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Georgia Potter fanatics flock to midnight book release

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    MARIETTA, Ga. — Naomi Klein and Shannon Ross weren’t taking any chances.
    The 18-year-olds had begun their day 17 hours earlier, lining up at a Borders bookstore before 7:30 a.m. Friday for tickets guaranteeing they’d snatch one of the first copies of ‘‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’’ at midnight.
    Then, with an estimated 2,000 people crammed inside and milling outside the store, they clutched their hardback books and speed-walked to their car — never looking up or stopping to talk with anyone until they reached a quiet, far corner of a crowded parking lot.
    ‘‘I don’t want to stay around and have somebody say something stupid and ruin it,’’ said Klein, of Marietta.
    At bookstores across the state, scenes like the one in Marietta played out at the witching hour Saturday morning, as throngs turned up for the wildly anticipated final installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
    But the gathering in the northern Atlanta suburb — which with its hundreds of costumed shoppers could have passed for a student assembly at Hogwarts Academy — may have been the most massive.
    There were jugglers and games. Hundreds of people lined up for a Hogwarts-style sorting ceremony — during which a magical hat is placed on their heads to decide which of the school’s four houses they’ll belong to.
    When someone had the misfortune of being sorted into the nefarious Slytherin house, the rest of the line pelted them with boos.
    Lee King of Marietta arrived at about 11 p.m. in a tuxedo, escorting his daughter Kathryn, 23, who wore a blue gown for what was dubbed the Grand Hallows Ball.
    He said his daughter got him hooked on the series and that he has mixed feelings about reading its final installment.
    ‘‘It’s kind of a bittersweet type thing,’’ King said. ‘‘You get the answers to all the questions, but you don’t want to see it end.’’
    For Kathryn Nash, decked out in full good-witch regalia and one of Harry’s trademark Hogwarts scarves, finishing ‘‘Deathly Hallows’’ will mark the end of an era.
    ‘‘We’ve all kind of grown up with the book,’’ said Nash, 21, a George Washington University student who’s home in Marietta for the summer. ‘‘We were in middle school and the characters were the same age; it’s like we grew up with them.’’
    Still, she and a friend expected to wrap up Potter’s tale in short order.
    ‘‘We’ll get some coffee and read until we pass out, then we’ll get up and read some more,’’ she said.
    For Klein, a similar ritual was in the works — but with a twist.
    ‘‘My friend just had surgery,’’ she said. ‘‘I told her I’d go keep her company — but she couldn’t talk to me.’’

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