A/N: In honor of Minerva McGonagall's 84th birthday, here's the first installment of a Minerva/Hermione story that I've had in mind for a while. I'll post a chapter every Sunday.
I like to take familiar fanfic tropes and work out my own interpretations of them. This story is my version of some of the motifs and plots common to many Minerva/Hermione fics. And the whole thing is a little meta, too. I love meta.
My thanks to the most thoughtful, careful, patient betas ever: The Real Snape and Moira of the Mountain. Both are excellent writers in their own right; don't miss their fic, archived right here at FFN.
Disclaimer: JKR and I are completely different people; she is far more hetero-normative than I.
By Kelly Chambliss
The first time Hermione Granger saw a card with a black border, she had just turned four. She'd been sitting with her great-grandmother, having a snack and practicing her alphabet, when the envelope arrived in the post.
The letter had been sent to Great-Grandmother Marks, a frail but prickly old woman who spent most of her time reclining in a chair in a darkened room and who didn't believe in sugar-coating either life or language for children. Hermione liked her.
"It means someone is dead," Grandmother said in response to an eager question about the black-edged card, "and it's a silly, old-fashioned way to say so."
"Someone is dead? Who? How did they die? Are you sorry?" Hermione asked in a rush. Death interested her, but few adults seemed willing to discuss it, and she thought she'd better get out as many questions as she could before even Grandmother Marks declared the subject closed.
"No one you know," her great-grandmother replied. "And no, I'm not sorry, because he had been very sick for a very long time. He's better off now."
"But I thought death was sad," Hermione objected, remembering a deceased hamster and her tears.
"Sometimes it is, yes," Grandmother Marks nodded. Then she glanced around her room. "But sometimes. . .death is nothing to be sorry about at all."
"Will you be sorry when you die?" Hermione suspected that her mother would say this question was rude, but since her mother wasn't there, she risked it.
And Grandmother Marks didn't get angry. She even answered, after a fashion, although Hermione didn't quite understand what she meant.
"Everything dies. You should only be sorry if you don't really live before you go."
Not having heard Hermione's great-grandmother's sentiments about death borders, The Daily Prophet had been edging its obituaries in black since the days of Nicolas Flamel's late middle age.
Hermione always read the death notices carefully, a habit left over from the days of the war, when the obituaries had provided perhaps the most accurate assessment of Lord Voldemort's strength and power. Nowadays, though, they mostly provided only proof that ordinary life went on in its usual familiar, natural cycle, something Hermione, at age 40, found reassuring.
Except when the natural cycle took someone she knew.
The words "professor at Hogwarts" caught her eye first, and she stared in dismay at the small notice near the bottom of the obit column. One of the few entries that wasn't accompanied by a smiling, waving photograph of the departed, it stated the facts succinctly: date and place of death, lineage, survivors (not many, just a nephew and his wife). And a final line: "No service; private interment. Family will receive guests Thursday, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Waldrick's, Diagon Alley."
Waldrick's -- a quiet restaurant with excellent food, unobtrusive service, and a private room often booked for parties and receptions. It was not, as far as Hermione knew, a common place for a wake, but perhaps the gathering wasn't intended to be one. She didn't know what sort of rite the professor might have wanted.
Nor did she know whether she would go. Or should.
Or whether she could stay away.