*Spoiler Alert: If you give a damn, I am talking here.
Even though I was very anxious to get my hands on a copy of the seventh Harry Potter book, I was stuck in an airport, trying to get home from a business trip the night of its release. After many delays, I ended up in my car heading home from Logan around 11:30 p.m. -- and so I made a deal with myself: I was too tired to stop at any big, bright super-store like Target or Barnes and Nobles, but I pledged to stop if I found a little book store open for the midnight release. No luck for 15 miles, but then a couple minutes before 12, I saw it -- a tiny shop in the town just East of mine, windows bright with light and parking lot full.
The interior was decorated and the entire staff dressed as different characters from the series. Some adult and child customers had gone to the trouble of dressing up too -- featuring a great kid Dumbledore and an adult Ron Weasley. So I paid my money and took my place in a short line winding through the store's book shelves to the front...and then I got a load of the folks I would be standing in line with.
The three girls in front of me were somewhere around 15 years old and each dressed as students from Harry Potter's school, Hogwarts. Their outfits included knee socks, pleated skirts, ties colored to indicate which house they were from and black robes. From the number of words that were streaming from them rapid fire, it was clear they had drank several liters of coke in preparation for the "marathon reading session" they had planned for the rest of the night. Standing with them, wide-eyed and speechless, was the sole little brother who had somehow begged in on the midnight trip. A boy approached him with a freshly bought copy of book 7 in his hand.
"I know what the last line is," the boy declared.
"We'll KILL you Colin! So just get lost!" one girl screeched.
"Tell me," the little brother whispered. But the spoiler boy suddenly looked filled with remorse.
"I won't," spoiler boy said. "It'll give too much away."
As we got closer to the front of the line, the girls got whipped into a frenzy. One produced a camera, squealing, "You have to take a picture the minute the book hits my hands."
I noticed people waiting for the boxes holding the books and wondered how many would be on e-Bay within the hour.
Well the girls got their books amid barely contained screams and I volunteered to take a picture of them all together with their copies. Picture snapped, they thanked me and ran out the door, across the parking lot and into a waiting car.
When I left the store I was smiling and very excited (in my own way) to have my own copy. But I couldn't deny a little knot of anxiety in my gut. I must admit, I had been worried for some time that the temptation to kill her main character off would be too great for Jo Rowling and it mattered to me that she not do it. Millions of kids, I kept thinking, millions. The dozen or so child fans I had talked with about the ending in the last several weeks all acted tough about the prospect of Harry's death -- but they didn't fool me. It would suck, and I didn't want her to do it.
On my way across the parking lot, away from the other store customers, I paused under a lamp post to disturb the brand new spine, and flipped to the very last page.
"All is well."
Ah, and so it is.