The Sugar Quill
Author: The White Lily (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Gryffindor After All  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.

Spoilers, repeat, SPOILERS for The Promise Ring. Read that first – it’s not too shabby, if I do say so myself. : )

I knew as soon as I heard the opening five lines of Danielle Spencer’s "Tickle Me" that I had to make a song-fic about MWPP, especially since no-one in the Harry Potter community seems to have heard it (otherwise I’m sure it'd be about as popular as Five for Fighting's Superman). Anyway, I'd recommend you listen to it before you read – you should all buy her album, it’s great – but in the meantime you can download it <here>, since I doubt that anyone outside Australia has heard of her as anything except perhaps Russell Crowe's wife. : )

Disclaimer: I do not own Tickle Me and I am not Danielle Spencer. I merely love her work. I do not own Harry Potter and I am not JK Rowling. I merely worship at her alter.

 

A Gryffindor After All

We were four and no one else was needed to make five,
Just to be together, that was all to being alive.

Sometimes the misery threatens to consume me. Why? Why did I decide to join Voldemort? This life of pain, humiliation, and regret was not what I had in mind. I was, well, if not happy, at least content with my friends until Lily Evans came and changed everything: until everyone forgot about Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. Everyone except me.

Wormtail. I hate the name now. It reminds me of better times, times when I felt happy. I don’t now, although I feel like I should be happier than I am – at least I know that now I’m where I belong, among these other sycophantic, snivelling cowards who serve at the Dark Lord’s pleasure. It’s the first place I’ve ever really felt that I might be the equal of some of the people around me.

Right from the start, I knew that I didn’t belong in Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat told me that I would surprise myself if I tried, that it was the best house for me, and I didn’t have the courage to disagree. I knew that it was wrong. Just like that boy in Harry’s dormitory knows it – what’s his name? Neville Longbottom. That’s right. He knew he didn’t belong. I spent two and a half years living in the same dormitory as him. I wonder if he still cries himself to sleep on the first night back in the dorms after every holiday?

We laughed our way through years of play,
You had us at your feet.
Little did we know that in our games you were the cheat.

Sharing a dormitory with him was like looking through another’s eyes at weak, cowardly, fat Peter Pettigrew. What was he doing in Gryffindor?

The others tried to keep the whispers from bothering me, but some people didn’t even bother keeping it to whispers behind my back. I remember Snape telling me right to my face in first year that it was a wonder the Sorting Hat hadn’t just sent me home – not brave enough for Gryffindor, not cunning enough for Slytherin, not smart enough for Ravenclaw, not even hard-working enough for Hufflepuff! James got two weeks of detention for punching him in the face, which sealed my devotion to him forever, but I never forgot Snape’s words. I suppose that I’ve proved the slimy Slytherin right over the years, just as he’s proved that the Sorting Hat was right to put him in Slytherin.

It’s not just anyone who can fool the Dark Lord but, however good Snape was, it inevitably ends the same way. Now my schoolyard nemesis is lying on the ground in front of us all, writhing and screaming on the other end of my master’s wand. My schoolyard nemesis – he may have been mine, but I was never his. I was beneath Snape’s notice after that first incident; he must have realised that he had managed to break me with one comment and all he had to do from then on was look at me to start those words ringing in my ears again…

Why didn’t they have a house for the rest of us? For those of us who don’t have a positive quality that defines us? Surely it can’t be fair to find the tiniest ounce of bravery in me, then put me among the bravest of the lot and expect me to fit in?

Hard to keep a secret from your closest friends,
Hard to be together and to have to pretend.

It could only be those seven years of practice – seven years of constantly pretending to be someone I was not – that made it possible for me to deceive them all. I was never a good actor. All the teachers knew that if they suspected us of something, all they had to do was ask me and I wouldn’t be able to keep that poker face that the others could do so well. That’s why it was always my fault when we served detention, even if they never said anything about it. I knew they felt that if it wasn’t for me they could have gotten away with murder.

But, in the end, it was me who got away with murder because everyone knew that I could never get away with anything.

Snape certainly isn’t getting away with anything anymore, although he certainly kept up an incredible act for a long time. No-one ever suspected him – even when he returned to our master well after the rest, claiming that he hoped his Lord would approve of his success in allaying Dumbledore’s suspicions of his true loyalties. He was tortured for that, but all he would say through the worst of it was, “I thought only to serve you better, my Lord.” Pompous git. But it does make me wonder. He betrayed the Dark Lord despite the pain it has caused him while I betrayed my friends to avoid that same pain. Does that make us more alike or less?

Snape’s voice is hoarse now: his throat raw from trying to stop the tearing screams from wrenching free. I have to use every bit of my strength to stop myself from throwing up as my stomach cramps in sympathy with his agony. Shouldn’t I be enjoying this?

And I remember lounging in the faraway tree
Watching you performing just for them and just for me.

He’s a Slytherin and Slytherins deserve whatever they get. It was our job to make sure that they got plenty.

We turned them all pink once and if it hadn’t been for me, we would have been caught. We were leaving the kitchens after lacing all the Slytherin table’s condiments with an extra-strength dying potion that Sirius had developed when I heard Professor McGonagall coming and pulled us all under the cloak in the nick of time. None of the others had heard a thing and James rewarded me with an approving smile that kept me warm at night for weeks.

I was always a good lookout, James reminded me when we finished the Animagus transformation and I was horrified to find out that I was a rat. I could be an even better lookout now that I had super-human hearing and could scurry around practically unnoticed! Deep down, I never believed him, but I could see that the others had all convinced themselves. I was thrilled by their faith in me, which made it sting all the more when I proved beyond all doubt that I was a rat in all senses of the word.

Oh, pity for you that it had to stop,
Boy, you ran like the wind on a high cliff top.
But here you are my dear,
What do we have here?

Long before and after the pink dye faded from Snape’s greasy hair, we prided ourselves on making his life hell-on-earth. He had only himself to blame; he was a slimy Slytherin then, just as he’s a slimy Slytherin now. He could have just given our master the password, after all: he didn’t have to go through this. I still can’t understand why he didn’t. He must have known that he was already dead for betraying our Lord, but some ways to die are worse than others.

I’ve been waiting for over twenty years to see a look on Snape’s face like the one I saw when the Dark Lord told him that he would torture him to death. It was a curious mix of horror, desperation, and regret, with only the smallest measure of self-righteous determination. Had he been thinking at all when he applied a Memory Charm to himself in an attempt to hide information from the Dark Lord? Although our master would probably let him live now, sending him back to Dumbledore broken and useless as a half-alive reminder of his failure, Snape’s mind would be utterly destroyed by the amount of torture required to break through the charm. He would be lucky if he ever managed to collect enough of his mind together again to learn how to feed himself.

It would be the ultimate indignity for one who had always prided himself on his finely-honed intellect and James would have loved it. It truly was the perfect revenge. But James is gone – I have to keep reminding myself, even after all these years. He’s gone. And it’s all her fault.

(Isn't she pretty?) Look at her hair!
(What a delightful angel there!) She's a love, she's a princess, and she's oh, so fair!
And I don't blame your choice to dare,
You tickle me, yeah.

James had been mooning over Lily Evans almost from the time she had boarded the Hogwarts Express in first year. On and on, he’d rave about her and I’m quite certain that it was the only subject on which I disagreed with him, even if I never would have dreamt of voicing that disagreement any more than he could have imagined telling her how he felt. But I never understood what he saw in her. She was a Slytherin, for heaven’s sake, and even if she hadn’t hated James with a passion that approached absolute detestation, she spent all her time hanging around with Snape!

And then half-way through seventh year, she dumped Snape and moved on to James, eyes brimming with crocodile tears as she told him how guilty she felt for breaking the greasy git’s heart. I laughed in her face and was horrified when the others shushed me – they hadn’t seen through her at all! It was absurd!

It was only two days later when my father died, but they were all so wrapped up in Lily’s little melodrama that they never even noticed. James couldn’t take his eyes off her for weeks, constantly watching her as though he couldn’t believe his luck. Sirius watched them together with a proud air, as though he was personally responsible for the immutable truth that Snape was a greasy bastard. Remus was the only one who even seemed to be aware that I was upset, the only one who asked me what was wrong. I brushed him off, expecting that he would try again, that maybe he would even bring it to James’ attention, but nothing happened. He shrugged and walked away, going back to sit with James and Lily, telling her once again that it wasn’t her fault, that she couldn’t choose whom she loved.

I remember staring after him in hurt amazement. Was I really that unimportant to them all? So insignificant that it didn’t matter to them when Aurors ‘accidentally’ killed my father – my simple, tailor father – in a raid on his shop to check for Dark materials, which of course were never found? They had another charity case to deal with, someone who was even more in need than me. A Mudblood.

Yes, it is peculiar to smile at such a thought
But nothing you could do could really leave me out of sorts.

I didn’t blame them though. I knew that it was her fault. She had James under some kind of mind control – she must have! She was a Slytherin, after all: rotten to the core. Once she was out of the way, James would pay attention to me again, rather than her simpering, lying, Slytherin smile and her snotty brat of a son.

When the Dark Lord contacted me for the first time, it was hardly even a choice. “Yes,” I told him, “that powerful Slytherin Mudblood was married to my friend. Yes, I’ll give you any information you want on how to get hold of her.” I didn’t even need his promise that I would be killed if I didn’t obey him. I wanted to obey. I wanted her out of our lives so that we could go back to the way we were before, when I was a part of the group.

Once they realised what she had done to them, they would have seen that I was a hero for saving them from her slimy Slytherin scheme. I should have known that nothing I planned could ever happen the way I intended.

Sorry though to say the other half of our sweet four
Will not forgive as I do so you'll find yourself at war.

My master didn’t tell me that he would kill James: the possibility hadn’t even occurred to me until the curse hit him. I could never spot the possibilities for disaster in one of our plans, that was Remus’ job. I was never the planner, that was James or Sirius. I was the yes-man, the scapegoat, the one for whom no task was too menial, no role in the plot too insignificant.

But in that moment, as the green light streaked towards my friend, my life changed utterly. In that moment, I finally realised that nothing would ever be the same again. James was dead and even if the Dark Lord deigned to let me go, Sirius and Remus would hunt me down and kill me for my sins.

I didn’t follow my master upstairs to witness Lily’s death – the event I had been anticipating the entire time – it didn’t remotely matter to me anymore. I was shattered. Even in his final moments, as I stood silently beside my master, unmasked and clearly recognizable as the one who had betrayed them, James didn’t look at me. I was beneath his notice, an insubstantial, meaningless shadow, as he focussed every fibre of his being on giving his wife and son just a few more moments to run.

He tried to save the ones he loved most, to give them time to run by attacking the Dark Lord. Not magically – oh no, while there was only a split second when he fumbled frantically for his wand, he knew that it would not give him enough time. He gave up almost as soon as he had started and flung himself bodily at my master. He almost managed to land a punch before he stiffened and fell, the green light ripping life from his body with no more remorse than the monster who’d sent the curse.

I stared at his lifeless face – frozen in a horrifying expression of despair – for what seemed like hours before an explosion rocked the house and I Disapparated home on pure reflex. I was too numb to do any more than sob wetly into my pillow all night, uncaring of the moment when Voldemort or the Order would arrive to execute me for my betrayal. James had given his life for the merest chance that Lily and Harry might survive. Would he really have done the same for me, as Sirius claimed years later?

And I remember lounging in the faraway tree,
Watching you performing just for them and just for me.

I doubt it, but I don’t blame him. After all, what was lowly Peter Pettigrew worth when compared with the god-made-flesh that was James Potter? Stupid, lumbering Peter Pettigrew. I was a hanger-on. A side note. The boiled potatoes beside the duck a’lorange.

But I never minded. Does the moon complain that she is nothing compared to the sun, even though all she does is reflect the light of her companion?

I needed him, I worshipped him, I loved him as he never loved me. All three of them were the centre of my universe, with James as the bright star at the heart, and they treated me like a second class citizen. I was only clumsy, overweight, cowardly Peter Pettigrew, who trailed three steps behind the great James Potter, too stupid to keep up with the witty banter, but not a bad sort if you needed something tedious done. That was enough for me. It always had been and it always would have been.

Oh, pity for you that it had to stop,
Boy, you ran like the wind on a high cliff top.
But here you are my dear,
What do we have here?

I suppose that deep down I knew, even as I plotted and deceived. I knew that my betrayal would cost James his life. I knew that we could never go back to the way it had been, whatever I did, however I tried. By dawn of the next day, I felt like a wrung-out sponge, limp and bedraggled and hopeless, but then I spied Sirius approaching my flat in Muggle London. His implacable face promised a long and painful death and a desperate plan formed at the back of my mind as the survival instincts of my Animagus form engaged.

He wasn’t even the least bit concerned that I might be a danger to him when I met him halfway, completely alone and unprotected in a busy Muggle street. Did he think me that stupid? Did he have such little faith in my abilities that he didn’t even have his wand out as he approached the man he knew had betrayed his friends? “Lily and James, Sirius!” I shrieked at him. “How could you?” Rage and maybe the faintest trace of suspicion crossed his face, but it was already too late when he went for his wand. I pretended to fumble for mine with my left hand – honestly, Sirius, am I left-handed? – but before he’d even managed to bring his wand around to face me, I had cut off my finger and blown up the street.

It was nothing like I had expected. I transformed instantly into a rat and ran for the nearest drain. Once I was there, I turned back to look at what I had done. Even now, the image is burned into my brain. A crowd of shocked and injured Muggles hovering around the edges of a huge crater where I had been standing. A woman screaming accusingly at Sirius over her the dead bodies of her husband and child. And Sirius, finally realising that spineless, talentless Peter Pettigrew had managed to outwit him, throwing back his head and laughing.

Sirius Black could talk his way out of anything; he had nothing to fear now, just as he never had anything to fear then. “Oh, no, Professor,” he’d say, caught holding a wand pointed at the Slytherins in one hand and a book on mass human Transfiguration in the other, “I’ve no idea what made their tongues go all forked like that. It must have been one of the Hufflepuffs…”

I never imagined that it would actually work. Nothing ever worked for me! I was only trying to give myself enough time for a decent head start so that I could run and hide in the deepest bolthole on earth.

I was half dead by the time I finally stopped running, too tired and scared to change back into human form and too threatened by a chicken of all things to keep going. I collapsed; I hid shivering in a ditch until young Percy Weasley found me and brought me up to his rigidly ordered bedroom. I got the shock of my life when he carefully placed me in a tatty cardboard box lined with the Daily Prophet. Sirius Black, Betrayer of the Potters! declared the headline. I read further. He had been sent to Azkaban without a trial. Sent to Azkaban, from where no one had ever escaped. I was free!

(Isn't she pretty?) Look at her hair!
(What a delightful angel there!) She's a love, she's a princess, and she's oh, so fair!
And I don't blame your choice to dare,
You tickle me, yeah.

I jump as my Lord shrieks an order at me and I must hurry to obey. Well, perhaps I wasn’t exactly free, even before I helped him regain his corporeal form. But it was certainly better than this! I’m supposed to be guarding Arthur and Molly Weasley, making sure they don’t escape – not that they could with their feet stuck in a binding block. They once took me in and sheltered me, even though they didn’t know who I was. They obviously know who I am now and that I spent twelve years hiding at their house, sleeping in their sons’ beds, listening to childish confidences and licking away frightened tears in the middle of the night. Their eyes are filled with loathing whenever they look at me, so I try not to meet them. They are good people.

Sirius was wrong to think that I stayed with them to wait for news of my master; his return was the last thing I wanted! The Weasleys took in a bedraggled, dying rat and lovingly nursed it back to health despite their limited funding. They took care of me and I never once doubted how much I was loved even though Ron did like to complain about how ‘useless’ I was since I lacked any of the magical powers usual in a familiar. If only he had known. They had very little money, but love was one currency they had in abundance and they shared it not only with one another but with every creature within their walls.

I wish I could help them, but my Lord calls and so I go to check their bonds, stopping in my tracks as I strike something (or someone) invisible. My silver hand – a mixed blessing if there ever was one – shoots out automatically to grab hold of the person and from the panic-stricken looks of the Weasleys, I can guess that this hostage is worth even more than they. The texture beneath my fingers feels like it could be James’ Invisibility Cloak, so it’s most likely Harry.

My heart floods with the now-familiar protective instinct caused by the life-debt we share, unwillingly forged when he saved my life from Sirius and Remus, strengthened when I denied it every step of the way to steal his blood and use it to resurrect his mortal enemy. My lips begin to form a warning, “Go, get away, run, fast, NOW!” but my silver arm won’t let go just on my command anyway and so I desist. I’d only look stupid.

Knowing you it was done without a care.
Better lie low, better lie low,
Uh huh, ooh yeah...

My arm – my thirty pieces of tarnished silver – responds only to commands from the Dark Lord. I can’t deny I’m grateful to have my arm restored to me – although I would have hoped that he would give me back something, because I only cut it off to serve him – but I can’t even use it to eat my breakfast unless he wills it to be so.

How did it all come to this? How did I end up grovelling, screaming, or killing at the whim of a madman? I would have chosen any other path if I’d been given the opportunity, but I had no choice! If I hadn’t entered the Dark Lord’s service, he would have tortured me to death and, with Lily Bloody Perfect Evans around, they wouldn’t even have remembered me. If I hadn’t framed Sirius for their deaths, he would have exposed me as a traitor and I would have gone to Azkaban.

After Sirius and Remus exposed me to Harry, I had no-where else to go but here. My old so-called friends would have cheerfully handed me over for the Dementor’s Kiss if I hadn’t gone to the Dark Lord for protection!

Well, hey, nice to see you.
Look, the joker's back.
Make me laugh again, my friend,
If nothing else, do that.

When I looked at Harry with human eyes for the first time in the Shrieking Shack I could almost have believed that I had been transported straight back to the old days, but for Sirius and Remus looking so gaunt and old. Perhaps I have aged similarly, I don’t know. I haven’t looked at my face in a mirror for fourteen years.

The look of disgust on Harry’s face as he kicked me away from him broke my heart all over again – I was nothing more than a worthless, broken piece of rubbish. He looks so much like his father: the little furrow in his forehead as he considers things, the mischievous lilt in his voice as he goes off – yet again – to save the world, although his temper is all his mother’s. If I tried, I could almost believe that it would all get better, that it would all go back to the way it was before, now that we had all of us and no Lily.

But it will never happen. There are too many roads not taken and it was only ever death and destruction that lay before me. My bridges burned behind me even as I crossed them and even though there was no other choice than the one I knew deep down was wrong, I struggled every moment. How can something still be the wrong choice if there is no alternative?

I’m hardly listening as the person under the Invisibility Cloak screams at the Weasleys, but when they disappear, right from under my watch, my attention snaps back to the present. I cringe, expecting the curse, expecting to be tortured for allowing my prisoners to escape, but am shocked to realise that my master isn’t even looking at me. An expression near jubilation crosses his disfigured face as he stares at Snape and suddenly I realise that my prisoner under the Invisibility Cloak cannot be Harry Potter because the boy is in the middle of the circle holding onto Snape and – how on earth did he get a shield like that?

And I remember lounging in the faraway tree…

The light from that radiant, almost solid-seeming shield highlights his features strangely beneath the incongruous Muggle-style hat on his head and for a moment I am utterly certain that I am twenty years in the past. I had given James a book of Muggle ghost stories for Halloween and for weeks he would read one to us every night, lit only by a handful of Remus’ trademark cold flames.

James! Oh, James, what have I done?

The moment is broken and then it is only the embittered, determined lines of Harry Potter’s face that I am seeing. As the strange vision and the guilt fade away, I am flooded again by the effects of the life-debt: the urge to rush headlong into the middle of the circle, to cast myself at Harry’s feet and beg forgiveness, to make sure he escapes at all costs.

(Isn't she pretty?) Look at her hair!
(What a delightful angel there!) She's a love, she's a princess, and she's oh, so fair!
And I don't blame your choice to dare,
You tickle me, yeah.

But it is not to be. My master commands me to reveal our hostage and I must obey him. It is harder than one might imagine controlling an invisible person, but with the assistance of my arm, I manage to get a good hold of the fabric of the Invisibility Cloak. When I rip it off, I cannot hold back my gasp.

If Harry Potter looks at all like his father, Ginny Weasley looks like his mother. I stare into her terrified brown eyes for a moment until a kick in the shins brings me back to the present and the sparks she shoots at my shoulder succeed in startling my silver arm into momentarily releasing her.

I’m too shocked to even try to help or hinder as my silver arm automatically grabs for her and restrains her more firmly, gripping her tightly as Harry tries and fails to Summon her to him.

This ghost of Lily Evans keeps struggling to get away from me, her deceitful Slytherin face as bleak as she realises that I finally have her in my power, finally have the one who ruined my life and killed my James. But there is another ghost as well – the ghost of a giggling little redhead who adored her brother and his rat. The little girl who had stroked and played with me when she was happy, held me close and dried her tears on my fur when she was sad, and cradled me protectively when she was angry, eyes flashing as she faced down the family cat after it had taken a swipe at me.

She slumps in my arms as the Cruciatus Curse hits her, unable to support her own weight as her nerve endings spasm with the unendurable pain, her mouth moving in a scream stifled by my Lord’s Silencing Charm. I can’t enjoy this, watching even this Lily Evans look-alike writhing under my master’s wand generates nothing but regret for the path I chose without understanding what it meant. No-one deserved this, not even her.

“Drop your shield or say goodbye!” my Lord commands him, giving up on the torture, and I snap to the alert almost instinctively at the tone of his voice. The end is very near for her.

Harry obviously knows it, too: his face is drawn and hollow with despair, utterly broken by the certainty that after this moment, if he survives while this girl-child dies, his life would not be worth living. Suddenly I’m in the past again, watching James’ eyes as he physically attacks the Dark Lord in an frantic attempt to give his wife and son just a moment more to get away, dismissing me as irrelevant, like Lily did, like Snape did, like Sirius and Remus did, until it was too late for all of them.

Harry dismisses me as useless, but in his desperation he acknowledges my presence, screaming a desperate order at me to release her. Oh, James, I would if I could! This wasn’t what I wanted!

Better lie low, better lie low,
Uh huh, ooh yeah...

“I love you,” Ginny whispers to Harry and her voice is like a million icy knives shooting through my spine. She has given up hope, even as she still struggles against me. She, like everyone else, simply assumes the worst of me. Suddenly I hate myself with an unbearable passion, because it’s not as though I had given her any reason to suspect anything better of me. I couldn’t release her even if I tried, but I’m in too deep now and I can’t possibly escape. I can never have James back and I can never be forgiven for my sins now.

Harry calls out to her in his anguish and, even though he calls a different name, his voice is so like James’ that it hits me like a physical blow. He will not survive her death, I am certain, at least not with any last remnant of James intact, any more than his father’s death left any good, decent thing remaining in my soul.

I look down at the struggling girl in my arms and know that even though there is no way I can have James’ forgiveness, I can at least ensure that what I loved about him lives on in his son and this gentle not-Lily he has chosen. I cannot redeem my life-debt – my master is too strong for that – but I can at least pay a part of the price. New strength flows through my limbs as I cease resisting the silver arm and bring in the other one to help pin her arms to her body one last time. Then I turn and take the Killing Curse meant for her in the back. Voldemort may control one of my arms, but he doesn’t control my legs or my heart.

As the green light envelops me, my last thought is to wonder.

Maybe Harry can have his happy ending, even if Lily ruined it for us.

Maybe the Sorting Hat was right. Maybe I am a Gryffindor after all.

 

~ fin ~

 

 

A/N: The author does not necessarily agree with any opinion expressed by Peter Pettigrew, especially as pertains to Neville, James, Lily, Harry, Snape, Sirius, ... well, just about about anything, really.  I think I'll go and take a shower now.

PS: Watch out for my new as-yet-untitled sixth year fic - which follows on from Order of the Phoenix, not The Promise Ring.

//
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