"That would be very unusual."
"I know. I didn't think this option was possible at all. Professor Dumbledore told me about it and asked if I would be interested, because he knows I want to study transfiguration. I had to think about it, of course. I mean, an apprenticeship is a huge step, but I am sure now. If you'd like to take me on, I'd love to become your apprentice, but only if you really want that. I don't want to be a burden or anything. I promise I won't be disappointed if you said it wasn't what you wanted." Hermione finished her nervous speech, not quite sure where to look. Anything but her mentor's eyes would do.
Minerva couldn't believe what she just heard. An apprenticeship? There had been only a handful of apprenticeships in Hogwarts history, and this kind of arrangement was highly unusual.
The older woman was completely overwhelmed by Hermione's words. Every thought pulled her in another direction. She felt incredibly weak and useless for needing help with her job, and at the same time she was unbelievably touched that Albus would arrange the only help she would accept for her, rather than letting her go. And Hermione. Did she really want an apprenticeship, or was her real motivation to help her?
"I…I don't know what to say."
"I'm so sorry. I really didn't mean to offend you." Hermione felt awful all of a sudden.
"I am not offended. Not at all." Minerva put her arm around the younger woman's shoulder. "I am worried about you."
"Me?" Hermione looked as shocked as she sounded and caused the old witch to smile.
"Yes, you. Hermione, is that really what you want? I know you would do it just to help me, but I need to be sure you'll do it because that is what you really want with all your heart."
"I am sure, Minerva. I was a bit confused when Professor Dumbledore asked me, so I wanted a few days to think about it. I am absolutely sure now. This apprenticeship is what I want, if you are willing to put up with me."
Minerva nodded, not looking too happy.
"Minerva, are you all right?"
"To be honest, I don't know, Hermione. The feeling of not being able to do my work, to do magic, on my own is…well…unpleasant, to put it nicely. I've never felt so weak and useless." Hermione reached for her friends hand and gave it a comforting squeeze. "The thought of having you as my apprentice on the other hand, although unusual, gives me hope that everything will be all right. But Hermione, there is a reason I am alone." For a moment she looked very sad. "I tend to saying things I don't really mean when I am stressed and hurt the people around me. I don't want that to happen to you, but I know it will sooner or later. The problem is that you can't just leave me like so many others did. To become an apprentice you'll have to sign a binding magical contract and from that moment on there is no turning back. You need to know that before you make your decision."
Hermione shifted her position and took both of Minerva's hands in hers. "I have made my decision already. I want to be your apprentice. I realise it won't be easy all the way through, but I know we can work it out. There are still so many details to talk about, but I am sure Professor Dumbledore already has solutions on his mind."
For the first time in this chat a smile tugged at the older woman's lips. "It seems I am going to have an apprentice then. Severus will be furious."
The young witch beamed with joy and leaped forward to throw her arms around Minerva, who groaned loudly, causing Hermione to pull back on an instant. "I am so sorry! I didn't mean to…"
"Hush," Minerva cut her off. "Come here again, but slowly this time." She smiled encouragingly.
Hermione very gently and carefully wrapped her arms around the older witch again. They stayed like that for a while, not quite believing what just had happened. When they pulled back, Minerva placed a small kiss on the girl's forehead.
A few moments later, they heard someone open the door. Minerva quickly whispered a "Showtime" to her young charge.
"Hello ladies, " Albus greeted upon entering the bedroom.
" Professor Dumbledore." Minerva looked livid and Hermione could see the headmaster flinch slightly. "I can't believe what I have heard! How dare you?! How dare you make decisions for me!! I'm quitting, you hear?!"
"Minerva," the old man tried to stop his friend.
"Don't Minerva me!" she screamed. "I am done with you for the rest of my life. You want Miss Granger to teach? Fine. I quit. She can have my job, I hope she enjoys it!"
"Minerva please, I…" he tried again. That was it. Hermione couldn't take it anymore. She started laughing with her whole heart. She knew of course that Minerva was able to act if she needed to, but this was hilarious. This would have earned her an Academy Award in the muggle world.
Albus Dumbledore appeared, for a moment, as if he had been hit by a train, before he understood.
"Oh Hermione," Minerva complained. "I was just warming up."
"I am so sorry, but where did you learn that?!" she asked still laughing. "You should have become an actress."
"I am a teacher. That is close enough I think." She gave the young girl a wink.
Now that Albus Dumbledore had fully recovered, he joined in the laughing. "Dear god, Minerva, you really had me there. You gave me quite a scare. I take it Miss Granger talked with you already?"
Hermione looked a little guilty now. "I am sorry, Professor. I didn't plan to, but then the opportunity arose and I felt I should take it."
"Don't worry, Miss Granger. From the smile on both of your faces, I assume your talk went well." The headmaster smiled happily.
"It did, Albus. May I introduce you to my soon to be apprentice Hermione Granger?"
"It is my pleasure, Hermione." He formally gave her a hand shake and enjoyed the way Hermione blushed.
"We should talk about the details soon, Albus. What subjects can Hermione still take with her classmates, and where she will live, for example." Minerva looked serious now.
"We'll talk about that very soon. I suggest the two of you come to my office tomorrow after dinner to discuss this matter."
"Thank you Albus." Minerva looked him straight in the eyes and he understood for what she really thanked him. He leaned over and gave his best friend a warm hug. "You are very welcome my dear."
Hermione watched the exchange happily. She was definitely looking forward to what lay ahead.