Madam Puddifoot’s: Romance and the Red Herring

by Karen Hayes

It never fails in the ‘who is in love with whom’ debates. We always seem to come back to stinky fish.

For those of you who have resisted the siren song of shipping, let me clue you in. You see, all that Ron and Hermione stuff in GoF – it’s a red herring to divert our attention from what’s really going on – namely, JKR is setting Harry up to be with Hermione. Okay, that a bit simplistic and perhaps a little crass, but you get the basic idea.

Normally, I stay out of the whole red herring deal, but as it keeps turning up like that proverbial bad penny – I guess I will step up to challenge this little theory. Why? Because, well, the stinky fish argument is that pretty stinky.

Yes, we’ve had red herrings in the main plot galore – in every book yet; but I can’t remember fish being important to the various subplots (that doesn’t mean that there aren’t red herrings in the subplots – it just means they are not intrinsic to the whole subplot format – subplots don’t have to have red herrings in them). And despite the fact that all we shippers (myself included) endlessly obsess over who is going to be with whom – the romance – all the romance in HP – is part of a SUBplot.

So we don’t have any real empirical reason to believe that there must be a red herring in the love plots (meaning JKR’s track record of red herrings doesn’t seem to extend to subplots). The one possible exception to this is regarding perfect prefect Percy in CoS who is skulking around Hogwarts not because he’s looking for the Chamber of Secrets, but because he’s looking for a private place to snog his prefect girlfriend Penny. Even still that subplot is directly linked to the main plot – who’s opening the Chamber of Secrets.

That being said, if we’re looking for stinky fish, let me step up to the chopping block (any body in the mood for sushi?).

Let’s just pretend – for the remainder of this essay (just humor me) that the big romance red herring is not R/Hr (as some Harmonians claim), but H/Hr.

And that it has pretty much already played itself out (in the same pattern as the majority of Red Herrings) – in a single book – in GoF.


Red herrings are all about misdirection, misconceptions, and mistaken perceptions. They’re about reading the clues wrongly, missing things, jumping to the wrong conclusions.

What’s interesting about this particular herring is that it actually goes on WITHIN the text – meaning it’s the characters that are led astray: misreading and mistaking the clues that they see. The characters are getting it wrong, but not the reader, who actually does KNOW that Harry and Hermione are NOT romantically involved in Book 4 (now whether Hermione is or will be interested in Harry or not is a different question for a different essay).

Let’s look at the H/Hr clues, the misreading, the truth – perhaps “reality” would be better) and results in GoF.

Clue 1: Hermione and Harry spend a lot of time together after Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire. (Chapter Seventeen: The Four Champions – Chapter Twenty: The First Task)

Misread as: “Harry has at last found love at Hogwarts. His close friend Colin Creevy, says that Harry is rarely seen outside the company of one Hermione Granger…” (Chapter Nineteen: The Hungarian Horntail). DP article links Harry and Hermione as love interests.

Reality: Hermione is seen hanging out with Harry alone because Ron and Harry aren’t speaking to each other.

Result: Harry and Hermione come in for a fair bit of teasing. The article gets quoted by students (mainly Slytherins). Mrs. Weasley (who reads the DP – per Charlie in Chapter 19) believes that H/Hr are together.

Clue 2: Despite the fact that he has just rescued her, Hermione ignores Krum’s attempts to regain her attention after the second task. She doesn’t respond to his overtures or his invitation. Later Hermione is too busy cheering Harry to listen. (Chapter Twenty-six: The Second Task)

Misread as: Hermione is more interested in Harry than in Krum; there must be something going on between Harry and Hermione.

Reality: Hermione tells Ron (Chapter 27: Padfoot Returns) “Well I was too busy seeing whether you and Harry were okay -” Note: Ron is not with Harry when Harry first joins Hermione; he’s being dragged out of the water by Percy. So Hermione’s statement can still be regarded as reliable. Ron doesn’t join up with Harry and Hermione until after the judges go into their huddle, which is well after Krum’s attempts to regain Hermione’s attention. Interestingly enough, Ron returns in time to get kissed (twice on each cheek) by Fleur – which is noted by Hermione (but this is off topic, sorry).

Result: Viktor suspects that there is something between Harry and Hermione. Viktor considers Harry to be a real rival.

Clue 3: Witch Weekly‘s feature on “Harry Potter’s Secret Heartache” maintains that Hermione is cheating on Harry with Krum. She’s “toying with both boys’ affections” and has a “taste for famous wizards that Harry alone cannot satisfy.” (Chapter Twenty-Seven: Padfoot Returns)

Misread as: Gospel truth. Hermione was with Harry, cheated on him to go to the ball with Viktor and is now stringing both boys along. She’s acting like a “scarlet woman.”

Reality: As Harry tells Mrs. Weasley (in Chapter 31), “Hermione’s not my girlfriend” and Rita’s article is “rubbish.”

Result: Hermione gets tons of hate mail including the bubotuber puss and several howlers. The Slytherins taunt Harry – “have you split up with your girlfriend?” Even “those people who didn’t read Witch Weekly knew about all about the supposed Harry-Krum-Hermione triangle now.” Mrs. Weasley sends Hermione a chicken sized Easter egg (and hurts Hermione’s feelings) and is cold towards her when they next meet (Chapter Thirty-one: The Third Task). Harry gets tired of having to tell people Hermione isn’t his girlfriend over and over again.

Clue 4: Hermione speaks often about Harry to Krum.

Misread as: There is something going on between Hermione and Harry.

Reality: As Harry says, its “because we’re friends” (I could speculate as to other reasons, but this is what canon actually says, so I’ll leave it at that). Hermione’s “not my girlfriend and she never has been. It’s just that Skeeter woman making things up.”

Result: Krum pulls Harry aside to have a private word regarding Hermione. Harry has to reassure Krum that Hermione isn’t his girlfriend.

Now I know I said that this is mostly played out in GOoF, which is true, but there are two instances in OotP, which stem from the above clues/misreading, both involve Cho (nice bit of mirroring there, JKR).

Clue 5: Harry asks Cho to go with him to the Three Broomsticks to meet up with Hermione. (Chapter 25: The Beetle at Bay)

Misread as: Harry wants to meet up with Hermione as part of some sort of date.

Reality: Hermione has arranged a meeting with Rita Skeeter and Luna Lovegood to discuss a tell-all article for the “Quibbler.”

Result: Cho tries to make Harry jealous by bringing up other boys. She gets all upset about Cedric. She accuses Harry of “being a player” (sorry I can’t come up with a less colloquial term for this) and she storms off – ending their date.

Clue 6: Harry considers Hermione’s hex idea to be “brilliant.” (Chapter Twenty-Eight: Snape’s Worst Memory)

Misreading: That Harry is somehow involved/attached to Hermione. Cho labels her as “darling Hermione”

Reality: Harry is proud of Hermione’s spell work, but Cho is taking it a bit far by insinuating that Hermione is Harry’s “darling.”

Result: Permanent break for Harry and Cho. Cho ends up with Michael Corner. Harry doesn’t really care anymore.

So, we’ve got the clues, we’ve got the misreading, we got the reality and we’ve got the results – and ONE BIG SMELLY FISH for all you red herring conspiracy fans out there.

True, I would admit the irony would be pretty funny if after –

NO, she’s not my girlfriend.

No, SHE’S not my girlfriend.

No, she’s NOT my girlfriend.

No, she’s not MY girlfriend.


No, she’s not my GIRLFRIEND.

Hermione ends up being Harry’s girlfriend.

But the irony as it exists in the text now –

  1. That everyone at Hogwarts has got it wrong (with much thanks to Rita) – Harry and Hermione aren’t together.
  2. Krum’s jealousy is misplaced. He’s got the wrong friend pegged.
  3. Cho’s jealousy is unfounded. Harry doesn’t fancy Hermione.
  4. No one (except Parvati) even thinks to link Ron and Hermione together.

Is pretty funny all on its own, if it leads to R/HR in the end.

So, for all you fish fans out there, just remember the stinky fish argument works both ways. Stinky fish arguments really just leave you with stinky fish.

Like everyone else, I don’t know what JKR has in store (but I know it will be brilliant). We’ll have to wait until HBP and book 7 to see if R/Hr is the red herring. But until HBP comes out, I’m hauling up my fishing line and going back to sailing. I’ve already had my catch of H/Hr stinky fish, it’s already there in the text.

But I guess it doesn’t hurt to keep on fishing.