Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling recently blew minds when, in an interview with Emma Watson, she revealed that she now wishes that Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger — the couple that formed the standout romance of the series — would not have ended up together and that maybe Hermione and Harry should have fallen in love instead. Unsurprisingly, fans have not taken the news all that well.
Personally, I like Ron and Hermione as a couple. Think Progress' Alyssa Rosenberg wrote a beautiful essay on why their love was worthwhile (you can read it here) that sums up my feelings on them quite nicely:
Sometimes love is strongest between people who have seen each other at their ugliest and most damaged. Lily Evans knew who James Potter was before he decided that he wanted to be a better person, knew him during the time when his callousness and carelessness did real damage. Fleur Delacour knew that her husband's greatest beauty wasn't in his unmarked face, but in his person, just as hers wasn't her physical perfection, but her persistence. Ron knew Hermione when she was a priggish scold and a coward. Hermione knew Ron when his privilege was exposed and his will broke. That they love each other anyway, and that they help each other become heroes, is a truer illustration of the power of love than the idea that it's magic.
That's not to say that romance in Harry Potter is perfect. Far from it. As Rosenberg points out, it's fucked up that all of the characters in the Harry Potter universe end up with their high school sweethearts. (It's fucked up that the epilogue depicting the romantic futures of the Hogwarts class of 1998 was included at all.) Those kids should experiment! They should date outside their social circle and move on!
And it's in that spirit that we present an alternative, more realistic ending to the Ron/Hermione romance. J.K., this is for you.
Hermione is feeling unsettled. It started a few weeks ago, a sensation deep in the pit of her stomach, so small, so minuscule that it nearly went unnoticed. But it blossomed into something bigger. By now, it feels like it's taking up her entire insides, weighing her down into the Earth. Always hungry to understand, Hermione searches herself to better understand and anchor the feeling to something tangible, the same way the feeling is anchoring her to the ground. She studies herself like a book, but finds nothing, nothing at all.
Hermione sits across from Ron at the Burrow, reminding herself what she likes about him. He is loyal. He is brave. He makes her laugh. She likes his red hair and his family and the way he likes her back. Suddenly, he looks up and catches her discerning stare. What is it, he asks, smiling. What is it what is it what is it, she asks herself. Nothing, she says. It's absolutely nothing. It has to be something.
Hermione makes a mistake. She shouldn't have done what she did, but she did it anyway. A quick grope in the coat closet with a waiter at her muggle cousin's wedding. The boy was nothing special. He wore too much product in his hair, bragged about about owning a motorcycle (like that could impress her) and had heavily hooded eyes with little intelligence in them, but there was something intoxicating about all that in its own way. Afterward, she fixes her hair in the ladies room. The guilt has yet to settle in — right now, she only feels power and adrenaline and wickedness — but she knows the guilt will come. Ron. Poor Ron. She'll never tell him even though telling him is the right thing to do. Hermione is sick of doing the right thing. Sick of being smart and reasonable all of the time. The dissatisfaction she feels in her stomach (she knows the feeling now) surges. She goes back to the reception, ignoring the dumb, pleading stare of the yearning waiter.
Hermione needs to end things. Ron wants to follow her to wizard college, but she wants something else. She looks to her friend Harry for advice, but can't express herself the way she wants to. Will you love me the same if I no longer love Ron? That's the question she wants to ask to ask all of her loved ones, but the possible answers are just too scary. She laughs out loud at herself, but the sound is hollow. She's faced Voldemort and an army of evil. She's renowned for her bravery and now she's too afraid to say goodbye to Ron, too afraid that she'll have to say goodbye to everyone else, as well. In the end, she chooses a wizard college that Ron can't get into. For the first time in her life, Hermione chooses to be a coward.
It's a month later and Hermione breaks up with Ron via owl. I'm sorry. Different places. I still care about you. The letter is a jumble of emotions, all of them true, but that hardly matters. Ron's reply is distraught and dismayed. He begs her to reconsider, but she refuses. I'll always love you, she tells him. But I can't just now. I simply can't. Harry reaches out, as does Ginny. Ron doesn't reply again.
Hermione takes felix felicis at a concert with her new wizard college friends and they dance into dawn. For the first time in her academic life, she sleeps through her classes and is surprised that her absence doesn't make the world collapse. Her roommate loans her notes. Hermione isn't anxious or worried. A person down the hall has an adderall prescription. They'll sell it for the right amount of galleons and she'll be able to catch up just fine. For now, the notes go untouched.
Hermione meets an upperclassman named Ian at a Quidditch tailgaiting party. They flirt heavily into the evening and Hermione shocks herself when she invites him back to her dorm room where they sleep together on her narrow loft bed. In the morning, he's gone. They see each other around campus sometimes. Both smile and wave politely, but nothing more is ever made of it.
Hermione argues with Harry when she comes home for winter break. He is worried about her, he says, and is sad that she hasn't written. At the pub, he asks Ron if she looks too tired, too thin, but Ron has little to add. They've hardly spoken since breaking up. He's casually dating a shopgirl now and, if he's being honest with himself, it still hurts too much to notice his beautiful ex girlfriend.
Back at school, Hermione is failing Transfiguration 250: Transfiguration in Southern Asia. She's missed one too many classes and when she does go, she wears oversized sunglasses and sleeps at her desk. She is visited by the ghost of her old self, a young girl with big teeth and bushy hair who chides her for her laziness and priorities. Hermione Granger is now on academic probation. Who would have thought. She wants to dismiss her shame, but something about it rings true, like she deserves it. There needs to be a balance between who she was and what she's become. She tells her friends that she won't be going out tonight, instead deciding to hide away in the library among the heavy, dusty tomes, her old friends. She is relieved when it feels like home.
Hermione manages to finish her first year of wizard college with a 2.6 GPA. It's the lowest she's ever gotten, but she still feels proud of how she's turned things around. Her favorite professor, an older woman who teaches History of Magic of all things, tells her she shows promise and that she looks forward to working with her next year. On the last night of the semester, she goes out with her friends and they get drunk on butter beer and fire whisky. She ends up kissing a girl, but is unsure if it's something she wants to do again. Who knows, she thinks. She won't box herself into anything right now. What's in a label anyway?
Hermione goes to meet Harry for lunch in Diagon Alley during the summer holidays. She's the first to arrive at the Leaky Cauldron and is surprised to see Harry enter followed by Ron. She hugs the Boy Who Lived first, then turns to the Boy She Loved. After a moment's hesitation, the pair embrace awkwardly and come away blushing. It's nothing they haven't done before, but it feels strangely profound, like there now might be the possibility of somehow becoming friends again. With the thought comes a rush of joyous pain. She's missed Ron's friendship, maybe more than she's missed anything in her whole life, she realizes suddenly. Let's go, says Harry, leading them into the back alley. They line up on either side of him and head towards the exit. Three against the world, yet again.
Hermione should have known that things wouldn't be so simple. Ron tries to kiss her when they say goodbye, but she turns her head away and he ends up landing awkwardly between her mouth and chin. I'll call you later, she says, shrugging. Cool, Ron replies. Yeah, call me later. That's cool.