After my first 30-hour shift on trauma surgery, I went straight to Chipotle and purchased my ebook over a well-earned dinner of sofritas and hot sauce. (Alas, the closest bookstore was over 20 minutes away from the hospital.) Sleep-deprived, exhausted, and ecstatic beyond measure, I postponed all of my studying commitments and delved into the story.
I was surprised by what I read, in more ways than one. The following unconventional review is the product of that surprise.
My first draft of this review, written in the cafeteria on scrap paper from my surgery schedule. (At the top left are my “notes” from earlier that day.) This sheet of paper brought forth some strange looks from my neighbors when I set it on the table during a Friday afternoon lecture. (“What the heck is that?“)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN HARRY AND ALBUS POTTER – A REVIEW OF CURSED CHILD, PLUS A BIT OF FANFICTION
Spoilers ahead, although this review might not make any sense if you haven’t read the script already.
See TL;DR at the end for my final comments on Cursed Child.
As the plumes of dark smoke cleared from the dining room, Harry lowered his wand. He gazed upon the mound of molten seaweed that oozed underneath Ginny’s spellbooks and toward his new packet of candles. He had been attempting to shape his creation into the outline of a double-tailed snake, but his culinary talents (or lack thereof) were leading him to a hair-scorching disaster. With luck, Harry hoped, Ginny would never find out; she was currently in London with Lily, preparing to see her off at the Hogwarts Express early tomorrow morning. Harry had gifted Lily something, too – an Extendible Handbag for 7th-year NEWT textbooks – but for this particular occasion, he was aiming for something more special.
Behind him, Harry heard footsteps coming down the stairs. He scrambled to wipe the green sludge off the table with the back of his hand (the sludge settled into a puddle on the seat of the chair, out of sight of the doorway) and stowed the candles in his back pocket.
“Dad? Dad, are you there? I want to show you something.”
Harry spun around, blocking the view of the dinner table, but all thoughts of Confunding Albus quickly dissolved. He couldn’t help smiling as he lay his eyes upon his son – outfitted in forest green dress robes, jet-black hair parted and combed, face and hands washed of all traces of flobberworm mucus and Wiggentree bark.
He had been speechless for too long, he knew, because the corner of Albus’ lip was twitching.
“You don’t need to look at me like that, you know,” said Albus, who was clearly trying not to laugh. “I’ll be okay.”
“I know,” said Harry. He blinked the pins and needles out of his eyes. “May I meet you upstairs?”
Albus scanned the room, gazing a little too long at one of the dining chairs before speaking. “It’s nothing important. I just thought you would like to read this – I found it in one of my drawers while I was packing.”
Albus went back up the stairs, and Harry was left in the vandalized dining room with a battered notebook in his hands. The cover was marked in fading blue ink.
THE CURSED CHILD
BY ALBUS S. POTTER
Four hours later, Harry climbed the stairs to Albus’ room. The walls had been stripped of Wiggenweld Potion flowcharts and Magical Remedies posters, and only the furniture remained. Albus sat up on his trunk as Harry entered.
“Did you read it?” Albus asked.
“Yeah.” Harry took a seat in the armchair by the window. “That was… entertaining, to say the least.”
“I wanted to talk to you about it, because – “ Albus cleared his throat. “I wrote it when I was younger, when I was fourteen. Back then, I desperately wanted to be a somebody in his own right. Like the Muggle scientist Irene Curie wasn’t simply the daughter of Marie Curie, she was Irene Curie the Nobel Prize-winning chemist. I got tired of being known as Harry Potter’s Slytherin Son. I wanted to be known as Albus Potter, His Own Person.”
Harry opened his mouth to speak, but Albus continued.
“You know what’s wrong with it, though? In the story, I go back in time and change the past – your past – with a Time Turner. But I was promoting myself to Hero Mode by planting myself in your story, a story where I didn’t belong under any circumstance. Even my childhood fantasies were defined by your legacy because I wanted nothing more in life than to be you. When I was ten, I daydreamed of being just as awesome as 11-year-old Harry Potter… I made up two villains, named Voldemorta and Voldemortia, and fantasized of how I would duel both of them singlehandedly with only the Flipendo spell. And then I turned twelve, and thirteen, and fourteen, and all I could think of was how you would have been dodging a dragon and diving in the lake and fighting Voldemort… and… I couldn’t take it anymore. If I hadn’t written it, I would have exploded. It was a little boy’s wish fulfillment.”
I spent countless weeks as a 7-year-old trying to Flipendo Voldemort in this scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Harry inhaled slowly. “I – I’m sorry, Albus. I’m – “
“Please don’t be sorry,” said Albus. “I didn’t appreciate the joy of everyday Hogwarts buffoonery when I was writing my story, and that’s part of why it fell so flat. I had a magnificent, normal childhood, and I would never change that even if I did find a Time Turner. Scorpius and I scored T’s in Divination class, scrubbed pots in detention with Filch, and planted Dungbombs next to James at the Gryffindor table during breakfast. Whenever I woke up screaming in the middle of the night, it was because I had spotted a spider on the ceiling, and not because I remembered my friends dying in the Battle of Hogwarts. Do you know how priceless that is?”
Harry smiled wryly. “I’m just glad that Voldemorta doesn’t exist.”
Albus shook his head. “You don’t need to bring Voldemort’s bloodline back to reintroduce evil to the world. You only need people like the wizards who followed Umbridge and persecuted Muggle-borns during Voldemort Year – normal people with prejudice lying dormant in their souls until the words of a well-publicized hatemonger reach their ears. And on the sidelines, you also need good people to stand back, do nothing, and insist that nothing can be done.”
Harry squeezed Albus’ hand. “Well, Albus,” he said, “I think you are your own person now.”
“I know,” said Albus, beaming. “I’ll be Healer Albus Potter, the first healer in the family. I’ll be a different kind of hero – not the kind who swoops down on a dragon to save his school from destruction, but the kind who devotes his life to changing others’ lives, one person at a time. I probably won’t ever be in the newspaper, or have my life story passed down in legends, but the magic of healing should be more than enough for me, don’t you think?”
“Yes,” said Harry. “I think you’ll be happy. And that’s all that matters.”
Outside the window, sunset had come and gone. It was almost time for Albus to Apparate to the harbor, where he would be taking a wizarding ship across the Atlantic to the Pukwudgie School of Medicine.
“Before I forget,” said Harry, drawing a long leather box out of his extendible pocket, “I was trying to make you a cake in the shape of a stethoscope, but even the Elder Wand wasn’t a match for my dismal baking skills – “
“So that’s why the kitchen smelled like Dungbombs,” said Albus.
“– with the help of the Elder Wand, though, my craftsmanship isn’t so bad,” continued Harry. “I made you this.”
Harry watched as Albus lifted the lid and found a wand made of willow bark, carved with the form of a serpent entwined along its shaft. Albus held the wand gingerly in his palm, and the bedroom glowed with a soft periwinkle light.
“A healing wand,” murmured Albus.
The Rod of Asclepius, symbol of medicine
“The Sorting Hat made a beautiful choice when he placed you in Slytherin,” said Harry. “Do you like it?”
Without warning, Albus threw himself into Harry’s arms. Harry fell back in his seat, and suddenly he was holding newborn Albus, gazing into the green eyes, his own green eyes, the microscopic fingers curled around his thumb, the chest rising and falling with the occasional hiccup, milk-stained lips twitching with blissful dreams, tufts of jet-black hair already gleaming with grease. He had whispered into his lap, Albus, you’re perfect, over and over again, for hours on end.
For now, Harry held nineteen-year-old Albus in his arms for a little while longer. He wished, more than ever, that he could turn back the years to Albus’ first time at Platform 9 ¾ and relive the journey all over again.
The Good: The raw, honest, touching relationship between Harry and Albus made The Cursed Child worth reading.
The Bad: The Time Turner plot mutilated the stories and characters we’ve known and loved for more than a decade.
The Ugly: The concept of Bellatrix having a child with Voldemort during Harry’s 7th year is an insult to the intelligence of readers everywhere.
My overall rating: 2 of 5 stars, 2 for the return to our beloved Hogwarts and 3 for the father-son relationship, -1 for the plot and -2 for the ludicrous resolution.