A/N: This was written for the As Strong As We Are United Competition, for team three (The Nightcircus). Prompts I used: home, lie, different, childhood, courage, obsession, and pond.
September 13, 1971
"Come on, mouse boy!" an already familiar voice yelled and Peter felt tears pricking in his eyes. He had not had an easy childhood, because he was a bit different then the rest of the children, and so naturally, they had picked on him. He had been looking forward to going to Hogwarts, for he had been convinced that once he'd got into Hogwarts, everything would be better. That he'd make friends. But in reality, he was still that guy everybody disliked, still that guy that got picked last when they needed to make pairs, still that guy that didn't fit in.
Most of the time, it would be James Potter that spurred everyone on. He did not know what he had done to deserve this, he had never met James before going to Hogwarts, but somehow, the black-haired boy had picked him as his target from day one.
"We're wai-ting…" James drooled and he heard someone laugh.
"You know what? Do it yourself then, James Potter, if you think you're better than me!" He stormed off, not listening to the feeble protests of Professor Kettleburn. He hated Hogwarts and he hated James Potter, arrogant know-it-better. He wiped away his tears as he ran toward his dorm. He wished he were still at home.
January 6, 1972
"Hey you! Have you been to a rat-hole over the holidays? You stink!"
Peter didn't look up. He knew he'd find a pug-faced Slytherin opposite of him. He didn't have the energy to react and he just hoped that if he ignored Parkinson, he'd go away.
"You take that back right now!"
This time, Peter did look up. Why the hell was James Potter of all people defending him?
Parkinson let out a short, barking laugh.
"What do you want, Potter?"
"Just leave him alone, okay?"
"Why should I? You harass him all the time, don't tell me you suddenly care about him."
"He's a fellow Gryffindor. I may be harassing him, but that doesn't mean I'll let some slimy Slytherin do the same."
"Oh, ickly wickly Potter loves the mouse-boy," Parkinson grinned malevolently.
Next thing Peter knew, Potter had jinxed Parkinson, Parkinson had jinxed Potter and Professor Dumbledore had given both of them detention.
"Are you okay?"
Peter sighed exasperated. Did he never get any rest around here? "Piss off Potter, why are you constantly targeting me?"
"Look, about yesterday…"
"Don't talk about yesterday, okay? It was bad enough as it was."
He recalled Avery's words: "Oh dear, they're fighting over you, mouse-boy. I didn't know you liked rats, Parkinson!" Peter felt a tight knot in his stomach. Of all the things students had said to him, this had really hit him. He felt nauseated, because he could already tell what kind of 'jokes' would come from that and they would make his days even more miserable. Maybe he could ask his parents if after this year, he could go to another school.
"I came to say I'm sorry," James interrupted his thoughts. "It was just joking. I didn't realise how far it had gone until Parkinson targeted you yesterday. I now realise that we Gryffindors need to stick together. Friends?"
Peter looked with scepticism at the outstretched hand, trying to detect something suspect. Was this another one of James' way to pester him? But the look in James' eyes seemed sincere, so he hesitatingly shook the outstretched hand. "I suppose so."
June 25, 1972
Peter laughed heartily as a water bomb exploded. "Nice one, Sirius!"
Remus rolled his eyes and James laughed as well. The targeted Gryffindor girls shot them looks that could kill, which only made the four of them laugh harder.
Peter could still not believe that he, James, Sirius and Remus were now friends. Ever since James had offered him his friendship, things had been going uphill for Peter. Sirius
James' best friend, had been reluctant at first to let him in, but Remus, James' other friend, had silently accepted him. No longer the subject to their denigrating remarks, Peter felt strengthened to also step up to the Slytherins in his year. He felt better than he had ever felt and he knew that this, this was what he had hoped to find when going to Hogwarts. His grades got up and even the teachers noticed that Peter laughed more and just seemed happier overall.
He and Remus were the more responsible ones, even though they liked a joke as well as Sirius and James. But Peter and Remus balanced them out and made sure now one really got hurt – Peter remembered only to well how that felt.
Another water bomb hit its target and the girl in question, Lily Evans, drew her wand. "I swear, Potter, if you do that one more time I'll jinx you into the next century," she threatened.
"Hey, I'm sorry," James said and put his hands up in mock defence. "Lighten up Evans, it's a warm day. A bit of water won't hurt you."
Lily turned around after giving them another deadly glare and walked away.
The four of them lay back in the grass.
"I can't believe it's almost the holidays," Peter said. He recalled moments from the past year and smiled inwardly. Half a year ago, he wanted nothing more than to leave Hogwarts after the summer holidays. Now however, he was almost reluctant to go home.
October 31, 1974
"You know, I'm quite curious as to where Remus disappears to every month," Sirius said, when once again, they were sitting with the three of them. Remus had left the common room hours ago, mumbling something about getting homework done in the library. It was past curfew now but he still hadn't returned.
"If I didn't know he isn't a girl, I'd say he has his period," Peter joked. "He's away once every month."
James and Sirius laughed. "That's a good one," James said.
"You know, we could always try to find out," he grinned, once they'd stopped laughing.
It took them about a moment to silently debate the matter before they decided that that was precisely what they were going to do.
They went through the portrait hole and tiptoed through the corridors.
"The library is that way," Sirius whispered. "Let's take one of the short cuts so Pringle doesn't see us." They followed his lead when he disappeared behind a tapestry.
When they eventually reached the library, everything was dark and the door was locked. Remus obviously wasn't there anymore, if he had ever been there at all to begin with.
"Maybe he's gone back to the dorm," Peter squeaked.
It seemed like the only logical explanation and thus they returned to the Gryffindor tower. They were nearly there when they heard footsteps heading their way.
"Merlin, it's Pringle!"
"I wish we had taken your cloak, James."
James had a cloak that could make them invisible, but that was laying in his trunk beside his bed now. They desperately sought for a place to hide, but it was too late. The caretaker, Mr Pringle, already rounded the corner and tutted at the sight of the three of them. "Out of bed after curfew, aren't we? So tell me, why did you see it fit to break the rules?"
"We were looking for…" Peter began, trembling slightly. Sirius kicked him and he shut his mouth. Right, it wouldn't do drag Remus into this as well.
"You were looking for what?" Pringle asked suspiciously.
"Nothing special, we were just trying to find the kitchens," James lied. "We're terribly hungry, you see."
"You are going with me to my office, and then we'll let the Cane of Truth decide whether or not you're lying to me – but I suppose I'll soon learn that it wasn't the kitchens you were looking for."
The three friends looked at each other in horror. Whenever Pringle suspected a student was lying to him, he'd hit them with his cane until they told him the truth. It was for that reason that he had nicknamed it the Cane of Truth, and every student feared it more than anything.
February 17, 1975
After the incident with Pringle, they had decided that they needed to find a way to know where Pringle was so they would not run into him again when they were out doing things they weren't supposed to be doing.
It had taken them almost half a year, but now they looked at the object they had created: a brownish piece of parchment that could be folded and unfolded like a map, if only one knew the correct password, which was the only thing they still needed to install upon it.
"Nah, too cliché. How about 'Reveal yourself'?"
"No, that's to easily broken by people like Pringle. Imagine what would happen if he got his hands on the map: no student would ever be able to sneak out after curfew again."
"I know!" James grinned. Then he looked at the parchment with a semi-serious look on his face and said: "I solemnly swear I'm up to no good."
They all laughed before deciding that that was indeed a brilliant way to reveal the contents of the map.
"We need an appropriate way to hide the map then as well," Sirius said thoughtfully. "How about 'Mischief managed'?"
After that too had been installed, they looked at each other expectantly.
"Let's try it out!" Peter said.
Remus swished his wand and spoke the phrase they had just agreed on. "I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good."
Slowly, the parchment began to fill itself with corridors and classrooms, dorms, the library, the Great Hall… all filled with hundreds of tiny dots with small labels next to them.
"This is a nightmare," Remus said in horror. "How are we ever going to locate someone with all these dots moving around the castle?"
"Well, when we're out after curfew there aren't that many people walking around…" Sirius tried.
"No, no, Remus is right. It's going to work well when we try to sneak out after curfew, but not if we want to prank someone in the middle of the day."
"Couldn't we add something that allows us to only see certain people?" Peter thought. "Like a filter? Say, we wanted to see where old Pringle was hiding, we could ask the map to focus on him and not see any students walking around?"
Sirius slapped him on the back. "Brilliant idea. James, can we do that?"
"Sure we can, give me sec, I think I saw a spell for that purpose somewhere…" He rummaged through the stack of books beside them. "No, not this one… not that one either… Ah, I got it!" He triumphantly held up a small green notebook. "It's basically a variety on the 'homenum revelio' but I think it will work well."
They had it installed and Remus said: "Let me try it. I'd like to know what old Pringle is up to right now."
After a few seconds, the dot that was labelled 'Apollyon Pringle' turned darker than the other dots, making it easy to locate him. "Sixth floor," Remus said. "Good to know this works."
"Give me that," James interrupted. "Show me where Evans is."
The others groaned.
"She doesn't want you, mate," Peter said.
James shrugged. But when Lily's dot darkened and showed her to be in the rather close proximity of Michael O'Shea, a fifth year Hufflepuff, James shoved the map aside. "Stupid map," he muttered, while the other three Marauders laughed.
"Told you she doesn't want you."
March 22, 1975
"I hate Astronomy!" James threw his parchment aside in frustration.
"Are you still working on that star chart?" Peter asked, dumbfounded. "I thought we would study Transfiguration tonight, you know?" He put an emphasis on Transfiguration, but to the other Marauders his words were not misinterpretable. He could not believe James would not give the matter his utmost attention.
"You don't have to do this," Remus objected. "The star chart is due tomorrow, that's far more important."
"No, Peter is right," Sirius said. Peter looked at him in surprise. He and Sirius usually didn't agree on anything at all.
"Nothing is more important than your 'furry little problem', Remus," Sirius continued.
"Shut up," Remus hissed, looking around alarmed. But no one was paying them any specific attention.
"Don't worry, we're not telling anyone."
It had only been a week after James, Peter and Sirius finally figured out where Remus was disappearing to every month. They had been shocked and dumbfounded at first when they found out that he was a werewolf, but then they saw the look of devastation on his face, devastation that the only friends he'd ever had would abandon him, and then they decided as one man that they would stick with him. And thus they had come up with a plan to aid Remus during his monthly transformations. They didn't recall who had started it, but Peter thought it must have been Sirius who had come up with the idea that they should learn how to become Animagi. Peter doubted that they would succeed anytime soon, but it couldn't hurt to try, could it? But he knew that they would only get it right if they didn't let their attention waver.
December 3, 1977
"I don't think I'm ever going to get it right," Peter sighed. He looked miserably at the sights of James and Sirius, who had each managed to transform into an animal, even though it was only briefly. James' Animagus was a stag, and Sirius' a dog. A part of him was proud of his friends, certainly, but a larger part of him was jealous. How was it that they managed and that he never seemed to do the right thing?
"Come on, Peter, you can do it do," Remus reassured him. He still seemed a bit shocked to see his friends transform like that. They had been trying to figure it out for two and a half year now and up until this day, most of their attempts had been fruitless.
"Did it work?" James asked excited and Peter nodded.
"What animals did we turn into?" Sirius inquired.
"You were a dog and James was a stag," Remus replied.
The two boys grinned at each other. "Great!" they said in unison.
"It only lasted for like ten seconds or so," Peter said sourly. "It's not like you're full Animagi now or anything."
"Now, now, don't be so negative, Peter. Even if it lasted only ten seconds, fact remains that we did it. We studied and practised for over two years and we finally managed." James obviously was in a state of euphoria. "And my inner animal is a stag, did you hear that Sirius? Now that I think about it, it's kind of fitting, actually. If only I could tell Lily! Lily Evans. Always that damn frigging Lily Evans. For years he had to hear James rattling on and on about Lily, and it was not likely to stop anytime soon. She was obviously an obsession of him.
"Oh don't worry, you'll be able to do it in no time too, I'm sure of it," James hasted to add, interpreting Peter's scowl as a sign that he was distraught at the fact that he hadn't managed to transform.
Peter decided to leave it like that. "Sure," he muttered.
April 29, 1978
Peter couldn't help but feel excluded. Sure, the other Marauders attempted to help him to become an Animagus himself as well, but each month when they were out, roaming the Grounds, doing Merlin knows what, Peter was left out of the equation 'for his own good'. He knew that it was dangerous to be around a werewolf when they were changed, but he hated staying behind, standing guard in case Filch – the new caretaker - suddenly decided he wanted to check the grounds. They had thought Pringle had been bad, but Filch could easily rival with him. For one, he had confiscated the Map, earning him the lifelong hatred of the four Marauders.
"You can do it too, Peter," Remus said. He looked healthier since December, happier. "You nearly managed last week," he tried to encourage him.
Peter nodded. That was true. Last week, he had almost succeeded. So surely, he should be able to manage it this week, shouldn't he?
After another hour of practice, he felt a strange feeling and suddenly the world was black and white and his friends towered above him. It only lasted for about three seconds, then everything was back to normal. He shook his head in confusion.
"Maybe we should stop for today," he said. "I'm getting a headache and I'm seeing things that aren't normal."
The other three stared at him, before bursting out laughing.
"You, my friend," James said, "have just become an Animagus."
"I have?" Peter couldn't believe it, but then excitement took over and a large grin spread across his face. "Finally! Now, what animal did I become? You were all a fair lot bigger than I was seconds ago."
"I should think so!" Sirius laughed. "You're a rat!"
Peter's face fell. "I'm a what? My inner animal is a rat?! You're both cool animals and I'm a rat? That's so not fair!"
"Think of it as a good thing," James tried, when he was done laughing. "You're small enough to hide or spy. No one will pay you any attention when you're a rat, so that's very useful. I mean, if I were a rat, I could easily sneak into the girls' dormitory and…"
They all growled. James had recently started dating Lily and he talked even more about her than he had done when she still rejected him. They couldn't have a single conversation or James would bring up Lily at least once.
But Peter's attention was elsewhere. Why did his inner animal have to be a rat? He felt very miserable.
July 7, 1978
Peter sat on a tree trunk, staring at the pond in his parents' backyard. It felt strange to be back home again, knowing that he'd never go to Hogwarts again. He didn't exactly know what he would be doing next. A war was raging, something they had known, but hadn't really been aware off whilst still at Hogwarts. But now that he was home again, the impact of a world at war hit him full force.
He clutched the letter James had sent him earlier this morning. James had heard of a group of people defying He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, a group that was lead by none other than Albus Dumbledore, their former Headmaster. James' letter spoke of being able to mean something, to fight for what was right. The message was unmistakable: we should all join.
Peter was scared. People who fought had a greater chance of dying, and he didn't want to die anytime soon if he could avoid it. He was only seventeen! He was ashamed to admit that he didn't have James' Gryffindor bravery and courage. He sometimes wondered why he was even placed in Gryffindor at all at his Sorting.
But this was James asking. No one could ever say 'no' to James Potter – Lily had tried for almost seven years and even she had ended up saying 'yes' – so there really was no point in even contemplating this, was there?
Peter stood up with a heavy heart. He would write James back, saying that he was in. As always.
May 16, 1981
Marlene McKinnon was dead. Dorcas Meadowes was dead. Simon Carmiggle was dead. Many other people had died. Dead, dead, dead. Peter had joined the Order of the Phoenix almost three years ago, along with James, Lily, Sirius, Remus and several others he had known at Hogwarts. Many of them had died now, died at a point where they should still have had a life before them. Peter wondered how many more would follow before it was enough. They all tried their best, sure they did. But most of them were only in their early twenties, whilst You-Know-Who only seemed to recruit skilled and powerful wizards – but not so powerful that they could stand against him.
What were they, Order of the Phoenix, supposed to do, actually? What good did it do to fight for a better world, if you died in the process and thus would never live in this better world?
Even James had decided to bail out and go into hiding, hiding behind his 'happy-family-façade'. So if you had a family, that meant that you could stop fighting? Wasn't this war about preventing the ones you cared for from getting hurt?
But the fact that James and Lily were in hiding, instead of fighting for their son, proved to Peter that he had been right three years ago: there was no point in fighting. There was no point in hiding either, he thought.
The best way to come out alive was to side with the one that was strongest. Peter had spied enough on You-Know-Who to know that he was the stronger party in this battle, but it appeared that he was the only one of the Order to realise that. The others kept fighting an enemy that had all but won already.
August 12, 1981
Trembling, Peter stood before He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
He had been spying once again, but his heart hadn't been in it. Maybe that was why he had been discovered. Or maybe it was because he had not really tried to stay hidden.
Either way, he had been brought before You-Know-Who, who had immediately known that Peter could bring him valuable information. "Leave," he had ordered his followers. "I have things to discuss."
One by one they had left, until Peter was the only one left. Slowly, You-Know-Who circled him. Like a predator circles a prey.
"You're on Dumbledore's watch aren't you? Aren't you?"
There was no point in denying. "Yes."
"What have you got to offer me in exchange for your life?"
Peter stared at the floor.
"Look at me when I speak to you," You-Know-Who hissed angrily and Peter felt a sharp pain sear through him.
Without thinking it through, he transformed into a rat, because when he was in his Animagus form, he was less susceptible to pain.
"What's that?" There was a slight hint of surprise in He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's voice. "Turn back."
Peter didn't dare disagree and transformed back into his human form.
"You're an Animagus?"
"I did not know the old man had Animagi in his troupe. You've been spying for him before, haven't you?"
Another Crucio hit him when he wasn't quick enough with his response. This time he couldn't transform and when the spell was lifted a minute later, he lay on the floor, gasping for air.
"I could use a spy. One that can tell me the ins and outs of Dumbledore's pathetic group."
"Are you…are you thinking I could be that spy?"
You-Know-Who smirked. "Perhaps. If I find you have something of interest. It's such a...shame to see a man with your…talent go to waste…"
Peter didn't sense the sarcasm or the mockery. What he did sense, was pride. Pride that a powerful man like You-Know-Who saw his merit.
"A smart man could live."
The meaning of the words was obvious. If he sided with You-Know-Who, he would live. If he didn't, he would die.
"So what are you, Pettigrew? Are you a man? Or are you a mouse?"
Peter didn't have to think long.
"I'm a mouse," he said.
"Excuse me?" You-Know-Who's voice was dangerously low.
"I'm a mouse," Peter repeated. "Everybody knows mice and rats flee a sinking ship. And Dumbledore's ship is sinking rapidly."
November 5, 1981
"We trusted you, Peter!" Sirius yelled. "You betrayed us all, you filthy little liar!" Sirius fired spells at him in a rapid speed.
Peter managed to avoid most of them, but not all. He had a bleeding leg and was limping.
"Stand still, you treacherous rat! I'll kill you for what you did!"
Peter laughed maniacally.
"You're wrong, Sirius. I chose to live. And you think I'd give that all up just so could kill me?"
"You don't deserve any better! He was your friend, he trusted you!"
"Well, that obviously was a mistake."
A small crowd of people had started to gather and Peter smelled his opportunity. They had not heard the previous conversation, so he could profit of their presence now.
"Sirius Black, how dare you betray Lily and James Potter!" he yelled.
"I'll kill you!" Sirius roared red with anger and started "Avada…"
"Bombarda!" Peter screeched and a loud explosion happened. Clouds of dust appeared and debris was flying all around. In the chaos of the moment, Peter made a decision. He sliced his finger off. A white-hot pain spread through him and he nearly blacked out. It took him the last bit of will power to transform into a rat. He ran away from the scene, knowing that Sirius would be captured for his death, and for the betrayal of Lily and James. Remus would see to it that Lily and James' 'Secret Keeper' would not go unpunished.
He did not think twice about the people he had betrayed, the people he had once called friends. The Dark Lord might be dead, but Peter had no intention of following in his footsteps. His intention was to live. He skittered off into a sewer. If he had to be a rat to live, then a rat he would be.
A/N: I know the chronological order of creating the map and becoming Animagi was different. However, I find it hard to believe that the Marauders became Animagi in their fifth year without formal training, whereas it took McGonagall, who is very skilled at Transformation, years of study under an official teacher, hence why I only let this event happen in their seventh year.