Whenever J K Rowling winks a telling wink and drops a hint on Twitter that Harry will be back, I am reluctantly roused. Even though Harry has totally had his day (and nothing he does from now on in, or did before he enjoyed seven years of unabated heroism, will be quite the same) I am always half-waiting. She’s been at it again recently – whipping us up into a frenzy over where the franchise can feasibly head next. But these are the ways in which the wizarding world would be a naive host to adult wizards, and an unrelatable universe to me:
1. There is no such thing as commercial awareness
To be a respectable – indeed, functional – muggle graduate you need to watch the news. And read The Economist. And definitely The Guardian. Because this is how you become commercially aware. And if you’re not you deserve to be pilloried publicly by people you hoped might employ you. To have figures to hand on Lidl’s market share, or on how Wonga ballsed up is, after all, what it is to be human.
Not if you’re a wizard. If you’re a wizard, there is no commerce of which to be aware. The banks are literally caves full of coins you can only get to in a cart. Polyjuice potion trumps a PIN. And if you’re poor you can’t get a loan – only a classist laugh from a Malfoy. The housing market must be pretty boring, as no one upsizes – they just magic new bits of house on. Customer behaviour has been static since Nicholas Flamel was conceived, with a mere one shop per product on one short alley in London. It requires the vaguest of efforts to settle within a moral or cultural camp – you are Good or you are Bad, and if you’re Bad, you’re buggered because Good triumphed at the end of Book 7.
2. There are two feasible career paths (discounting Herbology)
I am qualified in History, a discipline which at least theoretically opens the door to any number of jobs in any number of industries. This sounds great, but in reality I am burdened with the professional freedom this accreditation provides. Choice, it transpires, is a truly wretched pressure.
Not if you’re a wizard. Not if you got that letter. If you were enrolled at Hogwarts in your eleventh year, you don’t experience that oppressively personal turmoil. You will work for the Ministry, or you will teach at Hogwarts – even if you’re Susan Bones. Only Neville is substandard enough to pot pansies professionally. Structurally, there is sod all in place to further your post-academic plans; rather, at some point in Book 5, Professor McGonagall sweeps past with a clipped remark about your lack of career plan and you say ‘stuff that!’ to Ron and have another pumpkin pasty. You scrape average results in irrelevant subjects over a painfully long stretch of state-funded schooling, but this is fine, because you really, really want to be an auror, so you are one. Because it’s what everyone would have wanted. And you killed a snake and a nasty man. And played a team sport. And these are all CV points.
3. Relationships are uncomplicated
You’re twenty-something. Life is a rollercoaster, but it is the fenced off one down for maintenance, or the chancy structure erected on a nearby field by visiting gypsies. You will die alone, or mad, or sexless – and the muggle media conspires to tell you so.
Not if you’re a wizard. If you’re a wizard, you will fall slowly and passively in love with the person you sit next to in Defence Against the Dark Arts, rewriting your capitulation to mediocrity as a beautiful realisation and developing an inhuman resistance to romantic or sexual regret. On this uncluttered emotional plane, you marry who you meet, or you mourn who you missed out on – forever. If you’re Harry, you succumb questionably to the limited charms of your best friend’s little sister, resolving she’s The One because her hair is nice and silky, and you had a cursory glance about but couldn’t see anyone notably better. If you’re Snape, you lope ghoulishly around, hoarsely telling young boys their eyes look like a woman’s you once wanted to bang. It would be unmagical, after all, to move on. You are not lonely, you are not filing for divorce and you are never, ever gay (unless you’re Dumbledore, and he got pushed off a tower, which is a frankly medieval due for a now widely embraced orientation).
4. You don’t leave home
I don’t particularly want to leave home. The décor is nice and unlike most places in London and its outskirts, I can find it in the daylight or the dark. But staying is not my decision. Relatives peer fearfully into my room upon their arrival as if they’re visiting me in prison and are still coming to terms with the heinous crime I have committed. At home, I am indulged – and I am ashamed.
But I wouldn’t be if I was a wizard. If I was a wizard, I could hang around forever, eternally resident in the all-forgiving glow of the Weasley log-fire. Forget the demands of my job – I am Percy, a Ministry senior, but I feel no dishonour doing all my homework in the bedroom I share with my siblings who do mischievous things like jump on the bed and put fireworks in my trousers. This is normal. In the wizarding world, there is no such thing as independence, compelling Hermione to brainwash and abandon her muggle parents, for they simply couldn’t have got a grip on her being gone. Perhaps it is a reflection of Harry’s shrewd awareness that he will never afford his own London property that gives him the darkest grief following the death of his guardian – or perhaps going home and staying home is all a wizard will ever know. Even the ghosts hang around, making bad jokes like translucent David Brents. Forever.
Of all the places we might be blindly led by Rowling’s latest intentions, I’m confident it won’t be forwards. Harry is all about the past. It’s a world shrinking from you at a rate so fast that it is now just a 200-acre studio complex in Leavesden that you visit when the weather’s bad. It won’t be a foray into Harry’s future, because adulthood lies outside the illusion.