A/N: Thank you all so much for reviewing, favoriting, and following! It truly makes my day to hear from you!

I neglected to mention this in my first chapter, but here's what you can expect from me as far as updates: generally a new chapter takes me between two to four weeks to write, depending on what's going on in my life, how long the new chapter is, and how difficult the new chapter is being. I generally try to include a rough estimate of when the next chapter will be up whenever I post a new chapter. I also try to keep my bio on my profile updated, so if something happens, you can find that information there. So that being said, I'm hoping to have Chapter 3 posted by early to mid August 2018 at the very latest.

Shameless plug: while you are waiting for updates on this, check out Playing With Fire, another Fred/OC fic that I'm writing.

One small correction: I realized as I was researching some vegetation for the Mediterranean region that bougainvillea blooms from July through September, not in May. I'm going to retroactively pretend that it's magic bougainvillea that blooms year round. Problem solved!

Chapter 2: Coffee

I used to be a morning person. It was easy to be a morning person before the War, when sleep came swiftly and predictably and dreams didn't always turn into nightmares. I liked getting up early; I liked having a head start on my day. It was the sort of thing that I never expected to change in any significant fashion.

But it did, of course.

After the War, mornings became harder. I woke up exhausted more often than not. Sometimes I'd wake up in the middle of the night, most often by a nightmare but sometimes for no reason at all. Sometimes I'd fall asleep too late; other times I'd wake up at three or four in the morning and not be able to fall back asleep.

And sometimes, I would have a normal night of sleep. No nightmares. No waking up. This was becoming more frequent the more years I put between myself and the Battle of Hogwarts, but it still wasn't quite often enough to feel like anything other than a minor miracle when it did happen.

There were, of course, magical solutions that I could try. Both my parents and Alicia had been campaigning for this for as long as I'd been sleeping poorly. And I did try them at first—Calming Draughts, tinctures for dreamless sleep, the lot of them—but I found that I couldn't continue using them on a regular basis, as they left me feeling a bit groggy and sluggish the following day.

There was a second truth, though, that I kept to myself: there was a part of me that felt that this was the punishment that I deserved for my role in what had happened at the Battle of Hogwarts.

I knew this was problematic. I knew that it wasn't a truth so much as it was the warped conclusion of a broken heart and a textbook case of survivor's guilt. If I'd been reading this account in a novel, I would be sighing irritably and muttering, "Just tell someone!"

But I didn't. The insidious mantra persisted uninterrupted: Evan was dead because he'd gone after me. If not for me, he might still be alive.

So instead, I developed a rather strong dependency on coffee and held that terrible secret close to my heart.

The first night in Las Ballenas, I woke up before the dream got bad. In the dream, I was sprinting down the corridor and Evan was chasing after me because he knew I couldn't stun worth a damn when I got upset and my hands had already been shaking when I'd taken off running. Evan, once again, thinking of me before he thought of himself, putting me before him without a second thought; me, too blind and selfish to slow down for thirty seconds and think about the stupid, stupid thing I was about to do.

I was running down the corridor and leading Evan to his death.

I woke up with a start, my heart pounding in my ears as though I'd just sprinted the length of the corridor. I looked at the clock on the bedside table. Half past two.

Even here in the world's most comfortable bed, I couldn't quite escape my demons.

I stared at the ceiling for a while and tried to do the meditation exercises that Mum had read about in a Muggle magazine. When that didn't work, I tiptoed out onto the terrace with my book and read until that sprint down the corridor began to fade into memory and my eyes began to grow heavy. I crept back into bed a little after four.

I woke again around half past six as Alicia was collecting her clothes from the wardrobe.

"Sorry, did I wake you?" she asked quietly when she noticed me stirring.

"It's fine," I mumbled. "I'll drop back off in a moment."

Alicia frowned and sat down next to me on the bed. "Did you wake up last night?"


"How long?"

"From half past two to about four."

She sighed. "I told you to wake me if that happened."

I would never wake Alicia, at least not if I could help it. This was burden I had to bear alone. Alicia didn't deserve to lose sleep over my demons, not when she'd been the one to save me, the one who'd kept my parents from losing both of their children.

I couldn't tell her this, of course. "'s not your problem if I can't sleep."

"I could keep you company at least."

"It's fine, really."

She sighed again, her hand coming to rest on my shoulder. "Oh, Maggie-Mac." This was a nickname I only heard when she was worried about me, a callback to our childhood when things were easier. She squeezed my shoulder and I felt the bed shift as she got up. "I'm going to shower. Go back to sleep."

Alicia takes notoriously long showers, so by the time she was done, I'd managed to sleep a little longer and I was feeling slightly more awake. I took a quick shower—or quick by Alicia's standards—and when I emerged twenty minutes later, she had donned a green swimsuit and matching sarong.

"Ready for the beach?" she asked, shaking out a beach towel and folding it into a neat square.

"I'm ready for coffee," I said, yawning.

"You're always ready for coffee," she said with a wry smile. "I'm going to pop down to the lobby—they've got a little breakfast setup. I'll see if they've got coffee. Do you want anything to eat?"

I rummaged in the dresser for my swimsuit. "Just a banana or something is fine."

"All right, I'll be back in a moment." Alicia left the room and I went into the bathroom to change.

My swimsuit was a black one piece with white polka dots and a sweetheart neckline—the sort of thing that's meant to look like a vintage piece from the forties. I'd bought it just before we left. It was the sort of purchase that I had overthought several times over. I didn't want people to look at me and know that I was trying to cover my scars and I thought if I bought an objectively cute swimsuit, the fact that it was a one piece wouldn't occur to people.

Like I said: I had overthought it. Most likely, no one would even think about it.

I was careful to turn away from the mirror when I stripped down in the bathroom. It wasn't that I couldn't bear to look at myself—I could—I just knew from past experience that if I didn't turn away, I was likely to linger, staring at myself in the mirror, trying different angles to see if the scarring looked better under a different light (it never did).

And eventually, my mind would wander back to that day in May and Evan's lifeless eyes…

It wasn't the sort of exercise that led to anything productive. It was easier, in the end, to turn away. I stepped into my swimsuit and pulled it over my hips, only turning to the mirror when I slid my arms into the straps.

It was a nice swimsuit. I looked good. For a moment, I allowed myself to pretend that I had chosen it because of what it enhanced, not because of what it hid.

The moment passed. I turned away.

I was fundamentally unprepared for the beach, I was realizing as I opened my dresser drawers. I didn't have a matching sarong like Alicia or an attractive cover up to wear over my suit. This was probably something I should have thought about before I left. This was probably something that I should have thought about instead of worrying about the hidden meanings that people could possibly extract from my swimsuit choice. Eventually, I decided on a pair of white shorts, hoping that it looked at least sort of intentional and not like a last minute solution.

Alicia came back as I was preparing to slather myself in sunscreen.

"I've good news and bad news," she said, handing me a banana. "The good news is that they had bananas."

My heart sank. "They didn't have coffee?"

"They are out. Or at least I think that's what the man was telling me. My español is not so bueno, so there could be more to it than what I was able to glean." She made a sympathetic face. "Sorry. You could try a Wakefulness Charm, maybe? Or we can see if there's a shop nearby."

I sighed and began peeling my banana. I preferred coffee to magical solutions. I liked the taste of coffee, for one. I liked the ritual of it. I liked that it gave my hands something to do. I liked how it stung my lips and tongue when it was slightly too hot. It felt like an anchor, especially the morning after a particularly rough night.

"Maybe." I took a bite of the banana. "I'll see how long I can manage without."

"All right." She picked up my bottle of sunscreen and frowned. "SunShield? Isn't this the stuff they sell to vampires?"

"Dad insisted," I said, rolling my eyes. "I think he genuinely believes I'm going to burst into flames."

"Typical." She set the bottle back down. "Lee and Fred are awake. I told them we'd meet them on the beach in twenty minutes or so."

"What about the others?"

"George and Angelina are stirring. We are ninety percent certain that Katie and Wood are shagging, so who knows when they'll be ready."

I wrinkled my nose. "Did I really need to know that?"

"I didn't want to either." Alicia shrugged. "You can be united with the rest of us in this horrible knowledge."

"Ugh." I finished the last bite of my banana. "Have you eaten by the way?"

"Had some sort of pastry with strawberries while I was talking to Fred and Lee." She frowned. "I suppose I should have had something healthier given the fact that I'm meant to fit into a dress by the end of the week, but in my defense, it was a very good pastry."

"You don't have to justify pastry consumption to me, ever."

"Thank you for your support. It means a lot." She glanced at the clock. "We ought to start getting our things sorted."

I slathered myself in SunShield, which left me smelling strongly of eucalyptus, before pulling on the pair of shorts I'd selected earlier. I'd at least had enough foresight to remember to bring a beach bag, so I had somewhere to stash my towel, sunscreen, water bottle, wand, book, and sunglasses. Alicia puttered around, filling up her own bag and applying a generous layer of sunscreen.


"Think so."

I hitched my bag on my shoulder and we walked out from our terrace and onto the beach. The sand was soft between my toes and a pleasant breeze tickled my face. The ocean was again that impossible shade of aquamarine and the sky was bright blue and flecked with fat white clouds that looked like tufts of cotton.

Maybe Las Ballenas wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Maybe.

The beach was fairly empty this early and we were able to find a spot not too far from the shore that was partly shaded by a large palm tree. We spread out a blue and white striped blanket on the sand, setting our bags on the edges to keep the wind from getting at it.

"Right," said Alicia as I plopped down on the blanket. "I'm going to help Lee with the rest of our things. You're in charge of holding our spot."

"Whenever you need someone to sit around and not move, I'm your girl," I said, giving her a mock salute. She stuck out her tongue and trudged away. I took my book out from my bag and flipped it open.

About ten minutes later, a shadow fell over me. I looked up and found Fred, carrying a travel coffee cup in each hand.

"I was told you were in search of coffee," he said, handing one of the cups to me.

"You are an angel," I said fervently, taking the cup from him and inhaling deeply. Nothing had ever smelled more glorious.

He chuckled, sitting down next to me, shrugging out of his backpack. "I would've brought you an entire samovar if I'd known that's how you'd react."

"I have strong feelings about coffee." I took a sip. "This is quite good."

"It's from that little shop just across the road."

"How much do I owe you?"

He shook his head. "Not a thing."

I arched an eyebrow at him. "Oh go on, let me pay you back. I would have fallen asleep on the beach without this, you've saved me quite a lot of embarrassment."

He grinned. "I couldn't let that happen, now could I? Not the week of Lee and Alicia's wedding, that's no time for a scandal." He took a sip of his own coffee. "Really, it's no trouble."

"Well, you'll have to let me buy you a coffee by the end of the holiday," I said, taking another sip.

"I suppose I can allow that."

We were both quiet for a moment, sipping our coffees and watching the ocean. It wasn't exactly an awkward silence, but it wasn't an entirely comfortable one, either. I'd never really spent any time alone with Fred and I found myself feeling a bit nervous, trying to come up with something interesting to say.

"Sleep all right?" I asked after a moment, wincing internally. Not exactly the most exciting topic.

Fred shrugged. "Well enough." There was a beat of silence. "You?"

"Not really," I said, before I could think about it. Another internal wince. Getting into your personal issues stemming from the War. Excellent move, Maggie, you're like the Oscar Wilde of awkward conversations.

"Sorry to hear that," he said. "Time change?"

"No, I just haven't slept very well since…" I trailed off, clearing my throat rather awkwardly. Fred looked at me, tilting his head to the side. "Sorry," I said, taking another sip of coffee. "Generally, I don't bring up the War at—" I looked at his watch. "—nine o'clock in the morning, but you've caught me before I've had my coffee and I'm afraid I'll be a bit of an idiot until about half past when my brain finishes waking up."

He gave me a strange sort of smile, like he didn't quite know what to make of me. "No need to apologize."

"You should at least have had your coffee and perhaps a few glasses of wine before you have to listen to me talk about the War," I said, trying to seem more casual and less embarrassed than I felt. "So for your sake, I'm changing the subject. What about the others? Are George and Angelina awake yet?"

His smile turned into a full-on grin, but he didn't try to redirect the conversation. "George was in the shower last I checked, so that's progress."

"And Katie and Oliver?"

"Still shagging, as far as I know."

My lips twitched. "Well, I suppose you have to applaud their endurance."

Fred snorted. "Knowing Wood, he's likely got a very grueling training regimen. Cream of wheat for breakfast, a banana with every meal, no caffeine or alcohol, twenty pushups before and after the act."

I made a face. "There's an image I could have done without."

His lips curled into a sly grin. "What? Oliver doing pushups in the nude post-coitus?"

I gave an exaggerated shudder. "Any of it."

"Well, I couldn't very well suffer alone, now could I?"

"Mmm…you could have," I said, raising an eyebrow at him. "It would have been the gentlemanly thing to do."

He laughed. "I think you know I'm no gentleman, Maggie Carlyle."

I took another sip of coffee. "I'm optimistic about your eventual reformation."

"Oh, you're going to be so terribly, terribly disappointed," he said, shaking his head.

"I believe in you."

"You believe in what?" Alicia had arrived, carrying a large picnic hamper, followed by Lee, who had a sun umbrella and several more tote bags.

"Fred's eventual reformation into a proper gentleman."

Lee laughed. "I think you're going to be horribly disappointed."

"That's what I said," said Fred, shrugging and taking a sip of his coffee.

"Did you bring enough stuff?" I asked, eying the stack of bags as Lee set up the umbrella.

"You'll thank me later," said Alicia, setting the hamper down on the sand and flopping down beside me.

"Yes, Maggie, when a surprise Potions competition breaks out and you need a set of scales and a full-sized cauldron, you won't be laughing at Alicia then," said Fred, failing to hide a smile.

"Sod off," said Alicia cheerfully, kicking some sand in Fred's direction and getting most of it on my legs.

"I will not be caught in the crossfire of this," I warned her, brushing off my legs.

She flicked more sand at me. "It's one of your maid of honor responsibilities."

"I don't recall agreeing to that."

"Should've read the contract more carefully," said Alicia with a shrug.

"Ah, but you are forgetting one important fact," said Fred to Alicia. "We established yesterday that Maggie and I have turned on you and Lee."

I nodded. "I also swore an oath of loyalty to Fred a few minutes ago because he brought me coffee."

Fred looked at Alicia very solemnly. "I'm afraid that we cannot ignore such a blatant act of aggression. We will take action in the form of bothering you until our deaths."

"Lee," whined Alicia, turning back to Lee and pouting. "Maggie and Fred are being mean to me."

"She did kick sand at both of us," I said. "Ask yourself: does she deserve your sympathy?"

Lee plopped down beside Alicia. "Hmm. Argument between my intended, her cousin and best friend, and one of my best mates." He regarded us thoughtfully, chewing his lower lip. "Think it's best if I stay out of this one."

"Think very carefully about which one of us you'll be sharing a bed with for the rest of your life," said Alicia, narrowing her eyes.

Lee studied her for a moment. "Have I mentioned that you are very beautiful this morning?"

Alicia stared at him expressionlessly. "Try again."

"I love you?"

"Ah, I recognize this," said Fred. "This is the patented George Weasley Method for Marital Conflict Resolution."

Lee grinned. "He had some useful suggestions."

"I wouldn't say that, exactly," said Alicia, rolling her eyes.

"Speaking of, where are they?"

"They claimed they were going to be down in ten minutes and that was five minutes ago."

"So…" Fred looked at his watch. "Seventeen minutes from now, at the earliest."


"I left a note for Katie and Oliver," said Alicia. "I hope this isn't a preview of the entire week, they'll miss the bloody wedding if they keep at it."

"Wood keeps a rigorous schedule," said Fred nonchalantly, causing me to nearly spit out a mouthful of coffee.

Alicia eyed the two of us. "I've a feeling that's some sort of disgusting inside joke that you came up with while we were away."

"You would be correct," said Fred, grinning.

"Then I don't want to know." Alicia peered over her sunglasses at Fred. "And don't tell Lee either because he'll just tell me about it later."

Lee shrugged. "Probably."

"Don't worry, love, it will be a terrible secret that Maggie and I will take to our graves," said Fred solemnly, winking at me when Alicia turned away.

I knew that he wasn't flirting with me, but my stomach flipped like he was. Fred was just handsome enough that sometimes you couldn't help but mistake a friendly gesture for a flirty one, even if it was only for a second or two. George had a similar effect. I'd taken an arm's length and grain of salt approach to them in school in an effort to avoid fooling myself into thinking their charm was indicative of anything more. Evidently, I'd fallen a bit out of practice in the intervening years, judging from the way my stomach dropped and the flush that was threatening to prickle at my throat. I took a sip of my coffee. I'd need to be more careful, especially in a place like Las Ballenas. The last thing I needed was an embarrassing rejection on top of everything else going on in my life.

As Fred predicted, it was another seventeen minutes before George and Angelina made their way down to the beach. Since I was now equating functional adulthood and personal responsibility with ownership of a cover-up or a sarong that was appropriate for the beach, the first thing that I noticed was that Angelina was wearing a very pretty coral colored maxi-dress that draped elegantly over her tiny belly.

I need to get my act together. Maybe there's a shop in town that sells cover-ups.

Lee looked pointedly at his watch. "Ten minutes, eh?"

Angelina huffed as she situated herself under the umbrella. "I can't help it if George moves like someone cast Arresto Momentum on him in his sleep."

George was unrepentant as he settled himself next to Angelina. "It takes effort to look this good. Fred got here early and look at him."

Fred shrugged, taking a sip of his coffee. "I was making a personal sacrifice in order to perform a minor act of heroism."

"He brought me coffee," I said, looking at George. "And I did swear an oath of loyalty to him as thanks, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to fight you to defend his honor. Let's have at it."

"Ah, but I can buy your loyalty with this amazing offer of—" George turned out the pockets of his swim trunks. "—half of a broken Sneakoscope."

Alicia frowned. "Why on earth—"

Angelina shook her head. "Better not to ask. The explanation will only leave you more confused than you were to begin with. This is the most valuable lesson I've learned from our first three years of marriage."

George grinned, pecking Angelina on the side of her forehead. "Sharp as always, my love." He held out the Sneakoscope to me. "What d'you say, Maggie? Is this enough to outbid my brother on your loyalty?"

I sipped thoughtfully at my coffee. "This is a very tempting offer, but I'm afraid you've critically underestimated how important coffee is to me."

"Ah, bollocks," said George as Fred pumped a fist.

"You could probably buy my loyalty for a cup of coffee," said Angelina. She sighed wistfully. "I miss coffee. And soft cheeses."

"I don't have any soft cheeses, but I can let you smell my coffee and you can have a cup vicariously," I said, extending my cup to her.

Angelina smiled widely as she took the cup from my hands. "I was going to ask but I thought it might come off strange."

I scoffed. "Not at all. I am completely sympathetic."

She inhaled deeply. "That smells divine." She took a few more deep breaths before handing the cup back to me. "George, I'm changing my loyalty to Maggie and Fred. After all, it is partly your fault that I can't have coffee."

"Well, this morning has taken an unpleasant turn," said George, frowning.

Fred shrugged. "Sorry, mate. You know how it is: you've got the looks, I've got the charm."

"That is true," conceded George with a sigh.

"Did you happen to see Katie and Oliver before you left?" asked Alicia.

"Katie was out on her terrace looking sweaty and sated," said Angelina, a wry smile tugging at the corners of her lips, eyebrow arching.

Fred nudged me. "Told you. 'S all that cream of wheat."

I nearly spat out my coffee again. "You need to stop doing that while I have coffee in my mouth."

"Now where's the fun in that?" he asked, grinning.

"What's this about cream of wheat?" asked Angelina.

Alicia rolled her eyes. "Maggie and Fred have some sort of disgusting inside joke that I truly do not want to hear about."

Angelina made a face. "Think I'll add my name to that list as well."

"I'm always amenable to hearing something disgusting," said George cheerfully, propping his chin up on his hands and doing his best to look very attentive and earnest.

Angelina swatted at him playfully. "Please don't tell him, he'll be insufferable about it." She steadfastly ignored the resulting pout from George. "Anyway, she said they should be down within the hour."

"Barring any other carnal delays," added George.

"Don't you have somewhere else to be?" said Angelina with a weary sort of sigh. "Go dip your toes in the water, see what the temperature's like."

George grinned and kissed her on the cheek before rising to his feet. "As my love commands."

Alicia nudged Lee. "Go with him and tell me if it's warm enough."

Lee raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Yes. I'm delegating this responsibility on account of laziness."

"Welcome to marriage," quipped George.

"George, hand me my bag, I need my wand," said Angelina, the grim set of her mouth betraying another agenda.

"Have I mentioned how beautiful you look today?" said George.

Angelina's eyes narrowed. "You're on thin ice, George."

George grinned, again completely unperturbed by Angelina's stormy look. "And yet you love me anyway." He bent down to kiss her and she swatted him away, though there was a warm sort of sparkle in her eye. He straightened up. "Right. Lee and I will be off now. Fred, come along, let Angelina have a chance to complain about me properly."

"Can't argue with that," said Fred, vanishing his coffee cup and standing up. The three of them ambled off down the beach together.

"He's an idiot," sighed Angelina, something like a smile tugging at her lips, her hand resting on her belly. "But I suppose I'm rather fond of him."

"Love's rather funny like that," said Alicia. She glanced at me as I stifled a yawn. "How are you feeling, Mags? Did the coffee help?"

"Getting there," I said, taking another sip. "Did you tell Fred to do this?"

"I mentioned it, he offered."

Angelina looked at me, eyes softening in sympathy. "Long night?"

I shrugged. "I don't sleep as well as I used to."

This was the strange, coded language we sometimes used about the War: we left things unsaid. We said before and used to and like it was as a way to soften the blow of talking about wounds that were still healing and losses that would always feel fresh.

"Yeah…" said Angelina, her mouth turning downward as she looked toward the shoreline. "George doesn't either. Fred, too, from what I'm told. Possibly worse than George."

Even though the War had wormed its way into the cracks in my armor, there was always a small part of me that was surprised when I learned it had done the same to others as well. This was especially the case for Fred and George—before the War, they were practically invincible to worry, to the point that if they were worried about something, it was a clue that you were dealing with life-and-death levels of seriousness.

"I'm sorry to hear that," I said, and truly I was.

"I wish they'd talk to someone about it," said Angelina. "I mean, George has me, but Fred…" She trailed off, her eyes looking sad. "It's the sort of thing that gets lonely, I think."

Angelina was more right than I'd ever admit out loud.

Alicia nudged me. "Did we not just have a conversation about this this morning?" She looked at Angelina and shook her head. "I've told her to wake me up when she can't sleep. She never does."

I didn't really want to delve too deeply into this topic, so I merely rolled my eyes and poked Alicia in the shoulder. "You need your rest. You're meant to be a beautiful bride on Saturday."

"And what about you? I can't very well have you looking like the crypt keeper in the photos."

I shrugged and vanished my empty cup of coffee. "It's a tradition. The maid of honor always looks like death in order to frighten the evil spirits who want to steal the bride."

Alicia sighed, turning to Angelina. "Do you see what I put up with?"

Angelina smiled. "I've encountered similar stubbornness on this topic."

"Oh, let's talk about something happier," I suggested. "We're on holiday and it's gorgeous out. No need to dwell on my problems. Angelina, you're creating an entire human being and I know absolutely nothing about her. Or him."

Alicia scowled. "Oh, that's not fair, you're baiting her, changing the topic to the baby."

Angelina smiled. "And I'm taking the bait. We don't know yet if it's a boy or girl, actually. George desperately wants to know. I want to keep it a surprise. He thinks I'll eventually give into curiosity, but I think that's mostly projection on his part."

"What sort of names are you thinking about?"

"Well, I've got an entire list of names that George has suggested as a joke." She thought for a moment. "I think he may have offered more joke ones than serious ones at this point."

"Wasn't Beauregard one of them?" asked Alicia.

"Oddly, that was one that he genuinely likes for some reason." Angelina shook her head. "That turned into a bit of a row because I thought it was a joke and he got cross about it because I laughed right in his face."

"I'm sure you'll think of something. My brother—" My voice caught in my throat, the way it often did when I tried to talk about him, even all these years later. "—he didn't have a name for nearly three days. My parents eventually worked it out."

Alicia tapped her foot against mine; if Angelina noticed the sudden roughness in my voice, she was kind enough to pretend she didn't notice. The three of us were quiet for a moment, watching Fred, George, and Lee. They were standing ankle deep in the water and had devised some sort of game that involved flinging rocks into the ocean.

"Imagine you're a rock," said Alicia after a moment, "and it has taken you millions of years rolling along the ocean floor but you finally make it to the shore, only to be chucked back into the ocean by one of those idiots."

"Nature is cruel like that," said Angelina as Lee wound his hand back and threw a rock. It skipped four times and the three of them shouted.

"Was that a cheer or a jeer?" I asked.

"Hard to say," said Alicia, frowning at the shoreline. "I'm sure that they've come up with a very elaborate set of rules for this game in the brief time that they've been down there."

"Oh no doubt," said Angelina.

"Good morning!" Katie plopped down next to Angelina. It was difficult to ascertain at that moment whether her cheerful mood was a natural product of her personality or a product of her activities this morning. Perhaps it was both.

Katie, I noticed, had a pretty white cover-up with a crochet detail that looked a little like lace.

I've really got to get it together.

"Morning." Alicia nodded at Oliver. "They're chucking rocks into the water, if that is of interest to you."

"Excellent," said Oliver brightly.

"It really doesn't take much to make you happy, does it?" said Alicia.

Oliver grinned as he started making his way toward the shore. "To be fair, I have made a career out of chucking things around. I'm an easy man to please."

"Speaking of easy to please…" said Angelina as soon as he was out of earshot, her lips curling into a wicked sort of smile. "You certainly took your time this morning, Ms. Bell."

Katie rolled her eyes but her cheeks went slightly pink. "Oh, go on. We're at a very romantic hotel on a very gorgeous beach. Don't pretend like you and George haven't had a go of it." She directed her gaze at Alicia. "Or you and Lee."

"You know perfectly well that I'm sharing a room with Maggie until the wedding," said Alicia primly. "I shall be as pure as the driven snow for our wedding night."

I snorted. "Speaking as a former flatmate who has had the unfortunate experience of being in the same building when you've forgotten to use a Silencing Charm, I can say that this is decidedly not true."

Katie winced. "Alicia. You didn't."

"It was one time!" protested Alicia, flinging her hands in the air.

"It was more than that."

"It was two times." She frowned. "Maybe three. Anyway, the point is that she cast a Silencing Charm on her own room to keep out the noise. It's not like she heard the whole thing."

"I heard enough," I said, arching an eyebrow at her.

"You know, I don't know why I'm defending myself when Katie's the one who was indulging all of her insatiable carnal appetites this morning."

Katie rolled her eyes again. "I refuse to apologize for what I do in the privacy of my own hotel room."

"Well, that's vague. Now I just have a lot of follow up questions," said Angelina.

"Some things in life must remain a mystery." She flashed Angelina a bright smile. "Changing the subject now: how's the water?"

"Haven't been in yet," said Angelina. "I sent George to go test it and somehow that happened." She gestured at the shore, where George was in the process of attempting to skip a rock with his back turned. It was going predictably poorly.

"Sounds about right," said Katie.

The four of us winced as George threw a stone and very nearly hit Fred.

Alicia sighed. "I'm going to have to be the grump that puts a stop to this, aren't I? They're all meant to be in my wedding photos at the end of the week and I don't want them all to have head injuries."

"That's probably for the best," said Angelina. "It's only a matter of time before one of them remembers that they've got magic at their disposal and then we'll have enchanted flying rocks to contend with."

"I think Lee's getting out his wand now," said Katie, squinting at the shoreline.

"Right on schedule." Alicia put both fingers to her lips and let out an ear-piercing whistle. "Oi! Lee Jordan, don't even think about it!"

Lee shouted something back at Alicia, but it was lost over the sound of the waves.

"No magic!" she shouted back at him.

The four of them seemed to consider this for a moment before collectively flashing a thumbs down and booing.

"Are they booing me?" demanded Alicia.

"Seems like it," said Katie.

A grim sort of expression came over Alicia's face and she sighed. "Right. Who wants to help me dunk one or more of those idiots into the ocean?"