If you haven't seen your favorite Harry Potter fans for the last couple of days, look for them on Pottermore.com
Six months after its originally scheduled debut date, J.K. Rowling's multimedia online version of the world of wizards opened to all on Saturday.
The site had been in beta testing by a million users since July as Rowling and her team tweaked it. Pottermore.com's shop opened in March as the exclusive vendor of e-book versions of Rowling's seven novels about Harry, which had already sold 450 million copies in print.
Between the books, eight hit films, countless fan websites, fan conventions, Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter and new tours of the movie sets at Warner Bros. Leavesden Studios near London, you might think there was enough Harry Potter magic in the world.
If so, you must be a Muggle.
Ever since about 700 screaming fans got a preview of Pottermore at Leaky Con in Orlando in July, aficionados of the boy wizard have been eagerly awaiting the site.
I don't think they'll be disappointed, although Pottermore is an interesting exercise in delayed gratification that may or may not hold onto the short-attention-span generation. The site is free, but, just as in Harry's quests, everything has to be earned.
I signed up within a couple of hours of the unannounced debut Saturday afternoon. Twelve hours later I got a confirmation email, promising a later email that would tell me how to get into the site. That arrived after another 12 hours. (I'm guessing those wait times will shrink once the first flood of fans has been absorbed.)
I chose one of several Rowling-style user names offered (you can't make up your own or there would be half a million Harry Potters) and signed in to my Gateway, a home page that lets me track my progress through the site's versions of the seven novels, as well as such extras as my account at Gringotts Wizarding Bank, my skill at brewing potions (poor) and the number of objects I've accumulated in my trunk.
Those last are to be discovered by exploring the scenes illustrating each chapter of the books. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone opens with a view of Privet Drive, home to Harry's foster family, the dreadful Dursleys, then moves on to one showing Harry's room under the stairs. Mousing over the scenes, which include sound and some animation, can reveal collectible items like a prefect badge or post card, or something "New from J.K. Rowling." The latter are pieces that don't appear anywhere in the books and expand the story, such as a detailed biography of Professor Minerva McGonagall — product of a mixed marriage between a witch and a Presbyterian minister, she threw herself into her work after a doomed love affair.
When Harry went shopping on Diagon Alley, I did too, buying textbooks at Flourish & Botts and being chosen by my wand (vine, unicorn hair, 14 1/2 inches) at Ollivander's. And when Harry went through the Sorting Hat ceremony to be assigned to one of the four houses at Hogwarts, I did, too. Wand selection and sorting require the user to answer several questions, ranging from eye color to what you'd like to be remembered as (good, wise, brave). A warning to those determined to belong to a particular house: The Sorting Hat's choice, just as in the books, is final.
I ran into a few glitches. Brewing potions, for example, requires Flash, which means I couldn't use that portion of the site on my iPad, whose system doesn't support Flash.
But Pottermore offers fans a wealth of interactive ways to visit Harry's world, with more to come. It's worth the wait.
Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.