Warning: Spoilers Ahead.
I am part of a WhatsApp group called Fetishists and Chiddlers, that was started with the primary aim of sending everyone else Harry Potter trivia that hits you in the feels.
We also send each other pictures of cute baby animals, but most times the group is reserved for screenshots of all Harry Potter things that twist your stomach into a knot, like a post on Tumblr that says that once Lupin died and all the Marauders were gone, the Marauders Map cleared itself of its contents and chose to forever display the words ‘Mischief managed’.
Each of these messages begins with the announcement, “get ready for a sob fest,” and then we all send weeping emojis and yell at the person who sent us the screenshot because it’s all just too sad.
When Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released, our WhatsApp group came alive again. It has been nine years since the tension-inducing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with the not-so-beautiful epilogue released, and we were excited.
I finally bought a copy two days ago, after much waiting and longing, and staring at the bright cover that I didn’t particularly like.
I opened it immediately on the long auto ride home from work, sure that I would finish at least a hundred pages, but I didn’t. I shut it after I finished fifty. I disliked it immediately.
I didn’t want to dislike it — I tried very hard to tell myself that Draco’s funny, nerdy son Scorpius made up for everything terrible in the book, and that now I could ship him and Albus Severus, but this wasn’t enough to make up for its boring writing. It was just too unfamiliar reading it in the form of a play, and there were no descriptions of magic.
I’m told there were long lines outside Blossom Book House in Bangalore from very early in the morning on 31st July when the book came out, and this is probably the case in every major bookstore in every city.
I was 10 when I first began reading Harry Potter and like all its fans, have followed it through all these years. When Deathly Hallows first came out, I insisted that my mother take me to a book store early in the morning.
I had sat on the steps outside the book store and read. Then I read in the car on the way home, and I’m sure I read in the lift, before I collapsed on my bed with the book. But any small Harry Potter-related book, or interview with JK Rowling, has always led to an explosion of fans doing crazy things because the book has taken a life of its own outside of Rowling’s world.
This year, the book became my excuse to rush to a Harry Potter party at Lightroom, a children’s bookstore in Bangalore, on the evening of the book’s release. I wondered very fleetingly if I would be surrounded by children who looked at me strangely, before I decided that I was actually of the Harry Potter generation, so it didn’t matter.
It was beautiful: imagine walking through a curtain into a room full of children in black capes and long pointed hats, and seeing along the walls the seven Harry Potter books plus Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages, colouring books of magical creatures, an actual cupboard under the stairs, and a wall full of copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Across the room, a little boy who looked like he was six was wearing Harry’s round glasses, sitting on a stool reading Cursed Child while photographers happily took pictures of him. He was the only child I saw who opened the book at the party: it was as though the book was less important than being at the party and showing everyone just how much you knew about the books.
I just stared from the door until a woman walked up to me with the Sorting Hat and asked me to pick out a sticker from it that would sort me into my house. Later, I overheard a conversation a young 10-year-old girl was having with another girl she had just met, “My friend had a Harry Potter themed birthday, and her parents did this thing where they put a Sorting Hat on a chair, and it talked, because there was a recorder under it! Nobody knew what was happening,” she said.
I felt disgruntled, because nobody had any kind of Harry Potter party when I was younger. When an older-looking woman won the costume competition for dressing up as Professor Sprout with leaves in her hair, the girl whose friend had a Harry Potter birthday party looked most disappointed — she was in black school robes and a red tie, with a scar on her forehead.
In retrospect, I think this party made up for the book that seemed to ride too much on all its past (all the children in the book seem to have no part to their character that isn’t some imitation of their parents, or their parent’ friends).
I was angry because the book completely ignored Ron and Hermione’s child Rose, who I had been so excited to read about, and is instead full of preachy lessons of love, friendship, and parenthood stated too obviously.
At the party, every child who came forward to be sorted was terribly disappointed when they were sent to any house that wasn’t Gryffindor; children would giggle about anyone sorted into Hufflepuff, shrug about being in Ravenclaw, and moan when they were sent to Slytherin. Once we were all sorted (including the parents), we settled down to play Pictionary.
“We’re in Ravenclaw, of course we’ll win,” a girl whispered to me grinning confidently. A woman sitting next to me would yell across the room to her son (who was in Hufflepuff) every time we got a point, and he would roll his eyes. After this happened thrice, he yelled back to his mother, “Cedric Diggory was Hufflepuff!” and ignored her for the rest of the evening. Then I got more competitive in the quiz than I would like to admit, and we came close to winning our prize of ‘cockroach clusters’.
I wonder now if the children at the party went home and read Cursed Child and were as disappointed as I was. I couldn’t recognise Harry, Ron, Hermione or Ginny anymore. I wonder if they melted when Snape appeared, or got as frustrated with Dumbledore in this book as they used to earlier, but I felt like it didn’t do enough to keep readers feeling this way.
Then I remember that I have the party to remember about July 31st, instead of the book itself, and I’m happy again.
The Ladies Finger is a leading online feminist magazine.