The Fiery Trial (Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy #8)(2) by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson

“Don’t be sorry. It’s okay to be miserable. It’s the holidays, and we’re here.”

This was what was so great about George—he always got it, and he never judged. There were many downsides to Shadowhunter Academy, but George made up for most of them. Simon had had good friends before. George was like having a brother. They shared a room. They shared their misery and their small triumphs and their terrible meals. And in the competitive atmosphere of the Academy, George always had his back. He never reveled in doing something better than Simon (and being built like one of the lesser Greek gods, George often did excel at physical things). Simon felt his spirits buoy again. Just that George knew what he was thinking—just having his friend there—it was everything.

“What’s she doing here?” George asked, nodding his head at someone behind Simon.

Dean Penhallow had appeared at the far end of the room (near the laughing fireplace). She didn’t usually come to dinner in the cafeteria. She never came near the place.

“Your attention, please,” she said. “We have some wonderful news to share with all students at the Academy. Julie Beauvale. Beatriz Mendoza. Please join me.”

Julie and Beatriz stood at the same time and looked at each other with a smile. Simon had seen that kind of smile before, that kind of synchronized movement. That was Jace and Alec all over. The pair made their way through the room. Chairs scraped as people made way, and there was the lightest murmur. The fire laughed and laughed and popped and laughed. When they reached the end of the room, the dean put an arm around each, and they all faced the school body.

“I am pleased to announce that Julie and Beatriz have decided to become parabatai.”

A sudden rush of applause. Several people stood, mostly in the elite track, and hooted and called out. This was allowed for a few moments, and then the dean raised her hand.

“As you all know, the parabatai ceremony is a serious commitment, a bond broken only by death. I know this news will cause many of you to consider whether you will find a parabatai. Not all Shadowhunters have a parabatai, or even want one. In fact, most of you will not. That is very important to remember. If you feel, as Julie and Beatriz do, that you have found your parabatai, or if you want to speak to someone about any part of the ceremony or what it means, you can speak to any of us. We are all here to help you make this most important of decisions. But again, congratulations to Julie and Beatriz. In their honor, there is a cake this evening.”

As she spoke, the lurking evil that were the Academy cooks were bringing out a large, uneven cake.

“You may now resume your meal, and please do have some cake.”

“Where did that come from?” George asked. “Those two? Parabatai?”

Simon shook his head. Shadowhunter families twined around each other like climbing vines. It was easier to find your lifetime partner when you started from birth. Many at the Academy were strangers. Julie and Beatriz, in the elite track, had more connections to each other, but Simon had never gotten the idea that they were that close.

“Well, that was a surprise,” George said in a low voice. “You all right?”

It had hit Simon like a bit of a blow. He had thought of asking Clary to be his parabatai. But parabatai were like Alec and Jace, training together as Shadowhunters since they were kids. Sure, Simon and Clary had known each other that long, but not in the throwing-knives-and-killing-demons way (except in video games, which, unfortunately, did not count). Simon started to move the idea of parabatai into the mental category of things he probably would not have. He was training all the time. He hadn’t seen her. He was . . .

. . . very good at making up excuses.

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