We won’t spoil the plot if you haven’t peeked, but you’ve probably heard by now that Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is essentially bad Harry Potter fan fiction. There are Time-Turners involved — of all the awesome things Rowling created, they picked the one with the most potential for plot holes — mistaken identities, and long-lost secret children. The whole thing is unfortunate. And sure, defenders say it looks better onstage, but for many fans, the paper version is all they’ll ever get. But if there’s one good thing to come out of this, it’s that if bad fan fiction is now canonized in the Potter universe, it also leaves the door open for good fan fiction.
While it’s interesting to ponder if Cursed Child would seem less bad if Harry Potter fan fiction hadn’t become so prevalent in the years between the books and the play, the point is moot. There are currently more than half a million works of Harry Potter fan fiction out there — and that’s only counting the two most popular sites, Fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own, not other sites exclusively devoted to Harry Potter fan fiction. This means that not only is it statistically possible there are better fan fictions out there than Cursed Child, it’s all but guaranteed: Cursed Child doesn’t have to besmirch the story.
Here are five that are better than Rowling’s latest work.
5. This one about Andromeda Tonks and the Black family’s youth
Why it’s better than Cursed Child: Of all the legions of fascinating characters populating the Potter universe, Cursed Child makes the most boring possible selection to focus on: Harry’s son Albus. Oh, he’s got some issues having Harry as his dad? Try having Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy as your sisters and Sirius and Regulus Black as your cousins. Tonks’s mom Andromeda grew up with Bellatrix and Narcissa as sisters and yet she ran off and married a Muggleborn. Why did they swallow the pureblood rhetoric and she escaped it? There’s a story there. This tells it. Also, in Order of the Phoenix, Sirius mentioned that Andromeda was his favorite cousin — so even though we only see her briefly as an older woman in Deathly Hallows, you know she must have been a baller in her youth.
4. This story about Ron and the Weasly family after the war
Why it’s better than Cursed Child: Cursed Child picks up nineteen years after the war, but what happened directly after it? It skips all the good stuff. This doesn’t. This story follows what happens to George without Fred, how Hermione coped with the psychological after-effects of her torture, how Harry and Ginny got back together after a year apart plus Harry faking his death, how Ron stopped being a fuck-up and grew up. It doesn’t skip ahead to when everyone’s a beaten down bureaucrat, but follows them when they’re young adults with varying degrees of post-war trauma. It also provides a logical backstory for why on earth Ron and Hermione named their son Hugo. Because there is no logic to that.
3. This story about Lily and James and the Maurauders
Why it’s better than Cursed Child: In choosing Harry, Ron, and Draco’s kids, Cursed Child picks the wrong generation to focus on. The Maurauders’s story has literally all the components of a good story: A love-hate dramatic relationship that puts any rom-com to shame (Ron and Hermione’s bickering has nothing on Lily outright hating James for years, and Rose and Scorpius having parents who dislike each other is also a big yawn compared to that) deep friendship (sure, Harry stays with the Weaslys a lot but Sirius actually lives with James when he runs away from home) betrayal, mischief, a war brewing, and tragic death. The books spent far too little time on the Maurauders, and the movies bafflingly cast parent-aged actors — which defeats the entire purpose of the tragedy that Lily and James are nearly the same age as Harry when he sees their ghosts in “The Forest Again.” The previous generation is a far more compelling focus than the next generation.
2. This what-if Voldemort had won the final battle
Why it’s better than Cursed Child: Cursed Child might provide some what-ifs through its time-fuckery, but you know what’s more interesting than “what if Ron and Hermione never got together?” What if Voldemort won the Battle of Hogwarts? This story imagines a world where Voldemort has a nightmarish totalitarian rule over London, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and his supporters hide out in the mountains, bidding their time, and Hermione is enslaved by Death Eaters for years before escaping and forging and unlikely bond with Draco Malfoy. Yes, it’s one of those stories, the kind that has a paring that makes no sense in the original, but somehow this story makes it plausible. This borderline V For Vendetta scenario makes for a far more dramatic what-if than Cursed Child’s time loops.
1. This one about what was happening at Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows
Why its better than Cursed Child: Harry spends the entire series at the center of the story. Like most fantasy heroes, this means that he is not the most interesting character (see: Frodo, Katniss, Luke Skywalker). A follow-up story could have easily centered around Neville or Luna; shone the spotlight on a more interesting side character instead of engaging in more of the same. But Cursed Child didn’t. This story does, however, following what happened with Neville, Luna, Ginny, and the rest while Hogwarts was in chaos and ruled by Death Eaters during Deathly Hallows. Because everyone knows who the real hero of the story is.