Harris bin Potter is not your average boy.
For one, he is an orphan. His parents, Pakcik and Makcik Potter, had died of very bad food poisoning when he was only a year old. At least, that was what his aunt, Cik Petom, told him.
“It was very bad satay from Johor,” she had told Harris. “I’ve tried the satay from that stall before. Tak sedap lah! Tastes like pantat!”
When Harris heard this speech, he wondered two things: one, how Cik Petom even knew how pantat tasted like, and two, why she didn’t drop dead when she too had eaten that infernal satay from Johor.
Indeed, Harris hated the nasi lemak out of his aunt, and not without reason.
Since the unfortunate death of his parents, Harris had been under the care of his Uncle Pandir and his Aunt Petom. In actuality, ‘under the care’ is a grossly inaccurate statement. Harris was more often than not under their only son, Dumbass. Literally.
And this was a particularly unpleasant situation because: one, nobody likes to be sat on, and two, because Dumbass weighed a hundred kilos.
And when Dumbass was not sitting on him, Harris was badly mistreated by his aunt and uncle. They would talk rudely to him, not let him watch television and make him do all the house chores. For a boy of eleven years, in an age of Playstation 3 and where TV no longer had Aksi Mat Yoyo, this was a foul, miserable existence.
One reason why his relatives abuse him is perhaps because Harris had special abilities. No, it wasn’t that he was particularly good at sepak takraw, or could preside over a void deck soccer match, or could play the guitar particularly well.
What made Harris really special was that he was a wizard.
He wasn’t exactly a full-fledged one yet, but he was learning to be one at Hog-Tak-Halal-What School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a secret school of magic situated in The PIE. Since this story is written from a Singaporean perspective, most people assume that the school is somewhere along the famed Pan-Island Expressway. The school is however, located on a real pie, called The PIE – block letters to highlight its significance as a locale. Where The PIE is, only witches and wizards would know. How a grand castle could stand erect (hee hee) on a squishy pie (hee hee), only witches and wizards would know. How nobody ever noticed a bloomin’ castle in Singapore, again, only witches and wizards would know.
Harris’ first day there was literally the most magical experience in his life, hitherto. The school had sent their janitor, the half-giant Hamid, to retrieve Harris from the residence of his Uncle Pandir’s.
The above-mentioned retrieval had been a fiasco. Even that notion would be debated as an understatement in some quarters. Uncle Pandir, an air-conditioning technician (a cruder term for his job would be ‘air-con repairer’), had mocked Hamid’s lowly and common-grade occupation as a school janitor. Hamid furiously corrected Uncle Pandir, saying that he is a ‘Hygiene Officer In A Magical School’ and that his duties included ‘carefully arranging the magic brooms in the right closets’.
Uncle Pandir remained lost in thought for a good two minutes before saying, “I carefully arranged my magic broom in your mother’s closet last night.”
Hamid had roared loudly at the insult to his mother, while Aunt shrieked even louder at the thought of her husband cheating on her with a half-giant’s mother.
Hamid then withdrew a singular satay stick, pointed it at Dumbass, and waved it as he exclaimed, “Mangkuk, siol!” Harris could only watch, half in awe and half in delighted amusement, as Dumbass shrunk, and transformed into a singular brown porcelain bowl.
With that, Hamid grabbed Harris, and fled.
Harris was still laughing as Hamid reached the outskirts of the HDB estate.
“Don’t worry,” Hamid said. “He’ll be back to normal in…” Hamid paused, and was obviously counting in his head. The half-giant finally held up two fingers – “In three minutes.”
“I’m not worried about that la,” Harris said, smiling. He was exhilarated at finally being away from his Uncle Pandir, his Aunt Petom and his dumbass cousin Dumbass. “Where are we going from here?”
“I’m going to send you back to where you truly belong – the world of magic. And your first stop, Hog-Tak-Halal-What.”
“Hamid, I know it’s tak halal. Hogs, boars – pigs. All tak halal.”
“No, Harris. It’s a school. Hog-Tak-Halal-What School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“Well, it’s a stupid name for a school,” Harris muttered under his breath.
Hamid continued, “I took the liberty of getting you your school essentials. It will be waiting for you in school. I studied there too, Harris. You’d love it there.”
Harris held on to Hamid as he magically teleported them away from Tampines, where his relatives had stayed, with his (Hamid’s) magical satay stick. Magical teleportation was an uncomfortable experience, and Harris closed his eyes as he braced himself for the trip.
When he opened his eyes again, he was on a winding dirt path that cut into a forest and led to a grand stone castle.
Harris gazed, open-mouthed in awe, at the majestic castle. It rose high above the trees, reaching for the clouds but failing. Still, it was probably higher than Bukit Timah.
“Welcome to The PIE,” Hamid said grandly. “And before you, is the magnificent Hog-Tak-Halal-What School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
Harris stepped toward it, but his feet sank into brown, soft, squishy soil.
“It’s a mudPIE,” Hamid told Harris a few seconds too late.
Before Harris went further, Hamid stopped him again. “I’m guessing your aunt and uncle didn’t tell you, Harris. Your parents were murdered by a dark and powerful wizard.”
“So he was the one who made the satay? Damn that bastard from Johor!”
“No! No! There was no satay from Johor involved. This wizard personally killed your parents!” Hamid looked kindly into Harris’ face. Right now, it was a face that wore a pained expression.
“What was his name?” The words came out slowly from Harris, through a veil of controlled rage.
“Oldermat,” Hamid replied.
“Which mat? Who’s he older than?”
“No, that’s his name. Oldermat. Thing is, on the night he tried to kill your parents, he also tried to kill you. But he failed. He failed, Harris! Like a Mat trying to do advanced Mathematics, he failed. And people say he’s now dead, thanks to you.”
Harris only stared wordlessly as he tried to digest all of this.
“You’re the boy who tak mati, siol!”