Really Think They’re Suited?
is Not the Right Girl for Harry
NOTE: All page references
refer to the UK paperback followed by the US paperback (hardback for Order
of the Phoenix). Thus ‘GF130/145’ would be Harry Potter and the Goblet
of Fire, page 130 UK and 145 US.
Many readers (and non-readers) of the
Harry Potter series have wondered if Harry might one day develop
a romantic interest in his close female friend Hermione. When asked this
question in an online chat May 4,
2000, J.K. Rowling responded, “as for Harry & Hermione…
d’you really think they’re suited?”
This form of rhetorical question is normally
used to imply a negative answer. But we – rabid fans of the series – will
not simply accept the implied denial, but will eagerly seek through the published
books to answer the question for ourselves. Are Harry and Hermione
suited to each other romantically? And if not, why not?
We are fortunate enough to have many,
many pages of interactions between the two characters and many thoughts and
observations of Harry’s about Hermione in which to find the answer. And the
answer is clear – they are not suited to each other romantically. Proceeding
from the least important reason to the most important reason, here is why:
Why Harry and Hermione
are Not Suited
5. Harry doesn’t find
Yes, indeed – physical attraction is shallow
and superficial. But we have learned – in literature and in real life – to
expect it as part of the beginning of a romantic relationship. We often see
physical admiration used as an early clue in fictional love stories.
Harry is Not Attracted to Hermione’s
Harry’s first impression of Hermione is
not a positive one: She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown
hair, and rather large front teeth (SS79/105). Now, that is not fatal
– plenty of romance stories have started off with an ironically bad first
impression. But it is notable that Harry’s mental description of his friend
is still almost identical when she is introduced in the beginning of Book
Four – One, with very bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth, was
Harry's and Ron's friend, Hermione Granger (GF51/54) – and Book Five --
there was a loud twittering noise, followed by an even louder shriek, and
his vision was completely obscured by a large quantity of very bushy hair
(OP60/62). By the beginning of Book Five, of course, Hermione has lost the
“rather large front teeth,” but her “large quantity of very bushy hair” is
emphasized even more, by having it cover Harry’s face, blinding him and possibly
hindering his ability to breathe -- 'Let him breathe, Hermione,' said Ron,
However, Harry gets a second chance to
have a first impression of Hermione’s appearance, when he fails to recognize
her at the Yule Ball in Book Four. He calls her a pretty girl in blue
robes (GF359/413). This is, of course, positive, but considering the
time (three hours), effort, and magic (Sleekeazy’s Potion) Hermione has used
to improve her appearance that night, it is a disappointingly tepid reaction.
Compare it, for instance, to Harry’s reaction that same night to Parvati,
who looked very pretty indeed in robes of shocking pink, with her
long dark hair braided with gold, and gold bracelets glimmering at her wrists
(GF358/412). Or to Padma, who was looking just as pretty as Parvati
in robes of bright turquoise and whose dark eyes lingered
on Ron’s frayed lace (GF359/412). Or to Fleur, who was looking stunning
in robes of silver-grey satin (GF359/412). (bold mine)
So Hermione was the least pretty of the
pretty girls Harry noticed that night. We don’t hear what Harry thought of
Cho’s appearance, but we can guess from his other thoughts that he felt attracted
to her – his first impression of Cho was extremely pretty (PA192/259).
When Harry sees that the “pretty girl
in blue” is actually his friend Hermione, his jaw drops in surprise. And
he is not alone. Harry sees that Parvati was gazing at Hermione with unflattering
disbelief. She wasn’t the only one, either… Pansy Parkinson gaped at her
(GF360/414). The text is clearly saying that both Parvati and Pansy gaped
at Hermione in “unflattering” surprise that she could look as attractive as
she does. And Harry does as well – his jaw drops in surprise that Hermione
can look “pretty.” Though only, I’m afraid, when she didn’t look like
Hermione at all. Harry’s description of Hermione details all the ways
– hair, clothes, posture, smile – in which she looks different from her normal
The reader looks eagerly to see if Hermione’s
Yule Ball transformation has changed Harry’s rather negative view of her appearance,
or spurred him to recognize that she is growing into an attractive young woman.
Unfortunately, the answer is that it has not. Harry notes that Hermione is
back to normal – Hermione’s hair was bushy again (GF377/433) – and
never seems to notice her as a girl throughout the remaining six months of
Book Four or the ten months of Book Five. During that same time period, however,
Harry reacts with attraction and admiration to Fleur twice (GF429/506 and
628/725), to Cho many times (OP170/187, 310/347, 403/456, 491/556, and 603/684),
and even to Parvati once more (OP640/725).
So Harry has plenty of time and energy
to notice and be attracted to girls (especially if they have long, shiny hair).
He simply hasn’t responded to Hermione this way. I’m not arguing that Harry
thinks Hermione is ugly – we have his word that he doesn’t (OP505/572), and
I’m sure he is telling the truth. It is simply that he doesn’t fancy her.
In fact, he says almost exactly this, just after the “But I don’t think you’re
‘Well, wouldn’t it have been easier
if she’d just asked me if I liked her better than you?…
…Then I could’ve just told her I fancy
The clearly implied continuation in this
sentence is …and I don’t fancy you.
Harry is Not Attracted to Hermione’s
It is not only Hermione’s looks which
fail to attract Harry. He doesn’t like her voice either. This is how he
imagines it (GF24/21), when his scar hurts:
At once, Hermione Granger’s voice seemed
to fill his head, shrill and panicky.
It is no surprise that Harry remembers
Hermione’s voice that way, because it is frequently described as “shrill”
in the five books (SS116/156, CS123/163, PA167/225, PA187/253, PA217/294,
GF190/214, GF454/…, OP609/691, and OP660/749). Hermione is also regularly
described as speaking bossily, huffily, sniffily, loftily, etc., as well as
shrieking, snapping, hissing, squealing, shrieking, and wailing. In Book
Five, Hermione took advantage of their silence to maintain an uninterrupted
flow of dire warnings, all uttered under her breath in a vehement hiss that
caused Seamus to waste five whole minutes checking his cauldron for leaks
(OP582/660). Overall, the tone of Hermione’s dialogue tags and physical
descriptions is very suitable for a semi-comic sidekick, and very unsuitable
for the hero’s future romantic interest.
The fact that Harry has never been attracted
to Hermione goes a long way toward explaining his striking lack of jealousy
about – or even interest in – her relations with other males. We see Ron
express his disapproval of Hermione’s Book Two crush on Gilderoy Lockhart
six times (CS75/95, CS124/164, CS131/174, CS171/228, CS177/237, and GF208/236),
but Harry never. Harry is steadfastly indifferent to (GF368/423, OP407/461)
– or helpfully supportive of (GF480/553) – Hermione’s possible relationship
with Viktor Krum. Harry also seems to be aware of Ron’s unacknowledged
feelings for Hermione as well (GF376/432, GF385/444, GF445/513, GF629/725,
OP296/331, OP358/404, OP407/461) and his only detectable response is mild
amusement. All this is contrary to our expectations for romantic foreshadowing
– we are accustomed to seeing heroes feel some aversion to seeing their future
love interest involved with another man, even if that aversion is subconscious,
well-camouflaged, or given a different cover-up reason. Harry’s repeated
attitude of cheerful indifference is startling if Hermione is intended to
be his future love.
Of course all this could change. It is
conceivable that Harry could become attracted to Hermione at some point in
the final two books, or even that he could fall in love with her without a
preliminary attraction stage. But canon makes it clear that Harry is not
attracted to Hermione now. She does not seem to be his type.
4. Hermione’s way
of talking annoys Harry.
Harry is Bored by Hermione’s Long Speeches:
There is no doubt that Hermione Granger
is a talker. When she is nervous or excited she babbles, and the books are
littered with long monologues from her. Harry notices and dislikes this trait
in their very first meeting:
sure that's a real spell?' said the girl. 'Well, it's not very good, is it?…
[snip long speech] …- I'm Hermione
Granger, by the way, who are you?'
all this very fast. (SS79/105)
This first impression of garrulity is
hammered home the next few times Hermione is mentioned: Harry tried hard
not to listen to her (SS86/115), she bored them all stupid (SS108/144),
hissing at them like an angry goose (SS116/155), Hermione was now
refusing to speak to Harry and Ron, but she was such a bossy know-it-all that
they saw this as an added bonus (SS121/164).
As we would expect, Harry
becomes more tolerant of this trait of Hermione’s after she becomes his friend,
but he never ceases to be annoyed by it. We explicitly see Harry react negatively
to Hermione’s talkativeness in every book. For instance: Hermione, sounding as usual as though
she had swallowed the textbook (CS72/92), Hermione irritated the rest by fussing (PA233/317),
Harry shook his head and applied himself to his scrambled eggs (when Hermione
is ranting about house-elves) (GF210/238), ‘Hermione,’ Harry said through
gritted teeth, ‘will you shut up for a bit, please? I’m trying to concentrate’
(GF296/338), Harry had never expected the day to be a restful one,
but he had not reckoned on Hermione's almost continual attempts to dissuade
him from what he was planning to do (OP581/660), He had been regretting
this ever since; Hermione would not let the subject drop and kept reverting
to it when Harry least expected it (OP600/681).
good examples of Hermione’s monologues include CS159/213, GF198/224, GF209/238,
GF422/486, and OP61/62. Harry’s dislike of this behavior is shown not only
in his negative reactions to Hermione, but in his reaction to other characters
with speechmaking tendencies, such
as Percy (GF53/56, 369/425), Ernie Macmillan (OP237/262, 307/344), and Lockhart (CS72/91, 77/99, 92/120, 123/163).
Harry Doesn’t Like it When Hermione Shows Off:
bored and annoyed when Hermione goes into monologue mode, Harry is also displeased
when her talkativeness takes the form of showing off her knowledge. He is
first made uncomfortable by this trait of Hermione’s in the first Potions
class (SS102/137), when she is standing up and waving her hand while he’s
trying to answer Snape’s questions. Again, this is repeated in later books.
In Book Two we have Hermione’s hand narrowly missed Harry’s glasses as
it shot up again (CS72/92). In Book Three we see Trying to answer
a question with Hermione next to him, bobbing up and down on the balls of
her feet with her hand in the air, was very off-putting (PA101/133).
In Book Five we see that Hermione has not grown out of this endearing-to-the-reader
but annoying-to-Harry trait: Hermione's hand shot into the air. Behind
her back, Malfoy did a buck-toothed imitation of her jumping up and down in
eagerness to answer a question (OP233/258).
It is easy to understand why Harry finds this behavior off-putting.
Harry usually has more attention than he wants (GF254/290, OP305/342). He
does not fully understand the insecurities that drive Hermione and Ron
to show off (though he does display some sympathy with Ron’s hair-ruffling
in OP621/704). Harry, of course, accepts this flaw in his two best friends,
but it seems that in a girlfriend he would prefer someone with a modest attitude
more like his own.
Harry is Annoyed by Hermione’s Argumentativeness:
The other aspect of Hermione’s talkative
nature that particularly bugs Harry is her argumentativeness. Again and again
in the five books, Harry reacts with annoyance to the frequent bickering between
Ron and Hermione. We see him tell them to shut up: SS116/156, SS117/157,
SS171/234, OP212/235, OP228/252. And we also see how much he dislikes it:
‘What d’you think, Sirius?’
Harry said loudly, and Ron and Hermione stopped bickering to listen. (GF460/531)
got so tired of Ron and Hermione sniping at each other over their homework
in the Common Room that he took Sirius’s food up to the Owlery that evening
on his own. (GF468/539)
to go back to Gryffindor Tower and listen
to Ron and Hermione snarling at each other, Harry watched Hagrid digging
was too used to their bickering to bother trying to reconcile them; he felt
it was a better use of his time to eat his way steadily through his steak
and kidney pie, then a large plateful of his favourite treacle tart. (OP190/210)
the bell,' said Harry dully, because Ron and Hermione were bickering too
loudly to hear it. They did not stop arguing all the way down to Snape's
Serve them right, he thought, why can't they give it a rest … bickering
all the time… it's enough to drive anyone up the wall… (OP213/235)
argued all the way back to the common room, but Harry was not listening
to them. (OP351/396)
Now, one might hypothesize that Hermione
would not be so argumentative if she were away from Ron, but canon suggests
otherwise. Hermione frequently argues with people besides Ron. Furthermore,
Hermione argues with other people (including Harry) far more often
than Ron does, indicating that she, not Ron, may be the primary cause
of the frequent bickering we see between the two of them.
We see Hermione arguing with Harry many
times, including arguing about turning in the Marauder’s Map (PA147/198),
about their actions while using the Time Turner (PA291/398, 296/405, 298/408),
about working on his egg (GF342/392, 354/407), about obeying Sirius (GF497/573),
about contacting Sirius (GF255/290, OP250/278, and OP579/657), about using
the Invisibility Cloak (GF279/318), about Sirius’s motives and character (OP144/158,
334/377), about Luna (OP236/262), about going to Dumbledore (OP250/277), about
his Defense Against the Dark Arts abilities (OP292/327), about Occlumency
lessons (OP519/589, 600/681 ), about Hagrid (OP617/700, 631/715), and about
going to the Department of Mysteries (OP645/732).
We also see Hermione arguing with Professor
Trelawney about Grims (PA82/106, 220/298), with Lavender about her bunny (PA112/148),
with Professor Snape about the Defense Against the Dark Arts class PA128/170),
with Mr. Weasley, Percy, and George about house-elves (GF124/139, 126/141,
137/154, 210/239), with Draco Malfoy about Hagrid (PA216/293 and GF175/197),
and even with Winky the House-elf (GF331/379, 467/537). In Book Five, she
argues with Umbridge (OP218/241 and 283/317), Luna (OP236/262 and 308/345),
Sirius (OP331/372), Hagrid (OP388/439), Parvati (OP528/599), Fred and George
(OP229/253, 552/627, 579/657), and, of course, Harry.
We do see Ron arguing with people as well:
Malfoy (SS163/223, GF150/168), Percy (CS119/157), his mother (GF139/156),
Fred and George (GF492/567). He tries to argue with Cho about the Tutshill
Tornadoes (OP208/230) and has very brief exchanges with Luna (OP181/200, 671/762)
and Zacharias Smith (OP306/343). But Ron argues with other people much less
often than Hermione does. And he certainly argues with Harry much
less often than Hermione does. The closest to arguments I can find Ron having
with Harry are when Ron snaps at Harry’s advice that he should ask for a new
wand (CS74/95), their three stiff interchanges during the Goblet of Fire fight
(GF251/286, 273/312, 294/335), a very brief exchange about the leprechaun
gold (GF474/545), the time Ron takes Hermione’s side about Harry’s Defense
Against the Dark Arts skills (OP292/327), and a spat over whether Harry getting
banned from Quidditch is Ron’s fault (OP371/419). Only the last two are full-fledged
bickers, of the sort that Ron and Hermione or Harry and Hermione have.
I think it is perfectly clear in canon
that Hermione is more argumentative than Ron is and far more argumentative
than the average person – possibly the most argumentative character in these
books. So when we see Harry reacting with annoyance and avoidance to Ron’s
and Hermione’s frequent spats, when we see him saying that he doesn’t know
what he wants to happen between Cho and him, except that he couldn’t stand
any more rows (OP603/684), it has to make us question whether
Hermione is the right romantic partner for Harry. Some people like arguing,
and some people don’t. Hermione does. Harry doesn’t.
It is not that a talkative, argumentative
female is unsuitable for a relationship. This type of woman, on the contrary,
is extremely common as a love interest, especially in romantic comedies.
A “mouthy broad,” if you will pardon the archaic term, is seen as a romantic
and sexual challenge for the man who can match her in verbal sparring. This,
in fact, is the pattern than many people see taking shape between Hermione
Ron, from early in Book One, is nettled
and infuriated by Hermione’s talkativeness and argumentativeness, and cannot
resist responding to her verbal challenges, even at times when he is supposedly
“not talking to her” (SS115/154, SS115/155, PA175/236, PA203/275). Harry
can ignore or avoid Hermione to escape her arguments, but Ron consistently
rises to her bait. In the classic comedic tradition, he finds the challenge
irresistible, leading to Ron and Hermione – as Harry puts it – “always having
a go at each other” (OP21/235). Being talkative himself, and from a large
family of verbally aggressive people, Ron is not put off by Hermione’s talking
style the way Harry is. Like Hermione, Ron is surprised and offended in Book
Five when Harry says their arguments are annoying (OP212/235). Like Hermione,
Ron gets so wrapped up in their bickering that he becomes oblivious to their
surroundings and Harry has to shush him (SS116/156 and 117/157, GF460/531)
or he is surprised by a teacher (GF446/514). And, like Hermione, Ron can
frequently be seen enjoying their contests of verbal one-upmanship. He has
the quick wit and comic timing to match Hermione in her verbal aggressiveness,
to tease her, to play Benedict to her Beatrice. Ron enjoys it, at
least part of the time. Harry, obviously, doesn’t.
Many males are attracted to a strong,
talkative, argumentative female like Hermione. But Harry is not one of them.
3. Harry responds
to Hermione more as a mother than as a girlfriend.
Hermione – bless her – is a very nurturing
and caring person. We see her ladling out food onto Harry’s and Ron’s plates.
We see her making schedules for them and chastising them for breaking rules
and trying to reconcile them when they get into a fight. Like a mother, she
worries when they are in danger, rushes to them when they are hurt, reprimands
them for their bad language, and praises them for their successes.
Hermione is also a very bossy person.
She has strong opinions and high morals, thinks she always knows best, and
doesn’t hesitate to tell others what to do. This comes out unmistakably in
her first meeting with the boys. Hermione orders Ron to do his spell, criticizes
them for fighting, tells them to put their robes on, etc. Soon she is ordering
Harry not to fly after Malfoy and the Remembrall and not to duel with Malfoy,
and criticizing Ron’s attempts at Wingardium Leviosa.
This bossiness and motherliness is an
essential part of Hermione’s nature. It remains pronounced even as she “lightens
up” over the course of the five books we have seen so far. In Book Five,
Sirius, Ron, and Harry explicitly compare her to Molly Weasley, and we see
her just as opinionated and domineering as ever. She is described as speaking
“bossily” at the DA meeting (OP347/392), she is an authoritarian Prefect who
tells off first years for “giggling too loudly” before exams (OP632/716),
she gives Ron and Harry extremely annoying (and bossy) talking planners (OP443/502,
477/541), she continues to threaten to “tattle-tale” (in this case on Fred
and George – OP230/254), and we see her nagging Harry unmercifully about such
things as his plan to speak to Sirius and his failure to practice Occlumency.
Nor has Hermione stopped her habit of
physically pushing the boys – and especially Harry – around. In Book Five,
we see several examples of Hermione touching Harry and Ron either bossily
or protectively. Here are just two of them: ‘Get over here,’ muttered
Hermione, tugging at Harry’s wrist and pulling him back into a recess
(OP651/738), ‘…Harry, stop it, come away –’ She grabbed his arm and pulled,
but he resisted (OP683/774). Others occur at OP221/245, 323/363, 388/438,
and697/791. These are no different from her earlier behavior such as Hermione
prodded Ron in the back to make him hurry (PA69/88) or Hermione seized
it, pulled the door open, and pushed Harry hard in the back, forcing him inside
There is nothing wrong with being bossy.
The problem is that Harry, as he is described in canon, reacts badly to people
who try to dominate him. Harry grew up being ordered about by people – the
Dursleys – who exerted authority over him without love, or even good intentions.
As a result of this (or possibly because he was born that way), Harry is strikingly
insubordinate and independent, strong-willed, and defiant to authority figures
such as Professor Snape, Professor Grubbly-Plank, and Professor Umbridge.
Compared to the other students around him, Harry says words like ‘sir’ and
‘ma’am’ less often, interrupts adults more often, and shows more anger when
being ordered around by authority figures. And, particularly in regard to
girls, at the Yule Ball he clearly dislikes Parvati’s behavior of steering
Harry so forcefully that he felt as though he were a show dog she was putting
through its paces (GF361/415).
Even though Harry knows that Hermione
loves him and has his best interests at heart, he finds her bossiness hard
to bear. Even when he knows she is right and complies with her demands, he
does so with open resentment. Examples of this behavior include CS160/213,
PA298/408, GF255/291, and OP250/278. But more often, Harry reacts in other,
even more negative, ways. His characteristic response to Hermione when she
is trying to boss him is to ignore and avoid her. If that doesn’t
work, he either lies to her and deceives her, or – as a last resort – treats
her to a display of his rather frightening temper. Here are some examples
Harry Ignores and Avoids Hermione:
Harry’s first line of defense against
Hermione’s interfering ways is to act as if he doesn’t hear her, and to avoid
her as much as possible. We see many example of this when he first meets
her (bolds mine):
one was talking much except Hermione Granger, who was whispering very fast
about all the spells she'd learnt and wondering which one she'd need. Harry
tried hard not to listen to her. (SS86/115)
shouted Hermione Granger. 'Madam Hooch told us not to move - you'll get
us all into trouble.'
Harry ignored her. (SS110/148)
couldn't believe anyone could be so interfering.
'Come on,' he said to Ron. He pushed open the portrait of the Fat
Lady and climbed through the hole. (SS115/155)
After Harry becomes friends with Hermione,
he can’t ignore her quite so blatantly, but he can still avoid her and rudely
disregard her advice. He can also feel relief when Hermione is not around,
or is too busy to nag him:
said Hermione quickly. "Harry isn't supposed to leave the castle, Ron
"Yeah, let's go," said Harry, sitting up,
"and I can ask him how come he never mentioned Black when he told me
all about my parents!" (PA160/216)
said Hermione, in an I-don't-think-you're-being-very-sensitive sort of voice,
"Harry doesn't want to play Quidditch right now... . He's worried,
and he's tired. . . . We all need to go to bed..."
I want to play Quidditch," said Harry suddenly. "Hang on, I'll
get my Firebolt." (GF134/150)
Hermione began, in a pacifying sort of voice.
going to bed," said Harry shortly. "See you in the morning."
- 'Harry, no!' Hermione
whispered in a warning voice, tugging at his sleeve, but Harry jerked his
arm out of her reach. (OP221/245)
- Harry did not even
attempt to follow what he was saying today; he doodled idly on his parchment
ignoring Hermione’s frequent glares and nudges, until a particularly painful
poke in the ribs made him look up angrily. (OP316/355)
- It appeared that
Hermione had gone to bed early, leaving Crookshanks curled in a nearby chair
and an assortment of knobbly knitted elf hats lying on a table by the fire.
Harry was rather grateful that she was not around, because he did not much
want to discuss his scar hurting and have her urge him to go to Dumbledore,
- Harry received two
more 'D's in Potions; he was still on tenterhooks that Hagrid might get
the sack; and he couldn't stop himself dwelling on the dream in which he
had been Voldemort - though he didn't bring it up with Ron and Hermione
again; he didn't want another telling-off from Hermione. (OP519/589)
- For the first time
ever, she was at least as inattentive to Professor Binns in History of Magic
as Harry and Ron were, keeping up a stream of whispered admonitions that
Harry tried very hard to ignore. (OP581/660)
- When the bell rang,
he hurried out of the dungeon without a backwards glance, and made sure
that he found himself a seat between Neville and Seamus for lunch so that
Hermione could not start nagging him again about using Umbridge's office.
- This suited Harry
very well; he was quite busy and tense enough without extra classes with
Snape, and to his relief Hermione was much too preoccupied these days to
badger him about Occlumency (OP622/706)
Harry Lies and Sneaks to Avoid Hermione’s
When Hermione is in her bossy mode and
avoiding and ignoring her is not enough, Harry resorts to lying and sneaking
around to avoid her wrath. This is normal behavior from a child to a parent
– it is common for teenagers to deceive their parents, with the justification
that their parents are unreasonable and it is the only way they can get freedom,
or that they are only trying to spare their parents pain. This is not
common behavior with a friend or a girlfriend/boyfriend.
We see Harry begin to do this to Hermione
during the Cat/Rat fight, when he sneaks behind Hermione’s back to go into
looked around to check that Hermione was well out of earshot.
he said. "But I'm taking the Invisibility Cloak this time."
… Hermione kept shooting suspicious looks down the table at him,
but he avoided her eye and was careful to let her see him walking back up
the marble staircase in the entrance hall as everybody else proceeded to the
Harry called to Ron. "See you when you get back!" (PA203/276)
The new behavior continues in Book Four.
Harry lies to Hermione twice (GF385/443 and 389/448) to avoid her nagging
about working on his egg clue. He also lies to Hermione about missing Ron
when she is trying to force them to talk to each other (GF278/316).
And in Book Five, the pattern of Harry
lying to and deceiving Hermione intensifies far beyond what we saw in the
first four books. We see occasions when Harry is explicitly said in the text
to be lying when Hermione is questioning him or nagging him: OP62/64, 441/499,
600/681. We also see occasions when the reader knows Harry is lying, because
what he says is untrue:
- 'But why haven't
you got Occlumency lessons any more?' said Hermione, frowning.
told you,' Harry muttered. 'Snape reckons I can carry on by myself now I've
got the basics.'
you've stopped having funny dreams?' said Hermione sceptically.
much,' said Harry, not looking at her. (OP574/651)
We know, of course, that
Snape did not say this, and that Harry is having the dreams almost
continually at this point.
he said quickly. 'Nothing.'
seized his copy of Defensive Magical Theory and pretended to be looking something
up in the index. Crookshanks gave him up as a bad job and slunk away under
saw Cho earlier,' said Hermione tentatively. 'She looked really miserable,
too… have you two had a row again?'
oh, yeah, we have,' said Harry, seizing gratefully on the excuse. (OP575/652)
We know that it is the
Pensieve vision, not “nothing” or Cho, that is bothering Harry.
- 'You are trying
to block your mind, aren't you?' said Hermione, looking beadily at Harry.
'You are keeping going with your Occlumency?'
course I am,' said Harry, trying to sound as though this question was insulting,
but not quite meeting her eye. The truth was he was so intensely curious about
what was hidden in that room full of dusty orbs, that he was quite keen for
the dreams to continue. (OP601/682)
Harry is not trying to
block his mind – quite the contrary.
Besides these episodes
of outright lying, Harry also resorts to tricks such as deliberately dropping
a fork, pretending to cough, pretending to read, and other ploys to deceive
Hermione or hide things from her (OP205/227, 278/310, 295/331, 575/652).
This is new behavior in Book Five.
As a Last Resort, Harry Explodes Angrily
Because Harry does not like arguments
and open conflict, he usually won’t openly defy Hermione’s bossing until he’s
at the end of his rope, or until something of utmost importance is at stake.
At these times, Harry’s anger can be frightening. We first see this happen
at the end of Book One:
mad!' said Ron.
said Hermione. 'After what McGonagall and Snape have said? You'll be expelled!'
Harry shouted. 'Don't you understand?… [snip long, angry speech] …I'm going through that trapdoor
tonight and nothing you two say is going to stop me! Voldemort killed my parents,
'You're right, Harry,' said Hermione
in a small voice. (SS196/270)
We see this behavior quite a few times
in Book Five, most notably when Harry is desperate to go to the Department
of Mysteries after Sirius, and Hermione tries to stop him.
When Harry unleashes his pent-up anger
on Hermione, she is generally cowed, crying (OP64/66), looking frightened
(OP71/74, 646/733), looking stricken (OP293/328), stepping back in alarm (OP647/734),
etc. While this behavior is admittedly not typical of a son to a mother,
it is just as unequal – at these times, Harry switches from being dominated
by Hermione to dominating her. What is missing is the sort of equal give-and-take
arguments we see between Hermione and Ron. Harry dislike of arguing prevents
him from letting Hermione know that she is bothering him on a normal basis,
and when he does explode, she has a hard time holding her own against him.
A frank and equal exchange of views between Harry and Hermione is a rare thing
Harry’s negative response to Hermione’s
bossy nature is contrasted in these books with Ron’s more mixed response.
We have already seen how Hermione’s arguments spur Ron to argue back to her
rather than to avoid her as Harry does. Having grown up with a dominating
but loving mother in a loud and argumentative family, Ron doesn’t resent authority
figures as much as Harry does and has no particular aversion to rows. He
freely tells Hermione “don’t nag” or “skip the lecture” from the first book
onward (SS163/222, CS66/84, CS70/89), cutting her off before she builds up
steam (strikingly reminiscent of George’s advice about handling Molly in OP100/107).
Ron seems to enjoy a good spirited argument, as often as not.
And Ron has other tools in his arsenal,
as well. He is particularly adept at teasing Hermione, and derailing her
momentum with a shrewd thrust at a vulnerable point (PA85/111, GF207/236,
GF418/481, OP335/378, among many other instances). Ron is also able to divert
Hermione with a compliment (OP207/229), a joke (GF324/371), or a change in
subject (OP257/286). Ron also has an advantage over Harry in that he seems
to have more time and energy to spare for dealing with Hermione. He remembers
her exact marks (PA314/430, OP628/713), quotes her own words back at her (GF175/198),
talks to other people about her (PA180/244, GF348/399), and generally notices
things about her before Harry does (CS75/95, PA76/98, PA98/129, PA98/130,
PA181/244, PA217/294, GF161/182, GF171/194, GF175/198, GF352/405, OP201/223,
OP230/255, OP334/376, OP444/503).
In fact, Ron is so much more adept at
dealing with Hermione’s dominating side than Harry is that we often see Harry
depending on Ron to shield him from Hermione’s forcefulness. We see Ron step
in to “protect” Harry numerous times (SS115/154, SS115/155, CS66/84, PA148/198,
PA203/275, GF202/230, GF343/393, GF354/407, OP61/62, OP582/660, OP588/667,
OP754/856, and more). And we see Harry needing Ron to screen him from
the worst of Hermione’s enthusiasm. Here are some examples of that:
She said all this very
at Ron, and was relieved to see by his stunned face that he hadn’t learned
all the set books by heart either.
Harry’s very first reaction to Hermione’s
first words to him is to look to Ron for reassurance.
‘…Harry, you’re secretary,
so you might want to write down everything I’m saying now, as a record of
our first meeting.’
a pause in which Hermione beamed at the pair of them, and Harry sat, torn
between exasperation at Hermione and amusement at the look on Ron’s face. (GF199/225)
Hermione, by herself, only exasperates
Harry at times like these. But Harry’s amusement at watching Ron’s more colorful
reaction to Hermione’s bossiness (and probably his anticipation of what Ron
will say to her) gives him comfort and helps him tolerate it. However, when
Ron is missing, we see the following:
‘…They wouldn’t even look
twice at him if he couldn’t do that Wonky-Faint thing –’
said Harry, through gritted teeth. Quite apart from liking to get Quidditch
terms correct, it caused him another pang to imagine Ron’s expression if he
could have heard Hermione talking about Wonky-Faints. (GF278/317)
When Ron is not around, Harry lacks the
amusement and feels only the annoyance. He needs Ron to help him enjoy
Hermione’s company. And he wants Ron to protect him when Hermione is dragging
him off to see the house-elves:
‘I know what this is about,’
Ron and pointed to the painting just behind Hermione. It showed a gigantic
silver fruit bowl.
said Ron, cottoning on. ‘You’re trying to rope us into that spew stuff again!’ (GF326/374).
Harry nudges Ron to protest for him, rather
than protesting himself. He seems to feel that Ron is better at it than he
Harry stared at her.
Then he turned to Ron, ready to exchange the exasperated looks they sometimes
shared when Hermione elaborated on far-fetched schemes like SPEW. To Harry’s
consternation, however, Ron did not look exasperated. (OP292/326).
Here, Harry does not necessarily expect
Ron to jump in and argue against Hermione; he simply wants the silent comfort
of knowing that Ron feels the same as he does. Denied this, he feels “consternation.”
Ron is so effective at this shielding
function that the majority of arguments between Harry and Hermione take place
when Ron is not around. For instance, during the estrangement between Ron
and Harry in early Book Four, we see many snippy exchanges between Harry and
Hermione (GF255/290, 278/316, 278/317, 279/318, 281/320, 296/338, 302/345).
The same is true when Harry and Hermione are working together to rescue Sirius
and Buckbeak (PA291/398, 296/405, 298/408), when they are in the woods after
visiting Grawp with Hagrid (OP617/700), and after the centaurs have taken
Umbridge (OP669/759). When Ron is around, he usually steps in and engages
Hermione himself. When he is not around, Harry has to do it.
In Book Five, however, Ron drops his protective
role to a certain extent, often either siding with Hermione (OP214/237, 292/326,
296/331) or remaining neutral (OP580/658, 588/667) or nearly silent (OP646/733).
It is beyond the scope of this essay to examine the cause of this change in
Ron’s behavior, but the effect on Harry is striking. This, I believe, is
the main reason we see so many more examples of Harry avoiding and deceiving
Hermione in Book Five than we do in the earlier books. We also see Harry
begin to avoid and deceive Ron much more than he did in earlier books.
Harry can no longer depend on Ron to deflect Hermione’s nagging away from
Harry and onto himself and he even has reason to believe that Ron will “tell
on him” to Hermione, as he does about the bad dreams (OP600/681). Harry knows
that Ron and Hermione talk about him (OP63/64, 110/119, 213/237, 320/360,
478/542) and he assumes that to tell things to either of them will
result in Hermione nagging him (OP519/589, 600/681).
The problem with Harry’s response to Hermione’s
bossy side – as opposed to Ron’s response – is that is unequal in nature,
more resembling a rebellious teenager’s response to a protective parent than
an equal friendship or love relationship. In contrast, Ron and Hermione argue
with each other and tease each other freely and equally. Theirs is a stormy
relationship, but an equal one.
Harry’s and Hermione’s
relationship is unequal in another way. Hermione worries about Harry, thinks
about Harry, supports Harry, and helps Harry far more than Harry worries about
her, thinks about her, supports her, or helps her. While this is perfectly
normal and healthy in a parent-child type of relationship – and perfectly
acceptable for a hero-sidekick type of relationship – it would be disturbing
and unsatisfying in a love relationship. Harry’s disinterest in Hermione’s
needs and activities is striking. In Book Three, he didn't have time to fathom the mystery
of Hermione's impossible schedule (PA181/244). He displays little or no interest
in Hermione’s relationship with Krum, her investigation of Rita Skeeter, her
efforts to free house-elves, her family, her dormitory mates, her feelings
for Gilderoy Lockhart, or any other interest she has besides supporting him.
This is perfectly understandable in the context of Harry’s life, but the fact
is that Hermione gives, and Harry takes. Hermione worries about Harry, and
Harry doesn’t worry about Hermione. Their relationship is very unequal.
Ron, in contrast, displays
a consistent and vigorous interest in Hermione’s life. He is, of course,
intensely interested in Hermione’s feelings for both Gilderoy Lockhart and
Viktor Krum. He is curious about what Hermione’s secret doings in the library
are (GF325/373), and he expresses frustration at her secrecy (OP334/377, OP484/548).
He is curious enough about her heavy course schedule in Book Three that he
actively investigates it (PA180/244). He asks her questions about her preparations
for the Yule Ball (GF357/411), her smaller teeth (GF352/405), her planned
skiing trip (OP399/451, 440/498), her reasons for taking Muggle Studies (47/57),
her reasons for dropping Muggle Studies (PA314/430), her Christmas present
for Kreacher (OP444/503), her reason for setting out knitted hats (OP230/255),
her Ancient Runes exam (OP631/715), her SPEW badges (GF197/224), her letter
(OP407/460), and many other things. We see Ron “mother” Hermione almost as
much as she mothers him. In Book Four, he worries that her campaign against
Rita Skeeter will backfire on her (GF392/451, 445/513, 470/542), and he notices
and comments upon her eating habits (GF161/182, 171/194, 175/198). Sometimes
his concern for her is almost Molly-like:
- ‘You don’t reckon
Malfoy did something to her?’ Ron asked anxiously as they hurried upstairs
toward Gryffindor Tower.
- ‘You know what,
Hermione?’ said Ron, looking down at the enormous Arithmancy book Hermione
had been using as a pillow. ‘I reckon you’re cracking up. You’re trying
to do too much.’ (PA218/295).
- With that, Hermione
seized her school bag and dashed out of the Great Hall.
Ron called after her, ‘We’ve got our History of Magic exam in ten minutes!
Blimey,’ he said, turning back to Harry, ‘she must really hate that Skeeter
woman to risk missing the start of an exam…’ (GF533/614).
- Ron was just telling
her that she ought to eat a decent meal or she would not sleep that night…
Again, the relationship
between Ron and Hermione may be stormy, but it is equal. They try
to boss each other around. They tease each other. They worry about each
other. They show interest in each other’s non-Harry related lives.
In contrast, both Ron
and Hermione pay far more attention to Harry than Harry does to them. Both
of them support him in his endeavors far more than he supports them in theirs,
and they worry about him constantly. The difference is extreme. When
Harry’s hand is hurt, Hermione and Ron wait up for him with murtlap essence
(OP290/324); when Hermione’s hand is hurt, Harry says ‘You’d better get up
to the hospital wing,’ finishes his breakfast, and then goes off to class
(GF470/542). When Harry is in danger from Sirius Black in Book Three, Hermione
worries and frets about his safety and tries to keep him from visiting Hagrid,
Hogsmeade, etc.; when Hermione is in danger from the Heir of Slytherin in
Book Two, Harry… thinks about his own problems. I am hard put to think of
a single time when Harry advises Hermione about a problem she has, or nags
her to keep safe, or does any of the things that Hermione – and Ron – routinely
do for Harry. The vast majority of the time, Harry is being supported, not
supporting his friends.
This is not a problem
in the structure of the story. Harry is the hero, and he needs all the help
and aid his two best friends can give him. It is not a character flaw, either.
Harry’s problems truly are much worse than Hermione’s or Ron’s. But it is
a problem if you try to imagine Harry involved in a love relationship with
either of his two best friends. His hero role combined with their sidekick/supporter
role makes for a very unequal relationship. Sometimes his relationship with
Hermione comes across as parent-child and sometimes as hero-supporter, but
either way, it is very unequal, and it is hard to imagine their roles changing
drastically enough to permit an equal love relationship. It is difficult
to morph from a sidekick into the heroine.
2. Harry and Hermione
don’t have fun and laugh together (unless Ron is with them).
Hermione is Harry’s friend, and he loves
her very much. In the books, he clearly expresses the qualities that he likes
and admires about her:
was really lucky that Harry now had Hermione as a friend. He didn’t know
how he’d have gotten through all his homework without her, what with all
the last-minute Quidditch practice Wood was making them do. She had also
lent him Quidditch through the Ages, which turned out to be a very
interesting read. (SS133/181)
had become a bit more relaxed about breaking rules since Harry and Ron had
saved her from the mountain troll, and she was much nicer about it. (SS133/181)
you pay attention in Herbology, Hermione’ (SS202/278)
the cleverest witch in Harry’s year, had Muggle parents, knew perfectly
well how to use a telephone, and would probably have had enough sense not
to say that she went to Hogwarts. (PA9/5)
was sure that, criminal or not, Ron and Hermione would want to help him
Ron and Hermione had decided to remain at Hogwarts, and though Ron said
it was because he couldn’t stand two weeks with Percy, and Hermione insisted
she needed to use the library, Harry wasn’t fooled; they were doing it to
keep him company, and he was very grateful. (PA141/189)
told Hermione exactly what had happened after he had left the Gryffindor
table the night before. To his immense relief, Hermione accepted his story
without question. (GF254/289)
was full of admiration for the way she was handling the situation [Rita Skeeter article]. (GF277/316)
frankly marveled at the fact that Hermione could research magical methods
of eavesdropping as well as everything else they had to do. (GF476/548)
was the first time she had ever said Voldemort’s name, and it was this,
more than anything else, that calmed Harry. (OP293/328)
felt a surge of pride in Hermione’s jinxing ability. (OP541/613)
through his anger and impatience Harry recognized Hermione’s offer to accompany
him into Umbridge’s office as a sign of solidarity and loyalty. (OP650/737)
It is perfectly clear. Harry loves and
admires Hermione because she is smart, brave, talented, quick thinking, sensible,
hard working, generous, and loyal. He knows he can trust her and depend
on her to support him. Those are admirable qualities indeed, but they are
not all Harry wants in a friend. Harry also clearly expresses the areas in
which Hermione falls short in the qualities he most values in a friend:
‘Miss him?’ said
Harry. I don’t miss him…’
But this was
a downright lie. Harry liked Hermione very much, but she just wasn’t the
same as Ron. There was much less laughter and a lot more hanging around in
the library when Hermione was your best friend. Harry still hadn’t mastered
Summoning Charms, he seemed to have developed something of a block about them,
and Hermione insisted that learning the theory would help. They consequently
spent a lot of time poring over books during their lunchtimes. (GF278/316)
Harry misses Ron because he is fun.
Ron’s humor and playfulness entertain Harry and cheer him up. Hermione, for
all her other wonderful qualities, can’t do this for Harry. She doesn’t lighten
up his dark moods, distract him from his troubles, or engage him in the giggly,
giddy companionship that is such a large part of many friendships. On the
contrary, her serious, earnest attitude makes things worse for him. Harry
does not enjoy poring over books and sitting in the library, and it
does not even help him learn the Summoning Charm. He longs for laughter and
Harry’s Fun Times are Not Associated
In fact, if we look at the times in the
book when Harry is described as being the most entertained or having
the most fun, we notice that, more often than not, Hermione is not
the holidays had started, Ron and Harry were having too good a time to think
much about Flamel. (SS146/199)
– Hermione has gone home for Christmas, and Harry is with Ron.
had been Harry’s best Christmas day ever. (SS150/204) – Harry is with Ron, Fred, George,
end of the summer vacation came too quickly for Harry’s liking. He was
looking forward to getting back to Hogwarts, but his month at the Burrow
had been the happiest of his life. (CS53/65) – Harry is with Ron and the other Weasleys.
looked at each other and started to laugh; for a long time, they couldn’t
stop. It was though they had been plunged into a fabulous dream. (CS57/71) – Harry is with Ron in the Flying
said Harry, and feeling happier than he had in ages, he and the rest of
the team led the way, still in their scarlet robes, out of the stadium and
back up to the castle. It felt as though they had already won the Quidditch
Cup; the party went on all day and well into the night. (PA195/264) – Harry is with Ron and the other
Gryffindors (Hermione does not join them).
Harry didn’t care, he wouldn’t have cared if Karkaroff had given him zero;
Ron’s indignation on his behalf was worth about a hundred points to him.
He didn’t tell Ron this, of course, but his heart felt lighter than air
as he turned to leave the enclosure. (GF315/360) – Harry is with Ron after they are reconciled.
helped himself to food; he had almost forgotten what it felt like to be
properly hungry, and sat down with Ron and Hermione. He couldn’t believe
how happy he felt; he had Ron back on his side, he’d gotten through the
first task, and he wouldn’t have to face the second one for three months.
Harry is with Ron, Hermione, and the other Gryffindors.
George, and Ginny came to sit next to them too, and Harry was having such
a good time he felt almost as though he were back at the Burrow; he had
forgotten to worry about that evening’s task, and not until Hermione turned
up, halfway through lunch, did he remember that she had had a brainwave
about Rita Skeeter. (GF537/618)
– Harry is with Ron and the other Weasleys.
could he have dreamed of returning to Privet Drive for Christmas? Sirius’s
delight at having the house full again, and especially at having Harry back,
was infectious. (OP443/501) – Harry is with Sirius, Ron, Hermione, and the Weasleys.
We also see Harry eagerly
anticipating fun times in which Hermione will not be involved:
- Ron, meanwhile,
was going home to the Burrow. Harry endured several days of jealousy before
Ron said, in response to Harry asking how Ron was going to get home for
Christmas, ‘But you’re coming too! Didn’t I say? Mum wrote and told me to
invite you weeks ago!’
rolled her eyes, but Harry’s spirits soared: The thought of Christmas at
the Burrow was truly wonderful, only slightly marred by Harry’s guilty feeling
that he would not be able to spend the holiday with Sirius. He wondered whether
he could possibly persuade Mrs. Weasley to invite his godfather for the festivities
too… (OP399/452) Harry wishes
desperately to enjoy himself with Ron, the rest of the Weasleys, and possibly
Sirius. Hermione is planning to go skiing and will not be present.
- Harry felt exhausted.
He just wanted this to be over so that he could go and sleep. Then tomorrow,
he and Ron were going to go down to the Quidditch pitch – he was going to
have a fly on Ron’s broom and savor their freedom from studying….
(OP639/724) Ron is the companion Harry looks forward to spending his relaxing,
celebratory time with.
One searches the books in vain for Harry
and Hermione enjoying these kinds of pleasurable times without Ron’s presence.
Such scenes between Harry and Ron are ludicrously easy to find. Besides the
ones listed above as Harry’s best times, there are many others. Scenes with
Ron and Hermione having fun without Harry are also surprisingly easy to find,
considering that we are usually limited to Harry’s point of view. The most
obvious of these is looking as though they’d had the time of their lives
(PA118/157), but there are other times when they seem to be having fun, as
well. Some examples are SS159/217, CS84/109, CS148/197, PA46-47/55-57, PA142/190,
GF622/717, OP13/8, and OP351/396. We also see Hermione having fun with Mrs.
Weasley and Ginny (PA56/69, OP265/295). But for Harry and Hermione alone,
the best I can find is their shared glee at Malfoy’s downfall in Book One
(SS176/241) and a bit of shaky laughter over their Grawp predicament in Book
Five (OP611/694). Hermione does propose once that she and Harry could knit
elf hats together, but Harry, not perceiving this as enjoyable, declines (OP250/278).
There is a reason why Harry has both
Ron and Hermione as best friends. Together, they have the qualities he needs.
Ron keeps him happy and Hermione keeps him safe. Ron gives him intuition
and Hermione gives him logic. Hermione gives him access to her prodigious
store of knowledge and Ron gives him access to his boisterous, loving family.
Ideally, when Harry finds his true love interest, she (I am assuming a “she”
at this point) will combine the best qualities of both Ron and Hermione.
Hermione Doesn’t Laugh at Harry’s Jokes:
Why is it that Harry and Hermione don’t
have much fun together? A big reason is their very different approaches toward
humor. Again and again in the books, we see Hermione’s seriousness contrasted
with others’ fun-loving playfulness:
fell about laughing except Hermione, who leapt up and performed the counter-curse.
Finnigan and Dean Thomas, who were sitting in front, were shaking with silent
laughter. Hermione, on the other hand, was listening to Lockhart with rapt
attention and gave a start when he mentioned her name. (CS78/100)
didn't mean to," said Harry, while Ron roared with laughter. "I
just -- lost control."
"It's not funny, Ron," said Hermione sharply. "Honestly,
I'm amazed Harry wasn't expelled." (PA47/56)
you planning to eat or sleep at all this year, Hermione?" asked Harry,
while Ron sniggered. Hermione ignored them. (PA47/57)
- It didn't
help that Ron kept breaking into silent giggles and Hermione kept tutting.
and Ginny both laughed, although Hermione didn't. (GF52/54)
and George were cheering, Ginny was laughing, and Hermione was hovering
near the hedge, apparently torn between amusement and anxiety. (GF57/60)
he'll believe I'm not enjoying myself once I've got my neck broken or -"
"That's not funny," said Hermione
quietly. "That's not funny at all." She looked extremely anxious.
laughed; Hermione looked as though she did not know whether to smile or
not and compromised by taking an extra large gulp of Butterbeer and choking
on it. (OP155/170)
of the people watching were laughing; Hermione, however, squared her shoulders
and marched directly over to where Fred and George now stood with clipboards,
closely observing the unconscious first-years. (OP228/253)
I wonder what it'd be like to have a difficult life?' said Harry sarcastically.
Ron laughed, but Hermione frowned. (OP235/261)
laughed but Hermione looked upset. (OP271/303)
all laughed except Hermione, who ploughed on, 'So, after "E" it's
"A" for "Acceptable", and that's the last pass grade,
isn't it?' (OP278/311)
sniggered, breaking off when Hermione caught his eye. (OP404/457)
George and Ron laughed; Hermione, however, looked reproachful. (OP446/505)
just wish the door would open, I'm sick of standing staring at it -'
‘That's not funny,' said Hermione sharply. (OP489/554)
laughed just as Hermione came running up behind them. He stopped laughing
at once, in case it annoyed her. (OP633/718)
In some of these instances, it is understandable
– even admirable – that Hermione doesn’t laugh. It is good, for instance,
that she doesn’t laugh at Neville’s Leg-Locker hopping. At other times, this
reader at least gets annoyed with her. Harry’s quip that he wonders what
it’d be like to have a difficult life is funny. Hermione could take
a moment away from reminding Harry to be careful and appreciate his humor.
At any rate, the collective effect of this repeated motif is that Hermione
is placed in opposition to humor. Hermione is a very serious person.
She is a worrier, and something of a pessimist. She is earnest, single-minded,
anxious, and intense.
It is not that Hermione doesn’t have a
sense of humor – she certainly does have one. She laughs quite a few times
in the books, and makes jokes as well. But she is not a light-hearted person.
And neither is Harry. Harry longs for humor and good times, but he can’t
provide them for himself. He needs someone else – such as Ron or Fred and
George – to get him started. Hermione also has more fun if someone else –
Ron, Ginny, or Mrs. Weasley – gets her started, but she doesn’t seem
to need fun times as badly or value them as much as Harry does.
Another reason Harry and Hermione don’t
have much fun alone together is that Hermione has a very limited appreciation
of Harry’s particular brand of dark, sardonic humor. The majority of Harry’s
jokes are made about himself in tense situations. Again and again, Hermione
either misses the joke completely, or responds with “that’s not funny.”
Besides the four examples listed above (PA47/57, GF255/290, OP235/261, OP489/554),
we also see Hermione failing to appreciate Harry’s jokes at GF303/347, GF354/407,
GF418/482, and GF422/487. In comparison to the above, we see Hermione actually
laughing at one of Harry’s jokes just four times in five books (GF341/391,
OP175/194, OP355/401, and OP611/694). Only the last is a characteristic Harry
quip-in-the-face-of-danger. The other three are insult humor against Snape,
Malfoy, and Warrington. This is the type of joke that Hermione usually makes
herself, and consistently enjoys.
Hermione, characteristically, prefers
to remain serious and earnest in tense times. She likes to concentrate unwaveringly
on problems with no breaks for pleasure. Harry, characteristically, prefers
to lighten the tension with a sarcastic quip. He performs better and stays
saner if he allows himself to relax and forget about his trouble for a while.
Neither style is better or more admirable. The problem is that Hermione’s
style makes Harry unhappy. Harry’s life is unhappy enough already;
the last thing he needs is a girlfriend who discourages him from laughing
and having fun. For Harry, the laughs and pleasures he finds in, for instance,
the Weasley household, are like air to a drowning man. He needs those times
desperately. And – after the childhood he suffered through – he deserves
Again, there is nothing wrong with being
a serious person, not given to laughing easily. Some people need such a partner.
Ron, for instance, is plenty lighthearted and fun loving all by himself, and
would probably benefit from someone who can rein in his playful spirit and
force him to see the serious side of life. In fact, he does benefit
from this already – Ron and Hermione balance each other admirably in their
efforts to support Harry.
But Harry – because of his background,
his situation, and his personality -- desperately needs someone who will lift
his spirits and add humor and pleasure to his life. Rowling is not coy about
this. Besides Harry’s statement that Hermione just wasn’t the same as
Ron, we see Harry directly affirm the importance of humor in his value
system (bold mine):
But I could do with a few laughs. We could all do with a few laughs. I’ve got a
feeling we’re going to need them much more than usual before long. (GF635/733)
This moral is strongly reinforced in the
books by the need for happy memories to generate a Patronus to fight Dementors,
by the use of laughter to fight Boggarts, and by the use of pranks to fight
Umbridge. In J. K. Rowling’s world, humor, like love, is a powerful force
Harry directly describes his vision for
a good relationship as having fun together:
Yes, he had liked Cho for ages, but
whenever he had imagined a scene involving the two of them it had always featured
a Cho who was enjoying herself… (OP407/460)
Granted, it would be possible for Harry
to find the humor and fun he needs with someone besides his love interest.
But canon suggests otherwise. This time it is Ron – not to be depended on
in matters of logical deduction, but reliably accurate in intuiting Harry’s
emotional needs – who makes the observation:
‘You’re well out of it, mate,’ said
Ron forcefully. ‘I mean, she’s quite good-looking and all that, but you want
someone a bit more cheerful.’
In my opinion, Ron is absolutely correct.
Harry does need someone cheerful, even lighthearted, as a girlfriend.
And Hermione – worrying, crusading, frequently crying, not-laughing
Hermione – is not that person.
1. Hermione is too
rational and not tactful or intuitive enough to deal sensitively with Harry’s
One thing almost every reader of the Harry
Potter books notices is that Hermione frequently offers Harry perfectly correct
advice. And Harry hardly ever follows it. Why is that?
Well, one reason, of course, is that the
plots would be quite boring if Harry always did the sensible thing. But the
reason within the book world is that Hermione predisposes Harry not to follow
her advice by her way of giving it. Even though you would think Harry would
have noticed by now that Hermione’s advice is generally well worth listening
to, Hermione’s manner of giving it consistently offends, annoys, or enrages
him, causing him to block out and disregard her words.
In addition, we see quite a few occasions
when Harry does not choose to confide things – particularly his feelings –
to Hermione, though he confides them to others such as Lupin, Dumbledore,
and – on one occasion – Ginny. Again, the reason is that Hermione’s manner
and personal style doesn’t encourage Harry to confide in her. Hermione is
a far better talker than a listener. She lacks patience, gentleness, and
intuitive perception of Harry’s feelings. She is tactless. Ron shares some
of these same traits, and Harry does not confide his feelings to Ron very
often either. This is an obvious “hole” in the support network that Harry
has now, one that would be an ideal role for Harry’s eventual love interest
to fill. Harry needs someone he feels comfortable sharing his feelings with.
For illustration, let us look at times
in the book when Harry failed to follow Hermione’s advice, but accepted that
same advice from others. For instance, in Book Three, Hermione was adamantly
opposed to Harry visiting Hogsmeade and constantly advised him against it.
Harry paid no attention to her. However, when Remus Lupin gave him the same
advice (PA213/290), Harry immediately accepts that he was wrong to visit Hogsmeade.
Similarly, in Book Four Hermione repeatedly badgers Harry to work on his egg,
to the point that he lies to her and tells her that he has. However, when
Hagrid expresses his desire for Harry to win the tournament, Harry changes
Lying to Hagrid wasn’t quite like lying
to anyone else. Harry went back to the castle later that afternoon with Ron
and Hermione, unable to banish the image of the happy expression on Hagrid’s
whiskery face as he had imagined Harry winning the tournament. The incomprehensible
egg weighed more heavily than ever on Harry’s conscience that evening, and
by the time he had got into bed, he had made up his mind – it was time to
shelve his pride and see if Cedric’s hint was worth anything. (GF396/456)
We see the same thing many times in the
books. Harry doesn’t believe Hermione’s position that they should be nice
to Kreacher until Dumbledore tells him the same thing (OP733/832). Harry
ignores Hermione’s insistent nagging when he plans to talk to Sirius in Umbridge’s
fire, but McGonagall vouching for him to Umbridge makes him reconsider his
It doesn’t take much thought to understand
why Harry ignores Hermione’s advice, and listens to people such as Lupin and
Hagrid. Hermione falls into the classic parental mistake of nagging too early
and too often. Most parents learn from experience that if you do this, your
children will get used to it and simply tune you out. For instance, in the
case of the egg, Hermione first reminds Harry of how far he has to go only
hours after Harry completes the first task, pouring cold water on Ron’s buoyant
optimism and Harry’s euphoria:
‘There’s no way any of the other tasks
are going to be that dangerous, how could they?’ Ron went on as he carried
Pigwidgeon to the window. ‘You know what? I reckon you could win this tournament,
Harry, I’m serious.’
Harry knew that Ron was only saying
this to make up for his behavior of the last few weeks, but he appreciated
it all the same. Hermione, however, leaned against the Owlery wall, folded
her arms, and frowned at Ron.
‘Harry’s got a long way to go before
he finishes this tournament,’ she said seriously. ‘If that was the first
task, I hate to think what’s coming next.’
Right little ray of sunshine, aren’t
you?’ said Ron. ‘You and Professor Trelawney should get together sometime.’ (GF317/364).
I have to agree with Ron here. Harry
needs some time to relax and enjoy his win, and Hermione’s pessimistic attitude
is not very inspiring. Hermione continues to remind Harry about the egg,
speaking “severely” (GF342/392), interrupting a joke of Harry’s (GF354/407),
advising him to skip Hogsmeade (GF385/443), etc. She emphasizes the negative
side – Harry’s danger, the amount of work he needs to do, the consequences
if he fails (‘you’re going to look a real idiot’ – GF342/393). Harry
tunes her out and lies to her. Hagrid, in stark contrast, expresses warm
confidence in Harry, emphasizing the positive side – that Harry might win.
And – importantly – he doesn’t nag, but speaks only once. No one who has
ever raised a teenager will be surprised that Hagrid’s method succeeds while
Here and elsewhere, Hermione ignores some
basic rules of human communication – wait for the right moment, listen before
speaking, validate the other person’s emotions, etc. Look, for instance,
at Hermione’s Book Five efforts to convince Harry that his vision of Sirius
might be a trap:
‘You… this isn’t a criticism, Harry!
But you do… sort of… I mean – don’t you think you’ve got sort of a – a – saving-people
thing?’ she said. (OP646/733)
Hermione is dealing with a desperately
upset person, in a tearing hurry, and she introduces the possibility of a
trap by describing it as a flaw of Harry’s! This is guaranteed to enrage
him, and of course it does. There were, oh, so many more tactful ways of
making this suggestion. Anything would have been better than this.
Harry is almost forced to reject her suggestion because otherwise he’s admitting
that he has a “saving-people thing.” Next, she reminds Harry of his failings:
‘…if you’d done Occlumency properly,
you’d never have seen this –’ (OP648/735)
Hermione doesn’t mean to criticize Harry
for his past failures here, but this can’t help but feel like an ‘I told you
so’ to Harry, after all the nagging she has done on the subject. Harry, in
his impatient frenzy, naturally feels like she is attacking him rather than
supporting him, and he goes into full capital-letter roaring mode. Now, of
course Rowling is having Hermione commit these unintentional tactless blunders
to add drama and interest to the scene. But it is perfectly in character
for Hermione to be tactless and handle Harry’s feelings badly. She has a
long history of hurting people’s feelings with her logical critiques from
Lavender’s bunny (PA112/148) to Ron’s dead rat (PA187/252) to Winky’s feelings
for Mr. Crouch (331/379) to Luna’s father’s stories (OP308/345). Her tactlessness
seriously offends the centaurs in the Forest (OP666/756) and the Hogwarts
house-elves (GF468/539, OP342/385). These traits are a basic part of Hermione’s
Finally, after Ginny and Luna come in, Hermione says what
Harry desperately needs to hear:
‘…If we find he’s not there, then I
swear I won’t try to stop you. I’ll come, I’ll d – do whatever it takes to
try to save him.’ (OP648/735)
If she had said this earlier, Harry would
have been a lot more willing to listen to her objections.
We can see more examples of how Hermione’s
personality makes it hard for her to deal with Harry when it comes to the
times Harry confides in someone else after failing to confide in Hermione.
A clear example takes place in Book Four, when Harry refuses to tell Hermione
anything about how badly he feels, how much he misses Ron, etc.:
Hermione was furious with the pair
of them; she went from one to the other, trying to force them to talk to each
other, but Harry was adamant. He would talk to Ron again only if Ron admitted
that Harry hadn’t put his name in the Goblet of Fire and apologized for calling
him a liar.
‘I didn’t start this,’ Harry said stubbornly.
‘It’s his problem.’
‘You miss him!’ Hermione said impatiently.
‘And I know he misses you –’
‘Miss him?’ said Harry. I don’t
But this was a downright lie. (GF277/316)
It is not surprising that Harry does not
confide his feelings to someone who is “furious” at him, trying to “force”
him to talk to Ron, and telling him “impatiently” what his own feelings are.
But Harry is desperate for someone to confide in. He needs, very badly, to
talk. Harry looks forward to seeing Sirius: ‘The prospect of talking face-to-face
with Sirius was all that sustained Harry over the next fortnight’ (GF275/313).
And when he does see him, Sirius effortlessly elicits Harry’s confidences:
‘Never mind me, how are you?’ said
‘I’m – ’ For a second, Harry tried
to say “fine” – but he couldn’t do it. Before he could stop himself, he was
talking more than he’d talked in days – about how no one believed he hadn’t
entered the tournament of his own free will, how Rita Skeeter had lied about
him in the Daily Prophet, how he couldn’t walk down a corridor without
being sneered at – and about Ron, Ron not believing him, Ron’s jealousy… (GF290/331)
Why is Harry’s reaction to Sirius so different
from his reaction to Hermione? Well, Sirius isn’t speaking angrily to him,
or badgering him about anything. But it is more than that. Sirius is practicing
impeccable listening skills:
Sirius looked at him, eyes full of
concern… …He let Harry talk himself into silence without interruption (GF291/331)
Sirius simply listens. He doesn’t judge
Harry, or tell him what he’s doing wrong, or try to force him to do anything.
He only listens, and looks at Harry with compassion. Even though his time
is limited, and he has things of utmost importance to tell Harry, Sirius understands
Harry enough to know that he needs to talk first. If Hermione truly understood
Harry, if she had the perception and patience and tact that Sirius has, Harry
would have talked to her, and it would have helped him a lot and brought the
two of them closer.
But Hermione does not have those qualities.
As early as their walk around the lake, the morning after Harry’s name was
drawn from the Goblet, Hermione’s poor listening skills make it likely that
Harry won’t confide in her (GF254-256/289-291). She seems to blame Harry
for Ron’s jealousy, so that she has to quickly disclaim ‘Oh, I know it’s
not your fault’ when Harry gets furious. She speaks “shortly” to Harry,
making him so angry that he frightens owls in a nearby tree. She cuts him
off when he tries to rant about Ron. And then she goes straight into telling
him what he ought to do, interrupting him, speaking to him “sternly,” battering
him with her relentless logic until he pettishly agrees to write to Sirius.
No doubt it is a good thing for Harry to write to Sirius. But Harry’s feelings
are important, too. Couldn’t Hermione have waited even an hour to listen
to Harry expressing his unhappiness? Harry needs someone in his life who
will listen to him and empathize with him, and Hermione does not seem to want
A similar thing happens in Book Five,
when Harry learns about his father’s shortcomings in Snape’s Pensieve. Harry
immediately decides that he doesn’t want to tell Ron and Hermione what he
has seen (OP573/650). He lies to Hermione about why his lessons have stopped,
and gratefully seizes on the excuse of his spat with Cho to explain why he
is so upset (OP575/652).
Harry is desperately unhappy; he feels
as though the memory of it was eating him from inside (OP575/653).
But he continues to hide his feelings from Ron and Hermione. This is very
reminiscent of Book Three, when Harry refused to tell Ron and Hermione that
he could hear his parents when he was near Dementors (PA137-8/183-4). On
that subject, it was Remus Lupin’s calm listening skills that succeeded in
breaking Harry’s reserve (PA140/187). Here, Ginny is the one who uses good
listening techniques to find out what is wrong with Harry:
Harry looked at it a moment, then,
to his horror, he felt a lump rise in this throat.
‘Are you OK, Harry?’ Ginny asked quietly.
‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ Harry said gruffly.
The lump in his throat was painful. He did not understand why an Easter egg
should have made him feel like this.
‘You seem really down lately,’ Ginny
persisted. ‘You know, I’m sure if you just talked to Cho…’
‘It’s not Cho I want to talk to,’ said
‘Who is it, then?’ asked Ginny, watching
He glanced around to make quite sure
nobody was listening. Madam Pince was several shelves away, stamping out
a pile of books for a frantic-looking Hannah Abbott.
‘I wish I could talk to Sirius,’ he
muttered. ‘But I know I can’t.’
Ginny continued to watch him thoughtfully.
Ginny employs several good listening techniques
here. First, she waits for the opportune moment, when Harry is feeling emotional
about his Easter egg. She speaks quietly. She watches Harry closely, gauging
his emotions. And, most of all, she does a good bit of remaining silent.
She lets him stutter and look around the room without saying anything. Even
after he speaks, she continues to watch him thoughtfully. These are the same
techniques that Sirius used, the same techniques that Remus Lupin used, the
same techniques that Dumbledore uses with Harry. Silence, patience, gentleness,
watching him with a compassionate expression – these are the way to get Harry
to talk. Ginny does not ask why Harry wants to see Sirius, or criticize him
in any way, or tell him what he should do. She lets him tell her just as
much as he wants to tell her, without pestering him for more.
Soon after, we see Hermione’s very different
reaction to the same information: “What?’ Hermione said sharply (OP579/657)
and ‘Don’t be so ridiculous.’ She speaks patronizingly, with an
air of explaining something very simple to someone very obtuse, and calls
the idea “insane.” She spends all the next day in almost continual attempts
to dissuade him (OP581/660) and an uninterrupted flow of dire warnings
(OP582/660) without even asking Harry why he wants to talk to Sirius, or offering
another option for communicating with him, or doing anything positive or constructive.
Honestly – which girl would you find it
easier to confide in?
Yes, it is quite true that Hermione and
her dire warnings and her frank criticisms and her impeccable logic have an
important place in Harry’s life. Rowling herself has said ‘She is the
most brilliant of the three and they need her. Harry needs her badly.’
(Ann Treneman, “J.K. Rowling: the Interview,” June 30, 2000) Harry would
be much better off if he could bring himself to listen to Hermione more often.
But Harry needs more than wise advice and clever plans and powerful spells.
He also needs someone he can tell his feelings to without being snapped at
or nagged or laughed at. He needs a mediator – someone who can offer him
advice (maybe even Hermione’s advice) in a way that doesn’t offend him or
make him automatically resist it.
Hermione’s role as Harry’s friend is already
set – she is his taskmaster and his prickly voice of caution, literally the
voice in his head that nags at him and gives him warnings when he is being
reckless or disobedient (OP343/387, 601/682). She is a source of knowledge
and clever plans, an asset any hero would be glad to have. But the pattern
of their emotional relationship is already set with bossiness and annoyance.
It is wildly unlikely that Hermione will change her way of behaving in a way
that encourages Harry to confide his closely held emotions to her and receive
And – if she did – would that even be
a good thing? Everyone needs someone in their life to play the part that
Hermione plays for Harry. For many people, it is their mother, but Harry
doesn’t have one of those. He needs Hermione. But Hermione can’t
play correcting mentor and accepting girlfriend. The two roles are
Moreover, Harry needs someone who is exceptionally
gentle and empathetic and perceptive in the confidante role. Not everyone
needs this. Ron, for instance, wears his emotions on his sleeve and tells
his secrets with very little encouragement. As with his spider phobia (CS117/154)
or his Potions mark (OP278/310), Ron bursts out with information even when
Hermione is laughing at him or nagging him. Ron is an optimistic, playful
person who quickly bounces back from his brief dark moods and often laughs
just moments after he was angry – he does not need to be cheered or patiently
But Harry is different. Harry has demons
and black pits in his mind that neither Ron nor Hermione can truly understand.
Harry is brooding and reserved and introverted, and frequently hides his feelings.
He needs help to get out of black moods. He needs an exceptionally sensitive
and tactful confidante. And this confidante should not look at Harry
as though worried about his sanity when he tells her a secret, causing him
to turn away and stop talking (PA298/407). This person should not
respond to Harry’s fear of being the Heir of Slytherin by telling him he very
well could be, causing him to lay awake for hours worrying (CS147/196). This
person should not endanger Harry’s trust by turning him in to authority
figures behind his back (PA172/232) or sharply tell him he’s lying when he
tries to keep Sirius safe (GF202/229) or treat him like an “overemotional
toddler” (OP504/572) or show open approval when he is punished by authority
figures (CS91/119, OP285/319).
I hope Harry will find that person. I
hope very much that person will be his girlfriend. But we already know from
their current interactions that Hermione cannot be that person.
There is an old saying: If it ain’t
broke, don’t fix it. In my opinion, the relationship between Harry and
Hermione isn’t broken. Hermione performs an essential role in Harry’s life
and gives him support he desperately needs, both as a motherless boy and as
the target of a deadly villain. But Hermione isn’t a superwoman. She can’t
be Harry’s mother-surrogate and his sister-surrogate and his friend and his
sidekick and his girlfriend. The demands of the different roles are
incompatible. Harry will need to add more supporters to help him in his fight,
not simply expect his first two supporters to meet his every need. And the
‘girlfriend’ role is a natural one to add functions that Harry is mostly missing
Harry needs someone he is sexually attracted
to. He needs someone who will talk cheerfully to him, rather than lecturing
and arguing. He needs someone he doesn’t resent for her bossiness and he
isn’t tempted to avoid and deceive. He needs someone to play with – someone
who will laugh at his tension relieving quips and make him laugh in return.
And he desperately needs an emotional confidante who will be gentle and sensitive
with his abuse-scarred heart.
Rowling has said that we have enough clues
by now to guess whether Harry and Hermione will end up together as girlfriend
and boyfriend (online chat, March 4, 2004). She has encouraged us to decide
whether or not they are really suited. They are suited – very suited as friends,
but not at all as romantic partners. Harry does not need for Hermione to
drastically change her personality and become what he needs in a girlfriend;
he needs her to stay exactly as she is and continue to be his good friend.
And from all the clues Rowling has given us – Harry’s romantic disinterest
in Hermione, his complete apathy as to her romantic admirers, and his response
to her talkative, bossy, serious, logical nature – that is exactly what will