Work Header

three seconds

Work Text:

Fast forward. The street is full of screams.

Three seconds ago, had someone asked you to testify against Sirius Black, you would have laughed at them. You would have laughed at them, you would have laughed in their face so hard your stomach hurt and you'd have had to clutch your sides. The street would have been full of the ringing peal of your laughter.

"Will you?" Icy hand down your spine, an icy hand that gripped. Hard.

Somewhere down the street, three streets over and four blocks up, you could hear screaming. "I."

Dumbledore correctly identified the source of your distress when he knocked on your door and called out, "It was Sirius that did it."

"Your evidence," and he hesitates. "It could prove useful."

"My evidence." You think about asking him why you've been out in the cold, in the dark, with nothing and no one but Sirius for ages; whether Sirius or yourself was really the target of everyone's suspicions. Your hands feel strange. "My."

The yelling, noise, is quieter. Three seconds ago you would have laughed, you would have called the person accusing Sirius a liar and you'd already be reaching for your wand. But this was Albus Dumbledore, and that was three seconds ago.

This is now.

"Would you like to see him before they," Dumbledore strokes his beard, "take him? I can perhaps--"


Three seconds ago you would have said "yes".


Pause. Rewind.

You never were a smart man.

The voices were ringing in your ears still; the "I'm going to miss you, James," and "When it's all over, we'll come out of hiding, my friend". They repeated over and over, chanting in your ears in the same tones you heard them. Secret keeper. Secret Keeper. Take Peter instead of me. Peter as Keeper.

You heard that maybe twenty four hours ago.

Twenty four hours was a long time; twenty four hours felt like a lifetime, waiting for your master to get in touch, waiting for the message that could destroy everything. You had to give this message in person, you couldn't simply write it down. Writing it down wasn't real enough. This was your proof, your shot at showing you had something. You were something.

You weren't crying.

Your master didn't like crying. Or horror. So you didn't feel either of those things as you watched the house explode. You didn't feel sad, or remorse, or regret, or tragedy. Those weren't tears running down your face.

What you did feel was fear.

Hagrid came, when there was no sign of your master coming back. He grabbed the baby, and there was no sign of any of the people you loved, not a breath left. The curse took the house out quickly, mere moments. A blink, a word, and it was all gone, all of it. Everyone was in that house.



"How could you?" You were speaking in a hiss, in an angry restrained hiss because you know that if you yell you were going to kill him. You were going to kill Peter just like he killed James.

Hand around his throat, he couldn't answer if he even had one. Which you knew he didn't. He couldn't. "How could you, Peter?" Deep breath. Control slipping. "They let you stay at their house. They let you, god help them they let you look after their child."

Voicebox squeaky, you didn't care. "I'm going to give you to the Dementors, swear on all that's holy," and you were whispering because this is one moment, one single moment, where quiet is more threatening.

The knowledge that you weren't ever going to see James again hit when you saw the wreckage of their house. Three seconds, that's all it took for the realization to sink in: James wasn't in hiding. James was dead. Dead. James was dead. You'd said goodbye not a week ago, thinking it best, and now that would be permanent.

A gurgle from Peter's throat. You said again, "You know what? I don't even care, I don't want to know." Breath, eyes locked on Peter's face. "You won't have a soul. You won't have anything. They let you stay at their house."

You could see the funerals; people were going to have to come from all over to pay their respects. People were going to come from all over because the Potters were that well loved. "I don't care, Peter," you said. "You have three seconds to tell me why and then I'm going to get every Auror in four burroughs here to cart you away. So give me a reason, tell me why. Because I can't, I don't understand you anymore. Maybe I never knew you."

Your hand slowly let go of his throat.

In three seconds, Peter did the only thing he ever chose to do in his life. He yelled, "Lily and James, Sirius, how could you!" and blew up the street.

You started to laugh, as the Muggle sirens went off and the screaming started. You laughed when the Aurors showed up; you laughed when Fudge asked you what you had to say for yourself. You stopped when he asked if you had anything to say at all.

You told him, "Well now we know what Peter Pettigrew is made of."



"All right," Dumbledore tells you. "Remus, the Ministry will want to ask you--"

"I mean," you interrupt, "No. I won't talk about, I mean." He waits. You say, "The Ministry of Magic can go fuck itself."

"Perhaps after we review the--"

"I'm done, I'm finished." You're really sure about this part.

"No joke?" A watery smile, and Dumbledore looks older, looks like he aged more in the last twenty four hours than he has in the last decade.

You're not laughing.