Authors Note: Mary was kinda irritated when I said that I'd started yet another story. You may be too but here's my logic - 'Seasons' is a very angst-free story and at the moment life is pretty angsty, so I'm not in the right frame of mind to do it justice, 'Exile' is probably less than half complete, so we'll be doing that for a while. 'Pleasures' again requires careful thought and I just had to do this plot bunny.
Hermione burst through the doors of St. Mungos in a flurry of billowing robes. Her pace was only slightly slower than running as she hurried through the foyer towards a tall blonde standing by the reception desk.
"Where is she?"
Jeanette Robson ignored the breach of the young womans normally impeccable manners. In her line of work, she realised that worried people were capable of anything. "Follow me Hermione." She led the younger woman into the magical elevator behind the desk, waiting for the interrogation to continue.
"How is she?"
"From what I have been able ascertain, Minerva was involved in a duel with several dark wizards. She managed to defeat them but in the process suffered a serious head injury. Shortly after alerting The Ministry, she lost consciousness."
"She will be alright, won't she?"
"We have administered the correct treatments and Minerva should wake shortly."
The lift gave a soft bong and opened to long austere corridor. The two women stepped out and Hermione followed the chief healer to the right. "You didn't answer the question."
"Because I don't know Hermione. Head injuries can be tricky things. We will have more answers for you soon." The healer quietly opened a door.
Hermione rushed to Minerva's bedside and sat beside the older woman. Emerald eyes were tightly closed, milky skin had an almost translucent pallor and the woman who had always seemed larger than life looked...weak, diminished... Hermione shook her head cutting that thought dead in its tracks. Jeanette had said that she would wake up soon... she had to.
It was a few hours later that Hermione felt the fingers that were in her grasp move.
She glanced upwards to see Minerva's eyelashes fluttering, as though it were a struggle to open them.
"Minerva? Open your eyes... That's right... Come back to me."
There was a low groan.
"Come on Minerva, wake all the way up for me."
Not opening her eyes the older woman spoke in a pained voice. "Where am I?"
"St. Mungo's, you were injured in a duel."
"I... I don't..." Minerva winced and opened her eyes. Her emerald gaze widened as it moved from Hermione's face to their joined hands. "What are you doing here Miss Granger?"
"Miss Granger? You haven't called me that in almost a decade." Hermione was grinning at the older woman, a grin that faded as Minerva yanked her hand away. "Minerva?"
The animagus shifted on the mattress away from the younger woman. "Why are you calling me that?"
Hurt chocolate eyes stared at the older witch. She paused for a moment and reached for a discrete button on the wall. Only a minute or two later Jeanette ran into the room, "What's wrong? Oh Minerva good, you're awake."
"She doesn't seem to recognise me."
"Of course I recognise you Miss Granger but I fail to see why you are here or why you are speaking as though we are on intimate terms!"
Hermione turned her gaze to the healer, silently pleading for help.
"Oh Minerva, I need to ask you a few questions." Jeanette gestured for the younger woman to step back a little. "I know that you get impatient in hospitals but I need your co-operation."
Hermione sat in a chair by the door and slumped there with her head in her hands.
...Listening as her world collapsed.
"How many fingers am I holding up?"
"Who is The Minister?"
"The Head of Hogwarts?"
"Albus Dumbledore... or Delores Umbridge, depending on what you read in The Daily Prophet."
"The last thing you remember?"
"Running to help Hagrid and being cursed, flying through the air..."
The healer leant forward, shining a light into Minerva's eyes before running a diagnostics charm. "Look closely at Hermione and tell me what you see that doesn't tally with your memory of her."
"She... she's got a scar on her forehead."
"Her hair is longer. Really Jeanette what is this all about? How long was I out?"
"You were unconscious for about 6 hours."
"Wha...? I don't understand."
"You had a serious head injury. It appears that you have suffered some memory loss as a result of that. The last events that you say you recall... happened... almost twelve years ago."
"Twelve years." Minerva's voice was a mere whisper. "What has happened?"
"Too much information could be more damaging when given all at once but there is some... that you really do need to know... Hermione?"
The younger woman stood and walked over to the bed. There was something about the brightness in Hermione's eyes that tugged at Minerva's heartstrings but she did not understand why.
"Minerva... I... you..." The tears that had been threatening began to fall and Hermione lowered her gaze to the bed sheet. "We're married."
"We are what?"
"Married. Minerva you are my wife."
"I... You are... were my student. We cannot be... m... that."
"Look at your hand Tabby."
Emerald eyes flickered to her left hand, to the plain gold band that adorned it – then to the matching one on the younger womans ring finger and her eyes finally accepted the incredible truth when they noticed something else. Underneath the wedding band was another one, the engagement ring that her Emilie McGonagall had worn. Emerald and diamonds, nestled in antique gold.
Minerva gasped and her lips trembled.
"We became friends after the war. Then we... for lack of a better term started dating. You proposed eight years ago. We were married a year after that." Hermione paused and looked at the Healer.
"Tell her Hermione."
"Tell me what?"
"We... have a daughter."
Minerva's jaw dropped.
"Her name is Cerys."
"My Grandmothers name."
"I know, we named our daughter after her."
Minerva was openly trembling now, "How... how old is she?"
"Five... Going on thirty-five."
What was obviously a family-joke had no impact on the older woman. "I'm sorry... I don't remember."
Jeanette broke into the awkward silence, "We will need to conduct some more tests. Memory will usually come back on it's own after this type of injury. There are various therapies that we can try, so please continue to be hopeful."
Minerva's eyes were almost glazed over from the pain in her head, a pain that was getting worse with every revelation. What Miss Granger was saying was impossible, she would never have gotten involved with a student or even a former student. But the younger woman did not look as though she was lying and the fact that she was wearing Emilie McGonagall's ring spoke volumnes.
"Minerva you need to rest, I will give you a dreamless draught in a moment. Hermione you should go home, things may look better in the morning."
The young woman nodded. She took one final long, lingering look at her wife. "Goodnight Minerva."
Minerva glared at the nurse who had the audacity to flood the room with sunlight by opening the curtains.
"I'm sorry Headmistress, the sun will round the building in half an hour or so – it won't be so bright then."
"What did you call me?"
"What happened to Albus Dumbledore?"
The young nurse paled at the tone in her former professors voice. She backed away, "I'm sorry I have said too much already."
"Tell me." Minerva took a few steps toward her, in a way that was designed to intimidate.
"She isn't allowed to tell you." A very familiar voice sounded from the open doorway.
Minerva McGonagall closed her eyes and turned to face... Hermione. "Please I need to know."
The nurse took that moment to flee.
Hermione stepped into the room, placed a small case on the foot of the bed and adjusted her robes before sitting down. "He's dead."
The older witch slumped into the chair by the door and paled. The loss of her best friend was fresh now, as though the past eleven years had not happened. "How, why?"
"It is an exceedingly long story."
Hermione stood up, "Come walk with me."
The younger woman led her wife towards the coffee shop, which was still quiet this early in the morning. She paid for a pot of tea and urged Minerva to step out onto the balcony with her. The two witches sat in the early morning sunlight for a few minutes until their tea arrived. Hermione took a deep breath and spoke, "I cannot tell you bits and pieces, you will have to know the whole story."
"A few days after Umbridge and her flunkies ambushed you, Harry had a vision that Sirius had been taken prisoner in the Department of Mysteries. We attempted to contact Grimmauld Place but were captured in the attempt, Harry managed to warn Snape. I tricked Umbridge into getting captured by centaurs. We used Thestrals to get to The Ministry."
"Who is we?"
"Harry, Ron, myself, Neville, Luna and Ginny."
"Six students against Voldemort?"
"It turned out that he had planted the vision in Harry's mind to trick him into retrieving a prophecy that Trelawney had made about the two of them. When Harry retrieved the sphere; Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange and a number of their friends showed up. We fought fairly well but were outmatched. The Order showed up and saved us but Sirius died, killed by Bellatrix. Harry chased her and ended up involved in a duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort."
"Is that where he died?"
"No. The aurors and The Minister appeared, Voldemort fled and suddenly The Prophet was reporting the truth again. Dumbledore admitted that Harry's parents were killed because someone, who later turned out to be Snape overheard part of the prophecy and told Voldemort. That summer things started to get bad, murders, disappearances – rumours. When we came back to school..."
Minerva winced at the reminder that Hermione had been her student.
"...Dumbledore had a dead withered hand. He began to take Harry for private lessons, he had discovered that Voldemort had made seven horcruxes. He had injured his hand during his search, it was a curse that would have eventually killed him. Over the year he showed Harry most of the things he had discovered about Tom Riddle. Draco Malfoy meanwhile had become a Death Eater and was working to repair an old vanishing cabinet."
Another wince, as though Minerva sensed what was coming.
"One night Harry and Dumbledore left to find a horcrux, while they were gone Draco led Death Eaters into Hogwarts through the cabinet located in the room of requirement. Malfoy had sworn to kill Dumbledore and he cornered him on the Astronomy Tower weakened but he couldn't do it. Snape... Snape killed him."
"What?" Minerva began to cry. The sight tore at Hermione's heart, the way that it had after his funeral when she had seen her professor sobbing by the lake. She reached over and placed a hand on her wife's, knowing that anything more intimate would not have been welcome. "We trusted him because Albus did."
"I know but it wasn't quite that simple." Hermione went on to explain their search for the horcruxes, the changes that the wizarding world had undergone, their final battle and the discovery that Snape had killed Dumbledore on his command. Harry's 'death' and how he had defeated Voldemort.
Minerva's sobbing subsided and she pulled her hand from Hermione's. The young woman gave an involuntary gasp at the emotional pain that the simple action provoked. She covered it by reaching for her cup. The older woman looked at the now shut door that led into the coffee shop – they were all alone. "I closed it." Hermione had noticed the direction of her gaze.
"Thank you, Miss..." Minerva stopped when she saw the tears that sprung into chocolate eyes. "I am sorry but this is rather hard for me."
"I know." Hermione's reply was short, succinct. She took a deep breath before continuing, "I think that you've had enough excitement for one morning." The young witch stood up, abandoning what tea was left in the pot and walked back towards Minerva's room – seemingly not caring if the older witch followed her or not. All the while keeping a watchful eye on her wife.
It was just before lunch when Jeanette Robson walked into Minerva's room and saw the older woman sitting at the window staring out at the street filled with muggles far below. "My receptionist tells me that Hermione was here earlier."
Minerva had obviously heard the healer coming, she never showed any surprise at the words or the fact that someone had spoken. "I believe that I upset her."
"You have to remember that while this is hard for you, it is harder for her. She has memories of what she is missing, you do not."
Minerva sighed and rubbed a hand over her face. "I appreciate that."
"Do you? Because I have to warn you that this is only going to get harder before it gets better."
"She gets upset when I call her Miss Granger."
"Well in her defence the two of you have been married for seven years. I can see why that would upset her."
"As can I. But she is Miss Granger to me."
The healer pulled over a chair and sat next to Minerva. "Might I make a suggestion?"
"By all means."
"Call her Hermione. It's a start."
"But nothing. Minerva the facts are the facts, they may be hard for you to accept but you married Hermione Granger years ago. You may not be able to reconcile that with your point of view at the moment but you need to keep an open mind."
"I will try." The three words were quietly uttered and the healer knew that it was as much as Minerva could give for the time being. "How long until I can remember?"
"These things are not an exact science. It could happen a minute from now, tomorrow, next week, next month or a year from now."
"That is a possibility but Minerva there is every chance that you will fully regain your memories. Only in extremely rare cases will memory loss be permanent. It may come back in bits and pieces, slowly or all at once. Your memory therapist will be able to help."
"But what if...?" Minerva shook her head, lifting an elegant hand to forestall the healers response. She turned her attention back to the window, obviously lost in thought.
Later that afternoon
Minerva was reading The Daily Prophet when she heard Hermione's voice outside of the open door. Animagus hearing allowed her to pick up the soft words. "Remember what I told you?"
A young voice chirped in response, "Yes. Mum banged her head and she doesn't 'member us."
"Can we go in now?"
The door opened wide and Minerva saw Hermione's anxious face for a split-second before her eyes wandered lower. A small child stood beside the younger woman, clinging to her hand nervously. The girl had long wavy tresses that were the same colour as Hermione's but the eyes staring nervously at her were a very familiar shade of emerald green. Her eyes.
The older witch took a deep breath. "Hello."
"Hi." The child clung tighter to her mum for a moment before she took several steps forward towards the bed. With uncommon poise for her age she stared up at her other mother. "I am Cerys McGonagall, it's a pleasure to meet you."
Minerva chuckled despite herself and shook the small hand that reached for her own. "I am very pleased to meet you."
"I drawed you a picture, I'll get Mummy to put it on the wall." The young woman pulled a piece of parchment from her bag when prompted by her daughter.
"May I see it please Cerys?"
Small eyes blinked up at her in surprise, "You want to look at my drawin'?"
"I would love to see it." The girl took the parchment from Hermione and handed it to Minerva who placed it on top of her paper. A small giggle erupted when two elegant hands lifted her up and onto the bed. The older witch wrapped an arm around her daughter. "So tell me about it."
Minerva listened to her daughter and tried to pretend that Hermione's sigh of relief didn't knife into her heart.
"So this is our house... That window's my bedroom...There's our orchard... That's Mummy... There's you Mum... That's me...And... There'."
Hermione erupted into laughter. "Cerys, taking advantage of your mothers memory loss is not nice."
"It was worth a try." Minerva's voice was very amused.
"She's been begging for a dog ever since she could talk."
The older witch chuckled. "What kind of puppy is it?" She pointed to the shapeless brown blob on the paper.
"Um... Like Nanny's dog."
Two sets of identical emerald eyes looked up at Hermione, waiting for her to fill in the blank. "A German Shepherd."
"That is a big dog for someone your size."
"I'm five and a half now." The young girl gave a very familiar Cheshire cat grin.
Minerva chuckled, "Why don't you draw me some more pictures of him." A wave of her wand conjured a small desk in the corner, equipped with crayons and paper. They both watched their daughter run over to it and start colouring.
Serious emerald eyes sought Hermione's and Minerva wordlessly patted the mattress beside her.
The younger woman swallowed down her nerves and walked over to her wife. She straightened her robes once again before sitting down. As soon as Hermione was on the bed, Minerva cast a silencing charm around it. "What kind of mother am I? To make her think that I would not be interested in looking at her drawing."
Hermione gave a sigh, "A busy one. Hogwarts consumes your waking hours. You usually return home late in the evening on your day off – when she is already asleep. You leave early the next morning, before she wakes. Weekends are better but you tend to bring paperwork home."
"I should have made more time for her, for you both. Obviously I need to reassess my priorities."
"I'm not disputing that, I happen to agree with you but you do not know the full circumstances."
"What I do know, is that I did not wait my entire lifetime dreaming about having a family... Just to neglect them."
Hermione reached out and brushed her fingers over Minerva's forearm, knowing the back story that the older woman was alluding to. She smiled up at her wife tenderly. "It'll all be ok."
"How do you know?" Tears were brimming in emerald eyes.
"Because you are Minerva McGonagall. You are the most resilient person I know, a fighter – it'd take more than a knock on the head to make you forget your responsibilities. Besides you are as stubborn as hell."
"You noticed that?"
"It's hard to miss."
They both smiled at each other warmly, Minerva's grin was slightly hesitant but it was real. She cancelled the silencing charm with a wave of her hand and whacked the call button with her palm. It took several minutes for Jeanette to arrive.
"Are you always on duty?"
"No. But everyone else is scared to come in here."
"I can make your life easier."
"You're going to be nice?"
"No. I am going... home with Cerys and... Hermione."
Hermione closed her eyes in relief. It was amazing how good her name sounded on Minerva's lips.
"What no argument?"
"No, my healers are terrified of you and it would probably do you good to go home. Give me ten minutes to sort out your paperwork ,ok?" The healer turned and swept out of the room.
The Healer returned with Minerva's washed and ironed clothing. She placed it on the bed and drew the privacy curtains. "Cerys, why don't you wait outside ok?"
"Ok." The girl gathered up her drawings and left the room obediently.
"Minerva sign here, here and here... Thanks. Now if you get dressed I will give Hermione some information."
"About what to watch for, in case your condition worsens."
"Why her and not me?"
"She is your wife, besides it is rather hard to watch yourself."
With a huff Minerva went behind the curtain and was muttering something about the 'ole ball and chain'. She was trying to be humorous but in fact she was angry and confused. "Minerva why is it that every time I refer to Hermione as your wife... you get angry? Why are you fighting this so hard?"
The older witch said nothing. It took Hermione a few moments but she remembered a conversation that they had had many years earlier. "I know why. Jeanette, just drop it for now."
Only moments later Minerva stepped out from behind the curtain. "How can you possibly know?"
"You're my wife, it's my business to know."
The ebony haired woman looked at her incredulously for a moment. "Shall we go?" She walked outside to speak to her daughter. Hermione looked at the healer for a moment, Jeanette squeezed the younger womans shoulder before gesturing that she should follow Minerva.
Hermione caught up with her family at the fireplace in reception. Minerva McGonagall was standing with a handful of floo-powder in one hand and a helpless look on her face. "This is ridiculous, I do not even know where my home is."
The young woman fought the urge to comfort her wife, knowing that it wouldn't be well received. "The Anchorage."
Minerva nodded, threw the powder into the flames and the three of them squished into the fire – as she spoke the name of the home she had no memory of.
Later that evening Hermione was sitting in the kitchen nursing a cup of coffee that was liberally laced with whiskey. Tears were slowly dripping down her face and onto the hands that were clinging to the mug as though it were a lifeline.
"You do realise of course... that is a waste of good whiskey."
Watery chocolate eyes sought out Minerva who was standing in the doorway, leaning against the wooden frame. "I've never been much of a drinker... Call it medicinal."
"Where do... we... keep the glasses?"
Hermione pointed to a cabinet over the sink. Minerva retrieved one and took it to the table, pouring a short measure for herself. The animagus reached into her robe and withdrew a handkerchief, she handed it to the younger woman, "Here."
"Thank you... I don't normally break down like this."
Minerva sat down, "It is entirely understandable. This has been a long hard couple of days."
"That's an understatement of epic proportions."
Both gave a hollow chuckle and Hermione returned her attention to her mug, tears welling again.
After a few minutes the older woman spoke, "I am so sorry... Hermione. Please do not cry."
"You've got nothing to be sorry about, none of this is your fault."
Hermione nodded, waiting for Minerva to say whatever else was obviously playing on her mind. She took another sip of the now-cold, foul-tasting liquid.
"What did you mean when you said...?" The older womans words cut off mid-sentence.
"When I said that it was my business to know certain things about you...?" Hermione watched as Minerva nodded without looking up from the table. "Tabby, we were friends and more than that... for almost a year before we made things official. We used to stay up all night talking."
Chocolate eyes softened fondly, as she continued. "I know about the time that you were ill with scarlet fever and your grandmother went into a muggle shop to get you ice-cream, dressed in fuchsia robes."
Minerva laughed at the memory.
"I know about the time that you and Hooch got into a brawl with the entire Chudley Cannons Quidditch team because they said girls couldn't play Quidditch."
Another huge grin from the animagus.
"And I know about the time when you kissed Amelia Bones and she pushed you away because she wasn't gay. When your parents sent you to live with your Gran for the same incident."
This time Minerva nodded, this memory not quite as agreeable. It still stung even after all of that time.
"And yes you did... eventually tell me why you were pushing me away so violently." Emerald eyes widened, wondering if what Hermione was saying could possibly have been true – would she have divulged her most intimate secret? "That you had feelings for me when I was a student and how ashamed of them you were."
"Ashamed is also one hell of an understatement."
"You didn't want to be with me because you thought that it would be a betrayal of your principals."
"How... how did I overcome that mental obstacle? At the moment it appears insurmountable."
"I used logic."
"Yep. I asked if you had ever before had feelings for any of the thousands of students that had passed through your... hands."
"No I have not, I would not!"
"So what is it about me that makes me different?"
"Everything..." There was an unconsciously dreamy look on Minerva's face as she considered the younger womans attributes.
Hermione gave a small chuckle, "You eventually determined that the difference was because you loved me. That our relationship was 'meant' to be." Minerva nodded, not entirely convinced but evidentially she had overcome it before- she could do so again.
Shortly after returning from the hospital she had fallen asleep on the sofa with her daughter. A night spent in St. Mungos with little sleep and the lingering effects of her head injury had made her nap, before she had even looked at the house. She had awoken late in the evening, missing the solid warmth of her daughter in her arms.
Another glance at the younger woman had shown her that Hermione was exhausted. Her beautiful creamy skin was pale and there were dark marks under her eyes. "You need to get some rest."
"I tried but..." The young witch cut herself off, not wanting to say that she had been unable to sleep in the vastness of their marital bed, alone. "You two fell asleep before you had the 'ten cent' tour."
"Then lead on."
Hermione gave a small smile, took their empty dishes to the sink and turned on the oven to heat the dinner that she had saved for Minerva. She gestured to a wide door that led outside, it had a lock high up that was obviously intended to be too high for Cerys to reach. She opened it and led her wife out.
They were standing on a wide stone quay that was high above the dark crystal waters of a Scottish loch. Minerva could tell from the scent in the air that they were very close to the sea and that the water was the briny mixture found in the mouth of rivers. Squinting in the dim light from the open door she could see stone steps leading down to a lower dock below.
"The water here is deep enough for large boats. Trade vessels from Sweden and thereabouts used to anchor here while goods were brought by land or smaller boats. Even now the fishing fleet and passing ships will ride out rough seas in this calmer water."
"I wager that the dolphins enjoy it too."
"Yes, we also get the occasional whale."
"Taigh Acarsaid, The Anchorage, it's a nice name."
"We generally use the English name but the floo will get you here if you speak Gaelic. We sit out here quite a lot in the summer, the view is marvellous." Hermione went back inside, the chill coming off of the water too much for her thin muggle clothing. Minerva carefully locked the door behind them, an action which prompted another of the pretty smiles she was starting to crave.
"You've seen the kitchen, basically we have muggle appliances as well as the magical ones." Hermione ran a hand down the length of a granite worktop. "We usually eat in here but do have a formal dining room." It took the younger woman a moment to notice that Minerva wasn't listening to her but was instead staring at the kitchen table with a small flush mounting in her cheeks.
The third time that Hermione called her name caught the older witch's attention. "Hmmm?"
"Are you feeling alright?"
"Yes...I... Just had a picture in my mind and I do not know if it was a memory or something else."
Hope lept into chocolate eyes. "What was it?"
Minerva's blush increased exponentially at the question. "I... well... er." How could she tell the younger woman that she had a vision of Hermione lying naked on the kitchen table, while she touched... Furiously she shook her head.
Chocolate eyes narrowed thoughtfully as she took in the discomfort of the older witch and then widened as she connected the dots. Her smile broadened into a wide cheeky grin. "No Tabby that was not wishful thinking... that was a memory."
"What? When? On the kitchen table?"
Hermione let Minerva bluster for a minute and then led her on the tour of the house. The animagus had already seen much of the downstairs, so she led her upstairs. The first door turned out to be a linen closet, the second was the large well-appointed spare bedroom. "I made up the bed in here... I didn't know where you would want to sleep."
The ebony haired witch took a deep breath, "I think that I should sleep here... for now." She saw the flash of pain in the younger womans eyes, "Hermione... It is just that..."
"I understand. I may not like it but I do understand."
The next door off of the hallway was slightly ajar, a dim light shining through the opening. "Cerys' room?"
"Yes." Another door contained the family bathroom and the final door led to their bedroom. Hermione placed a hand on it, making it slowly swing open. A huge bed dominated the room. Due to the dim light Minerva could not see anymore detail than that. Neither of them seemed to want to go inside.
"The... ah... study is upstairs." Hermione led her up a steep staircase, to a room that was clearly unfinished. The walls were bare stone and the roof timbers were exposed, floorboards were sanded ready for waxing. A desk and several bookshelves were lined up against the far wall.
"How long have we lived here?"
The young woman noticed that Minerva no longer hesitated when she used the word 'we' – she chose to take it as a good sign. "About eighteen months. We bought it a year earlier, it was almost a shell – it took the better part of twelve months to get it liveable and we have been working on one room at a time. The study is the last to do."
"It turned out after the war that many of the people killed or disappeared by Voldemort were found because their properties had been built, reinforced, decorated, warded and were maintained by magic. That amount of magical resonance in a small space is like a red flag. We determined that purchasing a derelict muggle property and renovating it by muggle methods would not leave a trace. The relatively small amount of magic required to ward it will easily be dismissed."
Hermione gave a grin, "That's the beauty of this property." She gestured to the large window.
Minerva stepped over to it and looked out. Her eyes spotted a very familiar shape in the distance. "Hogwarts."
"We are only a few miles from the school as the owl flies. Any magical resonance detected would be ignored here."
"You would make a wonderful teacher." There was a soft smile on Minerva's elegant face.
"Yes, I taught at Hogwarts for three years before Cerys was born. At the moment I act as a substitute when required."
"What did you teach?"
They both walked down the stairs. Minerva led the way down the hallway but stopped suddenly outside their daughters bedroom. Moving stealthily she opened the door. Cerys was laying in a sprawl of arms and legs, fast asleep. The animagus walked into the room and slowly, tenderly pulled the girls blanket up to cover her.
Gently Minerva smoothed her daughters hair and stroked the soft cheek with the back of her fingers. Emerald eyes were looking down in wonderment.
Hermione watched the bittersweet scene silently, Minerva had done this frequently when Cerys was a baby. She would come home from work and just hold the newborn, it had been hard to get the baby away from Minerva for long enough to feed her. Several minutes passed before the older woman dropped a final kiss on the small forehead and joined her wife in the hall.
"She is so beautiful."
"Yes she is. She has your eyes."
"Your face and your smile."
They stood there for a few minutes, just staring at each other, smiling. Hermione resisted the almost overwhelming urge to kiss her wife, knowing that she had to go slow with Minerva. "I need to go to sleep... or at least try. Your dinner should be heated up by now. Make sure that you eat it, ok?"
Hermione turned to head towards the bedroom but stopped when she felt her hand caught in a familiar grip. Enquiring chocolate eyes fixed on the older woman, who merely squeezed her hand. "Goodnight."
Later that evening Minerva walked past the bedroom she was using and checked on her daughter who was still sleeping soundly. She couldn't ignore the impulse to walk further along and check on her... wife. Shifting into her cat form she padded through the slightly open door and into the master bedroom.
Hermione was lying on the far side of the bed, curled up on her side. That alone made Minerva start, the free half of the bed was the one that she would customarily sleep on. The 'spare' pillow was missing from its place, clutched against the young womans face as she slept.
On the wall was a blown up muggle canvas of them on their wedding day, they looked so happy. Hermione was radiant in a white dress, dark hair woven with sparkling silver strands and white flowers. Minerva was dressed in dark green and gold robes, her long ebony hair was braided with strands of gold. They stood before Hogwarts, silhouetted against the ancient stone castle and the setting sun. It was a beautiful scene and the two women were obviously deeply, madly in love.
Stealthily the cat explored the room, looking at everything. She could see her own tastes in the way that the room was decorated but someone with a greater flair than her had added a flourish that she had never been able to create in a home. Bright, bold coloured accessories showcased neutral walls – in a way that was nothing short of inspired. Everything was tasteful, expensive but understated.
A soft noise distracted her from the exploration. It was a muffled sob. The cat rounded the bed, Hermione was curled up into a ball crying into Minerva's pillow. It was the most pitiful thing that she had ever seen.
Without even thinking the small tabby jumped onto the bed and began to lick frantically at the tear-streaked face. Hermione continued to cry for a few minutes but eventually chuckled and pushed the insistent cat away from her suddenly sore skin. She wrapped her arms around Minerva and lay back against the pillows, holding her tight.