PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Dirigo Patronum! That incantation must sound strange to fans who spent decades memorizing every detail about the adventures of Harry Potter. But things are only going to get stranger.
Harry Potter first appeared in print on June 26, 1997. NEWS CENTER is celebrating his 20th anniversary by imagining how differently his stories would have played out if they had been set in Maine instead of England.
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Harry's heart pounded as he opened the envelope containing all his hopes in the form of an enrollment notice for the Downeast Spellcaster Academy. He always dreamed of escaping from his aunt and uncle in whose indifferent care he'd been left as an orphan, and this was his ticket out. Following the directions in the orientation packet, he set off for the Portland waterfront to catch the ferry at Pier 9 3/4. Harry never would have found the hidden gangplank had it not been for his pet cooncat, Hedwig, chasing after a rat that belonged to a red-haired boy named Ron.
Harry and Ron spent the entire trip talking in between bites of whoopie pies from the snack cart. Ron came from a potato-farming family in the County. Whenever one of them would hazard a guess about the new life ahead of them, the answer would echo immediately from just across the aisle where Hermione was seated. Her parents ran a Midcoast bed and breakfast, and any time she wasn't needed to help with customers, Hermione buried her nose in the school handbook. What began as small talk between three strangers soon deepened into friendship.
All the whoopie pies were reduced to crumbs when the ferry finally docked on a mist-shrouded island with no signs of civilization except for a towering lighthouse. Harry's confusion was transformed into awe as soon as he stepped through the door. The school was impossibly large on the inside with hundreds of classrooms, lecture halls and dormitories sprawled across an area not only bigger than the lighthouse but bigger than the entire island. The corridors were lined with paintings by Homer and Wyeth. One in particular captured Harry's attention, and he was amazed to see a woman named Christina waving back at him from her perch on the canvas.
Such a big school demands organization. The sorting ceremony divided students into four houses. Harry was assigned to Chamberlain house, and much to his relief, so were his new friends. As the school became their home, they became a family to each other. Classes were interesting but tough, and the toughest was potions class under the glare of an especially strict teacher. Harry hadn't gotten through his first lesson when he lost track of his ingredients, adding one sprig too many of fiddleheads and one drop too few of maple syrup. With a curl of his lip, the teacher docked ten points from Chamberlain house.
Cutting loose on the quidditch pitch was the surest way to improve Harry's bad mood. No one could fly on a snow shovel faster than Harry. After only a few laps, a familiar scream caught Harry's attention in the woods outside the lighthouse. Harry emerged through a stand of pine trees to see a bizarre creature closing in on Ron. The monster was tall and hairy with four long legs, a huge rack of antlers, transparent wings and a needle-like nose for drinking blood. If Harry didn't act fast, Ron would be dinner for the dreaded moosequito.
Whipping out his wand, Harry shouted the most potent spell he could conjure. "Dirigo Patronum!" A warm glow began to fill the space between the moosequito and Ron until it took the shape of a giant lobster. The moosequito sensed its power and flittered off into the darkness. Its job done, the lobster faded back into nothingness.
Back in the Chamberlain common room, Harry and Ron shared their story with Hermione. She was convinced that Ron was mesmerized and nearly killed to stop the three of them from searching for the Sorcerer's Stone. By all appearances, the Stone was just a simple lump of tourmaline. But the magic it contained granted whoever possessed it the gift of eternal life.
The three friends had been determined to find the Stone since overhearing their teachers craft a plan to stash it somewhere on campus. Far from scaring them off their quest, Ron's brush with death only strengthened their resolve to keep the Stone out of the wrong hands and return the the wizarding world to the way life should be.
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Fans who prefer to read about Harry Potter the way that J.K. Rowling intended can visit her official website, Pottermore.
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