Hermione, before she'd received an owl-delivered scroll with an invitation to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, had a grand plan for the completion of her scholastic life. She would graduate top of her class, ace all her exams and go on to do Medicine or Dentistry at a university of her choice. When she'd received her invitation to Hogwarts, her plans had changed in direction just a little but only in terms of subjects studied.
The reality of life was rather less impressive.
The war with Voldemort had, eventually, come to an end with less of a bang and more of a whimper. And, in doing so, had brought with it a whole host of issues she was woefully ill-prepared for. Harry, as Harry did, threw himself into being the Saviour. Both of the Wizarding World and Ginny Weasley. It was assumed, by all accounts, that Hermione would end up with Ron.
On only the second time she'd persuaded him to join her for dinner at a restaurant that was somewhere other than The Leaky Cauldron, he'd stood her up. And as she sat at the quiet table for two, in a corner of a dark restaurant, eating small mouthfuls of bread, she wondered why she could not just live the life she wished.
That was as funny as getting stood up by the man who was supposed to love you, on Christmas Eve.
You see, Hermione had a secret that she had not even told Harry.
Hermione didn't love Ron. Honestly, at times, she didn't even like him. But it was assumed she would end up with him and Mrs Weasley had been through so much that she had gone along with it. She had worked hard to get them to work until it just became too much. Harry and Ginny were together and their relationship was seamless. Where Harry stopped, Ginny began, in all areas of life. And if she was honest with herself, as she should have been nearly six months ago, she could have stopped this whole charade and told the truth.
There was only one person that she wanted to be with. And it was the one person she could never be with.
In truth, she'd had feelings for this person since she was fifteen. And then, as they had aged in both body and soul, this person had only become more alluring. Their mind was so endlessly enticing that all she wanted to do was sit and talk to them for hours. She was so caught up in daydreams of this, however, that she failed to see the shadow over her table.
When she did, she looked up, prepared to tell Ron that they were over, only to have her chin drop and her eyes widened in disbelief.
"P," she shook her head. "Professor?"
"Happy Christmas, Miss Granger," Professor McGonagall smiled. "You look wonderful."
Hermione felt like she'd swallowed her tongue.
"I," she couldn't believe she was stammering. "I do?"
"You do," the Professor smiled. "I do not want to interrupt your date, I only wished to tell you Merry Christmas."
She turned to leave and Hermione realised what a gift she'd been given.
Professor McGonagall stopped and turned expectantly.
"Sorry," Hermione said, for the outburst as well as the order. "Um. Well, he stood me up. I," she swallowed. "I mean. Do you -" she nodded to the table.
Professor McGonagall smiled.
"I'd love to."
Hermione was breathless as the Professor sat down and she followed suit, still not believing her luck.
"Let us start with names," Professor McGonagall said.
"Minerva," she grinned, extending her hand across the table.
Hermione looked at it and looked up and the woman who was wearing a cheeky grin on her face and rolled her eyes.
"Hermione," she said with a smile, taking that hand and squeezing it gently.
"Now we are even," Minerva nodded. "Have you ordered?"
"No, I was -" she frowned, not wanting to admit that she had been sitting here for an hour still hoping.
"I recommend the salmon," Minerva said gently. "Or the lamb. It is all exceptional, but those are the best."
"You come here often enough to know that?"
"I have a secret up my sleeve," she chuckled.
At that moment a man walked from the kitchen, looked around and when he saw Minerva, his eyes lit up. She watched as he nodded to a few people, but made a beeline towards them. Minerva must have realised Hermione was staring and turned, her face breaking out in a wider smile than Hermione had ever seen. To Hermione's amazement, Minerva stood and wrapped her arms around the man and held on tightly.
Hermione's soul died.
She plastered a smile on her face and tried not to cry as Minerva muttered something in his ear as he laughed. He kissed her cheek and pulled a chair up to the table without asking.
"I hear you're the famous Hermione Granger? I've heard so much about you." His tone was light and happy and she took a deep breath and remembered her manners.
"I am, it's a pleasure to meet you -"
"Mac," he grinned. "Thanks for coming "
He was wearing chef's whites and she deduced that he must also own the restaurant. Trust her to pick the one that Minerva's significant other owned.
"Thank you for having me," she shrugged, trying to smile. "Minerva was just recommending the salmon but," she shrugged. "I'm actually going to go. I had a date, he stood me up," she shrugged again. "No matter."
"Miss -" Minerva shook her head. "Hermione, you don't have to leave!"
"I will anyway," she muttered. "I'll leave you both to it. Thanks, Minerva, for sitting with me. Happy Christmas to you both."
She picked up her clutch and left without another word, bursting into the street with a tremulous breath. Of course, Minerva McGonagall would have someone. She was too beautiful and too magnificent to be single. And Hermione had let her mind run away with her that they would spend Christmas even together, maybe get a nightcap at hers and wake up Christmas morning entwined on the sofa.
"You idiot," Hermione growled, finding an alley and checking for Muggles. "Absolute loser," she groaned.
She turned on the spot and disappeared.