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Newswise — July 21, 2007 marks the end of an era. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, will be released. For fans of the series, many of whom have been following it since the first book was published in 1998, this marks the end of a very long journey.

A three-year wait in-between the fourth and fifth books (2000-2003) saw an increase in the number of fans who shared their theories, hopes, and fan fiction and fan art on the Internet. At a recent panel discussion at Phoenix Rising, a Harry Potter-themed academic conference held in May in New Orleans, Louisiana, MIT comparative media studies professor Henry Jenkins observed that Harry Potter fans are like no other fans before them, in that the Internet has provided an opportunity to form active and lively communities consisting of fans of all ages from around the world.

The anticipation for this book is, of course, high, but it is accompanied with more than a little fear, not only for the characters in the books, but for the effect that the events that will happen in Deathly Hallows will have on the "fandom." After the release of Harry and the Half-Blood Prince in 2005, when it became clear that Harry's love interest would be Ginny Weasley, his best friend's sister, legions of fans who had been devoted to the theory that Harry would fall in love with his friend Hermione Granger posted menacing messages on web sites worldwide that included death threats and protestations against the series.

With relationship issues mostly behind them, the two biggest questions facing most Harry Potter fans relate to the final showdown between Harry and his nemesis, Lord Voldemort. There is a prophecy that states that one of them must die, and, while the obvious conclusion would be that Lord Voldemort is too evil to live, Rowling has hinted on more than one occasion that Harry may not live past the end of the seventh book. The other question revolves around the true nature of Harry's professor, Severus Snape, who throughout the series has served as a sort of red herring. He is spiteful and mean, yet in the end, he is never the true cause of Harry's problems.

At the end of the last book, however, Snape killed Harry's mentor, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, and fans are divided over whether or not Dumbledore's final words, "Severus, please..." mean "Severus, please kill me so you don't blow your cover," or "Severus, please don't kill me, I thought you were on our side." Regardless of how Snape's character develops, fans foresee something that members of the Sugar Quill, a popular Harry Potter fan site, have dubbed "Snapocalypse." Some people will be pleased, and others will be disappointed, but chances are good that everyone will be online in August trying to make sense out of the 784-page Deathly Hallows.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, while certainly the biggest Harry Potter-related event of the summer, is not the only one. Just a week before the book is released, the fifth Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be released in theaters. While the movies have provided astounding visuals and much diversion for fans as they wait for the book series to conclude, it is unclear what affect Deathly Hallows will have on movie ticket sales after July 21. One thing is certain, most Harry Potter fans will not be at the movies at midnight on July 20th; they will all be at a bookstore, waiting for some closure. And if they are still hungry for more, the movie version of the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is scheduled for release in 2008, and a Harry Potter theme park that will include a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and a chance to fly in a Flying Ford Anglia, will open in Orlando in 2009.