A/n: Hello! This my new fic and I'm really excited! Thank you so much for all the wonderful reviews and comments for Isolation, and I hope you enjoy this one too! Huge thank you to Maeghan (occupymalfoysbed on tumblr) for betaing! Disclaimer: Don't own anything. Literally nothing.
Song recommendation: Black Lab - This Night.
Dark Water and Dying Eyebrights
Yesterday's just a memory, tomorrow is never what it's supposed to be ~
Chapter 1: The Double-Take
Draco's eyes fluttered open, squinting against the rays of sun slipping past his curtains into his room. Groaning to himself, he checked the clock and frowned when he saw that it was almost eleven. So much for his seven-time promise that he would sort out his sleeping pattern.
He stretched his arms above his head and sluggishly left his bed, pulling on yesterday's t-shirt as he headed to the window and drew back the curtains. The garish light struck him blind for a moment, but then he was looking out at the vast carpet of sea, broken up by the nearby isles of Tresco and St. Martin's.
It was calm today; calmer than it had been for several weeks. So calm that he could barely hear the familiar sound of waves beating the shore by his house.
Smothering a yawn and stretching out the ache in his spine, he paid the landscape no attention; he simply checked the sky for clouds. It was clear. Completely clear. The sky was so blue he couldn't see where it blended with the sea.
He'd told himself he would venture into town today if the weather was decent, and now he was regretting that notion. But he needed to. The milk in the fridge was practically cheese, and he'd been trimming mould off his bread for the past couple of days.
Twisting his head until his neck clicked, he dressed himself in a loose pair of shorts and decided to change into a fresh t-shirt at the last minute. As he left his bedroom and descended the stairs, the sounds of his footsteps echoed in the emptiness of his home.
Sometimes the constant stillness and absence of noise irked him. Sometimes it even woke him in the night. The rest of the time it was his only comfort; his best friend.
An owl was waiting at the kitchen window when he went downstairs, tapping impatiently against the glass until Draco opened the window, and the bird practically spat the mail into his hand.
He shuffled through the usual junk: two bills and the standard monthly owl from the Ministry reminding him to contact Shacklebolt and confirm that he was still in the country. Rolling his eyes, he toyed with it with agitated fingers, crinkling the edges of the envelope as he tried to decide if he should walk or Apparate into town.
That was the handy thing about living on the Isle of St. Mary's: everything was somewhat close. The island itself was only two-and-a-half miles across, but Draco lived on the other side of the island from its largest town, Hugh Town. Despite the Island's small area, his five-bedroom cottage was substantially secluded, tucked away in the North-East corner without a neighbour within a half-mile radius. That was the main reason he'd chosen the house. As for why he'd chosen to live on St. Mary's in the Isles of Scilly, it was the furthest he could get away from London without leaving the UK and without having to freeze to death in Scotland.
Additionally, with a population of less than 1,700 (and only another 500 on the neighbouring islands), the Isles of Scilly were quiet, especially as most of the people living here were retirees. Also, and he'd never thought he'd say this, but the fact that only Muggles lived in the archipelago was a huge benefit. In the six years that he'd lived here, he hadn't once encountered another magical being. According to some records he'd acquired back when he'd been looking to move house, he'd read that no wizard or witch had lived on the Isles of Scilly since 1904, and that fact had really been the deciding factor in his decision to move to St. Mary's.
There was no Floo Network, no secret magical establishments, nothing. And that was exactly what he wanted.
He didn't feel any particular attachment to the place he had lived for six years; it was purely a matter of convenience. Nobody here knew him. Not one person on the island knew about the things he had done, and he had learned in that first year after the war that anonymity was preferable to infamy. It was so much easier to be invisible.
So that was what he had done for the past six years, and it was what he intended to do until he had served his sentence.
He kept himself to himself and barely left his home, simply counting down the days of his twelve-year punishment until he could finally leave England and head to Paris, where his mother had bought several properties not long after Lucius had been sent to Azkaban back in his Sixth Year.
Only five more years of solitude to go.
The only downfall to his isolated home was the tourists; during the summer months, they invaded the islands like a plague of flies. They were the main reason for his reluctance to venture into town, but it was a chore that he had ignored for long enough.
Heading to the back room to check on Aetos, he petted his faithful eagle owl absently and pulled out one of the standard Ministry check-in cards, tapped his wand against it, and attached it to Aetos' leg.
"There you go, boy," he mumbled. "Just the usual. Go to the Ministry and let them know I haven't tried to escape."
The bird took off East, towards London and the Ministry. The check-in card was merely a formality with a code that was signature to Draco and his wand, but there was a tracing spell on Aetos to ensure that the card had indeed been sent from within the UK. Occasionally, they would send an Auror to do an unannounced check, perhaps every three months or so, and they would search his house, check for any indications of Dark Magic, and then ask some standard questions, like if he'd been in contact with any ex-Death Eaters, if he'd heard from any of the Death Eaters still wanted by the Ministry, et cetera, et cetera.
Several times, Draco had considered how easy it would be to just jump the sea and stay in France for a few days, but it wasn't worth the risk. If he got caught outside the UK, he went straight to Azkaban for three years, and then he would be confined to the UK again for another twelve years. It was easier to just keep his head down and get on with it. So that's what he did.
Finishing his tea and deciding that he didn't feel like a two-mile walk today, he gathered his wallet and his wand and then Apparated to a small wooded area just outside of Hugh Town, knowing from experience which area would be safe and free of Muggles. From there, it was a two minute walk into the town, and he could feel the sun breathing against his neck as he strolled the familiar footpaths and shortcuts, wrinkling his nose as the stench of stale lager and cigarettes scratched at his nose.
It was almost the end of August, which meant the majority of the infuriating tourists had disappeared, but the lingering aftertaste of hen nights and regurgitated cider hung in the air like a thick, choking smog, and it would do for a few more weeks. The closer he got to Hugh Town, the stronger the stench became, and he decided to cut through a park, if only because he knew the scent of honeysuckle might save his sense of smell for a few minutes.
Despite the end of the tourist season, when he got to the park, there were still plenty of people taking advantage of the warm weather. It was mainly families with picnics, a few young couples scattered about, apparently oblivious to the crowd around them as they indulged in eating each other's faces, and Draco made a point to scowl at a few of them.
He continued on his way into town, walking along Hugh Street and intentionally avoiding eye contact with the pedestrians, locals and tourists alike. Swerving this way and that to evade sticky children with dripping ice creams and naive couples who were apparently permanently joined at their hands, he headed for the local supermarket. Before he entered, he braced himself for the inevitable nightmare that he was about to face once he stepped over the threshold.
He ducked inside quickly, keeping his head low as he grabbed two baskets, but unfortunately the shop was quiet, and that irritating bell above the door announced his arrival.
"Oh! Mr Malfoy!"
Draco grimaced. "Mrs Fletcher."
"We haven't seen you for weeks," she said from behind the counter. "My David and I were getting concerned. We were debating whether or not to go to your house and see if you were still alive."
"Well, as you can see, I am perfectly fine, Mrs Fletcher."
Mr and Mrs Fletcher, or David and Florence as they often insisted they be called, owned this little supermarket and also a gift shop on the other side of town. Both in their early sixties, they had lived on St. Mary's for over twenty years, having moved here once their children had left home. Their two children were called Christopher and Meggie, and both now lived not too far from London; Christopher was a solicitor and Meggie was a primary school teacher. The Fletchers had a golden retriever called Shandy, a budgie called Timothy, and two Guinea pigs named Salt and Pepper. Mrs Fletcher enjoyed pottery, crocheting, and had recently started yoga, while Mr Fletcher was more partial to fishing, sailing, and stamp collecting.
Draco knew all of this useless information because both Mrs Fletcher and her husband found it necessary to engage him in conversation every time he entered their supermarket. Why? He had no idea. He had made it blatant to both of them that he had little interest in their lives, or indeed the lives of anyone on the island. Nevertheless, the couple insisted on sharing anecdotes with him whenever he set foot in their supermarket, so much so that Draco suspected he could write both of their biographies in detail.
Even now, as he hid himself among the aisles, selecting the items he needed, Mrs Fletcher continued to talk to him, raising her voice so that it carried all the way to the back of her shop, like a bloody banshee.
"We were really getting worried!" she went on. "I know you don't come into town often, but I haven't seen you in...oh, about eight weeks? Since the tourists started coming, really. Speaking about the tourists, it's been a fantastic year! You know Charlie who owns the fish and chip shop by the bay? Well, he reckons that he made double what he did last year, and when you think about the strange weather..."
Draco sighed and shut out her ramblings as best as he could. He was used to this routine now; he'd been doing it for the last six years. As Mrs Fletcher wittered on and on about...whatever, he carried on shopping, selecting the same items he did every trip. Just necessities. Nothing interesting, nothing new. Bread, milk, pasta, soup, cheddar, meat, whiskey, etc. He always purchased enough to last at least a month so he could keep his trips to town to a minimum. Despite his past, even Draco Malfoy could acknowledge that whichever Muggle had invented the freezer had been a genius.
"...And I told my David that we should consider expanding, you know. Maybe open up another gift shop. I know we're not getting any younger, but I really enjoy running our businesses. It's so lovely getting to meet so many people, and I think we could..."
The bloody woman could blether for Britain. It really was ridiculous. A headache had already begun to fester at the back of his brain.
Placing down his two full baskets near the counter, he returned to the front of the store and collected another two.
"I'm assuming you'd like this all to be delivered this evening, as usual?" asked Mrs Fletcher.
"As usual," replied Draco.
"Well, we won't be able to deliver this evening, I'm afraid. David and I promised George and Robert we would head to Tresco tonight. You know, they're raising money for-"
"Right," he interrupted. "I'll take one bag home and you can deliver the rest tomorrow, then. If you could separate the milk and bread."
"Not a problem! You know, I was chatting to Ellie Tanner earlier, and she was saying that the hotel has been busy for the entire tourist season! She was saying she wouldn't mind expanding, too. She was thinking about opening a pub or..."
Draco rushed to finish, chucking in his final bits and pieces with little consideration. He was so desperate to remove himself from the situation before his headache turned into full-blown migraine.
Satisfied that he could survive on what he had a selected for a month, he reluctantly headed for the counter, knowing that this would bring on the worst.
"All done, Mr. Malfoy?" she smiled.
"That's why I'm at the till," he frowned.
Now came the painstaking wait as she totalled up his shopping, pausing between items to, of course, talk. He had heard of these Muggle machines called self-service checkouts, and he couldn't wait until they finally made their way to St. Mary's. Placing his four full baskets on the counter, he tapped his foot impatiently as she slowly pulled out items and hit the buttons on the till.
"You know, I'm not sure I'd like another gift shop, though," she continued, oblivious to Draco's rolling eyes. "I was thinking it would be nice to try something different. Perhaps a cafe or something, like Tess. Her Kavorna Cafe is doing very well."
"Brilliant," he muttered.
"Oh! Speaking of the Kavorna, my David was in here about five minutes before you came in and he saw our new neighbour! Or neighbours...you know, I'm not sure, I'll have to find out. You know the cottage near...Oh wait, you probably don't know, do you? Since you've been hiding away for two months."
Draco stared at her jadedly. "Please, enlighten me."
He had long discovered that many of the people on this island were oblivious to sarcasm, so he really should have known better than to say that.
"Well, you know that lovely old cottage near Watermill Cove? The blue one? Someone finally bought it about a couple of months ago, and we've been waiting to see who it was. They arrived today. A man and a woman, both lovely apparently."
"How exciting," he said, his tone flat. "If you don't mind, Mrs Fletcher, I do have some other errands-"
"I don't think they're a couple, though," she went on. "My David said he only spoke to them briefly, but he was of the opinion that they were friends or brother and sister, perhaps. He said he's heard that only the girl is moving into the house, too. I guess it would make sense for her to bring a friend to help with boxes and everything. Apparently she's a lovely girl, very sweet, about your age-"
"Mrs Fletcher, I really don't-"
"What was her name again?" she murmured to herself. "Somebody did tell me...Grayson? No, that's not right. Was it Griffiths? No, no..."
"Miss Granger!" she exclaimed happily. "That was it! Granger."
Draco looked up from his shoes, his brow furrowed with interest.
There was a name he had neither heard nor uttered in seven years. A curious knot of nerves tightened around his stomach, but he told himself he was being ridiculous. Granger was a common enough surname that he shouldn't have thought anything of it, and yet that knot of nerves just wouldn't quite leave him be.
"...just the nicest girl, apparently. I think I'm going to invite her round for tea once she's settled, maybe visit with a welcoming gift or something-"
"What's her first name?" asked Draco. "Do you know it?"
"Her first name? Oh, gosh, my David did say, but you know I'm so terrible with names-"
"Was it an unusual name?" He hesitated, uncertain if should say the next part. "Like Hermione?"
The name felt so foreign and lost on his tongue, like a bitter aftertaste of something he hadn't eaten in years. He knew he would chastise himself later for reacting in such a way to a seemingly insignificant coincidence, but it had been an instinctive response.
"Hermione?" echoed Mrs Fletcher, confused. "Can't say I've ever heard a name like that before. No, no, it was quite a normal name. Jane or something like that."
"Yes, I'm sure," she assured him. "I would remember a name like...what did you say before?"
He licked his teeth before he repeated, "Hermione. Hermione Granger."
"Yes, I would remember an odd name like that, I'm sure. Anyway, I heard she's just a sweetheart. She's already won over my David, and I think-"
"How much is my total, Mrs Fletcher?"
"Oh...uh, eighty-seven pounds and twelve pence, please," she replied, still smiling. "That's including the usual bulk stuff you ask me to put by for you. You know, you really should consider-"
"Eighty-eight pounds," he said curtly, slamming the money down on the counter. The knot of nerves had dissipated and he was ready to leave. "Keep the change."
"Oh, thank you! I'll donate it to George and Robert's fundraiser-
"Yes, fine. I'll see you tomorrow evening with the rest of my things."
Snatching the bag he needed, he hastily exited the shop before Mrs Fletcher could even open her mouth again. Once outside, he again meandered his way through the crowd, eyes downcast and narrowed. Slipping out of sight down an alley, he checked his surroundings carefully before he Apparated home.
Back at his house, Draco did what he did every other day; he made himself some food and completed some necessary documents.
When his father had died, all the businesses that had remained in the Malfoy family for years had been passed on to him; but within three weeks he had relinquished almost all responsibility and left them to Lucius' old partner, Harold Kendrick. Despite this, Draco was still required by a Malfoy-drawn contract to approve certain deals and strategies.
After he had completed all his work and sent the papers away with Aetos, he would retire outside for a few hours with a book, and then he would go for a run. He wouldn't venture far; just a few miles along the isolated coastal path to Watermill Cove and then back to his house. He enjoyed running. He liked how everything was a haze of thudding; his heart, his feet, his head, all pounding like an army. Quidditch was hardly an option here, but he had realised early on that he needed some sort of physical exercise to distract himself from the empty evenings.
Sometimes he suspected that had he not taken up running, he would have either launched himself off the nearest cliff, or ended up in Azkaban by now.
He set off when the sun started to sink back into the sea, bathing the sky and water in explosive shades of orange, and it reminded him of war. Midges invaded the air just as the temperature dipped, and across the sea in the distance, he could see the lights of all the little houses in Tresco flicking on as families settled in for the evening.
It wasn't until he arrived at Watermill Cove just as the evening turned to dusk that he recalled the bizarre conversation he'd had with Mrs Fletcher. Sweat shimmered on his brow and his chest heaved with the exertion of his run, yet all he was aware of at that moment was how anxious he had been earlier, when Mrs Fletcher had said Granger's name. His eyes wandered over to the blue cottage on the other side of the cove, noticing that one of the downstairs windows was illuminated. A silhouette moved across the drawn curtains, but from where he was standing he couldn't even tell if the person inside was male or female.
Shaking his head and scowling, he reminded himself yet again that Granger was a common surname and that Mrs Fletcher had seemed certain that the newcomer's first name wasn't Hermione. So what was the problem?
There isn't a problem.
And there really wasn't. He could almost laugh at himself for being so idiotically paranoid. Nothing changed here on St. Mary's, and that was exactly why he loved and loathed it.
He nodded his head firmly to himself and wiped the sweat away from his temple.
Without a backward glance at the silhouette, he turned on his heel and jogged back home, calm and convinced that his irrational reaction had all been for nothing. He went to bed that night with not a single thought of Mrs Fletcher, Granger, or the little blue cottage.
A/n: Hey guys! So this is the first chapter of my new multi-chap and I'm very excited about it! Thank you again for all the amazing reviews and responses to my other fics. I am so grateful and I hope you guys enjoy this one too! Let me know your thoughts!