Featured in the May 2020 issue of The Rowling Library Magazine.

The Lost Years

1482 words.
By Oliver Horton.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has a 19-year-gap between the defeat of Voldemort and the final pages. The book’s epilogue shares a snapshot of 36-year-old Harry Potter’s life and concludes: all was well. In “19 Years Later” and in her online writings, JK Rowling gifted us with clues about her characters’ lives. What can we deduce about happenings in the wizarding world in that near-two-decade interval?

Rewind to the Battle of Hogwarts. The wizarding community has lost many gifted magicians. Voldemort’s allies have scattered. Harry heads to bed hoping for a sandwich. What happens next?

1. The Desolation of Hogwarts

Hogwarts after the Battle resembles the bewitched illusion seen by Muggles: a mouldering old ruin with a sign over the entrance saying DANGER, DO NOT ENTER, UNSAFE.

Great chunks were missing from the marble staircase, part of the balustrade gone, and rubble and bloodstains occurred every few steps… The gargoyle guarding the headmaster’s study had been knocked aside; it stood lopsided, looking a little punch-drunk.

Hogwarts is a massive castle of mindbending geography and magnificent magic. You cannot wave a wand and say “Reparo” and expect the castle to reassemble. You need magical architects and stonemasons and gifted magicians to re-establish the school’s wonderful lattice of spells. “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” But what if Hogwarts itself requires help?
The lofty aim of the Triwizard Tournament was international magical co-operation. Invite alumni from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang and other wizarding schools to help rebuild Hogwarts and the other magical institutions. Their offspring will naturally go to the school. Certain relatives can bolster the Ministry. Others may refresh Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. British magic in the 2000s grows more cosmopolitan.

2. The Temporary Minister

Kingsley Shacklebolt, temporary Minister for Magic, doesn’t have a team. Yet he must capture Death Eaters, purge the Ministry of Voldemort supporters and lasso stray magical creatures, including the bank’s dragon, the giants and the spiders. Chillingly, the fate of werewolf wolf-man Fenrir Greyback is unknown. Add a serial killer to Kingsley’s list of Villains Most Wanted.

According to writings published online by Rowling, Harry fulfils his wish to become an Auror. And he’s joined by bro-friend Ron Weasley. Kingsley must deputise them both as Aurors later that day, along with Dumbledore’s Army stalwarts such as Neville Longbottom. The Order of the Phoenix are mostly dead. But the young Hogwarts’ heroes are go.

3. Banking Crisis

Harry robbed Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Staff were injured. Staff were killed. The bank’s dragon was released. The building was badly damaged. Goblins are not portrayed as forgiving creatures. A wizard war is no excuse in goblin eyes. So next time Harry wants to make a withdrawal… do they seal his vault? Do they charge him for repairs and a replacement dragon? Harry may end his Hogwarts years poorer than when he lived in a cupboard.

If goblins feel shame they may feel shame that their bank was robbed by three wizards who hadn’t completed their high school education. Clientele may develop jitters about the bank’s security. The Ministry will have something to say about the illegal dragon. Diplomacy is required. Ron’s eldest brother Bill Weasley works for the bank. He can smooth tensions and re-establish civil relations. The goblins may find it prudent to forgive heroic Harry. But they will never trust him.

4. Can I have my wand back, please?

Snatchers take the Trio to Malfoy Manor. When they escape, Ron and Hermione abandon their wands. For the rest of the story, Ron uses Wormtail’s and Hermione has Bellatrix’s.
Ron-the-Pureblood’s wand is the most attractive replacement for Bellatrix. Molly Weasley takes on Bellatrix and defeats the wicked witch: Ron’s wand, even in Bellatrix’s hand, cannot kill his mother! Only surrendered, not lost, Ron’s wand must remain loyal.

But that leaves Hermione’s at Malfoy Manor. Does she go to the Malfoys and ask: “Excuse me, can I have my wand back please?” Does Narcissa Malfoy send it back in an anonymous package? Perhaps Harry swaps Hermione’s wand for Draco’s.

Ron does okay with Wormtail’s. He should inherit the wand of his former pet-imposter. And Harry repairs his original holly wand. But all three deserve reunion with their preferred instruments.

5. Hermione Granger: Minister for Magic

“I’m hoping to do some good in the world!” says Hermione early in Deathly Hallows. From Book Four and the campaign for Elf Welfare onwards, Hermione shows a fierce appetite for reform. In Book Five she rallies opposition to Umbridge’s rein and launches Dumbledore’s Army. As a prefect she makes the most of telling people what to do. At Hogwarts, Hermione is a politician in embryo.

Rowling composed an article for the 2014 Quidditch World Cup, in which wizard world journalist Rita Skeeter snipes at Hermione, the “ruthless careerist” and “femme fatale”. Rita explains how Hermione joins the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and becomes Deputy Head. This Department includes the Aurors, which means – yes! – Harry, Ron and Hermione work together again. Hermione, snarls Rita Skeeter, is tipped to be Minister.

Hermione, Minister for Magic, will fight for her version of justice. The teenage Hermione modified her parents’ memories and banished them to Australia: she wants to protect Muggles from wizards (rather than vice-versa) and will work hard to keep magic secret. Since Hermione’s friends are all wizards, her noughties do not include looking up old Muggle pals on FriendsReunited: “I once spent two weeks as a cat. How are you?”

5. Neville Longbottom: Headmaster

Everybody loves Neville Longbottom. By the Battle of Hogwarts he is a rockstar. Neville arcs further than any character except Harry (who bounces back from death). In “19 Years Later” we learn that the one-time Worst Wizard is professor of Herbology at Hogwarts.

Why not Defence Against The Dark Arts? The teaching position is no longer cursed. Neville exceeded expectations in his DADA exams, became commander-in-chief of Dumbledore’s Army and the Defender of Hogwarts. He looked Dark Arts in the face and said no. He has the scars and the skills. Oh well, perhaps plants are his passion.

The trouble with Harry: he is divisive and unknowable. The horror he endured and the choices he made and the deaths along the way are too big for the wizarding community to judge. Neville stayed at Hogwarts and fought among wizards. He charged at Voldemort by himself – in front of everyone. He’s the icon of the struggle, the people’s hero. Neville can fill the space left by Gilderoy Lockhart with humility and integrity. Rowling said Minerva McGonagall had retired by “19 Years Later”. Arise headmaster Longbottom.

6. Muggles in the 21st Century

“19 Years Later” was written in the early 1990s and does not feature the refurbishment to Kings Cross station or smartphones or other shifts in the culture.

Hermione explains in Book Four that magic and technology don’t mix well: “Electricity, computers, and radar, and all those things – they all go haywire around Hogwarts, there’s too much magic in the air.”

Google was founded in 1998, four months after the Battle of Hogwarts. The magical Authorities need to protect Muggle technology from magic ahead of the smartphone boom. And they need to keep magic off the internet. Widespread digital tech is a giant leap for Muggle kind. The Ministry needs a new Department, even if fixing the magic v tech issues takes just a few clever spells.

Health-and-safety culture is another Muggle-world phenomenon that influences the stories. Dolores Umbridge’s smothering decrees and magic-free, Ministry-approved school syllabus are only the first attempt to treat students as snowflakes. The wizarding community has seen centaurs and giant spiders and giant half-brothers run riot around school grounds. There can be no return to Dumbledore’s laissez-faire liberalism, student death and injuries. Parents will want to purge the school of danger. Polyjuice Potion, Time Turners, Animagi, Unforgivable Curses, Invisibility Cloaks, Bat Bogey Hexes and Liquid Luck will disappear from classes, books and common rooms. No fun. No risks. No basilisks.

7. The Dursleys woke

In their final confrontation Harry tells Voldemort: “Try for some remorse.” The Dark Lord pulls a face and opts to live the last two minutes of his life business-as-usual. Can uncle Vernon do better?

In Book Seven the Dursleys flee their home. The family is away for ten months in the company of lively, adult wizards, including noted Harry Potter fanboy Dedalus Diggle. In ten months Vernon can learn oodles about magic, and about his nephew. Their escorts are magical folk who are keen to show him the light. Harry’s cousin Dudley proves that one Dursley has the capacity to change – given extreme circumstances. And aunt Petunia softens on her nephew. Can Vernon, finally, try for some remorse?

Note Bene: While written in 2020, all references for this article pre-date the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by at least two years.

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