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Final Harry Potter book celebrated with parties, celebrations


Associated Press Writer

   HUDSON, Ohio (AP) — Magic wands, lightning-bolt scars and wizard's hats returned Friday to this upscale northeast Ohio downtown, which for the third and last time transformed itself into the world of Harry Potter.
   Casting away spoilers that have appeared on the Internet, Potter fans gathered at community festivals and bookstores Friday to celebrate ahead of the midnight release of the final book in the saga, some fearing for the teenage wizard's life.
   But not Wayne Kelley, who walked through downtown Hudson dressed, quite convincingly as snide Severus Snape.
   ``I'm not worried about Harry,'' said Kelley, 42. ``I'm sure Harry will pull through just fine.''
   The Cleveland resident was more concerned about how Professor Snape, who has tormented Harry and his friends through six books, would turn out in the end — as friend or foe?
   ``I'm hoping he comes across as the struggling character who finds his redemption in the end,'' Kelley said.
   Outside The Learned Owl Book Shop, a line snaked down the street by mid-afternoon, not for copies of ``Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'' — the seventh installment in the series — which was to be released at midnight, but for a turn under the Sorting Hat.
   The talking hat places students in one of four schools at Hogwarts — it seemed just about everyone at the festival wanted to know where they would end up.
   Fifteen-year-old Patrick Atkins got placed in the Gryffindor House — the same school one Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys belong to.
   Atkins, of Twinsburg, thought Harry would survive the final book, believing author J.K. Rowling would come up with an unexpected ending.
   ``I don't think she would pull anything as cliche as killing Harry,'' he said.
   At the other corner of the state, in downtown Wilmington about 40 miles north of Cincinnati, hundreds of people strolled along Diagon Alley in the early evening with as many as 5,000 expected before festivities were set to end shortly after midnight. Big and little Harry Potters and other costumed characters roamed the streets and sidewalks, watching as bubbles poured from an upstairs window of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or cheering as adult Potter fans sought the Golden Snitch in Quidditch games at the city park.
   A 9-foot winged dragon guarded the entrance to Knockturn Alley, creating an eerie atmosphere as it swayed menacingly while Potter fans made their way past it to magic potions classes.
   Michelle Keller, 28, of Canal Winchester, dyed her hair red and donned long black robes and a skirt, as the Molly Weasley character.
   ``Right now everyone is just having a lot of fun, but I know a little sadness will kick in about 12:02 a.m. because it is the last book,'' said Keller.
   At the Hudson celebration, Atkins said he had read the first Harry Potter book about seven years ago, when he was eight.
   ``I've seen it all with him,'' said Atkins, an avid reader. ``It's better than other fantasy stories because you can relate to it, especially as an adolescent.''
   He avoided the Internet spoilers, including photographed images of all 700-plus pages of the book's U.S. edition.
   So did Snape, er, Kelley.
   ``I will wait until I have the actual book in my hands,'' he said.
   Inside The Learned Owl, owner Liz Murphy, dressed like Professor McGonagall, was directing volunteers and handling last-minute details for the festival, which drew 8,000 people for the final Potter book and was expected to bring in about 12,000 Friday night.
   Murphy conjured up the Potter event back in 2003 for the fifth book and said this event called ``Harry Potter — The Last Extravaganza'' was bittersweet because it would be the final one.
   She said she was a bit overwhelmed because people were expecting so much from the event — and the book.
   ``I don't know how she's going to do this,'' Murphy said of Rowling. ``I can't imagine what the ending is going to be like.''
   Keller, a member of the hp-ohio online fan club, said she was sure the club and the popularity of the book would continue.
   ``The feelings and ideas that the books bring are so true,'' she said. ``That won't end.''
   Associated Press Writer Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

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