lls_mutant (lls_mutant) wrote in omniocular,
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Fic: Let the Water Hold You Down (1/2)

Title: Let the Water Hold You Down (Part 1 of 2)
Author: lls_mutant, writing as Xandra Periwinkle
Rating: PG-13 to R for violence
Word Count: 12,459 words
Summary: What if Peter was a loyal Death Eater, but found a way to protect James and Lily from being hunted by Voldemort? When Peter sees to it that Harry Potter is born on July 15, 1980, the world changes.
Warnings: character deaths
Notes: AU, baby, AU! And thanks to my amazing beta reader snorkackcatcher, who asks all the hard questions. This is mainly Peter gen, but there are mentions of Lily/James, Frank/Alice, Remus/Sirius, and unrequited!Remus/Peter. Written for krabapple for the reversathon.




"I see…" Professor Sinti peered at the cards, "death."

James snorted. "He always sees death for me," he muttered.

"If Professor McGonagall ever catches you-" Remus began.

"She won't." James waved him off.

Professor Sinti was ignoring them, and turning the cards over for Sirius, who was watching with an amused air. "I see death," he repeated.

"Well, sure," Sirius said casually. "We're all going to die at some point."

Professor Sinti shook his head. "I see a death by a passage to another plane. I see long years of loneliness and pain and suffering and betrayal. I see the fabric of time and space ripping away."

"I see a few too many drinks in the past," Remus whispered, but he stared back when Professor Sinti turned eyes on him. "How am I going to die?" he asked.

"I do not see death in your cards," Professor Sinti said. "Only loss and recovery, and travel to exotic lands, and loss again."

"Lucky you," Sirius said, nudging him.

Peter glared at all three of them, wishing he had the guts to tell them to shut their mouths. Divination was not a subject to be taken lightly. But it was useless, he knew. Professor Sinti fixed his ice blue eyes on Peter. Peter gulped.

"Betrayal," Professor Sinti whispered, his eyes seeming to pierce into Peter's soul. "Betrayal of friends."

Peter's skin ran cold.

"It's all shite," James laughed as they climbed down the ladder at the end of class. "I mean, death, betrayal, travel to exotic lands? How much more general could it get? Now, if he'd said I was going to marry a red-headed woman-"

"Talk about telling someone what they want to hear," Remus laughed.

James fired a jet of water at his head from his wand. Peter scowled at them both. "Death is pretty specific," he retorted.

"Yes, but like Sirius said, we're all going to die," James pointed out. "It's kind of inevitable."

"One size fits all," Sirius said. "And here's one for you, Wormtail. You're going to die, too."

Peter rolled his eyes, but bit his tongue. Snapping back at James probably wouldn't change his mind, and would put James in a bad mood for the rest of the day. But there had been something about Professor Sinti's predictions…. Something that made his skin crawl. Especially about himself.

"Oh, shit," he said instead. "I left my wand up in Divination."

"Your wand?" Sirius asked. "Honestly, Wormtail, you'd leave your head if it wasn't attached to your shoulders."

As he trudged back up the staircase, Peter tried to decide what was more annoying- Sirius's casual disregard for other people's distress, or the fact that Sirius hadn't noticed Peter had his wand in his hand when he said it.

"Mr. Pettigrew," Professor Sinti said as Peter entered. "I knew you would come back."

"Because of the Sight?" Peter asked skeptically.

Professor Sinti laughed. "No, because of your face when I read your fortune." He sat down in a chair and gestured for Peter to sit across from him. "You didn't like it, did you?"

"Would you?"

"No. What bothered you about it?" Peter didn't answer, and Professor Sinti raised his eyebrows. "The fact that you believe it could happen?"

"No!" Peter cried involuntarily. "It wouldn't!"

"These are not easy times that we live in, Mr. Pettigrew. And they are only going to get more difficult- you don't need to be gifted in Divination to know that."

"Is it inevitable?"

"I can't answer that for you- only you can answer it for yourself. Divination isn't an exact science, Peter. It's a way of looking into the future, yes. But it's like looking down a road. If you can do it right, and do it early enough, you have the choice not to travel that road. Divination shows you possibilities. It's only you that can decide if they'll come true. Prophecies and fortune telling can tell a truth, but they don't tell the truth."

"You make it sound so easy."

Professor Sinti laughed. "Life rarely is, Peter. Life is never easy."

***

Six years later….

Peter had only seen Aberforth Dumbledore once before, outside of illicit underage visits to the Hog's Head when none of them had paid attention to the barman, only to what he'd serve. He knew Aberforth was part of the Order, but for him to appear at a meeting, agitated and alone on the edge of the crowd… it was a rare occasion. So when Dumbledore himself appeared and Aberforth immediately pulled him to the side, Peter couldn't resist excusing himself to go to the loo and slipping into rat form. It might not quite be a fly on the wall, but it was close enough.

He managed to squeeze in before Dumbledore shut the door, and hid under a chair in a dark corner for good measure. "I thought you should know," Aberforth was saying. His voice was low and gravelly. "I had Snape and Rosier in my pub last night, and they were discussing the prophecy."

Prophecy?

Dumbledore's brow furrowed as he stroked his beard. "Have they reached the same conclusion that we have?"

"Yes. There's only two couples expecting that meet the criteria: the Longbottoms and the Potters. Although they're going to keep an eye out for any children born the last week of July."

"Do they plan to act immediately?"

"No. Snape seemed to think it was best to wait. Never know if one of the babes might be a girl."

"It doesn't seem like the Death Eaters would care about murdering a pregnant woman," Dumbledore mused. "But then Severus Snape…"

Aberforth chuckled, and Peter tried to think exactly what Dumbledore was talking about. Oh, for the love of… Snape in love with Lily? Peter tried not to gag. Poor Lily.

"Do the Potters or the Longbottoms know?" Aberforth was asking.

"No, not yet. There is no sense in worrying them. As you say, the babies may be girls, or come early, or come late, and Voldemort would not then consider them a threat."

"Interesting, that. What if one of the babies does come late? They're likely to. Or early? Would they still…?"

"Divination is an uncertain practice, as you yourself know."

Aberforth hunted through his pockets. "Know you never gave it as much consideration as it deserved. Now, me, I think that prophecy is referring to both kids, and it doesn't matter if they're boys or girls, or come early or late. You… you don't set too much store by it, do you?"

"I believe there is an element of uncertainty, yes," Dumbledore agreed.

"I'd tell them both. Now. Just to be safe."

"I will take that into consideration," Dumbledore said smoothly.

Peter rolled his eyes. I will take that into consideration was Dumbledore-speak for I've already made up my mind, but I will pretend that what you said is important to me. Aberforth apparently realized this as well, and changed the subject to news of Death Eater attacks and planned Order defenses, all of which Peter knew. He crept out and returned to the table.

***

Peter ducked under the ledge, his hands fumbling as he tried to light a cigarette. The rain had soaked through his cloak, and he muttered a drying charm. He overdid it and the cigarette burst into flame, singing his fingers and forcing him to drop it. He stomped on it, swearing softly to himself, and then looked around.

The thing about Wizards was that you could never tell if you were being followed.

"Pettigrew."

Peter sighed. "Do you always insist on meeting in the rain?"

Regulus favored him with a condescending look. "The Dark Lord has orders."

"And they have to be given in the rain."

"Shut up. Fenwick house. Tonight."

Peter shifted uncomfortably. "That's in Cornwall."

"Yes. You know Fenwick, I assume."

"He's in the Order, yes."

Regulus looked up at the gray sky. "Are you going to obey the Dark Lord?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"We always have a choice."

Peter leaned against the wet stone wall and fished out another cigarette. "So they say."

"I heard the Dark Lord wants to know when your friend's brat is born."

"And the Longbottom baby, yes."

"Any idea why?"

"No," Peter lied.

Regulus eyed him shrewdly. "Yes you do."

"No I don't."

"You're a bloody rotten liar, Pettigrew."

"Actually, I'm a bloody fabulous liar. That's part of my problem- and my advantage."

"Give me a hint."

"Why should I?"

Regulus shrugged. "I'm going to die in a few days."

Something in Peter suddenly came into focus and he knew it was true. "Why?"

"Why should I tell you?"

"I could avenge your death or some such rot."

Regulus snorted. "Right." He studied Peter again. "You don't look good."

"No?"

"No. You look like you're pale and scared and maybe you don't want to be in this shit."

"I think you're projecting."

"I think I'm not. Look, you know why I want to know what's going on? Because I want to know. That's the only reason. There shouldn't be anything I don't know."

"And how much do you know?"

Regulus gave an incredibly self-satisfied smirk. "A lot more than Voldemort wants me to know."

It was the use of the Dark Lord's name as much as anything that made Peter say, "All right. Prophecy."

Regulus nodded. "Horcrux."

***

The book had been rather disconcerting, but Peter reminded himself he'd read books far uglier and worse and survived. This, at least, was natural. And the book also assured him that what he was going to do was safe. Well, safe for the Potters. For him, if the Dark Lord ever discovered…. Peter shuddered. He didn't want to think about it.

He hadn't intended to be a Death Eater, of course. No one grew up saying "I want to be a Death Eater!" But Peter could see enough of the future to see who would most likely win, depending on the outcome of this prophecy. And besides, the Dark Lord had points. Valid points. It was just…

Well, Peter didn't exactly want his friends dead. They were on opposite sides of this battle, and James, Sirius, and Remus didn't quite understand what was at risk, but to want them dead? Or to wish James's child dead? What Peter really wished was that they would all come to their senses, join the Dark Lord (at least to protect themselves), and life could go back to normal.

He could defy the Dark Lord, of course. Die with true Gryffindor bravery and all that. But Peter considered himself far more practical than that. And what he was going to do would make a difference, without having to choose, or to die.

He scribbled down the recipe for the potion and left the library, quiet as a mouse. Or in this case, a rat.

***

"Thank you, Peter," Lily said as she settled into the chair he held out for her. "This heat… I'm exhausted." Her hands rested over her enormous belly. "My back is killing me."

"My mum sent over something for you," Peter said, pouring the contents of the thermos into a cup. "She said she used to drink it when she was pregnant. So, only two more weeks, huh?"

"Two weeks," Lily confirmed, and then sighed. "But if this baby wants to come earlier, I'm fine with that."

"Do you think he will?" Peter stirred the potion into the drink while Lily was trying to rub a swollen ankle.

"You know, you've got James completely convinced it's going to be a boy," she laughed. "You've almost got him sold on Divination being proper magic after all."

"Well, there's that and the fact you couldn't eat chocolate without throwing up. No girl would ever do that. Here. Mum said this should help, that it's very cooling."

Lily sipped the drink gratefully. "Does it have lime in it?" she asked.

"A lot, actually."

"Thank you. And don't just stand there, Peter. Have a seat yourself." Lily flicked her wand and a chair flew out. Peter took it and drummed his fingers against the table anxiously as Lily continued to sip the drink. "This heat is terrible."

"So you said. Where's Prongs, by the way?"

"He and Sirius went to the McCoddington's place. There are rumors…" He looked away, because he knew he wasn't going to tell her that those rumors had been planted deliberately, and the real threat was to the Fenwicks. "I'm surprised you're not there."

"Neither is Remus," he pointed out.

Lily made a face and finished off the drink. "That was tasty. I don't suppose you'd have more?" He shook his head. "Oh well. Remus is, well, I'm not sure what Remus is doing. But I saw Dumbledore talking to him. All this secrecy, it just seems ridiculous."

"It's not," Peter said. "Dumbledore is right. We can't know what the others are doing, because You-Know-Who doesn't just kill. He tortures. Would you trust me with your life like that?"

"Yes," Lily said promptly.

"I'm not sure I would," Peter said, more unnerved by that expression of faith than anything else. "Look, this is too much for you right now. Why don't you put your feet up and play lady of the manor and tell me what needs doing? I heard James say that the nursery still isn't painted."

Lily had been about to continue the argument, but the word painted must have had some sort of magical quality, because her face went from combative to incredulous relief in an instant. "Oh, Peter, would you? James has been promising for ages, but he never has time. And the baby is due so soon."

"Of course." He spent the afternoon in a small room with a paintbrush and a bucket of blue paint, with Lily watching from a hassock in the doorway and chattering amiably about plans for the baby. And when Lily's forehead wrinkled and her hands flew over her abdomen, he knew it was no false alarm and it was time.

Thanks to Peter Pettigrew, Harry James Potter was born at 11:35 at night on July 15, 1980.

***

Regulus died the same night that Harry was born. Peter wondered if this was prophetic and meaningful and a statement of the continuation of life, or just a coincidence. But he didn't ask the others, because the body hadn't been found yet and he only knew because the Dark Lord made sure his followers knew what happened to you if you dared to let your loyalty waver. Not, Peter thought, a compelling case for going Gryffindor and defying the greatest wizard who ever lived just because he didn't fit in with the Ministry's definition of "law-abiding." (When did any ruler, for that matter?) Instead, he sat in St. Mungo's and watched James try to convince himself his newborn son wouldn't break if he held him.

"He looks like you," Peter said, mainly just because it was what you said.

"I think he looks like me," Sirius said, peering at the bundle.

"He'd better not," James growled, staring down at the infant in his arms.

"He looks like a baby," Remus decided. "He's squished and pinkish-purple and has black hair that looks like it will never lay flat. And he's wrinkled."

"But he's adorable," Sirius said, kicking Remus lightly.

"How's Lily?"

"Asleep. Relieved, I think. Deliriously happy."

Remus glanced over at Peter, and Peter nodded. "I think we should go get some tea. We'll get you something."

Peter followed him out, leaving Sirius cooing over the baby and James still staring at his son in wonder.

"Do you want scones?" Peter asked when they reached the tea room. "They have chocolate chips." He gazed at them longingly.

"Can't. My blood sugar will be off then." Remus twisted his fingers together, his mind clearly elsewhere.

"What is it?" Peter asked.

"I was thinking. About the christening."

"The christening?"

"Yes. James and Lily are having the baby christened in Lily's childhood church. You knew that."

"I didn't, actually," Peter said sourly. He thought about it. "I assume Sirius is godfather?"

"Of course."

"And is there a godmother?" Peter asked, arching his eyebrow at Remus. Remus ignored the veiled jibe smoothly.

"No, Lily trusts Sirius more than any of her friends. Heaven help Harry."

Even Peter had to laugh at that. "So what about the christening?"

"I'm wondering if you and I should volunteer not to go. We really shouldn't have even all come to the hospital together. It's too big a gathering. Too attractive for Death Eater attacks."

"Come on," Peter said. "The Death Eaters have better things to do than hunt us out."

"No, Peter, they don't. That's why-"

"Remus, they do. Really. We can appear in public for a few hours together." It's not Harry the Death Eaters will be looking for. "It's a Muggle church, for crying out loud. How many Muggle churches are there in England?"

Remus was visibly wavering. "Do you really think it will be safe?"

"If it's just us? Why not? We won't be getting drunk and singing in the streets." Peter smiled wryly. "Those days are long past."

Remus sighed. "For everyone."

***

The christening was a quiet affair, with just the Potters, Sirius, Remus, Peter, Dumbledore, and the vicar. Lily's parents were gone, and James's parents had died in the Bulbous Bubonic Plague two years ago. Peter watched as if he was watching one of those Muggle cinnimons or sinisters or whatever they were called, not his dearest friends.

There was no party afterwards, and no drinks at a pub. James and Lily invited them all around to their house, but Peter had to beg off when the mark on his arm seared its summons. "Wish I could stay," he said, planting a kiss on little Harry's forehead and another on Lily's cheek, "but Mum needs me."

Well, if Mum was tall and rather pasty white with red eyes and intent on wiping out all Muggle-born wizards, that was.

"Where were you?" the Dark Lord demanded when Peter arrived. Peter swore under his breath. It looked like the others were all there, and he'd been last. Lateness was not smiled upon by Lord Voldemort. Unfortunately, one of the Death Eaters nearby had a particularly good nose.

"I smell incense," he said, and Peter was certain it was that damnable Lucius Malfoy. Stupid twat who kept getting in the way of any of Peter's efforts. "Were you praying for all our souls?"

"Hardly," Peter said sarcastically. "My lord, the Potter child has been born. You demanded to know when that happened."

The Dark Lord sat back, fingers templed together. "A boy?"

"Yes, my lord."

"I see."

Peter desperately wanted to ask What are you going to do about it?, but really didn't relish the idea of a nice little Crucio sent his way, which tended to be Voldemort's way of dealing with those who questioned or doubted his plans. He'd have to hope that the Longbottom brat came on time, and that it was a boy as well.

***

"How's your Mum, Peter?" Remus asked two nights later, as the three of them sat in the mess that was Sirius's and Remus's living room.

"She's still having some trouble," Peter said. He was sitting in an armchair, drinking a beer. Sirius was sitting on the sofa and Remus was sitting on the floor at his feet, the Daily Prophet spread open before him. Sirius's fingers trailed down towards Remus's shoulder, and then pulled back. Just tell me you're fucking each other already, Peter wanted to say. Don't protect my delicate sensibilities. It annoyed him no end. He'd accepted that once a month Remus would want to eat him, so why shouldn't he accept the notion that Remus might have entertained the idea of fucking him? At least he would walk out of the second one alive, and human Remus would undoubtedly take no for an answer, whereas the werewolf incarnation wouldn't be so inclined listen. He brought his mind back to the conversation. "Her nurse was killed last week."

Sirius shuddered and Remus looked down at his paper. "Too many deaths," Sirius said. "Deaths and disappearances. I heard that Caradoc Dearborn hasn't shown up for work in three days."

"Really?" Remus's face was calm and he flipped another page, but Peter noticed his hands clenched. He glanced at Sirius, but Sirius was looking down at Remus. Peter wondered if he should excuse himself, but then decided why should he, since they couldn't come out and tell him there was anything more than just friendship going on? Instead, he slid out of the armchair and scooted over to where Remus was sitting. Remus and Caradoc had been rather close, despite the large age difference and Caradoc actually knowing that Remus was a werewolf. Peter laid a hand on Remus's shoulder, but Remus just smiled at him. "I'm all right, Wormtail. Really. Well, as all right as anyone can be these days."

Peter drew back, annoyed. There was a time when he thought that maybe he and Remus could be as close as Sirius and James, but Remus didn't seem to need anyone on that level. Not even Sirius. He covered it by turning to Sirius. "Have you heard from Prongs?"

Sirius chuckled. "They've been up all night, Lily's either asleep, in tears, or walking in her own little world, and he's learned how to change a nappy."

"Any news on Alice?"

"Nothing yet. I think Scrimgeour is about to pop a vein over it. He's ready for her to have the baby and be back already, we're that short-handed." Sirius stretched.

"Not big on maternity leave, is he?" Remus drawled, and Sirius chuckled. Peter backed away and watched them both.

"I'd better go," he said abruptly, standing up.

"You don't have to," Sirius said, but his voice lacked conviction.

"No, early start tomorrow," Peter said, shrugging on his cloak.

"Got to battle the forces of evil."

"Evil," Peter snorted. "Do you really think it's that easily defined? That the Death Eaters go around thinking 'oooh, I think I'll be evil today!'?"

"Wormtail, they call themselves Death Eaters. They might as well say, 'hi, we're evil. Would you like a leaflet on our programme? It includes using Unforgivable Curses, murdering all Muggle-borns, and terrorizing the Wizarding population in general.' What else would they think of themselves as?"

"Right," Peter said. "Either that, or desperate."

***

Neville Longbottom was born three days after his due date, on July 30, 1980. The Longbottoms were rumored to be elated. Peter wondered how happy they'd be when Dumbledore told them that their child was destined to destroy Voldemort, and that Voldemort undoubtedly knew about it.

He had dutifully reported the birth to the Dark Lord, although he was certain about four other Death Eaters were doing the same. Nevertheless, Peter had learned the hard way that information about the Order was best repeated, even if the Dark Lord had it already. Because if you didn't tell him, then you had to explain why….

Time passed, and nothing happened. Not to the Longbottoms, anyway. Peter didn't understand it. If he'd been the Dark Lord and some prophecy had said a child would unseat him, he'd have gone out and killed the kid right away. (Or even better, have some minion do it for him.) But for three months, the Dark Lord said nothing about Neville.

Peter had also made no headway on the "clue" that Regulus had given him. Truth be told, he didn't much want to. Regulus was someone Peter had never much liked nor understood. Regulus had sought him out, and something in Peter had been reluctant to send him away. He hadn't told the Dark Lord of Regulus's waning loyalty, either, although he was certain others had. He hadn't forgotten, of course- it was hard to do so- but he hadn't acted on it, either.

Life slipped back to normal, or what could be called normal for these days. Peter missed the days when "normal" involved moving staircases, Transfiguration homework, and full moon adventures. But then, he supposed, that's what growing up was about.

***

Peter didn't often go to the houses of the people that were resisting the Dark Lord, ostensibly because he might be recognized, and what good was having a spy if the other side knew about it? He didn't allow himself to probe the reasons any deeper than that, although he imagined he wasn't the only Death Eater that hadn't included "torture, murder, and destruction" in their career counseling. So he was sitting at home with his feet up reading a good book when Dumbledore's Patronus came in.

When the silver phoenix was gone, he dutifully wrote a quick, coded note and sent it by owl. After all, the point of all this was he valued his life.

He hesitated for just a moment for just that reason, but there was no way he could not appear because Dumbledore was sure to somehow know his Patronus had reached him, so he grabbed a cloak and Apparated to the house.

Lily was there as well, crouched behind a bush and looking pale. "Where's James?" Peter asked.

"Home with Harry. It's his night," Lily whispered back. Peter crouched down beside her. "Sirius is working already and Remus…" she bit her lip, and Peter smiled smugly to himself. "No one knows where Remus is tonight."

"It must be important," Peter said as lamely as possible.

Lily made a face, and looked back at the house.

"Shouldn't we be using Disillusionment Charms?" she asked. "We seem to be assuming they're going to come waltzing up the front path."

"Not a bad thought." Peter tapped her on the head, and then did himself. "Who else is here?"

"The Prewett brothers, Frank Longbottom, and Mr. Diggle."

Peter groaned. "What about Dumbledore?"

"I assume he's around. I- shh!" Lily ducked, even though the Disillusionment Charm should be keeping her from anyone's sight. "I saw something!" she whispered, even softer.

And then the Death Eaters were there, and it was an explosion of lights and screaming and curses.

***

He felt oddly detached when he saw Lily's body on the ground, her red hair splayed out around her, blood tricking from her mouth and eyes. "Filthy little Mudblood," he'd heard the Death Eater (had to be Bellatrix Lestrange) shriek. "Spawning scum and infecting the world!"

Had Peter ever resented her for luring James into her clutches? Well, yes, just as Sirius and Remus had at first resented her. James was theirs. But her being Muggle-born had really meant nothing to him. He shrugged. It was far too complicated for him.

The fact was that this was a war, and Lily was a casualty. It just so happened she'd picked the losing side.

***

It took Harry two hours to stop crying and go to sleep that night. It took James another two. When the Potter men were asleep, Remus, Sirius, and Peter collapsed into chairs. Sirius dropped his face into his hands.

"I can't believe she's gone," he said, his voice hoarse.

Remus got up again and poured them all drinks. Alcohol: Remus's solution to every emotional crisis. Peter snorted into the proffered glass.

Sirius had pushed the glass aside. "I can't believe she's gone," he repeated.

Remus and Peter exchanged glances.

"I'm going to kill whoever did this," Sirius said.

"That's generally the point of fighting Death Eaters," Peter replied before he could stop himself.

"Not Death Eaters," Sirius said, looking up. "Someone… someone in the Order must have told them we were there. From every report I've heard, the Death Eaters struck the ambush first."

"A spy?" Remus asked.

"There's got to be. This isn't the first time the Death Eaters have thwarted us a little too easily."

"Who do you think it is?" Peter asked.

"I don't know," Sirius sighed. "Not just who. Why. It's bad enough we might have a spy, but the Death Eaters are using the Imperius Curse, and if someone is giving them information involuntarily… how do you handle that?"

Remus buried his head in his hands again and Peter wondered just what to do about that particular question.

"I'm really worried about the Longbottoms," Sirius said.

"The Longbottoms?" Remus asked, looking up. "Why?"

Peter rolled his eyes. "You know how Sirius and Alice are," he said, crossing his fingers. But Remus shook his head and looked inquisitively at Sirius.

"It's not that," Sirius said. "Alice and Frank can take care of themselves. But, well, Alice told me that Voldemort is after them specifically."

"What? Why?" Peter asked, although he knew perfectly well.

"Apparently there's some prophecy that predicts that their kid will be the one to bring down Voldemort."

"Oh." Peter looked down at his fingers.

"So Voldemort is after them to kill their baby?" Remus asked, aghast, and Peter had to admit it sounded pretty terrible when you put it like that.

"I know. Can you imagine what it would be like if he was after Harry?" Sirius said, looking back towards Harry's room. "I can't. I don't know how the Longbottoms can take it."

That was Sirius. A rebel on the outside, a huge softie in the inside. Peter would be amused if this wasn't treading on such dangerous territory. "Let Dumbledore worry about it," he told Sirius. "He knows what's best. He can protect the Longbottoms."

The look Sirius gave him said he didn't believe him one bit.

Shit.

***

It was only a week later when Sirius came into James's house, bouncing off the walls and with the triumphant look of someone who knew a secret.

"Sirius?" James asked. "What is it?"

"I had this idea… this brilliant idea!" Sirius said. His face was flushed as he looked around at the four of them. "Dumbledore suggested that the Longbottoms do the Fidelius Charm to keep Neville hidden."

"Great, but what does that have to do with us? I'm sure Frank's mother will be the Secret Keeper," James said.

"EXACTLY!" Sirius exclaimed, slapping his open palm against the table.

"Um, Padfoot?"

"Everyone will think that Augusta is the Secret Keeper, including the spy in the Order. It makes sense, right? So the spy will turn her over to Voldemort, we'll know who the spy is, and no matter what Voldemort does to her, he won't get her to break, because she's not the Secret Keeper." He smiled. "I am."

"Sirius…" James said, his lips pale.

"What?"

"That's the dumbest, stupidest, most asinine idea I've ever heard! You're going to get yourself killed!"

"Well, that's not in the plan, but it's a possibility." Sirius glanced over at Remus, who was staring down at the floor. Peter noticed Remus's face was white. "James, this kid is supposed to destroy Voldemort. He has to stay safe."

"Bullshit," James said. "And have you forgotten another child that needs to stay safe?"

Sirius shook his head. "James, that's the idea. No one is going to know that the real Secret Keeper is me. I can live my life just as it is, which is still in considerable danger, but no additional danger. And this way, Alice and her family are safe."

"From the way you're talking," Peter said, because neither James nor Remus seemed to want to say it, "this isn't a possibility. You are the Secret Keeper for the Longbottoms."

"Well, yes," Sirius admitted.

"Who else knows?" James asked.

"Dumbledore, naturally. And Frank's sisters. And Emmeline Vance, who did the casting." He considered. "And I think Elphias Doge."

James's head hit the table, and Remus growled deep in his throat.

Sometimes, Peter wished Sirius wouldn't make things quite so easy.

***

"You have found the Secret Keeper, Pettigrew?" the Dark Lord said.

"Yes." Peter swallowed hard. "The word is that it's Augusta Longbottom."

"As we expected."

"No, my lord. It's a trick. The real Secret Keeper is Sirius Black."

***

Sirius was captured the following Thursday. Peter found out about it that morning. From what he understood it had been a rather spectacular fight, with two Death Eaters being killed and a shop front being completely demolished. He had deliberately not been involved in the capture, but he was far from surprised when the Dark Lord called him to be present for the questioning.

The old Riddle House was admittedly one of Peter's least favorite places. It reminded him of a cross between the Shrieking Shack and Sirius's parents' house, a perversion of a home. It was kept up well enough that the house attracted no attention, but it was also derelict enough that there was no real comfort. Peter shivered, pulling his black robes tighter around him. His breath was hot as it rebounded against his mask, making him sweat despite the chill.

They were in the parlor, which was the Dark Lord's preferred room for this sort of thing. It was the perversity of it that appealed to him, Peter was sure. Torture in the middle of a cave or a dungeon was to be expected. A Cruciatus Curse in a cozy room where tea was served was not. Peter had managed to move to the back corner when Sirius was brought in.

He was pinned between two Death Eaters, bound, gagged, and blindfolded, which Peter suspected was more for effect since he was undoubtedly under a full Body-Bind at the same time. When one of the Death Eaters ripped away the blindfold and released the Body-Bind, Sirius's eyes widened with what Peter was certain was fear.

"Where are the Longbottoms?" The Dark Lord demanded, and Peter mentally gave him points for skipping over the menacing preliminaries.

Sirius didn't answer. He only steeled himself and glared around him defiantly. Peter knew what was coming, but it was still a shock to him to hear the Dark Lord's voice say, "Crucio."

The wallpaper in the study was a very ugly pinstripe, with blue stripes on a color that was meant to be beige but looked like a discolored white. Like there had been water damage. Peter wondered why he never noticed that before.

***

He went to Sirius's and Remus's cottage that night. It was a little rundown, ramshackle stone place that was perched on the edge of Dover's white cliffs, with an overgrown garden and a shed for that bike that Sirius loved so much.

Remus wasn't pacing the worn rug in the living room, but Peter thought he might have been if he'd been alone. Instead, Remus was pouring a cup of tea and spiking it with Firewhisky, and handing Peter the ginger biscuits he'd always liked so much. "I'm worried," Remus admitted, which was the Remus-equivalent of a nervous breakdown.

"I'm sure he's fine," Peter said. "I know there were Aurors called out tonight. There was a raid on a some cave that they believed to be a Death Eater hideout."

"Really?" Remus asked, and took a long gulp from the bottle of Firewhisky. "All right then."

"You honestly feel better knowing that?" Peter asked incredulously.

"Sirius can take care of himself."

"Yeah." Peter played awkwardly with the rim of his glass. This wasn't at all how this evening was supposed to go.

"How's James doing?" Remus asked.

"With Sirius?"

Remus bopped Peter lightly on the head with the near-empty whiskey bottle. "No, idiot. With Lily's…" he couldn't quite finish the sentence.

"Oh. He doesn't talk about it much to me. I assumed he talked to Sirius."

Remus's lips were a thin white line, but he didn't say anything more.

It wasn't so much concern that prompted Peter to ask, "Look, do you want me to stay until Sirius gets back?" It was the desire to, just once, see Remus Lupin worried and coming apart like everyone else. Not this pale, stoic front that everyone else saw, but what Remus was really thinking and feeling.

He was disappointed. Remus nodded, but his acceptance was as if Peter had asked if he could stay after a night of drinking, not as if he was waiting for Sirius to come home from what he thought was a potentially dangerous mission. They sat and talked, about the war, about Peter's job, and about James and Harry. Peter did notice that, as always, Remus said very little about himself.

It was two thirteen in the morning when the fire in the fireplace glowed green. Remus leapt to his feet, but sank back down when a tired and singed Alastor Moody stumbled out.

"Black here?" Moody demanded.

"I thought he was with you, actually," Remus said.

"No. Nobody's seen him all day. We were hoping he was here."

Remus sat down slowly. "No. Did you ask James Potter?"

"Course. Stopped there first." Peter turned his head sharply and caught just a touch of annoyance and hurt in Remus's eyes. But perhaps he imagined it, because Remus's voice was as smooth and polite as ever, even though he sounded worried.

"I haven't seen him."

"He's got to be someplace," Moody said. "His parents'?"

Peter and Remus looked at each other. "Sirius Black?" they said in unison.

"You've got to be joking," Peter finished.

"All right, lads, no need to get touchy. It was a reasonable question." Moody squinted around the cottage. "He didn't come in without you lads knowing?"

"No," Remus insisted.

"Humph. Well then, lads, I'd best be on my way, but if he comes by, tell him that he'd better get his arse down to work." Moody hurried back to the fireplace and left hastily.

"I thought he was with the Aurors," Remus said into the silence.

"I guess not. Where do you think he could be?"

"I don't know." Remus walked towards the fireplace. "But I think it's time we told James."

***

"THAT IDIOT!"

"James, we don't know-" Remus began.

"THAT BLASTED, BLOODY, FUCKING, MORONIC IDIOT!"

"James, please!"

"How could he?" James raged, striding across the room. From the back of the house, Harry started to cry, and James swore again. "HOW COULD HE DO THIS?"

"Peter, reason with him, will you?" Remus said, and strode to Harry's room.

"James, there was no way he could have known this would happen," Peter tried lamely.

"I FUCKING TOLD HIM!" James's voice had risen to an all-out roar. "HOW CAN HE DO THIS TO ME?!" The lamps flared and the glasses in the room shattered, and Peter reached out and caught the clock just in time. James spun and punched the wall, twice.

"He can't do this! He can't!"

Harry's shrill screams had risen to an ear splitting volume, and Peter wasn't sure what else to do. He pointed his wand at James. "Stupefy!" James slumped to the floor, and Peter flicked his wand again, guiding his inert body to the couch.

"You Stunned him?" Remus asked as he came back. Harry was clinging to his shoulder, his wails having subsided into snuffles.

"It seemed like the best thing to do."

"James never was one for reason."

"You're awfully calm," Peter said. He peered closer at Remus. Remus's eyes were tinged with red, but it might just be from exhaustion. "You did live together."

"We still do," Remus said curtly. "He's not dead yet."

"He might as well be."

Remus glared at him. "Do you have to say that in front of Harry?"

"Harry's far more concerned with drooling on your shoulder than he is with what I'm saying. And how can you not be upset? You live with him!"

"Who says I'm not?" Remus demanded, with a bite in his voice.

"You aren't acting it."

"Now's not the time to act it. Now's the time to think about how to get him back."


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