All was well. That was how my love story ended – three simple words. We had reached our happily ever after and it was difficult – people had died, some were hurt along the way and we had scars that would never leave us but the war was over, we may have been bloodied and bruised but together we had made it.
This is an ending to my story but like all endings, it is also a beginning.
As I stand in the Landmark bookstore in Forum, I think of another beginning – the first time we met, really met – twelve years ago. We didn’t get along then – something was wrong with our relationship but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was and so we decided to break up. The next time we talked I was sick and there was nobody else I could talk to. I frowned at the bookshelf, sighed, picked up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and tried to finish what I had started. This moment is yet another beginning – it was when we first started to fall in love.
When they heard about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Harry Potter fans all around the world cheered. I was not one of these people. I could not face another war – I had lost too much in the Battle of Hogwarts. And then there was the other problem, the one every next generation fanfiction reader was worried about – what if they got the next generation all wrong?
The ending of the seventh book had opened up so many possibilities. We had names, we had characters and we were going to use them to continue with our happily ever after. We were going to ship Scorpius and Rose. We were going to make James and Fred our trickster duo. We were going to make Albus Quidditch Captain.
As we wait for the book to come I talk to S about this – “If Scorpius dies I don’t know what I’m going to do,” I panic. “I’m sure he won’t die,” she rubs my shoulder comfortingly. When someone announces that the book has come most of us are standing in front of a replica of the Hogwarts castle. People scream and run. I tell myself not to and instead do a sort of half-jog, half-walk. Before we know it, we are all standing in a long queue wondering how and when it was formed. Then someone says, “There’s a counter in the sports department!” and I decide dignity can go to Azkaban – I already lost it in how excited I was while we were waiting. I run with everyone else.
While we stand in the line, wearing our Harry Potter t-shirts we discuss the play and how much we want it to come to India. One girl squeals “And it’s their birthday (Harry’s and J.K.Rowling’s) today,” to her friends. Everyone turns to look at her and her friends laugh. She shrugs her shoulders sheepishly, “They’re all Harry Potter fans too.” We smile at that.
As we see someone getting a book, we crane our necks to have a peek at it. The line moves forward and I think of another line I stood in, nine years ago – another beginning. Early in the morning, Mama, R, my grandfather and I got into a car and drove for three hours to Chennai so, while most people were still asleep, we were at the Landmark bookstore when it opened for the launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
When I get the Cursed Child, I fangirl over how beautiful it is – hardbound, with a gold cover and a picture of a child sitting in a nest, black wings on top – a picture that has been forwarded on WhatsApp groups and posted on Facebook walls.
S stands in line to buy another book and I read the first few pages. I frown at one point, when at Kings Cross Station, the dialogues in the play are attributed to different people than those in the book. Then I get to the part where we are introduced to Scorpius and I close the book, eyes wide. I can’t read this part in public, I need to be somewhere I can jump up and down. I’m smiling because I’m happy but my hands are cold because I’m terrified. I feel too much. If Ron was here I know what he would say, “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.”
I am out the whole day but I come back to Forum for the Harry Potter quiz in the evening. There are so many people and I do not intend to take part because this is yet another thing I am scared of but when they say “five minutes left for registration” I decide that I will never forgive myself if I don’t take part. The person before me is telling the organizers that he doesn’t have a teammate and they don’t seem to have a problem with this. At this point, I do something I would never have done if I had time to think – I ask him if he wants to be a team.
Long story short – we come second and it’s more than I could have dreamt of. Hermione may not be happy with second place but I am and when I get back to my pg I curl up in bed with my book and start to read. I read about Scorpius and love him to bits. I read about Rose and am disappointed. I read about Albus and have conflicted emotions.
At times, I feel like this is fanfiction except that some characters seem even more out of character than they do in fanfiction. At other times, I am convinced that this play used fanfiction as research material. At times, I’m irritated, yelling, “He would never do that!” and then five minutes later I’m exclaiming with joy. My roommates learn to ignore me.
When the big reveal comes I scream and sit up. “What? No! But oh my God! What! But wait what! Wow! But what?” For a while I say some incoherent nonsense. Then I realize that I have read this before in one fanfiction story. This leads to some more incoherent nonsense.
After I finish the book I do not know what to do with my life. I need to talk to someone but nobody has finished it yet so I sit quietly for a while. I hold the book to my heart. Then I frown at it. Then I hug my toy Hedwig and put her on top of the book. I think about the quiz and how for one answer they showed the clip from the movie where Snape hugs Lily. I remember people covering their faces and mouthing “Always” with Alan Rickman.
I write this wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt and my Harry Potter time turner necklace. I am listening to Going Back to Hogwarts from A Very Potter Musical and Hedwig sits on my copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that is right next to me. I think of yesterday’s beginning – of how I started the day by listening to Jon Cozart’s Harry Potter in 99 seconds as I ironed another Harry Potter t-shirt; of drinking water from my Harry Potter mug because I do not like milk in the morning but wanted to start the day with this mug.
One of the reasons I love being a part of any fandom is because of the fanwork that develops from it. Fans do not need the author to keep the work alive because for us the work is never dead. And yet, despite my love for fanwork, I have never felt that this has taken over the original story – I love both but the original series will always be the truth. Perhaps, that is why, at some points I feel so upset. If this is the eighth story, why are the characters so different? Why is the logic behind time travel completely different from what it was in the third book? And most importantly, why is Rose (one of my favourite next generation characters) so unbearably mean?
I go through phases. One moment, I’m happy. Then I’m sad. Then I’m irritated. Then I’m excited. I read some scenes of the book again but I do not reread it because while some parts thrill me, others make me irritated. When I started writing this, I was in my happy excited phase. I loved Scorpius Malfoy, I loved the humour and I loved that even though I usually do not enjoy reading scripts, I was not once bored. I did not mind this being officially part of the series because in my head the faults were still fixable and if no other fan was going to fix it, I would. Now, I’m back to my depressed phase.
I do not know when (and if) I will be able to decide for certain whether or not I like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. At the moment, I feel like this reads like fanfiction – good fanfiction but definitely not the best. A year from now, I may have found a way to accommodate the Cursed Child into my vision of the Harry Potter universe – maybe I will read fanfiction where Rose’s arrogance finally makes sense and maybe explanations for the time travel will pop up online. Sometimes fans can help fix what books get wrong. That’s a beginning to look forward to. Or maybe I will decide that The Cursed Child has too many flaws to be canon and instead decide that I finally own a book of fanfiction. Perhaps, that’s a beginning too.
All was well. That seems like a lie now. Then again, all will never be well when endings are also beginnings and maybe that’s what makes it interesting.