Authors Note: Well... this is an AU that I have been working on. It's set in about the 11th / 12th century Britain and features our favourite couple. For ease of reading I have used modern language and some modern terminology – so no flames about that please. This was going to be a tad longer but I was outlining a new project with Tigertales last night and I am rather eager to get started on that.
Hermione shouldered her basket awkwardly, her burden was really too heavy to carry the distance back to the house without stopping but she was rapidly running out of time. Dodging traffic and the ubiquitous piles of dung she headed back towards her stepfathers home.
Approaching the whitewashed building with its coveted glass windows she heard the sound of raised voices. The cultured tones of her stepfather were warring with the coarser ones of the townsfolk. Lucius Malfoy was standing proudly on the steps of the house, arrogantly leaning against the wall. "I cannot provide soldiers to tackle the beasts, not without heavy taxation."
"But we cannot afford more taxes, already we are short of grain for the winter." Remus Lupin spoke up, being a serf he owned little of his crop and was among the worst hit by the recent disasters. As a young man he had been partially trained as a cleric before Abraxus Malfoy forbade further study, Lupin was an intelligent man, one whom the townsfolk trusted as their spokesman.
"The next thing... you'll be asking me to hire a wizard." Malfoy laughed at his own joke, in the 'age of reason' such a thing was rarely undertaken. Hermione tried to slide past the throng unobtrusively, recognising the exact moment when cold blue eyes locked upon her figure.
The incredulous magistrate tore his eyes from his stepdaughter and focussed again on the thin farmer. "Surely you jest." An angry cry rose from the crowd who began to advance in the way of all crowds of frightened people – they were turning into a mob. An experienced servant of the Lord of the Manor he had seen peasant revolts start for less reason and they had all started much as this. "Fine, if you want to be superstitious fools... I will engage the services of a wizard."
Gradually the crowd dispersed and Malfoy turned to his stepdaughter. "Get inside. Now." Hurrying past him she stepped through the kitchen door, into the smoke from the hearth, feeling the intense heat.
Her mother was standing directing a young girl on the correct way to turn a spit. "Hermione I wish you wouldn't aggravate him." Ignoring the young maid as if she didn't exist, the elegant woman turned to face her daughter.
With difficulty the young woman placed the basket on the table. "I didn't do anything."
"You never do."
Aghast chocolate eyes stared at her mother, she was extremely hurt by the callous remark. "You haven't been the same since Dad died and you married... him."
A soft footstep sounded behind her and she froze, knowing that it could only be one person. "I am now your father, I took your mother in when she was alone. Even though it meant her bringing you, she may have breeding but you... you should be grubbing around in the mud with the other serfs."
Hermione's hands were trembling with rage. She could feel something building inside her, something needing an outlet. Adrenaline flooded her body and made the trembles worse. "Go into the herb garden!" Her mother barked an order at her; as much to protect Hermione from her husband, as to protect Lucius from the anger threatening to erupt from her daughter.
It was several days later that Lucius Malfoy remembered his grudging promise to the townsfolk. "Superstitious fools." He put pen to paper and in a flowing script, he sent a missive to a person shrouded in apocrypha, in legend. He wrote to the most revered and most feared wizard in the land. Sealing the letter with the wax symbol of his master, Lucius summoned for a soldier to take it to the wizard.
To the great McGonagall.
Hermione gazed at the gangly boy with something akin to horror. She had known Ronald Weasley for her entire life, they had played together as children but to be told that she was promised to him was a shock. The fact that Lucius had made this arrangement spoke of his absolute contempt for her, as his step daughter she could have been engaged to someone of means, of status.
She was seated next to Ronald, some distance from his beaming parents. "Miss Granger... Hermione...I know that you're surprised by this... it was a shock to me too." He shot a sideways glance at her, "I am not entirely without prospects you know. I may only be the youngest son of the town blacksmith but I have finished my apprenticeship. We could go away from here, help start a new town..."
"It's not you Mr Weasley. I have always had a dream that I would marry for love. As my parents once did."
"Could you not learn to love me?" She looked at him, knowing in that moment that he was not what she wanted but she didn't know what it was that she did want or who she wanted. Arranged marriages were the norm and his parents would be overjoyed at the match that they had made for their youngest son, she had no choice but to accede to Lucius's machinations.
"Perhaps, in time."
Weeks passed. The attacks by mythical beasts continued to destroy isolated farms and several townspeople caught alone at night were killed in varied and horrible ways. A werewolf had been sighted but had not attacked – yet. Lucius Malfoy was being pressured to provide protection but his soldiers were less than useless. They were all awaiting the arrival of the wizard.
It was a rainy afternoon when a cloaked and hooded figure tethered her mare in the stable and knocked on the main door of the Malfoy home. The maid who answered the door scuttled for her master, afraid of the mysterious silent visitor who was following her through the house uninvited.
Malfoy barked at the servant for her interruption, a diatribe of insults abruptly ceased when a robed figure shouldered its way into the room. "Oh... McGonagall is it?"
The maid ran away once again, not sure which person to be more scared of.
Slender, elegant hands reached out and pulled down the hood revealing refined, undeniably feminine features.
"You're a... a woman."
"Indeed." Directly she made eye contact with the man, not intimidated by him in the slightest.
"You can't be."
Minerva McGonagall raised an incredulous eyebrow, it was a common mistake people made when they first hired her but it became tiresome rather rapidly.
"I hired a WIZARD."
"You hired me."
"The wizard McGonagall, the famous one."
"The one who killed the Transylva..."
"And tamed the Londinium Werew..."
"Mr Malfoy. I am the magician that you hired, I am widely regarded as the best. You need my help far more than I need your money. If you don't want a woman that is up to you, let me know and I will go." The witch's purse was empty and she was far needier than she would ever have admitted to him.
The blond paused, there was not sufficient time to locate and employ another magician before the peasants revolted – however repugnant the idea was to him, he had no choice and the look on the womans face confirmed that. "As agreed I will provide housing, food and any other necessary expenses. Full payment will only be made once you have destroyed the beasts."
He yelled his step daughters name with barely disguised contempt. Several seconds passed before a bushy haired young woman stepped through the door, "Stepfather, you... called?"
The elegant witch's mouth twitched as she repressed a smile at the veiled sarcasm.
"This is the... witch McGonagall. Take her to the old cottage and ensure that she is settled; you will be providing for her, for the duration of her stay."
"Yes... of course stepfather. Would you like to follow me please My Lady."
Hermione took the mysterious woman through the hamlet, heading towards the small stone cottage that her father had built, the home that she had been born in. Lucius often used it for guests and that usually served to irritate her no end but on this occasion she did not mind escorting the elegant witch to her former home.
People were staring, stopping in their tasks to observe the unlikely duo walking through the streets to the other end of town. The young brunette was unaccustomed to the attention but to the older woman it was all too familiar. "You needn't call me that."
A wry smile crossed the young womans face, "And how should I address you?"
The smile was infectious and the witch could feel herself returning it. She followed Hermione through an alley and into the enclosed courtyard of an isolated cottage. Emerald eyes couldn't help but linger on the shapely figure.
Snap out of it Minerva! That would only lead to complications.
"Minerva, my name is Minerva." It had been so long since she had invited anyone to call her by her first name, it should have felt strange but it didn't.
The young brunette smiled, running a hand along the fragrant herbs that she still tended. "Minerva, you should be careful around Malfoy, he is absolutely ruthless and only agreed to hire a 'wizard' because he was pressured into it."
"He is rather misogynistic too."
"How then did you become educated?" By this point Hermione had unlatched the door of the cottage and led the witch inside. She turned and gazed wide-eyed at Minerva. How did she guess? "Few women would understand a word like that, even higher class ones like yourself."
"I am not all that high class... I was born in this house."
Minerva looked around at the whitewashed walls, unfinished wooden beams and open windows that looked out over the herb garden – it was to her, a far nicer home than the pretentious house that Malfoy was living in and she said as much to the young woman who was busying herself preparing dinner.
"My father was a former serf who earned his freedom from his master and moved here. He set up a business and did rather well. When he met my mother they fell in love and eloped, the town turned their backs on him – his fortune dwindled and when he got typhoid he seemed just to give up. Within days of his death my mother married Lucius Malfoy."
Hermione tossed chopped vegetables into the pot of water boiling merrily above the open fire. She soon added a handful of dried meat, knowing that the longer it cooked – the better it would taste. "Thank you for cooking Hermione, it has been a rather long journey."
The young woman turned towards her. "My pleasure. Is there anything else you need?"
Minerva was silent for a long moment, wanting to invite the attractive young woman to stay for dinner – a fact that shocked her, she had been alone for a very long time and it was unusual for her to want company. "Not at the moment. Tomorrow morning I will go into the forest and try to discover the nature of the problems that your village faces."
"Will you be here long?"
"It is too early to tell Hermione."
The brunette nodded, reluctantly. "I have enjoyed speaking with you... this."
"As have I."
The two women parted, grudgingly. Neither understanding why it was hard to do so.
It took Minerva a long time to get to sleep that night and so when she awoke it was with a groggy head. The familiar sounds of village life wafted up into the small loft where she had chosen to sleep, disdaining the opulent bedroom below. She rolled off of the straw mattress and pulled on her robes, before clambering down the rough wooden ladder into the kitchen.
A fire was lit in the grate, with a small covered bowl on the shelf next to it. Minerva smiled and used a cloth to pick it up; lifting the lid she smiled again and sat down to eat the porridge. As she did so she spotted a cloth bag with a large piece of bread and a slice of cheese on it – Hermione had packed her a lunch. It had been years since anyone had cared for her, had looked at her with anything other than fear or contempt and if felt good – strange but good nevertheless.
Placing the food in the small satchel that held her supplies, Minerva once again raised her hood and slipped wraithlike into the forest.
Hermione whistled a tune to herself as she tended the vegetables in her stepfathers' garden, not knowing that her mother was watching her from a small window. Such behaviour was unusual in the young woman, since the death of her beloved father and her mistreatment by Malfoy she had been prone to fits of melancholy.
In a single night that had changed.
There was no real reason why the short conversation of the previous afternoon should have been playing through Hermione's mind. All she knew was that she could not turn her thoughts from the witch... from Minerva. There was a nice piece of mutton in the pantry that she could make into a stew. Still whistling she hurried her work, wanting to finish as soon as she could and head for the cottage.
Minerva cast a warming charm on herself cursing the circumstances that led to her kneeling in a bush in the freezing rain. She had been following an adult mountain troll through the thick forest getting ready to hex him, when she came upon a whole group of trolls and deciding that discretion was the better part of valour – she hid.
In the clearing were six enormous grey trolls, quite obviously a family unit with four grown children. The youngsters were fighting with each other, crashing about in the undergrowth and generally flexing their muscles. It was small wonder that the small hamlet was having problems with property destruction and muggles being killed. Adult trolls were enough trouble without adding four adolescents to the situation.
The witch had seen enough and stealthily trying not to make any noise she backed away, heading in the direction of the village. She had taken several steps when an unseen twig cracked under her foot, Minerva froze hoping that the trolls had missed it but she wasn't that lucky.
Hermione laid the table for dinner but while seemingly intent on her task, her focus was on the waning light. Evening was drawing in and Minerva was still not back. Intellectually the young woman knew that the witch could protect herself but that did not stop her from worrying.
It was full dark when an unfamiliar grey cat jumped through the narrow window. Bedraggled, limping and bleeding it wailed plaintively. Hermione crossed the room intending to help the striped cat but lept backwards as it transformed into a human shape, into a person that she recognised. "Minerva?"
The young womans natural compassion overruled her shock and caution. She reached out to the bleeding witch, "What happened?" Helping Minerva to a seat, Hermione cast an experienced eye over the bleeding wounds and grabbed a wet rag to wash away the blood and dirt from the slender arm.
"I was forced to flee from a group of trolls." There was utter distaste and some embarrassment in the witch's voice.
"I get the impression that you rarely run from anything."
"Tell me about it?" The young womans touch was tender, gentle and while she was interested in Minerva's story she was mainly trying to distract her from the discomfort she was causing.
"Owch... Well I followed a troll and... ow... there were six of them..."
"Are trolls really hard to kill?"
"Individually no but...ow... they are resistant to magic," Minerva paused, watching Hermione take a handful of herbs from the pantry and placing most of them on the table. She watched nimble, skilled fingers crush a small bundle of leaves – smelling as the pungent odour filled the room. "A group of trolls are therefore highly dangerous."
Hermione applied the styptic solution to the wound on Minerva's arm, watching as the blood stopped flowing. The witch hissed through her teeth at the intense stinging sensation.
"You really are a cat, aren't you?"
They both laughed. "I do have certain animalistic traits."
"I'll wager you do." Chocolate eyes lit up flirtatiously, before dropping back to the safety of Minerva's arm.
"You are allowed to look at people you know."
Hermione turned away and began to grind up the herbs she needed to heal Minerva's wounds. "It isn't seemly."
Minerva rose from the chair and stood behind the young woman, wrapping a hand around a shapely bicep and turning the brunette around. "Did Malfoy tell you that? He's wrong. You're an incredibly intelligent young woman, you have as many rights as anyone else."
"Minerva you know as well as I do, the role that women play in society."
The witch sighed, "Yes. All too well but it doesn't have to be that way Hermione. Don't let him turn you into that kind of woman."
'Take me with you.' Hermione wanted to blurt it out but didn't know why, instead she took a deep breath, "I need to dress your wound."
"It has been three days since the witch has arrived and she has done nothing! I told you that this would be a waste of time."
"Lucius, it has only been three days." Remus was trying to remain calm, watching the elegant man throwing a temper tantrum. He glanced sideways at Hermione, almost sensing the fury she was exuding as Malfoy continued to insult the absent McGonagall. Just when it seemed that the young woman was about to snap and say something – a loud thud interrupted proceedings.
Minerva McGonagall was an impressive sight, long ebony hair cascading over her shoulders. A slight gash across her cheek did not detract from the beauty of the witch, rather serving to give her a dangerous appearance. Dark emerald eyes burned with contempt as she stared at the blonde man. "Will this satisfy you?" She gestured towards the blood-soaked bag that she had tossed on the floor in front of him.
Minerva watched amused as pale hands trembled and fumbled with the leather tie. Finally he opened the bag wincing as a severed troll head landed on the mud in front of him. "I expect to deal with the others within a few days." Without a backwards glance she walked away through a narrow alley towards the cottage.
She smiled as her astute hearing picked up the sound of soft footsteps walking down a parallel alley, knowing that Hermione had slipped away from the group and was about to join her. Minerva slowed her pace, allowing the young woman to enter the small cosy dwelling first. When she opened the door she saw the brunette standing facing the fire.
An elegant hand grazed Hermione's hip, resting lightly for a moment. "I told you that I would be fine."
"I cannot help but worry... about you." The young woman's voice was soft, halting but not hesitant.
"And why is that?"
Hermione said nothing, not sure what answer Minerva was expecting. Her own emotions in too much turmoil to admit to anything at that moment. She pulled a cold supper from a basket on the table. "May I join you for supper this evening?"
"I would love that."
"So how does magic work?"
Minerva paused - in addition to being a closely guarded secret, the mechanics of magic were rather complicated to understand. Even some wizards struggled to grasp the fundamentals, for a muggle it would be incomprehensible. However one glance into eager, intelligent chocolate eyes persuaded her to try.
She gave an explanation that was fairly simplistic yet clear and concise. Minerva was a born teacher. "Of course all of that depends on having the innate talent to practice magic. While that does generally run in families, it does crop up from time to time in muggle families."
Hermione frowned before smiling ruefully, "When I was a child I used to think that I might grow into a witch... things would happen when I was angry or scared... I used to wish that I could change into an animal and escape. Crazy huh?"
Assessing, astute green eyes regarded the young woman for a long moment. "Things used to happen? What kinds of things?"
The young woman laughed, "Well once I fell off of the roof and landed in a soft muddy puddle." When she noticed Minerva's raised eyebrows she continued, "It hadn't rained in weeks, the rest of the ground was dry."
Why the hell not? The witch smirked at her inner voice and reached into the sleeve of her robe where she kept her wand. Placing the slender ebony wood on the table she looked into chocolate eyes that were wide with trepidation, "Pick up my wand."
Hermione was shocked, every legend that she had ever heard about wands had a warning attached – muggles were not allowed to touch them, it was far more than a taboo.
"Trust me Hermione."
Full lips parted as the young brunette took a deep steadying breath, reaching out her hand and picked up the wand. The ebony wood glowed with an intense light, long bushy hair billowed in response to an unseen wind and they both felt something.
"Your childhood fantasies had an element of truth after all. It seems as though you do have magic."
"I'm a... witch?" Hermione was more than a little shocked at the turn of events.
"Could you teach me?"
Minerva paused for a moment, looking out of the window listening to the distant howl of a wolf. "I will be leaving soon. If I start teaching you magic, I would have to leave at a dangerous stage of your training." She was extremely reluctant to discuss the subject, something that Hermione noticed but chose to ignore.
"Not if I went with you."
"...Hermione, you can't."
"Most of the year I live in a cave up in the mountains, several times a year coming down to towns and villages that need my help... they tolerate me or ostracize me until it is time to make me leave. It will be no different here. You deserve more than THAT life, I cannot and will not take you away from here."
Hermione was sat on the uncomfortable bench seat between Ron Weasley and his mother. As the de-facto daughter-in-law she now had to sit with his family in church. Listening to the droning of the Latin ceremony she glanced sideways at her fiancée. The red-haired young man had been trying to cultivate a moustache, perhaps in an attempt to look older or more sophisticated. It had the opposite effect.
Before church they had been talking. Unfortunately his conversation revolved more around archery competitions than any other subject, while she had to admire his passion – it was rather boring. His sweaty hand had clutched hers as he formally introduced her to his parents – that was rather nauseating.
Perhaps it was only repulsing her because she had spent so much time with Minerva lately. The older womans company was comfortable, enthralling and addictive. Hermione would leave her in the evening and return home before sneaking out once again. The witch obviously knew what she was doing and would answer the late evening knock with a wry smirk.
Watching her go into the forest every morning was heart-wrenching. Hermione spent the entire day doing her chores but she was constantly on alert for noises – dreading a scream. She found any excuse to stop by the cottage or the edge of the village, looking for Minerva. The longer the witch took to kill the monsters – the longer they could be together but watching her risk her life was driving Hermione crazy.
For the first time in her life the young woman was fidgeting in church, wanting nothing more than to escape back to the safety of the cottage. She knew that Minerva would be there today, probably curled up in bed fast asleep. A smile erupted on her face at the image and suddenly the tedium seemed more bearable.
Quietly Hermione climbed into the attic where she expected to find Minerva. The witch was asleep, ebony hair a tangled mess, her face rosy and smushed against the pillow. A cheeky grin lit up Hermione's face as she sat on the edge of the mattress. Trying to muffle the noise of her giggles with her hands the brunette convulsed with laughter – Minerva was snoring softly.
"Wha...?" Sleepy emerald eyes opened.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to wake you."
"And why laugh?" There was a slightly brittle acerbic tone in Minerva's voice.
"You were snoring."
The witch snorted disbelievingly. "I DO NOT snore!"
"Yup you do."
Minerva rolled over to face Hermione. She paused before impulsively grabbing the young woman by the waist and pulling her onto the mattress. The brunette gave a girlish shriek as she landed on the straw. "At least I don't shriek like a girl." They both laughed.
"I'm all grown up now."
"...That you are." The smile faded from Minerva's face and she gave Hermione an odd look before sliding her hand around a slender waist. "I'm still tired, how do you feel about a nap?"
Mutely the brunette nodded, she wasn't tired in the least but lying in bed with Minerva... she definitely wanted to do that, regardless of the pretext.
When Minerva awoke again it was late afternoon and before she opened her eyes – it all came flooding back. "'Mione?"
Sleepy green eyes opened, "Was I snoring again?"
"Not at all."
Softly, dryly the witch responded, "Liar." Hermione giggled, loving how Minerva's arm tightened around her. It was comforting and reassuring but exhilarating at the same time.
"Take me with you."
"I spend most of the year being persecuted or ignored. I can't ask you to live like that."
Hermione suddenly flashed back to the first time that Minerva had really touched her. The hand that had brushed against her hip in a gesture as brief as it was intimate. She never realised that memories of the same moment kept the witch up at night. The initial attraction that Minerva had felt – that they both had felt had grown over time, in the days that they had spent together.
"I want to take you with me Hermione but I have nothing to offer you. The life I lead is not what I want for you... living like a hermit, wandering from place to place – you could do so much better. Here you have a home... a family."
The young woman squeezed the hand on her stomach, "What about the life I am living now Minerva?" Her eyes shone brightly, intensely with emotion, "My stepfather is... a terrible man, my half brother vindictive and cruel. My mother is... weak, too scared of loosing another husband to protest anything that Lucius does, she ignores any base ignoble desire that he makes upon her." She paused, "I'm betrothed to a man whom... at best I view with apathy."
Hermione sat up, brushing her fingers across Minerva's cheek in the most daring gesture that she had ever made. "I want to come with you. I want to BE with you."
Minerva sat up, suddenly affected both by the young womans proximity and her words. "What are you saying Hermione?"
"It's not just because I want you to teach me, although I do want that. It's not because of how you treat me... and it certainly isn't because I'm lonely and unhappy." The witch's gentle hand cupped Hermione's face, wiping the tears from the young womans cheeks, brushing her fingers across the soft skin.
"I don't understand what it is that I feel for you. I want to hold you, work with you, support you..." Her voice dropped to a husky whisper, "...Kiss you."
Minerva's hand slid around to the back of Hermione's neck, the young womans hands instinctively moving to the witch's hips. They drew closer, intently looking into each others eyes. Lips met in a tentative kiss, parting for a moment before crashing together in passion.
A strong hand grabbed Hermione's arm and pulled her around. She looked up into the furious face of her mother. "Mother?"
"What have you been doing? With that... that witch?"
"My stepfather told me to care for her; I have been cleaning the cottage, cooking her meals, cleaning her boots and much else besides."
"Don't lie to me Hermione." Steely eyes bored into the young womans. "Draco saw the two of you together... in the forest this evening. Your little brother saw you kissing that woman."
Trepidation filled chocolate eyes, "Mother... you married for love, why cannot I be allowed the same?"
"You cannot possibly be in love with HER. Lucius has arranged a good match for you in Ronald Weasley and you are going to give up this delusion. You will marry the boy, you'll forget your infatuation once the children arrive."
Hermione's voice was soft but determined. "I will not. I want to be with her."
A loud slap left the young woman's cheek red, "Go to your room. You will not be seeing her again." Although Hermione obeyed, she was fuming inside – her mothers complete lack of support strengthening her resolve to leave. Minerva only had two creatures left to find and destroy; tonight at the full moon she would be hunting a werewolf, when she left the village Hermione would be going with her.
"Oh good morning My Lady."
Minerva carefully considered the man standing in front of her for a moment. For a villager in a fairly small hamlet he was extremely well educated. Rarely did people address her by the correct honorific. "May I come in?"
The man sighed and held aside the piece of cloth that served as his door, allowing her to enter his dwelling. "I know why you are here My Lady but before you begin, I just wanted to say something. I have been very impressed by your actions and by the way you've... befriended young Hermione. I really like that young woman but she is treated like scum."
The witch inclined her head, despite herself she was rather impressed by the man standing before her. She was touched by both the complement and the remark but her business here was extremely serious.
"There are a number of questions that I have to ask you about your condition but first I want you to drink this." She handed him a small vial filled with a clear liquid, "This will allow me to ensure that you speak truthfully – I will also be entering your mind to verify the truth in another manner. Understand that unless I am satisfied by your responses, I will be forced to do something that I have no desire to do."
Remus swallowed the liquid, "You would kill me?"
"If necessary, yes... How did you become a werewolf?" Quietly she whispered "Legillimens."
As the gaunt, tired man began to talk Minerva both heard and saw the memories of which he spoke. "When I was a small child I lived with my father in a foresters hut, deep in the woods." She saw images of a small wooden building in a clearing, surrounded by bluebells in the spring and snow in the winter. "One night I heard a strange noise, I went out to investigate..." Minerva felt his fear and the pain as he was attacked, "I was bitten... My father scared the beast off."
Remus sat down heavily, "My father was a great man. When I began to change... he kept me chained up and hidden."
"What do you do now at full moon?"
"I climb up a ridge in the forest, one that is too difficult for an animal to climb down. The wolf is contained up there, keeping everyone safe."
"Have you ever killed?"
Instantly memories flashed into Minerva's mind; blood, screaming, remorse, finding his body the next day. "I broke my chains one night... I... I... killed my father." She felt his pain, remembered his thoughts of suicide afterwards. "I vowed after that day never to put myself in a position where I could hurt another person."
There were few people left alive who Minerva actually respected. Remus Lupin had just entered their ranks, her respect for the werewolf was grudging but true. She drew a large flask from within her robes, "This is a potion called Wolfsbane, it will allow you to control the wolf at full-moon. You already isolate yourself which is a good start, this potion will allow you greater assurance that you will not hurt anyone. It will allow you a more normal life."
She was pulled into a bone-crushing hug. "My Lady, if you only knew what a gift this is... thank you so much."
Sitting on her bed Hermione was almost crying with frustration. Her mother had sent a servant to see to Minerva's needs, leaving the young woman locked in her room. She knew that Minerva was going to confront the werewolf this afternoon, knew that her mother would never tell her if something happened to the witch.
The brunette walked over to the window, she sat on the ledge and looked down into the rose garden. A keen intelligent mind assessed the drop, calculated the odds of surviving the leap without breaking a leg – they were not good.
The sun had long ago set below the trees and the brightness of the moon was hidden behind clouds. A square of light from Lucius's study fell onto the bushes, allowing her to see the deep red of the petals.
A loud clap sounded from behind Hermione, startling her.
The young woman spun around, shocked but happy to see Minerva. She threw herself into the witch's arms, knocking their entwined bodies onto her bed. Lips sought each other and they met in a frantic kiss. Full lips parted under the onslaught of experienced ones, allowing Minerva's tongue entry to her mouth. They both moaned.
Minerva slid her hands from Hermione's hips to the generous curve of her backside, gently squeezing the cheeks as she pulled the young woman closer. "Mmmmmph."
"Gods Hermione. You're..." The witch panted heavily, "So beautiful."
"The... view's pretty good from here too." Hermione grinned at the older woman, loving the way Minerva's breasts bounced when she laughed. The brunette couldn't resist the urge to let her hands caress the full softness of the mounds, tracing cleavage with her fingers. The urgency had vanished from her touch, content to have the woman she cared about in her arms – it made everything ok with the world.
"You aren't the first person to throw yourself into my arms today." Hermione growled deep in her throat, making Minerva laugh again before telling her of her visit to Remus Lupin.
The next afternoon
"You have slain a number of creatures and brought evidence to the village. What of the werewolf?"
Minerva shrugged nonchalantly, almost carelessly. "I have spoken to the werewolf and am happy that it poses no threat to anyone. To ensure that, I have left a potion which will remove the potential for... accidents."
"Unacceptable!" Malfoy thundered at her, his voice a roar that resounded throughout the entire village. "Completely unacceptable. Tell me who it is."
"This person and I stress the word person, is a member of your community. Just because they spend three nights a month in the shape of a wolf, does not make them any less of a human being." Minerva wanted to rail at him, wanted to speak about the virtues that Remus had, the value that he brought to the village but she didn't dare. She had seen werewolves driven from their villages like animals when their identity was discovered and wouldn't give Malfoy a hint to the wolf's identity.
"You have been employed by me to..."
"Ascertain and remove threats of a supernatural nature. The werewolf has never posed a threat and will continue to be harmless."
Malfoy stepped closer to the witch. His cold eyes were bright with fierce rage, "You will tell me now."
"Or you'll do what? Don't forget that there is a Minotaur left for me to kill and I assure you... that is a real threat."
The man growled, infuriated beyond belief at the woman's calm demeanour and humiliated by the thread of sarcasm running through her comments. No woman had ever dared talk to him in that manner. And he didn't like it one bit.
"Rest assured... McGonagall... I will find out who the werewolf is and you will start to show me the proper level of respect."
As he walked away he heard a wry comment from behind him, "Don't hold your breath."
Stalking back towards his house he espied his stepdaughter loitering, watching, she was supposed to be coming back from the market and instead Hermione was dawdling. Malfoy snarled at her, "Get into the house."
The young woman chanced a glance behind him towards Minerva, drinking in the sight of the woman she had come to love but was no longer allowed to see. The next thing she was aware of was landing on the floor with blood pouring from her nose. Malfoy was stood above her with a satisfied smirk on his face.
Minerva let out a cry that would have made her warrior ancestors proud. In a moment she was standing in front of Lucius Malfoy, her wand pressed against his throat – watching as fear filled his eyes.
"Minerva...don't." Hermione's voice held a note of panic, if the witch hurt Malfoy she would be hunted – perhaps killed.
"Minerva? My, my aren't we getting familiar?"
It was the witches turn to growl, the noise was far more impressive than the one that he had made earlier. Malfoy clenched his stomach hard, fighting his body's natural urge to urinate in fear. "If you ever... ever touch her again... I will make you suffer before I kill you... do you understand me?" Forcing himself to snicker Malfoy turned and walked into the house, waiting until the door was closed behind him before collapsing against it.
Taking a deep, shaky breath Minerva turned to face Hermione. Her eyes darkened again when she saw the blood. "Are you alright?"
The brunette smiled, "Perhaps you could take me back to the cottage and make me feel better." Minerva's anger faded rapidly at the cheeky grin and the suggestiveness of the invitation.
"I would love to."
Hermione sighed, "But..."
"But..." Minerva grinned, "I have to go kill a Minotaur so that we can leave."
"You'll take me with you?"
Gentle fingers brushed against her rapidly swelling skin, "There's something about you Hermione, I cannot leave you behind. You mean too much to me."
"I love you."
"And I you."
There were a number of reasons why Minerva had left the half-man, half-bull until last but none of them were foremost in her mind as she followed the large cloven hoof prints through the soft loam of the forest. Minotaur's were always a challenge, always hard to beat and like many magical creatures, they were extremely resistant to magic. They were the supernatural equivalent of a mercenary, bribed with human victims to cause mayhem – which they were more than adept at.
After the events of the morning Minerva was spoiling for a fight, a no-holds-barred battle against a strong foe that wasn't illegal to kill. As a result she wasn't even treading quietly, almost daring the beast to leap from cover and try to attack her. Every time that she blinked she saw Malfoy's fist impacting with Hermione's face and it had been in that moment that she realised just how much she needed the young woman.
A stomping noise sounded from behind the witch. She turned around with a smirk, pulling out her wand. "You have killed many of my brethren, in a short space of time. Commendable result witch. It leaves me more humans to kill on my own of course."
The witch raised an elegant brow, this Minotaur was far more articulate than she had come to expect from his species. "You know that I cannot allow that."
"Come now witch... are we so different? We are both paid to provide a service, you kill magical creatures and I destroy villages."
"There is a difference, you terrorise the innocent – I protect them."
"For a price."
Minerva winced, the comment striking her painfully. It had always rankled her that she had to charge for her services but how else could she live? When people could not afford to pay she would take goods or help them for free but the jibe still hurt.
"Perhaps but that does not make us the same."
"I am going to kill you and you will try to kill me, serendipitous isn't it?"
"Before I kill you, tell me something."
"And what my dear witch would you like to know?"
"Who bribed you to come here?"
The creature snorted, the bull nostrils flaring in mirth. "Someone who has much to gain by causing chaos."
Her eyes watched the creature, noting as one hoof stamped on the ground in preparation for his charge. The twitch of the human muscles in his abdomen as he began to tense. "We do not use his name."
"We call him... The Dark Lord."
It was with a great deal of nervousness that Minerva took to her broom. Dragons were very common in this part of Britain and they jealously guarded the skies – despite her powers she was not capable of defeating a fully-grown dragon and right now she was not in a position to even try. The fight with the Minotaur had been extremely hard, he had been a worthy opponent but at least she had worked out her frustrations.
The moon was still bright but waning now, moving from full towards crescent. The landscape far below her was brightly visible, sharply defined in monochrome. She could see the village, saw Hermione's bedroom window lit up and despite everything that was going on – the knowledge that the young woman was waiting for her return made her extremely happy.
In front of Minerva's eyes the world lit up in technicolour. The brilliant white ley lines criss-crossing the landscape, the dim glowing magic of the forest creatures. She could see her own magic, a trail of vivid blue punctuated by patches of deeper colour where she had cast spells. Hermione's magic was a turquoise, the trail gradually getting brighter as the young woman had begun to experiment with her own powers.
There was another magic visible, not in the village but in the wilderness all around it. A dark red like dried blood, pooling across the land – the epicentre of which was the castle on the hill. Something akin to horror crossed Minerva's face as she realised just what she was facing. The Lord of The Manor and The Dark Lord were one and the same.
Voldemort, he was the one who had something to gain by creating chaos. He could have his vassals raise taxes to 'fight' the monsters that he had brought to the villages under his domain. By keeping the peasants huddling in fear he had all the power that he could ever want. Until Malfoy goaded by the townsfolk had sent for her – if he hadn't had such a temper, no one would have ever known of Voldemort's plans.
There was something about that magical signature that was oddly familiar to the ebony haired witch. Perhaps if she could remember why it was familiar – she would have an edge when she finally tried to defeat him. Because it wasn't only Hermione's village at risk any longer, there was far more at stake than one small hamlet.
Hermione was dozing when she heard the noise that heralded Minerva's surprise appearances. She sat up quickly and hit her head on the low ceiling. "Ouch."
"Want me to kiss it better?"
"I'd like that."
When Minerva sat on the end of Hermione's bed, she slumped with her head in her hands. "What's wrong Min?" The witch took a deep breath and confided all of her fears, doubts and uncertainty – still not understanding why she trusted the young woman so much.
Hermione wrapped her arms around the older woman, letting her talk, knowing that she had to let it all out. "The last time I faced a dark wizard was years ago, you were probably still a babe in arms at the time. I got away with my life – barely, a lot of people I cared about died and He went into hiding."
"Who did He kill?"
"The dark wizard you keep referring to...? You say He, as if it were a proper name."
"Who did he kill Minerva? What drove you into the cave where you live?"
The naturally reticent witch had become even more private over the years and she couldn't defy instinct and everything that she had learnt, to tell Hermione everything she wanted to know, although she admitted that the younger woman did indeed have a right to know if they were going to be together. It wasn't time yet.
"I have something for you Hermione."
The young woman sighed, dropping a kiss on Minerva's elegant cheekbone. "I'll let you get away with the evasion... for now."
"Now... a gift?"
"I'm returning something that belongs to you."
"I found this buried under the flagstones of the cottage. I believe that it belonged to your father." She thought again of the dim orange glow that had led her back to the cottage before seeking out Hermione. Sitting in the palm of her hand was an elegant wand and she held it out towards the young woman.
"My... father was a wizard?"
"And a fairly powerful one at that. The workmanship of this wand is exquisite."
"What is it made of Minerva?"
"The wood is vine and the core is the heartstring of a dragon."
Hermione took the wand from the witch's hand, marvelling as she felt her magic react to the tool – far more than it had to Minerva's own wand. This was hers, it felt like it was meant to be hers. "Would he mind if I used it?"
"I think that he would love you to have it. When he was dying he must have hidden it rather than destroy it, hoping that one day it would be yours."
Hermione slipped the slender wand into the bodice of her dress. "Thank you Minerva."
Fingers brushed along Hermione' hairline, caressing the soft skin. "It was my pleasure dear."
It was hours before dawn when Hermione awoke, at first she wasn't sure what had disturbed her rest. Minerva had left earlier, knowing that she couldn't be found there in the morning. The young woman missed her presence, stretching out on the bed trying to find the warmth left by the older womans body.
Hermione kept her eyes closed, not wanting to see the empty room. She wanted the older witch to stay beside her for the rest of their lives, she wanted to sleep beside Minerva, and more than anything... she wanted to do more than just kiss.
At that moment she realised just why she had woken up, the front door had slammed shut several minutes earlier and there were noises in the square outside. The sound of a lot of people gathered in a small place, it was the sound of violence about to happen.
She hurriedly changed out of her nightclothes and into her dress before looking out of the window. A mob was gathering outside, Lucius and her half-brother Draco were at the head of the mob – Hermione allowed herself a moment to snort when she spotted that. Flaming brands and torches were in the hands of many of the townsfolk, as were an odd selection of weapons. Ranging from; the swords carried by the Malfoy's, to the pitchfork of the simple farmer or the knife of the butcher.
"Oh my God."
It did not take long for the import of what she was seeing to reach Hermione, almost instantly she realised where they were going and what they were going to do. Somehow they knew about Remus being a werewolf and were going to administer their own kind of 'justice'. Pulling on her boots Hermione tried to catch up with the now fast moving mob.
Minerva had heard the same things, instantly knowing what the sound signified. She had heard the same note of violence in a great many places over the years. Like Hermione she too extrapolated their destination. The witch cursed under her breath violently, before throwing herself down the ladder and out of the cottage.
By the time that the two women caught up with the mob – the sky was full of fire, bright enough to be seen for miles around. The wheat fields around the werewolf's farm were blazing, the thatched roof of his wooden cottage was aflame – he would loose everything he owned long before morning. If not before.
Minerva approached the mob from the side nearest the hamlet, despite the seriousness of the moment she took time to look for her young love but Hermione was nowhere to be seen. The witch hoped that she was still asleep in her bed; she didn't want the young womans view of the world to be tarnished by what was happening right now.
Lupin was being held by two of his former friends. Others were beating and kicking at him, screaming about things that the man had not done. All the while he was making no effort to fight back, even though they were dragging him towards the hangman's noose wrapped around a bough of an oak near his home.
Minerva cried out for them to stop, telling them once again that he was harmless but to no avail. It was at that moment when the witch reluctantly raised her wand. She tried to avoid using magic on humans but in this situation she had no choice. Pointing her wand at the crowd she opened her mouth to make an incantation.
"Lower your wand."
Lucius's words came from directly behind her, Minerva paused but did not do as he asked.
"Lower your wand or she dies!"
Minerva turned and felt the blood drain from her face at what she beheld. Hermione was being held between the two Malfoys. Lucius had a sprung crossbow pressed into her abdomen and Draco had a knife at the brunettes' throat. "Don't Minerva." Ignoring the pleading in Hermione's eyes and the warning in her voice the witch put her wand inside her robes.
"Good." Minerva was unable to stop her lip from turning up in a snarl; the man spoke to her as though speaking to a truculent dog. She tore her eyes from Hermione and watched as Remus was dragged into the noose.
The witch was trembling, hating what was happening but unable to think of a plan that would save them all. Lucius would be able to fire the crossbow long before her magic could reach him, while she could Imperio him – Draco would continue what he had started. Minerva was stuck, backed into a corner and there was nothing that she could do.
Neither woman could tear their eyes from the sheer horror of the scene before them. Watching as their friend was killed, watching as firewood was piled below his prone body and set alight. It began to rain heavily, obscuring their view as the townsfolk started to disperse.
"I expect that you'll be leaving soon." Malfoy said to the shocked, mute witch. Sensing that her immobility would keep him safe – he told his son to take the knife from the young womans throat. Lucius threw his stepdaughter at Minerva's feet, keeping his crossbow trained on the young woman as they backed away.
Hermione sat in the mud and began to cry. Sobbing loudly as she relived the last hour in her head over and over. It hurt that Minerva had chosen to save her over what was right, that by seeking to save her life an innocent man had died. The young woman forced herself to consider her own actions, in Minerva's position she would have done exactly the same to save the witch.
Moments passed before Minerva dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around the young woman. "I'm sorry..." The witch's voice was husky with unshed tears, "But I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you... I couldn't let them..." It was then that she let herself go and she burst into tears.
It was Hermione's turn to comfort the older witch once again. They held each other in the driving rain, feeling water and mud soak into their clothes. Just listening to the mingled sound of their breathing, their heartbeats, remorse-filled but glad to be alive.
It was just before dawn that the two women made their way back to the cottage. Passing through the village they noticed that everything was unusually silent, the normal hustle and bustle was absent. Minerva hoped that the townsfolk were regretting their nights work before vowing not to let the situation ruin their time together or their future.
When they stepped through the door, the burning embers of a fire warmed their chilled skin. Hermione threw on some more wood and stoked the fire vigorously, pulling a pan of water closer to the flames. Her teeth were chattering, "It...won't...take...long to...heat...up."
Minerva pulled the young brunette close, rubbing at Hermione's arms trying to bring some warmth back into her skin. "We need to get out of these wet clothes."
The young woman grinned cheekily in response, "I thought you'd never ask."
The witch smiled back at her, a smile that slipped when Hermione's hands went to the fastening on her own cloak. The wet muddy garment was draped over a chair. Minerva had seen the dress that the young woman was wearing many times before, had lain beside her wearing it but this felt different. Her eyes were drawn along the curves of Hermione's body, lingering on the swell of her breasts and the curvature of her hips.
The pot of water began to steam. Minerva wet a washcloth – her eyes never leaving Hermione's. Tenderly the cloth swabbed the tear stains from the young womans face. After a moment the brunette lifted her chin, revealing her throat to the witch. The washcloth slid across the delicate skin of her neck, her collarbone.
Hermione's lips trembled but no longer with the cold.
Nimble, elegant fingers found the lacings at the front of the young womans gown and Minerva deftly loosened them. Her other hand slipping the cloth lower, exploring the top of Hermione's chest – wanting more but moving slowly, for fear of rushing the young woman.
It was Hermione's hands that reached up and slid the dress from her shoulders, exposing the thin, sleeveless undergarment that she wore. Minerva's eyes flashed downwards, loving the way that the fabric clung to the brunettes full breasts – before they moved back up to darkened brown eyes.
Rinsing the cloth once again, the witch wiped the mud from Hermione's hands and began to make her way tenderly up her arms. She stopped and allowed her hands to drop to her side as the young woman began to take Minerva's cloak and outer garments from her. Soon the witch stood before the brunette clad only in her inner shift, a dark green robe that clung to her slender body.
There was a long charged moment of eye contact between the still silent women. Hermione dropped a fleeting kiss on the older womans lips before turning around – her back was to Minerva when she took off her remaining clothing. The room was silent apart from the rustle of cloth falling to the floor, the fire crackling and the rain against the thatch.
Minerva understood why Hermione had turned her back, knew that the young woman was nervous but she couldn't help her reaction. Hormones took over as the witch ogled the nakedness in front of her. Firelight reflected off of creamy skin, shadows dancing and highlighting every curve, every depression, every dimple.
The seconds ticked by as the young woman stared at the wall, waiting for Minerva's response – fearing acceptance almost as much as rejection. She felt rather than heard the witch step closer, could feel the warmth radiating from the animagus against her own skin. Her knees almost buckled when lips began to caress the tender flesh at the base of her neck – causing row after row of goosebumps.
Butterflies began to mass in Hermione's stomach, not nervousness but something she had never felt before. Tenderly the washcloth began to move once again, starting at her shoulders and moving downward, slowly – not rushing in the slightest. Minerva's lips sucked and kissed at the sensitive skin, moving across to Hermione's shoulders – nudging aside long chestnut hair as she worshipped the tender flesh.
Minerva dropped the cloth and placed both hands on shapely hips. "Hermione?" The young woman responded by yielding to the subtle pressure on her waist and slowly turned to face her...lover.
It took all of the ebony haired witch's self-control to keep her eyes on the young womans face and not to devour the scene in front of her. She wanted to ask Hermione if she was sure about this, if she really wanted to make love but her throat was dry and the brunette was too close. Suddenly they were kissing passionately, as though their lives depended upon it.
Minerva felt cool air against her skin as the final layer of clothing was removed. Kicking her way free of the garment she wrapped her arms tightly around the young woman, feeling curves mould perfectly against her own. "Minerva... I don't know what to do."
A hand cupped the young womans cheek as the witch smiled at her tenderly, "Just use your instincts my love, no one knows what to do the first time."
Shyly the brunette met Minerva's eyes, "Show me." The witch grinned and waved her wand – the next thing that Hermione knew they were in the attic room.
Minerva brushed her lips against full, supple ones – engaging the once again nervous young woman in a passionate kiss that had them melting into each others embrace. Hermione's hands crept to her hips and pushed her away slightly.
"I want to... touch you."
Chocolate eyes drifted towards the mattress and Minerva followed the 'hint' – lowering her body to the bed. She had to swallow her own nervousness and submit entirely to the inexperienced brunette. Tentative fingers brushed across the familiar shape of Minerva's lips and her face before drifting lower into uncharted territory.
Fingers gently traced the smoothness between Minerva's breasts, goosebumps followed the touch and the witch struggled to control her reaction – the last thing in the world she wanted was to rush the young woman.
"Have you ever...?" Fingers trailed across a bare stomach, making the unspoken portion of her question clear to Minerva. It was fairly obvious in this day and age that a young woman of Hermione's class and unmarried, would be a virgin but the same preconceptions did not apply to Minerva. The young woman was unsure about the degree of experience that the witch had.
"Yes I have."
"Lots of times?"
There was an odd note in Hermione's voice, one that the witch identified as jealousy. She laughed, "That doesn't matter. What matters is that I love you."
Hermione's attention turned back to the soft skin under her fingers. She brushed her palm over Minerva's breast, watching as a nipple pebbled in response. Circling the hard bud with just the tips of her fingers, she began to tease the witch. Coming closer and closer with every circle, she was trying to drive her lover crazy – it was succeeding.
"Begging already?" There was an enormous cheeky grin on Hermione's face, "I haven't finished exploring yet..."
Fingers grazed against her nipples making the witch jump – the touch was brief. Hermione began to explore the older womans body, first with her fingers – then with her lips and tongue. She lingered on every blemish and scar, on every new inch of skin; tasting, touching, exploring. Several minutes passed.
The young woman looked up surprised, she had been licking the tender spot behind Minerva's knee and had been fairly engrossed in her task. The witch's green eyes were almost black with need, she was shaking with desire and she had grasped the wooden beam next to the pillow to try and keep her hands off of Hermione.
"What do you w... need? I..."
"Kiss me." Minerva's voice was far deeper than usual, throatier and the sound of it made Hermione shiver with her own desire. Hurriedly she obeyed, sliding her naked body the length of Minerva's and crashing their lips together in the most intense kiss that they had shared - up until that point.
The older woman wrapped a strong arm around Hermione and slid a hand between their bodies. When she discovered that the brunette was as wet as she herself was, the animagus moaned once again. Lifting her knee, she nudged slender legs apart – giving her free access to the juncture of the young womans thighs.
Minerva let her fingers slide into wet folds blindly, experienced digits brushing across an erect bud – flicking softly, making Hermione whimper. The young woman followed suit, pressing her hand between their joined hips, feeling as Minerva's arousal increased under her ministrations.
The witch built up a rhythm against Hermione's sensitive skin, moaning as she felt the woman on top of her copy her movements. She felt the young woman tremble uncontrollably as her first orgasm started coursing through her body. The brunette tore her lips from Minerva's to cry out, as she did her fingers squeezed an erect clitoris harder than she intended – the animagus yelped before feeling her body tighten.
Minerva shuddered underneath the weight of the young woman, feeling Hermione quiver and shake – feeling their wetness pool on the mattress underneath her.
"That was... I love you." Hermione brought her damp fingers to her lips, smelling the unfamiliar essence of the ebony haired woman. Minerva watched as a pink tongue darted out to taste – she moaned at the extremely erotic sight.
"Like the taste?"
"Mmmmm, yes." Hermione lifted her chin, parted her lips inviting Minerva's kiss.
The witch could taste her own essence on the young womans tongue and she moaned into the kiss, her hips bucking up and into Hermione's. She placed both hands on the curve of Hermione's hips and rolled the young woman onto her back – making sure this time that her weight was atop the curvaceous body.
She slid her hand southwards once again to caress the still tingling erect bud of Hermione's arousal, feeling the young woman jerk under her touch. "Min."
"I want you... inside me."
Minerva froze, she hadn't intended to go that far with the young woman yet. If Hermione later decided that this was not what she wanted, it would be best for her future if her maidenhead was intact. "Hermione... are you sure? That isn't something that you can undo."
"I won't change my mind, I want to be with you." The witch was touched by the sincerity in Hermione's voice.
"There will be some pain."
The young woman nodded, there was some trepidation in her eyes but mostly desire burned in the chocolate depths. That was enough to reassure the witch and she slid her fingers a little lower, circling around Hermione's entrance – gathering moisture.
Hermione gasped as the very tips of two fingers penetrated her sex, the sensation unbelievably good but leaving her wanting more. "Min...please."
Minerva took a deep breath and thrust into the young woman in a single smooth stroke. She swooped forward, swallowing Hermione's cry of pain in a fierce kiss. She kept still for several seconds, giving the young woman time to adjust to the unaccustomed sensation. The witch broke the kiss. "Are you alright?"
Hermione smiled as Minerva dropped a kiss on the end of her nose. When the witch gently thrust again, the sensation was wonderful – igniting thousands of nerve endings. The brunette spread her legs wider, not knowing how sexy the picture was that she presented.
The witch began to rhythmically thrust in and out of the young womans core. After a short time Hermione was moaning, whimpering and making small cries of pleasure – thrashing about in ecstasy, under Minerva's experienced hands. Her back arched as she climaxed, "Oh...god...god...Min." Hermione's body jerked three times before she fell back onto the pillows with a glazed look on her face, panting heavily.
Minerva wrapped Hermione in an embrace, nuzzling against her chin. "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to make you cry."
"These are good tears, I'm just... so happy."
Minerva packed a series of potions and magical items into her leather satchel, she tried to ignore the chocolate eyes that followed her every movement. "Can't we just leave now Minerva?"
Fighting to keep her resolve from crumbling the witch walked over to Hermione, taking slender hands in her own. "I need to go and defeat Voldemort."
"I wish you didn't have to."
"I know love but there's a lot at stake – all of the other villages around. I have to do the right thing." One hand left Hermione's and rose to cup a cheek in her palm, caressing lightly. "I failed Remus Lupin, I need to try and atone for that."
"Don't get yourself killed because you are trying to do the right thing."
"I'll try my best, after all I have someone to come home to now."
Hermione grinned widely, pulling the witch in for a kiss. "Make sure that you do come home."
"I love you." Minerva turned and left, never hearing Hermione's response nor hearing the young woman slip out behind her and follow her into the forest.
Minerva hit the ground heavily in a splash of mud, thrown across the clearing by a violent spell. The breath was torn from her lungs but she still managed to gasp out his name, "Riddle."
She looked up into the glowing red eyes, shooting a hex at the pale wand pointing at her. The wizard blocked the spell with a wave of his wand. "Minerva, what a surprise to see you here."
Blindly, in a rage the witch threw herself at him – landing in the mud once again as he sidestepped. "I thought that you were dead."
"No Minerva." He smiled, the grin of a snake about to strike, "The building you collapsed on me merely injured me. You should have ensured that you finished the job."
Minerva stood, pointing her wand at him once again, trying to calm down and be able to kill him – this time. Acting like an enraged bull would only get her killed and risk Hermione's safety. She was not about to let him kill another woman that she loved. "I will finish it this time."
"I doubt it, better people than you have tried."
The witch and wizard began to circle each other, shooting complex hexes and spells at one another. Minerva deflected a silver lightening bolt with a wave of her wand aiming a purple mist at Riddle. This was what the witch had dreaded, a dark wizard who was as skilled as she was – this wizard in particular she had nightmares about.
"Was she dead when you got there Minerva? Or did she die in your arms?"
Minerva snarled like a wounded animal, hurt beyond belief at the reminder but still trying to contain her rage. When she spoke her voice was low, trembling with anger and pain. "You were terrified of the prophecy... You killed Lilly and our son because you thought Harry would have led to your downfall." She growled once again, her hex splintering his shield and knocking him across the clearing, "Their deaths are the reason that I am going to kill you."
The wizard smirked and began to exchange a flurry of spells with the ebony haired witch. He rolled to his knees and stood up. There was blood dripping from a gash in his arm and Minerva was bleeding heavily from a wound in her stomach. Wand moving with lightening speed he flew towards her, firing hexes in her direction – at the last moment she managed to block it "Protego!"
She threw a vivid green spell at him, wincing as it was deflected back and knocked the witch to her knees. Minerva lifted her head, looking up at the man through a haze of blood and tangled hair – the magics she had used tiring her beyond belief. Somehow she managed to stand, swaying badly on her feet.
Meanwhile Hermione was watching from the safety of the bushes. While both combatants were injured, Minerva looked as though she was loosing and Voldemort looked as though he was about to finish her despite his own injuries. When faced with the thought of a life without the witch in it – Hermione broke.
Standing up the young woman caught the attention of both magicians by pulling her wand. "Hermione, no." Minerva whispered, not wanting to make Riddle aware of the depth of her feelings for the young woman.
"Wingardium Leviosa." The brunette whacked Riddle with a huge tree branch, knocking the wizard to the ground before his counter-curse flung her into a tree. Her scream abruptly cut off as she landed with a thump.
"Nooooooooo!" Minerva shot another spell at the wizard, uttering the words that she had never before spoken – the very words that had killed her son, "Avada Kedavra." Riddle's body dropped to the ground, a look of shock on his pale slack face.
"Hermione." There was no answer from the brunette.
"Hermione!" Minerva limped towards her lover as fast as she could, calling her name frantically – desperately. The young woman was lying crumpled at the base of a tree, there was a wound in her scalp that was bleeding profusely and a quick diagnostic charm told the witch that she had internal bleeding in her stomach.
"Oh Hermione." The animagus cast a number of healing charms on her young lover, cradling the senseless body in her arms. "Wake up!" The brunette muttered something and opened her eyes.
"Thanks to you but NEVER, EVER scare me like that again!"
Hermione once again closed her eyes, falling into a deep healing sleep.
Several hours later Minerva staggered out of the forest with Hermione's limp body in her arms. The fight and the journey had taken its toll on her, she was staggering – almost ready to fall down but she had to get her lover to a place where she could lie still and rest. The healing magic would take time to work, Hermione would recover but it would be days before she was fit to travel.
The witch was not in much better condition, she was leaving a trail of blood behind her as she left the forest. She made it as far as the village square before collapsing, as Minerva fell she managed to twist her body ensuring that she didn't land on Hermione. She lost consciousness before she hit the ground.
The next day
Minerva awoke in the main bedroom of the cottage, her muddy clothes and boots were stacked on the bedside table. She was clad only in her blood-soaked undershift, rough bandages were wrapped around her stomach, her right arm and both legs. A glance at the window told her that the sun was rising.
So much had happened in the previous day and the witch took a long moment to sort through the memories. Remus Lupin was dead, she had made love to Hermione and destroyed the wizard that she had sought for so long. That sense of victory was tainted with the fact that it had almost cost Hermione her life.
With a wince Minerva turned and put her feet on the floor, great effort was required on her part to stand upright. She gasped as the movement aggravated her injuries, a glance downward told her that one of the wounds had been stitched. Tentative fingers traced the wound gingerly before she shrugged.
The witch tried to remove the remnants of her garment but found the motion too painful. A whispered incantation vanished the torn material and brought fresh clothing from her bags. Minerva grimaced and began to dress, it was time to find Hermione and leave.
It was still early when Minerva reached the house belonging to Hermione's step-father. There was little activity from inside except the sound of the skittish maid preparing breakfast. The witch slipped into the stable and prepared to saddle her horse, stopping when she realised that there was a sheaf of parchment and a small leather bag on top of her supplies.
You have fulfilled the terms of our contract. In fact you have done me a great service, you have helped me to remove Lupin and as a bonus I could never have expected – you killed Lord Voldemort. It may take me a few years to gain his position and power but I will, thanks to you.
As agreed much of the money that I owe you is in this bag. You will not return to this village at any point in the future. I control my stepdaughter's fate and if you make an attempt to contact her again I will ensure that she suffers for that attempt.
I couldn't care less that you have dishonoured my stepdaughter, my wife however is rather upset – so to pacify her I have deducted Hermione's bride price from your payment. I'm sure that you won't mind overmuch, having shall we say... reaped the rewards.
The growl that slipped from between Minerva's lips was low and menacing. She had never detested a muggle as much as she did that man, how could any person be that dismissive of their own family? She had planned on camping away from the village until Hermione was fully fit to travel before coming back for her. The letter had changed her mind.
Moving rapidly, with sure deft movements the witch slung saddle and bags on to the horse. Checking straps and fastenings before she led the mare out of the stall. "Stay." She frowned before walking back into the stable for a few minutes before leaving once again.
Quiet steps took her into the kitchen. The startled maid looked up from her work. "I need your help."
Hermione awoke slowly, she had been sleeping fitfully since the witch had brought her out of the woods. When she had opened her eyes for the first time her mother had been there with her in her room, asking for Minerva had produced a diatribe of abuse. Hermione had cried herself to sleep, wondering if she would ever see the older woman again.
Something was wrong, the air smelled too fresh for the village. She kept her eyes closed against the sun streaming through the window and tried to figure out what was wrong. Hermione could smell a fire made of slightly damp wood, could hear the jingle of tack as a horse moved, she could feel a warm breeze on her skin.
Her eyes snapped open, instead of looking at the inside of a thatched roof she was looking up at the needles of a pine tree. She tried to sit up but stopped as her head started to swim, gentle hands supported her. "Slowly Hermione."
"Minerva?" The young woman turned to face the ebony haired witch.
"I'm here my love."
Minerva pulled her lover into her arms, supporting Hermione's torso against her body. "I carried you out of the forest and I erm... collapsed from blood loss."
"That's nothing to be embarrassed about."
"Maybe not but while I was unconscious Malfoy took you away."
"When I woke up my mother told me that you'd gone, that you'd left me." The pain in Hermione's voice was evident, "I thought that they might have driven you away."
"They tried... but Hermione... I would never leave you."
"I know that in my heart but I was hurt and you weren't there."
Hermione slowly sat up, knowing that the ability to stand was beyond her at this point. She looked around the small clearing for a moment. "Um Minerva? Why is my step-fathers prized stallion here?"
The witch had the good grace to look embarrassed. "Well... when I realised that I had to 'steal you' from your fathers care and as he had deducted your dowry from my wages – I stole his horse."
Hermione giggled before erupting into laughter. "He is going to be furious."
"Indeed, I suspect he will." Minerva leant down, lightly kissing the tip of Hermione's nose. "Do you think that you can stand?"
The young woman nodded watching Minerva wince as she stood first. "Are you still injured?"
"Somewhat but not as badly as you are." She held out a hand to Hermione, "If it hurts too badly stop."
Hermione bit her lip as she stood, trying to mask her pain from the woman that she loved. The look in her emerald eyes told the brunette that she wasn't deceived. Helping hands assisted Hermione towards the horses. She watched as the fire was extinguished and their bags loaded onto the stallion by magic. Moments later she felt herself levitated to sit in front of Minerva on the mare.
The motion of riding was jarring but Hermione relaxed in her lovers' arms, trying to focus exclusively on her emotions and not on the physical sensation – as the woman she loved took her away.
It was three days later that the horses climbed a steep slope and out of the forest. Hermione had never been this far from her home before and the panoramic vista laid out in front of her was absolutely stunning.
Beautiful purple hills stretched out before them, for as far as the eye could see. Hermione reined in the stallion that she was riding, staring open-mouthed at the scenery. "Do you like what you see?"
"Enough to stay here?"
"Your home is here? I thought you lived in a cave?"
The witch smiled enigmatically, "After a fashion."
Hermione nudged the horse towards Minerva's, moving alongside the older woman, reaching out to hold her hand. "Take me home Minerva!"
With another smirk the ebony haired witch brushed her lips across Hermione's knuckles before dropping the hand and spurring her horse forward. The chocolate eyed young woman followed her into the sunset as they made their way into their new life – together.
A.N: So what did you think?
Special thanks to Tigertales who checked this through for me, in spite of her feelings regarding AUs.