Summary: If you could only choose one person to be with for the rest of your life...
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Character: Peter Pettigrew; Pairings: Sirius/Remus, unrequited Peter/Remus
Original story: Uninvited by reddwarfer
Warnings: Possible spoilers.
Sacrifice (The Fifth Wheel Remix)
To be with one person for the rest of your life…
It wasn't the sort of thing that Peter Pettigrew worried about normally, but now that he could see an end to his time at Hogwarts, the concern loomed in his mind. He watched James and Lily when they met in the hallways, covered for them when they snuck away together, and wondered what it must be like to be so devoted to a single person.
For Peter, it had always been enough to be a part of the Marauders. He understood now what he could not know then: That a shy boy, who couldn't think too quick or run too fast, would have no chance at all of surviving without friends. Pure chance had brought him to James and Sirius. Peter was grateful, but now…
Well, they would all be graduating soon and Peter knew how graduation worked. Friends would go their separate ways and, while some might keep in touch, many would forget one another in the larger world of wizarding.
Peter was the sort who was forgotten.
If he could only keep one of them by his side forever…
"Peter, you scag! What do you think you're doing?"
Peter's fingers twitched of their own volition, dropping a thick lock of red hair. Lily looked over her shoulder, startled by Sirius' exclamation, her pretty face marked with confusion. The other students in the cluster turned to look at him as well and Peter felt his face grow red with embarrassment.
"What's the matter?" Sirius continued in a voice loud enough to draw the attention of a few more spectators. "Can't get your own date, so you need to fondle Potter's girl?"
"It's not like that…" Peter protested as Lily narrowed her eyes at Sirius, but his voice left him as those same eyes widened in horrified fascination and turned back toward him.
"Fondle?" she said, reaching back to smooth her hair.
"NO!" Peter said, feeling his face flush ever deeper. Several students snickered. "It's…it's not like that…"
He knew he could explain, if he could only find the words. Explain in such a way that would make Lily understand and not look at him with that mixture of horror and disgust as if he were nothing more than a letch, nothing more than a…a rat.
But how could he admit to knowing what he was? He was well aware that any social standing he might have was due to his association with James and Sirius. He was well aware that he could never be loved by a girl as beautiful, kind, and smart as Lily. All he wanted was a moment to feel the soft silk of her hair, to know what it must be like to be James, before giving up that dream forever.
And he would have succeeded too, if Sirius hadn't interrupted. Lily would have never felt his touch in the press of students. He could have gone away happy with just the feel of her hair.
All this Peter would have explained if he could, but he didn't have Sirius' silver tongue and all he could do was mumble.
"I'm sorry. I…just once…I wanted to touch it."
Lily seemed to understand. Her look softened and then passed into something like pity. It made Peter feel sick in the pit of his stomach and he almost wished for her anger instead.
"It's all right, Peter," Lily said, "but please don't do it again. And you!" she snapped, turning back to Sirius. "Never suggest that I'm 'Potter's' anything! Do I look like something to be owned? Well? Do I?"
Peter shrank back against the wall as attention turned to Sirius, who coloured and tried to protest, but could only look abashed in the face of Lily's ire until he thought of a joke that made her smile before she offered him a final warning.
And yet, in spite of Lily's deliberate attempt to draw the attention of the students away from him, Peter knew that it would be he and not Sirius who would be the subject of gossip for days to come.
And worse, he would always remember that look of pity.
No, Peter decided. He could never be with a woman like Lily. She was too strong for the likes of him. She had even tamed the Marauders, in her way. There would be no turning the head of a girl like Lily once she made up her mind.
And besides, she was already promised to someone else.
But strength was definitely attractive.
Peter knew he wasn't strong -– oh, he was healthy enough, but hardly athletic. He could not hold his own in a physical fight against any of his friends. He might not even be able to hold his own against Snape, although he consoled himself with the assurance that Severus was a cheat and would no doubt resort to magic. He had powerful allies now, of course, but it never hurt to have someone with physical strength by his side.
Then again, physical strength paled in the face of intelligence. A strong man could fall before someone capable of seeing through his strength and exploiting it. It was another field in which Peter did not excel.
It was simply unfair. He was neither strong, nor smart, but knew of two people who were both. Perhaps he could draw one of them to his side…
"Faster, Wormtail! How can we practise if you're always lagging behind?"
"I can't help it if you're better on a broomstick than me," Peter said.
He had meant the reply to be both apologetic and admiring, but Sirius' withering look suggested it was only a complaint.
"Ease off, Padfoot, he's doing his best," James cut in before Peter could protest. He flashed Peter a meaningless smile and toyed with the snitch, rolling it around between the fingers of his right hand, sometimes letting it go for a moment, sometimes clenching it in his fist before it could escape his grasp.
"I haven't been doing any better," Remus added. He, too, smiled at Peter, but though his smile was faint, it held more warmth than James'. Pay no mind to Sirius, it seemed to say. You know how he is.
Peter knew. Sirius had nothing but contempt for those who couldn't keep up with him. It wouldn't be so bad if he were only good at one thing, if he were only athletic, or only intelligent, or even only good at something as pointless as Divination, but Sirius seemed to have it all. He was a brilliant student, a brilliant athlete – although not nearly as good at Quidditch as James was – and he was good looking as well. In short, the people Sirius looked down on most was…everyone.
Only James, the Magnificent Prongs, was exempt. James and, for some strange reason, Remus. Although he wasn't as fast or as smart as Sirius, Remus fit into his circle of friends in a way that Peter did not.
"I'll make an exception for you, Moony," Sirius said, echoing Peter's thoughts. "Everyone knows werewolves are rubbish on a broomstick."
"It's the claws," Remus agreed with his usual self-deprecating humour. "Even if they manage to grip the broom, they slice their own fingers off. I shouldn't want one on my team."
"I wouldn't mind," Peter said loyally.
"It was a joke, you git," Sirius said, heaving an exasperated sigh.
"I knew that," Peter said. He did know, but he hated it when Remus put himself down, even if it was in jest. Sirius only snorted.
"Anyway," Peter said, "why don't you just practise with the Griffindor team if you want a better player?"
"They're all busy," James said. "We'll have a team practise later, but right now I want to work on manoeuvres. Just keep the bludgers flying and try to stay with me."
And try Peter did.
The idea was simple enough: Bat bludgers in James' direction so he could practise dodging them while trying to catch the snitch. Simple, but so very difficult for someone who could not fly as well as James. It was all Peter could do to keep up with the others, taking ineffectual swings at the flying spheres, and trying not to stop and simply watch in admiration.
What wasn't there to admire? Never mind that James had managed to get hold of the Quidditch equipment despite their not being an official school team. Never mind that he had sweet-talked his way past both Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff to get use of the pitch. James was a genius in the air, twisting and turning between bludgers, climbing, diving, and rolling to achieve his goal.
Sirius was no slouch either, Peter had to admit. Although he could not match James' skill on a broomstick, he often managed daring moves of his own in an effort to keep the bludgers flying, a fact that was not lost on the small crowd that began to gather on the edge of the field.
"Wormtail, the game's up here!" Sirius barked as he flew by and Peter realized that he was gawking once again.
Eager to make it up to them, Peter renewed his efforts and managed to hit the bludgers with more precision than he could usually muster. One of his shots came close enough to make James dodge it although it took him no real effort.
And then Peter saw it -– the perfect shot. James was below, Peter was above, and the bludger was poised for a downward slam that would give it the force Peter could never manage by his own strength. He hit the bludger squarely and it hurtled toward James at a worthy speed.
For a moment Peter feared that James hadn't seen it – was he paying attention at all? – but then James caught the movement from the corner of his eye and, with a startled jerk back on his broomstick that caused him to waver, twisted away from the projectile.
He wasn't fast enough. The bludger hit the tail of his broom, knocking him in a circle. Already off-balance, James tried to pull up. The sudden turn, coupled with his wavering dodge, bucked the broomstick and James flew off the end, landing unceremoniously in a puddle of mud below.
Peter was stunned. He felt his jaw open and shut, open and shut, but no words would come out. Was James hurt? Had he been killed? What would the teachers say?
It was Sirius' burst of laugher, followed closely by that of the students lining the pitch, that made Peter realize that James had not fallen so far and was quite all right, general embarrassment aside. Here he was, pulling himself to his feet, apparently more concerned about the state of his robes than his own wellbeing. He scowled at the mud and tried to flick it away even as Sirius drew in for a ribbing.
"Well done, Prongs! Evans always struck me as the type who liked her men down to earth."
Sirius laughed again and the gathered students followed suit, although they couldn't have heard his words. Peter, however, did not laugh. He was too used to being the subject of laughter to laugh at anyone else who found himself in an embarrassing situation. Instead, he drew close to James and Sirius to offer his apologies. He needn't have bothered.
"Are you daft?" hissed James before Peter could say a word. "What would you go and do that for?"
"You said you wanted us to hit the bludgers at you," Peter spluttered, stunned.
"You weren't supposed to actually aim for me," James seethed.
"How thick are you, Peter?" Sirius sighed. "He only wanted the bludgers flying to impress the girls. Bad luck, Prongs," he added, grinning at James who was trying to find a clean patch of robe to wipe his face. "You couldn't have done worse if you'd asked Snivellus to help you."
"Then you should have told me!" Peter protested although it was dawning on him that very few things James did were not to impress the girls. He strutted, he boasted, he fussed with his hair… Why else would a champion seeker practise with a group that was not a true Quidditch team?
"Well, it's not something I can just say, is it?" James hissed. Sirius laughed again and Peter felt that James was not the target this time.
"That would be a sight, wouldn't it? You lot," Sirius said, doing a passable imitation of James. "I'm going to fly around and have my mates chuck bludgers at me to make me look daring. Be appreciative!"
James only scowled.
"It could have been worse," Sirius told him. "Imagine how many times Wormtail would have hit you if you had told him to miss."
"It was an accident," Remus said.
His comment startled Peter, who had not heard him arrive. But of course Remus would join them, if only to see if James was all right.
"He wasn't trying to hit you," Remus stressed. "I'm sure it won't happen again."
James glared, but did not disagree. Next to Sirius, he respected Remus more than anyone else, including Peter.
"You're right, Moony. It won't," James said flatly. He picked up his broom and headed off the pitch.
"He was supposed to help me with Astronomy," Peter lamented, knowing full well that there would be no chance of being tutored now.
"Bloody Hell, Wormtail," Sirius sighed, bored now that James was in a huff. "Can't you do anything on your own? You can't ride our coattails forever."
"I'll help you," Remus said. "It's not my best subject, but I'm aces with phases of the moon."
Sirius only rolled his eyes. "You'll spoil him, Moony. I'm going after Potter."
And with that, Sirius flew off after James.
"Don't mind them," Remus said mildly. "They don't know what it's like to be laughed at…or feared. James will get over it soon enough and Sirius… Well, Padfoot's had a time of it lately so he's bound to be snappish."
Peter understood. He knew James live for his audience and that Sirius had a difficult home life though he would never talk about it. It didn't make him feel any better.
Nor did it now. Talent was a valuable commodity and Peter would be pleased to have either Sirius or James at his side when it was needed, but that pleasure would vanish at Sirius' first sharp remark.
Peter wondered if either of them would be happy to spend forever at his side and dismissed the thought as ridiculous. Of course they wouldn't be happy; Peter would be lucky to escape with only contempt and resentment. And though Peter knew he would be crushed by Sirius' disdain, James' pretense was far worse. He was friendly so long as Peter made him look good, but turned vicious when things didn't go his way. To spend his life at the side of someone he felt was inferior would not sit well with James at all. To be made a subordinate…
Well, Sirius was right on one count: Peter could not ride their coattails forever. Strength and intelligence? They were nothing. Peter had far more powerful friends now.
But if the memory had put him off the idea of spending his life with either Sirius or James, it brought another possibility to mind: Remus Lupin.
Remus. Good ol' Moony. Peter felt ashamed for nothing thinking of him first, but Remus was so unassuming, had such a natural presence, that it was impossible to think of life without him at all.
Peter rolled the thought around in his head, analyzed it, tasted it. Yes, Remus was someone he could bear to be with for life: Not just a schoolmate, but a true friend. He was genuinely kind, quietly intelligent, and, most of all, he understood what it was like to be an outcast. He probably understood it better than Peter, who knew he would not have fared much better than Snape if he had not fallen in with the Marauders.
Oh, there would be problems at first, but Remus was forgiving. He would be angry, but he would understand, and then he would come around. They would be friends again and perhaps, in time…
Peter had never fancied men, but he knew what his chances were with women. Remus was not soft or beautiful, but he was a person that could be loved for who he was. And perhaps, in time, he could learn to love Peter in return.
Forever was a long time to be lonely, after all.
Startled, Peter looked up to see Remus standing above him. He thought of asking – in jest, of course -– whether werewolves were psychic, but bit his tongue. It was a quip that Sirius might have pulled off, but Peter did not want to push his luck.
"Hullo, Moony," he said instead.
Remus did not wait for an invitation, but plunked himself down on the grass beside Peter as if it were the most natural thing in the world. "I was reading, but needed to get out in the fresh air," he said. "How's your exam study coming along?"
"Fine," Peter said, although it could have been better. And then, testing the waters for the launching of his plans, Peter added, "Do you know what you're doing after graduation?"
"Not much, I expect," Remus said. He sounded somewhat bitter. "Not many people want a werewolf living near them."
"You could stay with me," Peter said, and then winced inwardly, thinking the question sounded over-eager.
"I'm sure your parents will have something to say about that."
"They don't have to know. And anyway," Peter added quickly, lest Remus scold him for deceiving his parents, "I thought I would look for a place of my own. You'd always be welcome there."
"That's very kind of you," Remus said, smiling. It was a genuine smile: warm, if slightly sad, with no feeling of pretense. "But I will have to refuse. An ordinary place isn't good enough. I'll need a place with a secure cellar…"
Remus left the thought unfinished, but its meaning was clear. He would need to lock himself away during every full moon.
"I thought I might find a little cottage, away from the villages," Remus continued. "I could fix up the cellar and continue my studies through correspondence. Dumbledore thinks I might be able to teach, but I will need to choose a field of study."
"Well, if that's your plan, I'll help you fix the cellar," Peter said, "or build the cottage, or anything else that needs to be done."
Remus looked impressed. "Really?"
"Of course! We're mates, right?"
Remus' smile brightened. "Yes, we are."
"But can you manage on your own?" The perfect plan was seeping slowing into Peter's thoughts. "Locking yourself in is more secure if someone does it from the outside and if they were an animagus, it might keep you from…you know."
Remus knew. When he was in the throes of a transformation, he often became violent, attacking himself if a better target was not present. However, animagi in animal form seemed to relax him and he did not attack them or himself in their presence.
"That's what I was thinking," Remus said, and it was all Peter could do to hide his excitement. "Can you keep a secret?"
"The truth is, I've never been fond of girls, if you get my meaning," Remus said in a low voice.
Peter was stunned, but nodded slowly. He had never suspected Remus' preference, but it did not shock or disgust him. In fact, it would make his plans much easier to accomplish.
"Well, we've been trying to keep it quiet, but Sirius and I have been…seeing a bit of each other. He's still unsure, but I think he'll come around if we take it slowly, start with sharing each other's company. And who will question two schoolmates sharing a cottage?"
"Sirius?" It was all Peter could do to force the name from his lips. His chest felt tight and his throat constricted until he thought he might choke.
"It's a shock, I know," Remus said, oblivious to Peter's discomfort. "Please don't tell anyone. Next to James, you're the only one we can trust."
Sirius? Next to James? If Remus put them both before him, Peter knew there would be no chance in securing his forgiveness. He had no one.
"No one," he whispered, the words raw in his throat.
"Thanks, Peter," Remus said, misunderstanding. "I knew I could count on you…"
"Have you decided, Mr. Pettigrew?"
"No one," Peter said, feeling sick.
"No one? Not one pretty girl? Not a single friend?"
"No one," Peter repeated. "I need no one. Take them all if you want to. A gift for my new master."
Voldemort, understanding, smiled.
- End -