James Potter knows, without a doubt (most days), that he is special. He is special in who he is, special in what he does, and special in the company that he keeps. He is best friend to Sirius Black, prankster extraordinaire, and rebellious son who threw off the shackles of the Dark to stand firmly with the Light. He is best friend to Remus Lupin, top student in their class. He will be husband to Lily Evans, the smartest (by everyone's estimation) and prettiest (by his) witch that Hogwarts has seen in generations.
He is Head Boy and Heir to the House Potter. He is a Transfiguration prodigy, studying under two masters of the craft. He has mastered the Animagus transformation without help from anyone except for his peers.
James Potter knows all this, and wears his pride openly. He knows he toes the line of arrogance, but it is how he was raised. And he knows he can trust his friends to keep his head from getting too big.
The Dark Lord knows this too, and he is a target as soon as he is old enough to understand his father's careful explanations, and his mother's soft warnings. Those who would be Death Eaters try to play Iago to his Othello. She will betray you, they say. Your Mudblood girlfriend makes you unclean. Toss her aside, and join us. We will purify you, they say.
No, he says. No.
They return as full Death Eaters, proud in their servitude. You could be great, they say, greater than any, save our Lord. You, who have the talent and the lineage, could surpass even Dumbledore. Join us, and we will open doors for you.
No, he says again. Never.
Don't you want this war to end? they ask. Don't you want your friends to stop dying? Cast aside your tainted wife and join us, and they'll live. Don't you want to save them all, James?
YES, cries James, yes. But not like that. Never like that.
CRUCIO. It lasts slightly longer than forever, and James does not see them leave, though he has vague memories of them warning him of their return.
James doesn’t mind, so much, after he has been found and settled in a soft bed, and his wife is fussing around him.
James Potter knows that he is special in who he is, what he does, and the company that he keeps.
Sirius Black has convinced the world that he is special. Some days, he even believes it himself. Most days, though, when he has a hard time believing that he is special, he thanks his lucky stars for the company that he keeps. He is best friend to James Potter, Heir to the House Potter, Head Boy and Transfiguration prodigy, and to Remus Lupin, the top student in their class. He is friend to Peter Pettigrew, partner in pranking, Arithmancy genius and fellow masterer of the Animagus transformation.
He knows that without his friends, he would be much less than he is. He is not his cousin Andromeda, who has the courage to defy their family for love. (He doesn't see his own defection in terms other than "running away.") He is not his brother Regulus, the perfect son. (He doesn't see that Charlus Potter gladly considers him one.) He isn't Narcissa or Bellatrix, who espouse their ideals at every opportunity. (He doesn't see Albus Dumbledore's proud look every time he stands up for a Muggleborn.)
Sirius Black knows all this, but hides it behind bluster and bravado. He worries, sometimes, that the world will see through his facade.
The Dark Lord seems to. Death Eaters are Mercutio to his Tybalt, forever trying to goad him into an unwise fight. Traitor, they say. Blood Traitor, disgrace to your family name. Don't you want to redeem yourself, traitor?
No, he says. I am no traitor.
Disgrace to the Black family, they say. Dear Walburga and Orion can't understand what they did wrong. At least they have dear, sweet Regulus. He is a good son, a proper Black.
No, he says again, but he doesn't know what he is denying.
You could save them all, they whisper. The Mudbloods, the blood traitors. Your friends. Just tell us where they are. You could be a real hero, Sirius, they taunt. A real hero who saved them all, not just some pretender. Don't you want to be a hero?
YES, cries Sirius. Yes, but that wouldn't make me one.
CRUCIO. It lasts slightly longer than forever, and Sirius does not see them leave, though he has vague memories of them warning him of their return.
Sirius doesn’t mind, so much, after he has been found and settled in a soft bed, and James and Lily are fussing around him.
Sirius Black isn't sure if he is anything special, but he is sure in the company he keeps.
Remus Lupin knows that he is special, but not in the way he would wish. By his estimation, it is his friends who are special, that they want to keep his company. He is befriended by James Potter, Head Boy and Transfiguration prodigy, and by Peter Pettigrew, fellow prankster and Arithmancy genius. He is befriended by Sirius Black, rebellious son who threw off the shackles of the Dark to stand firmly with the Light.
Although he is top of their class, he knows that it is not because of anything that makes him special, but by virtue of long nights and hard work. He is not Lily, for whom everything seems to come easily, despite having never seen magic until she entered Hogwarts. He is not Sirius, who seems to be able to shrug off the darkness of his family without so much as a backward glance.
Remus Lupin knows all this, and wishes he could be more accepting of himself. This worries him, because he knows how strong the call of the wolf can be and he feels like King Lear, wandering the forest in madness. He only hopes he never awakens one day, standing above a massacred body.
The Dark Lord seeks out the darkness within. The Death Eaters come, Regan and Goneril, whispering sweet nothings in his ear. We will value you for who you really are, they say. We embrace the darkness. Won't you join us?
No, he says. No.
Your friends don't care about you, they say. They don't trust you. They're just using you, and will cast you aside at the first opportunity. They're scared of the wolf, Remus. They'll never trust you fully. You have darkness inside, they say, and that scares them.
No, says Remus again. No, that's not true. But he wonders if it is.
Join us, they say. We understand the darkness. We embrace the darkness. Don't you want to be valued for all of who you are? Don't you want to protect your friends from the darkness inside of you?
YES, cries Remus. Yes. But not like that.
No, he says again. I will never turn against them.
CRUCIO. It lasts slightly longer than forever, and Remus does not see them leave, though he has vague memories of them warning him of their return.
Remus doesn’t mind, so much, after he has been found and settled in a soft bed, and James and Lily are fussing around him, and Sirius is swearing a blue streak.
Remus Lupin is special in all the wrong ways, but his friends? They are extraordinary.
Peter Pettigrew does not think himself particularly special, except in the company he keeps. He is friend to James Potter, Head Boy and Transfiguration prodigy, and to Remus Lupin, the top student in their class. He is friend to Sirius Black, prankster extraordinaire, and rebellious son who threw off the shackles of the Dark to stand firmly with the Light.
Although he ranks seventh in their class, his friends are one, four and five (and now, with the addition of Lily, number two has been added as well), and so his top-ten placement pales in comparison. He became an Animagus, which most people would consider special, but as he was the last of the three to achieve the transformation, some of the shine was taken away. Besides, it's not like he can tell anyone about it, anyway. So he plods along in his classes, capers at the full moon (and at least twice weekly in between), and basks in the reflected glow of pranks successfully pulled.
He is not James or Sirius or Remus. He is not Lily Evans, brilliant Muggleborn overcoming the deficiencies that her unfortunate upbringing saddled her with and rising to the top. He is not Frank Longbottom, steady heir to an Ancient and Noble house, strong and brave. He is not even Snivellus, who, despite being a greasy git, is making a bid to become the youngest Potions Master in a century.
Peter Pettigrew knows all this, and wishes to be greater in himself. Where James and Sirius are suns, glowing brightly and without effort, he is the moon, only a pale mockery of their brilliance. He doesn't see his own cool radiance.
Others do. The Dark Lord seeks out ambition. Like Macbeth's Lady, they whisper in his ear and stoke the fire that burns. Are you a Gryffindor or not? they ask. Gather up your courage, and we'll not fail. This is your chance to shine, they say, to burn brightly.
No, he says. No.
You are nothing, they say, nothing right now. They don't need you. Your friends will move on, forget you. Dumbledore and his vaunted Order of the Phoenix don't need a quivering little rat like you, Peter. They don't value you, the dark whispers say. They won't listen to you.
These are things he has said to himself many times, and so he has no trouble believing them.
But still, he says no. No, my friends value me. I am needed. He wonders if they believe him any more than he believes himself.
Join us, help us, they say. You would be valued. You would be needed. Such a little thing, they say, such an inconsequential little thing. A name. A place. A date. You needn't do anything against them, they say.
No, he says again, but with less conviction.
They are patient. They court him, stoking the fire of ambition, sowing the seeds of discontent.
Just think, they say, all of this could be over sooner. All the fear, the dying. We know you don't agree with Dumbledore's way, that his way will see all of your friends in an early grave. You could protect them, you would be the one to save them all. You would be a hero. Don't you want to be a hero, Peter?
YES, he cries. Yes. But not like this.
The dark velvet whispers turn to black ice. CRUCIO. It lasts slightly longer than forever, and Peter does not see them leave, although he has vague memories of them warning of their return.
And return they do, and take him before their master. In the presence of the Dark Lord, Peter knows he is less than nothing.
Is one little boy's life worth more than the lives of all your friends? he asks. Tell me this one little secret, Peter. Tell me where they are. I want the boys, nothing else. James and Lily and Sirius and Remus and Gideon and Alice and Frank and Fabian will all be spared. They can have another child. Tell me where the boys are, and the Great Good will be served.
Yes, Peter sobs. Yes, I will tell you.
Peter Pettigrew knows that he is nothing special, but the company he keeps is extraordinary.