Love and Romance in The Cursed Child

Love and Romance in The Cursed Child

I had a beautiful dream to kick off my posts on this blog with a rare, untouched topic. But here I am writing about the latest addition to a hugely popular series everyone is giving their hot take on.

Confession: I read the synopsis of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child shortly after the play premiered. I was so bewildered by the rumored plot I had to check it out. I was mostly amused by what I found, whether or not it was true. However, I was left dreading one thing: development of a deep bond between Albus Severus and Scorpius, but pairing them each off with girls. Now that I have read the script, my worries have been proven true among other discomforts with how it handled love. So I had to put together these thoughts despite my noble dream.

Of course, the rest of this post will contain spoilers for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Love is a major theme of the seven main Harry Potter books, and it continues to be one in Cursed Child. As Dumbledore says, Harry is blinded by love for his son Albus. Too bad the writing of romantic relationships left a lot to be desired. Harry and Ginny emerged as the only likable couple, even though I wasn’t attached to them in the original books. Ginny mentions the moment Harry approached her as a friend when others wouldn’t after the events of Chamber of Secrets, which showed he cared for her. In turn, Ginny shows concern and patience to Harry in the present.

Cursed Child gives a name to Draco’s wife from the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, but she doesn’t actually appear. Astoria as a character only exists as part of Draco and Scorpius’ character development or plot points. Her marriage to Draco makes the old antagonist compassionate, her illness and childbirth build the mystery around Scorpius’ birth, and her death adds to the troubled life of Scorpius. This misogynistic trope of character development through a dead woman is getting old. Hermione and Ron’s relationship takes a different misogynistic turn. In the first alternate timeline Albus travels to, he finds that Hermione has become “mean” due to never marrying Ron. Meanwhile, Ron is happily married to Padma and has a son. A woman like Hermione is irrevocably connected to one man, but a man like Ron has other romantic options. Apparently marrying men makes women into loving wives, or else they end up cold and cruel. We’ve all seen It’s a Wonderful Life, we don’t need to experience this again. This soured me to Hermione and Ron’s relationship as a whole.

Ron himself became unlikable during his involvement in the strange relationship between Albus and Delphi. It’s not unusual for a 14 year old to develop a crush on a 20-something, but for some reason Ron takes it seriously by giving Albus a love potion and calling her his “girlfriend.” Maybe it’s supposed to be funny, but forcing an adult into loving a minor was just disturbingly irresponsible. (Why is Ron acting like an imitation of Fred and George anyway?) Albus’ one-sided crush is taken seriously as romantic, and Scorpius becomes jealous of losing his friend. In the play’s words, “Scorpius isn’t enjoying the Delphi-Albus double act.” Delphi even kisses Albus on his cheeks. In the same play where jealousy is such a romantic motivator that Ron’s lack of it led to Hermione and Ron not marrying each other, Scorpius’ jealousy goes nowhere romantic. Huh? This was when I started getting frustrated with the play. It’s not the only romantic implication in their relationship either, and it would be impossible to cover them all.

Albus and Scorpius undoubtedly have a deep love for each other. As Scorpius puts it, “if I had to choose a companion to be at the return of eternal darkness with, I’d choose you.” Their bond rings true, unlike the other relationships in the play. They become fast friends and the only comfort in each other’s lonely, difficult lives. Albus accepts Scorpius despite the rumors of him being Voldemort’s son, while Scorpius accepts Albus despite him being the black sheep of the Potter family. They talk each other down when the other gets upset. Based on my personal experience, it’s easy to imagine close friendships developing into romance. In fact I believe these are ideal foundations of a romance. Harry and Ginny’s romance sprouted from the moment he offered to play with her, after all. Why not Albus and Scorpius?

The play makes a point of how Albus and Scorpius never hugged until four years into their friendship. At first I considered that unrealistic, especially for people as close as them, but it makes sense in a culture where touch between men is stigmatized due to heterosexism. They hug more as the play goes on. It’s all the more reason to see the boys moving beyond heterosexist barriers as they grow closer and accept each other unconditionally. Unfortunately their families become uncomfortable with their relationship and forbid them from interacting, leaving them both “heartbroken.” How can I not be reminded of heterosexism?

Albus Severus carries the names of two men with troubled youths and tragic unrequited loves. Severus Snape was bullied by his peers and had a friend in his beloved Lily Potter, but his prejudice against muggleborns like her drove them apart. Albus Dumbledore found hope for the future with his friend and beloved Grindelwald researching the Deathly Hallows together, but they became enemies on opposite sides of a war. Dumbledore alludes to Grindelwald when he says “I have never loved without causing harm.” The play takes the sympathetic interpretation of Snape (which comes with its own issues) and runs with it in an alternate timeline where he aids Scorpius, motivated by his love for Lily.

The parallels between the boys and both Albus’ namesakes as social outcasts are right there. So who parallels Lily and Grindelwald as their love interests, where prejudice interfered in their relationships? Well, the possibility the play intended for them to be Delphi and Rose didn’t even occur to me until partway writing this post because their relationships with Albus and Scorpius respectively are so minor. They also don’t quite fit. Sure, Albus is betrayed by Delphi who turns out to be a Dark witch, like Grindelwald. But Albus and Delphi aren’t equals with an established friendship. Sure, Scorpius has feelings for someone who’s not a pureblood and dislikes him, like Lily. But again, they aren’t equals with an established friendship. Meanwhile Snape himself compares his love for Lily to the love between Scorpius and Albus when he instructs Scorpius to think of him against dementors. That’s a huge deal with the importance the Harry Potter series places on Snape’s love for Lily.

After exchanging a timeline with popularity and power for the original timeline to reunite with Albus, Scorpius confesses his feelings to Rose. Well then. I knew it was coming from reading the spoiler summary, but it disappointed me more than expected. Like Astoria, Rose mostly exists to aid Scorpius’ character arc. Scorpius confessing to her with gained confidence concludes his arc, which places Rose as merely a reward for his development. James similarly exists as a tool in Albus’ arc, but brotherhood isn’t used as a reward like her. Her own feelings are disregarded, as Scorpius becomes convinced she will warm up to him and return his feelings someday. I’m tired of misogynistic writing that portrays unwanted pursuit of women by men as romantic because the women will inevitably reciprocate. Without Rose’s side, this is not a love story. It even has the gall to end on a joke that Rose would be jealous seeing Scorpius hug Albus, as if they’re already dating and shoving the emotional importance of their hugs aside.

By pairing Scorpius with Rose, Albus is left with unrequited love the same as his namesakes. Where is the progress? Albus instead ends with the familial love of his father to conclude the tension between them. On one hand it’s comforting romance and family are given equal importance by the end, but it doesn’t sit right with me. Scorpius and Rose weren’t at the forefront of the story like Albus and Harry. Albus and Scorpius becoming a couple would leave no one out, on top of the love between father and son. A foundation of friendship and understanding shows more love than shallow misogyny.

Cursed Child retconned how “all was well” and Harry’s scar never hurt again in the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, but didn’t improve on the epilogue’s heteronormativity. It made the relationship between Albus and Scorpius bittersweet for me. I wish I could join in with fans declaring  it “so gay!” but I just can’t. Not out of an adherence to canon, but that bittersweetness and disappointment. Perhaps straight creators just don’t realize the romantic implications they give characters of the same gender due to heteronormativity, but it’s still frustrating. There’s barely good romance here at all! Well, I’m going to go back to my read through of Percy Jackson where I’ll find boys happily dating each other.

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