It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

Did you think maybe we would make it through this summer without any Harry Potter entries? Surely you are not quite that naive!

My plan was to reread the series this summer, but since they are packed, Mike and I have been listening to them instead. The other day, I paused the iPod and said, “A year ago we still did not know how it ended.” It took me back to those desperate feelings of needing to know how it was all going to end. To the night we saw J.K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall. To reading the book in our pajamas all day on July 21st. To the release party, complete with a fantastic setup of snacks, pizza, and my brother frantically reading in the corner, trying to finish Half-Blood Prince before midnight.

And it took me back to one of my favorite moments from the whole Deathly Hallows release experience, one that I didn’t mention at the time, but that I would like to talk about now: the day that the books came into the library.

It was just after lunch on July 11. My coworker stepped into my office, saying, “There’s a box that has Harry Potter written all over it. Should you come look at it?” I nearly tripped as I rushed over to the boxes, and, indeed, sitting right on top, there it was. Do not open before July 21.

The night before, I had dreamed that it was Harry Potter Day, and I was so happy. We hadn’t been spoiled. We were going to make it. I woke up, and, no, it wasn’t Harry Potter Day. It was just a regular old Wednesday. It technically was Harry Potter Movie Day, but Harry Potter Movie Day didn’t really mean all that much to me.

We opened the invoice and I reiterated to my coworker the importance of keeping and processing them in a secure environment, not opening the box before absolutely necessary, not reading it, not posting on the internet. All the things we’d promised in order to get the books. This was it. This was the last book. It was Right. There. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I kind of hugged the box. I was so excited. Finally, the book was within my reach. Finally, it was almost time to read it. First I hid it behind my trashcan. Then I hid it under my desk. Go ahead and imagine all of that. I’ll wait.

You back? Have you stopped laughing? All right then. I tried frantically to call Mike, who was actually watching the movie (which I did not know at the time), and therefore did not answer his phone. I debated telling some of my friends. There was the gloating factor “guess what is under my desk” aspect vs. the pressure I knew they’d give me. “Why don’t you just open it?” they’d say. “Why don’t you take it home and read it? I’d never be able to do that.” I did not need any encouragement to be weak. I was feeling very weak. I just wanted to know what was going to happen. I just wanted to know. I had so many questions. But I had given my word, I had signed all the papers, so I kept my mouth shut and the box under my desk. I tried to call Mike again. I sent him emails with LARGE CAPITAL LETTERS. I sat at my desk for a while, and I realized that I did not want to spend the next ten days with it that close to me.

I’ll be honest with you — it surprised me how hard it was to have them so close. When Half-Blood Prince came in, I had no problem being strong. I had no problem waiting to get and read it at midnight like everyone else. I didn’t even look at the back cover. With Deathly Hallows, though, my fear of spoilers made me really anxious, and it was hard to have the “solution” to that anxiety right under my desk. In my mind, the spoiler situation was elevated to a “severe threat” level, which made it much easier to think about cheating. To protect myself. Ah, justification. Let me wrap myself in your arms.

And so I locked them in a closet, both for the safety of the books and for my own sanity. I locked them in a closet as if I was trying to make a bargain with God. “If I do the right thing, could you please work it out so I don’t get spoiled? Could you please make other people do the right thing, too?” Life doesn’t work like that, I know. And bargaining with God is always a bad idea. But instead of taking the book home, breaking the law, breaking my word, I did the right thing. The other 20 copies came in on July 17th. Again, I locked them immediately in a closet. I did hold one in my hand this time, but I didn’t even crack it open to look at the title page. It felt good, to hold it in my hand. I let that be enough.

There was some discussion that week of what kind of person would intentionally spoil a book for other people. I put forth the theory that it was a power trip. I felt uniquely situated in the discussion, because, as my boss said, “I am not keeping you from the book. Your own conscience is keeping you from it.” (I told him he’d better put that in my performance evaluation: “Shows integrity even under extreme pressure.”) While I never would have spoiled it for anyone, I understood the draw of letting other people know that I had it, even if I wasn’t going to read it. As I said before, at first I couldn’t handle the pressure of people knowing, but later in the week, after the spoilers were out, I started to see things differently. When Half-Blood Prince came into my office four days before the release date, I gloated. I didn’t read it early, but I wanted them to know I had it. Since then, I have come to see that as somewhat sad. I don’t need to get my identity from having the book before other people, as if I am part of some special group and they aren’t. What would be the point of that? And so, for the most part, I managed not to tell people. I discussed the paperwork I had to sign, and perhaps people inferred that we had it, but all in all, I think I was much better behaved than when Half-Blood Prince came out. I hope it meant that I had grown a little in the two years between the two books, behaving like a reasonable adult rather than being tacky and immature.

And in the end, it worked out. I got to work on the morning of the 20th, I processed the books and got them ready for checkout the next day. (Actually processing the books was HARD. I had to TOUCH THEM and put JACKETS ON THEM and NOT READ THEM.) We had our party and there were no spoilers and Mike and I spent a frantic 21 hours reading it out loud. And all of that was wonderful, and I won’t forget it. But, for me, the moment when I saw the box was one of the most exciting experiences of the whole crazy ride, and I am incredibly proud to say that I had it and I locked it away.

(I saved one of the boxes, because I thought it was awesome. But this picture is from July 20th, the day we opened the boxes to process them. And, yes, my hands did shake a little bit. Stop laughing at me! I was kind of excited!)

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