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 57 - Navigating Maturity


Harry pushed bowls of porridge across the table to the three boys on the other side. 'Where's Lily?' he asked.

Al shrugged. 'Said she didn't feel well. Mum's checking on her.'

'She seemed all right yesterday,' Harry mused.

James snorted into his orange juice. 'Hardly. She ate an entire box of Chocolate Frogs after you and Mum went to bed.'

Al nodded in agreement. 'Yeah, when I went to ask if she was coming down any time soon, she was a little sniffly.'

'That's odd...' Harry set his tea down and ran lightly up the stairs. Ginny was sitting on the edge of Lily's bed, smoothing her hair away from her face.

'Are you sure?' Ginny asked their daughter, concern etched on her face. Lily nodded, curling into a tighter ball. 'All right. I shouldn't be too long with the boys in Diagon Alley. Your dad will be here in case you need something.' She cupped Lily's face in her hands. 'Want some breakfast on a tray, then?' Lily shook her head emphatically.

'I'm not hungry...'

Ginny looked as if she might argue with her, but merely straightened the bedding and tucked it around Lily, leaning down to kiss her forehead. She left Lily's room, and tilted her head toward the stairs when she saw Harry. 'Is she okay?' Harry asked. 'She never gets sick...'

'She's not running a fever, but she says her stomach hurts,' Ginny told him, guiding Harry away from Lily's bedroom. 'She wants to be left alone, just like you when you're ill.'

'James said she might have overdone it on the Chocolate Frogs last night.'

'That could be it,' Ginny agreed. She glanced over her shoulder at Lily's partially closed bedroom door. 'You don't think it could be...?'

'What?' Harry asked blankly.

'Well, she is getting to be that age.'

'What age?'

'Getting older, maturing...' Ginny prompted. She then added in exasperation at Harry's continued mystified expression, 'Her period.'

'Isn't she too young for that?' Harry hissed, scandalized.

'She's not much younger than I was,' Ginny said with a nonchalant shrug.

'And how old were you?'

'A few months before my twelfth birthday. Right after we got out of school after my first year.' She grinned a little. 'I was a right moody bint most of that summer.'

'Does she know what to do if it is that?' Harry asked, clearly uncomfortable with the direction of their conversation.

'Yes, she does, and what she'll need is in the cupboard in our bathroom. The top shelf.'

'Brilliant,' Harry muttered darkly.

Ginny patted his shoulder in sympathy. 'You knew this was coming eventually.'

'So, what time is Teddy supposed to be here for James?' Harry asked abruptly changing the subject.

'Eleven. They're going to Floo to Falmouth and pick up Maya, go to London, have lunch, see whatever film James has picked out, then Maya's going to have dinner here with us, and you or I will take her home.'

'And you'll be back when?'

'Oh, who knows?' Ginny sighed. 'I imagine the crowd of people wanting Krum to sign his book will be quite substantial. Hopefully, it won't take too long. But it's going to be like Lockhart all over again... Loads of middle-aged witches throwing their knickers at him,' she grumbled.

Harry shuddered, imagining the size of some of those knickers. 'Couldn't you have had one sent to you, rather than dealing with the madness? I just don't see the point of standing in that line for hours, waiting for some surly git to sign the overpriced book he wrote,' Harry pointed out, as they walked into the kitchen.

'Because it's fun!' Al protested. 'And Dad, Krum's won ten European Cups in a row and three World Cups!'

Harry shot a Warming charm at his now-cold breakfast. 'More than any other Seeker in history,' he added in a weary tone of voice. 'We know.'

'He's coming to the school this spring!' Al said excitedly. 'Madam Pimm's having him come teach a few of the flying lessons in the Quidditch class.'

Scorpius gagged into his porridge. 'Urk. Every girl in fourth year and up will end up following him all over the school.' He scraped the sides of the bowl with his spoon. 'I don't see why they're fawning all over him. Most of them don't even follow Quidditch.'

'Some girls consider him quite good-looking,' Ginny commented.

'Are they blind?' James spluttered. 'He looks like a bad-tempered duck.'

'Some things never change,' Harry muttered.


Harry sat behind his desk, absently reading the files of the retired Obliviators he'd taken from the Ministry. He didn't have so much as a name to guide him. Teddy couldn't remember the Obliviators' names, and Joel Anderson had managed to modify his own memory before he'd attempted to murder Dudley and Aaron, rendering Veritaserum and Legilimency useless. All three of the Obliviators currently under suspicion had been highly respected in their department and skilled in Legilimency. Even their pasts were clean. After the war, every Ministry employee was carefully vetted and questioned and all three of them had come through the investigations with flying colors. He'd scoured their employment files, going back decades, and yet, they each had solid yearly evaluations with no complaints from their department heads. Harry didn't like to arbitrarily take people in for questioning, but he figured he might have to resort to it this time. And rather than risk tipping his hand, he'd have to approach each of them separately, and resort to using Hermione's rather unorthodox method of swearing them to secrecy.

He pushed his chair away from the desk. It was too quiet in the house, especially with the boys and Ginny away. Lily could often be heard singing or humming to herself, even if she were the only other person in the house, besides one or both of her parents. He knew Lily really must not feel well if she was so quiet. Even when she'd had dragon pox, she'd chattered nonstop to her stuffed bunny. Harry wandered up the stairs to check on Lily, and as he peered around the edge of her bedroom door, a cry of dismay echoed from the bathroom. 'Lily?' Harry knocked on the door. 'Are you okay?'

'Is Mum gone?' Lily's voice quavered through the door.

'Yeah, she left a couple of hours ago,' Harry told her. 'Is there something I can do?'

'No!' Lily nearly shouted. 'I want Mum!'

'I'll see what I can do...' Harry stammered. He stumbled down the stairs and threw a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace. 'Hermione! Please be home...'

'Harry? Everything all right?' Ron asked, dropping to his knees.

'Is Hermione home?' Harry asked. 'Ginny's out with Al and Scorpius, and Lily needs... Well, she needs another girl...'

'No. She's gone to visit her mother.'

And idea struck Harry. 'What about Molly?' he asked, desperation evident on his face.

Ron sat back on his heels. 'Not today, Harry...' He glanced down at his hands. 'It's her brothers' birthday. Feels it a bit keenly this time of year.'


'Why didn't Gin stay at home with Lily and you take the boys into Diagon Alley?'

'Needed to get some work done on that Muggle-baiting case. I haven't been in the office much since the kids came home for the holiday.'

'What's wrong with Lily?'

'I'd rather not say,' Harry muttered, his face flaming. 'It's a girl sort of thing...'

'Ah. I see. I haven't any other girls here to help out,' Ron said apologetically. 'Rosie's down in Diagon Alley getting Krum's book with Katie, Fred, and Jacob,' he added with mild distaste.

'Them, too?' Harry blurted incredulously. 'Bloody hell, you'd think he did something big, like save the wizarding world,' he scoffed.

'Well, three World Cups rank pretty high up there,' Ron teased. 'Right below, "defeated seriously Dark wizard".' He sobered slightly. 'Sorry, mate. Wish I could help, but I'm probably more squeamish about that girl sort of thing than you are... What did Gin tell you to do about it?'

'She said Lily would know what to do, but Lily's not in the mood to talk to me and I'm not any help. Hence the need for a girl.'

Ron heaved a gusty sigh. 'Sorry, mate.'

'Right. Wish me luck, and if you don't see me or Lily at lunch Sunday, it's because we've died of a severe case of mortification...' Harry pulled his head from the fire and for several moments lay sprawled on his stomach on the hearth rug. All right, Potter, you've been in far stickier situations. She's not even half-trained - what's the worst she can do to you? Flick sparks at you? Harry pushed himself to his feet, and trudged up the stairs turning into his bedroom at the top of the stairs. He winced, as he reached up into the top shelf of the cupboard, at the lurid pink box silently mocking his cowardice. He held it between his thumb and first two fingers, feeling immensely grateful toward Ginny, that she'd never made him actually go out and buy the things. He had a feeling he would have had to purchase several crosshead screwdrivers, a few spanners, some footballs, and at least one magazine featuring women in skimpy clothes draped over motorbikes, just to surround the ultra-feminine box he carried gingerly down the corridor as if it might explode if he jiggled it too much.

Harry dropped it outside the bathroom, and mindful of Ginny's past experiences, detoured into Lily's room and opened the bureau, feeling as if he was snooping through her things. It wasn't as if he'd never laid out clothes for Lily before, and doing the laundry was something he and Ginny had often split between them. 'You used to dress her, for Merlin's sake,' Harry muttered to himself. He grabbed a pair of clean pajamas, and closing his eyes, clean knickers. He returned to the bathroom door and knocked softly. 'Lily...? I've left some things for you outside the door.' He waited for a response, but none was forthcoming. 'Lily, did you hear me?'

'I heard you, Dad,' came Lily's tight voice through the door.

Harry's feet shuffled awkwardly on the floor. 'All right, well, if you need anything, I'll be downstairs in the office,' he said lamely.

The door opened the merest crack, and one of Lily's wide brown eyes peered through it. 'Could you make some hot chocolate, Dad?' she asked hesitantly.

'Yeah, sure,' Harry said quickly, flooded with relief at something - finally! - he could do. He clattered down the stairs into the kitchen and set two large mugs on the counter, filling them with milk and adding chocolate to them, heating them with a tap of his wand. By the time he had completed the task, he could hear the rustle of Lily's pajamas at the door. Harry glanced at her as he carried the mugs to the table. Lily hung back in uncharacteristic bashfulness, twisting a lock of hair around her finger.

'You're not going to tell a bunch of people are you?' she asked, her face darkening in suspicion.

'Just your mum, and after that, we can pretend none of this ever happened,' Harry replied solemnly. 'I can't promise that your mum won't.' He gestured to a chair at the table. 'Are you feeling okay?' Lily grimaced a little, but Harry wasn't sure if that was due to her discomfiture with the situation, or actual pain. Deciding to go with the latter, he flicked his wand at a cupboard, and a small vial flew into his outstretched hand. Silently, he slid it across the table, and buried his nose in his own mug of hot chocolate.

Lily picked it up and examined the vial. Blushing furiously, she ran a thumbnail around the cork, breaking the wax seal and tugged it from the mouth of the vial. She pinched her nose shut and gulped the blue potion, gagging slightly. She snatched her mug of hot chocolate and took several sips to mask the taste of the potion. 'Thanks, Dad.'


James stumbled from the fireplace of the Leaky Cauldron. The only thing that kept him from tumbling to the floor was Teddy grabbing a fistful of James' coat. 'Ooooh. Graceful,' Maya said teasingly. 'It's a good thing you're much more graceful on your broom.'

'Traveling by Floo is not my specialty,' James told her, slapping the soot off his seat of his jeans. 'Brooms, on the other hand, I've been on one of those since before I could walk properly.'

'Well, it's good that you've got alternate plans for travel, then,' she said. 'You're going to break your nose one day, falling out of the fireplace like that.'

'Probably,' James agreed. 'So I hope you won't mind, but there's this place that shows really old films, and they're showing my mum's favorite one this week. I thought you'd like it.'

'Considering it's my first one, I'll have to trust your judgment,' Maya said dryly.

'It's either that or some recycled load of rubbish with nothing but lots of explosions or really laughable versions of vampires or werewolves. Or even our lot. It's quite insulting, actually. Dad likes the older ones with happy endings. Where people start singing or dancing out of nowhere.'


'Yeah, it is sort of barmy, but he likes it. Especially if the ending's all tied up neatly with a bow. Mum likes the ones that are more like this one. Usually, Al and I will try and figure out how long it'll take her to get sniffly, and claim she's got dust in her eye.'

Maya snorted. 'I don't get sniffly about anything,' she scoffed. Behind them, they heard Teddy's guffaw that he quickly turned into a cough.

'Swallowed my gum,' he choked. Doesn't get sniffly, my arse, he thought. What do you want to bet she's a complete mess at the end of this one? Over the years, as much as he had heard that Ginny wasn't the crying type, he'd seen her attempt to subtly wipe tears from her face after a few select films. Every single time she saw them. Maya, he reasoned, would end up the same way. 'Which train?' he called up to James.

'Northern,' James replied over his shoulder. 'Get off at Tottenham Court, then switch to Central and take it to Oxford Circus.'

'You mean I could have stayed home?' Teddy huffed. 'I just came from there!'

'You're the genius that told Dad you'd chaperone us,' James retorted. 'And that meant from the time we got Maya until we go back to the house for dinner.'

'Are we having lunch when we get there?' Teddy asked hopefully. 'I'm starved.'

'Yes,' James sighed. 'You're being more of a nuisance than if I'd brought Lily!'

Teddy grinned and jogged the few feet separating them and ruffled James' hair. 'Just doing my duty as chaperone to irritate you. Now then, that's done. Right, I won't sit with you at lunch, and I'll sit a few rows behind you at the film. But if you try to give me the slip, I'll be right between you the entire day.'

'That's out of order!' objected Maya.

'That's the deal,' Teddy countered. 'And take my advice - play nice, and they'll let you go out alone sooner.'

'Is that what happened with you?' James asked. 'He wasn't allowed to take Vic out without Maddie along until Vic was of age,' he confessed to Maya in a loud whisper.

Teddy herded them onto the train. 'Mind the gap,' he muttered.


'She's not just going to leave, is she?' Maya whispered, eyes fixed on the screen.

'Shhhh. Just watch,' James breathed, watching Maya from the corner of his eye, the corner of his mouth turning up as her jaw dropped when the princess got out of the reporter's impossibly tiny car, and ran into her country's embassy.

Maya gasped softly. 'No...' She began to blink rapidly as the film drew to its close, with the princess and the reporter each going their separate ways. 'That's not fair...' She rubbed the back of her hand under her nose.

'Are you crying?' James asked incredulously.

'No,' she sniffed. 'Something in my eye.' She began to rub one of her eyes.

Teddy draped over the backs of their seats, arms flopping between them. 'Did you like it?' he asked Maya.

'Yeah,' she said dreamily.

'Why does this film turn every girl into, well, such girls?' James wondered aloud.

'Who're you calling a girl?' Maya hissed, her wand appearing out of nowhere, the tip hovering inches from James' nose.

James' hand quickly closed on her wrist, and he yanked her arm down, glancing around the emptying theatre. 'You can't take that out here!'

'Take it back!' Maya warned.

'Take what back?' James asked, baffled.

'That girl thing!' Maya said in abject disgust.

'But you are a girl.' James was genuinely confused. Even his mother, who had grown up in the company of six older brothers, and worked in an admittedly male-dominated career as a Quidditch player and reporter, admitted to being a girl, albeit grudgingly at times.

'It's okay for girls to get a little weepy at films like this,' Teddy interjected. 'Because girls do that,' he explained.

Maya eyed him with severe skepticism on her face. 'Oh, really?'

'Yeah. We blokes don't do that,' he replied with the merest hint of condescension.

Maya stared at him for a moment, then began to howl with laughter. 'That's the most absolute rubbish I've ever heard.' She slid her wand into her coat pocket and stood up, pulling on her coat.

James watched Teddy, his eyes narrowed as he studied his older "brother's" hair. The tips had taken on a rosy hue, quite at odds with the turquoise. His eyes widened and his sharp intake of breath made Teddy turn to look at him questioningly. James' eyes flicked upward to Teddy's hair and an evil grin spread over his features.

Teddy stood suddenly, one of his hands seemingly smacking James in the head by accident. 'Sorry, mate,' Teddy said, cuffing James on the shoulder a little harder the necessary. 'I think we've got enough time that we can stop by my flat for some tea or hot chocolate. Maybe pick up some scones or something, too.'

'Seriously?' Maya blurted. 'You're hungry?'

'Yeah,' James said matter-of-factly.

'Hm. Is that one of those bloke things Teddy was talking about, where you feel the need to eat half your body weight a day?'

'You keep things like tea and hot chocolate in your flat?' James asked dubiously. 'He can't cook anything to save his life,' he confided in an undertone to Maya.

'You can boil water, can't you?' Teddy threw over his shoulder, leading them out of the theatre.


'Well, you can make the tea, then.'

James turned to Maya, but she shook her head. 'Don't even say it,' she warned. 'It's not one of those girls' things.'

'Fine,' James grumbled. 'I'll make it.'

As they stepped into the biting wind, Teddy grabbed James' arm and pulled him back. Leaning close to him, Teddy growled into James' ear, 'Tell anyone that I get emotional during sappy films like that, and I promise I will make life difficult for you.'

'What's it worth to you?' James asked cheekily

Teddy dropped James' arm and walked next to him for a moment. 'Ten minutes of time with Maya without me. I'll leave the two of you at my flat while I go fetch some scones.'

James nodded, and caught up with Maya. He glanced over his shoulder at Teddy. 'Okay.'


Teddy stood in the kitchen, pointing at James and Maya. 'Right. Stay in here or the sitting room. And keep your hands above the waist.' He strode out the door, throwing them each warning glances as he left.

Maya turned to James, a smile playing on her lips. 'Does he think people don't snog in kitchens and sitting rooms?'

James began to fill the teakettle, snorting with mirth. 'Only if he didn't spend any time at all in my house.' He reached in the cupboard for cups and saucers, setting them on the table and swirled hot water in the teapot to warm it. 'I hope he's got milk,' he muttered, pulling open the refrigerator and unearthing a small carton, sniffing it gingerly. 'Does that smell all right to you?'

Maya leaned forward and gave the milk a cautious sniff, then recoiled in horror. 'Ugh!' She sat back and grimaced. 'I'll go without milk today, thanks.'

'Good choice,' James muttered, shoving the milk back into the refrigerator. He took the chair next to Maya and leaned forward, almost shyly kissing her. 'Hi,' he murmured, grinning bashfully. 'Been wanting to do that all day.'

'Too many people around,' Maya agreed, returning the kiss. 'Even at school.'

James brushed a lock of her dark hair from her eyes. 'You know... There's a corner of the library...' he began


Molly shifted the basket on her arm and opened the gate surrounding the small cemetery where Gideon and Fabian had been buried. The gate shut behind her and she picked her way through older graves to her brothers' in the back. She stooped slightly to brush the light dusting of snow off the headstone so their names were clearly visible. 'Happy birthday,' she murmured. 'Let's see... It's been a while since I've been able to come by, hasn't it? Vic is thinking of going into Spell Damage. It's horribly difficult and she's always at the hospital or holed up somewhere studying. Izzy's about to finish school, and isn't sure what she wants to do with herself. I rather think she'll do anything as long as it doesn't have anything to do with the reservation. She's gotten a letter from a couple of Quidditch teams, looking for a scout, and she seems to be leaning in that direction. Parker is going into International Magical Law. He's the only one out of them all, save for Bill, to earn an O.W.L in History of Magic. He's even taken the N.E.W.T. class. But it helps that he's a born diplomat. And he's got loads of experience in mediation. So would you, if you had fifteen cousins. George's twins are a handful, of course, but they're much less trouble than he and Fred ever were. Probably because Fred and Jacob don't have to compete with five others. Hugo is doing all right in school. Finding how he fits in. I was afraid he would get lost among the others, he's so quiet. At least he doesn't worry about living in Rosie's rather precocious shadow. And James, it seems, has a girlfriend.' Molly smiled as she cast a Stasis charm over the cut flowers in the basket and carefully lowered herself to the ground, conscious of her aching knees, and began to arrange them in front of the headstone. She used her wand to Vanish the layer of dead leaves around the grave. 'Can you believe our Ginny has a son old enough to have a girlfriend?' She chuckled a little. 'Arthur should probably consider retiring, but it's good for him to get out and about. He'd probably die of boredom or burn the house down trying out some Muggle contraption.'

Snow began to fall and Molly gathered her things and began to rise from the cold ground. She stood for a few more moments in front of the grave, feeling as she always did - that she'd just buried them all over again - when she heard the sound of someone walking up the path. She whipped around, wand in her hand, and gaped at the sight of Narcissa Malfoy standing outside the gate, wrapped in a thick cloak. Molly lowered her wand, but didn't stow it in the basket. She stood on the other side of the gate, blocking the way in for other woman, glaring at her.

Narcissa lifted her chin and met Molly's eyes squarely, refusing to give any quarter in their silent battle of wills.

Molly couldn't stand it anymore. 'Go away,' she said rudely, inwardly wincing, because she would have hexed any of her children or grandchildren for using such a tone of voice.

'You don't understand,' Narcissa began quietly.

'I don't need to. You don't belong here.'

'I can just wait until you leave,' Narcissa pointed out. 'Come back at a later time.' She gestured to the gate between them. 'Or you can let me in.'

Molly's lips thinned, but she took the merest step to one side, forcing Narcissa to squeeze indecorously through the small crack she allowed her. Narcissa stood just to the side of the gate, gazing in aloof serenity over the collection of graves, giving Molly no indication of her intent. After several minutes, Molly huffed and stalked out of the gate, Disapparating halfway down the path.

Narcissa slowly wound through the graves until she came to Fabian's.

If Lavinia were dead, as she feared, this was the closest thing she had.


Maya stepped easily from the fireplace and stared around the sitting room. 'This is your house?' she asked in a stunned whisper.

'Yeah.' James glanced around the house.

'It's huge...'

'Is it?'

'Well... compared to where I live,' Maya conceded. 'Two small bedrooms, a bath, and a sitting room over the kitchen of the pub.' She suddenly felt horribly out of place, biting her lip, and staring at the floor.

'Hey...' James nudged her arm. 'Are you okay?'

Maya's fingers twisted together. 'Well, I can see what my mum was worried about.' She turned back toward the fireplace. 'I should probably go home. Where's your Floo powder?'

'Maya!' Ginny came into the sitting room from the kitchen, wiping her hands on an apron. 'I hope you're hungry.'

'I could eat,' Maya allowed.

'Come on. Dinner's on the table, and if you don't hurry, Al, Scorpius, and Teddy are going to inhale it all.'

'Speaking from personal experience?' Maya asked wryly.

'I had six older brothers, and Harry stayed with us quite a bit during summer and Christmas hols,' Ginny told her. 'If you didn't eat fast, you didn't eat.' She put an arm around the girl's shoulders, guiding her into the kitchen. 'Did you enjoy the film?'

'I did. But Teddy said something about girls crying in films, because that's what girls do...' Maya replied, giving Teddy a bright smile.

'Oh, he did, did he?' Ginny chuckled.

'Dinner's great tonight, Ginny,' Teddy said quickly.

'Nice save,' Al told Teddy, reaching for a bread roll.


Lily snorted into her chicken stew. 'You think Mum's going to forget that? Good luck.'

'Hey, Dad?' Al said down the table. 'Viktor Krum wanted to know what happened to that hulking bloke Mum used to date.'

Lily's brows knit in bemusement. 'Who was that?' She knew Dean and had seen pictures of Michael Corner, but neither of them were particularly large. And hulking was the last word she'd use to describer her father.

Harry flushed and coughed. 'Erm, well, you see...'

'It was all a ploy,' Ginny said, ladling stew into her bowl. 'Your aunt Fleur invited Krum to her wedding, and according to your father, Krum tried to, ah, woo me during the reception.'

'Dad, you lied?' James gasped in mock dismay.

'It was all to protect your mum,' Harry mumbled. 'Krum was on the prowl for girls at the wedding. And I didn't want her to become one of his conquests.' He caught sight of Ginny's gimlet eye and hastily added. 'But she can take care of herself.'

'Now, that was a nice save,' Teddy said to Al.


Ginny knocked on Lily's half-open bedroom door, then craned her head through the gap. 'Hey...' She sat on the edge of Lily's bed. 'How're you feeling?'

'Did Dad tell you?' Lily asked in a small voice, looking down at the book in her hands.


Lily closed the book, marking her place with a thumb. 'I dunno.'

'Makes you feel a bit out of sorts, doesn't it?' Ginny said in commiseration.

'Yeah.' Lily gestured toward her midsection. 'Hurts a bit, but Dad gave me a potion earlier. It's just so embarrassing... I mean, Dad was here...'

'Oh, I understand, believe me,' Ginny told her. 'We were in Egypt, visiting Bill, and Mum was napping, and Dad was out doing something or other, and I had to ask Percy for help.'

'Oooh. Sorry, Mum.'

'Yeah. I don't think Percy's ever recovered from it. He got swottier after that.' Lily giggled, then her breath caught on a hiccup, and her eyes welled with mortified tears. Ginny wrapped her arms around Lily and hugged her tightly.


James settled into the compartment with a sigh. The train going back to Hogwarts after the holiday was slightly less crowded than the one in September, so he had found an empty one next to Al, Scorpius, Lily, Rose, and Hugo's, pointedly ignoring Fred and Jacob's mute pleas from the one they shared with Parker, Isabella, and Madeline. They had apologized to him for their unkind comments about Maya, but James hadn't been in a forgiving mood. 'You brought it on yourselves, gits,' James could hear Maddie huff unsympathetically.

'Hiya,' Maya said. 'Can I join you?'


'I'm surprised you're not with the others,' Maya commented, heaving her bag to the overhead rack.

James shrugged. 'Just wanted some space today.'

'You'll get no complaints from me,' Maya said, dropping into the seat next to James. 'It was nonstop at the pub. Dad brought me here, then went right back to Falmouth. Didn't even stay for the train to leave.'

The compartment door slid open, and Fred and Jacob stood side by side, wearing identical contrite expressions. 'What do you want?' James asked levelly.

'James!' Maya gasped softly. She'd never seen James speak that way to one of his cousins.

Jacob exchanged a look with his twin. 'We're sorry,' he said to Maya.

'Yeah. We wanted to apologize to you,' Fred added.

'What for?'

Jacob scuffed the floor with one of his shoes and nudged Fred in the ribs with an elbow. Fred sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. 'We said some things about you...' he began.

'And they weren't very nice,' Jacob muttered.

'Rubbish about you being in Slytherin mostly, and what the girls' reputations are like,' Fred sighed.

Maya visibly stiffened. 'I see,' she murmured coldly.

'We were just trying to take the piss out of James,' Jacob explained lamely.

'And it went too far,' Fred finished. 'So... sorry,' he mumbled.

'Thank you,' Maya said, looking down at her hands.

'Yeah...' Fred tugged on Jacob's elbow and jerked his head toward the open door. 'Come on...'

Maya took a deep breath and just after they left the compartment, she called, 'Hey!'

Fred's head popped back through the door. 'Yeah?'

'You want to come in here?'

Fred smiled in relief and nodded.