Now that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been out for nearly a week, it seems that it’s finally safe to start discussing the plot. A number of the articles that I’ve read were written by people who were upset because so-and-so did such-and-such thing. Other people were upset because they had expected a different kind of story.
Honestly, as “done” and “fanfiction-y” as the play feels, I loved it. I got into Harry Potter when I was in high school; the same friend who made me want to read the books was the same friend who introduced me to fanfiction in 2009. It’s safe to say that at this point in 2016, I’ve spent a few hours reading Harry Potter.
If you’re not a member of a fandom, you might not know what fanfiction is. Essentially, people start asking themselves, “What if this happened?” or “What if someone was slightly different?” and start writing stories. A few examples might include Fred surviving the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry becoming pregnant with Draco’s child, and Hermione discovering that she’s the long-lost twin of one of her Slytherin classmates.
The first Harry Potter book came out in 1997, while the last novel about Harry was released in 2007. Fans have had 19 years to write stories about Harry Potter. They’ve known the names “Albus Severus Potter,” “Scorpius Malfoy,” and “Rose Weasley” for nine. At this point, it’s unlikely that any Harry Potter sequel or prequel that Rowling writes will have stories or plot details that no one has ever thought of before.
I think J.K. Rowling gave us a preposterous story because she wanted to show her readers that their fanfiction does not work in the world that exists in her mind.
If you haven’t finished reading the book yet, go back now, because there are spoilers ahead. If you want to read my previous Cursed Child post that doesn’t have spoilers, click here.
Here’s a list of plot elements that I’ve definitely read before in fanmade works:
- Albus Severus joins Slytherin and becomes best friends with Scorpius Malfoy- I’m guessing that this is a popular next-generation theme because everyone knows that Harry picked Gryffindor over Slytherin. In the Deathly Hallows epilogue, Albus is worried that he’ll end up in the “evil” house. Harry also gives Draco Malfoy a polite nod. Obviously, that means that the children of men who fought on opposing sides of a civil war are going to become best friends.
- Romance between Scorpius Malfoy and Rose [Granger-] Weasley blooms- This is definitely because Ron tells his daughter that her grandpa would never forgave her if she married a pureblood. It’s a joke, but he also threatens to disinherit his son if he gets sorted somewhere other than Gryffindor. Telling your kid not to do something is the best way to get them to do it. In the play, Rose wants nothing to do with Scorpius, but she seems to soften by the end, so maybe they will get together in the future.
- Time travel to prevent someone from dying- I don’t think I’ve read as many stories about preventing Cedric’s death, simply because 1) I’m more invested in preventing Fred’s death, and 2) his death is integral to the last three books. However, my personal disinterest in stories where someone stops Voldemort from “kill[ing] the spare” does not mean that they do not exist.
- Voldemort and Bellatrix have an affair- This was either implied in the books, or people just really like the idea of two evil people sleeping together.
- Voldemort has a child- Sometimes Hermione is the child of Voldemort. Sometimes it’s Ron or Ginny. And sometimes Voldemort adopts Harry. People really like the idea of Harry fighting an evil child.
- Viktor Krum and Hermione are meant to be- At the very least, he wasn’t just some passing guy. In the timeline where they do not date, Ron does not get jealous of his best friend’s relationship, and Hermione does not become the Minister for Magic. Hermione’s teenage relationships are somehow important to the future of the Wizarding World.
- Death Eaters try to resurrect Voldemort again- This is popular with next-generation fics. The nastiest Death Eaters are still upset that Voldemort is dead, so they meet in dark warehouses and alleys to plan ways to attack Muggleborn families. That’s kind of how the Second Wizarding War that Harry fought in was restarted.
- The kids travel back in time to their parents’ Hogwarts years and ruin everything- In another version, they go back to Lily and James’ time to meet the grandparents. I’m not sure if this is a popular time travel idea because of Back to the Future, but this is a thing.
Some plot elements I did not see coming. I didn’t expect Cedric to turn to Voldemort. I didn’t expect Albus to be an outcast. I didn’t expect Harry to helplessly watch his parents die. I never wanted Umbridge to come back.
Other elements make sense. The next generation would be the famous children of people who fought in a war. It makes sense that the Wizarding World would be suspicious of Draco Malfoy’s kid. It makes sense that Hermione would be at the top of the Ministry of Magic. It makes sense that Harry would still have nightmares.
Maybe you’re upset that Cedric was evil. Maybe you’re upset that Voldemort actually had a kid. Maybe you’re upset that Harry didn’t know how to communicate with his son.
Maybe Rowling genuinely thought that this would be a great next-generation story. Maybe she thought that we wanted Albus to travel back to the Triwizard Tournament. Maybe she thought that this was what we wanted.
I’m choosing to see Cursed Child as the official word on bad fanfiction. We wanted certain people to survive, so she demonstrated what would happen if we had our way with just one character. We suggested that “all was [not] well,” and she responded with an extreme. The story is ridiculous because she thinks our stories are ridiculous.
We asked for a sequel, and she gave us one that made us eat our words.
Three points to Rowling for the lesson on wish fulfillment.