Author's Note: Well. We're finally at the end of this fic. More discourse at the bottom in relation to future stories.

I'm fully guilt-ridden for the delay. To appease you, this chapter is longer than any of the others.

Hermione closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of fragrant pine, reveling in the fresh wilderness air and accompanying solitude of the Manor's grounds. A slight breeze swept down from the blue hills surrounding the valley and made the tree tops sway in a natural rhythm. Bright bird song drifted from the dark cover of the forest. The atmosphere here was far removed from the sterile wards of St. Mungo's or the smog-choked streets of London.

And much more peaceful.

The morning had opened with their appearance in a large ballroom at the Ministry and, surrounded by officials, dignitaries and the wizarding public in their formal dress robes, participating in a ceremony to honor their 'considerable contribution to the extinction of the Death Eater threat in Britain'. After receiving Orders of Merlin – First Class for Minerva and Second for Hermione – the two witches had braced themselves for the inevitable sermons that were all but expected at these functions; praising their bravery and fortitude in the face of certain death and dismemberment. To their surprise, the awards ceremony had been brief, with only a bare minimum of blustering speeches of accolade from Wizengamot members. When Hermione had wondered about this unnatural succinctness out loud to Minerva, the elegant woman had smiled darkly and inclined her head towards the Minister of Magic, who was standing on the other side of the room talking animatedly to several foreign dignitaries.

'Aramus, in his infinite wisdom, realized that the 'guest of honor' wouldn't show up if there was any sign that it would last longer than was absolutely necessary. Clever man.'

A pair of wizards from the Daily Prophet had intervened at that precise moment to take pictures of the heroes of the day, but the reporters quickly left again when Minerva explained in no uncertain terms that the next person to take her picture would be spending the next month as a garden snail.

Hermione's bruises had quickly faded away thanks to the hospital's healing potions and aside from a generalized ache throughout her body, which according to Madam Pomfrey, would fade over the next few days, Hermione felt far better than she had. Physically and emotionally. Their quickly arranged reunion with the Order members had been short-lived, but fulfilling. Nymphadora Tonks had fully recovered; the poison flushed from her system, and she and the rest of the Order had never stopped heaping praise onto the two women, even after Minerva threatened them. Remus Lupin had been looking oddly smug about something through the latter half of their visit and his eyes had twinkled in a way that was eerily reminiscent of Dumbledore's as he looked from Minerva to Hermione and back again before leaving with the parting words,

'I'm sure your ordeal has given you both a stronger appreciation of the depth of the other's character.'

With this enigmatic sentence, he had been pushed out the ward's door by an impatient Tonks, leaving a pair of very confused-looking women in their wake.

Madam Pomfrey had drawn Hermione aside before she had been discharged from Mungos and begged her to find some way to get Minerva to sleep.

'Whatever you do, don't try and use magic. It only results in a temper tantrum and Minerva's very inventive with her jinxes when she's ticked off.'

Hermione assured her that she had no intention of doing such an inane thing and promised to do her best to make Minerva take some form of rest once they arrived.


The young woman blinked, called back from her recollection to the present, and turned towards the source of the voice. Minerva was standing expectantly on the stone steps that led up to the open double doors of the manor's front entrance, her long robes fanning slightly in the breeze. Smiling shyly, Hermione walked the short distance up the gravel path and through the doors into the cool interior.

Minerva had taken it upon herself to rectify Hermione's lack of skill in the kitchen, an afternoon endeavor which had resulted in several burnt fingers, a pot of overcooked vegetables and one passable roast. Hermione had looked so pleased at actually having cooked a decent meal that Minerva didn't have the heart to tell her pupil that she had switched the badly scalded vegetables with another batch that she had secretly cooked before dinner. It wouldn't do to risk food poisoning (although, Minerva admitted to herself, such a thing was unlikely from overcooked food) and be forced to return to that godforsaken building that the Ministry had recklessly labeled a hospital.

It occurred to Minerva that most of Hermione's difficulties stemmed from the actual act of cooking food and, if given a recipe for a meal without any stove usage, it was entirely possible that the young witch would produce an edible meal. She'd resolved to test her hypothesis tomorrow, beginning with salad and desserts.

If they survived the roast that Hermione was presently carving.


The brunette looked up at her expectantly, a carving knife in her right hand and a serving fork in her left.

'Did we remember to turn the stove off?'

Hermione stared at her mentor for a full five seconds before dropping the carving tools and rushing to the kitchen, nearly colliding with the doorframe on her way in. The older woman took this opportunity to cast a spell that checked for food poisoning. Thankfully, the meat turned up negative, and by the time Hermione had come back to tell her that, yes the stove had been switched off when they had taken the roast out of the oven, Minerva was innocently dividing the vegetables between their plates.

As it turned out, the meat was excellent. Minerva was pleasantly surprised, and realized that her theory might need to be revised to include oven-recipes under Hermione's 'Some Faint Hope of Learning to Prepare a Meal Using…' list.

She considered her pupil, who was sitting quietly at the opposite end of the table eating her meal slowly. Apart from a persistent pallor to her skin, Hermione's health had improved immensely over the course of only a few days, Madame Pomfrey outdoing herself with the treatment. The girl's heart was, she had been told, not to be tested. No magic use beyond the necessary.

'You were talking briefly with the Minister at the awards ceremony before we left, was it anything serious?

Ah. Minerva had been wondering how to broach this topic. Carefully pushing her empty plate to one side of the table, she clasped her hands in front of her and leant her weight forward onto her elbows.

'Aramus gave me the required forms for re-opening Hogwarts this morning, after speaking to the Board of Governors. I was wondering whether you were interested in filling one of the teaching positions.'

Hermione stared at her, fork mid-way to her mouth, frozen in a state of utter disbelief.

'You're serious,' she finally managed to choke out.


The fork slowly descended back down to rest on the table and Hermione leant back in her chair, looking stunned.

'You don't need to answer immediately,' Minerva continued, trying to keep the disappointment in her voice hidden. 'We're still a month away from the beginning of the term and I'll begin interviews next week after owling the former professors. I'll understand perfectly if you don't want to apply for…'


The Scottish witch looked back up at her former student. Hermione's hazel eyes were shining, any trace of tiredness or hurt had been erased and been replaced by a strange joy. Pushing back the considerable wave of relief that had risen in her own chest, Minerva spoke again.

'Any particular position that you–?'


Hermione's voice was soft, almost shy.

'Not Cooking and Food Preparation?' Minerva teased, resting her chin on her hands, quelling the warm glow that had increased tenfold upon learning of Hermione's choice of her old subject. 'I'm sure the Governors will allow me anything now that I have an Order of Merlin, First Class, to dangle in front of their impressionable noses. Culinary classes would certainly be more useful to the students than Sybil's Divination program. I'd provide you as a case study for the fact.'

Hermione grimaced at the memory of her disastrous third year Divination experience. Minerva had provided her with a Time Turner on loan from the Ministry and the extra courses had taken a heavy toll on her tolerance levels. Sybil Trelawny had exceeded them.

'Only one thing made that class bearable.'

'And that was?'

'I had Transfiguration with you immediately afterwards.'

The Scottish woman laughed, her rich voice filling the room and rolling off the walls.

'Poor Sybil. She finally met a student who wouldn't put up with her nonsense.'

'Almost as stubborn as one of her colleagues?'

Minerva smiled at her protégé. 'Are you implying that I may have been partially to blame for your skepticism, Hermione?'

'You may have had a slight influence on me, now that I think about it.'

'Please accept my deepest apologies.'

'No need.'

After clearing away the plates, the two women withdrew to the library for a few hours to read. It was almost eleven when the Scottish witch stood up to leave.

'Goodnight, Hermione. Sleep well.'

Minerva bent down to touch her lips to the top of Hermione's head, laying her right hand on the younger woman's shoulder. The brunette closed her eyes as she felt the soft contact on her hair.

'Goodnight, Minerva.'

Hermione awoke suddenly. Not even bothering to throw on a dressing gown – there was no time – she jumped out of bed, slipping slightly on the small carpet that adorned the wooden floor, and burst through the door to the hall, off-balance and limping every other step. Only one thing could have woken her.


The shadowy figure in center of the hall froze mid-stride and, very slowly, turned around to face her, slim body tense. It took all Hermione's self-control not to burst out into laughter at the expression on Minerva's face. She had never seen the woman look as guilty as she did now. Her former teacher quickly regained her composure.

'Exactly how many wards did you put up?' Minerva asked mildly, folding her bare arms in front of her chest and leaning back against the wood-paneled wall. 'I must have gotten rid of at least seven, including the small one that you cast on my glasses.'

'Nine. You missed the ones on the hall carpet and the first step of the stairs.' She had discretely insured before going to bed that – should her host engage in any nighttime wandering – Hermione would be the first to know about it. She had promised Madame Pomfrey that she'd do her best to make Minerva rest for a few days.

'My, my, aren't we thorough. And just why would you be interested in my night-time activities?'

The younger woman smiled innocently.

'Merely a professional concern for your well-being, Minerva, and while we're on the subject, why aren't you wearing your dressing gown?'

'Some unscrupulous young witch put an Alarm Charm on it in what I believe was an attempt to curtail my escape from imposed bed rest that Poppy erroneously seemed to feel that I needed I was merely off to the library for some light night-time reading.'

Hermione was unimpressed.

'You'll freeze to death.'

Minerva's right eyebrow arched up and she looked the younger woman up and down, pointedly noting her lack of over clothes.


Hermione bent her head to disguise the smile that sprung to her lips, pretending to examine the carpet at their feet. Unbidden, her eyes crossed the wooden floor to the other woman's bare legs. The white slip Minerva was wearing only came down to just above the knees, framing her long and slender legs to perfection. Once Hermione realized exactly which region of her host's body she was looking at, she snapped her eyes back up to the safe zone of Minerva's face, justly horrified.

Please don't let her have noticed.

It was too late. The woman had seen the direction of her gaze; Minerva's expression was clearly one of utter shock, her dark eyes wide with surprise. The atmosphere in the hall had shifted from one of light banter to something far more serious. A warm flush spread over Hermione's cheeks and, in a vain attempt to regain a measure of control over the now extremely awkward situation, she hurriedly turned around and went back into her room, pausing only to whisper a soft,

'Goodnight, Minerva.'

Before Hermione could reach the door, or touch the metal handle to open the door to freedom, a slender hand had reached out and caught her wrist in a surprisingly firm grip. The younger woman froze, millions of dire thoughts flashing through her mind. Hermione's worst fears were confirmed when Minerva next spoke.

'I think we should talk, Hermione,' came the low voice from behind her.

Oh dear God, please not that.

Not even bothering to wait for the woman's inevitable protests, Minerva steered Hermione by the arm back into the bedroom. She motioned her pupil to sit on the large bed and, after a moments' pause, slowly sat down beside her, clearly uncomfortable with the subject that she was about to broach. Almost a minute passed before she spoke in a strangely soft voice.

'Do you know how old I am, Hermione?'

'Eight-one years, nine months and six days,' Hermione replied quietly without a moment's hesitation, staring at the wood-paneled wall, determined not to cry. After all this time, after all these years, why had she made a mistake now? Everything was out of her control now; every secret thought and emotion on view to the one person which she had meant to hide them from forever. It was a nightmare come to life.

Minerva raised an eyebrow in surprise but quickly recovered.

'Almost a sixty year difference,' she stated bluntly, as if this was an obvious fact.

'Might I add in my defense that you look like you're in your mid-thirties?' Hermione said bitterly. She would not cry. She would not reveal how much this conversation affected her. She could still salvage their friendship.

'You're far too kind.' This came out as a harsh laugh from Minerva.

Defiant hazel eyes met her own dark ones.

'Isn't maturity more important than age?'

The older woman didn't answer. There were a million different reasons why they shouldn't even be discussing this subject, reasons why she should have simply brushed off her pupil's glance as the distracted movement of an exhausted and traumatized young woman. But Minerva couldn't. Not after everything that had gone on over the past week and a half. Those eyes, full of stubborn intellect and insatiable curiousity that was so like her own, reached into her very being and prevented her from summoning her power of speech. So Minerva remained silent, back straight and chin raised.

Against her will, Hermione began to speak, voice rough and halting. She had given up trying to pretend that this conversation was merely another one of the innocuous night-time discussions that she had had many times before with her Transfiguration professor.

'You asked me several days ago about my…reasons…for staying behind to look for you that awful night.'

Oh yes, Minerva did remember that particular talk very well. Hermione had placed her into a state of bliss at the touch of her hands, driving away the constant pain of the injury.

Hands that were now resting gently on her arm.

Minerva had forgotten the warmth that the simple act of touch summoned, the heat that was exuded from one person's flesh to another. The feeling summoned by the feather-like touch of soft skin on her own was so utterly foreign and yet, achingly fulfilling.

'I…I mislead you, saying that it was because I felt guilty for not being able to help when Umbridge attacked you.'

Hermione reached up and traced the curve of Minerva's exposed collarbone with a fingertip, her hand trembling madly all the while. Minerva's voice had become stuck in her throat, the witch would have been unable to sound a protest even had she wanted to. The younger woman's touch sent waves of pleasure through her body and made thinking near impossible.

Hermione's eyes, bright with tears, turned upwards to meet Minerva's.

'Leaving behind the woman that I love with all my heart would have destroyed me.'

The last words were barely a whisper but rang with a truth that pierced the Scottish witch to her core. The sentence bared her former student's soul to her. There was no mistaking the sincerity.

'Hermione, I…'

She tried to find words and failed miserably. Logic had abandoned her, fled in the face of such intense feeling. The younger woman leant closer to Minerva, one hand on her cheek. After searching the witch's dark eyes with her own, Hermione closed the distance and placed the lightest of kisses on the outside corner of Minerva's mouth, never actually touching the woman's lips.

Awaiting her mentor's response with dread.

Anticipating the inevitable rejection.

Preparing to break the contact and rush away, crying bitterly at her own stupidity for having ever taken such a risk and ruining it all in the process.

It was on the third heartbeat that the dark haired woman tilted her head slightly to the left to softly meet Hermione's lips with her own, swan-like neck arching gracefully downwards.

A kiss. Hesitant, trembling, but very real.

A flood of emotion came crashing down on Hermione's being, engulfing her in a wave of desire and feelings. Sheer and utter relief. A desperation that had been there for years finally fulfilled. Indescribable and overwhelming love.


The whisper of her own name from her protégé's lips sent a shiver down the witch's spine. Minerva lightly rested her fingers on Hermione's neck and ran her other hand down the woman's torso, stopping once it reached a hip. It was fascinating to feel the effects of even a light touch on the younger woman's body, a body that shuddered at each new stroke. Bowing her head down, Minerva brushed her lips across the warmth of Hermione's bare shoulder and breathed,

'I …I shouldn't be…'

She was silenced as her former student's lips met her own again in a contact that was stronger than before, the kiss filled with a growing intensity. Minerva felt a finger being brushed slowly across her jaw, tracing the smooth angle of bone. Her own hands drifted down of their own accord, gently supporting Hermione's waist as she leant closer into the embrace that they seemed to have settled in.


A heartfelt pleading escaped the younger witch's mouth, rawness evident in a single word. Minerva cradled Hermione's cheek with her right hand, lifting her former student's head upwards before softly touching her parted lips to the younger woman's neck. Hermione gave an involuntarily gasp when she felt the petal-soft brush of kisses along her throat, arching her back involuntarily. The sheer sensitivity of the touch was overwhelming and her heart was racing a million miles a minute. The blood was, accordingly, surging through her cranium, leaving little room for consciousness. Hermione was beginning to feel light-headed, a fog drifting across her fading vision. Sensing her distress, Minerva ran her hand down Hermione's side to calm her, petting her protégé's lower back in slow circles to relieve the tension that had bound her slender body into rigidity. Hermione began to relax after a few moments, releasing the strained muscles that had held her inert. The dizziness gradually faded away and Hermione leant forwards to rest on the older woman's slim frame, drawing strength from it. She had never experienced anything as tender as this.

'May I?' Minerva whispered, shifting her hand slightly to rest on a part of the younger woman's anatomy that was presently covered by her silk gown.

Hermione's eyes told Minerva all she needed to know. The dark-haired woman slowly slipped the nearest strap from Hermione's pale shoulder and slid away the young woman's silk top from her body. Minerva brought her right hand up to the bared chest and began to softly massage the curves there with her long fingers. A soft sigh escaped the brunette's throat and she leaned into the older woman's touch, running her hands through Minerva's long ebony hair that had somehow become unbound. Hermione touched her lips to Minerva's forehead, brushing away several dark stands that had drifted onto her brow with a thumb.

Returning to her protégé's neck, Minerva slowly worked her way down to Hermione's collarbone, brushing her lips lightly in the shallow central indentation. Her fingertips whispered across the younger woman's ribs, dancing along the warm skin, trailing paths of coolness behind each stroke. Gentle exploration of touch, never rushed.

It was magic in a physical form.

'Divine,' Hermione murmured under her breath.

Moistened lips trailing to her breast bone made her close her eyes reflexively. A warm flush that had begun at her face had spread to the space between her legs. Cool hands skimming the flesh with each sensual stroke only increased the glow.

Their eyes met again.


A silent acknowledgement of trust.

A hand slipped down below Hermione's navel and slowly began to move in shallow circles. The young witch gasped, arching her neck and spine as this new feeling coursed through her body, each fresh touch sending sensations of pleasure. Wrapping her arms around Minerva's shoulder blades, she pulled herself closer to the woman, breathing in the wonderful scent of the now un-bound hair.

The moment came .

'Oh Gods.'

This had come out as a half-muttered beatific moan. Minerva kissed the young woman's warm skin and kneaded Hermione's back with her free hand, settling the tremors that held her body in its arched state.


Tears of joy were falling down Hermione's cheeks and soaking the white sheets around them. She gazed, entranced, into the face of her former teacher, outlined by the faint light of the starry sky in the window. Long strands of dark silk fell free over the taller woman's pale shoulders. The former Transfigurations professor had never looked more beautiful.

'I love you.'

An angelic face lowered until it was only inches away from her own. The glorious eyes, so different from that of the stern Hogwarts professor or war-weary Order of the Phoenix member, gazed tenderly down at her.

'And I love you with all that I am and possess, Hermione.'

A chaste kiss joined them for a few heartbeats before Minerva slowly rolled to one side of the covers and Hermione rose up to kneel beside her. Gently resting her index finger on the woman's pulse point, she slowly dragged it down until it was at Minerva's clavicle.

'Lets see how well your teaching skills work on this matter.'

The answer was barely a whisper through the air, reverberating in Minerva's throat as a quiet rumble that Hermione could feel with her fingers resting where they were.

'I have no doubts that you'll be a quick learner.'

The morning sun made her squint, and she covered her face with a hand to block out the brightness that was invaded her sleep with malicious intent.

Her arm was wrapped around a gently moving surface that was warm and soft, and a generalized feeling of contentedness eased through her as she nestled a little closer, soaking in the wonderful sensation of closeness. Several long strands of almost black hair lay across her chest, resting lightly on the bare skin.

The young woman shifted slightly on her pillow so that she could look at the dark haired witch without straining her neck.

'Good morning.'

Mocha coloured eyes, illuminated by the sunlight, were gazing up at her.

'Good morning to you.' Hermione replied with a smile. 'I'm off to make breakfast.'

The eyes narrowed

'Dear God in Heaven, anything but that. I love you more than anything, Hermione, but I'll take care of food for now.'

This statement was immediately followed by a long kiss took out any sting that that sentence may have held.

It was afternoon.



'Any particular reason that you've been staring at yourself in the mirror for the past ten minutes?'

She received no response. Hermione continued to examine her reflection in the mirror with a critical eye, frowning slightly as she turned her head slightly from side to side.

Hadn't it been more to the left before?

'I do wish you'd stop worrying about it,' called an exasperated voice from the direction of the only chesterfield in the room. 'It's perfectly straight, please trust me on it.'

The younger woman didn't budge from her spot in front of the mirror.

'Are you quite sure that it isn't bent to the right slightly?'

A pause.

'My right or your right?'

Hermione suspended her self-examination to glare at her mentor's reflection. Minerva's voice had held just a touch of sarcasm, an emotion which she had perfected to razor sharpness during her time at Hogwarts.

'Let me take a closer look.'

Minerva strode across the floor in her characteristic flowing movement, elegant bearing evident even when she was in her own home. Leaning closer to her concerned pupil, she turned a critical eye to Hermione's nose, searching for any unusual healing patterns through delicately probing with her fingers.

Hermione allowed herself a quick glance at her mentor. The top buttons of Minerva's white blouse had come undone, exposing her pale throat and upper chest to the warmth of the room. The loose attire made the witch look remarkably relaxed.

'You needn't be afraid of looking at me, you know,' Minerva said softly. Her tapered fingers had strayed from their examination of her patient's nose to instead caress Hermione's cheek, gently brushing the skin with a tenderness that few would have believed her capable of.

The young woman blushed.

'It's an old habit,' she muttered, glancing out the nearby window and away from the object of her attention. 'I used to force myself to not look at you during class, just so you wouldn't notice.'

Another stroke on her cheek.

'Time to break it then.'

Minerva pulled Hermione over to the couch and, after sitting down, motioned the younger woman to sit beside her. Hermione slowly lowered herself to the cushions only to feel a slim hand press her sideways, pushing her body down further to finally lie full-length on the chesterfield, her head resting in Minerva's lap. The hand moved upwards to slowly stroke Hermione's hair, gently running fingers through the thick strands. The younger woman bent her head to the side to allow Minerva's touch, closing her eyes and drinking in the rhythmic motion. Long fingers drifted down to slide through the soft hairs at the base of Hermione's neck, prompting a smile and slight laugh from the brunette.

'It tickles.'

'Shall I stop?'

'Never.' Hermione smiled and shifted her position to gaze up at her former teacher.

'You'll eventually get tired of my questions, won't you?'

'Nonsense, I find you infinitely fascinating.' The woman's dark eyes were soft. An overwhelming feeling of…love…for this young woman had finally been allowed to surface in her heart and had made it clear that it would never leave. It had been there, hidden from her, for years she realized.

With Minerva massaging the back of her neck with tender fingers, Hermione closed her eyes in contentment and let silence take over. Long body pressed against her own, one slim arm draped over her waist, she could lie here forever and never be in want of anything.

They both drifted off in the afternoon warmth and awoke several hours later, both regretful of their choice of resting place.

'I solemnly swear never to nap in a chair or on other any other non-bed-like furniture again. Of all the silly things…'

Minerva swore softly and rubbed the back of her neck with a hand, wincing in pain. Hermione watched her in mild amusement.

'It's no wonder you have neck problems – you wear your hair up for sixteen hours a day. It is wonderful hair.'

The older woman directed her piercing gaze towards her former pupil.

'Can you imagine what the sight of me with it down would do to my students?'

'I'll hazard a guess at mass hysteria.'

'Precisely. The hair stays up.'

The younger woman wasn't going to give up so easily.

'Might I remind you that we are not at Hogwarts at this present time?'

'I'd prefer that you wouldn't.'

Hermione smiled and moved her palms to Minerva's strained neck.

'I suppose I'll just have to persuade you through other means.'

Working her hands through the tight collar of the Transfiguration professor's blouse, she was greeted by a set of very taught muscles.

'You're tense. Relax.'

Minerva mentally forced her muscles to loosen. A few minutes of comfortable silence went by before she spoke.

'When did you first know that you cared about me?'

Hermione didn't answer for a minute, kneading Minerva's shoulders while she thought.

'I'd have to say that it was when I was seventeen,' she said finally, 'after the funeral. Harry, Ron and I had just agreed that we wouldn't be returning after the summer and I came up to your office to talk to you about it, or more, should I say, to have you comfort me. You were still in your dress robes and had let your hair down.'

The older woman twisted her long neck around to look at Hermione in surprise.

'You feel in love with me when you saw me crying my eyes out behind my desk?'

Hermione tilted her head to one side and regarded Minerva intently.

'It was the first time that I'd ever seen you cry. You seemed so much more fragile than you normally were, so much more human, more approachable.' Hermione sat back down beside Minerva on the chesterfield. 'Goodness knows we'd certainly had a…dynamic…before that – I'd been teased about it by the rest of the school for several years. I think that I finally came to terms with the fact that I cared for you more than I'd admitted. Before that I'd simply told myself that I idolized you; it was the easiest explanation for my feelings.' The woman shot her former teacher a quick smile. 'There had been moments before that though, I'm sure that you remember them.'

Minerva winced.

'Oh Gods. The private dancing lessons before the Yule Ball.'

'Yes, I kept on trying to lead,' Hermione laughed ruefully at the memory, playing idly with a curling lock of hair. 'I never really got the hang of waltzing, even after a month of lessons with you. I just couldn't concentrate when you were that close.'

It had been difficult. She'd been fourteen years old and had fled to her Head of House only an hour after she'd accepted Victor Krum's invitation to the ball. It had suddenly hit her that she had absolutely no idea how to waltz and was pretty sure that books wouldn't be able to help her learn how. Four weeks under Minerva's experienced tutelage had made her a passable partner for Krum, but she'd never possessed the innate grace that Minerva comported herself with.

'And we can't forget that time where we spent a whole night during the sixth year arguing about Pandori's Transformatter and Fabricus temporal research – which by the way, I still disagree with on several points. It was so late that you made me sleep in your bed while you changed to your animagi form and slept on one of the pillows,' Hermione smiled to herself. 'In the morning I woke up to find you lying next to me; you'd lost your grip on the transformation during the night. I lay there for almost an hour, just watching you sleep. It was so close then…I almost told you how I felt but couldn't at the last moment. I feared that you would reject me if I did and I'd lose you forever.'

At this, Hermione reached up to caress the dark-haired woman's cheek.

'It would have destroyed me.'

Minerva went silent as she absently ran her fingers through Hermione's hair.

'I've lost so many in this war…family…friends…students on both sides,' she mused to herself. 'I suppose I'd lost a part of myself too.'

The younger woman slid her hands down Minerva's upper arms.

'And you have always been strong and never faltered…not once.'

Minerva slowly looked back up at Hermione and the brunette felt a pang once their gaze locked. Those expressive eyes held a world of pain and loss. Of recent tragedy.

'I don't know what I'd do without you,' she said quietly. 'Please promise me you won't risk your life like that again.'

Minerva shook her head with a wry smile.

'You know I can't do that anymore than you can. We're Gryffindors, Hermione; it's in our nature to be pre-disposed to self-sacrifice, however silly the reasons may be.

'That isn't very reassuring.'

'I can promise you one thing, though.' Minerva continued softly, pushing back a lock of curling hair from the brunette's temple with one of her long fingers. Hermione looked up at her, not looking quite sure as if to expect a good or bad answer.

'I will love you until the end of our days, and I predict those to be very long indeed.'

Bright tears slowly filled Hermione's eyes, sparkling in the afternoon sunlight. Unable to stand it, Minerva cupped the young woman's cheeks in her hands and touched her lips to Hermione's brow.

'Let's go argue with the oven,' she said with one of her rare smiles. 'I think you're ready to tackle dessert-making, now.'

Hermione let out a stifled laugh through her tears and wrapped her arms around Minerva's slim shoulders, burying her head into the woman's neck. The older witch closed her eyes also, gently rocking her protégé back and forth in her embrace. It was odd that only a week ago the world had seemed so bleak and now was as close to heaven as she had ever know it to be.

The End

I loved writing this piece, more than anything else I've ever written. It's also been my longest piece, even though I've written Anthropology essays that seemed longer. On the downside, this is the end of this fic…

I do have a billion more 'shorts' that I'm going to try and assemble into another semi-long story like this. And I have a half-complete medium length that needs finishing. And many more ideas. What I need you to do is comment with WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE in these stories. Just a few short lines (or a paragraph for the perfectionists!) in the review box. I enjoy reading what readers have to say about my work, and feedback will improve my performance: it certainly did in this one.

As far as I can tell, I could count the number of Minerva/Hermione fans on my two hands with a few fingers to spare. I would LOVE to be able to include my toes. If you haven't been reviewing, just do it this once so that I know that we do have a larger fan base than, say, Percy Weasley/Giant Squid.

Minerva and Hermione are such a controversial ship, (same-sex, age-difference of 65 or so, student/teacher, etc) it's near impossible to find stories of them on the web (must to our collective disappointment). Please, for all the writers or budding writers (or artists, if there are any out there that can draw a semi-straight line without injuring yourself – God knows I can't!) out there, spend a night or two and compose a quick (or long, for the already-mentioned perfectionists) composition involving the two. The rest of us NEED you too! And we promise to encourage you in your endeavor with a multitude of reviews!

Because we've all fallen hopelessly in love with our female teachers too…