First off, to my sister’s friend Jackie– big apologies for keeping you waiting, my dear! Lots of traveling and catching up to do when I got back. No more delays, I promise! I want to make sure you have something to do over your lunch break! (Also, huge thanks for reading!!)
Now, down to business…
Harry Potter became kind of a big deal when I was in high school, but I didn’t really get into it until the summer after my first year of college. While this meant I was definitely late to the party, it also meant that I could get all the books from the library without waiting AND that I got to read the first four books in rapid succession.
(I believe that I have mentioned before how when I get into something, I get really into it. That summer, the Ypsilanti Public Library must have thought I was completely bananas– I checked out all four Harry Potter books, several books on the Manson Family, including Vincent Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter, and lastly, Cameron Manheim’s Wake Up, I’m Fat!, because I was just started to realize that just maybe it was ok to not be super thin. Seriously weird list, right? Maybe that was how I ended up on some sort of TSA-extra-security list for a few years???)
Anyway, Harry Potter…
So I read the first four books (Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Goblet of Fire) in a matter of a few weeks and then had to WAIT… and wait and wait and wait and wait for the Order of the Phoenix to come out the following summer.
I was not a Harry Potter fan accustomed to waiting.
Fortunately, I went to Michigan Tech around the time that digital pirating was kind of a big deal (Napster was the shizzz my freshman year)… and there’s nothing Techies love more than pirating, hacking, and the like. Maybe digital pirating is still a big deal? I really don’t know.
So my sophomore year of college I was an RA in the dorms and so was my boyfriend, now husband, Seth. Seth’s hall was FULL of guys who were super good at getting things in advance (I saw one of the Lord of the Rings movies way before it was ever out in the theater on a teeny tiny little computer screen in a cramped dorm room with crappy sound… jealous?) and one of those guys got an early copy of the FIFTH HARRY POTTER BOOK– Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. SCORE!
Eight-hundred pages of delicious, advanced, Harry Potter-ness. One of the guys even went to his computer lab in the middle of the night to print every single page and then to Office Max to have it bound for his girlfriend. Seth just gave me a floppy disk. Apparently, we weren’t that serious yet 😉
That summer, I worked at the front desk in Wadsworth Hall so that I could stay in the UP (that’s the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, God’s country, if you will…) while Seth was on co-op in Wisconsin (the 4.5 hour drive was a lot better than the 10ish hours it would have been if I’d gone back home) and I read every word of that wonderful book. Working at the front desk of a dorm in the summer time is an exceptionally boring job… there’s not a lot of work to be done. And I was good at being a body behind the desk. Especially since it gave me so much time to read.
I would bring my little, red floppy disk with me every shift and pop it into the big, old desktop at the front desk. Elbows on the table, face inches from the monitor, I pored over that book. And loved it.
In addition, I felt pretty darn smug over reading that early release. It even had a few typos because the editors hadn’t gotten to it yet! How lucky was I?!
Fast forward a couple years to 2005. It was May and I had just graduated from Michigan Tech. Seth and my mom, dad, sister, brother, Grandma Rita, and Grandpa John all made the trip up to Houghton for my graduation and we were headed back downstate with all of my belongings in tow. It was a beautiful day and we stopped on the Mackinac City side of the Mackinac Bridge for a picnic lunch on the way. In eager anticipation of the release of the next Harry Potter book (the Half-Blood Prince) later that summer, my mom, brother, and I set about discussing the Order of the Phoenix.
I was a little puzzled about this Delores Umbridge character they kept mentioning. Perhaps she was added after some editing? Was she a minor character I had missed? Had I forgotten that much of the book? So I brought up my favorite part– the Ron and Hermione romance. Oh, maybe that was edited out before the release? Dang, I really liked that part. But definitely it got a little Star Wars-y when it turned out the Voldemort was actually Harry’s grandfather, right?! RIGHT?!
I was… shocked. I had read 800 pages of fan fiction.
But truth be told, I wasn’t mad. Not even a little bit.
In fact, I was elated! Not only did I have the distinct pleasure of reading an extra Harry Potter book, but I also had the opportunity to once again plow through TWO Harry Potter books back-to-back that summer as I caught up on the real Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix followed by the newly released Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
I found the series conclusion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to be a highly satisfying end. I could have done without The Tales of Beedle the Bard. But that fake book number five? Icing on my Harry Potter cake, to be sure.
PS: Vonck was my maiden name. I almost made the title Rachel Stankowski and the Order of the Faux-nix, but that would have been inaccurate since my name wasn’t Stankowski at the time. I’m all about truth in… advertising? Titling? Whatever. Vonck it was, anyway.