Thoughts: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

If you’re a Harry Potter fan then, by all means, read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I really enjoyed it, couldn’t put it down!  However, you have to remember that you are reading the script of a play. This is not a Harry Potter book, and if that’s what you are expecting you might be disappointed. We Harry Potter fans are accustomed to the specific type of storytelling and writing that we experienced throughout the Harry Potter series.
J. K. Rowling was always very detailed in the way she wrote about the wizarding world, the main characters, and even the minor characters. Don’t expect that level of detail with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child because, I repeat, it is not a Harry Potter book, it’s the script of a play.

*** Spoilers***

HP and the Cursed child focuses on Albus, Harry’s younger son, and Scorpius, Draco’s only son (and only child). Albus and Scorpius are able to be friends because Albus is, in some ways, a lot like Harry, but Scorpius is almost nothing like Draco. Harry’s son and Draco’s son becoming best friends? I did not see that coming. But it does make sense.
Both boys have the heavy past of their famous fathers weighing on them, they know that everyone is watching them, they feel the pressure of expectations, and they each feel like they have disappointed their father. In other words, Albus and Scorpius have a lot in common, they understand each other. For various reasons they become outcasts at Hogwarts so all they have is one another. They need each other. Friendship was one of the main themes in all of the HP books so it was nice to see that emphasized again in this new story.

Another main theme of this new story is that changing even the smallest detail of the past can have disastrous consequences. Albus sets out on a mission to change a major event in Harry’s past- the death of Cedric Diggory. Albus overhears a conversation about the existence of a time turner that can take witches and wizards not only hours back in time, like Hermione did, but years back in time. Albus drags the reluctant Scorpius along for the ride.

A powerful time turner? Overhearing conversations? Friends and adventure?
Oh, so this is a Harry Potter story! Yes. While this may not be Harry Potter storytelling as we know it, HP and the Cursed Child does have some quintessential HP elements. That was really cool to get to experience again. There are surprises and magic; wands and spells, magical artifacts, and- in this story- a bewitched man-eating library! (Hermione, obviously.) As I read the script I kept wondering How in the world can they pull this off in a play on stage? We’re talking some serious theatre technology.

So, as I was saying, Albus sets out to go back in time and prevent Cedric’s death, but each time Albus and Scorpius make even the smallest change to the past they end up in a drastically changed future, a future that is far worse than the life they were already living. This was, for me, the most brilliant part of the play/story. Several key, and perhaps favorite, Harry potter moments from the original books are revisited. Then, in addition to that treat, we are treated to glimpses of alternate future realities.
What would the wizarding world have become if Harry had not survived and defeated Voldemort? What if Cedric Diggory had lived, but had been humiliatingly defeated in the Triwizard tournament? What if Ron hadn’t got jealous when Hermione went to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum? These are just a few examples of how events, big and small, can largely impact individuals and the future.

Another treat in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that we get some more time with our old friends- Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Moaning Myrtle, even Draco. The invisibility cloak makes an appearance too, as well as Pepper Imps and Chocolate Frogs- Albus’s favorite. The reader gets to know Albus and Scorpius really well, but not the other Weasley or Potter children, which was disappointing. Rose, Ron and Hermione’s daughter, plays a small part. We get the gist of her personality- ambitious and somewhat intense, just like her mother. (Which I really liked.) Ron and Hermione’s son Hugo is hardly even mentioned. Harry and Ginny’s son, James, and daughter, Lily, make brief appearances, but that’s it.
This is where the play differs from the books the most. If this were a HP book, Rose, Hugo, James, and Lily would have played much more significant roles; they would have been fleshed out, well developed, and, I’m sure, lovable characters. We also would have seen Neville and Luna, and more of Hagrid.

As I mentioned above, Albus and Scorpius experience several different alternate realities or possible futures. And that’s what I felt like the play was- one possible continuation of the Harry Potter story, but it doesn’t feel real and solid the way the original series did. This is obviously because it wasn’t a Harry Potter book- you can’t do in a play what you can do in a novel. It just isn’t the same, and it isn’t meant to be. But If J.K. Rowling were to take the story in this play and turn it into a full-blown Harry Potter book then maybe it would feel like the true continuation of the Harry Potter (or wizarding world) story.

With that said, I should clarify again that I did really like the story- plenty of adventure, suspense, mystery, and magic. The best part for me was getting to be around magic again, and catching up with Harry and Hermione. I also liked that Professor McGonagall had such a big part in the play, she was always one of my favorites. I wouldn’t change much about the story itself, I just want it in book form so more detail can be included! However, there are two things I might change. First, Ron.
Ron’s character in the play is more like the Ron of the first few novels- blundering and awkward and not exactly the equal of those around him. He didn’t have much of a role in the play. He makes several appearances but he seems to be there more for comic relief. I was disappointed in this the most. (It was worse than Harry’s son being sorted into Slytherin house!) By the end of the final Harry Potter book Ron had experienced a lot of growth. He was more skilled and showed a lot more courage and bravery than what he did in the first books, but in the play all of this is taken away and he seems to be right back where he started. I didn’t like that. I don’t think he needs to regress quite that much, he deserves better.
The other thing I would change is Albus being sorted into Slytherin house. I just don’t think it fits. I realize that a good story needs to have conflict, but I think that was satisfied with Harry’s and Draco’s sons becoming best friends and being Hogwarts outcasts. The only way I wouldn’t change Albus Potter being sorted into Slytherin is if a really good philosophic or prophetic reason could be given to explain how or why he’s in Slytherin house. Any house but Slytherin! And with there being such a focus on Cedric Diggory I think it would fit the story really well if Albus and Scorpius were to be sorted into his house- Hufflepuff.
Hufflepuff House of Hogwarts: The Adventures of Albus and Scorpius. You see! Now that’s the beginning of a great story!


Why Harry Potter means so much to me

Where would I be now had I not believed that my life could be better? 

I didn’t read the first Harry Potter until a year or two after it was first published. I kept hearing about this amazing children’s book and I eventually decided I should read it just to see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out, I was pregnant with my first child when I finally made the time to read Harry Potter. Those wonderful books provided me with a much needed way to escape. I was young, unmarried, and broke. And very, very scared. That was almost 16 years ago. In fact, tomorrow, August 1st, will mark the anniversary of the day I found out I was pregnant. I have never been so scared in my life. I was terrified, petrified. I felt humiliated and so, so alone. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and never have to come out.

Well, obviously I had to carry on. It was a physical, emotional and financial struggle for many years.  J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter helped me get through it. Naturally, Rowling’s personal story was very inspiring to me. I remember how shocked I was when I found out that she had started writing Harry Potter when she was a broke single mother. I mean, I just couldn’t believe that I had something like that in common with an author whose books I was starting to adore- whose books the world was adoring.
It helped me feel less humiliated.

And all through those days of struggle when my son was very young and I was feeling lower than ever, I never let myself forget that J. K. Rowling -the author of Harry Potter, for god’s sake!- had once been where I was. It gave me hope. Her personal story helped me believe in possibilities at a time in my life when the word IMPOSSIBLE was stomping and marching through my mind every minute of everyday. Lack of money, lack of love and affection, a job I hated, no college education, no confidence left in myself- these were my dementors!   And J. K. Rowling’s unexpected super-success was my patronus. Her success gave me hope and helped me believe that “astonishing” things can happen.
So I carried on.

Then, of course, there was Harry Potter! Those books are so much fun to read! I had never read anything like it- who had?! The adventure and imagination in those books is incredible. Reading Harry Potter is like literally jumping into another world, it’s the ultimate escape- an escape I truly needed at the time. ‘Books can take us places when we have nowhere else to go’- I read something like that recently. And that’s what it was like when I read Harry Potter. For just a few moments, I left behind my poverty and other single-mother woes and stresses, and went instead to beautiful, mysterious, ancient Hogwarts castle where I got to learn about magic. I got to go to another place, a place that came to feel like home, and it lifted my spirits immensely.
Escaping to a better place is what made me fall in love with reading in the first place. Being scared and pregnant, and then a depressed, stressed-out single mother: these were not the first times in my life that I wished I had a better place to go to. When I was little I used books to escape my life. I used books to escape my homes that were not homes. My childhood was not good- that was one of the main reasons I was so freaked out about having a baby! I couldn’t let happen to him what happened to me and my brothers. Books got me through a lot growing up. Sometimes they were the only thing that comforted me or made me smile.

That’s another reason Harry Potter means so much to me. I immediately related to him and his oppressive, intimidating home situation, especially eleven-year-old me. Eleven was a very rough year for me. Every year until I was sixteen was a rough year (to say the least), but eleven was particularly difficult. So even though I was twenty-one when I read the first Harry Potter, it tapped into that scared eleven-year-old girl that was still stuck inside me. When Harry finds out, on his eleventh birthday, that he’s actually a wizard and that his parents were a witch and wizard too- something happened to me. That eleven-year-old girl inside me got up. I will never forget that moment. I go back to the first book and read that part again and again.
As the story unfolded and became more magical
and more exciting with each passing moment, I felt my eleven-year-old self start to brighten and smile. And when Harry finds out that he’s also famous and his parents are heroes and they left him piles of gold- my mind was blown. The scared, timid, poor, nearly friendless little eleven-year-old inside me was thrilled to be reading this story, pretending and imagining that it was her who all of these wonderful things were happening to. And then to see so much of myself in the character Hermione (my favorite)…. that was the icing on the cauldron cake.
And I haven’t been the same since.

My life today is different in every way possible from what it was 16 years ago when I found out I was pregnant and scared out of my mind. That’s why the Harry Potter books and story mean so much to me. There were so many details that made it such a personal experience for me every step of the way. I related to the author and the characters.
J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter inspired me to believe in possibility, to believe that astonishing things can happen even in the least likely of places, to the least likely of people. Even when it seems that the odds are too far against you.
It is because I believed that my life could be better that it actually became better.
The Harry Potter books had a lot to do with that. They changed the way I looked at the world, they changed the way I saw myself.