"Cream and sugar?" Hermione had done it. Despite over a week of searching, she had yet to find a job that would accept her with no proof of education – except for a janitor position in the flat itself – so here she was, a waitress in a diner. A job meant for your average, broke, lifeless teenager; all of which she was not… ok, so she was lifeless. Hermione admitted it. After all, she had been able to up and move continents in twelve hours, not telling a soul where she had gone, and nobody even noticed. Frankly, she thought that qualified as lifeless.
"Yes," a grumpy old man leaning heavily on a cane snarled at her, scorning. Hermione grimaced, trying her best to be polite and friendly. She finished making the man's tea and set it in front of him as she wandered over to a ‘colleague.' Thirty-five year old Susan Lanstrom, the closest in age to Hermione, was by far the most pleasant company she had kept in awhile. Back in New York Mr. Spickle had always treated her kindly, but besides him, her acquaintances reached to nobody outside of work – and there she didn't exactly have anyone who fit the description of ‘friend.'
"How's things goin' ‘Mione?" Susan asked, speaking in a heavy Southern-American.
"Not too well, Susie, how you manage to be bright and cheery all the time is forever beyond me."
"You get used to it, I can't really afford not to be!" she said jokingly, although the situation was true.
"Yeah, well, I think this is one of those jobs out there that are reserved for saints, and are underpaid drastically." Hermione sighed again as she sunk down into one of the hard stools behind the counter, wishing for her own armchairs in her own living room.
"Well, I won' comment on the payment, but s'riously… be righ' back," Suzie started to say, but was swept away a moment later to push tables together as a group of about fifteen people walked in.
Hermione stood up again and looked around to see if anyone needed help. She spotted two men sitting together, way off in a corner, and deep in a discussion.
"Can I help you?" Hermione tried her best to sound cheerful as she stood above the two men.
"Well, blow me down, lookie here!" one of them, who reminded Hermione strongly of a solid block of steel, said in a voice that sounded somewhat familiar. It was like seeing a long lost friend from primary school that you know existed, but had quite left any immediate memory. He was muscular and had a deep tan that made it look like he was outdoors quite a bit.
"Excuse me?" Hermione was appalled by the man's behavior and quite taken aback as he looked her deep into the eye.
"Hermione Granger, correct?" the other spoke up. He looked less like the former, with a slightly lighter skin tone and a thin build.
"Ummm… yes…" she tried to remember how she possibly could have known them. Perhaps a brief exchange of words in Diagon Alley long ago? But try as she might, she just couldn't place a finger on them. "Do I know you?"
"Well you ruddy well should know us," the first said as if this were to be obvious. "We only practically lived together for seven years." It was clear he was fighting back a snicker.
"I'm sorry, no light bulbs being lit here."
"Oh, come on, Hermione, you know us, unless someone performed a cunfun-" the first man started to speak again, but was interrupted as the other plainly kicked him under the table.
"Are you insane?" he hissed, "What if it isn't her? Come on mate – think, would Hermione really be working in a diner?"
"Well, no…" he seemed to contemplate for a second. "But think, how many Hermione Grangers actually exist?"
"Well, only one that we know of, but still! Be careful! For all we know this is some random Muggle, thoroughly disgusted at us!" They seemed to think Hermione was invisible, or perhaps thought she couldn't hear them, or… something, because she somehow doubted that they seriously would be talking about this in front of her. She tried not to listen, but soon realized she wasn't succeeding and cleared her throat.
"Excuse us, we're sorry. We just thought… never mind."
"Um, no problem…" Hermione was thoroughly confused. Why were they sorry? But she didn't have time to contemplate this as he launched into another speech.
"You know, you look a lot like our best friend from… er… school."
"Yeah, splitting image – only… nothing. Mirror couldn't have her exact appearance better," the other agreed, nodding.
"Sure… so, is there anything I can get you two?"
"Just a coffee," one said, not taking his eyes off of her, staring as though he were a student trying to figure out a particularly difficult problem on a maths assignment.
"Same," the other said, raising his hand slightly to enunciate the statement as he looked from Hermione, back to his friend, back to Hermione, over and over again, with generally the same look as the other had.
"You know, that look really doesn't suit you," Hermione said jokingly, not knowing why she felt so at ease in their presence.
"That one, the ‘thinking look', it doesn't suit you."
"And you come to this conclusion… how?" His faced relaxed, and then turned into a look of realization he exclaimed to his friend, "It is her! It has to be, that was the one thing she told me nearly every time I actually attempted to figure something out."
"Coincidence," was the only response as his eyes resumed their shifty motion.
"Now that look on the other hand… you must have been born with it, fits the face so well." Hermione spoke up as the first man looked at her again, his face falling into confusion.
"See!" he said to his friend excitedly, "it is her, you owe me five Galleons!" He looked very proud of himself, but Hermione didn't dwell on it, as several other tables were calling to her.
Hermione noticed that as soon as she stepped away, the men's heads went together, and they began whispering hurriedly.
"What was that all about?" Susie asked Hermione, coming up behind her.
"I'm not really sure," Hermione answered truthfully. "I remember them from somewhere, I just can't put my finger on it…"
"Just don't let anything they say get to you. Half the guys in this world are idiots and the other half are dead."
Hermione smiled weakly, and quickly busied herself with another table's order.
"Are you sure you don't remember us?" the redhead pleaded longingly as he looked back over his shoulder on the way out.
"Sorry," Hermione shrugged. "I don't."
He was clearly very disappointed and sighed as he turned around. Hermione was rather sorry as well, even though she didn't know whom this person was. But just as Hermione turned to get her things behind the counter (she would be getting off in a few minutes), she caught sight of a thin, white scar on the back of the redhead's neck. She wouldn't have noticed it, but it contrasted greatly with the tan of his skin. Just at that moment, memory flooded through her.
"Ron!" she practically screamed, running after her old best friend just as he was walking out the door.
He whirled around. "Hermione!" His face lifted, and he looked as though a thousand pounds had been taken off his shoulders.
Hermione went over to him, trying to keep herself from running as she saw him standing just inside the door. Exchanging a brief hug, the guy Ron had been with earlier poked his head up beside Ron's.
"Hello?" he waved his hand in front of her face jokingly. "What, I don't get a ‘Hi'?"
"Harry?" She asked, looking at him disbelievingly.
"Spot on!" he said, grinning as he hugged his old friend.
"But what happened to your scar? And… are you wearing contacts? Your eyes are blue!"
Harry smiled, "You're not supposed to recognize me. We both just got off Auror duty. I have to perform glamour's to avoid being recognized." He admitted sullenly.
"Well they certainly work pretty well!" she exclaimed, caught up in the excitement of the fact that she was with her best friends again.
"Wait a minute," Ron said suddenly, looking at Hermione. "Wait a minute, how did you remember us just then, when you didn't before?"
"I saw the scar on the back of your neck, and I remembered!" she admitted, smiling slightly at the oddity of it.
"That's weird…" Ron started to say as he was interrupted by Harry.
"How do you know Ron has a scar on the back of his neck?" Harry said wonderingly. "Wait a minute, Ron has a scar on the back of his neck? I didn't know that Ron had a scar on the back of his neck. Did you know you had a scar on the back of your neck?" He asked Ron, speaking very quickly by now. He then turned to the amounts of people staring at them from their seats. "Did any of you know that Ron had a scar on the back of his neck? Because I most certainly didn't know that-" Harry would have appeared to be a madman by the scene he was making in the diner.
But Ron didn't seem to care as he spoke in a light voice, slowly saying, "I have a scar on the back of my neck?"
"Yes!" replied Hermione, sounding exasperated at the amount of stupidity one could have. "But that's beside the point right now. It doesn't really matter," she pointed out matter-of-factly.
As they chatted, Hermione found out that since her leaving not much had gone on. Ron and Harry had both remained top in the Auror division, leaders of their units, working as partners in the business. Both had been offered numerous promotions, but declined. They didn't particularly want the desk jobs held by their so-called superiors.
Upon asking, Hermione told about her past few years. "Not much of a story, I know," she said, shrugging. "But really, not much has changed since…" not wanting to say ‘Since I left,' she gulped, "since we last saw each other."
Harry and Ron both slightly squirmed at this point. Not one in the trio wanted to talk about Hermione's reasons for leaving, which nobody really knew. Hermione and Ron had fought the night before, and the two of them hadn't had time to sort anything out before Harry and Ron were called away to duty in the middle of that night. When she had gotten news of her parents' deaths, it had been too much to bear. She had left, as quickly and as quietly as possible, mailing her letter of resignation to Flourish and Blotts, where she had been working temporarily until she chose where she wanted to go permanently.
Hermione stepped off the elevator and walked slowly down the hall. Her eyes swept from one door to the next, "304…" she whispered to herself, looking at the numbers. "304… there it is!" Her voice brightened as her eyes fell upon the white door to Ron's flat. She stepped forward and knocked tentatively, unsure of herself.
"Come in!" Ron's voice rang out from within. Breathing a sigh of relief, Hermione turned the doorknob and let herself in.
"Ron!" she gasped, throwing a hand over her eyes.
"Hi, Hermione!" He said offhand, totally unfazed at the fact that his old best friend and ex-girlfriend, whom he hadn't seen in ten years, had just walked into flat when he was wearing nothing but his favorite Quidditch boxers that had Bludgers flying all over them.
"What are you doing?" Hermione replied, sounding scandalized, and obviously wondering at the sight of him standing – dressed as he was – in front of a mirror, with about fifteen small, pocket-sized mirrors floating around him. Wand in hand, Hermione could hear him muttering to himself as he directed the mirrors around.
"Ok… if you go that way… maybe here… where is it!" He was looking quite insane, craning his neck as he was doing everything short of beheading himself in order to see… whatever he was trying to see. "I'm looking for that stinking scar!"
"The one on my neck!" he exclaimed, exasperated.
"Oh, that? It's right there!" Hermione strode over to him, and pointed it out.
"Where?" He craned his neck again, trying to direct the mirrors so he'd have a better view.
Just then, the door opened. "Whoa you guys! I guess when you said ‘not much has changed' you really meant it!" Harry said with a grin, as he looked at his two best friends standing in front of the mirrors, one of whom was half-naked.
Hermione blushed and immediately stepped backwards, turning to give Harry a hug. "Oh you! That's not what I meant and you know it!"
"Really? Because really, this should have been expected, I could have come later if you wanted some time alone. I know you have a lot to catch up on."
Hermione's mouth dropped open as she caught Harry's meaning. "What? No! I didn't mean it like that! Come on!" She started protesting, but broke off when Harry started laughing.
"It's ok, I know you didn't mean it like that. Relax." He grinned, and walked over to Ron. "So, what are you doing?" He grabbed one of the mirrors out of the air, and made a great show of running his hands through his hair, positioning it, and replacing it with a grin.
"I'm looking for that scar…" He muttered again, stretching to see into one of the mirrors.
"Yes, where was that?" Harry said thoughtfully, leaning over his friend.
"Are you two blind? It's right there!" Hermione said, tracing the outline with her fingernail, right under Harry's nose.
"Are you sure? I don't see anything." Harry looked at her curiously.
Just then, the door opened again.
"Hi everyone! Wow! Hermione, it's great to see you! It's been far too long!" Ginny Weasley said brightly, giving her old best friend a hug of welcome. "You two," she gestured to Harry and Ron, "have been gone for a month on assignment, and you still haven't gone home! Mum was outraged that you didn't even stop in to say hello last night! She wants all of you over for lunch. And she can't wait to see you again, Hermione!" Ginny explained quickly. "Oh, and Ron, by the way, did you know you have a scar on the back of your neck?"
Ron made a noise that indicated utmost frustration while Harry gritted his teeth and groaned.
"Can anyone tell me why I can't see this?" Ron asked loudly.
"Nope," Hermione said with a smile on her face, "but if we're meeting your Mum for lunch, you might want to get dressed first."
"Er… right." Ron blushed crimson as if it was the first time he had realized he was standing there half-naked. Harry didn't matter of course, since he was his best friend. And Ginny was his sister, but Hermione? He retreated quickly to his room, presumably to get dressed.