A/N: This is it! The last chapter for this little tale. I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for all the wonderful comments. And, some news—mxrolkr from the LJ community posted a crossover prompt based on this story…the idea is to have Andrea from The Devil Wears Prada be Minerva's niece. To that end I have placed a wee bit of foundation within this chapter (blink and you'll miss it). So, yes, I will be writing a sequel linking HP with DWP (Minerva/Hermione and Miranda/Andrea) in the not too distant future. ('Cause, really, why work on my novel where I actually get paid for writing?)
Hermione turned the page of her new book as her glance flickered toward the body seated across from her in a comfortable deep-cushioned chair near the fireplace. She smiled softly as her eyes strayed over Minerva's flowing hair, partially unbuttoned shirt, and loose, drawstring pants. She doubted anyone else got to see the formidable woman this way.
"Are you enjoying the book?" Minerva asked quietly, her eyes still on her own selection.
"Yes," Hermione answered simply. Minerva had given it to her as a Christmas gift along with the other three for the series—first edition, autographed novels by Stephenie Meyer. Hermione had heard about the Twilight series when interacting with those in the Muggle world. She found it so thoughtful—typical really—that Minerva would show deference to the other aspects of Hermione's life through these gifts.
Hermione wondered how the writer had found out so much about vampires and werewolves. She knew that folktales were prevalent in the Muggle world about such beings, but so much of the truth was contained in these novels—that was what fascinated her the most about these books.
"My niece had suggested the series. Evidently it is quite the rage this year, dominating book sales," Minerva said.
"Did she go to Hogwarts, too?" Hermione asked, her interest piqued.
"No," Minerva frowned. "Andrea is the daughter of my brother, Robbie. She chose to attend an American college and presently lives in New York City."
"Is she a squib?" Hermione asked in confusion.
"No, although I am sure that she does not use her magical abilities presently. Although she did not attend Hogwarts, I and my brothers have taught her how to harness and extend her abilities over the years."
Hermione noticed how Minerva's eyes looked troubled and wondered why Andrea had not followed family tradition. Before she could voice her questions, though, Minerva spoke again.
"She is only a few years older than you. Next time she comes for a visit, I will have to introduce you. I believe you will like her."
Minerva's tone of voice indicated that she did not wish to speak further of her niece, and Hermione respected her wishes by dropping the subject as she smiled her agreement. Placing a ribbon into the binding to mark her place, Hermione decided to broach a subject that had been worrying her.
She looked up to see Minerva gazing at her, a questioning look on her face. Hermione smiled ruefully. She could never hide anything from the older woman, nor did she wish to. She watched as Minerva placed her book on a side table and crossed to her. Soon she was held firmly, a comforting voice whispering next to her ear, "Tell me."
"I have to register my animagus with the Ministry of Magic," Hermione said. Elegant fingers ran through her hair soothingly.
"That is true," Minerva agreed softly.
"Part of registering includes the requirement that I list any defining characteristics to distinguish me from any other phoenixes," Hermione continued. She waited for Minerva to indicate her understanding, but she heard nothing. Sighing, Hermione realized she would have to explain exactly what was bothering her. "I do not wish to list my scars, Minerva. They appear underneath my left wing."
She felt despair wash over her as arms tightened their hold and soft lips touched her neck. Moments later she felt wetness slide down her neck. Turning, Hermione clung to Minerva as their tears mingled. She tucked her face into Minerva's neck, hiding from the cruelty of her fate. If she did not register, she could be banished to Azkaban. Yet, only Minerva knew about her shame—her Mudblood scars—and Hermione simply could not imagine everyone knowing.
Hermione nosed at the opening of Minerva's shirt, kissing the chest as it shuddered with grief. Her lips grazed the unblemished skin, cataloging the curve of a breast she loved to taste. Stopping, Hermione rested as a sudden thought entered her mind. She lay still, wondering.
"Hermione?" Minerva questioned, her voice hoarse.
"Minerva," Hermione said faintly, kissing the area reverently. She no longer has the scars. They were healed through my tears—the phoenix tears.
"My tears," Hermione murmured. Looking around, she spied a crystal goblet on the bar off to the side and extended her hand. The glass flew toward her. She kissed Minerva, the full weight of her despair pressing her forward before she reined in her grief and stood up. Handing the goblet to Minerva, Hermione changed into her animagus form. She thought of that day when Minerva nearly had died, her chest concaved and covered with blood. She thought about how close she had come to losing this indispensable person, her love, her best friend, her soul-mate, and tears streamed over her feathered face, falling into the crystal held by shaking hands.
After several minutes of such heart-breaking memories, Hermione tipped her head back and sang, her fears ebbing as her lament filled the air and hope filled her soul. Minerva was next to her, alive. Somehow she had earned her trust, her admiration, her love. Her song reflected her gratefulness, her overwhelming feelings of love and desire. She felt gentle hands resting on her chest and back, pulling her toward Minerva.
Looking up, she saw a radiant smile. Trilling in response, Hermione cocked her head and moved her left wing. Minerva moved back a bit, and Hermione extended the wing fully, revealing the abhorrent word. Minerva gently steadied the wing and poured half of the full goblet onto the hated scars. They watched as the ugly word faded and feathers began to fill in the area. Hermione touched the area with her beak, ruffling the new feathers and pushing them into place. Once she was satisfied, she looked at Minerva and transformed into her human form.
Standing in front of the sofa, they kept eye contact as Hermione pulled up her sleeve, running the fingers of her right hand gently over the sensitive area. Finally looking down, she saw smooth, soft skin, tinged pink but unblemished. A sob broke free as arms wrapped around her tightly. "You are extraordinary," she heard as her eyes closed. They rocked in place, and Hermione knew that she would always feel extraordinary while this woman loved her.
Hermione placed the last final exam down and stretched, groaning as knotted back muscles made themselves known. Strong fingers began kneading her shoulders as Hermione's eyelids slid closed. "You have such magical hands," Hermione murmured in appreciation as she hung her head forward.
"Mmm, and I can give a good back rub, too," Minerva joked.
Chuckling, Hermione moaned her agreement.
"All done?" Minerva asked lightly. At Hermione's nod she felt Minerva's hands slip away, and Hermione pouted.
"Good. Come with me," Minerva directed, her hands grabbing Hermione, pulling her off the couch and toward their bedroom.
Hermione grinned. She had moved in just last week, but she had spent most of her free time in these rooms for the past several months. After their Christmas vacation break, they had found it unbearable to remain apart. With Minerva's encouragement Hermione had begun sleeping in Minerva's bed nearly every night, needing those strong, comforting arms to hold her as she slept.
Our bed, now.
In a few weeks they would return to the Manor for the summer break, and Hermione was looking forward to some uninterrupted time spent with her true love. They often spoke of the future—trips they planned to take, conferences they planned to attend, collaborations with others at the top of their field. Every plan was made with the supposition that they would be together. Although their relationship was still fairly new, their love was pure and strong. Hermione could not imagine a life without the other woman.
Gentle hands removed her robes and undergarments. She loved these particular robes—a gift from Minerva. They were dark red with intricate stitching. Words were embroidered into the fabric that could only be seen when invoked with the words "rising phoenix." Revealed was Minerva's promise: love, fidelity, and respect. Many times Hermione had summoned the words, astounded by the pledges made to her in Minerva's native language. She found it hard to believe that somehow she had captured Minerva's heart. On another part of the robe, the area that covered her heart, was the Gaelic sentence, "You are so precious to me." She remembered the times Minerva had uttered such words and felt herself tremble with emotion.
"I am filled with as much wonder that you have given your heart to me," Minerva murmured as she kissed Hermione between her shoulder blades.
Smiling at how well Minerva knew her, Hermione shook a finger teasingly as she turned around. "Are you using legilimency on me?" Minerva's chuckle reverberated around the room.
Minerva began to remove her own robes, but Hermione stopped her so she could take over the task. She unclasped the Celtic knot brooch and pushed the green velvet robes off, placing them on their bed. Soon the rest of her clothes were removed, and they took a moment to sink into each other, hugging closely. Minerva pulled away and led her into the master bath where fragrant, steaming water awaited them. Hermione breathed in the welcome smell of vanilla and ginger with a smile.
Hermione watched as Minerva slipped into the water first, propping herself against the side and holding out her arms in obvious invitation. Smiling coyly, Hermione carefully joined her lover, turning and sitting in the warm water so that her back leaned against Minerva's chest. She sighed with contentment, her head resting against a strong shoulder as her eyes fluttered closed.
Hands ran over her sides, curving in to cup her breasts. "Minerva," Hermione moaned. She arched a bit, loving how Minerva grazed her neck with her teeth before sucking on the junction where neck and shoulder met. She raised an arm, cupping the back of Minerva's neck to hold her lips in place. Hands massaged her breasts provocatively, causing her to cry out, her voice laden with lust. "God! You feel incredible!"
Hot breath tickled her ear. "Now who's reading minds?"
Those astonishing hands made Hermione forget the teasing question as they pulled out her passion with every stroke, every caress, every touch. It wasn't long before Hermione was at her lover's mercy, undulating sinuously as long fingers entered her with strong thrusts. Crying out in ecstasy, Hermione felt lethargy flowing over her as she slumped into Minerva's receptive body mere moments later.
"You are so precious to me," she heard as she was lifted out of the bath and carried into the bedroom. A softly muttered word removed the water from their bodies, and she was delivered gently onto their bed. Hermione turned into Minerva, kissing her human pillow while fighting to remain awake. She wanted to love this magnificent woman. She knew Minerva must be aroused after loving Hermione so well.
Soft words flowed over her. "Do not worry, Gràdh. You can love me tomorrow and all the morrows thereafter. But rest now. Let me hold you while you sleep."
And Hermione did.
Light-hearted trilling filled the air as Hermione in her animagus form soared across the sky, elation filling her heart. She spun on the wind and sang with abandon, the local birds attracted by the joy emitted through every note, every movement. She reveled in the feel of the air currents pushing her higher toward wispy clouds. She turned her eyes to the landscape and watched as a silver tabby with black markings bounded across the moorland, the heather hiding her from view momentarily before the cat leapt up and then hit the ground rolling. Minerva.
Hermione flew toward the frolicking animal, intent on joining in with the delightful play. She landed close to the animagus, and bright green eyes connected with her golden ones. The cat hopped over and sniffed delicately while Hermione remained still. Hermione received two licks on her face, just to the side of her beak, before the cat growled playfully and jumped away. Squawking in reply, Hermione spread her wings and flew above the now-bounding cat, up the gentle rise, and across the moorland. She dipped and weaved, zooming across the cat's path until finally she was knocked down. Before she could recover, the silver tabby pounced on her chest with a yowl of triumph.
Hermione changed back into her human form and hugged the cat to her chest as she laughed. Furry paws landed on her face as whiskered kisses were delivered on her chin, making her laugh harder. Minerva changed into her human form, joining in the laughter as she peppered Hermione's face with more kisses. They rolled in the heather, wrestling for a few minutes before settling down, content to lie within each other's arms and the Scottish sun's warm caress.
This was their fifth year together, and Hermione marveled at the pleasure and happiness Minerva brought to her life every day.
After snoozing contentedly under the summer sun, Hermione felt her soul-mate shift. Smiling lazily, she turned her head to fasten her gaze on bright green eyes.
"Hermione, I have something for you," Minerva said tenderly as she sat up.
Shading her eyes with her hand, Hermione looked at her love for another moment before rising to a seated position. "This sounds serious," she said, her eyes searching Minerva's vibrant ones.
"Aye. I would be honored if you would consent to wearing this, a symbol of my love and commitment to you." Minerva held between her thumb and forefinger a gold emblem ring engraved with her family crest and waited patiently as Hermione lifted it to inspect.
Tears sprang to her eyes as Hermione recognized what this meant. She slipped it on her left ring finger as she leaned forward to deliver a passionate kiss. When it broke, she pulled back just enough to whisper, "Yes. I will never take it off."
Nor did she. In fact it became the distinguishing marker on her body when she was in animagus form, the crest imprinted on the bottom of her powerful left wing. The crest became synonymous for not just Minerva McGonagall, the most revered witch of her time, but also for the most brilliant witch ever known, Hermione Granger.
Hundreds of years later the local Muggles claimed that often was the time a large golden and red-feathered bird, a mystical phoenix some declared, was seen cavorting with a large silver cat with black markings—many believed it to be a Mngwa somehow transported over from Tanzania. Arguments had raged over the years as to what type of bird and cat had been seen, but the essential reports remained the same—these two animals romped over the moorland during the summer months, filling observers with joy. Many Muggles scoffed at the folklore that phoenixes and Mngwas even existed—after all, no one had ever captured them on film. And there were even so-called observers who claimed they had seen a phoenix cavorting with a griffin of all things. It was as if with each passing year, the stories became more convoluted, merging various magical animals together to create even greater, more fantastical tales.
Nevertheless, on bright summer days up in the Scottish Highlands some professed to still spot them dancing around, jumping and swooping as playful growls and happy trills drifted on the breeze, their bodies becoming hidden within the heather after hours of play. No one ever successfully got close enough to snap a picture of the scene—any proclaimed pictures capturing the unbelievable sight were blurry, the animals too far away to be labeled accurately.
All anyone knew was that the area was sacred, part of the powerful McGonagall-Granger line. And the wizards, aware of that impressive pairing, just smiled as the legends continued to grow about the pouncing cat and the rising phoenix.