Disclaimer: All characters and institutions are the property of whoever owns Harry Potter and BtVS. I just borrowed them, and make no profit from their use.A/N: This story displaces the
Harry Potter series by a generation; the war is over and it is approximately 1975.
Hermione Granger supposed she did look a bit ridiculous, slick with sweat behind a grill larger than her apartment, her curly hair a fuzzy nimbus around her face where it had pulled from the sloppy bun high on the back of her head. But ridiculous or no, there was no reason for ferret-faced Draco Malfoy to stare.
“Something for you?” Betty, the self-named burly waitress who had appointed herself the young cook’s protectress, interposed herself between the two. There was a smile on her face and a coffeepot in her hand, but her teeth were pointy and she held the coffeepot just high enough to get a good swing with it. Malfoy, however, had faced down 900 years of family tradition and a Dark Lord – no waitress, no matter how terrifying, was going to intimidate him. Or so he told himself.
“Granger?” Malfoy’s voice was incredulous.
“Malfoy.” Hermione’s voice was bland. He noticed that she shook her head at Betty, who glared at him before stalking off to refill everyone’s coffee and chat with the customers.
“What are you doing here?” His disdain for her surroundings was blatant, but she simply smiled serenely from beneath cold eyes.
“Cooking. Breakfast?” She snagged a wide-blade spatula from the well on the side of the broad griddle and shoveled a fluffy pile of seasoned eggs onto a flat, dark-green plate. She handed it to Malfoy with a few pieces of fresh toast from the rack on the next counter and pointed him in the direction of a booth in the corner. “Sit. I’ll be by in a minute.”
Malfoy moved, still slightly stunned, to the worn plasticized wooden table and folded himself onto the booth’s bench. Betty arrived in moments, thunking a heavy mug onto the table and pouring dark, lush coffee.
“You two friends? From before?” Her gruff voice held less gravel, now that she was no longer warning him away.
“No, not really.” He took a bite of his eggs and nearly died. Here, in the middle of uncouth America, he had not expected ham, Gruyere and coarse-ground pepper. Betty grinned.
“Good, eh? She’s brilliant. But anyway. I’m surprised. The last man from her past to show up here left with egg in his hair, not his belly.”
Malfoy was surprised again. “I didn’t think anyone knew where she was.”
“Weasleys do.” Hermione slid into the booth across from him, the hem of her blue and red striped apron tucked into its tie and a hand towel over her shoulder. She had blotted the sweat from her face and neck but her hair still coiled tightly with wet heat. She looked vaguely cherubic; the bones of her face were still sharply sculpted but her cheeks were much fuller now, and flushed from the heat of the grill. “Snape does, too.”
“He told me. Not who you were, just that I’d find someone I knew if I came here, and that nobody else knew where they were, so I had to be careful.” He took another bite. “These are really good. So why does Severus know where you are?”
“Who do you think snuck me out of the country?” Malfoy was mid-sip, and his choked surprise burned his tongue. While he was sputtering, Hermione resumed talking. “Molly – Molly Weasley – wanted me to stay with them, once she found out, and none of the boys would go against her, if I’d asked. Ginny would’ve, but she didn’t have the connections. Snape and I worked together for over a year. He owed me.”
Malfoy had recovered. “So who came, then?”
“Percy Weasley. Pretentious git came, wanted me to return and take the heat. So he could get the glory.” Her brow drew low over her eyes.
Her bark of laughter was a little bit broken and heads turned in dismay. Hermione nodded that she was okay, diverting the communal questioning scowl from Malfoy. Betty stepped towards them, then returned to her task of refilling the salt and pepper. “Don’t get out much, huh?”
“I’ve been running since Dumbledore. Spent most of the war in Italy with the Zabinis and France with Mother’s family, talking to people for Severus. When Scrimgeour started making deals with the continental ministries, seeking aid, Severus got me out. I’ve been up north a bit; I’m thinking of studying at Unseen University in San Fransisco.”
Hermione was staring at him. “You were our contact. Fuck me.” This last was whispered, but he heard and was surprised by the vulgarity.
She laughed again, a clear sound this time. “Snape’s a sneaky bastard. Anyway, I’m doing work in experimental defensive charms here at Epicenter.”
Hermione’s smile grew. “California School of Thaumaturgy. Fairly notorious for causing earthquakes, and we almost took the blame for the Hellmouth implosion that trapped Nest.”
Malfoy smiled back, took a last bite of his cooling eggs, and returned to his prior question. “So. What heat?”
Hermione’s smile flickered out and she sighed.
“Bellatrix Lestrange survived the war. She set up a hidey-hole for survivors in the Czech Republic. We were tracking Neville Longbottom through his totem – did you hear about those?”
Malfoy nodded. He’d actually read about the small, glass creatures, animated by blood until the donor’s death, and their use in the war to determine who was dead and who was lost, in an article on recent innovations in charmwork.
“Well, Snape and I tracked him to her hideaway and called in for backup, but before they got there I saw Lestrange going in. She had Gin…” She pressed her fingers to her eyes and exhaled sharply. “Ginny had gone missing just after the war ended. Shacklebolt was looking for her, but he thought she was probably off celebrating somewhere with a boyfriend. We told him that wasn’t her style, she would’ve told Luna, at least, but he was busy with other things. A lot of people had gone missing during the war.” She snagged his coffee and took a sip, making a face when she realized it had gone cold. She dipped her finger in the drink and glared at it for a moment, and when she took a second drink he saw steam curl past her eyes. Malfoy was impressed.
“Anyway. I went in, leaving Snape to wait for the backup. I know,” she stilled his protests. “It was silly of me. But nobody can beat me for stealth spells, and I’d done a lot of physical training.” She smiled ruefully.” A lot of people went missing, and I found them. Most were in bad shape. I know the Death Eaters were largely a political group, yadda yadda, but your aunt or no, Lestrange was crazy. McNair, too. There were thirty people in there, muggles, purebloods and mudbloods alike.” She spoke the hateful epithet mildly, and he started to realize that this was not the bookish girl he had tormented in school. “There were twenty Death Eaters. I killed them all.” Definitely not the same girl.
“So? It was war.”
“War was over. I was legally a vigilante. They might have let that slide, what with who I was and who they were, but I didn’t kill them nicely. Shacklebolt threw up just watching my priori incantati
.” Her face was blank, now, her eyes deep. “As if that weren’t bad enough, they declared my totems dark magic.”
“My spells, my design. But they’re blood magic, and not all of the donors were willing. Everyone in Azkaban was given one, against the eventuality of escape.”
“Did they send you there?” Malfoy was disgusted. Even with the Dementors gone, Azkaban would be a dark, dingy hellhole.
“Hardly. Considering who I know, they had to hush it up as much as possible. Scrimgeour pulled a few strings – made a few demands, rather – and I ended up in a Muggle prison on charges of manslaughter, of all things. I got out three years ago and I ran.”
“To America. Where you promptly enrolled in what I can only assume is a fairly prestigious university and no doubt commenced churning out groundbreaking papers, and soon you will have an auror on your doorstep and his partner in your linen cupboard.”
“I don’t have a linen cupboard.” She laughed at the face he made, and he was amazed that she could. “Give Snape some credit, at least, even if you don’t think very highly of me. Hermione Granger is dead. Stabbed with a sharpened spoon in the shower. Orchestrated by yours truly, of course, but still hurt like all fuck.” She shrugged her shoulders against the patterned canvas of the booth’s cushion, rubbing at an old, old itch. He noted the swearing again. She was right. Granger was dead.
“Did I mess anything up, coming here, saying your name?” Malfoy hadn’t expected to ever see Hermione again, and the thought had never bothered him before, but he suddenly cared very much that she not have her carefully carved niche disrupted.
“Snape basically sent you to me, so I assume you’re safe. He wouldn’t risk me, not even for you. As for the name, I doubt anyone but Betty heard, and I don’t even know her real name. Besides, nobody here would tell.” She grinned again, but he no longer found her cherubic. If she were an angel, she would be the one with that ruddy great flaming sword strapped to his back. “While you’re here, though, call me Sheila. Sheila Thomas.”
“That’s a terrible name, Sheila. I’m Derek Wells.”
They shook hands.