Drinking to Remember (Xander/Hermione)
NOTE: No changes to this first installment. I am just condensing the various fics into one post.
Title: Drinking to Remember
Series: Right There All Along
Disclaimer: Not mine, not mine, not mine . . . and I get nothing but feedback (I hope) and the exorcising of the plot flounder of doom.
Spoilers: Buffy Season 7, Angel Season 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (just in case. I don't see any off hand but there may be something I didn't notice).
Summary: Pure fluff. Xander Harris and Hermione Granger meet in bar where they find something they were looking for everywhere else.
Most people came here to forget. Of course he wasn't most people so it shouldn't have been a surprise that he couldn't even do that right. Xander Harris had already forgotten far too much in his short life. No matter how hard he tried, couldn't remember what Jesse had looked like. He couldn't conjure the smell of Anya's hair, or the way Cordelia kissed him. Every once in a while, he made his way to this bar, a tiny hole-in-the-wall pub in England, home of the new Watcher's council. Instead of drinking to forget, he found himself coming here time and again, drinking to remember.
The others were still out there, happily moving on with their lives. Willow and Kennedy were living it up in Brazil in between rounding up new slayers. Buffy had a new life and a new love in Rome. Of course Dawn was there with her, Buffy being all her legal-guardian type and everything. Faith hadn't left the states, one of the conditions of the legal system looking the other way in regard to her "release" from prison. Seemed the government knew all about Hellmouths, and now that the old council was gone no one seemed to be worried about punishing her for her past mistakes any longer. Of course those fancy new lawyers she'd gotten in LA didn't hurt either. LA. Xander downed half his beer and sneered. The city of Angel. Not even Buffy trusted him anymore, what with the whole running the evil law firm thing. That was a day Xander had never thought he would see. He smiled at that one.
Yep, this was a good night to remember. The bartender set another pint in front of him, used to his routine by now. Every week-barring a new apocalypse-the young man came in, drank until he was numbed by it, reminisced a bit, and climbed into a taxi.
The place got an interesting assortment of customers, mainly due to the fact that the proprietors put up with no nonsense. A particularly tall woman slid onto the stool beside Xander. "So, stranger, you seem a little lonely. Care for some company?"
Xander peered at her from his good eye and smiled. "No thanks ma'am, back home we like the girls that sing soprano."
"Pity. Big burly thing like you."
Xander laughed into his glass. "Thanks, I think. Here, have one on me, and you might have better luck at that table in the corner," he said motioning towards the back of the room where several men were watching his new companion with avid interest. The woman(?) smiled and accepted glass from the bartender. Xander returned to his drink-not brooding, cuz he was not broody-vampire-guy. He didn't pay much attention to what went on around him, intent on remembering Anya tonight. Another two and he was fairly certain he could smell her shampoo. Someone sighed beside him and he turned, almost expecting his quirky ex-fiancée to be there on the next stool.
It wasn't her. Of course it wasn't. She was dead, probably for good. Stupid Turok-han. The woman beside him smelled like her though, and he couldn't help leaning just a little bit closer, inhaling as he tried to recall what sort of shampoo it was she had liked so well. If his brain hadn't been all fuzzy with the alcohol, he might have thought to ask. As it was, he leaned a little too far and tumbled out of his seat, knocking the woman to the floor as well. "Oh. Geez. Sorry 'bout that," he muttered, holding out a hand to help her up.
"Quite alright," she said. "People tend not to notice me."
And THAT caught his attention. "Why not?" he asked, genuinely intrigued. She was pretty enough. Brown eyes, curly hair, nice body. All right, so the hair was really thick and a bit bushy, but it just suited her somehow. The woman wrinkled her brow and stared at him, as if really seeing him for the first time.
"I suppose it's just that I've always been somebody that you look at but never really see. I'm used to it by now."
"You shouldn't be." Xander realized what he'd said and his burning cheeks were a match for her flaming face. They looked at one another and laughed. "Xander Harris," he said, offering his right hand.
"Hermione Granger," she said with a shy smile, returning his handshake.
The urge to get to know her better was nearly overpowering. Besides, if she said no then he could always blame it on his rapidly rising blood alcohol content. "Well, Ms. Hermione Granger, can I buy you a drink?"
"I suppose I might like that, Mr. Xander Harris."
The evening was the beginning of a weekly ritual that belonged to the two of them alone: no slayers who died, no boys who lived, just Xander and Hermione. They met every Thursday at the new establishment old Tom, proprietor of the Leaky Cauldron, had opened after the war and the election of a muggle-friendly Minister of Magic. It was small, still hard to find for the magically-ignorant, but welcomed all those familiar with the mystical.
They discussed their lives, their hopes and dreams, abandoned the alcohol for water or sodas. It was the sort of friendship each of them remembered from simpler times, when they'd been terrified and determined to save the world, before adult responsibilities and politics had interfered. They realized quickly that there was no reason to hide anything. Xander told her about Hellmouths and slayers. Hermione related the final battle against Voldemort and explained the wizarding world.
The night conversation turned to failed attempts at romance, Hermione introduced him to firewhiskey and they mourned their respective failures over two bottles.
"And then Ron . . . oh, he looked at me with knowing eyes. He had been trying to figure out a way to say it for over a year. We just weren't meant to be anything more than friends. I suppose I always suspected . . . but it was still hard, hearing him say it. I mean, I think I would have understood even if it had been Harry. At least we were on the same side. But Pansy Parkinson . . . ugh! She was a SLYTHERIN! She nearly killed me! And he just kept saying, 'Hermione you don't understand. She was saving you.'" Hermione snorted. "Saving me from what I'd like to know." She paused, downing a fresh glass and relishing the burn. "So Ron didn't want me, Harry is still mooning over Ginny, even though she married that prat Malfoy . . . not even Percy wanted to see me again after that one night we slept together. And he's not even gay like everyone thought." She propped her chin on folded arms. "Maybe I'm just not meant to have anyone."
"Don't be like that Herm . . . Her-my . . . Miney." She didn't glare this time when the alcohol had him stumbling over her name until he settled for the closest he could pronounce. She must be really drunk. "Somewhere out there is somebody . . . you'll find 'em. I mean, look at Willow. She thought she was in love with me, and then there was Oz. And she loved Tara so much and then Tara died, and Will thought there would never be anyone else. And look at her now. She's never been happier, at least I don't think so. And, you know, the whole gay thing is kinda cool. You never know what life has in store. Hey, maybe that's it! Maybe you're gay and just don't know it. Look over there, hot chick at the bar. Do anything for you?"
"OK, Xander, I think you've certainly had enough," Hermione said, taking the bottle of firewhiskey away and tilting it up for a long swallow. Xander reached across their small table, patting her hand.
"It's OK, Miney . . . I still like you even if you aren't gay. You'll find someone when you least expect it. Oh, and give that back!" He snatched the bottle out of her hand, raising it to his own lips. "Hey, don't do that," he said as her lip started to tremble. "Don't feel bad. You wanna hear about the time Cordelia and Oz caught me and Willow making out again? Or what about me leaving Anya at the altar so she went all vengeance-y and stuff? Would that make you feel better?"
"I don't think so. I think the only thing that will make me feel better is for you to give that bottle back right now. Or I could hex your hair pink and put you in a pretty little dress."
"Here," Xander said, handing the bottle back.
She didn't drink this time, simply stared at the bottle. "Pain hurts," she whispered to herself.
"But only for a minute. Then you learn from it and feel better and get on with life. Eventually, the scars heal."
"Glory fades," she said, glaring as she stubbornly tried to hold on to her morose mood.
"Exactly. In time, it all gets better. Scars heal, glory fades, and all you're left with are the memories made."
"Life is short," she sighed.
"So go on and live it," he said softly, covering her hand with his. "You have to take the chance. I know there's someone out there who will cherish you the way he-or she, don't wanna discriminate-should. I mean, if you were mine, I'd every night be tucked in close to you."
Hermione's head snapped up and she stared at Xander. "Do you want me to be?"
"Yours. Do you want me to be yours?"
"I said that part out loud, didn't I? Sorry, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." Xander tried to pull his hand away but Hermione grabbed his wrist, holding him in place.
"Don't apologize for that. I think, if it wasn't just the alcohol talking, that I'd very much like to grow old with you." She kissed him then, just a quick brush of her lips over his, and Xander was certain it would prove to be the most memorable kiss of his life.
"Somebody that you look at but never really see"
"Somewhere out there is somebody"
Where I Come From-Alan Jackson (and boy was that one hard to work in)
"No thanks Ma'am, back home we like the girls who sing soprano"
Where the Green Grass Grows-Tim McGraw (also difficult to use)
"Every night be tucked in close to you"
Paint Me A Birmingham-Tracy Lawrence
"He looked at me with knowing eyes"
Chicks Dig It-Chris Cagle
"Scars heal, glory fades, and all you're left with are the memories made//
Pain hurts, but only for a minute//
Life is short so go on and live it"