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Harry and romance - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Harry and romance
No, not a shipping post. :) I have my theories about shipping Harry, and some wishes, but I want to talk more abstractly about Harry in this kind of relationship. It's a bit of an an expansion on what I wrote in blue_moony's post about Harry as a sexual being.


Here's what I wrote there:
I think that you're right about Harry being passive, and I'd take it a step further--I think he's totally uncomfortable with intimacy. He not only needs a girl who will take the lead, he needs one who will be very, very patient with him (that's where Cho fails).

Harry's spent his childhood neglected. Not abused, but untouched. Physical affection is something that's totally alien to him, and I think he'll always speak it as second language at best, whether it's sexual or merely friendly. He loves people by trusting them, by worrying about them, and most prominently, by protecting them. Giving them hugs and kisses isn't really in his body language vocabulary (he'd never been given a motherly hug until he was fifteen for heaven's sake, and while he appreciated it--as I think he would appreciate other kinds of physical affection if approached carefully--he was surprised by it and didn't know how to react to it). By the same token, even if he was feeling quite, er, aroused, I don't think it would occur to him to seek out a sexual encounter. He's the sort of person who would always have to be urged, and because of that, he'll need someone who is a bit of a sensualist, but also kind, patient, and understanding with him. I also think that someone he married would be someone he'd at least feel protective toward (even if she didn't particularly need protection). I think that would be the main issue with him.

I definitely don't think he'd be into the heavy stuff (there'd been some talk about S/M and dominance and so on--FW). He doesn't like yelling, he doesn't like being pushed around. What makes him happy non-sexually tends to be something like a Weasley jumper, or helping people learn DADA charms, or sharing his food for the first time. From this, I'd guess that what he'd look for in a sexual relationship would be comfort, growth, and sharing--family guy, pater familias, etc.



Expanding on that, we've actually seen Harry engaged in a romance now. JKR did a lovely job of making him behave like, well, Harry in a romance. What did we see?

  1. He's oblivious. He likes Cho a lot, but even after he starts to notice that she's hanging around him, he doesn't let himself believe that she's interested until she actually kisses him.

  2. He's clueless about the "rules" of dating. Cho is only a year older than he is, and others around him have dated, but Harry has shown no interest in it at all, and didn't know there [i]was[/i] such a place as Madam Puddifoot's. He has no idea about follow-up on anything (as evidence by the fact that he couldn't pick up on Cho's heavy-handed clues about Valentine's Day.

  3. He absolutely doesn't like public displays of affection. When he finds out about Madam Puddifoot's, he's horrified and embarrassed to be there. He thinks of Roger and his girlfriend kissing as sounding like slurping noises, and feels pressured to kiss Cho to live up to the environment, but doesn't want to.

  4. He daydreams about girls, but he imagines them as being very happy, not as needing rescue or care.

  5. He can't imagine why Cho is jealous of Hermione, and will simply not play along with it... even after Hermione explains it all, he makes no effort to follow her advice. That friendship is not negotiable, and since he knows perfectly well that there's nothing else to it--he's baffled by the suggestion--he's certainly not going to be patient with a girlfriend who challenges its claim on him.

  6. He seems to prefer having a steady personality to a "date personality"--he enjoys Cho's company most when they're talking Quidditch, and least when she decides it's time to do boy/girl stuff. He's reasonably comfortable with her as a teacher in the DA as well.


So, from those, here are a few things that have occurred to me to extrapolate. I could quite conceivably be wrong. (Say it ain't so!!!)

  1. Harry isn't going to seek a romance. He doesn't have anything against it, but all of his relationships have been passively formed. Ron finds him on the train. Hermione dogs both of them. Hagrid comes for him on the island. Dumbledore looks after him. Sirius looks after him. The only relationship he really initiated was his friendship with Lupin--one of these two reticent people had to do something!--and that was because he needed something. As in, something specific. I don't think this is caused by Harry's teen-ness; I think it's intrinsic to him, and it's not going away. Other people seek him out. I don't think this is because of some arrogant standoffishness, but because he spent his childhood unwanted, and has developed a habit of not coming in until he's specifically invited.

  2. His character will be consistent in a romantic relationship. He's not going to suddenly become swoony or angsty about the nature of love. (Heck, now "love" is an intellectual puzzle... what does it mean, power from love?) Love, contrary to Buffy, is not going to make him do the wacky.

  3. I'm particularly interested in his daydreams about Cho, when he contrasts them with the reality of the needy girl who comes to him. He's looking for someone who is happy and wants to share happiness with him--he's tired of being the on-duty hero, even though he can't stop himself. Whenever someone is hurting or needs something, Harry feels obliged to jump in and help, and he doesn't want to do that. He doesn't want to rescue Cho from anything.

    Now, he doesn't seem to begrudge having rescued people--he takes it as a matter-of-fact thing that he rescued Ginny and doesn't particularly think anything of it. All in a day's work, ma'am, and please stop blushing and going mute! He doesn't think less of people for needing rescue. (If he did, he'd despise Hagrid by now.) But in a romance, he's looking for a safe haven, so I think he'll be looking for someone who proves that she can take care of herself and stand beside him, and someone who is stable and happy on her own, who only wants to be with him because it makes her even happier.

    I also think he's looking for a helpmeet--and is probably perfectly willing to be one for her quests, once he grows up and realizes that other people also have quests. Someone who is part of his battle with Voldemort and will stand true in it and not think of it as her "competition" in some way.

  4. He's reserved. It wasn't just second year with Lockhart's Valentine's mess that Harry thought it was horribly embarrassing to address these sorts of things in public. He never likes to. I don't think this is some character flaw or wound that he has to get over, I think it's just part of who he is--a traditional gentleman.

  5. Whoever he dates had better damned well not throw hissy fits about him having a best friend who's a girl, or cry about him having any of his friends be more important than she is. Harry is one who should ideally date within his social circle, because he's obviously not remotely interested in cutting back time with them. He could also find a girl who fits into that circle. Just never one who has no interest in being part and parcel of his little surrogate family.


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Comments
riah_chan From: riah_chan Date: May 24th, 2004 01:26 am (UTC) (Link)
You are so totally right. I have always had trouble believing Harry in many romance stories. In my mind, he has to first establish a friendship with the girl, and then, after she pursues him in a friendly, kind, and patient way, they might be able to have a nice relationship. The only cannon characters that might currently fit the bill are Ginny, Luna, and Hermione. As I ship Ron/Hermione because of so many reasons, I can only currently see Harry with Ginny or Luna, but that is only after considerable effort and then only sometime in the future when he doesn't have so much on his mind. Right now, he needs friends more than girlfriends.

Riah-chan
P.S.- BTW, I friend-ed you, if you don't mind.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 24th, 2004 06:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I never mind friends.

I like him with Ginny or Luna (Ginny makes more sense to me on a detached structural level, but I'm very fond of his dynamic with Luna as well), and of course he and Hermione love each other a lot, though I see her more as his substitute sister than as a love interest.
From: falco_999 Date: May 24th, 2004 02:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm with you one hundred per cent, particularly on the matter of Harry's physical reticence. In my opinion, one of the largest mistakes made in the second film - and, I hear, continued in the third - was to make Harry so touchy-feely. Because such sensitivity is totally alien to canon!Harry's character. *grr* Sorry, I've just come from reading some comments on the new movie.

Anyway, Ginny seems to fit perfectly with your idea of a good companion for Harry. I've always been a little apathetic on the Ginny front, maybe because we've seen so little of her. If they do get together, then I foresee that many Brideshead Revisited pastiches will be forthcoming from the slashers. ;)
shellebelle93 From: shellebelle93 Date: May 24th, 2004 04:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes! I agree with you completely. Which is why I see him most with Ginny, especially after OotP. Thanks for this.

persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: May 24th, 2004 06:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I realize this isn't supposed to be a ship-specific thing, but the concept is part of the reason that I was always rather bugged by the argument (from pro- and anti-ship people!) that a Harry/Ginny relationship would require her to get over him so Harry had to do the pursuing. (Perhaps the anti-H/Gers were counting on his never getting around to it? *considers*)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 24th, 2004 07:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I know what you mean. I never got that--why should he suddenly want to become the "aggressor" in the relationship? After all, if he "pushes" it, he'll never be sure if it's for real, or if she's just sorry for him. I think what her "getting over him" accomplished wasn't an opportunity for Harry to pitch woo, but a chance to let her be more comfortable and able to speak more freely around him (and therefore around the audience).
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: May 24th, 2004 08:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I think what her "getting over him" accomplished wasn't an opportunity for Harry to pitch woo, but a chance to let her be more comfortable and able to speak more freely around him (and therefore around the audience).

Yeah.

When getting a date for the Yule Ball, Harry seems to have treated it sort of like approaching Voldemort: it had to be done, and despite all trepidation he was going to square his shoulders and do it. This is not an ideal start for a longer-term romance.
ashtur From: ashtur Date: May 24th, 2004 08:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the reason that Ginny "stepped back" a bit from Harry (as a plot device) is that it will give both of them a chance to see one another "for real" so to speak. It's not intentional, but both Harry and Ginny have seen the other behind some rather strong and misleading facades.

Ginny has seen Harry as the ultimate knight in shining armor, as the noble hero and the like. Now that she's "gotten over him", she's begun to see the real Harry. The Harry who is himself very vunerable (though he'd never admit it to anyone other than Sirius...), the Harry who is not perfect, but is quite capable of forgetting the single largest event in her life.

Harry on the other hand has only (up to this point) seen crushing/silly Ginny. Only from Christmas on has Harry really begun to see that the Ginny he'd seen sticking her elbow in the butter, or running away every time he glances at her is not the real Ginny, but an illusion.

What this means is that as their friendship grows (and that's all I expect in Book 6), is that they will begin to see one another as equals. Previously, even if it were unconscious, the dynamics of the relationship were very much Harry dominated. Ginny had Harry up on that nice pedestal, and that also influenced the way Harry looked at her. Now, Harry's been ripped off his pedestal, and he's also gotten a good look at something closer to the real Ginny.

I won't say that the masks are gone (are they ever?), but that the image they both see of one another is much closer to the truth than it was before. In that realigned view of one another is the seeds of a healthier relationship, whether it ends up being romantic or not.
readerravenclaw From: readerravenclaw Date: May 24th, 2004 10:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I definitely agree about Harry's reserve and the lack of initiative he shows when it comes to relationships and showing affection. I just wanted to add that I do think that under the right circumstances, this can eventually change. Once/if Harry's married and has a few kids, especially if his wife is properly encouraging, Harry will almost certainly (albeit slowly) become more affectionate. Children (especially very young children) are almost always very loving, very affectionate, and especially when they're you're own children, there's no risk of rejection. I can definitely see Harry becoming very, very attached to his children, and over time, becoming more affectionate in general, more willing to show his affection for all those he cares about, not just his children. I can definitely see a 30 year old Harry with several children being perfectly comfortable with telling his children "I love you" and in general, being a lot more confident altogether in all his relationships.
mincot From: mincot Date: May 24th, 2004 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do agree, but he has to *get there* first. Unless someone is amazingly patient, Harry may well remain a lifelong friend, but not part of a romantic pairing. I can tell you from experience that unless someone like that comes along, single-ness is pretty much the default.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 24th, 2004 12:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that would coincide with my experience, too.

I do agree that Harry will be affectionate with his children, though not in the same way that someone like Sirius would be. I think Harry is the sort who may learn affection for them by quietly cuddling them when they're upset, and be the sort of parent who sits with them when they're sick and reads them to sleep at night more than the sort who plays airplane (well, broomstick) and kisses them all the time. It's a different kind of affectionate. In the romance, I think even now, with the right girl, he would quite value affection--his response to Molly's hug was demonstrative, it's one of the most valuable emotional experiences he's ever had. But because of that, I don't think he'll ever treat it as something cheap that can be spread around without destroying it. It would be kept for very special people and times.
readerravenclaw From: readerravenclaw Date: May 24th, 2004 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
By "airplane/broomstick" I assume you mean the "into the hangar" feeding game, and not Quidditch, right? (Because in my mind, playing Quidditch with his children would be a major way for Harry to bond with them.) I can see your point, and to some extent I agree, but even so, I can definitely picture Harry hugging his young children frequently and saying "I love you" once in a while - definitely not right away, but with time. And yes, he'd definitely need the right sort of spouse for that, someone very patient and affectionate - but as we're writing fanfic, the chances of him finding someone like that are exactly as high or low as we choose. :)

Also, I agree that it would seem OOC for Harry to become affectionate in general, to random acquaintances and so forth; Harry could never possibly become a back-slapping kind of guy. :) Still, I don't think it would be unrealistic to portray Harry as affectionate within the confines of his home, with his children, and not just on special occasions. Obviously only if his wife is very affectionate herself, and definitely not immediately, but say, ten years down the line.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 24th, 2004 08:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
By "airplane/broomstick" I assume you mean the "into the hangar" feeding game, and not Quidditch, right?

Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I was thinking of a wizarding game akin to "airplane," where the dad (or other strong relative) picks up the child, who lies flat in the air, then runs around making buzzing noise while the child pretends to be an airplane. I figure a wizarding equivalent would involve the big person putting his arms out so the child could grab the wrists and lean over from the shoulders, and pretend to be flying a broomstick. It's a Sirius sort of of game, which I think Harry might have enjoyed in his infancy, but I don't see him doing something so rough-housey with his kids.
timbo1138 From: timbo1138 Date: May 25th, 2004 08:26 am (UTC) (Link)
That has got to be one of the most perceptive essay things on the topic of shipping I've ever read. I've always thought you make some of the most inteligent posts I've ever read (I found this from a link you posted in a thread at SQ), and this is no exception. Seriously, evey time I read anything like this by you I just keep thinking "damn, she's RIGHT! That's so true!" :P You really hit the nail on the head with this one.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 25th, 2004 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, thanks!

(Of course, ongoing series have a tendency to fire canon balls at my extensive theorizing... :))
calico321 From: calico321 Date: May 26th, 2004 08:54 am (UTC) (Link)
That was wonderfully insightful! :) I have trouble seeing Harry with anybody, at least until Big V is defeated. But who knows?
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