The Fearful Spy: Peter Pettigrew

Peter Pettigrew Transforms

The next type of spy is motivated by fear. Our example, of course, is Peter Pettigrew.

As we all know, Peter Pettigrew was brought into James Potter’s circle despite the fact that the other three (James, Sirius, and Lupin) would not automatically or normally have included him in their group. James and Sirius were good-looking and popular, as well as egotistical. Lupin, as a werewolf, was an outsider; that at least indicates that James and Sirius were not so full of themselves that they would be unwilling to befriend and assist somebody strange or different. Peter Pettigrew was certainly in need of friends, but we wonder why the other three allowed him into their midst…

Whatever the reason, Peter Pettigrew became one of the foursome, but unfortunately not one who could be trusted in the end. For, as we all know, Peter Pettigrew was the Secret Keeper who told Voldemort where James and Lily Potter, and their toddler son, Harry, lived.

When we meet Peter Pettigrew as an adult, he seems like a weak and spineless rat (and, of course, he can turn into a rat!). He seems to fear Voldemort, but is thrilled by the prospect of receiving power through Voldemort. He is willing to give Voldemort not merely the shirt off his back, but, literally, his right hand. Now that’s really a right-hand man! (Sorry about that!)

Keep in mind, spies whose main motivation is fear are not the most reliable. All you have to do is find a stronger motivator or find someone who inspires more fear to convince them to switch sides!

For example, thanks to Harry’s refusal to allow Sirius and Lupin to kill Peter at the Shrieking Shack (after the rat returned to human form and confessed to his betrayal of James and Lily Potter), Peter Pettigrew is indebted to Harry (PA 375). This pays off in the long run because it gives Peter another motivator –the desire to repay the favor.

As Dumbledore explains to Harry, “The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed. . . . Pettigrew owes his life to you. You have sent Voldemort a deputy who is in your debt. When one wizard saves another wizard’s life, it creates a certain bond between them . . .” (PA 426–27).

Harry understandably wants no connection to Peter Pettigrew, but Dumbledore wisely opines, “the time may come when you will be very glad you saved Pettigrew’s life” (PA 427). And, to Peter Pettigrew’s great surprise, he does falter for a moment when coming to check on Harry and the others imprisoned in the dungeon of Malfoy Manor—and the new hand that Voldemort gave Pettigrew immediately turns on him and kills him (DH 470)!

Peter Pettigrew Analysis

Recruitment by: A Death Eater or Voldemort as they searched for James, Lily, and toddler Harry Potter

Incentive Used: Desire for power and fear of Voldemort

Handler: Probably Voldemort himself

Method of Communication: Face-to-face

Memorable Quotes:

Sirius: 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. . . .” (PA 369).

Voldemort: “You returned to me, not out of loyalty, but out of fear of your old friends” (GF 649).

Narrative: “The silver tool that Voldemort had given his most cowardly servant had turned upon its disarmed and useless owner; Pettigrew was reaping his reward for his hesitation, his moment of pity; he was being strangled before their eyes” (DH 470).

The Spy for A Cause: Kreacher (and other house elves)


The Spy for Cause—Patriotic: Kreacher

A spy who could be deemed patriotic without connection to a particular nation is Kreacher. As a member of and servant to the House of Black, he has absorbed all of their biases and prejudices. Kreacher’s patriotism lies with his understanding of the history and values of the Black family. Importantly, in the last book, Kreacher is able to unlearn these biases and prejudices (as we all are able to do) and actually assists Harry, Hermione, and Ron when they are hiding out at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, and in the final battle.

Kreacher Analysis

Recruitment by: Presumably Voldemort himself

Incentive Used: At first, Voldemort and co. used Kreacher’s obligation to the House of Black and then specifically to R.A.B. (Regulus Black), but later Kreacher behaved according to his perception of what R.A.B. believed or desired. His attitude changed once he discovered that Regulus betrayed Voldemort (with Kreacher’s help), thus Harry was able to recruit Kreacher through friendship and convince him to accept the ideals of Harry and his friends as parallel to Kreacher’s beloved master, Regulus Black.

Handler: Initially Regulus Black; later Harry, after Kreacher was turned

Method of Communication: Face-to-face

Memorable Quotes:

Hermione: “What do wizard wars mean to an elf like Kreacher? He’s loyal to people who are kind to him, and Mrs. Black must have been, and Regulus certainly was, so he served them willingly and parroted their beliefs” (DH 198).

Kreacher: “Fight! Fight! Fight for my Master, defender of house-elves! Fight the Dark Lord, in the name of brave Regulus! Fight!” (DH 734).


The patriotic spy normally owes allegiance to his or her own country. In most countries, when people assume a public office, they take an oath. In the United States the oath includes the obligation to support and defend the Constitution from any enemies, foreign or domestic. In other words, it is possible that we might need to defend our country and Constitution not only from those outside its borders, but also from those within it. Although there are some who argue convincingly that the nation-state is disintegrating or becoming less important, and that we are entering instead a clash of civilizations (discussed at pagesn572-73 in the Appendix), spies are presently and primarily organized by nations and thus are sent out to do a nation’s bidding.

Other House Elves:

Think about Dobby and Winky. Who were there masters? How did they become intelligence assets for Harry, Ron, and Hermione? The answer, as usual, lies with Hermione. She said that Kreacher was “loyal to people who are kind to him.” By being kind to Dobby and Winky, the Trio won the hearts of creatures who were more often ignored. However, they were valuable precisely because they were ignored. Dobby was a wealth of information about the Malfoy family because they never thought to censor themselves around a servant. When he escaped their employ, Dobby was more than willing to share his former master’s secrets!