They had avoided discussing Severus’ behaviour and the events of the night of the full moon. Neither of them had seen the man himself when they had arrived back at Hogwarts so awkward scenes had been avoided. Dumbledore had been absent on their return, but he had left instructions with Professor McGonagall, and so here they were on the train from Hogsmeade. They were heading for London to meet up with the Order at Grimmauld Place, a place that Maeve was greatly looking forward to seeing. Any nerves she might have had at being the focus of the attention of so many strangers was soothed by the rhythmic movement of the train.
She was almost lulled into sleep herself when their carriage door was abruptly pulled open and a tall man in blood-red robes stood there smiling down at her. He cut quite a dash with his long, dark hair, arresting brown eyes and chiselled face. His whole aura exuded a certain theatrical presence, as he stood framed by the doorway with his hands on his hips and a stance that was clearly well practiced at dramatic entrances.
“Hello, hello,” he announced in a low drawl. “Forgive the intrusion, but all the other carriages are disagreeably full. Yours is the only one that suggests a place to contentedly while away this tedious journey. May I join you?”
She was almost rendered speechless by his spectacular appearance. He certainly dazzled her into forgetting that at this hour the train was most likely half empty and he couldn’t have had a problem finding a seat.
“Roderick Rampton,” he said, not waiting for an answer and sliding into the seat beside her, sticking his hand out to be shaken, “at your service.”
“Selene,” she said, a mixture of awe and amusement on her face. “Selene Lupin.”
He took her hand and instead of shaking it, brushed the back of it lightly with his lips before letting it fall back into her lap.
“Lovely name, unusual in these parts, although I dare say it is common enough elsewhere. Is the gentleman with you?” Roderick tossed his head in the direction of the still-sleeping Remus, his hair disturbed attractively by the movement.
“Yes he is,” she replied, trying desperately to stop smiling, humour having beaten awe into submission.
Roderick looked crestfallen, and she thought he was about to get up to search for another carriage.
“He’s my brother,” she confessed, and was instantly rewarded by a beaming smile that revealed unnaturally white teeth.
“Your brother! Well, isn’t that excellent? And quite right too, an eye-catching lady like yourself shouldn’t be travelling alone.” The good humour was back and he eased himself into the seat again, prepared to make himself at home. “So what are you heading to London for? Shopping? Parties? A little night out at the theatre perhaps? I hear there is a rather splendid performance of Bats on at The Wizarding Playhouse.”
“Shopping,” she replied, deciding to humour him. “And perhaps just a little partying.” Partying had been the last thing on her mind, but she suddenly felt the desire for a good night of dancing and laughter.
“Well, my darling, you have come to the right place for partying. I am hosting a bash down at the Mirrored Mansion on the fifteenth and I would just love to see your delectable face there.” His charm control was turned up to maximum.
“I don’t even know where, or what, the Mirrored Mansion is,” she laughed.
“Not a problem, just give me your address and I can have a broom sent to collect you,” he said slickly.
“I’m not sure where I’m staying at the moment,” she replied. Advertising the address of the headquarters of a secret order to a complete stranger on a train probably wasn’t a good move, even Maeve understood that. “Perhaps you have a card?”
“That I do.” He rustled around in his robes and pulled out a thin piece of parchment. “They are so last year I’m afraid, but they contain all the relevant information. Printers are so hard to find for small jobs these days.”
She took the card from him and read it quickly.
Wizard about Town
Partly Organiser and Entertainer
“There’s a spelling mistake,” she said to him and he immediately snatched the card from her hand with consternation written all over his face.
“Impossible!” he exclaimed.
He scanned the card quickly and looked relieved when he found it to be perfect.
“Nothing wrong there,” he announced, looking puzzled.
“Surely that should be party,” she insisted, taking the card back and pointing to the word partly.
“Not at all, darling,” he grinned. “I am partly organiser and partly entertainer, a perfect combination of the two.” His hazel eyes dropped from her face to her neck and they widened slightly.
“That’s a fine piece,” he said, reaching out to touch the orb that rested at her neck, but her hand shot out quickly and grabbed his wrist before he could reach it.
“I’d rather you didn’t touch it,” she said firmly.
He withdrew his arm briskly, immediately apologising for his impertinence, but he continued to admire the golden pendant throughout the journey.
When they emerged on the southern side of Birmingham, she felt she knew everything there was to know about Roderick Rampton as he regaled her with tales of his adventures and the parties he had organised. He name-dropped shamelessly. It was clear he was quite something in London and she was sure, had the glamour and glitz of the celebrity wizarding world impressed her, she would have been star-struck by him. As it was, she found him an amusing travelling companion who made the miles pass a little more swiftly than they otherwise might have done.
It was almost four in the afternoon by the time the train approached King’s Cross station, the open countryside replaced by houses, factories and the general bustle of a big city. Remus was still sleeping, and even Roderick had allowed his head to loll forward onto his chest. She didn’t think the crumpled face look was one he would have intentionally cultivated, and the thin trickle of saliva creeping down his chin was most unattractive. The train jolted suddenly as it crossed the tracks, startling Remus from his dreams. He looked around quickly and frowned when he saw Roderick’s sleeping figure.
“Who is that?” he whispered, leaning across to Maeve who mouthed the answer back to him. Remus took a closer look at the sleeping man who was now snoring gently. “Don’t know him,” he said, standing up and reaching for their luggage, “but he looks a little extravagant.”
“Extravagant isn’t the word,” she replied quietly. “I have his card though; he’s an entertainer of sorts.”
“Won’t that be handy?” Remus said with a grin as he ushered her towards the door. “Don’t you want to say goodbye?”
She shook her head, quickly following him from the carriage with one last look at her erstwhile travelling companion. An attractive man, certainly, but not one she would necessarily have chosen for company.
Once they had left the train, it was just a short walk to their destination, but even so, Maeve was glad they didn’t have too much luggage; the late afternoon heat was oppressive and she was thankful she didn’t have to lug heavy cases with her. The streets of London were teeming with people on all manner of errands: shopping, sightseeing, returning from work or hurrying to appointments. It was overwhelming for someone who hadn’t been around crowds of people for many years, and she felt the crush of humanity all around her. Remus sensed her discomfort and hurried her along with a friendly smile and the promise it wasn’t far. The pushing and shoving of the crowds plagued her, so she was relieved when they turned off the main thoroughfare into a small, run down square. There was a broken sign that had Grimmauld Place printed on it in black letters, but someone had blacked out the auld part to leave the label Grimm Place, and she found she couldn’t disagree. The relative quiet of Grimmauld Place was soothing after the previously crowded streets though, depressing as it was.
“This place has seen better days, hasn’t it?” she said, looking around her at the shabby houses and the litter scattered everywhere. There was a patch of grass in the middle of the square that children obviously played on because there was a makeshift football net at one end and at the other an abandoned go-kart that was missing a wheel. The houses themselves were painted in varying shades of grimy cream, and almost all of them had rotting window frames and rubbish strewn in their front gardens. There wasn’t a soul around, the only sounds were that of a baby screaming in some far off room and a dog yapping to be let in to one of the houses.
“It suits us like this,” Remus said as he stopped and looked at a connecting wall between number eleven and number thirteen. “There aren’t too many people around, and those who are don’t think too much about the odd, strangely dressed person wandering around.”
Maeve watched as a tatty, black door appeared in the wall, swiftly followed by smeared and grimy windows, a short path, and steps that led up to the door. The level of magic needed to keep this place secret from the local Muggles impressed her. She climbed swiftly up the crumbling steps to the door, staying behind Remus, and watched as he drew his wand and rapped the peeling black paint gently. She couldn’t see how anyone could have heard such a slight noise inside the house and was about to ask Remus why he didn’t just use the doorbell, when the sound of several bolts being shot reached her ears. A chain rattled, something clicked and the door slowly swung open to reveal a dark and dingy hallway. He pushed her slowly into the cavernous hall with a warning to be quiet and then, with a quick look around outside, he softly closed the door behind them.
As her eyes adjusted to the lack of light, she took in the dank atmosphere and the dead feeling in the house; it wasn’t pleasant. A woman dressed in a strange assortment of robes and hand knitted clothing was standing before them looking very excited at their arrival. She gave Remus a huge hug that made him grimace in pain as something sharp dug into him.
“Sorry,” the woman whispered. “So sorry, Remus… it’s my wand.” She looked mortified for a moment as she stepped away from him, and he rubbed at his side distractedly.
“Don’t worry about it, Molly,” he assured her in a low voice. “This is Selene, but let’s go through to the drawing room where we can talk properly.”
“Yes, yes,” she agreed, “of course we should. Hello, dear, how are you?” the woman said hurriedly to Maeve, who nodded a response, unsure why they were whispering.
He led both women up the stairs and into a long, spacious room with horrid green wallpaper that was partly obliterated by several large tapestries, most of which were moth-eaten and faded. Once the introductions were made in a level of voice that they could all hear, they sat down on chairs that groaned and gave off clouds of pale green dust at the sudden weight.
“Why were we whispering?” Maeve asked, curious at the secrecy.
“Oh, it’s that awful portrait,” Molly said with a frown. “It’s Sirius’ mother, vile woman. If you wake her, she screams endless obscenities at anyone who happens to be in the area.”
“Especially if you happen to not be of pure-blood,” Remus added. “So expect some abuse.” He winked mischievously at her, knowing full well it would be a rare thing for her to be abused as a Mudblood. He wondered how Maeve would deal with any prejudice that came her way now she no longer had the protection of her pure-blood status.
“You must be tired and hungry. I’ve made some dinner for you both and I think Arthur, that’s my husband, may be joining us later. Ron is here with Harry; they are both upstairs watching the Quidditch on the Ludusvitrum, but I am sure when it is finished they will want to meet you,” Molly said, addressing Maeve. “I must say, they are both very excited at meeting this sister of Remus’ that none of us knew anything about. He kept you quite the secret.”
Maeve flushed a little and managed to mutter something about working abroad. She hadn’t realised it would be so hard to lie to nice, well meaning people. Remus rescued her by asking Molly how Harry was, to which Molly replied that he was as well as could be expected and really needed to get back to school to take his mind off things.
“Of course, it doesn’t help being here,” she said, waving her hands around the room. “It all reminds him so much of Sirius.”
“It’s only been six weeks,” Remus reminded her, “he just needs time and his friends.”
“But he doesn’t talk about it, Remus.” She turned to Maeve for support. “He needs to talk about it with someone.”
“He will when he is ready. These things do take time,” Maeve said, thinking back to those dreadful weeks and months after her own mother had died. She hadn’t wanted to talk to anyone then either, and it had helped her to pretend it hadn’t happened. She had passed through several stages of grief, each one more painful than the last, until one morning she had woken and the sharp edge of her grief didn’t hurt quite so much. After that, each day had been somehow easier and by the time she arrived at Hogwarts she had found herself able to talk about it without bursting into floods of tears. Of course, she couldn’t tell Molly this, so she gave her a reassuring look instead.
They heard running footsteps in the corridor outside that came to a halt outside the door, which swung open to reveal a red-haired boy who was breathless with excitement.
“Oh, Mum,” he shouted, gasping for breath. “It was fantastic!”
“Ron, dear, whatever is the matter?” Molly stood up, alarmed.
“We won!” he announced in triumph. “The Chudley Cannons won the League Cup. It was the best match I’ve ever seen! Kenneth Krackle pulled of an amazing Double-Eight Loop. They’ve just collected the Cup; it was bloody brilliant. The commentator said they may have to think about changing their motto back to ‘We shall conquer’. I never did like the 'cross our fingers' one… it was bloody humiliating… and then…”
But whatever he was about to say was cut off by Mrs Weasley, who coughed very loudly and very pointedly at him before nodding her head in the direction of the other two occupants of the room.
“We have a visitor, Ronald,” she said sternly, “who I am sure doesn’t want to hear about the exploits of the Chudley Cannons.”
“Oh, I don’t mind,” Maeve said, giving Ron a wink. “It all sounds very exciting. It isn’t every day your team wins a Cup.”
Ron’s face went pink and he spluttered something about having forgotten something in his room, but his mother propelled him towards Maeve who stood up.
“This is my youngest son, Ronald,” Molly said proudly to Maeve as she picked at some fluff on Ron’s sleeve. He squirmed with embarrassment under her scrutiny and protested that he wasn’t a child any more.
“Hello, Ronald.” Maeve shook his reluctant hand as he went ever so slightly pinker. She introduced herself as Selene while Ron managed to mutter a hello and an instruction to call him Ron.
“Well, Ron, are you looking forward to returning to school?” Remus asked.
“Yes, I suppose,” he said. “Can’t say I’m looking forward to the extra work though… but the Quidditch should be good!”
“You play as well as watch?” Maeve asked.
“Yes, I’m the Gryffindor Keeper. Started playing for them this year actually,” he said proudly, “and we won the Quidditch Cup. It was fantastic.” He was grinning happily at the memory of that particular victory which had turned him from a hopeless liability into a hero.
“Well done,” she said, wondering where Harry was.
“Anyway, I have to go and help Harry tidy our room, he’s a bit… you know.” He pulled a hopeless face that suggested Harry wasn’t just a ‘bit’ anything.
“What’s the matter with him?” Molly asked sharply. “Is he talking to you yet about- well, you know?”
“No, Mum,” Ron answered with the resignation of someone who had been asked the same question many times. “And to be honest I am fine with that. When he wants to talk about it, he can talk to Hermione. She is far better at that sort of stuff than I am.”
His mother gave a sigh, picking at the sleeve of her jumper in an agitated manner. She couldn’t understand why Harry hadn’t confided in someone, anyone, just to get it off his chest and she was completely unconvinced by everyone’s reassurances that he would when he was ready.
At that moment the doorbell rang and she shot out of the room with a worried cry as a strange screeching sound came from the hallway.
“Mrs Black?” Maeve asked, and Remus nodded in dismay.
“She’s become even worse since Sirius died and it’s affecting Harry in a bad way. For the first few days after he fell, she went very quiet, but we couldn’t decide if that was Kreacher’s disappearance or Sirius’s death. Then she started up again, only this time she took particular pleasure in taunting Harry about Sirius, and you can imagine the effect is it having.” Remus stood up slowly and went after Molly, with Maeve and Ron bringing up the rear.
“Who is Kreacher?” Maeve asked Ron quietly, as they followed the others. He made a disgusted face at her.
“He was the Black’s house-elf, nasty piece of work too. He disappeared just after Sirius died and we haven’t seen him since. Hermione was very sympathetic to him, but then she does have a thing about house-elves. If I were you I wouldn’t get her started on the subject, not unless you want a few hours of pointless ear-bashing.”
“And why don’t they just take down the portrait?”
“It’s got a permanent sticking charm on it and no one has been able to figure out how to get rid of it. Fred and George tried, they’re usually pretty good at stuff like that, but even they failed.”
Maeve didn’t have time to ask who Fred and George were because they had reached the hallway, where Remus and Molly were struggling to close a pair of moth-eaten curtains over the incensed, wicked-looking face of an old woman who was screaming obscenities at them. A white-faced witch was standing at the now closed front door looking apologetic and trying to help, but Remus gently moved her aside.
“Bloody hell,” Ron said, almost in admiration, “the old bag’s really going for it this time.”
“Filthy scum! Trespassing dirty fools! Get away from me, you vile half-breed!” This last comment was directed at Remus. “Where is that disgusting boy that that blood traitor son of mine liked? Has he gone yet? Is he dead too? You should all be dead!” Her eyes were bulging with hate and she flailed her arms around wildly, as if trying to get hold of the curtains to prevent them from being closed.
With all the screaming no one had heard Harry’s quiet arrival behind them on the stairs. He stood watching the scene play out below him as Remus and Molly continued to struggle with the curtains, which were behaving as if they too were charmed and would not close. The portrait continued to scream insults about Sirius and Harry, much to the consternation of everyone, and Maeve sensed rather than heard the presence behind her. She turned to look directly into the distressed, green eyes of a boy who wasn’t much shorter than she was. His tousled dark hair and face took her straight back to school and James Potter. He pushed past her with balled fists and blazing eyes to stand before the portrait, which immediately became even more excited.
“SHUT UP!” he yelled at the screeching woman. “STOP YOUR STUPID, EVIL LIES!”
“Harry, dear, don’t,” said Mrs Weasley in an even more distressed state than she had been. “It’s not worth upsetting yourself.”
“Go back upstairs, Harry,” Remus shouted, struggling to make himself heard above the screaming of the portrait. “You know she only does it to upset you.”
“I can’t stand this,” Harry said desperately to Remus. “I can’t stand being in the same place as that.” He looked with disgust at the sallow-faced woman, who was still raining insults down on his head. Maeve quickly moved down the last few stairs and pointed her wand at the portrait, which looked at her first with alarm and then with scorn.
“Another bit of filthy scum!” She leered out from her frame. “And what do you think you can do with that bit of twig!” She began to cackle wildly.
“Silencio!” Maeve said calmly, and the woman, with a look of horror, was suddenly silent, although her mouth kept moving animatedly.
“Crikey!” said the witch in the doorway. “We’ve all tried that on her and it never worked before.”
“Call it beginners luck,” Maeve said with a shrug. She didn’t feel the need to add that all her exposure to banshees over the years had made her adept at blocking out the keening and cursing of old hags. The silencing charm wasn’t adequate enough on its own in these situations; you had to muster a steely look in your eyes that would brook no argument.
Now that Mrs Black was silenced the curtains seemed to give up the fight, so Remus was able to pull them together easily, with some relief. He turned gratefully to Maeve, who was looking aghast at the whole episode.
“There has to be a way to undo that sticking charm,” she said quietly. “She is enough to drive anyone mad.”
“The magic is too strong. We’ve been trying for a year,” said Molly with bitter resignation on her face.
“Not to mention trying to stick those curtains closed. It’s me that keeps waking her up too… sorry, we haven’t been introduced.” The young witch with rather alarming orange hair stuck out her hand. “Tonks is the name, pleased to meet you.”
“Selene, and it’s nice to meet you too.” Maeve couldn’t help but think that the colour orange didn’t really suit the pale face and dark eyes that peered out at her, but she didn’t think she ought to say anything.
“Harry, why don’t you go into the kitchen? Dinner is nearly ready and I could do with some help.” Molly smiled encouragingly, but Harry was still too angry and upset to agree to the suggestion.
“I’m not hungry,” he said moodily. “I just want to be left alone.”
Ron looked like he was about to say something but kept his mouth shut, shoving his hands deeper into his pockets. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence as Harry stomped off up the stairs; Molly urged Ron to go after him, but Ron shook his head. He had grown used to these moody outbursts now and was having nothing to do with it. Harry didn’t want company; he wanted to be left alone, so Ron was only too happy to oblige.
They all moved from the hall into the kitchen, which was alive with the clatter of pots and pans, and a delicious smell of cooking that emanated from the large stove in the corner.
“Smells good, Mrs W,” Tonks said appreciatively, to which Molly made an ‘it’s nothing’ gesture before whipping out her wand to get the dishes cleaned in the sink.
“Molly’s cooking always smells good,” said Remus, sticking a finger in one of the pots that was bubbling away on the hob. He pulled it back out again and licked the gloopy brown liquid off his finger. “And it tastes even better.”
“Oh, yuck, Remus. That is so unhygienic,” Tonks said, slapping at his hand. He grinned, reaching for a cloth to wipe off the remainder.
“Will Harry be all right?” Maeve asked, she had suddenly become less interested in eating and more concerned about the boy she hadn’t officially met yet. He was clearly not coping very well.
“He’ll get over it,” Ron answered her. “He wants to talk and then he doesn’t. It’s hard to know where you are with him.”
“Would it help if I tried to speak to him? He might be able to speak to someone he doesn’t know more easily than someone he does.” They all looked at her doubtfully. Everyone that knew Harry well, knew that getting him to confide in people, especially strangers, was next to impossible. But no one wanted to be the one to disabuse Maeve of her optimism and so kept quiet.
“You should eat before you do anything else,” Molly insisted, as Tonks waved her wand around, marshalling the place mats and cutlery into position. “Harry will still be there after we have eaten and perhaps you can try then.”
She reluctantly agreed, after receiving a nod from Remus, who had been hoping Harry would have been a bit better by now. He had collected him from the Dursleys just before he had left for the holiday with Maeve and although Harry had been undoubtedly pleased to see him, he had still been very withdrawn, almost anxious. He did agree with Molly that being back at school would probably help. It would give him something to concentrate his mind on, but it would also bring with it other problems, not least of which was Severus Snape. A plate of sausages and mash broke into his thoughts as it drifted down from the air, setting itself on the table before him with a clatter.
As similar plates of food began to arrive in front of Tonks and Maeve, the door opened and a tall, balding man entered, closely followed by a young teenage girl, who smiled at the assembled company.
“Arthur!” Molly beamed at her husband; lately she had taken to thanking Merlin every time he walked safely through the door on an evening. “You are late. I’ve been worried about you, and where have you been, Ginny?”
“I had a late crisis,” Arthur said, planting a kiss on his wife’s cheek affectionately. “One of those Aerie-Flames had been bewitched and was circling very low over Tower Bridge, alarming the Muggles no end, it was. No idea who did it, but we can’t rule anything out,” he ended darkly.
“Aerie-Flames?” Molly asked.
“Yes, yes… you know… those things they use to fly in. Tin boxes with wings and wheels,” he replied impatiently.
“I think you mean aeroplanes, Mr Weasley,” Maeve grinned. “I’ve flown in those a few times. They are quite efficient, if a little slow.”
“Have you really?” Arthur asked eagerly. “What’s it like? I have heard that your ears pop off your head and you have to suck a special sweet to bring them back again.”
“Something like that,” she laughed, “only not quite as exciting.”
“Fascinating,” he said and was about to ask her more questions when his daughter interrupted him.
“Ermm, Dad, don’t you think you should do some introductions?” She glanced at Maeve pointedly.
“Oh, yes, of course,” her father said, and then paused as he realised he didn’t have the foggiest idea who Maeve was.
“Selene Lupin,” she said, to save his embarrassment, “Remus’ sister.”
“You are! Yes, of course you are. Good holiday?” he asked.
“Yes, very good thanks, very relaxing.”
“And the car went well?”
“Very well,” she reassured him. “Like a dream.”
Remus made a strangled sort of noise as he remembered the car journey to and from the cottage. He bit the end off a sausage with something close to malice.
“I’m Ginny, the youngest Weasley. They saved the best ‘til last,” his daughter broke in, interrupting the flow of conversation. Ron snorted into his mash and Molly patted her daughter’s head affectionately.
Maeve sat amidst the noise and chatter and ate her meal. She occasionally chipped in when the conversation turned to something she was informed about, but for the most part it consisted of light banter between Tonks and Remus, and of Ron teasing his younger sister mercilessly. Arthur ate quickly and was the first to leave the table, saying he had paperwork to do for the Ministry that would take him quite some time. Tonks pushed her plate away and asked Remus if he would mind helping her with a problem she had with a spell, so they disappeared in the direction of the drawing room. This left Maeve feeling a bit abandoned and even Molly turned down her offer of help with the clearing of the table.
“No dear, you go and relax,” she insisted. “It doesn’t take two minutes with a bit of nifty wand work.”
She left the table to Ginny and Ron who were busy casting mild hexes on each other, much to their mother’s disapproval. Grimmauld Place offered some protection against the regulation that prohibited underage wizards performing magic outside school, but Molly was always conscious that they should be seen to be obeying the law.
Pausing in the corridor, Maeve listened to the sounds of the house around her and she smiled. Abbeylara had never sounded like this. Loud bangs were coming from the drawing room as, presumably, Tonks practised her spells. The wireless was playing softly in the room next to the kitchen and a light could be seen filtering through the crack at the bottom of the door. She could picture Arthur scratching away with his quill as he wrote a report about Aerie-Flames. A loud screech came from the kitchen, swiftly followed by Mrs Weasley’s raised voice telling Ron off for turning Ginny into an orang-utan.
She stood by the bottom of the stairs looking at the closed curtains that covered Mrs Black; immediately her thoughts turned to Harry and his lonely, self-imposed isolation. There were no windows in that part of the house and it was lit only with one guttering gas lamp by the door, so most of the hallway was in darkness. She flicked her wand and followed its light up the stairs to the first floor. A quick walk down the corridors soon revealed this wasn’t the floor where Harry had his room and so she climbed to the second floor where she was immediately rewarded with light spilling from a half open door. The house was silent now. No sound travelled this far up from the lower floors; a visitor could be forgiven for thinking he or she was completely alone. Hesitating outside the door for a moment she thought she heard a sniffle and wondered if he would appreciate her company or not. She reasoned with herself that if it were her, she would probably welcome a friendly face so she rapped the door gently with her knuckles.
“What?” came the surly response. She pushed the door open a little more and popped her head round it. He was lying on his back, on the unmade bed, staring obstinately at the ceiling and refusing to look in her direction. The room itself was a large one that contained two beds, an enormous wardrobe and walls that were plastered in orange posters featuring the grinning faces of the Chudley Canons Quidditch team. The men in the pictures were all laughing and cheering, Butterbeer splashing from the trophy they now held high above their shoulders, and she guessed they had just heard the score from the league cup.
“You okay?” she asked as casually as she could.
“Fine,” he said quickly, without looking at her.
“You don’t appear to be.”
“Well, I am. Perfectly fine, thank you.” He glanced her way briefly; a faint flicker of something crossed his face.
“So you won’t mind if I stay and chat for a bit. Everyone else is busy.” She perched herself on the edge of the bed, letting the silence sit in the air for a few minutes. His studious avoidance of her eyes meant she had the time to examine him at close range. He certainly bore a striking resemblance to his father, but there was something else there too, something that she couldn’t quite place. Eventually he could stand her silent presence no longer and sat up abruptly, ruffling his hair as he did so in a move that reminded her even more of James.
“Your father used to do that,” she said and as soon as she said it she realised she had made a mistake.
“You knew my father?” he asked eagerly.
“Yes, sort of,” she said, trying to play down the connection. “He visited us a few times with Remus, during the holidays.”
Harry looked a little disappointed and she felt again the discomfort of deception. She wanted to tell him she had been at school with his father but more importantly she wanted to tell him his mother had been her best friend. It was impossible of course; she would just have to continue with the pretence.
“You’re Remus’ sister then?” he asked, curiosity creeping into his voice.
“Yes, I am,” she said with a smile, hoping he would reciprocate, and he did in a half-hearted fashion. “I will also be teaching your Defence Against the Dark Arts classes this year.”
“Really?” he asked, the memory of last year’s teacher still raw with hatred and injustice.
“I understand it is one of your better subjects. Remus mentioned you had quite an aptitude for it.” She leant against the bedstead and swung her knees up onto the bed. If Harry was discomfited by this strange adult making herself at home on his bed, he didn’t show it.
“Yeah well, what with one thing and another I’ve had plenty of practice. Facing Voldemort tends to bring out the best in you.” His face was hard and yet just under the surface she could see the pain and the fear that lurked beneath.
“I know,” she said, drawing her knees up to her chin and resting her head on them.
“How could you know what it’s like to face Voldemort?” he asked angrily, tired of people saying they knew how it felt when, clearly, they did not.
“I know,” she repeated, and without questioning her or wishing to know how she knew, he believed her. “I know a lot of things Harry, but please don’t ask me how I know, because I can’t tell you.”
“I’m used to not being told things so it doesn’t make much difference.” There was a slightly petulant note in his voice, which caused her to feel a mixture of impatience and pity. Remus had told her exactly what had happened last year so she knew Harry bore a heavy weight on his shoulders. It couldn’t be easy for him, living with the knowledge that his future was in some way decided for him. It must be hard enough being singled out, but being singled out for all the wrong reasons was even worse.
“I am sure things were done with the best intentions,” she said. “It’s just that sometimes we can’t see the reasons and sometimes we kick back when we shouldn’t.” Maeve paused, realising she would have to offer up her own knowledge of the events of last July before Harry would open up further to her.
“Remus told me what happened at the Department of Mysteries,” she said gently. “I know that you, and your friends, experienced something far beyond your years.”
“It was beyond anyone’s bloody years,” Harry remarked, his voice bitter and dry.
“I realise that, Harry. I also realise that you might think that you are, in some way, to blame for what happened there.”
“I killed Sirius,” he said bleakly. She was surprised by his willingness to make a sudden reference to his dead godfather and for a moment didn’t know how to respond. “And Snape helped me.”
“Oh, Harry,” she sighed. “You didn’t kill Sirius. A series of unfortunate events brought about his death. He wouldn’t want you to blame yourself.”
“How do you know what he would want?” he asked dully.
“Because if I died I wouldn’t want people to blame themselves for my death. I would want them to get on with their lives. Have you spoken with anyone about what you are feeling?”
He looked at her scornfully, as if this was the most ridiculous suggestion he had ever heard.
“Who can I speak to? Mrs Weasley is well meaning, but sometimes it’s too much, and Ron says the wrong things. Remus hasn’t been here, and even if he had I think he would be as upset as I am.” He looked at her helplessly.
“Sometimes things are lost that are never grieved over, Harry. Don’t let Sirius be one of those things. If you need to talk to, or at, someone you can always have my ear to bend.” She watched as he took in this information, hoping that he would take her advice. He gave a slight smile and nodded grudgingly.
“Thanks, Professor Lupin,” he said in a small voice.
“Call me Selene,” she said, relief evident on her face. “And it’s a two way thing, you know. I want all the inside information on Hogwarts. I need good pointers on the other students I’ll be teaching… need to know who to crack the whip with.”
He grinned then, an action that made his face light up. She felt a physical jolt in her stomach as she realised he didn’t look like James at all; when he smiled he was the spitting image of Lily. She was beginning to think she might have to tell him the truth sooner rather than later. It was as if by lying to him she was betraying herself. She couldn’t explain the feeling, but it was beginning to gnaw at her brain.
“Why don’t you come down and have a bite to eat?” she offered, standing up and holding out her hand to pull him up.
“Only if you protect me from Mrs Weasley and her bone-crushing hugs!”
“It’s a deal,” she laughed, and they went down to join the others.