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The Scariest Thing

This post contains spoilers for the fourth book of Harry Potter.  If you haven’t read this book and intend to in the future, don’t read this post.

Before we ever started the fourth book of Harry Potter, I prepped the kids for the ending without giving it away.  I told them that starting with the third task, something scary was going to happen, then someone was going to die, and then something scary would happen after that.  They really had no clue who was going to die, though they knew it was someone integral to the story and not another character like Frank Bryce.

We got to the third task while we were sitting on the floor of a shoe store while Josh purchased new dress shoes.  We always carry a book with us so we can slip in a page here or there if Josh is running an errand.  The twins and I were sitting underneath a large display of argyle socks, one child on either side of me, and when it came time for the avada kedavra, I held their hands, bending my head over the book as if I was delivering a funeral sermon.

But they didn’t cry.  They didn’t even seem all that scared.

While we waited for Josh to pay, I kept trying to get them to process the loss of Cedric Diggory, but there was little to process.  “Oh,” the ChickieNob told me, “it’s sad to hear that anyone has died.  But he wasn’t a good friend to Harry, and we didn’t know him all that well.”  Fair enough.

Later in the week, we got to the scarier thing.  At least, in my mind it’s the scarier thing.  When I read the fourth book, I read it without the benefit of anyone prepping me that the end was about to get a little freaky.  I remember thinking that something was about to go down when I saw how many pages were still left after the third task and wasn’t exactly shocked when Cedric was killed.  But the part with Mad-Eye Moody?  That freaked the fuck out of me.  Especially when he took Harry away from the maze.  It felt like one of those bad dreams where you’re being kidnapped, but you can’t run for some reason because your muscles have stopped cooperating.

I used to convince myself that aliens had taken over my parents’ bodies while I wasn’t looking, while they were inside CVS and I was waiting in the car.  So the man getting back in the car, the man who looked, sounded, and smelled like my dad was really an alien impersonating my dad, and he was planning to drive me to an undisclosed location to perform experiments on me.

I had an overactive imagination.

The part with Mad-Eye Moody made me think about that alien fear and how it essentially came true for Harry.  An adult who looked, sounded, and smelled like Mad-Eye Moody but wasn’t Mad-Eye Moody.  And his goal was to take Harry to an undisclosed location and deliver him to the Dark Lord.


The twins felt the same way about the end of the book, though when I shared my childhood fear about the aliens with them, the Wolvog shook his head and explained that what was scary wasn’t the outlandish situations involving Polyjuice potion or aliens.  What was scary was how this could really happen: you could trust an adult who would violate your trust and hurt you.  You could trust a friend, share your secrets with them, and have them use those fears against you when you least expect it.  At the end of the day, what was so scary was this concept of trust, and how easily it could be abused.

And what can I say except they’re right?  People will let them down, in big ways and in small ways.

The ones that do it thoughtlessly will sting, but they’ll get over it.  The ones that do it maliciously will make an indelible mark on their soul.  And that was scary for all of us to think about: their understanding of the world being permanently changed by the actions of others.

Our imaginations can run away with the Voldemorts of this world, the enormity of pure evil.  But what truly chills are not the what ifs but the whens.  Because the twins have already figured out, there will be people in this world who seem trustworthy who prove otherwise, and we need to watch out for not only our physical well-being but our emotional well-being.

Big thoughts, Ms. Rowling, big thoughts.


1 Katherine A { 05.27.13 at 11:18 am }

Very interesting observation. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it makes complete sense. It’s not the monsters we can see, it’s the ones that look benign or even friendly but aren’t. Those are the ones who sneak through defenses and can wound far, far deeper than outright, declared enemies. Interesting thing to think about – thanks for voicing it so well.

Funny enough, the part that creeped me out the most came at the end of the movie for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, when Peter Pettigrew turns himself back into a rat and escapes. Timothy Spall, the actor playing Pettigrew, gives this horrible smile and a little wave and then suddenly he’s gone. I had nightmares about that for weeks.

2 a { 05.27.13 at 12:27 pm }

Very wise for their age, your children…

3 Queenie { 05.27.13 at 10:44 pm }

The Wolvog is a genius.

4 Jenn { 05.27.13 at 11:00 pm }

Sounds like you got two little geniuses on your hands! The twins did a seemingly wonderful job being able to relate the context of the story to an even bigger theme in life. That’s a pretty deep and scary context to grasp sometimes even in adulthood and you’ve done an awesome job exposing them to these sort of truths! Kudos!

5 Justine { 05.27.13 at 11:17 pm }

Yes, this. Emotional well-being. People who look trustworthy. I haven’t yet read HP3 or 4 with I., because I’m not sure he’s ready for that. Then again, maybe he is … he understands, because I’ve told him, about some of the mistakes I’ve made, being vulnerable and trusting with the wrong people, decisions I made with all of the best information I had on hand at the time. It *is* scary to know that you have no control over that.

6 Kristin { 05.28.13 at 12:32 am }

Your children are so wise for their age.

7 jjiraffe { 05.28.13 at 3:53 pm }

Oh, this book. I’m already dreading reading it to the twins. (And all the books after, really.) I thought the movie was actually much more disturbing with 1) The cemetery scene. Shudder. The Ralph Fiennes Voldemort was more terrifying than my own vision of him in the book and that almost never happens. 2) The part where Cedric’s father wails upon finding out Cedric was dead was too much almost. 3) The Mad-Eye Moody stuff was super creepy too.

Those books are really, really disturbing if I really think about it!!! Yikes.

8 Rebecca { 05.29.13 at 3:47 pm }

Um, I used to have those EXACT same anxiety-ridden thoughts (that my parents were replaced by aliens by the time they came back from the store and I was in the car). I was CERTAIN that the father who came back out of the K-Mart was only wearing my father. Curiously, I don’t think I ever thought it of my mother or stepfather, just my father.

I don’t know what inspired this particular “fantasy.” I, too, had a very active imagination as a kid and was a voracious reader. I can’t think of anything in particular that I read that inspired this one. I was utterly convinced of it, though. Very weird.

9 Battynurse { 06.02.13 at 5:14 pm }

Very true and insightful.

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