The Sugar Quill
Author: Starsea (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Destination Unknown  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Destination Unknown

Destination Unknown

 

By Starsea

 

Rating: PG-13

 

Inspired by the song 'Runaway Train'

 

 

It had all seemed so easy at first. So easy to give him what he wanted... A few details, a place, a time... He had always liked things to be easy. Making an effort was not something he did very well. He tried and tried, but he never seemed to get anywhere.

He'd had to ask them for help in the transformation, and it had galled him inside. Just once, just once, he'd wanted to do something on his own, completely on his own.

 

Was that why he'd done it?

 

Some perverse desire to tell them all someday and then say, "And I did it without your help?"

 

No.

 

It was more complicated than that. He'd tried to make it seem simple to Sirius in that dark shack, a simple matter of fear. But he should have known better. Sirius had not been placed in Gryffindor for nothing: he'd prized bravery above all things. To make so much of his fear had been stupid, so stupid, it had just increased Sirius’s contempt. He'd never been stupid, just a little slow, a little unsure.

 

Like that boy now... Longbottom... afraid that he had nothing inside him, no fire to match that of his dormmates. Oh he could understand that feeling all too well. Listening to his friends talk long into the night, he wondered why they had chosen him. Surely it couldn't just be that he shared the same bedroom? It had to be something more than that. But he never asked... the question went unanswered... and it ate him up inside. Watching Remus' intellect, the way he steadfastly endured his painful menses; watching Sirius surrounded by adoring girls as he read out yet another hilarious song about Snape; and finally, James, watching James in Quidditch, his skill and grace, borrowing his Potions notes, watching the way everyone smiled at him, approved of him... All of them had a light inside them.

 

He didn't feel that light. He felt dark, empty, hollow from need, from lack of talent.

 

Even as an animal, he was a rat. He couldn't help Remus; all he could do was stop the Whomping Willow. It was James and Sirius who restrained the howling monster, who calmed him and led the way through the Forbidden Forest. He'd hated those visits – the Forest was still dangerous for him; he'd been on a different scale from the rest of them... Even as an animal.

 

An animal of dark places, looking for the light.

 

He'd shone so brightly. He'd been different back then. Charming, inscrutable, though the spells he'd cast upon himself, the potions he took, were already beginning to mark his body.

 

"You feel powerless, don't you?"

 

Stop it...

 

"So small, so weak, so useless, they don't let you do anything, do they?"

 

Please stop...

 

"I'll make you powerful, Peter... So powerful that you'll finally be able to stand up to them. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

 

Yes. Oh yes. To see the looks on their faces...

 

"So why don't you just say yes?"

 

Go away...

 

"What kind of friends are they? What have they ever done for you?"

 

Friends... My friends... They're good to me. They've always helped me, always saved me...

 

Because they never thought I could do anything on my own.

 

"This is how you do it, Peter..."

 

"Need a hand there?"

 

"What's wrong now?"

 

"I don't think you'd be able to manage it Peter..."

 

But I did manage it! I did!

 

"You're a burden to them. You've always been a burden. The only reason they include you is because they feel it's their duty. You see that, don't you, Peter?"

 

Peter is Greek. It means 'rock'. I'm their rock. The steady, dependable one.

 

They think that I'll never change. They think that I'm always going to be their acolyte. (I thought this was better than follower or hanger-on, it gives a feeling of ‘worship’.)

 

"Better stop before Wormtail wets himself..."

 

He didn't mean it like that. Even when the words were harsh, they were my friends... They'll always be my friends...

 

"No, Peter. They will die, sooner or later. Probably sooner. Nobody defies me for very long. The Potters' time is running out. The blood traitor is reckless and will probably be killed very soon... or trapped, just like you were. And I don't think we really need to

worry about your other friend doing much, do we?"

 

Remus... you wouldn't kill him. How could he harm you? He wouldn't harm anyone... Not while he's Remus...

 

"Such a shame." The dark eyes narrowed, and the wand was lifted. "I'm sure your friends will be devastated... or maybe not. Maybe they'll sigh in relief and silently thank me for getting rid of you. You *are* a dead weight, aren't you? To them, anyway. I could have found such an interesting job for you..."

 

A job?

 

"Would you like to serve the greatest wizard the world has ever known?"

 

Your servant?

 

"Lord Voldemort needs a servant. My other Death Eaters are all too proud, but you would help me, wouldn't you?"

 

Help you... But what about my friends?

 

"Where are your friends now, Pettigrew? Shouldn't they be coming in about now to save you?"

 

No. I came here on my own... I was supposed to bring Sirius with me...

 

"Shouldn't they be looking for you?"

 

Yes. They should be looking for me. Where are they?

 

"It seems you're all alone."

 

James... Remus... Sirius... help me. Help me! Don't let him kill me! Where are you?!

 

"One last chance, Peter." How soft and encouraging, that voice.

 

"Either be my servant... or die. It's not that hard, even for a rat like you."

 

Remus...

 

"I'll show you things, Peter..."

 

Sirius...

 

"Everything you ever wanted to know about the Dark Arts..."

 

James...

 

"They won't be able to look down on you again."

 

Help me...

 

"Peter?"

 

Such kind, welcoming eyes...

 

"Better stop before Wormtail wets himself..."

 

The mocking laughter in Sirius' face... You thought you knew everything about me.

 

"Yes."

 

You were wrong.

 

"Good boy, Peter."

 

Sometimes, it only takes a little pressure for the key to turn…

 

A moan shivered in the darkness.

 

Why did he think of these things? Why couldn't he just press them back down in his mind, as he had done when he was in his other form? As a rat, life had been so easy, so simple. Eat, sleep, nibble Ron's socks occasionally… keep an eye on Harry. It was like watching James grow up all over again. He didn’t dream of killing him, despite what Sirius had said... how could he kill this beautiful boy whom he'd known since birth, his eyes twitching as he dreamed? Harry was the only link he had left to that happy past: sighing as James had done over Binns' sleep-inducing essays; flushed with triumph after a Quidditch match; crying silently in his sleep… What had he been dreaming of?

 

Oh, he knew.

 

James. James and Lily. His dead parents.

 

Dead because of him.

 

He doubled up, gnawing on his lip. Why couldn't he sleep? These thoughts went round and round in his head. He was exhausted from them, but his body refused to relax.

 

Harry, who had looked at him with such hatred.

 

Harry, who had saved his life.

 

Wormtail hadn't told his master that. He didn't dare. Life-debts were serious things. Look at what Severus Snape's life-debt had caused him to do - with ill grace, but nevertheless, he'd done it.

 

'If a man saves one life, it is as if he has saved the life of the whole world...'

 

Harry had saved the world already, but it wasn’t grateful. Deep down, Wormtail knew that the wizarding world almost hated Harry for that. He understood the feeling. He understood how Severus Snape felt. Because James was dead, he could never really discharge his debt. Not unless it so happened that he directly saved Harry.

 

Two of them indebted to Harry Potter, both of them the most unlikely people in the world to be in that position. It was the kind of situation that Dumbledore would have appreciated, probably did appreciate.

 

Dumbledore...

 

"Peter, I think it's time to tell you..."

 

No, he wouldn't think of that now. That soft, understanding voice that haunted him, the voice he had come to think of his conscience. And yet the memory rolled over his mind as he lay on the bed, eyes wide open. He couldn't stop it, and deep down inside, he didn't want to. It was like looking back on another life.

 

"Peter, I think it's time to tell you the secret. I wasn't sure before this, but your friends insisted."

 

Dumbledore looked to his left - Sirius and Remus were engaged in an intense game of wizard chess. Sirius was taking risks and making great forays up the board... but Remus was winning. Remus glanced up at the words and smiled. He was white, as always, and a the moment, his chessmen were smirking at Sirius's. The black pieces glared and whispered to Sirius, tactical advice perhaps.

 

"Of course we insisted," Sirius said without looking up, listening intently.

 

"Absolutely. Unfair to keep you in the dark so long," added James, who was sitting by the fire, relaxing after another narrow escape from Lord Voldemort. His smile was easy and you would never have guessed that his life was in danger.

 

"I hope you don't mind, Peter?"

 

He blinked, looking at Lily Evans - Lily Potter, he reminded himself. She was heavily pregnant, almost in her ninth month. The midwife at St. Mungo's had been amazed that the baby was still alive and not even particularly affected by all the stress his mother had

undergone during the last week. She'd insisted on keeping Lily overnight for observation, and Dumbledore had dropped by to see how the mother-to-be was coping.

 

He swallowed.

 

"No, no, of course not," he stuttered. "I understand completely. Can't have too many people knowing... knowing what you know."

 

"Peter," said Dumbledore, "are you sure you want to know this? It will place you in grave danger. You will be a target just like your friends." His light blue eyes held Peter's, their usual twinkle completely gone, letting him know that this was very serious indeed.

 

But at that moment, Peter didn't care about danger, about the future, about being a target of You-Know-Who. He just wanted to know why on earth Lily and James of all people were being targeted; he wanted to be included once more in his friends' conversations. He

wanted the Marauders to be together again. He lifted his chin.

 

"I'll face the consequences," he said proudly.

 

They smiled at him, all of them.

 

His finest hour...

 

He'd learned so many secrets that day: the Order of the Phoenix, the members, their job, Dumbledore's fears of what Voldemort wanted. Secrets that he'd intended to keep until death...

 

But death was so cold, so frightening, so final...

 

"Wormtail..."

 

Oh no...

 

"There's something I have to tell you..."

 

Why now?

 

"I'm their Secret Keeper."

 

Don't tell me this...

 

"I think it would be better if we swapped places... there's no way he'd go after you... they've been trying to get me for ages..."

 

Sirius, don't make me choose...

 

"James and Lily have already agreed."

 

Why?

 

"But I said that I'd ask you, just in case you didn't want the responsibility..."

 

The dark eyes held him. Was that a challenge in their depths? Did Sirius expect him to say no? Anger clouded his vision.

 

You really have such a low opinion of me?

 

"Of course, Padfoot... how could I refuse?"

 

He let out a shuddering sob.

 

"It must have been the finest day of your miserable life when you told him you could hand him the Potters..."

 

You were wrong, Sirius. I never got to tell you just how wrong... and now you're...

 

Tears streamed down the thin, bony face as the small man curled up on his bed, trying not to make a single sound. If the man in the next room heard him, he would not be pleased... he needed his sleep more than ever now.

 

It had been a hard evening for everyone…

 

***

 

"Go into the next room, Bella, and wait there. Wormtail!"

 

He hurried into the corridor. "Master..."

 

"Prepare some food." There was blood on his master's face. "Bella will need her strength for this punishment."

 

Bellatrix Lestrange's face shone white in the gloom, and her eyes were wide, sparking with panic. He instinctively backed away from her. She was a woman of strange moods, but always in complete control of herself.

 

If something's happened... I don't care. They would have killed me. They would have killed me...

 

But something's happened...

 

"Master..." she whispered. "I did not know... the Animagus Black distracted me..."

 

Sirius? Sirius had been in the Department of Mysteries? Why?

 

The answer came immediately: Harry.

 

"Of course he did, Bella," said the Master calmly. "He probably guessed what you wanted he was your cousin after all, a brilliant mind as Wormtail told me once..."

 

Was your cousin? Was?

 

"Still, he is dead now, one less guardian for the boy... Go to the room."

 

"Yes, Master." She turned and disappeared.

 

He stood frozen.

 

Dead.

 

Sirius, dead.

 

His voice had disappeared from his throat, and he turned, eager to reach the sanctum of the kitchen as tears began to burn in his eyes.

 

"Wormtail..."

 

He froze. "Yes, Master?" Could he see? Was he rummaging inside his mind right now?

 

"Make sure that the food is well-prepared. It has been a long night."

 

"Of course, Master." He bowed his head so he would not have to look into the terrible all-seeing eyes.

 

"Go."

 

He turned and walked towards the moonlit doorway, holding himself still, fighting down the pain which had begun to burn inside his heart.

 

He had betrayed the man. He had put him in Azkaban. Sirius had wanted to kill him. No doubt he had thought of him as the worst kind of humanity right up until the end. He had promised himself that if Sirius died in this war, there would be no tears.

 

So why did the tears come? Why did sobs build up in his throat? Why did this knowledge hurt so much?

 

Sirius, bright and laughing, careless and fun-loving... gone.

 

***

 

He remembered seeing the cottage explode, running forward, trying to find his Master... finding James and Lily instead. They had been flung close together in death. Lily was face down on the ground, but James was turned upwards...

 

He retched, putting a hand over his mouth as he stirred the soup with his wand.

 

Padfoot... swallowed in darkness.

 

Prongs... covered in blood.

 

He ran then, terrified. James was dead. His master was gone. It felt like the world was tumbling around his ears, and his one thought was to run home, home to his mother, home to where it was safe.

 

Sirius would come after him, he knew that. Sirius would know what had happened. He would die...

 

No!

 

After all this, he was not going to die!

 

He was a rat after all. His survival instinct, never really asleep, woke with a jolt. A plan began to form crystal clear and cold in his mind. He Disapparated, thinking hard, appearing near his home in London, then quietly walked through the streets.

 

Sirius was waiting for him. Reckless and unpredictable Sirius was following his plan exactly. He was too upset, too furious, to think. That was Peter's only advantage and he took it.

 

As Sirius opened his mouth, he yelled, "How could you, Sirius?! How could you? Lily and James, Sirius! Lily and James..."

 

There were tears streaming down his cheeks. He wasn't really yelling at Sirius of course... he was yelling at himself. How could you, Peter? How could you do such a thing?

 

Taking his wand, he sliced off his finger, and blew up the rest of the street behind him. He heard the crying, Sirius screaming his name - but he didn't care. He'd killed his hero. He was going to put one of his best friends in Azkaban.

 

Nothing mattered anymore.

 

The transformation squeezed and pulled at him as he saw the rats fleeing towards the sewer. He didn't look back at Sirius, but he remembered the laughter.

 

That ghastly, mirthless laughter echoing around the ruined street. Echoing around his mind.

 

A constant companion that would be with him unto death.

 

And Remus... what of Remus?

 

But it didn't matter if they'd all been alive, if James had managed to survive... there would still be no way back.

 

It was the only thing inside his head as he ran with that crowd of unthinking animals. No way back... no way back... you made your bed, now sleep in it.

 

No bed.

 

No home.

 

He was a dead man.

 

He was a living rat.

 

All he had to do now was survive... eat, drink, sleep...

 

A simple strategy.

 

But his mind would not be comforted or calmed by this new life. It wept and screamed names - James, Sirius, Remus...

 

That was the time of darkness when Wormtail and Peter fought against each other.

 

"It wasn't my fault," Wormtail always said angrily. "It was me or them... I would be dead now... they didn't come to help me... they didn't think I could do anything!"

 

"They were my friends, my friends!" Peter wept. "How could you? How could you? They'd still be alive right now-!"

 

"But you'd be dead."

 

"They cared about me..."

 

How it hurt, how exhausting it had been, the two sides of him fighting, a never-ending war that formed hellish nightmares when he slept and tormented him daily when he was awake.

 

Eventually – he didn't remember how – he found himself lying in a garden full of gnomes. He would have wept, but rats couldn't cry. They could only lie in silent misery, squeaking slightly every now and again...

 

"Awesome..."

 

"Is it dead yet?"

 

"Dunno. Poke it."

 

He squeaked in indignation as a chubby finger touched his belly. Why couldn't they leave him alone?

 

"Darn, it's still alive."

 

So sorry to disappoint you, he though sarcastically.

 

"What are you two doing now?"

 

"Nothing!" came the innocent chorus.

 

"I'll believe that when I see it - what's that?"

 

"A rat. But it's still alive."

 

"Have you done anything to it?"

 

"We only just found it!"

 

Gentle hands slipped under him and picked him up. He found himself staring into spectacled eyes.

 

James?

 

James, is that you?

 

He squeaked feebly, trying to move closer.

 

"He's in pretty bad shape, but I think he'll live."

 

"You're going to keep it?!"

 

"Him, and yes."

 

He began to make out the boys below him now, strangely similar, with flaming red hair. They looked impressed despite themselves.

 

"Mum'll never let you!"

 

"Yes, she will, she lets Percy do anything, he's *perfect*."

 

"Nobody is perfect, she just knows that I'll be responsible unlike *some* people."

 

One of the boys blew a raspberry. "Boring!"

 

He began to get his breath back lying in the warm hands. The voices had subsided. Something interesting was going on around him. It reminded him so much of... no, he wouldn't think of them! He was dead to them. And they were dead to him.

 

"Boys, you aren't fighting are you?!"

 

"Mum, Percy found a rat!"

 

"He says he's going to keep it!"

 

"A rat?"

 

He was lifted and shown to anxious darting eyes. He was reminded of his own mother. Always so nervous, so eager to please... But these eyes were different. Strong and quite fierce. Like Sirius' eyes...he quailed.

 

"Percy, dear, are you sure? I mean rats are..."

 

"Some of the cleanest animals on the earth," came the prompt reply. "I'll take care of him, Mother. I'll make sure that he doesn't chew on anything, or run around the house unsupervised. Anyway, Bill and Charlie have Hermes, Fred and George have a puffskein... This one's free."

 

A poor family... with red hair... memory stirred.

 

"Well, alright dear..."

 

"MUM! THAT'S SO UNFAIR! YOU NEVER LET US KEEP ANY OF THE ANIMALS *WE* FIND!"

 

"That's because you want to experiment on them!" 'Mum' snapped back. "Take the poor thing inside, Percy, and feed him up. He looks famished."

 

Food!

 

"Yes, Mother. Come on, you."

 

Wind blowing through his fur, then the blessed warmth of a house, and familiar smells that brought up so many memories, he began to squeak again.

 

"You've really been through the wars," Percy murmured. "Don't worry, I'll take care of you."

 

"Wassat, Percy?"

 

"It's a rat, Ron."

 

"What's a rat?"

 

"It's like a large mouse."

 

"Can I see?"

 

"Yes, but you mustn't touch him. He's very weak and I need to wash him."

 

Bright blue eyes peered down. They were innocent and clear and likeable. He wished for the first time in ages that he could smile.

 

"He looks sick."

 

"He'll get better."

 

"Are you gonna take care of him?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Can I help?"

 

"Maybe."

 

"What are you going to call him?"

 

For the first time he sensed hesitation. "I don't know... I hadn't thought about that..."

 

"He has to have a name!" Ron was very insistent. "We can't just call him 'rat'! That would be silly."

 

"No, I know, Ron..."

 

"Can I name him?"

 

"Well..."

 

"Pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase?"

 

He wished that he could grin, but all he could do was wiggle his tail.

 

"I don't know."

 

"But you said you haven't thought of a name."

 

"I was thinking of calling him Peter after Peter Pettigrew."

 

"Peter Pettigrew? You mean that guy who died fighting Sirius Black?"

 

"Yes, that's it."

 

"You told me a million times."

 

"Not a million, Ron."

 

"Well, almost a million. And you can't call a rat 'Peter'. That's a boring name. He looks... looks..."

 

The blue eyes stared at him very hard, so hard that he found himself shrinking away from them.

 

"Scabby! He looks scabby!"

 

"He's probably got a very bad flea problem. Don't tell Mum."

 

"Only if you let me name him."

 

A slight sigh that only he could hear. "Alright."

 

"Scabbers!"

 

"What?! Oh no, Ron, not that..."

 

"You said I could, you said I could!" The freckled face beamed down at him. "Anyway you like it, don't you, Scabbers?"

 

He squeaked. Anything but Peter. Peter Pettigrew was a hero, and he was no hero. He was Wormtail. Wormtail, the traitor and the coward.

 

"See, he likes it!"

 

"Yes, Ron. I'm going to give him his bath now."

 

"Can I watch?"

 

"If you're quiet."

 

Blessed, blessed sanctuary, noisy but happy. Always nuts and cheese to eat, bits of vegetables, even a heavenly bit of turkey on Christmas Day. He'd grown fat and happy. Hermes had aged, the puffskein had been squashed by Bludgers, but he'd lived on. Nobody had counted the years he'd been with them. Nobody had realised that

he was living far longer than any common rat. They'd just assumed that he was magic, although he'd taken pains to seem as ordinary as possible apart from the life span.

 

And even though he enjoyed this life, the life of Scabbers the Rat, Wormtail always whispered, 'They'll find out... someday they'll find out... and then Sirius will be taken out of Azkaban and you'll be there instead... enjoy it while you can... but never forget... you

are nobody's friend. Nobody will ever stand up for you.'

 

Watching these children play, fight, laugh and cry, he wanted to warn them... life is not a playground... life is not all smiles and harmony, security and comfort... it will play tricks on you... it will hurt and twist you until you don't even recognise yourself...

 

But he didn't. He was only Scabbers. He let them grow up, grow away... until Percy grew too busy to take care of him, almost unrecognisable from that kind boy who'd saved him from death, and he turned into Ron's pet...

 

And then came the day on the platform, by the Hogwarts Express... He heard a small, quiet voice and turned in his cage to see...

 

James?

 

No, not James, James didn't have green eyes.

 

His heart gave a great lurch.

 

Harry...

 

At that moment, Scabbers made a promise to himself. He would always be on Harry's side – he would watch over him, protect him...

 

Wormtail smiled bitterly to himself. Another promise that he'd broken… there must be hundreds now, lying behind him like pieces of shattered glass. But he'd started well. It had been wonderful to bite Crabbe's finger, almost like being a Marauder again, and this

time he was able to do something, to defend his friends instead of it being the other way around. It had been wonderful to be back in Hogwarts. The smells, the sights, the sounds, such happy memories... It didn't feel like anything had changed. Slytherins and Gryffindors were still at war, Peeves still delighted in being a nuisance, Nick was still the Gryffindor ghost... it was a shock to hear that Severus Snape had become Potions master judging from his treatment of Harry, he still nursed a grudge against James...

 

Why didn't he go to Dumbledore? Why didn't he slip up there by one of the secret passages and tell him everything? Dumbledore would have forgiven him. Dumbledore would have been the only one to give him a second chance.

 

But he was afraid. He had always been afraid, it was the one constant thread between Peter, Scabbers, and Wormtail, the dark silt of fear lying at the bottom of everything. And so, like Harry, Scabbers kept quiet... telling himself there was no reason to go to Dumbledore... even when he knew that Harry, Ron and Hermione were planning to go after the Philosopher's Stone... even when he knew that Harry was a Parselmouth and that he was suffering doubts over it... he told himself that he was just a rat, what could he do?

 

And so Scabbers had let life carry on until that time in Egypt, another unforgettable evening...

 

"Merlin's Beard!"

 

The shock in Arthur Weasley's voice was unmistakable, awaking Scabbers as he dozed on the windowsill. Opening one eye, he could see that Arthur was reading 'The Daily Prophet', a day late since they were in Egypt.

 

"What is it, dear? Something to do with the Ministry?" asked Molly, who had been dozing herself.

 

"Dad, did you shout?"

 

Scabbers was scooped up onto Ron's narrow but warm shoulder, which afforded a much better view point. Arthur was looking pale and worried.

 

"Nothing to do with me... there's been a break-out from Azkaban."

 

"What?!"

 

Ron sat down so heavily that he almost fell off and clutched with his claws, causing a sharply hissed protest.

 

"Scabbers! Do you mind, this is the only T-shirt that fits me!" Ron gently unhooked the pink claws and turned back to his father. "Does it really say that, Dad? I mean... might be a mistake in the writing or something... this is Azkaban."

 

"It's Azkaban alright," said Arthur heavily, handing the paper to Molly. "And a particularly dangerous one, too. Sirius Black."

 

"Sirius Black! Bloody hell! I remember when he was captured!" said Bill, sitting down and stretching out his legs. "They didn't even give him a trial, did they?"

 

"Bill, they found him laughing in the middle of a ruined street with dead Muggles lying all around him and Peter Pettigrew's finger at his feet," said Molly severely. "It's not as if they didn't have enough evidence... a family like that..."

 

"Yeah, but if the Lestranges were given a trial, then why not Sirius Black?" Bill pursued. "I mean, you met him, didn't you, Dad? You said he seemed alright, one of the few good seeds..."

 

"I'm surprised you remember that, Bill, but yes, I did meet the young man, and he was charming, liberal, devoted to his friends... still, you can never tell," Arthur sighed, "and your mother's right, the Black family was exactly the type of family to support

Voldemort. It’s almost certain that his younger brother was a Death Eater..."

 

"But Arthur, if Sirius Black has escaped, that means-"

 

"Yes," Arthur said softly, cutting her off. "He'll try and finish the job he started thirteen years ago."

 

Ron didn't ask. Peter was grateful for that. He was feeling sick enough already. Sick with terror. He wasn’t Scabbers anymore. He felt as if that identity had already been shattered. Sirius... why had he broken out now? He could imagine him using his dog form to actually break out, but why? Had he somehow discovered where he was? That had to be it: and Arthur was right, Sirius would try and finish the job he'd started thirteen years ago...

 

He felt trapped... trapped like a rat. Why hadn't he gone to Dumbledore? Why hadn't he said something? The sense of doom came back all too quickly. He was going to die... it was only a matter of time now. He should have known that this safety, this happiness,

couldn't last forever. He should have listened to Wormtail, to his survival instinct.

 

There was no way back.

 

"It must have been the finest day of your miserable life when you told him you could hand him the Potters..."

 

How would you know, Sirius? You weren't there…

 

"I must admit, Peter, I find it hard to see why an innocent man should choose to spend thirteen years as a rat..."

 

Yes, it must be difficult for you. If you had the choice, you'd be a human all the time. But it's so difficult to be a human... so difficult to live up to human expectations... so much easier to be a simple rodent. I should have been the werewolf, not you. Maybe things would have been better for all of us...

 

"THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED! DIED RATHER THAN BETRAY YOUR FRIENDS AS WE WOULD HAVE FOR YOU!"

 

You don't know what death's like, Sirius. You've never faced it as I have. And even if you did come face to face with death, you would laugh. You don't fear anything.

 

"You should have realised... if Voldemort didn't kill you, we would."

 

Kill me then. Let it end here. I have nothing left. Not even your friendship. I am nothing...

 

What?

 

Harry... Harry, what are you doing? You don't believe me, do you? You don't seriously believe that James would have stopped them.

 

"I don't think my dad would have wanted his two best friends to become murderers... just for you."

 

You believe me. Poor Harry. You still haven't learned the lesson which is embodied in Remus: that no human is completely good or completely bad. You believe that your father was a saint, bold and brave and virtuous. Just as you believe that Sirius is an innocent victim, and Remus a martyr. You will learn, Harry Potter. But I can't say any of this... all I can do is thank you... and pity your innocence.

 

It's been eroded, but it's still there. It shines at me in this dark shack, this symbol of the past which Remus, Sirius and I share. I wonder how much longer your innocence will last.

 

I won't be there to see it crumble. And for that, I am thankful.

 

Harry... what was Harry thinking? What was Harry feeling? He remembered the long look which had passed between the godfather and child, a look of understanding, a look of recognition... for Harry was even more similar to Sirius than James had been. Harry, unlike James, knew how it felt to be rejected by your family, constantly criticised; he knew what it was like to stand against the people who had raised you.

 

Harry must be devastated.

 

Peter felt the tears oozing out of his eyes again as he leaned against the windowsill, looking into the overgrown garden of the ancient Slytherin house.

 

For what must be the hundredth time, he wished that he'd chosen another path. He wished that he'd been clever enough to double-cross Voldemort, as Snape was surely doing. He hadn't said anything... his silence had often caused Snape suffering. At least now it could do him some good.

 

He finally understood why Sirius had laughed that day in the street. Sometimes, there were only two choices: to laugh or cry. And Sirius had chosen to laugh. He had laughed at the ruin of his life. He had laughed at death. Peter's lips curled and he found himself silently chuckling.

 

Only Sirius could have done that.

 

For one last time, he would follow Padfoot's example. He had promised himself he would not cry, and it was time he started to keep his promises.

 

He laughed a little in the night air. It lifted him away from himself, his aged aching body, his tormented mind, his tarnished soul. If anyone were listening, they would think him mad. As Sirius would have said: so what?

 

Easier to be mad than to be sane. Easier to be mad than to deal with the pain. One white night of madness and laughter for his friend, for all those white nights in Hogsmeade, in the Forbidden Forest, under the light of the full shining moon.

 

Ghastly hollow laughter echoed around the garden...

 

It was Sirius' laughter.

 

It was his laughter.

 

He would never be free of it.

 

***

 

As dawn broke, Peter Pettigrew raised his head. He hadn't slept. His eyes were red and sore from his white night. His throat was hoarse from laughter.

 

The pain of Sirius' death still gnawed inside him, combining with the older, deeper pain of James' absence. Despite his betrayal, despite Sirius and Remus's hatred, he still wanted to be their friend somewhere. He would mourn James and Sirius for the rest of his life, and he still missed Remus deeply.

 

He hated himself for that. Yet he couldn’t help it.

 

For they had been his friends.

 

His only friends.

 

It felt like the door of the past had truly shut. With only James gone, it had still been within reach, but now... it wasn't just that there was no going back. He could actually see the end coming. Closer and closer, quicker and quicker. His master's desperate desire to kill Harry Potter seemed to override everything. He didn't really understand why. He only knew that the Master had given up his original purpose long ago. He was obsessed by the boy.

 

Peter shivered. It would come to no good. The Master had tried so many times to kill Harry... and he had failed. As a baby, at eleven, twelve, fourteen and fifteen, Harry had escaped death. He had tried to make his Master see this must mean something, but it had been no good.

 

His arm burned and he clutched at it in sudden, physical pain. The mark showed clearly against the grey skin. The mark of his betrayal. He would never be able to forget. He would never be able to mourn openly. Wormtail was a traitor and must remain so, the loyal servant of his Master. He would be that servant until the day he died.

 

Whilst Peter Pettigrew...?

 

He didn't know.

 

Did Peter Pettigrew even exist anymore?

 

Yes: only Peter Pettigrew would mourn Sirius Black by laughter.

 

What did that mean?

 

Sighing, he straightened up, pushing back his greying hair. Sometimes he dreamed that he was back on the Hogwarts Express. But his friends weren't with him. They were in the next compartment. He wanted to join them and he often tried to get up, but he could never get the door open. He tried to call through to them, and sometimes they responded, but he couldn't hear what they were saying, though when he left them alone their conversation was perfectly clear. Then he would realise that this wasn't the Hogwarts Express at all this was a different train, a runaway train. He would see his friends run

past, and call out to them, rattling the door. But the door never opened. He would sit back down and find himself split into two, Peter Pettigrew and Wormtail, sitting in one carriage facing each other. Sooner or later, the train would crash, and only one of them

would survive this crash. But which one?

 

That depended on where this train was going.

 

He'd get up, open the door easily and glide through the carriages to the driver. He'd ask where they were going. The driver would turn around. It was his Master. He would hand him a piece of paper. It was always the same piece of paper. Always the same two words. His heart would lurch and he would awake with his mouth dry, his heart pounding, the words floating in front of his eyes.

 

Destination Unknown.

 

 

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Runaway Train

 

Call you up in the middle of the night

Like a firefly without a light

You were there like a blowtorch burning

I was a key that could use a little turning

 

So tired that I couldn't even sleep;

So many secrets I couldn't keep;

Promised myself that I wouldn't weep

One more promise that I couldn't keep

 

It seems no-one can help me now

I'm in too deep, there's no way out

This time I've really led myself astray

 

Runaway train never going back

Wrong way on a one way track

Seems like I should be getting somewhere

Somehow I'm neither here nor there

 

Can you help me remember how to smile?

Make it somehow all seem worthwhile?

How on earth did I get so jaded?

Life's mystery seems so faded...

 

I can go where no-one else goes

I know what no-one else knows

Here I am just drownin' in the rain

With a ticket for a runaway train

 

Everything is cut and dry:

Day and night, earth and sky;

Somehow I just can't believe it...

 

Bought a ticket for a runaway train,

Like a madman just a-laughin' at the rain;

Little out of touch, little insane,

It's just easier than dealing with the pain;

 

Runaway train, never coming back -

Runaway train, tearing up the track -

Runaway train, burning in my veins;

Runaway, but it always stays the same...

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

 

DISCLAIMER: All Harry Potter characters and situations belong to the

Mistress of Magic, J.K. Rowling. This story is based on the UK

editions of the Harry Potter saga. The song 'Runaway Train' belongs

to the band Soul Asylum.

 

 

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Ha ha! Well, whaddya think? I don't think there are many stories about Wormtail... haven't come across any yet, but I didn't want this story to be influenced by anything except canon and the Wormtail discussion thread... he's more difficult to write than he seems... sometimes I feel sorry for him, and sometimes I hate

him... I think that comes across in this story.

 

The story does deliberately switch without warning from present to past, because I think that he half-lives in the past. It's certainly better than the present. Most of the time when he speaks, it's without speech marks because he's speaking inside his head... He never really expresses himself out loud. And the switching from first-person to third-person without warning is also deliberate - because I think Wormtail's sense of identity is really messed up... Perhaps he sounds a lot like Gollum, but there has been discussion on the thread about the similarities between Peter and Sméagol, so I thought I'd play on that and see what came out. I've loved this song for years, but it only just came to me that it suited

Wormtail/Peter/Scabbers quite well. I'm quite proud of the ending for this story as tying in with the train motif. I always knew I wanted the story to end with those two words, but I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do it. Still, it's worked out well.

 

Many thanks to Megan, my beta, who pointed out some confusions and helped me prune this story!

 

Starsea xxx

//
Write a review! PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of reviewing a story or piece of art at the Sugar Quill is to provide comments that will be useful to the author/artist. We encourage you to put a bit of thought into your review before posting. Please be thoughtful and considerate, even if you have legitimate criticism of a story or artwork. (You may click here to read other reviews of this work).
* = Required fields
*Sugar Quill Forums username:
*Sugar Quill Forums password:
If you do not have a Sugar Quill Forums username, please register. Bear in mind that it may take up to 72 hours for your account to be approved. Thank you for your patience!
*Comment:
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

-- Powered by SQ3 : Coded by David : Design by James --