But I get the idea that JKR was... er... sort of Steve Kloves-ish in this book. Hang on. Hold on to your pitchforks for just one minute, and allow me to explain.
I'm trying to close my eyes to it, I really am.. but there's no escaping it that Ron just isn't as good as Harry or Hermione are. JKR gives both Harry and Hermione spectacular talents - Harry with his flying and Defence capabilities, Hermione with her academic talents and passion for causes.
Where does this leave Ron? Even though Harry doesn't think so, Ron seems to be consistently worse at academics than even Harry is. His potions are always worse (no, I'm not talking about HBP potions - look at OotP), he's the one who's most often seen copying from Hermione, he can't pass his Apparation exam on his first try even though Harry, who's supposed to be on equal footing with Ron in this skill, manages the supposedly more complicated Side-Along-Apparation with Dumbledore. On his first try.
Ron has confidence problems that interfere with his quidditch abilities and is prone to jealousy. And worst of all, Luna is right - there is a definite streak of cruelty in his words, sometimes: the way he speaks of people to Harry and Hermione, the way he speaks to Moaning Myrtle in book 6... there are many examples. No doubt, he considers these comments funny - which they are - but Harry manages to be funny, too, without being cruel.
Ron is being undermined by JKR (don't jump, I'm sure it is unintentional) in a much more subtle way, too: by oversight and omission. For example: the only spectacular talent that Ron has shown so far is his ability to play chess. Right up until after OotP, I was hopeful that JKR would expand and extrapolate these abilities of his, so that a more solid groundwork would be laid for the oft-predicted General!Ron in book 7. But the penultimate book has come and gone, and Ron's ability in chess remains just that: a knack for playing a game.
Another example: Ron in the DA. In the beginning days of the DA, everybody's still learning and making mistakes, and so when we hear about Ron not being very successful at things, it rankles slightly, but is OK. But later, when Harry comments on how much people are improving, there is absolutely [i]no[/i] mention of Ron. We know Hermione and Neville mastered the Shield Charm - what about Ron? We see Hermione's, Cho's, Seamus's and even Lavender's attempts at the Patronus Charm - anybody have a clue what Ron was doing during this lesson? We don't even know if he managed to conjure one (though, if he didn't manage when Cho did it in spite of her hosepipe-ishness in OotP, I'm going to start throwing things).
Yes... we know that Ron is loyal and funny and brave, and therein lies his greatness and his value to the trio... But step outside the skin of a fan and ask yourself: can't a case be made that Ron is not truly funny or loyal or brave? Because JKR has called all these qualities into question many times - Ron being scared of spiders, Ron not being loyal enough to not want to hurt Hagrid's feelings as much as Harry and Hermione seem to do, Ron's jokes being 'truthfully' called cruel by Luna. I know these are surfacial accusations, and being both a Ron fan and an intelligent reader, I can see how these accusations don't take into consideration the series as a whole... but honestly, JKR isn't helping by calling into question the only things Ron seems to have going for him.
It also doesn't help that Hermione and Harry sometimes seem to patronise Ron - they treat him rather the way they treat Hagrid, with kid-gloves on. Remember Harry and Hermione agreeing not to tell Ron that Hermione Confunded McLaggen? Wasn't this eerily like the trio telling Hagrid that Grubbly-Plank was an awful teacher, just to mollify him? It was just sad that sometimes, Ron wasn't being treated as an equal in the trio.
It's JKR's characters, and perhaps, the dynamic between the three friends was intentional, but it seems awfully wrong to me that both Harry and Hermione demand respect in the trio, and get it, and Ron, the only one with low self-esteem, is being made more and more the butt of jokes - or the comic relief.
At the end of HBP, I'm left asking the same question that people who only watch the HP movies have: what does a girl like Hermione see in a guy like Ron?
And weirdly, I hate myself for asking that.
One Other Thing
What's this about Hermione kissing Krum? I thought that was only going to happen in the movie! There's a little more room for justification and argument in this matter, of course, but I think there was absolutely no indication in canon that Hermione, for her part, harboured romantic feelings for Krum. Sure, she was flattered that he asked, but she seemed to be aware of the mutual attraction between her and Ron - or, at least, her own interest in him. Evidence: she seemed to be stung, right from the start, that Ron hadn't noticed she was a girl soon enough to ask her. The Yule brawl happened right after the Yule Ball, which shows Hermione was aware of Ron's feelings during the ball. She declines Krum's invitation to come to Bulgaria. In OotP, she calls Krum a pen-pal. There was no indication that she was lying at any of these times. Sure, she was frustrated that Ron was being so thick about it all, but in the simpler world of GoF, she wouldn't have gone and snogged Krum just for revenge!
The only explanation I can see for this sudden bit of information - that Hermione snogged Krum - is either as a plot device to create tension between the two... and I doubt JKR is unaware that the advantage to this would be that Steve Kloves's invention for GoF the movie would become canon.
And I think there is no doubt that Hermione did kiss Krum - Ginny wouldn't lie. She is gutsy enough to stand up to her brothers to say what she thinks, she wouldn't need to invent something like this just to support her own actions.
Also, I don't think she's making it up in order to hurt Ron, because at this point, she's almost crying... and tellingly, she first mentions Harry snogging Cho, which clearly is the reason why she's in tears.
Anyway... Ginny definitely wouldn't lie about something like this because it would also hurt Hermione, wouldn't it?
So. What do you think? Is Steve Kloves really influencing JKR, or was he right about Ron's character all along?