Devil's Advocate

A bit of sympathy for Peter Pettigrew. Oneshot.

Author's Note: I don't know what's going to happen to Peter in the last book, and I didn't want to seem like the conclusion of the series had inspired me or what have you. So I pounded this out, just because the idea struck me. Enjoy.

You won't understand. I don't expect you to understand. Fools like you never do. You can't.

You think I'm sick, don't you? No, no; no need to deny it; that's what every one of your kind thinks. It's popular opinion, and that's always nice and safe, isn't it? Yes, you think I'm sick, because I had the foresight to stand in the right corner, to back the right gladiator. You think I'm sick because I changed my colors in the middle of the game, like so many did before me; like so many will do again. You think I'm sick because I don't stand there touting the way that the glorious Good will always, against the steepest odds, against the staunchest opposition, triumph over vast and tremendous Evil. In short, you think I'm sick because I'm a realist.

You know what? I think you're sick. That's right; I said it. I think you are irretrievably ill. I think you are carrying the most dreadful disease of all, unaware of the pathogens surging through your bloodstream, nescient of the cancer chewing at your cells, blissfully ignorant of the insidiousness feeding upon you.

You are naïve. And as far as I am concerned, that is more unforgivable than any curse I could spit at you with all the hatred in the world.

Hatred is easy. I know that. But when have we human beings ever wanted to make things harder for ourselves? If that was true, we wouldn't have cities. We wouldn't have machines. We wouldn't have life as we know it, because that life has always been a matter of moving forward, trying to improve the "quality" of existence by making things easier. By expediting all the processes we require, one at a time or in great heaping clumps. We want things to be easy. Why should I be vilified for taking the natural course and despising those who stand in my way? The only real advantage to loving your enemies is that you confuse them a little, and they walk away shaking their heads after they've removed yours.

I've loved, in my time. I loved good and long, more than I thought I could, more than I thought I could stand. And look where it got me. I'm the lowest of the low, aren't I? That's what you were thinking. I've always had a talent for reading people. And I wasn't afraid to utilize every talent I had. That's why I'm going to survive this, and so many of the "nobler" sort are going to perish ignobly and fade from memory forever.

You've probably faced superciliousness before. Most of us have, unless we be remarkably privileged and remarkably sheltered both. You've probably also been pitied, by one kind, misguided soul or another, for some small wound inflicted upon you, likely unjustly. Oh, you poor dear. A bit of cruelty and a bit of simpering gentleness.

Now tell me. Which stung your pride more sharply? About even? Or did you ever even think about it?

You probably don't have to worry about condescension and pity very often, so you probably don't commit much time to thinking about their effect on you and your estimation of your own worth. And that's nice. Life is pleasanter when it's mild. And a mild life breeds weakness, as the owner of that life has had no cause to demonstrate any sort of fortitude. The owner of that life has had no need for it. So after the condescending soul has departed and the pitying one has made his best amends for some wretched wrong, the proprietor of that mild life goes on frolicking through his proverbial meadows, pausing in the middle of a skipping stride to smell the loveliest and most redolent of the flowers.

Mildness is weakness. It makes sense, doesn't it? Fancy that, the sick man making sense.

You probably think I'm weak as well. Likely you equate survival instinct with weakness--likely you believe that a man who sacrifices his morals, his ambitions, and everything else he has to give for his life is marvelously weak. And that's not true, either.

I lived my entire life in the cold shadow of alternating condescension and pity of a caliber that you cannot even begin to imagine. Those two extremes alone existed in my world, and I oscillated between them as if I'd been skewered on the free end of a spring--a spring unaffected by gravity and other such physical hindrances; one that would continue to rise and fall from one end to the other indefinitely. Eternally. I was smart enough, smarter than you'd think, but no one saw that. No, it was either cutting scorn or cloying sympathy for little Peter--sometimes one and then the other; sometimes both at once. And the two combined is the most hideous mixture on this filthy Earth.

But you wouldn't understand that.

That's one of the reasons I stayed with Sirius, Remus, and James. They fell somewhere between those stark opposites. Largely, they ignored me and let me be. It was better to be ignored that to face the other choices.

The other primary reason was that James and Sirius were bullies, and standing behind a bully nodding your head approvingly as he terrorizes some hapless fool is the safest place to be.

And perhaps you could say that the Dark Lord, too, is, in all essence, little more than a bully. Of course, you wouldn't say that to his face, because you're not quite that stupid, are you, dear reader? Well, perhaps you are. Perhaps you'd think it spectacularly brave.

Fools like you don't understand the difference between brave and stupid. It's one of your most egregious faults. Certainly the most conspicuous. And the most deadly.

Was Napoleon Bonaparte a bully, I ask you? Perhaps you say Yes. But you say it with a grudging respect, because we respect Napoleon. His conquests were wide and great. Admittedly, he didn't subside quietly in Elba after he'd been properly beaten, like a good boy would have done, like the rules dictated, but we are willing to forgive his faults, because he was clearly a genius.

The Dark Lord is a genius.

How many times must the platitude be repeated? History is written by the conquerers. Napoleon didn't win, not in the end, when the measurements are always taken. He came very close, respectably close, but he didn't win. He tried and failed, and that makes him a martyr--a hero.

Have you head the 1812 Overture? Surely you have. Such a grand, dashing, wonderful piece of music, isn't it? Resonant with so much power and reverence?

Tchaikovsky knew that Napoleon was merely a glorified bully. The Russians didn't think he was a genius when he razed their homes and killed their children.

But he wrote the Napoleonic Code, ensuring that officers in the French army would be hired according to merit, rather than by social class! He modernized warfare! He changed the world! One of his successors tore down parts of Paris and turned it into the breathtaking city it is today!

The conquerers tell you what to think. If Hitler had won--and he came tantalizingly close--you would now be enumerating for me the great Führer's many attributes, in tones of venerating awe.

And you would be doing it in German.

Hitler was a genius as well. A madman, yes, but a genius. You might even say he was sick.

What is the disease, then, from which we suffer? Is genius the disease? Is it madness? Ambition?

Or is greatness itself the ill that permits the proliferation of all the others?

And failure is the dye that colors the world's perception of that greatness. If Hitler hadn't failed, there would be no negations. There would be none of that ambivalent drivel--"Hitler was brilliant...but he was insane." Where do you draw the line between brilliance and insanity, dear reader? Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime. He was brilliant. And he was mad. Who's to say that the two, genius and madness, are not one and the same? All artists say that they are misunderstood.

Let's turn to Nietzsche. He believed in the existence of a higher form of man, an Übermensch--a superman. He believed that men like Napoleon (and very likely would have included Hitler had he lived long enough) followed a different set of rules because they were a different sort of being. A better being. And ordinary fools like you and me cannot begin to hope to understand one of those better beings. We can only worship, as we would worship Napoleon and Hitler if they had completed the work they begun.

The Dark Lord is neither a Hitler nor a Napoleon for a single reason. If you'd seen the fire in his eyes, the greatest and most terrifying thing a man can see, you would know that reason. You would know that, for the Dark Lord, failure is unconceivable. He will win. We will win. And the Dark Lord will be writing the histories from now on.

Why this course seems so equivocal to some eludes me. There is no doubt in my mind--not a speck or a shred of it. If you see the man, you know. You know with certainty, and you follow.

The one thing I never understood was why Remus and James and Sirius couldn't see it. Why their classical, outdated perceptions of "good" and "evil" blinded them to the plainness of the truth. The truth is that those who follow the Dark Lord triumph, and those who oppose him die. It seems simple enough to me.

But then, I always did have that survival instinct. I suppose the taint of magnanimity has clouded the vision of those imbecilic little rebels who call themselves freedom fighters.

Freedom from what? From an improved world? From a world populated with fools and Mudbloods and Muggles and true lineages gone sour? I'll relinquish that freedom and take the new world. The status quo was never kind to me.

It's not as though there isn't a choice. Don't you see? The Dark Lord is merciful towards his friends. He spares lives frequently--recklessly. Even the lowest Mudblood can find a place, can coexist, can keep his life and his livelihood, if he joins the cause. The rebels die. The followers live. Every man can choose his side.

The Purebloods saw it first, but if we limited our force to the pure, what force would we have? Hardly an army. No, the Dark Lord gives and gives until he has nothing left to offer. He would pardon the scum that passes for blood in your veins, if you fell to your knees and pleaded. So long as you didn't stand and proclaim your ridiculous nobility. That's so trite anyway these days. Just don't waste your breath.

Lily could have done it. Oh, God, Lily, why couldn't you see that? The shortest leap of faith, and you would have been safe--perfectly safe, forever. I could have given you everything, Lily--I could have, and I would have. I would have done it in an instant. Oh, you stupid girl, why couldn't you see? It was all right in front of you. Peter and life, or James and the end--the end of everything. Why him, Lily? Because I merited nothing more and nothing less than your pity? Because you couldn't find it in the endless reaches of your broad heart to give me anything deeper and more profound? You could have loved me. You could have found something to love. I've been brave, in my way--brave enough to live. Brave enough to look the truth in the face and accept that the times have changed--that nobility is obsolete. You could have had it, too. You could have had it, and you could have lived.

You fool. You horrible, miserable, beautiful fool.

They're going down, one by one. It was harder at first, and now it's much, much easier. James first; a tremendous cost, as it happened, but a success. Then Sirius--quick, simple, easy. It won't be long before Remus breathes his last. He's weak. He's tired. We'll see him through. It's easier every time.

It's natural to try to make things easier, remember? Normal and natural.

And soon enough, I'll be the only one left, of all of them--me, Peter, the worthless, hateful one. Of all the Marauders, of all those stupid little boys, who ever would have thought that I would be the one left now? Me, Peter Pettigrew? Oh, it's laughable. There he is, at the Dark Lord's right hand. The boy who changed. The boy who learned. The boy who lived.

You people make me sick.