Authors Note: Please enjoy the update.


The hill behind Minerva's house was steep and dotted with rocks that made it hard to climb. Hermione thigh muscles burnt as she lost her footing for what seemed to be the thousandth time. "Shit." She changed into her cat form far more easily now than she had a few weeks earlier and bounded up the slope with an athletic grace.

The tabby cat sitting on a rock did not turn at her approach. Hermione gave a feline smirk as she realised how loud and clumsy her human form was. She padded over and briefly nuzzled against the strikingly striped fur of her mate before sitting next to the older feline to watch the sun rise.

It was a strange experience; to sit next to the woman she had shared a declaration of love with, along with a number of increasingly passionate kisses – while watching the miracle of nature with her enhanced animagus senses. The colours of the rising sun were vivid and intense, more so than anything that she had ever experienced. The view seemed to go on forever, a vista of rocky slopes and shimmering lochs.

The new acuity of her senses still had the capacity to overwhelm Hermione but she suspected that it would be almost as beautiful to her human vision. She could almost feel a sense of melancholy emanating from Minerva. This morning they were going back to Hogwarts and an end to their idyll.

Hermione waited until the sun had risen before addressing the older animagus. Are you worried about going back?

I can't help but wonder what they will think of us.

Perhaps we don't have to tell them

Hermione, they have known me for decades. And even if they had not... It hardly takes a genius to realise that we have been growing close and then suddenly disappear for a few days at the same time.

It'll be fine.

I wish I shared your optimism. Minerva nuzzled the smaller calico before leading the way down the hill.

Minerva?

Green eyes curiously peered at her.

Is it possible to apparate in an animagus form?

I have no idea. For safety a wand must be used to apparate but as your wand remains in your clothing when you transform... It may be possible.

Do you think anyone has tried?

Doubtful. Minerva increased her speed, racing down the slope at a breakneck pace. Most wizards are basically either cowards or idiots.

Cynic

Indeed

They were back at the house and in human form before Hermione resumed the conversation. "How would one reduce the risk? Presumably by restricting the distance of apparation?"

"And also by having medical staff on hand."

"I think that apparating from a still position would be best, apparation while moving is more difficult and prone to error in any case."

"But ultimately more useful."

"True." The young witch kept the conversation going as they moved to the fireplace, interested in the older woman's views but was more interested in keeping her distracted rather than introspective. They both needed another chain of thought to focus on when they walked back into Hogwarts. Minerva was obviously aware of her tactic and the half smile on her face showed her gratitude.


They flooed directly into the Great Hall both eager to get their arrival over and done with. As they brushed soot off of their clothes, they heard Filius speak. "Minerva, Hermione welcome back. Just in time for breakfast."

"Is it any good?" Hermione shot back, "If not, I just ate."

"The elves are back."

"In that case I can fit a little more in." Minerva shot a small grin at the younger woman and together they walked towards the head table.

"About time you two came up for air."

"Shut up Ro." Poppy hissed from the other end of the table after noticing the shade of red that their boss had turned.

"Indeed." Minerva forced out from between clenched teeth.

Filius stood up, "What Madam Hooch meant to say is that we are all happy for the two of you."

It was Hermione's turn to blush as she walked up to her customary chair.

"No Filius, I was going to say that it's good that Minerva fell for the librarian this year rather than the previous one. At least this way there's a nice picture in my head."

Practically every person present laughed and even Minerva gave a chuckle. Things were going to be alright.


That afternoon

Hermione finished the charm with a complex flourish of her wand and surveyed her work proudly before doubling over and placing her hands on her thighs to catch her breath. She had just finished work on the main hall which included charming the staircases to move at will. There had been discussion amongst the teachers about not replacing some of the more annoying spells on the castle but the general consensus had been that the riotous web of spellwork gave Hogwarts a great deal of its charm.

The young witch looked up and gave an audible gasp. There was little evidence off the battle that had been fought here. It almost looked like it had all of those years ago when she had first walked into the castle. A few pieces of carved stonework were missing, leaving bare places that tugged at her heart but the walls were covered with excited paintings that more than made up for that lack.

For just a moment she gazed at the moving staircases, floating lights and jabbering paintings – and she was eleven again, dealing with the reality that magic was real. Hermione took a shuddering breath, trying to hold back her tears.

"It is magical, is it not?" The young woman felt familiar arms slide around her and the tears gradually dissipated, as she sank back into Minerva's embrace. "I know how hard it is Hermione but I promise that one day, the pain will fade and you will remember the good things."

"How long?"

"Quite some time, I am afraid my dear." Lips brushed against the side of Hermione's cheek. "But it will get better."

"How do you know?"

"This is my third war." The last few words were spoken in a world weary tone. "With luck it will be my last."

Hermione turned around and wrapped her own arms around her girlfriend. She rested her cheek against the older woman's shoulder and dropped a kiss on a tender neck. "Are we still on for dinner?"

"Yes but I just have a few more things to do first. Meet me in my quarters in about an hour?"

"Sure."

"Hooch is looking for you by the way."

"That sounds ominous."

"I have refused to answer her rude questions and she believes that you will be something of an easier target."

Hermione gave a chuckle and stood on her tiptoes to give Minerva a brief but thorough kiss, grinning when the other witch tightened her embrace. "Maybe we'll have to give her something to talk about."

The Headmistress smirked, "Maybe."


Hooch was annoyingly persistent. So much so that Hermione had to slip through a secret passageway and transform into her animagus form. The flying instructor actually walked right past the small calico without a second glance, causing the young woman to erupt into feline laughter. She twitched her tail and headed back in the direction of Minerva's rooms. She scratched at the door and waited, shifting from paw to paw impatiently.

"Well hello there." The door opened and Minerva leant down to pick up the small cat. "Hiding from Hooch?"

Hermione mewled in agreement and head butted the older woman's chin, demanding attention. Gentle fingers slipped into her coat as Minerva sat down and began to caress the muted coloured fur. They remained like that for several minutes before the ebony haired witch put her down on the sofa and the young woman let herself return to human form.

She was fast developing an obsession with having Minerva's strong arms wrapped around her and she leant in closer, smiling when the older witch wrapped said arm around her shoulder. "Candlelit? You shouldn't have."

"I thought that I should make something of an effort."

Hermione chuckled as she looked around at the numerous candles that lit the room, a bright fire in the grate provided the rest of the rooms illumination. "It's wonderful."

Lips gently pressed against her temple and they sat for a few minutes in companionable silence. A quiet pop sounded in the next room, "That will be our dinner." Minerva stood and held out a hand for her companion. "I know you are not a big fan of red meat but you'll need something high in protein for tonight."

"And just what do you have planned?"

The older woman merely arched her eyebrow in response and dragged Hermione into the other room. "You will find out soon enough."

The Headmistress had a small private dining area off of her living space. The floor to ceiling windows offered a fabulous view of the castle grounds in the fading light. "The scenery is fabulous."

"It is even better at sunrise. Come, sit, eat – I will give you a full tour later if you'd like?"

"I'd like that." More candles were on the table along with two bowls of stew. Hermione was pleased to see it consisted mainly of meat, she had found over the last several weeks that eating carbohydrates or too much vegetable matter before transforming, would lead to a very gassy cat form.

The sauce was rich, thickened with meat juices and red wine. The young witch gave an appreciative moan, laughing when her girlfriend smirked. "I rather enjoy the way that you savour your meals."

It was the younger woman's turn to offer a cheeky smile, "You should see me eat chocolate desserts."

"I will make a point to do that." They grinned at each other and proceeded to eat.


Changing was as natural as breathing by now and Hermione was as quick as the more experienced witch, earning her a purr when the two cats stared at each other. She stepped forward to nuzzle at a striped shoulder. The tabby licked her head briefly before leading her towards the window. Minerva, I don't think this is a good idea

Instinct will serve you better than logic

Heedless of the fact that they were six floors up Minerva stepped off of the window sill. The calico cat ran after her and looked out of the window in horror. A moment later she spotted the tabby about four feet below on a sloping roof. She took a leap of faith and followed, landing on the slippery tiles.

Hermione, for this you need to be brave. If you slow down or try to stop, you will fall. Your final lesson is this - to follow your feline instincts and shut off your human mind

Worry filled eyes surveyed the drop but the calico trusted in her mentor. Minerva wouldn't knowingly kill her – would she?

Ready? Just follow behind me

The tabby ran lightly across the sloping roof and launched herself towards a lower window. Hermione followed swallowing down her fear. The two cats headed down the side of the tower leaping between pieces of ornamental stone work, sliding down haphazard sloping roofs. There was nowhere to stop, pause or turnaround – this activity like nothing before it was teaching her not to overthink things and to free the animal within from its human constraints.

Something primal took over; the movement of claws, muscles and limbs became completely governed by instinct and she began to enjoy the perilous descent. Adrenaline took over as she succumbed to gravity and the thrill.

Several minutes passed before their paws were back on firm ground, both breathing hard and with racing pulses. Hermione very deliberately reached out a paw and batted the tabby on the shoulder, earning an unamused flick of a striped tail. The second time that she did it she extended her claws and whacked the older witch across the muzzle.

Minerva took a threatening step towards the younger cat, amused despite her outward annoyance when the calico leapt sideways teasingly keeping out of reach. Another swipe missed her nose by a fraction of an inch. This time Hermione took off running to avoid the retaliation. The tabby gave chase, relying on her longer legs to allow her to make up for the other woman's head start.

Hermione let her remaining adrenaline give her speed and she headed for the lake faster than she had ever run in her life, bounding from rock to rock as she made her way across the castle grounds – forever aware of her pursuer. You'll have to run faster than that to catch me

You forget that I have longer legs... besides I am barely breaking a sweat. Minerva angled her pursuit, moving to the left and closing the distance to less than six feet. After a moment Hermione began to head slightly to the right – just as the more experienced feline had anticipated she would. Moving effortlessly she began to herd the calico towards a small peninsula jutting out into the lake.

Keep telling yourself that

Care to make a wager?

Name your terms

Winner takes all

...You're on

Minerva just chuckled in her mind and yowled aloud, knowing that it would rattle the younger cat. She slightly extended her claws, using the increased traction to speed up her pace. The faster she pushed Hermione the less likely it was that she would realise that she was being led into a trap.

The calico noticed that her mentor was trying to swing into her on the left and she angled to the right, she was focussed on placing her feet and on the other cat more than looking at where she was going. A minute or so later she skidded to a stop when her paws touched cold water.

Stopping already? Even the mental tone was dripping with sarcasm.

Hermione shifted into human form and turned to face Minerva, who had also transformed. The older woman was ever so slowly walking towards her, a single measured step at a time. Despite being human she was moving like a predator. "I win."

"You cheated." Hermione took a few steps backwards into ankle deep frigid water.

"All is fair in love and war." There were only a few inches between them at this point and the younger witch retreated again, "You have to concede victory."

"Never."

Minerva took another step forward. "And how do you plan on regaining your lead?"

Hermione gave a smirk and swallowing her remaining innate reserve, she pulled off her shirt – leaving her topless except for a lacy bra. She also left Minerva speechless and momentarily struck dumb. Fingers that were perceptibly shaking unfastened her skirt and she kicked off her shoes. "I don't believe that I am beaten yet."

With that the younger witch turned and ran into the water until it was deep enough to swim. She struck off for the other shore, using economical motions and demonstrating a considerable expertise. "And you claim that I am the cheater." Banishing the majority of her clothing the professor leapt into the water after her protégé.

They were matched less evenly in this contest and Minerva had to work hard to keep up with the younger woman, who did not look as though she was straining herself. Moonlight reflected off of the dark water and highlighted pale skin. It took several minutes to cross the body of water but by the time that they had reached the opposite shore they were again separated my mere feet.

Hermione clambered out onto grass only to find her ankle caught in a tight but gentle grip. Minerva was on top of her near naked body before she knew what was happening. "Shall we call it a draw?"

It was beyond provocative...

Seduction in spoken form...

Still flustered from the adrenaline flowing through her veins Hermione began to tremble at the new sensation of skin on skin. Her lips parted in anticipation and she nodded, barely aware of what she was agreeing to. The sheer sensation of having Minerva atop her was more than overwhelming, it shut down all conscious thought. The Headmistress struggled to reign in her own animal side but the heat generated between them was making it almost impossible.

Eyes blazed in an intense connection...

Their breath mingled...

Heaving breasts brushed...

Pulses were racing, as their hearts beat together as one...

A name was whispered but by whom, neither witch knew...

Hermione surged upwards and let her animal side win, capturing Minerva's lips with her own in a passionate kiss.