If you live on the internet and know your Harry Potter, you would have heard that just a few days ago, James Sirius Potter, the eldest of the combined Potter-Weasley-Granger brood, set off on his first ever journey to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He was wished off in style, we presume, by his parents, his aunt and uncle, millions of Muggle wellwishers and, of course, his Creator herself, J.K. Rowling.
This had the immediate result of causing a load of nostalgia for fans all over the world. ‘Has it been that long already?’ one of my friends asked when I reminded them of what day it was. ‘Are we really that old?’ The subtext of the question was ‘Are the kids we grew up with now producing kids and sending them off to have adventures of their own?? Really?’
(To be fair to me and said friend though, Harry is, though we tend to forget it thanks to the timing of the book-releases, nearly ten years older than us and hence, forgiveably ahead in the procreation game.)
But it did make me think, a lot. Harry Potter is actually all grown up now, not just in the pages of Deathly Hallows (where he grew up nearly ten years ago), but out there, in the virtual world, people are recognizing him as a thirty-something who’s got kids and a wife and a stable, secure career. Harry probably pays taxes and has to work out regularly (no more scarfing down seconds of rhubarb crumble) and maybe meets his friends, what, once a week? I suppose he might see Hermione more, thanks to working in the same huge office, but I doubt that the amount of work she most likely takes on herself, she has much time for social engagements.
I wonder what it would be like, to watch a character you’ve sort of grown up with, deal with decidedly less exciting problems than a Dark wizard, the sort of problems that real-life people deal with. It’s much easier, for some reason, to imagine Harry filing his taxes than Frodo, and that’s not just because of the much more socially and adminstratively advanced realms the former occupies. What Rowling did by throwing in that Epilogue, much as many people hated it and scorned it for being ‘remarkably twee’ and hinting at continued problems, was to prove that her hero, unlike Tolkien’s, had a future and a life outside of his quest.
This is really quite a revolutionary thing to do in fantasy, and the only other person who seems to be working on it right now is Patrick Rothfuss.^ What happens to your hero when he walks off into the sunset—Tolkien and Jordan have covered that. Martin might not cover it because, as far as we can see, there is no sunset for his heroes to saunter into. But Rowling had Harry come right back into the business of living, really living, after his showdown with Voldemort. Maybe he took a long holiday—he certainly deserved it—but he came back from it and plunged right into the Dark wizard catching business. It’s like if Frodo had set up monthly tours to Mount Doom.
Maybe this is another reason why Harry is as popular and amazing a hero as he is. Unlike many others, who were offered a way out, Harry gets real. Harry finishes off with the excitement of saving the world early on, and then settles down to really ‘having a life’. Instead of having incredibly overblown expectations and entitlement (the kind I must confess to having), he settles for the white picket fence dream and seems to think that life really can’t get better than this.
I suppose he has perspective, unlike most of us. Having spent the greater part of his teenage years continually facing down danger, he knows that there are worse things than a job you don’t like, or social-media inspired envy. Harry is a wise man, and seeing his kid off at the station is probably a wonderful day in his book.
It’s nice to think of a Harry at peace. And it’s quite something when you realize that Rowling, though she gave him this domestic bliss, still hasn’t quite reduced him to ‘boring’. ‘Harry is a dad!’ doesn’t take away from his derring do and pluck. Just like the reliable Sam Gamgee, he’s done his duty, lived to fight another day, and then used that other day to soldier on, with better food and shelter.
So carry on the good work, Harry, and may your son enjoy his time at Hogwarts.