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 45 - Collision


A faint buzzing sound woke Harry. He blindly patted the night table, searching for the alarm clock, but merely succeeded in knocking his glasses to the floor. His wandering hand slammed on the old-fashioned clock, searching for the switch that would still the clanging bell. But the buzzing didn't stop. That's not the alarm, he thought muzzily.

'Harry, it's from the Aurors,' Ginny grunted groggily, driving an elbow into his ribs.

'What time is it?' he groaned, reaching down to the floor for his glasses.

'Twelve-thirty,' Ginny grumbled.

'Why can't Dark wizards do their illicit activities in the daylight, like normal criminals?' Harry huffed, as he sat up, scrubbing his hands through his hair.

'Because then it wouldn't be illicit,' Ginny mumbled, burrowing back into her pillow. 'Illicit implies that it must be done as some sort of covert operation. If you're in the daylight, it's difficult to be covert.'

'I hate that you can be logical when you first wake up,' Harry snorted, as he flung the bedding back and swung his feet to the floor.

'It's a gift.'

Harry shook his head as he snatched his abandoned jeans from the top of the laundry basket and yanked them on over his boxers. 'Yeah, it's something.' He pulled a sweatshirt from the bureau and tugged it over his head, not caring if the Harpies logo was flaking off and there were several small holes. He'd had it since the year before Ginny retired. He leaned over the bed and brushed Ginny's hair away from her face. 'Go back to sleep.' He dropped a light kiss on her cheek.

'Trust me, I will,' Ginny yawned.

Harry let his fingertips brush across Ginny's cheek, and he picked his wand and the small pewter rectangle that flashed a location in bright blue lights up from the night table and shoved his wand into his back pocket as he went down the stairs. The pewter card stopped vibrating when his hand closed around it. Protean charms aren't that bad, as long as you're not burning them into your skin, he mused. He glanced at the pewter card and frowned at the message. 'Oh, God, no...' he breathed. 'No...' Harry darted into the back garden and Disapparated, his heart hammering in his throat.

He appeared at the end of a street in Barkingside. Harry began to walk quickly down the sidewalk, then he broke into a run when the amount of people milling in front of the building. 'Oh, God, please...' As he skidded to a halt near Dudley and Aaron's flat, he saw a dark figure rise from a crouching position behind some large dustbins in the alley, a wand extended in front of him.


'STUPEFY!' Harry bellowed, his wand clutched tightly in his hands. The red jet of light hit the figure in the back and he toppled over to the ground. Aurors and other assorted MLE members swarmed around them. 'What happened?' Harry demanded, his breath rasping harshly in his ears. 'Where are they?'

'Harry...?' Iain touched his arm hesitantly.

Harry whirled around. 'My cousin, his partner, and their daughter... Where are they?' he repeated frantically. 'Sarah's not even a year old...'

'They're fine,' Iain told him. 'They're right there.' Iain gestured to the two men standing on the other side of the street.

Harry's shoulders sagged in relief. 'Oh... Then why all the commotion?'

Iain bit his lip and pointed to a body draped in a purple sheet Harry hadn't noticed in his efforts to locate Dudley. 'It's Kathleen...'

'Shite...' Harry stumbled to the sheet and knelt to turn back the edge to expose Kathleen's face. Her eyes were unnaturally blank. He sat down hard on the cold sidewalk, his breath coming in fast, shallow pants. Kathleen had been one of his first trainees. She'd worked with him since before Albus was born. He pressed his lips together to stem the tide of bile that rose in his throat. Swallowing heavily several times, he gently closed her wide, staring eyes, and drew the edge of the sheet back over Kathleen's face. Harry gazed at Iain. 'What happened...?'

'We got a tip a few weeks ago that we should put someone to watch over your relations.' Iain's voice was dull in the chilly October night. 'I put Kathleen in charge of it and she came out tonight to check on the two who were watching.' Iain glanced around and his eyes lit on the two huddled shapes on the stoop of the building. 'Andrea and Rob,' he added, pointing to them.

Harry nodded. 'All right.'

'They said that your... cousin, is it?'


'He and the other bloke came walking from the Underground station with the baby and Kath saw someone lurking around the door of their flat, and threw herself in front of them...' Iain rubbed his eyes with his fingertips. 'Andrea said that whoever it was just started saying the incantation for the Killing Curse and that's when Kath...' He trailed off and looked away, blinking rapidly. His fists twisted into the hem of his shirt. 'She was just lying on the sidewalk when I got here.'

'Right,' Harry sighed. 'Right.' He got to his feet and began to walk toward the squad of Hit Wizards. 'Let's get this taken care of. I'll need to go notify her family later, too.'

'She didn't have any,' Iain blurted.

Harry stopped cold in the middle of the street. 'What? But I thought...'

Iain shook his head. 'No. Her mother died while you were in the hospital.'

'Oh, that's right.' Harry ran a hand through his hair. 'She didn't have any brothers or sisters did she?'

'No.' Iain hesitated slightly. 'Harry, could Bree and I take care of... of the arrangements?' Iain's face crumpled, but he managed to control himself. 'I know we're not technically family, but...'

Harry heaved a sigh. This wasn't the first time he'd lost a colleague, but it was the first time he'd lost one he'd trained and guided through their career. 'Yeah,' he said quietly. 'I'll make sure the Ministry drones know you and Bree are going to handle things.' He stuffed his cold hands in his pockets and crossed the street to check on Dudley and Aaron.

'Harry, what the hell was that?' Dudley said, clutching Sarah.

'I'll tell you later,' Harry murmured. At Dudley's skeptical glance, Harry laid a hand on his arm. 'I promise. When everything gets sorted, I'll tell you.' He walked quickly toward the Head of the Hit Wizards. 'Is it all right for them to go inside?'

The burly wizard nodded. 'Yeah. Your lot checked the place already. They removed the nasty hexes in the entrance and the rest of it was fine.'

'Thanks, Justin.' Harry turned to Dudley and Aaron, who had followed him. 'You can go in now.'

Aaron stole a look at the shape on the sidewalk. 'That woman... She's dead?'

'Yeah.' Harry gently pushed them toward their flat. 'Go inside, put Sarah to bed. I'll get things wrapped up out here and come fill you in.' He grabbed Ian's sleeve, as the younger man walked by. 'Iain. Go home.'

'But -'

'Iain, I've been doing this for most of my life. Go home. Go be with Brianna. Trust me. It'll help. And she'll want to hear about this from you.'


'What now?' Harry spun around to find Carolina heading toward him.

'Your relations' memories - how do you want to handle this?'

'I can do it,' Harry said shortly. 'But I'm leaving it up to them.'

'That's rather unorthodox,' Carolina said slowly.

'Yeah, well, life doesn't always play by the rules,' Harry said snidely. He started to walk away, then paused. 'Sorry,' he mumbled.

'It's all right. It never gets easier to lose one. Even when it happened all the time.' Carolina patted his shoulder sympathetically. 'The neighbors have been taken care of, though, and we're going to sort of skulk about for a few days, just in case we missed someone.'

'Okay. Uh, get someone in your department to coordinate with the Aurors watching here.'

'Harry?' Justin Worely, the Head of the Hit Wizard squad, joined them. 'Have you seen the person you Stunned?'

'Not yet.'

'Could you come have a peek? Maybe you can identify him?'

'Oh sure, because I know everyone...' Harry muttered, as he followed Justin toward the still-unconscious man. Justin turned the unconscious wizard over with the toe of his boot, and held his lit wand over the man's face. 'Hang on...' Harry waved wildly to Carolina. 'Oi! Carolina, d'you know him?'

Carolina approached them warily. 'Why?'

'I think I've seen him in your department...' Harry said tentatively.

Carolina crouched to get a better view of the man's face. 'Oh, Merlin's bollocks,' she breathed. 'I do know him... He's one of the ones that came in with Teddy.' Her face paled noticeably in the wan light from Justin's wand. 'He was with us! The night you were attack,' she gasped to Harry.

'Hm.' Justin nudged the man with his boot once more. 'We'll take him to Azkaban, then.'

'I'll send someone up in a couple of days to question him,' Harry said. A dark estate car pulled up next to them, and two Ministry employees in dark robes jumped out. One of them opened the boot and pulled out a stretcher. They strode to where Kathleen's body still lay. Harry glanced at Justin and Carolina. 'Excuse me...' He motioned toward Kathleen, and quickly walked to meet the officials. He nearly stumbled over Iain who sat on the cold, damp sidewalk to one side of Kathleen. 'Iain... I thought I told you to go home.'

Iain shook his head. 'I couldn't go. Not until...' He jerked his chin in the direction of the officials standing behind Harry.

Harry let his hand fall to Iain's shoulder, and he tightly squeezed it. 'Right.' He looked over his shoulder at the Ministry officials. 'He'll be making the arrangements,' he told them, nodding toward Iain.

'Is he family?' one asked coldly.

Harry's hand curled into a fist at his side, and he forcibly restrained himself from twisting his fingers into the front of the man's robes. 'I said, he's making the arrangements,' he said in a faintly menacing tone. Harry glared down at the much shorter man. 'Do you understand me?'

'Y-yes, sir...'

Harry stepped back and wrapped a hand around Iain's arm, pulling him to his feet. The pair of them watched silently as the officials carefully lifted Kathleen's body and laid her on the stretcher, then picked it up, and loaded it into the back of the car. Iain took a deep breath. 'How can you stand it?' he asked, his voice high and tight.

Harry's mouth twitched. 'Oh, trust me, later, I won't be so...' He shrugged. 'There's too much to do right now.' The car drove away into the dark night, and Harry turned to Iain. 'All right. Go on home. You can wait until tomorrow to starting taking care of things. Get some sleep. Or, try to get some sleep.'

'I'll see you tomorrow.'

'No, you won't. You will stay home tomorrow. And for the next two weeks.'

'But -'

'Iain, that's an order,' Harry said softly, but with a tenor to his voice Iain couldn't mistake. It meant Harry wasn't going to argue and Iain had best do what he was told. Harry stood with his arms crossed over his chest, watching Iain until he Disapparated. He wearily walked back to Carolina and Justin. 'Are we done here?'

'Yeah,' Carolina said. 'You should probably go talk to your cousin, then.'

Harry nodded. 'I'm not looking forward to that,' he said with a gusty sigh.

'Why not?'

Harry gazed at the spot where Kathleen's body had lain. 'This just confirmed every awful thing about magic my cousin could have imagined when we were growing up.' He shoved his hands into his pockets and plodded to the door of the flat.

Harry knocked softly on the door, and it opened instantly, revealing a panicked-looking Dudley. 'Can I come in?' Harry asked. Dudley stepped back to allow Harry to sidle through the door. 'I'm so sorry,' Harry started. He was surprised to feel Dudley's hand in the middle of his back, propelling him through the entrance toward the sitting room.

'Come on and sit down. You look like you're about to fall over.' Dudley steered Harry to an armchair and pushed him down into it. He turned to the table and poured a cup of tea and pressed it Harry's hands. 'Drink that.'

Harry gratefully sipped the hot liquid, keeping his eyes fixed on the rug under his feet. 'Normally, when something like this happens, we modify your memories...' he said hesitantly. 'Just to keep our existence a secret. But since you're related to me, the secret's sort of out.'

Aaron stared at Harry intently. 'What do you mean by modify?'

Harry pulled his wand from his pocket. 'I can make you forget the past two hours. You'll remember getting off the Tube, and putting Sarah to bed, but nothing else.'

'How did you know that girl?' Aaron asked.

'Aaron!' Dudley hissed.

Harry raised the cup to his lips. 'I trained her,' he said softly, his voice breaking. 'I've worked with her for... Fourteen years...' His eyes drifted shut. 'She was one of my best...'

Dudley sank onto the sofa next to Aaron. 'Why were they here? Those two across the street and her?'

'Watching you.'


Harry ran a hand through his hair. 'Because there are those of my kind who don't like people like you...'

'They don't like poufs?' Aaron blurted.

'Oh, no, it's not that...' Harry waved a hand in the air. 'It's because you're not magic.'

'Blimey,' Dudley said mildly. 'You mean there are people like my parents, but the other way around?'

'Sadly, yes.' Harry wrapped his hands around the cup. 'And, years ago - decades - they would harass Muggles -'

'What's a Muggle?' interrupted Aaron.

'Non-magic person,' Dudley quickly said. At Harry's surprised look, he rolled his eyes. 'What? I do pay attention...' He glanced at Harry. 'Go on.'

'So this group liked to harass Muggles, sometimes even kill them. And not just Muggles. Wizards or witches with Muggle parents, too. And we thought most of us had left all that behind. And for the past couple of years, someone has been harassing Muggles again. And we don't know who it is. They've covered their tracks very well.

'But the people I work with got a message that we ought to keep an eye on the three of you. So that's why Andrea and Rob were outside your flat tonight. And why Kathleen was here. She came to check on them.

'And you saw the rest...' Harry gazed into the liquid amber depths of his tea. 'So the question is... I can remove all memory of this, or I can go home and leave it.'

'Why us...?' Dudley asked. 'I mean, is there a pattern or something?'

'It depends. A lot of time, before, they targeted someone's family, but this time, it's been random. You're the first ones to have a connection to someone magic.'

Aaron turned to Dudley. 'Why does that make me nauseated?'

Harry set his cup down on the table. 'I'm going to keep the surveillance on you. Someone will follow you around, but you won't know who they are. They won't even look the same from day to day. And Sarah will be looked after, too. We will do everything we can to make sure the three of you are safe.'

Dudley frowned. 'How does that work?'

'Remember before you and your parents went into hiding?' When Dudley nodded warily, Harry continued. 'Do you remember the bald bloke who was the Prime Minister's new assistant?'

'I think so...'

'It would be someone like that. Someone trained to blend in so well, you'd never know they were there.'

Aaron nodded. 'All right.'

Harry sat still for a moment. 'What about your memories?'

Dudley and Aaron exchanged a look. Aaron cleared his throat. 'Can we discuss it and tell you later?'

'Yeah. Just ring me, and I'll take care of it.' Harry pushed himself to his feet. 'I'll just go now.' He paused mid-step. 'I'll understand if you don't want to stay in contact any more... Good night...'


'Are you asleep?'

Aaron turned his head on the pillow. 'No.'

'Are you okay?' Dudley rolled the corner of his pillowcase between his thumb and forefinger.

Aaron rolled to his side to face Dudley. 'I'm not sure.' He pushed himself into sitting. 'So this memory thing...?'

'It's quite good, actually,' Dudley remarked. 'When we were... oh, thirteen, I guess, Marge was visiting and she was going on and on about Harry's parents, and he went ballistic. Lost control of his magic, they said, when they came to put Marge to rights. He blew her up like a balloon,' Dudley mused. 'The only time I ever envied him was years later when I came out and Marge was laying into me, calling me every filthy name she could think of. I found myself wishing I could make her float away like that... Anyway, they did something to her memory, so she didn't remember Harry's, erm, indiscretion. He took off that night. They told us he was all right, not that we cared at the time. But Marge just remembered him raising a fuss. She blamed the rest of it on the amount of alcohol she'd had at dinner.'

'Is it supposed to make us feel safer?'

'Well, if not remembering makes you feel safer.'

'Right.' Aaron sighed and slid back down, pulling his pillow over his head. 'I don't know what to do.'

Dudley patted around looking for Aaron's hand, and wound his fingers through Aaron's. 'I don't either.'

Aaron flung his pillow to the floor. 'This is absolutely wretched.' He glanced at Dudley, tugging at the side of his pillow with his free hand. 'Budge up and let me have some of your pillow.'

'No, go fetch yours off the floor. This is mine. It's all squishy, just the way I like it.'

'But it's cold,' Aaron argued.

'Should have thought of that before you threw it across the room.' But he lifted his head, and scooted his pillow closer to Aaron. 'I'm not going to cut off Harry,' he said quietly, waiting for Aaron's reaction, holding his breath.

'I didn't expect you to.'

'Yeah, well. He's the only family I've got doesn't think I'm a perv.'


Draco stood on the corner of a busy street in London, peering around the corner of a nondescript building. He hardly ever ventured into Muggle areas and was fairly certain nobody he knew would be there. Nervously, he brushed his palms over the sleeves of his Muggle shirt, swiping at invisible lint. He fished a small card out of the pocket of his trousers and tilted it toward the weak late autumn sunshine. Brick Street, he thought. It was a little too close to the visitor's entrance of the Ministry of Magic for his taste, but he'd found the small slip of stiffened parchment amongst his things when he was cleaning out his desk. He had no idea how it got there. His mother could have slipped it in a letter, Daphne could have put it in his desk, or gotten Perri to do it while she was cleaning. The edges were slightly frayed, as if it had been in there for years.

Draco walked up the stoop to the front door and twisted the knob, peeking around the edge of the door. The reception area was warm, and almost cozy. It made Draco slightly nauseated. He wasn't the warm and cozy type. 'Would you like to come in?' the young wizard behind the desk asked solicitously.

Draco nearly slammed the door shut, but he stood on the threshold, the doorknob clutched in his sweaty hand. At length, he sidled through the doorway and shuffled to the desk, his eyes darting around the empty office. 'I, erm... I had an appointment for three.'

The wizard gestured to an empty chair. 'Well, you're early, so please, sit...'

Draco glared at the wizard for a moment, before he spun and dropped to one of the chairs, his fingers drumming monotonously on the arm of the chair as a clock ticked in the background, making his shoulders tense more with each passing second.


Draco settled on the edge of a comfortable chair inside the man's office, clearly uneasy. He clenched his hands into fists and glared at the person sitting across from him. The man didn't seem to be perturbed by Draco's attitude. He merely smiled in a friendly manner and waited. After a few moments, Draco growled, 'Well? Aren't you going to give me some exceedingly foul-tasting potion and send me on my way?'

Andrew Scott shook his head. 'No.'

'Why not?' Draco scowled at the man. 'Aren't you a Healer?'

'Yes, I am.' Andrew set his clipboard down and leaned forward slightly. 'But in this case, you don't need potions. Not yet.'

'So you're going to do nothing?' Draco asked incredulously.

Andrew shook his head. 'No.'

'What's supposed to happen?'

'You talk, I listen. We discuss.'

'And that's supposed to help?' Draco sneered.

Andrew shrugged slightly. 'Eventually.'

'What do I talk about?'

'What ever you want.'

Draco's mouth fell open, and he closed it with an audible snap. He eyed the Healer sitting across from him suspiciously. 'Are you going to tell anyone?'

Andrew shook his head. 'No.'

'What about your staff?' Draco shot back.

Andrew shook his head again. 'No. They sign an oath that all information regarding who comes in and out of here is strictly confidential.'

Draco's lips clamped shut and he settled back into the chair, frowning.

After an excruciatingly tense silence, Andrew cleared his throat. 'Erm, Mr. Malfoy?' He inclined his head at a small hourglass on the table next to his chair. 'Your time is almost up...'

Draco blinked in surprise and glanced at the device. Only a few grains of sand remained. He had tried and rejected a number of things to say to Andrew. Secrecy was a significant portion of his personality. He couldn't imagine laying his life at the feet of a total stranger.