Deathly Hallows’ Tenth Anniversary (1)

Where was I ten years ago — July 2007 — when Deathly Hallows was published?

I was living in Fogelsville, Pennsylvania, just outside Allentown, in a farmhouse adjacent to the Glasbern Inn farm and property. Six of the seven Granger children were still with us, then aged six to seventeen, the oldest daughter having just left to start college at the Virginia Military Institute.

My plan was to be in London, England, on the day of publication. I’d been invited to speak at a big deal conference as a Featured Speaker with air fare and a room at the Savoy. I had been giving interviews to The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. I did a gig on MSNBC, the A&E channel was playing The Secrets of Harry Potter that eventually became a part of the Phoenix DVD extras and I was featured, and two of my books, Unlocking Harry Potter and Looking for God in Harry Potter (now How Harry Cast His Spell), and one that I edited, Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?, were in the Amazon Top 100. HogwartsProfessor.com had become the weblog you know today in late December, 2016, and was hitting unprecedented and ten-times-normal traffic levels as media sources linked to the several-times-daily posts I was putting up.

I was pretty excited and wearing full Gilderoy plumage. I spoke to my daughter Hannah one weekend, the first phone call home she was allowed as a ‘Rat’ in VMI’s spartan immersion in cadre discipline. I told her my plans for London and my secret wish to meet The Presence Herself. Isn’t it possible that JKR will stop by the biggest fan conference in the same city as the book release?

My oldest daughter, a champion athlete and as deft rhetorically, decided that sarcasm was the pin she needed to burst my balloon.

“That’s great, Dad. You can read the book to your younger children the next time the seventh book in the series comes out.”

What she was talking about was my break with a family tradition. I guess to her, as an Orthodox Christian being initiated into the military caste culture, my desertion of post for individual advantage contra convention and expectation was about as low as I could go.

What tradition? My family discovered the Boy Who Lived in April, 2000. I’d read the three books aloud to the three children not yet reading (number seven would arrive that August) and the whole famn damily would talk, would argue at meals and at play about what was happening in the stories. The publication of Goblet of Fire was my clan’s first Midnight Madness party; my wife helped them all dress up in costumes and put them down for naps so they’d be up at midnight to buy the book we’d reserved.

Only it didn’t come out at midnight. The bookstore on Shepherd Street in Houston next to the Whole Foods Market where I worked was a super-store before that was a B&N commonplace. The building it was in had been built as a movie theater and they had retained all the exotic architectural features in which to put stacks of books, to include an over-sized balcony, mezzanine, and film booth. Wild place.

And they were totally unprepared for and unequal to the crowd that showed up to buy copies of Goblet of Fire. We didn’t get our book until 2 AM and I had to wake all but the oldest children up after I’d run the gauntlet and survived the line of justifiably annoyed (well, this was Houston: “furious” would be a lot closer to the truth) eager readers. I was just glad a Fire Marshall or CPS monitor hadn’t dropped in and shut the whole event down.

When we got home to our shack in Pearland on a friend’s seven acres, I read the first two chapters and everyone went to bed. A family tradition was born, unknown to us all.

By the time Phoenix came out in 2003, I was a published Potter Pundit and a niche celebrity. I spoke at the largest Barnes & Noble on the Olympic Peninsula, autographed copies of Hidden Key to Harry Potter, and my family was first in line to purchase the book and exit; being given ‘Ticket #1’ was my ‘fee’ for the speaking date. I read the book aloud until the younger children fell asleep and then read through the night to be ready for a Publisher’s Weekly interview that morning at 7 AM. [No, I don’t recommend reading Phoenix in less than seven hours.]

By 2005 and Half-Blood Prince, I was debating Michael O’Brien on CNN, the first edition of Tyndale’s Looking for God in Harry Potter was in every bookstore, and I was beginning my Walter Mitty dream existence as a conference, school, and fan convention speaker. I did three radio interviews and talked with the friendliest members of the Skeeter tribe all day when Prince was published, spoke at the Barnes and Noble again, autographed books, and, again, we were first in line, this time for multiple copies to keep the peace, and we read right through until the youngest set fell asleep. I did, too, this time; only the older daughters pressed on.

We moved from Washington state to Pennsylvania in early 2006. I taught Latin at Valley Forge Military Academy but I was writing and blogging more than teaching and grading. By the time I spoke with Hannah the Keydet in July, 2017, I’d left VFMA to move to and work at my father’s place in Fogelsville — and blog and write.

“That’s great, Dad. You can read the book to your younger children the next time the seventh book in the series comes out.”

I cancelled my reservations to London and backed out of the speaking date as gracefully as I could. The organizers told me I was making the right decision. I scrambled to find a bookstore in southeastern Pennsylvania that didn’t already have six hours of programming scheduled for their Deathly Hallows Midnight Release party. I found a B&N only twenty miles from our farmhouse, one with a CRM (don’t ask) that was thrilled to have me — and who was willing to put three books on reserve for my clan to buy before anyone else.

I performed to a raucous and rowdy pack of revellers, who came for the Madness part of the Midnight release (and created most of it). My clan bought our books at the stroke of 12:00 and ran through the store holding them over their heads, shouting “Deathly Hallows!,” running to the van outside.

And I read Deathly Hallows to the four youngest children, all of whom could read at that point I think, until we all fell asleep sometime just before the sun came up at our place, a little before the red-gold light of dawn shone through the windows of the Great Hall in the Battle of Hogwarts.

Someday, maybe, I’ll sleep at the Savoy. I’m very glad, though, that I didn’t read Deathly Hallows for the first time in London. 

Because, as I know now but could only suspect was a very good bet then, Hannah was right. There never will be a next time for some things with loved ones.

Please share your Deathly Hallows publication anniversary memories below in the comment boxes. A big thank you to Hannah — and to all those readers who have been with us here at HogwartsProfessor before or since the fabulous finale was finished!

Comments

  1. Kathrin Franke says:

    Well, I had moved to Ireland just a month before, so I was waiting in line at the only bookshop in Dublin to do a midnighyt event. (Before that, when I was still living in Germany, I think I might have had two release parties for each of years 4-6 – as I always got the German copy as well as the English one. I remember that there was a quiz at the GoF event and I won a copy in English which I’m not happy about losing).

    But to return to the publication of DH – it wasn’t so much an event as a long queue outside the shop with some memebers of staff handing out sweets and drinks while we waited. There may or may not have been music playing, but probably just inside the shop.

    I think I got my copy about 1am and went back to the pub i’d been at before – mainly because I didn’t fancy standing in the rain waiting for the bus for 30 mins. On the way there i had the book out, reading the dedications, and people came up to me asking if i’d read the end yet (of course I hadn’t. Why would anyone do that anyway?) I ignored them and walked on shaking my head, putting the book back in its bag. At the pub a friend of mine managed to spill my drink over the new book… it was just water but I still hit him with the book and caught him with a corner.

    When I was home I decided it was a better idea to go to bed, but I started that morning at 7.26 and finished the next day at 14.15 with a few breaks in between.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    By that time, we could count on the Dutch drugstore chain (owned by a Hong Kong firm), with a very Herbology- & Potions-Masters compatible name, Kruidvat (more or less ‘Apothecary Jar’ in effect, but strictly more like ‘Herb vessel’), to sell English hardback editions at a sort of ‘gimmick’ bargain price when they appeared, but the whole family went along in good time, not knowing how quickly they might sell out, even in our village with a comparatively high density of Potter-dubious Reformed inhabitants.

  3. Kelly Loomis says:

    I was feeling ungracious on the day my book was arriving from Amazon because we were going to a wedding that night and my book didn’t arrive until mid afternoon. There were so many books being delivered that there was an extra UPS truck in the Safeway parking lot just with books! I took the book along in the car. For some reason there was a huge wait in between the ceremony and reception. No bridal party or food arrived for quite a while. I stayed in the car with my book and read as fast as I could. I stayed up all night reading once we returned home!!

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