The Burrow: A Closer Look at Percy

An original editorial by Tarah Toney

Percy is perhaps the one of the seven Weasley children that stands out more than all of the others. Bill, Charlie, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny seem to all be cut from a similar cloth. Each has proven themselves in one way or another, are unafraid of bending a few rules, nor of braving a little danger in the name of good. Even Molly has admitted to her and Arthur breaking a curfew or two back in their Hogwarts days. Each of the Weasleys have shown a significant amount of modesty, due in part to their financial state of affairs, yet Percy remains, as always, proud as a peacock. Rowling has set out from the beginning to define the third Weasley as a bird of unusual feather. But why? The iniquitous question that is the basis of several editorials’ very existence. Could Percy be a potential Minister of Magic? Alternatively, do we dare to think that he could be a future Death Eater? Let us take a closer look. **Note: All text references will be made using the US editions: SS/PS-paperback, CoS through OotP – hardback**

Percy is short for Percival, which (according to MuggleNet.com) means destroyer. I find this meaning interesting due to Percy’s upright nature. Perhaps it refers simply to the damage done to the Weasley family upon his departure, or maybe devastation on a larger, more sinister scale. I also found that Percival could be a variation of the Old French name percer val, which means “to pierce the valley.” Perhaps “pierce” refers how he stabbed his family in the back by deserting them for a more influential “family.”

Percy is first introduced to us at the train station just outside Platform 9 ¾, where his mother urges him to cross the barrier first (I find it remarkable that Percy is the first we see to cross the “barrier” between the muggle and magical worlds. Surely Jo wouldn’t allow just any background character to fill this role). Soon after, Rowling tells us:

He had already changed into his billowing black Hogwarts robes and Harry noticed a shiny silver badge on his chest with the letter P on it. ….and then a few lines later Percy tells us….

“Can’t stay long, Mother,” he said. “I’m up front, the prefects have got two compartments to themselves–”
(Pg. 96 SS/PS)

Within minutes of meeting Percy, we know two things about him, one is that he is a prefect, and two is that he is extricating himself from all other students, to be among the elite. Therefore, from the moment Percy steps into Harry’s life he holds an eminent position above Harry and his new friends. We learn more of Percy in passing conversation with Ron, that he got an owl from Mr. Weasley for being made a prefect, and we learn that Ron’s rat is a cast-off of Percy’s (Pg. 100 SS/PS).

Throughout SS/PS, Percy serves mostly as a tour guide of sorts, giving us an oxymoronic description of Dumbledore (“He’s a genius! Best wizard in the world! But he is a bit mad, yes.” Pg. 123), leading us to Gryffindor tower for the first time (Pg. 128), and introducing us to Peeves (pg. 129). He makes a brief appearance during Christmastime, predominantly as the butt of Fred and George’s jokes, and then a small mention in the last chapter (Percy could be heard telling the prefects, “My brother, you know! My youngest brother! Got past McGonagall’s giant chess set!” Pg. 305).

At the beginning of CoS, we learn that Percy’s owl is named Hermes, whose name you might be familiar with as one from Greek mythology. Hermes was the messenger of the gods, perhaps a foreshadowing that the owl Hermes may be messenger to another high-ranking official (Percy the future Minister of Magic perhaps? You may find this inconceivable due to his youth, however Percy made his way from Crouch’s errand boy to Junior Assistant to the Minister in just one short year). Nonetheless, Hermes is also known for his cunning and shrewdness; could this perhaps reflect a side of Percy we have not yet seen? We don’t find out until GoF that Percy’s owl is a screech owl; however, I feel that the fact Rowling gave us this particular fact about his owl is noteworthy. The screech owl, when discovered during the day, often freezes in an upright position, depending on their cryptic coloration to escape detection (Could this symbolize Percy using his red hair, a telltale characteristic of the Weasleys, to escape detection of association with a darker crowd?).

Percy remains mostly secluded from everyone during Harry’s stay at The Burrow, and his behavior is described as such:

“Percy’s been acting very oddly this summer,” said George, frowning. “And he has been sending a lot of letters and spending a load of time shut up in his room…I mean there’s only so many times you can polish a prefect badge…”
(Pg. 30 CoS)

So Rowling makes it clear, if we we’re hoping to get a glimpse into the true Percival Weasley, no such luck. However, we do find out from Fred that:

“He’s not himself. His exam results came the day before you [Harry] did; twelve O.W.L.s and he hardly gloated at all.”
(Pg. 46 CoS)

Something is amiss with dear old Perce, and our mystifying perspective of his personal life begins. We bump into him again in Diagon Alley, where we find him reading a book called Prefects Who Gained Power, which we learn is “A study of Hogwarts prefects and their later careers” and Ron tells us of Percy’s dream to become Minister of Magic someday (Pg. 58 CoS). Not surprising of course, but could this be one of those leave-a-hint-and-then-make-you-forget-about-it-until-I-surprise-you-with-it-later kind of things? Alas, I suppose we shall see someday.

The next appearance of importance is when he catches Ron coming out of Myrtle’s bathroom.

“Get-away-from-there-” Percy said, striding toward them and starting to bustle them along, flapping his arms. “Don’t you care what this looks like? Coming back here while everyone’s at dinner-” “Why shouldn’t we be here?” said Ron hotly, stopping short and glaring at Percy. “Listen, we never laid a finger on that cat!” “That’s what I told Ginny,” Said Percy fiercely, “but she still seems to think you’re going to be expelled, I’ve never seen her so upset, crying her eyes out, you might think of her, all the first years are thoroughly overexcited by this business –“You don’t care about Ginny,” said Ron, whose ears were now reddening. “You’re just worried I’m going to mess up your chances of being Head Boy –“Five points from Gryffindor!” Percy said tersely, fingering his prefect badge. “And I hope it teaches you a lesson! No more detective work or I’ll write to Mum!”
(Pg. 157 & 158 CoS)

I feel this scene is important because it is the first time we see Percy the Prefect intermingle with his family while in a position of authority. Ron obviously hits home with his remark about being more concerned with becoming Head Boy, because Percy does not hesitate to punish Ron in order to make his point clear. In this instance, Percy bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Crouch, who was eager to send his own son to Azkaban with little to no proof of guilt, simply to prove his movement against Voldemort’s supporters as unswerving (the fact that he was in fact guilty is irrelevant, because Crouch seemed to think his mere association was enough to condemn him). This Crouch comparison could lead us to make further comparisons, such as Crouch being easily taken over by the Dark Lord could lead us to conclude that Percy would be a prime candidate for the Dark Lord’s future ministry connections.

Another significant scene, where we see Percy the Prefect in action is when Ron and Harry, disguised as Crabbe and Goyle, meet Percy in a dark corridor somewhere near the Slytherin common room, and Percy remarks, “I …am a prefect. Nothing’s about to attack me.”(Pg. 219 CoS). This philosophy is interesting, because when applied to the Voldemort situation it would follow that, in Percy’s mind, as long as he is a member of the Ministry, he is exempt from the dangers of Voldemort and his followers, which could prove to be a catastrophic oversight. Soon afterward, Rowling gives us quite a shocking parallel:

However, they did find [Tom] Riddle’s name on an old medal for Magical Merit, and on a list of old Head Boys. “He sounds like Percy,” said Ron, wrinkling his nose in disgust. “Prefect, Head Boy … probably top of every class–”
(Pg. 234 CoS)

Ron’s unknowing predictions are renowned among us HP speculators, and I wonder if this seemingly off hand comment could be a shadow of things to come from Percy. He is cast in an unfavorable light once again, when Percy coincidently prevents Ginny from spilling the beans about her involvement with the Chamber of Secrets. Though we find out later that his secret was that Ginny caught him kissing his girlfriend, Penelope Clearwater, it is interesting that Rowling would choose to illuminate Percy’s personal life in this surreptitious way. Percy’s presence as an obstacle for preventing Voldemort’s triumph is a red flag all of its own.

At the beginning of PoA, shortly after we find out of his appointment to Head Boy, there is an interesting point that Rowling repeats, and as she is well known for doing when a detail is key. She writes: Scabbers the rat was second-hand. (He had once belonged to Ron’s brother Percy, Pg. 58 PoA), which she mentioned previously in SS/PS (Pg. 100). She mentions Scabbers’s previous ownership once again on Pg. 59 of PoA, “He’s been through the mill, this one,” She [the witch behind the counter] said. “He was like that when Percy gave him to me,” said Ron defensively. Okay Jo, we get it, Scabbers/Wormtail once belonged to Percy, and so what does this mean? Where did Percy find Scabbers/Wormtail? Why does Percy, of all people, inherit such a creature? Your guess is as good as mine. Percy’s appearance throughout the rest of the book is summed up best in three words, “pompous guard dog,” which I find quite witty, as Percy plays this role through his Prefect/Head Boy persona, especially in times of exceptional authority. (I.e. the Great Hall “sleepover” and the “Flight of the Fat Lady”)

In GoF, Percy has found a position in the Ministry of Magic. When Harry asks Ron if he is enjoying his new job Ron explains Percy’s new outlet:

“Enjoying it?” said Ron darkly. “I don’t reckon he’d come home if Dad didn’t make him. He’s obsessed. Just don’t get him onto the subject of his boss. According to Mr. Crouch…as I was saying to Mr. Crouch…Mr. Crouch is of the opinion…Mr. Crouch was telling me…They’ll be announcing their engagement any day now.”
(Pg. 57 GoF)

Percy does a lot of bantering about various “important Ministry matters” which would be dull and tiresome to pour over here. Instead, I find it prudent to point out firstly, that despite all of Percy’s criticism towards Ministry officials, namely Ludo Bagman, it did not prevent him from jumping to his feet in order to make an enthusiastic first impression at the World Cup (Pg. 87 GoF). This lends to the conclusion that despite Percy’s alleged opinion of Bagman’s substandard leadership, his influence appeals more to Percy than his moral fiber. This trait, if developed, could lead to Percy following what seems to be the person with the most power, whether lawful and ethical or not. Another important thing to note about his constant blabbering is the times when he skips over the main cause for concern all together. For example, after the riot and the appearance of the Dark Mark at the World Cup, Percy chooses to discuss Mr. Crouch and his elf rather than the evidence of Dark followers in their midst (Pg. 141 GoF). Again, the next day at The Burrow, rather than discuss what the Dark signs could mean, he highlights the irksome Rita Skeeter, and her unfavorable writing about the Ministry (Pg. 147). When Percy recounts the bedlam at the Ministry to Mrs. Weasley and company, he reports that he has “been putting out fires all week.” (Pg. 151) indicating that rather than help to investigate the cause for concern, his focus was primarily eliminating the concern. Oddly enough, the Ministry seems to employ a similar viewpoint.

This could mean one of two things. It could indicate that Percy is a prime contender for a future Minister of Magic, following the thought processes of a true “politician” and concerning himself more with his own situation, and the reputation of the Ministry than with the true dangers that the magical world is facing. It also indicates that Percy is in a perfect position to be steering public and Ministry attention away from Voldemort and his followers, and furthering their denial of his return, giving him more time to fully develop his plan, putting him in a good arrangement to gain power the foul way. (I realize I seem to be of two minds, but there is evidence to indicate both possibilities, therefore I feel obligated to offer both conclusions for observation)

Another notable situation is found on Pg. 160, when the Moody disturbance scandal is brought to Arthur’s attention quite openly. There is indication that Percy is in the room when Mr. Diggory makes this announcement, and I found it peculiar that in this particular instance Percy chooses not to give his opinion, as he so readily offers it in every other situation. Surely Moody, who is known within the Ministry for being slightly “off center” in his old age, fighting with his dustbins would give Percy reason to scoff at the proposed severity of the situation, as Percy deems the Dark Mark to be of no real importance to the Ministry. Unless, perhaps he knew the real gravity of the situation (Crouch Jr. kidnapping Moody and using the Polyjuice Potion to impersonate him) and chose to keep quiet as to not arouse more suspicion than necessary.

When Percy arrives in place of Mr. Crouch at the Triwizard Tournament Yule Ball, his arrogant attitude stresses the prestige of his new position of authority within the Ministry rather than the ambiguity of Crouch’s absence, which should be much more noteworthy than Percy makes it. Could he be covering for a more powerful superior? Percy’s reply to Ron’s concern is short and haughty, all but daring Ron to question his new found authority. The last we hear of Percy is that he has taken Mr. Crouch’s disappearance rather hard. Moreover, we realize by now that Percy has become a character that we hardly recognize as Ron’s brother, no longer bearing the slightest resemblance to his heroic siblings.

Perhaps this contrast is made most of all in OotP, when Percy ends all association with the rest of his family all together. We learn on pages 70-74 of OotP about Percy’s falling out just how nasty Percy had become toward his loving home. His refusal to be in league with Dumbledore, aside from securing his advance in the Ministry to Junior Assistant to the Minister, must be considered also as a step closer to Voldemort himself. Perhaps the best place to look for what is going on with Percy in OotP, is to take a closer look at Percy’s letter to Ron (Pg. 296-298). Reading it at the surface, one would assume that the letter could be held at face value; Percy is fully behind the Ministry’s denial of Voldemort’s return and feels as though he is wisely advising Ron to stay away from Harry, who could ruin his reputation. Percy ends his letter saying, “Please think over what I have said most carefully, particularly the bit about Harry Potter…” Well, let’s do just that:

Seriously, Ron, you do not want to be tarred with the same brush as Potter, it could be seriously damaging to your future prospects, and I am talking about life after school too.

This could be interpreted to read, “Being in league with Potter could damage your reputation which could in turn affect your future job options.” Then why not say that? Percy/Rowling chooses the word “damaging” indicating destruction (destroyer?) which would indicate the demolition of something much larger than just a reputation, “future prospects” and “life after school” would indicate Ron’s livelihood, perhaps even his very life. Could Percy, using his last shred of conscience, be trying to warn Ron against Voldemort’s plot to kill Harry and anyone who stands in his way?

I urge you to speak to Dolores Umbridge, a really delightful woman, who I know will be only too happy to advise you.

Umbridge’s reign of terror upon Hogwarts and Dumbledore leaves doubt that her motivation is one of merely enforcing the Ministry’s intentions for Hogwarts. Her vengeance towards Harry especially indicates a wrath that rivals the Dark Lord. It is all too possible that Umbridge could be working for the Dark One himself (which is an entire editorial in itself, for sure). Therefore, Percy could be encouraging Umbridge’s cover by regarding her as “delightful,” an adjective she does not fulfill even in Fudge’s presence, and encouraging Ron’s interaction with her in order to keep closer tabs on Harry.

Perhaps that will open their eyes to the kind of petty criminals with whom they are currently rubbing shoulders.

Perhaps Percy is “rubbing shoulders” with much more affluent criminals (Death Eaters) who aren’t so “petty” as to get caught. In short, why consort yourself with amateurs when you can work for the most potent and deadly?

I count myself very lucky to have escaped the stigma of association with such people — the Minister really could not be more gracious to me — and I do hope, Ron, that you will not allow family ties to blind you to the misguided nature of our parents’ beliefs and actions either.

Rather than the false accusations and unfair discrediting the Ministry has bombarded Dumbledore with, the “stigma” which follows Dumbledore and his supporters is one of no discrimination against family heritage, and united support of the magical community against the Dark Arts. Percy says here he counts himself lucky to have escaped association with such stigma. The real question is, to which stigma is he referring? Moreover, he speaks of the “misguided nature of our parents’ beliefs,” aside from the belief that Voldemort has returned, this could refer to their beliefs against Voldemort and all he stands for. It is very possible that Percy’s idea of power and authority could know no bounds of right and wrong.

Conclusion: Percy is a prime candidate for the next Minister of Magic, though if he does indeed manage this position, it will not be a success for “Dumbledore’s Team.” He holds a rather high opinion of supremacy and has deemed it understandable to use any means necessary to obtain it. Percy, however, is also a prime candidate to cross all logical boundaries of good and evil, and attempt to ascertain influence through the Dark Lord. His similar characteristics to Crouch prove him vulnerable to become Voldemort’s newest unsuspecting tool inside the Ministry. If Fudge is suspect to be a former Death Eater, then surely Percy is suspect to be a future one.

Perhaps Harry sums it up best:

He had known Percy for four years, had stayed in his house during the summers, shared a tent with him during the Quidditch World Cup, had even been awarded full marks by him in the second task of the Triwizard Tournament last year, yet now, Percy thought him unbalanced and possibly violent.
(Pg. 300 OotP)

Perhaps we don’t know Percy as well as we thought we did…