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LONDON — Harry Potter’s saga is ending, but his magic spell remains.
Thousands of fans from around the world massed in London Thursday for the premiere of the final film in the magical adventure series.
They thronged Trafalgar Square, where the stars walked a rain-sodden red carpet, and nearby Leicester Square, where the movie was being shown in a plush movie theater, braving the inevitable London rain with umbrellas, waterproofs and good cheer.
Sun broke out as cast members — including leads Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint — and Harry’s creator J.K. Rowling began arriving on the red carpet, signing autographs and chatting with fans.
Speaking from a stage erected in Trafalgar Square, 21-year-old Radcliffe, who has played the boy wizard since he was 11, told fans that Harry’s story would never end.
“Each and every person, not just here in this square but around the world who have watched these films for the last 10 years, they will always carry the films with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Rowling wiped away tears as she thanked the actors for “the amazing things they did for my favorite characters.”
The fans, who chanted “thank you” as Rowling and the cast took the stage, came from around the world. Many had camped out overnight, some for days. Most were young adults who grew up with the boy wizard and his adventures, and could not pass up the chance to say goodbye.
“It’s our childhood — we made friends because of Harry Potter,” said Luis Guilherme, a 22-year-old graduate student from Sao Paolo, Brazil. “I don’t know how my life would be without it. I would be less imaginative, for sure, and less adventurous. I would never be here in London.
“We’d never forgive ourselves if we didn’t come, one last time.”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” depicts Harry’s final confrontation with the forces of evil Lord Voldemort — an epic showdown rendered, for the first time in the series, in 3D.
The eighth and last film in the made-in-Britain franchise was getting a lavish premiere, with huge screens and banners in Trafalgar Square and a nearby street transformed into the magical shopping thoroughfare Diagon Alley.
No one, however, could magic away the London rain.
“Every single time it’s like this,” said Zoey Lewis, 18. “Some people say the Death Eaters (Voldemort’s followers) make it rain.”
Lewis, a student from Brentwood, east of London, sheltered under an umbrella behind a handmade “We Love Helena” banner — her tribute to Helena Bonham Carter, who plays bad witch Bellatrix Lestrange in the movies.
“I love Harry Potter,” she said. “It’s been such a big part of my life. I don’t know what I’ll do without it.”
The feeling is shared by he film’s stars, who like many of their fans grew up with the series.
Grint said Wednesday he felt “a little bit lost” without the movies in his life. Watson said she’d miss playing plucky Hermione Granger, who was “like a sister.”
Jason Isaacs, who plays villainous wizard Lucius Malfoy, said he was not surprised by the huge crowd in the square.
“The books are all about death and loss and mortality, so they are very emotional and they make people emotional,” he said. “You find this wherever you go in the world. Harry Potter just seems to light up the world.”
The premiere marks the end of an era that began when the then-unknown Rowling published “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in 1997. The book blossomed from well-reviewed children’s tale to global phenomenon, launching a seven-book series that has sold 450 million copies around the world.
The last Harry Potter book appeared four years ago, and Rowling has said she does not plan more stories about the boy wizard. But she gave hope to fans awaiting new writing from her.
She told the BBC that she hadn’t wanted to publish a new book until the last movie was released.
“I will publish again, and this is in some sense for me a beginning as well as an end,” Rowling said.
The final film also ends a movie institution that has employed dozens of British actors and hundreds of crew members and technicians since the first film came out in 2001.
“It’s created such an infrastructure and such an industry, and it will be sorely missed,” ‘’Deathly Hallows” director David Yates said Wednesday. “It’s been a mini-industry employing hundreds and thousands of people.”
He said he didn’t expect to see its like again.
“I think lightning doesn’t strike twice,” Yates said.