A/N: It's been a bit slow going with this story and fast going with real life for me, but chapter two's finally out!
EDIT (3/3/08): I can't transfer text from advanced to simple editing when I first post without losing it all, so I come back and mess with HTML to fix spacing. Oh well, c'est la vie.
Also reminding you all: I haven't forgotten about this story, just recovering from severe writers block. Please review to help me keep going!!!
Hermione woke suddenly as something grainy and uncomfortably itchy flew into her eyelid. Mumbling her displeasure but hardly wanting to move an inch, she scrabbled with her fingers to gain hold of her sheets in case someone were to whip them off in an inconsiderate attempt to wake her up.
She was met with nothing. There was only that same grainy feeling again, now under her fingernails. She could almost feel it in her scalp, on her neck, up her back. It was spreading everywhere.
Hermione wiggled nervously without opening her eyes. This was not right. Willing her brain to wake up and function, she sniffed the air for signs of Dungbombs (she had been the victim of one too many pranks to quite forget the smell) in case Ron or Dean Thomas had enlisted the help of one of her roommates again. But she could identify only a light saltiness mixed with the heavy aroma of rotting coconuts. Either someone was cooking coconuts in her dorm, or…
“Damn that Parvati girl, always spraying that fruity stuff everywhere,” Hermione muttered crossly, still less than half awake.
As the stench of coconut embedded itself permanently into her nose, she also become more aware of another discomfort: she was burning up underneath her covers. For heaven’s sake, it was like an oven in here.
She reached to throw her covers off herself, but again her hand closed on nothing, which was quite strange. Hermione wanted desperately to go back to sleep, but the heat was suffocating. The grainy feeling was irritating. And the smell of the rotting fruit was just unbearable. Hermione had no choice but to pry her own eyes open to make whoever was having her lose sleep suffer.
But what she saw immediately wiped every trace of frustration from her mind as her vision, still blurry from sleep, filled with blue sky so bright it could’ve been the sea if not for the clouds (white, fluffy, so unlike the heavy gray ones hanging over Hogwarts presently). Slowly she levered herself onto her elbow, squinting in the sun and following the sky to the horizon line. Hermione gasped as she saw, indeed, the gleaming sea stretching from her feet as far as she could see in either direction.
She was lying on her back in her pajamas, in the middle of a vast stretch of sandy beach so close to the shore that the waves could’ve licked her feet. Whipping her head around so fast her neck cracked, Hermione saw that lining the beach on the far side were rows and rows of beautiful green palm trees, laden with…yes, coconuts.
There were coconuts by bunches, and some had fallen on the sand, too ripe and unpicked, to crack on the ground and run with milk. Hermione’s nose wrinkled involuntarily.
The palm trees soon gave way to dense tropical forest, and as much as Hermione’s readings on the tropics could tell her, she could recognize that in this particular place it did so without a trace of anything wizard—or even human—made. Hermione’s stomach twitched uneasily. Did that mean that there were no people here?
Hermione looked around for a long time without moving. No, there had to be people here. How else would she have gotten here? No one could play a prank this real, not even Fred and George. And they were long gone from Hogwarts. Either she had been snatched out of bed and kidnapped and brought here onto this beach; or, she was just dreaming.
Gliding over the sand a few feet forward on her hands and knees, she reached out a hand to touch the water that lapped onto the beach. It felt wet. Grabbing a handful of sand and tossing it into the air with sudden unsuppressed glee, she barely cared when the wind blew it all back into her face. It felt grainy. It felt like sand. This was real.
Immediately she stripped off her cotton tank and pajama bottoms, which were getting sticky with sweat. Wearing only her undergarments, she ran squealing and splashing into the surf.
Seaweed and invisible fish tickled her legs and coarse gravel crunched under her feet as she waded out further into the water. It was real, alright. Hermione turned her face to the sun, squinting gleefully, running unbelieving fingers through the calm waves. The water was so blue that Hermione thought it was impossible for her to be anywhere near London. This quiet place, with its beaches, palm trees, and blazing sun was definitely tropical.
When the water had reached above her belly button, she took a deep breath and dove straight under. The water running over her itchy, sandy skin felt wonderful, and she could’ve swam there forever. Eventually, though, she dragged herself back up onto the sand before she caught a cold. It took almost more willpower than was present in her at the moment.
For a while, all she could do was tip her head back, dip her feet into the waves, and enjoy the sunshine, which was warm enough to dry her. For someone who had lived near London all her life, this weather was paradise. Just heavenly. It was all just too good to be true. And a holiday from all of her Hogwarts schoolwork was more than welcome. She could’ve fallen asleep, there on the beach, all over again.
But she was, as ever, Hermione. As soon as the thrill began to wear off and hunger set in, the practical part inside of her brain snapped to attention and promptly began to panic.
What was she doing here? She wondered uneasily, looking around again. The pressing silence, the absence of human life, was beginning to feel much more malevolent. If she truly had been kidnapped, where were her kidnappers? Did they just mean to leave her here to die? What would have been their purpose in kidnapping her then? It didn’t make sense!
Her imagination began to run wild. Maybe she was being held for ransom. Maybe Voldemort’s very headquarters were in this place.
Maybe the Death Eaters were hiding among the trees, biding their time, waiting for exactly the right moment and the command to pounce…
Guiltily she reached for her clothes hurriedly to cover herself and her sopping undergarments. But even as she yanked her pajamas back over her sandy skin and tried to pull her windblown hair back, she couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling of nakedness. Of vulnerability. She glanced back at the trees lining the beach, still swaying innocently in the slight breeze. There was nothing there, she chided herself, embarrassed at her own paranoia.
But if there was, how could she protect herself? Unconsciously she reached into her pocket, and came up empty. Her wand…!!!
Hermione shrieked, running her hands over her pajama pants where pockets would normally be on her jeans. If she had no wand, she was a sitting duck, an easy target. She had no way to protect herself at all. Dropping to her knees, she began to paw through the sand where she had been laying before, in the vain hope that it had been covered up.
Her stomach flipped violently as she forced herself to stop looking and admit that she was now, in fact, without wand.
Hermione forced herself to calm her breathing and racing heart before she started hyperventilating, which would only make this bad situation worse. Okay, so she was lost. In a place that had no sign of being inhabited by anything. Stuck, with no idea where she was, or how to get back to where she came from. And stuck without a wand. It was looking pretty dire.
At least there had been no sign of attackers yet. Maybe she had only Apparated here by accident…in her sleep…
Hermione shook her head, disgusted at herself. Professor McGonagall had mentioned once a warning of spells performed unconsciously. It was a wizarding phenomenon that had caused quite a bit of trouble in the past at Hogwarts. It didn’t happen often, but occasionally there had been an exceptional student with strong wizarding potential who would have gone to bed a bit upset…
That one student stupid enough, incompetent enough to let their power leak out of them could not be her, Hermione told herself. After all, she had to have tight control over her own mind. And she had no idea how to Apparate. She would be getting her license this coming summer.
But sitting here was getting her nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. And it was better to be a moving target without a wand, she reasoned, than a target sitting stationary on the beach, waiting to be attacked. Without a wand. If she had indeed been brought here by others, she needed to evade capture until she could figure out how to escape.
She staggered to her feet, lightheaded and dizzy from panic and sun. She needed to get under shade before she became dehydrated, she thought mechanically.
Looking around, there was more than enough shade provided by the trees away from the beach. Noting the tropical climate with less happiness than before, Hermione headed into the shade of the woods. But far from providing relief from the heat, the stagnant air in the woods positively steamed. At least near the water there had been a slight, if salty, breeze. Hermione sighed before deciding on a compromise: she would walk along the very edge of the woods, under the shade of the outermost ring of trees without relinquishing the fresh air on the beach.
The tropical climate posed another problem for Hermione. It told her, vaguely, where she was geographically. This kind of climate would only be found near the Equator of the Earth. That was approximately 25,000 miles, and more.
She had to start from somewhere, she supposed. The first thing would be to figure out how large the body of water that had formed this beach was. If it was a lake, there surely had to be civilization somewhere along it. If it was a sea, then by following the beach she would eventually end up somewhere along the coast of a mainland of some sort. Where there would be civilization. And if it was an ocean…? Hermione gulped. Anything was possible.
She was about to swallow the lump risen in her throat and start off walking away when an urge suddenly bade her to run back onto the beach.
Finding a long stick of driftwood on the sand, she ground the thick end of it deep into the sand, above where she thought the tide would rise, leaving the thin, pointy end to stick out a good two feet into the air. Lightheaded, she reached out and snapped the very end half-off with painful precision. There it hung, like the head of Nearly Headless Nick.
Reaching up to twist her bothersome hair out of her face as she began to walk back toward the trees, Hermione felt a bit better. She was quite proud of her creation. It served to mark where she had started, if she were to get lost. She could always come back to her stick.
Shaking her head, Hermione followed the edge of the woods, off in search of fresh water and some food other than coconuts. As mysteriously unexplainable as it was, the fact stood that it was more than likely she would be here for some time. Survival was more important presently than answers.
For once, Hermione had no answers. She could only walk, helpless, for what seemed like hours.
Just as hope was draining out of her, she rounded a bend into a clearing. In this clearing flowed a small, cold, stream of water, which collected into a pool at the base of a large, natural rock formation. Next to the rocks stood a poor tree whose branches were drooping so low they almost touched the ground. Hermione’s jaw dropped as she saw the weight that brought them down, the weight of bunches and bunches of bright yellow bananas.
This made no sense. She had not heard the trickle of water nor smelled the ripeness of the fruit until but a moment before she saw them. It was almost as if they had just appeared in front of her.
Too grateful, thirsty, and hungry to wonder about them for long, Hermione ate and drank her fill until she finally dropped into a weary, heat-induced sleep.
A/N: A little repetitive, wasn’t it? I tried to make the island imagery vivid, and Hermione’s thoughts on survival as logical as her character would actually be. Did I succeed? The thing is, all this description and background is needed to keep the story from becoming too far-fetched.
Meanwhile, we have here quite the mystery. Thoughts on what could possibly be happening? Please review, and watch for the next chapter, Island in the Sun, Part II