July 21, 2007—seven years ago last Monday—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and last book in our beloved series, hit bookstore shelves. It seems that everyone and their brother wrote a “where I was for the release” article on Monday, because seven years after the seventh book is not an anniversary to take lightly.
After all, 7 is the most magical number.
I wasn’t going to share my story, because, unlike so many, it didn’t involve attending a party or standing in line at midnight in a Barnes & Noble or a Borders. But, after reading my friend Olivia’s reminiscence, I decided, “why not”?
I want to warn you by saying that I’m not proud of my actions that night. You’ll see why in a minute.
I’ve actually never attended a midnight book release. I started reading the books after Goblet of Fire had already been released… I believe it was during my 9th grade year, which I started in the fall of 2000. I still vividly remember picking up the first book and sitting in a corner of my school library, reading (and falling in love from) the very first page. I read the four books feverishly, but then came the infamous three-year wait prior to Order of the Phoenix. Those three years gave me an opportunity to read The Lord of the Rings for the first time and The Chronicles of Narnia for the second time.
What you need to realize about my high school existence is that I grew up on a farm seven miles from the nearest town, with a booming population of only 215 people. I went to high school even farther (25 miles) away—in a town of 800 people. My graduating class? 20 students. In short, the nearest chain bookstore (Barnes & Noble) was over an hour away, and it’s not particularly convenient to drive there for a midnight book release, unless I planned to get a hotel and stay the night, because who wants to drive over an hour back home in the middle of the night.
And so, sometime in June 2003, after I toured the college that I would eventually attend the next year, I picked up my copy of Order of the Phoenix. The summer after my freshman year of college, July 2005, the Half-Blood Prince was released. Even though being at college meant being closer to bookstores and potential midnight release parties, I was back on the farm for the summer and couldn’t get away for reasons that now escape my memory.
I was absolutely bound and determined to attend a midnight release party in July 2007. But then, my great-aunt and -uncle came to visit from Illinois and there was an impromptu family reunion on the farm. When? July 20th, 2007. I wasn’t happy. Inwardly, I swore that I would find some way to sneak out, get in my car and drive back to Fargo. I would attend the very last (my first and last) Harry Potter release party at the Barnes & Noble. I would spend the night with friends.
In my mind, I had it planned out. However, outwardly, I was all smiles and politeness. Ultimately, I didn’t do the thing that I had planned to do. I decided that it would be better for me to stay home with my family, but I went to bed frustrated that night. I couldn’t sleep. I watched as the minutes ticked ever closer to midnight. Then, a thought occurred to me.
I remembered seeing many fan websites reporting Deathly Hallows leaks earlier that day. In some cases, pre-ordered books had been accidentally delivered days early. I remembered reading reports that PDFs of the book had been cropping up online. I did something in that moment that I’m not proud to admit. I successfully found and downloaded a PDF.
That’s right, folks. I read the last Harry Potter book, in its entirety, on a computer screen. I also did not stop reading until I was done with the book. I even brought my laptop with me to the dinner table for meals. Finally, after 19 hours (that the epilogue happened “nineteen years later” felt so surreal in that moment), I came to end of the PDF document.
Yes, it was riddled with hasty spelling and grammar errors, but I was done. I knew how it all ended.
I deleted the PDF almost immediately.
The next day, my dad was working on some farm machinery and needed to get some supplies, so he announced that he was going to make a quick trip to Mills Fleet Farm in Fargo. I quickly volunteered to go with, but he explained again that we would not have time to make any other stops (I think he knew that I wanted to go to Barnes & Noble and get a real book). I went with him anyway. I’d read the book already; I could pick up my physical copy anytime.
After we arrived, I glanced over to my right and saw—would you believe it—a “Books & Magazines” section. I hastily told my dad that I would meet him back at the checkouts, and I walked briskly to that section. There, I found two, maybe three copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, next to the Field & Stream magazines.
Of all places, I purchased the last Harry Potter book at a Mills Fleet Farm.
And honestly, when I think back to this story, I could be disappointed that I never had the opportunity to attend any of the praised midnight book releases, but I’m not. Instead, this story makes me laugh. And that’s the way it should be.
What are your Deathly Hallows release stories? I’d love to read them! Share in the comments!