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Happy Birthday, Harry! Love, From A Certified Potter Nerd

BY CAKE EVANGELISTA

If this were some kind of “Bookaholics Anonymous,” where we would take turns in standing up, introducing ourselves and admitting our book addiction, I’m pretty sure my intro would be something like this:

“Hello, my name is Cake. And I’m a Harry Potter addict.”

It feels like it was only yesterday when my mom gave me a paperback copy of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.

My mom fetched me from a classmate’s house. It was early Friday evening. The glow from a lamppost illuminated the darkened street outside my classmate’s house where my mom was waiting for me inside a cab.

Once I was seated beside her, she handed me this shiny, red plastic bag with the name of a popular bookstore on it. And because I had very low emotional quotient back then (I still do, actually), I didn’t wait until we got home to open the bag.

Inside was a book—a book I didn’t know would change my life.

bookbed the boy who lived

Photo from KB Meniado

I cannot really sufficiently, completely and justifiably put into words what the Harry Potter series means to me. It is beyond nouns and adjectives and adverbs. It is beyond grammar and vocabulary and punctuation marks. It is beyond language.

If Harry Potter were a radioactive substance, then I would be a mutant by now or, I don’t know, maybe Dragonfly-Woman or something.

What I’m trying to say is, I think Harry Potter changed me at my very core. It rearranged my DNA. It jump-started the synapses in my brain. It was something like the universe being created right before my eyes. Something like that, I guess.

From then on, I devoured all things Harry Potter—books, movies, art, fanfiction, fanart, music, practically anything and everything related to the books and their author, the movies and the actors playing the characters. I especially loved, loved, loved Harry Potter fanfiction. (I even wrote an article about it that was published in a national broadsheet.)

In 2011, I certified my addiction to Harry Potter by joining a trivia contest – which, surprise, surprise, I won! It was just WOW. It was such a funny and amazing experience. I was a little embarrassed since I was in my early 20s then. But, what the heck, right? I was a fan. I am a fan. And there is no shame in being one.

So just in time for Harry’s—and Bookbed‘s!—birthday, I am sharing this edited version of a post I wrote about The Great Horcrux Hunt, Fully Booked’s Harry Potter trivia-scavenger hunt competition. It was published back in 2011 on my now defunct blog.

bookbed happy birthday harry potter

***

Move over Hermione Granger, there’s a new bookworm in town.

Last July 30 (the day before Harry Potter’s and J.K. Rowling’s birthday), I tested my mettle and Harry Potter knowledge against more than a hundred Potter fans in Fully Booked’s The Great Horcrux Hunt contest.

I dragged along one of my best friends, Thea, to join the competition with me that was held at Fully Booked’s flagship store at Bonifacio High Street.

We were a little hesitant in joining the contest, which was open for everyone ages 11 and up. Thea confided in me, days before the event, that she didn’t want to compete with little kids. I told her it was okay. They couldn’t fault us for being over 20 years old. After all, the Harry Potter series was our childhood. If anything, I’d call us the first fans of the series.

I jokingly told her that as long as no Unforgivables would be uttered, we were good to go. I asked her if we should wear our Hogwarts “uniforms” (the makeshift costumes we wore when we watched the last two Potter films), but she said we shouldn’t. She wanted to look like the underdog (but let me tell you something: Thea, with her almost encyclopedic knowledge of the Potterverse was no underdog).

Sure, there were a number of little kids who joined the game, but most of the players were high-schoolers, college students and quite a number of adults. One mother even brought her baby to the front when it was her time to answer a question. There were quite a few older dudes, too. Competitive Potterheads, as Thea called them.

bookbed the great horcrux hunt 1

Bottom, left corner: Thea and the other players of The Great Horcrux Hunt

The Great Horcrux Hunt was split into two parts: the trivia contest that served as the elimination round, and the scavenger hunt, which was the final round.

The trivia contest had four levels of difficult for the questions: easy, medium, hard and very hard. If a player couldn’t answer the question, he or she was automatically eliminated. The trivia round would continue until there were only eight players left.

These eight would then be paired and “sorted” into the four Hogwarts houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Each pair would then receive a clue to start off the scavenger hunt to search for the seven Horcruxes hidden inside the four-story bookstore (plus basement!). The pair that would find the most number, or all, of the Horcruxes during the given time limit would win. If there was a tie, then the two pairs would compete in looking for the Elder Wand.

Before the game started, the game mistress, a woman who dressed up as a cross between Divination professor Sibyll Trelawney and a less catty Rita Skeeter, informed the players that over 200 people registered via e-mail.

The store was packed! Aside from the players, a crowd of parents, supportive friends, and curious passersby watched the competition. It was kind of nerve-racking, but I couldn’t deny that it was also a lot of fun.

The first question was quite easy: “Who are the ghosts of the four Hogwarts Houses?” Lucky Girl No. 1 answered it perfectly, “Nearly Headless Nick of the Gryffindor house, the Grey Lady of the Ravenclaw house, the Bloody Baron of the Slytherin house and the Fat Friar of Hufflepuff house.”

But the second question brought about the first casualty of the game: “Who is the Weasley twins’ best friend?

Girl No.2, who was sitting behind Thea, wasn’t able to answer the question, something we couldn’t believe. Everyone, at least everyone who has read the books, knows it’s Lee Jordan!

When it was my turn, I was faced with this question from the easy round: “Who owns the motorcycle Hagrid used to bring Harry to the Dursleys?” I answered it confidently: “Sirius Black.”

It was a long round since we were still on the easy level. Only a few people got eliminated. But the next round was a different ball game altogether, at least for me. I almost got booted out of the competition when I was asked this next question:

What was Dolores Umbridge’s previous job before she became Hogwarts’ Defense Against the Dark Arts professor?

At first I was stumped. I knew she worked in the Ministry of Magic. And then four magical words flashed in my mind: “Undersecretary to the Minister.”

But the answer had to be specific! And before I could hold in my word vomit, I said, “Junior Undersecretary to the Minister.” As I looked at the game mistress’ face, I knew it was wrong. She said she was giving me a second chance since the answer was really close, and then I remembered. Percy Weasley was the Junior Assistant to the Minister! So I said, “Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic.” It was correct!

You have no idea how relieved I was when she said it was correct! At that moment, I knew I was in it to win it.

During the medium level round, a question that wasn’t answered would be passed on to the next player. It was a game-changer. The more difficult the question, the more players were on the chopping block.

Some questions were like the Killing Curse, easily eliminating the players one by one, until one true-blue Potter fan managed to answer them. A few were like Severus Snape’s task in Sorcerer’s Stone, tricky and confusing if you didn’t use your Ravenclaw logic.

I knew I had to change my game plan. I stopped talking to the other players about the answers. If you knew the answer, you had keep it to yourself. The more people who don’t know the answer, the less competition you’ll have.

To better manage the time, the game mistress asked us to fall in line (by the numbers on our name tags) in the front. Thea was in front of me. The question that was asked was: “What is the name of Severus Snape’s mother?

I thought it was an extremely easy question. After all, it was a major plot point in the Half-Blood Prince. But the players before Thea weren’t able to answer the question, and, to my surprise, even she didn’t know. When it was my time to answer it, I said: “Eileen Prince.” It was correct!

Thea, being the awesome friend she is, stayed with me even if she was out of the game. (Although, when we were going home, she kept on saying that she couldn’t believe she lost a Harry Potter trivia contest to me. She confessed that she was “bitter” about it, and still believed she knew more about Harry Potter than me. I just smiled.)

The remaining players got fewer and fewer as the questions got more difficult. One question that had the highest casualty was: “What Ministry department did Percy Weasley worked for in his first job and what was the name of his boss?” Most people kept on saying he worked for the Department of Magical Games and Sports and that his boss was Bartemius Crouch. Yes, Percy’s boss was Bartemius Crouch, but you have to be specific in your answer. It was Bartemius Crouch Sr., and Percy worked in the Department of International Magical Cooperation.

When it was my turn, the question I got was: “Who asked Harry to be the godfather of his son?

And truthfully, I didn’t know. I read Deathly Hallows completely only once, back when it first came out. I was rereading the books in preparation for the last film and wasn’t able to finish the series in time. In fact, I managed to reach only the 16th chapter of Deathly Hallows before the game.

There were two things I knew, however. Only two children were born during the last book’s timeline: Victoire Weasley and Teddy Lupin. The question asked for a boy, so it wasn’t Victoire. But I didn’t know if it was Remus Lupin or Nymphadora Tonks-Lupin who asked Harry to be Teddy’s godfather. And then, I saw it, the context clue that clinched the win for me, the possessive pronoun “his.” So, I said, quite nervously if I may add, “Remus Lupin.” It was right!

After that round, there were 16, maybe 15, people left in the game. We were asked to sit in front, and the questions now would be asked based on our seats. The question the player before me got was: “What is the incantation that stops or slows down your opponent, and when cast with power throws your enemy away from you?” (The question wasn’t exactly phrased this way, but that’s the gist of it).

She didn’t know the answer, so it was my turn to answer the same question. Two spells came instantly to mind: the Shield Charm and the Impediment Jinx. The Shield Charm creates a barrier that will block your opponents and their spells. It’s a spell you cast on yourself or on other people to protect them, it’s not something you use to defeat an opponent. The Impediment Jinx, on the other hand, kind of works like a Shield Charm, but it’s a defensive spell; you cast it against your opponent to block them.

So I said, “Impedimenta,” which was the incantation of the Impediment Jinx. It was the right answer, and I was safe for the next round. In the end, there were only eight players left, and it was time for the scavenger hunt.

I couldn’t believe it. I actually survived until the final round. I was sorted to the Ravenclaw house when we picked our badges inside a replica of the Sorting Hat and got paired with this nice, bespectacled girl named Kalyx who was wearing a Gryffindor shirt.

The first clue was quite easy, we got our first Horcrux, Helga Hufflepuff’s cup, two minutes into the hunt. But the next Horcrux ate up our time. The clue for Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem was tricky (and, in my opinion, misleading). It said the diadem was where “Art but not Music” lies, I thought that automatically ruled out the fourth floor because it was where both the art books and the music section were located, so I figured it was in the arts and crafts section at the basement. It turned out, it was really on the fourth floor. Ten minutes before the scavenger hunt ended, the game mistress decided to take pity on all the teams and allowed us one hint each.

When we found the diadem hidden under the shelves in the fourth floor, all the other Horcruxes were easy to find. We found the other four (Salazar Slytherin’s locket, Nagini, Tom Riddle’s diary and the Gaunt Family ring) within a span of 10 minutes.

To give you a hint of how the clues were phrased, here’s one:

I traveled a circuitous path to Harry
I was once guarded by Inferi
If with these clues, you still can’t see,
You will never really know me.
What comes after one and then two,
I know the answer, but do you?
I am where pages can bring you wisdom of the ages,
Right in between Sophocles and Sophocles.

When the game mistress announced that time was out, we hurriedly walked back to the first floor and were the first to arrive. The game mistress started counting all our Horcruxes and announced we got six. The other three teams started arriving and the game mistress counted their Horcruxes. The most number of Horcruxes they found was four, and the Ravenclaw house was declared the winner!

Thinking back, I realize I was so nervous about the whole thing. I didn’t want to embarrass myself and get eliminated during the first question during the trivia round. I was also scared I’d choke on an easy question. I kept thinking that if I didn’t win this thing, at least the trivia contest part, I could not consider myself a true Potter fan.

With all these in mind, I now understand why Hermione was so anxious about the OWLs. I was quite surprised that I won the scavenger hunt, it was a game of speed and logic. I can be logical (I think), but running around just isn’t my cup of tea.

We got a huge loot of Harry Potter and Scholastic merchandise, but, I think, the best prize was the bragging rights.

bookbed the great horcrux hunt

I think it’s really luck and a dash of smarts that won us the game. I was hoping to be sorted to Gryffindor, for the sake of sentimentality. But now I am quite proud to be under Ravenclaw’s wing. I guess it’s true what was etched on Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem:

“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.” ☁

 

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