Fans spellbound as Harry Potter script released at stroke of midnight
Hundreds of Potter-heads across the country are burying their noses in the script of the new play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, after it went on sale at midnight.
Around 700 witches, wizards and magical creatures flocked to Waterstones in Piccadilly, central London, for the midnight launch, which also marks the birthday of JK Rowling and her boy wizard hero Harry.
Fran Plagge, 26, was the first fan to take away a copy as the clock struck 12, after she won the store's fancy dress competition.
She spent three weeks recreating a dress robe which Ron Weasley was forced to wear to a ball during the fourth book.
She said: "It means a lot because grew up with Harry Potter so it's really exciting for me.
"I don't think I've grasped it yet. I didn't expect it to happen, I just came in to have a good time with my friends.
"I've got tickets for the show in October so I'm not sure if I'm going to read it before I see the play."
The central London store was one of around 150 Waterstones across the UK putting on parties to celebrate the launch.
Four floors were transformed into a Harry Potter haven, with interactive activities on each level and a 10ft winged nest welcoming fans at the entrance.
Younger guests took part in several competitive quidditch matches, while others browsed the shops in a makeshift magic village on the first floor.
Hagrid's motorbike was on display, loaned from Warner Bros, and there was also a cupboard under the stairs - Harry Potter's dismal bedroom at the Dursley's house - to pose in.
Harriet Hayter, 26, a senior bookseller at Waterstones, grew up with the Harry Potter series.
She was one of the first students to take a Harry Potter module at Durham University in 2007-2008 and said it was the "best three-hour exam I've ever sat".
She said: "I am so so excited. It's just so exciting, finally after nine years to have the next instalment of the Harry Potter story.
"It's been lock and key here, we haven't been able to have access to it, but as soon as all the customers are gone I know all the booksellers will probably be surreptitiously reading it themselves.
"I probably won't get any sleep tonight because I will be reading it."
The midnight release came just hours after the opening gala premiere at the Palace Theatre in London's West End.
As the play opened following nearly eight weeks of previews, it drew whoops, applause and gasps of shock from the audience as magic appeared to unfold on-stage.
Featuring plenty of twists and surprises, audience members were handed #KeepTheSecrets badges on their way out.
JK Rowling, wearing winged high heels on the red carpet, said she was delighted fans who had seen previews had kept the details of the new instalment under wraps.
Set 19 years after the events of the seventh and final book, The Cursed Child brings back Harry Potter, now grown up and an employee at the Ministry of Magic.
Harry and his wife Ginny Weasley wave their youngest son Albus Severus, named after former Hogwarts headmaster Professors Dumbledore and Potions guru Professor Snape, off to their old wizarding school.
Once there, Albus struggles with the weight of his family legacy and goes to extreme and dangerous lengths to right the wrongs of the past.
The two-part play stretches over five hours and was co-devised by Rowling, written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany.
Daily Telegraph critic Dominic Cavendish said "British theatre hasn't known anything like it for decades".
As the crowd prepared to receive copies of the script they counted down to midnight and sang Happy Birthday to JK Rowling and Harry Potter when the clock struck 12.