Chapter 25 : Skill and Luck
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“The year is almost over,” Luna said after class in early May.
“Yes, it is,” Remus said. “Are you looking forward to going home?”
Luna brightened. “Oh, yes! Dad says we can go abroad looking for Irish doxies again.”
Remus stifled a chuckle. “That will be fun. Be sure to owl me the article if you find any.”
“I will,” Luna said seriously. “Do you think you'll be able to stay for next year?”
“I certainly hope so,” Remus answered. It was a secret fear of his that something would happen between now and the end of June, rendering him unable to return the next year. He knew that the curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position was just a rumor, but it scared him nonetheless.
“I hope you do, too. But chances don't look good, do they? No one has lasted longer than a year for ages.”
Remus nodded. “Maybe I'll be the exception.”
“Remember what you said a few weeks ago? About my mum being afraid of losing people in the war?” Luna asked suddenly.
“Yes,” Remus said quietly. Luna hadn't mentioned that since.
“Well, I got to thinking...and Mum never talked about the war. Not once. She never told me anything about it. Neither does Dad. I don't think either of them fought Death Eaters, but Dad never talks about it.”
“Neither of your parents were involved,” Remus said, toying with a quill on his desk. “Didn't they ever tell you why?”
“No,” Luna said. “I thought they just didn't want to be.”
“They didn't,” Remus agreed. “But there was a reason.”
Peter spent another two weeks at home, not communicating with Remus, Sirius, or James. All three of them sent Peter multiple owls, hoping that something would cause him to respond. They sent letters filled with news from school, in an attempt to distract him, and they sent other letters asking how he was and how his mother was, but all went unanswered. Even Lily and Alice were worried about him and sent him one owl, but Peter didn't respond to that one, either.
It got to the point where Remus, James, and Sirius nearly went to McGonagall to ask about Peter, but the night before they were planning to do so, Peter finally returned. He walked into the common room Sunday night, looking disheveled and upset, but he had a bag over his shoulder and was clearly there to stay. The common room quieted upon his arrival, but he ran up the stairs to the dormitory making eye contact with no one. Remus, Sirius, and James got up to follow him.
They found Peter sitting on his bed, in the dark. Remus lit a few lamps with his wand and then sat down on his own bed. James and Sirius joined him. The four boys sat in silence for a few minutes before Sirius spoke.
“Pete, are you all right?”
“My dad's dead,” Peter said flatly. “Of course I'm not all right.”
“That's not what I meant-”
“Yeah it is,” Peter snapped. “But I get that you don't know what to say. So just don't say anything.”
“Wormtail-” James began.
“I don't want to talk about it!” Peter got up from his bed and walked to the door. He paused on his way out. “Don't follow me. Please.” Without a second look back, Peter disappeared.
Remus turned to James and Sirius, who looked just as clueless as he felt. None of them had any ideas on how to console their friend, because when it came down to it, Peter wasn't fine. And there was nothing any of them could say to help him.
“He'll talk when he's ready,” Remus said, more to make himself feel better than to reassure his friends.
“I hope so,” Sirius said quietly.
Peter remained silent throughout the remainder of the week. He walked from class to class like a zombie, not making eye contact with anyone, and not even speaking to the professors. None of them called on him in class and when they looked at him, their gazes were full of pity. After seeing this happen for a week straight, Remus suddenly realized why Peter didn't look anybody in the eye anymore. He was probably sick of the pity.
The Prophet didn't publish anymore articles about Peter's dad, but they continued to report the disappearances and murders as they happened. Murders were becoming more frequent, both of Muggles and witches and wizards alike. But purebloods were never killed. Only Muggles, Muggle-borns, and the occasional half-blood.
“They're blood traitors,” Sirius explained at breakfast on Saturday. “The half-bloods who are being killed. All of us are blood traitors, but the Death Eaters rarely ever kill purebloods, just in case there's a chance they'll change their minds.”
“How do you know that?” Remus asked, re-reading the article in case he'd missed something.
Sirius shrugged. “Just stuff I picked up when I was still living at home. This has been brewing since before we came to Hogwarts. I just didn't put it all together until this year. It's sick.”
“That's for sure,” Remus agreed.
James suddenly slammed down his goblet. “That's it!”
“What's it?” Remus asked, giving James a weird look.
“Peter,” James muttered, standing up. “I can't take it anymore. We've got to do something.”
“We can't do anything,” Sirius pointed out.
“We can try,” James said. “Come on. He's probably still laying around in bed. We've got to make him talk.”
Remus had a feeling this was a bad idea, but he got up and followed James out of the Great Hall, with Sirius next to him. The three boys walked back up to Gryffindor tower in silence. James practically ran and he had that determined look in his eyes that he usually reserved for Quidditch. No, this certainly wouldn't go well.
The dormitory was dark when they entered. James stomped around the room as loudly as he could, throwing open the curtains as he went. He jabbed his wand so hard at the lamps that they exploded. Sirius quietly repaired and lit them. Peter moved under the covers, but didn't get up.
“Get up!” James shouted, yanking the blankets off of Peter. “Get up now!”
Peter sat up and blinked at the sunlight. “What's going on? Is the castle on fire?”
“No,” James muttered. “But Pete, you've got to get your ass out of bed!”
“Prongs,” Remus began. “Maybe-”
“No, Moony,” James said. “It's been nearly a month. Peter...your dad wouldn't want you to be moping around like this. You've got to at least talk to us.”
Peter got out of bed abruptly and stared at James. His eyes were gaunt, as if he hadn't slept in weeks, yet he spent all his free time in bed. Remus thought he looked slightly crazed, but Peter blinked and it went away.
“You want me to talk?” Peter asked, surprisingly calm. “You really want to hear how the last few weeks have been? Fine, I'll tell you. My mum finally broke down and cried last week, and it was over seeing one of my dad's books open on the coffee table. It'd been sitting there since before he died and she finally noticed. And that I stood there in the doorway unable to go comfort her because I knew I'd start crying too. How pathetic is that? I couldn't even comfort my own mother. Is that what you want to hear, James?”
“No. You wanted me to talk, so I'm going to talk. People have finally stopped bringing over casseroles, thank God, but now Mum stays in bed all day instead of making tea for the neighbors. I'm not sure which is better. I got her meals for her and made her tea. The only reason I came back was because Dumbledore made me. I don't know what she's doing without me, to be honest.” Peter paused and took a deep breath.
“Every day I was home I kept thinking Dad would just walk back inside, as if nothing had happened, but of course he didn't. And now I have to sit here in school and do my homework and listen to people talking about their relationships and N.E.W.T.s and all this other shit that doesn't matter. None of it matters. Not with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named out there-”
James took a step closer to Peter. “No. It does matter, Pete. It matters because we can defeat him. We can stop what's happening so that no one else has to go through what you went through. That's the only thing we can do. We move on.”
“That's the thing,” Peter began, his voice cracking. “I can't move on. I just can't.” Peter sat back down again and pulled the covers over his legs. He stared at them, shaking slightly.
Remus glanced at Sirius, who looked vaguely uncomfortable. Remus felt uncomfortable. Who were they to say that Peter needed to move on? He'd lost his dad. Didn't he deserve to grieve as long as he needed to?
When Peter finally looked up his eyes glistened with tears. He turned to Sirius. “Padfoot, I have to tell you something. I can't move into your house after graduation. My mum needs me at home. I just can't leave her, not after this.”
Sirius nodded. “I understand. You can still come over.”
“But Wormtail-” James began.
“Prongs, don't,” Sirius said quietly. And this time, James actually listened to him.
“N.E.W.T.s are only a month away!” Professor Flitwick said at the beginning of class the following week.
“I think all the professors got together over the weekend and decided to all tell us this,” Sirius muttered. Flitwick was now the fourth professor to tell them that they only had a month to study.
“Only half of you are proficient at non-verbal spells,” Flitwick continued. “I can't stress enough how important it is to practice every day. Non-verbal charms will be on your exam and if you can't do any, you will fail. There's no getting around it. I am going to give you today to practice. Practice whatever charms you like.”
Remus was already proficient with non-verbal spells. So were James and Sirius, for that matter. Peter was another story. He'd been struggling with non-verbal spells since the end of sixth year when they began learning them. However, instead of taking his wand out of his bag, Peter put his head down on his desk.
“Pete,” Remus said quietly. “You've got to practice.”
“Flitwick wasn't kidding when he said we'd fail if we don't learn non-verbal charms,” Sirius said.
Peter lifted his head up. “I couldn't sleep last night.”
“No excuses,” James said. “We've only got a month left.”
“Does it even matter?” Peter asked. “I don't need a Charms N.E.W.T. I've got an interview at the Apothecary on Saturday. They're not going to care what I get on my Charms N.E.W.T. Or any of my N.E.W.T.s for that matter.”
“You never told us that,” Remus said.
“I'm telling you now,” Peter muttered. “I just can't concentrate on this now. Maybe tomorrow.”
“Speaking of Saturday,” Sirius began as he dug around in his bag. He pulled out a thick stack of parchment. “I'm looking at houses. I already talked it over with Dumbledore and he's given me permission. You three can come, too, if you'd like.”
“Of course, mate,” James said. Remus nodded.
Peter shook his head. “I've got my interview.”
“Maybe you could meet us-”
“No. I should come back here and study.”
Remus had a feeling that Peter wouldn't study, but he didn't want to argue.
“These are the ones I can afford,” Sirius said, gesturing to the parchment. “They're big enough for all three of us and close enough to London that we can get back home during training even if we're too exhausted to Apparate.”
Remus picked up one of the advertisements and read it. Four bedrooms, two lavatories, kitchen, dining room, den, basement. Basement, he thought. He could transform in a basement if he needed to. He swallowed hard. Now that graduation was a little over a month away, he was going to have to think about where he'd transform after leaving Hogwarts. He'd put it off all year, thinking he had plenty of time. And now, he really didn't.
The rest of the week plodded along slowly, with every single professor reminding them about N.E.W.T.s and Peter remaining moody and sullen. Remus, Sirius, and Peter attempted to cheer him up, but none of their efforts helped. Nor did Peter want to talk about his job interview.
Remus awoke early on Saturday, having to patrol the grounds at ten, and Peter was already gone. He was patrolling with Lily and Addy was joining them. He hadn't seen Addy much over the past few weeks and was slightly surprised by how much he missed her.
Remus met Lily in the common room and the two of them grabbed a quick breakfast in the Great Hall before meeting Addy outside. Remus's heart sped up when he saw her, standing just outside the oak doors.
“Addy,” he said as he gave her a hug and kissed her. “I missed you.”
“I missed you, too,” Addy said. “I feel like we haven't seen each other in ages. How is Peter?”
Remus sighed. “Quiet. He's got a job interview today, but he hasn't talked about it much.”
Addy nodded. “It'll take time.”
“I know,” Remus said.
Lily let Remus and Addy dominate the conversation during the patrol, and Remus was grateful. They talked about their upcoming exams and the Quidditch final, which was scheduled for the following Saturday, and their plans for the summer. Not once did Addy bring up the war, and Remus took her lead.
After the patrol ended Remus met James and Sirius for lunch before walking to Hogsmeade. Sirius seemed uncontrollably excited about the prospect of looking at houses, and Remus was very amused by him.
“Where is Lily living next year?” Sirius asked.
“At home,” James answered. “She wants to save money and since Petunia will be moving in with Dursley, it won't be that bad.”
Sirius nodded. “She could move in with us, you know.”
James burst out laughing. “Lily, live in sin with three blokes?”
“Now that you say it like that....”
“Yeah, she'd never go for it,” James said.
“And Alice is moving in with Frank straightaway, right?” Remus asked.
“Yes,” James said. “Lily's told me all about the wedding plans. June 24th is the date. A week after graduation.”
“When is Lily's sister getting married?” Remus asked. “I feel like that's got to be soon.”
“It's in two weeks,” James said flatly. “Lily's still set on going.”
“Awful?” James said. “Yeah, pretty much.”
Sirius pulled a piece of parchment out of his robes. “All right. This is the first one. Let's go.”
Remus looked at the picture. It was a very rustic looking house, made completely of huge logs, and seemed to be nestled in a forest. He pictured it, closed his eyes, and Disapparated with a crack.
When he reappeared he was standing in front of the house in the picture, with James and Sirius on either side of him. Sirius took off toward the house without saying a word. Remus and James followed.
The house was incredibly open, with hardly any walls separating the rooms. From the entryway, Remus could see the kitchen, dining room, and den. A set of stairs, each step consisting of half a log, led to the upstairs, which contained three bedrooms and a bathroom. A small hallway led off the kitchen, leading to a small study and another bathroom. The entire house was flooded by light, due to the numerous windows on every wall.
“I love it,” Sirius said immediately. “I want this one.”
“Padfoot,” Remus said. “You can't just buy the first house you see.” Remus, however, agreed with Sirius. It was a great house.
Remus turned to see a witch in lavender robes walking out of the kitchen. Her smile faltered upon seeing the three boys. “You three look awfully young to be buying a house.”
Sirius grinned and stuck out his hand. “Sirius Black. Nice to meet you.”
She shook his hand. “Marley George. As I said-”
“We're a bit young, yes,” Sirius agreed. “But I was left an inheritance from my uncle and wish to buy a house. I rather like this one, so far.”
Marley George recovered and pasted her grin back on her face. “Well, this house is only four years old, despite its rustic look. Three bedrooms, two lavatories....” Marley went on about the house, talking about things that Remus never realized went into the purchasing or upkeep of a house.
Remus left Sirius and James downstairs with Marley George and went upstairs to look at the bedrooms. They were all the same size, and Remus wandered into the one in the back. He peered out the window and noticed that it looked out into the forest. It wouldn't be too hard to build a shed back there, or if Sirius and James weren't at training, they could join him in the forest, just like they did at Hogwarts. Yes, this house did lend itself well to transformations. But it was Sirius's choice, in the end.
Remus heard footsteps on the stairs and peeked his head out the door. James and Sirius joined him in the back bedroom, without the real estate agent.
“What do you think, Moony?” Sirius asked.
“I like it,” Remus said.
“Me, too,” Sirius agreed. “It's the opposite of my parents' house.”
“I like it, but I think we should look at a few others,” James said. “It's a house, Padfoot. You've got to think on it for a little while.”
Sirius reluctantly agreed and the three set off to look at other houses. But none of the other houses they saw that day lived up to the expectations that the first house had given them. The second one was too close to the city, the third was too small, the fourth was a mansion, and the fifth was so run-down it reminded Remus of the Shrieking Shack.
“Give it at least a week,” James said as they walked through Hogsmeade, back to the castle.
“What if it sells by then?” Sirius asked.
“Then you weren't meant to have it,” James pointed out.
“I agree with Prongs,” Remus said. “It's a house, not a set of robes. You can't just buy it on a whim.”
Sirius sighed. “Fine. Can you imagine the look on my parents' faces when they find out I've bought myself a house with Uncle Alphard's money?”
Remus smirked. He'd only met Sirius's parents once, but he couldn't imagine they'd be thrilled at the idea.
“Is that Dumbledore?” James asked, pointing at the path ahead.
Remus squinted and saw a tall figure rushing toward them. When he got closer, Remus realized that it was in fact Dumbledore. He looked hurried and slightly unnerved. Remus swallowed. It was never a good sign when Dumbledore looked anything but calm.
“There you three are,” Dumbledore said when he reached them. “I want you back in the castle now. Patrol the corridors. Miss Evans, Miss Bramley, and Mr. Pettigrew are already doing so.”
“Sir, what's happened?” James asked.
Dumbledore's face hardened and he lowered his voice. “I've received word about Voldemort's headquarters. I am unsure what will happen if it is in fact, his headquarters. I have doubled the security charms on the castle and everyone is in their common rooms, with orders to stay there until further notice. I have to leave, but the rest of the professors are patrolling.”
Remus felt sick. Voldemort's headquarters. If this information was true, there was going to be another battle. Surely it wasn't possible that everyone would come out alive.
“We're on it,” James said. “Good luck, Professor.”
“Thank you, Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore said. “But when you get to be my age, you'll realize that it's more skill than luck that is needed. Thankfully, I have quite a bit of skill.”
Remus couldn't help but chuckle at the headmaster's words. Dumbledore strode past them and Disapparated a few moments later. Remus, Sirius, and James exchanged glances and then took off at a run for the castle.
A/N: Thanks for all the reviews! Many of you are theorizing about Peter and why he eventually turns to the dark side, despite his father's murder. Peter's transformation really, really intrigues me and that's one of the reasons why I plan to write a sequel to this (sometime after NaNo, though).
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