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Dumbledore's Army

The Keeper of Her Heart: The Case for Hermione's Feelings for Ron

by Red Monster

Supplemental Reading: Hermione's Code of Honesty (This piece is not integrated into the main essay, and it will be linked in places where its content is relevant to the essay's arguments.

  1. Introduction
  2. Laughter and Good Company
  3. Suffering From Estrangement
  4. Jealousy
  5. High Expectations
  6. Making Exceptions
  7. Understanding His Feelings
  8. They Bicker Because They Care
  9. Conclusion

A/N: The page numbers refer to the US versions of the all the books. I'm sorry to say I don't own the UK editions of any of them.

Introduction

"Does Hermione love Ron or Harry?"

This question has been asked of JKR so many times that she posted it in her website FAQ, and to which she responded, "I can't believe some of you haven't worked this one out yet."

The author of the series and creator of the characters seems to think that she has laid out enough evidence between five novels, her approval of three movies, and her responses in numerous interviews that we should know which one Hermione loves by now. Rowling seems to be telling us that she is not trying to be mysterious about Hermione's inclinations. Subtle, perhaps, but not deceptive.

Has she really offered enough evidence that we should be able to see the answer by now? Ms. Rowling declined to answer the question outright on her website, pleading enjoyment of the arguments that we, the readers, like to have over the topic. In those arguments, there is constant, contentious debate about where Hermione stands, claiming that, though Ron's feelings for her are obvious, we don't yet know how Hermione feels. Just because Ron likes her, doesn't mean she likes him back. The first statement is unfounded. While Hermione is subtler than Ron in displaying her romantic inclinations, the evidence is present and answers can be found in the books. The second statement is true enough. Hermione is not the least bit required to like Ron just because he likes her. On the contrary, she loves him all on her own. Her feelings for Ron go beyond the platonic, and though the sexual chemistry is definitely at work, are deeper than hormones or teenage attraction. She feels for him a deep, sustainable love that carries with it attention, respect, concern, passion and appreciation.

Laughter and Good Company

Hermione appears to have what we call a Type-A personality, to understate the matter. She is a supremely hard-working, focused, driven person. She might do well on Wall Street, but she'd be lost on the stage of a comedy club. Her sense of humor is underdeveloped; overshadowed and neglected in comparison to her powers of reasoning, deduction, recollection, concentration, insight, and construction. This is not to say she lacks creativity and imagination; simply look at the DA Galleons for the answer on that. No, the problem is more that Hermione normally doesn't have time for laughter and jokes. She needs someone with a more active sense of humor to get her going, and then she enjoys herself. This person is usually a member of the Weasley family, whether it is Molly with the story of her girlhood Love Potion, Bill and Charlie with their dueling tables, or Ron with his frequent wisecracks. In fact, Ron is the one who most frequently makes Hermione laugh, and it is not only the number of times he gets a laugh out of her, which can be plausibly explained by the amount of time she spends with him, but the quality of her laughter, that sets Ron apart. When Molly tells Hermione and Ginny about the Love Potion, they are "rather giggly." (PoA, pg. 70) When Ron quips about "loads of fog tonight," she laughs out loud (pg. 297). Hermione fails to find humor in the twins' antics in OotP, even when, to the reader, they are very funny. She does laugh over Ron's "baboon's backside" joke (pg. 189-90) when she was reprimanding him just seconds before for threatening to abuse his badge. She is not the only person in the compartment to find this funny (everyone does), nor is she the one to laugh the hardest and longest (that is Luna Lovegood), but she is the only one who goes straight from registering her disapproval to laughing with him over the very same subject. What this says is not that Ron is the funniest in all the Clan Weasley (that much is debatable, and not the point of this essay), but that Hermione allows Ron to make her laugh, when she would otherwise keep a straight and disapproving face.

In addition to his sense of humor, Hermione enjoys Ron's company, despite their divergent interests. They go to their first Hogsmeade weekend together, without Harry, and come back "looking like they'd both had the time of their lives." (PoA, pg. 157) Judging from their snippets of conversation (pg. 158), they enjoyed different parts of Hogsmeade, but they enjoyed them together. The usually serious Hermione allowed Ron to show her a good time while she was with him. Perhaps this is the reason that, when Hermione joins the Weasleys at Grimmauld Place well before Harry goes, and before anyone knows when Harry is expected to join them, he pictures "the pair of them having fun at the Burrow." (OotP, pg. 8) Perhaps this is the reason why, while she is alone with Ron waiting for Harry to arrive, she does not hear him come in. (pg. 62)

Suffering from Estrangement

Hermione manages to alienate Harry and Ron twice in a row during PoA. She goes through two consecutive periods of estrangement from them; first over Harry's Firebolt, then over Ron's rat, Scabbers. During both of these periods, she is taking more classes than she can reasonably handle, and is therefore stressed by her academic workload. During both periods, she is working on a legal defense for Buckbeak the hippogriff, without assistance. In both estrangements, Ron is the one who is more angry at her; Harry mainly follows his lead in not talking to her. There is no difference in the circumstances of each period of estrangement except for which one of the boys has been hurt by Hermione's actions or negligence. When the injured party is Ron, Hermione's emotional response goes from controlled to desperate. There is a dramatic difference in the demeanor she exhibits after Scabbers's disappearance.

During the estrangement that results when Hermione tells Professor McGonagall about Harry's new Firebolt, she maintains her usual attitude. She is still haughty and superior when she talks to the boys about Professor Lupin. (p. 236) Ron says she's just trying to get them to talk to her again, but she does not appear to be in any major distress over their silent treatment. The only change Harry reports in Hermione's emotional state is that she "barely spoke to anybody and snapped when she was interrupted." (p. 244) Given the ways in which Hermione expresses distress, which range from turning pink to running away in tears, this is a minor change. The stress of her class schedule is getting to her, but Hermione is in control of her emotions. She has a good handle on the situation. Even when the boys come to make up with her, she maintains her composure.

PoA, pg. 250

"I got it back," said Harry, grinning at her and holding up the Firebolt.

"See, Hermione? There wasn't anything wrong with it!" said Ron.

"Well--there might have been!" said Hermione. "I mean, at least you know now that it's safe!"

{snip}

"Can I sit down, then?" Harry asked Hermione.

"I suppose so," said Hermione, moving a great stack of parchment off a chair.

When Ron practically invites Hermione to admit her mistake, she holds her ground. She is not apologetic for the inconvenience she has caused Harry, and she experiences no great swell of emotion when they willingly talk to her again, which suggests that the estrangement was not especially traumatic for her.

When Ron's rat, Scabbers, disappears, and Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, is the only suspect, the silent treatment begins anew, this time with Ron as the injured party, and Hermione's emotional state deteriorates rapidly and impressively.

PoA, pg. 253

"Okay, side with Ron, I knew you would!" she said shrilly. "First the Firebolt, now Scabbers, everything's my fault, isn't it! Just leave me alone, Harry, I've got a lot of work to do!"

Her speaking "shrilly" is quite a step up from "snapping" when interrupted.

Hagrid reports to the boys that "she's cried a fair few times" (pg. 274) and is suffering without their friendship, which means she has been unloading her woes on Hagrid. He does not specify exactly when she started her crying spells, but we can see the turning point in her behavior: it is not when she bereaves Harry of his broom, it is when she has apparently, inadvertently, bereaved Ron of his rat. One could perhaps argue that the change is a matter of timing and accumulation, rather than emotional preference; that Hermione becomes more distraught during the Cat/Rat fight because it is the second estrangement from her only friends in a row, but this does not hold up. If her behavior was merely the difference between the first estrangement and the second, then I would expect a more gradual, subtle deterioration, but the change in Hermione is anything but gradual. It is much too abrupt to be the result of timing.

We see the evidence of Hermione's distress, and JKR provides us with a further insight into its causes, at the party after Gryffindor's victory over Ravenclaw in Quidditch. (pgs. 264-5) This is quite a contrast with her one interaction with the boys during the Firebolt fight, on pg. 236. Rather than sounding superior, she sounds "slightly hysterical," and is afraid to join the festivities because Ron doesn't want her. When he brings up how Scabbers has "just been eaten," she "bursts into tears" and runs away to her dorm. This is an extreme emotional response, even for the often nervous, high-strung Miss Granger, and all it took was for Ron to bring up his lost pet. If the difference between her emotional state before Scabbers disappears and after he frames Crookshanks is merely the difference between the first estrangement from her friends and the second in an already stressful year, and is not about Hermione's feelings for Ron, then I have to wonder why she excludes herself from the party based on Ron's wishes, and why she goes to pieces at Ron's mention of Scabbers having just been eaten. Hermione cares very much what Ron thinks of her. Not only his opinion, but his happiness is important to her. She becomes extremely unhappy and distraught, knowing she has caused him pain.

Concern for Ron's safety is so paramount to Hermione that it transcends and ignores her usually logical, fact-oriented approach. Hagrid notifies the boys that she was "really upset" (pg. 274) about the incident in which Sirius Black holds a knife over a sleeping Ron. Aside from the emotional upheaval caused by Black's entry into Gryffindor Tower, it would only have taken Hermione a few minutes to find out that Ron was 100% unhurt. In fact, Sirius did not even bring the knife down next to Ron. When compared to another character's reaction to seeing a friend be injured, it stands out, conspicuous by its unfoundedness. The passage used for comparison is Harry's reaction to Hermione's injury, on pg. 792-3 of OotP. When Hermione is cursed into unconsciousness by Antonin Dolohov, she is genuinely, severely injured, appears possibly dead, and Harry, a much more emotion-oriented person, has a perfectly understandable reaction to the attack, which is emotionally comparable to what he feels at the sight of Ginny Weasley lying on the floor of the Chamber of Secrets. Going back to Hermione in PoA, by contrast, she fails to be comforted by the obvious reality that no harm has befallen Ron. She is shaken by the incident enough that she needs to pour her heart out to Hagrid over it. What a thoroughly emotional, illogical, unnecessary response to come out of Hermione's eminently logical mind. If her feelings for Ron were purely platonic, she would not be completely unruffled, but she would cope with the incident much like she handled Harry and Ron's silent treatment during the Firebolt fight: on her own. Her reaction would not be so strong that Harry and Ron would hear about it from Hagrid.

The most remarkable behavior of all on her part comes when she shares the news of Buckbeak's scheduled execution. Rather than a repeat of her performance at the close of the Firebolt fight, she is moved to tears. She already looks ready to cry on pg. 290, but Ron's offer to help with the appeal is enough to make her lose control, on his shoulder.

(PoA, pg. 292)

"Yeah, it will," said Ron fiercely. "You won't have to do all the work alone this time, Hermione. I'll help."

"Oh, Ron!"

Hermione flung her arms around Ron's neck and broke down completely. Ron, looking quite terrified, patted her very awkwardly on the top of the head. Finally, Hermione drew away.

"Ron, I'm really, really sorry about Scabbers...," she sobbed.

One must ask why Hermione is so touched that she literally flings herself at Ron when he offers to help her with the case. Could it be more about the case than about her friend? Is she simply grateful and relieved to have help with the work at last? Work and study have always been Hermione's forte, but she is not so talented with friendship. She brought no other friendships with her when she joined up with Harry and Ron following Halloween of their first year, because she had no friends before them. Research and homework are tasks that she willingly takes upon herself, she takes pride in her work, and she helps her friends with theirs, but socialization is an area in which she does not sail on her own.

When Ron promises to help her with Buckbeak's appeal, notice that she does not respond by thanking him for his assistance. No, rather than a "thank you," she apologizes for the apparent death of his rat. This is another action that is quite unusual for her: Hermione does not apologize easily, but after Ron has told Harry that he will go easier on her if she "just acted like she was sorry," she says what he has been needing to hear from her. It is like admitting that she is not only wrong, but should have known better in the first place. The evidence against Crookshanks has not changed, in fact the cat is later exonerated, but the fight is not really about the cause of Scabbers' disappearance and supposed death, it is about Hermione's failure to address Ron's concerns about her cat. The only other occasion in the series thus far in which Hermione openly says "I'm sorry" is in Chapter 4 of OotP, while Harry is yelling at her and Ron, and she needs him to stop. Back in PoA, she does not need to correct any deficiency between them except to express her condolences over the loss of his pet, as Ron has already offered his assistance, and therefore his friendship back to her. Just as the fight itself is not really about Scabbers, her tearful release is not about her workload so much as her rapport with Ron. She is so relieved to be back in his good graces, she can't help but let it all out. Why does this episode in the history of their friendship cause Hermione so much anguish and extremity of emotion? Because Ron is special to her.

Jealousy: Fleur Delacour, Viktor Krum, and the Ugly Duckling Syndrome

Regardless of the image of Hermione presented in the movies, where she is portrayed by the beautiful Emma Watson, in canon she is not an especially pretty girl. Her strength is undeniably in her intellect rather than appearance, and she is well aware of her cerebral prowess and is quite proud of it. Nonetheless, she is not immune to the insecurities of adolescence, so she, like so many other ordinary-looking 14-year-old girls, sometimes falls prey to doubts about her own attractiveness and desirability at a time in her life when sexuality is developing and girls are expected to measure up to social standards of beauty. If you doubt that Hermione has insecurities regarding her appearance, see her reaction to Snape's insult of "I see no difference," on pg. 300 of GoF. In that book, the embodiment of Hermione's insecurities arrives at Hogwarts in the form of Fleur Delacour, a tall, blue-eyed blonde who looks down her nose at Hogwarts and turns male heads wherever she goes, especially Ron's, which causes Hermione no end of annoyance. In fact, she bristles with poorly concealed jealousy at the attention that Ron, a typical 14-year-old boy, pays to Fleur.

One could argue that Hermione's unfriendliness towards Fleur, and her disapproval at her effect on Ron is strictly a matter of Hermione bearing generalized dislike for Fleur, and it is true that Fleur gets on Hermione's bad side before Ron or Harry pay her any notice, and that is because of her attitude. Fleur's snootiness at the Meeting Feast is the trigger for Hermione's initial dislike, and it is important to note Hermione's continued reactions as they relate to Fleur's demeanor.

This scene offers some insight into the philosophy behind Hermione's dislike of Fleur:

GoF, pg. 404

"It is too 'eavy, all zis 'Ogwarts food," they heard [Fleur] saying grumpily as they left the Great Hall behind her one evening (Ron skulking behind Harry, keen not to be spotted by Fleur). "I will not fit into my dress robes!"

"Oooh, there's a tragedy," Hermione snapped as Fleur went out into the entrance hall. "She really thinks a lot of herself, that one, doesn't she?"

She thinks a lot of herself because she is beautiful, which is largely beyond her control, meanwhile her snobby attitude is overlooked. She embodies the social emphasis on appearance over character, which devalues brilliant, hard-working girls like Hermione because they look ordinary. Whether Fleur actually thinks of herself this way is unimportant for the time being; it is the impression she gives Hermione, who feels accordingly threatened and unappreciated by comparison.

With this in mind, it is easy to see why Hermione is so offended by the criteria Ron uses to select a partner for the Yule Ball.

GoF, pg. 394-5

"We should get a move on, you know...ask someone. He's right. We don't want to end up with a pair of trolls."

Hermione let out a sputter of indignation.

"A pair of...what, excuse me?"

"Well--you know," said Ron, shrugging. "I'd rather go alone than with--with Eloise Midgen, say."

"Her acne's loads better lately--and she's really nice!"

"Her nose is off-center," said Ron.

"Oh, I see," Hermione said, bristling. "So, basically, you're going to take the best-looking girl who'll have you, even if she's completely horrible?"

"Er--yeah, that sounds about right," said Ron.

"I'm going to bed," Hermione snapped, and she swept off toward the girls' staircase without another word.

Hermione is acting like a girl who has not yet acknowledged her feelings for Ron or seen any signs that he might want to go with her, because in this scene, he is certainly not acting like it. If a good-looking, but horrible girl is appealing, but a girl like Eloise Midgen is out of the question, then where does that leave Hermione? She doesn't have a chance, which bothers her too much to stay and argue the point with Ron. He may have brought up Eloise, but Hermione's closing reaction, to snap at Ron and then leave the room, shows that she is taking this personally. Hermione may claim to be advocating for Eloise, but she is actually advocating for Hermione.

GoF, pg. 400

Just then Hermione climbed in through the portrait hole.

"Why weren't you two at dinner?" she said, coming over to join them.

"Because--oh shut up laughing, you two--because they've both just been turned down by girls they asked to the ball!" said Ginny.

That shut Harry and Ron up.

"Thanks a bunch, Ginny," said Ron sourly.

"All the good-looking ones taken, Ron?" said Hermione loftily. "Eloise Midgen starting to look quite pretty now, is she? Well, I'm sure you'll find someone somewhere who'll have you."

But Ron was staring at Hermione as though suddenly seeing her in a whole new light.

"Hermione, Neville's right--you are a girl..."

"Oh well spotted," she said acidly.

"Well--you can come with one of us!"

"No, I can't," snapped Hermione.

"Oh come on," he said impatiently, "we need partners, we're going to look really stupid if we haven't got any, everyone else has..."

"I can't come with you," said Hermione, now blushing, "because I'm already going with someone."

"No, you're not!" said Ron. "You just said that to get rid of Neville!"

"Oh, did I?" said Hermione, and her eyes flashed dangerously. "Just because it's taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn't mean no one else has spotted I'm a girl!"

She turns straight to Ron even though Ginny told her about both the boys. She is immediately smug and gratified to hear that Ron's criteria for selecting a date, which overlooked Hermione, have proven unsuccessful. Lest we think she has dismissed him and moved on, she blushes while telling Ron she already has a date, so she is embarrassed or otherwise uncomfortable to share this piece of information with him. Next she is especially angry at Ron for taking so long to recognize her as a romantic prospect. If her feelings for him are purely platonic, she should not experience such strong emotion while having this conversation. Not only does Harry say nothing during this exchange, she gives no sign of caring about Harry's opinion of the matter, or even noticing that he's in the room after Ginny tells her the boys were both just turned down by their dates of choice. Her attention and emotion are focused entirely on Ron, which indicates that she holds a special interest in him. Another example of this focus can be found on pg. 513:

"No, it's just...how did she know Viktor asked me to visit him over the summer?"

Hermione blushed scarlet as she said this and determinedly avoided Ron's eyes.

She is not comfortable talking about Viktor's invitation in front of Ron, but she hardly notices Harry.

Not only does Hermione show readily apparent signs of self-consciousness over her interactions with Viktor that are reserved especially for Ron, but even after the Yule Ball, she is still jealous of Ron's attention to Fleur.

GoF, pg. 506

Fleur bent down, kissed Harry twice on each cheek (he felt his face burn and wouldn't have been surprised if steam was coming out of his ears again), then said to Ron, "and you too--you 'elped,"

"Yeah," said Ron, looking extremely hopeful, "yeah, a bit..." Fleur swooped down on him too and kissed him. Hermione looked simply furious...

Here we see both Fleur's sudden show of affection for Ron, and his enjoyment of it, both of which anger Hermione, and this time, there is something other than her general-principles dislike of Fleur at work. In this case, Fleur has dropped the attitude and is being very warm, unpretentious and appreciative. There is no reason for Hermione to be angry at her, except that she, Hermione Granger, wants Ron for herself and Fleur had better keep her hands off. Another example of Hermione's continued unhappiness around a much friendlier Fleur is on pg. 724

"[Your English is] very good already," said Ron in a strangled sort of voice. Fleur smiled at him; Hermione scowled.

No matter that Ron's attraction to Fleur is the result of veela magic, rather than any personal relationship between them, and that Ron has no realistic hope of attaining her affections, Hermione is jealous of her anyway. Far from Hermione needing to have some other girl, such as Luna Lovegood, threaten her hold on Ron's affections, so that she'll know how it feels to be jealous, I would say she has already had her experience with jealousy over Ron. She has been jealous of Fleur Delacour, as formidable a rival as any girl could find.

In addition to her own jealousy over Ron's attraction to Fleur, a normal response for a typical 14-year-old boy to have to a part-veela, she is aware of, and responds to, Ron's jealousy over Viktor Krum. However, this does not mean she provokes, aggravates, or causes his jealousy. While Hermione feels inadequate and undesirable next to the Beauxbatons champion, the Durmstrang champion notices that she is a girl, and an appealing one at that. Viktor is the first of three boys to ask Hermione to the Yule Ball (an impressive track record for a Muggle-born plain Jane whose intellect is her only currency, I must admit), and this, I think, is why Hermione agrees to go with him, and therein lies the key to why she gets along with him so well. He has his choice of giggling fangirls (p. 317), but he chooses the brainy, plain girl who doesn't care how well he plays Quidditch. She appreciates that he has the sense to choose, not her per se, but someone like her, when he could have someone like Fleur Delacour, or at least Parvati Patil, if he wanted. This sends a positive message to Hermione. As she gets better acquainted with Viktor, she continues to appreciate him, such as when she points out to Ron that Viktor is "really nice, you know." (p. 444) Despite her respect for his character, she does not appear to be harboring any special feelings for Viktor. Otherwise, this scene would read differently:

GoF, pg. 507

Fleur was clapping very hard too, but Krum didn't look happy at all. He attempted to engage Hermione in conversation again, but she was too busy cheering Harry to listen.

She is too busy cheering Harry for succeeding in the Second Task, and glowering at Ron for enjoying Fleur's kisses, to notice that Viktor wants her attention.

When her interactions with Viktor become apparent, Ron notices, he is clearly jealous, and Hermione knows that he is jealous, but I do not think that is what she had in mind or that she exploits that jealousy. Before the ball opens, and Ron doesn't yet know who Hermione's date will be (but is trying to find out), she declines to tell him, on the grounds that he will "just make fun of [her]." (pg. 404) By this, she could mean that she is afraid Ron will not believe she has been asked to the ball by one of his favorite professional Quidditch players, or that she simply doesn't know how he'll react, but either way, she does not want to risk another argument over it before the ball has begun, she does not want to risk his skepticism, which will insult her again, and she still cares about what Ron thinks of her.

When the ball opens, and Hermione reveals her secret to the whole school and its guests, she appears to derive enjoyment from Parvati's shock and the jealousy of Viktor's fan club; finally, she has her moment, in which she is the lovely girl that everyone notices, and not because her teeth have just been enlarged. She may enjoy the envy of other girls and the stunned silence of Draco Malfoy, but she does not count on the jealous reaction from Ron.

GoF, pg. 421

"It's hot, isn't it?" said Hermione, fanning herself with her hand. "Viktor's just gone to get some drinks."

Ron gave her a withering look. "Viktor?" he said. "Hasn't he asked you to call him Vicky yet?"

Hermione looked at him in surprise. "What's up with you?" she said.

"If you don't know," said Ron scathingly, "I'm not going to tell you."

Hermione stared at him, then at Harry, who shrugged.

"Ron, what--?"

When Ron raises his objection to her coming with Viktor, Hermione is not sly, or knowing, or satisfied, or smug; she is genuinely taken aback. She did not know Ron would feel this way. She is not happy that he feels this way. She thinks it is unreasonable of him to have such a reaction, because Ron is supposed to be a fan of Viktor's and there is nothing inappropriate or devious about their date. She is angry, once again, when Ron insinuates that Viktor had ulterior motives in getting acquainted with Hermione.

Pg. 422

"Obvious, isn't it? He's Karkaroff's student, isn't he? He knows who you hang around with....He's just trying to get closer to Harry--get inside information on him--or get near enough to jinx him--"

Hermione looked as though Ron had slapped her. When she spoke, her voice quivered.

"For your information, he hasn't asked me one single thing about Harry, not one--"

Ron's suggestion that Viktor had something else in mind when he asked Hermione to the ball is a new variation on the theme that she supposedly lied about having a date, just to get rid of Neville. Hermione is, again, extremely offended by Ron displaying so little faith in her unique charms. It is as though he has just slapped her.

Once the Yule Ball is over, Hermione is aware that Ron is jealous of her friendship with Viktor. This is not difficult, as Ron is not exactly subtle.

GoF, pg. 514

"And what did you say?" said Ron, who had picked up his pestle and was grinding it on the desk, a good six inches from his bowl, because he was looking at Hermione.

"And he did say he'd never felt the same way about anyone else," Hermione went on, going so red now that Harry could almost feel the heat coming from her...

{snip}

"And what did you say?" Ron repeated, pounding his pestle down so hard that it dented the desk.

"Well, I was too busy seeing whether you and Harry were okay to..."

She turns so intensely red because she knows she is treading into sensitive, emotionally charged territory for both of them. She is also quick to point out that his and Harry's safety and well-being are more important to her than Viktor's attention. She wants him to know that Viktor does not mean as much to her as he and Harry do. This is very strange behavior for a girl who is trying to "make Ron jealous."

GoF, pg. 725-6

Ron looked as though he was suffering some sort of painful internal struggle. Krum had already started walking away when Ron burst out, "Can I have your autograph?"

Hermione turned away, smiling at the horseless carriages that were now trundling toward them up the drive, as Krum, looking surprised but gratified, signed a fragment of parchment for Ron.

She is happy to see that Ron is returning to normal, rather than resenting Viktor over a relationship that does not exist. She is still unhappy over Ron's continued attention to Fleur Delacour (p. 724), but relieved to see that he is no longer being ridiculous over Viktor.

That is not the end of it.

Ron's jealousy does not end in GoF; it continues stubbornly into OotP, and Hermione's response to it evolves. Many readers have postulated that she is using Viktor to make Ron jealous in order to maintain her hold on his affections, but I disagree. Hermione is not using her correspondence with Viktor in a ploy to induce jealousy in Ron. She knows that Viktor is quite taken with her, and playing with his affections, or misleading him about the way she feels about him, in order to secure the affections of another boy, would be a terrible way to treat him, regardless of what she'd be doing to Ron. Whether Viktor even thinks Hermione reciprocates his feelings is far from established. Even if he is under this impression, whether Hermione intended to lead him to believe such a thing is another matter entirely. Given her reactions to Ron when Viktor is brought up in GoF, and her behavior toward Viktor, or rather her lack of it, after the Second Task, it is exceedingly unlikely that Hermione ever wanted Viktor to think she felt anything beyond the platonic for him. Quite frankly, Hermione is too principled a person to do such a thing to someone that she acknowledges is a very nice young man. Even Luna Lovegood, whom Hermione does not like very much at that point in the book, is allowed the dignity of being a willing participant in Hermione's scheme (of having Harry interviewed by Rita Skeeter), rather than an unsuspecting pawn. Rather, she went to the Yule Ball with Viktor because he asked her first, and she writes to him because he is a decent person who treated her right, and I, for one, do not believe for a second that she has done anything to deceive him. That said, it would be na´ve of me to say she has no interest in Ron's jealous feelings.

OotP, pg. 331-2

"...you can do all sorts of stuff that full-grown wizards can't, Viktor always said--"

Ron looked around at her so fast he appeared to crick his neck; rubbing it, he said, "Yeah? What did Vicky say?"

"Ho ho," said Hermione in a bored voice. "He said Harry knew how to do stuff even he didn't, and he was in the final year at Durmstrang."

Ron was looking at Hermione suspiciously.

"You're not still in contact with him, are you?"

"So what if I am?" said Hermione coolly, though her face was a little pink. "I can have a pen pal if I--"

"He didn't only want to be your pen pal," said Ron accusingly.

Hermione shook her head exasperatedly and, ignoring Ron, who was continuing to watch her, said to Harry, "Well, what do you think? Will you teach us?"

She takes on a dismissive, minimizing tone at Ron's reaction, but there is a challenge implied in her "So what if I am?" That pink face is not there for scenery; it signifies heightened emotion on her part. She wants to know why he has a problem with her writing to Viktor. She wants Ron to admit to himself why this bothers him. She is "exasperated" with him because he still can't acknowledge the real issue, which is the feelings between himself and Hermione. Ron's jealousy is not something that she enjoys. It assures her that Ron still fancies her, but it does not effect any progress in her love life. Furthermore, Ron doesn't seem to need her manipulations to provoke his jealousy; he feels that way on his own.

OotP, pg. 458

"Are you that bad at kissing?"

"Dunno," said Harry, who hadn't considered this, and immediately felt rather worried. "Maybe I am."

"Of course you're not," said Hermione absently, still scribbling away at her letter.

"How do you know?" said Ron in a sharp voice.

Ron's immediate reaction is to suspect that Hermione has been kissing Harry, when she has been doing no such thing, and Ron knows how most of her interactions with Harry proceed, because he participates in them. Ron's jealousy is outside of Hermione's control, and what's more, this exchange sheds light on why it is a situation she does not want to continue. As long as Ron is jealous, Hermione does not have a love life. She is not supposed to write to Viktor, she is not allowed to snog Harry, but she does not have a mature relationship with Ron, either. Her options are all closed off.

Then again, if Hermione's correspondence with Viktor had absolutely nothing to do with Ron's feelings, perhaps this interaction would not be so finely nuanced.

OotP, pg. 460-1

"Who're you writing the novel to anyway?" Ron asked Hermione, trying to read the bit of parchment now trailing on the floor. Hermione hitched it up out of sight.

"Viktor."

"Krum?"

"How many other Viktors do we know?"

The length of the letter is not significant in itself; given how talkative she is, and how long she is known to make her essays, it is not surprising or suggestive that she can come up with a lot to say to Viktor. However, if Hermione had no interest whatsoever in Ron's jealousy, then perhaps she would not be writing a novel-length letter to Viktor in front of Ron.

Between this scene and the one found on pg. 331-2, I have concluded that if Hermione is trying to provoke or aggravate Ron's jealous feelings, it is a largely subconscious effort. Her real attempt is to goad Ron into admitting why he is so jealous of Viktor and is so possessive that he does not want her to get close to other boys. Her aim is not to exacerbate Ron's jealousy so much as harness it, so that he will acknowledge his feelings for her.

Until the release of HBP demonstrates otherwise, this is my analysis of the situation based on presently available evidence: Hermione was jealous of Fleur Delacour and the attention she got from Ron while she was at Hogwarts. She is trying to turn Ron's jealousy of Viktor Krum in a positive direction, so that it will no longer be an issue. (See Hermione's Code of Honesty for further details.)

High Expectations: A Sign of Respect

In the previous section, I hope I did not create the impression of blaming Ron for all the frustration between him and Hermione. He is, in the words of JKR, a "typical boy." His reactions, while awkward, are very human. His problem is not in rudeness, or stupidity, but in a lack of emotional self-awareness. Hermione is not much help to him, because in GoF, she isn't much better off. He has no idea how much grief he has caused Hermione with his adolescent hormonal reactions to a part-veela. If he knew, I'm sure he would have changed course straight away.

By the same token, Hermione did not intend to cut into Ron's insecurities when she assumed Harry had been appointed a prefect. She manages to embarrass herself soundly with her surprise over Ron's appointment, but in all fairness, she is hardly the only person to make this mistake. Fred and George expected Harry to be the prefect (OotP, pg. 161). Mrs. Weasley is pleased, but very surprised, that Ron got the badge (pg. 163). Harry did not expect Ron to be appointed over him (pg. 166-7), and takes a few minutes of thinking alone before he can accept the decision. Ron himself expected Harry to be chosen over him (pg. 167), but this is not surprising, as Ron is not known for his confidence. No, Hermione makes the same mistake as everyone else who walks into the room in the scene, and to her credit, she is quick to defend Ron against Fred and George's teasing (p. 165). What's more, once they are on the way to Hogwarts, she holds him to high standards of performance in his position. He should know better than to abuse his position and sink to Malfoy's level (p. 189). He is not supposed to call the first years "midgets." (pg. 215) She expects him to be smarter than to drink while he's underage and school is in session, because,

"You--are--a--prefect," snarled Hermione. (pg. 337)

She also expects Ron to join her in stopping Fred and George from testing their Skiving Snackboxes on first years, which is quite a tall order, but that is significant: she thinks Ron is up to it.

OotP, pg. 226

"...you can't advertise for testers on the Gryffindor notice board."

"Says who?" said George, looking astonished.

"Says me," said Hermione, "and Ron."

"Leave me out of it," said Ron hastily.

Hermione glared at him. Fred and George sniggered.

The glare indicates that Ron is not fulfilling his responsibilities in Hermione's view, that he is letting her down, that he should be able to do better than this. However, she does not dress him down in front of the twins. When the time comes to put her foot down on the twins' testing practices, she still assumes Ron is willing to help her in exercising their prefect authority.

OotP, pg. 253-5

"No, I'm sorry, they've gone too far," she said, standing up and looking positively furious. "Come on, Ron."

{snip}

"Thank you for your support, Ron," Hermione said acidly.

She is not merely annoyed with Ron, she is disappointed. She went into the scene with Lee and the twins expecting to have a partner, and instead she was on her own, hence her speaking to Ron in the same adverb that she used when he first acknowledged that, just as Neville said, she was a girl. These expectations on Hermione's part, and her resulting disappointment, stem from a belief that Ron can handle standing up to his brothers, all of whom are older than he is, and very talented. Whether it is reasonable, fair or realistic of her to expect this of him is beside the point. Hermione sees more authority and responsibility in Ron than he sees in himself. She has a high opinion of his abilities, regardless of her initial reaction to his appointment as prefect.

Then there is the issue of Hermione's telling Ron to "stop whimpering" and other harsh interjections after she says Voldemort's name out loud. Hermione has been the recipient of much indignation from the fandom over this position of hers, and so I must point something out: at no point in OotP does she ask Ron to say Voldemort's name. It is Harry who does that, on pg. 99. Hermione expects Ron to hear the name without going to pieces. Up until Ron and Hermione proposed the DA to Harry, Hermione was right beside Ron in flinching at the sound of Voldemort's name. However, she is now able to say it, and so she expects him to hear it. She has made progress, and she thinks he should make progress, too. One could say that she, as a Muggle-born, doesn't know what it is like to grow up a pureblood, a context in which Voldemort's name is always feared, but most pureblood wizards are not best friends of the Boy-Who-Lived. After all that Ron has experienced during his friendship with Harry, after where he stayed over the summer, and knowing what half of his family is doing, Hermione thinks he should be able to hear Voldemort's name spoken aloud without flinching, and she is not about to go easy on him because he comes from a Wizarding family. She has gone far enough to say it out loud, and she expects him to go some way, too, but her demands on him are actually fairer than is frequently argued.

A possible clue into Hermione's attitude may be found on pg. 658 of OotP:

"What do you think about this?" Hermione demanded of Ron, and Harry was reminded irresistibly of Mrs. Weasley appealing to her husband during Harry's first dinner in Grimmauld Place.

Regardless of how you think Molly Weasley treats her husband, JKR did not have to compare Hermione turning to Ron to a woman appealing to her husband and the father of her children. Therefore, this scene may hold the explanation as to why Hermione goes so easy on Harry in OotP while she demands so much of Ron. Harry is her child. Ron is her partner. This is evident in her continued attempts to encourage Ron to help her with SPEW: when Fred, George and Hagrid refused in GoF, she did not push the issue with them, but she is still expecting Ron to work with her on house elf liberation in OotP (see pg. 159 for an example). Why shouldn't she expect so much of the boy who helped her with Buckbeak's appeal, stood on a broken leg to defend Harry in the Shrieking Shack, has repeatedly stood at her side in dealing with Harry, and is not afraid to stick his neck out to defend her honor? Rather than argue that Ron and Hermione do not respect each other, I would hold that Hermione's high expectations are evidence of her having considerable respect for Ron. She may not be very good at communicating it to him yet, but the respect is there, which is an important component of a relationship with anyone, especially Hermione.

Hermione makes exceptions for Ron.

Harry and Ron have always turned to Hermione for academic help, and she has always been happy to be of assistance, but in OotP, she finally becomes impatient with their dependence on her. She gives them "dire warnings that they would fail all their OWL's" on pg. 289. She gives them homework planners for Christmas, and she is capable of having good taste in gifts (such as the Broomstick Servicing Kit she gave Harry in PoA), but this year she is trying to get them to take responsibility for their academics. She admonishes Ron to "take notes for a change, it won't kill you!" on pg. 660. This is OWL year, the boys cannot expect Hermione to check their homework and lend them her notes forever, and, at least from her perspective, it is time they learned to sail on their own.

Still, exceptions can be made in times of stress. While she is furious at them for taking extra Quidditch practice when they are already very behind on their homework, her stance changes after Ron tears up Percy's letter.

OotP, pg. 299

He threw the pieces into the fire.

"Come on, we've got to get this finished some time before dawn," he said briskly to Harry, pulling Professor Sinistra's essay back toward him.

Hermione was looking at Ron with an odd expression on her face.

"Oh, give them here," she said abruptly.

Therefore, the sequence is this: Ron tears up Percy's letter, thereby making a resounding gesture of loyalty to his best friend, then Hermione looks at Ron with an "odd expression," and it is hard to tell just what that means, but is must be an expression Harry doesn't see on her very often, and then she decides she's willing to help the boys with their homework after all. The "slightly amused" look on her face suggests she is not so indignant that they procrastinated as she would have them believe. So far, she is treating them equally. This is reasonable; it would be terribly rude of her to help only one of her friends with his homework when they are both struggling and have both been procrastinating. The difference comes after she is finished revising.

OotP, pg. 300

"Okay, write that down," Hermione said to Ron, pushing his essay and a sheet covered in her own writing back to Ron, "and then copy out this conclusion that I've written for you."

By contrast, all she has to say to Harry about his essay is that Europa isn't covered in mice. Even if you think this means Ron needs much more help than Harry because he is less intelligent, Hermione goes well above and beyond the call of duty for Ron. She normally doesn't approve of copying, and she has held this position since Book 1 (SS, pg. 182), but in this case, she writes up a whole conclusion just so that Ron can copy it. Ron, for his part, is extremely appreciative of her making this exception for him.

OotP, pg. 300

"Hermione, you are honestly the most wonderful person I've ever met," said Ron weakly, "and if I'm ever rude to you again..."

"...I'll know you're back to normal," said Hermione.

Some have taken this to mean that Hermione thinks Ron is unbearably rude all the time, but then one has to wonder why she bothers hanging out with him so much, particularly when they are not with Harry. Instead, I think that was her way of telling him he could not be expected to be polite to her forevermore (which is reasonable, as she is not exactly sunshine and daisies to him all the time, either), that he was about to make a promise she couldn't ask him to keep, and most of all, that he doesn't have to repay the favor. He tries to offer something in return for her help, and she cuts him off. Therefore, what she means by that "I'll know you're back to normal," is not only that his rudeness doesn't particularly bother her, but also, "Don't worry about it, you don't owe me anything."

OotP, pg. 404

"Good luck, Ron," said Hermione, standing on tiptoe and kissing him on the cheek. "And you, Harry--"

What, you might ask, is the difference between this kiss and the one she gave Harry on pg. 734 of GoF? Why should one be honored over the other? Both kisses are expressions of friendly comfort rather than lust or romantic overtures. The difference is in the context behind them.

When Harry gets a kiss from Hermione, it immediately follows a hug from Mrs. Weasley and a clap on the back from Ron. Three people in a row, of whom Hermione is the third, show Harry a bit of physical affection, and this is only appropriate, as Harry has just suffered the most harrowing experience of nearly anyone's life. He has just survived two assassination attempts in one night, been tortured, and witnessed the murder of an innocent boy and a brutal act of self-mutilation. Lord Voldemort has returned to power. On top of all that, he has to go home to his cranky Muggle relatives.

Her kiss for Ron follows no one else's gesture of affection; he ambles over to her and Harry looking "lost and desperate," and she kisses him and then goes on her way. Her kiss is intended to distract Ron from the Slytherins' badges and boost his confidence while going into the match. She kisses Harry to comfort him over having narrowly escaped death, an event in the recent past. She kisses Ron to comfort him over having to play Quidditch against Slytherin, an event in the very near future.

The exception to be found in this case is that Hermione will not kiss just any boy over a Quidditch match. Ron inspires Hermione to offer comforting affection much more easily than does Harry.

OotP, pg. 498

"Well, to tell the truth, skiing's not really my thing," said Hermione. "So I've come for Christmas." There was snow in her hair and her face was pink with cold. "But don't tell Ron that, I told him it's really good because he kept laughing so much."

What does Ron think about skiing? Why does he keep laughing about it?

OotP, pg. 451-2

Hermione was going skiing with her parents, something that greatly amused Ron, who had never before heard of Muggles strapping narrow strips of wood to their feet to slide down mountains.

Ron's initial reaction to Hermione's apparent description of the sport is one of amusement borne of curiosity. The activity is entirely foreign to Ron, and he, being unfamiliar with the excitement and endurance involved, thinks it's funny. He laughs about it, in such a way that Hermione doesn't want Ron to know that she isn't fond of it.

This instruction on Hermione's part--that Harry not tell Ron that she doesn't enjoy skiing--says several things about her rapport with Ron. For one, it is a glance at the way she gets along with him when Harry is not around, and it appears they have been getting along very warmly. It is an example of them having a friendly conversation about a subject that does not concern Harry: they have a friendship in their own right. Most of all, Hermione has made an exception to her policy of brutal honesty just because Ron "kept laughing so much." She is willing to fib about a relatively innocuous subject because she wants Ron to keep laughing. This is understandable, seeing how much Ron makes her laugh; it is only natural that she would grab at the opportunity to return the favor.

It has not escaped anyone's notice that Ron gives Hermione perfume for Christmas, or that Hermione remarks that it is "really unusual." (pg. 503) What does this say about how she feels about the gift? If it were to her liking, she would probably say something more unambiguously positive than that. Conversely, she is not normally given to sugar-coating the truth. As Hermione's communication skills go, "really unusual" is very tactful. If she were genuinely displeased with the gift, I do not think she would have insulted it to Ron's face, rather, she would not have mentioned it to him at all. We could have heard about the perfume from Ron speaking to Harry ("I sure hope Hermione likes the perfume I got her") or Ginny speaking to Ron in front of Harry ("Ron, why did you get Hermione that smelly perfume when she's been saying for ages she wants...") or even Hermione speaking to Harry away from Ron ("Can you believe Ron gave me this cheap perfume? Honestly, what was he thinking?") Instead, the first and only time we hear about Ron's choice of Christmas present to Hermione is when she speaks directly to him about it, and she makes an admirable attempt to walk the line between tactlessness (a common misstep for her) and dishonesty (which is not). She is trying to communicate to Ron that his gift, even if ill-chosen and of low quality, is appreciated. The perfume is a romantic gesture from Ron, and Hermione aims to react gracefully to it, which means she accepts the gesture.

OotP, pg. 574-5

"That's the trouble with Quidditch," said Hermione absentmindedly, once again bent over her Rune translation, "it creates all this bad feeling and tension between the Houses."

She looked up to find her copy of Spellman's Syllabary and caught Fred, George and Harry looking at her with expressions of mingled disgust and incredulity on their faces.

"Well, it does!" she said impatiently. "It's only a game, isn't it?"

"Hermione," said Harry, shaking his head, "you're good on feelings and stuff, but you just don't understand about Quidditch."

"Maybe not," she said darkly, returning to her translation again, "but at least my happiness doesn't depend on Ron's goalkeeping ability."

Hermione is well-known for her logic. She constantly makes decisions and assessments and solves problems by use of logic. In this case, she still uses logic, but it is a much more philosophical, humanistic type than she usually employs. The fact is that Ron is doing a very poor job as Gryffindor Keeper. Any sensible person would look at the situation and say that if Angelina Johnson had any sense, she would put the entire school out of Ron's misery and let him resign from the team. Instead, Hermione says the real problem is the importance the Wizarding World places on the sport of Quidditch! "It's only a game, isn't it?" she asks Harry and the twins. She argues that it is Quidditch, not Ron's abysmal goalkeeping, that is causing "bad feeling and tension." She is essentially telling Harry and the twins, after she asks about Ron's progress, that if they weren't so intensely invested in Quidditch, then Ron's inability to stop a Quaffle in front of an audience would not be an issue. She is going to great logical lengths to defend Ron. This is a very unusual way to look at the situation. After hearing that Ron is still struggling, she comes up with a reason why he is not the problem at hand. Hermione has long been less enthusiastic about Quidditch than her best friends, but not until OotP has she accused the sport of causing tension and bad feeling between the Houses. Not until Ron does badly at the sport does she have anything actively negative to say about it.

She Understands His Feelings

Throughout the series, Hermione has shown signs of being less than understanding about other people's feelings. It's not that she's uncaring, more that she has more important things to worry about than her classmates' and other surrounding characters' emotional concerns. She simply does not pay much attention, or does not worry too much, about the way most people are feeling. With Ron, however, she is different: she has much more concern. During the Crookshanks-Scabbers estrangement, she was not present to hear Ron tell Harry that he would let up on her "if she just acted like she was sorry," as she had just run up the stairs in hysterical tears, but oddly enough, act like she's sorry is precisely what she does once she's found her voice after Ron offers his friendship back to her. He is waiting for an apology, even a feigned one, and she offers him a real one.

When Ron is feeling attacked after Malfoy's taunts on the train journey in GoF, Hermione chooses to respond gently to his bad mood.

GoF, pg. 169

"Dad could've got a promotion any time...he just likes it where he is...."

"Of course he does," said Hermione quietly. "Don't let Malfoy get to you, Ron..."

In this case, Hermione is concerned enough about Ron's bad mood that she is the first one to respond, and she responds right away, with a soft answer meant to diffuse his anger. Hermione makes the effort to agree with Ron to ease him out of his anger, and she handles him very gently. He means enough to her that she wants to be the one to calm him down.

Some time later, after Harry has become the fourth Triwizard champion and Ron is unhappy about it, Hermione intercepts Harry the next morning in an attempt to mediate their disagreement. At first, the scene may appear to suggest a special attachment to Harry, but she uses the interaction to advocate for Ron.

GoF, pg. 289-90

"Look," said Hermione patiently, "it's always you who gets all the attention, you know it is. I know it's not your fault," she added quickly, seeing Harry open his mouth furiously, "I know you don't ask for it...but--well--you know, Ron's got all those brothers to compete against at home, and you're his best friend, and you're really famous--he's always shunted to one side whenever people see you, and he puts up with it, and he never mentions it, but I suppose this is just one time too many...."

She is not only arguing for his side, but providing Harry with a compassionate, attentive insight into Ron's insecurities. Harry already knows that Ron has a lot of brothers overshadowing him; in fact most of the Wizarding World knows that much about the Weasleys. Harry also knows that he is famous and the recipient of excessive unwanted attention, but notice what else Hermione says:

"...and he puts up with it, and he never mentions it..."

Therefore, Hermione explains the unnoticed side of Ron's problems, the part that he normally keeps quiet and is unwilling to express to Harry. The part that Ron voices to Harry is that he's skeptical that Harry didn't put his own name into the Goblet, but that falls short of explaining why Ron refuses to believe Harry for so long, and why he takes the supposed slight so personally. This is more than a matter of who was responsible for Harry becoming the fourth Triwizard Champion. Notice Ron's closing remarks to Harry just before they go to bed:

GoF, pg. 287

"You want to get to bed, Harry. I expect you'll need to be up early tomorrow for a photo-call or something."

Ron may act like the conflict is about Harry getting across the Age Line without including Ron in the effort, but the underlying cause of tension is the difference in status between the two boys. Harry is constantly in the spotlight, while Ron is constantly ignored, and Hermione picks up on that. She notices that Ron puts up with getting shunted to the side, and she remembers that he never mentions it. Unless Ron has been confiding an extraordinary amount of his problems to her (which is unlikely for a 14-year-old boy with his bossy, best female friend), Hermione has been paying especially close attention, with a sympathetic eye, to Ron's emotional subtleties.

In OotP, Hermione is not very invested in Ron's performance in Quidditch except in how he feels about it. She has always been more of a social Quidditch fan than an athletic one. She likes to go to games to see her friends play, or enjoy the event with them, rather than follow the sport itself. When Ron plays, and fails at it, she is more concerned with what it does to Ron's self-esteem than Gryffindor's Quidditch record. She pays special attention to Ron's emotional processes regarding this issue, as well.

OotP, pg. 683

"I think Ron might do better without Fred and George around. They never exactly gave him a lot of confidence..."

Here she makes a prescient observation; even if Fred and George were not to blame for Ron's earlier problems, he does make an impressive turnaround in the Quidditch Cup due to a sudden rise in confidence. Perhaps Hermione picked up on the twins' effect on Ron after he couldn't use his prefect's authority towards them. Ron is hardly a unique case in terms of Hermione having insights into the workings of other characters' minds. She does a lot of that in OotP. She sees right through Umbridge straight away (pg. 214), she displays an impressive awareness of Cho Chang's troubles (pg. 459), and she promptly sees Voldemort's ploy for what it is (pg. 734). The difference is that she actively cares about Ron and wants to be able to ease his pain, and what's more, she often goes the right way about it. When Ron is in desperate need of a boost in confidence before his first Quidditch match, she's there for him with a kiss on the cheek, and it takes him out of the castle before he sees a "Weasley Is Our King" badge. She empathizes with Cho Chang, but she acts to do something to help Ron, and that is the difference: she wants Harry to be the one to comfort Cho. She wants Hermione to be the one to comfort Ron. He evokes the greatest combination of attention, compassion, insight, and effort in Hermione of all the characters that are closely involved in her life. He is precious to her. Despite their frequent disagreements, she cares for him enough to pay attention to his emotional concerns and respond appropriately, an effort she does not ordinarily make in her typical social life, and she is not necessarily doing so deliberately. The fact that she is as understanding of his feelings as she is shows that Ron has a special place in Hermione's life.

They Bicker Because They Care

Speaking of their frequent disagreements, no essay on any kind of interaction between Hermione and Ron would be complete without addressing their arguing. Harry comments, several times in each of the later books, about how often they bicker. They are both stubborn, opinionated, high-tempered people, and they disagree on some issues. Their tendency to bicker may appear dysfunctional to some, but there is something other than dysfunction at work in their arguments. Hermione sometimes appears especially eager to bicker with Ron (and vice versa, but that's a discussion for another day), such as when she "snaps" at him for being suspicious of Snape on pg. 235 of OotP; she is getting too combative with too little provocation, as if she is looking for an excuse to argue with him. This could be taken as a sign of animosity if it were taking place in a generally unfriendly relationship, but Ron and Hermione do not have a generally unfriendly relationship. An alternative interpretation is that their frequent arguing is a sign of the sexual tension between them. In other words, they bicker because they can't snog. Hermione awaits an opportunity to argue with Ron because arguing is a socially safe way to get up close and personal with him. In the absence of a deeper relationship, they need a way to engage each other, so they bicker, and Harry calls it "having a go at each other." (OotP, pg. 235)

Additionally, Ron is hardly the only person whom Hermione ever engages in an argument, so her willingness to argue with him should not be seen as evidence of dislike. As Angua has skillfully illustrated in her essay, "Why is Hermione Not the Right Girl for Harry?", Hermione argues with a lot of people, ranging from Arthur Weasley to Winky the house elf and beyond. In fact I'm not sure she even does this on purpose or is aware of what an argumentative person she is; arguing is simply Hermione's normal response to a topic on which she has strong opinions, and she has a lot of strong opinions on a lot of subjects. She does not argue with someone because she has anything against the individual, she argues because the issue is important to her. In OotP, Hermione repeatedly gets worked up over Ron doing or saying things that would be problematic in a mature relationship. His romantic aptitude is an important issue to Hermione. For example, she jumps down his throat for harassing Cho over her Tornados badge (OotP, pg. 230). First, she waits until Cho walks away, so she does not dress Ron down in front of anyone but Harry. Then, she tells him he's "so tactless!," which is a bit rich coming from the girl who can't play nice with Luna Lovegood until after Halloween, but she is still very upset over Ron hounding someone over something as inconsequential as a Quidditch team. However, she does not push him away. She tries to educate him, in her own argumentative, aggressive way. Why is she so determined to mature him? She does not want to go out with a boy who acts this way, but she does want to go out with Ron. There is a similar process at work in the scene after Harry returns from his first kiss with Cho. In the space of a couple of pages, Hermione manages to accuse Ron of being "the most insensitive wart" she's ever met and of having "the emotional range of a teaspoon" because he reacts immaturely to Harry's news. Why is she so hostile over Ron's acting like a Typical Boy? She has a personal stake in Ron's aptitude. When Harry is clueless, Hermione is not bothered so much because first, she views him as the little brother she never had and she's trying to help him, and second, because Harry's ability to conduct himself in a relationship is not a personal issue to her. If he doesn't know what he's doing, it is ultimately no skin off her nose, and so it is not her place to give him a hard time. It will not be her relationship, therefore it is not her problem. Ron's immaturity, on the other hand, is not just annoying to Hermione, it is threatening. One has to ask, why is this girl getting so angry about Ron saying something like "one person can't feel all that, they'd explode"? This is not an expression of dislike on her part. For a girl who doesn't care about Ron, she spends an awful lot of time trying to get him to be a better person. To get this angry at a boy for acting like that when he doesn't interest her would be a terrible waste of her time, and Hermione has excellent time management skills. She does not like to picture herself in a relationship with someone who says such immature things, and she rushes in to address the problem by expressing her disapproval. What I think her position regarding Ron is in OotP is that she knows she fancies him, and she mostly knows he fancies her, but she would like him to grow up some more before she attempts a relationship with him. She is not yet ready to reveal her feelings for him because that would make her vulnerable, and it would be especially foolhardy while Ron still has not acknowledged his own feelings even to himself and therefore is not prepared to respond favorably to her. This is probably a wise course of action, because Hermione has quite a bit of growing up to do, herself; it's a good thing she's been holding him off.

Regardless of the frequency of their bickering, Hermione doesn't actually "fight" with Ron very often. They can regularly be seen snarling at each other, but the "blazing rows" are rare. What is perhaps their most aggressive fight to date, except for the Crookshanks-Scabbers estrangement, can be found on pg. 432 of GoF:

[Harry] climbed into the common room and found Ron and Hermione having a blazing row. Standing ten feet apart, they were bellowing at each other, each scarlet in the face.

"Well, if you don't like it, you know what the solution is, don't you?" yelled Hermione; her hair was coming down out of its elegant bun now, and her face was screwed up in anger.

"Oh yeah?" Ron yelled back. "What's that?"

"Next time there's a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!"

So ends the chapter called The Yule Ball, and I find it interesting that the incident in the whole book that makes Hermione the angriest is when Ron overlooks her until the last minute. There are several layers of meaning present in her last line. She wants him to not only notice her as a romantic prospect, but to value her enough to make her his first choice. Most salient of all is that she is telling him, straight to his face, that the next time there is a special occasion at which couples are the norm, she wants to go with him. Despite her red-faced fury, Hermione does not tell Ron that he missed his chance with her and now it's too late; quite the opposite, in fact. She refers to an event in the future, not in the past. She is hurt that he took so long to notice that she is a girl, yet the window is still open, and will remain open for the foreseeable future.

One might say that Hermione didn't really mean what she said in this scene, but that would not only be a terrible accusation to make of her, it would also ignore the principles of her character. At that particular moment, she is too riled up to have emotion to spare on falsehood. The only issue at stake is her love life, which, while overridingly important to us readers, does not rank high enough on her list of issues to warrant a lie as extreme as the one she must have told if she didn't really feel that way about Ron. The only person who stands to benefit from the supposed falsehood is Hermione, and possibly her true intended mate, which is not enough for her code of honesty. Finally, she is screaming at Ron, one of her best friends, who get the true story even when she is up to something sneaky. Given the circumstances, and Hermione's usual code of ethics, there is no room for a lie or equivocation in that scene, and so Hermione's admonition that Ron ask her next time should be taken at face value. She wants him to be her date at the next function. She has romantic interest in him.

Ultimately, Hermione and Ron's bickering is not as crippling a problem as many fans make it sound. Although they can frequently be found "having a go at each other," they are also able to cooperate.

OotP, pg. 236-7

"Hermione and me have stopped arguing," he said, sitting down beside Harry.

"Good," grunted Harry.

"But Hermione says she thinks it would be nice if you stopped taking out your temper on us," said Ron.

"I'm not..."

"I'm just passing on the message," said Ron, talking over him. "But I reckon she's right. It's not our fault how Seamus and Snape treat you."

Therefore, in the space of a lunch hour, Ron and Hermione are able to not only stop arguing, but agree that Harry is treating them unfairly. They agree that Ron will communicate their concern to Harry in Divination class, and that he is allowed to put the blame on Hermione in case Harry gets defensive. This is quite an impressive bit of cooperation for a pair of kids who "do nothing but bicker" all the time.

How their arguing life fits into a relationship is the subject of much debate in the fandom. Many say they can never have a healthy relationship together because they bicker too much, but there is a fatal flaw in this thread of thinking: it is based on individual definitions of what makes a healthy relationship, and no two individuals' definitions are exactly alike, though all are based on some combination of cultural beliefs, education, life experience, and emotional preference. The definitions of Harry/Hermione shippers do not matter. The definitions of Ron/Hermione shippers do not matter. The definitions of Draco/Hermione, Snape/Hermione, Viktor/Hermione, Ron/Luna, and Harry/Ron shippers do not matter. The only person whose definition of a healthy relationship truly matters is JKR. Do we really know how she defines a sustainable romantic relationship? Admittedly we do not; we only know what she has put into her books. There are two important married couples in the series whose family lives and interpersonal dynamics we have seen. I do not include James and Lily in this because we have not yet seen what they were like after they got together. On the one hand, JKR has shown us the Weasleys. This is a couple that is given to arguments. Molly is known to tear her husband a new nostril when he does something that bothers her. Arthur, for his part, concedes to Molly's position more often than the other way around, but when the issue is important to him, he does not back down. (See PoA, pg. 64-6, for an example.) They are not above fighting when they hold different opinions. Still, they have been married for decades and have raised seven children together, all with their own distinct personalities and talents. Their home life is the first experience Harry gets of being part of a loving family, and Hermione seems to enjoy staying with them, as well. JKR appears to be casting them in a positive light.

On the other hand, she has also given us the Dursleys. This is a couple that does not appear to have disagreed about anything in at least fourteen years; the exception being when Petunia tells Vernon they can't expel Harry from the house (OotP, pg. 40-1). He is so shocked by her difference from his position that he is stunned into inaction. In all the rest of the series, we have not once seen them openly disagree on anything. Conflict avoidance does not foster a loving home environment for them; it lends itself to secrecy on Petunia's part and a sense of entitlement on Vernon's. They have raised two boys, one who is pathologically spoiled, the other deprived, abused and neglected. Harry looks down his nose at his relations. JKR does not appear to be holding them up as an example to be emulated.

The author of the series, the one who created the characters, wrote the stories, and will determine which couples get together and stay together, has made her ideal family one headed by a couple that is not above the odd marital spat, while the couple that has nearly always agreed on everything is the butt of jokes and endless derision. Ron has experienced a major conflict with each of his best friends; with Hermione in PoA, and with Harry in GoF, but neither of those friendships suffered lasting damage. On the contrary, both friendships have been stronger since the resolutions of their respective estrangements. Hermione and Ron have not yet been portrayed as a romantic couple, but they have maintained a deep and abiding friendship over five years of canon, complete with humor, attention, concern, and a wealth of positive experiences.

Therefore, it is most likely that JKR's definitions hold that a certain level of conflict in a relationship is healthy. That Hermione and Ron argue as easily as they do is not a sign of dysfunction. Rather, it is open communication that goes along with Hermione's code of honesty and Ron's upbringing in a large, energetic, colorful family. It is a sign that they respect each other enough to air their grievances before they become resentments, and that they trust each other enough to know that their friendship can withstand the bickering. How will this practice translate into a romantic relationship? One thing is for sure; that they already remind Harry of Ron's parents (OotP, pg. 658). One way to look at it is that the frequent arguments are an expression of the frustration resulting from the UST between them, and will therefore lessen (it will never cease entirely) after they get together. I suspect that the closer they become, the more they will understand each other, and so their arguments will be shorter and less frequent as their relationship progresses.

For now, Hermione is a fair arguer. She is aggressive, but never passive-aggressive. She illustrates the problem using plain facts, she does not dredge up the past with Ron, she does not bring up sensitive issues (at least not deliberately), she does not store up arguments for future material. When an argument is over, it is truly over, and Ron can rest assured that Hermione's anger will go no deeper than a bit of sniping or a rare bout of a few hours' silent treatment. The interpersonal skill that she (and Ron, too) really needs to learn is how to choose her battles. She and Ron are both still very young and could stand to do some growing up. Diplomacy is a skill they can develop with maturity and experience. They have enough interest in each other to be willing to make the effort.

Conclusion:

The usual consensus is that Ron is the obvious one and Hermione is harder to read, but after going through all the evidence regarding her feelings for him, I actually think that her side of the matter has been laid out for us more plainly than Ron's. She can't get enough of him. If our sought-after Miss Granger doesn't like Ronald Weasley, or she is trying to change her mind and get over him, then she has a strange way of showing it. How does she conduct herself toward him? She allows him to make her laugh and lets him show her a good time. She enjoys herself around him; therefore she trusts him. She becomes an emotional wreck when she knows she's hurt him, or finds out he could have been injured, so she values him. She exhibits marked jealousy and insecurity when he is attracted to another girl, so she is attracted to him. She holds him to high expectations of performance and treats him like a partner; she respects him. She understands his feelings and reaches out to comfort him; she cares about him. She jumps down his throat over issues that would pose problems in a relationship; she is looking forward to a relationship with him. She does things for him that she does for no one else; what she feels for him is different from what she feels for anyone else. When looking at the forest past the trees, the direction of Hermione's romantic inclinations takes shape, and the bigger picture shows that she loves Ron. The course of true love never did run smoothly, but with Hermione, it runs very strong indeed. She has her choice of men, running from Neville Longbottom to Viktor Krum, and she has chosen Ron Weasley.

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