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 86 - Aftermath


James sighed and sat up in his bed, rubbing his fingers over his gritty eyes. He hadn't slept very well, lying in the dark, waiting to hear Harry's tread on the stairs. It never came. He flung the bedding back and swung his feet to the floor, pulling his yesterday's discarded jumper over his head as he left his bedroom. He automatically looked to his left to where Harry and Ginny's bedroom door should be shut. It was wide open. James tiptoed to the doorway and peeked inside with a growing sense of alarm. The bed looked as if it hadn't been slept in at all. James stumbled down the stairs, skidding to a halt at the sight of Ginny curled on the sofa, wrapped in the old green afghan that was usually draped over the back. James crept to the sofa and knelt next to it, gently shaking Ginny's shoulder. 'Mum?'

Ginny woke with a start, sitting up so suddenly, she nearly smacked James in the face. 'What time is it?'

James glanced over his shoulder at the clock on the mantle. 'Six-thirty.'

'Early for you,' Ginny commented with a wide yawn.

'Couldn't sleep...' James pulled his hands inside the sleeves of his jumper, noting the tearstains on his mother's face. Strangely that was more upsetting than Harry's absence. Ginny hardly ever cried. 'Erm... Mum? Where's Dad...?'

'At your uncle Ron's.' Ginny stretched, arching her back to ease the ache from sleeping on the sofa. 'I expect we'll see him at the Burrow.'

'Al really wound him up, didn't he?' James eased onto the sofa next to Ginny, and pulled his feet up to sit cross-legged.

'A bit,' Ginny allowed. She rested her elbow on the arm of the sofa and slowly exhaled as her head lowered to her fingertips.

'Mum... I'm sorry,' James whispered. 'I'm sorry... I'm so sorry...'

'Jemmy, you don't have to apologize for anything,' Ginny told him softly. 'You didn't do anything.'

'I saw him Monday before he left,' James admitted. 'He looked jumpy, so I asked if he was all right, he said he was going to Scorpius' to study for his exams...' His head slowly shook from side to side. 'I should have known,' he added.

'Jemmy, none of us could have imagined Albus would forge our signatures on his paperwork,' Ginny said gently.

'I could have,' James insisted, mentally reviewing Al's behavior over the last year.

'Short of Stunning him, James, I don't think you could have stopped him,' Ginny assured James. 'Al is responsible for his own actions. I just never thought he'd be so dishonest. I thought your father and I taught you three better than that.'

'You did. Al's being a wanker.'

'Jemmy,' Ginny admonished. She looked down at her hands. 'Would you like some breakfast?'

James shook his head. 'I'm not hungry.'

Instantly, Ginny laid the palm of her hand over his forehead. 'Are you feeling all right?'

'I'm fine, Mum,' James replied patiently. 'Just not hungry right now.'

'Why don't you go back to bed?'

'I'm up now, Mum.'

'Are you packed?' Ginny asked tiredly. 'I don't want you lot to get in a rush tomorrow.'

'Lily and I packed our things last night.'

'Good... good...' Ginny pushed herself to her feet. 'I'm going to go in to the paper and get tomorrow's layout done while it's still early. Daphne's bringing Scorpius over before we go to your grandmother's. We're going to take him to the train with us in the morning.' She paused and looked at James. 'Do you think he knew?'

James nibbled a fingernail absently. 'I don't think so. I'm not sure he would have narked out Al, but he might have dropped a hint or two.'

'That's what I thought,' Ginny sighed. 'Could you take care of breakfast for Al and Lily?'


'I'm going to take a quick shower and get to London. I ought to be back by lunchtime.'

'Don't worry, yeah?'

'Ask a bird not to fly,' Ginny retorted. 'You might have better luck.'


Harry jerked awake, snorting, looking around the strange surroundings. 'Where the bloody hell am I?' he muttered. 'Oh, right. Ron and Hermione's.' He squinted at the bedside table, searching myopically for his glasses. He felt thick and muzzy, like he had a hangover without the headache. He all but rolled off the bed and staggered into the bathroom to wash and collect his dry clothing. Hasty ablutions completed, Harry cupped his hand under the tap and slurped up the water collected in his palm, rinsing his mouth in lieu of brushing his teeth. He didn't feel like rooting through the cupboard for a new toothbrush to use. More importantly, he didn't want to wake up Ron, Hermione, Rose, or Hugo.

'Want some tea?'

Harry stiffened and opened the door. Hermione stood on the other side, wrapped in a thick dressing gown, hair billowing around her head.

'Only if I get to make it,' Harry told her. 'I think Ron put a Sleeping draught in mine last night.'

'He knew you wouldn't sleep otherwise,' Hermione soothed. 'And you need your rest.'

'Hermione, I spent most of my teens not sleeping very well,' Harry argued softly.

'Yes, and that was twenty years ago,' she said swiftly. 'And this is different.'

Harry followed Hermione into the kitchen. 'That was rather underhanded of him.'

'You wouldn't have taken it voluntarily,' Hermione said calmly. She pulled two mugs from the cupboard and set them on the table. 'Ron told me about Al,' she added. 'And it wouldn't hurt you to let people take care of you every so often, you know.'

Harry snorted and rinsed the teapot before he spooned tea leaves into it and filled it with boiling water. 'I do let people take care of me. When I have to be in hospital.'

'Oh, honestly,' Hermione tutted. 'So what are you going to do about Al?'

'I've arranged to meet with England's coach and captain later, so we can discuss his placement. They were willing to give me that much. I could turn Al in to MLE for fraud, but that would expose us and the English Quidditch team, not to mention I don't think I'd have a good case, given the spell Albus used to forge our signatures is routinely used by people who sign a great deal of things. It's considered valid.'

'He did it without your knowledge,' Hermione stated. 'That's your case.'

Harry poured tea into the waiting mugs. 'Could you do it?' he asked, green eyes flat and cold. 'Could you turn Rosie or Hugo in to MLE? Put them in front of the Wizengamot? Risk expulsion from Hogwarts?' Hermione's mouth opened, but nothing came out. 'Yeah. Not so black-and-white, is it?'

'What about the Prophet?'

'Then Gin's going to have to try and explain how she didn't know her own son was being actively recruited by England's team.'

'They did it behind your backs,' Hermione objected, pouring milk into her tea.

Harry spooned sugar into his and stirred it, the spoon clanking loudly against the sides of the mug in the early morning. 'And who's going to believe the effing Quidditch editor didn't know?'

'When are you meeting with the coach and captain?' Hermione asked.


'I'll come with you,' Hermione said, nodding decisively. She picked up her mug and headed to the sitting room. 'I'm sure there's something in one of my books...' she said vaguely, waving her wand at her bookshelves. 'At the very least, there ought to be some sort of law we can use to keep them from going public with all the sordid details...'

'Don't do something illegal,' Harry said.

Hermione grinned. 'Me? Do something illegal? Surely you have me mistaken for someone else.' She plucked a book from mid-air and thumbed through it. 'Everything I throw at them will be aboveboard and perfectly legal. Even if I have to... ah... stretch the law a bit.' She turned a few more pages. 'Push comes to shove, they'll give in to anything you want. Well, aside from letting Al out of his contract. I'll bet you ten Galleons...'



Harry inhaled deeply and met Hermione's eyes. 'Thank you,' he told her, in a heartfelt whisper.

'Any time, Harry.' She flicked her wand at her desk, and Summoned parchment and a quill. 'Now get yourself home and change. You need to look smart. Where are you meeting them?'

'Leaky Cauldron. It's neutral.'

'Good. I'll meet you there at nine-thirty.'

'Is that enough time for you to...?' Harry gestured at the stack of books in front of Hermione.

'Harry. This is me. I'll have two feet of parchment written out by eight. Now go,' she ordered. She waited until Harry left and began to scribble a series of arguments, but starred the one in the topmost position. 'Ron will divorce me for that...' she said ruefully.

'Ron will divorce you for what?' Ron asked in a sleep-scratchy voice from the doorway. 'And where's Harry?'

'I just sent him home to change. We're meeting with the English team's captain and coach at ten. I think we can guarantee Al won't be on the starting side.'

Ron picked up Hermione's mug of tea and sipped it. 'How do you propose to do that, hen?'

Hermione smiled evilly at him. 'Because I don't have anything to lose or gain if England loses its berth in the World Cup because they were found to have fraudulently signed an underage player.'

'Hermione! You can't do that!' Ron pleaded. 'It's the World Cup!'

Hermione gazed at Ron coolly. 'I can. And I will, if need be,' she said shortly. 'It's just a game, Ron.' She softened and laid her hand against Ron's cheek. 'This is about doing what's right, not what's easy,' she reminded him. 'The easy thing to do would be to expose England, but if I do that, I have to expose Al, Harry, and Ginny, as well. And I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening.'

'You're right,' Ron conceded. 'I hate to admit it, but you're right...' He captured her hand with his and kissed the inside of her wrist. 'Just try your best not to get England kicked out... This is the first time they've had a shot at it in ages.'

Hermione chuckled. 'It's all going to hinge on them. I don't think they'll fight me too hard.'


Harry paced the small room over the Leaky Cauldron. His hands reflexively rose to loosen the knot of his tie, but a warning cough from Hermione made him drop his hands back to his sides. 'Don't worry, Harry,' Hermione assured him. 'It's all going to be just fine.'

'They're late.'

'They've got five minutes,' Hermione said smoothly. Just then a tap sounded on the door. She rose to her feet and stepped behind the chair, hands resting lightly on the back. 'Come in.'

Justin Frye, the captain, and Walter Grant, the coach, came into the room. Justin stared at Hermione for a moment, before turning to Harry. 'You brought the bloody Head of MLE?' he said accusingly.

Harry looked at Justin levelly before replying, 'I brought one of my oldest and dearest friends, who will make sure we mind our Ps and Qs.'

'Personally,' Hermione began cheerfully, 'Quidditch rather leaves me cold, and the earth could open up and swallow every last Quidditch pitch, and I wouldn't shed a single tear in response. Out of the three of you, I have nothing to lose.' She took her set and gestured for the others to join her. 'Please. Sit.'

'I don't see why we're even here,' Justin complained. 'It's a waste of time.'

'We're here,' Hermione said, with a small gesture to Harry to be quiet, 'to attempt to come to some sort of agreement regarding Albus Potter's contract. I don't believe either party cares to publicly admit Albus committed fraud in order to attend the trial?'

'You know I don't,' Harry murmured.

Hermione turned to Justin and Walter. 'And I'm quite certain you wouldn't want to lose your berth in the World Cup?'

Justin leaned close to Walter. 'She can't do that, can she?' he whispered.

'She can, because if any team found to have - shall we say deceitfully? - acquired a player, they immediately lose their place in the World Cup tournament, and forfeit any games they might have played,' Hermione said with a smile.

'There's no deceit,' Walter stated. 'Those signatures are valid.'

'Mr. and Mrs. Potter had made their intentions quite clear,' Hermione interrupted. 'They rebuffed any and all efforts to sign their underage son for more than a year. For Albus to arrive, alone, without the company of at least one parent, or an adult charged with acting as their agent, with permission to participate in the trial after a year of refusals, ought to have raised at least a red flag or two in your minds about the veracity of his parents' signatures.' She held up a hand, forestalling Justin's arguments. 'Yes, I know, the team considers the signatures valid, but I think that speaks more to the value the English team places on things like ethics and morals.' She sat back and tilted her head toward Harry.

'Here's the deal,' Harry said quietly. 'Albus goes on the Reserves. He can practice one day a week - Saturday or Sunday - for four hours at a time while he's in school.'

'So we can't have him until the end of June?' Walter blurted incredulously. '

'Keep up that attitude and you won't have him at all,' Harry responded. 'I'm more than willing to see Albus receives the punishment he so richly deserves from the Wizangamot for forging my signature.'

'Not to mention the punishment you'll receive,' Hermione said with no small amount of relish.

'Bellatrix couldn't have said it better,' Harry told her.

'Thank you,' she said with a slight nod.

'Could you excuse my colleague and me for a moment?' Walter asked. At Hermione's nod he and Justin withdrew to a corner of the room, heads together whispering furiously for several minutes. Walter repeatedly stabbed Justin's arm with an index finger. Finally, the resumed their seats at the table. 'You were saying?' Walter said to Harry.

'Albus is placed on the Reserves. He only plays if - and only if - your starting Seeker is deemed unable to play by a mediwitch or mediwizard. And if I find out you deliberately gave your Seeker a concussion before the matches begin, you'll have to answer to me. Not Albus' father, but the Auror Head. He practices with the English team at Hogwarts one day per weekend. Preferably Sunday. Practices will end no later than six in the evening. He does not talk to the press until the World Cup begins. I have it on good authority that Headmaster Gareth Shacklebolt will deny any reporter that isn't named Ginevra Potter entrance to Hogwarts. Once school ends, he can practice with the team full-time. Either my wife, myself, or someone to whom we've given authority to act on our behalf with bring him to the pitch in the morning and pick him up in the evening.' Harry sat back with his arms crossed over his chest, silently daring either Justin or Walter to turn down his conditions.

Walter heaved a sigh. 'All right...' He waved a hand at Hermione. 'You got something for me to sign?'

'Mr. Grant, Mr. Potter and I will trust that you adhere to his conditions. Because I'm quite confident the alternative will not be satisfactory for anyone involved.'

Justin shoved his chair away from the table. 'I'll send word to the Prophet.'

'No, I will,' Hermione said sharply. 'As I said earlier, I have nothing to lose in this endeavor.' She rose and held out a hand to Walter and Justin in turn. 'Good day, gentlemen.' They each grasped her hand briefly before dropping it and stalking from the room. Hermione blew out a slow breath. 'Well, that went much easier than I thought it might.' She stood and walked to the door. 'Where's Ginny?'

Harry looked down at his watch. 'At the Prophet putting the Sunday section together. James said she's been there since around seven this morning.'

'Good. Let's get going. From what Ron tells me, they'll publish the rosters of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales' teams in the paper tomorrow. We get this to Ginny now, she'll be able to make Al's presence on the team as much of a footnote as possible.'

She and Harry left the Leaky Cauldron, Apparating to the offices of the Daily Prophet. Ginny was bent over her desk, arranging the articles about each of Britain and Ireland's teams. The space she had reserved for England was suspiciously blank. 'Reserves,' Harry told her softly. 'They agreed to put him on the Reserves.'

Ginny looked up with eyes that were ringed with purple shadows. 'Excellent. Reserves aren't generally publicized.' She set a square of parchment over the blank space and tapped it with her wand. It glowed momentarily, then it was gone, the text printed on it now part of the layout. She tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. 'He's going to know we interfered.'

'I'm going to inform him we interfered,' Harry said coldly. 'And explain that if he'd been responsible in the first place, this wouldn't have been necessary. He only has himself to blame.'


Scorpius arranged his things in the scullery with James, Al, and Lily's before he retreated hastily up the stairs. He knocked softly on the frame of James' bedroom door. James jumped at the sudden intrusion and beckoned for Scorpius to come into his room. 'Is there something going on?' Scorpius asked hesitantly. 'Everyone seems to be, well, acting like my family.' He held up both hands, palms out. 'No offense.'

James walked past Scorpius and closed the door. 'Did you know Al went to England's trial on Monday?' he asked, glaring at the younger boy.

Scorpius' fair brows rose. 'He did?'

'He didn't tell you anything about it?' demanded James.

'No...' Scorpius looked down at his hands. 'I knew he'd been getting letters from them, though.'

'And you didn't bother to tell anyone?' James seethed.

Scorpius' face set in angry lines. 'Do not for a moment think I was complicit,' he said icily. 'He never divulged details of what was in the letters. He merely said they asked after him and his play.' His arms crossed defensively over his chest. 'Did your parents allow him to go? The only other thing I know is England tried to persuade Al to convince your parents to allow him to attend the trial.' A muscle in his jaw jumped. 'Was he able to do so?'

'He snuck off, saying he was going to your house to study for O.W.L.s,' James snorted.


'And he got in...'

'Oh...' Scorpius breathed.

'Exactly.' James ran a hand through his hair, disordering it even further. 'He and Mum and Dad got into a massive row last night... God, was it just last night? Then Dad came home this afternoon from meeting with coach and captain of the team, and informed Al in no uncertain terms that he was being placed on the Reserves and he wasn't to make any complaints about it, or Dad would make sure the Wizangamot knew England was aware Mum and Dad hadn't given their permission for Al to be at the trial, which would remove England's chances of even playing this summer.'

'That explains the tension at dinner.'

'I thought you were supposed to be best mates,' James said evenly. 'And that Al told you everything.'

Scorpius opened James' door. 'I thought so, too.' He crossed the corridor to Al's bedroom and slipped inside. 'When were you going to tell me?' he hissed.

'Tell you what?'

'Oh, let me think where to start...' Scorpius said sarcastically. 'Quidditch trials with England?'

'I couldn't tell you,' Al sighed. 'The fewer people that knew, the better. Less people to involve.'

'Al, I'm supposedly your best friend...' Scorpius spat. 'You could have at least clued me in to the little detail of telling your parents you were coming over. What if they'd come by?'

'They wouldn't do that,' Al scoffed. 'They've never done it before.'

Scorpius started at Al in shock. 'What's happened to you?'

'Nothing. I just know what I want to do with myself and I figured out a way to get there. Just because I'm not content like James to spend my days doing the washing up at a bloody pub or working the counter at the shop, it doesn't mean I've turned into some sort of arsewipe.'

'Don't ever use me like that again,' Scorpius said quietly, grey eyes steely. 'Not without telling me.'

'It's a moot point, anyway,' Al said off-handedly. 'It's all out and I don't have to sneak around.'

Scorpius rummaged for his toothbrush and picked at a blob of dried toothpaste on the handle. 'I'm really happy for you that you got what you wanted,' he said woodenly. 'Congratulations.'

'Thanks,' Al replied. 'You know what makes this so great? That I did it on my own, without Mum and Dad.'

'At what price?' Scorpius retorted softly. 'Al, you're best friend I've ever had, and I know how badly you wanted this, but do you honestly believe your parents are ever going to trust you again?' He walked out of the room to brush his teeth, leaving the question hanging in the air unanswered.


Al was downstairs in his pajamas early the next morning before anyone else was awake. The owl with their copy of the Sunday Prophet was already sitting on the windowsill, waiting to deliver the paper. Al dug in a drawer for the gold to pay for the paper, tucking it into the small drawstring pouch on the owl's leg. He sat down at the table and eagerly opened the paper to the Quidditch page. Each team's starting side was pictured, along with a brief biographical sketch of each player. Al hungrily searched for his name listed among the Reserves, but it wasn't there. Outraged, he flung the paper down to the table and stomped up the stairs to wash and dress. He wasn't in the mood to hear either of his parents' exhortations to hurry, else they would be late for the train.

Al's footfalls faded and Harry turned his head to look at Ginny. 'What do you want to guess he just saw the paper?'

'One of us ought to talk to him before the others get up and he's got an audience.'

'It's not a supportive audience in the slightest,' Harry pointed out. 'James and Lily have all but ignored him since Friday evening. Scorpius seems to be neutral.'

'I'd rather speak to him alone.' Ginny threw the bedding back and sat up. She picked up her dressing gown from the end of the bed and slid her arms into the sleeves. 'And it ought to be me, since the paper is my responsibility.' She pulled her hair from the collar and added, 'And I suspect he's had enough of talking to you the past few days.'

'I'll get worked up about that comment later,' Harry groaned, rolling over. He hadn't slept well the previous night.

'See that you do,' Ginny sighed. 'It was rude...' She leaned against the wall and waited for Al to emerge from the bathroom. 'Downstairs, please.'


'I'd like to speak with you privately, and I don't wish to wake the others.' She gestured for Al to precede her down the stairs. 'After you.'

Al ran his hand through his wet hair and glared at Ginny for a long moment before peevishly going back down the stairs. He mulishly flopped to the sofa, heaving an exasperated sigh. 'So?'

'You're angry because the Reserves weren't listed with the team,' she stated.

'Yeah. Was that another one of your and Dad's efforts to keep me sheltered?'

'Arranging for you to be in the Reserves, yes,' Ginny admitted. 'It's what we would have done had you openly approached us, because we feel you're too young for this.'

'And the paper? Since you're the one that controls what goes on the Quidditch page.'

'I'll provide you copies of the team page from the last four or five World Cup teams, if you like,' Ginny offered. 'The Reserves are not listed. The chances of you, or anyone on the Reserves, actually playing in a game this summer are quite slim.'

Al's mouth twisted. 'Whatever.' He turned away from Ginny, but not before she saw the flash of hatred appear, then just as suddenly disappear from his face.