As much as it pains me to admit it, I actually find the Harry Potter series fairly entertaining. The movies, mind, you not the books, for the movies made almost every correct decision regarding what to keep, what to jettison (E.L.F., anyone?) and what to change (Hagrid explaining wizard phylogeny rather than the far more unlikely Ron).
Granted, the Harry-Hermione nearly nude scene was a little weird, but it got the point across.
However, for the longest time I wrestled with a question that probably many have similarly faced; namely, how in the dolorously magical strands of Merlin’s beard did Hermione end up with Ron?
It seems a fair question. Hermione is brilliant, a highly skilled witch and- we are led to believe- blessed with at least a modicum of attractiveness. Ron, on the other hand, is not brilliant, somewhat bumbling, and quite annoying at times. He probably gets a worse portrayal in the movies than the book, but the question nevertheless remains.
After all, Harry is the main character, and a wizard of incredible power even if he’s not terribly good at harnessing that power. He’s also a fairly sympathetic character, and our desire is usually for such a character to get the girl.
And to be sure, he gets the girl. What’s her name? Jenny? Oh, Ginny? Is there any reason we really care about this character, besides the potential for awkward teenage love triangles? No? That’s what I thought. (To be fair, the scene in the movie where Ron comes and sits between her and Harry and offers them pies is brilliantly conceived and constructed, which might make the whole thing worthwhile…)
But at the end of the day, the question still remains- why didn’t Harry end up with Hermione? They are the best of friends and seem to connect on a much deeper level than she and Ron ever do. After watching all the movies and reading the books, I still cannot figure out what exactly there is between them that makes the relationship make any kind of sense, but whatever.
For the longest time it simply didn’t seem right. Harry and Hermione are friends, they are two of the best characters in the books and movies; why can’t they take their friendship to the next level? Why does she have to settle for Ron, and why is Harry such an idiot that he lets such an opportunity pass him by?
But as I have been thinking about it more, I have finally realized how wrong I have been about the whole thing. In fact, I am little ashamed of myself, for my perception of their relationships and their loves exists on such a superficial level as to be pathetic.
The whole question lies in a fallacy which perceives friendship love as something that is somehow incomplete in itself. When it comes to Harry and Hermione, there is no doubting that they love each other as friends, and that this love manifests itself in numerous and remarkably sacrificial ways through the scope of the books and movies. But why should this type of love- which as it blossoms through the series reaches spectacular heights of grandeur- be seen as a somehow second-rate kind of love?
There is something in the way in which we perceive love in the modern world which finds it difficult to perceive friendship love as valuable and good and- let’s get crazy here- holy without the romantic undertones that buttress the popular conception of “love.” It doesn’t matter that each is willing to die for each other (and one in fact does); if there is even the potential for a romantic relationship we tend to see that as the summit and fullness of love, even if a potentially deeper and fuller one is staring us in the face.
I think we see a little bit of this in the movie, in the one blunder created by departing from the books. It occurs in the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, during one of the infamous camping scenes. No, it’s not the nude scene, which I think is a perfectly reasonable fear that Ron must have sensed for a long time. Rather, the scene occurs shortly before, after Ron has left and Harry and Hermione are alone in the tent. The music starts playing, and Harry starts dancing really awkwardly. I should probably restate that: Harry starts dancing really creepily.
I’m not sure exactly what the director’s intention here was, but I suspect that this scene is kind of playing to that question- why aren’t Harry and Hermione together? And now, after Ron is out of the picture, is Harry finally coming to see Hermione differently, or at least being given the perfect opportunity to explore perhaps long-buried feelings? Sure, the horcrux is playing with his head, but are those thoughts really that far below the surface?
It actually lays bare the over-sexualized connotations we attach to love, which will not allow for a disinterested love like that of Harry and Hermione. For when we begin with the premise that sexual attraction and fulfillment form the core of our being and identity, every love comes to be evaluated in light of this perception.
In such a view of love no one can any longer by friends, which is why Harry and Hermione can seem at first glance to miss out on something great. The truth, however, is that they have something that is wonderful in and of itself, which does not require the accoutrements of romance or sex to make it something beautiful or good.
One might suggest that it is our nearly wholesale rejection of chastity which makes it nearly impossible to be truly friends with someone any more. For if we cannot imagine that a life of the intentional foregoing of sex is still the life of a sexual being, then we cannot imagine sexual fulfillment in anything other than romantic love and its consummation. In doing so we actually cheapen and empty all forms of love, for we make the sexual carry more weight than it is capable of bearing. The end result is that our relationships lose out on the potential to be good and true and beautiful in all their forms.
Harry and Hermione’s friendship is actually something that is quite beautiful, for it exhibits the finest qualities of selflessness and sacrifice. Their love for each other finds repose in the friendship itself, rather than pining to be something other than it is. They see each other as a person worth loving and worth dying for, a depth of interest and wonder to be explored on each other’s own terms and for each other’s own sake, rather than feeling required to subsume that mutual discovery to a sexualized form of love.
In the end, Harry Potter is nothing without his friends, and certainly nothing without Hermione. Had this relationship followed the familiar script, it might have made more sense from the perspective of over-sexualized love, but the depth of the relationship would have suffered as a result, and the story would have been the poorer.
And so, while Ron still kind of annoys me, I’ve stopped asking why Harry didn’t chase after Hermione, because I’ve realized he didn’t have to; he had already found the love he needed in her friendship.
That’s the kind of love we should not be so quick to wish away, no matter how magical the alternative may seem.