Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I make no money here.
AN: Many thanks go to my beta dreamy_dragon73 for all of her help.
This story was written originally as a gift for morethansirius for appreciation for all that she does for the SS/HG fandom. It was posted on the morethanmolly comm on LJ.
Hermione, at age twenty-eight, was now officially unemployed and unengaged. Her ex-fiancé had also been her department head at the Ministry, and it was decided by the powers that be that she could hardly keep working for him once she'd broken the engagement. Well, she could hardly be blamed for breaking the engagement after catching him fucking her assistant right in Hermione's office on her very own desk. The sleazy bastard!
So now, she was at a crossroads: where did she go from here? As so often when she needed advice and reassurance, she'd come to her mentor and friend, Minerva McGonagall.
"At least I learned the truth about Theo before the wedding. Thank the gods for that!" exclaimed Hermione vehemently. "When I stormed into his office the next day and threw his ring in his face, he tried to act like it was no big deal and like things should just go on as if nothing had happened. He said that it's common among his peers for husbands to have mistresses or affairs. As if I would stay with the cheating prick after what he'd done."
When she had disabused him of that idea, he'd proceeded to say many cruel and hateful things, telling her that he'd only planned to marry her for her celebrity status in order to help advance his career. And furthermore, he had proceeded to let her know how totally inadequate she was as a woman, as a lover. The things he'd said to her had been so invidiously cruel and hate-filled that she had been eviscerated emotionally by his viciousness. Even now, she couldn't bring herself to repeat the hurtful insults Theo had hurled at her to Minerva or anyone.
"Harry and Ron offered to sort Theo out for me. But I didn't want the boys to risk losing their jobs; Theo's connections at the Ministry run deep, and he could make things difficult for them." And deep down, she had somehow believed some of the awful things he'd said about her; she felt like he had left scars on her heart. "I really believed myself to be in love with Theo Nott, Minerva. Perhaps, I so desperately wanted someone to love me that I was blind to reality, or maybe he was just that good at subterfuge."
Hermione was the most confident person in the world when it came to her job, research, academics or friends, but she'd never ever been very good at male-female relationships. She did, in fact, feel inadequate, incompetent and now a total failure, so every cruel word out of Theo's mouth only reinforced her own lack of self-worth in the relationship department.
It had started with Viktor back at school. It had been awkward, and when he'd kissed her after the Yule ball, she hadn't felt the excitement her roommates had described when talking about snogging boys. Instead, it had been rather disturbing. It was wet and sloppy, and when his tongue had snaked its way into her mouth, instead of being turned on, she had just felt grossed out.
Then with Ron, it hadn't been bad. It just hadn't been all that exciting, not what she'd been led to believe, at least. She'd craved the closeness that sex had brought, had loved the cuddling afterward, but the actual act just didn't live up to the romance novels. She'd just never understood all the hype about sex. She was actually glad when they decided to break it off and just be friends. She loved Ron much better as a friend than a lover.
She'd had a few short-term boyfriends, but over the last few years, she just hadn't had any permanent relationships until Theo. She thought she'd finally found the real thing: affection, mutual respect, compatibility. She realized only now how horribly wrong she'd been, and that he'd only been playing up to her weaknesses and using her reputation as a springboard to become Minister of Magic.
Minerva's voice pulled her out of her reverie and back to the present.
"I know that right now you are hurting. But perhaps this break-up is the impetus you need to make a fresh start," Minerva said, patting Hermione solicitously. "They do say all things happen for a reason."
Hermione sighed as she stared out of the window of the Headmistress' office. "Maybe you're right, Minerva. But this is one hell of a way for fate to teach me a lesson."
"Tell me the truth, dear. What is it you've always wanted to do? What is that secret dream that you've always kept hidden in the back of your mind? Old dreams never die, my dear, they are just filed away. When the time is right, they can be pulled out and put to use."
Hermione pondered the question for a while. She'd never wanted to do the things a normal little girl did, hadn't wanted to be a nurse or a secretary or a teacher. She'd wanted to be a scientist or an astronaut or an explorer. She'd spent so many hours lost in the pages of books. Suddenly, a smile broke through. "I love books. I've always wanted to write. When I was a little girl, I used to make up stories all the time and dreamed that some day I'd be a writer."
"Well, that sounds perfect for you, dear. Take that dream out and dust it off. You'll never know unless you try."
"Oh, Minerva, thank you! This is brilliant. You've truly given me something to look forward to—a new beginning."
"But how will you manage without the income from your job while you try to establish yourself." Minerva worried.
No problems there, thanks to Draco Malfoy," responded Hermione with a huge grin as she hurried on to explain. "Zabini is Malfoy's best friend, and Blaise works with Harry and Ron, so he heard first hand about the whole fiasco with Theo. How the higher-ups opted to sack me rather than transfer me to another department or, Merlin forbid, fire Nott instead. Anyway, Blaise was telling Draco about it, and it seems that he, Draco that is, has a huge grudge against Theo for numerous past wrongs, including but not limited to Theo stealing his fiancée Astoria Greengrass from him five years ago. So, he offered to represent me in a suit for unfair dismissal. He got me triple the normal severance package plus a hefty compensation of twenty-five thousand Galleons. By the time he was done, the Ministry didn't know what hit them."
"And how much is left after Mr. Malfoy took his share?" asked Minerva skeptically.
"Amazingly, Draco did it pro bono. Apparently, he wanted to stick it to Nott very badly. When I insisted that I should pay him something, he said to consider it reparations for past misdeeds on his part. The only thing he wanted from me was a favor, for me to set him up on a date with my friend Luna. Seems he's had a thing for her for quite some time and couldn't get her to go out with him."
"Mr. Malfoy and Miss Lovegood? Well, that's an odd couple if I ever heard of one," stated Minerva. "Still, one never knows where one will find love; it grows in the strangest places and between the most unexpected people sometimes."