Harry Potter is the boy who lived, the hero of his eponymous series, but over seven books and eight movies, Hermione Granger is the MVP.
There’s no magical puzzle, spell, or dilemma that she can’t figure out, even if she needs a Time-Turner to be in multiple places at once. As Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) once noted admirably in 2004’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”: “You really are the brightest witch of your age I’ve ever met.”
For Witchcraft Month on ITOL, I chose to salute Hermione, whom I met only through watching the films as an adult. The moment Hermione shot up her hand as an 11-year-old in class at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in 2001’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” brainy girls like me everywhere found a kindred spirit.
As played by Emma Watson (“Little Women”), Hermione always has a lot going on upstairs, but she’s more than just an insufferable know-it-all. The Sorting Hat sensed that, musing in the first book about where to place her because of her smarts, honesty, fair play, and hard work. It finally settles on Gryffindor, the Hogwarts house of bravery: “There are people in Gryffindor who might need you, Hermione Granger. People who need your intelligence, loyalty, cunning, and most of all courage. There are people whom you will help greatly, people whom you will mold their futures and be the reason why they had such a wonderful life.”
Hermione is a “mudblood” in the wizarding world – a magical child born to nonmagical parents, a couple of dentists – but that slur only seems to put a chip on her shoulder. She deserves to be at Hogwarts as much as anyone, and she’s determined to prove it, another trait relatable to any girl with intelligence and integrity who feels like she has to claim her space.
No wonder she consistently ranks at the tops of fan favorite polls. In a 2017 one conducted by National Book Tokens, based in the UK and Ireland, voters named Hermione the number-one Potter world character. She landed second, behind Severus Snape, in a 2011 poll from the books’ publisher, Bloomsbury. Poor Harry at least makes the top ten.
Some readers and viewers grew up hearing how boys didn’t like girls who were smart. The Daily Prophet slings similar barbs, calling Hermione “plain but ambitious.” Hermione can’t be bothered with such nonsense. She’s not shy about knowing any right answer and going to the library to discover more. She draws the eyes of a couple of guys just by being true to herself – and has no patience with future husband Ron (Rupert Grint) being petty. “Next time there’s a ball, pluck up the courage to ask me before someone else does! And not as a last resort!”
Her bossy attitude can mask her insecurities, something hard to recognize when she’s enunciating a levitation spell (“It’s Levi-OH-sa, not Levio-SAH”) or chiding Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) for wanting to face danger on his own. “I’ve always admired your courage, Harry, but sometimes, you can be really thick,” she says with more affection than bite.
Hermione and Harry, to me, made a much better pair of friends and sweethearts. But it’s fitting that she, Harry, and Ron all gravitated toward each other: The mixed-blood girl, the orphan with a preordained destiny, and the youngest boy in an impoverished family whom people rarely took seriously. Hermione has the heart and bravery to protect them all, her friends and any innocent being, like the dragon within Gringotts Bank or Buckbeak, the hippogriff. She doesn’t even fall back on magic to do it, like when she pops Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) in the nose for hoping the magnificent beast will be executed.
“That felt good,” she says.
“Not good,” Ron says admiringly. “Brilliant!”
When there are so many pop culture witches to salute on Halloween, let’s raise a wand to Hermione. She’s an ever-clever and loyal friend who always does what’s right. When she’s around, who needs a sorting hat, a shape-shifting potion, or a magical goblet? She’s all fire.