The class was assembled on the beach, sand between their toes. Slytherin House was crowded under a green silk shade, blinking in the tropical sunlight and marinating in sunblock.
“It’s nice to be out of the dungeon,” said Hecuba Entwhistle, gesturing with her empty pina colada glass. “Although the scenery isn’t that much different.” She grinned wickedly in the general direction of a group of young Muggle men in swim trunks.
“These are pretty, though,” cooed Munificent Bulstrode, looking at the firecrab where it sat, huddled in its shell. “Not all that exciting, though. All it’s done is sit there and glitter. I don’t know how I’m going to get eighteen inches on ‘Sat on the beach. Drank pina coladas. Watched firecrab sparkle.’ ”
“Write really big?” Mallory Chambers, who had been pressed into service as the cabana boy, topped off glasses as Hecuba made her suggestion.
Spike looked around at the beach. Promimently posted were a number of signs, red on white, warning sternly “Do not taunt the Firecrab.” How exactly would one taunt a firecrab? Munificent was right, this was going to be a very short and fairly dull essay.
Spike picked up the square she’d been working with for her practical and flipped it idly in her hands.
“Hey!” Munificent shouted. “Look at this!”
The firecrab had poked its head out of the shell, and was staring raptly at Spike, head bobbing and weaving.
“Something has its attention. Finally.” Hecuba crept closer as the crab extended its legs and began to trundle over the sands. Spike held the square to one side, giggling as the firecrab turned to follow it … and kept turning … until its back was turned to the trio …
“Hey! Look out!” The firecrab blasted the center of the square with a jet of flame, and Spike performed a quick veronica to get out of the way. The crab surveyed the glowing red center with distinct satisfaction, then folded back into its smoking shell.
Spike examined the glowing red-hot center of the square.
“Good thing I used the flame-retardant yarn,” she said.