Tonight a huge chapter in my life comes to a close. The final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, comes out at 12:01 AM. I will be at a 12:05 AM show with my friend. My first, and last, midnight showing of a Harry Potter movie is sure to be memorable, to say the least. And mere hours from the moment when that beautiful, jagged lightning bolt of a screentitle will appear before me, I find myself thinking about my literary journey with the books and how it was so different from my cinematic experience.
I discovered the Harry Potter series for myself in 2000. I had just graduated from university and was working at my local public library branch as a shelver, and despite my ever-expanding interests, I eschewed Harry for a long time before I condescended to read it. "It can't be THAT good," I said to myself. Naturally, once I expressed interest in finally reading it, Ms. Rowling decided then would be a great time to publish the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This renewed the public's interest in the series, making it nigh impossible to get one's hands on the first three books for at least several months... in English.
I came across the first three books in French, in an astoundingly proper translation: those French from France, they sure know what they're doing. Since I hadn't read anything in French for leisure in about ten years, it took substantially longer to read, as I had to have a dictionary on hand when doing so. But I slogged through for weeks, where normally I'd have finished tearing through them in a few hours. The story was amazing, otherwise I would have given up after a few chapters.
When I finally got my hands on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (in English) after being #350 on a holds list, there was some initial confusion with regards to names and spells and such - Severus Snape is Severus Rogue in French; Hogwarts is "Poudlard" - but the book represented such a turning point in the series, and also a change in my appreciation for it, that I started raving about it to everyone I knew. (My mother famously repeated to me, "They can't be THAT good," then bought all four through a book club offer, read them all in a week, then called me up begging me to tell her when the next one was coming out.)
Around the time that GoF was slated to come out, rumors were swirling about Hollywood starting a movie series based on the books. I remember when it was confirmed and Vanity Fair ran an umpteen-page exposé with so many beautiful photos that for the first time since elementary school I bought a magazine and tore pages out of it to put star photos on my walls. Harry was perfect! Quidditch uniforms looked awesome! SNAPE!!! Oh my god, they picked Alan Rickman. Never in the history of cinema has an actor been so perfectly cast.
Of course, I saw each movie the day it came out, and bought each subsequent book in advance. I re-read Order of the Phoenix so many times I could find you a particular passage within ten seconds. I even drew a crappy-looking storyboard for what I wanted the last 150 pages of the book to look like in a movie. (I then showed it to my husband, who said, "Okay, so Harry is looking through a telescope, then there's a gorilla --" "That's Hagrid!" "Okay, so a gorilla is coming out of a house and a midget --" "That's Umbridge!" "... is shooting laser beams at it. It looks pissed off and then someone shoots lasers at a man wearing a tepee --" "That's McGonagle!" You get the idea.)
I cried for hours when I read the end of Half-Blood Prince. I cried so hard while reading it the first time I had to reread it the next day because I could make no sense of the end. I left my mother a tearful voicemail telling her not to read it because it was so sad and J.K. Rowling was a bitch for writing it.
Then came the final book. My husband, by now being wise to my personal seclusion at these times, chose to go sailing for the weekend, knowing I would be completely ignoring him until I had read the book, reread choice scenes, and then started discussing them with him without him ever having read the books. Ever. (He is constantly reminding me that I'm forever reading passages aloud to him and he's seen all the movies, so he doesn't have to read the books.)
It was sad. But in that sometimes peculiar way of grief, it didn't hit me until later. I was reading the book for the third time on the bus on my way home from work on day, several weeks later, and this particular scene near the end of the book hit me. The tears started pouring down my face, and me with no tissue. I made the people around me nervous, I fear.
I haven't read Deathly Hallows nearly as many times as the other books, but I know this movie is going to hurt. The last one didn't end where I expected it to, but it seems as good a spot as any. I'm preparing my purse as I write this, stuffing it full of tissues and mentally calculating how much caffeine I need to consume in order to stay alert until 3:30 AM, the time at which I roughly expect to get home tonight (tomorrow?). I'm bringing a pen, to write the previews on the back of my ticket as I've done for the last 16 years of movie-going. I'd like to bring my awesome camera, because I'm sure people will be in costume and it will be beautiful and loud and fun, but I'm scared it will be confiscated. Maybe the smaller one, assuming my husband remembers to bring it home. I'm bringing my rarely-used inhaler, just in case I'm sobbing so hard I have trouble breathing. (Hey, it's not inconceivable.)
It won't be the last time I watch a Harry Potter movie in the theatre - I plan to bring my husband with me to another showing later, since he's staying home with our (teething) infant son tonight. But it's the last time I'll get to experience opening night madness for what has been the most emotionally gut-wrenching movie series of my life.
Oh, why didn't I order that Ravenclaw scarf ages ago...