Granger was standing, rather awkwardly, in the midst of an Office Christmas Party. Her first, as it so happened. And, as such things are wont to do, it was tremendously awkward. She hadn't anything to talk with people about, having spent her last four years at University working herself to death... or glory. There was a reason she was here, just as there was a reason she had been sorted into Gryffindor. And to talk about her primary schooling... well, it went without saying that it would be better to keep the conversation on microcontrollers and bitfields.

As she turned to Sam, answering a question of his - she heard, off in the distance, a silken voice that purred, in a very precise drawl. As if she was a marionette, Granger spun towards it.

Across the room, at twenty paces, Severus Snape was smiling. Oh, he was standing in a half-lit corner, and from the way his eyes sparkled, he had scored a critical hit, sure to leave some fragile psyche bleeding. But, he was smiling... and the expression made him look ten years younger. Actually, make that twenty.

Regardless, what in the seven hells and eight heavens was he doing here? Granger had spent years immersed in the Muggle World - acquiring a degree made more than brief trips to the Wizarding World rather difficult. So, truth be told, Granger hadn't been expecting to recognize anyone, except perhaps a university classmate. But Saint Peter himself would have been more expected than seeing Severus Snape in the midst of a Muggle Office Christmas Party!

Restraining the urge to stomp her foot, she meandered over as if there wasn't a bee in her bonnet, demanding answers to this enigma... A gentle word here, an introduction there - Granger herself never noticing exactly how much easier social interaction had gotten, now that she had something Important on her mind.

As Granger stepped into Snape's field of vision, he quipped, "I've never minded people thinking I'm an elitist prick. My prick is frankly elite, thank you very much." At that, Hermione's eyes had gotten as big as saucers, and only her impatience to understand just what he was doing there kept her from stepping a step backward, as he turned toward her and introduced himself. "Damien Lanning, and you are?" His teeth gleamed whitely inside that cheeky grin, though his eyes glinted like moonlight on a midnight pool.

"Hermione Granger," she snapped out, having only the presence of mind to keep it from sounding frankly militant. He was not a drill sergeant - no drill sergeant in history has ever worn that, she thought. Clad in a white blousy shirt, with flared sleeves, and with matte black pants and crisply shiny boots, he looked the very part of a rake. Which, naturally, he was.

"Who's the lucky lad?" He inquired, his eyes piercing before softening just slightly. "Or lass, I wouldn't want to presume..."

"And yet you have, nonetheless." Granger fired off swiftly. "No date at all, I've only just been hired, as an electronic engineer working with silica..."

Before Granger could really get going, Snape interrupted frostily. "Oh, have you? I'll have to have a word about their hiring practices..." Granger barely had time to bristle before Snape pivoted on his heel, his eye catching sight of someone else.

As Snape turned away, Granger moved in front of him, "And you? Pardon, but you don't really look like the party-going type..."

"I assure you, I'm on the clock." Granger then had an entirely inappropriate thought of Snape as a gigolo, with the surprising revelation that with him smiling, he might could actually pull it off...

"And what exactly do you do for Orange Communications, sir? You aren't listed on their website as staff anywhere." Granger thought she'd simply die if he really was a gigolo. No, we are not smiling at him, we are not in a position to explain why we are smiling!

"Ah, well, there is a reason for that..." He said, his voice sparkling as it purred, the hidden meaning blatant: I know something you don't know.

"Are you part of human resources, then?"

"I think you could safely say that, yes..." His voice purred sweetly, as his eyes flashed anything but sweetness.

At just that moment, the CFO of the company stepped up - the CEO's daughter, she said, "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I need a word with Mr. Lanning." as she grabbed Snape by the arm and tugged him away. As Granger watched them walk off, she heard distantly, "How is it you manage to discomfit every single person here, except for the youngest electrical engineer, who you manage to completely settle down?" Snape's voice purred in response, "Talent."

And that was the last she saw of him. Any attempts to ask about him were greeted with assorted "Don't ask" and "You don't want to know..." and "He's better than the last one, that one liked the secretaries..." At that point the office lady had eyed Granger up and down. Backing up a bit, Granger had hastily decided that asking more questions was probably a bad idea, if someone was honestly thinking she might be... interested in Snape.

[a/n: read and review! I have a few more scenes, and then nothing more in my head. 10 reviews for the story to continue!]