SPECIAL POST – Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
The first thing I should say is that this is not a review. I am not going over the play as a whole or addressing the quality. I am sure I will do that someday, but not today. Today is for my thoughts on two very specific subjects. The first is spoiler free, the second is not. The sections are clearly marked. Read on!
If you have not already done so, I would urge you to NOT read the spoilers, and to NOT read the play. Reading a script is a terrible substitute for seeing it on stage, and any serious Harry Potter fan (which I imagine you must be, if you are here reading this fanfiction review site) should see the play. If you really can’t financially, well, I guess go ahead and read it, but IT IS MEANT TO BE SEEN. You don’t read a description of the a beautiful painting and then say, ‘Meh, sounds familiar.’ Plays are a partially visual medium and the script cannot fully do it justice.
The reviews of those who have SEEN THE PLAY are five stars. Fans interviewed afterwards are crying with happiness and shining with delight. I’ve been very frustrated by the negative response to the play spoilers and script by those who have not even seen it yet! Too many people are all too happy to jump on the Internet Hate Bandwagon. It is a chance for delight. Why not allow yourself to be delighted? It is imperfect, absolutely, but there is a lot of good there, too. Take the good, hold it close to your heart, put it in your head-canon, and laugh off the rest. Don’t throw it all away because of a few bad (ADMITTEDLY, VERY BAD) ideas in the play.
As a long example: I am not a huge fan of Deathly Hallows. I thought delving into Dumbledore’s past when the Trio already had so much work to do was a bad idea. I thought introducing Hallows to hunt down when the Trio already had so much work to do was a bad idea. I thought Ron and Hermione were a terrible idea. I thought Tonks and Lupin were a terrible idea. I thought killing Lupin was WRONG, after all he’d been through. I thought having all of the Slytherins refuse to participate in the Final Battle was downright offensive. I thought ‘Draco disarmed Dumbledore and I disarmed Draco, therefore Voldemort dies’ was the very worst Voldemort-defeating plot device I had ever read. But we still found plenty of delight in Deathly Hallows, did we not? “Here Lies a Free Elf.” “I Open at the Close.” “Always.” This, from arguably her worst book.
Harry Potter has always been imperfect. JK has always been imperfect. This new play is no exception. There are wonderful moments in this play, too. Give it a chance. Open your heart to that old magic, and suspend your adulthood-induced cynicism, just for a few hours. Go see it.
SPOILERS AFTER LINE SPOILERS AFTER LINE SPOILERS AFTER LINE SPOILERS AFTER LINE
LONG THOUGHTS ON SPOILERY SUBJECT:
Soooo….can we talk about how JK Rowling seems to have joined our ship? I could not BELIEVE what I was reading. I actually have not read the full play, but I have read all of the spoilers, read dozens of reviews, watched all of my friends react on social media, scoured Twitter for more reactions, etc. I finally gave in and read one scene of the play when I kept reading (and having friends message me, independent of one another!) about SSHG undertones in that particular scene, and I couldn’t resist any longer.
That scene, read independently, is not so much Snape/Hermione subtext as it is a Snape/Hermione text. I’m exaggerating, but it really was shocking, wasn’t it? Let’s start with her calling Ron, ‘Weasley’ as she calls Snape, ‘Severus.’ Can you believe that?
If you’re reading these spoilers without any idea of what happens in the play, it’s a time-turner alternate reality where Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy (stupidly, and the play acknowledges their stupidity) go back to the past and try to save Cedric Diggory, but actually end up exploring a series of increasingly terrible alternate realities that they have to fix. In one of them, Snape, Hermione, Ron, and others are an underground resistance against a Voldemort-ruled Wizarding World. Hermione is gritty and war-weary, and seems to be very comfortable with Snape. Ahem, ‘Severus.’
Snape realizes that he is dead in the True Reality the boys have come from, and Hermione says, ‘I’m so sorry, Severus.’ In most fics, Snape asking Hermione to call him by his given name is a pretty significant moment that doesn’t occur until they have been friends for quite some time. He is so closed, and hates to give anything away. He values his walls and his privacy. Does JKR know this about her character, this tidbit that the fandom has extrapolated and accepted as canon? I don’t know, but it’s hard to imagine otherwise. Snape’s response to Hermione’s sympathy? A coy, “At least I’m not married to him [in the True Reality],” referring to Ron. Teasing ‘Witty Banter,’ that glorious and ever-present trope in good SSHG fanfiction, now canon.
Next, they argue about who should be the one to go with Scorpius Malfoy and help correct the future. It requires going out into the open in this dangerous Voldemort-ruled world where Hermione is a wanted fugitive and will surely be kissed by Dementors if ventures out of hiding. Snape speaks up against her leaving repeatedly, trying to keep her out of harm’s way, even though doing so would lessen the chance of the mission’s success. Is this normal Snape behavior? No. Is this Snape/Hermione behavior? YES.
I’m just going to quote the next bit here:
SNAPE: You’re risking everything —
HERMIONE: We get this right, Harry’s alive, Voldemort’s dead, and the Augurey is gone, for that no risk is too great. Though I am sorry what it will cost you.
SNAPE: Sometimes costs are made to be borne.
[The two look at each other, SNAPE nods, HERMIONE nods back, SNAPE’s face crumbles
I didn’t just quote Dumbledore, did I?
HERMIONE (with a smile): No, I’m pretty sure that’s pure Severus Snape.
You can still argue that it’s platonic, of course, and I wouldn’t fight you. In fan-fiction, this exchange would be quite tepid. But from JK Rowling’s pen? For these two characters? It’s downright intimate.
Yes, yes, handwave, she declares her love for Ron and dies kissing him in the next scene (I TOLD YOU, SPOILERS.) But JK Rowling and the co-writer must have had their lips quirk in amusement with the obvious SSHG references in the scene above. They couldn’t have missed it – it is there. They saw it, and they chose to leave it in.
Not convinced? Okay, that’s fine, because there is more. When they return to the True Reality at the end of the play, there are still some changes based on the metaphorical time-butterflies they stepped on in the past. One of those changes? Hermione is no longer happily married to Ron and Minister of Magic. She is a spinster and a professor; a downright dour, difficult, and even cruel professor at that. Sound familiar? It’s hard to dismiss the intimacy of the scene above, given the additional fact that Hermione becomes Snape at the end of the play.
I think what the authors were intending to do was to create a parallel between Ron and Hermione, and Lily and Snape. The parallel draws attention to the theme of diverging paths in life, and how those paths are affected by the ones we love (the major theme in ‘Wicked the Musical’ as well.) Snape could have been a ‘DH Epilogue Hermione’ if things had worked out with Lily. Perhaps he would have owned an apothecary, and they would have had children. But instead, two roads diverged and he was torn off course by his mistakes with Lily and his grief at losing her, and he became the Snape that we know. Similarly, in the play, Alternate Reality Hermione chooses not to have Ron in her life, and the roads diverged for her – she became the acerbic professor. Hermione could have been Snape. Snape could have been Hermione. The choices they made regarding the people in their lives could have caused them to switch places; friendship and love are that powerful. It’s a fitting theme for a play about alternate realities. Choices matter, people matter, Mudblood, Potions Master, mother, spinster, friendship, love, change. “It only takes one person,” a direct line from the play.
For me, the fact that the authors even attempted to draw such a parallel between Hermione and Snape is admitting that they have similarities and compatibility. I ‘canon ship’ Hermione and Snape as compatible minds, companions, research partners, and friends. I ‘wishful thinking ship’ them as romantic partners. I think Snape might have been too damaged by the events of his life to be interested in romance, and I think Hermione is too busy being fabulous and pursuing her projects to be bothered with romance. That seems to be almost exactly what is presented in Cursed Child, and I am so, so happy for it. I am certainly not arguing that JK ships Snape/Hermione, but I think there is a strong argument to be made that she acknowledges their compatibility and similarity. That is far more than I ever expected our little SS Prudence and Potions ship to receive. It’s a great day to ship SSHG. Thank you, JKR.
I cannot WAIT to see what the SSHG community does with Cursed Child. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.
Final note: The Ravenclaw in me can’t stand to leave this without a final note of clarity. Despite my positivity above, I do have problems with some of the plot points and some of the characterizations (including Snape and Hermione), and more, though I am still overall thrilled and excited to see the play. As I said above, Harry Potter has always been imperfect, and I think there is more good than there is bad. I will write a full review once I have seen it.