When Hermione had been little, a ‘witch’ to most around her had been someone who was old and hunch-backed and mean-faced and had warts. Who cackled while flying on a broomstick and stirred cauldrons filled with poison. Who owned a black cat. Who, if you believed the Brothers Grimm and Roald Dahl, might live in houses made of candy or charm herself to appear beautiful but whose passion it was to fatten and subsequently eat children.
Alternatively, it had been a woman drowned or burned at the stake for the crime of showing spirit, of being inconvenient, or simply ‘different’. Hermione, before receiving her Hogwarts letter, had had preciously few friends throughout the years mostly because her classmates had been repelled by her forthright nature and intelligence.
The letter in her hands, she’d been intrigued and excited and hungry for all the knowledge this new world could open up to her. For explanations and solutions for the strange phenomena that had periodically popped up in her life so far. Yet, for all that she tended to prioritize mind over appearance, entering Diagon Alley for the first time she had, admittedly, been leery of eventually turning into the ugly Muggle image of a witch herself.
Now, almost four years after she had discovered the Wizarding World, her truth looked different.
Children were coming to harm far more often than Hermione would like but as far as she knew cannibalism did not occur, even with the term “Death Eater” being a part of her world. Flying brooms were real, but using them was not a requirement and, moreover, any old broom wouldn’t do – broom manufacture was a craft, there were a myriad of complicated principles involved. Potions brewing was a science and an art form and could have effects that were deadly, harmful, unpleasant, inconsequential, useful, that provoked insights, healed, saved lives. The only hunch-backed witches Hermione had met or even read about were either suffering the after-effects of curses or were very old. There were witches who were one hundred and fifty and witches who were newborn but wouldn’t be called a ‘witch’ until their eleventh birthday.
Outside of various uniforms dependant on school or profession witches could dress however they wished and could make themselves thick or thin or small or tall as they wanted. As the Yule Ball and the surrounding gossip had shown, their appearance and fashion sense were certainly commented upon but ultimately, what was far more important about a witch was not how she looked like but what she could - and chose to – do.
Witches were regal like Minerva McGonagall and round and motherly like Molly Weasley, plain-faced like Penelope, athletic like Angelina. They could have warts, like Neville’s Gran, and were likely to be proud of them if they did, but they could also have faces that quite naturally defied all classification and turned boys silly, like Fleur. They had any hair colour known to humankind.
And some of them were book smart and brave and had a russet cat for a familiar and did at one point use magic to fix up their bushy hair and too long teeth, like Hermione.