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Chapter 2 : Peter Pettigrew: Making the Most of Things
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Disclaimer: I am not JK Rowling. I'm just playing with her toys.
Peter Pettigrew had, of necessity, been obliged to register himself as an animagus when he joined the Security Service. Exploiting certain loopholes in the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy which permitted him to put certain magical skills at the disposal of MI5 in the first place was one thing, but potential embarrassment which could easily and legally be avoided was another altogether.
This morning Peter Pettigrew was on surveillance duty in Kensington Gardens. He had entered a cab in the special briefcase of one of his handlers, in his animagus form of a decent sized brown rat, and been conveyed by his handler to Kensington Gardens where his handler had set the briefcase down, whilst pausing to tie a shoe-lace, and Peter had slipped out of a flap in one end of the case and into a flower bed. Although a rat in daylight might raise some eyebrows, he could hang around with much greater liberty than a man could to observe the forthcoming meeting, and he had besides a weak variant of the ‘protection from muggles’ charm applied which meant that creatures without any kind of magical abilities or heritage would find it almost impossible to notice him, unless he drew himself to their attention.
Peter pottered around for a bit, enjoying the August sun, sniffing at fallen rose petals, and ignoring discarded drinking straws, crisp packets, and ring pulls from cans. His known target had arrived, and was sitting on a nearby bench, a dozen feet or so away from Peter’s current position. The man was an Italian businessman with a Russian mother, who was suspected to be spying these days for the USSR. MI5 had known about him for several months, and he was believed to be building a network of contacts. They had kept the surveillance light as the man was unbelievably cautious; then again he was believed to have grown up in the Italian criminal underworld, which perhaps explained his at times near-paranoia. Peter was here to monitor the man and to see if he either met someone or left any kind of drop – and in the latter case to observe who came to pick it up.
Oh yes, there were half a dozen different ways Peter could have collected the same information with spells such as disillusionment charms or divination magic, but this was simplest and thus carried the least risk of breeching the International Statute – plus the only information he ever needed to give his muggle handlers (for all that they may be allowed to know) about his capabilities was that he could turn himself into a rat. And also, truth be told, he rather enjoyed doing things this way.
Except for the bit when kneazles or part-kneazles became involved. Such as today, for instance.
An old hand at sensing danger, Peter sensed the approach of the infernal cat when it was twenty five yards away, stalking purposefully across the grass towards him. It was an ugly beast, with mangy orange hair, a malevolent expression on its feline features, and the distinctive aura of something which wasn’t quite a normal cat. It wasn’t a full-blooded kneazle – the bloodline had been diluted by breeding with non-magical cats, and Peter reckoned it could be half-kneazle at most – but it was capable of sensing him, and had unfortunately spotted him. Peter mentally tagged the offending creature as ‘Tiddles’. It looked like it ought to be called Tiddles.
Under other circumstances, Peter would have simply run for it, disappearing into a drain or somewhere that it couldn’t get him, but unfortunately his target for surveillance hadn’t gone anywhere or done anything, meaning he was in theory supposed to keep watch on him.
Peter assessed the approaching menace and his options. Fortunately, the kneazle bloodline looked at least sufficiently diluted that there wasn’t much more than the regular dumb cunning of a cat to the look in its eyes. Tiddles was a brute, and a dangerous brute, but lacked the sentience to be truly threatening if Peter kept his wits about him.
He scrabbled around in the flowerbed, and came up with an old rose stem he could just about get his forepaws around, a discarded trimming from whenever the bushes in this bed had last been pruned. It was a good seven or eight inches long, and hadn’t been lying around long enough to start rotting.
Ah good. This offered possibilities.
Peter reared up on his hind legs manoeuvring the long rose-stem in his forepaws like a lance. He glanced around, checking angles and distances, and then looked back at the advancing feline menace. It was now about ten yards away, and was about to make a rush. It had speed and weight over him, but he had wits and agility on his side. Plus a good half foot of rose-stem. Peter’s surveillance target was still sitting there on the bench, legs crossed, reading a paper.
Peter flashed his teeth at his enemy, hopped out of the flowerbed and backed away across the grass, keeping just out of spring and rush range.
Tiddles was clearly puzzled about the way its presumed prey was behaving, but came after him with the innate sadism of a cat, not making a dash for it right now, but continuing to prowl forward in stalking-and-toying mode.
Peter continued to retreat backwards, weaving a little to either side as he did so to continue to keep it thinking and to set the angles up right.
The monster crept on forwards, and then, finally, once he was under the shadow of the bench Peter halted.
The man heard the part-kneazle at this point, and glanced away from his paper, back over his shoulder, but saw what to him must be nothing more extraordinary than a perhaps slightly large stray cat.
Tiddles snarled, as Peter, directly under his surveillance target’s posterior, twirled his whiskers at it. Peter waved the rose stem around, and wished he knew legilimency so he could try and push this creature’s mental buttons, directly.
Without the need for further provocation, Tiddles decided enough was enough anyway, and in one smooth rush came bounding forwards.
Peter resisted the urge to turn tail and flee for his life and instead sidestepped and whacked the part-kneazle full across the face with his rose-stem. He thought a thorn might even have caught it in one eye.
Snarling with fury, claws coming out, the part-kneazle collided with a leg of Peter’s seated surveillance target, half blind and ripping at anything which it got into contact with. Peter watched, in weird fascination, what happened next.
Oh well, there went the surveillance operation for today – probably for the next week or two, by the look of it. He actually winced as the fight developed and fur and cloth began to fly.
“The observation this morning in Kensington Gardens: There was an unforeseen development.”, Peter Pettigrew, back in human form, reported to one of his handler’s at lunch time.
“Really?” the handler raised a silvery eyebrow.
To some extent the handler resembled a beardless Albus Dumbledore, with about sixty years less cunning and deviousness.
“A magical cat intruded upon the scene. It was initially interested in me, but became involved in a fracas with the target.” It had not been a pleasant sight, a man trying to pull a part-kneazle off his face after he had kicked it following the way it had savaged his leg. “The surveillance target is likely to be in hospital for a week; maybe longer.”
“Oh well, long enough for us to bug his flat I suppose, steam open any mail which happens to be lying around there, and to do other stuff.”, Peter’s handler said. He didn’t sound entirely unhappy with this result. Probably because the ‘other stuff’ included the fact that the target was going to be under observation in an environment where just about anyone could walk up to him and start pumping him full of drugs designed to make him highly talkative, so long as such a person happened to be wearing an appropriate uniform…
Peter reckoned his handler must in fact be quite pleased by this turn of events, but he continued anyway, as he had more to report:
“Whilst he was trying to haul a couple of stone of feline fury away from his visage, I popped around a convenient shrub and resumed human form.” Peter said. “Then with everyone else in the vicinity gathered around the semi-conscious target or running to a public call-box for an ambulance, I appropriated his briefcase, which he’d left on the bench.”
He produced it with a flourish and put it on the desk.
His handler smiled broadly.
“Ah, I think the responsible thing to do would be to turn this in to lost property – once we’ve inventoried the contents, of course.”
“Permission to defer the written report until tomorrow?”, Peter questioned since his handler was in such a good mood. “It’s my god-daughter’s birthday party this evening.” Peter had a gift-wrapped jigsaw puzzle of Chenonceau and a card shrunk down and stowed in one of his pockets. Celia was brainy and enjoyed jigsaws of French chateaus.
His handler made a ‘mmm, you don’t get off quite that easily my friend’ face.
“Where does she live?”
“The Hampshire Downs. Near Humble-on-the-Down.” Peter knew that was on his file, and that his handler knew that was on his file, and supposed it must be protocol that he was being asked it anyway.
“I’ll tell you what. I’ll arrange a ministry car, and see you as far as Humble-on-the-Down myself. You can write the report up in the back of the car.”
Peter made a face, but supposed this was the best option he was going to get on this occasion. And at least he’d be there for the start of the party.
Peter Pettigrew’s goddaughter was called Celia Johanna Roberta Brearley Snape, having been born in the throes of the Ashes summer of 1981. She was fortunate to have been born a girl, since Peter suspected her father would have probably tried to name her after the entire England squad otherwise. As it was, apparently he’d put her on the waiting list for membership of the MCC, despite the fact that they didn’t (currently) take female members. Her father had a fascination unusual in a wizard for cricket. Apparently he found the tactical and psychological struggles evinced in cricket at the highest level to be the purest form of sport – or something like that.
With the history Celia’s father and Peter had had at Hogwarts, it went without saying that it had been Celia’s mother, Lily, who had asked Peter to be her girl’s godfather.
Peter had felt slightly wretched about the whole thing at the time, given what had at that moment been in his recent and what he considered not-so-glorious past, and he had tried to decline without going into specifics. Nonetheless, Lily had fixed him with those glittering green eyes of hers:
‘I know you think you’re weak Peter. I know that under minimal shaking you told Severus where to find me, and a couple of months later other Death Eaters. And I know you think James is on your conscience. It was a war Peter: telling Severus turned out for the best, and telling those other Death Eaters was part of an Order of the Phoenix plan they hadn’t completely briefed you on; they were relying on you to do that, and Voldemort lost the war as a result. They even gave you a medal for it. Yes, James is dead, but all of us in Godric’s Hollow that night accepted there was a chance we would die, and we thought it worth the risk. And this little lady,’ she glanced down briefly at the girl cradled in her arms, ‘wouldn’t be here today without you.’ She had looked back at him. ‘I’m still asking you, Peter, despite the things which have happened – but, whether you accept or not, for Merlin’s sake if you’re feeling scared and powerless in future ask someone for help. If no-one else will, I will consider you a friend, and Sev will go with whatever I tell him on this count.’
And she had actually meant it. It hadn’t been like the way James or Sirius or even Remus had looked on Peter in the Marauders or after. He wished she’d been like this to him at school…
‘Alright, Lily, I’ll do it.’ He’d mumbled it a bit, although he had managed to look her in the face when he said it.
And now, eight years later, here he was again, on his way to celebrate another of Celia’s birthdays…
By way of explanation, regarding an animagus working for MI5 and the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, I've taken the liberty of assuming that when the statute was drawn up, allowances were made for heads of state and their official bodyguards to know about magic, (no point in being a bodyguard if you don't know to throw yourself in front of that person chanting in latin with a funny wooden stick) and that Peter's immediate handlers in MI5 are officially Yeomen of the Queen's Body Guard.
Peter's been working for MI5 for half a dozen years by the point of this short story. The specific date it occurs is the 8th August (Celia's actual birthday). For the record, Celia is the (eldest) daughter of Severus and Lily Snape, and by this point the Snape family have moved into their permanent (custom-built) residence called 'Grassguards' on the Hampshire Downs. The actual location of Grassguards is sort of secret, hence Peter's vagueness over where his god-daughter and her family live.
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