Author's Note: This is just something I imagine happening somewhere amidst book seven. I, of course, don't really know how the trio is going to go about their horcrux-hunt, but I can imagine it would involve some traveling, and thus the set-up for this random musing.
Also, there's a bonus, irrelevant, extra ending! Yey!
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling.The title comes from The Fellowship of the Ring, although the word 'shadow' is here used in a rather different sense.
Shadow of the Past
Hermione looked at her watch, an action she'd been repeating every fifteen seconds or so for the past half an hour.
They have two more minutes, she thought, biting her lip in agitation, two more minutes and then I'm going to look for them.
Glancing around her revealed no signs of her friends. She only hoped they'd merely lost track of time, and that nothing horrible had happened…
Both of them at once, though? Her inherent logic rebuked, one of them was bound to do so, but how likely is it they would both forget the meeting time? You can't trust coincidences anymore, Hermione.
"Shut up," her murmured, and looked at her watch again. It was just shy of midnight.
11:30 was the time they'd agreed on. She was standing in front of what seemed to her to be a very conspicuous inn. It stood just off the center of the muggle community, and its spacious bar made it a popular night-spot. It was a ridiculous idea, she'd thought, to stay in a place like this. It was too noticeable, and so too dangerous. She'd much sooner have curled up in an alley somewhere hidden, away from prying eyes and anyone who could identify them or worse.
But Harry had insisted, saying that if any agents of evil knew of their general locale they'd be much more likely to start searching in less obvious hiding spots.
"They'll over-estimate us and search every nook and cranny," he'd said with that glint in his eye that never failed to spark her loyalty. "And, since we'll be at the inn, they'll have under-estimated us. If they do know we're in this town, we'll at least have bought ourselves a few more hours."
She shook her head, a smile creeping onto her face. For six years she'd grown used to being the 'smart one'. The planner, the strategist, the one who Made Things Work. But ever since the three of them had begun this seemingly endless quest, something had come over Harry. After Dumbledore was gone, and Harry was finally left on his own, it was as if a light had been turned on inside him. With or without realizing it, the "hero thing" he'd protested his whole life had very much become a part of his person.
Of course, she reminded herself, thinking of how readily she and Ron had agreed to come with him, he'll never truly be left alone.
"Granger?" A voice startled her from her thoughts. Her eyes flickered to her watch out of habit. It was 12:01.
"That's not Hermione Granger, is it?" The person asking was some one she'd never seen before. The streets and sidewalks were surprisingly alive for this time of night, so she had not taken much notice of the people passing by until now. After all, none of them were Harry and Ron.
"I'm sorry?" she asked, immediately wary of anyone recognizing her, much less shouting her name out for all to hear.
He was tall. Not endearingly lanky like Ron, but tall in an alarming sort of way. He held himself in a posture that clearly showed he knew he was bigger than everyone else. He dressed casually, but his long-ish sandy hair was neatly combed. None of these features were particularly familiar to her, until she noted his eyes. They were brown, but that was beside the point. There was something about that gleam that a part of her recognized…
She felt her eyes widen and her jaw go taught. She couldn't have said anything if she'd wanted to.
"It is, isn't it?" The man persisted. She vaguely noted how she thought of him as a 'man' even though she knew she was just as old as he was. "'Whiny Hermione'!"
And he laughed. If nothing else had, that clinched it. She'd know that laugh anywhere, even if the voice was much deeper now.
His name was Dan Gardner, and all throughout grade-school he'd made her life horrible. He'd sit behind her in class and tie knots in her hair, knowing it was so frizzy it would take hours to come out. He'd snatch her books and hide them and she was too scared and embarrassed to complain that she'd just gotten to a good part. And it was he who'd come up with that old joke 'Whiny Hermione' because after a few years of being called a 'know-it-all' she'd learned to keep her mouth shut most of the time. So she wouldn't complain when she was picked on. She'd only cry.
She'd never told anyone about it before, but it was for this reason that she so easily felt a bit of sympathy for Moaning Myrtle.
"How are you?" Dan was saying, "What are you doing these days? You just up and disappeared one day, didn't you? Off to some super-smart-kid school, am I right? Are you on holiday?" he punched her playfully on the shoulder and she had to stop herself from whimpering.
Come on, Hermione! she cried inwardly, Tell him off! You're different now; you're not 'Whiny Hermione' anymore. Tell him all the things you always wanted to when you were a kid, this is your chance!
But even when she opened her mouth to speak, she could not force sound to come out. It was as if the past six years had disappeared and she was in grade-school once more, being harassed by Dan Gardner.
You thought things would be different when you got to Hogwarts. You thought that since all the kids around you were special for the same reason, finally you'd be able to fit in. You began speaking up at once. You thought everything would change.
"What's wrong, Granger?" Dan continued, obviously not noticing her true discomfort in the slightest. "Cat got your tongue? Or just same as always, hm? Still not much of a talker? I bet you read like twenty books a week these days, haha."
But you were still the freak. The know-it-all. Not even other witches and wizards would accept you.
"I've really made it in the graphic design field," Dan said proudly, "Right now I'm designing a new logo for a multi-million pound corporation! Can you believe it? At my age? Amazing, huh? Everything's just been going up, up, up lately. It's so funny to run into you now!"
They made fun of you, and they let you go off on your own to cry in a bathroom for hours and they didn't even care.
Hermione had nothing to say to this. She clenched and unclenched her fingers nervously, her usually buzzing mind frustratingly blank. If only she could think of something to say, if only he would just leave and stop causing her to dredge up such awful memories. If only she could force herself to move, to speak, do ANYTHING.
For hours… Until—
The call seemed like an angel's fanfare, although she knew full well it was Ron. All of her breath left her at once, and she realized that oddly enough she'd been holding it for quite a while.
The two boys came dashing towards her, both grinning from ear to ear and oddly, completely filthy. She wondered just what they had gotten themselves into, but more than anything she was relieved to see that they were obviously all right.
"Hermione!" Ron repeated gleefully, "Sorry we're late, but we found the most fantastic—"
Harry nudged him suddenly with his elbow and raised his eyebrows towards Dan, who was giving them both a bemused and superior expression.
Hermione, despite already planning out the lecture she was going to give the boys as soon as they were alone, found their previous grinning to be contagious. "There you are, I was wondering when you'd come along." They were both quiet now. Ron stared at Dan openly and curiously, while Harry looked completely blank. Only some one who knew him as well as Hermione did would know he was just analyzing the situation for threats. She could practically hear the gears turning in his head.
She quirked her elbows so she had one guy linking arms with her on either side. "Boys, this is Dan Gardner. I used to go to school with him. Dan, this is Harry and Ron."
Dan looked somewhat bewildered now. He ignored Harry and Ron completely, and couldn't seem to get over the fact that Hermione had spoken up at last, and what's more, so confidently.
"School?" Ron said, frowning, "But I've never seen him be—" realization dawned and he ended with an extended, "Oooh…"
"Yes," Hermione concurred with his half-voiced thought, and looked straight into Dan's eyes, "It was a long time ago."
With that she purposefully swung around and strut into the inn as proudly as she could, so elated she hardly noticed that both boys were muddy and somewhat damp and that Harry's hair was dripping with something that may or may not have actually been water. Dan was left dumbfounded on the sidewalk, but as the three of them made their way through the lights and the laughter inside, he fled her mind as easily as any shadow of the past.
Author's Note: And just for kicks, here's the ending I would have tacked on if this were a continuing story… (which it isn't).
Dan Gardner's lips quirked into a smile as he walked home. How funny to run into Hermione Granger again after so many years! Of course, to Dan, most things were funny. He especially thought it was funny that even though he'd just turned eighteen he had a salary large enough to keep a stylish flat all his own without ever mooching off Mum and Dad. But that was just who he was. Not a prodigy in the sense that Hermione was, but just generally born to great things. Everybody had always known, and that's why everyone always liked him.
Except Hermione, of course, he mused. I was really a beast to her, wasn't I? Heh heh, she really startled me back there. Talking like that, and with those two guys? It just goes to show how some things change.
He turned onto his street, twirling his house key around his pinky finger and whistling tunelessly. He was the only one out in the residential part of town this late, and the streetlamps seemed oddly dim.
All he noticed was a sudden wind before he was slammed to the ground too quickly to react.
A darkly dressed figure was upon him immediately, pinning both of his hands against the pavement with one of his own and jamming a knee into his sternum with a force that knocked his breath away. With his free hand, the assailant was jabbing something against his throat that he could only assume was a gun. Logically, he noted that this was probably the neighborhood's first armed robbery in years. Instinctively he was scared out of his wits.
"If you value your life you'll cooperate," the stranger growled.
It took Dan a few moments to gather enough wits and breath to reply. "My wallet's in my back pocket," he wheezed.
"I don't want your filthy, muggle money," his attacker said angrily, as if that should have been obvious, "I want information. You're going to tell me everything you know about Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and most importantly Harry Potter, and where they might be hiding."
Hiding? Dan wondered. He found his vision growing white around the edges, and forgot to say anything at all.
"Damn you, tell me!" the stranger cursed, "I've combed every cellar and alley in this whole bloody town and come up with nothing. I know you know Hermione Granger, now where is she?"
His fading consciousness finally settling itself on what seemed to be the most life-prolonging option, he muttered, "The Milford Inn."
The stranger sat back, relieving the pressure on Dan's chest. At last he could make out his attacker's features. He was a little surprised to find himself face to face with some one his own age, and what's more some one smaller than him. The other boys strength and ferocity had caused him to imagine some one older and bigger. The attacker was strikingly handsome too, with silver-blond hair and fine cut features. He could also see that what he had assumed was a gun was actually just a long wooden stick the boy was pretending was a weapon. Perhaps he could have defended himself after all, if he hadn't been so caught off guard.
"Thank you," the other boy said, his tone gruesomely pleasant, "You have been most helpful."
Then he uttered something else, something strange that sounded a little like 'abra cadabra'. It was, incidentally, the last thing Dan Gardner ever heard.
THE END (Again.)
Author's Note: And there it is. Somehow it turned into Draco, and for some reason Draco is actually willing the kill people now. Why, you ask? Well now that I've written it down I do have a few ideas, but I'll let you kids use your imaginations. Revieeew, s'il vous plait!