Local fans of the "Harry Potter" books and films series are gearing up this weekend for something they've long yearned for — one more journey to the wizarding world.
"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," a book edition of a play debuting this weekend at London's West End Palace Theatre, will be released at midnight Saturday into the early hours of Sunday, coinciding with the birthdays of author J.K. Rowling and her fictional hero.
Several local bookstores hope to capture some of the magic that swept the world for the original Potter series. They are gearing up to host book-release parties complete with trivia contests, games and wands — and, in one case, Potter-themed adult beverages for those who grew up on the series and are now of proper age.
Written by Rowling with co-authors Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, the stage play that's the basis for the book takes place 19 years after the events of the last Potter novel, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." According to scant details that have been revealed, Potter is working in the Ministry of Magic and his eldest child, Albus, is struggling with the family legacy described in Rowling's first books.
More than 450 million copies of the series' seven books circulated worldwide, and generated wild excitement among fans for each release.
Rona London, children's book curator at the Ivy Bookshop on Falls Road, said the store hopes to rekindle Potter magic with a Saturday night release party for "Cursed Child."
"We have a lot of Harry Potter fanatics in the shop," said London, 51.
Ivy has partnered with Shananigans Toy Shop and the Corner Pantry for a family-friendly Potter celebration at 10 p.m. that will include a re-creation of the railroad station from the book — platform "nine and three-quarters" — as well as a "sorting hat" station, a trivia contest, scavenger hunt and costume contest. At midnight, employees will cut through cardboard boxes and hand out copies of the book.
London said she was introduced to the series through her 17-year-old son, whose grandparents offered to take him to the Potter theme park at Universal Studios in Florida.
"They only had one condition," London said. "They were not going to take him unless he read the books."
He did and was hooked, and London read the books to connect with his obsession.
"Harry Potter is timeless," she said. "It evokes nostalgia with feelings of friendship and triumph of good over evil."
On Sunday evening, Book Escape on Light Street will partner with Bookmakers Cocktail Club for a "Cursed Child" release party at the restaurant on East Cross Street. Along with "butterbeer," books will be available for sale.
Lizzy Solovey, 25, an English teacher who works at the Book Escape, said she has loved the Potter series since elementary school. As a youngster, she and her friends would wait all night at bookstores for the next Harry Potter installment.
"We would obsess over them, not eat or sleep," Solovey said. "Then we would all talk about the books 24 hours later."
She recalled later standing in lines at the movie theater with friends, wearing Potter costumes and clutching wands.
"My friends and I have movie marathons to this day," she said.
Andrew Stonebarger, owner of the Book Escape, said in an email he's not sure what to expect from the book in terms of sales.
"In a sense, it is not a true Harry Potter book because it is a play and a collaborative effort by three individuals, one of which was J.K. Rowling," Stonebarger said.
With the book in script format, London also said she is unsure what to expect among readers. Still, as long as Rowling is involved, she believes the yearning for Harry Potter fans will be satisfied.
"It fills you with love and all the good things in life books have to offer," London said.
Solovey agreed, saying she is excited for a chance to catch up with the Potters.
"Everyone just wants to be part of that world for a second longer," she said. "It's going to be incredible to welcome the new book as an adult."
The book is not the only attraction this year for Potter fans. The film "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," with the screenplay by Rowling, is another addition to the Potter universe, though the storyline steps away from Harry Potter himself, and instead centers on a main character chasing creatures in 1926 New York.