A/N: These one-shots vary in how serious or funny they are. Ch1 and Ch6 are the most serious, while Ch2 and Ch7 are the most silly, and the others are somewhere in between. All of the one-shots can stand alone, although they do make some references to each other.
Peter flinched at the sound of a sharp knock on the door, the thought instantaneously flying into his mind that he would much rather spend Christmas in Spinner's End alone than with Snape. A moment later it struck him that Snape wouldn't knock on his own door and he let out a weak chuckle at his own ridiculousness. When he swung the door open, it was not Lucius or Narcissa impatiently waiting, as had been his first guess, but instead the hulking form of Walden Macnair. His heavy overcoat looked moth-eaten enough that Peter wouldn't have been surprised if a few papery wings glided out from between his arms.
"Snape's not here," Peter answered matter-of-factly, but Macnair replied with a shrug before brusquely brushing past Peter into the house, leaving Peter to close the still open door behind Macnair with a frown. He had met Macnair a few times before, but this was already ranking among the longest conversation the two had ever had.
"Doesn't surprise me. Bloke's probably visiting Narcissa Malfoy. If you know what I mean." He raised an eyebrow and pulled back his lips in a yellowing grin.
"Right. Er—well," he awkwardly started, trying very hard to crush the mental image of Snape and Narcissa together that Macnair had just planted in his head. "I wouldn't know where Snape chooses to spend his time."
Macnair's boisterous laugh abruptly filled the room. "Lighten up! I didn't mean that Snape was actually with Narcissa. Well, he probably is—he's probably spending Christmas with the Malfoys—but not in that sense."
Peter allowed an amused smile to twitch onto his face. He wasn't quite sure why Macnair had come to Spinner's end, especially if he had known Snape wouldn't be there in the first place, but he was apparently quite oblivious to Peter's questioning glances. After what felt like minutes, but was likely only seconds, Macnair reached into one of the many pockets on his ragged coat and pulled out a deck of cards. He began idly shuffling them, occasionally cutting the deck with one hand. "Want to play a game of cards?"
Peter warily regarded Macnair for a second longer. If there was one thing he had learned from living with the Marauders at Hogwarts it was to always be careful around games that could involve gambling—otherwise one might, for example, gamble away the right to wash one's underwear for a week. Remus had pointed out that, really, if one of them lost the rights to wash their clothes, it would be negatively affect all of the Marauders, seeing as they were roommates, but they were young and had never thought that far ahead.
"Sure, I'll play cards." It wasn't exactly like Peter had other plans—as it was, pretending to be legally dead was a full time job.
"Five-card poker. Nice and simple to start," Macnair announced as he dealt.
"Pair of eights."
"Pair of tens. I win."
Macnair scooped up Peter's old cards and dealt a new hand.
"Three of a kind."
A mischievous grin spread across Peter's face as he fully realized just why these cards seemed abnormal to him. Peter had never considered himself to be one of the bravest Gryffindors (what was it his mum used to say? "Bravery is another word for stupidity?"), but he certainly had a daring streak in him. It was somewhat akin to poking a lion with a sharp stick before his survival instinct kicked in and he ran away.
"I'm surprised, Macnair. These are Muggle playing cards."
The metaphorical stick had apparently been too sharp for in one sudden movement Macnair had reached across the table and seized Peter bodily by the scruff of his robes. "What. Did. You. Say?"
Macnair's furious face was mere centimeters away, and Peter couldn't help but notice that the muscular man's arms were practically wider than his head. Well, he supposed he might as well go out with a bang. He doubted any Death Eater would actually risk the Dark Lord's punishment, after all. "I said: these are Muggle playing cards," he repeated, his voice coming out rather more high-pitched than he had intended.
For a second Macnair's face was frozen, contorted into the same twisted, ugly expression, but then he suddenly broke into laughter and released the scruff of Peter's robes, sliding back into his own seat. "You have guts, Peter. Yeah, they're Muggle cards. I don't like how Wizard cards talk to you when you're trying to play." He started dealing another hand before pausing to pull a cigarette out of his pocket.
"I—uh—I don't think Snape likes people smok—"
"Do I look like I care what Snape thinks?" Macnair interrupted as he held the tip of his wand to the tip of his cigarette.
"—something about flammable potions ingredients."
He plucked the cigarette from between his lips with a frown and glanced at Peter with a suspicious frown before wordlessly pocketing the still-unlit cigarette. "Pair of kings. What d'you got?"
"Tell you what, let's make this a bit more interesting," Macnair stood up and began slowly walking around the room, running his fingers across the dusty books carefully lined up on Snape's bookshelves. He paused to pick up one of several small silver boxes that were resting on the mantle. "Merlin, does the man own a lot of trinkets. Almost looks like a woman lives here or something."
"I think I would've noticed by now," Peter lightly responded and, to his surprise, Macnair burst out into a booming laughter.
" 'Think you would've noticed by now'," he finished with a quiet chuckle to himself, before continuing, "Tell you what, I'll bet you two of Snape's-girly-trinket-thingys that my next hand's better than yours."
"Alright, well, I'll bet three of Snape's books that my next hand's better," Peter replied in an attempted courageous voice, as though he wasn't worrying what Snape would say if he suddenly returned home.
"That's more like it. We're playing actual poker now." Macnair had almost returned to his seat when there was a sudden movement in the corner of the room, and he jerked his head in that direction. With a flash of green from his wand, whatever had been causing the movement became still. "Just a rat," he offered upon closer inspection.
A horrified expression appeared on Peter's face. "You killed a rat?"
"I guess the house must have an infestation or something," Macnair said in the closest thing he had to a pensive tone, before chuckling. "Why? Do you like rats or something?"
"Yes, I like rats!"
"You like rats?" His quiet chuckling became a booming laughter and with a slap on Peter's back he exclaimed, "The man likes rats! Who knew that anyone liked rats? You're a funny bloke, Peter."
With an annoyed frown, Peter silently slapped down a pair of cards from his poker hand. "You called me Peter," he suddenly stated, surprised
"Eh? It's your name, isn't it?"
"Well, yes, it is, but most of the Death Eaters call me Wormtail."
"I'm not calling you Wormtail. That's a ridiculous name, and you have awful taste in nicknames."
Peter stifled a chortle at the other man's frank response. "I always thought it was a bit silly, myself, but it was what my Hogwarts friends used to call me."
"Yeah. They were some friends."
A knock on the door interrupted the exchange of poker cards and Peter opened the door to reveal Lucius Malfoy. "Snape's not here," Peter answered matter-of-factly, feeling as though this was all rather familiar.
"Yes, I know; Snape is at my house. I'm looking for Nott. Do you know where he is?"
"Presumably Nott is hiding from the law somewhere," Peter simply stated.
"I assumed as much, but any idea where? Walden, do you know?"
"No. Try asking Rowle or something. He doesn't even have security on his floo, you can floo right into his house. Hard to believe the bloke was in Ravenclaw as a student," Macnair chuckled.
"Hm. Very well," Lucius turned to leave before facing the room again. "What are you doing in Snape's house, Walden?" Peter paused for a second; why was Macnair spending Christmas playing cards with him?
"And where else did you think I would be, Lucius?"
"If you must know, I would have hazarded that you would be with Jason Jugson. The two of you two are good friends, aren't you?"
Macnair's words came from between painfully gritted teeth. "Jason's dead. He was killed in the Azkaban break-out."
"I see," Lucius awkwardly paused to look around the room before finishing with, "Well, a good evening to both of you."
The slamming of the door left the room silent for a few moments as Macnair continued gritting his teeth, staring a hole into the opposite wall.
"I'm sorry about—" Peter finally cautiously ventured.
Macnair slammed the deck of cards into Peter's hand. "It's Christmas, and I'm going to have fun, dammit. Shut up and deal."
A/N: This is set during the Christmas of Harry's 6th year. Technically that makes it very slightly AU, since the main Death Eaters (Lucius, Macnair, etc.) didn't escape from Azkaban until around half a year after Christmas, but, well, it was the best timing to set the story. (The idea also stemmed from my slightly AU story "Pensieve Souls", where the Death Eaters break out from Azkaban before Christmas time.) Also, I wanted to say that I think there's nothing wrong with a man having "feminine" house decorations or vice versa; Macnair's negative comments about Snape's trinkets looking feminine were intended to show that Macnair is a bit sexist and not an entirely likable person. A quick disclaimer about Macnair, also: my visualization of him as smoking cigarettes has been impacted by VikingCarrot's fanart of him.
Constructive criticism is always appreciated!