Many of you may remember a fic I did a while ago called "Agony". Now and then, I reread that fic and say to myself "This could have been so much more!" - This is the "so much more". I wanted to expand on the points of view, and the reasoning for actions, and (Queen of Angst, remember?) I wanted it to hurt more. I wanted to make you feel more, and deeper, than you did before. Let me know what you think!


2029


Hermione Weasley watched as an alabaster coffin was levitated into place next to where Albus Dumbledore had been resting for the past thirty-two years. Minerva McGonagall, beloved Headmistress of Hogwarts, was dead. While Albus would be remembered as the man who brought the wizarding world through the war, Minerva was held in even higher esteem – she had been the woman to bring a hurting people out of the ashes and into a new era of peace. While she'd only been Headmistress for twenty years, she'd spent the rest of her life working alongside the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, putting forth laws that the wizarding world at large thought would help prevent a future war. One of many changes was that Hogwarts now stood completely autonomous from the Ministry.

Thousands of people watched in sorrow, tears turning to ice on the cheeks of those who cried in the cold, January weather. Leaves blew around the crowd, catching on black coats, cloaks, and umbrellas. A song from the merfolk of the Black Lake could be heard softly in the distance, bringing sound to an otherwise silent affair. A gathering of Centaurs stood vigil on the outer edge of the Forbidden Forest. They had called Minerva friend for many years, since she'd saved a young foal, who'd fallen into an old, forgotten well, when she'd been all of fourteen years old. She'd been injured during the rescue, breaking a hip that had troubled her for the rest of her life, though if asked, she always said that she would do it again. That was just like the woman – always putting the interest of others ahead of her own.

Hermione's face was still dry by the time the crowd dissipated and she made her way to the casket alone. It would be left open for only a few more, precious hours, and Hermione took the time to see her former professor, one last time. No tears would be shed by the married, mother of two today, as she'd cried herself dry the night before. Numbness when she'd gotten the news had been overcome by unbelievable agony when she'd gotten the letter from her long ago mentor the previous evening. And the memories… gods, the memories had been pleasure and pain, peace and torment. It was too much. Today, Hermione could feel nothing but anger towards Minerva - anger that she knew would carry for the rest of her life.

"Fuck you, Minerva," Hermione whispered bitterly, as she laid a single, red rose on the dead woman's breast.


1995


It wasn't something she did, nor something she had said, that gave fifteen-year-old Hermione Granger away. It was the haunting look of hurt that was always in her eyes when they happened to be in a room together that did it. Minerva McGonagall sat by herself in her quarters, musing over her recent realization that the current Gryffindor Prefect had a rather big crush on her, of all bloody people. This was not the first time a student had developed a romantic interest in one of the Hogwarts Professors, but that was usually toward Severus Snape, or one of the other, younger teachers. At her age, Minerva had long since stopped being an object of anyone's affection, which she was fine with.

Back to Granger. What on earth could that girl see in her? Minerva really didn't consider the teenager's feelings anything to be concerned over. She would continue conducting herself as she always had, because unlike other infatuated students Minerva had encountered in her long career, Granger was quite smart, and she felt certain that a girl like that would never make a move, as it were, because she had to be acutely aware that even if her feelings were reciprocated, which they certainly were not, nothing would ever come of it. Minerva's awareness of Granger's feelings meant nothing at all...it was simply that - an awareness.

"Minerva?"

Pomona's voice interrupted her line of thought. "Yes, my dear?" she asked her longtime friend.

The Herbology Professor smirked. "What's Miss Granger done this time?"

Minerva frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"You were thinking of her, just now. You always get this look on your face when she comes up in conversation, or if she walks in the room, or if you're simply thinking of her," Pomona accused softly. "That young lady has you wrapped around her finger."

"She does not!" the Transfiguration professor exclaimed. "I don't know where you got such a ridiculous idea, but it is completely untrue. I treat Miss Granger just as I treat any other student."

"But you have noticed the way she looks at you?" Pomona asked.

The guilty expression on Minerva's face gave her away before her awkward sputtering. "I… I don't think… Miss Granger is too sensible…"

"Too sensible to act on her crush, but it remains there all the same," Pomona finished. "It's not a crime, Minerva. Nor is it a rarity."

"I absolutely do not feel anything for her," Minerva defended.

"I wouldn't expect you to. She's a child."

"Just wanted to be clear. I would never…"

Pomona rolled her eyes. "Minerva, if one looked up the word integrity in the dictionary, it would have your picture beside it. The only reason we are having this conversation is because I was curious if you realized how she felt."

"Surprising as it was, yes, I realized," the other woman replied. "It's been quite a few years since a student looked at me like that. I'm not exactly young anymore."

"And I'm not exactly skinny, and yet Mr. Longbottom seems to be developing a crush on me," Pomona smiled. "That said, I'm fairly certain that as he continues to develop his social skills, his feelings will fade into nothingness."

"I'm sure Filius will be relieved," Minerva offered with a small laugh. "And Miss Granger? Do you believe her feelings will… pass?"

"I expect so. It's only a matter of time before Misters Potter and Weasley are able to look past friendship and realize that Miss Granger is a young woman, and an attractive one at that," Pomona said. "With all they've already gone through, and all they will probably go through yet, I imagine in the end she'll marry one of them."

"As it should be," Minerva agreed.


1996


Neville knew that look well. It had been on his face often enough a year before, and while he certainly wasn't about to be critical, it did surprise him to see the look on Hermione's face. He was also surprised, though relieved, that the look was not directed at Professor Snape, but rather at the woman sitting beside him at the head table.

"So, Hermione," Neville said, sitting down beside his friend. "You got a thing for Professor McGonagall?"

Hermione dropped her fork. "What?" she hissed. "How could you even think…"

"I had a crush on Professor Sprout last year," Neville admitted quietly. "She was basically the first person who looked at me like I was worth something. Point being, I'm not gunna judge. Just thought you might want someone to talk to about it."

Just then, Harry slid into the seat on the other side of Hermione. "We talking about Hermione having a thing for ol' McGonagall?"

"I do not have a thing for Professor McGonagall," the young woman groaned. "I simply admire her. I was wondering if she's quite recovered from the stunners last term."

Neville saw that Harry's expression mimicked his own – yeah bloody right. "If you say so," Neville allowed, knowing Hermione well enough to know that as far as she was concerned, they were absolutely not talking about it. Of course, she might be telling the truth. There was a fine line between admiration and a crush, and while he knew that he'd crossed it with Pomona, it didn't mean that Hermione had with Minerva McGonagall. Besides, while the Herbology was generally very friendly and open to talk to students at any time, the resident Transfiguration Professor was nearly unapproachable. On the other hand, if Harry also saw it, the idea couldn't be that far-fetched.

Still, he didn't think it mattered all that much. Even if Hermione did have a crush on McGonagall, it would pass, just as his own had passed with Pomona. It was a perfectly normal thing to happen to teenagers.


1997


Hermione wished she could stop herself, but as if under the Imperius, she found herself walking towards Minerva's quarters. They'd laid Albus Dumbledore to rest an hour prior, and in another couple of hours the Hogwarts Express would be leaving Hogsmeade Station with what still remained of the students here at Hogwarts. Many had already left with parents who'd come to the funeral, including Ginny, though Ron had remained, not wanting to leave Harry's side quite yet. He was not taking Dumbledore's death well, and Hermione knew Minerva was probably in worse shape. While Harry had gotten close to the Headmaster in the last few years, Minerva had been one of his closest friends for decades. It would be like her losing Harry or Ron, after they'd been together for another twenty or thirty years.

A previously acquired password came off her lips in a whisper, and she entered the older witch's quarters, taking in the surroundings. She'd never been here before, and probably never would again, though when she'd requested to speak with her Professor that morning, she'd been directed to come here rather than her office. "Professor?" she called out.

Minerva came around a corner, and offered a half smile. "Miss Granger. What is it I can do for you today?"

Hermione just stared at her for a minute. Her face was the picture of put together, with no sign at all she'd been crying, though by the way her voice was catching , Hermione suspected she was on the verge of doing so. With a sigh, Hermione stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Minerva's slender waist. "I don't need anything," she whispered. "But I thought you might need a hug."

The older woman seemed to deliberate on if sharing a hug with her student was proper or not, but eventually gave in, which only served to tell Hermione just how much she needed it. A moment, passed, than another, and suddenly a choked sob escaped Minerva's lips, and her face dipped into Hermione's shoulder. "I can't believe he's gone," Minerva whispered after another minute.

Hermione just held her tighter. "It will be alright," she said softly. "He will be missed, but you're not alone. I've got you."


1997


Filius Flitwick wore a pronounced frown as he snuck through the dark corridors of the castle toward Minerva's quarters, intent on passing along news which would not be safe to pass by any other means. Severus was Headmaster now, and the Carrow twins were reigning bloody terror on the school he and the tenured Professors loved. He'd liked to have been able to call it inexcusable, but Albus had voiced, prior to his death, that at some point Hogwarts may become a less than safe place to be. He'd offered them each the chance to leave before it came to that. None of them had.

He cast a charm to carry his password bearing voice around the corner to Minerva's door, knowing that if anyone was watching, they'd try to jump the minute the door cracked open. If the entry was clear, he'd move around the corner and enter just a minute later. Fortunately, the Carrows seemed to be elsewhere tonight, so Filius made his way forward, holding his wand in front of him, knowing that Minerva would be waiting on the other side to hex any intruder.

Fortunately for him, Minerva seemed unsurprised when he was the one entering her quarters at this late hour. "Filius," she greeted. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit."

"News on the missing cubs, at last," he replied.

"Granger, Potter, and Weasley?" she inquired. "Are they alright?"

Filius took note on the order in which Minerva had asked after her missing Gryffindors. It had been no secret among the staff that the brilliant Hermione Granger had developed a bit of a crush on Minerva a few years back, though he'd always wondered if it really was all that one sided. Miss Granger had always been special to Minerva, from the day she'd set foot in the castle at eleven years old. The bond between them had continued to grow unfettered for the first few years of Hermione's education, and then came the crush, and Minerva had put up the walls of professionalism, leaving their developing relationship at a bit of a standstill.

That said, he'd been talking to his wife, Pomona, a few months ago, right after Albus had died, and she claimed that after the funeral she'd gone to check on Minerva, only to find their mutual friend already crying in the arms of the seventeen year old Gryffindor she'd supposedly pushed away. The order in which Minerva had asked after the Golden Trio lent evidence to something more than the norm continuing to exist between the two brilliant witches. It could certainly be simple friendship – Pomona had that with Neville Longbottom – but while Neville was not the first student to befriend his wife, Hermione Granger was the first student Filius knew of who'd managed to break through the walls of fortress McGonagall.

"Remus saw them, at our former Headquarters," the half-goblin man replied. "He was given a good lecture on priorities by young Harry."

"Harry lectured Remus? On what?" Minerva inquired.

"Remus wanted to join them," Filius replied. "Regardless of the fact that his wife is with child."

Minerva's lips formed an 'o' shape. A moment later her eyes began to darken, and when she spoke again, her voice was crisp and angry. "The next time I see that man, I will strangle him. I have never been more disappointed in Remus, and he pulled a LOT of shit when he was a student here! Abandoning your wife and child? No parent should leave their child unless they absolutely must!"

"Mister Potter felt much the same, according to Remus," Filius replied. "Oh, you might also be interested to know that, also according to Remus, there appears to be a relationship forming between Miss Granger and Mister Weasley."

Minerva looked away. "War is no time for romance," she said quietly, though still in a very stern tone. "I swear to Merlin if Mister Weasley gets Hermione pregnant, I will personally castrate him."

It did not escape Filius' notice that Minerva had referred to Miss Granger as Hermione, nor did he miss the look of jealousy in Minerva's eye. Yes, there was something building between the two witches, that was for sure, and it was very likely mutual. Of course, that didn't change the truth in Minerva's comment.

War was no time for romance, even if they could set aside the fact that Miss Granger was still technically a student at Hogwarts, and Minerva was a Professor. Beyond that, no matter how much time passed, the bond that existed between them as teacher and student would never be gone.


1998


Hermione Granger sighed as she stepped into the Gryffindor common room after taking a long, hot shower. After a year on the run hunting Horcruxes, and then the battle to end all battles, it felt absolutely divine to be clean. The high that Hermione was on in that moment ended abruptly when she realized who else was in the common room.

"Professor McGonagall," she sputtered, dropping the towel she'd just been drying her hair with. "What are you doing here?"

Hermione's heart pounded as Minerva looked at her curiously. The eighteen year old had almost forgotten how much it hurt to be around the older witch - around the woman who had stolen her heart almost four years ago. Minerva had been her first love, and Hermione, while she knew nothing could ever come of it, wondered if she'd never be able to move past it.

"I was hiding," Minerva replied with a small smile, "from the chaos. I was hoping to take a minute to get my head on straight before people realize who I am now."

Hermione nodded, understanding. "Headmistress," she said.

"Quite," the battle worn witch confirmed.

"I'll leave you to it, then," Hermione politely stated, moving to leave the room. She hadn't seen the woman in over a year and her presences was still...intoxicating, yet terrifying. Yes, the quicker she left, the better.

"Miss Granger?" Minerva called just before Hermione stepped through the portrait hole.

"Yes, Professor?" Hermione replied, turning around slowly.

Brown eyes met green, and Hermione saw a question dancing in the older woman's gaze. She did not ask it though, but rather nodded curtly. "It was good to see you," she said after a moment. "Do keep in touch."

Hermione nodded curtly, not trusting her voice. Keep in touch? she thought to herself as she sulked down the corridor. No, that was one request she would not be granting. Her only real hope for moving past Minerva McGonagall was time and distance. Things with Ron had finally begun to transition from platonic to romantic, and keeping in touch with the woman she loved would only serve to remind her of what she couldn't have, and make a relationship with Ron seem sour in comparison. The plan was to forget. Hermione Granger liked plans.


1999


Harry Potter stared blankly at the Headmistress, mere hours after he'd finally graduated from Hogwarts. "Say again?"

"I said, I would like to offer you the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor," Minerva replied with a small smile. "Harry, your NEWT scores were through the roof, and while I cannot officially hire you until you take the Mastery exam at the Ministry – an event that takes a single afternoon of your time – though with as well as you did on the NEWTS I'd be shocked if you didn't not only pass the Mastery exam, but set a new record point wise. Also, even if you only did reasonably well on the Mastery exam, I'd still be wanting to hire you, as I need someone qualified to fit the post, and most who were qualified were killed in the war. I also want someone I can trust, and who can help to restore faith in the Wizarding world that Hogwarts is safe for their children. Despite your age, you fit the bill remarkably well."

"I don't quite know what to say. I've had other offers," he said tentatively. "Though I've not said yes to them."

"Ah, but all of them are in the Auror Department , or in a field similar," Minerva replied, smiling. "And while I know it was your ambition to become an Auror, after the last several years, I think your taste for combat and field work is rather soured. Honestly, I'm fully expecting you to say yes. Hogwarts is your home."

Harry broke into a grin. "It took most of my self-control not to hug you when you said it the first time, but I wasn't sure if I was hearing things, and besides, I didn't want to seem too eager."

Minerva laughed. "I'll be eager enough for the both of us. The only other person I'd consider qualified enough is a former Slytherin who made it her mission in life to get under my skin whilst she was a student here. I desperately want you to stay, Harry. I've even moved all your belongings out of the tower and into the teacher's quarters you'll be assigned."

"I'm not really getting much choice in the matter here, am I?"

"No, not really."

"Do you realize that by giving me this job," Harry said, "by extension you're giving a free pass to the Hogwarts Library, for life, to Hermione?"

Harry had been hoping to get another laugh out of his new boss, but to his surprise, the smile that did come seemed very forced. "Of course, Miss Granger will always be welcome at Hogwarts."

She didn't seem to mean what she was saying, but Harry decided that now was not the time to press. He'd always known there was something odd between Hermione and McGonagall – of course, there was the crush Hermione had, years back, had on the older witch. With McGonagall, it was just how easily Hermione always reached her, even when no one else in the wizarding world could. It was like they were connected, but surely nothing had ever come of the crush Hermione used to have.

Even if Hermione had been daft enough to make a move, McGonagall never would have reciprocated. Besides, Hermione wasn't daft. She never had been, for as long as Harry had known his best friend. Still, there was something between them. He just had to figure out what.


2000


Hermione seldom had a chance to make it back to Hogwarts these days. It had been almost two years since graduation, and in that time she'd gotten two Masteries – Potions and Charms – and was a few short months away from gaining the muggle dentistry certification that her parents had insisted on. Even if she never actually practiced, eventually the Dentistry they owned would eventually pass to her, and they wanted her to have the option of continuing on in their stead, or at least knowing enough about the field to know what was a good price to sell the practice for. Hermione knew they were hoping for the former, but she thought she'd probably end up selling.

Anyway: Hogwarts.

It had been months since she'd found time to actually have lunch with Harry, and it was not on a day which he could leave the castle. So, uncomfortable as it would be to be sitting at the same table as Minerva, that was what it took to spent time with her best friend. At least Ron hadn't been able to make it today – it would have been beyond awkward to be sitting at the same table as her boyfriend and the woman she loved more than him.

"Hermione!" Harry called, greeting her as she walking into the entrance hall. "It's great to see you!"

The pair hugged tightly. "Good to see you as well, Harry," Hermione replied. "Shall we go in then?"

"Yeah!" Harry agreed readily. "Neville can't wait to see you. And Pomona, and Filius, and the rest of the staff. You don't come up often enough. I'm a bit surprised – with me working here, you've got run of the Library any time you like!"

"I doubt the Headmistress would want me underfoot quite that much," she said with a small frown.

Harry looked like he wanted to say something in response to that, but elected not to. A minute later, they were walking onto the dais and taking seats. Hermione nearly had a heart attack when of the two empty seats remaining, Harry took the one not next to the Headmistress, leaving the seat beside Minerva Hermione's only option.

The younger woman greeted the Headmistress with a nod, and thanked her for allowing Harry to bring a guest for lunch. Minerva nodded back, stating crisply that it was no problem at all, and for the remainder of the meal Hermione gave Harry her undivided attention. It wasn't until the students began filing out that Hermione realized that Minerva was, in fact, no longer sitting at the table. "Where'd Minerva go?" she asked, forgetting formality for a moment.

Harry raised an eyebrow, but didn't question. "It's Tuesday," he said, shrugging.

"What of it?" Hermione asked, already knowing what day of the week it was.

Pomona, who'd just stood and was walking their way, answered for him. "Every Tuesday, just after lunch, Minerva goes and visits Albus' grave."

Hermione nodded, taking in the information. "Well, to that end, I really must be letting you go. I'm sure most of you have classes to get to, or at least homework to be going over."

Pomona smiled. "Less now that you're not a student here. I dare say, I tease in good humor now, Hermione, but sweet Merlin how I used to dread the short novels you'd turn in week to week!"

Hermione laughed, taking the jibe as well deserved. She'd learned the value of summarization the aftermath of the war. "I'll be sure to tell any child I have and sent to Hogwarts to take it easy on you," she teased back.

Farewells were said, and as Harry, Pomona, and Filius all had classes to get to, and Neville had been too busy in the greenhouses to even make it up to lunch in the first place, Hermione saw herself out. On the walk down to the gate, she passed the path that led to where Albus was laid to rest, and much like she'd felt shortly after his passing, Hermione was inexplicably drawn to Minerva's position.

The lengthened walk gave Hermione time to think about why she was even approaching Minerva, and further, why she'd approached her in the first place three years ago. The answer was simple, really. Hermione loved Minerva, and wanted to comfort her.

Hermione's grandmother had been a convicted Catholic woman, and suddenly the brown eyed witch found herself remembering a passage from the bible that her grandmother had often recited:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

Up to this point, Hermione had always believed that what she felt for Minerva was wrong. Very, very wrong. That said, she'd not kept her feelings to herself – even to the point of lying outright to Neville and Harry a few years back – for her own sake, but rather out of a desire to protect Minerva. Once, she'd have called herself close to Minerva, or at least, closer than most. Yet when Minerva pushed her away, she wasn't angry. She didn't hold it against the older woman. When Harry had been offered the position at Hogwarts, she hadn't been jealous; just happy for her friend and gratified that Minerva would be gaining a valuable employee. The more Hermione thought about her feelings, the more she realized that despite it being wrong, she was at least doing it right. She loved Minerva how someone ought to be loved.

The contrast to how she treated Minerva to how she treated Ron rolled unpleasantly around in her gut, guilt boiling and threatening to escape her lips violently in the form of her lunch being laid to rest next to the Whomping Willow she was presently walking by. She cared deeply for Ron, no mistake, but in contrast… he deserved better. A part of her conscious was screaming that she should turn around, go find Ron at once, and part ways with him in order to save him from a life with someone who would probably never loved him as he deserved to be loved. On the other hand, the selfish part of her knew that if she left Ron, even if she eventually found someone new, she'd ultimately be back to square one, comparing them to Minerva, and them never measuring up.

Selfish overrode her conscious in the form of fear – Hermione didn't want to end up alone. So, she kept walking, a few minutes later coming up behind the stoic Headmistress, once more looking ready to cry but not allowing herself to do so.

"It's alright to cry, you know," Hermione commented.

"Miss Granger," Minerva greeted, turning. "Be that as it may, I can't afford to be seen in a state of emotional breakdown in front of students. So much is expected of me from them, and from their parents. Hell, from the wizarding world at large, for that matter."

"Albus Dumbledore certainly left some large shoes to fill," Hermione agreed. "Though I think perhaps it would be wiser to make your own shoes. His were rather… off the trolley sometimes, don't you think?"

Minerva let out a small laugh. "Quite so," she allowed. "Perhaps you're right… Hermione."

"I do believe that's the first you've ever called me that," the younger woman teased. "I suspect Harry has been rubbing off on you."

"It's actually turned into a grand scheme, I think. I hired Harry, then Pomona took on Neville, and both of them call you by your given name. Of course, Neville rubbed off on Pomona, who rubbed off on Filius, and before I knew what was happening…" Minerva paused for effect. "the whole bloody staff was calling you by your given name and I was the odd one out. I suppose it's time for me to give in and join the proverbial party. Also, as Harry has liberty to call the staff by given names, given that he's faculty as well, that liberty extends to yourself and Ronald as well, I suppose. Besides, you should come by more often. You are missed."

"Missed by you?" Hermione asked before she could stop herself.

"Missed by Hogwarts as a whole," Minerva amended.

The lack of affirmation or denial frustrated Hermione, but she said nothing further. She and Minerva seemed to have met a truce of sorts, and she wasn't about to compromise it now. "Well, I best let you get back to the school, and I should be on my way. I have an afternoon class."

"I thought Harry said you finished both your Charms and Potions Masteries already," Minerva commented. "What on earth are you up to now?"

"Well, today is for the muggle dentistry degree my parents have bullied me into," Hermione said. "Though I'm also about half way through to Herbology Mastery, which is a good cousin study to Potions."

Minerva looked amused. "I'm surprised you haven't gone for Transfiguration. That was your best subject at Hogwarts, if I remember correctly."

"My highest test scores were for Charms, actually, though Transfiguration was second," Hermione replied. "That said, a Mastery in Transfiguration requires successful Animagus transformation, as you know, and while good at every other sort of transfiguration, that one aspect frightens me. Charms is a good field, besides. Plenty of job opportunities."

"And yet, you take a third Mastery in a field to complement Potions," the Headmistress observed.

Hermione offered a nod. "Severus left me his Potions journals in his will, with instructions to eventually write a textbook on the subject. I want to do justice by his task. Likewise, I plan to write a Charms textbook. I'm hoping to get a position on the Educational Board at the Ministry, in due time."

"A well thought out plan, and a more than worthy endeavor," Minerva complemented.

Hermione lived on the memory of those eleven words for the next six months.


2001


"Have you heard the latest about Hermione Granger?" Pomona Sprout asked her boss at dinner.

Minerva smiled, thinking of all the wonderful things her former student had already gone on to do; three masteries, a muggle degree, and a job at the Ministry which would eventually lead to the Educational Board. "What's she done now?"

"She has gotten engaged to Ronald Weasley!" Pomona announced, obviously quite excited about it. "Finally."

Minerva frowned. No, that can't be right. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, Neville told me this morning," was the easy reply. She then lowered her voice, leaning closer to her friend. "I told you she'd move on, dear. Only a matter of time."

Why did she not feel remotely good about this? Minerva wondered to herself, mind wandering back to the conversation they'd had six months prior. Hermione was brilliant – in her own effort to keep the young woman at a safe distance, Minerva realized she'd forgotten just how much she enjoyed an intellectual sparring. Hermione was much the same in that way. Ronald Weasley, for all his good qualities, was not the sort to have an academic discussion with. "He's not good enough for her," Minerva finally reasoned, unconsciously voicing her conclusion. "He can't match her intellect."

Pomona chuckled. "Minerva, the only person alive who could match her on that level is you."

Minerva felt a warmth spread through her at the thought of being Hermione's match, a fact that caught her decidedly off guard. Wait, what? she internally gasped. I don't care for her like that!

Do I?

"Ron Weasley is a good young man," Pomona prattled on. "He's been by her side since they were eleven, so they must suit each other well enough."

An image of Ron Weasley with his clumsy hands all over Hermione formed in Minerva's mind. The level of anger that began to coil in Minerva's gut told her the answer to her own question, shocking her further. All those years of pushing Hermione away…

Yes, I do, she admitted to herself, lowering her eyes, refusing to look her friend in the eye just now.

Minerva had felt regret before, but as she thought back on the look in Hermione's eyes when they had last met, and even further back when they'd crossed paths just after the Battle of Hogwarts, the regret was suddenly overwhelming. Both of those times, she'd seen the love in Hermione's eyes. The love had grown, evolved, and in each instance Minerva recalled thinking that it had evolved into the love of a friendship, much as it had for Neville in his feelings for Pomona. In retrospect, she realized how dead wrong she'd been.

Six months ago had been her last chance to see what she'd tried so hard to pretend wasn't there, waiting in those beautiful brown eyes. Hidesight really was twenty-twenty, she realized, heart breaking over the news that Hermione had finally moved on with her life, and knowing that her own epiphany meant nothing but birth of a might-have-been.

They might have been amazing together.


2002


Pomona had never fussed with an apprentice before, though now that she had Neville working by her side, she wondered why she hadn't done this before. The homework and grading was easy when the student knew the material, and it was more theory than regurgitation. Having another person she could trust with the greenhouses made for increased free time for her to spent with Filius. Also, the company was good. Neville was kind and considerate, and hardworking. He was also rather insightful, which brought Pomona to the question she posed to her protégé. "Neville, have you noticed something… odd between Minerva and your friend Hermione?"

Neville looked at her in surprise. "In what way?"

"Well, they're so hot and cold," Pomona said with a sigh. "Every time it seems like they're getting to be on friendly terms, a switch flips and suddenly they both look very uncomfortable around each other."

"I've always suspected that Hermione had a crush on Minerva, though in recent years I've started wondering if it's become more than that to her," Neville admitted.

"Minerva was aware of that," Pomona replied. "Which is why she kept a distance at first, but Hermione's set to marry Ronald, and they've been dating for a few years before they got engaged. Surely that means she's past those feelings for Minerva."

Neville shook his head. "I think Hermione is settling with Ron. She cares deeply for him, sure, and they'll do alright together, but…"

"But what, Neville?" Pomona asked.

"I don't think Hermione has a crush anymore. I think she's in love with Minerva," Neville replied quietly. "Worse, I think that given time, Minerva will come to realize she loves Hermione as well. By then, however, Hermione will be a married woman, and Minerva being Minerva will suffer alone rather than break up Hermione and Ron."

Pomona considered what Neville was saying. She could see it, all of what he said, though it did disturb her that Minerva would ever see a student, even a previous one, like that. Still, Hermione had never been just a student – there had been nothing left to teach that women by the time she came back for her seventh year, though she did come back, probably just to be close to Minerva. Neville's observation about Minerva being unwilling to break up an existing relationship, no matter how deeply she cared for Hermione, was rather on the mark, though Pomona knew that even if Minerva realized today that she was in love with Hermione, it was already too late. Vows may be yet to be spoken, but Hermione was already wearing a ring that showed she was committed Ron. "It's already too late for them," Pomona whispered.

Neville nodded sadly.


2003


Hermione Granger looked at her reflection in the mirror. She looked nice in this slimming, white gown. She admired what Ginny had done with her hair, up in an elegant bun, and then with a wince she found her thoughts drifting to Minerva, who had always worn her hair in a similar style. Hermione had long ago accepted that what she felt for the older witch - that deep, uncontrollable love - was not going to go away. She also had come to terms with the fact that the woman who had her heart would never return her feelings, and so as hard as it had been to even contemplate, she attempted to move forward with her life. Then, after four years of dating, Ron had gotten down on bended knee and proposed.

Now, two years later, she was five minutes from saying "I do", and while she knew Ron could give her a life and a family, and that he'd be an amazing father when it got to that, she couldn't help but recognize what she was doing. Hermione was settling.

A half hour later, following the words "I now pronounce you man and wife," Hermione forced a smile as a tear drifted down her cheek. She had just made a commitment to a man that didn't have even half of her heart - a man who thought the sobs she was holding back were tears of joy.

Gods, was Ron wrong. The only solace that Mrs. Hermione Wesley found on her wedding day was that the man at her side loved her, and the woman she was trying to move past did not.


2004


It was a few months after the wedding of Ronald and Hermione Weasley than Minerva decided to take a day away from Hogwarts, find a muggle pub, and get properly sloshed. The news of the newest Weasley couple's engagement had hit her hard enough, but the pictures of their wedding two years after Minerva realized she was in love with Hermione Granger, which Pomona had been passing around at dinner the following evening, had ripped her apart.

Regret filled her soul, realizing now that she didn't really give a damn about proprietary, and how she should have attempted to reach out to the woman who had her heart while she was still simply engaged. Betrothals could be called off with a word, but marriage vows were a sacred thing that Minerva did not believe should be broken. It was too late.

At least, she thought she was convicted about that, until the newly wed Hermione Weasley walked into the very pub she had been sitting at for the last two hours. Their eyes met all of five seconds after Hermione walked in, and Minerva saw her own panic reflected in the younger woman's eyes. Hermione began backing away toward the door, stumbling over a chair in the process. The break in eye contact allowed Minerva to snap back to reality and evaluate what that moment meant. Hermione still loved her, she realized, despite having married Ron only months before.

Minerva slid off her stool and staggered over to where Hermione had fallen, offering her a hand up. "Still not over me?" she asked without thinking.

Hermione gulped, but took the outstretched hand. "Could we talk about this...outside?" Hermione asked quietly.

Minerva nodded, and followed the younger woman out of the murky pub and in to the spring moonlight. She knew she was drunk, which should have been enough to make her realize she should stay far, far away from Hermione, but still, her heart lurched at the contact from merely a touch of the younger woman's hand, and she found that she could not resist talking to her, even if it was just for a minute.

"How long have you known?" Hermione asked.

Known what? Minerva asked herself. That Hermione loved her, or that she loved Hermione? Doubtful that the woman she had not seen in person in at least five years could have a clue how she felt, she decided to assume Hermione was talking about her own feelings. "Since you were still a student," Minerva answered. "I decided to forgo the awkward conversation of confronting you, then, as I thought you were smart enough to know nothing could come of it."

"No, that reality did not escape me," Hermione snapped. "And yes."

"Yes?"

"I'm still in love with you," Hermione stated. "How drunk are you, to bring this up now?"

Minerva frowned. "Highly," she replied. "I'm sorry. I should not have said anything."

Hermione just stared at her for a moment, and then before she knew what was happening, the younger woman's lips were on hers, and a deep instinct that said this woman belonged with her gave Minerva enough disregard for who they each were to kiss Hermione back with everything she had.

The battle of tongues and crashing of teeth only lasted a few seconds before Hermione abruptly pulled back. "What the hell?" she gasped.

Minerva furrowed her brow in confusion. "What?"

"You bloody kissed me back!" Hermione accused.

"Yes?" Minerva said slowly, still not understanding what Hermione was going on about.

"You were NOT supposed to do that!" the younger witch shouted. "You…you…Minerva do you…I mean…"

"No," Minerva said, as two things happened. One, she realized Hermione was asking if she felt something too, and two, she sobered up enough to realize that no matter what she did feel, Hermione could never, ever know. She would not destroy a marriage. She could not. So, she lied.

"Then why did you kiss me back?" Hermione demanded.

"I am human, Hermione," Minerva said, truthfully.

"And?"

"And generally when a beautiful woman kisses you, you enjoy the moment and kiss her back." Oh, the lie slipping off her tongue tasted more bitter than anything Minerva had ever known. She knew it was coming before the impact, and knew she rightly deserved it, when Hermione slapped her. More than the sting on her cheek, knowing that she had just grievously hurt Hermione hurt like hell.

"You must really be sloshed, Minerva McGonagall," Hermione hissed. "Because the woman I know and love would never have kissed me like that and treated it like…like…GAH!"

With that said, Hermione turned and apparated away, leaving Minerva standing in the middle of the street, alone. The Headmistress stood there for a while, just staring at the space which Hermione had previously occupied. After a few minutes, she sighed, and make her way back inside the pub. She took long strides back to the bar, and took a seat back on the same stool she'd been using prior to Hermione's arrival. "Just give me a bottle of Whiskey," she said to the bartender. "A glass will not be necessary."


2005


Harry Potter, Defense Professor, marched into the staff room with his jaw set and his expression one of extreme frustration. Filius and Minerva's conversation came to a pause as he slumped into one of the comfortable arm chairs. "Harry, what's wrong?" Filius inquired. "You look ready to hex someone."

"Emily Sprow," Harry ground out, rubbing his forehead.

"Fifth year Hufflepuff?" Minerva asked. "What did she do? She's usually a rather well behaved student."

"She has a crush on me," Harry explained with a growl. "And her attempts at seduction are a disturbing cross of Lavender Brown and Romilda Vane. If I weren't a Professor, I'd have already hexed her to pieces. Please tell me you guys have some advice. You had to have encountered students interested in you before."

Filius chuckled. "I know Minerva has."

Minerva glared. "Filius don't you dare…"

Harry saved Filius the trouble. "Oh, right!" he said perking up. "Hermione had a massive crush on you way back when, right?"

"Hummm," she muttered noncommittally.

"How'd you get her to back off?" Harry asked.

"I did nothing," Minerva stated crisply. "Hermione has good sense, and got over her crush quickly, with absolutely no drama in the process."

"Hermione was pretty easy going as far as teacher-crushes go," Filius agreed. "That said, I know despite his generally rude behavior, Severus had a lot of students interested in him, both male and female. Perhaps you could go to the Head's office and talk to him about it. Or, if you wanted a female perspective, then Professor Sinistra might be willing to offer some insight."

Harry frowned. "Pathetically, I think I'd rather talk to Severus."

Filius chuckled. It was no secret that Sinistra did not think highly of the Boy-Who-Lived, nor did he think particularly well of her. Fortunately, their paths hardly ever crossed outside of staff meetings. "As you will. I'm afraid that it's rather rare for a woman, young or otherwise, to see past my half goblin genetics. I was very lucky to find Pomona."

"Yes you were," Minerva snipped. "It's a wonder she puts up with your tendency to gossip like a woman."

Filius did not justify Minerva's remark with a reply. It rather baffled him how very irritated Minerva got at the mere mention of Hermione, who with Harry and Neville both on staff, was mentioned often. The Head of Ravenclaw had always been good at puzzles, but this one had him baffled. Hermione had been expected to be Minerva protégé, much like Neville was Pomona's, but it was rare that they two women could be in a room together without tension filling the space to the point of choking. Why was that?


2006


Rose Minerva Weasley had born in the early morning hours of that day. Hermione had debated on the wisdom of naming her daughter after the woman, despite their last encounter, she was still in love with.

Still, Ron had liked the name, and thought it was proper to name their child after a war hero. Hermione figured he was just trying to copy Harry and Ginny, who's second son had been born a few months ago and been named after two Headmasters of Hogwarts.

Hermione had done a lot of thinking since her run in with Minerva two years prior. The kiss…oh, God, what a kiss…had obviously meant nothing to Minerva, and while it had hurt tremendously to hear that two letter word come out of the older witch's mouth, in reality, it should not have surprised her. She already knew Minerva didn't think of her that way. The kiss, which she had been the one to initiate, had been a moment of boldness on her part after seeing the look of apprehension in Minerva's eyes when she'd walked into the muggle pub. At first, Hermione had thought that the look had meant that Minerva felt something for her, too, but in retrospect the look was probably just the Headmistress of Hogwarts feeling uncomfortable with the notion of a student, albeit a former one, finding her in a muggle bar, quite drunk.

That said, if she was going to name her daughter after the woman, she really should send an Owl to Hogwarts to personally inform her of the birth. She hoped that Minerva would take it as an extended olive branch, and that perhaps they could find a way to make their next encounter, who knew where or when, less dramatic. If she was very lucky, Minerva might have been so drunk that night that she had no memory of the event in question. Granted, Minerva was Scottish, and anyone with a brain knew it was in their blood to hold their liquor.


2007


Minerva smiled softly as Hermione's Owl flew through her window. After Rose's birth, the two had begun corresponding via Owl about this and that. Things were amicable between them, though neither had ever brought up their last, in-person encounter, nor did they bring up anything relating to their personal feelings. It was mostly academic discussions, though sometimes they talked about what was going on in their work lives. As far as Minerva was concerned, things could stay like that forever – it was the only safe course of action for any relationship with the brilliant, beautiful, younger witch.

She opened the Owl and her smile grew wider. Hermione had given birth again – a son this time. Hugo Frederick…Weasley. Minerva's smile faltered at the name Weasley. Hermione always signed her name Granger when they corresponded, so she usually didn't have to get the reminded that the woman she loved belongs to someone else…not that she could forget.

"Damn it all," Minerva muttered.


2008


Harry had been heading to the staff room after his classes let out for the day, but he stopped short of the door when he heard Pomona mention running into Hermione the weekend before, and Minerva's exasperated reply of, "Can we just not talk about her for one day?!"

"What is with you two?!" Pomona's own irritated voice rang out, prompting Harry to pull his Invisibility Cloak out of his satchel and put it on. His instincts said he needed to here this conversation.

"Nothing, Pomona," Minerva snapped back. "I just… nothing. Absolutely nothing."

"It doesn't sound like nothing," Pomona said, more gently this time. "Come on, Minerva. We've been friends for decades. Just get whatever it is off your chest."

Harry watched the contorting expressions on Minerva's face – anger, to sadness, to resignation, finally settling on relief. "Do you remember that Hermione had a crush on me years ago?" she asked her friend.

"Of course," Pomona replied. "I was the one who pointed it out to you, if I remember right."

"Obviously, I felt nothing for her…"

"I'd bloody well hope not…"

"…then," Minerva finished quietly. "I felt nothing for her…then."

Harry remained still. You could have heard a pin drop as Pomona digested exactly what her friend was saying. Harry himself was too shocked to even begin to process the idea.

"Minerva…" Pomona whispered, "Are you saying that you're in love with her?"

The Headmistress nodded meekly. "I didn't realize until after she and Ronald had gotten engaged. Despite what I feel… despite what she has grown to feel for me… I'm not sure it ever really was just a crush, Pomona. I'm in love with her, and she's in love with me."

"Does she know how you feel?"

"No!" Minerva stated quickly. "Nor will she ever know. I will not be party to breaking up a marriage and a family. Nothing will ever come of what we feel for one another, as it should be. It's wrong."

"Can't say I disagree there," Pomona said sadly. "As much as I am saddened to see you hurting like this, I do understand the choice you've made."

Harry understood too, but it made him sick to think of. Not that he was at all against two women being together, or even two men for that matter, but Ron and Hermione were his best friends, and they had two children together. Breaking up a relationship was one thing, but breaking up a family was another entirely. Rose and Hugo deserved to grow up with a mother and a father in the same house. Harry wanted those two kids to have everything he'd never had. It wasn't that he didn't think Minerva would make a good parent to them, or that the kids wouldn't still have a relationship with both Ron and Hermione if they were to split up, but that was a broken picture, and he wanted them to have better than that. So, despite one part of him wishing he could tell Hermione that she wasn't alone in her feelings for Minerva, he knew he couldn't, and vowed that he never would.


2009


Hermione was being run ragged by her two year old son and three and a half year old daughter, but neither her busy life, nor her ever nagging notion that she was an idiot for doing so, she continued to make time to write Minerva. Her initial thought when Minerva first sent her an Owl about an article in Transfiguration Today was that if Minerva was writing her at all, then she must not remember the night they'd kissed, and if that was the case, she might as well enjoy what little she could get of a relationship with the older witch. After all, it would be a one in a million chance for her to ever bump into Minerva that drunk again, and even if she did, she would certainly be smart enough to learn from her mistakes and run like hell the next time.

So for the last three and a half years, the two had Owled back and forth, once or twice a week. She both loved and hated those letters. It was an amazing high when Minerva's snowy white Owl glided into her kitchen at breakfast time, but on the days that the morning meal passed with no letter from the Headmistress, Hermione found herself moping for the better part of the afternoon. It was rare for a letter from Minerva to come any other time of day. She admitted once to writing the letters in the evenings, and then sending them off just before heading to breakfast in the Great Hall, in the morning.

It was like a drug addiction, really. Hermione knew she could not cut Minerva off, no matter how desperately she knew she should. With each passing letter, Hermione fell more and more in love with the older woman, and less in love with her husband. Ron was wonderful, admittedly, but he wasn't her. He never would be. She'd known that she was settling when she married him.

Back then, Hermione had hoped that Ron would be enough – that the family they would build was worth being in a marriage that Hermione didn't believe she deserved to be a part of. Oh, aside from that kiss, Hermione had been faithful to Ron, physically. On the emotional side of things, however, Hermione's heart belonged to Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts, more and more as each year came and went.


2010


The downside to attempting to have a relationship with Hermione, and allowing it to continue to grow within the bounds of friendship, was that when Hermione began writing about her marital problems to Minerva, problems like this arose.

Only last night, Hermione had Owled her and confided that Ron had cheated on her. This morning, she'd had to go into the Ministry of Magic to get this terms list of muggleborn families to be contacted, and had run into none other than Auror Weasley.

She hadn't really thought about it – she simply saw him, and drew her wand. She smirked at the look of confusion on his face when she pointed it at him, which had morphed into a tight lipped, unattractive, ginger weasel about five seconds later. He squealed. She had then proceeded to hit him with a few stinging hexes, an activity which she would have gladly let go on for a good while, had Kingsley Shacklebolt not arrived and ordered her to stop.

He had ordered her off the property, and she was now back at Hogwarts trying to explain to Filius, her Deputy, why he would have to make the runs to the Ministry for the next year, until the restraining Order that Ron Weasley had filed against her expired.

On the upside, when she'd Owled Hermione to apologize for her behavior, the younger witch had promptly written back and said that the only thing she had to apologize for was not inviting Hermione to bear witness to the event.

While one would think that Hermione's understanding about what she'd done to Ron meant that everything was fine, Minerva didn't think so. The lack of self-control that she'd displayed told Minerva that like it or not, simply being friends with the woman she was in love with was too much to bear. If she'd done something to truly harm her husband, Hermione may not have been so forgiving, and if their relationship, for what it was worth, had to end, then she preferred it to end on a peaceful note rather in response to an epic fight that was bound to happen has the years passed and her feelings for the younger woman continued to grow. Perhaps, she reasoned, her feelings would stop growing if she stopped speaking to Hermione – and so she resolved to do just that.

No goodbye Owl…just silence.


2011


Pomona walked into Minerva's office on a whim to visit her friend. "What are you writing?" she asked, seeing the other witch at her desk, quill in hand. "I though you already finished the Board correspondence."

"Ronald Weasley's restraining order finally expired last week. I was thinking of writing Hermione," Minerva confessed.

"Accio quill!"

Minerva's quill flew out of her hand, and into Harry Potter's, who had entered the office quite unnoticed by the two witches. The Headmistress offered her Defense Professor a stern glance. "Can I help you, Mr. Potter?" she asked stiffly.

Pomona looked at Harry, and saw that he was struggling to find the words for what he wanted to say. "Don't write her," he finally said. "Please, Minerva, don't write her. Just let her go."

Pomona and Minerva both gaped at him, neither aware he had so much as a clue that there was any reason Minerva shouldn't be writing Hermione. "Let her… go?" Minerva asked stiffly. "Harry, there's nothing to let go. We'd barely begun to form a friendship when…"

"Yeah, I know what happened at the Ministry with Ron," Harry said. "He's rather upset that I continue to work here, to be honest. Of course, Ginny puts him in line. That aside, I know, okay? I know Hermione loves you, and I know you love her just as much – I overheard you two talking about it three years ago."

The room was silent for a bit, but eventually Minerva spoke. "Does Hermione know?"

Harry knew what she meant. "I haven't told her anything. But back to the point, Hermione is bloody smart, you know that. If you start writing again now, you'll tip your hand. She will figure it out, and then what do you suppose will happen?"

"Angst, betrayal, drama, hurt…" Pomona provided, agreeing with Harry. Minerva should be staying far, far away from Hermione.

"Thank you, Pomona," Minerva stated crisply. "Very well Harry. I will do as you ask."

Pomona watched as Minerva put away her ink and parchment, as well as the quill when Harry walked over and offered it back to her. Her face was set, emotionless, but Pomona had known her friend for years, and she knew that the Scottish woman's face only got that stiff when she was forcing herself not to cry.

Minerva's heart was breaking, and there was nothing Pomona could do that would change the facts.


2012


It had been almost two years since Minerva had written her, and after no reply to her countless Owls in inquiry to the reason for the cease and desist of contact, Hermione had reached her limit. She had told herself she'd give Minerva a year to explain, but when the year passed and nothing happened, she found herself spending another ten months seeking the nerve to confront the older woman. Children left at Ginny's, Hermione apparated to Hogwarts on a Saturday evening, determined to speak to the Headmistress.

It was Easter Break, so not many students were around, though the ones who did looked curiously at the well-known war heroine as she strode purposefully toward the Head's office. She had nearly gotten there what a familiar voice called her name.

"Hermione?"

She turned around to face Neville Longbottom, a long-time friend who was now teaching the lower Herbology classes at Hogwarts. "Hello, Neville."

"What are you doing here?" he asked curiously.

"Looking for the Headmistress," she said coolly, unable to keep the frustration she felt for Minerva out of her tone.

Neville raised an eyebrow. "What's going on between you two?" he asked gently, reminding her of a conversation they'd had years and years before. "After we graduated, you guys avoided each other, and then you started talking after Rose was born, and then the last few years, back to a avoiding each other. I doubt I'm the only one who noticed…"

Hermione stiffened. "It's…complicated, Neville. And something I don't want to talk about. That said, Minerva currently avoiding me is why I need to see her. Is she in her office?"

"Her quarters," Neville said quietly. "You remember the way?"

"Yes," Hermione confirmed. "Thank you."

"Hermione," he said in parting. "I hope you two can work out whatever it is…I mean, I've never met two people more alike. Everyone here was actually surprised when you didn't do what I did – come back to teach, I mean. You were Minerva's protégé, like I was Pomona's. You were meant to be here, with her."

Tears threatened to escape Hermione's eyes at Neville's comments. "It's just not that simple," she said. "See you around."

She turned to leave, taking quick strides all the way to Minerva's quarters. When she got there, she took out her wand, ready in case the older woman was less than welcoming, and knocked.

The door opened a moment later, and the smile that Minerva had been planning to show whoever she thought was at the door vanished abruptly, replaced by wide eyes and paling skin. "What are you doing here?"

"Let me in," Hermione said tightly. "Or I will blast this door open by force. No word for two years, Minerva. I need to know why."

"Bugger off, Hermione," Minerva snapped. "We have nothing to say to each other."

"We had plenty to say for almost four years before you stopped talking to me!" the younger witch snapped, pushing her way past Minerva and into the older woman's quarters.

"Your husband put a restraining order on me, remember?" Minerva said, slamming the door closed and joining her uninvited guest in the den.

"Because you turned him into a weasel."

"He cheated on you."

"And it was not your place to punish him!"

"That's not what you thought two years ago," Minerva reminded her sharply.

Hermione remembered. "I didn't say he didn't deserve it, but that set aside, the restraining order expired ten months ago, at which point your valid excuse for blowing me off was null and void."

"Maybe I liked the peace and quiet and decided to keep it that way," the older witch thundered, turning to a cabinet, pulling out a bottle of whiskey, and pouring a large glass.

Hermione groaned. "Really, you want to go down this path? I could kiss you again and we could relive the rest of that night."

The fury in Minerva's eyes was almost tangible. "DO – NOT – BRING – THAT – UP," she hissed.

"Don't like being reminded that you got so sloshed that you kissed a former, female, student?" Hermione challenged. Well, if all cards were on the table, she figured she might as well bring out her ace.

"Not particularly!"

"Why the hell were you so drunk that night, anyhow?" Hermione asked, voice lowering, a mixture of curiosity and concern blanketing the fury she was feeling.

"I do not answer to you, Mrs. Weasley," Minerva said coldly.

Magic crackled in the air around them. The stench of burning rubber seemed to permeate the room, though nothing was burning. Hermione broke down in tears, all of the years of anguish seemingly coming to a head here, and now. "Why did you cut me off, Minerva?" she whispered. "If you never speak to me again, please just answer me that."

Minerva sighed, and adjusted her glasses. "Hermione, the fact of the matter is you have feelings for me – why, I'll never know – and I simply cannot continue to lead you on to believe we could ever be more than we were fifteen years ago. You have a husband, and two beautiful children. Go home to them, and for the love of Merlin don't seek me out again."

Soul laid bare, and heart broken in too many pieces to count, Hermione nodded, turned around, and left.


2013


Minerva glanced up from the article in Charms Weekly she'd been reading at the sound of a soft knock on the door of her quarters. It was late – by now most of the students would be in bed, and most of the staff right along with them. With the Quidditch match this afternoon, everyone was tired from a day of… frivolity. "Enter," she called, thinking it was Filius or Pomona.

It was not Filius or Pomona.

"Hello, Minerva," Hermione Weasley offered quietly. "I apologize for the hour, but…"

"I told you not to seek me out again, Hermione," Minerva replied, setting down the periodical.

"I know, I know," the younger woman admitted. "But I have a question – just one, and if your answer is no, I promise, I will never approach you again. That said, don't you dare lie to me."

Minerva sighed. "Go ahead, ask your question."

"Are you in love with me?"

Minerva stared numbly at the other woman for a minute, knowing that even if Hermione hadn't just told her not to lie, she would have told the truth anyway. That said, Minerva had been so careful not to let Hermione find out; what had given her away? She supposed it didn't matter at this juncture. The only thing that mattered, the only thing she could give Hermione and still not compromise either of their integrities was the truth when asked for it point blank.

She nodded once, slowly.

"Minerva, look at me," Hermione requested.

It wasn't until she had that she realized that Hermione had moved closer to her – close enough to touch. "Hermione…" she murmured.

"I am in love with you," Hermione whispered. "And you are in love with me."

"Yes," Minerva confirmed. "But it doesn't change anything, dearest. You are married. You have a family. I will not be party to…"

The rest of whatever Minerva had meant to say was cut off and forgotten as Hermione's lips crashed into her own. She kissed the younger woman back, enjoying it a good deal more this time than she had the last, being sober enough to relish in the taste and sensations. The fury of their movements caused stumbling and movement around the room as one push was met with one step to regain balance, until the pair collapsed in front of the warm fireplace, and Hermione began to pull off her coat.

She's just warm, Minerva tried to justify. We'll stop this nonsense in just a …

"Want you," Hermione murmured, pushing aside the outer robe Minerva had been wearing, and cupping Minerva's breast, now only shielded by a light, linen nightgown.

"Gods," the older woman moaned, moving to pull Hermione's sweater off, then hiking up her nightgown so she could spread her legs and wrap them around Hermione's slender hips. By the time she'd gotten that far, Hermione had managed to shimmy out of her jeans and knickers, and her own remaining clothing followed in short order.

They were naked.

Hermione's fingers slid easily into Minerva's wet core, bringing her to climax in a matter of seconds. Minerva rolled, pushing Hermione's back against the soft carpet, and her own fingers began to roam the depths of Hermione's body. Her lips took in a highly erect nipple.

They were making love.

Minerva held Hermione close as she pumped furiously, excited at the sounds the younger witch was making, and bringing her to the edge and beyond a few minutes later. Hermione screamed, and Minerva smiled, for the first time in years feeling completely at peace. The feeling didn't last long though, as being truly happy reminded her of what she hadn't been of late, which reminded her of who was writhing under her, and why this shouldn't be happening.

They had to stop.

Her eyes darted around the room as Hermione relished in the afterglow of orgasm, and she spotted where her wand was lying on the floor just within her reach. "I love you so much Minerva," Hermione whispered, eyes closed as she panted.

"As I love you," Minerva choked out, fingers touching her wand. She was never going to forgive herself for tonight – not for what she'd just done, and not for what she was about to do. "Obliviate," she whispered.

Half an hour later, Hermione found herself in Minerva's quarters, having forgotten the previous hour completely, and believing that she had just asked her question. "Are you in love with me?"

"No," Minerva whispered. "Please Hermione. Go home to your husband."

She nodded, seemingly accepting of the answer, and Minerva's jaw remained set as she stood there alone in her quarters, unmoving despite the fact that the younger woman had walked out her door nearly ten minutes prior. A scream of anguish echoed down the adjoining halls, signaling the beginning of the sea of tears Minerva had just begun to cry.


2014


Pomona watched as Minerva left the staff room after their weekly meeting, looking every bit as sedate as she had every day for the last six months. The Herbology Professor had heard from Neville that Hermione had come by the castle late one evening, about six months ago, and Minerva hadn't been the same since. She doubted she was the only one who had noticed.

The staff continued to file out, but Pomona remained, just thinking things over. What had happened that night? The last time she'd seen Minerva in this state, it had been after the death of her brother Robert, whom she had been late in meeting the day he'd been attacked by Death Eaters. It was the look she wore when coping with guilt. Perhaps Minerva and Hermione had kissed – that would certainly explain some of the guilt she was feeling, but Pomona thought that there was something more to it.

"Have you any idea what's going on with Minerva?" Filius asked, reaching out to touch his wife's arm. I've tried to get her to talk about it several times, but she won't budge."

Pomona sighed. She hated hiding things from Filius, but up to this point she'd done so out of respect for the confidence Minerva had placed in her. Now, she didn't feel equipped to deal with their floundering Headmistress alone, and as her Deputy, Filius did have the right to know. "I don't know what happened exactly, but I imagine it has something to do with Hermione," she whispered.

"How so?" he asked, looking confused.

"Filius, dear, you are aware that the former Miss Granger had a crush on Minerva, yes?" she started to explain.

He nodded for her to continue.

"That feeling developed. Hermione is in love with Minerva, and just after Hermione got engaged to Ron Weasley, Minerva realized that…" Pomona paused, looking at her husband apologetically. For all the Ravenclaw wisdom in the world, he had such a difficult time seeing Minerva as human. She was an icon of integrity to him. "Well, she realized that she was likewise in love with Hermione."

Filius looked shocked, which didn't surprise her. "Are you…" he squeaked. "Are you suggesting they've had an affair?"

"Nothing of the sort, love," she assured him. "Just that the feelings have been mutual, and Minerva has kept silent about it for the last thirteen years. It's eating her alive, yet she's dead set on never telling Hermione the truth."


2015


It had been nearly two years since her last contact with Hermione, but Minerva still dreamt about that night. As much as her memory knew that she had done what she had for the sake of the family Hermione had built, her heart knew that she had done it because she was scared.

Scared of what she and Hermione could have been.

Scared of a friendship turning into a tool of destruction of many lives.

Scared of failing in a parental role for Rose and Hugo, should she and Hermione have begun a life together. Her own parents had left her in the care of House Elves till she was eleven, and then made it clear that she should stay at Hogwarts over the holidays. Summers in her youth had been lonely times in the Scottish Highlands, with only a few people, muggles, around for company. Her parents and both been off doing their own things.

She had become a teacher because that's what it took to stay at Hogwarts – the only true home she'd ever known. She had never married because she was afraid she'd be a bad parent, like her own were for her. Love had found her a few times though the years, but nothing that had lasted.

In the case of Hermione, she knew beyond any doubt at this point that the younger woman was the perfect match she'd been hoping to find all of her life, and should she have let the other woman in, Minerva knew that when things went badly, as they always had in Minerva's relationship history, it would kill her.

She was scared of losing Hermione. So, instead of risking that loss, Minerva simply pushed the beautiful young woman away, no matter how many chances she was given to step up and tell Hermione the truth. It didn't matter one way or another, she mused, as so long as Hermione was married, she was out of bounds even if Minerva did find the nerve to tell Hermione how much she loved her.

"Why are you crying, Minerva?"

The Headmistress turned to face the portrait of Albus Dumbledore, her former boss and dear friend of many years. She wiped away the tears she hadn't realized she'd let fall before replying. "It's nothing, Albus."

"You look like your heart is breaking, my dear," he prodded. "Talk to me."

"The timing was off," she muttered. "When I realized how she felt, I was too stupid to see I felt the same. When I finally came to terms with who I'd fallen in love with, she was engaged to someone else. Now, she's married, with children…and I cut her off because it was the right thing to do…"

"The right thing to do?" Albus asked. "Is she happy in her marriage…and out of curiosity…who is she?"

"How would I know?" Minerva snapped. "We haven't spoken in two years, and before then our conversations were sporadic at best. When we were talking regularly…she told me he had cheated on her…but I've heard no word of a divorce so they must have reconciled."

Albus popped a lemon drop in his mouth, awaiting the answer to his other question.

"Fine," Minerva huffed. "Hermione. Granger. Or rather, Weasley."

"Ahh…" Albus said. "If she loved you before she married Mr. Weasley, had it occurred to you she may have simply settled? That given the choice, she'd choose you?"

Minerva nodded. "I know that's what she did. Were that not the case, she would have left him when he stepped outside of their marriage. However, that was her choice. Once she was married, any chance of us being together was gone."

"But you've never let on that you feel the same," Albus pointed out, "so how is that fair to her? I'm not suggested you seek her out for the purpose of an affair, but were you to present to her how you feel, might she leave the man she is probably not happy with, so she would be free to be with you?"

"She might," Minerva agreed. "Which is why I will never tell her. In the end, I love her too much to be that selfish – I could not give her a reason to destroy her life, especially when she deserves so much better than me, anyway."

"You are a fool, Minerva," Albus said sadly.

"If that is so, then a fool I shall remain," was the tear filled reply.


2016


Neville had never been one for large social gatherings, but his grandmother had passed away a few months ago, and as such, Molly Weasley had insisted that he join them at the Burrow for Christmas dinner. The young man was a bit grateful that the only Weasley daughter was already married to a great bloke, thereby saving him the trouble of dealing with Molly trying to set him up with one of her offspring, just to make him being part of the family official. Harry had never stood a chance, though he did seem happy with Ginny, so that was good.

Harry, at the present, was regaling some of the kids with tales of Hogwarts, both as a student and as a teacher. Neville couldn't help but notice Hermione sitting in the corner quietly, very obviously trying not to cry every time Minerva came up in one of the stories. Neville sort of wanted to slug Harry for being so insensitive – he knew just as well as Neville did that there was something between the Headmistress and their mutually adopted sister.

Neville wished there was something he could do for Hermione, but how could he help if she wouldn't talk about it? Ultimately, she may end up paying a heavy price that wouldn't have been necessary to pay had she just asked for help. This worried him.


2017


Hermione laughed as Ginny relayed the latest of her daughter Lily's antics. The nine year old had covered her brothers' brooms with crazy glue after she'd heard they were planning on going for a fly in the nude, simply to say they'd done it. The embarrassment of the eleven and thirteen year old boys had been epic in proportions, when they had to get Ginny's help to get unstuck.

Just then, an Owl fluttered into the living room where the two women were hiding from the summer heat. It dropped a letter on Hermione's lap, and was off again without even waiting for a treat. Hermione picked it up, and then promptly dropped it again as if it was on fire, when she saw the Hogwarts crest. "Oh, God."

Ginny leaned over to see. "Hogwarts? Probably just Rose's school letter," the red haired woman mused. "Albus got his a few weeks ago. Her birthday is tomorrow, right?"

"Yes, of course that's it," Hermione breathed. Her hands were shaking. It had been years since she'd seen that crest – years since Minerva had last written her.

"Okay, so why do you look like you just about had a heart attack?" Ginny asked, brow furrowing.

"I thought it was from…never mind." Hermione shook her head. "Bloody hell, I am ridiculous."

"McGonagall?" Ginny asked, voice lowering.

Hermione looked up sharply at her friend and sister-in-law. "What?"

"Come on, Hermione," Ginny said. "Neville told me that you and McGonagall had a huge fight a few years back…and I have noticed that you look like you want to cry every time she or Hogwarts comes up in conversation. What happened between you two?"

Hermione caressed the envelope, thinking. She had never told anyone about the kiss, or about anything that led up to that night. Suddenly, she realized that she really had no reason to hide it from Ginny. Ten or fifteen years ago, she would have felt that Ginny would question her commitment to Ron because of it, but after all these years of marriage, surely she had proved herself. After all, Ron had been the one to have an affair…and she never had. It would be good to tell someone. Perhaps, she hoped, telling Ginny would help her move past the love she'd been virtually crippled by for the better part of the last two decades.

And so Hermione told Ginny everything. She told her about falling in love with the woman she couldn't have, and about the encounter with a drunken Minerva and the kiss that they shared. She related the beginnings of a friendship after Rose's birth, and the joy and the pain that the letters they exchanged brought her. She detailed out what happened the night she went to Hogwarts, and the fight that ended everything. She didn't leave a single detail out, and two hours later, she found herself sobbing on Ginny's shoulder, exhausted by the magnitude of what it meant now that Rose was going to Hogwarts.

"You'll have to see her again, soon," Ginny whispered, stroking Hermione's hair.

"I don't know if I can, but Ron won't go near her," the elder of the two woman whimpered. "I just…none of it makes a bit of sense. There were moments over the years that I wonder if she felt something too, but she has been steadfast in denying anything of the sort."

"And if she did love you in return, Hermione, what then?" Ginny asked. "Would you leave Ron and the kids to be with a woman, who by what I'm hearing, has hurt you over and over and over again?"

Hermione just stared. Would she? Could she? Despite her and Ron's problems, past and present, they had built a good life together. Rose and Hugo needed her. They deserved more than a broken family. "I want to say no, Ginny," Hermione confessed. "But if presented with the option…if she…I…Ginny I love Ron, I really do, but Minerva has had my heart and soul for the better part of my life."

"That's not an answer," Ginny frowned.

"I know, but it's the best I can give," Hermione sighed.

"I'm sorry, hun," Ginny lamented. "I can't imagine what you've been through with her. She is a remarkable woman…perhaps she, knowing how you felt, thought pushing you away would help, not make it worse."

"There is no better or worse," Hermione whispered. "Just agony if I'm with her, and agony if I'm not."


2018


Filius watched with a frown on his face as Minerva unleashed her legendary Scottish temper onto a particular second year Gryffindor. Rose Weasley did not seem particularly phased by this, which seemed to fuel Minerva's ire further. It wasn't even a huge infraction that had earned Rose this lecture in the Head's office. If Filius had known Minerva would react like this, he would have dealt with the child on his own, despite the fact that a child who puts themselves in harm's way was supposed to be dealt with by Hogwarts' Head. After all, Albus often had Minerva deal with such cases, there was no reason that as Deputy, he couldn't bend the same rule.

"You will serve two weeks of detention with Professor Flitwick here," Minerva finished crisply. "Rest assured, Miss Weasley, that if you ever put yourself or another student in that kind of danger again, I will expel you. Your uncle will be able to stop me."

Rose's face fell a bit at that comment. Perhaps, Filius mused, Rose thought herself immune to any serious punishment because her uncle was Harry Potter; both a Professor at this school, and a famous man beside the point. She was certainly in for a shock, if that was her mindset.

"That will be all, Miss Weasley," Minerva said, dismissing the now quaking young lady.

"Run along, child," Filius ordered softly. "Stay after class tomorrow and we'll sort out your detention then. I require a word with Professor McGonagall at the present."

As soon as the red haired girl with eyes just like her mother's was gone, Filius turned to his boss, frowning.

"What?" Minerva spat out, sitting on her loveseat.

"That was out of line, Minerva," he said in an even, hard tone. "Just because she is a product of Hermione's union with Ronald Weasley does not give you the right to take out your anger on an innocent child!"

"What do you know of it?" Minerva asked angrily.

"I know you're in love with Hermione," Filius stated. "And as much as I sympathize, and as much as I agree with the choice you've made to keep away from her, I still cannot condone your treatment of Rose, or should the occasion arise, of her brother Hugo."

"Is that all, Professor?"

Filius nodded, knowing he would get her to see reason while she was still so angry. That said, for this point forward, he'd be personally handling any discipline for the siblings. He'd tell Rose as much tomorrow, and have her pass on to her brother to always come to himself if they needed something.


2019


Minerva remembered the excuses she'd made to Filius to get him to handle the enrollment process of Rose Weasley, and then the following year, of her brother Hugo. She had managed to avoid Hermione completely since their last encounter, here at the school six years ago. As Headmistress, she rarely had to interact with Rose or Hugo, though when she did, it was decidedly uncomfortable. She was cold toward them in a way she had never been while Hermione was a student, and with every encounter, every hurt expression coming from the brown eyes they'd both gotten from their mother, Minerva felt worse and worse.

Filius had been right - they didn't deserve her harsh cadence. They didn't deserve to be singled out simply because they were her children. Hell, she didn't deserve to the daily agony nine months out of the year seeing Hermione's children at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And so, she made a decision.

The Headmistress of twenty years walked into her deputy's office without even knocking. The only reason she knew she could get away with doing this, only a few weeks before start of the term, was because Filius had been training his replacement as Charms Professor for six years now, and only taught the NEWT level classes. "Filius," she said sharply. "Effective immediately, consider me retired."

The look on his face would have been funny if she didn't know he was about to ask the reason why.

"Minerva," he finally said. "You said you expected to stay on for another five years. What changed?"

"You were right… about why I treat Rose and Hugo so badly," she confessed.

"In fairness, Pomona told me you were in love with Hermione," Filius admitted. "I can see it now, but before she pointed me in the right direction, I'm a bit ashamed of home clueless I was."

"Oh Filius," Minerva sighed. "Pomona doesn't know the half of it. Hell, Hermione doesn't even know…"

Her voice trailed off as she remembered.

They were naked.

Hermione's fingers slid easily into Minerva's wet core, bringing her to climax in a matter of seconds. Minerva rolled, pushing Hermione's back against the soft carpet, and her own fingers began to roam the depths of Hermione's body. Her lips took in a highly erect nipple.

They were making love.

Minerva held Hermione close as she pumped furiously, excited at the sounds the younger witch was making, and bringing her to the edge and beyond a few minutes later. Hermione screamed, and Minerva smiled, for the first time in years feeling completely at peace. The feeling didn't last long though, as being truly happy reminded her of what she hadn't been of late, which reminded her of who was writhing under her, and why this shouldn't be happening.

They had to stop.

"I love you so much Minerva."

"As I love you… obliviate…"

Minerva told Filius everything; the ups, the downs, the rights and the unforgiveable wrongs. She told him why she'd done the various things she had, and how her resistance to even consider going after love was more about fear than about propriety, and how ashamed she was of herself for both the cowardice and for the failing moral standards she'd built her life around. He listened silently, not commending or criticizing anything, and did so until she concluded her tale with a final thought.

"I just can't do it anymore, my friend," she whispered. "I can't see them… I can't see her eyes every single day at meals, and keep pretending that I haven't been dying a little bit each day since she came into my life. I just… can't.

He nodded, for once not arguing. "Harry will be my choice for deputy, as Pomona would be a conflict of interest. Do you think he's ready for that?"

Minerva chuckled. "I'm less worried about Harry being ready, and more worried that Severus may not be ready to handle the fact that Harry will likely be Headmaster in the not so distant future."

"Quite so," Filius agreed.

"I'll start packing my things this evening, after I get the paperwork in order for the change of Headship," Minerva stated after a pause, smiling as she said so. "I do wish you the best of luck, dear Filius."

"As I wish it for you, Minerva," he agreed. "Though do say you won't be a stranger. It will be rather odd to not having you in the castle. I don't think I even remember a Hogwarts without you."

"If you can find the time for me," she agreed. "Contrary to popular belief, being Head of Hogwarts is not an easy task. The only reason I managed as well as I did at the beginning was because I'd been doing most of Albus' paperwork for decades by the time the Headship fell to me."

"Well don't tell me that now," he muttered. "I've already agreed to take the position!"


2020


"Want you," Hermione murmured, pushing aside the outer robe Minerva had been wearing, and cupping Minerva's breast, now only shielded by a light, linen nightgown.

"Gods," the older woman moaned, moving to pull Hermione's sweater off, then hiking up her nightgown so she could spread her legs and wrap them around Hermione's slender hips. By the time she'd gotten that far, Hermione had managed to shimmy out of her jeans and knickers, and her own remaining clothing followed in short order.

They were naked.

Hermione's fingers slid easily into Minerva's wet core, bringing her to climax in a matter of seconds. Minerva rolled, pushing Hermione's back against the soft carpet, and her own fingers began to roam the depths of Hermione's body. Her lips took in a highly erect nipple.

They were making love.

Minerva held Hermione close as she pumped furiously, excited at the sounds the younger witch was making, and bringing her to the edge and beyond a few minutes later. Hermione screamed…

And woke up. "UGH!" Hermione groaned.

"What?" Ron grumbled from his side of their bed.

"Nothing," she whispered in a soothing voice, urging him back to sleep. A minute later he was snoring and she got up, knowing from experience that she'd not be going back to sleep, even if it was a Saturday. Besides, she'd planned to meet Ginny for breakfast a café in Diagon Alley they both liked, and he alarm would have woken her in another half hour anyway.

Hermione took her time getting ready, thoughts resting on Minerva, and on the dream she'd had over and over again over the last six or seven years. Mind, she'd had plenty of other dreams about Minerva in such a manner before that, and since, but since the last conversation she'd had with the woman who had her heart, this particular dream disturbed her sleep over and over again. Perhaps Ginny could offer some insight on it, she mused as she moved to the fireplace, preparing to Floo out to the Leaky Cauldron, where she was to meet her sister-in-law.

"Hey, Hermione!" Ginny greeted on the other side, in her usual artificially induced chipperness. Ginny had discovered the joy of coffee during their Hogwarts years, and had become rather dependent on it in the years since. If Ginny was pleasant before nine in the morning, it meant she'd already been through a cup of joe.

"Good morning, Ginny," Hermione smiled. She herself favored tea as she always had, which was not nearly as caffeinated. She'd finish waking up during breakfast. "Shall we?"

Ginny nodded, and they walked and talked, comparing notes on how their respective children were doing at Hogwarts. That conversation had dried up by the time they arrived at the café, allowing them to pick up a new topic once they'd placed their orders. "So," Ginny asked. "I say this with love, but you look like shite. What up?"

"Had a dream… about her last night," Hermione offered, a bit grateful for the opening. "It's one that I've had over and over since… since the last I saw her."

"When you went to Hogwarts, balls of Godric Gryffindor strapped on, and asked her if she was in love with you?" Ginny asked with a smirk. "I still can't believe you did that, 'Mione. I mean, for Merlin's sake, what if she'd said yes?"

"She didn't, so the point is moot," Hermione said pointedly.

"I know, I know."

"So, any idea how I can get this stupid bloody dream to go away?" Hermione asked. "Know any good psychotherapists at Mungo's?"

"Why do you want them to go away?" Ginny asked seriously. "I mean, weird as it is for me to know that my brother's wife regularly has dreams about shagging our former professor, objectively I'd think you'd be glad of that connection."

Hermione shrugged. "I don't mind the regular dreams of her, but this one has been over and over. I've had the dream so many times I have it memorized. It almost feels like it's not really a dream, but a memory, and even thinking about it as if it were a memory does all manner of damage to my already fragile sanity! I feel like I've got conflicting memories of the same night. One where she said no, and another where she said yes…"

"Could she have obviated you?" Ginny asked quietly.

That idea, surprisingly, had never occurred to Hermione. "I… gods, Ginny…oh my… I truly hope not, because if she did, I'll bloody kill her."

"No you wouldn't," Ginny said softly. "Look, I seriously doubt she did, but it is possible I suppose. Given that it's the very opposite of what actually happened the night you went to the castle, it's more likely that it's just your subconscious making up a possible wish fulfillment. Merlin knows how badly you probably wish something like that happened."

"You're probably right," Hermione agreed, though the seed of doubt had been placed in her mind, and she resolved to do some research on memory charms and how they related to a dream-like state.

Just as soon as she got a few free hours…

2021

Minerva had to stifle a gasp when she came around the corner of her favorite bookstore to see Hermione standing there, nose in a book, and oblivious enough to her presence to allow Minerva to back away quickly, not being seen. She exited the store, deciding it safer to come back for the book she'd been after later, rather than risk Hermione seeing her.

She wished that she and Hermione could be friends. She wished they'd been able to see each other in a simple, platonic way. She wished that she and Hermione could have had what Pomona and Neville had developed. Of course, wishing didn't make it so, which is why each time she happened across the woman she loved, her feet led her back to Hogwarts, where it all began, to have tea with Filius and Pomona.

"Hello, old friend," she greeted, stepping into the Head's Office. It was strange to be here now – both Severus and herself had left things much like Albus had them during his tenure, but Filius had changed them to be more suited to himself. Filius was many things, but a Gryffindor he was not. Severus' portrait had once admitted he'd left things alone simply because he knew his tenure would be brief, and it wasn't worth the work to change things.

"Minerva!" Filius exclaimed, smiling brightly. He flicked his wand, sending a patronus off to Pomona to join them. "She'll be up shortly."

"I'd intended to go to the bookstore in Hogsmeade this afternoon, but alas, Hermione beat me to it," Minerva admitted.

"With as frequently as you run into her there, wisdom would dictate you chose to patronize another bookstore," he commented with a shake of his head.

"It has the best selection," Minerva argued.

"Which is probably why Hermione frequents it as well," Filius agreed.

Pomona chose that moment to enter the room, taking a seat next to her husband after giving Minerva a warm hug. "Have you told her yet, Filius?" she asked, nudging him.

"No, nor was I planning to," Filius replied, glaring at his wife. "Nor did I think it wise for you to mention it either."

Minerva laughed. "Well it's been mentioned. Are you really going to leave me hanging at that?"

"Ron and Hermione divorced!" Pomona said excitedly. "Harry was able to keep it out of the papers, so few people know, but Ron was evidentially caught cheating…"

"It wasn't the first time," Minerva muttered, taking in the gravity of what Pomona was saying.

"…and Hermione said with the kids nearly grown she didn't see a reason to stay with a man who couldn't or wouldn't be faithful to her."

Minerva met Filius' eyes, and she knew they were both thinking the same thing: Hermione didn't have much room to talk, as she'd been the initiator of their own liaison. That said, Hermione had no memory of that night, so she couldn't be faulted for claiming fidelity.

"So, Minerva," Pomona continued with a large grin. "She's free. She's single. She's in love with you… are you going to pursue her?"

"No," Minerva replied. She did not offer her reasons, and after receiving a glare from her husband, Pomona did not press, though she did look rather disappointed as the topic of conversation shifted to other things.


2022


Harry Potter had always been good at taking advantage of the moment. Therefore, when he happened to see Minerva in The Three Broomsticks one Friday evening, he knew it was time to remedy an old mistake. When he'd told Minerva to stay away from Hermione, he had not known that Ron had cheated on her, nor could he have expected it would ever happen again. The notion that they might have been happy together for the last ten plus years, if he'd only advocated for their having a relationship when he'd first found out, had left Harry rather guilt stricken over the last year.

"Minerva!" he called across the room.

The aging woman looked up. "Harry, what a surprise."

"Do you have a couple minutes?"

Minerva nodded, nodding to an empty chair across from her, and setting down the book she'd been reading. "What can I do for you?"

He sighed. "Minerva, have you gotten word that Hermione and Ron have divorced."

Minerva nodded. "Pomona told me, not long after it happened."

"Then why haven't you gone and swept her off her bloody feet?" he wanted to know.

She sighed. "Harry, too much has happened between us, too many years of conflict, for anything to develop between us now."

"But don't you still love her?" he asked, shocked at how resigned she sounded.

"Of course," Minerva replied softly, smile on her face as she said it. "I'll love her with all that I am, until the day I die. But our chance to be together has long since passed."

Harry nodded, sad, but understanding. He'd long since learned that sometimes, the happy ending never comes.


2023


Pomona Sprout had always been the sort to take things in stride, including the two wars she'd lived through and being married to a half-goblin for the last forty - odd years. This was different, though. This wasn't sudden – painful, but quick – it was going to be long and messy and while it would hurt her, she really hated to think of what it would do to Filius. As Headmaster, he had enough on his plate, and she'd be damned if she let him be all noble and step down now.

Still, if there was an upside, and Pomona always was the silver lining sort of woman, it had put things in perspective. So, she told Filius where she was off to and Flooed directly to McGonagall Manor, calling for Minerva the moment she came through. She deserved to know almost as much as Filius, anyway.

"Mona?" Minerva questioned, coming into the living area where the Floo network was hooked up. "What are you doing here."

"We need to talk," she replied quietly.

Minerva's eyes went wide. Pomona was rarely, if ever subdued. "Pomona what's wrong?" she asked, stepping quickly toward her long-time friend.

"Filius and I found out on Friday," she started, pausing to swallow the tears threatening to pour out of her eyes. "Minerva, I have cancer. The Mediwizards can slow it down, but I'll be dead in less than three years, one way or another."

Minerva just stood there for a minute, shocked. "Sweet Merlin, oh gods, Pomona, I am so, so sorry."

The Herbology Professor nodded. "Me too," she said.

"Is there anything I can do?" Minerva asked, nodding for Pomona to join her on one of the sofas.

"Minerva, I know that there are parts of what's happened between you and Hermione that you've kept from me, but you have shared with Filius," Pomona said. "I don't want to die with secrets between my husband and I, and yet he's a damned loyal fool, and won't break his word to you. I'm asking you to tell me what he knows. It's not just me being nosey, honestly. I just… I want to be as close as I can to him in the time I have left, and I can't do that if your secrets are standing in the middle."

The other witch had the good grace to look guilty before she nodded in agreement. "Interestingly, I'd planned to tell you in the near future anyway. I don't relish keeping things from you, but the things that have happened… I'm not proud of it, dear. It's because I value your opinion of me so highly that I haven't told you. We've been friends since we were children… I don't want you to be disappointed in me."

Pomona nodded. "Minerva, the biggest difference between Filius and me is that I have known you since we were kids, while he hasn't. I know you're human and prone to massive blunders just like any other witch or wizard. He is the one that always held you on a bloody pedestal."

Minerva nodded, not arguing.

"So, when did you know you were in love with Hermione?" Pomona asked, smiling.


2024


Neville smiled as he saw Rose Weasley coming his way, just after her graduation ceremony. She flashed him a wide grin, and he chuckled, thinking that an attraction to Professors must be a genetic trait. For Hermione, it had been Minerva. For Rose, well, after today it wouldn't be professional suicide for him to take her out on a date, which he'd been wanting to do all bloody year. Ron would probably try to hex him for seducing his little girl, but Neville hoped that at least Hermione would be understanding. You can't help who you love.

"Hey there, sweetheart," he said quietly, pulling her into a tight hug.

"Hi Neville," she replied shyly. "I sort of have a question, if you have a minute."

Neville nodded. "For you, always."

"Well, last night, I moved my stuff from the dorms back to mum's place," Rose said. "And she had some boxes in my room, and I kinda snooped."

He shook his head. "What did you find?"

"I found a bunch of journals of hers," the red-haired girl admitted. "Did you know my mum has been in love with Professor McGonagall for almost thirty years?"

Neville took a deep breath. "I suspected, but no, I didn't know for sure."

"On one hand it's a little annoying, because she was kinda mean to me my first three years at Hogwarts, before she retired. On the other hand, it's nice to know mum will have literally zero room to talk regarding us."

"Us?" Neville teased, playing dumb.

Rose stood on her tiptoes and pressed a soft kiss to his lips – not the first, though at least he could honestly say absolutely nothing happened between them prior to Rose's seventeenth birthday.

"Oh, right!" he said. "Us! No, I don't think she'll give us a problem. Your father will probably castrate me, though. You do realize I'm the same age as your parents, right?"

"I know," Rose said, matter-of-fact, before turning away and hurrying back into the throng of Weasley's who had attended the graduation today.

Neville decided right then in there that Minerva would have been mad not to fall completely in love with Hermione. Rose was like her in so many ways.


2025


Hermione hugged her son tightly. "Well Hugo, you made it. You are a Hogwarts graduate. Congratulations."

"Thanks mum," Hugo said, grinning. "It was cool to see McGonagall again, you know, for the speech. I liked her, back in my first and second years when she was still Headmistress."

It took effort to keep her heart rate steady when he mentioned Minerva, but she did it. It had been hard today, seeing her up there on the dais, handing a diploma to her son, as she had handed Hermione her own, all those years ago. The moment had been bittersweet.

She had not spoken to Minerva in twenty years. Now and then, she had seen the woman in a crowd, but she always hurried the other way when she did, never daring to approach. She imagined that it must have been much the same for the older witch.

"Mr. Weasley," a familiar voice said behind her. "Might I borrow your mother for a moment?"

Hermione knew that voice, and didn't dare around. "Sure, Headmistress McGonagall," Hugo replied. "See you in a bit, mum."

She watched her son walk towards his father and sister, and then with a deep breath, she turned around. "Minerva," she breathed.

"It's been a long time, Hermione," the now snowy haired witch said quietly.

"It has."

"You've done so well for yourself," Minerva said. "I couldn't be prouder."

Hermione looked down. "I didn't want you to be proud of me," she said bitterly. "I wanted you to lo…"

"What you wanted," the older witch cut her off, "I could not give you. I doubt we will meet again, but I wanted you to know that even if I could not be happy with you, I always was happy for you."

"Why were you drunk that night?" Hermione asked for a second time, wondering if the crowd would prevent Minerva from arguing – that she'd simply answer the question.

The older witch gave her a weak smile. "There's some things you just can't know, my dear."

Hermione closed her eyes, trying to hold the tears at bay. "So, goodbye then?" she whispered, breathing in Minerva's scent for what she knew was probably the last time.

"I'm afraid so," Minerva nodded. "Though on a better note than the last time, I hope."

Hermione couldn't form a reply, so she simply nodded, biting her lip as, regardless of her effort not to, tears began falling down her cheeks.

"Goodbye, Hermione."

Hermione closed her stinging eyes tightly for a moment, trying to regain control. It was only a moment, but when she opened her eyes again, Minerva was gone.

"Goodbye," she whispered into the wind.


2026


Filius sighed, moving his hand to close his wife's lifeless eyes. The echoes of her last, shuddering breathes still echoed in his mind, and he imagined that the echo would remain in the back of his mind for months and months to come. Pomona had been his everything. She's seen past his half-goblin heritage, become a friend, and then a few years later and much to his surprise, she'd marched into his quarters one afternoon and demanded to know exactly when he was going to use his bloody Ravenclaw brain and realize she was in love with him. He'd asked her to marry him six months later, and never once regretted it.

He pulled a white sheet over her face and cast a quick status charm, not wanting to watch her body deteriorate any more than he already had. It hadn't been until about three months ago that things had gotten really bad. More than once he'd offered to end it for her. She told him no every time, telling him she's suffer a hundred years of the pain she was in to keep him out of Azkaban for murder. Wizards did not believe in euthanasia.

At least, it had been more time with her, poor in quality as it was. Harry had taken over one hundred percent of Filius' duties, and Minerva had been there to help him. Being retired, she couldn't technically step in while he watched his wife die, but she could be a visitor in the castle, and advise Harry as he needed it. From what Minerva had said, Harry seemed to have things mostly under control. Filius quite suddenly realized that Harry was no longer a boy. Even when he'd been promoted to Deputy, Filius had still seen the scrawny little eleven year old who'd come to Hogwarts with broken glasses. The Headmaster thought that from now on, he'd see Harry – the man.

Thinking of Harry always made Hermione cross his mind, which always led his mind to the relationship between Harry's best friend and his own. While he firmly believed that what had evolved between Hermione and Minerva had been wrong from the beginning, a part of him now felt angry at Minerva for taking the choice out of Hermione's hands. Yes, being with Minerva would probably have destroyed Hermione's life in more ways than one, but they would have had each other. Like he and Pomona. That had been enough. That could have been enough for Hermione and Minerva.

He quietly opened his bedroom door, stepping out to the living room where he knew Minerva was waiting. "Is she…?" his friend asked.

Filius nodded. "A few minutes ago."

"I'm sorry," Minerva said, tears falling openly down her cheeks. "Is there anything I can do?"

He shook his head sadly. "I fear the time for that has come and gone, my friend. For both of us."


2027


The solicitor was finally gone, and Minerva let out a breath of relief. She turned to Filius, who was looking at her with half a smile. "I don't know how you and Pomona managed to get through this without laughing. That woman asked some of the most ridiculous questions!"

"She just wanted you to consider any possible heirs, and unfortunately knows you are a lesbian, and a Transfiguration expert. Like any wizard, you do technically have the means to impregnate someone."

"And that justified asking after the length of my supposed equipment?" Minerva groaned.

"Well," Filius allowed. "I think that was actually her hitting on you."

"Filius, I'm ninety-two years old!"

"She was what, in her sixties?" Filius mused. "Hermione is forty-seven, and madly in love with you after all these years. Don't act so surprised. You're still a very attractive witch… mind, I'm pretty sure the solicitor was more interested in your fortune. Who are you leaving all that gold to, anyhow?"

"Hogwarts."

"Obviously, so silly of me to ask."

Minerva looked sternly at her long-time friend. "Now remember, sending Hermione that package was your idea, your pushing, and therefore it is your job to make sure she doesn't raise me from the dead just to kill me again."

"Perhaps between now and when you die, you'll tell her the truth yourself," Filius nudged.

"To what end?" Minerva asked. So that Hermione could watch her die like Filius had watched Pomona?


2028


It was the last day of the year, and the last thing Hermione expected on New Years Eve was an Owl from Hogwarts, containing the news she hadn't even known was coming. Minerva McGonagall, love of her life, was dead. Hermione had been screaming for a full minute before she realized it was her voice. Rose was by her side, having been over to do her laundry, a moment later. "Mum, what is it?"

Hermione held the missive from Filius tightly to her chest, but Rose worked to pry it away and discover the source of Hermione's distress. "What the bloody…" Rose said, grappling with her mother. "… fuck mum, let go!"

Rose quickly scanned the contents. "Oh no, oh no, oh no…" she muttered.

Hermione couldn't breathe.

"SHIT!" Rose exclaimed, noticing after a minute, and jumping up. A quick run to the bathroom later, she returned with a calming drought which she unceremoniously forced Hermione to drink.

"Thank you Rose," the older woman said as soon as her breathing normalized. "I'm sorry to have frightened you."

"It's okay mum," Rose said firmly. "If I'd gotten a letter like that from Nev, I'd have been in just as bad of shape."

"Fortunately, your fiancé seems to have more good sense than Minerva does… did… oh… oh gods!" she howled.

Rose spent the next several hours just holding her broken hearted mother. Eventually, Hermione pulled herself together, and told her daughter to go on home, promising to check in first thing in the morning. It took some convincing, but woman who raised two Weasley's finally got her way.

Once her daughter had gone, Hermione took a vial of blue liquid out of the bottom of the box on the kitchen table, which Rose had not seen. There had been a note attached in Minerva's distinctive handwriting: This belongs to you.

Hermione had a hunch she knew what it was, but she had to know for sure, and she had to know now.


2029


Ginny Potter spotted her longtime friend and sister-in-law lingering behind after the funeral of Minerva McGonagall. She knew today would be hard on Hermione, but the angry storm in the brown eyes she knew so well had been unexpected. After most everyone had cleared off, she'd followed Hermione back to the tomb, watching from a distance as Hermione stared at the former Headmistress body with a mixture of love and hate in her posture and expressions.

"Fuck you, Minerva," she heard Hermione say, placing a rose on McGonagall's breast.

"Hermione?" Ginny asked softly.

The other woman turned around sharply, sighing in relief when she realized it was the one person who could understand why she was here. "She left me a letter, in her will," Hermione said, handing a roll of parchment to Ginny.

As Hermione collapsed on the ground next to the tomb, Ginny unrolled the letter and began to read.

My Dear Hermione,

Twice, you asked me why I was drunk the night you kissed me. I leave this letter as the answer I could not give while I was living. I was drunk that night because you had just recently married Ron, and I was in love with you. On the night I managed to find a way to get away from Hogwarts to drink the agony away, you found me there in that muggle bar. Talk about irony. And then…you kissed me, and I kissed you back with every ounce of heart and soul I had. When I told you it meant nothing, I was lying. It meant everything.

I know you'll want to know why, if I loved you as much as you loved me, I pushed you away. The answer to that question is that I knew if I gave you the chance to choose me, you would. You would have abandoned your husband, your children, your job, and your life. Everything you worked for, you would have thrown away for me…and I could not let you do that.

You have accomplished so much, my darling. After such a chaotic childhood, you deserved the peace you found in your adult years with Ronald. You earned that peace. Like I said the last time we met, at your son's graduation, I am proud of who you have become. I die with no regrets, save for any hurts I inflicted upon you in the process of trying to save you from yourself. That said, I hope you find some peace in knowing that all these years, you have not been alone in your pain – that I loved you too.

Always yours,

Minerva McGonagall

Ginny looked up from the letter, tears streaming down her cheeks, moved by a revelation that she knew was turning her friend's life upside down right now. "Oh my God…Hermione…"

"She chose for both of us," Hermione said quietly. "She chose agony for both of us."


This version is nearly three times the size of the original one. I put a lot of effort into this - I'd, as always, covet your thoughts!