A/N: This week has been rough for a lot of people, so I figured some of us could use at least a momentary distraction from the stresses of real life. Also, my updates might become a bit more sporadic. If you care to know why, feel free to check out my Facebook page where I've left a message for my readers pinned to the top.
July 23rd, 1981
Draco hated Legilimency. It was a dizzying and complicated process that always left him with a killer migraine. The way Voldemort seemed to have a natural talent for it, sifting through a person's mind and memories with swift ease and coming out the other side with seemingly no after-effects, irked him to no end.
After plunging into Peter Pettigrew's mind, it took Draco what felt like an hour to right himself. Being inside someone's head, there was no solid ground on which to stand, so he had to pick through Pettigrew's memories for something strong enough to grasp. He took hold of a repetitive thought, much brighter than any of the others passing through, and gripped it tight, letting it take him along until Draco found himself on a shaky surface. Looking down, he realised quickly that he was standing in a boat—specifically the boats used to ferry first years across the Black Lake to Hogwarts.
Much like a Pensieve, Draco was able to view the memory from various points so long as Pettigrew had been aware of his surroundings. While he could see other boats nearby, some only a few metres away, he could hear none of the conversations happening despite seeing mouths moving. Pettigrew was too focused on the looming castle ahead of them. Draco let his gaze linger only briefly on the scenic view, allowing a split second of that childlike awe and wonder to slip in as he, too, remembered what it was like seeing Hogwarts for the first time.
Unlike a Pensieve, a person's memories were all too often associated with other fleeting thoughts and attached emotions, so parts of the memories blurred into one another, sometimes overlapping. Also, there was a strong sense of empathic transference. Despite recalling his own trip across the lake as one of excitement, Draco could feel anxiety rolling off of Pettigrew in waves.
No one in the boat bothered to pay the boy any attention. Draco could hear some conversations about which students wanted to be Sorted where. A ripple of loneliness fluttered by as though it were movement on the lake.
Draco could sympathise in that moment.
Despite having had Greg and Vince as friends throughout their years at Hogwarts, their relationship had not begun on the best of terms. Draco had grown up rather isolated thanks in part to his father's belief that Malfoys were better than others coupled with his mother's concern that there would be a backlash against Lucius for having escaped Azkaban when other Death Eaters—her own sister included—were rotting there. That kind of suspicion led to a bit of overprotection on her part. When Draco had been dropped off at King's Cross, he overheard Vince's father reminding him to stay by Draco's side "even if he is a spoilt little shit." Draco had not liked the idea of a forced friendship, which was why he so bitterly decided to treat Greg and Vince like employed bodyguards, at least during that first year or two until they opened up a bit more and developed personalities of their own.
It was, in fact, because of them that Draco had been so determined to win over Harry's friendship. He had remembered seeing him in Diagon Alley, having thought that he had given a good first impression. He remembered talking about racing brooms and being excited for the Sorting, though years later, Harry informed him that he had been less than impressive—insulting Hagrid, Hufflepuffs, and generally being a twat. So when Harry rejected his hand of friendship, Draco's first attempt at making one on his own, he had been left with Greg and Vince and let lonely anger fill him up with bitterness. Thankfully, he developed friendships along the way, true ones, but he still remembered the longing that an eleven-year-old Peter Pettigrew was practically drowning in.
The boats docked, jolting a bit as they did, and Pettigrew tried to stand only to be knocked to the side—almost in the shallow water—by two girls. Another boat pulled up next to them, and two boys leapt from the front, landing on the ground with ease. Grins lit up their faces, and one shouted, "On to Gryffindor Tower!" and drew an imaginary sword from his robes. The face of the boy was startling because Draco could recognise Harry so easily, but the subtle differences told him that he must have been a young James Potter, who was, predictably, being followed by a mischievously grinning Sirius Black.
Looking down, Draco noticed Peter smiling at the pair, and a wave of excitement and eagerness was palpable. Oddly, unlike the loneliness and anxiety that surrounded him like a thick fog, Draco tried to hold onto the excitement only to feel it flicker away, drifting almost visibly into the ether, replaced by what felt like an unnatural envy. The edges of the memory suddenly blurred, and all noise grew muffled.
While he had not ever seen one himself, Harry had told him what it felt like to view a fake memory in a Pensieve. But this was not a Pensieve. Draco had no knowledge of how fake memories appeared inside of someone's mind. Generally, even the forged memories of the Obliviated were crisp and clear since they were under no impression that anything in their mind had been tampered with.
Something worrisome stirred in Draco's stomach. James might have been right.
It took him a long time to find useful memories, drifting instead through Pettigrew's years at Hogwarts which were full of flickering moments of happiness, friendship, and loyalty that passed through Draco's fingers like sand leaving behind a thick sense of fear and inadequacy.
Eventually, though it took much longer than he had hoped, Draco found what he was looking for: the night that Pettigrew and Black had been captured by Death Eaters.
Pettigrew was bound to a chair, overwhelmed by fear as Bellatrix levelled a wand in his face, cackling as she jabbed it at his cheeks, silently threatening to stab him in the eyes instead of hexing. She and Rodolphus were saying something, but Draco could not make out the words. Pettigrew's entire focus was on the screaming down the hall, amplified by a charm, no doubt. Fighting against his restraints with tears in his eyes, Pettigrew looked at the blank wall where Black's screams of anguish bled through; Draco felt a flicker of courage that snapped almost violently away as though it had Disapparated.
Watching closely for any important detail, Draco narrowed his eyes on Bellatrix and Rodolphus in an attempt to read their lips. Eventually, the screaming in the other room retreated, and its absence finally allowed for Pettigrew to concentrate on his own captors.
"What a pretty, little, empty head you have," Bellatrix said with a laugh, gripping a fistful of Pettigrew's hair and tugging hard. "I can see so much. So afraid. So determined to hide all those pretty memories from me."
"He doesn't know anything of true worth," Rodolphus said, obviously annoyed. "We'd do better to use Black."
"Blood-traitor that he is," Bellatrix snarled, "Sirius was still taught rudimentary Occlumency. Auntie Walburga insisted on it. Besides, even if we were successful, everyone would eventually suspect him. This little . . . rat, however, will do quite nicely. I bet no one has even noticed that he's missing."
The cold dread filled the memory like a Scottish January, and Draco shivered.
Flashes of other memories swirled around, visible to Draco in the same way that oil was visible when combined with water; little streaks of thoughts and impressions flashed by him. He saw James, Sirius, and Remus throughout their youth, clapping Peter on the back, sharing hugs and laughter, and even moments where bonds were forged through grief and hardship.
Every memory seemed to slip away as soon as Draco tried to make a grab for it.
Two, however, were solid.
Draco realised that with what little talent Pettigrew did have at Occlumency, he was using to cling to these two memories.
Not wanting to tamper with them, Draco studied without touching.
One was of Pettigrew with his arm around Sirius's shoulders. Sirius was angrily wiping tears from his face as he stared down at a photograph in his hand. Pettigrew looked sympathetic as his friend brushed the pad of his thumb over the image. Draco took a chance and studied closer, seeing a baby in the photo. The sound was muffled, but he could hear Pettigrew say, "James is right. You'll see her soon when this is all over. You're right to protect her."
The other memory brightened a touch more, drawing Draco's attention. Lily was asleep in a bed, her hair sticking to parts of her forehead and neck. James put a finger to his mouth, insisting on silence as he grinned and transferred a sleeping baby into Pettigrew's arms.
With a shaky voice, Pettigrew whispered, "Holy shit, Prongs. You're a dad." A moment passed, and Draco could feel the warmth in the memory as though it were glowing. "I guess that makes me an uncle."
Both memories flickered and faded, the colour in them turning grey. A scream so loud that Draco's ears hurt cut through the air, and he looked down at Pettigrew sitting in the chair. Time had elapsed while Draco had been sifting through the other memories. The man was pale and sweaty as spilt blood dried on the floors.
Standing between Bellatrix and Rodolphus was Voldemort, but not as Draco remembered him. No, this monster was very clearly still more Tom Riddle than the snake-faced bastard that haunted Draco's youth. Handsome and charming, the man was still terrifying to look upon. As Pettigrew drifted in and out of consciousness, Draco could feel the appropriate level of fear coming from him.
Bellatrix made a simpering sound at Voldemort's approval. "Has he suffered enough, my Lord? I can do more."
"His mind is weak, but his loyalties are still strong," Voldemort said thoughtfully as he looked into Pettigrew's eyes. "Is Black still alive?"
"Yes, my Lord. Unfortunately," Rodolphus said, looking bored. "It's been five days. I say we be done with him. Black won't break."
Voldemort nodded consideringly but waved his hand in obvious dismissal. "Keep Black alive for now. Another two or three days, and I think Mr Pettigrew here will be perfectly ripe. Once the magic has settled, heal Pettigrew of all his injuries and let him go. But wound Black. Make it hurt."
Draco followed Bellatrix's gaze, which landed on a table of Muggle tools, much to his surprise.
Rodolphus left the room, and soon, Sirius's screaming began again.
While Bellatrix tinkered near the table, Voldemort leant in close enough to Pettigrew's face that Draco could swear that he could almost feel breath on his own skin. Shaking with terror and panic, Peter shut his eyes which blacked out the visual memory for Draco as well.
Still, in the blackness, he could hear Voldemort whisper.
"I'm going to syphon every last ounce of hope inside of you."
With sudden understanding of what had happened to Pettigrew, Draco felt his knees go weak. "Oh fuck."
"What are you doing?" Hermione asked as she joined Harry on the sofa.
Everyone had spent the first hour watching anxiously as Draco sifted through Pettigrew's mind. Lily monitored the vitals of both men, looking for any sign of trouble and need for intervention. It was understood that if Pettigrew had Obliviated memories, Draco might be searching for some time.
After more than an hour and a half passed by with no signs of Draco surfacing with answers, they all began to soften in their guard. At one point, Lily switched places with Sirius to stay upstairs with little Harry while Sirius settled on the staircase, silently watching Pettigrew from where he sat with a look on his face that had Hermione's stomach in knots. She could not tell whether Sirius felt guilty, sad, or if he was contemplating murder.
James, the ever dutiful friend, stayed sitting either next to Pettigrew or beside Sirius, only pausing in his vigil to ask Lily if she wanted him to help her with the baby. Hermione figured he might have equally spent time sitting beside Remus, but her mate had been pacing around the house the entire time, not taking a single moment to sit down. She tried gently urging him to rest, wondering if he would exhaust himself mentally; she could almost hear the gears in his brain working overtime. After a while, she gave up and took a seat beside Harry, who had been concerningly quiet.
In reply to her question, Harry handed her a photograph. She noticed that the moleskin pouch he kept on him at all times was open; in addition to this one photograph, he had pulled out a familiar album that Hermione recognised as a gift from Hagrid.
"I haven't seen this in years," she said fondly, looking at the picture of the original Order of the Phoenix. "Isn't it funny how they all seemed so . . . I don't know . . . older in this photo? Maybe it's because we had already developed feelings in regards to them as authority figures. But now . . ." She trailed off, looking up at Remus across the room, who had stopped pacing in favour of leaning against the wall, muttering what looked like repetitions of spells quietly to himself.
"I think we have more to worry about, Hermione."
Turning her attention back to Harry, she frowned. "More than Pettigrew?"
Harry tapped the photo. "Marlene McKinnon, Dorcas Meadowes, Edgar Bones, and those two are Ron's uncles, Gideon and Fabian."
Confused, Hermione prompted him to continue, "Okay?"
"Moody told me that Marlene died two weeks after this photo was taken," Harry said, his brow furrowed. "But we know that Ron's uncles are dead. Sirius said so when we gave him the list of Death Eaters that had Dolohov on it. Dorcas Meadowes and Edgar Bones are dead too."
Catching on, Hermione looked back at the photograph. "But they're all in this picture with Marlene. And we know that Marlene is alive. But these people died months ago . . . Maybe Moody got the dates wrong?" she suggested and was met with Harry's incredulous look in response. "I know, it's Moody. But what does that mean?"
"Look at Pettigrew in the photo," Harry said, tapping on the picture.
Hermione noticed right away. She had noticed before when Pettigrew had shown up in the cottage. He looked so unlike the man she had met in the Shrieking Shack long ago. He looked normal, almost handsome—not like Sirius, James, and Remus, but in an adorable way. Had she not known who he was and what he was capable of, she might have even been reminded of Neville in the way he had crookedly smiled at Sirius and Remus in greeting.
She had not lingered on the thought much, having assumed that a life lived in Animagus form mixed with exposure to Dark Magic had twisted the man's body to match his heart and soul, but looking at the photograph in her hands, she noticed that the image of Peter Pettigrew supposedly taken before this time looked strikingly different than the one sitting across the room from them. The photograph depicted a man with watery eyes, short in a way that made him look hunched over—he looked like the man she remembered from the future, suspicious and creepy.
Curiously, she looked at the others to compare. As with many old photos, the picture was not the best quality, however, some parts of the image were sharper than others. Dumbledore, for instance, was clear as day. Hagrid and Aberforth, too, looked just as Hermione remembered them. The blurrier images were those, she noted, who had died during the first war. James and Lily could be made out by obvious features like the colour of their hair, and the same could be said of the Prewetts, who were ringers for Fred and George. But Pettigrew, Remus, and Sirius looked . . .
"Sirius has short hair," Hermione said, squinting at the photograph before looking at the man in question sitting on the staircase with his long hair held in place by his wand. In the photograph, Remus was young but wore a moustache similar to the one Hermione recalled—and hated—that he had when he was their professor. "Oh my god!"
Sirius and James looked up, the latter drawing his wand.
Remus was at her side in half of a heartbeat. "What's wrong?"
Harry let out a sigh, certainly not one of relief. "What does it mean, though? Why?"
"What's going on?" James asked, approaching them. He took the photograph as Harry held it out. "What's this?"
"Do you know everyone in that photograph?" Hermione asked.
James squinted, looking like he was struggling to recall. "That's Alice and Frank, and there's Marlene, I think. Those two kind of . . . Do they look like Gid and Fab to you, Padfoot?"
Sirius looked over James's shoulder. "Hair's spot on, but—Is that Bones? Was I drunk for this? I thought McKinnon swore an oath back at Hogwarts that she'd never be in the same room as Bones? I remember her bitching about it when she found out he was in the Order."
"Then why are they standing right next to one another?" Hermione asked, feeling anxiety tingle just beneath her skin.
"That's not a real photograph," Remus said. "Where did you get this?"
"Alastor Moody gave it to me when I was fifteen," Harry replied, removing his glasses to rub at his eyes. "Told me it was the original Order."
"It is," James said. "I mean . . . sort of. This isn't everyone here. And who's that?"
"Dedalus Diggle," Hermione answered.
James shook his head. "I know the name, but I've never met the man. Not everyone in the Order knows all the members. Dumbledore holds various small meetings. He and Moody say it's to make sure not all our secrets are known by everyone just in case—" He stopped mid-sentence and looked behind him at Pettigrew. "Just in case there's a spy."
"Why would Moody give you this?" Sirius asked. "And what the fuck is wrong with my hair? I haven't had hair that short since just after Hogwarts when McKinnon hexed me. Took a full week for it to grow back."
Taking the photo and letting her focus linger on Dumbledore, Hermione placed the pieces together and sighed. "I think it was to get you on board with the Order and its mission, Harry." At his confused expression, she clarified, "Think about it. That was the summer when Dumbledore wouldn't let us write to you. And that whole year when he wouldn't talk to you . . . But Moody did. The rest of the Order, aside from Mrs Weasley, did. You had been purposely put aside and kept in the dark about Dumbledore's actions, and then Moody just happens to find a photograph of your parents and everyone else connected to them? People who fought and died, who sacrificed their lives for the Greater Good."
Harry's face fell. "Motivation," he said, looking sick. "They fabricated it to give me something to connect with. It would make me trust the Order but also remind me that other people had willingly fought and died against Voldemort."
"So you would too," Hermione whispered.
"Those sick fucks," Sirius muttered angrily. "What the bloody hell!"
"We can't trust Dumbledore or Moody," Harry muttered, standing up and snatching the photograph angrily. "We can't trust the Order of the Phoenix. Who the hell can we trust outside of this house?"
"Who can we trust inside of it?" Sirius asked pessimistically, looking at Pettigrew.
As if on cue, Draco gasped loudly, pulled from Pettigrew's mind.
Pettigrew made a pained noise as his head lolled to the side.
Harry rushed to Draco, helping him to stand. "What happened?"
With his eyes squinting, likely against a headache, Draco gripped Harry's collar and sighed. "You're really not going to like what I found."
"Why?" Hermione asked, not at all surprised when she felt Remus take her hand.
Draco took several calming breaths until colour began to return to his cheeks. He slowly looked around the room before his full attention landed on Harry. "It's not your fault. You couldn't have known. You couldn't have saved him by that point even if you had known."
Hermione bit her lower lip, already seeing the expression on Harry's face change.
"James was right?" Sirius asked, looking hopeful for the first time since they had told him about Pettigrew's betrayal.
Draco met his gaze and nodded. "Voldemort broke him."
Pettigrew had been placed under a Sleeping Charm, mostly because spending so long having his memories rifled through was stressful both mentally and physically. Harry had gone up himself to tell his mother that Draco was finished and that they needed to have a meeting. Luckily, little Harry was going down for a nap, so they only had to wait for him to fall asleep before Lily came down to join the rest.
Quickly, Harry filled her in on the photograph and what they suspected about Dumbledore and Moody. Unsurprisingly, she was furious. It was the only thing since Pettigrew's arrival that made Harry smile. Somehow, despite her age and size, Lily's anger made him feel oddly protected.
When everyone was situated on the sofas, Draco cleared his throat.
"It's called Pandora's Box," he said. "One of Dolohov's creations. Unfortunately for him, it takes an immense amount of power to place it, and Dolohov was just shy of being able to cast it himself. Voldemort, on the other hand . . ."
"What does it do?" James asked, leaning his elbows on his knees and steepling his fingers beneath his chin.
"Just like the mythos; all of the evil in the world was released upon humanity, and locked inside was hope."
As usual, Hermione must have figured it out before the rest of them; Harry heard her suck in a sharp breath, and she reached out, clutching his arm.
"It takes your experiences and memories and filters out the good. It locks those inside the box. What you're left with is . . . well . . ."
"All the worst memories and thoughts a person has," Remus murmured.
Nodding, Draco continued, "The clever thing is that it's a process. It doesn't happen all at once. It wears a mind down."
Harry felt sick. He remembered seeing Pettigrew in the Shrieking Shack. He had been terrified, weak, pathetic, and begging for his life. There had been nothing good in him; there had almost been nothing human in him.
"How do you know about it?" Sirius asked.
Draco shoved his hands in his pockets and straightened his posture. "Because I was threatened with it. When I went home for Christmas sixth year, Voldemort was none too pleased with my progress." At his slip, he cringed, and Harry could see everyone looking at him curiously. Sighing, Draco said, "I'd been tasked with figuring out how to let Death Eaters into Hogwarts. And . . . killing Dumbledore.
Before anyone could say anything, Harry jumped in. "He didn't. I was there, and Draco didn't kill anyone."
Draco pinned him with an annoyed look, but Harry ignored him. He would defend his boyfriend if he wanted to.
"Anyway," Draco said irritably, "the Cruciatus can eventually damage a mind, which would not be beneficial when you need a person to think. But if you take away what's important to a person, it can be quite motivational. Voldemort threatened to put a Pandora's Box in my mother's mind. Not even an Occlumens of her calibre would have been able to fight it. If successful, it would have turned her love for me to hate. She would be as horrible and mental as Bellatrix."
"Mental?" Lily asked.
"It breaks a person after prolonged use. I only knew of one person they'd used it on: Crouch."
"Junior," Hermione said in understanding. "He was insane. I mean . . . I guess we all assumed it had been Azkaban that did it, but he couldn't have actually been in there for more than a year or two, right?"
Harry nodded, remembering what he knew about the man from stories and Dumbledore's Pensieve.
"I think they tried it on Crouch first to make sure it worked," Draco said. "From what I remember hearing, he was a loyal Death Eater. I could see him eagerly offering to be a test subject. There's no saying how long he had it in his mind, though, or how it differs between people who fight it and those who are willing."
"Peter really did betray us?" James hesitantly asked.
Draco took in a breath and slowly let it out. "I believe so, but not for the reason everyone suspected. His mind has been altered. The spell has literally turned his friends into enemies in his mind. Love to hate. Trust into terror. He walks into a room and experiences friendship, but then those memories get sucked away. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the pull. I saw some of them snap away from his thoughts as quick as Apparition. He's . . . he's trying to hold on."
Sirius licked his lips, wringing his hands together. "How do you know?"
"Because they're taking all of his good memories, but he's clinging to at least two with every bit of strength he has. Memories of Harry," Draco said, pausing just for a moment to look at Sirius, "and his knowledge of your daughter."
Harry watched as Sirius's eyes widened.
"Do they know—?"
Draco shook his head. "Believe me, if Bellatrix knew about Lovegood—Luna—I would remember. From what I recall, Pettigrew never . . ."
Making eye contact with Draco, Harry shook his head. The last thing they needed right now was for Sirius to find out that Luna had been captured by Death Eaters and held prisoner at Malfoy Manor where both Bellatrix and Pettigrew had been. "Draco's right. There were plenty of chances for him to reveal his knowledge about her. Bellatrix wasn't quiet about the family members she had a vendetta against," he said, thinking of Tonks. "Luna's still safe."
"Can Peter be Healed?" Lily asked after Sirius relaxed a bit. "What can be done? Do we need to take him to St Mungo's? Get an Unspeakable? Can you do it?"
Draco nodded. "I can. But . . ." And he looked at James. "It will hurt. A lot. Much more than when they placed it."
"How did it happen?" Hermione wondered.
"Torture," Draco replied. "They hurt him until he was exhausted enough for his mind to be unfocused."
He shook his head. "You can test for that, and the after-effects can last for quite some time. They did it all by hand. No magic. Broke his bones, cut his flesh, and then just repaired it all with magic to do it again."
"Large breaks and wounds take potions and spells that would have left evidence," Lily argued. "Peter barely had bruises."
His face pinched, Draco quietly said, "Small breaks can hurt just as badly."
Head in his hands, James sighed. "What did they do?"
Harry shook his head as he looked at Draco. It was not necessary for them to know. Harry wasn't sure he wanted to know. But Draco narrowed his eyes, looking resolved. "From what I saw before he fell unconscious and lost the memory of whatever happened next, they drove iron nails into his kneecaps." Hermione pulled away from Harry, burying her face against Remus's side. Lily gasped, covering her mouth; Harry could see her eyes watering. "It's a bad break, but a well-taught Episkey can fix it."
"I'm going to be sick," Sirius muttered.
Running one hand over Hermione's hair and squeezing his own knee with the other, Remus asked, "Can we trust him when you . . . fix this box thing?"
"Brew some Veritaserum," Draco suggested—demanded, really. "And I'd read up on Unbreakable Vows while you're at it, especially since we now have issues with your Order people; not that I'm the least bit surprised," he said bitterly. "It'll take several hours for me to let the memories out, and that's if they don't fight me. When he wakes up, if he's not irreparably damaged by this, he should be more than willing to make a vow, if he's as good a man as you claim."
James finally looked up. Harry turned away, unable to withstand the sight of tears in his father's eyes. "And if not?"
Harry let out a shaky exhale, trying as hard as he could to bury the image of a silver hand choking Peter Pettigrew to death. "We have to have hope."