I know it came out a couple years ago, but I finally got around to reading the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne this past week. While it was not my favorite Harry Potter story, I appreciate what it tried to do and I refuse to devolve into another angry person on the Internet for getting more of a thing I like.
I like liking things too much to be a critic. And even if nothing new that comes out ever eclipses the original stories I fell in love with, I will never complain about getting more Harry Potter or more Star Wars. Those franchises were my two favorites as soon as I learned about their existence. When I had my childhood bedroom redecorated the summer before eighth grade (2003), I told my parents I wanted the theme to be either Harry Potter, Star Wars, or baseball, and my tastes have changed so much since then. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cursed Child was that it took me this long to read it. But there was a lot going on in 2016–in my personal life and in the world–and it slipped through the cracks while I was obsessing with every Rogue One trailer, reacting emotionally to the third season of BoJack Horseman (cartoon’s aren’t supposed to make me feel this way!), and finishing up my prolonged career as an undergrad while working full time in a warehouse. During my last semester, I took a very influential Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing course that helped rekindle my love for the genres, but more importantly made me rethink my view as a consumer of genre fiction, healthy and toxic fandom, and what creators owe to fans and vice versa.
I am not writing an angry letter to the writers of Cursed Child, and by no means do I feel like they owe me anything. It is not up to me to decide what is or isn’t in the Wizarding World, and in fact, I came away excited more than anything. Between this play and the Fantastic Beasts movies, my head is spinning with ideas for more of this world that I would love to see. There is one story in particular that fascinates me, and I cannot stop thinking about, but I will get to that in a bit. But first, here are some Cursed Child thoughts.
We like Draco now! Yes, his rehabilitation began in Deathly Hallows, but in this story, Draco Malfoy is fully on the same team as Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny, and I love it. After seven books or bullying, cruelty, prejudice, and being a constant thorn in the side of our heroes, Draco had an even bigger character turnaround than Steve Harrington in Stranger Things 2! I’m glad that Draco found redemption in adulthood and that his son Scorpius was best friends with Albus Severus Potter. I was half expecting the story to pick up with adult Draco getting the band back together with surviving Death Eaters, and that would have been a bummer. Who has all the same friends at 38 as they do at 17? Not to mention the same worldview? Good on Tiffany and Thorne for allowing people to change.
In a similar manner, I would have like to see Harry and Dudley being friendly as adults, and Dudley being more open minded than his aggressively normal parents were, but that’s another story for another day, I suppose.
The It’s a Wonderful Life of it all. I’m a sucker for alternate timelines. For years, I pointed my friends towards “Remedial Chaos Theory”, the famous (or infamous if you had an annoying friend like me who wouldn’t shut up about that show) of Community in which Abed points out that one trivial decision like determining who in the study group gets the pizza can change the world. Before that, I had the Back to the Future franchise. But my fascination with the concept first took hold with Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life which I have watched every year since I was seven.
When I got to the timeline in which Hermione and Ron are not married, and Hermione is a Hogwarts professor instead of Minister of Magic, I texted my sister the following:
And then when it switched to the Darkest Timeline:
I should have said “You must mean two other days!” but what are you going to do. It always struck me funny that the two most famous Potters in my popular culture intake were on opposite ends of the spectrum of good and evil. One one end, you have The Boy Who lived, the ultimate symbol of love and hope, and on the other end you have Mr. Potter, Mr. Burns 40 years before The Simpsons, manipulating the people of Bedford Falls as he builds his small town empire.
That’s it for Ron? His best friend is the head of magical law enforcement and the most famous living wizard. His wife is the Minister of Magic. His little sister is a star Quidditch player turned sports media editor for the “failing” Daily Prophet, the Doris Burke of the Wizarding World. Ron is a clerk in his brother’s joke shop.
On one hand, I am disappointed in Ron’s career trajectory because as a redhead and more naturally the sidekick type, Ron was the character I most identified with. His streaks of jealousy and wanting more credit throughout the seven books represented the impulses I hated most about myself. On the other hand, I kind of see it. Ron is the guy who peaked in high school but was a good enough hang that his more remarkable friends keep him around, and Hermione even married him. At the end of the day, there aren’t that many jobs in the Wizarding World, and small businesses seem to do better than they do in modern Muggle capitalism. Maybe Ron has it all figured out and he’s the only one living their best life.
As for the rest of the gang, I wish we got to see more of Neville, the only member of the main group teaching at Hogwarts in the prime timeline, and speaking of Neville…
The story I want now. We saw Harry and Co. go back and rewrite history to ensure Voldemort kills his parents, which was heartbreaking. But how would it have played out if, by some alteration of the timeline, Voldemort decided to interpret the Prophecy by paying a visit to Frank and Alice Longbottom, and Neville was instead The Boy Who Lived?
I have given this some thought, and here is how I see things going: Neville is still raised by his terrifying grandmother, but with the pride of his celebrity status. He is the confident Quidditch star, and Triwizard champion. But what about Harry, you ask?
Barty Crouch Jr. and the Lestranges instead torture Lily and James Potter and Harry’s parents are permanent residents at St. Mungo’s. But Harry is still raised by Vernon and Petunia because Sirius still confronts Wormtail after he sold Lily and James out to Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry’s first big moment of greatness as the timid Gryffindor boy raised by Muggles is when he stands up to his friends in a pivotal scene in Neville Longbottom and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I don’t know how Snape fits into all of this. I haven’t figured all of it out yet.
I know if we get more Harry Potter stories, it will likely not deal so heavily with time travel, as that has already happened in a big way in Cursed Child as well as Prisoner of Azkaban, but that connection between Harry and Neville always fascinated me. It was a fun ride, and even though it took a couple years to get to it, I am excited for whatever else is in store in this world.