I do not own any part of the Potter franchise; all characters and ideas belong to J.K. Rowling.
AN: There's a comm named something like "Anyone But Ron," which got me to thinking...really? ANYONE but Ron? Even Goyle? And here we are. Hope you enjoy this little experimental bit of fluff. Prepare to suspend your disbelief.
Gregory Goyle was not an ambitious man. He'd always been content to stand one step below the leader of whatever group he was in- friends, Death Eaters, colleagues. Even when they'd figured out that he had a learning disability- imagine that, it had been dyslexia keeping him from reading for all those years and not a brain the size of a pea- he still hadn't done any more than what was expected of him.
He didn't like to be the center of attention. The center of the action, yeah, that was exciting. But when there was action going on, it meant no one was really paying that much attention to any one person. So that was okay. But to just shine, all on his own? No, thank you.
So when he realized, after months of seeing that bushy brown head of hair and wondering why he kept finding excuses to take her papers and files; or to ask her advice, or even just to say hello on their way to the cafeteria for lunch; that he was in love with that head of hair, well. He knew he was in for it. Because unambitious men did not land a doll like Hermione Granger.
It simply didn't happen. In fact, he was beginning to think it was all hopeless.
It wasn't even a question of him being a former Death Eater, or of all the years of nastiness between them. He was pretty sure she could forgive him all that. After all, in the past several months she'd actually stopped tensing up every time she saw him approaching her. Her shoulders relaxed more and she'd smiled genuinely at him the other day, he knew it. So it wasn't like forgiveness was a problem. No, it was definitely the fact that he didn't want an extraordinary life.
He'd gotten his fill of adventure and action during the war. Now all he wanted was peace and quiet. For himself, at least. He was perfectly fine with whomever he ended up with wanting excitement, or leading a high profile life. After all, he could act a part when he needed to. He'd done pretty well all sixth year, when Draco'd needed his help, hadn't he?
But someone like Hermione Granger would always have an exciting and adventure filled life; and would require much out of a partner. She was bound for greatness; even starting out small time in the ministry, she'd already made a name for herself outside of her war-hero status. So, whomever she ended up with needed to have that same love of learning and growing, of excelling at every part of life, of…humph. He simply didn't have it, that was all.
Not that he was so sure Ron Weasley had it, either, and she'd dated him for three whole years. Still, Weasley was the same. Good at what he did, smart, funny, socially capable…at parties Goyle preferred to sit in a corner and eat whatever people put in his hands. Occasionally he'd laugh at one of Draco's jokes. But that, he was afraid, was the extent of his social butterfly skills. That only things he'd cultivated at Hogwarts was a taste for the Dark Arts and the ability to scare off small children with a single glance. Which, when it came to bagging a doll like Granger, weren't going to do him any good.
He felt someone prodding his forearm and looked up. Hermione was seated across from him and she smiled tentatively.
"Did you hear a word I just said?"
"Sorry," he grunted and took a bite of his sandwich again. "Go on."
It wasn't their first lunch at the same table, but it was their first lunch speaking to one another. Having an actual conversation. He focused on his food.
"Well, as I was saying…no, there you go again. You're not listening, Gregory," she said patiently. He glanced up at her from beneath his thick brows and grunted again.
"Am. Go on."
She looked at him uncertainly, but went ahead anyway. When she was done, she took a long drink of her water and folded her arms. She'd just been outlining her dilemma in being on the planning committee for that year's ministry sponsored holiday events. They were worried about having too many things on different days or weekends.
He put down his sandwich and started in on his apple. Chewed for a good two minutes. Swallowed. Put down the apple.
"Why can't you just organize the auction as a silent one during the dinner, then have the final bidding after, and the ball to end it all?"
Hermione stared at him, frowned, then leaned forward. "You're not stupid at all, are you?"
"Pardon?" He stared back in consternation and felt his cheeks flush.
"You. You're not slow, or stupid, or any of the things people called you. You're just…steady. I like that," she added.
He flushed a deeper shade of red. She covered her mouth suddenly.
"Oh, lord. I'm sorry, Gregory. It's just that I've been trying to figure you out all this time and now, well, I know."
"You have?" he asked, wrinkling his brow. "You do?"
"Oh, there I go again. Sorry, sorry. Well, you've been very helpful this lunch. Shall we do this again tomorrow, if you like?"
"Good. See you back at the office!" With that, she stood up, gave him a small wave, and was on her way out of the caf.
Goyle watched her go, still puzzled. She'd been trying to figure him out? Well, he couldn't blame her. They were mortal enemies once upon a time, now office mates. That had to be strange for her. It hadn't been strange for him, only because he'd always been the sort to accept things as they happened. He'd been born a pureblood to a pureblood-crazed regime, so he'd accepted what he was told. Not the brightest thing to do, now that he knew better, but he hadn't known better at the time. And he hadn't had the smarts or skills to realize any different on his own, either. But once the war had ended and he'd been told he was a right screw-up and done his time and been told to shape up, he had. And that was that. No questions asked. Why bother asking the difficult questions? He and his friends had suffered enough without wracking his brain to figure out why some mad man had done what he'd done, or why he'd gone along with it. He'd gone along because people had told him to, and it wasn't like he'd ever fit in anywhere else. He wasn't proud of it, but he couldn't change any of it now. Only do the right things from now on, which he had.
He shook his head and finished his apple. No point thinking about it anymore, period. It only confused him more.
Hmph. Steady. She liked steady. That was good. He could be himself, easy. Maybe there was hope for him, after all.
Hermione stared at Penelope and nearly slammed the filing cabinet door on her finger. "What?"
"Goyle- put in for a transfer. What do you think of him? Enjoyed working with him? Think he's worth it? Can he adapt? I still don't know why the ministry hired any of those lot, but there you are. Determined to treat everyone equal, I suppose, if they did their time. Even Malfoy-"
"I'm sorry," interrupted Hermione. "I don't think I heard you properly. Gregory? Put in for a transfer?"
Penelope looked up at her from the file she was flipping through and nodded. "Yes. I just said that, didn't I? Now, I have some questions-"
"I'm sorry," Hermione repeated. "I have to go."
She fled her small office, leaving Penelope staring after her.
"I'll just leave this form here for you to fill out then, shall I?" the other witch called after her retreating form.
Goyle looked up from his work in surprise. "Pardon?"
The bushy haired, upset witch crossed her arms. "A transfer, a transfer! You never listen to me-"
"I do," he answered, feeling a little upset, himself. He paid attention to every single thing about her- how could she accuse him of not listening to her? Well…not that she knew that much about him.
"Well, answer me!"
"Humph," he said, and thought. A transfer? A transfer…oh. "Oh. Yes. I did," he replied finally.
She waved her arms. "But you can't transfer! You're the only other person in the office who knows the Hobbitson file as well as I do and I'm so busy with this stupid committee that I can't spend as much time with it-" Not to mention that you're the only person who will listen to me go on about all the books I've read or the research I'm doing, she added mentally.
She'd been looking forward to more lunches like they'd had…not that the conversation was particularly stimulating from his end, but it was nice to just be able to sit and talk at someone like that, after all the talking (and arguing) with people she did all day. And she'd actually kind-of sort-of miss his constantly dropping by her office with a question or a paper or just to say hi.
In fact, she liked his company. And there was nothing wrong with that. Not now that she knew (…that he had no reason to beat her up on sight or laugh at degrading jokes or make fun of her and her friends, and was, in fact, rather nice and not at all stupid. Slow to think and respond, yes, but not stupid. He simply wanted to make sure he had things right before he said anything, which was admirable. And he was reliable. And nice.)
Hermione wanted something quiet, solid, and reliable in her life right about then. She had enough drive for three people contained in herself. Her relationship with Ron had dissolved exactly because he was the same. Different goals, same ambition to reach them- and that made for confusing, messy schedules where they hardly saw one another and one or both of them was constantly traveling…that was no way to date someone- or furthermore, think about the future. No, she didn't want any of that in a boyfriend.
Not that Goyle knew that. He stared at her and flushed again. "Put in for it months ago. Before." He shrugged. "Don't have to take it now."
Hermione looked almost nervous, which was silly, he thought. Why would she be nervous?
"Do you want to take it?"
He shrugged again and her expression looked even more pained.
"Because if you want to take it, you should, you know. Regardless of what I think. You should never let what I think determine your course of action."
"Better you," he replied and smiled a little.
She'd noticed he didn't smile an awful lot anymore. Not around her, anyway.
He'd always figured that whenever she'd seen him smile in the past it had usually been connected to something bad happening to her and her friends. He'd made an effort not to smile around her the first several months to try and make her feel more comfortable.
Not that she knew that. Hermione wrung her hands a little.
"Yes, but if you really want it, you should-"
"Don't," he said and looked back at his work, clearly under the impression the discussion was over. Hermione sat down and stared at him.
"Gregory," she said, "are you happy working in this department? With me, I mean? I know we've sort of been thrust together as partners quite a bit, but if it bothers you, if you'd rather have someone else-"
"No," he said, looking up at her again and frowning a bit. "Unless…you want me to leave?"
She let out her held breath and smiled with relief. "No, no. I think I just made it clear that you're quite necessary. Well. As long as you're happy-"
"Am," he said and hunkered back down to his work.
"Gregory," she began once more, "why did you put in for it? Before?" Merlin, now she was sounding like him. She crossed her arms again.
He put down his papers, but didn't look up. His face flushed deeper and he screwed up his mouth, then sighed. Cast a glance at her from beneath his brows. Screwed up his mouth again.
"Seemed like a good idea? Didn't want…I didn't want to make you…feel uncomfortable. Thought you didn't like me."
Hermione's heart melted. Silly boy. Stupid after all, too...in one respect.
"Oh," she said. "Well that was idiotic. Why didn't you talk to me about it?"
"No offense, Hermione, but after the war we were all bloody scared of you," he said, and it was the first time she'd ever heard him string that many words together in one sentence.
She laughed, then bit her lower lip. Gregory Goyle was not the smartest man alive, or the most handsome, or the one with the cleanest past. But even Harry Potter- or especially Harry Potter, perhaps- had done some outrageously stupid things in his time.
"Look, I fully expect us to continue having lunches together, and sharing cases, and enjoying one another's company. As long as you're in this office, at least. So, please, come and talk to me before you ever put in for another transfer. I'm pretty sure I was rude to Clearwater earlier over this."
"Not my fault," Goyle said, shuffling his papers some and Hermione laughed again.
"Cheeky lout," she snapped in return and he dared a glance at her.
"Hmm?" she said, pausing in the doorway and looking back at him. "What?"
"No, at lunch. You said 'you know.' Been trying to figure me out and now you know."
"Ah," she said, giving him a long glance accompanied by a wry smile. "Now I know that you're alright."
"Yes. For me," she added. Then she disappeared into the hall with a wave of her hand.
He frowned again, staring after her. Now she knew that he was alright…for her. Alright? For a friend? For a colleague? Alright…alright…oh.
He was all right, for her.
The corners of his mouth quirked up and a smile spread across his face slowly. Not five minutes later, he removed his pending request for transfer from Clearwater's desk.