It took Pradnya Bhawalkar an hour to put together the gloves, robe and rest of the witch costume the 18 year old wore to the midnight Harry Potter party at the Barnes and Noble at First Colony Mall in Sugar Land last night. The parking lot was so full, I’d had to park in another one and hike over and Pradnya was the first person I saw as I walked in the door at 11:16 p.m.
“It’s the last book in the series,” she said. "We’ve grown up with it. Many of us are sad to see it end, sad that there will be no more Harry. Whenever Harry aged, I aged.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the last book, of course. And even though I stayed up the rest of the night and read it to the end, I’m not going to tell you how it turned out. Last night, there were more than enough people willing to guess about that while they pushed and shoved to get their reservation ticket before lining up for the book not dispensed one moment before midnight.
Lexiyce Smith, 16, first started reading the books in Australia in the third grade. She was drawn in by how well written the books were; the sense of mystery in the second one really made her addicted to the series. Her prediction for the night? “I hope Harry and Voldemort die, but Draco Malfoy lives.” Why? “Draco is my favorite character. He is the perfect anti-Harry.”
She didn’t think much of whoever released the book on the Internet, or of anyone who tells the end. “I don’t like it, they are just ruining it for everyone. I mean, 90 percent of the fun is not knowing.”
Suddenly, bigger than life, Hagrid was standing right in front of me. Kevin Tinney, a.k.a. Hagrid, started reading the books as soon as the first one came out. “It took me about four hours to get this suit together, I made it from scratch.” Predictions: "Ron’s going to die. And Harry kills Voldemort.” Apparently peace is not an option in the wizarding world.
Jenna Patrick, 19, and George Ebarb both came as Hogwarts students. For them the draw of the books was easy. George: “It’s a fantasy world, and an easy read that you get sucked into.“ Jenna: “Yeah, I agree it sucks you in. The thing was, I was saddened when, at 11 years old, I didn’t get a letter to go [to Hogwarts].”
Jenna bought the parts of her costume over the years, most of them online. George just “used a lot of her stuff.” Jenna liked Dumbledore the best, but thought Dolores Umbridge was the most well written villain. George was about to answer the character question, just as a voice came on over the loudspeaker: “And winner of how many candies in a jar contest, George Ebarb!” (For the curious, the answer was 431.)
Gina O. Caldwell – a fire breathing chicken -- came with a friend. She hadn’t read a single book, but had seen the movies.
Teacher and witch, Leslie D. Richie, 33 started reading the books in 1998 after a teacher in her master’s degree reading course read one of the chapters aloud from the first book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). “J.K. Rowling hooked kids into the book the same way Tolkien did when he separated the Lord of the Rings books with a year between each one.” Prediction: “Good will triumph, Hagrid and a Weasley will die, I don’t know which one yet.” These characters are dropping like flies.
Lisa Icke came with her young son Graham, who was dressed like Harry Potter. Lisa was very much like Mrs. Weasley, very protective, so of course she almost immediately asked for my credentials. She had started reading the books when they had first came out. Her prediction: “Harry, Voldemort and Ginny are going to die, but Rowling will somehow leave an opening for another book.” Sadly, in a lot of ways that is the most optimistic prediction I’ve heard, even though the death count seems to be rising.
Next came a group that surrounded me after hearing I was looking for interviews. The group included Shamez Hemani 16, Naveed Nanjee 18, Salman Prasla 16, Sunil Jamal 16, Farrukh Virani, Danish Virani, and Anil Roopani. Their reasons for liking the books, not in any particular order: “Remarkable.” “Makes me feel connected to other people who read it.” “Harry Potter is like a hero to me, an idol. His determination and devotion to carry on literature. [His friends begin yelling, “You’re not Gandhi; stop making speeches!”] Six years of Hogwarts truly changed my life.” “Magical experience.” “Grew up with it.” “Sounded interesting.” And finally: “Hermione.” Their death ideas were even more farfetched: “Dumbledore dies, comes back to life and dies again.” Um. O.K.
I tried to talk to a member of the staff named Joanne Gochioco who informed me (while reading from a printout) that staff was not allowed to give interviews, only customers could.
By now with all these people, it’s pretty hot in the store. People are fanning themselves. A cheer starts to go up from the crowd, quickly followed by a loud “SHHHHHH” because it was only 11:59, then it was 12:00 and the real cheering began; in fact it was a roar.
Dressed as a Hogwarts student, Karla Quintanilla 20, said she got into the books after the first movie and realized the books were better. Predicted death count: Voldemort and Harry kill each other.
Jacob Pietsch was waiting in line with friends Melissa Borak, Renee Pitcock and Ashley Brzenk for them to get the book. He was planning to get the book Saturday at Wal-Mart. Prediction: “Harry’s gonna die (at least), Lupin maybe Ron."
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Then I see some guy interviewing people for 104.1, and saying stuff like, “Apparently Ron gets eaten by Gnargles, what do you think about this?” Which first off isn’t that funny and second just shows he’s kind of an ass. In fact the people he was asking didn’t think it was funny either.
As people wait they sit around reading other books at Barnes and Noble, or discuss costumes or what’s going to happen in the book. Shamez Hamani shows back up bringing some empty boxes from Krogers. Apparently they are also selling the books right now, but just don’t have the same atmosphere or the same wait. The caller finally calls my letter so I go up and get my book. Behind me is a librarian who says she isn’t allowed to give me an interview or her name without going through her press office. But she did say, “Librarians love Harry Potter!”
I was about to leave when I saw Cathryn Boethel and her family. Cathryn has been a fan of the books since she was six and her mother read them to her. She made the costumes for her mom, her brother and herself. She sees herself as a part of the books: “Same as other misfits in society. Harry Potter doesn’t see himself as a hero, nor do the rest of the people in the books, but he is.” – Ian Downing-Beaver
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