As in the previous Harry Potter novels, Harry’s friendship with Ron and Hermione is central to his life and his efforts to defeat Voldemort. However, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, these relationship dynamics are upended by new romantic feelings and the confusion they cause. While Harry and Ron develop crushes on Ginny and Hermione, they both have trouble accepting these feelings, seeing them as destructive to their existing friendships. Moreover, uncertainty about their romantic feelings causes them to behave in sexist ways to the women in their lives, threatening their previous relationships. Ultimately, their fumbling approaches to romance reveal that despite growing into teenagers, Harry and Ron are still emotionally childish at this point, especially compared to Hermione and Ginny. However, their behavior now also foregrounds the ways in which they’ll mature in the seventh and final installment.
Because they worry that romance will upend the stability of their existing relationships, Harry and Ron describe these new feelings negatively and try to evade them. When Harry walks in on Ginny making out with Dean, he describes his feelings of rejection as a “monster in his chest,” suggesting that he thinks of his crush as somehow unnatural or negative. Trying to tell himself that he’s only so upset “because she’s Ron’s sister,” he attempts to resolve the confusion of his new feelings by cramming them into his old relationship framework.
Similarly, Ron starts dating Lavender Brown – whom he never seems to like and spends much of his time avoiding – evidently as a method of avoiding his feelings for Hermione. His effort proves futile: after his near-death experience drinking poisoned mead, it’s only Hermione he wants to see. Their tender reconciliation in the hospital is a demonstration that their new feelings are normal and positive, not necessarily a threat to friendships.
What does truly endanger the trio’s relationships is the paternalistic manner in which Harry and Ron treat the women in their lives while they grapple with the possibility of romance. One of the reasons Harry feels so guilty about his feelings for Ginny is that he feels they’re a “betrayal” of Ron. When he fantasizes about kissing her, he always imagines Ron bursting in and yelling that Harry is “supposed to be my friend.” In a sense, Harry sees Ginny as belonging to Ron, even though it’s none of her brother’s business whom or how she dates. Even when Harry finally kisses Ginny after a dramatic Quidditch match, he’s relieved that Ron gives his “blessing” with a tiny nod of his head.
Similarly, Ron’s decision to date Lavender is precipitated by Ginny’s revelation that Hermione kissed Viktor Krum two years before, when she was involved with him. He’s enraged at hearing this, even though he’s never expressed his feelings for Hermione or given her any reason not to date other boys. Here, Ron seems to feel entitled to control over Hermione’s romantic life – which, as Ginny points out derisively, he’s not.
While Harry and Ron are taking on adult roles in the fight against Voldemort, they remain remarkably childish when it comes to their love lives – especially compared to the maturity displayed by Ginny and Hermione. Even when Hermione is at her most petty – for example, making a show of inviting Cormac McLaggen to a dance in order to make Ron jealous – she displays an acute understanding of her friends’ feelings and motivations, which Ron and Harry clearly lack. Watching this episode play out, Harry describes Hermione as simply preoccupied with “revenge,” rather than trying to empathize with her feelings of rejection and abandonment.
Both Hermione and Ginny reject the paternalistic attitudes Harry and Ron briefly develop. Hermione is appalled both by Ron’s apparent belief that he should control her love life and by the crass self-centeredness of Cormac, whom she briefly dates. Ginny is even more explicitly dismissive of men who believe that romance entails taking care of or controlling a woman. While she dates Dean Thomas for most of the novel, she ultimately dumps him in a fit of annoyance after he “helps” her through the portrait hole one too many times. At the end of the novel, Harry breaks off their nascent relationship as well, telling her that he’s doing so to “protect” her from Voldemort. He sees this as an act of chivalry, but Ginny says he’s being “stupid” and “noble,” implicitly suggesting that she should have a choice too in whether or not she is “protected.”
Ending with the dissolution of Harry and Ginny’s relationship and the trio’s decision to fight Voldemort together, Half-Blood Prince seems to discard the prospect of romance in favor of the friendship dynamics that have existed throughout the series. However, Harry and Ron’s fumbling experiments foreground the ways in which they’ll mature next year, as Harry learns to respect Ginny’s abilities as a warrior in her own right and Ron courts Hermione on her own terms, rather than by trying to control her.
Love and Friendship ThemeTracker
Love and Friendship Quotes in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry did not really listen. A warmth was spreading through him…He knew that Ron and Hermione were more shocked than they were letting on, but the mere fact that they were still there on either side of him, speaking bracing words of comfort, not shrinking from him as though he were contaminated or dangerous, was worth more than he could ever tell them.
He and Cho were too embarrassed to look at each other, let alone talk to each other; what if Ron and Hermione started going out together, then split up? Could their friendship survive it?...And then, what if they didn’t split up? What if they became like Bill and Fleur, and it became excruciatingly embarrassing to be in their presence, so that he was shut out for good?
It was as though something large and scaly erupted into life in Harry’s stomach, clawing at his insides: hot blood seemed to flood his brain, so that all thought was extinguished, replaced by a savage urge to jinx Dean into a jelly. Wresting with this sudden madness, he heard Ron’s voice as though from a great distance away.
But unbidden into his mind came an image of that same deserted corridor with himself kissing Ginny instead…the monster in his chest purred…but then he saw Ron ripping open the tapestry curtain and drawing his wand on Harry, shouting things like “betrayal of trust”… “supposed to be my friend”…
“Yes, Harry, you can love,” said Dumbledore, who looked as though he knew perfectly well what Harry had just refrained from saying. “Which, given everything that has happened to you, is a great and remarkable thing. You are still too young to understand how unusual you are, Harry.”
“Watch it,” he said, pointing warningly at Harry and Ginny. “Just because I’ve given my permission doesn’t mean I can’t withdraw it – “
“’Your permission,’” scoffed Ginny. “Since when did you give me permission to do anything?”
…In spite of everything, in spite of the dark and twisting path he saw stretching ahead for himself, in spite of the final meeting with Voldemort he knew must come, whether in a month, in a year, or in ten, he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione.