Tony dodges the wand-fire.
The story of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and Died, And Lived Again may have Harry’s evolution from clueless Muggle to the man who defeats Lord Voldemort as its principal plot, and the doing of what is right, rather than what is easy as its primary message, but on its own, it would be rather linear and cold.
It would also be incredibly short, because without his two best friends, Harry Potter would have died in Book 1. Or if he hadn’t, he’d have died time and time again on the way to the final battle with the nameless, noseless one. Almost from the very beginning, the books also tell the story of Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who by nothing more than the accidents of train seating, become Harry’s pathways to an understanding of the wizarding world, and his part in it. By the grace of the Sorting Hat, they all end up in Gryffindor House, and so can more easily become the Scooby Gang of Hogwarts, poking their wands into places they shouldn’t be, and facing inconceivable dangers, snot-nosed brats and the potential end of the wizarding world together - not to mention the advancing rush of hormones in book six.
There’s an argument that says the pairing off of Ron and Hermione was nothing more than lazy plotting, but that’s disingenuous. Given Harry’s front-and-centre role in the stories, we need something in the way of story-arc for his best friends if they aren’t to seem somehow like also-rans in the story, convenient solvers of problems on Harry’s behalf with no life of their own outside his adventures. Besides which, Ron and Hermione are a classic case of opposites attracting.
That they are opposites is beyond dispute – he’s from a poor but long-respected pure-blood wizarding family, she’s the daughter of a pair of Muggle dentists. She’s an only child, he’s the last but one in a ginger-headed brood of seven. She’s a bookworm and a know it all, pushing to make sure she makes her mark partly to balance her Muggle heritage, partly because she craves the attention of being right and partly because she genuinely enjoys learning things. He regards trying too hard as a bit of a waste of effort because his brothers have already scaled the heights, at least at Hogwarts.
There’s little doubt that initially, their only common denominator is Harry, and their mutual awe of him as The Boy Who Lived. But it’s fairly early in their association that Ron and Hermione begin to notice each other as being exceptional – each has their moment in The Philosopher’s Stone. When the boys rescue her from a troll, some of Hermione’s initial childish arrogance is discarded as she begins to feel safer in their company, and they begin to appreciate her skills on the way to the stone, as she works out the potions puzzle and defeats the Devil’s Snare. Meanwhile, Ron proves his valour with ‘one of the best games of chess played in Hogwarts in many a year’ – potentially sacrificing his life so his friends can reach their goal. By the time of Chamber of Secrets, they’re close enough friends that Ron defends her against Malfoy’s vile name-calling with a wave of his wand, and appalling slug-vomit consequences. While as yet the two are too young to make anything but friendship of Ron’s White Knight gesture, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
By The Prisoner of Azkaban, the two are close enough to strike sparks off each other via the medium of their familiars – Crookshanks the cat and Scabbers, Ron’s rat. The book sees the two spar with the growing heat of a proper, no-holds-barred friendship, the posh Muggle and the poor pure-blood safely snarling at one another, seeming to understand that their friendship is secure and that, cats and rats notwithstanding, they’re both there for Harry if and when he wants them – a shared instinct that’s particularly poignant given Harry’s increasing sense of isolation in book three.
As is often the case with solid friendships though, a rush of hormones can change everything, and in The Goblet Of Fire, it does precisely that, with tension rising around the great ball to celebrate the Triwizard Tournament, sparking the pair’s biggest, most serious row to date, on the night when Ron has an epiphany and finally sees Hermione as not only a know it all, but also a beautiful girl. With the gracelessness of many a teenage boy, he ruins what could have been, and as she almost points out, should have been, one of the defining moments of their friendship-or-more. In the dating game, she tells him, only the courageous are winners. If he wanted to ask her to the ball, he should have done so. It’s a pivotal moment in their relationship, because it explodes the simmering hormonal tension and forces them both to face up to the fact that a) they’re not just a Scooby Gang any more, and b) they both have feelings for each other, but those emotions could still lead them to crash the whole potential future they have.
Order of the Phoenix simmers those tensions between them again, finding release in bickering that is good-natured, plus a little something else that neither of them are keen to acknowledge. As the Ministry of Magic sends Dolores Umbridge to crack down on magical practice, all three of our heroes develop their own role in Dumbledore’s Army though, again allowing the tensions to be sublimated through the unity of action. It’s difficult to think about love when your world is getting darker with every day that passes.
Which is probably why it’s book six, The Half-Blood Prince, that sees their feelings properly erupt. Needless to say, it’s the more clued-in Hermione who makes an opening gambit, but also, as expected, the pair adopt combative stances, each dating other people while wanting to be together. There’s a sense in The Half-Blood Prince of what the near-constant battle with the forces of Voldemort, on top of all the ordinary wizarding schoolwork, has cost them over the years, changing them into people ready to jump into battle stances, even with the people they actually like or love. It takes the death of Dumbledore, and their mutual concern for Harry, to finally get the battle-weary teens on the same page. It’s as though battling the powers of darkness is easier, more familiar to them, than the dangerous waters of their own feelings. But once the hunt for Horcruxes begins, there’s a new maturity to their relationship.
Naturally, in The Deathly Hallows, that means there are new, adult levels on which to argue – inspired by the angry energy of the Horcrux, Ron leaves Harry and Hermione alone, and faces his darkest fears – that he’s always going to be a sidekick in Hermione’s eyes, not as clever as she is, and not the Chosen One, not Harry Golden Boy Potter. Rowling trusts her audience to have grown up with the characters, and shows us what goes on in front of Ron’s eyes, Harry and Hermione, kissing, loving, telling Ron he’ll never be good enough for her, not while there’s Harry in her sight. It’s one of the most adult moments in their history together, and Ron returns to them having vanquished his fear – only to get a solid punch and a stress-fuelled strop from Hermione. As in The Half-Blood Prince, it takes tragedy to pull these two back onto the same page, and finally force them over the edge of their friendship into kisses. The Battle of Hogwarts leaves friends, teachers, and, as far as they know, their very best friend dead or dying, the world teetering on the precipice – and in the chaos, these two warrior lovers find each other properly at last.
The final scenes show them years on from Hogwarts, parents of their own young wizard and witch, Rose and Hugo. As a couple, they have always been sparky, drawn to each other by their respective cleverness and bravery, but never happy with a quiet life. It has always been the moments of utmost peril that have pushed Ron and Hermione together. They are that couple, the ones who argue just to feel the roaring joy of making up, the couple who claim to want peace and quiet, then jump out of planes on weekends, just for the adrenaline rush. How the years after Hogwarts treat them is anyone’s guess and Rowling’s prerogative; it’s uncertain whether Ron and Hermione would have continued to seek out stressful, adrenalized situations to keep the spark of their love alive or whether, after the trauma of their childhood, they work together to normalise their relationship. One thing is clear though – while they’ll fight like cat and rat, the wars of their childhood make them strong enough to survive any petty rows in their lives together, and they’re unlikely to be dull to watch…from a safe distance.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk