Nineteen years ago I was leaving a friend's house when his mother pushed a book into my hands. You must read it, you'll love it, she said, as my mum bundled my sisters and I into the car. I was an eager reader even then but still struggled with the odd bout of car sickness, so I clutched the book to my chest and made myself wait until we reached our road before opening it. My mum was still parking the car down our sloping driveway when my eyes lit upon the first line.
"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
How many of us read the last line in Deathly Hallows - "All was well." - and believed it to be the end? I know I wasn't the only one. I know this to be absolutely, unequivocally true, because when my friends and I arrived at Piccadilly Circus on Saturday night, we were greeted by hordes of fellow witches,wizards, elves, even a Golden Snitch. Fans across the capital had gathered for one more magical midnight launch in the wizarding world of Waterstones.
There were reporters everywhere and my friend Stephie was interviewed so many times in her Gryffindor robe - I wish I'd worn mine, opting instead for a polka dot dress, Ravenclaw scarf and tie (and wand, of course). We even featured on the Waterstones Twitter whilst standing in the queue! I'm always impressed at seeing people dressing up and the efforts they go to - our favourite here was a replica Professor Sprout, complete with earmuffs and a Mandrake plant.
Once inside, we found a haven of Hogwarts-esque wonders. I really don't think Waterstones could have done better - there was Butterbeer (alcoholic, which Stephie and I will be recreating one day, I'm sure!), cauldron cake decorating, facepainting, a quiz on all things Potter (we sadly did not win, but our team name of Snapes on a Plane should have received some sort of prize...), a tombola, photobooth, sweetshop, even Quidditch! Hilariously, the third floor was dark and off limits in a well-appreciated nod to the Philosopher's Stone.
After a couple of hours milling around, taking it all in and snapping photos, we settled into the queue, which spiralled all the way up to the top floor. Despite the lateness of the hour there was plenty of excited chatter, as well as that unmistakable buzz you only encounter when amongst other Harry Potter fans. We shifted on tired feet, took pictures of the Hogwarts letters adorning the staircase, checked our watches feverishly as the hands crept around. As midnight approached, the building fell into a mass roared countdown, before breaking into a chorus of Happy Birthday Harry as we realised it was officially 31st July.
And then, the queue moved.
We were beckoned forward, one by one.
Slowly at first, weaving in and out, step by step, under the arch and into the blinding light of the atrium.
Suddenly my feet moved faster, suddenly I was at the front of the queue and people were smiling at me and a paper bag was pushed into my waiting hands and there were cheers and laughs and before I knew it I'd emerged, blinking, on to the street, where cameras flashed and groups of people stopped to chatter delightedly about the precious book in their hands.
There really is nothing like a Harry Potter midnight launch.
As a side note - I am very fortunate by now to have both seen and read the play, but I will still #keepthesecrets for those who want to discover it for themselves! Suffice to say the play was mindblowingly wonderful and had me utterly enthralled for all five hours of it. Although the original books will always have a special place in my heart, I think I'll always be eager to revisit Harry's world no matter the format.
How about you? Do you have any thoughts on Cursed Child? Did you go to a launch party?