"You don't know how weird it is for her to be this shy. She never shuts up normally--"
-- Ron Weasley to Harry Potter (CS3)
What about Ginny? Although she figured prominently in the plot of CS, everything she did happened “off camera” and she didn’t really show up until her One Big Scene at the end. Who is she really? Is she just an “extra” or simply a stereotype, thrown in for decoration or for laughs?
Certainly at the start of the series she seems to have a serious case of “baby of the family and only girl”. A very young ten, probably from being home-schooled and having all those big brothers being alternately overprotective and teasing, plus a mother who wants to keep her little girl little and does things like keeping her away from scary sections of the pyramids on their trip to Egypt (PA1) (I mean: she’s twelve. Think of the things her ickle Ronniekins saw at the age of twelve and coped with!).
Now, to pre-empt accusations of me “hating Ginny” let me say that I like the girl well enough. It’s not her fault she’s been so sheltered. She’s sweet and kind and loyal, she can keep secrets, and yes, she has grown up quite a bit, but from all we’ve seen of her in the first four books I think she has a lot more growing up to do to win Harry’s respect, let alone be strong enough to be his rock if he and his world falls apart (which, if he survives the series, looks quite possible).
If Harry should turn out to need a rock, I think Hermione would be a better candidate for the job. Harry respects and trusts Hermione, and has already leant on her for support and emergency assistance in times of crisis. At eleven, Hermione is already strong, smart and assertive, even if she’s socially insecure and her self-esteem hinges on her academic achievements. Of course, I don’t think being Harry’s “rock” in any way means she would be a stand by her man sidekick who can’t achieve things in her own right. People can play a supporting role in their partners’, children’s or family members’ lives without sinking their own lives for the other party’s sake, and we know Hermione can definitely cope with a lot on her plate.
Back to Ginny. Why does Ginny develop a crush on Harry? For the same reason little girls develop crushes on Prince William and other boys they know nothing about… because he’s Famous! She’s a groupie! Given that Harry doesn’t like playing the celebrity and feels very uncomfortable when people stare at his scar or try to pull him unwillingly into the limelight like Lockhart, he’s hardly likely to warm to someone who fancies him primarily because he’s famous. In GF22, he even specifically recognises that girls only want to go to the Ball with him because he’s a Triwizard Champion, and doesn’t like the idea (though he could probably cope if it were Cho!).
Ginny’s luckier than most groupies, of course: at the start of CS she actually gets to meet Harry properly, and learns that he is nice as well as famous. Sadly, however, she’s far too bashful to actually have a conversation with him (not a good start to a prospective relationship: power imbalance, for a start). She’s hopelessly shy and embarrassed around him and also causes him a lot of embarrassment, albeit unintentionally, by hovering around Hagrid’s hut (reminiscent of groupies hanging around backstage to meet their idols), sending him an annoying singing get well card, and humiliating him in public with that Valentine’s Day card (though there’s some debate about whether this was actually her). All very loyal and devoted, like her stand against Draco on his behalf in CS4, but hardly the way to get Harry to respect her and take her seriously, especially not at his age (embarrassing a teenage boy, especially one like Harry, not being a good recipe for making him fancy you).
Then we have the Yule Ball business. Some HP fans have argued that Ginny dealt with her lost opportunity to go to the Ball with Harry in a very mature way, on the grounds that she didn’t burst theatrically into tears and try to guilt trip him. I agree that this is an improvement on elbow in the butter… at 13 her emotional control (aka Stiff Upper Lip) is certainly coming along nicely. All the same, I think this is an English thing… the last thing an embarrassment-prone English family like the Weasleys would produce is a daughter who would sob in public and try to blackmail someone into liking her if she could possibly help it. More likely she would force a brave smile to hold in the tears, make some excuse, and then flee to a bathroom so no-one saw her being emotional! She has grown up, but I don’t see her reaction as evidence of incredible new depths of strength and maturity myself. (Now, on the other hand, actually asking Harry to the Ball herself would have impressed me).
Interestingly, JKR implies that Ginny has become close to Hermione behind the scenes in GF, though I don’t think this bears much on the maturity and strength debate. I get the impression that Hermione, with her two male best friends, must sometimes crave a female friend to talk to about the girlier things they would scoff at (like what to wear to the Ball and who to take, relationships, Love Potions with Mrs Weasley…!), and has bonded with Ginny in that department. We don’t know much about this friendship, though it would be interesting to hear more. Surely if Ginny and Hermione have become friends on a girly-bonding level, an absolutely mandatory topic of conversation is Which Boy They Like! Given that Harry is one of Hermione’s best friends, how could Ginny (whose longing to talk about her crush on Harry almost killed her via Riddle’s diary) not have talked to Hermione about her undying love for Harry? Wouldn’t she surely ask a close female friend who sees so much of Harry whether there was any hope, how can she get him to notice her as more than Ron’s baby sister, what sort of girls does he like, does he ever mention her, and so on?
Then there’s Hermione’s role in the friendship. It certainly appears that Hermione has discussed boys with Ginny to some degree, as Ginny knows and steadfastly keeps quiet the knowledge that Krum has a thing for Hermione and invited her to the Ball. Might Hermione also have shared the one piece of information fans would dearly like to know… which boy of Ron and Harry she is most attracted to?
Now the plot thickens. Does Ginny know that Ron is interested in Hermione? If she does (as well she might if she’s kept her eyes and ears open), mightn’t she have asked Hermione whether she has any interest in her brother? No doubt she’d keep the answer to herself if so, but all the same, the thought is intriguing. If Hermione does fancy Ron, Ginny, a trustworthy and good-hearted girl, would surely be able to provide some discreet help in getting her close female friend and brother together.
On the other hand, the plot is even thicker if Hermione fancies Harry! Knowing of Ginny’s infatuation, what would Hermione do? Somehow, I can’t see Hermione confessing to Ginnyand founding a miniature Harry Potter fan club. I think her most likely action in this case would be not to tell her, focus on the Krum situation and remain neutral and non-committal about Ron and Harry (“No, we’re all just friends”), rather than wrack poor Ginny with anguish and jealousy by telling her that she wants Harry too (and gets to see him every day, etc.etc.). Not to mention the implied rejection of Ginny’s brother. The only difficulty with this is that if things were to develop between Hermione and Harry, this could put serious stress on Hermione’s friendship with Ginny… Ginny might well feel hurt and betrayed to find that her confidante about Harry had run off with Harry herself!
Of course, it’s also quite likely that Hermione, being inexperienced and naive in the relationship department, hasn’t figured out her own feelings with regard to Krum, Ron and Harry at this stage. The idea of boys finding her attractive is novel at this point, and it may take a while for her to sort out feeling flattered, feeling friendship and feeling attracted into clear enough categories to develop a definite interest of her own.
This essay was written before the release of book five and is not longer accurate; it is archived here as a matter of interest.