Harry Potter and the Middle-aged Man Who Deals With Runaway Sons

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Cursed Child is Rowling’s gift to all HP fans craving more of the wizarding world. But it’s a curse to those of us who wished to preserve Harry’s memory simply as the Boy Who Lived.

Quidditch. Platform 9¾. Polyjuice potion. Dumbledore. And, of course, Harry James Potter. They were all back. Counting down to the day of the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was both a curse and a blessing.

^ Remind you of the cover of one of the myriad fanfic you devoured to combat Harry Potter withdrawal after 2007? | Flickr / Tom Blunt

A blessing because that period of tense waiting, interspersed with giddy delight at the opportunity to delve into the universe once again, was something I never thought would happen again. When Rowling had decided to wind up the series with the fantastic Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I was left disappointed like millions of fans. It was the end of fantastic plotlines and beautiful writing. Or so we thought.

A curse (pun intended), for me personally, because we all knew that Harry was no longer the familiar endearingly conflicted teenager fighting He Who Must Not Be Named.

Even then, when nine years ago Rowling gave us a tantalising glimpse of Harry Potter and his mates as adults in the ‘19 years later’ chapter, I had not been able to swallow it. My teenage self could not come to terms with the fact that Harry Potter and his best friends were parents and sending their kids off to Hogwarts. Like regular people. Like muggles. Sure, they were still wizards capable of transfiguring and levitating things, but somehow seeing them in adulthood seemed to rob their personas of that innocent wonder we had always associated with them and loved them for.

Cursed Child has Rowling written all over the storyline. There are these nuances that only a writer like her can establish. What I loved about this book is that there are a few what-ifs tied up neatly. If perhaps a bit too neatly. The moments felt almost forced: having Snape as the antiheroic saviour; the Dumbledore-Harry conversations that veered into filial sentimentality. Granted, it is quite unfair to compare books with play scripts. But still, the fact that this is Rowling's brainchild raises the bar.

Your childhood hero has now morphed into an overworked Ministry of Magic official who has father-son issues. Harry Potter, the boy-wizard, is a father. It is quite discomfiting to see the Boy Who Lived turned into a man with a lot of skeletons in the closet and strained relations with his son. This is the same kind of strain the young Harry experienced with the older, more private, Dumbledore.

I remember my teenage self going gooey-eyed over all the romances in the Harry Potter books. And when you see him fighting mid-life crisis, I agree, it can be almost cathartic. Maybe wanting Harry to remain the same young soul is like an ostrich trying to blind itself to the real world. However, seeing the world you knew take on so many different realities in the span of a book was quite disorienting.

Reading a favourite childhood novel again and again is almost like revisiting your own life, so much so that we tend to associate instances, events and people with the books. These characters are not just made of words, but memories.

Reading Cursed Child will give every Harry Potter fan that wonderful feeling of nostalgic déjà vu. When Dumbledore walked into the portrait, when we read mentions of the Triwizard Tournament, when we know that all is well between Ron and Hermione, that inimitable sense of comfort seeps in.

But did the story have to continue? Sure, Rowling has scored yet again in one important factor: that magic or not, suffering is inescapable. But did we need another book, after all Harry’s escapades as a teenager, of his tribulations as an adult?

While certain books are timeless and will always be held close to the heart, the passage of time makes the experience of reading it somewhat different. Our adult experience tends to make us scoff at certain instances that, as young adults, we would not have. Maybe that’s why it is better to leave characters to age gracefully, in the readers’ heads. By putting it down in black and white, the magic of innocence is almost lost, like one of the ghosts in the Potter novels; there, but not fully there.

Of all the alternate twists that fans yearned for, Rowling disappointed many when she made Ron and Hermione a couple. I for one, have always batted for that couple. After reading Cursed Child, it was an I-told-you-so moment for me to hear a friend say that she actually understood now why the couple made sense.

Has Rowling changed her plot? Nope. But the world that, over the years, shaped the way we think, has changed enough to make us approach it differently nine years on. And this is why I did not want to know how the Harry Potter world was faring 19 years later. Because, the tale of the Boy Who Lived held a charm that is lost in the story of the Middle-aged Man Who Deals With Runaway Sons.

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