Rather, I’m struck by the whole debate in relationship to an idea that occurred to me as I was rereading Rowling’s series the weekend before Christmas*.
For a series of young adult novels, the most childish idea in the series is that everyone ends up with their first love, or ends up alone.
“I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment,” she reportedly says. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.” Cue the tsuris.
I don’t particularly have an OTP in this fight, though it is interesting to me that Rowling apparently regrets what I see as some of the most sensitively written and emotionally well-realized passages in as an error of judgement.
At various points in the series, Ron and Hermione are patently jealous of each other’s light romances, and handle that jealousy badly.
So one of the reasons Ron and Hermione’s attraction to each other feels durable and real is that we can see how it grows over the course of the series, and how the characters overcome an initial antipathy.
Hermione Granger may attend the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum, but they settle into a friendship and correspondence that’s more placid than sensual.
Ron Weasley’s relationship with Lavender Brown is effectively an act of social positioning and a way to take a dig at Hermione rather than a genuine attraction.
They squabble about rule-breaking, and later about Hermione’s cat’s apparent predations on Ron’s pet rat Scabbers (who, to be fair, turns out to be a fugitive dark wizard in disguise).
Parental love and the love required to sacrifice for someone else are deeply entwined in Rowling’s magical schema.
But first romantic loves seem, at times, to exert a similar potent authority over witches and wizards.
And however long Harry yearns for Cho Chang, his crush on her begins to wane almost as soon as they actually attempt a date: he can’t connect or relate to her inner person, finding her grief for her ex-boyfriend confounding, and their fleeting physical intimacies seem wan in contrast to the passion Harry eventually feels for Ginny Weasley.
Ginny, of course, dates a string of other boys at Hogwarts, but these other relationships don’t affect the pure flame of Ginny’s youthful love for Harry, housed in a separate place in her heart and in the novel’s hierarchy of relationships.