WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the entire Harry Potter series
So how about that eighth Harry Potter book, eh? As someone who grew up reading the adventures of everyone’s favourite boy wizard, the announcement of another installment in the series left me feeling a number of various emotions – curiosity arguably being the biggest one. While I have since grown out of my Harry Potter phase, I couldn’t help but be somewhat interested in what exactly J.K. Rowling had in store for us now that Harry and friends were all grown up and had kids of their own, especially when it was confirmed that this new story would be a stage show.
While I’ve not been able to see the show for myself, I was able to read the stage-play’s script for it which was released as a book. And it was… OK, I guess? It was by no means bad but I hesitate to call it good, at least from a story and character perspective. I’m sure the actual play is entertaining to watch but by the end of reading it, my only reaction was “Well that happened.”
But while I could easily rant and rave about what didn’t work, I’m instead going to go the opposite route and write about the few things that I legitimately did like about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
First, a quick synopsis of the premise for those unfamiliar with it. Set 19 years after the last book, the story begins with Harry’s youngest son Albus beginning his first year at Hogwarts, which unfortunately becomes quite miserable for him as he has to deal with the Potter legacy. Though he does find a best friend in Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco, life becomes increasingly difficult for him, and even his relationship with his father becomes horribly strained. And things only get worse when an event from Harry’s past begins to haunt them both, leading to a chain of events that puts the current state of the Wizarding World in grave danger.
And now, the actual point of this article.
1. Scorpius Malfoy
I didn’t really know what to expect from Draco Malfoy’s son when I learned that he was a main character. Usually, when established characters have children, they tend to go one of two ways – be a carbon copy of their parent or be the exact opposite. Scorpius very much falls into the latter category and, to my shock, not only was he well written but he was easily the most entertaining and likable character in the whole story.
Part of that comes from his backstory; specifically the rumour that he is the son of Voldemort whose conception was aided through the use of time travel. While it’s obviously a stupid rumour, a good chunk of people believe it. Combined with the fact that his family were Death Eaters who aided Voldemort, Scorpius is treated like an outcast, from both children and adults. Not to mention that his relationship with his own father becomes rather strained over the course of the story thanks to his mother passing away (though it’s nowhere near as bad as Albus’ and Harry’s).
Scorpius arguably has every right to become a cold and bitter person yet, despite all the hardships he’s forced to face, he just deals with it and carries on. The first time we see him, he awkwardly tries to make small talk with Albus and Rose (Ron and Hermione’s daughter) and attempts to befriend them. When he and Albus become friends, he shows a surprisingly jovial side to him. He jokes about, makes sarcastic quips (I’m pretty sure he’s responsible for all of my favourite lines in the play) and is just an overall pleasant person.
At the same time, however, he possesses a lot of self-loathing, something that we’re reminded of by how he constantly refers to himself as a loser. But it’s not overdone to the point where he becomes whiny or annoying. He’s just trying to make the best out of a bad situation (an admirable trait) but it’s something that he is struggling with. He’s honestly a more interesting character than Albus and I was pleased to see him take the spotlight for a bit at the beginning of Act 3, where he’s stuck in an alternate reality where Voldemort won and Albus never existed.
While I do have many grievances with Cursed Child, Scorpius managed to make that all bearable. He’s possibly my new favourite character in the whole series, and I’ve also heard that his actor’s performance in the actual play is the highlight. Almost makes me want to check it out myself, if only to see the best character be brought to life on stage.
2. Draco Malfoy
I never thought I would see the day where I found myself actually liking Draco Malfoy. The first book instantly presented him as a self-absorbed bully and he only got worse as time went on. Even when the last two books showed a more vulnerable side to him, as a result of being forced to work alongside the Death Eaters and trained to kill Dumbledore, it was still hard to really sympathise with him. He was just a gibbering wreck by the end of it and he didn’t do anything noteworthily redeemable. But, if this story is anything to go by, time can change someone a lot.
Draco doesn’t get as much focus as the likes of Albus, Harry or even his own son, but he leaves quite an impression rather early on. His first appearance is expressing his annoyance at how the rumours regarding Scorpius being Voldemort’s son aren’t dying down and even asks Harry if he can release a statement to prove that it isn’t possible. When Harry refuses, he becomes frustrated and you understand why.
When Harry suggests that Voldemort may return, Draco’s first instinct is to call him out, believing that this is just a publicity thing, but not because it impacts him; because he knows that Scorpius’ treatment could get even worse. Throughout the entire play, while it’s clear that the relationship between him and his son isn’t the best it could be, Draco wholeheartedly loves his son and wants him to live a normal, happy life (well, as normal a life for a wizard can be). Nearly everything he does is for Scorpius’ sake.
He’s even a far more likable character than Harry is. You’d think Draco would be enraged at the idea of his son fraternising with the son of his old enemy but, if anything, he supports Albus and Scorpius’ friendship simply because it makes Scorpius happy. And when Harry forces the two to stay away from each other, Draco immediately comes for him to convince him to change his mind. Not gonna lie, when Harry asks Draco if Scorpius really is his son, I wanted Draco to smack him across the room (and he very nearly did).
Cursed Child managed to give Draco the development I never knew I wanted to see. Draco was just as much of a victim of Voldemort and the Death Eaters as everybody else, thanks to his father. Now, having been freed from that burden, he made it his mission to rebuild his life. He got married, had a son that he loves more than anything and vowed to make sure that Scorpius wouldn’t be forced to suffer like he did.
And while he never became “friends” with Harry and co., he was certainly a lot more cordial to them, especially Ginny (him apologising to her after accidentally trashing the kitchen was hilarious and sweet). In fact, the two have a nice bonding moment when they remind Harry that he was able to get through his struggles at Hogwarts because of the power of friendship – something that he is denying Albus. Hearing Draco humbly admit how jealous he was about Harry’s bond with Ron and Hermione really showed how much he had grown in the past 19 years. I mean, just read this part of a little speech of his:
“I think you have to make a choice – at a certain point – of the man you want to be. And I tell you that at that time you need a parent or a friend. And if you’ve learnt to hate your parent by then and you have no friends… then you’re all alone. And being alone – that’s so hard. I was alone. And it sent me to a truly dark place. For a long time.”
Kind of paints his actions throughout the series in a different light, doesn’t it? I found myself surprisingly pleased to see the story end with him on much friendlier terms with Harry and co. I honestly kind of want to see J.K. write something about him and his family now. Maybe see more of his relationship with his wife, Astoria (who seemed to play a big part in his self-improvement).
The point is, this story made me love two different Malfoys and that is both weird and amazing.
3. Snape’s (Sort of) Redemption
“But didn’t he redeem himself in Deathly Hallows?” I hear you ask. Well, kind of. Maybe? It’s certainly what I thought too until it was pointed out to me that he was still an asshole that bullied and victimised several of his students, including Harry (the kid he swore to protect). Hell, if Harry wasn’t Lily’s kid, Snape wouldn’t have given a shit about his well-being. Oh, and he was all fine with Voldemort murdering his childhood bully James and baby Harry so long as Lily survived. The same woman who broke off their friendship because he signed up with the Death Eaters; the magic equivalent of racists that were anti-Muggle (remember, Lily was Muggle-born). Yeah, re-read the books and you realise that while Snape did contribute to Voldemort’s downfall, it didn’t erase all the downright horrid and shitty things he did as well.
He’s a complicated character at the very least and opinion is split on whether his good actions truly outweigh his bad. That said, I feel like his brief appearance is something of an attempt by J.K. to give Snape a proper redemption. Whether it works or not is debatable but I certainly enjoyed it somewhat.
Scorpius, while stuck in the “Voldemort Wins” reality, tracks down Snape and tells him everything he knows, prompting Snape to take him to the hideout for Dumbledore’s Army. Even with Harry dead, Snape decided to keep fighting the good fight undercover out of loyalty to Lily, but he also admits that, at some point, he must’ve begun to genuinely believe in the cause. Hell, the fact that he seems to be on relatively good terms with Ron and Hermione says a lot about how much he too must’ve changed.
Even when he’s told that restoring the original timeline will mean him dying, he just takes it. Even knowing that the best outcome does him no favours, he still sees it necessary. And what are his final words to Scorpius?
“Tell Albus – tell Albus Severus – I’m proud he carries my name.”
I like to think that he meant this. He always resented Harry for being the son of James but Albus? Despite knowing nothing about him, Snape feels some level of connection to him, like he wishes he could’ve actually met him despite his heritage. Much like Draco, Snape had the potential to truly become a better person given enough time.
It’s unlikely that this will change some people’s opinions about him but it was a nice moment to see nonetheless. And if it does change someone’s mind about Snape, then I guess we could call this a success.
4. Albus and Scorpius’
There’s always got to be something to keep the reader… well, reading. The metaphorical hook, as it were. Usually it’s the plot but, for some, it can be the characters themselves. In this case, the thing that kept me going till the end was the relationship between Albus and Scorpius.
The two just have a really good chemistry together. They’ve got a whole “similar but different” vibe going. Both of them ultimately feel like outcasts at Hogwarts and are affected by the legacy of both of their parents – Albus is pressured by the weight of his father being the Wizard World’s messiah figure while Scorpius has to deal with being the son and grandson of Death Eaters. They both understand the other’s sense of isolation which is what helps draw them to each other and is why they get along so well.
But like I said; they are quite different as well. Whereas Scorpius has reached a point where he feels like he just has to deal with all the bad things that come his way, Albus is much more bitter about it. It’s Albus that wants to change history; whereas Scorpius has a lot more reservations about it. Scorpius has accepted his status as a failure but Albus wants to succeed at something. This even extends to their relationships with their respective fathers. Both of them are on somewhat rocky terms but Albus and Harry both drive a massive wedge between them, as opposed to Scorpius and Draco where they’re just awkward with expressing emotions to each other and are also still having to cope with the loss of Scorpius’ mum.
The point I’m trying to make is that the relationship works really well. They really do feel like best friends but their friendship does change throughout the story too. One thing I noticed in hindsight is that Albus is (unintentionally) selfish in regards to the relationship. When he decides to go back in time, he asks Scorpius to come with him because, well, they’re best friends and he wants them to do it together. Scorpius does comply but probably only because Albus is his only friend and doesn’t want to lose that. Albus unknowingly takes charge of their friendship.
Possibly my favourite scene involving them is after they’ve changed the past the first time, resulting in Albus being in Gryffindor and Ron and Hermione never marrying. Whilst Albus wants to undo that, he still thinks they need to save Cedric. Scorpius, having now witnessed the dangers of time travel firsthand, is now vehemently against it and, for the first time in the whole story, properly lashes out at Albus and calls him out on his selfishness. It runs the risk of being too angsty but I felt it worked.
Scorpius HAS had a rather shitty life because of all the rumours and his family’s legacy. Albus isn’t shunned the same way he has been; Albus is still the son of Harry Potter after all. I always felt that Albus’ life was only so difficult because Albus was making it difficult for himself and then choosing to blame it all on his dad, so it was kind of satisfying to have somebody in the story actually address that. And it came from his best friend/my favourite character too.
Now there is one other thing regarding the two that I feel I must address. While I may have already done a joke about it with this section’s header, I should actually mention this:
Albus and Scorpius are super gay for each other.
That’s not hyperbole; I am convinced that those two love each other and if you’ve read the book or seen the play and disagree, I don’t think you were paying attention. It’s not in-your-face or anything but the undertones are there and they are strong. Just look at this stage direction when Scorpius spots Albus and Delphi kind of, sort of flirting.
He looks at his friend talking to a girl – and part of him likes it and part of him doesn’t.
This actually would’ve made Cursed Child stand out a lot more if it’s main protagonists were not only gay but also in a relationship of sorts, if only for progression and representation’s sake. I do feel like the writers (J.K. wasn’t the only one after all) may have initially been pushing for it but, for whatever reason, chickened out and only went halfway with it because, in the end, there’s nothing in the story that blatantly states that either one of them is gay. Hell, Albus clearly has a crush on Delphi and Scorpius asks out Rose at the end of it (though they could be bisexual?), which were clearly done in a “See how NOT GAY they are” way. A real missed opportunity I feel and possibly the most disappointing part of the whole story.
In the end, though, whether it be romantic or not, Albus’ and Scorpius’ relationship and interactions are probably the strongest part of the whole story and help make it compelling despite the many other problems that permeate Cursed Child.
If you’ve been unsure as to whether or not to check it out, well, congrats, you’ve spoiled pretty much half of it for yourself but I’d recommend at least giving the book a read just to see what happens. As for me, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to seeing this on stage someday.