Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe belongs to J.K. Rowling; the author of this story appreciates her continuing indulgence of those of us who are so attached to it we can't resist tweaking it a little.
Grateful appreciation also goes out to my Beta, Musings, who must be the hardest working woman in the fan fiction business.
Flourish & Blotts: He's a veteran of the Siege of Hogwarts; he's one of the original members of Dumbledore's Army; and now he has written a book, "Harry Potter: The Man who has Started Living," the first authorized biography of the wizarding world's greatest hero. Anthony Goldstein will be with us for the next two hours to talk about his book, and to answer your questions about his old classmate. Anthony, welcome to the Flourish and Blotts Book Hour.
Anthony Goldstein: Thank you, glad to be here.
F&B: When your book was announced as a work in progress, it immediately became the most anticipated event in the history of wizard publishing; but I suppose after everything you experienced in '97 that didn't faze you at all.
AG: Oh, I don't know if I would go that far. [laughter] We can't – we don't 'choose' what to fear and what not to fear in a reasonable and common-sense way. And Harry Potter is probably the clearest proof of that; I think Harry would literally rather fly down a dragon's throat than talk about himself to strangers.
F&B: But in one sense, he's doing exactly that, or at least doing it through you, by giving you this extraordinary opportunity to tell his story. What is it that made such a notoriously private, publicity-resistant character take this step?
AG: Because even though he wasn't eager to talk about himself, or make himself the center of attention and discussion, he was becoming more and more exasperated and disgusted by all the mythology growing up around him. He did want the basic truth of his life story to be told, so that the fantasies wouldn't have the field to themselves.
F&B: And the most obvious follow-up question is: why pick Anthony Goldstein as his authorized truth-teller? You were never known to be close friends.
AG: No, we weren't, and I still wouldn't presume to call myself a close friend, though we were always friendly enough. But a biography by, say, Ron Weasley might not serve the purpose as well, because nobody would think Ron could be a real biographer. That is, people would figure Ron's ultimate loyalty would be to Harry, not to the facts.
F&B: And for you it's the opposite?
AG: That's a hard thing to claim, because nobody who fought alongside Harry is going to be able to avoid feeling a strong sense of loyalty and gratitude towards him. All I can say is that I took the task of being biographer very seriously, and that meant being prepared to do justice to a very complex character; one who has not always done the right thing and the admirable thing, as Harry would be the first to admit – to insist on – himself.
F&B: And at least one leak indicates that your book does contain a revelation which Harry would very much rather not have become public knowledge, and we'll be sure to get to that later in the discussion. But this is the first book you've written, so Harry couldn't have picked your name because he had been impressed by your dedication to objectivity; how did you get close enough to get the nod here?
AG: Basically, my work with the Ministry. One of the projects I was working on after graduating from Hogwarts came to Harry's attention and we renewed our old acquaintance from there.
F&B: That's rather suspiciously brief, you know. Can you tell us more about this project? I know you worked as an examiner of magical artifacts, especially cursed artifacts. Which one had a connection to Harry?
AG: I can't say, I'm terribly sorry. It involves an episode which – everybody involved in it agreed it would serve no purpose to make it public.
F&B: Weren't you a public employee, though? Wasn't this public business?
AG: Not really; this particular artifact was judged to fall under privacy laws.
F&B: Now it's public record that your assignment after Hogwarts was to work on the extensive collection of dark objects once belonging to the late Lucius Malfoy. Can you say whether it was it one of the items seized from the Malfoy estate?
AG: Yes, I think there's no harm in confirming that. It was a particularly nasty bit of Dark magic which had passed through Lucius Malfoy's hands and at one time had come to – affected – actually posed a threat to Harry, and he was naturally very interested in the fate of this object. I'm afraid that's really all I'm going to say about it.
F&B: We'll be back in just a minute with Anthony Goldstein, after a few words from Flourish and Botts.
F&B: The title of your book is obviously a play on Harry's most-used nickname, "The Boy Who Lived"…Am I right in assuming that he always hated that phrase?
AG: Oh absolutely. It never failed to set his teeth on edge when he heard it…
F&B: Okay, so won't he be rather annoyed that your book's title will remind everybody of Harry's old 'title'?
AG: I certainly hope not, and I don't believe it will, because the point really – I think, pretty obviously, the point of the title was to emphasize the differences, to underscore how far he's come from being "the boy who lived." That he isn't a boy any longer, that he's an adult, and that he isn't just to be defined as the one known survivor of the Killing Curse, but rather he's going about actually making a life for himself.
F&B: Should we be surprised at the kind of life he's making for himself? After all, he could be living out every heterosexual male's top one hundred fantasies, but instead he got married right out of Hogwarts to his old schoolmate – his best friend's sister – and started raising an infant and changing diapers. He could be continuing the battle against evil as an Auror, but instead he took a teaching job at his old school, and it isn't even Defense Against the Dark Arts, it's what would be considered a kind of second-rank position, flying instructor.
AG: Madame Hooch's old job, yes.
F&B: It seems very… unexceptional, for such an exceptional individual.
AG: No question. You could say that the basic story of Harry's life is that he grew up in wretchedness, he had greatness thrust upon him, and he has somehow achieved ordinariness. It's an unusual and maybe unsettling story, and it is quite extraordinary to find such an extraordinary individual so passionately longing for the ordinary, but clearly this is the life he has wanted, because everybody who knows Harry, even casually, like me, can see that this is by far the happiest he's ever been.
F&B: But many people can't help feeling disappointed, can't help asking themselves, 'is this worthy of the vanquisher of the Dark Lord?'
AG: Well, I would ask such people to think for a moment about what they're implying when they say that. I mean, how exactly do we have the right to feel disappointed if Harry Potter doesn't follow the script we have in our heads about the right way for heroes to end up? It's as if we're saying that he somehow owes us his life and his life choices, precisely because we all owe him our lives and our freedom. And that's quite a bizarre train of reasoning, I would think. Or – look at it this way: instead of feeling let down by the… bourgeois ending, or whatever you call it, to Harry's epic career, maybe we should feel reassured by that story, maybe we should take heart from it, because it means our own little humdrum lives are actually the stuff of dreams. Harry did – literally – dream night after night of having the kind of life so many of us take for granted.
F&B: Possibly then, Harry never was what people took him to be. What sorts of misconceptions do people have about Harry Potter?
AG: First of all, he's not all that powerful a wizard.
F&B: Oh, come on.
AG: I'm not saying he isn't very strong; he is the most powerful wizard in his graduating class at Hogwarts. But further than that, I would hesitate to – I wouldn't be confident of making any stronger claim than that. And he simply cannot do the sorts of things people regularly say they've heard he could do or saw him do with their own eyes. But despite what you may have read, it turns out that – alas – Harry can't turn dragons into dachshunds with a flick of the wand, or send out waves of love which heal the traumas of abused children halfway across the globe, etc., etc., etc. He was only eighth in his class in O.W.L.s, after all.
F&B: I take it the list was dominated by Ravenclaws as usual… like yourself perhaps?
AG: If you force me to say, I must confess: I was second.
F&B: Very impressive! Who was fir… oh, right, stupid question.
AG: Yes, if you need more than one guess for that one, you don't have an Arithmancy career in your future. Now the point isn't that Hermione or myself or Terry or Mandy are stronger wizards than he is, it's just that if Harry were as… omnipotent… as people sometimes seem to think, why couldn't he have just, say, wandlessly confunded all the examiners into giving him Os. Or…well, you get what I mean.
F&B: But he was first in Defense, surely?
AG: He was, but even there… I've beaten Harry in practice duels. He won most of the time, but I've beaten him. So has everybody in the D.A. Seamus Finnegan even got Harry to have scrolls made up for each of us, with a Veritas charm, saying "I hereby acknowledge that [name] out-dueled me on [the following date(s)], Signed, Harry Potter."&nb