One of my least favorite things in the Prisoner of Azkaban film is the handling of the Scabbers-Crookshanks narrative, and more specifically how in the movies it’s a far more one-sided fight completely in favor of Hermione. In the movie we get one scene of Ron warning Hermione to keep her cat away from Scabbers—a Scabbers who is apparently not ill or who Ron isn’t bothering to medicate like in the books, and a Scabbers that Ron can apparently almost forget to bring to Hogwarts necessitating his mother to run after the train to give the rat to him.
Jump to Scabbers suddenly being missing, Ron accusing Crookshanks with no evidence and Hermione defending her cat. The two are angry, but there is no real emotion, no actual hurt behind the words. Crookshanks could have accidentally spilled Ron’s inkwell and he would sound just as angry.
Then not minutes later, they are in Hagrid’s Hut where their friend miraculously produces the rat—not without chiding Ron “you should take better care of your pets” which automatically frames the situation as Ron’s fault to the audience. To drive the point further home Hermione, rather than simply be relieved and happy for her friend that his pet was not actually eaten, immediately starts in with “I think you owe someone an apology”. Ron purposefully acts obtuse, and further removes himself from the audience’s sympathy by replying “Next time I see Crookshanks, I’ll let him know” allowing Hermione a self-righteous “I meant me!” as if this is the greatest affront of her life.
And none of this is how it is in the book. At all.
Firstly, Crookshanks makes multiple attempts on Scabbers’ life throughout the novel in front of the Trio. This is partly because Hermione continues to allow her cat near Scabbers despite Ron repeatedly telling her not to. Because he cares about Scabbers. Despite him being a hand-me-down and a bit dull, Scabbers is his pet and Ron cares about him. He gets him—likely expensive—tonic when Scabbers begins losing weight and fur, he takes to carrying him around to keep him safer from Crookshanks. Scabbers is his pet and we are shown that Ron would be very upset if he were to lose him.
This sets the stage for when he does, when Pettigrew as Scabbers fakes his death and frames Crookshanks. Keeping in mind Ron’s feelings about Scabbers this whole previous year, his resulting actions make perfect sense. He is incredibly upset with Hermione and confronts her, only for her to deny her cat had any involvement.
And yeah, maybe it seems like he’s being mean to Hermione by shutting her out—something that Harry also does during the Firebolt fight that is conveniently left out of the movie—but look at it from Ron’s point of view. Hermione’s pet was attempting to kill his pet all year. He repeatedly requested she keep her pet away from his, and Hermione largely did not respect that boundary. When confronted with pretty damning evidence considering the circumstances, Hermione still refused to admit any possible blame and defended her cat who almost certainly—again, considering the circumstances—ate his rat. And just a note, Harry is equally convinced Crookshanks did it, even if he’s not as emotionally charged in his conviction. Why shouldn’t Ron be angry with her? Why shouldn’t he want her to admit her cat’s fault? His friend refused to listen to him all year and is now seemingly disregarding his feelings because she’s too proud to admit she’s wrong.
But here’s the thing. Once Hermione comes to Harry and Ron with the news about Buckbeak losing his trial—something far more important—they make amends. In fact it is Ron who does the most. Just to refresh everyone’s memory:
“They can’t do this,” said Harry. “They can’t. Buckbeak isn’t dangerous.”
“Malfoy’s dad frightened the Committee into it,” said Hermione, wiping her eyes. “You know what he’s like. They’re a bunch of doddery old fools, and they were scared. There’ll be an appeal, though, there always is. Only I can’t see any hope…Nothing will have changed.”
“Yeah it will,” said Ron fiercely. “You won’t have to do all the work alone this time, Hermione. I’ll help.”
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.
“Oh—well—he was old,” said Ron, looking thoroughly relieved that she had let go of him. “And he was a bit useless. You never know, Mum and Dad might get me an owl now.”
(Prizoner of Azkaban, pages 291-292, Scholastic Hardback Edition)
Harry barely says anything in this scene, and it is mostly Ron who extends the olive branch. This makes sense as the matter primarily concerns him and Hermione, but I just want to make it clear that Ron is not pressured into forgiving her, he is not grudging about it. In fact, he is already offering her his help before she even apologizes, and once she does he immediately tries to downplay his hurt feelings over Scabbers’ loss—mostly out of a fourteen year-old’s discomfort with crying and hugging from girls they may or may not have a developing crush on. He doesn’t gloat over the apology or being right, and he instantly drops any hostility.
This is chapter fifteen out of a twenty-two chapter book. Hermione and Ron are not feuding up until nearly the end of third year, as depicted in the movie. Hermione does in fact apologize about Scabbers while Ron is not an ass about it, and the narrative leaves them off on mostly even ground. The rest of the book consists of Ron working on the appeal for Hermione as she prepares for all her exams, worrying over her impossible schedule, her health, and so on. They barely even bicker that entire duration.
Ron is a great friend to Hermione. The movies just didn’t want to show that.