I’ve just recently bought the hardback of the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s been sitting in front of me for about a week now, and I’m trying to get up the nerve to actually read it. And it’s proving more difficult than even I’d imagined it would be.
My son, Philip, died on 19th April 2006, at the tender age of only 14 years and 9 months, from complications caused by terminal cancer. He was a huge Harry Potter fan. I had read the first three Potter novels to him when he was younger, at one chapter a night – he loved his latest bedtime installment of Potter – and read books 4, 5 and 6 to him as he lay ill in hospital. We hung on, hoping against hope that the final HP novel would be released, in time for him to reach the end of the story. But it wasn’t to be. He died before the final book was published, and one of my most poignant regrets is that he never got to find out how it all ended.
I made a promise to myself, and to my son, the day he died. I swore that, when the final HP book was released, I’d read it out aloud, one chapter per night, in the hope that he might just finally hear the end of the story “up there”, or wherever else he may be. I’ve avoided all spoilers like the plague. I haven’t even glanced at the back of the dust jacket. I know absolutely nothing about the story, other than the nebulous “somebody dies” that I’ve seen floating around the internet. So whatever happens, it’ll come as a complete surprise.
But now that I’ve finally got the book, I’m finding it very difficult to carry out my promise. There’s something, an internal fear holding me back. It’s like an invisible forcefield, a mountain I have to climb before I can open the book for the first time. It’s incredible how something as untouchable, as unsolid as the mind, the emotions, can feel so physically real, like a giant pair of hands, holding me back. I really need my kid right now, both in person and to give me a much-needed metaphysical push in the back.
Well, I’ve made up my mind. By the time the coming weekend is out, come hell or high water, I’ll have broken the ice, the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be well and truly behind me, and I’ll be moving through the book at a regular chapter per night.
And at last, if there’s any justice at all, and any such place as an afterlife, my son (and I) will find some sort of closure with the end of the Harry Potter saga.