Well, it finally happened. Fans have speculated for years over the actual suitability of the series’ main characters for one another, but today Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling affirmed the contentious musings of Harry / Hermione shippers when she allegedly told Emma Watson, in a forthcoming issue of Wonderland Magazine, that the famous boy wizard should have married his best friend.
“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,” Rowling is quoted as saying, “Hermione ended up with Ron.” She adds, “Distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.”
It’s rare for an author to go back and admit that she might’ve messed up the end of her own story, especially when the lifelong happiness of (at least four) beloved characters is at stake. The thing is, she does have a point about Ron & Hermione. They were ill-suited for each other, and their relationship strikes me as the passionate flowering of love in the heat of a war that settles, at best, into mutual indifference once the killing stops.
But I’m less willing to accept the nuptial pairing of Hermione & Harry, for several reasons. One, because over the course of seven books and eight movies the two leads forged the kind of beautiful, enduring platonic friendship that we almost never see in a fantasy series of this kind. (The poignancy of their bond, if anything, was highlighted on the screen, where we got to see them grow up together. Emma Watson seems to excel at portraying this kind of relationship). Yes, guys and girls can be friends; even good friends. It would have done them a disservice to impose an arbitrary romance.
Granted, if this was just the movies, I could see things turning out differently. The chemistry between Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, especially during the camping scenes in Deathly Hallows, Part 1, seemed to hint at a future that never quite came to pass. “Maybe we should just stay here, Harry,” says Hermione, wistfully and sadly. “Grow old.”
But in the novels, Harry’s relationship with Ginny was so artfully constructed, so organic, and so believable that it’s hard to imagine either of them being with anyone else. Ginny was the only other person who had been used as a Horcrux; she & Harry shared a deep understanding. He rescued her from the Chamber of Secrets and she rescued him from a chamber of despair and self-pity when he thought Voldemort was using him as a weapon to destroy everyone and everything he cared about. Plus, she dated around and eventually proved she was capable of getting over Harry, but that her feelings towards him went deeper than a mere infatuation. And, as the books went on, she became a real badass. Book Harry & Book Ginny were good for each other.
Or maybe I just sympathize with Ginny because, like Eowyn and Eponine, she knows how it feels to be left out in the cold.
On the same day I read this jarring bit of news about some of my favorite literary heroes, I was also reading Scott & Kimberly Hahn’s account of their conversion in their book Rome Sweet Home. In the second chapter, each spouse takes turns describing their years together in college and how they came to be married. “Towards the end of the summer,” she writes, “I had a deep sense that he was the one for me.” Later, when she realizes how eerily similar their visions are for the future, she says, “Our hearts and minds were united. Each of us was amazed at the gift that God had given the other.”
Reading this, I had a reaction I wasn’t expecting: profound skepticism, even embarrassment that the two of them could be so naïve.
On the day my favorite living author conceded that she might have failed the main characters of her books by pairing them off with the wrong people, I realized that I no longer have faith in the ability of God to bring people together who are good for one another. I remember a conversation I had last year with my friend Luis where he suggested that maybe God had a plan for my love life and I just stared at him in confusion, as though he was suddenly speaking a different language. After years of erroneously believing that He had called me to marry one woman or another, I’ve now swung so far in the other direction that whenever I meet a nice girl, it never occurs to me to pray about the relationship because I sincerely think romance is the one area of life in which God has no sovereignty and simply lets us make our own decisions—a sort of “anything goes” free-for-all.
But, to be quite honest about it, I don’t see how I could believe any differently. My best friend thought it was her destiny to marry a guy she was deeply in love with. He was this amazing man who led worship on piano and had a radical vision for real Christian community that transcended the mediocre faith of suburbia. God had called him to be an apostle. She couldn’t have married anyone holier or more committed to the lifestyle of Jesus. He was a real man and the rest of us (so they both told us) were just wimpy pretenders.
It was God’s will that they should be married, and this was affirmed by person after person. For a time even I was convinced that this was what God wanted. When they were finally engaged on Valentine’s Day 2012, their whole community celebrated. They were seen as a model couple, the ones who would set the example for the rest of the couples in the group—and, perhaps, for thousands of others.
And their relationship certainly did set an example, but not one that I think either of them had intended. I feel certain that if they had never been married, she would still be alive today. And I feel equally certain that this was not God’s plan for her life.
The trauma of this event has engendered in me a deep-rooted cynicism towards the idea that God can be sovereign in any human relationship, whether platonic or romantic. If I find myself becoming close to someone, even if the circumstances are remarkably fortuitous and seem to have the favor of heaven, I view it as an anomaly, an accident produced by the crazed confluence of unpredictable historical forces. Yes, we could be friends today, but that’s no guarantee of what will happen tomorrow. Yes, I could relate to you on a deep level, we could even be kindred spirits, but it’s nothing more than an extraordinary bit of good luck, and I thank whatever gods of chance and fate have conspired to allow us this moment together on a rope swing spanning the abyss.
And I have no idea where that leaves me. So far this year has been a step forward for my relationships in so many different ways, as I learn to let go of shame and discover the courage to approach women in ways that were always forbidden before. In the process I’m realizing that they aren’t anywhere near as scared of me as I thought they were; a few of them even really seem to like me.
And yes, it would be nice to believe that God has a perfect plan for my life, that He’s already picked out the house I’m going to live in and the books I’m going to write and the kids I’m going to raise. But then I look around me at a world where three and a half billion people don’t have access to clean water, where nuns are rounded up and murdered by Islamic militants, where a young woman marries a cult leader and her Cinderella story turns into a nightmare from which there is no escape, and all those romantic, pious-sounding notions come to seem like just the idealistic musings of privileged Westerners who have the luxury of thinking that the world revolves around them.
So if it turns out that God really doesn’t have some elegant, fairy-tale plan for my life, if I have to find my way and learn how to get by like the rest of the poor, stumbling schlubs who dot the diseased landscape of humanity… well, then at least I won’t be any different from anyone else. And maybe I’m not. And maybe that’s okay.