"Hermione, I just don't understand why we have to do this. It's no different than any other Christmas!" Ron complained, again, as he trudged along the gravel road.
Hermione turned to her head to the right, looking over her shoulder at Ron. "Ron, this is the first Christmas without Voldemort around. It is very different," she pointed out, with an annoyed sigh.
"Hermione," Harry pitched in on her left, "I think he means that the way we spend Christmas won't be any different. The way Professor McGonagall spends her Christmas won't be any different."
Hermione snapped her head from looking at Harry, to looking at the rather large house in front of them. Madame Hooch had told Hermione that this was where the McGonagall family house was a few days earlier. "Honestly you two. You'd think you were going in for torture. For the tenth time, we're going to pay a visit to the Professor because one; she was my favourite teacher, and two; because she told me at dinner a few weeks ago that she would be spending it at her house, alone, and not visiting family. I assure you, if I had found out that she does this every year, this trip would be tradition by now."
Ron grumbled under his breath, as Hermione pulled the black gates open, and stepped through. As Harry and Ron followed, Harry spoke up again. "Hermione, she probably meant her home at Hogwarts. After all, she's always there over the Christmas break looking after the students who stay."
Hermione turned around to face the two boys, with her hands on her hips. "Look. To answer your question Harry, if you paid any attention to your surroundings, you would notice that no, she is not there every day during Christmas break. She's isn't there from Christmas Eve, to the day after Christmas Day." She sighed. "I don't know why you can't show some care for Professor McGonagall, after everything she's done for us."
There was a pause, before Harry replied, "You're right Hermione. Let's go then."
The three set off, up the path and up the steps to the porch. They reached the door, when Ron said, "And how come Ginny doesn't have to be here?"
Hermione gave him an unimpressed look. "Because Ginny has a legitimate excuse – helping your mother cook Christmas dinner!"
"I would have helped with that!"
Hermione raised her eyebrow. "I think everyone would like to eat dinner, Ron."
Before Ron could rebuttal Hermione, she knocked on the black door. They waited a few moments, and Hermione was just about to knock again, when the door swung open, revealing a young girl, who looked to be a year younger than the three. Her grey eyes looked annoyed, as she leaned against the door, flicking her black hair behind her shoulder.
"Something I can do for you?" She asked, looking at the three with her eyebrows raised, also in annoyance.
"Uhm," Hermione shook her head, looking down at the address Madame Hooch had written for her.
"Well?" The girl asked again, impatiently. She stood up straight, waiting for an answer.
Hermione looked up. "Sorry, I think we have the wrong address."
The girl sighed, leaning against the door again. "Fine. Who are you looking for? I've lived on this street my whole life."
Hermione swallowed, slightly intimidated by this girl, so Harry took over. "We're looking for Professor Minerva McGonagall?"
The girl let out an even louder, and even more annoyed sigh, before stepping back into the house. She turned her head over her shoulder, much like Hermione had done to Ron earlier, and yelled back, "MA!"
"WHAT?!" came a voice from inside the house.
"DOOR!" And with that, the girl left the three standing at the door while she walked away. A figure walked towards the door, and as it passed the girl, it smacked the back of the girl's head with a white dish cloth.
"OI!" the girl yelled, before stomping into another room.
The figure made its way to the door, revealing itself as Minerva McGonagall. Wearing a plain black skirt coupled with a white top and a white apron tied around her waist, she gave the three a surprised look when she noticed them. "Harry, Hermione, Ron. What on earth are you doing here?" she asked, stepping aside to let them inside the house.
The two boys – men now, really, - followed Hermione inside the house. The instant they stepped in, Ron compared the yummy smell to the burrow's – not as yummy, but still quite pleasant. Hermione was the first to find her voice. She was still shocked at her favourite professor, whom she was used to seeing wearing a tight bun, wearing her hair in a low pony tail, her black hair falling over her shoulder.
"Uhm... We were just coming by to say hi. We didn't want you to be alone on Christmas..." Hermione trailed off, looking at some of the photos hung up on the wall. Most of them were pictures of the girl who had answered the door, at various stages of childhood.
Minerva's eyes softened – something they had never seen before. She smiled, another rarity, and answered, "That's very sweet of you. Would you like to have some tea?"
Ron's mouth fell open slightly, wondering if they had gone to the wrong house. Harry grinned at the Professor, answering for all of them, as Hermione was wrapped up in the photographs of the girl in the foyer.
"We'd love to Professor."
Minerva nodded, her smile staying. "Alright then, you three just make yourself comfortable, I assume you have some questions," she pointed her comment at Hermione, who was beginning to lean forward to examine the photo. Hermione snapped up when she noticed, and gave Minerva an embarrassed smile. "Just have a seat in the sitting room, and I'll be right back with some tea."
Hermione again led Harry and Ron into the sitting room, which was exactly the way Hermione had pictured Professor McGonagall's sitting room to be: antique furniture with some modern touches and colours. Sitting on the small sofa, underneath a window that looked out onto the porch, was the girl who had answered the door. The three friends took a seat in another small sofa that faced the girl, with a small wooden table between the two sofas. The girl looked up from her book, and promptly turned back to it after getting a look at the three.
There were only a few awkward moments between the four, before Minerva reappeared with a small plate of ginger newts, crackers, and assorted chocolates.
"Catherine, could you please put the book down and be polite?" Minerva asked, before leaving the room.
"They're your students not mine!" Catherine yelled back. "And this is a very good book!"
"How do you know –it's upside down!" Minerva called back.
Annoyed that she had been caught, Catherine set the book down beside the plate, and picked up at ginger newt. Biting the tail, she turned to the three sitting there, still awkwardly. "So, let me guess: Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Harry Potter."
Hermione frowned, but nodded. "How did you..."
Before she finished her question, Catherine pointed her half eaten ginger newt at the mantle, where various class photos were sitting. She stood, with Harry behind her, to get a better look at them. Ron, too confused about this whole situation – being in his professor's house, where his professor was acting like someone completely different – to move, and therefore stayed in his seat.
"This is our class photograph..." Hermione pointed at the graduating class of Gryffindors. Harry picked it up off the mantle, and looked at himself waving, and pushing Ron jokingly into Hermione, who gave the two a glare and straightened her robes.
"Harry – " Hermione passed Harry another class photo, as he set his own back on the mantle. "That's your parent's class."
Harry looked closer at it, and sure enough, there were his parents, his father's arms wrapped around his mother, while Sirius was pouring an unknown substance in another boy's hair. Lupin stood there sweetly, meekly, smiling at the camera. Harry smiled to himself, before handing it back to Hermione, who replaced it.
"She puts all her favourite classes up there," Catherine continued, "She was right disappointed when the twins dropped out before the picture was taken."
"Fred and George?" Harry asked.
"Yup." Catherine replied. Catherine leaned forward to the three, as if to tell a secret. "She always loved those pranks they pulled."
Hermione smiled, while Harry nodded knowingly. He knew she couldn't have been all that annoyed with the twins, especially when the targets were Slytherins.
Minerva came bustling in, carrying a tray with a teapot and some tea cups, and set them down on table beside the crackers and treats. She flashed the trio a smile, before pulling up one of the arm chairs, and poured each of them a cup of the tea. As she handed each of the cups to them, they each said thank you, with the exception of Catherine, who took it while she sent Minerva a glare. Minerva completely ignored the glare, and turned to Hermione, Harry, and Ron.
"So you've already met my delightful daughter, Catherine, I see."
Ron, who had been taking a sip of his tea, drew some of the burning liquid back into his throat with his breath, and began choking. Hermione quickly set her own tea cup down, and took Ron's out of his hands before he managed to spill some on himself. Harry was the only one taking pity on Ron; he hit Ron on the back a few good times, before Ron stopped choking.
"Honestly, you can't tell me you didn't see that coming, Ron." Hermione said, rolling her eyes.
"Bloody hell..." Ron said, ignoring Hermione, as he took his tea from the table and drank some of it to clear his throat.
"Well," Catherine said, setting her tea down to cool off a bit, "Gryffindors aren't supposed to be the smart ones..."
Minerva shot Catherine her famous McGonagall glare, but naturally her daughter didn't flinch or show any change in her attitude. It was as if Minerva had just smiled at her. "I don't know why you feel the need to be like this."
"Like what?" Catherine said, matching her mother's look.
Ron's mouth was slightly open once more, as he had never seen anyone call out Professor McGonagall before.
"Unruly." Minerva replied, taking a sip of her own tea.
Catherine scoffed. "Well it's certainly not because you've locked me in this bloody house for the rest of my life!"
"One week is hardly the rest of your life. And if you had come home a decent hour last night, you wouldn't be in this mess."
"Whatever," Catherine replied. She shoved a cracker in her mouth, before giving her mother a crumb-filled, sarcastic smile.
Minerva was about to retort, when an alarm rang through the house. Apologetically, she set down her tea down, and returned to the kitchens. Catherine rolled her eyes, before swinging her legs up onto the couch, lying face up. She reached her hands above her head, and stretched rather cat like, while yawning.
Like a boy would do to any girl who was stretching like that before them; both Harry and Ron let their eyes be drawn to the girl. She stretched again, before Minerva returned. As she stepped back into the room, she noticed Ron and Harry's eyes. She took the white cloth from her apron, and swatted Catherine on the stomach.
"Honestly, I don't know where you get your nerve from," Minerva said, taking her seat.
"I was stretching! I hardly count it as nerve," Catherine sat up to face her mother. "But if you are wondering, I got it from you."
"You most certainly did not."
"I got more than that from you..." Catherine smiled, as she reached over and poked her mother in the side. "C'mon mom, we all know you got a hot body somewhere under those clothes."
Ron suddenly looked like he was going to be sick; while Harry's face turned complete white, and Hermione smiled saying, "You two are cute together."
Minerva turned from swatting her daughter's hands away from her side, to look at Hermione. She smiled at her former student. "Thank you Hermione. Now, why don't you tell me why you're really here?" Minerva turned herself to face the three sitting on the couch.
Hermione blushed, feeling foolish now. "Well... you said you weren't doing anything special for Christmas, or visiting family so... so I assumed you would be all alone. And after everything you've done for us..." Hermione swallowed, "I thought we could at least pay you a visit on Christmas."
Minerva looked down at her tea, before looking back up at her three students. "I...I really appreciate that, you three." Her teary eyes averted back to her tea in her lap.
Harry, Ron, and even Hermione were surprised when they saw the tears. They were utterly confused, and not used to seeing this side of their professor. Hermione immediately blamed it on setting – Hermione always felt more vulnerable and emotional when she was in her own home. Harry and Ron however, were still confused. The confusion must have been evident on their face, because Catherine leaned forward again to tell them a secret.
"She's been like this ever since dad died," Catherine whispered, but wasn't quiet enough for Minerva not to hear.
"Catherine," Minerva said warningly.
"I'm just saying," Catherine said, leaning back.
"Can I ask... who your father is?" Harry, ever curious, asked. Hermione shot him a glare that told him it was the wrong question.
Catherine opened her mouth, but thought twice before saying something. Hermione noticed that Minerva had shot her a look as well. Minerva cleared her throat.
"I suppose I should give you a long speech about this – but I'm not going to. The truth is, is that Professor Dumbledore and I were married in Australia, and Catherine is our daughter. You can understand why I still want you to keep this to yourselves."
Hermione nodded, seemingly unsurprised. Harry kept quiet, trying to absorb the information, but Ron seemed to have found his voice. "DUMBLEDORE?!" he blurted.
"...Yes." Minerva answered him.
There was moment of silence, before Ron spoke up again, this time more in control. "So... why are keeping this to ourselves?"
"Because she doesn't want anything to happen to Catherine," Hermione said, exasperated.
"Professor... Why... why are you telling us now?" Harry asked. "You could have lied about her father – she doesn't really look like the professor – and clearly he didn't want us to know, or he would have told us."
"She may not look like him, but she certainly acts like him," Minerva said, more to Catherine than to Harry. Catherine looked up from her tea, and gave her mother another smile that was filled with ginger newt crumbs. Minerva shook her head and turned back to Harry. "Harry," she started, "you know that everything Albus kept from you was to protect you. It might not always have turned out that way, but his intentions were good. We didn't tell anyone because of what might of happened to Catherine – can you imagine," The wavering in her voice told everyone in the room that she had obviously thought about it, "if Riddle had found out about her? She would have been right up there with you and Albus."
Ron, surprisingly, was nodding understandably.
"Can we please not talk about this while she's in the room?" Catherine added.
Minerva looked over at Catherine, and gave her a watery smile. As Minerva turned back to her tea, finishing it off, Hermione noticed that Catherine's mood seemed to change.
"Ma, I think dinner's ready," Catherine said, gesturing towards the kitchen.
Minerva simply nodded, before she excused herself to go back to the kitchens. As soon as she left, Catherine's eyes moved from her mother's back, to the three in front of her.
"I appreciate you guys coming down and saying something to my mom. Despite how she acts around you all at school, she does love you. You might as well be my siblings," Catherine joked, before she sobered up. "She's kind of an emotional wreck right now; trying to be strong for me, and trying to grieve over dad. She never really got the chance to grieve when he died – there was still a war going on, and she was still an important part of it.
"So, I hope you don't take this the wrong way but..." Catherine took a breath, looked around the room as if to get her bearings again, before making eye contact with Hermione. "... It would probably be best if you guys left. Before she gets embarrassed because she's crying and everything. But," Hermione paused from gathering her stuff to leave, and sat back down on the couch, "what are you guys doing the day after Christmas?"
Harry shook his head, "I'm not doing anything important."
After nods from Ron and Hermione, Catherine continued. "Do you guys mind coming back for lunch? I think that would be better – my mom's not to bad of a cook, and I'm gonna try and get through to her in the next couple of days."
Hermione, Ron and Harry all replied that they would be able to come for lunch that day, before Catherine ushered them out good naturedly. Just as the door shut behind her, Hermione grabbed Ron's hand and squeezed.
"I'm happy for her."
Ron and Harry looked at Hermione. "I am too," Ron replied, squeezing Hermione's hand back.
Back in the house, having just shut the door, Catherine turned around. She entered the sitting room again, picking up her book. She was placing it back on the shelf that sat behind the couch the three visitors had been sitting on, when Minerva re-entered the room. She looked around confused, and turned to Catherine.
"Where did they go?"
Catherine sighed, "I don't know, they're not my students, are they?"
A/N: I don't remember the point of this story, so I guess that makes it rather pointless... but anyway, if Minerva seems OOC, it's because it I was going off the way Maggie Smith plays her in the first movie (which I was watching while I was writing this) and how I think she would act in her own home; everyone is more relaxed in their own home. Other than that... I hope you liked it!