However, I often find I can’t stay away forever. The memory fades and the good parts come back to me. I’ve been toying with trying Harry Potter again for almost a year but I honestly didn’t want to go through the emotional pain of losing fictional friends again. It’s a problem with me and my imagination. When I find stories I love, then the characters become real to me. I think about them. I imagine backstories and extra events for them. They may be fictional, but like the Velveteen Rabbit, they become Real.
I enjoyed the first six books immensely but I was bracing myself for the seventh book. I cried again when Sirius died in the fifth and when Dumbledore died in the sixth. Then came the onslaught. Hedwig, Mad-Eye, Dobby, Fred, Lupin … each and every one tragic.
But not overwhelmingly so.
Maybe it’s because I knew it was coming, rather than being surprised with them. The first time I read a book, I almost always rush through because I want to know what happens. I don’t have the mental space to absorb details because I’m completely swept up in the plot. I was able to spend more time in the ‘present’ of the book rather than rushing ahead to the next point.
Maybe it’s because I’m older and I’ve dealt with more. Things haven’t been easy for the last five years and I now know what it’s like to have to face overwhelming odds and keep fighting anyway. When The Deathly Hallows came out, Alex had just been diagnosed and my world was in the process of reforming after a complete collapse. I needed a happy ending, not just for Harry but for everyone.
Whatever the reason, I see the elegance and determination in Rowling’s work now. I owe her an apology for lumping her in with dark-minded writers who seem to genuinely enjoy kicking their characters in the teeth while they’re down. She may have killed off a lot of characters, but I’m now willing to bet each and every one left a mark on her. If I felt loss from my meager imaginings, she must have felt worse since these are characters she had been working with for over a decade.
Harry Potter can retake his place of pride among the stories on my shelf. Welcome back, old friends. It’s good to see you again.