In my previous foray into this subject I looked at the deplorable way in which I formerly viewed Harry and Hermione’s friendship. Initially I had wondered why Harry and Hermione didn’t end up as a couple; after all, it seemed so perfect and natural. Instead, Hermione ends up with Ron the buffoon, and this by choice!
I eventually concluded that such a perception of the supposed “missing out” of Harry and Hermione’s friendship was misplaced and shallow, for it treated love as if it only has value in the romantic.
As I have thought about this a bit more (precipitated by watching the series again over the past few months or so), I decided it might be interesting to look at this same scenario, except from the other side; that of Hermione and Ron. Perhaps there is something else to be found that I was breathtakingly wrong about.
This particular match seems so mis-matched; from the get-go, Hermione seems- let’s be blunt- way out of Ron’s league. She is bright, hard-working and beautiful, more comfortable with books than with people. Ron, on the other hand, is of mediocre intellect, tries to get by on the least amount of effort, and often seems to exist only for comic relief.
While Harry doesn’t exactly exhibit Hermione type qualities (in that he isn’t exceptionally bright, hardworking or insightful), in contrast to Ron he seems to stand head and shoulders above. And- let’s be honest- there is kind of a long-running literary trope about the hero getting the girl.
Ron often seems a dull, bumbling character who is as likely to mess things up as assist, although he apparently (and inexplicably) is well-versed in wizard-muggle phylogeny and is able to defeat master wizard spells due to his exceptional prowess at wizard’s chess.
It had thus always perplexed me that Hermione has this strange attraction to him, and that they eventually end up marrying. Why?
It wasn’t until I started revisiting my own preconceptions about love and relationships that it started to make sense, and I eventually realized that my previous confusion was based upon an extremely shallow notion of love.
After all, one of the reasons we think Harry should end up with Hermione is that their relationship and character quality seem to check off the lists of things we romanticize about love. We look at how Hermione is beautiful, confident, intelligent, etc., and in her we see an idealized form. Harry has different qualities- he is the hero, is a powerful wizard without even trying, has superlative abilities (such as broom riding) and has that sort of devil-may-care attitude about him, even without a broken nose (despite Luna Lovegood’s assessment).
All of these things give us natural cause to not only think they should be together, but even further to want them to be. In comparison Ron seems second-rate, and it is easy to think that Hermione is settling for something less than she deserves.
But if we start to look deeper into the characters’ character, a different picture can begin to emerge.
Ron- for all his faults and bumbling and comic relief- is intensely loyal. Throughout the story his continually stands by Harry’s side in the midst of innumerable dangers, even though he realizes his skills are often not up to the task. His lapse in the Deathly Hallows brings his loyalty into starker relief, for the privation of his character that the Horcrux brings about is precisely to diminish his loyalty, the thing that characterizes him the most. It is perhaps telling that immediately after leaving the Horcrux behind he regrets his decision to leave, and after finding his way back is presented with the sword of Gryffindor, which appears in response to supreme loyalty.
In a similar manner Ron exhibits tremendous courage. To be sure, he often balks at rushing into dangerous situations, but when push comes to shove he is willing to throw caution to the wind and support the ones he loves as they often face down death. As with his loyalty, he knows that he is not a powerful wizard and is lacking in magical skills (and often in working magical equipment). Yet when Harry and Hermione decide to search for Horcruxes, he is willing to put his life on the line to help, for courage isn’t not being afraid, but is facing down fear in spite of it.
Ron is also content to not be in spotlight, but is willing to support his friends in the background. To be sure, it is not that he does not desire to be out in front- in the Mirror of Erised he sees himself lauded for his accomplishments and admired by his peers. But desires are not everything, and they do not define us. When it comes down to it, Ron consistently subsumes his own desires to the good of supporting his friends.
Ultimately, without Ron Harry Potter would be nothing. Harry discovers this time and time again as he is constantly in need of help, and feels it most painfully when he attempts to go it alone. For all of his power and his hero-ness, he would be less than he could have been without his closest friend who shares in it all with him, from the highs to the lows to the successes and the failures. Ron shows himself to be the type of man who for all his faults puts others before himself and stands by them no matter what, which is perhaps precisely why Hermione loves him.
So in spite of all the things about Ron that seem to make him seem like a less than ideal choice, it is the things about Ron that really matter that one has to look at. We do Hermione a disservice in thinking that she views him according to the things that we romanticize about love. Instead, she sees the character qualities in Ron that are things that love can hold on to; after all the others fade away with time, Ron’s character traits not only remain through all their experiences, but become purified and intensified.
The love that Harry and Hermione have for each other is real and it is pure as friendship love; it seeks the other’s good and is faithful through hardships and trials. It doesn’t require the addition of the romantic or the marital forms of love to make it good, nor is it diminished for being different.
Ron and Hermione’s love is equally real and equally pure, although manifested differently. Their love is not like Ron’s infatuation with Lavender or Hermione’s crush on Krum. Their feelings and desires, their affections and faithfulness ultimately have to reach down deep into each other’s soul, finding qualities that are substantial and lasting and more than just snogging.
Hermione can love Ron perhaps because she sees in him something that she longs for, someone who she knows will stand by her because he has proven it time and time again, and with each new adventure she discovers something deep inside of him that draws out the best in his friends and in herself, and ultimately forms the ground of the love that they share.
She can love Harry deeply as a friend, but only Ron will do for her husband, and in the end it’s not really hard to see why.