Harry Potter fans poured into book stores around the world on Saturday to get hold of the seventh and final volume in the series and discover the secret of the boy wizard's fate.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hit the shelves across most of the world at 2301 GMT on Friday, in a release carefully orchestrated to maximize suspense and sales from Tokyo and New York to Taiwan and Australia's Outback.
Dressed as witches, Hogwarts heroes, Death Eaters and plain old non-magical Muggles, die-hard followers from dozens of countries braved torrential rain in London and awoke at dawn in Australia and India to snap up early copies.
"Now I'm going to go home and read the first chapter, then I'm going to sleep because I've only slept three hours in two days," said Tineke Dijkstra, a 15-year-old student from the Netherlands, who traveled to London especially for the launch.
"I've been queuing since Wednesday."
Others prepared for a long, sleepless night.
"I'm undoubtedly going to read the book before going to bed today," said Robin Holland at a shop in west London.
There was both excitement and regret in New York.
"It's like losing part of my childhood," said William Bishop, 16, dressed as Harry complete with a scar on his head.
<b1>In Sydney, about 1,500 Potter fans rode two steam trains from the city centre to a secret destination where bookstore staff were preparing to hand out copies.
One avid fan had to be rescued from a lake in the nation's capital Canberra on Friday after he dived in to rescue a pre-purchase receipt necessary to pick up his book.
In Mumbai, children tried to guess what would happen to Harry after author J.K. Rowling said last year that at least two main characters would die by the end of the seventh novel.
"I have a bet with my friends that Harry is not going to die," said Abhigyan Jain, a young fan dressed as a Death Eater.
Spoilers and Leaks
The excitement comes despite plot leaks on the Internet, some of which proved to be genuine when compared with the hard version. A mistake by one US online retailer also meant up to 1,200 copies were sent to buyers several days early.
Rowling, 41, said she was "staggered" when two US papers ran reviews on Thursday, and on Friday, France's Le Parisien published a short summary of the final book's epilogue, printing it upside down to give readers a chance to look away.
The leaks and spoilers have been a major headache for Potter publishers, who spent millions of dollars trying to keep the book's contents a secret.
Twelve million copies have been printed for the US market alone, online retailer Amazon.com said its global pre-orders hit a record 2.2 million, and
is tipped to become the fastest-selling book in history.
Some families are imposing news blackouts at their homes to avoid disappointment now that "P-Day" has arrived.
"I haven't gone on the Internet for the past two months because I did not want to know the ending," Eve Laurecon, a 25-year-old from France dressed as a witch, said in London.
Rowling staged a special midnight reading from Deathly Hallows to 500 children at London's Natural History Museum.
Just 13 years ago she was an unemployed single mother, without a publisher or agent, but is now the world's first dollar billionaire writer after the success of her first six novels and the Hollywood movies based on them.
The six books, dating back to 1997, have sold 325 million copies and the first five movies in the film franchise have amassed around $4 billion at the global box office.