Hermione Granger Chapter 10

Hermione Granger And The Goblet Of Sexism

Chapter Ten: The Scar And The Prophet / Mayhem At The Ministry

 

Hermione lay awake in the dark tent, listening to Ginny’s steady breathing, for a very long time. Finally, the quality of the darkness shifted ever so slightly, and she heard a bird singing somewhere in the forest nearby. Then she heard the zip of the tent flap, and Mr. Weasley carefully stepped inside, tip-toed to Ginny’s bed, and said in a whisper “Ginny dear, time to get up, we’ve got to get home.” His voice sounded worried and anxious, and only after he had roused Ginny did Hermione sit up.

It had been a very long night.

She dressed quickly, and then stepped outside to see the others, as the horizon began to grow faintly lighter. Nobody said much of anything. Mr. Weasley used magic to pack up the tents, apparently now speed was more important than anti-muggle security.

When they left the campsite, they passed the Roberts cottage once again. Mr. Roberts looked dazed, and he waved them off, muttering “Merry Christmas” in a far away voice.

Mr. Weasley must have seen her face, because he quickly whispered “He’ll be alright. Sometimes, when a person’s memory’s modified, it makes him a bit disorientated for awhile… and that was a big thing they had to make him forget.”

She didn’t ask about all of the previous charms. She just hoped he was right, willed herself to believe that he was right, as they marched off along the moor.

The area where the Portkeys lay was crowded and noisy, with a crowd of people clambering around Basil. She guessed after the events of the night before, everyone was in as much a hurry to get home as the Weasley family. Mr. Weasley pushed through the crowd, and had a hurried discussion with Basil. Then it was only a short wait in the queue before they were able to take an old rubber tire back to Stoatshead Hill. They walked back through Ottery St. Catchpole as the sun rose in earnest now, and then up the damp lane toward the Burrow. Nobody was chatting on this early morning walk, each person seemed lost entirely in his or her own thoughts.

As they rounded the corner, a familiar voice came echoing down the lane.

“Oh thank goodness, thank goodness!”

Mrs. Weasley came running toward them on slippered feet, her face pale and strained with worry, a rolled-up copy of the Daily Prophet clutched hard in her left hand.

“Arthur!” she cried, flinging herself into her husband’s arms, “I’ve been so worried, so worried!” and the paper she’d been gripping fell from her hand and to the ground. It no longer mattered. The headline read: SCENES OF TERROR AT THE QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP and included a twinkling black-and-white photograph of the Dark Mark itself.

The reunion scene was sweet, and Hermione thought instantly of her own parents again. For a moment, she wanted to ask at once to borrow an owl and write her own mother. But no, it was stupid, mother didn’t even know, she didn’t read the Daily Prophet. There was no rush, and really, why bother her at all?

“You’re alright,” Mrs. Weasley was muttering, now releasing her husband and staring around at her children, “you’re alive… Oh boys…” and then she seized Fred and George even more tightly than she had Mr. Weasley.

“Ouch! Mum — you’re strangling us —”

“I shouted at you before you left!” she said with a little sob. “It’s all I’ve been thinking about! What if You-Know-Who had got you, and the last thing I’d ever said to you was that you didn’t get enough O.W.L.s? Oh Fred… George…”

“Come on, now, Molly, we’re all perfectly okay,” said Mr. Weasley, pulling her away from the twins and leading her back towards the house. “Bill,” he added in an undertone, “pick up that paper, I want to see what it says…”

In the kitchen, Hermione went straight for the stovetop and put the kettle on. Mrs. Weasley would need a good cup of tea after her fright. Mr. Weasley rummaged in a back cupboard for a tiny bottle of something, which turned out to be Ogdens Old Firewhiskey.

“Really, Arthur!” Mrs. Weasley said when she saw him with the bottle.

“Come now Molly, it’s just a taste to calm your nerves…” said Mr. Weasley as he poured a shot into her teacup. Then Bill handed him the paper, and he sat down to scan the front page opposite his wife at the kitchen table, with Percy peering over his shoulder.

“I knew it,” said Mr. Weasley heavily. “Ministry blunders… culprits not apprehended… lax security… Dark wizards running unchecked… national disgrace… Who wrote this? Ah… of course…” there was an air of disdain in his voice now, “Rita Skeeter.”

Hermione was about to note that there was nothing factually incorrect with the write-up, but she thought better of it, and poured herself a cup of tea as well.

“That woman’s got it in for the Ministry of Magic!” Percy almost shouted, “Last week she was saying we’re wasting our time quibbling about cauldron thickness, when we should be stamping out vampires! As if it wasn’t specifically stated in paragraph twelve of the Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans—”

“Do us a favor, Perce,” said Bill, yawning, “and shut up.” Percy looked offended, but didn’t speak again.

“I’m mentioned…” Mr. Weasley said, reaching the bottom of the article.

“Where?” spluttered Mrs. Weasley, choking on her tea and whiskey. “If I’d seen that, I’d have known you were alive!”

“Not by name,” Mr. Weasley screwed up his eyes. “Listen to this: ‘If the terrified wizards and witches who waited breathlessly for news at the edge of the wood expected reassurance from the Ministry of Magic, they were sadly disappointed. A Ministry official emerged some time after the appearance of the Dark Mark alleging that nobody had been hurt, but refusing to give any more information. Whether this statement will be enough to quash the rumors that several bodies were removed from the woods an hour later, remains to be seen.’ Oh really,” Mr. Weasley looked exasperated and handed the paper off to Percy. “Nobody was hurt. What was I supposed to say? Rumors that several bodies were removed from the woods… well, there certainly will be rumors now she’s printed that.”

He heaved a deep sigh. “Molly, I’m going to have to go into the office; this is going to take some smoothing over.”

Percy looked up from the paper and said “I’ll come with you, Father. Mr. Crouch will need all hands on deck. And I can give him my cauldron report in person.” and he headed out of the kitchen, perhaps to get properly dressed.

Mrs. Weasley took a sip from her tea “Arthur, you’re supposed to be on holiday! This hasn’t got anything to do with your office; surely they can handle this without you?” she said rather reasonably.

“I’ve got to go, Molly,” Mr. Weasley sighed again. “I’ve made things worse. I’ll just change into my robes and I’ll be off.” and he stood up from the little table.

“Mrs. Weasley,” said Harry, who’d been quiet since they arrived, “Hedwig hasn’t arrived with a letter for me, has she?”

She looked up at Harry while Mrs. Weasley said “Hedwig, dear? No… no there hasn’t been any post at all.” Who was Harry expecting mail from?

“All right if I go and dump my stuff in your room, Ron?” Harry said practically winking across the table at Hermione and Ron.

“Yeah… think I will too,” said Ron, just as obviously. “Hermione?”

“Yes,” she said quickly, but realized there was no way the others would realize anything was strange as they made their way up the stairs, they were all to engrossed in the paper being passed around the little kitchen.

“What’s up, Harry?” said Ron, as he closed the door to his attic bedroom.

“There’s something I haven’t told you,” Harry said looking very serious indeed. “On Saturday morning, I woke up with my scar hurting again.”

He was talking, of course, about the magical scar on his forehead, leftover from the curse by Lord Voldemort. She gasped. Previously, his scar had only bothered him when Voldemort himself had been quite close to Harry. “Well, you should probably speak to Dumbledore when we get back to school, if you haven’t written him already, because I’m afraid he’s the only one who really knows much about it. In the meantime, there may be information in several books that would come in rather —”

“But —” Ron cut in without noticing, “he wasn’t there, was he? You-Know-Who? I mean — last time your scar kept hurting, he was at Hogwarts, wasn’t he?”

“I’m sure he wasn’t on Privet Drive,” Harry said, for all the world as though he hadn’t just dropped a bomb into the tiny bedroom. “But I was dreaming about him… him and Peter — you know, Wormtail. I can’t remember all of it now, but they were plotting to kill… someone.”

Hermione bit her lip hard, and nervously pushed the hair from her eyes.

“It was only a dream, Ron said. “Just a nightmare.”

“Yeah, but was it, though?” said Harry, and he looked away from his friends and out the window at the brightening morning sky. He was obviously worried, and Hermione could see why. After all, he’d dreamed about the dark wizard that everyone else called ‘You-Know-Who’ before, and that had never caused him physical pain in his scar. There was a tense moment of silence, and she glanced over at Ron. When Harry’s back was turned, Ron suddenly looked quite concerned as well.

“It’s weird, isn’t it?” Harry said, in a far away voice, “My scar hurts, and three days later the Death Eaters are on the march, and Voldemort’s sign’s up in the sky again.”

“Don’t — say — his — name!” Ron said breathlessly.

“And remember what Professor Trelawney said? At the end of last year?” Harry said.

Hermione scoffed. Professor Trelawney was the Divination teacher at Hogwarts, only she wasn’t very good at divination herself and was constantly making gloom and doom predictions about students… especially famous students like Harry Potter. “Oh Harry,” she said, “you aren’t going to pay any attention to anything that old fraud says?”

“You weren’t there,” Harry said, shooting her a look, “You didn’t hear her. This time was different. I told you, she went into a trance — a real one. And she said the Dark Lord would rise again… greater and more terrible than ever before… and he’d manage it because his servant was going to go back to him… and that night Wormtail escaped.”

She bit her lip again. She hated all this emphasis on fortune telling, it really was such a distraction. She’d thought Harry was a bit brighter than that… and yet, here they were.

“Why were you asking if Hedwig had come, Harry?” she asked, trying to change the subject, it was no use arguing. “Are you expecting a letter?”

“I told Sirius about my scar,” Harry shrugged. “I’m waiting for his answer.”

She couldn’t think why Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather he’d only known a short few months, would be the best person to discuss the matter with. But Ron’s face lit up and he said “Good thinking! I bet Serius’ll know what to do!”

“I hoped he’d get back to me quickly…” Harry said, looking rather droopy again.

“But we don’t know where Sirius is,” she offered, “he could be in Africa or somewhere, couldn’t he? Hedwig’s not going to manage that journey in a few days.”

She wanted very badly to help her friend, to give him some comfort. If she’d learned anything about him in the time she’d known him, it was that she couldn’t push him to seek help if he didn’t want to. But he really did need to talk to someone about this, it could be important, and it was obviously troubling him. He just stared out the window, and she felt helpless.

“Yeah, I know.” was all he said.

“Come and have a game of Quidditch in the orchard, Harry,” Ron piped up. “Come on — three on three, Bill and Charlie and Fred and George will play… You can try out the Wronski Feint…”

“Ron,” she said, guessing Harry hadn’t slept much more than she had the night before, and looking at his pale form leaning on the window, “Harry doesn’t want to play Quidditch right now… He’s worried, and he’s tired…. We all need to go to bed….”

“Yeah, I want to play Quidditch,” Harry said rather suddenly, and stood up quite straight. “Hang on, I’ll get my firebolt.”

 

Hermione looked at both of her friends. As she hadn’t been invited to play Quidditch (not that she was particularly keen to) she thought she’d better head downstairs. And so she left Ron’s attic bedroom, softly muttering “boys…” under her breath. Sometimes she really didn’t know what to make of either of them.

***

The next day, Hermione did manage to borrow an owl and write her parents, but at the last moment she decided not to tell them about the trouble at the World Cup. There was no sense in worrying them, and it wasn’t as if they could do anything anyways. And besides, it occurred to her that if they were worried enough, they might decide that the wizarding world wasn’t safe, and ask her to come straight home. They weren’t normally the overprotective sort, but these were evil wizards they were talking about, and she couldn’t be too careful.

So she tied a letter to Hermes’ leg that focused on the good parts of the match and how much fun she was having at the burrow. Hermes was Percy’s owl, and he normally didn’t lend him out, but he was so busy at work at the ministry that he was hardly using him anyways.

“It’ll be good for him to have something to do, give his wings a stretch, poor fellow’s been bored, I expect.”

She got a letter back straight away, which was signed by both of her parents, but she suspected written by her mother.

 

Dear Hermione,

Your father and I are so pleased to hear you’ve been having a good time! That match does sound quite exciting, perhaps we can all get tickets to a Quidditch game next summer sometime (if that’s allowed)? Thank the Weasleys for letting you stay for us, won’t you dear? And have a wonderful start of term. Don’t forget to write.

P.S. The Christmas holidays can’t come soon enough!

Love,
Mum & Dad

 

She hadn’t exactly lied to her parents, she was having rather a good time at the burrow. Though, to her surprise, she was spending a lot more time with Ginny than she was with Harry or Ron.

Mrs. Weasley did all of their school shopping for them, and brought back all of their new books and the other supplies they would need for the following term. The night before start of term, Hermione found herself in the burrow’s sitting room, pouring over her copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4. Even though she would be taking the usual number of classes this term (instead of all the extras she’d attempted the previous school year) she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was going to be quite busy at Hogwarts, and it was always best to get ahead.

“It’s been an absolutely uproar. I’ve been putting out fires all week.” Percy said from the other end of the sofa, he’d recently returned from work at the Ministry. “People keep sending Howlers, and of course, if you don’t open a Howler straight away, it explodes. Scorch marks all over my desk and my best quill reduced to cinders.”

“Why are they all sending Howlers?” Ginny asked from her spot on the floor in front of the fire.

“Complaining about security at the World Cup,” said Percy. “They want compensation for their ruined property. Mundungus Fletcher’s put in a claim for a twelve-bedroomed tent with en-suite Jacuzzi, but I’ve got his number. I know for a fact he was sleeping under a cloak propped on sticks.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows slightly, and looked up over her book at the room at large. Harry was lovingly polishing his broomstick, Mrs. Weasley looked rather tense and worried (well, she had done a lot all week, truth be told) sitting in her favorite armchair, Ginny was mending a book with a roll of Spellotape, and Ron and Bill were playing a game of wizard’s chess at the far end of the room. Fred and George were sitting in a far corner apart from everyone else, quills out, talking in whispers, and Charlie was darning something next to her on the sofa. It was a crowded room, and only Mr. Weasley was absent, still at work.

She buried her head in her book again, trying to focus, wondering if she might be better off stealing away into Ginny’s bedroom to finish her reading. Oh well, she was used to studying in a noisy common room, she could tune it out…

“Don’t you dare blame your father for what that wretched Skeeter woman wrote!” Mrs. Weasley almost shouted, pulling Hermione out of her book once again. She was talking to Percy.

Bill set down the chess piece he’d been contemplating and said “If dad hadn’t said anything, old Rita would just have said it was disgraceful that nobody from the Ministry had commented. Rita Skeeter never makes anyone look good. Remember, she interviewed all the Gringots’ Charm Breakers once, and called me ‘a long-haired pillock’?”

“Well, it is a bit long, dear…” Mrs. Weasley began, and Hermione returned to her book. She wanted to finish this section at least. The talk went on around her, but she allowed herself to become completely engrossed in the theory behind summoning spells. They seemed a very practical thing to learn about…

But, scarcely a moment later, the kitchen fireplace roared as Mr. Weasley returned home, and Mrs. Weasley jumped up with a cry of “Oh your father’s coming!” and bolted out of the room. Mr. Weasley always used the kitchen fire to get to and from the Ministry, and Hermione always wondered why he never used the one in the sitting room, but she felt too awkward to ask. She supposed it was probably obvious to those who’d grown up in the magical world.

Then Mr. Weasley was stepping into the room with his dinner on a tray, and Hermione gave up her reading for the evening. She closed the book, hoping she’d have a chance to read on the Hogwarts Express the next day, though she didn’t really expect to. She glanced out the window, it was raining.

“Well, the fat’s really in the fire now,” Mr. Weasley said, sounding exhausted, as he sat down in the armchair by the hearth. “Rita Skeeter’s been ferreting around all week, looking for more Ministry mess-ups to report. And now she’s found out about poor old Bertha going missing, so that’ll be the headline in the Prophet tomorrow. I told Bagman he should have sent someone to look for her ages ago.”

So, she thought, the government was trying to keep everything hushed up and away from the press, and then blaming one reporter that they weren’t getting the coverage that they wanted. From what Hermione had seen of how the Ministry ran things, this Rita Skeeter probably didn’t have to look far for more blunders…

“Mr. Crouch has been saying it for weeks and weeks,” Percy said.

“Crouch is very lucky Rita hasn’t found out about Winky,” said Mr. Weasley, sounding irritable. “There’d be a week’s worth of headlines in his house elf being caught holding the wand that conjured the Dark Mark.”

“I thought we were all agreed that that elf, while irresponsible, did not conjure the Mark?” Percy raised his voice just a little.

“If you ask me,” she said, trying her best to keep her voice level, “Mr. Crouch is very lucky no one at the Daily Prophet knows how mean he is to elves!”

“Now look here, Hermione!” Percy shot back, “A high-ranking Ministry official like Mr. Crouch deserves unswerving obedience from his servants —”

Hermione couldn’t stand it. “His slave, you mean!” she shouted, well aware that the whole living room was now staring at her, “because he didn’t pay Winky, did he?”

“I think you’d all better go upstairs and check that you’ve packed properly!” Mrs. Weasley cut in, in a falsely cheery voice. Hermione was fuming, but she didn’t want to seem an ungrateful guest. She put her book under her arm, and marched into Ginny’s room without saying a word to anyone, to double check everything in her trunk. Maybe they would think she was just following instructions, and not storming off. Of course, everything was neat and tidy and ready to go, well she’d known that already.

She sighed heavily, and plopped down on the camp bed she’d called her own for the last week. She was angry at Percy, and at Ronald, and the whole lot of them for being so insensitive about Winky. She even felt angry with Mrs. Weasley, which she hated. And, though she didn’t want to admit it, she was feeling a bit mixed up. She was eager to get to Hogwarts, and yet she was already feeling homesick. Maybe she shouldn’t have come, maybe she should have spent the last week of the holidays with her own family… with her own mother. And though she wanted very much to help Harry get to the bottom of whatever was going on with his scar, she was also becoming aware that neither of her best friends had asked her much about what was going on with her. She was lonesome, and lonesome is a hard thing to be in a crowded house.

Ginny walked into the room quietly, and avoided Hermione’s eye. Hermione didn’t blame her. She pretended to refold some robes while Ginny walked up to her own trunk, groaned, and said “damn it all, this is going to take ages to pack properly!”

Well, Hermione thought, at the very least she could be some use with that, and she got up to help.

The rain continued.

***

Deconstruction / Notes On The Source Text

 

It is very lonely to be Hermione Granger. It is heartbreakingly lonely to be Hermione Granger. Even surrounded by people who supposedly care about her, Hermione is constantly isolated. And to some degree, this must be the case for most muggle-born witches and wizards, but Hermione is the one we get the closest to, the only one the reader has a chance to get close to at all. Like the worst of White American Liberalism, “tolerant” witches and wizards parade out their muggle-born friends as evidence of how accepting they are. “See?” they say, “It doesn’t make any difference to me! I even have muggle-born friends! I honestly can’t tell the difference between them and my pureblood friends.” They absolutely refuse to look at the fact that being muggle-born absolutely DOES make a difference. Muggle-born wizards face prejudice, some aggressive and ugly, some covert and less notable, and have to deal with that every single day of their lives. But they also have a very different cultural experience. By trying to view them as “exactly the same” wizards like the Weasleys fail to see them AT ALL.

I’m a white woman, so it isn’t my place to use a race metaphor here. But I am also a queer woman, so I will use that instead. Allies who supposedly see my family (two moms, one kid, three cats) as “just like anybody else” and “no different than a straight couple” (things I have actually heard from people who love me, yup) are lazy and ineffective allies at best. I am very very different than a straight person, and my family life is very very different than that of a straight family. Are there common threads? Sure. But straight people don’t live with the knowledge that that one cousin didn’t come to your wedding because he’s an angry homophobe… and they don’t have to live with the knowledge that the rest of the family wants to pretend he’s still a good guy and you should be fine with seeing him at family gathers. Straight people do not have to come out, and know that they will face backlash and rejection from at least SOME PEOPLE when they do. Straight people very rarely are told that they are “tearing the family apart” because they kissed someone they have a crush on. Straight people are rarely told that they should be GRATEFUL that people are working SO HARD to be TOLERANT of them even though they won’t say the word “girlfriend” about their girlfriends. Even if I wanted to assimilate, and have a family that was just like a straight family except that one teeny tiny detail (and I don’t) I couldn’t because my personal history is full of this stuff, as is my present. To say that you see no difference between my family (in which we are currently struggling to get our kid adopted by my wife, and had to do a freaking fundraiser for that, in which both me and my wife could be fired at any time for being gay, in which our child has two moms and a fairy godmother (sperm donor), in which our child is probably going to get made fun of for not having a dad someday) and the family down the street with a mom and a dad where parentage is generally assumed and respected by society… is the peak of a certain kind of privilege. It’s total and complete unawareness masquerading as acceptance.

And so, the reunion scene with Mrs. Weasley. In the original text, Mrs. Weasley is played as overly emotional and unreasonable (ugh ugh ugh) for the crime of knowing that her entire family was around unspeakable violence and you know, worrying. The text tells us that she grabs her family too tightly, yells too loudly, she is oppressive with her love and concern. It’s a kind of bare misogyny and ugliness already. But when I looked at it from Hermione’s point of view, it was far sadder.

There are flaws to doing this re-write chapter by chapter, but this is what we’re doing. And if this is a story about Hermione Granger, we need to look back at HER story. And that means that this book starts with Hermione arguing with her mother. Hermione is a fourteen year old girl parsing out conflicts with her parents, dealing with her close and loving relationship with her mother changing. Some of that is normal teenager stuff, but some of it is different because she’s a witch. She’s not only slowly gaining more independence and seeing her parents as human and therefore flawed (and being shaken up by that) she’s also literally leaving their world.

Imagine how Hermione Granger feels to see Mrs. Weasley grab her sons with all of that inconvenient motherly love and worry. She left her own mother in the midst of an argument. And Hermione was quite possibly in greater danger than any of the Weasleys (if Draco Malfoy is saying that he views muggles and muggle-borns as the same, and worthy of the same disdain and abuse, and we *suspect* that Draco’s father was involved in the attack on muggles… it isn’t far fetched to assume that is an attitude held by the attackers… and in later books we will see that this is the case) but her mother has no idea. A lot of us started keeping things from our parents around the age of fourteen, and Hermione is no exception. But increasingly, what she is keeping secret from her parents isn’t romance or bad grades or experimenting with substances, it’s the violence of the wizarding world.

I think she starts doing this for two reasons: One is that she feels that as a witch, she has to protect her muggle parents, and the entire wizarding world seems to think that the only way to protect muggles is to keep them ignorant. We talked in the comments about why this is wrongheaded and ultimately helps the death-eaters, but it is the common belief. And Hermione is afraid to rock the boat too much so it makes sense that she wouldn’t challenge that overly much. The second reason is that if her parents know exactly how dangerous and violent the wizarding world is, they might pull her out of school. And if they pull her out of school, she doesn’t get to be a witch anymore.

Which, while we’re on the subject of that, let’s talk about expulsion from Hogwarts and what that means. In the first book, Hermione says “I’m going to bed, before either of you do something else to get us killed, or worse, expelled” to Ron and Harry. Ron says “she needs to sort out her priorities.” It’s supposed to be funny. The first time I read it, I thought it was funny. I think we’ve all known someone who was very type-A and academics focused, to the point where they seemed to view school as the be all end all of their existence. It’s funny because most of us can think of a time when we looked at someone and thought “they need to sort out their priorities!” in a similar way. But that sort of requires seeing being expelled from Hogwarts as the same as being expelled from anywhere else. It isn’t. And it’s even less so for muggle-born witches and wizards.

If I had gotten expelled from High School, my parents would have been furious. There would have been a lot of social shame attached to that. There would have been strict punishments. It could have seriously set me back in my adult life by “starting me out on the wrong foot.” BUT I would have had options. I could have gotten my GED. I could have gone to a different High School in the area. If Ron Weasley gets expelled from Hogwarts, his mother will being furious and probably cruel, we know that. It’s unclear whether or not he would be allowed to go to another European wizarding school, but if it’s an options, I’m sure his parents would pursue it. Worst case scenario for Ron though, in the event of expulsion, would be life like Hagrid’s. It’s not what he wants, and it’s still MUCH MUCH WORSE than my predicted expulsion outcome, but he would still get to live in the wizarding world.

But if Hermione gets expelled… she has to go back to being a muggle. Only, of course, she won’t be able to. She isn’t a muggle, and she never really was. We know that magic slips out of witches and wizards when they are frustrated. So she would return to the muggle world, officially unallowed to use the powers she’s worked so hard to understand and hone, living in constant fear of being arrested by the wizarding world for letting something slip. It would be a nightmare. All of this means that OF COURSE Hermione is going to be uptight about the rules (but it’s also how she’s wired, I get it, I have similar wiring) and also she sure isn’t about to give her parents any reason to pull her out of school.

Ok, now let’s talk about The Media!

Reading this chapter NOW feels very… different… than it did a few years ago. I don’t want to make this deconstruction about American Politics, but I certainly can’t help but view things through the lens of the world I’m currently experiencing at least a little. So here we have a situation where the government handled a situation terribly, and I do mean TERRIBLY, and now they are blaming The Media for reporting on it.

The wizarding world is incredibly, impressively, corrupt. For some reason, the secret magical shadow government doesn’t exactly lend itself to transparency! We have no reason to believe that any of these powerful officials have been elected democratically (including Fudge). We know that the government is not above leaning on the Daily Prophet to suppress information (and we know that, at least some of the time, that works). We know that Lucius Malfoy is able to influence the government and the education system with money, and that sometimes works. Wizarding Britain has one government, one school, and one newspaper, and they’re all locked in a mutually abusive manipulative codependent relationship with each other.

Does Rita Skeeter engage in bad journalism and downright lies? Yup, she sure does. Does she mix that with actual reporting in a way that is really dangerous? Uh-huh. Does the prophet hold an unnerving amount of sway over most witches and wizards opinions? Oh yeah. I’m not here to paint Rita Skeeter as Secretly Good… because I know what’s going to happen later in this book. But in this section? I cannot find an untruth in the segment we’re read. I mean, it’s possible that (as Arthur Weasley assumes) she fabricated the rumors about bodies. But it’s just as possible that she interviewed people on the ground.

What happened at the World Cup WAS a Ministry Blunder, and culprits WERE NOT apprehended. That’s not sensationalism… that is just what happened. As far as I can tell from the text, there were no aurors or magical law enforcement of any kind on duty at the world cup. But there were a lot of ministry employees with zero experience dealing with dark wizards, muggles, crowd control, or anything. When dark wizards attacked muggles, they panicked, and did not know how to handle the situation. Fortunately, they were able to save the muggle family, but they didn’t apprehend anyone because THEY DO NOT KNOW HOW.

Then, the Dark Mark happened, and we have more panic, more lack-of-due-process, more nonsense. Arthur Weasley is a ministry official. He emerged from the wood tired and wanting to keep his own family safe, and he was not on duty. But he was also the first ministry official to greet the public after the Dark Mark was put into the sky. He knows how serious this is. He knows how frightened people are. He knows (presumably) what his position is. He should have known how to say something boilerplate and vague until an official statement could be made.

He should have been able to say “There are no known injuries, and I can assure you that the ministry is doing everything in our power to get to the bottom of the situation. We have every reason to believe that the danger has passed, please everyone stay calm.” or something way better than that because I have not been trained in how to deal with these situations but Arthur Weasley damn well should have been.

So what did Arthur Weasley say?

“Of course it’s not Him,” said Mr. Weasley impatiently. “We don’t know who it was; it looks like they Disapparated. Now excuse me, please, I want to get to bed.”

Oh.

The expectation that the paper should report on the incident casting the ministry in a more favorable light… and that anyone who doesn’t has “got it in for the ministry” is really really troubling. That’s not how journalism works. Or at least, it’s not supposed to be.

And then we have this bit:

“Well, the fat’s really in the fire now,” Mr. Weasley said, sounding exhausted, as he sat down in the armchair by the hearth. “Rita Skeeter’s been ferreting around all week, looking for more Ministry mess-ups to report. And now she’s found out about poor old Bertha going missing, so that’ll be the headline in the Prophet tomorrow. I told Bagman he should have sent someone to look for her ages ago.”

I ACTUALLY WANT TO SCREAM.

Imagine, a REPORTER came across a government handling some things very poorly, and now she’s looking at that government’s operations more closely! The nerve of some people, amirite? Also, yes, a government employee went missing some time ago, and no, no one has looked for her at all. Apparently, we do not have a branch of our shadow government to deal with such things, it was solely her boss’s responsibility to SEND SOMEONE (who? WHO?) to go and look for her. There is no formal investigation, and there is no standard of practice for dealing with such things. It’s just one guy’s fault and no one else has any culpability at all, and even he isn’t too much to blame because he used to play sports.

I do not consider myself a journalist. I’m a writer, and I’ve picked up some reporting skills, but I don’t do straight journalism in part because I don’t have the training to do it the way I believe it should be done. But if I was, this is absolutely the kind of thing that I would need to report on. As it stands, if I found out something like this about my own government, I would pass the tip on so that a skilled journalist COULD cover it.

Sometimes missing people are fine. Other times missing people are DEAD. Other times they are alive, but very much NOT FINE. And I hope we can all agree that if we are ever a missing person, there should be some kind of investigation, and it should not be (shudder) up to our BOSSES to decide when and how that happens. If Rita Skeeter has discovered that when governmental employees go missing, whether or not to search for them is left up to their bosses, and in this case the boss chose to do nothing… she has an ethical duty to report on that. The fact that Mr. Weasley knows Bertha has been missing, believes it could be serious and thinks Bagman should have handled it better, but has done nothing more about that fact than make a mild suggestion AND ALSO believes that Rita Skeeter should bury the story, speaks volumes about him. Press about Bertha Jorkins could FINALLY put the pressure on to launch a search and an investigation.

He is literally putting the ministry’s reputation above the safety of an innocent person.

Later on, in the fifth book, it will be implied that Arthur Weasley has some greater guiding morality than allegiance to the government (unlike some people we could name). But I see no real evidence of that. Arthur Weasley, like the majority of adult wizards, aligns himself with power and institutions, and believes in those institutions and their ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. When he’s willing to go against the ministry, it’s only because he’s allegiance is called elsewhere. He loves the ministry, but he trusts Dumbledore more. Much like Lucius Malfoy, who loves the ministry, but trusts Voldemort more.

Also we have a nice little dig at poor people with the Mundungus Fletcher bit. We’ll find out later that Mundungus is a crook (in book five, apparently “I steal” is his only real character trait) but at this point we know nothing about the man. Except that he is so poor that he had to sleep under a cloak propped up on sticks. And he’s trying to screw the government out of money. Given that poor people are constantly accused of not needing the government assistance they use, this feels really gross to me. It’s also really frustrating to see the Weasley family, who are also struggling financially, engage in this sort of classism within the wizarding world.

And, is it my imagination, or is Percy Weasley — a poor boy from a poor family that had to borrow tents to attend the World Cup with tickets that they got for free — frustrated on behalf on the Ministry that other people, who’s possessions were destroyed YES IN PART BECAUSE OF POOR PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE MINISTRY, aren’t happy to take the loss? I like Percy (sometimes) a great deal more than I’m supposed to, but come on. Percy, and most of the other Weasley children really, do not want an improved system that will be more fair for poor families like their own. Instead, they want to rise within the ranks of a deeply stratified social order, so that they can attain slightly more privilege and comfort than their parents.

Charming.

 

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15 thoughts on “Hermione Granger Chapter 10

  1. liminal fruitbat March 20, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    In the meantime, there may be information in several books that would come in rather —”

    I have to wonder… what books is Hermione talking about? If there was any information on curse scars in their school textbooks Hermione would have noticed and remembered it (even Harry might have noticed information connected to himself), and the Burrow is hardly a repository of information on injuries caused by Dark magic. Did Rowling forget that they don’t have access to Hogwarts’ library when they’re not at school? Has Hermione been spending her pocket money on books about the Dark Arts?

    him and Peter — you know, Wormtail.

    Why does everyone keep calling him by his school nickname? His name is Peter Pettigrew. If anything, he forfeited his right to the name Wormtail when he betrayed his fellow Marauders. I can just about understand Voldemort using the name out of petty sadism, and I can more easily understand Snape doing it because he was actually at school with Peter and has a reason to want to drop pointed reminders about Peter betraying his friends, but everyone keeps using the damn name! Is it that evil people deserve unpleasant names, regardless of how little sense it makes? (It can’t be that, otherwise Harry would have insisted on calling Snape ‘Snivellus’ during the time he thought he was a true Death Eater.) I don’t understand it.

    She bit her lip again. She hated all this emphasis on fortune telling, it really was such a distraction.

    And this is another weird bit of characterisation: Hermione would, we must assume, have researched Divination before choosing to study it and while learning it. Shouldn’t she know that genuine prophecies do happen? (Not to mention that pretty much all of Trelawney’s predictions are at least half-right and become totally accurate by the time of Half-Blood Prince, but that’s another matter.)

    “People keep sending Howlers, and of course, if you don’t open a Howler straight away, it explodes. Scorch marks all over my desk and my best quill reduced to cinders.”

    Why do Howlers exist? Why do they work this way? What is wrong with these people?

    Percy, and most of the other Weasley children really, do not want an improved system that will be more fair for poor families like their own. Instead, they want to rise within the ranks of a deeply stratified social order, so that they can attain slightly more privilege and comfort than their parents.

    Remember back in CoS when Ron mentioned how great it would be if his family owned a house-elf? Remember how any genuine improvement in the lot of sapient non-humans gets pushed into interview-canon because it’s not as important as a fight between magical humans? Remember how Dumbledore makes the right noises about how the statues in the Ministry lobby are symptomatic of Wizarding Britain’s condescension to the aforesaid non-humans, and about keeping up with Muggle news, and about treating Kreacher well, but in the first two cases never does anything about it and in the case of Kreacher encourages Harry (who hates him) to become Kreacher’s master? Remember how the house of ambition is constantly demonised? These books are all about the importance of the status quo and of knowing one’s place.

  2. depizan77 March 20, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    perhaps we can all get tickets to a Quidditch game next summer sometime (if that’s allowed)?

    This raises a good question: exactly how do mixed families work? I’m suddenly feeling a lot of sympathy for Petunia – her sister ran off into a world she may not have even been able to visit. Not only are muggle families of wizard kids out of the news loop regarding the Wizarding World (unlike wizard families), but they’re cut out of their kid’s world entirely. Every time Hermione (or any other muggleborn wizard) goes to Hogwarts, their parents must be terrified they’ll never see them again – not because they know the Wizarding World is dangerous, but because they’re entrusting their kid to a world they’re cut off from.

    How are there still Wizards who marry muggles? Or is there a super high rate of divorce among those relationships? It’d be like marrying a spy, or worse. You can’t be a part of your spouse’s world. And you might lose your children to it.

    The more I think about it, the more surprised I am that the muggleborns don’t investigate whether other countries have better wizard-muggle relations. (I’d wonder why they don’t try to pressure the Wizarding World into rejoining the muggle world, but their lack of status makes it pretty clear why they don’t do that. Then again, the Wizarding World seems doomed to eventually being taken over by pissed off muggleborns with enchanted military hardware.)

    Also, I think I realized why the Wizarding World is such a disaster. Hogwarts teaches no “normal” classes – no math, no science (of course), no shop class (of course), no home-ec, no art, no music, no literature, no English, no foreign languages, no government/social studies. (I think there’s mention of history, but my impression was it was 1) ancient history 2) slept through by most students.) Muggleborn kids had school up to whatever the equivalent of the fourth grade is, and wizard kids were presumably tutored/home schooled (since they can read and write and all). But this is a universe being run by people who, on average, have a fourth grade education! No wonder it’s a fucking mess.

    I mean, yes, of course people can learn things on their own, and I certainly intend no disrespect to home schoolers – I was one for a time myself. But I have the impression that the Wizarding World’s home schooling is going to look disturbingly like an ultra fundamentalist Christian’s home schooling.

    And learning things on their own might be difficult as they’d have to navigate the muggle world to do so. I don’t remember libraries other than the one at Hogwarts ever being mentioned.

    There also doesn’t appear to be any higher education. I don’t remember anyone mentioning university. So, not only does non-magical education stop at a very basic level, everyone’s magical education ends at the high school level. No wonder the government seems like it’s being run by people playing at it. They effectively are.

    *boggles*

  3. WanderingUndine March 20, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    I think that at this point, the books are a weird combination of anti-government and uncritical of government. The Ministry is narratively portrayed as a sometimes threatening but basically benign and inviolate institution whose corruption and laxity usually benefit the Good Guys and whose attempts to do its job usually don’t. Ludo giving Arthur tickets for covering up his brother’s crime is Good. Ludo not investigating earth’s disappearance is one rare instance of laxity being Bad because it makes trouble for Arthur. Letting Harry off the hook for magically attacking his aunt is Good. Trying to expel him for magically saving his cousin is Bad, as is imprisoning Hagrid, and trying to execute Buckbeak and Sirius. Regulating cauldron thickness – a matter of public safety – is a triviality that Percy the Weird annoyingly obsesses over. Etc.

    For Harry, this perspective starts shifting on-page at the end of this book. Fudge’s refusal to believe in Voldemort’s return transforms him from a pompous but likeable bumbler to a man “angrily denying anything that would disrupt his cozy world.” (Probably paraphrased) From there, we rapidly learn just how easy it is to co-opt harness the Ministry’s denial, and later its power, for evil ends. But its inherent problems at the best of times are never fully questioned.

    Your discussion of queerness reminds me about the degrees of oppression that exist within a marginalized group. I’m a biromantic bisexual, and so is my mom. She raised me with her female partner, and later with other partners after the first one’s death. But we inhabit a progressive town in a progressive state. If my parents were targets of hate or discrimination, they must have sheltered me from it. My mom has her own business, so being fired was never a threat. They were able to have me, and never married. I know that lots of people think my kind of family shouldn’t exist, and it hurts. But the only one I know who disapproves of *us personally* is my mom’s brother, with whom she nonetheless has a mostly cordial relationship. I had no fear of negative reactions when coming out to her, or to my friends. I’ve never had a partner of any gender, so the only oppression I’ve experienced is people doubting that I know my own orientation. I might be harmed in some way if I have a girlfriend someday, but I don’t feel like I’ll have to hide my desires forever for my own safety. I’m in a marginalized group, but have been privileged in ways denied to many of my peers.

    Getting back to Harry Potter, this links to the note about Arthur’s contempt toward Mundungus. Arthur is poor, but he has a good house, a legal job, and friends in higher places, and the books give no indication that he knows what it’s like to not have them.

    Great point about the “killed or, worse, expelled” line being more grounded in Hermione’s reality than Rowling may have believed.

    @depizan: I’ve had sympathy for Petunia ever since I read “The Prince’s Tale.” Her bitter envy doesn’t excuse her abuse of Harry, but it’s revealing and relatable.

  4. DawnM March 20, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    I like your take on the government. It is so bizarre. How did Fudge get appointed? And later how does he get removed? Some mysterious oligarchy decides.

    By the way – what’s up with Crookshanks?

  5. katherinedmclover March 20, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    OMG so I don’t have time to respond to each and every point in these fabulous comments right now, but Crookshanks. A thing y’all might not know about me is that I am actually one of the biggest cat ladies you will ever meet in your whole life and I have FEELINGS about the way that cats are dealt with in this series. One of these weeks we’re going to get into it in earnest… but there was too much else this week.

    Crookshanks just didn’t exist in this chapter in-text. He doesn’t exist in-text most of the time! I am adding in additional Crookshanks quite a lot, actually.

  6. WanderingUndine March 20, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Whoops, that’s Bertha, not “earth.” Earth has not disappeared. And it should be “co-opt and harness.” Darn dictation software.

  7. liminal fruitbat March 21, 2017 at 3:55 am

    How are there still Wizards who marry muggles?

    When are they even allowed to tell Muggle romantic partners that they can do magic? How many Muggles remain in unhappy marriages because they fear being memory-wiped if they leave? (Would a divorced Muggle parent of a half-blood even be allowed to remember their child exists?)

    The Ministry is narratively portrayed as a sometimes threatening but basically benign and inviolate institution whose corruption and laxity usually benefit the Good Guys and whose attempts to do its job usually don’t.

    It looks almost like a libertarian/Republican idea of government – see also how everyone’s expected to be able to fight off evil wizards and monsters themselves, and the only person who comes close to teaching non-violent resolutions and waiting for the professionals is Umbridge, out of paranoia of Dumbledore raising an army. Which is odd, considering Rowling’s centre-left politics in real life.

  8. DawnM March 21, 2017 at 7:25 am

    There can never be too much Crookshanks.

    Your analysis of Hermione’s isolation within the group is good.

    A lesser issue that I notice is Ginny’s apparent isolation from her family. Ron has claimed in past books that Ginny rarely shuts up, but we don’t see any of that here. And in a later book, her brothers will all be astonished that she can fly well – which means that in the 15 years they knew her they never included her in their pick-up quidditch games at home. Apparently, not even when there were only the 3 boys at home did it occur to them to add her as a 4th. And it’s not like she has any nearby playmates of her own – Luna lives miles away, Cedric is too old. So, what – she hangs out with her mom all the time? No wonder she bonds with Hermione.

  9. WanderingUndine March 21, 2017 at 8:01 am

    “She was lonesome, and lonesome is a hard thing to be in a crowded house.”

    It’s the norm for me. I can get lonely after too much time alone, but I’m much more prone to loneliness, and feel it most strongly, in populated spaces where I feel isolated from the other people. Even when they’re my friends or family.

    @liminal fruitbat: It does look sort of libertarian/Republican, from my limited outside view of those ideologies.

  10. katherinedmclover March 21, 2017 at 9:19 am

    It’s interesting to see the government read as far-right/libertarian by others, I hadn’t even really considered that. There’s nothing in text to suggest anything in the way of welfare (and plenty to suggest that no such thing exists) but the Weasleys also don’t quibble about the medical costs when Arthur spends a huge chunk of time in the hospital, so it’s possible that medical care, at least, is a common good. We also know that the one bank is under at least some government control, but I don’t know what that means. And I probably don’t know what that means because Rowling doesn’t know what that means. Which is frustrating. She spent SO MUCH time and energy on these books, but it looks like she didn’t do any research whatsoever into how governments actually work so that she could base her magic government on SOMETHING, despite the fact that many of her characters are GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES and a big part of the plot deals with how the government responds to various crises.

    In terms of the re-write, according to the rules I’ve set for myself, I have to just deal with this. But as a reader, it’s really frustrating. And I think it’s even more frustrating given what we know about how Rowling tries to use her characters to support her political beliefs. It’s already ridiculous saying “dumbledore would have supported x political position” but it’s even worse considering that in-text dumbles is ok with the government doing all sorts of horrible things.

    The issue of muggle/magical romantic relationships is one that irks me to no end, because it is never clarified in the series. When Rowling leaves something that open ended in the series, I have to decide what to do with it in the re-write. If I leave it confusing, that puts me in a situation where it might be hard to tell the story, because my main character would want to know, and would find out the answer if there was one available because that’s how she is. On the other hand, if I invent an answer for my own purposes, I risk causing inconsistencies later down the line.

    Messy fiction leads to messy fan fiction, I suppose.

    I may be making the wizarding government even more distopian by handling it the way that I am, but in my view one of its flaws is its unwillingness to clarify its exact stance on wizard/muggle relations. The statute of secrecy OFFICIALLY makes it illegal to tell a muggle about the wizarding world. But they make an exception for immediate family (Hermione’s parents are allowed to know she’s a witch going to wizarding school, but they aren’t allowed to tell their parents, Lily’s parents were allowed to know). Precedent says that this means it’s ok for muggles married to magical people to know about the magical world, but only after marriage, but there’s no law on the books about it (that’s actually fairly consistant with how a lot of family law works in the real world, a lot of it is based on precedent only, which is why my lawyer is still TRYING TO FIGURE OUT if we’re doing a “second parent adoption” or a “step parent adoption” lolsob). Probably most witches and wizards would tell a significant other before marriage, but there is potentially a risk associated with that.

  11. Ymfon March 21, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Speaking of Hermione’s living in two worlds, you might really like Vera Rozalsky’s short fic “Childhood’s End”. It’s part of a much longer story (“Amends, or Truth and Reconciliation”) but it stands fairly well on its own; you can basically just skip the first couple of paragraphs.

  12. Ymfon March 21, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Dammit, completely forgot to post the link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5526332/1/Childhood-s-End

  13. […] worthy of comment when it’s Hermione and they can mock her for it (despite the fact that, as this piece points out, expulsion would be much more catastrophic for her than it would be for […]

  14. Silver Adept March 27, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Ah, the magical government, seemingly consisting of endless functionaries who are benign but useless, presumably with a few people that have actual power who are carefully hidden behind layers of obfuscation and staffing so that nobody can actually get anything done.

    It’s the perception of the Department of Motor Vehicles written large.

    (I’ve also wondered about Wizarding Higher Ed. Because surely there have to be some people somewhere who do research on various aspects of magic or magical creatures, like Bill, and lovely know enough and have done enough to receive a higher credentialing, but there didn’t seem to be an equivalent of the Oxford-Cambridge rivalry, even though there does appear to be the Arsenal-Manchester United one.)

    And Hermione. Dear Hermione, who is growing up in a totally different world and rather rightly realizes her dentist parents probably can’t understand the weird, much less keep up with it. And has maybe one female friend, who is a couple years back, and is the sister of someone she (eventually) has feelings for. Where are Hermione’s friends, in Ravenclaw if the Gryffindors believe she’s too much in the books? Why haven’t Hermione and Luna, and/or the Patil twins hit it off about how creepy all the students are? Or something? Surely Hermione could have her own life, instead of having to be attached at the hip to Harry and Ron.

    Which is to say, these are great and I very much look forward to seeing them.

  15. SR March 27, 2017 at 8:50 pm

    I just came across a link to this blog, and your analysis of what being expelled meant to Hermione stuck with me. I would imagine the consequences of being expelled are so drastic for a muggleborn. We don’t know how many expulsions there have been in Hogwarts’s history, but as a first year, Hermione must’ve been scared of losing a world that she could be a part of.

    The isolation you describe in this chapter really shows how lonely she is. She may be lonely in her home in the summers with two working parents so she decided to stay at the Weasleys for the first time. But while they get along, there are significant personality and cultural clashes.

    I should be doing other work, but I think I’m going to read the rest of your deconstruction.

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