In honor of Ron’s birthday today, it’s time I finished this post!
I actually started my previous post about Ron’s virtues months before Rowling admitted that she had made a mistake pairing him with Hermione. But it was that shocking announcement which spurred me into finishing it.
Because, like many of us, I also had my doubts about the couple at first, so my last couple of re-readings have focused on Ron’s character.
Rowling is wrong.
Ron is actually a good fit for Hermione, and vice versa. We’ve just discussed Ron’s many overlooked virtues. Now, let’s talk about why those virtues are what Hermione needs most.
First Things First
Hermione is a genius. Let’s just be frank about it.
She is able to do NEWT level work in her second year, she memorizes books on the first reading, and can pretty much achieve anything she sets her mind to. According to Rowling, she is later called one of the greatest witches of the age.
So that makes people say, “what is a genius like that doing with a klutz like Ron?”
While I’ve already established that Ron is a lot smarter than we think he is, he would be the first to agree that with the exception of chess, he’s certainly no match for Hermione.
But would she want to marry her match?
Hermione likes to be first in everything. She likes to be the smartest and the best. Hermione doesn’t think that second best is good enough. A single error throws her into a tizzy of anxiety. So do you think she would have wanted to marry someone who was smarter than her? Could Hermione enjoy life with someone who made her feel outdone? Someone who made her feel second best?
Of course not.
Can you imagine? She’d turn into a stress mess and her confidence would be shattered. Hermione is TERRIFIED of failure. She doesn’t want to be shown up. She wants to be comfortably ahead of everyone else, including her friends.
“Did you see me disarm Hermione, Harry?”
“Only once,” said Hermione, stung. “I got you loads more then you got me—”
“I did not only get you once, I got you at least three times—”
“Well if you’re counting the one where you tripped over your own feet and knocked the wand out of my hand—”
Do you remember how Hermione reacted when Harry started beating her in potions? Part of that is because she felt that he was cheating, but it also infuriated her that this Half Blood Prince person could out-do her in potions.
Hermione is incredibly talented, but also incredibly insecure. I mean, her boggart is FAILURE. The thing she fears most is lack of success. Second best is never good enough for her.
So Hermione wouldn’t want someone who could beat her, or even come close. That’s too perilous. Hermione doesn’t want to meet her match. Hermione wants a foil.
Ron makes an excellent foil. He’s no threat academically. That being said, he isn’t necessarily her inferior.
Ron Knows Things
Hermione may have Hogwarts: A History memorized, but she learns a surprising amount from Ron, who has insider information on the wizarding world.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” said Ron, starting to get angry. “Grims scare the living daylights out of most wizards!”
“A Squib is someone who was born into a wizarding family but hasn’t got any magic powers. Kind of the opposite of Muggle-born wizards, but Squibs are quite unusual.”
Unlike Harry and Hermione, who were raised in the muggle world, Ron has insider’s information on the wizard world. It is Ron who knows about Grims and Squibs and Beedle the Bard. Ron is the interpreter of wizarding life for his two Muggle-born friends.
“Harry and I were raised by Muggles,” Hermione reminded him. “We were taught different superstitions.”
I think it’s good for Hermione to occasionally realize that one of her friends knows something she doesn’t, and when those moments hit, it is always Ron and not Harry who educates her.
Heart Over Head
Besides, as much as Hermione values her own intelligence and academic standing, she doesn’t actually consider intelligence to be important IN GENERAL.
Not once, in the entire series, does Hermione make a value judgement against anyone based on their intelligence. In fact, she firmly believes that her friends could do just as well in school as she does if they just put their minds to it.
Hermione believes that her success is due to hard work, not innate ability.
Remember that Hermione chose Gryffindor over Ravenclaw when she wore the sorting hat.
ʹHow come youʹre not in Ravenclaw?ʹ he demanded, staring at Hermione with something close to wonder. ʹWith brains like yours?ʹ
ʹWell, the Sorting Hat did seriously consider putting me in Ravenclaw during my Sorting,ʹ said Hermione brightly, ʹbut it decided on Gryffindor in the end.
Ravenclaw cares about intellect. Gryffindor does not.
‘Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery’
For all Hermione values her own intelligence and her own marks, she knows that there is more to life.
I wonder if that “more” was lacking in her childhood. In the later books she spends shockingly little time with her two dentist parents, choosing Harry and Ron’s company over time with her folks during her short holidays from school.
She buggers off to Ron’s house after only a week or two with her parents in the summers and she backs out of a Christmas ski holiday with her parents at the last minute in favor of a Christmas with her friends, lying to her parents outright about the reason:
Mum and Dad are a bit disappointed, but I’ve told them that everyone who’s serious about the exams is staying at Hogwarts to study. They want me to do well, they’ll understand.
If Hermione’s parents place as much or more importance on her doing well in school than they do on getting to see their daughter for the first time in months, I suspect that brains are valued rather more than heart in her family.
Hermione arrives at Hogwarts with a nagging fear of failure and a severe deficiency in humor.
“Are you sure that’s a real spell?’ said the girl. ‘Well, it’s not very good, is it? I’ve tried a few simple spells just for practice and its all worked for me. Nobody in my family’s magic at all. It was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it’s the very best school of witchcraft there is, I’ve heard – I’ve learnt all our set books off by heart, of course, I just hope it will be enough – ’
It takes many books for Harry and Ron’s friendship to lower Hermione’s anxieties and expand her priorities, and I think she ends up a better person for it.
But as her bond with them grows, so does the distance between her and her parents.
So maybe Hermione isn’t looking for another brain to marry. Maybe she isn’t looking for someone who shares her overachieving nature.
Maybe Hermione is looking for something more than that in her future husband. Like friendship and bravery and laughter, all of which Ron has in abundance, plus one other very important quality…
The Dominance Dynamic
Hermione is bossy. I think we can all agree on that just as comfortably as we can agree that she’s a genius.
Hermione likes to follow rules, and to enforce rules.
She bullies her friends into joining her house-elf welfare crusade, forces them to do their homework, nags them to study, and generally is a big, bossy, bossy-pants.
You know who she reminds me of?
Mrs. Weasley was marching across the yard, scattering chickens, and for a short, plump, kind-faced woman, it was remarkable how much she looked like a saber-toothed tiger.
Now, here’s Hermione:
“Don’t you tell me what to do, Harry Potter!” she screeched. “Don’t you dare! Give it back now! And YOU!”
She was pointing at Ron in dire accusation: It was like a malediction, and Harry could not blame Ron for retreating several steps.”
Both Hermione and Mrs Weasley are terrifying when they have been disobeyed.
They want things done their way, and they expect the people they love to do what they are told… for their own good.
Do you know who Ron reminds me of?
I think that Ron, more than any of his siblings, takes after his father. Arthur and Ron are both apologetic underachievers who are actually a whole lot smarter than people think they are. They are both deeply caring towards their families, and enjoy a bit of harmless mischief now and then.
Molly Weasley bosses the pants off of Arthur, and honestly, I think he enjoys it.
She takes responsibility for the running of the household, leaving him free to pat his kids on the head and tinker with his muggle artifacts.
He respects her opinions and he defers to her decisions, sometimes changing his own reactions mid-stream to align with hers.
“Did you really? Did it go alright? I — I mean … that — that was very wrong, boys, very wrong indeed…
You want to know what Hermione and Ron’s relationship probably looked like in later years? Just look at Ron’s parents.
‘What do you think about this?’ Hermione demanded of Ron, and Harry was reminded irresistibly of Mrs Weasley appealing to her husband during Harry’s first dinner in Grimmauld Place.
Ron doesn’t like to make decisions. He usually looks to Harry or Hermione, or asks his father for advice.
“What d’you reckon?” is a common question you hear from Ron. When Ron is faced with a question, he wants to refer to knowledgeable authorities, like Dumbledore, or his own father… or Hermione.
He looked expectantly at Hermione. “So, what are the properties of moonstone and its uses in potion making?”
Hermione, for her part, orders Ron around constantly, and he generally acquiesces, albeit sometimes reluctantly.
“Ron, we’re supposed to tell the first years where to go!”
“Oh yeah,” said Ron, who had obviously forgotten.
“We’ll have to talk to them, Ron.”
Ron looked positively alarmed.
“Because we’re prefects! […] It’s up to us to stop this kind of thing!”
Ron said nothing;
If anything, it shocks Hermione when Ron disobeys her.
“Ron, I warn you, don’t drink it!” Hermione said again, alarmed, but Ron picked up the glass, drained it in one gulp, and said, “Stop bossing me around, Hermione.”
She looked scandalized.
Now, imagine if Hermione had paired with Harry, who so many people seem to prefer as a love interest for her (including, apparently, JK Rowling).
Harry can be self-effacing, but he doesn’t let himself get pushed around. If anything, the plot of basically every book could be summarized as “Harry totally ignores teacher orders and the advice of his friends while pursuing some obsession of his which inevitably leads him into hideous danger”.
Harry is a willfully insubordinate person, maybe because of all of the unloving domination by the Dursleys in his childhood, maybe because in some ways he does have some of James in him.
From the very beginning, Harry defies Hermione.
No!’ shouted Hermione Granger. ‘Madam Hooch told us not to move – you’ll get us all into trouble.’
Harry ignored her.
‘Harry, no!’ Hermione whispered in a warning voice, tugging at his sleeve, but Harry jerked his arm out of her reach.
Hermione’s nagging doesn’t make Harry work harder at Occlumency, doesn’t stop him from trying to get into Voldemort’s head, doesn’t stop him from going into Umbridge’s office, doesn’t stop him from going to the Department of Mysteries, and doesn’t stop him from following Malfoy around the castle.
If Harry paired up romantically with Hermione, she would constantly be trying to direct him while he totally ignored her and did whatever he thought was best. Neither of them would be happy with that.
If Hermione had sent a bunch of attacking magical birds on Harry, he probably would have reacted defensively and sent a spell back at them. But Ron just covers his head and runs from the room.
That’s the kind of man Hermione wants.
Harry’s dynamic with Ginny works better. They are both independent spirits who do as they think best and don’t try to force their decisions or beliefs on others. Harry would do his thing, and Ginny would do hers, and they’d both be fine with that. But Hermione would drive herself over the edge trying to get the kind of deference that she wanted from Harry. He would listen to her, he would respect her…. but then he would just keep on doing whatever he was doing.
That would infuriate her.
Ron, on the other hand, would constantly come to Hermione for all the household decision making, back away from her when she raged at him, and defer to her opinions… and they’d both be happier for it.
The Not-Harry Team
On top of basic personality dynamics, we also need to consider the bonding that Ron and Hermione go through.
Hermione and Ron both share the misfortune and privilege of being close friends with the famous Harry Potter. Every year at school Harry is either beloved or loathed by the student body, and every year he is either obsessed with catching some dark wizard red-handed or avoiding being killed by some dark wizard… usually both.
Ron and Hermione form a sort of support team to Harry as he deals with his problems, and that creates a special kind of friendship. This is especially true as Harry hits puberty. Teenage Harry is gloomy, broody, and has a distinct chip on his shoulder.
‘Been having a nice little chat with her about whether or not I’m a lying, attention-seeking prat, have you?” Harry said loudly.
“No,” said Hermione calmly, “I told her to keep her big fat mouth shut about you, actually. And it would be quite a nice if you stopped jumping down Ron’s and my throats, Harry, because if you haven’t noticed, we’re on your side.’
Hermione and Ron bicker a lot, but it’s about ordinary things, which is probably a relief from the bizarre phenomena which constantly surround Harry.
The friendship that Ron and Hermione have with each other is simpler and in many ways more comfortable than the friendship each one has with Harry. When they are with Harry, they are supporting him in some way: listening to his obsessive ideas about Malfoy or Sirius Black or Voldemort, helping him execute his daring and often wrong-headed escapades, or trying to prevent him from doing something outright stupid.
We never get to see them together without Harry, but from the bits and pieces you pick up from their conversations together when Harry is listening but has food in his mouth, you get the idea that there is more give and take to their friendship, and that they share a common bond in dealing with Harry’s Harryness.
It also means that Hermione gets a unique perspective on Ron himself.
Ron The Underdog
Hermione is the one who watches how Ron is constantly contrasted with his best friend.
Ron’s got all those brothers to compete against at home, and you’re his best friend, and you’re really famous – he’s always shunted to one side whenever people see you, and he puts up with it, and he never mentions it…
Hermione, as the only child of two dentists who like to take summer vacations in France and Christmas vacation on the Alps, has had an advantaged childhood.
I’m sure she notices the contrast between her own family’s life and Ron’s.
Hermione was always a sucker for helping the disadvantaged. She goes to bat for every underdog, from Hagrid to House Elves. Now, Harry was disadvantaged until the day that Hagrid knocked down his door, but from that point on he has had money and fame.
Oh, sure, he has a couple of miserable months with the Dusley’s once a year or so, but that’s it.
Besides, Harry can clearly take care of himself most of the time.
I think that Hermione finds the same lovability in hapless, careless, low-self-esteemed Ron that she finds in Hagrid and the house elves.
Here is someone who needs help and protection, not because they have mighty malevolent forces against them, but because he’s poor, with a broken wand, and a fragmented attention span. Here’s someone who, she is sure, could be a BRILLIANT wizard if he would just start paying attention in class and putting some effort into his work.
Ron is a project. Ron needs to be saved. And Hermione can’t resist that kind of thing.
Who is Noticing Whom
Even with all of the above aside, there’s one huge reason why Ron is way better for Hermione than Harry:
Ron NOTICES Hermione.
From their very first day in school, Ron talks about Hermione. Oh, sure, at first he complains about her, but he’s noticing her, and talking about her. Harry doesn’t.
In the second book, Ron notices how silly Hermione is acting around Gilderoy Lockhart and teases her about it again and again. Harry doesn’t notice or care.
In the third book, Ron keeps noticing irregularities in Hermione’s schedule, and wondering how she’s managing it. He asks her directly, and when she’s not around he keeps bringing it up to Harry. Harry, again, doesn’t care.
‘How’s she doing it?’ Ron muttered to Harry one evening as Harry sat finishing a nasty essay on Undetectable Poisons for Snape.[….]
‘Getting to all her classes!’ said Ron. ‘I heard her talking to Professor Vector, that Arithmancy witch, this morning. They were going on about yesterday’s lesson, but Hermione can’t’ve been there, because she was with us at Care of Magical Creatures! And Ernie MacMillan told me that she’s never missed a Muggle Studies class, but half of them are at the same time as Divination, and she’s never missed one of them, either!’
Harry didn’t have time to fathom the mysteries of Hermione’s impossible time table at the moment. He really needed to get on with Snape’s essay.
That’s right – Harry, who happily shirks class and breaks rules in order to pursue his own personal obsessions, can’t be bothered to wonder how his best friend is managing the impossible. But Ron cares.
He pays attention. Ron is always noticing Hermione, and watching her.
Hermione shook her head exasperatedly and ignored Ron, who was continuing to watch her.
Ron not only notices Hermione – what she’s doing, who she is attracted to- he catalogues her behaviour. I often catch him explaining her to Harry, when Harry comes up for air from his brooding long enough to notice that she has done something erratic.
‘What does she understand?’ Harry asked distractedly, still looking around, trying to figure out where the voice had come from.
‘Loads more than I do,’ said Ron, shaking his head.
‘But why’s she got to go to the library?’
‘Because that’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging. ‘When in doubt, go to the library.
Ron correctly guesses her boggart in third year, too.
“What would it have been for you?” said Ron, sniggering. “A piece of homework that only got nine out of ten?”
And Ron notices Hermione’s moods.
‘Oh, come off it,’ said Ron, striding over to her and whipping her results out of her hand. ‘Yep… ten “Outstandings” and one “Exceeds Expectations” at Defense Against the Dark Arts.’ He looked down at her, half-amused, half-exasperated. ‘You’re actually disappointed, aren’t you?’
When something’s wrong with Hermione, when Hermione needs help, it’s always Ron who notices first.
He’s always there for her, praising her brilliance, wanting her help, wanting to help her. He’s asking her questions, wanting her attention.
Meanwhile, Harry thinks about his own problems.
“Who’re you writing the novel to anyway?” Ron asked Hermione, trying to read the bit of parchment now trailing on the floor. Hermione hitched it up out of sight.
“How many other Viktors do we know?”
Ron said nothing, but looked disgruntled. They sat in silence for another twenty minutes, Ron finishing his Transfiguration essay with many snorts of impatience, rolling in up carefully and sealing it, and Harry staring into the fire, wishing more than anything that Sirius’s head would appear there.”
Harry is too wrapped up in his own problems to even notice what Hermione is doing. He always thanks her when she helps him, but then he goes back to obsessing over dark wizards again. It’s Ron who heaps on the effusive gratitude and praise.
How do you remember stuff like that?” asked Ron, looking at her in admiration.
‘Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I’ve ever met.’
“Oh, she was perfect, obviously,” said Ron, before Hermione could answer.
“We just haven’t got your brains or your concentration — you’re just cleverer than we are-“
“You should write a book,”
“How do you remember stuff like that?”
Ron, as I’ve already discussed, is quite open with his praise and admiration of his friends.
While Harry respects and admirers Hermione, he rarely SAYS so in so many words. Harry doesn’t talk about his feelings much, even when they are positive ones. That’s why Hermione was so surprised and elated to hear that Harry had boasted about her to Slughorn.
“Well, what’s so impressive about that?” whispered Ron, who for some reason looked annoyed. “You are the best in the year – I’d’ve told him so if he’d asked me!”
Take the seventh book.
Hermione whisks Harry out of Voldemort’s arms at the drop of a hat, and it turns out that she’s all prepared and has packed clothes and books and everything they need. It is Ron, not Harry, who tells her how awesome she is.
‘When did you do all this?’ Harry asked as Ron stripped out of his robes.
‘I told you at The Burrow, I’ve had the essentials packed away for days, you know, in case we needed to make a quick getaway. I packed your rucksack this morning Harry, after you changed and put it in here… I just had a feeling…’
‘You’re amazing, you are,’ said Ron.
Now, if you were Hermione, and you had one friend who was clearly very focused on you, interested in you, who actually noticed when you were going back in time repeatedly, or had a schoolgirl crush, or performed a feat of admirable preparation… and you had another friend who was always too busy brooding about his own personal problems to pick up on these things… which friend would you be more interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with?
Ron saves Hermione from the troll.
Ron begs to trade places with her when she is being tortured.
Ron is stunned by her beauty on the night of the Yule Ball. Ron tells her how smart she is, how amazing she is, how brilliant she is.
Ron asks her questions about herself.
Ron comforts her when she cries. Ron mumbles her name when he is unconscious.
Ron cares about who she has crushes on, and who she might be dating.
Harry does not.
Now, I’m not saying you should go out and date someone just because they like you or sacrifice themselves for you. After all, Ron isn’t Hermione’s only admirer. Viktor Krum actively pursues her, and with far fewer mixed signals.
But it isn’t a bad idea, when considering potential romantic partners, to lean towards the people who seem genuinely interested in you. Why should Ron be rejected when he’s the one who really cares? Why should she date the one who didn’t notice or care that she was travelling back in time, or dating an international Quidditch player, or saved his butt multiple times?
Weeding Harry Out
I have the feeling that Hermione preferred Harry at first. He was the famous one, the obvious hero of the story.
Hermione hugs Harry before he goes off alone to get to the Philosopher’s Stone, but she doesn’t hug Ron before he steps in front of a violent stone statue and allows himself to be knocked unconscious.
Then she develops that crush on Gilderoy Lockhart in the second book, and Ron is clearly nowhere on her radar. Nor does she show a lot of concern at first for his feelings in the whole cat vs rat pet feud in Azkaban.
But on the other hand, it is Ron who notices how tired she is, how overworked she is, and it is Ron who steps in and offers to help Hagrid with Buckbeak. That’s when Hermione hugs him and cries on his shoulder. It is Ron, not Harry, who helps her out. Harry has been too busy brooding about Sirius Black to pay any attention to the whole Saving Buckbeak subplot, or the fact that his friend has more classes than she can handle.
By the fourth book, Hermione and Ron seem a lot closer. She spends time at The Burrow before the Quidditch World Cup, arriving ahead of Harry. She expresses a lot of sympathy for Ron when he and Harry are not talking to each other, and she splits her time between the two of them.
She’s annoyed that Ron doesn’t consider asking her to the Yule Ball and clearly takes a lot of pleasure in provoking his jealousy. I don’t think she spent that much time making herself pretty for Viktor Krum, who I don’t think she ever really cared much about. She did it to show Ron up.
By the fifth book, she and Ron are a cozy unit of two. They spend weeks together at the Order of the Phoenix headquarters, and when Harry shows up he spends half of his time yelling at the two of them.
And look at how things were when Ron left them in Deathly Hallows. She cried herself to sleep, and Harry never so much as patted her on the back.
He never asked her questions about herself, or asked if she wanted to talk. All he did was keep talking about Horcruxes…
I like this progression.
If Hermione had simply remained a silly Harry fan-girl throughout the series, I think it would have weakened her character. Oh, sure, witter over the famous hero guy, of course HE gets the girl.
Sure, Hermione and Ron bicker a lot, but honestly, so do Molly and Arthur Weasley, even though they clearly love each other very deeply. Some relationships are like that – fight, make up, fight, make up. In fact, that’s considered a valid relationship style.
Harry’s not the bickering type. He has two modes – sullen sulking, and angry blow out. He ignores or brushes off Hermione’s criticism or nagging, and I think that honestly bothers her more than Ron’s irritable engagement. At least Ron’s acknowledging her.
And finally… there’s feminism to consider.
Dating Harry Would Be Anti-Feminist
I think it is EXCELLENT that a female sidekick exists who is NOT simply a love interest.
If Hermione became Harry’s love interest, it would marginalize her.
Isn’t that what happens to every female side kick in every action movie ever? And then in the sequel the woman character is magically written out and the guy is single again, and paired up with a NEW side kick for him to hook up with.
Hermione deserves better than that.
Harry loves Hermione. He loves her, and values her, and she saves his ass a billion times. But she is a friend, a sister, proof that a man and a woman can love each other in a platonic, non-sexual way.
That is not exactly common in either literature or movies. A guy loving a girl but not wanting to get into her pants? Can that even happen?
Uh, yes, it can, and it’s important. Harry loves Hermione not as an object of sexual desire, but as a good friend. She is one of the people he values most in the world. He thinks of her and Ron when he summons his Patronus, because the thought of his friends fills him with joy and strength.
I would have been so disappointed if JK Rowling had diluted that with a “let’s have them hook up because that’s what the hero does with his female sidekick”.
Furthermore, it says something about the hero that his female sidekick loves him fiercely, but… platonically.
Harry is never put on a pedestal. Rowling made him a lovable but very flawed character. He’s no Mary Sue. He isn’t the smartest, or the most powerful, or the strongest character. Usually in fantasy fiction the protagonist is some sort of uber-god, capable of things no one else can do. But Harry is very fallible. It’s made quite clear in the story that his role as hero is largely due to luck.
He gets the fame, should he also therefore get the girl? Should Hermione date him just because he is famous and the main character?
Girls are raised to look for their prince. They’re supposed to look for a leading man to marry, someone wealthy and powerful. I mean, look what Anastasia Steele puts up with just because the guy is rich.
Do you think Fifty Shades of Grey would have taken off if Christian Gray’s character was unemployed and living in a trailer? HELL NO.
Women are trained to think that wealth and power matter when selecting a mate. By all the existing tropes out there, she should have picked Harry, who has a vault full of gold, is skilled at fighting bad guys, and saved the world.
But Hermione is too smart for that nonsense.
She picked the secondary character, the underdog. She picked him even though he was poor and obscure.
She picked the man who could beat her in chess, but would be happy to live in her shadow. She picked the man who would soothe her fear of failure with his overflowing admiration, and who would truly feel lucky to get such a talented and brilliant wife.
She picked the man who could make her laugh at herself, who could lighten the mood when she took things too seriously, and never steal her thunder or make her feel like a failure.
She picked the man who took the time to understand her and how she thinks. She picked the man who looked to her for direction, and was willing to do what she advised.
She picked the man who comforted her when she cried.
Smart woman, that Hermione.