Literally! Throughout Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley have been juxtaposed—both in the air of the Quidditch field and on the ground—as Harry’s possible love interests:
“Yeah,” said Ron slowly, savoring the words, “we won. Did you see the look on Chang’s face when Ginny got the Snitch right out from under her nose?” (OotP, chap. 31, p. 704)
Boy, did Ginny ever get “the Snitch right out from under” Cho’s nose! As we see yet again, when “Ginny play[s] Seeker against Cho” in Half-Blood Prince and Gryffindor beats Ravenclaw 450 points to 140, the other Snitch that Ginny was “Seeking” enters the Gryffindor Common Room and stumbles upon the big celebration of the Quidditch win:
“Harry looked around; there was Ginny running toward him; she had a hard, blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her.” (HBP, chap. 24, pp. 532-33)
Enter Cho, with Ginny Just around the Corner
The novels reveal a carefully crafted series of foreshadows that Harry was going to be working through his “puppy love” of Cho to develop a real, lasting love for Ginny. The realization kind of creeps up on an unsuspecting reader—sort of how the scents of Amortentia reveal what and who one is truly attracted to regardless of whether one is consciously aware (or not) of the attraction.
We know of Ginny’s star-struck attraction to Harry that begins in Sorcerer’s Stone and which keeps her largely tongue-tied around Harry until Order of the Phoenix, so that Harry does not really notice her as anything other than his best friend’s sister for quite a while.
Cho, instead, catches his eye as early as Prisoner of Azkaban where they square off against one another in a Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. This first crush is mostly a physical attraction to the pretty, popular, and intelligent Ravenclaw: “Their Seeker, Cho Chang, was the only girl on their team. . . . [A]nd Harry couldn’t help noticing, nervous as he was, that she was extremely pretty. She smiled at Harry . . . and he felt a slight lurch in the region of his stomach that he didn’t think had anything to do with nerves” (PoA, chap. 13, p. 259). Later, whenever Harry sees Cho, he starts “blushing” (PoA, chap. 15, p. 303), “slop[s] quite a lot of water down his front” (GoF, chap. 7, p. 84), and upon catching sight of Cho has “a strange desire to join the Ravenclaw table” (GoF, chap. 12, p. 178), etc.
It took this reader two or three read-throughs of the series to notice how often Ginny appears on the scene immediately after Cho. Here are a few instances (and there many others, so this list is only illustrative), which begin in Goblet of Fire and continue through Deathly Hallows:
- Right after Harry is turned down by Cho as a date for the Yule Ball, on account of Cho’s having been asked already by Cedric Diggory, he directly goes to the Gryffindor Common Room to see Ron where “Ginny was sitting with him, talking in what seemed to be a low, soothing voice” (GoF, chap. 22, p. 398).
- When Cho comes to say hello to Harry on the Hogwarts Express on the way back to school in Order of the Phoenix, he is embarrassingly covered in stinksap from Neville Longbottom’s plant, and Ginny (who is sharing a compartment with Harry, Neville, and Luna Lovegood) says “bracingly,” “Never mind . . . Look, we can get rid of all this easily” (OotP, chap. 10, p. 188).
- When various Hogwarts students get together to resist Umbridge by forming a real Defense Against the Dark Arts group, we see Cho and her friends enter the Hog’s Head first and then Ginny and her friends enter (OotP, chap. 16, pp. 337-38).
- When it comes time for the anti-Umbridge students to create a name for their group, Cho suggests, “The Defense Association? . . . The D.A. for short, so nobody knows what we’re talking about?” and then Ginny immediately says, “Yeah, the D.A.’s good . . . Only let’s make it stand for Dumbledore’s Army because that’s the Ministry’s worst fear, isn’t it?” (OotP, chap. 18, p. 392).
- During the Battle of Hogwarts, Cho returns to her alma mater to fight with her former D.A. comrades. While strategizing about dividing up tasks, she says, “If you’d like to see what the diadem’s supposed to look like, I could take you up to our common room and show you, Harry. Ravenclaw’s wearing it in her statue.” Immediately, Ginny says, “No, Luna will take Harry, won’t you, Luna?” (DH, chap. 29, p. 585).
Issues of Love, Self, Character
The consistent ordering of Cho first and then Ginny suggests that this is not only a foreshadow technique of what’s to come (i.e., Ginny gets the Snitch), but also a somewhat natural order of events. It’s not usually the case any longer that one meets one’s true love right off the bat. It takes maturity both to develop confidence in oneself so as to be seen by another and to be able to see what is of genuine value in another. We see this pattern with several characters: Harry dates Cho before Ginny, Ron dates Lavender Brown before Hermione, Hermione dates Viktor Krum before Ron, and Ginny dates Michael Corner and Dean Thomas before Harry.
Many regard love—and who one loves—to be rather mysterious. Perhaps to some extent it is, but there are clearly also some value-laden, cognitive dimensions to love, which is suggested by the growth by our Trio from puppy love to true love. Such dimensions are present in the contrast between Cho’s and Ginny’s characters, and we see Harry ultimately being drawn to someone who he is both physically attracted to and warrants his love on grounds of her good character (though our exposure to it is rather sparing throughout the novels).
Cho and Harry
When Harry and Cho at last go on their first date in Order of the Phoenix (after the Yule Ball and Cedric Diggory’s murder that take place in Goblet of Fire), there is something a bit more than mere attraction to physical appearance. They share in common a love of Quidditch, membership in the D.A., and a connection to Cedric. However, the former two topics only take them so far and the latter creates a barrier that neither inexperienced teenager is able to navigate. Cho is torn by her grief for Cedric and jealous of his friendship with Hermione (whom Harry is supposed to meet up with after his date), so their Valentine’s Day date ends badly (OotP, chap. 25).
Later on, in Order of the Phoenix, someone has snitched on the D.A. to Umbridge. On account of a clever spell cast by Hermione, it becomes known that the “sneak” is none other than one of Cho’s best friends, Marietta Edgecombe. When confronted by Harry, Cho defends Marietta as “a lovely person really . . . She just made a mistake—” (OotP, chap. 28, p. 637). Harry angrily shouts at her, “A lovely person who made a mistake? She sold us out, including you!” and the two part ways. It’s this last point—about character and the importance of the “company one keeps”—that settles the issue for Harry in terms of not being in love with Cho.
Ginny and Harry
As a child, Ginny experiences a kind of stage fright in front of Harry, which lasts for the first four novels. She eventually learns to relax and be herself, per Hermione’s suggestions. Ginny explains this to Harry at one point:
“I never really gave up on you,” she said. “Not really. I always hoped. . . . Hermione told me to get on with life, maybe go out with some other people, relax a bit around you, because I never used to be able to talk if you were in the room, remember? And she thought you might take a bit more notice if I was a bit more—myself” (HBP, chap. 30, p. 647).
On account of Ginny’s learning to be herself, Harry finally sees the real Ginny. She is funny, brave, beautiful, intelligent, and loves Quidditch. Harry only vaguely begins to realize that he has some feelings for her after their summer together between his fifth and sixth years:
“He felt a strange twinge of annoyance as she walked away, her long red hair dancing behind her; he had become so used to her presence over the summer that he had almost forgotten that Ginny did not hang around with him, Ron, and Hermione while at school” (HBP, chap. 7, p. 136).
An additional unconscious hint as to Harry’s attraction to Ginny emerges in Professor Slughorn’s Potions class, when Harry gets a whiff of a potion (Amortentia) “that was emitting one of the most seductive scents Harry had ever inhaled,” including “something flowery he thought he might have smelled at the Burrow” (HBP, chap. 9, pp. 183). Harry finally puts two and two together later that same day, when “he caught a sudden waft of that flowery smell he had picked up in Slughorn’s dungeon. He looked around and saw that Ginny had joined them” (HBP, chap. 9, p. 192). From this point on, Harry’s conscious thoughts as well as his dreams are filled with the hope of being with Ginny (HBP, various chapters, e.g., pp. 248, 286-90, 301, 339, 423, 472, 514-16, 518-19), until at last they kiss after Ginny “gets the Snitch” from Cho.
Temporary separation cannot sunder this love between Harry and Ginny. When Harry breaks up with Ginny at the end of Half-Blood Prince in order to protect her, Ginny understands that Harry needs to hunt Voldemort, to continue his Quest, and even says, “Maybe that’s why I like you so much” (HBP, chap. 30, p. 647). It’s no wonder, then, that we see Harry and Ginny married and with children in the Epilogue of Deathly Hallows. By then, they both know themselves, have shown themselves to one another, and love the truly valuable character embodied in the unique other.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all! As always, your comments and conversation are welcome below.