**warning: the majority of the details about Peter Pettigrew come out in Harry Potter books 3 & 4, so if you don't want them spoiled for you, and there are huge spoilers for both, don't read past ... well, the first sentence. also, some of the details found here can also be found in my write-up on Sirius Black, as his and Peter Pettigrew's stories have very much to do with one another**

In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, the character of Peter Pettigrew aka Wormtail is a very important one, playing key roles especially in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. His nickname is Wormtail because he is an unregistered Animagus and can turn himself into a rat. As you will find, he was deeply involved in the murder of Harry's parents and the events that conspired at the end of book 4.

As far as anyone in the wizarding world knows, except for a few select people who can't prove anything yet, Sirius Black is a dangerous criminal, convicted on charges of murder and accomplice to murder: 13 counts of Muggle murder (with one curse), 1 count of wizard murder (although all they could ever find was a finger, not the body), and accomplice to 2 murders-- those of Harry's parents. Apparently, Sirius had been James and Lily Potter's Secret Keeper when they were on the run from Lord Voldemort, so that only he would know their location. As it turns out, Sirius had convinced the Potters to use Pettigrew as their Secret Keeper, unwittingly leading them straight into the hands of a follower of Lord Voldemort. Pettigrew had been not really a friend of Sirius and the Potters, but more of a hanger-on, a weak follower-type, which is why he was so easily converted to the dark side. When he saw the chance to deliver the Potters to his master, he took the opportunity, little knowing that the incident with the infant Harry would lead to the near-extinction of Voldemort, while Harry escaped the deadly encounter with a small souvenir, a thin lightning-bolt-shaped scar on his forehead that throbs and hurts and tortures him sometimes.

Sirius was the only one who knew that it was Pettigrew who had betrayed the Potters, and he confronted him about this in public as the authorities were trying to capture Sirius. However, he hadn't counted on such desperate cunning as Pettigrew showed when he, in one deft movement, killed 13 bystanders with one curse and at the same time cut off his finger and turned himself into a rat. The point of this was to make it appear as though Sirius was indeed the dangerous criminal who had betrayed the Potters, and he was crazy enough to take out 14 more people when cornered.

Now remember our good friend Ron Weasley? He has a pet, Scabbers, a scrawny little... rat. Yes, rat. That's right, Peter Pettigrew aka Wormtail had been living in disguise as Ron's pet rat ever since he disappeared in that confrontation, leaving part of his body (a finger) to make it look like Sirius had killed him with that explosive spell.

This all came out in an encounter that happened between Harry, Ron, Hermione, Professor Remus Lupin, Professor Snape, Sirius, and Wormtail at the very end of book 3. When the five people there who were on Sirius' side (everyone except Wormtail and the unconscious Snape) learned the full truth, they attempted to bring Wormtail into custody, but he escaped.

After his escape, he found his way back to Lord Voldemort, as we learn in book 4. He managed to capture an employee of the Ministry of Magic, Bertha Jorkins, and get important information out of her, after which she was killed. This information, which was about the Triwizard Tournament at Hogwarts, led to the death of Cedric Diggory (a Hogwarts student and friend of Harry) and an intense confrontation between Harry and Lord Voldemort. This meeting served to bring Voldemort to full strength, as he made a potent potion from Wormtail's hand and Harry's blood among other things.

Thus Peter Pettigrew played a key role in the return of Lord Voldemort, which will lead to the ultimate showdown between good and evil in book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

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