Does Harry Potter die? Fictional or not, the question of what happens to the boy wizard at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the series, is on millions of lips five days before it goes on sale.

Publishers have spent a small fortune protecting the secret, Potter readers have voted in online polls, and bookmakers are shifting the odds to reflect what the gambling world thinks.

Book six left many questions unanswered: What and where are the remaining Horcruxes? What are the Deathly Hallows? Who is the mysterious R.A.B.? Where do the true loyalties of Severus Snape lie? Will Ron and Hermione get together?

But as soon as author J.K. Rowling revealed in June last year that she would kill off at least two characters in book seven, and that a third got a reprieve, the guessing game began.

Security measures in place to protect the contents of book seven, expected to sell tens of millions of copies worldwide, sound like something from a heist movie.

The Sunday Telegraph reported trucks carrying books from warehouses to shops this week will be fitted with satellite tracking systems to ensure they stick to their assigned routes.

Pallets of books have been fitted with alarms, it said, in an operation estimated to cost 10 million pounds ($20 million).

Bloomsbury, Potter's British publisher, would not comment on specific security measures, but outlined what it would do should retailers break a legal embargo they all sign.

We have an in-house media litigation specialist who is poised 24 hours a day, seven days a week to deal with any breaches, it said. It is our intention vigorously to enforce the embargo and seek an immediate injunction if required.


Publishers have cause for concern.

A printing plant worker in Britain was sentenced to 180 hours' community service after he offered to sell three chapters of Potter book five to a tabloid in 2003.

Two years later, a handful of copies of book six were sold early in Canada, prompting the distributor there to apply for a court injunction barring buyers from disclosing the plot.

Last month, a hacker claimed to have posted key details from book seven online after breaking into Bloomsbury's computer.

Potter experts say they are amazed more leaks have not marred the release of Deathly Hallows.

It seems to have got to the publishing phase without a spoiler, and if it gets through to the bookstore phase without having it spoiled, that's amazing, said Melissa Anelli, editor at top Potter fan site

I expect there will be one big spoiler. For every 100 Harry Potter fans, there is one who thinks it would be a lot of fun to ruin it.

Even if Potter publishers do preserve the secrets until Saturday, Anelli expects answers to big questions to appear on the Internet within hours of the book's release.

Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry in the Potter films, recently recalled a drive-by spoiler when a reader passed fans queuing for a copy of book six proclaiming Dumbledore is Dead!, thus giving away the main surprise.

Horrible pigs, vile scumbags, he jokingly told Reuters.

Online polls show fans evenly split between those who think Harry will live and die. Adults are more hopeful for the boy wizard, according to a survey, but bookies are less sure.

Ladbrokes in Britain says Harry is odds-on favorite to take his own life if he dies in book seven, from an initial quote of 20/1. All bets are void if Harry survives at the end.