Bhamini Lakshminarayan | M2015MC013
Media Studies: Audience Studies
11th September, 2015
FanFiction, Fire, and Ice: The Draco/Ginny Fandom as a Critique of Harry Potter
“Just as a literary essay uses text to respond to text, fan fiction uses fiction to respond to fiction.”
– Henry Jenkins, “Fan Fiction as Critical Commentary” (2006)
“I cannot give you canon proof that the DG ship will ultimately happen in canon, but I can give you evidence that it can happen.”
– BabyPan, “Breaking All Boundries” (2004)
“D/G: Our ship is already crazy, so our fans don’t have to be.”
– Echo, author of “I Have Never Felt Your Fear” (2005)
A Google search of “Harry Potter” on an acceptably fast internet connection retreives about 13,00,00,000 results in 0.76 seconds. With 450 million copies sold, and translations in 73 different languages, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling is the best-selling book series in history. The series has (officially) spawned eight films, eleven video games, seven audio books, five theme parks, and has a stage adaptation in progress. For Rowling and the related license holders, the franchise has been immensely lucrative – the film franchise alone made an estimated $10 billion between 2001-2011, and J.K. Rowling is both the first author and first woman to have been featured on Forbes’ list of billionaires. But if one moves beyond the capitalist stranglehold that this series has been locked into, one can see its impact beyond the sales figures in the dynamic kinship groups which have sprung up in the fandoms constructed around the Harry Potter series.
In Ang’s (1982) study of the television show Dallas, she claims that Dallas “develop[ed] into a modern myth…It became the symbol of a new television age.” (pp.1-2) Harry Potter has arguably done the very same thing with books, and the form of fan engagement with this phenomenon is intrinsically linked to the internet and its participatory culture. Fans have laid claim to several aspects of the Harry Potter universe, with fan art, fan fiction, fan music (“Wizard Rock”) and fan-generated merchandise (if the licensed partners don’t realise that it’s been created) created all over the world, and distributed primarily through the internet.
In this paper, I focus on a particular, English subcategory of the Harry Potter fanfiction (often referred to as “fanfic”) community: the fanfiction fandom that focusses on the romantic relationship between Draco Malfoy and Ginevra Weasley (D/G, otherwise also referred to as “Fire and Ice”). This relationship is supported, or “shipped,” by a loyal community of Harry Potter fans, particularly those drawn into the Harry Potter fandom through the books. This is despite the fact, or because of the fact, that the couple is never actually shown to have any specific feelings towards each other, neither romantic nor acrimonious. Conversations with participants in this particular fandom gives one the sense that they feel that this lack of engagement between the characters was a lost opportunity for various character and storyline evolutions. This is in line with Henry Jenkin’s (2006) argument that authors use fanfiction as a means to critique the original author’s work; that fanfiction writers are critical commentators. I locate their critique in three primary arguments – lost potentialities/personalities; lost choices/characterisations; and lost sexualities/subjectivites.
Furthermore, I argue that in the act of engaging with D/G fanfic, the D/G fandom forms a particular kind of kinship group organised around a common idea that is doubly distanced from the mainstream idea of “reading” Harry Potter – they are not just involved in the production and appreciation of fanfic, but are also involved with a particular trope that does not exist, and will never exist, within canon.
At the outset, it must be stated that the group interviewed was drawn from a small pool of writers sourced through the popular online archive of D/G fanfic, the Fire and Ice Archive (FIA), its Facebook group, and the author’s own Facebook friends. The paper itself focuses primarily on the content on the Fire and Ice Archive, an archive of English fanfiction whose least common denominator is an allusion to a strong romantic relationship between Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley in every fanfic published. Finally, it must be made clear that the author’s own level of engagement with the subject matter is not at a superficial level, and that she, too, is an active consumer of D/G fanfic – her email address is, in fact, a variant of a name that Ginny Weasley could adopt after marriage with Draco Malfoy. Thus, while the author will attempt to view the fandom at an academically critical distance, she believes that her level of immersion with the fandom has, in fact, allowed her access to the personal accounts of other participants, and has allowed her to truly understand their drive and motivation. The views expressed in this paper are highlighted as autobiographical when they are so, and are otherwise drawn from the consensus the author has perceived across various D/G interviews, e-mail responses, mailing lists, forums, and comment threads the author has exposed herself to.
Introducing Harry Potter Fanfiction
“D/G was what canon needed; in fact, it’s the only development of the narrative that would have made any sense at all at many key points. Draco and Ginny should have played a vital role in the plotline, and their relationship should have been key. I’d also argue that their story would have formed an emotional core that was missing in the end.”
– Anise,Why D/G Matters (And Always Will)
Roland Barthes (1967) argues that “a text consists of multiple writings, issuing from several cultures and entering into dialogue with each other, into parody, into contestation; but there is one place where this multiplicity is collected, united, and this place is not the author, as we have hitherto said it was, but the reader…he is only that someone who holds gathered into a single field all the paths of which the text is constituted.” It is with an urge to make sense of these multiple meanings, I argue, that fanfiction writers invest years of effort into their reimaginings of texts.
Henry Jenkins, in Textual Poachers (1992) lays out his explanation of how fanfiction communities operate, and how and why the writers choose to write about the things that they do. The recontextualisation of the motivation behind decisions, an expansion of the series timeline, refocalisation of the narrative arc (and, in this, moral realignment of certain characters), personalisation, emotional intensification, and eroticization are the arguments which are key to understand the Harry Potter fanfiction community at large, and the D/G fanfic community in particular.
In these spaces and places where Harry Potter fanfic is consumed and created online, the phenomenon that is Harry Potter is deconstructed, reconstructed, and critiqued as different authors claim ownership over different aspects of the series that they felt particularly compelled by. Authors do not claim any kind of capital reimbursement from their work, and usually write lengthy disclaimers about all the sources that they are drawing from, not just J. K. Rowling (in the event that this does not occur, there is a sudden fall in their popularity, as with Cassandra Claire’s Draco Trilogy controversy). Many of these writers focus on particular narrative turning points (the Triwizard Tournament, the taking of O.W.Ls, the final battle); many of them focus on particular characters (Harry, Dumbledore, Tonks); many of them focus on particular relationships or “ships” (Ron/Hermione, Lupin/Sirius, Fred/Angelina). These focal points are usually located in larger narratives that can be either within the existing Harry Potter universe, set within/between certain books, after the series ends, or set within an entirely Alternate Universe (tagged by the community as “AU”).
This creates a space of multiple take-off points and multiple possibilities for character development. For instance, an often-used character is Blaise Zabini, about whom nothing was known except that his house was Slytherin – in fact, one website’s advanced character search still includes “Blaise Zabini – Boy” as well as “Blaise Zabini – Girl.” Within this realm of possibilities, many authors choose to focus on the relationships between characters. (This is arguably because a large number of participants in literary fandoms are women, but the author does not support or attempt to draw any such conclusion from this study, particularly since several of the active participants in this study were biologically male). These relationships need not necessarily be, but often are, romantic, and often sexual in nature, and there are varying degrees of sexualisation (ranging from G to NC-17 or “Not Naughty” to “Extremely Naughty” and so on). The relationships do not always exist within canon, and they might not necessarily be heterosexual, monogomous, or have happy endings.
Within this space comes the refocalised, intensified, recontextualised, eroticised world of Draco/Ginny fanfiction.
Introducing Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley
“Both Draco and Ginny had special qualities as individuals, wounds that they could have healed by sharing, broken places that could have fit into each other.”
– Anise, Why D/G Matters (And Always Will)
Ginny Weasley is introduced in the first Harry Potter novel as an excitable ten-year old chasing after the Hogwarts Express. As the youngest of seven Weasley children, and the only daughter, she is the only member of the family who has yet to go to school. Draco Malfoy is introduced in the first Harry Potter novel as a rich, privileged, boy, who confides to the unknown young boy he meets in Madame Malkin’s robe shop that he hopes to get into Slytherin. When he realises that the unknown boy is, in fact, the famed Harry Potter, he invites him to be his friends – or rather, to pick a “better class of friends” than the boy Harry is with, who he recognises to be a Weasley. From their very first introductions, these two characters are constructed into strong and individual personalities – Ginny, as a young, enthusiastic, and loving young girl, and Draco as a confident, vain, and haughty young boy, aware of his family’s lineage of power and influence. It is also established that Malfoys and Weasleys do not get along.
Over the course of the series, Ginny gets possessed by a fragment of Voldemort’s (also referred to as “You-Know-Who) soul that is trapped within a diary – a diary that is passed on to her by Draco’s father, Lucius Malfoy; she expresses her love for Harry Potter and, when turned down multiple times, moves on to other men; becomes a powerful witch with a strong Bat-Bogey Hex; defends herself against, not just other students, but Death Eaters (Voldemort’s followers) both in Hogwarts and in battle; and is ultimately wins the love of Harry Potter and bear his three children. Draco Malfoy repeatedly antagonises the “Golden Trio” of Harry and his best friends, Ron Weasley (Ginny’s brother) and Hermione Granger; attempts to get them and any faculty members who are sympathetic to them into trouble (Hagrid, Dumbledore); joins the Death Eaters and attempts the failed murder of the revered Headmaster of Hogwarts (Albus Dumbledore, “the only one that You-Know-Who ever feared”); aids the Death Eaters in their breaking into Hogwarts for the final battle; and is ultimately seen with an unknown woman (later revealed to be fellow Slytherin Astoria Greengrass) on Platform 9 3/4 nineteen years later, as they send their son to school.
Interrogating Draco/Ginny Fanfic
Although there are certainly mutliple perspectives from which the emergence of the Draco/Ginny fandom can be appreciated and analysed, I choose to locate my own characterisation of it within the scope of this particular assignment, and draw upon three of the primary ways in which the participants in this fanculture interrogate J.K. Rowling’s universe, and thus construct alternative narratives through their fiction.
“There are some aspects of the way the series was wrapped up that are just bullshit. And almost all of these revolve around Draco, Ginny, or both. No other characters were shafted as thoroughly as Draco and Ginny were by the conclusion of the books. No other characters saw so much potential cut short.”
– Anise, Why D/G Matters (And Always Will)
The essentialised narrative that Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley’s characters progress upon in the canonical universe is possibly the strongest reason for the emergence of D/G fanfic. In a powerful essay, Why D/G Matters (And Always Will), the immensely popular author (and current owner/moderator of the Fire and Ice Archive) Anise makes a strong case for problematising J. K. Rowling’s neglect of the relationship between Draco and Ginny Weasley. “These are the only two characters among the students who are not what they seem to be, who have much more complexity than they seem to have when first introduced. This isn’t true of Hermione and Ron. They never really change, and neither do any of the other younger characters. In fact, neither does Harry. They’re all just as they appear from beginning to end. Draco and Ginny are different. In the first book, we’re led to believe that Draco is nothing more than the rich, privileged bully, that Ginny is the stupid little girl who has a crush on Harry. But that is not what we learn that they are…Remember that JKR quote about how the CoS (author: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) narrative held all the keys to what happens at the end of the series? Well, if that’s what JKR herself thought, I think we should take it seriously…D/G made sense in canon, not as a romantic ship, necessarily, but as important interaction that did not end up happening. And this interaction was the only element that could have caused a number of other things to make sense, to fill in significant gaps that are more obvious now that we look back on canon rather than writing in the middle of it.”
Anise’s argument is echoed by several other writers in the fandom, even if they do not root it in plot points located in the second Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Many fans, not just within the D/G fandom, have felt as though the direction that the books took was not true to the style and intent that J. K. Rowling, known for setting up clues in her first few books, originally intended. Thus, Anise argues that fanfiction is valuable because it allows authors to engage with these characters’ wasted potential in canon.
“One reason this ship works so well in fanfic is that we know so little about their personalities,” argues Sue Bridehead in Draco and Ginny: The Ship that Defies all Logic. “This is especially true for Draco…Fanfic authors can fill that void by fleshing out such lesser-known characters, placing them in situations and giving them dialogue. There are so many directions an author can take them. The general lack of characterization allows fanfic authors the opportunity to take Draco and Ginny’s potentially volatile ‘fire and ice’ chemistry and develop that. Most writers use this to their advantage, to varying degrees, and it can make for some very good reading. Rather like The Taming of the Shrew or any other classic love-hate relationship, things heat up quickly when tempers flare. Passions rise, snogging begins, and . . well, you know the rest.”
The wasted potential of these characters thus occurs in terms of the skills that the canonical characters have been allowed to develop and showcase, the situations these characters are cast in, the interactions they have with other characters, and the choices that are made available to them. Canon!Ginny’s narrative through Harry’s eyes is often read by the fanfic community as unidimensional, cast as the “love interest” in the story – we are told evolved into a confident young woman away from the main narrative, but we never understand how. Similarly, Canon!Draco is cast as the “antagonist” – again, unidimensional in Harry’s eyes, but who we are told evolved from a confient and condescending boy into a morally conflicted and terrified young man. The untold stories that played out while these transformations were occuring are the focus of several fanfiction arcs. Interestingly, these transformations are often located within the existing Harry Potter universe, and do not dispute the over-arching canon narrative, which can be seen as a respect for canon, but a disappointment in its depth.
Within the D/G fanfic fandom, a primary focus of their lost potentiality is the lost narrative within which characters are allowed to transform the very nature of the society that they live in. Based on the epilogue “Nineteen Years Later” in the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the wizarding world is still divided on the basis of ideological affiliation – wherein the “good” side and “bad” side is still reproducing its divisions, with Gryffindors marrying Gryffindors (Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione), and Slytherins marrying Slytherins (Draco/Astoria). It is argued that there existed a deeper (and certainly more conflicted) possible resolution to the series, wherein the heirarchical structure of the wizarding world was iconically dismantled through a relationship of some sort between the “good” and the “bad”, the Gryffindor and the Slytherin, fire and ice; Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley. This is argued to be not just a case of lost possibilities, but also of lost choices and characterisations.
In a continuation of the discussion of lost potentialities and their impact on the evolution of main narrative, HalfBloodDragon, author of Slytherin Squad wrote to me saying, “You discover late in the story that Snape has already been redeemed, but Harry Potter misses the chance for a hefty redemption arc told in front of us, and that arc should have been Draco’s. I think that’s also why there’s so much fanfic about him…For a book where the motto is “It’s our choices that show us what we truly are” we never see someone choose anything other than what they were expected to.” (Emphasis mine)
D/G fanfic does not exist just to substantiate upon the lost potential of interaction between these two characters, it attempts to function as a criticism of the series as a whole. In the quote emphasised above, HalfBloodDragon refers to a sentiment expressed by the kindly and wise Albus Dumbledore, and goes on to point out that J. K. Rowling never truly allows her characters to make choices that are out-of-character (or “OOC” in the fanfic community). Harry is brave and strong, Hermione is smart and loyal, Ron is hard working and loyal, Ginny is loving and loyal, Draco is cunning and a bully. If, at any point, they deviate from these characters, they return to their core principles before it is too late.
On the other hand, Draco and Ginny fanfic revolves around these characters making choices, and dealing with the consequences. It is not uncommon to come across a Dark!Ginny who chooses love, Draco, and the Death Eaters over her family and Harry, or a Noble!Draco who chooses love, Ginny, and the Order of the Phoenix over his family and the Death Eaters. The authors to explore the space within which these characters would realistically find themselves, with these decisions often result in alienation, pain, and even death, and not always ending with Draco and Ginny in bonded and holy matrimony.
The most common themes in the Draco/Ginny fanfic community, as per the listed fanfiction on the Fire and Ice Archive, are Humor and Drama, very closely followed by Angst. A close examination of the content locates this relationship within the realm of the realistic – by giving both characters a chance for internal conflict, moral dilemmas, and the capacity for unhappiness, as well as the chance for excitement, romance, and the capicity for joy, the fanfic community seems to be intent on pulling the characters of Draco and Ginny out of the unidimensional roles they play (antagonist/love interest) and developing them into characters in their own right.
“It gives a realistic edge to the story. Seriously, the closest that Harry comes to getting a boner through his six years in a co-ed school is when a metaphoric dragon purrs in his chest on hearing about Dean’s and Ginny’s break up. There’s no way that these kids managed to keep it in their pants for so long (not to mention the teen pregnancy rate in Great Britain). Rowling really sheltered her readers and ignored puberty hitting her protagonist. It’s good that fanfic writers remember to bring it in.”
– MdV, a fanfic reader
The emphasis on the sexual nature of the relationship between Draco and Ginny is pivitol to the D/G fandom. As a group of readers aged with the characters in the books, it is arguable that they were disappointed that these characters did not reflect the realities of adolesence that they themselves had to grapple with in real life. A parallel can be drawn between the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Harry Potter series in that they both look at an adolescent’s path to adulthood, in which Chosen Ones must fight battles of good vs. evil not only in a larger narrative, but also in their own personal lives. However, while Buffy (played by Sarah Michelle Geller) explores her sexuality through the series, the characters in the world of Harry Potter are restricted to kissing – and even then, the fact of kissing is described, and not the act in itself. Arguable, Buffy was intended for a slightly older audience with its protagonist starting off at the age of 16, but as Harry grows up through the books, and deals with death, violence, and madness, he does not engage with his sexuality.
As the protagonist, Harry’s exploration of his sexuality is limited, thus the explorations of other characters are mostly non-existant. However, from the very first book we know that Ginny is in love with Harry. In the second book, this becomes a point of ridicule and shame for her, when her singing Valentine to Harry is rejected (interestingly, it is Draco Malfoy who realises that Ginny sent this Valentine to Harry and makes a hurtful comment in the corridor about it). She is shown to be taking control of her sexual agency when, in the fifth book (The Order of the Phoenix), she reveals to The Golden Trio that she has been dating Michael Corner, a Ravenclaw, without her brother’s knowledge (again, interestingly, when her brother find out he implies that she is a “slut” without actually saying so).
This moment in which Ginny’s unknown love-life is revealed is, I argue, is a turning point in the fanfiction community’s engagement with Ginny Weasley. Within the space constructed by this action, fanfiction writers no longer need to work outside the canon universe to situate any of Ginny’s romantic relationships. This is particularly valuable to the D/G fandom, as it creates the possibility for a relationship between Draco and Ginny that was unknown to anyone but themselves. In the process of writing and reading this kind of fanfiction, the fandom is locating the agency and desire that they themselves recognise in adolescents – many of them were adoloscents not very long ago.
This engagement with the text is particularly valuable, I argue, in the creation of particular subjectivities which are absent within the Harry Potter universe. Any work of art, literature, or even the medical sciences, locates the recognition and pursuit of one’s sexuality as an important facet of coming into ones’ own personality, and a strong motivating factor for ones’ decisions. Thus, again, in a critique of the lack of depth that J.K. Rowling offers to her readers in the construction of the selfhood of her characters, the fanfiction community steps in.
When writing about children’s literature, scholars like Jacqueline Rose (1984) have argued that “The impulses of play, exploration and experimentation are given a tightly controlled space. Hence, watched over by adult networks, children’s literature often becomes an institutional field that sets up the child as an outsider to its own process.” (p.2)
The Draco and Ginny fanfic community is particularly interesting in this regard because it is based upon a sexual attraction that is wrong or taboo within the canon universe. The pursuit of the “wrong” kind of love is a space within which individual personalities that are distinct from the characters’ kinship or friend affiliation is created. The tropes of best friends falling in love (Ron/Hermione), first crushes finally being requited (Harry/Ginny), politically powerful alliances being formed (Draco/Pansy), are often overturned in the construction of alternate sexual narratives that privilege the individual character development over the convenience of a convenient epilogue with no loose ends.
Understanding the Draco/Ginny Fanfic Fandom
“My parents and close friends know that I write fanfic and are extremely supportive (My parents are my main beta-readers, go figure). Though it’s something that I would hide from any friends who aren’t close. Fanfiction is frequently seen as weird and the stories I tell with it are precious to me.”
– HalfBloodDragon, author of Slytherin Squad
Several published authors are resentful of fanfic based on their work because they see it as derivative, and as a devaluation of their social currency. Some authors, though, have acknowledged its work as free promotion in stimulating their fandoms, particularly in keeping it actie between publications. J.K. Rowling has repeatedly given her hearty endorsement and blessing to fanfic writers and readers who do not seek to commercialise on her work – though she has expressed her concerns regarding fanfic with explicit content, given that the Harry Potter series was originally targetted at a younger audience.
In the past, J.K. Rowling and her licensed partners have litigated against several individuals and organisations on the grounds of “copyright infringement.” This has included not-for-profit fansites, Durga puja floats, and lexicons compiled around the elements in the Harry Potter series. Curiously, though, they have allowed for fan-writing to be promoted and translated, as in the case of the James Potter series by G. Norman Lippert.
Many argue that this is possible because of the tight hold J.K. Rowling has on the evolution of the narratives in her universe. “You don’t have to be a Barthesian grad student to chafe at Rowling’s impulse to clarify the words on the page,” argues Esther Breger. “When writers adopt the paratextual world of fanfic as their own, they both diminish their books’ literary authority and interfere with the freewheeling spirit of fan writing.” With the publication of an epilogue that tied up most loose ends, and the periodic release of short stories, Twitter updates, and interviews which clarify certain aspects of the storyline that are arguably irrelevant to the existing canon (the revelation that Dumbledore was gay, that Hagrid could not conjure a patronus, that Harry’s son was sorted into Gryffindor), Breger and many others argue that she is narrowing the scope that the audience has to interpret her story – and certainly, narrowing the scope of the imagination of fanfic writers.
In this vein, J. K. Rowling explicitly dismissed the possibility of the redemption of the character of Draco Malfoy. “”I have often had cause to remark on how unnerved I have been by the number of girls who fell for this particular fictional character,” she said, stating that she is “unnerved” by the “unhealthy fantasies” fans have of Draco Malfoy. She claimed that she had to tell fans, “rather severely, that Draco was not concealing a heart of gold under all that sneering and prejudice and that no, he and Harry were not destined to end up best friends.”
Many fans, though, reject this control of the narrative by those who control the franchise, even if the control is exerted by the original creator. They argue that if the multiple arms of the franchise, of the culture industry, can have multiple insights into the narrative, they too are allowed to reinterpret the canon – particularly since their interpretation is not with an economically monetising intent. This is particularly true within the Draco/Ginny fanfic fandom which, while it has not economically profited from its work, has been going strong for the last fifteen years.
The first Draco/Ginny fanfic that has been recorded on the internet was published on FanFiction.net in 2000. The fic was not particularly well received at that point of time, but the ship slowly gained momentum. As a result, StrangerWithMyFace (a writer who would go on to become a legend in the D/G community) created the first D/G archive, Magical Theory in 2001, by inviting several FanFiction.net writers who had begun engaging with the ship to join her. While Magical Theory is now inactive, the Fire and Ice Archive, established by Mynuet and Megh in 2004, and run by Anise now, is the largest D/G archive. “We are the home of 750 authors and 709 beta readers from among our 21591 members. There have been 94261 reviews by 4009 reviewers written about our 2349 stories consisting of 7957 chapters and 25897467 words,” reads their website as of 9th September, 2015.
At the FIA, there does not just exist a fan culture surrounding the particular ship, but certain authors also possess fan followings of their own, for their manner of interpreting this ship. Cassandra Claire was an early front-runner with her Draco Trilogy (originally featured on another fanfic website, FictionAlley), but she ran into discredit on the fanfiction community due to claims of plagiarism, which has allegedly trickled into her original, published work, The Mortal Instruments (published under Cassandra Clare). Anise, Mynuet, Rainpuddle, CCC, jessica k malfoy, Sarea and Jade Okelani, Fearthainn, MochaButterfly, and Echo, are a few of the many authors who have achieved a considerable reputation for their work in this fandom (these are often referred to as “BNF”s – Big Name Fans).
Of these, Anise’s body of work is particularly vast – in 2005, she published A Field Guide to the Aniseverse – a guide to the Alternate Universes (as there are multiple, which often intersect through cross-overs) that she created from the existing Harry Potter universe. Each AU effectively functions within its own timeline, framwork, and internal narrative. Ten years later, and she has published an updated guide to this universe, and is still generating a strong body of work, with a loyal body of committed fans who voraciously read her work.
In the mainstream discourse, the consumption and creation of fanfiction is often characterised as “nerdy” and “geeky.” Many participants in this study have noted that since it is often “difficult” to come out as a fanfic fan In Real Life (or “IRL”), most of the appreciation, criticism, and ensuing personal growth they have achieved comes from within one’s fanfic community. Thus, the community and its inclusiveness are as important as the idea it represents.
The kinship group formed by this community of Draco/Ginny shippers is intriguing, I argue, when placed against the other subfandoms in the Harry Potter fandom. It is relatively small – at roughly 22,000 members, the Fire and Ice Archive does not reach out to, or attempt to reach out to, those who are not already intrigued by the pairing. Because of this relatively small size, new members can immerse themselves in the fandom without feeling alienated. Several people who have participated in this study have acknowledged that the D/G fandom is possibly one of the most welcoming to new fans, arguably because of the fact that the fandom does not draw particularly deeply from canon, thus canon-based knowledge and trivia are not a point of competition.
The Big Name Fans certainly deserve an amount of credit for this, because of their engagement with those who write to them and their responses to reviews. The two biggest events in the D/G fandom calendar are the annual Fic Exchange and the Ficmas, through which writers and readers engage with each other and “Draco/Ginny love is spread by the gift of giving.” The importance of the community and a support for it in the engagement with the idea of D/G is evidenced by the most recent post made by site-manager Anise on the Fire and Ice Archive on 7th September, 2015 – “FIA in an academic paper!! And YOU can participate. :)” which was, of course, referring to the writing of this paper.
The fandom has not monetarily profited from their fanfiction activity (with one possible exception being the fanfic writer Cassandra Claire, later published as Cassandra Clare, who loosely based her The Mortal Instruments series on a popular D/G AU fanfic she had written). However, it does have an impact upon the cultural capital that the participants in this particular fandom can claim in the larger Harry Potter fandom and the larger fanfic fandom.
Within the fandom in itself, while there are no transactonal exchanges of money, it is arguably a working model of a gift economy, in which fans do not simply generate their own fanfiction, but also beta read (edit) it, write reviews, participate in forum discussion, attend conventions, upload fan art, vote on fan awards, create videos based on fanfic or the themes in the fanfic, and share advice. Lewis Hyde (1983) argues that the exchange of gifts in a gift economy helps to create a bond based on a sense of obligation and reciprocity. Karen Hellekson (2009) argues that “the general understanding is that if no money is exchanged, the copyright owners have no reason to sue because they retain exclusive rights to make money from their property,” and that, furthermore, the gifts themselves have a certain value within a fan community. The participation of the D/G fanfic fandom in activities like the Annual D/G Fic Exchange fosters a closer sense of community, and helps a fan to acquire credentials and social capital as an active and enthusiastic member of the fandom.
Thus, I argue that the Draco/Ginny fandom is a comfortable space of support and community, one that is centred upon an appreciation for ideas and an unleashing of the imagination. The fanfic fandom is one which is premised upon the choices that one is allowed to make, both for characters within the Harry Potter universe, as well as for the writers who seek to write alternative narratives of the existing canon.
The act of “reading” a text has been discussed by various scholars as an act of engagement at various levels, depending on the reader. Those engaging with the world of Harry Potter have multiple forms of engagement because of the multiple franchises, and those engaging with Harry Potter fanfic have a deep sense of engagement through the claiming of ownership of the characters and overarching narrative. In this regard, the Draco/Ginny fanfic fandom goes one step further, by not just claiming characters and narratives, but by often disclaiming certain sections of the storyline and “fixing what J.K.R got wrong.”
Mynuet sums up the torch carried for the Draco/Ginny ship in Why Draco/Ginny, essentially rooting the relationship in the idea of respect, equality, and the freedom to make choices whose conseqences are borne by the agents. “Ultimately, though, to me it comes down to respect and equality. To my mind…there’s the possibility for mutual respect, for a coming together of equals..” This is also true of the approach the D/G fanfic writing community has with respect to the Harry Potter franchise as well; while they acknowledge that they derive all of their material from an original creator, they perceive their own value in their own ability to tell stories.
Over the years, my personal engagement with the fandom has exposed me to a body of work that is thoughtful, perceptive, and kind to the characters, and usually kind to J.K. Rowling’s original intent as well. Their reclaimation of the lost potentialities of the underdeveloped characters of Draco and Ginny, particularly through their backstories and sexual development, take the magical theory of Harry Potter and place it within the realm of personalised, relatable fiction. With personable writers who are willing to engage with their readers, and enthusiastic readers who are eager to share constructive criticism with their writers, this fandom is constructed not just around a ship, but around the choices we make, our yearnings for freedom, and a love of Harry Potter which is deep enough to want it to be the best that it could possibly have been – just as the fanfic that is written around Draco and Ginny is.
Ang, Ien. Watching Dallas. Metheun, 1985. Print.
Anise. A Field Guide to the Aniseverse. The Fire and Ice Archive. 23 June 2005. Web. 9 Sep 2015.
Anise. Jewel of the Harem. The Fire and Ice Archive. 16 Jul 2005. Web. 9 Sep 2015.
Anise. Why D/G Matters (And Always Will). The Fire and Ice Archive. 10 Nov 2013. Web. 9 Sep 2015.
BabyPan. Breaking All Boundries. The Fire and Ice Archive. 29 Nov 2004. Web. 9 Sep 2015.
Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” Image / Music / Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang. Print.
Bell Lumina. “Why I Have a Problem with Cassandra Clare & Why You Should Too.” Life and What Have You.” WordPress.com. Sep 2012. Web. 9 Sep 2015.
Breger, Esther. “J.K. Rowling’s New ‘Harry Potter’ Story Is a Marketing Scam.” New Republic. 8 Jul 2014. Web. 11 Sep 2015.
Claire, Cassandra. The Draco Trilogy. Schnoogle.com. 2000-2006. Web. 11 Sep 2015.
Clare, Cassandra. The Mortal Instruments.Margaret K. McElderry. 2007-2014. Print.
Echo. I Have Never Felt Your Fear. The Fire and Ice Archive. 27 Jul 2005. Web. 9 Sep 2015.
HalfBloodDragon. “Re: On Reading D/G Fanfic.” Message to the author. 5 Sep 2015. E-mail.
HalfBloodDragon. Slytherin Squad. The Fire and Ice Archive. 8 Sep 2014. Web. 9 Sep 2015.
Hellekson, Karen. “A Fannish Field of Value: Online Fan Gift Culture.” Cinema Journal, 48, Number 4, Summer 2009. Web. 11 Sep 2015.
Hyde, Lewis. The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. Vintage Books. 1979. Print.
Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge, 1992. Print.
Jenkins, Henry. “Fan Fiction as Critical Commentary. HenryJenkins.org. 27 Sep 2006. Web. 9 Sep 2015.
Jones, Bethan. “Fifty shades of exploitation: Fan labor and Fifty Shades of Grey.” Transformative Works and Culture, Vol 15. 2014. Web. 11 Sep 2015.
Lippert, G. Norman. James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing. 2007. Web. 11 Sep 2015.
MdV. “Re: On Reading D/G Fanfic.” Message to the author. 7 Sep 2015. E-mail.
Mynuet. Why Draco/Ginny? The Fire and Ice Archive. 11 Jul, 2004.Web. 9 Sep 2015.
Rose, Jacqueline. The Case of Peter Pan or, The Impossibility of Children’s Fiction. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984. Print.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury, 1997. Print.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998. Print.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. London: Bloomsbury, 1999. Print.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000. Print.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003. Print.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury, 2005. Print.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. London: Bloomsbury, 2007. Print.
Sue Bridehead. Draco and Ginny: The Ship that Defies All Logic. The Fire and Ice Archive. 23 Sep, 2004. Web. 9 Sep 2015.
Sims, David. “Harry Potter and the Never-Ending Story.” The Atlantic. 3 Sep 2015. Web. 11 Sep 2015. Vincent, Alice. “JK Rowling: I can’t see why girls fall for Draco Malfoy.” The Telegraph. 22 Dec 2014. Web. 11 Sep 2015.