Title: A Bed of Nails
Author: Jaxmari (imadra_blue)
Warnings: HBP Spoilers
Summary: Peter Pettigrew lives in a hell of his own making.
Disclaimer: I assure you that I am far too poor to be JKR.
Beta-Reader(s): The lovely and multi-talented tinkerpixy, who is not only fast, but good. ♥
Written For: lazy_neutrino, who requested Peter genfic of any kind. Hope this fits the bill.
Feedback: All feedback shall be received with gratitude. Concrit welcome.
Peter Pettigrew didn't sleep most nights.
He didn't expect a lot of sympathy, and he knew he didn't deserve it. He didn't even want it. That was the difference between him and most of the other Death Eaters. He knew what he was doing was wrong. The rest were under some mass delusion, he supposed. He didn't really understand how they thought, but somehow they managed to justify their actions in their own minds. He wished he could do the same.
Oh, he could blame it on James and Sirius if he reached. After all, they'd never truly treated him as an equal. He was always slower than they were, more excitable, more pathetic -- always the butt end of their jokes. That fell rather flat after a while. He couldn't justify giving up his closest friends' secrets and leading a madman to murder them just because he had to tolerate some good-natured ridicule as a boy.
He couldn't justify it. He could try to say that when the Dark Lord had approached him with offers of family, love, and acceptance that he'd been led astray. He could even try to say that he had been utterly terrified of the Dark Lord's power, and was too much of a coward to do anything but give in. As true as all these things were, they were weak excuses. There was nothing in the world that could ever justify what he had done, not even to his own eyes. Yet, it didn't change the fact that he had done it and now had to live with it. He had chosen to save himself over others, and he had become a monster for it. He was a rat in the worst possible way, and it had nothing to do with his Animagus powers.
I'd like to see them make a different decision! he thought bitterly, before he let the emotion pass him by. There was no point in feeling any more, though he found it exceedingly hard to stop, especially at night.
He had a lot of nightmares when he did manage to sleep; nightmares that usually consisted of watching James and Lily die. Those were old dreams, almost familiar and comforting, despite how they tore through Peter's conscience. Lately, though, it was Sirius who plagued Peter's dreams. There was nothing familiar or comforting about watching Sirius fall forever into a place that wasn't. Peter hadn't witnessed any of his friends' deaths, but he imagined that he had them down to the tiniest detail, because they felt so real. They were terrible, really, these dreams that wracked Peter with guilt and remorse. In them, he could see James grimly falling under the Dark Lord's Killing Curse, Lily desperately making her last stand before her baby, and Sirius falling through a stone archway with surprise etched onto his gaunt face. He expected no sympathy from his new "friends," so he never mentioned it. It would only get him killed.
It had hurt, strangely enough, when the Dark Lord had told them that the Animagus Black had died in the Department of Mysteries. Peter had temporarily lost the ability to breathe. Even now, it was still hard to remember to inhale and exhale when he thought about it. The pain was dull, barely noticeable, but there. It was always there, in the back of his mind. It had been since that Halloween night that James and Lily had died, and would be until Peter died as well. He had no hope of ever apologizing to them in the afterworld. Wherever James and Lily were, it wasn't where he was going to go when he died.
Peter stared at his silver hand, flexing it very carefully. It moved as fluidly as water, and would have been quite beautiful if Peter was able to forget the horror of cutting his own hand off for it. He hated his new hand almost as much as he hated himself. He often had dreams of cutting it off and throwing it in the Dark Lord's face, but he knew he wasn't brave enough for that.
They were all sitting around the Dark Lord, listening to his plans for their future. He was not asking for advice or counsel; he very simply explained to them exactly what he expected out of them. The Dark Lord wore a hooded black robe, with the hood pushed back to reveal his white, snake-like face. Peter took his gaze off the livid face and returned it to his hand, his eyes traveling upwards to his Dark Mark. Peter remembered getting his own Mark, long ago. He remembered how much it had stung.
The Dark Lord finished his speech and moved towards the young Malfoy boy -- Draco was his name. The boy shook a bit, his gray eyes wide as the Dark Lord approached him. He bared his arm as instructed, and the Dark Lord pulled out his wand to brand the Dark Mark on him. It would hurt the boy, as it had Peter and all the other Death Eaters. There was no victory without pain, the Dark Lord often told them.
Peter looked away from it and turned his attention to his fellow Death Eaters. The absence of Lucius Malfoy was quite a relief, as was the absence of that mad Dolohov fellow. Few knew of the details of the fiasco at the Ministry, and Peter supposed he should feel privileged to know exactly what had happened, but he didn't. It made him sick, almost as sick as the sounds of Draco Malfoy whimpering as the Dark Lord's wand tip burned into his flesh, tracing a design Peter knew far too well.
"It burns," said Draco, only to be silenced by a look from the Dark Lord.
The newly initiated, younger Death Eaters sat in their own crowd, whispering amongst each other. Some of them were young enough to be Peter's children. This thought terrified him and made him feel all the more worthless. Yet, there was nothing he could do. There was never anything he could do. He simply had to find the best way to survive, no matter what the cost.
"He can't even Apparate. What use could he possibly have to the Dark Lord?" asked a burly young man in a quiet tone. A harsh-faced young woman shrugged at him in answer, watching Draco in something approaching sympathy.
Peter stared over at the older crowd. Snape was there, still sneering at him. Peter wasn't sure exactly what Snape had said to get back into the Dark Lord's good graces, but the Dark Lord had seemed to accept it, and he had been welcomed back into the group. Peter wondered if it was really all that easy. He mused on this while staring at Snape before turning his attention to Narcissa Malfoy.
She wasn't a Death Eater, but she had been invited by the Dark Lord to witness her son's initiation. However, she did not seem to be particularly honored by this. There was fear in her wide blue eyes, and her beautiful face seemed to have aged ten years in one night. She was staring at her son in poorly disguised horror. Narcissa may have been able to hide this from most of the Death Eaters, but not to Peter. He knew the expression too well, for it mirrored his own. This was no honor that the Dark Lord was bestowing upon her and her family. It was a lesson. A lesson in what, Peter did not know -- didn't want to know.
Peter sat close to Bellatrix, who was watching her nephew's initiation with great interest and even a little pride. Her husband and brother-in-law had been arrested, and Peter certainly didn't miss them. The Lestrange brothers had been mad before they even went to Azkaban, and the prison had certainly not helped matters. He only wished Bellatrix could have been arrested too. He hated her, the mad, laughing bitch. How she had laughed when the Dark Lord revealed Sirius's death still set Peter's teeth on edge.
He hated all of them.
The Dark Lord had finished his speech, and was dismissing the others. Draco was cradling his arm, looking half-terrified, half-pleased as his mother put an arm around him and led him out. She looked vastly more terrified than Draco, but then, Narcissa no doubt understood what Draco's initiation, at such a young age, meant.
"Cover it up, Draco. It will stop bleeding soon," Narcissa whispered to her son as she disappeared down the hallway.
The Dark Lord beckoned to Peter, his long, skeletal fingers curling grotesquely. Peter hesitated for a moment before he approached. Snape was there, standing on the Dark Lord's right side, his ugly face cold and unforgiving. Old resentment for their misspent youth was still etched into Snape's expression. He would never let Peter forget the wrongs that he had done -- whether they were done to Snape or otherwise.
Peter bowed and sat down upon a chair, swallowing audibly. Snape sat beside him, smirking ever so slightly. It made Peter nervous -- well, more nervous. The Dark Lord's face gleamed with malice as he leaned a little closer to Peter, his lips twisting into a mockery of a smile.
"I have a job for you, Wormtail. Severus shall explain it to you, since I am now placing you at his disposal."
Peter's eyes widened, and he bit back a cry of protest. There would never be any peace now, not if he were to work with Snape. Snape hated him -- perhaps not as much as Sirius had, but Snape never forgot, never forgave. Snape leaned forward, looking smug. Peter knew whatever they had planned, it would not be pleasant.
"Is there a problem, Wormtail?" the Dark Lord asked in sibilant tones.
Peter looked away. "M-my Lord, aren't I b-best p-placed at-at your s-side?"
The Dark Lord's laugh was high and cruel. "If that were the case, little rat, then I wouldn't be sending you to Severus. Such cheek. Truly, you are a Gryffindor." The Dark Lord turned to Snape, looking amused. "Do you see that, Severus? Even as weak as the question was, as much as he stuttered it, only Peter Pettigrew amongst you dares to question me. I told you that you would find him useful, as I have."
Snape nodded, his thin lips twisting into a smile that almost put the Dark Lord's to shame. His beady eyes shone in the dim light, and Peter felt like he had sunk to an even deeper level in his own personal hell.
He quieted himself with the same mantra he had been using since he had fled Hogwarts two years ago. He had clung to it since he had fled the safety and security of being Scabbers, to his harsh, painful existence as a servant -- nay slave -- of the Dark Lord. Only one thing prevented him from turning his wand on himself, since his last hope of absolution had faded away at the Shrieking Shack.
He deserved it.
Peter had made his bed of nails, and now he had to lie in it.