The Sugar Quill
Author: Jedi Boadicea (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Reflections of Truth  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.

Disclaimer: I don’t own JK Rowling’s wonderful world, I only live in it

Author’s Note: This is an attempt to understand how Peter Pettigrew’s inner demons might have led him astray. I wanted to know what the voices in his head were telling him, and this is what I got - Peter on a very bad day.

 

 

                                                                                       REFLECTIONS OF TRUTH

                                                                  

 

          We really shouldn’t be doing this. The others seem to have forgotten, but I vividly remember the scolding we got from Professor McGonagall three days ago for getting caught in the middle of the night looking for the Slytherin common room. I’ve never seen her that angry before. Just three days ago! What are they thinking? But they won’t listen to my perfectly justifiable protests. They never do.

          “Ow! This is impossible! Peter, get off my foot!” Sirius’s voice hisses in my ear.

          “Where do you expect me to step?” I whisper desperately. “It’s not like there’s a lot of room under this thing!”

          “Everything will be fine,” Remus’s voice whispers in my other ear, calm as always. I wish I knew how he manages that. “If we just move together.”

          Sirius snorts. James keeps walking slowly forward, clutching hard to the edges of the Cloak under which we’re all hiding. Stupid, stupid. We shouldn’t be out here.

          “Ow! Peter!  That’s it!” Sirius ducks down and out from under the Cloak. He instantly pops into sight.

          “Sirius!” Remus whispers hoarsely in warning. At least Remus is usually cautious.

          “This is ridiculous!” Sirius says. Why won’t he keep his voice down? “No one is going to be nosing around at this hour, not even Filch. We know these passages. If we hear someone coming, then we can get under that thing. We’re not as small as we used to be, you know.”

          Remus sighs. I clench my teeth against a protest. I know it won’t do any good. No one ever listens. James tugs a bit on the Cloak, pulling it off Remus and myself, and pushes back the hood so we can see his head floating in mid-air. He’s smiling, as usual.

          “You weren’t complaining about it being cramped under there when we had Lily along.”

          Sirius grins, completely unashamed. “Well, that’s different. She smells better than you lot, for a start.”

          James points his finger at Sirius. “Just remember who’s girl she is, will you?”

          But James is still smiling. He always smiles at Sirius’s jokes. He doesn’t even show jealousy where Lily is concerned. I know I would. He really trusts her. He really trusts Sirius. He trusts all of us. But would he still be smiling if I talked about how nice Lily smells? Sometimes I don’t understand James at all. I mean, it’s only been a month since his father died. But he’s still up for gallivanting around and causing mayhem. If I hadn’t seen him crying the day the news came, I would have guessed he didn’t care that his father just got killed. Remus says it’s just his way of coping. Says James is trying to cling hard to the good things left in life. I guess Remus thinks part of what keeps him going is his friends. Us. But James didn’t come to me that day, did he? He went to Sirius. I only walked in. I cried for him, too. But I don’t think he noticed.

          “Take that thing off, will you?” Sirius gestures in the direction of James’s invisible body. “Your head has a very disconcerting habit of bobbing around. It makes me nauseous.” 

          James grins, then takes off the Cloak and bundles it into a pocket of his robes. “Moony, you’ve got the Map, right?”

          Remus nods and pulls out a thick piece of parchment. He taps it with his wand and says, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

          We all watch as the lines squiggle into life.

          Sirius is grinning like a madman. “Now that’s beautiful. We did a good job.”

          “I should hope so,” says Remus mildly, “After all the work we put into it.”

          Two years of work. Almost as long as it took to master the Animagus transformation. We’re proud of this Map. Even me. I helped. Maybe not as much as the others as usual but I did help. Enchanting it with the ability to give instructions on opening some of the passageways was my idea. Just in case anyone else has to use it, I said. But sometimes... sometimes I forget things. They knew.... I’m sure they knew why I suggested it.

          Remus taps absently at the spot on the Map where four dots are clustered together, labeled with our names. There’s no one nearby. Filch is in his room, on the other side of the castle. Sirius was right. I hate that he’s always right.

          “This is the only area we haven’t thoroughly explored,” says Remus. He sounds tired. He looks tired. The full moon was only two nights ago. He really ought to be taking it easy. I know he’s only doing this to help keep James’ spirits up. Would he do this for me?

          James notices. James always notices. He frowns slightly, a look of concern on his face. “You sure you’re up to this tonight, Remus? Madam Pomfrey said you’d need a lot of rest after those cracked ribs.”

          “I’m fine,” Remus says quickly, looking chagrined to have shown weakness at all. He’s always trying to be strong like that. I wish I knew how he does it.

          Even Sirius looks upset now. He’s frowning fiercely. “That was my fault. I never should have suggested trying to leap that pit. I should have gone first. I should have taken that fall.” His voice is full of anger at himself. That’s just like Sirius. He may egg us on to recklessness he sure knows how to push but he always feels responsible when things go wrong. Sometimes I don’t understand him either.

          “Rubbish,” Remus says calmly, waving away Sirius’s concerns. “It’s no one’s fault. Besides, we can’t all jump like Prongs here.”

          James shrugs with a lopsided smile. “It has its advantages. Okay, Moony. If you say you’re all right. Lead the way, then.”

          Remus glances at the Map again, then walks forward, falling into step beside James.

          I mumble to Sirius, “Sorry I stepped on your foot.”

          He grins. “No problem. I’m used to it.”

          What’s that supposed to mean? But I bite my tongue. Sirius is always cracking jokes. Even at our expenses. Though mine more often, I think. It’s just the way he is. Though sometimes I think he gets carried away. Severus Snape shoots death glares at all of us every time we walk by, thanks to Sirius’s little ‘prank.’ One of these days I’m sure he’s going to corner me somewhere when the others aren’t around. I need them. It’s not fair. No one would dream of cornering James or Sirius. Even Remus. But I need them. I hate that.

          We’re in a dark corridor now. I don’t remember ever having come this way before, which is pretty surprising considering how many years we’ve been sneaking around this castle. James takes the Map from Remus, and Remus lifts up his wand.

          Lumos.                                                                                         

          Sirius does the same. The more light, the better we can see any statues or markings on the walls. James is a stickler for detail, and he always wants to be sure everything gets shown accurately on the Map. As we walk, he runs his wand tip along the parchment, muttering quietly, and the lines extend to outline the corridors we’re in. It’s a hard spell, and James is easily the best at it. Sirius and Remus can both do it, but they don’t let me try it anymore. Not after last time. I’m always making mistakes.

          It’s cold down these hallways. I wish I’d brought my own cloak. Or worn thicker socks. I try not to shiver, but Sirius notices. He always notices my weakness.

          “You cold, Wormtail?”

          I clench my teeth. “A little.”

          “Here.” Sirius holds a hand out in front of him, and quickly conjures up a ball of green flames in the cup of his palm. He smiles, and holds it out to me. “Take that. Might keep your hands warm at least.”

          At first I don’t want to take it. Why didn’t I think of that? It seems that they’re always looking after me like this. It makes me feel like a little boy, sometimes. I hate it. But it is cold, and Sirius is just looking at me like an idiot, as usual. He never understands. So I take the fire ball, and it floats a few inches above my skin. The warmth tingles through my hand and up my arm. It’s a very good fire ball. Sirius’s spells usually are.

          “There’s a room here,” Remus says quietly, pausing and illuminating the wall with his wand. “The door’s open.”

          “Let’s check it out then.” Sirius steps forward without hesitation and pushes the door wide. Remus frowns for a moment at his recklessness, but James just grins and follows after Sirius. Remus shoots me a wry smile, then shrugs and goes in as well. What choice do I have?

          The room is rather large, and full of odd shapes that loom eerily in the shadows cast by wand light. I don’t like it here. There seem to be tables all over the room, and strange bundles covered in white sheets placed on those tables. I huddle next to Remus while James and Sirius go nosing around excitedly.

          “Look at this!” James exclaims, pulling a sheet off a table to reveal an assortment of small wooden boxes. They’re all decorated with gold and silver gilt, some of them with interesting designs.

          “There’re some candlesticks and stuff over here,” Sirius reports from the other side of the room.

          “This must be where they store some of the castle’s enchanted objects,” says Remus, looking around curiously now. “Be careful not to touch anything. If it’s been stored here, it might be dangerous.”

          Sirius grins. “Aw, Moony, you’re no fun.” But he doesn’t touch anything. Even Sirius knows better than that.

          “We shouldn’t be here,” I mutter. “This is probably off-limits.”

          “Relax, Peter,” James says calmly, peeking under another sheet. “The door was open, wasn’t it?”

          “Probably because of Peeves or something,” I say stubbornly. “Look, if we get caught again -”

          “We’re not going to get caught!” Sirius interrupts me sharply. “Just relax. You’ve got to learn to have fun.”

          I try not to glare, and occupy myself instead with shuffling around the edge of the room, inspecting the walls by light of the fire ball in my hand, looking for any sign of other doors. It would be just our luck if Filch popped in through some secret passage, ready to haul us all off to detention. I’d ask for the Map, just to keep a look out, but I know they’d call me a worry-wort. I suppose it’s better than the things Snape calls me. If only he’d say it in James’s hearing, just once! James would make him sorry. He’d do that for me. Because I can’t do it for myself.  I hate that.

          There’s a shape up ahead, maybe a door. But the green firelight glints off metal, reflects off a shiny surface. On closer inspection, it’s obviously a mirror. Very tall, with a gold frame. I step up to it curiously – and squeal as I leap away. The fire ball falls out of my hand and starts gliding along the floor toward one of the tables... and the flammable white sheets.

          James jumps forward and points his wand at the fire. Extis! The fireball poofs out in a haze of green smoke, just before it might have ignited the table leg. “Be careful, Peter! What’s wrong?”

          I point a shaking finger at the mirror. “I looked... different. There were... it was...”

          “What? This mirror?” James steps forward, frowning. Sirius and Remus are coming over now, and I try to calm myself down. Why did I have to squeal like that? Why did I drop the fire ball? Why?

          As soon as James reaches the mirror, he freezes. His eyes widen as he stares into his own reflection. It’s just a normal reflection.

          “I don’t understand,” I wail softly. “It was different when I looked in it!”

          Sirius peers eagerly over James’s shoulder, blue eyes bright with excitement even in this dark room. “Do you see anything weird?” he asks hopefully.

          James has gone very pale, and his mouth moves soundlessly for a moment.

          Remus frowns. “Are you all right, James?”

          “It’s...” James whispers, “It’s... I see me and... and Lily... and my dad.”

          “Really?” Sirius sounds even more excited. “We can only see you. I wonder what it does?

          James is still staring wide-eyed at whatever the mirror is showing him. Remus moves closer to the mirror and starts inspecting it carefully.

          “Look.” He points at the top of the golden frame. “There’s writing here.” He holds his wand close for illumination, then reads the strange words very slowly, “Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.” He bites his lip, brow furrowed in concentration, but his eyes bright. Remus loves trying to solve puzzles. “I don’t recognize the language.”

          “Well, it’s a mirror isn’t it?” Sirius shrugs. “Mirrors show things inversely. Try reading it backwards.”

          How does he work things out so quickly? I shouldn’t be startled by it anymore, but I am. Sirius is always figuring things out first. I wish he could teach me how.  If he doesn’t have the answer, then James or Remus will. I never do. And they know it. And James and Remus always take these kinds of things in stride.

          Remus smiles approvingly at Sirius and inspects the words again. “Hmmm... it looks like the letters are spaced oddly... because of the filigree on the frame. But here... ‘I show not your face but your heart’s desire.’ That’s it.”

          “Your heart’s desire?” Sirius says thoughtfully, then turns back to James. “So? What are you seeing then? What’s happening?”

          James hardly seems to have noticed anything we’ve been saying. Looking at his face more closely, I’d almost think he was on the verge of tears.

“I see.... I’m with Lily. I’m taking her to meet my dad.” His face is pale, and his voice drops to a hoarse whisper. “He’s giving us his blessing.”

          Remus looks suddenly sad and sympathetic. After all, James’s father isn’t going to be giving his blessing on anything anymore. It’s no surprise he’s seeing these kinds of things, so soon after the funeral.

          But Sirius just grins. He slaps James roughly on the shoulder, which successfully breaks James’s trance with the mirror. 

          “His blessing, huh?” Sirius’s grin broadens. “You’re hearing wedding bells already? She must be an even better girlfriend than we thought!”

          James doesn’t get at all angry that Sirius interrupted his vision. James never gets angry with Sirius. He’d be angry with me if I did that. He just smiles, blushing slightly, and murmurs, “She’s perfect.”

          “Well,” Sirius drawls, “so I guess this means I don’t have a chance of stealing her away?”

          James guffaws. “Not unless you want to fight over it.”

          Sirius cuffs James playfully on the shoulder, growling in the back of his throat. I wouldn’t be surprised if he transformed into Padfoot right now. He’s always looking for an excuse to rough around. At least he won’t fight with a little rat. His sense of fair play won’t allow that. 

          “Remus,” James says abruptly, breaking away from the minor scuffle with Sirius, his black hair sticking up in the back like it always does. Why do the girls like that so much? “Remus, you take a look in the mirror. Go on.”

          But Remus just stands there and shakes his head, his gray eyes glimmering faintly in the light of his wand. “I don’t need to,” he says softly. “I know what I’ll see.”

          James’s happy expression suddenly looks sad again. He’s always mercurial like that. One minute sad about his father, the next minute laughing with Sirius, and then all concerned for Remus. What did Lily call it? Charisma. No, sometimes I don’t understand James at all.

          “A full moon, and no werewolf?” James asks softly, staring at Remus.

          Remus nods, his expression closed off, but his eyes full of naked longing.

          “Don’t fret.” Sirius grins. “We love you just the way you are, Moony. Fangs and howls and berserker rages and all. You devilish hound, you.”

          What’s there to be said about a rat?

          Remus smiles wryly. “Thanks so much. What a wonderful image I seem to have.”

          “Go on, Peter.” James urges me now. “Take a clearer look.”

          I hesitate, abruptly nervous. But James nudges me, and Sirius has got that look on his face that says he wants to be entertained, and I’d better got hopping. Besides... I’m curious. Your heart’s desire, it says...  

          I step in front of the mirror, and meet the eyes of my reflection. Only it’s not me, not exactly. I look older. Taller. Stronger. Handsome. More handsome than Sirius, even. And there’s Sirius right there, behind me. And James, and Remus. And even Lily in the background. And they’re all looking at me.... with envy. I’m wearing fine red robes... Ministry robes. I’m the Minister of Magic! And there’s... there’s Albus Dumbledore! And he’s bowing to me... with respect. I’m a powerful wizard now. I don’t need Sirius or James or Remus to protect me anymore. And there! There’s Severus... hiding in the corner. He’s afraid of me. They’re all afraid of me. Because I’m strong now. Not little, not frightened, not helpless.

Not a rat.

          I want it. I want that. How? How? How?

          “Peter? What do you see?”

          I close my eyes. I feel like I’m shaking. Surely they saw it? It was so clear, so clear. Surely they saw? Surely they’ll know?

          “Come on, Peter,” Sirius cajoles. “What did you see?”

          “Nuh... nothing. I didn’t see anything. Maybe... maybe it didn’t work... maybe I... I did something wrong.” They’ll believe that. I’m always doing something wrong.

          I open my eyes, and see Sirius scowling. “It’s a mirror! How can you do something wrong?”

          They don’t believe me. They’re looking at me... like they always do. But I can’t tell them. I can’t.

          “I don’t know!” I wail. “It was just all... all foggy and stuff... weird shapes.”

          “Hmmm.” James looks thoughtful.

          “Well, let me have a look,” Sirius says, and steps in front of me, blocking my view of the mirror.

          I stumble back, deaf now to what the others are saying, blind to the room around me. All I see is that vision... power... respect...

          “Peter? Let’s go.”

          I look up and see Remus, tugging gently on the sleeve of my robes. James and Sirius are already heading for the door. Remus frowns at me. “Are you okay?”

          “Yeah,” I mumble. “I’m fine.”

          I walk out before he can ask any more questions. Remus is always trying to be sympathetic. I don’t know how to deal with it. I don’t understand him.

          Back in the corridor, James has the Map tucked away somewhere, and he’s talking in an animated undertone with Sirius. “I wonder how long that mirror’s been there?

          “Well, we probably won’t be able to get back into that room.” Sirius shrugs. “I reckon the door was unlocked by mistake. It probably is off-limits.”

          Of course it is. I said so. They never listen.

          I watch them as we head back to Gryffindor tower. James... eyes sparkling behind his glasses, hair wild, smile bright. Always so cheerful. Always so friendly. Even to me. And Sirius... longer black hair almost as wild as James’s, but always more refined, eyes lit with a devious spark. Always so full of energy. Always so full of life. I wish I had his passion. And Remus... smiling gently, gray eyes thoughtful, looking weary in spite of himself. Always so strong. Always so patient. How does he do it?

          These are my friends, and I love them. I know I do. I don’t really want them to be afraid of me. Do I? They’ll look after me. Forever? Why do I need their envy?

          James... everyone’s hero, Quidditch champion, everyone’s friend, and Lily loves him...

          ...envy....

          Sirius... the brightest student, always wasted, like he doesn’t have a care, handsome, and he doesn’t care...

          ....envy....

          Remus... and he fights that monster inside him, and he’s still the kind one, the patient one, the trusting one... and I don’t deserve it, do I?

          I can’t be more than them. I can’t be. I’m just Wormtail. They’re my friends.

          I’ll never have that kind of power, anyway. I’m not a good wizard. I never will be. I can’t make myself that man in the mirror.

          They’re my friends. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. I don’t need more than that. Do I want it?

          Remus’s hand touches my shoulder briefly as we climb through the portrait hole. The Fat Lady is telling us off, but I barely hear it.

          “Are you sure you’re okay?” Remus asks me softly.

          “I’m fine.” I say. You can’t help me. I can’t even help myself. I can’t make myself that man in the mirror. Who can?

//
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