What If? ... An Alternative to Order Of the Phoenix
By Chem Prof
Chapter 5, Polynesian Paradise
While all their friends from Hogwarts getting ready to head to Platform 9 ¾, Harry and Hermione were dropping off her mother and father at the airport in Lyon. From there the elder Grangers would catch a short flight to Paris, and then a much longer one to Tahiti, for a total travel time of just over 24 hours. Once they were checked in, Sirius shrank their car, pocketed it, and apparated the two teens back to Chateau Delacour. Then the three of them would floo to Monsieur Delacour’s office at the French Ministry, from where they would travel to their destination by portkey, in a fraction of the time it took the Grangers. Delacour had kindly arranged for them to have access to the official portkeys used by French Ministry personnel to travel to different French overseas possessions.
After the confrontation with Dumbledore, Hermione’s parents had returned to England to do their final packing and turn their house over to its new tenants. The next day they spent the morning bidding farewell to their neighbors and colleagues, leaving a forwarding address that was actually a maildrop in South Africa, and made one more drive through the Channel Tunnel into France.
As they’d hoped, the Grangers had been aided significantly by magic in their preparations. Mr. Granger had rented a storage locker and Dobby had moved into it all of the possessions that they wanted to keep. If the man in charge of the storage lockers had looked inside this particular one, he might have been surprised to see it used for doll furniture and accessories, including a perfect replica of a Jaguar XJ-6. That, however, was never an issue, since Dobby popped in and out without bothering to use the door. Eventually, when the Grangers settled down in Australia, Dobby would fetch the things they needed in similar fashion.
Before they left for Paris, Harry and Hermione sat down and wrote letters to Ron, Ginny, and Neville revealing the broad outline of their plan to leave Britain, but without going into any detail. They apologized for leaving at such short notice, without saying goodbye, and told them how much they valued their friendship, and would miss it dearly. Harry added his heartfelt thanks for all they’d done for him, Ginny and Neville particularly during the past year. By the time they sent Hedwig winging away with the rolled up parchments, tears were streaming down Hermione’s face as Harry held her tightly to his side.
Meanwhile, Sirius had one last mission for Rita Skeeter. In a few days there would be yet another blockbuster headline in the Daily Prophet – Boy Who Lived’s Defeat of Dark Lord Foretold by Prophecy! – with the accompanying story relating the amazing prediction of the events of that famous Halloween night fifteen years previous.
The two wizards and one witch had plenty of time to get their papers in order at the French magical governor’s office in Papeete and pick out a hotel before meeting the incoming flight from Paris. They stood back and grinned while pretty girls with long, flowing black hair put colorful leis around the necks of Hermione’s parents when they emerged, tired but smiling broadly, from the Air Tahiti jet into the brilliant tropical sunshine.
Despite the tiring journey, Mrs. Granger perked up considerably on the drive to the hotel, exclaiming excitedly along with her daughter at the dazzlingly colored flowers and other amazing vegetation, none of which they’d ever encountered back in England. By the time they arrived at Le Méridien, where they would all stay for a couple of days to allow them to adjust to the time change and new climate, she had gained her second wind. While Sirius and her husband checked them into the hotel, she dragged the kids into the gift shop. She’d already fallen in love with the colorful pareos that seemed to be the national uniform of the island group, and had to have one first thing.
Harry just stayed back out of the way while Hermione and her mother scanned the racks, nodding and smiling agreeably when his girlfriend turned to ask his opinion. With his encouragement, Hermione eventually selected one with wavy shades of blue that brought to mind a multihued tropical lagoon, accented with bright red hibiscus flowers, while her mother picked out a green one with yellow bird of paradise blossoms. He’d long since decided that blue was his favorite color on Hermione, and this colorful swatch of fabric only reinforced this feeling.
At the checkout counter the clerk spent several minutes showing the two English women some of the various ways of wearing the versatile garment, and how and where to tie it for each style. Mrs. Granger shot a sly glance out of the corner of her eye at her daughter before voicing a seemingly innocent question.
“I’ve been reading some history of Tahiti,” she mentioned casually. “Is it true that these are worn by both men and women?” The clerk, appreciating having an informed customer, smiled and agreed, but noted that the ones for men tended to be shorter. “And isn’t it also true,” Mrs. Granger continued, “that they were traditionally worn without a top by both sexes?”
The girl behind the counter, who was dressed in one of the colorful garments herself, worn as a strapless, knee length wrap, laughed and nodded. That was true, she admitted, as many paintings of the old days attested. But now, alas, the bare-breasted women were seen only on the beaches. A few local women (she herself being one of them) still took advantage of the opportunity, but it was mostly tourists. But if madame was of a mind to join them, she should feel free.
“You know, I’ve been thinking about that ever since our last trip to France, Hermione,” her mother declared. “And this seems like a good opportunity. Perhaps you should think about it too.” Hermione turned positively scarlet at this suggestion, and fiercely avoided looking anywhere near Harry. For his part, Harry was stunned speechless. The funniest reaction, though, was that of Mr. Granger, who’d just walked up as his wife broached the topic. His expression went from an enthusiastic grin to a horrified scowl faster than anyone would have thought possible, between the first part of his wife’s suggestion and the second.
Sirius, right behind him, couldn’t help chuckling, not only at the humorous transformation, but at the cleverly set up prank the man’s wife had just played on her husband and daughter. He also was amused at the five different reactions by the members of his traveling party to the desirability of each of the two parts of the statement.
With an inward evil smirk, the Marauder decided to stir the pot even more. “As it happens,” he informed his companions as he led them to the pair of suites he and the kids had selected. “On my island there’s not much more than my house and a small village. And the local islanders there still dress the traditional way, so you’d be free to wear your pareos any way you’d like.” The two adults turned disbelieving eyes toward him while Harry and Hermione made certain not to catch each other’s eye. “As for swimsuits,” he shrugged. “Anything you’re comfortable with. It’s a big enough island.” That information set wheels turning in the minds of all four of his listeners, all traveling in different directions.
“You never told us,” Mrs. Granger noted, reopening the conversation once everyone had recovered their balance, “just how an English wizard came to own an island in French Polynesia.”
“Sirius grinned. “I’ll tell you over lunch … or dinner … or whatever it’s time for here.”
The Grangers were quite pleased with their accommodations. Hermione had initially been excited by the rooms in the bungalows perched out over the water on stilts, but had relented when Sirius pointed out the advantage, and relatively lower cost, of the two suites. These would give them more space and privacy, and since they’d only be here a short while before taking a boat to BlackIsland, were more than adequate.
The other reason was the tip they’d been given about this particular hotel by the local wizarding officials. It was where many of the magical vacationers to the island stayed, and some of the rooms had ‘enhanced’ features. Sirius had selected one of these suites for Harry and himself, while the Grangers would be lodged in more standard accommodations.
Since it was dark by the time they’d settled in, the group decided to have room service sent up to Sirius and Harry’s suite. There, once Hermione’s parents had been suitably impressed at the way the food magically appeared, Sirius regaled them with the tale of how one of his Black ancestors had ‘bought’ an island.
“It happened more than two hundred years ago,” he began. “Dorian Black was a second son, which back then meant he wouldn’t inherit the family fortune or title, so needed to make his own way in the world.” The Grangers all nodded, being familiar with their English history. Second and third sons customarily went into the military or the clergy, but with a wizard family the clergy was obviously not an option.
“Dorian?” Harry joked. “Does anyone in your family have a normal name?” Sirius shot him a mock glare.
“That’s right, Dorian,” he continued. “I must say he was one of my favorite ancestors. I saw a picture of him once … well, it was an old picture and had started to fade so you’d really have to call it …”
“Sirius Black, don’t you dare say it!” Hermione shrieked, raising her wand threateningly.
“ … a picture of Dorian Gray,” Sirius smirked. The elder Grangers groaned but Hermione carried through with her threat and flicked her wand, snapping out a silencing spell before rolling her eyes and shaking her head at the lame pun. But Harry couldn’t help but chuckle, both at the joke and at Sirius being silenced by a teenaged girl.
Sirius took a few seconds to get over his shock, but then pulled out his own wand and canceled the silencing jinx. “As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted,” he scowled playfully at Hermione, “since it was a wizarding portrait, it really could change. Our family maintained that it was the actual inspiration for the book. How and where Oscar Wilde saw it I have no idea.” At this explanation, Hermione looked properly chagrined, and Harry smiled and gave her a quick hug.
“At any rate, when James Cook returned from his first voyage in 1773, there was a lot of excitement about the islands he’d discovered,” Sirius went on. “So Dorian signed on for the next two.”
“The Voyages of Discovery!” Hermione broke in eagerly. Harry also nodded in recognition, as every English school child was familiar with this reference.
“Right, so you all probably know more about them than I do,” Sirius acknowledged. “But the short of it is that at the end of the last one he jumped ship – apparated ship would probably be more accurate – and found himself on a nice cozy little tropical island, in this out of the way corner of the Pacific that eventually became French Polynesia.”
“And just how did he come to own it?” Hermione’s mother inquired, just as her daughter was about to voice the same question.
“He bought it from the local tribe for three pigs,” Sirius responded nonchalantly.
“What!” Hermione snapped in indignation. “He practically stole their land from those poor natives!”
“Not really,” Sirius corrected her firmly. “First of all, pigs were highly prized. It was the most valuable unit of currency they had. And they negotiated the price. The tribal elders originally asked for five and he offered one. They compromised on three.”
“Where did he get three pigs, if he’d just apparated there from a sailing ship?” Hermione asked suspiciously.
Sirius grinned. “Magic. Remember how one of your early Transfiguration lessons was to turn a pincushion into a porcupine? By NEWTs you can change an ottoman into a pig.”
“Are you serious?” Hermione demanded. But almost immediately a pained expression flashed across her face as his grin broadened. “No! Don’t answer that!”
“Why, yes I am,” he smirked in triumph. “I’m pleased to meet you. You must be Hermione.” This time the groans were even louder, and it was Harry who pulled out his wand to threaten his godfather, while Hermione considered banging her head against the table top.
The unreformed Marauder promised not to use that one again anytime soon. Hermione abandoned that line of inquiry, convinced she wasn’t going to get a straight answer, or at least one that made her feel any better about the transaction. But her host wasn’t finished yet.
“But you’re forgetting the most important thing,” he insisted.
“What’s that?” Harry asked, when Hermione was too wary to rise to the bait of yet another possible pun.
“The concept of owning land is foreign to a society like that,” Siriuis declared, all humor now put aside. “They have a much more intimate relationship with nature. You can no more own the land than the sea or the sky. From their point of view, what they were selling him was the opportunity to dwell among them peacefully. They probably thought they got the better of that deal, since he didn’t take up that much space or resources. And no Blacks have lived here for more than a hundred years until I showed up last year. But descendants of those islanders are still there – they’re the villagers I told you about earlier. They welcomed me back like a long lost member of the family.”
While his listeners were digesting this information he dropped one final bombshell. “And by the way, they have magic users in their community, and the magicals and muggles coexist just fine. In fact, they cooperated with him in making the entire island unplottable and hidden with notice-me-not charms like Hogwarts has, so they no longer had to worry about being raided by other islands. The Blacks are legendary heroes as far as they’re concerned.”
Hermione immediately perked up at the thought of an opportunity to learn about another magical culture, and decided that Dorian Black hadn’t been such a swindler after all. She would have liked to pump Sirius for more information, but a loud yawn from her father made them all realize that it was time for bed.
The next morning Harry was pleasantly surprised to find Hermione wearing her new pareo tied around her hips in a fetching manner, complete with a matching bikini top. She proudly informed him that she’d transfigured her plain blue bikini to match the pattern of the vividly colored fabric, and done the same for her mother. As soon as they finished breakfast the teens headed outside to bask in the tropical sunshine. The hotel had a large, sand-filled sunning area around a lagoon sized sandy-bottomed pool, where most of the guests gathered, as well as a few small sections of sandy beach on the ocean.
It turned out that there were some vacationing French witches who attended Beauxbatons in the suite next to Harry and Sirius. Their term started two weeks later than Hogwarts, and this was an end of summer holiday for them. Seeing the way they eyed up Harry, Hermione was reluctant to accept their invitation to join them, but could see no polite way out of it. Unfortunately, from her perspective, they promptly removed their bikini tops as soon as they’d settled into their chairs. To his credit, Harry made a valiant attempt to keep his staring down to a minimum.
Despite her mother’s suggestion, Hermione wasn’t comfortable with the idea of joining in, but she did lie on her stomach and untie her top, insisting that Harry thoroughly apply suntan lotion to her back and the backs of her upper legs, which gave them both a bit of a thrill. They quickly decided that this method had some distinct advantages over using a spell to achieve the same results.
As soon as they realized that the English-speaking witch was not going to follow their lead, the other two girls considerately maneuvered their lounge chairs so that Hermione was between them and Harry, which she appreciated. She was also intrigued by their complete lack of tan lines, even though they’d only been in Tahiti for a day, and soon her curiosity compelled her to ask them how they managed it.
It turned out that they knew a spell for evening out skin tone. Originally developed to remove scars and blemishes, it was a type of transfiguration where the color and texture of a patch of healthy skin was copied to an adjacent area of the body. Hermione, of course, was immediately interested in learning this new skill.
Turning her body so she was facing her new acquaintances, and putting her back to her boyfriend, she held the now unsupported triangles of her bikini top to her breasts while the straps hung free. In addition to the thin strips of pale skin going up to her neck, she cautiously slid her hands down to bare a portion of the other patches of white flesh on her torso, as much as she dared. Focusing intently on the wand movement and incantation the French witch was using helped her try to ignore just how close she was to exposing herself to half the guests of the resort.
For his part, Harry was trying to act as if the view of his girlfriend’s back, devoid of any covering whatsoever, wasn’t causing his mind to extrapolate around to her front. He was not at all helped in this effort by the uncovered chests of the witches assisting her, directly in his line of sight just past her shoulder, nor by the comments they were making about the subject of their efforts. After some thought he decided that there was nothing wrong with just lying back and enjoying the show.
Once the project was accomplished to her satisfaction, Hermione quickly rolled back onto her stomach and shot a shy smile at Harry, who grinned and gave her a thumbs-up. He leaned close and whispered that he was certainly looking forward to seeing the results of their handiwork, which turned her face a cute shade of pink. She got a return blush from him when she whispered back that she had learned a way to tie her pareo that would accomplish exactly that, and she’d show him later.
Their French companions informed Hermione that the best results of this new charm would be obtained by performing it in her room, after she’d finished sunning for the day, while she was removing her suit. With her typical thoroughness and dedication to a task, she would continue these applications every day for the next month, gradually reducing the area of the untanned bits as her courage and self-confidence grew. By the time their group left BlackIsland for Australia, she would have the perfect all-over tan.
Hermione had had the foresight that morning to reapply the glamour charms the Delacours had taught them, so the other two witches didn’t recognize Harry, but to be on the safe side, they told them they were from New Zealand. This disappointed the girls somewhat, as they’d hoped, when they heard the young couple speaking English, that they might have some gossip about the Boy Who Lived. They were both excited about the rumor that he would be attending Beauxbatons and were eagerly planning on how they might catch his eye. Not realizing, of course, that with all of their enthusiastic bouncing around during this conversation, they were doing a bang up job of catching it right there on the beach.
After lunch Hermione’s parents finally appeared, still having trouble adjusting to the time change, since they weren’t able to use the potions the other three had access to. Once she looked around and took in the lay of the land, Mrs. Granger decided that the two of them would check out the beach. When they returned later that afternoon, Hermione noted that her mother was looking very pleased with herself, while her father had a rather dazed expression on his face. She also noted that although her mother’s hair was wet, her bathing suit top was completely dry. She promptly made a mental note to herself that if she and Harry decided to take a walk on the beach, they would always head in the opposite direction that her parents took!
Initially she thought that Harry hadn’t noticed, but later discovered otherwise when they were laying their suits out on the balcony to dry. While watching Hermione spread out the two pieces of her bikini he joked that her mother seemed to have figured out how to cut the number things that needed drying in half.
That afternoon Hermione made another trip to the gift shop, this time picking out a bright red pareo with white flowers. (By the time they left the resort she and her mother would own more than a dozen between them.) She wore it that evening, as promised, in the same style shop girl wore hers, tied across the bust line leaving her shoulders completely bare. Harry definitely approved, but when Mr. Granger noticed the absence of tan lines on his daughter, his eyes widened, then he shot a glare at the young wizard accompanying her. Fortunately, Harry was engaged in conversation with Sirius at the time, and didn’t realize that he was being considered for some painful dental surgery. Hermione did observe this by-play, and quickly informed her mother (in her father’s hearing) about the new spell she’d learned, and pointed out how useful it was for outfits such as the one she was wearing. But when she asked teasingly if her mother was interested it having Hermione use it on her, she declined, commenting with a conspiratorial wink that she didn’t need it.
If Harry and the Grangers had thought Tahiti was beautiful, they were positively enthralledby Black Island. It embodied every person’s fantasy of what a tropical paradise would look like. Lush green jungle. Glistening white sand. Crystal clear lagoons with rushing waterfalls tumbling down from volcanic peaks. A barrier reef that allowed only the gentlest waves to lap onto the broad beaches. And water the most brilliant shades of blue, green, and turquoise.
As their magically assisted boat smoothly moved through the break in the reef and approached the shoreline, Hermione turned to Sirius. “How can you possibly call a place this beautiful Black Island?” she complained. “That makes it sound like a dark, pirate infested nightmare.”
“Misdirection,” he grinned as he steered the craft into place at the pier, which appeared seemingly from nowhere. “Keeps people away.”
They soon had their luggage unloaded, and as Sirius levitated it toward the beach he informed the teens that they were free to do any magic they wanted to here – there were no monitoring devices for more than a thousand miles in any direction. Harry smiled as he saw Hermione’s eyes light up, and he knew that their studies would not be neglected on this holiday. Mr. and Mrs. Granger were also delighted with that news, since they would now be able to see what sorts of magic their daughter could perform.
Once they reached land, they discovered that their lodging was hidden from view a short distance into the jungle. There, they found a native style bungalow, constructed from palm tree trunks and bamboo branches, complete with a thatched roof of palm leaves. Once inside, however, the true magical nature of the cottage was revealed. Just like the tents they remembered from the Quidditch World Cup, the modest outside gave no hint to the luxuries inside!
The dwelling was fully furnished, with hardwood walls and floors, laid out in the style of a tropical plantation manor house, and with every conceivable magical amenity. It had three floors, one level above and one below the one they entered on. The ground floor contained the kitchen, dining room, and a large open living space with a fireplace and a screened in deck. The lower level was primarily recreational, including a practice room for spell casting and even a potions lab. The upper level was the sleeping area, with large rooms spread out along a balcony that overlooked the great room below. Hermione was surprised that there were four bedrooms.
“Up until a week ago there were only two,” Sirius grinned. “The master suite and a smaller one for the … ah, mistress of the house.” Hermione scowled at this implication and Sirius hastened on. “I apparated here while you four were relaxing on the beach and adjusting to the climate. The house can be magically expanded to accommodate however many you like. So if the family grows in the future …” he paused to shoot a wink at Harry, causing both teens to blush bright red, “ … no problem.”
Once everyone had picked out a room and settled in, Sirius gathered them all again in the great room. “Okay, here’s how it works,” he began. “We have plenty of running water, from a spring up the hill a little bit. For food, first there is a large variety of fruit, including quite a few you’ve probably never heard of, but they’re all delicious. I guarantee you the pineapple is out of this world. It tastes like nothing you’ve had back home. Two of the mainstays of the island diet are breadfruit and coconuts. If you want milk, it will be coconut milk. The only other local beverage is an alcoholic concoction the villagers make – the best way I can think to describe it is a sort of spiced rum.” Mr. Granger licked his lips and nodded his approval.
“As far as meat, we’re pretty much limited to pigs and fish. We eat whatever we catch, pick, or gather. Or trade for. That includes bacon, sausage, ham, and roasted pork, barbecued ribs, and so forth. You haven’t really experienced all a pig has to offer until you’ve been to a tropical luau.” All four of his listeners grinned, and Hermione squeezed Harry’s hand. This was beginning to sound like quite an adventure – like Robinson Crusoe with magic.
“I suggest we devote a part of each day to food gathering. There’s an outrigger canoe and nets for fishing, as well as snorkeling gear and spears. Inside the barrier reef it’s too shallow for large fish like sharks, so swimming is safe during the day. At night some predators come out to feed – eels, small sharks, barracuda and so forth, so stay out of the water then. There are no large animals on the island other than wild pigs, which aren’t too aggressive unless they’re defending their young, but I don’t think any of us really want to hunt anyway. On land we can confine ourselves to picking fruits and digging up vegetables. There are plenty of smaller animals, including reptiles like snakes, frogs, lizards, you name it. Also insects, but fortunately, no mosquitoes. Since there are so few warm blooded animals native to the island, stinging insects are pretty rare. Lots and lots of birds, too.” He glanced around to nods of agreement.
“We do have some advantages. The house is warded to keep out any unwanted critters, and the main paths are magically maintained – otherwise they’d be overgrown in a matter of weeks. We don’t need to send Harry climbing up a tree for bananas or coconuts – a cutting hex and a levitation charm will do the trick nicely.” Harry crossed his arms and pretended to pout at the idea that he wouldn’t get to do any climbing, and the others laughed while Hermione draped an arm around him consolingly.
“Now, having said all that,” Sirius added. “We do have Dobby available. As you know, he’s going to stay at Hogwarts but come to visit every couple of weeks to bring us news, messages, or anything else we need. So if we get desperate for something from back home we can get it.”
“Like chocolate,” Hermione suggested with an impish smirk at her parents followed by a sly smile to Harry. Sweets had been severely restricted at her house, but she knew how fond Harry was of the confection. Her mother reacted as she’d expected, with a huff and a stern look of disapproval.
“Actually, cocoa should grow pretty well here, and I think I’ve seen some sugar cane somewhere on the island,” Sirius pointed out. “If you can find a recipe, we might be able to make our own.” This elicited grins from the teens and a groan from Mrs. Granger.
“As for the island itself,” he continued, I’m not exactly sure how big it is. One of the things we can do while we’re here if you like is to map it out. The bay we’re on faces north and is about a mile long. It’s the second longest beach on the island – the village is about a third of the way around the island to the east and occupies the biggest beach. The rest of the shoreline is just one empty beach after another, maybe as many as a dozen in all, with rocky outcroppings dividing them. If you walk to the village following the beach paths it’s about three or four miles. If you take the trail through the jungle it’s something like a mile to a mile and a half. In a day or two I’ll take you there and introduce you around. They’re very friendly. Keep in mind that they have no currency, so we need to trade for whatever we want to buy, but they’ll probably hold a welcoming feast the first time they meet you.”
“What kinds of things do we have available to trade?” Hermione asked eagerly.
“They’ll always take fish, so if we catch more than we need that’s one possibility,” Sirius replied. “Depending on how artistic you are we could carve useful things – utensils, cups, bowls, trays, you name it – out of palm trees or bamboo. But if we get desperate, or want something valuable, there’s a stash of gems here that we can make necklaces or pins or earrings out of. Jewelry is always popular and the only precious stones the islanders have are pearls.” Everyone seemed satisfied with that idea, and after some discussion, the small group vowed to try to be self-sufficient to the largest extent possible. And as Sirius reminded them, there was always the option for him to apparate back to Tahiti if they needed to buy something.
Over the weeks that followed, Harry and Hermione eagerly explored the island. Hand in hand they walked along the beaches, and into the jungle following old paths or forging new ones. At Harry’s urging they learned to handle the canoe, and paddled all along the shore inside the reef peering over the sides to scout out high concentrations of fish. He greatly appreciated the view from behind as Hermione knelt in the front of the small craft and leaned forward, digging her paddle through the water. Hermione also taught Harry to snorkel, and within a few days he’d mastered the fishing spear. They made a good team, as she swam ahead scouting out the locations where the fish were hiding, and he used his quickness and reflexes to snag them. Soon the two of them were bringing back enough fish to keep everyone adequately fed.
Hermione also proved adept at mentally cataloguing the spots in the jungle where they could find the nicest fruits. The first pineapples they found easily lived up to Sirius’s praises. And for the coconut palms they teamed up again, with Harry firing cutting hexes with pinpoint accuracy, and Hermione levitating them to a rocky area and dropping them with just enough force to crack them open but not smash them apart.
Their first trip to the village was what Hermione had been looking forward to the most. She was amazed at the simple, but contented lifestyle the natives lived, almost as much as she was by their mode of dress. Seeing an entire population bare-chested as if it were the most natural thing in the world, which in fact it was for them, was something that had to be experienced to be believed. In time she discovered, without embarrassing herself too much, that Polynesians simply had a different definition of modesty than she was accustomed to.
In this village at least, any woman past the age of puberty never revealed her legs to any man other than her husband. Bare thighs were as much a taboo here as bare breasts were back home. And conversely, a topless woman here attracted no more attention than a woman wearing shorts did in her culture. The full length pareo was ubiquitous, and soon the visitors began to note subtleties in the way it was worn. A brief flash of leg as a girl walked past a boy was the equivalent of a brief glimpse of cleavage would be to a westerner. The whole concept really gave one something to think about, and led to some interesting discussions between Hermione and her mother.
It didn’t take long for them to adopt the island lifestyle. After the first few days, all the shirts, shorts, and skirts were packed away, and the trousers and dresses had never made an appearance in the first place. Hermione and her mother had planned ahead and brought a half dozen swimsuits apiece, and made sure that Mr. Granger and Harry had at least three each.
Both Hermione and her mother wore pareos every day, either with bikini tops or matching scarves. These latter were cleverly fashioned by cutting a six inch strip from the edge of a pareo, and worn as a bandeau style top, tied either in the front or the back. When Harry asked why she didn’t just conjure a top instead, Hermione reminded him that conjuration wasn’t permanent. While it wouldn’t be a disaster if one of her altered bikinis suddenly reverted to its original color, she wasn’t keen on the idea of having her top suddenly disappear. Harry wisely refrained from commenting on the desirability of that scenario from his point of view when he saw the stern look she was giving him.
The men held out a bit longer, but eventually began to wear the colorful wraps as well, especially once they traded at the village for some with more masculine designs. For the most part they stuck with shorter ones that extended from their waists to their knees. But like the local islanders, their torsos were always bare.
One day on their second week on the island, Mr. and Mrs. Granger disappeared to one of the beaches in the opposite direction of the village for the entire afternoon. They came back in very good moods, both looking rather disheveled, and kept shooting each other knowing smiles during dinner. After a half hour of this Harry innocently suggested that they’d seemed to enjoy the new beach, and that perhaps he and Hermione should go check it out the next day. Hermione’s father promptly lost his good mood and forcefully discouraged the suggestion in no uncertain terms. Sirius burst out laughing, while Mrs. Granger was highly amused by it all.
While no one ever pressed the question of exactly what the Grangers did there all day, from that time on Sirius occasionally made tongue in cheek references to the ‘nude beach’. And the adult Grangers continued to live out the fantasy of every couple who ever contemplated a completely deserted tropical beach.
The day after Hermione’s sixteenth birthday, Hedwig arrived with letters from Ginny and Ron. Harry had told her to stay at Hogwarts for a while, so that their friends would be able to fill them in on the beginning of the new school year. Hermione tore open her letter from Ginny and eagerly began to devour it while Harry tended to his owl and thanked her for making the long journey. After noting aloud that Remus Lupin had returned as DADA professor, Hermione scanned through the rest of the missive for highlights.
“What do you know, Ginny has a boyfriend,” she announced with a smile. She’s dating Michael Corner.”
“Who’s Michael Corner,” Harry asked with a frown, trying to place the name.
“He’s a Ravenclaw in our year,” Hermione responded, rolling her eyes. “Honestly, Harry, you should have made more effort to get to know your classmates.”
“Sorry,” Harry replied with a chastened look. “I’ll try to do better at our new school.” He frowned again. “Isn’t Ginny a bit young to be dating?”
Hermione laughed. “I’m certain that Ron probably thinks so. At least he would if he knew about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she hasn’t gotten around to telling him yet.” Then she shot Harry a sly grin. “And besides, technically she’s already had a date. You did take her to the Yule Ball, you know.”
Harry’s head shot up in surprise. “Hey, that didn’t count! It wasn’t a real date, remember? It was just as friends.”
“Well, I know that and you know that,” Hermione teased. “But twenty years from now when Ginny tells her children about her first date, who do you think it will be with?” Harry groaned and just shook his head. “And, when her daughter asks her if Harry Potter kissed her …?’ she persisted with a smirk.
Harry attempted to turn the tables. “So, what will you tell our kids about your first date?” he challenged. Hermione didn’t respond, but only stared at him. “You know, Krum?” he prompted. “Will you tell them he kissed you?” Hermione was still silent and Harry began to worry that he’d pushed the joke too far. “What’s wrong?”
Hermione finally came out of her daze. “You said ‘our’ kids,” she murmured.
Harry wrinkled his forehead in puzzlement. “Don’t you think we’ll have kids some day?”
“That’s not the point!” Hermione shot back. “You said ‘our ’!”
Harry was starting to get upset. “What, you’re planning to have children with some other …”
“No!” Hermione broke in before he could finish the sentence. “But there’s a pretty important assumption there that you left out! You seem to be presuming that we’re going to get married!”
Harry now realized what he’d said that set her off. “Erm … yeah, I guess I sorta thought we would,” he mumbled. “Haven’t you thought about the possibility of us getting married? I mean, you know, someday?”
“Of course I have,” Hermione admitted, her cheeks turning pink. “Every girl does.” She snorted. “Probably half the girls in Britain have dreamed about marrying you.”
“You know what I mean,” Harry complained.
“Yes, I do,” Hermione assured him, her voice softening as she took his hand. “And I have thought about it, a lot. But it’s a girl rule that even though you think about getting married to the guy you like, you aren’t allowed to presume anything, at least until he brings it up.”
“Oh,” Harry grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head. “Well, I guess I just did. And I have been thinking about it. You know, someday.” Hermione’s tender kiss let him know that no further explanation was needed.
After a pleasant interlude, they returned to their letters, Harry finally opening the parchment from Ron. “Hey, Ron made keeper!” he told her excitedly.
“Yes, Ginny mentioned that,” Hermione allowed absently.
Harry scowled at her. “And you didn’t think to tell me?”
Hermione shrugged. “I thought it would be more fun for you to read it from him.”
Harry shook his head and continued reading. “And Ginny is seeker!” he shouted again. He lowered the letter and stared at Hermione expectantly.
Hermione sighed and looked up. “Yes, of course, she told me that too.”
Now it was Harry’s turn to tease. “So, you think the news about Ginny dating is more important than the news that she made seeker?”
Hermione rolled her eyes playfully. “Yes,” she contended, but the corners of her mouth betrayed her amusement.
Harry’s eyes narrowed. “So, which bit of news did Ginny put first in her letter, the quidditch or the dating?” he demanded.
Hermione grimaced and admitted that it was the quidditch news.
“Well then,” Harry nodded with satisfaction. “It’s good to see at least some girls have their priorities straight.” Hermione decided that the only proper response to that remark was to tickle him.
The next day Hermione had a question for her boyfriend, prompted by the news in the letters. “Do you miss quidditch a lot?”
“Yeah, I do,” Harry answered. “Most of it’s the camaraderie, I think. I mean, I enjoy flying by myself but it would be nice to have someone else to fly with.” He looked pointedly at his girlfriend.
Hermione stalled. “Well, you know, I don’t have a broom …”
“We could fly together,” Harry suggested. Hermione hesitated, then agreed with a sigh.
“As long as you don't go too fast, or do any scary dives or stuff,” she insisted. Harry grinned and assured her that she would be safe with him. He hurried up to his room to fetch his Firebolt while Hermione retied her pareo so that her legs were free enough to straddle the broom.
Once out on the beach, they experimented first with Hermione behind, holding tightly to Harry’s waist. They quickly discovered that it worked better if she was in front, as she felt more secure with his arms wrapped around her while he gripped the broomstick in front of her. Eventually she relaxed and admitted she even enjoyed it. Soaring out over the ocean gave an even better view of the multiple hues of green and blue, and she exclaimed excitedly over the difference.
Harry leaned in close to whisper in her ear. “I think I should get you your own broom,” he suggested, as she shuddered slightly from his closeness. Maybe for Christmas, or perhaps even a late birthday present.” Hermione leaned her body back into him and turned her head to rest it against his chest.
“Maybe,” she purred in a low, seductive voice. “But then we couldn’t do this now, could we?” Harry swallowed hard and agreed that she had a very good point.
For the next threeweeks, Harry and Hermione made time every day for flying, under the guise of exploring and mapping the rest of the island. Hermione soon became comfortable enough in her position in front of Harry, within his protective embrace, to hold onto the broom with one hand while taking notes with the other. Each day when they returned to the house she transferred their day’s discoveries to a large map on the wall of the great room.
Their favorite find was a hidden pool of water, fed by a waterfall, far enough into the jungle as to only be reachable by air. It was roughly oval shaped, bounded by large, flat topped rocks suitable for stretching out and sunning. At the waterfall end it was deep enough to dive in without any danger of hitting the bottom, but the opposite end had a gradually sloping, sandy bottom. They decided to keep it their special private spot, and frequently stopped off for a quick, refreshing freshwater dip at the end of a day of exploring.
By mid October the group had a decision to make. The dry season was coming to an end, so there would be fewer days to relax outside and enjoy the sunshine. But more importantly, they had to deal the issue of ‘island fever’.
This tropical malady had nothing to do with one’s physical health; it related instead to one’s state of mind. For some people it manifested itself as restlessness – the desire to return to civilization and get back to doing something productive with their lives. For others, a gradual sense developed that life didn’t need to be so complicated. That there really was no truly compelling reason to do anything more than living day to day, accepting what the land and the sea gave you, becoming more in tune with nature and the incredible beauty surrounding you.
At this point, each of them except for Sirius alternated between the opposing emotions, while he had pretty much decided to adopt the island lifestyle permanently. Being unjustly imprisoned for twelve years had a way of dulling one’s sense of civic responsibility, at least with regards to the wizarding world. Reinforcing this sentiment was that he’d begun to enjoy the company of one of the beautiful island women from the village. His first priority at this time, though, was seeing to Harry’s well-being. He’d made that commitment to himself and intended to keep it. So, since Harry and Hermione really did want to continue their education, and Mr. and Mrs. Granger really did want to see Australia, the four of them needed to move on before succumbing to the island malaise entirely, and Sirius agreed to accompany them.
On the last day before they left the island, Harry and Hermione made one last trip to their secret lagoon for a swim. Hermione’s proper English attitude toward keeping certain portions of her body covered had been steadily eroding, and had finally weakened enough for her to decide to do something she wouldn’t have even contemplated at the beginning of the summer.
As the two of them mounted the Firebolt for the short flight, Harry noticed that Hermione was missing one of the normal components of her daily outfit.
“Hermione, you forgot to change into your bikini top,” he reminded her (somewhat reluctantly).
Without turning around, lest she lose her nerve, she replied simply, “I know.”
Nothing more was said for the rest of the brief journey. But seeing her untie her pareo and drop it to the surface of the large rock where they landed, leaving her only in her bikini bottom, gazing open-mouthed as she gracefully dove into the water in front of the falls, then finally watching her surface, throw her hair back, and shyly move into the waist deep water at the shallow end, Harry decided that he was witnessing a Polynesian goddess returned to life.
He now understood the dazed expression he occasionally saw on Mr. Granger’s face. And he knew he’d remember this day for the rest of his life.
1) Readers may be surprised by the direction this chapter took but I wanted to emphasize how different their new life could be. I considered having them just stay on the island permanently, but
thought that Hermione, at least, would insist on continuing their education.
2) The description of Polynesian clothing (and lack thereof) is historically accurate, as can be seen in many paintings and photographs – e.g. – those of Paul Gauguin. It stayed that way at least well into the 20th century. My source for these descriptions is James Michener in his books ‘Tales of the South Pacific’ and ‘Hawaii’.
The ‘bare torso allowed/bare legs forbidden’ for women is seen even today in Papua New Guinea, somewhat to the west of these islands but roughly the same climate, according to an acquaintance of
mine who has lived there for many years. So I think it’s not unreasonable to postulate an island culture with the same customs.
3) The malaise I called island fever is based on humorous conversations I’ve had on Caribbean message boards. There we refer to something called DIF (dreaded island fever), and one of its symptoms is that whenever you aren’t in the islands you’re constantly thinking about the next time you can go back to the islands. For this story, I decided to expand island fever into two opposite results. While I’m fairly certain that there must be some people who are afflicted by the first – restlessness with island life and eagerness to get back to civilization – I am assuredly not one of them.
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