Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism
Harry Potter / Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes
“Come on dad! How on earth would we get in the way? And anyways, don’t you think it’ll look more respectable to have three of us coming, rather than just one?”
Hermione was in the burrow’s cozy sitting room, and the voice she was hearing from the kitchen belonged to one of the twins, she guessed it was Fred.
“We won’t be any trouble!” she heard another voice exclaim. That one was almost certainly George, she thought. Realizing there was no possible way she could continue to concentrate on her book, she closed it with a sigh. Crookshanks jumped, rather lightly for such a large cat, off her lap. She got up to peak into the kitchen.
Mr. Weasley was a tall, nervous, red haired wizard, who worked for the ministry of magic. He was also running short on time. It was the next afternoon, and he and Ron were preparing to go and collect Harry Potter from his muggle family. It sounded as though the twins were holding him up, though, and when Hermione glanced at her watch, she realized he was already a little late. She saw Mr. Weasley look around the room, as though for answers, but none came.
Harry Potter was Hermione’s other close friend at Hogwarts. She, Ron, and Harry had been involved in several large scrapes over the last three years, some more serious than others. Harry was also, as it happened, extremely famous in the wizarding world. His parents, a pureblood wizard and a muggle born witch, had been murdered when he was only a baby, by the evil Lord Voldemort, for their efforts in opposing him. The legendary dark wizard had tried to murder Harry as well. However, the curse had rebounded, leaving Voldemort powerless, and Harry quite well except for a lightning shaped scar on his forehead. Afterwards, he had been raised by his abusive muggle aunt and uncle. So while he wasn’t muggle born himself, Hermione found him rather easy to relate to, since they’d both grown up in the muggle world.
But since his muggle family was so terrible, wizards tended to use his story to reinforce the idea that muggles were somehow stupid in comparison to wizards.
In any event, everyone felt terribly sorry for him, Hermione included, having to spend any time at all with people who treated him so poorly. The Weasleys had made arrangements for Harry Potter to spend the rest of the summer holidays at the burrow. And while Hermione had found her own way from London to the countryside where the Weasleys’ home was located, Mr. Weasley was heading to Surry to collect Harry himself.
“Oh….” Mr. Weasley looked rather helplessly at Mrs. Weasley, who was looking suspicious, “Well you’d better be on your best behavior boys, because Harry has to go back to these people next summer, and they’ve already had a few negative experiences with wizards, and we don’t want them to get the wrong idea, alright?”
“You mean the people who starved him two summers ago? How could anything we do make any difference!?”
“Fred, I’m warning you…” but Mr. Weasley’s voice sounded like anything but a warning.
“Yes yes, we promise!” George shot Fred a conspiratorial look, but Mr. Weasley either didn’t see it, or ignored it. Ten minutes later they left, quite a bit late, traveling by floo powder via the Weasleys’ kitchen fire.
Hermione plopped back down with her book. Ginny had asked rather hopefully if Hermione might have brought any muggle books with her, but of course she hadn’t, so Ginny settled for reading a magazine instead. The two girls had, once again, spent the majority of the day together. Hermione had seen Ron only a handful of times, and now Ron was off with his father to pick up Harry. He hadn’t even said goodbye, but Hermione was trying not to be bothered by it. She was sure that once Harry arrived, it would be all three of them together, like normal.
The book was a work of fiction, which Hermione never read much of, since she was eager to learn as much about the magical world as possible. But as she turned through the chapters, she realized that finding out what wizards and witches found entertaining, and why, was a part of learning about their world, which was her world too, she reminded herself. The protagonist, a wizard by the name of Wendell Wartshaw, was attempting to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearance of several historical artifacts in a wizarding museum…
There was a wooshing sound, and then a thump, from the direction of the kitchen.
“That’ll be dad and the twins back” Ginny said, not looking up from her magazine article.
Hermione dove back into her book.
Wendell tapped his wand on the countertop absentmindedly, a bad habbit of his since his school days, and then looked up, “Patrice, what on earth makes you think the perpetrator could have been a muggle? How the hell would a muggle have gotten into the museum in the first place? Isn’t the place bloody well protected?”
“Well…” Patrice looked around at the ornately decorated office.
“Well, isn’t it?”
There were raised voices coming from the kitchen. Hermione and Ginny looked at each other.
“You dropped it on purpose!” to Hermione’s surprise, it was Mr. Weasley who was shouting.
Ginny heaved a great sigh, “Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.”
“What?” Hermione said.
Just then, they heard Mrs. Weasley’s voice enter the fray.
Hermione closed her book, “come on!” she said, “we’d best get Harry out of there before it explodes into a real row.”
Ginny’s mouth fell open for a moment, as though she was going to protest, then she closed her magazine and stood up.
The two girls entered the kitchen just in time, by the looks of things, and stood behind Mrs. Weasley in the doorway, while she gathered steam for the fight. In the center of the room, near the fireplace, stood Harry Potter, with his shock of untidy black hair and a befuddled yet amused sort of expression on his face. Near him was Ron, and a little to the side she could see both twins, and their father. Mr. Weasley was now stalling, it seemed.
“Tell me what, Arthur?” Mrs. Weasley was saying, as Hermione peaked around her robes to smile at Harry. He smiled back, and Hermione noticed that Ginny looked a little flushed.
“It’s nothing, Molly,” Mr. Weasley was mumbling, “Fred and George just — but I’ve had words with them —”
From her vantage point, Hermione could see Mrs. Weasley puff up her chest within her robes, “What have they done this time?” she said, and her voice sounded even more dangerous, “If it’s got anything to do with Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes —”
Hermione had to think fast if they were going to get out before the explosion. “Why don’t you show Harry where he’s sleeping, Ron?” she piped up feebly, thinking it wasn’t a very good plan but might just work.
“He knows where he’s sleeping, in my room, he slept there last —” it would be like Ron to choose this moment to be so incredibly thick.
“We can all go,” she said slowly, willing her face to look as meaningful as possible.
It must have worked, because Ron said “Oh. Right.” and he and Harry started to edge out of the kitchen. Just in time, too, because the twins tried to follow after, and that was the point at which Hurricaine Molly really hit the crowded kitchen.
Once they were safely on the stairs, Harry asked “What are Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes?” and Ron and Ginny both laughed in response. It was Ron who finally answered.
“Mum found this stack of order forms when she was cleaning Fred and George’s room. Great long price lists for stuff they’ve invented. Joke stuff, you know.” Hermione had known that the Weasley twins were rather taken with the joke shop in the village outside of Hogwarts, so she supposed it made sense that if they were to invent something, joke products would be the thing, “Fake wands and trick sweets, loads of stuff. It was brilliant, I never knew they’d been inventing all that…”
Ginny must have found her voice, “We’ve been hearing explosions out of their room for ages, but we never thought they were actually making things,” she added. “We thought they just liked the noise.”
“Only, most of the stuff — well, all of it, really — was a bit dangerous,” Ron said, “and you know, they were planning to sell it at Hogwarts to make some money, and Mum went mad at them. Told them they weren’t allowed to make any more of it, and burned all the order forms. She’s furious at them anyways. They didn’t get as many O.W.L.s as she expected.”
O.W.L.s was the abbreviation for Ordinary Wizarding Levels, the examinations Hermione, Ron, and Harry, would be taking not this year but next. Of course, Fred and George were two years older, and had taken them the previous year.
“And there was this big row,” Ginny said, “because Mum wants them to go into the Ministry of Magic like Dad, and they told her all they want to do is open a joke shop.”
They were halfway up the stairs, and a door on the second landing opened. Percy Weasley, whom Hermione had barely seen, poked his bespectacled face out of the crack, looking rather annoyed.
“Hi, Percy!” said Harry, in a friendly voice.
“Oh hello, Harry,” said Percy. “I was wondering who was making all the noise. I’m trying to work in here, you know — I’ve got a report to finish for the office — and it’s rather difficult to concentrate when people keep thundering up and down the stairs.”
“We’re not thundering,” said Ron irritably. “We’re walking. Sorry if we’ve disturbed the top-secret workings of the Ministry of Magic.”
Ever the peacekeeper, Harry quickly said “what are you working on?”
“A report for the Department of International Magical Cooperation, we’re trying to standardize couldron thickness. Some of these foreign imports are just a shade too thin — leakages have been increasing at a rate of almost three percent a year —”
Ron interrupted him, “that’ll change the world, that report will,” he said sarcastically, “front page of The Daily Prophet, I expect, cauldron leaks.”
Percy looked a little embarrassed, but recovered quickly, “You might sneer, Ron, but unless some sort of international law is imposed we might well find the market flooded with flimsy, shallow-bottomed products that seriously endanger—”
“Yeah, yeah, all right,” said Ron, cutting him off again, and then started back up the stairs before Percy could respond. Percy’s door closed behind them, as the gaggle of young witches and wizards moved upwards. Hermione heard shouts from the kitchen below again, and guessed that the row had started up again.
Ron’s room was at the very top of the house, and featured quidditch posters, much like Ginny’s, although you could see a bit more wall through them. There was also a toad in a fish tank, three camp beds in addition to Ron’s bed, and a small bird cage that contained a very small, very loud, very excited, owl.
“Shut up, Pig!” said Ron, in the direction of the cage, and then, “Fred and George are in here with us, because Bill and Charlie are in their room,” he said, clearly directed at Harry. “Percy gets to keep his room all to himself because he’s got to work.”
“Er— why are you calling that owl Pig?” Harry said, changing the subject. Hermione reflected that he was very good and deflecting the Weasleys many arguments.
“Because he’s being stupid, it’s proper name is Pigwidgeon.” said Ginny, not quite making eye contact with Harry.
“Yeah, and that’s not a stupid name at all. Ginny named him,” was Ron still looking exclusively at Harry, or was she imagining it? “She reckons it’s sweet. And I tried to change it, but it was too late, he won’t answer to anything else. So now he’s Pig. I’ve got to keep him up here because he annoys Errol and Hermes. He annoys me too, come to that.”
The owl was rather noisy, but Hermione noticed Ron looking at him affectionately out of the corner of his eye, despite his complaints.
“Where’s Crookshanks?” Harry said, turning to her.
“Out in the garden, I expect,” she said. “He likes chasing gnomes. He’s never seen any before.”
“Percy’s enjoying work, then?” Harry turned back to Ron, and sat down absentmindedly on one of the beds, very much as though he felt extremely at home.
“Enjoying it? I don’t think he’d come home if Dad didn’t make him. He’s obsessed. Just don’t get him on the subject of his boss. According to Mr. Crouch… as I was saying to Mr. Crouch… Mr. Crouch is of the opinion… Mr. Crouch was telling me… They’ll be announcing their engagement any day now.”
Hermione started to open her mouth to ask what in the world was wrong with that, but thought better of it. Instead she said “Have you had a good summer, Harry? Did you get our food parcels and everything?”
She’d sent Harry rather a lot of treats for his birthday, but his letters tended to be sparse.
“Yeah, thanks a lot,” said Harry. “They saved my life, those cakes.” Hermione felt herself puff up with pride, just a little, that she had been able to help even in a small way.
“And have you heard from — ?” Ron started casually, and all at once Hermione realized who he must mean and shot him the most meaningful look she could muster. He really could be quite the idiot.
Ron was trying to ask after Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black. Ordinarily, this might be a fine question, but this situation was far from ordinary. Sirius was a (falsely) convicted murderer, and Harry and Hermione had helped him escape from the Ministry of Magic only last term. They’d meant to get his record cleared, but unfortunately, the true murderer (who turned out to have been in hiding as a rat, Ron’s rat in fact, for years) escaped at the last moment. So everyone in the wizarding world except for the three of them, and the headmaster of Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore, still believed that Black was guilty. Everyone in the wizarding world, including Ginny Weasley, who was now looking curiously from Ron to Harry to see what she’d missed.
“I think they’ve stopped arguing,” Hermione piped up, because as lovely as her day had been with Ginny, she wasn’t sure it was such a good idea to try to explain all of that just now. “Shall we go down and help your mum with dinner?”
Mrs. Weasley was in a towering temper, but she was finishing up dinner and everyone was pitching in to set up tables outside in the garden because, as she said “There’s just not room for eleven people in here!” They were quickly split up, and Hermione and Ginny got plates, while Ron and Harry were assigned silverware. Hermione didn’t much mind getting out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. So Ginny showed her where the plates were kept, and loaded up Hermione’s arms, and then her own, and they set out into the rapidly cooling evening air.
From the looks of things, Bill and Chair had been tasked with setting up the tables for dinner. Only, instead of merely placing the two ancient tables end to end on the grass so they could be set and readied for the meal, they were using magic to make them battle each other. In fact, the two eldest Weasley boys each had their wands out, and they were levitating the tables high above their heads, where they crashed into each other violently.
Ginny broke into a wild laughter.
Hermione took a deep breath, just as a leg was torn off of one of the tables, and then Percy Weasley’s head shot out of his bedroom window shouting “will you keep it down?!”
“Sorry, Perce,” said Bill, who did not look sorry, “How’re the cauldron bottoms coming on?”
“Very badly,” replied Percy, and with a slam, the window shut again. Bill and Charlie chuckled softly to each other as they finally righted the tables, and conjured a tablecoth.
The meal was even better than the the previous evening’s, but Hermione found she still felt rather quiet. She wondered, just a bit, what her own family was doing. Probably sitting down to dinner without her. She took a rather large bite of potatoes, trying not to think about her parents too much. Pulling herself out of her own thoughts, she looked up and forced herself to tune into the dinner conversation. To her left, Percy was talking to his father, with a definite air of pride, about work.
“… it’s extremely busy in our department just now, what with all the arrangements for the World Cup. We’re just not getting the support we need from the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Ludo Bagman—”
“I like Ludo,” said Mr. Weasley. “He was the one who got us such good tickets for the Cup! I did him a bit of a favor: His brother, Otto, got into a spot of trouble — a lawnmower with unnatural powers — I smoothed the whole thing over.”
“Oh Bagman’s likeable enough, of course, but how he ever got to be Head of Department…” Percy shook his head. “When I compare him to Mr. Crouch! I can’t see Mr. Crouch losing a member of our department and not trying to find out what’s happened to them. You realize Bertha Jorkins has been missing for other a month now? Went on holiday to Albania and never came back?”
“Yes, I was asking Ludo about that,” said Mr. Weasley, frowning. “He says Bertha’s gotten lost plenty of times before now — though I must say, if it was someone in my department…”
The two wizards continued to debate the intelligence of a witch it sounded as though neither of them knew personally, and for a moment Hermione found herself lost in thought again. So, the Ministry of Magic had an employee missing, what on earth could be going on? Then she noticed Percy was still speaking, only now he was staring at herself, Ron, and Harry, in a meaningful sort of way.
“As you know, we’ve got another big event to organize right after the World Cup. You know the one I’m talking about Father. The top-secret one.”
Ron rolled his eyes and muttered, “He’s been trying to get us to ask what that event is ever since he started work. Probably an exhibition of thick-bottomed cauldrons.” Then the talk turned to quidditch, and Mrs. Weasley’s complains about her eldest son’s fashion choices, and Hermione ate her chicken and ham pie in peace. Her ears perked up when Ron, who was seated in between herself and Harry, turned to Harry on his right and said very quietly, “So — have you heard from Sirius lately?”
“Yeah,” Harry said, just as quietly, “twice. He sounds okay.” There was a bit of an awkward pause, and Hermione could tell from the look on Harry’s face that something most definitely was not right, “I uh, wrote him yesterday. He might write back while I’m here.” She suddenly wished that they were already back at school, and there was no World Cup at all, because she had no idea when she would manage to be alone with her friends, and she had a few questions for them, and an awful lot of things she was determined to get to the bottom of.
Deconstruction, Notes On The Source Text
Ok beautiful people, pull up a chair. Harry and Hermione are finally together, and we need to talk about some of this shit. This is going to be a theme for the next few chapters, and while I don’t want to hammer away at the same point week after week, we do need to dig in a bit here.
Obviously, in the original series, Harry is the main character. That’s fine, that’s all well and good. Ron and Hermione, then, are secondary characters. They’re his two best friends. They’re the ones who are always helping him out. They’re also different enough that it gives readers more options for characters to see themselves in, if they don’t identify with Harry. And we, I think, accept that Harry and Ron are slightly closer than Harry and Hermione. Harry and Ron share a dorm room, after all, and their shared gender puts them together a lot more often. They also met just slightly sooner. You may recall that back in book one, Harry and Ron become friends right away, but they don’t make friends with Hermione until Halloween. So fine, Harry and Ron are closer. But the narrative tells us again and again how it is the three of them, the three of them getting into and out of scrapes, the three of them depending on each other, the three of them.
The narrative also tells us that Hermione is a bossy know-it-all. God, she’s always volunteering information when it’s asked for and generally being annoying. She is, first and foremost, a girl who talks too much.
Did you notice anything in chapter five? Because let me tell you, it was extremely hard to write from Hermione’s perspective, and I’m going to tell you why. Hermione barely speaks. She’s not out of the room, she’s never out of the room, the three of them are very much together. Only, it’s Ron Weasley and Harry Potter who are excitedly catching up. Hermione Granger? She’s just there. Much like in real life, girls who talk “too much” turn out to be extremely quiet, compared to the boys that won’t shut up.
Hermione has a rich and complex life. Hermione is smart, driven, witty, and does plenty “off camera” that the boys only notice later. When you read these books specifically looking for Hermione, you will find her. But her two best friends, Harry and Ron, they don’t seem to give a shit. She’s a plot device only. She has a total of five lines in this entire chapter, even though she is in the same room as Harry nearly all the time. Here are the things Hermione Granger actually says, aloud, in chapter five:
- An attempt to get Harry and Ron out of an uncomfortable situation.
- A further push when stupid Ron doesn’t get it.
- An answer to a question about where her cat is.
- An inquiry into how Harry’s summer was.
- And then she gets them out of another awkward situation!
And let’s zoom in on item number four for a minute, because Harry Potter is an asshole and a terrible friend and I can’t let this go.
Hermione Granger sent Harry Potter a care package for his birthday, which was several weeks ago. She sent it by owl, despite living in the muggle world and not owning an owl herself. Harry Potter does own an owl, and has used it to correspond with his godfather, at the very least, this summer. And yet, Hermione has to ask if he received her package. Does that seem a bit odd to you? Because that means that not only did it not occur to him to write her a chatty note for no reason, it didn’t occur to him to send her a quick “thanks for the cake, you’re really saving my life here buddy!” type note.
Harry Potter is an asshole.
And now, here is Hermione, nicely inquiring as to whether or not he received her package, and by the way how was his summer? And Harry does manage to squeeze out a “thanks a lot” in her general direction, but just as it never occurred to him to drop her a note, it never occurs to him to say “oh my summer wasn’t so bad, how was yours Hermione?” Nobody gives a flying fuck how Hermione Granger’s summer was, and especially not her best friend, Harry Potter.
Harry Potter is an asshole.
Harry Potter knows what it is to feel isolated in the muggle world and cut off from other wizards. He knows Hermione Granger also lives with her muggle family during the holidays. He knows all of this. And he does not care. Not only does he not care, he cares so little that it seems to have not even crossed his mind. At the end of last term, it was Hermione who helped him rescue Sirius, who he had this intense bonding experience with, but he doesn’t give a damn how her summer went. Could she have been lonely? Could she have been traumatized? Could she have been worried about Sirius? Who cares! He got his damn cake, and then he went back to sulking.
Harry Potter is an asshole.
And you know, I’m angry about this. I’m more angry about Harry Potter being an asshole than I am about Ron Weasley being an asshole (Ron Weasley is also an asshole). With Ron, it’s part of his characterization, he’s an insensitive jock who can’t be bothered to worry about other people. He says stupid hurtful things and he doesn’t mean to and we’re all exasperated with him. I don’t necessarily like it, but at least we’re all clear on where we stand. But Harry is another matter. Harry is supposed to be a hero, and he’s supposed to be a hero who, as was so aptly pointed out in the comments on the last post, HAS ONE BIG SUPER POWER AND THAT SUPER POWER IS LOVE. Harry Potter has been abused and neglected and has spent most of his life being so lonely it would break your heart. And now he has two best friends, and we’re all very happy for him that he’s finally found a crew to hang with.
Only he doesn’t seem to care. I mean, he cares when they don’t appear to be fussing over him enough, as in the second book when he doesn’t receive any letters from his friends and worries, like I think any tweenager would, that maybe they don’t like him anymore. But he can ignore Hermione, and she is not allowed to worry about it. Hermione Granger doesn’t have time to worry about the fact that Harry Potter obviously doesn’t give two shits about her, because she’s busy helping him out, solving mysteries, and generally holding the entire narrative up.
On a related note, anyone who hasn’t yet read this excellent piece on Hermione Granger should probably do so immediately.
And so, here we are in chapter five. Our “bossy know-it-all” character is completely silent all throughout dinner. And so we get into the classic problem of showing versus telling. The narrator tells us that Hermione is one way, but it shows us a very different character. When I read this book actually looking for Hermione, I see a young girl who is bright, driven, and extremely quiet and introspective. She’s adept at ignoring the insensitivity of her two closest friends, because she has to be. She’s a muggle born witch who is in process of losing all of her muggle loved ones, and desperate to succeed in the wizarding world.
And she is breaking my heart.