J.K. Rowling has to know, when she does things like publish new Harry Potter material, that a whole lot of people are going to freak out en mass. It's just inevitable: For some people (myself included), new action by J.K. Rowling elicits the same feeling an alien must have when the mothership's circled back around in their promise to rescue them. It just feels like home, until she ups and jets off again into the abyss and you're still stuck being a muggle. But here's the thing, Jo: You don't have to run away from us like that! You don't have to spend the rest of your life writing short Harry Potter stories and unrelated novels! There are plenty of viable options for us all to travel back to Hogwarts together.
And the greatest of those options lie in marauders era.
I happen to politely disagree with our own Kadeen Griffith's theory that Rowling's new Pottermore material could lead to a sequel movie featuring the aging trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione — it seems there'd be too many hurdles to jump for that one, from the critics, to the actors, to Rowling herself. But that doesn't mean the Harry Potter onscreen legacy has to end with the trilogy Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them will kick off — far from it. There's still plenty of fresh, nearly untapped material to be brought to the screen. But it's not centered around Harry's generation or the one after it: It's centered around his parents'.
If you have dwelled, like I have, in the vast and wonderful realm of the Harry Potter fandom for any length of time, you might have noticed that the marauders carry a certain pull to many fans. That's because, as I explored in my ode to Prisoner Of Azkaban on the anniversary of the film, the marauders era — comprised for our purposes here not just of James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew, but of Lily Evans and even Severus Snape — provides a beating heart to the Harry Potter backstory. They are thoroughly teased throughout the series as we know it now, and we get to know a few of its members in their 30s (keep in mind: they way overshot their ages in the movies) — but there's room for so much more.
That room is precisely why they're so immensely popular in the fandom: We want more, but we don't have it. We have, for the most part, followed Harry and his friends through to completion: We've followed their arcs from 11-year-old innocents to 30-something war heroes with families and jobs influencing the entire Wizarding World. We don't need to know what happens to them next; they've got their happy ending.
We also know what happened to the marauders, but that's the thing: Not all of them got a happy ending. In fact, many of them died pretty horribly and every single one of them undoubtedly young — Lily and James at 22, the rest in their 30s.
"Then why on Earth would we want to sit through a story about them, if we know how they're all gonna die?" Well, because it would be awesome. And because, story-wise, the opportunities are more plentiful there than they are in watching little Albus Severus navigate his first year of Hogwarts or an aging Harry Potter get endlessly congratulated by wizardkind for saving them all.
I picked up Prisoner Of Azkaban to re-read this week, and there's just some underlying frission to that book. It lies, I think, in the sheer energy that its backstory brings with it.
I'm not picky: Whether it's some sort of marauders prequel book, or an HBO or BBC TV series, or a miniseries, I want this story told. Though I don't believe she'd go for extended tales of the trio anytime soon, she did give her approval to a Harry Potter stage play based around Harry's childhood with the Dursleys — she seems fine with prequels of the undertold past. And there are signs Rowling might announce something special on the seventh anniversary of the end of the series. Studio execs are just plain missing out if they're not pressuring J.K. Rowling to sign on to executive produce a series based around the marauders era — it could be the next Game Of Thrones. Here's why:
We barely know James Potter. We barely know Lily Evans. We don't know how they fell in love, or how Peter Pettigrew managed to stay part of the marauder's inner circle for so long. We know Sirius Black has a hell of a lot of drama going on between him and his family, and that his friendship with James is more than enough to anchor any show or any book — as is Remus Lupin's struggle to accept his werewolf self. We know Lily and Snape's arc, but we don't know the nuances of their friendship.
With the exception of Pettigrew, every single one of these characters is beloved. You've got a built-in audience, yes, but you've also got some amazing dynamics and personal journeys just begging to be explored. We know Harry Potter — we know the way he thinks, right down to his very core. Let us get to know someone else. They're worth knowing.
Political Tension and Heaps of Allegory
Like with the Hunger Games, one of Harry Potter's strengths lies in the power of its political arc: It's recognizable both in terms of our real world's struggles and in terms of the heroic arcs of the characters. That's as heavy as ever in the marauder's era, considering:
One of the major elements that forces James and Sirius to mature from mischievous, irresponsible schoolboys is the fact that, in their era, Voldemort's forces are just starting to grow. Many of their classmates (including one Severus Snape) were joining the legions of what was essentially threatening to turn into a wizarding nazi movement — that's some powerful drama. A series starting sometime in their school years (it doesn't have to be first year) could keep going until they're out of school and teaming up with the Order of the Phoenix, pledging their lives to a cause threatening to envelop their entire world. That's a powerful character arc, and we've seen almost none of it. Shows like Game Of Thrones have proven how successful series can be when they take on the political through the personal on an epic scale.
We know where these characters end up, but so what? Knowing that Anne Boleyn's love affair with Henry VIII would dissolve into her own beheading only made The Tudors more compelling to watch, not less. There have been countless retellings of Sherlock Holmes mysteries even though everyone knows certain endings. Everyone knows, every single time, that Romeo and Juliet are going to die. People still watched Game Of Thrones after being spoiled on certain deaths.
Knowing that Peter Pettigrew will eventually betray the Potters and Severus Snape will become a double agent for Dumbledore will only make for a more intriguing ride. Some of the best stories ever have been written based on the tension of how you get to a place, not based on the surprise of what's at the end of the line.
And don't tell me that it wouldn't be amazing to follow this story from their school years to Lily and James' death, Sirius' confrontation of Peter Pettigrew (and subsequent arrest), Snape's pledge of allegiance to Dumbledore, and Dumbledore's laying of Harry Potter on the steps of the Dursleys on Privet Drive, about to start his journey.
Because it would be fucking amazing.
Image: Warner Bros., HBO