Despite the sometimes heated controversy over romantic pairings in the Harry Potter series, author J. K. Rowling's romantic development of her main characters has been, for the most part, transparent. Because the novels are written from Harry's point of view we always know where his romantic interests lie. There is neither mystery, nor ambiguity, to the clues Rowling gives us about Harry's stomach or "the monster in his chest." 1 Rowling makes no secret of Ginny's crush on Harry either, and Ron's romantic interests are relatively easy to read. His eyes popping out over Fleur Delacour and his jealousy of Viktor Krum are far from subtle. But what goes on in Hermione's heart is not as clear, particularly when it comes to the exact nature of her relationship with Viktor Krum.
One notable aspect of Hermione's relationship with Viktor is that it keeps coming up despite the fact that we have no evidence to indicate that Viktor and Hermione have seen each other since the end of Hermione's fourth year at Hogwarts. Whatever happened between them in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we learn in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that Hermione has chosen to remain in contact with Viktor through correspondence.2 Then, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Ginny informs Ron, to his dismay, that Hermione and Viktor have kissed each other.3 We also have good reason to suspect that Viktor Krum will be returning in the final book of the series.4
Another aspect of the relationship between Hermione and Viktor is that other than their first date at the Yule Ball, the relationship takes place largely out of Harry's sight. Again, because the novels are written from Harry's point of view, this leaves a certain amount of mystery as to the exact nature of the relationship. Did Hermione and Viktor continue dating after the Yule Ball? Did Hermione have any romantic feelings for Viktor or did she see it only as a platonic friendship? Did Viktor and Hermione kiss or was Ginny misinformed or lying about that? Did Hermione accept Viktor's invitation to visit him in Bulgaria over the summer?
Despite the hidden nature of the relationship, I believe that Rowling has left sufficient clues to conclude that Hermione did have a romantic relationship with Viktor and struggled with an inner conflict between her feelings for Viktor and her feelings for Ron.
Before the Yule Ball
The first clues about Viktor and Hermione are subtle. Out of necessity Rowling has to downplay Hermione's showing any interest in Viktor before the Yule Ball because any obvious clues would give away the surprise; however, she has given clues nonetheless. At the Quidditch World Cup in Goblet of Fire, Viktor first catches Hermione's attention after he catches the Golden Snitch to end the Quidditch match. " ˜He was very brave, wasn't he?' Hermione said, leaning forward to watch Krum land." 5 While Hermione isn't swooning over Viktor, she has noticed him and admires him for his bravery.
When Viktor later arrives at Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament, Hermione doesn't pay him much attention at first except to show her disdain for all the attention he attracts by being famous. "For heaven's sake, Ron, he's only a Quidditch player' 6 she says when Ron displays excitement about seeing his hero, Viktor Krum. Hermione also expresses disapproval of some sixth-year girls squabbling to get Viktor's autograph with lipstick7 and the crowd of girls that constantly follows him to the library. "They only like him because he's famous!" 8 she exclaims to Harry.
But on the evening that the Triwizard Champions are to be selected, Hermione shows more than a passing interest in Viktor as she returns to the castle with Harry and Ron after a visit with Hagrid.
"Ooh it's them, look!" Hermione whispered.
The Durmstrang party was walking up toward the castle from the lake. Viktor Krum was walking side by side with Karkaroff, and the other Durmstrang students were straggling along behind them. Ron watched Krum excitedly, but Krum did not look around as he reached the front doors a little ahead of Hermione, Ron, and Harry and proceeded through them.9
Rowling does something unusual here. She refers to the trio as "Hermione, Ron, and Harry" which is not the order she normally uses. Referring to them in this order indicates that Hermione was the first to follow Viktor through the doors. Perhaps Hermione wants a closer look.
The Yule Ball
When the Yule Ball is announced Hermione finds out exactly why Viktor has been hanging out in the library.
"He said he'd been coming up to the library every day to try and talk to me, but he hadn't been able to pluck up the courage!"
Hermione said this very quickly, and blushed so deeply that she was the same color as Parvati's robes.10
Viktor obviously has a romantic interest in Hermione, and Hermione's blush reveals that her interest in Viktor is romantic too. Hermione keeps her date with Viktor secret from Ron, who makes no secret of the fact that he is looking for beauty, not brains.
"Oh I see' Hermione said, bristling. "So basically you're going to take the best looking girl who'll have you, even if she's completely horrible."
"Er”yeah, that sounds about right' said Ron.11
Naturally, looks become an important issue for Hermione as her interest in boys develops. Like many teenage girls, Hermione is insecure about her looks. She would like to think that looks don't matter, but knows that they do. Or, at least they matter to Ron, who has been smitten with the dazzlingly beautiful Fleur Delacour. When it comes to beauty Hermione knows she cannot compete with Fleur or "the curvy and attractive barmaid, Madam Rosmerta' who has also captured Ron's eye.12 So before the Yule Ball Hermione assumes that she hasn't got what it takes to interest Ron romantically.
Ron makes Hermione feel even worse by asking her to the Yule Ball only after he becomes desperate for a date and he strongly implies that he doesn't think she's attractive enough to have been asked by anyone else who wasn't also desperate.
"I can't come with you' said Hermione, now blushing, "because I'm already going with someone."
"No, you're not!" said Ron. "You just said that to get rid of Neville!"
"Oh did I?" said Hermione, and her eyes flashed dangerously. "Just because it's taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn't mean no one else has spotted I'm a girl!" 13
Ron insults not only Hermione, but also Neville. At least Neville noticed Hermione is a girl and plucked up the courage to ask her to the ball.
When Hermione arrives at the Yule Ball with Viktor everyone is astonished at how pretty she looks.14 Now that Hermione is looking beautiful and has attracted the interest of someone who is not at all desperate for a date, Ron suddenly becomes jealous and lashes out at Hermione for "fraternizing with the enemy." 15 After the ball, Ron and Hermione continue their argument in the Gryffindor common room where Hermione yells at Ron, "Next time there's a ball, ask me before someone else does and not as a last resort!" 16 Hermione may be expressing her anger at the way Ron has treated her, however, she is also implying that she would have accepted an invitation from Ron had he asked her first.
Does that mean that Hermione likes Ron and not Viktor? It does mean Hermione likes Ron, but it doesn't necessarily mean she isn't also romantically interested in Viktor. Hermione appears to thoroughly enjoy her date with Viktor. Unlike Harry, who has a miserable time because he feels jealous of Cho and Cedric, and Ron, who has a miserable time because he feels jealous of Hermione and Viktor, Hermione shows no signs of distress about not being with Ron. On the contrary, she is quite happy to be with Viktor. When Hermione arrives at the ball Harry notices "she was holding herself differently, somehow" and "she was also smiling”rather nervously." 17 Later he notices her conversing with Viktor when Dumbledore demonstrates a new method of dining by placing his order with his plate.
Getting the idea, the rest of the table placed their orders with their plates too. Harry glanced up at Hermione to see how she felt about this new and more complicated method of dining”surely it meant plenty of extra work for the house-elves?”but for once, Hermione didn't seem to be thinking about S.P.E.W. She was deep in talk with Viktor Krum and hardly seemed to notice what she was eating.
It now occurred to Harry that he had never actually heard Krum speak before, but he was certainly talking now, and very enthusiastically at that.18
Hermione is interested enough in Viktor to forget about the house-elves and even what she's eating. And Viktor is equally interested in Hermione.
But did Hermione and Viktor kiss at the ball? I don't think so. We know they didn't kiss when they said goodnight because Harry and Ron would have seen it: "Harry and Ron saw Hermione saying good night to Krum before he went back to the Durmstrang ship." 19 Hermione seems very private about her love life, so I doubt that Hermione would have kissed Viktor publicly at the ball. And I think we can rule out Hermione and Viktor slipping off to the rosebushes or an empty classroom. Hermione would not want to disappoint Professor McGonagall who "will be most seriously displeased if a Gryffindor student embarrasses the school in any way." 20 Besides, Hermione's got more sense than that. She's fifteen, Viktor's eighteen, and it's Hermione's first date.
The Second Task
After the Yule Ball I think two things happened. First, Ron's jealous behavior gives Hermione good reason to suspect Ron is romantically interested in her and she becomes more seriously interested in him. Hermione and Ron seem to forget their argument and are being "quite friendly, though oddly formal." 21 Second, I believe that Karkaroff forbade Viktor to continue seeing Hermione because he did not approve of her and felt a relationship would distract Viktor from concentrating on preparing for the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. Karkaroff's disapproval is apparent at the Yule Ball. "Karkaroff wore an expression remarkably like Ron's as he watched Krum and Hermione draw nearer." 22 Hermione is Muggle-born and, according to Draco Malfoy, "Durmstrang doesn't admit that sort of riffraff." 23
Karkaroff must have said something to Viktor about the relationship because instead of inviting Hermione to Madam Puddifoot's in Hogsmeade, Viktor is preparing for the second task by taking a mid-January dip in the lake.24 But Karkaroff cannot influence the choice of Viktor's hostage. Viktor has fallen very deeply for Hermione and she becomes the one he rescues from the lake in the second task. Viktor doesn't know if he will ever get to see Hermione again, so in desperation he confesses his feelings to her out of earshot from Karkaroff and invites her to his home in Bulgaria where Karkaroff cannot prevent him from seeing her. Hermione later reveals that "he sort of pulled me away from the judges so they wouldn't hear, and he said if I wasn't doing anything over the summer, would I like to”" 25 Viktor obviously doesn't want Karkaroff to hear, but he chooses a very public place for a very private conversation, which does indicate he has not been able to see Hermione privately.
I think Hermione is blind-sided by Viktor's confession and invitation. Because Viktor hasn't asked her out since the Yule Ball, she doesn't see it coming. She's only been out on one date with this guy and she hardly knows him. Now here he is saying he's never felt this way about anyone else and inviting her to Bulgaria. Hermione is a cautious girl and this is too much, too fast for her. Besides she's just spent the last two months entertaining the possibility of a relationship with Ron. I think it scares her, so she avoids Viktor's attention by focusing on Harry and Ron. Then when she sees Ron enjoying a kiss from Fleur Delacour, "Hermione looked simply furious." 26
Over the next few days Hermione has time to process this new information. She's got two boys interested in her. One plucked up the courage to ask her to the Yule Ball and to confess his feelings to her. The other implied she wasn't pretty enough to get a date for the ball, asked her out as a last resort, hasn't confessed anything, and is still seeking the attention of another girl. Viktor is starting to look more attractive to Hermione.
Shortly after the second task Rita Skeeter publishes her article, "Harry Potter's Secret Heartache." 27 As Hermione wonders aloud how Rita knew that Viktor invited her to Bulgaria, "Hermione blushed scarlet [¦] and determinedly avoided Ron's eyes." 28 Ron asks what answer she gave Viktor, but Hermione ignores Ron's question and goes on to confirm that " ˜he [Viktor] did say he'd never felt the same way about anyone else,' [¦] going so red now that Harry could almost feel the heat coming from her." 29 Hermione would rather hide it, but her blushing betrays her romantic feelings for Viktor.
After a week of receiving hate mail over the Rita Skeeter article, Hermione is determined to discover how Rita is listening into private conversations and she begins going to the library to research methods of magical eavesdropping. "Hermione, however, did not ask Harry and Ron to help her pursue her vengeance against Rita Skeeter' 30 so it seems that Hermione preferred to be left alone and it is highly likely that Viktor has been staking out the library hoping to see her again. Almost three months later an obviously jealous Viktor approaches Harry and says, "Hermy-own-ninny talks about you very often" indicating that Viktor and Hermione have indeed been seeing each other and often.31
It is during this three-month period that I believe Hermione's romance with Viktor blossomed. Viktor had to keep it secret from Karkaroff, and so Hermione kept it secret too. But there is one secret she must have shared with Ginny”that she and Viktor had kissed.32 Hermione and Ginny did talk with each other about boys during this time frame. Ginny later says, "Hermione told me to get on with life, maybe go out with some other people." 33 And according to Hermione, Ginny started dating Michael Corner sometime around the end of this school year.34 It appears that Hermione's advice came from her own experience. Instead of waiting for Ron to make a move, she too had decided to get on with her life and go out with Viktor.
In her fifth year at Hogwarts Hermione maintains a relationship with Viktor through correspondence. When Ron asks if she's still in contact with him, Hermione's response reveals that she still has a romantic interest in Viktor: " ˜So what if I am?' said Hermione coolly, though her face was a little pink. ˜I can have a pen pal if I”' " 35 Hermione tries to hide her feelings by keeping her voice cool, though she isn't able to hide the blush.
But did Hermione visit Viktor in Bulgaria over the summer? Except for a brief period at the beginning of the summer, Hermione spends the summer at number twelve Grimmauld Place in London. While it's possible that Hermione was in Bulgaria for a short visit early in the summer there are no clues to indicate where she was during that time, but I don't think that Hermione went to Bulgaria. She may have planned to go, but canceled those plans due to Voldemort's return. After all, she hadn't planned on staying the summer at Grimmauld Place, so whatever plans she had for the summer had to be changed on short notice.
At Christmas time Hermione is still corresponding with Viktor. When Harry returns from kissing Cho Chang, Hermione gives Harry and Ron an explanation of Cho's feelings.36 On the surface, Hermione is explaining to the boys what Cho might be feeling, but there is a fourth person in the room whose presence is palpable: Viktor Krum. Because Hermione is writing a novel-length epistle to Viktor her mind is divided between her letter and the conversation. Rowling keeps reminding the reader of this by repeatedly making references to the letter and quill as Hermione converses with the boys. So when Hermione asks Harry, "Did you kiss?" 37 she is, at the same time, conversing secretly with the first boy she kissed. And when she explains Cho's ambivalent feelings for two boys, she is doing so with Viktor fresh on her mind and Ron sitting in the room with her.
I think this reveals that Hermione also has feelings for two boys and is comparing Ron and Viktor in her mind. Hermione isn't pleased with Ron's immature reaction to the news that Harry and Cho kissed. "Hermione gave Ron a deep look of disgust and returned to her letter' 38 which indicates she is dismissing Ron in favor of Viktor. As the conversation continues, Hermione's frustration with Ron comes out in a very nasty insult. " ˜Ron,' said Hermione in a dignified voice, dipping the point of her quill into her ink pot, ˜you are the most insensitive wart I have ever had the misfortune to meet.' " 39 The reference to the quill and ink is again a reference to Viktor. Hermione must be thinking, why can't Ron be more mature and sensitive like Viktor? There's no way that Hermione can't be thinking something about Viktor at that moment.
Hermione then stops working on her letter to talk about what Cho might be feeling. When she explains Cho's feelings as "confused' "mixed up" and "can't work out who she likes best' 40 she doesn't really know for sure how Cho feels. She's only putting herself in Cho's place. And I think Hermione is drawing on personal experience to inform her about how Cho might be feeling.
A slightly stunned silence greeted the end of this speech, then Ron said, "One person can't feel all that at once, they'd explode."
"Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have' said Hermione nastily, picking up her quill again.41
Hermione admits that she has the emotional range to feel the kind of conflicted feelings for two boys that she has just described, and again, she turns her attention away from Ron and back to Viktor. Viktor is winning the battle in Hermione's head, but it's Ron who will win the battle in her heart.
As Hermione begins her sixth year at Hogwarts, it's been almost two years since the Yule Ball when she first had reason to suspect that Ron might be romantically interested in her. And yet, she hasn't taken any action to let Ron know she's interested in him. I believe that Hermione's internal struggle over her feelings for Ron and Viktor explains why she didn't act sooner. So what happens to help Hermione make up her mind? Amortentia.
When Hermione smells the Amortentia in Professor Slughorn's first Potions lesson it's classic Hermione, showing off for Slughorn everything she knows about the potion.
"It's the most powerful love potion in the world!" said Hermione.
"Quite right! You recognized it, I suppose, by its distinctive mother-of-pearl sheen?"
"And the steam rising in characteristic spirals' said Hermione enthusiastically, "and it's supposed to smell differently to each of us, according to what attracts us, and I can smell freshly mown grass and new parchment and”"
But she turned slightly pink and did not complete the sentence.42
When Hermione starts describing what she smells, she stops in mid-sentence and blushes. She blushes because she suddenly realizes what the smell means for her. If she knew what it meant ahead of time she never would have started the sentence with Ron in the room. In mid-sentence a light goes on in Hermione's head. What she smells tells her that Ron is the one for her and not Viktor. This is the kind of data that makes sense to Hermione. She is a thinker. Trusting her feelings is not rational; trusting what the Amortentia tells her is rational.
Now that Hermione has this new data she proceeds in her usual logical fashion. What's the first thing she's going to want to know once she knows that she smells Ron? She's going to want to know if Ron smells her. So what does she do? She behaves amorously toward Harry. "Hermione turned to Harry with a radiant expression and whispered, ˜Did you really tell him I'm the best in the year? Oh, Harry!' " 43 This provokes a jealous reaction from Ron and Hermione smiles because she has her answer. Ron must smell something he associates with her.
Birds on the Brain
Emboldened by this information Hermione now has the confidence to make her move. She gets her opportunity when Professor Slughorn gives a Christmas party for his Slug Club and she decides to invite Ron. Thinking that the party is only for the Slug Club, Ron makes fun of it.
" ˜Slug Club,' " repeated Ron with a sneer worthy of Malfoy. "It's pathetic. Well, I hope your enjoy your party." [¦]
"We're allowed to bring guests' said Hermione, who for some reason had turned a bright, boiling scarlet, "and I was going to ask you to come, but if you think it's that stupid then I won't bother!" [...]
"You were going to ask me?" asked Ron, in a completely different voice.44
Hermione's blush reveals her romantic interest in Ron and this may be the point at which Ron first realizes Hermione fancies him. Harry observes that Ron "looked sheepish but also rather pleased with himself." 45
Ron accepts Hermione's invitation and she must be thrilled. She's going to Slughorn's Christmas party with Ron and she just might get that kiss under the mistletoe that she's been dreaming about. But Hermione's elation is short-lived. After Ron finds out from Ginny that "Hermione snogged Viktor Krum' 46 he begins to treat "a hurt and bewildered Hermione with an icy, sneering indifference." 47 Then after a Quidditch match, feeling that Hermione has insulted his Quidditch skills, he ends up "in full view of the whole [common] room, [¦] wrapped so closely around Lavender Brown it was hard to tell whose hands were whose." 48
Feeling angry, jealous and deeply hurt, Hermione exits the common room to find a place to be alone with her thoughts. Seeking to comfort her, Harry goes looking for Hermione and finds her in an empty classroom. "She was sitting on the teacher's desk, alone except for a small ring of twittering yellow birds circling her head, which she had clearly just conjured out of midair." 49 The birds offer a clue as to what Hermione is thinking. When Mr. Ollivander examined the champions' wands prior to the Triwizard Tournament, Viktor's wand "let off a blast like a gun, and a number of small twittering birds flew out of the end." 50 Since Rowling uses the same image of the twittering birds in both places, I believe she is hinting that Hermione is again comparing Ron and Viktor. And, at this point, she must feel that she would have been much better off with Viktor.
Christmas with the Krums?
Hermione ends up going to Slughorn's Christmas party with Cormac McLaggen who assaults her under the mistletoe, and then she spends Christmas vacation without Harry and Ron for the first time in five years. Harry and Ron spend Christmas together at the Burrow, but Rowling doesn't say where Hermione spends Christmas. If Hermione spent Christmas with her parents there wouldn't be any reason for Rowling to conceal that information, and Hermione reveals nothing to Harry about her Christmas even though he asks her about it.
"So how was your Christmas?"
"Oh, fine' she shrugged. "Nothing special. How was it at Won-Wons?" 51
I suspect that over Christmas Hermione visited Viktor. The birds indicate that she still has Viktor on her mind and there is also a slight change in Hermione over the holiday. Before Christmas "Hermione refused to sit in the common room while Ron was there." 52 After Christmas she seems more cheerful, pretends Ron doesn't exist, and gives "a tinkling laugh" when Lavender flings herself into Ron's arms squealing "Won-Won!" 53 Not only does Hermione sit in the common room with "Ron and Lavender locked in a kind of vertical wrestling match' 54 but she "stared across the room, apparently lost in thought, not even noticing Lavender tickling Ron." 55 Something seems to have happened over the Christmas break that makes it easier for Hermione to tune out the situation with Ron and Lavender.
Ron Is the Victor
Two months later when Ron is accidentally poisoned and nearly dies, Hermione can't deny her feelings for Ron.
Hermione gave an almost inaudible sniff. She had been exceptionally quiet all day. Having hurtled, white-faced, up to Harry outside the hospital wing and demanded to know what had happened, she had taken almost no part in Harry and Ginny's obsessive discussion about how Ron had been poisoned, but merely stood beside them, clench-jawed and frightened-looking, until at last they had been allowed in to see him.56
Ron is released from the hospital wing and Hermione is "friends with Ron again." 57 Then she becomes particularly cheerful when Ron and Lavender split up after Lavender assumes Hermione has been alone in the boys' dormitory with Ron.58
But did Hermione ever end it with Viktor? She may have done so by letter on the night Ron and Lavender split up. Hermione says, "it was a bad night for romance all around" because Ginny and Dean had also split up.59 She calls Ron a coward for not being the one who ended it with Lavender, but perhaps she has been cowardly as well. When we last saw Viktor he was still very taken with Hermione and Rowling has not yet resolved the issue of Viktor's feelings for Hermione. I believe that will be at least a part of the reason why he returns in the final book of the series. Viktor may die fighting against Voldemort still very much in love with Hermione. And that would put Hermione quite literally in Cho's place.
By the end of their sixth year at Hogwarts it's clear that Ron is ready for romance with Hermione. At Dumbledore's funeral Harry observes "Ron [¦] was now holding Hermione and stroking her hair while she sobbed into his shoulder." 60 But in their fourth year at Hogwarts Hermione was ready for romance and Ron was not. So why not have a little romance with Viktor? Viktor was certainly a willing partner, so Hermione seized the day. And I think Hermione had genuine feelings for Viktor. He was Hermione's bird in the hand while Ron was still beating around the bush.
1. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 286’9.
2. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 460.
3. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 288.
4. Ibid., "World Book Day Chat."
5. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 114.
6. Ibid., 248.
7. Ibid., 249.
8. Ibid., 317.
9. Ibid., 267.
10. Ibid., 422.
11. Ibid., 394’5.
12. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 247.
13. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 400.
14. Ibid., 414.
15. Ibid., 421.
16. Ibid., 432.
17. Ibid., 414.
18. Ibid., 416’17.
19. Ibid., 431.
20. Ibid., 386.
21. Ibid., 433.
22. Ibid., 415.
23. Ibid., 165.
24. Ibid., 443.
25. Ibid., 514.
26. Ibid., 506.
27. Ibid., 511’12.
28. Ibid., 513.
29. Ibid., 514.
30. Ibid., 548.
31. Ibid., 552.
32. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 288.
33. Ibid., 647.
34. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 348.
35. Ibid., 332.
36. Ibid., 457’61.
37. Ibid., 458.
38. Ibid., 458.
39. Ibid., 458’9.
40. Ibid., 459.
41. Ibid., 459.
42. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 185.
43. Ibid., 186.
44. Ibid., 282.
45. Ibid., 283.
46. Ibid., 288.
47. Ibid., 290.
48. Ibid., 300.
49. Ibid., 301.
50. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 309’10.
51. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 352.
52. Ibid., 305.
53. Ibid., 351’2.
54. Ibid., 352.
55. Ibid., 353.
56. Ibid., 400.
57. Ibid., 423.
58. Ibid., 514’15.
59. Ibid., 514.
60. Ibid., 647.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
”””. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Inc., Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
”””. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
”””. "J. K. Rowling's World Book Day Chat." 4 March 2004. Transcript, Accio Quote, http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2004/0304-wbd.htm (accessed 31 March, 2007).