Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Human Interest

Harry Potter, of St. Petersburg, lives life just fine without a single magic trick


On Jan. 15, 1997, up in Ottawa, Canada, Dave and Fiona Potter welcomed into the world their first child. They named him after their fathers, hers Harry, his James. He weighed just under 8 pounds and came home from the hospital to a Winnie the Pooh room.

Not quite six months later, an unemployed teacher living in Scotland published her first book, a fantastical story about an orphaned boy wizard.

One of Fiona's friends thought it was funny and sent her a copy along with a note. Did you know your son has a book about him?

They moved here from Toronto about five years ago. He's a financial adviser. She's a motivational speaker. They live in St. Petersburg's Venetian Isles. They also have a daughter. Abby is 8.

The Potters call their son Harrison.

Pretty much everybody else calls him Harry.

He has a shaggy helmet of hair. He's a bit of a sleepy-eyed shuffler. He's a student in the International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High School. Sometimes he has two hours of homework and sometimes he has four, and he procrastinates just like his dad. His shoe is a size 13 wide. His favorite food is Chipotle. His teachers call him bright. He's taking driver's ed this summer. He likes tennis and Xbox and texting, and texting, and texting. He loves playing the drums, which he has done on the field at football games, on the stage of the auditorium at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts and in front of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. He often plays them at night in the hot garage of his parents' house so long and so hard he gets sweaty.

He hadn't slept much. The alarm had gone off at 5:30. Shower but no breakfast and now it was 7 at school. He wore a red Polo shirt, plaid shorts and clunky white New Balance shoes. On his schedule for fifth period was an algebra quiz. He asked his friend Patrick for help.

"It just doesn't make any sense," he said.

Patrick talked some about inverse variation. Harry yawned. Drummed his fingers. Checked his phone.

"I'm dead," he said.

Later in the morning was biology class. He did an exercise that involved cutting up paper to make what looked like DNA. His phone in his lap buzzed and the screen lit up with a text from a girl named Ana.

"We're going to get started," the algebra teacher said. "Once I hand them out I don't want to hear any talking at all."

Harry sat near the rear of the room.

On the wall of the room was a sign.




Only PLAY was crossed out. In its place was the word WORK.

The teacher put the quiz in front of Harry. Harry said thank you. He put his head down and started scribbling. He got up and walked to the teacher's desk to ask a question and then came back. He did it a second time. He did it a third. He sat back down and looked at the test and scribbled for a while longer.

"Oh," he said softly.


He passed in the test two minutes later.

In English class in the afternoon, in a discussion about A Tale of Two Cities, Harry answered a question and used the word orphan.

One of his friends filled a brief, heavy-lidded silence.

"It's funny," the friend said, in a mock British accent, "because you're an orphan . . ."

The class snickered. The teacher hushed them.

What Harry said after class, not so much bothered, just matter of fact, is that this has happened at least once, maybe twice, pretty much every day of his life of more than a decade and a half.

One day after school, he waited with Ana for their rides. "Do you want to go out sometime?" he said. It wasn't the first time he had asked. Before, though, he'd sent a text. I think I kind of like you. She had responded with a let's just be friends.

But this time? She said yes.

Harry concluded face-to-face is best when it comes to important interactions.

They went on a date downtown. They walked around BayWalk and to the Museum of Fine Arts. It started to rain and they sat under a tree until her parents picked her up. It was a three-hour date. Pretty lengthy, Harry thought.

The other day at his house he sat on the patio by the pool and was asked about Ana.

"She has such a great smile," he said. "I try to make her laugh all the time. She says I make her ribs hurt I make her laugh so much."

They hold hands, and he knows her favorite song is Pachelbel's Canon in D.

His dad says he now eats less pizza and more salad.

That algebra quiz? He made 100.

The Potters recently took a trip to Orlando. They went to Universal's Wizarding World of the name of their son. He decided to stay at the hotel and do some homework instead. He has seen all the movies. He has not read all the books. They're not really his thing.

"Sometimes I wish my name was just Bob," he said later. "Bob Phillips. That should be my name."

But only sometimes. At a recent assembly marking the end of his freshman year, he won an award for high academic achievement in Spanish, and his peers voted him most likely to be famous. Shoulder shrug.

"It's nice to be Harry Potter," he said.

Michael Kruse can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8751. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelkruse.

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