Chapter 1 - The Breaking
It was just getting dark as Remus slipped up the deserted side road to the high-rise apartment block that stood at the end. It was a ratty, run-down sort of place, but that made it all the less conspicuous, and therefore all the more useful. Nobody would dream that any wizard or witch was using it as a hideout.
The security on the building was all but nonexistent. Remus shook his head wearily as he made his way up to the fifth floor without encountering anyone. At least Peter would have some wards around his own flat; he was in the Order, he knew the dire necessity of keeping himself safe.
Or so Remus thought until he rounded the corner and saw the door standing slightly ajar. The thin slice of hallway in view behind it was dark and silent.
His first instinct, guided by gut instinct and panic, was to rush in - luckily he checked himself before he got to the door. If there really was trouble, he’d be running right into the middle of it. With a deep breath, he glanced up and down the corridor, drew his wand, and approached the door slowly and silently.
He gave it a light push; it swung open with only a slight creak, and he slipped into the flat’s hallway. No spark of light or movement was noticeable anywhere. Feeling more uneasy by the moment, he nudged the door almost closed again and murmured, “Lumos.”
Cautiously, checking every moment for people hiding in the shadows, he searched the little flat. It seemed completely normal; nothing was out of place, nothing was missing, but still he was uneasy. If nothing else, it should have been occupied.
“Pete?” he began finally, standing in the living room and still looking around, almost willing something to explain what’d happened. “Peter, it’s me - it’s Remus. If you’re in here, just... come out, will you? You’re scaring the hell out of me.”
There was no reply - but the next moment, he heard hasty footsteps coming down the corridor outside. They paused for a moment, and then the front door was flung open with a thud.
Remus swung to confront the intruder, wand at the ready, and found himself face to face with Sirius, who was dishevelled, clearly worried, and pointing a wand right back at him.
“What are you doing here?” they snarled at the same moment.
“I asked you first,” Sirius added, lip curling; clearly the memory of their last bitter meeting was vivid in his mind.
Remus set his jaw. Given the heated exchange they’d had he wasn’t disposed to be helpful now... but one of their own was missing, and that was more important. “I came to see Peter,” he said evenly. “I haven’t seen him since the last Order meeting and I wanted to make sure he was all right.”
“Where is he, then?” Sirius’s glance darted around the room.
“What do you mean, not here?”
“I mean he’s not here! I’ve searched the entire place from top to bottom and there’s no sign of him! No sign of a struggle, either. He’s just... gone.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense,” Sirius said, mostly to himself; he was thinking something over. “He knew I was coming... unless...” The little colour left drained from his face. Whatever realisation he’d just come to was evidently horrifying. “I have to go.”
“Where?” Remus demanded, determined not to be left behind or excluded, not when his friend’s safety might be at stake.
Sirius hesitated, weighing him up, then swore under his breath. “Godric’s Hollow.”
“...Why?” This was just getting bewildering. “Lily and James are fine, it’s Peter we need to worry about.”
“They’re not fine. I don’t have time for this, Remus.” Sirius turned towards the door, but Remus moved faster and blocked it.
“Make time,” he hissed. “Why aren’t they fine? They’re under the Charm, you’re keeping them safe. What’s going on?”
There was no mistaking the flicker of guilt in Sirius’s eyes, and Remus felt a stab of terror. “What have you done?” he breathed. “Sirius, what have you done?”
“Nothing.” Sirius’s voice shook slightly. “Nothing, I swear. That’s... sort of the problem.”
“Then tell me what the fuck is going on!” Remus’s frustration and temper and worry boiled over. “Peter’s missing, you’re saying Lily and James aren’t safe - quit the bullshit for once and tell me what’s happening! You’re the Secret-Keeper!”
“No, I’m not!”
A ringing silence fell. Remus felt sick to his stomach.
“...How are you not?” he managed. “The Charm was cast, we got the message, they’re protected. We knew it was going to be you.”
“We swapped at the last minute,” Sirius admitted weakly. “I mean, I persuaded James to change me for someone else. If everyone knew it was going to be me then they wouldn’t even think about finding out who it really was.”
“And who is it really?” Remus said slowly, as a horrible premonition dawned.
Sirius gestured around at the room helplessly as if to indicate its owner.
“You idiot,” Remus breathed. “You trusted their safety to the one person we all know panics and snaps under pressure.”
“I thought he'd be safe!” Sirius protested. “I thought if they’d come after anyone it’d be me!”
“Well clearly not, because he’s missing!” Remus ran a hand through his hair and turned away, nearly shaking with the crashing realisation. “If they’ve already got him...”
“That’s why I need to go to Godric’s Hollow. Even if he was snatched, if he hasn’t cracked yet... I want to be on hand just in case, until we can find him.”
“Well, come on then. More the merrier, right?” Remus took a few steps towards the door, but Sirius’s eyes narrowed.
“What makes you think I’ll trust you there?”
“I’m trusting you, aren’t I?” Remus retorted. “Frankly, their safety means more to me than our issues with each other. If you can’t get over that then you need to sort out your priorities.”
Sirius’s scowl deepened for a moment, and then he strode towards the door. “Fine. Come on.”
They hurried out of the building together, but as Remus turned up towards a nearby alley he realised Sirius was heading the other way. “Where are you going?”
“To get my bike.” Sirius gestured to the motorcycle parked close by. “We can fly there.”
“Do you really think we have time for that?”
“If you’d ever deigned to ride it recently you’d know it’s fast enough to -”
“Fuck the motorbike!” Remus stormed over to him, grabbing his arm. “We’re Apparating - you can come back for it later!”
“Don’t tell me what to do!” Sirius yanked himself free, furious, and straightened his jacket. “I just don’t want it getting nicked.” He tapped the bike with his wand, glared, and disappeared with a pop.
Remus followed, and a moment later they were both sprinting up the road into Godric’s Hollow, all animosity thrown aside in the urgency of reaching the Potters’ house before Voldemort. There was no sign of him as they came into the last straggling glow of the streetlights, which was a relief, and they skidded on the wet leaves strewn across the pavement as they turned down the street.
They didn’t bother with the front door of the cottage - too easy to be seen by anyone coming - and instead headed for the back door, trying not to injure themselves on anything that might have been left out in the garden. Remus pounded on the door, through which he could see the glow of the light in the kitchen, while Sirius kept watch just in case anything tried to sneak up from behind.
“Who’s that at this time of night?” James could be heard yelling, clearly startled at the sudden banging.
“I’ll get it, I’ll get it...” Lily pattered across the kitchen and unlocked the door, peering out and breaking into a smile. “Remus, what are you - hey!”
Remus had pushed the door open and come hurrying in; Sirius followed and slammed it behind them, catching Lily’s arm and hastily explaining the situation. Leaving them to it, Remus headed straight through to the lounge. “James? Where are you?” Spotting Harry trying to escape out the door, he paused to scoop up the huge-eyed toddler with an automatic smile. “Hey, no running off, young man.”
“What’s going on?” James came over, running a hand through his hair and looking like he’d just woken up.
“Trouble. Got your wand?”
James frowned, and went to pick it up off the sofa. “What’s wrong?”
“Sirius'll explain, he's with Lily in the kitchen. Oh - here." He pushed Harry into James's arms. "Don't let him out of your sight. Don't even let go of him if you can help it."
"What's happened?" James demanded, settling his son carefully, but all he got was a shove towards the kitchen. Remus shook his head, and listened for a moment to the hasty explanation Sirius was giving before he slipped up to the front door, peering through the little glass panel to keep a watch on the road. He heard the conversation getting more agitated behind him, and fought the urge to step in and try to calm it.
"Peter wouldn't do that -"
"You know as well as I do he panics easily. And if Voldemort's got him - he knows Pete's close to you two - he'll break him if he has to -"
"Don't say that!"
"I don't want to even think it, Lils, but it's your lives at stake -"
"What are we going to do?"
"Just sit tight, for the moment. Until we get proof otherwise, this is still the safest place to be. Just... be ready to run for it."
"...Still working on that."
"Your place," Remus called through, daring for a moment to take his eyes off the street.
"Take them to your place, Sirius, then warn Dumbledore and go straight to Hogwarts. I doubt Voldemort's desperate enough to try breaking in there yet."
"...Makes sense," Sirius admitted reluctantly. "Fine - you two grab what you really need and have it ready, just in case."
The next few minutes were filled with a frantic, quiet bustling. Lily and James flung on some clothes suitable for going outside in and stuffed a few essentials in a bag, while Harry squirmed in his godfather's arms and tried to talk babyish babble to him. An aura of fear had settled over the house; while they prepared for the worst, it might already be too late. Nobody knew where Peter was, if he was captured, if he was hurt, if he was already being tortured for information, if he'd already given way...
The thought of his quiet, shy friend in the hands of Voldemort made Remus want to scream. How many years had they spent trying to protect Peter, the one least able to cope with pressure, from the consequences of their actions? And once again it was Sirius, so sure he'd come up with a brilliant plan, who had put his friends in danger. He felt the urge to go and punch Sirius in the face. This time he'd put all of them at risk.
Luckily this train of thought was curtailed by the Potters coming back to the kitchen. Lily took her son, clinging to him tightly; it was clear anyone who wanted to take Harry would literally have to pry him out of her arms. James, already beginning to take the lead again, sent a silvery stag galloping out of the back door and into the night.
"What's that for?"
"No point calling Dumbledore when we're already running." James shrugged. "Better to let him know now that we might be in trouble."
Remus smiled slightly - he was all in favour of a plan that involved Dumbledore being around - and peered out of the front door's panes again.
Then he rubbed his eyes, not sure if the lighting was playing tricks on them.
Then his stomach plummeted.
In an instant the messy-haired young man was at the kichen door. "What?"
"Get them - get Harry - and go - just go!"
"What are you -"
"Voldemort is coming up the street," Remus hissed, torn between terror and rage and anguish. "Sirius, get them out!"
Sirius had a fierce grip on Lily's arm; both of them were white and terrified, and she was hugging Harry closer than ever. James, on the other hand, had avoided his best friend's grab, staring at Remus.
"What are you going to do?" he asked quietly.
"Try to stall him. Leave a trap or something, buy you a bit of extra time. I'll follow you as soon as I can."
"Just come with us -"
"Remus, no -"
"Moony, don't be an idiot!"
He rounded on Sirius, the last speaker, with a snarl. "If anyone's going to waste his time it may as well be the one who's least use for anything else!"
Sirius looked like he'd been punched. "I - I didn't mean that - I didn't want you to -"
"Bollocks. You know damn well you meant it. Now fix what you've done and get - them - OUT!" Remus shoved James back, hard, and Sirius grabbed his stumbling friend's arm and turned on the spot.
Lily's protests, James' yells, Harry's sudden wailing, all blended into the crash of the door being blown off its hinges.
Remus wheeled, the crack of his friends’ escape fading into the background as Lord Voldemort strode into the cottage, robes billowing, a cold, high laugh fading on his lips. The young werewolf backed into the kitchen, wand raised, and prayed for just a few extra moments to buy his friends time.
"Where are they?" The voice sent a shudder through him - it wasn't the first time he'd heard it, but it never failed to fill him with loathing. Remus gripped his wand more firmly as the Dark wizard stepped into the kitchen, looking thoroughly out of place in the warm little room.
"I said, where are they?" The bone-white wand, scarcely different in colour to its owner's skin, levelled at him.
"Out of your reach," Remus retorted defiantly, and deflected the curse flung at him into the wall.
"Where did they go?"
"I don't know!"
Spells flashed around the kitchen as they fought, shattering tiles and scorching the cupboards. The past few years of near-constant warfare had sharpened Remus's reflexes, and with the moon barely new he was as alert and capable as he could ever be, but he was barely holding his own, and he knew Voldemort wasn't going all-out yet.
"I said I don't know!" He flung himself aside, and the back door was blasted away. "I came to warn them and they ran, that's all!"
This seemed to give Voldemort pause, and he regarded Remus for a few long moments before laughing again. "Warn them? And what made you think they needed it?"
The mocking, knowing tone made Remus's knuckles turn white on his wand. "What have you done with Peter?"
"Your little friend told me everything," Voldemort smirked, openly enjoying the anguish on his opponent's face. "Indeed, he was most informative..."
"Where is he?" Remus's voice shook. Please, please, please...
"Once I had all he could give me? I disposed of him." The laughter rang out again, and Remus felt his world collapse around him.
He stared numbly at Voldemort, still laughing, and wanted to drop to his knees and scream.
But Lily and James were waiting for him, they didn't know, and who else was going to tell them?
His wand blurred - Voldemort's laughter stopped as he attempted to meet the attack - and half the kitchen exploded, filling the air with smoke and chips of rubble.
The moment's distraction was all he needed, and he was out the door and around the corner of the house before Voldemort knew he'd moved. One brief but staggering effort of will later, he was on the path outside Hogwarts, and there were panicked voices around him.
He was pulled gently to his feet by a pair of huge, powerful hands, and heard a familiar friendly voice over the rest of the panic.
"C'mon, let's get yeh all in here, quick now, get that gate locked..."
Still reeling from the enormity of what he'd just been through and the speed with which it had happened, it took Remus a moment to grasp that he'd arrived at almost the same moment as his friends. It wasn't helped by the presence of a very frightened and confused toddler; unable to express himself in any other meaningful way, Harry was wailing loudly.
As the shocked group made its way up towards the castle, Remus staggered heavily; his legs didn't seem to want to work properly. As he nearly fell, Sirius caught him round the waist and helped him along without a murmur. On his other side, James had his arm round Lily; both of them were shaking at the clear near-miss, and Lily was trying to soothe Harry, who was still crying.
"What happened?" James said finally, throwing an anxious glance back at the gates as Hagrid finished locking them and tramped up the hill behind them all, crossbow at the ready.
"I'll tell you when we're with Dumbledore." Remus didn't think he could stand to relive it yet.
It seemed like only moments, however, before they were sitting in the warm, well-lit office, one of the few places in the world they were quite sure Voldemort wouldn't even attempt to enter, and Dumbledore was surveying them all with a less than tranquil expression.
"Please explain to me what happened," he said, looking to Sirius first.
Quietly, Sirius began to explain how he'd suggested switching the Secret-Keepers, and that he'd gone to see Peter earlier, only to find Remus there, and they'd both realised something was up and had gone straight to look after the Potters. He glossed over a lot of the actual conversation, for which Remus was thankful; he knew James would be horrified to know two of his best friends had started suspecting each other of betraying him.
James and Lily didn't have much to add - they were still rather shaken by the entire event - and so at last the spotlight of Dumbledore's keen gaze landed on Remus.
"I don't have much to say to most of it," he said, after a moment's awkward silence. "Sirius has most of it covered. I happened to get to Peter's a few minutes earlier is all, so I searched the place."
"But you remained behind when everyone else escaped," Dumbledore said gently, and everyone else's attention sharpened. "Did you see Voldemort?"
Remus flinched slightly, but nodded. "He - he blasted the door down right as everyone Disapparated," he said shakily, "and he cornered me in the kitchen, demanded to know where everyone else was. We duelled." He shuddered at the memory of trying to hold Voldemort off alone. "I yelled at him, asked him what he'd done with - with Peter..." His voice cracked.
"What did he say?" There was a note of terror in James's voice.
"He said he'd - he'd -" The lump in his throat made it almost impossible to go on. "Peter broke. He's dead."
Horrified silence blanketed the room.
It was broken by choked sobbing. James had buried his head in his hands, and his shoulders were shaking. With a quiet little wail, Lily leaned over to hug him, and he clung to her and Harry, crying quietly into her shoulder as her tears soaked the little boy's hair.
Sirius was white with shock, silent tears streaming down his face. Even as Remus looked over to him, the angry, heartbroken words on his lips died. It was quite evident that the reckless young man was never going to forgive himself for what he'd caused, and nothing anyone could say could possibly punish him more than the way he'd punish himself.
It took them all several moments to realise that Dumbledore was speaking again. "...will get the Order out to search as soon as possible," he said, all trace of cheerfulness gone from his voice, to be replaced by grief and sympathy. "In the meantime, you should all remain here; there's nowhere else I feel comfortable having you stay at present. I'll have some rooms prepared for you."
None of them responded. He clearly took their silence for assent, because he swept out, leaving them alone, and the silence descended again, broken only by Harry's fretting. None of them could bring themselves to speak, because talking about what had just happened would only make it real.
Peter was dead.
When they were finally led off to their rooms, Remus noted with dull surprise that he was sharing a room with Sirius. Apparently Dumbledore didn't want any of them to be completely alone right now.
Remus took off his shoes and jacket and simply collapsed onto his bed, too drained to go to the effort of getting changed. Sirius, perched quietly on the end of his own bed, stared at his hands for a while. Finally he spoke, just as Remus was on the verge of drifting off to sleep.
"Mnh?" Remus lifted his head slightly, shaking himself awake.
"I said, I'm sorry. About everything I said about you, when we..."
"When we accused each other of being lowlife backstabbing scum?" Remus smiled humourlessly.
"...Yeah. I - look, I was wrong. I get it. I should've known you'd never do that."
Remus sat up, frowning. "What's changed your mind all of a sudden?"
Nervously, Sirius twisted at the hem of his sleeve. "If you really wanted Lily and James gone, you could have delayed things until Voldemort got in. Hell, you could've just let me take my bike like I wanted. I'd have got there too late, they'd never have known -" He gulped. "And you - you stayed behind and fought him. Could've got yourself killed... like - like Peter..."
"Stop it," Remus said urgently, pushing himself off the bed and coming to shake Sirius gently. "I know I yelled at you before, I said it was stupid, but it wasn't. It was a good plan, and it would've worked perfectly if the spy, whoever they are, hadn't found out. Understand? It's not you who screwed up, we have a spy to deal with. It's not your fault."
"But Pete's dead," Sirius whispered, and then he reached out and clung to Remus tightly, sobbing harder than he'd ever done before in his life. "He's d-dead because of me."
"He's dead because of Voldemort." Remus sat down and let his friend cry it out, all the guilt, the grief, the helplessness, and let his own tears fall silently.
It shouldn't have taken this to make them understand each other. The gaping wound in their friendship shouldn’t have needed to be healed by ripping another hole in their hearts instead.
Voldemort was going to pay.