Peter Pettigrew wasn’t a Gryffindor, he was a Slytherin. I had always thought of Peter Pettigrew as wimpy and cowardly, but upon rereading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I was stunned to discover how cunning, ambitious and pragmatic Pettigrew actually was. Pettigrew’s final act of mercy doesn’t cancel out his previous actions and that action, moreover, was unnecessary as it sends a message that all Gryffindors are good deep down. Further, it seems that he was only a Gryffindor for the purposes of the plot.
What are the traits that Slytherins possess? Slytherins tend to be “ambitious, shrewd, cunning, strong leaders, and achievement-oriented. They also have highly developed senses of self-preservation. This means that Slytherins tend to hesitate before acting, so as to weigh all possible outcomes before deciding exactly what should be done.”
Pettigrew, in the Prisoner of Azkaban, leaves blood on the sheets to fake his own murder as Scabbers at the hands of Crookshanks. He does so to escape punishment from Sirius Black using a method that had previously worked for him. When Scabbers is revealed to be Peter Pettigrew to the trio, Peter immediately thinks on his feet and is able to conjure a story that continues the previous narrative by claiming that Sirius is trying to kill him like he had attempted over a decade ago: “I knew he’d be back for me! I’ve been waiting for this for twelve years.” (P. 390, Prisoner of Azkaban)
Faking his own death – at Black’s hand – was a clever ruse to not only escape culpability from the world, reshape his own narrative as a hero and victim to the world by painting Sirius Black as a traitor to the Potter’s, it, also, enabled him to escape the anger of his fellow death eaters who met their own downfall as Voldemort lost his powers at Godric’s Hollow.
“Because you never did anything for anyone unless you could see what was in it for you. Voldemort’s been in hiding for twelve years, they say he’s half-dead. You weren’t about to commit murder right under Albus Dumbledore’s nose, for a wreck of a wizard who’d lost all his power, were you? You’d want to be quite sure he was the biggest bully in the playground before you went back to him, wouldn’t you? Why else did you find a wizard family to take you in? Keeping an ear out for news, weren’t you, Peter? Just in case your old protector regained strength, and it was safe to rejoin him…” – Sirius Black, p. 393, Prisoner of Azkaban
Sirius, having seen the story that The Daily Prophet printed on the Weasleys trip to Egypt featuring a picture of the Weasley family with Scabbers on Ron’s shoulder, realises that Harry is in the same year as Ron. This would allow Peter, disguised as Scabbers, to “strike the moment he could be sure of allies … to deliver the last Potter to them.” By giving Harry to them, “who’d dare say he [Pettigrew] betrayed Lord Voldemort? He’d be welcomed back with honours … ” (p. 394, Prisoner of Azkaban)
This not only demonstrates that Peter Pettigrew is ambitious, it reveals that he is, also, cunning, strategic, and a long-term planner who covered every possibility. Peter Pettigrew is somewhat like another Peter we know in Game of Thrones and if his ambition hadn’t been in favour of Voldemort, I would have quite admired Peter Pettigrew. The aforementioned traits are more commonly associated with Slytherins. While Gryffindors can possess these traits too, their goals are more in pursuit of righteousness than of personal ambition.
Other than Pettigrew’s last, and perhaps only, act of mercy in Deathly Hallows which the film fortunately removed, we do not witness any prior instances of “daring, nerve and chivalry” that would qualify him as a Gryffindor and this action does not waive his previous ones. Similarly, Snape’s role as a double agent for Dumbledore doesn’t make him a Gryffindor, though Dumbledore’s prejudice against Slytherin house shows either Dumbledore or Rowling cannot, unfairly, fathom a Slytherin being a good person, even if he is a morally grey one. It would have been more intriguing if Pettigrew wasn’t given his final moment of mercy as it would have further illustrated that even Gryffindors can perform immoral acts. In this way, it whitewashes Gryffindors and imparts the message that every Gryffindor, despite all their wrongdoings, is good, even if righteousness is only displayed in their final moment. It, also, treats Snape as the exception to the rule. Though Slughorn can be considered a morally grey, and sometimes good, Slytherin, he is an example of a realistic Slytherin that you would see in everyday life – focused on prestige and status, ambitious, and, more importantly, cautious as we see in Deathly Hallows where Slughorn considers the reality and danger of battling Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
Finally, the only reason that can explain Peter Pettigrew being a Gryffindor is for the purposes of the plot. The plot required a traitor, Dumbledore was refused as the Potter’s Secret Keeper as they already had decided on Sirius, and Sirius believed that nobody would suspect Pettigrew. Otherwise, by all intents and purposes, Peter Pettigrew consistently displays traits of a Slytherin. Similar to Slughorn collecting stars in the wizarding universe, Pettigrew collects protectors to protect himself and his actions are rarely inspired by a moral code as you would see in a Gryffindor.
My other two cents is that Fred and George Weasley are Ravenclaws. Though the Weasley twins are brave and daring, their ability to create original inventions, as we see with Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and their much-revered wit are more prominent, and these traits are more commonly associated with Ravenclaws. But the plot required proximity to humour as we view the wizarding universe through Harry’s lens which therefore required the twins to be Gryffindors. Moreover, Percy Weasley, grounded, cautious and ambitious, would have been better suited to Slytherin and it would have further reinforced that Slytherins can be good as well when we see Percy return for the Battle of Hogwarts. Truly, it was only Ginny, Ron, Bill and Charlie Weasley who were Gryffindors.
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What are your thoughts on Peter Pettigrew? Which house do you think Peter Pettigrew was better suited to and why? What are your thoughts on the negative stereotypes of Slytherins? Do all the Weasley’s belong in Gryffindor? Let me know in the comments!
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