“I missed this,” Vera said, sighing. Severus rolled his eyes—it was only the fifth time she’d said that since they’d settled in to their compartment, but it was already starting to grate. The satisfaction of getting on the train and snagging a compartment all to themselves hadn’t faded quite yet, but Severus thought losing twice in a row at Exploding Snap to someone slow from little play over summer hols might just give his contentment that extra shove out of his itching head. “Can we play again?”
“No,” Severus said, putting all the cards together. “I think you’ve won enough already.”
“Why is it always about winning with you?” Vera shook her head. “How about reverse Snap? Just one game, please—”
“All right, all right.” Severus began to shuffle the deck again, careful to work fast. “And what do you mean, why is it about winning? What else is a game about for you?”
“Company….and fun.” Vera said, accepting the cards he dealt her. “Um—doing your best?”
“Yeah,” Severus said, unable to hold back a smile. “Right.”
Vera ignored him. “It’s not who wins or loses,” she said, sliding her cards into a neat stack. “It’s how you play the game.”
While Severus processed that, he took a moment to tidy his own stack. “Who told you that, your mum?”
“Clearly,” Vera said, with a pointed look, “I haven’t won quite enough.”
“You’re rubbish at reverse Snap,” Severus said, shrugging. “You think too much. I think,” and he paused to draw a card, “I think I’ve got this one in the bag.”
“Besides,” Vera said, scowling at the card she’d flicked onto their tiny central pile, “if anyone told me that, it would have been my dad. Mum plays to win, period. Now, whether Dad would have meant it…”
The compartment door to their left slid open with a bang, causing one of the more excited cards to crackle. Unluckily, it was in the central stack, so the usual trick of avoiding contact wouldn’t work to keep it from exploding, and perhaps taking the rest of the stack with it.
“Can I have some help out here?” Lily sounded halfway to cross and tired besides, but Severus stayed put out of habit. Taking an eye off a game with Vera was out of the question unless you really did feel like losing. “Hello? I know you two are in there.”
“We’re playing snap,” Vera called out, edging out of her seat. “Come in and watch the cards, and we’ll get your trunk in.”
Lily stepped in, her hands on her hips, and rolled her eyes at how slowly Vera got up. “Paranoid,” she said, shaking her head. “Over Snap, of all things.”
“We both like to win,” Severus said, getting up. “Nothing wrong with that.”
“Is that the broom?” Lily edged aside to let Severus pass, then leaned in to poke at the bright finish and stick-straight twigs. “Ooh…shiny.”
“My mum made the elves polish it all summer,” Vera called back, now at one end of Lily’s trunk. “No idea why— her broom looks like a real sweeper, you know? Beaters don’t have time to watch out for the finish.” She took hold, eyed Severus, then said “Right, on three—”
“One,” Severus muttered. “Two—”
“Three!” Vera coughed in surprise as she hefted her end. “God, Lily, did you lighten this at all?”
Lily, now holding the door open for them, shook her head. “We’re not allowed magic out of school, remember? And we all woke up late this morning. I got on just as the whistle went.”
“Why,” Severus said, through gritted teeth, “didn’t you lighten it after that?”
The door slid shut behind them, startling Vera almost enough for her to drop the trunk. As it was, her fumble only managed to make Severus wrench his shoulder, and scratch up her fingers.
“Sorry,” Lily said, now trying to take hold at the side. “I thought I’d find you before it got too heavy. And when I didn’t…”
“It’s all right,” Vera said, sharply, shuffling backwards. “We’ve almost—got it—there!” She blew on the fingers of both hands. “Ow.”
Severus rubbed at his shoulder, torn between annoyance and the thought that he hadn’t moved to lighten the stupid thing either. Lily’s trunk was wedged in quite nicely now, snug between his and Vera’s, the three of them arranged in a comfortingly even progression of quality.
Then he turned, and found that Vera was already back in her seat, studiously ignoring her slightly larger pile of cards, looking very pleased with herself.
All Severus allowed himself was a dark look and an annoyed sigh. “My turn,” he said firmly, falling into his seat. Vera’s polite little smile only made him want to roll his eyes.