The post-Potter world has been full of interesting revelations. This weekend, we got one more—in an interview with Emma Watson, J.K Rowling said that Hermione should have ended up with Harry. The full interview is slated to appear in the February 7th issue of Wonderland, an international magazine spotlighting visual culture. Watson is guest-editing.
To some, this condemnation of Ron/Hermione from an authoritative source is earth-shattering, and to them, I offer my sincerest condolences. Whatever Rowling may say, Ron/Hermione will live on, battered, perhaps, but still possessed of infinitely more legitimacy than was ever to be found in Neville/Draco, Sirius/Lupin, Luna/Neville, or many others among the fleets of wildly popular ships. Rowling’s confession is a blow to the idea of nice guys finishing first. Rowling’s logic, however, is sound—while circumstances may have drawn Ron and Hermione together, personality would surely have driven them apart.
For the young witch, battling bravely against the forces of evil in the Forest of Dean, Harry is the obvious Ron-alternative. He’s geographically compatible, philosophically aligned with the cause, and not prone to running off. But while these are ingredients for the sort of breathless, fugitive passion that warms a drafty tent in the damp, hungry nights of hiding . . . Hermione doesn’t belong with Harry either.
Harry’s a great guy. He’s athletic, kind to others, and a warrior for good. Hermione is literally the first girl he meets. Harry needs her desperately—she’s good in emergencies, adept in a variety of social situations, and has an incredible knack with charmed handbags. But Harry’s need for Hermione is more logistical than emotional. When he yearns, he yearns for Ginny. Hermione is often his last thought, the one he thinks shortly after noticing that he’s out of danger because the defensive spells are working. Harry does not love Hermione in that very special way. She deserves more than the half-hearted passion of a high-school hero who needs her help with concealing charms and first aid.
There is no universal law that states that an adolescent heroine must be in want of a lover. Jill Pole didn’t hook up with Eustace Scrubb. Katniss Everdeen finds Gale and Peeta an albatross around her neck. Arya Stark needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. It’s not truly necessary for Hermione to be paired off. But those other stories are not about love. The Harry Potter stories are about the power of love to overcome evil. So while Hermione doesn’t need someone, it does make sense that she would find someone to love deeply. Someone who admires and respects her. Someone who finds her inspiring.
And who would that be?
Neville. He’s a brilliant and talented herbologist who has fought more than his share of evil in dangerous and difficult circumstances. He knows his way around the Sword of Gryffindor. He knows the ins and outs of the wizarding community, and can negotiate with both its Muggle-friendly public face and the dark underbelly of its discrimination against Muggles and Squibs. Neville and Hermione are drawn together by their roles in the war against Voldemort, without the inconvenience of hours of arguments over tactics.
I’m sure Ron and Harry can find someone on the wizarding equivalent of OKCupid.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.