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Dumbledore's Army

The Quintessential Weasley: A Development

An essay by acemyth

July 7, 2003

Joanne Kathleen Rowling said once that she wanted her series to mature with her readers; it undoubtedly has, and will continue to. Characters change, mature, refine themselves; blossom, wilt, defect, reform. By metamorphosis, they prove some of us wrong on what they truly were at heart, and then others of us right. Much like persons in our real lives so often do.

The case of Ginny Weasley will go down in the collective history of Harry Potter fans everywhere as one of the most fascinating- if abrupt- character transformations ever to occur in the series; from "Mommy, can I see Harry Potter, Pleeeasee?" in Harry Potter and The Philosophers' Stone to "You don't have to take that tone with me. I was just trying to see if I could help." in Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix, hers was a peculiar and excellent character arc, constructed slowly but surely by seemingly random glimpses throughout the first four books to explode outwards into a full-fledged character by the fifth. Her story, like that of so many other Harry Potter characters, is the story of a cardboard cut-out slowly acquiring an extra dimension.

In Philosophers' Stone, we were first introduced to her- holding her mother's hand, squeaking, and being an adorable and inconvenient embodiment of the naïve and slightly immature. The last we had seen of her was running, half crying and half laughing, after the train that took away four of her brothers, then falling back and stopping to wave. It was a touching scene and it was then that the basis of her character was inlaid: there was a small, red-haired girl by the name of Ginny who belonged to the Weasley family, who laughed, cried, fell back and waved. And that, for that book, was who Ginny Weasley was. Another case, even if slightly redundant, to showcase the fact that everybody knows and worships Harry Potter, unless they're your classic cardboard cut-out hero foils; Another case, even if slightly redundant, to showcase the fact that members of the Weasley family are endearing, vivacious people, unless they're Percy Weasley. Philosophers' Stone was the simplistic period bursting with underlying generalisations and stereotypical characters, and yet another stereotypical character serving to emphasise yet another underlying generalisation was the ultimate in almost demanding not to give the character second thought. The rest of Philosophers' Stone followed suit and did not mention her once, save for a cameo at the last page serving no other purpose than reminding us that she exists.

Chamber of Secrets was the second biggest transformation her character had undergone in its arc, and was, in many ways, the defining factor of what her character was thought to be throughout the three-year gap between Goblet of Fire and Order of The Phoenix; another layer was added upon the frail basis created in the first book. It was established that she was suffering from a crush on the series protagonist, Harry Potter. Not the mindless fangirlish entity some made her out to be, yet not the mature, loving, tortured soul that others preferred to present her as, but a regular eleven-year-old with that painful crush so many of us are familiar with and would rather repress. Chamber of Secrets was also the chapter that marked her loss of innocence. She had trusted a diary that pretended to be her friend and poured herself into him, only to be possessed, manipulated and used, and just as she had lost a portion of her innocence, so did the series. We could see underpinnings of the more mature, confident Ginny- overriding the force of the twisted diary and flushing it down the toilet at one point, standing up to Draco Malfoy with a proclamation that Harry Potter did not really want all the fame Malfoy so ridiculed him for indulging in at another- side by side with the immature girl from Philosophers' Stone, worrying about herself being expelled from school before worrying about the victims, allegedly writing a silly valentine, blushing, giggling over Percy having a girlfriend, being her eleven-year-old self. It was her crush on Harry Potter- and her horrible, year-long battle with the sixteen-year-old Lord Voldemort, culminating at the Chamber of Secrets- that first set her apart and defined her as a character in her own right, rather than a vague Weasley entity. She essentially was her crush on Harry and her possession by Tom, and that was the reason her grand transformation later in the series was so jarring- it shook the very foundations our, and Harry's, view of her leaned upon.

Prisoner of Azkaban was Ginny's well-deserved sabbatical. Her character stayed relatively static, disturbed only to catch Harry's eye and grin once, giving us a short glimpse of her mischievous, fiery self- and "looking as bad as Harry felt" when affected by Dementors, showing that she still carries the trauma from her first year with her. The lack of new development had left her defined as "the girl with the crush" while the world around her matured in the minds of the readers, which created misguided, and sometimes even spiteful, interpretations of what she was in essence, and doubly so what she was, in essence, destined to be. Ginny was never supposed to be a hated character; At worst, she could have been perceived as a slight nuisance up until the point where Minerva McGonagall said "Ginny Weasley" and Ron slid silently to the floor in Chamber of Secrets. The paragon of overbearing fanboyism was Colin Creevey, and Harry's reaction to him categorized him distinctly as a character meant annoy the reader at least slightly. Not so with Ginny. Thus, another layer was added, through lack of development rather than development; a layer that made preferred assumptions and the benefit of doubt Ginny's new major defining factors, factors that remained crucial in interpreting her character up until her fourth year.

Through Goblet of Fire a critical change in Ginny's character occurred: specifically right before the Yule ball, she was starting to show other significant characteristics that were not Voldemort-induced trauma or chronic Harry-induced blushing. She comforted Ron after the latter's spectacular failure in asking Fleur out for a date; She kept Hermione's secret about whom the latter was going to the ball with, and kept her promise to go with Neville Longbottom despite a chance given to her to go with Harry himself, with whom she was portrayed as still being very taken. That single scene was, in retrospect, the crucial middle-stage; her crush was still there, but it was no longer her sole defining trait. Regardless, many still considered it to be, which was to be expected from a fandom that was very obsessed about "pairing up" characters with one another. Even her newfound empathy and integrity were either interpreted as means to make her worthy of her crush, Harry, or nonexistent, misleading and covering her true worthless fangirl self, all depending on ship convenience. Sadly, a great character in the making was lost on the way.

Lost, yet refound.

Order of The Phoenix, the fifth in the series, finally let us form a coherent view of her character, putting personality fragments from countless angles together to create a three-dimensional character. We finally could see her for what she was, but Harry's skewed tunnel vision of her as "That girl with the crush on me and Ron's little sister" had prevented us from seeing; through the removal of her four-year-long crush, she was finally revealed for what she was- the quintessential Weasley, full of the Weasley spirit, traits and outlook on life- and a bit of her own unique defining lines.

'The meeting's over, you can come down and have dinner now. Everyone's dying to see you, Harry. And who's left all those Dungbombs outside the kitchen door?'

'Crookshanks,' said Ginny unblushingly. 'He loves playing with them.'

---

'Luna and I can stand at either end of the corridor,' said Ginny promptly, 'and warn people not to go down there because someone's let off a load of Garroting Gas.' Hermione looked surprised at the readiness with which Ginny had come up with this lie; Ginny shrugged and said, 'Fred and George were planning to do it before they left.' […] 'You can't come down here!' Ginny was calling to the crowd. 'No, sorry, you're going to have to go round by the swivelling staircase, someone's let off Garroting Gas just along here -'

They could hear people complaining; one surly voice said, 'I can't see no gas.'

That's because it's colourless,' said Ginny in a convincingly exasperated voice, 'but if you want to walk through it, carry on, then we'll have your body as proof for the next idiot who doesn't believe us.'

Slowly, the crowd thinned. The news about the Garroting Gas seemed to have spread; people were not coming this way any more.

The usage of "unblushingly" is all too fitting. We have come, by that point, to see Ginny as very blush-prone, and after lying one would expect smoke to come out of her ears. But it turns out that Ginny is quite good at keeping her emotions concealed. Perhaps four years of practicing it so she doesn't put elbows in butter dishes every time Harry's around had yielded results which came in useful in the long run. In terms of edging around the truth a bit with some quick thinking to avoid an unwanted situation, Ginny seems to be highly qualified.

            'Fine!' shouted Mrs Weasley. 'Fine! Ginny - BED!'

Ginny did not go quietly. They could hear her raging and storming at her mother all the way up the stairs, and when she reached the hall Mrs Black's ear-splitting shrieks were added to the din. Lupin hurried off to the portrait to restore calm. It was only after he had returned, closing the kitchen door behind him and taking his seat at the table again, that Sirius spoke.

Here is a glimpse of the obligatory and proverbial Weasley temper. Ginny is short and has six older brothers, and it was quite expected of her to develop an attitude and a fierce temper to overcompensate and deal with the situation.

            'Yeah, size is no guarantee of power,' said George. 'Look at Ginny.'

'What d'you mean?' said Harry.

'You've never been on the receiving end of one of her Bat-Bogey Hexes, have you?'

---

'How did you get away?' asked Harry in amazement, taking his wand from Ron.

'Couple of Stunners, a Disarming Charm, Neville brought off a really nice little Impediment Jinx,' said Ron airily, now handing back Hermione's wand, too. 'But Ginny was best, she got Malfoy - Bat Bogey Hex - it was superb, his whole face was covered in the great flapping things.

Turns out that Ginny is a powerful witch. Interesting concept since we still have not been introduced to the concept of varied magic "power" levels save for when dealing with Dumbledore, only the ability to execute various spells perfectly (Most pronounced in Hermione). What exactly is the factor that gives Ginny her power, then? Perhaps there are other things that factor into the power of the spell rather than execution, such as mindfulness, the will you put behind the spell, or simply a pre-defined "magic power" factor one gets from birth (which would explain squibs- law of averages demands a zero every once in a while). Another possibility is that what gives her that power is the Bit-'o'-Voldemort™ in her left from the Chamber of Secrets incident.

            'Don't call her a Mudblood!' said Ron and Ginny together, very angrily.

Here, rather than deduce about Ginny directly, we can understand some of her underlying driving forces through Ron, who we have known much better for four books. Ron puts a lot of importance in his friendships and is not afraid to stand up for them, even in the face of imminent danger (Cases in point being similar "Mudblood" incident in earlier books and most notably standing up on a broken leg to what he thought was a convicted mass-murderer, yelling that the latter will have to kill him if he wants to kill Harry). We can safely assume that Ginny shares those characteristics, at least in part.

            Mrs Weasley was wiping her face on her apron, and Fred, George and Ginny were doing a kind of war dance to a chant that went: 'He got off, he got off, he got off…"

            ---

            'Hem, hem,' said Ginny, in such a good imitation of Professor Umbridge that several people looked around in alarm and then laughed.

            ---

The thing about growing up with Fred and George,' said Ginny thoughtfully, 'is that you sort of start thinking anything's possible if you've got enough nerve.'

---

'Excuse me, but 1 care what happens to Sirius as much as you do!' said Ginny, her jaw set so that her resemblance to Fred and George was suddenly striking.

Rather than Ron, in those instances we can see a bit of Fred and George in Ginny. She's a lively girl with a healthy sense of humor, not afraid to take risks and has no problem with telling the truth to people's faces (which is heartily pronounced every time Harry enters an anger trance and Ginny is the only one who can get him out of it merely by boldly stating the truth).

            'I'm nobody,' said Neville hurriedly.

'No you're not,' said Ginny sharply. 'Neville Longbottom - Luna Lovegood. Luna's in my year, but in Ravenclaw.'

This statement, akin to Harry's "You're worth ten of Malfoy", is an indicator of an inner sense of justice, or in other words, an active conscious. It says a lot about Ginny's character that she wouldn't let Neville proclaim himself a nobody- she has to speak up and say, "No you're not". Such support is incalculably important for Neville, because as McGonagall said, "There is nothing wrong with [his] work except lack of self-confidence.", which holds perfectly true for his social life.

            'Yeah, the DA's good,' said Ginny. 'Only let's make it stand for Dumbledore's Army, because that's the Ministry's worst fear, isn't it?'

To come up with something like that requires something between quirkiness and a dry sense of humour, something that Ginny apparently has in her. It's important to note that in comparison, Angelina suggests the "Anti-Umbridge League", Fred suggested the "Ministry of Magic are Morons Group" and Cho suggested the "Defense Association". Cho's suggestion is your dull run-of-the-mill name that was bound to come up, so analysing it wouldn't yield much; However, it's important to note a common theme in Fred and Angelina's suggestions- they were both coming from a point of view of "What we stand against", while Ginny's name was fueled from understanding "What we stand for".

'Yeah?' growled Harry, his hands deep in his pockets as he watched the snow now falling thickly outside. 'All been talking about me, have you? Well, I'm getting used to it.'

'We wanted to talk to you, Harry,' said Ginny, 'but as you've been hiding ever since we got back -'

'I didn't want anyone to talk to me,' said Harry, who was feeling more and more nettled.

'Well, that was a bit stupid of you,' said Ginny angrily, 'seeing as you don't know anyone but me who's been possessed by You-Know-Who, and I can tell you how it feels.'

Harry remained quite still as the impact of these words hit him. Then he wheeled round.

'I forgot,' he said.

'Lucky you,' said Ginny coolly.

'I'm sorry,' Harry said, and he meant it. 'So… so, do you think I'm being possessed, then?'

Ginny's famous solution to the ancient "Get Harry Potter out of his perpetual 'me, me, me' trance in two steps and under" riddle, and the most prominent example of her handling Harry's temper tantrums much more successfully than anybody else. Ginny employs a mixture of stressing that she just wants to help, the simple truth and a no-nonsense attitude to remind Harry that they're all on the same side.

            'Come on, Ginny's not bad,' said George fairly, sitting down next to Fred. 'Actually, 1 dunno how she got so good, seeing how we never let her play with us.'

'She's been breaking into your broom shed in the garden since the age of six and taking each of your brooms out in turn when you weren't looking,' said Hermione from behind her tottering pile of Ancient Rune books.

'Oh,' said George, looking mildly impressed. 'Well - that'd explain it.'

            ---

            The miracle was that Gryffindor only lost by ten points: Ginny managed to snatch the Snitch from right under Hufflepuff Seeker Summerby's nose, so that the final score was two hundred and forty versus two hundred and thirty.

            ---

            'Good catch,' Harry told Ginny back in the common room, where the atmosphere resembled that of a particularly dismal funeral.

'I was lucky,' she shrugged. 'It wasn't a very fast Snitch and Summerby's got a cold, he sneezed and closed his eyes at exactly the wrong moment. Anyway, once you're back on the team -'

'Ginny, I've got a lifelong ban.'

'You're banned as long as Umbridge is in the school,' Ginny corrected him. There's a difference. Anyway, once you're back, I think

I'll try out for Chaser. Angelina and Alicia are both leaving next year and I prefer goal-scoring to Seeking anyway.'

            ---

            'Yeah,' said Ron slowly, savouring the words, 'we won. Did you see the look on Chang's face when Ginny got the Snitch right out from under her nose?'      

What's clear here is that Ginny knows how to play Quidditch. So far she has a perfect record of two out of two games. True, she's not a prodigy like Harry, but her preferred position (and probably the one she's been mainly been training at) is chaser rather than seeker- and thus we probably haven't seen her full potential yet. She also has humility where her skills are concerned (whereas Ron has some work left in that area).

Also, one has to wonder, what is it with catching snitches under people's noses? Does this obscure motive have any significance?

            'Oh, look!' said Ginny, as they drew nearer, pointing at the very heart of the bell jar.

Drifting along in the sparkling current inside was a tiny, jewel-bright egg. As it rose in the jar, it cracked open and a hummingbird emerged, which was carried to the very top of the jar, but as it fell on the draught its feathers became bedraggled and damp again, and by the time it had been borne back to the bottom of the jar it had been enclosed once more in its egg.

'Keep going!' said Harry sharply, because Ginny showed signs of wanting to stop and watch the egg's progress back into a bird.

'You dawdled enough by that old arch!' she said crossly, but followed him past the bell jar to the only door behind it.

As we all know, the Department of Mysteries keeps reserve stocks of abstract concepts for research purposes. Not just any abstract concepts, in fact, but the mysteries of humankind (Death, Love, Time, The Future, The Universe, The Human Brain…). Ginny seems to be fascinated with time, for reasons which we can only guess. Would she like more time? Does she have an affinity to the concept (unknowingly freezing it to get Snitches from under people's noses, perhaps)?

            'We've got to get out of here,' said Harry firmly. 'Luna, can you help Ginny?'

'Yes,' said Luna, sticking her wand behind her ear for safekeeping, then putting an arm around Ginny's waist and pulling her up.

'It's only my ankle, I can do it myself!' said Ginny impatiently, but next moment she had collapsed sideways and grabbed Luna for support.

With Ginny's strength of character comes pride- here Ginny is too proud to accept the help she needs. After going through a childhood with seven older brothers and a four-year crush, Ginny probably figured that she can only achieve a normal life through autonomy and independence, and here we see her taking it to an unnecessary extreme.

            `Daddy sold it to them,' said Luna vaguely, turning a page of The Quibbler. `He got a very good price for it, too, so we're going to go on an expedition to Sweden this summer to see if we can catch a Crumple-Horned Snorkack.'

Hermione seemed to struggle with herself for a moment, then said, `That sounds lovely.'

Ginny caught Harry's eye and looked away quickly, grinning.

Similar moments can be found on previous books. Ginny seems to be able to communicate a lot without saying a single word (at least with Harry, as we see things from his point of view and never get to see Ginny catching anyone else's eye like this), through sharing a mutual, silent joke.

            Who's [Cho] with now, anyway?' Ron asked Hermione, but it was Ginny who answered.

`Michael Corner,' she said.

`Michael - but - said Ron, craning around in his seat to stare at her. `But you were going out with him!'

`Not any more,' said Ginny resolutely. `He didn't like Gryffindor beating Ravenclaw at Quidditch, and got really sulky, so I ditched him and he ran off to comfort Cho instead.' She scratched her nose absently with the end of her quill, turned The Quibbler upsidedown and began marking her answers. Ron looked highly delighted.

`Well, I always thought he was a bit of an idiot,' he said, prodding his queen forwards towards Harry's quivering castle. `Good for you. Just choose someone - better - next time.'

He cast Harry an oddly furtive look as he said it.

Ron's rather obvious wish to see his sister with Harry aside, we get a quite honest glimpse here of the depth of Ginny's relationship with Michael Corner. It seems almost as if Michael Corner was a plot device for the turn Ginny's character took more than an actual character (an impression that only strengthens considering the fact that throughout the book he's been a non-entity). In fact, his second name of "Corner" might indicate that his main function was exactly that.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Ginny goes on with Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna to the climatic battle at the Department of Mysteries. Ginny has become a character in her own right- the fifth layer of who Ginny Weasley is has been irreversibly embossed, and only through her now revealed true self can we look back on the short glimpses of her we had received in Philosophers' Stone through Goblet of Fire and clearly see them as echoes of who she is now- Ginny cheering on Bill and Charlie's battle of the tables echoing her mischief; Ginny comforting Ron echoing her sympathetic nature; Ginny sharing a private joke with Harry echoing her sense of humor.

Will Ginny ever experience non-platonic feelings for Harry Potter again? Only the future will tell. What we do know for sure, however, is that never again will they define and frame her as a character, even in case they resurface. She has become so much more than any crush could define. The closest one could get is to characterise her through her obvious recurring connection to the concept of romantic love in general (crushing, dating) from a thematic point of view.

 

Ginny Weasley has grown up.

 

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