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Dumbledore's Army

Hermione's Code of Honesty

by Red Monster

There is a simple, but very important quality about Hermione that should be kept in mind when interpreting her actions, and that is: Hermione is honest. She is strictly, scrupulously, compulsively, insufferably honest and truth-oriented.

First, truthfulness is very important to her. She loses respect for the Daily Prophet when it serves as a puppet for the Ministry. She is openly disrespectful of Professor Trelawney because Hermione does not buy into Divination, and this is a girl who usually gets along extraordinarily well with her teachers.

Second, Hermione operates based on factual information, often at the expense of tact. She spends her first two months at Hogwarts annoying Harry and Ron by pointing out what they're doing wrong. Her defense of Crookshanks in PoA is borne out of her emphasis on information and evidence over consideration and sensitivity, a problem which was foreshadowed by the incident with Lavender learning of her pet rabbit's death. Hermione chooses to focus on the facts of a given situation rather than the emotions involved. Sometimes, this is the most appropriate approach to take, sometimes it is not, but no matter which, it is Hermione's. Her friction with Luna Lovegood is based primarily on information; when Luna talks about things which, by all credible accounts, are purely myth, Hermione jumps in to set the record straight, at the expense of politeness. It is not entirely clear why she selected The Quibbler for Harry's interview (aside from the fact that is was an available option), but I suspect that she admired that it published on its own terms, rather than bending to the whims of Cornelius Fudge. She chose The Quibbler's sincerity over the Daily Prophet's pandering to the Ministry's interests.

Third, Hermione is not a very good actress. She wears her distress, annoyance and anger on her sleeve. Her emotional expression ranges from turning pink to snapping, spluttering, and snarling, to storming out of the room in hysterical tears. When she is annoyed with someone, she makes it immediately clear why she feels this way. Her rudeness towards Luna in the Hog's Head (pg. 345), her anger at Umbridge during Hagrid's inspection (pg. 447-50), and her distress after the Great Centaur Fiasco (pg. 759) are all good examples of how Hermione looks and acts when she is feeling annoyed or upset. Speaking "briskly" doesn't even register on the scale.

Speaking of the Great Centaur Fiasco, this is an example of not only extreme tactlessness on Hermione's part (pg. 756-7), but also of honesty at the worst possible time. She tells the truth about why she and Harry are in the Forbidden Forest, which only serves to make the centaurs angry. Rather than tell a lie to mollify them, she then attempts to alleviate the situation by explaining herself more fully, the result being that she merely digs herself and Harry into a hole so deep that only Grawp is strong enough to pull them out. Hermione tells the truth on an occasion in which a lie would have served her much better. This is an unfortunate incident in her history in the series, but it does remind us that she is naturally inclined to tell the truth. When the going gets tough, she can't keep her mouth shut.

Fifth, she is capable of lying, but she does so with a very important reason. There are a number of instances throughout the series where she lies or withholds the truth about something, and it is always something bigger than herself. Her first known lie is to make Harry and Ron look better for rescuing her from the troll, and make herself look worse in the process. She aims to protect an innocent and vulnerable party with her covering up Lupin's lycanthropy and then Sirius's whereabouts. Her attempts at freeing the house elves are a desperate plan to undermine an arguably unjust system. She lies and covers up to solve an important problem with the use of Polyjuice Potion in CoS, rectify and illegal, immoral and dangerous situation with her blackmail of Rita Skeeter, uphold a necessary effort by hiding the DA from general Wizarding society, and enact a mechanism for justice in an otherwise arbitrary and unjust setting by jinxing the DA parchment. We might not agree with her actions, but she always has her reasoning thought out. She does not lie for personal convenience and gratification. She might be willing to use dishonesty and secrecy for revenge, if that's how you think of her blackmail of Rita Skeeter, but in any case, she does not lie when Hermione is the only person who stands to benefit.

Last, but not least in Hermione's code of honesty is that even when she is hiding something from the rest of the world, she is honest with Harry and Ron. When she blackmails and falsely imprisons Rita Skeeter, she tells the boys about it on the train back home, before there are any negative consequences to her actions. She knits unwanted and inappropriate elf clothes, and she tells Harry and Ron what she's doing, in fact she even invites Harry to join her. When she puts a jinx on the DA parchment, she tells Harry and Ron about it before anyone is branded a SNEAK. If she does hide something from them, she knows they will find out soon enough anyway. This is the case with her turning Harry's Firebolt over to McGonagall and her refusing to tell the boys that Viktor Krum will be escorting her to the Yule Ball. She does not deceive Harry and Ron. She sometimes surprises them, even with unpleasant results, but they get to know her actions and plans better than anyone else.

She places special emphasis on truthfulness and sincerity. She chooses facts over tact. She is unskilled and inept at concealing her emotions. She is naturally inclined to tell the truth, especially in times of urgency and chaos. She lies and conceals only for bigger-picture issues. Even when she lies to the world in general, she gives Harry and Ron the true story. Hermione's honesty is one of her most distinctive and admirable qualities, and it should be noted and kept in mind when interpreting her character. She should have a partner who can match her in honesty.

Now, go read the rest of the essay.

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