8:50am on Saturday 21 July. I have a 9:00am appointment. Because I am early I linger, leaning on the rail, looking down at the queue outside Dymocks on the level below.
The woman fifth in line is wearing a purple cloak. There is a buzz of anticipation but overall it’s an orderly queue. They all clutch pre-paid receipts. These people are waiting for Harry Potter.
A librarian friend introduced me to Harry back at the start of book two, before the hype had really begun. I enjoy the books, but not enough to stand in a queue before opening time just to get the next book.
9:00am. The saleswoman cuts the tape to the box with a flourish, and starts putting books into the purple promotional bags.
Even though I am now, officially, late for my appointment, I stay to watch.
The first to people to receive their books are teenage girls. They’re together. Then another two girls, then Purple Cloak. Then it’s a boy and his mother, another boy with his mother, and a boy without his mother. They’re all young. I’d guess somewhere between ten and thirteen.
Next comes an older man on his own, and then another mother and son.
One young boy starts reading as soon as he gets his book.
I regretfully decide that it’s time to go.
As I walk through the shopping centre I see evidence of Harry Potter everywhere.
Two young boys—friends or brothers, I can’t tell—sit on a seat, reading. A girl trails behind her mother, reading. Her mother stops and the girl runs into her but hardly notices, she’s so busy turning the page.
Over at the rival bookstore a passable looking Hagrid charms the crowd. Robbie Coltrane has made Hagrid his own. No-one else could ever play Hagrid now, in my opinion, and this man looks a lot like Robbie.
It makes me smile and I’m still smiling as I arrive at my destination, ten minutes late.
After I am finished I walk back through the shopping centre. Hagrid has gone, replaced by a young woman in a pointed hat with oversized Harry Potter glasses.
The two boys have gone too. There is someone new in their seat. A girl—not the same one I saw earlier—and she is reading Harry Potter too.
And Purple Cloak is still here, walking slowly along the upper level, eyes glued to the pages.
It’s wonderful to see so many people reading.
That’s what I love most about Harry Potter. People reading books.