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A Wedding and a World Cup

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The last thing Zacharias Smith had expected to do in India was attend a massive, multi-day wedding. He was there for Quidditch, after all- perfectly reasonable, given that the World Cup was a week away and and being hosted there. Coach Lynch had relocated the entire English national team to India once their spot in the final had been certain, to acclimate them to playing in the heat and humidity. The Ugandan team was a formidable opponent already, and Lynch wanted to strip them of as many of their advantages as was possible. It was, after all, a big deal for England to be playing in the World Cup final. It had been a terribly long time since they’d made it to the final round. They’d come close in 1998, but had been knocked out at the last moment by the Nordic team in a match that had gone on for 39 hours. The team considered it a victory just to make it so close, considering their focus had been elsewhere for much of that year, and that it was a minor miracle they’d chosen to send a team at all. Zach had only been a red-shirt Chaser for Falmouth then, fresh out of Hogwarts and with no hope of making the national team. Four years later, and here he was, though he was the youngest by a few years (their Keeper, Oliver Wood, was the next youngest). Three weeks after arriving in Bangalore, however, Zach found himself not practicing the Hawkshead Formation, but surrounded by vast amounts of people in their brightest and most beautiful clothing, witnessing the marriage of some cousin of Parvati Patil.

His grandfather had always warned him away from eating spicy food. Said it inflamed the senses. And it was true that Zach had been sitting in Richie’s, which was packed to the brim with people getting takeaway, and had been eating a particularly hot biryani, when he’d first run into Patil. The ambiance of the place had left a lot to be desired, but it had quickly become Zach’s favorite place to eat because of the focus on meat dishes. He wasn’t a huge fan of vegetarian fare. It seemed a good number of the locals agreed with him, because the restaurant was always a madhouse whenever he came in for lunch or dinner. Thinking back on it, it was incredible he’d even spotted Patil.

Zach was not the most social of creatures. He liked to keep to himself, when he wasn’t with the team. He’d go with his teammates for pints after the evening practice, but that was the extent of his adventuring in India. He felt that he was there for a reason, and he ought to be focused on that reason. He wasn’t there to play tourist, or meet local women. He’d never been an outgoing sort, in any event. He’d made acquaintances of the members of the city’s Quidditch team that were playing host to both the English and the Ugandans. He wasn’t out setting the city on fire with his carousing. Even at home in England, Zach was known more for his surly temper off the pitch and his refusal to interview than any gossip-worthy behavior- which meant that rags like the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly were more likely to make things up, trying to match any sort of exciting rumor they could to him. (They were forever trying to get him to do photographs with them, which Zach thought was patently ridiculous and flatly refused, unless the photos involved the team. Zach didn’t trust them not to say something awful.) Which was why he reckoned it was a combination of being startled at seeing a familiar face and the power of the spicy mutton inflaming his senses, as it were, that motivated him out of his seat and found him striking up a conversation with Patil.

She’d seemed surprised. And then she’d sat down with him. She was different than Zach had remembered, or maybe it was just that she was on her own, separated from the pack of girls she’d run with, and talking knowledgeably with him about England’s chances against Uganda- everyone agreed England was an underdog in the worst way- that made her seem so. Quidditch always made for easy conversation, which was a blessing because any other topic typically made for the opposite. At any rate, she’d given him his own surprise, as she’d been gathering her things to leave.

Patil had given him a long, assessing look, and announced, “Yes, you’ll do nicely.”

Zach had blinked at her, at a clear disadvantage as he’d shoved the last bite of dosa masala into his mouth and he couldn’t ask her what the bloody hell she was on about.

“You’re going to come with me to my cousin Ravi’s wedding,” she’d explained.

“I am?” Zach said, his eyebrow as high as it could go, once he’d swallowed and wiped his mouth.

“Yes.” Patil had looked amused. “You’re attractive enough and impressive enough to shut up most of my family. They’re relentless with the nagging about when I’m going to get married and give them more little Patil sprogs. They’ll not approve of you, because you’re not a nice Indian boy, so they won’t nag me to marry you in particular, but they’ll understand why I’d be distracted by you. You’re sort of perfect, actually.”

Zach had never heard himself described as perfect. But that had been neither here nor there. He’d simply scoffed, “What makes you think I’d agree to it? I do have training, you know.”

“Not this weekend, you don’t. I’ve been following all the articles. You’re meant to be resting and relaxing before the last practice before the big match.”

“Resting and relaxing. Not attending some big to-do,” he’d pointed out.

“I’ll write a very nice, very flattering, not at all prying article about you.”

Zach had suddenly recalled that Patil wrote for Witch Weekly, and groaned. And then he’d had the thought that perhaps if he released an interview, one where he controlled what was said, it might get the other journalists off his back without spreading any nonsense. It might not be a terrible idea.

And he had enjoyed the last hour with Patil, even if he did have the sinking suspicion he'd just been expertly played.

He’d agreed, which was why he was now desperately avoiding being dragged onto the dance floor on the third day of cousin Ravi’s wedding. Patil hadn’t been exaggerating about her cousins being relentless.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Parvati realized, with some frustration, that her date had disappeared again. If he’d been her actual boyfriend, she’d have been properly furious, but since he was sort of a date-for-hire, she was merely annoyed. Zacharias Smith was not fulfilling his end of the bargain, in her opinion. She was sharply reminded of his attitude while at Hogwarts. She should have known better than to expect him to have a personality that matched his glorious exterior. She’d expected snarky, perhaps even surly. Completely absent, however, was unacceptable.

He done his job of shocking her parents and her sister, at least. Showing up with a chaser for England had been quite a coup. Especially since even Padma’d had no idea they were dating. Parvati felt terrible, actually, at how nonplussed her twin had been. She’d have to explain after they got back to London, and she’d best bring a bottle of wine and a box of dark chocolates with her. Smith hadn’t truly put her grandparents and her aunties and uncles off the scent, though they all agreed he was very handsome and very tall, but they were being polite in his presence at least. Which was only helpful when he was actually present, she thought, giving a mental harrumph.

Thankfully, Smith’s great height coupled with his golden hair made him easily spotted, even in the crush of wedding guests. Parvati gathered the skirt of her sari a bit so she wouldn't trip over the hem, and hurried across the pavilion. She had no idea why Smith was bothering the musicians, but if he was requesting wizard rock she was going to murder him.

She arrived in time to see the sitar player handing his instrument over to Smith. Pausing a short distance away, Parvati waited, wanting to understand what was happening before she accosted Smith, finger a-wagging. The older gentleman reached out, arranging Smith’s much larger hands over the frets, and nodded encouragingly. Smith gave the strings an experimental strum, his face initially stern in concentration, then relaxing into a slight smile as a pleasant sound emerged from the sitar. The sitar player nodded again, smiling broadly and bringing his hands together happily. Smith cautiously plucked out a tune, and he wasn’t half bad. His fingers were long, but they as were nimble as one might expect the hands of a bloke who made his living catching and throwing a quaffle would be.

It was when Parvati found herself wondering how those nimble fingers would feel on her skin that she forced herself into motion again.

“Zacharias!” she said, trying to look every bit the gentle maiden she was meant to be, though she wanted to be sharp. “There you are! What on earth are you doing?”

Her smile was forced, and Smith’s face fell back into its customary hard lines. He handed the sitar back to the musician, giving a curt nod of thanks. The sitar player still looked delighted by the exchange, which Parvati had to imagine was an unusual circumstance when it came to Smith.

“Sorry.” Smith’s voice was gruff. “I play guitar a bit. Wanted to see how his rig worked.”

“Well,” said Parvati, taking his arm and still talking through a put-on smile, “you can arrange sitar lessons on your own time. Pestering the musicians is not what you’re supposed to be doing at this wedding. If you disappear again, I’m going to write about your puzzling fixation and fondness for your grandfather’s goats.”

Smith looked affronted. “My grandfather hasn’t even got any goats.”

Parvati grinned for real, unable to help herself, her lips curling impishly. “Then you’d best stick to your end of the bargain. Some of us girls are about to dance, and it would look strange to my family if you weren’t watching.”

Smith rolled his eyes, but said, “Lead the way, then.” He paused a long while, so long that the silence was growing awkward, before he spoke again. “Sheep. My grandfather has sheep. I don’t much care for ‘em, though.”

She couldn’t help releasing a peal of laughter. “I don’t imagine you’re much of a shepherd.”

“No.” A corner of Smith’s mouth lifted. “Thankfully he has tenants that handle them.”

“So what do you do, besides play Quidditch and guitar?”

Smith shrugged. “What else is there?”

Now Parvati rolled her eyes, before pointing out where she wished him to remain. Then she went to find Padma and her women relatives. Even the world’s surliest and strangest date would not dull her enjoyment in dancing. Dancing was one of her favorite things to do, because when she was dancing she felt her best, right up there with finding just the right words for a story or having a simultaneous good hair and good eyebrow day. Dancing was bliss, all feeling and no thinking. And she was good at it.

She felt a thrill go through her as the music cued them to start. She didn’t think about her overbearing family, who meant well but drove her mad. She didn’t think about her job, which was less than satisfying but a step in the right direction. She didn’t think about the fact that she’d had to bully herself a date to Ravi’s wedding, because she was pathetically single. She didn’t think about the fact that while said date was an admittedly large and muscle-y and good-looking fellow, he was also difficult and anti-social and would clearly rather be somewhere else.

She just danced.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Zach couldn't take his eyes off Patil. Even if her twin hadn't been wearing a different color of sari, he would have known which dancer she was. She was lit from within as she whirled about, her hands in complex positions and her feet moving impossibly quick.

He could almost forget that she was a bossy, demanding social butterfly.

He reminded himself that Patil had dragged him around for the last three days, introducing him to more members of her extended family than he cared to or was able to count. So much talking. And laughing. And touching his arms and his back and forcing him to participate in conversations. He felt she owed him more than a flattering story at this point. A series perhaps.

He’d finally found something that he really enjoyed, other than the food, when he’d had a chance to talk to the sitar player and briefly played the instrument. It was much more complex than his Fender back in St. Ives. But Patil had busted that up, dragging him over to give her attention while she danced.

He didn’t mind as much as he thought he might’ve.

While Zach might not be a ladies’ man- he’d never had a serious relationship, much less a short-lived one- he was still a red-blooded bloke. He did like the ladies. He just found them difficult to talk to, other than the few Hufflepuff girls who’d populated his youth, his house teammates and his closest friends- Tamsin, Hannah, Susan, Eloise. He also knew he wasn’t terribly approachable, and typically he liked it that way, ever since Potter had made him feel foolish and embarrassed and spotlighted in the worst way. He liked shining at Quidditch, partly because it made talking to anyone but especially to girls fairly unnecessary; his abilities on the pitch gave him an easy path on the rare occasions he bothered trying to get a woman into bed. He still knew when a woman was attractive. Patil was damned attractive when she danced.

He wasn’t about to tell her so. When she finished and whirled his way, grinning and out of breath, he gave her a little golf clap and smirked. She scowled at him, and all was right with the world.

“Have I fulfilled my obligation yet?” Zach asked, doing his best to sound bored.

“No,” Patil said, putting her hands on her hips, which she cocked to one side, and looking up at him with an expression that spelled certain doom. “You have to dance with me, now.”

“I don’t know how to dance like that,” he protested. He looked around the room, seeing the dance floor was, indeed, filling with people.

“It’s just the ordinary sort of dancing.” Her look was withering. “Surely you can manage that. Great athlete like yourself.”

Zach sighed. She’d been so nice when they’d eaten together. He was certain now that was a trap, a honeypot he’d stupidly stuck his hand into. Gryffindor. They didn’t change much. He let her pull him into the throng.

It became impossible not to have a good time. Everyone at this reception was in the throes of joyous celebration; it was certainly different than the staid affairs common in the pureblood circles Zach’s family ran in. Zach was not much of a dancer, even of the ordinary sort, and he knew he looked ridiculous, but no one seemed to care. Patil’s family just seemed too happy to worry about an awkward Englishman lurching about their dance floor.

“Mercy!” he finally begged, out of breath and flushed. He pointed outside, where some people stood to smoke. He just wanted some fresh air, even if it was as hot outside as it was inside.

Patil relented, nodding and following him out. Zach leaned against a convenient low wall, grateful for a glass of rich, amber whiskey- different than the scotch he usually drank, but good-that had found its way into his hand.

“Your family is fun,” he said, glancing back at the party, which showed no sign of stopping. “I sort of expected they’d be beastly, the way you made them sound.”

“No, they’re fine,” Patil agreed, following his glance. “They’re just also tireless matchmakers, and this is a perfect opportunity for them to ply their hobby. That’s why you’re here.”

She frowned, placing her hands on the ledge of the wall and looking away over it. Zach couldn’t quite get a read on her, but he didn’t want another uncomfortable silence to stretch between them.

“And you couldn’t find anyone better? No boyfriend chomping at the bit for a free holiday to India? During the World Cup? I find it hard to believe, me.”

Patil looked back at him sharply, her dark eyes flashing. “Obviously not.”

Wrong tactic, obviously, he thought. He fumbled for a different one. His gaze fell on her hands, which were covered in some sort of swirling, intricate ink work.

“This is pretty.” Zach reached, unthinking, running a finger carefully along the back of Patil’s hand.

She looked down, then back up at him with a shrug. “Henna. It’s traditional.” Patil drew her hands back, folding her arms over her chest.

“I did have a boyfriend,” she said abruptly. “A photographer at WW. I caught him in a clinch with a model, so I told him to shove off.”

Zach didn’t know what to say to that, though from the way Patil was looking at him, he could tell she expected him to say something.

“Ah.” Probably not that. “Well.” Or that. Zach gave up, polishing off his whiskey and setting it aside, shoving his hands in his pockets. “You want to go back inside?”

Patil gave him another look he couldn’t interpret. “Yeah, let’s.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Smith was blitzed. Absolutely pissed. Which was not an unusual thing at a Patil family wedding, and not anything Parvati particularly blamed him for. When they’d come back inside, her grandmother and her aunties had descended upon the pair of them. Apparently the fact that Smith was not a nice Indian boy, while a flaw, was not an impediment to their plans for her, and was in fact mitigated by his prestigious status as Chaser for the English National team. The cocktail tray had floated by several times, and Smith had replaced his glass every time. Parvati had been tempted to get blitzed herself, but supposed one of them had better have their wits about them.

He stumbled a little as they walked out.

Parvati grabbed his elbow, supporting him as best she could, though his height and weight made it a dicey prospect. She looked him up and down, assessing just what sort of condition he was in.

She sighed.

“You’re in no condition to Apparate back to your hotel.”

Smith harrumphed. “I’ve never splinched m’self once.” He turned away to grin and give a thumbs up to one of her male cousins, who had just hooted a Huzzah England! at him. Bloody Quidditch. Not that Parvati wasn’t just as obsessed with the sport as the rest of her family. Then he had the gall to pat her on her head. “Don’ worry ‘bout me.”

Parvati shook her head. “I’m not worried about you so much as rabid Q.U.A.B.B.L.E. officers hunting me down if you get injured and can’t play because you got pissed at my cousin’s wedding.”

Parvati still shuddered when she remembered the angry letters from the organizations’ members when Witch Weekly had done a ranking of the fittest Quidditch players, saying it was uncouth and unbefitting such an esteemed league as Britain’s. Several had been Howlers. She had no plans to ever invite that sort of ire into her life again. Which meant delivering Smith back to his hotel in one piece, while avoiding the scrutiny of any sports reporters or tabloid reporters lurking about the team’s temporary quarters. Luckily, as a journo herself, Parvati was wise to their tricks.

“Dunbar Oglethorpe sent me a Howler once for telling Rita Skeeter to bugger off. Said it was impolite.” Smith leaned down to whisper this in her ear confidentially. His breath tickled her neck, lifting the baby hairs that had escaped her braid.

She gave him a slight shove. “Yes, well, the lot of them have a stick up their collective arse.” She paused, then sighed again. “I’m going to take you side-along. What’s your room number?”

Smith furrowed his brow in great concentration. Parvati pursed her lips, waiting for him to retrieve the number from the recesses of his whiskey-marinated brain.

“803. At the Leela.”

Parvati felt a sharp spike of envy. The Ministry had really spared no expense for the team. She’d always wanted to see the inside of one of the rooms inside the Leela Palace Keminski. Tonight would not be the night that wish was fulfilled, however. She focused instead on the Apparation, gripping Smith’s arm tightly so he’d be pulled along. If she’d calculated correctly, they’d end up right outside his door, past the purview of reporters.

They popped through, Smith seemingly in one piece. Parvati didn’t intend to inspect closely to see if that was the case. There was nothing immediately noticeable. Except that Smith had his hand on the small of her back.

“Here you are,” she said brightly, letting go of his arm. Smith didn’t do the same. She was left with her hand hovering in the air, pulled entirely too close to his wide chest.

Her hand was apparently very distracting to Smith. He captured it, so gently that the gesture was difficult to reconcile with the powerful and confident way she’d seen him snatch a quaffle from the air during a match, though every bit as quick. He lifted her hand, studying it closely.

“Smith…” Parvati fidgeted, wanting her hand back. She liked it better when he was grumpy and stand-offish and borderline rude. It was what she expected of him.

“’S pretty,” he said.

“Yes, you said earlier.” She gave her hand a slight tug, to no avail. His fingers were strong as well as nimble, it seemed. Grudgingly, she said, “Thank you. Padma painted it for me.”

“Very pretty,” he said again, and Parvati wondered if his brain had gotten stuck. He shocked her, then, lifting her hand to his mouth and placing a kiss in the center of her palm.

It sent a frisson through her, right to her toes.

“Smith.” She was more firm this time. It did get his attention. He stopped staring at her hand and started staring at her face, looking down at her with a concentration which was even more unnerving. He wasn’t going to mirror his previous action, was he?

He was. And Parvati knew she could have stopped him, but she didn’t. She didn’t know why she didn’t. It did happen very quickly, him tugging her tightly against him, his hand on her back perfectly positioned to do so, forcing her up on her tiptoes. He lowered his head, angling it sharply to be able to reach her, and then his mouth was on hers before she could say much. But she said nothing, just allowed him to fit his mouth against hers, and tasted the whiskey that still flavored his warm tongue.

His lips were as clever as his fingers had been been on the sitar strings.

The kiss broke naturally, and Smith smiled lazily down at her. Then he let go.

“G’night, Patil.”

Smith opened the door to his room and stepped inside, shutting it behind him and doing her the favor of preventing her from embarrassing herself and following him inside.

~..~..~..~..~..~

The time for rest and relaxation was over. Coach Lynch had called for one last practice, the day before the cup, which sounded mellow until it became apparent that the practice would last from dawn until dusk. Then the team was sent back to their rooms for a good night's sleep, under orders to eat a hearty breakfast and take care of any pre-match rituals before arriving at the stadium, which was concealed in a great green area outside of Bangalore.

Zach rose before the sun, eating alone in his room so he could keep his focus on the match ahead that day. He carefully packed his uniform and all of his equipment into its bag, checking it twice. He made sure his dad's old Hufflepuff socks, the ones that were more yellow than black, were tucked into the bag, as well. He glared at himself in the mirror, getting his game face ready. Last of all, he took out a photograph, one of the Hufflepuff house team, taken before Zach's first match. There he was, small and spindly and more mean mug than actual skill. There was Tamsin, the first girl he'd ever done more than kissing with. And there was Cedric, beaming, so proud of the team he'd put together.

The present Zach tapped his finger against photographic Cedric's chest. "Made it, mate. Wish me luck."

As if he'd heard Zach, Cedric grinned broadly and pumped his fist.

Zach nodded sharply, and tucked the photo into the bag along with everything else important. Zipping the back shut, he hefted it onto his shoulder and left his hotel room, heading for the team portkey, which would take him directly to the team changing room at the stadium.

Lynch didn't want them distracted by the crowd. Even so, the roar was undeniable, even a full hour before the match was due to start. Zach could hear them as soon as he landed in the locker room. He knew people had been camping out for days, just as they did at any Quidditch World Cup. It was still humbling... and invigorating. Nothing got his blood pumping like the roar of a crowd, ready to see him and his teammates kick some ass. By the time Zach was suited up, pep-talked, and awaiting his turn to be called on the field, he was completely abuzz, full of the energy that would explode when he had the quaffle in his hands.

He heard the announcer's amplified voice boom out GWENOG JOOOOOOOOOOONES! and stepped into the entrance to the pitch.

"AND AT CHASER... ZACHARIAS SMIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITH!"

Zach leapt onto his broom and away from the ground, soaring into the air to take the customary lap around the stadium. When the wind was in his hair and the earth below fell away, all felt right in the world. He heard the applause, the whistles, the stamping feet, and struggled to keep the grim look on his face. At fifteen, despised by everyone outside of his immediate circle, Zach had never imagined he'd be the subject of such thunderous approval.

He swooped lower, closer to the crowd filling the seats along the edges of the pitch. He wanted to see the faces of the people cheering for him and for his team. There were so many people! And yet he managed to pick a few familiar faces from the crowd. He saw his old school chums- Susan, Hannah, Justin, and Ernie. He saw his grandfather and his mum, in the box seats he'd arranged for them, and saluted. His mum blew him a kiss, and his grandfather nodded gravely. And somewhere in the lower level, near the middle of the pitch, Zach spotted Parvati Patil, sitting in a row of seats taken up entirely by members of her family whose faces he recognized and whose names he would never recall. The girl next to her was identical- her sister Padma- but somehow Zach knew that Parvati was the one with soft curls pouring over her shoulders, while her twin wore hers tightly pulled back in a sensible tail.

He wasn't sure what possessed him, other than the fact that she was seated in a spot where it was easy to fly close, and that he was strangely pleased to see how very loudly she was yelling her support, and that he was quite high on adrenaline. Zach braked, slowing his flight next to her, and leaned precariously to the right, reaching for Patil and fitting his mouth snugly against hers. It was a fleeting thing, but he had time to hear her sister's gasp, and to feel Parvati sigh into him. And then he was off again, Parvati's whisper of "luck" humming in his ears.

It was an incredible match.

They lost.

The score was close. England was actually up by 80 points when the Ugandan Seeker suddenly hurtled through the air, soaring nearly straight upward, England's own Gregory Cotton hopelessly trailing behind. Zach had time to grudgingly wish Potter had deigned to play with them instead of chasing baddies, as the Ugandan Seeker's fingers closed triumphantly around the snitch. They'd played well, but there was no overcoming that damned hundred and fifty points.

Most of the team went to the after-party anyway. Zach went back to his hotel.

He was sitting at the Leela's bar among Muggles who had no idea what had just happened, nursing a pint of Kalyani Black Label, when he heard Patil's voice say, "Tough loss."

~..~..~..~..~..~

Smith turned to look at her, then rolled his shoulders back expressively. He took a pull at his beer, and said, "It was a good match."

He patted the barstool next to his and Parvati sighed but sat. She was already regretting the decision to come here. He kept fooling her this way, doing something that made her think there might be a fun or pleasant person somewhere under the surface- like making her feel like the most special girl at the World Cup pitch- and then reminding her that he was sullen and surly- by drinking alone instead of joining the rest of the world at the after-party.

"What's all this about then?" she demanded, turning slightly so her body was facing him.

"I know m'self well enough to know I'm better in small doses," he said, turning his glass round between his hands. "People like me on the pitch. Not so much off of it. Figured it's better to let the lasting memory be the one of me flinging the quaffle through a goal post."

Parvati opened her mouth to protest, then remembered her own thoughts just moments before, and shut it again. Instead she flagged down the barkeep and ordered her drink, something pink and fruity that made Smith hoist his eyebrows to his hairline, though to his credit he kept his mouth shut.

"You're letting other people control the narrative, though," she said, pulling a long stick of garnishes out of her drink and setting it aside on a cocktail napkin. "If you say nothing, other people will decide what to say for you."

Smith's lips quirked to the side- and Merlin, he did have a lovely mouth, it was really a pity it was usually saying something that annoyed her. "Well, I guess you get to be the hero of my story, then, don't you? Since you're going to write the article?"

Parvati took a drink. "Oh?" She kept her voice the very tone of innocence. "You're going to let me write about why you were knocking firsties out of the way at the Battle of Hogwarts? Or about why you were rude to Harry?"

His face shuttered. His body language threw up a wall. He said nothing for a long time. When he did talk, Parvati had to lean closer to hear his low muttering.

"Susan's brother was a first year. She couldn't find him; she was frantic. And her boyfriend was with the DA, and she was torn, yeah? So I told her to go find Boot, and I'd go find Simon, get him home safely. I did. I came back. No one ever tells that part."

Parvati's cheeks got hot, and she started to say something, but Smith kept talking.

"As for Potter, yeah, I hated him. He wouldn't tell anyone about Cedric. Like it was his own private pain. Cedric was..." Smith took an angry swig of his beer. "He was like my older brother. I loved him, I guess. I just wanted to know what happened. Potter acted like it wasn't important and it made me want to punch him in the nose. I didn't, if that counts for anything."

Parvati drew a deep breath, shocked to hear so many words from him all at once. She laid her hand on top of his as he reached for his drink again. "Smith. I didn't know. But no one does. You never said anything."

Finally, he looked at her. His ocean colored eyes were stormy. "It was none of their business. And if you put any of that in your article I will hex you ten ways to Sunday."

Parvati realized she would never understand him. But then he flipped his hand, reminding her how quick his reflexes were, and laced his fingers with hers, giving her hand a squeeze. She softened, and asked gently, "Why wouldn't you want the truth out there?"

"Because I don't need to justify myself. The people who matter know."

"You just told me," Parvati pointed out.

His face shifted somehow. His expression didn't relax so much as settle back into the standard mix of haughty and smug. Parvati wasn't sure if she preferred the mask or the storm she now knew was beneath it.

"Guess I did." One corner of his mouth lifted, more smile than smirk, and she decided that was better. "Change the subject."

Parvati rolled her eyes, and took another sip of her drink. The blasted thing really was entirely too sweet, but she'd be damned if she'd admit it.

"Alright, then. Why are you drinking alone instead of celebrating with the team? And don't give me any introspective dragon shite about your self-knowledge."

"I'm not drinking alone," he said, gesturing in the direction of her pink concoction.

Parvati laughed. What else could she do? She took a sip and gave him an arch look.

Smith leaned closer, and his voice lowered. "When you finish that ridiculous thing, d'you want to go upstairs with me?"

Parvati wasn't proud of herself, but she finished the remains of her drink in one go.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Zach's mouth was on hers as soon as the lift's doors shut. Patil's lips were sweet from the horrible thing she'd been drinking. She dragged her mouth from his, only to plant it on his neck. He groaned, and reached down to grip her hips, pulling her flush against him.

"I will shag you right here in this elevator, Patil, I swear to god."

He reached for the emergency stop button, and she swatted his hand down.

"Don't you dare," she murmured, her breath hot and wonderful against his neck, teasing the bit of skin that was wet from her mouth. "I've always wanted to see the rooms at the Leela."

Zach laughed and dropped his hand back to her hip.

The bell dinged mercifully soon, and the lift doors opened.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Parvati had always envied Lavender her large breasts, but when Smith pulled off her bra and practically growled, "Perfect," before curving one of his large hands up to completely envelop one, she decided hers were just fine.

God, he definitely was talented with his fingers, whether they were rolling over her nipples, dancing down her abdomen, or slipping under the lace edges of her knickers to tease her. She melted under his touch. He slipped the panties away from her, running those marvelous fingers over her thighs.

"I want to taste you," he said, his voice rough and rumbling.

She let her legs fall even wider open for him.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Patil's thighs shook when she came, making Zach feel like the most powerful man in the world.

Sliding into her made him feel like the most helpless. He knew it wouldn't be long before he was the one shaking.

He paused for a moment, hovering above her. Her luscious curls were spread over the duvet, her mouth open in a gasp. It was absolutely one of the most beautiful sights he'd ever seen, and he wanted to burn it into his memory.

Patil made a discontent sound, and shifted under him, hooking her heel behind his thigh, seating him even more deeply inside of her. Zach caught her mouth with his, her musk flavoring the artless kiss. Then he began to move the way she wanted him to.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Parvati saw stars.

The first orgasm had been incredible, and she should have been content, but Smith made her greedy. The second felt like an explosion. All she could do was dig her nails into his broad back and pray she wouldn't shake apart.

He didn't give her much time to contemplate. He reared back, pulling her with him so she straddled his lap. He kissed her like he could devour her, then tucked his head against her shoulder, his arms wrapped tightly around her back as he shuddered.

Parvati threaded her fingers through Smith's hair, holding him close while he caught his breath.

~..~..~..~..~..~

When he could breathe calmly again, Zach lifted his head. He'd expected Patil to be a lot of fun, and she hadn't disappointed. He hadn't expected tenderness from her.

He reached up to cup the back of her head, his thumb grazing her jaw, and pressed a series of small kisses to her neck. She made a throaty sort of sound, and he felt the hum of it under his lips.

"I don't want to let you go yet," he said, a whisper against her flushed skin.

"So don't," she said, and he captured her mouth again.

~..~..~..~..~..~

The light streaming through the windows woke Parvati. She came to consciousness to find her head pillowed on Smith's wide chest. He was sprawled upon the bed, the rumpled sheets concealing very little. There was an awful lot of him. Parvati supposed she'd explored nearly every inch.

She ran an appreciative hand along the defining lines of his chest and stomach, and curled closer.

She felt his voice as well as heard it, when he spoke.

"So. What did you think of the room?"

She smiled against his chest, where he couldn't see it. "I suppose it met my expectations."

Smith growled, and she found herself pinned beneath him, laughing as he peppered her jaw and shoulder with kisses.

"Oi," she protested, shifting under him to a more comfortable position. She reached up to play with the golden strands of his hair. Conversationally, she asked, "What happens when we go back to England later today?"

Smith paused in his assault, dropping back down to lay on his side next to her, his hands roaming along the curves of her waist and hip.

"More of this?" He lifted a brow. "If you want."

She'd thought he'd say that. Maybe she'd come to understand him a little, after all.

"I want," she affirmed. Then she grinned impishly at him. "But you're still getting interviewed."

"Oh, you owe me a fluff piece, I reckon."

Then he pinned her again, and this time she didn't distract him with questions.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Zach wore a hat and sunglasses when he went to purchase his copy of Witch Weekly. Parvati would've given him one, he knew. But she was at work, and he wouldn't see her until much later that night, and curiosity had gotten the better of him.

Oh, sweet Merlin. She hadn't told him he'd be on the cover.

Zach practically threw his sickles on the counter, snatched the magazine, and apparated back to his flat.

When Parvati came over, he was waiting for her.

"I thought we'd just get some takeaway," she said as she breezed in, unwinding a colorful scarf from her neck.

Zach pressed her to the wall, and fit his mouth to hers in a searing kiss.

"What on earth was that for?" she asked. She looked the picture of innocence, but her warm brown eyes were twinkling.

"Do you really," he began, as he rolled his hips against her, lifting her wrists higher above her head, "think I have the most elegant hands on the Quidditch pitch?"

"Mmhmm," she said, straining upward for a kiss, which he withheld for the moment.

"And do you really," he asked, lowering his mouth to catch her earlobe between his teeth before whispering the rest of his question, "think my gruff exterior belies a deeply feeling and intelligent interior?"

"I do," she answered, the last syllable pitching sharply upwards as his tongue found the pulse in her throat. "So you liked the article then?"

He appreciated how breathless she was. "I did."

"That's good news, then."

"Oh?" he said, becoming aware of a certain tone of hers that he recognized.

"Oh, yes."

"Why's that?" He kissed his way along her jaw, and pressed her more tightly to the wall with his hips.

"Because my cousin Maryam is getting married."

The End