Chapter 8 : Lion's Promise
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They had reached the small house half an hour later and Ron helped Harry carry the still unconscious boy inside, while Draco and his son trailed behind them. They placed the boy on the only bed and Harry ran to the bathroom and came out seconds later holding a bottle of dittany. He knelt by the bed and looked at the others.
"Ron, someone should go bring some woods for the fireplace; it could get cold at night", he said and Ron nodded.
"Now, wait a minute", Draco interrupted. "What night? Patch up the boy and we'll get going!"
"We can't", Harry said shaking his head. "Even if I manage to stop the bleeding, I don't thik he would take the trip...at least not until tomorrow".
"So we'll spend the night here? It's a safety house for one person and we're five!"
"Look, you can leave if you want!" Ron snapped irritated.
"No", Scorpius said. "No, we'll stay and help".
"What?" Draco exclaimed looking at his son raising his eyebrows.
"Please father...they've helped us", the boy said and his father rolled his eyes and grunted.
"Fine!" he replied exasparated and Ron beamed at Scorpius. "Come on, then" he added elbowing the boy out.
"Where are we going?"
"You wanted to help, so move it, we'll go find woods", he said and the boy followed him outside.
Ron turned to Harry.
"How did he get to have a child like that, is beyond me", he said. "I'll go to the city to get food or you need me to help you with James?"
"No, it's okay", Harry nodded, carefully putting some dittany on the boy's bleeding wrist. "I don't think that two of us can do anything more than one of us...plus I'm sure that he could use some food when he wakes up".
If he wakes up...Ron thought, but then pushed that horrible idea out of his head, gave an encouraging nod to his best friend and left the house with one last look of concern to James. Harry didn't even notice; he was examining James' hand. The dittany had thankfully stopped the bleeding and the cuts seemed several days old. He sighed relieved and took his other hand.
Half an hour, one and a half bottle of dittany and several healing spells later, James was in a much better condition. Harry had mended his leg completely, his broken nose and the bruises under his eyes. However he was so weak by the loss of blood that his father didn't dare to use more spells on him in order to heal the bruises and the cuts on his torso. And he still hadn't waken up.
He was kind of feverish and Harry had placed a cloth on his forehead, which he soaked in cold water every now and then. Now he was cleaning the dirt and the dried blood off the boy's face with a napkin, trying his best not to aggravate the scratches and cuts on his face. As he replaced the cloth on his head, Harry took his son's sore and raw hand. It was still scarred and Harry rather thought that it will stay like this for some time.
It seemed unbelievable to Harry. He had seen a lot of horrible things in his line of work but never had he thought that one of his kids would get to be subjected to something like this; and it still hadn't completely hit him. Harry thought that he would find it rather hard to control himself when he really did understand exactly what they did to his son. He sighed and then squeezed the boy's hand.
"Jamie" , he said. "Jamie, wake up".
The boy moved and Harry caressed his clean from bruises and dirt now cheek with his other hand.
"Come on son, wake up", he said again and the boy blinked.
Harry felt his heart lose a beat as James' hazel eyes met his. The boy looked at him for a while and Harry wasn't sure if he realized who he was or what was happening. After some moments though he let out a scream and sat up quickly terrified.
"Jamie..." Harry started but as he placed his hand on his shoulder the boy flinched and shrugged it off and started fighting against him clearly unable to realize who Harry was or where he was. "James, stop..." he said trying to catch his hands, as the boy was trying to hit him and stand up at the same time.
"LET GO!" the boy yelled with a hoarse voice.
"James, it's me!" Harry yelled.
"LET GO OF ME!" he yelled again trying to free his hands from Harry's grasp and this time there was the hint of pleading in his voice.
Harry exhaled and against his better judgement he pulled his boy in his hug, rubbing his back as he fought to free himself.
"Please, let me go", the boy sobbed hitting his captor's chest with his fists but Harry only held him more tightly and after a while he started calming down.
When Harry felt it was safe, he let go of the boy and looked at him as he was finally catching up with reality.
"What...where...dad?" he said in his rasped voice looking around and then at his father with eyes widened from fright and surprise.
"It's okay...you're okay..." Harry said but the boy didn't calm.
Harry felt his chest clench as he noticed how fiercely the boy was trembling, while tears seemed to be forming at the corners of his eyes.
"The Death Eaters...what...how...?" he mumbled while he breathed fast looking around; his eyes were welling up.
Harry stood on his knees and placed his hands on the boy's shoulder and face.
"It's okay; you're not in that castle anymore. You're safe now", he said soothignly and James closed his eyes taking deep breaths.
"We're not in the castle anymore?" he asked when he opened his eyes.
"No", Harry replied shaking his head.
"Yes", Harry nodded and the boy let out a sob and hugged him again.
Harry was holding him tight as the boy cried in his hug. In spite the fact that the boy was shaking with sobs, Harry couldn't help but feeling relieved that he seemed okay and that he was finally safe. He almost couldn't believe that he had him there talking and moving and breathing. He was alive; battered, tortured, scarred but alive. After some minutes James calmed down and let go of him; his eyes red and his cheeks wet from the tears.
"Better now?" Harry smiled and the boy nodded.
"Water", he croaked and Harry got up, only to return in a few seconds with a goblet full of water.
James took it gingerly and tried to bring it to his lips, but his damaged hands were trembling too much, so Harry helped him drink it. After James had sipped the goblet dry, Harry tossed it aside and looked at the boy, waiting for him to say something again; but the boy wasn't looking at him.
"Dad..." he whispered shakily at last, with his eyes fixed on the floor. "I'm sorry".
Harry didn't understand why he said that at first but then he realized that they hadn't talked to each other since their big fight, that day that James had ran away. He shook his head; the last thing he wanted to hear from the boy right now was an apology.
"James, let's just..."
"No", James interrupted him. "No, let me tell you please. All...all I could think about was that I'm gonna die in there and that I'd never have the opportunity to...to apologize to you", he said still avoiding to look him in the eyes.
"James, you don't need to..." Harry started feeling that if someone should be apologizing it should be him.
It was his fault that James got caught and it was because he was his father that they had tortured him so badly; to Harry every bruise and every cut on the boy hurt ten times worse than if they were on his own body.
"No, I do", the boy said determinded; his voice shaking and new tears shining at the corners of his eyes. "I...I never meant to yell at you the way I did. I'm so sorry for what I said...and I'm sorry for going through your stuff and for running away...and I want you to know that I...I never wanted...I don't know why I said it...it's not true...I don't...I don't hate you dad, I never did...and I'm so sorry for saying this to you...I'm sorry..."
Harry sighed and took the boy's face in his hands, raising it up, so that he would finally look at him in the eyes.
"Jamie, it's okay, really", he said but the boy shook his head.
"It's not okay", he said. "I don't know why I am such a jerk; I only..."
"You're not", Harry said. "You just wanted something so much that you couldn't think of anything else".
"I wish I could take it back", the boy said, tears running down his already wet face and on Harry's hands. "I wish you could...you could forget it...you could forgive me..."
"I have forgotten it and I sure as hell have forgiven you", Harry said and the boy managed to give him a watery smile.
"Really", Harry nodded. "How couldn't I?"
"I thought that you'd be too angry with me and that you wouldn't want to come and save me from the Death Eaters".
"What?" Harry said in disbelief. "Jamie, how could you possibly think that? I would never leave you to them. No matter what we say to each other, you're still my son, you'll always be my son; either you like it or not", he finished with a smile.
"I'm sorry...for everything", the boy said again.
"I'm sorry too", Harry said taking his hands into his. "I'm sorry you went through all of that because of me...I won't let them touch you ever again, I promise".
"And I promise never to yell at you again", James said and Harry supressed his urge to sneer.
"Don't give promises, you can't keep", he said. "You're a teenager, if you don't yell at your parents, who are you gonna yell at?"
"Let's just promise never to hurt each other...not deliberately at least", Harry said and the boy nodded.
"I promise", he said and his father smiled broadly.
"Lion's promise?" he said and James laughed; his smile in total contradiction with his watering eyes.
Harry smiled at him as he pushed the hair back from his face and wiped the tears from his cheeks, just as some new ones fell on his hands.
"Lion's promise", he whispered back and Harry felt his chest filling with affection for his son.
They stayed like this for a few seconds but then the boy gasped and Harry took his hand off of his face in fear that he would lose it again and start fighting against him like he was a Death Eater.
"Dad, they had Scorpius too...you know, Malfoy's son? We have to..."
"He's okay", Harry stopped him hastily, feeling relieved. "His father was with me...they've gone to bring some woods for the fireplace and Ron is in the city for some food".
The boy fell silent for a few moments taking in all the information; his headache wasn't helping.
"Which city?" he asked finally.
"Salzburg...it's in Austria".
"When are we going home?" James asked.
"Tomorrow morning. I figured that it would be best for you to rest tonight", his father said.
"No, dad, I want to go home, can't we go home now?" James demanded; he sounded childish but he didn't care, he didn't want to spend another moment so close to that castle.
"Jamie, you've lost too much blood...you're too weak to take a trip like this", Harry said but the boy shook his head.
"No, I'm okay, look..." he argued and before his father could stop him, he stood up.
The next moment the world was spinning around him, he couldn't control his legs and if his father hadn't grabbed him, he would have ended up on the floor. Harry helped him back on the bed and looked at him with exasperation, as the boy groaned closing his eyes.
"Why can't you just listen to me for once?" Harry asked and James shrugged, while rubbing his temple.
"I'm stubborn?" he suggested and his father laughed.
"You don't say", he said ironically. "We'll go home tomorrow...until then you need to rest", he said strictly and the boy sighed.
"Fine", he nodded defeated.
Then his eyes fell on his hands and he stared at the deep scars on them.
"They'll go away after a while", Harry said in a low voice as the boy felt the scars on his right hand with his left.
James just nodded silently; his eyes seemed unfocused and his father realized that he was replaying in his mind eye how the scars had happened to him. Harry bit his lower lip, got up from the floor and sat next to him, placing his arm around his son's shoulders and pulling him into an embrace, feeling relieved that the boy didn't resist it.
"It'll be okay", he whispered stroking the boy's hair soothingly and James looked up at him.
"I know", he said quietly.
"I'm proud of you, Jamie", Harry said and the boy's eyes widened.
"Yes, you are the bravest fifteen year old I've ever met", he smiled but the boy shook his head in disagreement.
"I'm not brave", he said. "I was...I was scared and terrified in there and..."
"Jamie, fear doesn't make you a coward, it makes you human", Harry said. "True courage is not the absence of fear; it's the willingness to proceed in spite of it, to stand tall and I know you did", he said.
"You're never afraid of anything", James argued and Harry couldn't help but laugh a bit at that.
"That's what you think?" he asked then and when James nodded he only shook his head, his face becoming serious. "Jamie...while they had you, this whole week...I was terrified; terrified that I wouldn't find you alive, that I wouldn't get to you on time. And today...when I found you, for a moment I thought I got there too late and trust me that moment I was more scared than you can possibly imagine".
"You almost did get there too late", the boy muttered and Harry felt his heart drop, making him hold the boy more tightly to his chest.
"I'm so sorry", he said and James' eyes widened.
"No...that wasn't what I meant", he said terrified that he had been misunderstood.
"That doesn't change the fact that I'm sorry".
"For what? Saving my life?"
"For everything you went through", Harry clarified, placing his palm on the side of the boy's face.
And at that moment he realized just how close he had come into losing it all. His son's life, his family's peacefull life, his world. He knew that if it had taken him a quarter more to get to James it would have been too late, he would have bled to death and the thought of it just was insufferable. During the time when Voldemort was at large, Harry had lost many pieces of his heart that he held dear; his parents, Sirius, Dumbledore, Fred, Remus and Tonks and the list just went on. He just didn't think he had enough pieces left to give any of them away, without completely going mad himself.
"Dad..." James said getting out of his hug to fully look at him. "Dad, I'm fine. Well...maybe I'm not exactly fine right now, but I will be, I promise".
Harry smiled at him and nodded. Yes, he would be fine, that much Harry knew. It sure would take him time to get over this, but eventually he would.
"I know", Harry said. "You're a strong kid; you'll be great, not just fine".
James smiled at his father and allowen him to hug him agan.
"I love you, dad", he said then.
"I know", the man smiled back, kissing the top of his son's head. "I love you too".
Scorpius was watching them through the window from outside. It was cold outside but he didn't want to get in and ruin their reunion. He turned and looked at his father, who was carrying a bunch of wooden sticks and sighed; one and a half hour in the forest and they hadn't say a meaningful word to each other. Then he looked back at the two Potters and his mind drifted back to something James had said when they were locked in the cell: how people have that weird tendency to want what they can't and won't have...
I know it's short but that's all I've got so far...I'll try to post more soo though...
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