It was a short while later when Albus left her flat after many apologies. She had finished getting ready for her dinner with James, and by then it was time for her to head over to his flat. She apparated outside his front door where she knocked gently. She heard his muffled voice calling her inside, and she let himself into his flat. She weaved her way through the homey place. She had always liked James' flat more than her own, and she didn't quite know why.
It had a feeling to it that she never felt at hers. Sure, she liked hers. It was her home now after all, but she had always preferred James'. His was bigger, and he had decorated the place surprisingly well for a twenty-year-old man who otherwise didn't give a damn. Although, she was proud to say she had selected maybe half of the pictures that hung on the walls, and she had helped choose the color scheme. James' flat had been practically her home as well while they had been dating. She slept over at his place all the time while her flat had collected dust. At one point, shortly before they quickly went downhill, they had even had a conversation about Norah selling her place and moving in with James.
It was good to be back in his flat. It felt like she was home again.
She followed the sound of his voice and entered the kitchen. He stood at the counter slicing a loaf of bread. At the sound of her footsteps, he turned to face her. His face immediately took on a bright smile, and he beamed at her.
"Hi," he said with a boyish grin.
"Hey," she replied and closed the distance between them.
Seeing her approach him, he dropped the knife he had been using to cut the bread and willingly accepted her embrace. He nuzzled his nose into the crook of her neck, placing a kiss against her collar bone.
"How was your appointment?" asked Norah.
"It was fine," he replied. "She brought her boyfriend, and we were all fine. I told you you had nothing to worry about."
"I know," she said with a smile, pulling away from him only to look him in the eye. "I never doubted you."
"I know, baby," he cooed sweetly. He grasped her chin with two fingers and tilted her head up. She smiled, her eyes filling with happiness, and she stood on her tiptoes to meet him half way in a kiss.
She melted against him in that kiss. She felt her legs go weak, wishing to give out completely from beneath her. She pressed herself against him and let him engulf her in his broad embrace. She made a pleased moan against him. She loved him so much. In that moment, she couldn't even begin to understand how she could love someone so much, and yet she did. In that moment, she would do anything for him, she realized. She would do whatever it took to be with him. She didn't know what had come over her that day when she let Kiernan kiss her. She had everything she needed, and that was James. She had been lucky enough to be loved by the very man she loved with all her heart, to be so well-treated and respected by him. She didn't know what had caused her stupidity in nearly throwing all that away. And now. Here she was, getting a second chance that she didn't even deserve. What had she done to be so lucky? Why was she so lucky as to be given two chances with the one she would always love?
She wished to hold on to him forever. She wanted to forget about dinner, forget about the talking, and just carry on their kissing. She wanted to show him how much she loved him; she wanted to express the guilt that had weighed down her shoulders over the past few months, and she wished to express to him that she would never leave him again. That she would always love him, be with him, and take care of him. She wanted to show him just how much he meant to her.
She was beginning to deepen the kiss when James reluctantly pulled away. She could feel his reluctance to do so, and she tried to pull herself from her deep thoughts.
"I wish I could say let's just forget about dinner. I would take you to my room right now, but then I remembered that talking is our first priority tonight," he breathed against her forehead, pressing a kiss there before releasing her.
As much as she wanted to continue the kissing as well, she nodded and stepped away from him.
They shared the events of the rest of their day, Norah intentionally leaving out the vital fact of Albus kissing her earlier that day. She knew she would have to tell James, but not yet.
She helped him with their dinner, and soon they were sitting at the kitchen table and eating their dinner. James had turned into a marvelous cook over the years; for the evening, he had cooked steak, baked potatoes, salad, and garlic bread, and Norah was indulging herself in the excellent meal when James finally spoke.
He wiped his mouth with his napkin before reaching across the table to take Norah's hand into his own. He gave it a loving squeeze. "So," he began, "you know how badly I want to make us work, right?"
"I think so," she said with a chuckle. "If it's as badly as I want us to work, then of course. I know."
"I'm willing to do anything to be with you," he said sincerely. "I just think the number one thing we need to work on as a couple is honesty."
"I know," she agreed quietly, squeezing his hand, "which is why I have something to tell you."
"Oh?" he swallowed uneasily. He retracted his hand and sat up straight.
Norah could feel her palms beginning to sweat. She pulled them into her lap and wiped them on her yellow sundress. "I know honesty and commitment was our problem last time. So I'm being honest with you now. Albus came by my flat today. I thought he was just visiting, but I realized he had an ulterior motive when he...when he kissed me."
"He what?!" blurted James. He looked appalled. He spat his red wine back into his glass and set it down, looking at Norah in surprise. "My brother kissed you?!"
"Yes..." she answered in embarrassment.
"My brother?!" clarified James, horrified. "My brother kissed you?!"
"Yes, I'm sorry," she said in a guilty tone. "I had no idea it was coming! He just came on to me and kissed me, but James, I ended it as soon as I could."
"I-I..." he stumbled over his words, so many thoughts running through his mind and unknowing what to say. "I believe you. B-But...Why did he kiss you?"
"Apparently his feelings for me never left," she answered humbly. "I had no idea until he was kissing me. I told him it didn't matter to me how he feels though, James. I told him it will always be you."
"Will it, though?" he asked suddenly and harshly.
Norah gasped in pained surprise. "Of course!" she cried out. "How could you think that, James? It will always be you."
"You've said that before. Then you kissed Kiernan. Then you said it again, and my brother kissed you. If it's only me, then why are you being kissed by so many other guys? If it's only me, then why is it I'm the one having issues with you?!"
"I don't know, James!" she gasped. "I don't ask for it! All I ask for is your trust and your love because none of them matter to me! You're the only thing that matters."
He groaned. In frustration he put his elbows on the table and took his head into his hands. He thought everything had been going so smoothly, and then Norah had to go drop this bomb on him. He had to admit that he did appreciate her honesty, though, especially when it was the source of the majority of their problems.
"Jamie," she began apprehensively, "you believe me, don't you?"
He thought on that question. After many moments of deep thought, he finally nodded. "Yes," he whispered. "I do. I believe you. I just don't understand. Why would Al do that? He knows how much you mean to me. He knows. Why would he do that to me?"
"I don't know, Jamie," she muttered. "He kept his feelings quiet for three years. Maybe he was tired of always putting us first. For once, maybe he was only thinking of himself. I don't think he meant anything too bad by it. When I stopped him and told him it would always be you - no matter what - he seemed guilty then. He kept apologizing. He's sorry, and I think we owe him more than we think."
He was quiet for quite some time, thinking over Norah's words until he finally nodded. "You're right. He practically gave you to me. I owe him for the three years we spent together. He was selfless."
"Exactly," encouraged Norah. "He'll try to move on. Please don't be angry with him. He feels guilty enough."
James nodded. "As long as he understands that you're...I'm...You're mi - You and I..."
"I know," she said quickly, cutting him off, seeing as how he wouldn't be able to finish his sentence. She knew what he was trying to say. She knew he wanted to say you're mine, but he didn't want to sound possessive. But it didn't seem that way to her, and she already knew she was his, just as much as he was hers. "Jamie, I know I did something stupid. Something that I can never apologize enough for or ever take back, but you have to know something. That no matter what I've done, I love you more than I can even begin to comprehend and I regret not using every moment of my being to tell you that."
"I know," he said sweetly.
"No," Norah shook her head. She didn't want him to interrupt her. She didn't want his agreements or reassuring words. Not now at least; those could come later. She needed to tell him this. "No, you don't. James, there was a time in my life when I thought you were dead. Those few hours three years ago when I thought I was only holding onto your corpse...They were the worst hours of my life. I thought I had lost you for good, I thought that you were gone without knowing that I really loved you, I thought I would have to live the rest of my life without you. The thought of going on without you. It was worse than anything I had ever felt. Then I felt your heart beat against my cheek, and I knew you were alive. In that moment I swore I would never let go of you again. When you woke up, do you remember what you promised me?"
James reached out for her hand again, his heart softened by her words. He put on a weak and loving smile. "I promised I would never leave you," he recited as he thought back to that day by the shore. He had been cold, weak, and beaten, but none of it had mattered in that moment knowing they had defeated the Namkens, that his family was safe and that he could finally be with Norah. "I said 'this is it. You and me.'"
"That's right," she breathed. "You and me. No matter what. I'm sorry for what I did, but we can't change that now. I can only promise you that I will never let you down like that again. I'm faithful to you, James, and I always will be. Please, just - "
"Be my girlfriend again," James suddenly blurted. He had heard enough. Norah had proved her argument, and he agreed with her completely. They would always be. They had seen what life would be like without the other and knew it was better to be together despite recent problems than to live their life apart any longer.
"I - What?" asked Norah, surprised. She wondered if she had heard him right. She knew James had appeared to be softer today than he normally was, but after months of stubborn neglect and arguments, it was a surprise to see him so weak and forgiving at the heart.
"Be my girlfriend again," he stated again. "I know now that what happened with you and Kiernan won't happen again, and I know you will always be faithful to me. And that's enough for me. Just knowing you love me is enough."
Norah didn't let him say another word. What more was there to be said? She leaped from her chair at the table and into his lap. She cupped his face in her hands and kissed him passionately. James was quick to respond; he kissed her deeply, holding her tight and pulling her close. She pulled away only to catch her breath, and James beamed. "I'll take that as a yes."
Harry sat at the kitchen table that night with Ginny and Albus. They were enjoying dinner despite the mutual silence. Harry and Ginny had tried to engage Albus in conversation, but ever since he had returned home for the evening, he had been unusually quiet. More so than he normally was. Harry and Ginny, though, did their best not to pester him about it and just let him be. Harry was just finishing up his meal when a gentle tapping came from the window nearest the sink.
The three of them looked over their shoulder, and Harry's brow pulled together in confusion. "That's a ministry owl," he commented and rose from his chair, knowing the owl was most presumably for him.
He dropped his napkin beside his plate and approached the window, opening it and allowing the owl to hop into the sill. He detached the small piece of parchment from about the owl's leg and read the brief message written in Ron's slanted scrawl.
Come to the ministry quick. Confinement cell #6. We got one.
Harry crumbled the letter in his fist and turned to the other two at the table. "I have to go in to the Ministry. Don't wait up. I'm sorry I have to run off. Gin, dinner was great."
He didn't wait any longer for their response. He stalked out of the kitchen and to the living room where he grabbed a fistful of floo power, stepped into the fire place, and threw it down, declaring he be taken to the Ministry of Magic. He stepped out of one of the many grates at the Ministry. The place was deserted, as if was after hours. Harry set off through the main atrium, past the statues and doors, and to the elevator where he pressed the button for the Department of Mysteries floor.
The elevator arrived on the correct floor, and when he stepped off, he could hear muffled voices coming from the end of one of the many corridors. He followed the sound of them and rounded a corner to see Ron with his arms folded, talking to another Auror.
"Ron," said Harry in a hushed undertone. He didn't know why he felt the need to whisper. "They got one?"
Ron nodded as he chewed on the nail of his thumb. He jerked his head towards confinement cell #6 where the Death Eater they had captured was currently chained down.
"In there," he muttered. "He's refusing to speak though."
"Do we know him?" asked Harry.
It had been the question that had been on his mind since he read that letter. The names of Death Eaters that he, Ron, and the rest of his family knew were endless. He wondered if he would walk into that room and see an older version of a Death Eater who had tortured his friends when they were younger. Perhaps this Death Eater had killed one of Harry's classmates. The scenarios were endless, but nonetheless, Harry could feel his hatred for all Death Eaters boiling inside him. Why couldn't they be done with this for good?
"We know him," answered Ron. "Walden Macnair."
Harry sucked in a deep breath and straightened at the mention of the Death Eater's name. So they did know him. This Death Eater was more than just a name as well; they had a history with this Death Eater. This was the man who been Buckbeak's executioner, the man who had held Luna captive at the Battle of the Department of Mysteries.
He pursed his lips in anger. He had long ago put the past behind him, but when painful memories resurfaced, it was all too difficult to not be bitter and hateful about what had happened to him and his friends in the past.
"I'll take care of this," he said under his breath and pushed past Ron.
Ron looked at his brother-in-law in surprise. He knew the capture of Walden Macnair would bring back memories for Harry, just as they brought back memories for Ron that he wished to rather forget, but Harry was normally always professional and reserved. Now, in this moment, Harry looked as if he was fueled more by personal attachment rather than business.
But Ron only nodded and followed Harry into the cell.
Harry stopped short at the sight of the man magically bound to the metal chair he sat in in the center of the room with dull grey walls. He folded his arms as he looked at the man who remained unmoving and unresponsive. Macnair had aged since he last saw him at the Battle of Hogwarts, but of course that had been more than twenty years ago. His hair was now fully grey, and he had bags and wrinkles under his eyes that had come with age.
Harry tapped his foot impatiently, and Macnair finally responded. He lifted his head to see his new visitor, and he immediately cracked a crooked grin. His yellowed teeth appeared from between his lips, and he chuckled under his breath. His voice was raspy. "Harry Potter. The Boy Who Fucking Lived."
"Mind your tongue," said Harry sharply.
"Why? You're just gonna throw me into Azkaban again anyway," said Macnair with a cruel undertone and bitter chuckle. "I shall do whatever I please."
"Where have you been hiding?" asked Harry, his voice stern and unwavering.
"Like hell I'm telling you," Macnair snarled.
Harry huffed in frustration and ran his hands through his hair. It was times like this when he wished he hadn't outlawed the use of Veritaserum against unwilling containees or Wizengamot witnesses. When he had first taken office as Head Auror, he had quickly done away with it, finding the forced use of Veritaserum wrong and unjust. Now all Harry wanted to do was grab a vial of the serum and pour it down the man's throat so he could have his answers. Now that he believed his son was the center, driving force of this entire situation, he would do anything to protect his family again. He wouldn't have a repeat of three years ago.
"If you know what's good for you, you'll tell me where you've been hiding," Harry said again. This time he knelt in front of the man, his fingers laced together with his elbows braced on his knees, and he looked Walden Macnair sternly in the eye. "You'll tell me where you've been, who has been with you, and who took you in."
Macnair laughed; it was a booming and echoing sound, one that sent chills down Harry's spine. "You're unbelievable. Fuck off," he spat.
"Do not make me use force," threatened Harry. He hated playing the role of bad Auror, but in this particular situation, he found it necessary.
After hearing James earlier that day, hearing of how his wrist had hurt him like never before, Harry had reason to believe that he had been near a Namken - most presumably Parker Namken - and with the Namken boy's silence for three years, and now Walden Macnair turning up, Harry believed he had every reason to feel as if Parker Namken was working underground on a plan for revenge. This Death Eater could hold the answers for him; he could prevent his son and family from enduring any more pain. He had made a promise; he had sworn three years ago that he would take down anyone who tried. He wouldn't tolerate anyone who tried his patience.
"You can't do anything," snickered Macnair. "I know of the laws you've put in place. Awfully kind of you to be so thoughtful of us containees."
"I could force it down your throat and then obliviate you," snarled Harry, his eyebrows pulling together in hatred.
He was aware of Ron moving in surprise behind him, breathing in a sharp gasp. "Harry," warned Ron.
"Shush, Ron," Harry retorted in reply.
"You wouldn't," whispered Macnair. It was a statement of horror but also a tease. Macnair was mocking him, egging him on. "You wouldn't put your job at such risk."
"I would," threatened Harry, "if I believed my family was in danger."
"If you believed your family was in danger?" laughed Macnair, and he shook his head. "Oh, Harry Potter. Still thinking the world revolves around you and that scar of yours, do you? Well, let me tell you this: the world has changed."
"It may have changed, but some things are still the same. You, for one, are still a heartless low-life whose allegiances are in all the wrong places."
"And you are still a conceited bastard who needs to be knocked off his bloody pedestal! And let me tell you, Harry Potter, you will see that day! It's coming, and you better be ready for it!" Macnair shouted in rage. He bared his teeth, his brow pulled in hatred, and he temporarily fought against the gold, magical bindings keeping him in that chair.
"Who took you in?" Harry demanded to know. He forced down the anger Macnair had instilled in him.
"Someone who is going to put you in your bloody place," chuckled Macnair again.
"Is it Parker Namken?" Harry found himself suddenly demanding.
At the mention of the young man, surprise reached Macnair's face. His brow straightened in confusion, and he went still. Harry couldn't read his expression. It was surprise and bewilderment, but Harry couldn't tell if Macnair just thought him stupid or what. So Harry demanded again. "I said is it Parker Namken?!"
"Parker Namken is dead, you fucking idiot," Macnair finally spat.
Harry exhaled deeply, shaking his head in anger. Macnair's statement meant nothing to him. Through Macnair's delay, Harry didn't know what to believe, but he could very easily have been lying. He wouldn't let his words turn him away from the possibility that Parker Namken was truly at the core of it all.
"Then who took you in?"
"Someone you should fear," Macnair said with his crooked grin. "He's the one who's going to show you the true meaning of misery. He'll take everything you love, and just when you think you've fallen as far as you can, you'll realize you're wrong. You'll see just how far you can fall, Harry Potter, and it's a long way to the bottom."
"Give me a name."
Macnair laughed again and shook his head, shutting down the conversation. "Go to hell."
With that, Harry rose from in front of Macnair. He knew he wasn't going to make any progress. Not today. He turned on his heels away from the Death Eater and to Ron, whose face was a ghostly white in shock. Harry tried to ignore the looks he was getting from him; he knew Ron would ask him questions later as to why he had gone about it that way. Why he had been so angry, why he had asked about Parker Namken. It was the first time Harry had ever voiced his true beliefs, and he could tell Ron was horrified to hear the name of that boy again.
"Keep him here until he can be taken to Wizengamot in the morning to have his sentence reinstated."
Ron nodded, and Harry reached for the door knob. As his palm closed over the cold metal, he stopped at the sound of Walden Macnair's voice once more. He tried to not acknowledge the fear he knew had been instilled in him. He could feel himself trying with all his might to hold himself together, to not quiver in fear and anger.
"Be ready, Harry Potter. Your downfall is fast approaching."
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