Where the Magic Is
-- Part Two --
In Part One: Hermione's obsession with a vanished Draco Malfoy has led to her putting her career in Magical Law Enforcement in jeopardy. Now, by means of a Locator Charm, she has found him...
Hermione Granger stepped out of the 767 at the Nadi International Airport, Republic of Fiji, and blinked against the bright tropical sun.
She surveyed her surroundings from the top of the moveable stairs. She was on the largest Fijian island, Viti Levu. She could see sugar cane fields surrounding the airport, and palm trees taller than she'd known they could grow. In the eastern distance were mountains densely covered in green vegetation. Another passenger coughed politely behind her, and Hermione hurried down the steps.
She'd had plenty of time to read up on Fiji on the ten hour plane ride. It would have taken twice as long, but she'd first Floo'd to the office of a colleague from the Imperial Magic Ministry in Tokyo. Hermione believed in Muggle transportation, but there were limits.
She'd learned the territory of Fiji was comprised of more than seven-hundred-thousand square kilometres, ninety-seven percent of it water. There were more than three hundred islands, but just two main ones. English was an official language, a relief to Hermione as Translator Charms were notoriously tricky. History would long remember the blood-drenched feud between Ethelbert the Incoherent and Mumblemouth Kay.
Also, cannibalism had once been an important institution to Fijian warriors -- the losers of battles would often find themselves eaten. Occasionally a Fijian would cut off a piece of a captured foe -- his finger, say -- cook it, and offer it to his victim for a giggle. Rather a good fit for Malfoy, Hermione considered.
As she headed to Baggage Claim, she breathed in deeply -- frangipani flowers and burning sugar cane. The tropical heat tempered by the trade winds felt wonderful against her bare shoulders. It had been a wintry London February when she'd left; here it was the beginning of summer. It would all be very pleasant, she reflected, if it weren't for Malfoy. She had to chuckle when she realised she'd often thought the same thing about Hogwarts.
Of course he couldn't live on Viti Levu with its cities and highways. The spelled map had shown him to be on an eastern island so remote it probably didn't have a name. No, she thought, if Malfoy lives there he's no doubt named it Malfoy Isle. Malfoy Paradise, perhaps? Draco Lagoon? She'd been on the plane too long.
Whatever it was called, it was nearly four hundred kilometres away. She'd need to find a boat.
It turned out she'd have to pass through Lakeba, which, with eight villages, was the closest thing to a hub in the Lau Group where she was headed. A prop plane went there regularly. One left in only nine days. The Fijians looked at her in wonder when she said she couldn't wait that long and suggested she catch a ride on a Copra boat. Some kava, or a bottle of rum would make the Captain look favourably on her.
After asking around at the port, Hermione had at last managed to secure deck passage on a freighter heading east that same afternoon. The Captain had indeed appreciated the liquor and the boat seemed sea-worthy, if no-frills. Deck passage, Hermione soon learned, meant just that -- a cot on the deck. Still, it had only rained one night, she was reasonably far from the diesel fumes, and she had plenty of company.
Fijian islanders, the guidebook had told her, were among the most kind, polite, and generous people in the world, and Hermione had found that to be true. But there was something about the way they looked at her with their beautiful dark eyes that made her uncomfortable. She felt that all of them, from that teenage girl playing with her young brother, to the elderly man sipping a cup of kava, could see through to her soul. Perhaps they had some innate gift for Legilimency; she'd have to research that later. And after all, there was no harm in that, but the empathy in their eyes made her itch somehow.
She didn't want to be known; not now, and perhaps not ever. How did Malfoy, with all his secrets, manage to live among them?
She was the only European on board; most tourists never came east, but remained at the resorts of the main islands. The islanders seemed to have made it their mission to make her feel as at home as she could living and sleeping on the crowded deck. She'd never been without a companion if she wanted one. The children, especially, crowded around her, asking questions about England, and her travels. They hadn't asked her about being a witch, but she'd felt sure they could; it was only politeness holding them back.
She'd soon found out there was no set arrival time. The Captain made his stops at different islands. The freight was loaded and unloaded, and in time, if all went well, they'd dock at Lakeba. Four days after they'd left, the time seemed to be nearing at last. Hermione leaned over the deck rail, looking out over the ocean. In the far distance was the largest island she'd seen from the deck of the Copra boat.
Karolina, a girl of Polynesian heritage with straight black hair past her waist, joined her at the rail. "Lakeba," she pointed.
Hermione watched the girl's beautiful tresses flow in the sea breeze. Her own hair had puffed up beyond control her first day in the humidity, and had resisted the strongest magic. She hated the idea of facing Malfoy that way. She'd had more than ten years of well-behaved hair, and now it came time to see her old teenaged foe she looked like some kind of tropical chrysanthemum.
She groaned inwardly. Why couldn't she stop caring about things like that?
And there was Karolina, smiling at her knowingly. "You have troubles," she said kindly, "about a man."
How did she do that? "Maybe a little," Hermione said, and then, sighing, "Yes."
The girl smiled again. "Do not worry. Vaka malua. All will be well."
"But that's where I need to go."
"I'm sorry, miss. No boats."
"But boats must go there. People live there, don't they?"
The man shrugged, looking sympathetic.
"I'm sorry, miss. Isa lei. I wish I could help."
The awful thing was he really did want to help. They all did. But apparently no boats went to Malfoy's little island.
She'd spent the last three days trudging around Lakeba, from village to village, cove to cove. No one went to that island, still more than one-hundred kilometres away. No one knew when anyone from that island would be coming there. But everyone had a cousin, or a brother, or a friend in the neighbouring village who might know someone who could take her.
They'd all felt desolated at disappointing her. She'd probably caused more unhappiness on the island in three days, Hermione reflected, than there'd been in the last three months. Judging by the islanders' faces, maybe four. People she hadn't even met had taken to shaking their heads sadly at her when she approached.
They'd all wanted to make it up to her. Almost everyone had offered to take her in as an honoured guest. In one confusing conversation, she'd felt sure a young chief was trying to propose.
Using magic to reach the island would almost certainly alert Malfoy, giving him time to disappear again, if that's what he wanted. And Apparating to a place one had never been was foolhardy, particularly over water, but Hermione was nearly ready to try it.
Exhausted and disheartened, she was sitting on the sand at yet another cove, letting the warm waves flow over her feet and ignoring the islanders' sympathetic looks, when she noticed the village children bounding excitedly into the waves. Then she heard it -- the unmistakable roar of a motorboat.
It was a modern gleaming thing, unlike any she'd seen in this part of Fiji, slick and streamlined enough for shallow water. It pulled in close to the shore, scattering the children who ran whooping with joy.
The boat's motor sputtered and it drifted close, nearly to Hermione's feet. The driver, a young male islander, looked straight at her and grinned.
"Miss Granger? Mr. Malfoy would like to offer you a ride."
And there he was, standing on a small wooden dock, watching the motorboat drift in. Smiling at her, seeming completely at ease.
He was casually elegant in a loose, white shirt and tan linen trousers, rolled up at the cuffs. Hermione wondered bitterly if they were Savile Row. She hadn't seen any fabric like that when she'd visited a lifetime ago.
He had the perfect manners not to notice that she hadn't returned his greeting. He leaned down to help the driver secure the boat.
He looked older, she noted. He'd filled out well, which of course he would, and the tropical sun had tanned him a light biscuit colour.
It had been ten years. A war had ended, a lifetime had passed, and he was looking at her like he'd seen her last week. Like they hadn't been bitter enemies when they'd parted a decade ago.
He reached a hand down to help her onto the dock. "Malfoy," she finally managed.
He flashed a small sad smile. "Malfoy? Still at school, are we?"
And just like that, he could still make her feel completely inadequate. When she'd found him. When she'd tracked him down. She tried to find scathing words. Or any words. But all she could do was stare.
"Lemeki," he addressed the islander. "Miss Granger will be staying. Bring her things in."
She'd been given a room on the second floor of Malfoy's what, mansion, she supposed. Lemeki had called it a bure, which meant house, she knew, but it was too grand for that.
It was enormous, and octagonal, of all things, which Lemeki had proudly informed her was the traditional shape for a high chief's dwelling. Of course. She'd felt somehow relieved to find that Malfoy was still Malfoy even after all this time.
The first floor cathedral ceiling was at least twenty-five feet high, perhaps thirty in the centre. It was buttressed by what looked to Hermione like native woods -- mangrove? sandalwood? -- wrapped in coconut fibre rope. Four walls were floor-to-ceiling glass looking out on what, as Lemeki had said, was Malfoy's private island -- down to the beach, out to the ocean's horizon.
Her own room was all polished wood, with its own glass wall. She could look out, as she was doing now, and see half the island. The sun was setting -- tropical oranges and purples over the water that was a perfect turquoise during the day, and darkening now to a midnight blue. The swaying palm trees stood out black against the jewel-toned sky.
To her right she could see the rising verdant hills typical of a volcanically-formed island. To her left the terrain was more like a coral atoll -- white sand with a small, but exquisite, lagoon.
If you wanted to disappear, she reflected, this was a better place than most.
When Lemeki had shown her to her room, he'd told her Mr. Draco would expect her when she'd refreshed herself, but not to hurry. The way he'd looked at her had made it clear her travel-mussed clothes were not acceptable, and he'd driven that home by sliding open the closet.
Malfoy had had female guests before, evidently. One in particular, she wondered, or a series? The closet was filled with beautiful, tropical-weight dresses, along with sarongs, light sweaters and even bikinis.
Well. She wondered which would display more confidence -- going downstairs in her own wrinkled and possibly smelly clothing, or showing she couldn't be intimidated by his beautiful dresses, or house, or manners? In the end she selected a light pink halter-topped cotton dress from the closet.
When she judged she'd been upstairs long enough to show she didn't mind making him wait, but not long enough for him to think she was afraid, she walked down.
"This is a tanoa, miss," said the second servant Hermione had seen, an elderly woman, indicating the large wooden bowl she was placing on the floor between her and Malfoy.
Hermione shifted on her woven mat to get a better look at its thick, dark contents.
"It's yaqona, Hermione," Malfoy said with an amused quirk of his lips. "Kava."
"I know what it is, Mal -- Draco." She corrected herself, but not before the amused quirk was there again.
"I thought a yaqona ceremony was in order. It's the traditional way of welcoming guests," he added, dipping a coconut shell cup into the bowl and handing it to her. "E dua na bilo? Have some?"
He repeated the process for Lemeki who was seated on his own mat beside them. Sometimes he was a servant, apparently, and sometimes a friend. She supposed he and Malfoy understood the rules.
Draco dipped a bilo for himself, then smiled at her. "I welcome you. I offer you what's mine."
"Drink it all at once, miss," said Lemeki helpfully.
She peered at the murky contents of her cup. She'd been offered yaqona before, of course. Nearly everyone on Lakeba had wanted to share some with her, but she'd been too focused on the goal of reaching Malfoy's island to want to take the time to socialise.
Neither Draco nor Lemeki had yet taken a drink. They both watched her expectantly. Fine. She gulped it down, all at once as Lemeki had said, then coughed. It was peppery, and thick, but not unpleasant. Malfoy smiled and refilled her bilo.
She'd read about kava. It was a mild relaxant, much like herbal tea, her guidebook insisted, and only intoxicating if drunk in enormous quantities. Dried kava root, of course, was an ingredient in many potions. She didn't feel anything so far.
Except, that was, for sheer amazement at the utterly composed manner in which she'd been received onto Malfoy's island and into his home. He was so absolutely at ease, or at least pretending to be, so matchlessly civilised.
She took a sip of her yaqona, grimaced, then decided that draining it in one draught was the way to go after all. Her tongue felt tingly.
Malfoy, the soul of politeness, offered her another cup. She made a motion to refuse it, but that infernally amused expression came over his face again, and she snatched the cup from his hand. He watched her placidly as she sipped, his expression untroubled, the lines of his body completely relaxed.
What was all this? It had been ten years! Hadn't it? And a war in which they'd been, at least for a time, on opposite sides. He'd cut himself off from his world. She'd found him. She deserved at least a look of mild surprise for her efforts.
Or maybe she'd imagined the whole thing. Perhaps she and Malfoy had spent the last decade as doubles partners at the country club. Judging by his attitude that seemed just as likely.
An amused snort escaped her unexpectedly, causing a bit of the kava to spurt from her mouth. Malfoy, the git, had the air of being too well-bred to observe such things. Lemeki handed her a cloth napkin. Huh. Her tongue had gone numb without her noticing.
Well, she could be just as civilised as Malfoy -- as Draco, she amended to herself, since they seemed to be so chummy now. She smiled sweetly at him over her bilo. He smiled back -- a real smile that reached his eyes, not his trademark smirk. Merlin, he was infuriating.
Lemeki had produced a guitar from somewhere and was strumming softly and crooning in Fijian. Hermione felt the balmy trade winds on her bare shoulders and realised that that one of the glass walls had disappeared somehow. She knew if Malfoy had been using magic they would have found him years ago. Technology, then. The moonlight filtered in, turning his blond hair silver.
The yaqona didn't taste nearly as bad once you got used to it, she realised. The tingle seemed to be spreading from her tongue to her shoulders and arms. Not an unpleasant feeling.
"Why did you send a boat?" she blurted suddenly, forgetting to be civilised. "How did you know I was looking for you?"
She'd managed to revive the amused expression. "You haven't been exactly subtle, Hermione. I was informed a bushy-haired, European woman was looking for my island. Who else?"
Bushy-haired, she thought. "Informed?" she asked.
"I have people watching things for me."
Well then. She took a gulp of the yaqona. The tingle had reached her legs. He was gazing at her almost fondly now, like a favourite pet who had finally mastered a new trick.
She absolutely could not stand it one millisecond longer. "For Merlin's sake, Malfoy!" It felt like someone else talking. Whoever it was sounded exceedingly frustrated. "It's been ten bloody years! Aren't you surprised to see me? At least a little?"
He didn't speak for a moment, and looked deep into her eyes. He seemed to have picked up the islanders' knack of seeing into someone's soul. "I always knew we'd meet again."
Hermione felt like screaming. She would have, too, if she wasn't feeling so pleasantly numb. Instead, she laughed.
And the amused expression was gone. So it wasn't all kava and small talk then. She felt she'd accomplished something.
"Why are you here, Hermione?" he asked, suddenly serious.
This was her chance, she knew, and it might not come again. "Why --" She stopped, unsure how to finish the question.
"Why what?" He'd regained his composure and seemed prepared to wait all night.
The words came in a rush. "Why leave the wizarding world? Why do you stay away? How can you give up magic?"
He appeared to consider, then waved an arm in a gesture that included both his house and his island. "I have money. In this world that's the same thing."
"I hope you'll stay as long as you like," he'd said like a true islander. "I'm sorry I can't give you a more personal sort of hospitality during the day, but I'll be rather busy with some... business affairs."
"You rob banks, Draco. And I'm in Magical Law Enforcement."
His mouth quirked. "I don't use magic, Hermione. Feel free to call Interpol, if you'd like. Lemeki will find the number for you."
Banks weren't his only enterprise, she soon found out. Lemeki, who seemed to be a full partner, had proudly showed her the brain centre of their operations.
It lacked the glamour of the rest of the house. Papers with drawings and mysterious symbols were tacked chaotically to the walls of the small room, looking not unlike Arithmancy exercises.
The chamber's main features were three powerful interconnected computers with enormous, flat screens. A series of long numbers scrolled by, too fast for Hermione to catch more than a blur.
They were numbered Swiss accounts, Lemeki explained. A few more judicious visits to Zurich, and Draco would have his hands on quite a lot of secreted-away Nazi gold.
It was all quite fascinating. Hermione inspected the room with much interest. One large paper hanging haphazardly on the wall caught her attention. It was a blueprint, covered in hand-written scrawls.
"Is that," she asked incredulously, peering closer, "the Casino at Monte Carlo?"
Draco had appeared then and, his smile a bit strained, escorted her firmly out.
After some soul-searching, Hermione had decided she should take Draco up on his offer of hospitality -- after all, she'd gone to too much trouble to find him to give up now -- and they'd settled into a kind of a routine.
During the day she'd hike in the hills, or sunbathe by the lagoon. She hadn't packed any bathing costumes -- she hadn't envisioned her trip requiring any -- and she'd at first been reluctant to wear the ones that had been provided in her room.
They were far more revealing than any she'd ever worn before, and would no doubt have sent Ron and Harry first into apoplexies, then running for a dressing gown to cover her up. But, she thought, it's Fiji.
She found this motto served her well in many things. The food was fried and starchier than she would allow herself in London? It's Fiji. She spent the day without even thinking about work? It's Fiji. Crimes were being plotted and perhaps perpetrated under the roof where she was staying? The Ministry gave her no authority in non-magical matters, and besides, it was Fiji.
She found herself enjoying the company of the person who'd made fourth year sometimes a living hell? Definitely Fiji.
After Draco and Lemeki had spent the day doing things she carefully didn't ask about, they'd all have a late dinner -- fried fish, boiled taro leaves topped with coconut cream, and boiled cassava, or the like. Then she'd take a moonlit swim in the bathtub-warm ocean.
The first night she'd swum alone. She'd never been a strong swimmer, and so didn't stray far from the shore, but she revelled in the feel of the water enveloping her in its liquid heat. Happening to glance up at the house, she'd seen Draco there, standing at a glass wall, watching her.
Something in the moonlight or the caress of the warm water made her daring, and she rose to her feet, standing there in the shallow waves, the bathing suit that in England she wouldn't have dared wear in her own flat, clinging to her, wet. Just to see what Draco would do.
She hadn't swum alone again.
"You don't miss magic?"
"Not one bit." The moonlight shone on his face, making it boyishly open and honest in a way it never had been when he was an actual boy.
"You're a wizard, Draco."
"Not anymore." He looked sincere. That really was quite a moon.
"You can't stop being a wizard."
"I'm Draco Malfoy." And the familiar smirk was back. "I can do whatever I want."
He dove under the water, passing whisper-close to her, making sure she felt him slick against her body.
She was afraid to venture far into the ocean, so he was teaching her, each night a little more. To reach farther with her strokes, to kick harder. Already she'd been out farther than she'd ever dared. Confidence, he said, was the most important thing.
Hermione thought the Pacific would care more about her buoyancy than her self-esteem, but kept silent.
Tonight she was learning the backstroke. She floated on her back, warm, drifting. Draco was behind her, hands under her back, on her ribs.
He pulled her closer, moving his hands to her waist, his chest just touching the crown of her head. With each stroke she reached past him, the blades of her arms slicing the water on each side of his waist. On each pull she touched his ribs, the muscles of his sides, his hips.
"You didn't have to leave, you know. We would have taken you in."
"Would you?" he murmured near her ear.
"I don't know," she admitted.
For some reason this made him laugh. He trailed his hands, wet and slippery, up her sides, under her skull, through her floating hair. Until he had pulled away, until she was drifting on her own.
"I've never met a witch before," Lemeki grinned, as he plopped down beside her. "It's very exciting."
Hermione had been dreaming on the sun-warmed sand near the lagoon, resting her back against a slender palm tree, and letting her mind replay the previous night's swimming lesson. She had been confident the men were up in the house plotting something she probably should -- yet somehow didn't -- feel the need to stop.
It took a supreme effort not to start guiltily, and she didn't think she was entirely successful.
"Ni sa yadra." His grin broadened. "Good morning."
"He told you."
"But it's not a secret?" His grin vanished and he looked genuinely embarrassed. "But, miss, i tulou /i , excuse me, it's so obvious. I mean --"
He broke off, flustered for the first time in Hermione's memory. He dug a little hole in the sand with his index finger.
"Mr. Draco, he didn't need to tell me. The magic, it's all over you -- it covers you."
Like a rash, she thought.
"In England, can the people really not see?"
Hermione had to smile at his amazed disbelief. "Not unless I told them," she shook her head, "and even then they probably wouldn't believe me."
"Ah, the English," his eyes widened in wonder, "it is best, I think, that Mr. Draco lives here, with us."
"Perhaps," she said noncommittally.
Lemeki's embarrassment had been short-lived. He leaned back on one elbow and watched her shrewdly. He'd brought a bunch of lady-finger bananas with him, now he broke one off and offered it to her. Slowly peeling his own, he took a bite and chewed thoughtfully, never taking his eyes from her.
"You want to know why Draco, he chooses this place. Why, when he has the magic, he wishes not to use it."
Hermione wondered if she would ever be able to work in Magical Law Enforcement again. Apparently she was as easy to read as a nursery primer.
"Yes," she answered firmly, sighing inwardly but deciding she might as well be candid. After all, it was Fiji. "Do you know?"
She held her breath. Lemeki considered his answer carefully.
"No," he replied at last. The tension Hermione hadn't realised she was holding fled her muscles all at once. She felt glad the palm was there to hold her up.
"Draco had not been in Fiji long when I met him," Lemeki continued easily, "Naturally I asked him the same thing."
"Well?" asked Hermione finally, when Lemeki showed no signs of going on.
He peeled another small banana. "He told me that he no longer believed in magic. Of course I knew he was making the joke, but I confess it's a joke I've never quite understood."
He smiled at her in that wise Fijian way. "But then, I've never felt the need to."
"What about the Malfoy fortune? Since your father died it's just been gathering dust and interest."
Draco had just come out of the ocean and now lay beside her on the sand. Hermione could see each drop of water on his skin clearly in the moonlight, could count them if she liked. She wanted to reach over and trail her finger through the droplets on his chest to see if she could draw a pattern.
So she did.
"Mmm." He relaxed bonelessly under her hand, only half-listening. "I don't care. Give it to charity."
Her hand stilled. She felt her jaw drop and her eyes widen and knew she looked a picture of comical shock. When Draco looked over a moment later, his mouth quirked once, then again.
"Hermione." He laughed. "Do I look as though I need it?"
"Well, then." She moved her hand again. "Since you've changed so much as to be willing to give up the Malfoy riches, you could work for the good of wizard society. I could get you a job at the Ministry."
"Yes," he said, lying all the way back. "What about Minister of Magic?"
"Or you could always --"
"Hermione," he said, taking her hand, pulling her gently down until she was lying half across him, "Stop talking."
The kiss at first was tentative, then sweet, then something else entirely.
Draco's "business" seemed to get along all right with only Lemeki looking after it. Or at least Hermione assumed so. Draco certainly had no time to attend to it personally. He was attending personally to other things.
What a wonderful thing it was to own your own private island, Hermione reflected, as she lay back on the soft warm sand. She stretched luxuriously, feeling the sand shift as it moulded to her body. What a good idea Draco had. Everyone should disappear and move to Fiji. Well, perhaps not everyone, she considered a bit giddily -- it would get rather crowded.
She giggled. Draco stopped what he was doing -- kissing her neck while running one hand over her hips, her ribcage, her breasts -- and leaned back on an elbow, his face hovering inches from hers. His lip quirked down, which Hermione had discovered indicated displeasure, instead of up, which was amusement. She giggled again.
Draco looked as though he were considering what to say. Hermione thought on the whole she'd rather not wait to hear it, and grasped his shoulders, pulling him down to her, drawing him deeply into a kiss.
Draco, who could be very single-minded, moved again to her neck. She felt his teeth, very gently, and then his lips and his tongue. He moved carefully -- tasting her, Hermione knew. During last night's swim, he'd told her of his intentions to learn every inch of her body. She shivered at the memory despite the tropical heat, causing Draco to murmur an unintelligible sound of approval. Hermione fought, but felt another giggle of delight escape her. He chose to ignore it.
Their routine had changed. Afternoon swims and morning swims had been added to the regular programme. The moonlight swims were still her favourite, though, truth be told, not a lot of swimming was being done. They'd alternate these sessions with lazing on the warm sand, kissing, touching, learning each other's bodies intimately. Taking full advantage of all the lovely privacy.
Occasionally, they even talked.
"Now," she had said one afternoon. "Tell me."
They were taking an easy hike along the small river that ran through the green hills. They'd made it through three turns in the path, before they couldn't stand it any longer -- had to kiss, had to touch. A miniature waterfall had made a good excuse for a break, and they'd settled on the riverbank.
He didn't pretend not to know what she was talking about.
"No," he said.
And here they were back in the old days again. Draco Malfoy had always been full of secrets, guarding them with fanatical single-mindedness. At Hogwarts he'd carefully cultivated an air of mystery, hinting always at Big Things in the background. She'd thought it was false bravado -- until the end of sixth year.
This now was typical Malfoy. He'd never willingly reveal his mysteries. He couldn't speak honestly to her any more than he could truly stop being a wizard.
He hadn't changed, she knew -- no matter how different, how peaceful, he seemed now.
"I was planning on leaving," he said suddenly. "On getting away, even before my father and the Death Eaters captured you."
She'd been so intent on her musing, she almost didn't notice when he began speaking.
"I'd made my plans, converted a little money into Muggle currency. I was rather amazed when they managed to catch you. I'd always thought you were smarter than that."
She forced herself to recover from her surprise and gritted out, "It didn't happen again."
He spared her an unreadable glance. "You delayed my getaway. I stayed long enough to arrange to have guard duty one night -- you know the rest."
"But why? Why not stay with your father? Well," she corrected herself quickly at his look. "Why leave the whole world?"
He plucked a fern leaf and played with it absently. "I'd been raised my whole life to be one thing. Then, when it finally came down to it -- I found I was an utter failure."
"Failing at being a Death Eater is hardly --"
"I couldn't kill Dumbledore," he continued, "and I found I didn't want to kill anyone. Even Muggles. Even Potter. Oh, I would've happily broken his legs, given him a nasty disease or two. There was this bloody fantastic hex I'd been practicing that --"
He broke off at her look. "I didn't belong in that world anymore. Not when I didn't believe what I'd been raised from a baby to believe. Not when I couldn't be what I'd always been meant to be."
He tossed away the leaf. "So I found a world where I did belong. I'm rather good at thievery. It suits me."
He drew her close, speaking softly in her ear. "You were my last good deed." She shivered at the tickle of his breath. "My only good deed, actually."
His kiss made her dizzy. Made her, for a moment, forget how to breathe. She shook her head, trying to clear the exquisite cobwebs.
She opened her mouth, another i why /i at the ready, but he touched her lips lightly with one finger. "Those are all the answers I have, Hermione. They'll have to do."
This can't last, she thought as she floated gently on her back, eyes closed against the brightness of the full moon in the inky sky -- and then, No. I won't think about that. Not yet. But Hermione Granger had never been able to stop herself from thinking.
She didn't want to ask him the questions to which she already knew the answers, didn't want to make him say it. But if she'd ever had control of herself, she seemed to have lost it sometime -- perhaps the first time he'd kissed her.
"You'll never come back?" she heard someone ask. Not her. Not in that plaintive tone. "You've really left the wizarding world for good?"
He was silent. He didn't want to answer, she could tell. She opened her eyes and could see the conflicting emotions war across his face. This new Draco would tell her the truth, she knew.
She surged suddenly through the water, capturing his lips in a violent kiss. She didn't want to listen to his answer, didn't want to force him to make a decision.
She only wanted to feel his tongue in her mouth and his wet hands on her body. He seemed to sense her inner turmoil, deepening the kiss and pulling her even closer. She could feel the soft waves crashing against their bodies and her head growing light as his kiss overwhelmed her and his hands roamed her hips. He'd be inside her in a moment and then neither of them would have to think.
But he pulled back. His chest rose and fell rapidly and his wet hair gleamed in the moonlight. His eyes looked glazed, hungry.
"I belong in this world," he breathed. "Stay with me." She could hear the raw emotion in his voice.
Yes, she wanted to say. Oh, yes. Why didn't she say it?
Instead she let him kiss her without waiting for an answer. That was best, she thought dimly, as he entered her at last. She wouldn't have been able to lie to him either.
The hell of it was, he did belong here. She knew that, as she sat on the beach, squinting through the sun to watch him help Lemeki launch the motorboat. She knew it as certainly as she knew she didn't.
Draco Malfoy, pureblood wizard from a very un-tropical island, harmonised with his adopted world in a way she admired, even as she envied it. It was a way she had never fit -- not here, not in England.
He looked right, in his house of opulence and nature; he looked right, against the backdrop of the turquoise water; he looked right, even, in a beautiful suit in Muggle London.
It was true -- he didn't need magic. This place, with its warm waters and swaying palms and green hills had enough magic of its own. It didn't need any more, certainly not her kind.
And suddenly, she found, she'd made up her mind, really and truly. "Lemeki," she called. "Can you wait? I'll be leaving with you."
Draco froze, and turned slowly to look at her. She saw something in his eyes -- something she didn't like to think she'd put there. She walked to him.
"You're right," she said simply. "I give up. You don't belong in the wizarding world any more. I think you've found your place."
Whatever the emotions that played across his face, surprise was not one. "Yes." His voice was carefully neutral. He reached for her. "Stay with me, Hermione."
"I can't," she replied, biting her lip.
"I don't accept that."
He seemed to need to touch her. His thumbs caressed her cheekbones; his hands moved quickly over her neck, her shoulders.
"I don't belong here." She could feel the solidness of his body, the firmness of his muscles pressed against her.
"Do you belong anywhere?" he asked cruelly, running his hands through her hair.
"That's not really the point," she answered.
"Perhaps not," he said. "Stay."
The old Malfoy would have made it an order, chaining her down, possibly, until she changed her mind. This Malfoy, who could make a world of his own, who could stop being a wizard by force of will, who could -- but would not -- keep her prisoner without chains if he so desired, stepped away from her -- a look of knowing resignation on his face that stabbed at her insides more than his old hauteur ever could have.
He held her hands. "I don't belong in the wizarding world anymore, Hermione."
She nodded, unable to speak. "And you wouldn't be happy here." It wasn't a question.
Emotion choked her throat. This was good-bye then. Somehow she hadn't quite realized it until now. After ten years, her quest was finally over.
He kissed her softly in an unmistakable farewell. She closed her eyes.
When she opened them he was gone.
And then she was back in London, in the snow. Had she really been in turquoise waters, just a few days ago, in a wisp of a bathing suit?
She settled back into the Ministry. Her promotion came through, and Kingsley was immeasurably glad that she seemed to have exorcised her Malfoy demons once and for all.
She spent time with Harry, who'd just broken up with Ginny for the hundredth time, and time with Ginny, who swore she wouldn't take him back this time, not ever. She busted a witch posing as a fortune-teller and taking advantage of gullible Muggles. Divination still set her teeth on edge.
She walked through the snow, and took care to spot the icy patches on the pavement, and all the while she smelled sugar cane, and felt trade winds on her shoulders.
And then, just as spring was finally arriving, and the snow had been reduced to slushy grey patches, there he was.
She'd been walking through Diagon Alley, finishing some shopping, her thoughts on a report she had to write before the next day, and almost didn't notice him. She'd come to think of him in cotton and khaki linen, in sandals or barefoot. And there he was in a beautifully structured cashmere overcoat, grey worsted trousers showing underneath, brisk early spring air pinking his cheeks.
He made her come to him, of course, as he just stood there, casually pretending it hadn't been ten years since he'd been on this street. As if he'd just stepped out of Ollivander's, or Flourish & Blotts. She couldn't stop smiling.
"I find," he said, as she finally reached him, "that I don't like to be told where I belong. Even when it's me doing the telling. I find that being a wizard is a state of mind and a Malfoy always belongs wherever he is."
She laughed, and he bent to kiss her.
"I'm still with the Ministry," she said, stopping him, trying to be fair. "I won't be able to ignore it, you know, if you keep up your old line of business."
"Oh, I've given the business to Lemeki. He'll be good at it. Kiss me."
She did, and felt the caress of warm water and heard the sounds of palms rustling in the wind.
A/N: Originally for Agarttha at the dmhgficexchange's Celebrate the Season with Draco and Hermione fic exchange, who wanted an exotic location, mixing with Muggles, and Savile Row.
I must thank two invaluable websites I used in researching this story: English Cut -- -- for Savile Row information – a completely fascinating read, even if you will never buy a Savile Row suit, and the incredibly comprehensive Fiji Guide: the Book -- is loved beyond measure. The feedback dance is performed – in person, on request. Thanks for reading!