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 53 - Transition


James set his empty butterbeer bottle on the table, surprised at the number of bottles that already littered its surface. Drinking butterbeer was known to give a person the tiniest feeling of euphoria. Usually his parents only allowed him one bottle at a time, two on special occasions. It wasn't particularly strong, but James wasn't sure if the giddiness he currently felt was the result of his fourth butterbeer of the afternoon, or the girl sitting across from him.

Mercifully, his cousins had pretty much left them alone. Madeline and Isabella had joined them for a few minutes earlier in the afternoon, as had Jacob, Fred, Al and Scorpius. Maya had been far more gracious about their intrusions than James had. 'It's getting late...' Maya told James reluctantly. 'Dinner's about to start soon.'

'I suppose.' James stood up and snagged Maya's coat from the back of her chair. She looked up at him, surprised, but he merely held the coat open for her, his cheeks slightly pink. 'Mum says it's nice to do this...' he muttered.

Maya smiled and shyly murmured, 'Thanks...' as she slid her arms into the sleeves, buttoning the coat while James quickly donned his own. James gestured to the door, and Maya sidled around him, edging around the table.

'Oi!' Someone across the pub shouted to the pair. They both froze, faces set into expressions of surprise. 'There's mistletoe there. Can't leave until ye give 'er a kiss, then!'

James glanced at Maya, who was struggling not to giggle, while she gazed at the spring of mistletoe floating in midair over their heads. He stooped and quickly pecked her on the cheek, feeling his own face erupt into flames at the accompanying catcalls and hoots of laughter, then glared at the person who'd called attention to the mistletoe. He took Maya's hand and towed her from the Three Broomsticks, horribly embarrassed. He abruptly stopped and looked down at her. 'I can do better than that,' he told her, then cupped her face in one of his hands, and tilted it up. He brushed his lips over hers, oblivious to the muffled cheers drifting from the windows of the Three Broomsticks. James grinned bashfully at Maya, the giddiness rising even higher.

'Your eyes are pretty,' Maya blurted. Her own eyes widened. 'Oh, Merlin, did I say that out loud?'


'How'd you get blue, anyway? Your brother's are green and your sister's are brown...'

James took Maya's hand, albeit much more gently than he had done in the pub and they began to trudge back to the school. 'My granddad Weasley's eyes are blue. I'm the only one out of the cousins with his eye color.' He squeezed her hand a little. 'I never really thanked you properly for bringing me dinner last weekend.'

'It was nothing,' Maya waved him off. 'Besides, I've seen you eat. I didn't imagine a bowl of soup would do for you.'

'I'll have to show you how to get to the kitchen here,' James mused. 'They like to press so much food on you that your trousers won't fit if you eat it all.' He gave her a sidelong look from the corner of his eye. 'So why did you have to learn to sneak food from the kitchen at home?'

'Oh...' Maya colored and bit her lip. 'I was something of a terror when I was younger. I grew up in the pub my parents run, right? We have a few guests that always stay with us when they're in Falmouth. Usually Quidditch scouts or writers. A few of the players live there during the season... So I was always being spoiled by some regular guest or another. And the only punishment my mum and dad could agree on was sending me to bed without any dinner. So I'd wait until everyone had gone to bed, and sneak down for a bite. I had to be really careful not to make a mess because Mum would know it was me, and I'd be in even more trouble...' She paused, James' words finally working their way through. 'Who are "they"? In the kitchen?'

'The school elves,' James said off-handedly.

Maya came to a dead stop, dropping James' hand. 'The school has house elves?' she spluttered indignantly. 'That's barbaric!'

'They're not enslaved, Maya,' James told her loftily. 'They're paid, they have days off, they can leave and find employment elsewhere if they so wish. Most of them don't want to leave. They're treated a lot better than the Healer trainees for Godric's sake,' he snorted. 'Believe me; Aunt Hermione made it her mission in life when she was younger to make things better for house elves. And Dad was right with her. Every house elf in Britain is protected, just like the school elves. If they're mistreated, they have an independent panel to air their grievances.' His eyes narrowed. 'I thought you would have known that.'

'I do,' Maya said icily. 'I still think it's barbaric to expect any sort of being to pick up after us. Do you ever think about how much they have to do?' she ranted. 'They cook, they clean, they keep the fires going in the winter, the lamps lit in the corridors. They wash your pants for Merlin's sake! They clean all the mud off your Quidditch gear, keep your bed made up in fresh linens every week, and I've had to clean a lot of bathrooms in my life, but nobody could pay me enough to scrub the ones in the boys' dormitories! I don't give a rat's arse what House you're in! And for what? Five lousy Galleons a month? And just because they can leave their homes don't mean they will. I would have thought you would realize that, James.'

'I do,' James said quietly. 'But compared to how it used to be, it's loads better.'

'Doesn't make it right,' Maya retorted.

'Yeah, you're right.'

Maya blinked. 'What?'

'You're right.'

'Did I just win?' she asked hopefully.

James snorted. 'We weren't fighting, Maya. We were discussing.'

'Oh, so is that what you call it?'

James shrugged and took Maya's hand, and began walking up the path toward the school. 'It's what my mum and dad call it.'

'Your mum's really nice,' Maya said casually.

James laughed outright. 'Don't get on her bad side,' he told her. He watched her for a moment. 'Actually, if what the stories my uncles say about Mum are true, she's a lot like you.'

'But your mum was a Gryffindor, and I'm a -'

'Doesn't matter,' James interrupted. 'Uncle Ron says Mum was one for hexing a git when they needed it.' He brushed a lock of Maya's hair from her face. 'And apparently, so are you.'

'If I was like your mum, I don't think I'd have been Sorted where I was,' Maya persisted.

James shook his head. 'Your House has nothing to do with you.' He tugged on the large door at the front entrance of the school with both hands, until it opened just enough for Maya to slip though. He slithered through after her as the door began to creak shut. He walked with her to the doorway of the Great Hall and in full view of the entire school, kissed her quickly. 'Library after dinner?'

Maya pretended to consider James' offer. 'Oh, all right. You can help me with Flitwick's essay.' She all but lightly skipped to the Slytherin table.

James climbed into a bench at the Gryffindor table and gave Lily a quizzical nudge. She was glaring at a padlock floating in front of her, two ordinary Muggle paperclips on the table next to her plate. 'What the hell?'

'Sod off, James,' Lily muttered

'You owe a Sickle to the jar,' Al automatically murmured. 'Both of you.'

'How much money's in that jar?' Scorpius asked.

'Enough for Dad to take Mum to see a film,' Al said.

'I don't understand...' Scorpius mused, cutting a potato in half. 'If the purpose of the jar is to keep you lot from swearing, shouldn't there be less money in it by now?'

'One would think,' Isabella chortled. 'But it hasn't worked.'

'Why are you bothering learning how to pick a lock, Lils?' James sighed, unsure if he really wanted to know the answer.

Lily picked up one of the paperclips and straightened it, her tongue poking slightly between her lips. 'Because...' she began with exaggerated patience. 'You never know when you won't have a wand...'

James didn't say anything, just looked at her strangely. On the way up to the dormitory, Hugo wrapped an arm around Lily's waist. 'I know why you're doing that,' he told Lily. 'Learning Muggle tricks.'

Lily wound her arm around Hugo's waist and hugged him. 'Oh, really?'

Hugo looked down his long nose at his cousin. 'Yes, I do,' he said in a mock-superior tone of voice. He sobered and sighed. 'Your mum and dad will go spare,' he said, seriously.

'I know.' Lily gave Hugo a conspiratorial wink. 'They just can't find out until it's too late to do anything about it.'

'Yeah, let me know how that works out for you,' Hugo snorted.


Ron waited until Molly left them alone before he dropped into the chair next to Hermione, pushing the remains of their dinner to the middle of the table. Hermione had hardly done more than pick at hers. But she'd remained remarkably calm since they'd returned to London from Oxford. 'Right, then. What's going on with your mum?'

'She's dying,' Hermione said steadily. 'Well, she will if I let it happen.'

Ron nodded a few times. 'Mmm-hmmm. And what does that entail? Exposing her on some hillside somewhere?'

'Not especially.' Hermione picked up her fork and began to poke at her nearly-untouched food. 'She keeps getting ill. And she won't take the medication for it voluntarily. She thinks they're trying to poison her, ironically enough. I - we - can do one of two things... I can have them hospitalize her every time she comes down with something, where they will basically Stun her while they give her the medicines intravenously. They've tried doing it without Stunning her, but she pulls the needle from her arm.' Hermione groped for appropriate parallel terminology to describe what happened to her mother.

'That sounds like fun,' Ron commented dryly.

'Oh, it is.' Hermione laid the fork on her plate and propped her head in her upturned hand. 'Or... Or I can tell them to stop. Stop treating her when she gets sick again, to just make her comfortable, give her something for the pain and then...'

'And then...?' Ron prodded.

'And then she... Shuts down.'

'How long?'

Hermione folded her arms on top of the table and lowered her head to rest on them. 'I don't know. They don't know. Could be weeks. Could be months.'

Ron leaned back in his chair. 'For what it's worth, I don't think we ought to tell Rose or Hugo.'

Hermione glanced sharply at Ron. 'Why not? Don't you think they can handle it?'

Ron reached out and laid a hand on Hermione's arm. 'Think about it for a moment, would you? Do you want them to have that hanging over their heads, wondering when Neville comes to fetch them from class, or wake them up in their dormitory so he can Floo them home from McGonagall's office? Or spend their entire Christmas holiday waiting for it to happen?'

'They ought to know,' Hermione argued. 'So they can prepare themselves.'

Ron's hand convulsed over her arm. 'Why? Did all the preparation we had when we were that age make it easier? Merlin's sagging Y-fronts, Hermione, let them be children! Please... let them have what we didn't. Just this once...' Ron begged. 'This isn't about whether or not they can handle it. This is about letting them have a carefree Christmas. Without waiting for the other shoe to drop.'

'I was under the impression they were already waiting for that,' Hermione said wearily.

'That's different,' Ron pointed out. 'It's one thing for them to Jane's going to die eventually. It's another for them to know it's probably going to happen a lot sooner than they had imagined.' Ron paused for a moment. 'You sound like you've already decided.' Hermione remained silent, her normally animated face set into an expressionless mask. Ron's eyes closed briefly. 'I see...'

Hermione shook her head slowly. 'When Crookshanks became so ill he couldn't eat, much less drink anything, it was considered a kindness...' She abruptly stopped speaking and looked away. 'I ought to feel something,' she murmured. 'I ought to...'

Ron merely wrapped his arms around her. He didn't know what to say, nor was he sure there was anything he could say.


Draco scowled at his dinner. He had been trying to make a conscious effort to actually try talking to Daphne instead of talking at her for the past few weeks. But it was like trying to speak Mermish, when he didn't know how to speak the language in the first place. He had to decide what to do during the holidays. It could take days for the Ministry to grant him permission to travel. It still galled Draco that he had to practically beg to be allowed to leave the country. 'So?' he ground out between clenched teeth.

Daphne glanced up from her plate. 'So...?' she responded coolly.

'What are you going to do with... this?'

Daphne's pale brow swept upward. 'Most people generally eat their meals,' she said quietly.

'I meant...' Draco's jaw clenched. 'Me.'

Daphne laid her fork down and picked up a glass of water. 'Ah.' She took a long sip, looking at Draco over the rim. 'Would it be worth it?' she finally said. 'By the time it's all said and done, Scorpius will be of age and it's not as if we have other children,' she said, with only a faint tang of bitterness.

Draco's lips pressed together in a thin line. 'I'll see to it that it goes through faster.'

Daphne nearly laughed. 'How?' She didn't have to say the Malfoy name no longer carried any sort of influence in the Ministry.

'I don't know! I'll... I'll pay someone.'

'That's no guarantee,' Daphne told him, implying the Malfoy gold no longer carried the influence it once did, either.

Draco picked up his water glass and hurled it across the room. It shattered against the wall behind Daphne, who merely blinked in response. 'Damn you, Daphne! I'm trying to give you a chance to get out of here! Why won't you take it?' Draco glared at his wife, sitting in aloof tranquility at the other end of the table. 'Or is this your revenge for Pansy?' he spat.

Daphne calmly pushed her chair back and rose to her feet. She gave Draco a faintly pitying look before she regally swept from the dining room. She managed to make it as far as the library before her knees gave out and she collapsed into a chair. There were a hundred reasons why she should accept Draco's offer. She wasn't sure if her stubborn insistence on staying in this travesty of a marriage was her reluctance to buck tradition - even she had her limits - or was Draco correct in surmising that her unwillingness to accept his offer was her way of subtly punishing him for his recent and past behavior.

She inhaled deeply and slowly exhaled before pushing herself to standing. She crossed the library to her small desk and opened the drawer where she kept Scorpius' letters from Hogwarts. The Christmas holiday was to begin on the twenty-first, and if Draco wanted to spend the holiday in Nice, he needed to file the necessary paperwork with the Ministry no later than the sixth of December. That was still two weeks away. She tapped her fingers restlessly on the desk for several moments before picking up a quill. If Draco wasn't going to make plans, she would. Daphne took the scroll to her owl and waited for it to fly through the kitchen window, before searching for Draco.

She found him bundled in a thick cloak, sitting in the garden, oblivious to the cold wind buffeting him. 'Do whatever you want to do for the holidays,' she said. 'But Scorpius and I will be here.' Draco nodded once and Daphne turned on her heel to return to the house.

'I'm seeing someone,' Draco blurted, before he could stop himself. What else do I have to lose? I don't have anything left...

'And who is she this time?'

'Not a woman,' Draco muttered, his pale skin flushed. 'A man...'

Daphne felt her mouth drop open. 'Oh...'

'It's not like that,' Draco grumbled, running his hands through his hair. 'He's a Healer...' Damn, I'm making a total cock-up of this, too... Runs true to form, doesn't it? Haven't managed to do anything right since you were eleven, have you? Daphne stumbled backward to the French doors, groping blindly for the handle. Draco stood and grabbed her arm to steady her, dropping it quickly, as if he'd been burned. 'I'm not seeing him romantically,' he explained tightly. 'I'm not a homosexual. I thought that was glaringly obvious,' he added bitingly. 'I go see him to talk.'

Daphne thought she wouldn't feel anything, that it would be just one more empty moment between them. The small flare of hurt surprised her. 'What do you talk about?'

Draco's head shook slightly. 'Things... Just... things...'

'All right.' Shaken, Daphne managed to grab the door handle and open the door without tripping over her feet. She fled to the relative sanctuary of her bedroom, even more uncertain of what she wanted to do.


Harry knocked on Carolina's office door. 'Hey, I need to ask you something.'

Carolina leaned back in her chair, lacing her fingers behind her head. 'Shoot.'

'One of your Obliviators retired about two-and-a-half years ago...'

'Actually, I had about five of them retire,' Carolina interrupted. 'No... wait...' She mentally counted to herself. 'Six.'

'I need their names,' Harry said softly.

Carolina's eyes narrowed. 'Why?'

'It's one of them,' Harry said simply.

'No, it's not,' she hissed. 'It's not one of mine!'

Harry reached behind him and closed the door. Carolina was too much of a professional to lose her temper in front of the entire morning Obliviator shift, but he was accusing one of her department members of spearheading an incredibly heinous activity. 'It is.'

'It can't be! You're just... grasping at straws.'

'I'm not. One of them was a Legilimens and he knew enough to modify the memories of the people he used to torture Muggles so that it looked like it was something like a dream. Not erasing the memory completely, like an amateur would have done, and not removing the salient details like most other Obliviators. This one knew how to make it so that the person committing the crime could reasonably have dreamed about it.'

Carolina's eyes were wide in her pale face, the only splash of color otherwise. 'Three of the people that retired could use Legilimency to some degree,' she said hollowly. 'Every so often, we train a few Obliviators to use it, because some people's memories are resistant to modification. It takes a few tries, and we use Legilimency to check that the modification's been done.'

'Their names...' Carolina hesitated, then slowly pulled a piece of parchment toward her. She scribbled three names on it and pushed it across her desk. Harry picked it up and folded it between his fingers, stuffing it into the pocket of his trousers. 'Thank you.'

'When is Joel's trial?'

'Starts on the ninth. It shouldn't last more than a day or two. He's all but admitted his role in the whole process to the MLE investigators.'

'How... How long will his sentence be?'

Harry looked at Carolina sadly. 'You know that...'

Carolina's face crumpled a little and she nodded. Harry didn't have to tell her it was a mandatory life sentence for Kathleen's murder. Her jaw worked soundlessly and she struggled to maintain control. Harry knew. The ones you trained were like your children, and this amounted to no less than a total betrayal of everything you had taught them.


'What do you zink?' Fleur held up a swatch of sparkling peach fabric.

'What am I supposed to think?' Victoire asked, her nose wrinkling.

'For Madeline's dress robes, of course!' Fleur sniffed indignantly.

'Why does Maddie need new dress robes?' Victoire asked blankly.

'For your wedding, bébé,' Fleur informed her daughter with a sigh. 'Madeline will be your maid of honor, will she not?'

'Mum, that's years away!' Victoire protested.

'It is never too early to start planning,' Fleur stated calmly.

Victoire set her quill down and propped her chin in her upturned hand. 'Mum,' she began patiently, 'Teddy and I won't want a big, frilly affair. Just the family, really, and that right there is quite enough to make the neighbors complain.'

Fleur's face grew stricken. 'Please tell me you are not zinking of doing zis in some drab, dreary Ministry office!'

Victoire sighed and picked up her quill. 'Mum, it's more than three years away. We haven't even really talked about the actual wedding. Because we haven't set a date. But I do know that he just wants a nice, quiet family do. And so do I.'

Fleur regretfully tucked the fabric into her work basket. 'Fine,' she grumbled. 'But "quiet" is not a term I would apply to ze family.'

Victoire laughed. 'I wouldn't either.'

'When was ze last time you saw Teddy?'

'When he came over and we fell asleep.' Fleur casually flicked her wand at Victoire's textbooks, sending them to the dresser across the kitchen from under Victoire's hands. 'Mum!' Victoire protested. 'I was studying!'

'And it is all you ever do anymore,' Fleur complained. 'Mon Dieu! Ze year before you fazzer and I were married, zere was a war starting, and your fazzer was always doing somezing for ze Order when he was not working, but we still managed to find time to be wiz each ozzer! Ze two of you have none of the pressures, and yet you still cannot find ze time to squeeze in five minutes for each ozzer.'

'This is different, Mum.' Victoire got to her feet and walked to the dresser, bypassing the stack of books, and reaching for plates and cutlery to set the table for dinner. 'Only the top three students of the year are allowed to even think about choosing their own apprenticeship. The others go where they're told... And I don't want to be one of those poor sods. I'll end up on the Magical Bugs floor,' Victoire huffed.

'What do you want to do?'

'Spell Damage,' Victoire said without missing a beat.

Fleur shook her head. 'You do not make life easy for yourself, do you?'

'Not especially.'

Fleur heard a muffled pop and glanced out of a kitchen window. Bill walked up the path, the wind coming off the sea sending his hair flying around his head. 'What shift does Teddy work zis week?'


'And you do not have a class or a practical shift tonight, yes?'

'No, nothing.'

'Zen go see Teddy.' When Victoire cast a doubtful eye toward her books, Fleur heaved a longsuffering sigh. 'And take zose infernal books wiz you, if you must.'

'Dad's not going to get shirty if I'm out too late, is he?' Victoire asked warily.

'Probably,' Fleur murmured, as the back door began to open. 'So try to be home before midnight?'

'Brilliant,' Victoire muttered under her breath. At least she didn't tell me to be home at ten, like she did when I was in school.


Al leaned closer to the wireless, straining to hear the Montrose-Falmouth game in progress. Falmouth was up to their usual brutal style of play, scribbling notes about the tactics and strategies employed by both teams. The notes in Falmouth's column were predictably short - bash the other team over the head repeatedly until they drop the Quaffle. Al looked down at the photograph of the current team in his copy of Quidditch Through the Ages. The owner seemed to go for brawn over actual ability. He found it hard to believe they had actively attempted to recruit either Harry or Ginny. Having spent most of his life playing with or against one parent or the other, he knew looks were deceiving. Harry might not be what Al would term brawny, but Al had seen him swing from his broom handle one handed, and hoist himself back into place without breaking a sweat, all in the effort to catch the Snitch before Charlie did. Ginny once told Al that during her days with the Harpies, people tended to judge her skills based on her size. While it was true that she didn't have an enormous amount of muscle behind her goals, she did have an innate sense of timing and placement, something Al knew was invaluable, regardless of how well one could muscle a Quaffle through a goalpost. Part of his Quidditch class' ongoing assignment was to analyze how well a team had managed to adapt to their players' skills - or lack thereof - over the course of the season. He threw an irritated glance over his shoulder at the common room. The ruckus was getting so loud, he couldn't hear the game.

Lily had finally mastered the padlock she'd been practicing on all week and Jacob had challenged her to a race: who could pick the lock the fastest while blindfolded? After Lily won the first time, Jacob quickly challenged her to another go. The House was evenly divided between Lily and Jacob, with James standing uncertainly in the middle.

The announcer's voice cut through the commotion and Al sighed and shut the wireless off. He'd missed Montrose's Seeker catching the Snitch. He saw Scorpius extricate himself from the knot of people cheering Lily on and wind his way to where Al perched in the deep windowsill. 'Can I trade my family for yours?' he asked conversationally.

'I'd hardly call that a fair trade,' Al said, absently, finishing his notes. 'James and Lily for Geoffery?'

'If my father dropped off the face of the earth, I don't think anyone would notice,' Scorpius mused, as if Al hadn't spoken. 'Certainly Mother wouldn't. Not anymore. She's made plans for the holidays. Father won't be there. He's going to France. Mother says we're staying at home and I can come to your house after the first for the rest of the holiday.'

'I thought you wanted to see your grandmother over the holiday?' Al asked, puzzled.

'I do,' Scorpius said unhappily.

'Any word on the other thing?' Al asked, keeping his voice low, so as not to broadcast Scorpius' private business to the common room.

Scorpius shook his head. 'Oddly, no. She just tells me not to worry about it.' He examined the backs of his hands. 'But I think she's made up her mind to do it. I've never seen her take charge of things like this before.'

'Do you want them to...?' Al asked tentatively.

Scorpius snorted with ironic laughter. 'Not like anything would really change, would it? He'd still not be bothered with me.' His expression grew pensive and Scorpius stared into the fire across the room. 'But at least I wouldn't be trapped in the middle of whatever it is between my parents just now. It's not as if my father was particularly involved with me before I started school, but I wasn't made to feel as if I was choosing between either of my parents...' Scorpius slid off the windowsill and began to head for the stairs leading to the boys' dormitory. He turned back to Al. 'Do you think...?' he began, but shook his head. 'Never mind...'

Al jumped off the windowsill, hastily gathering his things and running after Scorpius. 'What?'

Scorpius didn't say anything until he got into the third year boys' dormitory. He checked that it was empty and sat on his bed. 'It seems that running away from home is sort of a tradition... My grandmother had this cousin - Sirius...? - she said you'd know him...?'

'He was Dad's godfather. James is named for him.'

'Yeah. Well, when Sirius was sixteen, he ran away.' Scorpius clapped his hand over his mouth to stem the bubbles of hysterical laughter that rose to the surface. When he recovered, he managed to choke, 'To your great-grandparents' house. Your father's grandparents.'

Al frowned. 'What are you asking?'

Scorpius fell back into his bed. 'And Teddy's grandmother... She ran away from home, too. But Teddy says she was of age, so I'm not sure if it counts,' he mused, as if Al hadn't spoken. 'Funny, but nobody in my father's generation felt the need to do a bunk. But then again, he was the only one.' He sat up suddenly, looking at Al, wild-eyed. 'How would your parents feel about taking in a stray?' he asked, grinning crookedly.

Al's mouth dropped open. 'You mean right now?' he gasped.

Scorpius shook his head. 'Not now, no... But if I needed a place...?'

Al nodded wordlessly. 'Just tell me when.'