Friday, 14 February 2014

The Great Potter Debate: My Two Cents

Recently, there was something of a breakdown in the Harry Potter fandom, because J. K. Rowling was rude enough to have an opinion on her own characters. The 'heretical' comments, made in an interview with Emma Watson for Wonderland magazine were that she "wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfilment... In some ways Hermione and Harry are a better fit." The full interview (which can also be found here), when eventually published, actually revealed that Rowling was more of the opinion that Hermione and Ron would have needed a bit of counselling to make it through their marriage (which is hardly unusual) but would've been fine; but by then it was too late - the Harry/Hermione supporters were victoriously crowing 'We told you so!' at the Ron/Hermione faction, who were up in arms that Rowling would dare to 'rewrite' their beloved books.

I've been thinking about this on and off for a while now - firstly, because I've always been a huge Potter fan, but also because coincidentally I started re-reading the series just before the bombshell was dropped, so I'm right in there, analysing who has the better relationship with Hermione and chalking up pros and cons for both Harry and Ron. Of course, as some would argue, Hermione is probably best off not being paired with one of the two, but for the sake of the actual question Rowling raised - Which Wizard? for Hermione - I'm going to go over my reasons for why Ron Weasley is the best match for Hermione Granger. This should go without saying, but there will be a few spoilers.

1. Ron needs to be number one with someone. The poor bloke is the youngest boy in a family of nine, and his older brothers include dragon-tamers, curse-breakers, joke shop owners and head boys. His little sister is the only girl so naturally she gets special treatment. What does Ron get? Second-hand everything and a fair bit of overlooking - on one of the first occasions when we meet Ron in Philosopher's Stone, he grumbles that his mother always forgets he dislikes corned beef. The next thing he does is befriend the most famous wizard at school, at the very time when he could start carving out an identity for himself. Instead, he is setting himself up for seven years of playing second fiddle to The Boy Who Lived. His heartbreaking vision in the Mirror of Erised sums up his feelings of inadequacy perfectly, and these feelings of being second-best continues to be a theme throughout the series, finally coming to a head with the awful vision in the locket horcrux of Hermione choosing Harry. Harry doesn't need to be looked after and validated, but Ron does, and Hermione can give that to him simply by choosing him over his (theoretically) better, cleverer friend.

2. Harry doesn't need a love interest in the books. Sure, Ginny is an interesting enough character, but her relationship with Harry is a sub-plot in the sixth book that could be lifted out - the film adaptation shows this clearly, with only the corniest of allusions made to the relationship (the Room of Requirement scene? The only thing that requires is to disappear entirely. Zing!) The fact remains that Harry's story is about the lead-up to his life-or-death meeting with Voldemort; to start having him and Hermione moon over each other would've detracted from the plot completely. Of course, as it follows Harry through his teenage years, it would be foolish for anyone to pretend Harry is so preoccupied by Voldemort that he fails to notice girls, but to give him a full-blown love story would've been distracting. Ron and Hermione's budding relationship - even with all its setbacks, arguments and jealousies - gives the series a love story, without tangling up Harry's actual purpose.

3. Harry and Hermione already have a relationship. And in my opinion, it's a sibling one. I can't really explain this as it's my interpretation, but I've just always felt like she was the sensible, nerdy older sister who's always looking out for her erratic little brother, like when she retrieves the Invisibility Cloak for him in Prisoner of Azkaban, or when she coaches him through the Triwizard Tournament in Goblet of Fire. She doesn't take any of his nonsense, she's always there for him and she always looks out for him. However, she's not above a bit of jealousy; when Harry starts to beat her in Potions in the Half-Blood Prince, she feels threatened and snipes regularly at Harry for his newly-discovered cheats. She's also a bit of a tell-tale, running to McGonagall in Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry gets a new broom from a mysterious, and possibly malicious, benefactor. All very sibling-y qualities, I think we'd agree.

4. Hermione needs a bit of a joker. That's not to say Harry is humourless, but let's face it, he's got a lot to preoccupy him and we all know that Ron is the comic relief in this trio. Uptight Hermione would benefit from Ron's more laid back attitude.

5. On the flipside, Ron needs a good influence. Harry's got a pretty good balance; he does his homework (albeit not always properly), has a few special skills - Quidditch, Patronuses - to give him focus, and he can still have a laugh. Ron, however, is lazy, but Hermione can push him to try harder and even if he doesn't succeed, he at least gives it a shot. When we last see Ron, in the epilogue to Deathly Hallows, he's just learnt to drive, something his Muggle-born wife wanted him to do. Alright, so he cheated with a bit of magic, but at least he's learnt for her; that's more than your average pureblood husband would do. You wouldn't catch Malfoy behind the wheel of a hatchback, that's all I'm sayin'.

6. The trio retain their equilibrium. Be honest, if Harry/Hermione had happened, how likely do you think they would have remained friends with Ron? Eventually I reckon they would drift apart, as Ron would always have felt like a third wheel. Three's a crowd, as the saying goes. But with Ron and Hermione together, and Harry and Ginny a couple, they're all part of the same, close-knit family - the best end for three friends who've gone through so much together.

7. Ginny is a better match for Harry. Well, after the books finish, anyway, and for many reasons. For starters, she's his best friend's little sister, which ties him closely to the wizard family he most wants to be in: the Weasleys. He starts off as something of a foster son to Mr and Mrs Weasley, and eventually he becomes their son-in-law. She also shares her older brother's disregard for rules, which makes her a bit like a female Ron, but less bitchy and jealous. Finally, and most importantly, she becomes a Quidditch player for a professional team, meaning that she comes the closest to understanding Harry's grapples with fame. Ron and Hermione would have no idea about how it felt to be stared at or approached in the street, but when Ginny finds fame she becomes Harry's equal because she can understand a part of his life that no one else can.

Of course, if you're willing to read deeply enough into the Potter series, and employ a bit of imagination, you could probably make convincing cases for Hermione with pretty much anyone, from Malfoy to Terry Boot. But if we're all honest with ourselves, if she has to be with anyone, it's gotta be Ron. He's her lobster.

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