Twentieth Century History of Magic

Occasionally, when I go to History of Magic class in Hogwarts Mystery, this bit of dialogue comes up:


Ismelda wants to learn about the Wizarding War for all the wrong reasons. She idolizes Voldemort and will almost certainly join the Death Eaters when he returns. However, she brings up an interesting point. Professor Binns seems largely unaware of anything that happened after his death. There’s not even any mention of the war against Grindelwald being taught in History of Magic, much less even more recent events. History is added to all the time, and aside from being taught in a boring way, it seems like History of Magic is decades if not centuries out of date.

When will the war against Voldemort be added to the curriculum? Is it being taught nineteen years later? The kids in Cursed Child seem very familiar with recent wizarding history, but then, Scorpius is a history buff who geeks out over seeing Bathilda Bagshot in person, and Albus is Harry Potter’s son. The fact that they know who Cedric Diggory was and all about Voldemort’s attempt to kill baby Harry is not evidence that any 20th century magical history is actually being taught at Hogwarts.

Really, Hogwarts needs a new History of Magic teacher, and I think Scorpius would be a great one. Once he grows up, of course.

Unlike Professor Binns, who gives endless, monotone lectures and has his students memorize lists of names and dates, Scorpius brings an endless amount of enthusiasm to his study of history. He’s also kind and encouraging, the sort of person who, as a teacher, would be truly invested in his students’ success. He’s a shining example of a Slytherin with a moral compass, someone who could become Head of House and guide the next generation of Slytherins in a different direction. And he understands on a very personal level, having been to the alternate timeline where Voldemort won, just how important even the small details of history are, not to mention how relevant it all still is.  Given his obsession with history and his experiences in Cursed Child, he will almost certainly grow up to write history books, but I think he could be a great teacher as well. Maybe his Slytherin ambition, which is just beginning to surface at the end of the play, becomes a determination to replace Professor Binns and inspire an appreciation of history in Hogwarts students.

No Idea: A Cursed Child Poem

I was re-reading part of Cursed Child, and I came across this McGonagall quote that just bothers me to no end:

You are so young. (She looks at Harry, Draco, Ginny, and Hermione) You’re all so young. You have no idea how dark the wizarding wars got. You were – reckless – with the world that some people – some very dear friends of mine and yours – sacrificed a huge amount to create and sustain.

That’s always bothered me because it’s clear she’s speaking to the adults as well as the kids, and while they may have been infants during the first war, they not only lived through the second one, but came of age during it, fought in it, and lost loved ones to it. The events of the second wizarding war shaped their lives in an undeniable way, and it doesn’t really matter that they were young, because all four of them (aside from perhaps Ginny) lost what was left of their childhoods as a result of the war.

So, naturally, I had to write a poem.

You are young
And you have no idea
How dark the world was
When years of terror went on
With no end
And only the bravest dared to

No. You have no idea
What trials three children
On the run
Faced in a world ruled by

You have no idea
What it’s like to fight
And bleed
And watch friends die
In a losing battle
For a world that slips away
Again and again

You have no idea
What it’s like to kill or be killed
Fight or lose everything
In years that should be filled with
Laughter and

You have no idea
What it’s like to see
Darkness grow in the shadows
And rise up to consume

You have no idea
What it’s like to face death at

You have no idea
What it’s like to be old
And to see this fragile peace
Again and

You have no idea
What it’s like to be young
And to lose your childhood to

Wand of the Week: Scorpius Malfoy

Very mild Cursed Child spoilers

When I picked a wand for Albus, pine and phoenix feather jumped out at me, and likewise, consistent and faithful unicorn hair seems like an obvious choice for Scorpius. The fact that both of them would then have the same wand cores as their fathers, despite being quite different people, is an added bonus.

For the wood, I like the idea of Scorpius using a larch wand. Here’s what “Ollivander” has to say about it:

Strong, durable and warm in colour, larch has long been valued as an attractive and powerful wand wood. Its reputation for instilling courage and confidence in the user has ensured that demand has always outstripped supply. This much sought-after wand is, however, hard to please in the matter of ideal owners, and trickier to handle than many imagine. I find that it always creates wands of hidden talents and unexpected effects, which likewise describes the master who deserves it. It is often the case that the witch or wizard who belongs to the larch wand may never realise the full extent of their considerable talents until paired with it, but that they will then make an exceptional match.

“Hidden talents and unexpected effects” describes Scorpius pretty well. He is an unusual hero on many different levels, and takes a while to show what he’s really capable of. One of the best parts of Cursed Child is watching him grow from a timid, socially awkward child who certainly wasn’t eager for adventure, into a true hero. The larch wand’s description indicates someone who has the potential for courage and confidence, but needs a little help to grow into that potential, and that’s definitely Scorpius.

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.

Continue reading

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.