I was unused to hearing my name said that way. "Yeah?"
Sirius rolled over to stare up at a perfect blue sky, dotted with puffy clouds. "I – oh, nothing."
"What is it?" I murmured. I was half asleep, sunning on a beach towel. Praia do Castelejo was rapidly carving out a top spot on my list of decadent and secluded beach destinations. Not that I'd seen so many. Myrtle Beach was as exotic as it got with my parents. I propped myself up on both elbows and looked around for comparison's sake. This place was a hundred and eighty degrees away from the Pavilion with its rickety wooden roller coasters, water parks with pop tunes blaring over the loudspeakers, and crazy golf.
"Nothing. Just - I love you."
Nobody had ever said they loved me before I met Sirius. But not only was he willing to say it, he said it quite a bit. He loves me. I always felt a little thrill barrel right through me whenever I heard the words. He was so handsome, with his dark good looks and smoky eyes.
"I love you, too."
"Do you believe in witches and wizards?"
Okay, interesting change of topic. "I – well, some people call themselves that, don't they? Witches, I mean. All that Wiccan stuff and all. I don't know much about it, though."
"No. That's not exactly what I mean."
I observed Sirius from behind my dark glasses. "How do you mean?"
"Spells and stuff."
"Magic wands?" I asked, thinking of the carved stick he never let go of. Except here in Portugal. He kept it in the room most of the time.
"Yeah. I'm talking about people that can use wands for spells and charms."
I sat up. "I still don't know what you mean. Like something anyone can learn? Magic tricks?"
"No. More like something in one's DNA that makes them different. Making things happen with their minds."
Oh God. He'd seen something. But I hadn't done a thing in ages, and I had no intention of ruining what we had with my nasty little secret, whatever it was called. In spite of the sun's warmth, I was suddenly cold. I sat up and hugged my arms to my chest.
"Laura, really. Never mind. I know it sounds silly."
"Is that what you think I am?" I turned to him suddenly. Might as well put it out there. My dad called me a witch more than once, after all. I can't believe someone as gentle and sweet as Sirius would hurl that at me, though.
His mouth dropped open. "What? No, of course not!"
"Okay." I calmed down a little. "So what do you mean? How could someone be born like that … knowing spells or whatever?"
"Maybe I shouldn't have brought it up," he muttered. "Ready to go in?"
I shrugged, glancing up at the afternoon sun and the colorful fishing boats that bobbed nearby in the calm waters of the little cove. "If you want." It was our last day here, and somehow I'd ruined it.
We lumbered to our feet, shaking out beach towels before I shoved them both into a large canvas tote. Then I followed Sirius back toward our tiny whitewashed hotel. He seemed downcast, all of a sudden, and I felt as if it were my fault.
He stopped outside the door of our room. "Shit. Not sure where I put the bloody key. It's probably in the bottom of the bag."
For a moment, I was suddenly defiant. "It's unlocked."
"No, I'm quite sure I –"
I held on to the knob for a second, and the door opened easily.
"How'd you – oh, guess it was unlocked, after all. But I could've sworn …"
I was already inside, kicking off flip flops, and then I spied the ornately carved stick in question, sitting on the countertop. I picked it up, waving it experimentally into the air. "So is this really a magic wand?"
Just then, something odd happened. It vibrated. Or perhaps it was more like a heartbeat, though in that second it seemed out of rythym. Shocked, I let it clatter to the floor.
"Why'd you throw it down?" Sirius asked, glaring at me. He pursed his lips and knelt down to retrieve it.
"I didn't mean to," I said indignantly. "It's not broken, is it?"
"You did throw it, too!"
"I felt something against my hand! It freaked me out."
He stopped. "You couldn't have felt something. You're a –"
"I'm a what? You do think I'm a witch, don't you?"
"Bloody hell, Laura! You're a muggle. You're the farthest thing from a witch there could be! I'm the one who can do magic!"
"What did you say?"
"A muggle is a person who can't do magic!"
Jesus. My boyfriend thought he was a witch.
"Wizard," he corrected me testily. "I'm a fair legilimens, while we're at it. Men and boys who do magic are called wizards."
"A legil … what?"
"And I'm not mad, either," he added. "A legilimens can see into someone's mind and – ah, fuck it, it's not demonic! Nothing to do with Satan. I can tell you're wondering that, as well."
I looked at the wand he was holding, and he followed my gaze. With a sudden movement of his arm, a decorative jar on the kitchen counter blew into pieces. I jumped back. It took me a full second to realize there had been an accompanying sapphire burst of flame, or lightning … something, coming from it.
"How'd you do that?" I exclaimed.
"I told you already. I suppose you can leave if you want."
"You want me to leave?" I echoed. "Now?"
He sighed. "No. You're going to write me off, though, aren't you?"
"You're not that good at reading my mind, obviously. I wasn't thinking anything of the kind. Is that really what YOU want?"
"No," he admitted softly, relaxing his shoulders a bit. "I had to tell you sooner or later, though."
I walked over to the jar's remains; little bits of clay and a coating of dust were scattered over the counter and floor.
"Step back, Laur."
"You going to zap me with that?"
He shrugged. "I'm going to fix that jar."
I did as he asked, and in the next moment, the jar was whole again. This time there was more of a whoosh, and a clearer burst of light.
"How'd you do that?" I couldn't help repeating.
"Vase reparo. Though Jar reparo would've worked as well, I suppose. Or you can say the object's name in Latin."
"You didn't say anything."
"I was thinking it," he said. "I am quite good at this."
"Do something else."
He pointed the wand at me. "Shall I remove your clothes?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. It never took long for Sirius to revert to flirting.
"I'd prefer you to use your hands for that. I mean, do something with the, er …"
"Wand. No wizard says 'magic wand,' unless they want their arse handed back to them for being a big sissy."
"All right. Make me do something with the wand."
"Make you? That's not really, er, legal." He looked away briefly.
"There are laws for this sort of thing?" I exclaimed.
Sirius sighed and fingered the wand's carving in contemplation. Then he looked back up at me. "Come with me, darling. Lesson One is about to begin."
He laid down on the bed and pulled me with him. I exhaled a breathless "oof!" when I landed on top.
"Do we have to talk about magic just now?" he whispered, with a wistful look at my relatively spare bikini top.
"I'm afraid so. This will have to wait."
"Right, then. Lesson One. There are wizards and witches, and then there are muggles. People who can't do magic."
"So you sprang from the womb like this."
"Well, I think I probably cried for a bit, first. My dear old mum probably spanked my bum for it when I came out, not the healer. But more about her later. No, you don't just do magic soon as you're born."
His voice was much calmer now, and I sensed a degree of relief when I looked into the gray eyes. Love, too. We lay next to each other, silent for a moment.
"You smell delicious. Like coconuts," he whispered, kissing me.
"Coppertone. 'Don't be a paleface'," I whispered back, and smiled at his confusion. "It's an ad, Sirius. Tell me more."
"Yes, well, you go to school to learn magic. Hogwarts, to be exact."
"No wonder it has such a funny name. Is it the only place in the world?"
Sirius laughed softly. "No. It is the only place in Britain, though. There are schools all over the world. France, United States, Mexico, Canada, Albania, Australia. Others, as well."
"There are people like this everywhere? How come nobody knows about them?"
"It's a closely guarded secret."
"But you told me."
"I fell in love with you. Wizards are allowed to marry non-witches. And then there are Muggle-born witches and wizards, so those Muggles would have to know."
I almost missed the last line, still stuck on the word marry. I looked back into his eyes, and he glanced down, shy for once.
"It's a secret we are brought up accepting. Wizards can do pretty amazing and profound things that muggles as a whole would never understand. They'd be terrified."
"What kind of profound things?" I asked, thinking of how I made my dolls come to me as a little girl. My parents were plenty terrified of that.
About anything you could think of," he added, anticipating my next question. "My motorbike flies."
"Get out of town!"
"But most of us use brooms," he continued.
"Who else is a – like you?"
"James and Lily. You've not met anyone else."
I was still now, chewing on all this. It couldn't be true. You couldn't ride around on a broom, unseen …
"We use concealment charms."
"Would you stop that?"
"Sorry, love. It's rude, I know. You're just so open to it, it's easy." Sirius grinned.
I frowned, though. "Have you done that before?"
"No. I was just – I only wanted the truth. If you were going to chuck me because of this, I wanted to know immediately. I can't stop being like this. It's who I am, Laura."
"I would never give you up because of this, or any reason. I love you." I kissed his sunburnt nose. "So – can you use this for, um, sexual things?"
"Merlin's beard, Laura. You're skipping straight to Lesson Ten!"
"That's the good chapter."
He laughed. "I'll give you a good 'seeing to' with the wand, soon enough. What else, though? I hardly know where to begin telling you."
"When do they start teaching you this stuff? Six?"
"After your eleventh birthday. Before that, we're schooled at home. Trust me, I was never so ready to get away. My mum – not a good teacher. Someday I'll give you the gory details."
"What happened to your brother and father? Was it to do with magic?"
He sighed again. "Brother, yes. Dad, no. The crowd I told you about, that he fell in with? Much worse than you can imagine. Rather like the wizarding world's version of Hitler, best I can compare, though I don't know much about all that muggle stuff."
"Nobody ever told you about Hitler?" I was shocked.
"We divorce ourselves from most of that."
"Why didn't wizards help out with World War Two?" I asked innocently enough, but couldn't help thinking maybe they could have stopped him. Perhaps these people really didn't have the kind of power Sirius seemed to think they did.
"It's a completely different world. Ancient. With our own customs and traditions. And there's the International Statute of Secrecy of 1692, which we keep to. You're not allowed to tell anyone about us, Laura. I suppose I should've mentioned that sooner."
"Or you'll what?" I asked. I wasn't about to go spouting off to the average man in the street that there were real witches, but I didn't much care for being told off.
"I won't do anything. No one will believe you, I'm afraid. It's not such a horrible secret, though, is it?"
"Well, it is pretty amazing," I admitted. Understatement of the century. "What else?"
"How about we take a shower together first? Then hop back in bed, then it'll be time for dinner. I'll show you how to prepare food with this."
"Sirius Julia Child. Is that how you've been doing it all along?"
"You wouldn't like any non-magically prepared meals I could come up with," he said with a lopsided grin. "C'mon, let's get naked."
After squeezing our bodies in the tight confines of the shower stall to wash off, and afterward some very energetic sex (sans magic, unfortunately), we got dressed for dinner. I sat on a stool, watching with wide eyes as Sirius used the wand for everything possible. Making dinner, lighting candles, opening the door. Undoing the top buttons of my blouse with a helpless shrug and the playful smile I couldn't get enough of. I wondered if the marriage comment was really something he had considered, but I didn't want him knowing my thoughts on that.
He explained more about the wizarding world, as he called it, giving me the basics on their system of governance. His family was old money – purebloods, he called them. They claimed to have no non-magical taint to their lineage, though that was just a big lie, Sirius said. It didn't matter if a person was pureblood or not.
"Am I ever going to meet your mother?" I asked.
"No. I never want to see her again. She wouldn't be worth your time."
"How is this possible?" I said, watching him remove a plate full of food and slide it in front of me, all without touching it.
He shrugged. "It just is."
"I mean, doesn't this defy some monster law of physics or something?" I couldn't help joking about it, though that was true enough.
"I suppose," he answered. "Want some bread?" He walked over to me and popped a small piece into my mouth, using his fingers this time. I kissed them.
"I hope – well, I haven't ruined everything, have I?" Sirius asked. He ran a few fingers through my hair.
"Not at all. Did you say that all magical children go to school for this? Even in America?" I felt a glimmer of hope. What if …
"Yes, without a doubt. It's standard that they, and their parents, are sent a letter explaining everything. The school will automatically know who belongs. The age might be a bit different in America, but otherwise, it's a pretty similar format."
"Oh." That sealed it. The tiny little fleeting thought – that I could be like this – was extinguished as thoroughly as if he had used his wand on it. My oddball meager capabilities were the result of something else. Bad? I didn't like to think about that. But bad or no, I decided they had to remain a secret.