If you were to pit Harry Potter against Ron Weasley in a fan popularity contest, Ron would win in a heartbeat. Not that we don’t love Harry; he’s pretty cool too. But Ron’s the one we want to know in real life, the best friend whose crude jokes make us laugh just as easily as his loyalty makes us smile.
It’s jarring, then, to see Ron’s boyish charm disappear in this pivotal scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. The moment sees Ron at his breaking point: He’s frustrated, suspicious, homesick, angry, and ready to truly abandon Harry for the first time in the entire series. When Ron walks out, you get the sense that yeah, J.K. Rowling went there. The scene rattles the series to its core, questioning the very relationship on which it was so firmly built. Because our love for Harry Potter was never about Harry’s extraordinary battle to defeat Voldemort – it was about Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s ordinary journeys from innocent children to awkward adolescents to thoughtful adults. When the Golden Trio falls apart in Deathly Hallows, we feel a distinct loss of innocence.
The risk of separating Ron from Harry and Hermione ultimately pays off, of course, with a hugely rewarding reunion scene. Though he left as an insecure boy, Ron returns as a confident man; the scene represents his redemption of faith. Not that we ever doubted him – he only had to stop doubting himself.
On screen, Rupert Grint seamlessly shifts from comic relief to raw drama and back again, demonstrating remarkable finesse and growth as an actor. But it is of course Rowling who takes credit for the wonderfully flawed characterization of Ron Weasley. From the moment we read about the red-haired boy with dirt on his nose, we knew we had made a friend for life. Ron’s journey to his “tiny ball of light” is the most rewarding element of a masterful storytelling experience.