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With the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows scheduled for 2:01 a.m. tonight, expectations surrounding the seventh and final novel have been mounting here and around the world.
The Internet provides a forum for international pondering over what might happen to the young wizard and his friends in their last year at Hogwarts Wizarding Academy. The discussions range from elementary school children voting on their favorite character to university professors debating medieval literary influences on author J.K. Rowling.
Key questions include: Where and how will Harry's inevitable battle with Lord Voldemort play out? Will Ginny Weasley play a bigger role in this book - possibly as Harry's girlfriend? Is Professor Snape a poorly disguised villain or a misunderstood hero? The Web hosts some surprisingly enlightened suggestions, as well as the expected kooky scenarios.
HogwartsProfessor.com contains high-minded commentary (often with a religious bent) as exemplified by the following quote from Coppinger Bailey: "I want him to be able to return from this experience to a happy, self-actualizing physical life now lived in the knowledge of... Love. I hope that a symbol of the Eucharist, dragon's blood, plays a role in restoring Harry to a physical life after his 'spiritual revelation.'"
And of course, the question on everyone's mind: Will Harry live or die? Emotions are running high, with some posters insisting that Rowling has no choice but to kill off her main character, and others claiming they will never mention the name Harry Potter again should the author eliminate the young boy they have so grown to love.
FictionAlley.com is running a poll entitled "Which Weasley will bite the big one?" (Percy is currently in the lead, but Ginny is gaining ground.)
Snitchseeker.com has a popular forum debating what Rowling meant when she stated that some fans "loathe" the last book. Lemondrop13's comment, "J.K. Rowling is a consistently excellent writer and I don't doubt that this book will be absolutely amazing," is the sentiment most echoed by posters.
BarnesandNoble.com has several mediated message boards in its "Waiting for Harry" section, including one on how fans are spending the days, weeks and months in preparation for the release. Many readers are planning to reread the entire series, and one devotee is planning to take a week off work. At last count, the site contained 594 (overwhelmingly positive) reviews of a book nobody has read yet.
There are also Web sites for Israeli fans, both in Hebrew and in English, targeted at children and adults. On-line posts vary from the obvious - Harry will die vs Harry can't die - to elucidations on the philosophies underlying the possible outcomes. One Israeli fan, Dave, suggests that Harry is actually Lord Voldemort's father, with the proof dependent on a complicated time-travel scenario.
An Israeli Google group aptly titled "Predicting Book 7" includes epilogue-style predictions, such as the following from a poster called "Witty": "Harry will spend time after the final battle working with the Ministry as an Auror, but he will return to Hogwarts once it is completed rebuilding, and take a job as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
Last Sunday night, tens of thousands of copies of Deathly Hallows were reportedly flown here and are currently being held under tight security, where they will remain, wrapped in black plastic sheeting, until an hour before their international release on July 21 - 12:01 a.m. British Summer Time, which is 2:01 a.m. here.
Publishers of the Hebrew language edition, Yedioth Books and Books in the Attic, hope to have the translation ready by December. Translator Gili Bar-Hillel will fly to London to buy Deathly Hallows and read it on the plane home. A total of 870,000 copies of all six books in the series have been sold in Hebrew.
For readers anxious to share in Potter-mania, Tel Aviv is expected to host a large event on release night. The celebration is rumored to include a big screen broadcast of Rowling's speech to her fans from London's Natural History Museum.
And for those looking for more intellectual musings on their favorite scar-faced hero, Bar-Ilan University offers just the course: Harry Potter 101.