So, previously I’d written a post defending Cho Chang and stating that her character deserved better. I mentioned Marietta and her betrayal, because that storyline is pretty tightly woven with Cho’s arc. It got me thinking about Marietta’s punishment, and whether the punishment was fit for the crime.
Honestly, it’s kind of complicated. Let me first make one thing clear: I don’t like Marietta’s character, at all. (I like her character less than Ginny, and by now you all know that I really don’t like Ginny.) I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating here — I think Marietta Edgecombe is the Karen of the Harry Potter Series. I don’t agree with her decision to rat out Dumbledore’s Army. Nobody likes a sneak.
Here’s my argument on why the punishment was (at least mostly) justified:
Marietta’s actions really did endanger the students involved in the DA. They could all have gotten expelled, and when a student is expelled from Hogwarts, their wands are snapped and they’re barred from using magic for life. Marietta knew what she was doing when she went to Umbridge. She knew there was a good chance that she was helping to get those students — including her best friend, Cho! — expelled. Like, what is that? Marietta’s BEST FRIEND was in the DA, and she put her BEST FRIEND in that position too! Marietta honestly didn’t deserve Cho’s forgiveness, and she clearly wasn’t a true friend, or at least she didn’t have enough balls to put aside her own fears in the interest of protecting her friend, even if she may not have agreed with her friend being in the DA to begin with.
Traitors aren’t looked on too kindly in literature, including Harry Potter. In the Potter books, betrayal of friendships is about the worst crime you can commit. Peter Pettigrew is hated so fervently because he betrayed James and Lily to Voldemort. In Inferno — the final circle of hell is reserved specifically for traitors. In each of Satan’s mouths is Cassius, Brutus, and Judas — three of the most notorious traitors, each of them having betrayed a special kind of bond. Dante assigns betrayers of kin as the worst kind of criminal, the most worthy of the worst punishment. In the Bible — Judas betrayed Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver — and he’s basically the worst figure in history. Also in the Bible — Cain betrays his brother Abel, and is cursed to walk the earth indefinitely, bearing a mark. It could be argued that Marietta’s SNEAK pimples are meant to represent the Mark of Cain, which seems fitting, considering Marietta’s actions. Basically — betrayal is a grave crime in literature, and in life. Betrayal of friendships destroys trust, it can cause serious consequences, it hurts everyone involved. Betrayal is rightfully portrayed as a capital offense in literature, and in life, betrayal should be regarded in the same way.
Additionally, no one forced Marietta to rat out the DA. Marietta CHOSE to join the DA; she CHOSE to sign the DA member list. It doesn’t matter if Hermione jinxed the list — Marietta knew she was signing up to be a part of a secret society. She knew the risks associated with that. Nobody forced her to join. Even if Marietta didn’t feel great about joining, because of her family’s connection to the Ministry— she still made the choice on her own. She was equally free to walk out of the Hog’s Head that day, but she didn’t. Her actions, and the consequences that follow, fall squarely on her shoulders. And even her connection to the Ministry, and her parents’ advice to “stay on Umbridge’s good side.” Like, what good side? Marietta was a student at Hogwarts; she’d spent an entire academic year getting to know Umbridge. She personally witnessed the fact that Umbridge was a fucking psycho. HOW could she have thought, “Hmm, I’m going to tell this crazy person about a secret society, even though those are strictly forbidden — what’s the worst that could happen?” Like, surely she must have realized that ratting out the DA would have serious consequences, both for her and for the students in the DA.
HOWEVER. (Yes, there’s a “however.”)
I think traitors portrayed in literature — including Harry Potter, are portrayed as severely lacking in strength of character. They’re the easiest ones to turn; they’re the easiest ones to influence one way or another. Traitors in literature are sheep. They choose fear over friendship and loyalty. They’re self-serving, at the expense of people they consider friends. They can’t think for themselves; they’re easily swayed in the direction of self-interest. Traitors in literature are those people that listen to the voices of fear, they listen to the doubts and they let those voices overcloud the voices telling them to stand their ground and protect the ones they care about. Traitors lack resolve; their decisions change depending on what would keep them out of the line of fire. Peter Pettigrew, Judas Iscariot, Cain — they’re all like this, and Marietta is no different. In the books, she joins the DA for what reason? Because her best friend Cho joins. She doesn’t choose to join because she wants to be a part of the DA and she wants to learn defensive magic — she simply follows her friend. But she’s torn because her friend is doing one thing while parents are telling her to stay on Umbridge’s good side. We don’t know a lot about Marietta, but what we do see of her character tells us that she’s not someone who typically stands her ground; she’s not someone who makes decisions without the heavy influence of others. Of course she would cave eventually and rat out the DA — is anyone really surprised that this happened? I mean this was the plot twist that EVERYONE saw coming. This turn of events should surprise no one.
Having said this, perhaps Harry, Ron, and Hermione should have spent more time discussing not only the risks of joining this group, but also the responsibilities that came with joining. They knew that some people had reservations about joining the group — they knew Marietta didn’t truly want to be part of the DA, that she was just there because of Cho. They knew that there were people in the group who were potential loose cannons. They should have taken proactive measures to protect the group from potential traitors — rather than simply punishing traitors after the fact. They should have asserted that if you join, that’s it. Once you’re in, there’s no backing out. There’s no turning around and selling out the other members. You’re bound in secrecy, and even if you stop attending DA practice, you still don’t get to tell other people about the DA. Once you sign the member list, you have to uphold the secrecy of the organization. THAT was something the Golden Trio should have made abundantly clear.
Hermione’s spell, while brilliant in a really twisted way, doesn’t actually protect the DA. For starters, outside of Harry and Ron, nobody even knows that the list is jinxed until someone actually does betray the DA. There’s a difference between protecting the group from the consequences of a rat, and simply taking petty revenge on a rat. Hermione’s spell was the latter. I think Hermione should have done some kind of spell inoculating the DA from some of the more severe consequences of a potential betrayal. Maybe a tongue-twisting spell every time someone tried to speak of the DA to a teacher, so that they couldn’t actually rat out the group? Idk. Hermione’s a freaking genius, she could have figured out something clever. She’s smart and insightful, far beyond her years, so I am a bit surprised that she didn’t do something to prevent someone from actually ratting out the DA — that seems like something well within her thought process and well within her abilities.
I’m not trying to justify or defend traitors. But, traitors are everywhere, and it’s important to take steps to protect oneself. You can’t simply punish traitors, especially if they’re people you’ve suspected would likely be traitor at some point. People like Marietta, like Pettigrew — those are characters we know are sheep; we know that they’re easily influenced; we know that they could be loose cannons. Part of defending yourself against people who betray you is by not letting those types of people into your circle, to begin with. It’s having enough foresight to choose who to trust, and to choose thoughtfully.
The other side to the question of whether the punishment fits the crime — should we, as the betrayed, show mercy to those who betray us? That’s the other part of whether Marietta’s punishment was warranted. Did she deserve to have her face scarred for years — long after she even graduated from Hogwarts?
I think this answer changes depending on the person, and how the person is feeling. If the sting of betrayal is fresh, the answer might be yes. If the person has maybe had some more time to distance themselves from this, the answer might be different. For what it’s worth, Harry showed mercy to Pettigrew. He didn’t want his father’s friends, Sirius and Remus, to essentially become someone like Pettigrew. Revenge feels good, but it does nothing to rectify the actual situation. So having that curse put on Marietta as punishment for her actions might feel good, it might lessen the sting of her betrayal — but it does nothing to fix the actual betrayal. It does nothing to help the other students who got affected by the betrayal. Would it make Marietta think twice the next time she chose to rat someone out? Well — does beating a child teach them to fix whatever behavior warranted the beating? (FYI — no behavior warrants a beating, ever). Any kind of cruel punishment doesn’t fix the mindset that causes the behavior — it just results in bitterness, resentment, and perhaps more secrecy. So I can’t entirely say whether Marietta learned her lesson — but what’s more likely is that Marietta just learned to resent Hermione Granger.
I don’t know if Marietta deserved to be scarred for however many years that curse was active. I know that betrayal is horrendous, and so on that front, betrayal does warrant something. But at the same time, an eye for an eye hurts both people. Exacting punishment on the betrayer also hurts the betrayed. Hermione has to live with the fact that she also affected Marietta’s life in a negative way. So, for the sake of the betrayed, I still say that mercy, but never forgetting, is the hardest, yet probably best, decision. Have mercy, but proceed with caution in the future and never forget.