Title: Excuse Me, I'm Head Boy: an appreciation of Percy Weasley
SS = Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone [paperback]
CoS = Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [papepback]
PoA = Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban [paperback]
GoF = Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [hardback]
OotP = Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [hardback]
Spoilers: all five books
Edited to add another fic reference on 2 Nov, and another on 3 Nov:
Percy Ignatius Weasley is Harry Potter's "least favorite" member of the red-haired Weasley clan. Since since the publication of OotP, it's a safe bet that he is the "least favorite" among fans as well.
OotP is an odd time to have become a fan of Percy Ignatius Weasley, and yet, this is precisely when I got really interested in this character. I must admit up front that when I first started thinking about Percy in depth, I shared Harry's viewpoint on him: Percy was the Weasley that I liked the least. I sympathized with him because he was incredibly stressed and constantly picked on by his siblings, but at the same time I thought that he was bossy and vapid. He'd been annoying in the preceding books and was finally showing his true nature in OotP. But…did he, really? Or was OotP merely the setup to Percy's real choice?
The longer I thought about Percy, the more I realized that Percy has been in such a mad-rush to grow-up and make something of himself that he hasn't allowed himself to really look deeply at what's going on all around him. Through a combination of circumstance and obstinacy, Percy has been so focused on his own goals that he has not seen the truth that Voldemort and the Death Eaters are poised to return to power. He is forced to face this fact only at the end of OotP. He knows now that his family and Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter were right, and the Ministry was wrong. What will he do? Percy will be showing his true colors in the next book, and I truly expect him to chose wisely.
The more I examined Percy Weasley in the text, the more I came to first sympathize with him, and then to genuinely like him. Oh, don't get me wrong. Percy has flaws a plenty and this is one of the reasons why I have grown to love this character. He is complex and layered and prickly. He isn't instantly loveable or easily accessible like so many of the other HP characters, but underneath his pompous facade beats the passionate and hot-blooded heart of a Gryffindor lion. It would do him a disservice to whitewash Percy's flaws so let's get them out of the way: he's overly proud, he has no sense of humor, he is both naïve and superficial, and he is infamously pompous. He shows off and brags about his status in each book. When his father challenges Percy's latest promotion, Percy furiously turns his back on his family and goes to work for a man whom he doesn't appear to respect, the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge.
Percy is the middle child in the Weasley family. He was born on August 22, and spent the first five years of his life during Voldemort's first war. It's unclear how many years separate him from his elder brothers Bill and Charlie. Rowling's statements in interviews do not match statements in the text. However, we know that Charlie is at least three years older than Percy, and Bill is two years older than that. Percy is two years older than the twins, Fred and George. He is four years older than Ron, and five years older than Ginny. Like all of the Weasleys, Percy has red hair. He is tall and lanky. Like his father, he wears glasses. Despite being a well-regarded pureblood family, the Weasleys are extremely poor. The children grew up with secondhand clothes and books. Many fans have speculated that growing up during Voldemort's war had a profound affect on young Percy. The Death Eaters were killing people in their own homes. It is easy to picture Molly instilling in him the idea that his life depended on following the rules. Since the older two boys were either away at school and later both chose careers that took them to other countries, Percy was the de facto eldest sibling at home. It is easy to see how Molly might have tasked him with looking after the younger kids.
Summary of Percy's Story in the Books
Percy has experienced a meteoric rise in status. He begins as prefect, was elected to Head Boy, and then graduated school and immediately went to work at the Ministry of Magic. He didn't get just any job either. He went to work for his hero Barty Crouch, in the Department of International Cooperation. Crouch was one of the most prestigious wizards in the nation. A renowned foe of Voldemort, Crouch authorized extreme measures to hunt down the Death Eaters. He had a reputation for never breaking rules. Crouch had been a shoe-in for the position of Minister of Magic until his own son was arrested for being one of the Death Eaters who tortured the Longbottoms. Crouch sent his son to Azkaban where he died after a year. Crouch's wife also died. This caused a backlash against him politically, and Cornelius Fudge became Minister in his place.
Shortly after getting his job at the Ministry, Percy joined his elder brothers in a fight against the Death Eaters who attacked a family of Muggles during the Quidditch World Cup, an event that Percy's own department had arranged. Percy and his brothers were all bloodied in the fight, though none was injured too severely.
Percy idolized Barty Crouch and could recite his many talents and accomplishments. When Crouch took ill and ceased going to the office, Percy stepped up to shoulder all of the responsibility for running the Department of International Cooperation. Crouch mailed him instructions and Percy struggled to do it all. He managed the day-to-day operations of the Department, dealt with the press who were investigating the Death Eater activity at the World Cup, and also helped Dumbledore to manage and judge the Tri-Wizard Competition. It was hard work, but Percy was persistent and determined to prove himself.
Percy, like the rest of the wizard world, had been duped about Barty Crouch and his Death Eater son. Crouch Sr. had secretly freed his son from prison. Crouch Sr. was murdered, and Crouch Jr. helped Voldemort to return.
Percy was investigated by the Ministry because he hadn't realized that Crouch Sr. had been put under an Imperius Curse and then killed. Despite his family's fears that his career was over, Percy was exonerated and then, in a surprise move, promoted to work directly for the Minister of Magic himself. Percy was over the moon with happiness. All of his dreams were coming true. Fudge had once said that he relied on Barty Crouch to handle difficult problems such as international relations. With Crouch gone, it made sense to rely on Percy in his place, or at least, Percy must have thought so. He was being promoted as reward for his accomplishments and effort.
Arthur Weasley saw things differently. Minister Fudge was fearful that Albus Dumbledore was plotting a political take-over. Fudge was determined to root out any of Dumbledore's supporters from the Ministry. Arthur was a member of Dumbledore's secret organization, The Order of the Phoenix. Arthur was sure that Fudge had promoted Percy solely to use him as a spy against the Weasley family. Percy came home expecting praise for his promotion; instead, Arthur essentially told him that Fudge was playing him for a fool. Percy vented all of his pent up anger. His family had never supported him. They had always mocked him and his goals and he was sick of it. Furthermore, he was tired of being compared to his father at work, where Arthur was considered something of a joke. He announced that his loyalty was going to be to the Ministry, and not to his family.
Percy stormed out of the house and moved to a flat in London. He severed all ties with his family. He returned Molly's Christmas sweater and didn't even visit Arthur in the hospital when Arthur was near death. He participated in Harry's trial, and worst of all in the eyes of many fans, he wrote Ron a letter telling Ron to sever ties with Harry. When last we saw Percy, he had accompanied Fudge to Hogwarts to take notes while Harry was expelled and Dumbledore was arrested. Interestingly, he was instructed to leave the scene before Dumbledore overpowered Fudge and the others. Percy, with the rest of the Ministry, now knows for sure that Voldemort has returned.
Money, Popularity, Accomplishments, or Power?
Many readers are quick to condemn Percy as wanting power its own sake. This isn't true. Percy wants recognition and he expects that to come as the natural reward for his hard work. He's no saint: he does enjoy being singled out and given badges and separate seating and titles, but he expects to work for those things.
Alone of his siblings, Percy never complained about being poor until his argument with Arthur in OotP. The only time in the books that he ever mentioned money was when he put a 10 galleon bet on Harry to win a Quidditch match.
"Harry – make sure you win," said Percy in an urgent whisper. "I haven't got ten Galleons. " (PoA, pg 257-8).
Later, he enthusiastically congratulates Harry and is delighted to have come into this windfall. He is disgusted by cheating to gain money (GoF, 151).
Percy is equally scornful of popularity. Arthur tells Percy that he "smoothed over" an illegal "spot of trouble" for a fellow Ministry member that he likes named Ludo Bagman. In return, Bagman got the family free tickets to the best seats at the Quidditch World Cup. Percy is openly contemptuous:
"Oh, Bagman's likable enough, of course," said Percy dismissively, "But how he ever got to be Head of Department…when I compare him to Mr. Crouch!..." (GoF, 61)
He implies that Bagman is not competent, and in this case he is correct. Bagman is sleazy and corrupt.
Percy stresses hard work and responsibility. He received 12 O.W.L.s (CoS, 46) and studied far into the night to pass his N.E.W.T.s. Only Hermione was more anxious than he was (PoA, 314-5) He is "in his element" when given responsibility to look after the other students (SS, 173), even though he did become quite bossy doing so. He set high performance expectations for himself, but then, so did Dumbledore and McGonagall. McGonagall is furious when the Gryffindor students start crowding into the Gryffindor Common Room in the middle of the night, following Sirius Black's attack on Ron.
"Percy, I expected better of you!" she snaps at him, as if it is his fault that all of the students are out of bed (PoA, 267).
Percy does value power, but he obviously believes that it must be earned through hard work. Percy "positively writhes with excitement" when describing all of Barty Crouch's skills. He works so hard that even his hero Barty Crouch thinks that he's trying too hard. He describes Percy as:
"Very enthusiastic…a little overenthusiastic, if truth be told…" (GoF, 281)
Ironically, even though Crouch does indeed come to rely entirely on Percy to run the entire Department of International Cooperation, he never remembers Percy's name. He calls him Weatherby, much to the delight of the twins.
Growing Up Too Fast
Percy has always been in a mad dash race to grow up and join the adult world. This is one of the reasons why he has risen so high so quickly, but it also helps to explain his pompous demeanor and actions. He has been practicing to be a grownup since he was a kid. Perhaps Molly shoehorned him into this role, or perhaps he just came by it naturally; either way, Percy has raced into the adult political world without any experience or comprehension of what that world is really like.
He seems to plow through everything in his life. This tall, thin, eyeglass-wearing redhead doesn't just walk, he strides (SS, 95) or storms (CoS, 70) into rooms. He doesn't just talk, he speaks briskly. He acts like a caricature of a dignified adult, as in this example in the third book (PoA 62)
"Percy, however, held out his hand solemnly as though he and Harry never met and said, "Harry. How nice to see you."
"Hello, Percy," said Harry, trying not to laugh.
"I hope you're well?" said Percy pompously, shaking hands. It was rather like being introduced to the mayor."
He styles himself like what he thinks a dignified adult should be, but every once in a while he relaxes and acts his age. "There was Percy, jumping up and down like a maniac, all dignity forgotten," after the Gryffindor Quidditch victory (CoS, 313). He has a surprisingly thorough knowledge of all of the fun sites in Hogsmeade:
"All right, the sweetshop's rather good, and Zonko's Joke Shop's frankly dangerous, and yes, the Shrieking Shack's always worth a visit…" (PoA, 151).
He plays chess and gobstones, has participated in snowball fights with his brothers, and he may even sing (badly) in the shower, (GoF, 366). He also plays Quidditch, not that we ever see him playing. For everyone who thinks that the twins shun Percy, I'd like to point out that they invite him to come out and play Quidditch with them, though he declines in order to study (CoS, 46). I think that one reason that the twins tease him is to remind him to just lighten up, relax, and just be a teen-ager instead of an old man in a young man's body.
Percy with His Family and Friends
I do not think that the Weasley family is overly dysfunctional, but there are some distinct problems in this "ideal" family. The parents seem to favor different children. Molly dotes on Percy and to a lesser extent Ginny, while Arthur gets along with the twins and Ron. Interestingly, the two eldest boys chose glamorous jobs far overseas, so they haven't played much role in the family dynamics. For all intents and purposes, Percy has been the eldest child at home. The twins pick on everyone mercilessly, but take special glee in tormenting Percy. Arthur almost never issues any discipline in this family. He leaves that to Molly.
The twins George and Fred tease and taunt Percy constantly. They tease him in Percy's first speaking appearance in the books. Percy tells their mother Molly that he is to sit with the other prefects on the train. The twins immediately start to tease him. Their mother Molly kisses him fondly and sends him on his way. The twins tease and mock Percy constantly, even when Percy has done nothing to provoke them. Percy innocently asks his why the Ministry is sending cars to escort them to the train station, the twins tell Percy that the Ministry is doing it for him, and the cars will have flags that say, HB for "Humongous Bighead" (PoA, 62). They steal his prefect badge because it amuses them to hear Percy and Ron argue about it. Not only did they steal it, they bewitched it to read "Bighead Boy" (PoA, 67). At Christmas dinner, they bewitch his badge to read "Pinhead" (CoS, 212). They are relentless. When they aren't teasing Percy themselves, they are congratulating Ron for upsetting him (PoA, 69). They mail dragon dung to his office when he starts work (GoF, 64). They even complain when Percy doesn't gloat. (CoS, 46)
Did all of this teasing drive Percy to abandon his family? Some have said that Percy gets them back as much as they tease him, but I don't see this in the text. I also don't believe that the twins only teased him to a point but then stopped when he'd had enough. The twins do not have any self-restraint. I think that they are one reason why Percy hides his softer emotions. As soon as the twins discovered that he had a girlfriend, they were gleeful because it gave them more ammunition to use against him. However, I don't think that Percy left home because of a conflict with the twins. If anything, I think that he left because of a conflict with his father, but even more because he was simply ready to leave home.
Percy dotes on his sister Ginny and looks after her constantly during Ginny's first year in school. You have to read carefully to see this relationship. Ginny's story is pushed into the background, so Percy's relationship with her is also downplayed. Percy is the first to notice that Ginny wasn't looking well, and he makes her take PepperUp potion (CoS, 122). He gets "apoplectic with rage" when the twins disguise themselves in fur or boils and jump out at her. He knows that Ginny is having nightmares, and at this point probably think that it's because the twins have been scaring her (CoS, 185). Ginny writes in her diary that Percy keeps telling her that she's pale and not acting like herself (CoS, 310). Percy trusted Ginny (foolishly as it turned out) not to tell his brothers about Penelope.
Percy is too upset to sit with his brothers when he thinks that Ginny has been killed. He notifies their parents and then shuts himself up in his room, alone (CoS, 295) So far as Ginny is concerned, Percy is a protective older brother who loves his baby sister and would do whatever it takes to look after her.
Bill and Charlie
Percy appears to have a more equitable relationship with his older brothers. When he testily yells at them to stop making noise while he's working, they do so with good humor. Percy associates with them rather than with his younger siblings. He Apparates to the World Cup with them. Most significantly, he fights along side them when Death Eaters disrupt the World Cup. Arthur tells the younger children to hide and then he runs to catch up with his three eldest boys. The older siblings only put up with Percy's pompous ramblings about work for a short while before they tell him to shut up (GoF, 147).
Ron complains about Percy, which is interesting because Percy seems to be quite fond of him. In fact, I think that Percy wanted Ron to be his best friend. In re-reading these books I was struck by Percy's lack of named friends. He has Penelope Clearwater and... who else?
Ron values loyalty but he fears that Percy has none. He accuses Percy of caring more about becoming Head Boy than he is about Ginny (CoS, 158). He jokes that Percy has poisoned Barty Crouch in order to get a promotion (GoF, 449). He thinks that Percy is "obsessed" with work and wouldn't even come home if their Dad didn't make him. (GoF, 57). Ron likes to have a good time, but he thinks that Percy has no sense of humor (GoF, 384). Ron speculates that Percy would admire Barty Crouch for sending his own son to Azkaban. Hermione chastises him "severely" for saying implying that Percy would throw the Weasleys to the dementors, but Ron isn't so sure. He thinks it's possible that Percy would turn betray them to advance his career (GoF, 534). We readers know that Percy walked away from his family instead of betraying them even though he's had ample opportunity to.
It's especially sad that Ron feels this way about Percy, because there is no question about the fact that Percy loves Ron. He enthusiastically congratulates Ron for being sorted into Gryffindor (SS, 122). Percy could be heard crowing about Ron over the cheering crowd in the Great Hall at the end of SS.
"My brother, you know! My youngest brother! Got past McGonagall's giant chess set!" (SS, 305)
He even rushes out in the lake to rescue Ron during the Triwizarding Tournament because he thought that Ron's life was in danger. Interestingly, Rowling describes him as looking "somehow much younger than usual" in this scene (GoF, 504) He is so concerned for Ron's safety that he drops all of his pretenses and finally acts his own age. I think that this is a very significant clue about Percy's real loyalties and his true nature. He so obviously cares about Ron that he drops everything and runs out to save him. And what is his reward? Ron tries to push him away. Ron knew that his life was never in danger and he is embarrassed by Percy's show of affection.
Even Percy's inflammatory secret letter to Ron is an open expression of affection and concern (OotP, 296-299). He misses Ron and apologizes for not being able to see him. He congratulates him for becoming prefect and says that he is sorry for criticizing their parents. In his backhanded but well-intended way, Percy is trying to look out for Ron when he urges Ron to sever ties with Harry. We readers know that Percy is wrong about Harry, but I do not believe that Percy knows that he's wrong. Even Percy hedges about Harry here. He says "for all I know" Harry may be violent. Many readers say that Percy should have known better because he has spent enough time around Harry to trust him. This is true to a point. He knows that Harry rescued Ginny, but he also knows that Ron's life has been endangered through his association with Harry. During the time that Harry spent time at the Burrow, Percy mainly kept to himself because he was studying, writing love letters to Penelope, or working.
Molly Weasley frequently holds Percy up as the example of the "good" child, and the twins resent it (CoS, 33). This only causes the twins to retaliate by mocking him more. Molly seems to be oblivious to this. Molly dotes on Percy and brags about his achievements almost as much as he does. When the twins tease him in front of Harry, everyone – including their father Arthur—laughs at Percy except for Molly. Prior to OotP, the only time that Molly ever raised her voice to Percy was when he criticized Arthur (GoF, 152). We do not know Molly's thoughts about the fight that Percy had with Arthur in OotP, but she cries when he is mentioned. She worries that something dreadful will happen before they can reconcile. (OotP, 177)
Arthur Weasley has happily ensconced himself at work in a low-paying, dead-end job. His children suffer for his lack of ambition. While he condescendingly dotes on all things Muggle and even writes loopholes into the law that allow him to collect Muggle gadgets and even cars, his children go to school in ragged clothes and tote secondhand books and wands. The Weasley children are routinely mocked by their 'betters.' They all hated this fact except, seemingly for Percy who never said a word…until OotP.
Percy's relationship with his father seems strained even before the infamous fight in OotP. I get the impression that Arthur doesn't actually like Percy very much. He joins the twins in laughing at Percy more than once. I'm sure that Arthur disliked the fact that Percy started judging people at the Ministry so soon after starting work. Arthur defends his friend Ludo Bagman to Percy but Percy implies that Bagman is incompetent. Arthur himself has a reputation for being a bit odd and overly fond of Muggles. Arthur means well, but he builds loopholes into the rules so that he can 'bend' the regulations to suit himself. The twins and Ron might be amused by the fact that Arthur would have to arrest himself if he ever raided his own house, but not Percy. Percy is intolerant of any rule-breaking. I think that Arthur is a bit unnerved by Percy's unyielding adherence to the letter of the law.
Arthur was also irritated by Percy's hero-worshiping of Barty Crouch Sr. As a father, it must have pained him to hear his son constantly praise this other father-figure who was the complete opposite of Arthur. Arthur is easy-going and breaks 'little' rules all of the time. He 'smoothes things over' for other Ministry staff who have had a run-in with the law. Barty Crouch was notoriously rigid about rules, just like Percy. It's easy to imagine that Arthur irritated with Percy, but also jealous of Barty Crouch. What's particularly sad about the conflict between Percy and Arthur is the fact that Percy was so proud of going off to work in the Ministry with his father. I think that Percy has been dying for his father's recognition and approval, and it's very possible that Arthur secretly wants the same thing from Percy.
We hear about Percy's fight with Arthur secondhand so once again we are put in the position of having the truth about Percy framed for us by others. Percy expected his family to be proud of him. He has worked tirelessly. He has done everything from grunt work (reports about cauldron bottoms) to actually running a vital department by himself while Barty Crouch Sr. was indisposed (the Department of International Cooperation). In a matter of a year, he has risen all the way to the office of the Minister of Magic. All of his dreams were realized – and then shattered. Instead of being happy for Percy, Arthur told him that he was being played for a fool. In essence he said, "No son. You didn't deserve this promotion. Your work has been a sham. They're using you to spy on me. I'm the important one here."
Imagine how devastating this must have seemed to Percy. He has always been the good son. He never complained. He worked tirelessly at home, at school, and then at work. He had been proud to set an example for his younger siblings, whom he obviously loved. He hadn't gone far off overseas like his elder brothers did. In fact, he had followed in his own father's footsteps to get a job at the Ministry. Yet now here was his father, the same man who has laughed at him along side the twins, telling him that all Percy's hard work meant nothing – and worse – that Arthur was the important one – and worst of all – that he thought that Percy would spy on him. This was far worse than the time that Ron had falsely accused him of only pretending to care about Ginny. This was his own father telling him in no uncertain terms that he thought that Percy would spy on the family in order to further his own career.
The results were predictable enough, but shocking to readers who had viewed the Weasley family as an island of domestic perfection. The good son, stung bitterly and provoked beyond all caring finally fought back. Percy had had enough teasing, enough being laughed at or insulted, and enough being mistrusted by those people who were closest to him. If his own family thought so little of him, then he would no longer have anything to do with them. He bluntly said that Arthur was responsible for keeping his family in poverty (which was true), and said that he was not going to make the same mistake. Percy was going to make something of himself. He stormed out of the house and did not return. He refuses to acknowledge his family: he walks by Arthur at work without making eye contact. He returned Molly's traditional Christmas gift of a sweater. He did not even go the hospital when Arthur was near death. Worst of all in the eyes of many readers, he wrote Ron an unctuous letter in which he advised Ron to cease being Harry's friend.
GoF is rife with father/son conflicts. Tom Riddle murders his father. Barty Crouch Jr. murders his father. Percy and Arthur show the first cracks in what would lead to a bitter fight in OotP. Arthur Weasley is unlike both of those other fathers. He's a soft-hearted man, just as I suspect that Percy is too. I suspect that the fight they had in OotP was made even more terrible by the fact that all each of these men really want is each other's approval but they simply don't know how to express it. I am crossing my fingers and hoping that they each wise up, swallow their pride, and apologize to each other.
Hermione and Harry
It's probably not surprising that Percy and Hermione get along well up to OotP. They hit it off in Hermione's first year (SS, 125-6). Hermione has frequently recommended that they ask Percy his opinion, and she counts on him to put a stop to Harry and Ron's dangerous, rule-breaking behavior. They agree about most things. Percy is "very taken aback" when Hermione argues with him about house elves (GoF, 141). Hermione defends Percy to Ron.
Many readers believe that Percy is jealous of Harry, especially because of Harry's friendship with Ron. I'm sure that there is some truth in this. In GoF, he threw "jealous looks at Harry..." (GoF, 100) Percy obviously cares about Ron, but Ron is mainly annoyed by Percy. Harry was welcomed warmly into the Weasley family as a sort of adopted son. Everyone loves Harry. Nobody seems to even like Percy in his family except for his mother. His father and brothers have laughed at him in front of Harry. Everyone has heard of Harry, including the Ministry officials whom Percy is working so hard to impress. Harry is rich. Harry saved his sister and his girlfriend and has saved Ron's life many times. That would be enough to make anyone jealous...but also incredibly lonely.
How does Percy act towards Harry?
Percy jumps up to congratulate Harry for being sorted into Gryffindor. He is the first person to notice that Harry's scar hurt him when Quirrell looked at him (SS, 126). He assures Harry that Dumbledore is a genius and the best wizard in the world. He compliments Harry's flying skills and cheers Harry's victories and has enough faith in him to bet money that he doesn't even have on Harry's success. He offers Harry career advice, though in my opinion Percy picks classes that match his own goals rather than Harry's. He tries to help Harry win at chess against Ron.
On the other hand, Percy tries to solve conflicts between the students peacefully by relying on his authority as prefect, but Harry loses his temper and uses magic (CoS, 239).
A hush fell over the onlookers. Ginny was staring from the diary to Harry, looking terrified.
"Hand it over, Malfoy," said Percy sternly.
"When I've had a look" said Malfoy, waving the diary tauntingly at Harry.
Percy said, "As a school prefect—" but Harry had lost his temper. He pulled out a wand and shouted, "Expelliarmus!" and just as Snape had disarmed Lockhart, so Malfoy found the diary shooting out of his hand into the air. Ron, grinning broadly, caught it.
"Harry!" said Percy loudly "No magic in the corridors. I'll have to report this, you know!"
He finds Harry, Ron, and Hermione snooping around Moaning Myrtle's toilet in complete defiance of the rules that were put in place to protect students against the basilisk. He sees Ron risking his life repeatedly due to Harry. He has read the articles in the paper about Harry's erratic behavior and has personally witnessed the fact that Harry's scar can cause him pain (perhaps causing him to become unstable over time). It's believable that Percy might come to think that Harry may be a good but unstable person. He is wrong, but he is not present for most of the events in these books. He gets most of his information about Harry from second hand sources.
Percy in Love: Penelope Clearwater
It's a fact that Percy is the only Weasley sibling we know of who has had a romantic relationship of long standing. We don't know when he met his Ravenclaw girlfriend Penelope Clearwater. He was writing her love letters during the summer between SS and CoS. They dated in secret that entire year. Ginny caught them kissing and Percy made her promise not to tell anyone. He kept his relationship with Penny so secret that not even his friends knew he was dating her. When she was petrified by the basilisk, he was so distraught that he couldn't speak. George jumped to the wrong conclusion and told Harry that Percy was just upset because he didn't think that prefects would be attacked. (CoS, 258). Penelope recovered and the two were a couple at least until Percy graduated.
I think that Percy's relationship with Penny provides another important clue about Percy's real nature. He hid his tender feelings for her from his family, because he didn't want to be teased about it, no doubt. George automatically assumed that Percy's distress was about status and power. In fact, Percy was devastated because he cared for Penelope. He hides his gentler, loving emotions from his brothers, but that doesn't mean that he is heartless. Far from it. Percy can be deeply emotional, but he bottles up his feelings. And he is faithful, from what evidence that we have. He stayed with Penelope for years. We don't know if they stayed together after they graduated from school.
Percy's Moral Choices
One of the reasons why I like Percy is because he faces moral choices in the text in ways that the more 'popular' rule-breaking characters do not, such as the twins and the trio. Harry/we readers approve of the twins' viciousness when it is directed against someone Harry/we don't like, like Dudley. Harry/we smugly laugh when the 'good' guys hex Draco and his thugs until they resemble slugs (hahaha! Won't Draco's Mum be surprised to see him now!), or when Hermione puts Rita Skeeter in a jar, or sends Umbridge into the forest to be attacked by centaurs). No one cuts Percy any slack for any of his actions, and that fascinates me. Why is Percy being held to a different moral standard than the more 'popular' rule-breaking characters?
I think that the answer in part, is because Percy's goals and aspirations are so high. Percy hopes one day to become Minister of Magic, the highest ranking position of power in this world. The Ministry of Magic is more than just the government, it is the entity that protects the wizard world from the Muggle world, the entity that is charged with oversight of the other magical beings and beasts, the entity that guards the most profound magical secrets known.
Percy has set his sights on the highest position of power. The use and abuse of power is a fundamental theme in this series. Percy has aimed high and therefore needs to be held to the same high standards that we use to judge other "powerful" characters like Dumbledore, Voldemort, Lucius Malfoy, and Cornelius Fudge. Are Percy's goals selfish or selfless? Is he seeking power only to further his own ends or is he motivated by altruistic idealism?
The wizard world is splitting into Dark and Light factions, Voldemort and Malfoy vs. Dumbledore and Potter. The Ministry tries to remain neutral until the very end of OotP. Percy, as a faithful Ministry employee, has also stayed neutral. Once Voldemort and the Death Eaters break into the Ministry, Fudge is forced to admit that the Dark Lord has returned. The Ministry is preparing for war, but as of the end of OotP, Fudge has not made any overtures to Dumbledore. What will Percy do? Will he apologize to his family and to Harry and openly side with the Order? Will his family apologize to him for their behavior? Will Percy continue to stubbornly believe that the Ministry can maintain social order, or will he perhaps turn spy and pass along helpful information to Dumbledore?
We don't know what will become of Percy. His own moral arc has brought him to a crossroad. Until the release of the next book, readers can only speculate on his fate. In my opinion, these are all equally possible.
1. Percy and his family reconcile and he is 'redeemed' because he ceases to focus on his own career and joins the Order because it is the 'right' thing to do. JKR loves the Weasley family. Having Percy, a good person who has made some bad choices, 'redeemed' allows her to teach Harry a lesson that people are not black and white, good vs. evil. JKR has hinted that Percy 'may' be redeemed. In GoF she indicated that Percy "bowed so low [to Fudge] that his glasses fell off and shattered. Highly embarrassed, he repaired them with his wand and thereafter remained in his seat..." (GoF, 100). Perhaps Rowling was providing a coy clue here that Percy's association with Fudge has caused him to lose his ability to 'see' but that he will regain his sight. Hard to say. Alas for Percy, in a war setting, 'redemption' arcs are frequently deadly.
2. Percy selfishly puts his political career ahead of selflessly allying with the Order to fight against Voldemort. Percy believes what he sees. He has been quite naïve. He may honestly have thought that there was no viable evidence that Voldemort has returned. He knows better now. If he persists in putting his own career ahead of the greater good, then he will have failed the make the correct moral choice. This could also lead to his death. Worse in a sense: he could survive the war but end up as a lonely and bitter man like Snape.
Would he 'do a Crouch' as Ron hysterically accused him of, and betray his family to the Ministry? Percy knows that his family are in the Order of the Phoenix. He even mentions one of the members in his letter to Ron. He knows that the Ministry is trying to 'out' the Order and destroy it. This is the very reason why he is estranged from his family, and yet he has stayed silent about it for a year. He could have turned in his family at any time, but he hasn't.
3. Percy stays with the Ministry and becomes a spy for Dumbledore (if he isn't already doing this). I am quite fond of this argument because it is a very Gryffindor thing to do. I can easily deconstruct his actions and even his infamous letter to Ron and point to indications that Percy is already spying for Dumbledore. That is a stretch, and requires us to believe that Percy wised up after the fiasco with Barty Crouch, Sr. As much as I love this argument, I don't know if Percy was mature enough to make that decision yet.
• Percy doesn't look Harry in the eye during the trial – but neither does Dumbledore; Dumbledore has warned Percy that Harry is 'possessed' by Voldemort.
• Percy has a visible break from his family in order to 'prove' his loyalty to Fudge. Fudge is already suspicious of Arthur. If Percy is to be an effective spy, he must publicly disassociate himself from his family and ingratiate himself with Fudge.
• Percy buries a message of affection and support in his letter to Ron. He also buries some significant warnings to Ron regarding Ministry plans, plus the fact that one of the Order members has been arrested. Note that the chapter Percy's letter appears in starts out with Harry thinking about how difficult it is to write letters containing 'secret' information.
• Sirius Black, of all people, assured the Weasleys and Harry that Percy would 'come around.' Did he know something that we don't know?
• The letter appears in Chapter 14, which is entitled Percy and Padfoot and the chapter focuses on secret messages. If you apply Harry's comments in that chapter about how to write a secret message to Percy's letter, a very different message appears. Remember, later Umbridge reveals that all communications to Hogwarts are being monitored, so Percy would have had to include a lot of pro-Ministry blather on top of his 'real' message out of self-protection.
• Fans of this theory are also quick to cite the parallels with the famous Scarlet Pimpernel series, in which the hero, Sir Percy, allows his family and friends to think that he is a despicable fop because it allows him to work undercover as a spy.
4. There is a possible 4th option. Some readers believe that Percy will become a Death Eater, but I don't see that happening. He's already fought against them. He dated a Muggleborn witch and got on quite well with Hermione. He has some serious character flaws, but supporting racists who want to overthrow the Ministry and disrupt social order certainly isn't among them. Even Draco Malfoy who hates the entire Weasley family thought that Percy wanted to take down the Heir of Slytherin all by himself.
I will continue to love Percy Weasley, even if he chooses badly and is killed for his hubris. He's far more nuanced than many of the other regular characters. He's profoundly emotional even though he hides his vulnerabilities. He loves his family even though they scorn him. He has set his sites almost impossibly high, and he is doing everything that he can possibly do to fulfill his dreams. He might be pompous, bossy, and insufferably smug, but he is also a good young man with a grand vision who works hard and who is "in his element" when he can help others in times of great need. I think that there is a reason why Rowling said that Percy "nearly broke his teeth on a silver sickle embedded in his slice" of Christmas pudding (SS, 203). The coin in the Christmas pudding is a sign of good luck. Percy got this good luck omen, even though he "nearly" broke himself on it. I am hoping that this means that he'll salvage the mistakes that he's made in his 'fortunate' career and pull himself back from the near brush with disaster. Only time (and the next book(s)) will tell.
Websites Dedicated to Percy Weasley
The percy_fans, LJ community.
P is for Percy: essays, graphics, and links, my favorite Percy-centric site
www.percyweasley.com (closed but has some good content)
Percy Weasley fanlisting (not much here as yet): http://shann.instantinsanity.net/percy/
"The Burrow", a good general Weasley family site with balanced bio of Percy): http://www.silentbard.net/burrow/
Fanfic about Percy is all over the map in portraying Percy Weasley. There are numerous stories in which he is flat out evil. Other stories examine his tense, unhappy relationship with his brothers and emphasize his outsider/misfit status within the family. Many writers imagine a disillusioned or politically ruined young man after OotP. Favorite pairings seem to be Percy/Penelope for het, and Percy/Oliver for slash.
There is a huge list of Percy-related fic references here:
Another site dedicated to Percy fanfics. Gen/slash
cheshyre has a list of Percy/Malfoy fics here:
The Percy Weasley Fic-A-Thon
Sixth, by Trin
(The only 'shippy' story on the list. Percy/Penelope/Oliver. I'm very impressed by this writer's HP fics.)
Dream Deferred, by risti
(WIP: Percy is determined not to let feelings for his family interfere with his career)http://www.schnoogle.com/authorLinks/Risti/
Got Some Dark Desire, by Trin2
(Angsty story that mirrors my own view of Percy as an angry young man in too much of a rush to become an adult.)
Not Without My Reasons
(Percy tells his elder brothers why he is leaving the family and his job in search of his own adventure.)http://ladyjackyl.onetruesin.net/MyReasons.php
Reichenbach, by malograntum
(Percy finds Scabbers again.)
Father of Mine by anedac
(Imagines the fight between Percy and Arthur.)
Endurance, by calanthe_b
(Part of a series. Lupin helps Percy, who is bearing the Dark Mark.)
(Percy is driven mad by the grinding routine of his empty life.)
The Problem with Improperly Shelved Books, by scribbulus_ink
(A post OotP story featuring Lupin and Percy.)
A parody of "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"
I'm not familiar with many fan art sites or artists. I offer only these references:
My favorite: Percy and the twins, by Ayne Greensleeves
(click the thumbnail at the bottom of the page)
This is the picture of the Weasley siblings that is used as the background for the weasley_worship community. The artist is glockgal
Percy studying in a suit, his Weasley sweater set aside, by "Marta"