Seven books. Eight films. Ten years. And now, one stage-play – a story meant for the next generation of Potter kids.
When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released, the same weekend I graduated from high school, I waited in line at midnight. And waited again, two years later, for Half-Blood Prince. But after the midnight release of Deathly Hallows, just prior to my final year of college, I started to close the Harry Potter chapter of my life. So when Scholastic released the script to the ‘8th Harry Potter story,’ nine years later, I didn’t rush to Amazon or my local book store. I waited. I forgot. I didn’t know if I wanted to read it at all. And then eventually, because friends wanted to talk about it, I cracked the spine on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
It’s an entertaining story, and undoubtedly a beautiful spectacle on the stage, but it reads like well-written fan fiction. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Canon – imitation at its finest, with Rowling‘s story, and Rowling’s approval, but not Rowling’s words. The text makes allowances for the format; the über-fan within me flinches at what the dramatist recognizes are necessary simplifications. There’s a distance between the characters and the reader that might be filled by actors, but for the majority who will never see the script brought to life, that distance blunts emotion.
I wanted to love Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I wanted to feel the thrill of returning to Hogwarts one more time, but Cursed Child left me feeling like Dobby had closed the barrier to Platform 9 3/4; instead of grabbing the train, I ran face-first into a brick wall.
Eventually I realized the unfortunate truth behind my lackluster reception of a new Harry Potter tale: we, the first Potter Generation, entered the Wizarding World too soon. This was our curse. We were the first, we were on the front lines, and while there wouldn’t be an empire without us, as the magic continued to grow and expand beyond those original pages – into theme parks, prequel films, a sequel on the stage – the time of wonder passed us by. Instead of waking up to a whole universe already spread before us, we lived through the exploration phase, the growing pains, the trials and contradictions. We spent years filling in the gaps for ourselves because we had no other alternatives. The thrill of making simultaneous discoveries with people all across the globe made it a phenomenon that still takes my breath away – but that journey came to an end, and no one can take the exact same journey twice.
It’s not that the magic is gone; I know it’s still out there – just not for me, not along this new path. As I reminisce, thousands of ten-year-olds are discovering Harry Potter for the first time – the Wizarding World is brand new to them, and already includes all these incredible additions. They’ll never know the fear that Rowling might not finish Book 7, or spend hours debating who will end up with whom. When they read Cursed Child or see it on stage, they won’t blink at the apparent contradictions to established canon or Word of God. They won’t need to devour the text for every scrap of information because there’s already a world beyond the page for them to enjoy.
I don’t want to be Snape, living in the past, bitter about experiences I’ll never have. I can and do enjoy these new pieces of the Potter universe, but it’s as if I’ve drawn out my memories of that magical time when I lived and breathed Harry Potter, when a series of books about a boy wizard changed my life, and placed them in a Pensieve to keep them perfectly preserved. As a result, I no longer need to know every minute fact about the Wizarding World the moment it comes to light, no longer feel that rush of unbridled excitement when another expansion is announced. Whenever I do want to return to Hogwarts, all I have to do is visit my Pensieve and I’m once again under Rowling’s spell.
After all this time? Always.