The Electricity of Life, Death and Redemption
“There are no isolated islands in an electric universe.”
—David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill1
A Bolt from the Blue
Peter has attracted the most opprobrium of all the Marauders; his terrible act of betrayal ripped a friendship to shreds and led to horror and death. Peter was Sorted into Gryffindor with his great friends-to-be, and the author confirms the validity of that Sorting:
ES: Has the sorting hat ever been wrong?
It is not as if the qualities of a Gryffindor are not present in Peter—it is how he has chosen to make use of his abilities which has proved to be his own undoing. His nickname of Wormtail is a haunting reminder of his Animagus form but also a pointer to the venality of his behavior. Peter always seems to have had something to prove because whatever he did was never going to be quite good enough. He looked for his chance to shine but in the glare of the lightning brilliance of his friends, whatever he did was always going to pass unnoticed. His friendship and love turned sour. Seduced by whatever Lord Voldemort offered him, and too venal and cowardly to die for his friends as they would have done for him, Peter sold his soul to Voldemort. James died. Lily died. Sirius was incarcerated in Azkaban without a trial. Harry lived but the shadow of Lord Voldemort still threatens him. Remus was left alone to mourn. And yet…
Rita: What about Wormtail? Is there hope for redemption?
JK Rowling replies -> There’s always hope, of course.14
Dumbledore was right; there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when Harry will be glad of the fact that Peter is still alive. If James left him nothing else except love from beyond the grave, he also left Harry the example of doing the right thing when it matters. If we can redeem other characters whose behavior appears to show no mercy, then we can redeem Peter Pettigrew too. It remains to be seen whether Peter will prove himself worthy of his House in the end by means of selfless repayment of the wizarding debt he owes to Harry, or selfish discharge of its bonds to rid himself of the burden which it surely places on his conscience. It is very possible that Peter will prove why he is a Gryffindor and act selflessly for once in his life. If he dies, Death can claim him but he will stand upright in the Light at last.
Dumbledore knew that James would have chosen to do what was right, instead of what was easy. Dumbledore also knows his Harry:
“I knew your father very well, both at Hogwarts and later, Harry ... He would have saved Pettigrew too, I am sure of it.” 15
“Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him. [...] you did see your father last night.... you found him inside yourself.” 16
Harry resembles James not only in looks, but in bravery and a determination to do what is right. Peter now has his chance to prove that he is worthy of the redemption which James, Harry, and Dumbledore offered him by the example they set. Dumbledore taught Harry well, and his defining legacy is this: “Dumbledore’s man through and through,” said Harry. “That’s right.” 17
Harry needs Peter just as much as Peter needs Harry, because forgiveness is part of what Harry needs to find within himself to defeat Lord Voldemort. Harry is truly Dumbledore’s man, and it is the quality of mercy which Dumbledore showed in such huge measure which sustains much of the series. Dumbledore’s mantle passed to Harry in Half-Blood Prince; the quest now gathers pace as Harry strides out to meet whatever comes and does so not as a boy, but as a man.
A climactic storm is brewing in the wizarding world—the burden of waiting grows heavy, and time is short. Hopes are high that Remus Lupin will at last find the happiness he richly deserves. Sirius and James reach out to Harry and strengthen him with their love. As the clouds darken, the time comes for Peter Pettigrew to step out of the shadows of other more powerful wizards and fulfill his obligation to Harry. Severus Snape also has nowhere left to run; he too must step out into the light and show where his loyalties truly lie. On these wizards, and on Harry Potter himself, the future of the wizarding world depends. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” 18
1. Talbott & Thornhill, Thunderbolt of the Gods, 13.
2. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 724.
3. Ibid., 660.
4. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 77.
5. Ibid., “World Book Day Chat.”
6. Wright, “Regulus.”
8. Rowling, “World Book Day Chat.”
9. Anelli and Spartz, “TLC/MN interview Part Two.”
10. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 523.
11. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 511.
12. Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 427.
13. Anelli and Spartz, “TLC/MN interview Part Two.”
14. Rowling, “World Book Day Chat.”
15. Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 427.
16. Ibid., 427–28.
17. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 649.
18. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 333.
Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. “The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Two.” The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005. /#static:tlcinterviews/jkrhbp2.
Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. “JK Rowling’s World Book Day Chat,” 4 March 2004. Transcript, Accio Quote. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2004/0304-wbd.htm.
Talbott, David and Wallace Thornhill. Thunderbolts of the Gods. Portland: Mikamar, 2004. http://www.thunderbolts.info/ (accessed 10 November 2006).
Wright, Anne. “Regulus.” The Fixed Stars. http://www.winshop.com.au/annew/Regulus.html (accessed 10 November 2006).