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I am currently re-reading HP series, and there was one question that kept bugging me.

Was there any significance to introducing the character of Romilda Vane so late in the book?

Let me explain why I ask such a question. There were a lot of minor characters introduced in the series, but I felt like all of them had some meaning in their introduction (Crabbe/Goyle to highlight Draco's character, Dennis Crivey - give some character to some of the DA people, etc.) Even new Quiddich players that were introduced in HBP were to show the future Gryffindor team, how Harry managed as a captain, etc.

However, no matter how hard I thought, I could not find the slightest significance of Romilda's character; what's more she could've been easily replaced with some other minor character who was already introduced to the series - which brings us back to my question of why she even needed to be introduced into the series.

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    That's life, I guess. Not everyone you meet is significant. – Adamant Aug 3 '17 at 3:41
  • But that said, perhaps she was there to give Harry some love-potion-tainted chocolates, so that Ron would get poisoned and break up with Lavender? Or alternately, to tie into Malfoy's assassination attempts? – Adamant Aug 3 '17 at 3:43
  • @Adamant I agree, but I was thinking more from the writing point of view. I simply cannot find any meaning of her introduction in the book. Her biggest achievement was getting Ron potioned, but that easily could've been done by any other minor girl that was already introduced. I find it hard to believe a new character would be introduced so late just for this sole purpose. – Vadzim Savenok Aug 3 '17 at 3:45
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    Maybe Rowling didn't want any of the established characters to do something so unpleasant? – Adamant Aug 3 '17 at 4:11
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    Possibly worth mentioning that, as ever, the movies changed something for no reason. In this case, it was changing Romilda from a 4th Year student to a 6th Year student, so in the HBP movie, she's not only a random new student we've never seen before, but we're supposed to believe she's a random new student who's been sleeping in the same dormitory as Hermione the whole time. – DisturbedNeo Aug 3 '17 at 8:45
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She's an everyman who shows how the other students view Harry and a potential love foil.

Romilda serves a variety of functions in the plot of Half-Blood Prince.

  • She demonstrates that Harry is now more popular and attractive than ever before. Harry is now not only an A-list celebrity and a Quidditch star but also a long-suffering hero and a looker.

    "I dunno why the Quidditch team's this popular all of a sudden."
    "Oh, come on, Harry," said Hermione, suddenly impatient. "It's not Quidditch that's popular, it's you! You've never been more interesting and, frankly, you've never been more fanciable."
    Ron gagged on a large piece of kipper. Hermione spared him one look of disdain before turning back to Harry.
    "Everyone knows you've been telling the truth now, don't they? The whole wizarding world has had to admit that you were right about Voldemort being back and that you really have fought him twice in the last two years and escaped both times. And now they're calling you the 'Chosen One' - well, come on, can't you see why people are fascinated by you?"
    [...]
    "And it doesn't hurt that you've grown about a foot over the summer, either," Hermione finished, ignoring Ron.
    (Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 11, Hermione's Helping Hand).

    Romlida helps to characterise these attitudes amongst the rest of the Hogwarts students. She's a kind of representative, not just for her group of gaggling girls, but for Hogwarts students more generally. Other students are finding Harry more fascinating and alluring than ever before, so Romilda acts that way as well.

  • She's a fake who serves as a comparison to Harry's true friends.

    "Hi, Harry, I'm Romilda, Romilda Vane," she said loudly and confidently. "Why don't you join us in our compartment? You don't have to sit with them," she added in a stage whisper, indicating Neville's bottom, which was sticking out from under the seat again as he groped around for Trevor, and Luna, who was now wearing her free Spectrespecs, which gave her the look of a demented, multicoloured owl.
    "They're friends of mine," said Harry coldly.
    "Oh," said the girl, looking surprised. "Oh. OK."
    And she withdrew, sliding the door closed behind her.
    "People expect you to have cooler friends than us," said Luna, once again displaying her knack for embarrassing honesty.
    "You are cool," said Harry shortly. "None of them was at the Ministry. They didn't fight with me."
    (Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 7, The Slug Club).

    Once again, Romilda typifies the level of fascination that other students have with the 'Chosen One'. She is also used by Rowling to demonstrate how much Neville and Luna mean to Harry. We see what he values in his friends - and that he is a lot more mature than a year earlier, when he couldn't stand to be seen with Neville and Luna because of Cho.

  • She serves as a love foil to Ginny. As Harry's own feelings for Ginny begin to blossom we see how different Romilda is to Ginny. Just as she was earlier a contrast to Neville and Luna, now she's a contrast to Ginny. Romilda is everything that Harry would look to avoid in a girl - someone who's vain (clue's in the name), insincere, and only interested in Harry because he's famous. She even sinks to the level of using Love Potions.

    "I'm talking about earlier. I went into the girls' bathroom just before I came in here and there were about a dozen girls in there, including that Romilda Vane, trying to decide how to slip you a love potion."
    [...]
    "Well, just be careful what you drink, because Romilda Vane looked like she meant business," said Hermione grimly.
    (Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 15, The Unbreakable Vow).

    This shows the qualities that Harry does not value in a partner (since he spends the whole book avoiding her). If anything, Romilda intensifies Harry's interest in Ginny; "thank goodness I know a girl who isn't like Romilda Vane," he thinks. It also shows that Harry is into girls now and that they are into him. Romilda's presence advances the romantic subplot.

    (By the way, in the films, Harry finds Romilda considerably less annoying and even seems to rather enjoy the attention.)

  • Her Love Potion advances the book's main plot, which is Draco's mission to kill Dumbledore. Ron ends up eating some chocolates laced with Love Potion, which were given for Harry by Romilda. These chocolates end up leading Ron and Harry down to Slughorn's office, where they sample some of Slughorn's mead. The mead has been indirectly poisoned by Draco, meaning that Ron almost dies. This changes the relationships between Harry and Slughorn, between Ron and Lavender and between Ron and Hermione. It also gives the reader another clue that a wannabe assassin is at Hogwarts that year. All of this couldn't have happened if it wasn't for Romilda's chocolates.

As to the broader question of Romilda's significance: no, she isn't significant in comparison to the other characters. She doesn't come charging in during the final battle with the Sceptre of Destiny that's the key to destroying Voldemort. She wasn't marked out for great things in the wider narrative. But then neither were Cormac MacLaggen, Wilkie Twycross, Leanne, Mrs Cole or any of the other characters that are introduced in this book - or the ones mentioned in the question. She simply serves her function within the narrative without needing to have any greater significance.

Why not have Hannah Abbott or some other character which has already been introduced to us play Romilda's part instead? I don't think there's any especial reason. Rowling needed a character like Vane and it was easier for her to create a new character from scratch rather coopting one which she'd already created.

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Romilda's appearance out of nowhere is significant; it shows someone who has evidently never shown the slightest interest in him suddenly trying to get his attention, because he is now 'interesting'. The fact that she's never been mentioned before is simply to show that this is somebody who has never tried to get to know Harry, and likewise he's never had any interest in being her friend either. Harry tends to get irritated when people notice him just because of his fame.

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    Can you provide quotes from the stories to support your answer. That would make your answer much better. :-) – RichS Aug 3 '17 at 8:42
  • Very good point. – user68762 Aug 4 '17 at 9:53
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Ron being given a love potion is the catalyst to realizing the plot to poison Dumbledore.

Harry having to take Ron to Slughorn because of the love potion was the reason Slughorn shared the wine that ended up being poisoned as an attempt to kill Dumbledore. The encounter with Romilda set that up so Slughorn would have a reason to share his wine with them.

We also learn Merope Riddle used a love potion, and this gives us a firsthand look at one.

Before Romilda tried to use the love potion on Harry, love potions are mentioned a few times before. Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes sells them, Slughorn shows them to his class, but the most significant is that the Dark Lord's mother used love potions on his father to get him to show interest in her.

“Can you not think of any measure Merope could have taken to make Tom Riddle forget his Muggle companion, and fall in love with her instead?’

‘The Imperius Curse?’ Harry suggested. ‘Or a love potion?’

‘Very good. Personally, I am inclined to think that she used a love potion.” - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 7 (The House of Gaunt)

The only reason she was able to have Tom was because she used the love potion on his father, but as soon as she stopped, his father left because he didn't actually want to be with her.

“You see, within a few months of their runaway marriage, Tom Riddle reappeared at the manor house in Little Hangleton without his wife. The rumour flew around the neighbourhood that he was talking of being “hoodwinked” and “taken in”. What he meant, I am sure, is that he had been under an enchantment that had now lifted, though I daresay he did not dare use those precise words for fear of being thought insane.” - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 7 (The House of Gaunt)

However, we just hear about this through Dumbledore, and until Ron ends up getting the love potion Romilda meant for Harry, we don't truly get to see the devastating effects a love potion can have on someone. By having Ron under the effects of a love potion, we can see for ourselves how differently Ron acts while under it, and understand the Riddle situation better.

As for why it wasn't an existing minor character, there weren't any who'd plausibly work.

For something like giving Harry a love potion, it would be best to use someone who's basically a throwaway character, and certainly not someone we're supposed to like or trust. It wouldn't have really worked to use one of the girls on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, since after having someone use a love potion on him or Ron, neither him nor Ron would trust them much again. Lavender Brown was already dating Ron, and after the Yule Ball neither Patil twin would have really wanted to date Harry after that. It certainly couldn't have been a Slytherin girl like Pansy Parkinson or Millicent Bulstrode, since most of them actively hate Harry.

Romilda could have new interest in Harry because she's young and just getting into boys.

In addition, most of the other female minor characters are old enough where they've been around Harry long enough that they wouldn't hero worship him or suddenly develop a crush on him. It would be much odder for an older girl to develop a sudden intense interest in him than a younger girl who maybe only just developed an interest in dating and boys.

Romilda doesn't come entirely out of nowhere, her crush is shown before the love potion.

Romilda being interested in Harry was set up from the beginning of the books. She's first seen as the only fourth year in a group of girls who all like Harry who's brave enough to ask him to sit with them.

“You ask him!’

‘No, you!’

‘I’ll do it!’ And one of them, a bold-looking girl with large dark eyes, a prominent chin and long black hair, pushed her way through the door. ‘Hi, Harry, I’m Romilda, Romilda Vane,’ “she said loudly and confidently. - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 7 (The Slug Club)

Then she attended Quidditch practice, presumably just to get a look at Harry.

“The second group comprised ten of the silliest girls Harry had ever encountered, who, when he blew his whistle, merely fell about giggling and clutching each other. Romilda Vane was amongst them.” - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 11 (Hermione's Helping Hand)

She also tried getting Harry to go to Slughorn's Christmas ball without using any love potion first, but resorted to love potions after Harry showed no interest it her, not taking no for an answer.

“At last, he extricated himself from Romilda Vane, who was hinting heavily that she would like to go to Slughorn’s Christmas party with him.” - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 14 (Felix Felicis)

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    Sorry Bella, but this time around your Master outclassed you =P – Vadzim Savenok Aug 3 '17 at 19:58
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    @VadzimSavenok Man, we really need a user with a Dumbledore name or something. Competition amongst the Dark Side isn't good for business. ;) – The Dark Lord Aug 3 '17 at 20:06
  • @VadzimSavenok Yes he certainly did! :P – Bellatrix Aug 3 '17 at 20:15
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    @TheDarkLord You've just proven why you're the master and I'm only a lieutenant. ;) – Bellatrix Aug 3 '17 at 20:18
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This is definitely not her only significance, but she is probably most involved in the plot by giving Harry chocolate cauldrons spiked with love potion. Ron drinks her potions, they go to Slughorn to get Ron an antidote and also try to butter Slughorn up about the horcrux memory, Ron drinks the poison that was intended to go from Malfoy to Dumbledore, which also shows that Malfoy is becoming reckless and using Madam Rosmerta in his plans.

Romilda is sort of a trigger for those events more than an important player, but she also does help illustrate Harry's fame (mentioned above) and show how Harry, Ron, and Hermione's characters developing.

While Ron is under the effects of Romilda's love potion, it also stresses his diminishing relationship with Lavender. Ron tells Lavender on his way to Slughorn that he is going to meet Romilda. There is no explicit conversation in which Ron later explains to Lavender that he was never really interested in Romilda. Instead, he pretends to be asleep when she visits, showing that he was only infatuated with Lavender in the same way as he was temporarily infatuated with Romilda, whereas Hermione (to whom he does speak in the hospital wing) is his true and enduring love.

Again, she is more of a trigger than a continual player, but this is true of most of the characters. She does at least impact that plot and reveal main characters' motivations.

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