How was it that he had never had Firewhiskey before in his life? It was good. Damn, it was good.
Downing his third glass that afternoon – or was it his fifth – no, it must have onlybeen his second – Peter tapped the bar with several fingers to cue Blenkinsop to refill his glass. The barman docily did as bid. Peter wondered vaguely how many glasses he would be permitted to have before Blenkinsop drew the limit. He would probably get drunk soon, anyhow. Maybe he was drunk. How can you tell if you're drunk? he mused now, as he swallowed a large gulp of his 'second' glass. If it took me this long to realize I was useless, how long is it going to take for me to realize I'm drunk, if I'm not already?
He was confusing himself. He thought alcohol was supposed to num your senses, ease your thoughts. Maybe he hadn't had enough. He banged his palm on the table for a refill.
Blenkinsop poured more Firewhiskey into the mug. Peter clasped his hands around the mug, but for some reason didn't lift it, just stared into its depths.
"Something wrong with the whiskey?" Blenkinsop inquired.
Peter blinked at Blenkinsop, squinting. Had people always been so blurry around the edges, or did he just need glasses? He squinted for several more long moments, then realized that Blenkinsop had asked him a question, but couldn't recall what it had been. Had it been, Have a good day with Keer? Make a wish on a peer? What are you doing here? With the little sense that Peter had remaining, he concluded that this was the most logical one, so he said, in response to the third, "I ran away."
Blenkinsop's mouth – or was that an eyebrow? – moved slightly. "Ah."
Peter nodded. "Yeah, I ran away. Well, I guess I didn't run away, because I didn't have a lot to run away from, but I left."
"Did you leave anything behind?" Blenkinsop asked, though not in an intruding way.
"No," said Peter, "I packed my stuff and put it in some luggage bags." He paused, and considered his glass of Firewhiskey. "I'm tired of it," he announced abruptly.
"Yeah, I'm tired of it," Peter repeated, nodding at his glass though he was speaking to the barman. "I'm tired of just being useless, you know? I've never been anything other than that, and I'm tired of it. I'm tired of it!" he said again loudly, and slapped the table with his palm. Peter then grew calm again. "I'm not going to be useless anymore," he told the alcohol with as much dignity as he could muster considering he was drunk.
"So what are you going to do, lad?" Blenkinsop asked quietly.
Peter looked up at Blenkinsop, seeming to notice he was standing there for the first time. "I'm going to be important," he proclaimed boisterously, as though this were obvious, and Blenkinsop Waterbut could not have asked a stupider question. "I'm going to be great."
Blenkinsop sat down opposite Peter, on a stool placed on the other side of the counter, so he was now eye level with the young man. "And how are you going to do that?"
Peter stared back for a few considerable moments, then his shoulders slumped and his eyes dropped back to his Firewhiskey. "I don't know." He gazed bleakly into the amber liquid, then unexpectedly pushed his mug away from here. "I don't want this anymore," he muttered.
Blenkinsop cleared the glass away, and kindly presented Peter with a cup of tea. "Drink up, lad," he said, then moved on to help a customer who had just stumbled through the door.
Peter slurped some tea through numb lips. He was slightly amazed that the liquid didn't dribble out of his mouth; he felt as though he had no control over his body. But somehow he managed to take a taste of the tea and swallow, and then managed to raise the cup to his lips again and drink.
When Blenkinsop returned to his position behind the bar counter, somehow Peter found himself saying, "My friends have found things to do with their lives."
Blenkinsop looked at him.
"They've always been more talented than me," Peter said. "But they were friends with me, though Merlin only knows why."
"Were friends?" Blenkinsop said, perhaps knowingly.
"Well, I guess they still are, but I don't deserve to be friends with them. I'm nobody great, I'm not great, and they're…great." Did alcohol affect your ability to find synonyms for words? He sounded like a bloody idiot who had maybe five words in his vocabulary. Great. Great. Great. "And I want to be great too." Blast, there he went again. "I – "
But he stopped as a vaguely familiar face entered the door. A man in his early twenties with long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, dressed regally in fine black robes lined with silver silk, now stood in the doorway. He scanned the room with sneering eyes, though his mouth was in a straight line. His smart black boots clicked across the floor as he walked.
"Good evening, Blenkinsop."
"Hello, Lucius," said Blenkinsop cordially. It seemed the two men knew each other.
"Not many customers today," Lucius observed.
Blenkinsop smiled. "I have my busy days, and then some."
"No complaints from me," Lucius said with a lazy smile. "I'm meeting with someone, and with a quieter atmosphere it will be easier to talk."
Blenkinsop nodded, and went back to cleaning a glass. Peter held his teacup close to his face, letting the warmth spread through his hands and feeling the steam tickle his face.
Lucius stood staring down his nose at the customers for several minutes, then he looked down at Peter. "Pettigrew, isn't it?" he said with a poorly suppressed arrogant air.
"Yes, I remember you," said Lucius slowly. "The little runt in Gryffindor."
Though these words were far from kind, Peter paid them no mind. "What brings you here?" he said with a slur.
"Blenkinsop and I are old friends, so I come here on occasion." Lucius nodded and smiled civilly at Blenkinsop, who returned it. But – was it merely Peter's large intake of alcohol, or was there something about Blenkinsop's smile that wasn't completely genuine?
"I am also here to greet an acquaintance of mine from Hogwarts," said Lucius, drawing Peter away from this thought. "And…talk of the devil, here he is now. Good evening to you, Pettigrew."
"Same," Peter mumbled. Lucius left his range of eye-sight. Peter heard several chairs close behind him scrape the ground.
"Greetings, Severus. It's been awhile since we've last met."
"Yes, quite, it's been far too long indeed," Snape said, clearly mocking Lucius' formality. "Cut the niceties, Lucius, and let's get straight to the point."
"Very well," said Lucius, sounding amused but not annoyed by his friend's blunt attitude. "But…that man…"
"Hmm? Pettigrew? Pfft, he'll pay us no mind, even without alcohol he's too slow to follow anything."
"If you think so." Lucius paused, slightly theatrically, then spoke again. "I've told him about you. He's very interested in meeting you."
Who the hell wanted to meet Snape? Lucius' boss? Was this the important meeting Snape had referenced to earlier today? Then what…
"Well?" said Lucius expectantly.
"Aren't you going to say something about the fact that our lord is considering you?"
"Your lord, Lucius, your lord. He is not mine yet."
"Yet," Lucius echoed him, trying terribly hard to conceal the excitement in his voice. "Yet."
"So, tell me, Lucius," said Snape slowly. "What exactly does You-Know-Who – "
"Call him the Dark Lord."
Pettigrew sat up straight at that.
"I shall call him what I please. Now: what exactly does he expect of me? What does he want me to do?"
"Provide him with service, of course. Give him unwavering loyalty, and help him rid the world of filth. The Dark Lord thinks you sound promising, Severus. I have told him of some of your abilities, and he is impressed."
"I remain unconvinced," Snape remarked dryly. "What can your lord provide me?"
Lucius seemed thrown by this question; he did not answer immediately. "The honor of serving him should be enough, Severus," he said at last. "And your blessing of such knowledge and skill should be put to good use. You can do better than working at Borgin and Burkes, my friend. Do the Dark Arts not fascinate you? Do you not long to study them up close, instead of mere relics in a shop?"
Lucius allowed these words to tantalize his friend for a moment. He called Blenkinsop over for a refill before speaking again. "It is a position of greatness, Severus," he said luringly. "It is a job of great importance. Think of how you would be viewed, think of what you could do. You could be great."
Peter's ears were ringing; his mind racing. Thousands of possibilities zoomed in front of his mind, each just as tempting as the next, each just as wonderful.
Don't get ahead of yourself, Peter, he told himself, as he sat on his stool, palms sweating. Maybe this isn't a good idea, maybe you should –
But suddenly, impulsively, Peter swiveled around on his stool to face the other two men.
"I could," he said, breaking the thick silence between Snape and Lucius.
Two heads turned simultaneously. Snape lifted an eyebrow at his peer. Lucius looked shocked and faintly amused. "Excuse me?" the blonde man asked.
"I could join," said Peter, keeping his eyes locked on Lucius' to show sincerity. "I could join. I want to join."
"And what would make the Gryffindor rat decide this?" Snape asked, leering.
"I want to be important; I want to help You-Know – the Dark Lord – in his cause," said Peter.
Lucius leaned back in his chair, stroking his chin thoughtfully and watching the scene unfold.
"What has brought on this change of heart?" Snape wanted to know. "Being a pawn in Dumbledore's hand isn't satisfactory to you anymore?"
"No, it's not," said Peter, his gaze level on Snape's, his head surprisingly clear considering all the Firewhiskey. In fact, he did not think his thoughts had ever been clearer. "I have rethought my decisions, and I want to join you."
Snape looked him over with black ice chips, then looked towards Lucius, who considered Peter, still stroking his chin. The two men stared at each other for several very lengthy minutes.
"What can you provide the Dark Lord, Pettigrew?" Lucius asked carefully.
Peter thought for a second. "I can be a spy."
"I'm a member of the Order, an organization that Dum – "
"I know what the Order is," Lucius interrupted. "Continue."
"Well, I'm a member. I could pass information to the Dark Lord."
Lucius cast his eyes towards his alcohol and lifted the mug. He took several poised sips, then set the glass back down. Then he fiddled with the clasp of his traveling cloak, and tapped his foot several times on the ground. Peter began to worry if he had said the wrong thing. Maybe he had just blown his chance.
Lucius glanced up at Peter again, and motioned for him to take the empty seat at his and Snape's table. Peter did, with some trepidation. Lucius called Blenkinsop over for another refill, and Blenkinsop topped off both Snape and Lucius' beers as well as Peter's tea.
Lucius raised his newly filled mug. His eyes met Snape's, then Peter's. He smiled. "To the Dark Lord," he proclaimed, and took a drink. So did Snape, who actually looked close to happy; and Peter followed suit, feeling very elated himself. He noticed Blenkinsop watching the three men, his shinning brown eyes reflecting – he couldn't quite say what – rage? – indignation? – disappointment?
But it doesn't matter what he thinks, Peter thought, as he gulped down another healthy measure of tea. It doesn't matter, because finally I have found something important to do with my life.
In that moment, Peter had never seen his future so clear.