The last installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise comes out this weekend, and for many it is the bittersweet end of an era that has spanned the entire length of their childhood. I didn’t discover the books until I was 18 years old; I vividly remember purchasing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at LAX before hopping on a plane to start my college career halfway across the country. As I sat in my dorm room on that first night away from home, I felt a lot like Harry: eager for acceptance, apprehensive about making new friends and just a little bit lonely.
After finishing the first book, I snapped up every subsequent book in the series and saw each of the movies more than a few times.
My experience with the world of Harry Potter spans the length of my 20s, so while I didn’t “grow up” with Harry, I most certainly came of age while reading his story. So here’s my deep, dark Harry Potter secret: I always thought that Harry and Hermione should have gotten together. I know they never dated or kissed or did any of those other things that romantic couples do. But that doesn’t mean that Harry and Hermione still didn’t teach me a whole lot of lessons about love…
1. Love is Loyal
Through seven books, Hermione is the one person that sticks with Harry the entire time. She uses her time turner to go back in time to help Harry save Sirius and Buckbeak. She helps Harry perfect the “Accio!” charm for the first Triwizard Tournament task. She urges Harry to start “Dumbledore’s Army” and she follows him to the Department of Mysteries, even though she is certain that it is a trap laid out by Voldemort. And when a frustrated and jealous Ron decides he’s had enough of the camping trip from hell, Hermione stays with Harry, even though she is heartbroken. Hermione is absolutely indispensable to Harry in his journey—she knows this, and she always chooses to honor it.
Harry is similarly loyal to Hermione. He gives her credit for solving the Chamber of Secrets mystery, defends her against Cho, and tells teachers that she is the best student in their year.
In a world of chaos where everything seems to be falling down around them, Harry and Hermione are steady, fixed points of support for each other, and I always found that to be very poignant. There aren’t that many people in life who will stick by you through thick and thin. Hold them close.
2. Love Hurts
If you tell people on the street that you prefer Hermione with Harry, they look at you strangely and say, “Don’t you know she ends up with Ron at the end?” And if you tell people on the internet that you like Harry and Hermione, get ready for a storm of indignation, wrath and ridicule, the likes of which you have never seen before. Harry/Hermione fans are reviled on the internet. I’m not kidding—I once had someone accuse me of supporting incest (which…if I say that someone is like my sister THAT DOES NOT MAKE THEM MY SISTER. If words worked like that I would have called myself a wealthy space cowgirl a long time ago.)
But the beauty of being spat upon by the collective Harry Potter fandom is that you learn…not to give a crap! You learn that the people and things you love won’t always be popular, but you can still love them anyway. And you learn not to judge other people for the things that they love.
3. Love is in the Eye of the Beholder
Lots of people irrationally hate Harry/Hermione and that’s totally cool. Because you know who doesn’t hate them? The producers, directors and screenwriters of the Harry Potter movies. HP movie scribe Steve Kloves is notoriously thought to lean in the direction of Harry/Hermione, an opinion bolstered by the sharply increased screen time for the pair. And HP director David Yates even added in a tender dance scene for the non-couple in the first Deathly Hallows film, a scene that is nowhere to be found in any of the books.
These changes make some fans very angry and that’s a valid emotion, but I think it’s perfectly natural for different people to have different perspectives on a text. J.K. Rowling herself even gave an interview where she acknowledged that Harry/Hermione was, perhaps, not the craziest idea of the face of planet Earth:
“Now the fact is that Hermione shares moments with Harry that Ron will never be able to participate in. He walked out. She shared something very intense with Harry…So I think it could have gone that way.”
Our experiences of love and literature are unique, specific and meaningful — the HP movies are a nice reminder that there’s room in the world for many different interpretations of love.
4. Love is a Battlefield…
…but it doesn’t have to be. I understand why people like Ron and Hermione together, I really do. There’s a thin line between love and hate, and fiery bickering can easily turn to passion of a whole different sort. But for my part, I’ve never been drawn to that sort of romance. Take my own relationship, for example. Two years ago I married a man who is unequivocally my best friend. It wasn’t an easy road; we had our share of on-again/off-again times. But even in our darkest moments, we tried to support each other instead of descending into petty arguments and name-calling.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that one of the things I like best about Harry/Hermione is that their relationship never buckles under the weight of numerous trials and tribulations. Whether they are dealing with Rita Skeeter’s meddling gossip, dangerous battles with Death Eaters or Ron’s abandonment, Harry and Hermione never turn on each other. Some say that Harry/Hermione’s quiet, persevering relationship is just what friendship looks like. Fair enough. But I think it’s also what love looks like.
5. Sometimes it Doesn’t Work Out
I’m not delusional. I know that Harry and Hermione didn’t end up together, and I know that J.K. Rowling never intended for them to be anything more than the very best of friends. But that’s okay. Just like in life, you don’t always get what you want. Sometimes the boy doesn’t like you back. Sometimes you wait for phone calls that never come. Sometimes it takes a long time to find the person you’re meant to be with. And sometimes you fall deeply, passionately in love but it doesn’t last.
Just because a relationship didn’t end in happily ever after doesn’t mean that it wasn’t meaningful and true. As Dumbledore says to Harry, “Of course it is happening inside your head…but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
The idea of Harry/Hermione is similarly real for me—it inspires me to be more selfless and more loyal to the people I care about; it encourages me to fight like the hell for the things I believe in, and to accept help when I need it most; it reminds me that friendship and love are gifts to be cherished above all else. And in the end, isn’t that what Harry Potter is truly all about?
So even though Harry/Hermione didn’t work out in the end, I still adore the Harry Potter series with all my heart. I cannot wait to share these books and movies with my children and grandchildren—no matter which couple they prefer. And who knows? Maybe if I’m lucky enough to find a sorcerer’s stone, I’ll live long enough to share Harry’s story with my great-grandchildren…
Jill Slattery is an avid reader, writer and consumer of all things pop culture. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a wonderful pooch named Albus Dumbledog. When she’s not writing about romance she’s busy writing about desserts over at the Dessert Patrol.