Chapter 9 : Damages
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So he went without question and he tried to shove off his reluctance.
Upon his arrival, James greeted his parents before slipping out of the room and set off in search of his brother. The sound of The Weird Sisters came from Al's bedroom, and James knocked twice before letting himself in. He turned down the volume on his brother's radio and looked to Albus. He found Albus lying motionlessly on his bed, his legs hanging off the end and his arms folded across his abs. He didn't even more or speak at James' entrance. So James sighed and let himself fall onto the bed next to his brother. He lay as Al did, his legs hanging off, and he folded his arms across his stomach.
He turned his head to look at his still brother.
"What?" inquired Albus.
"Just seeing what you were up to," replied James. He turned his head to look back at the ceiling.
"Really?" snorted Albus. "Because I was pretty sure that I would have to face the wrath of James Potter the next time I saw you. You sure you didn't come here to rip my head off?"
"What?" gasped James. He turned his head again and looked to Albus. He was still motionless and staring at the ceiling. James was about to question his brother why he said such a thing once more, but then he remembered and knew there was only one explanation.
Albus had kissed Norah.
After his conversation with Norah, he had been able to forget all about Albus kissing his girlfriend. He had forced himself to forget it, and as such, he hadn't been angry about it. He had at first, but after looking at the situation from the perspective Albus had to be coming from, James found himself more understanding.
"Oh," sighed James. "I'm not mad at you, Al."
"You don't have to sugar-coat it. You can tell me the truth, you know," Albus said in a monotone voice. "I knew she would tell you. When honesty has been the issue between the two of you, of course I knew she would tell you."
Grunting, James propped himself up on an elbow and looked at Albus. Albus pried his eyes from the ceiling and looked to his brother, his expression blank.
"Seriously, Al," persuaded James. "I'm not mad. Really. I was at first, but then I thought about it and I realized you had every right to do it. Sure, I'll always love her, but we were broken up, and it was selfish of us to never look back and see what our relationship did to you. I had no idea you still had feelings for her. No idea, and I guess that speaks for itself how awful of a brother I was to you. For me to never ask, or to never notice. You had every right to try and win her over again."
"I wasn't trying to 'win her over,'" groaned Albus. "Not really. I just kissed her. It was an impulse, but I wasn't trying to take her from you. Really I was more hating myself for letting her go and trying to just share that one kiss more with her. Deep down, I knew even then that, when it comes to Norah, you'll always be the one for her."
James swallowed. He tried not to feel awkward in this situation, but he couldn't help it. It pained him to see his brother yearning for the girl James loved, but Albus was also right. James and Norah knew they were right for each other.
"I'm sorry, Al," whispered James.
"Don't be," Albus answered. "My feelings will go away. Eventually. I told Norah that...I think I still have these feelings for her because she was always there for me. I had no one at that point in my life. I knew you didn't trust me, and I don't blame you, but she was the only one who never left me."
"I understand. Completely, Al," encouraged James.
"Thanks," whispered Albus, and he realized he was thanking his brother for many things. For not being angry with him, for James understanding why he had such a deep impulse, for understanding why he still had feelings for her.
James nodded and slouched back against the bed, turning his gaze to the ceiling again. They lay there like that for minutes in silence, just staring at the white ceiling. Finally the sound of footsteps came from the hall, and they could both sense a new presence looking into Albus' bedroom. Then there was a quick scurry of feet, and a red mess was flying onto the bed. Lily jumped onto the bed, landing between her brothers. She looked at the both of them, oblivious and smiling.
"What are you two up to?" she asked enthusiastically.
Neither answered, but instead both Albus and James pulled themselves up onto an elbow to inspect their sister. They both knew that on a regular day Lily would have teased them with some sort of comment and left, instead of joining them in an excited jump and asking them what they were doing. Both boys caught on to this and looked at the other.
James opened his mouth in surprise and joked with Al. "What's this? Lily isn't being a hot-headed brat? What could possibly be the matter?"
"I don't know, James," Albus chimed in, his voice laced with sarcasm. "Could it possibly be that date she had last night with Scorpius?"
Lily giggled and nudged the both of them with her shoulder. The two brothers shared a laugh and looked to Lily in further inquiry. "Shut up," she grinned.
"It is!" smiled Albus.
"Come on then," encouraged James. "Tell us how it went! But you can leave out the gory details, please, for our sake. Save those for Rose or Roxanne."
"It was wonderful," sighed Lily in a dreamy voice. "Never in my life did I ever think that I would be attracted to Scorpius Malfoy, but we really had a great time. We're going on another date soon. But tonight Scorpius actually wanted us to all go out to a pub. What do you think?"
James looked to his brother, for he hoped that Albus would take this invitation and step out of his comfort zone for a change. It was time for his brother to have some fun again. He gave Albus an encouraging look, and after a moment's thought, he finally nodded and a smile reached his face. "Sure! Why not?" grinned Albus. "James, you'll come too right?"
"Sure. I'll come, but I may not be able to stay out as late. Unlike you kids, I have to go to work in the morning," he teased.
"Awesome!" beamed Lily. It had been awhile since she had hung out with the two of her brothers at the same time. The last time, she recalled, had briefly been at Dominique's birthday party. She missed her brothers, and now with Scorpius - whom she hoped to call her boyfriend soon - she wanted to hang out with her brothers and Scorpius together. Albus and Scorpius were great friends already. In fact, she owed her relationship with Scorpius all to Al, so now she just hoped that James could become friends with his as well. James and Scorpius were on fine speaking terms; they spoke to one another when they saw each other, but their level of conversation remained at that of pleasantries. They had never really taken the time to get to know the other; Lily hoped that would change.
"How did your dinner with Norah go last night, Jamie?" Lily asked, changing the conversation.
"It went great," answered James with a smile, trying to leave out the details for Al's sake.
"Oh, come on! I need more than just 'great,'" teased Lily.
"It's official. We're dating again."
Lily beamed with excitement and threw her arms around Jamie's neck. She clung to him with shouts of enthusiasm, and James chuckled as he pat his sister's back. He caught Al's eye as he did so, and he expected to see his brother's sorrow reflect back in his gaze. But if there was any sorrow within Al in that moment, then James couldn't see it. Albus sent James a smile, and in that moment, James knew his brother was genuinely happy for him.
The Potter siblings and Scorpius shared a fun evening at the local pub within Godric's Hollow. Their dinner and a few drinks had been a great way to spend some quality time with one another while also allowing James to get to know Scorpius better. He knew that Scorpius was a dear friend to Albus. After everything Al had gone through and for Scorpius to be such a true and loyal friend to Al meant a lot to James.
When seeing his little sister and the Malfoy together, James could also tell that they were truly happy with one another. James had spent some time with Scorpius before, but he had never seen him as happy as he was with his sister, and the same went for Lily. He couldn't remember seeing his sister any happier.
At some point in the night, Lily and Scorpius bid goodnight to the two brothers and went to Scorpius' flat. Soon after that, though, James admitted he had to be leaving, for he knew morning would come all too soon.
James and Albus were strolling out of the pub together, side by side and happily engaged in conversation.
"I'm really glad we did this, Al," admitted James.
"Me too, Jamie," Albus smiled. "I know I don't get out much these days, so it was good to remember what it's like to actually live again."
"Me too, in a way," agreed James. "I mean, we're both coming from different areas. You are the way you are for specific reasons, but I hadn't actually had fun like that in a long time. Sometimes I think I'm a little too invested in my work."
"Maybe," said Albus with a roll of the shoulder. "Let's agree to both take the time to have some fun more often. And time with each other. It's obvious we both need it."
"Agreed." With a cheeky grin, James nudged his brother's shoulder and Albus returned the gesture with a chuckle and a smile. After that, James turned to his brother with his parting goodbyes. "I really should be off though. Want me to walk home with you?"
"Nah," shrugged Albus. "I could apparate, but it's nice out and it's just a few blocks. I'll walk. I'll be fine. You go on and get home to Norah."
"All right. G'night, Al."
And with that, James gave a wave and was gone with a crack. Grinning, Albus fisted his hands and shoved them into his pockets. He set off at relaxing pace, taking his time to enjoy the cool, evening breeze. The sun had long ago set and night had fallen, leaving behind a crisp feeling in the air. He kicked at a rock as he walked and whistled under his breath. He found himself wearing a permanent smile, and he couldn't exactly figure out why. One thing he did know, though, was that it had been a long time since he had genuinely been this happy without reason. All he had done was have a great evening with his siblings and a friend, and now his smile was bigger than he had ever remembered it.
He knew it was a statement of how truly strange a life his life was, and he decided in that moment to do the best he could in moving past the events that still plagued him. To live his life and not let the past dictate his future or his ability to be happy.
With a nod of approval to himself, he continued his stroll as he rounded a corner.
He was alone, and the night was silent, save for a few gusts of wind and the chirp of the nightly insects. When he heard another set of footsteps join the mix, he looked around briefly to spot the source. But no one was to be seen. He was the only soul on the streets of Godric's Hollow. Rolling his shoulders, he continued on.
He had only taken three steps when the footsteps sounded again. Before he could react, though, he felt unfamiliar hands spread across the plain of his back. He grew still and uneasy. He tried to whip, suddenly feeling uneasy and threatened by this new presence, but the stranger's arms shot around his waist and held him fast against the front of him.
"Get off!" he snarled, trying to worm his way free. He clawed at the arms wrapped around his abs.
There was a cool chuckle against his ear. It was foreign and yet disturbingly familiar to him. He felt cold at the sound of it, despite the warm night and his struggle to free himself. The arms around him clenched and held him tight. He was able to place the chuckle and the arms around him to be that of a man's. The arms were sinew and round with muscle. The veins within his forearms bulged with the manís fight to keep Albus held against him. He was being held flush against a man's chest, and he tried to kick, grunting as he did so.
"Now, now," the man cooed, "is that how you greet an old friend?"
Albus grew in a sharp breath of air, and he continued to thrash. One of the arms around him retracted from around his stomach, and he could feel the man fidgeting with something in his pocket. And then he saw it. The hand of his captor raised it above him, sharp and gleaming, and Albus began to let out a horrible scream. With his other hand, the man clamped his palm against Albusí open, screaming mouth. Thrashing and trying to break free, Albus bit into the manís palm. He let out a yelp, but he knew better than to fall for that trick; the manís palm remained flush against Alís mouth and gnawing teeth.
Then the dagger was brought down and plunged into his stomach.
Albus buckled at the pain as the dagger protruded into his stomach. He coughed and cried out, and he began to double over in pain, but the man wouldn't let him. He kept him held against the man's chest, refusing to let Albus sink to his knees. Albus let his back rest on the man's chest for support as he felt his blood roll out of his stomach and down his front. His arms went limp, and his attacker was only left holding him. He couldnít fight him; not anymore. The pain was too great. With each twist and turn, he felt the knife twisting within his gut, worsening his injury. But there was something else in the mix of it, as well. It was more than a stab wound. At least, Albus had always imagined a stab wound to be pain beyond imagination but he hadnít imagined it to this excruciating. No, there was something else. Something was coating that dagger.
He felt the manís cool breath against his ear. "That's better," he breathed. "Hurts, doesn't it? Good, that's how I want it."
The man suddenly let go of Albus, and he fell to the ground in a heap. Al contorted on the ground, convulsing and lifting his back from the concrete. When he opened his mouth to scream with the dagger still in his stomach, he found that no sound came out. Instead, he felt a foamy liquid forming in his mouth. It pooled out of the corner of his mouth and onto the concrete sidewalk. He became immobile, save for a few sudden jolts of pain along the ground. No matter how hard he tried to move, to run away, to scream, he found that he couldnít. His eyes roamed for his attacker, but soon his search became obsolete, as he felt the man's hands on his back.
He heard the man's voice again. "Oh, come now," he chided. "You may die, but if you die it won't be from choking on your own blood and bile."
Albus felt the man's hands on one of his shoulders, and he gave a push. He rolled Albus onto his side, Al still motionless and silent except for the noises of his spluttering. Confusion, along with the many other things he was feeling, coursed through his mind. What was this man up to? He had tried to kill him. Clearly. But now he was saving him from dying by choking on his bile? Why post-pone it?
The man kneeled down behind him and bent over him, whispering into his ear again. "You can't scream," he said. "I know that. This is more than just a stab wound you can heal with magic. No, this will take a lot more than that. There's something rare coursing through your veins at this very moment, and it's killing you as each second passes. Basilisk venom."
So thatís what it was. That something else he felt in his gut, spreading further into his body with each passing second, poisoning him, rendering him immobile. Basilisk venom.
Albus felt tears form in his eyes, and as he began to close his eyes to the world, he opened them when he heard a shuffling. His attacker moved in front of him now, finally allowing himself to be seen. He kneeled down and moved into Albus' line of sight. His eyes went wide as he recognized him.
The man from his nightmares. The man Albus had always secretly feared would return. The man who ruined his life. The man he had considered his friend before he turned Albus into a killer.
"Hello there, old friend," Parker Namken chuckled. "Remember me? I'm sure you do."
Tears forced themselves from Al's eyes. The pain of the stab wound and the basilisk venom running through his veins rendered him immobile and speechless.
"Surprised to see me?" asked Parker. "Clearly you remember me. How could you forget a face such as this? One that tormented you so greatly. I don't know, but your brother, on the other hand, is quite a fool. He's seen me face-to-face and didn't even recognize me. You know different though, don't you, Al? You know I'm right here. Alive. Alive and coming for vengeance. That's why I'll leave you here just like this, Al. Dying slowly. I couldn't kill you swiftly. You have to go slowly; I have to know that you're in pain, and you are, aren't you? You may live, though. They'll find you in time to heal what they can, but they can only save you if they find the cure in time. You may live, you may die. Either way, I'll kill you in the end if I have to."
Albus closed his eyes as the tears continued, shutting out the face of Parker Namken. He had tried so hard to forget the manís face. For three years, he had tried. And now he was back. Why couldnít Albus just forget about it all? Why did Parker have to do this to him? Just when he thought everything was finally better.
Parker reached out for Albus, and Alís eyes went noticeably wide. If Parker thought Albus could move, he would have sworn he thought he even saw Albus freeze up even more so than he already was. Parker chuckled when he noticed Albusí fright at him reaching out.
ďDonít worry, Al,Ē laughed Parker. ďIíve done my damage. The rest will come. All in good time.Ē
Parker lifted up Alís shirt that had split from below the seam up until the dagger. He lifted it just high enough to see the damage he had caused. He inspected it carefully. Alís blood was rolling freely from the wound, and from the center, Parker could see Alís veins beginning to bulge within his stomach and become noticeably darker. They darkened and weaved their intricate web as they worked away from the wound and to the rest of Alís body. It was the poison beginning its spread.
Parker nodded in satisfaction. ďThat should do the job,Ē he commented, and reached for the dagger. His hand wrapped around the hilt, and Albus shut his eyes in fear again. Parker shook his head at him. ďRelax yourself. Youíll make it hurt more by tensing up.Ē
Parker actually felt Albus take his advice, as there was nothing else Al could do. The muscles within Alís stomach relaxed, and in a quick movement, Parker pulled the dagger out of him.
Parker rose, inspecting the knife in his blood-coated hand. "Like my weapon of choice? Funny how I should finally kill you in a way this all began. With the venom from the dead basilisk found in the Chamber where this all started. It's a shame it has to end this way. I donít want to kill you; you really were my friend. Enjoy dying, Albus."
With that he apparated away from Godric's Hollow and to his flat. He entered, thankful for the darkness as he entered. If he came home and Clancy was still awake and saw him before he could come up with a cover story, he was screwed. She would see the knife in his hand, the red blood gleaming bright on the blade.
He worked through his flat. When he reached the sink, he dropped the knife and turned on the water. He began to vigorously scrub at his hands, washing Albus Potter's blood from his skin. As he did so, the venom laced dagger was rinsed of the blood as well. When he was sure all signs of his wrong-doings were gone, he shut off the water and dried his hands. He disposed of the dagger with a simple vanishing charm and went to the bedroom, feeling relaxed, successful, and accomplished with his day's tasks.
He was even smiling.
When he opened the door, he was greeted by the gentle sound of Clancy's snore. The covers were twisted about her middle as she slept, one of her arms dangling over the edge of the bed. Parker disposed of his clothing and crawled in next to her. Feeling the bed dip beside her, she gave a stir and awoke. Parker could see her smile through the dark room, and he grinned in return.
"Where you have been?" she asked lazily, pressing her cheek against one of the pillows.
Parker detangled the covers from about his girlfriend so he could pull them over his body as well. "Out with some friends."
Clancy's eyes fluttered shut, sleep already tempting her once more. "I didn't know you had friends..."
Parker actually chuckled and pulled her close. He brushed back her hair and kissed the warm skin of her neck that he had exposed. He trailed his kisses from her neck, up her jaw, and to her lips where he kissed her with everything he had.
Lately his actions with Clancy had felt empty and meaningless. He had forced them to feel meaningless to him, but after his conversation with his mother, he now forced himself to feel differently. He knew he couldn't risk growing attached to anyone, but he had already done that. He had inadvertently become attached to Clancy, and the day was fast approaching when he would reveal everything to her. He had to convince her he truly loved her if he wanted her to remain by his side. He had to make her want to be with him, no matter what.
So he kissed her hard and passionately. She actually let out a pleased sigh at that passion and lust he put into that kiss. He broke away just long enough to catch his breath and tell her one thing before crawling on top of her.
"I love you, Clancy," he moaned fully against her. Those three words together. He had never said them to her like that. It was always either 'love you' or 'you too.' Never the complete and meaningful 'I love you.'
And now he knew why he had avoided saying it for so long. As soon as the words left his mouth, he knew they were true.
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