Let it begin: the countdown, the party planning, the predictions, the meaning of it all.
The tears - for the end of Harry Potter.
The world's most anticipated book finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will come out midnight, July 21, according to author J K Rowling and her British and U S publishers, Bloomsbury and Scholastic, Inc. Ten years, and a few hundred million sales, after the first Potter book was released, Rowling will wrap up the magical adventures of the boy wizard, his friends and his enemies. The author posted a brief announcement on her website on Thursday, followed soon by releases from her publishers.
The news landed like a silent meteor. Deathly Hallows almost instantly topped the best seller lists on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com, displacing another industry titan, an Oprah Winfrey pick, Sidney Poitier's The Measure of a Man.
Potter readers, who had speculated the book might be published July 7 (7/7/07 for the seventh book) or July 31 (Harry's birthday), posted dozens of ecstatic messages on the Potter fan site, www.the-leaky-cauldron.org, within minutes of the announcement. "OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!!!!!!! I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS!!!!" read one typical message.
"WAH!!! I think I'm going crazy!!!! We finally have a date!!!" added another fan.
Other comments were sadder, noting the series' conclusion. "I can't wait to read the book, but at the same time, I'm afraid to read it," read a message from a fan named Christine, who identified herself as a "30-something" mom. "I can't stand the thought of anything happening to the characters that I've grown to love! What an odd feeling."
Christine and others have a lot to look forward to - and to fear. Rowling's stories have darkened considerably since the first release, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and the author has said two characters will be killed off in Book 7.
"I don't always enjoy killing my characters. I didn't enjoy killing the character who died at the end of Book 6," Rowling said during a reading last summer at Radio City Music Hall, declining to name that person in case someone had yet to finish the book. "I really didn't enjoy doing that but I had been planning that for years so it wasn't quite as poignant as you might imagine. I'd already done my grieving when I actually came to write it."
Rowling left millions sobbing at the end of Book 6, with a death and Harry's decision to take on the evil Lord Voldemort.