The Sugar Quill
Author: Maidenjedi (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Traitor Most Accursed  Chapter: Default
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Traitor Most Accursed

"The traitor to humanity is the traitor most accursed." - J.R. Lowell

Sunshine colored every lawn on the sleepy lane, dancing in beams that bounced off drops of dew. It was still early morning, and no one was quite awake enough to enjoy the warm air that precipitated another hot day.

Owls flew overhead and occasionally swooped down, delivering the Daily Prophet to the half dozen or so Wizarding families that populated the area.

Godric's Hollow was far enough removed from London and Hogsmeade that it was rarely troubled by the fear that dominated those larger communities. The Dark Lord's name was not whispered because it was not much thought of. The only sign that Wizarding kind was at war this early summer morning was the headline gracing the front page of the Daily Prophet.

PREWETT BROTHERS FOUND DEAD, DEATH EATERS BLAMED
Dark Mark signals another violent conflict as peace talks continue at Ministry

That is, it was the only visible sign of war.

In the pleasant-looking cottage at the end of the lane (nothing more than a condemned shack to the Muggle eye), the Potter family was just waking up. The baby, Harry, mewled and yawned as his mother, Lily, came to feed him. James, his father, was sound asleep upstairs, oblivious to the world after a long night on duty for the Order. In the living room, a pair of disheveled-looking wizards slept in their day robes. One of them was only pretending to sleep, however.

Peter Pettigrew grimaced as his arm tingled and burned. He hadn't been on duty last night with James and Sirius, but had arrived by chance at the same time they did. Lily liked having them all around, even though they were one short, with Remus on a mission from Dumbledore. Peter didn't say no to the offer to stay the night. He figured it was probably part of his job now.

He pulled his sleeve up to look at the tattoo on his arm. Lucius had told him that no one else would be able to see it unless it was activated, which, given the war, would likely be quite often. It was certainly activated now, a dull green standing out on Peter's pale skin in the shape of a skull with a snake coming out of its mouth.

The Dark Mark. The sign of a Death Eater.

Peter traced a finger over the mark. It wasn't the easiest choice, betraying one's friends. But as far as he saw it, it was the only choice. The Dark Lord would win, Dumbledore would lose, and Peter had no desire to be on the losing side.

A loud snore interrupted his thoughts, prompting him to pull the sleeve back down as quickly as possible. Sirius rolled over on the other couch, mumbling something about pumpkin pasties and having a go on someone's broom. Peter held his breath and squeezed his eyes shut. If he were caught....

But another, softer snore let Peter know that Sirius was still sleeping, likely dreaming about happier, more carefree days. Peter knew what Sirius dreamed because he himself dreamed the same things. Carefree, thoughtless days at Hogwarts, traipsing through the Forbidden Forest, watching James win another Quidditch match, eating sweets filched from the kitchens, snogging a Hufflepuff fifth-year behind the greenhouses.

He hoped Sirius wasn't dreaming about that last one.

Peter rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling. Those days had been wonderful, but they were over.

He heard a noise in the kitchen and started, grabbing his wand and sitting up straight. Another noise told Peter that it was just Lily with Harry, probably making breakfast. Harry's laugh was unmistakable.

As was Lily's.

Peter felt his stomach twist. Lily. Would she see it in his eyes, know that he was a traitor to their cause? Would she sense the danger he now represented?

For he'd gotten the Dark Mark last night on the condition that he could bring something to the Dark Lord. Something valuable. He was going to have to deliver the Potters. He wasn't sure when, but he'd sworn he would. It was his one job, his one duty to his new master. He just had to find a way.

Peter laid there thinking about the way things had turned out. Sirius snored again and Lily called James' name from the kitchen, telling him she would make breakfast and there was important news in this morning's paper. These were the people that had made Peter's otherwise unremarkable existence colorful and memorable. Could he actually do it, turn traitor and give all this up?

"Peter? Are you awake?"

It was Lily. Her hair was tied back loosely, so that several strands still fell over her face. She had a hand on her hip, and the other hand held her wand at her side. Peter shook his head to clear it and looked Lily in the face.

Her eyes shone at him, the bright gaze of someone who has woken up to a world that is equally full of joy and pain. She had a half-hearted smile on her lips, and fresh tear stains on her cheeks.

"I'm awake, Lily. Everything okay?"

He knew it wasn't. She sighed and the smile left her face altogether.

"Well, it was in the paper this morning. They got Gideon and Fabian."

Peter's heart sped up. He had known about it. Well, sort of. Rosier and Lestrange had arrived as he was leaving. They'd spoken in hushed tones about a raid, and that the others were "right behind them, though Wilkes was injured and it was slowing them down." Lucius had pushed Peter out the door, growling that some things were still not his business.

"Peter?"

"Huh?" He shook his head again and pressed his palms against his eyes. Gideon had been in Gryffindor, a year ahead of them. He'd shown Peter how to do Cheering Charms and always had a Chocolate Frog for a homesick first-year.

And Fabian liked to dress as a Muggle and go to rock concerts on his days off. He would Charm his hair green and come back singing songs with weird lyrics by someone he referred to as Bowie.

Peter let his hands drop to his lap and looked at Lily again. She nodded. "I know."

Harry shouted nonsense from his seat in the kitchen and giggled as something dropped to the floor. Lily snapped out of her own reverie and went back to the kitchen.

"I'm making breakfast, Peter, if you want some," she called over her shoulder.

Sirius mumbled again from the couch, this time something about "that damned Prongs" and "Invisibility Cloak."

Peter wasn't sure that he could eat anything, but he decided to join Lily and Harry in the kitchen anyway.

The sun shone through the window, making the east-facing kitchen the brightest room in the house at this hour of the day. Lily had the windows open, in case of owls and also to let in a slight breeze. Harry was sitting in a wooden high chair, his black hair sticking up at odd angles, his cup of pumpkin juice at his lips. He handed it to Lily and laughed as she wiped his face with a dish towel; he'd managed to get what looked like strawberry jam in his eyebrows and on his nose.

The Daily Prophet lay on the table. The headline about the Prewetts' deaths was huge, and the picture of their house
was marred by a twinkling black-and-white Dark Mark. Peter grabbed his arm.

Lily didn't see him, as she stood up to go to the stove. She twirled her wand over a boiling pot and asked Peter what he
would like to eat.

Peter sat down, trying to think of food. Trying to think of anything but that twinkling, grinning skull.

Harry laughed again, tossing the rest of his toast at Peter.

"Harry! Mum said to eat it, not toss it!" Lily spun around and moved to pick up the toast. She placed it on Harry's tray and looked at Peter. "Peter? Eggs and toast okay? I'm going to make some for James anyway."

"Sure, Lily. Okay." He swallowed hard and turned the Prophet over. An advertisement for a sale at Madame Malkin's replaced the Dark Mark in his line of sight, though Peter fancied it was burning through the paper to grin at him.

He poured himself a glass of pumpkin juice and watched Harry play with his food. Lily put a plate in front of Peter and he stared at it for a moment before hunger won out. He took a bite of toast and found that he was hungrier than he thought.

"Any word from headquarters?" Peter asked around a mouthful of eggs.

Lily sat down and shook her head. "I expect someone will call soon, though. I started the fire the moment I saw the
paper, just in case. Dumbledore'll want you all before long."

Peter noticed that Lily looked more tired than he'd ever seen her. Birds chirped outside and somewhere there was a Muggle contraption making noise, probably cutting the grass or some other such Muggle thing. The look on Lily's face was out of place in this quiet, leisurely world.

When James, Sirius, and Peter had come inside the night before, Lily was her usual quiet, steady self. The only thing that gave away her panic and worry was the way she held on to James. She buried her face in his neck and they stood like that for awhile, as Sirius and Peter averted their eyes and pretended not to see. Otherwise Lily had been alternately businesslike and laid back, a young, beautiful mother with plenty to do who intended to have fun doing it.

This morning, the worry showed. She kept looking over Peter's shoulder at the staircase, anxious to have James in the same
room. Peter knew she hadn't liked giving up the Order after Harry's birth, particularly because she couldn't be by James'
side when he was in danger.

Now he was always in danger, and Lily could only wait.

She let her gaze come back to Peter's face and smiled wanly.

"I hate this," she said, almost as though she'd read his mind. He was thankful that she couldn't.

"I know. Me too."

"The Prewetts, Peter. How could he have gotten to them? How is he getting his information? If we only knew! Dumbledore thinks it might be someone from the Order."

Peter swallowed the rest of his pumpkin juice and just barely avoided choking on it.

"Imagine that. Someone from the Order," he squeaked.

She poured him another glass despite his weak protests. "It has to be. How could Voldemort - oh, don't quiver like that - know what he seems to know? Death Eaters keep showing up where they shouldn't. And Gideon and Fabian have died because of this. Because someone is tipping off the Death Eaters." She frowned and absentmindedly twirled her hair.

Harry cooed and Lily touched his cheek. "What kind of world is Harry going to know?" she whispered, almost too low for Peter to hear.

She closed her eyes and a tear slipped down her cheek.

Peter watched this and touched his arm, thinking fast. He didn't have to keep his word to the Dark Lord. Nothing was worth watching Lily cry like this.

"Lily, it'll be okay. We'll get him. Dumbledore is a great wizard."

It sounded so flat, so routine, so false. He could say these things, he could toy with the idea of leaving the Dark Lord's service, but that was all. He was in it now, whether he still wanted it or not. Peter dug his nails into the palm of his hand. She'd pick up on it, she'd know.

Traitor, whispered his conscience.

But Lily didn't respond harshly, condemning him and calling him all the names he knew he would deserve. She just opened her eyes and smiled at Peter, smiled at a man she knew only as her friend.

"We will get him. You're right." She looked at Harry again, who was frowning quizzically at his mother. She stuck her tongue out and crossed her eyes, and Harry laughed.

"Harry will grow up in a peaceful world, Lily. You don't have to worry about that."

Peter was amazed at his own capacity for lying.

Lily made another face at her son, who clapped and reached for his mother. He was distracted, though, by the bounding steps of his father, who was finally coming down for breakfast. "Da!" Harry cried, reaching now for James.

Peter watched silently as James picked up Harry and kissed Lily, and the discussion began again about the Prewetts and what was happening outside of these four walls. Sirius came in a few moments later, growling at his godson for waking him up, though he swung him around and made Lily scold them both for making such a racket. Sirius gave Harry to James and tickled Lily, making her shriek with laughter as James told Sirius to keep his hands to himself.

This was what I'm giving up, thought Peter. Laughter and trust and love.

Lily made more eggs and toast while James and Sirius reminisced about Gideon Prewett's days as Gryffindor Keeper. Harry watched his father and godfather with his mouth open, and he laughed and shouted nonsense when Sirius decided to demonstrate one of Prewett's more daring saves by once again swinging his godson through the air. Lily turned to scold him again but was interrupted by a head in the fire.

It was the kind, round face of Alice Longbottom, and she had news from headquarters. Dumbledore wanted every member of the Order there as soon as possible for an emergency meeting.

"Even us mothers, Alice?" Lily asked.

"Yes, he said he needed everybody. He's arranged a sitter for the boys, Arabella Figg, I think."

Alice disappeared with a small pop! and the kitchen was immediately galvanized. Lily began to clean up while James took Harry upstairs. Sirius threw Floo powder on the fire and left to get cleaned up at his own place.

Peter hung back and asked Lily if she needed any help.

She blew the errant strands of hair out of her face and looked at Peter. Once again, she smiled at him, and Peter felt what might have been guilt flood his veins. He went cold all over, but couldn't look away. His arm burned.

"I'm okay, Peter. Thanks though. Why don't you go get cleaned up, and we'll meet you at headquarters?"

He nodded. "Okay." She turned back to her work and Peter grabbed some Floo powder from the canister on the mantle. Sirius had dropped some on the floor, and Peter bent to sweep it into his hand.

He turned around before tossing the powder into the fire.

"Lily?"

"Mmm?" She looked over her shoulder at him, wand in the air.

"Thank you." He didn't know what he was thanking her for. Breakfast? The couch in the living room that he'd slept on? Maybe he was thanking her for more than that; the help she'd given him in Care of Magical Creatures that had earned him an O.W.L., or for keeping quiet when had she discovered the boys' Animagus secret?

He looked at Lily and remembered every kind word, every late night study session. James loved her. And Peter had always been a bit jealous, because Lily loved James back. Lily had loved them all, though, in a way.

Peter's arm tingled, and it seemed he could hear the laugh of a Dark Wizard.

Lily nodded, and Peter turned back to the fire. He shouted his destination and threw the powder into the flames.

====

A/N: For Eodrakken Quicksilver, who requested Peter-and-Lily, and gets it because he's too sweet for me to refuse him. :-)

Feedback/criticism to texgoddess_at_yahoo.com

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