Six brothers. That’s how many brothers it takes to make a Ginny Weasley. That’s how much familial finally-a-daughter pressure is required to make a Ginny Weasley. That’s the weight of hand-me-down boy’s-jeans and you-can’t-do-it-you’re-a-girl that’s necessary to make a Ginny Weasley.
Ginny let herself be impressed once. She let herself be impressed by Harry Potter—the Boy Who Lived, big brother’s best friend, Quidditch star. She let herself be impressed, and she let herself be infatuated, and she let herself blush and hide. She let herself be soft.
And into that moment of softness—of weakness—she wound up vulnerable. And look at how that turned out.
Ginny Weasley is angry. She’s angry because she let her mind become a chew toy for a sociopath. She’s angry because she hurt people, and she doesn’t care that she was just a puppet for Tom Riddle, that doesn’t matter, she still hurt people. She’s angry because nobody noticed. She’s angry because everyone forgets. She’s constantly having to remind them that she went through it, she spoke to him, he spoke back. And when he spoke back, it wasn’t just an endless deluge of taunts about her parents or jabs at her youth or threats to kill her. Harry’s never had a conversation with Voldemort, never really talked to him.
Ginny is the one who’s confided in him. Ginny is the one who’s walked with him in her pocket. Not Harry. Not the Boy Who Lived Through No Fault of His Own.
Ginny goddamn Weasley.
And yet, so often, she has to remind them that it happened at all. They didn’t notice then, and they forget now, and they’ll probably keep forgetting.
But she won’t forget.
Ginny takes Neville to the Yule Ball. She and Neville understand each other—the overlooked, the forgotten, the teased. There for comic relief. Oh look, she’s put her elbow in the butter. Oh look, he’s lost that thing again. There to tag along—okay, you can come, but only because you stamped your foot and insisted, just stay out of the way.
Ginny takes Neville to the Yule Ball because Harry didn’t ask her in time, and she’s dating someone else by the end of the night because it turns out to be not-so-bad. Nobody else can be the Boy Who Lived, but then again, there are all of these other boys who aren’t the Boy Who Lived. Who haven’t failed her. Who haven’t looked away, embarrassed, as she flees a room in tears because her brothers don’t know when to stop making fun of her.
Maybe that’s the night. Maybe it’s at the Yule Ball, when she notices that Harry is sitting there being rude to his date and acting like a sullen idiot. Maybe it’s while she’s dancing with Neville and having fun and flirting with Michael Corner that she starts to realize that she just isn’t impressed anymore.
Life at Grimmauld Place is another exercise in exclusion—the Order of the Phoenix shutting her out of meetings, Harry and Ron secluding themselves, shouting matches. And as everything starts to darken, Ginny continues to find herself unimpressed.
No matter. This is going to be her year.
And then it is. She becomes the Gyffindor seeker, and when everyone’s surprised that she can fly, she throws it in their faces: I’ve been flying for years, on your broomsticks, and I’m better at it than you, try to keep up. She helps found Dumbledore’s Army—names it, damn it, even if everyone else tries to take credit—and she fights the Inquisitorial Squad and she takes down Draco Malfoy, not that it’s hard to take down that wet corn husk of a boy.
And then at the ministry of magic, who stands nose-to-nose with Bellatrix Lestrange? Who faces the threat of torture and keeps her jaw square? Who takes a broken ankle and keeps trying to fight?
And after all that, on the train ride home, who keeps it together enough to comfort Harry?
Who keeps on carrying the weight of his sadness?
Everyone is so desperate for Ginny to be that flinching, fleeing girl she used to be. Everyone is surprised that she doesn’t have time for their condescension and their coddling—everyone but Harry.
He puts her on the Quidditch team because she’s great, and he trusts her to take over for him as seeker when he’s in detention again. He sees that she doesn’t need him, that she’s stronger and better and smarter—and finally, finally, he’s good enough for her.
But then, of course, he fails her. Everyone does. Everyone lets Ginny down, and Harry can’t be an exception. He breaks up with her so that he can go on adventures while she’s “safe”—nevermind the fact that the last time he sees her, she’s dueling with a Death Eater and holding her own and then some. Nevermind that during his walkabout, she’s acting as the general of the army he left behind. He still wants to keep her swaddled in safety.
But when the time comes, when it matters most—when the battle is raging and she’s stuck in the Room of Requirement—he lets her out. And then she’s gone—she’s fighting, no time to lose. She’s got her wand out and she’s taking down Bellatrix Lestrange, the last person who dared to make her feel small and scared. She sees Harry’s corpse, and it doesn’t matter, because there’s a battle to fight. She sees Fred die—but she’s got to go, damn it.
There’s no time to mourn.
She’s got a war to win.
She marries Harry Potter eventually, because she wants to—not because he’s earned her, not because she’s the prize that’s handed to him once Voldemort is dead, but because she’s decided that he’s adequate. She’s the only woman in the world who can look him in the face and tell him truthfully that she’s not impressed at all, but that she loves him anyway.
She marries him, and she takes his name, but they both know that she’ll never be Mrs. Potter, Wife of the Boy Who Lived, what was her name again? Not her.
She started at the bottom of a pile of expectations, sleeping under sheets that had been on six beds before hers, the seventh child, the only daughter in a house of sons. She let a monster into her heart and she looked into the eyes of a murderer and she fought for her life and she won.
She’ll never be a footnote.
She’s Ginevra Molly goddamn Weasley, and she’s not impressed.
Top image by Quinnasaurus-creations.
Sarah Gailey’s fiction has appeared in Mothership Zeta and Fireside Fiction; her nonfiction has been published by Mashable and Fantasy Literature Magazine. You can see pictures of her puppy and get updates on her work by clicking here. She tweets @gaileyfrey. Watch for her debut novella, River of Teeth, from Tor.com in 2017.