This continues a series begun last spring. If you’re new to this series, or wish a refresher, see Part 1–The Magical World, Part 2—Institutions and Groups, Part 3—The Trio, and Part 4—The Evanses and Dursleys for this series’ introduction and context.
The Grangers are Muggles, and Hermione is the only Muggle-born character we see who struggles between her love for and loyalty to both her blood family and wizarding family. Hermione is lucky—her parents are enthusiastic about their daughter’s magical abilities, embrace the magical world and her school, and are proud of her accomplishments.
Muggle parents are fascinating to contemplate. What do they think when they learn the source of their child’s strange, unfocused and troubling abilities? When their 11-year olds get a letter from complete strangers inviting them to a school the family has never heard of, to be taught to use their strange abilities? Who would believe it? We never hear of a Parent’s Day at Hogwarts, so do the parents ever even visit the school where their children spend seven years? Also, once the child enters the magical world, he or she is also leaving the Muggle world and its interests, most likely for good. Do the parents mourn? Worry? Feel conflicted over divided loyalties? Do they have the urge to pull their child out of the Wizarding World, and what happens to a magical Muggle child denied a wizarding education?
Unfortunately, we never get a glimpse into these quandaries beyond Hermione’s parents, and we get very little there.
The Grangers are the only Muggle family we see inside the magical world–in Diagon Alley with Hermione, meeting the Weasleys at Gringotts, having a drink with eccentric Arthur Weasley at the Leaky Cauldron, insulted and frightened by Lucius Malfoy at Flourish and Blotts (CoS 57-64). What do they really think?
Hermione is an only child, but if she’d had a Muggle sibling, might her family have paralleled the Evans’ sisters’ relationship? With Hermione’s superior attitude before her friendship with Harry and Ron, it’s entirely possible. According to two no longer available interviews, Rowling said that at one time she planned for Hermione to have a younger Muggle sister. I hope the Granger family dynamic would have been much more positive and I’d have liked to see it play out, but then, it was Harry’s story.
What can be gleaned is that Hermione was likely a lonely know-it-all as a child who likely got along better with adults than peers. But she finds siblings in Harry and the Weasleys, and friendship with many others, and these relationships ease the solitariness and maladjustment of a girl who, as the apple of her parents’ eyes, tends to overconfidence, rigidity, and condescension.
As a teenager, Hermione is given a remarkable amount of autonomy. Her parents, mostly facilitating characters, applaud her activities even when they upend limited family time. But despite this independence, the Granger family’s love for each other is strong, and we feel Hermione’s pain at having to erase her parents’ memories of her (DH 97).
In OotP, Hermione’s parents don’t see her off to Hogwarts as she’s at OotP headquarters. She returns early from a Christmas skiing holiday with them, telling Harry, “I’ve come for Christmas…Mum and Dad are a bit disappointed, but I’ve told them that everyone who’s serious about the exams is staying at Hogwarts to study. They want me to do well, they’ll understand” (498). It’s a bit heartless toward parents who get to see their child only a few weeks a year. When the Grangers pick Hermione up at King’s Cross and greet the Weasleys and other Order members, Hermione “[disengages] herself gently from her mother to join the group” around Harry. This foreshadows her painful decision to erase their memories, but more importantly demonstrates that the magical world has become Hermione’s new home.
Unlike the Dursleys, Hermione’s parents are good role models for allowing a child to be different, to be independent, and to have deep loyalties to others, without being threatened by it. This family’s narrative is one of healthy, unconditional love.
Luna Lovegood, whom we meet for the first time in OotP, also comes from a solid, loving family—in her case, a wizarding family. Like Hermione, she loves her parents. When Luna was nine, her mother died while experimenting with a spell and Luna has only good memories of her.
Motherless at such a young age, Luna is very close with her father, and loyal to him, no matter how bizarre his ideas. In fact, she fully embraces these ideas as her own and passionately defends them. Perhaps this is because she grew up rather isolated, with only her father for companionship. It’s strange that the Lovegoods and Weasleys live so close together, yet we never hear of Luna playing with Ginny and the Weasleys or spending time with other children. She is a friendless child.
This isolation with her father has made Luna eccentric herself. Yet despite this and the resulting peer rejection, Luna is the most serene, pure, and centered person in the books, without self-consciousness, vanity, or anxiety; she forthrightly and comfortably speaks uncomfortable truths with aplomb. Luna is kind and patient with others, even her Housemates who hide her possessions. Although cool like the moon after which she’s named, Luna doesn’t just reflect light, she is a light. Although Luna seems content in her aloneness, we are touched to learn how much friendship means to her (faithfully checking the DA coins, her determination to help the Trio at the Ministry in this book, the painting in her bedroom). Luna, it turns out, has a profound capacity for friendship and loyalty to those who offer her a place, as demonstrated many times in the last three books. Perhaps, like Hermione, because of her lonely childhood, she values connection with others very highly.
We learn in DH that Luna is also an artist of great skill, when the Trio sees her friendship painting in her bedroom.
More similarities than differences
Hermione and Luna are actually very much alike. They’re daughters of loving families, with good values and without prejudice, yet, as only children with special abilities, they’ve had lonely childhoods. Both are brilliant; Luna is a Ravenclaw and Hermione could have been one had she wished. Neither is classically pretty or popular. They enter Hogwarts as clueless social misfits and sport eccentric ideas—Luna’s belief in exotic creatures and conspiracies, and Hermione’s determination to free all house elves despite their distress over it. Both are objects of ridicule at Hogwarts—Hermione from Draco, Snape, and even Ron and Harry; “Looney” from everyone. Surely Hermione annoys every other student as the “teacher’s pet” who ruins grading curves, and Luna is treated shabbily by even her House family. Yet neither is concerned much with others’ opinions.
Both Hermione and Luna earn friendships through their courage, generosity, selflessness, and loyalty, and friendship softens their alienation and oddities. At Hogwarts they find family, a family which finds further community in behalf of a greater cause—defeating Voldemort—in which both girls play a critical role.