Chapter 8 : A Time To Act
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James was aware of himself speaking, but there was something disturbingly wrong with the entire situation. He didn't sound like himself. At all. Nor did he feel as if he had control of his actions. It was simply as if he was a spectator through someone else's eyes, living their life. He was listening and observing, trapped in the mind and body of someone else, hopeless. He wanted to push at the walls of his mind and gain control again, but his barriers wouldn't budge. He begged for his body to move enough just so he could look at any part of his body to decipher if it was truly his own
He was pacing back in forth in the sitting room of a home. His arms were hidden from his view, as he held them behind his back, ringing his hands together against his back. He could feel himself biting his lip in frustration. He suddenly spun around on his heels to face a man sitting in an arm chair, looking sullen.
"I said, what do you mean?!" he felt himself snarl.
James didn't like his tone. He didn't like the way he spoke to the man, who was older and grayed and actually look frightened. The man had his elbows braced on his knees, his hands clasped against his chin in deep thought. The man answered simply and coolly. "I meant what I said. He's gone. They've taken him."
"How is that possible?!" James roared again.
He hated the anger that fueled him. He knew it was an anger that he had grown familiar with over the past three years, despite how much he wished it was foreign to him. The bitter sting of snarling, of being full of hatred and anger felt all too familiar. But lately James had been managing his anger. He had been doing his best to keep his cool, and now that he had Norah again, he knew he was on the right track once more. Things were different when he was with Norah. Somehow, all that anger just seemed to fade away. So why was this different? Why wasn't he able to use Norah as his lifeline? All he could feel was the anger boiling inside his veins.
"I - don't - know," the man emphasized. "We were out on our run. Just like you told us, and then the Aurors. They found us. I got away. Macnair, though..."
"Dammit," hissed James.
"Don't worry," breathed the man in the chair. "Macnair's loyal. He will keep your secret. He agrees with your scheme; he hates them just as much as you. He'll keep his mouth - "
"Shut up!" roared James. "Just shut up a moment and let me think!"
"What is there to think about?" the man retaliated. "Macnair was caught; we will get him back! Isn't that all part of the plan? He can manage in Azkaban. All he has to do is wait for the plan to pan out. And it will. We are all behind you, kid. All you have to do is tell us when to strike."
"All in good time, Rowle," James hissed. "All in good time."
James jolted awake in his bed. He bolted upright, sweat layering his skin and his hair matted and sticking to his forehead in thick sweat. His chest was heaving as he panted, and his felt as if it were on fire. He pulled it abruptly in towards his chest and rubbed it with his other hand, breathing heavily. His sudden panic upon waking up from his strange dream awoke Norah next to him.
She quickly sat up, the covers pooling about their waists, and she rubbed his back, ignoring the layer of sweat that rubbed off on her palm. "Jamie, what is it?" she asked in worry.
He continued to breathe heavily in fright. Pulling his knees up to his chest, he buried his face between them and shook his head as if he could hide himself from the dream. Norah etched closer to him and pressed her bare chest to the broad plane of his back, and she engulfed him in her arms. At her comforting touch, James fell into her embrace, his head moving to the crook of her neck. His breath was hot as he exhaled against her skin.
"Tell me what's wrong," she soothed, running her fingers and untangling his matted hair. She knew part of the mess was from their love making before falling asleep for the night, but it was an even further disaster from his restless sleep.
He quaked against her, and it took a few more words of encouragement from her before he finally spoke. "My dream," he began. "It was...It was so strange. It wasn't a nightmare. Not really. The things I said, though, and the things he said. That's what made it like a nightmare."
"It was just a dream," she said.
"But it felt so real," exhaled James. "It felt so real, Norah. And it was terrifying. I couldn't do anything. I was hopeless in my own body, and I was saying these things! These awful things! And listening to some man say even worse things! But it felt so real. So real."
"Shh, stop it," she cut him off. "Just a dream. It was just a dream."
He nodded, desperate to accept her words. He had to accept them. The dream was too unnerving to believe that they were anything but simply a dream, so he forced himself to believe that Norah was right. He continued to shake against her, occasionally giving off abrupt tremors. She peeled herself from James' sticky body and rolled on her side to the nightstand to grab the vial of his elixir. She uncorked it and handed it to him.
"Here. You're having tremors. Take it as a precaution."
He nodded and gratefully accepted the offer, taking a quick swig of his prescribed epileptic elixir. He handed it back to her, and she corked it again and put it back on the nightstand. She lay back down on James' plush bed and coaxed him into her arms. Still slightly shaking, he placed his head on her chest and wrapped his arms around her waist. He tried to change the situation around, to make it something other than just him waking up and feeling terrified over a dream like a small child.
He actually smiled and placed a gentle kiss on her skin where his head rested. "You and I are back together as a couple for less than eight hours, and we're already back to our old ways. You taking care of me and my baggage."
"Your baggage is worth it," she giggled and kissed his head.
James left out a happy sigh, finding himself fully able to temporarily forget about the strange dream. "I love you, Norah."
The following day James wrapped up his business at the office before his lunch break. He and his father had agreed to get lunch together the following day and that he would come by Harry's office when James was available. He aligned the last stack of papers on his desk before slipping his jacket on and locking his office. He took the elevator down to the Auror Department and greeted those he knew as he passed them. He waved to Ron through the open door to his office where he sat in his chair, and then he knocked on the door to his father's office before letting himself in.
Harry was sitting at his desk, holding his head in his hands and talking in a distressed fashion. Another Auror stood by on the other side of the desk with his arms folded across his chest.
"He won't speak. I can't get him to say anything at all. All I get is from Macnair is threats. He won't reveal who is helping the Death Eaters, so yes, I stand by my word. His trial remains in one hour, and he will go to Azkaban."
"Very well, Mr. Potter," the Auror said, and with a curt nod, he dismissed himself from Harry's office, sliding past James at the door.
James stepped into the office, trying to act as if his father's words didn't just remind him of his dream, as if they didn't bring back the sensation as if it had all been real. "Sorry, Dad," said James, apologizing for intruding during what appeared to be a bad time. "Are you ready for lunch?"
"Yes, yes, James. Sorry," replied his father, rubbing his forehead in distress.
"Yes, I suppose," he answered numbly. "Work things, but I'll share some with you once we're out of ear shot."
James nodded and let his father finish wrapping up any of his unfinished business. Then they were heading out of the Ministry and to a muggle cafe a blocks away from the Ministry where they so often grabbed lunch when it was just the two of them.
As soon as they stepped out of the men's restroom and onto the busy streets of London, James fisted his hands and shoved them into the pocket of his jacket, turning to Harry with a look of anticipation.
Harry's brow finally pulled together in confusion, and he turned to his son as the strolled along the sidewalks. "What?"
"You said you'd share once we were out of ear shot," commented James. He knew the confidentiality agreement given to the workers at the Ministry; of course he did, he had signed one himself when he had been employed as an Unspeakable, but his family - like many others, he was sure - shared certain things with one another when the other found that they were heavy on the mind. This was why his parents and his family knew Clancy to be a client, because she was the only person who could remotely relate to him, and when he had found out, of course he had shared that with his family. There was a mutual understanding between all of them that they would keep the other updated within the work place, but of course their conversation wouldn't go any further than that.
"Well, you normally don't care all too much about what I have to say. I didn't think I meant right away," chuckled Harry.
James bit his lip. His father was right. Normally his father's business was pointless to him, or it had to do with the Death Eaters that escaped three years ago, and therefore James didn't want to hear it. It was only a reminder of that terrible year, but there was something different about it this time. His father had said things that had put him on edge. Like the name. Macnair, was it? That was the name of the person he had been talking about in his dream.
The dream and now the events at his father's work appeared to be too much a coincidence to let it slide, so of course James was trying to pry the information from his father.
"Yes, well," said James uneasily, desperately looking for a cover-up, "I could tell you were uneasy about the situation."
"I am," said Harry in a low voice. "You know we still search for the Death Eaters that escaped from Azkaban when we were there. Well, we got one last night. I received an owl during dinner and met up with Ron and the Ministry. They caught a Death Eater who was active during the war. He wasn't just a face we remembered seeing during the war. We personally know him. There are still painful memories about what he did..."
Harry faltered, and in that moment, James could tell that his father was a long ways off, in a place somewhere completely different. He pursed his lips, unsure of what to do, but quickly Harry recovered.
He shook his head, pulling himself from his deep thoughts. "Anyways," he said quickly, "point is this: Macnair won't speak about who is helping the Death Eaters move underground. He's keeping his mouth shut entirely except for threats. I believe that he will never reveal his helper, and so he should just go straight to Azkaban. A few colleagues, however, disagree. They think Macnair should remain in confinement for a while longer, in case we can get him to speak. But I know better. He won't. It's useless, so he should go right back to the hell from which he came."
James was speechless. This situation was all too familiar. On any other day, this would have seemed like just another Death Eater case. James was used to hearing about them, especially over the past three years. Death Eaters were occasionally caught, asked to talk, refused, and was sent to Azkaban. Nothing was truly amiss or different about the situation. Except for the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that there was something else entirely going on beneath the surface, something that James had only gently grazed the surface of, and yet it had disturbed him greatly.
He didn't realize how long he had been silent or that he had stopped moving until Harry finally clutched his shoulder and gently shook him. "Hey," said Harry. "You in there?"
"What? Yeah, sorry..." he whispered.
"What's on your mind?"
"Nothing, really," said James all too quickly.
"You're lying," said Harry simply as they slipped into the cafe. They took their seat at their regular table nearest the window. "Come on. Tell me."
"You're going to find it really strange...Or just as pointless as Norah deemed it," predicted James.
"Right. So what's the harm in sharing, then?"
"I guess you're right," said James.
A blonde waitress with a pixie cut came up to their table, and they both ordered two waters and their respective sandwiches. When she disappeared, James turned back to his father. He didn't know why he felt so on edge. If he truly believed his words, then he knew he wouldn't be worried. And yet here he was, finding himself slightly terrified of a dream and what he hoped was nothing more.
"I had this strange dream last night," began James. "I was still me - in a sense, I guess - but I couldnít control anything I said or did. I really felt as if I was being Imperiurised, if I can compare it to anything. And I was saying these things that didn't make sense. Not to me anyway. But I seemed to understand the situation perfectly, as did the man I was talking to. We were talking about a Death Eater who had been caught, and the other man was trying to convince me that he would keep his mouth shut. It felt so odd when I dreamt it, and Norah convinced me it was nothing at all, but when I walked into your office, I overheard you. The things you said...It just seems too strange to be a coincidence."
Harry had grown still. He of course knew why James had had this dream. Harry could still remember the dreams he had been tormented by in which he had seen through the eyes of Voldemort himself, or of his snake Nagini when Arthur Weasley was bitten. He remembered it all too vividly and the feelings that they brought; it was horrifying. And now his son had shared the same fate, the very thing that Harry had been trying to hide from his son all these years. He had shared the thoughts and events of the man who lived inside him, the man Harry was still assuming to be Parker Namken. He knew exactly why James had had such a dream, and now Harry was scared into silence. He had never heard such talk from James. In the three years that Harry had kept his secret, luckily enough James had shared very little of the same repercussions of having a horcrux inside of you as Harry had. Sure, James had shared the personality traits with the anger and short fuses, but to the best of Harry's knowledge, that was the extent of it. James hadn't had any strange dreams, and Harry had hoped that he never would.
But clearly Harry was wrong. The dreams were starting.
"Surely it's all just a coincidence, James...?" Harry finally whispered in questioning after he realized he had been silent for many minutes and had earned a strange look from James.
"I want to tell myself that, Dad," said James in fright. "Really, I do. But how do I ignore the fact that I was talking about Macnair in my dream, and I heard you clearly say Macnair back in your office. In my dream, we talked about how Macnair would be loyal and wouldn't divulge any information. And that's exactly what your problem was just now. Tell me I'm wrong and you don't have a containee by the name of Macnair who is refusing to speak. Please, Dad, tell me you don't."
Harry swallowed. "I can't tell you that. Because it's true. We do have a containee by the name of Macnair and he is refusing to speak."
"How is that a coincidence?" asked James sternly. He gripped the table with his palms and squeezed until his knuckles turned white. He leaned over the table and sought out his father's eyes with an intense gaze of fear.
Their waitress returned with their waters, and when a look of fear crossed over her face as her gaze landed on James, he released the table and straightened up, clearing his throat and trying to appear nonchalant. The waitress scurried off without a word.
Harry felt his insides boiling. He wasn't an exceptional liar, and finding himself in this situation left him rather stumped, but he wasn't ready to share the truth with his son. Not yet, not now. Not in the middle of a muggle cafe when James would certainly explode with hatred and rage. No, Harry would have to think that through more clearly when he had the time to plan it out and wasn't caught off guard in such a time as this.
But then Harry suddenly stopped thinking. He hated how his thoughts had immediately gone to not if he would tell James but when. Had he really made such a pivotal decision? Would he really tell him? No, Harry decided. He wasn't sure about that either.
He needed time. Time to think everything through.
"I don't know, James," said Harry smoothly. He was fairly surprised with himself. For his inner thoughts to be in pure chaos mode and for his speech to still seem calm and collected was quite an achievement. "Why don't you slow down for a moment and look at things logically? You're making fast assumptions. Haven't you given any thought to how this could relate to your ability as a Seer? You've had visions before; you said so yourself. Couldn't these be visions as well? These visions are just happening sooner than normal."
"But this was different," James interjected. "In my visions I'm nothing more than a spectator. I just watch. This dream...In this dream I was speaking. I was me, but in a way I wasn't me. It was too different."
"Still," said Harry, and he straightened up as he grabbed his glass of water. "I think Norah's right. You shouldn't be alarmed."
Lies. All lies and Harry hated himself for all of it. But what more could he do? He didn't want to frighten James. Not until Harry was certain that something much darker lay beneath the surface.
"Please, Parker," Pansy Namken begged of her son. She stood behind him as he sat in a chair at the kitchen table of their home. Her hands rested on his shoulders, and she massaged the broad curve of them, working out the kinks that had formed from his stress.
Parker grew stiff. He rubbed his forehead with his index finger, his eyes closing to the world around him, and he shook his head. "No, Mother," hissed Parker.
Pansy let out a grunt and swiftly yanked out the chair next to Parker and set herself down in it. She took his hands away from his face and forced him to look at her. She looked at her only child, and she wondered when he had become so like his father. She had watched him grow from a happy, carefree, spoiled child to a young boy, struggling to find out who he is, and to a man who had aged and matured with the hatred and sadness in his life. Parker was only nineteen, but Pansy swore he acted thirty. She wished he would live a different live than he was, but she knew that was out of the question. At least, it was out of the question until Parker had accomplished the one thing he had sworn to do.
"Tell me why not, Parker," she said sternly.
"Because it's not ready!" he said sharply. He gave her an exasperated look and rolled his eyes. "How many times to I have to tell you? It's not ready; I'm not ready."
"It's been three years!" she moaned. "If you're not ready now, then when will you ever be?"
"Soon, Mum!" he groaned. He kicked out the chair from under him and stood up, beginning to pace about the kitchen. He gnawed on the nail of his thumb. "I will not make the same mistake Dad did! Dad thought his plan was flawless, and look what happened to him! Heís dead! The Potters won! Again! I can't let that happen; I can't make that same mistake. I have to do it right. It has to be flawless."
"Parker," sighed Pansy, "you've worked hard on this for three years. It's as perfect as it is ever going to be."
He continued to shake his head. Pansy frowned as she watched him. She didn't care if he wanted revenge or not. She would hate the Potters, the Weasleys, and the lot of them for the rest of her life. She always had. She had joined in on Elias' plan three years ago, but when he had died, her she had taken a different route than Parker. She aided him on his plan for revenge in every way, but she hadn't invested herself in it like he had. She had in the beginning, but she saw what it did to her son and knew it wasn't healthy. Now she just wanted it to be over and done with so that Parker could finally move on. Maybe he could even settle down and marry that Clancy O'Dell woman he was dating.
"But what if it's not?" he moaned, and Pansy could tell he had set off on the path where he panicked about every detail of his plan and questioned everything he was doing. She had to step in quickly before he had a break down. "What if it's not? What if they find out it's me? Technically I'm dead, but only if they're idiots will they not realize that I've switched my initials. They could trace it back to me. That James Potter is a Seer too; what if he sees what I'm up to? What if he finds out before hand and is ready when I decide to make my move? There's so much that could go wrong!"
"Sweetheart!" said Pansy in a gasp of air. She rose and stopped his pacing, taking his face into her hands and stroking his cheek. "Stop," she encouraged. "Just stop. Deep breath. Everything will be fine. It will all work out. I know it will. You've been in front of James Potter himself and nothing went wrong. Doesn't that speak for how truly stupid he is? You're fine, and if you're worried about that Seer making any predictions, then you know what that means?"
"What...?" whispered Parker.
"It means that you act. Now. Before he does predict anything."
Parker took a deep gulp of air, and with that he nodded. His mother was right. Macnair had been captured. He had faith that Macnair would keep the secret that the Namkens were harboring escaped Death Eaters, but what if something did go wrong? It was better to act now. The plan had already been accidentally set in motion, and it was time that Parker caught up with the game.
"You're right," he answered. "Then it's time."
"Does Clancy know yet? Does she know what you're really up to?" Pansy asked calmly.
"No," sighed Parker. "I haven't found the right moment to tell her. My plan in all of this was for her to truly love me and decide of her own will to do this with me. I need her as a Seer in all of this, and whether it be by choice or by force, she will be a part of it. I just have to tell her and hope she agrees. If not...I'll be sad to make her."
"You're getting feelings for her, aren't you?" his mother asked.
Pansy knew Parker and Clancy were living together at his flat. She knew that much, and she had met Clancy, if only briefly. She had been introduced as his mother, of course, but not as Parker Namken's mother. But as Nolan Paxton's mother. The Death Eaters living at the Namken home all knew Nolan Paxton and Parker Namken to be the same person; the only person who had yet to find out was Clancy, and so when the young woman was around, Parker and his mother were careful to go by his false name. It wasn't time for Clancy to know the truth yet.
"I don't know," Parker answered honestly. He found that over years the loss of Elias Namken had brought him and his mother closer together; he told her truth in everything he shared with her, and sometimes he revealed the truth of certain situations to his mother before even realizing it himself. The last time he had thought about his feelings for Clancy, he had shut down the idea and hadn't allowed himself to believe that he did have feelings for her. But now, here with his mother, he found the words of truth leaving his mouth before he had even realized it. "I don't want to have feelings for her, but I can't ignore the fact anymore that I think I do. It was all a lie. From the very beginning. I planned meeting her, I planned pretending to be the man she wanted so that she would date me and so that we would have the relationship we do now. All of it was planned, and now that I think I may love her...Telling her the truth would certainly make her hate me."
Pansy refused to believe that. Even if she did see the reality in Parker's words, she had to encourage him. "If she really loves you, she'll stand by your side."
Pansy nodded and changed the subject. "You'll still start with Albus Potter?"
Parker nodded. His sorrow and fear was replaced with the hate that often filled him. "Yes," he hissed. "I have to start with a Potter. That will get my message across. That this is all about them. And he'll suffer; he'll be in pain. Just the way I want him to be. Killing him swiftly would be all too kind."
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