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On The Scene: Surviving the rush for Harry

  • Story Highlights
  • Latest "Harry Potter" book debuted at 12:01 a.m. Saturday in London
  • "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" last in the seven-book series
  • Fate of boy wizard was kept a secret until final book was published
  • The "Harry Potter" series reportedly has sold 325 million copies worldwide
  • Next Article in Entertainment »
By Ravi Agrawal
CNN
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Editor's note: This story does not contain any details about how the Harry Potter saga ends, so don't worry about our spoiling the fun.

(CNN) -- No book has ever seen this much fever-pitch anticipation and excitement around the world.

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Ravi Agrawal with some of those who got into the spirit of the launch by dressing up.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is about to launch at 12:01am in London. It's the seventh and final installment in a series that has made J.K. Rowling the first billion-dollar author.

I head down to Waterstone's near Piccadilly Circus -- it's one of Europe's largest bookstores and is famous for its big Harry Potter parties. Well this is more than a big party. It's a Potter Universe let loose on London's streets. There are thousands here, all joining in the fun. Some of the people I speak to have traveled from Sydney, Jerusalem and Boston just to be here for the big launch. It's Friday night and a group of fans have camped out for three days. Being the first to get your hands on the first edition must really mean something.

I see children dressed up as their favorite characters, wearing wigs, uniforms, make-up and props. Harry is the most popular choice, but there are scores more who have come out as other wizards, witches, goblins and even house elves. Central London is transformed into a magical Mecca.

The excitement is palpable. Children and adults alike fervently pray that Harry will live. Many discuss the rumors and leaks on the Internet. Who's going to die? Who'll fall in love? Others try their best to stay awake after hours of holding their spot in the queue. Photo See fans line up around the world »

The biggest winners are the young kids. You get to dress up in fun costumes, you get to stay out late and then you get your hands on the book you've been waiting to read for two years -- could anything be better?

The queue runs into the thousands. There's no way I can get my copy here unless I stick around until Saturday afternoon. I pay a visit to CNN's camera crew: they're filming Becky Anderson live. She has a group of child wizards and witches screaming and yelling behind her. "Will Harry die?" she asks. "NO!!" comes the chorus.

Just half an hour to go.

I run across to Borders at nearby Oxford Circus. It's a shorter queue, and a less lively one. Partygoers stop by and ask us what the fuss is all about. Very few are wearing Potter costumes. The odd wizard hat attracts the curiosity of passersby. "Ah, Harry Potter," they nod knowingly. They're not convinced any sane person should queue up for a book.

One girl warns me what will happen if someone gets the book before her, reads the last page and shouts out Harry's fate. "We'll beat him up," she says. Her friends, all college students, yell out their support.

It's a slightly older crowd here. These are people who were 11 when Harry first joined Hogwarts. They've grown with him, and past him -- the series has taken a decade to cover seven years. The night is not about fun and games -- it's about making one last journey with Harry, and discovering his fate. It's about closure.

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Another young man explains to me how the Potter series is a once in a lifetime experience for him. It's the equivalent of being there for Woodstock, or being the first to watch "Star Wars" on the big screen, he says.

A loud cheer rents the air. It's 12:01AM. The first copy is sold. Minutes later, the proud owner runs past us, high-fiving anyone he can. Pure delirium. Video Watch balloons fall, costumed shoppers cheer as book goes on sale » E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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