Author has written 7 stories for Neighbours, Friends, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, StarTrek: Voyager, StarTrek: The Next Generation, and Doctor Who.
4th Feb 2016
Has it really been almost five years since I wrote anything? For the precious few people that followed any of my stories, I can only apologise. A combination of personal events resulted in a lack of inclination to do anything creative, which kept me out of the hobby for some time. Then much later, when I did start getting ideas again, I was worried I'd been out of writing for too long to do any of them justice. That I'm here now is mainly thanks to a friend who recently gave me an idea as to how to move forward. When he was stuck in a creative rut, he challenged himself to write for a fandom he previously knew nothing about. I think you can get stuck in a certain fandom and end up trotting out the same old tropes for it, so coming at something completely fresh forces you think of things from different angles. I thought I'd give it a try anyway. If what I write is horrible, at least I have a reasonable excuse and it's no great loss. Then hopefully I can use the experience to get back into the right mindset for continuing my regular stories from so long ago. I always had the intention of continuing, it's just events sometimes conspire against you.
So, what guinea-pig have I chosen for this experiment? This may surprise some. Harry Potter!
J. K. Rowling started releasing the Potter novels when I was around 20. As the first two or three were aimed at children, there was no reason for me to read them. Then from the fourth, it seemed to explode into a mainstream hit, and anyone who knows me reasonably well will tell you I'm wary of anything so massively popular. The late '90s/early 2000s was the time when Britney Spears and Westlife were number one sensations and the likes of Big Brother and I'm a Celebrity were cluttering up the television landscape claiming millions of viewers, so I really had little interest in anything that generation considered cool. No offence meant to anyone who liked those artists and shows, they just weren't my thing. Different generation, different ideas.
The books continued coming out, then the films started being made, and my mam became quite a fan which bemused me a bit, but then she's always been a big kid at heart. She assured me they were good and that had I been about ten years younger, I probably would've liked them myself. I speak as a child of the '80s who grew-up reading a mix of classics such as Call of the Wild, The Magician's Nephew, The Box of Delights and A Christmas Carol, with more modern tales such as Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, The Worst Witch, The Neverending Story and Space Demons. Based on that, could I have been a Potter fan? Maybe, maybe not. If I'd grown up in the '90s instead, I might well have had different experiences and been a different person. That's the Butterfly Effect for you.
Anyway, whether rightly or wrongly I resisted Rowling's literary empire for a long time. It was only at Christmas just gone, in a fit of boredom, that I sat and watched the Goblet of Fire film. Now while it wasn't the best film I'd seen by any means, it surprised me by being better than I thought it'd be. The cast were generally fine, some better than others, but overall decent enough to sustain a long two and a half hour film. Knowing that I was looking for something new to write for, I started thinking about the Potter universe. I wondered if by looking at it as an outsider, I could bring some new ideas or angles to it. I appreciate with there being over 700,000 Potter stories on here, that's somewhat unlikely, although there's the added bonus that if what I write is rubbish, it'll be far easier for them to get lost in the pile than it would with a fandom that only has a two or three figure count.
So, decision made. How can I possibly write in the Potter universe though without having read any of the books and seeing only one film, I hear you ask? Ah, the internet is our friend. I've done a fair bit of research using the Harry Potter Lexicon and Wikia sites to check summaries of each part, world details and other facts and figures. I've also taken a look at a few fics on this site to see how the characters are generally portrayed and interact. I know it's no substitute for the actual books and films, but I'm not going to spend what'd amount to a fair chunk of change to buy them all, not on the tight budget I have. For the purpose I need the information, the internet is good enough, and I think I have a reasonable enough overview of the series now not to make any glaring mistakes. There seem to be a lot of stories designated alternate universe (AU) anyway, so if something doesn't look right, just treat it as AU ;-)
I've noticed some people have sections on their profiles where they comment on various aspects of the series, so here's a few of my impressions as an outsider looking in.
I think most people have realised this doesn't scan well. If everyone including Dumbledore believed Sirius Black was the Secret Keeper, then why wasn't Hagrid told to bring him to the Order when Sirius appeared at Godric's Hollow, even if it was just to find out what the heck actually happened? He could have been captured and tortured for the information for all anyone knew. If it was believed he sold James and Lily out, all the more reason to apprehend him rather than let him run off. And if he was suspected of selling them out, why on earth would Hagrid accept his flying motorbike to take Harry away in? It could have been charmed to fall out of the sky and kill them at any time.
Who cast the Fidelius? It's supposed to be very difficult and ancient magic, it would make sense that Dumbledore cast it as a lot of people seem to think, although I haven't seen it categorically stated anywhere. If that's so though, Dumbledore would know exactly who the Secret Keeper is, if not necessarily the secret itself, depending on whether or not he was told it. Therefore he'd have known that Sirius was innocent all the time. This implies that Dumbledore for reasons of his own, let him rot in Azkaban, which leads into the ManipulativeDumbledore trope. It's a fair explanation, but of course there are always alternatives. Lily Potter is accepted as having been a charms prodigy at Hogwarts under Filius Flitwick's tutelage. Could she have cast the Fidelius herself? It's certainly plausible and would neatly avoid the above-mentioned trope, at least in this instance (there's too much going on with him really to avoid it entirely).
Why did the Fidelius fail after the Potters were killed? Their location was the secret, not themselves. Killing the Potters should have made no difference to it, even if Lily was the Secret Keeper. When Dumbledore died in part six, the Fidelius around 12 Grimmauld Place didn't automatically fail. Meaning that Hagrid shouldn't have been able to find them. It could be argued that the failed Killing Curse created such a magical surge or backlash that it essentially shorted-out the Fidelius, but that seems reaching a bit. The Fidelius wouldn't be such a respected spell and so difficult to cast if it could be overcome by simply saturating the area with magic. At least that's my take on it, your mileage may vary here.
Why did Hagrid take the bike all the way to Little Whinging in the first place? Travel time in the Potter universe seems to be a negligible issue with Floo, Portkey and Apparition available. Perhaps all three methods were ward-disabled during the attack and the wards were still active, but surely not for the whole of Britain? All Hagrid would need to do is take Harry outside the wards, then use an emergency portkey. It doesn't make much sense for them to be in the air that length of time when Harry could have been temporarily sheltered at say Hogwarts until Dumbledore made his preparations. And why does the journey take so long? You have no traffic to worry about in the air and you're travelling at night. Little Whinging would not take all the following day to get to, no matter where Godric's Hollow is. Likely he should have arrived before morning on the 1st of November.
When did Dumbledore set the blood wards around 4 Privet Drive? Within 24hrs, he's supposedly not only managed to work out exactly what happened in Godric's Hollow and what ritual Lily performed, despite the only living witness being 15 months old, but he's also calculated how to use said ritual to protect Harry and had the Dursleys watched all day by McGonagall in cat form. He arrives late the following night, it's clear from his conversation with McGonagall that it's the first time she's seen him all day, he then drops Harry off on the doorstep and leaves. So when did he set the wards? Did he just flick a finger and they sprang up? How do the wards work? Harry's constantly told that outside of Hogwarts he needs to stay at Number 4 in order to be protected. If that's the case, then there must have been a very real risk of the remaining Death Eaters that Dumbledore was so concerned about being able to grab Harry when he started going to primary school. How was that loophole closed? Or was Dumbledore simply so sure that not one of them - including Lucius Malfoy - over the course of ten years would ever think of investigating Lily's sister, just in case? That's leaving a lot up to chance.
It's pretty clear that Harry is an abused child. All the housework from an early age, poor sleeping environment, underfed, and general mental abuse from Vernon and Petunia. Regular beatings and enforced social estrangement via Dudley. Thing is it all looks rather cartoonish in the first couple of books. Harry certainly doesn't act at home or at Hogwarts like you'd expect an abused child to, the effects seem largely glossed over. I expect this is a result of the books initially being aimed at preteens, it's all rather fantastical and unrealistic, which for that age-range isn't a big deal. It's just when the series started to be aimed at a teens and older audience that it looked odd. I notice in later parts an attempt is made to tone down the Dursleys' behaviour to compensate. It doesn't gel with how they act in Philosopher's Stone or Chamber of Secrets, but that's unavoidable.
Also, Smeltings Academy is a very strange place. 11 year olds starting there are routinely given a stick to hit people with? Really? There's no way that'd ever be legal and it seems another example of how the Potter universe was initially conceived. For a preteen audience, there's no harm in it, no more than watching Tom and Jerry bashing hell out of each other. For a teen or adult audience though, it's one of many oddities which start to mount up over time. I suspect there's a lot of elements which were introduced early on with logic holes in them you could drive a lorry through. You couldn't fix them without rewriting the first couple of books, and that was never going to happen. In a way though it's actually worked for the series as a lot of fanfic authors seem to like extrapolating from or explaining the early insanity in order to tell a new story for the Boy Who Lived.
Minerva McGonagall sends the acceptance letters, so how does she not notice Harry's location as being "The cupboard under the stairs"? You could make an argument that the letters are all down to an elaborate charm, designed to send a form letter to each prospective student automatically without McGonagall ever needing to see or read them. That would fit Harry being asked to reply by owl if the charm simply identified him as a half-blood and assumed owl receipt. Although that brings up the issue as to why the first letter was delivered by the Royal Mail like regular letters. McGonagall could've thought of adding a separate item to the charm, knowing Harry lives at a muggle address, but if she managed to think of that, why did she not correct the owl mistake?
Student's families are told to respond by the 31st of July. It makes sense to give them time to respond as many people have busy lives or some may need the time to raise money for the fees given that Hogwarts is a private boarding school. Perhaps send out a reminder a week or so beforehand if they haven't heard back from anyone. So why on earth did Harry receive such an insane amount of letters in such a short space of time? How did they know they weren't being opened? The Wikia site says "Hogwarts is able to magically tell whether or not a child has read his or her Hogwarts letter", however there's no justification given for this other than Harry getting a lot of letters. I haven't seen anything which says this kind of magic was used by anyone else at any other point in the series, and you can imagine how such a thing might be useful to the Death Eaters, to confirm that someone specific is in residence at that moment before attacking. For that matter, how does each letter know who's reading it, and how long does it take before it decides it's not going to be read and sends whatever signal back saying so?
It all sounds a bit flimsy, like an apologist using the excuse "If it doesn't make sense, it just means a form of magic is being used that we don't know about because the magic world is wonderful and doesn't make mistakes". No fictional world is 100% perfect. It can often be both interesting and constructive to run through logic errors as they can spark off thoughts about how things could be different.
I could go through the series in this vein, but to be honest this section is already looking long and I've barely touched on the first part. I may add other observations another time. For now though, I think I'll move on.
In the films we see people wearing a variety of clothing. In the books however, anytime attire is mentioned it always seems to be robes. Regular robes, school robes, dress robes. I assume the differences are in colour, material used, perhaps quality of workmanship. From how it's described that boys and girls separate on the train to change into their "robes", you have to assume they wear either nothing underneath them or perhaps just underwear, otherwise it wouldn't be necessary. The school-aged Snape being bullied scene in part five supports that.
Here's the problem. You can't tell me that in the whole history of wizardkind, no-one has thought to wear anything other than medieval style robes that wouldn't look out of place in Merlin's time. Even by the time the muggle and magical world separated, many different types of clothing were available. Yet in the magical world of the late twentieth century, there are robes and... that's it? The clothing trade has not advanced one iota in millennia? The magic world does look old-fashioned and I get that that's intentional, but this jumps off into the realms of the ridiculous. A one-note practically biblical mode of dress isn't needed to reinforce the idea that Harry's entering a whole new world. Everything else is off-kilter enough to convey that.
A lot of people seem to be a bit funny about taking film canon over book canon in the case of novels adapted for the screen, but in this instance I'm sorry, but I think I have to go with the films here and have there be a Hogwarts uniform in anything I write. It simply blends in better. From screencaps of the first film, it would appear that Hermione was already wearing her uniform when first seen, so she could've arrived at the station with it on to avoid needing to change into it later. That could easily be done without causing a problem as a school uniform wouldn't look out of place at King's Cross like a set of witch's robes would. We do see Harry and Ron wearing regular clothes though, so in anything depicting the Express journey, the "changing scene" could be retained as they'd need to partially undress to get their uniforms on. That seems like a reasonable compromise to me.
Time to take a look at the characters themselves.
Oh dear! Where to start. Harry is essentially designated the sacrificial lamb from the beginning. He has a horrible home life for ten years, and once it looks like his luck might be changing when Hagrid tells him he's a wizard, everything just goes downhill again. There's multiple attempts on his life nearly every year, everything important to his future is controlled by someone else and his peers largely turn against him at the drop of a hat. For an example on that last point, Hufflepuff is supposed to be the house of the loyal, but it seems that only applies to themselves as every time something bad happens (Heir of Slytherin, fourth Triwizard champion, etc), they blame Harry almost as quickly as the Slytherins do. Fair enough, you could argue that Harry hasn't spent the time to even try making friends outside of Ron and Hermione, so it's rather easily for people to turn on him, but by the same token, not many people outside the Gryffindor Quidditch team make the attempt either.
That everything important to him is controlled or at the very least heavily influenced by others is pretty undisputable too I feel. Dumbledore controls his life away from Hogwarts by declaring that he has to keep returning to Privet Drive each summer and can't leave. What authority does he have to do this? His authority over Harry as Headmaster is supposed to stop at the school gates. A lot of people seem to get around this by saying that Dumbledore is Harry's magical-guardian acting in loco parentis, however that appears to be just a fanon thing as far as I can make out. Later he throws Harry the occasional bone by allowing him to spend time at the Burrow, but it's clear why he does this. Dumbledore discussed with Snape in one of the final parts about Harry needing to sacrifice himself to destroy the final horcrux and that he's known that for a long time. All of Dumbledore's actions regarding Harry up to that point therefore need to be viewed with that in mind. It paints a disturbing picture of what Dumbledore is capable of. You could argue that as the self-proclaimed Leader of the Light he had to make a lot of hard decisions that no-one else was going to, that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, etc. Unfortunately this is true, however the "needs of the many" argument can be used to justify almost anything. It's a fine line. Did Dumbledore cross it? I suppose it's down to each individual's morality code.
Harry's free time during the summer isn't the only thing that's controlled. In later parts we're told that Molly Weasley basically controls his finances, keeping his vault key and doing all of his school shopping for him, ostensibly for his own safety.
The final example on this point is quite insidious. The Weasley family make themselves pretty conspicuous at King's Cross attracting Harry's attention. It could just be thoughtless unconcern to what the muggles are thinking, but what if it wasn't? Then Ron joins Harry in his train compartment and becomes his first friend. Was everywhere else really full? The Hogwarts Express has been running for well over 100 years, presumably little changed from when it started. The last two wizarding wars though have clearly took their toll on the population given that Hogwarts Castle is capable of holding a lot more students than it does by Harry's time. Harry's yeargroup consists of only about 40 children. The next year even less. Assuming this to be a general trend due to deaths from the Grindelwald and Voldemort wars (the population had less than three decades to recover between the two), we can say for reasonable certainty that the Express is carrying a lot fewer children than it used to. So how is everywhere full? Were they taking carriages off the Express as class sizes dwindled and they just took off one too many that year? Possible, but coupled with other things involving the Weasleys it smells a little fishy.
At school, Harry is loyal to a fault towards his first friend. In fact Ron is basically leading Harry around by the nose. Ron is interested in Quidditch, so Harry becomes interested in Quidditch. Ron doesn't make much of an effort in class and doesn't like homework (due to the idiosyncracies of the English language, it's still called homework even if they're not at home), so Harry does the same. Perhaps that can partly be due to the Dursleys influence. After being punished by them for doing better than Dudley in class and given how academically lacking Dudley appears to be, it's quite possible Harry simply stopped trying to do well at school quite early on, and that behaviour has simply become too ingrained to easily change. The notable exception being in Defence which you have to admit he has a considerable incentive to do well in as he soon comes to know that Voldemort's always going to be after him. Hermione constantly tries to encourage him to do better in his studies, but it mostly falls on deaf ears. Whenever Ron and Hermione get into an argument, Harry generally either avoids getting involved or if he has to get involved, takes Ron's side. Ron is the person he'd miss most in the second Triwizard task. He takes his cues from Ron in a number of things.
Was that intended? We know Dumbledore thought that Harry needed to sacrifice himself for the wizarding world and needed to be moulded into that mindset, so like being given to the Dursleys, was Ron's place in Harry's life engineered by Dumbledore in order that he not become too independent in thought or too good a wizard? Knowing that the neglected Harry would likely latch onto the first people who showed him any form of familial love, were the Weasleys deliberately dropped into his path, and that connection used to ensure he was willing to sacrifice himself when the time was right?
The Weasleys become even more of a pervading presence in Harry's life when he gets involved with Ginny. I've seen just as many people criticise this relationship as support it. It's said that Ginny never really got over her fangirl idolisation of him. That she probably dosed him with potions to get him interested in her. Is any of that true? Obviously Ms Rowling wasn't intending it to look that way, but there are a few clues lying around. Not long before Harry suddenly sees Ginny as girlfriend material, they studied Amortentia in potions class. Spells and potions aren't usually given prominence unless they're somehow significant to what's going to happen. Wingardium Leviosa in part one being the catalyst and solution for the troll incident, Expecto Patronum in part three due to the dementors around the castle, the Summoning Charm for the first Triwizard task, Felix Felicis to get Slughorn's memory. Except apart from the accidental dosing of Ron by Romilda Vane, nothing was said about it, and that scene wasn't exactly important to the plot. So what purpose, if any, did the Amortentia have?
Does the idea of Ginny slipping Harry a love potion make sense? Well, we know she'd fancied The Boy Who Lived even before attending Hogwarts. Was that encouraged at home? We know she carried a torch for Harry throughout her time at Hogwarts, initially being shy with him, but eventually familiarity breeding a level of social-comfort that enabled her to talk with him without nerves. Though by this point she was in fifth year and still didn't seem much closer to him, Harry seeing her merely as Ron's sister and a lesser-tier friend. Time was starting to run out, if she wanted to get him to notice her she needed to do something. At this point, we should remember that a few books previous, Molly told her that she'd given Arthur a love potion to get him interested in her. A story that amused both her and Hermione. It'd make sense that Ginny would remember this and follow her mother's example. After all, from the way she told it, there was no real harm in it. She married Arthur and is still married to him today, so Ginny could have looked at that and thought "Why can't the same happen for me?" It would have been a nice callback to that novel and an understandable if misguided reason to take that action.
Did it happen? Harry's feelings for her are said by some to have come out of nowhere, there's certainly evidence you can point towards it having happened, unfortunately it's never brought up so it's impossible to really know. I'm sure Ms Rowling intended Harry and Ginny to be the genuine article, but unfortunately for her (and fortunately for fanfic authors) she left too much lying around that created doubt for many people. If Ginny did potion Harry, was it off her own bat, or did Molly know about it? If Amortentia's difficult to make for a sixth year, it's going to be even more so for a fifth year. Maybe she used a lesser potion.
So Harry goes through the series having almost no control over anything important to him, all so he can martyr himself for the cause at the end. It's a hell of a way to treat the hero of a seven-novel series, which we shouldn't forget started life being aimed at children. If the Potter series had continued as a childrens' series, would it still have had the same ending?
There was one moment when it looked like Dumbledore's plan could have collapsed. Right at the end of part five, in the Headmaster's office. Harry is disturbed and angry, he's been pushed to his last nerve, you can practically see him putting it all together after Dumbledore reveals he knew the prophecy all along. Harry's life has now been so completely screwed up, it looks like he's on the verge of telling everyone to go to hell and walking away. Attacked by dementors, the ministry's ignorance, the population turning against him via the Daily Prophet, his carved hand, the flying ban, the visions, Snape's mind-attacks, Sirius dead, his friends injured, Voldemort escaping, being lied to at every turn. Everything has been building up over the last year, he's primed to explode, and then... nothing! He has a tantrum and trashes Dumbledore's office. By the start of part six, he's back under the thumb again. The kid never really had a chance.
And what about "The power he knows not"? Dumbledore seemed to think that was love, or more directly the power of Lily's love for Harry. Except that wasn't what defeated Voldemort at the end, it was Harry owning the Elder Wand that did it. It can be argued all anyone wants that Lily's sacrifice allowed it all to happen, but Lily or anyone else wasn't to know beforehand that a piece of Voldemort's soul would fly off and embed itself into Harry, and secondly Dumbledore thought Harry would die. That he was allowed to return to life, the horcrux being taken by the Killing Curse instead of his own soul was a fluke Dumbledore clearly didn't envisage judging by his discussion with Snape. So the plan never really was for Harry to kill Voldemort at all. Presumably the idea was that after the final horcrux was gone, Harry's death would complete the prophecy ("neither can live while the other survives") and Voldemort would no longer be protected by it, meaning anyone could kill him. I've seen someone use this idea when browing fic here. It's certainly an interesting one. He did return though and finally killed Voldemort through being master of the Hallows. Was the Hallows a later addition to the story when it started becoming clear that the power of love was a bit too abstract? Some think so, who knows.
I identify a little with this character. I was considered a bright kid but always found it difficult to mix with my peers. When the other kids were playing outside, I tended to be inside reading. Later at school there were a handful of people who were okay with me, but mostly I kept myself to myself. I was the weird kid. There wasn't really anyone there who I could point at and say they were a real friend, not the kind you hang around with after school, share interests with or go to each other's houses at the weekend. I was loved at home, but outside had little for me. So yeah, I can see where Hermione is coming from, especially at the start of it all. Though instead of drastically overcompensating for my social deficiencies like Hermione, I did a Neville and turned inward.
Speaking of Neville, Rowling's introduction of Hermione in Philosopher's Stone is curious to me. I don't know whether I've gone down the wrong track here or if it's just that no-one's really noticed. Hermione arrives in Harry and Ron's cabin with Neville in tow, looking for his toad. Let's think about this for a moment. Hermione obviously met Neville first before either of the others, and it seems equally obvious that they must have made at least a halfway decent impression on each other, otherwise Hermione wouldn't be running around the train with him trying to help him (unless at this point she's so desperate for a friend that she's happy to do anything within reason). So why then, once they arrive at Hogwarts, does Hermione have so little to do with Neville?
A lot of people call Ginny Weasley a fangirl, but I wonder if Hermione started out that way herself. Once she meets Harry, she seems very animated when talking to him and admits reading all she could about him in various books before starting school. This could be just her natural bookish nature shining through, but it could be more. Once they arrive at Hogwarts, it looks like she keeps trying to insert herself into Harry's life. During the first two months Ron is treating her pretty horribly, and Harry doesn't really do or say anything to oppose that. If that were me, I'd avoid the pair of them like the plague, but Hermione keeps popping up, like when they're sneaking off to duel with Draco in the trophy room. Okay, she admonishes them for rule-breaking, but you can see she's trying to connect with them, or probably more accurately trying to connect with Harry. After all she still comes with them, even though she barely knows them at this point and it means breaking the rules herself.
There's various other points of interaction too, where despite being insulted by Ron she keeps coming back, culminating in the Wingardium Leviosa class. She probably realises that to be friends with Harry, she needs to be onside with Ron too, so tries to help him correct his pronunciation of the spell, but gets sniped at again for her trouble. After two months of this and being loudly labelled a nightmare in front of everyone leaving class, she's had enough and runs away crying. I don't blame her at all.
Thing is, what's happening with Neville at this point? She did make one friend on the train if nothing else, even if they didn't locate the toad. Has she not bothered to cultivate that? Did she throw him under the proverbial bus as soon as the prospect of befriending Harry came along? At the start of their interaction, does she see Harry as a way out of her social isolation? That if she becomes the friend of The Boy Who Lives, people will be more cordial with her, or at the very least her detractors will leave her alone?
Hermione is a very single-minded individual, that's to her benefit sometimes, but detriment in other ways. Did Neville try to connect with the nice girl who tried to help him find Trevor, but get rebuffed? Hermione being Hermione might well have not realised he was making an effort and inadvertently ignored him while concentrating on how to get Harry to like her. I can see Neville taking that as a rejection and turning inwards, not brave enough to try again. Seems a shame as I think they had things in common. They were both studious, even if with Neville's badly matched wand it didn't help him much. They both didn't like flying, but still supported the Gryffindor team regardless. They were both social rejects and could've understood and been considerate of each other's issues, supporting each other when needed. They could have been good friends, or even more later on. There's a hint of it in part four when Neville asked her to the ball. There has to be a reason he thought of her first.
One of my Potter stories is going to revolve around the idea that they do connect after that early interaction on the train, and the resulting changes from that. How does making a friend from the very start affect them both? How does Hermione react when Snape is a bastard to him during potions. Would Neville get sick of Ron denigrating her and confront him and Harry over it? And how does that change Halloween?
There's something else with Hermione. I get the feeling her friendships define her as a person, that when she commits to a friendship, she puts her all into it and it's very hard to put her off afterwards. She's very loyal, which is a positive trait, but what if she's too loyal for her own good?
I offer Ron as the first and most obvious example of this. After the troll incident, what actually changes now that they're ostensibly friends? Well, not a lot really. He tones down the insults a bit, but still snipes at her and calls her "nutters" for her studiousness on a semi-regular basis, except when he's begging for help with his homework essays. How much help does she give him anyway? Does she just give him tips and let him work on it himself, looking over it at the end? Or does she do as I think is probably more likely and end up writing the whole thing for him when he waits until the last day and comes crying to her after scribbling some random piece of rubbish for ten minutes? You don't have to have the same interests to be friends with someone, but all friendships require at least some basic respect. Hermione seems to get little of that from Ron. He doesn't respect her intelligence except when it's of use to him for homework or death-defying adventures. He doesn't respect her heritage - muggles are an oddity to him that he doesn't understand and doesn't really care to. He has anger management and jealousy issues. They're just not on the same page at all. It's like he only tolerates her for Harry's sake. More often than not they're fighting like cat and dog.
This unfortunately bleeds through to their "relationship" in parts six, seven and the epilogue. Maybe having only read summaries of the series, I'm missing all the bits where Ron was really nice with her, understood her and took her feelings into consideration. But somehow I don't think I am. The Goblet of Fire film certainly didn't convince me they were future couple material, and I haven't noticed Ron making any radical about-turns in later summaries, so where did Hermione get the idea that Ron was ever a good match for her? I've seen various comments on them such as "They argue like an old married couple" and that their fights prove they have "chemistry". Really? Yes, I'm aware all couples argue sometimes, it's unavoidable, but not all the time! If you're fighting fully 75% of the time you're even in the same room together, I really don't think that makes you ideal partners. It's certainly not my idea of what constitutes a happy couple and if that's the standard for one now, I'm rather happy I'm still single.
Simply put, Hermione and Ron are a car crash. All I can imagine is that Hermione must have been so starved of a mutual connection with anyone else that she thought Ron was her only chance. Like Harry she seemed to struggle to make friends outside of the two other members of the Golden Trio. There was Ginny to a certain extent, but she mainly used Hermione as a sounding board for ways to get closer to Harry. Perhaps this exclusivity towards Harry and Ron had a more crippling effect on her psyche than anyone thought. I hear Ms Rowling actually more or less admitted a few years after the series ended that Hermione and Ron would end up in counselling at the very least, and that Harry was actually the better match for her. I'd agree with the former, but I'm not altogether sure about the latter. To explain, I submit my second and less obvious example of Hermione being too loyal for her own good. Harry Potter himself.
I'm sure he considers Hermione a good friend. Not his best friend obviously, never that. That position has always been Ron's. But still, a good friend regardless. Okay then, let's break that down. Good friends are people who like spending time with each other, who they can share their problems with and get advise from, people who they know better than anyone else. I can see that from Hermione's side, but not so much from Harry's. How well does Harry actually know Hermione? I read somewhere that most of the series is actually told from Harry's perspective (which is great actually, because that then opens up a whole new area of possibilities, but I'll get into that later), so anything the readers find out about Hermione over the course of the series is presumably what Harry knows.
What would you expect good friends to know about each other? Well the basics certainly. Where does she live? No-one knows, it's never said. When's her birthday? We know it's the 19th of September, but that appears to be sourced from offpage comments by Ms Rowling. Unless I've missed something, I can't see evidence that her birthday was ever celebrated or mentioned in-print or onscreen. Her middle name? Technically it's Jean as that's what appeared in canon, but again Ms Rowling up to part five had seemingly always said Jane. Either is acceptable I think, but again until Dumbledore dies it's not mentioned by anyone. What's her hobbies and interests? Well she likes books and... er... schoolwork. And? And what? What about her family? Her parents are dentists. Anything else about them, their names, anything? Nope! What about her past? Primary school? We don't get a lot there either. We can infer things by how she was in Philosopher's Stone, but as far as real information goes, what we have on Hermione is thin on the ground and mostly explained in Ms Rowling's interviews.
This is basic stuff. But Harry appears not to know very much about his good friend, and what's worse he shows little interest in finding out. It could be argued that given his life to date and the constant attempts to kill him, Harry's too focused on just surviving to get to know his two friends better. But that argument doesn't work, because he makes sure he knows everything about his best friend, Ron. Harry knows that Ron has six siblings, who they all are and has interacted with most of them. He knows about Arthur and Molly and has been to the Burrow several times over the course of the series, sometimes spending part of the summer holidays with the family. Never once did he visit Hermione though. That could be blamed on Dumbledore and where he wanted Harry to be, but Harry never even enquired about the possibility.
He knows all of Ron's interests, his middle name is Bilius, he knows he's afraid of spiders, knows he's grown up wanting to outperform his brothers (which is very curious as Ron rarely even tries to be better than them). He knows of the Weasley jumper tradition and has received one. Help me out on this one, folks. It seems to me that Harry goes out of his way to connect with Ron and the rest of his family on multiple levels, but isn't even interested in finding out anything about Hermione and doesn't spend a lot of social time with her, unless she's helping them both in their yearly escapades. Hermione seems sure Harry can be a better student and tries to encourage him, but unless it's Defence or a particularly important spell he needs like the Patronus, Harry's not interested and seems happy to slack off like Ron. Like I said at the start of this piece, I'm sure Harry considers Hermione a good friend, unfortunately he rarely appears to show it. And on the odd occasion he seems to recognise that, he doesn't put in the same effort he does with Ron.
Let's go a bit deeper. As I stated several paragraphs above, any time he takes a side in Hermione and Ron's arguments, it's generally Ron's. He always comes first. What about part four when Ron turns on him thinking Harry cheated to get into the Triwizard competition? He's on the outs with Harry for what, a few weeks? All the time criticising him for wanting more fame. Hermione barely leaves his side and supports him throughout, helping him with spellwork to handle the first task. What thanks does she get? Ron comes round after the first task, mumbles a cheap sorry and is immediately taken back, no more questions asked. After proving her loyalty to Harry without a doubt, she's relegated to second place again the moment Ron finishes his snit. Hermione would have every right to be pretty cheesed off now.
Fans of the Harry/Hermione pairing often point towards the Triwizard and Ron's abandonment of Harry (which he repeats in part seven) as a major example of how Hermione is a far better friend to him than Ron is. It looks to be often used as a platform for those sort of stories. Unfortunately human nature isn't so perfectly logical. It might be true that Hermione is better in many ways for him than Ron, but that doesn't mean Harry is going to recognise it or reciprocate it if he does. Ron is more on Harry's wavelength than Hermione ever is. Ron is his best mate, he plays Quidditch with him, he doesn't nag him about school. It's all about Ron. She's number two behind him, that's just the way it is.
Need more convincing of my theory? Okay, here's some. Let's go back a year. If Ron is such a bad friend to Harry for cutting him off during the Triwizard and not believing him, what does that make Harry after the Firebolt confiscation incident? Yeah, Hermione didn't go about it in the best way, she probably should have talked it out with Harry first before going to McGonagall. Her reasoning was solid though and to be honest, I'm not sure Harry would have taken heed of her warning anyway. He has a history of accepting anonymous/mystery gifts without questioning them, going right back to first year and the cloak. If Sirius Black was the bad guy everyone said he was, sending Harry a cursed broom would be a great way to get rid of him without personally getting his hands dirty as it were. Hermione saw that right away and was just a little overzealous in her concern for his safety. But even after she explains, Harry just cuts her off entirely.
Now this snit goes on for quite some time. I can understand him being annoyed about it and being too angry to speak to her for a little while, maybe a few days. But he takes it really personally and refuses to have anything to do with her for what looks like about a quarter of the year, from January to April. That's a grudge and a half. And this is on top of her starting to crack from the pressure of her timeturner lengthened schedule. Of course he doesn't know about the timeturner yet, but still. If Ron's a crappy friend for abandoning Harry for a few weeks, why doesn't Harry get the same brand for dropping Hermione for three whole months over something he really should have got over in days? He was basically willing to throw away two years of friendship for a broom. Hermione isn't even second place in his affections now, she's down to third behind his Firebolt. That has to have hurt her.
It's now starting to become very understandable why Hermione gets so exasperated with him in part six. She's had five years of playing second fiddle to someone who's content to goof-off all the way through school and encourage Harry to do the same, even knowng one of the worst dark lords in history is after him. She's been abandoned once, what's to say it won't ever happen again? That must be prickling at the back of her mind. Harry spent most of the previous year being a moody sod. Although he had excellent reasons for being so, it resulted in their friendship looking even more one-sided. Despite all of that and her misgivings about his Sirius vision, she goes with him to the ministry and almost gets killed for her trouble. And that's just the latest in a whole series of near-death experiences. She could have been battered to death by the troll during first year and killed by the basilisk's stare in second year if it weren't for the mirror. She could have been eaten by a werewolf in third year, or bitten and turned into one if she was lucky. Given the drama with Gabrielle in the second task of the Triwizard, can anyone put their hand on their heart and say there was zero danger of her drowning in the lake? Then Dolohov.
Not a lot of people seem to like Hermione in part six, but can you really say there isn't justification for her finally getting pig-sick of the whole situation and trying to distance herself from Harry for the sake of her sanity and what remains of her self-respect? He might say he's her friend, but does he actually show it? That's the thing. Talk is cheap. I don't even think he'd have to do much, just give the girl a hug or two now and again, let her know he appreciates her with actions rather than words. She seems to be quite tactile with her friends and does it to him often enough. They seem to reconcile somewhat by part seven, but I'm seeing strain there. Is this the reason she finally cracks and figures a relationship with Ron has to better than everything else that's happened to her? What about the epilogue? Do Hermione and Harry even look at each other at the station?
As much as I've put him down during these thoughts, I do actually like the character. Or rather I like the potential of the character. He's the sixth son and has a lot to live up to, he says he wants to make his own name, be just as respected as his eldest brothers. Fine, let him do that. He shouldn't have been made a lazy sod who probably would've been held-back every year if it hadn't been for Hermione. It's counter-productive to his stated ambitions, unless he was lying through his teeth.
He's the son of a ministry department head. Okay, Misuse of Muggle Artifacts isn't a glamourous department, but Arthur is still in the government, it's like the equivalent of a minor Secretary of State, so the family shouldn't be in the poorhouse (no matter how many children there are) and should be getting some form of respect.
He's acknowledged in the series as being great at chess and is rarely beaten. That doesn't follow with being a lazy sod. You don't get to be that good at chess without putting some serious work ethic in, so what the heck happened to that drive?
Ron is a curious mix of opposites, what he says he wants doesn't correspond with what he actually does. It's like he started life with a different personality, but then got rewritten and dumbed down, but not everything from the first draft was excised for some reason. I wonder if that's actually true. If so, perhaps it was done to avoid similarities with Hermione. Ms Rowling appears to have wanted two polar opposites on either side of Harry, that's all I can think of. As it remains, what we're mostly left with is a somewhat obnoxious slacker with an appetite that could feed a Hungarian Horntail, a thwarted sense of entitlement and a Quidditch obsession that borders on the pathological.
Ron could be so much more than he was portrayed as. I'm half-tempted to do something about that.
Unreliable Narrator Syndrome
And now we come to the pièce de résistance of the Potter universe. As mentioned before, I read that most of the series is described from Harry's point of view. If this is true, it's a fantastic way of opening up almost everything to revision, because here's the thing. Harry's a mushroom! He's told nothing really important and information is drip-fed to him as and when Dumbledore basically feels like it. A lot of the work against Voldemort is actually kept hidden from him (for his own good naturally). He's at school for six years, but only really gets to know a handful of people. In part six, the rest of the students might as well be as unknown to him as they were at the first year sorting. I'm not counting the DA as it's not a social setting, he's their instructor.
So given all of that, why should we believe the books are telling us everything? Who's to say what everyone else is doing while Harry concentrates on Ron, Hermione and his yearly task. Any number of things could be happening behind the scenes, but Harry simply never hears about them, and as we view the world through his lenses so to speak, we don't hear about them either. There's a lot of potential for secret history style stories in that context.
That's about it for now. If you feel I'm wrong with anything I've written about the Potter universe, please feel free to drop me a message. I'm always willing to hear out and discuss alternate opinions. It may well be I'm lacking a crucial piece of evidence that was revealed in Chapter X of Book Y, in which case I'm willing to revise any of the above. If in reading the above, someone gets an idea for a story, also feel free to let me know and I promise to review it. Like I said before, with 700k stories, saying anything new isn't going to be likely, but I hope I've offered some kind of fresh interpretation. Hopefully we'll soon see how my challenge goes.