A delicate buff colored barn owl tapped decorously on Hermione Granger's back garden window. She slid the sash up and took the cream colored packet from its beak.

"Don't go anywhere, pretty thing. I'll get you a bit of sausage to tide you over till you get home." The owl gave a soft 'hurrrrr' and preened a wing, nonchalant. After bolting its treat, it turned and pushed off silently into the warm morning air.

Hermione looked at the letter in her hands. Edged in green and black tartan, it was sealed with emerald wax; two swooping letter m's made the seal's relief. Hermione's heart began to beat a little faster. She lifted the wax, releasing the faint scent of lavender into the small kitchen. Forgetting she was alone in the house, she looked around guiltily before bringing the missive to her nose and inhaling. Her heart beat faster still. She unfolded the letter completely.

15 July 2000

Dear Ms Granger - Hermione,

As I sat down to begin my portion of of the new student letters, it struck me that nearly a year had gone by since I last heard from you; longer still since I had actually laid eyes upon you. It troubles me that my interrogations of Molly and Ginevra and Harry have yielded nothing beyond that you are 'fine'. You deserve so much more than 'fine', Hermione. I don't want to plead with you to confide in me, but would it help if I pledged to read any correspondence in cat form? Please know that I am here for you, if needed.


Minerva McGonagall

Hermione was crying in earnest. At Grimmauld Place, she had spent many a summer evening talking over problems and planning out her future in the company of a small, affectionate gray tabby. The tabby had never answered back, not in English anyways, but had made its opinions clear. Hermione swiped at her face, not wanting the ink on the precious letter to run.

Hermione had spent the last two miserable years with Ronald living in memories of those nights; falling asleep with a contentedly purring cat curled up on her extra pillow or in the bend of her knees; had spent the past two miserable years paralyzed with shame and fear and a dozen other emotions that she could not reconcile with the person she was supposed to be. After all, how could she have asked Minerva McGonagall something like: "Could we just go back to those summers where you were a cat and spent almost every night in my bed and I could tell you everything?"

She let out a laugh that burbled from her throat as a mucus filled croak. Apparently she could have asked that, and more, had she been bold enough. But Minerva had been the bold one, unsurprisingly, and Hermione might not have been the 'carpe diem' type, but she was not about to waste this opportunity. She found quill and parchment and began to write.