As if J.K. Rowling has not tormented Harry Potter fans enough over the years, she recently revealed she “regrets” developing the romantic relationship between Ron and Hermione, arguably one of the most beloved couples in contemporary literature. While Rowling’s authorial insight upset many fans, her insinuation that Harry and Hermione are a superior match has been bothering me like a rogue bludger—shattering one of the strongest examples of platonic friendship.
Though perhaps difficult at times, a male-female friendship is a beautiful thing. Until now, I had always admired Rowling for recognizing this fact through her development of Harry and Hermione’s friendship—a striking literary relationship that set the Harry Potter series apart from literary classics. Rowling could have created a love triangle within the famous trio in order to settle the soulmate debate once and for all (since apparently the tidily constructed “Epilogue” was not enough), but the series was never about romance—it was fundamentally a story of resilient friendship. Harry and Hermione’s relationship was the perfect embodiment of this theme because, even though Hermione and Ron loved each other romantically, Harry and Hermione loved each other just as deeply, but in a completely different way.
In the interview, Rowling proclaims, “I think the attraction itself is plausible but the combative side of it … I’m not sure you could have got over that in an adult relationship, there was too much fundamental incompatibility,” and instead says Hermione and Harry are the better fit. My apologies, Queen Rowling, but I must dethrone you—you can’t just make these assertions out of left field. Ron and Hermione’s sharp contrasts are what made them attract so fervently. Ron’s lighthearted attitude reminds academically-consumed Hermione to enjoy her life. Though Harry does not share Hermione’s passion for knowledge, he shares her drive. However, his tendency to obsess over suspicions the way she obsesses over schoolwork would make for a dreadfully serious combination. Not to mention, Harry is more angsty in the fifth book alone than Hermione is throughout her entire teen developmental years.
Rowling had seven books to write the slightest indication that Harry viewed Hermione as anything more than a sister. Yet, regarding a scene in the final movie in which Harry and Hermione jokingly dance, she reveals, “I liked that scene in the film, because it was articulating something I hadn’t said but I had felt … I think you do feel the ghost of what could have been in that scene.” However, not once in her writing of the series did she allude to “what could have been”—hence, Rowling’s matchmaking choice she made for “very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility” was in fact the only credible option. Then again, delving into the conversation of who-belongs-with-whom trivializes Hermione’s complexity as a character to a mere romantic pawn.
Ever since When Harry Met Sally made the famous assertion, an assertion that has made an indelible footprint in Western culture: males and females are incapable of being “just friends,” adolescents and adults alike have grappled with the intricacies of male-female friendship dynamics. Add societal skepticism that the platonic is possible, and the feat is near impossible.
Speaking as a person who has been the cliché who has both fallen for the guy friend before and has the brother-esque best friend, I myself can attest to both the nuanced nature of male-female friendship and the absolute possibility—and invaluable aspects—of purely platonic male companionship.
Nothing infuriates me more than when people assume I am physically or emotionally involved with one (or more) of my male friends. Yes, some of those lines have been blurry in the past. Some of them still are. But that doesn’t mean that a relationship with a boy has to be all or nothing—either filled with romantic meaning, or completely meaningless. My boys calm me, and spending time with them relieves the social pressures that come with being female. They aren’t afraid to be honest, and—plot twist!—still love me unconditionally. Perhaps it would “make sense” if I were in love with my absolute best friend who happens to be a guy, but over the years, I have grown to love him deeply and view him as family—and I don’t mean as a husband. But one day, I’ll fall in love, in a completely different way, and both of these types of relationships will enrich me as a person—as seen with Hermione Granger, the way Rowling originally wrote her.