Chapter 1 : Death Is A Sitting Room
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Nobody really knows what the afterlife is like. Some people imagine a paradise for the righteous and eternal suffering for the sinners. Peter found that, in his estimation, the afterlife was less like either of those places and more like a sitting room. And it was a nice sitting room, too. A fire cackled merrily in the fireplace (as a fire is wont to do), overstuffed easy chairs with supple leather upholstery surrounded a round coffee table (as a table and chairs are wont to do), and steam rose from two cups of Earl Grey (as the atmospheric pressure is wont to allow). The room screamed of opulence and all things sophisticated.
Peter wasn’t sure what to make of all this, so he sat down in one of the chairs.
“That’s my chair,” a voice said.
Peter got up, somewhat disturbed by this, and sat in the other chair.
“That, also, is my chair.”
Peter stood up. “How can that be?”
“Any chair you wish to sit in is my chair. You stand.” The voice sounded irate and familiar. That made Peter nervous. What made him even more nervous was when James Potter materialized in one of the chairs. “Peter. Good of you to drop by. Long time, no see.” There was menace in his voice.
To be fair, James had a right to be angry. After all, if Peter hadn’t betrayed him, James would not be here at this time. True, it was a very nice sitting room. In many ways, death could be worse than this. Still, it was probably a safe assumption that James would not, given the choice, have picked this luxurious room over the option of a long and happy life with his wife and son, something Peter’s actions had denied him. In this respect, Peter was sure that he could consider James one of his enemies. This did not fill him with comfort about the chat to come. It’s been said that, “He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.” Peter was sure that if Ali ibn-Abi-Talib, the one who penned that quote, had been here to see this, he might have jumped up and down with excitement. “I knew that was generally true when I wrote it,” he might say, “but I never dreamed it would be this true! This really takes the cake.” Then he might turn to Peter and say, “You must be very unlucky, sir.”
But Ali ibn-Abi-Talib was not here. Just Peter. Peter and James. James who was probably very, very, very unhappy with Peter. Peter swallowed hard. “Hello, Prongs,” he said with a slight smile.
Another things that a lot of people should know but do not is that spirits can move pretty quickly, and so Peter should not have been surprised that James was up out of the chair and pinning him to the wall within seconds. “Don’t you ever call me by that name,” James spat. “That is the name I was known by among my friends. And I do not count you among them.”
“You did once,” Peter said, knowing almost instantly that it was the wrong thing to say at this point.
“That was before you killed me,” James said. “Believe it or not that really put a crimp in my day.”
“I didn’t kill you.” This turned out to be an even more wrong thing to say.
“No, you didn’t, did you? You lead the Dark Lord right to my doorstep! You led him to my home, where he killed me and my wife and tried to kill our son! And my son has suffered through a horrible life because of the events of that night. He’s been alternately mocked and doted on by his peers, he’s been a target of criticism from everyone, he’s been in danger his whole life, and worst of all, worst of all he has grown up without his father and mother beside him, and all of this is thanks to you!” James whirled around with Peter still in his grasp and threw him into one of the chairs, sending the coffee table and the tea flying. “Now explain yourself,” he said, seething.
“Pardon?” Peter asked.
“Do you see these three doors?” James asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“That door, where you came in, leads to the land of the living. It only opens one way. You can come in here but you can’t go out. Then this door to the right… it leads to a place of peace and comfort. Where those we love can be with us again.
“Now, the other door, the one on your left… well, you don’t want to know what’s through there. But suffice to say, if you go through there, then there won’t be much pleasantness for you.”
“Who makes this judgement? God?”
“No,” James said. “I do.” Peter looked shocked and made a sputtering sound. “I know,” James said. “That’s what I said when I heard about it. But when you think about it, it’s perfect. You wrong me in life, and I judge you for eternity in death. Seems life a fair trade, to me.”
Peter couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of James’ mouth. James, who had been his dearest friend. Peter would never have admitted it, of course, but James had been his favorite of the Marauders. Sirius had been quick to anger and had blown up at Peter several times. And Remus… well, he’d been the most demure of the group, surely, but he’d made Peter feel stupid. Not on purpose, of course, but it had happened anyway.
But James… James had been the fun one, the boisterous one, but also the one you could come to with anything. The one who would help you. The one who would give you the shirt off of his back.
Peter looked down at the ground. “You’re right,” he said. “I was wrong. You were always my best friend, and I gave it all up. And for what? The promise of power and prestige. And I betrayed the one who meant more to me than any other person on Earth. James, I…” he looked up with tears shining in his eyes. “Oh, James! How can you ever forgive me? I don’t know how. But you will. I know you will, because you’re so forgiving and gracious. That’s why I always liked you. James, please! I was corrupted by power but… I’ve changed. You, Sirius, and I are here. And Lily, and Remus… well his day is coming. We can be together again. We can start again. We can put everything, the events of the old world behind us, and start over again here, now. Together. Please.”
James also looked down at the floor, and sighed. “You talk a good story, Peter,” he said calmly. “That’s what we liked about you back then. Always the rat. You could talk your way out of anything… justify anything to any teacher.” He chuckled. “But maybe you should have been a weasel,” he said, and his voice rose in intensity with each passing word. “I look back and I see the traits in you that showed the evil that you really keep inside. A lot of people don’t see it, or didn’t see it then, but it’s clear now,” he veritably spat. “Now I see who you really were all those years… a criminal. Well, Wormtail, life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim. So I suppose you won. You were the criminal, and my wife and son were the victims. You won that round. I will win this one.” James picked Peter up by his collar and escorted him via the bum’s rush towards the second door. The Bad Door.
Peter whimpered. “Please! No, James! I had no choice!” The door flew open, and Peter saw the gaping void beyond it. It seemed like it was pulling everything towards it. The teacup pieces flew off of the floor and into the vortex. Even the fire itself lept from the fireplace and jumped to its doom. Peter couldn’t see the force moving it, but he saw the flame as it swirled around, farther and farther down into the nothingness. The wind was picking up now. The woman in the portrait over the mantle was covering her ears and cowering just outside the frame. “Please! I’m sorry! I… I still care about you! I still love you!” Just at the verge of being pushed in, now, Peter felt James pull him back and turn him around. He had his back to the door now, and James was looking into his eyes as if seeing something for the first time. “Thank you, James! I knew you’d see reason,” Peter said.
“You’re right. I have. That was close, eh?”
“Yes, it was,” Peter said, beginning to chuckle. James brought his foot up and kicked Peter in the chest, sending him flying through the door and into the void below.
“Close, alright. Almost missed seein’ the fear in your eyes. See ya around, Peter.” James shut the door.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad last chat.
A/N: This story is in response to the challenge fic issued by Wannabe. The challenge, entitled, “Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him,” challenged writers to write a story with Peter as the main character, and to use some pre-determined quotes. The two quotes I used were:
“He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, And he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.”
“Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.”
Thanks to wannabe for the inspiration for this story! I was right… doing a challenge got my writing back on track… at least for a bit! This was my first challenge written and Wannabe’s first challenge issued. So, this is a doubly historic fic! Thanks, wannabe, for creating the swingset and letting me have a go on it!