This article includes minor spoilers for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Here’s the thing about love potions, in the Harry Potter books and elsewhere: They’re date rape drugs.
In the new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a love potion plays a small but significant role without actually being used for its intended purpose. It also makes Ron Weasley look like a total creep, because he gave it to Harry’s 14-year-old son Albus as a “pre-Hogwarts gift.”
Albus assumes the gift is a joke, but Ron’s side of the story is what makes it unsettling. After seeing Albus with Delphi, a woman in her 20s, Ron describes her as “an older girlfriend” and “a cracking one at that,” then remarks: “Nice to see my love potion being used well, I thought.”
What the hell?
There are a range of love potions in the Harry Potter universe, from the short-lived recipes offered by Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes joke shop (which is probably what Ron gave Albus) to Amortentia, the most powerful love potion of all. However, they all lead to the same basic results: The drinker becomes infatuated with the person who administered the potion. It’s not “true love,” and it’s not permanent, but the drinker certainly believes that they’re in love—and they can easily be made to do things they’d never otherwise agree to do.
The Harry Potter books have always had a confusing attitude to love potions. In The Half-Blood Prince, we learn that Voldemort’s mother forced a muggle named Tom Riddle to fall in love with her, and Dumbledore theorizes that Tom abandoned her after she stopped drugging him with a love potion. It’s a clear-cut case of rape and coercion, but later in the same book, a love potion is played for laughs when Ron is accidentally dosed by Romilda Vane, a girl with a crush on Harry.
In a story full of strange and unexpected additions to the Harry Potter canon, it’s unclear why The Cursed Child needed to include a love potion in the first place. Its main role is to include a specific ingredient, which could have been written into any other potion—perhaps a more harmless prank potion from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Instead, we get this bizarre character detail of Ron giving his 14-year-old nephew a rape drug, and none of the other characters having a problem with it.