Madam Puddifoot’s: Great Expectations
Ah, romance. The possibilities of young love amidst the fantasia of Jos wizarding world seem to be a hot topic nowadays. Of all the Potter mysteries I expected to feel compelled to write about, I was surprised to find myself drawn to the (perhaps not so relevant but) endlessly amusing shipping theories. At first, I ignored the impulse to waste precious mental energy on formulating petty shipping hypotheses, and instead focused on trying to decrypt the more serious matters at hand (How will Harry vanquish Voldemort and live to tell the tale? Will Snape become the ultimate turncoat by betraying the Order? Do Crumple-Horned Snorkacks really exist?). And although I think my HBP theory (that Nevilles toad, Trevor, is really an animagus and the half-blood prince) quite possibly oozes with Pulitzer prize-winning brilliance, Ive decided not to go there. Instead, Ill take to the underworld of the shipping debates and attempt to shed my own light on the subject while theres still time. So, here goes nothing.
Up to this point, the books do not seem to be riddled with clues, either subtle or outright, implying that romantic love will play an integral part at the end. Indeed, weve observed the formidable powers of parental love, and the substantial effects of deep platonic affection as well. Love in general is significant to this series. But on the whole, any moments of romance (or hints of it) have been few and far between. Perhaps Jo has interjected these moments simply for fun, or to add an element of realism for us to relate to by taking Harry and his peers through the angst-ridden experiences that all teenagers go through. However, any avid Potter reader will agree that this story is not just one of good vs. evil. As true fanatics, we are acutely aware of Jos multi-dimensional writing, and we know that the many layers of her storylines and characters reveal to us that her creation is about more than just one idea. There are several latent convictions, morals and ironies embedded in the story.
Some of the greatest stories ever told have been, at their core, manifestations of unconditional (or at least unrequited) love. Im not talking trashy romance novels here, but you knew that. Formulated, commercial romances do not qualify as great love stories in that the writing is usually contrived, the story exists solely for the purpose of romance, and the endings are frequently predictable. Nor am I proposing that Harrys tale will ultimately culminate in a profound romantic denouement. In truth, my current theory surrounding the outcome of the series does not rely on the ramifications of romantic attachments at all. However, it is possible that a special relationship between Harry and a significant female might play a bigger role than were expecting at the final climax and/or conclusion of the septology. Keeping this possibility in mind, I began to examine Harrys current options by looking at it not only from our perspective as the reader, but also at Jos choices as the author. The shipping wars are obviously being fueled by the discrepancy between our personal beliefs about Jos romantic intent for the characters, and the written words. We cannot overlook the subtle implications of her narrative, nor can we simply discount clear, canonical evidence. In trying to guess her intent by honoring the written words, while at the same time fostering our built up expectations based on individual perceptions, we come to an interesting crossroads of romantic prospects for Harry.
Pre-requisites, Disclaimers, and the Like
Before I delve into the shipping commentary, let me clarify that I do not presume to know Jos intention with these characters. When I say we (referring to us, the readers), it is a very generalized we. I am aware that literary analysis includes a broad spectrum of opinions, and that relative point of view often trumps the tried and true methods of deductive reasoning. None of us are entirely wrong in our theories, save those who completely discount the original source material. That being said, I set up a guideline for myself by sticking to the following suggestion. (This idea is based on recurrent patterns and their variations evident in literary examples of successful storytelling technique).
In general, primary characters do not end up in romantic pairings with secondary characters. Many of you are thinking, Duh — who didnt already know that? But some of you are saying, What!? You mean Harry wont end up with Eloise Midgen!? Here is where individual perception throws a wrench in. When we disagree with each other about who the forefront characters are, we are at an impasse with regard to shipping and theories on how the septology will end. We love (and love to hate) all of the characters that Jo has created. But not all of them are of equal importance to the main storylines, no matter how much we want them to be. So how do we tell which characters are the most crucial to the story? By observing who Jo gives us the most time with. If Draco were our protagonist, the story would be told from his point of view. If Dean Thomas were Harry’s best friend, he would have been accompanying Harry on his adventures thus far instead of Ron. Jo gives us the most time with the characters she wants us emotionally invested in. We care more about the actions and experiences of the central characters because Jo has orchestrated it that way by including them more frequently than the others. This is why Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid are so important to us and to the final outcome. It is also why Ginny, Neville, and Luna are fast becoming more prominent characters. In book five, we got to spend some quality time with these three, which has resulted in a renewed emotional investment on our part. Ginny, Neville, and Luna are currently secondary characters on the brink of main character stardom. For the purpose of this editorial, I have decided to focus only on these six (Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna) which I believe up to this point to be the most likely to pair up among each other because Jo has given us the most time with them. Here is my take on some of the non-slash, realistic shipping theories out there. (These theories are based on the books, not fluff from the films. It is entirely possible that the movies are misguiding some peoples expectations of what is to come as a result of the Hollywoodization of the story).
One Big Happy Family: Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione (with possible Neville/Luna in book 7)
This is the most popular, and at this point in the story, the most likely outcome of them all. If this ship comes to fruition, things could end with Harry potentially having brothers, a sister, and the real family hes never known. If Jo were to imply a future marriage between Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione in an epilogue, Harry could finally be truly related to the members of his surrogate family. Ron would effectively become Harrys brother (in-law) and Hermione his sister (in-law). Add the rest of the Weasleys to Harrys extended family, and weve got the one big happy family scenario. Too good to believe perhaps, but that seems to be the most plausible ending if Jo decides to pair people up. Like most fans, I am generally supportive of this ship, but certain things need to surface before I can be completely on board with these couplings:
1) Harry must begin to show signs of a growing affection for Ginny. At this point, shes still just his best friends little sister, a member of the DA, and now a comrade in Harrys inner circle. Naturally, H/G shippers believe that Harrys change of attitude towards Ginny is imminent. Her likeness to Lily is rather apparent, and the anti-Freudian suggestion of a male re-embracing his mother or her identity is a very interesting one with regard to the H/G ship. I wonder if Jo studied Freud or his opposing contemporaries at some point…but I digress.2) Ginny must be a major character in books six and seven. Jo has to give us a lot more time with her, so that Ginny can become the girl (the primary eligible female — see “The Hero Gets the Girl” below). Just because Ginny has boyfriends does not mean that her feelings for Harry just went away. Please forgive the lame sitcom allegory, but this is similar to the classic Ross and Rachel situation on “Friends” (a device often used in portraying relationships). We all know the drill. Ross has liked Rachel for ages, but she shows no signs of liking him back. Then Rachel finds out and begins to develop feelings for Ross who has seemingly gotten over it by now. Lather, rinse, and repeat a few more times until they finally make the connection. The point being, we need to see a renewed interest in Harry on Ginnys behalf, which again is expected any day now by fervent H/G shippers.
3) Ron needs to come clean already to Hermione. This is paramount if hes ever to find out if the feeling is mutual. His current, unrealized crush on her seems obvious…but is it lasting?
4) We need to know Hermione’s true feelings. Some people think her crush on Ron is obvious. Others think its clear that shes crazy about Harry. Whatever the case may be, our central Potter femme needs to reveal an honest attachment to Ron in order for this ship to happen.
The Hero Gets the Girl: Harry/Hermione, (with possible Ron/Luna and Neville/Ginny)
We’ve all seen the subtle clues that point to a possible Ron/Luna or Neville/Ginny pairing. Neville asked Ginny to the Yule Ball and she accepted. He also defended her during the Inquisitorial Squad rumble. This ship is far from impossible. At times Luna has seemed a bit fascinated with Ron, what with the random outbursts of Weasley is our King and her uncontrollable laughter at his jokes. This ship is also not out of the realm of possibility. Ron is definitely heroic in his own way. But there’s no debate that Harry is our main hero here. The H/H ship seems to be the most controversial of them all, because people appear to be arguing over who the girl in the series is. Up to this point, the girl in this story is still Hermione. It is very possible that Jo will not pair Harry with anyone. He could become a sort of sacrificial lone hero, kind of like Frodo or Luke Skywalker. But let’s clarify that this is not LOTR, nor is it “Star Wars.” There’s no Ron Solo, and Hermione will not be revealed as Harry’s long lost sister, Princess Hermy-Leia. She is, however, our current heroine. She is the main female character and the feminine force of the series thus far.
We know Hermione better than we know Harry’s other female friends. Although she can be annoyingly worrisome and nagging, we cannot deny how much we like her because we appreciate how much she cares about Harry. We also respect her courage and prodigious intelligence, which bolsters our affection for her. There are passages that are considered by some fans to be Hermione inadvertently displaying special feelings for Harry. Very observant readers will notice these moments by reading between the lines and not accepting the characters actions and words at face value. (They are, after all, teenagers and will not necessarily behave the same way around their crushes.) Hermiones fierce loyalty and sensitivity to Harrys needs endear us to her. Even if her feelings for Harry are entirely platonic, it is clear that she has a deep affection for him, and I would say vice versa. Harry cherishes her companionship and is grateful for her devotion to him and their mutual causes. We all know that many stable, long-lasting romantic relationships begin with the foundation of a strong friendship. Life partners are, in essence, best friends. The wonderful book series and touching love story Anne of Green Gables comes to mind. Anne thinks her best male friend from childhood is, and will always be, just a chum. But he adores Anne, and over time her feelings for him evolve into much more. Jo has not given us enough time with Ginny, Luna or any other girl for us to consider anyone else besides Hermione as the (main) girl. The possibility is definitely there for Harry and Hermione, however Harry has yet to show any signs of caring for her in that special way. In order for an H/H ship to happen, these things must occur:
1) Harry obviously would need to start displaying a deeper affection for Hermione.2) At some point, Jo would need to drop an indisputable clue pointing to Hermione having special feelings for Harry (Also, the adolescent sexual tension between her and Ron would need to go away).
3) Ron’s apparent crush on Hermione would have to disappear, or he would need to transfer his affections to someone else (ie, Luna).
4) Ron would need to largely remain the sidekick. Sidekicks don’t end up with the main girl and heroines typically don’t get the shaft. As readers, we have to approve of our heros girl and believe that shes the most deserving of him, or we ultimately will not be supportive of the match. Even if you cant see Harry with Hermione, its also hard to imagine him without her. Up to this point, Hermione remains the most worthy character of our heros affections. But there are two books left.
Trinity Intact: Possible Harry/Ginny, Ron/Luna, Neville/Hermione
This is not the most popular of ships, but it is a possible solution to a potentially undesirable situation. Would it be right to split up the Trio with a romantic pairing? Some readers are pro-trinity shippers. They cant stand the thought of breaking up the amazing friendship of Harry, Ron and Hermione. After all, Harry would not have survived the last five years without both of them. They have been through thick and thin together, and a strong bond of trust and devotion has grown between the threesome. Jo has expressed who her favorite characters are in many interviews — Harry, Ron and Hermione always top the list. At the start of book five, Harry couldnt stand the thought of Ron and Hermione off having fun together all summer without him. He also had trouble dealing with Ron being chosen as Prefect along with Hermione, which left him feeling very dejected. In PoA, he was pretty upset that the two of them got to go to Hogsmeade without him. Harry clearly does not like to be left out of anything Ron and Hermione do together. This could just be an age thing and will sort itself out as Harry matures. But they have experienced so many remarkable things together that I expect each of them has this issue, and the insecurity one of them feels by being excluded may never disappear. Ron was bummed when he wasnt able to go back in time to help save Buckbeak and Sirius. Hermione has shown signs of feeling left out when Harry and Ron are off doing guy stuff. She probably knows all too well what it feels like to be the third wheel among a trio of friends.
A threesome of best friends can be a strange dynamic, sometimes inciting feelings of jealousy and possessiveness even well into adulthood. This dynamic is heightened when the opposite sex is mixed in. Could Harry deal with Ron being in an exclusive relationship with his other best friend? Possibly, if it ended Ron and Hermiones persistent quarreling. After being in Harrys shadow for so long, could Ron suffer another blow with Harry coming out on top once again by getting the girl? Maybe, if Ron no longer had a crush on her. If Hermione does have an intertrio crush, would she risk causing a rift between the three of them by pairing off with one of them? We dont want to see the trio causing emotional turmoil for each other, even unintentionally. Here are some things that Jo would need to incorporate into the story for this Trinity Intact ship to work:
1) Any clues that imply intertrio crushes need to be disproved through the narrative by Jo.2) This would mean no more overt Ron/Hermione moments. We would need to believe that any previous crushes are in the past, or that a permanent transfer of affections has occurred.
3) Jo would also need to minimize intimate Harry/Hermione scenes. While reading, we would need to spend less alone time with Harry and Hermione in order to get any H/H shipping ideas out of our heads. Harry would need to spend more time with whomever Jo wants us emotionally invested in.
4) The above pairing suggestions (H/G, R/L, N/H) are obviously not the only way to satisfy pro-Trio shippers. The Trinity Intact solution could involve any number of romantic pairings as long as Hermione is not coupled with Harry or Ron. For example, Harry could end up with Parvati, Ron could date Lavender, and Hermione could be paired with Seamus. The Neville/Hermione ship does not seem impossible since the release of book five. Now that Neville has impressed us with his relentless bravery during the DoM showdown, he has become a much more attractive candidate for shipping. Indeed, this argument can also be made for ships pairing Neville with Ginny, Luna or any other girl at Hogwarts. Neville will be getting his own wand soon and will likely begin delivering some serious smack down. Plus theres still that pesky close call involving Voldemorts choice of enemy, and now Neville has primary character/crucial to the main plot written all over him.
Expect the Unexpected: Harry/Luna, (with possible Ron/Hermione and Neville/Ginny)
With Jo, you just never know. The Harry/Luna combination is not as popular as the H/G and H/H ships, but Luna is an intriguing character who everyone seems to like a whole lot, despite her giant turnip earrings and questionable sanity. If we were not privy to Harry’s inner thoughts and personal experiences, we might think he was a major nutcase. Consider how easy it was for Harrys peers to suddenly feel unsure of his mental stability during the aftermath of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. We know that Harry is quite normal, and that outsiders and anti-Dumbledore types have misjudged him. The same could be said for our ethereal Miss Lovegood, who seems to possess a level of wisdom that neither Harry, nor any of his friends, have quite reached.
I think we all sense theres a lot more to Luna than our first impressions of her. Harry gets easily caught up in other peoples opinions of him, but she could care less what people say or think about her. There is a calmness about Luna that could balance Harrys more intense nature. He feels a connection to her in having lost a parent and being able to see thestrals. Luna has a strong sense of self in that she seems to have come to complete acceptance of who she is and what shes all about. Hermione still flies off the handle too quickly, and we dont know Ginny well enough yet to be able to gauge the extent of her hidden qualities. Hermione and Ginny have displayed exceptional bravery and integrity of character, but Luna may be the strongest within. And you know what they say, Behind every strong man is a stronger woman. Hermione sometimes has a way of getting Harry as worked up as she is, and Harry currently doesnt seem to take much stock in Ginnys opinions or advice. Inner wisdom and emotional strength are pretty important qualities in a potential mate for our beloved hero. Not to say that Ginny and Hermione do not possess these things. They certainly do, but they seem more prevalent in Luna. But in order for us to expect this unexpected shipping theory, the following would have to commence:
1) Luna would need to be a foremost character in HBP and book seven. We would need to spend even more time with her before were okay with Jo pairing her up with Harry.2) Harrys feelings towards Luna would need to soften and eventually blossom.
I am aware there are two books left. Anything could happen. Its doubtful, but one of these main characters could die, (Jo forbid!) Or, Eloise Midgen may come to the forefront after all! Then all of our shipping theories could become null and void. However, it stands to reason that in order for Harry to be romantically paired with someone at the end, her character has to be well established. We will need enough screen time with her in the narrative so that we feel we know her well enough to be completely supportive of the match. She cant just be deserving of a heros affections in and of herself. She has to be the most worthy of Harry compared to the other female characters.
Right now, were pretty divided among these shipping theories. Unless Jo gives us a very clear and obvious clue in HBP as to what pairings (if any) she has in mind, then our only indication of what to expect will be which ship continuously has the majority of support. If Jo successfully reveals her romantic intent for these characters through her narrative, then the shipping debates will greatly decrease over the next two installments. She is a master storyteller, and therefore I predict we will all be aboard the same ship by the end of book seven.
Ultimately we will want for Harry what Harry wants for himself, and Jo knows that.