Chapter 28 : Two Reasons
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When Harry had decided that James must learn Occlumency and Scorpius had heard that through Lily, Scorpius had mentioned that his father was a rather skilled Occlumens, a fact that Harry had remembered hearing long ago as well. Scorpius had said that Draco had been trained in the art of Occlumency by his aunt Bellatrix when Draco had been charged with murdering Albus Dumbledore. As nefarious as the reasoning behind Draco learning Occlumency was, it didn’t deny the fact that he skilled in the art while Harry never quite managed it. So, with Scorpius’ encouragement that Draco would be willing to help and knowing that Draco was the best Occlumens within his reach, Harry had asked him without revealing the truth behind why James must be trained. And just as Scorpius had advised, Draco agreed.
His sessions with Harry and Draco had been somewhat beneficial, but he had yet to make true progress. In addition to Occlumens lessons, Harry advised an additional preventive and proactive measure James could take; although Dumbledore had cautioned Harry against it when Harry was the one with the horcrux, Harry had actually encouraged James to look into Parker’s mind. Since the attack at the Lestrange Manor, the Namkens and any other escaped Death Eaters had disappeared from the map without a trace. They were hiding somewhere, and this time they wouldn’t expose themselves. So, James was their only resource for finding Parker. James had looked every now and then. When he had a moment to himself, he retreated into his mind and sought out Parker. He would find himself walking in his shoes, either moving through a garden or in a library or study. He was often either with Clancy, his mother, his uncle, or an assortment of other known Death Eaters. But nothing yet had brought James, Harry, or the other Aurors a single step closer to finding Parker.
It was one Saturday afternoon when James felt as if he could take no more. He was panting and dripping in sweat in the chair of his father’s study, his hands desperately clutching at the arms of the chair.
“Again!” said Draco sharply, pacing in front of James with his wand out.
James panted and shook his head. “I can’t,” he groaned. “I can’t.”
Harry watched quietly in the corner of the study, leaning somberly against a bookcase. He was watching James and Draco carefully, desperate for James to achieve something out of these countless hours. Lily sat atop Harry’s desk, wringing her hands together uneasily as Scorpius stood beside her, his hand protectively holding the small of her back.
“You can,” encouraged Draco. “Empty your mind. Rid yourself of emotion. I was only able to evade Severus Snape’s Legillimency attempts because I shut out my compassion. I buried it. Don’t feel.”
“I don’t know how to not feel!” moaned James. It was true; James had always felt his emotions strongly, reacted more passionately or more violently, depending on the matter. He remembered speaking to Al about emotions three years ago, wishing Al would be more transparent with his emotions and encouraging him to feel. Emotionally vulnerable, he thought. Oh, how he wished, in that moment, for Al’s capacity for ignoring emotions. He shook his head, and his eyes drifted to Harry, still silent as he let Draco train him.
Draco’s eyes followed James’ until they landed on Harry, and Draco sighed in understanding. James would always feel; he was too like his father in that regard. That was why Harry never mastered Occlumency either. His thoughts were always clouded with his feelings, his love for his friends and family, and his desire to protect them. James was the same.
Draco knew then what he had to do.
Years ago when Bellatrix had taught him Occlumency, she had trained him to shut off his compassion, to ignore his emotions and not feel. For a time, that had worked well enough. He was a sufficient enough Occlumens when ignoring his emotions, but at that time, he had also been a person he was no longer proud of. And he had been that person in part due to ignoring his feelings.
But the years passed, and his strength as an Occlumens began to fail him. Then he met Astoria, and it was nearly impossible to shut off his compassion and practice Occlumency. Then they brought Scorpius into the world, and Draco was a changed person, thereby making Occlumency an impossible practice for him.
Until he had learned to approach it in a different way.
“Potter,” sighed Draco as he looked to Harry, “could you give us the room?”
Uneasily, Harry stood, his arms falling to his side. He looked back and forth between James and Draco but finally nodded and moved for the door.
Draco turned to Lily and Scorpius as well. “You two. Out as well.”
Silently, the three exited the room and closed the door behind them, although Draco knew they wouldn’t go far. They would simply wait in the hall right outside that door until they were told otherwise.
Once they were alone, Draco grabbed another chair and dragged it in front of James. He sat down opposite him and braced his elbows on his knees. “Look at me, Potter,” said Draco in a neither encouraging nor impatient tone. “You don’t know how to ignore your compassion. You love your family. This is all about your family, after all. I get that. But you will never be able to practice Occlumency if you don’t close your mind, and the easiest way to do that is to bury your emotions. So, I want you to try this. Think of your family. Think of your girlfriend. Think of your friends. Think of how they make you feel.”
James closed his eyes to focus on that feeling, and he nodded.
“Good. Our loved ones mean the world to us. They are our reason for living. So, now think of what your life would be without them. If they were gone.”
Draco felt encouraged as James’ face contorted as he clearly thought on what his life would be like and how he would feel if his family were gone. “There you go,” murmured Draco. “Now. What must you do if you don’t want to lose them?”
“Protect them,” hissed James in irritation and frustration.
“Yes,” said Draco sharply, pleased by his response. “You must protect them. Think of your feelings and love for them as if they were your family’s own physical bodies, as their own life lines. Protect those feelings. Protect that love you have for them. Bury it deep. Force it away to the deepest depths of your mind as if their lives depend on it, as if that part of your mind is the safe-house for your loved ones. Can you do that?”
Biting his lip, he nodded. He did as Draco commanded. He buried his love for his family deep as if they would die if he didn’t, as if he were hiding them from physical harm and putting them under lock and key. And when they were finally locked away—safe—James sighed and leaned back in his chair.
“Good,” whispered Draco, and he stood before James had another moment to react. “Legilimens!”
James felt the abrupt intrusion that he had felt so many times over the past month. That sudden invasion of privacy and knowing your thoughts were no longer your own. Still, though, he tried to bury his emotions deep.
He had to bury them. Ignore them. He had to protect his family. He had to protect them from Parker and keep Parker from ever learning that he was a horcrux.
He thought he had cleared his mind. Yet, somehow, somewhere in the midst of his mind, he suddenly found himself reliving a memory.
He was standing before his father in St. Mungo’s. “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’s eyes went wide as he held out his wrist.
James felt himself panicking as he and Draco relived the memory. Draco couldn’t see this. He didn’t know that James was a horcrux; they had kept that information from him. Scorpius hadn’t even told him because he knew it wasn’t his secret to tell.
Still, though, he was too weak to deflect Draco’s advances.
“Dad,” James 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.
“Get out!!” James shouted in fear, but it was already too late. The memory had spanned far enough, and now Draco would know.
But Draco didn’t stop. If he had even registered what had unfolded in the memory, Draco continued his advances and pressed harder and deeper into his mind.
As James clutched at the arms of the chair and grunted, he could hear Draco coaching him. “You’re not clearing your mind!”
“I’m trying!” he hissed, his patience failing him with each passing second.
“Legillimens!” repeated Draco.
Another memory flashed before his eyes.
He was with Norah at the café.
“You are right—I broke our trust and I never should have kissed him,” she said. “It was wrong of me. And I’m not defending myself, but we weren’t talking anymore. Hardly. Occasionally. You came home late; you worked all the time; you griped and got so angry with me for all the little things. I couldn’t…I couldn’t take it anymore…I needed…I needed to remember what it felt like to be with someone who didn’t have such anger…”
“I’m so sorry,” he moaned. “I was horrible to you, and you didn’t deserve that. I didn’t even realize I was treating you that way…”
“And I knew you didn’t,” Norah whispered sweetly, rubbing his hand. “That’s why I knew I couldn’t give up on you.”
“K–Knew you couldn’t give up…?” stuttered James. “N–Nore, were you…Were you thinking about breaking up with me?”
“Please,” moaned James, and sadness joined in with his frustration. He was reminded of his wrongdoings with Norah, all of which he had spent the last several months trying to make amends for. “Stop.”
“If you want me to stop, you’ll have to force me out. Legillimens!”
He closed his eyes violently. And then suddenly, clear as day in his mind, there was Albus.
“Do it, Albus,” hissed James amongst the rubble of Azkaban. “Do it!”
“Run away, Jamie!” Albus cried out. “Avada Ked—NO!”
“Break it!” shouted James in encouragement.
“I'm so sorry,” Albus moaned again. “I love you, Jamie.”
“Stop it!!” James demanded. His memories of Al were his own. His brother was gone now, and now his memories of him were all he had left. Draco had no right to be a part of those. “Get out! Leave Al alone!”
But James’ demands were of no use.
“So, you do give a damn about me?” asked James.
“Of course, Jamie,” Albus answered all too quickly with a swift movement. He leaned forward and took his brother's hand. “You're my big brother. I love you.”
“I love you, too, man,” James smiled.
Albus pulled his hand away and let his eyes shift to the ground when he said awkwardly, clearing his throat for good measure. “I–I’m, uh, gonna–hug you now.”
“STOP!” James cried out.
His parents wrapped their arms around him, Lily took one of his hands, and James placed his head against Al’s shoulder.
Albus listened to James whisper in his ear. “This isn’t goodbye,” cried James. “It isn’t. Not for good. I prophecized that you will come back to me. I’ll see you again. Some day. Some how. I love you, little brother.”
“I—love—you…James,” Albus whispered in return.
“I SAID STOP!” he raged.
His eyes shot open, and he looked at Draco fiercely. His nails dug into the arms of the chair like claws, and he grit his teeth.
“Legillimens!” shouted Draco in retaliation, raising his wand.
But James felt nothing that time. And by the look of Draco’s face, nothing happened for him as well. Draco seemed rather surprised, so he tried again. “Legillimens.”
Whatever was going on inside James’ mind, he held on to it, for it seemed to be working. He kept his mind on Albus and on Al’s memory. He thought about his precious moments with his brother, moments that belonged only to him and he wouldn’t dare share with anyone else. He clung to his brother’s memory—protected it.
Draco tried one final time. “Legillimens.”
When nothing happened yet again, Draco finally lowered his wand with a pleased look.
“Well done,” he complimented.
“I told you to stop,” hissed James.
“I know,” said Draco, sitting back down in the chair across from James, “but I could feel that we were making progress. By me trying to access memories of your brother, you gained the strength and the desire to fight back.”
James swallowed, and his eyes drifted down to his lap in silence.
“The person you want to protect the most is the person you have already lost. You wanted to protect his memory, and although you were driven by emotion, it worked. That’s enough for today, but I want you to hold onto what you learned today. When we try again tomorrow, remember that feeling. Protect your brother’s memory.”
“I always will…” breathed James.
They sat in silence for several moments. James assumed they were done, so why did Draco still remain there?
But then James remembered.
He swallowed uneasily and looked to Draco. “P–Please—”
“I’m not going to tell anyone your secret,” Draco interrupted him.
“Y–You won’t?” he stuttered.
“No,” said Draco again, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, though. That this has happened to you and your family. That you’re going through this. I understand now why your father asked me to teach you Occlumency; you have to be able to keep Parker Namken out of your head if he finds out what you are. I didn’t ask questions before because I just thought you needed to know as part of your job as an Unspeakable. It wasn’t my place to ask questions. But I will keep your secret.”
Draco paused and looked to the door, behind which Scorpius and Lily stood waiting patiently with Harry. “If Scorpius and Lily keep going as they are, then one day we may be family. And I look after my family.”
Bored. Clancy hadn’t experienced the word in years. She had always attributed one’s boredom to a lack of intelligence or creativity. If you were smart or creative enough, you could always find a way to entertain yourself. Yet, somehow, she grew bored.
Since moving into the second house, she had explored every nook and cranny. She knew every secret the house had to hold; she could name every type of flower in the garden and knew which trees the birds preferred to sing from; and she had counted the number of tiles on the kitchen floor. She was finally out of things to do.
Sure, Parker was with her a large portion of the time, and she enjoyed her time with him. In the last several weeks, he had grown exceedingly loving and caring toward her. He was fun and flirty; he made her laugh and made her feel alive even though she hadn’t encountered civilization in months. Sometimes, he was such good company that she could even almost forget why they were in there in the first place. At times, it felt like their own secluded vacation, but then she remembered the truth—that they were in hiding and Parker had a master plan. So, although Parker was great company to her, he would still disappear for hours on end, and when she asked him where he had gone or what he did during that time, he would refuse to answer her. And Clancy knew that, in that time, he was planning the Potters’ demise.
During Parker’s latest disappearance, Clancy had gone out to the gardens to take in the color, as the summer was slowly turning into autumn and the leaves had begun to turn golden yellow and vibrant reds. She had walked as leisurely and as slowly as possible to kill the time, and she retreated indoors when she knew she couldn’t drag it out any longer.
As she moved through the halls of the manor in search of her next pastime, she could hear Parker’s heated and passionate voice come from one of the halls. She turned on her heels, surprised to hear him. When he would often disappear with the other Death Eaters for hours at a time, she had no idea where he went or how long he would be gone. While she knew it was dangerous for them to leave the grounds, for all she knew, they could have. She knew that, no matter where Parker and his followers met, she wouldn’t see them again until Parker wished to make his presence known.
His voice grew louder with each word. He was clearly in a heated argument with someone.
Clancy followed his voice until she popped her head into the library.
Parker turned, having sensed a new presence. His expression was tense and frustrated if only for a moment. As soon as he realized it was Clancy, the lines in his brow disappeared as his expression softened.
“Clancy,” he breathed, his voice growing softer. “There you are.”
She flashed him a soft smile before moving to see who he had been arguing so heatedly with, and she was surprised to find that it was his mother.
Pansy stood across from him with her arms folded across her chest and her brow creased just as Parker’s had been only moments ago. Pansy was clearly irritated to have their conversation interrupted, although this was of no surprise to Clancy. Clancy seemed to feel more and more as if Pansy was annoyed with Clancy’s very presence.
“Sorry,” Clancy found herself apologizing before she realized it. She didn’t even really know what she was apologizing for. “Just thought I would see if everything is all right.”
“Everything’s fine, love,” Parker said kindly. “Why don’t you head to our room? My mother and I were just wrapping up our discussion. I’ll find you in a moment.”
“I wasn’t finished,” Pansy interjected sharply, looking to her son with a look of malcontent.
Parker, however, shot his mother a vexed look while gritting his teeth. His eyes told her otherwise. He hated it when his mother tried to exert dominance over him. He was in charge; he didn’t care that she was his mother.
“Well, I am,” he hissed in retaliation. He turned back to Clancy, trying to keep a calm voice as he spoke to her. “Clancy, please give us a moment.”
Clancy pursed her lips before awkwardly shuffling from foot to foot and disappearing down the hall.
When Parker knew they were alone, he turned back to Pansy. “Don’t do that again,” he threatened.
Pansy flinched at his tone. “You were too merciful today. What happened? You had elaborate plans. You spent years devising the perfect ways to annihilate them. We were going to take down the Scamander boy next, followed by Potter’s insufferable girlfriend. And today you all but scraped those plans.”
“How many times do I have to tell you?! Leave—it—alone!” he seethed.
“You were going to eradicate them all! And now just the two Potters?! Parker!” argued Pansy in irritation. “Those Potters have taken too much from us for you to show them mercy now!”
“I told you to drop it!!” he snarled, stepping closer to her. He was significantly taller than her, towered over her even. He peered down at her, hoping to intimidate her into letting it go.
Pansy refused to back down. “It’s Clancy, isn’t it? That’s why you changed your approach. She’s the reason you’ll only kill two of them now. Isn’t she?”
“My relationship with Clancy has nothing to do with this,” snapped Parker.
“She has everything to do with this! She’s distracting you—softening you! Don’t let her assuage you from our reason for living.”
“I have two reasons for living now, Mum,” said Parker. “You’re just going to have to accept that.”
Before she could say another word, he left her there, fuming and scoffing under her breath. Parker swiftly left the room and made his way to his and Clancy’s bedroom, where he found her waiting for him just as he had asked of her.
She was sitting in the window sill, looking out the window and watching the changing colors of nature. She gave him a soft smile when he entered.
He glided across the room to her, and he scooped her up from where she sat. He set her on the ground and pressed his lips to hers passionately.
She didn’t ask any questions. She let him kiss her fiercely and deeply. His acts of passion had grown significantly in number over the past several weeks, and she enjoyed every moment of it. When she was kissing him, she could almost forget about his cruel roots.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, tugging at his long brown locks at the back of his neck. He gently bit her lip, to which she responded with a soft and pleased moan. He seemed to engulf her whole and curve around him. Just as she felt his hands grip her hips tightly to lift her off the ground, she felt a deep pull within the pit of her stomach. Something unsettling.
She abruptly pulled away from Parker, pushing at his chest with her hand to get some much-needed space. When she felt a second, sickening pull, she clamped her hand over her mouth to stop herself from gagging.
“Clancy?” asked Parker in surprise, reaching out for her hips to steady her. His brow pulled together in confusion.
She was silent and still for several moments before she gagged again, her back convulsing as the pain moved through her stomach. Then, suddenly, she knew it was inevitable. She forcefully pushed Parker aside and ran past him. She reached the toilet just in time as she collapsed to her knees and retched. She could hear Parker behind her, asking if she was okay or if there was anything he could do for her.
But she didn’t even have a moment to respond. She continued to vomit until she knew her stomach was empty. Parker eventually came to her side and knelt beside her, rubbing her back and holding her hair.
When she finally stopped and gathered her composure, she fell back against the cold tile of the bathroom and leaned against the cabinets. Parker stood ran a washcloth through cold water. He knelt beside her again and ran it across her forehead as she panted, and then he kissed her forehead.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Unable to find her voice just yet, all she did was nod as she thought deeply on what that had been about. Where did it come from? She had felt fine before. And she hadn’t eaten anything recently that could have potentially upset her stomach. So why had she thrown up?
There was only one possible explanation. So she backtracked the weeks. She didn’t realize how much time had passed. Living in a house and never seeing the outside world, the days blurring together until time seemed to mean nothing.
Seven weeks, she finally realized.
It had been seven weeks since her last period.
She quivered, sucking in a deep yet ragged breath.
“Parker…” she whispered, looking to him with the realization. “I think I’m pregnant…”
James and Norah were having their usual lunch at the Potter home that Sunday afternoon. With the chaos that had ensued over the last several months, their lunches at the Potters had often gone forgotten, but if anything, the renewed threat of Parker had reminded them to spend their free time together rather than to forget what used to be a regularly scheduled family hour. Sunday lunches had been a family thing for years—even when James had been a workaholic. Even though he would waste his workweek hours away at his desk in the Department of Mysteries, he would still always find time for lunch with his family on Sunday.
He was glad that they were all making a concerted effort again to have lunch. Even Lily, who had just graduated Hogwarts months ago, had just started training as Curse Breaker, and had also just moved in with Scorpius, still found time for lunch. Plus, Teddy and Dominique had returned to Hogwarts three weeks ago to begin teaching the new school year, so when they were all together as family, James missed Teddy and Dominique a little less.
Scorpius, who had of course been a part of the lunches for some time due to his growing relationship with Lily, was at the kitchen counter, piling his plate with seconds. He waved the serving spoon around as he passionately continued on his soapbox about the dangers of Lily’s new and surprising career.
“I’m just saying!” he said, rolling his shoulders. “For a job this dangerous, you think the training program would at least be longer than a month!”
Lily scoffed yet giggled. “One month is perfectly long enough before getting out into the field!”
“You know,” Scorpius ranted again as he returned to the table with his second plate of food, “it’s not that I’m not proud of you or don’t want you to do something you enjoy; I’m just going to hate wondering every day if tomb in Egypt has booby-trapped you.”
Everyone at the table chuckled, particularly Lily, who giggled and looked up to Scorpius as he dropped into his seat next to her.
“I love you, too,” she laughed and leaned over to peck his cheek, taking his worry for her as a sign of love.
“Don’t worry,” Ginny chimed in, turning to face Scorpius. “I used to worry the same thing about Harry all the time. A few times, he came home pretty scraped up or missing an eyebrow, but that’s the thing—he always came home.”
Harry rolled his eyes with a chuckle and a shake of the head.
James smiled at the exchange. This was normal, he thought to himself. This is what happiness felt like, and this is how family should be. For the first time in a long while, he wasn’t concerned about growing his skills as an Occlumens, he wasn’t concerned about the horcrux in his wrist, and he wasn’t concerned about Parker Namken off somewhere plotting against them all.
He smiled, and he subtly reached for Norah’s hand under the table. She turned to look at him as she felt his fingers delicately slip between her own. She passed him a smile, and her eyes lit up as James squeezed her hand.
James then felt a pang in his wrist. He winced and wrinkled his nose. The pain didn’t last long. Instead of continuing to surge up his arm as it normally would, he felt something new and odd instead. He furrowed his brow as he tried to uncover just what that feeling was.
Norah noticed his change in demeanor and asked him quietly, trying not to disturb the other happy exchanges at the table. “What is it?”
“I–I don’t know,” he answered.
Even though they had tried to keep it to themselves, Harry still picked up on the change across the table. He sat up straighter and asked uneasily. “James? You all right?”
James swallowed, looking to his lap as if to concentrate. “Y–Yeah,” he said again. “I don’t know what’s happening…I feel…different.”
“Different how?” asked Norah.
“I don’t know,” he said awkwardly again, retreating into himself. He released Norah’s hand and pulled it into his grasp, rubbing his wrist as if it would help him understand just what was happening to him. “I’ve never felt this before. It’s not coming from me. I think it’s Parker.”
At the mention of Parker, Harry perked up even more. “Is he hurt? Is he angry?”
James thought on that. He tried to interpret the different feeling that was coursing through him. He felt so different than he had felt in years. Lighter in a way. He felt less burdened, as if a weight he didn’t know he had been carrying had been lifted from his shoulders. Some dark and irritated underlying persona that always resided deep within him suddenly disappeared.
“N–No,” answered James uneasily. “He’s happy. He’s really, really happy…”
“That can’t be good…” muttered Ginny, turning to Harry in fear.
Harry nodded in agreement, and he reached across to grasp James’ shoulder. “Parker being happy likely doesn’t bode well for us. It might mean he’s decided his next move or he has a leg up on us. We need to know. Look. Find out…”
“Agreed,” muttered James as he lowered his head and closed his eyes.
He took a deep breath and he sunk into himself. Even though he had only done it a handful of times, slipping into Parker’s mind got easier and easier each time. Within seconds, he was no longer at the table surrounded by his family. Instead, he was on the floor of a bathroom with Clancy before him.
Clancy looked bewildered and flustered, but Parker was clearly beaming from the situation. Even though James knew he was in front of Clancy, his view of her was slightly blurred, which James could only assume meant Parker was teary eyed.
James felt Parker dab at his eyes and sniff. He reached out and cupped Clancy’s face in his hands.
“You don’t look happy,” Parker said in a disappointed voice. “Why aren’t you happy?”
“I–I am happy,” persuaded Clancy. “Really. I am. I’m just surprised more than anything. P–Parker, what are we going to do?!”
“What do you mean ‘what are we going to do’?” he asked, shaking his head as he blinked back tears and stroked her cheeks. He leaned forward and kissed her deeply. “We’re going to have a baby. We’re going to be parents, and we’re going to be a family together. That’s what we’re going to do.”
At Parker’s words, James couldn’t tolerate any more. Shell shocked, he retreated from Parker and opened his eyes when he knew his consciousness had returned to the table. He found himself out of breath.
“Oh my god,” he breathed, shaking his head. “Clancy’s pregnant.”
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