In a weekly series, staff writer Katie Majka takes a look at some of our favorite witches and wizards, and how they fit into literary and social archetypes. This week: Delphini Diggory
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The femme fatale is described as “a stock character of a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.” Famous among these women are Morgan le Fay, Marie Antoinette, Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) in 1941’s The Maltese Falcon, Courtney (Rose McGowan) in 1999’s Jawbreaker, and Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) in the more recent Orange Is the New Black series.
Although these women share an archetype, they operate in their own singular ways, although the process proves to be fundamentally the same. But as is customary, each of these femme fatales brings their own charm and panache to the table.
Delphini Diggory of Cursed Child fame–or infamy, depending–is less charming and more dull on the page of the script book. It’s more likely that it’s Albus Potter’s own hormones rather than Delphi’s proclivity at the femme fatale trade that put the boy at her mercy. But however Delphi manages to ensnare him, ensnare she does. And in doing so, she coaxes him into one dangerous circumstance after the next.
Delphi plays something of a Nymphadora Tonks role–chatty, clumsy at times, and open-hearted. Tonks’ warmth is layered over the skilled witch and protective woman that she is. Delphi’s, meanwhile, is a mask she wears to encourage affection from those she can use.
"DELPHI: I was rubbish–and then something clicked. And it will for you too. Not that I’m a super witch or anything but–I think you’re becoming quite some wizard, Albus Potter.ALBUS: Then you should stick around, teach me more…DELPHI: Of course I’m sticking around, we’re friends, aren’t we?ALBUS: Yes. Definitely friends. Definitely."
As a rule, the femme fatale uses a combination of her sexuality, lies, and coercion to achieve her ends. While Delphi isn’t a particularly sexual character, her femininity is apparently enough to distract Albus from any suspicion. Delphi’s lies range from the necessary to the absurd, as details of her schooldays are contradictory throughout the course of the play. This is a fact which Scorpius realizes, but too late to avoid the ensuing trouble. Had the boys paid closer attention, they might have recognized Delphi’s rather graceless attempts to hide her true identity and mission.
To be fair, Delphi is certainly mysterious in Albus’ and even Scorpius’ eyes. She pops up on the Potters’ staircase at precisely the right moment with hardly an explanation. Her mystery is somewhat diluted for the reader, however, as her sudden appearance makes it obvious that she’s the villain of the tale. Narratively, though, Delphi serves as the femme fatale to Albus’ hero, as he’s entranced by her regardless of whether or not the reader is likewise.
"[DELPHI] smiles. She looks at ALBUS. She leans down and gently kisses him on both cheeks.She walks away into the woodland. ALBUS stares after her.SCORPIUS: She didn’t kiss me–did you notice? (He looks at his friend.) Are you okay, Albus? You look a little pale. And red. Pale and red at the same time."
Occasionally, the femme fatale is a victim of some sort, or she pretends to be to suit her needs. Delphi fits this bill in more ways than one. She initially claims to be the still-grieving cousin of Cedric Diggory who only wants to see her uncle Amos reunited with his son. But ultimately we find that she perceives herself as a victim of another sort. When confronted and subdued by Albus and the gang, Delphi’s villainous resolve cracks and she claims, heartbroken, that she “only wanted to know [her] father.”
Of course, seeing as her father is Voldemort and her most ardent desire is to serve him, that crack may be about as genuine as Delphi’s character overall. It’s not clear what, precisely, motivates Delphi throughout Cursed Child. Is it the prophecy, as told to her by Rodolphus Lestrange? Did the Rowles, notorious Death Eaters, influence her to take this murderous path? Was it her own political ideologies? Or were those too a side effect of her Voldemort-supporting guardians?
Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t seem as simple as wanting to know the father she never had the chance to. From the text, it would seem that Delphi has the penchant for madness her mother Bellatrix fell victim to during her time in Azkaban:
"“I want a return to pure and strong magic. I want to rebirth the Dark.”“I am the Augurey to your Dark Lord, and I am ready to give all that I have to serve you.”“I would not claim to be worthy of you, Lord. But I have devoted my life to being a child you could be proud of.”"
Judging by such choice pieces, the reader can speculate that Delphi inherited the genocidal streak that ran through Voldemort and Bellatrix alike. The ambiguity of Delphi’s motivations does, at least, add to her mystery. This consequently supports her position as the Harry Potter series’ resident femme fatale.
On the whole, Delphi is not a particularly artful or satisfying execution of this archetype. Indeed, she’s more a villainous caricature than actual villain, but she serves her purpose in Albus’ story even if her own is lacking. Unfortunately, the femme fatale’s purpose tends to revolve around a man’s story. While this trend is rather give-and-take, in this case we don’t see enough of Delphi in-context for her to counter the norm. If nothing else, Delphi manages to deliver a scathing line to Albus that hits her femme fatale persona home: “[Y]ou’re far easier to control than Amos–children, particularly male children, are so naturally pliant, aren’t they?”
That’s some stone-cold rejection right there. Delphini Diggory might not have readers shaking in their boots as we did with Voldemort before her, but that burn is at least deserving of a Z-snap.
Be sure to check out our other Harry Potter and the Order of Archetypes installments.