This story is based on characters and situations
created and owned by J. K. Rowling and by various publishers including,
but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books,
and Warner Brothers, Inc. No money is being made and no copyright
infringement is intended.
Some notes: Two quotes from chapter 13 of GoF have been
put, more or less intact, into Peter’s mouth. The epithet “Sneerius,”
and the character of Head Girl Gillian Birchett, are borrowed, with her
permission, from Susan at iVillage. All other characters not recognizable
as denizens of the Potterverse are mine.
For Susan at iVillage, whose "You Are There" Ficlet Challenge provided
the germ for "Shame," and who first read and critiqued this story...and
for Birgit, Katinka, Meg, Felina Black, and SilverAries at the Sugar Quill,
who were generous with their time, feedback, and encouragement. And
for A. L. de Sauveterre, my SQ beta-reader, in gratitude for more things
than I can find the words for.
There’s something exhilarating about retribution, provided it’s happening
to someone else.
You’re used to the consequences of your mistakes falling on your head.
To being found out in the little lies you tell. To people’s disgust
and disbelief when they discover that some small but important matter,
something you promised to take care of weeks ago, hasn’t been done because
even to think about taking action sends you into a panic that freezes you
in your tracks like a Petrifying Charm. You’re used to your continual,
dull sense of being in the wrong; to the dread that ties your stomach in
knots each time you walk into Potions class, each time Professor McGonagall
announces a practical in Transfiguration, each time you open your mouth
in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Professor Tundish, the laziest
man alive, seems to spend most of the double Potions period dozing behind
this month’s Ars Alchemica with his feet up on his desk, but he
has never failed to wake up for each one of your debacles, and the weary
drawl in which he says “What is it now, Pettigrew?” is reserved
for you alone. And while old Samzelius spared no one the rough side
of his tongue, Professor Skarp-Hedin, his successor both as Defense Against
the Dark Arts instructor and Head of Slytherin, takes particular pleasure
in reading extracts from your exam papers aloud, for the amusement of the
Even when you’re with your friends, if you aren’t careful you’re sure
to say something that will elicit a frown or a sigh from Remus, or a tolerant
roll of the eyes from James…or a “don’t be thick, Peter” from Sirius,
in that tone that makes you think seriously about resigning forthwith from
Hogwarts, becoming a Trappist monk, and taking a vow of perpetual silence—possibly
as a solitary anchorite walled up in a cell. I will never open
my mouth again, you think, never again, I swear, not for the rest
of my life. But of course, sooner or later you will open
your mouth, and there’s a fair probability that something stupid and embarrassing
will come out.
Not that you’d give up your friends for anything in the world.
Where would you be without them? Alone, everybody’s butt and laughingstock—maybe
even sent down, for how would you pass Potions without Sirius’s help, or
Defense without Remus’s, or Transfiguration without James’s? And
the Slytherins would use you for target practice. How many times
have you thanked every god, every fate, every lucky star in the sky, that
the coolest boys at Hogwarts are your friends? Their praise is air
in your lungs, sun breaking through the thickest of clouds on a winter’s
day, salve for the blows of fate’s slings and arrows—You’re amazing,
Peter, how do you remember all this stuff? You’ve saved our lives—honestly,
you should teach History of Magic instead of old Binns, everybody would
stay awake then. You can live for days on the memory of things
like that, turning the words over and over in your mind like a miser playing
with his Galleons. They include you in their exploits—trust you with
their secrets—even their greatest, most dangerous secrets. Because
of them you can always remind yourself, whenever your classmates and even
some of your professors amuse themselves at your expense, that only seven
wizards in all this century—grown-up, fully qualified wizards at that—have
done what you’ve done. And every time you long to shout this aloud
and don’t, you prove yourself worthy of their trust.
So you don’t ask for much. All it would take to make you thoroughly
happy would be to dispense—just once would be enough—a dose of the humiliation
you swallow every day. Not to someone like you—for you’re not interested
in cruelty for its own sake, you’re not that sort of person—but to somebody
who richly deserves it. It’s only retribution you’re after, only
justice, and only a little of that. Just once you’d like to make
the rest of Hogwarts laugh at someone who once made the rest of Hogwarts
laugh at you. Then you’d be content. Just once you’d like to
have the upper hand.
Okay…maybe more than just once.
You’d like to see tears—somebody else’s, for a change, instead of your
own. You admit it. Is that so awful? Does that make you
a horrible person?
It was your bad luck that you weren’t on hand the day, last December,
when Sirius and James investigated the odd noises coming from a broom cupboard
down the Charms corridor and found old Snape in there blubbing, sitting
on the floor among the mops and buckets. You were in the hospital
wing getting dosed for one of your ear infections, so you missed the sight
of him dragged out into the corridor, his face a mess of tears and snot,
for half your classmates to see. He’s been Snivellus to most
of your year ever since, though why he was sniveling is a mystery to which
you wish you had the answer. Unfortunately Sirius and James don’t
have your curiosity when it comes to things like this.
Maybe it was bad news from home—or maybe it had something to do with
Professor Samzelius, though he’s been dead for more than a year now.
Or else it might have been some trouble with his housemates. Nearly
all of the crowd of Slytherins Snape went around with—Rodolphus Lestrange
and Sidonia von Bork, Osbie Wilkes and Sirius’s awful cousin (whom only
Sirius would have the gall to call Trixibelle) and Nan Wolde and
the rest of them—have finished, leaving only Clement Avery and Evan Rosier
still at Hogwarts. To all intents and purposes Snape has no friends
left, for Rosier is absorbed in Quidditch, and Avery isn’t exactly what
you would call a very present help in time of trouble. The balance
of power in Slytherin house has altered, and Snape’s position is weak.
He has never bothered to cultivate the Slytherins of his own year, a mistake
you would have thought him too clever to make. You wouldn’t like to be
in his shoes just now. The Snakes are merciless when they encounter
weakness, which they can smell a mile away.
It might have been any of these things,
really--Snape's trouble--or all of them at once, or none of them; you've
resigned yourself to never knowing for certain. A pity, as you've
something of a personal interest in the reason. You’re intimately
acquainted with the interiors of broom cupboards yourself—so much so that
you’ll always associate pails and mops and the smell of Mrs. Skower’s Magical
Mess Remover with tears and misery. More than once it was Snape himself
who sent you scuttling there to hide.
But this, now. This day’s business made up for everything.
The only thing that might have made it better is if you had been the one
to inflict Snape’s comeuppance.
The Great Hall has been rearranged for supper, and the four long House
tables are abuzz with talk of today’s O.W.L.s. There’s the Transfiguration
exam left for tomorrow, which will have to be got through somehow, but
just now you mentally put it out of sight—you have pleasanter things to
think of, and there’s roast chicken going, and lamb chops and crisply fried
fish cakes and a fine succulent ham, and tender young vegetables and little
potatoes in cream. Just as you’ve filled your plate and are about
to tuck in, everybody at your end of the Gryffindor table shifts their
place to let four more diners take their seats.
By now, half the House—maybe half the school—has heard some version
of what happened out by the lake, and there’s a little explosion of excited
talk and laughter, even applause, as they arrive. James, wearing
that half-smile—like a rueful sprite, Remus says—that everyone thinks is
charming except the one person he’d like to charm with it, the cut on his
cheekbone ugly and inflamed. Sirius, carrying himself like a prince
on the scaffold, about to lay his handsome head on a block; Remus, looking
tired and hangdog—you make room for him to sit down, and he takes the place
beside you. And Lily, pink as a flamingo, her lips pressed together
with rage—she dumps her bag of books under the bench, and digs the serving
spoon into a gratin someone’s passed her as if she’d like to stab it to
“Don’t talk to me,” you say to Remus. To your surprise he only
nods, looking down at his plate so that his hair falls forward to hide
“I mean,” you say, “I want to fix that scene in my memory for the rest
of my life.” And you do.
Snape’s wand sailing out of his hand. Snape sprawled on the ground,
staring up at James and Sirius in impotent loathing, floundering in the
toils of the Impediment Curse, which (as you have cause to know yourself)
feels precisely like the times in dreams when you have to run and your
limbs won’t work and you can barely manage, with a massive effort, a sort
of crippled lurch—if it’s terrifying in dreams, when you sometimes know
you’re dreaming, it’s even more so in real life, when part of the curse
is the awful conviction, fleeting but absolute while it lasts, that you’re
going to stay like this forever. Snape heaving and gagging on pink
soap bubbles…Snape, for one glorious moment, suspended helpless in midair,
upside-down and debagged, exhibiting skinny legs and bare backside the
color of mutton fat….Only a moment, before someone gave a shout and you
looked round to see Her Head Girlship, Gillian Birchett, charging up the
slight rise from the lake shore at a run, wand in hand, and looking as
if she ought to be carrying a Muggle gun instead—the kind with a bayonet.
Only a moment: then James released his hover charm and spilled
Snape onto the ground again, and the people who were cheering James on
a moment before started edging away, and Gillian arrived, all righteous
Hufflepuff indignation—“All of you, stay where you are!” By
then old Snivellus was scrabbling frantically to cover himself and get
hold of his wand and his books, his normally tallow-white face scarlet
and his eyes watering with pain and humiliation. Gillian took one
look, handed him back his wand, and sent him back to the castle.
Then she started on James and Sirius, and on Remus too—so much for that
famous Hufflepuff fairness. (“Correct me if I’m wrong, Lupin,
but I thought you were a prefect.”) You, she ignored; there's
something to be said for being the sort of bloke people just don't see.
It's spared you from being carpeted, more times than you can count.
But James, Sirius, and Remus have never had that dubious grace. The
last you saw of them, they were trudging up the hill, with Gillian striding
along in front, her robes billowing like a badman’s black linen duster
in one of those Muggle picture shows that James and Sirius were wild about
Bit of an anticlimax, actually. But you’ll treasure that one moment,
while Snape will be living it down for the rest of his Hogwarts career.
When Remus turns to you, you expect to see a grin on his lips that’s
the twin of your own. Instead, he looks as if he’s been slapped.
“Let it alone, Wormtail,” is all he says, and his voice is mild
enough, but there’s a dangerous glitter in his light eyes, that you’ve
seen in Moony the wolf but never in the friend who vets your Defense Against
the Dark Arts essays and sleeps in your dormitory…something that reminds
you that the wolf isn’t just an unfortunate affliction and that Remus isn’t
simply a gentle, clever, perfectly normal bloke who has the bad luck to
turn into a monster once a month…
There’s a chorus of voices on all sides calling on James and Sirius
for a blow-by-blow (or rather a hex-by-hex) account, and one clear hard
voice cutting through all of them:
“Before you deafen us all, why don’t you ask the conquering heroes how
many points they lost for Gryffindor with that little display?”
“Oh, draw it mild, Lily—”
“One hundred and fifty, that’s how many—that puts us in last
“—it’s not as if the greasy bullying git didn’t deserve—”
“Excuse me? Excuse me? You’re a bullying git,
Sirius, but I don’t think even you deserve to be humiliated like
that.” Lily returns her attention to her plate, forking a morsel
of chicken as if it were her mortal enemy. “Although it might do
you some good, come to that.”
The figure of one hundred and fifty has had a chance to sink
in by this time, and now you can hear gasps of dismay in the midst of the
excited babble. “One hundred and fifty? For—”
“Fifty points each for Sirius and James,” says Remus, more to his plate
than to anyone at the table. “And another fifty points because of
You can’t believe this—why doesn’t Remus share your indignation—yours,
and everyone else’s? Whose idea of justice is this? “Why? You
didn’t do anything—”
“Exactly,” says Lily. “He’s a prefect, they didn’t give him that
badge so he could sit there with his nose in a book while James and Sneerius
“It’s not as if Snape doesn’t give as good as he gets,” says Margery
Paternoster, on Lily’s other side. “He knew more hexes when he was
a first-year than most seventh-years do—he was cursing people from the
day he got here. What about that toad thing he did to you?”
Your first night at Hogwarts, Snape decided to take umbrage at something
Lily said, and cast a curse on her that had her dropping toads from her
mouth every time she tried to speak. “He’s the one who drew
his wand first—he’s the one who hurt James—really hurt him—and
James didn’t hurt him really, just embarrassed him a little—”
You can see Jancis Butterworth, further down the table, nodding her
head, about to agree, but “There are ways and ways of hurting people!”
snaps Lily, as if Snape doesn’t know and hasn’t tried most of them.
“Another inch or so and James could’ve lost his eye,” says Sirius grimly.
“He’s still bleeding, look—”
“He called you a—a Mudblood, Lily!” James’s voice is plangent
“What about it? I don’t need a stupid, arrogant berk like you
to fight my battles for me. If I don’t feel compelled to turn him
upside down and strip his pants off for saying the M-word, why should
you? It was horrible, what you did, it was foul—”
You hear your own voice, loud and a bit shrill, as if you were hearing
someone else talking: “Oh, stop it, Lily, you’re ruining the finest
moment of my life.”
For one moment you have everybody’s attention. You were hoping
that they’d laugh, and Margery does giggle nervously, but no one else.
Remus, James, and Lily are all looking at you, in a way that makes the
smile die on your lips. Your heart has begun to race, and you can’t
If only they would laugh at you, it would be all right. If only
they would laugh at you, you’d know where you were.