Years had passed, five to be exact, since the war ended in Harry defeating the Dark Lord.
She sat cuddled on her comfy couch reading in front of the fire drinking a glass of her favorite wine courtesy of Draco Malfoy.
He gave her the same expensive gift every year for her birthday and she loved it.
Many things had changed since her Hogwarts days and many things had not.
She had grown into a lovely woman with dark auburn barrel curls that hung down her back and whiskey colored eyes framed by long dark lashes.
She had a peaches and cream complexion with freckles sprinkling the tops of her cheeks and nose.
She walked with a quiet confidence obtained through a childhood strewn with adventure and strife. She had a resolute presence that spoke of dignity and an attitude that she could handle just about anything life threw at her, especially after watching her best in the entire universe die and come back to life at the tender age of 17.
She was no longer the chatty know-it-all her fellow students knew her to be in school; she was content and at home in silence, relishing in its ability for rumination. She didn't feel the need to fill lulls in conversation with mindless dribble, instead preferring to listen and observe.
Her seventh year on the run with Harry and Ron had allowed her to gain an appreciation for quiet times. Harry's constant sulking and worry during the trying period and Ron's impulsive whining caused her to withdraw after the war.
They all did to some extent, but Hermione's exuberance for proving herself had not boomeranged as expected, but instead helped her to grow as a person and shifted her personality to a more reserved state.
She knew what she was capable of as well as what her limits were and though she still sought new things to learn and engaged in challenging endeavors; she did it quietly.
She still had a close group of friends; her cherished relationships with and fondness for the Weasley's and Harry had not waned in the least and those she loved and considered her family now included Draco Malfoy, Blaise Zabini, Adrian Pucey, Pansy Parkinson and Greg Goyle.
She saw the Weasleys every Sunday for dinner; Harry and Ron worked two offices down from her (they lunched together on a very regular basis) and 'The Slytherin's', as she referred to them, all worked in the same building with the exception of Draco, who she shared an office with as he was her partner.
The Slytherin's had switched sides sometime during sixth year right after Dumbledore died.
Hermione had learned to forgive and understand and in doing so gained invaluable friendships… ones that she could not live without.
She had harbored a small crush on Draco for a while, but on one drunken night with the Slytherin's he had revealed that he batted for the other team.
She took this information and promptly hooked him up with Harry, who had never come right out and told her he was gay, but she knew, had known, that his bread was buttered on the flip side. The two were blissfully happy and have been together for three years now.
Ron had gotten to know Pansy and was in the process of working up the courage to ask her out… he has been pining for her for nigh two years and Pansy's patience is running thin with him. She returns his feelings, but pureblood propriety being what it is; she's waiting for him to make the first move.
Another strange union that came out of this was Luna and Ginny; they got together rather quickly, leaving some to speculate if the relationship had started back when they were students. Blaise and Adrian fantasize about the two witches often.
Her floo activated and an ashy head materialized, "'Mione?"
It was Goyle, "I'm here Greg." She said stretching.
"I'm lonely. Can I come over? I have treats of the chocolate variety and a movie… we can watch it on your telly." He teased
She smiled, "Of course… don't forget the chocolate."
A few minutes later he walked through bearing the gifts he promised.
He did this often, sometimes with chocolate and a movie, sometimes just him not wanting to be alone.
She never in her wildest dreams would have guessed he was as sensitive as he was; he didn't advertise it by any stretch of the imagination – he remained quiet and unassuming most of the time, but he was down to earth and somewhat thin-skinned.
So she acted as a sort of buffer for him to the harsh reality of their sometimes tactless friends and parental criticisms.
She smiled when he sat down with a plop. He was wearing his favorite, worn, running pants and a black hoody that pictured Marvin the Martian on the front.
"What movie are we watching?" she asked
"Tombstone." He said shyly knowing already what her reaction would be.
She leveled him with mild exasperation, "again?"
He smiled, "Yep. I'll be your huckleberry." He said with a twang.
She rolled her eyes and laughed, "I'm gonna need a drink." She said and got up to put the movie in and pour another glass of wine. She brought him a tall glass of water as he didn't drink.
Half way through the movie, like clockwork, he began to talk, "My father came by today."
She wanted to make a face, but knew he would stop talking if she did, so she remained as expressionless as she possibly could, "…and how is Mr. Goyle Sr.?"
"Drunk." He said flatly.
It was then that she noticed the dark patch of skin marring the right side of his chin. She thought earlier when he sat down that it was just his five o'clock shadow, but it now became clear that it was a bruise.
"He visited you at work?" she asked.
She remained silent.
"He went through the list of things I have failed to do as well as the list of things where I have been a disappointment to him. It was a big day – going through both lists." He said.
She looked at him with the sympathy of a close friend, "You must stop letting him do this, Greg. It's not right." She said touching his arm.
"He's my father."
"That does not give him the right to abuse you, emotionally and physically. You are an adult. You can take care of him and still place boundaries on your relationship. If you don't do it for you, do it for your mother. She misses you."
Hermione knew Greg's mother and recognized her as the soft spoken, but weak minded pureblood she was.
Lynn Goyle owled Hermione often inquiring as to the health of her only son since Goyle Sr. had forbid her to contact Junior in an act of stubborn retaliation for his role in the fight for the light side and when they found out that one of his best friends was a mudblood all hell broke loose further distancing son from parents.
He nodded like he always does and continued to watch the movie.
When it was over he kissed her cheek good night and floo'd home.
Seven days until Valentine's Day and the entire group of friends were planning to have dinner and go out; Hermione didn't think she could face another Valentine's Day with affectionate couples and/or leering singles – she was thinking of Blaise and Adrian Pucey at the moment.
The suave purebloods hit on anything that didn't resemble a troll and walked on two legs. After hexing them with Jelly Legs Jinx after Jelly Legs Jinx they both stopped hitting on her.
"Granger, who are you bringing to dinner for Valentines?" Draco asked watching her from his desk.
The front of their desks touched making it easier for them to converse, share files and allowed them a little more room to walk around in their small office.
"The same person I always bring." She said not looking up from the parchment she was reading.
"So no one, then?" He huffed, "Why don't you date?" he asked. This was a point of irritation with him and had been for the third year in a row.
She looked at him, "What do you want me to say, Draco? We've had this conversation. My reputation precedes me… wizards our age don't want intelligent, mildly attractive, war heroines that hang out with not only the boy-who-conquered-all, but the sons of the dark wizards and the red headed family of emotion. I mean, who wants that?" she gave a self deprecating laugh.
Her group of friends were quite intimidating and she was no wall flower, but Draco refused to concede, "You are so much more than 'mildly attractive' Granger. I see wizards flirting with you all the time and you don't give them the time of day. You're gorgeous, and kind and smart… and fiery. If I weren't with Potter you'd be toast… on your way to being Mrs. Malfoy." He said passionately.
She looked at him and smiled; "I love you, you know?" she said and returned to her work.
"Let me set you up." He said.
She sighed and dropped her quill, "we've had this conversation as well. I don't like blind dates and I'm sure as hell not going to go on a blind date for our get together on Valentine's Day of all days." She said assertively.
A new voice entered the conversation, "Then let us set you up before then, so you can get to know him without all of us there." Harry said sitting on the edge of their desks.
"Et tu Brute?" she said to her best friend.
"Us too." Came two voices from the door. Adrian and Blaise were standing there looking sheepish.
"You're not going to let me get out of this are you?" she asked looking at them.
"No." Draco said smiling triumphantly.
"Ok, who is he?" she asked.
"Nope. You'll just have to find out when you meet him." Blaise said
"So by 'meet him' you mean I don't know him yet?" she asked hoping to trick them into giving her some information.
Adrian snorted, "We aren't giving you any more information Granger. Just be ready… and when I say be ready I mean little-black-dress-ready on Friday at 7." He said and tugged Blaise out of the cramped office.
She turned to Draco and Harry and watched as Draco stood, "Harry and I have …business to attend to. See you after lunch."
Harry smiled and she waved at them as they left.
Friday… that gave her two and a half days to mentally prepare… she would need to go shopping too… hmmmm
"Pansy, I need your help."