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Listening to... by Jinx333
Chapter 15 : One more to the chest
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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Hogwarts (Sixth Year)

James' POV:

Regret. It was the kind that was chilling, bitter, and dripped a toxic substance that ate away ones bones. Until now, I've never really felt things like impatience with myself or loneliness. The Potter family was constantly surrounded and admired by many; if anything it was a hassle to try to be alone. Suffocating. I fully realized that there was always someone, up until now, who has aided me with this feeling. Not in a bubble-child way, of course; instead, it has always been effortless for me to achieve and be accepted. Most of the time I walked around as though I was half-baked. How shameful it is to admit that. A Potter with no determination, or motivation, merely gliding by in a world that kissed the ass-end of the Potter-Weasley crest.

Everyone somehow delusions themselves into finding me incredible. 'Oh, James Potter you just rattle it off so easily, while others try so hard and struggle,' they'd say. At Hogwarts, people fawned and admired me without even having a conversation, or making proper acquaintance. However, that imagine is the opposite of what I truly am: a fraud.

People concluded that everything was easy for me by a single glance, as though they could just figure me out by calling out to me in the hall. What people failed to comprehend was the fact that I didn't care; maybe that's why it all appears so easy for me. So, I walked around doing things half-baked, not caring even in the least bit. Amidst all the expectations for me, it didn't bother me to be like this.

When necessary, I orchestrated the performance of whomever I was supposed to be playing. Roles that became second-nature, as though it was a second skin for me to slip into. In a room full on liars, no one seemed to cared to notice the color of the eyes on my face anyways—only the name mattered.

Forced as I was to act normal daily, at night I walked the Hogwarts grounds aimlessly. Hell, I barely knew who the real James Potter was anymore. Actually, that's dishonest. The real James Potter is buried in a cemetery plot in Godric's Hallow, where place two sets of flowers every Sunday. And another set in the cemetery over, surrounded by oak trees.

Truly caring for things, people, brings a lot of trouble. Then, my half-baked character became challenged by one class.

It was in Fifth Year when I smelled the love potion, refusing to acknowledge the strange mixtures of scent: honey, herbal tea, asphodel, graphite, parchment, hippogriff feathers, and oriental spice. Nothing in the those scents reminded me of Isabelle Wood, my flawed yet accepted childhood crush, and it scared the hell out of me. Caring for Isabelle was my role, it was expected of me and she knew about my deepest regrets. Knew that the burden weighed heavily on my shoulders, and I had been unable to save her...

Besides...Who even is able to identify the smell of asphodel? Not to mention hippogriff feathers... Well, I could and it was like the knowledge was waiting there in some secret, baffling corner of my mind. Alike to some prowling beast, it snuck up on me and pulled my whole life apart. Many people in classroom were giggling, joking, and were overall pleased with the ridiculousness of the potions results. I wasn't one of them.

Ryan had swaggered over to the table Freddy and I shared, rapped his knuckles on the surface and smirked at me. "Let me guess, JP's potion smells like Madam Rosina's magical cosmetics, designer purses, and sunflower perfume?"

For some reason this friend of mine always grated on my nerves—setting me on edge. My fists clenched underneath the table, while I returned a smug smirk of own. "Not quite. Some parchment and floral scents," I stated, offhandedly and shrugged my shoulders.

What a pain. Wait...

"Lucky guess that Izzie wears sunflower perfume." I squinted at him, and then flashed a confident smile. Freddy nudged me into a conversation about girls wearing too much perfume. None of them noticed the glare that Ryan cast them.

When I woke up and walked down to the Great Hall for breakfast the next morning, I blinked at the random Ravenclaw girl who sat at the Gryffindor table reading a book. As I passed her, my whole body stiffened at the smell of warm jasmine green tea, parchment, and that oriental scent that'd wafted from the caldron. The girl's friends, dressed in Ravenclaw cloaks, later spotted the brunette and shuffled over.

"Sly," the redhead, Delilah Ollivander, whispered hurriedly. "Wrong table, love." I drummed my fingers on the table as my eyes fell on the breakfast spread, feigning not to eavesdrop on the conversation. A loud bang quaked some of the table after the girl's elbow made contact with the wooden table and she shifted her head from side to side, bemused by the surroundings.

"Oops," she muttered, got up, and they walked over to the Ravenclaw table.

After that day, I noticed her in a majority of my classes. In some time Isabelle began to give him little shakes, as she noticed him noticing the girl, too. I kept my distance; only to find her alone, stargazing often on the grounds when I'd wander away sleepless nights. A shock frazzled my brain as I recalled that girl sitting in that spot since first year, someone whom I'd thought about from afar without really knowing, or caring to learn, their name. Only a small girl huddled in a winter poncho, reaching out to pluck a star from the sky. I'd pondered what she'd been thinking then, succeeding in occupying my thoughts for numerous hours.

Then it was suddenly Sixth Year, the wind kicked up, and all those scents mingled together in Care for Magical Creatures. It scared the hell out of me, once again. I didn't want this shite. All the while, Ainsly Murphy's plain face made the most interesting expression. As my curiously brimmed, I wrote a letter uncertain if I would really ever send it. A letter that Ryan found, mocked, and I crafted it into a joke. Caring about things was troublesome anyways, I reasoned.

Ryan bet that I couldn't get someone to go for me without prior knowledge of my family, which kicked at that sore spot inside me. The dagger had been plunged deeper. As a result, I accepted the challenge and proclaimed that I'd be taking Ainsly Murphy to the May Ball. Idiot prat; was that today's fraud? It wouldn't go that far... I insisted to the worried expression on Freddy's face.

"James..." Freddy faltered, uncertain if he should continue. "You actually like that girl, eh?"

"What are you talking about?" I defended, hackles rising up and lashing out. "Who would like someone so plain?" My heart thumped wildly as though it were trapped in a box. A sudden sharp pain stuck me like a knife, symbolizing the conflict between my head and heart. I regretted it all, instantly. I only wanted Ainsly, the girl with the asphodel in her hair, to be my secret...

Hopefully, we'd lose interest in rubbish like Love Potions and bets...eventually. What did it matter? I was shite anyways.

And yet now, as I sit here at the end of my Sixth Year, I realized I needed to let her go. This interesting girl, who I'd overlooked one snowy day, and countless days afterwards. After years of not speaking to one another, I had come to notice that when we were in each other's company there was a resonating peace. Through the art of penmanship, as Admirer, I had also come to realize that we were both unable to move forward in our lives. I knew my reason, of course—but her's was a mystery.

Revealing myself from the invisibility cloak, I watched Ainsly as she slept soundly in a bed of the Hospital Wing. Reaching out a hand to push away the hair that fell in her face, I froze—retracting the hand that caressed her forehead and cheek. The hand clenched into a fist; frustration and regret clawing. It was useless. I loved her after all. When I closed my eyes, I pictured those sea-glass eyes. I'd never forget those eyes... Memories from countless rainy days—both in Ainsly's company and not.

"A faint clap of thunder...clouded skies," I whispered, recalling the tanka (A Garden of Words, 2013). "Perhaps rain..." comes, I trailed off, eyes brimming and teeth clenched. I wish I could stay with you. I would never forget those eyes...



(Ainsly's Seventh Year)

Scorpius' POV:

He had been insistent on the library.

Scorpius whirled around another book shelf, peeking between the slight gaps, and leaned in to eavesdrop when he caught sight of them. Would he be riling her up again?

Albus leaned against the wall next to where Ainsly was seated, switching his gaze from outside to the girl beside him. Her eyes flicked over the sketchpad balanced on her knees, as the pencil scribbled and faded areas with ease. Rain drummed down against the window casting a dreary gray forecast on the grounds. Outside, a crowd of people ran in dark clothes, some holding umbrellas and some not; all were clearly desperate to escape the rain pounding down on their heads. What a dismal day.

Hunching her shoulders, Ainsly joined Albus' gaze at the unfortunate crowd outside, and looked about eagerly in search for something. It had been nearly a week since she had spoken to the two boys, having kept entirely to herself in the library or in her room. It was driving Albus a bit mad.

Reaching over, Albus knocked his knuckles softly against the top of her head. Her appearance shifted from pinched to slight annoyance. Ainsly narrowed her eyes at Albus, cutting off her deep thoughts abruptly.

"Ghost," he cheerfully greeted.

Ainsly fixed him with a look of mild distaste, and then tilted her head to the side in inquiry. Returning to expressionless, she rubbed the top of her head.

Albus leaned down, speaking quietly into her ear.

She suddenly stilled, so still that it was as though she was preparing herself to shrink—perhaps small enough to disappear.

"I know what you're thinking," he pointed out, and continued on the effort in imitating her. "I don't see how what I do is any of your concern."

The girl's abstention from speech was palpable. Those blue-green storm-like eyes wailing a ghastly noise into ones very soul.

"Don't you ever worry?" Albus said softly. "That what's in here—might be destroying what's in here?" Albus gestured from his temple to his chest.

Ainsly peered out the window, but shook her head rather than ignoring Albus. After a long while, Albus leaned against the window seat she was at—basically demanding attention.

Scorpius had often wondered what had made Albus this way, how he had come to find darkness amusing or interesting, for it was definitely a unique quality. His expression was identical to the one he wore when studying the Maunders map that night, and when he read about dark arts. Pulvis et umbra sumus. It's as Horace would say, 'We are dust and shadows.' We are all dust and shadows-or dust to dust, in that literal sense, as Albus and I have discussed.

When Albus got that expression, it was odd and compelling—he was interested, yet the features of his face spoke as though he found parts of the world to be both infinitely humorous and limitlessly tragic at the same time. Albus only made that expression with certain people: One being my own father, and another this Ghost.

"Is your goal to disappear?"

Instead of replying, Ainsly scowled at him and stalked across the library—to a more secluded area with a window alcove. Throwing herself down onto the seat, she opened her sketchpad and continued to draw, blatantly ignoring Albus even when he leaned against her new seat. Albus was good with that silent, weighted stare.

"Is that your fortress?" Albus asked cheerfully, as if oblivious of her intentions to ignore him. He leaned closer to the scratchpad, un-peeling his body from the wall.

She ignored him.

"I know," he whispered calmly. "Why don't you?"

She froze; slowly raising her head, Ainsly implored Albus to continue. Ainsly raised her chin, probably expecting the worst based on her stiffened posture.

Stepping up to the challenge, Albus drew nearer to her shelled form and suggested, "Disappear." Like he'd never saved her in the first place, or been disheveled and distressed that night, Albus stated it like it was the simplest solution in the world. The boy was seriously frightening at times.

"Just disappear? Don't tell people that like it's nothing," she cried. "Can you see that it hurts?"

"You think I don't? I'm told everyday that I'm the black sheep Potter. The disappointment, and that I never should have been born," he informed, his voice rising. "I had to learn, too."

She hesitated. "Learn what?"

"To not want to disappear. It's easy to say that you don't care what other people think, but putting it into action everyday wears a person down."

"So what, you were testing me?Trying to get a rise out of me?" Ainsly sounded livid, a rare emotion that only Albus seemed to pull out of her. Pale cheeks dotted with red. "Even if you were, words can hurt people so don't treat it like it's nothing. You can't take them back!"

"Is that why you don't speak?" Albus asked bluntly.

Ainsly's breath caught in her throat. "Words hurt other people," she whispered back. "Even me. And some words should be left in the Forbidden."

"You have the ability to hurt me," Albus responded. "Yet, you don't see me running."

"What?" She blinked at Albus, then walked over and touched his arm.

"Oww," Albus groaned loudly. "Bloody hell. Why did you pinch me?"

"I think I'm hallucinating," Ainsly muttered, absentmindedly. "Why are the Potter's randomly...?"

"You're mad," Albus hissed, rubbing his arm. "Aren't you supposed to pinch yourself, not me?"

"Probably."

"And you act like there are so many Potters, even though it's just James and I here..." He trailed off, swallowing audibly. "Was James a prick recently?"

Another sigh escaped her lips, refuting further explanation than the escaped air of frustration. Declining to answer, Ainsly dug around in her bag and pulled out a box of chocolate pocky. Opening the box, she smiled indulgently at the snack. Ainsly offered one to Albus.

"Oh no," he said and shuddered. "I hate chocolate."

Ainsly looked horrified. "Viper in my bosom. What kind of monster hates chocolate?"

"This one, I suppose." He laughed.

"Jeez," Ainsly said, unable to contain the fact that she was slightly entertained. Life was beginning to enter those glassy eyes, which made me swell with pride for Albus. Ainsly knocked lightly into Albus, catching him off-guard as his hand slipped off the wall and grasped her shoulder. "Here," she whispered, holding out strawberry flavored Pocky.

"Thank you." Albus released her shoulder, patting her head awkwardly-so much that his long fingers slid the brown locks to ruffle but decided against it quickly. Far too quickly that he pulled a bit of her hair, which had him immediately apologizing. Too startled to say anything, she stood in silence for a moment before thrusting the treat at him again. Cautiously, Albus bit into one.

Ainsly smiled. "You're easy to talk to, Albus."

"And you're weird, Ghost." He sighed, took off his glasses, and rubbed his face. "My weird friend."



Present (One Year Post-Hogwarts)

James' POV:

Regret. It's a chilling, bitter feeling that sinks in and eats away at your bones...

As the sleepless nights multiply, I reflect on the foolishness and cowardliness that darkened my youth. No...it wasn't just my youth. It was present and damaging; my existence hurt, maimed, and destroyed.

Who are you? What's your name? They were questions with answers I already knew, the knowledge ingrained in my head from the moments I'd spent with Ainsly Murphy. Like a fool, I was cocky and acted cool when the truth stood in front of me clear as day. She was my secret. And man, I did not deserve her.

And then Ryan made that bet with me at the beginning of Sixth Year, one that was sealed after I'd already written her a letter, which was never supposed to be sent. An intentional letter to begin expressing my feelings before it was turned into a cruel joke. I rationalized everything... Oh, I know. I'll write two letters with the responses from her fabricated, as well. That way, it'd be a joke but my feelings would still be secret. Ainsly Murphy would still be my secret.

If I had not come into her life at all, it really would have been better? If I'd acted a different role, a more sincere, mature one—would the results have been different? With the memory of a past loss, as well; the pain and regret returned tenfold. If this James Potter had never existed—wouldn't it be better for everyone?

There were no current, truthful answers to these questions rolling around in his mind. He'd asked it in therapy sessions before, and anticipated the response. 'It wasn't your fault, James. You have to move forward.' He had pasted on a smile and accepted the advice, but he knew—knew in his heart that the only thing he could do is regret his past actions and live out his life as a coward. His faults with Ainsly only echoed it all: the past and regrets.

Since last night, I'd been walking around in a fog. Freddy had dragged me to my parents estate in fear that I'd show up on Ryan's doorstep to obliterate him. Simon and him had shifts throughout the night to make sure I didn't leave, at least until my father got home.

"Are you just going to avoid her now?"

"It's better for her if I don't interrupt her life," I said to the ceiling. She should be able to make plenty of memories—happy, less painful memories—without me ruining her enjoyment. Just like the end of sixth year, the reason to distance myself was clear. If I continued to linger around you, all your memories will be painful. I cannot do that to you. I won't let that interesting girl with a bright future vanish because of me.

That being said, these other feelings still remain—the same as how they had developed in Sixth Year. The desire to hold her; to get closer to her no matter how awkward, or how often I stumbled over my words. I'll always remember those eyes...

"You're fine leaving things as they are?"

"I'm going to report it to my dad, and help anyway I can that way." Glancing at him, Freddy's face was growing redder with anger. "She should hate me now anyways."

Freddy paled. "I just want you to be happy, James. And not that forced happiness shite, but actual happiness."

"My happiness..." I laughed, scornful. "It doesn't have anything to do with Ainsly."

"Liar," Freddy accused.

"What does it matter, Freddy?" The tone of my voice rising, as I grasped the ends of my hair and pulled. "If I admitted I loved her. Confessed, or whatever. It's all the same result—meaningless. I'm just shite; more worthless than trash. I don't deserve her—no, she does not deserve me."

"You're wrong," Freddy said, sorrowful. "Don't give up, James. Don't do things half-way. Not again."

I focused on the crack on the ceiling that I'd once made many years ago, saying nothing on the matter. Freddy kneeled down, propped his elbows on the bed to be at his level. Freddy recognized that James seemed to be staring at nothing.

Freddy sighed, continuing after realizing the anticipated silence. "Hiding your problems from your friends—hell, your family—I know you're good at it. The protection of your pride. I get that you don't want to talk about it, James. And why you don't want to talk about it, but don't give up. She definitely wouldn't have wanted you to be like this."

"She's dead, Freddy. Isabelle's been ready to talk about it for years, so try hitting her up." The hollow laugh in my throat departed as a choke. "If your intention is to talk with me about that, as well as Ainsly, then you can just leave."

"It was not your fault, James."

Not matter my past regrets, it was meaningless to hope for the last dream of my soul. Because from now on... I should not be a part of Ainsly's life. I'm the worst.

With that thought, I burrowed into my sheets and tried to fall asleep.

...

When the morning sun burned my eyes, I decided to wait in front of my father's study. There was a cushioned bench for when The Great Harry Potter had visitors at home. It annoyed me, especially in my youth, how we had to take an appointment to see dear old dad.

"You look like you're waiting for a hearse," a sarcastic voice observed. Albus. "Where's the trail of blood that led you to the Savior's office?"

I snorted, leave it to Albus to tread that balance between humor and tragedy. "A confessional," I sighed and, more seriously, added, "and perhaps future imprisonment."

Albus raised an eyebrow in interest. "Commit a crime, did we?"

"No." Well, not yet, at least.

"Of course not," Albus quipped, rolling his eyes. "Never James."

The comment stung, driving more salt into an open, festering wound. Yes, I was the boy with the world in the palm of his hand. Bright like a star, but he flew too close to the sun and burned everything he cared about. Now, here I was, sticking my veins full of holes, or repeatedly shooting myself in the foot. Trading his life, he shifted his mask whenever he needed to. Quidditch star? Done. Studious and clever? Check. Obnoxious prat? Easy. Bravado? He could fake it. He was a fraud, after all; a cowardly pretender ever since his fall from grace. Who even was the eldest son of Harry Potter?

Everything Freddy had said was correct, including a past regret I'd never forget. For all the times I'd knelt in front of that girl's bed, promising that I'd never sail away, it had been her that faded from my grasp. With a dark heaviness, the air had felt clogged that night as I sat in front of her door—waiting for her to show, or say something. Anything. Only to regret everything later. I'd been here before—actually, I'd been here all along hoping to try to make things right. Whatever that meant. Now it had become apparent that I didn't know how.

Would these feelings for Ainsly be the same? Unconsciously, his fingers went to his mouth—choking on the memory of a night in the past with a different girl. Will this regret remain with me for the rest of my life, as well? The regrets and memories were causing me to wonder.

"Fuckin hell, James." I blinked up at Albus, who tightly gripped my shoulders. "Where did you go?"

"Slovakia," the bitterness in my voice was prominent.

"Did you smash your face against a waterfall?"

His question puzzled me, until the sensation of wetness rolling off my jawline onto my bent elbows was processed. It had been a while since the threatening burn of tears had appeared. Wiping away the memories that had sneaked out of my eyes, I faced Albus and forced a smile.

"Wow wow. Do I detect worry in your tone, Al?"

"I'm not inhuman, James." Arms folded across his chest, Albus studied him critically. "What happened?"

"Nothing," I lied.

"Did you take an oath to lie as much as you breathe?" Ouch, that comment was quite a kick in the pants.

"Not at all. I'll actually be telling truth," I confessed, gradually becoming more exhausted. "And hopefully not kill someone."

Wide emerald eyes watched the development of the conversation with incredulity. "What are you on—"

"Boys," a gruff voice interrupted. Harry Potter, decked out in field auror robes, stared between them clearly wary of the situation. "To what do I owe the pleasure of having both my sons waiting for me outside my study?"

Rising from the bench, I sent Albus a heavy look before adding, "It's just me, dad. Can we speak privately?"

Prepared to object, Albus opened his mouth only to have my father silence him with a wave. "Let me talk with James first, and then we'll see if there is more to be opened for discussion." James followed behind Harry Potter, who shut the door with a firm click—officially ending any argument.

I laced my fingers together, braced my elbows on my knees, and leaned forward pensively. "I want you to look into opening up a criminal case," I stated, earning a stern expression.

"Oh really, Sherlock Holmes. Do go on," he replied, dismissively. Harry Potter moved some papers around on the desk, obviously not reading the severity of the atmosphere.

With clenched fists, I fought the uncharacteristic urge to snarl at my father's snarky remark. Understandably he was tired from the day, but that was no excuse to be a prick to your son. "Listen. I'm being serious, okay?" My hand smacked the desk, demanding attention from those distracted emerald eyes.

"I apologize," he replied, raking a hand through his hair, which for some reason had a cloud of dust in it. "It has been a tiresome day."

I nodded, projecting more calm than what was erupting inside. "There is something that happened involving Ainsly when I was in Sixth Year..."

One more to the chest, until I'm alone again.



Sly's POV:

"My brother is such an asshat," a familiar deep voice echoed up the stairs after the door open and closed. I was finished with my eggs and toast, as well as my cup of tea. It was strange how different the Potter boys voices were, and yet I recognized both easily. However, that fact didn't stop me from refusing to deal with that problem: James. A flash of pain twisted in my heart. Avoidance would be an art form for me.

Draco released a heavy sigh and called out, "Inside voice, Albus. Please." He opened up the post, flipping through the pages casually as though this were an everyday occurrence.

"Ya ya." His footsteps neared and then faltered. "Oi!" Albus' eyes widened as he saw me. Draco laughed. It was a short laugh, but a real one.

"Come join, Ainsly here. I made eggs, toast and sausages for everyone. My lazy son still isn't up, of course."

"Oi," a groggy voice echoed down the stairs, nearing closer with the slight tap of footsteps. "I heard that." Appearing disheveled and post-comatose, Scorpius came slinking through the room. Rubbing his eyes, the pale haired boy still had not noticed the other person in the room—me.

"Thank you for gracing us with your presence, oh slovenly prince." Draco snapped the pages of the post quickly, folded it, and fixed his son with a critical, appraising eye. "Why don't you go put on something more appropriate for receiving your guest?"

"Guest? Since when is Al a gues—" Scorpius flushed when he caught my gaze, and I proffered a quick, awkward wave. "Right. Hello, Ainsly. Excuse me."

"Yes; please refrain from receiving guests in your knickers, Scorp." Albus laughed. "The nerve."

"Oh piss off, Al." Scorpius' call came from the stairs, rapidly ascending.

"You're one to talk, Albus Potter." Draco muttered drily, the corners of his eyes crinkling in resistance of a smile.

Once it was clear that Draco was finished with the post, my eyes lingered on the slightly indented pages. "Um, would you mind if I borrowed your post?"

"Please do," Draco urged coolly, tone deceptive from the warmth in his eyes.

...

Daily Prophet

America in Chaos

Is the Muggle president prejudiced? Many of the newspapers and articles ask this question regarding the United States President, both in the States and abroad. London's Muggle prime minister insisted on banning him from traveling on England soil.

Also, the current administration has had additional reports of collusion with Russia, which led to multiple investigations being opened. Furthermore, the president's empty rhetoric and language exchanged with surrounding countries has problematic, as well. But the Muggle president continues to align with The Church, who continues to offer no comment on the matter to the press. Who will protect America's children?

As if the past is repeating itself, America remains to be one of the most hostile environments for magical people.

...

Reading the reference to The Church, I stared at the photo provided below. There—right in front of my face—were undoubtedly the cold eyes of my father. His facial features were foreign to me, yet those eyes were chillingly familiar. It had to be him.

"This man," I tapped the photo, stalling Draco, Scorpius, and Albus' conversation. Immersed in reading, I must not have heard Scorpius return. Oops. Offering an apologetic glance, I added, "It doesn't have his name listed. Do you know who he is?"

They looked at me as though I were mad. "What?" I probed further.

"That's Archbishop Caleb, or so they call him." Draco remarked, his brow snapping together in thought. His hand poised on the photo briefly before lightly sweeping away. "He's with the The Church, which was formally acknowledged as Puritanism back in the 16th Century."

Puritans? As in the Salem Witch trials?

"It's not taken as lightly here in England as it is in the States right now, it seems." Draco sighed, tapping his index finger lightly against the table. He appeared to be stewing something over quietly.

"Grandfather really hates that man," Scorpius commented with slight hesitation.

"Your grandfather hates everybody," Draco retorted, dismissively.

"Me included," Albus supplied cheerfully. Used to his antics, Draco ignored the comment—it wasn't like it was a secret Lucius Malfoy was prejudiced. Reformed yes, but the pureblood values still remained.

"Personally, I think it's because I'm a gentleman with dashing good looks that reminds him of his age." Albus explained, jesting.

"But you're not a gentleman—," Scorpius began, rolling his eyes over his cup of tea.

"Oh my," Draco tutted, nixing further discussion. "Such harsh revelations so early in the morning cannot be good for the digestion. Or be it Albus' nerves."

Albus' cheeks turned an alarming shade of red. Reaching out for another piece of toast, Albus seemed to recover. "It's hardly morning, though I don't expect Mr. I'll-sleep-until-noon to understand that." He shot back at Scorpius, avoiding my eyes for some reason.

Fixing my eyes back on the photo, I decided to plunge further down this rabbit hole. After researching more about the man I suspect is my father, I am going to ask Albus and Scorpius to help pull repressed memories out using Legilimency.

...


"Here we are," Scorpius announced. He paused in front of a door—tall and oak, with thick brass hinges. A turn of his hand, and the door swung open at his touch. The Malfoy library was striking; the room even bigger than the ballroom that Albus joked about. In comparison to its width, the length was reminiscent of Hogwarts—all stone with angular mahogany tables down the middle of it. It's lengths vanished around a winded, secluded corner next to a flickering fireplace.

Like in the kitchen, there was a portrait of a pale, lovely women waving delicately in its frame. Astoria Malfoy—lingering in the background as an image of an angel.

Turning away from the portrait, each of the tables was illuminated by a glass lamp that flickered silver. Rows upon rows of bookshelves wrapped themselves around the room, creating a beautiful maze that formed alcoves on either side of the room.

Past two arched staircases on the left and right side, wooden railings revealed more bookshelves upstairs as well. If you squinted, upstairs one could see huge silver and emerald stained-glass windows lined with stone benches and silk pillow cushions, which were set between the shelves.

It was so beautiful—also achingly so.

"Ah, I'll be 'a pauper in the midst of wealth," Albus murmured, leaning against a banister and flashed a smirk. He couldn't have pinned me down with a straighter needle. Would my father live amongst wealth now, too? Was I simply driving myself crazy pondering that that man was my father? Perhaps I was simply chasing the phantom of a faceless man with cold, inhuman eyes. Something that shouldn't be dug up, as my mother would conclude.

"Quoting Horace," I reflected, fingers roaming over the various spines on the nearby bookshelf. Albus always had a knack for distracting me, yet also drawing out memories of painful times. "How quaint."

Albus' eyes were shining like emeralds, against the complimentary background. "Careful. Some books will burst into flame if you don't handle them properly."

"You're joking," I reasoned, thrusting my hand away from the spine of a book as if it was on fire.

"Maybe," he replied, humor glinting in his eyes.

"For some reason I don't believe you."

He shrugged, "So what are you seeking?"

"Seeking?" There was a lot I was seeking, the question was were some things answerable.

"Something you want?"

"Want," I whispered to another book spine. Should I get them involved? They were quite young, and it was possible they wouldn't be able to cast Legilimency. It wasn't an easy task, obviously. "There is something." I turned towards him, uncertain how to explain this disarrayed head.

His eyes bored into me, making me feel as though I was naked—my soul bared. Emerald orbs continued to wait for me to press on. Scorpius remained quiet, like he was patiently testing the waters for danger.

"I want to have Legilimency performed on me," I began calmly.

"You're an idiot," Scorpius stated, simultaneously with Albus' report, "again?"

"Wait! Again? What the hell, Al? We said it would be a secret," Scorpius ranted and proceeded to lay into Albus.

Albus rolled his eyes with a groan. "It was my father. I wasn't saying I did it, but now—thanks to you—she knows."

I bit my lip. "So you can?"

"Why?" Albus narrowed his eyes, trying to discern the expression behind her request.

"That man in the photograph, the one from the post—" taking a deep breath, I forced myself to say the words, "I believe he is my father."

"You don't know?" Albus sighed, relieving himself of his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose.

"His face is different," I recalled, easily. "But his eyes are much the same. I need to be certain, though."

"And if he is," Albus pressed, staring at me without the shield of his glasses. Could he really see me at all right now like that? "What then?"

"I'll deal with that later."

"So you have no real plan," he argued. Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing the truth; ignorance is bliss. That's what he implied, as well.

"Fine," Scorpius relented, sounding exhausted. According to Albus' outraged expression, he had accepted way to easily. Scorpius ignored him, focusing on me. "But let us know when it gets to be too much."

I nodded silently.

"Very well," he sighed with a sad smile, exchanging a look with Albus.

Albus grasped my upper arm tightly, "You're not a fucking book, Sly. You're a person, and Legilimency should not be taken so lightly."

"I know," I confessed, feeling like I was at the end of my rope; desperate for this distraction. "But I have to know."

After countless hours of preparation, the sun had set when Albus finally accepted testing Legilimency.

"Are you sure this is what you want?" Albus insisted on being the one to help me, while Scorpius observed for extreme signs of distress. If such occurred then Scorpius would intervene.

I nodded my consent, putting my trust in Albus Potter—the boy who once saved my life. Would I have felt similar trust with James? I pushed the thought away. "Yes," I said firmly to Albus.

Nodding, Albus' finger lightly lifted my chin—locking emerald to blue-green. "Keep your eyes on mine, alright?" His hand fell away from my face, only to cradle the hand in my lap delicately. "We'll do this together, ya."

With a squeeze of my hand and a lift from his wand, Albus whispered the incantation.

...


Flash.

It was the scene I didn't want to see. James. Finding out he's Admirer and...everything with Ryan.

No.

Flash.

Bullying at school.

No.

Flash.

Her limp body was spread out on the floor—a terrifying sight for a six-year-old to witness. Parents fighting... No; this was more than parents having an argument. It was tyranny. All I could do was stare helplessly as the foundation of our home crumbled.

"Idiot woman. You don't get a choice," a frigid voice calmly stated to the crumpled form. "You are told what to do and follow through, blindly or not."

"No," I whispered.

My father's eyes struck me, cold and unrelenting. Yet, why wasn't I seeing him clearly? "This is your fault, don't you understand?"

I stared at him solemnly, and then bowed my head—like it was confessional day. Look at him!

"Why can't you just disappear?" He said it like it was the most simple solution to all his problems. Meanwhile, I curled into myself and felt like an immense disappointment. It was like I was slowly being buried alive, suffocating on the very oxygen that allowed me to breathe.

It was the same words drilled into me, this was my confessional. "You're a disgrace," he informed me, like he was reading a sermon.

Abruptly, his body moved with deliberate footsteps to close the space between them. Grabbing my arms once again in a vise-like grip, he pulled me against him. "Say it," his hiss echoed into the shell of my ear.

Turning away from him, my eyes closed in a last-ditch effort of self-preservation as his hot breath shaded my complexion. "Tell me goddammit!" He yelled into my face, shaking my shoulders.

"I'm a disgrace," my voice whimpered, briefly focusing on the features of his face.

...

Shivering, I woke up from my memory. The frigid air of the room struck every bare inch of my skin with a violent shock. I backed up slowly, hitting into the bookcase with a soft thud. Glancing towards the window, bright moonlight blazed through the room as if the sun had risen—even though the clock read midnight.

"Sly?" Albus whispered, softly. I spun, blinking away tears and stared at the boy in front of me. "Are you cold?" Lacing his fingers with mine, I jumped at how warm his hands were as he covered my other hand with his.

"Ghost?" He asked, voice thick and soft like melted chocolate, and I leaned towards him. My whole body felt heavy, compressed—like a tree whose branches being thrashed back from a strong storm. Every part of her ached at that memory; in fact, she ached, as if the hollowness deep inside of her willed her to disappear.

Instinctively, Albus reacted for her as she fell, catching her lightly in his arms. Feeling the weight of her fingers pressing into his biceps, Albus tightened his grip around her, gently cradling behind the knees and at the shoulders, and placed her on the couch.

"Can you hear me, Ghost?" Jewel-like orbs asked kindly. Our gaze locked and his breath hitched. "Such sad eyes," he whispered unknowingly.

My eyes widened at the comment, as he worriedly knelt in front of her. Pressing my lips tightly together, vision swimming as a heaviness consumed me. Pathetically, my head lolled. "I'm sorry," I muttered softly, wondering if my words would reach him.

And then she tumbled into the darkness, whilst someone gently rocked her—as though she were an infant.




...

A/N:

Everything recognizable of Harry Potter and Pottermore belongs to the wonderful JK Rowling. I don't own the philosopher Horace, and I don't own the anime Garden of Words.

Phew. A lot happened again. Perhaps I'm getting too greedy, but damn that was a tough chapter to write. To put it mildly, I'm still a bit unhappy with it. James is a complex character, one who I refuse to dilute to just a egotistical prat/dumb jock. He has issues and a past of his own.

The plot continues! Please review and tell me what you think/if you have any suggestions.


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