The Cursed Child introduces into Hogwarts a whole new generation of characters, the very progenies of the ones we loved and with whom we grew up. And while the original series features the antagonism between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, The Cursed Child unapologetically subverts that and gives special emphasis on the friendship that formed between their respective sons.
Yes, that’s right, The Cursed Child gives prominence to the friendship of Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy while also managing to shed light on both their relationships with their fathers and how the former seeks to reconcile who he was to who he has become and how the latter strives to give his son the childhood he himself never got.
Since The Cursed Child’s plot involves a fair bit of time travel, altering time lines and altering time lines on already-altered time lines, retelling it would be a feat best done by a Triwizard champion, and even then, it might not be done justice. As such, reading the whole script would be one’s best chance to fully understand the time-convoluted narrative.
A (somewhat) brief summary shall be offered here, though, if only to try and condense the plot into easily digested pieces.
Harry and Ginny Potter have three children as has been stated in The Deathly Hollow's epilogue, which is precisely where Th eCursed Child opens. Nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts, we see the married couple sending off their children on Platform 9 ¾. Albus Severus Potter, Harry’s youngest child, boards the Hogwarts Express for the first time; his apprehension is even more intense because of his elder brother’s teasing. He is easily bossed around by his cousin Rose Granger-Weasley, who turns out to be a more insufferable version of her mother.
Albus strikes a friendship with Scorpius Malfoy despite his cousin’s warning, telling him of the rumors surrounding the Malfoy child, that he is not a Malfoy at all and is instead the son of the Dark Lord himself, conceived when the Dark Lord used a Time Turner to get Astoria Malfoy pregnant.
Albus and Scorpius bond over their father issues, forever on their fathers’ shadows. This bond strengthens when Albus, as he initially feared, is sorted into Slytherin, joining Scorpius. They are both subjected to ridicule—Scorpius because of his disputed parentage, Albus because he is a Potter in Slytherin—and both are treated like pariahs.
Through the years, Harry struggles to connect with his son on top of performing his duties as head of Magical Law Enforcement for the Ministry of Magic, which Hermione Granger leads, while Ron’s career is a bit more laid-back with running a joke shop.
Draco wants to put a stop to the rumors surrounding his son; he asks Harry to release an official statement about how all Time Turners have been destroyed, thus also demolishing the basis of the rumors, but Harry refuses, citing that becoming defensive over the issue will just make it look like they are hiding something.
Before beginning his fourth year at Hogwarts, Albus has a row with his father. Harry passes his invisibility cloak to James, and to Albus, he gives the baby blanket he was found in, the last memento from Lily Potter. Albus fails to see the significance of the blanket, seeing it as useless, and Harry’s temper flares at his son’s dismissal of his most prized possession. Albus lets him know how he often wishes he wasn’t his son, and Harry, in a burst of anger (for which Ginny will later rage at him), lets Albus know how he wishes he wasn’t his son. (Yeah, he went there. Harry is such a prat here, honestly.)
Amos Diggory visits Harry, accompanied by his niece, Delphi. Amos angrily demands that Harry use the last Time Turner—something that existence is also circulating in the rumor mill (Aren’t wizards supposed to do something better with their time? Oh well.)—to undo Cedric Diggory’s murder in the Triwizard Tournament. As he did with Draco, Harry refuses.
Unbeknownst to Harry, Albus has heard the whole thing. He believes Cedric’s death is Harry’s mess, and he decides to correct it. He enlists the help of Scorpius to escape from the Hogwarts Express, steal the Time Turner (from Hermione’s office in the ministry wherein Polyjuice Potion-ed Scorpius, Delphi, and Albus snuck in, and Albus, disguised as Ron, had to kiss his aunt to distract her—yeah, I know, it’s bonkers), go back in time, and sabotage Cedric’s chances of going as far as he did so that he may avoid being in Voldemort’s path.
They succeeded... well, up until the Time Turner glitches; it only allows its users to return in time for five minutes with each trip. Albus and Scorpius get pulled back to the present rather forcefully.
Albus is in the sick bay with a broken arm, and an angry Harry is telling him to avoid Scorpius, believing that the latter is causing Albus’s waywardness. (Harry, have you even met the boy? He’s a cinnamon roll wrapped in love for books, seriously.) Albus quickly learns that though things seem the same, they are not: Ron is married to Padma Patil (thereby erasing the existence of Albus’s cousins), Hermione is a Hogwarts professor (hardened and embittered by her could have been with Ron), and Albus is sorted into Gryffindor but still argues with his dad all the time.
Despite all of Harry’s threats, even roping Professor McGonagall in his plan to keep Albus away from Scorpius, Albus still finds his friend, and they go back again to fix things. (Yeah, right.) This time, though, only Scorpius manages to get back to the present time.
And it was a terribly dark place.
Dolores Umbridge heads Hogwarts, and everyone there follows the Dark Lord, who rules the wizarding world and is helped by an Augurey. Harry Potter was killed in the Battle of Hogwarts (thereby erasing Albus’s own existence). Cedric Diggory is a Death Eater, driven to the dark side because he was subjected to embarrassment in the Triwizard Tournament. (I know, it’s ridiculous.) Draco is head of Magical Law Enforcement. Scorpius is aghast upon discovering that his father is not the same one he knows and loves. He is even more horrified when he realizes that this time line’s Scorpius doesn’t read and instead forces others to do his homework for him. (Scorpius is a tiny bundle of joy and nerdiness, okay.)
Determined to get back his best friend and his relationship with his father, Scorpius looks for Snape and tells him of an alternate reality where all the horrors of this world have not come to be because Harry defeats Voldemort. He convinces Snape that he is being truthful and even tells him that Harry Potter has named his second son after him. (This is an emotional part, actually.) Scorpius and Snape then enlist the help of Hermione and Ron, who are both fugitives of the law. Hermione and Ron are killed by Dementors; after killing Umbridge, Snape sacrifices himself to the Dementors to let Scorpius escape.
Brought back to the present, Scorpius sees that Albus is also there, and he is beyond happy, to Albus’s confusion. They are discovered by the adults, who have been looking for them since they jumped off Hogwarts Express. All of them are then subjected to McGonagall’s wrath, scolding every one of them at some point, especially Hermione because she kept a Time Turner and hid it in a library, of all places, and because she kept a freaking Time Turner. (“Shame on you, Hermione Granger!”) McGonagall also briefly considers expelling the two boys at the center of this mess, but she figures they would all be safer in her care than with their own parents. She revokes their Hogsmeade visits, gives them detention for a year, and tells them to forget about Christmas.
Later, Delphi returns, and Albus and Scorpius explain to her why they can’t save Cedric and how Voldemort reigns in that other universe. Instead of being sad, however, Delphi is positively beaming, and this is where it is revealed that she is the Augurey from the dark time line. She then proceeds to destroy the boys’ wands and forces them to make that same time line happen.
Meanwhile, a furious Harry, accompanied by a worried Draco, searches for the boys. Harry questions Amos where his niece is, and Amos says he doesn’t have a niece. This is where Harry begins to connect the dots, and a prophecy written in Parseltongue is discovered, in which Delphi will bring her father back.
“Who is her father?” you may ask.
Well, it turns out that Delphi is the Dark Lord’s daughter, spawned with Bellatrix Lestrange, and it is foretold that she, the Augurey, will rule by the Dark Lord’s side.
Delphi goes back in time to 1981 in Godric’s Hollow. She plans to stop Voldemort from casting the killing curse upon Harry Potter so that Lily won’t need to sacrifice herself, effectively keeping the curse from bouncing back and harming Voldemort. Albus and Scorpius, trapped in this time as well, manage to devise a way to send a message to his father in the future (or their present). Harry then goes to them with Ginny, Hermione, Ron, and Draco. They transfigure Harry to Voldemort using their wands (yeah, I don’t know when that became possible either) so that he may lure Delphi away from her real father.
The spell wears off earlier than expected, however, and Delphi knows it’s Harry she is facing. She then duels with him, locking him inside the church without his friends’ help. Delphi is a gifted witch (hello to the power of Bellamort . . . Voldetrix?), and it’s no time at all before she drives Harry into hiding behind a pew.
She is about to kill him when Albus manages to get inside through a grate. He throws his father a wand, and bless the kid because his talents are, quite literally, knowing A History of Magic inside out and being small enough to get into tight spaces.
Anyway, the first order of business is, of course, unlocking the door and getting reinforcements, and soon, they overpowered Delphi.
Before long, Harry’s scar acts up because the real Voldemort is near. They watch from afar as he kills James and Lily Potter and tries to do the same to an infant Harry.
Everyone gets back to the present, with Draco Malfoy, a tentative friend to Harry Potter, setting aside the past and working together as their kids taught them to.
Harry and Albus visit Cedric Diggory’s gravestone, and for the first time, Harry begins to understand how to reach out to his son. He admits his fears to Albus, who can’t quite believe that the great Harry Potter is afraid of the dark and of small spaces and of pigeons, the last one making Albus laugh outright.
Harry also admits that he’s afraid of being a dad because he didn’t have one growing up.
Albus apologizes to his dad for not being more like James, therefore not being like Harry himself, and Harry laughs because James is not like Harry at all—everything comes easily to James, whereas Harry had to fight every step of the way. Harry tells Albus that he’s more like he’s mother, which makes him a pretty great son in Harry’s book.
With intricate and overlapping time lines, The Cursed Child is something that must be read in its entirety to be able to appreciate it fully. It raises issues and theories both questioned and accepted, but more importantly, it builds on a world we have all known and loved.
The script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is on sale now. The play currently runs at London’s Palace Theatre and will do so until December 2017.