A Tribute to the Trio
All page references are from the UK paperback editions of PS and CoS, and UK hardback editions of the other books.
One of the greatest messages, if not the greatest, in the Harry Potter books is that of the importance of love. It is thanks to love that Harry survived the attack on Voldemort. It is thanks to love that Harry has never ventured over to the Dark Side. Love is the power that Voldemort knows not, the one thing the most evil sorcerer in the world simply cannot comprehend. We have seen the love of family in the books, demonstrated aptly by both the Potters and the Weasleys. We have seen the loving bond between mentor and student, shown between Dumbledore and Harry. We have seen the great power of romantic love, whether as a good thing, between James and Lily, or Harry and Ginny, or a bad thing, as shown by Merope Gaunt. However, one of the greatest examples of love shown within the books is that between friends- the simple bond that binds people together closer than any other. Without the love of friendship, it is difficult for other types of love to occur. While you may be bound to your family through blood, it is difficult to truly love them unless you are all friends. The Weasley children find it very difficult to love Percy after he turns his back on the family, despite being tied to him though blood. The love shown between Harry and Dumbledore, while that of mentor and student, is above all, a friendship, where each respects the other. Romance can only work if the two become friends, whether it be before the romance begins, or while it happens. It is friendship that binds people together.
In the series, we have a supreme example of friendship in Harry, Ron and Hermione, more commonly referred to as the Trio. The end of HBP demonstrated the tremendous depth of the friendship between the three of them, as Ron and Hermione both vowed to go with Harry wherever his journey may take him. Ron says, “We’re with you whatever happens,” (HBP 607), without having to ask Hermione, showing that the three of them have an understanding between them. Hermione’s remark that, “there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we?” echoes back to PS days, reminding the readers of everything that these three have faced together. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other.
The Power of Three
The number three has symbolical importance, as many references throughout history and to the present day. Numerological symbolism dictates that the number one represents a complete unity, together as one, and a world that is completely accessible. This can apply to Harry, as the hero of the books; although he is an integral part of the Trio, he is the hero, and stands alone as such. The number two represents duality, which fits the idea of Harry’s two sidekicks, Ron and Hermione. Duality is where opposites develop, and thus Ron and Hermione seem opposites on many accounts: Ron is male where Hermione is female Ron thinks with his heart while Hermione thinks with her head; Ron is a pureblood while Hermione is Muggleborn, and so on and so forth.
When the oneness is added to duality, a triad or trio is created. The trio comes from the interaction of opposites, such as a child from a man and a woman. Harry represents the perfect balance between Ron and Hermione’s opposing traits (other than the gender issue, obviously); he is more levelheaded than Ron, but not as coolly logical as Hermione, and he is also a half-blood, the child of a pureblood and a Muggle-born. Ron and Hermione, the duality, come together and combine traits, aiding Harry’s quest through the interaction of their opposites.
This unity of three takes many forms, all of which can apply to our trio. The unity of body, mind and spirit, with Harry as the body, ready to take action, Hermione as the logical mind, and Ron as the youthful and eager spirit. Harry has a dark and mysterious past, while Hermione has a bright future, with Ron concentrating on the here and now, the present; thus they form the three time divisions: past, present and future. Then there are the three limits of human capability: thought, word and deed. Hermione is most likely to think things through; Ron says exactly what he thinks, while Harry is, again, action-orientated. I could go on, with trinities such as heart, body and soul, or the three kingdoms of mineral, animal and vegetable, but I will move on instead, as I am sure nobody would like to see their favorite Trio member referred to as a vegetable.
In geometry, three is the symbol of the cube, the solid. Two lines alone cannot form a plane shape: there must be three. Similarly, three dimensions are needed to create a solid: three do what two cannot do alone. Thus three has long been a number connected with things which are solid, real, substantial, complete, essential and perfect. I remember seeing the practical benefits of the sturdy number three: in primary school, we were set a task to build a tower from ordinary paper, which was to be strong enough to hold an egg on top. Of course most people set about building towers with four legs, like chairs or table might have, but surprisingly to us, it was the tower that had just three legs which was the only one to successfully hold the egg. This demonstrates that three is a number of practical stability, and once again, a sign of something solid. One only has to look at camera tripods today to see that the use of three legs indeed provides sufficient base for weighty things.
Next we have the equilateral triangle, which, with three equal sides and three equal angles, has symbolical history as a symbol of power, and thus danger. This is still used today in road signs: triangular signs are the signs that warn you of danger. For the Hittites, the triangle represented goodness and health, while the triangle also has links with success, prosperity and safety.
Three is also a very divine and religious numerical figure. There are numerous references to the number three in the Bible, most notably of all, of course, being the Holy Trinity, or the Godhead- the idea of three persons in one God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, together as one trinity. It is said in the Bible that the three most important things are, “faith, hope and love” – a triad of traits, with love being the most important. God has three supreme attributes: omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. The number three, and the union of three, thus denotes completeness and perfection.
The symbol of the triad, popularized by Nicholas Roerich, is a sacred symbol, found both throughout history and around the world. Its three circles enclosed within a larger ring represents any number of things: the unity of mind, body and spirit in synthesis; past, present and future encircled by eternity; or art, science and religion surrounded by culture. Any of these three could be attached to Harry, Ron and Hermione; or similarly, the triad symbol itself could represent Harry, Ron and Hermione surrounded by an eternal bond of friendship.
This powerful symbol of three is also related to the oldest Indian symbol, Chintamani, representing happiness, which can be found in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, in the three treasures of Tibet, in paintings, on the shields of the Crusaders, and on the coat of arms of the Templars. The triad is also an important symbol in Celtic art and literature, as is the number three itself. Often the goddess Minerva (after whom Professor McGonagall is named) was often depicted in a triad with two males flanking her, either Mercury and Apollo, or Mercury and Vulcan. This is symbolic when we consider that our Harry Potter trio consists of one very wise female and two males. The number three is key in Greek legend, a source from which we know JK Rowling has drawn. In Greek mythology, there were three fates, three graces, three Gorgons, and three furies. Cerberus, on whom Fluffy of PS fame was based, had three heads. If you want to look up more detailed information on the symbolism behind the triad and the number three, take a look here.
All this is to show that three has long been considered one of the most powerful and mystical numbers. It all makes perfect sense when we consider the strength of the Trio. Together, they combine attributes, and the first six books are a testament to how much they can achieve as a Trio. Of course, we know that Harry has to face Voldemort alone at the end, but we also know that his support base, the duality of Ron and Hermione together, will be supporting him sturdily all the way.
Roles within the Trio
Harry is, without a doubt, the leader of the group. He is the decision-maker, and he is the one who takes action. At the start of OotP, we discovered that he doesn’t like being left out of where the action is going on. He combines the hot-headedness and heart-on-the-sleeve emotional side of Ron, with a calmer, more introverted way, like that of Hermione. He often has to act as a mediator while his two sidekicks bicker or fight through their opposite natures, and thus we can see him as both the leader and middle-ground of the Trio.
Ron has neither the pre-destined hero status of Harry nor the brilliant intelligence of Hermione, which leads to him being dubbed the “normal” one of the Trio. While I agree that Ron demonstrates the more stereotypical teen behavior, such as apathy for homework, arguing with his siblings, easily getting jealous, etc, it is also true that Harry and Hermione are “normal” as well. Although Hermione may enjoy doing her work, Harry is still tempted to put his homework off, while both Harry and Hermione demonstrate jealousy too. The brilliance of Jo’s characters is simply that she shows that despite their extraordinary streaks (such as Harry’s hero status and Hermione’s intelligence), they are still normal teenagers, and just as much affected by hormones as all teenagers are. However, it is Ron’s seeming lack of extraordinary ability that labels him as the “normal” one. While even Jo says that it took until HBP for Ron to mature, and we can see that he can be emotional and rash, he has a truly extraordinary streak of loyalty, evident right from the off. He trusts and believes in Harry from PS, risking expulsion for himself when he follows Harry through choice to the Midnight Duel, and aids in the rescue of Hermione from the troll. We all know their friendship suffered a trial in GoF, but it is also plain for anyone to see that by HBP, their friendship has only grown stronger, to the point where it is written that, “It was a mark of the strength of their friendship that Ron did not laugh” (HBP 161). Ron was Harry’s first-ever friend, the first person his own age who actually liked him, and he can always provide Harry with information about the wizarding world. Ron’s great strength is his loyalty and friendship with Harry, and he helps bring the Trio back to earth, as it were.
At first glance, Hermione’s role within the Trio is obvious: she is the thinker, the planner, the voice of caution. She is not so action-orientated, with a much greater streak of rationality than either Harry or Ron. The Trio needs her to provide a voice of reason where Harry and Ron might rush headlong into things. Her extraordinary brilliance academically has helped the Trio many times already, especially in Book 3 with the Time-Turner. However, beyond the hardworking, brainiac persona on the surface, we all know Hermione to have a very kind heart; as Hagrid said, “She’s got her heart in the right place, Hermione has” (PoA 202). She is the only girl within the Trio, and while, up until the Yule Ball, Harry and Ron both see her as “part of the gang” and thus “one of the guys,” we are made very aware that she is a girl, often through enjoying herself with other females, such as Ginny, Mrs. Weasley or Tonks. It would have been easy to make Hermione a tomboy, a la George Famous Five, but Jo has instead given her the brilliant brains and friendships with boys, along with a distinct feminine streak. Hermione is given the task of explaining Harry’s love life, thus proposing her as the more mature one of the three when it comes to feelings. She is there to provide Harry with help as well as friendship, and to push him to doing his best.
Relationships within the Trio
As I see it, when the Trio is broken down into pairs, we get three good examples of different relationships: male to male platonic; male to female platonic; and male to female romantic (i.e. Harry-Ron, Harry-Hermione, Ron-Hermione). Here I’m going to look at each relationship in turn, hopefully without getting too entrenched in the shipping war.
Harry – Ron
Harry and Ron have, by the sixth book, become like brothers. They understand each other well and are completely at ease with each other. The main problem that Harry and Ron had to overcome as a pair was Ron’s jealousy, which we saw come to a head in GoF. The Mirror of Erised showed that Ron wants to be recognized for his achievements, and he wants to do great things, but with Harry Potter as your best friend, it’s inevitable that you will get pushed aside. Naturally, this issue of Ron’s jealousy had to be explored, so that the pair of them could move past this obstacle. This is the purpose the fight in GoF served: for the obstacle in the friendship to be addressed so that they can move on as better friends. It also, in my opinion, helped to highlight to Harry how much Ron means to him. He missed his company, he missed the joking and laughter, something that is very important to Harry; and while Hermione provided great support for Harry during this difficult time, he still missed the support of Ron. Since they got over this fight, the two of them have started to become more brotherly, and while scenes such as after the hearing in OotP, where Ron declares, “You always get away with stuff!” (OotP 142), we know that this issue has been addressed and we can see that Ron has realized that there are more important things than being the best and getting what he wants.
One of my favorite quotes in HBP was after Ron’s poisoning, when Mr. and Mrs. Weasley come to visit him in the Hospital Wing. Mr. Weasley says, “it was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry” (HBP 378). This is one of the things I love about Jo’s style of writing; she always drops in little references to the previous books, making it seem like it really is one big story carrying on from year to year. This statement by Mr. Weasley got me thinking: what if Ron hadn’t sat in that compartment? What if Harry had never become great friends with Ron? Never met the rest of the Weasleys? Never experienced life at the Burrow? And while these questions may seem pointless by the fact that Ron had to sit there for story’s sake, Jo made him and Harry become friends, it highlights thatRon’s choice was the thing that sprung this great friendship. Which brings us back to Dumbledore’s famous quote from CoS: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” (CoS 245). Ron chose to sit in Harry’s compartment, and although we know Ron said it was because, “everywhere else [was] full” (PS 74), it shows that Ron made a conscious decision to sit with Harry. And their friendship has grown from there, past Ron’s insecurities about his poverty and to the point where Ron is willing to follow, support and be with Harry, however dangerous his journey may be.
Harry – Hermione
The relationship between Harry and Hermione is one of my favorites within the series, because they demonstrate the possibility of being great friends without the necessity of romantic attraction, and the dynamic between them is, to me, very touching and endearing. In PS and CoS, it was seemed rather much like Harry-Ron – Hermione, as far as the Trio dynamic was concerned, and continued to be this way until the aftermath of the Cat/Rat/Firebolt fight of third year. The adventure with the Time-Turner was Harry and Hermione’s adventure, and both helped to bring Hermione into a position where she was much more involved with the action and to bring her much closer to Harry. Bringing Hermione into a stronger position within the Trio helped considerably during Harry’s and Ron’s fight in GoF- it enabled Hermione to become the active one in the Trio, desperately trying to reunite them, while helping Harry as best as she could for the First Task.
Harry and Hermione are the only pair of the Trio to not have a huge “I’m-not-going-to-speak-to-you-for-weeks” fallout, but their friendship has been far from smooth. The difficulty that they had to overcome in their friendship, in my opinion, was communication. Hermione always has Harry’s best interests at heart, and always gives him sound advice. She cares for him and worries about him, but it has taken her time to learn how to handle Harry. The problem was that, while Harry understood and knew that Hermione meant well (and that she is almost always right), he would become irritated by her when she attempted to press him into doing something. This is demonstrated particularly in OotP when Harry is feeling a little, shall we say, grouchy. During the “saving people thing” argument, though Hermione was completely correct in her suspicion that Harry’s dream was a trap, she put the idea across to him in a way that angered Harry further. A turning point in their relationship came when Harry recognized Hermione’s “solidarity and loyalty.” Harry recognizes that Hermione is not trying to come up against him, and as a result, the pair becomes closer. Finally, by HBP, we see Harry caring more for Hermione, going after her when she’s upset, taking her side over Ron’s.
Ron and Hermione’s fight in HBP mirrors that of PoA, except that this time, it is about romance, not their pets. To me, one of the best moments of the book is when Harry goes after Hermione before the infamous canary scene. Harry knows that her need is greater than Ron’s at that moment; understanding that Hermione is upset and hurting, instead of being passive as he might have been in the past, he actively seeks her out to offer comfort. This shows a great step up in both maturity on Harry’s part, and in the nature of the Harry-Hermione friendship. It’s just a beautiful little scene.
Consequently, Harry spends more time talking one-on-one to Hermione, and we see them having fun and laughing together (about Filch and Madam Pince, for example). From my point of view, Hermione’s and Harry’s relationship is turning from a mother-son kind of relationship to a friendship of equals. They have overcome communication difficulties and now have one of the greatest connections in the series.
Ron – Hermione
Ron and Hermione’s journey through friendship has been a little rocky, to put it mildly. Because they represent the duality, they are opposing in many respects, and are often useful within the plot to show two sides to a story or argument (i.e., Snape, house-elves). By GoF, we had the signs of jealousy that indicated that there was definitely more bubbling beneath the surface with these two. However, the insecurities of both of them led to the miscommunications and awkward dances around true feelings. They are first and foremost, however, friends.
Ron and Hermione, within the friendship, are equal. While Hermione may be much brighter and more mature than Ron (and Ron may be much better at chess or Quidditch), when they are simply friends, neither is leading the other. This doesn’t happen as much in either Harry and Ron’s friendship or Harry and Hermione’s, simply because Harry Is The Hero, while Ron and Hermione (a hero and a heroine in their own rights) are still the sidekicks who follow him. They have to be equal and balanced, so as to provide a stable basis of support for Harry. Despite their differences, it is their similarities that create this equality: namely, a desire to support Harry (as demonstrated in PoA by their forgetting their argument in the face of Harry’s disappointment), as well as their tendencies to like to be heard and get their point across without any inhibitions to argue about it. Both of them will argue with anyone who opposes their ideas, and thus in their roles as opposing figures, they argue most often with each other. They are, essentially, two sides of the same coin.
Their bickering, however, does not disguise the fact that they care for each other. Famous phrases such as belching slugs or frostiness melting come to mind, and it is easy to see that there is a bond between them, no matter how much bickering goes on above it. Occasionally it’s been said that Ron and Hermione would not be friends if it weren’t for Harry, but, while this opinion is perfectly all right for someone to hold, I disagree. After the Cat/Rat fight, it is Ron who reaches out to Hermione with his offer of help for Buckbeak’s trial, and we see them many times enjoying themselves by simply playing chess or visiting Hogsmeade and returning “looking as though they’d had the time of their lives.” This, of course, may have had a lot to do with the fact that it was their first trip out, but you can’t enjoy yourself quite that much if you’re with someone you don’t like.
A difficulty in this relationship, besides the burgeoning romantic feelings, has been maturity. Ron and Hermione have, in testament to the strength of their friendship, survived two major fallouts, in PoA and HBP. The factor that helped them to become friends in PoA was when Ron finally got over the disappearance of Scabbers and became mature enough to realize that Hermione was more important than his rat. And in HBP, it is after Ron’s poisoning that he again begins to mature and realizes that he should not be carrying on with Lavender, that there are more important things at stake than trying to make Hermione jealous. The poisoning also helps Hermione realize how much she does feel for Ron, and after this event both of them put aside their rather immature yet understandable stance of “I’ll make you jealous”-“Well, I’ll make you more jealous,” and realize that despite what’s bubbling away beneath the surface, it is important to both of them to be friends. Finally we see the two of them reaching an understanding at Dumbledore’s funeral, as Ron holds Hermione as she cries (HBP 603). This again mirrors PoA, except that this time around, Ron does not look completely terrified at Hermione clinging to him. Their relationship has, in HBP, finally become much more mature.
The Path of the Trio
It is important that all three pairings within the Trio resolve their differences and overcome their difficulties before Book 7 (i.e., by the end of HBP), because the final book will center on Harry himself. There wouldn’t be enough page space for Ron and Hermione to keep falling out or for Harry to get mad at his friends, because by Book 7 we need to see that the three of them have grown steadily from the first book to the greatest of friends by the final one. PS states that “there are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other” (PS 132), and this statement holds true throughout the series, as Harry, Ron and Hermione have struggled through many difficulties, whether caused by Voldemort, or simply by being teenagers. Here I’m going to go back in time, and briefly chart the Trio’s journey to becoming the indestructible force they are today.
-Harry meets Ron and they become friends quickly. They meet Hermione, but her irritating know-it-all attitude makes them dislike her.-Harry and Ron save Hermione from the mountain troll, and they all become friends.
-We see them working together with our first glimpse at what was to become the Trio, as they figure out the mystery behind the Philosopher’s Stone.
-During the trials to get the Stone, each of them plays their own role, cementing their roles within the Trio.
-This book is quite Harry-Ron orientated, due mainly to Hermione’s Petrification.-Harry and Ron are both protective of Hermione as she is ridiculed for being a Muggle-born.
-Hermione is the one to figure out the Chamber’s secret, and thus plays her part in the end-of-year rescue.
-Harry and Ron go after the monster together, despite Harry’s being forced to make the final leg alone.
-Hermione and Ron fall out over Crookshanks and Scabbers, while Harry stops talking to Hermione until he gets his Firebolt back. Harry takes Ron’s side in the Cat/Rat fight, but wants Ron to make friends with Hermione again.-Hermione becomes isolated from the Trio, which seems on the point of destruction.
-Ron’s famous “If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us too” (PoA 249) line shows the strength of his loyalty, and of his friendship.
-Hermione breaks school rules, attacks a teacher, and even breaks the law about time in order to help Harry save Sirius, showing her loyalty to him.
-Harry and Hermione orientated action at the end, which helps them become closer.
-Ron’s jealousy and desire to be noticed comes to the fore, leading to his and Harry’s fall out.-Harry and Hermione become closer as she helps him with the First Task and Rita Skeeter mistakes this closeness for romance.
-Hermione actively attempts to keep the Trio together.
-The strength of Harry and Ron’s friendship is demonstrated through Ron being the thing Harry would “sorely miss.”
-Ron’s and Hermione’s jealousy of each other’s romantic partners begins to show.
-Harry faces the final fight on his own, after Ron and Hermione both help him to prepare.
-The introduction of the “auxiliary” trio, i.e. Luna, Neville and Ginny, as Harry’s circle of friends expands, including both the Order and the DA.-Ron and Hermione begin to side together against Harry, such as in Grimmauld Place and during the introduction of the DA.
-Harry feels isolated from Ron and Hermione, especially as they both become Prefects. -There are more hints at the Ron and Hermione romantic dynamic.
-Harry and Hermione’s friendship suffers from Hermione’s misunderstanding of how to deal with Harry, but grows as Harry realizes it is only because she cares for him and his safety.
-Harry remains, once again, alone at the final fight, although Ron and Hermione, as well as the auxiliary trio, follow him to the Department of Mysteries.
-This is a much more Trio-centered book. The image of the three of them underneath the Invisibility Cloak (while following Malfoy) is reminiscent of their younger days.-Ron and Hermione once again side together on the issue of Harry’s suspicions about Malfoy.
-Ron and Hermione have another big fall out due to their growing romantic feelings and their jealousy, but are mature enough to put it behind them after Ron is poisoned.
-The relationship between Harry and Hermione grows as they understand each other better and have fun together. Harry actively goes after Hermione instead of siding with Ron.
-More of the auxiliary trio during the fight with the Death Eaters, which Ron and Hermione also take part in.
-Harry is still more separate in this book, due to his hunt for the Horcruxes, but still asks and values both Ron and Hermione’s advice.
-The final page, with its reminders and echoes of PS, shows the great strength of the bond between the Trio, Harry’s love for his friends, and Ron and Hermione’s loyalty.
What I hope to see in Book 7
-A book that’s very much Trio-centered.-Harry realizes and voices the great value of his friends.
-More of the auxiliary trio, but not necessarily on the Horcrux hunt, would be nice.
-Ron and Hermione finally are at ease with their feelings for each other.
-All three display their maturity and love for each other.
-All three members survive! (Wishful thinking? I hope not…)
And so finally…
The purpose I hope this editorial has served is simply to remind people of the tremendous bond that the Trio has. Not simply the bond between Harry and Ron, or Harry and Hermione, or Ron and Hermione, but the great single bond that binds all three together. I will freely admit to being highly interested in shipping pre-HBP, and that I am both a Ron/Hermione and Harry/Ginny shipper. However, I have attempted to write this editorial without shipping bias (apologies if I haven’t), and it has helped me to remember that at the heart of these books is simply the love between these friends- three very different people, but three people who love and care for each other. If I had to choose between R/Hr or the Trio, I would choose the Trio every time, because I find the connection between these three people so awe-inspiring and wonderful.
Of course, this is only my opinion, and I would like to stress that everything within this editorial is simply that: my opinion. I am not asking or telling people to agree with me, but to simply sit and think for a moment about the Trio as a whole. People are free to disagree with any if not all parts of this editorial, whether they think Ron has a different role within the Trio, or whether they think Harry and Hermione’s relationship is different to how I have described it, or whether they think that the path of the Trio is different to how I have described it. That is the great thing about the Trio; there are so many different ways of viewing the individual characters and the relationships that they have, and everyone views them slightly differently. This is just the way that I view them.
I view the Trio as Harry’s family. Ron and Hermione were the first friends that Harry ever had, and the first people (except his parents, obviously) who saw and loved him for who he was. While the story is about Harry defeating Voldemort, good vs. evil, etc, there is a second thread running through the story- a thread of Harry finding that which he saw in the Mirror of Erised: family and love, two things that he has found in Ron and Hermione. People may be unconvinced, disappointed, bewildered or whatever about the romance that happened in HBP, but, in my opinion, the love between the Trio prevailed, and that, for me, is the most important thing. Feel free to disagree, as everybody will have different views on the subject of platonic vs. romantic love, but I am giving you my opinion that the greatest love in the series is there, still intact, despite all that these characters have gone through.
So while this editorial may not provide insight into the final installment, or provide an intriguing theory for people to chew over or disprove, I hope that it serves as a reminder of the heart of this story: three friends, and the wonderful platonic love that binds them together.
If anyone would like to contact me about this article, you can e-mail me atcheetah_features at hotmail dot com.