A short man hurried down a dark street
A short man hurried down a dark street. It was the time of night when shadows intensify before being whisked away by the approaching dawn. The air was crisp, as if hovering in anticipation. The man’s pale blue eyes glanced furtively around as he drew his cloak tighter around his shoulders. He paused on a corner, standing just out of range of the glow from a street lamp. A trickle of sweat ran down his forehead.
Peter Pettigrew wiped the sweat away. Things weren’t going the way they were supposed to. Everything had gone so smoothly until…well, he didn’t know what had happened. He’d just heard the whispered rumors. Lord Voldemort is dead ("Dead? What do you mean, dead?"). He killed the Potters ("James and Lily?"), but Harry ("Little Harry Potter?") survived. Turns out Black was their Secret Keeper. Black betrayed the ("I always knew he had it in him."). In Peter’s experience, rumors usually held more truth than the official announcements from the Ministry. He was afraid.
There were the rumors from the less respectable circles, the ones that troubled him even more. Lord Voldemort is dead. He tried to kill Harry Potter, but the child survived. Wormtail gave him the information.
Damn Harry Potter, the little brat. Peter had spent time with the child; there was nothing remarkable about him. How had he bested the Dark Lord? A child! A mere child had beaten the greatest wizard who ever lived. James couldn’t do it, he tried and failed. And James was a good wizard. So was Lily, for that matter. How had Harry done it?
Peter felt a slight pang in his stomach. James was a good wizard. He felt the corner of his mouth twitch. James had it coming to him. Perhaps in not such a grisly or lethal way, but still…beggars couldn’t be choosers. It was unfortunate that Lily had had to meet her end…but that had to have been stupidity on her part. The Dark Lord wasn’t targeting her.
Peter pulled a flask out from his cloak and drank deeply from it. He hadn’t realized how fatigued he was; the water missed his mouth slightly and ran down his chin. Cursing, he wiped it away. He should not be this tired. Because it should not have been this way. Harry and James should have been dead, not Lord Voldemort. Right now, the only worries on Peter’s mind should be concerning Sirius and Remus, not the whole of the Death Eaters society. Peter had no doubt that they would come looking for him. He had let their Lord fall.
And still there was the concern of Sirius and Remus. Not two wizards to be tossed aside casually. They would undoubtedly search for him. If he’d had the support of Lord Voldemort, he could have hidden easily. That wasn’t an option anymore. He would have to save his own skin.
Like I’ve done so many times before, Peter thought with a scowl. Being the weakling in a group had certain advantages; you learned how to survive.
Not that Peter ever really considered himself a weakling. Other people did, but they weren’t worth his time. Peter considered himself an average wizard. Definitely quicker thinking than some, but about average skill wise. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the smartest of choices to surround himself with wizard prodigies.
It had taken Peter a full seven years to realize he was jealous of James Potter. Why this revelation came as a shock, Peter wasn’t sure. James was bloody brilliant. He had the looks, the grades, the girl, the starring role on the Quidditch team. Everybody loved James Potter. James did it all without trying. Why couldn’t Peter have that? Why did James have to be so special? Of course, when this thought first struck Peter he tried to shake it off. But it had been fermenting in his brain for seven long years, and it wasn’t going to leave now.
And who was always with James? Why, that dashing young Sirius Black. Peter never understood how he got away with so much. Sure, Peter had completed his fair share of pranks. And gotten caught for some of them, and punished. But Sirius? He got caught about the same amount of times Peter did. And he performed about twice the pranks.
Why were people like those two ever created? They made everyone else feel inadequate. No…not intentionally. Peter was almost positive James and Sirius and never intentionally made him feel inadequate. But they still did it. Effortlessly. Like everything else they did.
Peter never really understood how Remus could stand them. Remus had to work hard for what he achieved. He was much more prone to crack open the books than James, Sirius, or even Peter. Although Peter was pretty sure this was because of Remus’ condition. If he wasn’t stuck in the infirmary once a month every month, he probably would have been just as naturally brilliant as the other two.
When you’re surrounded by such geniuses, how can you not be dim by comparison?
Lord Voldemort had a way of knowing people’s secrets. He knew Peter’s before he ever came to him. Peter would never forget that night.
"Peter Pettigrew. You were expecting me."
Voldemort didn’t ask questions. He knew.
Voldemort presented his offer very logically. The Dark Side was going to win this war. Peter had already felt it in his bones, already felt in his guts that Dumbledore was foolish for resisting. Why, Voldemort had asked, prolong the inevitable? You could help the end of this war come about more quickly. With less pain and less blood shed. And if you help me, when this war is over, I will allow you to help your friends.
Yes. His friends were being very foolish about this whole Dark Side thing. If they kept it up, they would soon be on Voldemort’s list. By helping Voldemort, Peter could help them. Make things less painful for them. Show them I’m just as good as they are. That night, Peter Pettigrew received the Dark Mark.
Under the street lamp, Peter now looked at that mark. Already it was beginning to fade. Interesting. It hadn’t been long since Voldemort had last called him.
"You were made the Potters’ Secret Keeper."
Peter was shocked when Sirius asked him to be the Secret Keeper. Stupid fool. He didn’t realize what he was doing.
Peter had briefly considered not telling Voldemort. The Potters didn’t really deserve death. They were good people who had made some bad choices. Lily didn’t deserve this, and neither did Harry. And James—
Perfect James. Always having life handed to him on a silver platter. Always having it easy. Always having all his problems solved for him.
Well this time he would have to solve his own problems.
"Yes, my Lord. The Potters are at Godric’s Hollow."
And Voldemort had failed. Now Peter had to decide what to do next.
Peter eyes’ watched the gathering light growing in the distance. He didn’t have much time. He wracked his brains for a solution. He had to get out of England. That much he knew. He shouldn’t Apparate. The Ministry would be on the lookout for people Apparating out of the country at this time. Portkey? No, too conspicuous, as was a broom. What other options were there? He jumped as one of the street lamps flicked out.
Yes. That was it. There were always Muggle means of traveling. He’d spend the day in this Muggle town, waiting for everything to calm down a bit. Then it would only be too simple to buy passage on a Muggle ship. Sirius and Remus would never suspect that. They knew Peter got seasick.
With a relieved chuckle, Peter headed towards the center of town.
Peter sat outside a small bakery in the center of the Muggle town, cradling a cup of tea in his hands. He was calmer now. He had some food inside him. He’d booked his passage on a Muggle ship. Nothing unexpected had happened all day.
He really was amazed at how dense these Muggles were. They looked startled by all the owls swooping by. They seemed amazed by the people walking by in cloaks. They looked angry at mentions of a "Dark Lord". Couldn’t they put two and two together?
People were walking up and down the streets with smiles. It was unusually warm for a November day. The sun seemed to cheer the simple Muggles’ spirits. Simple pleasures for simple minds. Peter watched them through half closed eyes, exhaustion overtaking him.
Interesting, he thought. That man looks like Sirius.
There he was. Walking down the street, behind a pack of Muggles. How had he found him? How long until he saw Peter? Not long at all, by the looks of things. Sirius was drawing closer. Peter felt panic rising within him. He couldn’t die this way. He just couldn’t. He wouldn’t, he…why had he ever listened to Voldemort. That repulsive snake, he tricked him. He had threatened him, forced him to do his bidding. Yes, that was it. Peter was a victim. He had made some bad choices, but Voldemort! This was his fault. And Peter would not take the blame for that coward.
Unfortunately, that didn’t solve his current situation.
Peter’s mind raced. Sirius was after him. James and Lily were dead. Voldemort was gone. Death Eaters were more likely to maim him than shake his hand. Sirius was not thirty feet from him. Damn Sirius! If he hadn’t convinced Peter to be the Secret Keeper, he wouldn’t be in this mess.
Peter’s mind stopped dead in its tracks.
Why hadn’t he thought of it before? So simple, so…Sirius was supposed to be the Secret Keeper. Dumbledore knew it. And he would tell people that fact. Everybody blamed Sirius. Not Peter. Sirius was the only one who knew about Peter…
This was too easy.
But was he willing to do this? Send his best friend to a fate worse than death?
Peter nearly laughed. "Best friend"? Yes. Of course he was willing to do this.
Peter sprang up from his seat and rushed down the street. "Sirius!" he yelled. "Sirius Black!" He saw Sirius’ face jerk towards him. His eyes showed surprised, but quickly darkened to undiluted rage. He was determined. But so was Peter. He wasn’t going to die. Not this way, not at the hands of Sirius Black.
Peter kept hurrying towards him. "Sirius!" By this time the crowd was parting, staring in interest at the drama unfolding. Peter kept walking forward. Sirius took several steps back, obviously unsure of himself in this turn of events. Peter kept going until Sirius’ back was up against a wall.
"Lily and James, Sirius! How could you?" Peter sobbed. He’d always been good at the fake tears. It had gotten him and his friends out of some more severe punishments at school.
Sirius’ eyes narrowed. "Peter," he hissed. "You bastard. You’re going to die for this."
Peter disguised his chuckles as choking sobs. "Sorry, Sirius," he whispered. He drew his wand.
Peter sensed the explosion more than he felt or saw it. The transformation from human to rat always diluted his senses for a brief moment. He sat still, huddled in his old robes, getting oriented. He sat up on his haunches and felt a stabbing pain in his hand. Looking down, he saw a bloody stump where one of his toes should have been. Damn. He hadn’t been very good at that curse. Oh well. A minor side effect, if it had worked. Peter lifted his pointed face out of the robes and looked around.
He had blown a crater in the street. Pipes had burst, smoke and dust filled the air. He smelled blood, and not only his own. Well. That would only ensure Sirius’ trip to Azkaban.
The rat lifted his beady eyes towards the wall. Sirius was still standing there. His eyes were vacant. The terrible fury that had been there was gone. It was strangely unsettling. Peter watched as the corner of his mouth twitch upward.
He watched Sirius laugh.
Peter gave an involuntary shudder. He should leave. With any luck, he could still make the boat, now as a stowaway…as a rat. It was better than death.
It was better than Azkaban.
He ran off, following the other rats into the leaking sewers.