A Rat's Heart, A Lion's Body
Maya’s 4th Year and the Marauder’s
The next month, Werecat-Maya waited for them at the foot of the Whomping Willow. By November, werewolf-Remus recognized them and everyone went back to the common room scratch and bite free. In December they roamed the grounds at night and the idea of a magical map was born of squeaks, snuffles, barks, meows and growls.
“It should show everyone at Hogwarts. Whatever they are doing, wherever they are,” Maya said in whispered on their way to breakfast the morning after.
“It’ll be brilliant,” Sirius said. “Just think of what we could do if we knew that we wouldn’t get caught!”
“The magic would be impressive too,” Remus mused. He sighed, “You know, as a prefect I really shouldn’t encourage this behavior...”
James laughed and elbowed him. “Don’t fret Moony, you treat the first years all right!”
The rest of the day was spent making suggestions and plans in furtive whispers behind books during class. Even Maya joined them in the hall between her fourth year classes that her soon-to-be-taking-OWLs friends liked to say were very simple. The planning continued until the moment that James and Maya dashed off to Quidditch practice. Sirius, grudgingly, admitted that he needed assistance with a History of Magic Essay. Remus smugly led the way to the library. Peter tried to study for a few minutes, then decided he rather watch the other two practice.
“I’m going to the Quidditch Pitch,” he announced, hoping that Sirius would join him. Sirius did give the window a longing look, but he turned back to the books before him with a sigh.
“I really can’t afford another low mark in this class, Wormtail,” Sirius grumbled. “Have fun, though.”
“Don’t you have potions left?” Remus asked Peter.
“I’ll do it later,” Peter said dismissively. He left the library, whistling to himself.
He didn’t even notice the two other boys until it was too late. Mulciber stepped out from behind a suit of armor and rammed him hard in the stomach. Peter doubled-over, wheezing, and Avery pushed him to the ground. The only people in the corridor were the two Slytherins and Peter.
“He...!” Peter began, trying to wriggle away.
“Silencio!” Mulciber snapped, his wand pointed at Peter’s back. Peter’s voice died away. Panicking, he tried to scream as he went for his wand but no sound came out. Avery kicked him in the back before Mulciber slammed him into the wall with magic, suspending him a few inches off the ground by his robes as if a giant were dangling Peter from giant fingers. Peter’s wand dropped uselessly to the ground.
“Look at Pettigrew squirming,” Avery laughed. “What’s that stupid nickname your fellow idiots have been calling you? Worm?”
Peter could only glare at him in what he hoped was a convincing manner. The image of a rat scurrying away came to mind and he almost initiated the change into his animagus form before remembering that no one could know about this ability.
“Don’t look so frightened, Pettigrew,” Mulciber said, “we just have a little favor to ask you.”
Peter still couldn’t talk and he wasn’t having much success with moving either, so he tried to raise an eyebrow the way Sirius did so handsomely. It must have looked stupid, because Avery snickered before saying, “We just want you to borrow Lupin’s wand for a little bit. What do you say?” Mulciber twitched his wand and Peter crumpled to the floor.
“What?” Peter asked.
“Borrow. Lupin’s. Wand,” Avery repeated slowly, as if he were talking to a baby.
“Why?” Peter demanded, too confused to remember that he should run, or ask for help, or generally not be alone with two psychotic Slytherins that had recently gotten into trouble for using Dark Magic on younger students. They’d gotten even more detentions than the Marauders lately – especially since the Marauders had been on their best behavior during the last stages of the animagus preparations.
“Just for fun,” Mulciber said airily.
Peter narrowed his eyes suspiciously; he could almost feel his whiskers standing on end. “Anything you two want can only mean bad news,” said Peter stubbornly. “I won’t have anything to do with it.” He tried to go for his wand and found himself pinned to the wall once more. The false look of friendship in Avery and Mulciber’s eyes disappeared and were replaced by a very ugly and quite frankly terrifying looks that made Peter wish he’d kept his mouth shut.
“You will do as we say of you will regret it, Worm,” hissed Mulciber, his wand inches from Peter’s face. “You’ve heard what’s happening outside of Hogwarts, I presume.
“Disappearances...injuries...death...” Avery said silkily, playing with his wand made of black oak. Peter swallowed nervously. “You wouldn’t want that to come inside of the castle now, would you?”
“You wouldn’t dare...” Peter squeaked, his mouth very dry. He wanted to scurry away and hide in a corner with his tail curled tightly around him...what the hell was wrong with him? He was a Gryffindor! Not a rat! But still, the rat within him was terrified and it wasn’t helping the situation.
Avery chuckled cruelly. “You don’t know anything about what we would and wouldn’t dare. But you, Pettigrew...you don’t even dare to borrow something from one of your best friends. Or are they not your friends at all? Has your spot been taken by a little girl?”
Peter’s mouth went even drier. Yes...he felt left out sometimes...Remus and Maya were best friends and so were Sirius and James...but Maya wasn’t always there...it was still the Marauders and Maya...but still...
“Or are you just a coward?” Avery whispered in his ear.
Peter’s temper flared. “Neither,” he snarled, his eyes flashing. “I’ll steal the stupid wand but only for a day and I’m definitely not giving it to you!” Avery and Mulciber glared at him angrily but Peter lifted up his chin defiantly. “Those are my terms,” Peter whispered. “Take them or do what you want.” Mulciber grunted, looking vaguely bored, and Peter crumpled to the floor again as the spell caster lost interest in what he was doing.
“Maybe there’s some fire in you after all,” Avery mused. Peter stood grabbed his wand, straightened his robes with as much nonchalance as he could muster, and walked calmly to the Quidditch pitch. There, alone in the stands, he began to trembled. Dear God...what did I just promise...he thought. It’s okay...I’ll just not do it...the others don’t need to know that ever happened...
And that was how the secrets began.
The next several days were a nightmare for Peter. Every time he saw Mulciber or Avery they smiled nastily at him. He was terrified that they would corner him again and demand why he hadn’t done the deed. He was so jumpy that Sirius – of all people – asked him if he was okay.
“Nothing,” Peter lied. “I mean...I’m fine. Just stressed about school you know. We fell behind a bit last full moon...”
“And you’re not concentrating on potions,” Remus added, reading Peter’s first few lines over his shoulder. “Unicorn root and wormwood hair? Don’t you mean unicorn hair and wormwood root?”
Peter went pink as Sirius laughed that new barking laugh of his. Peter crossed out the first sentence with venom. Yes, he wasn’t doing well in potions – mainly because they took that class with the Slytherins and Avery and Mulciber hadn’t taken their eyes off him the entire class.
That Friday, the last Friday before the Christmas Holidays, Peter finally cracked. He woke up at first light and made up his mind. It was too stressful to live like this. What harm could borrowing Remus’ wand do? They didn’t even have practical classes that day – Herbology, potions, history of magic and care of magical creatures only. He could swipe it in the morning and pretend as if he has found it during dinner. Anything to get rid of the hateful stares of the two Slytherins who worshipped the Dark Lord.
Feeling very much like a rat scurrying through sewers, Peter crept silently through their dormitory room. Remus’ bed was across the room and the distance had never seemed so great. Peter stepped carefully, making no noise and stood right above the sleeping boy. Remus looked younger when he slept. The lines of worry that were always present smoothed away – but the scars were more apparent. His heart pounding, Peter picked up the wand from the bedside table and stole back to his own bed. Then, suddenly, he felt elated…he felt powerful. He’d stolen someone’s most prized possession and hadn’t been caught! He was solving his problems on his own – Avery and Mucliber couldn’t call him a coward now. The frantic beating of his heart slowed down and Peter smiled smugly to himself. There was nothing to fear after all.
On the way to breakfast, the Marauders passed Avery, Mulciber and their crew. But unlike the past few days where Peter had ducked his head, hunched his shoulders, and followed right at his friends heals, Peter slowed down and lifted his chin high. He discreetly opened his robes to show how two wands were nestled in the inner pocket; a movement so small and subtle that you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know to look for it. Even Mucliber missed it – it was Avery’s eyes that opened wide and he nudged his friend hard in the ribs as the fat little Gryffindor all but strutted to his own table.
“What was that about?” Asked Maya innocently as he sat down.
Peter almost fainted. All he managed was a grunt.
“You looked pleased with yourself,” said Maya. “That’s all.”
“Oh...” Peter’s relief was so poignant that he almost laughed. Inside him, the rat cleaned its whiskers happily. “I just decided it was time to start standing up to them. You know those two have had it out for me the last few days.”
“I did notice you were jumpy around them,” said James. “I kept waiting for you to say something about it.”
“Yeah, Peter,” said Remus, looking at him over the edge of a book, “You should have said something.”
The concern in his friend’s voices made him squirm a bit, but Peter quickly stifled the feeling. “I think that will be the end of it,” said Peter confidently.
Sirius chuckled. “Good for you, Wormtail,” he said, cuffing him around the shoulders playfully. Peter beamed.
And over at the Slytherin table, Avery and Mulciber whispered to each other, identical cruel smiles on their faces.
Severus was standing by the stairwell leading away from the dungeon where they had potions. He was engrossed in a thick, leather covered book with spiky letters for a title. He was so entranced by the secrets it was revealing to him that he didn’t even look up at the sound of footsteps. Severus had to grudgingly admit that it was a relief to no longer have to watch his back after the whole Whomping Willow incident – it meant he could read in peace wherever he pleased.
The footsteps stopped and a soft voice said, “Hello Sev.”
For the briefest moment, Severus thought it was Maya and looked up with his heart pounding, a rare smile about to break out over his face. Then his heart fell. The person before him was indeed a fourth year, but it was Regulus Black who had called him by the nickname Lily had chosen so many years ago.
“Oh,” said Severus, managing to make his disappointment sound like boredom, “Hello Regulus.”
Regulus glanced around before asking, “Crouch says you know where the meeting is going to be.”
Severus’ eyes widened just a fraction and he closed the book before stepping closer to Regulus. “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes,” said Regulus, sounding offended. “I finished the books you gave me.”
“Which?” Severus asked.
Regulus’ eyes glinted, “All of them.”
Severus looked impressed. “What did you think of...” He dropped his voice even lower, “Dark Artifacts and Their Effect?”
“It was fascinating,” Regulus whispered back. “Has...has the Dark Lord really read it?”
“That’s what they tell me,” Severus said, his voice barely audible.
Regulus felt his heart rate increase. The book had been terrifying and perversely fascinating...it made his skin crawl and the power within his blood move within him. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to banish those words from his memory or cherish them forever, but he craved more.
“The meeting will be tonight, midnight, in the Slytherin seventh year boy’s dormitory,” said Severus softly. His eyes glinted, “I’m glad you enjoy them.”
“It’s an...interesting feeling...belonging to a community that worships the old ways,” said Regulus.
“Interesting?” Severus prompted.
“What other word is there to describe the group that surrounds us?” Regulus replied.
Severus gave him a rare grin. “You sound like Malfoy.” Regulus puffed out his chest a bit. The older man had met a select few down in Hogsmeade last month. Regulus had been invited to attend because of his relation to Bellatrix. It had been quite an experience.
Any further conversation was then interrupted by Avery and Mulciber arriving.
“Snape,” said Avery with a friendly nod, “We’ve got a little surprise for you.”
“Surprise?” Severus repeated, raising any eyebrow.
“We remember how the Marauders got you into trouble last year,” Avery explained. “We wanted to show you that we’ve got your back. You can trust us. That’s what groups such as ours do.”
“We know that it was a year ago, but our vengeance is slow to come. You should enjoy this,” added Mulciber. Severus said nothing. His house-mates had noticed the two weeks of detention and Snape had told them a partial truth, a believable lie – that the Marauder’s had tricked him into walking the grounds at night and that he’d gotten into huge trouble for it. His friends had been indignant but since Snape had mainly just tried to avoid the whole situation – mostly out of fear that Dumbledore would be angry if it sounded as if Severus was breaking his promise of secrecy – and the whole thing had blown over.
Or so he’d thought…
“What…?” Severus began.
“Wait and see,” said Avery with a cruel smile. “Stay here, out of sight.”
Avery and Mulciber walked down a few more steps and hid on either side of the doorway at the bottom. There was a sound of soft footsteps and Remus Lupin came into view – he was always the third one done in Slughorn’s potions class, right after Severus and Lily. But usually he stayed behind to help his friends or read in the classroom. Severus frowned slightly; Remus looked worried. He was rummaging his pockets again and again as if searching for something and seemed rather anxious to run up the stairs.
Avery whipped out his wand just as Remus entered the doorway and the surprised boy went flying into the wall, crumpling to the floor beside Mulciber. Mulciber tore off Remus’ book bag and then kicked him in the ribs. Remus doubled over but his cry – either of pain or for help – was cut short by Avery shouting, “Silencio!”
Mulciber pointed his wand and grinned horribly, “Levicorpus!” Remus was flipped upside-down by his ankle, his eyes wide with surprise.
Hidden around the bend of the stairs, Severus’ eyes widened and Regulus whispered to him, “That’s the spell you taught us last night, isn’t it?”
“Yes…” Severus said. He wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or angry. That was his spell, what on earth were Avery and Mulciber doing using it?
Avery jerked his wand, saying something low and dark that neither Regulus nor Severus could hear. But Remus writhed in silent pain and Severus had an awful feeling that Avery’s father had been teaching his son the unforgivable curses…
“Stop!” a squeaky voice shouted, and fat little Peter Pettigrew came running. He looked horrified. “Stop!” Peter tried to go for his wand, fumbled with something into his pocket, and then gasped as Avery flung him forward with magic. Peter went crashing into the wall and a wand went flying through the air. Severus instinctively stepped out and caught it.
Mulciber laughed as Peter got tangled in his own robes trying to stand, and both Slytherins ended their spells. Remus fell to the ground, gasping in pain, and looked around frantically.
Remus’ eyes met Severus’ – two hazel eyes glazed with pain, outlined by the faint scar across his face. Severus didn’t know what to think, what to do. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted this type of “present” from Avery and Mulciber. And, still hidden behind the bend in the stairs, Regulus wondered the same thing.
Remus’ eyes latched onto the wand in Severus’ hands and his eyes widened.
“Severus!” Remus said desperately, he stretched out his hand, “Give me my wand!”
His wand? Severus thought, bewildered.
What the hell? Thought Regulus.
Severus didn’t have time to think much about anything before Avery once again made Remus fly through the air and sent him crashing into Peter. Then there was a roar of anger and Avery found himself tackled to the ground; Sirius had jumped onto him from behind. Mulciber spun around with just enough time to counter James’ jinx and the two began to duel while Sirus and Avery wrestled on the ground. There was the sound of footsteps flying down the stairs behind them, and Regulus instinctively flung out his arm to stop Maya.
Severus threw Remus’ wand down the stairs – it landed right in front of his open hand where it was snatched up even before Remus managed to untangle himself from Peter. Then, Severus grabbed both Maya and Regulus and dragged them into a broom cupboard just off the stairs just as Professor McGonogall came dashing down the stairs in response to the shouts of other students and Professor Slughorn came out of his classroom.
Maya turned burning eyes on Regulus and Severus. “You…!” She was so angry that she couldn’t get any words out.
“I just saved you from unnecessary detention,” Severus snapped at her, still confused about what he’d just seen, “The teachers will stop them.”
Maya considered this for a moment, then asked, “Why do you care if I get detention?”
Severus looked at her steadily for a moment, his face carefully blank. “No idea,” he told her, and then he snuck out of the closet and back up the stairs, his book safely under his arm, without the professors even noticing that he was there.
Regulus and Maya looked at each other. Not a word was spoken as they listened to the Professors giving Avery and Mulciber detention, and the entire group – plus the rest of the class – went up the stairs.
Maya, frowning, turned to follow.
“Happy Holidays, Maya,” Regulus blurted out a bit desperately. Maya and Regulus only spoke during Slug Club now; but Regulus still loved her smile, still loved the sound of her laugh and her lilting voice…but he could feel Maya slipping away from him…or maybe he was slipping from her as he took step after step after the older boys in Slytherin House..
Maya looked at him strangely for a moment, then gave him a small smile that didn’t reach her eyes; “Happy Holidays, Reg.”
“Truce over,” Sirius growled, glaring at the Slytherin table that night at dinner.
“How’d they get your wand?” Maya asked Remus yet again.
don’t know…” said Remus. “But it was Snape who had it…”
“We’re getting him back for that,” James vowed, his eyes flashing with anger. “They used the cruciatus curse on you…we can’t forgive that…”
And Peter ate silently…his heart filled with shame…