No shade to The Hunger Games or John Green, but no YA phenomenon is ever likely to recapture the sheer scope of the mid-aughts Harry Potter craze. With seven core books, multiple spin-offs, eight movies, an amusement park, and at least one more film written by J.K. Rowling herself, the Potter franchise is almost as impressive for its longevity as for its initial popularity. Part of the Harry Potter books’ long shelf life is thanks to Rowling’s impressive willingness to keep fans supplied with new information via the gradual rollout of fan site Pottermore. The updates are mostly tidbits of wizard history in the form of world-building details or character bios, but today Pottermore unveiled the mother lode: a 1,500-word update on Harry’s life, in the form of a delightfully passive-aggressive dispatch from gossip reporter and occasional beetle Rita Skeeter.
To view the story in full requires a Pottermore log-in, and even then, access isn’t guaranteed — the site predictably crashed almost instantly. The Internet always takes care of its own, however, so hats off to Tumblr user accioslothsplease for posting screenshots. Anyway, on to the close reading!
In a nod to a certain sporting event the rest of the world is still paying attention to, Skeeter’s column comes to us from the 2014 Quidditch World Cup. As obsessives already know, Harry Potter is set to turn 34 at the end of the month, putting us a few years shy of the only other insight Rowling’s given into the future of her protagonist: the 19-years-later epilogue to the original series, in which Harry (and his convincingly aged on-screen avatar) sends his son Albus Severus off to Hogwarts from Platform 9 3/4.
The original postscript, however, was a lot more… sentimental than the new story. Wrapping up a seven-volume global sensation is no small feat, but it’s safe to say few remember the books’ epilogue as their high point. It’s a misty-eyed look at the Potters’ and Weasley-Grangers’ (I have no idea if that’s canon or not, but in my head, there’s no way Hermione wouldn’t insist on hyphenating) happy family lives, a sudden reversal of the teenage angst that filled the second half of the series. On the first of my many reads, I remember thinking that the epilogue got the job done from a plot perspective, to say nothing of heading off readers’ rabid desire for a sequel.
But it was missing the conflict and humor that often made Harry Potter as much a triumph of tone as plot, perfectly capturing the psychology of ordinary teenagers even as Rowling wrote them into extraordinary situations. By the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, my peers and I — Potter‘s target demo—were just starting to age out of traditional children’s lit. I was headed into high school, and while the epilogue wasn’t exactly alienating, it did feel pitched to a reader who hadn’t grown up along with Harry.
Enter 2014-era Potter, where Rowling-as-Rita seems to grasp that readers who weren’t adults already as the books were coming out certainly are now. The ending is still happy, and all the news is good: Neville Longbottom teaches at Hogwarts, and soon his wife will too; Percy Weasley’s become the government bureaucrat he was always destined to be; and Ron now co-manages the family joke shop with George.
But the use of the borderline-libelous Skeeter as narrator means there’s plenty of room for humor as well. And the humor skews toward subjects it’s difficult to imagine in the original books, as with this bit of professional jealousy directed at Ginny:
The jury is still out as to whether she really had the talent or experience to be sent to the Quidditch World Cup (jury’s back in—no!!!), but let’s face it, when your last name is Potter, doors open, international sporting bodies bow and scrape, and Daily Prophet editors hand you plum assignments.
Or this wonderful nod to That Question:
After a meteoric rise to Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, [Hermione] is now tipped to go even higher within the Ministry, and is also mother to son, Hugo, and daughter, Rose. Does Hermione Granger prove that a witch really can have it all? (No—look at that hair.)
(Side note: since Harry’s an Auror, does that mean Hermione’s technically his boss? #leanin)
Or even Skeeter’s latest “scoop”:
…rumor has it that [Neville Longbottom's wife] Hannah has not only retrained as a Healer, but is applying for the job of Matron at Hogwarts. Idle gossip suggests that she and her husband both enjoy a little more of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky than most of us would expect from custodians of our children, but no doubt we all wish her the best of luck with her application.
The sideswipes at Harry’s appearance (“he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient twelve-year-old”) and allusions to teen romance (Teddy Lupin and Bill/Fleur’s daughter Victoire) remain, but the feeling that Rowling’s writing for an older or at least more age-diverse audience is distinct. Maybe it’s all the adult-mystery books “Robert Galbraith” is writing, or maybe it’s an intentional nod to how Harry’s readers have aged as he has. Either way, the World Cup post is a welcome supplement to the Potterverse, filling in the epilogue’s tonal gaps as well as its informational ones.