It’s been a really long while since I’ve come to this place to share my insights. But I thought I’d go ahead and respond to J.K. Rowling’s most recent postmortem on the life of Harry Potter, from an upcoming interview in the magazine Wonderland:
I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment…That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literatureand far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.
Also, according to this (irritating, wannabe-sort-of-feminist-sometimes) article at Forbes (which ignores every shortcoming of Ron Weasley ever in favor of characterizing him as a “goofy sidekick to a brooding superhero”) Emma Watson even agrees with Rowling, wondering if “Ron would have really been able to make [Hermione] happy.” So I’m going to resist the impulse to go back and reread all the books and rewatch all the movies in a massive, time-consuming effort to collect all the evidence necessary to prove my point. My husband has assured me that that would be insane. So, instead of the 15,000 word essay I was going to write on the non-believability of a Ron-and-Hermione relationship, here’s my…5,000 word essay on the non-believability of a Ron-and-Hermione relationship! Haha. I swear it reads fast, and if you’ve read Harry Potter, maybe you’ll find some of it interesting. Then again, I flatter myself. In any case, I’m very interested in peoples’ opinions on this, as obviously, Harry Potter fandom runs deep.
A Little Context: The Hero’s Journey
So let me start by staying that I always thought Hermione was meant to be with Harry, okay? There’s my bias, and none of this is new. Hermione, like Harry’s mother, is a muggle-born, which puts her at the heart of Voldemort’s genocidal agenda and aligns her with Harry in ways Ron, in all of his doltish self-centeredness, could never hope to understand. Hermione is an extraordinary witch, Harry’s equal, paramount to each of his many victories (and, not coincidentally, to Ron’s continued survival). She is, essentially, a hero on her own journey, and it’s my personal opinion that heroes and champions can only ever be satisfied when loving other heroes and champions. There, I said it.
Now here’s where I bring up the problems with a girl on a hero’s journey: at some point, the expectation is that the woman falls in love and subsequently gives up her warrior status to serve a man (ie: every Disney Princess ever). Buffy Summers and Katniss Everdeen are popular foils to this–both of them experience a life-changing love, but neither is willing (or able) to bend their duties into a shape that will fit a life in which love is possible. So after all of their trials and tribulations, they ultimately end up alone.
What we have here is a polarization of the female hero: she can either give up her larger purpose for love, or she can give up love for some larger purpose. She cannot “have it all.” A typical conundrum of the “Sex and the City” generation: one that operates on the assumption that a woman’s life revolves around the love of a man, whether she has it or not. Of course, there are heroines who get to both kick ass and fall in love: Lois Lane, Cordelia Chase, Willow Rosenberg–all of them supporting characters, like Hermione. It seems that, as long as they don’t have to carry the world on their shoulders (and have only pledged to help the one who does), girls are able to succeed both in love and on the battlefield, at least for a little while, and only if by choice. Of course, the moment Cordelia ascends to become a higher power (Angel episode 4.22, “Tomorrow”) is the moment she must choose between love (for Angel) and godliness (she chooses godliness), and, similarly, the love of Willow’s life (Tara) is killed, probably as karmic backlash for her dangerous forays into the powers of black magic, turning Willow into one of the most powerful (and f#cking evil) witches in the world. So…maybe, I guess, it’s just a curse. Girls, we cannot be both powerful and happily in love. Though, I’m not sure boys can either. I’m depressing myself. Anyway. What I’m saying is: We’ve got a problem with women on the hero’s journal. It’s a realistic problem, though. Or, at least more realistic than Hermione ending up with Ron.
Now, because she’s such a young and powerful witch, there’s no need for Hermione to end up with Harry OR Ron. In fact, in some ways, I’m stil rooting for Viktor Krum. But considering the fact that Hermione is, in many ways, a nurturer, as well as a sensitive female supporting character surrounded by boys in a series of novels that is exceptionally preoccupied with the power of love, I would be hard-pressed to peg Hermione as living a lonely life. Maybe it’s not perfect. But lonely? I just don’t see it.
The Singular Importance of Hermione Granger
The fact that Hermione is part of a support system to a character whose destiny is tied up in, not only her survival, but also the survival of the people she loves and the world she knows, is further proof that Hermione’s journey is at least partially by Harry’s side. Also, Hermione is characterized as a fierce friend. Again and again, Harry has asked Ron and Hermione to let him go it alone, to save themselves–especially toward the end of the series when stakes are extraordinarily high; however, they are very adamant about their place at his side. In The Deathly Hallows Hermione even alters the memories of her own parents to both protect them from the Death Eaters and ensure that they won’t try and stop her from doing what she has to do, which is go with Harry.
That said, Hermione displays extraordinary bravery and cleverness in the Harry Potter series, and at some point, she becomes more than simply a helper in Harry’s time of need. At some point, she becomes a weapon, as important to Harry in the Second Wizarding War as his own magic wand:
It is Hermione who, in The Chamber of Secrets, brews the Polyjuice Potion to gather evidence against Draco Malfoy, who they believe to be the heir of Slytherin. It is Hermione who uses the Time Turner in Prisoner of Azkaban to save both Sirius Black and Buckbeak the Hippogriff, as well as Hermione who helps Harry master the infamous Accio broom! charm during the first task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament in The Goblet of Fire. By The Order of the Phoenix, Hermione has become no less than a necessity to Harry’s continued success and, often, his survival. Her expertise is integral to the organization of Dumbledore’s Army, as Hermione’s advanced usage of the Protean Charm allows Harry to directly (and discretely) communicate meeting times with the rest of the group via enchanted coins, sort of like a text message. It is also Hermione who heals Ron after his unfortunate splinching in DH, Hermione who modifies the memories of two Death Eaters in order to maintain their cover at 12 Grimmauld Place, and Hermione who saves Harry from Nagini by using the Blasting Curse at Godric’s Hollow. So basically, without Hermione, we’d all be dead.
In fact, due to her incredible wits and resourcefulness, Hermione rarely finds herself in immediate and grave danger. It is not until she is detained and tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange at the Malfoy Manor in DH that we experience the true hopelessness that is a world without Hermione Granger. Despite her clever ploy to convince Griphook that the version of Godric Gryffindor’s sword they found was a fake, Hermione is still tortured with the Cruciatus Curse into unconsciousness. Listening to her screams, Ron is driven to tears, and he and Harry effectively give up hope. In terms of morale, this is a low point, perhaps the lowest of the series. Here we learn that, without Hermione, it takes no less than a deus ex machina to save the trio from their imminent deaths: For it’s Dobby who appears out of nowhere to do what he does best–help Harry Potter, and he dies shortly after aiding them in their escape. We all cried uncontrollably for days when this happened. It is a cruel, cruel world, especially when Hermione Granger is out of commission.
Such a beautiful place to be…with friends.
This, of course, does not even begin to touch on all of the emotional support that Hermione offers to Harry as the series progresses. It’s Hermione in whom Harry confides when he learns (erroneously) that Sirius Black betrayed his parents. In GoF, Hermione was, perhaps, the only student who stood by Harry’s side when he was accused of placing his own name into the Goblet of Fire. Even Ron had accused him of the act, exhibiting early signs of what would later grow into full blown resentment and jealousy. One of my favorite parts in the series occurs in DH when Hermione goes with Harry to Godric’s Hollow in search of Godric Gryffindor’s sword (after Ron leaves the group in jealousy). The two sit sweetly at the tombstones of Harry’s parents, and Hermione places her head on Harry’s shoulder and even conjures up roses from the soil on their graves. These small, sweet moments between Harry and Hermione, especially in the face of Ron’s frequent petulance, usually led me to believe that, despite her on-again-off-again tension with Ron, Hermione was ultimately drawn to Harry. They are thrown together far more frequently than she and Ron, or even Harry and Ron for that matter. Any time there’s difficult dirty work to be done–like saving Buckbeak or luring Umbridge into the Forbidden Forest–it’s Harry and Hermione at the helm. While I’m not sure I believe in fated love, I always found Hermione’s relationship with Harry to be far more convincing and complex than any single moment she spent with Ron.
But either way, I have always felt that that a grave injustice was done to Hermione Granger at the end of DH. Whether Hermione ends up with Harry or not (wishful thinking), I feel that Hermione’s heroics in the Harry Potter series are derailed when Hermione is relegated to the love interest of Harry’s jealous, emotionally constipated sidekick, Ron Weasley–all in the name of what Rowling now calls “wish fulfillment.” I was always disappointed, and now I’m vindicated, though sadly so.
And they haven’t invented a spell that our Hermione can’t do.
The Wrong Guy
Like Buffy Summers and Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger starts off as a bright and singular female in an otherwise mundane world: the sharpest in her class, wise beyond her years, and the product of unfortunate social circumstances. Hermione is a “mudblood”–muggle-born–which means that, as long as there are Death Eaters, she can never truly be one of the people she consorts with. She must always be on the defense, and she is familiar with adversity. This, she shares with Harry. It is a part of their bond. Being raised by muggles (also like Harry), she has always been a little bit different, fixed and sobered with a dual perspective on the world. For example, Hermione views Voldermort’s return not only for its impact on muggle-born witches and wizards, but for muggles themselves, who (as we see in the beginning of The Half-Blood Prince, the chapter called “The Other Minister”), are not equipped to handle an enemy who can conjure hurricanes and collapse bridges with the mere flick of a magical wand.
Hermione is also ostracized for being too smart, too serious for a girl. Hermione faces a number of double-standards in her young life–none of them imposed by Harry, though a great number imposed by Ron. In GoF, Ron tells Hermione that it’s “just sad” for a girl to show up to the Yule Ball without a date, but when she shows up with one (dreamboat of masculinity Viktor Krum, no less), she’s “fraternizing with the enemy.” Likewise, in OotP, when Ginny, during a heated spat, tells Ron that Hermione kissed Viktor Krum over the summer, Ron becomes increasingly cold and distant toward Hermione. Out of resentment, he starts dating Lavender Brown, who he squires around shamelessly, kisses publicly after Quidditch games, and essentially treats like shit. His actions make Hermione feel both guilty and confused–she knows she hasn’t done anything wrong by kissing Viktor, but she has feelings for Ron, and she feels bad for hurting him. Ultimately, Hermione forgives him, but this is where the books start to go wrong.
Ron, like a lot of teenage boys, is tragically insecure. Insecure boys don’t want girls who might someday thwart them, so they create certain insecurities in said girls to ensure that never happens. Ron makes Hermione feel inadequate (for “fraternizing with the enemy”) so that, even though she’s the one who got asked to the Ball, kissed, and crushed on by a super cool Champion (and he’s relegated to Patil sister #2), Hermione still feels rejected. Like he does. Jerk! So the question here is: Why is Hermione fraternizing with the enemy in the first place? And why would a girl of her mental prowess and stability still cling to Ron, despite his poor treatment of her and other girls like her, a la Lavender Brown? Certainly a girl like Hermione, someone who is so angered by the poor treatment of House Elves at the Quidditch World Cup that she founds her own support group (remember S.P.E.W.?), would not take this kind of behavior lightly.
But first, a lesson in inferiority complexes: from “Dawson’s Creek,” “Gilmore Girls,” and (of course) “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Pacey, feeling both mentally and morally inferior, sabotages his relationship with Joey in “Dawson’s Creek” season 4 after it looks like he won’t be getting into college after all. Dean, feeling both mentally and socioeconomically inferior, breaks up with Rory in “Gilmore Girls” season 5 after seeing her in a dress and a tiara at her grandparents’ huge and fancy house during an exclusive Yale alumni party. Meanwhile, Riley loses his superpowers in “Buffy” season 5 and experiences an inferiority complex so intense, he takes to (literal) suck-jobs by vampire sluts in the shadows, and then he leaves to rejoin the army where he can be a “super hero” once again. Hurray! The things that some boys will do to assert their manhood. And in the end, we’re left with heroines who feel inadequate, unable to make their relationships work. And they ARE unable to make their relationships work, but it’s not because they’re inadequate…
It’s because they’re choosing the wrong guys–guys who, in all of their inadequacy, make them feel inadequate for (drum roll) not being inadequate enough. It’s not that Pacey is, in the end, a total fuck-up, or that Dean, in the end, is a small potatoes divorcee with a history of neediness, or that Riley, in the end, is simply bonkers. No! JOEY is an uppity snob, too good for Capeside (and Pacey by extension); RORY is a poor little rich girl “slumming” it in Stars Hollow (and with Dean by extension); and BUFFY is, well, the Slayer–better than me AND you (and Riley by extension). That said, what do Pacey, Dean, and Riley all have in common? They’re all jealous types: jealous of their girlfriends’ academic achievements,their social graces, their many many suitors. For a while, they do a great job of acting proud, but when push comes to shove, they feel threatened, and so they lash out. Ron Weasley anyone?
So I can’t help but ask: Now that Hermione is married to Ron, is this her destiny? A lifetime of dumbing herself down to his level so that she may not disturb his fragile ego and (by extension) the equilibrium of their marriage? Certainly, this CANNOT be what J.K. Rowling had in mind for her beloved and essentially strong Hermione.
(At this point, I’m way too deep, and I’m just gonna keep going.)
The Importance of the Yule Ball
The conundrum: Rather than plant Ron with a big fuck you for the way he treated her at the Yule Ball and the months thereafter–which is what she should have done, and what, in almost every incarnation of Hermione I can think of (other than the one that plays out), she DOES do–Hermione keeps on chasing him (or letting him catch her?). But why? Why? Is it out of some ill-fated desire to prove (to herself) that she can be smart and successful AND “good enough” for Ron? That she can be Harry’s brave and heroic confidant, saving the world from evil assholes with wands, AND she can be sidekick-Ronald’s lady luck and emotional crutch? That she can have it all! Well, that’s preposterous, unless we’re talking daddy issues, and Freud, and let’s please not go that route. This is a total Buffy/Riley scenario, but Buffy and Riley broke up–a necessity if Buffy was going to move up and on to bigger and better things, ie: continue to ascend on her hero’s journey. But Hermione and Ron didn’t break up, and so Hermione’s journey is just sort of…halted. And most importantly: according to Rowling, the whole thing was a monumental mistake–a desire to stick to the story as it was originally conceived, one she ultimately regrets, one that, in my mind, hardly makes sense. It’s crazy.
Here’s what seems to have happened: Hermione became more of a hero in the Harry Potter series than anyone could have predicted. And rather than allow Hermione to develop into a full-blown hero, independent and self-assured, Rowling, out of self-proclaimed “wish-fulfillment,” relegated Hermione to “Ron’s love interest,” bending Hermione’s journey to fit that of the boys. She (unwittingly) turned the great and powerful Hermione Granger into a piece of furniture to be pushed back and forth across the room–the source of tension between Ron and Harry rather than the life-saving, evil-vanquishing genius that she is. So I totally believe and understand Rowling’s regret. In the end, Hermione is thwarted, stifled, her big moment reduced from what could have been a culmination of all her wisdom and heroics over the past seven books, to an ill-timed, totally anticlimactic kiss with jealous sidekick Ron Weasley. Come ON.
But let’s hold on a minute. I understand that, in the abstract, Hermione’s natural coupling might be with Ron–the underdog, the silent partner. Their relationship could be a constant, a force of good amidst all the Death-Eating bullshit and the end of the world. But this is assuming Ron pulls his own weight, and after he blows things so notoriously after the Yule Ball, the trajectories of these two characters change irreversibly. Ron becomes increasingly jealous and suspicious of Harry, and Harry finds himself relying more and more on both the emotional and intellectual support of Hermione. The dynamic seems to become: Harry wins battles with Hermione at his side while Ron watches, resentful, from the sidelines.
This post-Goblet trio dynamic is played out completely in DH, when Ron, due to an unfortunate splinching, is not only saved by Hermione’s abilities, but rendered a physical and mental invalid for quite a while. During his down time, Hermione tirelessly works to nurse him back to health, while simultaneously run ragged by Harry’s side, helping him search for the remaining horcruxes. She’s super woman! Times are incredibly tough. But once he’s back on his feet, Ron’s weakness is exploited by the horcrux around his neck (a la: Gollum), and he’s driven mad by jealousy, convinced Harry’s trying to steal “his girl.” He is so convinced, in fact, that he splits, leaving Harry and Hermione on their own. If this wasn’t the straw that broke the Hippograff’s back of the love story between Ron and Hermione…I don’t know what is.
You could definitely argue that Ron’s jealousy is purely a product of Salazar Slytherin’s locket. This could be true, though the locket seems to serve the purpose of some essential, manipulative evil, sort of like The First in “Buffy” or the demon in The Exorcist, or, you know, the ring in Lord of the Rings. This type of evil is evil, not because it fabricates fear from thin air, but because it awakens the fear that already exists within: it is able to sense and exploit our deepest fears–Ron’s, of course, being that, in Hermione’s eyes, he will never measure up to Harry. Of course, Ron is eventually able to overcome the grip of Slytherin’s locket and even to destroy it. This is a big moment for Ron. Of course, I feel that it comes too late–for Ron, Hermione, AND Harry. The locket, even after it’s destroyed, has damaged the integrity of their bond, left a fissure. At the very least, it is going to take a lot of time to make things right.
The Real Ron Weasley
Now I want to take a closer look at why, specifically, Hermione’s relationship with Ron would never work, and why Rowling’s regret comes as really no surprise:
Who is Ron Weasley? Ron Weasley: best friend of Harry Potter, poor (unimportant to Harry and Hermione, but important to Ron), haunted by fears of his own inadequacy, and plagued by the success of those around him. Even Neville Longbottom has a destiny! And a date for the Yule Ball. What does Ron Weasley have? Ron has dozens and dozens of siblings, all of whom seem to be markedly more interesting and talented than he is: Bill was headboy and marries Fleur Delacour; Charlie tames dragons; Percy earned twelve O.W.L.s; Fred and George are comic genius panty-droppers, not to mention entrepreneurs! Even little sister Ginny has her superbly mastered Bat Bogie hex. Plus, hey, she’s dating the Chosen One.
So what about Ron? Ron has ancient, hand-me-down dress robes with lacy lapels. Ron makes a fool out of himself in front of Fleur Delacour and relies on Harry to get him a date to the Yule Ball. Ron has one good Quidditch season under his belt, a season he wouldn’t have had at all if it weren’t for Hermione’s Confundus charm at try-outs and, thanks to Harry, a single (fake) dose of liquid luck in his morning pumpkin juice. Look, I’m not trying to be mean. I’m just stating the facts. If Ron was supposed to be the underdog, I mean, there you go. He is. Worst of all–most of these faults, Ron imposes on himself.
So what does Ron have? Well, according to Ron, not a whole lot. But his self-loathing is misguided and, I believe, a product of immaturity. Ron DOES have something. He has a lot. Ron has friends. Ron is a pure-blood wizard, guaranteed the love and support of a great big, bustling family, all of whom are heroic and awesome and happy and healthy–at least right up until the very end. Harry, on the other hand, has no family, was raised in a broom cupboard by distant relatives who hate him, and almost lost himself in front of the Mirror of Erised when he saw his parents standing in the mirror there with him. So, I’m sorry, when Ron, on more than one occasion, betrays Harry out of jealousy, or begrudges Harry the material things–like titles and money–he looks downright selfish. I guess I could lay off and just say, Hey, we can’t all be heroes. But instead, I just feel like Ron is super petulant. You don’t have to be a hero to do right by your friends.
Ron Weasley—being both pure-blood and remarkably ordinary—is never truly able to sympathize with Harry. This is obvious. For similar reasons, Ron could never really respect Hermione. He resents her intellect, as well as her relationships with boys who are not him. Ron is an average wizard, and he is not mentally prepared for what’s often demanded of him–whether it be run-of-the-mill maturity, or the unconditional support of his doomed best friend. I don’t think J.K. Rowling intended it so, but at some point, Ron Weasley is no longer just a sidekick. He’s far too jealous, far too quick to betray, and far too resentful. Ron is no Xander Harris. He doesn’t wear his mediocrity with pride, fully aware that SOMEONE has to be normal in this merry band of bright, shining stars. Ron is envious. He has been known to betray Harry and to judge Hermione to harmful double standards. Most importantly, Ron is too often blinded by Harry’s title—the Chosen One—and, as a result, begrudges Harry the material stuff: his fame and fortune, despite the fact that Harry’s fame and fortune have cost him his parents, Sirius Black, and all semblance of a safe and happy life. I think that, at first, we’re supposed to root for Ron. He’s the underdog! But at what point does his petulance and self-loathing become too much?
It’s About Equals.
“Buffy” aside: According to Spike in the episode As You Were (6.15), Buffy needs “some monster in her man” to keep her satisfied, which is his way of saying: Buffy will only truly be happy with an equal. Not a man she has to protect, or feel sorry for, or nurse and coddle. Not a man with whom she has to walk on egg shells, or a man she has to dumb herself down to please. She deserves a man with whom she can comfortably coexist. Somebody worthy. A champion.
Now let’s think about Hermione’s other major love interest, Viktor Krum: it’s precisely because of Hermione’s enormous intellect that Viktor Krum asks her to the Yule Ball. And who is Viktor Krum? He’s the Durmstrang champion of the Tri-Wizard Tournament and a professional Quidditch star. He is not threatened by Hermione’s intellect, because Viktor Krum is both comfortable in his masculinity and eager for stimulation beyond the hoards of tittering yes-girls who follow him around like puppy dogs. Hermione is not an easy solve. She is a challenge, because she values herself and her own purpose above the validation of men. She is unique. And Viktor Krum may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but he really likes Hermione. He might even love her. She’s the Thing He’d Miss the Most at the bottom of the Black Lake during the second task in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Plus, he challenges Hermione as well: to let down her guard, to try something new, to let someone else take the lead for once. These things are important for her growth as a character. It’s not until she realizes that Krum is somewhat needy, and that they have nothing in common, that she breaks off their relationship. Because if she needs to change to be with him, or feels stifled in any way, that might suggest that Hermione has the upperhand, or that she’s leading him on somehow, which she rejects. This is at least part of why her relationship with Ron is so baffling.
Because in the end, that Hermione would choose Ron is, like Rowling says, pure “wish-fulfillment.” Look, I’m not saying that strong, brave women don’t fall for ordinary men. I’m saying that strong, brave women don’t fall for jealous, petulant men who make them feel bad about their choices, mistaken or not. I also feel that Hermione could only love Ron in the way we love those we feel sorry for, or in the way we love those with whom we share unbreakable bonds. I do believe she feels sorry for Ron, and I believe that she feels bonded to him, as she does with Harry. Hermione is emotionally complex and extremely forgiving, and the three of them have been through a lot, but I don’t believe she loves Ron romantically, not after the way he’s treated her, and the way he’s treated Harry. So in the end, she’s been demoted. She becomes a woman willing to bend her journey to the will of a jealous and inferior man, and that’s just not Hermione. It’s not believable. It’s why Rory and Dean can’t make it work. It’s why Buffy can never truly love Riley. It’s why J.K. regrets her decision after all this time. It’s about equals.
All along, I was waiting for Hermione to choose her equal: Harry Potter. Then, when she didn’t, I saw Rowling desperately trying to fill in the gaps with “replacement” love interests for Harry, each of which is more boring and less believable than the next. Essentially, I feel that, by negating Harry his chance with Hermione, he becomes an uninteresting, somewhat unbelievable teenage boy. To be that close to her and not even think about it? Especially in DH after Ron peaces out, and Hermione’s sitting there, smelling good like girls do, with her head on your shoulder, conjuring roses from the soil of your dead parents’ graves…I’m shameless. But how they avoided at least some sort of grief-stricken, morally confusing make-out session is beyond me. Even taking into account Ron’s feelings for Hermione–I mean, it was the end of the world, life or death at any moment! Relationships have been ruined for far less. I mean, to write this scene: it’s such a lovely scene, and a fabulously organic moment. All roads lead to Harry. Neon signs. Flashing lights. One thousand glowing hinkypunks parading in the darkness.
(And spare me the whole feminist tirade about Why are men so morally depraved that they can’t have normal, platonic relationships with women they’re close to? Why can’t men and women just be friends? Because, well, they can’t. And it’s not just the dude’s fault. WTF? Watch When Harry Met Sally if you’re confused.)
Back to the Replacements: Rowling’s first replacement love interest for Harry is obviously Cho Chang–pretty, elusive Ravenclaw girl and Harry’s first real “crush,” beginning sometime around GoF. That a school boy would fall superficially for the charms of an older girl like Cho is not remarkable–unless he’s the fucking Chosen One. Harry’s relationship with Cho is confusing, if only because she is just so incredibly boring, especially when compared to the surrounding merchandise: by book 5, Rowling has colored her world with both Hermione Granger AND the supremely interesting Luna Lovegood, both of whom relate with Harry in small but important ways: Hermione, like Harry’s mother (and to some extent, Harry), is a muggle-born, meanwhile, Luna is one of the only other students at Hogwarts who can see the winged Thestrals–a consequence of having seen someone you love die. Both Hermione and Luna, at some point, have been alone with Harry during significant moments–many of them life or death. And yet–!
Cho Chang! He continues to pine for Cho Chang. Cho Chang, even after seeing Hermione look totally hot in her periwinkle robes at the Yule Ball. Cho Chang, who is so believably scarred by the death of her boyfriend Cedric Diggory in OotP that she can hardly look at Harry without bursting into tears. She and Harry have nothing in common. Cho is even a sub-par witch, if her performance in the D.A. meetings is any indication, and her friend is Marietta Edgecombe, the SNEAK who ratted out the D.A. to Dolores Umbridge. Marietta Edgecombe. Marietta Edgecombe!
FINALLY: Harry and Cho’s short, weird relationship comes to a halt when Harry refuses to talk with Cho about Cedric Diggory. They’re on a date at this point, and Cho expresses that she is, in fact, jealous of Hermione Granger–Harry’s true confidant:
Oh, you’ll talk to Hermione Granger! But you won’t talk to me! P-perhaps it would be best if we just…just p-paid and you went and met up with Hermione G-Granger, like you obviously want to!
It seems that everyone recognizes Harry’s connection with Hermione…except for Harry and Hermione. In any case, at least this whole Cho Chang thing is done. For the best, really.
Once Cho falls by the wayside, Rowling delivers up Harry’s next (and, I guess, permanent) love interest in the form of a new and improved Ginny Weasley. But here’s the rub: If ever there was a miniature, somewhat-less-objectionable version of Hermione Granger, Ginny’s it–clever, headstrong, heroic, but younger. More damsel in her distress. Sweeter, popular with the boys, less complicated, both more forgiving and forgivable. Oh, Ginny! Unlike Hermione, Ginny stands no chance of equaling Harry Potter. Ginny would instead be a convincing Girl Friday. But perhaps that’s what Harry really wants, you say? A Girl Friday.
But after everything, after all this shit, all this time he’s spent with Hermione in the trenches, drawing up battle plans and saving Hippogriffs and riding Thestrals and breaking into Gringotts and sleeping next to each other in tents in the middle of the woods with very little hope for survival–after all this shit…he can still relate to his Girl Friday? He has anything in common with her at all?
I’m reminded, for some reason, of Twister (RIP PSH) in which Bill, sexy storm chaser played by Bill Paxton, and Jo, sexy storm chaser played by Helen Hunt, reunite in the midst of a bitter divorce to chase down the storm of the century together. Bill brings his new girlfriend along–a pretty and super-duper nice, if slightly ditzy, antithesis to Jo, and at first, the two seem a-okay. But once it’s all over, something’s changed. Bill and Jo get back together. Because let’s face it: Once he’s been to the belly of the whale and back again with Jo, his equal and a fellow champion in the art of storm chasing, a guy like Bill isn’t going to go back to his Girl Friday. He’s just not. She might be nice, but she’ll never be enough. He knows it. She knows it. We all know it! So…
In the end, just like Cho Chang, Ginny seems to come out of left field–an interchangeable product of Rowling’s desperate need to provide her young characters with love interests amidst her continued forced coupling of Hermione and Ron. Hermione’s out of commission, and Harry’s gotta get someone! Hermione was a natural choice, Rowling knows this now, and sadly that path was never explored. Even if they didn’t end up getting married, that Harry didn’t even once consider Hermione (and vice versa) is less than believable. Therefore, I feel that in her desire to couple Ron and Hermione, Rowling not only (unwittingly) demoted Hermione from heroine to furniture, she also cast Harry as a shallow, awkward lover who seems to choose girls for convenience, and for superficial reasons beyond my understanding. I mean, I wonder if anyone will argue with me when I say that Harry’s scenes with Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley are among the least believable, least interesting, and least dynamic scenes in the entire series. Most of them are just plain awkward.
To be honest, when Harry didn’t end up with Hermione at the end of DH, I was pretty disappointed. I really didn’t give two shits about Ginny, and I know I’m not alone in finding her to be a lame-o add-on, a second thought–too little too late. I thought Ron’s splinching had to be the end of it, finally availing him of the truth about his situation: he is weak, and, if Hermione belongs with anyone, she belongs with Harry, a true champion. Or, she belongs on her own. But she does not belong with Ron. Perhaps this would have even helped Ron’s character grow–beyond the jealous best friend and out of Harry Potter’s shadow.
What’s crazy is that J.K. Rowling has even admitted to toying with the idea of killing Ron off. Looking back, that would have been brutal, but if any of them was going to die, it was going to be Ron. Ron is not only the least capable of the trio, but he’s also the most ripe for redemption. He could have gone down in a blaze of glory.
Alas, in another life, brother. I’ll have to stick with fan fiction for now.