Ok, so I’m jumping in early because I went and disappeared for a bunch of months and it feels weird to not acknowledge that and just jump into a fic that you may or may not remember. So hi, my name’s Katherine! I’m doing a weird project that is half deconstruction and half fanfic, except is it even fanfic? Basically, I’m retelling the entire story of Goblet Of Fire from the perspective of Hermione Granger, chapter by chapter, because Hermione is amazing and she deserves it.
Many months ago, I had some personal and professional setbacks that forced me to have to take several weeks off in a row. Then, J.K. Rowling released a lot of culturally appropriative stuff on Pottermore, and I was very upset, and honestly thinking about Harry Potter universe was the last thing I wanted to do. Then I had to move. Then life happened, and none of it is particularly interesting or dramatic (and the parts that are slightly dramatic I’m not really sharing right now) and all of that is to say I’m really sorry and I’m here now and how has everyone been?
Alright, let’s go!
Hermione Granger and The Goblet of Sexism
The Burrow / Back To The Burrow
Tea with Mrs. Weasley turned out to be less awkward than Hermione had feared, primarily because Mrs. Weasley had no problem doing the majority of the talking. She talked about the upcoming school term (“I do hope those twins of mine manage to apply themselves to their studies for once!”) and she talked about her plans for dinner (“really, as long as there’s enough potatoes, everybody’s happy…”) and she talked about quidditch (“Arthur and I used to go to all the matches together, of course these days I’m rather happy to stay home and have an empty house for once. Still, sometimes I do miss the excitement.”) Hermione sipped her tea and nodded politely. Partly it was just politeness, partly it was that she was always hungry to hear more from the wizarding world. Looking around the Weasley’s disordered kitchen, she reflected on the fact that, as out of place as she felt in the muggle world, she felt rather out of place here, too.
She ran her fingers along the surface of the scrubbed wooden table, as Mrs. Weasley regaled her with yet another story of a Quidditch World Cup of years gone by. She’d completely lost track of which team was which, but she didn’t have the heart to speak up.
“Good of your parents, for being understanding about the importance of quidditch. I mean, what with them being muggles and all…”
The mention of her parents gave her a little jolt.
“Well,” she took a deep breath, “thankfully muggles are not all idiots. And as my parents follow football, it was actually rather simple to explain the cultural significance.”
“Oh!” Mrs. Weasley looked slightly startled, “Oh yes of course. I didn’t mean to say…. And anyways I do suppose it varies a bit, just as it does with wizards.”
“And anyway,” Hermione simply couldn’t help herself, “As I’ve been going to Hogwarts for three years now, my parents have heard rather a lot about the magical world. Muggles though they may be, they still manage to take a bit of interest in my life.” She hoped her voice didn’t sound too testy, but probably it did.
At that moment, Ginny bounded, arms swinging, back into the room.
“Room’s all set, mum.” she said casually.
Mrs. Weasley stood up, and dusted her hands on her long, flowing, wizard’s robes. It was the kind of absent minded gesture that one does not because one’s hands are dirty, but out of a sort of long standed habit. It was as though she was pulling herself out of her thoughts. She smiled at Hermione warmly, then turned briskly to Ginny “well then!” she said “I think you ought to show our guest where she’ll be sleeping, so as she feels at home.”
Ginny’s bedroom was off of a landing on a steep, narrow, winding, staircase. The staircase was nearly in the center of the house, off of the kitchen in one direction and the sitting room in the other, so it was a bit of a high traffic area. The little bedroom itself was only half a floor up, so it wasn’t exactly afforded much privacy. Her brothers rooms, Hermione thought, must all be further upstairs.
“Here we are!” Ginny made an exaggerated gesture of grand entrance as she opened the door, “Le Chateau De Ginevra Weasley!”
Hermione blinked, “But I didn’t know your full name was Ginevra!”
Ginny winced slightly, “yeah, after one of my great grandmothers. The Weasleys do love their old fashioned names.”
Ginny’s room was a shock to the senses. In the first place, it looked as though “readying it for company” had meant shoving some bits of parchment and odds and ends under the bed, and setting up a camp bed in the center of the room, and nothing more. The corners were full of clutter, Ginny’s battered school trunk was open and unpacked, and it looked as though an old patchwork quilt had just been hastily thrown in the general direction of the unmade bed.
In the second place, it looked as though Ginny had had a similar problem to Hermione’s problem. That is, the room had been painted (or perhaps magiced!) almost the exact same shade of baby pink as Hermione’s own childhood bedroom. Instead of changing the wall color, however, Ginny had dealt with the issue by obsessively covering nearly every inch of the wall. There were plenty of posters, both of quidditch teams and a popular band called The Weird Sisters, as well as newspaper clippings and personal photographs. This, Hermione thought, would have been overwhelming all on it’s own. But as the photographs and posters were all wizarding photographs and posters, the vast majority of them were moving. It created a dizzying effect. On one side of the room, the quidditch team the Holyhead Harpies was racing across a clear, blue, sky. On the other side, the lead singer of The Weird Sisters sauntered to the edge of the stage and gave the crowd a look as though she was contemplating a stage dive. And near the room’s only window, just above a tiny writing desk that looked a hundred years old, there was a collection of photographs of Ginny and her friends at Hogwarts. The group of girls appeared over and over, and Hermione could see that the pictures had been taken over the course of Ginny’s time at Hogwarts, because in some of them they were taller or had different hairstyles. But every image showed smiles. There they were, beaming at the camera, and sometimes laughing.
Hermione thought of her old muggle friends. When she’d started at Hogwarts, she’d stopped talking to them. She just didn’t know how she could keep it from them, so she didn’t. Of course, she did have friends at Hogwarts, but she’d always felt distant from the girls she shared a dormitory with, and while Ron and Harry were great friends, they’d never taken photographs like this…
Ginny must have noticed her looking around the room, taking in the hundreds of images. “My mum chose the pink,” she crinkled up her nose, “and I hate it, but there’s no use discussing it with her.”
“Oh.” Hermione said, “I’d think it would be easy, with magic…”
“Not everything,” Ginny said, “is easy with magic. Mum had six sons, and all the time was dreaming about the day she could have a daughter with a pink room and braids in her hair and all that rubbish.”
Hermione frowned, “Yes, that would make things rather difficult.”
Ginny flopped onto the bed, “It’s absolutely maddening, because honestly, she isn’t exactly girly herself. But she wants me to be this pristine little angel of femininity! She doesn’t want me playing quidditch, she doesn’t want me dating…”
“But your mother likes quidditch!”
“I know. And I do it anyways, but I have to sneak. And I hate it, but what else can I do?”
Hermione sat down on the camp bed that had been made up for her, “you really don’t think you can discuss it with her, not at all?”
“Dunno.” she sighed audibly, “My mum, she doesn’t really leave much room for discussion.”
Hermione nodded “My mother has always been so easy to talk to, “only it’s like the longer I’m at Hogwarts the less we understand each other. I know she’s trying to be supportive, I mean I think that she means well, but it’s just completely different worlds and I don’t know how to deal with it anymore. It’s driving me mad, but then of course that makes me feel guilty.”
“Was it weird? Being raised by muggles, I mean?”
“Well, how could I know? I’ve never been raised by anyone else.”
As they sat and talked, Hermione found that, for the first time all summer, she was beginning to relax. Tension is such a strange thing, because sometimes you don’t realize how much of it there is in you until you start to let it go. She hadn’t realized, for example, that her shoulders were sore, but she felt it now. She leaned back onto the camp bed, and stared up at the ceiling, which was the one point of reprieve from all of the action of the posters and photographs. She took a deep breath in, and when she exhaled, she found she was speaking again.
“And sometimes I wish that I had different parents, wizard parents, you know. Not only because of all the muggle-born nonsense, but because then things would just be simpler and maybe I could just live my life and I wouldn’t have to spend my holidays pretending to be a muggle all the time. And I hate myself for wishing it, because I’m lucky, really. I have great parents! Magic can be really scary for a lot of muggles, but they’ve been for it from day one. Only they don’t have any idea what it’s like and they don’t know who I am anymore and I don’t know what to do about it.”
Ginny grabbed a pillow, hugged it, and rested her chin on it. “But mate,” she said, staring off at nothing, “I don’t think you’re parents would understand who you are even if they were wizards. At least, mine sure as hell don’t.”
As the day wore on, Hermione found herself becoming more comfortable at the burrow that she had ever imagined she would be. Part of it was, yes, the tangible relief of being back in the magical world at last. But part of it was the casual comfortableness of the odd old house, and part of it was Ginny’s friendliness, too. In so many ways, Ginny was completely different than Hermione. She was athletic, she was gregarious, and she seemed to lack a lot of the nervousness and awkwardness that Hermione often felt. Growing up with all those brothers had meant that Ginny had had to learn how to hold her own, in a spitting match or in an argument, and she had risen to the challenge. More than anything, Hermione envied her easy confidence.
But they also had a great deal in common. Ginny also loved learning, and found a lot of her education to be fascinating. It turned out they also had has similar senses of humor, which was a happy surprise. When she thought on it, Hermione realized that she hadn’t really had girls as friends since her Hogwarts letter arrived in the mail. On the one hand that made her sad, and she found herself wondering about Tanya and Sarah, and if they were angry with her that she had conveniently forgotten to write them from school (it wasn’t hard since you couldn’t send muggle post from Hogwarts or Hogsmead). But then she was swept up in the relief of chatting easily with someone who didn’t mock her for reading books, all while scrubbing the big wooden table or feeding the chickens.
Later that afternoon, Mrs. Weasley was putting the finishing touches on dinner. The girls were in the cramped walk-in pantry, supposedly organizing and tidying it, but they were mostly talking. Ginny still had a bit of a crush on Hermione’s good friend, Harry Potter, but she was also beginning to feel like she might actually want to date a boy one day.
“Do be sensible Ginny,” Hermione said with kindness, “if he hasn’t shown an interest, is there any sense at all in waiting for him?”
Ginny looked lost in thought, and Hermione had just begun to wonder why in the world Mrs. Weasley stocked so many different dry goods when she could just as easily keep one thing (say, flour) and transfigure it as needed into anything at all the family wanted. Just then, she heard the kitchen door, which let out into the back garden, open. She jumped a little.
Ginny raised her eyebrows in Hermione’s direction. “I’m sure it’s just my damn brothers,” she said.
“Oh of course!” Hermione answered. She couldn’t think why she had jumped, perhaps it was just the way that everything sounds odd in a new place.
They filed out of the pantry, and in walked the Weasley boys. First came the twins, Fred and George, who were so much alike in both looks and personality that it often took Hermione a moment to tell which was which, even though she’d known them for years now. After them was a tall red haired young man that Hermione did not know, who reminded her a bit of Mr. Weasley, only younger and dressed entirely differently, in a mix of wizarding and muggle fashion which looked purposeful, rather than the messy hodgepodge she so often saw. Behind him came Ron, chatting with yet another stranger, this one stockier and very outdoorsy looking, though still clearly a Weasley through and through. The only one missing was Percy, who was older than the twins, and had graduated from Hogwarts the previous year.
“Allo Hermione!” George boomed cheerfully across the kitchen when he saw her, “our Ginny been showing you around, has she?”
Ron was debating something about quidditch fouls with the stockier Weasley (they looked rather a lot alike, truth be told) and didn’t seem to have noticed her standing in the kitchen at all.
“Don’t mind Ronald,” Fred said, grinning ear to ear, “he’s so excited about the damn world cup he can’t stop swooning over Krum.”
“Oy! Ronnie!” George said, “I think you have company.”
“No no, the calls in that match were bloody ridiculous….” Ron was saying to the other Weasley, and then he looked up, “Oh, Hermione. But I only invited you this morning, how in bloody hell did you get here so soon?”
She felt herself starting to blush.
Mrs. Weasley held a ladle in one hand, and her wand in the other, but she set them both down on the counter in a huff, “Now Ron,” she snapped, “that’s no way at all to greet your guest. Hermione dear I am thrilled to have you here, and so is Ronald, he’s just a rude child who can’t seem to get his head out of the wrong end of a broomstick.”
Ron’s mouth fell open.
“Now then, let me introduce you to my two eldest sons!”
The shorter and stockier one was Charlie, who worked with dragons in Romania. She remembered how, in their first year, she and Harry had helped smuggle an adolescent dragon into the care of some of his friends, and she smiled at him. The tall one was the eldest, Bill, and he worked for Gringots Bank. Hermione found him instantly fascinating, not so much because of his off the wall attire, but because he had been head boy at Hogwarts in his day, and yet he was so very different than Percy that there was no comparison. She resolved to remember that fact the next time Ron or Harry compared her, unfavorably, to Percy.
“But where is…” Hermione started, looking at the crowd of freckled faces as though she’d missed someone, then she stopped herself, “oh hang on, that’s right, Percy’s certainly at the ministry?”
“That’s right,” Mrs. Weasley answered her, beaming, “but he and Arthur will be home directly, I’d expect.”
Half an hour later, they were indeed home. Dinner was a lively affair, and the kitchen was so cramped they could all hardly breath. Hermione mostly listened, and ate quietly, while the Weasley banter happened all around her. Ginny was aggressively cheeky with her brothers, mocked Ron’s flying skills mercilessly. Ron had hardly said a word to Hermione, which felt odd. It suddenly occurred to her that while she considered herself and Ron to be close friends, she had never spent much time with him without Harry, and she wasn’t sure how exactly to relate to him without Harry there as a buffer.
“So Hermione,” Charlie said, with his friendly smile that was so much like Ron’s, “how’re you looking forward to your fourth year at Hogwarts?”
“Well,” said Hermione, setting down her glass of water, “I am rather excited to get back to the castle, since you mention it. There’s quite a lot to learn, and I do hope that I’ve spent enough of the summer holidays preparing, given that we take our Ordinary Wizarding Levels in our fifth year, there isn’t really time to waste…”
“Yes, and we’ve heard all about your stunt with the time turners!” Bill chimed in, merrily, “I don’t think even I would have had the guts to try that!” he chuckled to himself a little.
The previous year, Hermione had applied for special permission — and received it — to use a powerful time traveling device known as a time turner, for the purpose of taking twice as many elective classes as her peers. She had enjoyed the greater variety of subject matter, but the physical and mental effects of days much longer than 24 hours had proven too taxing, even for her.
“Yes well,” Hermione wasn’t quite sure if Bill was congratulating her, or mocking her, for her efforts, “I’ve had to drop a few lessons, of course. Divination was an easy choice, as the subject is absolutely meaningless, but I’ve also had to let go of muggle studies and—”
“And your muggle born so you didn’t need to take it in the first place!” Ron piped up, his mouth full, an old look of exasperation on his face.
Hermione felt her mouth get very small, and despite Ron being the one who had invited her to the burrow, she found that he was turning out to be the most annoying part of being there, at least so far. “Yes well,” she fought to keep her voice from rising with her temper, “As it happens, it was actually rather useful for me to learn what people like you think of people like me.”
The silence that followed was deafening.
Deconstruction, Notes on The Source Text
Chapter four is the last chapter (at least for now) entirely without Harry Potter in it. That is to say, Harry and Hermione are in different locations, and doing separate things. Hermione arrives at the burrow, though Harry won’t show up until the following day and the following chapter. For my purposes, this separation turns out to be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because it means not just telling the story from Hermione’s perspective, but writing original plot because she can’t just deactivate every time Harry isn’t around. There are huge gaps where we get no information about Hermione, and keeping her actions and experiences both in character and matching up with the framework of the story is, well, hard. This is, to some degree, a fiction writing exercise for me. Most of my writing is autobiographical, and I actually find writing things that didn’t actually happen IRL to be extremely hard.
And it’s a blessing because (and we’re going to talk about this a whole lot more with Chapter 5, don’t you worry!) Harry turns out to not be very nice to Hermione. In fact, a lot of the time, he more or less ignores her.
So what is Harry up to in Chapter four? Well, mostly just waiting to get picked up by the Weasleys, and then actually getting picked up by the Weasleys. The whole process, of course, needs to be complicated a bit by how awful the Dursleys are. And as we discussed in Chapter Three, there’s still plenty of fatphobia to deal with.
The Dursleys are a family that is deeply fearful of magic. The parents are abusive, vindictive, and mean, and their son is a bully poised to follow in their footsteps. But, to some degree, perhaps they have a point? The magical world is one shrouded in secrecy (they literally have a law about staying secret) and yet also a world that plucks up “muggle born” witches and wizards without a thought. It might be unfair for Aunt Petunia to hate Harry’s mother, her (dead) sister for being a “freak,” but that doesn’t change the fact that losing her sister to the magical world had to be extremely distressing. As far as we can tell from the books, muggle born witches and wizards integrate fully into wizarding society, and that has to be awkward, or worse, for the families they leave in the muggle world.
Like his parents, Dudley Dursley hates and fears magic. And just like with his parents, Dudley’s negative feelings towards the supernatural are treated by the narrative as further proof of his awfulness. But let’s have a look…
“Dudley, on the other hand, looked somehow diminished. This was not because the diet was at last taking effect, but due to fright. Dudley had emerged from his last encounter with a fully-grown wizard with a curly pig’s tail poking out of the seat of his trousers, and Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had had to pay for its removal at a private hospital in London. It wasn’t altogether surprising, therefore, that Dudley kept running his hand nervously over his backside, and walking sideways from room to room, so as not to present the same target to the enemy.”
Let’s never forget how Dudley Dursley received that pig’s tail. This is way back in book one, which I don’t have handy at the moment, but I did recently watch the movie and anyways I know the story. It was given to him by Hagrid, illegally, not because of anything Dudley did, but as punishment for his father. This happened when Dudley was elven years old. He was eleven years old, his father said something that upset a near-giant wizard, and the wizard retaliated by trying to turn Dudley into a pig. Hagrid tried to turn Dudley into a pig because Dudley is fat, ha ha. Only it didn’t work. Hagrid surmised that only the tail worked because Dudley was already so much like a pig, AKA so fat, ha ha. And then Hagrid tells Harry not to tell anyone, because he’s not allowed to do magic, and they go on their merry way.
Grand, just grand.
The narrative wants us to find this all hilarious, because Dudley is fat (just like a pig!) so we are allowed to laugh at him. This is lazy writing, and it’s being used to quite literally dehumanize a character who may well be a jerk, but is still also you know, a kid.
The quote focuses on the fact that they Dursleys had to pay to have the tail removed, but Dudley had to actually have that tail surgically removed. It may have been traumatic. He probably has a scar. His parents have already taught him to fear the magical world, and now on top of that, he is intimately aware that they wizard people can just change his body in whatever way they want and leave it like that, forcing him to undergo painful procedures to make his body “right” again.
Damn straight Dudley Dursley is afraid of wizards.
Ok, so the Weasleys arrive but they have to break the electric fireplace to get in. We get more comments about how hilarious it is that Dudley is clutching his bottom. Then Fred Weasley accidentally-on-purpose drops some sweets in the living room.
Dudley is, remember, starving. He gets past his fear and eats one of the sweets. His tongue swells up, and grows to about a foot long. Mr. Weasley wants to use magic to “sort him out” but of course the Dursleys deeply fear any more magical involvement. All of this is basically slapstick at this point. It’s supposed to be funny because it’s physical comedy, but it’s also supposed to be funny because we aren’t supposed to take the Dursleys fears seriously here.
Because Harry was raised in the muggle world, he is our proxy in the magical world. We look through his eyes as he is continually (and sometimes senselessly) surprised and delighted by the many wonders of magic. Witches and wizards seem to have separate everything and throughout the series we slowly discover all of these things with Harry. But when he’s with the Dursleys, we are members of the wizarding world, looking in on the muggle world. And we look in with contempt and pity. To Harry, and to the narrative, it is obvious that this is a mere (magical) practical joke, the sort that happens all the time, and can be quickly and easily remedied. The Dursleys are being ridiculous for overreacting, and the only explanation is their prejudice against wizards.
But all three of the Dursleys are surely wondering what Dudley’s next operation will be like, and will he be able to eat at all, and how in the world will they ever explain this when they take him to hospital. Mr. Weasley offers to help, but why should they believe a wizard? Perhaps he’ll just make it worse! And they can’t handle worse, they can’t even handle this.
I never thought I’d be defended the Dursleys, but yeah, here I am.
Anyways, and in the midst of it all, we get the horrible goodbye. That is, Harry says “bye then” to the Dursleys, and they try to ignore it.
The Dursleys are horrible people, they do not care about Harry, they do not want to see him, and they do not wish him well. They are housing him purely out of obligation, and to me one of the most shocking things about the narrative is that Harry is as functional as he is after being raised in such a toxic environment. They are verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive. Given all of that, it makes a certain amount of sense that we wouldn’t be attempting to empathize with them. And yet, I can’t help but notice that we don’t have to look far to see some real motivations for some of their fears, motivations that make more sense than simply “we had magic because we love being normal.”
In the next chapter, Harry will get cozy at the burrow. Of course, we’ve already been there with Hermione. Away from the pressure put on him by his biological family, Harry will relax into himself, and becoming a friendly, outgoing, more or less likable, sort of kid. He’ll also be quickly embraced by the entire Weasley clan, each of them taking an individual interest in him. I can’t help but notice that Hermione’s entrance into burrow life is rather more complicated. This isn’t all my doing, either. We’ll talk about this more next week, but rather than being chatted up by each family member in turn, Hermione is cast as simply “one of the two girls” and will be mostly silent. As we begin to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione, all interacting together, I have a lot of questions and thoughts about what the narrative shows us about our heroine, versus what it tells us about her.