New Year’s Eve was now officially—her least favorite Holiday.
Well it had been Valentine’s Day, but that was a story for another time.
For the past six years since she’d graduated from Hogwarts and the past five Hermione had been a single witch (her relationship with Ron fizzled more than it sizzled)—Hermione had dreaded New Year’s Eve with a passion.
She’d stand there at Grimmauld Place alone in a dark corner somewhere, while everyone drank, snogged and in general had a rip-roaring brilliant time while she left as lonely as she’d arrived.
When she’d graduated from Hogwarts—a year late but still at the top of her class, her perfect NEWTS as well as being a noted War Heroine—guaranteed her any job she’d wanted in the Ministry.
But her heart had always been set on working in the Department for Magical Creatures and as such—she’d spent her first year buried in work—revising outdated House Elf laws with a singular focus that watched the questionable relationship she’d had with Ron implode like one of George’s dungbombs.
Luckily, it was a fairly amicable split and Ron had moved on quickly. Several times in fact, but he was now engaged to Luna Lovegood and as weird as it sounded—they were rather well suited.
Harry went straight into Auror training after the war, foregoing returning to Hogwarts with her and Ginny. There were a few returning eighth year’s including most of the Slytherin’s, which hadn’t been a surprise. Hermione had been made Head Girl, along with Malfoy who was Head Boy. They’d not interacted much beyond their respective duties initially—but he had made a point of apologizing sometime around Halloween that year and a tentative truce had been forged.
When he’d graduated alongside her, he went straight into Auror training. Everyone had been shocked except Harry—who had told her that Malfoy had spoken with Kingsley and had requested to be given the opportunity to go through the program. Kingsley had agreed, but when Malfoy had finished at the top of his class—no one wanted to partner with him.
So of course, Harry stepped up and stepped into being Malfoy’s partner and another truce had begun.
Except now they were rather good friends.
And Hermione had found herself these past few years being force fed a diet of Draco Malfoy at most holiday functions, whether she’d liked it or not.
Which she hadn’t at first but then...
After the war she’d found her parents and restored their memories. Their anger at her decision to take their choice had been met with pleas for understanding to no avail. She’d done everything short of showing them her memories of her time on the run and what had happened at Malfoy Manor. She’d eventually concluded it probably wouldn’t have made much difference.
They’d decided to sell their home in Hampstead Heath and had all but disowned her.
They’d remained in Australia.
She received a cursory Christmas Card signed by Richard and Helen Granger each year, but that was it.
It never ceased to break her heart a little more.
This past year had been a turning point in her professional life though. She’d been promoted to Head of her Department—youngest ever. The accolades in her professional life just made the gaping holes in her personal life that much more pronounced.
But the most surprising realization had come this time last year when she’d shown up to Harry’s annual party and noticed Malfoy standing off by himself—looking as awkward as she felt. She’d gone up to him and they’d talked a bit...which led to lunch a few weeks later.
Then dinner after that.
They’d become fast friends sometime around mid summer.
It was Yule when Hermione realized she’d started having serious feelings for the blonde wizard.
He was charming when he wanted to be. Aloof when he didn’t want to be bothered. Sarcastic when he was feeling cheeky and caring when no one was looking.
He’d made some offhanded comment Christmas Eve after one too many firewhiskey’s—that they should attend Harry’s New Year’s Eve party together and Hermione had been thrilled—until yesterday, when she heard him tell Harry in his office that he was bringing Astoria Greengrass.
And her heart cracked a bit more.
So now it was New Year’s Eve and she was staring at herself in the mirror, silently watching the tears coming down her cheeks.
She couldn’t bear another New Year’s Eve at Harry’s. Not like this.
She looked at the time and it nearing nine o’clock in the evening. Walking into her bathroom she opened a secret drawer that she kept a few emergency things in. Grabbing a piece of fever fudge and a puking pastille—she downed the offending objects and waited for them to take effect. She knew it would be about twenty minutes before Ginny would likely notice her absence and be flooing over—demanding her presence.
She’d have a good reason for not attending.
So as luck would have it, when Hermione heard her floo go off—she was worshipping the porcelain god.
“Hermione?” Ginny’s worried voice broke through her retching as the red-head threw open her bathroom door with a thud. “Merlin! Are you sick?”
Hermione’s face, which was swollen from crying looked particularly awful and Ginny grimaced as she rushed into the kitchen to grab a ginger tonic and some ice.
“When did this happen. You were fine yesterday?” She knelt down and placed the bag of ice on Hermione’s neck.
The relieved groan from the older witch was pitiful.
“I’m not today.” Was all Hermione could get out before she heaved again, almost laughing at the look of utter disgust on Ginny’s face. “Go back to the party Gin. If this is contagious, I don’t want you to get it.”
Ginny rubbed her expanded belly with a sad nod.
“Okay, but floo me if you need anything. I’ll let Harry know.”
“Thanks. Happy New Year.”
“You too Hermione.”
Ginny stood up and with one last look of empathy, she left back to Grimmauld Place.
Hermione sighed in relief. Glad that she wouldn’t have to brave another night of frivolity and not having anyone to kiss at midnight.
Standing up shakily, she went and grabbed her wand and locked down her floo and wards. She didn’t want any more visitors tonight.
When Ginny got back to Grimmauld, Harry was waiting.
Ginny noticed Malfoy was standing with her husband, his expression impassive but he seemed interested in her answer.
“She’s really sick. Throwing up and high fever. I debated on whether to leave her, but she told me to come home and leave her be.”
Harry’s face fell, and Ginny noticed that Draco seemed worried too.
“Maybe I should go and check up on her?” Harry lamented, while Ginny just patted his arm soothingly. Hermione and Harry were like siblings in every way but blood and for a time she’d been a bit jealous of the other witch—but had slowly come to accept the fact that Harry loved Hermione—just not in that way.
“If you need to.”
Harry nodded and went to call out Hermione’s address but the floo didn’t activate. He tried it a second and third time and then scowled before disapparating, only to come back a few moments later with an even deeper frown marring his features.
“She’s locked down her floo and wards. Stubborn witch.”
Draco chuckled and said, “Would you have expected anything else?”
Harry smiled fondly and shook his head. “Not really. Come on Malfoy...let’s get this party started. Sorry about Hermione though. I know you were looking forward to spending some time with her tonight.”
Ginny’s eyebrows lifted but Draco just shrugged indifferently, before giving his Auror partner a look of warning.
“Nothing for it now. I need to find Astoria.”
Harry nodded, and grinned as he watched the blonde saunter away.
When he turned to his wife her expression was part confused, part eager.
“Is Malfoy dating Astoria?”
Harry sighed. “Not exactly. When Lucius was sent to Azkaban after the war, he’d tried to negotiate a betrothal contract between Malfoy and Astoria which neither were thrilled about. When Lucius died, those negotiations died with him but Narcissa has been after Draco this past year to settle down and get married. I think he’s just trying to get his mum to back off.”
“And what about Hermione?”
“They’ve become rather good friends, I think. But you know Mione...she’s a tough nut to crack.”
Ginny guffawed in agreement as they headed back inside to their guests.
Back at Hermione’s apartment, she was sitting down on her couch with the television turned on watching a movie. The sound was off, but the picture kept her attention for a bit before she pulled out a box that she’d left by her chair and opened it.
Inside were the remnants of her previous life. Pictures of her upbringing during happier times. Her parents taking her ice skating, to the snow. Making gingerbread houses and celebrating the New Year as a family.
Hermione then pulled out the afterthought Christmas Cards and sighed before reaching for the last letter her parents had sent to her. As she read through the harsh words, her heart shattered a bit more.
Hermione couldn’t blame them—not really. She’d never told anyone that she had been able to restore their memories or their decision to disown her.
She didn’t want anyone’s pity after all.
Placing the items back inside the box, she levitated it to the top of her bookshelf and sipped on her ginger tea. Fortunately, she was able to take the recovery treats for George’s pranks and she felt a bit better—at least physically.
As she turned the channel the New Year’s Eve celebrations were underway and as midnight approached she grabbed her journal and tried to write down her resolutions for 2006 but after a while Hermione realized she hadn’t managed to pen a single item.
When the cheers started down the street and the clock struck midnight, she found herself writing down one thing....
If I’m still alone by this time next year...quit job and relocate, start over fresh.
She stared down at the resolution and nodded with finality.
She could do it...
She could begin again...
Unfortunately fate had other plans for 2006...