Don't worry, J.K. Rowling isn't in it.
“When things get really dark and times are really hard, there’s something about Harry Potter that makes life richer.” So says Emma Watson in the first trailer for the major cast reunion special of Harry Potter, and indeed, there has never been at time in which being swept off to a secret world of magic could feel more comforting.
The early glimpse of Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, which premieres New Year’s Day on HBO Max, has all the ingredients to make any fan feel like a kid again: a return to the various sets of the franchise, glimpses of nearly every cast member you can think of gathering together, and of course the franchise’s primary trio together publicly in a room for what appears to be the first time since the films ended.
“Think of a powerful memory, make it the happiest you can remember,” says Daniel Radcliffe in a voiceover, culled from a scene in the third film, that introduces the trailer while clips play of the actor walking through a snowy Diagon Alley and Watson strolling through a steamy Platform 9 ¾. The trailer appears to promise a visceral sense of nostalgia and magic for the franchise, as various cast members like Watson and Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy, are captured reuniting on the floor of the Hogwarts Dining Hall set itself. (Notably, as previously reported, the book series’s author J.K. Rowling is absent from the special.)
Elsewhere, Helena Bonham Carter, who played Bellatrix Lestrange recalls one of the highlights of her role (a scene in the final film in which she had to “pretend to be Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix”); Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort) talks about his initial hesitancy to take on the iconic villain role; and Gary Oldman, who played father figure Sirius Black, has a heart-to-heart with Radcliffe.
Returning to Hogwarts could also be seen as a reminder of just how much older and further removed from childhood wonder fans have become in the wake of the franchise’s conclusion. That could leave some viewers with a tinge of sadness to the whole affair, but Radcliffe doesn’t see it that way. “The thing that scared me the most was the implication that the most meaningful thing in our life was done, and there’s something so joyous about seeing everyone, and being like, ‘It wasn’t though,'” he said.
That applies most of all perhaps to Radcliffe and his co-stars, Watson and Rupert Grint. “It’s a strong bond we’ll always have. We’re family, and we’ll always be part of each other’s lives,” Grint said of the trio. And in the most moving line of the trailer, he adds, “I’ve watched you grow up and I've seen kind of every stage of your life.” He says it to Watson, but he might as well have been saying it to a whole generation of fans who spent their childhoods imagining themselves in the halls of Hogwarts.