"Much Stronger Together than Apart"The Trio in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
--J.K. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets DVD Interivew
By Mara Cohen
The complex internal relationships within the Trio give the characters much of their strength and give the books emotional depth. Within this group of three are three individual friendships––Harry and Ron, Harry and Hermione, Ron and Hermione––each of which affects the third person as well.
With Ron and Harry, Rowling has really nailed the nature of friendship, especially male friendship. From their famous first meeting aboard the Hogwarts Express, Ron and Harry have a mutual admiration and interest; Ron’s knowledge of the Wizarding world and his large, close-knit family are as interesting to Harry as Harry’s notoriety is to Ron. Ron is unconditionally supportive of Harry, backing him up at every turn. Their friendship is cemented not so much by heart-to-heart conversation as by shared activity––games, sports, and common interests. Throughout the books Ron and Harry consistently play Exploding Snap and Wizard Chess, collect chocolate frog cards, play Quidditch, and talk about playing Quidditch. It is a brilliant example of male bonding.
Hermione, being a girl, doesn’t always understand this element of the boys’ friendship and assumes that Harry would rather talk about something than, say, play Quidditch. She’s usually wrong. Ron and Harry don’t discuss their emotions much, but the depth of Harry’s feelings for Ron show in Goblet of Fire, when Ron is taken as “the thing [he’ll] miss most,”4 in Order of the Phoenix when he sees what looks to be Ron’s dead body (really just a boggart) and in Half-Blood Prince when Ron almost dies from poison. Harry tends to side with Ron over Hermione, and they frequently ignore her advice and warnings. While this leaves Hermione out at times, it reinforces her independence and her ability to make friends outside of the Trio; her ongoing friendship with Ginny is one example.
Hermione and Harry have a quite different kind of relationship; a friendship built more upon mutual benefit than mutual interests. In the beginning, Harry (along with Ron) is less than fond of Hermione; it takes a life-or-death incident with a troll to create her place in the Trio. Hermione prides herself on being useful, on bringing knowledge, information and ideas to the friendship. She’s more apt to talk things through with Harry and to value conversation over action. In the parent-free environment of Hogwarts, Hermione tends to act very maternal, especially towards Harry. She is constantly telling him to be careful, to do his homework, to eat properly. Where Ron is unflaggingly supportive of Harry almost to the point of telling him what he wants to hear, Hermione is willing to challenge him. She acts as the voice of reason and doubt, injecting cool logic into Harry’s heated emotions. By doing this Hermione supports Harry in a different way, by forcing him to examine his own ideas.
In addition, Hermione acts as a liaison to the world of girls, especially in the later books. She explains in great detail the actions of other girls, actions that utterly baffle Harry. In Order of the Phoenix, she describes the wide range of emotions that Cho Chang––the girl who Harry is interested in––is experiencing. She also has the inside information on Ginny Weasley. And in Half-Blood Prince she explains to Harry exactly why he suddenly has a fan club, as Harry is completely unaware of his new attractiveness. Ron is not as affected by the Hermione-Harry friendship as Hermione is by the boys’ friendship. He steps between them at times to shield Harry from Hermione’s well-intentioned nagging, and goes through a spot of jealousy in Half-Blood Prince, when he has romantic designs on Hermione and is unsure of her intentions towards Harry. But overall, Ron takes Harry and Hermione’s friendship as a matter of course, secure as he is in Harry’s friendship.
Hermione and Ron’s relationship is the stormiest and most complicated of the three, mainly due to the romantic undercurrent running between them. Between Hermione being such an academic and Ron coming from such a large family, they understand that argument can be a form of communication. They communicate through bickering and debate, each rising to the other’s bait to continue any discussion, and are comfortable with this ongoing arguing to the point of being oblivious to it. Harry, on the other hand, instinctively avoids conflict and frequently is annoyed or bemused by the others’ conversational style. At times, Hermione and Ron’s squabbling overflows into real hostility, and twice they stop speaking entirely. The state of Ron and Hermione’s friendship affects Harry’s life and mental state. When they really fight, he’s forced to take sides or to try to stay out of it entirely, which is stressful for Harry.
On the other hand, when Ron and Hermione team up and agree on something, it forces Harry to reconsider his position. One example of this is the D.A., the secret Defense Against the Dark Arts club that Hermione comes up with as a solution to really bad teaching. The fact that Ron backs her up instead of dismissing the idea as Harry would have, makes Harry think twice. The sixth year is a tumultuous one for Ron and Hermione as they begin to explore their mutual romantic interest, and includes one of their stormy non-speaking eras. They reunite, though, by the end of the book and are stronger friends than ever when they vow to accompany Harry wherever he should go in the final book. Hermione and Ron seem to have overcome some of the issues that made their friendship so turbulent, and this renewed bond between his two best friends strengthens Harry as much as it does Ron and Hermione.
The Trio’s Future
While Harry did vow––and Ron and Hermione in turn vowed to go with him––to search for and destroy Horcruxes rather than return to Hogwarts, it is likely that the Trio will return to the castle for at least part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Hogwarts is a very rich source of magical knowledge: the school library, the ghosts, the professors, the portraits. Each could potentially have information that could help the Trio on their mission, especially Dumbledore’s new portrait; Harry will probably have at least one more conversation with his beloved Headmaster, and Hermione at least one more foray into her library. In addition, whatever reason Voldemort had in his early days for wanting access to Hogwarts may still have a part to play; the school is a potential treasure-trove of ancient magic and it seems probable that the castle itself may house one of the Horcruxes. Therefore while Harry may want to abandon Hogwarts in favor of Horcrux-hunting, his hunt may lead him right back to the school.
The two previous installments, Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, make it evident that everybody, from the Order to the Ministry to Voldemort himself, is watching Harry. Therefore, the logical place for the Trio to be would be Hogwarts, so as not to draw unwanted attention to their pursuits. Lastly, unless the school closes, all of the other students that the Trio has befriended and even taught will be there at Hogwarts. Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, and Ginny Weasley, especially, will most likely interact with the Trio after fighting Death Eaters with them in both Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince.
It also seems most likely that Ron, Hermione, and Harry will all survive, both physically and emotionally. The Trio has become so entwined emotionally that for any one of them to die would make surviving unbearable for the others. If one didn’t make it, then nothing, not even defeating Voldemort, would feel like a triumph to the remaining two. For there to be any kind of victory in the finale of the series, therefore, each member of the Trio needs to come through unscathed. Otherwise, their wonderful interdependence and love for one another would work against the Trio in the end, rather than in their favor, which would counteract the overriding messages of love, support, and friendship in Harry Potter.
The complex balance between Harry, Ron, and Hermione is what Harry needs to defeat Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, just as it has helped him all along. Rather than being completely independent, as so many heroes and indeed Voldemort himself strive to be, Harry has achieved interdependence with his friends. Mahatma Gandhi once said:
Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality.5
The Trio brings together a multitude of character strengths, from Hermione’s diplomacy to Ron’s loyalty to Harry’s open heart, and they balance one another’s shortcomings. The sixth book brought each of them to a point emotionally that is stronger than ever before: Ron and Hermione have overcome their romantic jealousies, and Harry has accepted his role as the one to defeat Voldemort. Although it is destined that Harry and Voldemort will go head-to-head at the end in order for one to defeat the other (with Harry succeeding, of course!), it is Harry’s interdependence with Ron and Hermione that will bring him to the point at which he can successfully battle his enemy, just as it did in the Sorcerer's Stone.
1. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 31.
2. Ibid., Sorcerer’s Stone, 99-100.
3. Ibid., 20.
4. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 491.
5. Gandhi, “Social Inter-Relation.”
Gandhi, Mahatma. “Social Inter-Relation.” From Young India (21 March 1929): 93. http://www.mkgandhi.org/momgandhi/chap91.htm (accessed 17 November 2006).
Mzimba, Lizo, moderator. “Interview with Steve Kloves and J.K. Rowling.” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets DVD, February 2003. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2003/0302-newsround-mzimba.htm (accessed 19 November 2006).
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.