This Mercy's Cage

James may seem too jerk-ish. I think as it's war, that explains, if not excuses, his behaviour.

x.x

"By Merlin, that girl is ugly!" James declared, loud enough for the Slytherin seventh-year to hear them. He turned to his friends, voice low, mocking, "betcha she's in the sack with You-Know-Who. Only someone like that would take her."

"Well, if it works for Bella," Sirius drawled.

Peter felt a thrill of anger prickle over his skin. He jerked his head up to his friends, but the words died on his tongue. The girl was a little tubby, sure, but so was he. He liked his friends, but why did they have to be so mean to people sometimes?

"Dunno if even You-Know-Who's pureblood enough to date that girl," Peter said instead.

"No-one's pureblood enough," James dismissed. "And whoever said anything about dating?"

There were footsteps behind them, and James whirled around. "Lily!" he said, his voice suddenly pleased and warm.

Peter was thankful for the interruption. He turned around, and Lily gave him a once-over, like she always did, but she smiled. Peter smiled back. He liked Lily, and he especially liked the effect she had on James these days.

x.x

Beams of spellfire flashed outside. There were the piercing screams of young children and a whoop of joy that could only belong to Bellatrix. Something was crushed under something else. The scream ended, and laughter ricocheted off the buildings.

Fear froze Peter, but that didn't stop him from vibrating with it. The table above him shook with him. He wished that he could be brilliant, like James or Sirius or even Remus, so he could run out there and safe others. Save himeself.

The door opened, and two shoes clacked across the floor. They were women's shoes, but clunky. Good for running and fighting.

Peter shuddered and closed his eyes, searching for that calm place inside of him, the place that Wormtail lived. It was hard to find when he was scared. He slapped his fingers over his eyes and jabbed his thumbs in his ears, but he couldn't find Wormtail. Couldn't escape.

The shoes came closer and closer with their clunk, and then stopped.

"Peter?" said the voice.

Anger and fear tore through Peter. He gasped. It was her voice. The girl who his stupid, stupid seventh-year obsession over almost had him abandon his friends. The death-eater who Remus had saved him from. He struggled away from the voice, squirming backward until he was behind the table.

The table was above and in front of him. It was wooden and unstained. She was behind it, must be, but he couldn't see her. Peter shifted onto his knees and peered over.

The first thing he saw was the wand tip.

Peter ducked back under the table.

"I could kill you," the girl said. "I could kill you. You saw me Avada Kedavra those muggles didn't you? You heard them scream?"

Flashes of nightmare inundated Peter. He trembled. He trembled so that his head shook, but he didn't know it was nodding or shaking sideways.

"I'm going to let you go," said the girl. "Don't forget this mercy."

She turned her back on him, and Peter had his wand between his fingers. He should have cast a spell, but she was still so beautiful. Merciful, not like the other Slytherins. Picked on for it too, in her house as well as Gryffindor.

x.x

The voices were low and hushed above, but down below there were shoes with soles that came up to his elbows attached to legs like fleshy trees. The chairs had legs too, with carvings so finicky he could barely stick a claw in them.

Peter's fur rose. No-one saw.

The voices fell silent, and someone rose to their feet. The voice was measured, oddly high, yet definitely masculine.

Terror gripped Peter's windpipe. He squeaked.

"Three days ago," announced Lord Voldemort, "We could have had one of our enemy's most trusted in this room, answering the question we all want the answer to. One of you, and I know exactly which one, had Peter Pettigrew at your mercy."

Air left Peter, and he pressed his tiny rat-body to the ground.

"Tell me!" cried Lord Voldemort. "Tell me, why did you let Pettigrew go?"

"I- uh—" came the girl's voice.

The girl: the death-eater: the merciful one. There was silence. Lord Voldemort was waiting.

Peter examined the marble of the floor under his paws. It was smooth and flawless. There was nothing that she could say. He had heard lots about Lord Voldemort. He would kill her. She would die, and he'd be hiding under a chair when she did.

"We were talking!" the girl blurted. "He – he was telling me were the Potters live!"

"And where," asked Lord Voldemort, "do they live?"

Terror ripped across Peter, and he shrunk against the chair leg. This was it. There was nothing he could do. Except, there was something.

Peter got up, padded under the chairs and the table, and found Lord Voldemort's chair. He resumed his human shape. He said, "They live in Godric's Hollow," and then rattled off the address.

The room was silent. Peter quivered. He kept his eyes on the floor. There was something warm and wet on his face, and he realised it was tears and he choked.

They asked him more questions, but he didn't answer them. He couldn't. He'd given his enemy the location to his best friend's house. The location of Lily, the one who'd turned James into someone he was even prouder to call a friend. To little, sweet baby Harry, who burbled and walked, but couldn't quite talk yet.

The questions stopped, and many people moved. Lord Voldemort did too, and once he was away Peter raised his eyes.

Lord Voldemort was gone. He looked around, but the room was emptying. The girl was still there. Her hair was blond, how he liked it, and a little longer than it had been in school. Her skin was tanned like she lived on the equator. Her eyes were dewy and sympathetic.

Peter felt sick. His teeth rattled in his skull from his shaking. His breath was coming out in small pants and the wetness at his eyes just wouldn't stop.

"I thought you saved me," he croaked.

"I did," the Death Eater answered, her thick lips smiling. "I saved you, so that you'd save me."