4 Great Post-Harry Potter Works (That Aren’t Harry Potter)

I still remember finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the middle of the night in summer 2007, crying as I turned the final page, mostly out of the catharsis of a solid series ending. Harry’s seven years at Hogwarts—which I spent about seven years experiencing in real time, between reading and waiting for the books from 2000 to 2007—is a compelling chapter of the larger wizarding world of J.K. Rowling. And while the series has since spun into a multimedia franchise, exploring both the past in the Fantastic Beasts movies and the future in Cursed Child, I’ve never felt the same connection to the expanded universe as I did to the original novels. But as someone who grew up writing fanfiction for a variety of fandoms—including, yes, 100-word Harry Potter drabbles—I feel that the real successors of Rowling’s incredible imagination are the variety of responses from a new generation of writers, in the pages of books and playing out across stage and screen.

A “normal” person pretends to be a mage, and poses vital questions about how magic affects the day-to-day. Magic-users craft spells out of pop culture touchstones and sing their way into battle. Background characters get to tell their side of the story. A former Chosen One faces the uncertainty of an adventure-free life. These new stories take Rowling’s building blocks and remix them into tales that look back at their source material, but also look forward.

 

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

You know those Tumblr posts joking about young witches and wizards magicking their way through sex ed, or the entire account dedicated to the poor Hogwarts IT guy troubleshooting wifi issues in an ancient castle? Many of us Muggles want to know just as much about the mundane as the magical when it comes to wizarding school stories—and Gailey’s debut novel fully scratches that itch.

When private investigator Ivy Gamble gets assigned a most unusual case—a grisly murder at the Osthorne Academy for Young Mages—she finally gets to see for herself the magical world that her twin Tabitha left her behind for… only to discover how head-scratchingly normal these magical teenagers are. Sure, some enterprising mage-in-training uses an impressive spell to keep graffiti from getting scratched off lockers, but they’re still just defacing lockers. Or surreptitiously going to the school nurse for birth control, or distracting each other in class with cleverly-folded paper charms inscribed with love notes. They’re kids, after all.

But it’s not all pranks and passed notes at Osthorne. As Ivy follows leads—and avoids the restricted section of the library—she follows in Tabitha’s footsteps in ways that amp up her yearning for this world… especially when its inhabitants automatically assume that she’s one of them. Ivy’s mingled shame at slipping into this persona, and delight that she can fool everyone from a student to a love interest, is uncomfortably relatable for every reader who ever dreamed of finding even a spark of magic within themselves.

 

Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School for Magic and Magic

If you’re still saving your Galleons to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or one of the Warner Bros. studio tours, you might consider the more affordable, equally immersive experience of Puffs. This off-Broadway play (full disclosure: I know the playwright, Matt Cox) is like your own private tour of Hogwarts, not led by some stuffy expert guide but by smiley students who were actually there when that bespectacled boy wizard defeated that scary snake-guy.

But everyone already knows that story, so the real magic is in making it fresh—instead of following Harry and the other Braves (that is, the Gryffindors), the Smarts, or the Snakes, Puffs follows the much-maligned fourth house full of awkward, tenderhearted misfits. The Puffs’ core trio includes Wayne, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-T-shirt-wearing oddball from New Mexico; Oliver, who just wants a proper maths education; and Megan, a goth daughter of one of Voldemort’s followers who rails against being placed in the Puffs when she believes herself a Snake at heart. Having a new set of magical and romantic misadventures to focus on brings a new angle to familiar series beats like the Yule Ball, the Triwizard Tournament (Puffs’ Cedric Diggory is a charismatic delight), and the moment that the Puffs have to prove they’re not soft on the inside. All this—a sweet and occasionally sassy retelling—with a lo-fi budget that rivals Cursed Child for onstage magic and transportive story.

Puffs is currently playing at New York City’s New World Stages, or you can purchase the live performance recording!

 

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

Potter fans were still reeling from the Battle of Hogwarts and the encounter in Kings Cross station when they turned the page to… 19 years later? Yes, they were surely wondering what happened to Harry, Hermione, and Ron—but, like, maybe a week after saving the wizarding world. Cursed Child picked up that thread, jumping ahead two decades and then some to how the next generation nearly unravels all of their parents’ hard work; but, again, there’s no real delving into how the trio made it to Auror, Minister of Magic, and stay-at-home dad.

Now, you could read lots of time-gap fanfic… or you could pick up Rainbow Rowell’s Wayward Son. With Carry On, she brilliantly subverted the Chosen One narrative through self-fulfilling prophecies and other expectations heaped upon magical kids to satisfy some arcane, predetermined narrative. But once Simon Snow overcomes his destiny… he doesn’t actually know what to do next, or even how to get his newly-winged self off his couch. The solution? ROAD TRIP across the American West with your bestie, your roommate-turned-enemy-turned-hopefully-eventually-lover, and lots of supernatural beasties! Who knows if Simon makes it to his world’s equivalent of an Auror? This is about figuring out who Simon Snow actually is. And while Harry flash-forwarded to a wife and two kids, Simon has something much more monumental to chase: the second kiss.

 

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

And what if you want to go beyond the second kiss? Or to magical grad school and mundane adulthood? Grossman’s The Magicians, published just a few years after Deathly Hallows, is as unmistakably infused with Rowling’s magic as baby Harry with his lightning-bolt scar. But the book, written during the wait between Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, also bears traces of Narnia, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Dungeons & Dragons, and American Gods in its DNA—making for a delightful mashup that ponders how the story would be different if it took place across the pond and jumping ahead a few years.

And then co-creators John McNamara and Sera Gamble added even more ingredients to this adaptation potion and conjured up yet another take on this quintessential story that manages to stand apart from its source material. Remember when Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban followed up Chris Columbus’ two by-the-book film adaptations with the divisive decision to dress Harry, Hermione, and Ron in street clothes? Polarizing though it was among fans who had envisioned robes and house uniforms, it opened up so much about the characters in such a deliberate visual decision. McNamara and Gamble do that, but ten times over, by situating their Millennial magicians within the kinds of pop culture references that would come naturally, even within the Narnia-esque fantastical world of Fillory: Margo and Eliot speaking in TV show references as code to thwart an eavesdropper; Margo casting a spell that compels everyone to sing “One Day More” from Les Miserables to build Eliot up before a duel. Basically, anything involving Margo and Eliot, who have been expanded beyond their book selves into uniquely fascinating new characters.

 

What are your favorite post-Potter works?

Natalie Zutter is still not sure how to feel about her contradictory Pottermore sortings but doesn’t mind identifying as a SmartSnake (or, if you want to be formal about it, a Slytherclaw). Talk Potter fic and other fanworks with her on Twitter!

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