Last week, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling broke the Internet. Or rather, she broke the website Pottermore, a hub for her fans, when she posted a short new story about the boy who reshaped young adult literature and defined popular culture for a decade.
The story is set 20 years after the major events of the books and one year after the much-maligned epilogue to the final book. It updates readers on what the series’ major characters have been doing with their lives, and gives them a glimpse of how the wizarding world has and hasn’t changed since readers were last submerged in it. The excitement and interest were too great for the site’s servers to bear, and they crashed. Never underestimate the power of Harry Potter fandom.
For me, the most interesting piece of new information was about Rowling’s brainy heroine, Hermione Granger. What has Hermione Granger been doing with her life? She’s been running the world.
In February, Rowling caused a stir when she confessed that she regretted a major plot point in the final book: the eventual union and marriage of Hermione with Harry’s best friend Ron. Throughout the second half of the series, the pair engage in a lot of will-they-won’t-they before admitting in the final book that they love each other, and finding the courage to do something about it. With hindsight, Rowling said, Hermione ought to have ended up with Harry.
As a young woman who grew up with Hermione as a major literary role model — for me, she has a place alongside Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Shirley and Jo March as one of the fictional women who most influenced me as a girl — I was frustrated by Rowling’s ruminations about her characters’ romantic coupling. If I could have asked Rowling one question about Hermione, it wouldn’t have been whether or not she ended up with the right man. It would have been whether or not she made good on the professional ambition she expresses in the final book: “I’m hoping to do some good in the world.”