Harry and Hermione (Harry Potter spoiler alert!)

When I was reading the Harry Potter books, although J. K. Rowling told a good yarn and plotted her stories well, the romance between Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley never seemed to me to be plausible. It seemed like the author was trying to avoid the obvious narrative device of the leading man and leading woman getting together at the end and was going for the slightly counter-intuitive relationship. It just did not work for me. Harry’s romance and marriage to what’s-her-name was also implausible as can be seen from the fact that I can’t even recall her name (or her face from the films) and remember anything about her except that she was Ron’s sister.

Now in an interview Rowling admits that this set of pairings may have been a mistake that arose out of her desire to stick with the original storyline that she mapped out right at the beginning, and that as the story evolved it should have changed with Harry and Hermione ending up together.

This second-guessing by Rowling has not caused as much consternation as the earlier Rowling revelation that, although she did not make it explicit, she had envisaged Dumbledore as being gay. I used that episode to discuss seven years ago as to the extent an author has control of the content and meaning of books after they have been published, comparing the Potter books with those of Marcel Proust. (That sounds like a bit of a stretch but is not really. The comments to that post were really good and well worth reading.)

While I am suggesting alternative endings, I also found Harry and Hermione ending up as placid suburbanites, with Harry as a mid-level government bureaucrat, also unsatisfying given their histories. Being the best student at Hogwarts, Hermione should have followed Dumbledore as a teacher and later the principal of the school, and Harry should have ended up as the head of the Ministry of Magic or at least of their counter-terrorism unit.

Stephen Colbert weighed in on the implications of Rowling’s latest move.

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  1. MNb says

    As a teacher of 12-16 years old kids I disagree with Rowling. Ron and Hermione ending up as a couple makes a lot of sense, exactly given their animosity from the very beginning. The counseling part might be right, but why should wizard marriages not need that? I saw the romance coming from a very early stage, even before Rowling hinted at it in an interview.
    Harry and Ginny (her Dutch name) make sense too. Ginny had a crush from the very beginning. Harry being somewhat awkward towards women didn’t notice (very much like me) until Ginny actually gave up hope. Only then he realied what makes her special. That you can’t remember her is irrelevant; Harry already had been in hr nearness for years. We haven’t read much about it because it was irrelevant for the development of the story (man, I’d wish George Martin had learned that lesson).
    What didn’t make any sense to me is the romance of Ron with Brenda (I think) in volume 6. It was artificial.

  2. brucegee1962 says

    The thing that always bothered me most deeply about Hogwarts was that NONE of the faculty seem to be married. If I could ask Rowling one question, it would be whether that was a rule, tradition, or just chance? It seemed deeply unfair. At least havng Hermione as a teacher while married would have answered that question.

  3. Robert B. says

    Harry/Ginny wasn’t avoiding the obvious device at all. It was First Girl Wins. (Warning, that link goes to TV tropes. Motivation hazard.) And remember, by the end of any fantasy series every significant character has to be paired up with someone of the opposite gender, so Ron/Hermione was mathematically required. Besides, Hermione was always way too well-developed to be a male main character’s love interest.

    If Rowling wanted to buck leading man/leading woman tradition and go for a non-obvious relationship, she should have put Harry with Ron. Or Draco -- that would have been a real story. There was a whole potential story arc about how passing the traditions of bullying and hate and war down to their generation was stupid and abusive, and Harry and Draco were more naturally aligned together against it rather than continuing their fathers’ stupidity, that Rowling set up in HBP and then never did a damn thing with.

  4. rilian says

    Arg what!!! Ginny is the best character in the series!!!! What! How can you not remember her name!?

  5. Irreverend Bastard says

    Ron and Hermione is a textbook example of an abusive relationship.

    Ron is anti-intellectual, incurious, dismissive, bigoted, and has 3 interests, food, Quidditch, and chess. Anything else is beneath his notice, and instantly dismissed and scorned. He would never show support for other people’s interests. He’s ambitious but lazy. He’s not a good friend, he’s short-tempered and jealous, and turns his back on his friends more than one time. When the going gets tough, Ron goes home.

    Hermione is intellectual, curious, supportive, and compassionate. She shows up at Harry’s Quidditch matches, despite having no interest in the game herself. With the exception of the Half-Blood Prince’s potions book, she never deserts Harry, she’s always there for him. She is a true friend.

    Ron calls Hermione “mental”, belittles and trivializes her accomplishments, yet expects her to help him with his homework at any time. And she helps him, every time, desperate to finally be accepted as a friend, at any price.

    Without the presence of Harry, Ron and Hermione wouldn’t even be friends. Harry is the glue that holds them together.

    Ron is abusive, Hermione has Stockholm Syndrome. It’s a match made in Hell.


    And while we’re talking about unhealthy relationships, Ginny the star-struck fangirl in a relationship with her heroic Knight in Shining Armour? She’s attracted to the near-mythical image that Harry hates. She want’s a fairy-tale hero, he wants to live a boring, normal life. It would never work out.

  6. Anthony Burber says

    @Irreverend Bastard #5:
    Thank you for saving some time by posting my thoughts on the matter. Yes, Ron and Hermione’s relationship is abusive from book 4 onwards. Anyone who views it as romantic has a really messed up view of romance. (Which many of us do, given the way most books and movies portray it.)

    I’ve seen defenses of Ron’s interest in chess as an intellectual accomplishment, but it appears in book 1 and is almost never mentioned again. As the series progresses, Ron’s portrayal becomes increasingly one-dimensional, putting Quidditch ahead of his friends’ lives and the search for Voldemort. Meanwhile, Hermione does some messed up things to get Ron’s attention, but they pale in comparison to Ron’s mistreatment of her.

    It’s hard to classify Ginny, since she’s never given meaningful screen time. Even after she starts playing Quidditch, all we ever hear about is Ron. Her one highlight is when she points out to Harry that she knows what Voldemort’s mind control feels like. Still, I agree that there’s no evidence that she or Harry understand or support one another.

    It’s definitely weird how people hearing that Rowling regretted Hermione/Ron pivot instantly to Hermione/Harry. That wouldn’t work out either, though they’d probably just ignore each other, where Hermione and Ron would destroy each other’s lives.

  7. Mano Singham says


    Thanks for this. It gets into things more deeply than I could but it does make sense.

  8. Mano Singham says


    It is common in British boarding school fiction for the resident teachers to be unmarried and living in rooms on the school compound. In the masses of such books that I read growing up, none of the key teachers had families. To what extent that reflected actual reality I don’t know.

  9. says

    Mano, I’m assuming since you put “spoiler alert” in the title, we’re free to reveal spoilers in the comments.

    In the movie, I think Ron hooked up with Lavender Brown. I can’t remember if it was the same in the book.

    @Irreverend Bastard
    I agree on the Ron/Hermione relationship and mostly on the Ginny/Harry relationship. I agree that Ginny starts as “the star-struck fangirl,” but that seems to fade in the later books. Though, as Anthony points out, she’s too much of a background character in those later books to be able to make a good assessment of her character.

    I know I wanted to at least see Harry and Draco make amends. I felt like the stage was being set for it (Harry rescuing him from the Room of Requirement, for example — this was for sure in the movie; I can’t remember if it was in the book), but it wasn’t clear that they fully did.

  10. doublereed says

    From what I’ve seen, Rowling was going for a sort of Hermione/Superego, Harry/Ego, and Ron/Id kind of thing with the trio. Where Hermione represents the more intellectual side and Ron represents the more emotional side. And so they’re supposed to balance each other out that way.

    The problem occurs that this is not really how it ended up developing. Harry is more of the hot-blooded, leap-before-he-looks, emotional character. This is most obvious at the end of the fifth book, which is pretty much all about how Harry doesn’t think, he just reacts. Ron became more of the bumbling sidekick who ends up being pretty much useless most of the time. He just doesn’t add much to the story.

    Hermione is constantly trying to have Harry keep a cool head, while Harry is constantly trying to get Hermione to be more proactive. They complement each other and make each other a better person.

  11. doublereed says

    As far as Ginny, I for one am baffled as to why she doesn’t go off with the heroes in Book 7 in addition to -- or instead of -- Ron. It just seemed way too forced to have the Hermione/Ron/Harry be the only ones to focus on the seventh book, especially considering Luna/Neville/Ginny had already proven themselves more than competent. But Ginny especially.

    Harry basically said “Sorry, girlfriend, I have to go do hero stuff now.” It’s completely ridiculous.

  12. Guest from Holland says

    The Harry/Ginny pair was a given ever since the platform scene in the first novel (Harry watching Ginny run alongside the departing train).Then again, it wouldn’t have been the only loose end in the series if Rowling had not followed that one through.

  13. says

    Harry should have ended up as the head of the Ministry of Magic

    Probably not as drop-out. Unless he went back after the books were over, he never finished school.

  14. anat says

    Hermione is not Stockholmed at all, she and Ron are mutually abusive, with Ron being emotionally abusive and Hermione physically abusive -- she is the one who attacks Ron with conjured canaries that leave him with scars for months, and later attacks him physically when they reunite after months of separation in book 7.

    How the characters might have ‘really’ ended up? Depends if you believe they had some chance to learn something after the battle. Based on their level of development at the time of the battle and the signs of non-change in the epilog, I see Hermione entering wizarding politics, attempting well-meaning, but not very well-thought out reforms. Harry enters the Auror service, but it turns out that his incomplete education is a real hindrance. Especially when he no longer has a direct mental connection to his adversary, nor blood-connection-protection etc. So the Aurors promote him into an office job where he can be the face of the unit. Hermione uses him as a public front for her reforms and manages to get some of them through. They end up disastrously.

    Behind the scenes Percy, Draco and Neville join forces to undo the worst of the damage Hermione and Harry cause.

  15. doublereed says

    Probably not as drop-out. Unless he went back after the books were over, he never finished school.

    Yes, because the Wizarding Educational System isn’t completely broken anyway lol

  16. Randomfactor says

    Harry has to return to Hogwarts as a teacher assigned troublemaker/misfit students like he himself had been.

    We could call it “Welcome Back, Potter.”

  17. anat says

    To brucegee1962 at #2: Phineas Nigelus Black was a teacher and headmaster and he was Sirius’ great-great-grandfather. According to the Black family Tree he was married and had 4 sons and a daughter.

    And if you believe Rowling’s interviews, Neville ended up as a married teacher -- he marries Hannah, who goes on to become the owner of the Leaky Cauldron.

  18. anat says

    Hmm, also, according to Pottermore materials, Minerva McGonagall was married and widowed somewhere between 1981 and 1991. She kept her name, though.

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