A/N: Hello again! So that 'short wait' I was hoping for didn't go er...quite according to plan. Um... *Gives you the chapter and backs away slowly*
Dedicated to Daziy is SoniQ, who was, as she eagerly pointed out, my 200th review!
...a whisper on the lingering wind: 'Kill the spare.'
James stood there, paralyzed in the darkness as though devil's snare had wrapped around him without him noticing. He felt that he was in the very same spot, certain that he had not moved at all, and yet - if the current pattern was to be relied upon - it must be a year later –another birthday. Had he imagined that voice? Had these memories finally made him lose the plot? As if to answer him, he heard yet another voice,
"No, don't-" its tone held no ice, no malice, yet the desperate plea pierced his soul in much the same way. "Not Cedric-" James stared at where he could just about see the outline of his dad's sleeping figure. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as apprehension turned his blood cold. Cedric. Cedric Diggory? He could not fail to know that name. Not when it was the very first thing he had learnt about the war in History of Magic, before he had started tuning out of the lessons. Not when that name was engraved somewhere in his mind as if it were just another plaque at the very top of another war memorial. But why would his dad be murmuring Cedric's name, in his sleep no less? And what of the other voice, a voice so cruel and callous that it could never belong to his father?
Was there another person in the room? Before this idea could panic him he was distracted by his dad calling out, voice high and fearful: "Don't kill Cedric!"
James made to step forward - more out of instinct than anything - but resigned to the fact that there was nothing he could do. He had learned the hard way there was nothing he could do to help or comfort his dad in these memories. His arms wrapped around himself helplessly. It was all he could do to protect himself from the morbid idea that his dad had potentially played witness to Cedric's death.
James nearly jumped out of his skin as Harry tossed suddenly and violently; the blankets were flung off harshly into a heap at his feet. The bed creaked loudly in protest.
Bone of the father, unknowingly taken... James clutched his heart and frantically looked around. He thought wildly that the speaker was lurking somewhere in the shadows, circling them, determined to scare him to death. Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken... the alarming words reverberated around the walls and his fingers tightened as if trying to rip into his chest, to reach his frantic heart to stroke and soothe it. Calm, James, be calm.
This was a memory of his dad having a dream on his birthday, he reasoned logically -something that didn't come naturally to him – trying desperately to make sense of the situation he had found himself in. However, there seemed to be a lingering ghost of another memory. Something seeping through the cracks of the one he was witnessing. Whatever it was his dad was dreaming about - a death, some sort of sick ritual - it had happened. His dad was dreaming about it, and that dream was contaminating the memory in which James now stood. He could hear his dad shaking, muttering to himself feverishly. The temperature seemed to have dropped several degrees. If he closed his eyes he would have sworn that they were outside. He could practically feel wind rushing past him, an icy breeze slapping at his face. The chill seemed to be taunting him, laughing at them.
"It's going to be okay," he found himself saying, taking himself by surprise, forgetting to feel foolish for talking to someone who could not hear him. "It's just a dream." He knew that for his dad it was not just a dream but he felt the need to say something, to do something to push away this powerless feeling, to drown out the cruel whispers. "Just wake up, you're safe here."
James bit his lip. His dad wasn't really safe here at all. As if to accentuate his thoughts, the very walls themselves seemed to whisper mockingly, Bow to death, Harry...
James shivered, as though he had been carelessly shoved head first into a freezer, but there was a spark of anger inside him, anger that the owner of the voice had made his dad suffer. Was it him? Volderm- no -Tom Riddle. He would be known by his real name. James would not be scared of Riddle's name or voice, he decided firmly, but his new resolve quickly evaporated as, to his horror, his dad began to thrash wildly, screaming out - "Dad! Help me!"
James looked towards the door, for a second expecting it to burst open. For a black-haired man in his pajamas, glasses askew, to rush in. He knew it wasn't going to happen. Harry didn't have a father, not any more. But James was used to the idea, the idea of a father being there when you needed him. The door stayed firmly closed; there was no running feet, no sound of anyone stirring in the other rooms and James felt his bitter fury rising again. Why was no one coming? Could they not hear his yelling?
"Dad! He's going to kill me, Dad!" Harry's legs were flailing madly as though desperate to run. His arm was outstretched, reaching out for something or someone James could not see. How could they just leave him there?, his thoughts raged, they're supposed to be family. James felt hot tears prick at the corner of his eyes. Their warmth seemed to melt his frozen state for he rushed forward, kneeling beside the bed, "Wake up, its okay, just wake up." He had long ago realised that he was just repeating what his dad had used to murmur to him, when he had his own nightmares. As if James's plea had gotten through to him, Harry sat bolt upright, one hand clutching the edge of the bed, the other his heart, as he gasped for breath.
James watched on worriedly as his dad's hunched over figure regained a steady breathing pace. Harry then swung his legs over the edge of the bed and James quickly stood up again. Both of them were still shaking. James brushed at his eyes furiously, not that he could entirely blame himself for nearly going to pieces. He just hoped that the nightmarish voices would stay at bay now that his dad was awake. He glanced back at his dad, who had stood slowly. Harry pulled at the curtains before flinging the window open.
The first thing that struck him (once his eyes had drunk in the familiar moon light) was that his dad was a lot taller than he had been in the previous memory. This gave James a glimmer of hope. He'd been praying for a growth spurt for what seemed like ages now. At least he wasn't as bad as Albus, who he teased relentlessly for being shorter than even some of the students in the years below him. James frowned at the baggy pajamas that had defied Harry's sudden growth by continuing to hang off him. He couldn't for a second imagine his dad wearing such clothing in his time.
He couldn't picture his dad wearing anything fancy or designer either. He'd seen him dressed up for formal occasions and parties of course but even then his attire was kept simple. His dad was like that with a lot of things though, despite how much money their family possessed. In fact, James was sure the only thing Harry 'splashed out on' was Quidditch equipment (though he never brought anything other than a Firebolt) and presents for others. James decided to push these ponderings aside, not wanting to dwell on the origin of his dad's habits. Instead, he looked about the room, taking satisfaction in seeing his dad's wizarding things still scattered around in much the same way. In fact, if it wasn't for his dad's slight change in appearance he would have sworn there had been no drastic advance in time.
Just like before he witnessed the customary arrival of the usual owls, though he was sad to note, no tropical bird of any kind was among them, and to note that there was one less card and present than last time. There were three cards, one small rectangle and two square-shaped presents which were the exact same size. This turned out to be because they were both boxes of Honeydukes chocolates.
To James's surprise, Harry didn't look particular delighted by the presents. (How could he not be happy with chocolate? Ones that looked pretty expensive too.) In fact, he quickly set them aside and was quickly opening Ron's card. This too seemed to disappoint him, as he put it on the desk and turned without comment or smile to Hermione's card.
James stood there, baffled by such behaviour. It was a startling contrast to his dad's thirteenth birthday. There was no huge grin, no trembling hand, no handling of the presents as though they were fragile. He watched as Harry read the card several times as if trying to find some sort of hidden message. If that was the case he certainly didn't find one.
If James had been shocked by the haunting whispers or his dad's sudden ungratefulness, it was nothing on what happened next.
He stated anxiously at his dad's stony face. He could almost hear the tense ticking in the background...three...his dad's eyes slowly grew dark...two...his hands curled tightly around the unarmed card...one... Harry leaped up, the card falling crumpled to the floor, and snatched up a box of chocolate which he flung savagely across the room, knocking over the bin in the corner. James shrunk back against such visible rage as Harry let out a frustrated cry that was more of a growl and rounded on his unguarded cupboard door with a furious kick. He then flung himself back onto the bed, where he sat with his head in his hands breathing heavily. His hands thrust their way into his hair and he muttered darkly to himself. In the corner Hedwig gave a squawk that made him look up.
"What?" he snapped harshly. As soon as the words were out his mouth he looked regretful. His expression slowly softened and he stood, looking less tense. He approached Hedwig, speaking tenderly.
"I'm sorry, Hedwig." The owl looked at him reproachfully with her wide yellow eyes and nipped his finger when he tried to stroke her.
"I'm sorry," he repeated earnestly, sighing deeply. "I really am. It's just...I'm just so..." he couldn't seem to find the right words to put his feelings into. Hedwig just stared at him. To James, it looked as though she was listening intently. "It's like they don't even trust me," he said instead, wandering back over to the bed. "Or maybe they think I'm fragile. Or irresponsible." His head was in his hands again and James thought he saw him rubbing his scar as though it irritated him.
"They think I can't take care of myself. Well, I bloody can." And with that, he dipped down, retrieved his covers and flung them over himself.
The moonlight shimmered and liquefied, the memory shifted. Once it became still again the room was teeming with morning sunshine. Harry stood in the doorway of his bedroom dressed in upturned jeans and a plain red T-shirt, two sizes too big for him. James stared at him, wishing more than ever that he could communicate with the memory of his dad. He could ask Harry who it was that supposedly didn't trust him. It couldn't be Ron and Hermione because the three of them trusted each other with everything and James couldn't see this being any different in the past.
Harry tossed a newspaper (the pictures were moving, so James guessed it was the Daily Profit) on to the bed. He left the room with a look of exasperation and disgust. James wondered what it was about. The war? The Ministry? He could only guess. He followed his dad down the stairs in the hopes of some answers. He doubted he would get any though. These memories seemed to bring nothing but more questions. He felt like he'd gone to see a muggle movie with a weak bladder and kept missing all the important scenes to nip to the loo. He decided all he could do was store the questions, that couldn't be dismissed as teenage angst and pessimism, in the back of his mind.
A loud burst of laughter met his ears at the bottom of the stairs. Both he and his dad looked towards the source of the sound: the kitchen. James shrugged indifferently; nothing the Dursley's could find funny would interest him. He turned back to his dad and frowned. There was an almost wistful look upon his dad's face. For a moment James thought his dad was going to go join them, but the moment past. Harry's face became blank again. He picked up his ragged trainers and put them on, turning his back on the kitchen door.
Harry was about to reach out for the front door when the Kitchen door opened. They both turned to see Dudley standing there with a bowl in his hand. James was startled by the change in Dudley's appearance. He was still as big as ever but he seemed more in shape, with the muscular arm's he had come to identify Dudley with. He looked a lot more like the adult James knew now. It turned out that this was only in body and not personality as Dudley grunted:
"Where are you going?"
"Like you care," Harry replied coolly, pulling the door open.
"You haven't had breakfast." Dudley commented suddenly. Harry stared at him.
"What's that to you?"
"You can have some of mine."
James blinked in surprise at the comment. Maybe he had judged too soon. Or not.
Dudley picked a stick of celery from out his bowl and flung it at his cousin. Harry caught it easily, popped it in his mouth and, in true teenage fashion, slammed the door behind him.
To James's relief he found himself able to walk through the very solid-looking door and out into the front garden. He had to hurry to catch up with his dad, the house behind him already fading away into nothingness. Harry was walking very fast, his hands deep in his pockets. He didn't look at any of the neighbours he passed, either on the street or lounging in their suburban gardens. James did though and he caught the dirty looks his dad was getting, as though he was a slug that had crept into a well made salad and disturbed the dinner guests. James glared back at them. They made no comments and turned their noses away.
James tagged along after his dad, getting more and more baffled by his behaviour. He'd seen his dad pull a muggle news paper from a bin (startling a nearby cat in the process) and scan it from page to page. Then he'd wandered up and down the newspaper isle in the news agents, looking at all the front pages, till he was shooed out by a harassed looking woman. Then he'd listened in at an open window to a man's blaring radio. An experience that he learnt nothing from (except that the radio presenter had a crush on Mariah Carey), and got an apple and a curse hurled at him for his efforts.
In between scavenging news he seemed to wander around aimlessly and moodily. It wasn't until they had passed the same park for the third time (James noticed the swings had mysteriously broken themselves since their last passing) that Harry made his way back to the Dursleys. James watched him walk down the street that began to fade, along with the rest of the memory.
Couple of notes on this chapter:
I know that 'Bone of the father' etc. was Wormtail's voice but James does not know enough about the two of them or the situation to really distinguish between the two voices, if that makes any sense at all.
Hope the chapter made sense. With the whole ghost-of-another-memory-thing. The pensive is a pretty complex thing when you really think about it I guess. It's got Harry's thoughts in there too. I know some of you want me to do other scenes from outside his birthdays. This was as close as I could get it for you, without showing him a non-birthday scene.
I can tell you that I aim to have 16 chapters and an Epilogue. Don't hold your breath for the next chapter, I wouldn't want you passing out. I've finally go time to write now though so the wait will be a lot shorter than a year!
Okay and for those who got me to 200 (!), favourite-ed, put on alert or simply just didn't kill me, I shall leave you with, Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you...