Disclaimer: I don't own the characters; I'm just borrowing them for awhile – promise to give them back! This is set in an AU from after DH, which I didn't really like the ending to. Therefore, I can change characters to suit my story :) writers freedom. I write from a few different perspectives – forgive me if it's confusing, I try my best!

Chapter 1:

She hated it.

Work that is. Hermione had always thought she'd be the kind of person who would love their job, be satisfied in doing what they were good at, what they thought they loved...

All her life she'd been smart, so after Hogwarts (and the events of the war), she'd gone to university, and got her double degree in spells and potions, and minors in healing, arithmancy, and transfiguration. Excelling at everything - as usual.

She got a job as a spells researcher, thinking it would be stimulating enough for her. She gave her all for her boss, and it wasn't like he cared, just glad he had one of the famous 'Golden Trio' working for him. It wasn't like her love life was an interesting distraction from this – she'd broken things off with Victor years ago, and she had always maintained kissing Ron was like kissing her brother (albeit him and Harry were the only brothers she'd ever had).

It was in this depressing mood that she'd got home from work, kicked off her black pumps in her neat apartment in London, and poured herself a stiff drink of bourbon and coke – her preferred drink after a rough day. "Only thing rough about me now really" she thought to herself miserably.

She'd filled out after the war, got curves in all the right places, her hair had tamed with age, but always wore the sophisticated clothes of work, with the studious glasses of her ever book-worm, always-controlled self.

So sitting here in her comfy lounge chair downing her drink fairly rapidly, you can imagine her surprise when a head suddenly popped into her fireplace. A loud yelp came from her mouth, drink dropped and in less than a second she was out of the chair, wand out and battle ready.

"Please lower your wand Ms Granger. There's no need for that sort of reception for an old friend" soothed a familiar voice.

"Headmaster?" Hermione lowered her wand and wandered over to the fireplace to see that yes, it was her former Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.

"Of course dear, but please, your no longer a student, call me Albus." His face smiled at her response - 'once ingrained, cannot be removed...' he wondered.

"Thank you Head... Albus. Please, what may I help you with?" It wasn't often one got a visit from their old school head, and Hermione wondered to what she owed such...honour?

"Well my dear, I was hoping you might accept a proposition, and help an old man out of a few problems." HER, help Albus Dumbledore? What in the heavens could he possibly need her help for? "To answer your unspoken question, I am in a bit of a pickle which I believe you may be well qualified to help with. The Ministry is muddling with curriculum again, and has seen fit to introduce a new subject for seniors – Research and Modification, or R&M. It is to involve teaching students the fundamentals of good research, and to modify basic spells and potions to suit specific circumstances. I believe you got quite good at this during the war and focussed on it extensively in your degree?"

Hermione was lost for words (a change for once, instead of asking a flurry of questions). She had questions of course but no words would form. Her mind was ticking over her options, her life, bringing everything together for her to realise one thing...

"I'm offering you the position Ms Granger. I think I'll leave you to process this information. You'll have the paperwork sent..."

"I accept."

"I'm sorry Ms Granger, are you accepting without even starting an argument over the Ministry's involvement in school affairs? Or the conditions of the position? Or...?"

"Albus, do you want me to do the job or not?" The look on Hermione's face spoke volumes to him, and he quickly decided not to question the always thinking, always correct woman...

"Very well Professor, I'll send you the contract, syllabus and details of your lodgings at Hogwarts in a timely manner... Are you sure about this?" Albus asked with just a hint of concern in his voice. Hermione's voice was nothing but focussed and clear.

"I'm sure Albus; I'll see you just before the start of term."

"Very well, it will be a joy to have you join the staff." Albus made to pull his head back, but quickly popped back in. "Oh, and Hermione?" she turned at the use of her given name "Welcome Back." And with a quick smile he was gone.

How quickly things had changed inside her head. "Bout bloody time" she muttered, and downed a fresh drink.