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Chapter 13 : Truth Will Out
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Harry looked to Pansy through the two-way glass. He could see her clearly, slumped back in her chair and groaning to herself. She couldn't see them in return; only Harry on the opposing side of the glass could see her.
Briggs came sauntering up next to him, and he leaned against the wall next to Harry.
“Thanks, Briggs,” commented Harry, not tearing his eyes away from Pansy. He was still watching her for some sort of sign.
“What for, Mr. Potter?” he asked, fairly surprised.
“For not stopping me back there,” replied Harry. “I was out of line. I was breaching my contract. I could be fired, but you let me go at it my way. And I thank you for that.”
Harry truly meant it. He knew he had broken several of his rules in that interrogation room, and he had half expected Briggs to try and stop him, to set him straight as Julia had tried, but he hadn't. And for that, Harry appreciated him. Harry didn't want to be stopped or set straight. This was all he had; this was the only way he would get anywhere in this case. Briggs seemed to understand that.
“No problem,” he answered in a nonchalant tone. “Your son's life is on the line. You're desperate. I get it. Not one of us is going to turn you in for breaching your contract. Even Julia. We're behind you on this.”
“Thanks,” muttered Harry.
“O'course,” said Briggs again. “Besides, even if you do kill Parker Namken, it's reached the point of justified self-defense.”
Harry nodded, glad they were seeing things on the same page. “You know, Briggs. I'd been meaning to tell you something—if I don't make it through the end of this, Ron is, of course, Executive Auror right now. So he'll take my place, but you will be the next Executive.”
The corners of Briggs' mouth tugged up into a smile, and he backed away from the wall, preparing to leave Harry be. “Thanks, Mr. Potter. I'm honored. But there's no need. You'll make it through this.”
Then without another word, Briggs turned on his heels and walked away. Harry watched him go and fell into a comfortable silence, slipping back into his thoughts. He didn't know how long he stood there for, but he was startled by the sound of apparation. He looked down the hall to see Ginny coming his way. He straightened, surprised, but he gathered the meaning of her visit when he spotted the food and coffee in her hands.
She embraced him with one arm, holding the food and drinks in the other, and she placed a kiss against his cheek.
“Hey, Gin,” greeted Harry quietly.
“Hi, Harry,” she replied. “It's late and I hadn't heard from you or seen you. I thought you could use something to eat or drink.”
“That's sweet,” he said as he took the coffee from her hands. He immediately took a sip and savored it.
“It hasn't even been a day,” Ginny mused aloud, “and you're tearing yourself apart over this.”
“Of course I am,” retorted Harry, slightly surprised. “He's our son. I have to save him.”
Ginny knew this to be true, but even in less than a day, she could see Harry's health deteriorating. There was something more than determination in him. If anything, such determination would keep him going, would keep him looking healthy. No, something else was fueling him.
She tilted her head to the side as she observed this, and she demanded to know what it was.
Harry sighed and looked to the ground in defeat. Of course Ginny could see past any façade he put up.
“Guilt,” he answered. “I feel guilty for what's happened. For all of it. It's all my fault.”
Ginny looked to him, appalled, and she took his hand. “Harry, this isn't your fault,” she encouraged. “How could it be? Neither of us could have known that Al would be attacked. We couldn't have known.”
“No, Gin,” he said, shaking his head. “There's more to it.”
“All right. Then tell me.”
Harry felt in the pit of his stomach that he knew it was time. It was time to come clean to Ginny after so long—after three years of keeping the deepest, darkest secret he had ever held, the secret he most regretted keeping, the secret he had hoped he would never have to share. But it seemed like that moment had finally come.
“Fine. Then I have a lot to tell you, and we should go to my office. You'll just have to bear with me and listen," he said. He looked to her, and her expression was stern. She was simply waiting. So Harry took her hand and led her to his office where they could have privacy.
When the door was shut behind them and Ginny had situated herself in a chair, he began. He told her everything he had kept to himself over the past three years. He told her who the attacker was, as he hadn't even shared that bit of information with anyone yet besides the Aurors. When she seemed surprised beyond belief, he went back to the beginning. He went back to that day at Azkaban and what he found when he was waiting by James' side for him to wake up.
He told her what he saw on his wrist, and he told her of who he knew it to be. When he finished, she was stunned into silence.
“Please say something,” whispered Harry after many moments.
“You're kidding me...” she sighed in disbelief. “You're kidding me, aren't you, Harry? You're joking.”
“I'm dead serious,” he muttered.
Ginny went silent. She pursed her lips as she seemed to analyze the situation, and then she lashed out as a result. She weakly slapped at his chest, bursting out with the raging temper Harry knew her to hold so well. “How could you do that to our son?! You're telling me some Voldemort-wanna-be has been living in our son for three years and you decided to keep it a secret?! You idiot, Harry!”
“I know,” he groaned as he took the scolding. “I know. I wasn't thinking.”
“A horcrux, Harry! A horcurx!” she blurted.
“I know what it is, Ginny!” he blurted in return. “Trust me, I had one inside me for seventeen years!”
“Oh my gosh,” she moaned. “This does explain so much. It explains why he's so different, why he's always so angry! Harry, he has been lost for three years and you're telling me you have the answer to everything he's been questioning? But how? How is it possible that this even happened? No one died…Other than Elias, and he sure as hell didn’t sacrifice himself for any one member of our family. So how?”
“I think I worked it out. I’ve replayed the events in my head and tried to imagine how it happened. I think I figured it out, but I just…I'm so sorry...” he whispered.
“I'm not the one you need to apologize to,” said Ginny sourly. “You need to apologize to James, and you need to tell him.”
James didn't know how long he had been by Al's side for. He knew the day was ending, for the light from the sun had long ago faded from the window. Instead, it was replaced by the black blanket of night, and within Al's ward, nothing had changed. The room was still devastatingly still and quiet, and his brother was too lifeless for his comfort.
James stirred from beside his brother's bed when he heard the door of the ward open. He lifted his head from the mattress, picking up Al's hand from atop his head. He placed it gently on the mattress and turned. He tried to manage a smile for his father but found he could hardly manage it.
“You’re still here,” his father said weakly.
“Of course I am,” replied James, seemingly surprised that Harry would ever think he’d be anywhere else. “I’m not leaving his side.”
“You should still take care of yourself,” Harry said, even though he felt hypocritical as he did so. He hadn’t taken care of himself at all today. Like father, like son, he assumed. In so many ways.
“What's taken you so long?” asked James. “And where are the phoenix tears?”
Harry looked to the ground in defeat. He pulled up a chair beside James and looked at him sternly. “I haven't found one yet. But I'm on it, and I have people on it. We'll find one.”
“We don't have much time,” muttered James, turning his head to look at his brother.
Al's condition had worsened; James could see it in his face. The life had faded from his cheeks. He was even paler than he was when James had first seen him that morning, and out of the top of his hospital gown, his veins were becoming more and more noticeable. In his neck, they were growing thick and appearing a dark blue. James knew beneath his gown, along his chest, stomach, arms, and now neck, his veins were growing bluer and bigger as the poison continued to spread.
“He's dying...” whispered James.
“I know,” answered Harry reassuringly, “but we will save him.”
James only nodded and looked to his nap. He gave a small start when he felt his father take one of his hands, but he accepted the notion gladly. He let his father clasp their hands tight together, and James expected them to fall into silence, but that wasn't at all what happened.
“James, there's something I need to tell you,” breathed Harry. He could feel his heart racing, the heat rising to his face. He could feel his panic beginning to swell inside of him, for the moment he hoped would never come had finally arrived. He had hoped and begged that he would never have to see this day. But it was inevitable now. He had to do it. “And you may hate me for what I have to say,” he whispered, “but you need to know.”
James swallowed the lump in his throat, and his stomach churned as he grew nauseous. What could be worse than what had already happened? “O–Okay.”
“Remember three years ago?” began Harry. “At Azkaban. You thought you were dead.”
“How could I ever forget...” he muttered.
“We thought you were dead, too. Until Norah felt your pulse, that is,” said Harry. “There's a lot more to it than you know. We all thought you were dead, we saw Al kill you, and then Azkaban started to come crashing down. We nearly had to leave your body at the prison, but Norah insisted, and now I'm glad she did. But that's beside the point. The point is that you were right. You should have died, but something in particular kept you alive. I saw it and I knew immediately what it was, but I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It didn't make sense to me, so I decided to hide it from everyone. Until I figured things out at least, but I didn't figure any of it out, and I decided against ever telling you...Now, I...Now—”
“Dad?” asked James uneasily after many moments. He could tell that his father was more reflecting on his regrets than spitting out the truth, so James urged him on. “Would you quit with the riddles? What the hell are you trying to say?”
“Fine. I'm saying that...” began Harry, and he sucked in a deep breath to finally reveal the truth. After three long years. “I'm saying that you have a horcrux inside you. There is someone living inside you.”
James blanched. He was still and quiet for many moments. He blinked rapidly, unbelieving of his father's words. He gave him an incredulous look and almost chuckled. “No,” he said as he shook his head. “No, that can't be true.”
“Give me your wrist,” Harry said plainly. He pulled his wand out of his pocket and prepared himself.
James didn't ask any questions, nor did he have to ask which wrist he wanted. James automatically assumed it was the one that always pained him. He let his father take hold of it, and he turned it so his forearm was facing upward. Then Harry tapped the skin of his wrist lightly, saying weakly, “Finite Incantatem.”
Then, before James' very eyes, he watched what appeared to be a layer of his skin quickly disappear. The smooth flesh at the base of his wrist faded from his skin, and it exposed something else beneath it. He watched his wrist grow red, and then in the very center of it, a scar appeared in the shape of a lightning bolt, blazing red and burning.
James gasped and he clasped it tightly, staring at the scar identical to his father's on his newly exposed flesh.
He seemed to believe he didn't need any more proof than that. This suddenly explained everything. Why his wrist would randomly hurt, why he was alive. He didn't want to believe it, but he did. He yanked his arm away from his father, holding his wrist with his left hand and staring at the scar in horror. He moaned loudly, jumping up from his chair, his bones cracking from hours of sitting, and he began to pace.
“No!” he begged. “No, no, no! You're lying! You have to be lying. This isn't a horcrux. I am not a horcrux! I don't have someone inside me! You didn't keep this from me; you didn't lie to me about this for three damn years! Please tell me you didn't keep this from me!”
“I'm sorry, James,” whispered Harry desperately. “I said you may hate me.”
“How could you do this?!” he demanded to know. He held his wrist away from his body as if it were harmful to the touch, as if it would burn his flesh or it was a disgusting thing to behold.
“I couldn't bear to tell you!” cried Harry. He didn't realize just how selfish his actions had been three years ago until he voiced it aloud. “I saw it, and I knew. I knew someone was inside you, but I didn't want you to have to go through what I went through. I didn't want you to have to question who you are, to face an identity crisis such as I did when I realized what my scar was! I couldn't bear it. I was just happy you were alive, and that was enough. I panicked. I was only thinking of your best interest. I thought that whole ordeal was over; I thought that scar would be a constant reminder of what we went through, and I just wanted it all to be behind us! I knew you would never move on, and even worse, I got rid of mine by dying. You...I didn't—and still don't—know how to handle yours! What will happen to you when you're old and you die? What will happen to you with that piece of a soul in you?! I panicked, and I needed time to think it through before I panicked you as well! And then I just...I couldn't bring myself to tell you.”
“You had no right to keep this from me!” he blurted. “This is my body! This is my life, this is—”
“I know,” groaned Harry. “I thought I was making the best decision possible.”
James seemed to temporarily forget about his anger with his father, for he was struck with a very different and very vital question. His eyes went wide as he continued to hold out his wrist. He didn't know if he wanted to ask. He didn't know if he truly wanted to know.
“Dad,” he asked, his voice nothing more than a whisper, “whose horcrux is this?”
Harry pursed his lips. He didn't want to answer.
James demanded once again to know who resided in his body. “Dad, who is inside me?!”
“Parker Namken...” Harry desolately whispered.
James felt himself grow still. He felt that hole in his stomach, which had weighed him down heavily since his father had said he had something to tell him, grow bigger and sink deeper and deeper. He was briefly so shocked that silence and stillness took over him, and then that tranquil shock quickly faded. It was replaced with the anger he was so used to possessing these days. He growled, and he raised his hands and began to claw at his face with his nails in frustration as he groaned.
“NO!” he roared, unwilling to believe it, but even so he knew it to be true. “No, no, no! NO! He is NOT alive! He is NOT INSIDE ME!”
Harry rose quickly. He briefly thought that perhaps he should have told him this news elsewhere, but he knew that he would never have managed to pull James away from Al's bedside without telling him why. It was inevitable that their conversation would take place at St. Mungo's, but Harry could at least try to help James contain himself as to not attract the attention of the hospital workers. He went to James' side and tried to pry his hands away from his face.
“Shh,” he tried to say soothingly to him. “Quiet, James. Just calm down.”
“How can I calm down?!” he shouted. “How can I calm down when this bastard is inside me!”
He yanked his wrists out of his father's grasp, and he scanned the room quickly. Harry didn't know what for, and he was caught off guard when James began to scour the room.
James went to the table by Al's bed and ran his hands over the contents, knocking over the glass of water, throwing the books onto the floor. He whipped around, his eyes wide and frantic as if he were in search of something.
“What are you doing?!” asked Harry in horror as he watched his frantic son.
James was shaking in anger and fright as he continued to look for whatever it was. Then he violently whipped back around, and Harry could see that James was struck with an epiphany. He picked up the glass of water he had just knocked over, and he threw it onto the ground. It shattered, water and glass flying in all directions on the floor. The glass crunched beneath James' shoe as he made way for the largest piece of glass. He snatched it up from the ground, and then Harry, completely mortified, watched him drive the glass into the base of his wrist.
“No, James!” Harry cried out, and he leapt forward. He tried to reach out for the shard of glass in James' grasp.
He watched James wedge it deeper into his wrist, not even crying out or shouting in pain, just grunting as he gouged the glass into his wrist. Blood covered his hand, rolled down the base of his wrist and splattered onto the floor. Harry then realized what he was doing. He was trying to cut out his scar; he wanted it gone, and perhaps he thought that detaching the scar from his skin would remove the horcrux.
“I want him out!” begged James. “Out! He has to get out!”
“Stop it!” Harry demanded, and his hands fumbled with James' blood coated ones. His fingers slipped on James' hand with the blood. “Cutting the scar out of your wrist won't get rid of the horcrux! That's not how it works! So stop it! Stop hurting yourself.”
Harry finally pried his hand away from the glass, and Harry gently pulled it out of his wrist. He threw it onto the ground, and he clasped his palm over the large wound in the base of his wrist. He applied a decent amount of pressure as to minimize the blood loss. When he had a firm grasp on James' wrist and he knew he wouldn't try to hurt himself anymore, he looked to his son.
With his bloodied and free hand, James slapped his palm against his forehead in frustration.
Harry could see the tears forming in his eyes as he squeezed them shut in frustration, and he shook his head, his blood smearing across his forehead as he did so. His words were difficult to decipher as he spoke over his cries.
“He can't, he can't,” he cried out. “He can't be in me. I can't be the reason he's alive! Dad, he can't be alive because of me. No. This can't be.”
“I'm sorry,” was all Harry was able to manage.
James looked to his wrist, to where his father’s hand was clamped over the gaping wound he had caused in his skin. He hated the sight of it. That scar was suddenly a reminder of everything that had gone wrong in his life for the past three years, of why everything was a sudden and never-ending hell hole. It suddenly explained so much. He understood now why he was so angry all the time—because Parker had been a soul full of anger, and of course with a bit of Parker residing inside him, there was no doubting it had had an effect on James' attitude. It had changed him over the years. He knew it was why he was so easily angered these days. He knew why his wrist would randomly hurt him. It explained everything.
James suddenly remembered that day at the coffee shop when he had his meeting with Clancy. It had hurt an exceptional amount that day. Why? Had he been around Parker? Had he been close to him? He assumed he would recognize the face of the man who had ruined his brother's life and changed his so drastically. He looked to his father and voiced this thought.
“It hurts. All the time, and this is why,” he mused. “Not long ago there was a day when it hurt like hell. Why then?”
“I thought about that,” answered Harry, for he remembered the day when James had come to the house and had explained how his wrist had hurt him. He remembered asking him questions, hoping to inadvertently gather up some sort of information. Now they could finally fit the pieces together. “Mine always hurt me more when Voldemort was making plans against me or was near me. I think you had to be near Parker that day.”
“B–But I was in public,” breathed James. “In a muggle coffee shop. I don't understand.”
“Think about who you saw, who you met, who you spoke to,” encouraged Harry. He had long ago thought that perhaps Clancy's new boyfriend was in fact Parker Namken. James had given Harry the guy's name, sure, but that was no proof at all. It was easy to lie about your name.
“I only met her boyfriend,” he rolled his shoulders in questioning. “Nolan. Nolan was his name. Nolan Paxton...N.P.—”
His voice trailed off, and his eyes went wide.
N.P. His initials. It was just P.N. backwards.
His anger was suddenly back, for he knew everything in that moment. It all came to him. His blanket of ignorance was suddenly lifted off everything; he could see and think clearly. And how had he been so stupid?! He had met Parker again! He had sat with him, he had shaken his hand, he had a civil conversation with him! He had looked him in the eye, and he hadn't realized the man he truly was beneath it all. How could he have been so stupid?!
“Oh my god...” moaned James. “No, no, no. NO, I can't believe it! I'm such a fucking idiot! I spoke to him! I looked him in the eye and introduced myself. I was nice to him!”
“I know,” answered Harry. “I figured it out, but you have to try and control yourself, James. Not in here.”
At the mention of control, James only discovered more of how this horcrux had affected him—how it had completely changed his life. “Control myself?! This is why I'm so angry now. This is why I get so angry all the time! Because he's such a hateful person, bitter and full of anger! Shit, that's what's happened to me over these three years! It's all him.”
James rubbed his forehead, groaning, but Harry kept trying to look him in the eye. “Calm down, Jamie.”
“Calm down?!” he demanded to know. “How the hell do I calm down?! I don't know who I am anymore! I knew I had changed; I know I'm different! But this is why! What does that make me?! Huh, Dad? What does that make me?!”
“Stop,” pleaded Harry, and he latched onto his son's face. He cupped his narrow jaw with his hands, and rubbed his son's cheeks with his thumbs. He hated seeing James like this. So desperate and so seemingly lost. He knew it was his fault, but this was exactly what he had been trying to avoid. “It makes you my son. My son, James, and nothing less. I know what this feels like. Believe me. I didn't know who I was either, but you have to trust me. You're no different.”
James seemed to momentarily give into his father's consoling, for he closed his eyes under his father's touch and briefly nodded, but then he seemed to jolt back to reality. He beat his father's hands away from his face, and he shook his head in protest, backing away from him.
“No!” protested James. “No. I am different. I'm not me. And it's all your fault.”
He made way for the door. He needed to leave. He had to think all this through; it was too much to take in.
“Where are you going?!” asked Harry in surprise.
“Away from here. Away from you. I have to think,” he said, and then he violently whipped back around to face his father, and he pointed a threatening finger at him, “but you are going to go find a phoenix! You are going to save my brother. You're the reason he's dying in that bed anyway…”
A/N: Edited 9.23 for grammar and accuracy.
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