At approximately 1:30 a.m. last Saturday, Michael Mountain began reading his new Harry Potter book by the glow of the roof light in his dad's Toyota Camry. The 9-year-old was dressed to spell: His dad's ancient velour bathrobe made a fine wizard's cloak. Like Harry, Michael wore big eyeglasses, but without the lenses. And his T-shirt with the pink octopus only added to the bewitching ensemble.
Molly Mountain says she was so busy reading she didn't even notice what she was wearing.
Michael and his 8-year-old sister had just bought two copies of "Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire" during a midnight celebration at Barnes & Noble in Ellicott City. It was July 8, the official delivery date of the fourth book in the best-selling series about the young wizard-in-training.
Harry Potter is a major figure in the Ten Hills home of David and Diane Mountain. Michael and Molly have each read the first three books five or six times. Diane has also read all the books. In fact, her husband recalls a time when one Harry Potter book actually had three bookmarks in it.
Somehow, peace prevailed.
But this time, the Mountains weren't taking chances. They decided to buy two copies of the newest release by J.K. Rowling. Besides, the children had earned the money themselves by pet-sitting.
So now, in the wee hours of July 8, Michael and Molly were side by side in the back seat, reading their new books, going a little slower than usual because cars can make you feel sick sometimes. Still, by the time they got home, they had each polished off four chapters. It was an omen.
When the children woke later that Saturday morning, they discovered as lovely a summer's day as any in literature. But "Goblet of Fire," all 734 pages of it, beckoned.
The choice was obvious.
At 7:30 a.m. Michael Mountain curled up on the living room couch with his new book. He read non-stop until he completed Chapter 20. It was 11 o'clock - a good time to pause for a bowl of Crispix and Rice Krispies.
Molly doesn't remember anything about breakfast. She does recall settling down to read at 8:20 a.m., about an hour after Michael.
Throughout the day, the two continued reading - not an unusual sight in the Mountain family. (A couple of summers ago, Michael and Molly polished off 100 books between them.) "Goblet of Fire" claimed their attention, carrying them through the demands of their two younger siblings and various other interruptions. Molly honored a previously scheduled play date. Michael went out to watch his cousin play baseball, but read during most of the game. And he continued reading through dinner despite the presence of two cousins, two aunts and uncles and his maternal grandparents.
He missed dinner?
"I attended dinner," Michael explains, "but I really wasn't hungry and besides I wanted to get back to the book. So all I had was a few slices of cantaloupe. But then my Mom said I had to have a burger. So I did. And then I had to help my dad outside, and practice the piano. Then my dad wanted me to brush my teeth. I came in and read for a little while. Then he told me to go brush my teeth again, but I still didn't. Then he came in a second time and I finally went."
By 6 p.m., Michael and Molly were nearing the home stretch of "Goblet of Fire." They took their books with them on the family outing to the BSO concert at Oregon Ridge. Michael - who'd had a head start - finished his copy in the car and handed it on to his Mom. Molly finished hers a bit later, 18 hours after she'd begun.
The next day, the children made up a game using their expanded knowledge of life at Hogwarts wizardry school. For wands, they used glow-in-the-dark sticks they got at Oregon Ridge. For spell books, they mined their own library.
"We collected a lot of thick books at random to use for books on transfiguration and the history of magic," Michael says.
"Don't forget 'Defense against the Dark Arts,' " Molly says.
"And we made up names for ourselves," Michael says.
"Do I have to tell? I don't want to," Molly says. "Don't you dare!" she yelps as her brother begins to tell her magic name. "Michael, you keep quiet!"
By Monday, life was back to summertime normal. Mom drove off to her job as an environmental engineer, and Dad was back in Columbia at the Defense Department's Microelectronics Research Lab. Michael and Molly returned to their academic camps at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth. (Michael will enter fifth grade at Midtown Academy in Bolton Hill and Molly will enter fourth at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Ten Hills.)
And as for Harry Potter?
Molly began reading "Goblet" again. By mid-week she was back up to page 294.
Meanwhile, her mother made steady progress on her first attempt. After starting Michael's copy at the BSO concert, Diane put it aside for kids, then work. But she knows Harry Potter will wait for her. His world always holds enough magic for parents, even if it takes them longer to get there.