Spartz, Emerson. "Emerson's Scotland Report: Part One," Mugglenet, 18 July 2005

6:00pm GMT July 14th (Thursday)

The nine hour flight was uneventful, except for almost missing my connecting flight from London to Edinburgh and the airlines losing my luggage, which eventually came a half hour before the interview on Saturday. Better late than never, I guess. I met up with MuggleNet staffer Jamie, whom I stayed with the other three times I've been to England, at the Edinburgh airport and we took a bus to the hotel. On the way I got my first glimpse at the famous Edinburgh Castle, which is, if you didn't know, perched on the top of "a big friggin' mountain" (Melissa's words). I can't imagine how this castle could possibly have ever been overtaken, but apparently it has been done before.

Our room was roughly the size of a broom closet and the shower was about as wide as a box of cereal, but it was courtesy of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury so I'm not complaining (...really!). I hadn't slept in 22 hours and I knew there wouldn't be time for sleeping on Friday night so I passed out as soon as we checked in to the hotel.

12:00pm GMT July 15th (Friday)

Yes, you read that correctly. I was out cold for almost 18 hours, only waking once to eat dinner. We met up with Melissa and her two friends David and Kathleen who were in the rooms next to ours. Two Irish lads (GO IRISH!), Ciaran (pronounced "keer on") of the MuggleNet staff and his friend Lachlan joined our troop a little later. Most of the day was spent getting ready for Saturday- sleeping, eating, sleeping, eating, etc.

The real fun began that night. At 9pm, Melissa and I headed over to the city council chambers for a reception with the 70 cub reporters and their parents. The Lord Provost (mayor) gave a short speech and shortly after, a man dressed in a loud, Victorian outfit appeared atop the balcony and introduced himself as Crispin the Curator. Eight "prefects" dressed in full Hogwarts garb appeared for Crispin's over-the-top speech explaining how Edinburgh Castle is a museum and J.K. Rowling is a magical historian. The kids ate it up.

Our group of about two dozen Bloomsbury staff and VIPs followed behind the cub reporters as they set off in their Hogwarts-like carriages and made their dramatic entrance at the castle to 2000 screaming fans. We took our seats in the VIP section of the huge grandstand had been set up to cheer Jo and the contest winners on as they entered the castle… which, by the way, looked spectacular with an enormous image of Harry and Dumbledore projected on to the front. A massive screen was set up outside near the red carpet which would was broadcasting bits and pieces of the ITV1 special "Magic at Midnight" along with shots of the crowd and filler footage of the prefects talking about their lives at Hogwarts. An MC on the ground made sure the crowd made tons of noise for the TV cameras as the kids' carriages arrived. The noise was deafening when Jo made her dramatic appearance riding a Thestral (kidding, of course). She looks terrific for a woman nearing 40.

I just happened to be sitting right next to the CEO of Bloomsbury and his daughter Alice (you know, "the girl who saved Harry Potter"?). I pestered them both with questions all night… real nice people.

At one point, while Jo made her way down the carpet five rows of seats in front of us cleared for reasons we are still unaware. I thought it looked bad, so I slid down a few rows to the middle of the ocean of empty seats. I have always had dreams of pursuing a career as an Oscar seat-filler, so this was my time to shine. Melissa made some excuses about a skirt but after much taunting, she joined me and we gave Jo several standing ovations as the night went on.

After Jo had smiled for about 300 photos and signed as many books, she walked in to the castle and we followed shortly. The crowd kept their seats to watch the book reading on the giant screen outside.

The castle was as magical on the inside as it was on the outside. Lining the path to "the chamber" were actors dressed up like grindylows and other magical creatures. The costumes were actually pretty cool-looking - the mechanical, fire-breathing horse was especially impressive. We didn't go in the actual room where she did the reading as we had been promised originally because we would get in the way of the TV cameras, so we watched it on screens in a room outside with the parents of the cub reporters and Bloomsbury staff. Jo was originally planning to read the first chapter but she ended up reading from chapter six - see interview for explanation. Melissa cried during the reading ("it's all too much!") and much to her chagrin, I have tattled to every single person we've met since. I believe she is planning retaliation by announcing to the world in her write-up that I was doing Irish jigs all night. Come on. I've been going to Notre Dame football games (GO IRISH!) since I was a wee lad and I am kind of, you know, enrolled there. I'm practically a jigging expert.

We received our beloved books from Bloomsbury immediately after the reading. I jigged. Melissa cried some more. We took a moment to soak in their awesomeness (!) and raced, literally, back to the hotel. Poor Melissa had to make the four block jaunt barefoot - she was wearing high heels and you obviously can't run in high heels. We made off with armloads of instant coffee packets from the hotel reception and plopped down on our beds to read.