Disclaimer: It all belongs to JKR, except certain interpretations and the like. Email me if you have questions re: copyright issues. For the first time, Peter was alone.
It should have been a fun day at Hogsmeade; it was the first Hogsmeade weekend that year, and Peter, Sirius, James and Remus often celebrated by spending all their money at Zonko's, and then later checking out girls at The Three Broomsticks. Sometimes they also climbed the cliff, which was directly outside the Village, and went into the Caves. That was where they had made their Animagi Potion, one year ago.
But today was different. Sirius had run away from home that Summer, refusing to go back. He hadn't wanted to go to Hogsmeade, in case he ran into Regulus, or, worse, one of his older family members. James had detention, and Remus was resting from a particularly bad full moon, which had resulted in many scratches, the previous night. Peter had offered to stay there, with him and Sirius, but neither had seemed to be in the mood for company. Besides, Peter wanted to buy things at Zonko's for himself.
"Pettigrew! All alone, I see."
Peter looked up, startled; Bellatrix Black was walking towards him, her eyebrows raised at the sight of him.
"Er..." Peter wasn't sure what to say. Bellatrix had never been that horrible to him, but she couldn't be happy with him now, not when Sirius had just been disowned.
Bellatrix searched the village with her eyes. "Where are your friends? My cousin?" She asked. "Did they finally ditch you?"
Peter's eyes narrowed, but inside he felt nervous. "No, they just-"
"Oh, you don't have to lie," Bellatrix snorted. "I know how they are."
"Honestly," Peter insisted. "They were just tied up."
"You really believe everything they say," Bellatrix remarked.
Peter's face grew pink. "No, but they are my friends."
Bellatrix shrugged. "Doesn't mean they are incapable of lying."
"I guess it doesn't..." Peter let out a heavy sigh. "But I trust them, they are my best friends, the only friends I have."
Bellatrix laughed-but it wasn't a normal laugh; it was a high pitched laugh, almost more like a cackle, and it sent chills down Peter's spine. Kids his age weren't supposed to have those laughs, and Bellatrix wasn't that much older than him, just two years older. Yet, the way she laughed, one would've thought her to be a disturbed, middle aged woman, not a young adult.
"Friends who tease you?" Bellatrix asked.
"They don't tease me!" Peter exclaimed.
Bellatrix raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Then what do you call it when they tell you to, say, 'stop looking at the Quidditch players like you worship them'? What do you call it when they poke one another and say, 'look over at Peter?' That sounds like teasing to me, and I can't see how you call that friendship."
"They do that to everyone!" Peter protested.
"But you get it the most," Bellatrix added.
Peter wasn't sure why he was wasting his time, talking to her when he knew there would be an insulting catch to it. It was just that... well, some of what she was saying was so true. It wasn't that he was the joke of the group, but he was the one who didn't exactly have a lot of other qualities, and the one that people could tease and get away with. The only other person who allowed himself to be teased was James; he took everything as a joke. But Sirius and Remus always had intelligent retorts-and in the case of Sirius, sometimes it was just better not to joke.
"They leave you out, don't they?" Bellatrix asked. She sounded so sympathetic, and Peter almost felt as though she really cared.
"Yeah, I guess...." Peter said quietly.
Bellatrix sniffed. "And they don't make you feel as if you have much to offer, do they? You're jealous of them."
"Why would I be?" Peter asked, even though he already knew. Once again, she was not far from the truth.
"Because Remus gets the good marks, James is a Quidditch star, and gets the dates, and Sirius is just... a charmer," Bellatrix replied. "You feel as if you can't add up-but at the same time, you like what they have to offer. You have a sense of self from them, a sense of belonging. But that's not friendship."
"It's not really like that-" Peter started.
Bellatrix put her hand up. "I know what you're going to say," she said. "You're going to say that they really do respect you, right?"
"Well...." Peter muttered.
"But the thing is, they really don't get you," Bellatrix said.
"Why do you even care?" Peter blurted. "You've only ever insulted me!"
Bellatrix tilted her head. "I have?"
"Well... you have insulted Sirius...."
"Sirius has only told you his point of view of things, Peter," Bellatrix said.
Peter blinked. "Meaning?"
Bellatrix looked at him in the eyes. "Sirius is ashamed of who he is, Peter, and that's wrong. Only a few people should be ashamed. He disowned us because we didn't show shame, and resented me because his Mother-whom nobody really likes-didn't treat me as horribly as she did him. He doesn't realize how abused I was by that woman emotionally."
Peter's eyes widened. "She... abused you?"
"Yes," Bellatrix said. "Never physically, not even verbally, like she did to Sirius. However, she made it clear in her own way that we were not welcome, that if our parents hadn't been such fools, my sisters wouldn't have to be in that place, under her cold care. I saw it in her eyes, every time she came to pick us up at King's Cross, and I felt it every time she pretended to show affection."
Peter was appalled; he'd never known this side of Bellatrix Black. "Wow...that's terrible."
"It is," Bellatrix said.
There was a silence, and Bellatrix continued, "but my point is, Sirius thinks he had it worse off than anyone, which simply is not true. And Sirius is arrogant in other ways."
"He is?" Peter asked.
Bellatrix rolled her eyes. "Stop being in denial.... You've seen him at it, playing those pranks on Snape..."
"Snape's played pranks too," Peter said.
Bellatrix shrugged. "Perhaps, but do two wrongs make a right?"
"Well..." Peter hesitated. She did have some good points, as much as he hated to admit it.
"Listen, Peter," Bellatrix said. "I'm on your side."
Peter blinked. She was?
Bellatrix laughed. "Don't look so shocked. I've never thought much of Potter, and Lupin, well, I reckon there's something dodgy about him."
"Remus is one of the best friends I could have," Peter said quietly.
Bellatrix surveyed Peter with her eyes. "And has he ever stood up for you?"
Peter bit his lip. "He does by leading me away from people, or, when I'm the brunt of the jokes with Sirius and James, he tells them to stuff it."
"But not that often."
Peter shrugged. "Remus and I aren't very confrontational; somebody has to keep Sirius from beating up Snape to a bloody pulp, right?"
"So you do feel sympathy towards Severus," Bellatrix mused.
"Maybe just a little," Peter admitted. "It's not like his life is very nice, not if his robes are torn and he never goes home for the holidays."
"You don't," Bellatrix said quietly. "Not always, at least."
Peter shifted his feet uncomfortably. "There's really nowhere to go."
"And why is that?" Bellatrix asked.
Peter felt his face grow hot. "I'd rather not go into detail."
Bellatrix smiled kindly-Peter was sure it had been the only time he'd ever seen her have a genuine look of benevolence on her face. "That's quite all right."
"Look," Peter blurted, "why are you being so nice, anyway?"
"Why not? Just because I make my feelings clear, Peter, does not make me a bad person."
"You...you called that Evans girl a Mudblood..."
"I was angry at the time, Peter," Bellatrix replied. "We've all said things we shouldn't when we're upset."
Peter wasn't sure what to make out of this; he felt as if he was talking to a friend, someone who really understood him. A warning voice kept telling him that something was wrong, but he ignored it. Maybe there really was more to Bellatrix Black; maybe she wasn't the wicked girl Sirius had always made her out to be. And he'd never offered any reasons as to why he or Andromeda had left their homes; maybe it really had been a misunderstanding, maybe they really were just envious of the attention Bellatrix got.
Besides, hadn't Lily said it best, just a few months ago? That James and Sirius were as bad as Snape? It wasn't as if they didn't treat the Slytherins badly. Not that Peter didn't feel Snape deserved it at times-but did the rest? The hostility between the Houses made both parties seem bad, and James and Sirius seemed to help maintain the blind heat.
But rationale sunk in; no matter what Bellatrix said, Peter knew Sirius wasn't a bad person, and neither were the others. Maybe they did tease the Slytherins, and maybe they made Peter himself feel bad sometimes; but it wasn't as if he'd told them to stop, and besides, he teased James and Sirius all the time. That was part of being friends with someone-you teased, knowing that there were no hard feelings. Usually. And the Slytherins often had it coming to begin with.
Something inside Peter said that it was time to go. "I'd better head back to the Castle, though, I think I see the Carriages," he said.
Bellatrix looked as if she was truly disappointed. "That's too bad," she said. "But I trust I will see you around?"
Peter paused. "Perhaps," he said, smiling slightly. "Yeah, I'll see you around."
"Bye, Peter. Don't forget this talk," Bellatrix added.
"I won't," Peter said. He headed back to the Castle, more confused than he'd ever been in his entire life.

Bellatrix watched as Peter walked towards Hogwarts. "Fool," she muttered. "As if he doesn't realize I know he could only have been here a half hour."
But she had to admire him, for his ability to lie. And besides, his gullibility would make things much easier.
For Bellatrix felt no sorrow for Peter; as far as she was concerned, he was nothing, so far. But she'd meant it when she said he had potential. He could prove very useful indeed.
The Dark Lord had asked her to look for recruits; she'd joined forces with Voldemort in her sixth year, but nobody became a Death Eater just by holding up their hand and saying, "I want to kill Mudbloods and blood traitors." To prove your loyalty, you had to bring someone with you. And it wasn't that easy, when it was someone one would never had expected, like Peter.
But Bellatrix liked the challenge; she and Rodolphus had already gotten Regulus, her cousin, and Severus Snape convinced, and Rabastan had recruited with Lucius Malfoy. Recruiting someone who wasn't practically born on the list, however, made it all the more fun. It would show her Master that she was truly powerful.
Not that he didn't know. Voldemort had taught her everything himself; when she was in her fourth year, she had come into contact with him, with the help of Lucius Malfoy. He had taught her Dark Magic beyond what anyone could imagine, and he had become somewhat like an authority figure. With her parents in jail, and her aunt and uncle far from friendly, Bellatrix needed someone to guide her. Lord Voldemort had shown her what power really was, and she felt she owed him for it.
As for Peter, she knew he'd come around; she would make a point of talking to him, and playing the same sorts of games she had played that afternoon. Eventually, he would realize that she was right, and find out where he really belonged. And they would both be rewarded beyond their greatest dreams.