A/N This takes place a month or two after the final battle in the Harry Potter Universe and sometime between Steve being unfrozen and the Avengers movie in the Marvelverse. And yes, I know the timelines don't match up.
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize, I don't own.
The next morning, Hermione again showed up at the front desk of SHIELD. She rubbed at her ribs where she had applied bruise paste to the area Agent Romanoff had kicked her. It wasn't fully healed but, the bruise that popped up the evening before was well on its way to fading into a sickly yellow rather than the deep purple it had been.
Agent Romanoff was at the front desk casually propped up against it. "I hope that didn't bruise you too badly to continue today," she said with a nod toward the other girl.
"It is certainly still sore, but I should be fine. I can't just give up due to a little pain," Hermione said wryly.
"In any case, we have some other preliminary things to take care of first. Follow me," said Romanoff as she turned down the hall. When they reached the first door with a scanner Natasha handed Hermione a badge with her name and a decent picture of her face.
Natasha gestured cavalierly at the door with her hand. "Go on and try your new badge, so we can be sure it works before we turn you loose."
"Do I want to know how this picture of me was acquired when I know I haven't sat for one?" she asked.
"Probably not and if you think that's bad you won't like the next part either," Natasha answered with a sly grin.
Hermione held her badge up to the scanner next to the door. Nothing happened, there was no unlocking mechanism and the door didn't open. She frowned and took the card away from the door and then tried again. For several long seconds, nothing happened and then there was a horrible electrical crackling sound and a spark as the equipment short-circuited. An acrid odor like burned plastic wafted through the hall. Hermione jumped back as the spark licked at her fingers. She cradled her hand to her chest and glanced wide-eyed at Agent Romanoff as she spoke, "I don't think my badge works."
Natasha ran a hand through her vibrant red curls before gently taking the other woman's hand. She examined the woman's hand carefully, noting the odd position of her calluses. "You don't have any electrical burns, so that's good. I think we will have to take a different way down to medical. I was taking you there anyway. Come on Granger."
Agent Romanoff led the way down another set of hallways and continued to speak, "I'll drop your badge back off with the tech department and get you another working one for tomorrow."
Hermione had dropped her hand back down by her side as she walked. Privately, she thought that it hadn't been the badge, but her magic that had short-circuited the door and that no number of new badges would fix that. It seemed the more high-tech the gadgetry the less compatible it was with her magic. She wasn't sure how she was going to hide that, maybe she would get lucky and they would ignore it as a quirk, after all, she had told them that she was bad with technology.
"Alright. Why are you taking me down to medical for the second day in a row?" she asked as they approached the doors to the medical area.
Natasha gave the other woman an assessing look, "Considering this is a government field position the agency needs your baseline health records which includes a vision, hearing, and blood work in case you are exposed to anything."
Hermione narrowed her eyes, "Is that the official line or the truth?"
"As far as I know it's the truth," she answered. "The government takes all of the field agents blood work about once every year or two. They only take the field agents blood, so that does lend some credence that they are just monitoring for exposure."
"I see. Well let's get this over with," the witch sighed. She walked through the doors and was immediately given a clear cup and directed to a small bathroom that smelled like disinfectant.
"I trust you are capable of filling this cup to the required line and setting in on the nurse's station. Another nurse will have the pleasure of administering your vision and auditory tests," the nurse said. She had nearly black eyes and spoke acerbic in a manner that reminded Hermione of Professor Snape. She blinked and an image of her dour professor superimposed itself on the nurse. She stifled a gasp and the greasy black hair faded to brown and dark black wizarding robes changed to uniform navy nurse's scrubs.
Hermione finished her vision and auditory tests in a daze. She had no idea what kind of results she had given to the agency. She vaguely remembered her weight and height were measured too. It wasn't until she was directed to sit in a back room with the original nurse that she snapped back into the present.
The nurse was already in the room printing the labels with her name on them for the blood vials. She sat down and presented her right arm for the nurse, not confident enough in her ability to maintain the glamour over her scarred left arm while a nurse poked around at it.
The nurse, grim looking and unsmiling, tied a blue tourniquet around Hermione's upper arm and poked at the veins in the crook of her elbow. The nurse unpackaged a new needle and prepared a bandage before swiping the inside of her arm with a cold alcohol swab. There was a slight pinch as the nurse inserted the needle and then untied the tourniquet. Hermione looked away, unwilling to watch her blood flow out of her again so soon. The nurse took several vials of blood and by the end, Hermione was fighting dizziness when she stood up.
Natasha, who had come in at some point during the process, watched the smaller woman's face pale as she stood up and shook her head. "Alright Granger, let's get some food into you before training. I'll take you to the cafeteria." Natasha watched her carefully as they made their way to the cafeteria. She didn't trust Granger to say anything if she felt faint.
Once they made it to the cafeteria, they went through the line and Hermione took small portions of light foods onto her plate. The further they got through the line the more pronounced Natasha's frown became and when Hermione completely skipped over all the food with meat in it as well as the scrambled eggs she spoke up, "You can't keep eating so little and training. You will make yourself sick. At least have some of the eggs."
Hermione ground her teeth and felt her magic spark. She put a serving of eggs on her plate, unwilling to argue about it in front of the cafeteria staff. She took a deep breath and willed her magic to settle back down. That was another thing to put on her to do list; she needed to figure out how to settle her magic again. She couldn't have her magic producing physical manifestations in front of muggles.
The cafeteria had few people in it at this time of the morning, but both women made a beeline toward a small table in the corner of the room with several empty tables between them and anyone else. Without looking up from her food Hermione began to speak after a long pause, "I'm not on a diet like you seem to believe. I was on a long-term mission with no official support after the mission took an unexpected turn and food ran short for a time. Eventually, I will be able to eat normally, but right now I often feel too sick to eat many rich foods."
"For how long?" Steve Rogers voice cut through the silence left behind by Hermione's confession. Past Agent Romanoff's wide green eyes, Hermione looked up to see that Steve Rogers must not have been far behind the women, because he had a tray full of food and had been striding toward their table to sit with them.
Hermione tensed up and went absolutely still, not a muscle moved, she had only told the other Agent of her condition, because she was angry that the other woman was looking down at her like she was an airheaded little girl. She never planned to tell anyone else, she felt shame and responsibility for the lack of food. She had remembered to pack all sorts of other supplies but had overlooked the importance of packing food in the event that Grimmauld Place was discovered and it had been discovered early in their quest for the Horcruxes.
She had been foolish and now all Hermione could do was stare dumbly as Steve's eyes bore intently into hers.
"Shit! Granger if I had known you were suffering from malnourishment, I wouldn't have kicked you so hard yesterday and I definitely wouldn't have had your blood work done today," Natasha said interrupting their stare down. She pinched the bridge of her nose. She would have to readjust her training schedule for Granger and check with the hospital staff for a dietary plan to get her back up to full strength. If this was what the girl could do with no training and not at full health, then Natasha was interested to see how far she could train the young woman up.
Steve caught her warm whiskey-colored eyes again. "How long Hermione?"
Hermione wrenched her gaze from his intense gaze and answered, "We- that is- the mission went south in early September."
"It's now the middle of June. When did you complete your mission or have access to regular meals again?" he questioned softly. He knew instinctively that he wasn't going to like the answer. In retrospect, he should have paid more attention to Hermione's hollow cheeks and pallid features.
Hermione hunched over, her arms clenching her stomach as if she could still feel the hunger pains, and she replied, "The beginning of May." She lost herself in the memory of the long nights of waking up from hunger pains, the miserableness despair of wearing the Horcrux, the desperation that overtook every action, and the absolute certainty that she wasn't going to survive the war, but that Harry had to no matter the cost.
Natasha's eyes widened. "Eight months of starving and you've only had access to regular meals for the last six weeks; Granger how are you even functioning right now?" Even her training in the Red Room hadn't utilized long term starvation as it had grievous physical and mental health effects that weren't conducive for turning out spies and assassins.
The brunette woman didn't answer though. Her pupils were blown wide and her breath was coming out in short fast pants. She was right back in that dark little tent hoping to sleep through the hunger pains.
Steve put a warm hand on her knee and she jerked violently into a standing position. Her eyes were wild and her face was as pale as a ghost. He recognized this response to trauma. He raised his hands so she could see them. "Hermione, it's June 24th. You are in the cafeteria at the SHIELD headquarters in New York City. You are safe. Can you hear the clatter of the dishes in the kitchen?"
Slowly, Hermione's eyes lost the wild edge of desperation and her whole body began to relax. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in and opened her eyes on the exhale.
"I'm sorry about that. I'm fine now," she said as she waved off any further attempts to help her and she sat back down in her seat. She could feel the heat of embarrassment in her cheeks, but was determined to save her break down for when she was alone. She had been on edge since the incident with her badge this morning and she needed to stop letting herself get this worked up at SHIELD headquarters or they were going to think she was a basket case. She could only be thankful she hadn't pulled her wand out. That would have been impossible to explain. They would have thought she was mad at best and at worst she would have had to obliviate a dozen people and figure out how to tamper with the video surveillance she was positive this building was under.
"Anyway, yes I was without regular meals between September and May. I did manage to eat whatever I could scavenge or steal, but now that my mission is over, I'm having trouble eating full regular meals. Occasionally, I am able to eat normally, but most days are like today," she forced out through still bloodless lips.
"Eight months is a long time without regular meals Granger, how are you doing so well right now?" Agent Romanoff asked again.
Hermione let a secret little smile grace her lips, "Magic, I suppose."
Natasha snorted inelegantly, "Alright keep your secrets then."
Steve sat quietly at the table more determined than ever to help the young woman sitting across from him. She was clearly still shell shocked and suffering from the after-effects of starvation. He remembered many of the soldiers he had served with who had suffered from shell shock and how many of them never made it home. In the time since he had been thawed out of the ice, he had looked up dozens of the records of the men he had served with and he was alarmed and saddened by the number that had taken their own lives even after they had made it home. He never wanted to see any of that happen to Hermione.
"I'm Steve Rogers by the way," he said as finally glanced at the other woman. "I don't believe we've met before."
She tilted her head and glanced up at him through lowered lashes. "I'm Natasha Romanoff. A pleasure to meet you, Captain."
Steve went still for a second then forced himself to relax. Just because this Agent knew didn't mean Hermione would figure it out. "Just Steve is fine."
"Wait a minute, why did you kick Hermione?" Steve asked incredulously.
Natasha let a grin steal across her face, "Fury assigned me to train her for a few weeks before he sends her on any missions; just enough that she can defend herself if need be."
"He's putting you on fieldwork then?" Steve asked nodding toward Hermione.
Hermione nodded back as she finished swallowing part of her breakfast, "Yes, he's keeping me as some kind of consultant supposedly."
"Well good luck with that and let me know if I can help in any way," he said.
Natasha cleared her throat, "Director Fury might ask you to help if you have some free time."
Steve nodded, "I'll ask him about it later."
A/N Hey look a chapter! and I've already started the next one (Granted I'm only about 500 words into the next one, but who is counting?). Thank you all for your past reviews, they definitely help motivate me to write and sometimes when I get particularly nice ones I even write faster. I've been overwhelmed with how many people review/follow this story. I never thought it would be this popular.
I kind of have a slightly more firm idea of where I'm going with this storyline, but as always if anyone has any feedback or suggestions I always like to hear them.
Thank you for reading and please review!