Dark times and a dangerous mission await Harry Potter as the blockbuster series nears its end with the second-to-last film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I,” opening at midnight tonight in select theaters.

But don’t worry: Maine Muggles are ready to meet the challenge.

They’ve re-read the books, brushed up on the previous films, put the finishing touches on their costumes and purchased their tickets — often weeks in advance.

Sophia Carbonneau, 14, an eighth-grader at the Center for Teaching & Learning in Edgecomb, said she’d like to go to a midnight showing tonight, but “it’s too late on a school night.” Instead, she and two friends will have to settle for Friday, when it opens wide in most theaters.

“If I was going to the midnight one, I’d definitely dress up,” said Carbonneau, who has donned a Luna Lovegood costume on numerous occasions. “I will wear my Time Turner, at least.”

Carbonneau’s Time Turner is a relic from the third film, “Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban,” that allows Harry’s friend, Hermione Granger, to go back in time in order to take additional classes. It’s just one of hundreds of Harry Potter accessories that fans can purchase online and at the recently opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at Universal Orlando in Florida.

But it isn’t just school kids who are excited for this latest film’s release.

“Deep in my heart, I wish I could go to the midnight showing, but I’m not young enough to stay up to 3 a.m. and work the next day,” said Joy Engel, 28, of Portland. “I will see it opening weekend.”

However, the prospect of sleep deprivation hasn’t deterred Maria Allison of Portland. “My sister and I already have our midnight tickets,” said the 24-year-old. “We always go to the midnight opening, and for the books, we always used to go to the midnight release party. We do have some Harry Potter Gryffindor hats and scarves we’ll wear.”

After visiting the Harry Potter theme park in October, where she checked out the rides and tasted Butterbeer (which she described as a cream soda topped with caramel and whipped cream), Allison is primed for the midnight screening.

“It’s usually always a line out the door, people in costume and being loud and excited,” she said.

Camille Smalley, program and education manager of the Dyer Library/Saco Museum, has leveraged the appeal of the films to get a group of 8- to 12-year-olds engaged in reading and learning history at the Hogwarts Summer School, which she’s been running at the library since May.

“The way (author) J.K. Rowling is able to take mythical things and Renaissance scientists and Renaissance theory and turn it into a book, that’s amazing,” she said.

Smalley recently traveled to London, where she took a Harry Potter walking tour and learned behind-the-scenes details about the movies. Tonight, she will be at the Saco Cinemagic for the midnight screening, where she will wear her shimmering Slytherin robes.

“I’ve always dressed up for the openings since the second film,” Smalley said. “I’ll bring my ebony and dragonheart string with crystal quartz wand.”

If you’re like many fans, you’re likely wondering why Smalley prefers the robes of Slytherin, the Hogwarts house associated with the villain Lord Voldemort, instead of Gryffindor, to which Harry belongs.

“I definitely think I would dabble in the dark arts,” Smalley said with a slightly evil laugh.

Kristen Cappy, who organized the wildly popular Mugglefest in Portland in 2007, said one of the unique things about the Harry Potter storyline is how it appeals to people of different backgrounds, interests, ages and genders.

“How often does it happen that kid culture becomes adult culture?” asked Cappy, who plans to see the new movie. “I think most of the appeal has to do with one plot device. As the reader, you get to be a Muggle in the know. That’s the best plot device there is.”

Even Maine’s Funniest Mom, Karen Morgan, is eager to see the latest film.

“I’m really excited about going to see this movie,” Morgan said. “I’m more excited than my kids are, I think.”

While Morgan has included jokes about the “Twilight” series in her stand-up routine, she hasn’t done the same with the Harry Potter franchise.

“It’s almost too pure,” said Morgan. “I don’t think I could make fun of Harry Potter if I wanted to, because he’s such a good kid.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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