Author's Notes: This is in response to a request made by gville27858 for a romantic Hermione/Minerva story with Hermione getting expelled and the two keeping in touch somehow while Hermione and the boys are hunting for Horcruxes. No problem!
Summary: Hermione leaves with Harry and Ron to find Horcruxes, arranges for a way to keep in touch with Minerva, and helps save the wizarding world while falling in love with the (other) most brilliant witch of their age (you know, Minerva).
Pairing: HP Minerva/Hermione
Betas are awesome! Please spare a moment or three to give silent thanks and praise to some wonderful individuals—shesgottaread, peetsden, akasarahsmom (GinStan), and quiethearted for their support and kind words while I pulled out my hair over little details that you probably won't see but I needed to figure out in order to write the story (such as some UK laws and the HP timeline). You are all awesome, and I count myself very fortunate to have your guidance and support.
Disclaimers: I'm still a lawyer and a piss-ant (and I am also called many other "nicknames" given to me over time amidst bouts of affection, joy, grief, and aggravation, but I won't share them here). Suffice it to say, I am merely offering this story for its entertainment value, and it's protected by the fair use doctrine. I am receiving no profit, but hopefully I will receive some kind words for my efforts.
Oh yeah—I do not own Harry Potter, any of the characters associated with the books, movies, audiotapes, video games, theme park, knick-knacks, assorted sundry, or wands (except for the one I made in my backyard with a dead branch—it still doesn't work and I want my money back).
Rating: Eventual M/NC-17, but this is a slow burn, and they really do need to be in the same room for that sort of thing. Or do they?
Hermione is motionless in the Astronomy courtyard surrounded by students and professors. All stand frozen, like a band of protectors, as Harry slowly kneels beside a too-still Headmaster. Albus Dumbledore, one of the most revered and powerful wizards of the wizarding world, lies on the grassy plain next to the stone tower as if asleep, his white hair moving each time the zephyr whispers, the breeze seeming so much louder than the distressed murmurings emitted by those who are immobilized by disbelief, horror, and desolation.
Harry's sobs break through the distraught assembly, drowning out all other sounds.
Ginny strides through the crowd and sinks next to Harry, holding him as his sorrow overwhelms him. Hermione feels tears run down her face, upset over the senseless death of a great man, but even more upset that one of her best friends is in so much pain. Ron stands to her right, as frozen as she is, not knowing what to do except to act as a witness. To her left stands Minerva McGonagall, the Deputy Headmistress and Transfiguration professor of Hogwarts and no doubt now the one who will have to pick up the pieces by stepping into his enormous shoes. Hermione knows the formidable witch will do everything in her power to keep her charges safe. She does not envy the task set before her favorite professor.
Over the last few years, really ever since her third year when she received a time-turner from her Transfiguration professor, she has found herself intermittently visiting Professor McGonagall in the evenings to discuss classes, research, and really anything to do with magic. At first she hesitated to impose, but the professor welcomed her warmly each time, even going so far as to start scheduling their times together so that she would not need to shorten such visits for meetings or other demands on her time.
At the end of the last school year Hermione watched in horror as Professor McGonagall was hit by four stunners that some corrupt Ministry officials shot, nearly killing her. It was then that Hermione realized just how much her mentor meant to her, how lost she would be without the woman in her life.
After Professor McGonagall's attack, Hermione, beside herself with worry, enlisted the help of her Charms professor, Filius Flitwick, to obtain permission to see her in hospital. Without his intervention, she might not have succeeded in seeing the woman before the end of the school year. Hermione envisions in her mind's eye how Professor McGonagall looked on that day. Seeing her so still in the hospital bed, eyes closed with a false appearance of peace enshrouding her visage—it is reminiscent of how Professor Dumbledore appears now. And as then, Hermione is helpless to hold back the tears, the well of emotion that rises up and crashes through her reserves. She fights to hold back the sobs, glancing to her right to find glossy green eyes latching onto hers. Hermione wants to close the gap between them but will not dare embarrass the older woman.
It is only this year that their meetings have become more personal. Although always appropriate, more warmth is present in her mentor's voice and eyes when they are behind closed doors, and Hermione has found herself confiding her fears and frustrations when they have become too much to hold in. Professor McGonagall has also hesitantly revealed some of the events occurring in the wizarding world, her various contacts allowing her to keep abreast of the rising threat Voldemort has presented.
Hermione watches as Professor McGonagall slowly raises her arm toward the sky, wand in hand. Above them the ominous Dark Mark sign blights the sky in the shape of a skull's head with a snake protruding through its open maw. Hermione raises her hand, too, understanding that they are to remove the ugly signal of death bestowed by Voldemort's followers. Others follow their lead, raising their arms grimly as soft, muffled cries assault Hermione's tender heart. The clouds part as the unnatural shape dissipates, and moonlight shines over the congregation, casting its glow over the heartrending moment.
Picking up her tumbler, Minerva does not hesitate to sip some of the strong firewhiskey that fills it. Her hands still shake with rage, sorrow, and guilt. She had trusted Severus! To think that he, one of Albus's most trusted colleagues and a man Minerva had taught beside for nearly twenty years, killed her dearest friend. Tremors pass through her body, and she drinks more of the fiery alcohol, hoping to calm her nerves at least a bit.
A knock elicits a pained groan from her lips before she presses them together tightly. Taking a breath to calm herself, she says firmly, "Come in." Watching as Hermione slowly walks over the threshold, she feels her heart lurch. Her protégé, a young woman she has enjoyed guiding through the years much more than is probably proper, stands before her with an air of solemnity that pulls Minerva out of her chair.
Taking Hermione into her arms, she ignores how her student stiffens and holds on tightly. After a few awkward moments, she feels Hermione melt into the embrace, wrapping slender arms around her waist. They stand that way as their hearts synchronize, and Minerva thanks Merlin for this short moment of respite.
This is the first time she has hugged a student for more years than she cares to remember. Not just a student. Anyone. She is an extremely private person, and although she cares greatly for her students, Minerva has always been cautious to not become too attached. Students pass through the halls, mature, graduate, and move on. Caring too much for a student can play havoc with Minerva's heart, and for that reason she normally does not allow for such personal attachments.
Not that there is anything normal about the woman currently tucked in her arms. Hermione has faced more in her relatively short lifetime than many will ever experience. Squeezing Hermione affectionately, Minerva steps away regretfully. "Please, come sit down with me." She points to the large mahogany Chesterfield located before a fireplace where embers glow enticingly. She follows Hermione, who sits down gingerly in her regular spot. Minerva feels her lips quirk at the familiarity inherent through such rote motion. "Tea?" she inquires.
"Perhaps some of what you were drinking a moment ago."
Surprised by the bold request, Minerva takes her time to decide. Certainly while Hermione is under the school's care, she should not drink. However, school term has ended, and Hermione, like so many other students, is remaining on the grounds to pay her respects to Albus when they hold his funeral. Moreover, she is of legal age to drink. Surely, one shared between teacher and student may be viewed as unacceptable, but Hermione is more than that to her. Has been for a long time.
Nodding, Minerva rises to retrieve her drink and pours a portion for her guest. Student. Protégé. Friend?
It is hard to determine. This year she has opened up to the younger witch. Nothing truly personal, but the information she has divulged is highly sensitive and if told to the wrong person could prove dangerous. Perhaps they are not friends yet, but she has been building toward that eventuality, wishing to deepen their relationship once Hermione graduates next year.
"I am sorry for your loss, Professor," Hermione says softly. She raises her glass. "Professor Dumbledore. To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."
With misty eyes, Minerva sips from her glass. "That sounds like something he would say," she muses.
"He said it to Harry during our first year. It has stuck with me."
They sit in silence, comforted by each other's company, neither wanting to tackle the obvious topics of what will happen next. Minerva is tired, and she cannot fathom leading anyone while feeling so adrift. A hand gently squeezing her thigh gets her attention.
"I have to tell you something."
Cocking her head, Minerva takes a good look at Hermione. Her eyes reflect maturity, courage, and determination. Whatever it is, this is no small matter.
"What is it, Miss Granger?"
"Harry will not be returning to Hogwarts for seventh year. He has been set upon a quest by Professor Dumbledore, and he will not be swayed from finishing it. He will need help. Ron and I will be going with him," Hermione says, her message sinking into Minerva's gut, forming into a tight, hot boulder.
"Oh," Minerva gasps. To lose Albus and now Hermione. She shakes her head in denial. There must be another way.
"You must know I love being here, but he needs me. He won't succeed otherwise," Hermione says, her eyes pleading for understanding. Acceptance.
She understands. Haven't we all risked death to defeat Voldemort? Hadn't Albus just gambled and lost? How could she even think about blocking Hermione's plans? She cannot afford to be so selfish. Their world is depending upon them to play their parts.
"Will you keep in touch?" Minerva thinks she can withstand this forced separation if she at least knows that Hermione is safe. "Send word from time to time?"
"I don't know how I would manage it. He will be looking for Harry. We will be on the run, changing location frequently," Hermione says, shaking her head.
Minerva can see the sorrow in mocha eyes, and she wants nothing more than to pull Hermione back into her arms to provide comfort. To Hermione. To herself.
Clasping her fingers together on her lap, Minerva turns over in her mind different ways they can keep in touch. Owls are out since they can be intercepted. Patronuses will only work if she knows where to send them. Perhaps some form of legilimency...
"I have an idea," Minerva says slowly while her mind works furiously, reviewing everything she knows about what she is going to propose. It is certainly unorthodox bordering on intrusive, but if they both agree to it, she will be able to keep in touch with Hermione, support her and know that she is alive. Pushing aside her reticence, Minerva continues, "There is a spell called 'waking dream.' It will enable us to meet in a dreamscape. It is a much kinder version of legilimency, particularly since both parties must provide consent to it. We will both have to cast the spell before going to sleep, and only then will our minds meet. We will be able to talk as we are now, only in reality, we will be asleep. Thankfully, the conversation will not fade as a dream does when we awaken."
"That sounds...that sounds intriguing. Have you done it before?" Hermione asks, her face the picture of curiosity. Minerva barely refrains from chuckling. Truly, she is the consummate student, always interested in learning something new.
"Yes. If you want, we can try it before you leave Hogwarts so that you will know how it works," Minerva offers.
"Okay. What is the incantation?"
"Insomnius inconnivus and my name," Minerva answers. "I will say the same words but with your name. If one of us does not say it before going to sleep, the spell will not work."
" Insomnius inconnivus," Hermione repeats. Minerva nods.
"These are the wand strokes." Holding her wand in front of her, Minerva loops it twice in a figure eight shape and draws a line through the middle of it, top to bottom. She watches as Hermione repeats her movements perfectly. "Good."
"Thank you, Professor! It will be good to know what is happening while we are gone. And I...I mean, well, I will miss some of the people here," Hermione says, her eyes jumping to the fireplace, the wall, the floor.
Smiling gently, Minerva understands that she will be missed. It comforts her. "Call me Minerva," she says. They are comrades-in-arms now, both members of the Order of the Phoenix, both fighting against Voldemort. She is no longer a student, and Minerva cannot deny this intimacy when she will be allowing the younger witch access to her thoughts and dreams.
"Thank you. And please call me Hermione." They smile sadly at each other. This is a bittersweet moment.
"When will you be leaving?" Minerva asks. She sips the last of her whiskey and contemplates pouring more.
"After the funeral I will return home to spend some time with my parents. I'm not sure exactly when I'll join the boys, but we'll stay at the Burrow as long as we can, hopefully long enough so that we can attend Bill and Fleur's wedding."
Minerva's heart leaps as she thinks about what Hermione is saying. She is happy to hear they will meet at least one more time after she leaves Hogwarts. "Your parents...will you tell them?"
"No, I...I think it may be best if I do not tell them. In fact, I am thinking of sending them away while I am helping Harry. It will only be a matter of time before they are targeted, and they cannot hope to defend themselves."
Minerva takes a moment before replying. Pensively, she says, "I see. What will stop anyone from finding them once you send them away?"
"I'll send them outside of Europe," Hermione says.
"Will they agree to your plan?" Minerva asks. She stares at Hermione, knowing she is not revealing everything. Over the years she has become quite adept at reading her.
"Um, well...perhaps it is best if we leave this alone," Hermione says.
"You plan to alter their memories, don't you?" Minerva states, her eyes widening at the audacity of Hermione's plan.
"I need to protect them," Hermione answers defensively. "And if I do not come back to lift the charm, then at least they will not know that I ever existed or that they lost a daughter while fighting to save our world."
The emotions shining through bright brown eyes implore Minerva to understand. "You will come back," she says, her voice firm. Hermione simply cannot die. She is one of the smartest, cleverest witches Minerva has ever known, not to mention compassionate, loyal, and brave. Such a light cannot blow out at the first sign of wind. Minerva will not allow it.
"I should go," Hermione says.
Absently, Minerva notes that the hour is getting late. She walks Hermione to the door and pauses, staying her with a hand on her shoulder as she gazes into tumultuous eyes.
"Try the spell tomorrow night. I will feel better knowing we have a way to communicate while you are away."
This time it is Hermione who steps forward to claim a hug, and Minerva breathes in the smell of sweetness, of strength, of determination. Affection flows through her, burning behind her eyelids and prickling at her heart. "Hermione, be safe," Minerva whispers, feeling a thrill shoot through her as she utters this wonderful witch's given name.
"I will," Hermione whispers just as softly, her breath warming the crook of Minerva's neck, causing her to shiver. They pull back, and Minerva squeezes her hand before opening the door.
She continues to stare at the closed door long after Hermione has left.