45 Weeks to Be Felled by a Dark Lord

A HariPo oneshot

by mew-tsubaki

Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not me. In the course of writing my Remus/Sirius fic, 45 Ways to Make a Werewolf Fall for You, a reviewer (the lovely Searlupe—thank you, hon, for permission)posed a question after reading ch.39—when Remus bumped into Peter before the Potters went into hiding, would things have been different if Peter had broken down and told Remus everything? If Peter had made himself out to be a traitor, could the Marauders have helped him and therefore prevented their personal catastrophe?

Well, here is my answer. Obvious Lily/James references, subtle hints (and maybe some overt ones) of Remus/Sirius, and plenty of angst and friendship, all to answer one question: Could Peter ever have been saved?

*You do not have to have read my fic, 45 Ways to Make a Werewolf Fall for You, to enjoy this, though it might make a smidge more sense.*

- ^-^3

~Autumn~

Peter Pettigrew sneezed and shook himself as he seized the chance to exit Knockturn Alley. No one was looking his way, which was typical, but he always preferred it that way. If no one looked his way, then no one would ask questions. And, frankly, Peter had never been able to answer questions very well.

He almost made it out of Diagon Alley when he bumped into someone's arm. Oh Merlin, he thought. Please ignore me—everyone else can, so can you—

"Excuse me," the man said.

Peter didn't look back. That was all right. He could get by with ignoring a dismissive "excuse me." But he felt the man's eyes on him, boring into the back of his head.

"Peter?"

The wizard stopped and hesitated. He'd know that voice anywhere. That kind voice… Finally Peter looked over his shoulder. "Remus…?"

Remus Lupin, your friendly neighborhood werewolf, blinked and Peter knew he was sizing up his old school friend. How could Remus not? It had been…what? Months since Remus, Sirius, or James had seen Peter? The last thing Peter remembered, he'd seen Lily crying into James' shoulder and Remus and Sirius with their heads bowed close when it was announced at an Order of the Phoenix meeting that Fabian and Gideon Prewett had been murdered.

And Peter knew who'd murdered them. But Remus didn't know about James and Lily's need for a Secret-Keeper…which Sirius had thought to make Peter.

"Um…you've lost weight," Remus babbled. Peter wondered if Remus knew how his scarred face flushed slightly; the Animagus understood that Remus was likely trying to be polite and not comment on how ill Peter looked. Peter knew he looked bad; all the time spent with the Death Eaters…it had taken its toll on him.

Peter managed a shaky, partial smile. "Yeah… I haven't had much of an appetite." Which was true.

"Why?"

"Eh…nothing much… Just caught a bit of the summer flu, I s'pose," Peter lied. If Remus bought that, then Peter deserved an award. That lie, Peter considered, was of Sirius proportions.

Remus nodded; perhaps he looked a little skeptical, but if he was, he didn't say it. "So are you back for good?"

The question caught Peter off-guard. "Sorry?"

"You've been here and there," the werewolf explained gently. "I was wondering if you're back for good. At least for now. Dumbledore sure keeps you busy on missions."

Peter visibly paled—he could see in the reflection of Remus' brown eyes that he looked at white as the whites of Remus' eyes. Of course Remus would reason that Peter had been working for Dumbledore on Order missions. Why wouldn't he? A sick, dark part of Peter commended him for being able to hide his allegiances so well that even the brilliant Remus Lupin was fooled. "Dumbledore—er, right. Well, I dunno really. …there's a lot for even a worm like me to do." He smiled to an extent. He really was a worm, the way he writhed about at the Death Eaters' orders… Regulus' disappearance had not affected them at all; they were all for the Dark Lord, with the Dark Lord for all. Peter admired that faith in such a powerful man… He and his Death Eaters didn't seem like the pushovers Dumbledore and the Order were.

Remus grinned. "Then you should grab some ice cream with me," he suggested. "The sugar will give you energy!"

They shared a laugh, and Peter was reminded of the old days. He was painfully aware of the old days…but he was also painfully aware of the times when he'd been the butt of Sirius and James' jokes, the times when not even his friends could keep other students from making fun of him, the times when Peter had felt inclined to believe Lily that maybe Snape was a nice bloke after all… Snape's cold politeness had felt a lot nicer than Sirius and James' hostile friendship quite a bit of the time towards the end of their Hogwarts years. Of course, Lily ended up turning her back on Snape, but Peter left the communication lines open. Good thing, too, as they'd been an opening to join the elite…the powerful ones, the Death Eaters… Still, Remus was trying, and Peter felt he at least owed Remus, who'd tried to stand up for him, a pleasant façade. "I'd love to wolf down—" He paused. That pun had slipped out…but it was a nice little accident that almost warmed Peter as he and Remus shared in another laugh.

"My treat," Remus offered. He raised his eyebrows, his expression saying he knew it could be dangerous to one's wallet to treat Peter Pettigrew to any food. Peter had always been able to out-eat the other three Marauders combined.

"I'd love to scarf down one quintuple-scoop sundae…but I can't," he replied. His eyes darkened as he thought what the others might do to him if he arrived at the meeting late. It didn't matter that the Death Eaters didn't let him do all that much; if even scum like him were late, they were punished. Peter kept his body still so as not to shiver.

"Oh." Remus' face fell.

Peter knew that Remus was trying—just as he always had—and Peter's heart went out to him. "Hey, another time…mate." Merlin, such a word had never felt so heavy and leaden on Peter's tongue. How could he convince himself that it was all right to use such a word when he'd been reporting about the Order's goings-on to the—the—the enemy?

The enemy? But…wasn't the Order really the enemy, considering with whom Peter had allied himself? And…could he even consider that an alliance…?

Peter turned to go but froze when Remus offered his hand by way of goodbye.

This…was it. Could Peter brush the hand off? Could he shake it and act as though nothing had changed?

Could he…rely on that worn, scarred hand?

Peter swallowed the lump in his throat and shook his friend's hand, fully intending to let that be that and get on his way to the Lestrange residence. But the warmth of Remus' palm melted Peter's ice. The good memories he'd frozen away were free again, and tears broke free to run down Peter's round face.

It'd been so long since Peter had last cried, he'd nearly forgotten how it felt.

"Wormtail, what's wrong? Wormtail?" Remus asked, his hackles up as he watched his friend come apart. Remus gingerly placed an arm around the Animagus, which only aggravated Peter's anguish further.

"P—P—Please don't c—ca—call me that, Remus…!" he gasped.

Remus led him to the side of the street. Peter was probably drawing a crowd, but he couldn't exactly look into Remus' eyes. Not when they were looking that concerned. "What—why not, Wor—Peter?"

"Because," Peter breathed, his voice shaky. He stood up and—though he couldn't look Remus in the eye—he looked at Remus' face, focusing on the scars. "Because the Dark Lord calls me that."

It was the only time Peter had ever shown any Gryffindor courage.

- ^-^3

Judging by Remus' face, the thought didn't immediately sink in. When it did, Remus—as though on instinct—tried to hide his disgust. Not even kind ol' Moony could completely tolerate or digest what Peter had just said.

"You…what?" Remus' voice was hollow-sounding.

Peter dropped his eyes back to the ground, his energy and courage spent just looking at Remus' face when he had revealed his secret. "The Dark Lord calls me that."

"Stop saying that."

"I mean it, Remus. The Dark Lord calls me 'Wormtail' and—"

"Stop saying his name as though you're his follower!" the wolf hissed. He took several deep breaths to calm down. "Don't call him that. You—you don't—" But the color drained from Remus' face as realization dawned.

"I've…I've been his follower…"

"For how long?"

"Unofficially, since seventh year. Officially, since graduation." Peter winced as he heard the words spilling from his own mouth. "I wanted to tell you, but I would never tell Sirius or James…"

Remus rubbed his hand over his mouth and looked at the rat. "That's what we're doing. And now."

Peter panicked. "What? No, Remus, no! Not now—I—" He'd only just been able to tell Remus. But…of course the other two Marauders would have to know. They always knew everything about the others. Well, almost everything.

But the wolf was resolute in his decision and he grasped Peter's upper arm tightly as they wended their way to St. Mungo's. Remus said nothing else until they met with the others on their way out. Sirius was with James and Lily, who looked as though they'd just come from a check-up with one of the Healers. Harry looked so innocent in Lily's arms…

Peter felt about as innocent as Voldemort and Grindelwald combined.

Remus made eye contact with Sirius and the two of them stepped aside to exchange low words that sounded more like personal growls only they could understand. James turned to Peter and grinned. "Hey, Wormtail, how've ya been? It's been ages since we've seen you." Lily smiled and gestured to Harry.

The idea of smiling at them physically repulsed him. He didn't have that right and he knew it.

In the next moment, Remus and Sirius were back and Sirius had a manic look in his eye. "Yes, Peter, ages." Sirius' words were curt and cutting. He was long past livid with the rat. Peter presumed Sirius would've killed him then and there if everyone else hadn't been present.

"I know I should die," Peter blurted.

Sirius was stunned by his agreement, as was Remus, though the Potters were only frightened by his odd behavior. But Sirius regained his footing easily. "Let's go, Peter. We've lots to discuss."

Remus said something brief to James, who in turn spoke to Lily. Without another word, the Potters left and Remus and Sirius took Peter with them to their apartment. "It's…nice in here," Peter rambled, looking for any old words to fill the awkward silence he knew he deserved.

Sirius reeled around and nearly hit him. At the last second, Remus caught his arm and hugged it tightly so Sirius couldn't swing at Peter again. "How dare you!" he bellowed.

"I know!" Peter yelled. "I know! I dared—out of hurt, out of insecurity, out of rebellion!" Peter slumped on the floor and drew his knees up to his head, balling his fists in his eyes as he cried and continued to let Sirius, his once friend, scream at him.

"We trusted you! We all trusted you! We thought you were one of us—not just a Marauder, but one of the Order of the Phoenix! You were one of us—and you betrayed us, you betrayed them!"

Peter didn't need any elaboration for who "they" were. He knew exactly what the Black son meant.

Sirius continued to hurl insults and rebuffs at him. The whole time, Peter listened to them melding with the sound of his crying. He had never felt he'd deserved anything like this from Sirius. But that was before he'd signed up for the Dark Lord's service at the same time he'd joined the Order.

So Peter couldn't say "sorry." He didn't think an apology could suffice.

After a long while, Remus spoke to Sirius about them eating, about it getting late. Sirius suggested Remus go out and get them something and Remus did, only after Sirius promised Peter would be in the same shape he was presently when Remus returned. Then Sirius was suddenly tearing Peter's hands away from his tear-blotched brown eyes. "Tell me you didn't tell him."

"No, I haven't!" Peter cried.

Sirius breathed a huge sigh of relief, and his shoulders slackened. "Thank Merlin…!" When he next looked up, the craze in his eyes was gone, but the fury was still there. "How? How could you do this, Peter? How could you go to him?"

"How could you think I never would?" he spat back. "With the way you treated me…I never felt like a true part of the Marauders! The only time I did was when we found out Remus' secret! You and James were in the same boat as me—almost. Because you two had had an inkling. And you never shared that inkling with me. But you never shared anything with me. You might've said I was a Marauder, but it was in name only! I was like Frank—nothing more than a roommate, than a fellow Gryffindor who—honestly, in your eyes—didn't deserve to be in the same House as you!" Just like that, nearly ten years of anguish, torment, and being victimized were out in the open unable to be ignored any longer.

Sirius sat and listened. Peter figured Remus had finally rubbed off on him; go figure it took them moving in together for that to finally happen. But Sirius listened, just as Peter had listened to Sirius' initial outburst earlier.

Because, as handsome and friendly as he could be, Sirius Black had still been a bully. They all knew it; it just hadn't been said so rightly before.

When Peter felt he'd run out of voice, Sirius stared at the floor. He'd gone uncharacteristically quiet so much so that Peter was more scared now than when Sirius had been screaming bloody murder at him. But Sirius didn't attack him. "I'm…sorry…Peter."

Peter couldn't fathom the idea of an apology of any sort from Sirius Black. It was too absurd, to unrealistic to even consider. Yet, here it was. Peter went slack-jawed in awe, regaining his composure only when a question formed. "So…what now?"

Sirius raised his eyebrows. "As long as James and Lily are safe, we can't have taken too bad of a hit… Just…" Sirius winced. "Tell me—tell me that Dorcas and Marlene—tell me that they weren't because of you."

Peter lowered his eyes. "Dorcas and Marlene weren't."

Sirius exhaled.

"But the Prewett twins were."

Sirius' sharp intake of breath made Peter wince, but Sirius didn't hit him again. He stood, though he didn't offer Peter a hand up. "For your sake, Peter…I hope you don't ever force me to tell Molly that."

Peter nodded, understanding Sirius would keep that bit of information in reserve to hold over Peter. Though, really, there wasn't much to hold over him when Peter had long ago started feeling as though he had little left for which he could live.

"Are you going to—to tell Dumbledore?" Peter whispered.

"…no. I think we can be wizards here and sort this out ourselves. But, Peter, you're going to be living with Remus and me from now on."

"So you can keep an eye on me."

"You give me no other choice, Wormtail!"

Peter winced again. "I know… But you'll have to let me go from time to time. Otherwise—"

"The Death Eaters will come looking for you. I know, I know…" Sirius sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, not looking down at Peter. "But…Peter…do me a favor."

"Anything, Sirius."

"Please get up off the floor. The way you look…you're—you're not our prisoner."

Peter scrambled to stand. The idea that, even in the least, Sirius might consider him to still be one of them was uplifting to say the least. Peter went to thank him when Remus returned, and reality was pushed to the backs of their minds as hunger took priority.

- ^-^3

Telling James and Lily had not been any easier. Lily had cried so hard that Peter was sure James would hex him into oblivion for that alone. But when Sirius assured them that Peter would be under his and Remus' watchful eyes, James calmed enough merely to glare at Peter.

"You're bloody lucky Padfoot didn't kill you," James snarled.

Peter nodded glumly.

"I've half a mind to do it for him myself."

"James!" Lily admonished. She took Harry upstairs so he didn't have to listen to his father speak so vulgarly.

James watched his wife disappear upstairs before looking at Sirius. "We should do something about the charm. It's not going to protect us any longer."

Peter's eyes widened. "What? No! I swear, I'd never tell, James! I'd—I'd die before I told him!"

Sirius raised his eyebrows at James, who just glared at Peter. "That's quite the claim from you, Peter," Sirius said quietly.

Peter stared at the coffee table that acted as a barrier between him and James. He'd look anywhere but at their faces. He'd just scared himself with what he'd said.

"How can we…" James sighed, and it appeared the fight went out of him. He hanged his head and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. James had never looked so defeated, not even after a Quidditch loss. The sight made Peter look away from James' reflection in the coffee table's glass. "How can we continue with this…?" James asked quietly.

"He'll be staying with Moony and me," Sirius stated. "Except for the few times we let him out. Can't raise ol' Voldy's suspicions, you know…"

"And you don't want to go to Dumbledore with this?" James inquired, glancing at his best mate.

"Nah, we've got it," the gray-eyed wizard replied. "Besides, if there was one thing Peter was always trusted for…well, he always did come back to us, didn't he?"

"Yeah…"

When Lily returned, she saw her husband and looked at Sirius. Then she stomped over and smacked Peter, hard, across the mouth. But she had no words for him; her eyes were still too full of tears for words to mean much.

After she left the room again, James looked at Peter. "You should probably leave."

"James, I'm—"

"Just shut up, Wormtail…," he breathed. James removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose in exhaustion. "I've…I've got some things to sort out."

Peter nodded and he followed Sirius out of the Potter residence in Godric's Hollow. "I'm bound to become a mute, aren't I?"

"It'd help us out, wouldn't it?" Sirius asked rhetorically, a slight hard edge to his tone. His companion agreed, and they walked the rest of the way in silence.

- ^-^3

~Winter~

"You're late, Wormtail."

Peter doubted he'd ever be able to fight the chills that ran up and down his spine whenever he heard "Wormtail" spoken by that voice. "I'm so s—s—s—s—s—sorry, m—m—m—master," he stuttered.

Sitting in the only chair in the room, Lord Voldemort didn't even turn his head Peter's way. "Why are you late so often these frigid days, Wormtail?"

The Animagus bit his lower lip. He knew Bellatrix was smirking and probably trying to hold in her laughter. He knew Lucius was glaring at him, thinking that Peter didn't belong amongst their ranks. Narcissa, Rodolphus, and Rabastan—for sure they were wearing apathetic expressions. Goyle, Crabbe, and Nott were probably looking only to Voldemort for news of their next exploit. The rest… Peter inwardly cursed. The rest were either like them or like Peter, and therefore didn't matter.

"Your master asked you a question, Wormtail," Voldemort said, a little more insistent.

"I—I—I've b—b—been k—kept by the Order longer these d—d—days."

"Have you brought me any knowledge of worth?"

"N—nothing, sir. The Order has n—not been as active…"

The room in Malfoy Manor was eerily quiet as Voldemort chewed on his thoughts. "…very well, Wormtail. I believe you."

Peter fought the spot of relief that threatened visibly to wash over him.

"But if you continue to delay our meetings, I will have to waste my energy using Occlumency on you. Do not make me waste my energy on the likes of you, Wormtail."

"Of course not, sir." Peter bowed his head low; he probably would've done better to kiss the ground at the Dark Lord's feet, but he couldn't bring even himself to do so. In his heart of hearts, he knew that being here was wrong…or was it? Peter's head ached so much these months… One side looked strong, the other looked bright and right, and Peter had a hard time figuring out who was good or bad. It didn't matter that he'd made the decision to tell his friends; that didn't change the fact that he couldn't agree with everything they did. But neither could he agree with everything the Death Eaters did. It was times like these that made the Animagus wish he was a plain old Muggle with no knowledge of the Wizarding world whatsoever.

Peter half listened to what went on during the meeting. He was much too anxious, and he preferred to return to Remus and Sirius sooner rather than later. Bellatrix noticed his jumpiness and took to calling him "Twitchy" for the rest of the evening, yelling at him just for fun and to see him jolt.

"Twitchy" lasted through the next several meetings until Peter got used to it and Bellatrix became bored. Peter had only adapted, though, because he had grown used to the idea of going to a friendly, warm home after these cold Death Eater meetings that were always either full of animosity or of admiration for Lord Voldemort.

He thought things had almost fallen back into a normal rhythm when he arrived at Remus and Sirius' flat for the night and realized they'd already gone to bed. Peter thought nothing of it at first and slept fine. But then he saw the big, Black crest ring on Remus' finger the following morning, and Peter understood that he was no longer just bothering two mates to share their flat.

"Oh, I'm sorry…" Peter couldn't help the blush that dusted his cheeks as Remus made breakfast. "I knew you two lived together, not that you—er—lived together."

Remus thought nothing of it as he beamed. "Sorry, Peter. It was Sirius—he got a little carried away the other day… But didn't you know about us? Sirius announced it loud and clear months ago, at James and Lily's wedding. Though it appeared everyone knew to an extent…"

"Can't say I did," the rat replied honestly. He chuckled softly. "I don't think I could hear anything over the sound of my own chewing." And he tuned more out—Remus' monologue and Sirius' arrival—as he shoveled more food into his mouth.

- ^-^3

~Spring~

Peter coughed up blood as Rodolphus' spell tossed him across the room. His body had never hurt so much before…

"You insignificant little—!" Mulciber snarled in the background.

Rodolphus held a hand up to quiet Mulciber. "I'm not done giving Pettigrew his punishment," he stated.

When Rodolphus lifted his wand, Peter was lifted off the ground—and tossed to the other end of the room in the Lestrange house. Peter gasped and tried to catch his breath, though it was hard to breathe and not swallow the blood that was pooling in the back of his throat. Good Godric, maybe Rodolphus would just kill him already if he asked kindly.

After several quiet moments, Mulciber drew his breath in again. "Just give me a little satisfaction, Rodolphus, just a little!" His eyes were maniacal. "It's because of him that Evan—Evan—" His dark eyes darkened more than seemed possible. They looked darker than black.

"I know it's Pettigrew's fault that Moody and the others were tipped off about you. And now Rosier is dead, with Wilkes and Avery in bad condition and you out of your sane mind."

Mulciber snarled incoherently. He did not seem to like Rodolphus' recapitulation very much.

In the months that had passed, Peter's biggest screw-up—in the Death Eaters' eyes—had to be the New Year's Eve struggle between Moody and a few of the other Order members and Mulciber, Wilkes, Avery, and Evan Rosier. Sure, it might've been Peter's fault that their info had been "leaked" to the other side (something of which Peter's Marauder pals were quite proud), but Peter hadn't controlled Rosier and told the bloke to resist arrest. Rosier had fought back himself, only to be killed by Mad-Eye. For Mad-Eye, it had been an accident, because he tried not to kill any Dark wizards just reign them in…apparently no one had told Rosier that.

But that was only the start of spring. As spring dragged on, more and more Death Eaters fell at the hands of Aurors and members of the Order of the Phoenix. Peter knew some—Wilkes, for instance—and barely knew of others, but he knew that the Dark Lord's followers were taking serious hits and it was not looking pretty when he now went to Malfoy Manor or the Lestrange house or one of several Black residences.

At the flat with Remus and Sirius…well, Peter was feeling like a third wheel now more than ever. One late morning (and he would never let them know he'd been listening), he had overheard them talking about the end of the war.

"I was thinking…," Remus had said. "Do you think this war will go on forever?"

Peter swallowed the lump in his throat. He sure hoped not. He wasn't sure if his body or psyche could tolerate any more physical torture or mental anguish.

Peter missed some of what they said, but Sirius ended up saying something of interest. "Then instead of thinking about the ugly future, think about the past. If you could do one thing all over again, what would it be?"

"Oh, don't put me on the spot, I can't think… What would you do?" the werewolf had asked.

"I think it's obvious—I'd definitely take that compartment with you and James again," Sirius had answered, referring to the Hogwarts Express. "I might even let you let Wormtail join us again, too, after the Sorting," he added.

Peter, quite frankly, couldn't believe his ears. A small part of him wondered if Sirius was only saying that because of the recent advantage the Order had gained over Lord Voldemort because of Peter's information. Then again…Sirius had not killed him last fall. Sirius, who had the worst temper of the four of them, who probably had the right to kill him for being a traitor…Sirius, who had insisted that James not kill him. He was the one saying he wanted to meet all of them again and be their friends again, given the chance to do things over.

Peter… Well, Peter wished he could do everything over. But if he had to change one thing, he was sure he did not want to betray his friends again, no matter how hard it could get putting up with Sirius' taunts and mean things others said at school. And now that he was looking at it in such a light…really, how did a bad school experience translate to wanting anyone dead?

He had no answer for that.

- ^-^3

~Summer~

When summer rolled in, so did relief. Little else had happened. About the most adventurous thing had been Sirius' choice of birthday present for one-year-old Harry. Lily had sent a picture and letter expressing her gratitude, but Peter had laughed at the questionable look on Remus' face. Sirius thought it had been funny and fun—what harm was there in that?

"Hey, do you think the war's…coming to a close?" Peter asked Remus. They were sitting in the living room without Sirius, who'd been called upon by Dumbledore for a word.

Remus looked up from his copy of the Prophet, his face blank from surprise. "I'm…not sure. It still feels a little early to tell," he stated.

Peter nodded, agreeing.

"Why do you ask?"

"I was just… I was wondering what I'd do after this."

Remus put the newspaper down and gave his mate his full attention. "I'm not sure you'll have a lot of options, Peter."

"You don't think I'd actually get Azkaban time, after all I've done to help the Order?" he asked, panicked.

The brunette shrugged, but he looked a bit sympathetic. "I'm not even sure of that, Peter. Yes, you've helped us, but…Merlin, it kills me to say—but you probably will have to stand trial." He bit his lip, his scars looking more prominent than usual on his fair face.

Peter hanged his head, feeling defeated. "So I probably won't live a life like yours and Sirius', or James and Lily's."

"…it's unlikely."

They stayed quiet for a very long time. Peter didn't notice that a couple of hours ended up passing with the two of them like that, but he eventually broke the silence. "Mind if I go to my place for a bit?"

Remus' expression betrayed his tone. "Ah, of course not."

"I'm only going there to grab a few things, Moony. I'll be right back."

The werewolf's face flushed, but he acquiesced and Peter left. But it was more out of the need to clear his head.

It seemed as though, at every turn, Peter grew more and more conflicted. It was wrong to want someone dead for teasing you. But how could it be worth saving others when your own future looked abysmal? That was how Peter felt right now. His heart was telling him to save his friends, but his brain was urging him to run, do anything to avoid the retribution of either side of the war—which led him to a whole other conundrum:

He couldn't remember when he'd decided that he had to participate in a war that, really, had nothing to do with him. Though…nowadays? It had everything to do with him.

And Remus could relax at home and Sirius could go on all the Order missions he wanted—but Peter felt in his gut that he'd probably only have the chance to do what he wanted perhaps a handful more times.

He was right.

- ^-^3

~Autumn, once more~

Something felt…off when Peter awoke in his own flat of a hideout. The rodent part of him told him that, judging by how crisp the air smelled, autumn was definitely making its presence known. Sure, it had been chilly lately, but nothing like this.

The Animagus groaned and ran his hand over his face and then through his hair. He'd been visiting his flat a little more often lately to escape the Death Eaters' resentment and his friends' good moods. But he hadn't meant to sleep there last night; if he didn't return soon, Sirius was probably going to come storming in, thinking the worst had happened.

Peter got up and grabbed his cloak, tugging it on and exiting the building. Halfway down the street, Peter was stopped by a Patronus—it was Lucius' peacock.

The rat understood that this meant all of the Dark Lord's servants were supposed to gather at Malfoy Manor, but Peter was a little stunned. Never had the spell been sent so urgently, and he had to worry that perhaps the ruse was discovered, the jig was up—as was his time. He glanced at the sky, hating how overcast it was…but it wasn't. Peter just didn't figure that he'd slept until the following night.

At the manor, Peter crammed in with the others, but Snape eyed him and said something to Lord Voldemort. At once, the Dark Lord beckoned to him.

"Wormtail." His voice was colder than the waters of the Black Lake…

"Yes, m—m—master…?" he squeaked.

"I would like a word." Each syllable came out clearly, heavily. He stood from his chair and disappeared into another room, and when Peter followed he passed by Snape…who looked thoroughly shaken. Peter could only identify Snape as such because—well, because he had never seen Severus Snape look that way before.

Voldemort led Peter down a single flight of stairs until they approached a door and entered the quiet room it was guarding.

"After you, Wormtail."

Peter did as he was instructed, but bile rose to the back of his throat. Just as he had never seen Snape look petrified, he had never seen Lord Voldemort act so coolly.

But when he saw those red eyes burning with the intensity of ten thousand suns, he knew

"Where are the Potters?"

It came out as a hiss, and Peter heard his own words echoing in his brain: "I'd die before I told him!" Well, now his words were being put to the test.

When the smaller man did not reply, Voldemort brandished his bonelike wand with fluid grace. Suddenly, Peter was on the ground, writhing and convulsing.

He had been wrong to think that what Rodolphus had done to him was the worst torture he'd ever experienced, for as he curled in on himself and subsequently curved out, Peter felt a million things at once. His mind was being frozen and torn to shreds. His body was numb and on fire. He felt as though he was being crushed and ripped apart cell by cell. It was akin to ten million Splinchings and one botched transformation into his rat self. It was—it was a pain that truly could not be described accurately.

"WHERE ARE THE POTTERS?" Voldemort's voice didn't have to be that loud to inform Peter that he was manic and desperate all at once.

But Peter… Merlin, all he wanted was out. Out of this torture, out of this tug-of-war between two sides that didn't really want him, out of a war that didn't really have anything to do with him.

Oh. Huh…

Did he want out of life, too?

Was the end his only option now?

Was there any chance to spare this one, wretched life he had?

He didn't know how much time passed, but it was while before either of them relented—and it was Peter who gave in and Voldemort who did not break a sweat under the strain of using so much magic.

"They're—"

Voldemort paused, allowing Peter a distraction's worth of mercy.

"They're in Godric's Hollow…" Was that his voice saying those words? Were they his words…?

Peter was at last numb at this point, disoriented. The Dark Lord left during his confusion, and Peter remained to gather himself.

It was a miracle he could stand up. He had no strength left in him, and he marveled at how Lord Voldemort could be so—so terrifyingly powerful.

The others…they won't stand a chance against him…, he thought as he struggled to get out of the room and the house. But the more that exact thought rolled around in his head, the more energy returned to him. What in Merlin's name had he just done? He couldn't really have given up the Potters, done exactly what he'd swore he wouldn't do unless killed…

But no. He'd done it. He had betrayed his friends, the people who had still believed in him, even in the least respect, even after he told them the truth about working for the other side.

What had he done?

Adrenaline flooded him and Peter didn't quite realize what his body was doing. But a small part of him knew that Sirius would know—Voldemort would kill the Potters and Sirius would know right away, he knew everything immediately when it came to his best mate, when it came to James… But Sirius was the only other person who knew that Peter had been their Secret-Keeper.

Sirius would come after him.

The Animagus fled Malfoy Manor and scrambled to his hideout to grab was he could carry. Oh, who was he kidding? There was nothing here for him. He already had all he needed—the cloak on his back and the wand in his pocket and—

He turned his head. He'd heard something. When Peter turned to get a look behind him…he should've figured. He was more surprised that things had not happened sooner…

Sirius stood in the doorway. "Hullo, Wormtail," he rasped.

The air vanished from Peter's lungs as he met Sirius' eyes. "S-S-S-Sirius!" Peter hopped up. "I—I—I—"

"I don't even want to hear your words!" Sirius yelled. Abruptly he began shooting off spells, and his incantations were so rapid-fire that all Peter could do was shift into rat form and dash out the door.

Behind him, he could hear the weight of heavier paws slapping the ground. Sirius had shifted into his dog form and was in hot pursuit. Peter could hear his snarls and the occasional bark. They scampered from street to street until it was painful to breathe, and a cloak of fog allowed them to revert to wizards on the Muggle street, eyes locked on one another, oblivious—to an extent—to their Muggle audience.

"HOW DARE YOU DO THAT TO THEM!" the Black son bellowed. Even though Peter saw him shoot more spells, the wizard didn't seem like Sirius to Peter. "Avada Kedavra! AVADA KEDAVRA! AVADA KEDAVRA!"

But the adrenaline was still pushing Peter, urging him on, and he dodged Sirius' attacks. Sirius was clearly out of his mind in his grief, and Peter knew that when the adrenaline was gone, he'd be a goner. He had to think of something, and fast. And, for the second time that fateful night, words poured from his mouth that he couldn't believe he was saying: "SIRIUS BLACK BETRAYED James AND LILY POTTER!"

There. That was it. It was done. Peter had made his bed and now he'd have to sleep in it. In the split second that caught Sirius off-guard by Peter's unexpected announcement, Peter used a Severing Charm to cut off a finger of his right hand. He swallowed his scream, amazed that he could still feel any pain after what Voldemort had done to him, and took one last look at one of his fellow Marauders—

Then he cast a Blasting Curse.

The explosion was tremendous. It knocked Peter back and created an enormous crater in the middle of the street. He was sure some Muggles had been killed, but he couldn't care less in that moment. He shifted back into his rat form and disappeared from the scene of the crime, knowing that Remus had been wrong to try and help him that day, that Sirius had been wrong in keeping the Fidelius Charm a secret from Dumbledore and Remus, and that James had been wrong in resisting the urge to kill him last year.

Peter Pettigrew would eventually have his just desserts. But for now, the dead man walking would have to live with the reminder that he could never be saved, that he had traded in everything that had ever been good to him…

…and all for his measly life.

- ^-^3

:'S This officially marks the end of 45 Ways, if you ask me… I do believe that even if one event had been different—such as Peter being honest with his friends, as I wrote—Peter Pettigrew still would have done what he did because, in the simplest statement, Peter's personality is that of a coward. He will save his own skin time and again until it turns against him…which it did, in the final book (and by now, that's not even much of a spoiler anymore). But the others are flawed, as well—Remus, being kind to always want to help another in need and—most importantly—Sirius, who was always stubborn and doubtful would've ever felt the need to own up to his mistake of naming Peter Secret-Keeper. What if he had just tattled to Dumbledore, or even let Remus in on the secret? But that wouldn't have happened…because Sirius doesn't have that type of personality. (…And yes, a year is 52 weeks long, not 45, but 45 just makes the title so much spiffier, don't ya think? ;] )

I hope you still enjoyed seeing a slightly AU of things, though, and yes, readers of 45 Ways, some dialogue came directly from chapters 39, 42, 43, and 44.

I'd like to end with an excerpt of that fateful review Searlupe left: "Something makes me think that had Peter taken that offered hand, we could have a completely AU story on our hands. But got to love Remus, always trying to be the good friend."

Thank you for reading to the end.

-mew-tsubaki xoxo :)