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2 August 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: what it gets right (and wrong) about the Harry Potter world

Is the new Harry Potter play canon? Your ultimate, extremely geeky, points-based guide.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

It’s finally here! The script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the Harry Potter play showing now in London, was released this weekend to the delight of many fans. Advertised as “the eighth story”, the narrative promises to pick up where the books left off.

But how consistent is this new, co-authored story with J K Rowling’s original seven books? After seeing the play during its first performance, and rereading the script this weekend, I’ve compiled a Canon Index tracing the (in)consistencies between the characters and the magic of this latest instalment with the books we know and love. Points are calculated +/- 100 for constants in theme, character and the rules of the Wizarding World, and taken away for perceived contradictions, in order to help you decide – is this canon?

(A disclaimer: the wonderful thing about canons, is that you get decide for yourself what to include. Some will think this play is a true continuation of the Harry Potter series, some will decide it simply doesn’t count. That’s up to you. What follows is just one extremely biased girl’s utterly partial thoughts on where the play got it right – and where it got it wrong.)

Obviously, there are spoilers below. All of the spoilers.

If you haven’t seen or read the play, the general plot is as follows: Harry and Ginny’s son Albus Severus Potter goes to Hogwarts, along with Hermione and Ron’s daughter Rose Granger-Weasley, and Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius. Albus and Scorpius are both unpopular, and become best friends as a result. They meet Cedric Diggory’s cousin, Delphi Diggory, who persuades them to go back in time to save her cousin, using a Time-Turner. Every time they go back, the future is altered, and they end up bringing back Voldemort. Once they fix that mess, Delphi Diggory reveals herself as not actually Cedric’s cousin at all, but the daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix LeStrange. She takes Albus and Scorpius back in time again to the night of Harry’s parents’ death, where she hopes to stop Voldemort from killing Harry and thereby ensure his rise to power. So Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco go back in time too to stop her. Got it? Good.

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  • Is a concerned but hapless father. +42. Overall, I was very convinced by Dad Harry.
  • Avoids Amos Diggery. -7. Harry is far too noble for such things.
  • Fathers a very whiny child. +3.
  • Remains traumatised by his childhood into adulthood. +11, because, bloody hell, what a childhood.
  • Still quotes Dumbledore. +5. Nerd.
  • Alternative Universe (AU) Harry bans Albus from seeing his friend, instructs him to obey him, orders around his wife and is disrespectful to McGonagall. -6.
  • “GINNY: Voldemort had a daughter? HARRY: No, no, no. Not that. Anything but that.” Not judging people as good or evil based on their heritage is one of the series’s fundamental messages, but now Harry and Ginny are sure that a Dark Wizard having kids is bound to lead the entire earth to ruination and despair. -39. It’s like they didn’t even read the books they starred in.
  • Starts whining about how he shouldn’t have survived. +6. Classic Harry.

Canon Rating: +15


  • Is Minister for Magic. +47, because, duh.
  • Is black. +28. M’coll Stephen Bush said it best.
  • Nags and teases Harry about getting his paperwork done. +12.
  • Stereotypes swathes of beasts (trolls, giants, werewolves) as “allies of darkness”. -5. Hermione was all about ending discrimination against magical creatures and wouldn’t perpetuate it in her new post.
  • Sees more of her secretary than her husband. +3.
  • Is horrified when her husband turns up at her place of work. +6.
  • Is not familiar with Muggle law enforcement practices. -4. There’s no way Hermione wouldn’t have brushed up on this.
  • Has an office door that can be opened with alohamora. -3. Seeing as she had this spell mastered at 11, you’d think Hermione would use something stronger (or, in the interests of government transparency, nothing at all).
  • Owns a “weaponised” library. +5.
  • Calls men “a disease of the egg, the less fair of those who walk on two legs”. +8 for the casual misandry, even if I know in my heart Hermione is the kind of person who would never call any person “a disease of the egg”.
  • AU Hermione is a bitter, twisted, horrible, abusive teacher, all because she didn’t settle down with the boy she fancied in school? -31. Hermione is a deeply loving person who values other things in life as well as romantic relationships. Her character wouldn’t be utterly inverted just because she didn’t end up with Ron. It also seems hard to believe that Hermione going to the Yule Ball with Victor Krum is the most important event in bringing them together.
  • “Ethel. Cancel the Goblins.” +5.
  • “HERMIONE looks witheringly at RON.” +7.
  • To Delphi: “You’ll go to Azkaban. Same as your mother.” Can’t help but feel that a) Hermione might have dismantled the oppressive incarceration systems of the corrupt Wizarding World we remember from the series, b) she certainly wouldn’t gloat about it, and c) she would know better than to lump people in with crimes of their parents. -12.

Canon Rating: +65.


  • Confunds his examiner in order to pass a Muggle driving test. +3
  • Gives very ill-judged gifts. +6
  • Uses the phrase “droopy-drawers”. -3
  • “Nothing scares me. Apart from Mum.” You’re not fooling anyone, Weasley. -2.
  • Says to Hermione “You never really were one for popularity were you?” +2.
  • Doesn’t like his wife eating toffees. -4.
  • Is basically a totally doofus, played only for laughs. -9.
  • Says, “I am probably the most chilled out of all of us and… so maybe transfiguring into him – into the Dark Lord will do less damage to me than to any of you more – intense – people,” and the other characters agree. Um, have you met Ron?! He can’t even deal with spiders, and there was an entire plot throughout the seventh book about how he is far more emotionally volatile and sensitive to dark magic than Harry and Hermione – which leads to him abandoning his closest friends. Ron is not “chilled out”. -13.

Canon Rating: -20.


  • Doesn’t let her children, or her husband, eat sweets. -3. Ginny would sooner give up her broom than join the wellness brigade, plus sweet-selling runs in the family.
  • Thinks Dumbledore has said some strange things to children. +7, because Ginny has always spoken sense.
  • Is sports editor of the Daily Prophet. +10
  • On Delphi: “That’s what they’re good at Albus – catching innocents in their web.” Her use of the word they to refer to anyone related to Voldemort really jarred with me. Again – one of the main moral lessons of the series is that people are more than their families. -16.
  • Doesn’t get many lines. Boo. -3.

Canon Rating: -5.


  • Has renounced dark magic, but is still obsessed with the family name and wealth. +12. Draco always seemed confused.
  • Has a ponytail and is no longer balding. -4.
  • “I don’t care what you did or who you saved, you are a constant curse on my family, Harry Potter.” -3. Even Draco Malfoy has more depth and subtlety than this line. It is you who is the true – gasp – Cursed Child!!!
  • “Harry Potter is always where the action is at.” OMG Draco stop using his full name just pick one. -3
  • Talks openly to Harry about his feelings. Ok, so this is a play, and Draco has grown up, but still. -2.
  • “Is that a farmer’s market?!” On the play’s first performance, this was the biggest laugh of the night – but I am nothing if not a killjoy, and I don’t think Draco Malfoy would have a clue what this most Muggle of spectacles is, even if Godric’s Hollow has become less magical since we last saw it. -3.
  • “Hermione Granger, I’m being bossed around by Hermione Granger. And I’m mildly enjoying it.” Hermione/Draco gives me the shivers, but +1 for fan-baiting.

Canon Rating: -2.


  • Is sorted into Slytherin. +5! Clearly what was foreshadowed in the epilogue.
  • Ok, this is in no way a continuity issue, but Albus has an insane victim complex even though nothing bad has ever happened to him, so -23.
  • “I don’t think Voldemort is capable of having a kind son – and you’re kind, Scorpius. To the depths of your belly, to the tips of your fingers. I truly believe Voldemort – Voldemort couldn’t have a child like you.” -16. The idea that your genetics determine what kind of person you are is one that is repeatedly roundly rejected by the original book series. BADLY DONE, ALBUS. But Albus seems pretty stupid, so we could brush this line off as foolish. (I added back some points for the gayness of this dialogue, too.)
  • Again, it’s not an issue of continuity, but serious points for all the sexual vibes between Albus and Scorpius. I mean, “As pleasurable as it will be to hide in a hole with you for the next forty years…” is a great line. +40.

Canon Rating: n/a, but +3 in general.


  • We can’t really judge Scorpius on consistency either, seeing as he was in the books for half a second but +33, just for being the best character in this play. (As well as a sort of stand-in for the audience: geeky, magical history-obsessed, squee-ing over Batilda Bagshot, wary of all risky magic. He even calls Albus “the worst spoiler in the world” and says things like “By Dumbledore!”)
  • Isn’t keen on his dad but senses his underlying vulnerability. +5. Scorpius is all of us.
  • Is friends with Albus even though he’s the worst. -2.
  • “For obvious reasons, I’m not a massive fan of Time-Turners…” +6. Hard same, Scorpius.
  • To Albus: “If I had to choose a companion to be at the return of eternal darkness with, I’d choose you.” +16. So cute.
  • “Rose Granger-Weasley. I asked out Rose Granger-Weasley.” No. Scorpius is clearly into Albus. -4.

Canon rating: n/a, but +54 regardless – what a great character.


  • Has inherited the ambition and bossiness of her mother, but seemingly none of her insecurity – and perhaps some of Ron’s bluntness. She’s not that likeable, as she values popularity over genuine kindness, but it’s a pretty great portrait of a young woman who hasn’t ironed out some of the creases in her personality yet. +8, I liked her a lot.

Canon rating: n/a, but +8 for existing.

Cedric Diggory

  • Beloved Cedric, who showed no interest in actually winning The Triwizard Tournament, no desire to compete with Harry for women or glory, and helped his rival at every turn, becomes a Death Eater because he was temporarily transfigured into a big floating balloon. -39. This character deserved better than being discarded in the line, “Humiliating Cedric turned him into a very angry young man and then he became a Death Eater.”

Canon rating: -39. Respect the dead, guys.


  • AU Voldy, leader of the magical world, seems to instruct his citizens to celebrate “Voldemort Day” despite (in the books) encouraging his followers to fear his name and never speak it aloud. -14.
  • AU Voldemort also instructs his followers to chant the phrase “For Voldemort and Valour!” He didn’t like people using his name, and valour was positively discouraged under his reign in the original series. Voldemort is more a “fear and obsequiousness” kind of guy. -17.
  • Has a child. -51. Voldemort in the books had absolute and unwavering faith in his own immortality, so would see no need to procreate in order to secure an heir. His immediate blood relatives are nothing but shameful to him, and he is also portrayed as deeply uninterested in sex or human connection of any form. Why would he do this?!

Canon rating: -82.


  • Makes jokes like, “Well, at least I’m not married to him,” and “I didn’t just quote Dumbledore did I?” -12. Who are you and what have you done with Severus.
  • Responds well to a random teenager reciting all the intimate details of his personal life from memory and saying things like, “Do it for Lily”. -22.
  • Gives advice like “Think about those you love”. -8.
  • Talks openly about his feelings for Lily with a practical stranger. -19.
  • “Tell Albus Severus – I’m proud he carries my name!” -7.

Canon rating: -68. This guy is far too cheerful and open, especially for a Snape who lost and lives in a world of unending darkness.


  • Whether from his portrait or in dreams, Dumbledore speaks a lot more directly to Harry than he ever would in the series. -19.
  • Quotes himself. +12.

Canon rating: -7.

Professor Umbridge

  • Is content as Hogwarts Headmaster and doesn’t have a full-time government job murdering Muggle-borns. -3. (But only 3 because maybe Voldemort was just like, girl, bye, you’re so annoying.)

Canon Rating: -3.


  • Is a professor at Hogwarts. +8.
  • Doesn’t actually appear in this play. -6.

Canon Rating: +8 because it’s not Neville’s fault that I wish he was in this.

Professor McGonagall

  • Is still biased towards Gryffindor, over two decades after leaving her post as Head of House. +12
  • Still writes letters to Harry. +3
  • AU McGonagall follows orders from Harry Potter. -9.
  • When hearing that Voldemort had a daughter, responds with, “is she now in custody?” -11. Come on, guys!! You’re not even sure if she’s done anything yet!
  • “Your solidarity is admirable, but it doesn’t make your negligence negligible.” +5.

Canon Rating: 0. It averages out.

Aunt Petunia

  • In a dream, takes Harry to see his parents’ graves despite herself. +3.

Canon Rating: +3.

Delphi Diggory

  • Exists. -30. See “Voldemort” above.

Canon Rating: technically n/a.


  • Still dgaf about anything except Harry trespassing in the Forbidden Forest. +9.

Canon Rating:  +9.

Padma Patil

  • Is a raging bitch (in an alternate universe). -3.

Canon Rating: -3.

The Sorting Hat

  • Sings his songs in iambic tetrameter. -4 (He usually favours ballad metre.)

Canon Rating: -3.

The Trolley Witch

  • Is secretly some kind of videogame boss. -7.

Canon Rating: -7.

Moaning Myrtle

  • Has a full name: Myrtle Elizabeth Warren. Is this some sort of political satire? -2.
  • “Such a shame that the pretty one had to die.” +7.
  • “Hello, Harry. Hello, Draco. Have you been bad boys again?” +5.

Canon Rating: +10.

Upper Flagley

  • In this play name-checked as the location of St Oswald’s Home for Old Witches and Wizards. +3. Purely because it’s so nice to see this obscure wizarding village get a shout out.

Canon Rating: +3.

The Time-Turner

  • Functions in a completely different way in the play than it does in the book. It’s able to go back through time indefinitely and fundamentally alter the course of history. Vague nods to how this Time-Tuner is a different kind to the one in The Prisoner of Azkaban (Hermione: Look at it. It’s entirely different to the Time-Turner I had. / Harry: (dryly) Apparently wizardry has moved on since we were kids) or is somehow broken don’t do enough to justify how unlike time travel in the books time travel in this play is. -50
  • “The flaw in the Time-Turner, the five-minute rule.” The way this thing works changes every two seconds. -11.
  • They were supposedly all destroyed (which the play addresses) and at least extremely rare, yet every dark wizard and his mother seems to have one of these knocking about in the attic. -4.
  • “I was able to ask for help because I was in an alternate reality. We aren’t. We’re in the past.” WHO IS MAKING THESE RULES AND HOW DOES SCORPIUS KNOW WHAT THEY ARE?! -9.
  • “We’ll get a message to Dad. He’ll find a way to get back here. Even if he has to build a Time-Tuner himself.” Ok, Harry Potter has done some cool shit, but there is no way he could build a Time-Turner. -3.
  • Let’s just leave these thoughts from J K herself, here, too: “I went far too light-heartedly into the subject of time travel in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. While I do not regret it (Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my favourite books in the series), it opened up a vast number of problems for me, because after all, if wizards could go back and undo problems, where were my future plots? I solved the problem to my own satisfaction in stages. Firstly, I had Dumbledore and Hermione emphasise how dangerous it would be to be seen in the past, to remind the reader that there might be unforeseen and dangerous consequences as well as solutions in time travel. Secondly, I had Hermione give back the only Time-Turner ever to enter Hogwarts. Thirdly, I smashed all remaining Time-Turners during the battle in the Department of Mysteries, removing the possibility of reliving even short periods in the future. This is just one example of the ways in which, when writing fantasy novels, one must be careful what one invents. For every benefit, there is usually a drawback.”

Canon Rating: -77.

The Triwizard Tornament

  • Is cancelled because of Cedric’s death. -17. Since when has Hogwarts given a single fuck about student safety? This would never have happened under Dumbledore.

Canon Rating: -17.


  • One of the riskiest moves this play takes is altering the course of events on the most significant date of the series – the day of the first book’s opening: Halloween 1981, the night Harry’s parents died. In the original story, it begins as an average night in the dark times when Voldemort was gaining power, and Voldemort kills James and Lily as he would any other witch or wizard – but is suddenly vanquished when he tries to kill an unexceptional, innocent baby. In this version, adult Harry Potter, disguised as Voldemort, is present at his own survival, along with his wife, child, three friends and one of their children, and is fighting Voldemort’s time-travelling evil child. Together, they all watch Harry’s parents’ death. Some people will find this scene powerful. For me, it overcomplicated and undermined one of the foundation stones of the Harry Potter series: that on an ordinary night in an ordinary village, the greatest evil in the world could be defeated by innocence and love. We never really see the true horror of this night in the series, only glimpse it in memories, to see it here, shrowded in pomp and ceremony (“We’ll all witness it”), dilutes its significance. -65

Canon Rating: -65.

Spells and Potions

  • “Flipendo” is used as a genuine spell. As is “Depulso”. -19. There is a lot of video game influence in this play, which some fans will love. I did not.
  • Professor McGonagall’s comment that some Boomslang Skin has gone missing from the potions store is meant to signal that this is how Delphi, Albus and Scorpius got their hands on Polyjuice Potion – but it takes a month to make, and it’s unclear how they got hold of bits of Harry, Ron and Hermione. -3, but only 3, because it makes for a fun scene.
  • Everything else was fairly consistent? +17.

Canon Rating: -5.

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