Remembering the Harry Potter midnight book launches that shaped our childhoods

A fan holds up her brand new copy of Half-Blood Prince
A very happy fan shows off her new copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Stephen Chernin / Stringer/ Getty Images.

As we approach midnight, and the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two, we look back at the last time we queued for a new Harry Potter story…

Do you remember your first time waiting for midnight, so you could pick up your brand new copy of Harry Potter? Do you remember your last? Has there ever really been any excitement like it in your life?

It would have been between the years 2000 and 2007, wedged between Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows and at your local bookshop – probably a few hours before midnight, so you had time to play games and freak out with other fans.

I remember them well. The queue out the bookshop door, snaking around the block; the robes, the wigs, the wands; the hand-drawn lightning scars on foreheads; the home-made costumes; the games, the sweets, the face paint, the quizzes, the posters, the sleeping bags, and the anticipation.

 Happy fan holding wand at Harry Potter launch event.
A happy fan holding her wand at Harry Potter book launch. Michael Nagle / Stringer/ Getty Images.

I was always Hermione. I’d take any chance to be Hermione – still will. It was partly because I had the wild, unruly hair of a Hermione, and partly because I spent a lot of time hoping to channel her cleverness, her cool and her lust for knowledge – still do. Once, I think I sketched a lightning scar incongruously onto my head with eyeliner.

Probably the loveliest part of it all was the instant, powerful camaraderie between me and the other fans. All of us, hovering on street corners and waiting for the bookshop to open. Waiting in line to get that copy, waiting again to get home to launch into a very-early-morning reading session.

Oh, those late-night, early-morning, every-moment-you-can-grab reading sessions. If you could have eaten the book, you would have. That’s how fast you wanted to know what happens next in the series.

Remember when you first got Order of the Phoenix home with you, how quickly you needed to inhale that story? Reading Half-Blood Prince so long into the night that your eyes started to get dry as paper but you had to keep going because the story was just galloping along and you couldn’t possibly sleep when you could read?

But through it all you were painfully aware that once you’d finished that book, you’d have a full year or more stretching out in front of you before you could get the next one?

Midnight launches belong to the Harry Potter fandom. They’re a beautiful, crazy, sentimental thing and they have been since 31 July 2000, when Goblet of Fire went on sale at 12am in the UK, and then the US.

London was five hours ahead, with a print run of 1.5 million. By the time midnight rolled around in America, another 3.8 million copies were out.

Copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Lisa Maree Williams / Stringer/ Getty Images.

Within 24 hours, 11 million copies of Deathly Hallows were sold across the globe. Meaning that, really, alone as you may have thought you were when you read your Harry Potter books, you were always in company. Vast company.

By 2007, the midnight launch phenomenon had grown so big, tens of thousands of Brits celebrated at 280 different Waterstones stores, and Barnes and Noble broadcast their party from a NYC store online. They were important cultural events, those launches. And they were ours.

It has been nine years since the last midnight launch party. Nine long years since we thought we’d never see another one. Yet here we are, preparing for another midnight and another Harry Potter story.

On Sunday 31 July 2016, the script book for Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Parts One and Two will belong to all of us. It’ll be just like old times, where booksellers sign up to the embargo and are forbidden from releasing a single copy before the strike of midnight.

Fans will congregate at Waterstones, Barnes and Noble and other parties around the world. Readers will hold their breath as they wait in line, probably in costume, as they wait for their copy.

And then, on our own and together, we’ll read the story we never thought we’d ever be given: the eighth story in the Harry Potter series. My Hermione costume is ready – it always is. Are you?

Now available
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Script eBook