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 83 - As Summer Fades


Maya found a seat in History of Magic with a sigh. The class had gotten ever so much more interesting since she didn't have to sit through Binns' monotonous droning. Two girls in the next desk were giggling over an issue of Witch Weekly. 'Never would have thought he looked like that under those robes,' one sighed.

'I'll bet Maya knew. She's pretty thick with that lot,' the other said, turning to Maya. 'Maya, ever seen that Parker Weasley like this before?' She slid the magazine onto Maya's desk. Maya looked down and her mouth fell open. 'Oh. My.'

'Gorgeous bum, don't you think?'

'I...' Maya's face grew hot when James slid into the seat next to hers.

'What's this?' He pulled the magazine toward him and burst out laughing. 'Oh my God,' he chortled. 'I wonder what Uncle Percy's going say about that.'

'Hmmm?' Maya tore her gaze from Parker's photograph.

James waved the magazine under Maya's nose. 'Parker. On the beach. With a tall, leggy blonde. Wearing a... Wow. I'm not sure you can legally call that a bikini.' He rotated the magazine to the left. 'I mean... It's... quite... small...' The magazine rotated back to the right. 'And... blimey.' He quickly handed the magazine back to the grinning girl in front of them. 'Sorry.' He kept his eyes glued to the desk under his hands.

Maya frowned. 'For?'

'Bikini...' James mumbled.

'You're not dead,' Maya admitted. 'That being said, I didn't like it.' She poked James in the ribs. 'Don't look at her again.' James' eyes widened at the steely undertone of Maya's voice. He had no doubt she could - and would - hex his bollocks into insignificance.


Parker set the paperbacked novel facedown over his stomach and gazed idly over the waves rolling to shore. It was mesmerizing and for a mind that had little opportunity in recent years to shut itself off, eminently soothing. Nobody expected anything of him here, and he preferred it that way. He ate when he was hungry, slept when he was sleepy, ran on the beach or swam in the sea when he wanted physical activity, and read an endless stream of mindless Muggle fiction. He would have to make his way up to San Francisco soon, but Carter had insisted he could stay at the cottage as long as he liked. So Parker stayed and let the days run into one another. Mackenzie came down from Malibu for dinner from time to time. Carter generally left them to their own devices afterward, claiming they were quite old enough to handle themselves without a chaperone. Mackenzie never stayed very late. She had an early class in the morning. Parker almost envied the certainty she had for her chosen career path. 'You're up early,' Carter commented, joining him on the deck with a large mug of steaming coffee.

'I might a lazy git at the moment,' Parker retorted, 'but it's still far too lovely of a day to waste it with a lie-in, no? He stretched his arms over his head. 'Thought I might go down to San Juan Capistrano later. See the architecture...' His voice trailed off as an owl swooped to the railing of the deck and held out his leg to Parker. Parker frowned at the bright red envelope, but untied it all the same. Maybe they don't use red envelopes for Howlers here... He relaxed visibly at the idea until the envelope began to smoke at some unspoken signal once he'd touched it.


'Of course he heard ya... They heard ya in Orange County...' Carter muttered.


'Blimey... he used my middle name,' Parker murmured faintly.


The red envelope burst into flames and ash drifted to a small pile on the deck. Parker and Carter sat in stunned silence, staring at each other. Suddenly, Parker lurched to his feet and darted into the house, Carter following at a slower pace. Parker sat in the middle of the floor in the guest bedroom, cramming his clothes and books into his knapsack, hands shaking. 'I-i-i-i-if I leave a n-n-n-note for M-m-m-mackenzie, will you give it to her?'

'You're of age,' Carter reminded him. 'You don't have to do what he says.' Parker shook his head miserably, blinking back the unexpected and unwelcome rush of tears. He got to his feet, knapsack clutched in his hands and stumbled to the small desk under a window and scribbled a barely legible note explaining his abrupt departure. Carter peered at him in unmasked concern. Parker's lips were white and the skin around his eyes stretched tightly over the bones of his face. Sweat popped up around his hairline. Alarmed, Carter grabbed the boy's elbow and yanked him to the neatly-made bed, shoving him to the mattress, then pushed his head between his knees. 'Breathe,' he barked. Parker complied, inhaling with a gasp. Carter peered at Parker's face, noting the ashen hue had faded somewhat, but he still looked sickly and pale, trembling all over. 'Now then,' he began calmly. 'It's only Wednesday, and if you're just rarin' to do what your dad tells ya, it won't hurt to stay the rest of the day, talk to Mack, then head up to San Francisco in the morning. And if you're plannin' on breakin' up with the girl, don't be a jerk and do it in a damned letter. Have the balls to do it to her face.' His gentle pat to Parker's back belied the severe word choice. Parker nodded and swiped his nose on the shoulder of his t-shirt.

'H-h-how did Dad find out?' he whispered hollowly. 'I haven't told them...'

'Dunno. Maybe she told her old man and he wrote to yours.' Carter reached for Parker's knapsack and pried it from his grip. 'Come on. I'll make us some pancakes and we'll go on down to San Juan Capistrano for the day.' Carter didn't really care to play tourist, but he was afraid Parker would bolt. The boy was far too accommodating by half.

'Mackenzie's coming for dinner,' Parker reminded Carter dully.

'Good. The two of ya can have a nice chat.' Carter clapped Parker soundly on the back. 'Lemme get breakfast started. Try to take a load off.' He sighed gustily and trudged toward the kitchen. Carter had known Percy for a long time. The man was a stickler for routine. And Carter was willing to bet his best set of dress robes that Percy was more miffed about Parker sidestepping the planned trip than his involvement with Mackenzie.


Harry burrowed into the pillows, snuggling into the bedding. The windows overlooking a courtyard were open, bringing in the sounds and scents of an autumnal morning. Ginny rolled over and wound her arms around his shoulders, chilled fingertips glancing over his warm skin. 'Morning,' she murmured.

'Morning...' Harry dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose.

'Sleep well?'

'Yeah.' Harry sounded surprised. They'd come to Rome the day before, slightly disoriented by the chain of Portkeys from London to Calais to Cannes to Genoa, then finally to Rome. They took their evening meal on a tray, then collapsed into the downy bed, replete with good wine and even better food.

Ginny pushed her tangled hair from her face. 'Me, too.'

'What do you want to do today?'

Ginny rested her head on Harry's shoulder. 'Eat. Sleep. Eat some more...'

'That sounds like a marvelous idea to me,' Harry yawned, wondering when the basket of breakfast pastries would arrive. Not that he was terribly hungry, but he was starting to drift back to sleep. The last time he and Ginny had been on a real holiday had been five years ago, the summer before James had started Hogwarts, and then they'd had all the children with them. This was heavenly. To not have a set agenda for the day was strangely liberating. Although, if they were going to do little more than eat, sleep, and gambol around the city, they could have stayed in Britain and gone to Edinburgh or over to Ireland to Dublin. But in Rome, he wasn't Harry Potter. And he and Ginny could be freely anonymous. That made it all worthwhile.


'You're really quiet tonight,' Mackenzie commented, handing Parker a dripping plate. He shrugged and took it from her, running a towel over the surface, then slid it into a cupboard. 'Are you okay?'


Mackenzie looked down into the sink filled with hot, soapy water and slipped her hands under the water, feeling for the drain plug. She tugged it up and the sink began to drain with a gurgle, loud in the silent kitchen. 'Something's the matter,' she ventured.

'I'm leaving tomorrow,' Parker muttered sullenly.

'Oh...' Mackenzie tossed her straight, blonde hair over a shoulder. 'It's not like I can't Apparate to San Francisco.'

'Ever gotten a Howler?'

'A few times.'

Parker reached for the teakettle Carter kept in the kitchen and used his wand to fill it with water, then heat it to boiling. Ignoring the piercing whistle, he rummaged for a mug and dropped a teabag into it, then poured the boiling water over it. 'My dad sent one to me today.'

'I see.' Mackenzie was perplexed. She didn't quite see, really.

'I was informed if I didn't get myself to San Francisco by the end of the week, I'd have to start the International Law program in January,' Parker said stiffly. 'Then he mentioned you...'

Mackenzie laughed nervously. 'Should I be flattered?'

The shouting still reverberated in Parker's head. While he'd been too stunned initially to process the details, hearing Percy ask snidely if he'd bothered to read the papers here now played in an endless loop. 'He asked if I read the papers. Why would he ask if I'd read the papers?'

'What is it you say? Bloody hell?'

'Yeah.' Parker fished the teabag from his mug and threw it in the rubbish bin.

Mackenzie went to a basket next to Carter's sofa and began to rummage through it. She unearthed a few back issues of the Dominion and handed them wordlessly to Parker. He snatched them and paged through the first one, mouth falling open at the photographs of the two of them on the beach. 'How? Why?' Mackenzie paled and spun on a heel, retreating to the deck. She sat on the railing, facing the ocean, hands gripping the top rail. Parker stood behind her, hands stuffed into his pockets. 'Mackenzie?' he asked quietly.

She inhaled slowly, eyes closing. 'I really like you,' she began.

'Brilliant,' Parker said coldly, then fell silent, waiting for her to continue.

'Well, I was... When I was younger... My dad...' Mackenzie's lips pressed together. 'My dad is pretty influential here.'

'I know.'

'And we, my brother Brett and I, grew up in the spotlight. And there were always photographers following us. When we started school. What we did on vacations. Brett and I couldn't go out on a date without it being on Page Four of the Dominion, or the gossip page of Witch Talk.' Mackenzie tilted her head back and stared at moon overhead. 'So I started hanging out in Muggle areas of town. Dated Muggle boys.' She swallowed hard. 'Sort of got a reputation,' she added softly.

'And I was just one more, was I?' Parker marveled at how calm he was. He had always figured if he ever got really angry, he'd fly into a rage, and not inhabit this preternaturally still place in his head. 'I think you should go,' he told her. Parker returned to the kitchen, retrieving his forgotten tea. He stood with his back to the rest of the house until he heard Mackenzie tiptoe out the front door. Parker lifted the mug to his lips, and then lowered it, his wrist turning so the tea poured into the sink.


Ginny wound her arms around Harry's waist, pillowing her cheek against his back. He drove - or was attempting to drive - a Vespa scooter through the tangle of Roman traffic. She could feel his wand in its holster inside his right sleeve and mentally shook her head. Twenty-two years since the end of the war, and he still didn't feel comfortable unless his wand was at hand. She supposed she had no room to talk. Hers was in her skirt pocket. It was one of those glorious days with honeyed sunshine pouring over the city. True to their promise at the start of the holiday, they never kept a set agenda and went where they pleased, when they pleased.

They left the confines of Rome for Tuscany and roamed the Boccaccesca, sampling tidbits of food while the wandered the cobblestoned streets with a glass of wine. Dancing with the unabashed dreaminess of a newlywed couple. Some people even ventured to ask if they were indeed newlyweds. They even managed, to Harry's delight, make their way to Perugia for Eurochocolate. They went to the opera a few times, and Harry only snored loudly enough to attract a few irate glares once. They even explored the Appian Way. Harry pulled the Vespa off to the side and parked it. 'Can I interest you in an espresso? Gelato, maybe?'

'Is that your way of saying you're hungry?' Ginny chuckled as Harry extended a hand to her, helping her dismount from the back of the scooter.

'Feels like I'm always hungry,' Harry replied bashfully.

'I could have a little something.'

'Is that your way of saying you're hungry, too?'

Ginny grinned cheekily. 'Maybe.' She settled on the edge of a fountain. 'Gelato. Hazelnut.' Harry ran to the other side of the piazza. Ginny tilted her face up to the sun, sighing with no little regret. It was their last full day in Rome. Their first Portkey to Genoa was tomorrow afternoon. She felt a small measure of guilt at feeling so carefree the last two weeks. Not that she didn't think about the children, but she hadn't worried about Al and his increasingly evident ambitions or the idea that James might be going a bit further with Maya than he ought. She didn't think about the paper even one time. Harry appeared with two paper-wrapped cones and gave one to her. 'Have you ever thought about when you might want to retire?'

Harry wasn't as startled as Ginny thought he might have been. He sat on the edge of fountain next to her, meditatively licking his gelato. 'What brought this on?'

'Just thinking.'

'Hmmm.' Harry eyed Ginny. 'What about you?'

'You first.'

'Maybe when Lily's finished her training program for whatever it is she wants to do,' he told her quietly. 'So maybe ten years or so...'

'What would we do with ourselves?' Ginny wondered.

'I have no idea.' Harry's arm snaked around Ginny's waist. 'Doesn't feel like we're even old enough to retire,' he said ruefully. 'We could both resign when we go to work Monday morning, and be all right financially,' he added. 'In case you were wondering about that.'

Ginny poked him in the ribs with her elbow. 'I'm not worried about the money,' she scoffed. 'We've both worked since we got out of school so that I can't picture not working...'

Harry nudged Ginny, jabbing her in the side lightly with his finger. 'Holiday's spoiled you. Two weeks of doing nothing.'

'That did cross my mind.' Ginny liked at a drop of gelato that snaked down her hand. 'I mean, Dad's seventy and still going.'

'Your dad still works because your mum's afraid he'll burn the house down tinkering with Muggle appliances,' Harry retorted.

'True,' Ginny allowed. 'So ten years.'

'Revisit the topic in ten years,' Harry amended. 'See where we stand then.'

Ginny blinked. 'Wow. Why does this feel so unreal?'

'Remember how unreal it felt to have a baby the first time? Put James on the train to school? Switch from playing Quidditch to writing about it? To go from bring a rank-and-file Auror to be in charge of training, and then the Head? That all felt unreal. It was just new.' He lifted her chin with a finger and pressed a kiss to her mouth. 'Figuring out what to do with ourselves when the children are grown is just something more that's new.'


Harry emerged from the bathroom, blinking in the dark room. Ginny sat in one of the open windows, the evening breeze fluttering through her loosened hair. She had been brushing it, but the old silver-backed hairbrush lay still in her lap. The nightdress she wore dipped from her shoulders in a deep vee to the small of her back. Harry waved his wand over the bureau. Several fat candles appeared and another wave lit them. Ginny turned at the advent of their flickering light. More candles appeared and the warm light grew until Harry could see her, the round neckline of the nightdress and the embroidery that blossomed around her waist. The hem fell to her ankles in a swirl of ivory silk. Harry reached out, fingers brushing over her back. I think you've gotten more freckles the last two weeks.' One finger trailed a meandering course from her collarbone down her back. 'I believe I shall have to count them,' he stated, taking Ginny's elbow and turning her around. The hairbrush fell to the floor with a loud thump. His hands rose slowly to her shoulders and slipped under the neckline of the nightdress, coaxing the fabric from her arms. His breath whooshed out in a reverent sigh. 'Beautiful,' he murmured, mouth lowering to the hollow at the base of her throat as the nightdress slid to the floor with a soft whisper. 'One...' Harry's lips brushed over her skin. 'Two... three...' He pulled Ginny backward slowly until the backs of his knees came in contact with the bed.

Ginny's hand slipped into Harry's pajama bottoms and she began to work them off with a slight huff of impatience. Harry's hand circled her wrist. 'Nuh-uh,' he chided. 'I am going to take my time,' he breathed, gently pushing Ginny against the mattress. 'Tomorrow, it's back to responsibilities and the chance that someone, somewhere, will be an idiot and do something incredibly stupid, dragging me from my bed in the middle of the night. And none of your brothers are here, so they won't be walking in on us...' The ends of his messy hair tickled Ginny's stomach. 'Where was I? Oh, right. Twenty...'

'You're never going to let Ron live that down, are you?' Ginny shifted in yearning, silently demanding that Harry and his searching mouth move lower.

'Not in a million years... Twenty-five...' Harry lost count.


Harry dragged the bedding over his and Ginny's naked bodies. She ran the fingertips of one hand up and down the arm he draped over her waist. 'I'm glad we didn't do this when we were twenty,' he said softly.


Harry trailed light kisses over the back of her neck, making Ginny shiver. 'I don't think we would have appreciated it. The way we took things at our own pace...'

'Yeah...' Ginny rolled over. 'Would it be selfish if we did something like this while the children are in school? Not two weeks,' she said hastily at the doubtful expression that flitted over Harry's face. 'A week perhaps...?'

'That might work.' Harry kissed her lingeringly. 'And no, it's not selfish.'

Ginny's eyes fluttered shut, and she murmured, 'Good...' Within a few breaths, Harry could feel the tell-tale twitch of the hand that cupped his bum, signaling she had gone to sleep. He settled into the bedding a little more, and then he, too, slipped into a deep slumber.


Benjamin led Parker up a narrow flight of stairs. 'I hope you don't mind staying up here,' he said. 'We finished the attic so April's family could have a place to sleep when they come visit during the summers.'

'It's fine,' Parker said dully.

Benjamin glanced back at the boy trudging up the stairs in his wake. He didn't seem to be the same person he'd met at the Burrow last Easter. 'How's your trip been?'


'Michael called the other day,' Benjamin offered. 'Said you had run-in with your dad.'

'You could say that.'

Benjamin opened a door to a yet another set of stairs. 'These go directly to the attic. If someone comes up, you'll be able to hear them way before they get all the way up...' He emerged in a narrow room that ran the length of the house. A double bed was set against the far wall and a pair of armchairs sat facing a window tucked under the eaves. 'The bathroom's through the door across from the bed, closet's next to it. There's a kitchenette behind that screen. You don't have to eat meals with us, but you can, if you want. April's pretty good at cooking.' Benjamin paused. 'Well, not as good as your grandmother, but Molly puts most people to shame.'

'Thank you.' Parker stood stiffly in the middle of the room.

Benjamin nodded and started to leave Parker alone. 'Look, I don't know what happened between you and your dad, but if you want, you can tell me.'

Parker dropped his knapsack at the foot of the bed. 'He's upset I deviated from his plans.'

'I thought he was okay with you taking the year off...?'

'He was. Is. But apparently I spent too much time in Long Beach.'

Benjamin smothered a grin. He'd seen the photographs of Parker with Mackenzie Hathaway. 'Okay. So if you still want to volunteer at Marissa's school, I can take you over there Monday morning.' Parker's shoulders slumped. More expectations. It didn't go unnoticed by Benjamin. 'Only if you want to, Parker,' he added. 'If you want to go feed pigeons in Golden Gate Park every day, that's your business...'

Parker opened his knapsack. 'I'll let you know, shall I?' His wonderfully unencumbered holiday had been weighed down with directions about where he ought go with his future.


Harry and Ginny landed in a tumble of arms and legs in their back garden. The house loomed over them in the frosty October night. Ginny shivered a little and drew the edges of her coat a little together. 'I miss Rome already,' she sighed.

Harry set the bag down, and caught one of her hands. He pulled her to him and began humming one of the songs he remembered from the village in Tuscany. They danced under the star-spangled sky, unwilling to relinquish the glow from their holiday just yet. Ginny's arms wound around Harry's neck and her head rested in the hollow of his shoulder. Harry pressed his lips to her temple. 'I love you.'

'I love you, too.'