AN: So here's the start of a story that has been knocking around in my head for a while. Enjoy
Chapter One – An inauspicious beginning
The White Heart was not the kind of venue where one would expect to find the venerable Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – if one was inclined to seek the reserved woman in a pub at all. It was a rather draughty old Scottish pub on the outskirts of Fort William, tucked away at the end of a village high street it was frequented only by hard drinkers and locals who wanted to mind their own business. No one would interrupt a private conversation or care if two women were having an argument.
However there was one exception to that rule. Hermione Granger had just entered the lounge from the more crowded public bar next door; she was carrying a pint in one hand – a sandwich rested on top of a book in the other. Her chocolate gaze unerringly found her former Professor with surprise, they had only met once since the final battle four years earlier but she still recognised the older woman's striking profile.
It appeared that the Headmistress was deep in an intense conversation with an extremely attractive, tall and willowy blonde woman. Hermione chose to avoid greeting the older witch for the time being, she made her way to her usual table in a dark corner. She placed her glass and plate on the surface and opened her book.
After only a few minutes Hermione put the book down and scrutinised the two women more closely. There was something very odd about the dynamic between them – it almost looked as though they were having an argument. The young woman could only hear snippets of their conversation and she was surprised when Minerva's voice was the first one to show strain.
"Suzanne, please... can we not do this here?"
"Then where? Shall we sneak back to your room like a couple of naughty schoolgirls? I'm not even allowed in the front door for God's sake."
"You know that I cannot change those rules." The normally confident Headmistress was starting to slump in her chair and Hermione wondered just how much of the row that she had missed.
"Let's face it, you don't want to change the rules. It's all about propriety with you Minerva. Woe betide anyone finding out that the great McGonagall is a lesbian!"
"That has nothing to do with it. I cannot be seen gallivanting around when people have left children in my care."
"The hell it doesn't! How many people know that you are a dyke?"
The Headmistress crossed her legs and her body language became rather defensive but whatever she said was obscured by the rather noisy departure of the local rugby team. But during that time Hermione watched as the colour began to drain from elegant features and Minerva began to look like a deer caught in headlights.
"...And let's face it I've only kept you hanging on this long because you're fantastic in bed! But you're a cold fish the rest of the time and I really can't be bothered with it anymore."
"You have met someone else." It wasn't a question and the Headmistresses voice was rather flat, weaker than Hermione had ever heard it, even after Dumbledore's funeral.
"So? She's just been appointed as the new head of the Wizengamot and while yes while she is a bit older than me... you should see the new house that she just bought and she is rather important now..."
"You can go back to Hogwarts, I'm sure that you'll be content reading books in the library and retiring at eight with a cup of tea."
Minerva's hands began to shake and Hermione would never know what the older woman might have said because at that moment the younger witch stood up and left her table. She crossed the small room rapidly but it felt like it took years to get to them. Her eyes never left the Headmistress and as she got closer she could see more details – the tears glimmering in emerald eyes and starting to coalesce on dark lashes. The blonde began to rant, a vile diatribe of insults directed at what she perceived to be a target now that Minerva had shown a degree of weakness.
She reached them and both women looked up surprised, one face showing only shock – the other irritation at the interruption. "Sorry Minerva I couldn't wait any longer, I know that you said that you had something to do first..." Without hesitation, as soon as she finished speaking Hermione slid one hand behind Minerva's head and pulled the older woman into a kiss.
It was odd, passionately kissing someone that you barely knew. Hermione's first thought was that the older woman's lips were incredibly soft, sweet tasting with a hint of alcohol. She cajoled Minerva into responding, feeling them move against her own, cautiously at first but then with more vigour. The young witch let her other hand drift down the side of a soft moist cheek, down an elegant neck and around to the Headmistresses back – pulling her deeper into the kiss for a moment.
Hermione had wanted to make a scene and with that in mind she continued the kiss for a very long minute before drawing back slowly. Knowing that her body shielded Minerva from Suzanne, she took a second to meet the surprised look in the older womans eyes, immediately she whispered a charm to dry the tears that had started to fall. She offered what she hoped was a reassuring smile before turning to face the blonde.
She thrust out her hand politely, "I'm Hermione Granger..." She watched as grey eyes widened at the name, "And you are?"
"Ummm... Err... I'm..."
Minerva cut in with a stronger tone than Hermione had heard from her all evening, "I believe that you were leaving." She slipped an arm around the young witches waist, pulling her against the side of her body.
"Yes well... I." The blonde gathered up her things with an expression that could best be described as disgruntled bafflement. She almost tripped over her own feet on the way out of the door. Hermione wanted to snicker but thought that perhaps it would be inappropriate.
After a minute the young woman felt the arm around her waist tremble slightly and the hand on her hip tighten minutely. "Are you alright Minerva?"
The older woman's voice was low and slightly rough, "I do not recall giving you permission to call me that Miss Granger."
Hermione gave a single chuckle, "No I don't believe that you did." A glance around showed her that they had attracted some attention and that Minerva was about to cry again. The young woman waved at the bartender in the universal gesture for a bottle and two glasses. "I have a table over here." Without asking for permission she took the older witch by the hand and led her to the table.
Once they were in the darker corner Hermione eased Minerva into a seat where she could have her back to the room. "I need to get back to Hogwarts."
"You might want to wash your face first."
Minerva brought a hand up to her face, feeling wet skin and what she imagined to be red and swollen eyes. "Shit."
"It's alright, no one but me can see you."
"That hardly makes it better."
Hermione smiled and passed her former professor a handkerchief after dampening it with a silent spell. She averted her eyes while Minerva wiped her face, knowing that the older woman would not want to be seen as vulnerable. A few moments later the bartender arrived, Hermione handed him a few notes, "Keep the change."
The Headmistress eyed the bottle for a moment, "I really should go."
"Stay and have a drink with me."
"Do I look that bad?"
Hermione drew a deep breath but said nothing, it was answer enough for the older woman.
"Alright, one drink."
Moving with an economical grace the young witch poured them both a drink, very aware that emerald eyes were watching her every move. Wordlessly she slid a generously full glass across the table towards the older woman.
"I never imagined you as the... 'Knight in shining armour' type Miss Granger."
The younger witch chuckled, "Well... my white horse wouldn't fit through the door and the armour is bloody heavy!"
It was Minerva's turn to first chuckle and then erupt into a huge belly laugh. Hermione was grinning broadly at her. The older woman eventually got herself back under control, "Thank you. I needed that... Miss Granger."
"Happy to help."
"Why did you?"
"Because no one deserved what she was saying to you. I wanted to shut her up."
"Well you certainly did." Minerva picked up her glass and took a generous slug of the amber liquid. "How much did you overhear?"
Hermione gave an elegant shrug, "Enough... She seemed rather... obsessed by appearances and so I thought that kissing you would make her feel at least a little... bad."
"I believe that you definitely gave her something to think about." There was a long moment of silence.
"Professor... Minerva, if you would like to talk about it, I'm here to listen. If you'd rather not talk about it, well we could talk about something else. Hey we could even get sloshed."
This time the Headmistress did not correct the uninvited use of her first name, she gave a smile instead. "Hermione, I am sure that you have better things to do on a Friday night than spend time with a lonely old woman like me."
"Firstly you aren't old. Secondly, you are looking at the extent of my social life." The young woman indicated the book and her empty plate.
"What on Earth are you doing in Fort William? Last I heard you were working for the Ministry."
"I still am. There's a research station about twenty miles from here. I head a department there."
"Really? That is wonderful news."
Hermione grinned at her former mentor, "Thank you." She refilled both of their glasses that had miraculously been emptied without either of them noticing. "I take it you're still at Hogwarts?"
"I doubt that will ever change. Filius keeps joking that I am going to die in my chair."
They both chuckled and the conversation turned to other things; they discussed the latest research in Transfiguration Today, moving onto a new novel that they had both read. A few more glasses of alcohol passed almost unnoticed, along with an hour, gradually reducing the awkwardness of their interaction.
"Hermione, please tell me to mind my own business if I am being too personal." The older woman paused.
"...Are you seeing anyone?" There was an odd tone in Minerva's voice, almost as though she was unsure – presumably about why she was asking.
"Not anymore." Hermione picked up her glass and swirled the liquid in it around thoughtfully. Intuitively Minerva remained silent, knowing that she would speak when she was ready. The young woman gave a sigh, "...Janet... I met her maybe six months after the battle. We dated for about two years."
"She... How shall I phrase this...? She was more in love with the idea of being with THE Hermione Granger, than she was actually in love with me."
The young woman gave the older a soft smile, "That was eighteen months ago."
"No one since?" The Headmistress placed a hand softly on top of the young womans, squeezing gently before releasing.
"My job really doesn't leave a lot of time to nurture a new relationship Minerva and so I'm not exactly... on the prowl."
Minerva topped up their glasses and gave a purposely coy grin, "If it is any consolation... you are a good kisser."
Hermione giggled, reddening slightly. "Well I try..." Now they both laughed and there was a pause before the young woman spoke again, "Aside from the fact that you are also a good kisser, I do have a consolation for you too."
"Oh?" An eyebrow arched and the Headmistress smirked, enjoying the banter.
"I know who the new Head of the Wizengamot is."
"And? Why would that be a consolation?"
Emerald eyes widened in absolute abject shock. There was a quiet moment before the Headmistress began to laugh uncontrollably, so much so that tears began to run down her face and her nose began to leak. "Edith... Dorian? The Edith Dorian who is over a hundred years old?" Hermione nodded. "Walks with two canes?"
"She only needs two in cold weather." Pretty features and chocolate eyes remained deadpan.
Minerva began to clutch her sides tightly, "Stop it."
"Her new position is honorary, rather than giving her any actual legislative power... mostly due to the fact that she is having rather extreme lapses in memory."
The Headmistress lolled sideways coming to lie on the bench seat with her head on Hermione's thigh. She was laughing so hard that she couldn't even sit up. The younger witch began to pat her back, waiting for the mirth to subside. Eventually, "You are right Hermione, that was a good consolation." They giggled briefly.
The pat turned into a caress, "Was it serious?"
"Serious..? Yes and no. I think that perhaps we tried to make it into something more serious than it should have been. Does that make sense?"
"Actually it does." Hermione's hand had made its way from Minerva's back to her head, moving between caressing the luxurious strands of ebony hair and massaging the older womans scalp.
"Mmmm that's nice."
The young witch gave a chuckle, resting her head against the wall and closing her eyes – just enjoying the simple warmth of the physical contact. Several minutes passed before Minerva sat up, "Hermione, thank you, for everything."
"You're welcome." Emerald green and chocolate eyes met. "How are you feeling?"
"I am alright... or at least I will be. Truthfully things between Suzanne and I have been tense for quite some time. We always wanted very different things from our relationship and I am only now realising just how different we were. I was being torn in several directions at once and I believe that when the shock wears off – I will be more relieved that anything else."
"You were scared of being lonely, that's why you didn't end it sooner?"
Minerva emptied the last of the bottle into their glasses, "You are saying that with considerable familiarity."
"Been there, done that..."
"...Got the inner robes."
Hermione laughed, not previously knowing that the wizarding world had their own version of the muggle phrase. "So to speak."
"Despite everything, I have rather enjoyed tonight."
"I have too Minerva. It's wonderful being able to chat with someone on an intellectual level."
The older witch smiled, patting Hermione's hand as the young woman placed her empty glass down on the table but whatever she was about to say was interrupted by the sound of a bell being rung vigorously. "Time, ladies and gentlemen please!"
A look of almost disappointment crossed Minerva's elegant features. "I suppose that I should be getting back to Hogwarts."
Hermione quirked a brow, "You don't have to. How do you fancy coming back to mine for a nightcap?"
"It must be eleven o'clock." Minerva found her eyes drawn to two large empty bottles on the table, "And did we drink all of that?"
"It is and we did." Hermione pulled a jacket out of her handbag and put it on. "I must confess that I would enjoy the company." She slipped her book into her bag.
Minerva smirked, "Well alright but do not be surprised when I fall asleep on you."
"I don't mind if you drool on my shoulder."
The older witch raised both of her eyebrows. "Really?"
Hermione laughed, "Yeah, really. I can certainly think of worse things. Besides you have all of your own teeth."
And so it came to pass that they staggered out of the pub, clinging to each other as they tried to walk and laugh at the same time. The cool air sobered them up slightly and they walked down the quiet road. Hermione's home was on the outskirts of the village, she led the older woman towards it. They did not speak until the houses on both sides retreated, to be replaced by hedgerow.
"How long have you lived here?"
"About a month. I was renting in Fort William itself before I bought the cottage."
A minute or two passed and then Hermione opened a wooden gate in a narrow opening in the hedge. Minerva felt a series of magical alert systems recognise her presence as she stepped into a small but neatly kept garden. She caught a faint whiff of honeysuckle and was unsure if it was a plant or the young womans perfume. The heady scent, whatever it was made her slightly dizzy.
There was a brief moment of uncertainty when Hermione unlocked the door and invited her into a narrow passage – something inside the older witch overrode the momentary impulse to leave. "I have muggle whisky, firewhisky, a few other spirits – unless you'd prefer a glass of wine or something."
"What were we drinking in the pub?"
A chuckle came from deeper in the house, "That was the local firewater. I do have a bottle of that too."
"That sounds wonderful." Minerva finally closed the front door behind her, it gave a reassuring solid thud that modern fittings could not quite manage. She followed the sound of Hermione's voice and walked down the narrow hall, looking around in the dim light quite curiously. The decoration was traditional with some walls being exposed stone, others covered in white washed plaster. The staircase was made of a lightly varnished wood.
The kitchen was compact but well designed, Minerva barely glanced at the fittings before following Hermione into the dimly lit living area. "Make yourself comfortable."
"Is that not slang for 'take your clothes off'?"
The young woman almost spat out her mouthful of whisky. "Well Minerva..." She smirked, "If you'd like to strip in my living room I'm not about to stop you."
"Perhaps after another drink." Laughing Hermione pointedly slid a full glass towards her former mentor who took it with a very cheeky smile. Both woman collapsed into a comfortable squishy sofa, neither mentioning the fact that their knees were touching. Something was happening here, something that had taken on a momentum of its own, something that neither witch could stop.
Minerva swallowed a generous amount of amber liquid, feeling it burn in her throat and warm her stomach. "Most people thought that you would end up with Mr Weasley..." Despite being phrased as a statement it was a question.
"With Ron..? No, I was never interested in him that way." There was a momentary pause. "Did you believe that too?"
"No. You and Mr Weasley were not exactly well-suited to each other. Even Mr Potter would have been a better choice. However... I suspected that you might be..." Minerva allowed her sentence to trail off.
"A lesbian?" Hermione on the other hand was far more open about acknowledging her sexuality than the older woman seemed to be.
"Yes." Miraculously their glasses were refilled, almost as though by magic.
"Well, I have not been with a man since I was a teenager, so yes I suppose that I am. But you already knew that."
"I have always believed that you were."
"I know that you are... gay also."
Hermione raised an eyebrow, knowing that the emerald eyes intently watching her would catch the gesture despite the low light level in the room. "And how could you possibly know that?"
That Scottish brogue deepened, became slightly husky. "Because straight women don't kiss like that." She moved fractionally closer to the younger witch.
"Refresh my memory..."
Neither would later remember who had initiated the kiss, only that it was explosive and washed away any inhibitions not already removed by the alcohol that they had consumed.
A.N: Thanks to Tigertales for beta'ing and for suggesting the names of the ex's for me.