1. Their lovesick anguish is the undercurrent of much of the storyline
From about Book 4 onward, one of the main subplots is the will they/won’t they tension between Ron and Hermione.
“I can’t come with you,” said Hermione, now blushing, “because I’m already going with someone.”
“No, you’re not!” said Ron. “You just said that to get rid of Neville!”
“Oh, did I?” said Hermione, and her eyes flashed dangerously. “Just because it’s taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn’t mean no one else has spotted I’m a girl!”
Ron stared at her. Then he grinned again.
“Okay, okay, we know you’re a girl, he said. “That do? Will you come now?”
“I’ve already told you!” Hermione said very angrily. “I’m going with someone else!”
And she stormed off toward the girls’ dormitories again.
“She’s lying, said Ron flatly, watching her go.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Ron, the youngest of six Weasley boys, is used to not getting his way. It’s how he operates, and he gets everything secondhand. (I’m not saying he should approach getting date to Yule Balls in the same manner, but you know. He didn’t grow up picky.) And yet, he’s not okay with getting the short end of the stick with Hermione. This is one time when coming in second won’t fly, and Ron will not be silent. From this moment onward — from Ron’s petulant insistence on calling Krum “Vicky” to Hermione’s scathing attitude toward Ron and Lavender Brown sucking face in every corner of the school, there is a twisted amount of teenage emotions running through the trio. Harry constantly wonders if he’s always going to have to be the go-between in their merry little band of misfits.
Because this is still, magic or no magic, a story about teenagers. Dumbledore (and we’ll discuss the Ronbledore stuff later, I promise, babies) constantly reminds Harry that a lot of magic that exists in the Wizarding World is a special kind of magic that even Muggles can experience: It’s love. I’m not going to go so far as to venture that hormones are Dark magic — though, I mean, have you been to high school? Maybe it’s like, #dark magic — but no matter how many dementors and Death Eaters they face, the kids are still kids. They’ve still got to go through puberty, and Rowling reminds us of this subtly every time she mentions that Harry and Ron have grown taller each year. (Remember when Harry comes back to school in Book 6 and girls are gawking over him?)
“…You can still see the marks on the back of your hand where that evil woman made you write with your own blood, but you stuck to your story anyway…”
“You can still see where those brains got hold of me in the Ministry, look,” said Ron, shaking back his sleeves.
“And it doesn’t hurt that you’ve grown about a foot over the summer, either,” Hermione finished, ignoring Ron.
“I’m tall,” said Ron, inconsequentially.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I know a lot of fans have cited the fact that Hermione has ignored Ron here as telling that she was acknowledging the fact that Harry was attractive — but you can be friends with people while simultaneously admitting that they’re not bad to look at. Instead, Hermione’s ignoring Ron, because this is Harry’s hour of need, and to spiral into hormonal tension would be to ignore the more pressing issue at hand. (And Hermione is nothing if not a pragmatist.) Moreover, she goes on to Confund Cormac McLaggen because Ron’s happiness means enough to her that she’d actually condone cheating in sports — one thing that is fundamentally against the Granger Code, and the other she really couldn’t care less about. But it makes Ron happy. So she does it. (Not to mention she ends up revenge-dating the super gross McLaggen to make Ron jealous, and anyone who has ever gotten back at someone by dating their sworn enemy knows what Hermione’s motivation was there. That is hormones at its most torrid peak.)
2. Hermione is Ron’s main motivation
Now, I’m not saying that Ron should be a mercy-date — really now, he’s a bit dense sometimes, but he means well, and he deserves better than pity dating — but I’d even venture to say that it’s Hermione whom Ron returns for in the forest in Book 7. It’s the fear of losing her that the horcrux uses to poison his mind (again, love is pretty powerful magic, and unrequited love is even more powerful — how much did Snape do for Lily?) and constantly seeing Harry and Hermione whispering together, often over fears that Ron is growing increasingly more moody, is a small enough spark to ignite his jealousy. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, really, but somewhere along the line when he’s not with the two, Ron realizes that there’s nowhere else he should be than with Harry and Hermione.
“I have seen your dreams, Ronald Weasley, and I have seen your fears. All you desire is possible, but all that you dread is also possible…”
“Stab!” shouted Harry; his voice echoed off the surrounding trees, the sword point trembled, and Ron gazed down into Riddle’s eyes.
“Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter… Least loved, now, by the girl who prefers your friend… Second best, always, eternally overshadowed…”
“Why return? We were better without you, happier without you, glad of your absence… we laughed at your stupidity, your cowardice, your presumption —”
“Presumption!” echoed the Riddle-Hermione, who was more beautiful and yet more terrible than the real Hermione. She swayed, cackling, before Ron, who looked horrified yet transfixed, the sword hanging pointlessly by his side. “Who could look at you, who would ever look at you, beside Harry Potter? What have you ever done, compared with the Chosen One? What are you, compared with the Boy Who Lived?”
“Your mother confessed,” sneered Riddle-Harry, while Riddle-Hermione jeered, “that she would have preferred me as a son, would be glad to exchange…”
“Who wouldn’t prefer him, what woman would take you, you are nothing, nothing, nothing to him,” crooned Riddle-Hermione, and she stretched like a snake and entwined herself around Riddle-Harry, wrapping him in a close embrace.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Every one of Ron’s fears in coming in second to Harry is shaded with how he comes second to Harry in regards to the women in his life. The Riddle-Hermione has significantly more screen time, and she fixates on Ron’s greatest fear — that Hermione will choose Harry (side note, JK, are you now manifesting the horcrux?!?) — whereas the Riddle-Harry does a volley of different jabs onto Ron’s character, nothing he’s never heard before. Moreover, it’s the Riddle-Hermione that makes the move onto Riddle-Harry. Ron’s fear is losing her, not that Harry would betray him.
3. Speaking of which, bros before… yeah, I’m not even going to suggest that Hermione resembles anything remotely close to the word that finishes that rhyme
While some people might shrug their shoulders and say, “Dude, you never made a move, she was fair game!”, Harry wouldn’t do that to Ron. He values his friendship far too much to ever jeopardize it in such a way. Ron was the first person to ever be nice to him at Hogwarts, and to betray him so deeply is to break about a thousand different laws of fraternity and solidarity. (I’m not a guy, so I can only speculate how this code works, really.)
“This isn’t your average book,” said Ron. “It’s pure gold: Twelve Fail-Safe Ways To Charm Witches. Explains everything you need to know about girls. If only I’d had this last year I’d have known exactly how to get rid of Lavender and I would’ve known how to get going with… Well, Fred and George gave me a copy, and I’ve learned a lot. You’d be surprised, it’s not all about wandwork, either.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The “…” in this is my favorite series of elipses in the book. (Yes, I have favorites, you don’t?) It’s the absolute closest Ron ever gets to actually admitting he like-likes Hermione, up until the moment when she flings herself onto him in the middle of the Battle of Hogwarts.
Moreover, I floated the idea that like, okay, maybe if Rowling had sacrificed Ron as she once intended, then Harry and Hermione would be brought together in grief, Wedding Crashers-style, but a friend of mine who was staunchly pro-Harry/Hermione actually countered that Harry wouldn’t do that to Ron’s memory. Bros before all else, remember? Bros before all.
4. Sometimes you just have to believe in high school sweethearts
Is it silly to think that everyone at Hogwarts has to couple up with someone whom they’ve just spent all of their pubescent years trapped up in the same castle? Of course it is. (I mean, if I had to marry my high school boyfriend, I would be S-O-L in the worst of ways.) But these love stories do happen, and to completely discount them as silly and naive is to miss the point of why we believe these stories in the first place. It would also completely discount the Lily and James love story. It’s possible that when you meet someone, you just know. You don’t have to date around and see what else exists in college or out in the work force if you’re really and truly happy. And if you realize you aren’t happy some years down the line, well, you deal with it then. Rowling said that Ron and Hermione would have needed counseling, but why is that a bad thing? If counseling is what it takes for them to survive 19 years together, then that’s a pretty good Wizarding marriage counselor, and money well spent.
5. Love isn’t always about somebody who challenges you
Lest you think I’m just completely anti-Harmonie, I have to say that I get why some people think that they would be more naturally suited toward one another. Harry is headstrong and adventurous, and shakes Hermione out of the books to which she is so devoted. Yet Hermione’s brain is just always wound up and working, and Ron provides levity. He’s not serious. Sometimes he’s silly, sometimes he’s stubborn as hell, and sometimes he’s just about as obtuse as you can possibly be. He’s far from the perfect catch, but who is? Who has ever been the prefect partner? He needs someone who can challenge him, and Hermione does that. She makes him want to be better. In this scenario, Ron is the reacher and Hermione is the settler, How I Met Your Mother-style. (Side note, yeah, they’re totally a Marshmallow/Lilypad kind of couple.) Harry would constantly pull away from Hermione, and not to belabor the point but:
Harry and Hermione would throw the most high-strung, boring dinner parties. And you'd hear them whisper-fighting in the kitchen.
— Josh Christie (@jchristie) February 3, 2014
6. Ron and Hermione serve as Harry’s James + Lily corollary
The loss of your parents is enough to mess anyone up, and as such, Harry latches onto the parental love Mr. and Mrs. Weasley provide to him pretty easily. He latches onto the mentorship brand of love provided by Dumbledore, and instantly connects with his stepfather and is quick to believe his innocence – not just because Sirius provides pretty irrefutable truth, but because Harry is hungry for a family. And more than anything else, Ron and Hermione are his family. Not only do they spend most of their time together in both Hogwarts and on vacation, but the two go through the same sort of bickering trajectory as Lily and James — she gets angry at him for being reckless and carefree, and at one point, Ron even musses up his hair much in the way James once did.
“… but I had a funny feeling that he was feinting, and so I took the chance and flew left — his right, I mean — and — well — you saw what happened,” he concluded modestly, sweeping his hair back quite unnecessarily so that it looked interestingly windswept and glancing around to see whether the people nearest to them — a bunch of gossiping third-year Hufflepuffs — had heard him. “And then, when Chambers came at me five minutes later — what?” Ron said, stopping mid-sentence at the look on Harry’s face. “Why are you grinning?”
“I’m not,” said Harry quickly, looking down at his Transfiguration notes and attempting to straighten his face. The truth was that Ron had just reminded Harry forcibly of another Gryffindor Quidditch player who had once sat rumpling his hair under this very tree.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Though it’s not entirely accurate to suggest that Harry has shifted all of his paternal relationship onto Ron – and besides, I’m betting that a teenage Ron would make for a pretty crappy father figure — the concept of recurring figures and roles features heavily in the book. (How else could Ronbledore work so wonderfully as a theory?)
There’s also another theory that Ron is Sirius to Hermione’s Lupin to Harry’s James – honestly the greatest theorizing I’ve ever heard, personally — and though it’s obviously not because any of the four Marauders ever intended to die, but Lupin and Sirius are left standing together the longest. (Pettigrew was out of the picture the minute he became Wormtail full-time, traitors like that are dead to me.) Read: Ron and Hermione were left standing together.
7. Maybe — and I know this is blasphemy — it’s Harry who should have ended up alone
I know, I know. The poor kid had troubles throughout his life, and the last thing you want is for a small child who was picked on so frequently by his cousins, who never knew his parents, and was often ostracized at the one school where he finally felt like he could fit in to end up alone, but maybe that’s what should have happened. Harry likes traveling. He likes seeking adventure, and more importantly, he’s really good at just acting on impulse. (You know that Don’t Date A Girl Who Travels piece? Harry is most definitely a Girl Who Travels.) He flails around and needs Hermione’s logic and Ron’s stubborn gravitas to keep him from running headlong like a tornado and potentially messing things up even more — after all, he wouldn’t have even checked to see if Sirius was at Grimmauld Place in Book 5 if it wasn’t for Hermione and Ron holding him back, and even then, he walked right into the plot Voldemort designed for him.
Hermione probably went back to Hogwarts, and Ron would have waited for her. The boy was so lovesick and had already invested so much time in loving her unrequitedly that he would have waited a few more years if it meant she could get her degree, establish a career, kick a few departmental asses, and rise in the ranks. Harry wouldn’t have done that. He’d have taken on his own Aurer career immediately, and unfortunately, the Wizarding world doesn’t have Facebook and Snapchat to keep couples together in those dire times of need. I also have a feeling that absentminded Harry would forget Fireplace-Head-by-Flu-Powder — really, the better version of Skype — dates.
Hermione probably got her fill of this with Krum. She’s dated somebody famous. She’s sent the letters and debated visiting him in Bulgaria and jeez, even for somebody who’s an international Quidditch star, it sounds like a bit of a hassle. I’d venture that she’s over the constant pen pal nature of it, and just wants somebody who’s a little more close to home. Ginny would be more understanding — she’s had to deal with six brothers and two parents, all of whom exhibit varying degrees of absentmindedness.
He chanced a glance at her. She was not tearful; that was one of the many wonderful things about Ginny, she was rarely weepy. He had sometimes thought that having six brothers might have toughened her up.
She took a step closer to him.
“So then I thought, I’d like you to have something to remember me by, you know, if you meet some veela when you’re off doing whatever you’re doing.”
“I think dating opportunites are going to be pretty thin on the ground, to be honest.”
“That was the silver lining I’ve been looking for,” she whispered, and then she was kissing him as she had never kissed him before, and Harry was kissing her back, and it was blissful oblivion, better than firewhisky…”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Let’s ignore the fact that this passage is about as close as J.K. ever comes to writing her own fan fiction — though I do have to say, some of those fanfics are epic works of art in their own right — but Ginny at least gets it. Hermione and Ron demand to go along, but Ginny knows that if you love something, you do as Passenger tells you, and you let it go. You will be able to catch it again like a Golden Snitch. That is the kind of love Harry needs — because he is the kind of person propelled by love, constantly knowing that as long as it exists somewhere in the world, he is anchored and safe and sound. Hermione is an anchor, for him in the familial sense, and for Ron in a romantic sense. Ron comes back to Hermione. She anchors him.
It’s obvious that he plays the good cop to Hermione’s bad cop when it comes to parenting Hugo and Rose, but hey, somebody has to play those cards. Hermione is fantastic and brilliant and smart and please, Rowling, if you do not tell us that she one day becomes Minister of Magic herself, there is something very wrong in the Wizarding world, but being in love doesn’t make Hermione any less of a kick-ass feminist character. She really can have it all. Why would it be so wrong that she could have it all, and Ron, too?