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A Wand With Sixteen Strings

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It was the first time Lawrie Marlow had met another set of identical twins, and she still wasn't sure whether she felt charmed or affronted. She leaned back against the wall of the train corridor, enjoying the rattle of the carriage's shell against her back, and let her twin Nicola do the talking whilst she made her decision.

"... the kind of reputations they've got. Kay's awfully clever, and Rowan can play any position she puts her mind to, and Ann's terribly good at Care of Magical Creatures, and Ginty..."

"Ginny?" said a tall red-headed boy in a rather battered robe, looking down at them in a kindly but disinterested way as he squeezed past them on his way down the corridor.

"Ginty - well, even Ginty's pretty good at Quidditch and people like her a lot, and last year Peter enchanted a bicycle and it was so funny when it..." Nicola tailed off. Lawrie regarded her with a sisterly eye, knowing as well as Nicola did that what their brother Peter mostly specialised in was grimly bestriding broomsticks as if he thought no one could tell he was scared of heights.

"And have you got to do all that too?" asked the twin with the blue hairclip, in a way that reminded Lawrie, slightly and unpleasantly, of her sister Rowan. Lawrie stored that particular expression away to try sometime; not on Rowan, who would be squashing in the extreme, but possibly on Ginty, or Ann...

It was a pity; if they'd all become friends, two sets of twins, it would have been exactly like something out of a school story and there would have been cases of mistaken identity and brave refusal to sneak and probably rescues from clifftops and daring broom-rides by moonlight. Lawrie stuck her chin out, practicing being brave in the face of what was practically crushing disappointment.

Still, the twin with the pink hairclip didn't seem so bad, even if she had spent all that time talking enthusiastically with Nicola about brothers who did adventurous things abroad in the service of the Ministry of Magic. Lawrie liked adventures as much as anybody - at least, she always told herself she did, because it would be so awful to be the other sort of person - but from some of the things Giles said, some of the things he had run into hadn't been adventurous at all. Lawrie hugged herself across the chest of her handed-down robes. Some of them had sounded awful, and made her insides feel collapsed and nasty for weeks.

"... I mean, honestly, if it wasn't for all the others going through this, I'd have thought it was all cracked," Nicola was saying. "I mean, wands and stuff, and shouting things in really bad Latin, and one of Kay's friends' head appeared once in the fireplace talking about Quidditch..."

"Margaret Jessop," said Lawrie, and hugged her arms closer across her chest.

"Oh, Margaret Jessop." The twin with the blue hairclip looked a bit more friendly.

Padma, that was her name, though Lawrie had thought she said Tadpole at first because of the noise of the train and asked (in her friendliest way, Lawrie added to herself, considering feeling hurt again) whether it was because they came at the tail-end of their family too. "Everyone says she's bound to be snapped up by the Holyhead Harpies once she leaves school. She already trains with them in the holidays. None of the other Houses stand a chance against Ravenclaw with her as one of their Chasers. I really hope I get Sorted into Ravenclaw."

Lawrie found herself hoping for a moment that she and Nicola would be in Ravenclaw too, though not because of Padma Patil. Her mind darted ahead to a vision of herself, the youngest Ravenclaw Seeker ever, snatching the Golden Snitch out from under the noses of her affronted sisters Rowan and Ginty.

"Oh, but we're bound to be in Gryffindor," Nicola was saying earnestly. "All the others have been, and Giles was a Prefect and Rowan's bound to be and so's Ann, and Kay's head girl, and..."

People in the crowd around the Quidditch pitch were saying quite distinctly that the two youngest Marlows outshone all their sisters and brothers put together. Lawrie was sliding off her broom looking pleased, proud and nobly self-conscious. Margaret was striding up to her, tall and dark in her blue Quidditch robes, and clapping her on the shoulder...

"You might not be in the same House," said the other twin, Parvati, earnestly. "I don't know whether Padma and I will be."

Lawrie felt as if she had just slid down something slippery and cold on her bare stomach. "Not in the same House?" she said in a small hunted voice. "But we have to be in Gryffindor - I mean, everyone is, even Ginty, and no one thinks she's a bit brave. We've simply got to be credits to the family. You can't imagine what they'd say if we ended up in Hufflepuff..."