Is it true that Harry Potter is back? Well, yes. Sort of.
That is to say, J.K. Rowling has given us an update on her famous fictional creation’s current whereabouts. In a new piece posted at her “Pottermore” website, Rowling shares a short story from the point of view of Daily Prophet gossip columnist Reeta Skeeter that recounts Harry’s visit to the Quidditch World Cup Final. We learn nothing about him other than he’s got “a couple of threads of silver” in his famously unkempt hair and has a “nasty cut over his right cheekbone” as a result of his work as an Auror — i.e. a “dark wizard catcher” — for the Ministry of Magic.
And that’s it.
Yes, we also find out that he’s still married to Ginny, that his children are alive and well, and that all his friends are pretty much where Rowling left them in the last chapter of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” except that Ron Weasley left the Auror Department to go work at his brother’s joke shop. I was surprised to learn that Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood didn’t end up together, but there was nothing else in this 1,500-word snippet that could be considered of any import to the overall Potter mythology.
So what’s the point?
Some may say that this is a churlish question to ask, and they’d probably be right. Few stories have captured the collective pop culture imagination like the Harry Potter saga, and even something this slight is greeted with tremendous excitement from the Potter faithful. Sure, there’s not much to this latest offering, but it’s better than nothing, right? So who am I to look a gift thestral in the mouth?
Perhaps my problem is that, at times, Rowling seems to be as eager for more Potter as the rest of us. Her last book was published seven years ago, but she’s produced a great deal of additional material since the saga concluded, most of which can be found at the Pottermore site. She’s writing the screenplay for an adaptation of her book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which will take place in the Potter universe. She also can’t stop talking about these characters she created, most recently lamenting that Hermione ended up with Ron when she should have married Harry instead.
It’s clear that these people aren’t just words on a page to her. They’re still very real.
So why not give us more than just a few scraps?
When pressed to produce Harry Potter: Book 8, Rowling has always insisted that Harry’s fate was so intertwined with Voldemort’s that she’s painted herself into a corner with the Dark Lord’s death. Without He Who Must Not Be Named, there’s not an antagonist equal to Harry, and so there’s really no more story to tell.
To me, that seemed like an acceptable answer seven years ago. But now, with all of Rowling’s continued interest and her continued return to the Potter well, that explanation is sounding more like an excuse that’s beginning to wear thin.
Please don’t misunderstand me. J.K. Rowling doesn’t owe me or any of her readers anything, and I’m grateful for what she’s already given us. And if she’d left Harry alone completely after “Deathly Hallows,” these wouldn’t be questions I’d be asking. But teases like this latest story suggest that there’s more story to be told. Here's hoping that Rowling won’t be able to keep herself from telling it.
Say, how’d Harry get that nasty cut on his right cheekbone, anyway?
Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.