The Burrow: Secret Agent Man

by Nancy Paulette

In a recent online chat, J.K. Rowling said that, in Order of the Phoenix, Percy was acting entirely of his own accord. This rules out one popular theory: that Percy had fallen victim to the Imperious Curse. But another theory exists that hypothesizes that Percy is secretly working for the Order.

Admittedly, evidence to support this theory is scarce, but it is there if you look hard enough. The most commonly sited piece of evidence is Percy’s letter to Ron. It’s true that Percy lets Ron (and by extension Harry and Hermione) know about the upcoming Daily Prophet piece, as well as in imprisonment of Sturgis Podmore; he also hints at Umbridge and Fudge’s plans to replace Dumbledore within the year. He has the letter delivered at night so Ron can “read this away from prying eyes and avoid awkward questions,” which could mean one of two things: he either wants to avoid Harry seeing the letter or Umbridge seeing the letter.

Either version is a little hard to understand. If Percy wants the letter to stay hidden from Harry… well, he should honestly know better. Percy’s been with Ron and Harry; he knows they share everything, that they stay up late together in the common room. However, why Umbridge would be particularly interested in any letter Ron gets seems a bit of a stretch, too; she’s far too concerned with Harry to be bothered about Ron. The delivery time, therefore, is shaky evidence at best.

Setting the letter aside, Percy still has moments that seem suspicious, for good or ill. His comments as reported in the Daily Prophet are among those moments. Again, this could be interpreted in two different ways. One is that he’s a pompous “Big Head Boy” who will say and do most anything for attention and power. The other is that he’s again subtly giving subversive advice and information to the members of the Order. For a news source, he’s awfully resourceful. He knows a lot about what’s happening and isn’t shy about sharing it. He knows the whys and wherefores of Umbridge’s appointment to Hogwarts; he knows that she sends reports to Fudge about what happens at the school; he knows about Fudge’s “plan to get to grips with” a Hogwarts education (at least he knows about its phases). All in all, regardless of where Percy’s loyalties lie, he is exceptionally good at giving out a lot of information.

Another two-sided moment comes before the school year even begins, at Harry’s hearing. Percy is there, of course, as official court scribe. He’s been working for Fudge for about six or seven weeks by now. To Harry, he appears very cold and distant, not even looking at Harry. Percy could be acting like that to impress his new boss, which is entirely likely. Then again, if he’s working with the Order, he’ll have been in contact with Dumbledore. Perhaps Dumbledore warned him not to look in Harry’s eyes for fear of him (or even Voldemort through Harry) guessing at the intrigue. If Percy is working undercover, then the fewer people who know or guess, the safer the espionage is. Imagine if Fudge saw Percy looking over at Harry, hoping to catch his eye. It would compromise Percy’s position. In cases like this, it’s best to avoid the eyes.

Unfortunately, this theory is not without its holes, the biggest of which is the fight between Percy and his parents. According to Ron, it was a pretty intense row, which seems rather unlike Percy or Arthur. After Arthur’s attack, Percy doesn’t visit. Percy sends back his Christmas presents. His photographic self walks out of the family portrait. This is all pretty ominous behavior. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to read that way.

Let’s assume that Percy is working undercover for the Order. Obviously Dumbledore knows about it. Who else would know? Though everyone is trusted, it’s simply not safe to have an entire organization know who their mole is; it could potentially jeopardize the mission. What if Dumbledore and Percy are the only ones who know about this mission? Wouldn’t it be simpler and more secure for Percy if he didn’t live at home? Living at home promotes an ease of conversation, which isn’t something you want in a spy. But, his parents wouldn’t really be too keen on his leaving, seeing as how it would leave just them in the house for the majority of the year. Really, if Molly thought it was a bad idea, she could probably convince Percy out of it. So, the best way to break out of the house is to break off relationships. It’s harsh, but it has to be done. Besides, if Percy had already decided on leaving, regardless of his parents, he very well may have gotten into a fight with them (though perhaps not as large a one). A fight makes the parting much easier if you can be mad at them; you can’t miss someone you’re mad at.

Percy is an enigma wrapped in a mystery (covered in a secret sauce ;)) throughout Order of the Phoenix. His behavior is at once so like the character we’d grown to tolerated yet so unexpected. Needless to say, we won’t know for certain what was going on in Percy’s head until J.K. Rowling tells us (hopefully) in the sixth book.