A tangled Web the 'Harry Potter' spoilers weave

By Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times Staff Writer
Published July 20, 2007

So the magic hour finally arrives at midnight tonight when we will have that last Harry Potter chapter in our hands. But how can a fan relish the pleasure of reading the lengthy book without hearing about the ending too soon?

And be assured it will be on the news, or at least the Internet. Some reports say the ending already is on the Web. In fact, fans are ratting out spoilers to the publisher, Scholastic.

Take a tip from sports fanatics who don't want to accidentally overhear the score and wear your iPod until the book is finished. And unless you plan to walk around with your fingers in your ears saying "La la la la la! I can't hear yoooou!" it's going to take rapid reading to outfox the spoilers.

But that could ruin the fun of slowly relishing the last book of a beloved series and enjoying its bittersweetness.

When the last book was released, fan Web sites such as the Leaky Cauldron housed groups of readers in virtual "vaults" so members could discuss the book in a smaller, slower setting.

The Web master posted an ominous warning recently abut the Leaky Cauldron's strict no-spoilers policy that drew praise from author J.K. Rowling herself. To those who might want to give away the ending: "We own pitchforks, hot wax and feathers. And we're not afraid to use them."

The Harry Potter Automated News Aggregator was besieged by spoilers when the last book came out, with many even picking "Snape kills Dumbledore" as their username. This time around, the site began preventing newly registered members from posting anything starting in June. It will shut down entirely this weekend.

When Mugglenet, another high-profile fan site, does start allowing discussion of the ending on its forums, readers will have to navigate several warnings. The Leaky Cauldron is considering a ban on all talk about the final chapters for as long as six months.

But when a book has had this big of an impact on popular culture, good luck keeping the blabbermouths quiet. Better keep the Avada Kedavra the killing curse handy.

If I hear any spoilers, I just won't believe them until I read it for myself. La la la la la! I can't hear yoooou!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne can be reached at wynne@tampabay.com.