AN: This story takes place during the summer following events in my previous story, "The Next Step". Based on ideas discussed with Butterfly Rainbow during the writing of her story "A Cat, Her Kitten & A Toad". Like my previous offering this tale is based in the AU universe created by that brilliant young writer and written with her permission.

THE BOAT HOUSE

It was early June at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. The last classes of the term had ended two days previous and all that remained for the teachers was to grade final exams and get on with the summer.

In the teacher's lounge several professors sat, enjoying a brief respite from the drudgery of grading essays and such. Gathered around the huge oak table that dominated the room was Filius Flitwick, diminutive charms professor. He was rapidly marking an essay, tutting every time he had to mark a red slash through something the hapless fourth year had written. Pomona Sprout sat next to Flitwick. Her salt & pepper hair a little more wild than normal. Not surprising since she'd had a wrestling match with a young devil's snare earlier in the day. If it had been fully mature, she knew the outcome might've been a bit different. Poppy Pomfrey sat beside her sipping her scalding Earl Grey. At the far end, Rolanda Hooch sat reading the latest Quiddich news mumbling under her breath as she read. The door burst open and Albus Dumberdore swept in followed by a very pouty Horace Slughorn. "I don't see why I have to do this." The overweight potions professor whined lumbering over to a cabinet that held his precious supply of sugared pineapple slices. Dumbledore whirled around on the errant head of Slytherin House and said, "Because you gave me your word that you would give me one more year." Dumbledore's piercing blue eyes dared Slughorn to say a word. "Fine." The large man muttered through his walrus like moustache. Grabbing his precious pineapple, he lumbered out of the room; slamming the door in his wake. Outside the door, they heard him grumble, "Oh excuse me."

The door opened and everyone looked up to see Minerva McGonagall enter. Bewilderment showing clearly on her beautiful features as she gracefully lowered herself into a chair next to Hooch. "What was he going on about?" She directed her question to Dumbledore. The older wizard shook his head, "He wants out of his contract. I reminded him that he has one more year." Understanding graced the emerald eyed witch's features. Rolanda Hooch looked up, her hawk-like eyes narrowing, "What's so important that he wants out of his contact?" Dumbledore chuckled, "Beauxbatons is looking for a potions professor and he's expressed an interest in relocating to the south of France." McGonagall snorted, "And surrounding himself with Delacours no doubt." Referring to the powerful and wealthy French family. The inhabitants of the room all chuckled knowing full well that Horace Slughorn's two weaknesses were rich food and rich people.

At that moment the snowy owl Hedwig flew in an open window and landed gracefully in front of McGonagall. Flapping her beautiful wings, she stuck her leg out to the professor. "Well hello my dear." Minerva cooed, lightly stroking the owl's head. Hedwig let out a soft hoot and rubbed her beak against McGonagall's hand. Flitwick gazed at the Transfiguration Professor, his eyes narrowing, "Isn't that Potter's owl?" Minerva nodded absently as she removed the parchment from Hedwig's leg. Hooch reached into her pocket for a bit of bacon she'd stashed there earlier. Offering it to the bird, she smiled as Hegwig snapped it up happily, "Here you go sweetie, I know you've flown a long way." She cast a knowing smile at Dumbledore, then over to McGonagall.

Only a select few people knew what that smile was about.

Hermione Granger.

Former Student, now advanced medical studies college student.

Minerva's Lover.

Dumbledore watched as his friend read the parchment. A beautiful smile making it's way across her striking features. Flitwick, Sprout and Pomfrey were looking at her expectantly. Albus was grinning from ear to ear, his blue eyes twinkling and Hooch simply elbowed her in the ribs. "Ow!" She grumbled, elbowing back. Flitwick squeaked out a laugh, "What does Potter have to say?" They were all interested in knowing what was going on with their famous former student. Minerva smiled, "Actually Hedwig is staying with Hermione Granger as Potter's schedule is so varied. He wasn't able to truely look after the owl, so Hermione offered to let Hedwig stay with her." She patted the owl again, "Didn't she dear?" Hedwig hooted happily. Minerva smiled fully, a truely beautiful sight to behold. Something she didn't do alot of, at least until Hermione came along. The other professors had noticed a light spring to Minerva's step and a ready smile as of late. They didn't, however, comment on it. No one wanted to be hexed.

Albus, who'd seated himself on the other side of his best friend, reached out and stroked the owl's feathers. "So what does the brilliant young Granger have to say?" He asked, a lilting tone in his voice. Minerva sighed, "Oh... this and that." She read on, smiling, "Apparently young Dawn and Ronald Weasley have become a bit of an item." Dumbledore's bushy eyebrows climbed up his forehead, "Really?" he remembered the dinner they had that apparently brought Weasley and the younger Granger together. Minerva nodded, "Hermione says that her father had a bit of a fit over the fact that his daughter is dating a wizard." She frowned as she read the next passage, "Apparently the Granger's have seperated." Dumbledore gasped, "Why?" Minerva frowned and raised her eyes to his. She uttered one word, "Magic."

"Where is Hermione's mother and sister staying?" Hooch asked, leaning in. Minerva gazed down at the parchment, answering, "The flat. Jean is staying in the guest bedroom and Dawn is sleeping on the fold-away sofa bed in the office..." She trailed off worry making it's way over her. Albus frowned, his brows knitting together. "Are they divorcing?" Minerva shook her head, it doesn't say," She gazed thoughtfully at the parchment, then added absently, "I'll ask her when I see her..." Albus and Rolanda's mouths fell open. Flitwick raised an eyebrow, "See her often do you?" It was obvious he was putting the pieces together. Minerva recovered quickly, "Uh..No..ah, I meant.. when I go to London. I have some business at the ministry, so I thought I'd drop by and see if Jean Granger was alright." Hooch leaned over and whispered, "Nice save." Minerva blushed deeply as Albus chuckled to himself. Filius Flitwick was head of Ravenclaw for a reason... he was brilliant. He also recognized Minerva's little white lie for what is was... A WHOPPER! Smiling, he took a sip of his tea, "Indeed."

Trying a diffuse an unfolding uncomfortable situation for his best friend, Albus asked, "Did Horace take all the pineapple?" He moved over to the potions professor's cabinet and looked inside. It was stocked full. "I'm sure he won't mind if I help myself." Everyone laughed as Minerva met her friend's eyes with gratitude. He had changed the subject successfully.

Later, Minerva sat at her private desk in her living quarters composing a letter to her lover. Hedwig roosted on the back of her chair reading what the older witch was writing over her shoulder. She'd learned that trick from that rascal Crookshanks...

My Dearest Hermione,
It is with great sadness that I read about your parents separation. I truely hope that they find a true and honest resolution to their problems. How are you faring through all of this turmoil? How is Dawn? I wish with all my heart that I was there by your side helping ease your troubles.

With your mother and sister staying at the flat, I daresay it would not be appropriate for me to just suddenly appear, would it? I sincerely doubt your mother would be accepting of the fact that not only is her younger daughter involved with a wizard, but her older daughter is involved with a witch! A much older witch mind you. I know you are not bothered by the difference in our ages but, I fear, your mother will be. Until you are ready to tell your parents about us, I suggest I keep a low profile for the time being.

I would, however like to invite you to McGonagall Manor. I understand your term ends in a few days and the summer session does not begin until mid July. How would you like to spend your vacation with me at the Manor? Angus would love to see you again. So would I for that matter. I find I'm missing you more and more. It's difficult to sleep without you by my side. The dreams I have are bizarre, sometimes frightening. When we're together, my dreams are pleasant and filled with images of you My Love.

I promised my aunts that I would finally paint the bloody boat house! Arthur Weasley got the paint I requested. Unfortunately this particular magical paint has one odd property... In order for the magic in the paint to truely adhear to the surface of whatever it is going on, it has to be applied by hand. By that, I mean the muggle way. With paint brushes and such. Would you be willing to help? Arthur and Molly have offered to help, so has Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter. Ronald is too wrapped up in your sister to notice anything going on around him. That is according to Molly Weasley mind you, not me.

Anyway, if coming to the Manor appeals to you, then please let me know and we'll figure out the details. As always, know that I love you with all of my being and look forward to seeing you again soon.

All My Love,
Minerva

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Hermione Granger's chocolate brown eyes glowed with anticipation. She was finally going to see McGonagall Manor! Oh how she'd heard such wonderful things about it from Minerva. But seeing it! She was giddy with excitement. Minerva told her to apparate to Hogwarts and they would go from there. How? She wasn't too sure. Minerva had been a bit evasive in her last letter.

With a small clap of thunder, Hermione appeared at the gates to Hogwarts. She gazed up at the castle with undisguised joy. Never had any place ever felt so much like home as Hogwarts did. She opened the heavy iron gate and proceeded up the path to the main doors.

Minerva had been pacing her quarters waiting for her love to appear. She felt the familiar butterflies swooping and doing somersaults in her stomach whenever she thought of Hermione. Grinning at such romantic nonsense, she peered out the large window next to her fireplace. Gasping, she saw her lover striding up the path towards the main entrance of the school. "At last!" She exclaimed, racing towards her door. In the corridor, she transformed into her cat form and galloped downstairs.

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Albus Dumbledore and Rolanda Hooch were deep in a discussion about the revovation of the quiddich pitch when a silver grey striped tabby flew by. Grinning knowingly, Dumbledore looked at Hooch, his sky blue eyes twinkling madly. "Hermione must be here." Rolanda chuckled as she nodded in agreement, "Let's say "Hello" before they get too wrapped up in each other." Taking the elder wizard's proferred arm, they strolled towards the main entrance.

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Hermione glanced up as she heard the main doors to the castle creak open. Standing in the entrance, clad in her traditional forest green robes and looking as resplendid as ever was her lover, Minerva McGonagall. Minerva's emerald eyes shown with unabashed joy as she beheld her young love. "Oh Hermione!" The latter ran the last few meters into her lover's outstretched arms. Tears of joy ran down the younger witch's beautiful face as she clung to her love. Arms around each other, they embraced happily. "I missed you." Hermione whispered in Minerva's ear. She felt herself squeezed harder as she heard the reply, "And I you."

A discreet clearing of the throat brought the lovers back to the here and now. "Ahem..." Dumbledore started, grinning madly at the two witches. He could feel their love. It was intoxicating. Even Rolanda seemed mezmerized. Hermione spied the two professors standing a few meters away. She grinned up at Minerva, inclined her head and trotted over to Dumbledore and Hooch. Right into Dumbledore's embrace. "So good to see you again my dear!" The elderly wizard exclaimed, hugging Hermione close. Here was the reason for Minerva's absolute joy of late. This beautiful, bushy haired genius had captured his best friend's heart so completely, he knew it was only a matter of time before Minerva proposed. He just knew it! Hermione stepped out of his embrace to acknowledge her past nemesis, Rolanda Hooch. The spikey haired witch was taken completely by surprise when she felt Hermione's arms wrap around her in a friendly hug. Eagerly she complied, carefully watching Minerva for any signs of a hex coming her way. "You look fantastic!" Rolanda exclaimed, taking in Hermione's beautiful, shapely form. "No wonder Minerva keeps going back for more... you're gorgeous!" The flying instructor stated, holding the younger witch back and gazing at her curvacious form.

"Oy!"

Rolanda looked up to see Minerva casting a dark look her way,

"Ogle your own woman!"

Rolanda laughed heartily and whispered to Hermione, "Go to her before she turns me into a toad.. or worse... a toad turd!" Hermione giggled and launched herself into Minerva's arms, "Behave yourself." She gasped out, between chuckles. Dumbledore joined in Hermione's mirth, chuckling good naturedly. "Ah now Min, don't you think we all know better by now?" He couldn't resist a good jab. "Hmmmf!" McGonagall replied, sweeping Hermione towards the great hall. "Have you eaten dear?" Dumbledore and Hooch heard as they watched the two strikingly lovely women enter the great hall.

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After their meal, Minerva and Hermione made their way to Minerva's quarters to retrieve the older witch's trunk and bags. Hermione sat on the four poster bed a smile making it's way across her thoughtful face. Minerva glanced over at her love and seeing Hermione's expression asked, "What is it my love?" Hermione smirked, "I was just remembering..." She patted the mattress daintily. Minerva's emerald eyes darkened as passionate memories of her making love to Hermione on that bed came to mind. She moved gracefully over to her love. Hermione looked into the lust filled eyes of her lover, "Ah yes, come here you randy witch."

Lips met eagerly.

Mouths opened.

Tongues clashed.

"Oh God, I've missed you." Hermione moaned, feeling herself being pushed back onto the bed. Minerva hovered over her woman, "Care to show me?" She asked in a deep and sultry tone. Hermione shot Minerva a saucy grin, "With pleasure." She began to unfasten the buttons on the forest green robes...

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-to be continued

AN: Be nice Y'all... and no flames. As Momma used to say, "If you don't have somethin' nice to say, then don't say nothin' at all.