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Growing Up Potter: Reflecting on “The Order of the Phoenix” Part 2

Lauren Chval | Wednesday, November 9, 2011

“I’ll think about it.”


That was always a yes in my mother’s book. So there we were, sitting on the floor against bookshelves, waiting in line for midnight to come. Barnes and Noble was packed. I had taken a copy of the fourth book from a display somewhere and was rereading it as we waited, and finally that all-consuming excitement started to take over me again.


We eventually got it, and I read it as we walked out of the store. I read it in the car on the way home. I got into my mom’s big bed with her and continued reading even though it was late and we had a flight to catch in the morning. She didn’t even bother trying to tell me not to. I read for as long as I could, until my eyes glazed over and couldn’t take in any more words. But my mind woke me up only a few hours later at five, and I sat on the floor leaning against the bed as my mom slept until I finished.


Well, until I almost finished. Something stopped me on page 806.


“There’s nothing you can do, Harry … nothing … he’s gone.”


Just like that, Sirius was gone. My world outside of Harry Potter was falling away around me, and in an instant, my escape betrayed me and took something else from me, too.


The characters from Rowling’s world had been with me since I was seven years old. Sirius had not joined them until the third book, but maybe because he had become such a life raft in Harry’s loneliness, he was the character I grew most attached to.


I cried like I hadn’t yet cried for the friends I was leaving and the painful change that I knew was ahead. Those friends had been mine for just a year. But to lose Sirius — just as isolation was about to engulf me again — was too much for me to bear.


My mother woke to my bawling, completely alarmed and unprepared for the fact that her act of selflessly waiting with me in a crowded bookstore into the wee hours of the morning had backfired. I could see the wheels turning in her head — she had been hoping to deter tears, not cause more of them.

“Lauren, honey, it’s … just a book … it’s not real.”


All I could do was cry harder. She didn’t understand, and at the time, I didn’t either. I knew her words to be true, but I also knew my little 12-year-old heart felt broken.


Sirius Black was not real. He was a figment of Rowling’s imagination that then became a figment of mine. But my childhood had become fragmented, devoid of lasting relationships. Those figments had become people to me — real influential forces that held truths and comfort when I needed them. Harry grappled with what he would do without Sirius, and so did I.


In the end, the greatest trick Rowling pulled out of her hat was not creating characters so meaningful their fictional deaths sent readers into mourning. It was what came after that. She taught Harry — and through Harry, us — how to deal with such grief. In the face of loss and change, Harry and I were fearful and angry. We lashed out. She forced us to move on. What choice did we have? Life moves on no matter what we do.

But Harry could not just move forward. He had to move forward with strength and maturity. And perhaps the only thing that could have helped me through another move more than Sirius’ presence was Sirius’ death.

To read the first part of this story, go to ndsmcobserver.com. Contact Lauren Chival at lchival@nd.edu