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Final book bash is bittersweet for Potter fans

Snape and Dumbledore stood side by side, laughing and talking animatedly. Luna Lovegood sat cross-legged on the floor next to Draco Malfoy, while Voldemort high-fived Harry nearby.

Sound unlikely?

It wasn't on Friday, as bookstores around the world ushered in the much anticipated release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the seventh and final installment of the series that has wrapped the world up in its magic spell for the past 10 years.

Potter fans flocked to many area stores, including various Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Wegmans, Wal-Marts and others, to wait in gruelingly long lines for the book's 12:01 a.m. release, some of the truly devoted camping outside the front doors as early as 9 am.

"This chaos is a little scary, but it's fun, too." said Diane Rockey of West Seneca, who brought her 12-year-old daughter Julia to the Cheektowaga Borders' Grand Hallows Ball.

Many stores participating in the Harry Potter mania held parties for customers in the hours leading up to the book's selling.
At the Orchard Park and Cheektowaga Borders' Grand Hallows Ball, fans took part in a costume contest, spelling bee and the "Great Snape Debate," while a singing Albus Dumbledore handed out gifts and souvenirs to those eagerly awaiting the book.

"When I see what my fate was at the end of Book Number Six, I shudder to think what might happen in Book Number Seven. The treachery of my trusted colleague Severus Snape, I'm just scandalized! I hope he'll be able to redeem his reputation in Book Number Seven, but my optimism about his loyalty is rapidly dwindling. So I hope that J.K. Rowling has a few tricks up her sleeve and will provide a happy conclusion to the finale of the series, but I am waiting with baited breath," said the Cheektowaga store's Professor Dumbledore.

Borders customer Mary Best, who will be a sophomore at Alden and was dressed as the character Tonks, said, "I'm hoping for really amazing arguments and debates about the seventh book ... maybe even a fistfight!" when telling of her expectations for the night's events.

The Midnight Magic Costume Party at the Williamsville and Amherst Barnes and Noble featured crafts and a trivia scavenger hunt, while other stores saw fans dressed as wizards, witches and even house elves come to enjoy games and entertainment, all leading up to the night's big event.

With the knowledge that after many years of waiting and numerous speculations, they would in a few short hours know the fate of Harry and his friends, emotions ran high as Harry Potter enthusiasts reflected on what first brought them to the series and what life would be like after "Deathly Hallows."

"I was in about first grade when they came out and my parents were reading them and I actually got so scared I threw the book across the room and said I was never going to finish it. But later in second grade I was in a reading contest, and it turned out the book was worth a lot of points, so I braved my fears and read it. I have a flashlight in the car to read on the way home, and I'll hopefully finish it tonight! I'm excited to see how everything turns out. I hope she doesn't leave us with a cliffhanger ending, because that'd be really upsetting. And I'm kind of sad that they're over, because I have to find a new series to read now," said Megann Kaiser of Clarence, who won the Cheektowaga Borders' costume contest dressed as Bellatrix Lestrange.

Though they may not have agreed, at the time, on Snape's loyalty or who would die, almost every fan did agree on their aggressive reading of the book.
"I'll be reading until I crash, which will probably be between 3 and 5 [a.m.]. I won't talk to anybody, it's going to be straight read. I'm going to be like, "Don't talk to me!" when they text me or something," said Laura Rachel, 18, who will be attending Canisius College in the fall.

"I plan on getting it and finishing it in 24 hours," said Jeremy Kreuzer, who will be a freshman at Canisius High School and came to the Cheektowaga Borders as Voldemort, using white paint and latex.
But don't be fooled to believe kids were having all the fun in anticipation for the book.

"My son Chris, who's 8, he started them quite awhile ago. He kept on telling me, 'You should read them, you should read them', and I wasn't jumping on the bandwagon. I did, and now I'm so hooked, it's ridiculous!" said Kathleen Sutter, 51, of Alden, who came to the Cheektowaga Borders dressed as Snape, "I have a girlfriend with a PhD in Spanish literature, with an interest with Merlin in Spanish literature, and she says this woman [author J.K. Rowling] knows her stuff. She knows medievalism. She knows Latin. She's so smart. It's not only for kids. It's for adults as well, and that's the interesting thing because it crosses generations."

At most stores, the activities began to wind down around 11:30, as customers were herded into lines that snaked their way through the entire lengths of the stores.
Borders used a color-coded wristband system to sort customers into lines. Depending on the time during the day customers came to get their wristband determined their wristband color and where they would be sorted into lines. However, confusion and stress ensued as the minute hand ticked closer to midnight as people with the wrong wristband colors disrupted and cut in line.

Barnes and Noble used a similar system to sort people in line using numbered bracelets.
With such a huge turnout of people for the various events, many feared books would run out before their turn at the register an became anxious.

When asked how she felt waiting in the extremely long line at Cheektowaga Borders, Meta Mandris, who will be a sophomore at Oneonta State College, said, "Hot! These robes are uncomfortable!", referring to her homemade Luna Lovegood costume.

Despite some minor organizational setbacks at some locations, fans' spirits remained high, especially when the boxes containing the books were brought out from the storerooms, bringing about much cheer and applause.

Soon enough, stores began the loud and raucous count down until 12:01, leading to the ultimate rush to the cash registers as fans gratifyingly received their books. As the night progressed, the stores began to quiet down as fans rushed home to begin their last adventure with the "Boy Who Lived."

Megan McDaniels, 20, of Machias said, "I'll be sad for awhile. But there'll still always be a place in my heart for Harry Potter books."
Carlene Miller will be a sophomore at Alden.

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