Watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway

My 14-year-old child and I were fortunate enough to get tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway on Wednesday, August 15, 2018.  Several members of the original London cast performed, including Anthony Boyle’s career-making turn as Scorpius Malfoy and Noma Dumezweni as the first, but not the last, black Hermione.

The cast’s chemistry and timing were exceptional.  Many viewers have reported preferring the experience of watching the stage play over reading the script, since the story is made to be shown onstage rather than read and imagined.  I agreed with this take in several instances:  Ron, who comes off as a buffoon on the page, was more grounded onstage.  The tenderness between Ron and Hermione was more evident.  I could see some chemistry between Scorpius and Rose, whereas on the page, it feels flat to me.  Hermione’s towering ill temper as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is a home run.

The visuals are stunning.  The dementors are beautiful, even if frightening.  The classic gold and black glow of Dumbledore’s portrait evokes just the right majesty.  And if any costume makers feel like making me a version of Hermione’s costume with that lustrous purple pleated skirt, I’m all for it.

I may be remembering this wrong, but I think when I saw the play in London last August, Scorpius and Albus faced away from the audience when catching their first glimpse of Hogwarts from the forest, so that we shared their perspective.  On Wednesday, I found it striking when Scorpius and Albus faced forward while struck speechless by Hogwarts, unable to deny its beauty even though they had both suffered there.  They looked into the audience and marveled.  We were Hogwarts.  They were looking at us.  All of us watching them, rapt:  we were the magic.  That gave me chills.

My favorite revelation was watching Scorpius, Albus, and Delphi turn themselves into Harry, Ron, and Hermione for the scene with the bookcase.  It had been a thrilling scene to read in the script, but watching it onstage confronted me powerfully with just how badly Albus must have wanted to know how it felt to be his father.  Nothing in Albus’s life has the glamour or daring of the tales of his father’s adolescence, and he and Scorpius think of themselves as losers who mess things up.  But if they pretend to be Harry and friends, they can magic themselves into different people who are accustomed to nonstop adventures and quests.  There’s so much longing in their Polyjuice transformation.

Is it worth the trouble and expense to see Cursed Child?  If you’re a Harry Potter fan, yes.  Even if you hate the script or the plot.  The magic works.  You’ll feel it.


Cursed Child: Six Allegories

Modified from comments delivered at LeakyCon, Dallas, TX, August 10, 2018.


Welcome to “Coming to Terms with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”  My name is Lorrie Kim and I’m the author of Snape:  A Definitive Reading.  I got the idea for this session because I was seeing a lot of Potter fans feeling conflict about this play.  Disappointed, angry, or betrayed by it – but not able to put it aside or make peace with it.  Sometimes when you don’t love something, you can just stop reading, or move on, or dismiss it.  But sometimes that doesn’t happen.  I wanted to have a gentle, supportive discussion in which we hear from each other and try to find if there are ways we can come to terms with this play, feel at peace with how we feel about it.  I don’t have any conclusions prepared; I just wanted to see, if we talked about this in an open, supportive way, where it will take us.


Six allegories that make Cursed Child meaningful to me:


Allegory 1.  Harry’s gifts to his children


He gives James the Invisibility Cloak — Sirius and Remus taught him enough about his father to parent his Gryffindor son.  He gives Lily the fairy wings — Snape taught him enough about his mother’s ability to fly that he could pass that on to his daughter. But Albus, bullied as the “Slytherin squib,” needs “specific love,” everyday comfort and advocacy:  Harry never learned that.  All he can give Albus is a shabby old blanket.  That’s all Harry got:  15 months of parental love.  No, it’s not enough.  But everything Harry got, he will give to Albus.


Allegory 2.  Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow


One of the riddles in Hermione’s bookcase says:


I am the creature you have not seen.

I am you. I am me. The echo unforeseen.

Sometimes in front, sometimes behind,

A constant companion, for we are entwined.


In 1938, psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”


Harry’s shadow has always been Voldemort, and when his fears form the “dangerous black cloud around Albus,” he hears Voldemort again.  In response, Albus forms his own shadow, Delphi.  His subconscious forms her into existence when he develops issues with his father.  Hermione tries to check out Delphi’s background, but says, “There’s no record of her.  She’s a shadow.


Jung said:  “If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it.”


If the adults understand what’s hurting the kids, they can restore the past to peace.


Jung said:  “Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications.”


Delphi has ever-changing, mutually contradictory stories.  She went to school.  She didn’t go to school.  She’s Diggory’s niece.  She’s Voldemort’s daughter.  She has a tattoo.  She can fly.  Every modification reflects a change in what Albus must work through regarding his father.


Jung said:  “But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”


If the adults can’t connect emotionally with the kids, the kids’ distress will continue to dictate their families’ dynamics.  Harry and his friends want Delphi to come into the light, come into consciousness, so Albus’s deepest concerns can be recognized.


Jung said in 1945:  “A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbour.”


Harry attributes this “dangerous black cloud” not to himself but to the return of Voldemort, or werewolves, or hapless little Scorpius Malfoy.  His shadow self is in control.  This is what it looks like when the part of Voldemort that’s in him has a voice.  That’s why Harry sounds “out of character” when, for example, he orders McGonagall to track Albus using the Marauder’s Map.


Allegory 3.  Who is the Cursed Child?


Projection creates cursed children.  In adult Harry’s dream about the Dursleys running away from his Hogwarts letters, Petunia says, “The boy has cursed us!”  In a later dream, Petunia tells lies about James and Lily, and Harry hears Voldemort’s voice:  “I smell guilt, there is a stench of guilt upon the air.”  That’s what Voldemort said to his Death Eaters when he regained his body in Goblet of Fire, the rage of a child at the caretaker who has abandoned him.  It is the same warning as Dumbledore’s Howler to Petunia:  “Remember my last.”


There are three steps to the magic spell of creating cursed children — or adults, for that matter:  mistreat them, realize that we did, and punish them for knowing it.  Cursed Child  made me understand, finally, what it means that Voldemort’s Killing Curse “rebounded on him”:  when Voldemort saw that he had orphaned baby Harry, he identified with the baby, the only time we ever see him experiencing empathy, and he realized he had scarred someone for life as he had been scarred.  His Avada Kedavra on baby Harry was the only time that his attack on another person made him feel and understand the pain he had caused.  It made him remember his own pain and connect the two.  This triggering of his own trauma is enough to send him beyond death into the forest.


Adult Harry, in Cursed Child, has less damage than Voldemort — but he, too, is triggered against his will into the memories of his own trauma, the things that Voldemort stole from him when he was a baby and the truth that the Dursleys withheld from him as a child.  That’s what it means to say that Voldemort is back in Harry’s head, that his scar hurts again.  Nothing but seeing this old trauma damage his own child could spur Harry to go this deep into his own past, and he has to decide whether it’s too painful and he will sacrifice his relationship with his son, or if he will do what he’s never been able to do before and fully comprehend – relive – the murder of his parents.


Allegory 4.  Time-Turners are about psychological process, not science fiction


As with Rowling’s other magical devices, such as the Elder Wand, which can change ownership without even being touched, I understand Time-Turners best as symbolic, as allegorical.  As Hermione learned, there are two rules for using a Time-Turner:  change nothing, and you must not be seen.  There are safeguards.  When you go into the past, be anchored by a friend or guide; third-year Harry is anchored by Hermione, Hermione by McGonagall or Dumbledore.  The purpose of a Time-Turner is for you to be able to relive a moment from the past from a different perspective:  greater age and experience, but also literally from a different perspective, as Harry did with seeing himself cast a Patronus at dementors from the opposite bank of a lake.  What you gain in understanding from this new perspective, and the support of a friend, can have the power to save an innocent life — maybe more than one — and set people free.


If you are stuck in the past, especially because of trauma, and you revisit the past for a different perspective, supported by trusted people, that is the dynamic that Rowling encodes into the device of the Time-Turner.  As with all super-magical objects in Potterverse, such as the Deathly Hallows or the Sorcerer’s Stone in the Mirror of Erised, Time-Turners work best for people who use them to help others, not for personal gain.  Scorpius and Albus go into the past without any training, intending to “change everything,” and are seen.  When they are trapped in time by Delphi, Draco offers his own secret Time-Turner because he knows Harry will use it properly:  to reconnect with Scorpius and Albus, understanding how the Time-Turner is meant to work, and then to make good-faith efforts to gain new perspective on his own past so he can relieve its ill effects on Albus’s life.


Allegory 5.  The Alternate Universes are imagined by Albus and Scorpius


The boys try to work through their relationships with their fathers by going back in time — allegory for trying to understand where Draco and Harry are coming from, Albus looking for the real Harry behind the legend or Scorpius envisioning a world in which Malfoys are leaders.  The adults interact with these AUs because that’s what parents do, negotiate with the images their teenagers have of them.


This explains anomalies like Cedric Diggory becoming a Death Eater.  We readers met Cedric through teen Harry; only someone who never knew Cedric could think he’d become a Death Eater because of whatever scenario a 14-year-old boy could invent, ballooning into the sky like Aunt Marge, completely wrong in tone for anything associated with the Cedric that people knew when he was alive.  It explains why Ludo Bagman says “Mr. Dragon” in the Triwizard task. He knew the dragons were nesting mothers.  That’s not the real Ludo Bagman; it’s just Albus imagining the scene and gendering the dragon as male because he’s working through his father issues.  It explains how anyone trying to work out when or how Bellatrix and Voldemort could have reproduced runs into uncomfortable logistical questions.  Unlike us, Albus never got to know either of them; he didn’t know Bellatrix attacked children or that Voldemort was barely human, so he can ascribe parental sentiment to them more easily than we can.  All of the AUs as imagined by Albus and Scorpius contain only elements that they would have heard or read of, second-hand:  the same spells, the same people or incidents, but slightly misunderstood or misremembered, sometimes absurdly so, and I think the absurdity is intentional and meant to be a clue.


Allegory 6.  Albus’s feelings toward Harry


Delphi says to Voldemort what Albus would find too painful to say to Harry:  “I have devoted my life to being a child you could be proud of.”


Delphi attacks Harry with the cry, “Are you crawling away from me?  Harry Potter.  Hero of the wizarding world.  Crawling away like a rat.”  A teenage boy might well be this angry at a father who doesn’t have the guts to face his own child’s anger.


Voldemort was obsessed with Harry Potter because his entire life, Harry was the only force he’d ever encountered that was stronger than the power of his own murderous rage.  He was Voldemort’s only hope for help in containing and limiting that rage.  Albus, through Delphi, is able to express murderous rage to Harry as Voldemort, and still be loved.  This gives Albus the security to understand Harry’s effort in fighting through his own darkness to be a parent.  The use of a Time-Turner to witness Voldemort’s attack is an allegory to mean that Harry and Albus returned to the past to gain new perspective, supported by loved ones.  Then Delphi disappears because Albus no longer needs her.  Quote:  “And slowly what was there is no longer there.”


“One of the most joyful experiences of my life”: JK Rowling on working with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany on Cursed Child

Lavishly in-depth interview with the three creators of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Addresses several fan questions about that script:  Yes, she had veto power over the entire script and production, so anything there is there with her blessing.

No, it wasn’t for the money.  She has enough money.  She was excited and nourished by the challenge.

Yes, she gets told constantly that people are not happy with something she’s written or done.  “That’s the way it goes.”  She’s going to keep writing what she wants to write, because “I know full well, I have limited time left on this Earth.”

Transcript! Book Jawn Podcast Ep 36

In September 2016, Book Jawn Podcast released an interview with Lorrie Kim about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. You can download and listen to the podcast and you can now also read the transcript, courtesy of whiz transcriber Deannah Robinson.  Contact her at if you need anything transcribed!


Sarah: Hello! And welcome to Book Jawn Podcast, Episode 36.

Grace: Thirty… five. Oh, 36! Nice!

Sarah: Yeah. Look at who knows how to count!

Grace: I hate you! Stop… I hate you! I don’t know…

Sarah: I know, and that’s way more than my fingers and toes, as well. No one is more surprised than me.

Grace: We’re super excited— Oh, I’m Grace.

Sarah: I’m Sarah.

Grace: And we’re here with…

Lorrie: Lorrie.

Grace: And so many of you guys were so excited about our episode with Lorrie and her book, Snape: A Definitive Reading, that we asked her to come back for our Cursed Child discussion. **** We’re that far in Cursed Child? We’re in an interesting situation here, because all three of us liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I know that many people didn’t. But we’re going to have a talk, we’re going to talk about it.

Sarah: Yeah. Agreed.

Grace: So, I wanted to just start with saying we haven’t obviously had a new Harry Potter text in our hands for a long time, and how did you guys feel? Where did you get your book? How quickly did you read it?

Sarah: Well, I borrowed it from Spiral, and then took it back because they were in such high demand that I was like, “Well, I’ll let somebody buy this at full price.”

Grace: Yeah, she was asking people to bring back the book. She asked JD, too. She’s like, “Can I sell your copy? You’re just getting one later.”

Sarah: That’s hilarious. I did not know that. But yeah. And then I just bought it from the Marble later.

Grace: How did it feel though?

Sarah: It felt great. I read it very quickly and I squeed throughout it. I was like, “I’M SO HAPPY TO HAVE A NEW HARRY POTTER!” Then I thought it was going to take me a while to read, because it’s not written in book format. It’s written as a play, and it did not take anything from the story for me. I was actually really surprised that my wife wasn’t like–she still hasn’t read it, so I was very surprised, but I think she was a little put off by the format. But I liked it, yeah. What about you guys?

Grace: Well, I got mine at GeekyCon. We had a midnight release after the ball that we have. The line was really long. It just felt long. Anyway. First of all, I did get the book in line, but it was really a perfect setup because I’d spent the whole ball talking to the number one famous Slytherin/Snape defender at GeekyCon. We had finally talked to each other for the first time at this ball, and we were so excited. We’re hugging each other, being like, “I feel so validated by the things you’re saying.” And then we both got Cursed Child, and it was very affirming to our feelings about Gryffindor bias and Scorpius is a perfect little cinnamon roll precious boy.

Sarah: He is precious.

Grace: So I got the book, and I didn’t start reading it immediately, though. I didn’t actually start it until a week after the release date, and I read it in one sitting and cried on the train. I mean, I liked it, but I feel like it was affirming to my specific Slytherin feels. I got a very personal attachment to it. Lorrie?

Lorrie: I got mine at Big Blue Marble because it was released at the same time that Big Blue Marble was hosting the release party for Snape, so I did my presentation, then I stood in line here. And I was prepared because so many people I knew were very negative about this script coming out, for different reasons. A lot of them were because they had done so much creative work as fans within the Potterverse, and they had bad experiences in the past of their headcanons not working out with new canon. And I really have a problem with this, even though I should be more open-minded. But a lot of people are like, “J.K. Rowling should just never say another word.” 

Grace: Yeah, a lot of people feel like that. Like, how huge mega Harry Potter fans feel–

Lorrie: That she doesn’t have the right to say anything, that she has made the universe and she should just now walk away and it belongs to her readers.

Sarah: WHUT?!

Grace: This is like, I would say, most people, at least superfans I’ve talked to, feel this way.

Lorrie: I feel very strongly about it, and I have such a problem with that, to the extent that I don’t think I understand how seriously people feel this or how important it is. Because when they say it, they’re so vehement, and I disagree so much, I don’t think I’m listening to them. But I disagree because I think that she has the right to do whatever she wants, and if it bothers you, if her authority is too threatening, just don’t read it. But that’s much more easily said than done.

Sarah: True.

Grace: People’s fanfictions or headcanons, those still exist. They can still hold on to those and there’s new content, but the thing you wrote still is great. The thing you wrote still has readers. 

Lorrie: A lot of people say it’s because they’ve been transforming aspects of Potterverse to be more inclusive or more representative of things that are important to them, and every time Rowling comes out with new content, it reminds people that actually, in most ways, Potterverse is not all that progressive. For example, people who had invented a lot of lesbian backstory for McGonagall, and then Rowling came out on Pottermore with an extremely heteronormative— the same story for McGonagall that she has for a lot of the other teachers, which is romance that went wrong at a certain point and then celibacy afterward. People thought, well, after the potential richness of McGonagall as a figure of female education– which historically has been really embedded with lesbian history, with female empowerment–to have this felt reductive. And I’ve seen people be really angry about that, because it wasn’t just that their headcanons had been invalidated, but in a way that was upsetting in the first place. One of the things I was doing when I was reading this was to see where Rowling’s authorizations were moving on some issues, like people were saying the racial tokenism, for example, or the queerness or anti-Slytherin bias, how much feedback is she incorporating? How much is she acknowledging? How much is, “You know what? It’s my universe”? And then balancing that, of course, against the fact that she didn’t write it. That’s something that is, I think, universally difficult for a lot of readers to remember: “Okay, she has authorized, but she didn’t write.” The syntax isn’t hers, the characterizations. And that’s been a problem for people during interpretation as they read this is, “Okay, I am not comfortable with this characterization of this person. Is that because it’s poorly written? Is it because I’m looking for J.K.R.’s writing and it’s not hers? Or is it because I’m not getting something?” And there have been times when I’ve concluded, “No, it’s because it’s really subtle and intentionally written to be surprising and difficult to get on first reading,” and I wish sometimes that people wouldn’t be so quick to conclude that it was poor writing because it’s not always.

Sarah: Yeah. I get that.

Grace: A lot of the most— I’m just going to compliment you here rightfully, but a lot of your analyses are about these kind of unsaid things or subtle things in the series or the things you find re-reading. That makes total sense.

Sarah: Well, you remember when the 7th book came out, how everybody was so upset about the epilogue.

Grace: Oh, we remember.

Sarah: And that’s one of my favorite pieces of the original series. I think it’s so beautifully written and so — there’s so much. It’s a thing that when I first read it, I was like, ‘What in gay hell is this?’ And then I re-read it a couple of times, and was like, ‘oh no, actually, this is really brilliant.’

Grace: That makes sense.

Sarah: I think that it is— I think you’re right. A lot of stuff does gets richer when you re-read it, and see how nuanced and how many layers there are. I totally get what you mean, though. As to the people being like, ‘J.K. Rowling can’t write Harry Potter anymore,’ I think that’s garbage.

Grace: Hot Take: You’re garbage. 

Sarah: I don’t think people are garbage. I think that’s a garbage opinion. I feel like it’s a world that she created, of course she has authority on it. But I think that even JKR at this point must realize that it is a world that her readers have taken a lot of ownership and liberties with, and that’s fine. That creates space in that fandom for all sorts of different voices. I think that she—I don’t know a lot about Pottermore. I know there’s been a thing of the American houses and appropriation. I don’t know a lot about that, but I also don’t know that Pottermore is written by JKR.

Lorrie: The parts that she wrote are noted. If it doesn’t say that it’s from her, then somebody else did the writing.

Sarah: Okay. 

Grace: But the Native American appropriation was her?

Lorrie: No. [CORRECTION! The Pottermore writing about the Ilvermorny houses WAS definitely by Rowling!  I was incorrect when I said otherwise during the recorded interview. -LK]

Grace: No? Really?

Lorrie: I don’t know who did the writing and I don’t know how much authorization she gave, but it’s not one of the elements that says New Writing from J.K. Rowling.  [Dear Lorrie:  Yes, it is!  It definitely says New Writing from J.K. Rowling!  You were wrong, wrong, wrong!  – Lorrie.]

Grace: Interesting. 

Sarah: I can’t imagine anybody is here to step up and claim that.

Grace: Yeah. Huh. I think my opinion on this is that— well, I think that obviously it’s her writing, and I look forward to new content. I want that. I love reading new things that she’s written because I love Harry Potter and I want all the things, I want more all the time. I do think that the series or the story is so important to so many people. The three of us in this room, it has influenced our lives in huge, sweeping ways.

Sarah: Profoundly.

Grace: So I think that for anyone who feels that way, you’re protective over this thing that’s influenced your daily life so much. But I don’t agree with saying, “Well, then I don’t want anything else. This is what it is.”

Lorrie: Well, I like that you went to the epilogue, because obviously it springboards off the epilogue. I remember reading the epilogue and I was not that impressed with it for reasons that this play confronts head on. For one thing, it was very heavily that heteronormative “OMG they’re all going to marry their high school sweethearts and have children.”

Sarah: All except for Draco.

Lorrie: Which, thank goodness. And Draco not is also a beautiful thing. It means that he was free to continue to have romance from somebody who shared his same background, that hadn’t been making the same mistakes that he made as a teenager. He was allowed to go on and have a second act.

Sarah: Look, in my heart, he ended up with Neville.

Grace: That’s her OTP, Draco/Neville. I just want to know who Neville— what’s he up to? Just call me!

Lorrie: The single thing that I hated most about the epilogue was the really unhealthy dynamic between Hermione and Ron, where he’s basically gaslighting her, where he says, “Hermione, I bet you thought that I couldn’t pass the driving test without Confunding the Muggle examiner,” and Hermione says, “No, I had perfect faith in you.” And then he whispers to Harry, “No, actually I did.” So he’s angry at her for not having faith in him, but—

Sarah: But her lack of faith would have been justified.

Lorrie: That really, really got my stomach hurting, because that’s the same dynamic that I don’t like about Molly and Arthur, where they’re not honest with each other and they blame each other and they work around each other in a way that I don’t think is good. So Cursed Child starts, and it’s made so much better for me, because it’s out in the open that this is the dynamic, which is fine with me because it’s like, “Okay yes, these are our flaws, which we openly acknowledge,” and Rose is there going, “Well, I have every confidence that he did Confund the examiner.” It’s out in the open, it’s not me worrying that Hermione is trying to cover up for Ron’s lack of confidence, what kind of marriage dynamic is that? It was much more accepting to me of these people and more realistic. And then of course the child, who is nearly an adult, has something to say about it, which, to me, shows that the epilogue is a promise, and then that scene in Cursed Child is a reality. Of course, when we’ve just seen these kids fight Death Eaters, it’s hard to know in the future what’s it going to be like when they’re married and they have kids. And here, okay no, this— It’s real life. Their kids have opinions. I found immediately within the first couple acts that it reconciled me more to the epilogue.

Grace: So I wanna move on to the series — you said — oh, the complete Harry Potter series and then Cursed Child is the second part, but it is canon. But there are so many readers saying, “No, this isn’t canon, this isn’t canon.” But it is officially canon. Do you guys each consider it to be? Do you think that the way the characters are written is true to their character?

Sarah: You know, that’s an interesting question. I think— yes, I think that the characters are believable for who they could’ve grown up to be. That said, I don’t care that much. It’s not going to take away from fanfiction for me. I’m still going to read fanfiction, and I’m fine with that. If it doesn’t follow through with Cursed Child, I get it. I get that there is a lot of inclusivity that is absent, and so I get that as being a valid qualm. So yeah, it’s canon, but I have a big shrug about it.

Lorrie: To me, it’s absolutely canon, but that is based on my reading of it, which I know not everyone will share. For two reasons: the first one is, it’s about that phrase, “All was well,” that was at the ending of the epilogue, which I know made a lot of people really nuts. Because they said, “How can you say all was well? It’s clear in the epilogue that it’s still a prejudiced society, the same tensions and the same unfairness that were always there continue. The only thing that was well was that Harry’s scar doesn’t hurt anymore, but nothing else has been improved.” Which made me think, Okay, for the purposes of the Harry Potter story, ‘All was well’ means there was a baby who was almost killed by a serial murderer, and he was really badly traumatized and it led to war and he was hunted for his entire childhood. What can we do? Is it possible for everybody involved in the circumstances around his traumatic childhood to get this child to adulthood, to a point that he has roughly the same chances at life that his peers can expect, roughly? They did get him to that. He came of age, he was a grownup, he was allowed–because of Dumbledore and Snape’s sacrifices–to go on to have a family of his choice. To live without his scar trauma impeding everything and controlling everything. He was allowed to have a family, which is what he always wanted. And therefore, yeah, it’s still a negative world with a lot of conflicts in it, but those are the same conflicts that his peers, who were not hunted down by Voldemort, also had.

Grace: Right, it’s like, What were you expecting ‘All was well’ to mean? Everything’s absolutely perfect and no bad exists in the world?

Lorrie: So he—unlike Dumbledore and Snape, who were paying for their own sins from youth and therefore gave up some stuff, they enabled Harry and Draco to go on and have more than they themselves did because of their own self-sacrifices, and it worked. For both Harry and Draco, there were times where I wasn’t so sure it would work, but it did. So that was ‘all was well.’ Then when we come to Cursed Child, I think, ‘okay, this is the 8th story for me in that it’s answering the question: Okay, so here’s that baby. What’s it like when he becomes a father and he parents a child of the same age that he was going through when we knew him? What’s that going to look like? For yourself, you can get over your trauma, but when you had provide parenting for your child that you did not receive, and it’s not just that you didn’t get it, but in place of proper parenting you had unusual trauma that was completely unlike what almost anyone else went through, how is that going to look? What’s that experience going to be?’ To me, this completely answers that question. It may not answer the question of “Who is Albus?” or “Who is Scorpius?” or “How did everybody else turn out?” It’s just a question of, “Hey, whatever did happen to that baby?” “Well, he had kids.” “Really?! What did he do when they were that age?” “Eh… It wasn’t that easy for him!” 

Sarah: You know, it’s funny. In sort of… a lot of times, people who are sexually abused as children, it’s depressive for their entire lives. And then when they have kids that are that age, it is very triggering for them. So it’s— that’s legit.

Lorrie: It’s something that actually happens to people.

Grace: So kind of his shitty parenting is similar to that, you mean.

Sarah: Yeah.

Lorrie: You ever see cats that were raised by dogs, and they can’t clean themselves?

Sarah: They can’t clean themselves? No, I’ve never seen that.

Lorrie: Like… you see cats that were raised by cats, they lick their fur and they’re clean. Meanwhile, if you are a dog owner, you have to bathe your dog. But I’ve seen cats who as kittens were raised by dogs and they smell and you have to wash them.

Sarah: Why?

Lorrie: They didn’t get taught to clean themselves. It’s simply not there. Good parenting is not instinct. It’s learned, and it takes forever. You can’t just get it from– Sirius provided some really beautiful moments that parents are supposed to provide, but he wasn’t the real parent; he didn’t have the authority; it only happened for a couple years. Most of what Draco knows how to do for Scorpius–because Lucius Malfoy, despite being a nazi, was a father, and did go to bat for his kid… by bribing ministers and trying to get people killed. But the point was: Somebody’s threatening my child and that hurts me, and I don’t want my child to be hurt. So Draco knows what to do with Scorpius, even if he’s not going to do it the way Lucius did. For Harry, that’s simply not there. Nobody ever did that for him. Sirius didn’t have the authority, and then he goes to Dumbledore and he says, “You were my dad!” And Dumbledore’s like, “Umm, I wasn’t?” 

Grace: Look, we don’t have any real examples of good fathers in the original seven books, in my opinion. We talked about this earlier–not in this episode, excuse me; we talked about this off the episode. And you said Lupin was probably a good dad, but–

Sarah: For ten minutes. 

Grace: That’s what I’m saying. When I really think about it, I don’t have any good examples of a good father figure in the whole series.

Lorrie: Hagrid’s dad.

Grace: Hagrid’s dad. But again–

Sarah: I mean, that’s really obscure.

Lorrie: We’re reaching.

Grace: Right, reaching, it’s a good example. But we’ve never seen him in action. We never have seen him present.

Lorrie: Yeah, we don’t see it, we hear about it. And it’s apparent from Hagrid’s ability to nurture that somebody did a good job on Hagrid. 

Sarah: That’s right. He was a good parent to Norbert.

Lorrie: Yeah. I mean, that’s his whole purpose. One reason why I consider it canon is because from the point of view of the overarching series, I think it’s the story of Harry, and yeah, this is what I want to know: what did happen to that person? He got over a lot of stuff through enormous effort, mostly on his own with good help, and then he went on and had kids. So that’s one reason, and here’s the other reason why I think it’s canon: I think that the content of Cursed Child is deliberately set up to tell us that very little in it is canon, that very little in this play that happens is canon. Most of it is AU, things that are done and then undone. For example: the things that I know shocked faithful readers, like Cedric Diggory becoming a Death Eater — the single kid who we knew from the series that would NEVER become a Death Eater. He’s become one in this AU, which gets undone, and the whole thing about– okay, Voldemort and Bellatrix reproduced in a mammalian viviparous fashion. HOW?! And that also gets undone. And that’s subtle, that’s not explicitly stated, but it’s another AU. All of these AUs that are created by children trying to imagine what their parents went through without even having the means to live the lives that their parents did. Trying to think about possibilities, struggling to make stories through which they could understand why their parents feel the way they do. These are AUs that can be created or undone based on what you understand of each other. So yeah, there’s a universe in which Cedric Diggory became a Death Eater, I guess, or which Voldemort had sexual intercourse, if that’s possible.

Sarah: Sounds sexy when you put it like that!

Lorrie:… and that Bellatrix, who was showing while she was– yeah, I don’t–I think it’s very deliberately shown to make no logical sense to people who lived through Harry’s teen years, which would be the readers of books 1-7. Because the person imagining this didn’t.

Grace: Is your theory that they didn’t use a Time-Turner?

Lorrie: No, my theory is that a Time-Turner is allegory for trying to put yourself, mentally, back into another time so that you can understand things. 

Grace: Right.

Sarah: So is it kind of like that psychological technique of putting yourself into that person’s chair and then having a conversation?

Lorrie: Well, it’s also the kind… Lies about a person’s family can affect people’s lives, even when they’re not true. Suppose all of your life you were told that your father was this one person, and then you discover, a long time later, no, actually your father was this other person that your mother only met once, and you have to go find out who that person was. But all your life, you’re trying to look for yourself in the person you were told was your father, so all of these stories can create effects in your life whether or not they’re true, and then you learn new information that changes things. And I think that’s sort of what’s happening with the Time-Turner here is Albus, he doesn’t listen to anything Harry has to say; he can’t. He’s trying to understand it on his own terms based on things that he’s trying to piece together about people he’s never met, who died before he was born. He can’t imagine things. For example, he doesn’t know Voldemort as we readers know Voldemort. He doesn’t know that Voldemort was so inhumane as to be inhuman. He can’t imagine that those of us who have experienced Voldemort from Harry’s teenage point of view are like, “NO, that man did NOT have children! He was trying to be immortal; he didn’t even think he needed to reproduce, because reproduction is for mortals. He wouldn’t have wanted–that’s not how snakes reproduce!”

Grace: And he wants it to be HIS legacy, it’s always about him and him being powerful, so I can’t imagine him being like, “Oh, lemme have a kid so that if I die, someone else can benefit from my power!”

Lorrie: It’s really, really hard to imagine, and we also know so much about the weird attitude of Bellatrix toward children and babies that it’s all of these horrifying thoughts that we have trouble with because we have experienced things through Harry’s teen POV, and we’ve met Voldemort through Harry’s perspective, and Albus hasn’t. He doesn’t–and this happens to children of war generations–you can’t know how bad these things were if you weren’t there, and your parents don’t want you to because it was awful.

Grace: I’ve got goosebumps.

Lorrie: So I’m thinking that the weird things that are hard to accept and hard to fit into Potterverse as we knew them from Harry’s teen years, that appear in Cursed Child, are showing us these things may or may not have happened. But the difficulty that Albus has understanding the reality that Harry lived through, for one thing, should help us understand how hard it was for Harry as an orphan in, say, Prisoner of Azkaban, to realize that his life was being controlled by people and decisions that were made before he was born — by his parents’ generation, by people who are dead or in prison, that nobody is telling him anything. So why is this Potions professor making his life miserable? Why is Lupin lying? All these things are happening, everybody knows it but him, no one’s telling him anything, and that’s– now we see Albus. Okay, some of that was because Harry had an exceptional situation. Some of it is just because that’s what happens, and you don’t know what your parents went through, and especially when it was as traumatic as what Harry went through, you can’t convey it to your child. And if you try to, you’re going to– it’s really not easy, it’s not probably possible to understand that your father was in mortal peril. I mean, we see that Albus gains more and more understanding through the play, as he is in situations where he can feel mortal peril, and then he realizes, “Oh, my father felt this?” And the more he feels that, the more he understands it. But Albus wasn’t actually in mortal– I mean, these were chosen Time-Turner trips which, because they were undone, turned out to be these side AUs. They don’t turn out to be realities that he’s stuck in. But he gets to undo them because each time, he has some maturity and some understanding that enables him to go back and undo it. Every time that there’s a scene change, it’s because there’s new information for Albus or Scorpius that enables them to go back to their earlier misunderstanding and, at that point, clear up some of the bad artifacts that came about because of their misadventures.

Grace: That reminds me of the one thing I would change in the book. Like the book, there was one scene that I felt was missing, which is Albus seeing Harry at his age forced into a decision for protecting someone. I wanted to see Albus understand his dad directly in a scene where Harry’s in mortal peril. I wanted him to understand in a more clear way watching this– I wanted to see Albus see Harry at his exact age and be like, okay. I feel that would be such a–

Sarah: It’d be gratifying for him, or it would help him understand.

Grace: Yeah, I guess that’s what I wanted. That’s the only thing I would change. I wanted him to directly see his dad at his age. Did you guys have things, if you could change something?

Sarah: I’d like to see Neville. 

Grace: You’d like to see Neville?

Lorrie: I wish that Ron hadn’t been written as a clown.

Sarah: Dude!

Grace: Really?

Sarah: Yeah, he was a doofy uncle, like…

Grace: Well, a lot of people didn’t like it, but I actually thought that you got it or something.

Lorrie: I think the clown element of Ron is really important but it’s only one. The Ron that I knew from the series 1-7, he has a clown element, he has a very touching, emotional element. He has depth and instincts in areas that the other characters don’t that he contributes but he doesn’t do it in an overbearing way. That’s part of his personality, so I felt like the deeper notes of his character were not represented in the play, and that only the clown element was represented, and that felt unbalanced to me. He was also portrayed as ignorant or clueless a little too much. That’s not the balance I like in my Ron. So I would have like a little bit more gravitas from this Ron.

Grace: What about you, Sarah? You said Neville.

Sarah: Actually, I would like to see what happened to Neville and Luna. Was the gist that Ron had taken over Weasley’s joke shop? Yeah, I didn’t care for that. I would like to have seen him doing his own thing.

Lorrie: Well, they did say — and this was another thing that I saw Cursed Child address directly from the epilogue–it had always bothered me so badly that Potterverse is completely patronymic, that you don’t ever see a witch take — all witches marry wizards and take the wizard’s last name without exception. The only possible room for question there is, what did Tonks call herself after she married Lupin? I don’t know. 

Grace: Well, didn’t Hermione also, in this book, hyphenate?

Lorrie: Not in Deathly Hallows, so the first time that I see Rose Granger-Weasley, I’m like, So that makes it on purpose, that Rowling made it a patronymic society in books 1-7 as opposed to an assumption for Rowling’s part that she assumed we’d all share. It made it intentional.

Grace: Which was the next era?

Lorrie: That yes, she was presenting a very patriarchal society in which all the women had to take their husband’s names and that Hermione, of course, would say, ‘No, I’m going to do something different.’ And that, especially because so many plot points in the first 7 books depend upon the mother’s last name being erased.

Sarah: Oh, that’s true.

Lorrie: So, I wanted it to be true that this was intentional and we were meant to notice that it was considered not an option. But then as soon as we meet Rose Granger-Weasley: See, there you go, yes, yes. I feel that that canonized the reading of Potterverse of which all women taking their husband’s surnames was a comment on the patriarchy. And we see that further underscored when Draco says, “Everyone thought that my father and I wanted to continue the Malfoy family line. We really couldn’t have cared less about that.” Because there are some characters — Snape and Sirius, and now Draco — who really don’t care about the family line dying out. 

Grace: Sorry, I’m just thinking about Sirius. Of all the characters, Sirius is like, “Yeah, we can die, we can all just die!” Oh, it’s not funny, it is funny. I’m sorry.

Lorrie: That’s like Phineas Nigellus saying, does that mean that my great great grandson, the last of the Blacks, is dead and our family line is dead? And like, Well, yeah, not that he cares about the family line. And Snape, too. Who cares? He’s so not patriarchal. And it turns out that neither is Draco. All he cared about was a happy family for his wife and him. He really didn’t care about a family name or anything.

Sarah: But that makes sense, though.

Lorrie: It does.

Grace: I really wanna talk about Draco, of course.

Lorrie: DRACO!

Grace: But before we do, I wanna go back to where you bring up women. I read up online some criticism, which is that when the play was cast, we all got really exci–hopefully if you’re good, you got really excited about–

Sarah: If you’re a good person.

Grace: If you’re a good person, you got really excited about Hermione being cast by a Black actress, and then some people were really upset writing about–

Sarah: Racists. Racists were upset.

Grace: Oh, no, no, no. After that– yeah, racists were upset. I don’t care about that, I don’t wanna talk about that. After reading Cursed Child, some fans were upset because they were like, “You cast these Black actresses as Rose and Hermione, you got us all excited for this progressive story, and there are not a lot of women in the story.” I read this criticism, a lot of people said there weren’t actually that many scenes with women in them. I do think Hermione had a big role. So I’m not saying I necessarily agreeing with it, but do you guys think there were enough women?

Sarah: Hermione, Ginny, Rose… 

Grace: But Ginny’s not really in it, though. Again, she’s in a couple scenes.

Sarah: Yeah, it’s possible that the cart witch has more scenes that Ginny–

Grace: I love her so much.

Lorrie: I realized this morning I am the cart witch… Oh, boy.

Grace: That’s the character you are.

Lorrie: I am!

Grace: That’s totally true. You’re– it’s amazing. I’d be so happy.

Lorrie: I’ve never seen myself in the Potterverse before.

Grace: I don’t really see myself as a specific character. 

Sarah: I relate on a deep level to Neville.

Grace: I can actually see that one. I talked to Emma about it. I’ve never really connected to a specific character. I joke about being Slughorn, but that’s not actually how I see myself. The character I’ve most connected to was Dumbledore. Of any actual… I feel like that character.

Sarah: Because of your swank wardrobe?

Grace: Because of my swank wardrobe.

Sarah: I knew it.

Lorrie: Oh yeah, the high-heeled boots! First shoes we ever see him wear!

Grace: But no, I first saw that tweet that you did this morning, and said, Yup, that’s accurate! 

Lorrie: Just saying. That’s for stealing pumpkin pasties.

Grace: Back to–I’m not saying–

Sarah: Dude!

Grace: Yeah, she brings… to all the Harry Potter events she doesn’t host, she’ll just bring all the Harry Potter treats.

Sarah: I thought you were referring to the scary roof scene, and I was like, Umm…

Lorrie: No, I am! I am.

Grace: Both. Definitely both.

Lorrie: Yeah, we have my kids sneaking off somewhere, thinking that they’re going to do it and me showing up: “Hello, children.”

Sarah: Have a pumpkin pasty bomb!

Lorrie: “Get back where you’re supposed to be. You think you can outwit me? HA!”

Grace: So I think — I love that. It made me so happy. It was so true. I don’t think I agree with that, especially Albus seeing it as… This is still Harry’s story, this is still him as a father. I don’t think there were not enough women in the scenes. I still think I can see the play, so it’s kinda hard to say.

Sarah: Yeah, well, Delphie, Delphine, Delph–

Lorrie: Delphi?

Sarah: Delphi. Yeah, she’s a woman. There are also not that many characters, to be honest, that play a major role.

Grace: Plus, if we’re going to–if it’s a play, they can’t have every actor. They can’t have Luna and Trelawney or whatever, you know, all these other women in it.

Sarah: I wish.

Grace: Because you’d have to hire all those actors. I don’t know. What do you think, Lorrie?

Lorrie: I saw a story, a separate story, that I would love to see. Which isn’t the story that this play tells. Ginny and Hermione are a lot more open and sympathetic to Draco than Harry.

Grace: I loved that.

Lorrie: And Ron, I mean obviously. But when Ginny said that after Astoria died, she owled Draco, saying, What can we do? And that just got me, it got me so much, because we didn’t know that. Did Harry know that? Then we find out that Harry must’ve known it because the answer that Draco sent back was, “Tell you husband to make a statement that my child is not Voldemort’s baby.” So Ginny must have presented that to Harry, who said, “No, we’re not going to do that.” And then there’s the Dramione moment at the end. Draco and Hermione have a lot more easy time interacting than Draco and Harry.

Grace: So many wizard rock songs playing in my head right now that it’s confusing.

Lorrie: Especially Ginny, that Ginny understood Draco a lot better, to me, that is a whole other universe, a whole other four-act play that could be written that’s not Harry’s story, which means, “okay, that specifically showed me that this isn’t supposed to be THE story. This is Harry’s story with really emotional references to other stuff going on.” I wasn’t disappointed by it, however. I’m still marveling over the experience that when I was reading the play, I was picturing Hermione and Rose as Black. 

Grace: Yup. Immediately from going in, it was like–

Sarah: It’s really cool.

Lorrie: There is nothing to indicate it, but this is a favor that they have done for me.

Grace & Sarah: Yeah.

Lorrie: Yeah. You have a Time-Turner, now we go back to fourth-year Hermione watching the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and we get to imagine that we know for a fact that we’re picturing a Black girl.

Sarah: That’s so cool.

Lorrie: That really got me, and to me, that’s maybe THE story of this particular production, is that that change has been made in my mind.

Sarah: What’s really cool, too, that regardless of what alternate universe they were in, Ron had biracial kids. I thought that was really, really cool. 

Lorrie: Yeah, and even in that one, the “spare,” the new spare, is played by an Asian guy. Like, Okay. Is that his name, Craig Bowker, Jr.? The guy who does all the homework for the Scorpion King? The new spare.

Grace: It’s interesting though, because in Hollywood, at least, the most underrepresented groups among actors are Asian men.

Lorrie: It’s not a huge change, but with racial representation in Potterverse, I am still at basic 001, I am taking everything. And we’ve read people saying, “Gosh, the name Panju opens up a whole can of worms.” Like — it’s not a name. It’s not a person’s name. It’s this really weird, “all brown people are alike,” “let’s just pick a name and go with it” kind of weirdness.

Grace: Oh, really?

Lorrie: Yeah, it was a lot of people saying, “Oh, this is kind of bad and insulting.”

Grace: I guess I said we were going to go back to Draco now.

Sarah: Something that I found really cool about Draco was not just how much of a caring father he was, but also seemingly what a caring husband he was. I thought that it was cool to see that yes, he was concerned that his son was being dragged and called Son of Voldemort. But also his wife’s reputation was on the line, and what did that mean for her. Then when she was ill, how he was– I don’t know. I just like Cursed Child Draco a lot.

Grace: Yeah, I wanna talk about Draco for a lot of reasons. First of all, I think his parenting was awesome, especially in contrast to Harry’s. My favorite line was from him. Also, as someone who was once a Draco fangirl and then was like, “I don’t wanna be like that, Team Neville,” like you fan crush, it was cool to see him as the person that I want him to be. He got to be the person that I, in my own girl crush brain, hoped that he was. But yeah, my favorite line that he said, when they’re talking about their friendship, he’s talking about being jealous of the trio and their friendship. He said to them that they shined, “You shone so bright and my friends were idiots basically, and it just wasn’t fair.” It made me so happy because it made so much sense. Draco is smart, it’s never been a question that he’s an intelligent kid, and he just never got to have that kind of friendship. And him being so honest about that jealousy– I just thought that whole thing was beautiful. And If you’re a kid in school ever and there was a group of friends that, even if you hated them, that love each other so much and had so much fun, you can’t help but be jealous of them.

Sarah: I just turned to it.

Grace: What was the line?

Sarah: It says: “Two lumps who wouldn’t know the end of a broomstick from another. You — the three of you — you shone, you know? You liked each other, you had fun. I envied you and those friendships more than anything else.”

Grace: I loooooove that part.

Sarah: He goes on to say: “My father thought he was protecting me. Most of the time, I think you have to make a choice, at a certain point, of the man that you want to be. And I tell you that, at the time you need to be a parent or a friend, and if you’ve learned to hate your parent by then and you have no friends, then you are all alone. And being alone, that’s hard. I was alone, and it sent me to a truly dark place for a long time. Tom Riddle was also a lonely child. You may not understand that, Harry, but I do and I think Ginny does, too.” 

Grace: Ginny does, too.

Lorrie: I love that.

Sarah: Ginny says he’s right, and Draco says, “Tom Riddle didn’t emerge from his dark place, and so Tom Riddle became Lord Voldemort. Maybe the black cloud Bane saw was Albus’ loneliness, his pain, his hatred. Don’t lose the boy; you’ll regret it. And so will he, because he needs you and Scorpius, whether or not he now knows it.”

Grace: So the black cloud, I wanna highlight that part. 

Lorrie: So many, so many things to talk about. I wanna stick with Draco for a second. What I love about this Draco is that we can see every — The Draco of Cursed Child is completely foreshadowed by the Draco of the series for me. And I know not everyone sees it that way, but for one thing, the Draco of the series is really funny. He’s witty and he’s clever, and he’s insightful. It’s hard to see because, for example, he puts his wit into that song he makes about Ron, which is vicious. But he is the kind of person whose mind is always going. And his tenderness toward Astoria, we see that in Narcissa always being so tender toward Lucius, even when she has really good reason to be angry with him. But he has gotten these things from his extremely imperfect parents. I really like how we see who Draco can be if permitted, and I also like that we got the sign very early on, an alternative to the balding hairline for the epilogue, we get that he has a ponytail. It’s like, “Okay, we’re letting you know that just enough has shifted so that your brain can accept that this is a different story.” Just like different lines get assigned to different characters on Platform 9 ¾, it’s like, “Okay, I remember this. This isn’t the way I remembered,” which is saying: Yeah, memory is like that sometimes. Different perspective, different time, different characters; you think you remember it. Do you? Does it matter? Does it mean something different now? But yeah, Draco’s characterization that highlights likeable elements of him from the original series: one of my favorite things. 

Grace: How do you think his parenting is contrasting Harry’s?

Lorrie: Draco acts like someone who knows what it feels like to have parents stand up for you. He’s like, “okay, when something happens to my child, I’m going to say, ‘You know what would help? Do this.’” Whereas when Harry had terrible rumours about him, nobody was able to stand up for him, nobody had the right. Sirius was supposed to be– I don’t know where. Sirius had no personhood to stand up and say anything, and the times he tried, he got into a fight with Molly Weasley, and he got into a fight with Snape, the two times that he tried to stand up for Harry, saying– and Dumbledore overrode him. At the end of Goblet of Fire, when Dumbledore was like, “Harry has to recite everything bad that happened to him tonight,” and Sirius is like, “Can you wait? He’s really, really upset and tired.” And Dumbledore says, “It has to be now. I understand, but it does have to be now.” Dumbledore is right, so Sirius backs off. And then Sirius tries to argue with Molly, saying, “My godson is in mortal danger, and you want to keep him ignorant,” and Molly’s like, “You’re not his father.” And then he tries to tell Snape, “Don’t give my kid a hard time in Occlumency lessons,” and then the two of them nearly beat each other up. That was really bad. So that’s the closest that Harry gets. Sometimes Molly tries to stand up for Harry, but that’s always not quite right. And Harry appreciates it, but it’s not quite right. So he doesn’t know this feeling, but Draco does. Draco’s dad joined the PTA because he didn’t trust how the school was going to treat his kid, and then bribed everybody and Imperiused everybody. That’s an experience that Draco had at a really specific daily level. It’s not just a one-time thing. You had to grow up that way seeing it. He saw his cold, bitchy, snotty mother be lonely and scared because her husband was in jail. She could’ve blamed Lucius, like, “Oh my god, the Death Eaters are overrunning Malfoy Manor.” She could’ve been really angry with him. And instead, she just stayed with them and the unspoken message throughout book 7 that Narcissa was giving Lucius and Draco was, “Keep your head down. We’re going to get through this. It doesn’t matter: don’t react. We’re going to get through. The only thing that matters is that we get through it.” And then she got them through it. Draco knows that, so he’s applying that to Astoria and to Scorpius because it was really powerful what he got that Harry, you know–Voldemort killed his parents, he never got that, and he blames Dumbledore for not giving it to him. Even though Dumbledore’s like, “I wasn’t supposed to, I was your headmaster.” That’s the curse that goes, “You want to do well by your kids, but if something happened to you that interfered with your ability to learn how to do it, then you’re going to pass on some really bad failures to your parenting, even though you desperately don’t want to. That’s your curse, and your kid is going to suffer, even though nobody deserves it. The parent doesn’t deserve to do that to the kid, the parent doesn’t want to. Kid doesn’t deserve it; it’s going to happen. That’s your curse.”

Sarah: Thank God I’ll never have children.

Grace: I’m listening to you talk about this and like, I’m having this exact same thought. “Shit, I don’t wanna have kids.”

Lorrie: If Harry Potter can have children, you guys can, too.

Grace: Also I thought, Why didn’t he go into therapy? While you were talking…

Lorrie: Because his scar didn’t hurt. Until now. Because James and Lily weren’t in his shadow area, he understood James and Lily. It wasn’t until Albus started to not communicate with him on the platform, about to go into second year after all summer saying nothing, that Harry understood there was a problem and his scar was hurting. It’s not until something came up that it was in an area that he wasn’t equipped. I was going to say something and I totally don’t–

Grace: Well, you started to say shadow.

Lorrie: You were going to say something, and then I said, No, wait, Draco. And now I lost it.

Grace: No, you were talking about Bane’s black cloud reference.

Lorrie: Wait, it was Voldemort/Tom Riddle being a lonely child. That’s it, that’s the line, that’s the insight that we get from Draco, Tom Riddle was a lonely child, and that Ginny understood that but Harry probably didn’t. And Harry starts to understand that in book 6, and Dumbledore stops him in a way that’s cruel but probably necessary, and Dumbledore says, “Are you feeling sorry for Tom, for Voldemort?” And Harry’s like, “No, no, no.”

Grace: I wouldn’t do that, I wouldn’t do that.

Lorrie: In his position, he’s trying to build up boundaries between him and Voldemort, you know, to get sucked into, “Oh, poor Voldemort killing everybody.” But Draco had that different perspective and it’s after Draco says, Tom Riddle was a lonely child, that Harry has a dream in which we get THE quote from Voldemort that’s pulled from the end of Goblet of Fire that fourteen-year-old Harry overheard. Harry, when he was fourteen, witnessed Voldemort saying to the Death Eaters, “I smell the stench of guilt in the air.” That’s the reproach of the child who wasn’t cared for by people who promised they would take care of him after he had been lost in the forest with no body, and his Death Eaters had sworn that they love him and they didn’t come look for him. Because Harry’s been dreaming that of Petunia, too. Petunia says the child has cursed us, which is completely backwards. Of course, when he’s been dreaming of them running away from the letters, Harry’s dreaming of the time that Petunia and Vernon and Dudley were running away from the letters, and Petunia says about Harry, the child has cursed us, and of course poor little Harry has done nothing of the sort. That’s her guilt talking. And Harry does the same thing to Scorpius, putting accusations on a child that has done nothing. Just that if you’re a guilty parent or adult caregiver who has not been fair to a child under your care, your fear of them will make you think that maybe they are cursing you, and that line from Voldemort saying that he smelt the stench of guilt connected to Draco saying Tom Riddle was a lonely child. It’s saying that, yeah, Voldemort had the same sensation of being angry at people who were not providing the care that he needed, even if they weren’t the appropriate people to provide it.

Sarah: This makes me feel like I can 1) never have kids…

Grace: Yes.

Sarah: And 2) maybe I’m going to start a club.

Grace: A club?

Sarah: A Death Eaters club.

Grace: Oh, god. Sarah!

Sarah: I can’t do that. I’m a Gryffindor.

Grace: Well, so is Wormtail, so… you could be. You could.

Sarah: Don’t compare me to Wormtail. He’s the WORST.

Grace: Let’s go back to that passage. There’s a lot in that tiny part, we’re talking about friendship, we’re talking about Draco growing into someone more empathetic, we’re talking about lonely children and how Ginny can understand and maybe Harry can’t. There’s this key line about Bane talking about a black cloud over Albus. You have some very interesting theories on this, about what that represents.

Lorrie: When the kids and Delphi are trying to find the time turner in Hermione’s bookcase, there are two riddles, and one riddle says “Dementors”. The other riddle says “Shadow,” which makes me think that we’re supposed to understand this from the Carl Jung definition of “shadow”, which is the part of yourself that you’re so afraid of that you can’t be aware of it consciously, and it stays in your unconscious. And if it’s out of balance, you can behave in damaging ways based on that. That’s what’s happening–that’s the black cloud around Albus, that he’s being damaged by Harry’s shadow. Harry is acting out of things that he’s too scared to face. Usually Harry’s shadow is most easily understood to be Voldemort, the part of Harry that he’s afraid of, and he’s afraid that he really is Voldemort. For this play, by the end, when he’s able to transform into Voldemort knowing that he’ll be able to transform back, that’s the triumph of the play, that he’s been able to bring the fears out of his shadow unconsciousness into dealing with it consciously so that it can stop hurting Albus. But at the point when Bane is telling him that there’s a black cloud, it’s so much part of Harry’s shadow, it’s so impossible for him to deal with consciously that his identification of that black cloud is basically, “Anything but Harry Potter.” “What’s that black cloud? Is it werewolves? Trolls? I know, it’s Scorpius, son of Voldemort!” And McGonagall is horrified, Albus is horrified, Draco is bewildered and furious that he’s breaking up this friendship because Harry’s definition is, “Oh, the answer is anything but me.” 

Sarah: I’d love to read all your analysis of this book.

Lorrie: Meanwhile, while Harry’s fear– his shadow is Voldemort, so therefore we get all this “return of Voldemort,” which is that Harry is now scared again in a way he has not been afraid for 22 years. And that part of his psyche is gaining so much power that it’s becoming personified for him as Voldemort again. But meanwhile, my reading of Delphi is that she is Albus’s shadow. And by creating a character that is “Delphi,” that changes in her identity throughout the play according to what Albus happens to know or need to know at the time that he’s working things out, so that the final confrontation between Delphi and Voldemort is actually Albus being able to see what’s really going on emotionally between him and Harry — without having to force both of them to dredge it up into the consciousness and have a conversation that’s really too much to ask of real life human beings. Because the moment that Delphi appears, it comes right after the words “Fiction” and “sorry.” Albus, who is upset with his father, is overhearing Harry talking to Amos Diggory, and he overhears Harry lie, and Amos Diggory says, “You have a Time-Turner,” and Harry says, “Everything you’ve heard about that Time-Turner is a fiction. I’m sorry.” And the moment that Albus overhears that imperfect father say “fiction”, he creates fictions of his own, which are all the AUs that follow. The immediate line after that, Delphi appears. It’s not even that he meets her; she wasn’t there before and suddenly she appears. “Hi, I’m Delphini.” So this creature, this entity, Delphi, has several names: she has Delphi, she has Delphini Diggory, and she makes up some really half-assed story about how they made fun of her name Delphini Diggory at school, which is half-assed on purpose. Trying to tell us, okay, this story doesn’t match up, you’re supposed to think. And then she says, “Oh no, I never actually was at school.” All these things don’t match up. And she’s the Augurey. She has different names and identities based on what Albus is working through at the time, and at the time that she first appears, what he needs is somebody to be emotionally with him in grief and anger that his father isn’t having empathy for a father-child dynamic. At that point, as far as he’s concerned, Harry Potter is evil and a failure, and Delphi’s there going, “Ah, so you’re related to Harry Potter?” So that’s what he needs then, and then there’s a moment that I knew threw a lot of people. Suddenly in this play, Delphi has silvery blue hair and is a romance figure, and people were like, “That’s the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of! She’s a Mary Sue!”

Sarah: I don’t really know what that is, if I’m being honest. 

Grace: Mary Sue?

Sarah: I mean, a little bit, but from comics, right?

Lorrie: Or from fanfiction written by people who are working within a given universe but also fantasizing about themselves as the most attractive and unusual person in this universe, in their fiction.

Grace: Who did everything.

Lorrie: Yeah. And there is a general collective sense of embarrassment about this kind of character because many of us have this in our pasts and are a little bit embarrassed about this. And it has a bad reputation, and there’s a sexist connotation to putting down Mary Sues, too, because people will say, “Oh, fanfiction, it’s all about Mary Sues, it’s all about stupid teenage girls and their fantasies of themselves having silvery hair or whatever, or wings.”

Grace: That do everything. But then it’s like, Captain America does everything, but we don’t call him a Mary Sue.

Sarah: That’s actually just what I was thinking.

Lorrie: And then people are saying, Exactly what is Bruce Wayne?

Sarah: I don’t know. A tortured Mary Sue?

Lorrie: The whole fantasy of–

Grace: He’s rich and strong and smart and…

Lorrie: Yeah. And vulnerable. So this whole concept of a point-of-view character that is the most dominant new figure in a piece of fiction is called Mary Sue in a way that is sometimes sexist, and the silvery blue hair and the attractiveness and the romancing with Albus and Scorpius going, “Uh, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this.” That is sort of an indicator like, Okay, this is one of the things that Albus is working through. Because she’s not described as having silvery blue hair the whole time; she’s suddenly that.

Grace: That part was jarring.

Lorrie: It’s very odd. But then before that and after that, Albus isn’t needing that. The first thing we see is that she is the kind, loving caregiver of Amos Diggory who’s been wronged by Harry Potter, which is the first entry that Albus has into this story. Then near the end — so heartbreaking — we see this girl saying, “Voldemort, father, I’ve spent my entire life trying to be somebody that you could be proud of when you finally pay attention to me.”

Sarah: And it’s Harry Potter pretending to be Voldemort.

Lorrie: Exactly, and it’s Albus sustaining this character, Delphi.

Grace: Damn, that–ooooh. That hit me in the gut.

Lorrie: And the more Delphi goes to Harry and says, “Father, father, I want you to look at me as a child,” the more trouble Harry has maintaining the Voldemort form.

Grace: Damn.

Lorrie: Because what Delphi’s asking of him is not something that the actual Voldemort could have provided. That he can’t do this as Voldemort. That’s not who Voldemort was. 

Grace: Are there any other shadow storylines that you want to talk about in Cursed Child? Any other characters with shadows or plot points?

Lorrie: So there’s an AU is which Scorpius goes alone. 

Grace: There’s no Albus.

Lorrie: Which I’m thinking is because he has seen what Albus is doing with the AUs and seeing– they’ve had that argument where Scorpius says, “Oh, I’m angry at you, Albus. You think you’re the only one with father issues, you think your life is so shitty. Well, that’s very annoying, from my point of view.” 

Grace: Go, Scorpius, GO!

Sarah: Scorpius is my favorite character in this whole thing.

Lorrie: Except for the fact that Jack Thorne had authority to create an OC in Scorpius without the weight of having to match up with Rowling and the characters she created that people have loved for so long, and Scorpius is so much of a blank slate. He has some elements of Scorpius that he took from J.K. Rowling, but he had so much more leeway to create an original character — who is my favorite. He seems to be a runaway favorite with many people. I found it impossible not to love him.

Sarah: He’s just so earnest.

Lorrie: And he’s complex, and he’s very, very self-aware and obviously brilliant. And the fact that he enjoys being a dork and is unapologetic about it. So we have Scorpius and we see this little hint from Draco saying, “Scorpius is a follower, not a leader, no matter what I try to instill in him.” And we’re like, “Draco, what do you know about being a leader?” We had Lucius expect– we already see in Chamber of Secrets, in Borgin & Burkes, how hard it is for Draco to live up to Lucius’s expectations of him to waltz into Hogwarts and be top student, even though annoying Hermione Granger is getting favoritism. We know that Draco always wanted that, to live up to his father’s expectations.

Grace: Yeah, but even Lucius doesn’t even live up to that expectation.

Lorrie: Although Lucius has the kind of power and wealth that he thinks his son should be able to reproduce at Hogwarts, and it’s not working. So Draco is putting this very weird expectation on his child, completely inappropriate considering that the mom is sick and then dead, that they have just barely survived this war, that his kid is lonely, that his mom has to teach him songs and buy him candy. And in all of that, even knowing that Scorpius is his real self and trying to love Scorpius at the same time, trying to tell him he has to be a leader? That’s not a thing that humans do. He got that from his dad; there’s a kind of dad he thinks he’s supposed to be. And he’s upset with Scorpius for not being a leader. So we have that one AU where there’s no Albus, and it’s just Scorpius going to face Draco. So what is this father who wants him to be a leader? And then discovering, ‘Oh gosh, a world in which it makes sense for a Malfoy to be a leader is a whole different world.’ And he goes and he has that all by himself, and then he goes and re-meets with Albus.

Grace: This just sparked a thing in my brain. I love Scorpius, but I don’t necessarily see him as a Slytherin. He doesn’t seem like a Slytherin at the same time, going further. When I was at GeekyCon, someone was talking about the different houses and what they should do in life, and I only remember the Slytherin one because I’m a Slytherin, and he said, “Slytherins shouldn’t be the leader. That power corrupts you.” So is Scorpius — does he have Slytherin traits, but he’s using them responsibly? Say something! I’m just thinking, I’m just thinking through all of this while I say it. Please say stuff. Help me! 

Lorrie: Right after Scorpius and Draco have that conversation– that’s the conversation where Draco treats Scorpius the way he thinks he should. He’s physically punishing Scorpius. He drags Scorpius physically onto his desk. He‘s about to hit Scorpius, and then Scorpius brings up Astoria and says, “Mum always said you’re better than you let yourself think,” and that mention calms Draco and allows his sorrow to come out because he doesn’t want to be hurting Scorpius. Scorpius then says, “That’s not who we are. We shouldn’t be like this.” And then something comes into Draco’s face, and he looks at Scorpius and he says — really really super carefully, because Draco, he’s still a shill — he’s saying, “No, I didn’t do that Muggle killing, but I’m the one who’s going to have to answer for it.” And then he looks at Scorpius really carefully and says, “Whatever you doing, be careful.” And that’s a Slytherin thing, meaning ‘Know how to speak in allegory and know how to be subversive. Don’t be like poor Charity Burbage and say what you really think and then get killed for it. It’s too dangerous for that. Do this other thing. Be careful.’ That’s when we get Snape entering the narrative. Because it’s right after that that we get the Slytherin who shows how to be careful and to work toward that goal while not getting killed for it. 

Grace: And to do good in the world with your Slytherin traits.

Lorrie: Just to know how to do it. Draw on that ability, because Scorpius, he does. We see him going, “Uh, for Voldemort and valor, I guess.” It’s very tough for him to play along, but you see him making himself do it and understanding all the time, ‘Okay, so a world in which I can’t be friends with Albus Potter is a world in which he wasn’t born, is a world in which I could’ve been a leader. The Malfoys were leaders. Because this is the world and oh my god, this is really terrible,” and it makes him understand, “that’s what my dad grew up as. When my dad was my age, this is what he had to do, and who helped him.”

Grace: Actually, Scorpius has this scene that I wanted Albus to have. I just put that together. Scorpius has that. Damn.

Lorrie: What Harry was asking of Albus was not — this is part of the curse. It’s not appropriate and it’s not possible, but you can’t avoid it. Harry wants his child to understand and legitimize what he went through. “This is my blanket.”

Grace: Yeah, take this. Feel my suffering.

Lorrie: “This is my blanket. My mother, my dead mother, would’ve wanted you to have it,” and Albus is like, “I don’t even know how to deal with this. This is so disgusting; get me out of here! This is the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever experienced,” and Harry’s like, “No, don’t go!”

Sarah: He also gives James the Invisibility Cloak and–

Lorrie: And Lily gets what she wants.

Sarah: She gets fairy wings, so they get magical items, and he gets this crusty old blanket that is not magical. It has too much emotional significance, and he doesn’t necessarily understand the idea of non-magical luck, right?

Lorrie: He’s given Albus only what he, Harry himself, needs and nothing at all what Albus needs.

Grace: I was going to say, this shows how much I love you, but for Albus, it’s– this is you reaffirming how obsessed everyone is with your legacy and how obsessed you are with your legacy.

Lorrie: It’s like, You, young teenaged child, please help me, your father, get over some basic stuff, which is completely inappropriate and yet is something that happens. It’s the unavoidability of it and the horrible damage it does is the curse. Meanwhile, Albus quite rightly is like, “I’m not listening to a thing you have to say, because this is really bad and wrong.” So Scorpius and Draco can have that moment where Scorpius sees what his father went through because Scorpius has more support in his life to witness what his father went through. But for Albus, it’s much riskier because his fight originally was that Harry didn’t know how to appropriately express to Albus, “I wish you would understand what I went through.” What Albus gets instead is that he gets to watch the scene that his father wished people would understand about him, the original scene of Lily and James being murdered. So it’s not so much that Harry and Albus needed Albus to understand what Harry was like at thirteen or fifteen. They needed Albus to see why Harry is different from Albus’s generation, what caused it, and why Harry, at age 40, isn’t over it yet — because how do you get over it? And that you possibly can’t until you’re old enough to have your own children.

Grace: Can we bring it back to Snape?

Sarah: Sure. I think nobody in this room is ever going to say no to that.

Grace: Does anyone want to add anything? Do you want to talk about queerbaiting before we close up?

Sarah: Yeah, I do. I will say that I love this book. There was a ton of stuff there for me. I really loved the character of Scorpius. One of the things you had asked in your pre-show questions was why do so many people dislike it. That’s one of the things that I have seen around the interwebs, and something that I relate to as well. The whole time I was like, “oh, we’re going to get a gay romance. This is going to be, they’re going to wind up together. This is going to be great because it’s going to really validate the people who have shipped Harry and Draco and searched for themselves, and queer people who have searched for representation in this fandom, it just isn’t there in a very obvious way.” But I think that there are so many places that flirt with the idea of these characters being together that it was really disappointing to me that they opted not to validate that. I think that’s why a lot of queer people don’t like the book and I think it’s valid and real, and that’s my only real criticism of The Cursed Child.

Grace: I saw someone saying, “Well, we shouldn’t ship these characters together, it’s totally weird and creepy to ship children together.”

Sarah: WHUT?!

Grace: Yeah, so that was something I saw someone saying, and a bunch of people were like, “hey, listen, if your response is shipping these two characters together as queer, and you’re saying, ‘no, that’s crazy, they’re kids,” but then it’s okay for Scorpius to like Rose, that is why we have fanfiction. That is why queer people need to write fanfiction because they’re not represented and they need to feel like it somewhere. So if you’re like, “Oh no, you can’t possibly say that’s disgusting, they’re kids,” that’s kind of a problem here.

Sarah: I call malarkey.

Lorrie: I had a hard time seeing how it wasn’t romance, the way that Scorpius and Albus were written. While I can buy that maybe it wasn’t, some of the inclusion of attraction towards Rose and Delphi felt a little too close to compulsory heterosexuality for me. Because it’s not like we saw chemistry or anything based on the attraction we saw between the characters, whereas there was so much chemistry of a romantic or not-romantic sort between Albus and Scorpius. I don’t have any problem with them not being a romantic couple. It’s that — when we look at the areas where people are watching Rowling’s universe to see which fan emotions she’s responding to. Okay, we have Black Hermione, which is a really significant beginning. We don’t have any more queer characters than we did before, and it’s not that anyone has any responsibility to write anything but their own play. But because this was such a profound dynamic between those two kids, the context–the scenes where Scorpius was interested in Rose, I didn’t feel like they added anything. They kind of distracted me like, “Why is that there? Eh.” It wouldn’t have taken from the play to remove that element. 

Sarah: Yeah, I agree.

Grace: Do we have any theories on why they did that, or are we just going to leave it?

Lorrie: I don’t know, I wish they had done– eh, whatever. I wish Dumbledore had been canonically gay.

Grace: We talk about that sometimes. You can’t just say, “Oh this character is gay” after, just to get those queer points.

Lorrie: Wizarding population cannot be that much straighter than the Muggle population. On the other hand, the thing that I have to say is you take the writer as who they are. You can do your own story, you can write your own stories, you can read other authors. Is this a surprise coming from Rowling? No. Is it a surprise coming from Jack Thorne? Well, we didn’t know before. Kind of a bummer.

Grace: I guess you can’t force the author into doing what you want. That’s kind of the lesson of this whole thing.

Lorrie: This is their text. It’s not the only text.

Sarah: That’s why the Imperius curse doesn’t exist in real life.

Lorrie: But we know what’s like when people write under Imperius Curses, and it’s not good. People do get forced to write, and that is a real thing.

Grace: Like Donald Trump’s biography.

Sarah: Shut her down, shut her down!

Grace: I can’t go an episode without mentioning Donald Trump. I’m sorry! Okay, I guess I’m just going to wrap it up by talking about Snape in Cursed Child. For those of you who don’t know, Lorrie wrote this book called Snape: A Definitive Reading, so she’s an expert on Snape, and I want to talk about how you felt about the scene with Snape. Also about Professor Hermione.

Lorrie: Professor Hermione Snape was one of the funniest things. 

Sarah: Oh my god!

Lorrie: There were a lot of hints at people becoming Snape-like. There are hints of Albus responding to bullying by becoming more Snape-like. But then when Hermione shows up, and if you stripped away the dialogue tags and you asked somebody who was saying these words, the thing that was most Snape-like was when she accused–was it Albus or Scorpius? No, it was Albus– [Wrong again!  Scorpius! — LK] when she accuses a clearly unpopular child of having an imaginary friend. Completely uncalled for, more than mean. It also introduces the concept of imaginary friends, which is something that–I think it’s Delphi and Scorpius, that Delphi bonds with Scorpius over that later in one of her weird, fake, manipulative ways. I did always think that Hermione and Snape were written as characters very similarly to one another, and I did feel this — Yup. This is completely easy to see. Snape’s vindication in this play was one of the areas that I found to be least subtle. It reminded me of when, in Goblet of Fire, when J.K. Rowling had Viktor Krum pronounce Hermione’s name really deliberately because she was addressing in the text the fact that a lot of fans didn’t know how to say “Hermione.” So here, with the very deliberate explanation that was not allegorical at all, there was no subtlety to it; it’s a fantasy. Considering what Snape had to give up as he died, giving up any chance of knowing whether people would understand what he had done, this is one Time-Turner fantasy. Would it be a fantasy to go back in time and tell this person, “Yes, actually, we did find out what you did.” It’s this whole Eliza and Alexander Hamilton thing like, “Okay, have I done enough? Guess what? You’re dead, but we know now.” I saw that sort of as a corrective, saying there’s been so much debate about the nature of Snape and this is something that they wanted to make clear, I think, the writing team. There is a correct reading, which is that he did do something really big, and he would be moved to know that he was appreciated.

Grace: And that he would do it again.

Lorrie: Yeah, and that he was only doing it for Lily up to a point. Most of the time he was doing it for Lily, but not all of it. Yeah, I think it was sort of a desire to say, No, there is actually a correct reading. Here it is.

Grace: I like when he jokes about not being married to Ron.

Lorrie: Oh, god, that’s another weird, almost shippy moment. We have almost Dramione, we have almost Draco/Ginny, and we have almost Snape/Hermione there. There’s some…

Grace: “At least I’m not married to…”

Lorrie: Because clearly, if it was only the three of them working underground for all this time, then the intellectual companionship, it wouldn’t have been Ron. Not the way he’s being portrayed here.

Sarah: No. He has spiked hair. He’s bad at being a rebel!

Lorrie: Yeah. 

Grace: Okay, well.

Sarah: So many feels.

Grace: Yeah, I teared up a couple times in the conversation. 

Sarah: My mascara’s gone.

Grace: I guess for anyone listening to it, we’d love to hear what you thought of the book. After listening to the episode, which will be what’s happening if you hear me saying these words. Let us know what you think, and let us know if this discussion changed any of your perspective or not.



What’s Canon? What’s Real? A Quick Guide to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Delivered at the Harry Potter Conference at Chestnut Hill College, October 21, 2016.  It is incomplete, designed to fit into a 20-minute conference slot, but there will be plenty more to discuss along these lines, including Ron’s characterization as a Jungian trickster and the way Draco’s love for Astoria continues to strengthen him, as Snape was fortified by his love for Lily.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  For almost three months, we’ve been asking ourselves:  Do we like it?  Does it make sense?  Is it canon?

On my first read, I kept in mind that it was a play and I was missing the acting, the effects, the music.  This approach ended up undermining my ability to get to know the story – it introduced so much distrust of the words on the page.  The second time, I decided to stop worrying about that and read it as a straightforward story, asking a lot of the text, focusing on word choice, clues, repeated themes.  To my surprise, I found a way to read it that makes sense of the entire play to me, that unifies the wilder aspects of it, and that makes this play canon for me, absolutely and gloriously the eighth Harry Potter story.

For me, there are three main questions in the Harry Potter series:

  1. Why would anyone try to kill a baby?
  2. Why did this attempt fail?
  3. Can the community, the village, get this baby safely to adulthood with roughly the same chances at life that his peers can expect?

The first seven books explored that question and concluded, “All was well.”  What did that mean, “all”?  Certainly not that the wizarding world was free of evil.  But this one victim of a tyrant, through enormous collective effort, survived to achieve the unremarkable adulthood of his dreams, with a partner and children and ordinary struggles.

The eighth story of the series, for me, explores the question:  “Whatever happened to that baby?”  Well, he’s 40 years old now, and he has three kids.  So, how’s that going?  In most areas, it’s going well.  But in a few areas, the story isn’t over yet.

For many readers, our initial question about Cursed Child was:  “How will this mesh with preexisting canon?”  Three elements stuck out to me from my initial read:  Cedric Diggory becoming a Death Eater; Delphi being described, near the end of the third act, as having silver-blue hair; and Voldemort having a biological daughter.

Cedric:  the least likely personality ever to become a Death Eater.  Silver-blue hair:  a signifier of a Mary Sue, a generally disrespected fanfiction trope in which writers introduce an original character, often a stand-in for themselves, with fantasy appearance and greater powers than the characters of the source material.  Voldemort reproducing:  this raises all sorts of questions.  Hagrid once said, accurately, that Voldemort didn’t even have enough human in him left to die.  Could someone who subsisted on unicorn blood and snake venom father a child, even if he wanted to?

On my second read, I looked for something to explain these elements and found them in the riddles from Hermione’s bookshelf at the end of Act One.  The first two answers are familiar words, “dementors” and “Voldemort.”  The third riddle introduces a new key word:

I am the creature you have not seen.

I am you. I am me. The echo unforeseen.

Sometimes in front, sometimes behind,

A constant companion, for we are entwined.

In 1938, psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.  If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it.  Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications.  But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”

In books one through seven, Harry’s shadow self can be characterized as Voldemort, and his struggle is to differentiate between his true self, including dark impulses, and the unwelcome effects of Voldemort’s crimes against him.  He’s terrified of becoming Voldemort.

In Deathly Hallows, when Snape is containing the damage to Dumbledore’s hand, he says “it is the sort of curse that strengthens over time.”  In Cursed Child, Draco uses similar words about Astoria’s illness:  “An ancestor was cursed . . . it showed up in her. You know how these things can resurface after generations . . .”  This is characteristic of Dark Magic.  Through our shadow selves, the parts of ourselves we cannot consciously remedy, we are at risk of passing on our damage to our children.

Jung said that the less an individual is conscious of his shadow, “the blacker and denser it is.”  Harry’s fears form the “dangerous black cloud around Albus” reported by Bane the centaur.  The problem is that it is often too frightening to recognize our own shadows, so we project them onto others, as Jung wrote in 1945:  “A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbour.”  Thus, when Harry is panicked by the rift with Albus, he attributes this “dangerous black cloud” to the return of Voldemort, or giants, or werewolves, or hapless little Scorpius Malfoy.  His shadow self is in control, defining that “dangerous black cloud” as, basically, “anything in the world except Harry Potter.”

If Harry’s shadow is Voldemort, I’m reading Delphi as Albus’s shadow self.  Jung said a person’s shadow is “continually subjected to modifications.”  Delphi presents several mutually contradictory identities, from the Tonks-like nurse to the girl whose name was ridiculed in school to the girl who was too frail to go to school to the young woman with silvery-blue hair to the Augurey who can fly.  At the end of Act Three, after they’ve checked out Delphi’s background, Hermione says, “There’s no record of her.  She’s a shadow.”  Her story changes according to what others need her to be.

Delphi first appears immediately after Albus overhears Harry telling Amos Diggory that the Time-Turners were all destroyed:  “Whatever you’ve heard, the Theodore Nott story is a fiction, Amos, I’m sorry.”  The next word in the script is Delphi saying hello.

Albus hears the word “fiction” and begins constructing his own fictions – hypothetical alternate universes, or AUs – to work through his feelings about his father-son relationship.

Why does that particular comment have such an effect on Albus?

Harry lies that all the Time-Turners were destroyed because, in his survivor guilt, he wants to push away Amos Diggory.  But he refused a different father’s plea for a public statement that all the Time-Turners were destroyed, even though this would change the life of his own son’s only friend.  Albus is chilled by his father’s inability to do what is right, rather than what is easy, regarding a father’s love for his son.  Albus conceives of Delphi as a caretaker and comfort for Amos Diggory, as well as someone who sympathizes with Albus that “It’s tough to live with people stuck in the past” —  stuck being the operative word here, immobilized by unresolved issues.

The next day, Harry demonstrates his inadequacy with an intensely awkward failed attempt to connect with Albus.

He gives James Sirius the Invisibility Cloak – thanks to Sirius and Remus, Harry knows enough of his father to pass on something to his adventurous Gryffindor son.

He gives Lily Luna fairy wings – thanks to the memories of his mother from Snape, Harry knows how to parent a girl who loves to fly.

But when Albus has been ostracized as a “Slytherin squib,” he has needed daily comfort, reassurance, an effort from his father to draw him out.  When his friend Scorpius has been rumored to be the son of Voldemort, Draco – whose father, for better and for worse, did advocate for him – has asked Harry to shut down the rumors.

Parental comfort and advocacy are things Harry never received.  Outside of a few treasured moments with Sirius, he had no adults to advocate for him – not when he was rumored to be the heir of Slytherin, or to have gotten his name in the Goblet of Fire, or to be lying about the return of Voldemort.

What little Harry has had, he gives to Albus, unable to hear that this is not what he needs.  He comes with Albus to Platform 9 ¾ and he signs the Hogsmeade note.  He tells Albus to get friends like Ron and Hermione, ignoring Scorpius.  He gives the baby blanket and we see Albus’s disgust:  That old thing?  That’s not enough.  And we feel the heaviness:  No, it isn’t, is it.  That’s all Harry got, fifteen months of parental love, and everything he got, he will give to Albus.  He doesn’t know how to give what Albus needs; once again, he feels pain because of things that Voldemort has stolen from him.

The day after that, Albus jumps off the Hogwarts Express.  From that moment, I read the various AUs, with and without Delphi, as the imaginings of a 14-year-old boy as he grapples with his father’s inability to see him for himself.  Cedric Diggory becoming a Death Eater?  Only someone who never knew Cedric Diggory – the pure-hearted student we readers got to know through Harry’s story – could even think that was possible.  Only someone who didn’t live through a Death Eater regime could think that a farcical humiliation is what it takes to turn a loving, secure, well nurtured young adult into a Death Eater.  Delphi as a silver-haired attractive older girlfriend?  Let us give thanks that in the Muggle world, our 14-year-old concepts of the ideal girlfriend or boyfriend are not visible to all.  Voldemort and Bellatrix as…parents?  Every possible scenario delves into uncomfortable or improbable territory, but aside from that, Albus can picture a world in which Voldemort and Bellatrix had a child because he is innocent.  He has never met Voldemort; he doesn’t understand the depth of his inhumanity.  He doesn’t know, as we do, that Bellatrix said if she had sons, she would have sacrificed them to the Dark Lord.

It makes sense to me to see the absurdities in these alternate timelines as the kids’ imaginations.  Cedric blowing up like a balloon, Bathilda Bagshot’s conveniently unlocked front door, Ron’s clownishness.  But these premises get Albus to the conclusions he needs.  Eventually, he and Scorpius meet Cedric Diggory, and the stories they’ve always read about him become real to them:  Cedric’s goodness, the pity of his senseless death and Harry’s blamelessness.  Eventually, seeing an alternate Ron accept the dementor’s kiss, they understand that he fought life-or-death battles.  Eventually, they understand the terror of Harry’s childhood.

One time, Delphi appears without Albus present:  when Albus and Scorpius are separated, she “scurries in” to speak to Scorpius, even though, as she says, “technically – I shouldn’t be here” – she’s Albus’s shadow, after all, not his.  Scorpius can’t help speaking jealously, asking how many owls Albus has sent her.  But she also transforms to meet some of Scorpius’s needs, confiding that she was isolated as a child, like he was; that she prefers “not to be seen as a tragic case”; that at his age, she, too, wanted a friend “desperately” and made one up; that Albus needs him and they belong together.  Scorpius rejoins Albus and they return to the past so Scorpius can take a turn at understanding his father’s shadows.

In speaking to Harry, Draco reveals an expectation of Scorpius that can only serve to make Scorpius feel unseen:  “Scorpius is a follower, not a leader, despite everything I’ve tried to instill in him.”  Scorpius is being scapegoated as the son of Voldemort.  To be disappointed in him for not being a leader makes no sense – it’s a Malfoy identity that’s stuck in the past.

Following Albus’s example, Scorpius travels to the past to understand a world in which Malfoys are leaders.  He emerges to be scolded by Professor Umbridge for upsetting the dementors on “Voldemort Day” – another comical scenario that makes sense when we think it was authored by a fourteen-year-old boy, especially this one.  Draco is a bureaucrat in the totalitarian Ministry, treating Scorpius coldly until they speak of Draco’s love for his late wife, after which Draco says, in careful doublespeak, “Whatever you’re doing – do it safely.  I can’t lose you too.”

Scorpius understands more, then, about how guarded Draco had to be as a young Death Eater.  At this point, his imagination leads him to Snape, the Slytherin mentor who taught Draco how to walk this line, how to protect the lives of his loved ones while speaking the party line – by drawing strength from thoughts of those he wants to protect.

Scorpius’s conversation with Snape shows one of the major wish fulfillment reasons why Potterverse characters crave Time-Turners:  to give posthumous thanks or apology.  Scorpius gets to deliver the tribute that Snape never heard:  that Harry Potter considered him “the bravest man he’d ever met.”  Scorpius doesn’t include Harry’s qualifier, “probably” – a Malfoy would have a different perspective on Snape, after all he did for that family.  Snape tells Scorpius that Death Eater “Cedric Diggory killed only one wizard and not a significant one – Neville Longbottom.”  The reminder of Neville’s role gives Scorpius a luminous alternative to the notion that being a “leader” is the only way to make a difference.

The Time-Turners in Cursed Child have frustrated some readers with what feel like inconsistent rules for time travel in Potterverse.  I found it helpful to read Time-Turners as allegory rather than science fiction.  In Prisoner of Azkaban, we saw Hermione use a Time-Turner under strict supervision, with two rules:  change nothing, and you must not be seen.  After a year of training, Dumbledore authorized her to be Harry’s time travel guide, the friend who would anchor him while he sought a different perspective on his own past.

Albus and Scorpius steal a Time-Turner and use it without supervision, with dangerous results.  Their goal, as they say to each other in second-year potions, is to “change everything,” rather than gain perspective.  They go back to meddle in the pasts of other people.  They are seen.  Their Time-Turner experience is nothing like Hermione’s.

A cardinal law of Potterverse is that super-magical objects must only be used to protect others, not for indulgence or personal gain.  When Draco appears with a more powerful Time-Turner, he is following the rules of Potterverse.  Draco longed to use his Time-Turner for one more minute with Astoria but resisted, proving himself a Master of Death.  He is right to produce it to connect with Scorpius and Albus.  For the boys to be freed of their fathers’ shadows, they will all need new perspectives on the past.

Albus, like Scorpius, needs to see the Augurey timeline, so Delphi reappears in her new identity as child of Voldemort, compelled by a prophecy.  Albus sees the constant threat Harry lived with as a child, feels protective toward his father, and sends Harry a message through their one point of connection, the blanket – a heartrending way for the story to show that sometimes, what little we can pass to our children is enough.  Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco accompany Harry to meet Albus and Scorpius.

Ginny understands what Delphi is in a way that Harry and Albus do not.  Albus says, “And she was – Voldemort’s daughter?”  Ginny does not answer yes or no.  The others think Delphi wants to return to the past to kill baby Harry, but Ginny realizes that Delphi wants to meet Voldemort and “be with him, the father she loves.”  Ron, ever the underrated strategist, suggests that Harry, Transfigured into Voldemort, lure Delphi where they can all “zap her together.”  Harry tells Delphi, “Come here, in the light, so I may examine what my blood made.”  Delphi says to Voldemort what Albus would find too painful to say to Harry:  “I have devoted my life to being a child you could be proud of.”

Hearing Delphi’s cry for parental love, Harry cannot maintain Voldemort’s form, and Delphi recognizes him.  She attacks with the cry, “Are you crawling away from me?  Harry Potter.  Hero of the wizarding world.  Crawling away like a rat.”  An unhappy teenage boy might well be this angry at a father who doesn’t have the guts to face his own child’s anger.  Delphi’s anger is stronger than Harry’s magic, but Harry overpowers her with the combined strength of all of his loved ones – showing Albus that even if he has doubts about Harry, he can trust in the faith that his mother, Hermione, Ron, and even Draco show in Harry.

Carl Jung wrote, “When we must deal with problems, we instinctively resist trying the way that leads through obscurity and darkness.  We wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness.  But to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer.”

When Albus sees that Harry has overcome his shadow self and taken on Voldemort’s form without fear, has brought Delphi’s murderous rage into the light and proven himself merciful, Albus no longer needs Delphi.

Earlier in the play, Draco told Harry that Tom Riddle was a lonely child and that he thinks Ginny understood that.  We see that on a subconscious level, Harry understands this, too, through his dreams of Aunt Petunia.  When he dreams of them running away from his Hogwarts letters, Petunia says, “The boy has cursed us!  This is all your fault.”  In a later dream, Petunia tells lies about James and Lily and Harry hears Voldemort’s voice:  “I smell guilt, there is a stench of guilt upon the air.”  This is what Voldemort said to his Death Eaters when he regained his body in Goblet of Fire, the rage of a child at the caretaker who has neglected him and then, guilty, cursed the child by projecting blame.

Enabled by Ginny, Albus, through Delphi, is able to express this rage to Harry as Voldemort, and still be loved.  Until baby Harry, Tom Riddle never encountered a power greater than his own infant rage, able to commit murder out of anger before he reached adulthood.  Harry has just given Albus what Tom Riddle never got.  This gives Albus the security to understand Harry’s effort in fighting through his own darkness to be a parent – the very thing Harry was hoping Albus would understand when he gave the gift of the blanket.  The use of a Time-Turner to witness Voldemort’s attack is an allegory to mean that Harry and Albus, anchored by friends, returned to the past to change nothing, just gain new perspective.  Once they witness what baby Harry survived, Delphi disappears:  “And slowly what was there is no longer there.”

For me, this sequence answers the question:  Did Harry Potter get a family who could understand what he went through?  For me, this is the eighth Harry Potter story, and it is absolutely canon.

The Trolley Witch! And pumpkin pasties.

This blog post contains mild spoilers for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide.

For those of us who have read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the trolley witch is both a familiar character and a new one.  We have seen her before and even heard her speak, but she’s never had a story before.  That’s exactly what Cursed Child addresses, presenting her as an archetype with motivation but without a name:  too old, too great, and too Other for a name.  Crone!  As old as time, of the same tribe as Augusta Longbottom, Griselda Marchbanks, Auntie Muriel, and — as we see from her Hecate-like ability to dispatch three cat Patronuses simultaneously — Minerva McGonagall.  With those spiky clawed hands, the trolley witch is a harpy as well — a bit like veela, but happily without the sexist implications.  More like Irma Pince, a minor deity with dominion over a specific magical site.

We learn in Cursed Child that the trolley witch was appointed by Ottaline Gambol, who was, according to Pottermore and Hogwarts:  A Complete and Unreliable Guide, a Minister for Magic.  A later Minister for Magic, Evangeline Orpington, completed the institution of the Hogwarts Express by building a concealed wizarding platform at King’s Cross Station.  This makes the Hogwarts Express the result of magical collaboration of a triumvirate of powerful witches.  Presumably, Ministers Orpington and Gambol have passed on — although the trolley witch frets about letting down Ottaline Gambol, so who knows?  But the trolley witch is going strong, enforcing crone authority upon successive generations of magical schoolchildren.

She says she’s made over six million pumpkin pasties with her own hands.  Over 190 years on the job, that comes to fewer than 100 pasties per day, an easily managed number even by Muggle production methods.  With magic, it should be no problem at all.

Pumpkin Pasties

Bake pumpkin pie filling in pie plates without crustaccording to label instructions.

Make 2 or 3 batches of pie crust (1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup unsalted butter kept very cold, pinch of salt, enough ice water to form ball of dough).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Roll out dough, cut into 3″ rounds, place teaspoonful of pumpkin pie filling into center, fold over into half-moons, crimp edges, pierce with fork.  Bake until browned.

(Yes, this is a very inexact recipe that makes all sorts of assumptions about prior experience on part of the baker.  It won’t come out even; there’ll be too much filling.  But by the time you’ve rolled out two or three crusts’ worth of pie dough and made it all into pumpkin pasties, you’ll be happy enough to decide that the leftover filling can just be eaten with a spoon, perhaps with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.)