Hermione Granger, the core female protagonist of the Harry Potter series, is one of my favorites, and pretty much every girl’s favorite, because she proves that girls can be bloody brilliant and that being “nerdy” is super valuable.
We remember her for knowing how to fix Harry’s glasses on the very first day, using a Time-Turner to overbook her course schedule, mastering every charm in the book (and then some), and correcting the class on their pronunciation of spells.
Everyone can agree that Hermione has the biggest brain of the Harry-Ron-Hermione trio, but we often forget that she also has one of the biggest hearts.
Her sense of compassion overrides her fears and her caution, leading her to bend the rules and break out of her comfort zone once in a while for the sake of her friends or a righteous cause.
One of her most memorable (but largely undervalued) causes is S.P.E.W., Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare (which I still always pronounce “spew” in my head), formed during the fourth book, HP and the Goblet of Fire. When Hermione discovers that house elves are the ones who make the food magically appear in the Hogwarts dining hall and that they put themselves in perilous situations for the whims of their masters, Hermione reacts.
Her heart is pulled by the house elves’ plight (which, let’s be honest, is basically slavery), and doesn’t let it slide like everyone else does.
Ron, who grew up in the wizarding world, never blinks an eye about the treatment of house elves. Harry has some qualms, and he does set Dobby free, but he never has the time to dive back into activism with all his responsibilities as the Chosen One. But Hermione sets time aside from her strenuous studies, her worrying about Harry during the Triwizard Tournament, and her impending crush on Ron to rally for house elves. Hermione cares, and she starts acting on it immediately.
If you find your heart pulling toward an idea or a cause, react! Go towards it! And don’t just saunter casually in that general direction; RUN straight at it. Think about it: this is something you really, really care about, and it has the potential to become your life’s work. WHY would you do anything differently?
Hermione serves as a perfect reminder that we should always do things that we care about, even if others don’t approve or it might not work out.
While we don’t know if S.P.E.W. expanded and succeeded beyond the book’s mention, we do know that Hermione later worked at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures at the Ministry of Magic to advocate for the rights of magical creatures.
In her fourth year – when she was fourteen! – she discovered something that she was passionate about, and she turned it into a career. That’s impressive.
So now that we know what we should do, let’s look at how: How did Hermione manage to pioneer a nonprofit as a teenager?
Well, she did her research and found that the house elf issue was had been underrepresented in the law. She looked into the historical (wizard-written) accounts of problems with the house elves, and she explored the law to see what would need to happen in order to make a difference for the little creatures. (And she did all of this using the school library!)
She made a plan. Her manifesto contained all the specific (and seemingly impossible) goals that she wants to achieve. She didn’t just sit around feeling bad for the little elves. Instead, she saw what needed to happen, and made a list of manageable steps to get there, even if the first step was just making pins.
She moved forward with persistence and patience. Even when one of her best friends ridiculed her (Ron can really be an idiot sometimes.), she continued to try to persuade everyone she could to join S.P.E.W. She even learned to knit just for the sake of the cause! That’s the kind of commitment and dedication that it takes to get something off the ground.
Most importantly, Hermione followed her interests. When she found something she cared about, she pursued it wholeheartedly, and it led her to a career supporting a cause she believed in, which really, has to be one of the most fulfilling things you can do in life. Even if it wasn’t S.P.E.W. that lasted, S.P.E.W. gave her real experience and started her on the track to a profession that could continue to make her happy and continue to serve a cause she believed in.
Hermione joins Jane Eyre on the list of protagonists who forged their own paths to stay true to themselves, and it payed off! They both have happy endings that couldn’t exist if they had just given up or done a “cubicle” job that they hated!
Moral of the story: listen for those things that excite you and follow them relentlessly!
(And try knitting sometime too; it’s very satisfying.)