What I found the most fascinating part of this whole story is the alternate reality in which Voldemort has triumphed. We always knew Voldemort and his followers would be defeated, even if it meant the death of Harry and so many of the characters we came to love. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child dares to enter such a world, dares to show us through Scorpius’s eyes what the world would have become under Voldemort’s complete reign. The result is terrifying, yet it’s also thrilling to see a version of this world where darkness won. And against all odds, this alternate reality yields the two most satisfying parts of the book.
The first of these tremendous satisfactions is Scorpius Malfoy taking charge to save the day. While I’d loved the unexpected but powerful friendship between Albus and Scorpius up to this point, I did feel like Scorpius was being relegated too much to the role of faithful sidekick. In this alternate reality he learns to take charge, to be bold without Albus. Without the courage of Scorpius Malfoy, the world may have been doomed to the alternate reality where Voldemort and his followers reigned supreme. Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco Malfoy, grandson of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, and great-nephew of Bellatrix Lestrange, played an integral role in saving the world from Voldemort and his followers. If that’s not a deliciously satisfying development, then I don’t know what is.
The second tremendous satisfaction is Severus Snape proving in any reality he will always be a complex hero who despite seemingly impossible circumstances will make the ultimate sacrifices to continue fighting for the cause Lily Potter believed in. That Snape, Hermione and Ron are all that’s left of the Order of the Phoenix and resistance against Voldemort is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. My heart breaks for the deaths of all the characters we love. My heart warms at the thought that Snape and Hermione and Ron have continued the good fight even when all seems lost, that despite all the times he tormented them at Hogwarts because of their friendship with James Potter’s son, Snape and Hermione and Ron have managed to unite and move forward for the greater good. The kiss between Ron and Hermione and their declarations of love were really emotional. Even though I knew it wouldn’t be permanent, their brave sacrifice in the face of Dementors was even more emotional, exemplifying that even the worst twists of fate and magic cannot undo their love for each another. Plus seeing two of your all-time favorite characters get their souls sucked out by Dementors is pretty damn terrifying.
But back to Snape, I love how stage directions can convey so much in so few words, my favorite example in this playing being in the alternate reality when Dolores Umbridge confronts Snape and reveals she knows he’s been working against Voldemort and his followers all these years: “There’s a moment of pure silence. And then SNAPE does something hugely unusual—he smiles” (194). When I picture Severus Snape, I picture Alan Rickman and the way he so flawlessly embodies the character. In this moment, I imagine that smile breaking across a face used to sneering, that smile a relief after years of tragedy and secrecy and failures, a relief to display his undying love for Lily Potter for all to see. This chilling, powerful moment may be the best moment in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, continuing to develop Snape in a brilliant manner befitting his character. Also factor in that without Snape, Scorpius would never have been able to succeed, from the moment when Scorpius first confronts Snape to the ultimate sacrifice Snape makes to ensure Scorpius can right the timeline. Severus Snape (again) and Scorpius Malfoy (for the first time) are two of the most essential characters in saving the world from Voldemort and his followers. The delicious developments continue.
No villain could ever be more terrifying and complex than the one Umbridge and the Dementors serve: Voldemort. I was glad to see they didn’t try to create a more formidable villain for the story, but instead chose a villain that leads us to question the legacy of the greatest Harry Potter villains: Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange. Even from death, Voldemort continues to haunt and menace the Wizarding World, now more than ever through the manifestation of his daughter Delphini. Delphi doesn’t feel like a new villain so much as she feels like an extension of Voldemort. The connection between Albus and Delphi proves that the connection between Harry and Voldemort will never completely dissipate; even their children will feel the powerful connection between them. Even Harry feels the connection when he tells Delphi “You can’t remake your life. You’ll always be an orphan. That never leaves you” (292). Harry understands Delphi more than anyone, just as he understood Voldemort better than anyone ever did.
In a story largely about the connectivity between the old generation and the new generation grappling with legacy, it is fitting to see more than the Potter, Malfoy and Granger-Weasley families dealing with this. It is fitting that a child of Voldemort deals with this as well. It would have undone everything, but I can’t help but be curious about what the meeting between Voldemort and Delphi would’ve been like in 1981 if it had been allowed to happen.
I did expect more of a role from Rose Granger-Weasley being the first child of Hermione and Ron to attend Hogwarts, in addition to being a friend and close cousin to Albus. While it’s disappointing for her to not be more integral to the story, it makes sense with the message that life never works out like you plan or expect. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is above all the story of Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy and their unlikely but beautiful friendship, and how that friendship even transforms the relationship Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny have with their old nemesis Draco Malfoy. It makes sense that the most changes between Harry and Draco as their sons Albus and Scorpius are causing the ripples that become tsunami waves. Through the actions of their sons, Harry and Draco realize their actions to shield their children from their fathers’ legacies have only burdened rather than freed their children. The real understanding and connection forms between Harry and Draco when Harry realizes “Love blinds. We have both tried to give our sons, not what they needed, but what we needed. We’ve been so busy trying to rewrite our own pasts, we’ve blighted their present” (261). The play is just about Albus and Scorpius struggling with the past’s influence on the present just as much as Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Draco are. The play is not the story of Rose Granger-Weasley and the other Potter and Granger-Weasley children. Part of me thinks this should be the true end of the Harry Potter series, that there should be no ninth story. Another part of me wants to get the story of Rose Granger-Weasley and the other Potter and Granger-Weasley children, and more from Albus and Scorpius. We’ll see what happens.
But even in a story that focuses so much on the new generation and their parents, the story strives to honor the actions of incredibly important characters from the seven Harry Potter novels. I haven’t written much about Ginny, but her conversation with Harry about “specific love” is one of the most moving and important scenes in the play. Then there’s Albus Dumbledore continuing to provide Harry wisdom about the mess that is life via his painting at Hogwarts. There’s Neville Longbottom whose brave defiance of Voldemort leading to destroying Nagini and in extension the final Horcrux is the act on which history will or will not be changed forever. There’s Minerva McGonagall excelling as Headmistress of Hogwarts, honoring everything the school stands for, not afraid to defy Harry’s wishes despite his past heroics, also unafraid to ask the hard questions when the Ministry informs the public of difficult situations. There’s Rubeus Hagrid, and the beautiful moment of witnessing him finding baby Harry. There’s Dolores Umbridge, doling out her brand of evil and thriving as Headmistress in the alternate reality where Voldemort won. There’s Cedric Diggory forever changing the course of history in more ways than one could imagine (take that you Hufflepuff haters). There’s even Ludo Bagman and some hilarity from the Triwizard Tournament we missed out on in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (loved the joke about the French).
Like Professor Binns, I’ve gone on far too long. In short, I felt just as captivated by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as any other Harry Potter book. It is a fantastic and worthy addition to the Harry Potter series, albeit its inevitable differences and limitations from the novels. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is brilliant on the page, and now I just can’t wait to the day until I can see it on the stage.