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Harry's fate yet still secret

The fate of Harry Potter and friends, known now to millions of fans, remains officially secret - sort of.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the final volume of author J.K. Rowling's fantasy series, came out Saturday amid an international frenzy to find out whether Harry lived or died. More than 10 million copies sold over the weekend and the suspense was apparently unbroken by a wave of prerelease Internet spoilers, including photographed images of the entire book.

Days after publication, Harry's lot has been widely revealed, but you are unlikely to find out by accident. At least two online publications, Slate and Salon, describe the plot at length, but carry emphatic spoiler alerts. Videos labeled as spoilers have popped up on YouTube. Readers spill on the fan sites http://www.mugglenet.com/ and http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org, but, again, those linking to discussion boards are warned.

"I think we should have at least a few months, allow people to read and discuss and digest before blasting it from headlines," says Leaky Cauldron Web master Melissa Anelli. "It will be at least that long before we reveal a plot detail on Leaky that we don't put behind a link."

Both The (Baltimore) Sun and The New York Times were inundated with angry e-mails for running prepublication reviews, although both avoided major plot points. Radio station WNYC, in New York City, was supposed to air a review Monday - two days after the book came out - but changed it to a general discussion about spoilers because of concerns over giving away the ending.

A two-part interview with Rowling, who before publication had begged for secrecy, will air Thursday and Friday on NBC-TV's "Today" show. Kyle Good, a spokeswoman for Rowling's U.S. publisher, Scholastic, Inc., declined comment on what the author will say.

Scholastic issued the book under a strict embargo and sued one retailer, DeepDiscount.com, after some customers received early copies.

When asked by The Associated Press about post-release spoilers, Good said that Scholastic's only request was not to reveal anything before the publication date.

Rowling, whose seven Potter books have sold more than 335 million copies worldwide, acknowledged during a recent, prerelease interview with The Associated Press that she had no control over discussions once "Deathly Hallows" went on sale.

"I suppose it's fair game," she said. "You can't be too precious about this stuff. Obviously, as a writer I would prefer people to be able to sit down and read it and discover the ending through reading the whole story. But with 'Half-Blood Prince,' people dangled a sheet over a flyover (overpass) the next day - 'Snape kills Dumbledore.' Part of me does find that very funny; I can't help myself."

The author seemed more bothered by readers who peek at the ending first.

"I loathe people who say, 'I always read the ending of the book first.' That really irritates me," she said. It's like someone coming to dinner, just opening the fridge and eating pudding, while you're standing there still working on the starter. It's not on."

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