Shades of Grey
He wanted to be James Potter.
When Peter Pettigrew saw James Potter at the station, being hugged goodbye by his parents, Peter felt jealous. He didn't, not then, know who James was, and couldn't know what he would come to mean to him. In that moment, he saw only a healthy, dark haired boy, obviously loved and well-cared for, being embraced by his sobbing mother, and then a clearly sad father.
"Remember to write." The boy's dad told him as he hugged him, tightly. "We want to know everything."
"I will." James assured them. Peter watched them in fascination, the little, perfect family who so obviously loved each other.
"Get on the train, then." Peter's own mother said quietly. She didn't touch him, didn't hug or kiss him at all. "I'll see you at Christmas." There was very little emotion in her voice; she didn't sound sad, didn't sound like she'd miss him.
He nodded, climbed aboard. "Bye, then."
"Goodbye." Peter's mother nodded. Peter hesitated.
"Love you!" James Potter's mother said as James climbed onto the train.
Peter looked back at his own mother, not daring to hope. "Be good." She told him flatly.
"I - I'll write." Peter said. His mother nodded. A little way away, James was leaning out of the window so his mother could hug him one last time, and his father ran a hand over his head.
Peter muttered one last goodbye, then wondered off to find a seat. He settled in an empty compartment, and wished, with all he had, to be James Potter.
He wanted to be Sirius Black.
Everyone knew who Sirius' family were. Everyone knew they were all Slytherins. But Sirius was a Gryffindor, and proud of it, apparently not caring that he'd separated himself from his family. Sirius was brave, brave enough to go against his family, to talk back to teachers in a funny, charming way, to talk to students he didn't know, to ask out girls. Sirius was brave, and funny, and popular.
Peter didn't care that Sirius' family were bad, that Sirius would often say, casually, that they didn't love him, in a flat way that told everyone it was true. Peter didn't care that Sirius bore signs of not being cared for, that he'd never been kissed by his mother, hugged by his father.
Peter watched, for years, as Sirius charmed people, commanded attention, admiration, respect, as he got girlfriend after girlfriend and parted with all of them as friends, because he was just so likeable.
He watched, and wished with his whole heart to be Sirius.
He wanted to be Remus Lupin.
Remus was smart, extremely so. Remus was interesting, and amusing, and caring. Remus was loyal, and inspired loyalty.
Remus wasn't as overtly confident as James or Sirius. Not as easy or as open. But still, still Peter wanted to be him. Remus had known James and Sirius for barely an hour before they'd made him their best friend, before they'd formed that little group. Remus was likable.
When the three boys talked to Peter, when he realised that he'd become their friend - their friend - he couldn't believe his luck. These were perfect people, and they'd chosen him.
But he wanted to be Remus. He wanted to be Sirius. He wanted to be James. Even when he realised, slowly, that they weren't perfect - Remus had his secrets, Sirius had his scars, James had his flaws - he'd still have traded places with any of them in a heartbeat.
He was their friend, their brother. And always, in the back of his mind, he wished to be them.
He watched Remus receive another top mark piece of work, laughing and joking with James and Sirius, and wished, hopelessly, to be him.
He wanted to be James. He wanted to be Sirius. He wanted to be Remus. He wanted to be loved, to be brave, to be smart. To be loyal and confident and funny. To be everything his friends were, and he could never be.
He wanted to be special, to be something. He wanted to be important. He'd never, never been satisfied with who he was, and never would be. He wanted to be different.
His voice shook as he agreed to join. His stomach pitched as Lord Voldemort laughed. His eyes filled with tears as the mark was burned onto him. And he hoped, with all he had, that by doing this he could become important, he could become something, anything, other than what he was, because if he had to live with himself any longer he might just go crazy.
He doesn't want them to die. When James and Lily tell them they're going to make him their secret keeper, he knows that this is what the Dark Lord was waiting for, hoping for, planning for. He doesn't know why the Dark Lord is out to get James and his little, perfect family (James came from a little perfect family and has now created his own, and Peter always has, always will, resent him for it). He doesn't know, but he does care, he does wish it was another way, any other way.
But, months ago, Peter signed his soul away.
"Don't." The word escaped him before he could help himself. Lily shifted baby Harry - a baby, just a little baby, with his father's face and his mother's eyes and Peter knew that his master wanted that baby dead - and frowned at him, then exchanged a look with James.
"What? Why?" James asked.
"I - I - Sirius should be your secret keeper. Or Remus." Peter stammered. After all, wasn't Remus smart and loyal and careful? Wasn't Sirius brave enough to die for them, all of them? Wasn't he not only a brother to James, but a brother to Lily, in a way Remus sort of was, and Peter didn't believe he, himself, could ever be?
Peter was nothing. A traitor, a rat, who still hoped to be more than he could ever manage.
"We want you to be it." Lily told him. "We believe in you, Peter, we trust you."
He felt, suddenly, the urge to confess all. It was a mistake to join the Dark Lord, he knew now, but he wanted to be something important.
He looked from Lily - lovely, really, she was lovely and he envied James for earning her love - to James - the first person he ever wanted to be, and suddenly he hated him for being so damn lucky, and he hated Lily for loving him and being so nice - to Sirius - and he hated him, because Sirius saw, he knew, that Peter was less than them, and Sirius, even though his parents never loved him, just like Peter's never loved him, has always been everything Peter wanted to be - to Remus - and he hated him, for being smarter than Peter can even understand, for suffering and still being so perfect, and for offering Peter his friendship, his loyalty, when he never deserved it.
He hated them all, in that moment, for being what he can't, having what he can't, and for loving him when they shouldn't.
The urge to confess died.
"OK." He heard himself say. "I'll do it."
He hated himself, too, but that's nothing new.
He watched from the gutter as they took Sirius away. Sirius was laughing, and Peter wished he was brave enough to face up to what he'd done, to take the blame for killing two people he loved and hated in equal measure.
Instead, he watched, then went deeper into the sewers. He as good as killed Lily and James, and he'll never forgive himself for it. They didn't deserve to die, and he hated them for that, too.
It was a mess. Everything was a mess. Sirius was out and Remus and Harry and his friends knew exactly what had happened. Peter had no one to go to, nothing to do. He couldn't hide in the wizarding world anymore, it wasn't safe. He couldn't hide in the muggle world, either, because he despised muggles.
(They didn't have to suffer like he had, didn't have to deal with the problems of magic and evil wizards and never quite being good enough at any of it, so he hated them, every single one.)
He spent three days on the streets, as a rat of course. Remus was right about him being a better rat than a person. He'd never been a good person, a good wizard, a good friend. The only time he'd had a girlfriend, he hadn't been a good boyfriend to her, and she'd told him so.
But he was a good rat.
In the end, he decided to go to the Dark Lord. Not because he wanted to (the thought made him sick, made him physically sick) but because he had no where else, no one else. He needed someone stronger, smarter, better than him, because alone he was nothing.
He hated Voldemort, for not making him into what he wanted, for forcing him to help kill Lily and James (he loved them, hated them, and never wanted them dead). He hated Voldemort for his power, his smarts, his strength. But he went to him anyway.
He wasn't evil. Peter thought he was, because he'd all but killed two people he'd loved (and hated and envied and wished to be) and surely that made him evil? James had been the first person at Hogwarts to talk to him, James had given him friends, and Peter had stolen his life. Surely that made him evil? Surely that was why he'd joined the Death Eaters?
But no. Peter killed, and felt sick, so sick, so much so that he vomited right into the blood of the pretty young witch who's life he'd just ended. She was beautiful, and he killed her, but he regrets it, regrets it in a way that tells him he's not evil.
There are shades of grey, thousands and thousands of shades of grey between black and white. Peter knew, as he knelt on the floor, in his own vomit and a young woman's blood, that he didn't fit in with the light, and didn't fit in with the dark. He was somewhere in those shades of grey, and now, finally, he understood. It was being in the grey that allowed him to love - he loved James and Sirius and Remus and Lily, even now - allowed him to feel regret and remorse, in a way that true evil, true darkness, could not. Peter understood, and wished it were different. If he were in the white, he wouldn't have done all the things that weighed heavily on his heart. He wouldn't have killed. If he were in the black, he wouldn't feel the things that weighed on his heart, and he craved that freedom.
But he was trapped in the grey, and pitied himself for it.
Sirius had died a week ago, and Peter was still grieving. He loved, he envied, he hated, and he grieved.
He left the poor dead woman - girl, really, he doubted she'd even hit twenty-five - and went back to the shadows. It was where he belonged, after all.
He stared into Harry's eyes. Lily's eyes, James' face, as though the child had been created to cause him to feel guilty. In that moment, he regretted. He'd caused the deaths of three people he'd loved - Sirius, James, Lily - and he regretted. If only he'd been better, stronger, smarter, braver, more loyal, they'd have lived. Maybe, just maybe, he'd have liked himself, and if he'd liked himself he wouldn't have envied those around him, and wouldn't have grown to hate them. And they'd have lived.
The hand, the magical hand, inched towards his throat, and Peter knew he was going to die. He fought it, of course, because human instinct dictates that death must be fought.
He didn't want to die. He feared death, always had, enough to join Voldemort rather than die. But he didn't want to live, either. He was sick of life, sick of being himself, sick of wishing to be anyone else, to be different, and not managing it.
The cold, white hand closed over his throat, and Peter's vision turned to grey. His shade of grey, he thought dizzily. He was dying, dying, dying, and he embraced it.
It was only right that he died, like those who had mistakenly cared for him. Only right he died, like those he had betrayed.
Everything was grey, his heart was beating fast, so, so fast, as though it was trying to fit a lifetime's worth of beats into those last few minutes, and his breathing was ragged.
During those final, desperate heartbeats, those last, gasping breaths, Peter felt only relief.