3 Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Part Three – Why Peter Pettigrew was a Slytherin

copy of chamber

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.”

Credit: Threadless

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.

Credit: Wizards and Whatnot

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.

If you missed it:

3 Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Part One – Film vs Book

3 Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Part Two – Crookshanks vs Scabbers

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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  1. I completely agree about Pettigrew and Percy! They are both cunning, self-serving characters and don’t really suit Gryffindor at all. I’m afraid I disagree about the Weasley twins, though – I can see your point, but the bravery those twins exhibit is insane (particularly in book 5 when Umbridge comes to the school).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s very true! It requires a whole kingdom of courage to openly break rules especially under a very authoritarian headmistress. There should be hybrid houses – the twins would make excellent Gryffinclaw’s! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There are several characters that really don’t belong in Gryffindor. I hadn’t really thought about the Weasly twins, but you have a point.

    And Hermione is about as Ravenclaw as one can get.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing post. I must admit though, I didn’t ever look at Pettigrew they way you do. I feel like he’s a selfish friend, but that’s just my opinion. To be honest, I thought when reading the book that he was a Griffindor, I only later realised he was a Slytherin haha

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair point buuuut (there always has to be one 😂) Harry did have a few Slytherin traits himself and he would’ve gotten into that house if it weren’t for the fact that he chose to be in Griffindor…. that gives us something to think about 😂 even though it was mostly because good old voldie had stored a piece of his soul in him without knowing… ahh good old voldie.

        I think I assumed petegrew was a Griffindor because all his ‘friends’ were?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Excellent point! The sorting hat takes your choice into account after all and Dumbledore did drum the whole “it’s your choices that show who you are, far more than your abilities.” If that’s the case though… wouldn’t more students have chosen whichever house they wanted? Seeing as a lot of people didn’t want to be in neither Hufflepuff or Slytherin? It leaves a lot of questions to be asked… lazy writing, tbh. But I agree, he most likely chose to be in Gryffindor because of his friends. Forget choices, people should be sorted into the houses that reflect their previous actions.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Completely agree! He does share a lot of traits with Slytherin. I wonder if he chose Gryffindor himself? Because doesn’t the sorting hat take your wishes into consideration? Or is that only in the movie haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting, he might have you know come to think of it because Harry and Hermione chose too and I guess Rowling’s “it’s our choices that make us who we are” show what we desire. But this would definitely require a lot of guesswork. But fun to speculate!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to, sorry. But what if Peter choosing Gryffindor was his first act of self-preservation in Hogwarts? Making the assumption that the Marauders met during the trip or before selection and the others were selected before him, he might have chosen to be in the same house as the first friendly people he met, who could keep him safe/not isolated?

    Or am I looking too deep within this? XD Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent, excellent point. That does cause me to question why the Sorting Hat didn’t recognise that Peter chose Gryffindor for the purposes of self-preservation… I’d rather it sorted based on who you are and what you can actually become based on genuine intentions. In the case of choosing your own house, given Hufflepuff’s lack of popularity, wouldn’t a few students have chosen another house as well? The world building is great, but you make an excellent point that Pettigrew chose Gryffindor, so James and Sirius could protect him! And not at all ‘too deep’, I love it when someone can point out a flaw with logic to back it up! Thank you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oops, hit send too soon. ¬¬ I’m assuming two things here: one, that people choose when they have traits that would send them to either of two houses (like Harry). Others, like Malfoy, get selected straight into a house. And the second is that since Peter made his choice as a child, he might’ve gone a long way from the boy he was to the man… rat… thing he became, I guess. I could do this for days;

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That is true! The sorting hat cannot, after all, predict the future, it can only estimate you on the qualities you currently possess. I wonder if at that moment though how that conversation would have gone with the hat if the hat decides quickly, perhaps Peter realised he would be put into a house other than Gryffindor and relayed his choice quickly to the hat. That’s how I see it having played out!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah I definitely think that Peter Petigrew makes more sense in Slytherin (though the above commenter makes a good point that he’d choose to be in Gryffindor, he just doesn’t have enough of the traits to actually get put there and you can’t hide that much of your personality from the sorting hat). Also I really agree about fred, George and percy- it’s kinda frustrating that Rowling put all the good guys in the same house, when they so clearly could have been spread around the other houses. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great point! I’m sure there must have been communication between the sorting hat and Pettigrew the way it was for Harry and the Sorting Hat! Yep, totally agree, glory shouldn’t solely belong to Gryffindor’s, but I guess it was for plot purposes more than anything really. Thank you! 🙂


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