The Hated Marauder
Since a few hours after the release of Half-Blood Prince, everyone has been asking questions. Let’s face it, HBP presented more questions than answers. The main two questions concern loyalty: Snape, Dumbledore’s man through and through, or faithful Death Eater? And if R.A.B. really was a Death Eater, who would pledge loyalty to Voldemort only to break it? These questions have bounced around the Potterverse so much and have continued to incite such wild thoughts that its not surprising few fans think of anything else.
One question we had before HBP was indeed answered. Unlike the (in)famous H/Hr, R/Hr debate, this answer got very little recognition from readers. The question pre-HBP: What ever happened to Wormtail?
I am not alone in saying I despise Wormtail more than anyone else in the series. He is my most hated character, even though his best Hogwarts friends are some of my favorites. It has been this way since the third book and has not changed. Sirius is my favorite, closely followed by James, Lily and Remus (and Snape). Opposite them is Wormtail, and that’s just how it is.
However, I’ve always hated having to leave him out. When someone asks me for my favorite characters, I would rather not have to say: The Marauders and Lily and Snape minus Wormtail. No matter how much we hate him, Peter Pettigrew was loved and trusted by the people who considered him a friend.
Within this editorial, I would like to explore one Peter ‘Wormtail’ Pettigrew, in comparison to Severus Snape, in hopes of shedding a bit of light on this hated wizard. In order to understand or accept the things Im going to say, one must already trust Snape. I know this narrows my audience quite a bit, but I wouldn’t be able to say anything to you that other editorials havent explored more thoroughly, and Snape’s loyalty is not to be questioned here.
Before we begin the list of similarities between Wormtail and Snape, I thought we could start with the much shorter list of differences.
- I hate Wormtail. This really isn’t saying anything about canon, but to me it is the most obvious difference, so I had to include it.
- No one tried to defend Wormtail’s actions. By no one I mean the readers. Sadly, this difference can be explained away very easily. In PoA, we learned that Sirius Black murdered Peter Pettigrew: we gain a sense of pity for Peter, but by the time we actually meet him, we find out he is the rat, literally and figuratively, and we begin to have difficulty in understanding “why an innocent man would want to spend twelve years as a rat” (PoA, “The Servant of Lord Voldemort, pg. 369). We hate him from then on, and no one puts any more thought into it. However, we went through almost six whole years with Snape. Even those who didn’t like him trusted him. His traitorous action was much more of a shock, and by the time we reached that fateful page 596, Snape had built up a very strong and loyal fanbase. Wormtail never had that.
- People underestimate Wormtail. This is a stronger difference. Wormtail is referred to as vermin by several people, including Snape himself. McGonagall described Wormtail as ”never quite in [Potter and Black’s] league, talent-wise,” and said, ”He was always hopeless at dueling” (PoA, “The Marauder’s Map,” pp. 207-208). We see from the interactions among Remus, Sirius and Wormtail that Remus and Sirius see no reason to fear him. But Wormtail obviously has quite a bit of power: blasting a crater in the middle of the street, so deep it had cracked the sewer below (PoA, “The Marauder’s Map,” pg. 208) doesn’t seem like the kind of thing we’d see from someone whom people believe to have the same amount of talent as a young Neville Longbottom. He also killed Cedric Diggory, a curse that “needs a powerful bit of magic behind it.” (GoF, “The Unforgivable Curses,” pg. 217).
Snape’s powers aren’t underestimated by anyone (save James and Sirius). Snape saved Dumbledore’s life with his timely action (HBP, “Horcruxes,” pg. 503) and was called an accomplished Occlumens by Remus Lupin several times. Harry fears closing his eyes in Snape’s presence, because he knows that Snape could do some major damage. The characters I find most interesting in this regard are the Death Eaters. Narcissa speaks about Draco’s task of killing Dumbledore as impossible, saying, ”How can he, when the Dark Lord himself–?” but goes on to say, ”You could do it instead of Draco, Severus. You would succeed, of course you would…” (HBP, “Spinners End,” pg. 33). So Mrs. Malfoy sees Snape as more powerful than Voldemort. And there is, of course, in the infamous tower scene, the moment when Snape enters and ”the three Death Eaters fell back without a word. Even the werewolf seemed cowed” (HBP, “The Lightning-Struck Tower,” pg. 595), which caught my attention the moment I read it.
Listed in order of importance, from least to greatest.
- Snape and Wormtail live together. Towards the beginning of HBP, we learn that Wormtail was given to Snape by Voldemort as an assistant of sorts.
- Same age. Both Snape and Wormtail were at Hogwarts with, and in the same year as, Lily and James (and Sirius and Remus).
- Both can be blamed. For Lily and James’s deaths, that is. Snape got Voldemort the first half of the prophecy, Wormtail got him their location; both sent him after them.
- Both indebted to a Potter. And both with their lives. Harry stopped Remus and Sirius from murdering Wormtail; James pulled Snape away from wolfy Remus. (So I guess they both saved them from Remus. Hmm…) Snape has fully returned James’s favor by saving Harry’s life a number of times; Wormtail has yet to repay Harry (and it had better be good when he does).
- Remus. Other than almost killing them both, Remus believed in them both. Many times he has defended Snape to Harry; and in the Shrieking Shack that fateful night, Remus had difficulty believing Wormtail was guilty. Upon hearing the truth about them, however, he turns on them rather quickly. Hell, he’s ready to murder Wormtail by the end of the night.
- Both spies. Being a double-spy, Snape was always more open about his role, but both were thought to be spies, and both ended up on Voldemort’s side (willingly or no).
- Their friends. Both Snape and Wormtail betrayed friends who were believed to be more powerful for Voldemort. Both betrayals were very, very important.
- Both looked down upon. By Death Eaters. As stated earlier, the Death Eaters feared Snape; but they spoke about him behind his back, questioning why Voldemort trusted him, and making fun of his role as Dumbledore’s pet. And I explained earlier about Wormtail not being respected.
- Doubted by Voldemort; redeemed to Voldemort. Voldemort doubted them both as he did all the Death Eaters before his return. Wormtail earned back his trust by aiding his master and rejoining him with a body. Snape was doubted ever more than the others because of his unwillingness to return and his seat of luxury with Dumbledore (”One, who I believe has left me forever…”Lord Voldemort, GoF, “The Death Eaters,” pg. 651). He redeemed himself by continuing to provide information on the Order (or so we assume), and later he secured the trust by murdering Albus Dumbledore.
So there we have it. My list of similarities between a hated one and a loved one. I hope I have not turned any Snape fans against him, and I hope I lost all haters a long time ago – I will probably receive enough hate mail as it is.
Now for my conclusion, which I fear very much.
Maybe Wormtail is innocent the same way Snape is.
Imagine, my fellow Snape-trusters, that instead of being with Harry that night, instead of seeing Snape’s face, or watching Dumbledore gradually slide down the wall, we only learn secondhand that Snape killed Dumbledore. Would we have anything to say? Could we defend him? Would we have been able to come up with anything to destroy the hatred that rose up in our hearts?
No. We had to see those things to understand.
We are told that Wormtail betrayed James and Lily just as the Order is told that Snape killed Dumbledore end of story. Traitor. No coming back.
Yet most of us believe Snape should be redeemed by the Order. Perhaps Wormtail too?
But, you ask, why would he help Voldemort return to his body? ”For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledores eyes.” (GoF, “The Parting of the Ways,” pg. 696).
We can only guess, right?