For many years, Percy was seen as the rather pompous but ultimately harmless older brother of Ron, Fred and George. But, as Voldemort started to take power, Percy ended up siding with his beloved Ministry over his own family.
Percy wasn’t a bad person and didn’t have any desire to join the Dark Side, he was just easily impressed by power and status. He came from a family who weren’t particularly well-off, and had hand-me-downs throughout his life. Although his father worked at the Ministry, the job wasn’t well-paid and, due to the nature of his personality, he didn’t command the same level of respect as some of his colleagues. It’s easy to see why Percy would aspire to be something more, and he wasn’t the only Weasley that felt their family status and comparative wealth quite keenly. Ron was often dispirited by the family’s lack of funds, becoming jealous of Harry’s fame and gold on numerous occasions. Percy dealt with this feeling in a different way, channelling his energies into his ambition.
Unlike Fred and George, Percy always put a lot of faith in authority. He seemed to think that those in senior positions were untouchable. When Penelope Clearwater was attacked by the Basilisk, Percy was visibly distressed, causing George to observe: ‘I don’t think he thought the monster would dare attack a Prefect.’
He was extremely proud of being a prefect and took the role very seriously, enjoying the level of seniority it gave him over other students and becoming very self-important. He seemed to take great pleasure in catching students in their wrongdoing and was always trying to gain praise from his teachers. But in Percy’s eyes he was just taking his title seriously and performing the job as best he could.
When he left Hogwarts and got a job at the Ministry of Magic, he openly hero-worshipped his boss Barty Crouch and was very keen to get promoted. He took his work seriously, hiding away in his room to finish tasks before the given deadline in order to impress his peers.
It was Percy’s promotion to Junior Assistant to the Minister for Magic that caused a real rift between the Weasleys. Percy was proud and believed he had achieved the recognition himself, but Arthur was convinced that he was given the position so the Ministry could spy on the Weasleys. It’s completely understandable that Percy would take huge offence at the suggestion that he was just being used, especially as he had put so much time and effort into getting promoted.
He refused to believe his father and gave his loyalty to the Ministry, so much so that when Voldemort returned and the Ministry refused to accept it, Percy steadfastly toed the ‘Voldemort is not back’ line.
This resulted in his complete estrangement from the family, as they were all actively playing a part in fighting Voldemort. It made sense that Percy would put so much faith in the Ministry’s word; he’d spent all his life looking up to those in power and didn’t believe they could get it wrong. As his family wasn’t taken seriously, it’s easy to see how he could have fallen into the trap of believing they were mistaken and in the wrong.
Percy was guilty of having a superior attitude at times and abandoning his family in favour of the Ministry, but he wasn’t a bad person. He simply got blinded by his own position and faith in the system. When the penny finally dropped that Voldemort really was back, he was ready to hold up his hands and admit to his mistake. And, during the final battle, he took up his wand against Voldemort and his supporters; Percy was reconciled with his family just before Fred was killed. It says a lot about Percy’s character that he would return and fight, admitting he was wrong, and even joking about his Ministry colleagues.
Really, it was Percy’s youth and inexperience in the world, as well as his need to escape what he perceived as the limitations of his family, that caused him to take the wrong path. But everyone makes mistakes, especially when they’re young, and Percy redeemed himself in the end.
Each month Pottermore will try to defend the more… questionable characters from the Harry Potter stories. Come back next month when we make the case for Lavender Brown.