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Has Harry Potter's magic worn off?

They dragged it out as long as humanly — or wizardly — possible: seven books and eight movies over 13 years, the last book published in 2007 and broken into two movies.

Now, after 400 million books sold and $2 billion at the box office, the final film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II," opens at midnight Friday at theSenator Theatre.

And after that fades away, fans will have to fall back on "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" at Universal Studios in Orlando, or "Pottermore," author J.K. Rowling's new interactive online venture that launches this month, with back stories and plots that were left on her cutting-room floor.

Perhaps someday Rowling will give the saga another go. As she said recently, "Never say never."

But for now, Harry, his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, and their nemesis, Lord Voldemort, live on only in memory..

"Sales are not what they once were. It's run it's course," said Darielle Linehan, owner of the 10-year-old Ivy Bookshop in the Lake-Falls Shopping Center, which witnessed much of Harry's heyday at the cash register.

"I miss the excitement it spawned among kids. I've never experienced that as a bookseller. It's sad to see an era coming to an end."

But that's not necessarily the end of the story. A quick look through Linehan's records shows that while the boy wizard isn't as popular now, he's still a steady seller at the store near Mount Washington — especially for children's literature.

She counted 17 copies of the first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," sold so far in 2011, two of them in hardback. She's even sold some audio books at $59 apiece — not bad for books old enough to have come out in audiocassettes.

"We find that people still want the hardback for posterity, or theirs is so dog-eared or in such bad shape that they have to buy another," Lineman said.

She still stocks the Harry Potter books, including the earliest ones, two and three copies at a time.

"Normally, if we had a book that old, we would keep one copy," she said.

Is Harry Potter passe?

At The Children's Bookstore, in Roland Park, which championed Rowling and the series early on, a photo is still taped to one wall, showing Rowling visiting the store in 1999, while in the U.S. promoting the third book, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

"He's not passe," insisted longtime manager Lisa Cody. "We still continue to sell the books all the time, and with new groups — two, three, maybe more a week. The series is pretty much constantly moving."

Cody also said kids can still be seen curled up with a Harry Potter book at the Roland Park Pool. And some kids are rushing to read "Deathly Hallows" before the last movie comes out.

"There was a little boy who came in and had skipped the books in the middle," Cody said.

Cody made a point of telling her daughter, Eleanor, 14, about the new Pottermore website.

"She said, 'Mom, I already know all about it.'"

And Cody said teens are getting into parodies such as "A Very Potter Musical."

Perhaps most importantly, the series has been "a jumping-off point" for children, who are now reading other series and books.

"Parents often come in and say, 'They've read all the Harry Potter books; now where do they go?'"

The "Twilight" vampire books may be a little too adult and romantic, but there are plenty of good options, like "The Alechemyst" series by Michael Scott, or "The Chronicles of Chrestomanci," by Diana Wynne Jones, Cody said.

"There are some kids who get very stuck in a rut," she said. "It's just getting them over that hump."

But she said it's harder for some kids.

"They've gotten so close to the Harry Potter characters that sometimes, it's hard for them to move on. It's sad, like when a friend moves away or dies."

Letting go

Hannah Blau, 14, of Roland Park is letting go — and not. She read the first book at age 10, but stopped for awhile after the fifth.

"I just wasn't into it. It just wasn't my thing then."

This year she picked up the sixth book and kept going, spurred by the impending release of the last film. She's even read the books aloud to classmates during study hall on Fridays at The Park School.

"I think that's probably happening to a lot of people — a new phase of Harry Potter fanatics, partly, I think, because it's a fantasy and has a good plotline," Blau said.

She's always been especially taken with Harry's private school of wizardry, Hogwarts.

"Every 11-year-old wants to get their Hogwarts (acceptance) letter," she said.

Now, although the series is over, she's beginning to move on.

She read the "Twilight" books.

"I don't, like, hate them. I liked them when I read them. That was about it."

And now?

"I've kind of gone back to the classics," she said, noting that she just started reading, of all things, "Gone With the Wind."

For Blau's mother, Leah Eskin, who read Harry Potter books to her son, Noah, now 11, the series has been a learning experience — and a bonding one.

"At least I have a passing understanding of a whole new world," Eskin said.

Harry, Hermione and Ron may be gone now, but the memories of them will live on long after the final credits roll at the Senator and theaters around the world.

"It's really about friendship and good fighting evil," Cody said. "That's timeless."

"And it's about magic," Hanna Blau said. "Everybody wants to have some magic in their life."

She, for one, isn't worried about going through withdrawal or losing touch as a fan.

"It's all still out there," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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