"Hero-worshiped Black and Potter. Never quite in their league, talent-wise. I was often rather sharp with him ... Stupid boy ... Foolish boy .. .He was always hopeless at dueling..."
-- Minerva McGonagall (PA10)
"If you made a better rat than a human, it's not much to boast about, Peter."
-- Sirius Black (PA19)
"Your devotion is nothing more than cowardice. You would not be here if you had anywhere else to go."
-- Lord Voldemort (GF1)
Peter Pettigrew entered Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at the same time as Sirius Black, James Potter, and Remus Lupin, a group of friends who came to call themselves the “Marauders.” Although he was sorted into Gryffindor House with the other Marauders, he was initially a Hatstall, as the Sorting Hat was unable to decide whether he should be a Gryffindor or a Slytherin (Hogwt).
He was not as skilled a wizard as his friends, and seemed to hang out with them largely because he idolized them (PA10). With them, though, he learned to become an Animagus (turning into a rat and earning the nickname “Wormtail”), helped write the Marauder’s Map (PA17, PA18), and joined the Order of the Phoenix (OP9).
Peter was a person who was easily influenced by those around him, allying himself with whomever was the strongest. Once he was out of school, Pettigrew became an easy target for the Dark Lord as he searched for a way to strike at James and Lily. Peter was coerced into becoming a spy for Voldemort. As he put it,
“Sirius, Sirius, what could I have done? The Dark Lord… you have no idea … he has weapons you can’t imagine … I was scared, Sirius, I was never brave like you and Remus and James. I never meant it to happen … He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named forced me … He — he was taking over everywhere! Wh — what was there to be gained by refusing him? You don’t understand! He would have killed me, Sirius!” (PA19)
The Potters and their friends didn’t know this, of course, and continued to trust Peter so completely that on Sirius Black’s advice, he was made James and Lily’s Secret Keeper. A week later they were dead, when Peter betrayed their hiding place to his master. Pettigrew then cleverly framed Sirius Black for the betrayal and his own murder by blowing up an entire street full of Muggles and cutting off one of his own fingers to fake his own death, before disappearing down a drain. Peter Pettigrew was “posthumously” awarded the Order of Merlin, and Sirius Black was sent to Azkaban without a trial (PA19).
“Scabbers” (November 1981 – June 1994)
After tricking Sirius, Pettigrew transformed into a rat and stayed that way for twelve years, living with the Weasley family as Percy and then Ron’s pet, Scabbers, in order to hide from the Death Eaters who thought he had betrayed Voldemort.
As Scabbers, Pettigrew was not fond of Hermione’s cat, Crookshanks, and with good reason. Crookshanks is part Kneazle, which means that he can sense duplicity. He saw right through Peter’s disguise and tried to attack him whenever he got a chance.
Discovery and Flight
By 1993, Crookshanks wasn’t the only one who had figured out that Peter was still alive. Sirius Black had chanced upon a photograph of the Weasley family and recognized his old “friend” at once. Black became so obsessed with tracking the traitor down that he was able to resist the influence of the Dementors long enough to escape. In June of 1994, Pettigrew finally had his reckoning with Sirius, Remus Lupin, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Severus Snape in the Shrieking Shack, and Scabbers’ true identity was revealed. Sirius and Lupin would have killed him, but for Harry’s intervention. Harry wanted to clear his godfather’s name and insisted that Peter be held for trial instead. Pettigrew now owed Harry a “life debt.”
The Servant of Lord Voldemort
Unfortunately for Sirius, Peter was able to escape when Lupin’s transformation into a werewolf distracted his captors. The first thing he did was to go searching for his dark master, Voldemort. Amazingly, he found him, existing bodiless with a snake named Nagini — in Albania.
Even with a new servant, the next step wasn’t clear until Pettigrew ran into Bertha Jorkins, a Ministry witch who was on holiday in Albania. Although she recognized him, Pettigrew was able to lure her into the forest where she fell into the clutches of the Dark Lord. Under torture, Jorkins gave them information that helped Voldemort make plans for an attack on Harry Potter.
On Voldemort’s instructions, created the potions his master needed to gain a temporary body. Pettigrew milked the venom from Nagini that was used as part of the potion. He carried Voldemort’s weak, small body on the long journey back to Britain, where they took up temporary residence in the Riddle House outside of Little Hangleton. Voldemort called Peter by his Marauder name, “Wormtail” (GF1).
When Harry Potter was captured, it was Wormtail who killed Cedric Diggory, Wormtail who bound Harry, Wormtail who set up the cauldron over the fire, and Wormtail who cut Harry’s arm to draw for blood for the potion. Wormtail then cut off his own right hand to add to the potion. From that horrible mixture, the Dark Lord was reborn in his old body. He cast a spell which created a new shining and powerful hand for Pettigrew (GF33). Voldemort used the Dark Mark to call the rest of his wayward Death Eaters to him.
From this point on Wormtail was something of a lowly servant to Snape and the other Death Eaters (HBP2, DH1). He met Harry again in Malfoy Manor and tried immediately to kill him, but when Harry reminded Wormtail of his life debt, Wormtail hesitated – and that was enough for the hand created by Voldemort to sense the failing, turn back on its owner and betray the betrayer (DH23).
Eyes: small, watery (PA19).
Hair: thin, colorless, unkempt with a bald patch (PA19). Later described as a "balding man with graying hair." (GF)
Build: small, not much taller than Harry or Hermione (PA19).
Distinguishing features: rat-like face and a pointed nose. In Books 1-3 he was missing the index finger from his right hand (PA19). This same hand was demanded by Voldemort for his "rebirthing potion." (GF1, GF32) Later it was replaced by a glove-like magical shining silver hand (GF33).
Voice: squeaky (PA19).
Complexion: pasty (PA19).
Wand: Chestnut and Dragon Heartstring, 9.25 inches, Brittle. Used by Ron after Pettigrew's death.
Hogwarts: Gryffindor, 1971 - 1978.
No mention of a father, but his mother was given the finger he chewed off while fleeing from Sirius, along with his Order of Merlin for bravery (PA11)
Animagus, some bravery (mixed with cowardice), care of snakes
"Pettigrew" is from the Old French words "petit" meaning "small or little" and "cru" meaning "growth".
Pettigrew is also a play-on-words in English for "Pet, I grew,"since "Scabbers" was Ron's pet rat which enlarged into Animagus Peter.
"Peter" was the name of a disciple of Jesus in the Bible who betrayed Christ by denying that he knew him on the day of the Crucifixion.
In many ways, Peter is a direct opposite of Severus Snape. As Pettigrew was switching loyalty to Voldemort and about to betray James and Lily Potter, Snape was coming back to the good side because he wanted Dumbledore to save them.
Peter Pettigrew bears some similarities to another character whose name has the same alliteration: Piers Polkiss. Piers, like Peter, was a weak person who followed whomever he saw as having power -- in his case, that being Dudley Dursley. Interestingly, Piers is described in PS2 as being "a scrawny boy with a face like a rat."
While everyone thought Peter needed protection, he was not afraid to face Voldemort, nor to "milk" snake venom from the giant Nagini. A possible Occlumens, he kept secrets from Dumbledore for years about Marauders activities and the fact he was an Animagus rat, then fooled everyone in the Order of Phoenix while passing secrets to Voldemort. Powerful and clever, nearly everyone underestimated him, which is why in one fateful day he could betray the Potters, blow up a street killing 12 Muggles, fake his own death, and frame Sirius Black for all of it, while walking free. When cornered in the Shrieking Shack, he escaped again to return to his Master, Lord Voldemort in Albania, before bringing him back to life by cutting off his own right hand. Peter sometimes questioned Voldemort's opinions - one of the few brave enough to do that, and he was the only Death Eater who spent extensive time with him.
Pettigrew on film
In the movies, Peter Pettigrew is played by Timothy Spall. Spall says "I relish Pettigrew. It's nice to play a character so reprehensible and weak. He's a rat - I'm now a pin-up in all sorts of pet shops!" (Independent, 12/28/2004)
From the Web
WizardsandWhatnot (Fansided): Harry Potter and the Order of Archetypes: Peter Pettigrew, the Shapeshifter by Katie Majka
The Rowling Library: TRL Magazine Issue #52, article on page 4: Wormtail: The Weakest Link by Oliver Horton
MuggleNet: Wormtail: More than Meets the Eye? by Stuart McCaighy
- He Will Not Be Redeemed: What Makes a Character Redeemable and How Does This Apply to Wormtail? by ILUVSB
- An Analysis of "Spinner's End" by SDCurtis
Harry Potter Wiki: Peter Pettigrew
LiveJournal - HP Essays:
- Pondering Peter Pettigrew: Ancestry by contrail
- Peter Pettigrew by xdistantsparkle
- Deconstructing Peter -- Why Peter's Not Stupid or Inept by gehayi
Writing by J K Rowling on Wizardingworld (Pottermore):
Tumbler (JonSnowWhite): Writing by J K Rowling from Pottermore Presents: Animagi by J K Rowling
WizardingWorld (Pottermore) features: