I know the title of this article is “What if Harry had said no,” but let’s start off with “What if J.K. had said no?” What if the idea for Harry Potter popped into her brain, and she said “no” to writing the story of the Boy Who Lived?
None of us would be reading this article. I wouldn’t have written it. MuggleNet wouldn’t exist. The Wonderful World of Harry Potter would be occupied by some other tribute to a story we loved – but likely not so much as Harry’s.
But Rowling did say yes. She said yes over and over for 17+ years, which gave us this great story that we get to discuss and conjecture about over and over again.
Fast forward to page 63 of Sorcerer’s Stone, where Harry follows Hagrid out of the shack onto the rock and into the boat. Harry didn’t stay behind with the Dursleys. He didn’t cower at the idea of going off with a half-giant stranger. He went. He said yes to Hogwarts, to being a wizard, to the unknown.
How many of us, pre-Harry days, would have believed Hagrid, left everything we knew, and gone to school in a “world” we never knew existed?
I’m sad to say, at eleven, I probably would not have been as brave as Harry. I would not have left my comfort behind for the unknown. (Granted, Harry wasn’t comfortable, but still he knew his life. He didn’t know if the wizarding world was going to be any better than his own existence.)
As J.K.’s story went on, Harry said yes over and over again – yes to Hogwarts (though he didn’t know a thing about being a wizard), yes to Quidditch (though he didn’t know a thing about the game), yes to going through the trapdoor (though it could have meant his death), yes to following the spiders (which led to the destruction of the first Horcrux), and yes to completing the task Dumbledore left him to save the world even when he found out he wouldn’t live to see it.
Harry’s story is defined by the word “yes.” One “no” to any of the above, and he wouldn’t have been the famous boy who saved the wizarding (and Muggle) world. One “no,” and everyone would be dead or worshiping at the feet of Voldemort.
Our lives are written and our character defined by the choices we make. The yeses and the noes.
Harry did say some noes. He said no to turning his back on Ron to befriend Draco. He said no to running to the ministry for protection from Voldemort. He said no to letting his friends needlessly die to protect him.
In each instance Harry chose what was best for everyone else, not himself. He fought evil so that good could prevail. The question is “Will we do the same?” Will we lay aside our benefit for the benefit of our friends? Can we even be that selfless in today’s society that says it is all about “me”?
“Dark times lie ahead of us, and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” – Albus Dumbledore
Opportunities come into each of our lives to choose between what is right and what is easy. Rowling chose to do what was right when she laid everything on the line to write a story that would inspire hundreds of millions of people to love like Harry loved, to fight like Harry fought. Harry chose over and over to do right at his own expense – his very life. Hermione chose to stay at Harry’s side when it would have been easier to run – to be with her parents. Ron chose to return to his friends at the risk they wouldn’t forgive him rather then stay with his family. Neville chose to take up the fight at Hogwarts, despite the abuse he faced.
We can’t always choose what happens to us or what opportunities come our way, but we can choose how we react. We can choose to lay everything on the line for the good, or we can live cushy, safe lives that are good for us but never leave a mark on our world.
What will it be?
“It is important to fight and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay though never quite eradicated.” – Albus Dumbledore