Miss Hermione Jean Granger is not presented anywhere in the series as a young witch with any particular degree of mystery about her. Which, ironically, seems to make it all the more difficult for fanwriters to get a decent handle on her. But then, one tends to suspect that most of them are looking at her in some form of distorting mirror.
Most of the fans don’t seem to have noticed this. Or, if they have, they evidently have few objections to the preponderance of off-kilter “Hermiones” which proliferate throughout the fandom. I suspect that a part of this is because most of us recognize that Rowling’s version is not a completely realized character to begin with, and that any 3rd-party interpretation is largely the creation of said 3rd-party.
Which right there is a good explanation for why Hermione Jean is so often so recognizably Hermione Sue.
After all, it’s hard work being just about the only semi-consistently-realized major female character in canon.
But I’ll have to admit that there are times that I wonder whether the fans have even all read the same books. Fewer than half of them seem to have read the same books I did.
• • • •
The first thing which strikes me is that Fanon’s typical interpretation of Miss Granger usually has blessedly little to do with Rowling’s original. For one thing she is usually American. For another, she is usually far too well-socialized.
She is also usually an unmistakable “heroine”. Canon Hermione is (or at least was originally) much more typically played for laughs. At least as much as early canon Ron was. Film Hermione isn’t. But then I have never regarded films as being truly canon in any fandom which wasn’t originally based on a film.
• • • •
Canon Hermione may have burst onto the scene being all too willing to make a grand show of following the rules to the very letter, but she is not your quintessential “good girl”. And for that matter, she clearly started out with the notion that she was entitled to set herself up as the policeman who was going to see to it that everyone else followed the rules to the letter, too. Clearly she was one of Hogwarts’s occasional self-appointed “First-year Prefects”. I’m sure she wasn’t the only one. Percy Weasley also seems a likely candidate.
This is just not a particularly well-socialized child, although she obviously had figured out how to best present herself to adults. This is not a naturally, or effortlessly “good” child, either. In fact, this kid is a potential bully. And just about every other child on that train recognized it. Ron and Harry certainly did. Ron and Harry both already had ample experience of bullies.
Another thing about canon Hermione Granger is that over the course of the series, she really seems to have almost nothing to say about herself or her family. And Rowling has stated more than once in interviews that she is surprised that the fans see Hermione as “emotionally strong”. We finally got a loud and clear message in HBP that she is anything but.
Which also suggested to me that the decidedly neurotic undertone that I was reading in the canon accounts of Miss Granger’s statements and behavior were neither my imagination nor were they there by accident.
This was once an extremely insecure child who learned to over-compensate by acting pushy. And up to fairly recently this particular form of coping had generally worked for her — within reason. Upon the whole, she had succeeded in her short-term objectives more often than not.
But it had NOT been the most effective of strategies, overall. For all that she probably accounts for far more than her share of Gryffindor house points awarded, she is still not at all popular with her housemates, she does not have the social influence that she craves, and there is a tremendous amount of wasted energy involved in her methods.
One part of the fallout from these methods is that Miss Granger does not usually react well in situations of sustained external pressure. She already generates more than enough internal pressure of her own. When forced into such situations, her performance in whatever the immediate subject at hand is remains up to her usual high standards, but her personal behavior tends to become hair-trigger, over-emphatic, quarrelsome and decidedly shrill.
And even at the best of times, she tends to be prickly, high-strung, and impatient. There is a lot of fine human potential here, but this is not a quiet child. Nor a particularly sweet one. This kid is emphatically not of the tribe of Log. She is unmistakably Stork.
She also is clearly so determined to anticipate every possible outcome and write a mental script of what is supposed to happen at every point of that action that when she runs up against something she has not anticipated she tends to freeze. This can have dangerous repercussions.
• • • •
Miss Granger’s appearance; which, at the time Rowling closed the canon, was not generally subjected to a lot of controversy, we can get out of the way quickly enough: we are all reasonably familiar with what canon had to say of it. We know that she has brown eyes and brown hair which is “bushy” — which could just mean thick and unruly, but Rita Skeeter’s little barb about knowing things about Bagman that would “curl your hair — not that it needs it” suggests that her hair is, in fact, either frizzy-wavy or curly. Since the Yule ball in GoF we also know that she “cleans up well” if she is prepared to put a considerable amount of effort into it. She has not yet developed such a level of social commitment that putting in that degree of effort has become a day-to-day priority. She may not ever reach that level. Not all girls do.
Since the closing of canon, and the production of the stage play; ‘The Cursed Child’ the casting of an actress of African ancestry as the adult Hermione Weasley has thrown the fandom a bit of a curve. The casting was presumably with J. K Rowling’s approval, and has resulted in the adoption of the concept of a mixed-race Hermione being taken up by quite a bit the fandom with a good deal of enthusiasm. Representation is a thing.
There is, moreover, nothing in printed canon, as it stands which would absolutely contradict this interpretation. However, I suspect that had a mixed-race Hermione been Rowling’s original idea of the character, she would have made a point of telling us so. Since she has never been behindhand in pointing out any other Hogwarts student who was not presumed to be white.
Ultimately, whether Hermione is a brown-eyed, brown-haired English rose, or a young lady of mixed race is entirely up to whatever the fan writer or artist who chooses to use her decides upon.
But, we do know that she wasn’t at all averse to magically correcting the oversized front teeth that she had probably been teased about all through primary school.
Which brings us to: we also know that Miss Granger used to have “big teeth”. Whether this was actually prominent teeth that stick out, or that “rodent tooth” condition where the two front incisors are oversized in comparison with the rest of the teeth is unclear. Her parents’ insistence that she put her faith in braces would suggest the former, but the fact that a mere shrinking of the teeth fixed the problem would support the later. In any case, this is a feature which no longer applies. Her teeth are probably now quite straight, well-proportioned and would constitute a suitable advertisement for her parents’ dental practice.
We also know that at the end of Book 3 she was not exceptionally tall. Pettigrew was described as being about the same height as Harry and Hermione. Harry was still regarded as undersized at that point (although he was a full head taller than Cho Chang, who is a year older than he), and Pettigrew is described as a small man.
Pettigrew is not dwarfish, like Flitwick, however; he is probably in the 5’1”- 5’6” range. By the end of Book 3 Miss Granger was 14 and one would expect her to be just finishing up her major growth spurt with, at most, only a couple of inches more to top out. Given that she has never been described as either tall or short, she has probably since topped out at what counts as a dead-on average height for women in Britain.
We also have no information in canon whether she tends more toward the slim, or the plump, or the curvy bodily conformation and the readers of the American editions of these adventures were not assisted by the illustrator’s determination to continue drawing a 16-year-old Hermione Granger shaped as if she were a child of 10. (OotP chapter head illustration; Chapter 33.)
My own suspicion regarding Miss Granger’s appearance is that; over the first 4–5 books, we were dealing with a child through the period of life where the adult bone structure is only beginning to emerge. That at the age of 11 Miss Granger’s most distinguishing features were the hair and the teeth would tend to imply that at that age there was nothing else to really catch the eye about her appearance for either good or ill. The fact that by the age of 15 she looked “very pretty” with her hair slicked back into an “elegant knot” would tend to indicate that she probably has small, fairly regular, quite attractive features and the beginnings of a good bone structure, which the usual mop of hair tends to overwhelm, but that she is not yet an accredited “beauty”.
Neither is she in any manner of speaking “plain”. But she probably does not immediately catch the eye. Nor does she usually attempt to. At this particular stage of her social development she is still content to draw attention to herself on the grounds of “knowledge” or “character” and otherwise hide her light under a bushel of hair.
That a boy as self-absorbed as Harry did not notice that Hermione was turning out to be a passably pretty girl prior to the Yule Ball is hardly worth mentioning. Viktor Krum certainly noticed it, and I rather suspect that Neville Longbottom may have also. That few others appear to have done so, even since that point would suggest that she is still not some kind of stunning diamond-in-the-rough, but simply a rather attractive teenaged girl who probably does not look her best in regulation Hogwarts black and a fretful scowl. (She was out of uniform at the Yule Ball, too. Those “floaty” periwinkle blue robes alone probably accounted for something.) On the other hand, even if she were a good deal more strikingly pretty than she is generally presumed to be, her prickly disposition might still make most of the boys her own age hesitate to approach her.
By Rowling’s insistence, and after several official flip-flops, we are also now secure in the information that Hermione is the oldest of the trio. Seven months before finally settling the matter Rowling had just as clearly informed us that she was the youngest of the three, and it is clear from other statements made earlier that she really wanted Hermione to be the youngest of the three — but could no longer manage to do so according to the rules she had already set up. To retool our earlier readings of her character to comply with all this takes a wrench. The shifts are minor, but significant. Fortunately this should be the last time we will be forced to do so.
• • • •
Which brings us to a necessary related side note regarding the Time-Turner.
Various ’shipping communities take the view that none of the boys her own age are an appropriate match for Miss Granger, and have at various times proposed that therefore her OTP (One True Pairing) must be Remus Lupin, Severus Snape, Sirius Black (before OotP was released) or one of the other adult characters.
The majority of the fic writers from these communities merely go ahead and set their fics at some point in the future when Miss Granger would be an adult herself — or at least no longer a student — and continue from there. A significant minority of them, however, enjoy attempting to explore the dynamics of student-teacher relationships, or of other explorations of romance within a scholastic setting.
They do not, however, wish to imply that the adult partner in this enterprise is a pedophile.
Consequently, for several years, among these authors a convention sprung up which attempted to claim that Miss Granger’s use of the Time-Turner in her 3rd year added enough additional time to her physical age to make her “true” age that of “legal adult” status, even though she was still attending school.
In the early days of this convention it was widely accepted among the readers of these fics that this was a blatantly transparent dodge specifically intended to keep the hosts of fic archives out of hot water in case anyone started screaming “Kiddie-porn! Shut them down!”, and, as such, it operated much in the same manner as the standard disclaimer that the characters and world are the creation of JK Rowling, even though it was necessarily incorporated into the text, rather than, in fact, posted as a disclaimer.
The amount of time added to Miss Granger’s age was often highly implausible; anything up to 2-3 years has been floated in some fics, depending upon the legal statutes of the author’s country of origin, or what they were able to find on the internet (or what academic year in which the author had chosen to set the action). Over the past few years various readers, not being aware of what the underlying reason for Miss Granger’s precipitous premature aging really is, have accepted it as established fanon, and have some difficulty believing that it is not established in canon as well. In point of fact, it typically serves no real purpose to the stories’ actual plots.
Now that Ms Rowling has finally settled upon the statement that Miss Granger was nearly 12 years old when she began at Hogwarts, we can conclude that she will be turning 18 within the first month of her 7th year, without additional magical assistance. And, indeed, insofar as the wizarding world is concerned, she came “of age” within the first month of HBP, since the wizarding world regards “adult” status as being reached a the age of 17.
Perhaps one should also note that legal age of consent in Great Britain (at the time of this writing) is 16.
Despite which; I suspect that having an affair with one of her teachers would nevertheless be frowned upon. Severely. (Besides, canon Hermione is hardly portrayed as being the type to be carrying on an affair with anyone.)
Recently, a more level-headed and analytical faction have looked at the actual use that Hermione’s Time-Turner was put to over the course of Year 3 and concluded that Miss Granger probably used it enough to add no more than 4-5 weeks to her age, at the outside.
Which just about exactly corresponds with the weeks (Mid/late April to mid-June) that she spent in stasis while petrified during Year 2. (Forgot about the time in stasis during Year 2, didn’t you?)
Or, in other words: she broke even.
And that’s just all there is to the matter.
Deal with it.
• • • •
Now, moving on to the apparent facts in canon pertaining to Miss Granger’s background:
We know that Hermione’s parents are both dentists.
We have been given no clue as to where in Britain the family is settled. Or what sort of area in which they reside. It is reasonably safe to assume that they are either suburban, live in a small town, or are city dwellers. They are unlikely to live out in the country.
We have been told nothing specific of Hermione’s actual home background. Harry has not ever visited Hermione’s family. In fact, we have caught only brief glimpses of the Grangers at King’s Cross Station and their incursion into Diagon Alley in the summer before Hermione’s 2nd year appears to have been their last. Whether they were more intimidated by Lucius Malfoy’s clear contempt for their Muggle status, or annoyed by Arthur Weasley’s patronizing and, rather impertinent, interest is unknown. Rowling informed us on her original website that she deliberately kept Hermione’s family in the background, because she had chosen to give so much prominence to the Weasleys.(*sigh*)
We know that the Grangers are affluent enough to have taken their daughter on a holiday to France in the summer between her 2nd and 3rd year (probably not as much of a financial stretch for Brits as it would be for Americans, but it still would cost something) and to be proposing a family skiing trip (most probably either somewhere in the Alps, or in Scandinavia) during the winter of her 5th year, two and a half years later.
We had, up to midway through the series, assumed that she is an only child given that no siblings had ever been mentioned in canon. In Rowling’s World Book Day interview of March 2004 she confided that she had always intended to give Hermione a younger (Muggle) sister, but that by that time (2004), since a sibling had never appeared, it was probably too late to introduce one. That much is true. Given that Miss Granger’s behavior, particularly her orientation toward adults, rather than other children, has all of the earmarks of an only child, the lack of any mention of the intended younger sister is probably just as well, in the long run. By this time, to introduce a younger Granger, even if this sister is not another witch, in the face of Hermione having never mentioned a sibling over the course of 6 years would be almost as jarring as for the Dursleys to be suddenly having another baby. Evidently, the Granger sister is destined to join the Weasley cousin as a character who didn’t make it into the final version. Which, like I say, is probably just as well.
Particularly since the Grangers don’t seem to be particularly pro-active parents, either. Hermione appears to have been largely left to raise herself. If there had been a sibling in the mix, Hermione would certainly have been drafted into service, and we would hardly have gone through four years without ever hearing a mention.
A sibling would certainly have made the memory modification and packing the Grangers off to Australia a lot more complex. And correspondingly implausible.
An older, perhaps several years older, sibling might have passed without notice. But even that gets dicy considering the escape to the Antipodes.
Hermione spent nearly all of her term breaks at Hogwarts after her 1st year. She had joined the Weasleys prior to the World Quidditch Cup in early August in the summer before her 4th year and by the 6th of August before her 5th year she was already settled in at 12 Grimmauld Place for the duration, and never spent any time at home until the year was over.
And, at that, she was back in the Burrow 2 weeks after term broke up, for she was already there when Albus dropped Harry off after their side trip to Slughorn.
Which brings her up to a total of perhaps 10 weeks at home between September 1993 and December 1996. That’s even less time than Harry has spent at the Dursleys’. Indeed, she seems to have spent as little time in her parents home as she could get away with, until she fell out with both of the boys for a 2nd time, and went home for Christmas in HBP.
And she doesn’t make it sound as if she had all that good a time there.
Her family may have a supportive attitude to her determination to excel as a witch, (which she does confirm, more or less) but they don’t seem to insist on having her around very much, and Rowling states that they are proud of her, but do not really understand her.
• • • •
We do not get the feeling of any authentic emotional closeness with her family, either. A suspicion which is borne out at every turn by her behavior. This is clearly the child of busy parents. Both hold down demanding professional-level jobs, and on their own time they do not just sit back and enjoy quality time with their daughter. They travel. They go skiing. And a younger Hermione was dragged along with them regardless of whether this is what she had any interest in or not (although she may have enjoyed at least some of the traveling).
And you will notice that — by the age of 16 — even though she had spent next to no time with her parents since the summer before she turned 14, she chose to bow out from the opportunity to spend the Christmas holidays with them merely because skiing “wasn’t really her thing” (although I had my own suspicions about that).
Even before the close of canon, like Harry, I thought that if she survives, she will probably make her future in the wizarding world with hardly a backwards glance. She already seemed to be actively withdrawing from the world of her parents.
I also get a powerful impression that very early in childhood, Hermione learned to reflect back to her parents the sort of intelligent, “responsible” projection which has encouraged them to effectively cut her loose to raise herself. And they have largely treated her as an honorary adult ever since, displaying a level of trust in her that I think was not altogether deserved.
• • • •
In fact, reflecting back a projected image of what the people in positions of authority usually want to see is probably her only really well-developed “people skill”. She certainly does not seem to have ever developed the gift of making herself popular with her immediate peers.
Although by fifth or sixth year those peers have learned to respect her, and they no longer seem to actively dislike her. The Gryffindors seem, in general, to have become “sincerely used to her”. Everyone else is simply wary, and tries not to draw her attention.
Anticipating the demands of the plot du jour, by the opening of OotP her most recent advance in social development seemed to have been to, somewhat belatedly, swallow a copy of ‘Pop-Psych for Dummies’ whole, and set herself up as an expert, spouting it back to all and sundry. Most fans have taken this “expertise” at face value. I think they are making a mistake.
The advice itself is certainly not bad, but she is no kind of expert. Her explanations for other people’s behavior come across as “plausible” textbook examples, but somehow they are less than altogether convincing, and they are certainly not backed up by any authentic experience of her own. She has obviously read about how people can be expected to react in given situations, together with some alternate examples of ways in which they might conceivably react, and she does seem to finally be trying to put all the pieces together into a pattern. But the fact that people do not always react as anticipated by the writers of pop-psych manuals had not sunk in yet at all. Nor had the fact that some people manage to conceal their reactions extremely well.
Considering the botch she made of the encounter with the Centaurs and her determined mismanagement of the issue regarding the house Elves, it seems evident to me that she does not really have all that much actual connection with real peoples’ (human or otherwise’s) real feelings. She can give you a quite plausible schematic on the emotional world of Cho Chang, and, on that issue she is probably at least in the right ball park. But Cho is emoting fairly openly, and Miss Granger can still be fairly easily misled. Particularly by her own assumptions.
More tellingly, like many armchair experts, she can give other people, like Ginny Weasley, perfectly sound conventional advice, but she consistently misreads and mismanages her own emotional connections. In the interval between Book 5 and Book 6, It seemed extremely possible that this would be the vehicle of the great “comeuppance” that she seemed to be determinedly hurtling toward. Rowling definitely seemed to be giving us a long slow build-up to something to do with Miss Granger.
In the event, while Miss Granger still got no major comeuppance in HBP, it was indeed in the realm of accurately reading and dealing with others’ emotions that she finally succeeded in making a total fool of herself in public.
• • • •
Which brings me to my next point; from what we’ve seen, Miss Granger is all too ready to tell you what the experts think on every subject, but it is seldom, and only quite recently, that she has ventured to stick her neck out and tell us what she thinks. Only on the issue of the plight of the House Elves did she unequivocally take a personal stand and, rather stridently, stick to it.
Speaking of which: what about those House Elves? It seems fairly clear to the readers of the series that JKR has based her interpretation of House Elves upon the traditional tales of those household spirits which permeate European folklore. These creatures have been referred to by various different names, but are most familiar to modern children as the Brownies, from Mrs Ewing’s mid-19th century tale, ‘The Story of the Brownies'. This particular tale has been adopted, simplified and broadly popularized by the International Girl Scout/Girl Guide organization the world over, and is familiar to just about every little girl who has ever been even peripherally involved in it for the past century. Rowling herself was reportedly a Girl Guide for at least some time as a child.
So why doesn’t Hermione seem to recognize this? Does the Potterverse even have a Girl Scouts/Girl Guides organization? It might not. Are the Grangers, perhaps, the sort of overly “rationalist” thinkers to whom the reading of fairy tales and other such “escapist” literature is a practice to be gently, but firmly discouraged in their young? I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn they were.
For that matter, while we hear her quoting textbooks, and pop-psych, and history at length upon every opportunity, can anyone point to any example anywhere in canon of her referring to anything with an origin in literature of any variety? Or, indeed in any recognized branch of narrative “culture”? (Film? Theater? Opera? Ballet? Poetry? Folktales? Anything at all?) Hermione may read fiction, or she may not, but clearly she does not consider such sources a worthy portion of her arsenal. Or, if she has, it has all flown straight past Harry.
Which is a whole other problem for any attempt at analysis.
We still have no clear indications regarding Miss Granger’s recreational reading tastes, but her adoption of the WW’s Who’s Who as “light reading” in year 1 is suggestive (assuming she wasn’t simply showing off, which still seems to me to be most likely). Given that “culture”, at it’s deepest level, is defined by a collection of “shared stories”, she is beginning to come across as, culturally, a bit of a dullard. Which does not square at all with the “daughter of the middle classes” origins which as the daughter of medical professionals one initially grants her. The middle class is traditionally exceedingly proud of its familiarity with, and appreciation of Culture, thank you very much. Something here doesn’t match up at all.
Admittedly, in this instance, we are almost certainly being misled by the Harry filter again. Harry Potter clearly does not care about either the family or the cultural background of Miss Hermione Granger. Ergo, we are told nothing of it. In Harry’s perception, Hermione Granger is a young woman with a mind that never rises above the facts. This is not the case with all of Harry’s associates. But that particular filter seems to be rather selective in its attentions.
For example, Ron Weasley, a member of a very large family, speaks of his family constantly. By contrast, Harry is understandably reluctant to speak of the Dursleys. But Hermione appears to speak of her own family as rarely as Harry does. So, could this also be an effect of the “Harry filter”?
Well, perhaps. But somehow, I rather think not. She really doesn’t mention them.
So why does she not speak of them?
Because she doesn’t think her parents’ beliefs, or the culture of the mundane world make decent arguments in a wizarding context?
Or is she reluctant to rub people’s noses in the fact that she is Muggle-born?
It is obvious that she rapidly picked up the message that to be the child of Muggles is not a particularly desirable position to be arguing from in the current wizarding world, and it is a circumstance that she can do nothing about. Upon the whole, taken in concert with the lack of evident closeness with her own family, the overall picture that I am getting suggests a level of voluntary alienation from the mundane which goes rather beyond mere adolescent angst. But then, I am beginning to suspect that alienation from the company of others, including her own family, may be a semi-natural state for Miss Granger. One that she may not have originally sought, but that is at least familiar enough to her to be worth maintaining.
Which is to say; it is familiar, therefore it can be controlled. And canon Hermione is very, very much about control. That has been obvious from the beginning of the series.
Canon Hermione, from the beginning of the series, has also been presented as a walking compendium of facts. But by this time the lack of any corresponding sense of “culture” from her is distinctly odd, once you notice it. Even in modern, supposedly egalitarian times, the main hallmark of the “cultured” individual is a sufficient familiarity with these least “functional” trappings of one’s society to be able to take cheap shots at them. And she does none of this. She does not even take cheap shots at popular culture — a trick that even Snape is capable of pulling off! (Which, in retrospect, in Snape’s case, we ought probably to have taken as a clue.)
If this perception is solely an effect of the Harry filter, it is one that does her — and us — a grave disservice. If it is not such an effect, then we are dealing with a very strange personality here. It looks very much as though Hermione Granger is following a far more complex agenda than merely to get as full a wizarding education as she possibly can.
Whatever it is that she is doing, she is going about it with the same ruthless degree of thoroughness that she puts to everything else. If she is trying to divorce herself from the mundane world, I don’t think we’ve been shown such a single-mindedly comprehensive attempt this side of Tom Riddle. (Or, in the wake of Book 6, Severus Snape.)
• • • •
And, now that we finally come right down to the nub of it, I think that if you had to describe Hermione Jean Granger (The “Jane” middle name was only website and interview info. It was nowhere in the books. I think, when push came to shove, Rowling tried decided to eliminate that bit of common ground between Hermione and Umbridge, they have far too much else in common as it is) in 25 words or less, one of those words would assuredly be “ruthless”.
This is definitely not the sweet, intellectual, overly well-socialized, “good-girl” who is impersonating her in a fanfic near you. Canon Hermione, for all her fine potential, once examined closely comes across as an extremely “edgy” and rather brittle young woman, with a number of highly distressing traits.
“No she’s not!” clamor the fanfic authors. “I see her as shy and rather plain...” “She’s very mature for her age.” “She wants to learn everything she can, she wants to acquire knowledge for its own sake!” “She cares about justice.”
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Well, yes, she does care about justice. (Thank goodness. I’d hate to see what she was capable of if she didn’t!) Whether the objects of her chosen crusade want justice or not. Which, at this point in the House Elves’ history, they do not. In their own words; “We is not wanting paying and we is not wanting to be free.” Ron has consistently been more in tune with what the House Elves want and deserve than Hermione ever has.
If you ask me, the House Elves want appreciation more than justice. And she isn’t offering them that.
As to the rest: what books are these people reading? Shy? Mature? A thirst for knowledge for its “own sake”? Hermione Granger? It is to laugh.
Let us start at the beginning, shall we? Our first sight of Hermione Granger was of a nearly 12-year-old Little Miss Bossy-Boots, already decked out in her Hogwarts uniform, working her way down the corridors of the Hogwarts Express trailing an embarrassed Neville Longbottom (who probably didn’t know what hit him) in her wake, marching up to total strangers and demanding to know whether they had seen his missing toad. At that point in time, she must have known that was one of the youngest people on that train. Didn’t slow her down much, did it? (To say nothing of leaping to the center of attention every time any teacher has ever asked a class a question.)
Shy? Oh puh-leese.
From the standpoint of the imperfectly-socialized; this kind of demanding (in fact very close to bullying) behavior is entirely acceptable if is in the service of someone other than oneself. She has clearly found herself someone to “help” and is setting herself up as Neville’s (or at least Trevor’s) white knight. Hermione Granger, Future Head Girl, that’s me!
(Now who else do we know about that has been described as a “pushing, thrusting” young person?)
Ron’s botched and almost certainly bogus spell to turn Scabbers yellow gives her an opening to get his attention by spouting a tall tale about how all of the spells she tried at home worked! Knowing what we now know about the restrictions of underaged magic, as well as Miss Granger’s tendency to lie her way out of a tight spot, or potentially any spot she doesn’t care to be in, leads me to suspect that this was a complete fabrication. She then goes on to boast off-handedly about having “learned all our course books by heart”.
This last claim actually may not be a complete fabrication. If she was indeed presented with her Hogwarts letter by a Hogwarts representative, or Ministry employee shortly before her 11th birthday, she may have made her first excursion into Diagon Alley as early as the preceding September, after the previous academic year had already started. This would have given her nearly a year to have gone through the standard first year course books. Not to mention ‘Hogwarts, a History’, ‘The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts’ and ‘Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century’, all of which she claims to have read.
But we still have no confirmation that this is how the notification of Muggle-raised prospective students is typically handled in the present day. It was certainly not the case in Tom Riddle’s day, when such matters were handled by the Hogwarts staff. Who would probably not have been making such visits during the academic year, while school was in session.
Upon coming face-to-face with a bonafide celebrity on the order of the famous Harry Potter, she clearly assumes that the appropriate thing to do is to impress him with what an informed young witch she is. She tells him straightaway that she has read all about him.
In her own way she is being every bit as condescending as Draco Malfoy.
And it is all going over just about as well as his version did, too.
This is a child who is clearly determined to be Admired. The Sorting Hat wasted very little time before throwing her to the Lions, even though she might have found the Eagles more welcoming. They would certainly have had a higher tolerance of her manner, which is nothing new in Ravenclaw.
And if she went on in that vein (and we already know she did!) it is small wonder that “nobody can stand her” by Halloween. Ron Weasley spoke nothing less than the truth, there.
The fact that she did eventually become a valued friend to Harry and Ron has blurred everybody’s recollection of just what kind of a person she still comes across as if you aren’t already predisposed to like her.
She didn’t get a personality transplant after the Troll in the bathroom incident, you know. Or even after the trip into the Labyrinth. If this is the face she has consistently shown everybody in Slytherin House for the past 6 years, then it’s small wonder they followed Draco’s lead where she was concerned. If the Gryff’s vision of Draco Malfoy is of a braggart flanked by two goons, the Slyth’s vision of “Saint Potter” is likely to be one of a twerp flanked by a female bully and a hot-head. It’s all a matter of perception.
However, if nothing else, her association with Ron and Harry did at least teach her to curb her tendency to boast. Either that, or this was something she learned from Draco Malfoy by way of a counter-example. For we get a great deal of open boasting from her during 1st year, but very little after that. It is also possible her somewhat slowly-developing social skills simply matured to the point of mastering the overtly self-effacing statement which nevertheless accords oneself full credit in some other area (Albus was a master of that technique). She was only 12 after all, and she was still scrambling to cope with living with other people her own age 24/7. She’d never had to do that before.
• • • •
And she did seem to be learning. Gradually. As much as they both burst upon he scene determined to boast, show off, and draw attention to themselves, we can see that, until the middle of HBP, whereas Draco Malfoy had apparently learned little and had devolved into something on the order of the “class clown”, (although his father’s position still gave him an edge among the Slytherins) Hermione had made considerable strides in breaking herself of at least some of her least likable behaviors.
By the end of Year 1 she had learned that boasting gained her no brownie points with her peers.
By the end of Year 2 she had evidently decided that drawing attention to herself on general principles was not a great idea either.
It took all year of Year 3 to get her to stop showing off in class, but she appears to have finally managed that lesson as well — for the most part, although she still goes into that mode whenever she is confronted by a new teacher.
In HBP Snape finally went so far as to openly slap her down for simply parroting the information from the textbook. He’d probably wanted to do that for years. But Potions is a study which does tend to support rote learning and “one true answer”. At least the way he taught it.
Now if she could just wrap her mind around the concept that not all the answers can be found in books, or that she could be wrong about anything she would be making real progress.
• • • •
As for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake: fish fuzz.
She came onto the field determined to excel in order to be SEEN to excel. And by this time she knows damn well that in the wizarding world knowledge is quite literally power. And there is a war in progress! Not to mention that she belongs to one of the most targeted groups. She intends to have the very best stocked arsenal in Britain.
Knowledge for its own sake, my arse.
For that matter, for her first few years at Hogwarts she was quite transparently “showing off” what an extraordinary student she was at every possible opportunity. It took a year-long exercise in overreaching herself during the course of PoA to finally run her up against her limits and get her to knock off the act. I wouldn’t put it past Professor McGonagall to have facilitated her use of that Time-Turner expressly for the purpose of giving Miss Granger enough rope to hang herself. There are very few flies on Minerva McGonagall.
Since then Miss Granger has managed to siphon off most of that excess nervous energy into “projects” such as coaching Harry for the Tri-Wizard Tournament, thwarting Umbridge on general principles, the plight of those poor, defenseless (Ha!) House Elves, and getting Ron Weasley to finally notice her. But the instances of her showing off in the classroom have scaled back from their high point around Year 2.
The impression that she managed to create over those first couple of years stuck, however. Snape was still sneering at her well after she had outgrown the worst of her show-off stage. Snape didn’t change his mind about people readily, and he had bad, bad, associations regarding show-offs.
• • • •
And I begin to think that we may be giving her too much credit in the academic arena, too. The fact that *Hermione Granger* was unable to complete even one year under the kind of an academic load she took on in Year 3 without coming apart at the seams makes us wonder first; how anyone can ever possibly manage to achieve 12 OWLs, (Percy seems to have done so, however, as well as Bill, and so did Barty Crouch Jr) and, second; whether she is really as clever as she makes herself out to be, or if she is simply a tightly-wound overachiever with a photographic memory.
[Query: what was her 11th OWL in. She was only taking 10 classes. Did they let her sit the OWL for Muggle Studies on the strength of having taken it for only one year? Or is this just another case of; Oh. Maths.]
And by sixteen, it appears that she was beginning to reach her limits.
Item: In the raid on the DoM she silenced rather than disabling an enemy. We already know that DADA is her worst subject, and, moreover, in the subject of DADA she and her year-mates have been egregiously badly taught — except by Remus Lupin, who did not teach them Defense Against the Dark Arts so much as Defense Against Dark Creatures (we can’t count on anyone but Harry having learned anything significant from “Moody”). But hadn’t she ever come across any reference to non-verbal magic?
That is a fundamental method of spellcasting. At NEWT-level it is required for just about every class that does any appreciable amount of spellcasting. And she never came across it before? From Harry’s trip into Snape’s Pensieve a year earlier it was evident that the skill had been introduced at least a year earlier in the Marauders’ day for both James Potter and Severus Snape were making use of it. (Was Snape deliberately rubbing her nose in her gaffe by making non-verbal magic the very first skill he taught them when he finally got the DADA position? He had been the one to have to deal with the results of that mistake, after all. It took ten different Potions to repair the damage.)
And what about all of those DADA reference books in the DA’s meeting room as provided by the Room of Requirement? She and Harry had spent all year browsing through those to learn new spells to teach the others. She never came across a reference to nonverbal magic in any of them? Or realized that it could be important?
Item: Over the entire course of Book 6, Harry, who has absolutely no real understanding of the study of Potions, consistently outperformed her by following the notations made in his copy of the book by a former student, and all she did was to complain about him using the annotated book! Now, mind you, she was right to complain that Harry was cheating. She was right to complain that he was pulling a Lockhart and taking credit for somebody else’s work. And she was right to point out that he was taking an awful risk to do so. But it was absolutely clear that he was getting better results because he was following better instructions, that this mysterious “Half-Blood Prince” was making improvements to the process. Yet she did not reflect that doggedly reproducing perfect textbook examples is not the best that someone can do? Not even in a relatively exact science like Potions.
And yet she, who we all assume does have a real understanding of the underlying principles of the subject, never even considers sticking her own neck out and risking her perfect score by trying to see where she might make some innovations herself? Slughorn was sending out the message — loud and clear — all year long that innovation is a Good Thing. But no, she’d rather sulk. She may be bright, but she is evidently not creative. Or at least not in Potions.
However, we do know that it wasn’t simply the fact that she was being shown up by Harry that had her nose out of joint. Harry has been quite legitimately showing her up in DADA class since sometime in 3rd year, and her response to that was to propose that he coach her, and anyone else that they could round up, when it was clear that Umbridge didn’t intend to teach them anything. But the fact is that, in Potions, Harry was cheating.
Still, it is beginning to look as though, while she is still very bright, and very competent, to this point, she may have been coasting along to a large extent on the fact that she was also very precocious. And other people are finally beginning to catch up to her.
Especially Draco Malfoy.
And none of this boded well for her performance once she is away from the controlled structure of a classroom. When examined even somewhat closely, she is depicted as a plodder. A very clever and effective plodder, but a plodder none the less. There is a very real lack of spontaneity and originality there. Fortunately, she didn’t overreach herself again before the problem of Tom Riddle had been finally settled. (And her sudden intermittent replacement by a hitherto un-introduced “action heroine” answering to her name at various points in DHs was as disconcerting as it was unconvincing.)
And she knows this. She admits as much in the very first book. “Books and cleverness”. That was NOT a piece of false modesty, or even real modesty. It was a statement of fact. It took us until the end of Book 6 to finally get the message.
In fact, thanks to the Harry filter we don’t even get an impression that she has any particular enthusiasm for her studies — apart from Arithmancy, which she had to come right and tell him is her favorite class in order to make any sort of impression. In this regard we are clearly being jockeyed into a position of missing relevant information. People who have something that they are interested in, they talk about. Obviously Harry lets the better part of Hermione’s conversation wash right over him, taking no notice.
From the above, however, we do at least know that she honestly relishes a challenge. Arithmancy she has told us right out to be her favorite subject. It is also, she claims, probably the “toughest subject there is” when it comes time to sit the OWL for it. Which all made one sincerely hope that Rowling would at some point at least show us all what it is. (Yet another hope which Rowling dashed in DHs.)
Thanks to the Harry filter, however, we have no indication, whatsoever, of whether she takes the slightest interest in ideas, or philosophy or theory. We didn’t even see Hermione regularly burrowing into the books she had packed during the endless camping trip. We haven’t a hint of anything to actually support that supposed thirst for “knowledge for it’s own sake” claim. Just the facts, m’am, nothing but the facts. We have been given no portrait of a young “intellectual”. What we have been shown is merely a sketch of an overbearing little swot.
Is it humanly possible to be that dull?
But in this case I think we can solidly blame the Harry filter.
• • • •
I did mention up there above that she lies, didn’t I?
Well, yes, I’m afraid she does. We all already know that. In fact, she flat-out lied her way into Ron and Harry’s good graces with that bouncer about “I went looking for the Troll!” I guess we are expected to believe that she is usually rather better at it than that particular example came across in print. We watched her lie again “for the cause” when she led Umbridge into the Forest and into harm’s way with a banbury tale of “secret weapons.” I can’t say that I found that one much more convincing. But, then, she was dealing with Umbridge, and telling Umbridge what Umbridge wants to hear is never likely to be a mistake. However, when she tried to pull that stunt on Borgin she found herself summarily shown the door. Borgin is a tough nut to crack, and she isn’t that good.
When she isn’t improvising and spinning tales off the top of her head she is much better at it. In CoS, she slips that permission slip to use the Restricted Section under Lockhart’s nose very smoothly indeed.
I wish I could assure you that she only lies in a “good cause”. But I can’t. In Phoenix she admits to Harry that she lied to her parents at Christmas, giving them the impression that “everyone who was serious” was staying at Hogwarts to study for the OWLs in order to get out of the proposed ski trip. Then she (probably) took the Hogwarts Express into London with the rest of the homeward-bound students and turned up in Grimmauld Place that evening by way of the Knight Bus. This is not exactly lying for the cause of the Light. But it was certainly very slick. Makes one wonder just how many other times she may have been been lying to us as well.
• • • •
And as for the notion that she is mature for her age... words fail me.
People got that impression solely because she is so clearly not “one of those boy-crazy girls” like (presumably) Lavender and Parvati. Which is a fair enough assessment. She isn’t. Although she has certainly had her share of “girly moments” over the course of the series. Particularly in the first three books. Those tapered off rather quickly after she discovered that the kind of behavior which most impressed Ron Weasley was more on the order of slapping Malfoy across the chops or marching out of Trelawney’s classroom. One might reasonably speculate whether that discovery had anything to do with the escalating arrogance and recklessness she was displaying over the course of books 4 and 5.
But this starting point automatically introduces the distortion of assuming that Lavender and Parvati represent the “normal” model of female teenagers, rather than being every bit as much of an exaggeration from what is typical for their “age group” as Hermione is, along with the corresponding assumption that Hermione is somehow “beyond all that”.
Because once you consider the matter without such pre-established assumptions and manage to dismiss the distraction represented by Lavender and Parvati from the equation, the picture you get is just as likely to be down to Hermione lagging somewhat behind in her social development as it is any indication that she is any appreciable distance ahead of her “peer group”.
As of March 2004, we were suddenly expected to believe that if her parents hadn’t pulled strings to get her admitted into primary school a year early. She would have been in the same class as Ginny and Colin Creevy, where, perhaps, once one gives the matter some serious consideration, she really belonged, developmentally. She certainly behaves in a manner which would support this conclusion.
But no. We don’t have any such easy outs in that regard. If she “started early” at Primary school, it only means she had an extra year of Muggle schooling before she got to Hogwarts. Socially she is quite clearly a late-bloomer. Her being older than Ron and Harry may go some small way towards explaining her bossiness, but that is about all that it accounts for.
And Rowling up-ended that statement a few months later and finally pinned herself down to admitting that Hermione really is the oldest of the trio after all.
For that matter, so far as we can tell, her closest female friend anywhere in canon is Ginny Weasley, who is nearly a full two years younger, and is not the “less dominant” partner in the friendship. Even taking Hermione’s bossiness into account.
Item: she has never once failed to rise to the bait whenever Ron makes one of his egregious male chauvinist statements. A fact that I am convinced that Ron is quite clever enough to be perfectly well aware of, and who has almost certainly passed into the stage of — at least sometimes — doing it deliberately to tease.
A “mature” individual would have figured that out.
A “mature” individual would have also figured out that your friends don’t *have* to agree with you on every single particular. Moreover, that she isn’t responsible for Ron’s behavior. That it isn’t her place to try to *control* his behavior. And that his behavior is no reflection on her anyway.
In short, that she isn’t his mother.
A mature individual would probably sit back and *let* him periodically make a capering jackass of himself if he’s so insistent on it.
But no. She has to bicker over every phrase, every incident, and when she realizes that he has her where she can’t win she stomps or flounces off to bed with a great deal of humphing and eye-rolling.
That’s not exactly my definition of maturity. If you ask me, the kid is not mature. She is merely articulate.
And as for not being boy-crazy; Well, no. She isn’t.
Or at any rate she certainly isn’t crazy about boys in general. But by the middle of GoF I was beginning to wonder whether Rita may not have inadvertently managed to incorporate just enough of a grain of truth in some of her smear articles to sting. Rita Skeeter is not unperceptive. She makes a living from her observations of people’s behavior.
We saw how Hermione behaved when she came face-to-face with a celebrity on the order of Harry Potter. We also saw how she behaved the following year when exposed to a celebrity on the order of Gilderoy Lockhart.
And, two years later, a celebrity on the order of Viktor Krum singles her out. Personally.
Well, we can be pretty sure that she didn’t go running after him. He isn’t a celebrity in any field that she particularly values. In fact she regarded his extensive string of Quidditch groupies with unconcealed contempt. But there is no blinking the fact that he *is* an international celebrity, quite legitimately, and attaching him was in the nature of a coup. And she clearly grew to *like* him well enough on his own account to still be carrying on a correspondence with him a year later (a thread which was comprehensively snipped in DHs). But he seems to have been a good deal more bowled over by her, than she was by him.
And I am inclined to think that particular association may have at least started out with an element of being deliberately one in the eye to outside detractors on both of their parts. Remember just who Krum was being forced to associate with on a daily basis that year.
He may be a jock, but we didn’t get any real indication in GoF that he is a *stupid* jock. (However inarticulate he may be in a second, or more probably third, language.) His turning up at the ball with a Muggle-born Gryffindor on his arm isn’t exactly something that happened by accident. And I’d really like to know just whose idea that originally was.
On Hermione’s side; one hardly needs to strain to write up a list of the top half dozen people that showing up at the Yule brawl on Viktor Krum’s arm had her scoring off of. And make sure that list includes at least one person that she had already concluded is subject to bouts of jealousy.
The allegation that she "uses" famous young men to her own advantage may have smarted. Just a little.
• • • •
I’ll also take the time here and now to hazard my own opinion that the biggest reason to date for why Hermione Granger doesn’t seem to have much time for running after boys in general is because from the time we first met her, she’s had her eye on one in particular. And I am not talking about Harry Potter.
Or Neville Longbottom.
Think about it.
Who, of all the people that we’ve met in over some 4000 pages of this series most had the power to hurt her, with one careless word. And, knowingly or not, has used it. More than once.
One or two other people have managed to wound her, usually quite deliberately, but who else do we know that routinely does it without even trying.
I rather doubt that she’d have been sniveling in the bathroom all afternoon and evening if she had overheard the statement that she was a nightmare that nobody could stand coming from Draco Malfoy. Or even coming from Harry. But Ron? Pass the hankies.
And yet she constantly misreads him. And we’ve never heard her say anything particularly nice to him. Which even he has noticed. (“Always the air of surprise.”) She has rarely been even remotely supportive.
It’s all very well to call him out on the disrespectful comments he makes about females, his comments invite that, but she fixates on some supposedly underlying significance of the careless things he says, and doesn’t take the trouble to look beneath the surface of his actions.
Or his reactions. Blowing off his falling out with Harry over the Goblet of Fire with “he’s just jealous” may have made Harry feel better, but it wasn’t a particularly accurate interpretation of the situation. Mere jealousy would have been if Ron were indeed fuming just because Harry had got some more public attention and he didn’t (Q: When hasn’t he?). That wasn’t what was going on at all. Attracting public attention wasn’t the issue — although that made an easy stick to beat Harry over the head with.)
I’d say that Ron was upset that Harry had somehow managed to get his name into the Goblet without him. He was convinced that Harry had gone and done it by himself, and then was shutting him out even more by not even having the decency to tell him about it. There was some jealousy present, sure. But he wasn’t just jealous. Ron is used to being outshone, he doesn’t mind it too much so long as you still include him. But now he’s been shut out, and rejected as well, and it hurts.
So he whips himself up into a temper because a 14-year-old boy just can’t publicly burst into tears because his best friend has gone off and left him behind like he doesn’t even matter!
If Harry had fiddled the Goblet with the help of someone else, now, that might have been cause for pure-and-simple jealousy. But that he had gone off and done it alone was a cause for pure-and-simple hurt.
And anger. Ron was still going through his very worst stage of adolescence at that point and he handled the whole situation about as badly as he possibly could. But to convince Harry that it was all just simple jealousy was a disservice to both of them and it probably helped to keep the rift open longer than it might have lasted without that particular bit of “helpfulness” on Hermione’s part. Hermione’s Helping Hand strikes again.
I really think that incident wasn’t there to demonstrate how wonderfully perceptive Miss Granger is about other peoples’ feelings. It was there to demonstrate the opposite.
Emotional range of a teaspoon, my foot.
He’s certainly not the only one.
In the aftermath of the Yule brawl she must have taken some degree of satisfaction that she was finally making an impression. But then Ron farted about for the rest of the year, and then went on to leave her twisting in the wind throughout the whole of Year 5. With, still, Not A Word spoken on the subject.
And, while we’re on the subject; Earth to Hermione: have you considered that rubbing his nose in that continuing correspondence with Viktor Krum was sending a very mixed signal, and that maybe *that* has something to do with why somebody-we-won’t-name left you dangling all through year 5? Hm? Boys aren’t generally any more confident about this sort of thing than you are, you know.
(Or were you just trying to make him jealous again?)
Five years waiting around for somebody else to make the first move is a major chunk of your life when you aren’t yet turned 17.
Even Ginny Weasley, two years younger and a year earlier, was able to change a pattern of behavior that wasn’t working.
And even if I’m misreading just when it actually started, even two years is a fairly major investment in a teenager’s time. But I really don’t think I am misreading it.
• • • •
And then in Year 5 suddenly someone else was showing a marked interest in him as well. At first sight, effectively. And, when one stops to think about it; very pretty little Padma Patil had quite happily agreed to go with him to the Ball. Clearly there must be something rather significant about our friend Ron Weasley which is just not working its way through the Harry filter.
And, heaven help us, but Luna Lovegood just isn’t the sort of character that Hermione could muster up a lot of respect for. Nor is she the kind of person that Hermione can readily compete with in any meaningful manner. Luna spent the whole of Book 5 sitting on the sidelines watching the show, but if she had decided that she really wanted him, there is a very good chance that she would have got him. Luna has a lot more confidence in herself than Hermione does. And she has no compunction about asking for what she wants for fear of looking ridiculous.
And, by that time, I wouldn’t have been particularly astonished if Hermione’s years of torch-bearing (at least 2, possibly as many as 5) hadn’t suddenly gone very sour on her and she just let Luna have him!
Well, evidently I sold Luna short. (Sorry Luna. My bad.) When push comes to shove, and leaving aside the Crumple-Horned Snorkack and other fabulous wonders, Luna has the essential, clear-eyed honesty and emotional courage to look past what she wants to see in a person she fancies, and determine what is actually there. She took Ron’s measure over the course of Year 5 and found him lacking. He is funny. But he is often unkind. And Luna has had ample experience of unkindness, thank you very much. Someone else is welcome to him.
But, after looking over the series to that point, I couldn’t help but wonder whether Book 6 was going to be the one in which it would finally be Hermione’s turn to get a thoroughgoing “mad-on” at one of her friends. Harry wasn’t the only one of the Trio to have reached a particularly nasty stage of adolescence.
In Book 1 it took until half-way through their first term for her to connect with Harry and Ron at all.
This tripod continued pretty much without anything to disrupt the balance of the relationships through Book 2. And all three of them were still essentially children throughout Book 2, even taking into account Hermione’s crush on Lockhart.
In Book 3, however, first Ron, and then Harry spent most of the year mad at her. And she was too overstressed and unhappy to get mad right back at them. Ron also moved into the earliest stages of his really “bad patch” of adolescence during that period.
In Book 4 Ron spent half of the first term mad at Harry, and in Book 5 Harry spent most of the year mad at the world and taking it out on both Hermione and Ron. Neither of whom appreciated it. Harry clearly had finally entered his “bad patch”. Ron, by contrast, seemed to finally be beginning to emerge from the other end of his.
Wasn’t she about due?
It didn’t really seem likely that Harry was going to have improved significantly over the summer. (Although apparently, getting Voldemort out of his head solved the worst of the problem.) Plus, Ron had kept her hanging for the past couple of years by first enacting the jealous twit, but then never pulling his head out and making a statement of his intentions.
And both boys took her totally for granted.
How long was she expected to put up with this?
She is not exactly a peaceful individual, after all.
Or was she still insecure enough to just keep on taking whatever they dish out in order to have any *close* friends at all?
• • • •
And, apparently, I was right. Hermione seems to have spent the majority of Year 6 getting throughly pissed off at both of the boys. She was mad at Harry because he was cheating in Potions class and (just to add insult to injury) showing her up because of it, too! And she was quite throughly put-out at Ron’s apparently bullet-proof obtuseness, and was determined to “show him”.
And she made a miserable job of it, too. It is positively laughable that she could give such legitimately sound, if conventional, advice to Ginny, a full year earlier — advice that Ginny would have benefited from in the long run even if it hadn’t worked — and on her own account could manage nothing more effective than to, yet again, launch the very shallowest and most transparent of attempts to — what was this, the 2nd, or the third time? — make Ron jealous.
And to botch it. Completely. What she did had nothing to do with the final result. Ron had already noticed her — because he was finally ready to notice her. It had been his own little sister — Hermione’s friend — who managed to derail the whole natural progression with one particularly vicious quarrel.
Well, Ginny. By 6th year viciousness seems to be an inherent part of the package, there.
All Hermione managed to succeed in doing was to demonstrate publicly that she is capable of making an unmitigated fool of herself.
• • • •
And I will have to say, for the record, that while ending up with Ron Weasley is a long way from being the worst thing that could ever happen to a girl, I still think this is a bad idea. She wanted him, and she finally got him, evidently. But she still didn’t understand him, she doesn’t seem to respect him, and she still consistently sells him short.
And if she has wanted him all this time because she made up her mind to want him when she was not quite 12 — when she didn’t even know him — and has never stopped to question whether she wants what he actually is, then the whole situation is even worse. Because she is quite stubborn enough to hang onto him simply because she has invested so much of her time and energy into getting him. Whether she enjoys having him or not. And if she doesn’t, then she is liable to try to change him. Which is an even worse idea.
Forcibly reminding me of Dumbledore’s statement all the way back in Book 1 about humans having a knack for wanting exactly what would be worst for them.
Sometimes, as the wise man said: the price of getting what you want is that of having something that you once wanted.
Not to mention the prospect of Molly, the mother-in-law from Hell.
Oh, hey. Why borrow trouble? They’re teenagers. Their lives are not set in stone.
But... oh Gawd. Ron + Hermione; theirloveisocanon!
And SO dysfunctional.
And even by the end of HBP, so not even off the ground yet.
• • • •
Which brings us to the «spits» epilogue.
I think we can all feel confident about what Rowling intended by that utterly wasted opportunity for giving us some information that mattered.
One Big Happy Weasley Family with Harry and Hermione safely rolled into the tribe. Hermione and Ron and their two children, and Harry and his Stepford!Ginny with their three.
Stepford!Ginny doesn’t even seem to have any say in the naming of her own kids. Although in all fairness young James could very well have turned out to be James Fredrick (or Alfred). And Little Lily is probably Lily Ginevra. The serious shortage of female Weasley names makes one sincerely hope that the poor child is not Lily Nymphadora. But I suppose she could be Lily Hermione. (ETA: She is Lily Luna. Poor thing.) Even Albus Severus could have been a compromise. Although it would be difficult to sort out just which parent was holding out for which name.
But the fact that Epilogue!Ron seems still to be seriously immature for his purported age has a great many fans limbering up to do a few therapeutic backbends to avoid the issue.
I cannot say I blame them. Rowling’s initial claim that Ron and Harry had “revolutionized” the Auror department of the Ministry does not play well with a Ron who does not hesitate to confund the Muggle who is evaluating his performance in order to get a driver’s license.
And while Rowling’s second proposal of a Ron who goes to work at the Wheezes shop with his brother George and evidently spends his life trying to fill Fred’s shoes is a lot easier to believe (despite the fact that Rowling never set Ron up as being either a bully or a prankster, he did idolize his brother Fred), it is all but inconceivable to imagine a Hermione Granger who would, even for a moment, seriously consider settling down with a surrogate Fred.
Drafting out alternate solutions is rather fun, and really not nearly as difficult as you would think it ought to be. Or as it would have been if Rowling had ever done anything but simply take the conclusion for granted. I’m not the only one to point out that nothing said by anyone in the «spits» epilogue challenges the reading that Ron isn’t just all of Harry’s and Hermione’s kids’ favorite uncle.
Bachelor uncle if there is any common sense left in the world. Of course his own kids may just not be Hogwarts age yet. Ron could be a bit of a late starter where it comes to taking on adult responsibilities. We would hardly be astonished at that.
And for that matter, since Hermione’s eldest wasn’t born until a good eight years after the end of the war, there is ample opportunity for there to have been some kind of slip betwixt the cup and the lip. The two of them certainly didn’t marry the week after Voldemort fell, and immediately start turning into Molly and Arthur. In fact, they may not have married each other at all.
But Ron would certainly turn up to see his niece and nephew off on the train for their first trip. And Hermione may well have left her husband discoursing to somebody else about broom regulations in order to join Harry and Ron to all see the Hogwarts-bound off together, and then take the two younger children off to whatever eatery has now taken the place of Fortescue’s in consolation, and to catch up with Ron, and Harry & Ginny.
And we did overhear Percy discoursing about broom regulations to somebody in the mist there on the platform. Harry was glad to be able to take the excuse of the mist not to greet him. He probably gets quite enough of Percy at the office. Or during family get-togethers.
Well if we are still locked into One Big Happy Weasley Family, that almost goes without saying, doesn’t it? I can’t really see her with Charlie or George, any more than I can see her with surrogate-Fred!Ron. Or, actually, even original Ron. Less so, in fact.
And she and Percy are co-workers, after all. A great many matches these days are made in the workplace. And I should think the two of them might deal extremely well together.
One seriously hopes that their children are both bidable and intelligent. For a stupid child, or a rebellious one would not be an asset to such a household. Both Percy and Hermione can respond well to a challenge, but that is not exactly the kind of challenge that would bode well.
Because they really, really are just a bit too much alike. You rather shudder to think of the kind of flap they would periodically work themselves into, fussing over something between the two of them. And neither of them willing to admit that they could ever be wrong.