The New Harry Potter Short Story: Love It Or Leave It Be?
Unless you have been living under a rock, you would know that J.K. Rowling, renowned author of the Harry Potter series, has recently pulled a Beyoncé by publishing a brand new short story on her website, Pottermore. The succinct piece revisits the wizarding world after the epilogue of the 7th and final novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and shows Harry Potter and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army as adults in their thirties. Delightfully delivered from the snarky perspective of gossip journalist Rita Skeeter, the story is written as part of the gossip column of the wizard tabloid The Daily Prophet following the coverage of the Quidditch World Cup (which is likely to be strategically timed with the Muggle World Cup in Brazil).
Rowling has written bits of new material for the Pottermore website. Notable pieces include the backstory of Professor McGonagall and Remus Lupin, for example. However, the reason why this story is particularly special is because it is the first time the author has written about the main characters since they waved goodbye to their children (and to a certain extent, our own childhoods) at King’s Cross Station in the Deathly Hallows epilogue. I must be honest. I absolutely adore the Harry Potter series, so when I heard the news I immediately logged on to my Pottermore account (yes, I still have one) to check it out. I loved every single word. From Harry Potter’s slowly greying hair to Hermione’s “meteoric rise” to Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, it was a chance to visit my childhood heroes one more time. On the cusp of adulthood myself, it was a brief chance to succumb to nostalgia in the best possible way.
However, there are others who feel that Rowling should have left it be. This even harks back to when the seventh book was just published, as I recall discussions with my peers about how the time-jump in the epilogue to adulthood could be seen as overly sentimental, or even pandering to the fandom’s demands. Do we actually need more detail than we already have? Rowling recently caused controversy by stating that she regrets the Hermione/Ron coupling and she should have written Harry and Hermione together instead. That certainly caused more outrage than it did joy. After all, was it really necessary to rock the boat? As a reader you form canonical images in your head, so Rowling’s statement would have been the worst form of betrayal for fans of the Hermione/Ron ‘ship’ (as the Internet would affectionately say).
The young adult writer John Green was once asked about what happened to his characters after the end of his novel The Fault in Our Stars. He flat out stated that he didn’t know. His view was that “any speculation on [his] part about the characters and events outside the text of the novel would be no more informed or authoritative than your speculation.” Therefore, if seen from this perspective, Rowling’s extension of this universe was gratuitous and unnecessary. Although I can completely see Green’s point, it is difficult to agree with him. I grew up with Harry Potter, suffered when he suffered, cried when he cried and celebrated when he finally defeated the Dark Lord. As a long-time fan of Harry Potter I can say with absolutely no ounce of objectivity that I was glad Rowling wrote this piece. I treated it as checking in with an old friend after some time apart rather than as a stand-alone piece of literature.
As Sirius Black once said, “the ones who love us never truly leave us”. And this is clearly so in this respect. Rowling has stated that she has “no plans” to write any more about the adult Harry, but I think our appetites have been sated… for now.