The anticipation is electric, you could call it downright insane, and with the seventh and last Harry Potter book finally coming out on Saturday, a lot of fans seem convinced that their lightning-scarred hero is doomed to die. But perhaps the bespectacled boy wizard still has some magic up his sleeve.
Ten years ago Rowling reportedly wrote the last chapter and put it in a vault in her house, and she says she sobbed with grief while completing the final book — leading many fans to fear for the death of their rumple-haired teen hero.
But don't count out the power of Harry's hocus pocus quite yet.
"I actually don't think she'll kill off Harry," said William Luhr, professor of English and film at Saint Peter's College in New Jersey. "Harry is the readers' grand knight throughout the story, able to face so many perils all along, showing courage while still so young — and to erase him at the very end just doesn't work."
Rowling herself seems to have warned readers to be ready for Harry's death, saying that his story "comes to quite a clear end, sadly" in the seventh book. The star of the Potter films, Daniel Radcliffe, has also said that he doesn't think his character will survive the final novel, adding that it's just his guess and he has no inside information.
But Luhr said such an ending doesn't match up with the arc of Rowling's tale.
"In every installment, the reader sees Harry evolve. He develops. At times he's nasty and angry at his friends. He learns dark aspects of the adult world, adolescent lessons that adults can be ugly. To end a story like that — of a character's evolution — with his sudden death just won't be enough."
Luhr added he thinks Rowling has the guts to kill a beloved character, but he thinks it will be Hermione, Harry's strong-willed, powerful female friend.
Other literary experts think killing off the child conjurer wouldn't fit with the Potter novels' true genre: children's books.
"I would be extremely disappointed if she did kill Harry — it's a children's book. Even though it's gotten popular with adults, it's too hard for children to see their beloved hero just killed off like that," said Dina Brasseur, a senior children's librarian in New York City.
"Voldemort [the evil wizard] had better die, and it's terrible, but either Ron [Harry's friend] or Hermione, or maybe Hagrid [his half-giant teacher]," she added.
But to some fans, Harry's death seems to bring the hit series full circle — as long as he brings Voldemort down with him.
"I think it would make sense for Harry to die, because it's the ending of the series," said 9-year-old Gianna Rosenbach from Glen Rock, N.J. "It could be a little depressing, but Harry should be killed, probably with the evil guy, because evil guys usually are."
Other young readers argue that killing Harry wouldn't make any narrative sense.
"I think my prediction is that it could be Ron. I think it would be one of Harry's fears if Voldemort took away his best friend," said 11-year-old reader Elizabeth Gregory of Ridgewood, N.J. "I don't think Harry will be killed, because the book will have lost his presence. Everything will just be lost off course, with no real ending."
It's the burning question, one that will have fans lining up around the block to buy the book at the stroke of midnight on Friday. Will Rowling leave so many young readers with only a dead Harry?
The majority of fans say if she scripts it just right, it's an ending they'll accept.
"Everything is already spiraling down; Dumbledore [the headmaster of Harry's school] is dead. I'd definitely be sad, but if Harry has to die for the world to be saved from Voldemort, I think the readers would be satisfied," said Katie Sydness, 19, from Wilton, Conn.
But even if Rowling killed off her protagonist in her final book, would that definitely be readers' last glimpse of Harry?
With Harry Potter still proving to be a cash cow and a mass-marketing sensation, the answer could, for better or worse, still be no.
Perhaps, even for boy wizards, it's really all about the bottom line.
"They killed off Superman, too, but did anyone truly believe that he would ever stay dead?" said Christopher Sharrett, a professor of communications and film studies at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. "Ian Fleming died over 40 years ago, but the James Bond films continue — he's clearly outlived his creator."
The Harry Potter franchise has clearly taken on a life of its own — with the fifth installment of the movie series "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which opened on July 11, hauling in $44.8 million in its first day, the best single-day gross ever for a movie on a Wednesday (the movie has made over $330 million worldwide since its debut last week).
"If any media conglomerate wants to bring him back, a cash machine like Harry Potter is going nowhere — some version of this character and this world will survive," Sharrett said. "Even if Rowling killed off every major character she'd ever created, if they make money, corporate culture will keep them around."
Even if it might be for the worse, artistically, Harry Potter's magic marketability may just be the key to his immortality.
Added Sharrett: "These things tend to go on and on — many authors want to retain control over their work when it gets this big — but they really find that they can't."