From the moment we first met Hermione we knew all about her relationship with school rules. One of the first things she ever talked to Ron and Harry about was getting changed into their Hogwarts robes. What can we say? Hermione loved not getting expelled.
Except for these times, however, when she threw the rulebook aside for the sake of her friends or saving the wizarding world...
After that incident with a troll, Hermione’s rule-breaking stepped up a gear in the first book – using her bluebell flames against Snape and helping to get rid of Norbert the dragon, for example – but it was when Harry persuaded her and Ron to help rescue the Philosopher’s Stone that she began to appreciate rules were not always great.
She didn’t enjoy cursing Neville or facing McGonagall’s giant chess set, but she did both because she knew that helping Harry was more important. And she seemed to enjoy the chance to use her brain in situations of great danger: saving Ron and Harry from Devil’s Snare and facing Snape’s Potions riddle with a calmness Dumbledore later praised. Sometimes, at Hogwarts, good behaviour didn’t necessarily mean doing the obvious thing.
Okay, there was a minor error in execution, but Hermione turning into a human version of Millicent Bulstrode’s feline friend was not the fault of the Polyjuice Potion she so expertly masterminded. Breaking ‘about fifty school rules’ was a price she was willing to pay to help figure out why Squibs and Muggle-borns were being attacked at Hogwarts – an early example of Hermione working to her own moral code at least as much as the established rules:
‘I don’t want to break rules, you know. I think threatening Muggle-borns is far worse than brewing up a difficult potion.’
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Hermione was keen to do something, and brewing Polyjuice Potion gave her a focus. As a Muggle-born herself she must have felt a particular sense of urgency around the Chamber of Secrets – which is maybe why she insisted on stealing the ingredients and focused her energies on brewing the potion.
Hermione spent most of Prisoner of Azkaban secretly breaking one of the most important laws of the wizarding world, just so that she could attend more classes. The fact that she was granted a Time-Turner at all shows how much her teachers thought of her, which must have provided a bit of a boost despite her punishing timetable. She was quick to break that law even further when Dumbledore suggested she use the Time-Turner to rescue Buckbeak and Sirius – again, because she knew that not breaking it would be far worse.
After Hermione worked out that Rita Skeeter was using her ability as an unregistered Animagus to eavesdrop on secret conversations and talk to informants, she was happy to capture Rita in beetle form after spotting her spying on Harry in hospital following those post-Triwizard-final events. Still, Rita might have been breaking the law, but by imprisoning her rather than going to the authorities, Hermione wasn’t exactly following it to the letter. She was happy to do it, though, to stop Rita writing more biased coverage.
The organisation that became Dumbledore’s Army was all Hermione’s idea. Persuading Harry to teach them, organising the first meeting, creating a secret method of communication and hexing the paper her fellow students signed without telling them – setting up this group necessitated breaking several rules and Educational Decrees. She did it all with Hermione-like focus. After all, how did breaking a few unnecessary Educational Decrees compare with learning how to beat Voldemort?
Hermione took part in a couple of break-ins at the Ministry of Magic – again with a specific goal in mind, whether helping a mistaken Harry rescue Sirius or stealing back the Horcrux taken by Umbridge. It’s probably fair to say she wouldn’t have chosen to take part in such activities had she not seen the necessity, but there had to have been a small part of Hermione that enjoyed getting one over on Umbridge.
Breaking into Gringotts was even more audacious, given it involved impersonating Bellatrix Lestrange, stealing a Horcrux and smashing up the building by leaving on a dragon. The Hermione who crossly told Ron and Harry ‘we could all have been killed – or worse, expelled’ in the first year would have been horrified, but by this point Hermione was far past caring. On the run, having failed to register as Muggle-born, subjected to torture at Malfoy Manor… Hermione knew that wizarding law was so corrupt she was duty-bound to break it, even if it meant breaking into a bank. By Deathly Hallows, Hermione was a card-carrying rule-breaker and she didn’t care.
For someone so initially hard-line, Hermione broke the rules a lot. We haven’t even mentioned her Confunding McLaggen or punching Malfoy. While she may not have admitted to having enjoyed either of those bouts of rule-breaking, let us just say we did. You go, Hermione.