A/N: A bit of a warning- this has not been beta-read. My beta is currently working on another much longer fic of mine that and I didn't want to overwhelm her by asking her to look at this one too. It's not terribly long, only 7 chapters, so hopefully you can put up with any mistakes.
This story is dedicated to anyone who has ever woken up one morning, looked around and thought "this isn't what my life was supposed to be."
Chapter 1-Ginny's Birthday
Hermione Granger sat staring at the blank four walls of her tiny office. She sighed and glanced impatiently at her watch.
'Five more minutes,' she thought. 'He better be on time so I can get out of here.'
He had a standing 4:45 appointment every Monday afternoon. He was never late, and the meeting never took more than the allotted fifteen minutes, but today of all days she was especially impatient. She glanced at her watch again. Never did her job seem more boring and mundane than at the end of the day; not that working in the War Reimbursement Department of Gringott's was ever exactly exciting. Oh, who was she kidding, she was the War Reimbursement Department; just herself and the tiny office that she occupied. It was fitting, she supposed, that this was to be her life. After all, she received monthly checks from the Ministry for her efforts as well, so who better to also be in charge of the accounts for everyone else.
She was pulled from her thoughts at the sound of footsteps stopping just outside her door. The door was always open, unless she had an appointment, and he knew to come in. Yet he still paused outside every week until he was invited in.
"Good afternoon, Professor Snape," Hermione said without turning her head. "Please come in."
She heard him walk in and shut the door and she turned to look at him. He had aged in the years since he had been her professor, both from the passage of time and from the hardships that had befallen him, but he still had much the same look to him. His dark hair still hung to his shoulders, although it was now streaked with gray, he still was dressed entirely in black and his face still held the same sneer she remembered from her first Potions class.
"I have told you to stop calling me that, Miss Granger," he said sitting down in the chair in front of her desk. "I haven't been a professor in years."
"Well, until you give me permission to use your first name, Sir, I'm afraid I'm at a loss as to what else to call you, so you will just have to put up with it." There was a time when she wouldn't have dared to speak to him so directly, but she had seen him every week for three years now and she knew exactly what she could and could not say. As she expected he did not comment and she opened the file in front of her.
"I assume you would like to make you usual withdrawal?" she said briskly and he nodded. She pulled a piece of parchment out of the file and handed it to him.
"Just sign here," she said handing him both the parchment and a quill. He signed quickly and she handed him a small velvet bag with the Gringotts seal on it. "Twenty Galleons."
He picked up the bag and stood up nodding his head toward her. "Good evening, Miss Granger."
"I will see you next week, Professor," Hermione said and before the sentence was finished he was out the door. She smiled to herself and shook her head. Some things would never change and Severus Snape was among those.
Granted, no one was accusing him of being a Death Eater these days; not after Dumbledore's memories had so clearly shown that it had been he who had ordered Snape to murder him in an effort to preserve his status as a spy. But the man was still as cross and unfriendly as he had always been.
Hermione did not spend time dwelling on her visitor, however. A quick glance at her watch told her that if she did not hurry, she was going to be late. She grabbed her cloak and wand and rushed out of her office, down the hall and through the front doors of Gringotts. She hurried down the white marble steps and down Diagon Alley until she reached the Leaky Cauldron. Because of this she was quite out of breath by the time she reached the table in the corner where her four friends were already seated.
"Sorry I'm late," she said, breathless and sitting down, reaching for a butterbeer.
"We were starting to wonder," Harry said with a smile. "What kept you?"
"Professor Snape," she said rolling her eyes and the rest of the group groaned.
"I can't believe you were late for Ginny's birthday party because of that greasy git," Ron said with a scowl.
"Well, it's not as if I can help it. It is my job," Hermione huffed, but then she turned to Ginny with an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry. I tried to hurry, but he has a standing 4:45 appointment every Monday."
"It's alright," Ginny said smiling and leaning against Harry who had his arm around her. "I was just showing everyone Harry's birthday present." She the pulled her left hand out and flashed a large diamond ring at Hermione.
"Oohh!" Hermione couldn't help but squeal. "It's about time, Harry."
"Yeah I know. Here Ron and Luna have already celebrated their second anniversary," Harry said nodding toward the other couple.
"Well," Luna said gazing a bit dreamily at her husband, "I did have to give him a nudge."
Hermione had to suppress a laugh. Luna had finally blackmailed Ron into a proposal telling him if he didn't get on with it she would curse him in ways that would prevent any woman from looking at him again. At least she had managed, though. Hermione had dated Ron for several years before his lack of commitment had become too frustrating and their relationship had fallen apart. It had taken some time to get past the bitterness and resentment, but eventually they were able to get back to the friendship they had shared at Hogwarts and Ron had found happiness with Luna.
"Have you two set a date yet?" Hermione asked and Harry shook his head.
"No, but I'd like to do it before next summer when I turn thirty," he said finishing his butterbeer and waving to Tom to order another one.
"I think he's starting to feel a bit old," Ginny said, grinning. "I told him he's being silly. I mean, you're almost thirty and you're not panicking, are you?"
Hermione shrugged her shoulders. "I suppose not," she said noncommittally.
If she wanted to be honest with herself, she preferred not to think of her upcoming birthday. As much as she enjoyed her life, she had never imagined that she would be living alone, with no romantic attachments and working in a tiny office in a bank. She remembered when she had first found out she was a witch. She had imagined a life filled with excitement and adventure and, while she had experienced her share of adventure, she never thought magical life could become so… unmagical.
"Hey, that's right!" Ron piped up. "You're birthday is next month! We need to do something! I mean, you only turn thirty once, right?"
"Merlin, I hope so," Hermione muttered under her breath. Only Harry seemed to have heard her and he chuckled.
"Really, Hermione," Luna said, "you should do something exciting; like go on an expedition for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks.
"I'll keep that in mind," Hermione said as she shared a grin with Ron.
"Well, whatever you decide, you tell us," Harry said. "You never celebrate your birthday. Just once you should go out and have a good time."
"Yeah, like a normal witch," Ron chimed in. "Don't be asking for a book or anything."
Hermione decided to ignore Ron's inadvertent insult and instead engaged Ginny in an in-depth conversation about her wedding. It wasn't one she necessarily enjoyed, having never been terribly interested in tradition female topics of conversation, but anything was better that discussing her own birthday.
Finally the evening grew late enough that she felt she had to return home and everyone agreed that it was time to end the evening. Ron or Luna did not have to worry much about being at work early. Ron was now managing the Diagon Alley branch of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and Luna was assistant editor for the Quibbler and working for family allowed them some freedom regarding their work hours. But Harry had to be at Auror Headquarters early the next morning and Ginny had an early shift as Healer at St. Mungos. She said good-bye to her friends, promising each of them she would let them know what she wanted for her birthday, and she caught the Muggle Underground back to her flat.
It was not necessary, of course, to use Muggle transportation, and she didn't do it every time, but there was something comforting about going through the motions she was so used to as a child. It was important to her that she retained her connections to that world. Sometimes she felt strangely like she was between the two worlds. Although she lived her life as a witch, living in the Muggle world also felt just as natural.
It was late by the time she unlocked the door to her flat and she collapsed, exhausted onto the old, worn out sofa in the living room. She laid her head back and thought about the evening. She was so glad that Harry had finally proposed to Ginny, but it made her own life feel a little more empty than usual. She had never given much thought to her solitary life, but perhaps her life had become a little too predictable… boring even.
Maybe, she thought as she began to prepare herself for bed, it wouldn't hurt to take her friends up on their offers. Perhaps do something a little spontaneous, something that Hermione Granger, former Head Girl of Hogwarts, recipient of the Order of Merlin, First Class, wouldn't normally do. Slowly ideas started coming to her; things she had always wanted to do, or was too afraid to do, or even that she didn't think were appropriate for a level-headed bookworm.
Before climbing into bed, she walked over to her desk, sat down and pulled out a roll of parchment and a quill. She carefully made a list of everything she wanted to do for her birthday. After much thought and consideration, she had three items listed.
1. Do something death defying
2. Take some time to dream
3. Believe in the unbelievable
She thought long and hard as she looked at the parchment. Slowly she added one more item to the list, almost embarrassed to admit it to herself. Still, as she finished, she smiled to herself and went to bed.