It would be grossly old-fashioned to describe Arthur Weasley as ‘head of the household’ at The Burrow – and in any case, that mantle clearly belongs to Molly. So, what is it about this modest Ministry man, all endearing malapropisms and quaint obsessions, that makes our hearts lighten whenever he crops up in the story?
First and foremost, Arthur Weasley’s plain, unvarnished enthusiasm for Muggle culture, made all the cuter by his limited ability to understand – and indeed, pronounce – many of his beloved non-magic folk’s technical accomplishments. In spite of a borderline-obsessive fixation (his dearest ambition: ‘to find out how aeroplanes stay up’) he consistently mangles the names of everyday items, so escalators become ‘escapators’, fan heaters ‘ecklectic’ fires and telephones, are of course, ‘fellytones’.
His fascination for Muggle life – extending from such mundanities as banknotes and tents to his potentially lethal folly of insisting on stitches in his Nagini wound at St Mungo’s – is entirely in step with his staunch campaigning for Muggle equality. His job as Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office meant he was well placed to not only acquire and investigate the very things which fascinated him most, but moreover exploit connections and insider knowledge to help undermine the wicked anti-Muggle regime that crept in on Lord Voldemort’s return.
The irony should not be lost on anyone that few are more guilty of dabbling in ‘Misuse of Muggle Artefacts’ than Weasley himself; for instance his highly controversial bewitching of a Ford Anglia.
Arthur’s interest in fighting the tyrannical scourge of ‘blood purity’ was more than academic. He maintained a long-standing feud with Lucius Malfoy, to the point that they had a public altercation in Flourish and Blotts, requiring Hagrid to intervene. Lucius took a dim view of anybody with close Muggle ties, and sought to sabotage Weasley’s mooted ‘Muggle Protection Act’ in any way his (considerable) influence would allow.
Despite this and other examples of him standing up to powerful people – Barty Crouch, for one – many argue his solid but unremarkable career at the Ministry is hopelessly hampered by his mawkish sentimentality for Muggle-kind. Molly, perhaps unkindly, took this view, as did his officious son, fellow Ministry employee Percy. Percy not only accused his father of lacking the killer instinct to get ahead but went much further, ascribing the family’s relative poverty to his dad’s supposed lackadaisicalness. Even supportive, sympathetic Ted Tonks affectionately ribbed Arthur for being prone to ‘overstretch himself… him and his Muggle contraptions’.
On the one hand, this is grossly unfair – ambition for its own sake is the cause of much evil in the world. If only more people in positions of influence were as modest as Arthur. But even if we accept Arthur Weasley is soppy and sentimental, so what?
He clearly cherished his family above all else, like when he won a good sum of money in a Daily Prophet prize draw and treated his brood to a month-long holiday in Egypt. Though he later experienced horrible tragedy, he had plenty of reasons to be proud of his kids’ achievements: Bill’s fancy overseas Gringotts job, the twins’ entrepreneurial zeal, or Charlie’s captaincy of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. His enmity toward Lucius Malfoy was brutally underscored when his daughter Ginny nearly perished after the sly Slytherin planted Tom Riddle’s old diary on her.
His fierce loyalty extends beyond his own children, of course. Arthur Weasley treated Harry Potter very much as his own son, getting him Quidditch World Cup tickets, staying in touch when the young wizard was stuck at Privet Drive, and tolerating the inconvenience and peril of sheltering ‘Undesirable Number One’ with ample good humour. Weasley’s doting on The Boy Who Lived was repaid when Potter had a lifesaving vision of Arthur after the attack by Nagini left him fighting for his life, allowing him to be found in good time.
But the real number-one relationship in Arthur’s life is with Molly Weasley. Their courtship and marriage is a shining example to all, from its surreptitious student sallies into the Hogwarts grounds, to ‘their song’ (A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love by Celestina Warbeck), to the fact he usually does what he’s told even when his more mischievous instincts are inclined to lead him astray.
And as for the reason behind the adorable pet name he has for his wife – Mollywobbles – we can only speculate. But he's a lucky man, and she sure is one lucky woman.