Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thousands gather, celebrate Harry Potter finale

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It was a night fit for a wizard — specifically J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard Harry Potter.

Witches and sorcerers outnumbered Muggles — the non-magical — Friday as hundreds of people across the county waited in lines for hours to buy the seventh and final book in the Potter series, ‘‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” that went on sale at midnight.

In downtown Silver Spring, businesses were transformed into the sites of Diagon Alley, a fictional London street in the Potter series accessible to the wizarding community. Ben and Jerry’s became Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour with Owl Nuts for sale, McGinty’s Public House served up Firewhisky as the Leaky Cauldron, and Potbelly’s became Hog’s Head, the pub where it was first prophesied that Potter was ‘‘The Chosen One” destined to take on Lord Voldemort in the final installment’s climactic battle of good versus evil.

And in Rockville, Montgomery College transformed the campus bookstore into the magical village of Hogsmeade where Potter fans used Galleons, or wizard money, to have their fortunes told and ‘‘buy” Potter glasses, potions, spells and candy. Faculty members manned the store dressed as characters from the books, such as the fortune-telling Professor Trelawney or potion master Bathilda Bagshot.

At White Flint mall in North Bethesda, hundreds of Potter fans milled about the two-story Borders Friday night, waiting for their opportunity to snag one of the store’s 2,600 copies of the final Potter book.

Thousands reserved their copies at the Silver Spring Borders, said Christine Hilferty, a senior marketing manager, and hundreds more arrived after 4 p.m. Saturday when the book was released to walk-in customers.

‘‘I hope it never ends,” said William Winstead, 10, drawing sympathetic looks as he waited in line Friday outside the Silver Spring store with his mother, Treva Boyd, twin sister, Talia, and 9-year-old brother Trenton. The family traveled from Reston, Va., and arrived at 7 a.m. to secure the first spot in line for the midnight release.

Inside the store that night, Potter fans of all ages stood in a line that wound around the aisles for a chance to hear from an animatronic sorting hat about where they would be placed had they studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Potter belonged to the Gryffindor house.

‘‘[The hat] said because of my kindness and loyalty, I would be placed in Hufflepuff,” said Thi Khuc, 18, of College Park who wore a Ravenclaw — a competing house — pin on her white polo shirt.

Barry Taylor, the professional magician on hand in Silver Spring’s version of Diagon Alley, said the excitement over the Potter events proved the power of the mind. Potter’s fictional world ‘‘was made real because of all these people here,” said Taylor, owner of Barry’s Magic Shop, soon to be open in Rockville.

For Jordan Harris, 9, the night was bittersweet, since the event marked the release of the final book. The Silver Spring resident picked up the series when he was in kindergarten, and has grown to relate to Potter.

‘‘I like the way he acts around his friends,” said Harris, clutching a Firebolt flying broomstick.

‘‘It’s amazing how all this is happening because of a book,” his mother Lisa Harris said.

Staff Writers Contessa Crisostomo and Brad Pearson contributed to this story.