'I'm going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us all killed - or worse, expelled.'
Hermione Granger, 11, a first-year student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, had just returned to her dormitory with her friends, Ron Weasley and Harry Potter, after accidentally discovering a three-headed dog in an area out of bounds to all students.
To a nine-year-old me then, it seemed that getting expelled would be worse than getting killed.
What would Harry do?
The seven books and eight films of Harry Potter have become a sort of a moral code of conduct for me, teaching me lessons of all sorts.
When I was younger and caught in a moral dilemma, I'd think: 'What would Harry/Ron/Hermione do?'
Once, I realised that I had forgotten to finish a math assignment for school. Immediately, Harry's face swam into my mind, and I imagined him telling me: 'Go on, Ashu. Tell the truth. Ms Tan isn't going to kill you. Courage…'
And then Ron appeared.
'Blimey, Ashu, it's just a math assignment. Copy some kid's homework and save yourself detention.'
And finally, a smug-looking Hermione, arms akimbo.
'Ashu! You're terribly lazy! Watching cartoons instead of doing your math homework.'
Sometimes I'd listen to Harry, but more often than not, I listened to Ron (never Hermione when it came to homework – she was worse than the teachers sometimes). After all, I had a life to lead after school. Who wants to stay back and do problem sums?
Apart from the three central characters, J K Rowling made sure that everybody else had something to teach you.
Character after character, they were introduced and we were forced to ask ourselves what we thought of people who were different from us.
Hagrid, the half-giant, was intimidating and scary, but he had a heart of gold, didn't he? Nobody could really see him for what he was except for Harry, Ron, Hermione and Dumbledore. This character encouraged you to look beyond what the eye was seeing, right into the inner being. If only people will learn this lesson.
Later in the series, we were introduced to Remus Lupin, a werewolf. He had a condition that affected his health, but that made him no less of a friend, a teacher or a fighter. And yet, parents called for his immediate resignation, terrified that he would infect their children with the 'disease'.
To me, he represents the millions of patients living with HIV/Aids who face a social stigma just because people are afraid to even shake hands with them. So many of them live alone, because they haven't met a Ron, somebody who's willing to befriend them and be there for them, regardless of their condition.
Poor people like the Weasleys – did you look down on them like the Malfoys? Or you we embrace them for who they were and not what they had, like how Harry immediately did?
Conversely, the books made me think of rich people like the Malfoys – did you look up to them just because they had wealth and power, or did you see them for who they were?
One of the characters in the books that touched me was a house elf in a dirty tea cozy. Dobby, the Malfoys' elf who kept their secrets and did all of their dirty work represents, to me, the thousands of maids in Singapore who are deprived of compassion and a simple day off. All Dobby needs to be free is a piece of clothing and all the maids need to be happier is kindness – are you willing to give them that 'piece of clothing'?
Hermione, at 14, set up an organisation to protect the interest of elves, the House-Elf Liberation Front. She rallied support for the elves, collecting donations, making badges and raising awareness for her cause. She is a prime example of a do-er. Why is it so difficult for people at 24, 34 or 44 to stand up for what we believe in?
When I was nine, there was no place I wanted to visit more than Hogwarts. I remember watching the first movie and thinking to myself, 'I still have two years – maybe I'll get the letter and then I can join them in school'.
Ten years later, I'm still waiting for that letter. And I'm also waiting to watch the final film. I haven't quite mustered the courage to do so because watching it would mean that I'd have officially graduated from Harry Potter – and become an adult.
I'm going to go out into the real world, but the question to myself is: Will I apply the lessons that the books and films have taught me?
Only time will tell.
Unless of course, I lay my hands on Hermione's old Time Turner...