Parvati Patil fell in love with the Irish beach the moment she stepped out of the minibus and onto the sandy road. The air smelled so soft and fresh, and the breeze felt cool and invigorating.
Groups of teens were spread over the beach, sitting on colorful mats and chairs, or dancing to the loud and lively music of a Muggle radio. Halfway to the shore, she saw Seamus carefully setting up logs and sticks for a bonfire, the Muggle way.
She grabbed Lavender’s hand and pulled her across the sand, saying, “Isn’t this exciting! What do you want to do first?”
“Maybe find a place to sit….?”
Parvati ignored this and continued on, dragging a protesting Lavender behind her. So many unusual things to see!
A group of girls were playing a game with lime-green discs, flinging them in the air so that they floated down the beach to their friends, who jumped high to catch the discs and fling them back. Down by the shore, a some kids were throwing large yellow rings into the surf for their dogs to fetch, and another bunch were using red buckets to build a giant castle out of sand… without magic!
Then Parvati came upon the most interesting activity of all. In a rectangular court of especially fine-looking sand, bare-footed boys and girls were hitting a white ball over a net. They hit the ball with their fists and arms, and sometimes they dove quite spectacularly to reach it.
“Lavender!” she exclaimed. “Let’s try this!”
“Oh, I don’t know….” said Lavender, but Parvati had already jogged over to the game.
The ball flew out of bounds and straight at Parvati, who caught it and handed it to the sandy-haired girl who came chasing after it.
“Hey, would’ja like to play?” asked the girl.
“I’d love to!” said Parvati.
She untied her sarong, kicked off her sandals, and ran into place next to the girl, saying brightly, “I’m Parvati. Now, what are the rules again?”
Some of the kids laughed. “You’re not sayin’ you don’t know how to play?” said the girl incredulously.
A boy said, “You’re one of Seamus’ friends from that school in England! What’s it called?”
“The Hagrid Trelawney Flitwick Sprout College of Serious Academics,” replied Parvati, reciting the name they’d come up with on the bus. She hoped that Neville had already gotten the word to Seamus.
Seamus’ Muggle friends burst into laughter.
“That must be the maddest school name in all of England!” said the boy.
The girl who’d invited Parvati to play punched the ball straight into his chest.
“Never you mind him,” she said to Parvati. “I’m Chloe, by the way, and here’s how we play.”
Parvati caught on to volleyball quickly. The players were good and the action was fast, but after a year of Charmsnastics, Parvati had no trouble hitting the ball where she wanted it to go.
A crowd formed around the court, and kids starting queueing up to rotate in. Within a few rotations, the teams had reshuffled into boys against girls, and the girls were winning. After a successful dive to save the ball from hitting the sand, Parvati picked herself up and heard a boy shout,
“Dean! Couldja help us out? We’re getting creamed by your one from school!”
Dean came trotting over, wearing board shorts that were ironically in Gryffindor red and gold.
“From my school?” He exchanged some back slaps and fist bumps with the boys on the sidelines as the game began again.
“Parvati!” exclaimed Dean. “I didn’t know you play volleyball!”
“I don’t!” she shouted as she leapt and spiked the ball over the net for a point. Dean rotated in. This evened out the advantage, because Dean was very tall, and he played volleyball with his Muggle friends every summer. The boys scored a few points, and when it was Parvati’s turn to rotate out, Chloe said, “Now we’re in trouble!”
“No, you’re not!”
It was Ginny, whom Parvati hadn’t noticed waiting in the queue. She’d exchanged her blue-and-white gingham sundress for a blue-and-white gingham tank suit with white eyelet ruffles.
“Chloe! Put her in!” said Parvati, pointing at Ginny.
“No!” shouted Dean. “Make her wait her turn!”
Chloe laughed and said to Dean, “If I’m mad, I will!”
She turned to Ginny. “Have you played?”
“No, but I’m on the… um… lacrosse team.” This was another story they had concocted on the bus.
“Good enough for me!” said the girl.
Ginny wasn’t quite as accurate as Parvati, but after years of playing Quidditch, she was stronger, and even more willing to dive for the ball, and soon the girls were up again. Lavender and Luna joined Parvati in cheering on the players, although Luna cheered for Dean’s team until he rotated out.
Once on the sidelines, Dean noticed someone he knew, and waved her over.
“Don’t invite more girls!” groaned one of his teammates. “We’re getting killed here!”
Parvati saw a slender teen in a red bikini wave and head towards Dean. She asked, “Is that one of your friends from Ilford?” which was code for, is she a Muggle?
“No,” replied Dean, “she’s Serena’s cousin from Los Angeles.”
Parvati was intrigued. “That Stephanie! I’ve never met her!”
“I’ve always wondered if Serena were making her up,” said Lavender.
Stephanie joined them. “Hi, Dean. Are these your friends from —“
“The Hagrid Trelawney Flitwick Sprout College of Serious Academics – yes!” said Dean quickly. The Hogwarts girls giggled.
“Um… okay….” said Stephanie, looking confused. Stephanie had large russet eyes, and she wore her dark, glossy hair in short bob that framed her face.
“I’m Parvati, and this is Lavender,” said Parvati. “We’re so pleased to meet you! Serena mentions you all the time.”
“And this is my girlfriend, Luna,” said Dean.
“Hello,” said Luna.
“Serena says you’ve made the Charms team at UMCLA,” continued Parvati.
“You shouldn’t say that too loud,” said Luna in a whispery voice. “You’re supposed to call it lacrosse.”
“No, we call Quidditch lacrosse,” said Ginny, who had rotated out and joined them. “I don’t think we came up with something for Charms.”
“Why are you making up new names for things?” asked Stephanie.
Dean mouthed “Muggles” and mimed swishing a wand and hiding it with his hand.
Stephanie giggled and said, “Oh! We call them Prosies. You know, for Prosaics? Okay then, my story is I’ll be going to UCLA, and I’m a cheerleader. No — I’m on the dance team!”
“Got it!” said Dean.
“This is Ginny,” said Parvati. “She’s on Serena’s ‘dance team’ with us.”
“Hi,” said Stephanie.
“Hey, Parvati! You’re up!” shouted Chloe.
“Do you play volleyball?” asked Parvati of Stephanie.
“C’mon — I’ll have them add you after me!”
“Not more ringers from London!” shouted a boy when he saw Stephanie take the spot next up in line.
“She’s from Los Angeles!” called Parvati as she took her place on the court.
The game was still going strong when the delicious smell of cooking meat drifted over to the volleyball court. The die-hard players kept going, but slowly the others, including Luna, Lavender, and Ginny, drifted away toward the barbeque. Eventually Parvati started to feel very hungry herself, and was glad when a boy said, “Think we should call it? I’ve a mouth on me!” and the others agreed.
Parvati found her sarong and tied it back on as she headed to dinner with Stephanie, Dean, Chloe, and the rest of the players. The girls peppered Parvati and Stephanie with questions about what it was like to go to school in England and America. Parvati didn’t volunteer that the Hagrid Trelawney Flitwick Sprout College of Serious Academics was actually in Scotland.
Chloe wanted to know how to keep in touch with them, and Parvati was momentarily flummoxed, but fortunately Stephanie knew what to say in return. Parvati hoped that she would also know what to do with the eemaleaddy and eyearceenick that Chloe promised to give them.
The massive set of grills were supervised by Seamus’ dad, who sported his white chef’s jacket and a tall white hat over his longish silvery hair. He was assisted by a crew from his restaurant. There were also long tables of salads and puddings, and large coolers filled with fizzy drinks.
Parvati didn’t see Lavender and Ginny, but Ron and Hermione showed up soaking wet and shivering, the victims of an enthusiastic collie. Seamus’ father recognized them, and yelled, “Dean! Yer mates need some towels, quick-like!” Parvati giggled as he used his tongs to mime stealthy wand.
The party was supposed to be magic-free, but the Muggle teens crowded around the grill expressed astonishment that all this — the mammoth grill, the games, the music, the upcoming bonfire — was happening on the public beach, and what’s more, that they had the beach to themselves.
“What do you think?” she asked Stephanie, “Disillusionment charm?”
“Or a lot of money to rent it out,” replied Stephanie.
As Parvati filled her plate with apple and celery, shrimp kebabs, and grilled sausage, she saw Neville waving her over. The D.A. friends were gathered in a circle of chairs near the skeleton of one of Seamus’ bonfires.
“Come sit with us!” Parvati told Stephanie.
“Can my sister come, too?” asked Stephanie.
Stephanie waved across the crowd and shouted, “Nicole! Nicole!”
A young woman with spectacular chestnut hair looked up from one of the salad tables. She wore a flattering pair of beige shorts over a brown tank suit that was very much like Lavender’s, and carried a woven straw beach bag on her shoulder. Stephanie and Parvati headed toward her.
“Is she your older sister?” asked Parvati.
“Yeah, she just graduated from UCLA. For real. She wanted to go to UMCLA like me, but Dad wouldn’t let her.”
“He says she needs a Prosie business degree.”
“And you don’t need one?”
“I’m going into security, like my cousin Asmo. You need to know advanced magic for that.”
“You’re going to be an Auror?” Parvati was impressed.
“Something like that.”
“You must be really good. I don’t know anyone who’s in the Auror program in the UK. Of course, most of us are repeating our seventh year, because we didn’t really learn anything during the war.”
“Seventh year of what?”
“Oh, yeah. Serena said her mom wants her to do another year of Hogwarts, but Serena wants to go to college with me.”
Parvati felt sad that Serena didn’t want to return to Hogwarts. Although maybe she couldn’t; maybe she was still expelled. That McGonagall! Parvati had always like Professor McGonagall, but she was really being unfair to Serena.
“Is this Nari?” Nicole asked as they reached the salad table.
Stephanie rolled her eyes. “I told you Nari is Korean. She’s coming later. This is Parvati. She’s friends with Serena.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Parvati.
“Umm.. yeah, me too. Where is Serena?”
Parvati thought Nicole was rather rude, but for Serena’s sake she answered, “She’s probably with our friends over there near the the big boulder.”
She pointed to the place, which was easy to spot, because Neville was still standing and beckoning to his friends.
Stephanie said, “Parvati invited us to sit with them. Wanna come?”
Nicole studied the D.A. gang for a moment, and said, “Sure, okay.” She dropped some crudités on her plate. “Let’s go.”
As they continued on to the D.A. friends, Parvati asked Stephanie, “Who’s Nari?”
“She’s my girlfriend. We’re in the middle of orientation and she can’t get away until later.”
“For UMCLA. Freshman orientation.”
Parvati was flummoxed. “Fresh…. men? And what do you do with them?”
Nicole burst into laughter. “Depends on how hot they are!”
Stephanie found this funny, too, so Parvati never did find out how they oriented men at UMCLA.
When they arrived at the circle of chairs, Harry, Ginny, Hanna, Neville, Dean, and Luna were already seated with plates on their laps. Standing by the bonfire skeleton, an exasperated Seamus was telling a giggling Lavender, “I am not amused by that! Why’dja have to come up with that half-cracked school name? I’ll never remember it!”
“Well, it is your fault, Seamus,” said Hannah, with a grin.
“In all these years, you’ve never bothered to invent a name to tell your Muggle friends, so we had to invent one on the fly.”
“On the fly? It took you two bloody hours to get here!”
“He’s right!” squealed Lavender, who was laughing so hard now she could hardly talk. “We should have come up with a longer name!”
“Hey, everyone,” said Parvati, “some of you know Stephanie, and this is Nicole — they’re Serena’s cousins.”
She introduced them around as Seamus handed them chairs from a crack in a large boulder that Parvati suspected had a magically-enlarged interior.
“Bonfire duty again, Seamus?” said Stephanie.
“Isn’t it me always?” shrugged Seamus.
“Don’t let him fool you!” exclaimed Dean. “He won’t let anyone else do it!”
Hermione and Ron arrived with their plates, looking suspiciously dry.
“Hermione wants to know how you did it, Seamus,” said Ron loudly.
“Shhhh!” said Hermione anxiously. “Someone might hear!”
“Don’t worry!” said Ron, dropping into a chair with his overfilled plate, “We’re all wizards here.”
So I was right! thought Parvati. She said, “It’s a disillusionment charm, isn’t it Seamus?”
“It’s very impressive,” said Hermione. “You’ve covered a half-mile of beach!”
“I didn’t do it,” said Seamus.
“Who did? Your mum?” asked Ron.
Hermione jumped with a little squeak as Serena, wearing a colorful gauze skirt over a black tank suit, appeared from behind the log pyramid.
There was a general chorus of greetings directed at Serena from the group. Parvati laughed at the resigned look on Serena’s face as Lavender shrieked and threw her arms around her, pinning Serena’s arms and nearly lifting her off her feet. Ginny jumped up, and with a theatrical squeal, and did the same from the other side. Parvati thought Serena looked like a long-suffering pet cat.
Ignoring the commotion, Seamus asked Serena, “Didja bring the rest of the stuff?”
“Check the boulder,” said Serena in a deadpan tone, as Lavender and Ginny rocked her back and forth.
“That looks like fun!” shouted Stephanie, running around the circle.
“Don’t you dare!” growled Serena, but Stephanie shrieked and grabbed Serena from the back and joined in the rocking.
Nicole was laughing so hard she gasped for breath. “Where’s my camera?” she said, rummaging through her beach bag. “I gotta get a shot of this!”
Serena was rescued by a warning cry from Dean: “Heads up! Muggles at 6 o’clock!”
Chloe and a few of the volleyball players were descending on them. Ginny let go of Serena and waved.
“Howya!” said Chloe. “We came to tell you that the Beach Twister tournament starts at 8:30, if some of you would like to come to the grill and sign up.”
“What’s Beach Twister?” asked Lavender, also releasing Serena.
“It’s like regular Twister, only on bigger mats to play in the sand.”
The Hogwarts gang immediately looked at Dean and Hermione for guidance, but it was Stephanie who said, “Oooo! Fun! I’ll do it!”
Parvati quickly said, “I want to!” She had no idea what it was, but it couldn’t be harder than volleyball.
“Me, too!” said Lavender.
“Me three!” said Nicole.
Ginny laughed. “Me four!” She waggled Serena’s arm. “C’mon, do it with us!”
Serena rolled her eyes. “You don’t even know what it is.”
“Sure she does!” exclaimed Seamus, who emerged from the crack in the boulder carrying a blue-and-white chest. He quickly stepped in front of the girls, blocking them from going off with Chole’s gang. “We’ll send someone down with the final count!”
“ME FIVE!” shouted Serena, as Chloe and her friends walked away.
“What’s up with you?” said Ginny to Seamus, sounding annoyed.
It was Dean who answered. “Twister isn’t like volleyball or Frisbee. You can’t all say that you don’t know how to play. It would be very suspicious.”
Nicole looked confused as she glanced from person to person. “You don’t have Twister in…. Diagon Alley or wherever you’re from?”
“It’s a Muggle game,” said Hermione, putting what Parvati thought was an odd emphasis on the word “Muggle.”
“Can you tell us how to play?” asked Neville, looking at Dean.
“I can tell you, but we’d better wait before I show you. You don’t want to do it on an full stomach! Ummm… Steph, Nicole — maybe you should help me out, in case I’ve forgotten some of the rules.”
“No sweat,” said Stephanie.
Nicole pulled a small, black, metal block out of her pocket and looked at it, saying, “You’ve got, like, forty-five minutes before they start.”
Parvati wondered why her pocket watch was rectangular. Maybe that was the fashion in Los Angeles.
As the gang pulled their chairs around Dean, Seamus opened the chest, which was filled with ice and bottles, and said, “Who wants butterbeer?”
There was a chorus of “Me!”s and “I do!”s as Seamus started pulling out bottles. Parvati got up to help, taking several to distribute.
“Stephanie? Nicole?” she offered.
Parvati wasn’t sure what they meant, but from the looks on their faces, they didn’t want any.
“Not fans?” laughed Dean.
“There’s some Sierra Nevada in the red cooler,” said Serena to Seamus.
“I’ll have that,” called Stephanie.
“So will I,” said Nicole.
Parvati handed two butterbeers to Harry and Ginny, and opened one for herself. Before she could sit down, Hermione caught her arm and pulled her a few steps away.
“Parvati, they aren’t Muggles, are they?” she asked in a worried tone, indicating Stephanie and Nicole.
“No!” Parvati was surprised. Then she remembered that Hermione had joined the group after she’d made her introductions. “You weren’t here when they arrived. They’re Serena’s cousins.”
Parvati expected Hermione to look relieved, but she didn’t. Parvati asked, “Why do you think they’re Muggles?”
Hermione looked distracted. “Just… some of the things they say and do.”
“They’re witches,” Parvati assured her. “They just do things differently in the States. Do you know how to play Twister?”
“What? Oh, yes, but….”
“You have to join the tournament — you’ll give us an advantage!” Parvati had no idea if Beach Twister even had teams, but she hoped that an encouraging tone would convince Hermione to play, because Hermione looked so out-of-sorts.
Parvati rejoined the group and listened while Dean explained Twister. Ron laughed until he was red in the face.
“That’s the most mental game I’ve ever heard of!”
“Are you going to play?” asked Harry.
“I dunno — I think it’ll be more fun to watch!”
“How is it played as a tournament, Dean?” asked Luna.
“I’m not sure, but I’ll bet everyone’ll be asking that. You just have to know the basics so you seem like an ordinary Muggle.”
“Well, I’m game to try,” said Neville. “Hannah?”
She smiled. “Of course. Harry?”
“I’ll go sign everyone up,” said Ginny. “You, too, Seamus?”
“I won’t; by the time it’s ending, I’ll have to start the fires and help my Dad set up the s’mores.”
“Hey, aren’t those the marshmallow things your parents made?” Ron asked Hermione.
For the first time all day, Parvati saw Hermione smile. “Yes, they’re delicious. Are we all going to make them, Seamus?”
“As many as you’d like,” he replied.
“You’re going to have to use magic,” said Hermione, “if you’re going to offer ‘as many as you’d like’ to Ron!”
While Ginny was gone, the rest of them pulled the chairs back into a large circle, leveled off an area of sand within it, and put down two Twister mats that Dean had transfigured out of a beach blanket from the privacy of the “crack” in the boulder. When Ginny returned, they began to practice.
Dean acted as coach. Parvati was surprised that Serena wasn’t familiar with the game; she had to learn along with the rest of them. Soon they were all shouting and giggling and swearing as they contorted their bodies into crazy positions and fell on top of each other. Parvati and Serena were the most flexible, while Harry had the best balance, Ginny had the most stamina, and Ron and Neville had the advantage of being tall.
They played some elimination rounds, and were finally left with Serena and Ginny against Parvati and Nicole.
Stephanie was the referee. The rest of the gang picked sides to bet on and stood close around the mat, cheering and jeering. The competition for the colored dots was intense, and somehow they ended up piled in the middle, with Parvati precariously balanced in a Trikonasana pose.
“Timberrrrr!” shouted Stephanie as Nicole began to wobble.
“Stick it, Nichole!” shouted Parvati, but it was too late.
With the gang’s roar of laughter in her ears, and a spray of sand as they scrambled away, Parvati toppled over onto her back and looked up into the eyes of the most handsome man she had ever seen.
It was starting to get dark, and despite being tangled up with four other people on the Twister mat, Parvati was shivering. She wished she were wearing her yellow muggle track suit, made of a velvety material called vel-oor, but it was on the bus, and there was no way to Accio it across the beach. Or was there? The crowd was laughing and shouting at the players. Muggle ale was freely passed around, and everyone was, in Chloe’s words, half-cut.
You idiot! she told herself. You don’t have a wand! It’s on the bus, too!
“Parvati!” yelled her current teammate, a girl named Erin.
Parvati snapped her attention back to the game — she had almost missed the referee’s call. She quickly found a red dot for her right hand and fought to balance herself. She heard a brief wooshing-roaring sound, followed by a glow of light and warmth on the left side of her face. Seamus had lit one of the bonfires, and the crowd cheered.
From her downward-dog position, she couldn’t see anything but the feet of the noisy spectators who surrounded her mat, but that view was enough to distract her again, because her eyes fell upon a very particular pair of sandals, worn by a very particular pair of feet. He was watching! Parvati hoped she didn’t look ridiculous. Then she hoped she could keep her mind on the match, knowing that he’d come to see her compete. If he’d come to see her. Had he come to see her? Maybe he just happened to be standing by her mat while he was scanning the beach for someone else. Maybe he didn’t even know she was right in front of him. Maybe it was better he didn’t know, because she probably looked a mess.
Her mind completely off the game, Parvati carelessly jammed her right foot diagonally back onto a green dot, throwing herself off-balance. She swayed and fought to stay upright, as Erin shrieked, and the opponent boy whose back she was straddling shouted, “She’s gonna fall!”
The noise around the mat intensified. The spectators had started a chant. Whether it was for her team or the other team, Parvati couldn’t tell. She had to stay up! It was the semi-finals; she and Erin could win! Forget that man! Don’t look at his feet!
But she couldn’t look away. He wore the most amazing huaraches sandals in a beautiful shiny chocolate-brown leather, and above his ankles she could see the rolled cuff of his tan linen drawstring beach trousers, and above that she knew was a very white cotton shirt, buttons undone to reveal a golden, muscular chest, and above that….
Merlin! The ref had called red! Where was red?
She moved her right foot over again. Now her legs were really twisted up! Her arms started to shake. Someone shouted, “Hang on, Parvati!” But it was too late. The referee called blue, the boy underneath her moved, and her arms gave out.
There were cheers and groans as Parvati collapsed.
“Game goes to the team of Walsh and Fitzsimmons!” cried the referee. The boys leaped and bumped chests as their mates crowded around them.
“Sorry, Erin!” said Parvati as she sat up.
But Erin was already trotting away toward the leaderboard to check the scores. “Ye gave it a lash!” she shouted over her shoulder.
Parvati sat for a moment to catch her breath. She was staring at the bonfire when, for the second time that evening, a well-manicured hand reached down to help her to her feet.
Parvati felt both thrilled and nervous as she put her hand in his. When he pulled her up and she met his eyes again, she smiled widely before she even realized she was doing it.
“You keep helping me up,” she said.
“You keep falling.”
“I’m not clumsy, you know.”
“I can see that.”
Her hand was still in his. She couldn’t think of a thing to say. A cool breeze swept by, and she shivered.
“Maybe we should get closer to the fire,” he said, not stopping for a reply as he led her, not to the big bonfire near the tournament area, but to a smaller one that was close to the shore. There were several very large, smooth logs set around the fire, and Parvati saw some people using them to lean up against as they sat on blankets in the sand. She recognized Nicole, who was deep in conversation with a young man, and didn’t notice Parvati.
Maybe this was where the Serpentias are hanging out, thought Parvati. This was the only thing she knew about the handsome man: he was Serena’s cousin. Well, also that his name was Bel, spelled B-E-L. It was short for something, but she couldn’t remember what. She knew these things because he’d told her the first time he’d helped her up from the ground, when the gang was practicing for the tournament.
“Better?” he said with a smile, as they stood before the flames.
“Yes, but I do wish I’d thought to get my Muggle clothes from the bus before the tournament began. There’s no way to Accio them now.”
“Hmmm…..” considered Bel. “How about this?”
Parvati felt something warm settle around her shoulders. It was a large pashmina shawl, very like the one Serena had made for her after the Battle. It was even….
“How did you know?” she asked Bel.
“That you were cold?”
“That I was thinking of my yellow wrap!”
“Maybe I just thought it would look nice on you.”
Parvati couldn’t stop grinning, and hoped she didn’t look like an idiot.
“Bel!” A tall woman with curly dark hair was impatiently signaling him to come to her.
Bel looked annoyed for a moment, but he smiled at Parvati and said, “I’ll be right back. Make yourself comfortable.”
Parvati sat down and leaned against a massive log, which had been stripped of its bark and polished smooth. She hugged the shawl around her, thinking she must be mad. Bel was certainly far older than she was. Did he know she was only eighteen? Maybe he thought she was at University, like Nicole.
“Did you win?” came a voice from Parvati’s left. Nicole had finally noticed her.
“No, I was eliminated in the semi-finals.”
“Bummer. I was out after the second round. Totally bogus call.”
Her friend laughed. “You were drinking a beer during the point!”
“Hey, that beer was touching the mat!”
“I’m Daryl, by the way,” he said to Parvati.
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Parvati.”
“I haven’t seen you before,” said a new voice. It was another young man, who was standing on the other side of the fire.
Parvati wondered why he would have expected to recognize her. Maybe this was a close group of friends from California?
She answered, “I’ve never seen any of you before today, either. I’m Parvati Patil.”
“Well, Parvati, why don’t you come join us over here…” he said, indicating a small group behind him.
“Back off, Rhys!” snapped the tall woman with dark hair, who stepped over a log to Parvati’s right and sat down. “She’s with Bel.”
Rhys raised an eyebrow. “Oh, so you’re Belial’s new “girlfriend.”
Parvati didn’t like the emphasis he placed on “girlfriend,” nor that everyone seemed to be jumping to that conclusion.
“I’m not…. we just met.”
“Well, you will be,” he said snidely. “Enjoy it while it lasts.”
Before Parvati could think of some choice words to say, Rhys was flattened by a stream of fire that came from the direction of the shore. Apparently Nicole hadn’t ditched her wand, because she was the one who called out, “We said back off!”
Parvati was momentarily horrified, thinking that Nicole had burnt him badly, but Rhys just crawled off to his friends’ log, and they laughed at him, so he must have been all right.
“Thanks,” she said to Nicole.
Nicole snorted. “Don’t thank me. Rhys is right — you gotta watch out for Bel. He’s a real land shark.”
Parvati had never heard of a “land shark,” but she understood what it meant. She was in over her head. She should express her regrets via Nicole and head back to….
“Here we go.”
Bel stepped over the log and sat down next to Parvati, two brown bottles in his hand. The instant he flashed his thousand-candle smile, all doubts left Parvati’s mind. He handed her a bottle, saying, “This will keep you warm.”
The bottle felt cool, but the slightly fizzy liquid inside felt warm going down. For the first time, Parvati understood how a beverage could be described as “dry.” It tasted a little like someone had added an orange to herbs and infused them with whiskey vapor, but it wasn’t sweet at all.
“So, now, Parvati, tell me about yourself.”
Parvati found it easy to talk to Bel. He actually knew a fair bit about Hogwarts, and seemed interested in her plans to get a N.E.W.T. in Divination and go on to be a professional Seer. Parvati was fascinated to learn about his work at Ophidian Enterprises, where he was something called a veepee, and she was absolutely floored to learn that Ophidian Enterprises owned Magical Wonder cosmetics.
“I love Magical Wonder!” she said enthusiastically. “We used to buy it at Weasley’s, of all places. I never understood why it wasn’t sold at Gladrags or Teen Witch. During the war, Weasley’s closed, and we were all rationing whatever we had left. Now Serena brings it back from Los Angeles — that’s why she can always get it! I wonder why she never told us that her family owns it?”
“I don’t know, but I do know that you’d make a great spokesmodel for the line.”
“A spohks-mahdel? What’s that?”
Bel laughed. “A beautiful woman who appears in ads.”
“Oh… OH! You’re just saying that!”
“I’m being completely honest.”
Parvati was embarrassed, but pleased. She stared into the fire, and felt Bel put his arm around her. She leaned into him, marveling at how comfortable it felt. She let her mind wander a bit, and soon she was seeing stories unfold in the flames. She’d been practicing her fire divination, but had never actually predicted anything with it. Now she saw a story about people who lived in a little fire village. Bel must have sensed that she was divining, because he asked, “What do you see?”
Parvati described the little fire village. “There’s a great ball in a palace that overlooks the village, and most of the people are gathered there, but at the edge of town is a snug little cottage where a couple is caring for their new baby, and at the bottom of the hill is a woodsman, rather like Hagrid, who is glad to put his feet up by the fire. Some fashionable people are driving up to the palace in fancy carriages to make a grand entrance, and leaving the palace from the back are a group of young people who want to have some privacy for their own gathering…. oh, dear…. they’re going to be interrupted….”
In the distance, Parvati heard someone calling her name. She scolded herself internally for allowing herself to be distracted.
“False alarm — I wasn’t concentrating properly. The young people have hidden themselves away; I can’t see them anymore. But at the ball the people are wearing the most beautiful embroidered suits and gowns, and dancing so joyfully. There’s a man who looks rather like you.”
“Is he with a woman who looks like you?”
“I can’t tell….”
“I’m sure she does. She looks stunning in a sumptuous jewel-toned embroidered gown. He’s offering his hand for a dance.”
And then she saw it, just as he described. She turned to look at him, and felt powerfully drawn into his eyes. She thought she knew what would happen next…. but she was wrong. Just his lips touched hers, Bel was hit by a stinging jinx that them both jump.
“Get yer mitts off her!” It was Seamus, red-faced and furious.
“What the hell, Finnegan!” shouted Bel, staggering to his feet.
“Let’s go, Parvati! You don’t want to be with that man.”
Parvati felt humiliated, then angry. She rose and steadied Bel by his left arm; his right side was so swollen that he was having trouble staying upright.
“Leave us alone, Seamus! You’re out of order! And you’ve used magic in front of Muggles!” As she said this, Parvati realized that the beach was mostly deserted.
“They’ve all gone, and the bus is leaving now as well.”
“Then you can just Accio me my wand, and I’ll apparate back home!”
There were hoots and laughter from the people around the fire.
“Don’t mess with her, Finnegan!” called Daryl.
“I have your wand!” It was Lavender, sounding a little tipsy as she slogged unsteadily through the sand with Parvati’s wand and track suit.
“I thought you might want to stay a while…. Hey, what’s wrong? Is he all right?” She looked confused by Bel’s injury, and the angry stare-down between Parvati and Seamus.
“I’m fine,” snarled Bel. He straightened himself, and stepped away from Parvati. The swelling in his arm was diminishing.
“Seamus was just leaving,” said Parvati forcefully as she took her things from Lavender.
“I will, yeah!”
“Yes, you will!” She turned to Lavender, grateful that she was such a thoughtful friend. “Thanks for bringing these.”
“Who’s your friend, Parvati?” called a girl from Rhys’ group. “Ask her to stay awhile!”
“No one’s staying!” shouted Seamus.
“You’re out of line, Finnegan!”
Parvati turned back at the dangerous growl in Bel’s voice, and saw that he and Seamus were facing off, each with a hand in the air, although there were no wands to be seen.
“Leave, Finnegan, or you’ll regret it.”
“These are my friends, and I’ll regret nothing!”
“I can’t believe this!” cried Parvati. “You’re actually going to duel? Don’t be ridiculous!”
They ignored her. Parvati was alarmed to see that an orb of fire was forming in each of their outstretched hands. She had to do something. She was angry at Seamus, but he was still her friend, and if there were a duel, she was afraid that he would lose badly.
She ran and stood in the middle of their path, looking back and forth between them. “Please don’t!”
The men spoke simultaneously, Bell sounding calm as he said, “Step back, Parvati; it’s not safe for you to stand there,” and Seamus sounding a little panicked as he said, “Get out of here, Parvati! Go back to the bus!”
“NO! Stop it, both of you! Stop it right now!”
They weren’t listening. What could she do? She dropped her track suit and brandished her wand, pointing it first at Bel, then Seamus.
The duelers froze in place. A hush fell over the group by the fire, followed by an awed “Woah!” from Rhys.
Parvati felt relieved for a moment, until Lavender tiptoed up to her, nervous eyes on Bel and Seamus, and whispered, “What do we do now?” Parvati realized she had no idea.
The silence was broken by great peals of laughter. It was Serena, who appeared out of the darkness, bent over in mirth. She was followed by Stephanie, and a girl who must be Nari.
Serena was barely able to gasp, “They…. look…. so…. STUPID!” before being overtaken again. Stephanie and Nari looked a little stunned, but then they started to giggle, too. The laughter broke the silence around the fire, and the group joined in the merriment. Nicole gleefully pulled out her camera, saying, “I gotta get a picture!”
Parvati didn’t find the situation funny at all. If she unfroze Bel and Seamus, they might start fighting again, and they might be very angry with her. Certainly they wouldn’t like to be laughed at. Bel will probably never speak to me again, she thought sadly. But then, he wasn’t entirely the victim, now was he?
Her dilemma must have showed on her face, because Serena came over, still smirking, and said, “Don’t worry — I’ll take care of it. You two go home.”
“I don’t…. maybe I should….” stammered Parvati, but Serena was firm. She shoved Parvati and Lavender further up the beach, into the darkness, calling loudly, “Goodnight, Belial! Goodnight Seamus! Goodnight Everyone! Bye-Bye!”
Then, in a softer voice, she asked, “Can you find your way back?”
“Yes,” said Lavender.
“Good. ‘Night!” And she turned around and marched back to the fire.
Parvati felt the tears come. It had been such a lovely evening — how had everything gone so wrong in the end? She turned to Lavender and said, “I don’t think I can face the bus right now.”
“I can’t, either. Your house, or mine?”
“Yours. Your mum won’t interrogate us for details.”
“See you on the other side.”
“See you on the other side.”
They both pointed their wands to the ground, and Disapparated off the beach.