Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism
The Invitation / The Invitation
She stood in the kitchen, staring after her mother for a moment, dumbfounded. She was trying to work it all out before she responded, because she just wasn’t the type to fly into a rage until she knew what she was raging for. But she felt the muscles in her fingers stiffen, and she knew she was on the edge.
She took a deep breath, sat down at the kitchen table with her plate of eggs, and poured herself a cup of tea. The small, rather excitable, owl, was still bouncing around the room. Her father was watching it with amusement, but Hermione ignored the owl altogether. Only after she had eaten several bites, and taken several large gulps of tea, did she set herself to responding to Ron’s letter.
Twenty minutes later, the owl had gone, Mr. Granger had cleaned most of the kitchen, and Mrs. Granger was upstairs getting ready to leave for work. Hermione headed up the stairs to her own bedroom, and began putting her spellbooks and school things carefully back into the large, ungainly truck, which she used to transport them to school each year.
Her bedroom was powder blue, and she could remember when, as a tenth birthday present, she had chosen the color herself and painted it with her mother. It had been pale pink for most of her childhood, she supposed since her parents had brought her home from the hospital and set the room up as a nursery for her, but she’d never liked it much. She and her mother had worn old clothes, and moved all the furniture out, and covered the floor in canvas drop cloths. She could still remember the smell of them. And they’d listened to old rock and roll, and laughed and gotten positively covered in paint. Mrs. Granger had made Hermione wear a cloth over her hair, but somehow she got blue in her hair anyways. It had been lovely to be exhausted and messy, but staring at a job well done.
She wasn’t sure if anyone she knew in the wizarding world could quite relate.
As she took a large basket down from the top of her wardrobe (it was for her cat, Crookshanks, to travel in) she heard a soft knock at the door.
“Come in.” she said flatly, without turning.
It was, of course, Jean Granger.
“Hermione dear, I’m about to be off for the day. Is there anything in particular you want for dinner?”
She took a deep breath, “There is not, and I won’t be home anyways. As you know I’ve been invited to stay with my friend Ronald, and as soon as I’ve finished packing and found my damn cat, I will be leaving directly.”
“Yes, as it’s plain you’d rather I were away for the holidays, I don’t see any reason to delay.”
“Oh Hermione,” Mrs. Granger looked sad, but Hermione didn’t want to see it, “that’s not it at all, I only…”
“I KNOW VERY WELL WHAT YOU WERE PLANNING TO SEND TO MRS. WEASLEY!” Hermione turned with tears streaming down her face, “I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU PITY ME AND WANT ME GONE. WELL AS IT HAPPENS, I DON’T NEED YOUR PITY, AND I’M LEAVING ANYWAYS SO YOU WON’T HAVE THE TROUBLE OF ARRANGING IT.”
“How did you…?”
“I am not stupid, MOTHER.”
“Well, I only thought…”
“I haven’t the time for this,” she took a deep breath to steady herself, “I need to find my cat.”
Because it was after the rush of morning commenters, Hermione actually managed to get a seat on the bus. She hoped crookshanks would behave himself in his traveling basket. In the wizarding world, it was quite normal to travel with a cat, or for that matter an owl, a rat, of a road. The only animal hermione thought would seem out of place was a dog, but of course the muggle world was almost the opposite. The only acceptable animal to have in public was a dog.
She’d never rode the city bus with Crookshanks before, and it occurred to her that she didn’t know if it would be allowed. She tightened her grip on the handle.
People think I’m terrified of breaking rules, she thought to herself, and they keep thinking that despite everything that I’ve done. But I’m not hemmed in by breaking rules, I’m just smart and selective. Well, I’m smart and selective apart from right now. I can’t believe I didn’t think to look up whether or not be would be allowed.
An old lady wearing a hat with a flower in it sat down next to her. Her grip on the basket became tighter still, and it suddenly occurred to her that Crookshanks could meow at any moment.
“That’s a lovely basket,” the lady said, propping her umbrella up next to her, “and my goodness I haven’t see a trunk like that in ages! Don’t most girls your age go for something a bit more modern, dear?”
“It’s an antique,” hermione lied, “it’s been in my mothers family for years.”
“I’ll say it certainly has been! I’m surprised she let you out the house with it!” The old lady looked thoughtfully down at her own bag for a moment, and then smiled, not unkindly, and said “and where are you off to with all of your old fashioned luggage this morning, my dear?”
It’s easier to tell a lie if it surrounds a kernel of truth, and Hermione had learned a lot about lying while trying to get by in the muggle world as a part-time witch. It was always best not to make up fanciful stories, you just had to change the details around to make them non-magical. “I’m off to stay with a friend in the countryside, until my school term starts up again,” she said easily, “I like the trunk for my school things because it reminds me of home, and my mother would rather it get use than be always covered in dust in the attic.”
“Oh what fun!” The lady said, “I remember the joy of going on holiday when I was your age, goodness do I! And does your friend share your taste in antiques?”
Against her will, Hermione was starting to enjoy talking with this grandmotherly figure. She let out a little laugh, “oh no!” She said,” all he cares about is, uh, football!” Well, she couldn’t say quidditch, could she?
The old lady’s eyebrows raised. Had she noticed Hermione’s pause?
“You’re going to stay with a boy? And your mother let you?”
She had been so preoccupied avoiding any magical details that it hadnt even occurred to her that it wasn’t exactly typical for fourteen year old girls to be close friends with boys. Come to that, it didn’t occur to her often in the first place, it was just her life. Her two closest friends just happened to be boys. And of course that probably would seem odd to a woman old enough to be her grandmother.
“Well,” she said doing her best to sound casual, “really it’s his sister I’ll be staying with, and we’re all friends.”
The lady was giving Hermione a knowing smile. Hermione made a sour face without totally realizing she was doing it.
“But it was the boy who invited you to stay?”
Hermione was getting uncomfortable. The more personal the talking became, the more likely she was to let something stupid slip and risk the statute of secrecy. What if she accidentally mentioned “the daily prophet” or “the quidditch World Cup” or even “floo powder?” She didn’t like to let muggles get too close, because it was an awful lot of trouble when she did.
“I suppose it was…” she said vaguely, now watching for her stop and looking away from the old lady. They were nearly there, and then she could get away. She pulled the chain. The old lady was still looking at her intently, and almost against her will, she glanced back at her.
She wasn’t smiling anymore.
“Do be careful getting mixed up with boys, my dear,” she looked downright sad, “I wish I had been more careful when I was your age.”
The bus stopped, and a slightly shaken Hermione gathered up her things, and awkwardly dragged her trunk out into the bright sunlight.
It occurred to her, crossing the sidewalk, that a teenage girl dragging a heavy “antique” trunk and a large basket into an old pub probably looked very suspicious indeed. But there was nothing to be done for it, it was the only way into the magical world. Anyways, The Leaky Cauldron was under some rather mysterious enchantments, and although it wasn’t exactly invisible to muggles (her parents had been through, for example) they didn’t seem to notice it unless it was pointed out to them.
It was an old Inn, with an even older innkeeper. Usually, like so many other witches and wizards, Hermione passed through the bar to the alley behind it, and tapped the right stone in the wall with her wand to gain entrance to Diagon Alley, the narrow street full of wizarding shops which was hidden away from muggle eyes. Today, however, she wasn’t going shopping for her school things.
She marched right up to the bar, and waited for the Tom, the innkeeper, to finish serving a patron. She hoped very much that she looked confident and serious, because she was both confident and serious.
“Good afternoon Tom,” she said as soon as he approached her, “I’m not certain the proper etiquette for this, but would it be possible to use your fire?”
“What, with floo powder?”
“Yes, I’m doing some traveling.”
He wheezed. “Can’t go to no muggle fires, you know.”
Hermione stood up a little straighter. “Tom.” She said with dignity, “just because I am muggle born does not mean I am going to a muggle fire. As a matter of fact, were I headed to a muggle lodging I likely would have taken a muggle mode of transportation, such as the bus I took to get from my parents’ muggle home to this street, perhaps. No, being aware of how the floo regulation laws work, I am asking to use your fire to get to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur and Molly Weasley. I’ll gladly pay. Now, what is the fee, and I haven’t got any floo powder.” her voice trailed off at the last sentence.
Tom stared at her out of his wrinkled face.
“No fee, missy, and I meant no harm. Here, I’ll get you a scoop o powder.”
He got a tin down from a high shelf behind the bar, and put a small handful of the bright green powder, the stuff which witches and wizards used to travel by fire, into a teacup. Then he motioned for hermione to follow him to the fireplace. She started to grab her heavy trunk to drag it behind her, but before she could do so it floated into the air. Her sore arms were relieved, now she just had to figure how to managed Crookshanks in his basket.
The trunk glided through the air, and then stood itself up in the back of the fireplace, just as neat as you please. Hermione never even saw Tom raise his wand, though she assumed he had done it. As she approached, he handed the cup out to her. She poured the powder, as neatly as she could, into her right hand. Tom was watching her carefully.
“Oh for heaven’s sake yes of course I know what I’m doing!” She had of course, carefully studied diagrams of travel by fire in books. But at fourteen, she had never had occasion to try it for herself. Couldn’t let Tom see her nervous, though.
With her basket full of cat under the other arm, she threw the handful of powder into the fireplace. All at once, the flames turned emerald green. She stepped in calmly, they were cool just as she had known they would be, and said “the burrow” as clearly and concisely as she possible could.
All at once, she was in motion. Crookshanks hissed. The trunk knocked into her knees. She was spinning fast with her eyes closed tight to keep out the soot and ash. Crookshanks yowled.
And then, just as suddenly, they were tumbling out of a different fireplace, into a kitchen she had never been in before. There was ash in her hair and hair in her eyes. The basket in her arms burst open, and a fury of orange fur and sharp teeth emerged. Before she could even think how to react, Crookshanks has leapt away and scampered out of an open window. Well, she thought brushing herself off, at least they had made it.
She was looking out of the fireplace, into the Weasleys’ crowded kitchen. It was obvious that this was not a muggle home, and she suddenly realized that she had never actually been in a wizarding house before. The rather cramped room was dominated by a large, scrubbed wood table and mismatched chairs, and all the rest of the accouterments of a kitchen (both of the magical and non-magical varieties) hugged the walls. There were spare cauldrons, and books on magical cookery (Hermione wasn’t much interested in cooking but couldn’t help wondering what these books were like) and as far as she could tell, about one thousand wooden spoons. The kitchen sink was still laden with breakfast dishes, and on a wall to Hermione’s left was Mrs. Weasley’s magical clock, which she had heard described by both Ron and Harry. The room felt cluttered and busy, but also warm and inviting.
And it was all empty. She hadn’t thought what she would do if no one was there, and she didn’t exactly want to go marching rudely through the whole house. It seemed rather bad etiquette, and she was left noticing that a great problem with traveling by fire was that it left people no chance to refuse you, there was no door to be knocked on. Of course, she had sent the small owl ahead with a note CLEARLY stating that she was on her way, and she had been invited. So she wasn’t entirely showing up unannounced and unexpected, but still. She briefly wondered if she ought to stay in the fire place until someone returned to the kitchen… And wondered how long she would be waiting.
She settled in waiting at the kitchen table, and leaving her trunk in the fireplace, so as not to be to forward. She took her copy of the daily prophet out of crookshanks’ traveling basket, and began to read.
Most of the articles were all about the upcoming quidditch World Cup. Hermione had always been more interested in books and spells than flying and sports, but she followed quidditch at school because it mattered to her friends. She didn’t know a thing about the national teams, though, and it occurred to her that if she wanted to fully understand wizarding culture, the World Cup would be extremely helpful. And so she read an article about how many galleons the stadium where the game would be held had cost, and what sorts of brooms the players were all riding, and an opinion piece entitled “English Wizards Don’t Owe Ireland Their Support, Bulgaria Is The Clear Winner.
She was pondering issues of nationalism and athletics when Crookshanks came back in through the open window. He jumped lightly up onto the scrubbed wooden table and pressed his forhead against hers.
“But why are we here, Crookshanks?” She said aloud, “why would anyone ever invite me to a quidditch match in the first place?” If things had been different, if she had been a muggle girl, for example, she might have discussed the question with her mother. But she wasn’t a muggle girl, and she was still feeling hurt by her mother’s attempts to get her out of the house and unsure what to do about the strain in their relationship. For the first time in a very long time, she found herself wishing that she wasn’t a witch at all.
Then the kitchen door opened, and in walked plump Mrs. Weasley, and her youngest child and only daughter, Ginny. And from the looks on their faces, no, Ron had not informed them that she was on her way so soon. Well, there was nothing for it. She stood up and smiled politely.
“Hullo Mrs. Weasley,” she said in a clear voice that she hoped didn’t sound awkward, “Ronald invited me to come and stay for the World Cup by owl, and I do hope it’s alright that I’ve arrived so soon. You see, it just happened to be the most logistically feasible time. I did send the owl ahead to let you know…”
Ginny was staring at her curiously. Mrs. Weasley though, just broke into a smile. “Oh sit down girl, for heaven’s sake of course we’re glad to have you! Only that Ron didn’t bother to tell anyone you were already on your way, which is like him, never tells his mother anything.” She waved her wand absentmindedly at the teakettle on the stove, which flew to the sink and began filling itself, “The boys are all out for a bit of quidditch, and Arthur is at work. Ginny dear, go and make sure your room is ready for company! And Hermione, I’m making you a cup of tea, you look spent.” she walked across the room to get two cups and saucers, while a flame appeared beneath the kettle on the stove.
“Merlin’s beard!” she shouted suddenly, “what on earth is your trunk doing in the fireplace?”
Deconstruction / Notes on The Source Text
CN: fatphobia, fatshaming
Slowly but surely, we are getting closer to our two point-of-view characters being under the same roof and interacting with each other. According to the text, Hermione and Harry are both invited to The Burrow to attend the quidditch world cup, and stay for the remainder of the summer holidays. It seems weird to me that this invitation has been extended to not one, but two, of Ron’s friend, but apparently none of the other Weasley children’s? Or maybe they all invited friends but no one else wanted to come? It’s not explained, and it’s bothering me. Oh well, moving on.
Essentially, all that happens in this chapter is that Harry goes down to breakfast with the Dursleys, receives the invitation, and gets the Dursleys to say he can go. But there’s something else we need to talk about here, and it’s something that isn’t going to come up in the Hermione Granger chapters themselves.
Dudley Dursley is, of course, Harry Potter’s cousin, and his very first bully. The way that the Dursleys, Dudley included, treat Harry ranges from very poorly indeed to downright abusive, and I don’t want it to sound like I’m giving Dudley a pass here. I’m not.
However, in the grand tradition of authors using FAT as shorthand for lazy, stupid, mean, and greedy, the narrative constantly brings up Dudley’s weight as though it were somehow relevant. The message we, as readers, get over and over again is that Dudley being a fact character is inextricably linked with his being a bad person. I’d hate that no matter what, but as he’s a kid, it really gets under my skin. There are so many things J.K Rowling did right in these books. This isn’t one of them.
And that fat shaming really ramps up to a whole new level here in chapter four. I hadn’t remembered exactly how bad it was until my reread for this project and well, here’s an excerpt, concerning the report sent home for the summer from Dudley’s school.
“However, at the bottom of the report there were a few well-chosen comments from the school nurse that not even Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia could explain away. No matter how much Aunt Petunia wailed that Dudley was big-boned, and that his poundage was really puppy fat, and that he was a growing boy who needed plenty of food, the fact remained that the school outfitters didn’t stock knickerbockers big enough for him anymore. The school nurse had seen what Aunt Petunia’s eyes — so sharp when it came to spotting fingerprints on her gleaming walls, and in observing the comings and goings of the neighbors — simply refused to see: that far from needing extra nourishment, Dudley had reached roughly the size and weight of a young killer whale.”
Ok, a few comments on that.
- This is included at the end of a list of other things he’s in some kind of trouble about at school. So again, we’re morally equating Dudley’s size with his ruthless bullying of other students.
- 2. It’s from a nurse, so we have the classic concerning trolling fat people always get that THIS IS ABOUT HEALTH. You can tell, because the nurse said it, see?
But wait, actually this is about him not being able to get knickerbockers that fit. So it’s a clothing issue? That doesn’t actually sound like a medical issue to me then…
- The school nurse, they’re the one who finally noticed that Dudley is fat. I bet no one in Dudley’s life has ever mentioned to him, or his parents, that he’s fat. I bet he doesn’t hear it every day at school from other kids. I bet he doesn’t hear it every time he goes to the doctor. I bet that when he was a chubby little kid he wasn’t constantly assured by grown ups that it was “just a phase” and I bet he didn’t notice when they started to look worried that maybe it wasn’t just a phase. Seriously this makes me so fucking angry. Dear school nurse: fat people do not actually need you to tell us that we’re fat, we already know.
- Oh the whale comparison, nice. That really drives home that this is an issue of medical health. Thanks for clarifying, Rowling.
Talking about Dudley’s weight is a tool that is employed by the narrative to dehumanize him. Dudley has done some really mean things to Harry, but we get to really hate him because he’s not really a person, he’s a fatty. It’s ok to really despise Dudley Dursley because in addition to being a huge jerk, he’s also huge.
So apparently, this concern trolling nurse sent home a “diet sheet” presumably with some kind of daily food recommendations on it, and Aunt Petunia is now forcing the whole family to follow it to a T. Which means that, for the entire family of four, this morning, for breakfast, they are consuming one grapefruit.
You read that correctly. One grapefruit, cut into quarters. Hang on, let me look up the calories on that.
There are 52 calories in a whole grapefruit. That means a total of THIRTEEN calories in a quarter of a grapefruit. I can’t even with this. Even the most extreme diets I looked up as reference for this (and god do I wish I hadn’t read any of that…) recommend having AT LEAST 100 calories for breakfast, and getting some protein so you don’t pass out.
The plan, apparently, is to literally starve Dudley.
And you know, maybe this is supposed to be hyperbole to some extent. Maybe this is supposed to be so bad that it’s unimaginable. Maybe Rowling was going for a little bit of that playful, Roald Dahl type over the top description that she used back in book one. The problem though, is that if that’s the case, it doesn’t work here, because literally nothing else in the book follows that format. This isn’t the somewhat humorous run from the letters that Vernon Dursley leads the family on back in book one, where he gets more and more comically addled as more and more letters continue to follow them to unlikely places. In the end, Vernon takes the whole family on a rickety boat in a storm, to spend the night in a shack on an island. None of it makes any sense, and it keeps getting more and more extreme, and we accept how unrealistic it is because it’s part of the fun.
BUT THIS IS ONLY FUN IF YOU HATE FAT PEOPLE AND THINK THEY DON’T DESERVE TO EAT.
At the end of the chapter, Harry will remark happily that “He had cake, and Dudley had nothing but grapefruit.” Apparently our hero is delighted that his cousin is being starved to death. What a great guy!