For many Harry Potter fans, this week marks the end of an era.

Fanatics will begin queuing outside movie theaters on Thursday, July 14, for midnight showings of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II," the final chapter in an eight-film series that has captivated people of all ages worldwide.

But even after this final spike of excitement over Harry Potter fades, a solid core of enthusiasm for the seven books and eight films will likely remain for years, decades or even forever.

Kathy Schneider, 24, will be one of the people carrying the torch.


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"My best friend in middle school introduced me to the books when I was 11 years old," Schneider said.

That's the same age that the main characters Harry, Hermione and Ron, were in the first book.

"For me, it's been more than half my life," Schneider said. "We see somebody in a trench coat and we see somebody in a robe, or you see certain colors and you think of which 'house' they belong to."

That's 'house' as in Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin — the four houses of the wizarding school where Harry Potter attends with his friends.

"It's more than just a book," Schneider said. "It becomes part of your life."

Indeed, Potter fans such as Schneider plan to make Potter a sort of life's work, for good. This spring, the 24-year-old Cockeysville resident founded the group, Potterwatch of Maryland, a local chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, an international nonprofit fighting for human rights and social justice.

"We get together with other local fans, we do book donations, we've gone on some trips," Schneider said. "We educate people about literacy and human rights."

Or, as the Harry Potter Alliance website said, "The Harry Potter Alliance fights the Dark Arts in the real world by using parallels from Harry Potter. We work for human rights, equality, and a better world — just as Harry and his friends did throughout the books."

"Mostly, I started it because I'd been talking to my friends for years that Maryland ought to have (a chapter)," Schneider said. "I like the idea of young people coming together for a cause."

Schneider named it "Potterwatch" after the quirky and rebellious pirate radio program run by character Lee Jordan in the book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." The radio program was in support of Harry Potter against Lord Voldemort and the Dark Arts.

Schneider said Potterwatch of Maryland can create its own activities or participate in efforts organized by the Harry Potter Alliance. Already, the group participated in a book drive to help out a New York organization.

"Mostly, we've just been getting to know each other and getting started," Schneider said.

The group has more than a dozen members in Bel Air, Hagerstown, Jarrettsville, Reisterstown and elsewhere, but they generally meet in Cockeysville.

Members range in age from teens to 40-somethings, so there's no alcohol at their get-togethers.

"We have butterbeer, which is not actually beer," Schneider said. "We play games, do trivia."

And they're true Harry Potter fans.