The dhow cut smoothly through blue-green waters, driven by the wind toward an endless horizon. In the shade of the triangular white sail, George leaned back against a cushion, thinking he would appreciate the view a lot more if Alicia was beside him in a bikini. She had gone to Stone Town with Angelina, so instead of a romantic sail along the coast of Zanzibar with his fiancée, George got a fishing trip with a Slytherin.
He peered sideways to watch Blaise Zabini and the boat-owner's son ready fishing lines. The boy's smile was as white as his knee-length shirt. "You will catch a big fish today, Mister George."
To be called "Mister" reminded George of Caper. He wondered how the elf was managing the shop and his teenaged assistants. "I'm more interested in the fish your dad's cooking," George said. "The smell's making me hungry."
Sayyid turned fish kebabs and plantain slices on the grate of a small charcoal burner. "Kami, serve the mandazi."
The boy darted over to a basket. "What are those? Doughnuts?" George asked curiously. He took a bite of the lightly sweetened pastry. "Mmm, thank you." He looked into the basket. "What's the other kind?"
"Cloves," Kami said. "Very good. You try."
George figured he could always throw the doughnut to the fishes if he didn't like it. He took a bite.
"They use freshly ground cloves, not whole ones," Blaise said, correctly reading his surprised expression.
"Of course," George mumbled around another bite.
Kami passed around bottles of the sugarcane/ginger/lemon juice that had become George's favourite during his stay. "Is there an import shop that sells these in London?" he asked.
"Not that I am aware of," Blaise said. He smiled faintly. "But it will be no trouble to arrange a personal shipment."
"Tell them to send me the bill." George was already uncomfortable about accepting a free holiday. Even though Mrs. Zabini owned the resort and had invited Blaise and Angelina's "friends" to be her guests, it made him feel awkward. George didn't consider Blaise to be a snake like Draco Malfoy, but he wasn't exactly a friend.
He could almost hear his brother snort. What if he and Angelina stay together? Get married one day? What will you call Zabini then? An acquaintance of long standing?"
Blaise and Angelina, married. George gazed out to where the sea met the sky. Somehow, even when his brother had dated other women, George always saw Angelina as the girl for Fred. They had fit together so naturally. Why hadn't his brother realised it? Why didn't he act on his feelings before the final battle?
For the same reason you never asked Alicia out. We fooled ourselves into thinking we had all the time in the world.
"Breakfast, Mr. George."
Kami's expectant look shook George out of his morbid thoughts. He pretended to be puzzled. "Tell this Englishman what he's eating, please."
"White snapper, plantains, papaya, and chapattis."
George widened his eyes in feigned surprise. "Aren't chapattis Indian?"
Kami nodded vigorously. "Very good. You—"
"I try." George took a bite of the flatbread. "Very good," he said, as though he didn't eat Indian take-away on a regular basis.
The generous breakfast made George sleepy. He stretched out along one of the wooden benches, slipping a cushion beneath his head. "Wake me if anything takes a nibble on my line."
"Ndio, Mister George," Kami said.
George closed his eyes. The boy's footsteps padded across the deck. "I brought a book of stories. Will you read one to me, Cousin?"
Cousin? George thought. How many relatives does Mrs. Zabini have? It was strange to think of her and Blaise as part of a large extended family when news photos only showed the two of them.
Blaise had begun to read.
Once upon a time and long ago, a Swahili sultan lived on the shores of East Africa with his seven sons.
An image of a ginger-haired sultan with the letter 'A' embroidered on his robes flashed into George's mind.
One by one, the sultan's sons left home to see the world and never returned. Eventually, there was only one son left. His name was Prince Sadaka.
Sadaka—he'd be red-haired, tanned, and good looking, George thought, yawning widely.
The Swahili sultan missed his other sons very much, but he was too old to sail across the huge Indian Ocean to look for them. Only Prince Sadaka could help him.
Now, Prince Sadaka was very handsome, very courageous and very adventurous.
Sounds like a Gryffindor.
But he was not very good at reading maps.
Definitely not Ravenclaw!
The warmth of the day and the gentle rocking of the boat relaxed George to the point where he began to dream.
He had sailed for weeks and weeks, searching for his brothers. Although Sadaka had not found them on any of the islands he visited, he had made friends. It had been no trouble to give food to hungry birds and starving crickets. His mother had loaded the boat with more flatbread than he could eat, and he had never cared for barleycorn. The pair of djinns he befriended were such great fellows, Sadaka couldn't understand why people were afraid to visit the mischievous spirits.
His new friends had been extremely helpful, straightening out his maps, sharing rumours of where his brother might be, and showing him the way to that island. All had promised to come to his aid if ever he needed them.
Once Sadaka reached the island of Pemba, he asked the sultan about his brothers. The sultan promised to help if Sadaka passed three tests.
The first task was to sort three enormous bags of mixed seeds.
Sadaka remembered the way his friends the birds had sorted the maps. He whistled. Soon a fluffy canary perched on his finger, warbling directions to the other birds. By morning, the seeds were sorted into tidy piles.
The sultan was astonished to see the task completed. He ordered Sadaka to cut down the giant baobab tree in his garden with one stroke of his sword.
It was an impossible task for a man, so Sadaka asked for an hour to prepare. Alone in the garden, he wished for the djinns to come and help him. They appeared instantly, identical grins on their shadowy faces. In a twinkling, the djinns hollowed out the tree. When the sultan returned, Sadaka cut down the baobab with only one stroke.
Impressed by the young man's strength, the sultan invited Sadaka to the palace that evening. When he arrived, Sadaka was given the final test: he must find and dance with the sultan's favourite daughter.
In a room filled with girls, how was he to choose? Sadaka remembered the crickets, how they chattered constantly and heard all the gossip in the world. He walked out to the garden and, like magic; a cricket flew to his aid. Sadaka followed the insect into the ballroom. When his friend landed on a beautiful girl's shoulder, Sadaka asked her to dance.
The sultan was so pleased by Sadaka's cleverness that he released the brothers—thrown into the dungeon for rudely watching his daughters sea bathe—and made him the heir to his kingdom. Aliya, the sultan's favourite daughter, was so pleased by Sadaka's courting that she married him.
And they all lived happily ever after on the island of Pemba.
George jerked awake when Kami shook his shoulder. "Mister George! You have a fish on the line!"
"Ace," he said around a yawn. After struggling to get the fish into the boat, George was proud of his catch. "What kind of fish is this?"
"It's a snapper," Kami said, "same as the ones we ate."
Blaise nodded. "A good fish. If it was a little bigger, you could keep it."
"What do you mean, bigger?" George said, scowling. Was Blaise trying to get back at him for winning their scooter race earlier?
"Fish must be this long," Kami said, holding out his hands. "Yours is this long," he said, bringing his palms closer together.
Blaise said, "Sayyid will take your picture if you wish."
George did, but only to show Alicia what she might have eaten for dinner.
- - -
Later that evening, after he told Alicia about the fish that got away, she showed him the scarves and the phoenix feather she'd bought on her shopping trip. George smiled. "These remind me of a Swahili folk tale."
She looked intrigued. "Really, which one?"
He told her the story of Prince Sadaka.
"And the scarves—"
"Courting," George said. He picked up the feather and brushed the tip down her cheek. "Sadaka must have done some amazing courting if it pleased Aliya so much she agreed to marry him."
"How amazing?" Alicia whispered.
George traced the v of her blouse with the feather. "Let me show you."
A/N: I didn't have time to write a G/A chapter this week, but inspiring reviews gave me the urge to write a "missing moments" one shot. I couldn't find the author of the Prince Sadaka folk tale, but I enjoyed retelling it, making the djinns twins, one of the birds a canary/managing type like Hermione, naming the sultan's daughter Aliya, and changing the reason the brothers were thrown into the dungeon. :D The bold bits are direct quotes. The real prince would have looked more like Blaise, but who can blame George for wanting to be the hero of a story? ;)