It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love Harry Potter. The books were a huge part of my adolescence and I have wonderful memories of book release parties and midnight premiers that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Hermione is probably my favorite character and the one I relate to most. However, that does not mean she is all knowing or good at everything. And she is clearly very insecure when it comes to a subject she doesn’t find easy, like Divination.
As readers, we were used to Harry and Ron not paying attention in class, and ignoring professors they don’t like. Hermione on the other hand, even respects Snape in spite of the horrible way he treats the majority of his students. During the first two books, she believes that someone being a Professor at Hogwarts means that they are worthy of respect. Her feelings and subsequent treatment of Sybil Trelawney, Professor of Divination, show that even the most educated and informed of us have our insecurities and prejudice.
Yes, I am saying that Hermione Granger, the girl who understands what it’s like to be a victim of prejudice as a Muggleborn Witch, and who is also willing to stand up for the rights of Houseelves and other marginalized groups of people and creatures in the Wizarding world, is prejudiced. Her prejudice is brought on by insecurities and her inability to accept that she isn’t good at everything. It’s something a lot of smart kids have trouble with.
At the end of the day, the reason Hermione scoffs at Divination is because it is not something that is easy for her to grasp like other forms of magic have been. Her strong dislike of Divination reminds me of my strong dislike of Math as a kid-it was the one subject that didn’t come easily to me. Hermione doesn’t know how to handle not being good at something. When she realizes that this is a subject she can’t learn simply by “swallowing the textbook,” she decides it’s a waste of time and useless. She also gets very defensive when called out about it. Even Ron, arguably the worst student of the three, tells her she just doesn’t like being bad at something.
Unfortunately, some readers do not always deduce that this a flaw on Hermione’s part, and does not mean that Divination is wrong or useless. In fact, in studying Witchcraft, one of the first things I learned was that books could only take me so far, and I’d have to go beyond the knowledge of the books to truly immerse myself in it. This doesn’t just apply to Divination, it applies to every aspect of Magic. If all you can do is regurgitate lines from a book, you’re not truly practicing Magic. But, many readers who love Hermione may take her opinions at face value, and not consider that she is insecure about a subject she can’t easily master. It’s also interesting to note that she absolutely loves Arithmancy (also known as Numerology) and Ancient Runes, both of which are other forms of fortune telling. In my own studies, those are simply other forms of Divination that are not necessarily any better than Tarot and Tea Leaves. They are more tangible in the sense that there are things you can memorize and see, but of essence they have a very similar function.
Now this is a little different in the world J.K. Rowling created. One can learn many aspects of magic out of books, at least to start. Although in Book Five it’s actually made clear that practice is just as important as theory, if not more. Hermione grows a lot in the later books in the sense that she learns it’s okay to break the rules and that practice is just as important as book knowledge. However even after it’s proven that Professor Trelawney is actually a true Seer, Hermione still scoffs at her and Divination practices. But this is just more proof that Hermione is only human and while very smart, does not know the end all be all of magic.