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02 August 2006 @ 11:52 am
How Do You Solve A Problem Like Wormtail?  
How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria Wormail?




"'We ... we are alone, aren't we?' Narcissa asked quietly.
'Yes, of course. Well, Wormtail's here, but we're not counting vermin, are we?'
He pointed his wand at the wall of books behind him and, with a bang, a hidden door flew open, revealing a narrow staircase upon which a small man stood frozen.
'As you have clearly realised, Wormtail, we have guests,' said Snape lazily.
The man crept hunchbacked down the last few steps and moved into the room. He had small, watery eyes, a pointed nose and wore an unpleasant simper. His left hand was caressing his right which looked as though it were encased in a bright silver glove.
"
----HBP, p. 28-29: Spinner's End

At the beginning of Half-Blood Prince we learn that Peter Pettigrew is living with Snape, and that Voldemort sent him there in order to help Snape. Prior to HBP we hadn't seen or heard of much interaction between these two characters. We can assume that Snape lumped Pettigrew together in with his list of Gryffindors He'd Like to Hex, along with James, Sirius and possibly Remus. I doubt Wormtail went out of his way to antagonize or bully Snape, but from what we saw in the Pensieve scene in HBP, it's safe to assume he did nothing to stop it, but instead enjoyed and was entertained by it. Snape no doubt has a low opinion of him, and while Wormtail may still dislike Snape for being "Snivellus", Snape is a threatening presence in Wormtail's life in HBP, and not someone he's equal or dominant with.

It's quite strange to think that these two people, with their Marauders-versus-Snape history as teenagers, were suddenly thrown together as adults and Death Eaters. It doesn't seem like there's any way that Snape would ever respect Wormtail, and thus will never treat him well. There's no way that Wormtail could ever like Snape, partly because of their past, and partly because of the way Snape treats Wormtail in HBP.

"'Narcissa!' he said, in a squeaky voice, 'and Bellatrix! How charming--'
'Wormtail will get us drinks, if you'd like them,' said Snape. 'And then he will return to his bedroom.'
Wormtail winced as though Snape had thrown something at him.
'I am not your servant!' he squeaked, avoiding Snape's eye.
'Really? I was under the impression that the Dark Lord placed you here to assist me.'
'To assist, yes -- but not to make you drinks and -- and clean your house!'
'I had no idea, Wormtail, that you were craving more dangerous assignments,' said Snape silkily. 'This can be easily arranged: I shall speak to the Dark Lord--'
'I can speak to him myself if I want to!'
'Of course you can,' said Snape, sneering. 'But in the meantime, bring us drinks. Some of the elf-made wine will do.'
"
---- HBP, p. 29: Spinner's End

At the same time, though, I can't help but see similarities between them. Both were spies for opposite sides during the first war. Wormtail, a member of the Order of the Phoenix, began spying for Voldemort approximately a year before James and Lily were killed. Snape overheard the Prophecy some time before Harry was born and began to spy for Dumbledore at some point afterward. Then, at the beginning of HBP, they're forced to live together. Wormtail is now openly a Death Eater and Snape is still acting as a spy (for which side? I'm not going to get into that question here too much) and openly a member of the Order of the Phoenix.

During the first war they both had to answer to the same two people: Dumbledore and Voldemort. They have experienced how both operate, and how both treat their followers (although I don't know if I would use the term 'follower' for member of the Order). I can't help but wonder how much Voldemort and Dumbledore knew about the situation in HBP. Does Voldemort know about their history at Hogwarts? Did Snape tell Dumbledore that Wormtail was sent to live with him?

If Voldemort did put them together knowing what their relationship was at school, I can't help but wonder if he had a particular motive behind it. The obvious motivation is the fact that Wormtail is easily bullied, and Voldemort wanted to give Snape the chance to bully him. But there is no specific perk for Voldemort in this situation, other than giving Snape a chance to be cruel, and generally making life for Wormtail unpleasant.

If Dumbledore knew of the situation, no doubt he would realize that Snape would use the opportunity to make life unpleasant for Wormtail. This may simply be because Snape's strong personality and Wormtail's weak one makes it easy, and Snape enjoys it, but perhaps Snape sees it as a convenient opportunity to take revenge against a Marauder.

In the most basic terms, Snape and Wormtail are on the same side in HBP, yet even in the small glimpse we see of everyone's favourite rat-boy and his interaction with Snape, they are at odds. If they still see each other as a greasy, mean, evil Slytherin, and a stupid, James-worshipping Gryffindor who loved to see Snape get harassed, they are not on the same side.

"Wormtail hesitated for a moment, looking as though he might argue, but then turned and headed through a second hidden door. They heard banging, and a clinking of glasses. Within seconds he was back, bearing a dusty bottle and three glasses upon a tray. He dropped these on the rickety table and scurried from their presence, slamming the book-covered door behind him."
---- HBP, p. 29: Spinner's End.

Snape's ill-treatment of Wormtail may be deserved, but regardless, no one likes to be treated as subservient. Wormtail especially must resent being treated like a slave by a fellow Death Eater, given that he literally cut off his right hand for Voldemort.

Oddly enough, I've always thought that feeling unappreciated or unvalued must have been a contributing factor towards Wormtail betraying the Order in the first place. He's never described in a flattering way in terms of his abilities or personality, but he was still a part of the group.

"'You don't understand! whined Pettigrew. 'He would have killed me, Sirius!'
'THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED!' roared Black. 'DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS, AS WE WOULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU!'
"
- PoA p. 275: The Servant of Lord Voldemort

Clearly, the other Marauders were loyal to Peter, even if they did make fun of him. Sirius and James's dedication to the protection of every Marauder may have been equal, but they did not have equal amounts of respect or esteem for Peter as they did for each other.

"'Put that away, will you,' said Sirius finally, as James made a fine catch and Wormtail let out a cheer, 'before Wormtail wets himself with excitement.'
Wormtail turned slightly pink, but James grinned.
'If it bothers you,' he said, stuffing the Snitch back in his pocket. Harry had the distinct impression that Sirius was the only one for whom James would have stopped showing off.
"
--- OotP, p. 568: Snape's Worst Memory

Judging by the reactions of the characters, the impression I am given by this scene is that poking fun at Wormtail in this manner was not uncommon. Then there's the fact that Wormtail needed help with becoming an animagus, and possibly in other areas as well. One or two incidents of being made fun of may be forgiven and forgotten, and gratefulness for help may have outweighed feeling inferior, but if Wormtail was repeatedly treated this way and did nothing to stand up for himself, and constantly relied on others for success, surely he must have resented it and caused damage to his self-esteem.

Even as young adults in the Order, one can easily picture James, Sirius and Lily going off and doing brave and dangerous things like fighting Death Eaters and facing Voldemort. But Wormtail? He doesn't strike you as the type of person to be assigned such tasks or seek them out. Instead he likely was given simple jobs to do, all the while watching his friends do more important things. Then somehow he comes in contact with Voldemort (or possibly a Death Eater, but given how little known it was that Wormtail was alive during the years Sirius was in Azkaban, it seems more likely that Wormtail was in direct contact with Voldemort, in order to keep his position as spy a secret), whose methods of recruitment involve promising power and glory, along with threatening death and torture if one does not agree. As someone who is obviously afraid of danger or punishment and who has never experienced power or glory, Wormtail would have found this attractive, even if it did mean betraying his friends. One can almost hear Voldemort saying: "Are they really your friends? Look at how they treat you...", etc, and using the inequality between the Marauders to his advantage in fueling Wormtail's motivation to betray them.

After having faked his death, lived as a rat for 13 years, finding what was left of Voldemort, nursing him to life and mutilating himself to help restore Voldemort to his body, we find Peter Pettigrew, shacked up with Severus Snape, who generally acts like the eloquent asshole that he is.

If Voldemort is aware of their history, he's not really thinking about what kind of pressure it may place on Wormtail, to be back in a situation where he is unvalued and made to feel second-rate. If Dumbledore was aware of the situation, I can picture him thinking, with a twinkle in his eye, that a situation like that may play out advantageously in the end, for Harry and/or the Order.

Being bullied by Snape cannot help but bring back Wormtail's memories of being side-by-side with his fellow Marauders, being protected by them, and while they didn't always treat him well, as least they were loyal to him. Wormtail may feel nostalgic for those times, and may start to reflect on the differences between working for Voldemort (who operates using fear and vague promises of power) and working for Dumbledore (who operates using trust, friendship and "doing the right thing"). This is not to suggest that Wormtail should gladly accept being made fun of and being underestimated (because let's face it, he blew up a street [killing 12 people], faked his death and framed someone else for it: he is magically powerful and he is clever), because much of his own suffering, IMO, has been brought on by his inability to stand up for himself, and by always relying on others for leadership and protection.

People have often asked why a person as cowardly as Wormtail was in Gryffindor, and believe that surely he'll do something to prove his Gryffindorness by the end of book seven. I believe that the main thing he can do to redeem himself isn't going to be a sacrifice (although I'm sure his actions will in some way help Harry), as he's already sacrificed his hand for Voldemort. He could have easily just dumped Voldy in the cauldron in the graveyard, without chopping off his hand, and run the hell away, but instead he stayed and made the sacrifice. He's also sacrificed his life as a free man, and chose to live as a rat for years on end. No, if there is one thing Wormtail can do that would be truly brave, that would be to stand up to those who are cruel to him, to take a firm stand somewhere --anywhere-- and believe in himself enough to stick to his guns and fight for it.

Due to his life debt to Harry, and because living with Snape may have made him nostalgic for unity with the Marauders, it makes sense that when Wormtail finally grows a spine, he will do something that benefits Harry, Remus and/or the Order and the fight against Voldemort.


(All quotations are from Bloomsbury/Raincoast editions of the books.)
 
 
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maidenform on August 2nd, 2006 04:45 pm (UTC)
NO!

WORMTAIL MUST BE EVIL

It would make me sad if he was good.
heartless guttersnipeparsimonia on August 2nd, 2006 05:00 pm (UTC)
But has it ever seemed to you that his whole heart is in "being evil"? He mostly seems to act out of fear, so do we actually know what he truly thinks?
maidenform on August 2nd, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
In that case, I can't imagine him fearing anyone from the Order more than Voldemort, except perhaps Dumbledore, and he's dead.
heartless guttersnipeparsimonia on August 2nd, 2006 05:05 pm (UTC)
I would be disappointed if there was no further character development in Wormtail. And to me, the most interesting path he can take is one where he finds inner strength and stops acting out of fear.
(no subject) - absolutelyfatal on August 2nd, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
maidenform on August 2nd, 2006 05:13 pm (UTC)
I heart him. *points to icon*
a_t_raina_t_rain on August 2nd, 2006 05:10 pm (UTC)
If Voldemort did put them together knowing what their relationship was at school, I can't help but wonder if he had a particular motive behind it. The obvious motivation is the fact that Wormtail is easily bullied, and Voldemort wanted to give Snape the chance to bully him. But there is no specific perk for Voldemort in this situation, other than giving Snape a chance to be cruel, and generally making life for Wormtail unpleasant.

I think the "perk" for Voldemort is that it allows him to use the two people within his ranks whom he most distrusts to spy on each other. I doubt that Pettigrew is listening at doorways for his own entertainment; presumably, Voldemort ordered him to do so (and is also ordering Snape to keep tabs on Pettigrew). And since they already loathe each other, he doesn't have to worry about them forming an alliance or withholding potentially damaging information about each other.

I agree with you that this is likely to backfire on Voldemort -- Pettigrew has been marked for redemption since the end of PoA.
heartless guttersnipeparsimonia on August 2nd, 2006 05:13 pm (UTC)
Ah, that's a really good point. They would be happy to spy on each other.

Although, it didn't sound as though Snape would have much reason to spy on Wormtail, as he can't be doing much if he has to stay at Snape's house all the time.
A hug is like a strangle you haven't finished yet.: wickedshaggydogstail on August 2nd, 2006 05:10 pm (UTC)
Very interesting essay, and you raise a lot of good points. I liked the parallels you drew between Wormtail's treatment by his friends and by the DEs, Snape and Voldemort in particular.

If Voldemort did put them together knowing what their relationship was at school, I can't help but wonder if he had a particular motive behind it

The best reason I can think of is that Peter was sent to spy on Snape--I think Snape mentions something about Peter having an annoying habit of listening at keyholes. Snape appears to underestimate Peter, which is the same mistake that his friends made, and I do wonder if Snape may have equal cause to regret this later.

Wormtail may feel nostalgic for those times, and may start to reflect on the differences between working for Voldemort (who operates using fear and vague promises of power) and working for Dumbledore

I like this idea. If part of Peter's motivation for joining Voldemort was a desire for recognition or glory, it hasn't really worked out for him, has it? Peter's betrayal has undoubtly left him much worse off than he was before.
heartless guttersnipeparsimonia on August 2nd, 2006 05:19 pm (UTC)
The best reason I can think of is that Peter was sent to spy on Snape--I think Snape mentions something about Peter having an annoying habit of listening at keyholes. Snape appears to underestimate Peter, which is the same mistake that his friends made, and I do wonder if Snape may have equal cause to regret this later.

That does make a lot of sense. Voldemort probably can't help but be suspicious of Snape, so Wormtail's job is to spy on him, knowing that Snape will enjoy the opportunity to bully Wormtail and not question his placement there to "assist" him.
innermurkinnermurk on August 2nd, 2006 05:19 pm (UTC)
Interesting read. :)
I have an idea for another motive for Voldemort to send Wormtail to Snape, though.
What if Wormtail, having given his flesh in the spell to revive Voldy, is actually at Snape's for protection? Assuming that the spell could be reversed using Wormtail and the other ingredients in some way, and knowing that Wormtail has a life debt to Harry, he could be in some serious danger if the Order got Wormtail at their mercy. If Snape is his most loyal and closest servant, Voldy would trust him to keep Wormtail safe. (It doesn't matter if that's actually true or not, as long as Voldemort believes it is.) Of course, he could have told Wormtail he was sending him to spy on Snape, to appease him into obedience. Now that Dumbledore's dead, I doubt Voldemort will give Wormtail much thought.

Perhaps Peter will witness Neville standing up for himself in book seven and that will inspire him to his own redemption.
milky way: tennis boychesauroshin on August 2nd, 2006 10:18 pm (UTC)
Perhaps Peter will witness Neville standing up for himself in book seven and that will inspire him to his own redemption.

I normally dislike comparing Peter and Neville, but that's a very interesting idea.
nixxnixxymoon on August 2nd, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC)
VERY interesting read!

Mind if i link to it?
Jen: Deathtrap-- Christopher Reevemoon_jennon on August 3rd, 2006 02:35 am (UTC)
This character is actually one of my biggest bets for being one of the deaths in book 7. For all the reasons you just disclosed. DUN DUN DUN.
travisprinzi on August 3rd, 2006 02:58 am (UTC)
Excellent essay - really good work.

I'm agreed with the commenters who have noted Wormtail's being "marked for redemption" since POA. I do think he'll be one of the characters who die, though he's the first one who came to mind when JKR said she gave one character a reprieve. Either way, we'll see a turnaround for Peter...and Harry's mercy just might be tested on Peter one more time!

I also agree putting Snape and Wormtail together will backfire on him. I think the "spying on each other" theory is a good one, or at least Wormtail is spying on Snape while Snape is keeping Wormtail in check. At the same time, it's hard to imagine an legilimens like Snape would not know a weak wizard like Wormtail was spying.

Here's an alternate way Wormtail's being put with Snape could backfire: IF Snape is good, and Wormtail's life is in Harry's debt, they could both shock Dumbledore by turning on him together, with a little good acting involved.
letmypidgeonsgoletmypidgeonsgo on August 3rd, 2006 03:16 am (UTC)
Very interesting. I find I don't usually give a lot of thought to Pettigrew because I pretty much think he's scum who deserves slow, painful death, but this did get me thinking as to some of the connections between the characters.
Marauder The Slash Nymph, NEW MOM: mwppmarauderthesn on August 3rd, 2006 11:34 am (UTC)
I don't like the guy at all, but I do hope he does something to redeem himself and that he finally stands up for himself. I'd love it if he screamed at someone to stop calling him Wormtail; it drives me crazy how they do that all the time. No one's called him Peter or Pettigrew or Peter Pettigrew since PoA and it's dehumanizing.
liriopliriop on August 4th, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
Since I read HBP for the first time, the fact that Wormtail was living with Snape seemed to me terribly suspicious. I think you are right.

And he is a Gryffindor. Seeing that scene in Snape's pensieve, and knowing that he was able to kill a lot of muggles and run away from Sirius, I think Wormtail will surprise us. He's afraid of Voldemort, but would he be afraid of Snape? I doubt it.

I think he'll help Harry in his fight against snape, after voldemort is defeated. Yes, I believe in that Mugglenet editorial that had Snape as the real antagonist of the series.