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 74 - Gathering Clouds


Al sighed and rubbed an old towel over his dripping hair. Isabella had called off practice only because the rain came down so hard and so fast, even Impervious charms couldn't keep the water out of their eyes and noses. He wrung the thin towel out, making a face at the amount of water that splattered on the floor. Al listlessly balled up the towel and tossed it toward the laundry basket tucked in the corner of the changing room, glancing up at the ceiling. The rain pounded against the slate shingles, creating a dull roar in the room that muffled the chatter of his brother and cousins. To say he'd been horribly disappointed when his parents refused to grant him permission to try out for the English team was a bit of an understatement. He'd been despondent to the point where he'd snapped at Scorpius, picked fights with Lily, goaded James, and generally ignored both of his parents. Al was almost a little surprised they were still talking to him.

Lost in his own thoughts, Al didn't notice the others filing out of the changing room, bundled into cloaks against the downpour. He was staring into the depths of his locker, watching the rainwater drip from his gloves when James spoke. 'They're right, you know.'

Al's shoulders hunched irritably in reply. James plowed on, undaunted. He knew about his parents' conversation with Al. James had overheard him giving Scorpius an abbreviated account of it. 'They're right. You've watched the professional games. You've even been to World Cup matches. You know the matches are faster and way more intense than anything we do here, even more than what we do at home.' James' face twisted for a moment, as if he were trying to stem a tide of sick from spewing all over his shoes. 'You are good,' he admitted gruffly, even if it did gall him to say so. 'You're good,' he repeated. 'But you're not quite there yet.'

Al rounded on James. 'I can see it,' he hissed. 'I can see the Snitch before they can. I can tell they can't see it. It goes in slow-motion for me!'

James rubbed his fingers over his temples in circular motions. He exhaled slowly, counting to ten. 'Fine,' he muttered. 'Be a stubborn ass. See if I care. Mum and Dad did you a favor and you're too damn blind to see it. Everyone else sees it but you.'

'That's not true!' Al insisted. 'The English team thinks I can do it.'

James fixed his eyes at a spot on the floor. 'The English team isn't even listening to its own scouts. You heard what Izzy said when she told you they were looking for you. You're not ready for it physically, Albus, and you know it. Deep down, you know it. Have you seen the size of the Beaters on the German team? They're huge! One good shove and you'll be hanging from your broom handle,' James scoffed. 'Bloody hell, Albus, try to be reasonable about this!'

Al lunged from the bench, slamming the door of his locker shut. The sound ricocheted off the walls. 'You don't have any right to tell me to be reasonable,' he sneered. 'You protest every time Mum or Dad punishes you like you're a child in nappies.' He grabbed his cloak. 'And that's what this is... A punishment.' Al threw the cloak over his shoulders and stalked out of the changing room into the pouring rain.

The door closed with an ominous thud. James buried his face in his hands. 'I have a bad feeling about this,' he said to the empty room. Heavily, he lurched to his feet and picked up his own cloak in nerveless fingers and trudged into the dark night.


Lily squinted at the book in front of her. The tiny print swam and blurred and her eyes watered. She rubbed her eyes and blinked several times, widening her eyes almost comically. She peered at the text and leaned closer to the book, her nose nearly touching the page. 'This is useless,' she whispered.

Hugo had been watching Lily's performance with her text book in amusement. He almost wished he had a bowl of popcorn, but when Lily looked up, his amusement quickly vanished. 'Are you all right?'

'No,' she replied, a small line between her eyebrows. 'My head hurts...'

'Want to go see Madam Pomfrey?'

'No!' Lily said, horrified. 'She'll make me take some awful sort of potion that tastes like the bottom of someone's shoe.'

'How do you know what the bottom of someone's shoe tastes like?' Hugo asked curiously.

'I don't. Fred and Jacob tried to get me to lick one of theirs, but Aunt Katie suddenly sprang up out of nowhere, and flicked them both on the ears. Hard.'

Hugo leaned closer to Lily. Her eyes were slightly bloodshot. 'You don't look very well.'

'I'm all right,' Lily said firmly. 'Just haven't been able to see very well lately. Just tired, I imagine.'

'How long?'

'Since September or October, I guess,' Lily admitted.

'Why didn't you say anything?' Hugo demanded.

Lily shrugged diffidently. 'Didn't think it was anything,' she muttered.

Hugo grunted. 'And in all the excitement of starting Hogwarts, you just sort of forgot to mention it?'

'I could read the books,' Lily countered. 'And I sit in the front of the room anyway, because I can't see over other peoples' heads, so I can see the board,' she argued.

Hugo shook his head sadly. 'Should have said something to Aunt Ginny or Uncle Harry over Easter hols, then you could at least have picked out something somewhat flattering' he tutted. 'I've heard the specs Madam Pomfrey has make everyone look rather like an owl.'

'You're supposed to make me feel better,' Lily said, only a little peevishly. Her head really did hurt.

Hugo smothered a grin. Lily was a notoriously bad patient - at turns fractious and pitiful - and sure to grate on people's nerves. 'We've got the period after potions free tomorrow,' he told her. 'I'll go to the hospital wing with you,' he offered.

Lily rubbed her eyes wearily. 'Fine...'

The portrait hole opened and Isabella, Madeline, Fred, Jacob, and Rose filed in, soaked to their skins, leaving puddles of water in their wakes, as they stumbled up the stairs to their respective dormitories. None of them looked very happy. Hugo absently chewed the end of his quill as he watched his sister yank the sopping cloak off her shoulders, and sweep back the hair that stuck to her cheeks. A few minutes later, Al stalked inside the common room, resembling the storm that raged outside the castle. Hugo bent back to his notes, one eye on the portrait hole, but James never appeared. 'Something's not right,' he murmured.

'What?' Lily looked at him, slightly distracted.

'Team's always come back from practice together.'

'Maybe James had to go to the library,' Lily said off-handedly.

'Did you see how wet the others were?' Hugo asked. 'They were dripping all over the floor. They'll have to change before they go anywhere else.'

Lily glanced at the stairs leading to the boys' dormitories. She leaned across the table. 'Mum and Dad won't give Al permission to play with England this summer,' she confided. 'He's been in a strop since.'

'Explains a lot,' Hugo mused. He had noticed Al had been a bit distant with everybody since they had returned to school. He surmised it was starting to affect the Gryffindor Quidditch team's cohesiveness. The last game was just two weeks away, with the Quidditch Cup on the line. Gryffindor had to defeat Ravenclaw by no fewer than two hundred and thirty points.

Lily nodded. 'Yeah. It was a little tense around the house before we came back.' She closed her book with a pained sigh. 'I'm going to bed.'

'Night, Lily...' Hugo closed his own book and watched the flames in the fireplace. There had to be more to the story than what Lily had told him. A fissure that deep had to come from somewhere. Hugo didn't put much stock in clairvoyance, but even he knew he didn't need the Sight in order to see the current situation did not bode well.


James shivered violently, chilled to the bone. His anger had dissipated on the long walk back to the castle, dissolved on the rivulets of water that plastered his hair to his skull, and drenched his cloak and clothes. The cloak landed on the floor of the empty classroom with a miserable splat. Maya looked up from her textbook, where she had been memorizing dates for a History of Magic exam in the morning. She glanced at her watch with a slight frown. 'I didn't think Isabella kept you so late at practices.'

'She doesn't,' James said shortly. 'We ended it more than an hour ago.'

Maya gave James an inquiring glance. 'Decide to take a swim, did you?'

'T-t-t-took a w-w-w-walk,' James said, his teeth beginning to chatter with cold.

Maya shook her head, and pointed her wand at him. She waved it at James, and a cloud of steam rose from his clothes, momentarily obscuring his vision. She waved it at him again, and his clothes began to warm until he grew comfortably warm. 'You took a walk in this weather?'

James shrugged. 'So?'

Maya's dark eyes slid to the window. The rain came down in sheets, wind howling, swirling around the window. 'It's just a bit damp out, isn't it?'

'I just needed to clear my head, yeah?'

The corner of Maya's mouth turned up a little. 'I ate an entire pound of licorice wands second year after I nearly failed a Herbology exam. No judgments here.' Her face grew thoughtful. 'I was also sick and spent a good portion of the rest of the evening huddled on my bed afraid to move, lest I be sick all over my pillow.'

'Are you suggesting I'll come down with a cold?' James asked archly.

'I'm just saying to watch yourself,' Maya snorted, returning to her studies.

James flung himself into the seat next to Maya. 'He's going to make us all mad before too long,' he grumbled.


James merely gifted Maya with a look. 'You think he's going to come round?' he grunted.

Maya shrugged. Despite growing up around the players from the team in Falmouth that frequented her parents' pub, it hardly gave her insights into the psyche of a professional player. She had seen a couple of players that had been put on the competitive squad straight out of school as young, promising players that had subsequently never lived up to the hype. They then bounced from team to team for years before deciding to pack it in. 'Perhaps it might be good for him to practice with the team,' she said shrewdly. 'Give him a taste of what it's like.'

'Maybe,' James sighed. 'But I don't think Mum and Dad would think so.'

'Look at it this way,' Maya said. 'What is it you want to do more than anything?'

'Run the Hogsmeade shop,' James said promptly.

'Really?' Maya examined James skeptically. 'You want to work for your uncles?'

'With them,' James corrected. 'Dad's part-owner of Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes. One day I'm going to be able to buy out his share,' he said wistfully.

'He could just give it to you.'

James stared at Maya. 'Have you met my dad?'


James' head shook slowly from side to side. 'Nobody in my family gets anything just because of our last name, or because of who my dad is. We earn it. Believe me, if I let my Quidditch game slip, Izzy's liable to chuck me out of the team in favor of someone who can play Chaser better, regardless of their familial connections.' He pulled his school bag toward him. He'd left it with Maya before he went to practice. James rummaged for his Charms textbook and added, 'That goes double for Albus, Lily, and me. I think Dad sees the English team's interest in Albus as a gimmick, because he's Harry Potter's son. And he'd like for us all to avoid the limelight if possible.' James shuddered a little, as some of his father's memories played through his head. 'I can't say I blame him...'

'What about your cousins?' Maya persisted. 'Fred, Jacob, Sophie, Rose, or Hugo? What if they want the shop as well?'

James began to chuckle, then it grew into outright guffaws of humor. 'Blimey. Well, Fred and Jacob are keen for the shop, too, and they can take over the Diagon Alley premises. I don't think Sophie's going to join them. Needs to maintain her sanity, yeah? I think she'd like to teach Charms here, but Flitwick's bloody immortal it seems. And even if he does retire soon, I highly doubt they'd hire her on as a teacher when she finishes school. Soph'd be too young. Rose only has eyes for Quidditch. The Cannons to be exact -'

'The Cannons?' Maya interrupted. 'But they're awful, and Rose is well... not...'

'They're not that bad,' James said, only slightly defensively on Rose's behalf. 'They just don't get very good Keepers. Their current Seeker isn't so bad...' He licked the point of his Self-Inking Quill and underlined a selection of text in his book describing the wand motions for a particular spell. 'Hugo...' James let his voice trail off uncertainly. Hugo was something of an enigma to his cousins. Dreadfully bright, to be sure, a little bit lax when it came to doing his homework, but nowhere near as bad as Ron had been - at least not according to what both Ron and Hermione said. Hugo was a fairly decent Quidditch player. After all, how could he not be? He was a Weasley. For Hugo, Quidditch wasn't a passion, merely a diverting pastime. He could play chess blindfolded and carry on a conversation with someone else at the same time. And every so often, he said something so profound; it took the others several minutes, hours, or even days to pick apart what he said. 'I don't think Hugo's meant for the shop,' James said firmly. He shook himself a little. 'I don't want to talk about them anymore, eh? And Albus least of all.'

Maya tilted her chair back on its back legs, studying James. 'Jealous?' she shot at him, quietly, unerringly finding her mark.

'No,' James said scornfully. But he was - just a little. However, the memory of seeing what his father had to endure as the center of a maelstrom of public attention effectively quashed any feelings of envy he might have had toward Al.

'Mmm-hmmm.' Maya pinned James with her direct gaze.

'I'm not,' James muttered. He shut his Charms book and pulled out his Potions book. 'Professor Williams said he was giving a test tomorrow, and I need help sorting out which potions ingredients react with each other.'

Maya unearthed her own textbook and wisely left the subject of Albus Potter alone.


Daphne hummed lightly as she scanned the towering bookcases, the tune evolving into something more dramatic as her fingers grasped then pulled a volume from the recesses of the shelf. She curled into her favorite chair, and opened the book, sparing a glance for the figure hovering in the doorway. 'You need to find a new hobby,' she commented.

'I have a hobby,' Draco objected mildly.

Daphne emitted a rather unladylike snort. 'Lurking in doorways and scrutinizing people isn't a hobby, Draco, no matter what you want to believe.' She waved an absent-minded hand at the rows and columns of books. 'Read something...'

Draco hesitatingly stepped into the room, and browsed the side of the bookcases that held "his" books. They were all books about magical theory, potions, charms, magical history. Scholarly tomes that were rigidly "correct" in their adherence to a proper magical education. What passed for fiction and literature, Draco felt was unimaginative, but he was also bored with the choices his books offered him. He stole a look at the hodgepodge that made up Daphne's books. Muggle literature and poetry was jammed next to works of wizarding literature and more didactic works.

Daphne chuckled softly and rose from her chair. She strolled down the length of a shelf her fingers trailing over the titles of the books until she came to a certain book. She pried it from its location and handed it to Draco. 'Try that one.'

Draco held the book limply in his fingers. 'Why do you read Muggle books?'

'They're diverting,' Daphne told him. 'Although their ideas about wizarding life are rather entertaining for what they get wrong, it's quite inventive.' She gestured to the book Draco ignored. 'Like that one, for instance. What he says about vampires...' She laughed gaily. She smiled at Draco gently. 'It's quite all right if you don't like it.'

'What are you reading?' Draco demanded. Daphne returned to her chair and wordlessly handed Draco the much-read volume. He frowned at the title and thumbed the cover open. 'It's in Italian,' he stated flatly.


'You can read Italian?'

'I can read Italian.'

Draco's eyes narrowed. 'How many languages can you read?'

Daphne's cheeks colored rosily. 'English, obviously.'

'Oh, obviously,' Draco echoed faintly.

'I'm fluent in French and Italian, and I can read Latin.'

Draco blinked. 'Four languages?' he said hoarsely. 'I... I didn't...' He coughed. 'Why?'

Daphne set the book down on the arm of the chair. 'Well, French, because it's what properly brought-up young women were supposed to know. Or at least that's what my parents believed. And Italian, because... Well, because it was something I wanted to learn, and not something I was being forced to learn. Latin, because so many spell incantations are rooted in Latin, and I harbored a wishful fantasy of becoming an Unspeakable.'

'A what?' Draco nearly yelped.

'Unspeakables do lots of things,' Daphne said archly. 'I wanted to research the origins of spells and develop new ones. It required a working knowledge of at least three languages other than English.'

Draco stared at Daphne as if he'd never seen her before. Perhaps he hadn't. 'Who are you?' he murmured.

'Nobody special,' Daphne said cheerfully, albeit with a tinge of bitterness underneath.

'Yes, you are.' Draco took the chair next to Daphne's. 'Can you translate while you read?'


'Could you read it to me...?' Draco asked tentatively.

'I... I suppose...' Nervously, Daphne opened the book and cleared her throat. 'Nel mezzo del cammin di nostre vita/mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,/ché la diritta via era smaritta. When I had journeyed half our life's way,/I found myself within a shadowed forest,/for I had lost the path that does not stray.'

Draco's eyes closed blissfully, lost in the rolling cadence of the medieval Italian, punctuated by the more staccato English translation, all said in Daphne's husky alto voice. Later, he wasn't able recall what she'd said, but it was one of the most enjoyable hours of his marriage. And that included the hours they spent exploring the carnal side of their relationship. He briefly wondered if this was how others felt - others who did marry for love - and then caught up in pleasure of his wife's company, wondered no more.


Harry sprawled on the sofa, fingers toying with the ends of Ginny's hair, listening to the sounds of the children unpacking. Gryffindor had managed to win the Quidditch Cup once more, but there didn't seem to be any joy in it when the boys recounted the game for them at dinner that evening. James and Al barely spoke to one another, aside from muttered grunts to pass the salt or the runner beans at dinner. Neither he, nor Ginny could recall either of them writing about a disagreement or a fight in their letters home. Less worrisome was Lily's vision. That was easily remedied by a trip to St. Mungo's where Lily could have a comprehensive examination and pick glasses that fit her a bit more that the round ones she wore.

Ginny's fingers drummed restlessly on his knee. 'Something doesn't feel right,' she murmured.

'The boys?' Harry replied.

Ginny nodded. 'They've had their problems before,' she said uneasily, 'but nothing like this...' She shifted to face Harry. 'Should we...?'

'Interfere?' Harry sighed. 'I don't know. We've generally let them work things out before.' Harry rubbed the bridge of his nose. 'Or at least waited until life and limb were in danger.

Ginny nodded. 'True... We should at least talk to them, though.'

'I'll talk to James,' Harry said quickly. 'Al's convinced I'm just here to stomp all over his dreams.'

'In the morning,' Ginny yawned. 'It can wait until then. Be better after we've all gotten some sleep.'

The mobile rang shrilly from the office. Harry pushed himself to his feet and lunged for the desk drawer, scrabbling for the mobile. He spared a glance for the number displayed on the screen before he answered. 'Hiya, Dudley. Listen, I was going to ring tomorrow and see if you, Aaron and Sarah would like to -'

'It's not Dudley. It's Aaron.' Aaron's normally calm voice trembled with fear, bordering on panic. 'You need to come to London. Now.'


A/N: The quote Daphne reads is from Dante's Inferno, translated by Allen Mandelbaum, published by Bantam Books, 1980