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These Darkened Days

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Summary: The world has fallen to Voldemort's Dark Forces and those that led the resistance are either dead or in hiding. Hermione has been on the run for over two years but a chance encounter gives her an opportunity to make the world anew.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Xander-Centered > Pairing: Hermione GrangerKeiFR18410,42135611,86515 Dec 0713 Oct 13No

Chapter One

Summary: The world has fallen to Voldemort's Dark Forces and those that led the resistance
are either dead or in hiding. Hermione has been on the run for over two years but a chance
encounter gives her an opportunity to make the allies she needs to bring the world out of
the darkness it has fallen to.

Disclaimer: Buffy is Whedon's. Potter is Rowling's. I am claimless. Yay claimless. And
thus, I disclaim.

Timeline: Buffy is POST CHOSEN and Angel's NOT FADE AWAY. Harry Potter is POST ORDER OF
THE PHOENIX. Yes, all of this is important.

Character Deaths: I don't really do character death notices. Whedon and Rowlings certainly
don't believe in them. But, for politeness, characters are going to die/be dead. Kay.
You've been warned.

Author's Notes: I LIVE. I hate my grad program. Hope to be around more, out of sheer
spite of my thesis if nothing else. This story, Life of the Party, and Gee, Thanks for
all the Love are my priorities, pretty much in that order. After I get the darn one-shot
Firefly/Buffy fic I've been cooking up posted. Hopefully soon.



******************************* These Darkened Days: Chapter One **************************


“Stop it!”

“’Mione, I’m so sorry. I love you.”

“Harry, stop this! Stop it right now!”

Voldemort’s lipless mouth curled into a cruel smile. “Well Harry,” the Dark Lord hissed
smugly, “You heard your best friend. Stop it. Right now.”

Hermione sobbed as she tried to crawl towards Ron, but the body binding held her legs
most of her upper body completely still and useless. He was mere feet from her, and in
between bouts with the Cruciatus Curse his red rimmed eyes stayed locked with hers.
With hers and not on the man standing calmly over him.

“Cruciatus.”

The curse was spoken softly, but with an intent so dark Hermione could FEEL the spell’s
eagerness, its strength as it danced down Harry’s wand and slammed into Ron again.

And again.

And again.

Her screams mingled with Ron’s as he convulsed on the bloody flagstones once more, his
limbs thrashing wildly as he unconsciously broke bones right and left in his fits. Only
when Ron’s vocal cords finally gave out, only when his body was so tired from fighting
the curse, only when his mind was broken enough for him to look away from her, could
Hermione look Harry in the eyes.

Look her best friend in the eyes as he stood over the body of her broken husband. Look
for some trace of humanity in his mild green gaze. Look for the Harry she would have
died for before this day.

“Why?” she whispered hoarsely, a sound that carried in the chamber that was deathly
silent except for Ron’s labored breathing. “Why THIS?”

And her heart stopped as Voldemort’s chilling laugh filled the chamber. As Harry smiled
that affable, boyish grin that she knew so well.

“Because,” Harry replied gently, “now there really is NO going back.”

His spare fingers reached out and traced the air that framed her face as his smile grew
and his wand, the twin to Voldemort’s, trained itself on Ron.

“Avada Kedavra.”

And then the only screams in the small hot room were Hermione’s own.

************************************************************************************

“What can I get you?”

“A cheese burger and a chilly dog…” The man ordering looked put out as his tired looking
wife tugged on his sweat stained sleeve, “And a house salad.”

Hermione shot the woman a tired looking smile of her own as she wrote the order down in
shorthand on her order pad without looking. “Sure thing hon’.” After two years in the
States the accent wasn’t much of an accent anymore, and even diner speak had become
almost second nature to her.

Plus it tended to get her bigger tips. On her salary every dollar counted.

She dropped the order off at the kitchen before moving onto her next table. Her shift
was up in thirty but Frank was cooking tonight, so she could probably get all of her
current customer’s food out and tips collected before she clocked out for the night.
People didn’t tend to linger too long at their diner.

There was a single man occupying the table in the back, and she headed towards him before
hitting her final table, a rowdy lot of men who she’d had before and would have gladly
given a large part of her meager income to insure she’d never have them as customers
again.

She tucked a dark strand of stray hair back behind one ear absently and repressed a
sigh as she flipped open to a clean page of order paper. Hermione consciously managed
a small smile for the solitary man who was quietly studying his menu. The man wasn’t
particularly tall, or broadly built, but he had a commanding presence about him, even
with his shaggy hair and work stained clothes.

Construction if she was to guess, which wasn’t all that unlikely, given the times some
construction crews had to keep. Especially nowadays, when there was so much to rebuild.

“What can I get you…” Hermione trailed away and barely contained a gasp of pure surprise
as the man looked up at her greeting and greeted her with one amused eye, and one equally
well-worn eye patch.

The man gave her a much needed moment to recover from her fumble. It wasn’t that she
hadn’t seen worse, much worse, she thought with wry bitterness that was still too fresh
some days. Injuries like his, and again, much worse, were common even among Muggles in
Europe. The Dark Forces had felt much more threatened by the deep seated Wizarding
powers in Europe and had acted accordingly. Those actions had included widespread
violence and a level of cruelty so absolute that even the highly censored Muggle media
that broadcast stateside was horrifying.

America and indeed, the rest of the Western Hemisphere, had fallen to heel at the
command of the Dark Forces with much less resistance than Europe, and as a result had
been spared some of the destruction her homeland had suffered. Plus, America was just
so BIG. So much space, so many people- so few wizards. It just wasn’t worth the
resources it would take to enact the same level of “vigilance” here as in Europe.

It was funny that, in some ways, Voldemort’s promised cleansing of Muggles and those of
impure blood in Britain, probably would have had less impact than what had taken place
in the last three years. The Dark Forces had done more harm than killing a few million
innocents- they had literally taken over the world. And Hermione had no illusions about
what would happen once the world was truly theirs- cleansings and horrors that she
didn’t even want to imagine.

It all seemed so far away most days. It had been less than three years since she watched
Harry kill Ron in cold blood, but here, in Cleveland, Ron’s screams and Harry’s chilling
laugh only haunted her in odd moments. In moments when she saw someone entering a taxi,
and the way their dark hair curled at the collar of their turtleneck reminded her of
Harry. In even rarer moments when she heard a laugh that was so genuine it could only
come from Ron. Even though Cleveland was under martial law, even though there were
Wanted posters on every major street corner with her name and picture on them, most days
it was hard to believe she had ever been anything more than she was now.

A waitress who had likely just blown a tip by staring at another’s visible scars.

“I’m sorry… I, I just…”

The man’s one eye warmed at her genuine regret and he shook his head, cutting her off.
“Trust me, ma’am, I’ve had a lot more time than most to get used to my failings. Can I
get a chocolate shake, a coffee, black, and the Breakfast Plate?”

Hermione blinked and when the man’s warmth never faltered sent him a tentative smile that
was much more like the young bookworm from a continent and world away than a world weary
waitress in hiding. “Of course, no problem. I’ll… I’ll be right back with your order.”

The construction worker quickly worked himself up to be her favorite client of the night
by the time he had tipped generously, just over 20%, and left for the night. The rowdy
table of men in the back had maintained their position of being some of Hermione’s least
favorite customers. She’d dealt with more than a little rough handling in her time but
that didn’t mean she appreciated it when she had to deal with it. She appreciated the
lack of tip even less.

Cleveland had nothing on Scotland in terms of winter, but it was still cold come December,
and she shrugged into a ratty wool coat as she waved good morning to Frank on her way out
after her shift. It wasn’t quite dawn yet but false light gave the feel of it. Hermione
paused in front of the diner long enough to pull her knit hat on over her head, taking
the time to shove her short curls under the material, the last present Mrs. Weasley had
given her, right before Ron had died.

The street light in front of the diner, like most the street lights in Cleveland, had an
updated list of Voldemort’s Most Wanted List. Before she could quite help herself, and
she never could, Hermione drifted the extra step over she needed in order to glance at it.
It was funny, to see herself waving cheerily from the top of the list, along with a mixture
of both Wizarding and muggle pictures for the rest of the listed fugitives.

It was a picture Harry had taken, one afternoon by the lake near the end of Seventh Year.
It had always been one of her favorites; sunlight dappled her hair so that it was almost
red, and her eyes were gleaming from an afternoon of swimming and teasing the giant squid
with fish Dobby had liberated for them from the kitchen.

Funnier that even the picture Hermione didn’t recognize herself now.

She tugged self-consciously on the tips of the near black bob sticking out from under her
hat. She had been sporting the look, in varying degrees of short and shorter for the past
two years in some half-hearted form or fashion. Her eyes drifted down to the rest of the
Most Wanted list, heart in her throat as she wondered who else would have been crossed off
this week.

Which of her fellow fugitives had finally slipped up.

1. Hermione Granger, wanted Dead or Alive
2. Remus Lupin, wanted Dead
3. Alexander Harris, wanted Alive
4. Dawn Summers, wanted Alive
5. Victor Krum, wanted Dead or Alive
6. Rupert Giles, wanted Dead or Alive
7. Minerva Monagonall, wanted Dead or Alive
8. Neville Longbottom, wanted Dead or Alive
9. Fred Weasley, wanted Dead
10. Arthur Weasley, wanted Dead

Oh… George. Hermione, despite her iron self-control, felt the tears gathering. She
dashed them away before the few passerbys could notice. It wouldn’t do to be seen
crying over Voldemort’s Wanted List. Not in public. She could grieved at her flat…
apartment, when she got there. But not out in the open when the Dark Forces had ears
and eyes everywhere, especially given the bounty put on the Most Wanted.

She wasn’t paying much attention on the way home, too wrapped up in silent grief. Her
apartment was only seven or eight blocks from the diner, and the area of town was safe
enough that the local roughs recognized her as part of the neighborhood and therefore
mostly left her alone. That’s why she was so surprised when she rounded the corner of
an alley shortcut she sometimes took and found herself slammed so hard into the brick
wall of a nearby building her head snapped back and cracked open on the brick.

It took her a dazed moment for the blinding pain to subside, to clear her thoughts, and
then to panic, because her first instinctual response to the attack was to reach for the
wand she couldn’t NOT carry. Was to call the magic to her that she COULD NOT USE.

It took the slap across her cold cheeks to make her realize that as terrifying leaving a
magical signifier could be in the long run, in the short run, physically surviving
whatever attack she was under was significantly more important. She blinked blearily,
faintly noting the wet hotness coming from the back of her head, and blinked again as
she finally connected her five attackers with the rowdy men she had waited on at the
diner.

The panic that came from almost giving herself away to the Dark Forces was replaced at
that instant with the blind terror of knowing she was alone in an alleyway with five
leering men with NO WAY of defending herself against such large numbers without ending
up in Voldemort’s dungeons at Harry’s mercy.

The men laughed, ugly laughs, as they saw her eyes widen and lips part in terror. They
laughed harder as their leader punched her in the gut, and punched her again and again,
holding her up with his body as a rib cracked and he whispered obscene things in her ear.
They were still laughing, intent on their prey, as someone slipped into their midst with
sharp fists and one eye and began laying waste to them with a calm efficiency Hermione
had lacked since the day she had had to put down her wand.

She fell to her knees when the leader was ripped away from her. Watched dully, head
pounding and side screaming in pain as she wheezed shallowly, as her main attacker was
dispatched with some blunt head trauma of his own. It was quiet for a moment in the
alleyway, just Hermione’s labored breaths, and then soft footsteps.

Her savior squatted at her side and Hermione flinched despite herself as gentle hands
touched her face and gave a cursory probe to the back of her head. “I’m sorry,” came a
vaguely familiar voice, “I know it hurts. Come with me, I’ll get you fixed up.” And
Hermione, probably because she really didn’t have a choice, trusted for the first time
since Ron had breathed his last.

“Okay,” she whispered.

The man leaned down, close enough that she could see his face, see him smile, and
recognize him as another customer. The one-eyed construction worker. He paused for a
moment, letting her make the mental adjustment, before introducing himself. “My name
is Xander.”

“Helen.”

“Okay,” was his simple, gentle reply.
Next Chapter
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