A/N: I told you it wouldn't take another three years to update! Haha. I hope you enjoy this chapter; I tried to give a little insight into Peter's insecurities – he has a lot of 'em. =P
Heather has to be one of the strangest girls I've ever met. She barely knows me, but she talks to me like we've been friends for years. Although we're just acquaintances, I feel sort of fond of her already. It would be nice to be friends with her.
Unfortunately, that's definitely impossible. You see, not many people view me as a candidate for friendship, especially not girls. I'm nice enough, they say. It's just that, well, I seem to always leave something to be desired. Oh, I'm not hideous, but I'm no Sirius Black. I'm kind of smart, but I don't have the brains that everyone admires Remus for. And I certainly don't have the charisma that James charms the ladies with. At all. I'm just quiet little Peter Pettigrew.
So color me surprised when Heather Earnhardt strikes up a conversation with me on the Hogwarts Express. I'm sure the majority of it was out of politeness, seeing as we were the only two in the compartment not engaged in discussion, but even so, I enjoyed myself. She was very entertaining, with her lively recounts of her summer in Indonesia. I was really nervous at the beginning of our conversation, afraid that I would mess up somehow and make her dislike me. The more she talked, though, the more I began to loosen up. I couldn't help it, her bubbly personality was infectious.
After the train ride was over, though, I found myself regretting talking to her. Look back, it was much too easy to recall the briefest flashes of surprise and uncertainty on her face and make them out to be more than they probably were. I was paranoid, sure, but I couldn't help but believe I had turned her against me. She must think I'm weird, or annoying, or something. How could she not? I had been in my three friends' shadows for my entire time at Hogwarts, and now that someone was seeing me for me, on my own, with no other Marauders to hide behind, I wasn't sure I liked it.
She and I didn't speak for weeks after arriving at Hogwarts and, humiliated though I was, I did my best to forget about the incident. I fulfilled my role as loyal Wormtail, following Moony, Padfoot and Prongs around.
We were at breakfast one morning before class and I watched as Sirius loaded a large pile of food onto his plate, shoveling it into his mouth as James shared his plans for a prank on Lucius Malfoy.
"We should do something to that silky blond hair of his," James suggested.
"But wha'?" Sirius asked around a mouthful of sausage. (That's what she said.) "We already dyed it purple las' year."
"I say this time, it all comes off."
Sirius laughed, choked momentarily on his breakfast, coughed, and laughed some more. "He'll die! His hair is his life, the very air he breathes!"
"It all comes off as in… falls out?" Remus clarified.
"Of course. I found the perfect potion. All we've got to do is bribe a house elf to sneak into the Slytherin dormitories, find the boy with the long blond hair, and pour it on his head," explained James.
"That's brilliant, mate," Sirius complimented, "but… what if he finds the wrong person?"
"Well then, that just makes it even better, doesn't it?" We all laughed at the thought of someone we didn't even know waking up to find their long blond tresses conspicuously absent. Usually, long blond hair is a rarity in a guy, but not with the Slytherins; they're all a little strange.
Classes were torturous and long. The day started off with Transfiguration with the Slytherins (during which James transfigured a box into a miniature lion that ran up to Severus Snape and roared directly in his face. He got a week's detention for that). Then it was Charms with Hufflepuff, Care of Magical Creatures with Slytherin again, and finally, Potions with Ravenclaw.
Slughorn was extremely boring, as usual. Actually, I've never been sure if it was him or the class that irritated me to no end, but all that really mattered was I dreaded my time in this room. Today was slightly different, though; after lecturing on today's lesson for most of class, Slughorn made an announcement.
"As you know, we've recently been studying the formulation of original potions: how it's done, as well as specific cases in the past. Well, we're going to put that knowledge to good use on a little project. It will span the course of two and a half weeks, during which you'll be working with a partner to create your own potion. There will be certain ingredients you are allowed to use; any ingredients not on that list will get you both a failing grade, so take note. Now, I'm going to name off the pairs so you'll all know who you're working with. Mr. Potter will be working with Mr. Black – no, how did that get there? I know I wouldn't have paired the two of you together…"
James grinned at Sirius, who laughed under his breath. Slughorn attempted to cross out Sirius's name and put someone else's beside James's, but mysteriously, his quill couldn't make a mark on the parchment.
"Oh, no matter. Just know I'll be keeping an eye on you two!" he cautioned. James discretely high-fived his partner under the table.
Slughorn continued naming the pairs off until finally he said, "Miss Earnhardt and Mr. Pettigrew –"
"Huh?" she exclaimed suddenly and loudly. Oh no. She was horrified that she'd have to talk to me some more, I knew it.
"I said, Miss Earnhardt, you will be paired with Mr. Pettigrew," he repeated.
"Er, okay," she murmured quietly.
Everyone moved to sit with their partners, so I went up tentatively to the seat next to Heather. She nodded slightly towards the chair, and I took that as a sign that she wouldn't mind too much if I sat down, so I did.
It turns out she hadn't been paying attention in class at all that day and needed me to fill her in. I didn't mind; I felt sort of useful, in fact, being able to explain something to someone. It didn't happen often.
Heather seemed oddly ecstatic at the prospect of making her own potion. I could tell already that Ravenclaw suited her. We arranged to meet at the library at six o'clock the next evening.
Later that night, James, Sirius, Remus and I were in our dormitory just chilling out. Sirius and James were plotting what devious potion they could concoct for their project, throwing ideas around.
"A potion to temporarily change someone into the opposite gender would be nice," James suggested.
"Sevvy with boobs… a sight I never want to see," interpolated Remus with a laugh.
"It's genius, though," Sirius threw in. "If only we could make certain parts last longer than the rest…"
"So dear Narcissa can walk around with a mustache for a few days?" James asked casually from the chair in the corner of the room.
"Exactly, Prongs. That would be great, my good old cousin has it coming to her anyway," answered Sirius.
I never was an active part of these conversations. I would laugh at the jokes and try to seem as if I was a part of what was going on, but the division was evident. I didn't contribute much, I just followed them around sort of in awe. I knew in my heart that no matter how hard I tried to emulate them, I never would really fit in.
As I was brooding over this thought, the discussion suddenly changed course. I looked up to see Sirius looking at me thoughtfully. "What?" I questioned.
"You got partnered with Heather Earnhardt, didn't you?" he asked.
I didn't see why he would be interested. Unless… Oh wait, it was Sirius Black, infamous ladies' man. Now I saw why he would be interested. Unsurely, I said, "Yeah… why?"
"Aww, Wormtail's got himself a little crush," he cackled delightedly. What? A crush? On whom, Heather Earnhardt?! I barely knew her! And I didn't have crushes. I didn't interact with girls enough to develop crushes on them. Sirius definitely didn't know what he was talking about.
"What are you on about?" I mumbled a tad embarrassedly.
"I'm on about your crush on Heather Earnhardt. We've all seen you looking at her… on the train, in the Great Hall, in class… And now you're blushing!"
Well, what was I supposed to do? I would have blushed regardless of whom they accused me of liking. It just felt like a step over the boundary, to be talking about this with them. And as for looking at her… I look at everyone. I'm an observer.
"Trust me, I don't like her. She's a nice girl, but… I-I'm not interested," I finally got out.
"Okay," sang Sirius doubtfully, a big annoying grin on his face. He let it drop though, immediately resuming his conversation with James and Remus.
"Moony, would you mind maybe… doing some research on potion-making for us?"
"Wow… I'm not even a part of your group this time and you're still trying to make me do all of the work," he sighed.
James just looked at him expectantly. "So you'll do it?"
"Yeah, I guess," Remus relented.
"Thanks, Moony, you're a saint," responded Sirius before leaning back onto the mattress, placing his arms behind his head and yawning boredly.
I was extremely relieved that the attention had been drawn off me, but I couldn't help but be irritated at Padfoot. Nosy git. Liking girls is such an ordinary thing for him that he thinks nothing of inquiring about it as if it were the weather. He doesn't even consider that some guys aren't like him. That I'm not like him.
I met Heather in the library the next day. Sirius's allegation was still fresh in my mind, so I felt a bit awkward sitting there at the table with her. She was energetically poring over a copy of Potion Brewing for Dummies, scribbling notes rapidly on a piece of parchment. I was flipping through a book on the history of alchemy just for something to do. I was already starting to feel like the weakest link in this partnership.
After reading for a good ten minutes in silence, she set down the book and looked up at me. "So Peter, what kind of potion do you want to make?"
I jolted a bit at her abrupt question. "I-I don't know… you know, you're so excited about this project… it only seems fitting that you should choose what it does," I evaded carefully.
"Oh, I don't have any set ideas, really," she informed me. "I just think the process will be fun. You don't have any thoughts on it at all?"
I searched my brain desperately for something to say. She was really putting me on the spot here.
"Well," I began, brainstorming, "a lot of potions have already been invented for practical uses… you know, medicines, disguises… So it might be best to make some kind of novelty item."
"I agree," encouraged Heather.
The first thing that came to mind was Quidditch. After all, it is the biggest sport in the wizarding world. If we could make something for fans that could help them enjoy the games more, maybe show their support for their team…
Suddenly, I had it. … Well, I had something. "What if we made a potion for Quidditch fans?" I proposed. "It could temporarily change their skin to show their team colors."
She was quiet for a second and I started fearing that I'd said something stupid. But then she smiled and said, "That's a wonderful idea, Peter."
"… It is?"
"Absolutely! I wouldn't be surprised if we could sell it, actually. It should be simple enough to make, too. Oh! Not only could we change skin color, but we could make it flash the different colors!" she squealed enthusiastically, and quite suddenly, making me jump a little. "This is going to be fantastic!"
We spent the next two hours looking up different ingredients and working out how they interacted. It was very complicated work, but we labored diligently. I finally started feeling like I was pulling my own weight. I had come up with the idea, I was doing my share of the research, and Heather seemed to think I was doing an okay job of it. Maybe I was better at Potions all these years than I'd thought.
We left the library at around 8:30 – Heather was getting tired and I had an Herbology assignment to muddle through. Before we parted ways, though, Heather stopped me in the hall to make plans for next time.
"We have Potions together tomorrow, so we'll see each other then. But let's meet here on Friday, around the same time. I'll do some extra research tomorrow night and fill you in on what I learn."
"All right," I agreed. "See you tomorrow."
"Good night." Then she headed off towards the Ravenclaw common room, as I began climbing my way up to Gryffindor Tower.
I don't know why I ever became friends with such obnoxious people. Sirius wouldn't let the Heather thing go, and being Sirius's best friend, James picked up on it too. As soon as I got back to the dormitory, the torment commenced.
"Did you have fun with Heather?" James drew her name out dramatically, batting his eyelashes.
"Yeah, buddy, how'd it go? Did you plant one on 'er?" Leave it to Sirius to be not only irritating, but almost vulgar.
"I don't know how many times I can tell you this, but I don't like her," I insisted, feeling my face turn red again already.
"Uh huh. So you didn't kiss her, I'm guessing." Wow.
"Nope. I haven't kissed her, and I never intend on doing so, so can you both please drop this?"
Their only response was to smirk as James said, "So when are you going to kiss her?"
I should have known not to let them see that this was annoying me. If they know that they're getting under someone's skin, they only become more persistent. I know this from four years of being friends with them, and yet the one time I need to protect myself from their immaturity, I play it completely wrong.
Frustrated, I walked off without a word towards my four-poster bed and sat down, pulling the drapes around me and trying to ignore the laughter outside.
A/N: I know this is an odd place to end the chapter… or at least it feels that way. I tried to make this chapter slightly longer than the last one so that I can gradually make the chapters a decent length. Anyway, please review. Thanks!