Chapter 1 : Peter and the Wolf
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As always, everything you recognize belongs JKR, who I am not. No matter how much I wish I might be.
Awards by thepurpleNINJA and !beccasaurus @ TDA
The air was cool and damp, more reminiscent of a late September evening than the end of the mid-August day it actually was. If Peter’s was a more poetic soul he might have compared the unseasonably cold spell that had befallen Britain as the country’s way of mourning the desolation taking place within its borders. Peter had always possessed too simple a soul for such grand thoughts though; instead, as always, he left such things to Remus.
However one viewed the lingering chill, it did not take a genius to see the connection between it and the large number of witches and wizards crowding the warm pub, seeking warmth from both the roaring flames of the hearth and the foaming mugs of ale. Peter counted himself among their number, sitting alone as he was in a corner booth, his second pint half empty as he waited for his three best friends to join him.
Picking up his mug and taking another deep pull, Peter allowed himself to reflect on the three men in question. Even now, he still thought of them as his best friends with a note of surprise. Rather than serve to draw them closer, everything they had been through together over the years only seem to highlight how different they truly were, atleast in Peter’s mind. How easily they all succeeded contrasted against how hard he had to struggle. But they were all he had, and so Peter stayed, knowing that James and Sirius, and even Remus would forever remain on a level above him.
The pub room door swung open, allowing a gust of cold air to enter, sweeping around the room. Peter turned expectantly, and sure enough James and Sirius stood in the entryway, hoods thrown back as through in defiance of the cold. They were scanning the room as they shook water from their cloaks – apparently the rain that had been threatening all day had finally arrived.
Peter stood and waved them over, having to jump up and down a few times to gain their attention across the busy room. James nodded his head in acknowledgment and following Sirius to the bar before they both made their way to Peter’s table, four fresh mugs levitating above the crowd in their wake.
“You missed one heck of a meeting, Pete!” James announced boisterously, settling into place across from Peter and taking an experimental sip. Sirius made a dismissive noise as he sat himself beside James.
“I told you, I had to work.” Peter could feel his cheeks flush at having to defend himself once more. James nodded his head in acceptance and set his mug down, but Sirius, a wicked gleam in his eye, would not be placated so easily.
“Could have stopped by when you finished your shift, though, couldn’t you’ve, Pete? Not like you worked through the entire meeting, not if you made it here first to nab us this table.”
James rolled his eyes but held his tongue, clearly agreeing with Sirius but apparently not wanting to add his support aloud – this time, at any rate. Peter could feel his cheeks grow redder and he spluttered for a few moments before taking a large mouthful of ale to save himself from having to answer the accusation immediately.
Truthfully, he had not had to work that evening. After clocking out at his regular time, he had stopped off at his flat to change before making his way to the pub for supper and a few drinks before he was due to meet up with his friends. Being asked to work late at the Prophet had just been as excuse to avoid the Order meeting. As soon as they had graduated, James and Sirius had been dead-set on joining the infamous Order of the Phoenix, and they had automatically assumed their other two friends would be joining them. Peter had managed to foist off for a month and a half but he was quickly running out of believable excuses; already there was a patronizing cast to James’ accepting nods, and the ghost of a bitter sneer on Sirius’ face each time Peter declined. Despite being a Gryffindor, he did not have the courage to admit that he did not want to have to fight and be faced outright with his two friend’s angry disappointment.
Remus’ timely arrival saved Peter from having to face the still unanswered question, and he was happy to let the subject die amidst the exchanged greetings that followed the young werewolf’s arrival. Remus slid into the booth beside Peter, so close that Peter could feel the heat emanating off his friends body like a furnace, seeming to belie the little warmth promised by the tattered cloak Remus wore. Peter slid the fourth foaming tankard across the hewn oak table so that it rested within easy reach of Remus before picking up his own, more for something to occupy himself with than a desire to drink more – already he could feel the effects of the liquor sliding through his veins. Peter felt himself relax fully for the first time since James and Sirius’ appearance, content to sit silently back and observe as the conversations flowed between the three other men.
“What’s the news? I was hoping to make this meeting, but, well ...”
Remus trailed off bitterly; it was a sticky point among the Marauders that several members of the Order had been quite vocal over introducing a werewolf into their number.
“Things are going really well!” James chimed in, a bit too brightly. “The information you gave us before really proved useful!”
James continued on in this vein, and Peter tried not to follow the discussion too closely. He wanted nothing to do with the Order, so he certainly didn’t want to become a liability due to knowing their secrets.
“So what do you think, Peter? Do you think you’ll be free next Saturday?”
Peter started slightly at suddenly having himself drawn into the conversation, and looked up to find not just James, but also Remus and Sirius looking at him expectantly, waiting for an answer.
“Next Saturday?” Peter stalled, racking his brain. “Er, nothing I think.”
Sirius grinned at that, reminding Peter forcibly of a hunter who had cornered his prey.
“That’s great, Pete! You’ll be able to make the next meeting then!”
“Er, yeah – I’ll just have to check and make sure I don’t have to work late that night.”
James’ face fell at Peter’s desperate attempt to backpedal, but the fierce, predatory expression that Sirius had been sporting only sharpened.
“You know, Pete, we’re at war. One of these days you’re going to have to man up and choose a bloody side. Or it’ll end up being chosen for you.”
Peter shrank away from the accusation in Sirius’ voice, struggling to come up with something – anything – to say to defend himself. Why in Merlin’s name hadn’t he been paying attention to the conversation taking place around him? He could have saved himself from this.
“Sirius, I ...”
Sirius opened his mouth to cut him off, to press the attack, but Remus beat him to the punch, stepping forward as he had always done to keep the peace. “Enough, Sirius. This isn’t the time or the place.”
“Remus! Come on, you know I’m right here!” Sirius appeared surprised by Remus’ intervention. “Peter’s job gives him a prime opportunity to help further the cause, to let people know what is being allowed to take place all around them! And instead he does nothing! He might as well have chosen to side with the Death Eaters!”
Remus did not seem intimidated by the fierce whispers being shot in his direction. “Give it up, Sirius. Peter is an intern. He has no more control over what is published in the Prophet than the rest of us do. He’s not the only one who hasn’t been able to join up, but I don’t hear you giving me a hard time.”
“It isn’t your choice not to join,” Sirius maintained petulantly.
“And it isn’t Peter’s either. He says he has to work, so unless you’re going to call him a liar then I suggest you just drop it.”
Sirius did, although reluctantly. But the look on both his and James’ face told Peter that they hadn’t been convinced by Remus’ words. He began to realize he had been wrong before – he could not have saved himself from such a confrontation with Sirius. It had been inevitable, from the moment he had first declined to attend an Order meeting. All he could have hoped for was to postpone the encounter. The longer the resentment was allowed to grow, the further away Peter would be pushed in his friend’s minds. If Remus hadn’t been here to intervene, who knows what could have been the result?
The mood had been ruined either way, though, and things began to break up shortly afterwards. James disappeared into the fireplace, Floo-ing home to his apartment and Lily while Remus and Sirius prepared to brave the damp night once more. Peter, for his part, declined the offer to walk with them and continued to nurse his ale, not wanting to stay in Sirius’ company any longer.
It really wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t they all understand that he wasn’t a fighter, even though he had been a Gryffindor? He wasn’t as strong or as skilled as James and Sirius, making a stand would be a greater risk for him. But they had never really understood why he was always the last one to pick up a new spell, or to score the lowest on a piece of homework. Peter had hoped that upon finishing up at Hogwarts those types of problems would be behind him, but instead found himself in the exact same situation. For all they boasted of the solidarity of the Marauders, Peter was the outsider in their midst.
If it wasn’t for Remus, the friends would have parted ways long before. If it wasn’t for Remus, the bitterness that underscored their differences would have consumed them by now. Remus – he was truly the glue that held the four of them together, and yet he himself travelled through life an outsider. He was separated from everyone else by his very nature. Peter thought that perhaps he could relate to what Remus must suffer through – it was what made them different that caused the sense of being unconnected from James and Sirius; that stopped them from following suit and joining the Order. Both Remus and he were outcasts – but they were outcasts together.
Peter drained the last of his ale and grabbed his coat, pulling it on as he hurried out into the night. Up ahead he saw two figures that must be Remus and Sirius stop in front of a shadowy alleyway and embrace. When they broke apart one disappeared into the alley way. Peter broke into a run, desperate to catch up to Remus before he too disappeared into the night.
Remus was just turning from the alley when Peter approached, oblivious to the out-of-breath young man behind him. Peter used his last breath to call out the other man’s name, causing Remus to slow enough for Peter to reach out and grab hold of one of his wrists.
“Peter? What ...”
Peter didn’t allow Remus to finish, leaping forward and silencing the other man with a kiss.
Remus was stiff with surprise, but his lips where warm and yielding, tasting of ale and chocolate. Peter revealed in the sensations, something he hadn’t even realized he had desired. And then Remus’ mouth was gone, the night air much colder after the warmth Peter had just been enveloped in.
“Peter, I ...” Remus’ eyes were lowered, not looking at Peter. Peter followed his gaze to their joined hands. “You’re one of my best friends, Peter. But ... I just don’t think of you in that way.”
Remus broke their hand hold and stepped away, looking Peter in the eyes now. Peter stumbled back a few steps, trying to understand what Remus was saying to him.
“Peter, I’m sorry. I had no idea you felt this way.”
“No!” Peter hissed angrily. How could Remus reject him? They were the only ones who really understood each other! “No, it was a mistake.”
Peter turned and took off, ignoring the pain in his side or Remus calling his name in the distance. He turned corner after corner, not caring where he was headed so long as it was away from Remus and the pity that had been in his eyes. Had he really been so wrong about Remus? Was he really no better than James or Sirius?
Peter fell to the ground, his body not used to the physical exertion he was demanding from it. Looking around, Peter saw that the street was deserted; he was alone. But not for long – he would show them, all three of them. He’d pick a side in this war if that was what they wanted, but he’d make sure they soon regretted ever asking such a thing from him.
Peter felt renewed strength flood his body at the thought, and he pulled himself back to his feet. Pulling his wand he spun, and with a small pop he was gone.