Family Ties in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix—Part 5: The Grangers and the Lovegoods

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

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.

The Lovegoods

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.

About Deborah Chan/Arabella

Deborah Chan, previously “Arabella Figg” I read the first three Harry Potter books in 1999 to see what the fuss was about and was hooked. After participating at HogwartsProfessor.com for several years, and then here at the pub, I joined the Blogengamot in 2009. I enjoy discussing and writing about the books I love, and particularly enjoy looking into characters' psychological and emotional motivations. My husband Rick and I live in Spokane, WA, where I’m a columnist for our newspaper, The Spokesman-Review. Our cat Casey Rose is my gravatar. Butterbeers all around!

12 thoughts on “Family Ties in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix—Part 5: The Grangers and the Lovegoods

  1. I like the Luna/Hermione comparison, as well as the Granger/Lovegood one. It had never struck me how much alike they all were–both families loving, yet in some ways outsiders; both young girls independent-thinking and intelligent and good.

    As you say, it’s very interesting to think of Wizarding children of Muggle parents. Considering, however, that Dumbledore went to Lily’s parents and explained the letter, and that he went to Tom Riddle’s orphanage and dealt with the headmistress there, I suspect that not many Muggleborns were denied magical educations during his reign as headmaster. His powers of persuasion succeeded both in getting Petunia to take Harry and in getting Vernon to release him, after all. :)

  2. It’s an excellent overview, Arabella. Touches on lots of questions & thoughts I’ve had.

    Certainly Hermione becomes more & more tied to & absorbed into the wizarding world. It’s perhaps a natural progression of things. But Hermione & most wizards, not just Muggleborns, have the capacity to live & move in both worlds.

    Muggles can’t easily pass into the wizarding world nor easily live there. Most squibs are placed into the Muggle world to find lives & careers. In a sense, exiled from family & ken through no fault of their own. Even the Weasleys who are blood traitors because they don’t care about a person’s blood status are essentially distant & cut off from the one cousin of Molly’s who became an accountant. “But we don’t talk about him,” Ron says or something to that effect.

    Hermione is being drawn away from her parents by two factors. The one already noted, that she’s becoming more a part of the wizarding world. The other, the natural fact that as a teenager/young adult, she is becoming her own person & her own friends & concerns become more important than parents.

    We’re not shown it, of course, because as you so rightly note it is Harry’s story, but I would guess that even though Hermione’s parents might be understanding of her becoming more a part of the wizarding world, they would still be terribly hurt by it. Perhaps even more than Hermione realizes.

  3. Your whole article is great, Arabella! I’ve often thought about Hermione’s parents and felt sorry for them because Hermione was away from them most of the year.

    You mentioned that the Lovegoods and the Weaseleys didn’t seem to interact, even though they lived so near each other. I noticed that, too! It often struck me as strange that there was no mention of any of the students knowing each other before they came to Hogwarts. I would have thought that wizarding families would have socialized with each other. The fact that Ron had never been on the Knight bus, nor had he been in Hogsmeade, the only all-magical village in all of Britain, seemed odd. Where exactly do witch and wizard children go when they are young, before Hogwarts? Are they home all the time?

    Anyway, thanks again. I enjoyed reading about Hermione and Luna.

  4. Sadly, I suspect that Xenophilius might have been treated in the adult wizarding world in a similar fashion as Luna at school. He was very eccentric and rather stuck in his peculiar brand of research and then writing about it in his mag which was not taken seriously. So I was not surprised that the Lovegoods were avoided. Possibly things were more sociable when the mother was alive, but her widower turned more inward after her accident. They were also represented sort of like hippies and Luna’s calm serene manner and surprising insight seemed connected to that.

  5. This is a lovely reflective piece on two of JKR’s most interesting characters (at least to my mind), so thank you Arabella. I’ve always felt there was more of similarity than difference in these two at core….both are intelligent, loyal and courageous… and your essay highlights that for me.
    As for Hermione and her relationship with her parents, I’ve always wondered if JKR was somehow also using this as a roundabout way of providing understanding of Lily Evans and her relationship with her parents. It’s not a clear thought I have; just every so often I’m hit with the connection there…both Muggles, both with developing friendships and relationships in the wizard world and both leaving parents behind. In that sense your comment that JKR considered introducing a Muggle sister for Hermione has me reflecting even more on that thought.
    thanks again for this thoughtful piece.

  6. I’m so glad you’re enjoying this essay!

    Jenna, I don’t remember where it says that Dumbledore visited Lily’s parents, but he certainly may have visited resisting families–and used his Legilimens skills, in addition to his kindliness, to learn and overcome their objections, and assure them.

    revgeorge, Squibs are like the crazy relative no one wants to mention, in a way; they’re a source of embarrassment. Think of Filch’s resentment, longings and and feelings of shame. Perhaps the Squibs are meant to represent those deemed lesser by society, who therefore have no rightful place in it, all over something they’re born with and helpless to change.

    I think Hermione would do everything possible to make sure her parents don’t feel left out, but the truth is that she’s living in wizard society, with a wizard husband and children, and has a wizard profession. She has “moved on,” so to speak, from Muggle interests and the grandchildren (and their children, etc.) won’t be part of the Muggle world. I would think that would be sad for her parents.

    phoenixsong58, I too have thought a lot about pre-Hogwarts wiz kids. They’re probably homeschooled until age 11. We’re not given much about their socialization (although we know that Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle are childhood friends, perhaps because of Death Eater ties).

    What I’ve found curious is the lack of regular education at Hogwarts. Harry and Ron never take higher math or any regular type of high school classes. Herbology and Potions would fulfill some, but not all, sciences. But no world history apart from magical history, no political science, humanities, music, art. creative writing, foreign languages, literature, etc. The only lit we encounter are the Tales of Beedle the Bard cautionary tales.

    And Ron’s ignorance of Hogwarts and the wider wizarding world always struck me as odd, given four older brothers who surely blabbed about everything. The family went to Egypt, but Ron’s never been to Hogsmeade?

    Nana, yes, Xenophilius is certainly a model of a New Age hippie; John Granger writes about this. His eccentric beliefs, propounded in the Quibbler, would have been a turn-off to friendship, as they were to Luna. I suspect his school experiences were similar to hers.

    Darcy58, I agree–Hermione and Luna are two great characters and Rowling spent some good time developing them. We know she “is” Hermione, but I suspect there’s some Luna inside her as well.

  7. This is a wonderful and thought-provoking post, Arabella. I always found Hermione’s relationship with her parents rather sad. Although we know very little of Hermione’s home life I’m still not really sure that it’s all that healthy — the level of detachment her parents show doesn’t seem quite normal to me.

    Over the years, Hermione recognizes — and sometimes tries to bridge — the gap that separates her from her parents. There is that touching moment in OOP when she asks to borrow Hedwig to tell her parents that she’s been made prefect as that’s ‘something they’ll understand’.

    But I don’t think it’s just a gap between muggles and magic folk; I also sensed that Hermione’s parents might have had one of those marriages in which the husband and wife are so involved with each other that there is little need for a child. How else to explain the fact that they don’t kick up a fuss when Hermione decides not to go skiing?

    There is also the fact that they are both dentists, so they are probably colleagues as well as spouses, no doubt speaking to each other in a sort of special insider language. They are clearly very tooth-centered — witness Hermione’s choice of sugarless tooth-flossing mints as a present and her subterfuge when she lets Madam Pomfrey ‘carry on’ with the tooth reduction charm that reverses Malfoy’s hex.

    The fact that Hermione is so drawn to the Weasleys’ intense hyper-involved family life suggests to me that she’s just as lonely and isolated in her own way as Harry.

  8. What a wonderful post, Arabella! Hermione and Luna are such wonderful characters, and you really do a great job of bringing out similarities that are easy to overlook on account of Hermione’s strong antipathy to Luna’s propensity to believe things without evidence.

    I was especially struck by your claim: “Perhaps, like Hermione, because of her lonely childhood, she [i.e., Luna] values connection with others very highly.” This made me wonder, too, about Neville as a lonely only child who not only came to prize his precious connection with fellow D.A. members, but also was part of the “ring of friends” that Luna painted on her bedroom ceiling.

    Mary Ellen, your various claims about Hermione’s parents have me wondering now bout the nature of their parenting. That they’re both dentists is definitely a point in favor of thinking that they are very much on the same page as young professionals in the same field. It had not struck me that they are somewhat detached from their child on account of being so involved with one another that they didn’t really need a child. I had always in my mind chalked up their ability to stand back from Hermione’s activities as a sign that they were very achievement-oriented and were willing to sacrifice spending time with her so long as it would allow her to excel in a pre-professional way (just as they have clearly excelled in a professional way). Hmmm… now I don’t know–I need to think about this some more in light of your interesting thesis.

  9. Mary Ellen, you’ve added some very intriguing thoughts to this discussion!

    Your assessment is equally valid to mine. The Grangers are both scientists, so perhaps they view their daughter somewhat clinically as well. They seem comfortable without her.

    The problem is that we just don’t get more than little glimpses. And these are the only Muggle parents we experience, so we don’t know how their reactions compare with others.

    I saw them as a healthy family because they all love each other, Hermione seems emotionally healthy apart from her achievement and S.P.E.W. obsessions (although these obsessions could also be seen as dysfunctional), and they support Hermione no matter what. Hermione never talks about getting good grades to please her parents; she seems to be self motivated as a high achiever.

    I guess the possibilities could go two ways, though.

    Anyone else want to weigh in?

  10. What a nice exploration of family dynamics in the series. I like the comparison between Luna and Hermione, especially since they are most of the time so contrasted with one another (or like to think they are). Luna seems like she’s got a bit of everyone: she’s lost a parent like Harry, but is still deeply loved by one like Ron and Hermione, she’s left out and picked on like Neville, and she’s reasonable, kindhearted and loyal like them all.
    I really like what you’ve said about Hermione finding siblings in Harry and Ron (pre-falling in love stage) because of her stubbornness and her “insufferable know-it-all” ness.
    Thanks for a great read!

  11. I’m sorry to be so late in getting back to this.

    Kelly, I like how you demonstrated that Luna’s profile includes elements of others’. You could also say that her dad and Mr. Weasley also have professions not well-esteemed.

    I’ve thought more about the Grangers, and my husband and I discussed them, too. He leans to your analysis, Mary Ellen, and I think I do too. He pointed out that Hermione is so instantly comfortable in the wizarding world, as if she’d found family and place there that had been lacking, thus filling a big hole in her life.

    She never seems to miss her parents and spends very little time with them. In some of the books she spends a large chunk of her brief summer holiday with the Weasleys, and as I recall, spends some Christmases at Hogwarts, as well as Easters. Her parents apparently have no problem with this. All of this indicates a loving, but perhaps distant relationship.

    Again, we get little to go on, but it’s been fascinating to examine what we know of the Grangers.

    Regarding Luna, I realized that she has no one from her Hogwarts House in her painted circle of friends. What a sad commentary on House friendships for the lonely girl cruelly nicknamed “Loony” by her peers.

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