JK and me

22nd July 2005 at 01:00
Bethan Roberts, TES correspondent at the launch of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, devours her 607 pages before the Hogwarts banquet. Her father, science teacher Alan Roberts, reports from the parents' dugout at Edinburgh Castle

I felt nervous as I went down to the hotel lounge with my dad. We were going to meet Ailsa from TES Scotland, her dad and the photographer. However, my worries were ill-founded, for we were soon friends and on the way to Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. First, there were photos of Ailsa and her dad, then photos of Ailsa and me. We had to bend round trees and I thought I would be permanently distorted for the book reading. Finally, there were photos of me and my dad.

Hours later I was making my way to a grand building called City Chambers.

We were directed to a hall where the 70 cub reporters from around the world were congregating. It was a bit of a surprise to see the Lord Provost because "he" was a lady! Suddenly a man dressed in early Tudor clothes bounded on to the balcony at the top end of the room. He said his name was Crispin and that he was curator of the "greatest magical museum of all time", which was disguised as Edinburgh Castle. He introduced us to the prefects, who told us which house we were in. I was in Ravenclaw. Yippee! One of the Ravenclaw prefects was called Freya. She accompanied me and the others in our house to the horse-drawn carriage that would take us to the castle.

At the castle there were many entertainers, some pretending to be ghosts.

Others juggled and swung fire sticks. Some would give you a sweet if you answered a Harry Potter question correctly. I got five. Some simply gave out butterbeer or pretended to be goblins with a bad case of wind.

After a lot of waiting we were finally shown into the Great Hall. It looked amazing. We were all waiting for JK Rowling to arrive. All the reporters (the parents were in a different part of the castle) felt nervous and excited at the same time. Some whispered, others kept silent. However, when JK Rowling walked in you could have heard a pin drop. We were on live television and we were going to do what many Harry Potter fans longed to do. JK Rowling began reading... Next morning when I woke up at 7am I immediately grabbed my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I had heard someone was going to die and I didn't want to hear anyone else saying who it was before I had read it.

The new Harry Potter book is very good and reveals a lot of things about Harry's enemies. It's also the darkest book in the series yet. As Harry and his friends are nearly adults now there is a lot about relationships.

Later, at the press conference, JK Rowling herself said she didn't like books in which the children, although teenagers, were almost not allowed to get angry or have relationships. I also now know who dies, but I am not telling.

At the Saturday night banquet I found out that very few people had finished the book. I was one of them. The food was delicious, but there weren't many vegetarian options. I met a girl called Lucy (Radio 5 Live) who sang the Hogwarts song to a very fast tune.

On Sunday morning the press conference took place. Lots of people asked very good questions, including Lucy. I finally received the answer to mine.

JK Rowling said it was a very good question: "Do glasses protect you from the Basilisk's stare and, if they do, why did Moaning Myrtle die (in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), and, if they don't, why not?"

She said that if you see the Basilisk through your eyeline it counts as looking directly, but with Colin Creevey and his camera it was a more complex series of lenses. The press conference lasted quite a while, because JK Rowling wanted everyone to have his or her question answered.

Afterwards all the cub reporters were given goodie bags. In the bags were a packet of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, now with new flavours such as Soap, Grass, Vomit and Sardine. I tried to stick to the normal flavours, such as green apple and cherry.

I had enjoyed myself very much, though perhaps not as I was munching through my third soap-flavoured bean. I am sure I will remember this weekend for ever. I'd like to thank The TES and the staff and pupils at St Joseph's for making everything possible.

Bethan Roberts,11, has just left St Joseph's Catholic primary school in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, which nominated her for her place at the launch weekend. She will attend Fisher and More high school in Colne from September

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