Hermione Granger And The Goblet of Sexism: Chapter One And Introduction

Hello! My name is Katherine and I am extremely happy to be here! I’m doing a sort of fanfic/re-write/decon of Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire, using Hermione Granger as the point of view character. You probably already know this, but it felt weird to put a whole chapter of writing up without even popping in to say hi first. Ok then, so the format of this is going to be fic first, decon afterwards. Also, this is going to go chapter-by-chapter, and I’m going to do my best to stick to the original timeline for reasons basically my own limited ability as a writer. I’ll get into more details after the fic, ok then, introductions over, let’s go!

 

Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism

Chapter One
The Part-Time Witch / The Riddle House

It was quite late, but Hermione Granger couldn’t sleep. She was sitting up, cross legged, in her bed, pouring over a spell book for the fifth time. The frustrating thing was, she had already memorized it, and she wouldn’t be able to get any new books until September. Her father had offered to take her to the library, but she couldn’t think of what good the muggle library could do her now. Anyway, it was just possible that she had missed something important.

Hermione Granger, you see, was a witch.

At fourteen, she was awkwardly growing into herself, she was tallish with long limbs she never knew quite what to do with, though all anybody ever seemed to notice about her was her bushy brown hair. There was a lot of it, and even though she often got mocked for it, it was one of the few things she really liked about herself. She refused to let her mother cut it, she wouldn’t even discuss it. It was the one thing they really disagreed on.

She was tired, but she couldn’t sleep. Wrapped in her soft dressing gown (in her favorite color, kerry green), she pushed her face closer to the pages of the large leather bound book, and willed herself to stay awake.

There was a soft knock at the door.

“Yes?”

It was her mother, “Hermione, do you happen to know what time it is?”

She did, but she shook her head anyway.

“It’s just past midnight, dear. I know it’s the holidays, and I know you’re growing up, but I do wish you would put that book up and go to sleep.”

“Mum, if I don’t study, I’ll fall behind, and you know very well what will happen then! If I don’t prove myself, I’ll just look like a stupid muggle born, and I’ll end up with some tediously boring desk job.” she said it all in one breath.

“I know, dear,” Mrs. Granger heaved a heavy sigh, “but you’re only fourteen, and you deserve a break from that school. And you need sleep, remember what happened last year?”

Hermione lived two lives. During the school year, she attended Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where she studied spells, charms, arothmancy, magical creatures, and other fascinating subjects that pertained to magic. She slept in a castle dormitory and wore long, flowing black robes, every day as she went to and from her lessons. She took her meals in the cavernous great hall with it’s bewitched ceiling, and she spent her free time either in the library, or with her two friends, Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.

But during the holidays, she wasn’t a witch. Technically speaking she was always a witch, but during the holidays she wasn’t functionally a witch, seeing as how Hogwarts students weren’t allowed to do magic outside of school until they were of age. Instead, she was the only child of Mister and Missus Hugh and Jean Granger, and anything magical about her had to be kept secret. Contrary to what you might think, it wasn’t her parents who wanted her to keep her powers hushed up, they were actually rather supportive. Oh no. It was Wizarding Law. Hermione had had to learn right away that the wizarding world was just as filled with rules, corruption, bureaucracy, and downright nonsense, as the non-magical world. Her parents were allowed to know she was a witch, but telling anyone else about her powers risked violating the Statute of Secrecy and if she was found out, she would be expelled, or maybe even worse. Her first summer off, when she was twelve, had been alright, she’d never been away from home for so long before, and she’d gotten into a spot of bother with a dark wizard at the end of term (she hadn’t told her parents the half of it), and she was happy to be home. But since then, every holiday away from the school had been more and more trying for her. She hoped her parents didn’t notice, as she really didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

Hermione lived for magic. She breathed magic. She dreamed magic. It felt like the only thing that came naturally to her, the only task at which she wasn’t awkward and unsure. She had to be the best at it, she just had to.

The previous year, her desire to excel had been so great that she had signed up for more lessons than there were school hours in the day. She had been scolded, but had then persuaded her head of house to let her use a magical object — a time turner — to travel backwards through time every day, in order to make it to all her lessons.

“I still think you could have used that damn thing to get a little more sleep…” Mrs. Granger was saying.

“Mum!” Hermione pushed her hair up out of her eyes in exasperation, “I’ve told you a thousand times, it was only approved for LESSONS!”

Perhaps Mrs. Granger and her daughter disagreed on rather more than hair styles, afterall.

The fact was, Jean Granger was an intensely practical woman, and also intensely protective of her daughter. She was proud, to be sure, of her budding young witch, but whereas her husband beamed endlessly about his daughters accomplishments (often without fully understanding them), Jean Granger saw the stress the magical world put on Hermione. She worried about her, especially since Hermione had taken to skipping family holidays in order to stay at school and work even harder during her time off.

But the previous summer they had taken that trip to France, as a family, and that had been nice. Hermione has brought oodles of homework along with her, but still it had been nice.

Hermione was still looking downward at her book. She could feel her mother’s brown eyes looking at her from the doorway. She loved her mother, and wanted to please her, but all the same she really wanted to memorize this chapter before going to bed. She couldn’t afford to fall behind.

There was a long silence, as the summer night wore on around them. After what felt like an age, mrs granger broke it.

“Well,” she said, as hermione still gazed determinedly at the page before her, “if you’re staying up, I’ll put the kettle on. Would you like tea, or cocoa, dear?”

“Tea, please.”

It wouldn’t escape her mother’s notice, Hermione thought, that she had chosen the caffeinated option. But then, as Mrs. Granger was a dentist, she didn’t really approve of sugar before bed, either.

“Alright then.” Mrs. Granger sounded sad, and suddenly Hermione noticed it, and felt a pang of guilt that was not unfamiliar. Her mother turned to leave the room, but in the doorway she turned back and said “next time you get an owl, let me know before you send it off. I’ve got something I need to send to that Mrs. Weasley.”

It was only after her mother’s footsteps traveled down the hall, and then down the stairs, that Hermione allowed herself to look up. She stared through her tangles of hair at the open bedroom doorway. How many times had her mother stood there over the years, just to talk? Now they literally lived in different worlds, and though her parents tried, they could never really understand what it was like to be a part-time witch. She missed the closeness she had felt with her mother when she was younger, and the security and safety she had felt in her own home. These days, she didn’t quite feel at home anywhere. Was that because of the odd back-and-forth nature of her life? She wondered. Or was it simply one of those odd facts of growing up.

Hermione Granger did not have anyone to ask.

She was still staring at the doorway, lost in thought, ignore the open book in her lap, when she heard the kettle whistle from downstairs.

***

Deconstruction and Notes on The Source Text

Righto. I’m re-reading the book as I go here, and though I remember it pretty well (for years the only way my insomnia would pass enough to allow me to sleep was by listening to familiar audiobooks at bedtime, and if you’re not familiar Stephen Fry does a fantastic reading of the Harry Potter series, I highly recommend it) it’s still interesting to be seeing it through a totally new lens. One of the reasons I really wanted to do this project was that as I shared this truly amazing article by Sady Doyle and began to talk about it again, I realized that despite her status Hermione is a really poorly developed character. We only ever really see her from a male perspective.

My first thought was that this is probably because of course Harry is the point-of-view character. However, J.K Rowling manages to show us other character’s inner workings a bit. We know a little something about what motivates Ron, for example, or even Lupin and Sirius to some degree. What do we know about Hermione? She’s bossy. She has brown hair. It’s bushy. We don’t know her parents first names or how she gets along with them. We don’t know her favorite color. We don’t know how she felt when she got her Hogwart’s letter (though we do hear other muggle born students discuss those feelings!) and we don’t know if she was as good a student at her muggle school as she is at Hogwarts. We don’t know if she has muggle friends she has to hide her powers from.

And in thinking about the many, many, things that I wish I knew about Hermione Jean Granger, I realized that I’m most interested in her in book four. In The Goblet of Fire, for the first time, Hermione Granger is sexualized. I’m not going to get into all of my thoughts and feelings about the events that take place later in the book here, that’s why I’m doing the whole damn book. But, it does seem to me that her sexuality is used against her, and for the benefit of others, and she is portrayed as mysterious and other.

I didn’t read this book until I was an adult. But I wonder how that must have felt, must still feel, to all the brainy 14 year old girl’s reading this book.

All of that is to say, in the original book, Chapter One is “The Riddle House” and Hermione Granger isn’t even mentioned. Which is fine, Harry Potter is the point-of-view character and I don’t think I’m angry about that. What happens in “The Riddle House” is that Harry has a dream/telepathic vision of Lord Voldemort (which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because the dream is from the POV of an old man rather than Voldemort himself, but supposedly Harry is only having these visions because he’s accidentally reading Voldemort’s thoughts/feelings so what the actual hell). Voldemort discusses his recent activities and his future plans in a vague way that makes for some decent foreshadowing.

Rather than try to tie those activities in with Hermione in some way, I’ve used the space for a little bit of character development, and for something that the original book doesn’t seem to have even considered: Hermione’s relationship with her mom.

One final note! J.K. Rowling uses some devices that I frankly find a little bit annoying (even though I love these books so so so so much). She is very very fixated on certain physical characteristics of each character (with Hermione, it’s all about hair!) and she does a really unnecessary amount of recap at the beginning of each book. Because this project is about looking at the story from a different perspective, rather than trying to “correct” some of these stylistic quirks, I’m playing into them as best I can. The idea is really to try to stab at what these books would look like — with their flaws — if Hermione were centered rather than Harry. Whether or not I’ll be able to keep it up remains to be seen.

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18 thoughts on “Hermione Granger And The Goblet of Sexism: Chapter One And Introduction

  1. Firedrake January 25, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Welcome, Katherine!

    I’m not much of an HP fan but I’m not a Left Behind fan either, and I enjoy those decons…

  2. WanderingUndine January 25, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    SQEEE. I like this start, and look forward to seeing more!

  3. katherinedmclover January 25, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks so much!!!

  4. only some stardust January 25, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    I believe the explanation for being from the old man pov is that Voldemort was reading his mind. This might mean that at this point in the series, J.K hadn’t settled on the ‘memory reading’ interpretation of legilmency (or however it’s spelled) or that Voldemort has a more powerful version. Alternatively, Voldemort saw the old man’s memory of the event just before he killed him, and Harry ended up dreaming it as if it was in ‘real time’.

    To support this, Voldemort does say ‘you can’t lie to me’ in that chapter, if I remember right. He’s clearly doing some form of mind reading.

    I will enjoy it as you point out said literary devices you find annoying. 🙂

  5. boutet January 25, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    This is lovely!

  6. Silver Adept January 26, 2016 at 12:55 am

    This is a strong start. The way that Hermione would relate to her parents would be unique in the characters presented, and I do like the supportive but worried stance they have in relation to Hermione’s studies.

  7. Leliel January 26, 2016 at 8:14 am

    *clears throat*

    I am probably going to come off as whatever the fandom version of a mansplainer is, but I think the reason Rowling didn’t focus on Hermione was that she’s explicitly Rowling’s author insert. You don’t focus on these people lest they become Mary Sues, and they are always supporting characters if they are going to be tolerable, let alone likable. So there’s a good reason right there there that Hermione didn’t get much characterization, it’s simply better writing that way.

    On the other hand, the reason you don’t focus on an author insert is that they aren’t really characters, they’re extensions of the writer. Which leads to the inherent problem with them, lack of definite characterization-it’s probably a smart idea to treat their story as a shell for you, but a likable, plot-friendly shell is still a shell.

    I am not criticizing your beginning in the slightest, though; Hermione isn’t your self-insert, which means you’re distanced enough from here to actually fill out her life. And it’s a strong start anyway.

    I will watch this with interest.

  8. katherinedmclover January 26, 2016 at 10:20 am

    So just to be super clear, I’m not saying J.K. Rowling SHOULD have written the books from Hermione’s POV, or that the books would be somehow “better” if she had. Authors have lots of reasons for why they write the way that they do, including which characters get to speak more and which bits of characterization get left out. Maybe all of those things were very deliberate!
    What I am INTERESTED in, though, and what sort of inspired this project, is the fact that hermione is considered one of the main characters, one of the team of three, and yet we know next to nothing about her. This may be for the reasons you state, I won’t presume to know all of Rowlings intentions and inner workings, but a lot of what is left out abou hermione also happens to be consistant with a certain kind of objectivizing sexism. So there was a conversation about “what WOULD these stories look like if good from hermiones POV?” and I realized that I knew so little about her that that was almost impossible to answer. It’s an interesting problem, and it’s one that I’m using as a jumping off point.

  9. katherinedmclover January 26, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Thank you! Next week we are going to jump into the one phrase tht the source text ever uses to describe Mr and Mrs Granger: “both dentists.”

  10. only some stardust January 26, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I disagree with the premise that author inserts can never make interesting main characters: some people write very interesting and successful biographies, after all. And ‘Mary Sues’ make powerful characters: Batman is definitely by many standards a Sue. Harry Potter trends into Gary Sue territory himself, having victories just handed to him by luck/other people and yet still being special (and other people happily hand him keys to victory by virtue of his specialness, even though he is only special because other people gave him keys to victory starting with his mum… you see the cycle…). If an author can’t write about themselves and give themselves a definite character as rich as a fictional one, it sort of speaks to a rather bland personality or unwillingness to use personal flaws, doesn’t it? Why would an actual real person be one dimensional but fake ones three dimensional*?

    Hermione actually does have an interesting character arc: her loss of absolute faith in authority, her learning that not all information can be found in books, and later, her realization that even ‘nice people’ don’t necessarily care about the same morality as she does (slavery). Also, her ‘growth’ to decide her muggle parents don’t get the right to make the decision to keep their own memories in tact, when she decides them knowing they have a magical daughter is too dangerous (Wtf). All of this is her arc of adapting to the morality of her comrades, sometimes to good ends, sometimes to dubious ones.

    Even as an ‘Author Insert’ and as undeveloped as she is, she is far, far more interesting than Harry Potter ever was or is in the series. Harry’s growth as a character amounts to ‘I guess Snape/Slytherin is not pure evil, I feel kind of sorry for Voldemort’, but it’s kind of lukewarm. Also, ‘Unforgiveables are OK if it is a Death Eater’, which feels contradictory to the previous, but whatever.

    …I have a sudden desire for a Chosen One story where someone, noticing that the Chosen One has all the tools they need just handed to them and only accomplishes their victories because of other people, starts to impersonate them.

    *We could make a joke here that most people in real life are actually rather bland, un-selfaware, and boring, whereas fictional characters are required to be interesting. However, given that J.K was willing to critique Hermione’s over the top bookishness, we can conclude she was quite willing to give her ‘insert’ flaws and quirks.

  11. […] The Harry Potter Universe: Hermione Granger And The Goblet of Sexism: First Post […]

  12. liminal fruitbat January 29, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    I’m coming at this from a point of active dislike of the Harry Potter series (and many of the characters*), so keep that in mind but this is already more interesting than the actual Goblet of Fire book. It’s somewhat frustrating to see Harry being all “MY PARENTS ARE DEAD” towards Voldemort when he’s a scion of one of an old respected pureblood family and there’s a Muggle-born on his team who’d suffer under Voldemort’s rule for reasons other than the hackneyed personal ones Harry gets, and seeing what it’s like to be a Muggle-born in that hellscape of a Wizarding World is something the original books were direly in need of, so yay! I can’t remember much of what she does in this book besides be oddly insulted by Snape to set up her Cinderella plot, so it’ll be an interesting refresher.

    (I’m Thomas Keyton over at Ana Mardoll’s Ramblings, incidentally.)

  13. katherinedmclover January 29, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Hello Thomas, thanks for coming over!

    Yes, one of the things that I want to highlight is how really challenging the whole wizarding world is for muggle borns, and then it acts like it’s doing them a favor by you know, not being Voldemort. It’s so frustrating! If you think about it for more than a couple of minutes, the whole thing more or less breaks down.

  14. Silver Adept January 29, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    @ Leliel –

    If you think that introducing what you have to say as something that might sound like mansplaining, you’re probably ninety percent of the way to having people not really be interested in what you have to say. It might be worth an extra revision, or a different choice of words. If you said it as an attempt at provoking people so that you can feel justified in treating them without empathy later, then we are likely to have a problem that ends poorly for you, and it would be better for you to move on now.

    As for the content of what you said, I disagree that Hermione is the author insert character. I find that Ginny fits the role better, if there is a character that’s an author avatar. I also disagree that an author avatar has to be an undeveloped support character to be tolerable. Deadpool, after all, demolishes the fourth wall as part of his abilities, and he’s still incredibly popular. As are many other comics characters. The thing that counts more, especially here in this rewrite, is whether the characters are fleshed-out and have enough information told about them. The focus on Harry to the exclusion of others often takes time away from the potentially more interesting characters, like Hermione.

  15. Firedrake January 30, 2016 at 2:55 am

    There’s a style of writing in which the identification character needs to be a blank slate, so that the reader can project themselves into that viewpoint – I’ve seen it particularly in romances and in mil-fic. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.

  16. katherinedmclover January 30, 2016 at 6:20 am

    I don’t think that Hermione is a blank slate though. She’s really given just enough characterization for us to recognize her as a “type” and move on. So we can’t really project ourselves onto her at all (at least I can’t) but we see what characterization she has (smart! bossy! mysteriously female!) and fill in the blanks. It feels like we’re being invited to roll our eyes at Hermione and say “oh god, she’s one of THOSE types of girls…”

    When I started to dig into what we do know, and what we don’t know, about Hermione, it made me so sad for her. Because if you look at it from a Watsonian perspective… well, Harry is the POV character, so the fact that he doesn’t know these things, isn’t curious about these things about Hermione… it reveals how little he actually cares. It stings more when you contrast it with what we know about Ron Weasley. Harry could have bonded with Hermione over being raised in a muggle home, but he doesn’t. Harry could have shown an interest in what Hermione’s homelife was like (he’s certainly interested in Ron’s!) but he doesn’t. Harry could have acknowledged Hermione’s birthday once is seven YEARS of friendship, but he doesn’t, although he’s quick to pitch a fit when he thinks his friends may have forgotten his birthday.

    I don’t read JK Rowling interviews, partly because I believe books belong to their readers and I’m annoyed at her postscript additions (if there are LGBTQIA characters, for example, they should have had at least a teeny tiny bit of visibility in the books, otherwise, no, announcing years after the fact that there were queers there all along DOESN’T make the books inclusive) so I had to ask my Potter nerd wife if maybe JK Rowling had said something about Hermione being an author insert. She said that Rowling once mentioned that she was “a bit Hermione-ish” in school. That’s very much not the same thing. So from a Doylist perspective I find it hard to believe that Hermione is undeveloped as a character because she’s secretly JK Rowling.

    But anyways, I don’t really care WHY Hermione is underdeveloped as a character, I just care that she is. Your mileage may vary on that. Maybe for you, knowing why helps. For me it doesn’t.

  17. only some stardust January 31, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    I’m leaning toward the ‘we are supposed to see her as ONE of those types of girls’ explanation for her characterization, not ‘author insert’. There is a definite slight negative vibe toward Hermione in the books. I do think knowing why is important – because the answer is, in my opinion, sexism. And if you know someone’s doing that, you can call them out on it.

  18. genesistrine February 1, 2016 at 1:52 am

    I think the main negative vibe is towards “Hermione is a swot” rather than “Hermione is a girl”, but then she is a girl, which makes it kind of difficult to untangle….

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