Gendered Fairy Tale Heroics: Ginny Weasley in The Source

Effie Sapuridis

Western University, London, Ontario, Canada

[0.1] Abstract—The Harry Potter fan fiction novel The Source, by Luckyducky7, centers on Ginny Weasley. This work attempts to carve out a narrative for Ginny Weasley that allows her to be a heroine. This close reading of The Source highlights where it succeeds and where it fails in completing this task.

[0.2] Keywords—Close reading; Draco Malfoy; Fairy tale; Fan fiction; Fandom; Harry Potter

Sapuridis, Effie. 2019. "Ginny Weasley as the Heroine in Harry Potter Fan Fiction." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 30.

[1] Harry Potter fandom decided long ago that Ginny Weasley had been given the short end of the stick in the movies and in the novels. The Source, a 2003 fan fiction novel by Luckyducky7 (, is set during Harry Potter's years at Hogwarts, though in an AU scenario wherein Voldemort has already been defeated by him and, as we discover later in the work, Draco Malfoy. The story is told mainly from Ginny Weasley's point of view, though it shifts to Draco Malfoy's at some points. In The Source, Ginny Weasley's parents are in debt due to medical bills and all of the Weasley siblings do their best to help. Ginny disguises herself as the Source and sells information about her classmates to each other to contribute to the medical bills. Early in the story, Malfoy wants to hire the Source and decides to discover this person's identity when he realizes she is a woman (chapter 5). Subsequently, Ginny and Draco fall in love while also battling a new villain. In this essay, I attempt to understand whether Ginny Weasley's character, through this fan fiction story, subverts her original canon characterization.

[2] The way that Ginny is described in relation to others throughout The Source allows her to undermine some aspects of the original text, but not all of them. In the very first chapter, we are told that Ginny goes unnoticed by most people: "The Trio turned their heads and looked at Ginny. They had forgotten that she was sitting there" (chapter 1). Sharing a scene with major canon characters, she is described using words that characterize her as a shy, introverted person (chapter 1). A few chapters later, she continues to be ignored by her friend Colin and his girlfriend: "so Ginny just walk[s] off" but "they didn't even notice" (chapter 18). There is a perpetual refrain of "they didn't notice" that is reminiscent of her character in the first few Harry Potter novels. The Source's first chapter was published a handful of days after the publication of Order of the Phoenix, which gave Ginny a larger role and introduced readers, and Harry, to a more independent and outgoing character than we'd seen in previous books. Likewise, The Source gives us moments of Ginny Weasley as fiery and passionate, but only when she is with Draco Malfoy. In chapter 26, Ginny offers to give Draco a back massage. While she is doing so, she leads him to think that she receives massages from Colin and purposefully baits him. Colin's fingers are "so soft" and he "uses just the right amount of strength," and the experience "really feels like heaven." When this causes Draco to "clutch the quilt" with tension, Ginny can tell and "smile[s] mischievously" at him (chapter 26). These two sides of her personality—meek and bold—seem out of place, until they're viewed in context. When Ginny occupies a space around the Golden Trio, it's a space we're familiar with from the novels—that of a secondary character. The space she occupies with Draco has no precedent in the series, and she's therefore able to make it her own. She becomes the one who holds the power in this new space.

[3] Throughout The Source, Draco attempts to occupy the traditionally male position in romance and adventure stories. Several times in the first half of The Source, Draco attempts to woo Ginny through grandiose, public displays. For Valentine's Day, he sends her an extravagant gift, but Ginny rejects it, refusing to take on the traditional role that Draco is attempting to place her in. He quickly gets angry because "any other girl" would be grateful, "fawning over the guy who sent it to them" (chapter 18). However, Ginny continues to resist this trope. Suddenly he is apologizing to her and his tone becomes "gentle." When she accepts the new role that he's positioning himself in, he "sigh[s] in relief" (chapter 18).

[4] Often a female character's agency is enacted through sexualization. In canon, Ginny only begins to gain authority in Harry's life after he sees her as a sexual being, and only then is she given a larger role in the story. We aren't provided any explicit assurance that Harry truly sees her as a whole person. The Source gives us that assurance and more—Ginny and Draco only enter an actual relationship in the final chapter, after she has pursued her goals. In The Source, Ginny is not sexualized by the narrative, nor is she perceived as a sexual object. She is never objectified by Draco or anyone else. Draco acknowledges his physical attraction to her, often complimenting her; however, this language is never directed at Ginny in a lustful or lecherous manner (chapter 39). On the other hand, Draco treats other women in the story as sexual objects. For instance, when Draco breaks up with OC Felicity Lateris, he tells her their relationship was about "the thrill of the moment" and "that moment has finished" (chapter 23). Ginny's physical attraction to Draco is tempered by friendship, compassion, and love. This allows for a more complex character development to occur and the author's decision to delay any sexual interactions until the end of the story amplifies this. Thus, the lack of sexual interactions between Ginny and Draco do not strip her of her sexuality.

[5] Despite this, there are instances in the first half where Draco, as the male character, attempts to create a more traditional narrative. Early in the story, we can see Draco unconsciously trying to be dominant and exert sexual influence on women. When he realizes the Source is a woman, he immediately tries to seduce her and places his hands on her body, caressing her (chapter 5). This could have easily reduced their roles to traditional gender dynamics. Instead, Ginny immediately shuts down this behavior and it does not resurface without her consent. Draco also exhibits jealousy over Ginny's interactions with other men. Again, Ginny rejects this behavior from him, much like she rejects his previously mentioned grandiose displays of affection (chapter 18). Yet when Draco invites Ginny to watch him compete at the dragon races, his female trainer gives her a quick makeover, and Draco "[is] stunned at how beautiful she look[s] in her dress and with her hair done up" (chapter 30). The makeover scene is a common trope in romance narratives, and even though Luckyducky7 has clearly established that Ginny is not going to occupy the fair maiden role, they're still either unable or unwilling to avoid certain tropes that readers are fond of.

[6] The climax of the story shows a clear shift in Ginny's character. Throughout The Source, her motivation, that of protecting her family, drives almost all her actions. By the end of the story, she is purely fueled by this goal and taps into the resourceful, powerful side of her character to save the day. She demands to be taken to the story's main villain and attempts to strike a deal with him. Here, her behavior and emotions are "bold," "strong," and "brave," and she has "power" (chapter 43)—descriptive language authors would typically use to describe a male hero. Moreover, when the villain reneges on his deal and captures Draco, readers find themselves in a scenario they know well but that has been flipped on its head. Draco is placed in a cage; Ginny kisses him between the bars of the cage and tells him she loves him. She then turns to face the Death Eaters, standing between them and the cage, acting as a physical barrier. In one fell swoop, Ginny uses a spell that takes out all the Death Eaters but leaves Draco "standing on a pile of rubble unscathed" and calling for Ginny. "He didn't know what else he could do. He prayed to Merlin that a miracle could have happened and Ginny was saved" (chapter 43). Ginny lives, but there are weeks of uncertainty before it's confirmed that she will survive. This sequence is well-known to us—the damsel in distress is unable to help and must rely solely on the hero, while he also protects the rest of the world from the villain. In The Source, Draco is the damsel in distress and Ginny is the hero, until this shifts after the climax.

[7] Fairy tales, as portrayed by classic Disney movies, often involve the tropes of a male hero and a damsel in distress. Interestingly, a fairy tale plays an important role in The Source. Ginny bets Draco that he can't get her what she really wants for her birthday: a fairy tale. Draco researches fairy tales and writes one for Ginny (chapter 24). In his fairy tale, Rosalie is taken hostage and must be saved by Prince Drake. Before being saved, she cures him of his illness. This is similar to a subplot of The Source that sees Ginny inventing a potion to treat Draco's chronic illness (chapter 32). Luckyducky7 has created a fan fiction story with the potential for an independent, strong female hero, but Draco's gift shifts her into a fairy tale replete with traditional gender constructs. After Draco gives her this gift, there is a shift in the dynamics of their relationship (chapter 24). Ginny continues to be assertive, particularly near the end of the story, when wars have broken out and a battle must be fought (chapters 42–43). However, between Draco's gift and the final battle wherein Ginny is the hero, there are some troubling changes to the storyline. First, Draco begins saving Ginny's life, rather than the other way around. In two out of the three attacks he saves her from, Ginny is physically unable to do anything, as she has been knocked unconscious (chapter 37). This is reminiscent of vulnerable princesses in fairy tales lying in magical comas, waiting for their prince. In the last attack on her life, Ginny actually falls into a coma. It is only shortly after a visit from Draco, during which he places a kiss on her hand, that she wakes up (chapter 37). Although this isn't necessarily a regression, it does put Ginny at a less equal position opposite Draco. In fact, Ginny seems to be completely rejecting the notion of herself as the hero. She easily offers the role to Draco and then becomes a damsel in distress for a large portion of the story. As Ginny says to him, "I want you to be the hero, Malfoy" (chapter 13).

[8] By the end, we understand that The Source is meant to be reflective of the fairy tale story that Draco writes for Ginny. In the final chapter, Draco rewrites the Rosalie fairy tale so that the love interest, Prince Drake, saves the day and the characters live "happily ever after" (chapter 44). The new version of Rosalie continues to allow the main female character to play the role of heroine, though to a lesser degree, as she needs Prince Drake's help to complete her task. This fairy tale of Rosalie's adventures is written solely to woo Ginny. Just as the dynamic of the characters shifts when he gifts her the fairy tale, so does the fairy tale itself shift to reflect this a few chapters later (chapter 44).

[9] This fan fiction story has few female characters besides Ginny. Not only are there no other strong female characters, but there appear to be no other women in this universe besides Hermione Granger, Felicity Lateris, and a minor original character named Amy. Ginny is often described as tagging along with the Trio, or spending time with her year mates Colin Creevey and Amy. The author reassures us that "Amy [Colin's girlfriend] didn't mind that Colin was going [to the kitchens] with Ginny. She knew that they were very good friends and that Ginny wasn't interested in him that way" (chapter 36). This moment in the text motions to another narrative trope consistent with traditional gender roles: women competing for male attention. The traditional story line would be a love triangle or, at the very least, one female character being driven by envy of the other. Luckyducky7 avoids the use of such a trope, but still reminds us that it could happen.

[10] Ginny is isolated, placed in a completely masculine world, though the reasoning behind this decision seems ambivalent. On the basis of other models in literature, having other women in the protagonist's circle would strengthen her position in the text and create a feminine world for her to navigate, thus really overturning J. K. Rowling's universe. Even her mother, Molly Weasley, is absent from this story. In fact, in the last chapter, when Ginny is reunited with her family, there is not a single mention of her mother. Mother-daughter bonds are often central to empowering female narratives, and the author's decision to eliminate the mother figure removes the possibility for empowerment through that means and thereby reaffirms traditional ideologies.

[11] The only other prominent female character in The Source is a villain, Felicity Lateris. Although there is already a greater (male) villain, Felicity plays the role of a jealous, scorned woman. Felicity has been evil her whole life, so it is not solely envy that motivates her. However, that motivation cannot be entirely ignored, as can be seen in the scene wherein Ginny taunts Felicity by bragging about Draco choosing her. This angers Felicity to the point where she attacks Ginny (chapter 42). The decision to pit two women against each other by placing a man between them seems like a cheap trick, and yet reviewers of this chapter are fond of this moment.

[12] The Source sets up a world where Harry has no active role; this allows Ginny to take on the role of hero. Voldemort has been defeated, with no action on Ginny's part, so Harry has already fulfilled his role as the Boy Who Lived and can take a passive role in this story. The reader is told early on that Harry has feelings for Hermione; this not only eliminates any romantic claim he may have on Ginny as the canonical romantic interest, but also vastly reduces any jealousy that Draco might express over Harry and Ginny's friendship (chapter 8). Harry is still there, but his role is secondary. In fact, at one point in the novel, he is attacked by the villain and Ginny comes to his rescue (chapter 22). Luckyducky7's choice to restrict the original text's hero seems intended to allow a heroine to take his place. A deeper analysis of Ginny-centric fan fiction would need to take place to determine if Harry typically has to be removed as the hero in order for Ginny to step into the role. But in the case of The Source, that is the decision that Luckyducky7 made.

[13] In The Source, Luckyducky7 makes an attempt to push back against the canon story and the roles that characters play within it, focusing on Ginny. Unfortunately, the sexualization of female characters, the persistence of the fairy tale narrative, stereotypical female relationships and characterizations, and, finally, the potential need for the exclusion of the hero in order to allow a space for the heroine keep this fan fiction work from becoming a totally subversive piece of writing. The biggest takeaway, in my opinion, has to do with the reader—why are readers so drawn to stories that continue to follow gendered ideologies?