NEW YORK (AP) - You're safe now, Potter people. Open your eyes, unplug your ears. The spoilers can't hurt you. You have the book. The answers are in your hands.
And if you can't bear to finish, to say farewell to Harry, you can always read him again.
The world on Saturday welcomed one last visit from Planet Potter as "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the seventh and last of J.K. Rowling's supernatural series, touched down at midnight and wrapped up the most extraordinary literary story of modern times, some 4,000 pages about a wizard and his friends that broke the rules and started new ones.
Rainy Day Bookstore in Nisswa opened precisely at midnight Saturday to an excited countdown from the crowd of people waiting to get the first copies of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows," the seventh and final Book in the Potter series. While waiting for the book release, a Potter Party was held outside featuring Quidditch games, Butter Beer, a costume pageant, wand and potion making and book readings.
Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Bookstores across the United States and Britain, as far away as Singapore and Sydney, welcomed eager readers, young and old, in glasses and capes, some shivering, some sweaty, all joined by the thick hardback book with the opening words: "The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane."
In Hudson, Ohio, 17-year-old Kelly Kubik was on Chapter 2 just half an hour after getting the book. But other fans, warned by Rowling that two major characters would die, one of them maybe Harry, couldn't bear to start at the beginning. After receiving her copy at a Singapore bookstore, Adela Lim, 16, flipped right to the end of the book, scanned the text furiously and exclaimed to her friends, "Oh my god! Oh my god!"
"I am aghast at the ending," she said. "I've waited since the first book all the way until now, so I can't wait anymore, I just want to find out the ending."
Rowling, an unknown a decade ago when she introduced her magical character in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," gave a midnight reading to 500 competition-winning children in the grand Victorian surroundings of London's Natural History Museum. Now richer than the queen, she sat in a large wing-backed chair and read the opening pages - description of a mysterious assignation, a clandestine meeting and important news for Voldemort.
For many of the hardcore Potter-maniacs, the place to be was Waterstone's bookstore on Piccadilly in central London. More than 5,000 people lined up for hours before the midnight opening, in a festive, colorful line stretching around the block. Among the fans from as far away as Finland and Mexico were dozens of witches and wizards, a couple of house elves, a pair of owls and a woman dressed as Hogwarts castle.
At the Barnes & Noble in Manhattan's Union Square, Anna Todd and Kelsey Barry, both 20, jumped up and down, screaming and hugging as they touched their Harry Potter books and smelled them as if handling a newborn baby.
"It smells like fresh parchment," said Barry. "It smells like magic."
Barry waited hours; others waited days. One man even risked his life for Potter. In Canberra, Australia, a 21-year-old man jumped into the frigid waters of Lake Burley Griffin on Friday afternoon to retrieve a pre-order voucher he had dropped. Paramedics found the man shivering and distressed - and without the voucher, Emergency Services spokesman Darren Cutrupi said. He was given another voucher by the bookstore.
Even the cover of the book was a well-guarded secret. Fans finally caught a glimpse of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows" when the seventh and final book in the popular series came out at midnight Saturday morning. Many stores, such as the Rainy Day Bookstore in Nisswa and Book World in Brainerd, held Potter Parties and stayed open late. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Competition to sell Potter led to prices wars everywhere and a shutdown in Malaysia, as major stores pulled the final volume in protest of supermarkets offering the book for $11.49, barely a third of its suggested price. Booksellers have acknowledged in the United States and elsewhere that they don't expect to make a profit.
Rowling's books about the bespectacled orphan with the lightning-bolt scar have sold 325 million copies in 64 languages, and the launch of each new volume has become a Hollywood-scale extravaganza.
"Deathly Hallows" has a print run of 12 million in the United States alone.
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