How Am I Supposed To Die by gingerdoe
Disclaimer: Much love to Panic! At The Disco of whom there is a play on words of their name and two of their songs in this part. Keep your eyes peels if you're a P!ATD fan!
Chapter 1: The Woes of Wormtail & the Rest
"Only the dead have seen the end of war."
― George Santayana, Soliloquies in England
"Come on, Madam Rosmerta. Just one song for Evans over there!" Lily - slightly mortified - heard James Potter say to the owner of the Three Broomsticks Inn. "Excellent!" he said happily, after she saw Madam Rosmerta nod, and say something which looked like: Oh, all right, Potter! She glanced over at Lily and smiled, then proceeded to point her wand at a dish sponge sitting limply on the bar in front of her, which immediately started scrubbing the hard surface of its own volition.
James turned around and winked at Lily, running a hand through his already messy, dark hair, as was James Potter custom, while his best friend Sirius conjured a small platform crammed right next to the bar.
"What is he going to do?" Lily asked her friends, glancing around the table, giving Remus and Peter particularly wary looks.
Back at the conjured stage, James and Sirius, accompanied by Frank - an old schoolmate who was in the same Hogwarts house as the two, and a friend - were now also joined by a microphone, two guitars and a bass.
"He's going to sing," Remus grinned at Lily, back at their large round table.
"Yeah, he wrote you a song," added Peter. Dorcas, who was sitting on Peter's right, gave him a smile and then turned her vivid, chartreuse eyes on Lily, giving her a sympathetic look as Lily Evans stared wide eyed at Remus. Nevertheless, a small smile was tugging at the corners of her lips.
"Fantastic!" their friend Marlene exclaimed, from the other end of the table. "Cheer up, Lilz. This is going to be something to remember!" She sent her a wink. Marlene picked up her camera, and with an erupting cloud of purple smoke, snapped a shot of the lot on the small conjured stage. She flashed a grin at Lily - whose face started to flush, threatening to compete with the red colour of her hair - and stole a swig of her twin brother's Firewhiskey. Six empty glasses sat in front of her.
"Can James sing?" Matt, Marlene's brother inquired curiously, turning his blond head at Remus and Peter, while taking the glass away from a scowling Marlene.
"No," they said all too quickly.
Matt chuckled. "Like I said," Marlene grinned once again, swinging her thick locks of hair over her shoulder, "Fantastic!"
"Hello, hello, hello Three Broomsticks!" James shouted into the microphone from the platform, which diverted the lot's attention back to the three. James was sporting a mischievous grin on his angular face, his eyes sweeping across the small crowd in the pub.
Everyone seemed to love the Three Broomsticks, with its comforting warmth; the soft light from some dozen or so candles sitting in their iron sconces, their flames sending dancing shadows through the slightly smoky air of the pub to the many wooden tables and stone floor - but the inn was no longer what it used to be. The reign of Voldemort brought terror and panic unlike any other known before in the Wizarding world. It was a rarity to see people walking alone during daylight these days, and even rarer to see anyone out after dark. Foolish and reckless, they called it. (Do you have a deathwish?!) You don't know who you could trust, that's what they kept saying. You don't know who's with him and who's not. And they could be anywhere; death could be awaiting just around the corner ...
It was crucial to understand that no one was safe. No one. This was what haunted Peter Pettigrew as he sat with his friends at the Three Broomsticks that day. This was what haunted him every second, even those seconds when his eyelids were closed.
Peter lifted his eyes to the conjured platform. His mates, James and Sirius, were grinning at each other. "As some of you might know; Sirius, my mate here," James was saying, nodding his head to the right, where a tall, young man with long, dark hair and an air of casual elegance stood, an equally mischievous grin on his face. "And I," continued James, "are quite known for our hand in mischief making and pranking back at Hogwarts."
Everyone back at the table gave each other knowing looks. "James Potter and Sirius Black?" Dorcas whispered to Peter and Remus. "No." The three of them chuckled.
"So we decided to call ourselves Panic! At Hogwarts," James said. "What do you think, Frank? Great name, isn't it?"
"Excellent one, mate," Frank, a long faced bloke with warm brown eyes, grinned.
"Oh Merlin," Lily said with a smile on her face, catching Alice's - Frank's girlfriend - eye, who was giggling uncontrollably.
"Yeah, you're right," James was saying. "So this song is for that gorgeous redhead over there." James pointed to where Lily - who had turned a bright pink by now - was sitting. Everyone turned to look. "Right there ... yeah. Beautiful, isn't she?"
"I'm going to kill him," she muttered, although the smile on her face betrayed her words.
"I asked Evans to go out with me about a hundred and eight times before she said yes - "
"He was very persistent, you know."
"Once she even said she'd rather date the Giant Squid than me, but here we are - "
"Such a git."
And with a final wink, James announced: "This one's called Lily Smiles!" and James started strumming on the strings of his guitar, joined by Sirius on the bass and Frank also on guitar.
"Lily smiles like Lily doesn't care!
She lives in her world so unaware.
Does she know that my destiny lies with herrr?"
"Merlin's beard!" Lily groaned, hiding her now beetroot coloured face in her hands, and bursting out laughing.
It was safe to say that James Potter was a terrible singer.
Marlene, Matt and Alice were roaring with laughter. Remus was currently choking on his Butterbeer, having chosen the unfortunate moment when James started singing to take a sip. Peter was thumping on his back enthusiastically, trying to sober himself from laughter enough to manage to ask Remus if was all right. Dorcas was chuckling, her hand in front of her mouth, looking at Lily, who still had her face in her hands and could still be seen shaking with laughter.
James continued singing: "Lily," nodding his head towards Frank who in turn said: "Lily," and now Sirius, in a high pitched voice: "Lily!"
"Oh, Lily ...
Are you saving me?"
"So this is the bloke you're dating, Lily?" Alice grinned at her friend.
"Yes, this is the idiot I'm in love with." But Lily also grinned.
"This is gold!" Marlene screamed, snatching her camera once again and snapping a couple more pictures.
The song ended with another:
Oh Lily ...
Are you saving meee?
And the Three Broomsticks broke into a round of applause mingled with loud laughter. Dorcas mentally bet that there hadn't been that much noise in the Three Broomsticks in quite a while.
"Thank you, thank you!" James grinned, giving a dramatic bow, joined by non-other than Sirius. "I'm sorry, Madam?" James inquired politely, looking at Madam Rosmerta, who was leaning over the bar and saying something along the lines of: Brilliant. Now get the bloody hell off that stage, Potter. You're going to wake the whole village up! "No, but what about the encore, Madam Rosmerta?! The crowd loves us! Okay here's a last one called: I Play Quidditch Not Tragedies.
“Oh, well imagine,
As I'm racing the pitch with the quaffle under my arm
I can't help but to see,
No, I can't help but to see the speedy golden snitch.
"I'd chime in with: Bloody hell McKinnon,
Catch the golden snitch, oh!
It's much better to face the Slytherins
With their arses beaten and kicked!
"Oh all right, all right, we'll get off stage now," James said hastily, as Madam Rosmerta threatened to vanish his left buttock. However, her voice could barely be heard over the roaring laughter of her customers.
The three of them jumped off the platform to a round of applause, grinning, and Frank took out his wand. With a fancy brandish, the instruments and platform disappeared, and soon Frank joined James in moving back towards their table. "Good job on the guitar there, Frank."
"Cheers, James," Frank grinned. "Not so bad yourself."
"Madam Rosmerta," they heard Sirius say smoothly behind them. "You're looking quite lovely tonight."
James beamed as he approached the table. "How'd you like the song, Evans?" James asked, slipping into the vacant seat next to his girlfriend, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her closer to him.
"You," she said, grabbing his face in both hands, "are the biggest dork on the planet."
Before James could reply, Marlene started shouting: "Fair off all, Potteh ... I men: fair of all." She then proceeded to uncontrollable giggles.
"Yes, I am the fairest of them all, McKinnon."
"Marlene," Matt said patiently, snatching another glass of Firewhiskey from his giggling twin's hand, "you're drunk."
"Not am I drunk!"
"Excellent," Sirius's voice flooded into the conversation. The whole table looked up, to find Sirius approaching with a tray of drinks floating in front of him. "Here: More drinks, McKinnon, since not are you drunk. Make room, Moony," and with a flick of his wand, Remus made the empty glasses move to one side of the table.
"So, Evans," Sirius grinned at the redhead, slipping into the seat between James and Remus, "enjoyed the song?"
"Oh, was the first one for me?" Lily asked, feinting surprise and placing a hand over her heart. "I didn't know. I just didn't hear my name getting mentioned at all."
"What do expect?" Peter started saying over the chuckles at the table. "You do know James's notes are full of L.E. doodles, right?" He shot James a smirk, who merely grinned lazily.
"You know; you're wrong, Wormtail," Sirius interjected. "It's now L.P.," he looked at Lily, grinning, "Evans."
Lily smiled. "I already know my boyfriend's a dork, thank you very much," and she planted a kiss on James's cheek, who looked thoroughly pleased with this. Sirius grinned at him and drowned a shot from the tray.
The table slowly fell into silence, after the three separate conversations at the table drifted like smoke into the atmosphere and disappeared. Everyone seemed to gently sink into their own thoughts. Alice and Frank were holding hands; James was playing with a lock of Lily's long hair, while she traced outlines on the table with her finger, and Matt was silently wrestling another glass of Firewhiskey from Marlene's hand, while she objected in a low, incoherent voice.
The smile had slipped off of Peter's face, and his mind was once again where it used to be these days: in a dark, cold place, which made his stomach turn into knots at thoughts of what was to come. He looked around the table: What were the odds all of them were going to make it out of this war alive?
The odds were non-existent.
Half of him wanted to take them and hide them somewhere safe - but he knew that their choices weren't his to make. He knew they wanted to fight. But what was the point in fighting? What was the point in winning if you lost everything along the way?
Maybe if I died first I wouldn't have to face any of it, he thought. But his stomach clenched even tighter at the thought of death, which made him regret the few drinks he had. A boy of not even 18 yet ... No. Peter Pettigrew was not ready to die.
Remus sitting next to him looked shabby and ill; his skin held a greyish tinge to it and his eyes were shadowed by a purple colour underneath. His permanent frown lines seemed even deeper lately. He stared at Lily's finger tracing outlines, his face scrunched up in thought.
Even Sirius's trademark grin had evaded him; and Dorcas just sat there, biting her lip, thinking. The war was like a pressing storm, weighing on everyone's brain - and the rain hadn't even started to pour yet. They weren't even in the thick of it.
After what seemed like hours, Alice's voice broke the silence. "I uh ... I hadn't had a good laugh like that in a while," she said quietly, nodding her head in the direction of the now vanished platform. "With all that's going on ... it's hard to find a reason to laugh these days."
Dorcas gave a sarcastic chuckle. Everyone at the table stared at her. "This is only the beginning, Alice. He'll knock us down like dominoes one by one."
"But we have Dumbledore," said James firmly. "We'll be all right as long as we have Dumbledore."
"Dumbledore," started Dorcas hesitantly, "no matter how great of a wizard, is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. Caradoc Dearborn still lost his mother and she was in ... Well, she was on Dumbledore's side, wasn't she?" Marlene's face fell into a serious expression at the mention of this news.
"As sorry as I am for dear Dearborn's mother," started Sirius calmly, "he's a dick and very much a rotten egg, and if you think I'm going to - "
"Caradoc's not a dick!" Marlene shouted angrily, seeming sober all of a sudden. "You don't know him!"
"Oh, and you know him?" Matt said coldly, shooting her an unpleasant look.
"Oh I'm pretty sure she knows him well," Sirius started saying in a bitter voice, while James argued with Dorcas: "Of course people will die, Dorcas, there is a war going on! It's not Dumbledore's fault - Peter?"
Their arguing was stopped abruptly by a horridly loud scraping noise of a chair against the floor; Peter's chair; Peter, who had stood up suddenly, startling everyone, even himself. "I'm going out for some fresh air," he heard himself announce, like a stranger speaking through his mouth. His heart was beating erratically and his breathing felt shallow; Peter started moving before anyone could say a word.
"Want me to come?" Remus shouted behind him after a few startled seconds of silence.
"No," he said curtly, and soon enough he was breathing gulps of cold, spring air; the doors to the Three Broomsticks swinging shut behind him.
He breathed, and breathed and gulped, but his heartbeat didn't seem to want to slow down, and no matter how many breaths he took, his lungs couldn't seem to fill. And he clutched at his pale brown hair, while his brain clutched at his heart and terrible thoughts fogged up his head. "Stop it," he said out loud, his hands now sliding down his face, trying to regain control.
But he still couldn't breathe.
"Stop it," he said louder, his eyes starting to tear up, and he slowly slid down the wall, where later he would have no recollection of how he came to sit on the ground.
But his lungs were failing him and his heart was about to explode. "STOP IT."
A hand clutched his shoulder, and Dorcas's voice rang clearly through the fog in his brain. He looked up, his blue eyes wide, fearful, to find Dorcas's round face looming over him, her eyebrows knitted in concern. "What happened?" she asked worriedly.
"I just ..." he spluttered. His heartbeat finally started to slow down from its erratic beat. "I ... All this talk, about what's happening ... It's making me ... I don't ... I feel anxious ... I ... I." He flung his face in his hands again.
He breathed in - his lungs finally allowing him, starting to function once again - and out. And again.
Dorcas sat down on the cold ground next to him, pulling her jacket around herself tightly. "I'm sorry about what happened in there. Arguing with each other and all. But ... well: It's happening, Peter. And we can't ignore it. It won't make it go away."
"I know," he said helplessly. "But I've never felt more confused in my life."
"That's understandable ... I guess ... we have to ask ourselves what there is to be done. What to do ... What we can do."
Peter started fidgeting with his fingers. "They sound like simple words, you know, but - why aren't they simple? I can't understand. I don't know what ... Why can't they just be simple?" Frustration and confusion laced themselves with these words, like something coming out of a child's mouth.
Dorcas turned her head, the shadow from a single street lamp falling on her face, but he could see her smiling; a crease forming at the corner of her mouth. She put her hands on top of his to stop his twiddling fingers. "Because nothing ever really is, Peter."
They fell silent for a moment, in which Peter observed a single piece of parchment being tossed around by the light breeze.
He heard Dorcas take an intake of breath. He glanced at her. "Did he ..." she started tentatively. "Did he talk to you before the Easter holidays? Before we left ... About it."
"The Order of the Phoenix." Peter's voice was barely higher than a whisper.
"Yes," she said softly.
"Remus, James, Sirius, Lily and me; he talked to us together." The conversation which had only taken place the previous week flooded his brain.
"Good evening," Dumbledore had said, his twinkling blue eyes kind behind his half-moon spectacles, as the five of them piled into Dumbledore's large, circular office. "Thank you for meeting me. I am delighted you could make it."
"Of course, Professor," James smiled.
What an odd room, Peter thought. Of course, this wasn't his first trip to the headmaster's office - this came with being a marauder - but every time he found himself there, he couldn't help looking in wonder at the headmaster's beautiful office, with its curious silver instruments and spindle legged tables; little puffs of smoke emerging from the former at intervals. On a perch behind the door, stood a phoenix; Dumbledore's - Fawkes his name was - and of course, on a shelf sat the old, patched up Sorting Hat which had placed all five students in the office in Gryffindor.
Peter looked away hastily, shifting his feet. He remembered it clearly: The hat on his head during the Sorting Ceremony; the hat taking longer than five minutes - a hatstall, they called it - deliberating whether to put him in Gryffindor or Slytherin. Slytherin; the house of the cunning and ambitious. He frequently wondered why it considered to put him there when he possessed none of the traits Salazar Slytherin dearly cherished. It made him uneasy; the fact that the hat considered putting him in the house which produced most dark wizards than any of the others ever had ...
"By all means; take a seat!" Dumbledore said cheerfully, gesturing to the five comfortable chairs he produced out of thin air, and which now sat in front of his enormous claw-footed desk, behind which he himself took a seat.
"Thank you, Professor," Lily smiled. "What is it that you wanted to see us about, Sir?"
"Ah, yes," said Dumbledore, his voice ever so calm and collected. He brought his fingertips together in front of him and observed them all in turn. The five of them looked at him expectantly.
"I have a request," Dumbledore said finally. James and Sirius shared a quick glance. "As I am sure you all know very well, beyond the safety and comfort of these castle walls there is a terrible war happening. Silently, perhaps, for now ... but Lord Voldemort is already wreaking havoc. No one is safe, especially the Muggle-borns and blood traitors." Lily looked at him, her head held high, defiant. "Innocent Muggles are being sacrificed in Voldemort's rise to power.
"But you already know this of course, and for this reason comes my request. I genuinely believe you would be of value. I give my requests, before Voldemort seeks to recruit you - "
"Recruit us?" James interrupted loudly, unable to stop himself. "Why on earth would he think we'd join his bloody fascist movement?" Sirius nodded aggressively in agreement.
"Ah," said Dumbledore again, merely smiling. "Well, if you do permit me to say so Mr Potter, you are quite a brilliant wizard to have on an army. Voldemort is not foolish."
James opened his mouth to speak again, but Dumbledore raised his hand; a silent command, and silence fell once again. Then came his request: "After you leave Hogwarts, I would very much like to have you in the Order of the Phoenix."
"What did you tell him?" Dorcas's voice interrupted him from his thoughts.
"We said yes."
"Of course you did." She smiled at him again. "You lot ... Gryffindor never knew any braver."
"I'm not brave," he said quickly before he could stop himself. "I'm not like them, Dorcas. I'm not as brave as they are." Even Dumbledore knew. They all agreed to join at once after Dumbledore explained the Order of the Phoenix; but the look he gave Peter said it all. Of course, Peter wanted to think about it, mull it over, but it was hardly an option when the rest of the marauders and Lily agreed to it in a heartbeat.
And Dumbledore looked at him, unblinking, as if waiting. Waiting for him to falter: No. I'm sorry, Dumbledore. I can't do it!
"Peter! Of course you're brave," she said with a little laugh. "Just because you get afraid doesn't mean you're not brave. It's smart to be scared. I admire you. Really, I do," she added quietly, their eyes connecting. "Your dedication, your loyalty - "
"I make an abysmal wizard! I'll never be half as good a dueller as James or Sirius, or half as clever as Remus. Merlin, I wouldn't last two minutes in a fight! I'm as good as a Squib - "
"I'm just ... I'm weak, I'm ... All I do ... I'll never ..." He looked in front of him, clutching his hair again. Dorcas's eyes were fixed on him; taking in the way his fingers curled in his hair, how his eyes stared at his lap over his aquiline nose and the way his eyelashes looked as if they'd been powdered with gold in the dim light of the street.
"I'm just Peter," he said miserably.
"Good," said Dorcas softly, "because I don't want you to be anyone else."
And later that night they all left the inn to go to their homes; back to their thoughts and the weight that pressed down on them.
A messy haired, bespectacled wizard kissed his redhead goodnight, beneath the light of her front porch and bid her sweet dreams. She checked in on her father as soon as she went inside to find him still awake, his face all clammy. She took his temperature and realised it was rising alarmingly fast once again, but he insisted: "Honestly Lily, darling; I feel all right. Maybe a bit chilly, but I'm fine, really," and he coughed.
James Potter returned to his sumptuous house, to find his best friend sitting at the kitchen table in the dark, with only a candle for company and a single moving photograph in his hand, a cigarette in another; a vacant expression on his face as he observed himself and his younger brother laughing, in what seemed like another lifetime. A brother whom he lost to the family that disowned him because he couldn't find it in himself to be immersed in the dark arts like they were. Sirius Black! What a disgrace to the Black family name, they said.
He looked up. "Mate," he just said; face and voice void of any humour whatsoever.
Matt McKinnon carried his giggling sister up the stairs of their family house to her bedroom that night. "There you go," he said, laying her down carefully on her unmade bed. "Let me take your shoes off now, Firewhiskey."
"No, no!" she protested, getting up too quickly for her own good. "Put on Patti Smith!" and she fell to the ground in a fit of giggles.
Her brother raised an eyebrow at her. "What? Marlene, it's 2am!"
"I don't care!"
"Fine," he said in defeat, shaking his head as he walked to the long-player. "You're crazy." But her laughter was infectious.
And so the McKinnon twins lied down on the bedroom floor, listening to Patti Smith on a medium volume.
"Hey, Matty?" Marlene said.
"We'll always have each other, right?" Her voice had suddenly gone quiet.
He took his sister's hand in his. "I promise.
"From the womb to the tomb, sister."
Marlene snorted and burst into laughter. "That was awful," she giggled, "and so morbid."
He grinned at her and both twins started laughing uncontrollably for no particular reason, and they continued doing that for some time, because sometimes, all you need is a little bit of laughter in a time of madness.
Alice and Frank slept in the tiny flat they had together that night; grateful for a home no matter how small and cold.
"I love you," Frank said, kissing Alice on the top of her head, as she moved closer to him. She looked up at him, her big brown eyes full of warmth and kindness, the way Alice always was, and they felt it; deep within them, that nothing could go wrong when they had each other by their side.
"I love you."
And they slept in each other's arms, grateful for one another, because some people even had that taken away from them.
Peter Pettigrew accompanied Remus Lupin to his parents' house, because the latter couldn't bear to find his parents awake again and fighting, and having to face them alone.
Peter was half glad, half guilty for leaving his mother alone that night. But that house was a prison and he never felt more fragile and alone as he did when he was there.
"Peter?" Remus said an hour later, when both of them were in bed.
"Yeah?" Peter said from the other side of the room. He didn't think it was possible to go to sleep in his state of mind.
Remus sat up. He was examining the wounds on his arms carefully which still hadn't healed from the previous full moon. "I'm not even ..." his hands shook, "I can't even take care of myself ... I'm a werewolf ... I'm dangerous. I'm a monster! ... How am I supposed to ...?" His voice faltered, but he needn't finish his sentence.
His friend got up from his bed and made his way to Remus's. "Budge over," he said.
"What?" Remus looked up.
"Just move," he said, sitting down on Remus's bed. And Remus moved.
Peter lay on his back, examining the patterned light on the ceiling which filtered through the windows from the yellow street lights outside. His friend glanced over at him.
"You're not alone, Remus. You won't ever have to be alone," he said fiercely. "You've got us.
"And you're not a monster. You're my friend."
Remus said nothing, but Peter's words seemed to ease the load weighing him down that night. And for the millionth time, Remus sent a silent thank you to whoever or whatever out there, because now he had them, he could never imagine his life without Peter Pettigrew, James Potter and Sirius Black. And for the first time since the full moon, he slept as close to peaceful as someone like Remus Lupin could ever do.
Beside him, Peter lay awake, wondering if Dorcas was asleep by then.
Indeed, Dorcas Meadowes was in bed, but not asleep. She was jumping at every creak and sound her mother's empty flat made. She didn't even bother leaving a note saying where she was - but the witch was used to this.
And Dorcas wondered how on earth Dumbledore could have ever asked her to trust her life in the Order's hands and the headmaster's, when all she ever had was herself.
A/N: I orignally meant for this to be a one shot of the marauders and Lily at the bar - with James singing Lily Smiles - for my friend, Eva's, birthday, but here we are. A shoutout to Eva who actually came up with the idea of James Potter starting a band and calling it Panic! At Hogwarts in the first place. The songs "mentioned" are Sarah Smiles and I Write Sins Not Tragedies.
This chapter was Peter-esque with only just a little taste of the others because yes: Peter Pettigrew is actually human, and I think it would be interesting to watch his journey which arrives to the decision that decided a lot of peoples fates. Next chapter, which is currently in the works, is more Lily-esque, and a tad bit painful - just how I love 'em.
Reviews are better than chocolate, so gimme some and I'll give you love in return.
Yours truly, the ginger doe.
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