Figment of the Imagination

Kneazle

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Story idea from Sherrilyn Kenyon's "What Dreams May Come" anthology book.

Summary: AUish. Hermione Granger's life sucks: she was recently dumped, made redundant, and can't pay her rent. Unable to sleep, Hermione tries to read a romance novel given to her for a past birthday – and wakes up with the hero in her bed. Is he real or just her imagination looking for a hero to rescue her[OliverHermione

----

I.

London, present day

"… Here's to the men who had me," began Hermione Granger, slightly slurring the words, "The men who never will…"

"And to that special man out there who will treat you like a princess," finished Luna, with a dreamy, small smile on her lips.

Hermione blinked over at her blonde-haired friend, owlishly, and then nodded; she brought the bottle of vodka she was drinking back to her mouth and took a gulp. Ginny raised a single, perfectly arched red eyebrow at her friend knocking back a £20 bottle of vodka like it was a litre of water.

"Want to slow down a bit, you think?" the redhead continued, boorishly.

Hermione shook her head. "No," she replied, sounding almost completely sober. However, barely an inch of liquid left in the bottle was testament to how much she had drunk.

Pansy Parkinson, a rather pretty woman compared to the teenage girl she was once, reached for the bottle and finished it off herself before Hermione could. "You're going to have a helluva time getting back to your flat, Hermione."

The brunette sighed. "At least I still have a flat. I won't if things keep up the way that they're going."

Ginny massaged her temples with a manicured hand; Luna twiddled her thumbs patiently, and Pansy, ever the snarky one, felt the need to comfort and shake her Gryffindor friend.

"Hermione, shall we review why your day has been so horrible?" the black-haired woman sweetly, rhetorically, began. She met Hermione's bleary gaze straight-on. "It's been five years since Crookshanks died. You are still mourning that fugly piece of carpet. Second, you were fired from your very crappy, underpaid, underappreciated job as a librarian in a stuffy, unknown research library in the Ministry, tucked out of sight and mind from everyone except for the oldest members of staff at the Ministry of Magic. Because of that, you'll probably be kicked out of your flat by the end of the month, unable to pay the rent. And last of all, Richard the Dick dumped you. Have I got it all?"

Hermione glared at her friend. "Yes," she hissed darkly, crossing her arms in front of her, on the table and letting her head rest on them.

Ginny shook her head and rested her chin between her two palms. "Hermione, really… you're beautiful, you don't need a man like Richard the Dick in your life. You have beautiful eyes"—

"They're like a mocha latte!" said Luna.

"—and you have a wonderfully curvy figure"—

"Like a Time Turner!" continued Luna, ignoring Ginny' glare.

"—not to mention you're just scarily brilliant"—

"Scarily," agreed Luna amiably, a wide grin on her pale face.

"—and your hair is just amazing, these nice waves and it's so long and dark"—

"Like chocolate!" sighed Luna, eyes twinkling. "I want some Tolberone…"

Ginny shot her a dark glare and wondered for the millionth time why her idiot brother was dating Luna Lovegood and not the gorgeous brain in front of her at the table.

Truthfully, Hermione never thought that; after a ridiculous attempt at romance on Ron's part – "want to go to a Chudley Cannons game, 'Mione?" – Hermione knew it wasn't meant to be.

"I bet any of the men in this pub would be interested!" finished Ginny with a bright smile. She waved a hand aimlessly at her side, trying to gesture at the laughing men.

Pansy snorted and rolled her eyes. She took a sip of her Cosmo and studiously ignored the glare that Ginny sent her. "Yeah, if Hermione was looking for love in a brewery, maybe – oh, and wants to snog one." She shuddered theatrically.

"That's not true!" replied Ginny, shrilly; her voice began to rise in anger. "The men that come here to the Phoenix & Frog are respectable, gallant gentlemen who know how to treat a woman nicely! They're knights in shining armour!"

Pansy rolled her tawny-coloured eyes and shifted in her seat, clutching her high-end Chanel bag closer to her body. "Just because you ended up getting mauled by Neville Longbottom when he was drunk and you decided to date him doesn't mean that Hermione will appreciate that."

Ginny fixed a beady blue eye on Pansy before swinging her head around to an amused Hermione Granger. "'Mione, can't you please control her?"

Hermione held up her hands in surrender. "Sorry, can't," she grinned, "You know only Harry can."

Ginny huffed, slouching in her seat; it was no secret that Ginny Weasley and Pansy Parkinson did not get along. The two women were complete opposites: one was comfortable, and the other dressed to impress; Ginny was a Gryffindor, Pansy a Slytherin; Ginny enjoyed being down-to-earth while Pansy was theatrical and loved to embellish things. They were as different as night and day.

But the real issue between them was that Pansy Parkinson had a large Harry Winston on her left, fourth finger. And that Harry Winston was given to her by another Harry that Ginny once claimed.

Luna and Hermione secretly enjoyed their little catfights. The blonde and brunette knew the two would never take their arguments beyond words. Also, they wouldn't dare to while their men were barely three metres away, loudly chatting with several Puddlemere United Quidditch Players about their spectacular game.

Sensing Pansy and Ginny's growing ire at each other, Hermione shared a look with Luna and decided to break the two up. "Look, we are here to cheer me up, and the two of you fighting will not make that happen."

Ginny looked at the tabletop contritely whereas Pansy just looked at her manicured nails, in boredom.

Hermione sighed. "Look, it's already late and I just want to go home."

"And do what?" protested Pansy loudly, trying to be heard over the boisterous pub crowd.

"Curl up into a ball and cry?" eagerly supplied Luna.

Hermione glared at the blonde. "No!" Yes.

Hermione rose from her seat and staggered to the side. Pansy and Ginny both jumped to their feet, reaching out to steady their friend. "I'll be fine!" snapped Hermione, swatting their hands away.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Oh, yes, I can just see that, Granger."

Hermione soon found herself tucked between Ginny and Pansy, their arms around her waist and shoulders. Luna was waving her arms frantically, thinking it the best way to call a cab.

Finally one pulled up alongside the curb and the girls ushered Hermione in, following and slamming the door shut. Luna happily gave the driver Hermione's address – for however longer that would be – and then settled quietly next to the pouting Hermione.

"You shouldn't have worn heels," commented Luna, idly.

"You should've told me that earlier," replied Hermione meanly, her long, wavy fringe falling across her eyes. She petulantly blew them away from her nose; they settled there again after a few seconds.

The ride to Hermione's flat was short; Pansy and Ginny helped Hermione out (she stumbled again, into Ginny and nearly knocked the petite redhead into a rubbish can), and Luna paid the driver.

It took the three girls nearly twenty minutes to get Hermione up three flights of stairs; she had to be shushed four times, knocked into Ginny twice more and hit the wall countless times. By the time they stood outside Hermione's door, Luna had produced the spare key for emergencies and Ginny was muttering about not going drinking with the brunette ever again.

"You're a liability!" she seethed, dumping Hermione's purse onto the couch. Her hands were on her hips and she was tapping her kitten heel pumps loudly on the living room's hardwood floor.

"Sorry?" lulled Hermione, blearily looking at her friend through her fringe. She winced, trying to ignore the pounding at her temples that went in time to Ginny's stomps.

"A liability!" repeated Ginny, loudly. Hermione winced again. "There should be an insurance policy that people can take out on drunken friends because they are liable to kill you!"

Hermione scowled, wagging a finger at the redhead. "You're not nice. We're not friends anymore."

"You're drunk," commented Pansy lazily, "You won't remember this in the morning, so who cares?" She buffed her fingernails on her haute couture shirt.

Hermione's scowl deepened and Luna helped her down the small hallway to her bedroom. Once there, Luna and Pansy eased Hermione onto the bed, above the covers.

"Plock?"

Ginny shuddered in the doorway. "Do you still have that disgusting diricawl?"

"Plock plock?"

Pansy laughed at the redhead. "What, scared of a little dodo bird?"

Ginny crossed her arms. "It's unnatural."

"It's an endangered species," Pansy argued back. Luna ignored the two and darted toward the adjoined bathroom.

"It's already thought to be extinct by Muggles, why not add witches and wizards to that list?"

"You know, PETA would love to get a hold of you!"

"And Bedlam would like to get a hold of you, you stupid, vapid cow!"

"Plock!"

"Ginny!" gasped Hermione from the bed, rising unsteadily on her elbows. She was staring at the redhead in shock. "Apologise!"

Ginny pouted. "Sorry."

Pansy smirked. "Accepted," she sniffed, tilting her chin up, her eyes dropping to the large diamond that rested on her fourth finger. Ginny's pout deepened and she left the room in a huff.

"Where did Ginny go?" asked Luna, coming from the bathroom. In her hand was a glass filled with water.

"She's probably in Hermione's kitchen, sulking," replied Pansy easily. She sat on the edge of Hermione's bed. "I honestly don't know why you're friends with that girl, Hermione…"

"Please don't, Pansy," whispered Hermione, her eyes large. "Not tonight when everything else has already gone wrong. Don't add to it."

Pansy sighed, her shoulders slumped, but she nodded. "I'm sorry, Hermione. I know you don't like it when we argue…"

"Plock?"

Pansy looked to her feet and saw Hermione's pet dodo looking up at her fearfully. The poor thing was scared of its own shadow and had the habit of running and hiding in cupboards.

"Sorry Bismarck," commented Luna softly, trying not to scare the dodo. "No marshmallows today." She looked at Hermione, who had eased back down on the bed, her hands folded underneath her and against her cheek. "Has Bismarck not broken the habit of marshmallow treats?"

"Nope," laughed Hermione under her breath. "I don't think I'll try, either."

The three girls remaining in the bedroom fell silent. A few slammed cupboard doors from the kitchen broke the silence and Luna sighed.

"I'd best go calm Ginny down. I'll take her home, too," she suggested, bending to pat Bismarck on the head. Bismarck squawked and dashed under the bed. All that was visible was the large tuff of feathers that stuck up from his rear.

The blonde paused at the doorway and said, over her shoulder, "Goodnight Hermione. I find that after a good night's rest, everything looks better in the morning."

"Thanks Luna," grinned Hermione, "Good night!"

Pansy and Hermione heard a few low murmurs and then two cracks as Luna and Ginny disapparated from Hermione's kitchen. Hermione sighed and turned to face Pansy. The black-haired beauty was staring at her.

"What?"

"You're not nearly as drunk as you had everyone believe," she said slowly.

Hermione shook her head. "I'll have to go job searching in the morning. I can't afford to miss half a day because I wanted to drink my worries away."

Pansy smiled, lighting her whole face up. "Always the planner, right to the end." The two young women hugged, and Pansy said her goodnights, and then disappeared.

"Just you and me, now, Bismarck," sighed Hermione into the quiet room. She wasn't drunk – Pansy had that right at least – and she wasn't tired despite it being nearly two am. Instead, Hermione rose and entered her en suite bathroom.

She followed through the motions for bed, not concentrating on anything. She brushed her teeth, her hair, and removed her contacts. She placed her glasses on the bridge of her nose and changed out of her blouse and pencil-skirt, slipping into the cotton tank and short shorts combo.

Still not tired, Hermione stopped beside her bed, slid open the top drawer of the side table, and pulled a marshmallow out of a package. Kneeling, Hermione looked under the bed for Bismarck, still only seeing what Luna did – his tuff of feathers, quivering in fright.

"Bismarck," began Hermione softly, "they're gone. And you know that Ginny didn't mean when she volunteered to pick for your feathers and make a boa. Now, stop being so shy and come out from under there. Have a marshmallow!"

However, the squishy treat didn't tempt the flightless bird and Hermione sat back on her heels, frustrated. Within a month, she'd be homeless and the future wasn't looking too bright in the job department, either.

A wave of desperation washed over Hermione, suddenly and painfully, making her gasp and give a shuddering, dry sob. She wrapped her arms around herself, shaking until the panic disappeared.

"Gotta get my mind off it," she whispered, unsteadily rising and looking more like the drunk Luna and Ginny thought she was.

She ambled out of her room, to the hallway and down it until she reached her office. There, she collapsed into the plush leather chair her father had bought her upon graduation from Hogwarts. She drew her feet up under her and swivelled the chair around to face the far wall, filled from floor to ceiling with shelving and packed with books.

Unseeingly, Hermione rose and lovingly ran the tips of her fingers from spine to spine, not reading the titles or authors. She was lost in her thoughts.

Her father would take her in if she lost the flat; that much she knew. He quite liked Bismarck so finding a babysitter while she went off looking for a job wasn't an issue. It was finding a new job.

Hermione had the highest marks upon graduation, was the class valedictorian, Head Girl and prefect for two years before that. She had several jobs offers, great references, but had ended up in a basement library sorting books no one read.

She had wasted two years on Richard the Dick, who was happily seeing his secretary behind her back (and on her back) for the majority of those two years because Hermione wanted to give her virginity to someone who loved her for who she was. And she hadn't met that man yet.

No one except her closest friends even knew her deepest, darkest secret. It wasn't anything bad – it was just the dream that she wanted and would possibly never get. She wasn't even aiming that high! And it didn't require a lot of money. It was a simple goal, and simple dream that was likely to never happen.

Harry was more than happy to finance her dream, Hermione knew, and he even said so on more than one occasion. And Ron had the contacts, as the owner of a successful bistro in Diagon Alley. But everyone else would laugh – especially Ginny.

Hermione made a face. Oh, she adored Ron's little sister and Ginny was great for a good laugh every once in a while, but she also had the large flaw of being incredibly rude and quick to judge. She could easily knock someone down and stomp on them before realizing how badly she hurt someone with her knife-wielding tongue.

Hermione sighed, and opened her eyes. A sparkly, shiny purple spine winked back at her in the streetlight. Confused, Hermione tugged the book from the shelf and looked at the cover.

A Little Love in Spring, was the title, with multiple authors underneath. Hermione chuckled.

"A romance anthology?" she asked, out loud, opening the book and reading the written inscription.

Darling, a little romance for an already blessed life. Not that you need it, but a good, smutty read never hurt anyone, did it? Love from Mum

Hermione smiled bitterly at the inscription. It was one of the few things she had left of her mother, who passed away several years ago after fighting a losing battle with ovarian cancer. Her father couldn't stand vivid mementos of his wife, and Hermione barely went to her childhood home if she could help it.

With a sigh, she closed the paperback and left the office, heading to her bedroom. Maybe it was time for a little romance in a loveless life.

Flipping to the first story – "Highlands in the Spring" – Hermione settled against her headboard and began to read.

Laird Oliver Wood drove his horse hard through the brush as he raced against time itself. If he could make it to his family home, the assailants following him would be forced to leave him alone. His clan would take care of him and upon his return he would make sure that everything would go right. For once.

Over several years, the estate had steadily declined; land was sold to pay for repairs and people left because they couldn't afford the rent. Oliver did his best to keep the food on the table of his tenants and on his family's table, but there was only so much he could do. His one bright spot had been Adrianne.

Oh, that spineless, conniving bitch, he thought darkly, ignoring the sting of a branch against his cheek, drawing blood. Forced to earn money another way, he bought a commission into the army and fought other men's wars, other country's wars and when he saved enough he would return to Scotland and save his clan. But before leaving, he asked Adrianne to marry him, his childhood sweetheart.

She said yes. And then, when he was gone, slept with his mortal enemy Marcus Flint and then married him.

Of course, Oliver didn't know until a few nights ago, when he stopped by the nearest village to where he lived and learned of Adrianna. And the failing crops. Oh, and his father's death, and his brother's death and his other brother's disappearance. His mother had died years ago in childbirth, leaving Oliver now the sole caretaker of several people who were counting on him.

And he couldn't deliver.

But before the disappointment could settle in to the tenants and his clan, Oliver had to make it to the manor alive. After that, he'd worry about who was trying to kill him. That would be for another night.

Hermione sighed and placed the book on her beside table, the page she had stopped reading on dog-earred so she could resume easily. Poor Oliver Wood, she thought. Now there was someone she could share a drink over, commiserating over their bad luck.

She could just imagine him: tall, broad-shoulder but lean and not too muscular, with warm, toffee-coloured eyes, and short, cropped brown hair. His hands would be rough with calluses, from working a sword and being a "hands-on" man. His body would be slightly tanned, golden from his dedication to his training out under a hot summers' sun, and he would have a delicious line of dark hair that was like an arrow, pointing down his naval…

Giving one last sigh, Hermione slid under the covers, rolled onto her side and soon fell asleep. Her last conscious thoughts were on that poor Oliver Wood…

And the strongest, self-pitying thought of all: I wish there was someone out there who would appreciate me for who I am.

----

Fucking hell, thought Lord Oliver Wood as he crashed through his old ancestral manor, staring in dismay and astonishment at the rotted rooftop, squeaky doors and rain-drenched walls. A stench was in the air, one he recognized as bird waste, and he coughed into his shirt, almost dry-heaving.

"My God," he breathed, staring around at the dark and damp foyer, "what have I done by leaving?"

"Master Oliver?" came a creaking voice, from the far right of the stone interior.

"Yes?" called Oliver, taking a few steps forward with the torch in his left hand, raising it. "Is that you, Creevey?"

"Master Oliver!" called the voice of someone slightly younger than he, a man of twenty-eight years. Stepping into the light was a young man with nondescript brown hair and brown eyes and a light, lean body with very little muscle. He looked bedraggled and tired, but Oliver had a nasty suspicion that that expression was permanent.

"Colin!" exclaimed Oliver when he recognized him. "How are you?" he winced at the obvious answer that immediately came to mind. "Where's your little brother, Dennis?"

"Gone," Colin whispered, in a broken, hoarse voice, "He left as soon as he heard the news that they needed able-bodied workers out in the western prairies in America. He's gone for the land rush."

"Och, Christ," murmured Oliver, whispering thickly in an emotional brogue. "I hadna realised…" He too, put much emphasis on family.

Oh, family. Oliver sighed. One day he had hoped for a young son that he could bounce on his knee in front of a fireplace, whisper in his ear the secrets of their land, the nooks and crannies that he knew as a child. He wanted boys and girls with brown hair and maybe brown eyes; warm and compassionate and open children who laughed loudly and easily, smiled all the time and thought him the world. Children who would come to him with questions that needed to be answered, when cuts and bruises needed to be kissed better.

But with Adrianne, thought Oliver bitterly, sinking deep into his anger, that was never going to happen. His heart keenly felt the acute loss of something he never had to begin with – but it was aching for a woman who would love him for him, not his lands or title. A woman who could take him as he was.

Oliver never even had the chance to tell Adrianne that he was a wizard – and thank God he hadn't! She might have called the church on him, hoping to burn him at the stake… but only after they were wed so she could have his money and lands.

But Oliver chuckled darkly, not noticing Colin's questioning glance. Adrianne probably had the shock of her life when she realised that Marcus Flint was a wizard too… and a much brutal one than he!

"Master Oliver?"

Oliver startled. "Sorry, Colin, my mind was elsewhere."

"Yes…" the younger man beadily stared at the elder. "I could tell."

Oliver blushed under the look, but thankfully it was dark and Colin couldn't see the flush spread over his cheeks and ears. "I think I'm going to go to bed, Colin." Here, Oliver paused. "Is there a bed left for me?"

Colin nodded. "Of course!"

Oliver sighed. "Great. It's been a while since I've had a good nights' sleep, and I'll need it."

With that said, Colin led Oliver (after taking the torch from his Master) up the crumbling stone staircase that was once his mothers' pride and joy in the entire manor, through several empty hallways until reaching a set of double doors.

"We kept the room up for you, sir, the staff and I," began Colin, hesitantly. "I hope you don't disprove, but we always thought that you'd come back to us, one day. And thank the good Lord that you have, all safe and sound."

Oliver felt a warm feeling gush through him. He felt proud at calling Colin his clansman, and felt affection for everything that his staff had done, trying so hard in his absence to keep the manor running.

"No, Colin," breathed Oliver in the darkness, "I should thank you for everything you have done for me."

Colin smiled, opened the doors and placed the torch in a holder on the wall. It gave off enough light for Oliver to see things, vaguely.

"Sleep well, sir," replied Colin, happily, and then disappeared out the room, shutting the doors behind him.

Oliver sighed, and after his eyes adjusted to the low lighting, he settled himself onto the bed, ignoring the musty scent of unused bedding. Without bothering to undress, he closed his eyes, draped an arm across him.

But before he fell into a deep sleep, he thought: I wish there was someone out there who would appreciate me for who I am.

And somewhere, somehow, something in his universe shifted…

----

Ok, I admit -- I'm still a little ticked off at the whole "obviously I know whether or not your Dumbledore is an evil, manipulative bastard, Kneazle, because I am the reader and therefore I know everything" situation that arose with Wyckham Academy recently. Does it still piss me off? Not that much. However, I am doing what several authors also from FFnet have suggested -- which was take a break, write something else. Only, that 'something else' happens to be a bunch of a) one-shots and b) novellas that all involve Hermione Granger. Mainly because I found Granger Enchanted and I'm absolutely smitten with the website. Or, maybe it's because I'm in a good mood/state of shock after buying a pair of Lucky Brand Jeans today. I don't know. But I am still writing WA, just... slowly. So -- more shorties than long chapters in a long series. :)
Don't be hatin', k? Kneazle