My perfect cousin
What I like to do he doesn’t
He’s his family’s pride and joy,
His mother’s little golden boy
James swooped overhead, his red robes billowing, his broom straight as an arrow – like a quidditch poster. It gave Peter the usual jolt of excitement, combined with a sickly twist of envy. It was seventh year, if he wasn’t on the team by now, then he probably never would be. He’d tried almost every year – except the year Sirius went for beater, it was best to stay well out of that, he could do without the teasing.
He shivered inside his cloak. Only two days ‘til the Christmas holidays. Part of him couldn’t wait - no lessons for two whole weeks. Presents. Turkey. Mrs Potter’s mince pies. But then, he wasn’t even sure if they were going home yet; the full moon fell on Christmas night, and for some reason no one wanted to discuss it.
Remus never talked about full moons, ever, which seemed strange to Peter, but Remus was always strange. James was usually the most practical one, but lately all his time was taken up with Lily, so he wasn’t going to tell them what to do. Sirius was Sirius, and you could never talk to him about anything to do with Moony, unless you wanted your head bitten off. Maybe that was just Peter’s problem, though; he was always saying the wrong thing.
James had possession of the quaffle now, blew his whistle and tossed it to another chaser; Emelia Eriksson. She caught it, and aimed for the goal posts, but missed. Peter clicked his tongue, agitated. She was always missing. Last game, she’d dropped the bloody thing - saved by James, who had swooped beneath her and caught it deftly before Ravenclaw could take possession. If Peter had his way, she’d be off the team.
James was convinced Emilia would improve, and wouldn’t listen to Peter’s advice. Which was fair enough. Not as if Peter could do any better himself.
The problem was, the only position Peter had ever been any good in was keeper. He’d played that role almost exclusively throughout their childhood, when it had just been him and James every afternoon. He missed those days bitterly; having James all to himself. Peter had worshipped James ever since he could remember. But the time you put in doesn’t count for much – he knew that. Like the keeper position. Peter had been good, but not good enough. James had been very kind about it, but James was always kind.
Not good enough. A common criticism, and, again; fair, Peter supposed. He’d heard it from his mother from an early age – and his father, (who had left shortly after Peter was six, and had only occasionally made guest appearances in his son’s life since.) He was either not quiet enough, or too quiet; too slow or too clumsy. Didn’t do enough reading. Didn’t get enough practice. Peter’s greatest shame was that he had shown no signs of magic at all until he was almost eleven, while James (‘the Potters’ boy’, as he was known in the Pettigrew household) had been able to levitate various household items from the age of two.
At Hogwarts things had been much the same – Peter rarely shone in his lessons, except for Astronomy, which he had a good memory for. Still, there was less pressure at school than at home; when your best friends were the three most gifted wizards in the year then no one really noticed if you weren’t keeping up. If you were a pureblood, then even better - especially these days. Still. Peter knew that if anyone bothered to look closely, they would be able to tell. He was not quite good enough .
Dezzie had seen it.
Peter bit the inside in his cheek to distract himself. He did this often, especially when Desdemona Lewis entered his mind. She had been a complete anomaly in his life; the exception which proved the rule. Uncommonly pretty, clever (a bloody Ravenclaw!), kind, funny. And interested in him; boring, sub-par, chubby little Peter Pettigrew. He missed her every day. He thought maybe he had been in love with her. But it was impossible, in the end. Even if she hadn’t dumped him, she was a half-blood. Mother wouldn’t have it.
He felt her absence, though. He’d never had a name for the feeling before, but now he knew it was loneliness. It had been there for a long time, maybe always. Peter remembered the first twinges when Philomena went away to school, and then when she left for good. He remembered feeling it the moment James and Sirius shook hands for the first time.
It had mattered less, when Dezzie was around. Peter often wondered if those had been his glory years - who would have thought he’d be the first of the marauders to get a girlfriend? The first to get a snog, the first caught groping in a cupboard. Even McGonagall had been shocked, when she gave them their first detention for ‘indiscreet behaviour in the halls’.
There had been the chess club, of course. Black in second year he had begged James to join with him, but of course James was far too cool for that sort of thing, and Sirius - who was actually annoyingly good at chess - had laughed in Peter’s face at the mere thought of marauders doing anything as goody-goody as chess clubs. (No one made fun of Moony’s study group, though, how was that fair?!) Anyway, Dezzie had convinced him in fourth year that he should just join if he liked chess so much. So he had.
It turned out that Peter might be the least cool marauder, but he was the coolest kid in the Hogwarts chess club. They were ok - not James and Sirius’s kind of people, mostly purebloods, and a lot of them Slytherin’s, too. Snape even showed up occasionally, and (though Peter would never dare mention it to James) they managed to put their differences aside most of the time and have a few pretty good games. Well, until that disaster in fifth year - and that hadn’t even been Peter’s fault, blame Sirius if you wanted to blame someone. Blame Moony .
James blew his whistle and the players still in the air began to descend. Peter got up too, and started making his way down the wooden steps to the ground. He might get in a few minutes to talk tactics with James before Lily showed up. He grumbled to himself as he reached the bottom steps. Bloody Lily, she was worse than Sirius. James had all but disappeared, since they’d started going out.
What would it be like once they finished school? Peter would have to go back and live with his mum, and she was expecting him to join the ministry; his step dad might be able to get him an entry level job in admin or something like that. He didn’t think he’d be too bad at clerical work. Some of his friends in the chess club mentioned they might be able to help him out, too. A lot of them had some really good connections. Said that someone as good at tactics as he was ought to have no problem fitting in.
Ah, here came Lily now. Mary too. Peter sighed, hanging back. They hadn’t seen him. He considered transforming, and just making an easy escape. He could go and find Dorcas. She was a bit annoying, but at least she let him feel her up sometimes.
Or he could go and look for Remus, who was sure to be in the library - he still had to make a start on his Charms essay and had forgotten to take any notes. Good old Moony was generally quite obliging, if you bribed him with enough chocolate.
Lily waved at him from near the changing rooms. He raised a hand and waved back. He buried his hands in his pockets, plastered on a jovial smile and headed towards her. Quick chat, say bye to James, then find something else to do. Maybe someone fancied a game of chess.