A/N: Well, hello there. This is my first story on this site. As well as my first attempt at Tomione. I had this idea floating around for a while, so let's see where this goes. This story will be completely AU and I apologize in advance for any OOCness that may sprout down below or in the future. It's quite difficult capturing the essence of characters and their relationships. Especially when nothing dramatic is happening. There will be some fluff but it'll diminish as the story goes excuse any grammar mistakes that may appear. I'll do my best to reduce their appearance. And with that, let us begin!
Disclaimer: I, obviously, do not own Harry Potter. And never will, sadly.
A Pinch of Salt
"You wanted to see me, Professor?"
The old man looked up from the work on his desk.
"Ah, yes. Please, Miss Granger, come in and take a seat," Dumbledore said, gesturing towards one of the plush armchairs across from him. Hermione went and sat down.
"Lemon drop?" he offered.
"No thank you, Professor. I don't want to be rude, but why am I here? I mean, if this is about my essay, then-"
"Oh, don't you worry Miss Granger. This is not about your essay, which although was three pages over the maximum, I found very insightful," Dumbledore smiled at her, his eyes twinkling. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief and returned a smile to her Professor, relaxing into the seat.
This was one of the things Hermione liked most about her old pastry teacher. He was always so welcoming and brought about a certain joy with him. He reminded her of Granddad Granger, who had passed a few years back, what with his white beard and thin framed glasses perched on the tip of his nose.
"Why I wanted to speak to you is because I have an offer to propose."
"An offer, Professor? Of what sort?" Hermione questioned. Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingers together and settling them on his stomach.
"As you already know, I own a restaurant down in London. One of my line chefs, Alicia Spinnet, is with child and is experiencing some complications in her pregnancy. Being only a few weeks before her due date, she needs some time off. So, Miss Spinnet will be on maternity leave starting next Monday and will return in two months time."
Hermione narrowed her eyes in confusion when he didn't continue.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't see what this has to do with me," Hermione admitted.
"Well, Miss Granger," Dumbledore continued, "It would seem that I am short of a chef now."
Her eyebrows raised in surprise.
"Sir, you don't mean-" she began.
"Yes, Hermione, when considering all other suitable replacements, you were the very first on my list. Think of this as a short internship of sorts. I believe it would benefit you greatly to get some hands on experience in a real restaurant kitchen as opposed to being stuck in the laboratories with your peers, whom you seem to be so greatly ahead of in your culinary education.
"Well, I would be honored to be able to cook in your restaurant, sir," Hermione said bashfully, blushing from his praise. The door to Dumbledore's office burst open then and Hermione's culinary science professor from the previous semester stood in all black clothing.
"One moment, Severus," Dumbledore called to the instructor. He then returned his attention back to Hermione. "Then it's settled. I'll email you with more information about the position this weekend. Now, if you excuse me, I do think Professor Snape becomes quite the grouch when he hasn't gotten his lunch yet."
Hermione stood and smiled, saying goodbye to Dumbledore and nodding to Snape on her way out. Once out the door, she turned down an empty hallway and looked both ways before letting out a small shriek of excitement. She was finally going to cook in a restaurant, and not just any restaurant, but Phoenix, for heaven's sake! Only one of the oldest and most popular restaurants in all of England. Every year, Phoenix had managed to pull a five star rating from nationally acclaimed food critic, Rita Skeeter, of The Daily Prophet in her monthly column To Eat or Not to Eat. It took nearly a year to just get a reservation there and now Hermione was going to be one of the chefs. Just think of the doors this will open up for her once she has graduated! She'll be getting offers left and right. Her heart jumped in eagerness and she power walked back to her flat in a daze.
"I don't know how you do it, Hermione," the red-head sighed.
"Do what?" Hermione asked, glancing up quickly at Ginny before returning to her task at hand.
"Make the things you do. It's like voodoo magic or something."
"It's called cooking, Ginny," she laughed, wiping her knife clean from the garlic she just minced.
"Oh, you know what I mean," the red-head exasperated, "Everything you make is always delicious. And you make it look so easy too. I don't even know why you follow those recipes and watch these shows," she gestured to the small television in the kitchen, "When I'm sure you probably already have everything already memorized."
Hermione grinned. "I do actually. But, I like having a recipe or some type of instruction to ensure accuracy."
"Pfft, sure Hermione. We know it's going to be great regardless," she smiled at her friend, "Though, I do have to admit, I'm a bit jealous. I suck at cooking. Maybe I would have snatched Harry faster if I were a better cook."
"I won't disagree with you there," Hermione laughed, looking back to the television screen.
"Now let's get that spinach finished. After it wilts, you're going to need to add about half a cup of dry white wine, which will enhance the natural flavor of the spinach and garlic. So, I'm just going to measure this out quickly..." the television bellowed.
Hermione didn't bother with measuring and poured some wine into the skillet, estimating the appropriate amount. The food in the pan sizzled loudly and she bent down to open the oven and took out the T-bone steaks and loaded baked potatoes she had prepared a bit earlier. She then began piling four brightly colored plates with food and with the help of Ginny, carried and placed them on her breakfast table. Hermione grinned at her waddling friend.
"How's little man doing?" Hermione asked, gesturing towards Ginny's swollen belly.
"Not too bad," the red-head replied, patting her stomach gently, "I can't wait until he's out, though, because my back is killing me. And not to mention I look like a beached whale."
Hermione laughed, "Oh don't be so dramatic, Ginny! I think you look positively radiant."
"Poppycock. Don't lie to a pregnant woman. We can see through the lot of you. Now, enough with this! I'm starving!" she snapped.
Hermione chuckled at her friend's moodiness.
"Boys! Food!" Hermione yelled to the living room. Both Ron and Harry were seated with their forks and knives in their hands before Hermione had the chance to sit down herself. She shook her head at their antics and began to cut up her steak.
"Blimey, Hermione!" Ron attempted to say behind a mouthful of food, "This is bloody brilliant!"
"Yeah Hermione, you've outdone yourself," Harry agreed.
She thanked her best friends for their flattery. Hermione never considered herself a great cook because she knew she wasn't. There was still some left to learn about the art of cooking and she fully intended to obtain that knowledge within a few months, being that she only had a few left until she would graduate from culinary school.
Hermione never thought that she would end up on the way to becoming a chef. During her secondary education at Hogwarts Preparatory Academy, Hermione was convinced that she would go to university and then attend school to become a lawyer. That all changed her last year of schooling when she had saved the life of Dennis Creevey, an adorable thirteen year-old boy who had nearly drowned to death in the school's swimming pool during practice. Seeing as the boy had not come up for air and the coach was nowhere to be found, Hermione sprung into action. She dove into the pool and gripped the boy with her arm around his waist. Once she got him laying on the poolside, she checked his breathing and pulse, finding little to none.
Panicking, Hermione quickly titled his head back and took one look at his angelic, dead looking face, placed her lips on top of his and began CPR. After a minute and a half of receiving no response, Hermione growled in frustration, ignoring the shocked and scared looks she was getting from students around them. Damnit Dennis, she had thought, come on! In helpless fury and Hermione twined her fingers together and slammed them hard over his heart once. Twice. Three times and the young brown haired boy shot up, his bright hazel eyes red and shining as he took in a shaky breath.
Ever since then, Hermione had decided to become a doctor of sorts. It felt good to help people and that incident with Creevey only furthered her passion and curiosity for learning medicine. That fueling her, Hermione had made it to her first year of medical school when she started to second guess herself. Her heart was in the right place, but studying medicine didn't exactly do it for her.
What did do it for her was all the cooking she had done those late nights staying up to study for exams through out her years. It was a relief to take her mind off of her studies and focus all of her attention to something else. It was then that she knew that culinary arts were her true calling. She had dropped out and immediately applied and got accepted into two of the top four culinary schools in all of England: the Ravenclaw School of Culinary Arts and Gryffindor College of Art and Design. She ultimately chose Gryffindor in the end, being that one of her idols, renowned chef Albus Dumbledore, had studied there himself and taught from time to time.
Pecking at her own food, Hermione decided that she wasn't that hungry and looked around to see Harry take his final bite, Ginny piling more food unto her plate, and Ron holding his plate up to his face, licking it clean.
"Stop that, Ron!" Ginny scolded her older brother, "God, you eat like a savage!"
"Oh quiet, Gin," Ron glared at his sister, "Everyone here saw you shove that steak down you throat. What serving are you on, huh? Sixth?"
"For your information, you git, it's my third! And don't you dare say anything else. As a pregnant woman, I am allowed to eat as much as I want," she snapped.
Ron rolled his eyes and wiped some sauce off his chin.
"Oh please, Gin, you've been using the pregnancy excuse for everything. 'Oh, I can't carry my purse because I'm pregnant! Oh, Ron, be a dear and go to the store for me, I can't, you see, 'cause I'm pregnant!' I've seen Mom do quadruple the things you do when she was pregnant, whilst taking care of six other kids!"
"Shove it, Ron. You're jus-"
"Alright, alright. Calm down, guys," Harry interrupted, getting up to go around the table and rest his hands on his fuming wife's shoulders. "Ron, it wouldn't hurt if you show some consideration for Ginny and at least try to have a bit of etiquette at the table. And you Ginny, just ignore Ron. You know he'll always try to bait you."
Ginny nodded while Ron snorted, but he held his tongue.
"The dinner was lovely, Hermione," Harry complimented.
"Thanks," Hermione grinned, "Would you all like dessert?"
"Yes, please!" both Ron and Ginny spoke simultaneously.
Standing up, Hermione chuckled, "I'll go get it."
She made her way into the kitchen and came back shortly after, holding a chocolate cake and four wine glasses. Setting them down, Hermione quickly retrieved a bottle of wine from the kitchen and made it back to the table, pouring some into three of the glasses.
"Sorry, Gin," Hermione apologized, noticing the scowl Ginny gave to her empty glass.
"It's fine," she breathed, "Only two more months."
"Don't worry. I have something for you," Hermione smirked. She left and came back five minutes later with a silver canister, shaking the contents on the inside, before pouring it into Ginny's glass and placing a lime slice on the rim. "Drink up," Hermione smiled.
She picked up the glass of pink liquid. "What is it?" Ginny inquired, delighted.
"A mocktail, if you will. It's a margarita, but I used ginger ale instead of tequila."
The red-head took a small sip. Eyes widening, she went back for another. "That's bloody good, Hermione! Still, I do miss the buzz..."
They continued chatting about asinine topics while they finished their dessert. After, Hermione proceeded to clear the table. With Harry's help, she loaded and set the dishwasher on.
Leaning onto the counter, Hermione faced her friends, who returned to her small living room.
"So.." she began, catching the others' attention, "I've been offered a cooking position."
"Oh, goody!" Ginny beamed, "By who? Where? When do you start? And most importantly, will I be able to eat there for free?"
"I'm not sure about that, Gin," Hermione laughed.
"So, where at, 'Mione?" Ron questioned.
"Have you heard of the restaurant down Hogsmeade, across from Honeydukes?
"Phoenix?" Harry guessed.
Ginny gasped, "Shut up! Phoenix? Are you kidding me? Hermione Jean Granger, please tell me that my friend did not get hired at the hottest, most expensive, luxurious restaurant in all of England!"
"Well, it is rather expensive, but I would not go as far to say that it's the most luxurious restaurant in all of England," Hermione reasoned.
"It's damn near close enough for me! Harry and I are still on the waiting list just to get a reservation, and it's been four bloody months already!" Ginny exclaimed.
"Then I will surely have to find a way to move you up on that list while I'm there."
"Congratulations, Hermione," Harry nodded, raising his glass to her before taking another sip.
"Yeah, Hermione, that's magnificent, really! We all knew you'd do great," Ron chimed in.
Hermione blushed bashfully under their praise and smiled in thanks. From there, the rest of the night went on as it usually did when Hermione invited the three over. They talked about everything going on in their lives, which was never anything out of the normal until Ginny began to yawn. Then, Harry insisted on taking his tired wife home to rest, leaving her to be alone with Ron.
"So, Hermione," Ron began, shortly after the door closed from the Potters' exit, "I've been thinking..."
Hermione huffed, "Please, Ronald, I'm not really in the mood to talk about this right now. Let me enjoy the night before it ends."
"Come on Mione', don't be like that."
Hermione rolled her eyes. Ever since her and Ron had a brief time period of mutual attraction that ended all too abruptly once Hermione began medical school, Ron had tried to pick back up where they left off. But Hermione just was not too interested anymore.
"I don't know, Ron..." she trailed off.
She mostly saw him as one of her best friends, but there was always something she held for him that went beyond friendship. Their short term relationship was enjoyable, but she forced herself to end it so she could focus on her studies. Her studies would always come first. But now, there was no need to forgo relationships. Med school was out the picture long ago and culinary school was nearly over.
She guessed it could not hurt to humor him. After all, the boy had been waiting for a bit over a year for her to come around. Maybe humoring him would get him off her back. And who knows? Maybe her and Ron still have a chance of making thinks work.
Looking at Ron's baby blue eyes, she could she the genuineness behind his pursuit of her. He honestly did believe that they could be together. So, sucking back her doubts, she trusted her friend's gut feeling and conceded.
"Brilliant!" He beamed at her, "How about sometime next week?"
"Sure," Hermione, murmured, biting her bottom lip.
"Don't worry so much," Ron cajoled her, "I promise you I'll be the perfect gentlemen."
She grinned in response to his lightheartedness.
Subject: Additional Information
From: Albus Dumbledore; adumble81 ac. uk. com
Date: Sunday, March 2, 2011 6:00PM
Dear Miss Granger,
I assume you already know the address, but in any case, Phoenix is located on Hogsmeade Boulevard, across from Honeydukes and to the right of Madam Puddifoot's. Please be there by 9AM sharp. Once there, you will be given further instruction.
Albus Dumbledore, Ph.D
Dean of Culinary Arts
Gryffindor College of Art and Design
Hermione read the email over again for what would have to be the seventeenth time that Monday morning. She had gotten up early and took her time showering and getting dressed. While it was the beginning of March and the sun had began to shine more often than not, the chill of winter would stay in the air for a few more months. With that, Hermione finished her small breakfast of toast and a cup of earl grey, wrapped her maroon scarf around her neck, and set out for London. Once she reached the corner of Knockturn Avenue and Hogsmeade Bouldevard, Hermione made a quick left passing Honeydukes and looking both ways, crossed the street.
The outside of Phoenix was open and inviting. While red cemented bricks held the foundation, the rest of the walls to the building were entirely glass. Hermione grabbed the French door handle and entered the empty restaurant. Almost immediately, her nose was assaulted with the most pleasant of scents. Phoenix smelled warm and cozy; the color amber, a soft cashmere sweater, an autumn afternoon. The walls on the inside were painted a deep blood red with a careful gold pattern painted across. There were cream colored booths against two walls and circular tables scattered across the room that all varied in size and covered in white table clothes with a small vase of cheerful flowers placed in the center. Hermione sighed, feeling strangely familiar in the establishment, though this was her first time ever stepping foot into it.
The door leading to the kitchens were of the purist white and had a small window in each door. Behind one of the windows, a head of white appears before the door is burst open and Albus Dumblerdore is striding towards her, a younger man in tow.
"Ah, Miss Granger! Right on time," he greets, eyes sparkling as ever, "Allow me to introduce you to Mister Longbottom, sous chef here at Phoenix. This here is my star pupil, and our newest line cook, Miss Granger."
"Please, call me Hermione. Nice to meet you," Hermione grinned, shaking the man's sweaty, outstretched hand. The brown-haired man blushed slightly under her gaze.
"And you as well. Call me Neville, if you want," he muttered. Hermione found his nervousness to be quite endearing.
"Mister Longbottom here will be showing you the ropes around here," Dumbledore continued.
"Great! I can't wait to start!" Hermione smiled.
"Well, I'll check back in later tonight. Best to get started you two, we open in three hours," Dumbledore announced happily, "I am one hundred percent sure you'll do an outstanding job, Miss Granger."
Hermione felt a bit anxious receiving his praise, but nonetheless forced a hesitant smile.
"Thank you, Professor. I'll give it my best go."