"Something happened to James at Diagon Alley," Percy burst through the kitchen door at the Burrow, where Harry and Ginny sat visiting with Mrs. Weasley over a cup of tea. Harry stood up swiftly, face pale, sending his chair crashing to the floor.
"Wha—where is he?" Harry drew his wand.
"It's nothing like that!" Percy assured him. "He's perfectly safe… well," he grimaced, "he's asking questions."
Ginny sat down again, although she kept her wand in her hand. She looked very pale. "Asking questions?" she said faintly.
She and Harry exchanged looks; they had known this would happen, and had made a decision to tell their children what had happened during the war before they left for Hogwarts. James was ten, but it still seemed too young an age to know the intimate details of what had happened all those years ago.
"Not… well, not those kinds of questions," Percy winced. "I know you're waiting until he's eleven, but…"
At that moment James Potter burst through the door, followed swiftly by Lily, Albus, Rose, Hugo, several red-haired adults, and the rest of the Weasley grandchildren. There was utter chaos for long minutes while children (including Ron) fought, adults exchanged greetings, and James jumping up and down attempting to burrow through the throng and reach his father. By the look on his young face, he had something of import say. He was mouthing something, but Harry had never learned to read lips.
Finally, there was a brief lull, and James' accusing voice rang out loud and clear. "—EVERYONE ELSE IS, I WANT TO BE A WEASLEY!"
Harry blinked. Beside him, Ginny stifled a laugh. "What" he asked blankly.
"I want to be a Weasley!" James said as all the adults looked at him with utter astonishment, except for Percy who merely looked constipated. "All of my cousins are Weasleys, and Mum was a Weasley! Why can't we be Weasley's too? We could change our name and everything!" He looked around at his brother and sister. "Al and Lily want it too!"
"No, I don't!" Al looked shocked. "I don't care!" he looked at his dad.
"You will," James said in a darkly significant voice.
"Percy?" Harry turned toward his brother-in-law, utterly flabbergasted. George was not even attempting to stifle his laughter, even as his wife hit him across the chest.
"We were in Diagon Alley," Percy began. Harry hoped he got to the point soon; now was not the time for long-winded speeches. "Neville and Hannah say hello, by the way –"
"Get on with it!" Ginny hissed.
"And everyone was talking about how famous and brave the Weasleys are!" James yelled. "Everyone was coming up to shake Percy's hand, and then the lady at the ice cream shop gave us kids a free ice cream –"
"When did you get a free ice cream?" Al asked, affronted.
"When you were off with Uncle George," James told him. "But anyway! It was all Weasley this and Weasley that, Fred was especially annoying about it, kept lording it over me."
Fred looked smug. His mother desisted attempting to stop George from laughing and started wagging her finger at her son. Fortunately for the eleven-year-old the crowd in the room made it impossible for her to move easily.
"And Uncle Percy didn't even say anything when she thought I was a Weasley too, just like Uncle Percy, Fred, and the twins!" James glared at his cousin. "I've got red hair, just like you, I don't see why we aren't Weasleys, anyway, Dad, you could be a Weasley too! Don't you want that?"
Percy looked aggrieved. "I didn't correct her because –"
But James cut across him. "Mum! Why don't you help me convince poor old Dad?"
"It's traditional for a witch to take the last name of a wizard when she marries him, James," Ginny told him. "I felt sorry for poor old Dad, what can I say?"
Harry glared at her. Ginny winked at him when James had turned away, trying to find another ally.
"Uncle Ron! You're Dad's best mate, you convince him!"
By this time, however, James' Uncle Ron was laughing to hard to say or do anything.
Soon all the adults were laughing, and even some of his older cousins, and James could not help but feel more than a little put out. His Granddad was actually slamming his fist down on the table, his Aunt Verity had given up on her attempt to reach Fred, his Aunt Hermione had tears streaming down her cheeks, and even Uncle Percy was chuckling. "Why is everyone laughing?"
They only laughed harder. In fact, the only people in the room not laughing were his younger cousins and his dad. James supposed he felt bad that his own son didn't want to be a Potter anymore, but, really, the Weasleys were heroes.
"Alright, James," Ginny said, after wiping her eyes. "Okay, obviously you want to be a Weasley. But I think you ought to know why it isn't so bad to be a Potter…"
Silence fell abruptly, and suddenly the adults looked very serious.
"Ginny…" Harry breathed, but did not continue.
"Right," she nodded. "We've got a story to tell you, James," she looked up. "Would someone mind watching the younger kids?"
No one immediately volunteered, even though James had expected his Grandma Molly to act at once. When she noticed James looking at her, she said, "I'm not going to miss this for the world."
Everyone else seemed to agree. "Teddy, Maggie and I will," Victoire said suddenly. "Come along Rose, Hugo, Al, Lily, Grace, David, Maddie, Oliver, Abby, Fred –"
"Fred can stay here," George said. "The only reason why I wasn't telling him was because he'd immediately tell James. But I want Becka and Dan with you."
"Awesome!" Fred high-fived James.
The younger kids immediately started whining and pleading with their parents and aunts and uncles to let them stay, but the two oldest Weasleys and Teddy rounded them up without too much difficulty.
"I think we ought to go outside," Arthur said. "We can all sit down, get comfortable."
"I'll get the firewhisky," Molly told him. "You get the tables set up."
James was quite unsure of what exactly had just happened and what was going to happen, although he had a feeling that the adults had a secret. A funny one, judging by all the laughter.
"I'm not happy about this," Harry whispered to Ginny as they walked out to the sunny yard.
"I know you aren't," Ginny patted him on the arm. "But with an opening like that, how could we not tell him? Unless you're willing to change your name to Weasley?"
Ron, who overheard her, snickered.
In almost no time they had all more or less settled onto the picnic tables that had been placed together. Molly had brought out the firewhisky, and James's eyes widened when he saw the number of bottles.
Harry immediately cracked one open, poured a generous measure for himself and his wife, and took a large gulp. "Well, James –" he began, but was immediately cut off by Ron.
"No way, mate," he shook his head. "No way are you telling it. You don't do it nearly enough justice. I'll begin."
"What is going on?" James asked, confused.
"Quiet, you," Ron said. He too had a glass of firewhisky in front of him. All the laughter had left his face, and he looked unusually serious as he stared down into the amber liquid. "Actually, tell me what you know about the war."
"Well… not much. Just that an evil wizard named Lord Voldemort was very powerful, and all the Weasleys helped to stop him, and the Chosen One was their friend."
"Yeah, and the Chosen One died to save everyone else," Fred continued. "And that Lord Voldemort couldn't hurt anyone because he did."
Harry was absolutely stunned. How on earth had they heard this, but not heard the truth?
"Well…" Ron looked like he was about to contradict this but apparently decided not to. "In order for you to fully understand, then, we're going to have to go back to the very beginning."
"What does this have to do with Dad?" James asked.
"You'll see," Hermione told him quietly.
"It all began with a baby," Ron said.
"A baby?" James looked astonished. "What could this possibly have to do with a baby?"
"Don't make me put a Silencing Charm on you," Ron told him. James fell silent. "There was a baby. There had been a prophecy made even before he was born that he was the only person capable of destroying Lord Voldemort once and for all. Albus Dumbledore was the one who heard this, but somehow," Ron glanced fleetingly at Harry, "somehow Lord Voldemort heard of this prophecy too. So he went to the baby's home. He killed the baby's parents and tried to kill the baby too. But the baby's mother died trying to protect him, so the baby was given protection, and instead of killing the baby, Lord Voldemort was hit by his own curse."
"So that's how he died?" Fred asked, laughing. "All because of a baby? The Chosen One was a baby?"
"It isn't funny, Fred," George said quietly. "Imagine if that had happened to you."
Fred looked at his mother and gulped.
"But Voldemort wasn't gone," Ron said heavily. "The Wizarding world thought he was, and there was much rejoicing. There was peace after thirteen years of fear, but Albus Dumbledore remembered the prophecy and was afraid that he was not gone for good. So he sent the baby off to live with Muggles in order to protect him."
"But the Muggles were awful to the baby, who grew up to be a kid just like you, James, but he didn't know he had magic," Hermione said. "And whenever he did anything out of the ordinary, the Muggles would say horrible things. They treated him like a criminal."
James had an awful feeling in his stomach, and Fred no longer looked like he wanted to laugh. "But didn't they know he was the Chosen One?"
"If they did, they didn't care, they thought he was a freak," Ginny said. She looked very angry. James looked at his dad, but he was pouring himself another glass of firewhisky.
"Finally, the Boy Who Lived, as everyone called him then, came to Hogwarts," Ron said. "I sat next to him on the train, and even though I was a bit in awe of him, he seemed very normal. He hadn't known he was famous, you see, until Hagrid came and told him. We had a grand old time on the train, swapping stories and Chocolate Frogs. When we arrived, the time came for us to be Sorted. We were both placed in Gryffindor. It wasn't until years later that he told me that the hat had wanted to put him in Slytherin, but had decided on Gryffindor in the end."
James pulled a face. Slytherin had a horrible reputation.
"That first year was very difficult for the boy, and for me and Aunt Hermione," Ron said. "First a gigantic troll was let into the castle. Me and the Chosen One had to save Aunt Hermione from it. That was when we all became friends, actually."
"A troll?" Fred whispered ecstatically. "Does that happen a lot at Hogwarts?"
"No," Ron laughed. "Just the once, thank God. But, little did we know, Lord Voldemort was hiding in the castle, well-disguised. The Philosopher's Stone, you see, was also there. It grants eternal life and unlimited gold to those who possess it," he explained, when he saw James and Fred exchange an utterly dumb-founded look. "It took us a while to figure out that someone was trying to steal the Stone, but we got there in the end. Then, on a night when Dumbledore was gone, we knew we had to try to get to it, to save it from being stolen. And we did. Aunt Hermione and I helped as much we could, but the boy had to go forward alone. And he met Voldemort there."
James and Fred gasped. "So that's when he got rid of him?"
"No," Ron shook his head. "Not then. The boy succeeded in driving Voldemort away, and he saved the Stone. Voldemort had been possessing a teacher, but when the teacher died, he had to flee again."
"What does it mean, he was possessing a teacher?" James asked.
"It means that one of the professors had his body taken over by Voldemort," Hermione explained. "The boy had no idea, of course, none of us did. Not even Dumbledore knew. We knew that Voldemort was trying to get the Stone, but there were aspects of magic that we did not understand. The boy was very brave. Even before he knew about the prophecy – for Dumbledore did not tell him about it until much, much later – he was always willing to risk his life for others to defeat Voldemort."
"What happened next?" Fred asked eagerly.
"I think I'll tell this bit," Ginny grinned at her son. "At the end of his first year, after all that had happened, he went back to stay with the Muggles. They were just as awful to him, perhaps even more so since he had just returned from a school where he was taught magic. And further than that, someone was trying to keep him from going to Hogwarts."
"Who?" James breathed.
"A house-elf named Dobby had heard of a plot for Lord Voldemort to return to power," Ginny told him. "But his family was the Malfoys, so he could warn Harry, but he couldn't specifically tell him what was going to happen. He couldn't disobey his family, you know that."
"Dobby?" James and Fred asked together. "Isn't he the house-elf that was buried at Uncle Bill's? Did the Malfoys kill him, then, for telling the Chosen One what was going to happen?"
"Yes, you're right, he did die and is buried at Bill's," Ginny told them. "But that didn't happen until later. Anyway," she continued. "Dobby had been intercepting the boy's mail, so he didn't get any letters from any of his friends, and he thought everyone was ignoring him. So Fred, George, and Ron went to go save him."
"How?" James asked.
"Yeah, how old were they? They couldn't do magic!" Fred added.
Molly started laughing. "Your Granddad had enchanted a car to make it fly," she told them. "My sons stole it in the dead of night and flew to Surrey and back."
"Wicked!" Fred and James breathed.
"But don't you two get any ideas," Molly admonished them. "Those were desperate times."
"Didn't stop her from punishing us then," Ron muttered to George.
"So the boy spent the rest of the summer at the Burrow," Ginny continued. The two boys immediately craned their necks as though they could see the boy through the intervening years. "And when the time came for us to go back to Hogwarts – I was just starting that year – we set off. Unfortunately, the barrier at the station was blocked by Dobby, and Uncle Ron and the boy had no way of getting onto the platform. So they took the car and flew it all the way to Hogwarts."
James and Fred stared at their uncle as though he was the very height of cool. Ron looked unabashedly proud.
"It was a rough year," Ginny took a breath. "I didn't really have any friends, just an old diary that wrote back to me whenever I wrote into it. I continued writing in it, and something terrible began to happen. There were times when I couldn't remember what I was doing, just blank patches in my memory. And someone had opened the Chamber of Secrets."
"The Chamber of Secrets?" Fred looked blank.
"The Chamber of Secrets is a room at Hogwarts in which Salazar Slytherin himself placed a monster," Hermione told the boys. "It was a basilisk, a gigantic snake that could kill anyone with one look, but we didn't know that then. We only knew that someone – the Heir of Slytherin – was setting it against Muggle-borns, trying to rid the school of blood they thought inferior."
Even Fred looked horrified. "Someone was killing students just because of their blood status?"
Everyone around him besides James laughed bitterly. "That was the whole thing, Fred," George said gently. "Voldemort hated Muggle-borns, and he was the person behind all the attacks. No one died, though, they were only Petrified, thank God."
"The boy was very worried about all of this, as you can imagine," Ginny continued. "Remember what Aunt Hermione told you? About him being very brave, and willing to do anything to save others? That wonderful instinct in him grew even stronger and more powerful. So he, Uncle Ron, and Aunt Hermione devised a plan to find out who was opening the Chamber, not knowing that it was – er – sort of Voldemort. Aunt Hermione was the one who came up with it: Polyjuice Potion. They suspected another boy in their year, a Slytherin by the name of Drace Malfoy, of being the one to open it. So Aunt Hermione brewed a potion that would allow them to take on the likeness of the Slytherin boy's friends and get him to talk about what had happened. It turned out that it wasn't him."
"I think you're forgetting something, Ginny," Ron said. "All this time, while we were trying to figure out who it was and put a stop to it, everyone else thought it was the boy."
"He could speak Parseltongue, he could talk to snakes, and since that was the power Salazar Slytherin was most known for, many of the students thought that he was the one setting the monster on Muggle-born students," Ginny said. "Several students were attacked, including Aunt Hermione and Aunt Penny."
She took a deep breath and appeared to be steeling herself against something. "I continued to have black outs, and…"
"Your Mum had been bewitched by Lord Voldemort," Hermione told James. "He had possessed her as he did to that other professor. She had told him through the diary all about the boy, all about her life, and that gave him the power to possess her. He opened the Chamber through her."
"And then he took me down into the Chamber," Ginny said sadly. "And used my soul to make himself stronger. See, he had put a bit of himself in the diary, though we didn't know that. Had the boy not arrived when he did, my death would have meant his return. But the boy did arrive. He killed the basilisk, and he destroyed the diary. He almost died himself – he'd been bitten by the snake – but a phoenix came and healed him. We left the Chamber. I was well again, and those who had been Petrified woke up, and Voldemort's return had been delayed yet again."
"But Mum!" James looked aghast. "Why didn't you tell someone? Why didn't you tell the boy what was happening to you? He could have saved you sooner!"
"Yes, but James, you have to understand that I was a small girl then. And I loved the boy, and I didn't want to put him in danger," Ginny explained quietly.
"Mum!" James whispered, glancing swiftly at his father. "Does Dad know?"
"Don't worry about it, James," Harry smiled at his son. "I know."
"When he'd gotten us all out of there alive, he spoke with Dumbledore," Ginny went on as though she had not been interrupted. "He had been feeling insecure, had been feeling like he didn't belong in Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart. He thought that the fact that he could speak Parseltongue meant that he ought to be in Slytherin, remember that he was almost Sorted into Slytherin? Well, his worries went away as soon as Dumbledore bade him look closely at the sword he had used to destroy the basilisk. It turned out that it was the sword of Godric Gryffindor himself, and it only presents itself to true Gryffindors, people who are brave, daring, and chivalrous. If he hadn't belonged in Gryffindor, he could never have gotten it."
The two boys gazed at her with awe.
"I'll tell this next bit," Hermione said. "It won't take nearly as long. The boy began his third year with the information that a deranged murderer was out to get him." She smirked when both the boys squawked and nearly fell off their chairs. "But I find it important to mention, before continuing, that I had applied for a received permission to use a Time-Turner – it's a magical device that allows you to go back in time. I used it to attend classes."
James and Fred looked bored.
Hermione cleared her throat. "Well, in the summer before our third year, a man named Sirius Black – a man who had been sentenced to life in Azkaban for the murder of thirteen people – escaped from Azkaban. The Ministry of Magic had information that Sirius Black wanted to kill the boy."
"Sirius Black?" James gaped. "Sirius? My middle name?"
"Hush, James," Ginny said.
"The boy was not scared, however, he felt safe at Hogwarts. But something happened that frightened him more than even his encounters with Voldemort. He met dementors," Hermione told them solemnly. "You know what dementors are, you know what they do. They affected the boy more than anyone else because of his past, and what he had been forced to live through. They drained him and hurt him in a way that they did not do to us. The boy eventually learned how to combat them with the help of Teddy's dad, who was a professor at the school that year. That's how we met him. But while he was learning to defeat dementors, he was also learning about Sirius Black."
"How did he learn about it, though?" James asked curiously.
"The boy did not have much of a regard for the rules," Hermione said delicately. Ron snickered. "He snuck out of Hogwarts using a map of the school –"
"The Marauder's Map?!" James and Fred said together. Their faces lit up with excitement. "No way!"
"And how do you young men know about the Marauder's Map?" Hermione asked suspiciously, looking over at George. He grinned and shrugged.
"Don't look at me, I didn't tell them," he told her.
"Uncle Fred's portrait told us," Fred said proudly. "We reckon we'll make one ourselves in a few years."
Hermione groaned. "Honestly, if you were my own children…" but she let her voice trail away. She took a sip of firewhisky and continued. "He snuck out of school and overheard a conversation between teachers about Sirius Black. He found out that day that Sirius had been a great friend of his parent's, and that he had told Voldemort where they were."
"Did the boy get revenge?"
"No. Because towards the end of the year, after many what we thought were close calls with death – Sirius had broken into the school on two occasions, and someone had sent a broomstick to the boy, which we thought was jinxed – we found out something terrible. It had not been Sirius Black at all who had betrayed the boy's parents, but an animagus – that's a wizard who can turn into an animal at will – by the name of Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew had been masquerading as a rat, Uncle Ron's rat, to be precise. Sirius tried to convince us, but we were suspicious. He was also an animagus, a big dog, and he had dragged Uncle Ron into a secret passage and away from Hogwarts; this obviously did not seem like the actions of an innocent man. We thought Sirius was going to kill him. So the boy and I followed. The boy attacked Sirius, but before he could do anything, Teddy's dad arrived. He Disarmed us, then bade us listen to Sirius. He had seen us on the Map, you see, had seen that there were actually four of us. Sirius had been trying to get to Peter Pettigrew, he hadn't wanted to hurt Ron at all."
"Did they kill Pettigrew?" Fred asked eagerly. "I would've done."
"They wanted to," Hermione said sadly. "I wanted them to, for that matter. Oh, I may not have watched, but I wasn't going to try to stop them. But the boy did. He… you have to understand, he didn't want anyone to die. He didn't forgive Pettigrew, of course, he hated him, but he wouldn't let his dad's two best friends become murderers."
James looked thoughtful.
"And minutes later, after we had left the shack to go back to Hogwarts, to tell Dumbledore, Pettigrew escaped. He changed back into a rat. He fled. And then the dementors came. There were hundreds of them. They attacked Sirius, me, and the boy, and we were all nearly given the Kiss," Hermione paused. "It's almost difficult to tell the story in a linear fashion," she told the adults. "It's all very complicated."
"I still remember when you told us the story," George grinned reminiscently. "We were about to leave for Grimmauld Place, remember? Ron kept mucking it up, and finally you just said, very succinctly, that you and the boy went back in time, the boy saved you all from the dementors, then helped Sirius escape on a hippogriff."
"She made the mistake of telling you when Mum was in the room," Ron said, a reminiscent gleam in his eyes.
"I might've reacted a bit strongly," Molly allowed. "They were all very young, James. Hardly older than you are, and they always got into so much trouble."
"The Chosen One was the coolest person ever!" James exclaimed, practically quivering with excitement.
He missed the rather gratified look on his father's face.
"The next year," Ron began. "Was when things really started to spin out of control. To make a long story short, Hogwarts held the Triwizard Tournament – that's a big competition between three of the main wizarding schools in Europe – and a deranged follower of Lord Voldemort made sure that the boy was to compete in it. There were only supposed to be three people competing, but the boy was chosen as the fourth, even though he was about three years too young to actually do it. And he had no choice; it was a binding magical contract. Very few people actually believed that he didn't enter himself, me included. So the boy had to battle dragons, rescue people from the bottom of a lake, and find his way through a maze that held within it plenty of scary stuff."
"Wow," James mouthed. "He did all that?"
"Not only did the boy do all that," Bill said proudly. "But your Aunt Fleur did too. She was competing for Beauxbaton Academy, that's how we met. I was there to cheer the boy on.
James and Fred looked at their aunt as though they had never seen her before. "You did all that, Aunt Fleur?"
She looked rather pleased with herself when she replied, "Yes, I did. I was older than the boy, though, and I knew – or I thought I did – what I was getting into."
"By the time he went into the maze, the boy was tied in first place with the other Hogwarts champion," Ron said. All the adults exchanged glances.
Molly held up her hand. "Are you absolutely sure you want to hear the rest of the story?"
James and Fred looked at her incredulously. "Of course we do, Grandma! We can't stop listening now!"
"The story gets very sad from here on out," Arthur took his wife's hand. "There are things that happen to the Chosen One that are very terrible."
"The boy once told me," Ginny said quietly. "That what happened next marked the end of his childhood. True, he'd done a great many things by the time he'd come to this point. He'd saved the Philosopher's Stone, he'd rescued me from Voldemort and the basilisk, and he'd saved Sirius, and battled a dragon. But this is far, far worse."
"I want to know," Fred said mulishly.
"Yeah, if the Chosen One did all those things, then we can hear it!" James exclaimed.
"I suppose it was worse for us then," Molly said slowly.
"You have to understand that hearing about what had happened to the boy was very difficult," Hermione said quietly. "We loved the boy, you see, and we wanted him to be safe. And hearing the story… it was dreadful…"
"Is this when he dies?" James whispered, face pale.
"No," Ron shook his head. "I told you the boy had been tied in first place? Well, they both decided to take the Cup – that was at the center of the maze, what they were looking for – and let it be a victory for the both of them, for Hogwarts as a whole. Instead, the Cup was a portkey. It took them to a graveyard, where the feeble-bodied Voldemort and his servant Pettigrew waited for the boy. Cedric Diggory, the other competitor from Hogwarts, was killed immediately."
James looked horror-struck. "He killed him? Just like that?" He looked over at his mother.
"Just like that," Ginny confirmed. "He didn't have a chance to fight back. Voldemort was like that. If someone got in his way, no matter how young, he killed them. Or had them killed."
"The boy was taken to the graveyard because Voldemort wanted to use the blood of his greatest enemy to resurrect himself. See, he had a physical body, but it was weak, and in order to have the most powerful, most invincible body, he thought he needed the boy's," Ron said. "So he took the blood, and he returned to power. He gave the boy back his wand, and dueled with him. Although duel isn't the correct word. He tortured the boy with an evil spell that causes extreme pain. The boy ran behind a tombstone and hid, but then came out to face Voldemort. He thought he was going to die, that he had no chance at all. Then Voldemort tried to hit him with a spell at the same time that the boy tried to Disarm him."
Ron took a gulp of firewhisky while James and Fred stared at him with wide eyes. "Sorry, it's still a bit difficult to talk about, to remember."
"Did you love the boy too?" Fred asked.
"We all did," Molly said quietly.
"Very much," Arthur added. "Your Grandma and I weren't there when everything happened, of course, most of the big stuff happened while they were away at school, but I can tell you that I felt truly anguished when I heard what had happened to him that night. He saved my daughter's life, you see, he was like a son to me."
"So then what happened?" Fred asked.
"Their two wands did a very peculiar thing," Hermione told him. "It's very rare, but they had twin cores. The same magical creature gave the cores of both wands. The boy's wand and Voldemort's wand were related in a way."
"The wands connected, and the boy pushed Voldemort's spell away from him. Voldemort's wand started to regurgitate the spells it had just done. Shadows, like ghosts, of the people whom he had murdered came out of it," Ron said. "Including Cedric Diggory. Including the boy's parents. The shadows helped the boy escape. They distracted Voldemort so that the boy could return to the portkey. He landed with Cedric's body right in front of all of us."
James looked uncomfortable. "He saw his parents?"
"It wasn't really his parents, James, nothing can reawaken the dead once they're gone," Hermione said gently.
"But that must've been really hard for him!" Fred burst out. "Even with all the stuff with Voldemort!"
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked Fred.
But James answered before he could. "Well," he said slowly. "He must've always been really sad that Voldemort killed his mum and dad."
"And then to have it shoved in his face like that," Fred said disgustedly. "I hate that Voldemort guy."
Everyone laughed shakily. "I think the boy thought of it as a sort of gift, actually," Ginny told her son and nephew. "Maybe not a gift he wanted, but his parents saved him again. They got him out of there."
"And then he was attacked by another follower of Lord Voldemort's, the same one who had ensured that he compete in the Triwizard Tournament, the same one who had turned the Cup into a portkey," Ron, who had seen the look on Harry's face, hurried on. "But Dumbledore and a few other professors caught him at it. He was given the Kiss, and I think his body still resides in St. Mungo's."
"And that was the end of the fourth year," Hermione said. "In our fifth year… things were very different. It gets worse. The boy told Dumbledore at the end of our fourth year everything that had happened to him in the graveyard. And Dumbledore told the world, but the world did not believe."
"What? Why?" James asked, astonished. "What, did they think the boy killed Cedric?"
"I'll answer this, Hermione," Percy said quietly. He gritted his teeth. "The world did not believe because it was horrible beyond imagining. Everyone went into denial, led by the Minister of Magic himself. I think we thought that if we believed hard enough that it hadn't happened that would make it go away. I say 'we' because I too did not believe. I was very foolish, boys. I sided with the Ministry even when my own family immediately began preparing to fight against Voldemort."
"The Ministry began using the Daily Prophet to discredit the boy. You have to understand, that the Boy Who Lived had always been a heroic figure. The Daily Prophet began printing lies, and saying cruel things. They told people that he was insane, or so attention-starved that he made up a completely ridiculous tale just to be noticed," Hermione said softly.
"Those maniacs!" Fred said loudly.
"They sent a really awful teacher who physically punished the boy and scarred him for life. She also wouldn't let us do any magic. She wouldn't teach us any spells or counterspells, and if anyone disagreed with her – which the boy often did because he refused to let this horrible woman keep spreading her lies – so we began a little club. We called it Dumbledore's Army, and the boy was leader. He'd learned loads of spells during the tournament, and he was extremely gifted with defensive magic. He didn't want the attention in the beginning, but Uncle Ron and I convinced him. Being a part of Dumbledore's Army was actually a very wonderful part of being at Hogwarts. We came from all different houses and all different ages, but we were all united."
Hermione took a very deep breath. "Beyond all that, this was the year that the boy learned of the prophecy. There is a place in the Ministry of Magic called the Department of Mysteries in which they study all types of things that cannot be easily explained. Like death, and time, and prophecies. The boy had been dreaming of this place, though he did not know it. Every night he found himself wandering this corridor."
"One night," Arthur interrupted her. "He dreamt of me being attacked by a huge snake. Except that it wasn't a dream, it had really happened. By now, though, the boy had suspected his dreams of being real, so he warned Dumbledore, and they were able to save me."
"But Dumbledore was worried about these dreams, and he wanted the boy to close his mind, to stop them from happening," Hermione said. "But the boy struggled with doing this, it was difficult for him, and he did not like the person who was teaching him."
"You've got to tell them about Sirius," Ron told her.
"Of course," Hermione told him exasperatedly. "Sirius, the same man the boy saved when he was thirteen, had become like a mixture of father, brother, and friend. He gave the boy advice, he was there for the boy, and the boy loved him. And one day he had a vision of Sirius being tortured at the Department of Mysteries. Several of his went with the boy to rescue him."
"But Sirius wasn't there," Ron said sadly. "Not yet, anyway. We found a prophecy that had the boy's name on it, and as soon as he took it off the shelf, we were surrounded by followers of Lord Voldemort. It turned out that Voldemort had been projecting a fake image into the boy's head. Sirius had never been there at all. Voldemort had lured the boy there because he wanted to know the prophecy in full."
"They wanted the boy to give them the prophecy, of course," Ginny said.
"Mum? You went too?" James asked, astonished.
"Yes, I did," Ginny replied.
"We fought," Ron said shortly. "As best we could. But only the boy and Neville Longbottom were left by the time the Order of the Phoenix showed up –"
"The Order of the Phoenix?" Fred asked, confused.
"Oh, right. The Order was a group of people that were willing to fight Voldemort. We were stationed at Grimmauld Place, actually, that's where Sirius lived," Ron explained. "Anyway, the Order showed up, and the fight really began. Sirius was killed by his cousin, a truly evil witch," Ron grinned at his mother, startling James and Fred, who obviously thought this was no time to smile. "Her name was Bellatrix Lestrange, and she was probably the worst after Voldemort himself. After she killed Sirius, the boy went a little mental and went running after her. He found her in the Atrium – you boys know the place, where all the fireplaces are – and Voldemort joined him."
"Oh no!" James breathed. "Is now when he dies?"
"No," said Hermione. "Dumbledore saved the boy. And that's when the whole world found out that the boy had not been lying, that Voldemort was indeed back. But I don't think the boy much cared, really, after what had just happened to Sirius. He went back to the school with Dumbledore, and there Dumbledore finally told him about the prophecy."
"What did it say?"
"The prophecy said that a boy would be born to parents who had thrice defied Voldemort, that Voldemort would mark him as his equal, that the boy would have power that Voldemort knew not, and that neither could live while the other survived."
"Neither could live while the other survived?" James said slowly. He and Fred exchanged glances. "So one of them had to kill the other one?"
"Yes," Hermione said.
"So that's why everything bad happened to the Chosen One?" Fred asked quietly. Both he and James looked quite upset. "Couldn't catch a break, could he?"
Hermione grinned suddenly. "The next year wasn't so awful. The boy fell in love."
"Oh," James said, looking quite surprised. "Well… uh…"
"You'll understand the whole girl thing when you get a little older," Ron advised him. "Besides, he didn't just fall in love that year."
"Wait," Ginny held up her hand. "You need to explain about Snape."
"Ah, Snape. He was the Potions professor at Hogwarts when we were there," Ron began. "And he hated the boy. He was mean to the boy. He was cruel to him. The boy disliked him quite as much as Snape disliked him. Understand?"
"Uh, yeah," Fred said.
"And he also hated this slimy git called Draco Malfoy," Ron told them. "He was in our year, and he was a real bastard. His father was a Death Eater – a follower of Lord Voldemort, that's what they called themselves – and he'd been the leader of the group of Death Eaters at the Ministry of Magic. Anyway, the boy never liked Malfoy or Snape, and he thought the entire year that they were up to something. There were two strange attacks, you see, a girl touched a cursed necklace and nearly died. And I was poisoned; if not for the boy, I would be dead."
James looked surprised, but then he narrowed his eyes. "He saved Mum, he saved Granddad, and he saved you? Where were you when he was dying?! You owed him!" He was ashamed to find himself near tears.
A stricken silence fell over the table.
"James," Harry said softly for the first time. "They saved the boy's life every day. They made him feel less lonely. They gave him a refuge."
"But still! I don't understand why it had to be just one person that did all these things," James argued.
"If you shut up, I'll get to that," Ron said roughly. "And we did our part, don't you worry. No matter how much the boy tried to do everything by himself –"
"Why did he do that?" Fred asked.
"Because he wanted everyone he loved to be safe," Ginny said. "He didn't want anyone else to die because of him, because he blamed himself for Sirius' death."
"Well, that was stupid," James said. "It was Voldemort's fault that Sirius died. It wasn't the boy's fault that Voldemort made him think the wrong thing."
"That's what everyone else thought, too," Ginny assured him.
"The boy had a very busy year," Ron said. "Not only did he suspect Malfoy and Snape of something bad and falling in love, but he was being taught more about Voldemort's past. He learned about the Horcruxes." Everyone exchanged darkly significant looks.
"What're Horcruxes?" James asked tentatively.
Hermione sighed. "Horcruxes are probably the most evil magic ever designed, ever thought of. They are objects in which a witch or wizard has placed a portion of their soul. They split their soul with an act of murder," she shuddered. "Voldemort willingly made six of them. You need to understand how strange that was; Dumbledore and the boy were sure that he was the only wizard to have made so many. Most just made one."
"But what's the point?" James asked. "Why make a Horcrux?"
"Because as long as Voldemort had Horcruxes, he couldn't die," Ron said simply. "The objects anchored him to life. That's why he disappeared when the boy was a baby, but didn't die. He couldn't die, not when he had Horcruxes."
"And Dumbledore was hunting them down," Hermione said. "The boy had already destroyed one without knowing what it was. The diary that possessed Ginny was, indeed, a Horcrux, one that was used as a weapon. That's what tipped Dumbledore off to the multiple Horcrux theory, no matter how terrible the thought was. Most wizards would do anything they could to keep their Horcrux safe, to keep it from falling into the hands of someone who might destroy it."
Fred and James looked disgusted. "That's awful."
"Yes, yes it was," Hermione said. "And the boy thought so too. In fact, he wanted to go with Dumbledore when he went to destroy another."
"He was very brave," Fred said. "But I wouldn't want to be the Chosen One for all the money in the world."
"Me either," James said fervently. "But I think I would've liked to be his friend, like you guys were."
"One night, the boy found out something very important," Ron said quietly. "He found out that Professor Snape, the man who had treated him so horribly for years, had been the one to tell Voldemort of the first part of the prophecy. Not the entire thing, just the bit where it warns of a boy who had the power to defeat him. This is what set the chain of events leading to everything that had happened to him: his parents' deaths, the imprisonment of Sirius, his life with those horrible Muggles… Everything. But before he could really react to this, Dumbledore took him Horcrux-hunting. They found what they thought was a Horcrux. It was in the center of a large underground lake, and in a basin full of a terrible potion. Dumbledore drank it, and it acted kind of like a dementor, it made him relive horrible things. But they got it out, and returned to Hogwarts."
Hermione gave them a twisted smile. "It turned out that the boy had been right that Malfoy had been plotting something. He'd warned us, right before he left with Dumbledore, that he thought something horrible was going to happen. And he was right. Death Eaters came into the school that night. Some members of the Order of the Phoenix were there, and some members of Dumbledore's Army joined in the battle. Your Uncle Bill got his scars that night; he was attacked by a werewolf. And Dumbledore died that night; he was killed by Professor Snape. The boy saw it all. Draco Malfoy Disarmed Dumbledore, then Professor Snape killed him."
"But…" Fred was startled. "Why didn't the boy do anything? He saved everyone else!"
"Before Dumbledore died, before he was Disarmed, he hit the boy with a spell that made him completely unable to do anything. It was only when he died that the spell lifted," Ron said. "But, believe me, the boy would have done anything to stop it happening."
"That was the beginning of the end, actually," Hermione said. "The boy decided not to return to school. He made hunting Horcruxes his priority. Uncle Ron and I decided to go with him."
"I was not pleased by this," Molly said dryly. "No one knew, of course, what it was they were doing. Dumbledore wanted as few people as possible to know about the Horcruxes. He didn't even want those of us in the Order to know."
"You and Uncle Ron are real heroes," James said, wide-eyed. "I had no idea you did all this stuff!"
"That's because we kept it from you," Ginny said. "You were too young. And we'd appreciate it if you didn't tell your brother and sister. Or any of your cousins."
James shook his head. "No, I won't. They're still little."
"Yeah," Fred said. "They wouldn't understand all this stuff. I think they'd be scared."
"Remember I told you that Dumbledore and the boy had gone after one? It turned out to be a fake. Someone had been there previously and had removed the real locket – that's what the Horcrux was, a locket that had once belonged to Salazar Slytherin. The person who took it – it turned out to be Sirius' brother, Regulus Black – had left a note saying that they'd taken the Horcrux and intended to destroy it," Hermione said. "We eventually found it in Sirius' old house."
"We'd gone there to hide," Ron explained. "Sirius had left the boy his house, and it was the only place we could think where we'd be safe. Except for the possibility that Snape might've turned up, of course…"
"The man who killed Dumbledore?" James asked. "Why would he turn up at Sirius' house? Did they know each other?"
"Ah," Ron said. "I forgot to mention that Snape was a member of the Order of the Phoenix. Sirius' house, which had been used as headquarters, had been hidden from everyone. It's called a Fidelius Charm, and it means that there was a secret inside of one individual's soul. The Secret-Keeper for Grimmauld Place was Dumbledore, but when he died all of us who had been in on the secret became Secret-Keepers."
"We're getting out of order," George said, grinning. "You've forgotten my ear."
"DAD!" Fred shouted. "How did you lose your ear?!" He did not seem worried, but excited.
"The boy had to be liberated from the Muggle house he lived in when he wasn't at school," George said. "And the Death Eaters had infiltrated the Ministry by then. The boy had to be taken away safely, and couldn't Apparate, use the Floo, or get a Portkey. He still had the Trace on him, and the Ministry would be alerted as soon as he made his move. So we had to use broomsticks and such. Also, as further protection, we used decoys. We all drank up some Polyjuice Potion that had a bit of the boy's hair in it, and we were off. The moment we were in the air, we were surrounded. I lost this," he pointed at his ear, "When Snape cursed me. The boy was chased by Voldemort, but still escaped, and he came here, to the Burrow."
"What you have to understand about the boy," Molly said quietly, "Is that he wanted to leave the moment he arrived. He wanted to protect us. I think he felt like it was bad luck for us to have him there, to care for him. He loved us, you see, and he didn't want to place us in danger. Apparently it took him a while to really accept the fact that your Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione were going to follow him wherever he went."
"He must have been very lonely."
"I think he was," Ginny said quietly. "Do we tell them about the Deathly Hallows?" she asked.
"I think we have to," Hermione said. "The Elder Wand, you know…"
"The Elder Wand?" James asked. "Isn't that from one of the old Beedle stories?"
"Yes, and Voldemort had it," Ron told him. "He got it a little later, though."
"Voldemort had the Elder Wand?" Fred said, aghast. "The real Elder Wand?"
"Isn't that a terrible thought?"
"Right, so the boy got the Resurrection Stone," Ginny said. "Dumbledore gave it to him in his will. But he hid it inside something; the boy had no idea what it was for a long time. And he already had the Cloak, he'd had it since his first year, it had been his father's."
"Like Dad's Cloak?" James asked excitedly.
"Yeah," Ron said. "When we first started off, we had no idea we were about to journey into a fairy tale. We didn't really think of anything besides the Horcruxes."
"We found the locket at the Ministry of Magic," Hermione said. "We used Polyjuice Potion. We almost got caught, too, because the boy was concerned for the Muggle-borns. A bunch of them had been arrested, and were about to be sent to Azkaban. He helped them to escape, and we just barely made it away. But one of the Death Eaters had grabbed hold of me, and I accidentally dragged him inside the protection of Grimmauld Place. It was no longer safe there. So we began camping out in isolated places; we did that for months and months."
"It was pretty awful, too," Ron said. "We never had enough food. And we had the Horcrux with us. It was an evil little presence, and we had no idea how to destroy them. We knew ways of destroying them, like basilisk fangs, but we had no means of getting to them. We made little progress that fall. We didn't find any more Horcruxes, and we still had the one we'd found."
"But then we heard that the sword of Godric Gryffindor, the same one the boy had used to kill the basilisk, could destroy it," Hermione said. "So we did some very stupid things trying to get to the sword."
"But finally, the boy was led to it by a Patronus. It was lying in a frozen pool, so he had to jump in to get it," Ron said. "He was wearing the Horcrux around his throat, because he was really stupid," he rolled his eyes. "It tried to strangle him. I had to jump in and get him. But we got the sword and destroyed the Horcrux."
"So you still had how many more?" James asked.
"Three," Ron said. "Two other artifacts from the founders – Hufflepuff's cup, and the diadem of Ravenclaw – and Voldemort's pet snake."
"He had a snake?" Fred asked. "From what you're saying, he doesn't seem the type to have a pet."
"She wasn't a very nice snake," Hermione allowed. "He used to have her kill people and eat them."
"That makes more sense, then," said James.
"Soon after we destroyed the Horcrux, we heard about the Deathly Hallows," Ron continued. "The boy got a bit obsessed with them, actually. He figured out that Dumbledore had left him the Resurrection Stone, and he figured out that his Cloak was actually the Invisibility Cloak in the old tale. He was also sure that Voldemort was going after the Elder Wand. He stopped thinking about the Horcruxes, stopped caring about trying to find them, and thought only of the Hallows."
"But why?" James asked.
"Because he believed that if he had the Hallows, he wouldn't die," Hermione said very quietly. Fred and James had to lean forward to hear her. "He was afraid of it, you see, that it would end in his death. But he didn't want to die, and he would have felt more confident of his own survival if he had these objects."
It took a moment for James to realize he was crying. Nearly everyone around the table was teary-eyed, except for his father. Even Fred was sniffling into a napkin.
"One night we were captured," Hermione said. "We were taken to Malfoy Manor. We escaped, but at the cost of Dobby the house-elf. He took us to Shell Cottage, which is why he's buried there. The boy dug the grave himself, without magic. And while he was digging, he remembered something. Bellatrix Lestrange, the Death Eater, had also been at Malfoy Manor, and she said some things that made the boy think that there was a Horcrux in her vault at Gringott's."
"At Gringott's?" Fred asked. "How in the name of Merlin's pants did you get it out of there?"
"We broke in using a combination of Polyjuice Potion, charms to disguise a person, and the boy's Cloak," Hermione said. "We also had a goblin to help us. But we'd barely gotten in when we raised suspicions. I was disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange, and I had her wand. The Death Eaters knew perfectly well that we'd stolen it when we left Malfoy Manor. But the boy was determined, so we went to the vault. They were chasing us, the goblins and the wizards were, and they'd set off the defenses against us. Our disguises were made ineffective, and the Lestranges' vault was guarded by a dragon."
Hermione's two nephews were staring at her with something close to worship. "I can't believe you broke into Gringotts," James breathed. "That's so cool!"
She looked rather flattered. "Thank you, James. But if I hear of you breaking into Gringott's for anything less than finding and destroying a Horcrux, I'll hunt you down myself."
"Did you find what you were after?" Fred asked eagerly.
"We did," Ron said. "But getting out was a bit of a problem. The goblins and wizards were fighting us, and there were too many. So… the boy had a completely mental idea that actually worked. We released the dragon, climbed up, and got out."
"I don't think there are very many people who can say they've ridden on a dragon," Charlie interjected. "It was very dangerous."
"It got us out alive, I'm not complaining," said Ron.
"The only problem was, we were sure that Voldemort would finally know that we were hunting Horcruxes," Hermione said. "And sure enough, the boy had a vision –"
"A what?" Fred asked, astonished.
"The boy could sometimes see what Voldemort was thinking," Hermione explained. "It troubled him, and it was horrible, but sometimes it was useful. In the vision, he found out that the last Horcrux besides the snake was at Hogwarts."
"So we Apparated to Hogsmeade immediately," Ron said. "But the Death Eaters had set it up so that a loud alarm went off when we got there. The residents weren't allowed to go out after dark, you see, so we set it off. But one of the barmen, who happened to be Dumbledore's brother, saved us. He tried to talk us out of doing what we were doing. Thought we should save ourselves. But the boy refused. Of course he refused. So Aberforth showed us the only safe way into Hogwarts."
"As soon as our friend Neville saw us," Hermione said. "He started alerting the rest of Dumbledore's Army, and the Order of the Phoenix that we were there. A very good thing he did so, because battle came to Hogwarts that night. Uncle Ron and I went to the Chamber of Secrets to destroy the cup we got at Gringott's, while the boy searched for the diadem. We eventually found it, and it was destroyed."
"Yeah, Malfoy's evil friend Crabbe set this horrible fire on us, and the diadem was destroyed. The fire killed Crabbe, too," Ron said disinterestedly, looking down at his hands.
"This was right before Fred died, wasn't it?" Bill asked quietly.
"Then the three of us went to the shack – the same one that Sirius dragged Ron to," Hermione continued bracingly, although there were tears in her eyes. "The boy had looked inside Voldemort's mind to find him. He wasn't even fighting, just letting his minions do all the work for him. But his snake was there, magically protected, he wasn't about to let the boy get anywhere near it, not now that Voldemort knew that the boy was attacking Horcruxes."
"We got there just in time for us to watch Snape get killed by the snake," Ron said. "But when he lay on the floor dying, he saw the boy, and he gave him some memories."
"What?" James asked blankly.
"Dumbledore had a Pensieve in his office," Hermione said. "You could place memories into it and watch them."
"We went back up to the castle," Ron said. "The dead were everywhere. The survivors were in the Great Hall; my entire family was with Uncle Fred. Teddy's dad and mum were there too, also dead. Almost sixty people died in that one night alone, it was horrible. The fighting had stopped, Voldemort had told the boy – he could make his voice sound loud enough that everyone within a few miles could hear it – that he had an hour to give himself up, that his friends would keep dying for him unless he met Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest," Ron looked as though it were difficult for him to speak.
"This is it, isn't it?" James whispered. "I don't think I want to hear anymore…"
"Me either," Fred's face was white.
"Hermione and I… we didn't keep a close enough watch on him," Ron said painfully. "We were distracted and he slipped away."
"Uncle Ron!" James put his face in his hands.
"As soon as we realized that the boy was nowhere to be seen, we knew what must have happened," Ginny whispered. "All of us who knew him… there was no way that he would let anyone else die for him, not when he could stop it. We could only wait."
"It didn't take that long, actually, we had just barely finished moving all the… all the bodies into the Great Hall when we heard Voldemort's voice again," Ron said, staring into the distance, his jaw set. "He claimed that the boy had been trying to escape, trying to run away, when he caught and killed him. We went out and we saw Hagrid. He was holding the boy in his arms. He'd been there when it happened, and Voldemort had made him carry the boy… We all saw."
"NO!" James and Fred yelled. "No! He was supposed to defeat Voldemort!"
"James," Harry spoke up unexpectedly. He seemed a little fuzzy from all the firewhisky he'd had. "Would you rather hear that the boy survived, that he married the girl he fell in love with his sixth year and had three children?"
James looked uncertain. "I guess not… I'd rather know the truth. If the Chosen One can do all those things, I guess I can hear it."
"Well, the truth is," Arthur said suddenly. "The truth is that we Weasleys are famous for being heroes because we knew the boy. We loved the boy. We believed in him, and fought alongside him."
"He represented everything we fought for," said Molly. "He was the reason we rallied, he was our hope. No matter that a boy as young as he was should not have had to feel the weight of that on his shoulders. He was a hero in every sense of the word, but he never thought of himself in those terms."
"Whatever you might hear next," Ginny said. "Remember that the prophecy said he would have power that Voldemort knew not. And that power, more than any other, was love. That was the motive behind everything he did."
"So when the boy went out that night to meet his death," Ron said. "It was because he loved us."
"But the battle wasn't over," Hermione continued. "After we had seen the body, our friend Neville went a bit crazy. Voldemort still had the snake, you see, the last Horcrux. And the boy had told Neville, before he went to meet Voldemort, that the snake had to die. So Neville ran out there. It looked like Neville too was about to die, he had burst into flames. But the sword of Godric Gryffindor found him – Neville is also a true Gryffindor, never doubt that – and he chopped off the snake's head with it."
"Those first minutes were absolutely insane," Ron said. "We were winning, though. Reinforcements had come. Families and friends of those who stayed to fight, and the whole of Hogsmeade came. Together we either killed or incapacitated the Death Eaters. Only Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort himself were left."
"Aunt Hermione, Luna and I were dueling with Bellatrix," Ginny told them. "She was a prodigious witch, we couldn't finish her."
"And then Grandma went mental when Bellatrix almost killed Ginny," George grinned. "She rushed out and pushed the girls aside. A minute later, Bellatrix was dead," he looked thoughtful. "I'm not sure what surprises me more, the fact that Grandma killed Bellatrix, or that she said a very naughty word before she killed her."
"George!" Molly said indignantly, but she ruined it with a chuckle. "Obviously, I was in danger from Voldemort's wrath. Although now I understand that he could not have killed me, the boy had died because he loved all of us in the room; he'd saved us the same way his mother had saved him. But for a moment I knew pure fear. He'd also been dueling three people, but he blasted them away as though they were dolls. He pointed his wand at me."
"Then someone shouted a spell, and a gigantic shield blossomed between Grandma and Voldemort," Ginny smiled.
"But who?" Fred asked. "Was it Granddad?"
Everyone shook their heads.
"Was it Uncle Ron or Aunt Hermione?" James asked.
"No," came several voices at once. Everyone was now grinning.
"It was the boy," Harry said impatiently.
"The boy? But he was dead!" James shouted.
Fred cheered. "The boy came back as a ghost! And he could still do magic!"
"How do you even know, Dad? Were you even there?" James asked accusingly.
"Yeah, 'poor old Dad' was there," Harry said sarcastically. "Now listen while your aunts and uncles finish the story."
"The boy pulled off his Invisibility Cloak," Ron grinned. "He'd been pretending to be dead so that he could get a good shot at Voldemort. Then he taunted Voldemort, told him a bunch of stuff, like how Snape wasn't his servant, but he'd killed Dumbledore because he was dying anyway, and didn't want to –"
"Ron!" Hermione interrupted. "You're not doing the story nearly enough justice," she turned to the boys. "Snape had been in love with the boy's mother ever since he was a child. When Voldemort started hunting her down, he became Dumbledore's spy. And yes, he killed Dumbledore, but Dumbledore had asked him to. Dumbledore had known that Draco Malfoy had been given the task of killing him, but he didn't want Draco to have to do that. Also, he didn't want to be captured by Death Eaters. So he asked Snape to kill him, to make sure that none of these things happened."
"And then they each yelled one spell," Ron said. "Voldemort yelled the Killing Curse, intending to kill the boy once and for all. And the boy yelled the Disarming spell. I thought he was mental, I really did. But it worked. The Killing Curse rebounded on Voldemort; he couldn't kill the boy."
"Remember that Voldemort had the Elder Wand," Hermione reminded them. "But the boy was the true master of it, it wouldn't kill him. It couldn't kill him."
"So the boy lived?" James looked very confused. "But how? Voldemort killed him in the forest! You said Hagrid saw it, did he know that the boy wasn't dead?"
"It all goes back to the prophecy," Hermione said. "I'm surprised, really, that we had no idea how it all had to happen. The boy found out that same night, right before he went to Voldemort, that he was a Horcrux. When Voldemort killed his parents and tried to kill the boy and was hit with his own rebounding curse, a part of his soul latched onto the boy. That's why they had that connection, why the boy could see inside his mind, and why he could speak Parseltongue."
James was silent for a very long moment. Fred, however, had caught on, and was staring at Harry. James did not notice this.
"So when Voldemort tried to kill the boy in the forest, he only got rid of the part of his own soul that lived in the boy," Ron explained. "But in a way the boy did die. And there are only two reasons why he survived. One, he did not defend himself, he went there intending to die for all of us, because he loved us. And two, Voldemort anchored him to life when he took the boy's blood when he first returned to power."
"But where is he now?" James asked. "Why doesn't he come around?"
"The reason," Percy said mildly, "That I didn't let on that you weren't a Weasley is because you would have been besieged if they had known your last name."
"What?" James said blankly.
"You said you wanted to be a Weasley," his mother said gently. "But I think being a Potter is pretty damn cool, too."
James looked at his dad. Harry pulled back his fringe, and showed him the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. "When Voldemort tried to kill me when I was a baby," he said quietly, "He gave me this scar."
"Dad?" he whispered. "Dad, all that stuff happened to you?"
"Yes, it did," Harry smirked. "Am I still 'poor old Dad'?"
"UNCLE HARRY!" Fred could no longer contain it, and launched himself at his uncle. James was right behind him. "So THAT'S why they kept saying 'the boy'! Because it was you!"
James was beside himself. "That was AMAZING! I have the coolest dad EVER!"