Questions and Answers


Story Summary:
What happens when the past collides with the present and threatens to cast the Potters' and Weasleys' lives into disarray...

Chapter 39 - Boomerang


Harry shut the door behind them and leaned against the workbench. He had been home for a few days, but still tired easily. He reached back with his good hand and unearthed a box of Chocolate Frogs, and tossed one to James. 'So where do you want to start?' he asked casually.


James slowly chewed a foot off his Chocolate Frog. 'I dunno,' he mumbled. 'The beginning, I guess.'

Harry heaved an internal sigh of relief. At least the beginning, as it were, wasn't nearly as difficult to speak about as the end. He slid back onto the workbench, heedless of the grime he knew was streaking the back of his jeans. 'Well... You know my parents died when I was a bit more than a year old. They'd gone into hiding, and a friend of their betrayed them and told Riddle their location. He killed my dad, who tried to buy Mum and me some time to get away, then came after Mum.' Harry stared at the wall, seeing the shattered house on the other side of the valley, where he never took the children. 'He told Mum to move away from me, and she refused. So, he killed her, then tried to do the same to me. Only for some reason the Killing Curse didn't work and Riddle just... disappeared...'


'At the time, nobody knew. But later, I found out he'd been splitting his soul so much, that there wasn't much left by then.'

'No, why didn't you die?' James interrupted.

With a glance at the door, as if he expected Ginny to burst through them and scold him for taking the sling off, Harry lifted the strap over his head. Rubbing the reddened mark on his neck, he shrugged with his good shoulder. 'I wish I knew. Putting it all into a prophecy isn't quite enough for me. But, it's the best explanation I have.' Harry smiled crookedly. 'There are things you have to take on faith, and sometimes, like your aunt Hermione, you need proof. A year or so before I was born, someone made a prophecy that the one to defeat Riddle would be born at the end of July. And it could have been Neville, too,' he added. 'But, he picked me - the half-blood, like himself.

'The upshot of it all was I got sent to live with Mum's sister. See, when Mum died to save me, she enacted a charm. Very old magic. So as long as I could live with one of her blood relations, I was safe. At least until I came of age.'

James hoisted himself onto the workbench next to his father. 'Lily said she met them. After you put Al and me on the train in January.' He glanced at Harry. 'Said they were... Shirty.'

'Just a bit,' Harry said dryly. 'They took me in, because, really, they didn't have much of a choice. They didn't like magic, and tried everything they could to ensure I didn't show any signs of it, either.' Harry tried to find a subtle way of saying exactly what the Dursleys had done in their attempts, but gave up. 'They mistreated me,' he said baldly. 'I didn't have a proper room until I was nearly eleven. Up to that point, I slept in a cupboard under their stairs.'

'Like the one you and Mum keep things like wellies?'

'Yeah. Except mine wasn't as clean.'

James shuddered. His parents weren't what he would classify as freakishly neat, but even their cupboard had its fair share of dust bunnies and spider webs. 'That's...' He shook his head, unable to reconcile the image of his father with the shy, skinny, somewhat wary child from the photographs of Harry with Ron and Hermione from his first year of school.

'Don't let it bother you,' Harry said diffidently. 'Molly more than made up for it starting my first year.'

James licked a smear of chocolate off his thumb. 'You said if we had known about your years at school, this wouldn't be a big deal...' He idly picked up a jar with a collection of nuts that Al had patiently sorted last summer. 'What happened, did you get attacked or something your first year?'

'Yes. I did.'

Harry's calm statement startled James so much, the jar slipped from his hands and crashed to the floor of the shed. 'What? Why? How?'

'Oh...' Harry sighed, flicking his wand at the mess on the floor. The jar seamlessly repaired itself and the nuts neatly poured back into it. 'You know... I think this might be easier if you saw it...' He slid to the floor. 'Don't go anywhere. I'll be right back.' He slipped the sling back over his head and walked into the house, heading straight to the study. A small cupboard stood in the corner. Harry only opened it occasionally, but he never used what sat inside. He unlatched the doors, and nudged them open, revealing a shallow stone bowl that had once occupied a cupboard in the Headmaster's office. Harry traced a fingertip over the runes that were etched on the rim. He had always meant to ask Hermione what they meant, but he could never bring himself to show the Pensieve to her. He slid his right hand under it, and hefted it up, cradling it in his arm. 'You can do this,' he muttered to himself as he went back to the shed.

James straightened up, pointing to the Pensieve. 'What's that?'

'Could you take it?' Harry asked. 'I could manage picking it up, but you'll have to set it down.' As James reached for the bowl, Harry cautioned, 'Don't touch the stuff inside yet.' Confused, James looked down into the bowl at the rippling, silvery light that filled the dim shed.

'What is this?' he asked.

'That,' Harry began, 'is a Pensieve. It holds memories. It'll be like you were there.'

'Wicked!' James breathed. 'How'd you get one?'

'It used to belong to Professor Dumbledore. After the war, McGonagall gave it to me. Said I might need it one day.' Harry held the tip of his wand to his temple, and pulled it away, taking a few silver wisps with it. He carefully transferred it to the Pensieve. 'Go on, then,' he said. 'Put your face in it.'

James' face scrunched in uncertainty, but he bent over the bowl and lowered his face into the shimmering liquid. He found himself in a room occupied by a man in a turban, and... Harry. But not a Harry James knew. This Harry was round-cheeked, with floppy hair, wearing a jumper that was far too big and jeans that would have dragged on the floor, had the hems not been turned up a few times. He couldn't have been more than eleven or twelve years old. 'Watch this,' said a voice in his ear, and James turned in surprise to see Harry standing next to him. 'You're about to see what's behind door number three...' James' eyes slid back to his father's younger self and stared in outright horror as the man unwound a turban, revealing a face on the back of his head.

'What the bloody hell is that?' blurted James.

'Quirrell. My first Defense professor.' Harry paused. 'And Riddle. Sort of.'

James gasped as Quirrell's hands blistered and burned when the tried to take a blood-red stone from Harry. He tried to tear his gaze away, but watched in sick fascination as Quirrell, goaded on by the man on his head, redoubled his efforts to take the stone. He winced as Harry screamed in pain, but planted his small hands on Quirrell's face nonetheless. 'What is he after?'

'A Sorcerer's Stone. Riddle wanted it to come back...' Harry's face was set in impassive lines as he watched Quirrell disappear in a yawning heap of ash, and his younger self collapsed to the stone floor, unconscious. 'I was out for four days,' Harry commented. 'Bastard cost Gryffindor the Quidditch Cup that year... I missed the last game.'

'Was he trying to kill you?' James demanded.

Harry lightly smacked James on the back of the head. 'Well of course he was, eejit.'

'B-b-b-but you were only a kid!'

'He didn't care,' Harry replied.

The scene swirled around them, to be replaced by a dirty, dark, cavernous room. James' mouth dropped open at the sight of Harry fighting a rather large serpent. 'Dad...?'

'Basilisk. Riddle was a Parselmouth.'

'A what?'

'He could talk to snakes.' Harry waited a beat. 'So could I, then. Can't do it any more.' Harry's mouth quirked in a quick grin. 'Can't say I miss it.'

'You could talk to snakes...?' James asked weakly.

'Oh sure. Talked to a boa constrictor at the zoo once. I set it free so it could go to Brazil,' Harry said idly.

'Why would you do something like that?' James asked incredulously.

'He said he wanted to go to Brazil. He'd never been there, and the plaque next to his enclosure said boa constrictors are from Brazil.' Harry gazed at James in wide-eyed innocence.

'Oh, right. Because everybody wants to go home...' James returned his attention to Harry, just in time to see one of the basilisk's fangs sink into Harry's arm. 'That can't be good.'

'Nope,' Harry said off-handedly, feeling slightly detached from it all. 'Hurt like hell.' But it was still early, he reasoned. 'Those fangs are poisonous. Fatal, too.'

James' eyes narrowed as he watched the slightly older Harry stumble toward a still figure lying on the filthy floor. 'Is that... Mum?'


James cringed as Harry plunged the fang into a small, battered diary, sending horrendous screeching noises ricocheting around the room. His dark brow rose as Harry helped Ginny to her feet and gestured for her to precede him from the room. Harry's hand reached out toward the ends of Ginny's hair, then quickly drew back in a motion so fleeting; James doubted Harry had been aware of it back then. 'Dad...' he groaned, with an expression of slight distaste on his face. 'She's like, what? Eleven? Twelve?'

Harry hadn't missed the gesture, either. 'It's not like I knew,' he pointed out dryly. 'Up until the end of my fifth year, she was just Ron's baby sister...' Harry blinked when the mist swirled and instead of the Shrieking Shack, they were surrounded by tombstones and shadows. 'Oh... Skip right to the difficult stuff, hmmm?'

James tore his eyes away from a teenaged Harry that was starting to resemble the man standing next to him, and another older boy. 'Difficult stuff?'

Harry flinched slightly as he heard Riddle's high, reedy voice call out, 'Kill the spare!'

'Spare..?' James turned his head just in time to see the bright green light knock the older boy to the ground, where he lay motionless. He rubbed his eyes, but the scene hadn't changed. 'Dad?' he whispered. Harry's mouth was bracketed with tense lines as he glared at the unfolding drama before them. James tried to not look at the scene in front of him. Tried not to watch as Harry was bound to a large tombstone. Tried to look at his shoes instead of the silver knife that flashed in the firelight and slashed Harry's arm open. James opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He glanced at his father. Harry's face had paled slightly, but that could have been mere weariness. Somehow, James didn't think so. The shouts from the graveyard pulled his attention back to the memory, and he winced at the glaring brightness from the spells that flew from Harry and Riddle's wands.

'Shite, that looks a lot worse than I remember,' Harry murmured hoarsely. 'And what I remember is pretty damn bad.'

James began to feel a sneaking suspicion that things like this happened more often than his father was willing to admit. 'Dad...?' He nudged Harry, who hadn't moved once during the entire ordeal.

Harry shook his head. 'It's fine,' he said. 'It was a long time ago.'

'Was this... That... Normal?' James wheezed, gesturing to the image of Harry pelting across the graveyard, dodging spells, before his hand closed on the other boy's wrist.

Harry licked his dry lips. 'Yeah.'

The younger Harry gasped, 'Accio,' and he disappeared when a large gaudy trophy flew into his hand. 'W-w-w-was he dead?' James stammered.

Harry nodded once. His good arm snaked over James' shoulders, as the image shifted and swirled around them. The events in the Department of Mysteries flashed around them, and Harry's hand convulsed on James' shoulder when Sirius fell through the veil. Unconsciously, James moved closer, until a mere hairsbreadth separated him from his father. James' mouth fell open as Riddle attacked his teenaged father. 'Bloody hell,' he mouthed. His breath began to hitch in his chest when the scene changed abruptly to one of Harry flinging objects around a round room that had to have been in Hogwarts. He'd never seen his father react with that amount of rage before. 'Why did you do that?'

'It was right after Sirius died. It was sort of my fault,' Harry said quietly. He hadn't meant for James to see that particular memory, but as they watched Harry storm and rant, Harry realized James needed to see this. He hadn't missed James leaving himself out of his litany of people it would upset if Harry died. 'It's all right to grieve, son,' he said, in that same quiet tone. 'And it's all right to be angry if someone dies.'

James gulped and nodded. He ducked his head, remembering the accusations he'd hurled at Harry a few days earlier.

The memory shifted once more, and almost too quickly to process, the cave with the Inferi whirled around them, followed by Dumbledore's death, and the battle in Hogwarts. The year Harry spent on the run spun around them, like leaves on the autumn winds. James stared transfixed as he watched Harry march into the Forest, surrounded by four indistinct, shadowy shapes. 'Who are they?' he breathed.

'Mum. Dad. Sirius. Remus.'


'To walk me to meet my death,' Harry murmured.

'That's mad!'

Harry looked at James, full in the face, for the first time since they had entered the Pensieve. 'I had to,' he said. 'It was the only way.' Harry's hand squeezed James' shoulder in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. 'I carried a bit of his soul, and it was the only way to destroy it.'

'How can you be so... So... Indifferent?' James blurted.

Harry's mouth stretched into a tight smile. 'Believe me, James. I'm not nearly as indifferent as you might think.' The scene faded and shifted into the Great Hall. 'This kind of thing, it makes me have nightmares. Even now. Even more than twenty years after the fact.'

'If it makes you have nightmares,' James began, 'then why are you showing me this?'

'Because it's much easier than telling you.' Harry jerked his head toward the image of himself and Riddle circling each other, their taunts echoing eerily in his head. 'You'll want to see the grand finale,' he said wryly.

James kept his eyes fixed on his father's face, sighing soundlessly, as Harry's eyes closed against the sight of Riddle's dead body.

'I think that's enough,' Harry muttered, grasping James' elbow.

'But...' James blinked and the two of them were leaning wearily against the workbench. 'That was...' His mouth worked soundlessly, trying to find the words to describe what he had seen. James slumped against the workbench, his hands shaking. He stared at Harry standing next to him, idly tracing the runes etched on the rim of the Pensieve. James felt his stomach lurch, and he retched, and then threw up, narrowly missing his and Harry's shoes. 'Sorry,' he mumbled, feeling tears spring to his eyes, embarrassed.

Harry waved his wand, Vanishing the puddle of sick. 'It's all right,' he murmured, stroking James' hair.

James could hear Lily and Al in the garden through the roaring in his ears. He wanted, no - needed - to leave the confines of the tool shed, but he couldn't let either of them see him like this. He rocked on his feet, clearly torn between fleeing the relative sanctuary of the tool shed and staying there in relative safety. He glanced up at Harry, who looked at him, worriedly.

Harry waved his wand again, and a tall stool appeared behind James, who dropped onto it gratefully. Harry conjured one for himself and perched on it, keeping an eye on James. 'I don't take the dangers of my job lightly,' he mused, seeming to talk more to the row of tools hung on the wall than to his son. 'I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started doing when I was eighteen. Yes, there still is the possibility that I can be injured, but like I told you, it's a lot less dangerous than it was.'

James shook his head. 'That graveyard - how old were you?'

'Fourteen, almost fifteen,' Harry said softly.

The skin around James' eyes tightened. 'My age,' he mumbled. 'You were my age.' He looked down at his shaking hands. 'How can you be so normal? If it were me I'd have gone out my tree a long time ago.'

'People thought I had,' Harry admitted. 'Every time someone died, or got caught in the crossfire, it was the worst feeling in the world, because they were trying to help me. Riddle wasn't after them, it was always me he wanted, and he didn't give a rat's arse about anyone else. Not even people who supported him.' Harry rubbed the back of James' neck, feeling the tendons stretched into taut ridges. 'The thing is, all that was normal for me. I didn't know things could be any different. It was...' Harry heaved a sigh, trying to search for the best way to say it. 'I had to learn things that you and your brother and sister take for granted. Like what it was like to have parents and a family. And once I knew what that was like, I knew what it was I was fighting for. It wasn't for me. It was for Hermione and Ron. And Neville. Molly, Arthur... My parents.' He ran his hand through his hair. 'That's what made it possible for me to do all those things you saw,' he said.

'Afterward, after the last battle, I kind of shut myself away from everything. I really don't remember much about the first few weeks. But in a way, it was good for me. I got to adjust to a world without Riddle. And after all those years, it was something of an adjustment.'

'How did you get anything done at school, if you had all that going on?' James asked, clasping his hands together.

'I honestly don't know,' Harry chuckled. 'Your aunt Hermione had to browbeat me into getting my homework done most of the time, along with your uncle Ron. And the rest of the time, I just had to try and work around it, or ignore it.' He absently rubbed the scar on his forehead. 'There were a few years where this burned or throbbed nearly all the time. I had nightmares, visions, whatever you want to call them about things Riddle was doing. That actually helped, though. I knew what he was thinking or doing. Gave me an edge in the end.'

'Why do you call him Riddle?' James asked. 'One of the accounts I read called him Voldemort.'

Harry snorted. 'He called himself Voldemort. His given name was Tom Riddle. After his Muggle father, who never knew he existed. Voldemort was supposed to make him sound scarier.'

'Did it?'

'People referred to him as "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named". The Death Eaters just called him the "Dark Lord". You tell me.'

'I guess so...'

'I called him Voldemort for the longest time. I didn't know you had to be frightened of the name, and it seemed pretty stupid to be scared of a name. Professor Dumbledore would call him "Tom". It always seemed to irk Riddle to have someone call him that.' Harry smiled wistfully. 'But when you didn't think of him as "Voldemort", he was just an arsewipe with a rotten attitude.' Harry glanced at James, a bit guiltily. 'Don't tell your mother I said that in front of you.'

'No, sir,' James said, with a hint of a grin. He fidgeted a little, before the next question flew out of his mouth. 'Dad...? Can we...? That is, can you and me...' James lowered his eyes to the floor. 'Mum said you were living here when your parents died,' he burst out.

'Yeah.' Harry could tell where this was leading. Long ago, he had put his parents' house under the same kind of wards he had helped put on the Burrow the week after the battle. Later, when James, Al, and Lily had gotten old enough to run about the village, he had been grateful the wards were on the house. It allowed him to maintain the illusion that he wasn't Harry Potter with his children.

'Is the house still here?' James asked in a voice so small, Harry had to strain to hear it.

'Yeah,' Harry admitted.

'Can you take me to see it?' James asked tentatively.

Harry started to say no, but as he opened his mouth, he said, 'Yes. But some other day. I think we both could use a break from all this.' He slid off his stool. 'Ready to go back in?' he asked, scooping the Pensieve up in his right hand.

James shook his head. 'Not yet. I'll go in later.'

Harry nodded in understanding. He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the top of James' dark head, then slipped out of the tool shed and back into the house.


Marriage, Katie reflected, didn't lay someone's soul bare to the other person. She still found things out about George she had never known before. It wasn't that George didn't talk. He did. But people did change, and things they found important even a few years ago, suddenly didn't seem so relevant anymore. At this point, she thought she knew George better than most people alive. George was still prone to bouts of depression where he barely spoke to any of them. He tried to hide it from their children, but even when they were young, they could sense something was wrong. It had nearly prevented George from marrying her; he had been so unwilling to drag her down with all his baggage.

Over the years, she had learned when to prod George and when to leave him be. If he wanted to be left alone, he avoided her as much as possible. If he wanted to talk, he didn't quite avoid her, but he found excuses to be in the same room, and not talk. It took years to figure that out, Katie thought ruefully. She had to be the one that initiated the conversation. It was rare that George ever came out and told her what was bothering him straightaway.

Ever since that morning in the hospital, when Harry's Muggle cousin had confronted him about something-or-other, George had been decidedly off-color.

This particular night, however, George reached for her, as soon as she turned out the light, plunging the room into darkness. With the other hand, he waved his wand at the door, casting a Silencing charm on it. 'Am I a coldhearted prankster?' he asked, without preamble.

'What, now?' Katie asked, perplexed.

'I mean, when I was in school.'

Katie sighed and wriggled until she had turned over to face George. 'Sometimes. I mean you didn't always seem comfortable with crossing the line into something like hazing, but...' Katie hesitated.

'But?' George prompted.

'Please don't take this the wrong way,' Katie pleaded, 'but when Fred made up his mind to do something, you tended to follow his lead.'

'We just wanted him to have a taste of what it was like,' George said a bit defensively. 'When we went to pick up Harry at his Muggle relatives, before my sixth year, we had just perfected Ton-Tongue Toffee, and Fred thought it would be great fun to "accidentally" drop one in front of his cousin.' George reached up and tugged at his ear. 'He was much bigger, then,' he added. 'And on a diet, according to Harry's letters to Ron, so Fred knew he'd pick it up and eat it.'

'Oh, dear,' murmured Katie. 'You did it, didn't you?'

George nodded. 'Dad thought we did it because he was a Muggle. We did it because he was a git.'

Katie sighed softly. 'George... At the time, did you ever think that some of your pranks might actually hurt people? What if your father hadn't been able to put things back to rights?'

'Obviously, that didn't occur to us when we did it,' George said, stung, pulling away slightly from Katie. He'd lain awake long into the night, afterwards, listening to Fred's grunts and snorts as he slept. Most of the other sweets were relatively harmless, but a cold knot of guilt lay heavily in the pit of his stomach. They really didn't know what would happen when someone ate Ton-Tongue Toffees. His hands clenched on the edge of the quilt in an unconscious echo of that long ago night. George hadn't dwelled on it since, but at odd moments he would wonder -- what if we'd killed him...?

Katie's eyes closed as she mentally walked among the shelves of the shop. Ton-Tongue Toffee wasn't in the section with the Snackboxes or other trick sweets. 'When did you stop selling the toffee?' she asked curiously. It hadn't been on the shelves for years.

'When I reopened the shop,' George replied. 'It wasn't a big seller to begin with, but Fred insisted on keeping it on the shelves before...' His broad hand scrubbed over his face. 'I wasn't overly fond of it as a product anyway,' he sighed. George shifted uneasily. 'Do you really think Harry's cousin has changed, or is it something Ginny believes because she wants to?'

Katie shrugged, settling against George, lacing her fingers through his. 'That's a question you'd have to ask Harry, don't you think?'

'I suppose,' George muttered.

'And,' continued Katie, 'if he truly was still the same person he was more than twenty years ago, would Ginny have allowed him to visit Harry in the hospital?' she asked, pragmatically.

'Probably not,' George allowed. 'She'd probably hit him with a large Bat-Bogey.'

'If Harry can manage to move past it all, shouldn't you?' Katie's eyes drifted shut and she yawned widely, stifling it in the front of George's t-shirt. 'After all, it is his opinion that counts in all this...'