Authors Note: This is the final chapter of the first (but not last) collaboration between the wonderful Tigertales and I. Also it's the only chapter we've wrote together and in person. These trans-atlantic visits between us are fleeting and yet a lifeline, Love you Gizmo.

So enjoy the chap

Acrid smoke burned Hermione's eyes and stung the back of her throat, as she ducked yet another burst of red plasma fired in her direction by an unseen and unidentified Death Eater. Dropping to her knees, she painfully crawled behind the smouldering remains of what was once Gryffindor's house table in The Great Hall.

As they had foreseen, the battle was not going well for The Order of the Phoenix. Hearing a muffled sob Hermione turned to the right, seeing Ginny cradling the lifeless body of her brother Fred. She hissed at the red-haired young witch, "There's nothing you can do for him, you have to fight!" The vehemence in her voice pulled Ginny from her grief, she was a Weasley after all. Gently, reverently she lowered her brothers' body to the floor and drew her wand.

Crystal blue eyes spotted Bellatrix Lestrange across the hall, the maddened witch was laughing as she inflicted the Cruciatus Curse on Neville Longbottom. The youngest Weasley rose and with a wail she charged at Bellatrix, pelting the Death Eater with golden flames that erupted from her wildly flailing wand.

Hermione swore, watching her friend leave the relative safety of the table and charge at one of the most dangerous witches in the room. Swiftly she rose and followed Ginny, bobbing and weaving to avoid the curses and hexes being shot across the room.

Meanwhile Minerva McGonagall stood like the mighty goddess of war as she shot fire and brimstone across the hall, raining hexes that crackled with immense power on the Death Eaters. Her hair was wildly mussed, freed from its confinement by the intense choreography of battle. Blood flowed freely from a gash in her cheek, a gash that sliced deeply into her cheekbone. A look of fierce anger burned in emerald eyes, as her wand moved faster than the eye could see.

She was magnificent.

The Headmistress fired yet another series of lightening towards three Death Eaters, faceless adversaries that she was certain had been her students at one time or another. Her foes returned her fire with a mixture of trepidation and glee as they realised exactly who their opponent was but instead of acting together, they fired separately – wildly, thus giving the more skilled Professor an advantage.

Minerva whirled and pirouetted with the feline grace of a dancer as she spun around and returned fire, a single blast of pure light from her wand splitting in three and hitting her opponents dead on. Unceremoniously the three fell into a heap, rendered unconscious by the power of her blast. She barely had time to react when a bolt of energy from an unseen foe streaked towards her, missing her by millimetres it singed her ear as it shot past her.

A male voice cried out, "Oh hell no!"

Minerva turned in time to see an armoured helmet flung into her attacker. The helmet was being held by a red-haired man, her saviour turned towards her. With a grin Ron Weasley spoke, "Gotta look out for 'Mione's woman." The words were barely out of his mouth before a barrage of green plasma burned the air between the two of them, causing them to leap for cover.

Hermione Granger paused to beat the flames out of her own hair, it had been set alight by Bellatrix Lestrange. No damage had been caused but Hermione had to move quickly to dodge another blast of magic from the madly cackling witch. Ginny Weasley hastily conjured a shield charm that caused the spell to ricochet back at the insane witch. Wand waving wildly the Death Eater cast dual spells at both young women.

The youngest Weasley dove behind a fallen statue, Quidditch reflexes serving her well. Hermione was not fast enough and was hit by Bellatrix's hex, the magic impacting her shoulder violently and burning through the robes into her skin. The evil witch threw back her head, "One less Mudblood."

Her words were loud enough to be heard throughout the room, over all of the din. They were followed by the distinctive sound of a body hitting the floor.

Ginny fired a series of piercing hexes at Lestrange, causing the insane witch to turn towards the distraught Gryffindor with a blood-curdling laugh, "Another Weasley... Blood Traitor." She raised her wand and began to utter the words that would kill the red-head.

"Not my daughter, you bitch!" A furious screech came from the Weasley matriarch and the green flash of Avada Kedavra enveloped the Death Eater.

A small silver grey tabby lept between piles of rubble – piles too small to conceal a human but perfect to shield a cat from the myriad spells that were hurtling across the room. Emerald coloured feline eyes peered intently across the debris littered hall, spotting a body lying motionless on the floor – wild chestnut mane lying on Hermione's head like a halo, lying in a pool of her own blood.

And yet... The tabby eyes spied movement, the smallest rise and fall of Hermione's chest – she was alive. A phrase, uttered so softly that morning flashed through the mind of the animagus.

"At least you were mine... if only for a single night."

Hermione had not known that the older witch was awake, feigning sleep to prolong the sweet conclusion of their night together. The words had caused a single tear to fall from emerald eyes, at that moment the Headmistress had wanted nothing more than to take Hermione in her arms and away from all of this, to keep her safe, create a life with her.

The silver tabby hissed, baring her teeth and flattening her ears back against her skull as she saw a masked Death Eater approach Hermione's body, standing over the young woman. With an enraged yowl the tiny cat launched herself an impossible distance across the floor, leaping up and morphing in mid-air back into the unmistakeable form of Minerva McGonagall. The force of the impact knocked the man to his knees, Minerva landing beside him.

Angrily he swung his wand towards Minerva only to drop it with a screech of pain, grabbing at his testicles. From the floor a weakened Hermione Granger had set his trousers alight. The young witch painfully dragged herself to where Minerva McGonagall lay in an undignified heap of ebony hair and torn emerald robes.

"Minerva, are you... alright?"

Smoke from the battle momentarily obscured them from view. Taking advantage of the moment, tender young fingers reached out and touched Minerva's bleeding cheek.

"Hermione..." Emerald eyes pierced chocolate brown in a look of loving desperation, "Stay safe. Please... for me."

Mocha eyes twinkled and a cheeky grin crossed Hermione's face, "You too." Shocking (but deeply impressing) the older witch she stood and sprinted back into the fray, still trailing blood.

The sound of sibilant hissing drew Minerva's eyes across the room to where the tall red-eyed form of Voldemort was standing. His grey scaly skin gleamed in the firelight. For a single moment their eyes met and although his lips never moved, she could hear his voice whisper her name.

Disgusted she raised her wand.

Horace Slughorn peered from behind the overturned chairs on the dais; he was sweating because he had seen something that the others had not. Voldemort was standing not ten feet away with his back towards the Potions Master. Being a consummate Slytherin, he had no qualms about hexing a mans back. Quietly, slowly he raised his wand...

A series of flashes lit up the entranceway, silhouetting the resplendent form of Kingsley Shacklebolt. Spying Voldemort he charged into the room with a battle cry, his wand brandished before him...

The evil wizard grinned maliciously, in a gesture insultingly casual he flourished his hand. A wave of power abruptly thrust Kingsley off of his feet and back from whence he came. Simultaneously Minerva McGonagall was lifted from her feet and flung into a wall, all breath knocked from her body as she collapsed to the floor. Meanwhile Horace Slughorn was plucked from his hiding place and thrown through an oak door behind the dais, shattering the wood as he fell and lay unmoving.

A young mans voice cried out, "Stop!"

Through the smoke, ash and debris strode Harry Potter. He took sure, confident steps as he moved into the centre of the room, facing Voldemort. With eloquence he began to verbally spar with the dark lord, enrapturing both him and the audience, as they began to circle each other.

Minerva took advantage of the calm moment to scan the room, desperately trying to spot the young witch who had vanished into the battle minutes before. Hermione was nowhere to be seen. Green eyes located many of her former students, many of her friends and associates but it meant nothing without Hermione – without the young woman who had come to mean so much to her, even before the events of the previous night.

She scarcely noticed when Voldemort fell, couldn't ever hear the screams of elation over the pounding beat of her own heart, as her eyes failed to find the chestnut haired witch who had mesmerised her so completely.

The battle was over.

The bodies of the dead had been identified and respectfully placed in empty classrooms, for friends and family to privately grieve. George Weasley had taken the body of his twin back to their home, leaving his family sobbing in the Great Hall.

It was many minutes later that Minerva's voice, magically magnified, issued a plea. "Has anyone seen Hermione Granger?" The stress that she was feeling was evident not only in the quiver in her voice but also in the grey pallor of her face. She had personally examined every body, dreading the worst but still had not found the young woman.

Those who had been in Grimmauld Place the previous evening understood the uncharacteristic desperation in her voice, having been privy to the intimacy that had occurred between the two witches. As a group, compassionately they left their personal mourning and stepped closer to the revered witch.

No one knew where Hermione was.

No one knew if she were dead or still living.

Minerva's lip trembled. Molly placed a hand on her arm, agonised blue eyes tried to offer comfort. The Scottish witch trembled and whispered, "I cannae loose her... not now." Twin rivulets of tears slowly trailed across dirty, bloodied cheeks. She was inconsolable but Molly took her into her arms as both women gave into their tears.

Harry and Ron exchanged worried gazes, Hermione couldn't be the one to die. Of the three she was the cleverest – the one most likely to survive against any odds. By sheer determination and staggering brilliance she had began to change many peoples views about muggleborns – Hermione had been destined for great things. Ron whispered, "Why couldn't it have been me?"

Unbeknownst to him Minerva was thinking exactly the same thing.

A wave of silence swept across the hall, everyone present witnessing another outpouring of grief, witnessing the breakdown, the crumbling of the last person that they expected it from – Minerva McGonagall. Unknowingly they were bore witness to the unvoiced love that had blossomed between the two powerful women.

It was in that moment of silence that the thunder of hooves could be heard, moving up the gravel path from the direction of the forest and into the courtyard. Before anyone could react, the doors to the Great Hall burst open in response to a mighty blow.

Silhouetted in the rising dawn was a rearing centaur, with the form of a familiar witch clinging to his back. An unruly mass of curls cascading over her back, it was obviously Hermione Granger. A slightly irritated tone that the boys recognised issued from her lips, "I would have gotten the doors Bane, there really was no need..."

Her voice cut off abruptly as she saw Minerva drop to her knees. The older witch had obviously been crying, her eyes were red, two clean streaks visible in the dirt on her face. In that moment Hermione's heart skipped a beat – what could have caused the strong, proud Gryffindor to feel such pain?

With a snort Bane stepped into the hall, hooves loudly echoing on the stone and in the silence permeating the room. Clop, clop, clop. Holding her injured arm close against her body, she whispered, "Bane... Let me down... I need..."

The centaur helped the young witch from his back. "Go to her."

Hermione turned unerringly meeting emerald eyes with her own, noticing the unshed tears that threatened to spill. In the silence of the room Minerva's soft words reached her ears.

"I thought that I had lost you... I searched... but I couldn't find you..." A sob, "I thought that I had lost you ..." Her voice was broken, full of pain. "I..."

Any restraint that the young witch possessed, was lost in that moment. She watched as Minerva tentatively outstretched her arms wordlessly, in silent invitation. It was an invitation Hermione could not, would not refuse.

She ran as fast as she could across the flagstones and into Minerva's trembling arms. The older witch pulled her tight into an embrace, one hand gripping the back of Hermione's head and the other wrapped around her waist. "I am... never letting you out of my sight ever again young lady."

With a grin the young witch cocked her head, looking up into emerald eyes with a saucy expression. "Promise?"

It was at that moment that they found themselves engulfed in a mass embrace from everyone around them. There was laughter mixed in with tears, sighs of relief and emotional words. And yet emerald eyes stared, never wavering into the chocolate brown that was staring back at her.

Hours later

Fragrant steam rose from Hermione's bathwater as the young witch relaxed into the huge claw foot tub. Her mind was replaying scenes from the battle and her face took on a pensive expression. She was so engrossed in her own thoughts that it was only when Minerva's hand tenderly ran through her hair that she noticed the older woman.

Chocolate brown eyes glanced upwards, making eye contact for a moment before taking in the older witches appearance. "You look like hell."

"Why thank you... you know how to shower a woman with compliments."

Hermione grinned at the sarcasm, she reached out of the tub with a soapy arm and grabbed her wand. Minerva meanwhile gaped at the skin revealed by the action, ample rounded breasts erupted from the bubbles, rock hard nipples grabbed the Professors attention – she exhaled sharply, a response that Hermione couldn't miss, making the Cheshire cat grin even wider.

A murmured healing spell sealed the gash on Minerva's cheek. Another charm freed the remaining hair from the dishevelled bun. Minerva whispered, "Thank you."

"Oh I'm not finished yet...Divisto." Minerva yelped as her clothing disappeared and she was standing nude in the cold room. "Care to join me?" The professor gaped at the young woman, blinking owlishly for a moment.

Brown eyes devoured the elegant form before her, "Beautiful."

Minerva gaped once again, she was filthy and covered in dirt, blood and bruises. However this stunningly curvy young woman was calling her beautiful. "Hermione?"

"I'll scrub your back... join me?"

How could Minerva do anything but accede? She lowered her body into the water with a groan, it felt good on her abused body and for a moment she closed her eyes. The older witch grinned as she felt a young body slip into her arms, lips pressing against the skin of her collarbone – opening her eyes she looked down at the gorgeous figure of Hermione Granger lying against her chest.

Another moan escaped her lips, as she remembered the contentment she had felt with Hermione in her arms after their fierce lovemaking of the previous evening, how it had felt to have the young witch cradled in her arms. Her voice brokenly whispered, "Never scare me like that again!"

Hermione kissed the smooth skin under her lips once more, "I love you."

Tender fingers lifted the young womans chin to enable eye contact between the two witches. "And I love you Hermione."

"I'm sorry that I scared you... the last thing that I want is to hurt you."

The older woman smiled, leaning closer, lowering her head before meeting full lips in a tender loving kiss. Hermione's hands slid up Minerva's chest, wrapping around an elegant neck as she turned her body – her breasts pressing deliciously against the older womans. Minerva moaned deeply as their hardened nipples kissed.

Breathlessly she whispered in Hermione's ear, "Last night... I haven't felt that way in... more years than I care to admit."

"I didn't know it could be like that... sex I mean."

"There's a difference between having sex and making love, we made love."

The young witch sat up a little straighter and in a quiet uncertain voice asked, "So... what happens now? Where do we go from here?"

"Well... personally... I had planned on making mad passionate love to you for the rest of my life. How does that sound?"

A huge grin lit up Hermione's face, "That sounds... like a plan to me."

The End