Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Ten-year-old Jessika Holmes, left, and nine-year-old Collin Duffey, both of Eva, read “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” shortly after midnight at a book release party at Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts. Duffey won first place in the costume contest.
Only 759 Pages Left To Say Goodbye.
By Patrice Stewart
The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. For a second they stood quite still, wands directed at each other’s chests; then, recognizing each other, they stowed their wands beneath their cloaks and started walking briskly in the same direction.
“ ‘News?’ asked the taller of the two.
“ ‘The best,’ replied Severus Snape.”
The auditorium of the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts grew quiet.
Just after the witching hour Saturday, children’s author and playwright Darren Butler of Decatur opened the long-awaited seventh and final book and began to read the first chapter of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
Some adults and children took their pre-ordered copies of the book and headed home to start reading on their own, while others settled down to hear Butler read. He operates Studio One and Backstage Theatre and held similar events when books four, five and six came out.
Darren Butler reads the last few pages of “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” before midnight and the opening of the seventh book at a party he hosted at the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts.
The pace picked up as he reached the end of the first chapter, which has “The Dark Lord Ascending” as its title.
“ ‘Dinner, Nagini,’ said Voldemort softly, and the great snake swayed and slithered from his shoulders onto the polished wood.”
Of course, by then some were already sneaking peeks at the beginning of chapter two, which starts out with “Harry was bleeding.”
Celebration of reading
It was a difficult week for Butler, who had to keep his own curiosity under control and several cartons of books delivered Thursday locked up away from Studio One, where students rehearsed a short play he wrote about a possible ending for the book.
“I signed a legal affidavit that I wouldn’t open that box early,” said Butler. “Besides, I’ve waited 10 years for this, and I want to send this series out with style.”
The writing and music teacher said he didn’t hold his annual young authors’ conference this year and decided to make this event a celebration of reading.
“That’s what Harry Potter has done — he’s gotten more people reading. There are a lot of wizard books out there, but there was something very different about Harry. Author J.K. Rowling created a world of characters that people care about, and we want to know what happens to them,” he said.
Though the play’s Harry Potter, Jonathan Schuster of Decatur, has never read the books, he has seen the movies.
“All this talk about Book No. 7 makes me want to go back to Book No. 1 and start reading them,” said the 20-year-old Auburn student.
Along with the mini-play, activities at the free Friday night party at the Princess included a costume contest, Potter trivia competition and “butterbeer” chugging contest. Holographic pins and washable tattoos with the No. 7 were given out.
Other Harry Potter parties were held Friday at Decatur Public Library and at Books-a-Million, but some fans, like Decatur parent James Gauthier, decided to bring the magic home. His daughters Abby, 12, and Katie, 15, gave a Harry Potter party for friends where they played Quidditch and cakes featured Potter and Voldemort. And they planned a sleepover to start reading the book.
“I’m getting each daughter a book — and one for Dad, too,” he said.
At the library party, mom Shari White of Somerville dressed up as Professor Sybill Trelawney and brought daughters Kimberly, 12, as Ginny and Jessica, 9, as Hermione Granger.
“I’ve only ordered one book, and Kimberly is upset that I get to read it first,” Shari said.
Throughout the night at the Princess, Butler asked the audience of about 100 for their theories about the book, but he cautioned them not to reveal anything they had picked up from the Internet about the outcome.
Their predictions ranged from explosions where everyone dies to characters presumed dead returning for this book’s surprise ending.
“I’m excited about seeing if Harry dies, but I think ‘Chamber of Secrets’ will still be my favorite Potter book,” said Jessika Holmes, 10, of Eva.
Butler’s personal prediction was that Harry would not die in this book.
“I think Snape will die to save Harry; Snape kept Harry alive for seven books, and he won’t let him down now.”
The series has been about love and how love wins, he said.
“We all live with evil inside of us, with a piece of Voldemort inside of us, but it’s the choices we make in life that make the difference.”
As the final chapter of the party celebrating the end of a magical era came to a close, a few fans turned to the end of the book and the epilogue, trying to quickly learn the fate of Harry and others.
A Harry Potter book, however, is meant to be savored while reading again and again, so most said they would read it from beginning to end — probably finishing before this weekend is up.
For those who haven’t gotten through it yet, we won’t spoil your read here by telling you who gets killed and who survives.
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