JK Rowling and the Public Denouncement
Seven years after the release of the final book, Harry Potter‘s JK Rowling denounced the canon pairing of Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger in an interview conducted by the films’ own Hermione, Emma Watson. (Read Here or just Google it for fan reactions.)
Now, an author looking back over a body of work and wishing she’d done things differently definitely isn’t a problem, or even really newsworthy – there’s always that one scene, line, or decision you wish you’d handled differently, and I’ve written enough of my own fiction to know that a first try (or even a 10th) might still not end up being the story you’re trying to tell. What’s so strange in this case is that JK is basically stating that she wants to alter a major subplot that existed throughout the majority of the series.
Not having read the books in several years, I still clearly remember Ron’s jealousy over Victor Krum during the series’ 4th book. His hero-worship of the man was completely derailed by the realization that his Quidditch idol was pursuing a relationship with Hermione. While not largely affecting the main plot, it nonetheless was a significant story for both Hermione and Ron, as Ron failed to acknowledge why Hermione’s fledgling relationship bothered him, and Hermione became ever more frustrated with Ron’s denial. To have Harry pursue a relationship with Hermione after the events of this novel, even if she and Ron never actually dated, would have ended up seeming like a betrayal of their friendship and would have inevitably fractured the Trio’s bond, especially considering that Ron’s jealousy over Harry “getting everything” already being the character’s glaring weakness.
The books were threaded with hints of Ron and Hermione’s feelings for each other – from the obvious jealousies over Lavender and Cormic in The Half Blood Prince to the more subtle bickering over each others’ pets in The Prisoner of Azkaban (Ah, thirteen-year-old romantic tension). And while Harry would surely still have been upset with Ron’s departure in The Deathly Hollows, the sting of abandonment would hardly have been so sharp if it had meant he’d gotten to share a couple of months alone in a tent with his love interest. The story would have lost the significant feelings of isolation and despair, and turned into yet another teen romance novel.
And that’s another reason I stand firmly against the idea of Harry & Hermione: Harry Potter was never supposed to be another teen romance novel. There were crushes and relationships and breakups floating around in the background, of course, because it wouldn’t be realistic to have none, but Harry’s love interests in particular were kept to the sidelines for a reason. Lack of a central romance only strengthened the novels as a whole, allowing the plot to focus on themes of family, of loss, of good vs. evil, of Harry gaining and losing parental figures and learning how to be strong on his own. Harry getting awkward, jealous, and googly-eyed around Hermione would have brought the novel down thematically (remember how he got around Cho in fourth year? She only showed up a few times for a reason; we wouldn’t want our protagonist getting that way every time he had to ask for notes on a potions assignment). Not to mention that many of Harry’s troubles came about due to his feelings of isolation, even from friends who at times were more focused on each other.
What JK is suggesting when she denies the validity of the Hermione/Ron relationship is that she wishes she could rewrite at least half of her series, changing many side-plots, characters’ interactions, and basically their identities along the way. Harry and Hermione have always shared a very strong, sibling-esque relationship. They’re there for each other as a non-judging shoulder to lean on, they’re never jealous of each other, and are always very calm, sensible, and supportive of each others’ dreams, troubles, and romances. I suppose you could say that they’re a better match because of that easy relationship, but what it shows, honestly, is that they’re not interested in anything more from each other – they’re comfortable with each other and the current state of their relationship, and they want the other to find happiness with other people, not with each other. To build a Harry/Hermione romance into the story, JK would have had to write in a less supportive Hermione when it came to the entire Cho situation (or would have had to remove Cho altogether). One comparison I could make is to the Percy Jackson series of books – in which Percy, a seemingly average preteen, discovers he actually has magic powers, goes to a camp to learn how to use them, and enters into a 5-book-long romantically charged relationship with the curly-headed genius at the camp, Annabeth. I’ve always felt that their relationship is exactly what Harry and Hermione’s would have been if JK had decided to go the romance route with them: Annabeth, while smart and reasonable in many areas, becomes completely irrational and hostile whenever Percy starts talking to any girl other than herself (though she’ll never admit why). That’s not to say that all teens in love have to act exactly this way, but even an unconscious romantic interest would have led to some defensiveness on both Hermione and Harry’s parts when it came to other relationships, basically destroying the reason Harry and Hermione were so good for each other in the first place.
In addition, many of Ron’s plotlines would have to be nixed completely, making an already underutilized character a complete third wheel. The Golden Trio would basically transform into the Golden Duo With a Tagalong if Hermione and Harry became entangled in a romance.
Whether or not you agree that Ron and Hermione made a good match, it can’t be denied that their feelings for each other were already being alluded to at least as early as book 4, and to cut it out would be to change a large portion of the background plot-lines. “Well,” you say, “maybe they could have been interested in each other in school and eventually decided they were a poor match.” That’s a realistic possibility (though a thematically disappointing one after books of hints and build-up). But even then, to jump into a Harry/Hermione romance after years of Ron and Hermione dancing around each other would (I’ve got to say it) severely violate the Bro Code. It would be also come off as just another case of Ron “getting nothing” while Harry ends up with the girl, and would essentially destroy Ron’s relationship with them both (how do you hang out and act normal while your best friend ends up with your ex?) To set Harry and Hermione together at the last moment would have essentially been throwing poor Ron under the Knight bus with that crazy shrunken head behind the wheel.
Rowling is absolutely allowed her opinion, and so are all of her fans. But to me, the suggestion of a Harry/Hermione relationship basically pulls the rug out from under years of plotting and character development, belittles Ron’s worth as a character, and could only be pulled off in a very alternate universe were few of the secondary storylines even took place.
Share your thoughts on this news, positive or negative; I’d love to hear from both sides of the fence.