In July 2007, 5 years ago, the final Harry Potter book was released. At the time I was working as a reporter for a local newspaper, and I was given the chance to write an article on the midnight book release, and event I was planning on attending anyway. I was given permission to break the cardinal rule of news writing. I wrote a story in first person. It could be my love for Harry Potter, but I think this was one of the best stories I’ve written. So, in honor of Harry Potter’s birthday, I’m “reprinting” my story from 5 years ago (almost to the day, as this story was published on July 26, 2007).
“Ten, nine, eight…” the crowd shouted as my heart beat a little faster. “Seven, six, five…” they continued, louder now. My hands were shaking. “Four, three…” It was almost here. “Two, one!” they finished excitedly as the clock struck 12 a.m.
No, we weren’t counting down to the new year five months early. It was time to buy the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I took a deep breath to gain a composure I knew I’d lost hours ago as the line began to move.
At 9 p.m. on June 20 most normal people would have been heading home to settle down for the night. I am not normal. Dressed in black and maroon robes, with a scar painted on my forehead and Harry Potter glasses made for a 5 year old, I followed my sister into Borders in Burlington. Luckily I was not the only one dressed up.
Orange and purple balloons were scattered throughout the store along with Hagrid, Professor Trelawney, Delores Umbridge and many, many different students who looked like they belonged in the world I knew so well, the world of Harry Potter.
Where to go first? Coffee was necessary if we were going to make it to midnight, so we headed for the café. Two large Harry Potter cakes were on display, one featuring a golden snitch, one of the balls used in Quidditch, Harry Potter’s sport, and the other depicting the cover art of the new book. Near the café was face painting, a good place to start.
Standing in line to get a broomstick painted on my face, I listened to the people chatting around me. The air was full of tense excitement, of people waiting for something to happen. In the corners of the store, customers sat on the floor, reading and waiting. A group of three friends sat at a table playing Harry Potter Uno.
Next, it was time to make a wand. Squeezing up to the table I, along with several other children who looked to be nine to 11 years old, I decorated a wooden dowel with pink fabric and glitter. With a “swish and flick” I attempted to use my new wand.
“Expelliarmus!” I cried at my friend. The disarming charm didn’t work, but that could have been because she wasn’t holding a wand herself.
Nearby, “The Great Snape Debate” was being held. Adults and children of all ages gathered to discuss one of the biggest questions about the final book: the loyalties of a particular character, Severus Snape. Back and forth, someone from both sides spoke their piece. I listened, agreeing with those against the professor, and disagreeing with those who supported him. Though I had been listening to these same arguments for two years, ever since the sixth book was released, it was still interesting to hear the conviction with which people spoke.
“Snape isn’t bad because I know he’s a good man!” one young boy insisted. Borders employee Michael, a man dressed in a shirt and tie and sporting a lightning shaped “scar” on his forehead smiled, before choosing an anti-Snape reader to speak next.
When I tired of hearing the pros and cons of one of my most hated (and yet loved) characters, we headed back upstairs. It was almost 11 p.m., little over an hour remained before we could buy the books. Upstairs a masking tape line snaked through the rows with arrows pointing the crowd in the right direction. Though no one was in line yet, I knew it was only a matter of about half an hour before they started taking places.
Every person who preordered a book checked in with an employee, and was given a wristband with a corresponding color, representing when they could stand in line. Mine was orange; I would be among the first to buy the book.
“It’s 11 p.m., only one hour left!” someone announced over the intercom, to loud cheers from the crowd. My heart started pounding. The atmosphere became tense. People sporting orange wristbands started to get into line, my friends and I among them. Then, finally, the moment was here.
I’m sure, were the store not loud with excited, chattering fans, that everyone would have been able to hear my heart pounding as I pulled out $22.04 to pay for the book. Once it was in my hands, I ran out of the store, worried about spoilers. Once in the car, we started to read. It was 12:10 a.m.
Never again will anyone who wants to read Harry Potter have to wait for a book to be released. As of 12:01 a.m. on July 21, anyone who picks up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, book 1, can read straight through the series without waiting two years, or wondering what will happen next.
In 20 years the Harry Potter hype will be remembered as just another passing fad. There may be another series of books that are taking the world by storm by then, who knows. What I do know is that at that moment, time stood still and everything was perfect. Call me crazy, but I know I’m not the only one in the store that night who felt the magic when I finally took hold of a book I’ve been waiting years for.