Disclaimer: Harry Potter and related characters are property of J.K. Rowling; I am merely a humble writer borrowing them for my own selfish purposes. All plots and unrecognizable places, people or events are my own.
Pairings: Remus Lupin/Nymphadora Tonks, James Potter/Lily Evans
Author's Note (Please read first!): The entire story is based off the premise that Voldemort comes to power in 1981, instead of 1971 like he does in the books. This has a butterfly effect on all of the characters: many are alive who should not have been. But the world in AU 1991 is different than Harry's...it is dark, unpredictable and there is no Chosen One.
Wizards in England want to know: who will defeat Voldemort?
The walls start breathing, my mind's unweaving,
Maybe it's best you leave me alone.
A weight is lifted on this evening
I give the final blow.
--All-American Rejects, It Ends Tonight
Monday, July 23, 1991
No one but him heard the voices.
Low. Smooth. High. Cruel.
All taking turns with him.
Blood in his mouth: warm, wet and coppery. The smell filled his nostrils and he retched, turning his head to vomit on the cold cement floor of a dilapidated English manor.
Revulsion on the face of the tall blonde man with cold gray eyes.
"Disgusting, isn't it, Macnair? I daresay the Mudblood won't be long in living."
Macnair grunted and aimed a kick at his stomach as he fruitlessly tried to curl in a defensive position. The steel toed boot made solid contact with his solar plexus and stars burst in front of his eyes as the wind was knocked out of him. He wheezed and began coughing in earnest, broken ribs throbbing painfully from the effort.
"It's a shame the Dark Lord wants him alive as an example for that fool, Potter," replied Macnair's companion as he carelessly flipped his helpless victim onto his back, using a foot, as if the man would contaminate him. "Draco will have nothing to practice on."
"I'm sure Bellatrix will find him something."
"Yes, well, she's not inclined to share, is she?" said the man nastily, sneering at Macnair. He flicked his wand lazily. "Crucio."
The pain permeated into his bones, frying his nerve endings, stabbing and burning every inch of his body as he screamed hoarsely, his voice having been lost hours ago.
Macnair chuckled cruelly, eyes alighting with obvious excitement. "Let me have a go, Malfoy."
"You've had your fun," Malfoy replied coldly. "And you do not know control. We need him alive. The Dark Lords said to continue the interrogation until he gives us information."
"What makes you think he knows anything? If he hasn't broken before now…"
Malfoy stopped and the man's screams dwindled to ragged sobbing between large gasps of pain. He took his wand and deliberately pointed it at Macnair, raising a pale eyebrow with studious delicacy.
"Are you questioning my orders? The orders that were specifically given to me by the Dark Lord."
Macnair looked at him with apparent impassiveness, but fear shone from the depths of his deep, dark black eyes.
"No," he replied steadily.
"Good. Then you won't mind closing the door behind you when you leave."
Macnair threw Malfoy a glare and stalked out of the room, closing the door hard enough the make the walls shake.
Malfoy's upper lip curled. "Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Crucio."
This was the longest time yet; white hot pain almost numbing in its intensity. He opened his mouth in a wordless yell, clenching his hands so hard that four crescent cuts split open his palms. It ended after God knew how long, and he lay limply, waiting tensely for Malfoy's next move.
The "interrogation" had been going on for hours; that much he was sure of. Time seemed to pass very slowly here, but it could not have been days. If it had been that long, one of his friends would have noticed that he was missing and sent the Aurors after him.
He was so stupid, so careless, and so weak.
The Death Eaters had caught him off guard.
He had been flipping through a ring catalog at his house when they captured him. He'd barely had time to look for his wand when Malfoy had Stunned him and dragged him to the manor.
They had locked him in a tiny stone room with bars on the door: no wand, no means of escape. He had endured a few pitiful moments of wakefulness before Macnair had brought him to the upstairs drawing room.
The torture commenced.
Malfoy wanted to know everything: where the Order would strike next, who were the Order spies but mostly: Where were James and Lily Potter?
He had babbled nonsense after his first taste of the Cruciatus Curse: a garbled mix of stock answers that the Order had concocted if a member had been captured and a little, shameful, bit of the truth.
However: one sane fragment stuck in his mind: do not say anything about James or Lily.
As Sirius had once said, "I'd rather die than betray my friends."
And Peter Pettigrew believed that with all of his heart.
Malfoy knelt next to him, a sadistic smirk on his chiseled, flint-like face. "Where's Potter? You cannot possibly not know. Tell me now and I let you go."
"Just like that?" Peter rasped.
"Just like that," nodded Malfoy. "Fail to tell me and—" he waved his wand threateningly—"suffer the consequences."
"Malfoy, I wouldn't tell you for all the Galleons in Gringotts," Peter croaked. He ran his tongue around his bone-dry mouth and spat in a brash manner that was more characteristic of James or Sirius.
In for a penny, out for a pound.
Malfoy's face contorted in disgust, and he vigorously wiped his check with the sleeve of his expensive black robes.
"Filthy Mudblood," he snarled. He swung his hand back and slapped Peter as hard as he could, the resulting smack resounding around the room.
Unconsciousness was a long time in coming.
He awoke in a sweat sodden mess, his body horribly contorted and stiff.
Panicked, and unsure of where he was, Peter rolled to his left and dropped like a stone onto the hard parquet of the Potter's living room floor. He sat up, confused, and gazed blearily at the leather sofa in front of him.
Then it hit him.
He was in Lily and James' house.
It wasn't December and he was not in the cellar of Malfoy Manor, praying for rescue.
He was safe.
It was a just a nightmare, Peter told himself as he stood shakily to grab a glass of water.
Memories can't hurt you.
The sound of hushed voices and sizzling food grew stronger as he walked toward the kitchen, squinting as the bright light hit his shy pupils.
Lily Potter stood at the stove, her back to him as she made breakfast. She hummed merrily, stirring a large pan of scrambled eggs with her wand. Beside her, pieces of bacon were turning themselves as the teakettle began to whistle.
"Remus, would you be a dear and get that? My hands are full."
Peter glanced toward the kitchen table as Remus Lupin emerged from behind the Daily Prophet, scowling darkly.
"Skeeter's having a field day with these recent disappearances, says we're not doing enough to stop Voldemort. I'd like to see her take on the Death Eaters." Remus left the table, and did a double take upon seeing Peter standing in the doorway. "Well, you're up early. Good morning."
"Morning," replied Peter automatically. He slid into the seat opposite Remus, looking around through glassy eyes.
Lily beamed at him, and handed him a plate. "Good morning, Peter. Fancy some breakfast?"
"Sure. What did you cook?"
"Everything," interjected Remus good-naturedly, and poured himself a cup of tea. "If I didn't know any better I'd say she was cooking for an army."
"I don't see you complaining when you eat everything in sight," said Lily, ribbing him. She sat down in between the two men, strategically placing the plates of toast, eggs and bacon in front of her.
"I'm a growing boy," Remus said with a wolfish grin. "Pass me the butter."
"Get it yourself," she replied, her mouth already full.
Remus sighed. "Peter, could you pass me the butter?"
"Get it yourself," he said, exchanging a wink with Lily.
"That's the spirit," she laughed. "You've got a wand, Remus. Use it."
"Accio butter," said Remus in a mock resigned manner and began to slather liberal amounts onto his singed toast. "So, Peter, what are you doing awake? You usually don't get up until nine o'clock."
Peter frowned. "What time is it?"
"Seven," said Lily, rubbing her eyes. "Normally, I wouldn't be awake either, but the Hogwarts letters are mailed today, and Remus and I have got Muggleborn informing duty."
"It's that time of the year again, is it?"
"Yes," said Lily with a fond smile. "And Harry will be getting his sometime today as well. You know how excited he is about that."
"I think all of Godric's Hollow knows how excited he is," said Remus dryly.
Lily punched him lightly. "Don't be cheeky."
"That's a difficult thing to do for Remus," said Peter.
Remus chuckled dryly.
Lily paused, and said soberly, "But really, Peter, are you all right?"
Her green eyes examined Peter with concern. "You look ill."
Peter fiddled with his napkin, and ducked Lily's penetrating gaze. His friend had a nifty way with eliciting information, even when people were unwilling to give it.
He suspected that was part of how Lily had become such a good teacher.
"I just didn't sleep very well that's all," Peter muttered, dropping his eyes to the table. He purposely forked a large bite of scrambled eggs into his mouth, chasing it down with a hot gulp of tea.
Lily and Remus exchanged inscrutable glances and Peter determinedly ignored them.
Remus stretched out and patted his hand in a sympathetic gesture.
Lily smiled, and said softly, "You shouldn't be ashamed, you know."
"Of what?" said Peter defiantly.
She reached out across the table and enveloped him in a hug.
He accepted it wordlessly, finding solace in the tight arms of one of his closest friends.
As she continued to squeeze him tightly, Peter determinedly brushed the last lingering memories away.
Love was the balm for everything.
No matter what the pain.