Warning! Spoilers ahead.
It’s been almost a decade since the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and five years since the screening of the last film, effectively ending 19 years of book-reader relationship, which to most Harry Potter fans cover much of their lives. It’s a literary and movie success that transcended race and age and one that defined an entire generation for the better.
So it didn’t come as a surprise that the script for the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child became the fastest selling book in the UK in the last decade.
The Cursed Child is a play written by Jack Thorne which explores the story of Harry as a father and how his famous past affects his middle child, Albus. The book received a lot of criticism with fans saying that it read like a “bad fan fiction.”
The online consensus seems to zero in on the plot of time-turning and Voldemort’s secret offspring. Time-Turning is a concept we’ve encountered many times in books and on screen, thus eliciting complaints of being unoriginal. Fans also felt that Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange having a daughter ruined the characterization of the Dark Lord and that it felt too forced.
I believe that these criticisms lose sight of the spirit of why this book was made, and missed out on the many brilliant parts from being too preoccupied with the technical parts of it.
First of all, if you read Harry Potter in your teens, that there is even a continuation of their story is a reason great enough in itself. You were able to see parts of yourself that you left from the last time you read Deathly Hallows, and it allowed you to get them back and reconcile with the person you’ve become since then.
It’s very cheesy, but who isn’t a cheesy Harry Potter fan?
The reason that Harry Potter resonated with you all those years ago is because you’re the kind of person who believes in the never-ending quest for happiness, and the great length you’ll go to make sense of it, and eventually, to achieve it. This book was an affirmation of our growth as people, that we can overcome our own battles but that it doesn’t mean there will be no more battles left to fight.
Because just as Harry, the boy who saved the world, can struggle with his choices and his mistakes, we can too, and that’s okay.
This book also gave the proper tribute to Neville Longbottom, the odd character we took for granted in all of the seven books, and who, even in his most heroic moment, was still overshadowed by the “chosen one.”
They laid it out perfectly clear: if Neville hadn’t killed Nagini, Harry wouldn’t have been able to kill Voldemort and the Dark would have lorded over. It was only a paragraph dedicated to Neville but it was enough to honor the boy who also fulfilled the prophecy.
And isn’t there just a little bit of Neville in all of us that to celebrate him would be to celebrate our being odd, our being normal, our being ordinary?
In the two alternate worlds that Albus and Scorpius time-traveled into, we saw two versions of Ron and Hermione, both of which a place where they are not married. In the first world, Hermione was a bitter, underachieving witch and some fans thought it was a disservice to Hermione to be portrayed that way.
But Hermione isn’t infallible, and neither are we. There was no disservice, there was only humanization.
In the second alternate world, Ron and Hermione are helpless fugitives. When made aware of the true reality that they did marry each other and had kids, they chose to die if only to give Scorpius the fighting chance to resurrect that reality. In any world, in their most broken states, they loved each other, and that to me is a most fitting end to an epic love story.
And most importantly, the book finally gave us the Draco Malfoy we deserved.
In one defining moment between him and Harry, Draco confessed to never caring about being a Minister of Magic. Harry asked what he wished for. “Quidditch. But I was never good enough. Mainly, I wanted to be happy,” Malfoy responded.
If Neville existed in all of us, Draco is all of us.
None of us are Harries or Rons or Hermiones, certainly we aren’t Dumbledores or Snapes, none of us can honestly claim that much courage and kindness.
In this mortal world — in a world where conjuring a Patronus is something you only learn well into your adulthood, or for some people, something you never learn at all, and where Dementors are stronger, we are all like Draco. We make mistakes. We are haunted. We are tempted. And sometimes we let our demons get the better of us, when all we ever wanted was just to play Quidditch, and mainly, to be happy.
Happiness is a tricky thing. That much I learned in all the years that I read Harry Potter.
I understood that it was a story meant to instill in me the value of friendship, and that love is your strongest weapon, so strong it can shield you even from death, but I never related to it completely.
Happiness, I realized, at least for myself, isn’t something you are armed with, or gifted with, happiness is something you fight for, sometimes to the point of exhaustion and here comes Draco with all the right to be exhausted but isn’t.
He survived, and he’s surviving, and that may just be the most touching part of the Cursed Child.
And finally, this book levels with us through Dumbledore.
In Deathly Hallows, he said “Of course it’s all in your head, but why on Earth would it mean that it’s not real?” He told Harry, and all of us, to reach for the stars, to believe in our ability to surpass our limits and our doubts and it was very inspiring then as an 18-year-old just starting to put hopes in the world and all its promises, but we’re older now, and we have found out that there are some things that just wouldn’t be real, no matter how badly we want them to.
And so in this last book, Dumbledore returns through his ghost and leaves us with these wise words:
“…there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”
The book is not about these fictional characters, the book was about us, and our return to their world long enough to leave and accept that magic, of course, does not exist. It’s the perfect way to say goodbye, and it rounds up into this pragmatic fantasy, whose bright parts one will see if one only remembers to turn on the light.
[Entry 158, The SubSelfie Blog]
About the Author:
Lian Nami Buan is the Managing Director and the European Bureau Chief of SubSelfie.com. She also leads the #SubStory and #TanawMindanao segments of the website. She was a news producer for GMA News for six years before she moved to England to take up her Masters in Digital Journalism at the Goldsmiths, University of London. She wants to shift focus to human rights, particularly indigenous people, women and migration. Whenever she has money, she travels to collect feelings for writing material. Journalism 2010, UST. Read more of her articles here.