Authors Note: I was going to work on something different but I had a scene in mind for this I was talking to Tigertales about and we outlined this entire story in one night. I just had to start it, so let me know what you think of the prologue.
The friendship between Minerva McGonagall and Molly Weasley was unlikely but it had outlasted countless others. The venerable Headmistress of Hogwarts had a reserved personality that perfectly balanced with Molly's brash outgoing motherly nature. Their relationship had spanned decades of quiet early mornings in this kitchen.
Minerva looked up from the scarred wooden table in The Burrow at her friend who was bustling around the stove preparing breakfast. She felt more relaxed here, in this messy but welcoming kitchen than she did anywhere else. The emerald eyed witch grinned, she had witnessed this scene repeated many times over the years early on a Saturday morning; first Molly had been preparing food for her husband, then for her brood of children and now for her grandchildren.
"Are Rose and Hugo staying for the whole weekend?"
Molly turned to face her friend, trying to keep her knowing smile from showing at the casual tone. "Hermione had an exam this morning, I offered to keep the children overnight so that she could study, you know how thorough she is."
"I do indeed."
A series of images flashed through Minerva's mind. A young witch with serious chocolate eyes, an earnest expression and a huge pile of books in her arms. An elegant young warrior fighting with determination and skill. A test paper with the highest scores that she had ever seen. A beautiful bride being married under an arch of roses. The proud mother showing off her newborn. The brunette standing at the grave of her husband, bravely fighting to repress her tears and to remain strong for her family. Later that evening breaking down in the arms of her former mentor.
"I thought that perhaps she might have gone on a... date."
Molly should have called the children but instead she placed warming charms on their breakfasts and with a plate in each hand she walked over to the table. "More to the point when are you going to ask her on a date?" She placed a meal in front of each of them.
The red-haired woman laughed despite her mixed feelings, "Minerva I've known you far too long to be taken in by your 'that's unthinkable, so stop asking' act. I've seen the way you look at her, I can see how you light up when her name is mentioned. How you dress a little... sexier when you think Hermione might be at a function."
The Headmistress sighed knowing that she was busted. "She is something really special Molly."
"Yes she is, now eat your breakfast while you tell me all about it."
"Yes Mother." Minerva sarcastically shot back at her friend before starting on her meal, Molly was a great cook and the breakfast smelled divine. The plump witch considered The Headmistress with intense blue eyes, Minerva had never been on the receiving end of that gaze before and it was more than a little disconcerting. "How would you feel if I...?"
Pain flashed in those blue eyes for a moment before Molly sighed, "Minerva I have lost two sons and I've learnt that life must go on. Hermione has become my daughter, I hate to see her alone and miserable. She needs a partner and I would rather it were you than someone else." Her hand patted Minerva's in a motherly gesture, "You've been alone for a long time too and I know that you would be good for Hermione and the children. And they would be good for you."
There was another pause in the conversation as they ate and drank mugs of strong coffee. Emerald eyes were far away, lost in thought, focussed on a certain chestnut haired witch who had captivated her interest so many years previously. "How am I supposed to suggest that she date me?"
Molly laughed again, "Just ask her if she wants to go have dinner with you."
Minerva looked aghast, "I could never be so forward!"
"Just do it."
"Molly... the last time we spent any meaningful time together alone... she was crying in my arms because she had just buried Ronald." Minerva paused meeting upset blue eyes with sympathetic green ones before continuing, "I see her fleetingly at the occasional Ministry function... I cannot just show up out of the blue and suggest we go for pizza."
"Well I had something a little more romantic in mind than pizza but whatever you fancy dear."
Minerva grinned, "You understand my point though Molly?"
"I do but that isn't your only concern, you're worried that she is still mourning R... her husband?"
"Somewhat... is it too soon?"
"I don't know for sure Minerva but it's been more than three years. The only way to find out is to ask her."
"How?" The Headmistress was quite clearly lost, unused to this type of situation. Her pocket watch beeped quietly and she stood up. "I need to get back Molly, thank you for breakfast and for... the chat."
"Minerva..." The Weasley matriarch stood up, "Arthur has been meaning to fix my clock for months now, would you mind?"
"Certainly." Minerva lifted her wand.
"Not now dear."
"Take it back to Hogwarts with you and bring it back next Saturday at about one."
Emerald eyes narrowed, "Molly?" There was both warning and a question in Minerva's voice. "Wha...?"
"Trust me Minerva, take the clock and floo back to Hogwarts."
Hermione had a headache - weeks of working full-time, caring for her children and studying had taken its toll. As she apparated outside The Burrow, she felt her spirits lift when she heard her children call her. She dropped to her knees and enfolded them both into her arms. "Hey you two. Have you been good for Nanny?"
"Yes, course we did." Rose answered a little indignantly.
"We pwayed wiv gnomes." Hermione grinned at both of them, Rose was so like her and Hugo really took after his father. They began to tell her everything that had happened in the last day and the young woman hugged them tighter, aware of just how precious they were.
"Let mummy breathe." Obediently the kids let go and rushed back towards Molly who was offering Hermione a mug of tea. "Hey sweetheart, how was your exam?"
The tired witch smiled at her mother-in-law, "It went really well but I'm tired, been a long few weeks." That was an understatement, Hermione was exhausted. Her skin was pale, her chocolate eyes were dull and there was grey in her chestnut mane that had not been there six months before.
"No more exams until next year?" The kids ran off after the gnomes again while the two witches walked into the kitchen. Hermione shrugged off her cloak, glad of the fire because of the chill in the autumn air.
She placed her cup on the table and wrapped her arms around the plump witch, needing the comforting embrace after what had been a hard week. A gentle hand caressed her hair, before Molly pushed the young woman into a chair. "I saved you some food, you're looking way too skinny."
Hermione grinned before starting to eat, it felt good to have a mother figure around her and she truly loved the Weasley matriarch. Molly sat down picking up her own cup, "You need to relax more. Maybe get out of the flat."
Hermione smiled again, "Remember the blind date Gin set me up on last month?"
"She said he was smart."
"He was intelligent enough I suppose but I have met more interesting plant life."
Molly chuckled, her daughter had always had lousy taste in men – not including Harry of course. "Not a good date then?"
"No!" Hermione took a sip of the scalding liquid, "I'm not sure that I am ready to date people yet."
Molly noted the gender neutral term with a wry smile, her instincts had been correct, "If the right person came along?"
"Yeah, like the person of my dreams is going to show up out of the blue and ask me if I want to grab a pizza."
Something shone in blue eyes at that remark, something humorous, something knowing.
"Besides Molly, Rose and Hugo are my highest priority – anyone I dated would have to understand that."
Molly nodded and changed the subject (or so Hermione thought), "The weather's looking good for next weekend, why don't you drive the kids over for an early lunch and maybe a walk in the forest afterwards?"
"Sounds great Molly."