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 73 - Carefully Constructed Walls


Molly perched on a small chair in front of an equally small vanity wedged in a corner of her bedroom. She cradled a silver-backed hairbrush in her hands. It had been part of her seventeenth birthday gift from Fabian and Gideon. Hummingbirds were engraved along the handle and back. Arthur's arm snaked over her shoulder and plucked it from her lax grip. He deftly slid out the pins that held her hair in a loose knot, low on the back of her head. Her hair tumbled to her shoulders, and Arthur ran his hand through the curls, watching the lamplight play over the fading red strands as he spread them over her back. He began to gently work the brush through Molly's hair, making her eyes close in pleasure. 'This is how we ended up with Ginny,' he remarked, with a rueful chuckle. Ron wasn't yet a year old, the older boys were off with Fabian and Gideon for a weekend of bachelor uncle debauchery, Fred and George had worn themselves out with the run of the house that evening, so the house was as close to peacefully quiet as it had been before the boys were born. He'd gotten distracted partway through brushing Molly's hair, and by Christmas it was obvious what the result of that particular distraction would be.

'I can guarantee that won't happen again,' Molly quipped, leaning back into Arthur's chest. 'The pregnant part of it, at least.'

'That would be too much, even for the Quibbler,' Arthur replied. He ran the brush in gentle strokes through Molly's hair. 'Benjamin's leaving tomorrow,' he said softly.

'I know.' Molly stiffened slightly.

'You ought to... It wasn't his fault, or his mother's. Fabian knew what he was doing when he became involved with her.' Arthur met Molly's eyes in the mirror. 'And even if Fabian was targeted because of it, it's no more than they would have done to anybody else,' he stressed. 'And consider what she lost in the process...' Arthur's long fingers wound into Molly's hair, and swept it away from her neck. He pressed a kiss at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. 'Just something to think about, eh?' He set the hairbrush down on the vanity and slid into their bed.

Within seconds, his soft snores filled the room.

Molly ran her fingertips over the handle of the brush. 'I have been thinking about it,' she murmured. 'Since the day he showed up in our back garden...'


Daphne set a basket of Scorpius' clean and pressed uniforms on the foot of his bed. 'Perri's let the hems of your trousers down, so they ought to hold until the end of the year. Barring any sudden growth spurts between now and the end of June,' she added lightly. Scorpius grunted in reply, barely looking up from his textbook.

Daphne's eyes narrowed and she jabbed her wand at the book. It slammed shut and Scorpius jerked back in surprise. 'What'd you do that for?' he demanded. 'I was trying to finish my homework...'

'What's gotten into you?' Daphne retorted. 'You've been lurching around this house like a wounded hippogriff since the beginning of the week.'

Scorpius shoved his chair away from his desk. 'What's wrong with me? What's wrong with you?'

'I beg your pardon,' Daphne responded in confusion. 'What are you talking about?'

'I saw you with him!' Scorpius shouted. 'I saw you in the kitchen kissing him!'

Daphne sat heavily on the bed, the laundry basket tumbling to the floor. 'Oh.'

'That's all you can say?' Scorpius said incredulously. 'Why are you...?' He turned back to his book in a huff of disgust. 'Never mind...'

'Scorpius... I...'

Scorpius' shoulders hunched at her words. 'It's always just been the two of us, because he's never been bothered,' he muttered mutinously.

Daphne's mouth opened. 'We're married,' she said lamely.

'That's absolute crap,' Scorpius scoffed.

'Watch your language, young man!' Daphne snapped. 'And mind your cheek. You may very well be angry with me, but I'm still your mother, and you're not to speak to me in that way.' Scorpius glared at her mutely, his lips in a thin line. She folded her hands in her lap, a sign Scorpius recognized as one of barely stifled anger. 'What I do, or do not do with your father is my concern,' she said tightly. Scorpius' lips pressed together whitely. 'It does not change, nor effect how I feel about you,' she added.

'But why him?' Scorpius shot back petulantly.

'Are you suggesting I have an affair?'

'No...' Scorpius shifted uncomfortably in his chair. 'But he's never been very nice to you... Or me...' He gazed at the polished wooden floor under his feet. 'I just want you to be happy.' He toyed with the quill in his hands. 'He's not... slipping anything in your morning tea, is he?'

Daphne shook her head. 'No.' She bent to collect the scattered clothing from the floor, righting the basket. 'You don't need to worry so much about me. I can take care of myself.' She began to fold a shirt, carefully lining up its seams. 'I can promise that he's not mistreating me.' She set the folded shirt inside the basket. 'What time were you supposed to be at the Potters' house tomorrow?' she asked, their conversation clearly over.


'Very well. I'll make sure to have your things ready for you to pack in the morning.' Daphne rose from the foot of the bed and started to walk out of the room. 'I asked him to try and give this a chance,' she said softly, one hand gripping the edge of the doorframe. 'It takes years to dissolve a wizarding marriage, if you can even manage it at all. I think if that's what I have to live with; I should at least try and see if we could at least coexist peacefully. Your father and I never... We've never gotten past the nodding acquaintance stage before now. But this has been my idea from the beginning. If you feel you must blame someone, then by all means, do place it squarely upon my shoulders. Not his.' She managed to walk steadily into the corridor before fleeing to her bedroom, closing the door with the as little noise as possible. The soft click rang through the house as loudly as if she'd slammed the door.


Molly shuffled into the kitchen, absently flicking her wand at the kettle, while she yawned. Another flick of her wand tipped tea leaves into the old and battered teapot. She picked up the kettle, just as it began to whistle, and poured the water into the teapot. Movement in the back garden caught her eye. Benjamin sprawled in one of the old day loungers, staring into the leaves of the apple tree. Molly poured a cup of tea for herself, and started to pour one for Benjamin, but checked the motion. Doesn't like tea... she told herself sternly. Definitely an American... She carried her cup out into the chilly garden and settled into the chair next to Benjamin. 'You're up early,' she commented.

'Still sort of on San Francisco time,' Benjamin replied. 'I don't adjust to time changes very well...' He tucked his hands into the sleeves of his worn sweatshirt. 'Listen, if you want to hold a grudge against Mom, that's your prerogative. But don't expect me to sit by and not defend her. She did everything she could for me when I was growing up. She always lit up when she talked about Dad. There isn't much else in the world that would do the same. She was the best mother... parent... I could have asked for. If I do half as good as job with my two as she did with me, then I'll be a lucky man. She's never asked anyone for anything. And if you can't see past some fifty year-old grudge, I'm sorry.' With that, he pushed himself to his feet. 'I'll just go and get my things and go back to London. Tell Arthur I said good-bye, won't you?'

'Benjamin, wait...' Molly took a deep breath. 'What do you do...?'

'Like my job?' Molly nodded. Benjamin resumed his seat and leaned back in the chair. 'I work with Mom. We have a small shop that sells potions ingredients and a few other magical items. It does all right. Won't make me wealthy, but I can afford to keep food on the table and shoes on my kids' feet. Mom likes it because she gets to read between customers. I like it because I get to stay in the back and not deal with people. We sell mostly to the students and staff at Salem, and other wizards and witches in the Bay area. My wife, April, is the librarian at Salem.'

Molly wrapped her dressing gown around herself a little more tightly against the chill. 'Did you want to do something else?'

Benjamin shrugged. 'Not really. I mean, I took all the tests to finish school and looked into a few things. Like working as a magical prosecutor for the western region,' he said with a raised eyebrow. Arthur had told him how much she'd wanted each of their children to work for the Ministry. 'And I had the scores on the test to get into the training program, but I would have had to leave San Francisco and go to school in St. Louis. I just...' Benjamin shifted slightly. 'I didn't want to leave Mom alone. It was always just the two of us, until I got married...'

Molly looked down at her hands, almost surprised to see the cup she cradled in her hands. She lifted it to her mouth, and sipped the hot, bracing tea. 'Why did you come here...?' She shook her head, aware of how peevish she sounded. 'I mean, what made you come all the way out here to meet people you never knew about?'

Benjamin swiped the sleeve of the ragged sweatshirt under his nose. It was starting to run in the chilled breeze. 'What would you have done?' he asked. 'If the situations had been reversed, and it was you who found out your brother had a son out there somewhere?' he added, waving a hand around to indicate the larger world beyond the confines of the Burrow. 'Wouldn't you have gone to try and meet him?'

Molly gulped and nodded.

'I know you think Mom's a bad person, because of who she happened to be related to, but she's not. From what I've been told, Dad wouldn't have looked at her twice if she had been as awful as you think,' Benjamin said defensively, unwilling to let the topic go easily. 'And I know you're not happy with her, because she took off and never said a word about me to you. But by the time she found out she was pregnant, it was easier to stay separated from everything over here.' He slumped in the chair, wrapping his arms tightly around his ribs. 'I get it. I do. I understand why she made those choices. It doesn't mean I like them any more than you do.' He glanced at Molly from the corner of his eye. 'For what it's worth, I'm still angry at her for not telling me. I'll forgive her eventually. And maybe...' He let the thought trail off into the mist that swaddled the grass at their feet.


Harry sprawled on the edge of an armchair, perusing the latest issue of Quidditch Quarterly while Al and Scorpius played chess. From time to time, Harry glanced over the edge of the magazine, studying the two boys. Their conversation seemed more than a little stilted, something Harry found odd, considering they usually chatted like magpies until one of them fell asleep. Scorpius was entirely a noncompetitive sort and generally didn't care about winning or losing. Not that he didn't employ every strategy at his fingertips, but if he lost, he could easily let the game slide into the past, without replaying each move in his head. He seemed to be more interested in the process of the game. Al, on the other hand, was a fierce competitor and hated losing. He could be a gracious loser, but even Harry could tell he was about to lose this game. He supposed he couldn't blame Al for his competitive zeal. He came by it honestly, considering both of his parents hated losing. Al glared at the board, weighing his options, scowling as he realized he had none. He tipped his king over with a forefinger, then muttered, 'Excuse me.' He stalked into the kitchen without another word.

Scorpius bit his lip, but merely reset the pieces, keeping whatever comment that lurked behind his opaque grey eyes to himself. Harry sighed and set the magazine aside. 'You know about the English team, don't you?' he began.

'Yes, I do.'

'And?' Harry prompted.

'And... What?'

'What does he really think?'

Scorpius carefully lined up the black pawns, setting them precisely in the center of their squares. At length, he looked up. 'Al is my best friend,' he stated. 'And you're asking me to reveal things that he might not want you to know?'

'Fair enough,' Harry allowed. 'What about you? How do you feel about it?'

Scorpius set a rook in its square, turning it slightly. 'I can't really say,' he admitted, not meeting Harry's penetrating gaze.

Harry studied Scorpius' inscrutable expression with grudging respect. Scorpius wasn't going to say one way or the other, out of loyalty to Al. Even if Al was behaving like a perfect git just now. Before he could try to ferret it out of the boy, someone knocked on the front door. Harry and Scorpius exchanged a questioning look. Even now, Scorpius still came through the front door of the house. Scorpius shrugged. 'It's not me,' he said. 'I'm already here.'

'Stay here,' Harry ordered in a tone that would brook no arguments. Nobody ever came to the front door, aside from Daphne or Narcissa if they had come to drop Scorpius off with them. He drew his wand and opened the thick wooden door a little to see Benjamin standing on the other side. 'Oh, hi.' He opened the door wider. 'Come in.'

Benjamin slipped thorough the door. 'I'm leaving in a few hours, and I thought I'd leave something with you.' He pulled a folded piece of paper from his shirt pocket. 'This is for... The oldest boy... the one leaving school soon. Parker, right?'


'It's just if he decides to travel and come to California, that's my address. My mom's, too, in case he needs somewhere to stay.'

Harry tucked it into his own pocket. 'I'll make sure he gets it. Thanks.' He looked at the other man standing uncomfortably in his entryway. 'You could have left this with Molly or Arthur,' he noted.

'I could,' Benjamin admitted, shifting from foot to foot in a way that reminded Harry of James when he was small and needed the loo, but refused to tell anyone. 'How did it feel? When you became part of the family?' he finally blurted. He'd gleaned a little of Harry's history from Molly and Arthur over the past week, and while their situations weren't very similar, going from practically no family to the mass of humanity that made up the Weasleys was more than a bit of culture shock. He thought Harry might understand his feelings of disorientation.

Harry stowed his wand in his pocket and motioned for Benjamin to follow him into the sitting room. Scorpius was still hunched in front of the chessboard, arranging the white pieces into place. 'This is Al's friend, Scorpius,' Harry told Benjamin. 'Your mother's...'

'Yeah. Draco's son...' Benjamin interrupted. 'Nice to meet you,' he said to Scorpius, holding out a hand.

'This is your father's cousin, Benjamin,' Harry said to Scorpius, who was eyeing the proffered hand with something akin to suspicion. 'His mother was, erm...'

'My father was one of Molly's brothers, and my mother was your father's aunt,' Benjamin explained.

Scorpius' face scrunched in confusion. 'But you don't look like Andromeda or Bellatrix, and from what I know of Bellatrix, she would have rather had her wand broken than get involved with a relation of Molly's,' he said with the perfect logic of one who was missing quite a bit of information.

'Lucius' sister,' Harry supplied.

'But Grandfather didn't have any siblings,' Scorpius pointed out.

'None that you knew,' Harry responded.

'My mother and I lived abroad,' Benjamin interjected. 'She and your grandfather had a, uh, falling-out before I was born.'

'Can't say I blame her,' Scorpius muttered. He took Benjamin's hand and shook it.

'Why don't you go find out where Al's gotten to?' Harry suggested. Scorpius, no stranger to suggestions that were really orders, headed for the kitchen. The sound of the back door of the house slamming shut soon followed. 'Sit, please,' Harry said to Benjamin. 'How did it feel?' he mused. Harry had found he rather liked Benjamin over the past week. He was unassuming, slightly irreverent, and was rather good company. Even without the ties of family, Harry thought he and Benjamin might have been friends. 'It was,' he began, then trailed off, heaving a long sigh. 'It was a little baffling,' he finally said quietly. 'I was raised by an aunt and uncle that didn't like me very much. Well, they didn't like me at all,' he amended. 'It took a long time for me to understand the concept of unconditional affection. And given who I was...' He shrugged a little abashedly.

Benjamin nodded. He'd asked April to see if she could find out anything about the people his mother spoke of in the stacks of Salem's library. Researcher that she was, she had presented him with a fairly thick packet of information. 'You thought people liked you for the celebrity,' he said.

'Yeah.' Harry sounded a little surprised.

'I do live in California,' Benjamin said. 'Muggle movie and television stars and all that who are more famous for doing nothing but wearing tacky dresses is considered informative news.' He grimaced with a little distaste. 'Makes you wonder if all their legions of friends would still be there if they were nobody.'

'Exactly.' Harry settled into the armchair. 'Although, it was mostly in school or in Diagon Alley that it was ever an issue. But still, I thought if I made life too difficult for Molly and Arthur, they wouldn't want me around anymore. That is what took years to figure out.' He laced his fingers together. 'It was a little odd to find that I was accountable to someone else, besides myself. People who cared to see I had proper clothing that wasn't in tatters or so large I nearly drowned in them. Or that I had enough to eat, and wasn't going off to do something stupid. And Molly... I love her like a mother - she's the only mother I've ever known - but she does have her moments.'

'You can say that again,' Benjamin snorted.

'Molly doesn't react in ways that people would see as normal,' Harry stressed. 'Pain, fear... It comes off as a bit shrill.' Benjamin gave Harry a look of frank disbelief. 'All right. A lot shrill. And angry. And guilt tends to make it worse.' Harry knew Molly and Benjamin hadn't had the easiest of times the past week. 'She means well most of the time.'

'It's been really confusing,' Benjamin said. 'Molly, of course, but it's like all this history and all these relationships. I thought...' He looked down at his hands. 'I don't know what I thought. I was happy before you came to Mom's shop. You don't miss what you've never known, right? And I didn't know I was missing all this family. But now? It's a mess. I don't know what to do next.'

Harry leaned forward. 'Just don't disappear. Write to Molly or any of the rest of us. I know Ginny would love to hear from you. And if you receive some squashy package in the post around Christmas, don't be too surprised.'


Lavinia slumped tiredly into the hard chair inside the Portkey office of the British Ministry. The week in France had been exhausting emotionally as she and Narcissa tried to bridge a forty-year gap in their relationship. In addition, she'd worried incessantly about Benjamin and how he was getting on or not with the Weasleys.

Benjamin walked into the office, dropping his bag next to Lavinia's. 'Hi, Mom...'

Lavinia looked up at him, a smile curving her lips. 'Hello, Ben.'

'Five twenty-three Portkey to New York City! Five twenty-three Portkey to New York City!' bawled a Ministry official.

Lavinia pushed herself to her feet, and reached for her bag. Benjamin suddenly hugged her tightly. 'Oh my. What's all this?'

'Missed you, Mom,' he murmured. 'Love you...'

'I love you, too, Ben.' Lavinia pulled away, and stooped for her bag. 'Shall we?' she asked, gesturing toward the door.

'Let's go home.' Ben slung his knapsack over his shoulder and led Lavinia through the door to the Portkey that would return them both to San Francisco.


James rearranged himself restlessly, letting one hand and foot dangle off the edge of the mattress. His mind drifted aimlessly to the events of that afternoon. A film with Maya, and Teddy and Victoire as their somewhat errant chaperones. They had tactfully taken seats several rows in front of James and Maya, allowing the two fifteen-year olds a bit of privacy. He could feel their interlaced hands resting on his thigh, burning through his jeans. Going back to Teddy's flat for tea, only for Teddy to remember he didn't have a crumb of food in the place. Sending him and Maya up to the flat, while Teddy and Victoire made a detour to the market. The intense, but oh-too-brief time spent on Teddy's sofa, furiously snogging with Maya, in which she'd somehow ended up straddling his lap. Teddy and Victoire had made copious amounts of noise when they came up the stairs, giving James and Maya a few moments to collect themselves, in which James fervently wished for his school robes. Or his schoolbag, at the very least. He settled for a well-placed throw pillow, snatched from the corner of the sofa.

One hand toyed mindlessly with the drawstring on his pajama bottoms, but before he could tug at the knot, a gurgling moan floated through the wall. James' hand froze. He waited tense several moments, and resumed his efforts to pick apart the knot, his hips shifting in anticipation. Just as it unraveled under his questing fingers, the moan sounded once more. You're just hearing things, he told himself, shaking his head. It turned into a high-pitched throaty squeal. James savagely retied the drawstring and swung his feet to the floor.

He yanked the bedroom door open to discover Lily, Al, and Scorpius clustered in the corridor, just outside their bedroom doors. 'Did we get a ghoul and nobody told me?' Al asked

James bit his lip. 'Erm. No,' he said faintly. He wanted to clap his hands over Lily's hears. She was staring intently at the firmly closed door of their parents' bedroom.

'That sounds like Mum,' Lily commented.

Another noise stole from under the door - nearly a growl. It sounded rather demanding to James' admittedly unversed ears. He frowned, trying to decipher the words under the guttural moans. Suddenly, his eyes widened, and he whirled around. 'Go back to bed!' he ordered.

'Why?' Al asked, with a slight belligerent tone. James' eyes narrowed. Ever since Harry and Ginny had denied Al the privilege of signing with England, he'd been a bit of a strop over it.

'Just do it,' James hissed. 'Go back to bed and close the bloody door.'

Lily merely shrugged and slipped back into her bedroom. Al glared at James in a silent battle of wills that he nearly won. He only turned back into his bedroom with a huff when James clenched his fist, making his knuckles crack ominously. Scorpius eyed the offending bedroom door curiously, but followed Al back into his bedroom, closing the door behind them. Alone, James took a deep breath and marched toward the door. He knocked on it a little tentatively. 'Mum? Dad?'

On the other side of the door, Harry wrapped his arms firmly around Ginny's thighs, and continued his activities. Ginny nearly howled as his tongue swiped across a particularly sensitive area. Under it all, she could just make out a soft tapping sound. 'Harry...' she breathed. 'Harry, stop...' She uncurled her fingers from the sheet under her body and nudged the top of Harry's head. 'Stop...'

Harry lifted his head, peering at her nearsightedly. 'Why?'


Harry glanced over his shoulder. 'What about it?' The knocking grew just a bit louder.

'Did you hear that?' she gasped.

'Hear what?' Harry mumbled, somewhat preoccupied with his wife.

'Mum? Dad?' James' voice sounded anxious.

'Oh bloody hell!' Harry scrambled off the bed, flinging the quilt over Ginny, before he dove for his abandoned jeans, shoving his glasses onto his nose. He jerked them over his feet as he stumbled toward the door, managing to pull them over his hips, and tug the zipper in place, as he opened the door, the back of his hand swiping over his mouth. 'All right, James?'

James felt the back of his neck and face flush painfully. He tried to meet Harry's eyes, but failed miserably. He fixed his gaze to the scar bisecting Harry's left shoulder. 'Erm... is Mum feeling unwell?' he asked in uncomfortable formality.

'No, she's quite all right,' Harry replied, wondering what James was on about, as he glanced over his shoulder at Ginny, sitting up in bed, with the quilt wrapped loosely around her body. More than all right, he thought smugly.

'Right, well...' James shut his eyes tightly. 'You might want to check your charms,' he said significantly. 'The little ones thought Mum was ill or something,' he coughed.

Harry raised an eyebrow at James' use of "little ones" to describe Lily and Albus, before the color drained from his face. 'Oh. Right.' He swallowed heavily. 'I'll take care of it.'

James nodded, and fled back to the relative sanctuary of his bedroom. Harry closed the door quietly and darted for the night table next to his side of the bed, grabbing his wand. He flicked it several times at the walls, groaning in dismay as the bright blue hue flared and quickly faded. Too quickly. If all the Silencing charms that were on the walls held, it should have faded slowly, taking nearly five minutes to fade completely. 'Damn,' Harry muttered.

'We forgot to check the charms with the children at school,' Ginny sighed. With Lily at Hogwarts, they hadn't had to worry about being overheard. 'How much did they hear?' she asked, wincing.

Harry swept his wand in a wide circle, deftly building up the charms once again. 'Enough to scar James for life,' he replied. 'Probably won't look at a girl until he's twenty-five.'

'Probably won't be able to look at either of us until the Christmas holiday,' Ginny predicted.

'This was so much easier to handle when they were small.' Harry doffed his jeans and climbed back into bed.

'Lots of things were easier to handle when they were small,' Ginny retorted.

'And to think my parents missed out on all this...' Harry sighed.


James stood next to his bed, shoving his things into his knapsack. He'd awoken before his alarm clock rang after a sleepless night. He heard a light knock on his bedroom door that was followed by his father's tousled head. 'Oh, you're up,' Harry said in no little surprise.

'Yeah.' James concentrated on the suddenly difficult task of buckling the strap of his bag.

'Erm, listen... Would you like to talk about what happened last night?'

'Not especially,' James grunted.

Harry sighed. 'Right. Look, what your mother and I were doing, it's perfectly natural,' Harry muttered.

James spun on his heel. 'Dad! Just stop, please! I really don't want to hear anything about what you and Mum do when we're not here or sleeping. I'd just like to pretend it didn't happen, all right?'

'All right.' Harry turned and went down the stairs to start breakfast.

James only came down when the others were already at the table, and nearly bolted his meal. 'James, slow down,' Ginny cautioned. 'You're going to choke.' James reluctantly slowed the speed in which he shoveled food into his mouth, keeping his eyes glued to his plate.

No sooner than he had scraped the last of his eggs off the plate, James dropped the fork and abruptly stood. 'Can we go?' Without waiting for a response, he stalked into the sitting room, and stood stiffly by the fireplace, ready to Floo to Ron and Hermione's flat. They would go to King's Cross from there.

Lily picked up her glass of orange juice. 'What's going on with James?'

'Nothing,' Ginny said quickly. 'I don't think he slept well last night.'

'I didn't sleep well, and I'm not in a strop,' Lily muttered.

'Yes, well, I don't think he felt very well,' Ginny replied, her ears burning.

'Must be something going around,' Al hooted.

'We need to leave soon if you don't want to be late for the train,' Harry said quickly, gathering his and James' plates.

'Okay, Dad, keep your hair on,' Al huffed. He set his plate in the sink and went into the sitting room, joining James by the fireplace. 'What's wrong with you?' he demanded.

'Nothing.' James' shoulders drew closer to his ears.

'Did you ever figure out what that noise was last night?' Scorpius asked brightly, retrieving his bag from the bottom of the stairs.

'Yes.' James' lips barely parted. He folded his arms across his chest. 'Can we not talk about last night?' When he saw Harry, Ginny, and Lily emerge from the kitchen, he snatched a handful of Floo powder and threw into the fireplace, darting into the emerald flames.

He landed smoothly on the hearth of Ron and Hermione's flat. 'The others are on their way,' he told Ron, helping Rose stuff one more book into her bag. James moved to stand by the door. Ron looked at Rose and shrugged. When the others arrived, he drew Harry to the side. 'Did James do something?'

Harry shook his head. 'He heard...' His face flushed. 'Me and Gin...'

Ron burst into laughter. 'You forgot to check your charms?' he spluttered, keeping his voice low.

'Yeah,' Harry admitted.

'Oh, poor kid.'


'I thought you said we had to leave soon, Dad,' Lily piped up at Harry's elbow.

'Yes, we're going right now,' Harry told her. 'Let's try and not get separated going to the station?' he called to Al and Scorpius, who had gotten quite ahead of them in January.

When James crossed through the barrier at King's Cross, he went straight for the train, finding an empty compartment. He threw his knapsack on a seat and flung himself into it. He pointedly avoided looking out the window at the platform. After several moments, Maya joined him. 'Hiya,' she said, leaning down to kiss him. James jerked away. 'What? I brushed my teeth before I left the pub,' she said bemusedly.

'I overheard my parents shagging last night,' James muttered. 'Then Dad wanted to be all parental and talk about it this morning.'

'Oh, gross!'

'Yeah.' James slouched on the seat. 'Do your parents ever do barmy stuff like that?'

Maya sat next to James. 'Mum tells me all the time she hopes I have a daughter just like me,' she mused.

'That's what my mum says,' James laughed. 'She's living for the day I have a child, and she hopes it acts just like I did.' He shook his head. 'I don't think I'll ever understand them.'