by Robbie Fischer
Editor’s note: We realize that JKR recently said that Percy was acting of his own accord. However, this was written well before anything was known for certain. Plus, it’s just fun to speculate.
Of all the theories that have come forward to explain Percy Weasley’s behavior in Order of the Phoenix, perhaps the one that gets the least respect says that Percy is not his own man; he has been put under an Imperius Curse.
To be sure, there are other and simpler explanations for most, if not all, of his changed attitude toward Harry and his strange conduct toward his own family. His own ambition has blinded him. He has a tendency to believe the “party line,” such as what the Ministry was publicizing about Harry. He shares the attitude with many of your darker wizards and witches, that the dignity of old wizarding blood (and galleons) counts for something. Or perhaps he has really gone over to the dark side of his own free will. Any of the same things could be (and have been) theorized about Fudge too. But the Imperius Curse? If Dumbledore didn’t think Fudge was under one, why believe that Percy was? And where is there any evidence that Percy has been bewitched?
Okay, I’ll admit, the positive evidence is a bit thin. But let’s not be too hasty in dismissing this theory from view. It is, after all, possible. And until we have more information, until we see evidence that proves this theory impossible, we should keep it open and give it due consideration.
After all, Percy’s behavior and attitudes in Book 5 really are shocking. Even taking into account his pompousness and ambition, and his refusal to apply critical thinking skills to anything that the Ministry says or does, it’s hard to understand how this young man could much such a clean break from his family and Harry. How he could think the things of Harry that he expressed in his letter to Ron- the one advising his brother to break off relations with that “deeply troubled boy”- is beyond understanding, apart from some powerful force working on Percy’s mind.
Percy must remember that Harry saved his sister from the basilisk in her first year at Hogwarts. And that Harry enabled him to win a dishonest bet against his girlfriend in the Quidditch season of Harry’s third year. And that Harry has been all but a foster child to his parents, from whom Percy has heard all that Harry has gone through with his Muggle relatives and his confrontations with the Dark Lord. Percy must recall how Harry performed in the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, proving not only that Ron is the most important thing in Harry’s world, but that Harry would even risk losing 1000 galleons to help the mer-people’s hostages to safety.
All these things from Percy’s own experience, besides all Harry’s triumphs and goodness that the Weasley family has discussed over the previous four years, ought to give Percy a good idea what kind of boy Harry is. How could he set aside this firsthand knowledge and simply, suddenly, adopt a completely opposite view- even on the say-so of his hero Fudge? Either Percy has lost his mind, or he has made up his mind to be unjust to Harry (either out of self-delusion or pure evil), or his mind has been taken out from under his own control. Or of course, Percy could be faking the whole thing for any of several reasons. Any of these, really, is equally possible. We only lack specific evidence to point toward the Imperius theory. But we may find it in due time!
But who could have put Percy under the Imperius Curse… and when and how… and why?
As fans of detective fiction know too well, you need to know about Motive, Means, and Opportunity to answer these questions… or at least, to narrow down the list of suspects. When you don’t even know whether the crime has been done, this is only a first step- it proves nothing. But it may steer us toward the real evidence.
Motive is simple. What’s in it for whoever might have bewitched Percy? What would they gain from having a member of the Weasley tribe under their thumb? Well, someone might want a spy inside the Arthur Weasley household. But if that’s what they wanted, they haven’t gone about it the right way; Percy couldn’t have distanced himself more from the Weasleys without changing his name and leaving no forwarding address. He has moved out and has nothing to do with them, other than to write Ron pompous letters. He didn’t even visit his father in the hospital, and he slammed the door in his mother’s face.
More likely, the motive is to have somebody looking over Fudge’s shoulder, and perhaps feeding Fudge shrewd ideas and deceptions to weaken the Ministry from the top down. Maybe Percy is a spy inside the highest levels of the Ministry… or maybe he is a saboteur, a mouthpiece for the Dark Side. Is his enthusiasm for destroying Harry Potter’s reputation inspired by Fudge and Umbridge, or is he the one inspiring them? And is he blindly going along with Fudge’s missteps and self-delusions, or is he the one putting the blindfold on Fudge? And if spying on the Weasleys or the Order isn’t the motive (which now seems really unlikely), how do you suppose he rose so quickly in the Ministry anyway?
So there is a Motive, and it points to the Dark Side. How about Means and Opportunity? When and how could Percy have been bewitched? It seems to have happened sometime after the last time we saw him in Goblet of Fire, which (if I remember correctly) was at the judging of the Second Task. At that time, you remember, his boss Mr. Crouch was under the Imperius Curse, being held as a prisoner in his own home by Wormtail, who had also helped put the real Alastor Moody under an Imperius Curse and who further showed his readiness to do Unforgivable Curses when he killed Cedric Diggory. Maybe, some time after the Second Task, Percy made a call on the ailing Mr. Crouch and got himself Imperioed.
But it also could have been done to him at the Ministry, where dark wizards like Lucius Malfoy and Walden Macnair were frequently seen- the former paying numerous visits to Fudge’s office, the latter working in the same building and perhaps finding himself alone in an elevator with Percy. Even if Lucius didn’t nail Fudge with an Imperius Curse, he might have stuck one on Percy. Or it could have happened in any number of other places, times, and ways that we don’t even know about. But if Percy has been bewitched, I think we’ll learn that either Lucius cursed him at the Ministry, or Wormtail at Mr. Crouch’s house. And if they had meant him to turn spy against the Order of the Phoenix, they would have been more careful to make him stay undercover. His mission, instead, had to do with Fudge’s office, and particularly Fudge’s campaign to smear Harry.
Don’t take the Imperius option off the table. We know that You Know Who’s crowd used that curse more than once during Harry’s fifth year. They bewitched Broderick Bode and probably Sturgis Podmore in their efforts to get the Prophecy from the Department of Mysteries. I think security wizard Eric Munch might have gotten hit with a load of dark magic too, considering that he was conveniently away from his post when the Ministry was crawling with Death Eaters, half-cocked kids, and Order of the Phoenix members dueling it out for all they were worth. So why not Percy?
The thing to look for, as we wonder about this possibility, is if… and how… Percy comes to his right senses in Book 6, and what he says about it. Other signs there are none. Since he didn’t look at all sick when he stood at Fudge’s elbow at the hearing and at the attempt to arrest Dumbledore, we can assume that if Percy is under the Imperius Curse, he hasn’t learned to fight it yet.
But if the person who put the curse on him is Lucius Malfoy, and being taken to Azkaban has any influence on Lucius’ ability to maintain the curse, we may see Percy coming to himself early in Book 6. If, however, Wormtail put the monkey on Percy’s shoulder, we may not yet have seen the last of the tragic consequences. Like for instance, someone in the Weasley family being hit by a deadly curse that would have been avoided if Percy had been himself. And Percy getting clear, only in time to regret what he has done…it would be the very sort of twist to make the final chapters of Book 6 or 7 really emotionally intense. And on those grounds, I wouldn’t put it past J.K. Rowling, consummate storyteller, to reveal that Percy has been Voldything’s puppet all along.