Although he’s rarely in the thick of the action, Ernie Macmillan definitely makes an impression. Like a pampered little prince holding court over his nobles, it’s clear from the very first moment we meet him that Ernie enjoys being the centre of attention.
The scion of an old wizarding family, Ernie sees himself as a voice of authority among his peers, and revels in his position as their unofficial leader. Keen to impress, Ernie likes to be in the know, which means he can be a bit of a gossip; despite his often high-and-mighty attitude, he’s not above passing on whispers overheard in the corridors of the castle, and is surprisingly suggestible.
He might be highly intelligent and academically bright, but his need to be right means he frequently makes snap judgements and draws clumsy conclusions – leaping from claiming Harry was Slytherin’s heir, to suspecting Draco immediately after he realised Harry was innocent. Having said that, he’s also very honest – he might talk behind your back, but he’ll readily admit to it and even confront you with his ‘evidence’.
Of course, he’ll be quite theatrical about it, as Ernie likes to keep his audience enthralled, showing off an unexpected flair for the dramatic. He thoroughly enjoys being looked up to, and makes the most of any time in the spotlight by mysteriously lowering his voice for effect or speaking in loud whispers.
The problem is, Ernie usually believes what he’s saying to be true, and he can be very passionate about his opinions, especially when he thinks someone’s up to no good. He’s not shy about sharing his thoughts – if his friends aren’t around, he’ll give his two penny’s worth to anyone in earshot, whether they asked for it or not – and is always supremely confident. This can make him seem like a bit of a smug know-it-all but Ernie is actually very genuine; one of his most admirable qualities is that he can always admit when he was wrong.
His penchant for tittle-tattle means he has been known to offend (usually Harry!) but he doesn’t have a problem owning up to poor judgement; he’ll willingly apologise if he made a mistake. Ernie does tend to become quite pompous and formal when he’s uncomfortable, making him appear a little haughty – there’s definitely something of the Percy Weasley about him!
Like Percy, Ernie is also very serious about his reputation and responsibilities as prefect, which puts him in a quandary when he has to sign a register to join the D.A. He likes the idea of being rebellious but struggles when it comes to actually committing; eventually his dissatisfaction with Umbridge’s censorship wins out.
It’s not surprising, as Ernie takes a lot of pride in his academic achievements. He can get quite competitive about it; when studying for his O.W.L.s he drove his fellow students bonkers with incessant bragging and hourly updates about how much revision he was cramming in. Irritating, yes, but his behaviour reveals his insecurities – he needs to feel like he’s doing more than everyone else. In fact, he’s probably one of the few people who would have actually appreciated a bossy homework planner from Hermione!
He may have his annoying moments but Ernie’s a good friend. Like most Hufflepuffs, he’s fiercely loyal and protective. He comes from a pure-blood line but shows no prejudice, choosing Muggle Studies as one of his options and becoming best friends with Muggle-born Justin Finch-Fletchley. He’s rarely seen without him or Hannah Abbott in tow and when he mistakenly believes Justin is the next target of Harry and Slytherin’s monster, he does all he can to keep him safe.
One of the interesting things about Ernie is that for all his hoity-toity nonsense spouting, he’s actually very genuine and not particularly good at keeping up the bravado. His formality doesn’t extend to his true feelings; it’s very outwardly apparent when Ernie’s afraid, but he’s also incredibly brave, never hiding away from a confrontation. Whether that means standing up to ‘Slytherin’s heir’ or sticking around to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts, Ernie doesn’t hide away from a difficult situation even if he’s daunted by the prospect.
He’s a firm believer in doing the right thing although he often gets a bit carried away despite his best (albeit misguided) intentions. Supporting Cedric Diggory with a ‘Potter Stinks’ badge to show his outrage at Harry’s ‘illegal’ Triwizard Tournament entry is no exception. But Ernie also stepped up to help Harry more than once, showing his true mettle when it came to it.
It’s very telling that Ernie’s Patronus is a boar – he can be notoriously pig-headed when he’s made his mind up about something and is a powerful presence among his fellow students who tends to naturally dominate others.
Ernie is a complex mix of bluster and kindness but he does Hufflepuff house proud – despite his foibles, you’d definitely want him on your side. If nothing else, he tells a blooming good story.
Each month Pottermore will try to defend the more… questionable characters from the Harry Potter stories. Come back next month when we make the case for Igor Karkaroff.