There is something immensely satisfying about the fact that the fate of the entire Wizarding world rests on the shoulders of someone other than Harry Potter. The fact that that wizard doesn’t appear in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is disappointing, but for those of us who loved Neville Longbottom as much as we loved Harry Potter‘s main trio, seeing Neville’s crucial role in the Battle of Hogwarts memorialised is gratifying. But now the next generation at Hogwarts faces another deadly foe, and it is down to two young boys to try and save the wizarding world again.
The Cursed Child
Last time we saw Albus Severus Potter he was a sweet young boy on his first day of school, nervously wondering if he would be sorted into Slytherin. Albus was the sort of sensetive child most of us should be able to relate to, while Harry and Ginny’s eldest, James, was rather more like his grandfather, a little cocky and self-assured. To revisit this scene again, nine years after we first saw it on Deathly Hallows was lovely. But what follows was a real shock. As the first three years of Albus’s life at Hogwarts play out in the opening scenes of the play, we find that it is not all going to work out as we expected, happily ever after.
“I’m a Granger-Weasley, you’re a Potter — everyone will want to be friends with us, we’ve got the pick of anyone we want.” his ‘cousin’ Rose tells him after they board the Hogwarts Express for the first time. Only it’s Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius that Albus befriends. Rather than Gryffindor, Albus is sorted into Slytherin. He does not fit in easily at school, or lessons. “Albus Potter, the Slytherin Squib.” his classmates taunt him. His friendship with Scorpius is what keeps him going.
However the ‘Cursed Child’ could apply to Scorpius, or even to newcomer Delphi, as the story unfolds. Perhaps that is why Albus is so drawn to them.
Albus and Scorpius
It is not surprising that Albus and his cousin Rose soon drifted apart. Rose has some less-than-attractive qualities that have nothing to do with her ambitions, rather it is her harsh judgement and prejudice that lets her down – a rather surprising trait for Ron and Hermione’s child. Scorpius, on the other hand, is Albus’s better half, the two boys have an instant connection and this develops into a friendship that is intense, but also lapses into tender moments. There are some subtle hints of a romantic attraction between them. This is, of course, distracted by their feeble attempts to flirt with girls. But their devotion for one another will surely capture many hearts.
Whether or not the boys have romantic feelings for each other, the friendship is probably one of the strongest we have seen in the Harry Potter universe. There are less of the awkward Harry and Ron-type moments when men are unable to express their feelings for each other between Albus and Scorpius, and more expressive and emotional ones, even if Albus is a self-absorbed at times. But while Scorpius professes his love for Rose, she is not the woman who causes the first feelings of tension between them.
The Augurey – Voldemort’s daughter
Voldemort being able to impregnate Bellatrix Lestrange is a concept I am still struggling with. Keeping in mind that Jo built some small foundations for a story like this in Deathly Hallows, a relationship between Voldemort and Bellatrix cannot be ruled out. While Bellatrix had always been reverent and worshipful, her behaviour took a turn in Half-Blood Prince and by Deathly Hallows her actual lust for Voldemort was apparent, and Jo also indicated that Beallatrix spoke to Voldemort as if to a lover. However, it is not Bellatrix’s feelings I have trouble with, but Voldemort’s. As Dumbledore observed, Voldemort never had or wanted any true friends, he preferred to operate alone. Emotional feelings may not be necessary when it comes to sexual desire, but I still doubt that Voldemort could even feel something like desire when his soul was so maimed and tainted. Specifics, of course, are left out. There may be some magical means which helped the conception. But if they were having a sexual relationship there is a possibility Bellatrix contrived the pregnancy. Again, thinking of Dumbledore’s observations, he said that Voldemort preferred to operate alone. Having a child with Bellatrix meant Voldemort would have to rely on a number of people, Bellatrix herself, her husband Rodolphus’s co-operation in keeping silent (he may, after all, have had a problem with the affair), healers, guardians in case of Bellatrix’s death. There’s something very un-Voldemort about it. But it is early days and more may be revealed about the story.
Delphi herself is a little more human than both her father and her mother. And she was charming enough to have captured Albus’s heart so easily, Bellatrix could only inspire fear, not love. Delphi is a conflicted character; she may be capable of terrible dark magic, she may be capable of murder, but she’s desperate for her father. Maybe she is a shadow of the eleven year-old Tom Riddle who thought his mother couldn’t have “been magic” because she died.
“DELPHI: I only wanted to know my father.
These words take HARRY by surprise.
HARRY: You can’t remake your life. You’ll always be an orphan. That never leaves you.”
The Time Turner
The story itself combines all of the things we love about the wizarding world; magic, the quest and the power of love and friendship. Cursed Child takes us back to a concept we haven’t seen since Prisoner of Azkaban, time travel. This hint of science-fiction, using causal loops and time paradox, is a lot more complex than Hermione’s and Harry’s bid to save Buckbeak and Sirius in Prisoner of Azkaban. Buckbeak’s death was not a fixed event in time and Sirus’s death had not happened yet, so there was minimal impact. But Albus and Scorpius’s jaunt back through time causes the destruction of the modern wizarding world.
Much of the story centres on Harry and Albus’s difficult relationship, they drift further and further apart as Albus struggles at school. When Albus overhears Amos Diggory asking Harry to give him a Time Turner so he can go back and rescue his son Cedric, and Harry denies him, Albus decides to take his best friend, steal a Time Turner and go back in time to the Triwizard Tournament to stop Cedric meeting his death there. Accompanied by Delphi, posing as Amos Diggory’s niece and carer, they go back and attempt to thwart Cedric in the first task. They fail. When they come back to the present Ron is married to Padma Patil, Hermione is a mean-spirited Hogwarts professor and, of course, their children do not exist. Desperate to fix their blunder they go back and manage to stop Cedric in the second task. This time when they come back to the present Albus disappears. Voldemort rules and the wizarding world has been plunged into darkness. Cedric Diggory lived and became a Death Eater. Harry Potter perished at the Battle of Hogwarts. But it wasn’t Harry’s death that ripped time apart. Cedric Diggory only killed one wizard, Neville Longbottom. Neville’s death ensured that Voldermort’s snake Nagini lived, carrying a fragment of Voldermort’s soul and keeping him immortal. No one else could have killed Nagini and destroyed the Horcrux, as the sword of Gryffindor presented itself to Neville. The sword was carrying traces of Basilisk venom, one of the only substances that can destroy a Horcrux. The quest to destroy the Horcruxes failed, Voldemort lived, and now Scorpius has to find help so he can repair the terrible damage they have done.
Asphodel and Wormwood
If anyone had told me I would have to endure the death of Severus Snape all over again I would have burst into tears on the spot. When Scorpius is trapped in the dark universe he and Albus inadvertently created he encounters the last members of the Order of the Phoenix. Or Dumbledore’s Army, as Ron reminds us. Harry Potter has died at the Battle of Hogwarts, but Severus Snape is alive and well, and hiding the outlaws Ron and Hermione in the house under the Whomping Willow. When Scorpius tells them what has transpired, and what lies in store for Ron and Hermione is his world, they sacrifice themselves to the Dementors so Scorpius can escape back to the future. If that is not gut-wrenching enough (even if it is an alternate reality) Snape is captured by Umbridge and the Dementors as he tries to protect Scorpius. Snape’s patronus, Lily’s doe, gazes at Snape one last time before she disappears when Snape’s soul is ripped from his body – and your heart is ripped right out of your chest.
“SCORPIUS: Thank you for being my light in the darkness.
SNAPE looks at him, every inch a hero, he softly smiles.
SNAPE: Tell Albus — tell Albus Severus — I’m proud he carries my name. Now go. Go.”
Harry still has some growing up to do…
This is like Harry from Order of the Phoenix, but a middle-aged, perpetually exhausted civil servant. Harry is dogged by terrible memories. It is heartbreaking that he still feels the loss of Cedric Diggory so keenly, and Fred and the Fallen Fifty. It is clear the second wizarding war still haunts him deeply. But he also makes one terrible decision after the other. He lies to Amos Diggory about the Time Turners, he refuses, inexplicably, to help Draco clear up the rumours that Draco’s son is actually the son of Voldemort, and he separates Albus and Scorpius, forcing an unwilling Professor McGonagall to help, making all three of them miserable. Because Bane gives him an ominous warning and Harry becomes convinced that Scorpius really is the son of Voldemort.
Harry’s trauma is far more complex as an adult, it is surprising and saddening that he still suffers so intensely more than twenty years after the fall of Voldemort. It is painful when Harry admits that having been an orphan that he has no example to follow; that Harry can’t reach Albus, who seems to have a lot of his grandmother’s traits and who Harry should be able to relate to the most. After two decades Harry is still paralysed by his fears. Although there is one thing he can always rely on.
“HARRY: I’ve never fought alone, you see. And I never will.”
This is one of the characters I was most looking forward to seeing as an adult, and while Draco does not feature heavily in the script, there is enough of his story in there to satisfy anyone’s curiosity. Jo has released Draco’s full story on Pottermore (you can read about Draco here) so readers might have been expecting to meet his wife Astoria, who helped Draco escape the oppressive pure-blood mentality of his parents and become his own man, far away from the Dark Arts that almost destroyed his life. Tragically, Astoria dies. Draco is again denied his chance of lifelong partnership. He even tells Harry how he envied Harry his friendship with Ron and Hermione at school. When Jo wrote about Draco she said that “I have high hopes that he will raise Scorpius to be a much kinder and more tolerant Malfoy than he was in his own youth.” And so he has. While Draco retains much of his old arrogance, it doesn’t extend to his feelings for his son. It is Draco who talks Harry around when Harry tries to keep Scorpius and Albus apart. Draco is with them every step of the way as they go back in time to save their sons and stop the Augurey.
It is important that Draco has become a better man. This is the sort of thing readers always need, to know that everyone can strive to become the person they want to be.
“DRACO: The thing is, though — never really fancied being a Ministry man. Even as a child. My dad, it’s all he ever wanted — me, no.
HARRY: What did you want to do?
DRACO: Quidditch. But I wasn’t good enough. Mainly I wanted to be happy.”
Paint and Memory
Dumbledore and Harry meet again in Cursed Child, only Dumbledore is now a memory preserved in a portrait. And as Professor McGonagall tells Harry, portraits don’t represent even half of their portraits. This doesn’t stop two heart-wrenching conversations between Harry and Dumbledore. In the first Harry asks Dumbledore’s advice on how to help Albus, to which Dumbledore replies: “You ask me, of all people, how to protect a boy in terrible danger? We cannot protect the young from harm. Pain must and will come.” In the second Dumbledore visits his portrait in Harry’s office at the Ministry and Harry makes it clear he still suffers from Dumbledore’s decision to leave baby Harry at Privet Drive for protection. Harry does dream about Petunia and Privet Drive several times throughout the play and it is clear that he still has a lifetime of unresolved feelings about it. It poses the question of whether or not Harry has forgiven Dumbledore for the terrible task he left him as a teenage boy.
“HARRY: “Love blinds us”? Do you even know what that means? Do you even know how bad that advice was? My son is — my son is fighting battles for us just as I had to for you. And I have proved as bad a father to him as you were to me. Leaving him in places he felt unloved — growing in him resentments he’ll take years to understand —”
Things We Cannot Change
There were several scenes we revisited from Harry’s past in Cursed Child. There was Albus’s first day, Hagrid finding Harry and telling him he was a wizard, and the Triwizard Tournament. There were some other scenes we have not seen before Harry dreamt about. We saw a terrible Aunt Petunia, and we saw a Petunia who saved the blanket that Harry had been wrapped in the night he arrived at Privet Drive. We heard that Dudley found it in her possessions after she died and sent it to Harry. But the scene that had the most impact was the murder of Harry’s parents. We have seen snatches of this before, when Harry was being affected by the Dementors, but Harry having to stand by and watch his parents being murdered by Voldemort, helpless to do anything about it and collapsing with grief brought an intensity to the scene we have not experienced before. But if there was something that brought hope to this terrible scene, it was Hagrid, and the reminder that love will always keep us safe.
And then he hears a sound — the sound of a baby snuffling. HAGRID turns towards it, walking with more intensity now.
He looks down and stands over the crib. Which seems to radiate light.
Well. Hello. Yeh must be Harry.
Hello, Harry Potter.
I’m Rubeus Hagrid.
And I’m gonna be yer friend whether yeh like it or not.
’Cos yeh’ve had it tough, not that yeh know it yet.
An’ yer gonna need friends.
Now yeh best come with me, don’t yeh think?
The Minister for Magic
To conclude on a lighter note there were several highlights in Cursed Child, the main one being Hermione becoming Minister for Magic after a promising early career fighting for the welfare and rights of underprivileged non-humans, such as the long-abused House Elves; later moving to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. We always knew she was destined for greatness. There was Scorpius’s copious and delightful references to being a nerd, and a moment where Ron jokes that there are ‘two of them’ when Hermione and Scorpius give Albus the same answer. But the most fun was the reveal that the Trolley Witch, revealed as being a 200+ year-old witch who is prodigiously skilled at keeping Hogwarts students on the train and has some ninja-like transfiguration skills to boot.
So reading the script is one matter. I am sure the play is another experience altogether. Have you seen the play?