Hermione’s Horrible Holidays
Christmas is an emotional time for many of us, and it is even more so in the Harry Potter books, especially given the nondenominational nature of the wizarding world. I never realized quite how melancholy the holidays always were in the series until I’d spent a few Decembers listening to the Jingle Spells compilations of wizard rock and wondering why every other song made me want to cry.
Most of the characters have a really lousy Christmas once or twice. There’s the time Mr. Weasley spent Christmas recovering from a giant snake bite and Neville was cornered at St. Mungo’s by his friends and his grandmother. There’s the time Lupin transforms during Christmas. There’s the time Padma Patil had the great misfortune to be Ron Weasley’s date on Christmas. There’s the time Ron received a “My Sweetheart” necklace for Christmas. And then there is Harry visiting Godric’s Hollow on Christmas, one of the most heartbreaking passages in the books, during a Christmas that must have been pretty lousy for everyone.
But most of these characters also have happy Christmases scattered with the sad ones… all except one character, for whom something awful happens almost every Christmas. I am speaking of Hermione Granger.
Poor Hermione – Christmas always turns out miserably for her. It’s amazing that she hasn’t become a total grinch after the Christmases of her teen years. Let’s run through the litany of crummy Christmases for Hermione.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, nothing bad happens to her, because she is MIA – gone to spend the holidays with her parents. Honestly, with the way things go, she would’ve been wise to keep up this tradition. (Instead, she blows her parents off the next three years, goes skiing with them but leaves early in her fifth year, spends Christmas with them in her sixth year but is probably sulking about Ron the whole time, and has made them forget her entirely by Christmas of her seventh year. Daughter of the Year, Hermione Granger is not.)
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Hermione sees her plans to brew Polyjuice come to fruition… which leaves her looking like a cat for months.
Hermione emerged, sobbing, her robes pulled up over her head. […] Her face was covered in black fur. Her eyes had turned yellow and there were long, pointed ears poking through her hair.” (225)
Bah humbug, indeed.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban begins Hermione’s Yuletide tradition of getting into huge fights with Ron over Christmas, a tradition they keep up faithfully every year except in Book 5. This first time, though, is even worse for Hermione because Harry sides with Ron and Hermione loses both her best friends. She is being her usual brilliant self, figuring out that Sirius Black sent Harry the Firebolt, and shares her concerns with Professor McGonagall.
Harry knew that Hermione had meant well, but that didn’t stop him from being angry with her. […] Ron was furious with Hermione too. […] Hermione, who remained convinced that she had acted for the best, started avoiding the common room.” (233)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at first looks like a holiday triumph for Hermione: She goes to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum, and her makeover makes everyone’s jaws drop.
Pansy Parkinson gaped at her as she walked by with Malfoy, and even he didn’t seem to be able to find an insult to throw at her.” (414)
But while Hermione has a wonderful time with Viktor (and in the spirit of Christmastime confessions, I ship them pretty hard), her heart belongs to Ron. And Ron manages to muck things up: Hermione’s night ends with “Ron and Hermione having a blazing row. Standing ten feet apart, they were bellowing at each other, each scarlet in the face” (432).
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the only Christmas where Hermione is present, human, and on speaking terms with Ron. There are still a few mood dampeners, mostly disillusioning Hermione about how awful the world can be. First, she finds out that Kreacher is twisted enough to have a photo of Bellatrix Lestrange in pride of place in his den. Then she finds out about Neville’s parents, who were tortured by that same Bellatrix. In some ways, this reflects Order of the Phoenix being a more introspective book – less action, more finding out how awful the world can be.
Side note: Order of the Phoenix is also a book about how bad teenagers are at relationships, and nowhere is this clearer than in Ron and Hermione’s Christmas gifts to each other. Hermione gives Ron a homework planner, which he announces in his most disdainful italics. Ron, meanwhile, got Hermione a perfume that was “really unusual” (503) – a universal euphemism for “I appreciate the gesture, but why do you think I want to smell like a mixture of papaya, cheese, chlorine, and garlic?”
Anyway, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, it’s business as usual – Hermione isn’t speaking with Ron and spends the holidays with her family. In this case, she and Won-Won haven’t been speaking for a while, after Ron hooked up with Lavender and Hermione revenge-dated Cormac McLaggen.
And despite the stiff competition, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows probably presents Hermione with her worst Christmas. Of course, she isn’t speaking with Ron (nor is Harry) after Ron threw a tantrum and walked out on their Horcrux hunt. But on top of that, Hermione spends that Christmas in a graveyard, followed by a house of horrors with the creepy Nagini disguised as Bathilda Bagshot. She fights off an enormous snake and then misses Voldemort by a second.
The end of Hermione’s 1997 Christmas involves tending to an unconscious Harry, who has “been shouting and moaning and. . . things” (346). This was after she blew up his wand, which she rightfully fears will deeply upset him, and then had to literally carve the “locketcrux” off of Harry’s chest.
Does anyone else have a powerful urge to give Hermione a big hug right now? Let’s just hope that her Christmases vastly improved after the book series. Though here’s some amusing headcanon: Perhaps she and Ron never speak to each other on Christmas, so as not to mess with tradition. Rose and Hugo would be very confused, but Harry and Ginny would just nod knowingly at each other. Here’s hoping, however Hermione Granger celebrates Christmas these days, that the day is a happy one for her.