection for him (and Harry’s great affection, for that matter), I’m going to make a bold guess and say that I think Hagrid is going to survive the series. Mike thinks I am completely wrong. But life’s not worth living if you don’t take a few risks.
5. And, finally, I know we haven’t gotten to Goblet of Fire, with the gleam in Dumbledore’s eye, but reading about how Harry’s mother’s love protected him, and knowing that Voldemort can’t understand love at all (in this book, he says that there is no good and evil, only power and those who seek it), I have to believe that love’s protection that flows in Harry’s veins (and later, in Voldemort’s), even though it can’t protect Harry from Voldemort anymore, there has to be something about it that Voldemort has missed. He underestimates love again and again. We know that what Harry has that Voldemort doesn’t is the ability to love, and I believe that, ultimately, Lily’s sacrifice still has a part to play in bringing about Voldemort’s defeat.
Sentence that seems most anvil-icious in retrospect:
“Could Snape possibly know they’d found out about the Sorcerer’s Stone? Harry didn’t see how he could â€“ yet he sometimes had the horrible feeling that Snape could read minds.” p. 221
Oh, Harry. You don’t even KNOW. But you will.