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London hails the arrival of ‘Hallows’

LONDON – Lumos!

Lights flicker on in stores all over the world as the clock begins to strike midnight, British time. While the first “British Invasion” happened in the 1960s through Ringo, Paul, John, and George, now, a little short of half a century later, the second “British Invasion” comes, this time channelled by a young wizard named Potter, Harry Potter.

Millions of books sat in locked steel vaults all over the world, in some cases, protected not only by their bulletproof casing, but also by armed guards themselves, from which only perhaps Gringotts could have offered better protection. Rumors tried to leak about the book, through people who claimed to receive advanced copies, or hack the computer system of the publisher. Predictions and claims about who will die, whether Snape was good or bad, or will Harry make it through the end haunted the ears of fans who tried to block out the speculation, until that magical moment when the book would be their own.

This past Friday, when the clock struck twelve London time, the so-called witching hour nonetheless, the long-awaited final book in J.K. Rowling’s series, was released into the greedy grasps of fans all over the world. One of the major bookstores in London that participated in the release, was Waterstone’s Piccadilly, which also happens to be the largest Waterstone in all of Europe.

Judy Puttick, a book seller at Waterstone, was working the night of the midnight release, and was impressed by the dedicated fans that showed up, some as many as three days before the book would be released.

“It was an amazing atmosphere here at the midnight opening,” Puttick said. “Even on Wednesday people started showing up [outside the store], and by Thursday there were almost a hundred or so people cueing up outside.”

And some people really made a trek to be here, with groups hailing from countries such as Holland, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and more. Puttick wasn’t surprised however, by the big turnout.

“People have waited a long time for this book,” Puttick said. “So it’s not unusual to see such a big turnout. We tend to get large crowds with other events as well, and with this being the last and final book [in the Harry Potter series] it’s normal more fans than ever would show up to be here for this.”

Two of those international attendees that Puttick spoke about, were Celia Mas Agullo and Christophe Gand, both hailing from Madrid, who came from Spain to London purely for the release of the book.

“We got here on Friday, and came from Madrid just for the release” Agullo said, continuing to explain that both her and Gand only started waiting in line on Friday, but still ended up waiting many hours until they finally got their copy.

“We were right in front for the doors opening,” Gand added.

Although she had already gotten her book, Agullo said she hadn’t read too much of it yet, and neither had Gand.

“We want it to last as much time as possible,” Agullo said with a smile. “After waiting for years to have this book, as I read it, I want it to last as long as possible.”

Even though some fans, like Agullo and Gand, waited in line at midnight to receive their copy, there was still a line outside the store on Sunday, even the store had special “Harry Potter” opening hours to allow fans to earlier purchase their copies.

But they needn’t worry if they did not feel like showing up in line, Puttick explained. Waterstone offered fans the opportunity to pre-order and reserve books that they could pick up whenever they had the time.

“That way they don’t have to worry about getting one [a book],” Puttick said.

Ryan Zielinski, on holiday in Europe, but from Albany, N.Y., has been a fan since the beginning. Although he did not come specifically for the Harry Potter release, he and his family couldn’t resist the opportunity to embark to London to purchase a copy during all the hype, however, he wasn’t a midnight buyer.

“I got the book at 9:00 yesterday,” Zielinski said. “It’s one of the best ones [books]. This and the sixth book.”

Like Emma, he is drawn to the books descriptive nature and attention to detail.

“I’ve read them since the first book back in 1998,” Zielinski said, “I like the characters and how they develop throughout the books.”

But for those who were just dying to get the book as soon as possible, and came for the midnight release, were met with much more than a simple book sale, but a social event as well. Puttick explained that the bookstore even dressed itself up with a Gryffindor theme through banners, colors, and streamers hanging from the walls and ceilings.

“We hosted a party, and had character dress-ups from the book show up to entertain fans,” Puttick said. “And we also opened the doors to the store at one midnight until midnight, and held a countdown to the final reveal of the book, which we uncovered at midnight.”

But despite how fans may wish to acquire their book, there’s no need to hurry for fear of books disappearing off the shelves.

“We’ve anticipated the demand,” Puttick said, “and rest assured we will not run out,” she added with a smile.

Emma, a fan of the Harry Potter books since the release of the fourth book, and Richard, who in fact was just reading the first book at the time of interview, live in Cambridge, England, but were in Belgium when the book was released.

“I was so glad they had the English version in Brussels,” Emma said with a laugh as she held up her prized possession, which had a decent sized dent of reading. “So far [the book] is good, though I’m only 100 pages in. Hardest part is not having the ending spoiled.”

Since Richard is just beginning the series, he was reading the first book, while Emma had begun the last.

“I’ve just started,” laughed Richard, holding up a paperback copy of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” the first book in the series. “I was told that I needed to read them. I’m a willing convert,” he joked.

“I like the fact it is a bit of a who-dunnit,” Emma said. “And how she brings the real world into it.”

Almost as hot of a topic, besides how the series itself will end, is whether or not it will end. Even though Rowling has stated that she will not be writing any more books for the Harry Potter series, will she be able to ignore the siren’s call or the potential pleads from her fans for more?

Surprisingly, most fans appear to be content with the series ending with the seventh book, and some even plead for her to not go back on her word about writing, despite their love for the series.

“I hope it stops,” Zielinski said. “There’s no way it should continue.”

Like Zielinski, Agullo thinks it’s best for the series to end this way.

“She will stop [writing about] Harry Potter, the story stops here, with this book,” Agullo said. “I prefer that it stops now, than if she were to continue writing and wear it out. Better if she continues writing, but about something else.”

Emma and Richard also agreed that they felt the series was over.

“I think she will stick to it and not write any more,” Emma said.

Richard brought up the point as far as monetary reasons, also, there was no pressure for Rowling to succumb for that reason.

“She doesn’t need any more money, she’s the second richest woman in the world,” Richard said. Through book, product and film sales Rowling has become both richer than the Queen of England herself, and is only second in line, as far as richest woman entertainers, after Oprah.

Gand also agreed with Richard, pointing out that Rowling still has two films and the profit from this last book, even, to go.

Still, despite those who stick by Rowling and her commitment to finish writing in the series, other fans are hoping she will end up changing her mind.

Waterstone, has even organized a campaign, entitled “Save Harry,” to ask fans to sign a petition they will then later send to Rowling, asking her to continue the series. But, does this have any chance of working?

“It could go either way,” Puttick replied. “True, Harry Potter’s story’s been told, but whatever happens in the future could continue the story onward.” As Puttick has not yet completed the final book, due naturally to the busy nature of the store during the release, what exactly the future would have in store for fans, but she is still optimistic that, with enough signatures, the petition could potentially sway Rowling’s mind.

“We’ll just have to see,” she added, making a note that more information on the campaign is available on the bookstore’s Web site, www.waterstone.com.

And what will fans do after the series is over? Most are unsure, but assume there will be something out there, perhaps by Rowling, for them to sink their teeth into next.

“Who knows,” Zielinski confessed, “she’ll probably do other books, and as long as it’s not Harry Potter [follow-ups] I’ll read them.”

But perhaps the biggest question of all, for fans all over the world, isn’t so much to do with Rowling’s life after Harry, or their own lives after Harry, but more whether Harry himself will have his own life and the end of the seventh book.

And what fate is it that he will meet? Well there’s only one way to find out…

“Accio Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!”

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