HIS hair is showing signs of greying and he is bearing a worrying new scar – but with his trademark spectacles intact there is no mistaking the world’s most famous schoolboy wizard, even in his mid-thirties.
Harry Potter has re-appeared, seven years on from his apparent farewell, revived by author JK Rowling for the online version of the fantasy world she created for the character.
The Edinburgh-based author has not only reunited an older Harry with his former Hogwarts classmates, but also offers a glimpse into the “next generation” at the school for wizards, raising the prospect of another book in future.
The new short story, which features Harry aged 34, also appears to be an outlet for Rowling’s much-publicised frustrations with the media.
The 1,500-word short story, published on her “Pottermore” website yesterday, describes how the trio meet, with their families, at the fictional Quidditch World Cup.
But Rowling, in a barely-disguised attack on tabloid newspapers, has brought back gossip columnist Rita Skeeter to reveal how Harry, Ron and Hermione look through the eyes of a bitchy, cynical journalist.
Billed as “spiteful pen-portraits” by Rowling’s publicity team, the short story is written as a Skeeter article.
Rowling, 48, who wrote the first Potter novel while living as a single mother in Edinburgh, gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about media intrusions into her private life and is a supporter of the Hacked Off campaign, with John Cleese, Hugh Grant and Jo Brand.
The new story is the first time that Harry, Ron and Hermione have been reunited since the final book was published. In a brief epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, adult versions of the trio are depicted sending their own children to Hogwarts.
The short story, which describes Harry as “the man they still call the Chosen One”, is thought to be set at around the same time as this epilogue.
Harry’s dark hair is said to be showing “a couple of threads of silver”, while Skeeter reports “he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient 12-year-old”.
Skeeter also speculates on the cause of a new scar on Harry’s face, hinting his marriage to Ginny is in trouble.
She writes: “Has his wife perhaps cursed him? Are cracks beginning to show in a union that the Potters are determined to promote as happy?”
Ron’s shock of ginger hair is now said to be “thinning slightly”, while Skeeter says his wizardly career has stalled. She adds: “He shows no obvious signs of mental illness … but the public is not allowed close enough to make a proper assessment. Is this suspicious?”
Hermione, who married Ron, is described as a “femme fatale” who toyed with young Harry.
Skeeter writes: “She is now tipped to go even higher within the Ministry, and is also mother to son, Hugo, and daughter, Rose. Does Hermione Granger prove a witch really can have it all? (No – look at her hair.)”
Rowling told Leveson she had felt “under siege” from the press, speaking of her anger at finding a letter from a journalist in her five-year-old daughter’s schoolbag.
In the new story, Skeeter writes: “One hesitates to invade the privacy of young people, but the fact is that anyone closely connected with Harry Potter reaps the benefits and must pay the penalty of public interest.”
The fan’s view
Katie Stewart: Tantalising hints of the days after Voldemort
As a lifelong fan of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, I have long been afraid any further material written about the fictional hero would tarnish my long-cherished and much re-read favourite books.
JK’s article has blown such fears out of the water, leaving only frustration at the tantalising hints it offers about the lives of the famous trio after Hogwarts. The revelation that Harry’s ambition to become an Auror was achieved, for example, leaves me desperate for details of the Dark wizards and creatures that remained after the destruction of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, while Hermione has belied her own words from the Deathly Hallows by entering – and becoming Head of! – the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
The idea that George once again had a brother by his side at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes brought tears to my eyes, as did the news of Neville’s marriage.
The glimpses the reader receives of Harry and Ginny’s children left me screaming to know more – where was Lily? Do they understand why their famous father is so famous? What have their lives been like growing up with, as Rita Skeeter rightly states, parents who are celebrities, italics and all?
The brief description of Ginny’s reporting career is tantalising, as during the series the reader does not get much sense of what her future career choices might be. Reading Ron’s, admittedly second-hand, admission of his struggle to come back after the Battle of Hogwarts tugged my heartstrings, and I want to know how he coped, how the trio rebuilt their lives after the toil and loss they suffered during Voldemort’s days of power.
I feel every Harry Potter fan is behind me when I beseech JK to please give us another book.
The critic’s view
Andrea Mullaney: Don’t believe everything you read in the Daily Prophet – Potter & Co are fine
A group of 30-something friends attend the World Cup and have a nice time. As complex plots go, it’s hardly up there withThe Big Sleep, Inception or, well, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
We don’t even get to hear who wins the match. But then JK Rowling’s latest publication is not so much a story as a vignette, intended to let her fans know how Harry and his pals are doing, 16 years after they defeated Lord Voldemort.
Unfortunately, things haven’t turned out well: Harry is scarred (again), possibly as a result of a scrap with his estranged, ambitious wife Ginny; Ron has failed to make it in his chosen career and fallen back on running a joke shop with his brother, while Hermione is hinted to have slept her way to the top of a government ministry.
Meanwhile, Neville Longbottom has turned to drink, while war orphan Teddy Lupin is a teenage playboy.
Thankfully – for the wrath of Potter fans would have been as terrible to behold as Voldemort’s – all of this is merely rumour spread by notorious gossip columnist Rita Skeeter, in whose acid-tongued voice the Daily Prophet article is written.
Reading between the lines, Potter & Co actually seem perfectly happy. Phew!
Still, as Rowling has now largely moved on to write adult crime-fiction, under the name Robert Galbraith, perhaps there is potential for a crossover – for if Skeeter were to be found dead behind the campsite at the Quidditch World Cup, almost everyone would have a motive for murder.
And just how does she maintain her job, given that she gets everything wrong and constantly attacks the wizarding world’s most popular hero and his wife, a sports correspondent for her own paper?
Does the Daily Prophet need to have its own Leveson Inquiry?
• Andrea Mullaney is an Edinburgh-based arts critic