Defending the least favorite Weasley
Whenever you ask a Potterhead who their favorite characters are, there is always a Weasley on the list, and that Weasley is never ever Percy. As a young fan, I would more quickly name Ron and Ginny among my favorite gingers, but as I’ve gotten older and reread the books, I find myself becoming more interested in, and sympathetic toward, Percy. Hear me out before you call him a prat. Okay, even I can admit he’s a total prat, but he’s my favorite prat. Here’s why.
Looking objectively at Percy’s life, it starts out pretty rotten. From a young age, Percy is clearly very different from his siblings: While all the Weasleys are clever and talented wizards, the others tend to use their magic and wit for mischief, while Percy is always shown to be more academically driven. Being different can make a kid feel awkward enough – but Percy’s brothers tease him endlessly for being different. So from the start, the odds are kind of against him, simply for being who he is with his family. Rather than turning him into a bully, Percy becomes more driven and focused on his schooling, despite the teasing he gets for it. Percy doesn’t let it turn him mean, and sure, he’s bossier and more of a snob for it, but there are worse things to be. Don’t forget, Hermione sides with Percy much of the time when it comes to trouble-making and rule-breaking.
What most hold against Percy is his betrayal in Book 5, and I can’t say I find that defensible, but still, look at it through Percy’s eyes: You’ve worked your whole life to become something. Your family is less than kind to you. You’ve finally got a position you enjoy. Would you give up on your dreams to risk your life and spend time with your family and Harry Potter, whom they always seemed to prefer to you anyway? Not likely. I will admit, sending back the sweater Molly made for him was low, but I love a good, flawed character.
And Percy does redeem himself, at the worst possible time. He decides that it is more important to stand by his family than save his life and career. He makes the truly Gryffindor choice in the end – and loses his brother in the process. To me, his return is just plain tragic: Percy clearly loves Fred and protects his body even when it puts him in danger. No matter how poorly he showed it, Percy always cared a lot for his family. He showed a great deal of concern for Ginny in Chamber of Secrets when no one else seemed to notice something was going on with her. His letter to Ron in Order of the Phoenix is completely snobby, but he certainly does want what he believes is best for Ron.
So Percy is imperfect. He leaves his family when they need him. He makes a selfish, misguided choice. Remus Lupin, too, leaves his family on a selfish impulse when put under pressure. What makes Jo’s characters wonderful is that even the most selfish, stupid, and cowardly characters have redeeming moments that make loving them worth it (except Umbridge. There’s not a redeeming line in her story). I’m sure most people will still disagree that Percy deserves a little love, but to me, he is a good guy who got misguided along the way but made the right choice in the end – and that’s not so different from how most people regard Severus Snape.