Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism
Chapter Eleven, Aboard The Hogwarts Express
Next morning, Hermione woke up early to help Ginny put the finishing touches on her packing. Then she had a bit of toast in the kitchen before anyone else was up (except of course Mrs. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley seemed to always be awake). She went out into the garden in the rain (for it was still coming down in buckets) to look for her cat, and got her hair positively soaked, only to find Crookshanks had taken up residence in sitting room anyhow. Pushing clumps of wet hair out of her eyes, she scooped the massive cat up under the armpits, and carried him off to Ginny’s room, so she wouldn’t have to search for him last minute.
She got the last of Ginny’s quills sorted neatly into her trunk, and started to fold up her camp bed.
Ginny breathed a sigh of “thanks Hermione, I owe you, honestly!”
“It’s really no trouble!” Hermione said, now rummaging in her own trunk. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d really like to read this last bit, and I doubt very much those boys will give me very much chance on the train.”
Ginny giggled, and Hermione sat cross-legged on the floor, and happily read The Standard Book Of Spells Grade 4 until Mrs. Weasley called them to leave.
Dragging her trunk down the stairs, she heard Percy’s voice in the kitchen. “I just can’t justify taking more time off at the moment,” he was saying. “Mr. Crouch is really starting to rely on me.”
“Yeah, you know what, Percy?” George said rather seriously. “I reckon he’ll know your name soon.”
Soon three ordinary taxis pulled up to the rain-drenched burrow, to take them into London. She overheard Mrs. Weasley whispering to Harry, “Arthur tried to borrow Ministry cars for us, but there weren’t any to spare… Oh dear, they don’t look happy, do they?”
She wished she’d known, perhaps she could have been of some help. The taxi drivers were struggling to load all of the heavy trunks into the cars, but Pigwidgeon was making an awful racket. And of course, they had no way to know that the fireworks that went off when Fred’s trunk sprang open were Filibuster’s Fabulous No-Heat, Wet-Start Fireworks… and neither did Crookshanks… who unfortunately panicked and tried to crawl up the leg of the man carrying him.
She piled into the back of a car with Harry, Ron, and Crookshanks (who was still quite shaken up) and did her best to stop him from scratching anyone else. In that, she failed. Once they were out of the taxi, however, she was able to get him to curl up in her jacket as she dragged her trunk across the busy road. She was soaked by the time they got there, and wondered if her hair would ever be dry again.
But soon enough they were inside King’s Cross Station, and heading for the magical platform — platform 9 and ¾ — that the magical community used to get to and from Hogwarts. She’d ridden the train to school three times before, the first two years she was taken by her parents (who were quite as nervous as she had been, to be in the strange magical world), and last year she had accompanied the Weasley family and Harry. The group was so large, they had to go in groups to get onto the magical platform. First it was herself, Harry, and Ron, who leaned as casually as they could nto the solid barrier dividing platforms nine and ten, trying not to attract the attention of passersby. As they leaned, they felt the barrier give way, and suddenly platform 9 and ¾ materialized before their eyes.
The Hogwarts Express was a gleaming scarlet steam engine, and like most things in the wizarding world, it looked incredibly old for no particular reason. Witches and wizards did seem to adopt to muggle technology, of course, after all there had been a wizarding community for centuries before the invention of steam engines. But they seemed to adapt to new things very very slowly, and in a piecemeal kind of way. Most of the witches and wizards she knew were still afraid of electric lights, or at the very least viewed them as ridiculously useless, for example. And she’d tried many times to explain why a telephone was actually faster — and sometimes more useful — than sending a letter by flying bird… but no one would ever listen to her.
She supposed in another century there would be an ancient rotary phone in the headmaster’s office in Hogwarts, and the thought made her giggle.
Ron’s owl, Pigwidgeon, was hopping around excitedly in his cage, seemingly delighted to see so many other owls about. All around them there were other students with their parents, stowing their luggage and saying their goodbyes.
“Come on then,” she said to Ron and Harry, “let’s find seats.” And the two boys nodded, and they headed for the train while the rest of the Weasleys slowly made their way through the barrier to the platform. Once they’d saved seats and got their trunks and things on the luggage rack, they headed back out to say goodbye to Mrs. Weasley, as well as Bill and Charlie, who had come to see them off.
“I might be seeing you all sooner than you think,” said Charlie, while Ginny hugged him tightly.
“Why?” asked Fred.
“You’ll see,” Charlie said with a mischievous grin. “Just don’t tell Percy I mentioned it… it’s ‘classified information, until such time as the Ministry sees fit to release it,’ after all.”
“Yeah, I sort of wish I were back at Hogwarts this year,” said Bill, hands in his pockets, looking almost wistfully at the train.
“WHY?” said George impatiently.
“You’re going to have an interesting year,” said Bill, looking like a schoolboy even with his long hair and trendy clothing, “I might even get time off to come and watch a bit of it…”
“A bit of what?” Ron begged.
But at that moment, the whistle blew, and Mrs. Weasley ushered them all towards the train doors in a hurry.
“Thanks for having us to stay, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said once they’d all climbed aboard, and leaned out the windows for a final goodbye.
“Yeah, thanks for everything, Mrs. Weasley.” Harry chimed in.
“Oh it was my pleasure, dears,” she said, and Hermione thought she might sort of miss Mrs. Weasley. “I’d invite you for Christmas, but… well, I expect you’re all going to want to stay at Hogwarts, what with… one thing and another.”
“Mum!” Ron said grumpily, “What d’you three know that we don’t?”
“You’ll find out this evening, I expect.” Mrs. Weasley responded, positively beaming, “It’s going to be very exciting — mind you, I’m very glad they’ve changed the rules —”
“What rules?” all the boys said in unison.
“I’m sure Professor Dumbledore will tell you… Now, behave, won’t you? Won’t you, Fred? And you, George?”
The pistons hissed loudly, and the train began to move.
“Tell us what’s happening at Hogwarts!” Fred shouted out the window at his mother and two eldest brothers, but they were speeding away from them, shrinking in the distance. Then he added “What rules are they changing?” in a quieter, hopeless voice.
The three Weasleys left on the platform smiled and waved. Then, before the train had quite rounded the corner, all three of them disapparated.
Hermione, Ron, and HArry headed back to the compartment they’d chosen earlier. The thick rain splattering the windows made it very difficult to see out of them at all. Pigdwidgeon’s cage was on the seat next to Ron, and the tiny owl was still hooting away merrily. Ron rummaged in his trunk for something, and then threw something gaudy and maroon in color over the top of the cage to muffle the noise.
“Bagman wanted to tell us what’s happening at Hogwarts,” he said, sinking into the seat next to Harry with a frown, maybe to get even further from the excitable bird. “At the World Cup, remember?”
Hermione heard a faintly familiar voice from the compartment next to theirs, but she couldn’t quite make it out.
“…But my own mother won’t say!” Ron went on, loudly, “Wonder what —”
“Shh!” she whispered at him, pressing her finger to her lips and pointing dramatically toward the next compartment so Ron couldn’t miss the message. Both boys seemed to cotton on, and turned to listen.
“… Father actually considered sending me to Durmstrang rather than hogwarts, you know.” said the drawling voice of Draco Malfoy. “He knows the headmaster, you see. Well, you know his opinion of Dumbledore — the man’s such a Mudblood-lover — and Durmstrang doesn’t admit that sort of riffraff. But Mother didn’t like the idea of me going to school so far away. Father says Durmstrang takes a far more sensible line than Hogwarts about the Dark Arts. Durmstrang students actually learn them, not just the defense rubbish we do…”
There it was, Draco Malfoy wished he could have been taught dark magic at school. She got up, slid the compartment door closed as quietly as she could, and sat back down. At least now she wouldn’t have to hear him.
“So he thinks Durmstrang would have suited him, does he?” she said, trying to control the volume of her voice. “I wish he had gone, then we wouldn’t have to put up with him.
“Durmstrang’s another wizarding school?” Harry asked.
“Yes, and it’s got a horrible reputation.” she said. “According to An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe, it puts a lot of emphasis on the Dark Arts.”
“I think I’ve heard of it,” said Ron somewhat vaguely. “Where is it? What country?”
She raised her eyebrows. It was one thing for Harry not to know about magical education outside of Britain, but surely Ron must be a bit more aware of it. “Well,” she said politely, “nobody knows, do they?”
“Er — why not?” said Harry Potter.
“There’s traditionally been a lot of rivalry between all the magic schools.” she explained. “Durmstrang and Beauxbatons like to conceal their whereabouts so nobody can steal their secrets.”
“Come off it!” Ron laughed. “Durmstrang’s got to be about the same size as Hogwarts — how are you going to hide a great big castle?”
Her jaw dropped. “But Hogwarts is hidden. Everyone knows that…” she said, “well, everyone who’s read Hogwarts, A History, anyway.” she corrected herself.
“Just you, then,” Ron said rudely. “So go on — how d’you hide a place like Hogwarts?”
Ignoring the rudeness as best she could, Hermione went on to explain that magic spells existed to the boy who had lived all his life around witches and wizards. “It’s bewitched,” she said, aware of how ridiculous she must sound. “If a muggle looks at it, all they see is a molder old ruin with a sign over the entrance saying DANGER, DO NOT ENTER, UNSAFE.”
“So…” said Ron, evidently thinking it over, “Durmstrang’ll just look like a ruin to an outsider too?”
“Maybe,” she shrugged, “or it might have Muggle-repelling charms on it, like the World Cup stadium. And to keep foreign wizards from finding it, they’ll have made it Unplottable —”
Hermione looked from Harry, to Ron, and back again. “Well,” she said slowly, “you can enchant a building so it’s impossible to plot on a map, can’t you?”
“Er… if you say so.” Harry said.
“But,” she went on, trying not to show her surprise and hurt his feelings, “I think Durmstrang must be somewhere in the far north. Somewhere very cold, because they’ve got fur capes as part of their uniforms.”
“Ah!” said Ron, his tone changing at once. “Think of the possibilities… It would’ve been so easy to push Malfoy off a glacier and make it look like an accident… Shame his mother likes him.”
As the train moved farther north, the rain became, if possible, even heavier. The sky was so dark and the windows so steamy that the lanterns were lit by midday. It was nice to be riding the train to school with her friends again, away from the bustle of the Weasley household. When the lunch trolley came rattling along the corridor, Harry jumped to his feet and ran to the compartment door. He came back with a large stack of Cauldron Cakes, which the three of them shared.
In the afternoon a few of their fellow students stopped by their compartment for a chat. Hermione knew that Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas were really there to see Harry and Ron, and not her, but she tried her best not to think of it. At the very least, when Neville Longbottom came into the compartment, he looked genuinely pleased to see her, saying “Hello Hermione, have a good holiday?”
Neville was a kind boy, forgetful and a bit foolish, but over the years of helping him with his work in potions lessons, she’d become quite fond of him. He’d been brought up by his grandmother, who was very strict and quite hard on him. She suspected that some of his trouble in school might be nothing more than a lack of self esteem.
But even Neville was not immune to the other boys’ endless discussion of the Quidditch World Cup. With five boys in the compartment reliving the match over and over again — and Seamus Ireland rosette feebly squeaking the names of the Irish players still — it was positively impossible to get a word in.
“Gran didn’t want to go,” Neville said, sounding heartbroken to be left out of the fun. “Wouldn’t buy tickets It sounded amazing though.”
Hermione realized that she would have a chance to read on the train after all, and hastily opened her copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4.
Several moments later, however, her reading was interrupted by a familiar rude and drawling voice, coming from the compartment door, which Dean and Seamus had left ajar. She didn’t quite catch what the voice said.
“Don’t remember asking you to join us, Malfoy,” Harry said.
Through the predictable exchange that followed, Hermione did her best to focus on her book, but it was impossible. First, Malfoy snatched the weird bit of maroon fabric off of Pigwidgeon’s cage… and it turned out to be very old fashioned dress robes, for formal wizarding gatherings. Hermione recalled seeing that style in one of her books on wizarding history, but they were far from the current wizarding fashion. Draco Malfoy seemed positively delighted, crying “Look at this!” to Crabbe and Goyle (his cronies had evidently followed him in).
“Weasley, you weren’t thinking of wearing these, were you? I mean — they were very fashionable in about eighteen ninety…”
Well, wizards did have superior fabric preserving methods.
“Eat dung, Malfoy!” Ron shouted. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle all howled with laughter in unison.
“So…” Malfoy said, “going to enter, Weasley? Going to try and bring a bit of glory to the family name? There’s money involved as well, you know… you’d be able to afford some decent robes if you won…”
“What are you talking about?” snapped Ron.
“Are you going to enter?” Malfoy repeated. “I suppose you will, Potter? You never miss a chance to show off, do you?”
Hermione sighed, and looked up over her book. “Either explain what you’re on about or go away, Malfoy.” she said.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know?” Malfoy said, his voice positively dripping with happiness. “You’ve got a father and a brother at the Ministry and you don’t even know? My God, my father told me about it ages ago… heard it from Cornelius Fudge. But then, Father’s always associated with the top people at the Ministry… Maybe your father’s too junior to know about it, Weasley… yes… they probably don’t talk about important stuff in front of him…”
Then, in fits of laughter, Malfoy left the compartment with Crabbe and Goyle. Ron immediately got to his feet, and slammed the compartment door shut so hard that the glass shattered everywhere.
“Ron!” she said, setting her book aside to pull out her wand. “Reparo!” she said, performing a very basic charm which cause the shards of glass to fly back together into a single pane in the door once again, before they got scattered too far. It was against wizarding law for witches and wizards in training to do magic outside of school, but no one cared about on the train.
“Well… making it look like he knows everything and we don’t…” Ron said moodily. “Father’s always associated with the top people at the Ministry… Dad could’ve got a promotion any time… he just likes it where he is…”
“Of course he does. Don’t let Malfoy get to you, Ron —” she reassured him.
“Him!” he shouted, “Get to me!? As if!” And then he picked up one of the remaining Cauldron Cakes, and squashed it into a pulp in his fist. Hermione blinked hard. There was no use talking to him when he was like this.
Ronald stayed in a bad mood for the rest of the journey. As much as Malfoy hated Hermione for being muggle-born and Harry for being famous, he hated Ron Weasley for being poor. And though he’d never admit it, Ron was very self conscious about his family’s position in the wizarding world, which, Hermione reminded herself, was the only world he really knew.
But soon enough they were changing into their school robes, and shortly after that the Hogwarts Express was pulling into Hogsmeade station. It was pitch black now, but that was the only thing that had changed, the rain was still coming down in buckets. Hermione carefully bundled Crookshanks into her cloak before stepping off the train, maybe she could keep him dry enough to avoid getting another nasty scratch.
Out on the platform, she lifted her eyes long enough to see Hagrid, the gigantic gamekeeper and Care of Magical Creatures teacher, waving enthusiastically at Harry. “See yeh at the feast if we don’ drown!” he boomed, and then he went back to corralling the first year students. It was traditional for Hagrid to take the first year students to the castle by crossing the lake in a series of small boats.
“Ooooh, I wouldn’t fancy crossing the lake in this weather!” she said, with a little shiver. Harry and Ron were too waterlogged to respond, and they walked onward, to the hundred horseless carriages that waited outside the station. She climbed into one along with Harry, Ron, and Neville, and opened her cloak to check on her poor cat. He was mostly dry, but in very bad spirits.
Soon enough, the carriage lurched forward. Crookshanks finally did scratch Hermione, in surprise from the sudden movement. And then they began to move in earnest, along the road with all the other carriages to Hogwarts Castle.
Mrs. Weasley orders ordinary muggle taxis to take her entire wizarding family to London to catch the magic train to magic school. Sure, why not? I mean, they wouldn’t get ministry cars, so what choice does she have?
It isn’t as though they could have traveled to the Leaky Cauldron via flu powder, and then taken the bus to King’s Cross station (I have never been to London and I don’t know how far that would be, but they’d be in the same city, at least).
It isn’t as though Portkeys could have been set up to get wizarding families safely to the magic platform to go to magic school.
It isn’t as though side-along apparition exists and therefore the older ones could have taken the younger ones along with them (though it’s entirely possible that Rowling just hadn’t thought of side-along apparition yet, it doesn’t come up until book six).
So our wizarding family, the father of which has a condescending obsession with muggles that basically amounts to “awe they’re cute, helpless fools,” has no choice but to risk the exposure of the wizarding world (which is supposedly a very big deal) by transporting six teenagers with trunks, two owls, and a cat who is apparently just… loose… by taxi. But hey, at least they’re all wearing jeans or whatever to blend in, right? Makes…. Sense?
While we’re on the topic, this is a bit out of the way, but why do wizard children wear muggle clothes during the summer holidays? Why is this generational? Arthur and Molly wear robes most of the time, and appear to have one or two muggle outfits they use only when they have to interact with the muggle world (this makes zero sense in Arthur’s case, he should *always* be ready to interact with the muggle world because of both his line of work and his personal interests, hell, you’d expect him to collect button down shirts or soemthing). But the kids are cool and modern so they wear muggle clothing seemingly every second of their lives that they don’t have to be in school robes. Why? Where do they get them from? Did their parents put them in muggle clothing when they were small? Is it an acquired teenage fashion? For wizarding children like the Weasleys, this makes no sense at all. And there were muggle-born witches and wizards, as well as “half-bloods,” in Arthur and Molly’s generation as well, so why should they be so rigidly attached to wizard clothing? This has always bothered me, and frankly the movies make it even worse, reducing the Hogwarts uniform (described in-text as “plain work robes, black”) to a sort of preppy boarding school uniform that occasionally has a loose flowy robe thrown over it. I wanted to see some weird magic people, and all I got were all these ties and sweater vests.
But anyway, yeah, the Weasley’s take taxis to London, because why not. They obvious have to, there are no viable other options since they couldn’t get private official government magic cars. Ok. I’ll remember that next time someone says something about the things muggles do to “work around” their not having magic.
Now, let’s talk about our buddy Ronald Weasley, isn’t he just the cutest? Ron Weasley is a wizard, raised by wizards, in a family of wizards. All of his aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents were wizards (I believe in the first book it is mentioned that there might be one squib in the family but “we never talk about him” which is just charming). He goes to magic school. He takes the magic train to magic school every year, this is his fourth year of magic school. In Ron Weasley’s world, it is normal for newspapers and posters and books to have moving photographs. It is normal for your mother to use magic to make dinner. It is normal for damn near everyone to always carry a wand. And his father works for the Ministry of Magic, which is primarily concerned with making sure non-magic folk don’t find out about all of this magic. He just went to the Quidditch World Cup, and quite possibly overheard his father explain the spells that had been put on the moor to keep muggles out. Not only that, but his father puts spells on various things (some of which are illegal, like the car) all the damn time.
But it has never occurred to him that the magic school he goes to might be magically enchanted by magic spells to magically keep non-magic people from just wandering up to the gates. Not only does he not know this, he doesn’t believe it when it’s explained to him.
Here’s the thing.
It is very very tempting to wave this away as bad writing. And it is, to some degree, bad writing. Is this just another case of Harry and Ron taking turns asking stupid questions to get info from Hermione to the reader? Maybe… but I also believe it to be in character for Ronald Weasley.
Ron Weasley is an anti-intellectual. He is (or at least he grows to be, throughout the books, for our purposes here in book four he is) basically against knowing stuff. Ron’s dream is to know just enough stuff, the bare minimum, to become a wizard cop. But if he can’t get it, he isn’t surprised. He’s not going to try to hard. Knowing stuff is for nerds. And knowing stuff about school is for super duper nerds. And the fact that Hermione read a book about the school that they go to which wasn’t required to be read by said school makes her the brainiest of brains, worthy of constant mockery.
Ron Weasley doesn’t know that Hogwarts is magically protected from muggles because he has literally never thought about muggles when he wasn’t being told “there might be muggles here, watch out and don’t scream ‘I AM A WIZARD KID’ at the top of your lungs.” And because wizards are generally pretty lax about hiding themselves from muggles, and count on the ministry to clean up behind them by modifying muggle memories, he’s never had to worry about it too much. He goes to wizard school, why would he think about what would happen if muggles came to wizard school? Muggles aren’t even wizards!
And he isn’t going to find out about it by reading a book for the reasons we already discussed.
And he resents Hermione for knowing things about the wizarding world that he doesn’t know, even though he doesn’t want to know stuff because knowing stuff isn’t cool. And whether he believes it or not, part of his annoyance with her (and you can disagree with me here, that’s fine) is because she’s muggle born.
Ron Weasley is a poor kid who wants someone else to be beneath him. In his world, that’s muggles. Hermione comes from muggles, she was raised in the stupid and backwards muggle world. How dare she come here and try hard and do better than us wizards. I don’t think these are conscious thoughts for Ron, but I do think they motivate him as a character. He’s deeply jealous. He’s jealous of his brothers, he’s jealous of Harry, and he’s jealous of Hermione.
Hermione has even less status than Ron does, so she has to take him ridicule and mockery, the same way Ron has to take it from nearly everyone else.
The original text is on Ron’s side here, by the way. While relying on Hermione to get all of this information to the reader, it makes it pretty clear that she’s an annoying and insufferable know it all. Ron thinks she’s annoying just for knowing stuff he doesn’t know, but the narrative thinks she’s annoying for being pushy about sharing her knowledge. It really wants us to believe that Hermione is stuck up and snobby and rude and just won’t stop talking.
But that’s not true. Hermione Granger barely freaking talks. At least thus far, she spends most of her time silently waiting for the fellas to sort things out. Hermione Granger is not a bossy know it all who can’t shut up. Hermione Granger is an extremely intelligent young woman who is almost constantly holding her tongue. Hermione Granger has more self control than I ever imagined was possible for a human being.