(Note: The following entry–and all entries on my blog, for that matter, will not contain spoilers regarding the final book in the Harry Potter series, so please feel free to read on!)
(Note deux: This is part II of a three-part series; please scroll down and read the first installment if you have not already done so!)
Thursday evening, after picking up Mad-Eye’s jacket for a mere $37.50, we went directly to Party City in search of an eyeball.
I didn’t know exactly what I would find. I knew I needed something that was big, but not bulky so that it would protrude too far from my face (after all, I wasn’t going for the avulsed-eye look). Once again, just as had been the case with the jacket, the eye found me.
Or, rather, it found my wife.
When we entered the store, my wife and I split up; I took Tonks and she took the younger two. Within 10 minutes, my younger daughter–a convincing Hermione in her own right–found me, clutching a bloody eyeball in her hand.
“We found it! We found your eyeball!”
Sure enough, she held the eye in her hand, a glow-in-the-dark superball that was easily the size (and the worth at this moment) of a golden snitch.
We paid the buck for the (eye)ball and left the store. On the way home, I realized that, even after I cut it down to size so that it bulged from my eye socket just like Mad-Eye’s, I had to somehow attach it to something that would hold it in place. When we got home, I dug through some of my old things I keep carrying with me every time we move, and I found the perfect leather strap from an old, old camera that used to be my mother’s.
But how to attach it?
Friday, the next morning and the day of the launch, I took the severed eye and leather strap to the final day of the class I had been teaching all summer. The same wonderful person who gave me the 50% coupon for Goodwill was also an art teacher, and she did her own magic to make the leather strap stick on to the severed rubber eyeball. A few pieces of duct tape and three thumb tacks later, and I had a Mad Eye.
Finally, the flask. After class ended, Tonks and I went to Michael’s Arts and Crafts, and, just as it had happened all along, we found the perfect flask among the scattered Halloween merchandise they were frantically putting on the shelves, as if they had only hours left before the big holiday. Tonks found it, actually. It was a potions bottle, amber-orange, with silly stickers on it and a cork plug. We bought the flask, along with a bottle of Goo Gone, and headed home.
At 10:11 p.m., Friday night, I got dressed. My two younger children were scared of me, so I guess I was pretty convincing. For good measure, I filled my flask with Coke Zero and grabbed my walking stick. With Tonks by my side, we headed to Borders Books in Timonium.
When we arrived, there were already hundreds of Harry Potter fans walking in and out of the bookstore. Some were in costume, but most were there to just get their books and be a part of the hype. My greatest fear had always been that, just as had been the case during the Half-Blood launch party, some idiot or idiots would shout out the ending of the book. Tonks and I considered seriously whether we should arm ourselves with iPods, but we decided we’d take our chances.
We both left the car and approached the madness in full character. It was unbelievable. Everybody was staring at us as we walked up the stairs, and immediately I found myself in complete character. I reached the top step, asked a kid what he was looking at, and pulled the flask from my jacket and took a sip. We walked into the store and stood in line to get our wristbands, where we waited for maybe 20 minutes.
During that time, we spotted our old neighbors, who had dressed up as well. The mom dressed as a very convincing and beautiful Rita Skeeter, and her daughter was a lovely Hogwarts student. I screamed “Hey, Rita!” over the heads of muggles and wizards and witches, and she turned immediately, in perfect character, and lowered her black glasses.
At first, I don’t think she recognized us at all. She walked a little closer, and then it dawned on her that it was us. Immediately, we talked as if we were really Mad-Eye and Rita, me with my eye all crazy, and her with her green quill, scribbling away like crazy.
I finally reached the table where we were to get our wrist bands, and as soon as put them on, I looked at the poster by the table. It showed the order in which the books would be distributed. Rita had a blue bracelet; Tonks and I had bright pink. Out of the six colors, Rita and her her daughter were in the third group, and she had heard that blue-bands would get their books around 1:30 or so. Tonks and I were in the fifth round with our pink bracelets, like most everybody else around us. If Rita wasn’t getting her book until 1:30 a.m., I was sure we’d be there until at least 3 a.m., if not later.
Tonks was a little disappointed that we had already missed some of the games, but we had fun nonetheless walking around in character. As we zig-zagged around the store, people kept stopping us, asking for our picture. We stayed in character, posed with confidence (not to mention an attitude), and then finally made our way to the front of the store where they were holding the costume contest.
Rita, her daughter, Tonks, and I all were looking forward to this part of the launch. We dressed up for fun, but being able to participate in the contest was a nice way to pass the time as we waited for midnight (and 1, and 2, and eventually 3 a.m.!) to roll around. The prizes weren’t bad, either. The “kind and queen” received $10 Borders gift cards and the right to receive their books precisely at 12:01 a.m.
The younger kids went in the first round. By far, they comprised the greatest number of witches, warlocks, death eaters, and aurors. Rita’s daughter did well but did not advance to the final round.
The second group of Potterians then went, ages 11 to 15. Tonks was in this group, and she too did well but was beaten out by a very convincing Hermione.
Then the final group went: ages 16 and over. They were doing elimination rounds of five characters at a time, so Rita and I decided the best strategy would be to go in different rounds, so as not to compete directly with each other. The strategy paid off. I went first and won my round; then Rita went, and she won her round as well.
In the semi-final round, Rita and I stood next to each other, as the voting began. We both stayed in character as people cheered for us, I thought that it came down to three of us: Mad-Eye, Rita, and a woman dressed perfectly as Bellatrix. Unfortunately, the Emcee didn’t agree. Rita and two other contestants were dismissed, and it was down to just Bellatrix and me.
We turned and faced each other. She flaunted her accomplishments as a Death Eater, and I told her that her evil days were numbered.
In the final round of voting, the audience applauded strongly for both of us. In the end, though, the judges deemed me to be the winner. I turned to Tonks, who was just absolutely beaming.
“I knew you were going to win! I just knew it!”
We hugged as cameras continued to snap pictures of all of the contestants, and before we knew it, we were being escorted to the front of the line.
At 11:59 p.m., as Tonks and I waited desperately to receive our copies, a tall, not-in-costume woman resembling Olympe Maxime grabbed my leather jacket and shouted to the Manager: “I’ve been waiting an hour-and-a-half in this very spot. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let this guy cut in front of me.”
I looked to Tonks, still in character, and asked for her wand. I pondered what spell to cast on her, but I never got the chance. The Manager intervened immediately and informed the towering woman that we had, indeed, won the costume contest and that we would be receiving our books first.
Olympe was not very happy. She stomped back in line, and I told Tonks to put her wand away.
At 12:00:50, we counted down the last 10 seconds. at 12:01 a.m., the boxes were slashed open, and we were given our books–the very first copies to be pulled from the boxes marked DO NOT OPEN UNTIL JULY 21, 2007. We gave hugs and kisses to our friends who were there, and immediately we stole away into the night, passing by the thousands of Potterians with colored wristbands, all standing in their respective lines weaving in and out of the store.
We did it. We sat inside the car, turned the ignition and checked to make sure the radio was turned off. For the next 48 hours, we would continue to be in our media blackout (this we started Thursday morning, upon learning that our own Baltimore Sun was the first of only two papers in the United States–the other being the New York Times on Friday–to review the book before its release). We had escaped the danger of drive-by idiots shouting spoilers as we waited vulnerably in line. All we had to do now was avoid all contact with the outside world until we finished reading page 759.
By 12:13 a.m. we were home. We sat down, clinked our books as if they were glasses filled with champagne, and opened the cover.
It was time to read.
Part III of this series will be posted at 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, 7:24!