By Cedar (email@example.com)
Summary: A dream. A question. A betrayal. The cost. Peter Pettigrew POV, set just before the events of that fateful Halloween night, oh so long ago.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J. K. Rowling. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. It's just fan fiction!
< >I remember it was the end of March, when the snow had finally melted and little buds, full with life, had begun to grow on the trees. The rains held winter's last gasp, but spring was uncontested in the air we breathed. We'd been out of Hogwarts for nearly four years. Harry was so small then, just eight months old. He scared me. Sirius and Remus practically worshipped him, but every time I got near him I would start to shake. I couldn't look at him without feeling like James was stabbing me, every perfect aspect of his life a twist of the knife. Quidditch talent, academic brilliance, wealth, a family-- what didn't he have?
< >And then there was Harry - a tiny replica of James until those milky blue eyes turned green. I'd held James at the hospital when he emerged from the delivery room, weeping in his happiness. I fought my darkest desire to embrace him so tightly I crushed his spine, a murder veiled in affection.
< >I hadn't joined my master because I felt betrayed by my friends, or because I felt I paled in their presence. There were parts of the circle's lives I wanted beyond anything, but I didn't think I could give them the only people who had ever shown me true kindness. When I stopped to think about it, it had been greed more than anything else.
< >It's hard to admit our worst traits. James always had too much faith in people and was too willing to extend his love. I had an insatiable hunger for whatever I couldn't have. My family never had a lot of money. I was envious of those who never had to worry how they were going to buy food and clothing. With my master, I knew I wouldn't have to want so much. To be given the one thing with which I could acquire everything else I wanted was an opportunity I couldn't let pass. He knew that, and he played to it.
< >Like a stone in water, I was worn down; my edges of loyalty to James, Sirius, and Remus smoothed away by the Cruciatus Curse. The money was not a gift, but a loan with James's life as collateral.
< >James had invited us for dinner. We had his home to ourselves since Lily had taken Harry to visit relatives. I arrived to find Sirius and Remus already there and pushed back my jealousy at the three of them laughing and talking in the warm kitchen that smelled of memories and wood smoke and trust. They greeted me as they always did, with gentle teasing and wide smiles. We stayed in the kitchen while James set the table, sipping the wine I knew he had Transfigured from water.
< >We sat down to an unusual dinner lit by white candles in the silver candlesticks James made sure to keep far from Remus's end of the table. There was flat bread, lamb, hard-boiled eggs, and some herbs I didn't recognize. Foreign as it was, it tasted wonderful, and soon we were passing plates and baskets, sampling a little of everything.
< >"I had the strangest dream last night," said James suddenly, his face serious. The three of us looked to where he always sat when we were together, opposite me with Sirius on his right. "Very disturbing." He broke a piece of the bread into quarters and passed a piece to each of us. "I dreamed that someone was after me, someone who wanted to kill me, and that he had come for me because one of you had told him where I was living. I felt like I couldn't breathe, and I wondered about Lily and--Ouch!" All our eyes widened in concern as James's knife slipped from his control. The tip had pierced the palm of his hand, and blood flowered bright at the break in his skin. "Excuse me." He headed for the kitchen, and a minute or so later came back with a bandage around his hand.
< >"You all right?" asked Sirius, visibly pale.
< >"Fine. It's just a small cut. Anyway, it's really been bothering me. I know it was only a dream, but it was scary. I look at all of you and wonder which one the man was talking about."
< >I struggled not to choke on the bread James had given me.
< >Remus turned white and green and red at the same time. "James, how--how could you ever think that? You know we'd all rather die than hurt you. I owe you all my life." That was Remus: quiet, serious, and stubborn to the core. "Anyone who would do that to you... I'd kill him. Or at least make him wish he'd never been born."
< >"I'm sure it was nothing," James replied lightly, "except a message to tell me that I shouldn't eat leftover meat loaf at midnight." He raised his glass, white wine a golden tide of sweetness against the thin, fine crystal. "To us?"
< >Raising my glass to meet the others' took all my will. My arm didn't want to lift. When our glasses met with a lyrical ring, the sound hurt my ears. The wine was bitter on my tongue, as if it knew before James did what was to come and soured itself to my taste alone. The rest of the evening passed as normally as it could, though it didn't end fast enough. As the candles burned down and Sirius grew sleepy, I excused myself. I knew I had to leave before the guilt could strangle me.
< >James and I parted with a friendly hug. As we broke apart, I looked into his face.
< >"Was it me you dreamed about? Was I the one?"
< >"Never mind. Good night. I'll see you soon."
< >I stood on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek before I left.
- fin -
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