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Welcome to Potions Class. We're your professor, Shmooperus Shmape. Today we'll show you how to make a concoction that will turn anyone into Albus Severus Potter.
Step one: start with a few dozen vials worth of Daddy Issues.
Albus' Daddy Issues come from the fact that his father—in this case the Harry Potter—is so stuck in the past that he can only see his own son in relation to his own teenage self, not for who that son really is. Harry's so stuck on glamorizing his own past—Hogwarts was amazing! My friends made me into the man I am today!—he completely forgets that not everyone has these experiences.
Harry's also unable to admit any dark parts of his own past. Sure, Hogwarts was great, but Harry also almost got killed there more times than we can count. And yes, Harry's friends were amazing, but he doesn't acknowledge the fact that Harry, as the Boy Who Lived, entered Hogwarts with quite the reputation. Merely by surviving, Harry was somebody.
Which brings us to step two: add a few teaspoons of having some seriously big shoes to fill.
Albus, as the son of the famous Harry Potter, has a lot to live up to. After being sorted in Slytherin—eek! a Potter in Slytherin!—being unable to fly a broomstick, and genuinely failing to excel at anything, a random student deems Albus, "an irrelevance. Even portraits turn the other way when he comes up the stairs" (1.4.96).
That's got to hurt only slightly less than a Cruciatus curse.
Merely being the Son of the Boy Who Lived doesn't make Albus popular at Hogwarts. In fact, it makes him a pariah. Albus's dad doesn't seem to realize that. Harry's persistent focus on the positive makes him seem disingenuous and fake, and because of that, his own son feels like Harry doesn't love him.
All of the above makes Albus into an exceptionally difficult and glum fifteen-year-old. But you know what? We read Order of the Phoenix. We remember Albus' dad being exactly the same.
But Harry sanctimoniously seems to think his own hardships were more valid than Albus' because Harry didn't have a dad, and Albus does.
But Albus has a dad in name only. Harry rarely shows any attempt at actual parenting, i.e. helping to make his son into the young man Albus wants to be.
At one point, Albus even says,
ALBUS: I know what it is to be the spare. (1.14.25)
Albus feels expendable. Harry Potter risked his life to save strangers as a young man, but he doesn't appear to care at all for his own son. And—totally understandably—this makes Albus bitter and resentful.
This Albus potion isn't going to have a pleasant aftertaste.
But our third ingredient in this Albus cocktail is a dash of courage because (besides the tendency to be a Gloomy Gus) another thing Albus has in common with his dad is bravery.
Yeah, Albus isn't all bad.
Albus takes great risks to travel back in time and bring Cedric Diggory back. He says to Amos Diggory, "We're ready to put our lives at risk" (1.14.35), and he means it. Moaning Myrtle later testifies to Harry,
MOANING MYRTLE: He's very confident, Harry, just like you. (2.19.69)
The problem, which we'll continue blaming on a lack of solid parenting, is that Albus applies his bravery to something completely ridiculous and dangerous. He seriously thinks he can bring Cedric Diggory back and nothing else will change. Has he never read a time travel novel? Seen a movie? That literally never works.
Well, maybe not literally never. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and Hermione went back in time and successfully changed the past. So we guess we shouldn't rely on either of these two to teach their children about the dangers of time traveling. (You know you're in the Potterverse when sentences like "we guess we shouldn't rely on either of these two to teach their children about the dangers of time traveling" make sense.)
But, as in 99.99% of time travel stories, Albus royally flubs things up.
Once everything is fixed, Headmistress McGonagall calls Albus (and Harry) out on it:
MCGONAGALL: The lesson even your father sometimes failed to heed is that bravery doesn't forgive stupidity. (3.10.26)
Any good mentor will not only help you do the right thing, but also let you know when you're being a total idiot.
Our final ingredient is a sprinkle of confusion.
Actually—scratch that. A sprinkle isn't enough. Throw the entire bottle in there.
We're never clear why Albus wants to go back in time. Is he doing this to get closer to his father? Or is he doing this to spite Harry, to say, I can fix what you messed up?
It isn't clear to us…because it isn't clear to Albus. He's fifteen. He's unable to suss out his own emotions. But on top of that, Albus is named after two men Harry looked up to: Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape.
And both these men were kind of flawed mentors.
Now, we understand they both had their reasons. They felt they needed to operate in utmost secrecy. But that resulted in them stringing along an impressionable young man from the ages of ten to seventeen. They set a bad foundation: that a father (figure) is supposed to parent through cryptic clues and outright deceit, hoping that he'll just get the hint, instead of offering direct instruction and clear inspiration.
No wonder Harry is such a weird dad…and no wonder Albus is so confused.
Harry doesn't sit down and have a direct chat with Albus until the play's final scene. Even then, Harry is still finding his footing, as we see when he tells Albus that his namesakes "were great men, with huge flaws, and you know what—those flaws almost made them greater" (4.15.45).
So Harry is saying that like his namesakes, Albus has some huge flaws that "almost" makes him greater. Almost. Wow, thanks dad.
Although the play ends with both Albus and Harry agreeing that it's going to be a nice day, we think that while the day might be nice, these two still have a rocky road ahead of them.
Don't shake this potion too hard, it's still volatile and might explode.