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Dark Days by MarauderLover7
Chapter 3 : Surviving
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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James stepped back to let Peter in, then leapt backward as Harry – cackling madly from astride a small broomstick – zoomed past. An alarm went off and echoed around the house and James sighed. Peter squeezed past James into the narrow hallway and Lily’s cat appeared out of nowhere to bolt out the front door. Peter watched it warily – the cat didn’t like him and he didn’t like it – but it scaled the tree at the bottom of the garden and didn’t look like it’d be moving any time soon.

James shut the door and gave Peter a half-hearted smile. Peter thought he looked sad, and tired, as if he hadn’t been sleeping well.

“Lily’s in the kitchen,” he said, and then hauled himself up the stairs after Harry. The alarm quieted as soon as James touched the banister. Peter wondered if he ought to help and then shrugged. If James had wanted help, he’d have asked for it. 

“Pete!” Lily said, twisting in her chair when he walked in.

“Don’t get up,” he told her, but she did anyway, and wrapped him in a tight hug. “How are you?” Lily, like James, looked sad – her eyes were puffy - though nowhere near as tired.

“I’m...” She hesitated. “I’m okay. How about you?”

“Fine,” Peter said, shrugging. “Keeping busy, I s’pose.” Something flashed over Lily’s pretty face. It looked like jealousy, but then Peter shook himself. He was imagining things, surely. She smiled a moment later and Peter was positive he’d imagined whatever he thought he’d seen.

“Can I get you a cup of tea?” Peter chose a chair and sat down.

“Tea’d be nice,” he said. His Dark Mark ached dully but Peter didn’t pay it any attention other than to itch it. Lily put the kettle on and set a plate of biscuits down in front of him. “Trying to make me fat?” he joked.

“No,” she laughed. “I’m hoping if they taste good enough, you’ll never leave.”

“Are you really that lonely?” Peter asked, chuckling, but her smile faltered. He knew, of course, that they weren’t supposed to have visitors, but he didn’t think that would have stopped Remus or Sirius.

“Bathilda visits,” Lily said after a pause. “Most days, actually.”

“Oh,” Peter said, noticing she hadn’t really answered his question. He picked up a biscuit as Lily turned away to get mugs. He noticed she only pulled out two. “Isn’t James going to join us?” he asked.

“Harry’ll keep him busy, I expect,” she said with a sad smile.

“Oh. Okay,” Peter said. “Is he all right? He seemed-”

“Off?” she suggested. “He misses everyone.” Peter suspected that ‘everyone’ was Sirius, because if James had missed Peter, he’d be down here having tea instead of upstairs with Harry.

“Are he and Sirius still fighting?” Peter asked. He wasn’t entirely sure what had happened when Sirius and Remus had gone to talk to Lily and James and Dumbledore at Dorcas’, but he’d seen the result; Sirius had left, crying, and then five minutes later, the others had come out, looking pale. Dumbledore had had Moody and Sturgis escort James and Lily home, and James hadn’t even argued, when usually, the idea of an escort would have infuriated him.

“Fighting?” Lily asked, setting a steaming mug down in front of him. “No, Pete, they weren’t ever fighting-

“James was angry, though,” Peter said.

“A bit,” James said, startling them both, as he walked in with Harry in his arms. Lily’s hand leaped to her pocket for her wand, but Peter didn’t react other than to jump; he wasn’t in any danger, because regardless of who walked in – James, or a Death Eater, or even the Dark Lord himself – Peter was on their side. “Mostly at myself, though.”

“Peya,” Harry said, waving. Peter waved back, and couldn’t quite manage a smile; Harry was a cute kid, but he was still doomed. Getting attached to a baby that wouldn’t make it to two was a bad idea; Peter’d had enough trouble trying to detach himself from Lily and his three fellow Marauders – and he still hadn’t quite succeeded, because they were such good bloody friends.

He’d tried to hate them, but couldn’t. It should have been easy; James and Sirius were blood traitors, Remus was a half-breed and Lily was a muggleborn, but they made him laugh and they kept him safe – they didn’t know he wasn’t in any danger. He’d tried to convince himself that he was just a tag-along, that James and Sirius only wanted him around because he was easily impressed, but he knew it wasn’t true.

He’d tried to convince himself they deserved it; they’d been offered chances to join the Dark Lord, to join the winning side. They’d turned those offers down – and Peter had been punished for that – so it was their own faults they were targets. Mostly he just told himself that he was still allowed to be friends with them, even if they were on different sides.

“At yourself?” Peter asked.

“Sirius... said some things,” James said, running a hand through his hair. In his arms, Harry mimicked the gesture, and Peter couldn’t smother his smile. “And I... we... needed to hear them.” He glanced at Lily and they shared a not-quite-smile.

“So you’re not fighting?” Peter asked, to clarify.

“No,” James said, shifting Harry to his other arm; the little boy was trying to ruffle James’ hair now, but all he succeeded in doing was knocking James’ glasses off. Peter caught them and passed them back. “Thanks. He’s... well, I don’t know that he’s right; that would mean we were wrong, and I don’t think we were... it’s just... he made a better point that we did.” James ran a hand through his hair again.

“It’s a lot to take in,” Lily said.

“Silly!” Harry declared, reaching for her.

“No, kiddo, Lily,” James said, passing Harry over. Lily pulled a face at him and let him tweak her nose. Peter watched with morbid fascination. They were so... normal. Harry didn’t look like he could defeat the Dark Lord.

“Mum,” Harry said.

“That’s right,” Lily said, beaming. “And who’s that?”

“Dada,” Harry said cheerfully, waving his little fist at James. Then he looked at Peter and said, “Peya!”

“Clever boy,” Lily said, smiling at James, whose smile looked less forced now.

“Silly? Mooey?” Harry asked hopefully. James’ smile faded.

“Not today, mate,” he said.

“Soon,” Lily promised, glancing at James. “When your godfather gets over himself.”

“There’s nothing to get over,” James muttered.

“Silly!” Harry said, trying to wriggle away from Lily. She sighed and kissed his downy hair.

“Come on, sweetheart,” she said cheerfully. “I think it’s time for a lie-down, don’t you?” Lily continued to talk to Harry as she carried him out of the room. James sat down and claimed Lily’s mug.

“So what did Sirius really do?” Peter asked, and James scowled, but there was no real force behind it.

“We’re still not talking,” James mumbled, running his hands through his hair again.

“You and Padfoot? Why not-”

“It’s not for lack of trying!” James said, sounding frustrated. “He’s not answering his mirror when I try to call him!”

“So you haven’t heard anything?” Peter prompted, sipping his tea.

“We got a letter on Harry’s birthday with the broom-” Peter shoved down a stab of jealousy; he’d been pleased with the toy animals he’d bought Harry for his birthday – a rat, a wolf, a stag and a dog – and then Sirius had upstaged him by buying a broom. Even if Peter’d thought of that, he wouldn’t have been able to afford it. “-saying he couldn’t make it, but there’s been nothing since then.”

“He’s probably just been busy with the McKinnons,” Peter said, not sure why he was trying to mediate this; it was a waste of time because things between Sirius and James tended to stay between Sirius and James. It was a weird friendship they shared, and even after ten years, Peter was no closer to understanding what went on between them.

James’ face fell at the mention of the McKinnons; Patricia and Simon were dead. Dolohov, Crabbe and Crouch had finally seen to that last night. It would have happened sooner but Dumbledore’d got a tip and managed to move them the first time. Peter didn’t know who Dumbledore’s new informant was, but they’d been unravelling all of Peter’s careful work for the past year. It was infuriating.

Malfoy was going after Marlene – the last of the McKinnons - tonight, since she hadn’t been with her mother and brother when the Death Eaters arrived. James was staring very hard at the table and Peter knew he was thinking about the McKinnons too, wondering where the Order had gone wrong.

“Horrible, isn’t it?” Peter asked, and James rubbed his eyes, nodding.

“Simon was only thirteen,” he said quietly. Peter felt genuinely bad about that. Thirteen was young – too young to die for a family’s choices. Peter thought the Dark Lord should have spared the kid, given him a chance to choose the right side. He’d even suggested that to Crouch, but Crabbe had been... overenthusiastic.

“Sirius was helping protect them though, wasn’t he?” Peter pressed. “He was probably too busy-”

“Yeah, that’s what he said in his letter,” James said. “And I get that – I do! He wasn’t about to stray far from Marlene, even if Dumbledore hadn’t told him to keep an eye on her. The Order has to come first. I don’t get why Padfoot can’t just pick his bloody mirror up-”

“James, he’ll come around,” Peter sighed, before James could say anything else.

“I know,” James said, pushing his glasses up. “I think he thinks I’m angry because he didn’t side with me.”

“Probably,” Peter agreed.

“Urgh! That git!” James growled. “If Dumbledore hadn’t taken the cloak I’d have gone to beat some sense into him with Harry’s broomstick!”

“Dumbledore took the cloak?” Peter asked, stunned.

“What?” James asked, looking up. “Oh, yeah.” He flushed.

“How? Why?”

“Dumbledore had Benjy patrolling the house that night everyone was fighting at Dorcas’ because he thought we might try to leave, so Lils and I used it to get past him. Then Benjy was all miserable about it – couldn’t believe he’d let us slip right past him-”

“You admitted to it, didn’t you,” Peter groaned.

“Benjy was really upset,” James said weakly. “But yeah, I did, and then Dumbledore asked to see it, and he’s still got it.”

“When are you getting it back?” Peter asked.

“Never,” James said, scratching varnish off the tabletop. “I reckon Dumbles’ll hold onto it for a while.” He sighed. “Safer that way.” Peter nodded and stored the information away for later.

“Is Sirius with Marlene tonight?” Peter asked. “Do you know?”

“Obviously not because I haven’t been talking to him,” James snapped.

“Oops. Right, sorry,” Peter said. He’d assume until he heard otherwise, that Sirius was with Marlene. If that was the case, they’d both be dead soon – if they weren’t already dead now- Peter felt something sweep over him, and wasn’t about to risk James smelling an emotion he shouldn’t. “’Scuse me,” he gasped, standing up before James could say anything else. He walked quickly, but very deliberately did not run, to the bathroom and shut himself in.

He stared at his face in the mirror above the sink, watching for any signs of weakness, but he couldn’t find any. He looked nervous, but composed. He was pleased by that; he was getting better at it. His Dark Mark tingled again and he rubbed it.

“Wormy?” James called, knocking on the door. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you. I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated, and-” James cut off, apparently concerned that Peter hadn’t said anything to allay his fears yet; usually he would have interrupted by now. “Pete, are you-”

“I’m j-just feeling sick, J-James,” he lied, before James could worry and break down the door in a bout of well-meaning concern. “It’ll pass.”

“Do you want me to get Lils?” James asked.

“No!” Peter said. “No, this happens all the time... Overworking, I t-think.” He heard James sit down outside the door, obviously intending to wait in case Peter needed him. “Go away, Prongs. I just need a m-moment.” There was a quiet sigh and then James’ footsteps retreated. Peter took a few deep breaths and sat down on the closed toilet lid.

Then he started to sort through his feelings, because there was no way he was about to go back out there until he had everything back under control again. In that regard, James was harder to fool than the Dark Lord. At first Peter wondered if he was feeling sad for Sirius, who was probably dead or about to be.

No, he thought slowly. It’s not that. He’d miss Sirius, but really, Sirius had been dead for a long time. Sirius had died as soon as he’d had to pick a side and chosen Dumbledore’s. Peter’d had a long time to get used to the idea. He felt regret, yes, but not sadness.

He wondered if he was feeling guilty, but quickly realised that wasn’t it either. They’d had just as many chances to swap sides as he had, but they hadn’t. It was strange because Peter was considered the stupid one, but he thought he’d made the smartest decision. He also thought he’d made the bravest one. Oh, there was a certain reckless courage in being willing to die for their beliefs, but Peter didn’t think it was nearly as brave as making a choice that was the opposite of what everyone expected.

James was the son of Charlus Potter, Head Auror and legend of the D.M.L.E. Sirius was the rebellious son of a pureblood family. Remus was a werewolf determined to prove he wasn’t a monster. Lily was a muggleborn who wanted to prove she belonged in the magical world. Of course they’d picked Dumbledore’s side. And everyone had expected Peter to do the same.

He was an only child, born from a long line of wizarding stock – he didn’t have a family tree as respectable as Sirius or James, but there hadn’t been a muggle in his family for nearly a two hundred years. He’d been Sorted into Gryffindor, where he’d befriended blood-traitors and muggleborns and half-breeds. And he’d chosen to be different. He’d chosen that despite the fact that all hell would break loose if anyone found out.

His friends were wonderful, but he hadn’t been about to let them drag him down with them. It wasn’t personal at all. It was merely a matter of survival, and that wasn’t anything to feel guilty about.

Peter’s Dark Mark tingled again, and he wondered if that was because Marlene and Sirius were dead now.

Relief. That’s what he was feeling. It was a very good thing he’d come to the bathroom; if James had smelled that, it would have led to all sorts of unpleasant questions.

Relief? Really? Peter didn’t like to think he was a cold-hearted person. He wasn’t like Bella or Evan. Those two were like bloody sharks, getting excited at the first sign of blood. Peter wasn’t like that. Peter couldn’t even get any of the Unforgivables to work for him. But it was definitely relief he was feeling, and it seemed a strange thing for him to feel when he was thinking about his friend’s death. It took him a moment to realise why; with Sirius gone, there’d be one less person that Peter had to fool every day.

And Sirius would be safe when he was dead. No one could hurt him again, and there were so many others already dead, or who would soon join him, so he’d never be lonely. Sirius had made the wrong choices in this life, but that wouldn’t matter when he was dead. He’d be free. Peter wanted that much for his old friend.

Peter smothered a yelp as pain tore through his forearm. He yanked back his sleeve and removed the charm. The Mark wasn’t pretty; even if Peter hadn’t had to hide it from all of his friends, he would have kept the spell on it anyway. To the other Death Eaters, the Mark was a thing of beauty, something to be proud of.

To Peter, it was a reminder that the skull – death - was what had awaited him if he hadn’t joined the Dark Lord’s ranks. It was also a reminder that he’d caused deaths. He’d never killed anyone personally, but he’d been passing information to the Dark Lord for years, and that information had killed people. He knew that. He knew other people had died so that he could stay useful. And by staying useful, he survived.

That’s all it came down to, really. His survival. It was nothing personal. He didn’t do it because he enjoyed it, or because he passionately believed it was the right thing. No, Peter knew. He’d done some bad things in the last few years, things that he should probably regret a lot more than he did.

Peter didn’t regret much at all; he was in a war, and he needed to survive. That’s all there was to it.

“Pete?” Lily’s soft voice said. “Can I get you anything?” He couldn’t exactly ask her for help with his Dark Mark – it had started to ache – so he shook his head. Then he realised she couldn’t see him.

“No,” he said. “No, I’m fine. I’ll be out in a minute.” He redid the spells on his arm, flushed the toilet – he’d tell them he’d been ill – and opened the door. Lily pounced on him in the hallway, and pressed a small, cold hand to his head.

“You don’t feel hot,” she said, looking troubled.

“It’s fine,” he said, gently removing her hand. “Like I said, it happens all the time.” Lily frowned and ushered him into the kitchen, where James was waiting, looking sheepish.

“Are you dizzy?” she asked, as he sat down. “Do you feel physically ill, or is it more like a panic attack?”

“Lils,” James said, holding up a hand, and she fell silent. Then she stepped away for a moment and put a loaded plate down in front of Peter. “I really didn’t mean to snap before, Wormtail,” James said, looking horrendously guilty. “I just-”

“It wasn’t that,” Peter assured him, and just like that, James looked a bit happier, but still troubled.

“I still shouldn’t have-”

“Prongs, it’s fine.” Lily set a plate down in front of James and then joined them at the table herself. “Looks good, Lils,” Peter added, and it did. If he’d been home tonight, it would have been a sandwich or cereal for him; anything else surpassed Peter’s cooking ability. As a result, he ate at his mother’s house most nights. Lily beamed at the compliment however, and the three of them sat in silence while they ate.

Peter’s Dark Mark grew increasingly painful as the meal went on, and he noticed Lily and James exchanging glances across from him. James cleared the table when they were done, and Lily led Peter into the sitting room and deposited him on the couch.

“You still look pale,” she said, perching on the arm of the chair. It occurred to Peter that she seemed to be expecting some sort of breakdown or violent bout of illness. There was a crash from the kitchen and the sound of a chair being kicked. Lily glanced at the doorway and then at Peter. She clasped his shoulder and then stood and disappeared into the adjacent room again.

“Sorry,” Peter heard James say. Peter heard him repair the plate and there was a quiet thud – probably the chair being righted – and then silence.

“It’ll sort itself out,” Lily murmured after several minutes. “If it doesn’t, I’ll write him a letter. I need to thank him for Harry’s birthday present anyway.”

“Stupid git,” James muttered, though Peter knew he didn’t mean it; James sounded too miserable to mean it. “Is Pete all right?” Peter’s ears twitched.

“He doesn’t seem sick,” Lily said, sounding concerned. “He doesn’t have a temperature, and he managed dinner, so he’s obviously not feeling nauseous.” Peter winced, wondering if his carelessness would get him into trouble this time.

“-mental?” James asked, and Peter bristled. He was not mental.

“Maybe,” Lily said, and Peter frowned; Lily was usually kinder than that. “He does seem down, so it would make more sense for it to be something in his head.”

“Something emotional,” James murmured.

“Mmm.”

“-McKinnons?” James asked, and though Peter’d strained his ears, that was still the only word he’d heard.

“Of course,” Lily said softly. Then there was a very distinct sniffing sound. “Oh, J-James, you don’t think he was there when they were f-found, do y-you?” Peter didn’t hear James’ response. “It’s so horrible,” Lily said. Her voice sounded muffled. “And now it’s just Marlene left-” James murmured something Peter couldn’t hear yet again.

Damn it, Prongs, talk louder, he thought. Peter didn’t hear anything either of them said after that, however. In fact, the only thing he heard was the cat mewling at the front door. He sighed and got up to let it in. It shot past him and up the stairs.

Peter heard Harry gurgle a hello, and then, before he really knew what he was doing, he’d climbed the stairs and pushed open the door of Harry’s room.

Harry chirped a greeting of some sort – and something about ‘Peya’ – and Peter felt silly for being caught by the little boy. Still, if he left now, Harry would probably cry. Peter inched closer to the crib, and Harry rolled over and stood on shaky legs to watch him. He was silent – Harry hadn’t been silent since he’d learned to talk. It suddenly occurred to Peter that this was the first time he’d ever been alone with the kid.

“You should be s-sleeping,” Peter told him, suddenly nervous. Harry stared back with enormous green eyes. They seemed too bright, too colourful on the face of a toddler. And, strangely, just like Dumbledore’s, they seemed to see right through Peter.

Peter knew that was ridiculous – even if Harry could read his mind, he’d have no idea how to make sense of everything – but he took an uneasy step away. Harry’s little face crumpled, and Peter hurried forward again, not wanting him to cry. Harry’s face brightened at once and Peter sighed, realising he was stuck here until James or Lily came to rescue him, or Harry decided to let him leave. Peter reached for a chair, figuring he might as well be comfortable if he was in here, but Harry squeaked.

He was just as demanding as the Dark Lord in his own, strange, infantile way. Peter didn’t like that. He straightened nonetheless, and left the chair where it was. A quiet thud caught Peter’s attention. Tufty the cat was perched on a shelf, tail thudding as it flicked into the wall, watching them both with that superior look that all cats seemed able to do.

“Shoo,” Peter told it. The cat gave him a flat look, its eyes just as penetrating as Harry’s in their own way. Peter didn’t know where to look, but attention was fixed on him from two directions.

Eventually, Harry sat down and yawned, blinking up at Peter with sleepy eyes. He gibbered something and Peter, confused, moved closer to the crib again. Tufty’s tail flicking increased. It was like a heartbeat now, breaking the dead silence. Peter backed off but Harry made a noise.

Peter didn’t think he’d been so stressed in a long time, and it was all because of a cat and a baby. Trying to ignore the cat, he approached the crib. Harry looked so small, sitting there, staring up at him. So small and so fragile. Harry lay down and his kicked his feet.

A shadow flickered across the wall, and Peter squeaked but it was only a light wind blowing on the tree outside. His heart was racing in time with the cat’s tail flicking and Harry was staring at him and the cat was staring at him and his arm was burning-

“Peya,” Harry said, and Peter yelped. Harry waved a little hand. Tufty’s tail flicked. Peter spotted a blanket – white, covered in little snitches – and reached out with a shaking hand to pull it over him. The cat’s tail kept on flicking, and it was deafening, but at least Harry was quiet now; he’d snuggled under and his eyes were shut – that calmed Peter considerably.

Everything was silent again, except for Peter’s ragged breathing. He didn’t know why this was so terrifying. He wasn’t the Dark Lord, and the prophecy could well be talking about Neville, not Harry. Peter took a few deep breaths and forced himself to calm down.

Harry shifted and reached up with a little hand to scratch his forehead. Peter reached out and his fingers brushed the back of Harry’s soft head when something slithered around his ankles and Peter leaped away with a muffled cry. Tufty stared up at Peter, eyes sharp and jumped over the side of the crib. Then, he settled himself at Harry’s side – Harry shifted closer to his furry pillow – and Peter couldn’t help but notice that the cat had situated himself between them.

Then that stupid tail started to flick again, drumming against the bars of the crib. Peter flinched each time and backed out of the room as quietly as he could. He could still hear the tail on the landing, so he pulled the door shut and turned around- and shrieked when he collided with James.

“Lily, he’s here!” James called, as Peter clutched his chest, gasping. “What the hell happened to you?”

“The- that cat,” Peter panted, and James laughed and clapped him on the shoulder, but his mirth was replaced by curiosity a second later.

“Were you in there with Harry?” James asked.

“M-maybe,” Peter said, trying to look sheepish. “He called out when you two were in the k-kitchen, so I thought I’d...” Peter ran out of things to lie about, but James didn’t seem to mind. In fact, James was grinning broadly. Peter thought that was probably because he hadn’t ever wanted much to do with Harry before – he’d only held him a handful of times, and left any ‘uncle’ duties to Sirius and Remus, who were smitten by James’ son.

“Peya?” Harry called from through the closed door, and Peter just about jumped out of his skin.

“Do you want to get him?” James asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Er... well... I suppose I-”

“Breathe, Pete,” James laughed, clapping him on the shoulder again. “Merlin, he’s a baby, not a Death Eater.” Peter laughed shakily and James slipped into Harry’s bedroom with a cheerful, “Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping, you little monster?”

Peter staggered downstairs, and through the doorway that led into the sitting room. He had every intention of collapsing onto the couch and going to sleep. Only when he stepped into the sitting room, he was intercepted by Lily, who pressed a warm mug in his hand. Her eyes were red but she was making a valiant effort to smile, and so Peter smiled back and followed her into the kitchen.

“What was all that carrying on up there?” she asked.

“Your bloody cat,” Peter replied. Flick, flick, flick. He shuddered and Lily laughed.

“He’s harmless, really,” Lily said. “Besides, you’re bigger than he is when you’re Peter.” Peter managed another shaky laugh and gulped down a mouthful of hot tea. “Can I get you anything else?”

“No, I’m all right,” he said, content to just sit. Sadly, though, it was not to be. Dumbledore himself Flooed in not five minutes later.

“James,” the Headmaster said, looking past both Peter and Lily as if they weren’t there. “Where’s James?”

“H-he’s upstairs. With Harry,” Lily said, looking frightened. “Sir-” Dumbledore hurried past them. Peter knew this must be something to do with Marlene and Sirius. He and Lily shared a look and ran after Dumbledore.

“-I’ve got to- sir, please,” Peter heard James saying desperately.

“That’s why I’m here,” Dumbledore replied. “Stay the night, and I’ll send someone over in the morning.”

“Thank you,” James croaked. He sounded anything but grateful, however. He sounded broken and scared. “Thank you.” And then James rushed out of Harry’s room, almost bowling both Lily and Peter over in the process.

“James?” Lily whispered, but he was already out the front door. Dumbledore’d appeared on the landing, cradling a crying Harry. It was the first time Peter’d ever seen him cry. “Professor, it’s Sirius, isn’t it?” Lily asked in a choked voice. “That’s the only reason James-”

“Marlene is missing, and assumed dead,” Dumbledore said gravely. Lily staggered as if she’d been hit and then burst into tears. Harry, seeing his mother’s distress, cried louder, and Dumbledore bounced him gently.

“Silly?” he said when he’d settled and Dumbledore looked so stunned he almost dropped the boy. Chills raced up Peter’s spine. Harry didn’t understand, of course, but it was uncanny timing.

“And Sirius?” Lily whispered.

“Sirius is alive, but I cannot tell you anything more about him than that.” Peter felt a stab of disappointment, but also a small stab of relief. He didn’t know which perturbed him more. “Alastor tells me he was not in a good way.”

“If she’s only missing, though-” Lily began.

“There are signs of a fight at her family home, where she has been staying. Spell marks, destroyed furniture, a broken window...” Dumbledore sighed. “We’ve sent people to places she might have sought refuge – her parents’ old house, her brother’s house, and, of course Sirius’ flat, but we have nothing yet.”

“Where was Sirius?” Peter asked. Harry was listening intently.

“Sirius was on a raid with Alastor at the time. It is fortunate, else we might have lost him too, but it more unfortunate, I think; had he been there, Marlene might have survived, and it also meant that he was in a position to hear the report as soon as the D.M.L.E. received it. I wish we might have spared him from that. He was one of the first to the house and also the first to leave.” Dumbledore bowed his head, and Harry hiccoughed and reached for his spectacles. “He will not be receptive to any company but James’, I don’t think.”

“So it’s safe for James to leave now?” Lily asked, with a hint of challenge in her voice.

“No,” Dumbledore said. “But we are at risk of losing more if James does not go.” Lily started to cry again, and reached for Harry. Dumbledore passed the boy right over and Harry babbled a question and touched Lily’s wet cheek. Lily clutched him like a lifeline.

“Silly. Mum,” he said, with a strangely troubled look, as he clumsily patted Lily’s hair. Lily seemed to be trying to compose herself for her son’s sake, but it wasn’t working. Peter shuffled over to put an arm around her, and exchanged a grim look with Dumbledore over the top of her head. “Dad? Mooey? Peya,” Harry sniffled, looked at Peter as if expecting answers.

Peter had them – more answers than anyone else here, actually – but couldn’t give them. He just shook his head at Harry.

It’s nothing personal, Peter wanted to say. It’s just survival.

Dumbledore was crying quietly, and Lily was clutching her son, sobbing onto Peter’s shoulder. “I am so sick of this,” Lily whispered, wiping her eyes.

Peter said nothing, and all the while, a pair of bright green eyes bored into the side of his face as if to say all of this was his fault. Peter knew that.

And he would live with that.


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