The Phoenix Files #12: Peter Pettigrew

By Christopher Stephen

Bonjour from a very excited columnist! Okay, so this is the very last File prior to the publication of Book Six, and I’m super-pumped to get my hands on that after an awesome Spellbound! celebration, but I’m also stoked after reading so many comments on my last few Files on the CoS Forums! You guys blow me away!! I can’t wait to get the Folders re-opening after the publication of HBP; there are so many great ideas!

So, first things first: congratulations to Sarah Wilkes, winner of my TPF riddle competition for a copy of The Plot Thickens!! Sarah, it should be in the mail! J

In addition, I’d like to say congrats to these finalists, who provided me with a name or screen name to post. These are most of the ten people who correctly answered BOTH riddles, were entered into the drawing, but were not chosen for the Grand Prize (in random order):

Jeff Long
Dave Natale
Jamie Morales, aka “jamorales”
“Fawkeselady” J
Sue Nardone
Awesome job, everyone, also to those whose names I didn’t get! Okay, so today’s File is on Peter Pettigrew, one of the most intriguing characters in the series. I’m afraid I haven’t had a ton of time on my hands while attempting to continue a somewhat-normal life and prepare for HBP’s release, so this File doesn’t quite have as much canon as others. But then when I attempted to research him, I realized something: I found very little canon to work with! Like Snape, JKR really wants to keep us guessing with this character. I think I’ll give a brief outline of what I plan on covering:

  1. Why Pettigrew was in Gryffindor
  2. Why Pettigrew betrayed the Potters
  3. Why Pettigrew returned to Voldemort after Harry’s Third Year
  4. Why Pettigrew should be afraid, very afraid, of his “life debt” to Harry
  5. Why Pettigrew was MIA (Missing In Action) during Book Five
  6. Why Pettigrew is still the key to the series

So that should definitely keep me busy. Hang on tight; here we go!

  1. We know that Peter Pettigrew hung out with Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and James Potter at Hogwarts. He is one of the authors of the Marauders Map, and from “Snape’s Worst Memory” in Book Five and McGonagall in Book Three, we know he idolized James. Are we positive Peter was in Gryffindor? I do not remember anything in the books or anything JKR said specifically confirming this (perhaps I’m incorrect), but I am 99% sure he was. (If you have canon evidence of Peter being in Gryffindor, let me know on the CoS Forums.)So I’m going to assume he was in Gryffindor like his best buds at Hogwarts. Why is this important? Why was he placed in Gryffindor?? Every time we have seen Pettigrew, he has been scared, nervous, and downright cowardly (Shrieking Shack, Riddle House). Right? Well, not quite – recall for a moment the scene in the graveyard in Harry’s Fourth Year. Prior to having to make his sacrifice, Wormtail calmly murders Cedric. According to Fake Moody, the Killing Curse requires a lot of mental power behind it for it to be effective. That brings me to another side point – if Pettigrew was such a poor wizard at Hogwarts, how did he become so powerful? We’ve really only seen him make one mistake, when he let Crouch Sr. escape. He must have been powerful to murder thirteen people with a single curse in that alleyway. But I digress. I feel this is one example of Wormtail’s bravery, but here’s the key: I am still waiting for his final act of bravery (perhaps in defiance to Voldemort?) in the coming books. (Isn’t it weird how I can still say books, plural? Not for long…) The Sorting Hat, er, modestly states that “I’ve never yet been wrong.” If Pettigrew was Sorted into Gryffindor, then we will definitely see some bravery from him in the next two books.
  2. Which brings me to my next point: what if he’s already been brave? Betraying James and Lily under Dumbledore’s nose is pretty tough to do, but Pettigrew did it. Why? Was it bravery or cowardice? It must have been bravery to betray the man he so idolized at Hogwarts…unless he was afraid of Voldemort. Did Voldemort already know him before he was chosen as Secret Keeper? I believe so. In PoA, Sirius and Remus reminisce by discussing who they thought was a traitor. That’s the reason why Sirius didn’t tell Remus he had switched to Pettigrew at the last second. That means they knew there was a traitor in their midst, so Pettigrew must have been that traitor, right? Sirius thought Lupin might be the spy, when, in fact, it must have been Pettigrew. They knew there was a spy in their midst, but they did not know who it was.How did Pettigrew get involved with Voldemort, then, in the first place? Is it because Voldemort went looking for him? For some reason, I feel Pettigrew was a little ambitious and wanted to find Voldemort himself. I simply do not think the Dark Lord would go around searching for a weakly-magical wizard as a Death Eater. So, after Pettigrew found him, it is possible the “Dark Lord” had “powers” of which we do not know. Unfortunately, though, I feel Wormtail is acting of his own accord throughout the series, and perhaps most importantly and especially during the Secret-Keeping episode with the Potters.
  3. So Pettigrew was, for a day, Voldemort’s best minion. He delivered the Potters to the Dark Lord. So why, then, did he go running to Voldemort after spending over a decade as a rat? He was finally free, and the only people who still believed him to be alive were Lupin, Sirius, and Harry’s trio (and Dumbledore, of course). Why not lie low another couple years as a rat? He got ambitious again! He knew that Sirius and Lupin would be working to find and kill him, and that all could have been avoided by joining the rats in, say, London, but instead he went to Voldemort. He must have missed being a wizard and being able to use magic. Why else would he seek out Voldemort? After all, he had no guarantee or promise that Voldemort would become as powerful as “ever he was.” Well, that’s what happens, I suppose, when you get a little too ambitious for your own good. Unfortunately, it’s worked out very well for him so far in the series.
  4. But will it continue to work out for him? Something in the back of my brain is saying, “No!” Recall what Dumbledore stated at the end of PoA – a magical bond is created between two people when one saves another’s life. Dumbledore said he would be “very much mistaken if Voldemort wants his servant” indebted to Harry Potter. So what does this mean? Well, I think the key lies in the rebirthing party at the end of GoF. Recall for a moment that Voldemort uses the “flesh of the servant,” Pettigrew’s hand, and the blood of the enemy, Harry. That is both sides of the magical bond created by the life-debt. It seems to me that Voldemort may have unknowingly overlooked this little bit of obscure magic, and it may end up being his downfall, making Harry “the one to vanquish the Dark Lord.” This, I believe, is the reason for Dumbledore’s “look of triumph” at the end of GoF when Harry recounts his story.
  5. So where was Pettigrew in OotP? That is the question to which most of us want to know the answer. We only saw him briefly, in Snape’s “Worst Memory,” and that was obviously in the past. What has he been doing in the present? He didn’t appear in the Department of Mysteries (DoM) battle. Okay, so the main thing against him is he’s supposed to be dead. Like Sirius, he would have to be on-the-run (or at least holed up somewhere nobody could find him). What was he doing? Was he an integral part of Voldemort’s plan to lure Harry into the prophecy room? I honestly believe that he has fulfilled his purpose in Voldemort’s mind. Wormtail was extremely useful in finding and returning Voldemort to his full bodily form, and it is doubtless Voldemort believes he can still be of use to him (otherwise Wormtail would be dead). But Voldemort now has a whole army of Death Eaters to do his bidding (after they get out of Azzy), and he will have no more use for the liability that is Wormtail. I believe Wormtail was helping Voldemort continue to operate in secrecy throughout OotP, communicating with Death Eaters (possibly by using his Animagus form). Now that the secret’s out, though, what will he do? Of what use can a person who is still supposed to be dead be to the Death Eaters? I suppose only Book Six will let us know…
  6. So that brings us to my final point: Pettigrew is STILL the key to the series. In my mind, Wormtail only presents a liability to Voldemort now. Sirius, his supposed murderer, is now dead, and his name was not publicly cleared, so Wormtail still must operate in secret. If he is found to be alive by the wizarding world, chaos will ensue. In addition, Wormtail has fulfilled his duty in returning Voldemort to his human-ish form. I would not be surprised if Voldemort realizes Wormtail is more a real liability than he is a possible asset and attempts to kill him in the next book. What exactly did Wormtail’s “life-debt” to Harry mean, and how did the episode with flesh, blood, and bone transfer that “debt?” Does Harry now have a distinct advantage? Did Harry give up his ability to cause Voldemort pain when he touched him for something much better, like a way to forever “vanquish” him? I believe so.

The main point is: Wormtail is a very ratty character, and he is sure to be scampering around in the next book (or two, if he survives). Discussing him, like discussing Snape, raises more questions than answers.

I have one last thought: in some versions of GoF, Wormtail and Voldemort are discussing “one more murder” to make the “path to Harry Potter” clear again in the Riddle House (Ch. 1). We know that Bertha Jorkins is already dead, and they could not possibly be talking about Frank Bryce (the gardener, who they didn’t know was eavesdropping at the time), Crouch Jr., or Cedric Diggory. Were they talking about Crouch Sr.? Or were they talking about Mad-Eye Moody? Both of them were kept alive only for cover. Moody was used for the Polyjuice Potion and information by Crouch Jr., while Barty Crouch was kept alive under the Imperius Curse simply to make everything seem like normal. So did one more character get murdered in GoF, making the pathway clear? Someone we don’t know or realize is dead? Or was that just a plan that was never realized? Just a couple thoughts to tide you over until after you read HBP…

Thanks for reading. Enjoy reading Book Six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and look out for the big-time thirteenth folder, that of the Half-Blood Prince (unless, of course, the HBP was discussed already, in which case it will be over a new character in HBP.)!!