Title: Fragments of a Life
Summary: "I could hand Voldemort the Order of the Phoenix. And they'd never realize until it was too late, until they'd lost their precious war and saw me standing at Voldemort's side. Then they'd know… I wasn't stupid. I wasn't slow. I wasn't powerless. And I certainly wasn't useless."
Timeframe: It covers bits and pieces of the Marauders' time at Hogwarts as well as post-graduation.
Spoilers: For PoA
Disclaimers: Hogwarts and all of its characters belong to JK Rowling, I'm only borrowing them to have a little fun and I promise to return them unharmed (well, at least mostly unharmed 0). I'm making no money from this and this is written for entertainment purposes only. Any characters that are not recognizable as being part of the HP universe belong to me, but you guys probably figured that out, right?
Feedback: Both positive feedback and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated and will be cherished!
Archive: Please ask first. )
Author's Note: This was inspired by another one of my stories, "Shades of Grey." That story ended up being entirely narrative and I thought I'd tackle the same thing in a different way (though there are still a lot of similarities between the two stories). I'm not exactly happy with this story either, though. It seems dry and emotionless. I'm not even sure if it stands alone (without "Shades of Grey"). Maybe Peter just isn't my character.
Fragments of a Life
Being assigned the same dormitory as James Potter and Sirius Black was probably someone's idea of a cosmic joke. What else could it be? On the very night of our sorting they had snuck into the Slytherin common room and turned all of that house's robes pink, making them instantly popular. They were brilliant and cool. I…was nobody. I was the chubby kid who couldn't cast a simple levitation charm and had never been friends with anyone.
What hope did I have of that ever changing? James and Sirius were best mates. The bond between them was so obvious. When they hung out there was no pretense or deception. They could be themselves with each other and would always have the other's back. I didn't have to know them well to know it was true. I could see it every time they were together. What chance did I have of gaining even a small piece of that?
"Hey!" James exclaimed suddenly, jumping off of his bed and rushing over to Sirius'. "I've a brilliant idea!"
Sirius leaned forward excitedly. "A prank?" he asked, grinning.
Immediately, Sirius was on his feet and the two of them were heading towards the door. As they left, Sirius paused by Remus' bed. "D'you wanna come?"
Remus, a boy who was altogether too quiet and withdrawn for my tastes, seemed surprised by the invitation but immediately set aside his Potions textbook and climbed to his feet.
"And you?" James shifted his attention to me, eyes friendly and questioning.
What? I stared at him in disbelief. He wanted me to go with them? Me?
"It'll be fun," Sirius promised, also turning to look at me.
James Potter and Sirius Black were inviting me to join them! Who was I to argue? "Sure," I replied, grinning broadly and hurriedly following them out the door.
I was laughing so hard that it was almost difficult for me to keep my eyes open and focused on Remus. James and Sirius were brilliant! They had used some sort of charm on Remus and now his arms and legs were following the motion of their wands. They'd flick their wrists appropriately and he'd be clapping or dancing or jumping up and down. It was great!
"Stop it!" Remus pleaded for about the tenth time as his body was jerked left and right, entirely at the mercy of our friends. This time, though, I picked up on a desperate entreaty that I hadn't heard before.
Between nearly painful gasps for air, I forced myself to focus on Remus' face and saw fear and anger in his eyes. I felt sorry for him. For whatever reason, this prank really bothered him. Surprisingly, James and Sirius must have noticed the same thing because suddenly their laughter died and the only audible noises in the room were those of rapid breathing.
Exchanging concerned looks, they raised their wands and ended the enchantment. What? I looked at them in disbelief. They were letting him go? They had never freed me from one of their pranks when I begged, entirely humiliated. What made his request any different from any of the ones I had made with just as much sincerity?
Uncomprehending, I turned back to Remus. Suddenly released from the spell, he limply fell to the floor. For a few moments he remained there, gaze fixed downward. Then, slowly, he stood and faced James and Sirius, who looked worried and regretful.
"Don't ever do that to me again," Remus told them very quietly, very seriously, tone strained.
The both remained silent, obviously not knowing what to say. They looked uncomfortable and even…ashamed. They were sorry for what they'd done, sorry because they'd upset him. What about all of the times they'd upset me? They hadn't cared then; they'd gotten their laughs no matter how much I'd protested.
Shaking his head, Remus left the room, looking dejected, disappointed, and strangely shaken.
Sirius and James wordlessly returned to their respective beds, all signs of levity gone from their faces. James stared aimlessly around the room while Sirius dejectedly leaned his forehead against the palm of his right hand. They both seemed mortified by the reaction they'd evoked in Remus.
I shook my head, feeling a cold pang of pain. I didn't understand. Why did this bother them so much? Why did it bother them when Remus was hurt by one of their pranks but not me?
The tension in the room was palpable, the silence nearly painful. James and Sirius weren't studying, weren't in fact doing anything. At all. They were just sitting. They'd barely spoken a word to each other all week. It was a marked improvement from last week, when they'd barely been able to have a conversation without getting into some sort of argument.
Remus was trying to do his Potions homework but I could tell he wasn't accomplishing much. For the most part he kept quiet and remained uninvolved…at least as uninvolved as possible considering he was the root of the problem and knew it. He seemed constantly aggrieved and uncomfortable and I understood why. For the moment, Sirius was guarding his secret – whatever that was. I knew, though, that if the situation between Sirius and James got any worse Sirius would tell James what he wanted to know just to salvage their friendship. As Sirius' best mate, James was much more important than Remus and any confidence Sirius might be afraid of breaking. Remus had to know that.
Abruptly, James jumped to his feet and came to stand in front of Remus. He looked menacing, towering over our friend with irritation written on his face. Nervously, Remus set aside his potions essay and waited for whatever was coming. Sirius, who had been staring out the dormitory window, was suddenly quite alert. I could read the concern in his eyes.
This was it. I leaned forward to watch. Something was finally going to happen.
"Are you a werewolf?" James demanded loudly, aggravation making his tone sharp and cutting.
What? A werewolf? That was ridiculous! How could Remus be– But he was. He was a werewolf. His reaction left no doubt of that. As soon as the question was spoken he paled, visibly shrinking away from James and the accusation. His eyes were pleading and at the same time…resigned.
Sirius flinched at James' harshness but immediately crossed the room and stepped between Remus and his best friend. "Back off," he hissed. "You have no idea how difficult it is for him."
Oh my God. I swallowed thickly. Sirius was taking Remus' side. Somehow, Remus had become important enough to him that he would actually risk alienating James. How had that happened? How had Remus done that?
"He's not a monster. I can't believe you'd even think that," Sirius continued, dangerously angry and disappointed. "Nothing that's happened to him is his fault and–"
"Sirius," James interrupted, shaking his head. "Sirius, stop." All of the previous frustration was gone, now he just sounded surprised. "I don't care. I wasn't– I didn't mean to make you think it's a problem." He sighed. "It just…bothered me that you didn't tell me. We – Peter and I – were right there with you trying to figure out what Remus was hiding and then you knew and wouldn't tell us."
Sirius relaxed marginally. "It was never my secret to reveal," he stated.
James didn't immediately answer. Instead, his eyes drifted to Remus, who was quietly and nervously awaiting his friend's judgment. "You're right," he finally agreed. "I'm sorry."
Sirius smiled tentatively. When James stepped past him and told Remus that he'd do everything he could to help the reaction was instantaneous. Everyone was immeasurably relieved, everyone was grinning. Remus because he'd been accepted, Sirius because he no longer had to hide things from his best mate, and James because he knew what his best mate hadn't been telling him and why. I was the only one that remained entirely solemn.
I couldn't believe what had just happened; I couldn't believe what it meant. Sirius' willingness to defend Remus meant that Remus was truly important to him. It meant that somehow Remus had penetrated the distance James and Sirius put between themselves and everyone else, the distance that protected their status as best friends.
I didn't understand. If he had done that…why couldn't I?
Sighing, I closed the Potions textbook and threw it to the foot of the bed in frustration. It was hopeless. I'd gone over the potion ten times and still didn't understand its basic properties. Unless someone explained it to me, I'd fail the next exam.
I glanced around the room. Sirius was still here, sitting silently on his bed and focused intently on a book. He was always willing to help Remus with anything he didn't understand. Maybe if I asked…? Or hinted…?
"I just don't get how this potion works," I said aloud, marking my voice sound with tired annoyance.
Sirius made a sound that was somewhere between a scoff and a bark of laughter. "No surprise there," he replied without even looking at me.
Right. It was never a surprise when I was too 'stupid,' too 'slow,' or too 'thick,' to understand something. Nor did Sirius and James ever miss an opportunity to remind me of that. It wasn't my fault! Didn't they see that not everyone was as bright as they were?
Despite my bitterness, I couldn't help but notice that Sirius wasn't actually reading the book. He was looking at it but his eyes weren't moving. In fact, he looked entirely…morose. Now that I was thinking about it, he'd been rather unhappy all day.
"Sirius," I started tentatively, truly concerned, "Are you all right?"
Finally, he lifted his gaze and looked at me. His eyes were dim. "Been better."
"Do you…want to talk about it?" He'd never exactly confided in me the way he did in James and Remus but I wanted him to know that he could.
He sighed and spoke very quietly. "No."
All right. He obviously didn't feel like telling anyone right now.
I jumped, surprised, at the sudden intrusion of Remus' voice. He was just entering the dormitory. "I don't understand the Potions homework," he admitted, stopping in front of Sirius' bed. "Do you think you could–?"
"Of course," he agreed before Remus could even voice his request.
I closed my eyes briefly. I was dumb but Remus deserved help. As always. Nothing had changed. Nothing ever changed.
Looking back towards my friends, I saw that the gratitude was fading from Remus' face. "Sirius? What's wrong?"
Sirius shook his head helplessly. When he spoke, he sounded…lost and broken. "I just– I can't– I got a letter from– Remus…" He sighed. "Do you have time?"
Remus nodded immediately. "Of course. Why don't we…" he gestured towards the door.
"Yeah." Sirius was on his feet in a moment's passing. Wordlessly, he and Remus left the room together.
I stared after them. I tried to swallow but couldn't work past the lump in my throat. Despite my best efforts, despite how long and how hard I'd tried, I apparently didn't even rate. I'd done everything James and Sirius had ever wanted me to. I'd accompanied them on all their adventures, all their pranks. I'd been just as willing as them to become an Animagus and help Remus out. I'd even offered to transform into a rat so that we'd have a way of getting into the Whomping Willow.
None of that had helped, though. James and Sirius were best friends. They – especially Sirius – worried endlessly about Remus and making things easier for him. Sirius always chose Remus to talk to when something was bothering him. They all cared about each other so much while I…wasn't anyone important. Just Peter. Peter, the one who was there – tagging along – but didn't deserve any real concern. Peter, the one who couldn't break into their perfect little circle no matter how hard he tried.
And I had tried. I'd tried and failed.
Oh Lord. I groaned as the grating alarm robbed me of my sleep. It couldn't be seven in the morning already. I was way too tired for class. Slowly opening my heavy eyelids, I sat up in bed and winced. Darkness clouded by vision as a pounding pain exploded in my head. Shit. I knew I'd had too much to drink last night. It'd just been so easy, though. It'd been so easy to keep swallowing the vile liquor, so easy to numb the sadness and make everything in the world seem unimportant for even a mere handful of hours.
With the buzz of alcohol dulling the cutting edge of my thoughts it'd been so easy to let Hilda pull away my clothes, it'd been so easy to clumsily grope the smoothness of her body. It'd been comforting at the time, the warmth and pleasure, the ecstasy of release. Now all I could remember was how it had smelled stale in the dark closet we'd stumbled into, how our harsh panting had filled the air with the stink of alcohol, and how quickly the entire episode had ended.
I swallowed the rotten taste in my mouth and slid out of bed, stumbling as a wave of dizziness hit me. Unsteadily, I made my way across the dormitory and towards the lavatory. I just needed a few minutes to clear my head. Then I'd be okay to take the detoxification potion and– Damn it! I'd used the last of it earlier this week when I'd spent the night with Shirley. Now what was I–
"Peter?" Remus' questioning voice only sharpened the agony that was already making it so difficult to walk.
"Yeah?" I slurred, turning to face him and nearly falling to the floor when the world began spinning slightly.
"Are you wasted?" Sirius demanded, coming to stand behind Moony.
I stared at them in silent mortification, not knowing what to say.
Abruptly, Sirius started to chortle, ignoring Remus' disapproving glance. "I can see why you've been spending so much time studying," he exclaimed, shaking his head.
"What's up?" James asked, returning from the lavatory. "Pete…" he sent a still-laughing Sirius a half-puzzled look, "You look like shit…" He frowned. "What's the deal, mate?"
"I… The girl I was s-studying…with gave me some firewhiskey," I hastily offered the first lie that came to mind. "I'd never…tried any and I was c-curious so… Obviously I can't hold my liquor." I offered them a weak smile.
There was no way they'd believe that. They'd know it was a lie. They'd know. If they cared about me at all, they'd know. And part of me wanted them to. Part of me was pleading for them to realize. Please, you have to see that this isn't true; you have to see I'm dying here. You can't just accept this.
"So this is a one-time thing?" James questioned, looking amused even as he continued in a cautionary tone of voice. "Best to leave that stuff for when we're not in school. You'll be in trouble if you run into a professor and they realize you're drunk."
Half-formed memories flashed in my mind of all the other nights I'd snuck into the dormitory late, clothes disheveled, stained with beer and smelling of sex. "Yeah," I whispered. "It's just a one-time thing."
"Be careful, Peter," Remus advised quietly. "That stuff can mess you up."
Sirius and James rolled their eyes but I knew that for as much experimenting as they might have done, they were not the type to get drunk more than once in awhile.
I remained silent as their words and actions caused another piece of me to whither and die. Their response to this couldn't have been more painful if they'd accompanied it with a kick to the groin. They'd believed me. How could they have believed me? Did they really think that I was studying all those nights when I disappeared for hours? Couldn't they see the shattered anguish in my eyes? Couldn't they see how lost I was?
"Come on, Pete," Sirius hit my shoulder lightly, "I'll make you a detoxification potion."
I stared at him wordlessly.
Apparently not. Apparently, they didn't care enough to see I was breaking.
"Guys!" I began loudly as soon as I Apparated to the flat that Sirius and Remus shared and found everyone there, sitting silently in the living room. "I was–"
"Remus' uncle died of a heart attack," Sirius interrupted me, tone soft and sad.
Surprised, I surveyed the room. Obvious sorrow hung in the air. James and Lily were reclining on the couch, staring concernedly at Remus who was sitting opposite them in a fold-up chair. His elbows were resting on his knees and he was leaning forward so that his forehead was propped up by interlaced fingers. He looked resigned and weary.
Sirius was the only one on his feet, walking slowly up and down the length of the room.
I forced myself to contain my nervous fear. Poor Remus. His grandmother and mum had died in that horrible accident during seventh-year. As he and his father had a pretty tense relationship, his uncle Ian had been the only family he had left. I felt a great well of sympathy for my cursed friend. Yes, James, Sirius, and Remus had all hurt me but despite all the pain they'd made me feel…I still cared about them. They were really all I had.
"Remus…" I addressed him quietly, "I'm sorry."
He lifted his head off his hands and looked at me with vague, distressed eyes. He didn't respond.
A handful of torturously long minutes passed in silence. Finally, I couldn't wait any longer. I had to tell them!
"Today," I began suddenly, eyes wandering the room without focusing on anyone in particular, "I was approached by–"
"Peter," Sirius interrupted wearily, "Whatever it is can wait."
"No," I shook my head, "It's important." I'd been approached by Death Eaters! They wanted me to join them! I'd refused and fled, of course. What I didn't understand was why they hadn't killed me then and there. Perhaps I'd simply reacted too quickly for them. Whatever the reason, I knew they wouldn't let me live for long. People didn't simply say no to Death Eaters. My life was in danger. What could be more important than that?
"Damn it, Peter," Sirius stopped his spacing to address me in a scathing tone that was as low as it was angry. "Have some consideration for Remus. Whatever you need to say can't possibly compare to the fact that one of your closest friend's uncle just died."
I didn't know what to say. My blood was boiling. It was horrible that Remus' uncle had passed away but I wasn't here to tell them about who had won the last Quidditch tournament or what the weather was going to be like tomorrow. Hilda had taken me to meet two Death Eaters and now I was afraid they were going to kill me. This was important!
What was wrong with these people? Why couldn't they just listen to me? Why couldn't they ever pay attention to me? At all? How could they be my friends? Could I count on them? Had they ever shown me that they'd go to half the trouble for me as they would for each other? Had they ever done anything for me?
No. No they hadn't. They'd seen each other through everything. They'd done everything conceivable to help Remus. But they had never done anything for me.
I kept my distance as a line of people, mostly old classmates from Hogwarts, approached James and expressed their sympathies for his loss. Only when the last of them had left the cemetery did I follow suit and come to stand next to him. Lily, as well as Sirius and Remus – of course – were close by but no one seemed to notice me.
"James," I spoke softly, my voice containing none of the bitter anger that simmered within me. "I was so shocked when I heard what happened." In the paper. "I'm very sorry."
Prongs turned from his father's grave. His eyes were unreadable but a genuine smile touched his face. "Peter," he replied sadly but with a touch of warmth. "I'm so glad you could make it."
Really? Glad enough to not have contacted me? His father had been killed in a Death Eater attack that had been aimed at him and his wife. Had I heard that from him? No. It'd been in the Daily Prophet, along with a picture showing James, Lilly, Sirius, and Remus leaving the morgue after identifying Mr. Potter's body. How lovely that James had managed to get in touch with Sirius and Remus but hadn't said a word to me.
Granted, we hadn't seen much of each other since I'd taken the new job and yes, I'd wanted it that way. Distancing myself from my fellow Marauders had been one of the best decisions I'd ever made. It'd allowed me to stop being consumed by my desire to be truly accepted by them, to be as good of friends with them as they were with each other. I'd come to realize that they'd never done any of it on purpose and that they'd never known how deeply they'd hurt me. Once I'd gotten over my fear of Death Eaters lurking in every shadowed corner, I'd actually been quite happy.
We hadn't parted on bad terms, though. Truth be told, they didn't even know I'd ever been angry with them. They just thought that my new job was keeping me busy. But not so busy that I wouldn't immediately have gone if James had called me. So why hadn't he? How could he claim that Sirius, Remus, and I were his closest friends and then not include me at a time like this?
"I had to," I smiled briefly. "You're my friend and he was your father."
James nodded. "You've just been so busy recently."
I felt another flash of pain. I thought I'd overcome my bitterness regarding my fellow Marauders but this incident – this cold reminder of how little I meant to them – had revived all my hurt fury. The only reason they'd never noticed how much they'd hurt me was because they hadn't cared to. As my mum had always told me, people were only blind when they chose to be.
"I know," I murmured, feeling weary. "I'm sorry."
"Come back to the reception," Sirius offered, placing a hand on James' shoulder.
"Right, of course," I agreed immediately, wondering at how easily I was letting myself get drawn back into what would surely only be another cycle of depression. What was I supposed to do, though? What was I supposed to say to them? I was all but invisible in their eyes. What would it take to get them to see me?
I stayed in a corner of James' and Lily's living room, surveying the somber interactions of everyone attending the reception. Everything was quiet, subdued. It was more than sorrow at the tragedy of Mr. Potter's death. It was a general uneasiness about how he had died and what that meant. Voldemort was gaining power. The Death Eaters were gaining power. Were any of us really safe?
"Peter," I immediately recognized Hilda's voice and quickly spotted her approaching me from across the room.
I hadn't seen her since she'd taken me to the Death Eater meeting but, strangely, wasn't surprised or afraid to find her here. "Hilda," I replied neutrally when she stopped in front of me. "Come to pay your respects?"
"I went to school with James too," she said by way of answer, smiling.
I smiled in return. I knew why she was really here. She was here because of me. She was here to make the same offer that had been made before: to become a spy for Voldemort. It really was the perfect setup. I was – supposedly – one of James' closest friends and he was a prominent member of the Order of the Phoenix. No one would ever suspect me, harmless, stupid Peter of passing information to the other side. No one. After all, no one ever really noticed me at all.
It'd be so easy. After apologizing to the others for allowing 'work' to get in the way of spending time with them, I'd be welcomed back into their little group. At least, as welcomed as I'd ever been. They'd never notice anything was different. They'd never noticed when I'd constantly been drinking and having meaningless flings. They'd never noticed the depression or pain in my eyes. Similarly, they'd never notice if I was helping Voldemort.
They'd never notice anything at all.
They'd never paid any attention to me, never thought I was anyone important. But I could be. I could be more 'important' than any of them. I could hand Voldemort the Order of the Phoenix. And they'd never realize until it was too late, until they'd lost their precious war and saw me standing at Voldemort's side. Then they'd know… I wasn't stupid. I wasn't slow. I wasn't powerless. And I certainly wasn't useless.
"Let's get out of here," Hilda offered, watching me closely. "There are a couple of people I'd like you to meet."
She'd said the same thing to me before. That time I hadn't realized she was going to take me to Death Eaters. I hadn't realized she was a Death Eater. But I did now.
My eyes found James. He was surrounded by Lily, Sirius, and Remus. There was no room for me. There never had been.
"Yeah," I agreed, motioning towards the door. "Let's get out of here."
Thanks for reading! "Shades of Grey" and this story are my take on why Peter might have turned. I usually write Sirius and Remus stuff but for some reason I felt compelled to explore a bit of Peter's character. I hope you enjoyed it.