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Innocent by MarauderLover7
Chapter 53 : The Night Before
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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“I think the muggleborns are to blame,” Draco said abruptly. Severus looked up from the corner, where he was stirring a small cauldron.

“Oh?” he asked, squeezing his stirring rod so tightly it was in danger of bending.

“Well, Gryffindor-” Draco’s lip curled as he said the name of the man that – if everything continued the way Narcissa intended – had given his name to Draco’s future House. “-promised they’d be friends – brothers, even – but he didn’t keep it, did he?” Severus filled a phial of the potion – it looked rather like liquid fog – and then deposited the rest of it into a large jar which he sealed and sent to sit on his desk.

“No, he didn’t,” Severus agreed.

“He just sent his best friend away.”

“He did.”

“And it’s because of the muggleborns,” Draco said derisively. “Gryffindor and Slytherin were good friends and they were powerful, and muggleborns came between them. They didn’t have any right to do that. They should just stay out of wizarding things, because they seem to mess everything up.”

“Why muggleborns?” Severus asked.

“Exactly,” Draco said, looking pleased with himself.

Your breeding is showing, Draco, Severus thought disdainfully. “No,” Severus bit out, pocketing the phial, “what I mean is: why are muggleborns different?”

“They have filthy bl-”

“If you finish that sentence,” Severus snarled, “I will force you to sample every potion ingredient as you rearrange them the next time you visit me.”

“But they d-”

“My stores contain sloth brains and acromantula venom, and powdered troll toenails,” Severus said loudly, and Draco shut his mouth, looking ill. “Come here.” Draco baulked.

“I didn’t say it- I stopped-”

Now,” Severus said, and Draco leaped off his seat as if burned and made his way over reluctantly. After just two steps, he squared his shoulders and lifted his chin, apparently resigned to whatever fate it was that he thought Severus had planned. Severus had no intention of feeding him anything nasty, but he was going to give his godson a message that would hopefully stay with him for the rest of his hopefully lengthy life. “Give me your hand.” Draco stuck it out, and Severus grabbed the boy’s wrist and pulled him closer.

“What-”

Sectum,” Severus said, slashing his wand through the air. Draco gasped and made a sound suspiciously like a squeal, clutching his bleeding hand. Severus repeated the spell on his own hand, grimacing because it stung, and then put his wand down in his lap and grabbed Draco’s wrist again.

“Oww,” Draco said pitifully. “You cut me!”

“My mother came from a pureblood line as impressive as your own,” Severus said, ignoring this and placing his hand beside Draco’s. “My father was a muggle.” Draco gasped even louder than he had when Severus had cut his palm. “According to your theory, I should have filthy blood. Does my blood look filthy to you?”

“N-no,” Draco said faintly, looking at their hands, and then away. He seemed a little squeamish.

“Is mine perhaps darker? Is it brown, like mud? Does yours glitter like liquefied rubies in contrast?”

“N-no,” Draco squeaked. Severus had seen ghosts with more colour. Severus released him and picked up his wand to heal his own palm. Draco’s, however, he only healed partially. It wasn’t in any danger of splitting open again, or getting infected, but neither had the skin knitted together as neatly as Severus’. Draco’s would scar.

Draco sank to the floor, staring at the pink line on his hand, and Severus wondered momentarily if he’d been too harsh. Then he shrugged it off. This was something Draco would do well to remember; if he joined the Dark Lord, then at least he would understand that he was slaughtering people, not animals, and if it really hit home, then perhaps it would be that much easier to encourage Draco to join Dumbledore.

“I will ask you again,” Severus said, breaking the silence. “What, given your recent... enlightenment, makes us – the supposedly proper wizarding stock – so superior to muggleborns?” Draco was quiet and Severus was pleased because it meant that Draco was obviously thinking about it.

“We know about magic,” he said eventually, still cradling his hand. “They don’t think to use their wands for simple tasks like we do, and they don’t know any spells before they go to school-”

“You know spells now, then?” Severus asked.

“I know a few,” Draco said defensively. “I don’t have my wand yet, so-”

“So your proper magical education has not yet begun. And I daresay it will not begin, until you step off the Hogwarts Express for the first time.”

“I guess,” Draco mumbled, and Severus was relieved he didn’t suggest that muggleborns learned more slowly or something equally ludicrous. “Is it how powerful they are? We’ve had magic longer, so-”

“I have known powerful witches and wizards of all heritage,” Severus said.

“Looks, then,” Draco said, with certainty.

“You can tell heritage with a look?” Severus asked, mockingly impressed. “Then I commend you on your acting ability; you seemed genuinely surprised when I revealed the truth about my father.” Draco flushed.

“Then what’s the difference?!” he demanded.

“You haven’t worked it out?” Severus asked, arching an eyebrow. Draco glared at him. “The difference, Draco, between a muggleborn and a pureblood, is that one has magical parents and the other does not.”

“That- no, that doesn’t count!”

“Then I suppose it’s nothing.” Severus cast a charm to fill his cauldron with soapy water and conjured a wiry brush to scrub it.

“Nothing?” Draco asked, looking angry. “But- if they’re not different, then what’s the problem with them?”

“Who says there is one?” Severus asked curtly.

“You don’t think there is?” Draco snapped, folding his arms.

“I don’t think my opinion matters,” Severus said. “You should be free to reach your own conclusions on the matter.”

“Then why-”

“Because, Draco, in order to reach a conclusion, one must have all of the information, not merely one side of it.” Draco glared at him, but Severus could see him processing everything he’d learned. Severus had given him the book on the Founders with the intention of having him learn a bit more about conflict, its causes and possible outcomes, as well as to give him a break from labour. And of course, to teach him that there were always two sides to an argument. He had not intended for it to be a lesson on prejudices. Better now than never, I suppose. “Are you ready to go home?”

“Yes,” he said sulkily, and then brightened a bit. “Can I take the book?”

“Of course,” Severus said, and Draco scurried over to get it. “But I expect it back tomorrow.” Severus’ hand brushed his pocket to make sure the Occlusion Potion was still there, and some of his anxiety – which had faded while he was brewing, and while he was arguing with his godson – returned. He was just glad it was a Saturday, because he wasn’t really in any state to deal with multiple children today. “Are you expecting your mother to be home this afternoon?”

“Father’s busy with the Minister,” Draco said.

“That is not what I asked.”

“Mother doesn’t do politics,” Draco said snidely, and Severus choked on a snort of laughter. “So yes, obviously she’ll be there, so I did answer your question.”

“Shall we go then?” Severus asked, pulling his office door open. His heart thudded almost painfully in his chest. The things I do for you, Lily...

“But Dobby usually- wait, we?

*                             *                             *

The Manor gate chimed and Narcissa looked up. In the seat next to hers, Hydrus’ eyes, a clear blue like Narcissa’s own, immediately moved away from the star charts they’d been looking over.

“Just because I’m not here does not mean you’re finished,” she said, reaching out as if to pat her older son’s hair. Then she thought better of it; Hydrus wouldn’t appreciate the gesture. “I expect you to still be here when I come back. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Mother,” he said sulkily. She offered him an approving look – the sort that she’d received from her own mother as a child – and swept out of the room.

McKinnon and the Potter boy were coming through the foyer – probably from the kitchen – as she came downstairs. Young Potter looked curiously at her – they were yet to receive a visitor in his time at the Manor – but McKinnon shepherded him toward the courtyard before he could show any signs of lingering.

Her guests were waiting outside the front door, rather than at the gate – that startled her, because only a Malfoy or Dobby could open the gate. The reason for that quickly became apparent when she opened the door to find Draco and Severus.

“Mother,” Draco said, perking up. He hugged her – a little awkwardly, because he had a large book under one arm – and then backed down the steps and around the side of the Manor. Narcissa expected he was off to find a tree to read in or under.

“Severus,” she said politely. “Were you hoping to see Lucius-”

“Draco tells me he is with the Minister, preparing for tomorrow,” Severus replied, patting his pocket almost absentmindedly. “But that matters little; I was hoping to have a word with you.” Narcissa’s eyes flicked to the corner Draco had disappeared around moments before and nodded, standing aside to let him in.

“Hydrus!” she called. “The lesson’s over!” She didn’t want him sitting there alone for however long this took. “Lucius’ study is free,” she said, and Severus strode past her in that direction while she closed the door.

“How is your... houseguest?” Severus asked as they walked.

“Which one?” Narcissa asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Potter,” Severus drawled, saying the name as if it was an expletive.

“Everything I feared and hoped,” she replied quietly. “Very polite, although I don’t think he likes it here terribly much. Quiet, but every inch a Gryffindor, I think, if the Kelpie is anything to go by-”

“Kelpie?”

“Draco didn’t mention it?” she asked, and Severus’ face was unreadable. “Potter saved our little ratty friend,” Narcissa said, in a voice barely louder than a murmur, as she pushed open the door of Lucius’ office.

“From a Kelpie?” Severus spluttered, looking aghast. “But-”

“A hex of some sort was involved, or so I’m led to believe,” Narcissa said, closing the door behind Severus. “The boy’s quite bold.” Severus scowled, apparently recovered from his shock, or at least recovered enough to hide it. And loveable, she added in her head. Potter was the sort of child she could see herself growing to care for, if she wasn’t careful.

“Indeed,” Severus said flatly, and then he was quiet for a long time. Narcissa sat down in Lucius’ chair behind the desk, and Severus pulled his own chair over from the corner. “You’re certain it was Pettigrew?” Severus asked finally.

“Positive,” Narcissa said coolly. Severus looked thoughtful. “What did you want to talk about?”

“Draco cannot trust you?” Severus asked silkily. Narcissa had no reason to doubt him, but for some reason, she didn’t believe that was what he’d come for.

“No,” Narcissa said, picking at a loose thread of silver embroidery on her sleeve.

“May I ask why?” Narcissa looked up, one side of her mouth twisting into a smile.

“You may,” she said, “but I cannot promise a truthful answer. After all, if my son is unable to trust me, should you?”

“I’m not in the mood for your mind games, Narcissa,” Severus said irritably. She arched an eyebrow; her entire life was a mind-game at the moment. “Why?”

“It’s none of your concern,” she said finally, unable to look the Potions Master in the eye. For all that he pretended he was Dumbledore’s, Severus belonged to the Dark Lord. He wouldn’t take it well if she admitted it was to open Draco’s mind to the possibility of joining Dumbledore’s side. She was probably years ahead of herself with her warning to Draco, but something told her it was best to plant the seed early, even if lay dormant for a few years more.

“Then why me?” he asked. “Why can he trust me and not you?”

“You’re his godfather, and his teacher,” she said, arching an eyebrow. “And,” she admitted, in a quieter voice. “I can’t bring myself to destroy all of his foundations just yet. He still needs- someone-”

“And what if I am not that someone?” Severus asked, sounding angry.

“You survived the war,” Narcissa said finally, tucking her hair behind her ear. “That is what this is about. This is about Draco’s survival, remember?” It is about giving one of my sons a choice, and giving him the skills he will need to not be killed for it. There was half a chance that Draco would even turn against Severus before everything was done. And, if Severus did his job properly, then he wouldn’t have any more idea that Draco had turned than Narcissa would.

“I don’t like it.”

“I’m not asking you to.”

“No, but you’ve asked everything else,” Severus said, with almost-humour in his voice now. Narcissa’s answering smile was wry; she thought Severus understood on some subconscious level that Narcissa was only using him to protect Draco, but thankfully, he hadn’t realised it properly.

“Was that all you wanted?” she asked. Severus started to rise from his seat.

“Yes, that was all I came to ask,” he said. “I did not receive the answers I was hoping for, but at this point, I think I should have known better.”

“Probably,” Narcissa agreed, also standing.

“Are you attending tomorrow?” Severus asked, gesturing to a folded copy of the Prophet on Lucius’ desk. Narcissa tilted her head to read it.

“The trial?” she asked. “No. Lucius is taking Potter in-”

“And bringing him back afterward?” Narcissa grimaced. She hadn’t yet managed to come up with anything to stop that from happening, but she knew that the chances of Sirius being proven innocent were slim; Lucius was working closely with Fudge to ensure that Sirius would not be freed. The only thing she’d been able to think of was turning Pettigrew in, but despite hours of thought given to the matter, she still wasn’t convinced that that was the best decision for her; turning Pettigrew in would lead to him being questioned, and Narcissa was involved. She’d housed the rat for a year now.

If Pettigrew was found, he’d be charged and she and Lucius would be too, right alongside him. And, while she didn’t want to end up raising Potter, she’d rather do that than sit in Azkaban with her husband and sister.

“Probably,” Narcissa said grudgingly. Severus nodded to himself, as if she’d confirmed something, and reached for the doorknob. His hand never made it, however. “Severus?”

“What if Pettigrew goes to the trial?” he asked stiffly, as if he’d just realised something.

“What?” Narcissa asked doubtfully. She wasn’t sure that Pettigrew had a selfless bone in his body. “Severus, do you know how ridiculous-”

“Potter saved him,” Severus said tersely, patting his pocket again. Narcissa wondered whether it was a new nervous habit of his, or if it was deliberate. Narcissa stared at him, not following. “How familiar are you with the concept of life-debts?”

*                     *                    *

“When did you get back?” Harry asked, looking up as Draco appeared around the corner of the Manor.

“Just now,” he said. “Move, please.”

“Wh-”

“Move, Potter,” Draco said irritably. McKinnon looked like she might intervene, but Harry just met Draco’s stare evenly. “You’re blocking my tree.”

“Sorry,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. He did, however, shift over. Draco looked at the spot where he’d been sitting with a curled lip but flopped down anyway, and opened his book.

“Why’d you come to the door? Why not just Apparate in?” Harry asked.

“Severus wanted a word with Mother,” Draco said, flicking to his page. He settled into the grass and his eyes drifted to his book.

Severus... as in Snape? Harry wondered, his eyes widening. What’s Snape doing here?

“What are you reading?” McKinnon asked.

“It’s a book on the history of the Founders,” Draco said, without looking up. Harry eyed the house and then McKinnon, who looked intrigued.

“Is it interesting?” Harry asked casually.

“No, Potter. It’s frightfully boring and I’m reading it for fun.” Draco looked up for a moment, wearing an expression of such sincere curiosity that Harry was momentarily drawn out of his thoughts on Snape. “Are you actually so dim that you had to ask, or-”

“Shut up, Malfoy,” Harry said, glowering at him.

“Hit a nerve, did I, Potter?”

“No,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. Draco squinted at him for a moment. “What?” Harry snapped.

“I’m trying to work out if you’re lying or not.”

“Er... right,” Harry said. He really should be used to Draco’s polar personalities by now. He shook his head and got to his feet.

“Where are you going?” McKinnon asked.

“Stay here,” Harry told her, in a sharper voice than was probably necessary. McKinnon looked hurt and then resigned. “I’m just going to the bathroom.”

“Do you think he’s lying?” he heard Draco ask in a perplexed tone.

Harry didn’t hear McKinnon’s response. He went into the courtyard, slipped in through the back doors and then crept down the hallway. If Snape and Mrs Malfoy were talking, they’d either be in the library, or in Mr Malfoy’s study, and the study at least, was near the bathroom.

Yes, Harry thought, as Snape’s voice drifted through the closed study door.

“-ly exists if one or both parties are aware of the debt’s existence.”

“And is that likely?” Mrs Malfoy asked in a low voice. Harry struggled to hear her.

“Who knows what Black’s told Potter? And Pettigrew-” Harry inhaled sharply and crept as close to the door as he dared. “-has proven more than enough times that he’s not to be underestimated. He’s a fool, but he is not an idiot.”

“So if they know- if one of them knows, Potter could have him do anything?” Harry’s breath caught.

“Anything,” Snape repeated grimly. “He’d die if Potter told him to-”

Harry heard footsteps and had just enough time to launch himself into the bathroom across the hallway. He stepped out, pretending to dry his hands on his trousers and saw McKinnon standing there.

“You’re here,” she said.

“Where else would I be?” Harry asked. His mind was reeling; what was this power he apparently had over Peter? And where was he? Obviously Snape and Mrs Malfoy knew, which meant Snape had been lying when he told Padfoot he didn’t know where to find Peter. And though Harry didn’t really like Snape, he still felt betrayed. Snape had seemed – in his own, slightly scary way – concerned for Harry’s safety on several occasions, but obviously that had been false; Harry’d be better off if Peter was in Azkaban but Snape hadn’t done anything about that.

“Did you want to go back outside?”

“Sure,” he said, and followed her back to the tree where Draco was sitting. Draco didn’t acknowledge either of them, and Harry sat down without saying anything else to McKinnon, while thoughts about Snape and his betrayal bounced around in his head.

Harry decided to think about that later, and focused on the matter at hand; Peter. The way Snape and Mrs Malfoy’d been talking made it sound like he was closely connected to them – Snape had sounded worried when he said Harry could make Peter do anything. It was even possible that he was nearby, but Harry doubted it. He knew from old photographs what Peter looked like, but unless he was disguised as Dobby or something, Harry hadn’t seen any men wandering around.

It was also possible he was a rat, but while Harry’d been suspicious of Bosworth and Roquefort initially, but they were too dark to match Peter’s fair colouring and more importantly, neither of them were missing fingers. Hiding in plain sight was possible – maybe Peter’d somehow grown his finger back, and maybe there were charms on him to darken his coat – but to have him as a pet? The Malfoys were careful people – Padfoot had said it and Harry had seen it during his stay – and having Peter in the Manor seemed too risky.

He was probably in hiding somewhere isolated – maybe the Malfoys had bought him a cottage or something? Or maybe Peter was abroad, and looking for Voldemort, and was in contact with Mr Malfoy? Harry wished he knew. If he had Peter, Padfoot wouldn’t even need tomorrow’s trial. He’d be released on the spot.

Harry wished Padfoot or Moony – preferably both - were here with him. They’d know what to make of this, be able to use it somehow.

Only they aren’t here, Harry thought glumly. Then he set his jaw. I s’pose that means it’s up to me.

*                     *                    *

Narcissa leaned back into her husband’s chair, an intensely thoughtful look on her face. Severus waited. On the outside, he looked nervous- worried, even. On the inside, he was wary and hopeful, and above all, annoyed that this was necessary.

“Can you be certain that it’ll manifest in that way?” Narcissa asked. “You said that these debts are only valid if one or both parties is aware of its existence-”

“Either of them could be,” Severus said.

“But if they’re not-”

“Can we really afford to take that risk?” Severus asked, and Narcissa bit her lip. “In all likelihood, nothing at all will come of it. Pettigrew will probably not be compelled to turn himself in-”

“Then-”

“-but if he is, I am not the only one who will lose everything.”

“You’re right.” It was spoken quietly, in a shocked yet determined tone. Severus gave himself a mental pat on the back and tried not to look too smug.

“Unfortunately,” he said, assuming his gravest expression. Narcissa’s eyes met his and he blinked once, deliberately, before turning to look out the window. An albino peacock strutted past and Severus shook his head and turned back to her.

“So what should we do?”

“I’ve been aware of this problem for as long as you have,” he said, and that was true. He’d only thought of the Life-Debt idea a few minutes ago. And thank Merlin for that. Pettigrew needed to be... relieved of several memories, but until now, Severus hadn’t had any idea how to go about that; he’d have probably had to break in and subdue the rat and Hydrus with brute force. With Narcissa on board, that could be avoided.

“Can we- is there any way we could force him to forget?”

“Like a Memory Charm?” Severus asked silkily.

“Memory Charms can be broken,” she said. “Severus, the mind is your area of expertise. There must be something-”

“Perhaps there is,” Severus stood up and went to look out the window again so she wouldn’t see the relief on his face. Narcissa was silent, allowing him to think. “There is a potion that can be administered and used in conjunction with Legillimency to place blocks in the subject’s mind. Pettigrew will remember everything, but the information will be trapped in his mind. It will not be allowed to escape in any verbal or visual manner, and it will be impossible to pluck from his mind as well.”

“Can it be broken?”

“It is permanent,” Severus said, glancing over his shoulder.

“I’ve never heard of it,” Narcissa said.

“It is a complex and rather obscure piece of magic,” Severus drawled, and thankfully, she backed down. Severus had no intention of telling her he’d spent the past few days creating it.

“How long does it take to brew?” she asked.

“Seventeen hours,” he said, and she raised an eyebrow. “But with luck, I will be able to locate some of it in my stores.” His hand brushed the phial in his pocket again. He’d brought it with him in case it began to look like force would be necessary, but now that he had Narcissa on his side, it would be easy to pretend to go back and get it

“You have some?”

“I certainly hope so,” he replied. “While I’m there, collect the rat and bring him here. I’ll need a few hours to sift through his memories and anchor the potion to the right ones.” Narcissa bowed her head. “I intend to try to use something broad, like the Manor and its grounds; the potion should then trap the memories that occurred here in the past, and if I do it properly, should also place future memories under the block as well.”

“What about the times he’s left the house?”

“Think back,” Severus advised. “Try to remember the times that he’s left, and inform me so that I know what I am looking for.” He turned away from the window and strode to the door. “I’ll be back within the hour.”

*                    *                   *

Peter blinked himself awake and a soft squeak of unease escaped him. His head hurt and his sensitive nose was clogged with something that smelled a bit like wet smoke. It was unpleasant. Peter also couldn’t remember the last few hours; last thing he knew, he’d been given a chunk of biscuit by Narcissa and then... blank. Peter didn’t remember anything of it either. His head ached dully and he rolled over in his velvety bed and peered off the edge of the bedside table at Hydrus, who was snoring quietly in his own bed, oblivious.

Peter sniffed his fur and wrinkled his nose. He smelled like smoke and Snape. What had Snape been doing here, and why in Merlin’s name had he wanted Peter? He wasn’t sure that he wanted to find out. Snape had been a Death Eater, yes, but he’d never really liked Peter, and he’d been Dumbledore’s pet for as long as Scabbers had been Percy’s. Who knew where his true loyalties lay these days?

Peter glanced at Hydrus again and slipped out of his box-bed. One awkward jump-fall later and Peter had made it to Hydrus’ bed and then it was a simple matter of sliding awkwardly down the side of the sheets to the floor. Hydrus grunted and rolled over. Peter ran straight for the door. It was only a few yards, but he was panting by the time he got there. He was fitter as Bosworth than he had been as Scabbers but it was still a long way for such a small creature. Peter could have covered it in a few steps.

The hallway was easier – he didn’t bother running that length – and he just walked in the shadows by the fancy wooden skirting. The stairs were another matter altogether. Peter hated stairs more as Wormtail than he did as a human, but both Peter and Wormtail’d take going down over going up any day. He must have looked funny, awkwardly swinging himself over the ledge of each and then slowly trying to lower himself to the next one. It was the sort of thing that his old friends would have found amusing. He could almost imagine them laughing.

Peter knew how to handle that, though; he’d been doing it for years. He paused to clean his whiskers and then made his way down the last half of the staircase. Their voices were still in his head when he reached the ground floor, but voices weren’t exactly new to him. These had been with him for years, appearing conveniently during times of stress or self-doubt.

So, regularly. He could handle the demons inside his head. He had practice with those. It was the ones on the outside – the Malfoys and Snape – that might hurt him. Remus was even worse, because he lived inside and outside. Remus, the friend who’d trusted him, who’d been betrayed by him, the friend who’d surely try to kill Peter if he had any idea of the truth. Yes, Remus was terrifying.

And yet, Remus had nothing on Sirius. Sirius did know the truth, and Sirius had tried to kill him. The scariest part of all of that was that he didn’t blame Sirius. Sirius was probably doing the right thing. Peter hadn’t been a good man for a long time, but he still knew what the right thing to do looked like. He also knew he saw the opposite when he looked in a mirror. He saw himself alive, not Lily and James. He saw Sirius’ arrest in the paper, and the news of his impending trial. He saw-

Harry.

Harry was every mistake Peter had ever made.

Harry was the boy who’d lived because Lily, James and the Dark Lord had died to make it so. Harry was the boy who hadn’t died later that night because Peter’d hesitated, and then been interrupted by Sirius and Hagrid. Harry was the reason Peter had had to run. If Harry’d died, Sirius would have broken. Sirius would have had nothing and no one to avenge. Peter knew Sirius had never done it for Lily and James, or even for himself. Sirius would have died that night, and been spared Azkaban. Peter’d never wanted prison for his old friend.

But prison was what Sirius had received, and Peter had lost a finger and Remus had been doomed to a life of misery. And Peter had spent years in hiding, not allowed to show his face because both sides thought he’d failed them. And he’d made his peace with that. Almost. Except then Sirius had escaped and Harry had met Percy’s brother Ron and Peter was running from Harry bloody Potter again. Then things had gone mercifully quiet, except for whatever had happened at St Mungo’s. Peter’d settled down again.

And then Sirius and Harry were arrested, and their faces were everywhere again. Peter hadn’t liked that, but he’d adjusted. Sirius would go back to Azkaban, since the only proof he had was Peter and Peter was staying well away. And he’d tried. Oh, he’d tried. Harry’d come to him instead.

Peter’d thought there was a Boggart loose in Malfoy Manor the night Harry Potter arrived. Luckily, he hadn’t had to meet the boy properly until a few days later. He’d been back under control by that time, back to his role as fully-fingered, unassuming, slightly-darker-than-Wormtail Bosworth. And that was a very good thing. There was no telling how he might have reacted if Harry’d been sprung on him.

Pain stabbed through Peter’s head, blinding him for a moment. He let out a small squeak of distress and curled into a ball until it passed. A floorboard creaked nearby and Peter forced himself to move into the shadow of a vase that was probably worth more than Peter’s old house.

Nox,” he heard a quiet voice say. A moment later, a small figure peered into the foyer. Peter saw messy hair briefly outlined by moonlight, and the flash of glasses. He sat very still, and then Harry disappeared back down the corridor. The only things down there were a bathroom and Lucius’ office, and Peter doubted Harry was using that bathroom in the middle of the night when there was a perfectly good one upstairs.

He was up to something, that was for sure. And while Peter was no genius, he didn’t think it was a coincidence that he was missing several hours of memories of the night because of Snape, or that Harry was up in the middle of the night – the night before Sirius’ trial, no less - snooping around Lucius’ office. No, Peter wasn’t a genius, but he wasn’t an idiot. He wouldn’t have survived this long if that was the case.

He’d have left, even if he hadn’t seen Harry. He didn’t really think the Malfoys would hand him over to the Aurors. They didn’t give a damn about Sirius, and Lucius was keen to adopt Harry if the past week had been any indication. Besides, if they turned him in, he’d make sure they went down with him. No, he didn’t think he needed to worry about them. Snape though... what had Snape done without Peter knowing? Had he put him under a spell, or fed him some sort of potion?

Peter got the uncomfortable feeling that he’d find out sooner rather than later, and he wasn’t going to stick around and wait for it to happen. If he was going to fall unconscious, he wasn’t going to do it here. If he was about to experience an urge to turn himself in, or help free Sirius, he was going to deal with that alone.

Peter survived by doing things that no one else expected. Everyone expected him to be here, playing Bosworth, so he’d be elsewhere. Somewhere no one would ever suspect. He’d come back tomorrow when the trial was done and Sirius was safely back in Dementor custody. He was sick of running, sick of hiding, but hopefully, this would be the last time. Comforted by that thought, Peter scurried into the drawing room, and transformed.

The room shrank around him and Peter cringed. He was always claustrophobic when he returned to being Peter after a long time as Wormtail. He also felt a bit panicky. Wormtail was safe, unobtrusive. Peter was bigger, slower, and more likely to be hit with a spell if someone decided to send one in his direction. He took a few deep breaths and stepped forward carefully, giving his body time to adjust. He grabbed a pinch of Floo powder and whispered the password that he’d heard Lucius use to leave that morning. Green flames flared in the grate and Peter stepped into them.


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Innocent: The Night Before

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