Chapter 20

Minerva,

Here is what you requested.

Be safe.

Severus

Minerva's eyes glanced over the rim of her glasses to the small dark brown bottle resting upon desk in her private rooms.

Her thick lilt broke across the stillness in a mocking tone. "Be safe." With a final glance to the note, she let it slip from her fingers as the edge caught fire and ash fluttered to the floor. Picking up the bottle, she moved to the left of the desk and with a complex incantation; the wall vanished and before her stood aged wood shelving from floor to ceiling with hundreds of glass containers filled with a variety of colors, lengths, and textures of hair. Along the side of each shelf was a series of numbers and letters that would make little sense to most, but to her…it made perfect sense. Experienced eyes lifted upward, and upon finding the one she sought, it floated down into her waiting fingers. Setting the container down on the desk, she gently pulled the lid off, extracting one singular strand and with skilled fingers; placed it within the draft bottle Severus sent.

A quick glance to the clock, half past four…

The wedding was to start at five. She thought, and with a sigh…upended the contents of the bottle.

At once she could feel the polyjuice tendril through her system…the changes already taking place, and she turned to her mirror…easily transfiguring her robes in style, color and size...as she gazed upon the eerie reflection that once belonged to her best friend.

Albus Dumbledore.

Ohhh how she missed him. He was one of the few…who she could talk too…and Merlin after the last month did she need someone…other than her own ruminations.

She could feel her blue eyes mist over…and blinked more than once…before they remained at bay. Almost as an afterthought, she banished the remnants of the polyjuice bottle, returned the container to its position and with a subtle wave re-enacted the wall before drawing her magic to her…and with a muffled crackle, vanished.

The burrow beginning to take shape…

And before her profile became solid, it shrunk…and a large white cat darted across the lawns.


oxox


"Who are you looking for?" Ron asked as Hermione's eyes flicked to the door once more.

I thought she'd be here. "Just looking." She murmured, feeling mildly dejected as she drug her eyes back to the ceremony that was about to take place.

"You sure?" He cast a glance to the door herself, "That's the tenth time in as many minutes."

"Constant vigilance." She found herself saying as her eyes went past Ron to meet with Harry's; his green eyes mirroring her own heartache before they both scanned the sea of familiar faces; but each wishing to see only one. Harry's gaze fell upon the youngest Weasley, Ginny, and remained riveted. Her own…drifted towards the window; and she couldn't help but wonder for the umpteenth time where Minerva was. And she wasn't here.

Had she been waylaid by Death Eaters? By Severus? Had her side become worse?

The first strands of music began wafting through air, and Hermione pulled her eyes back towards the front as Bill, Charlie, Fred and George filed into the room. But…her eyes stopped upon the long haired white cat that was gazing up her, blue eyes staring into hers. Eyes…that seemed to stare into her soul, she blinked…and it disappeared into the throng of people.

Shaking her head at the absurdity of her thoughts, It's just a bloody cat. She berated herself, After all, she transfigures into a tabby cat. Get a grip on yourself!


Oxox

Minerva shifted on her haunches…leg and side still significantly affecting her, especially having to stay relatively immobile for the last hour. Her eyes glanced at the crowd as Bill and Fleur shared their first kiss as husband and wife; ears detecting a shift in the air flow…

Innately her mouth drew back to hiss as her ears flattened, their time to celebrate was rapidly drawing to a close as her tail swished back and forth…as she sought the woman across the room; basking in the way her long hair fell past her shoulders, the beautiful contour of her jaw and lips…

Minerva drug her gaze away, It was time to go to work…

Even if she didn't want to do what was needed, however, she had to.

With one fleeting look back, the long haired white cat darted out from the tent; the pupils of her eyes dilating as she scanned the skyline…nose in the air, as a faint scent quickly became prevalent.

Her tuff beginning to stand as she fully bared her teeth…

Prior to streaking across the lawn…

Claws digging into the earth...her side pulling…as she continued gaining speed…

Leaping atop the stone wall…down the limb of the tree…

Before soaring through the air…

And connecting…


Xoxo


Tonks' head snapped back to the left as the light warbled and then…a low scream could be heard, as a black robed…Death Eater charged forward on a broom.

"Death Eaters!" She yelled out, eyes disbelieving as out of nowhere a form began taking shape behind him…

Long flowing hair…features obscured by the twilight glinting in her eyes as chaos ensued.


Oxox


Hermione jumped up as Tonks' voice bellowed throughout the tent; Harry already moving…Ron frantically glancing around.

"Go Harry!" Remus yelled as he ran through the flap, "Their here!"

"This way." Hermione caught both Harry and Ron's arms, "The back."

Harry threw one last look over his shoulder, towards the streak of long red hair…and Hermione's heart went out to him as they shoved their way forward, cries and curses littering the air. All three having to cast a series of defensive spells…fires erupting upon either side…

Hermione slicing their fabric as they got to the edge…and as one they stepped from the tent.

Curses flying across the air…bedlam reigning as they made their way past the anti-apparition wards.

Gasping they turned backwards…in time to see a curse about to strike Ron vanish into a whiff of grey as emerald robes momentarily blocked out the light…black hair fanning outward and Hermione's breath faltered…

Even though she couldn't see who it was…she knew. It was unmistakable. There silhouetted against the waning sun was the woman whom she didn't believe had come, but…obviously she had. Minerva McGonagall.

The woman whom had captured her heart, unconditionally.

"Hermione!" Harry reached out, "We need to go!"

Brown eyes blinked once more and she felt her heart lurch as the three of them began apparating and a green bolt flew towards Minerva. Her mouth opening…words erupting from her lips…

"Watch out!" She screamed into the quiet vista country side they now stood on. Alone. Without Minerva. Without their family. Without anyone else…but each other.

"We need to…" Harry's voice clipping on as Hermione silently prayed for Minerva's welfare as she swallowed her tears. Wishing she had thrown caution to the wind and returned to her Manor last evening…to tell her what should never have happened but did.

She was falling in love with her…even though she shouldn't. Even though her love wouldn't be returned…but she couldn't stop it. And she didn't want to.

How could she? Minerva was beautiful…sensual…loving…intelligent…and so very much more than what she had believed her to be before the start of summer.

She should have known…

Should have guessed…

But how could she…?

Minerva, after all, was an enigma.

Her enigma.

"…think Hermione?" Harry's question brought the situation, the direness of it, back to the forefront and not upon the woman who she feared would forever occupy her thoughts and not her arms.

"Sirius'." She cleared her throat, "We'll be safe there." Hoping Minerva…wherever she was, was safe too.

Harry's brow furloughed, "Hey, you alright?"

She nodded, "Yeah, just…" Images of Minerva and the green bolt only scant meters from her form. "A bit startled."

Ron chimed in, "A right close one that was."

"Yeah," Hermione agreed, "It was." She reached out, "Let's get going." She pushed her feelings aside, she'd have plenty of time to analyze them later; when they were safe. And she could contemplate all the things she should have done differently this summer.

Save one.

Because, while what happened to them was abhorrent; it enabled her to see the woman she never would have otherwise seen.

So, while she should have left sooner that fabled night. Should have remained within Hogwarts' grounds. Should have been faster…should have been able to resist the Imperius Curse…

Should have…done something differently; she was glad that she didn't. Because otherwise...she never would have met Minerva McGonagall.

She couldn't bear the thought of never having met the formidable woman.

And falling in love.

Even though, she should.


Xoxo


Minerva stopped for a moment, visibly wincing as she stood fully upright. Her side on fire from her acrobatics last eve; but with her usual stoicism she marched forward and into the lion's den…head held high.

With a warmness usually reserved, she greeted her old colleagues…exchanging hugs and short stories of their summer holidays.

"Minerva." Alecto's chilling voice interrupting her conversation with Filius; both the lithe witch and demure wizard turned to him.

"Alecto." They chorused together, before she continued on. "Welcome to Hogwarts."

"Glad to be here." He rumbled as cold green eyes locked upon hers. "And to have an opportunity to educate so many children."

"We wish you well in the post." Minerva kindly replied, turning back to finish her conversation with Filius…but…a hand stayed her movement; the decibel level in the room plummeting as all eyes unabashedly watched the situation.

"I almost had you yesterday." He whispered for her alone.

Slowly, her brow arched as she met his gaze; and she felt a small amount of satisfaction pulse through her veins as he visibly shied away. "True." She conceded, leaning slightly closer. "But your almost…wasn't good enough. Mine…is; as your sister discovered."

His jaw clenched, "I will kill you by the year's end."

"I'd suggest getting in line Alecto." She quipped, "Or you'll miss your chance as there are already quite a few ahead of you." She turned back to Filius ignoring his hateful gaze.

Filius waited a heartbeat for Alecto to move on, "Be careful Minerva."

Green eyes sparkled, wishing it was as simple as her being careful. "I will be." She murmured, knowing that…the year would afford her anything but the opportunity to be careful. Her mind momentarily slipping to the brown eyed vixen…and the way she looked last evening against the twilight…

And how she shouldn't have let her leave…

But she had to.

No matter how she felt about the young woman…

Because, this was war. And she could ill afford something so foolish and ridiculous…but it seemed that somewhere during the past few weeks, her heart didn't think so. As she felt something she shouldn't…

And…she was thankful that Hermione wasn't here…

Because…she was afraid that the spark that Hermione had inadvertently lit would have grown…and captured far more than it already had and all that it shouldn't.

For…she feared she could fall in love with the young woman; and she couldn't afford to. But her heart was already taking the plunge…where it shouldn't.

The End.


Oxox


A/N: I hope you enjoyed my temporary delve into a dark Hermione/Minerva story…however, we have come to the end of this tale; or as some would say, just the beginning. I'm debating on making this a trilogy (part 2 would be interwoven with the events from The Deathly Hallows but from Hermione & Minerva's views & part 3 after the Battle of Hogwarts); and may still but I am going to remain exceedingly focused for the next few months on finishing several of my open stories – especially all of my older ones save for Tapestry of Life and Bonding as they will both take much longer to finish. So, bare with me; I will be continuing to update Bonding along with other stories but will not be starting anything new.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR ALL OF YOUR REVIEWS & WONDERFULLY KIND WORDS!