Author's Note: Hello and welcome to Dust! This is a Wild West AU (Alternate Universe). Dust will act as an anthology or collection of short stories. Each segment will be stand-alone, but connected in chronological order. I hope you enjoy it, and would love to hear what you think!
Please note: Given this is a non-magic AU, the characters will have different back stories, and in some cases, may seem slightly out of character in regards to their interactions with one another.
Content Warnings: Alcohol consumption, non-explicit violence, and sexual content, including smut. Please take this as your warning for the entirety of this fic.
Thanks to my lovely alpha, Kyonomiko.
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise.
Part I: Kingswood
Draco glanced up at the cloud of dust that billowed into town, carrying with it a solo rider. He hesitated at the sight, his hand stilling where it had been polishing his pistol with a handkerchief. Although it had once been a lucrative trade crossing, so few people arrived in Kingswood these days.
His grey eyes squinted as the dust settled and he could see the rider – female, by the way she held herself as she dismounted from a pitch black mare. Keen eyes gazed around the town as she yanked down the bandana down that covered her face. She wore all black, from the spurs on her boots to the stetson perched low on a riotous head of curls.
Draco watched from his seated vantage atop the roof of the general store, and quickly stowed the handkerchief in a pocket, returning his pistol to the holster at his hip. A slow smirk curled onto his lips as he watched while she tied up the mare, and the way her tight trousers clung to her legs and hips suggested she might be someone Draco wanted to get to know.
He rose to his feet, adjusting his own stetson lower over his eyes, and he scaled down the building, his boots landing hard on the packed earth as he dropped from halfway.
The day might be interesting, after all.
Hermione offered a tight smile and a silver to the small boy who announced he would bathe and feed her horse. She knew boys like this from home, and valued his initiative.
Her eyes narrowed as they swept the length of the street, calculating. A handful of people lingered in the streets, and a loud ruckus came from the upper level of a nearby building. She had heard of Kingswood plenty, and of its certain type of monetary assets, but she had never made the journey.
And after four days in the scorching, unforgiving wilds, subsisting on a diet of dust and cured meats, her mouth watered at the thought of a mug at the saloon down the road. With a last look to be sure her horse was being adequately cared for, she ventured down the street.
Her gaze swung to the approach of a tall stranger, a black hat covering his eyes, but she could see the pale blond hair beneath it, the golden scruff on his jaw. Her eyes flickered to the pair of Colt pistols holstered at his sides and she allowed a brief smile to cross her face.
"You must be new here," the stranger drawled, glancing up, though his eyes were still in shadow.
"Might be," she hedged, scanning the details of his form, his stance. "Or maybe I just don't tend to draw attention to myself."
The man chuckled, his lips settling into a smirk. "I know I would remember you if I'd seen you before. What's your name?"
Hermione bristled at the forward sentiment, but offered a disarming smile. "My name isn't important." When he looked up, his grey eyes finally settling on hers, she continued. "You on the other hand – I've heard all about you."
He tilted his head in a cocky sort of way.
"Oh, have you?" he asked, and his gaze on her felt hot and rakish.
"Absolutely," Hermione murmured, nodding. "Your notoriety is well known. Infamy, one might say. Double-Draw Draco – the man so fast with a pistol he can draw twice before an opponent can draw once." She threw his own smirk back at him. "They say everyone must see it in their lifetime – that it's legendary."
She could feel the self-satisfaction pouring off of him. She nearly rolled her eyes.
"Well, if that's what they say…" he drawled, flashing a crooked grin.
"And you know what I say?" she asked, hard gaze flashing to his. "I say, you must not have any worthy opponents around here, if they're all so slow."
The grin fell from his face, and his gaze flickered to the pistol at her hip. A brow raised as his chin lowered, and he took a step closer.
"And you're that much better?" he asked, his voice low. "You never told me your name."
"You wouldn't know it," she said, already growing irritable with his swagger and haughty countenance.
"But yet you think you could beat me in a draw," he intoned, his jaw clenched. He snickered in an unfriendly sort of way. "If I've never heard of you, you can't be very good."
"You must be right," Hermione huffed, giving in the urge to roll her eyes. She intentionally knocked the sack of gold at her waist, its contents clanking impressively. His brows flickered as his eyes followed the sound. "Seems to me there are more important factors in being a successful outlaw than being widely known. Like skill and stealth and – oh, I must be speaking a language you don't understand."
His eyes narrowed, his lips pressed together in a thin line.
"It seems to me, you must not know all about me, then," he retorted. "If you think I don't do well enough for myself."
"Right," Hermione said, sighing. Her eyes flickered longingly to the saloon again. "I'm off for an ale. But tell me – how's the town, Triple-D? Plenty of gold for the taking?"
He froze, his gaze hard on her. "If that's why you're here in Kingswood, you'd best turn around and leave town."
"Kingswood seems more than big enough for the two of us," she said, standing firm.
"It isn't," he hissed, stalking a step closer. "And if you don't leave –" he hesitated before adjusting his hat. "Well, you've been warned."
Hermione snickered, and his narrowed gaze remained fixed on hers. "I'll keep that in mind. See you around, Triple-D."
He opened his mouth to say something more, but his teeth snapped shut with a click. He merely fixed her with another penetrating stare, this one considerably colder, as she turned and walked off, her hand hovering beside her pistol as a warning.
He didn't follow.
Hermione glanced around the saloon, nursing her drink. She had been in Kingswood a week, and the saloon definitely seemed to be where most of the action in town occurred.
She had spent most of the week seamlessly integrating herself into the fabric of the town, observing its people, and scoping out any possible targets. She had been staying in a room at the inn above the saloon, and had been able to learn a lot.
Like how the sheriff – a bespectacled man with scruffy black hair and piercing green eyes – would stop by twice a day to ensure the peace. Like how the wealthiest residents of Kingswood lived along the east side of town beyond the outskirts. How the bank was surprisingly well protected.
She had plenty of money, but she would need to find a solid lead soon in order for it to be worth staying in Kingswood much longer.
Hermione suspected the bandit she had met on her first day in town – the incorrigible Double-Draw – was making things difficult for her. Or else, he was merely quick to any potential prospects.
She had caught him staring at her from across the saloon more than once, and had felt a shiver creep down the length of her spine at the feel of his narrowed grey eyes on her. He certainly wasn't unattractive, but his boisterous personality pushed her in the opposite direction.
And she definitely wasn't looking for any attachments in Kingswood, especially not with someone who she considered her only viable competition.
"Have you got a problem?" she asked, sipping from her drink as she glanced sidelong at him, two stools down at the bar.
"No problem at all," he responded, his tone too light to be believable. "You? Are you finding Kingswood to your liking?"
Her eyes narrowed in response. "Kingswood is just fine, thanks."
His brows flickered, and she caught the trace of a smirk on his features. She kept her expression carefully blank.
"Ah, good," he said, nodding. "I was worried you had been finding it too… slow for your taste. It can be a very dull town."
"The people certainly seem dull," Hermione quipped, glancing pointedly at him.
"I'm sorry to hear that," he murmured, turning to face her. His gaze flickered to the clock on the wall and he slammed his empty mug on the bartop. His tongue swept the front of his teeth as his eyes settled on her again. "You can always find me if you're looking for some… excitement."
"I won't be, but thanks," Hermione said, taking another sip of her drink.
He snickered and rose from his seat. "Well, it's been riveting, nameless stranger. Enjoy Kingswood." He pulled his bandana up over his nose and was gone.
He had scarcely vacated the seat before it was taken by the man she had come to recognize as the sheriff. Surprised, she glanced around the saloon but Double-Draw had vanished. Her eyes settled on the sheriff's badge, pinned proudly to his chest.
"Hello," she managed, taking a sip of her drink.
"Hello there," the sheriff replied cheerily, flashing her a grin. "I don't believe we've met yet. I'm Sheriff Potter."
"My name is Hermione," she responded, feigning an innocuous smile. "I've found Kingswood to be a lovely town."
"We do our best to keep everything running smoothly," the sheriff said, with a bashful sort of smile that seemed fake, and intended to disarm.
She tensed, wondering what he knew about her. She would hunt down Double-Draw herself.
"You do a wonderful job," she said, taking another sip of her drink.
"What brings you to Kingswood?" Sheriff Potter asked, his green eyes bright as they met hers.
"Simply a traveler looking for a place to settle," she said, replicating his smile. "I have heard so many things about Kingswood, I thought perhaps it would be a good place for a new start."
"Indeed," Potter mused, his overlong gaze making her uncomfortable.
Hermione finished her drink and left a few coins on the bar, flashing the sheriff another quick smile. "I've got to carry on, I'm afraid. Enjoy the rest of your day, Sheriff."
"The same to you," the sheriff said with a tilt to his head.
She rose from her seat, her hand nearly flinching to her pistol when the sheriff shifted his barstool against the floor. She released a careful breath and made her way out of the saloon, mentally marking the time.
Double-Draw had obviously known the sheriff would be along. Gritting her teeth, her gaze flickered around the darkening street as she walked, certain he would be watching her. It was the last time Double-Draw Draco would get the better of her.
She kept walking, her pace quickening in the chill breeze, making for where her horse was tied up. As she prepared and mounted the mare, feeling her heart rate settle, Hermione fixed her bandana and flew from the edge of Kingswood in a cloud of dust.
It had been a good haul. Hermione checked the last of the drawers and cupboards, her hands deftly searching for any hidden compartments, but she wasn't expecting to find much more beyond the hidden stash of gold and silver she had found in the bedroom.
Certainly enough to merit a continued stay in Kingswood.
It would have been enough for the fact that the trip had been particularly lucrative, but an added bonus was that she had obviously beaten Double-Draw to the tip.
She needn't have worried that she might get lost on the way, given the modest home was beyond the borders of Kingswood, and rather in the middle of nowhere.
Securing her bags and weapons in place, Hermione stopped on her way to the door as it rattled. She froze, carefully drawing a dagger from her boot as she crept out of sight.
The homeowner wouldn't be back, that much she knew for certain, but perhaps a family member –
She snickered, shaking her head at her own paranoia, tucking the dagger back into its hidden sheath.
"Are you usually this late?" she asked, making herself known as she stepped back into the kitchen, scooping a handful of grapes from a bowl she'd found in the kitchen.
His grey eyes snapped to her, his brow furrowed in alarm, and then distaste. "Are you usually such a nuisance?"
"And furthermore," she continued, popping one into her mouth, "are you always so obtrusive? There is a lot to be said for a certain level of finesse." She eyed the doorway through which he had just entered. "The homeowner is going to have to replace this door."
"The homeowner is dead," Double-Draw snapped, his jaw clenching. "There was a brawl in the saloon."
"In which you were involved, I've no doubt," Hermione intoned under her breath, crunching another grape between her teeth.
"Which you already knew about," he hissed, snatching a grape from between her fingers. His hard grey eyes met hers as he bit down on the grape, his tongue flicking out to catch the moisture on his lips. Hermione caught the movement of his hand near his pistol in her periphery. "Or you wouldn't have been here so fast."
"Regardless of whether or not I knew," she said, waving a hand, "you're still too late. There's nothing here."
His eyes swept the length of her as his lip curled into a sneer. His gaze settled on her bag. "This isn't a game," he growled. "And I don't hold any reservations about taking anything from you."
"Then you'll find out which of us is actually the faster draw," Hermione snapped.
He smirked, taking another grape from the bunch in her hand. "You think you're so good. But you don't know a damn thing about this town or the people in it. One day you're going to need help, and I'm going to remember this."
"If a day comes when I need your help, I'll leave Kingswood in shame," she snarled, snatching the handful of grapes out of his reach.
"I'll look forward to it," he purred, his lips parted as he gazed at her.
He paced closer, and Hermione was reminded how he towered over her. In a movement she barely registered, he drew her pistol from its holster, spinning it between his fingers before stopping to examine it.
"Give that back," Hermione hissed, as she kicked up a boot and grabbed the concealed dagger, pressing the flat of it against his throat.
He simply chuckled, turning the pistol carefully in his hands.
"It's a nice pistol," he murmured, taking a step away from her blade. Hermione followed him, her eyes fixed on the way he handled her gun. Then his eyes snapped to hers, and he grabbed her hand, pushing the dagger away from his throat. "Tell me your name."
"No," she hissed, swiping the outstretched pistol back, and tucking it back in its holster.
"I'll find out," he said, rolling his eyes. "From what I hear, you and Sheriff Potter have made friends."
She wasn't sure whether it was a threat, or a reminder of his standing in this town where she had no allies. No matter which, she didn't like his tone.
"It's Hermione," she said, tossing her hair back as she adjusted her hat. "My name."
"What sort of a name is that?" he asked, and her hackles raised with derision, despite that his question seemed sincere.
"What sort of a name is Draco?" she retorted, scowling. She stowed the dagger back in its sheath.
He frowned, staring at her for a long moment, chewing his tongue. Then he drawled, "Draco is a constellation. And I typically go by Double-Draw."
"Double-Draw is stupid," she spat, lip curling. "Like you."
"Wow," he mused, "you reached deep for that one, didn't you?"
There was something about the way his grey eyes gazed at hers, the way his lips curved with amusement at her anger – she felt a hot flush creep up her neck and face and glowered at him.
"At least," she breathed, narrowing her eyes at the tumultuous storm within his, "I didn't come all the way out here for nothing."
"It seems," he whispered, taking a step closer. His eyes fell out of sight in the shadow of his hat, and Hermione's eyes fixed on the smirk upon his lips. "Neither did I."
Her hand trembled slightly as it hovered over her pistol, and she inwardly cursed at the effect he seemed to have on her. Her hand was as sure as the best of them, and it would result badly for her if that was no longer the case when around this obnoxious, obstinate, loathsome bandit.
"And really," he continued on, popping another grape in his mouth, "you stole the entire stash. The least you could do is buy me a drink."
"Not a chance," she hissed. "Besides, the last thing I need is for the sheriff to see me with you."
"Potter's got nothing on me," Double-Draw said, rolling his eyes. "If he did, he'd have locked me up and thrown away the key years ago. A piece of advice, from one outlaw to another – don't believe the smiles. He's as ruthless as they come."
"I don't trust you," Hermione said with a scowl.
"Then by all means, disregard my advice," Double-Draw said, waving a lazy hand. "Befriend the damn sheriff, ignore my years of knowledge. But if I find him knocking at my door, you're going to see just how far my influence goes."
Hermione hesitated, then snatched one of his grapes. "I have no intentions of befriending the sheriff."
"Good," he breathed, his tongue flicking out. "About that drink, then."
"No," she responded.
"Fine," he said with a raised brow, stripping the last few grapes from the vine and tossing them into his mouth at once. "I'll remember this. Hermione."
He lowered his hat, tugged his bandana up onto his face, and left through the front door, his boots clicking on the wooden floor.
Hermione made to leave as well, careful to stay behind him, and watched as he mounted his horse in one fluid, graceful movement, and was gone before she even reached her own mare.
She frowned, taking a long breath to steady her heart, and then mounted her horse and made her way back to Kingswood.