Albus Severus Potter

I  talk a lot about name meanings in Harry Potter, but I don’t usually focus much on the next generation kids, because most of their names are so obvious – particularly Harry’s children. However, it occurred to me earlier today that Albus Severus Potter, as portrayed in Cursed Child, actually has a lot in common with both of his namesakes.

Like Severus Snape, he …

  • Is a Slytherin
  • Has a childhood friendship with a girl named after a flower, which ends during their time at Hogwarts, at least partially because she does not approve of the people he chooses to be friends with
  • Is easily misled by someone with a connection to Voldemort
  • Plays a role in the fulfillment of a prophecy relating to Voldemort
  • Is a somewhat morally ambiguous character who ultimately chooses the side of good

Like Albus Dumbledore, he …

  • Is a misfit in his own family and does not always get along with them
  • Has a brother and sister who are closer to each other than to him
  • Makes friends with an unpopular classmate
  • Trusts a charming stranger with plans for world domination and gets sucked into their scheme, but later helps to stop them
  • Distrusts the Ministry of Magic, working behind their back even though they have the same goals
  • Wants to be seen as his own person, not his father’s son (for very different reasons)
  • Is highly ambitious, but craves recognition and respect rather than power

However, unlike Snape, he never truly gets involved with the Dark Side and is only tricked into helping with someone else’s evil scheme. He also never stops being a good person and is not cruel to others in the way that Snape was. He is able to reconcile with his family, whereas Dumbledore’s parents and sister died young and his brother never fully forgave him. He has a lot in common with them, but his story has a happier ending.


Resisting Dementors Without a Patronus

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry seems to struggle in Snape’s class despite having personally fought dark wizards and monsters many times and survived. He even expects to do poorly on a dementor essay, despite being able to cast the patronus charm:

Having wasted a lot of time worrying aloud about Apparition, Ron was now struggling to finish a viciously difficult essay for Snape that Harry and Hermione had already completed. Harry fully expected to receive low marks on his, because he had disagreed with Snape on the best way to tackle dementors, but he did not care … (page 448, American hardcover edition)

Does this make any sense? At first glance, no. After Harry learns the patronus charm in Prisoner of Azkaban, no alternative ways of fighting off dementors are ever presented. It’s obvious why Snape doesn’t want to teach his students to cast a patronus: his love for Lily is his most deeply-buried secret, and the form of his patronus makes it obvious. But if Harry could disagree with him on how best to deal with a dementor, there must be another method he prefers.

In fact, since very few dark wizards can cast a patronus, I think there must be another method that relies on something besides love and happiness. Voldemort forms an alliance with the dementors in Order of the Phoenix, and yet neither he nor any of his followers seem to be tormented by them. It’s true that the dementors are dark creatures, and the Death Eaters’ allies, but if bad people weren’t affected by them, Azkaban wouldn’t be the nightmare it’s portrayed as. Or at least, it would only be a nightmare for the innocent.

Still, there is one character who manages to stay sane through his years in Azkaban: Sirius. Near the end of Prisoner of Azkaban, he tells Harry: “I think the only reason I never lost my mind is that I knew I was innocent. That wasn’t a happy thought, so the dementors couldn’t suck it out of me … but it kept me sane and knowing who I am …”  Later, he describes that finding out Peter Pettigrew was at Hogwarts in his rat form “was as if someone had lit a fire in my head, and the dementors couldn’t destroy it … it wasn’t a happy feeling … it was an obsession … but it gave me strength, it cleared my mind” (371-372, paperback)

It cleared his mind? That sounds a lot like occlumency, which – as described by Snape in Order of the Phoenix – “seals the mind against magical intrusion and influence” (530, paperback). When Snape attempts to teach Harry occlumency, he continually tells him to clear his mind of emotion in order to shield it. Perhaps Snape’s way of dealing with dementors is to use something similar to occlumency against them, clearing his mind and focusing on something powerful yet not happy, much like Sirius did when he was in Azkaban. It wouldn’t do any good against the Dementor’s Kiss, but it could help against the misery they spread. And Harry, who never mastered occlumency, would certainly have disagreed that such a method was better than casting a patronus.

In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – SPOILER WARNING – Snape and Scorpius encounter dementors in the world ruled by Voldemort and get past them without ever casting a patronus. It makes sense that they can’t, since Snape’s would reveal his true loyalty and Scorpius has never learned how. And, of course, being who they are, casting a patronus would make them look suspicious rather than protecting them, something that is true of Snape throughout the Harry Potter books. However, the way the scene plays out is interesting: while Scorpius begins describing the effects of a dementor and hears his mother dying, Snape seems totally unaffected and tells Scorpius to “stay calm” and “think of something else”. “Think about why you’re doing this”.

SNAPE: Think about Albus. … All it takes is one person. I couldn’t save Harry for Lily. So now I give my allegiance to the cause she believed in. And it’s possible – that along the way I started believing in it myself.

SCORPIUS smiles at SNAPE. He steps decisively away from the dementor.

SCORPIUS: The world changes and we change with it. I am better off in this world. But the world is not better. I don’t want that. (141, Nook edition)

Like Sirius’ fixation with his innocence, these are not happy thoughts. Snape’s actions led to the death of the woman he loved, and in this timeline, he was also unable to save her son. Scorpius accidentally erased his best friend from existence and created a world like something out of a nightmare. Those are the kind of thoughts a dementor would remind you of, not ones they would drain away, and yet they would act as a sort of anchor to reality.

It would be easy to write off that scene as making no sense, because protecting yourself from a dementor without casting a patronus shouldn’t be possible. But it always has been possible. Sirius was able to retain his sanity and eventually escape from Azkaban by focusing on something that, while not happy, reminded him of who he was. Snape disagreed with Harry on how to deal with dementors, and presumably, that means he did have a different method that he considered effective enough to shield his mind from them. Could it have been something like what he and Scorpius do in Cursed Child? I don’t see why not.

The Sorting of Scorpius Malfoy

Warning: Cursed Child spoilers

I asked myself more than once when I was reading Cursed Child why Scorpius would be a Slytherin. And not because he’s a good person: I’ve thought for a long time that there must be more to Slytherin than just dark magic and evil schemes, and I love that Cursed Child explores a different side of it. It’s just that Scorpius is so obviously a Ravenclaw, and while I think he does have a Slytherin side, it’s subtler and takes a while to show itself.

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Wand of the Week: Albus Potter

Warning:  mild Cursed Child spoilers

By the end of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, both Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy have lost the wands that originally chose them when they were eleven. While this might seem to be just an obstacle for them to overcome, given the intensely personal nature of wands, I think it may be a representation of how much both of them change over the course of the play. Regardless, I can hardly pass up the opportunity to theorize about a character’s wands, so I’m doing Albus this week, Scorpius next week, and possibly Rose the week after.

I really like the idea of a pine wand for Albus:

The straight-grained pine wand always chooses an independent, individual master who may be perceived as a loner, intriguing and perhaps mysterious. Pine wands enjoy being used creatively, and unlike some others, will adapt unprotestingly to new methods and spells. Many wandmakers insist that pine wands are able to detect, and perform best for, owners who are destined for long lives, and I can confirm this in as much as I have never personally known the master of a pine wand to die young. The pine wand is one of those that is most sensitive to non-verbal magic.

Albus is certainly independent, often insisting that he and Scorpius take matters into their own hands, and a loner in that he is a misfit among his family and only has one close friend. He is also quite creative with his magic; for instance, at one point he decides that stupefy has been used to destroy time turners before and they should “do something new”. As for long life, it’s hard to predict that when he’s only fourteen, but he did survive an adventure as dangerous as some of Harry’s.

I also considered hawthorn, which “seems most at home with a conflicted nature, or with a witch or wizard passing through a period of turmoil”, but Albus’ period of turmoil seems to be nearing its end as the play winds down. I like the idea that he might have used a hawthorn wand during his first few years at Hogwarts, but switched to something more stable and confident after Cursed Child.

For the core, I would guess phoenix feather. Deep down, I think Albus and Harry have a lot in common, and phoenix wands – which are sometimes known to act of their own accord and contain the independence and detachment of the birds they come from – seem like as good a fit for Albus as for his father.

Nine Years Later: a Spoiler-Free Cursed Child Review

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child a few hours ago, and I loved it! No, it’s not quite as good as having a real 8th book, and it has a few flaws, but it captures the spirit of the Harry Potter books and feels like a true continuation.

The adult characters are spot-on: Harry is as wonderfully flawed as ever, and Ron and Hermione are true to who they’ve always been. Draco Malfoy is still an obnoxious brat but obviously cares very much about his son. Best of all is Ginny, who always seemed a bit two-dimensional in the movies but really comes to life in the play. She’s every bit as fierce, loving, and spirited as she was in the books, and often comes across as being the sanest one in the room.

The kids are a delight. I would have loved to see more of Rose Granger-Weasley, who is more of a supporting character, but I adored Albus and Scorpius. Albus Potter is impulsive and quick to anger, but basically just feels different from his family and wants to know that he is loved, no matter what. Scorpius Malfoy is a total nerd – which I mean in the best way possible – as well as having a very kind heart and wanting nothing to do with the dark arts. Are we sure he’s really a Malfoy? Yes, probably, but to say any more would be a spoiler. Their friendship is as strong as the original trio’s, and the fact that they are both outcasts just makes it more important.

Then there’s Delphi, who is pretty much a walking spoiler, so all I’m going to say about her is that you’ll probably have a strong reaction to her, be it positive or negative. I think the twist is very in line with some of Rowling’s previous ones, and was foreshadowed well without being blatantly obvious, but it’s a big one and might be difficult for some people to accept.

As I said, the story has its flaws. The biggest is the fact that it’s a play script, and unless it’s filmed, the vast majority of Harry Potter fans will never get to see it performed. Aside from that, there’s one particular detail – which I can’t share without giving away several major spoilers – that I just can’t see happening, ever, and goes pretty strongly against the way a character was portrayed in the original series. Another thing that got under my skin a bit was how common it’s become to say Voldemort’s name. No matter how much things have changed in nineteen years, I would have expected an elderly man like Amos Diggory to still go with “you-know-who”. In another bit that I can’t talk about without spoilers, the use of Voldemort’s name becomes especially out of place.

Yes, there are small pieces that don’t quite fit right. I think this is largely a product of the fact that Cursed Child was a collaboration. While Rowling was heavily involved in creating the story, it was Jack Thorne who wrote the script, and he would likely have been the one to decide small details like the ones I mentioned. He didn’t do a bad job, but no one knows Harry Potter inside and out like J.K. Rowling.

But I want to stress the fact that, overall, I enjoyed it. The characters are believable and easy to relate to. The story deals with parent/child relationships, friendship, loneliness, and the ways that the past affects the present, all things that feel like natural continuations of the original series. The plot itself is enjoyable, although I can’t say too much about it without spoilers, and the story has a good mix of humor and more serious moments. It’s not quite as good as the original seven books, but it’s a fun addition that really does take the reader back to the world of Hogwarts.