Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter in any way, shape or form. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Authors Note: Crossposted from the L&L cookiejar; this ficlet is an AU I wrote, from which I might be continuing or morphing into a chapter length fic. Draco is twenty-two years old, as is Hermione.

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The desert heat scorches the lands, redding the earth and leaving it dry to all those in these parts. In an old bar, where the playing piano cranks out tunes for the rowdy folk and the Firewhiskey burns your tongue, a young blonde haired individual sits in a corner; the brim of his brown poblano pulled down over his eyes as he watches a game of poker transpire before him.

"Four aces and a king!" a dark haired man proclaims. "Read 'em and weep!"

He's of course, the famous Harry Potter. The fastest gun slinger in the West and all around Mr. Nice Guy. Beside him sits a fiery haired man, Ron Weasley, who claps him on the back and orders another round of Butterbeer.

The sandy haired man named Seamus, who's just lost his days earnings to his friend, merely shrugs and proclaims it was a fluke. And the blonde haired man almost chuckles in pity, as he gets up from his corner and settles himself down at the bar.

"What can I get you?" the waitress at the counter asks, tossing her mane of weathered brown hair over her shoulder.

"Dang it, Granger," he grunts, lifting the brim of his hat with a lone finger, revealing his devilish face. "Wouldn't have expected you to be working here!"

Hermione purses her lips, shooting him a dark frown as recognition sinks in. "Well, your presence is surprising in itself, Malfoy. The last I heard, you and Pansy skipped town for that Death Eater lot."

He quirks an eyebrow in surprise, eyeing a bottle of Firewhiskey on the other side of the counter. Her eyes follow his grey pair and she takes pity on him, quickly pouring a shot and slamming it down in front of him. He tips his hat to her, downing the strong liquor, before gesturing to the bar once more.

"So, how'd wise little Granger, with all her books, end up working at a saloon such as this one?" he drawls.

"A girls gotta work," she says with an obviously forced shrug. "I'm not from the West, you seem to point that out more than anyone. My parents haven't contacted my since I was a youngin'."

"So you spend your time doling out liquor for the poor bastards who have nothin' better to do than come to this 'ere sorry place?" he asks, reaching over the counter and swiftly tugging the serving bottle from her grasp.

She reaches to retrieve it, but he merely pours himself another shot and props it back up on the bench. With a reluctant sigh, Hermione returns the bottle to its proper shelf, before nodding.

"Exactly. I'll work, and hopefully someday I'll have enough cash to get out of this town and head off to the city. Meet up with 'em and all."

"You've got dreams, Granger," he mutters, admiring his shot glass. "Not that they're a bad thing, but don't expect they'll happen anytime soon."

"Says the boy who's still living off of Daddy's money," she says with a sneer, waving at Ron and Harry who get up and shoot her large grins, waving their winnings around triumphantly. They exit the saloon, cash in hand, arms around each others shoulders as they sing some drunken tune. Most probably they'll wake up early next morning in Lavender Brown's barn and she'll be left to explain to Mrs. Weasley why.

"Yeah, well just between you and me," he says in a softer tone, "my father's money ain't all it's cracked up to be."

He downs the shot, furrowing his brow as it burns his tongue and throat on the way down. Hermione shakes her head and gestures to the rest of the large room. Tobacco, scotch, butterbeer and Firewhiskey - the scents which which everyone seems so enraptured in. Two jolly men sit playing cards, a fine young lass wearing far too much make-up sits between them, flirting.

A table gets over turned on the other side of the room, and Draco sees the frustrated look in her eyes as the barkeep attempts to break it up before anybody gets hurt.

"Trust me, Malfoy," she says surely. "The fact that you can just ride in and out of town on that black stallion of yours is a luxury of its own. I've got my friends, and I love them and all, but I don't wanna be live my life in one place. Be glad for what you got."

He shrugs, fishing around in his long black coat for some Galleons. "I've got a father in prison, a dead girlfriend and a bounty on my head for crimes that I sure as hell didn't commit. Trust me, Granger, I'm more than grateful."

Draco tosses two Galleons down on the bench, pushing his empty shot glass towards Hermione, before smiling grimly. "You know, if you ever want out of this town, Potter seems the type to help a friend in need."

"Yeah," she says airily. "But I'm not the kind of girl who takes from friends."

"With that attitude, you'll never make it to the big city."

A smirk steals its way onto her sweet face, and she cocks her head to its side, polishing his empty glass absentmindedly. "Oh, I dunno... that bounty on your head seems like an interesting prospect."

He almost laughs, his face lighting up for a moment in silent mirth. How incredibly gutsy she was, this girl he barely remembered from the good old days back in 'town'. "You wouldn't turn in an old friend, now would you?"

"Friend?" she says cheekily. "We were never friends!"

"Yeah, but we'd have looked terribly good together," Draco answers with a mischievous wink. Hermione raises her eyebrows, obviously unimpressed. He quickly kisses her cheek and tips his hat to her, before pulling it over his eyes and shading his face from the view of others.

"Oh, off with you!" she announces, and Draco laughs under his breath as he turns and heads towards the exit.

"Be seeing you, Granger," he calls over his shoulder. "Be seeing you... real soon..."

~Fin