James, Lily, Remus, and Sirius joined The Order of The Phoenix, right out of Hogwarts. It was the done thing, really. And Peter was sort of pulled along.

Of course, he did want to join. It all seemed rather glamorous, this knowledge that he was in some indefinable way, helping. But he wasn't asked. All the others assumed that Peter would tag along just as he always did, and of course they were right. Sometimes in his darkest moments, the knowledge that his friends took him so for granted rankled.

Not often though.

Peter was not the brightest wizard ever to pop forth from Hogwarts, but he was perhaps less empty-headed than had been assumed. He knew exactly what he was worth, how weak he was, and what brand of courage he possessed that made him a Gryffindor.

It was not the courage of Sirius and James, that reckless abandon of two young men who thought they were unstoppable. It was not Lily's fiery conviction, and it was not Remus' quiet determination.

It was the courage of someone who is constantly, always afraid, and goes ahead and does it anyways.

Peter knew he was the weak link. His willpower and his magic both were dim and feeble compared to the other's. Harsh reality said he was more a burden than a comrade.

Peter knew this, held his breath, and joined The Order of The Phoenix anyways.

In a way, he wasn't really surprised at all when he was taken prisoner from his own home by a Death Eater.

The moment Peter was brought into the presence of You-Know-Who, he knew it was useless. There was nothing he could do that would keep his secrets, there was no resisting that force of personality. He had to close his mouth firmly to keep from babbling everything he knew the moment he clapped eyes on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

It became even worse when his gaze was returned. The strong hands at his shoulders did not even have to shove him to send Peter to the floor, his knees gave out on their own.

You-Know-Who was a devastatingly attractive man, despite or maybe because of the cruel tilt of his features and the redness of his eyes. His charisma, his evil, his command poured off him in waves, and Peter felt flattened under them.

To have You-Know-Who's full attention was a terrifying thing. It was a probing, almost violating gaze. It froze Peter's heart to his ribs, his lungs seized, and his injuries faded to the back of his mind, forgotten. He could hear only the roar of his blood in his ears.

This is why they follow him, was Peter's only coherent thought.

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had asked Peter, politely, to tell him where the Order of The Phoenix Headquarters was.

Peter did not tell him. Even he was amazed.

He would have expected fury, a hurricane of wrath that would destroy him. Instead You-Know-Who laughed, a brief amused sound.

Then Peter was turned over to Bellatrix LeStrange, who did not laugh at his impudence. Especially when she was limited in her creativity to torture that would leave no marks on the skin.

I may yet have use for the crawling worm You-Know-Who had mused aloud.

Then Peter was informed by Bellatrix, in between crucios, what an honor it was for His Lord to condescend to address him personally, and how very, very much Peter was going to regret not answering him.

Bellatrix LeStrange had a special gift when it came to the Unforgivables, especially the Cruciatus. Within five seconds Peter had soiled himself and broken his voice so that only a hoarse whisper would emerge.

This enraged Bellatrix further. Spitting vile oaths at him, she stomped over and cast Episkey at his throat, accompanied by a great uproar of laughter. Peter came back to himself somewhat, and realized that he was at the center of quite a crowd of relaxed and grinning Death Eaters.

Bellatrix jabbed her wand sharply at his throat again, and Peter felt his vocal cords freezing into place. Sobbing silently, he tried his hardest to wiggle away, only to receive a kick to the groin. He curled up, wheezing.

His world disappeared into the green of the Cruciatus curse again.

It hadn't taken long before he'd finally broken. Revealed everything.

Forty-three minutes. He lay on the floor facedown and let that stir in his brain. His grand defiance had only lasted forty-three minutes.

How long would Sirius have lasted? Why bother asking? He would not have cracked at all. Only death or insanity would have given Sirius reprieve.

There was room enough, just enough room in his mind to be glad that it was he and not Sirius who was here.

He'd drifted off. He hadn't noticed the impeccably tailored robes and finely crafted shoes right before his nose. The room had emptied out. There was no one but himself and . . .

Him.

It was quite likely that he had been speaking. There was a quality in the air, in his ears, in his brain, that suggested someone was talking, probably to Peter. It was all white noise, and he couldn't have listened if he'd tried. Somewhere, a thought crePT in that perhaps all those crucios did more damage than immediately apparent.

His chin is grasped in a painful vice grip, his head is yanked back and up hard enough that his neck cracks loudly.

And then Peter is being invaded, his mind torn into, everything laid out so his enemy can see. Peter feels one moment of helpless hatred - greater than he's ever felt before - and then voluntary thought is swept away with insulting carelessness.

Sweep, back and forth, in and out, all his most carefully guarded and treasured secrets pulled out and examined, tossed aside. One secret, large and shameful, hiding away except at night. Sirius. Love. Lust.

Every dirty, clean, precious thought dragged through him to agonizing pain, eliciting wails and sobs.

He's finished. Peter lays on the ground, propped up by his chin, silent tears running down his face.

"You're so fortunate, Wormtail, that you can still be of use to me." hissed a sibilant voice near his ear.

He is torn down. You-Know-Who does things with Legilimency that Peter never would have dreamed possible. His attachments are stripped away one by one, leaving the memories intact. Peter fights as best he can, feeling James and Remus and his dear mother slipping away between his fingers.

He fights like a bobcat when it comes to Sirius. He actually stymies You-Know-Who for a full minute. A terrible ripping pain as punishment. He realizes he doesn't know what he's fighting for, and lowers his defenses.

Things progress quickly from there. Soon Peter is empty and speechless, a vessel waiting to be filled.

He is built back up. He loves The Dark Lord. He worships him. He himself is stupid and useless, he is the most pathetically cringing, cowardly piece of shit that was ever deposited at the feet of respectable people.

But The Dark Lord has use for him. In his gracious beneficence, he has found a task for Wormtail, an indispensable task. He is a spy, and he will carry valuable information back to his most gracious Lord. None of his other followers can fulfill this task. Only Wormtail.

Wormtail's entire being radiates love and gratitude. Sniffling and scooting forward on joints that have almost completely frozen up, he grasps his Lord's robes and kisses them fervently. He begs the favor of bearing his Lord's mark. He is denied.

Of course. That would compromise his mission. How stupid of him. He deserves the Cruciatus that follows.

The others come back into the antechamber at The Dark Lord's command. They are informed of Wormtail's change in status. The Dark Lord is praised for his brilliance. Wormtail eagerly joins in.

Two Death Eaters that Wormtail doesn't recognize are ordered to escort him off the premises. He finds out that he is not as well as he thought he was by throwing up on the shoes of one of them. He is promptly Crucioed.

He didn't think he deserved that one.

Wormtail is deposited on the walkway and left there, along with a few kicks. After resting for half an hour, he apparates home, leaving behind some hair and the sleeve of his coat.

He's been gone for less than twelve hours. He calls in sick at the shop he works at, and plops into bed because his legs won't hold him anymore.

He'll be right as rain by tomorrow, and he'll be able to start gathering information for The Dark Lord.

Wormtail shivered when he thought the name. The deadly, powerful, beautiful Dark Lord . . . He was making the right decision. The Order of The Phoenix could never win anyways, he knew that now. When he compared dotty old Albus Dumbledore to The Dark Lord, he wondered how he didn't always know.

He felt a stab of regret, especially at the thought of Sirius's eventual fate, but it didn't last.