Chapter 4 : Wormtail
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Never again did I want to be found in such a position as I had been mere hours ago. To have all my dreams and ambitions set out on a platter before me and be forced to make the choice between them and the friends who have given me more than I could ever have imagined in near impossible. Today, I chose the latter because I owe something to the Marauders almost more than life itself. I owe them loyalty and friendship.
But what about next time? Which would I choose if the Marauders were no more?
Those are questions that I never want to have to think about. Not now, not ever.
Why was it me that was always picked on? Did I have the word ‘idiot’ written across my face? For the past six years, I continue looking in the mirror, trying to see if those words were really there because that was what it felt like. From the beginning of my time here at Hogwarts, everyone laughed at me no matter what I did. It was as though I lived in another world from the other students, a world that did not allow me passage into theirs.
When James and Sirius had offered me their friendship - and protection - I jumped at the chance of being friends with the two most popular boys of our year. Almost everyone loved their antics and practical jokes; I did as well, until I found myself the brunt of most of them. I should have known that being the follower of two clever, mischievous boys would lead me into situations that I would not have the wits to get out of. They entrapped me with their jokes so that I looked to be a brainless nothing.
And that’s what I am. I’m not brave or smart or anything that they are. The reason that I was placed in Gryffindor escapes me like everything else in this world. Hufflepuff would have been more appropriate; I have no talents at all, except perhaps that of being a follower.
I could not blame my friends for their jokes or my being the brunt of most of them. They treated me well most of the time, like an equal. To be regarded as an equal by anyone like them makes my heart swell as I write this. Never will I forget their kindness to me, even in the heart of the darkness that begins to surround us at every moment.
My thoughts have continued to leap from place to place since I arrived back from Hogsmeade a few hours ago. I wasn’t able to work on that essay of McGonagall’s at all; most likely Remus will write it for me again. He always seems to end up doing that.
It’s what friends are for, right?
Looking over at where my friends sleep, resting from a day of jokes and fun over at Hogsmeade, I can’t help but be slightly jealous of their clear minds, so much at ease. Even Remus, the most troubled of us all, sleeps. Restlessly, and most likely in a dream world of horror and fear, but he sleeps all the same. Sirius lays in his bed as a dog would - sprawled across it - which is strangely fitting. Most likely he dreams of running through the woods once more, free from the hold his name and family put upon him. As always, James snores slightly and I know his dreams are filled with pretty Lily Evans, who has only accepted him once, and only then because he learned to be humble.
While they lay resting in the arms of Morpheus, I sit on my bed, huddled under the thick covers, scribbling in the little book my mother gave me when I first started at Hogwarts. I haven’t written in it for ages, feeling slightly secure with myself, but now, after what happened today, I desperately need it.
Mother gave it to me just before I boarded the train, saying that writing down events makes them easier to forget. It would be like a Pensieve, I could place my memories within it and pretend that they never happened. She knew then that the scrawny, foolish child I was would get into many unpleasant experiences, most of them not of my making. My own mother knew that I was useless, and you know, she was right.
Before I lament myself into the depths of depression, perhaps I should explain why I’m suddenly feeling so...anti-me. It was something that I should have been able to prevent, something that should never have happened. But it did, so now I’m stuck with the consequences of a mind filled with self-loathing and distrust. Part of me wishes to have accepted the proposal, the other is glad that I did not. To do so would have meant selling my soul to evil, and I was not prepared to do that, ever.
The four of us - James, Sirius, Remus, and I - were all on our way back from Hogsmeade, light-hearted after a day of exploring Zonko’s and drinking butterbeer. We were all slightly off-balance and clumsy, especially Sirius, who always seemed to drink more than the rest of us. James and Sirius were making all sorts of jokes, few that made much sense, while Remus walked along, deep in thought, probably for the OWLS coming up in a couple months. I was left to myself, for the most part, except when the two jokers decided to include me in their carousing (which is what it quickly became after a few minutes).
Along the path back to the school, I kept seeing strange shadows in the bushes or behind trees. In the light of the setting sun, their ghostly arms seemed to beckon me towards them, as though they had something important to tell me. I shivered in the cooling air, feeling goose-bumps grow on my arms. Something in those shadows was trying to tell me something and I was damned to know what it was.
In my curiosity mixed with fear, I had slowed down on the path, falling behind the others. When I realized that my feet had come to a stop, they were far ahead, not noticing my absence.
I was suddenly alone in the growing darkness. Not the best of situations, especially for me.
There was a rustle in the nearest bush and a tall shadow emerged from the surrounding woods. I gasped and fumbled for my wand, hands shaking. The shadow laughed menacingly, making my body freeze with dread. Pertificus Totalus would have not been so efficient as his voice was. It still haunted my dreams, even though he had left school three years before.
“What is it, Pettigrew?” Lucius Malfoy said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Are you lost?”
He laughed again and I was powerless. The snake had been loosed and I was trapped in its vice-like grip. No one could save me, not my friends, not the teachers, not anyone else. I would have to face the serpent alone.
He put his hand under my chin, forcing me to look up at him.
“Afraid, are you? Poor boy, I will send you on your way soon enough, but you must listen to what I have to say first.”
I nodded, wanting him to leave as soon as possible.
“Good,” he smirked. “Now, your friends are close to Dumbledore and have some knowledge of his plans, not much, but some. You, however, have always had your doubts. I can see it in your eyes that you do not trust the old headmaster. He is too all-knowing, too eccentric for your moderate tastes, Pettigrew.” Malfoy rubbed his thumb along my jaw, making sure that I was listening to every word. “You don’t agree that getting rid of mudbloods is bad, do you?”
I swallowed, but said nothing.
“Do you?” he asked, his voice rising slightly.
My thoughts turned to Lily Evans, the object of James’ affections. All four of us loved her in our own ways. She treated me with kindness and fairness, something that few ever tried. She and Remus could easily talk about books and homework like two minds of equal stature. To Sirius, she was a confidante, someone he could always talk to when his family became too much to bear. Even though she was usually annoyed by James and his constant nagging for her to go out with him, he still thought her to be living perfection; she was the only girl who would ever make him happy.
She was muggleborn and I did not see any reason why she should not be allowed to learn magic. In fact, she was better at it than many purebloods. No, I didn’t agree with Malfoy, but to tell him so was a different story.
“Let me phrase this a different way, Pettigrew,” Malfoy said, turning up his lip with distaste. “The Dark Lord needs a set of ears within Hogwarts, more specifically, under Dumbledore’s nose. You are the best candidate. No one ever notices you, anyway. Not even your friends.” He leaned over me until I could feel his breath upon my ear. “Look at the way they’ve abandoned you now, just think of what will happen once you all leave here. There will be no place for you anywhere.”
My body was shaking all over. Sweat trickled down my spine and my forehead. I closed my eyes, trying to shut out his cold, malicious stare, while building the confidence to speak.
“And - and where w-would I b-be with y-you?” I stuttered.
I could not see his face, but I knew the smile had returned to it.
“Power,” he whispered into my ear. “That is what you would have. The Dark Lord rewards all who support him with things beyond your wildest dreams. You would be looked up at by witches and wizards around the world for your greatness. You could stand beside the Dark Lord as his most trusted servant.”
“W-why m-me?” came the words from my mouth. I had not told myself to speak them, but they came nonetheless.
“He sees something in you that the others don’t have,” Malfoy replied, his voice soft.
All of the sudden, anger welled up within me. I would not allow him to bully me like he had in the past. No, I hated him and the last thing I wanted to do was join his leader. I wanted nothing, nothing at all, to do with any of it. They wanted to kill, to destroy. The mere thought of death made bile rise into my throat. It sickened me, as did Malfoy’s presence.
“No,” I uttered. “Not now, not ever. I won’t help you.”
His fierce blue eyes opened wider for a moment, as though surprised.
“What did you say?” he asked, his voice now hard.
Courage grew within me. Perhaps I was a worthy of being a Gryffindor after all.
“No,” I said, my voice louder than before. “Leave me alone. I won’t help you.”
For a moment, I could have sworn that he would hit me with the ebony and silver stick he carried. His hand grasped it with such strength that his knuckles turned the colour of eggshells. Meanwhile, his face became a mask of fury more frightening than the gargoyles which sat on the roof of Hogwarts Castle.
“Did you refuse me, Pettigrew?” Malfoy asked, a sickeningly quiet tone coming into his voice. “No one ever does that, especially to a request of the Dark Lord.”
I began to step away from him, but he suddenly put his hand around my throat, lifted me off the ground, and thrust me against a tree. Pain seared through my entire body from head to toe. Tears ran down my face as I bit the inside of my mouth so hard that the metallic taste of blood flooded my tastebuds.
“You will understand your mistake soon enough, Pettigrew,” Malfoy spat. “One day, you will change your mind, I guarantee it.”
Just when darkness was beginning to impede my vision and air was no longer able to reach my lungs, he let me go, leaving me on the ground gasping for air. The ground was cool and the night breeze refreshing on my burning and perspiring skin. He stood over me, an wicked smile playing on his lips.
“Good evening, Mr. Pettigrew. We shall meet again, you can be sure of that.”
I continued to lay there, even after he left. They would be missing me up at the castle, but I already had my excuse planned, and as always, it would be easily believed. But first, I would have to calm my nerves. The physical wounds would heal, but the ones inside never would.
My only hope now that I am safe within the castle walls, is that I may never see Lucius Malfoy again and that me will never make such an offer of me. Next time, depending on the circumstances, the fear and the temptation may prove to be too much.
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