There are only two things that would get me, an almost 27-year-old woman in the ’burbs, to pull an all-nighter: Either my house is on fire, or I’m reading Harry Potter. (Mind you, only one of those activities is enjoyable.)
It’s been a little under 10 years since I first read Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows into the wee hours of the morning on July 21, 2007, and yet, I can still remember the way my face crumbled when Harry carved, “Here lies Dobby, a free elf,” into a stone by the sea. I remember how bittersweet it felt to finish it, knowing that it was the end of Harry’s magical journey — and in many ways, mine too. We were adults now, Harry and I, and nothing would ever be quite as simple as it was on Platform 9¾.
That is, until now.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the official eighth story in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter saga, has officially been released to the masses. The play, written by Jack Thorne and based on a story from Rowling and John Tiffany, picks up 19 years after the end of the Second Wizarding War and follows Harry’s young son, Albus Severus Potter, through his Hogwarts years. Although the production is currently running in London at the Palace Theatre, the script novelization was released today, July 31 — in honor of Harry Potter’s 36th birthday.
Needless to say, this is a big moment for Potterheads, and in the spirit of my undying love for this fandom, I’ll be reading Cursed Child in one sitting, updating you throughout the wee hours of the night/morning with each magical, soul-crushing moment. (Spoiler warning, obviously.)
12:01 A.M. — Happy Birthday, Harry
In order to properly capture the sheer magic of this event, I had to attend a midnight release party. For whatever reason, I chose the party that advertised alcoholic butterbeer and “birthdae” cake. This party just so happened to be in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. To pass the time, I decide to think up names to other wizarding establishments in Diagon Alley. For example, if there was a club, it would be called Accio. I’d imagine that you’d have to check your wands at the door, kinda like a coat check for wizards. I also discover three things about myself: One, I really dislike alcoholic butterbeer and would much prefer a cup of plain cream soda topped with whipped cream; two, there’s no greater feeling in the world than listening to “Hedwig’s Theme” (and surprisingly, Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money”) with a bunch of Potterheads; and three, I have never been happier to have a last name that starts with the letter B.
As the clock strikes midnight, they begin to hand out the first copies to people whose last names start with A through J. (Thank Merlin). If I’m going to finish this thing in one sitting, I need to get home — and since I don't have my Apparation license, Uber is the closest thing to magic we have in the Muggle world. Although, I’m a little bummed I didn’t get to try that birthdae cake.
1:52 A.M. — It Begins
Do you know how hard it is to sit in a car for an hour and not try to read this script? I have to stop myself from peeking because (A) it would make me nauseated, and (B) I didn’t want to spoil any of the surprises. But now it’s really all happening.
The very first scene is short, but one moment in particular made me tear up. When Harry, Ginny, and their three children — James, Albus, and Lily — reach Platform 9¾, Harry gives Albus the same advice Mrs. Weasley gave him all those years ago: “Best to do it at a run if you’re nervous.”
One page in, and I’m already an emotional wreck.
2:00 A.M. — Weasley Is Our King ... Of Telling Dad Jokes
I’ve had serious quarrels with friends over Ron. Some think he’s rather useless, but I believe there’s something remarkably unremarkable about him. He’s unabashedly average, and I love it. So it’s good to see that in his middle age, he has now perfected the art of telling lame dad jokes. An actual stage note from the second scene is, “It’s a lame trick. Everyone enjoys its lameness.” See? There’s something endearing about that.
2:12 A.M. — Introducing Scorpius Malfoy
Rose Granger-Weasley is kind of insufferable at this point. I get it. She’s supposed to be like Hermione in Sorcerer’s Stone, all ambition and no warmth. (And I think she’s slightly embarrassed of her dad.)
But it’s Scorpius Malfoy, the internet’s favorite addition to the Harry Potter universe, that I’m most intrigued by. “I mean — father-son issues, I have them,” he tells Albus. He’s wonderfully awkward. Not to mention, I love that Albus and Scorpius, like Harry and Ron before them, bonded over wizarding sweets.
2:30 A.M. — The Sorting Hat
Wow, that sorting did not go as I expected it to. This is definitely the first big shock of the play, and I don't want to spoil it completely, but it’s definitely the first in a series of moments that show us how different Albus is from his father.
2:43 A.M. — This Is 40
So far the most exciting thing we learn about Harry is that he's “off sugar.” Technically, he says, “We’re off sugar,” so I’m going to assume he's referring to his family. Sure, Harry was never the boy who could eat six Chocolate Frogs in one sitting (that was Ron), but he definitely loved his sweets. This is an odd development. Is this what adulthood is like?!
Meanwhile, it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that Harry, now the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, does not do his paperwork — and it drives Hermione Granger, Minster for Magic, crazy. This is such a nice, subtle reference to their days at Hogwarts.
3:07 A.M. — Fathers & Sons
I’m surprised by the lack of Hagrid. It seems slightly odd to me that there wouldn’t be at least one scene of Hagrid trying to befriend Albus, but alas, it seems like Albus has shut himself off from the other kids at Hogwarts. His only friend is Scorpius. (And it’s a truly delightful friendship.)
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that this is a story about fathers and sons. There’s a heartbreaking moment between Harry and Albus and an equally devastating scene with Amos Diggory. Even Draco, who was nothing but a selfish little troll at Hogwarts, just wants the best for his son, Scorpius — even if he has a funny way of showing. The Malfoys have never been good with showing their emotions.
3:20 A.M. — Polyjuice Comedy Hour
It’s never a good idea when someone breaks out the Polyjuice Potion. Seriously, every time Harry, Ron, and Hermione used it, something went horribly wrong. However, something about watching the Next Generation try their first dose of Polyjuice Potion makes me incredibly giddy. Also, these scenes are hilarious and feel like classic Potter material. At one point, Scorpius finds a talking book that speaks in riddles. (Scorpius is definitely the Hermione-Neville hybrid of the group.)
3:43 A.M. — Super Best Friends (And Maybe Something More!!)
Yeah, I’m definitely starting to ship Albus and Scorpius. All Scorp ever wanted was to go to Hogwarts and have a friend to “get up to mayhem with. Just like Harry Potter.” AND HE FOUND HIS SON. Sob.
Update: There’s literally a scene where they look at each other longingly — “one full of the guilt, the other full of pain” — from opposite staircases.
4:00 A.M. — Understanding Draco
Wow. I’m actually starting to empathize with Draco. All those years at Hogwarts he was completely alone. It wasn’t Harry’s fame and attention he was jealous of; he was jealous of his friends.
4:14 A.M. — The Times They Are A-Changin'
If I just turn off the logical part of my brain, all of this Time-Turner nonsense makes a whole lot of sense. By Part Two, it’s become clear that while Cursed Child may be the eighth story in the Harry Potter saga, it’s not really a new story. In fact, it relies heavily on the past. As Albus and Scorpius start to tinker with past events, their present becomes more and more grim. (Two words: Headmistress Umbridge.)
4:30 A.M. — I Love Scorpius
“It’s time that time-turning became a thing of the past.”
4:47 A.M. — The Heir of Voldemort
This twist is really wild — not because the idea of Voldemort having a child is riddikulus (though I do wonder how he was able to get it up), but because of how little I care. Every Harry Potter novel had a third-act twist, a game-changing reveal no one saw coming with a significant emotional payoff. My issue with this reveal in Cursed Child is that it involves a character we hardly know. It’s not like I wanted poor Scorpius to actually be Voldemort’s heir, but at least that would have been a more satisfying twist. Instead, old Voldy’s spawn is someone who’s completely disposable to the story.
Still, watching Albus and Scorpius rise to the challenge — the Chosen Ones, if you will — and save the day is really quite exhilarating. I can easily forgive Cursed Child for its weaker plots because it gave us a friendship as pure and effervescent as this.
4:53 A.M. — Daddy Issues
Harry is really working out some of his daddy issues with Dumbledore’s portrait right now, and it is uncomfortable. This is like angsty Order of the Phoenix Harry ALL OVER AGAIN.
5:00 A.M. — By Dumbledore
Everyone has begun to say “by Dumbledore!” a lot, and I kind of love it — really adds to the climactic tension.
5:12 A.M. — The End
Well, that was lovely. I remember when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was announced last year, and the question on everyone’s mind was, who is the cursed child? Now having read the story, the answer isn’t so definite. Harry. Albus. Draco. Scorpius. Cedric. Delphi. They were all cursed children in some way. Harry, the Chosen One, cursed by a prophecy that Voldemort deemed true, while Draco was cursed to be alone, without any real friends to bring him the only thing he ever wanted: happiness. Their sons, Albus and Scorpius, were both cursed by their family legacies — one of glory, the other of shame. Cedric was cursed the night he agreed to put his hand on the Triwizard Cup, and Delphi, the heir of Voldemort, was cursed the moment she was born.
But Cursed Child isn’t about rehashing old wounds; it’s about breaking the cycle from which they occur. Harry and Draco aren’t perfect fathers, but no one has ever been perfect in Rowling’s world. Even the Chosen One has flaws — and even the Scorpion can be a king.
(Aside: At the very end, we learn that Harry is afraid of pigeons, which strangely makes me like him more. To recap, 40-year-old Harry doesn’t eat sugar and he hates pigeons. What a time to be alive.)
6:00 P.M. — TL;DR
Now that I've had some time to think about Cursed Child (and a proper sleep), I wanted to address what I thought worked and what didn’t work so well in the script. To be completely honest, I think Cursed Child suffers from not being seen on the stage — and I sincerely hope that Potter fans from around the world will get a chance to see it as it’s intended. The stage directions are nothing short of mind-blowing, and I really can’t wait until I get a chance to see it for myself in October so that I know how the hell they pull all that off. The story, however, could use a bit of work.
But first, let’s talk about what worked:
1. Albus and Scorpius’s friendship: Cursed Child may have Harry’s name in the title, but this is very much Albus and Scorpius’s story. They are the heart and soul of Cursed Child. They’re two outcasts who happened to find one another on the Hogwarts Express, just as Harry and Ron did all those years ago. Yet there’s something about Albus and Scorp’s friendship that’s more emotionally engaging from the jump. These are two kids who need each other, and Thorne doesn’t let us forget that. It's rare to see a male friendship depicted so tenderly — and it’s a beautiful thing.
2. The Malfoys: Scorpius Malfoy is a damn treasure — delightfully awkward, innocent, and altogether hilarious. He’s by far the best new(ish) addition to the Potter mythos. But I didn’t expect myself to feel so many things for his father, Draco. Don’t get me wrong: Rowling did a fine job of demonstrating Draco’s angst and emotional turmoil in The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows. But like Severus Snape before him, I never felt that bad for Draco. He was still a terrible little git. And yet, Cursed Child does a brilliant job of making me empathize with Draco. He’s still not an incredibly warm person, but he loves his son — and he’d do anything for Scorpius. (And that hug nearly tore my heart out.)
3. Time travel: I’m certain not everyone will agree with me on this, but I love all of the time travel that goes down in Cursed Child. Yes, it’s a trope, but it’s a FUN trope. Plus, it allows us to witness previous events (in this case, the Triwizard Tournament) from different perspectives and see characters who have long been gone in the canon. I didn’t even mind that the Time-Turner logic was different. After all, it’s been 19 years; time travel was bound to get an upgrade.
4. Hermione and Ron: Love them or hate them, Ron and Hermione are still going strong 19 years later. Every Minister for Magic needs a lovable idiot by her side, and I quite enjoyed Ron’s lame dad jokes. (Although, he is a bit too bumbling in this story.) I especially enjoyed how affectionate Ron and Hermione are now, considering it took them SEVEN YEARS to snog.
What didn’t really work for me:
1. Delphi: Cursed Child definitely has a villain problem. Not only is the image of Lord Voldemort getting down and dirty with Bellatrix Lestrange just plain nasty, it also defies everything we ever thought we knew about the dark wizard formerly known as Tom Riddle. As Dumbledore told Harry multiple times, Voldemort didn’t believe in love. He never thought he needed it. While you definitely don’t need to be in love to have sex, it just doesn’t seem like something he would have wasted time doing. Everything Voldemort did, he did with a specific purpose in mind. And the Dark Lord didn’t need an heir; he planned to live forever.
According to Delphi herself, she was born in Malfoy Manor before the Battle of Hogwarts. The battle took place in May 1998, meaning that Delphi must have been conceived in late July or early August 1997 for this math to make sense. For context, this would have been around the Battle of the Seven Potters.
2. Cedric Diggory, Death Eater: As a proud Hufflepuff, I was not down with this unexpected revelation. When Albus and Scorpius create an alternate timeline after tinkering with the results of the Second Task, it’s revealed that following the humiliation of losing the task, Cedric became a Death Eater and joined the Dark Lord. Nope nope nope. This makes zero sense.
Cedric was brave and kind and fiercely loyal. He was both selfless and self-assured, as proven by his performance in the Triwizard Tournament. He was a true Hufflepuff — and I just don’t see how someone as just as Cedric becomes a Death Eater because he was laughed at by his peers. The Cedric we knew in The Goblet of Fire wouldn’t have cared one bit. Obviously, they needed to find a way to create a dark timeline — one where Voldemort’s ideology remains at large in the wizarding world — but this seemed like a reach that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. And it tarnished one of the only notable Hufflepuffs we have!!! Not cool.
3. The Trolley Witch: Since when was the Trolley Witch an indestructible Terminator? THE PUMPKIN PASTIES TRANSFORM INTO LEGIT BOMBS. How was this not explored in any of the previous stories? When the Dementors boarded the Hogwarts Express in The Prisoner of Azkaban, did the Trolley Witch take a few out with her pumpkin pasties? Like, WTF. Oh, and her hands can transform into “very sharp spikes” because that's useful, I guess.
Actually, on second thought, I kind of love the Trolley Witch because in my heart I AM THE TROLLEY WITCH. And I will fuck you up with my delicious pumpkin pasties if you jump off my train. Trolley Witch 2016.