There is so much to love in chapter 29 of Order of the Phoenix. The focus if the first part of the chapter is Harry’s meeting with McGonagall to discuss plans for his future, memorably attended by Umbridge. At the end of the chapter, we watch Fred and George flying majestically into the sunset, leaving Hogwarts to start their joke shop business in Diagon Alley — completely fireworks free, you’ll notice. Instead, they leave behind what Flitwick later describes as a “really good bit of magic”: a swamp in the fifth floor corridor.
A few chapters ago I noted that Harry’s miserable fifth year had hit bottom and was now on the upswing and this chapter is full of memorably positive events.
But I want to talk about something different, a more subtle positive moment. I want to talk about Ginny. Because it’s in this chapter that the relationship between her and Harry starts to grow, although he doesn’t realize it.
Here’s what happens. In the last chapter, Harry saw the memory that Snape had tried to hide from him, the memory of James and Sirius behaving in the worst possible way. Harry is left deeply shaken by this revelation. Remember the overall reason for this book in the series is to strip away from Harry all the things that he thinks make him powerful — his status as a Quidditch player with the best broomstick in the world, his relationship with Dumbledore, and now his impression of his father. Rowling writes this:
“For nearly five years the thought of his father had been a source of comfort, of inspiration. Whenever someone had told him he was like James, he had glowed with pride inside. And now… now he felt cold and miserable at the thought of him” (OP29).
Harry takes his misery and dark memories with him to the library where his reverie is interrupted by Ginny. She passes along the chocolate eggs that Mrs Weasley had sent for all of them and when he sees them, a painful lump forms in his throat. He’s on the verge of tears.
Ginny says, “You seem really down lately. You know, I’m sure if you just talked to Cho…”
Did you notice? She hasn’t stopped caring about him. Although she’s not in his inner circle of friends and, by the reference to Cho, completely accepting that he’s interested in another girl, she has noticed that he’s suffering and wants to help.
The next couple of lines in the book are very interesting. Harry says that it’s not Cho he wants to talk to, and Rowling writes this:
“Who is it, then?” asked Ginny, watching him closely.
Why is she watching him closely? Is she concerned about his well-being because she does care, even if he isn’t reciprocating the feelings? Is she hoping he’ll say that it’s her, Ginny, that he wants to talk to? Why did Rowling write it that way?
Harry responds that he wishes he could talk to Sirius, and Ginny, after watching him closely for another moment or two, says that it just might be possible, using that wonderfully quotable line:
“The thing about growing up with Fred and George is that you sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.”
Then Rowling writes this:
Harry looked at her. Perhaps it was the effect of the chocolate – Lupin had always advised eating some after encounters with Dementors – or simply because he had finally spoken aloud the wish that had been burning inside him for a week, but he felt a bit more hopeful.
Rowling has crafted a very lovely scene here, one with multiple layers and suggestions. Ginny comes to Harry on the excuse of bringing him the chocolate eggs. She comes to the library straight from Quidditch practice when she sees that there is an egg for Harry. Why? Because she has noticed that he’s down for some time and has been looking for a way to help him. She cares about him and knows that the egg from Mrs Weasley is something that could cheer him up, so she comes immediately to bring it to him rather than wait for him to turn up in the Common Room. Her attention to his situation and her watching him closely during the exchange create an intimacy between them, an intimacy based on true caring and affection. And the fact that Harry’s mood is lightened by her presence gives a hint to the reader that those feelings are mutual, although Harry is too preoccupied at the moment to realize it.
And then Rowling throws that scene aside as the inimical Madam Pince comes bearing down on them shouting about chocolate in the library, and we’re laughing as we watch them running out of the room being whacked on the head by the librarian.
But the relationship between them has flickered into life. Ginny, who believes that anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve, has taken the first steps.
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