Did Peter’s betrayal of James and Lily stem simply from fear of Voldemort, or was it partially being treated as the runt of the group by the other Marauders?

Films like The Talented Mr. Ripley show how the relationship between a vain character with everything and an admiring character with nothing, can turn very cold.

From Snape’s memory, we see James and Sirius making fun out of Peter’s adoration of him, while James openly mocks Peter for his lack of intelligence.

Was it JK Rowling’s way of highlighting how things said and done at school could sometimes leave behind powerful lasting legacies and emotional scars?

That Sirius and Remus merely writing James’ actions off as schoolyard high jinks and youthful self-admiration, might not have been how Peter saw it, just as Snape didn’t?

So much of the books is about how school mirrors and feeds into future life.

Perhaps Peter, on leaving Hogwarts formed a different opinion of his friendship with the others with it no longer necessary as a means of surviving the harsh climate of boarding school.

Thanks in advance and forgive me if my memory of The Prisoner of Azkaban is a little hazy over a decade an a half since reading it or if it contradicts or explains any questions I’ve asked.

  • 1
    scifi.stackexchange.com/a/9455/4918 says yes.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 13:05
  • This might be a dupe of scifi.stackexchange.com/q/9433/3567, but I'm not sure
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 13:37
  • i believe that being the runt of teh group shows peters underlying mental problem that caused the eventual betrayal. sirius, and james probably wouldn't have sought out someone like peter to be their friend, but peter on the otherhand would seek out people stronger then himself to protect him, and he himself acted subservient to win over these "friends", as it became apparent to peter that his "friends" could not stand up to voldemort, he chose the to betray them and move to a better stronger protector.
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 14:16
  • 1
    and we see Voldemort treated him exactly the same if not worse( as did the rest of the deatheaters), but peter had no problem with this. therefor there was never any revenge involved, it was purely the next thing for him to do. and we know peter was not stupid, nor week necissarily it was an act to gain protection, he did blow up an entire street, killing 20ish people, fake his death, and hide for 13 years. not exactly a little push over failure.
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 14:19
  • 1
    @alexwlchan -- I compared the two questions and I don't think they are duplicates because the particular aspect of bullying isn't specifically addressed in either the first question or any of the answers given to that question. I guess one could argue "Why did Peter Pettigrew become a Death Eater?" encompasses all possible reasons, including bullying, thus making it a duplicate, but I think it would be nice to see where this question goes. FWIW, JKR has described Peter as a weak character who she really, really dislikes on a fundamental level. Which may be neither here nor there. :) Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 15:16

4 Answers 4


No, I do not believe that the bullying of the marauders caused Peter's betrayal.

Peter's primary goal in life is to survive. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to attach yourself to the strongest party you can, and to not become emotionally attached to anyone.

Seeking out the strongest people in Hogwarts he joined James and Sirius, under the guise of being unintelligent, weak, inept, and basically in awe of the 2 of them.

Rowling herself says he is a weak person, but he simply had different priorities then normal people(why stand up for yourself if it means getting hurt, why protect friends if it gets you killed).

After school with the magical world at war and losing to the death eaters and Voldemort it was simply the logical solution for him to move his allegiances to the stronger party. At first he was simply a spy for Voldemort, which actually allowed him the protection from both sides. Should the Order succeed even if found out he would be spared by his "friends", should Voldemort win, he had helped him and secured himself some relative safety in their ranks.

When he was made secret keeper Voldemort's eventual victory was all but certain in the eyes of Peter, the Order was getting killed person by person, his "protectors" were the next mark to be killed. He now had the opportunity to give Voldemort a key win securing himself in the new order under Voldemort.

After Voldemort's mishap at the Potters, Peter knew he was in danger of being hunted down himself, by the Order, after his betrayal, so he lured Sirius out, killed a street full of people, faked his death, thus putting his biggest threat(Sirius) into an inescapable prison. After being found out, he again turns to the only person left now that can keep him safe, Voldemort, and does everything in his power to bring him back to life, to kill his "friends" so that he would be safe again.

It was always about survival, with Peter, never about friends, or revenge. He had no problems being subservient, as long as he was safe.



Pettigrew joined Voldemort (and by extension betrayed his friends) for protection. As Sirius says, Pettigrew always sought out stronger friends for protection:

"But you, Peter -- I'll never understand why I didn't see you were the spy from the start. You always liked big friends who'd look after you, didn't you? It used to be us... me and Remus... and James...."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Sirius seems to indicate that Pettigrew always had his own self-interest at heart. He did not need an excuse to betray Lily and James, because he didn't care for them more than he cared about himself.

"I'll tell you why," said Black. "Because you never did anything for anyone unless you could see what was in it for you. Voldemort's been in hiding for fifteen 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 of 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?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Wormtail may have admired the other Marauders, or pretended to in order to fit in.

Wormtail was watching him with his mouth open. Every time James made a particularly difficult catch, Wormtail gasped and applauded.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

His priority was always his own well-being, first and foremost.

Wormtail himself lays out his reasoning quite clearly: Voldemort was beating the Order, and he could protect Wormtail better than they could.

"He—he was taking over everywhere!" gasped Pettigrew. "Wh—what was there to be gained by refusing him?"

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


No. Peter Petigrew's character is inexorably flawed. Simply look to the shape he takes as an Animagus: a rat. From "JK Rowling's World Book Day Chat, March 4, 2004", your animal shape is determined by what is best suited. Rats are synonymous with betrayal in many cultures. In the colloquial, Peter ratted out the hiding place of the Potters.

Expanding this consideration, look at the other well known animagi from the books: James Potter, Stag: Masculinity, Regeneration, Guidance, Gentleness, Healing, Connection to the Earth and the Forest, Alertness, Psychic Power, Pride, Independence, Purification, Strength, Nobility.

Sirius Black, Large Black Dog: Fidelity, Loyalty, Assistance, Intelligence, Obedience, Protection, Community, Cooperation, Resourcefulness, Communication, Sensory Perception

Rita Skeeter, Beetle: irritating, bothersome, dishonest, nosy.

Professor McGonnagall, Tabby Cat: Independence, Spiritual Power, Freedom, Mystery, Magic, Guardianship, Sensuality, Secrets, Curiosity, spirit, totem, animal.

  • 5
    That's ratcist.
    – user68762
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 21:17
  • @WillRosenberg Serious or facetious? Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 22:09
  • @DrunkCynic well, considering "rat-cist" isn't a real word, Will's comment wasn't meant to be taken seriously :)
    – RedCaio
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 18:53
  • @RedCaio Seeking to avoid assumptions. Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 19:03

Dumbledore says to Snape in the Penseive that Harry dives into at the end of The Deathly Hallows, "I think we sort too soon." Peter Pettigrew was a coward, unfit for Gryffindor house. It's possible that in his youth, Pettigrew demonstrated more brave tendencies, but as he got older, he was more adamant about aligning himself with wizards who would protect him.

James and Sirius were popular and clever. They could protect Peter from social ostracism or his own dear of mediocrity.

Voldemort was taking over the country. Instilling fear and uncertainty. Pettigrew thought that his sure bet was with Voldemort. Peter didn't betray James because the Marauders bullied him. Peter betrayed his friend because he believed that he was on the losing side.

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