Parker Namken continued to patiently wait outside a small coffee shop, leaning against a wall some distance away. He let his long hair hang into his eyes as he stared at those sitting out front of the shop to enjoy the weather, observing the customers. He had been patient, waiting outside the coffee shop for a good hour now, but he didn't mind the wait, for it would all be worth it in the end. He had to be careful, though. Even though he was three years older now, as were his face and body so he was nearly unrecognizable, he was still a man legally dead and he therefore exercised caution in all things.
Instead of Parker Namken, he was Nolan Paxton now. Knowing he would have to rejoin the public one day, he fashioned himself a new name. Since that day at Azkaban, he had taken a good two years to prepare himself to assimilate into the world. He had taken the time to let his physical features mature to the point that even his closest friends wouldn't be able to tell that he was Parker Namken. He had grown in height, spent day after day exercising to build up his strength, and he had grown out his hair to hide his facial features even more. While he was taller, broader, and sporting a new hairstyle, he was still prudent to observe those around him to be sure they wouldn't recognize him.
After those two years of developing a different appearance, he had slowly entered the world once again.
He redundantly tapped his index finger against his thigh, biting his lower lip as he waited. He had scanned the customers at the small coffee shop, and he had begun to guess who the lucky girl was. Was it the blonde reading a muggle newspaper with a man across from her? No, that didn't make sense. It couldn't be. Was it the other blonde who gingerly sipped at her latte while reading a book? Was it the brunette with a pixie cut and framed glasses who was scribbling away in a notebook? Or was it the girl with sleek, midnight hair who sat alone and nervously tapped her foot?
As Parker looked more closely, he knew who it was. Of course it was the girl with the deep black curls and the nervous tick. With the girl in sight, he resumed scanning the streets. Where was the other one? The one who would verify his plan.
He waited a few more minutes, and then he saw him. The man who ruined everything three years ago. He hadn't seen him since that day at Azkaban. Parker didn't know what he had expected, but it wasn't this. He thought he would appear more changed than he did, just like Parker had changed.
Then again, James Potter appeared very different from that day at Azkaban yet he was still the same. Potter was taller, and his hair was shorter. He had grown more broad and defined in muscle, his jaw was set with maturity, and his eyes held wisdom and exhaustion. Parker didn't like the way the sight of Potter made him feel. However, in his eyes he could feel all of Potter's troubles; there was so much more going on in James Potter's life than he let anyone on about. Despite this, he walked with pride, like everything was fine and dandy. Parker hated that even more. Who did he think he was?
The kid of Harry fucking Potter, that's who, Parker thought with a snarl, and he couldn't resist a snort.
Parker watched James Potter approach the coffee shop. James scanned the people sitting out front of the shop, for the weather was beautiful, and Potter spotted the same girl Parker had. The girl with the deep black hair and anxiety etched across her face.
He watched James put on a smile; he seemed to know she was exactly who he was looking for as well. He approached her quite comfortably and extended his hand. Parker watched her uneasily shake his hand in return, and it all unfolded from there. Potter sat down across from her, and they entered whatever conversation needed to be held. Parker could guess, though. He had done his fair share of snooping. He knew who the girl with the midnight hair was. She was Clancy O'Dell, James Potter's newest client and without a doubt his most powerful one. She had seized during her first prophecy two days ago.
She was exactly what Parker needed. She was a way in.
Knowing for certain who his target was now, he was able to settle on a bench across the street. Knowing their meeting would take quite some time, he glanced to them only every now and again. As their meeting went on, Clancy O'Dell seemed to tap her foot less. Her anxiety subsided and she relaxed. Finally Parker could see them giving their parting goodbyes, and he watched James Potter walk away from Clancy O'Dell.
Releasing a sigh of relief, her shoulders hunched over and she slid down into her chair, her reserved posture quickly dissolving into one of relief. Parker smirked and rose, quickly crossing the street. He adjusted his shirt, sucking in a deep breath. It had been ages since he had done this; he couldn't even remember the last time he had tried to pick up a girl. He was probably rusty at it by now.
As he crossed the street, he watched Clancy O'Dell rise from her spot.
No, that wasn't supposed to happen. He blanched. Was she leaving? She couldn't! Panicked, he crossed the street as fast as he could, but relief met him as he watched Clancy slip back into the coffee shop, most likely for a refill.
He was able to relax as he slipped into the shop, entering the line behind Clancy. Seeing the woman he had been watching for hours now up close was something different. He could see her features better— like how a few strands of her hair were a deep chocolate, not just pitch black, and how she had a few freckles across her nose.
Biting his lip, he rocked back and forth on his heels and finally leaned into her ear.
“Coming for a refill, eh? I'm not much of a coffee person myself. What's good?” he asked casually.
At first Clancy appeared startled to be spoken to, but then she turned around with a smile. “Oh, this place is great. It's my favorite. Salted caramel mocha, my regular. Like tea?”
“Oh, love it,” grinned Parker.
“Try the apricot chai tea. Sounds strange, I know, but it's brilliant.”
“Oh, sounds wonderful. I'll take your word. It must be great for a muggle coffee shop to attract someone like yourself.”
Clancy blanched, her eyes growing wide, and she turned fully to face Parker this time instead of speaking over her shoulder. He knew that would catch her attention. She looked uneasy, but her lips began to tug up into a smirk. “How did you know?”
Parker grinned. “Any muggle would think that your wand in your back pocket is just an ordinary pen because your jacket is covering the rest of it. But I know different.”
Clancy looked over her shoulder and to her wand in her back pocket. She seemed impressed, but her eyebrows pulled up in questioning. “Have you been looking at my ass, then?”
“Have not!” stated Parker with a smile in a joking fashion.
“That's a lie! Otherwise you wouldn't have noticed my wand,” argued Clancy with a hint of laughter to her voice.
“All right, I was looking. So hex me. How could I resist?” he teased. Clancy only folded her arms across her chest and shook her head in dismay, despite the wide smile on her face.
Parker grinned; it was going far easier than he had expected. He had to keep it up. “I’m Nolan, by the way. Nolan Paxton.”
“Clancy O'Dell,” she replied with the name Parker already knew. She offered him her hand without her empty coffee cup.
“So where did you go to school then, Clancy?” asked Parker as they moved up in the line.
“Beauxbatons,” she replied in a breezy tone. This Parker hadn't known. He had never seen her at Hogwarts, so he had assumed she attended Beauxbatons or Ilvermorny for schooling, but there wasn't the faintest trace of a French accent. He filed that away for later. “You?”
“Hogwarts,” he answered as they approached the bar.
The barista behind the counter knew Clancy by name, and from that, Parker could only assume how often Clancy came to this coffee shop. The barista took her cup and didn't even need to ask what to refill it with. Parker placed his order, the apricot chai tea Clancy recommended, and when the barista asked Clancy for the money for her refill, Parker stepped in.
“Nah, I've got this,” he said, pulling out the muggle money he had gotten exactly for this purpose.
“Thanks,” she said with a smile over her shoulder.
Parker found himself actually giving a genuine smile. It had all been fake until now. She was just a pretty face he had to get close to; it was all part of the plan, but he found that flirting with her was easy. He didn't have to think about what he was saying, how she would respond, or what to do to make sure he kept in touch with her. He was sure it would work itself out, and thus, his first true smile in a long time reached his lips.
He shook off the happy feeling. He didn’t like how it made him feel. He had gone three years with nothing but cold, cruel hatred coursing through his veins. He didn't need happiness or fluff by any means; those emotions could potentially betray him. He couldn't have that. They couldn't get in his way. Not when he was so set on revenge.
He began to rock back and forth on his heels once again after they moved to the bar along the side, waiting for their drinks to be made. He stuffed his fists into his pockets, leaning against the bar. “So how'd you find a muggle coffee shop anyway?”
“Strange story,” she merely answered.
Parker rolled his shoulders. “I like strange stories.”
Clancy appraised him and his interest in her, and she debated if it was genuine. When she decided it was, she rolled her shoulders and nodded in approval.
“All right then. I grew up here actually. In London, and I'm muggleborn. So all the muggle customs, the shopping, the lifestyle: it's second nature to me. My mum and I used to swing by this place for her daily coffee before I grew into the taste of it. I would always get hot chocolate instead.”
“But if you grew up in London—and a muggleborn at that—why did you go to Beauxbatons?”
That was when Clancy began to seem hesitant about sharing her past with Parker, but she eventually gave in to it. “My dad left us when I was young, and then my mum died a few years later. I went to go live with my grandmother in France. A few years later, I was eleven and receiving my Beauxbatons letter. Since I graduated, I've moved back to London; being here keeps my mum in my thoughts.”
“Ahh,” nodded Parker. “I'm really sorry to hear that. I know what it's like to lose a parent. My dad died a few years ago. I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to lose your mum at such a young age.”
A chill went down his spine at the reminder of his father's death. He was painfully reminded as to why he was doing this, why he had been watching this woman in the first place, and why he had to befriend her. Parker had done his fair share of looking into Potter's life. He knew Potter had broken up with Norah Longbottom not long ago; James Potter was lonely these days. This way he would be weaker, and what better way to the lonely seer's heart than through someone just like him?
Parker Namken awoke from his sleep that night to Clancy's desperate moans. He was sticky with sweat, his long hair sticking to his neck and shoulders. The covers of his bed were wrapped around his middle, and he grunted in irritation when he felt Clancy's hand delicately slapping at his back.
“N–Nolan,” moaned Clancy.
“Go back to sleep, Clancy,” he grunted, unmoving. His words slurred as he spoke into his pillow, drool leaving the corner of his mouth.
She didn't give up, though. Her persistent hitting continued as she choked out. “N–Nolan...I think I'm about to...I think I'm—”
Her words came to an abrupt halt as Parker sat up, rubbing at his eyes. He looked to the woman beside him in his bed just as she began to convulse.
“Oh, shit,” groaned Parker, and he quickly moved into her side. He took her thrashing hand as her body gave drastic jolts.
He had been with Clancy for multiple seizures; he knew what to do now. He simply waited by her side as he continued to hold her hand, and he watched her body convulse for a few minutes before the convulsions finally subsided.
When she was finished, her shoulders were left with giving only minor jerks every few seconds as she panted. She closed her eyes, trying to regain her breath, and Parker squeezed her hand. He picked her up and moved behind her, letting her bare back rest against his chest. He kissed her forehead as he positioned her in the crook of his arm.
“I've got you,” he soothed as she tried not to cry. “There, there. It's all over. No prophecy this time at least, eh?”
“Y–Yeah,” she finally managed, breathing evenly against Parker's chest.
Parker reached over to their nightstand, where they kept a spare vial of Clancy's elixir for circumstances just like this, and Parker poured her a small glass. He held the glass to her lips and let her gingerly sip at the small amount until it was gone. Panting afterward, she nodded her thanks and turned into his chest. Her hand played out across his stomach, and she placed a gentle kiss on his chest.
“Where would I be without you?” she sighed lovingly.
In James Potter's bed, Parker darkly thought with an inner sarcastic snort.
Parker knew of Clancy's short relationship—if you could even call it that—with James Potter. He knew that she and Potter had slept together and it had been a heat of the moment kind of night, but Clancy and James shared something in common that they would never share with anyone else. Parker could feel it when Clancy talked about him; he could sense her connection to him. It didn't take a genius to figure out that, if Parker hadn't intentionally met Clancy when he did, then she would be more than just James Potter's client and someone he had slept with the one time. He shoved the thought aside and instead rubbed her arms and kissed her head once more. “Luckily you don't have to think about that, baby.”
“Love you, Nolan,” she sighed against him.
“You too, baby,” he answered half-heartedly.
He didn't like to think about his feelings for Clancy too much. He didn't want to know if they were real or not. If they were real, they could compromise him and he could jeopardize everything. After three years, he wasn't about to risk that. So, whenever he would reply back to Clancy with his love, he preferred not to think about what was truly behind those words.
Norah drummed her fingers against the table at the café, impatiently awaiting the arrival of James. Biting her lip, she began to bounce her foot. She even hummed under her breath to give herself something to do, anything to divert her anger. After months of desperately hoping James would hear her out, of hoping they would have a mature conversation, she finally had her chance. They were finally about to sit down and have a mature conversation, and she was going to blow it if she didn't keep her cool.
She had tried to wait patiently; she had tried to be reasonable. Hell, she thought she had been all those things, and she had apologized profusely and repeatedly as well.
Then she slept with him again and James made it blatantly obvious that it was just a one-night stand. Now patience was the last thing on her mind. Anger was over-riding everything, and she knew it would be her downfall.
She knew she was angry; she was beyond angry. She was hurt as well, and that made for a Norah Longbottom with very poor discretion.
She wasn't the only one who was fueled by anger these days, though. James seemed to thrive off of it. He might not even notice it himself, but Norah knew. She could tell. Anger was what got James through the day now, and when they were both angry...
They would never come to an understanding.
This was why she chose the location of their meeting. Lunch at a café: it was the best decision, and she knew she had to be the one to make the smart decision if she were to be the only one thinking rationally. When they were both angry, things could turn into a shouting match, but at least in public, they would be constantly reminded of their surroundings and would, therefore, keep to hushed tones. This was what she hoped, at least.
Finally, she saw him enter the café. He briskly walked in, scanned the café, spotted Norah, and turned to make his way toward her. He kept his head low and tried to avoid eye contact as Norah sat up. She could tell he was embarrassed and regretting the way he had acted the morning after their night together, but it was shielded by something else that made him refuse to let his apologies through. It was his anger. Always anger these days.
She wanted to make a snide remark about him not being on time, but she took the high road and held her tongue.
Without a word, he slid into the chair across from Norah and looked to her in questioning after a minute's silence. “Well?”
“Well,” sighed Norah. Oh, this would be painful. It was like they were both trying to give each other the silent treatment despite the conversation that had to be held. “Guess we're starting from scratch.”
“Right,” he nodded.
“Let’s cover the basics first then. Our issues,” suggested Norah.
“My issue with you: you slept with Clancy O'Dell and then lied about it to me,” Norah said in an empty voice.
James rolled his shoulders. “I needed someone, she needed someone. It was a great match at the time, and we were broken up. I had no obligation to tell you or be truthful. My issue with you: you kissed that Kiernan guy while we were dating and on my birthday.”
Norah flinched. “Valid. My issue: you ended our relationship before I could even offer an explanation. I was trying to end the kiss, and I've apologized as much as I can. It was a mistake and I regret every second of it. I wish I could take it back.”
“Nothing makes kissing another guy okay. My issue: it doesn’t matter that you were trying to end the kiss; the kiss never should have happened in the first place. That fact overrules your statement.”
Norah took in every word, and she knew she couldn’t argue her point further because she knew he was right. So she moved on to her next point. “My issue: your lack of maturity in dealing with this entire thing. We were together for nearly three years. You owed me the courtesy of explaining myself.”
It was as if James hadn’t even listened to her. “My issue: you talk of my maturity in our three year relationship, but what about trust in our three year relationship? I shouldn't have to even worry about my girlfriend’s trust when I'm going engagement ring shopping for her.”
“My issue—you what?” Norah gasped as his words registered with her, sitting back in her chair. “Y–You were going engagement ring shopping…?”
Norah hadn't known that bit; she may have guessed it, thought him popping the question was coming around the corner, but she had never known for sure. Then shit happened, and James hadn't intended for her to ever know. Now he had just opened his mouth. He blanched, biting his lip, only able to whisper out a single word.
“James,” she moaned painfully, “you were going to propose? I'm so sorry. I screwed everything up. I'm so sorry.”
If only she hadn't kissed Kiernan. If only she hadn't kissed him, everything would still be great. She could be planning her wedding. She could be talking to James about wedding color schemes and driving him crazy about centerpieces and seeing his bright smile in talking about their honeymoon, instead of begging for forgiveness and seeing his angry expression. Why did she ever kiss Kiernan? Now she didn't even know, and it had cost her so much.
“Stop,” he cut her off, not wanting to listen to her apologies. He could feel her guilt now, and he didn't want that. He didn't want to feel it or see her cries, so he stopped her. If he didn’t, then she would break him down and he would give in to her, and they would be back together without any of their issues resolved. “Back on track.”
Sniffing, she nodded. “M–My issue: you reacted so badly. It shouldn't have been blown this far out of proportion. Yet it has. We should be able to have this conversation like responsible adults. Your anger is getting to you. You're making poor decisions because of it.”
Her tears began to fall, and when she saw James open his mouth to speak again, she cut him off. She lost herself as she began to rant. “My issue: how I made one mistake and it seems as if I'll be paying for it forever! My issue: how immature you are being about it, and if someone thinks they are ready to spend the rest of their life with someone, then they should be willing to listen to why they made a poor choice! My issue: I've told you I made a poor choice, and you and I both know you're making poor choices! Why can't you see we're both doing it and why can't we meet in the middle?! My issue: why can't we come to some sort of understanding?! My issue: I love you and want to be with you!”
Trying to act as if he hadn't just heard the first part of her rant, he furrowed his brow. “Issue? You love me and want to be with me, that's an issue?”
“Yes!” she blurted out painfully, trying not to shout to gain the attention of the others in the cafe. “Of course it is, you idiotic asshole. It's an issue when we have all this other shit! It's an issue because it means we have to deal with all of this! That I'm choosing to deal with all of this! Because if I didn't love you and want to be with you, I wouldn’t put up with your shit. If I didn’t love you, I'd be turning my back on someone as immature, irresponsible, irrational, and anger-driven as you! But unfortunately, I do love you no matter how badly I sometimes wish I didn’t.”
“I am not angry,” seethed James, a lie. He leaned forward with a menacing stare, hardly assuaged by her words.
“Then why did you react the way you did?!” Norah demanded to know.
James took a moment, and finally he hissed to her, all lies dissolving. “Because—I—am—angry.”
Norah closed her mouth and listened intently. Satisfaction didn't quite feel like she thought it would in this instance. It was different. Instead of wanting to gloat, all she wanted to do was reach out to touch the man she loved and help him however she could.
“Because I'm always angry, Norah,” he growled through the tears that formed in his eyes. She watched him as he suffered a raging inner battle between his anger and his urge to break down and relinquish all animosity. “Because I'm angry all the time. Because I don't know how to not be angry anymore. Because I don't know what's happening to me. I don't know what's right or wrong anymore because all of my actions are done in anger. So I just do the first thing that comes to mind before I can think it through. Before I do something worse.”
“Then let me help you,” she whispered lovingly to him. She reached for his hand then.
“I can't be helped, Norah,” hissed James. “I'm not a problem that you can just fix.”
“Would you listen to yourself?” interjected Norah. “You were always so kind! So thoughtful of others. Sure, you'd refuse help sometimes and you were stubborn, but you were rational! Your anger is getting to you; sure, I made the first mistake in our relationship, but let’s face it. I’ll be brave and say what both of us know but neither are willing to admit: our relationship was already in jeopardy because of your anger. What will you ruin next? Your relationship with Al?”
“Don't you say that! You know I would never harm Al!” breathed James.
He hated the mention of his brother in any negative context. James had lived with his guilt for the way he had treated his brother while he was Imperiurised, for having given up on him. He would never forgive himself for giving up on his brother while Albus was facing the darkest time of his life. Now Albus was permanently damaged because of it; he was still living at home with their parents and seeing a shrink once a week to convince himself that he wasn't a murderer. Albus was messed up in the head, and everyone had made sacrifices for him because of it.
“I have done so much for him.”
“I know you have, Jamie!” Norah cried in her hushed whisper. “And you did so much for me as well. Now look at where we are. I think I’ve pieced it together why I kissed Kiernan; I told you already that I liked the excitement of it. I wasn’t bored with you, but I was excited by the idea of someone who didn’t snap at me turning a light on in the morning or didn’t make snide remarks when he didn’t get his way. And I was excited by the idea of being with someone again and having fun with them instead of seeing a workaholic only hours before going to bed—if you even came home at all, and when you did, all you ever did was snap at me.”
She stopped them, and she inspected him.
James had fallen into silence, and Norah believed that she had finally gotten through to him. She could see the pain in his eyes, but she could also see that her words were resonating deeply within him.
“I–I’m sorry,” he finally whispered. “You’re right…”
“I’m sorry, too. You are right—I broke our trust and I never should have kissed him. 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…”
He looked up to her, his eyes swimming with tears, and she didn’t see a single trace of anger within him. For the first time in a long time, it was all gone. Her words had purified him of it—if only for the time being. But in order to do so, she had hurt him with her words. And she knew it.
“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, an epiphany striking him in his heart. “N–Nore, were you…Were you thinking about breaking up with me?”
Norah fought back her own tears then. “J–Jamie, we don’t have to talk about that.”
“Tell me,” he whispered painfully. “Were you thinking about ending things with me?”
“It crossed my mind…” she admitted, hiding her gaze from him. “I thought about it. A few times…”
“Shit,” he moaned in pain, hating himself. “Norah, I’m so sorry. I just can’t control my anger.”
“Well, you have to,” she said, preparing her ultimatum. “You're going to lose me for good if you don't get rid of that anger.”
He fell back in his chair, appearing defeated and exhausted. “I don't know how to get rid of it, Nore.”
“Find a better outlet,” she whispered kindly. Unsure, she reached out and pulled one of his hands away from his head. She placed it on the table between them and entwined their fingers, squeezing and massaging his large hand into her own. This was where she was supposed to be; this was her place. She once again felt back in her element with James calmed, his hand in hers, and his mind willing to listen. This was when she worked best. She was always quiet, rarely yelling, always trying to be rational and understanding, to help others despite the blow she may take herself. With James calm and listening, she could do that. If they just worked on his anger, they could forget all their problems and move on. All she had to do was divert any and all of her other emotions that may stand in the way.
“What outlet, Norah?” James desperately asked. He squeezed her hand and pulled it to his lips, kissing it. When her skin touched his lips, he wanted to melt. This was where he was supposed to be. Why was he being so unreasonable?
“I just...I can't seem to help it anymore. I've changed. I don't know how—or when—but I have, and it's eating at me. It kills me and it...it even more mad. I don't know what to do. I'm...always angry.”
“It's okay,” she whispered. Her other hand reached out and stroked his cheek. How could she not comfort him when he looked so lost and desperate? “We will get through this.”
A/N: Edited 9.19 for grammar and accuracy.
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