Thanks to all who read and reviewed my first story. Here's a second...
Was Peter really the hopeless coward he seemed? After all, he was a Gryffindor. Criticisms and reviews more than welcome! Do you agree or disagree with this picture of Peter?Is he too vile? Is it clear that his version of the story is a bit , er, twisted? Does it need to be told again from a different POV, and if so whose?
I am fascinated by the thought of the four Marauders interacting as animals, and of the Amimagus transformation. Do Animagi get to choose the animal they become, or does it choose them? I left the answer open here.
The PG rating is for angst and hateful thoughts.
I am Scabbers, hear me roar
"Make us proud, dear," his mother called. "Be in Gryffindor…"
His father mumbled something into her ear, something not quite audible, but that contained the words "slow" and "coward." Her eyes brimmed.
"Whatever house you're in," she corrected herself. "We know you can do it. We know we can be proud of you…"
Waving goodbye, unsure of himself, 11-year-old Peter Pettigrew turned to board the train—and fell flat on his face.
His shoelaces had been jinxed together.
To add insult to injury, the boy who had done it ran forward and helped him to his feet, laughing. "Oh, I'm sorry. It was just so perfect. Your laces were untied, and a little spell--" he flicked his wrist to demonstrate, then offered his hand to Peter. "Sorry. I'm Sirius."
Peter thought he meant he was seriously sorry. "What's your name, then?"
"Sirius. Though I never am." He winked. "It's with an i, like the dog star. I love dogs—I have three of them at home, I call them the Cerberus. Help you with your trunk?"
It was this scene that was the first to enter the mind of Peter Pettigrew after twelve long years as Scabbers, as he was forced to regain human form in the Shrieking Shack. Rats don't really have emotions: they feel fear, they're easily startled, they can be hungry or sleepy, but not much more. When Scabbers remembered Sirius and the others, it was in the same way he'd remember his encounter with a farm cat: "they were bigger than me. I had to run."
He was unprepared for the tide of feelings that came back along with his human shape: resentment… wounded pride… hatred for the gang that was corrupting the wizarding world. The shock of these sensations knocked him to the floor, and it was only his years as a rat that made him able to tell the lies that he did to save his life: "I was never brave like you and Remus and James…"
Such garbage. Such hypocrisy. So easy to be brave when you are the ringleader, when you decide what others must do to prove their courage! So easy to be brave when you had hooves like dinner plates, or teeth like carving knives!
How he hated them. And how he wanted to be human again, if only for an hour, so he could hate them again. Scabbers didn't dare become Peter in the depths of the forest at night at the full moon; but as soon as the pink rays of the summer sun tinged the east, he transformed with a pop and sat in the grass to think about his past and future struggle. He had come so close to succeeding last time. James was dead. Remus and Sirius were almost worse than that—he had gloated inwardly at their terrible stories and their tired, aged faces.
But no: he had failed. Because Dumbledore was still in power. Without Dumbledore, none of the others would have gone so far as they did.
He startled at the sound of footsteps rustling in the leaves, and nearly became Scabbers once more—but Remus passed by without seeing him, running as fast as he could, his eyes on the castle.
"Thank you, you filthy brute," Peter called after him, though not loud enough to be heard. "It's your bloodlust that let me escape last night."
Apart from Dumbledore, he thought, he hated Remus the most.
Peter hadn't let Sirius carry his trunk. Instead he brushed himself off, gathered the last traces of his dignity, and found a compartment on the train where the occupants were having a quiet, civilized conversation.
"May I join you?" he asked.
A tall, thin boy with greasy black hair inspected him down the bridge of his long nose. "Pureblood?" he inquired.
Peter drew himself up to his full height and brushed himself off again. "Certainly. Peter Pettigrew."
"Ah, yes, Pettigrew… No greats in your family, but never a Squib, am I right?"
Peter squirmed, looking at his feet. He remembered his parents' quarrels, them looking at him at the breakfast table with a mixture of confusion and shame… and always that word, drifting upward to his bedroom as he tried to sleep… But he wasn't a Squib. He was here, right? "That's right," he said bravely.
"Mostly Gryffindors, though," sneered the tall boy, making the others in his compartment laugh scornfully. But he stepped aside to let Peter in, showing him to a seat by the window. "I am Snape," he said, his voice crisp and sibilant, reminding Peter of nothing so much as a French boa constrictor. "Severus Snape."
They shook hands, but Severus regarded Peter with thinly veiled disgust, taking in the scuffs on his brand-new robes. "I believe," he hissed, "that we as wizards are obliged to act with a certain amount of, ahem, dignity. This dashing about like common riff-raff…"
"Oh, I agree," Peter breathed hastily, telling the others about his encounter with Sirius.
They all laughed their leering laughs once more. "I'm afraid," said Severus, "that that is the sort of behavior one must expect as a… Gryffindor."
His companions all made exclamations of sympathy. No one spoke to Peter after that, except to dart their eyes his way every time they said something derogatory about any house that wasn't Slytherin.
And of course he was put into Gryffindor, which would make his mum proud, but which sent him straight to the table with the constantly-laughing Sirius and his circle of new friends. Sirius was telling dog jokes to a thin, pale boy next to him, who seemed not to appreciate this at all. This was typical of Sirius; once he saw that something bothered you he could never leave it alone.
He paused his chatter to turn to Peter, describing his prank on the platform to the surrounding crowd. "I only did it because I thought you might be a Slytherin," he said, by way of an apology.
"Come on, Sirius." The pale boy turned his eyes on Peter: light brown eyes, almost yellow, a not-quite-human color. Scabbers would get to know the predatory glint in them all too well. "Don't be a pill. You haven't even introduced us. I'm Remus Lupin." He shook hands with Peter, then piled a quantity of food on his plate that would have fed all of the rest of Gryffindor.
"Pureblood?" Peter asked, wishing he were a Slytherin and not with this crowd.
Remus raised his eyebrows in surprise at the question, but was too busy with his ham to respond.
Instead a fourth boy, black-haired like Sirius and almost as shaggy, rounded on him. "Why would you ask that?" he wondered, a hint of scolding in his voice.
"Well, I—I mean--" Peter recollected himself quickly. "Just to know what to talk about, I guess, you wouldn't discuss Quidditch with a muggle born, would you--"
"I'm James Potter, proud mudblood," said the boy. "And prejudice has no place in Gryffindor."
Fortunately they were all distracted by Remus' eating habits. "You eat like a pack of wolves," Sirius commented. "Do they starve you at home?"
Remus went even paler. "My mum…" he stammered, staring at his plate, which was already empty. "…Mum's been sick. Not much food in the house," he added, as if in explanation.
"Well, eat, then," James replied kindly, passing the roast. "You look like you need it."
Remus took a very, very large slice of beef, which he attacked with carnivorous desire. He ignored the vegetables, nor did he have dessert. He also (Peter remembered only in retrospect) kept glancing nervously at the enchanted ceiling, the way someone with an important date keeps looking at his watch.
James and Sirius started telling jokes again, and by the end of the dinner had already succeeded in splattering the Slytherins with ice cream without even looking as if they'd taken out their wands.
Things got better for quite some time. There weren't any other Gryffindors who seemed to want to be friends with Peter—and it seemed like all of a sudden everyone was telling him how lucky he was. So lucky to be friends with James! If only everyone had the privilege to be teased and bullied by Sirius! But honestly, it wasn't all bad (here Peter stood up to pick some berries in the forest, stretching his legs and almost smiling).
It was fun to run to Hogsmeade when they weren't supposed to. It was really something to ride a dragon. He always got front-row seats to see James play Quidditch, and everyone congratulated him when Gryffindor won as if he, too, had had something to do with it.
But he felt constantly guilty, breaking all these rules, and could barely face his parents at home. Severus told him daily that he was disgracing wizardry as much as the other air-brained Gryffindors. Were they muggles, to worship their athletic stars more than their real heroes? (Peter was pleased to hear that at least the Slytherins didn't worship James' intelligence. If only James had been stupid, or at least had pimples, or something! He was second to Severus in Potions. That was as close as he came to a flaw).
Worse, as Peter's grades got lousier as the years went by, he was forced to spend even more time with the bizarre Remus Lupin.
He'd known from the beginning that Remus was weird. He was too quiet, almost melancholy, yet would lecture James and Sirius about the nature of evil with a passionate cynicism way beyond his years. When James lent him the Invisibility Cloak he could find nothing better to do than visit the library, where he would return with musty tomes from the Restricted section. The morbid passages he read aloud at night about innocent men in Azkaban, unofficial executions, and worse had made Peter awaken screaming more than once.
But he was the only one who could help Peter plow through the most wretched subjects—Arithmancy was dreadful, Astronomy nearly impossible, even Muggle Studies he couldn't get right. James and Sirius were too bright, they never studied at all and certainly couldn't explain how they did what they did; anyway, they would mock Peter if he asked for help, as if he were slow just to be annoying. While Remus could call James "Quafflehead" and tell Sirius five times a day that if he didn't work harder he'd end up in Azkaban, he was never harsh to Peter. What bond did he think they shared? It was wrong somehow, as if he didn't consider Peter a person, but a principle. When Peter got detention for cheating—it was Remus' fault, of course, he'd forgotten to bewitch his exam paper with an invisibility spell—Remus had showed up with a stack of books, and promised to polish all the trophies himself if Peter would sit down and study.
"Here." He handed him an ancient roll of parchment. "Arithmancy is much easier if you read this first."
"It's my detention," Peter protested. "I'll get in trouble--"
"No you won't," Remus grinned, "I will. Now sit down and use your brain." He didn't say "for a change," but Peter heard it anyway.
To be lectured like this! Always humiliated, and talked down to! It was bad enough that Peter had to ask for help—but then to rub it in like that!
It was fifth year before he knew what Remus was. When he found out (James and Sirius told him, they'd known for years), he was so sick with humiliation that he spent two weeks in the hospital wing. A monster, a subhuman creature had dared to address him as an equal—not just an equal (Peter squirmed now as he had squirmed then)—but as an inferior! James the mudblood was bad enough… this was scandalous.
He stopped wondering why Remus was kind to him and why he helped him with his homework. What Remus thought no longer mattered—Peter could never think of him as a person again. The horrible thing was what James and Sirius must have been saying the entire time. Was it all a setup? "That stupid Peter, let's get an animal to help him with his homework"?
Now, of course, he had no one to help with his homework. He would have failed Arithmancy for sure had he not discovered that when Remus was "ill" at the end of the month, it was easy enough to go through his bedside table and take his completed assignments. Not even Peter was too stupid to perform a handwriting-change spell, and he just turned in the work as if it were his own.
The dirty beast never even noticed. Part of Peter had hoped for a confrontation; he was ready to swear to McGonagall and Dumbledore that of course it was his work, to see if they'd really take the word of a monster over that of a pureblooded wizard. But Remus would just yawn, mumble, "I thought I'd done that one?" and pick up his quill and do it again.
Peter had felt fully justified when they ended up with nearly the same final grade in the class. Hadn't Remus made him ill with fear and outrage, and wasn't that worth something? It was about this time that Peter began to realize the headmaster's complicity in all of this, just as the Slytherins had tried to tell him. Remus and his lot should be executed, not allowed to walk around a school with innocent boys and girls. It wasn't too long ago, before weaklings like Dumbledore, that they had been—and how did Peter know this? He knew it because of the horrible stories Remus read from the restricted books. Peter quivered with fear and rage, remembering how scared he was every time Remus read aloud. But thanks to the monster, he knew how things ought to be… how they had been… They just needed a leader who was not ashamed of power. Someone to beat James Potter and his foul slogan "No PIG," for "No Prejudice In Gryffindor."
"Die, James Potter, die!" Peter yelled in his squeaky voice, then quick popped back into Scabbers in case someone was listening.
After a few minutes, when his heart had slowed to its normal rate and his sensitive rat's ears failed to detect any human sounds, he became Peter again.
Now he was a little braver, knowing that he wasn't being overheard. "You were so brave, James Potter!" he cried aloud. "And yet who had to be the first to try your spells?"
It wasn't to protect him that James and Sirius told Peter there was a monster in their dorm—no. Of course not. They had done it to convince him to take part in their biggest scheme of all; and of course they were too chicken to try it on themselves first.
"Who went around with fur for two weeks because you loused up?" Peter squealed. "Who harvested maggots under the new moon? Who stood there and let you practice on him while Sirius told jokes about his cousin who was stuck a toad?"
Who, he thought sadly, only got to be a rat.
For this he blamed Sirius, only Sirius. To this day Peter didn't know if the Animagus transformation allowed you to choose your animal freely—how could he know, with James and Sirius running the operation and their pet monster to deliver them books? He never got to see for himself. They always held his hand when they did the spell. If he had to be small, couldn't he have been a crow, an owl… something, anyway, that wouldn't always be so threatened by the others?
Athlete that he supposedly was, James never learned to control his hooves properly. The very first time they went through the tunnel, Peter was nearly trampled a dozen times—and that was just the beginning. He hadn't even met Remus yet.
No one ever told him that Remus would eat rats that came into the Shrieking Shack. "I'll always know you, Wormtail, you big silly" didn't help much when it came the next day from a very skinny boy, not a giant furry monster whose tongue alone was larger than Peter's entire body.
So he took to riding on James' back, hiding between his horns. He noticed that Remus even looked at James with a gleam in his eyes, seeing not his best friend but six hundred pounds of tasty herbivore.
Peter endured this, waiting for the day he both dreaded and anticipated: the day when they left the Shrieking Shack and started roaming the village. Now he had them. They had broken every rule Hogwarts had ever written. The instant Peter could prove it, he'd have them all expelled.
How could you call him a coward when he did this? Clinging with his little paws to the stag's pointy head as they hurtled along at thirty miles an hour, sure he'd be thrown to his death and trampled every time Prongs stopped to drink or explore. The most terrifying moments were when they encountered people, which happened much too often for Peter's taste: then both Padfoot and Prongs had to use all their strength to restrain the werewolf, who howled and bit and clawed at them. Peter squeezed his eyes shut and prayed not to be devoured, telling himself he was a true Gryffindor and was doing this in the name of justice.
Expulsion no longer seemed enough. Peter could imagine Dumbledore's wishy-washy voice: "Well, Remus, I'm disappointed in you. Ten points from Gryffindor for every villager you've eaten, and try to stick to rabbits from now on. Oh, and James and Sirius… fifty points each to Gryffindor for your successful transformations. Five for Peter because he's just a rat."
No, they had to pay—and it was no secret now that there was a new boss in town, someone who could finally stand up to Dumbledore.
He had his own slogan now, that he'd whisper to himself every time the Potter-worshipers chanted "No PIG": "One Dead, One in Azkaban."
The other side would want him now. He wasn't just a fat little coward any more: he was an Animagus. And did even James Potter know all the rats in his cellar?
But he'd so much wanted to be a bird.
He heaved a big sigh of self-pity, and his last human thought was of the mouse in Alice and Wonderland: "Mine is a long and sad tale…"
And with a flick of his long sad tail he disappeared into the undergrowth, running from what he thought smelled like ferret into an unknown future.