Red Hen Publications

Red Hen Publications — Commentary Collection — Potterverse People Essay: Percy and His Mother
Potterverse People

Trying to make the Potterverse make sense since 2003!

I have to say that I found it a rather interesting piece of symmetry in GoF that saw both Molly Weasley and the only son who has fully embraced her formula for living, both led up the garden path by their absolute confidence that the people in positions of authority are implicitly to be trusted, obeyed, and/or believed. Molly ends up deliberately trampling the feelings of a 15-year-old girl who had never harmed Molly or any of her family — and moreover, a girl that Molly really ought by that time to have known well enough to be able to summarily dismiss the ill-natured lies she read printed about her in Witch Weekly.

And Percy, clever boy, actually managed to help expedite Voldemort’s return.

Of the pair of them, I am far more inclined to cut Percy some slack, seeing that he is neither as old nor as experienced as his mother. But he was widely expected by the fans to pay a heavy price for that mistake before the end of the series. Nor was he spared a degree of embarrassment at the time. At the end of GoF he had been called on the carpet at the Ministry for not having detected the fraud. But that is nothing to the position he was in regarding what steps he ended up taking next.

In Fudge’s Ministry, at the end of GoF, the official policy on the return of Voldemort is that the reports of the Dark Lord’s return are a hoax.

Never mind that the Dark Mark was publicly conjured over the World Cup campgrounds the previous summer. Along with a blatant case of Muggle-baiting in defiance of the Stature of Secrecy. Even if Lord Voldemort is gone, you would think that the Ministry might conclude that some of his old followers are getting ambitious. Add that however exaggerated, the Potter boy had certainly witnessed *something* alarming.

But the Ministry has long been infested by pureblood supremacists and even some of Voldemort’s actual Death Eaters were currently employed there — in key positions. And all of those Death Eaters probably now know that Percy not only accepted a promotion that had been engineered for him by Voldemort himself, but that he made himself officiously useful to Voldemort once he got it. He has established himself as a perfect dupe.

Never mind that after having (literally!) lived in the boy’s pocket as his pet rat for more than half a dozen years, Wormtail would have known exactly the best way to word those communications from “Mr Crouch” to rouse the least possible suspicion. Finding Percy Weasley already established in Crouch’s Department must have looked like a gift from the gods to Voldemort and Pettigrew. When offered, Percy gleefully took the promotion arranged for him, and (being Percy) you know that he threw his weight around the office on the strength of it.

The Ministry also appears to have recognized in Percy Weasley, a perfect dupe. From the Ministry’s PoV, every Ministry employee who has a kid at Hogwarts knows that Albus Dumbledore believes Harry Potter’s report of Voldemort’s return. And Dumbledore heads the Wizengamot, which oversees the running of the Ministry.

And they still aren’t having any.

One of Rowling’s real strengths as a plot designer (at least over the first half of the series) was the ease with which she made it possible to trace a secondary storyline unrolling itself in the background of the main one. It is a pity that she abandoned this device when it came time to write the final couple of volumes, but she no doubt had other concerns (or was just plain too burnt-out) by then.

Upon examination, the campaign to diminish Albus Dumbledore’s influence on the Ministry was probably drafted out all the way back in PoA by Lucius Malfoy for his own benefit. It is now fairly evident that over the course of Year 3 Lucius must have re-established connections with various former DEs currently employed at the Ministry, and, it is all but certain, he also managed to win Dolores Umbridge over to his own viewpoint that Albus Dumbledore’s influence upon Minister Fudge was both something to be deplored, and something to be counteracted. Or possibly vice-versa. I cannot believe that Madam Umbridge had ever approved of Albus Dumbledore’s influence over her employer. And, after losing his place on the Board of Governors, Malfoy already was bearing a grudge.

By the opening of GoF, Malfoy was ready to move his campaign against Dumbledore into its next stage by diminishing Albus’s credit in the press. He was also ready to advance his own personal influence among the remnants of Voldemort’s organization by rallying them together and deliberately taking the lead in a bit of Muggle-baiting in a public place.

It’s not impossible that this demonstration was also staged for some purpose not so obvious. Perhaps not unconnected to media coverage in the international newspapers, which would have been on-site for the sporting event. But I won’t speculate further on that possibility here.

In Year 5, Minister Fudge, with the backing of Lucius Malfoy, his own staff, and those members of the Wizengamot who opposed Dumbledore, chose to stage a “palace rebellion” and challenge Dumbledore on the issue of Voldemort’s return, using the groundwork laid by Rita Skeeter in the Daily Prophet and other ww publications over the previous year. Indeed, Fudge manages to not only see Dumbledore removed from his position as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, but to see him removed from the Wizengamot altogether. The shock waves from this cataclysm also see Dumbledore removed from the position of Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederacy of Wizards. Flush with victory, it remains only for Fudge to remove him from the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts as well, and Dumbledore will have no power base from which to operate. Or so he believes.

And then, as I’m sure Lucius Malfoy and Madam Umbridge were quick to assure Fudge, his position as Minister would be safe!

Fish fuzz.

I think that if Dumbledore had not chosen to give Fudge enough rope to hang himself, you could not have pried him loose from any of those positions with a crowbar.

On the night of the Third Task of the TriWizard Tournament; June 24, 1995 it was made abundantly clear to Albus Dumbledore that Cornelius Fudge had been thoroughly “got at”. He was no longer willing to cooperate and he was certainly no longer to be trusted. Dumbledore may be the most politically powerful wizard in Great Britain but he knows damned well that just removing Fudge from office is not going to solve the underlying problem and it isn’t going to root out whoever has subverted him.

Aa to the events of Year 5, we also have to factor in that Dumbledore really does seem to like to catch any wrongdoer in the act before witnesses before he will take any action whatsoever. This time he seriously miscalculated. Dolores Umbridge was a good deal more ruthless and less principled than he had anticipated, and he ended up having to give way, in order to protect the futures of a couple dozen of his students, not the least of them Harry Potter.

He did manage to prevail eventually, but it took all of Year 5, and it was a close run thing. Ultimately it was way too expensive. And it was probably already too late.

• • • •

And, in the middle of all this, we have young “Weatherby” who has already gotten called on the carpet over matters regarding his former boss’s disappearance and reported death.

Anything that Percy does next, any action, in any direction, is going to make his reputation or his objectives look dodgy to somebody. With Dumbledore no longer in a position to be overseeing Ministry business, if Percy takes a stand counter to Fudge’s he is very likely to get shunted into a dead end position in the Centaur Liaison office, or, even more probably, to get himself sacked.

And Percy has spent most of his life preparing for a career within the ranks of the Ministry. He’s never considered anything else.

If he supports the Ministry’s official position, it is obvious that it will create a breech with his family, half of whose members already appear to want no part of him, and who all blindly support Albus Dumbledore in everything. Percy always supported him too. Up to now. But, looking back, he’s no longer quite sure why.

It would probably be obvious what message he would be sending to Voldemort’s supporters, too — assuming that the DEs give a damn about a blood-traitor’s kid like Percy Weasley. And there is nothing whatsoever to indicate that they do. I think we may be able to safely dismiss any consideration regarding the DEs from Percy’s motivations. I also rather suspect that we can probably dismiss any considerations regarding Percy Weasley from the DEs motivations, too. Yes, he made himself useful to their master, once. So what? I think that small fry like Percy Weasley were completely off the Dark Lord’s radar (Post-DHs it is clear that the DEs couldn’t have cared less)

And, inside the Ministry, it is a bit too late for anonymity, he has already shown up on everybody’s radar. Everybody knows that, properly handled, he can make himself useful. To break with Dumbledore’s supporters and side with the Ministry will be tantamount to volunteering for exploitation. (To support the Ministry, however, is a long way from supporting Voldemort. A distinction which appears to have escaped many younger readers.)

But, as I say, we had already been told that Percy has, for years, pinned all of his ambitions upon success within the Ministry’s ranks, with his mother’s full approval and active encouragement. Indeed, it was probably originally her idea.

And it really ought to surprise no one that supporting the Ministry is the path that he took.

But you have to wonder why he was offered it. Yes, Arthur seems to believe that the position was offered so Percy could spy on his own family. But does that really make the slightest bit of sense? Who does Arthur think he is that the Ministry cares what he does in his private life? He isn’t known to be a former member of the Order of the Phoenix. He wasn’t a member last time. Sirius Black told us as much directly, assuming that we can ever believe anything we hear from him.

What makes a lot more sense is that Percy was offered that promotion to get him into the Minister’s own office, for the purpose of reporting on Harry, who was widely known in the Ministry to be closely associated with the Weasley family. It would hardly be difficult for the Ministry to have set a watch upon Arthur right there in the Ministry offices, if they cared two pins about Arthur’s doings. They didn’t need Percy for that. But Percy could have been trusted to report what outrageous stories Potter might be spreading in the Weasley household. Percy’s promotion was offered him at the end of June, or the beginning of July. Harry had spent a part of each summer with the Weasleys for the previous 3 years. Percy’s moving out of the family home immediately after accepting the promotion immediately derailed this “cunning plan” if that is what Fudge’s office had in mind.

It wasn’t for another 3–4 weeks that Umbridge got her bright idea to settle the whole problem once and for all by sending out a couple of Dementors.

Percy was easily and understandably misled, once. But unless he has deliberately blinded himself, which is certainly not beyond his capabilities, he cannot be unaware that the last thing that a truly well-intentioned Ministry would do after the Crouch debacle would be to give him another promotion — to the Minister’s own staff at that. To all appearances, Percy deliberately sold out.

But can one really blame him?

I mean really?

His family, upon the whole, has never fully valued him, while his employers may have convinced him that they do. And I really do not think that they are lying. An employee like Percy would be a valuable asset in any office. He was probably the most competent person on Fudge’s staff, even if he has no imagination, and is still rather short on actual experience. Particularly once Dolores was off in Scotland making a nuisance of herself at Hogwarts. And, as for the people with whom one must needs associate; frankly, I do not really think there is all that much to choose between Madam Umbridge and the twins. And Umbridge, at least, does not treat Percy as a target.

She may even remind him of his mother.

And maybe, just maybe, I owe Molly a small apology regarding my low opinion of her ability to teach her kids the skills they need to get ahead in the world. Because a lifetime of deferring to Molly will certainly have taught Percy everything he needs to know to get whatever he wants out of Dolly.

In his place, I’d be tempted to go ahead and change my name to Whetherby, treat my mother to lunch once every few weeks, and forget I’d ever met the rest of that nest of vipers.

Still; appearances can be deceiving.

• • • •

However, by the opening of OotP I gather that it was all intended to be very much as it appeared. Percy chose the promise of professional advancement over his family’s prejudices. And this in itself does not make him an enemy. The Ministry itself is not the enemy. It was just not equipped to solve the problem of Lord Voldemort. And was headed by a fool who was all-too-easily convinced that such an action was not necessary.

Eventually, the Ministry is going to be stuck with the job of trying to put wizarding Britain back together again once somebody else does, however. And when that day comes, the Percys of the world will be invaluable.

Although I did suspect that he had a personal part yet to play in the story arc. And that part might be played inside the Ministry. It was anyone’s guess what that part might be. It could have gone in any number of ways.

For example: given Percy’s past experience with Crouch, wouldn’t he be the most likely candidate for realizing that someone in the Minister’s office is under Imperius, this time? We cannot be sure that this isn’t what actually happened, either.

And for that matter; while Percy idolized Crouch, and managed to both like and respect Fudge (who treats his staff very well), I don’t really get the feeling that he was particularly happy with Scrimgeour. Scrimgrour trampled right over Percy’s feelings in pursuit of a public relations coup and Percy would have good cause to resent that. And we have no input whatsoever about what he might have thought of Thicknesse.

But we just haven’t enough wool here, to really manage to spin a satisfactory theory from.

• • • •

Frankly, what I really think we have here is the residue of an abandoned plot element.

Rowling has since confirmed that the character who “got a reprieve” was Arthur Weasley. Arthur was supposed to die in the middle of OotP. Nagini was supposed to have killed him.

She claims that she just couldn’t do it since he was the only “good” father in the series. Well it’s a nice excuse. But I think she couldn’t bring herself to do it because then people might have felt sorrier for Ron and his siblings than they were supposed to be for Harry. No one in this series was ever allowed to steal Harry’s thunder (until Neville did it without even trying — possibly while Rowling’s attention was elsewhere).

I don’t think Arthur was supposed to have died immediately. I think that there might have been an emotional deathbed reconciliation planned between Percy and Arthur shortly before Arthur departed this life (Percy would have shown up at St Mungo’s and the trio would have withdrawn to give then some degree of privacy and wandered up to the closed ward).

I think that Rowling ultimately and lamely transposed this scene to a pre-death-by-falling-masonry reconciliation between Percy and Fred. Which came out of nowhere, was completely out of character, out of balance, and just plain stupid. Percy might very well abase himself and take all blame for the falling out with his father, but Fred and George were always the aggressors in their falling out with Percy, and for Percy to have to take full responsibility for that breech while the twins didn’t even apologize was deliberately unjust. Particularly since Fred’s gratuitous death came out of nowhere, completely unexpectedly, and Percy’s presence had nothing to do with prompting it.

We also still have another obvious artifact of the original storyline in Bellatrix’s taunting of Molly in their final confrontation. “What will happen to your children when I’ve killed you? When Mummy’s gone the same way as Freddie?”

Excuse me? Is that supposed to sound ridiculous? Because it does.

Doesn’t quite have the same swing as; “When Mummy’s gone the same way as Daddy?” does it? Let alone that there seems to be little reason for Bellatrix to have even figured out that it is Fred who was dead at that point. She doesn’t know the Weasley twins. For the record: I am pretty sure that the only reason that Fred died at all is so that Bellatrix could taunt Molly about something, and doing it over George’s ear would have been pathetic.

• • • •

But it is an interesting exercise to try to extrapolate what the original Percy arc in the story would have been had Rowling held to her original intentions.

It may have even included some form of The Redheaded Pimpernel theories which have been around ever since OotP. I’m not convinced, but Rowling never explained how Percy knew to contact Aberforth Dumbledore the night the balloon went up. Or why Aberforth would have contacted him. His boss, Pius Thicknesse was suddenly off to Hogwarts, but this was the in middle of the night. He hadn’t suddenly been pulled out of a meeting.

Rowling had also never even established that Percy knew who the barman at the Hog’s Head was. So just what was the connection there? Had Percy already been reporting the Ministry’s doings to Aberforth? On whose account?

Yes, I do think that Percy would have been reconciled with his father in OotP.

I do not think he would have reconciled with the twins. Not then, anyway.

But that is an issue for a different essay at a different time. Or maybe not worth bothering about at all.

• • • •

As for Molly; Molly’s conduct in GoF was inexcusable. That Molly was able to unhesitatingly believe the kind of spiteful charges against Hermione Granger — a child that she knows personally! — let alone charges that were printed under Rita Skeeter’s byline — yes, the same Rita Skeeter who has been sniping and sneering at Arthur (whom she dubs “Arnold”) for years, absolutely boggles the mind.

But then Rita also publicly calls Molly’s eldest a “long-haired pillock”, leading Molly to try to bully the boy into letting her cut his hair — I’d say that Molly Weasley and Petunia Dursley have more in common than either lady would altogether appreciate having pointed out to them. To me this says that either Molly has long ago switched her brain off altogether and has become an automatic nagging machine, or she was always one of those Gryffindor Old Girls in the fine old Lavender Brown airhead tradition. (For which conclusion there is some support. Mollywobbles, forsooth!)

...Or that at some point Rita managed to zap Molly with a gullibility hex when she wasn’t looking and it’s still in place! Rita’s consistent pinching at the Weasleys has clearly been going on for a long time, and it has a thoroughly “personal” feel to it. Let’s face it, Arthur is just too small potatoes to be a target on the basis of his position in the Ministry.

And, for whatever reason, one recalls that it was only after Hermione managed to shut Rita up that Molly suddenly stopped reading the Daily Prophet because of the lies it was printing.

• • • •

As to Molly’s nagging; so far as regards her own children, by this time there is probably just no pleasing her. By year 4 the twins don’t even try (by HBP they’ve reopened their own negotiations with her — on their terms). Ron just plain avoids her as much as he possibly can, and for years Ginny seemed to be sleepwalking through a life brightened only by dreams of Harry Potter.

It has since been revealed that this last impression at least was a smokescreen. Little Miss Weasley is a clever little undercover operator on her own account, whose skills may be of considerable use before the series is over (ETA: No, not even that. She doesn’t even seem to get any say in naming her own children). And Percy, poor boy, is the only one out of seven who bought Molly’s package, without question, and just see where it got him.

And in the meantime, Voldemort, via Pettigrew, is in a position to know rather a lot of the Weasley’s weaknesses.

There is an ugly pattern forming here. And I don’t like the look of it a bit.

We keep forgetting that Voldemort has access to up close and personal information on all of the Weasleys.

We’ve already seen that in addition to the Weasleys’ demonstrated talent for getting in the way, Voldemort and his followers have repeatedly made a point of finding the Weasleys useful. Let’s take a look at the record shall we?

Item: in Book 2 Ginny gets taken over by the Riddle Diary, opens the Chamber of Secrets, sets a Basilisk on her schoolmates and nearly trades away her life in exchange for reincarnating the Diary Revenant.

Item: in Book 3 we discover that Voldemort’s servant has been living under their roof, as a part of their family for a dozen years.

Item: in Book 4 Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew hoodwink Percy into getting him to facilitate Voldemort’s return. Fallout: Percy finally separates from his family. I really didn’t think he would be coming back. Not as long as Fred and George were a part of it. I certainly wouldn’t have.

Item: in Book 5 Arthur is bitten by a snake and was supposed to die of it.

Item: in Book 6 Ron is poisoned, having been put into harm’s way by ingesting a love potion manufactured and sold by his brothers. The DEs find Fred and George’s shop a useful source of tools and materials enabling their infiltration of the Castle. Bill is savaged by a werewolf as a result of that invasion. Note: the twins’ do not bear direct responsibility for either Ron’s poisoning nor Bill’s disfigurement, but their products and marketing methods played a major contributory part in both incidents.

Item: in Book 7 George loses an ear. Dead Fred. Who knows what the original intentions were.

And if we backtrack, Book 1: Ron suffers a head injury by getting swept up in the “Truth according to Harry Potter”. And in Book 4, he ended up at the bottom of the lake, unconscious. Percy was present for that debacle.

In retrospect, I’m not that surprised that Percy tried to advise Ron to distance himself.

As a final note on the twins; I’d say that regardless of what their defects of character might have been, they certainly rushed in where Ollivander feared to tread. Ollivander appeared to have voluntarily taken himself and his stock out of the equation. At least, we suspected that this might have been voluntary, although there was a nasty uncertainty about it, given that we had no indication that he ever did so during VoldWar I, even when it appeared to the average wizard-in-the-street that Voldemort was winning. This uncertainty turned out to be well-founded.

But, given the amply demonstrated willingness of the DEs to employ the Imperius Curse. The twins, otoh, to me looked like they were just all too recklessly and conspicuously “out there” being just as conspicuously useful. Can you really suppose that the DEs wouldn’t eventually get the idea that it might be nice to have exclusive access to their products?

Or, with the possibility of Imperius in the equation, how long before the items sold to the Ministry might start developing “defects”.

At least until the Ministry fell, and the issue was moot.

Well. It turns out that Rowling didn’t choose to go there. Didn’t choose to go anywhere like it. Might have been interesting if she had, but I suppose that there never was that much chance of it. She’ll kill them, or maim them. But she won’t disgrace them. Just about none of her comic characters ever have to actually deal with payback.

Still, I was beginning to think that perhaps the fans who blindly were predicting that it would be Percy who ended up helping the DEs were about 180 degrees off-target. And, whether the twins’ recruitment would be exactly voluntary or not, given their general viciousness, determination to humiliate others, and callous disregard for others’ safety, they would certainly have made outstanding DEs.

Evidently the current DEs, who are a very small-minded lot, were more blinded by the twins’ blood-traitor upbringing and apolitical outlook than I expected them to be.

And as an additional, wild-card possibility, I also thought that given the demonstrated policies and practices of the Ministry of Magic under Rufus Scrimgeour’s leadership on the subject of being seen to be “doing something” about the threat of Lord Voldemort, there was every chance for Percy Weasley (who had always gotten mad, and never gotten even) to finally be handed the opportunity for some payback by way of seeing his twin tormenters into Azkaban for some undetermined time.

In his place, with the Dementors no longer in charge there, I might have been tempted to take it.