A/N: First, love to reviewers.
This piece is something of a departure. I'm thinking a lot of people may be displeased with certain plot developements; I promise you, all will be explained in time. Be patient.
Have you ever been writing and had a minor character, one who'd never deigned to speak to you, refuse to leave you alone? Hence, Wormtail. He Wouldn't. . "Please, just a one shot, just a tiny one shot." So, here it is. His backstory more symapthetic than I meant it to be; he sort of took the inch I gave him and sidled a mile.
I want to make it very clear: I feel Wormtail's father was WRONG to treat him the way he did. It is NEVER ACCEPTABLE to treat another human, let alone a child, the way Marten treated his son. Please don't accuse me of supporting child abuse.
Draco Malfoy's life ended at dinner on the second day after the battle of Hogwarts. They were sipping consumme when the Dark Lord clinked his glass. The table turned as one. Voldemort smiled. "Friends, we have so much reason to celebrate today. Our victory is complete. We are safe. The children of this terrible war have been seen to, and the future of our people is assured. Ordinarily this would be enough for me.'
"Today I was given yet more cause for joy. My dear Lucius came to me in the night and we spoke. He spoke to me of his son, Draco. An exemplary son, he said, a credit to his line.'
" Since Lucius has been made Minister of Magic, it is imperative that he have an assistant to help him. Someone loyal, discreet, full of sound ideas and upright morals. With that in mind, I have decided to appoint Draco Lucius's assistant and heir apparent."
The table clapped and Draco beamed at his father, full of love and pride. His father smiled back, but Draco noticed it was not the usual insouciant grin. Lucius looked troubled, almost sick. Draco's heart plummeted.
"Then the subject moved to my dear Bellatrix and Rudolphus. My most loyal followers, my good right arm. What of them? How shall I repay their devotion?'
"Bellatrix and Rudolphus have been ideal followers in all ways but one—they have never blessed me with children, formed of their union and their pure and perfect blood. How will they be assured a legacy?'
"The answer came to me at once. Though they have no children, they have a ward, a girl whose brilliance outshines even the filth of her dirty blood. Through this, the orphaned girl they took in, shall I assure their immortal legacy is kept alive.'
" It is with greatest pleasure I announce the betrothal of Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger, ward of Rudolphus Lestrange."
There must have been more but Draco didn't hear it. He'd fainted dead away.
When he woke he was in Lucius' office. He sat up too quickly, his head spinning. He'd had the most awful dream…
Lucius turned from the fire and looked at his only son. "Yes, Draco, I'm here."
"I had the strangest dream, Father. I dreamed the mud blood and I…Father?"
Lucius took a sip of the fire whiskey in his snifter. He knew this was going to be hard. He knew it was going to be unpleasant and that Draco would be very unhappy with him, with Narcissa, with the world.
" I had no choice, son. The Dark Lord came to me and told me this morning. Castor Parkinson got my letter and gift of recompense before dinner. 500 Galleons, rather generous. She'll easily find a new man with a dowry that large."
Draco couldn't believe this was happening. "You can't actually intend that I marry her!"
"Lower your voice. There is no choice in this. The Dark lord wishes me to provide Bellatrix and Rudolphus with a house and an income. A bride price accomplishes that without offending Rudolphus' dignitas."
Lucius referred to the ancient concept, untranslatable into English, of a person's whole worth—to themselves, to society, encompassing their status and good name, their moral character, their place among their equals. For sake of his dignitas Ceasar fought a civil war; for sake of his son's life, Lucius forsook his and married that same son to a girl with dirty blood.
" I won't do it. I simply cannot conscience it."
Lucius got up and towered over his son. His hand landed hard on the boy's shoulder and he lowered his voice to an almost growl.
"You can do it. You will do it. Because I command it of you, and I (shake) am (shake) the head (shake) of this family (shake). And I intend (shake) on living (shake) a good long time(shake). Reconcile yourself, Draco. You will marry the mud blood Granger and put on a good public face about it, or so help me I'll disinherit you and make Rudolphus my heir."
Draco whitened. Tears sprang into his eyes and he tried to pull away. Lucius held him fast. The worst he had ever given Draco was a firm scolding, or the occasional smack on the bottom when he was younger. He'd never used a tone like before, and it shook Draco to his core.
"But Father…the family…Crabbe died when he released the fiend-fyre to kill those mud blood lovers…how can I…" Draco had had no particular liking for Vincent Crabbe but seeing his hideous death had struck him to the bone.
Lucius steeled his resolved. " Our blood is pure, Draco. It will wipe away the taint. Besides, the Dark Lord has ordered a number of such marriages to strengthen
our ranks. Snape told him the reason so many Pure blood families have trouble bearing live children is new blood is needed."
They were both silent, remembering that Draco ought to have had a sister. Drusella, her name would have been, had Narcissa not had a late term miscarriage. Draco had been eight at the time; he remembered the ghastly screams from his mother's room and his father's gentle explanation that the baby had been too tiny to live. They buried the pitiful little box in the family burial ground, and Draco had wept that his sister was all alone without anyone to comfort her if she should cry.
" Father I understand I can't marry Pansy Parkinson now. But Granger? Bellatrix's mud blood pet? She was Weasley's whore!"
Draco could live with making a less than elite marriage; he could not stand the idea of being yoked to Hermione Granger for the next eighty years. Pure blood marriages were essentially Unbreakable Vows. Worse, to encourage the correct people to breed, a fidelity charm made it impossible for the partners to have relations with anyone other than their spouse.
The door opened and Lucius, face white, bowed low. "My Lord! I did not expect--"
Voldemort swept in, followed by Wormtail. He didn't acknowledge Lucius' remark. "And how is our bridegroom?"
Draco tried to swallow the fear that rose in his chest. "Fine, my Lord. Fine."
The Dark Lord smiled. " I could have sworn, Draco, that I heard you call your fiancée a whore. Is that not so?"
There was no out for this. "Yes my Lord, I suppose I did."
" Why would you do a thing like that?"
"She kept company with Potter and Weasley, my Lord. Unchaperoned, at night."
Voldemort cocked his head.
"If it will comfort you, I will have her tested before the wedding takes place. If she's…less than pure, Snape can give her a potion to restore her to her virgin state. I would doubt it, though. Miss Granger seems a young lady of exceptional modesty and propriety, besides being your distaff cousin. I would keep that in mind."
"Wormtail?" Pettigrew jumped and flicked his head. To Lucius, the gesture reminded him of a rat, cleaning its whiskers with its pink little paws. Wormtail gave an oily smile and bowed.
"Take young Mr. Malfoy and give him a lesson in respecting the reputations of ladies, not to mention his ungallant behavior towards his fiancée. Lucius, you must stay here with me. We need to discuss the terms of the bridal contract."
Wormtail clamped a clammy hand on Draco's arm and hustled him into the hall. "Take us to an empty room, Young Malfoy. I doubt you want anyone to overhear."
Draco hated the idea of this foul creature is his bedroom. He led him to a small sitting room, disused, caked with dust. Drawing his wand, he flicked it and watched the dust vanish.
Wormtail reached out and seized his wand. Tucking it in his own jumper, he made to rummage within a random box. He came up with a feather duster missing half of its ostrich feathers.
Draco almost laughed. The man looked like a little creature, well pleased with some half rank morsel it dug from a tip. Wormtail drew his wand and mumbled something. A yellowish glow suffused the duster a moment and, when it had faded, Draco saw that a manky looking leather bedroom slipper sat in it's place.
Two thoughts competed at once. The first was he'd rather die than let Wormtail beat him. Once had been more than enough, thank you. He'd even managed to half behave with the captives, which for Draco was no small feat.
The other was, if Wormtail was going to beat him, it wasn't going to be with anything that looked like that. If he were going to free a house elf, he wouldn't do it by giving it that slipper.
"Come here, Young Malfoy. I'd rather get this over with."
I bet you would, you shoddy little ponce. " Do you actually intend to---to smack me with that thing?"
Wormtail nodded. "Oh, yes indeed!" He gave an eerie titter and pulled his head into his shoulders. Draco made himself cross the distance. Well, he consoled himself, it's not Bellatrix's brush.
Peter Pettigrew had had a rather unpleasant childhood. His mother, the former Sofie Diffle, died when he was three. His father Marten was inconsolable and spent the rest of his life bitterly lamenting the fact his wonderful Sofie had died and left him with his turnip of a son ( the fact that Sofie had detested her husband and found death a relief never entered his mind).
It was not in Marten to be gentle with Peter. He was a cold, hard man with a streak that bordered on sadism and he often vented it on his only offspring. The boy could do nothing right; the punishment for failure was a smacking with the slipper Wormtail had reproduced so gleefully on the table all those years later in Malfoy manor.
He could still remember vividly. His father would come into his room before bed ( no matter how early Peter misbehaved, he always got punished right before bedtime), holding the dreaded slipper. Peter inevitably tried to beg off, plead his case, change Marten's mind. To a man like Marten, this was an indication of weakness, of cowardice. It only served to anger him further, which in turn made Peter more afraid. It became a vicious cycle.
Marten would call his son over from the corner he was standing in and position him between his legs. Marten Pettigrew was a small man, short but powerfully built, rather like a keg standing on two stubby little trunks that passed for legs.
He reach up and yank the boy's pajama bottoms all the way, ignoring the hysterical crying and pleading this occasioned. He'd bend the boy over his left knee, holding him around the waist. Then he'd bring the slipper down.
Peter would invariably shriek as though he was being killed. The slipper was heavy. It hurt.. Marten would apply it in short, powerful bursts that left his son howling in seconds.
Peter honestly believed for the longest time that his father didn't know how much that blasted slipper stung. He tried to tell him, to explain that it didn't merely hurt; his backside was going to be smacked off soon. It made wide, flat swathes of pain on Peter's bottom that he felt for days after. Worse, his father made no move to avoid overlapping them, which meant in short order his whole arse burned like a tire fire. And he never just stopped with one pass—it wasn't unusal for Marten to wallop him four times with the thing, even his thighs, before he decided Peter had had enough.
And he lectured, bellowing to be heard over his boy's womanish screeching. The boy would writhe like a fish, his father bringing the slipper down again and again on Peter's thoroughly reddened backside, roaring that this and this and this was what happened to lazy little pigs ( or dunces or liars), and he'd sit on a blistered arse for a week if Marten had any say.
Peter had loved his father, for all the man was an unfeeling monster. He'd wept when he'd died. Remembering this, he pushed aside the anger and fear the memories caused him and concentrated on the happiness the chance to whale Draco Malfoy again gave him.
He grasped the Malfoy heir's scrawny arm and pulled him closer. The boy's heart was beating hard; Wormtail could see the pulse beating at his neck. He reached up and pushed the lad's expensive lambs wool jumper out of the way. He began to undo the boy's dragon hide belt and felt Malfoy stiffen.
"Whatever you're thinking, you repulsive little freak--"
Wormtail held up a hand. "Now now, Young Malfoy, the Dark Lord said I could punish you how I saw fit." He undid the belt and unfastened the trousers and pants and then, with unexpected speed, pulled the boy over his lap.
Draco had expected to be hit but not to be bared in this humiliating fashion. The collision with Wormtail's knees knocked the air from his lungs in a hot burst. By the time he'd reoriented himself, Wormtail had raised the slipper and, giggling to himself, brought it down with a determined "THWACK!"
Draco gasped. Merlin that smarted. It wasn't unbearable—nowhere near as bad as crucio—but he hadn't expected his arse to start burning right away. The slipper was flat and looked much lighter than it was. Unlike something rigid ( Bella's brush, say) the leather slipper was flexible. Rather than smack a single fixed point of impact, it bent a little to fit the whole area it was being applied to. Rather than simply stinging the target area, the slipper targeted the little nooks and crannies that more rigid implements couldn't reach.
Wormtail was determined to give the boy a punishment that would have made his dear old Dad proud. He drew the slipper back and cracked it down again, lower than the first time. It overlapped the first blow; Draco grunted and jumped.
Owwww! Wormtail was really laying into him. The pain was a hot, burning sting the likes of which he'd never felt, and when Wormtail crossed the old impact zone and the new, it felt a thousand times worse.
The third stroke fell. This one covered Draco's sit spot pretty effectively. He bit his lip and tried to breath evenly. It's hard to breath evenly when someone is scalding your arse with the burning hot slipper of Hell, but never let it be said a Malfoy failed to give it a college try.
THWACK! "OWWWW, WORMTAIL!" Wormtail ignored him. He was enjoying himself more than he had in years. He brought the slipper down on the opposite side of Draco's body, prompting another cry of pain. He repeated the pattern on the other side, keeping the boy as still as he could as he writhed.
The first go around Draco was considering his blood purity was worth a little smacking from Voldemort's servant- freak. The second go around he was willing to entertain discussions on that or any other topic. The third go around he was beginning to consider that his best course might include some permutation of marrying the mud blood. The fourth go around he decided that marriage, like death, is fixed and none can avoid it, and would happily have given the mud blood a sincere proposal (or a house, or his brooms stick, or the Hope diamond) to get the smacking to stop. The fifth go around and he was crying too hard to think about anything but the burning agony of his bum. He went limp, sobbing frantically.
Wormtail felt he'd done his Dad a good turn. He raised the slipper above his head and brought it down one last time on Young Malfoy's bright pink rear end with a final "THWACK!"
At least, that's what he probably said. It was hard for either participant to know, really, given the volumn and strength of his sobs. Wormtail, having done his duty, was at a loss for what to do. The last time the boy had stormed off without a word. Of course, the last time he hadn't been sobbing like this.
Marten tended to dump his son, still crying, on the bed and walk out without a word. There was no bed here, and Wormtail had the sense his Master would be upset if he gave Young Malfoy a concussion. He settled on waiting for the brat to move.
Draco was in agony. He realized now what Potter and Granger went through on a regular basis (with the Dark Lord, no less. Not to mention his crazy aunt). He resolved never to taunt them about it ever again. Not that he had made the connection between his poor behavior and his punishment in any other than the most rudimentary way, mind you; Draco was constitutionally incapable of finding fault within himself. His empathy chip, not missing, was buried under layers of cottony padding that kept the world at large. He was a Malfoy, after all; the world would arrange itself to suit him, and if it did not, that was the world's purview to correct, not his. He rose and began the laborious task of straightening himself up.
Near midnight, he was still awake. He'd gone to Lucius in the library and apologized. His father, grateful his son was alive, hugged him and said nothing. Draco relaxed into the embrace, admitting that it felt good simply to be held for a moment. He hadn't let himself be embraced like this since he was…twelve? Thirteen?
Lucius was thinking much the same. He loved his son more than any other human, was proud of him, wished him the very best; at the same time, he'd forgotten how much he missed the sweet, cuddly little boy Draco had been. He released him and gave him a handkerchief to wipe his face.
Now, near midnight, Draco could not sleep. He rolled on his back, hissed and moved to his side instead. Resigned he might have been, but that didn't prevent him from hating everyone and everything; his life was over and, in a childish fit of pique, he wished he were dead. That would resolve everything nicely, just like they wanted.
"Would it, boy? Would it really?" Draco gasped and made as though to rise. Voldemort gestured him down.
"Do you actually believe that nonsense, or are simply indulging in a temper tantrum?"
Draco's face flushed. " I suppose I don't, my Lord. Believe it. Not really."
Voldemort crossed his arms and watched the spoiled little monster in the bed. The boy's face was swollen with tears. He doubted Draco had ever felt a moment's remorse for anything other than getting caught. Then again, neither had he.
"Best not to make wishes like that. You never know who might overhear."
Draco froze. He didn't want to die. He didn't want to obey the Dark Lord. He really didn't want to die. What would Grandfather have done?
"Abraxas? He would have given in. Like you yourself, in the end. You're a coward, Draco. All the Malfoys are. Why do you think Lucius claimed to be Imperioused?"
Draco stiffened.. He was used to defending his father's honor but he realized now the wrong word could kill him. This wasn't one the idiot Slytherins from Hogwarts, easily cowed and manipulated; this was a wizard a thousand times more powerful than any living wizard. Dumbldore might have mastered him- but Dumbledore was dead.
Voldemort smiled. He was enjoying Draco's attempts to reconcile his love for Lucius with his knowledge the man was a born coward. He sagged toward the mattress again, defeated. His eyes were like little animals in his face, wary and alert.
"I feel a certain surprise that you wish to test my mercy in this regard. I'm honoring you, you know; I could have given Goyle or young Nott this opportunity. Instead I chose you, Draco, and do you know why?"
Draco shook his head. He was aware that the world hovered now on a knife's edge; between pain and pleasure, light and dark, good and evil. Until recently he had never thought much of his place on that knife's edge; now he saw he wobbled dangerously. To fall might be to rise.
"No, my Lord. Please tell me."
"Because your innate cowardice prevents you from all but the most petty and grasping ambition, neither stupid enough for petty greed nor imaginative enough to develop ideals that could prove…tiresome."
Draco wanted to defend himself but could not. The Dark Lord was an Legilimens of prodigous skill; he knew how empty Draco's protests would be.
" Why kill all the filthy creatures of our world—the muggles, the mud-bloods, the half blood scum—when we can use them? Twist them to our will. Why stop here, Draco? Why not the world?"
" My Lord?"
" So many wizards killed. It will take four generations to get the population up to a third of what it was, if the original plan is followed, at least according to Snape. We could use that time to cement our foothold on power. But we must all make sacrifices."
"Take the Lestranges, for example. They lost everything in following me. A situation I wish to rectify, but sadly cannot. What of them, Draco? Should I leave my most faithful servants to freeze and starve? To live off your father's charity forever as near beggars?"
Draco thought his aunt a lunatic and her husband an unusually genial pervert ( if the stories he had heard whispered were anything to go by). One of his few ideals was absolute loyalty to family and group, if not individuals. His pride was offended by the notion of his mother's sister as a poor relation when she ought to be the fourth or fifth wealthiest woman in Britain, in wizarding terms. On the other hand, once the deed was done there was no going back. He was stuck for life.
"May I ask a question, my Lord?"
Voldemort nodded. "Couldn't Father just…give them the money? As a gift?"
The Dark Lord chuckled and shook his head. "Draco, Draco, you know better than that. Why can he not do that?"
Draco had heard this his whole life. "Because it would compromise Rudolphus' honor and he'd have to challenge my father to a duel."
"No matter who lost, I'd still be short a follower, would I not?"
"Yes, but surely your Lordship's word would override--"
Voldemort laughed again. "I could, but I'd rather grow new disciples than discontent. You'll do it, Draco, or you'll beg for death. Do you understand?"
Draco swallowed hard. "I wish only to please your Lordship."
"Then resign yourself. And take heart—it will be some time yet. You will acclimate to it before it happens. Good night, Draco."
"Good night, my Lord." Draco laid his head on the cool silk pillow slip and closed his eyes. He felt as though he had aged a thousand years in a single conversation. The Dark Lord was right; he would do it.