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Was Hermione too harsh on Marietta Edgecombe?

Cho Chang’s best mate broke a golden rule of Dumbledore’s Army: telling people about it. But was Hermione’s punishment for Marietta too much?

Illustration of Marietta Edgecombe from the Dumbledore's Army infographic
Marietta Edgecombe. © JKR/Pottermore Ltd.™ Warner Bros.

‘She’s a lovely person really. She just made a mistake.’ – Cho Chang

From the moment Marietta Edgecombe reluctantly scrawled her name on the list for Dumbledore’s Army in the Hog’s Head, the young Ravenclaw’s destiny was sealed. Six months and several training sessions in the Room of Requirement later, she was standing in Dolores Umbridge’s office ratting out her fellow students for being in Dumbledore’s Army.

What she hadn’t bargained for was the hex Hermione Granger had cast on the very sign-up sheet itself, designed so that anybody who betrayed the trust of the Army would immediately break out in painful, ugly spots on their face, aptly spelling out the word ‘SNEAK’. 

So strong was the hex that the pustules remained unsightly for some time afterwards (we’re actually not sure they ever entirely faded). Indeed, the considerable spell-casting prowess of both Dolores Umbridge and Madam Poppy Pomfrey in the hospital wing was unable to undo it.

The life-changing ramifications of the hex, and its associated reputational damage, were incalculable, and it could certainly be argued that Hermione went too far. Sure, Marietta made an error that could’ve expelled various students, but did she deserve a permanent punishment in return? Or was it wrong of Hermione not to at least warn the D.A. members that this could happen? Here are the arguments for and against her actions.

For

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

‘She should have told us she’d jinxed that list…’ Cho told Harry after Marietta’s unfortunate situation. But should Hermione have? Sure, Marietta may have been less inclined to open her mouth, but would it have hindered a trust circle within the D.A. if they all knew there was a threat hanging over all of them?

This was an important society to teach the Hogwarts students how to protect themselves – perhaps Hermione’s warning of permanent scarring would have put people off even joining. Maybe there would’ve been too much paranoia if people knew about the potential punishment.

As for Marietta Edgecombe, it does seem pretty clear Marietta lacked the sort of basic intellectual curiosity which would have made her a useful member of Dumbledore’s Army in the first place. She didn’t even take the opportunity to learn how to cast the Patronus spell when it was offered. It seemed counter-productive she even joined in the first place. In all honestly, she only seemed to join up because her friend Cho was a member.

Part of the reason for Marietta’s betrayal was surely family loyalty. Marietta’s mother was a Ministry of Magic employee after all, working in the Floo Network office at the Department of Magical Transportation. Dumbledore’s Army existed chiefly because the Ministry, in the unlovely, squat form of Dolores Umbridge, had taken over Hogwarts, so Marietta’s loyalty to her friends was in direct conflict with the wishes, and best interests, of her own flesh and blood. 

However, this rationale doesn’t stand up to too much scrutiny. Ron Weasley was a far more prominent member of the Army, and his father was also a long-standing Ministry employee.

Surely Marietta knew just how damaging it would be to tell all about the secret society? Surely she didn’t see Professor Umbridge and think, ‘She seems like a reasonable lady?’

If students could suddenly be expelled for just being seen with a copy of The Quibbler, Marietta knew that blabbing about the D.A. would lead to the expulsion of many of her classmates – including her supposed best friend, Cho Chang. Maybe Hermione’s ‘SNEAK’ scarring taught Marietta a valuable lesson that she would never have learned otherwise? Maybe Marietta would’ve betrayed other people in other times in her life. This wasn’t just any old secret: revealing the D.A. ruined all of Harry’s hard work teaching his friends to defend themselves. Without the D.A., Marietta put everyone in serious danger.

Against

Cho Chang holding out her wand from the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Yes, Marietta did a bad thing – but it seemed to have been born out of fear rather than malice. And, as we mentioned, Marietta was certainly not immune to peer pressure. She wouldn’t have even been in the D.A. without Cho Chang, after all, so we always knew she was a bit of a sheep. And with a big scary headmistress such as Dolores Umbridge asking you questions, it’s not entirely unreasonable to expect that Marietta would’ve spilled the beans under pressure.

Let’s also not forget that Marietta backtracked when questioned for the second time. Once the jinx on her face was activated, Marietta all of a sudden became awfully shy on the matter of the D.A. when quizzed by Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore and other Hogwarts staff. At the very least, at this point, Marietta had learned her lesson. Perhaps Hermione could’ve lifted the jinx for her attempt at redemption?

When Dumbledore said it was a ‘mistake’ to invite Miss Edgecombe, she fervently nodded in agreement. We all make mistakes, and even though this was a pretty big one, was it still right for Hermione to punish her?

Marietta Edgecombe was certainly not wicked, or twisted, or even worthy of the vitriol – and long-lasting scarring – she received as comeuppance. She’d suffered enough. Let the take-home message for Marietta be to never to bow to peer pressure – and for Cho Chang to never try to force a friend into a situation they’re uncomfortable with. Nothing good will come of it.

So, what do you think?

Dumbledore escapes from Professor Umbridge and Cornelius Fudge.
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.