It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
– Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
While J.K. Rowling has never shied from commenting on politics in her personal time, she did not bring it into her fiction for the most part. The infamous “The Other Minister” chapter of Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince was one of the rarer overt intersections between the mundane and the mystical. However, as Harry Potter & The Cursed Child book is set in the year 2017 (19 years after the events of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows) it seemed natural that the more and more politically outspoken Ms Rowling would delve into the political sphere of the Muggle and Wizarding Worlds.
Through the powers of subterfuge, cunning and more than a little luck, I have acquired the first chapter of the upcoming book.
Harry sighed as he picked up yet another heavy tome. “Not another one, for goodness’ sake,” he moaned internally.
Only this book was not another droning bore about some bureaucratic nonsense that gave the Ministry of Magic such a poor reputation for confusing people: this was “Wizards’ Future,” the Separation Paper from the Witches & Wizards Nationalist Party. It was a proposition to isolate the Wizarding World from the Muggle World. It made up one of what quickly became a bombardment of contradictory figures and forecasts/warnings of catastrophe/promises of Utopia in the event that wizards and muggles should create a border between each other. Harry’s old classmate, Draco Malfoy, led the charge in the Wizard Separatist Movement.
Harry came to the idea with an open mind, and an awareness of the seriousness of what he, and all other members of the Wizarding community, were being asked to decide. It wasn’t like a general election, after which we could curse the result, bide our time and hope to get a better result in a few years. Whatever the Wizarding World decides, he thought, we will probably find ourselves justifying our choice to our grandchildren. He was friendly with individuals involved in both the Wizards Together Campaign and the Wizards Separate Campaign. He knew that there are intelligent, thoughtful people on both sides of the question.
Unfortunately, there is a fringe of Wiznats who like to demonise anyone who is not blindly and unquestionably pro-separation: Harry suspected, notwithstanding the fact that he lived and worked in the Wizarding World since he went to Hogwart’s as a young boy and planned to remain here for the rest of his life, that they might judge him “insufficiently Wizardish” to have a valid view. It is true that he was born in Godric’s Hollow in the West Country and grew up in Little Whinging and while he had Muggle blood on his mother’s side, he also had pure-blood ancestry. However, when people try to make this debate about the purity of your lineage, things start getting a little Death Eaterish for his taste. By residence, marriage, and out of gratitude for what the Wizarding World has given him, Harry’s allegiance is wholly to the Wizarding World.
On the one hand, the Wizard Separate Campaign promises a fairer, greener, richer and more equal society if the Wizarding World separates, and that sounded highly appealing to Harry. He was no fan of the Muggles’ government and couldn’t be happier that the Ministry of Magic has protected them from what what is being done to health and education in the Muggle world. He was also frequently irritated by a Muggle-centric media that can be careless and dismissive in its treatment of magic users. On the other hand, he’s mindful of the fact that when Gringots needed to be bailed out in 2008, the Muggle government saved them from economic catastrophe and he worried about whether Floo Powder can, as he was told by the “Wizards Separate” campaign, sustain and even improve the Wizarding World’s standard of living.
Some of the most pro-separation people Harry knew think the Wizarding World need not be afraid of going it alone, because it will excel no matter what. This romantic outlook struck a cord with Harry, because he happened to think that the Wizarding World is exceptional, too. The Wizarding World punched above its weight in just about every field of endeavour you care to mention, pouring out world-class aurors, unspeakables, arithmancers, dragonologists, obliviators, magizoologists, potioneers, and indeed Supreme Mugwumps in quantities you would expect from a far larger community.
Harry’s hesitance at embracing separation had nothing to do with lack of belief in the Wizarding World’s remarkable people or its achievements. The simple truth is that the Wizarding World is subject to the same twenty-first century pressures as the Muggle world. It must compete in the same global markets, defend itself from the same threats and navigate what still feels like a fragile economic recovery. The more he listened to the Wizards Separate campaign, the more he worried about its minimisation and even denial of risks. Whenever the big issues are raised – heavy reliance on Floo Powder revenue if they became separate, what currency they’ll use, whether students would be allowed back into Muggle schools and even homes – reasonable questions are drowned out by accusations of “scaremongering.” Meanwhile, dramatically differing oracles and premonitions are being slapped in front of them by both campaigns, so that it becomes difficult to know what to believe.
He doubted he was alone in trying to find as much impartial and non-partisan information as he could, especially regarding the economy. Of course, some will say that worrying about their economic prospects is poor-spirited, because those people take the view “I’ll be skint if I want to and muggles can’t tell me otherwise”. That was a form of “patriotism” that Harry will never understand. It places higher importance on “sticking it” to the Muggle Prime Minister, who will be long gone before the full consequences of separation are felt, than to looking after your own. It prefers the grand “up yours” gesture to considering what you might be doing to the prospects of future generations.
The more he read from a variety of independent and unbiased sources, the more he came to the conclusion that while separation might give them opportunities – any change brings opportunities – it also carries serious risks. The Institute for Fidgiting Studies concludes that Draco Malfoy has underestimated the long-term impact of our ageing population and the fact that Floo Powder and Universal Solvent reserves are being depleted. This view is also taken by the independent study “Wizards’ Choices: The Referendum and What Happens Afterwards” by Cornelius Fudge, Kingsley Shackleton and Pius Thicknesse, which says that “it would be a foolish Wizarding World that planned future public expenditure on the basis of current tax receipts from Floo Powder and Universal Solvent.”
Harry’s fears about the economy extend into an area in which he had a very personal interest: magical research. Having put a large amount of money into Transmogrigication research here, he was worried to see an open letter from all five of the Wizarding World’s medical schools expressing ‘grave concerns’ that separation could jeopardise what is currently their world-class performance in this area. Fourteen professors put their names to this letter, which says that Draco Malfoy’s plans for a common research funding area are ‘fraught with difficulty’ and ‘unlikely to come to fruition’. According to the professors who signed the letter, ‘it is highly unlikely that the Muggle world would tolerate a situation in which an separate “competitor” country won more money than it contributed.’ In this area, as in many others, Harry worries that Draco Malfoy’s ambition is outstripping his reach.
He’s heard it said that ‘we’ve got to leave, because they’ll punish us if we don’t’, but his guess is that if they vote to stay, they will be in the heady position of the spouse who looked like walking out, but decided to give things one last go. All the major political parties are currently wooing them with offers of extra magical powers, keen to keep the wizards and witches happy so that it does not hold a referendum every ten years and cause uncertainty and turmoil all over again. Harry doubted whether they will ever have been more popular, or in a better position to dictate terms, than if they vote to stay.
If they leave, though, there will be no going back. This separation will not be quick and clean: it will take microsurgery to disentangle three centuries of close interdependence, after which they will have to deal with bitter neighbours. Harry doubted that a separate Wizarding World will be able to bank on its ex-partners’ fond memories of the old relationship once they’ve left. The rest of the world will have had no say in the biggest change to Wizard-Muggle relations in centuries, but will suffer the economic consequences. When Draco Malfoy tells them that we can keep whatever we’re particularly attached to – be it Wizard-Muggle Union membership, the Galleon or the Queen, or insists that his preferred arrangements for monetary union or defence will be rubber-stamped by our ex-partners – he is talking about issues that the Wizarding World will need, in every case, to negotiate. In the words of ‘Wizards’ Choices’ ‘The Wizarding World will be very much the smaller partner seeking arrangements from the Muggle World to meet its own needs, and may not be in a very powerful negotiating position.’
If the majority of witches & wizards want separation, Harry truly hopes that it is a resounding success. While a few of the fiercer Wiznats might like to drive him forcibly over the border if they knew his thoughts, he decided he’d prefer to stay and contribute to a community that has given him more than he could easily express. It is because he loved this world that he wanted it to thrive. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, it will be a historic moment for the Wizarding World. He just hoped with all his heart that we never have cause to look back and feel that we made a historically bad mistake.
Harry sighed again, and put Wizards’ Future into the dustbin.
Post Script: if you didn’t already guess, this is a parody, though the majority of the text is straight from J.K. Rowling herself.
Stuart’s fundraiser (one day left!)