Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Defending Hermione: Hermione Jean Granger in Half-Blood Prince

Originally posted 4/20/2013

A lot of Harmony shippers (and maybe others, I'm not sure) have thought that Hermione's character was butchered, regressed, destroyed for OBHWF, etc. That we were dealing with an entirely new character, not our Hermione. I disagree. Don't misunderstand me, I am a die-hard Harmony shipper, and HBP is my least favorite of all the books. (All page numbers refer to the US hardcover editions. All quotes are from HBP unless otherwise specified.)

But it's necessary. All the symbolism from the first five books continues. hhr_fan_always sums it up the best, when talking about alchemy in Harry Potter:

Sixth Stage - Distillation
The hero discovers impurities in his ego and suffers setbacks. He struggles with identity as a distraction from his quest. At the end of the stage, he becomes a solidified light of power.

And HBP is Harry's lowest point in the series. Not emotionally, but morally. This is the book where he seems to channel James Potter the bully – Harry goes around hexing Slytherins and Filch just for fun (238).

What does this have to do with Hermione? Well, this book is easily her lowest point in the series as well. That, however, is completely different from being a ruined character. So lets look at some comments.

This is the book where Hermione fancies Ron. Many have said that she was out-of-character. Let's take a look.

The first incident that comes up is Quidditch Tryouts, where Hermione Confunded McLaggen.
“I thought I was going to miss that fourth penalty,” Ron was saying happily. “Tricky shot from Demelza, did you see, had a bit of spin on it -” 
“Yes, yes, you were magnificent,” said Hermione, looking amused. 
“I was better than that McLaggen anyway,” said Ron in a highly satisfied voice. “Did you see him lumbering off in the wrong direction on his fifth? Looked like he'd been Confunded...” To Harry's surprise, Hermione turned a very deep shade of pink at these words. Ron noticed nothing; he was too busy describing each of his other penalties in loving detail. (227) 
“If you ask me,” said Harry quietly, McLaggen looks like he was Confunded this morning. And he was standing right in front of where you were sitting.” 
Hermione blushed. “Oh, all right, I did it,” she whispered. “But you should have heard the way he was talking about Ron and Ginny! Anyway, he's got a nasty temper, you saw how he reacted when he didn't get in – you wouldn't have wanted someone like that on the team.” (232)
Hermione supposedly Confunded McLaggen because she fancies Ron and she wanted him to get the position. That's what I've heard. But that's not what she says. There is no comment about how Ron was great, that he really deserved the position. Instead, Hermione tells Harry it was because of McLaggen himself. That he was being a jerk and insulting two of her best friends. That he wouldn't have played nice and would only cause trouble for the team. Also, people usually blush out of embarrassment. The fact that Hermione does it twice hints to it having been a spur of the moment decision, and not a thought-out move.

That is very different from doing it because she fancies Ron. And that's not out-of-character for Hermione, although she goes a little farther then she ever did before. She's fiercely protective of the people and things she loves. I'm talking about Fleur, how Hermione's dislike of Fleur had nothing to do with Ron, even though many fans thought it did (see this essay).

Now, we're going to go through the book and look at Ron and Hermione's relationship. What are signs that Hermione fancies Ron?
What did surprise him was that when Ron drew level with them, Parvati suddenly nudged Lavender, who looked around and gave Ron a wide smile. Ron blinked at her, then returned the smile uncertainly. His walk instantly became something more like a strut. Harry resisted the temptation to laugh, remembering that Ron had refrained from doing so after Malfoy had broken Harry's nose; Hermione, however, looked cold and distant all the way down to the stadium through the cool, misty drizzle, and departed to find a place in the stands without wishing Ron good luck. (222-3) 
“Good idea,” whispered Hermione, clearly pleased that Harry was calming down. “Ron, what are you staring at?”
“Nothing,” said Ron, hastily looking away from the bar, but Harry knew he was trying to catch the eye of the curvy and attractive barmaid, Madam Rosmerta, for whom he had long nursed a soft spot. “I expect 'nothing's' in the back getting more firewhisky,” said Hermione waspishly. Ron ignored this jibe, sipping his drink in what he evidently considered to be a dignified silence. Harry was thinking about Sirius, and how he had hated those silver goblets anyway. Hermione drummed her fingers on the table, her eyes flickering between Ron and the bar. The moment Harry drained the last drops in his bottle she said, “Shall we call it a day and go back to school, then?” The other two nodded; it had not been a fun trip and the weather was getting worse the longer they stayed. (247-8)
These are the first hints that Hermione fancies Ron. She gets cold and distant when Ron and Lavender flirt. With Rosmerta, to say something waspishly means “readily expressing anger or irritation”. Hermione is angry and irritated that Ron is looking at Rosmerta. That is shown by her glancing between Ron and the bar. Hermione has never gotten jealous over Rosmerta before.
'Slug Club,'” repeated Ron with a sneer worthy of Malfoy. “It's pathetic. Well, I hope you enjoy your party. Why don't you try hooking up with McLaggen, then Slughorn can make you King and Queen Slug -” 
“We're allowed to bring guests,” said Hermione, who for some reason had turned a bright, boiling scarlet, “and I was going to ask you to come, but if you think it's that stupid then I won't bother!” 
Harry suddenly wished the pod had flown a little farther, so that he need not have been sitting here with the pair of them. Unnoticed by either, he seized the bowl that contained the pod and began to try and open it by the noisiest and most energetic means he could think of; unfortunately, he could still hear every word of their conversation. 
“You were going to ask me?” asked Ron, in a completely different voice. 
“Yes,” said Hermione angrily. “But obviously if you'd rather I hooked up with McLaggen...” There was a pause while Harry continued to pound the resilient pod with a trowel. 
“No, I wouldn't,” said Ron, in a very quiet voice. Harry missed the pod, hit the bowl, and shattered it. (282)
Here is the scene that brings their feelings closer to the surface. They agree to go to Slughorn's party together, but they do not become a couple (283). We know by now that Hermione fancies Ron. Let's move on to the next part where Hermione is accused of acting out-of-character. But first let's look at what happened right before that.
“Er,” said Harry into the sudden silence; he had not expected his plan to backfire like this, “shall... shall we go up to the party, then?” 
“You go!” said Hermione, blinking back tears. “I'm sick of Ron at the moment, I don't know what I'm supposed to have done...” And she stormed out of the changing room too. (299-300)
Ron has been giving Hermione the cold shoulder for about a week, ever since Ginny let it slip that Hermione had kissed Krum. He lashes out at Hermione after Harry says he didn't put Felix Felicis in Ron's drink. Understandably, Hermione is hurt and confused. She doesn't know what she could have done. This leads us to our next scene, which takes place just after this one:
Harry turned away from Ron, who did not look like he would be surfacing soon, just as the portrait hole was closing. With a sinking feeling, he thought he saw a mane of bushy brown hair whipping out of sight. He darted forward, sidestepped Romilda Vane again, and pushed open the portrait of the Fat Lady. The corridor outside seemed to be deserted.   
“Hermione?” He found her in the first unlocked classroom he tried. She was sitting on the teacher's desk, alone except for a small ring of twittering yellow birds circling her head, which she had clearly just conjured out of midair. Harry could not help admiring her spellwork at a time like this. 
“Oh, hello, Harry,” she said in a brittle voice. “I was just practicing.” 
“Yeah... they're – er – really good...” said Harry. He had no idea what to say to her. He was just wondering whether there was any chance that she had not noticed Ron, that she had merely left the room because the party was a little to rowdy, when she said, in an unnaturally high-pitched voice, “Ron seems to be enjoying the celebrations.” 
“Er... does he?” said Harry. 
“Don't pretend you didn't see him,” said Hermione. “He wasn't exactly hiding it, was -?” The door behind them burst open. To Harry's horror, Ron came in, laughing, pulling Lavender by the hand. “Oh,” he said, drawing up short at the sight of Harry and Hermione. “Oops!” said Lavender, and she backed out of the room, giggling. The door swung shut behind her. There was a horrible, swelling, billowing silence. 
Hermione was staring at Ron, who refused to look at her, but said with an odd mixture of bravado and awkwardness, “Hi, Harry! Wondered where you'd got to!” 
Hermione slid off the desk. The little flock of golden birds continued to twitter in circles around her head so that she looked like a strange, feathery model of the solar system. “You shouldn't leave Lavender waiting outside,” she said quietly. “She'll wonder where you've gone.” She walked very slowly and erectly toward the door. Harry glanced at Ron, who was looking relieved that nothing worse had happened. 
Oppugno!” came a shriek from the doorway. Harry spun around to see Hermione pointing her wand at Ron, her expression wild: The little flock of birds was speeding like a hail of fat golden bullets toward Ron, who yelped and covered his face with his hands, but the birds attacked, pecking and clawing at every bit of flesh they could reach. 
“Gerremoffme!” he yelled, but with one last look of vindictive fury, Hermione wrenched open the door and disappeared through it. Harry thought he heard a sob before it slammed. (301-2)
Brittle: “easily broken, cracked, or snapped

Erectly: “being in a vertical, upright position”

Vindictive: “having or showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge”

Fury: “a surge of violent anger or other feeling”

So. Hermione's voice is brittle, she's about to break. Ron has been cruel to her for a week with no explanation, and now he's gone and snogged someone else. And not only someone else, but someone who is the complete opposite of her – pretty, traditionally feminine, gossipy. She's hurt, deeply hurt. Then he comes in with Her, the girl he was snogging heavily. Obviously looking for a private place to snog some more. So she starts walking out of the room, slowly and erectly, trying not break down and cry in front of him, trying to hold herself together. She gets to the door, and she loses it. She wants to lash out and hurt him as much as he hurt her. It overwhelms her, and she does. She then starts sobbing as she runs.

This is easily Hermione's lowest point in the entire series. This is also physical abuse. Physical abuse is “contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm”. Hermione is upset, yes. However, that does not give her the right to attack Ron. This is, unfortunately, not out-of-character for Hermione either. Both Ron and Hermione are abusive to each other throughout the series.
But his hopes were not high, and they sank still lower after enduring a Transfiguration lesson with them both next day. They had just embarked upon the immensely difficult topic of human Transfiguration; working in front of mirrors, they were supposed to be changing the color of their own eyebrows. Hermione laughed unkindly at Ron's disastrous first attempt, during which he somehow managed to give himself a spectacular handlebar mustache; Ron retaliated by doing a cruel but accurate impression of Hermione jumping up and down in her seat every time Professor McGonagall asked a question, which Lavender and Parvati found deeply amusing and which reduced Hermione to the verge of tears again. She raced out of the classroom on the bell, leaving half her things behind; Harry, deciding that her need was greater than Ron's just now, scooped up her remaining possessions and followed her. He finally tracked her down as she emerged from a girls' bathroom on the floor below. She was accompanied by Luna Lovegood, who was patting her vaguely on the back. “Oh, hello, Harry,” said Luna. “Did you know one of your eyebrows is bright yellow?” “Hi, Luna. Hermione, you left your stuff...” He held out her books. “Oh yes,” said Hermione in a choked voice, taking her things and turning away quickly to hide the fact that she was wiping her eyes on her pencil case. “Thank you, Harry. Well, I'd better get going...” And she hurried off, without giving Harry any time to offer words of comfort, though admittedly he could not think of any. (309-10)
Hermione was slightly cruel when she laughed at Ron's mustache, but she wasn't the only one who did – Harry did as well (312). Ron, on the other hand, drove her to tears again, mocking her and making others laugh at her. This leads us to what happens at dinner:
Parvati positively beamed. Harry could tell that she was feeling guilty for have laughed at Hermione in Transfiguration. He looked around and saw that Hermione was beaming back, if possible even more brightly. Girls were very strange sometimes. “Hi, Parvati!” said Hermione, ignoring Ron and Lavender completely. “Are you going to Slughorn's party tonight?” “No invite,” said Parvati gloomily. “I'd love to go, though, it sounds like it's going to be really good... You're going, aren't you?” “Yes, I'm meeting Cormac at eight, and we're -” There was a noise like a plunger being withdrawn from a blocked sink and Ron surfaced. Hermione acted as though she had not seen or heard anything. “- we're going up to the party together.” “Cormac?” said Parvati. “Cormac McLaggen, you mean?” “That's right,” said Hermione sweetly. “The one who almost” - she put a great deal of emphasis on the word – “became Gryffindor Keeper.” “Are you going out with him, then?” asked Parvati, wide-eyed. “Oh – yes – didn't you know?” said Hermione, with a most un-Hermione-ish giggle. “No!” said Parvati, looking positively agog at this piece of gossip. “Wow, you like your Quidditch players, don't you? First Krum, then McLaggen...” “I like really good Quidditch players,” Hermione corrected her, still smiling. “Well, see you... Got to go and get ready for the party...” She left. At once Lavender and Parvati put their heads together to discuss this new development, with everything they had ever heard about McLaggen, and all they had ever guessed about Hermione. Ron looked strangely blank and said nothing. Harry was left to ponder in silence the depths to which girls would sink to get revenge. (313-4)
We don't know when Hermione asked out McLaggen, but I think it was that day, only after Ron had made her cry. I think that because the biggest gossips in the school – Parvati and Lavender – didn't know. I also would be expecting McLaggen to go around bragging, or making a dig at Harry and Ron about how he was the one going with their best friend.

Is Hermione in the right, no. This is probably her second lowest moment in the series. But is this realistic? Yes.

The other big thing I have heard is that Hermione is completely different because she doesn't back Harry when it comes to Draco. And, she all upset because Harry is doing better than her in a class, when before she would have encouraged him and be happy (everything with the Half-Blood Prince's textbook situation). Let's look at the situation with Draco first.

Hermione is not someone to believe things without proof. We see this in her responses to Luna:
“Of course not,” said Hermione scathingly, before Harry could answer, “The Quibbler's rubbish, everyone knows that.” “Excuse me,” said Luna; her voice had suddenly lost its dreamy quality. “My father's the editor.” “I – oh,” said Hermione, looking embarrassed. “Well... it's got some interesting... I mean, it's quite...” “I'll have it back, thank you,” said Luna coldly, and leaning forward she snatched it out of Harry's hands. (OP 193) 
“Oh, for heaven's sake, Harry, you can do better than her,” said Hermione. “Ginny's told me all about her, apparently she'll only believe in things as long as there's no proof at all. Well, I wouldn't expect anything else from someone whose father runs The Quibbler.” (OP 262)
and after Harry has the fake vision of Sirius:
“Look, I'm sorry,” cried Hermione, “but neither of you are making sense, and we've got no proof for any of this, no proof Voldemort and Sirius are even there -” (OP 733)
We see that this is just part of Hermione's character, she just doesn't believe in things without logic and proof. I think we all can agree on that. Now we're going to look at the situation with Draco.
Harry spent a lot of the last week of the holidays pondering the meaning of Malfoy's behavior in Knockturn Alley. What disturbed him most was the satisfied look on Malfoy's face as he had left the shop. Nothing that made Malfoy look that happy could be good news. To his slight annoyance, however, neither Ron nor Hermione seemed quite as curious about Malfoy's activities as he was; or at least, they seemed to get bored of discussing it after a few days. “Yes, I've already agreed it was fishy, Harry,” said Hermione a little impatiently. She was sitting on the windowsill in Fred and George's room with her feet up on one of the cardboard boxes and had only grudgingly looked up from her new copy of Advanced Rune Translation. But haven't we agreed there could be a lot of explanations?” “Maybe he's broken his Hand of Glory,” said Ron vaguely, as he attempted to straighten his broomstick's bent tail twigs. “Remember that shriveled-up arm Malfoy had?” “But what about when he said, 'Don't forget to keep that one safe'?” asked Harry for the umpteenth time. “That sounded to me like Borgin's got another one of the broken objects, and Malfoy wants both.” “You reckon?” said Ron, now trying to scrape some dirt off his broom handle. “Yeah, I do,” said Harry. When neither Ron nor Hermione answered, he said, “Malfoy's father's in Azkaban. Don't you think Malfoy'd like revenge?” Ron looked up, blinking. “Malfoy, revenge? What can he do about it?” “That's my point, I don't know!” said Harry, frustrated. “But he's up to something and I think we should take it seriously. His father's a Death Eater and -” Harry broke off, his eyes fixed on the wind behind Hermione, his mouth open. A startling thought had just occurred to him. “Harry?” said Hermione in an anxious voice. “What's wrong?” “Your scar's not hurting again, is it?” asked Ron nervously. “He's a Death Eater,” said Harry slowly. “He's replaced his father as a Death Eater!” There was a silence; then Ron erupted into laughter. “Malfoy? He's sixteen, Harry! You think You-Know-Who would let Malfoy join?” “It seems very unlikely, Harry,” said Hermione in a repressive sort of voice. “What makes you think -?” “In Madam Malkin's. She didn't touch him, but he yelled and jerked his arm away from her when she went to roll up his sleeve. It was his left arm. He's been branded with the Dark Mark.” Ron and Hermione looked at each other. “Well...” said Ron, sounding throughly unconvinced. “I think he just wanted to get out of there, Harry,” said Hermione. “He showed Borgin something we couldn't see,” Harry pressed on stubbornly. “Something that seriously scared Borgin. It was the Mark, I know it – he was showing Borgin who he was dealing with, you saw how seriously Borgin took him!” Ron and Hermione exchanged another look. “I'm not sure, Harry...” “Yeah, I still don't reckon You-Know-Who would let Malfoy join...” Annoyed, but absolutely convinced he was right, Harry snatched up a pile of filthy Quidditch robes and left the room; Mrs. Weasley had been urging them for days not to leave their washing and packing until the last minute. (129-31)
Harry has been talking about the same thing for days. Even Ron, who usually believes Harry without any proof at all, doesn't believe him. As for Hermione, she agreed it was fishy, but that there could be a lot of explanations. Repressive means “inhibiting or preventing the awareness of certain thoughts or feelings”. She repressing her annoyance. She's annoyed because they've gone over this a million times.

Now, we know Harry is right. We've read the book and we had the Spinner's End chapter. But they don't know that. And look at Harry's track record, he was never right about Snape being out to get him and he wasn't right about Sirius being in the Department of Mysteries. That's not a good track record. So it's perfectly understandable why they don't believe him.
“When we were in Diagon Alley,” Harry began, but Mr. Weasley forestalled him with a grimace. “Am I about to discover where you, Ron, and Hermione disappeared to while you were supposed to be in the back room of Fred and George's shop?” “How did you -?” “Harry, please. You're talking to the man who raised Fred and George.” “Er... yeah, all right, we weren't in the back room.” “Very well, then, let's hear the worst.” “Well, we followed Draco Malfoy. We used my Invisibility Cloak.” “Did you have any particular reason for doing so, or was it a mere whim?” “Because I thought Malfoy was up to something,” said Harry, disregarding Mr. Weasley's look of mingled exasperation and amusement. “He'd given his mother the slip and I wanted to know why.” “Of course you did,” said Mr. Weasley, sounding resigned. “Well? Did you find out why?” “He went to Borgin and Burkes,” said Harry, “and started bullying the bloke in there, Borgin, to help him fix something. And he said he wanted Borgin to keep something else for him. He made it sound like it was the same kind of thing that needed fixing. Like they were a pair. And...” Harry took a deep breath. “There's something else. We saw Malfoy jump about a mile when Madam Malkin tried to touch his left arm. I think he's been branded with the Dark Mark. I think he's replaced his father as a Death Eater.” Mr. Weasley looked taken aback. After a moment he said, “Harry, I doubt whether You-Know- Who would allow a sixteen-year-old -” “Does anyone really know what You-Know-Who would or wouldn't do?” asked Harry angrily. “Mr. Weasley, I'm sorry, but isn't it worth investigating? If Malfoy wants something fixing, and he needs to threaten Borgin to get it done, it's probably something Dark or dangerous, isn't it?” “I doubt it, to be honest, Harry,” said Mr. Weasley slowly. “You see, when Lucius Malfoy was arrested, we raided his house. We took away everything that might have been dangerous.” “I think you might have missed something,” said Harry stubbornly. “Well, maybe,” said Mr. Weasley, but Harry could tell that Mr. Weasley was humoring him. (134-5)
So it's not just Hermione and Ron who don't believe him. Mr. Weasley, an Order member and the one who raided the Malfoy house, doesn't believe him either. Because he has no proof.
Harry and Ron met Hermione in the common room before breakfast next morning. Hoping for some support for his theory, Harry lost no time in telling Hermione what he had overheard Malfoy saying on the Hogwarts Express. “But he was obviously showing off for Parkinson, wasn't he?” interjected Ron quickly, before Hermione could say anything. “Well,” she said uncertainly, “I don't know... It would be like Malfoy to make himself seem more important than he is... but that's a big lie to tell...” (171)
In a big change from OotP, Ron doesn't believe Harry and is opposing him. Back to Hermione, since this essay is about her. She doesn't know what to believe. Both boys' have valid claims, but neither has any more evidence to support them.
“Anything new?” said Harry. “Not really...” Hermione had opened the newspaper and was scanning the inside pages. “Oh, look, you dad's in here, Ron – he's all right!” she added quickly, for Ron had looked around in alarm. “It just says he's been to visit the Malfoys' house. 'This second search of the Death Eater's residence does not seem to have yielded any results. Arthur Weasley of the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects said that his team had been acting upon a confidential tip-off.' “Yeah, mine!” said Harry. “I told him at King's Cross about Malfoy and that thing he was trying to get Borgin to fix! Well, if it's not at their house, he must have brought whatever it is to Hogwarts with him -” “But how can he have done, Harry?” said Hermione, putting down the newspaper with a surprised look. “We were all searched when we arrived, weren't we?” “Were you?” said Harry, taken back. “I wasn't!” “Oh no, of course you weren't, I forgot you were late... Well, Filch ran over all of us with Secrecy Sensors when we got into the entrance hall. Any Dark object would have been found, I know for a fact Crabbe had a shrunken head confiscated. So you see, Malfoy can't have brought in anything dangerous!” Momentarily stymied, Harry watch Ginny Weasley playing with Arnold the Pygmy Puff for a while before seeing a way around this objection. “Someone's sent it to him by owl, then,” he said. “His mother or someone.” “All the owls are being checked too,” said Hermione. “Filch told us so when he was jabbing those Secrecy Sensors everywhere he could reach.” Really stumped this time, Harry found nothing else to say. There did not seem to be any way Malfoy could have brought a dangerous or Dark object into the school. He looked hopefully at Ron, who was sitting with his arms folded, staring over at Lavender Brown. “Can you think of any way Malfoy -?” “Oh, drop it, Harry,” said Ron. (234-5)
Hermione brings up perfectly logical and true points to Harry's thoughts.
For a split second, Harry hesitated. Professor McGonagall did not invite confidences; Dumbledore, though in many ways more intimidating, still seemed less likely to scorn a theory, however wild. This was a life-and-death matter, though, and no moment to worry about being laughed at. “I think Draco Malfoy gave Katie that necklace, Professor.” On one side of him, Ron rubbed his nose in apparent embarrassment; on the other, Hermione shuffled her feet as though quite keen to put a bit of distance between herself and Harry. “That is a very serious accusation, Potter,” said Professor McGonagall, after a shocked pause. “Do you have any proof?” “No,” said Harry, “but...” and he told her about following Malfoy to Borgin and Burkes and the conversation they had overheard between him and Mr. Borgin. When he had finished speaking, Professor McGonagall looked slightly confused. “Malfoy took something to Borgin and Burkes for repair?” “No, Professor, he just wanted Borgin to tell him how to mend something, he didn't have it with him. But that's not the point, the thing is that he bought something at the same time, and I think it was that necklace -” “You saw Malfoy leaving the shop with a similar package?” “No, Professor, he told Borgin to keep it in the shop for him -” “But Harry,” Hermione interrupted, “Borgin asked him if he wanted to take it with him, and Malfoy said no -” “Because he didn't want to touch it, obviously!” said Harry angrily. “What he actually said was, 'How would I look carrying that down the street?'” said Hermione. “Well, he would look a bit of a prat carrying a necklace,” interjected Ron. “Oh, Ron,” said Hermione despairingly, “it would be all wrapped up, so he wouldn't have to touch it, and quite easy to hide inside a cloak, so nobody would see it! I think whatever he reserved at Borgin and Burkes was noisy or bulky, something he knew would draw attention to him if he carried it down the street – and in any case,” she pressed on loudly, before Harry could interrupt, “I asked Borgin about the necklace, don't you remember? When I went in to try and find out what Malfoy had asked him to keep, I saw it there. And Borgin just told me the price, he didn't say it was already sold or anything -” “Well, you were being really obvious, he realized what you were up to within about five seconds, of course he wasn't going to tell you – anyway, Malfoy could've sent off for it since -” “That's enough!” said Professor McGonagall, as Hermione opened her mouth to retort, looking furious. “Potter, I appreciate you telling me this, but we cannot point the finger of blame at Mr. Malfoy purely because he visited the shop where this necklace might have been purchased. The same is probably true for hundreds of people -” “- that's what I said -” muttered Ron. “- and in any case, we have put stringent security measures in place this year. I do not believe that necklace can possibly have entered this school without our knowledge -” “But -” “- and what is more,” said Professor McGonagall, with an air of awful finality, “Mr. Malfoy was not in Hogsmeade today.” Harry gaped at her, deflating. (254-5)
Hermione is indeed correct about the item being bulky! And we can add Professor McGonagall onto the list of people who don't believe Harry – which, by this point, is pretty much everyone!
“Couldn't have been,” said Harry, “or Katie would've just turned around in the lane and given it to me, wouldn't she? I was behind her all the way out of the Three Broomsticks. It would have made much more sense to deliver the parcel outside Hogwarts, what with Filch searching everyone who goes in and out. I wonder why Malfoy told her to take it into the castle?” “Harry, Malfoy wasn't in Hogsmeade!” said Hermione, actually stamping her foot in frustration. “He must have used an accomplice, then,” said Harry. “Crabbe or Goyle – or come to think of it, another Death Eater, he'll have loads better cronies than Crabbe and Goyle now he's joined up -” Ron and Hermione exchanged looks that plainly said There's no point arguing with him. (256)And: “You're right,” said Hermione, prodding Ron out of the chair with her foot and offering it to the first year again. “It wasn't very well thought-out at all.” “But since when has Malfoy been one of the world's great thinkers?” asked Harry. Neither Ron nor Hermione answered him. (257)
McGonagall gave some solid evidence – Malfoy had been in the castle and watched all day. There was no way he could have snuck into Hogsmeade. Even with that, Harry refuses to let it go.
“Oh, and Malfoy knows, of course,” said Harry to Ron and Hermione, who continued their new policy of feigning deafness whenever Harry mentioned his Malfoy-Is-a-Death-Eater theory. (258)
Good policy! The best thing to do when somebody's being unreasonable like this is just to ignore them. Hopefully they'll run out of steam on their own.
“Yeah, well, never mind that,” said Harry quickly. “The point is, Filch is being fooled, isn't he? These girls are getting stuff into the school disguised as something else! So why couldn't Malfoy have brought the necklace into the school -?” “Oh, Harry... not that again...” “Come on, why not?” demanded Harry. “Look,” sighed Hermione, “Secrecy Sensors detect jinxes, curses, and concealment charms, don't they? They're used to find Dark Magic and Dark objects. They'd have picked up a powerful curse, like the one on that necklace, within seconds. But something that's just been put in the wrong bottle wouldn't register – and anyway, love potions aren't Dark or dangerous -” “Easy for you to say,” muttered Harry, thinking of Romilda Vane. “- so it would be down to Filch to realize it wasn't a cough potion, and he's not a very good wizard, I doubt he can tell one potion from -” Hermione stopped dead; Harry had heard it too. (307)
Again, Hermione brings up perfectly logical and true points.
She looked too fierce to argue with at that moment, so Harry dropped the subject of Ron and recounted all that he had overheard between Malfoy and Snape. When he had finished, Hermione sat in thought for a moment and then said, “Don't you think -?” “- he was pretending to offer help so that he could trick Malfoy into telling him what he's doing?” “Well, yes,” said Hermione. “Ron's dad and Lupin think so,” Harry said grudgingly. “But this definitely proves Malfoy's planning something, you can't deny that.” “No, I can't,” she answered slowly. “And he's acting on Voldemort's orders, just like I said!” “Hmm... did either of them actually mention Voldemort's name?” Harry frowned, trying to remember. “I'm not sure... Snape definitely said 'your master' and who else would that be?” “I don't know,” said Hermione, biting her lip. “Maybe his father?” She stared across the room, apparently lost in thought, not even noticing Lavender tickling Ron. “How's Lupin?” (352-3)and: “No, no, not History of Magic – Malfoy threatened Borgin with him!” said Hermione. “Back in Knockturn Alley, don't you remember? He told Borgin that Greyback was an old family friend and that he'd be checking up on Borgin's progress!” Harry gaped at her. “I forgot! But this proves Malfoy's a Death Eater, how else could he be in contact with Greyback and telling him what to do?” “It's pretty suspicious,” breathed Hermione. “Unless...” “Oh, come on,” said Harry in exasperation, “you can't get round this one!” “Well... there is the possibility it was an empty threat.” “You're unbelievable, you are,” said Harry, shaking his head. “We'll see who's right... You'll be eating your words, Hermione, just like the Ministry. Oh yeah, I had a row with Rufus Scrimgeour as well...” And the rest of the evening passed amicably with both of them abusing the Minister of Magic, for Hermione, like Ron, thought that after all the Ministry had put Harry through the previous year, they had a great deal of nerve asking him for help now. (353-4)
Harry and Hermione theorize about what's going on. Hermione still isn't convinced that Draco's acting on Voldemort's orders. I also want to point out that while Harry and Hermione are disagreeing, they are not fighting. There is no shouting, or storming off. Amicable means “(of relations between people) Having a spirit of friendliness; without serious disagreement or rancor”. So they disagree, but they continue to have a good night together anyway. Their friendship is still fully in tact.
“Do you mean to say,” said Hermione in a hushed voice, “that that little girl whose scales I repaired -?” “Yeah, of course!” said Harry loudly, staring at her. “Of course!” Malfoy must've been inside the room at the time, so she – what am I talking about? - he dropped the scales to tell Malfoy not to come out, because there was someone there! And there was that girl who dropped the toadspawn too! We've been walking past him all this time and not realizing it!” “He's got Crabbe and Goyle transforming into girls?” guffawed Ron. “Blimey... No wonder they don't look too happy these days... I'm surprised they don't tell him to stuff it...” “Well, they wouldn't, would they, if he's shown them his Dark Mark?” said Harry. “Hmmm... the Dark Mark we don't know exists,” said Hermione skeptically, rolling up Ron's dried essay before it could come to any more harm and handing it to him. “We'll see,” said Harry confidently. “Yes, we will,” Hermione said, getting to her feet and stretching. “But, Harry, before you get all excited, I still don't think you'll be able to get into the Room of Requirement without knowing what's there first. And I don't think you should forget” - she heaved her bag onto her shoulder and gave him a very serious look - “that what you're supposed to be concentrating on is getting that memory from Slughorn. Good night.” (454-5)
More theorizing, and Hermione reminding Harry about his task from Dumbledore. She brings up good points. Thankfully for us, this is the last scene of them talking about Draco, if we don't count Harry's hurried speech when he shoves the Liquid Luck into their hands before leaving with Dumbledore. Honestly, I was getting bored going through all those quotes. I never thought that could happen to me!

Joking aside, now. We're going to look at the situation with The Half-Blood Prince's textbook.
Harry stirred counterclockwise, held his breath, and stirred once clockwise. The effect was immediate. The potion turned palest pink. “How are you doing that?” demanded Hermione, who was red-faced and whose hair was growing bushier and bushier in the fumes from her cauldron; her potion was still resolutely purple. “Add a clockwise stir -” “No, no, the book says counterclockwise!” she snapped. Harry shrugged and continued what he was doing. (190-1)
This is the first mention of the book and Hermione. Now, she's frazzled because she can't get her potion right, not because she's mad at Harry for doing well. This also goes back to what we were talking about with proof. Hermione is someone who believes in logic and proof. She is also someone who puts importance on rules and books. We all remember her famous line about being expelled being worse than being killed, and her shock and offense over Hogwarts, A History never mentioning house-elves.
Harry slipped the tiny bottle of golden liquid into his inner pocket, feeling an odd combination of delight at the furious looks on the Slytherins' faces and guilt at the disappointed expression on Hermione's. Ron looked simply dumbfounded. (191)
Hermione is disappointed because she didn't win, not because Harry specifically won. She doesn't blame him, or send him dirty looks. She's not making a big deal out of it. She's just genuinely sad she didn't win the contest.
Once they were securely ensconced at the Gryffindor table for dinner, however, he felt safe enough to tell them. Hermione's face became stonier with every word he uttered. “I s'pose you think I cheated?” he finished, aggravated by her expression. “Well, it wasn't exactly your own work, was it?” she said stiffly. (192)
Stony means “exhibiting no feeling or warmth; impassive”. She's not happy with Harry. And she has every right not to be! The first time I read HBP, I didn't know that your grades in class didn't effect your overall score. Whitehound talks about it in her essay on British culture:
Note that there is never any indication that marks given for course work at Hogwarts affect the results of OWLs and NEWTs. Nor does anything affect the final outcome of the student's schooling, and their future career, except their OWLs and NEWTs and a reference from their Head of House. Trelawney, for example, warns the class that The Dream Oracle may be important to their exam results because it may come up in the OWL paper: not because the work they do on it in class may have any effect on their results. The school is clearly run on the system which was normal in Britain up to the late 1980s: i.e. your final results depend entirely on fifth and seventh-year exams. Other years' exams, and marks given for course-work, exist only to give the student an idea of what standard they've reached and whether they need to work harder in order to do well in their state exams.
So Harry's cheating isn't as bad as I originally thought. Also, we know that students have to pass the end-of-year exams to be able to continue (Flint gets held back a year and Ron and Harry are sad that Crabbe and Goyle passed). It's still cheating, though, and it's still unacceptable. Personally, I see it as if a student had the teacher's answer sheet to every test. Harry doesn't have to think, or pay attention, or learn. All he's doing is getting by on someone else's hard work. I'm with Hermione on this one: not cool, Harry.
“Ginny's got a point,” said Hermione, perking up at once. “We ought to check that there's nothing odd about it. I mean, all these funny instructions, who knows?” “Hey!” said Harry indignantly, as she pulled his copy of Advanced Potion Making out of his bag and raised her wand.Specialis Revelio!” she said, rapping it smartly on the front cover. Nothing whatsoever happened. The book simply lay there, looking old and dirty and dog-eared. “Finished?” said Harry irritably. “Or d'you want to wait and see if it does a few backflips?” “It seems all right,” said Hermione, still staring at the book suspiciously. “I mean, it really does seem to be... just a textbook.” (192-3)
Ginny overhears and brings up Tom Riddle's diary. Hermione's still suspicious about the book, and since they have no idea who wrote in it or had it last, that's a good idea.
For the rest of the week's Potions lessons Harry continued to follow the Half-Blood Prince's instructions wherever they deviated from Libatius Borage's, with the result that by their fourth lesson Slughorn was raving about Harry's abilities, saying that he had rarely taught anyone so talented. Neither Ron nor Hermione was delighted by this. Although Harry had offered to share his book with both of them, Ron had more difficulty deciphering the handwriting than Harry did, and could not keep asking Harry to read aloud or it might look suspicious. Hermione, meanwhile, was resolutely plowing on with what she called the “official” instructions, but becoming increasingly bad-tempered as they yielded poorer results than the Prince's. (194)
So Harry offers his friends the chance to cheat with him. Hermione, understandably, declines. We see another hint of her personality that we talked earlier, with her putting importance on the textbook being official. She's upset because Harry's cheating is not only getting better results, but loads of praise. She knows Harry did nothing to deserve it, isn't really trying, and cheating. Slughorn, on the other hand, seems to think Harry's a prodigy, and won't shut up about how great he is. If I were Hermione, I'd be upset too.
“Or herself,” said Hermione irritably, overhearing Harry pointing some of these out to Ron in the common room on Saturday evening. “It might have been a girl. I think the handwriting looks more like a girl's than a boy's.” “The Half-Blood Prince, he was called,” Harry said. “How many girls have been Princes?” Hermione seemed to have no answer to this. She merely scowled and twitched her essay on The Principles of Rematerialization away from Ron, who was trying to read it upside down. (195)
Both Harry and Hermione have good points on the gender question.
Incredibly, and to Hermione's increasing resentment, Harry's best subject had suddenly become Potions, thanks to the Half-Blood Prince. (217)
Resentment means “indignation or ill will felt as a result of a real or imagined grievance”. Indignation means “anger aroused by something unjust, mean, or unworthy”. Personally, I think this situation is very unjust. Harry's cheating has made him the star of the class. He still hasn't gotten that cheating is a big moral no no! Hermione has every right to be upset.
“Ha!” said Harry, unwrapping the parcel to reveal a new copy of Advanced Potion-Making, fresh from Flourish and Blotts. “Oh good,” said Hermione, delighted. “Now you can give that graffitied copy back.” “Are you mad?” said Harry. “I'm keeping it! Look, I've thought it out -” He pulled the old copy of Advanced Potion-Making out of his bag and tapped the cover with his wand, muttering, “Diffindo!” The cover fell off. He did the same thing with the brand-new book (Hermione looked scandalized). He then swapped the covers, tapped each, and said, “Reparo! There sat the Prince's copy, disguised as a new book, and there sat the fresh copy from Flourish and Blotts, looking thoroughly secondhand. “I'll give Slughorn back the new one, he can't complain, it cost nine Galleons.” Hermione pressed her lips together, looking angry and disapproving, but was distracted by a third owl landing in front of her carrying that day's copy of the Daily Prophet. She unfolded it hastily and scanned the front page. (220)
Harry switches the covers so he can keep the used one. We're shown again how much Hermione loves books by her being scandalized by Harry taking off the covers! She's disapproving because Harry has no intentions to stop cheating, instead he came up with a plan to keep cheating.
Harry had already attempted a few of the Prince's self-invented spells. There had been a hex that caused toenails to grow alarmingly fast (he had tried this on Crabbe in the corridor, with very entertaining results); a jinx that glued the tongue to the roof of the mouth (which he had twice used, to general applause, on an unsuspecting Argus Filch); and, perhaps the most useful of all, Muffliato, a spell that filled the ears of anyone nearby with an unidentifiable buzzing, so that lengthy conversations could be held in class without being overheard. The only person who did not find these charms amusing was Hermione, who maintained a rigidly disapproving expression throughout and refused to talk at all if Harry had used the Muffliato spell on anyone in the vicinity. (238)
So Harry has officially turned into “James Potter the Bully v.2”. He hexes both Crabbe and Filch, who did nothing to him, just for fun and because he doesn't like them. They are also weaker than him, and they had no chance to fairly fight back. He uses the Muffliato spell to talk for a while during class, when he should be working. And he wonders why Hermione is upset?! She has every right to be upset! Her best friend has gone from standing up to bullies to being one!
By the time they had got dressed, padding themselves out with several of Mrs. Weasley's hand- knitted sweaters and carrying cloaks, scarves, and gloves, Ron's shock had subsided and he had decided that Harry's new spell was highly amusing; so amusing, in fact, that he lost no time in regaling Hermione with the story as they sat down for breakfast. “... and then there was another flash of light and I landed on the bed again!” Ron grinned, helping himself to sausages. Hermione had not cracked a smile during this anecdote, and now turned an expression of wintery disapproval upon Harry. “Was this spell, by any chance, another one from that potions book of yours?” she asked. Harry frowned at her. “Always jump to the worst conclusion, don't you?” “Was it?” “Well... yeah, it was, but so what?” “So you just decided to try out an unknown, handwritten incantation and see what would happen?” “Why does it matter if it's handwritten?” said Harry, preferring not to answer the rest of the question.
“Because it's probably not Ministry of Magic-approved,” said Hermione. “And also,” she added, as Harry and Ron rolled their eyes, “because I'm starting to think this Prince character was a bit dodgy.” Both Harry and Ron shouted her down at once. “It was just a laugh!” said Ron, upending a ketchup bottle over his sausages. “Just a laugh, Hermione, that's all!” “Dangling people upside down by the ankle?” said Hermione. “Who puts their time and energy into making up spells like that?” “Fred and George,” said Ron, shrugging, “it's their kind of thing. And, er -” “My dad,” said Harry. He had only just remembered. “What?” said Ron and Hermione together. “My dad used this spell,” said Harry. “I – Lupin told me.” This last part was not true; in fact, Harry had seen his father use the spell on Snape, but he had never told Ron and Hermione about that particular excursion into the Pensieve. Now, however, a wonderful possibility occurred to him. Could the Half-Blood Prince possibly be -? “Maybe your dad did use it, Harry,” said Hermione, “but he's not the only one. We've seen a whole bunch of people use it, in case you've forgotten. Dangling people in the air. Making them float along, asleep, helpless.” Harry stared at her. With a sinking feeling, he too remembered the behavior of the Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup. Ron came to his aid. “That was different,” he said robustly. “They were abusing it, Harry and his dad were just having a laugh. You don't like the Prince, Hermione,” he added, pointing a sausage at her sternly, “because he's better than you at Potions -” “It's got nothing to do with that!” said Hermione, her cheeks reddening. “I just think it's very irresponsible to start performing spells when you don't even know what they're for, and stop talking about 'the Prince' as if it's his title, I bet it's just a stupid nickname, and it doesn't seem as though he was a very nice person to me!” (239-41)
So. Here it is. The statement I've heard from fans – Hermione's upset because Harry's better than her at Potions.

This is a very important part, so let's take the time to talk about it.

Now, I'm a Snape fan. I personally don't agree with Hermione about him being dodgy, but I can see how she would get that impression from the book. However, I have no problem admitting that Snape is a Dark Wizard. The spells he created are mostly Dark. Now, Dark doesn't equal Evil. But that's a very complicated and touchy subject for the fandom, and it's not the point.

The point is everything Hermione says is correct. Harry had no idea what the spell would do. Harry knows she's right, that's why he doesn't want to answer the question. The Death Eaters did use this spell.

Ron steps in, robustly. Robust means “rough or crude; boisterous”. He's being loud and crude. I also disagree with everything he says. The Marauder's – and the Twin's – are bullies. The Marauder's used this spell so they could publicly sexually assault another student. They hang him upside-down so his pants(underwear) show and then threaten to take them off – we don't know if they go through with that threat, as Harry gets pulled out right when James was about to. This is not funny. This is not harmless. This is bullying.

As for Hermione, she knows that. She also blushes when Ron accuses her of only disliking the Prince because she's not the best at Potions anymore. To blush means “a reddening of the face, especially from modesty, embarrassment, or shame”. She's upset because that's not it at all. It's Ron's excuse. If that was why Hermione didn't like the book, we would have heard it before now, and she wouldn't have had all the true points she had.
“And incidentally,” said Hermione, after a few moments, “you need to be careful.” “For the last time,” said Harry, speaking in a slightly hoarse whisper after three-quarters of an hour of silence, “I am not giving back this book, I've learned more from the Half-Blood Prince than Snape or Slughorn have taught me in -” “I'm not talking about your stupid so-called Prince,” said Hermione, giving his book a nasty look as though it had been rude to her. (305) 
“They didn't have the potions with them in the bathroom,” said Hermione scornfully. “They were just discussing tactics. As I doubt whether even the Half-Blood Prince” - she gave the book another nasty look - “could dream up an antidote for a dozen different love potions at once, I'd just invite someone to go with you, that'll stop all the others thinking they've still got a chance. It's tomorrow night, they're getting desperate.” (306)
Hermione's not afraid to show her disliking of the Prince's textbook.
“It's a shame that the Prince won't be able to help you much with this, Harry,” she said brightly as she straightened up. “You have to understand the principles involved this time. No shortcuts or cheats!” (375) 
Hermione was now waving her wand enthusiastically over her cauldron. Unfortunately, they could not copy the spell she was doing because she was now so good at nonverbal incantations that she did not need to say the words aloud. Ernie Macmillan, however, was muttering, “Specialis Revelio!” over his cauldron, which sounded impressive, so Harry and Ron hastened to imitate him. It took Harry only five minutes to realize that his reputation as the best potion-maker in the class was crashing around his ears. Slughorn had peered hopefully into his cauldron on his first circuit of the dungeon, preparing to exclaim in delight as he usually did, and instead had withdrawn his head hastily, coughing, as the smell of bad eggs overwhelmed him. Hermione's expression could not have been any smugger; she had loathed being outperformed in every Potions class. She was now decanting the mysteriously separated ingredients of her poison into ten different crystal phials. More to avoid watching this irritating sight than anything else, Harry bent over the Half-Blood Prince's book and turned a few pages with unnecessary force. (376-7)
Or, Harry, she means what she says and she's glad you can't cheat your way through the assignment. That is what she's been saying all along – that you're cheating.
Hermione, who was sweaty-faced and had soot on her nose, looked livid. Her half-finished antidote, comprising fifty-two ingredients, including a chunk of her own hair, bubbled sluggishly behind Slughorn, who had eyes for nobody but Harry. “And you thought of a bezoar all by yourself, did you, Harry?” she asked through gritted teeth. (378) 
The only person in the room looking angrier than Hermione was Malfoy, who, Harry was pleased to see, had spilled something that looked like cat-sick over himself. Before either of them could express their fury that Harry had come top of the class by not doing any work, the bell rang. (379) 
Neither Ron nor Hermione wished him luck as they left; both looked rather annoyed. (379) 
Neither Ron nor Hermione was at all sympathetic when Harry told them of this disastrous interview. Hermione was still seething at the way Harry had triumphed without doing the work properly. (380)
If I were Hermione, I would be furious too! Not only did Harry cheat, but he did absolutely no work! Hermione had done what looks like to be the best antidote there, put in a lot of work, and she got no credit because Slughorn was focusing on Harry. Not cool.
Harry wracked his brains over the next week as to how he was to persuade Slughorn to hand over the true memory, but nothing in the nature of a brain wave occurred and he was reduced to doing what he did increasingly these days when at a loss: poring over his Potions book, hoping that the Prince would have scribbled something useful in a margin, as he had done so many times before. “You won't find anything in there,” said Hermione firmly, late on Sunday evening. “Don't start, Hermione,” said Harry. “If it hadn't been for the Prince, Ron wouldn't be sitting here right now.” “He would if you'd just listened to Snape in our first year,” said Hermione dismissively. Harry ignored her. He had just found an incantation (“Sectumsempra!”) scrawled in a margin above the intriguing words “For Enemies,” and was itching to try it out, but thought it best not to in front of Hermione. Instead, he surreptitiously folded down the corner of the page. (447-8)
Hermione is right – Snape mentioned it in their first class. Harry also remembers what Snape had said when he sees the note in the book (377), so his statement isn't entirely correct. Hermione is also right that there is nothing in the Prince's book to help him directly with Slughorn (the only way it helps is in a roundabout way as Harry uses the Luck potion that he won thanks to the Prince).
“I won't say 'I told you so,'” said Hermione, an hour later in the common room. “Leave it, Hermione,” said Ron angrily. Harry had never made it to dinner; he had no appetite at all. He had just finished telling Ron, Hermione, and Ginny what had happened, not that there seemed to have been much need. The news had traveled very fast: Apparently Moaning Myrtle had taken it upon herself to pop up in every bathroom in the castle to tell the story; Malfoy had already been visited in the hospital wing by Pansy Parkinson, who had lost no time in vilifying Harry far and wide, and Snape had told the staff precisely what had happened. Harry had already been called out of the common room to endure fifteen highly unpleasant minutes in the company of Professor McGonagall, who had told him he was lucky not to have been expelled and that she supported wholeheartedly Snape's punishment of detention every Saturday until the end of term. “I told you there was something wrong with that Prince person,” Hermione said, evidently unable to stop herself. “And I was right, wasn't I?” “No, I don't think you were,” said Harry stubbornly. He was having a bad enough time without Hermione lecturing him; the looks on the Gryffindor team's faces when he had told them he would not be able to play on Saturday had been the worst punishment of all. He could feel Ginny's eyes on him now but did not meet them; he did not want to see disappointment or anger there. He had just told her that she would be playing Seeker on Saturday and that Dean would be rejoining the team as Chaser in her place. Perhaps, if they won, Ginny and Dean would make up during the post-match euphoria... The thought went through Harry like an icy knife... “Harry,” said Hermione, “how can you still stick up for that book when that spell -” “Will you stop harping on about the book!” snapped Harry. “The Prince only copied it out! It's not like he was advising anyone to use it! For all we know, he was making a note of something that had been used against him!” “I don't believe this,” said Hermione. “You're actually defending -” “I'm not defending what I did!” said Harry quickly. “I wish I hadn't done it, and not just because I've got about a dozen detentions. You know I wouldn't have used a spell like that, not even on Malfoy, but you can't blame the Prince, he hadn't 'try this out, it's really good' – he was just making notes for himself, wasn't he, not for anyone else...” “Are you telling me,” said Hermione, “that you're going to go back -?” “And get the book? Yeah, I am,” said Harry forcefully. “Listen, without the Prince I'd never have won the Felix Felicis, I'd never have known how to save Ron from poisoning, I'd never have -” “- got a reputation for Potions brilliance you don't deserve,” said Hermione nastily. “Give it a rest, Hermione!” said Ginny, and Harry was so amazed, so grateful, he looked up. “By the sound of it, Malfoy was trying to use an Unforgivable Curse, you should be glad Harry had something good up his sleeve!” “Well, of course I'm glad Harry wasn't cursed!” said Hermione, clearly stung. “But you can't call that Sectumsempra spell good, Ginny, look where it's landed him! And I'd have thought, seeing what this has done to your chances in the match -” “Oh, don't start acting as though you understand Quidditch,” snapped Ginny,” you'll only embarrass yourself.” (528-30)and: By Saturday morning, whatever he might have told Hermione, Harry would have gladly exchanged all the Felix Felicis in the world to be walking down to the Quidditch pitch with Ron, Ginny, and the others. (531)
Apparently Harry is not feeling truly guilty about his actions, as he keeps focusing on how horrible it is to not be playing in the Quidditch final. He says he “wishes he hadn't done it”, not that he feels bad for doing it, or that he feels awful over using it. Those are very subtle but different statements. He then tries to excuse his behavior, behavior he knows was wrong, as he tells Hermione she wasn't right 'stubbornly'. Stubborn means “having or showing dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, esp. in spite of good arguments or reasons”.

We know that Hermione is right. We also see her point about using a spell you know nothing about – the passage we looked at before this one shows Harry “itching to try it out”. Harry got lucky the first time, this time he didn't.

Harry says “you know I wouldn't have used a spell like that, not even on Malfoy”. But do we, Harry? You've been using other spells to bully people you don't like all year. Even now, you're trying to convince us that the Prince never meant for anyone to use it, he just wrote it down! You're in the wrong, Harry, and you obviously can't accept that.

Harry is also wrong about how without the Prince he would never have been able to save Ron, we talked about that above. And I don't think Hermione cares about the prizes Harry got by cheating, even if it did help him get the memory from Slughorn.

All of this brings us to Ginny, and her attack on Hermione. Ginny is completely out of line here. She calls Sectumsempra “something good”, like it's a cool new spell. It's not. It does not matter what curse Draco was going to use, two wrongs do not make a right. And she accuses Hermione of wanting Harry to be cursed, which we know is the last thing Hermione would ever want! Hermione is very hurt by that statement, as she is “clearly stung”. To sting emotionally means “to cause mental or moral anguish”. She's very upset that Ginny could actually think that. She doesn't know where this attack is coming from either, as Ginny is supposed to be her best female friend. So, confused and hurt, she replies that “of course” she didn't want Harry to get hurt, but that Ginny can't excuse that spell. She then, knowing how much Quidditch means to Ginny, says she thought the Ginny would be upset over Harry not playing, like the rest of the team. Ginny then really insults her by telling her she knows nothing about Quidditch, and that she shouldn't pretend to.

Frankly, if I were Hermione and my friends were being that horrible to me, I'd probably run away crying. Hermione did nothing to Ginny, and Ginny just goes after her. It's horrible, and it doesn't show Harry or Ginny in a good light.
“The so-called Half-Blood Prince.” “Oh, not this again,” he groaned. “Will you please drop it?” He had not dared to return to the Room of Requirement to retrieve his book, and his performance in Potions was suffering accordingly (thought Slughorn, who approved of Ginny, had jocularly attributed this to Harry being lovesick). But Harry was sure that Snape had not yet given up hope of laying hands on the Prince's book, and was determined to leave it where it was while Snape remained on the lookout. “I'm not dropping it,” said Hermione firmly, “until you've heard me out. Now, I've been trying to find out a bit about who might make a hobby of inventing Dark spells -” “He didn't make a hobby of it -” “He, he – who says it's a he?” “We've been through this,” said Harry crossly. “Prince, Hermione, Prince!” “Right!” said Hermione, red patches blazing in her cheeks as she pulled a very old piece of newsprint out of her pocket and slammed it down on the table in front of Harry. “Look at that! Look at the picture!” Harry picked up the crumbling piece of paper and stared at the moving photograph, yellowed with age; Ron leaned over for a look too. The picture showed a skinny girl of around fifteen. She was not pretty; she looked simultaneously cross and sullen, with heavy brows and a long, pallid face. Underneath the photograph was the caption: EILEEN PRINCE, CAPTAIN OF THE HOGWARTS GOBSTONES TEAM.
“So?” said Harry, scanning the short news item to which the picture belonged; it was a rather dull story about interschool competitions. “Her name was Eileen Prince. Prince, Harry.” They looked at each other, and Harry realized what Hermione was trying to say. He burst out laughing. “No way.” “What?” “You think she was the Half-Blood...? Oh, come on.” “Well, why not? Harry, there aren't any real princes in the Wizarding world! It's either a nickname, a made-up title somebody's given themselves, or it could be their actual name, couldn't it? No, listen! If, say, her father was a wizard whose surname was Prince, and her mother was a Muggle, then that would make her a 'half-blood Prince'!” “Yeah, very ingenious, Hermione...” “But it would! Maybe she was proud of being half a Prince!” “Listen, Hermione, I can tell it's not a girl. I can just tell.” “The truth is that you don't think a girl would have been clever enough,” said Hermione angrily. “How can I have hung around with you for five years and not think girls are clever?” said Harry, stung by this. “It's the way he writes, I just know the Prince was a bloke, I can tell. This girl hasn't got anything to do with it. Where did you get this anyway?” “The library,” said Hermione predictably. “There's a whole collection of old Prophets up there. Well, I'm going to find out more about Eileen Prince if I can.” “Enjoy yourself,” said Harry irritably. “I will,” said Hermione. “And the first place I'll look,” she shot at him, as she reached the portrait hole, “is records of old Potions awards!” Harry scowled after her for a moment, then continued his contemplation of the darkening sky. “She's just never got over you outperforming her in Potions,” said Ron, returning to his copy of A Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. “You don't think I'm mad, wanting that book back, do you?” “'Course not,” said Ron robustly. “He was a genius, the Prince. Anyway... without his bezoar tip...” He drew his finger significantly across his throat. “I wouldn't be here to discuss it, would I? I mean, I'm not saying that spell you used on Malfoy was great -” “Nor am I,” said Harry quickly. “But he healed all right, didn't he? Back on his feet in no time.” “Yeah,” said Harry; this was perfectly true, although his conscience squirmed slightly all the same. “Thanks to Snape...” (537-9)
A few things about this scene.

First, we see that Hermione has been doing a lot of research on a troubling topic – that is very In Character for her. Harry might not think that the Prince is a problem, but she does, and she's going to do everything she can to figure it out.

Second, we see that Harry is slightly remorseful about using that spell on Draco. It's not enough, but it's better than nothing.

Third, Ron once again talks “robustly” and I once again disagree with everything he says. Hermione's not upset because she's not the best, and we've gone over the proof to back that up; just like we've gone over the fact that Harry didn't need the Prince's book for the Bezoar. He's also dismissing and excusing what Harry did to Draco, which is not alright. It does not matter how long it took Draco to heal. Harry should not have used that spell. End of discussion.

Of course, Ginny, Ron, and Harry disagree with me and Hermione on that.
“Well, it's just that I was sort of right about the Half-Blood Prince business,” she said tentatively. “D'you have to rub it in, Hermione? How d'you think I feel about that now?” “No – no – Harry, I didn't mean that!” she said hastily, looking around to check that they were not being overheard. “It's just that I was right about Eileen Prince once owning the book. You see... she was Snape's mother!” “I thought she wasn't much of a looker,” said Ron. Hermione ignored him. “I was going through the rest of the old Prophets and there was a tiny announcement about Eileen Prince marrying a man called Tobias Snape, and then later an announcement saying that she'd given birth to a -” “- murderer,” spat Harry. “Well... yes,” said Hermione. “So... I was sort of right. Snape must have been proud of being 'half a Prince,' you see? Tobias Snape was a Muggle from what it said in the Prophet.” (637)
We see that Hermione was partly right and that she did do more research on the Prince. I didn't type out all of their conversation on Snape and his book, only this part, because this is the only part with Hermione providing new information.

Now, we are going onto our last section of this essay. Other incidents of In-Character behavior from Hermione.
“Hold it!” said Hermione, throwing out an arm and halting a passing fourth year, who was attempting to push past her with a lime-green disk clutched tightly in his hand. “Fanged Frisbees are banned, hand it over,” she told him sternly. The scowling boy handed over the snarling Frisbee, ducked under her arm, and took off after his friends. (172)
That's our rule-following Hermione!
Ron and Harry were the last two in the changing room. They were just about to leave when Hermione entered. She was twisting her Gryffindor scarf in her hands and looked upset but determined. “I want a word with you, Harry.” She took a deep breath. “You shouldn't have done it. You heard Slughorn, it's illegal.” (298)
Like in the third book, with the Firebolt, Hermione is not afraid to do the right thing. Even if it means Harry being mad at her.
“Why didn't you confiscate them then?” demanded Harry. It seemed extraordinary that Hermione's mania for upholding rules could have abandoned her at this crucial juncture. “They didn't have the potions with them in the bathroom,” said Hermione scornfully. “They were just discussing tactics. As I doubt whether even the Half-Blood Prince” - she gave the book another nasty look - “could dream up an antidote for a dozen different love potions at once, I'd just invite someone to go with you, that'll stop at others thinking they've still got a chance. It's tomorrow night, they're getting desperate.” (306) 
“You know a lot about it.” Hermione gave him the kind of nasty look she had just given his copy of Advanced Potion- Making. “It was all on the back of the bottles they showed Ginny and me in the summer,” she said coldly. “I don't go around putting potions in people's drinks... or pretending to, either, which is just as bad...” (306-7)
Again, a mention of Hermione upholding the rules. She also has a good point about Harry and the Felix Felicis.
“What is this?” asked Hermione, still looking shocked by these sudden appearances. “What's going on, Harry?” Harry hesitated before answering, because he had not told Hermione about setting Kreacher and Dobby to tail Malfoy; house-elves were always such a touchy subject with her. “Well... they've been following Malfoy for me,” he said. “Night and day,” croaked Kreacher. “Dobby has not slept for a week, Harry Potter!” said Dobby proudly, swaying where he stood. Hermione looked indignant. “You haven't slept, Dobby? But surely, Harry, you didn't tell him not to -” “No, of course I didn't,” said Harry quickly. “Dobby, you can sleep, all right? But has either of you found out anything?” he hastened to ask, before Hermione could intervene again. (451) 
“Kreacher's done well too,” said Hermione kindly; but far from looking grateful, Kreacher averted he huge, bloodshot eyes and croaked at the ceiling, “The Mudblood is speaking to Kreacher, Kreacher will pretend he cannot hear -” (453) 
Harry saw, in his mind's eye, the expression on Hermione's face if she ever heard about this abuse of house-elves, and decided never to mention it to her. (485)
While the house-elf subplot is not as big in this book; understandably, because of the war and bigger/more important plot lines, it is still here. Indignant means “feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment”. Hermione still cares about them, and their rights.
Meanwhile, the Hogwarts library had failed Hermione for the first time in living memory. She was so shocked, she even forgot that she was annoyed at Harry for his trick with the bezoar. “I haven't found one single explanation for what Horcruxes do!” she told him. “Not a single one! I've been right through the restricted section and even in the most horrible books, where they tell you how to brew the most gruesome potions – nothing! All I could find was this, in the introduction to Magick Moste Evile – listen – 'Of the Horcrux, wickedest of magical inventions, we shall not speak nor give direction...' I mean, why mention it then?” she said impatiently, slamming the old book shut; it let out a ghostly wail. “Oh, shut up,” she snapped, stuffing it back into her bag. (281)
Even though Hermione has been rightly upset with Harry for his trick in Potions' class, she has still be researching all she can to solve their latest problem. She might be mad at him, but she will never stop helping him. This is something we have seen multiple times in the past, with the Chamber of Secrets and the Triwizard Tournament, being just two of the bigger examples of her helping him no matter what.
A few days before the match against Ravenclaw, Harry found himself walking down to dinner alone from the common room, Ron having rushed off into a nearby bathroom to throw up yet again, and Hermione having dashed off to see Professor Vector about a mistake she thought she might have made in her last Arithmancy essay. (521)
Hermione is still high-strung about her schoolwork!
He had shown Hermione the note inside the locket the morning after Dumbledore's death, and although she had not immediately recognized the initials as belonging to some obscure wizard about whom she had been reading, she had since been rushing off to the library a little more often than was strictly necessary for somebody who had no homework to do. (636)
Like with the Horcruxes, we see Hermione doing all the research she can.

This brings us to the end of this essay. I hope I have helped you see that the Hermione we love is still in there, even in her darkest time. Thank you for reading.

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