Over the weekend the internet veritably exploded when J.K. Rowling revealed that she had some regrets about pairing off Ron and Hermione at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
“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,” Rowling said, and went on to suggest that Hermione might have been better ending up with Harry. Cue fan rage (or joy, depending on who you’re shipping).
Now despite the fact that I unequivocally believe that Rowling is wrong (the thirteen-year-old in me wants a shirt that says “Ron and Hermione Forever”), the mere fact that she is speaking out now about what she should or shouldn’t have done in books that were published years ago is also incredibly wrong.
The inner English major in me wants to talk about authorial intent, so bear with me. I have always thought authorial intent is basically a croc. No matter what the person who actually put the words on the page wants, all we (as readers) have to actually deal with are those words. And we can interpret them as best we can, and we can be wrong and we can think things should have gone differently, but we cannot change them, and neither can a passing remark by the author.
Rowling’s admissions since The Deathly Hallows was published have only served to add to the extratextual world of the books, even though they come directly from the mouth of the creator. It’s not a part of the seven books that make up the story. It’s extraneous. If Rowling really wanted to change something, or add to the world that she has created, she need only to write a prequel or a sequel, to put more words on pages and give her readers a chance to interpret them.
I’ve written about this before, but I am bothered when the metanarrative surrounding any given story interferes with the actual narrative. With Harry Potter, that has often been the changes and contributions made by the movies, which were the entry point of many into this particular world. And despite the fact that the movies are just an adaptation, so separate from the books, they are big and bombastic and inevitably they can seep into the minds of readers.
A really unfortunate aspect of the movies was that, dealing with actors who had been cast when they were 11, the romantic chemistry never really worked out when they were teenagers. Poor Rupert Grint and Emma Watson had no spark between them, but there was certainly something going on between Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, adding fuel to the Harry/Hermione fire (it also didn’t help that Radcliffe had no chemistry with Bonnie Wright’s Ginny, but the bastardization of Ginny’s character in the movies is a whole other issue that I could write at length about).
The thing about Harry Potter is that these books are deeply personal for a great deal of people, myself included. Every detail, from the death scenes to the quidditch matches to the romances are important and meant something specific to each reader. As an extremely nerdy kid with wild brown hair, the character of Hermione was incredibly important to me. The slow burn of her relationship with Ron made perfect sense, and the moment when they kissed and actually admitted they belonged together was vindicating. A rare moment of joy in a book that caused me a considerable number of tears. But Rowling’s statements threaten to take that joy away, to change an experience that I treasure.
But the truth is, that experience can’t be changed because the books can never be changed. Now until forever, Hermione and Ron will always end up together, Harry and Ginny will always get married and Dumbledore will remain a perpetually single man whose sexuality was never even relevant. So while I really think Rowling should probably keep any more regrets about the series to herself, it doesn’t matter what else she says. All I need to do is crack open the end of Deathly Hallows again, and there Ron and Hermione are, together.