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Hermione is to Ron as Neville is to Voldemort

This post contains spoilers for the Harry Potter series.  So… uh… don’t read if you’re that last person on earth who hasn’t read the series.

The Road Less Travelled has a post up about JK Rowling’s statement last week that she wished she had written the series so that Hermione ended up with Harry.  That the ending she gave was wish fulfillment vs. the credible choice that Hermione would have made if this were real life.  But I think if Rowling’s going to undo that, she’s also going to have to rewrite Neville’s contribution to ridding the world of Voldemort.

Because nebbishy boys who love plants usually aren’t the ones who bring about the end of an evil dictator.  I mean, if we’re going with credible choices.

But we’re not going with credible choices because while we need some suspension of disbelief when it comes to fiction, we don’t want reality.  Reality is boring.  Reality rarely inspires us.  Reality would be Harry and his mates eating potato chips and watching television like regular teenagers.  But nary a crisp touches their lips at Hogwarts.

We read fiction for enjoyment purposes, we also read it to better understand our world.  And sometimes, in order to understand that we have the power to rewrite our own history or the way the world has pigeonholed us due to circumstances, we need to see characters that break free of their personal trajectory and make decisions that we hope we would make if we were in a similar situation.  We hope that we’d move forward and learn from our mistakes and get braver; not that we’d stay our usual, apathetic, meek selves.  We hope that we’d choose the person who is good for us, vs. the person who has more money or fame.

And really, the less believable action comes from Neville vs. Ron and Hermione hooking up.  We’re to believe that a boy who had his self-esteem destroyed by his grandmother was able to ignore his inner monologue about his lack of worth to become the person who destroys the seventh horcrux?  THAT rarely happens.  Smart girls end up with nice boys every day of the week.  But shy, bumbling boys rarely tap into pools of self-empowerment and take on the leadership role in the leader’s absence.  Except when they do.  And I believe that Neville does because I want to believe that Neville can reach that place.  Because if he can, I can.  And if I can, then you can.  And we need stories like that to remind ourselves that we don’t always need to remain in statis.  We can charge ahead, out of our comfort zone, and maybe change the world in the process.

We don’t really want credible.

So I’m ignoring Rowling’s comment about Ron and Hermione, even though I have no interest in the love story aspect of the book whatsoever.  Unless she has a reason for why credibility in that relationship is more important than credibility in all the other actions in the book.  Because that is an interesting question: why does she care so much about making marriages believable when no character behaves in the way that a typical person their age would act?  Young teenagers aren’t exactly known for being self-motivated and selfless; and here you have a critical mass of them all together in one space, ready to sacrifice their lives in order to rid the world of evil?  That, my friend, is a tad more unbelievable than two people shacking up.  And frankly, I’m glad to read something a little unbelievable.  It makes me hopeful for the world.

Am I the only one who truly didn’t care one way or the other about which character ended up marrying which character?  I mean, as long as Voldemort sucked it?

14 comments

1 Katherine A { 02.10.14 at 8:14 am }

Actually, I’d disagree with your comment about teenagers. I’ve met a fair number of 16, 17, and 18 year olds who are amazingly passionate about serving various causes. They’re old enough to think but young enough to be extremely idealistic and optimistic about the idea that they can change things, as well as still in that invincibility of youth stage. Whether right or wrong, kids that age have fought in wars throughout history – heck, 18 year olds still serve in the US armed forces today. And the teens of Harry Potter – plenty of them, based on the books, have had family members affected or killed by Voldemort/his supporters. And Voldemort is threatening them where they live. So I don’t think that’s particularly far-fetched.

Although I will concede that in real life, Neville probably would have died quietly and anonymously without being the one to heroically remove one of the final obstacles to destroying Voldemort.

But yes, I agree that I could care less about the romance aspect of the books.

2 Nicoleandmaggie { 02.10.14 at 8:28 am }

But Neville was in griffindor instead of hufflepuff, so the sorting hat saw something in him.

To be honest I lost interest in the characters when Harry did that abrupt change from plucky lad to angsty teen over the course of like a week between books. Then Ron became a git. So much boring angst and arguing in what should have been an exciting last book.

3 Barb { 02.10.14 at 9:05 am }

I agree w previous comment about young people. Many are just knowledgeable enough and full enough of that belief in their immortality that they feel they can do something about it. Also incredibly idealistic… Enough to want to try to change something many adults find hopeless. You could and would do as Neville did. Your morality and belief in action is far too strong. ESPECIALLY if your children were in danger.

As for the love story, I always did find hermione and Ron’s arc weird. Ginny and Harry too. But I think she’s right that hermione and Harry would be better suited smarts wise.. Not bc of fame and all but bc they just have more chemistry and credibility. But I don’t care all that much, no.

4 Mel { 02.10.14 at 9:18 am }

Oh, I totally agree that individually, teens absolutely rise to the occasion. But a critical mass like this, all in the same place at the same time? Take, for instance, the DA. Look at how hard it is to get something started in your face-to-face world. People are apathetic. They may love the idea of a group, but showing up, week after week? That happened so easily for them. And they were all invested. Dozens of them. But beyond that, even when Harry wasn’t there, the DA continued.

I’m not saying that these things shouldn’t have happened. That’s the point. It’s fiction. It’s not meant to be credible and reflect the absolute truth of real life. It’s meant to show us that there’s another way the world could possibly be to give us something to strive for. So I’m thankful that Rowling didn’t stick to the realistic choice when it came to Neville’s behaviour or the DA or Hermione and Ron. She gave us that other possibility. That we don’t have to take the obvious choice.

5 Tracie { 02.10.14 at 9:55 am }

I was never that invested in the romantic relationships. What I did like about the Harry/Hermione/Ron situation is that there was never any hint of a love triangle. It was refreshing to see Harry and Hermione be very close, but always just friends.

6 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 02.10.14 at 9:56 am }

Do you know though, I really thought Ron and Hermione worked. It was like a little lightbulb moment at the end of the book and I just thought oh, of course, yes, Hermione and Ron. It was always there. I thought far from being non-credible it was a clever insight into the reality of how people connect.

There were moments I thought she was going to go with Harry and Hermione and I kind of didn’t want her to because it was the Hollywood ending and uuuuughhhh do anything, anything else, but in reality I think it would have worked too, in the short term, before the divorce.

Harry and Ginny I thought was a little too neat, though. I think I saw Harry either off with someone previously not introduced or still single on account of all the baggage he was still working through in therapy before he could commit to anyone.

I’m going to have to go back and read the part about Neville, though.

7 nicoleandmaggie { 02.10.14 at 12:40 pm }

Ron and Hermione was always there because she slammed you in the face every time Ron or Hermione got jealous… jealousy doesn’t necessarily make for a good relationship, it’s just a cheap thing you see in the movies to indicate interest because it’s easy. There wasn’t any real reason for them to be interested in each other, or at least any real reason for Hermione to return Ron’s interest, especially not after he turned into a jerk under pressure. Man that last book was boring.

8 Geochick { 02.10.14 at 2:53 pm }

The romance parts were kind of boring to me. I didn’t care about them ending up together and it seemed to take away from the story overall. But, it is YA and if I had been 13 and reading the series I betcha I would’ve felt differently!

9 fifi { 02.10.14 at 2:54 pm }

I always thought that Rowling wasted an opportunity to develop Ginny’s character. She seemed to be becoming more interesting in the middle books. Remember that speech she gave to Harry about how he wasn’t possessed by Voldemort, and she should know since she had that experience. I understood why Harry got interested in her – but then, just after she became his girlfriend, she faded into the background again. Ginny could have been far more involved in the layer events and shown herself as a suitable match for Harry, but Rowling never built on that.

10 fifi { 02.10.14 at 2:56 pm }

But i’d like to see more YA books where the hero or heroine DOESN’T end up with their teenage sweetheart.

11 Geochick { 02.10.14 at 9:14 pm }

I never got into the romantic part of the stories, so I don’t really care about how it ended in that regard. In fact the ending of the series was pretty disappointing to me.

12 Queenie { 02.10.14 at 9:20 pm }

Harry and Hermione would never have worked–too much alike. But no, I didn’t care. I think Katharine has a point…and I’m going to take this too far, but when I’ve worked with youth from disrupted places–Somalia, Palestine, Syria, etc–they don’t act like “normal” teenagers (although I’m sure there are apathetic ones, too). They’ve seen too much, and they want to make a difference, and yeah, some of them are clearly willing to put their lives on the line to stop the side they perceive as evil. Harry and his peers were living in a time of war, which makes their responses credible, I think. But the relationships? I felt like she was tired and just needed to get the damn book to her editors already.

13 chickenpig { 02.10.14 at 11:23 pm }

I think you are terribly wrong about teenagers. Modern teenagers, perhaps, but teenagers in crisis mode rise to the occasion. You forget that all of our wars have been fought by teenagers. Also, teens are the most intensely passionate age group you can imagine. Not gather every week to work in the DS? You’re kidding right? Obviously you have never been involved in the bubble that is High School marching band 🙂 We practiced from 6 until 10 three nights a week, plus extra tome for section rehearsals. Games and competitions every weekend, in the rain, in the snow, and sub zero temperatures. Marching miles in parades with our feet bleeding. And it wasn’t like the world was at stake, we just wanted to be the best. Teenagers are passionate, dedicated, and just dying to do something that MATTERS. Personally, it is the romance part that I find unrealistic. When you are on tight knot group like that I think that it is unlikely that they would have any romantic attachments to each other, at least not until long after the fight was over. Even then, I think they would be more like a group of old army buddies than romantic partners. How can you go through what they’ve been through and then share a bathroom? Nooooo.

14 Leanne { 02.11.14 at 9:26 am }

I’m actually more surprised that J.K. Rowling thought she could have changed relationships that spanned the whole series. I write fiction myself, and I’ve found that even if you have certain ideas before you start, the characters begin to dictate their own chemistry. My guess is that Ron-Hermione “felt right” to Rowling as she wrote the series, but now that she has some distance from it, she’s wishing it had gone differently. Art doesn’t really work that way. When it’s good (as with Rowling) it takes on a mind of its own.

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