AN: I know I haven't update in a long time and I apologize. I offer this as a olive branch. Its a bit sad but I hope you still enough it. -Xio
The Path not Taken
There are moments which define our lives, a point in time which becomes a marker separating what we were before and what we become after. Everyone comes to such a point during their life time, Hermione Ganger was no different. She had anticipated the day to be an important one. After all it was her graduation. It was the day to mark her efforts and accomplishment while at Hogwarts. It was meant to mark the end of an era sort of speak. It was day that she would official join the world of adults. After that day no one would be there to tell her which path to take, nor warn her of the possible dangers she might face on that path. Her whole life she had been guided by others, people that cared about what became of her had taken it upon themselves to make sure she made it safe and sound to this moment. Now it would be up to her to make sure things turned out for the best. Now it was up to her to ensure her happiness.
The day of graduation had dawn in the brilliant reds and golds across the Scottish landscape. It had been more brilliant that Hermione had ever seen it before but maybe that was partly because it was the last time she was going to see it like that. It was the last sunrise she would see from the window of Gryffindor tower. That day she woke with a sense of wonder at the world around her. She looked at the sky so wide open and thought of her future which she hoped would be as brilliant as the sunrise she was witnessing. It didn't occur to her then that she might loose something important that day. She could have never known that it was a day that would be mark by the deepest sadness she had known.
Graduation itself began at eleven. There was a short speech delivered by the Headmistress full of hope for their future. Hermione hadn't been able to keep her emotions in check as she heard the voice of her favorite professor strangle on the words. It was obvious that despite all of Minerva McGonagall's strictness she was still a sentimental woman. It was also painfully obvious to Hermione as she felt Professor McGonagall brush her lips quickly on her cheek as she received her diploma that the day would not be a happy one. At least she could not see it as completely happy. It was as Professor McGonagall whispered "I'm so proud of you" against her skin that Hermione finally started to realize that this day would be truly important, that she would be leaving so much behind as she moved forward. Hermione felt her throat constrict with emotion then and she could only nod and give her dear Professor a watery smile.
The ceremony was followed by a wonderful banquet in honor of the new graduates. The whole school was in attendance and the volume of noise was considerable given the excitement of all the pupils. At the Gryffindor table the head girl didn't seem to be in a mood for much chatter, in fact Hermione had barely touched her plate. She tried to be involved in the conversation going on between her two best friends but couldn't possible think about the train that would be taking them away from Hogwarts in only a few hours, she could not rejoice with Ron and Harry at finally being free of school. All she was able to do was sneak glances at the head table when she thought Harry and Ron were too engrossed in there conversation to notice. The emotional flood gate that seemed to have been open by Professor McGonagall's innocent kiss refused to be closed again. All Hermione could do was keep the tears stinging her eyes at bay. After all she didn't want to make a scene. No, that would attract too much attention. Tears would surely attract the attention of the Headmistress and that truly was the last thing Hermione wanted.
By the end the banquet Hermione felt none of the cheerfulness and hope that seemed to have filled her that morning. As she slowly packed away the last of her things Hermione felt the tears she had been holding back begin to fall. She lightly caressed her cover of her transfiguration book and the let her hand hover over the spot where she had been kissed. She smiled as she thought of the bond that she had forged with Professor McGonagall through the years. Hermione sat on her bed and look around her room. She half hiccupped and half sobbed as she remember the number of times she had dreamt of the green eyed woman in that very room. Hermione shook her head at all her silliness. It had only ever been a dream, nothing more she had always known there would be nothing more. She had never had any illusion to the contrary, Minerva McGonagall felt nothing more than motherly affection towards her. Despite knowing this, having always known this, it was still hard to think that she would wake up in a far away place from tomorrow on and that she would never again be able to get lost in those green eyes as she had done during classes.
Hermione wiped away her tears and picked up the book once more to put it in her trunk. It was then that a paper fell out of the book. She looked at curiously knowing she had not left it there. Hermione picked it up and her tears started a new as she recognized the neat handwriting of Minerva McGonagall. When had she placed the note in the book? Hermione didn't know. She sat on the bed once more and opened the letter slowly not sure if she wanted to know what Minerva had written or not.
I hope you find this when you are a long way from Hogwarts so that I might be spared the embarrassment. I have never been very good at expressing my feelings, I'm sure you've noticed. Writing about them is only slightly easier that speaking of them. I will miss you Hermione. It's silly really after all this years as a teacher that I should find myself so incapable of saying goodbye to a student. But you are not just another student Hermione not to me. I hope that at least I've been able to show that much. What I could not show is that you have become dearer to me than I should ever have allowed. Dear is simply not the right word. I've come to feel something for you Hermione which I should never had felt as your teacher. I have come to love you and could not stand the thought of never telling you. I cannot help but be absolutely honest with you; thankfully I was able to keep this until now. Now that you are far away form me, now that I no longer have to face you I can say it. I hope you wouldn't think me a coward Hermione and I hope you can forgive an old woman her foolishness. I hope you never look back but you never forget those that love you in this place you've left behind. Please forgive me for sending you this letter.
Hermione could only choke on her sobs as tears ran down her cheeks and splashed across the paper.
Minerva walked slowly towards her rooms. She was truly tried. The day had been an long one but finally the graduates were on the train home. Everything was as it should be. She had tried to say goodbye to as many of them as she could but she hadn't been able to see the one person she had wanted to. She sighed and pushed open her door, there was nothing to be done about it. It was better that way she supposed she had made enough of a display at the ceremony.
She stopped mid-step on seeing the figure on her sofa. "Hermione?!"
She saw the young woman cross her legs and lean back against the sofa. "Minerva." She tried not to show her surprise at the usage of her first name. It was a very good surprise.
"What are you doing here? The train has gone."
Hermione nodded but didn't provide any explanation. She simply reached for a note, Minerva had not seen on the table before. She felt the air leave her lungs then. She had a horrible feeling she knew that letter. In fact she was sure she knew that letter. Her cheeks burned. The whole point of the letter was for her to avoid that very moment. Yet here she was.
"I decided not to you save you the embarrassment." Hermione said flatly, looking directly into Minerva's green eyes.
Minerva began to panic then. She didn't know what to do. Up to that point she had been able to control almost every personal relationship in her life. But this she hadn't plan for. She supposed it made prefect sense since she hadn't planned anything when it came to Hermione. All of the plans she had made for Hermione had been about how to stop fall in love with her. They had been about keeping a professional distance. All those plans had failed. There was no point of planning anything now. "Yes I can see that."
Hermione uncrossed then crossed her legs again. "So?"
Minerva moved towards the seating are and flopped down opposite to Hermione. Yes she flopped down. She was too tired to do anything else and she was sure this conversation would only tire her more. "I'm sorry?"
Hermione leaned forwards resting her elbows on her thighs. "I'm not saving you the embarrassment."
Minerva let her head drop against the hair. "So you've said."
Hermione leaned back against the sofa, really looking at Minerva for the first time. She looked tired. Hermione felt deflated. She had come here with the express purpose of confronting Minerva for not have the gall of telling her in person. But well seeing her there so obviously tired she couldn't really continue as planned.
"Just tell me why?" She said in a small voice.
Minerva rubbed her eyes. "I thought I wouldn't be able to do this. I thought it would be too hard. I was right."
"Do what exactly? How many times have we talked just like this in this very room? What could be so hard about this?" Hermione tried to push aside the thought that they hadn't actually had talks like that one. Not about them. Never about their feelings.
"I was afraid of your reaction."
Hermione laughed hard. "My reaction! Here is my reaction…I feel the same way."
Minerva smiled sadly. "Yes I had a feeling you did. That's the problem."
Hermione didn't really know how to react to that. "What?"
"I love you Hermione I do but this…" Minerva said motioning between them,"…is not meant to be."
Hermione felt even more confused now. "What?"
"This is a path we cannot walk together Hermione. You have a certain path to travel and I have to continue on mine."
"I don't understand." Hermione felt the tears stinging her eyes once more. She supposed today was one of those day were she wouldn't be able to stop crying.
Minerva felt her heart ache at the pitiful look on Hermione's face. "I'm sorry for sending you the letter. I really am."
"So what now?" Hermione asked in between sobs.
"Now we say goodbye." Minerva said standing up. Hermione did the same.
"I'm not sure I can." She said as she moved towards Minerva.
"We have too." Minerva said leaning to kiss her for the second time that day, except this time it was on the lips. It was a really kiss, their first kiss, their last kiss.
"Right." Hermione said when Minerva pulled back.
"Can you get home alright?"
"I'll apparate." Hermione didn't know why she was so calm, she should be a big mess of tears but for some reason she didn't feel like crying anymore.
"Good." God were they really down to one word answers? Was this what it would be like from them now? Would they loose everything? Hermione hoped not.
Hermione didn't wait for a response. She simply turned around and felt. She fought the urge to look back, to run back, as the door closed behind her. As she made her way out of the ancient castle, her home of so many years, Hermione couldn't help the sadness that engulfed her. In those walls she had first discovered the beauty of magic. It one of those class rooms she had discovered the beauty of a pair of wise green eyes. It had been in those walls that she had first dreamt of love.
As she moved past the heavy iron gates of Hogwarts Hermione couldn't help looking back full of nostalgia. In there somewhere was the woman she loved, and in there she would remain, out of her reach. She was on a path Hermione had not been permeated to follow no matter how much she wanted to do so. She closed her eyes and held her breathe. She was gone with a small 'pop'. She would have to forge her own path.