With a subtle gesture, Hermione let Minerva know she would wait outside in the garden. As soon as she had stepped out of the tent, she took a deep breath. She wished so much she could keep everything she had seen and learned on her journey. The wonderful girl she would have one day, the affection she had seen in Minerva’s eyes, the brief, hurried moment in the empty classroom - all of these memories and then some. She wanted to store them in her heart for all eternity.
Yet, she had to let her knowledge go. She understood now why Minerva had insisted on the Obliviate charm last year. Hermione had found so much more than just the small piece of a puzzle on her journey. She had found a whole world and she had to forget it as soon as possible.
Slowly, Hermione strolled to the rear part of the garden where no torches lightened the darkness anymore. The candles from inside the tent didn’t reach that area either, only the moon sent a pale light on the trees and Hermione could see the silhouette of the hills in the distance. Feeling exhausted, she ran her hand over her face and closed her eyes for a while. Her inner clock told her it was about 5 a.m., although it was not even 10 p.m. Her body longed for her soft bed, but as Ginny’s maid of honor she couldn’t leave the party that early.
“Hermione! There you are!“ she heard Ron’s voice behind her. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
Hermione turned around, suppressing a sigh. “I needed some time for myself,” she explained when he went towards her.
“Yes, of course.“ Ron nodded sympathetically. “What did you see?“
“Ron.“ Hermione gently stroked his arm. His white shirt was hot and soaked with sweat. Lavender Brown had wanted to ask him to dance for hours and she had apparently taken the chance to draw him on the dance floor. “We won’t be together again,” Hermione told him with a soft voice. “But hopefully we will always be friends.”
“Okay.” Ron kicked his foot into the grass. “What did you see? Everything was fine before.”
“I can’t tell you, Ron. And if it makes you feel better, I won’t remember it myself in a few minutes.“ Hermione gently squeezed his arm once more before she lowered her hand. “Minerva and I have to alter our memory again because we now know too many things we shouldn’t know.”
Ron’s eyes reflected his fear. “Is it that bad?” he asked and his long arms dangled helplessly next to his lanky body.
“No, it’s just…“ Hermione hesitated. “I will spend my future with a different person.“
“Because you have to or because you fell for someone else?” Ron pushed his hands into his pockets. “Who is it? Anyone I know?”
Hermione shook her head. “Please, stop asking me, Ron. If I learned something on this journey, it’s that we should let our future in peace. It will come to us soon enough, or we to it, depending how you look at it.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “You sound just like McGonagall.“
“That’s because it’s true,“ a familiar voice said behind them.
Startled, Ron stepped aside. “Professor… I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s okay,“ Minerva interrupted him brusquely. “But I’d appreciate it if you left me alone with Hermione for a little while. We have some issues to talk about.”
“Yes, of course.“ Ron put his hand on Hermione’s shoulder as if he had to protect her from something. “I’m in the tent,” he said. “You can always count on me.” Then he turned around and went back to the tent.
After he was gone, Minerva pulled out her wand and an old garden swing appeared between the trees. “I can’t stand any longer,” she admitted, taking a seat on the swing. “We will have to have our conversation while sitting.” She raised her wand again and laid a Muffliato charm onto their surroundings.
“Fine with me,” Hermione agreed and sat down on the soft cushion. Several huge Pink roses were printed on the surface, and the cushion exuded a sweetish scent of perfume which reminded Hermione of visits to theatres with her parents many years ago. “This swing seat doesn’t even squeak,” she stated appreciatively, running her hand over the soft surface.
“I borrowed it from a muggle garden,“ Minerva told her with a smile. “And it has to be back on the patio on time before its owners will come back from their evening at the opera.”
One light push was enough to let the garden swing softly swing back and forth. The movement was calm and peaceful and stood in strong contrast with Hermione’s inner turmoil. She closed her eyes for a while, falling deeper into this blissful calmness, and she didn’t let her surprise show when she felt Minerva’s hand on hers. She knew why the Headmistress allowed herself the touch. They had returned to their own time but their knowledge kept them from actually being here. They were pending somewhere between the times. They weren’t anymore who they had been before, and they weren’t yet who they would be one day. They were stuck in a world in between with no rules to hang on to.
For several minutes, they quietly swung back and forth, their gaze directed at the starry sky above while subdued party music reached their ears from the distance. Feeling exhausted and confused, Hermione leant her head against Minerva’s shoulder, wishing, she would never have to leave this place again. She didn’t want to make decisions, didn’t want to think about what they were supposed to do. She just wanted to sit here, next to Minerva, and shut out everything else.
“We will have a very cheerful, smart daughter,“ Minerva interrupted the silence. “And she will be beautiful, too.”
“And a Gryffindor,“ Hermione added proudly. “I noticed it in the Hospital Wing.“
Minerva smiled, not really surprised. “Did you expect anything else?” She put Hermione’s hand in her lap. “My little Minister of Magic.”
“It’s incredible, isn’t it?“ Hermione suppressed a giggle. “I still can’t believe it.“
“You better not think about it too much,“ Minerva warned. “We’ll have to forget it anyway.”
“It’s Groundhog Day all over again, isn’t it?“ Hermione sighed deeply. “If we cast a memory charm on each other, I will knock at your door again tomorrow, trying to find out what really happened.”
Minerva nodded gloomily. “And as far as I know, you will be pretty tenacious about it.”
Hermione gave the swing a gentle push before she asked the question she had thought about for hours. “Why did you help us get the time turner? I thought you were strictly against our mission?”
Minerva seemed surprised by the question. “Hermione Granger, I’ve known you and your friends since you were eleven years old. Nothing has ever stopped you from doing something if you have set your mind on it,” she said with a serious voice. “When I saw you leaving the tent, Mr. Potter with his Invisibility Cloak in his pocket, I instantly knew what you were up to. If I hadn’t joined you at the Ministry, you would have found another way to travel through time. All I could do was to keep you from traveling alone or with someone without any experience. Besides, I could turn your illegal enterprise into a legal venture. If anyone had caught you in the Department of Mysteries, all of your careers would have come to an abrupt end. Not to mention the other punishments...”
Hermione thought of the moment during their time journey when a vortex had almost pulled her into nothingness. “I’m glad you took care of me,” she said gratefully. “Yet, before we start to erase our memories,” she added reluctantly, “we should try to minimize the factors that bothered me after my last memory loss and which will bother me again tomorrow. Maybe that way I won’t try to travel again?”
Minerva thought about Hermione’s idea. “Which factors are you talking about?” she asked after a while.
Hermione pulled one leg onto the cushion and turned towards Minerva to have a better look at her. The starlight cast a pale light on her beautiful face which seemed to be so unaffected by time. Actually, she now looked exactly like the Goddess she had been named after, and Hermione had to pull herself together to not gawp at her like a lovesick teenager. “I’m mainly talking about three things,” she responded, noticing that the previous year felt almost like ten years ago. “For one, I was utterly worried because my study schedule for the N.E.W.T.s had been completely crushed. All of a sudden, I was several days behind without any idea how it had happened.” Hermione remembered very clearly how upset she had been at that time, but she also remembered that she had felt a lot calmer after she had received her graduation certificate. “Fortunately, I am not in the middle of the N.E.W.T.s anymore. Besides, Harry, Ron and Ginny know about our memory charm this time.”
“That definitely comes to your advantage,“ Minerva said with a frown. “But what about the second factor? I assume it’s the agreement to break off the engagement of you and Mr. Weasley?”
“Yes.“ Hermione admitted with a blush. “And this factor will unfortunately remain. It’s difficult for Ron to accept the document.”
“No wonder. He doesn’t remember it.” Minerva was still holding Hermione’s hand and Hermione couldn’t believe how happy this simple gesture made her. And yet there was a very obtrusive part in her, difficult to ignore, that wanted so much more, and that could hardly bear sitting so close next to Minerva and only be able to hold her hand. All the things she had seen on her journey scurried around in her head and caused a heat she could barely control.
Hermione closed her eyes to focus back on their conversation. The swing swung back and forth a few times as she tried to gather all her courage. Over and over, Minerva had rejected her and she would certainly do it again this time. “Which brings me to the third factor,” Hermione said bravely and her voice trembled suspiciously. “No memory charm in the world would be able to erase what I feel, what my body feels, and what my soul has finally understood…” She looked down and fell silent. There was so much to say but she couldn’t utter another word. During their journey, it had been so hard, not to give in to her feelings, not to touch Minerva while they had been learning the truth about themselves that it felt as if she hadn’t any resistance left. Desperately, Hermione fought her tears and it took her a long time to be able to turn towards Minerva and look into her face.
Minerva had also turned towards her and looked at her in a way like never before. For the first time, she didn’t contradict Hermione. “I know what you mean,” she said quietly. Her watery eyes shimmered in the dark and Hermione understood they both craved the same thing.
Without thinking, Hermione took Minerva’s other hand and pulled it under her red dress towards her panties. They were so soaked that Minerva uttered a strange, surprised sound when her fingers touched the fabric. “And what do I do about that?” Hermione whispered.
Minerva didn’t respond, but she didn’t pull away either. “I don’t know,” she said eventually and her voice sounded hoarse as if it didn’t fully obey her. “I really don’t know.”
Silently, the swing swung in the wind while both women on it didn’t move anymore. They just looked at each other, Minerva’s hand still under Hermione’s dress, their faces close together. And at some point, after hours, days, or weeks, Minerva closed the last distance and kissed Hermione. Slowly, tenderly, almost shyly. And Hermione held her breath, inwardly prepared for Minerva to suddenly draw back like she had done in the empty classroom. But it didn’t happen. They stayed in the world in between, not young, not old, without rules, but filled with all the emotions and longings they had brought with them from their journey.
Eventually, Hermione dared to respond to the kiss, timidly at first, then more bravely and more demandingly. Hot tears welled in her eyes as she pressed her core into Minerva’s hand. Minerva gasped for air in surprise but didn’t break the kiss, nor did she take her hand away. Hermione kissed her again and again like there was no tomorrow. Something salty reached her tongue and she realized she wasn’t the only one crying. Her hands wandered to Minerva’s face, to her hair and then loosened the strict bun. The long hair fell on Hermione’s arms and she heard Minerva making a soft sound as she buried her hands into the heavy hair. It took Hermione’s breath away when Minerva’s finger started to move over her panties while her other hand touched Hermione’s neck. At first, she considered it an accident, but then… “Oh God,” she whispered.
It was intoxicating and overwhelming, being so close to Minerva. Hermione felt Minerva’s arousal like her own and couldn’t believe that it was actually her who caused those feelings in Minerva. Without realizing it, her hand had wandered under Minerva’s robes to her breasts. They felt round and soft in her palm and she heard Minerva sighing quietly. Everything in Hermione felt hot and swollen, hungry and ready, but the Headmistress didn’t make it easy for her. Minerva’s touches stayed gentle and slow and Hermione’s arousal increased with every second. “Why… now?” she breathed.
Minerva took Hermione’s right hand and led it to her lap. Hermione’s eyes widened when she sensed how hot it was. Minerva had to be as wet as she was. “Because I can’t hold it together anymore, and you can’t either,” Minerva whispered. Her answer ran like a blazing fire through Hermione’s veins and she pushed herself into Minerva’s hand. She wanted it to slide into her panties, to be inside of her, but Minerva’s hand stayed where it was. “No,” she whispered and Hermione heard her breathing heavily into her ear. “We will save that for a moment we will remember.”
Hermione couldn’t think anymore. Her core burned and she pushed herself rhythmically against Minerva’s hand while her own hand ran over Minerva’s most intimate spots. Only for a second she was afraid that somebody could find them here, but she couldn’t stop it anymore. Everything inside of her wanted Minerva, wanted her lips, her mouth, her hands, her skin. She heard Minerva’s heavy, fast breathing in her ear, until they both started trembling in each other’s arms. They had to cling to each other to not fall from the swing and it took a long time until their breathing calmed down again. “We could have such a wonderful time together,” Hermione whispered into Minerva’s neck.
Minerva stroked her back tenderly. “We will have a wonderful time together,” she stated. “But first, we have to forget what we saw and really arrive at our own time.”
“If we do that…“ Hermione tried to find a useful thought in her still foggy brain. “… everything will start all over again tomorrow.”
Minerva sighed into Hermione’s hair and reluctantly sat up. “So what could keep you from starting your research all over again?”
Hermione moaned with resignation. “That I know what I know now.”
Minerva nodded knowingly. “You are a hard nut to crack, you know that?“ she said and Hermione thought of the moment when she had called Minerva McGonagall A hard nut to crack herself, back then when she had tried to find out what had happened during the time she hadn’t been able to remember. Maybe they were equal when it came to stubbornness.
“How about my trick with the note?“ Hermione suggested cautiously, bracing herself for the expected thunderstorm.
“Again?!“ Minerva asked, horrified. “Haven’t you done enough already?“
“You can’t deny that the note helped Jean’s parents quite a bit,” Hermione justified her idea. “And the announcement was also kind of useful. Without it, I would be married to Ron by now.” She took her wand and gave the swing a little push, before she leaned back again. “Do you have a better idea?”
Obviously that wasn’t the case since Minerva didn’t respond. “Well then,“ she said after a while, conjuring a piece of parchment with a disapproving look. “We will write something down and see if it could be useful.” She pulled a green quill out of her robes. “I suggest you choose the words yourself.”
Hermione snuggled against Minerva’s shoulder and started to dictate the words. Although she didn’t touch the quill it moved effortlessly on the hovering parchment and changed Hermione’s words into her handwriting.
“Dear Minerva, dear Hermione“ Hermione dictated. “In May 1999, there was an incident you had to erase from your memory with a mutual memory charm. However, several things were different after the days you now can’t remember anymore. Eventually, on Harry’s and Ginny’s wedding day, you two traveled into the past in order to learn what had happened back then. It turned out that you had met a person from your future and learned facts you shouldn’t know yet. Nice things, but they belong to a different time.” Hermione hesitated. Now for the hard part... Therefore… you decided to perform another mutual memory charm on each other… And that’s the reason why you – again - don’t know what had happened about a year ago… but we… which means you… ask you to leave things as they are… The future will come soon enough and…” Hermione fell silent when she couldn’t continue. The idea to say farewell to her memories made her throat constrict.
“What’s left,“ Minerva continued for her and the quill immediately changed its handwriting. ”… is the certainty that you will find the way to each other one day, even though it might take a while until the time is right…”
Hermione abruptly lifted her head from Minerva’s shoulder. “You really want to write that?”
“How are we supposed to keep you from starting your next journey?“ Minerva grabbed the parchment and the quill and put them into her lap. “You were right. Memory charms change the knowledge about facts in the first place. They don’t really affect the feelings of a person. And with this note, we have at least an explanation that will hopefully keep you from traveling through time all over again.”
Hermione promptly placed a wet kiss on Minerva’s cheek. “Thank you,” she said from the bottom of her heart. She knew what this admission had cost Minerva.
As soon as they both had signed the document, Minerva performed a doubling charm and handed Hermione the original while she took the duplicate. “It’s time then,” she stated, raising her wand.
“No, wait…“ Hermione involuntarily touched Minerva’s arm when the truth hit her with all its might. Only a few moments separated them from forgetting everything. “Just a second… please…”
“Why?“ Minerva skeptically raised an eyebrow. Of course, she looked right through Hermione who tried to postpone the inevitable.
“Please, dance with me,“ Hermione said suddenly.
“Pardon?“ Minerva lowered her wand.
“Dance with me.“ Hermione gave her a pleading look. “I want to dance a tango with you before we will forget everything.”
“A tango?” Minerva looked at her uncomprehendingly. “Why in Merlin’s name do you want to dance with me all of a sudden?”
Hermione’s face went scarlet. “When you danced with Neville earlier, I wished I could have been in his place.”
“Earlier…“ Minerva shook her head. “Earlier feels like an eternity ago.“
Hermione knew what Minerva meant. This day felt like three days already. But unlike Minerva, she wanted to do everything so that it would never end. “Will you?” she asked shyly. “Will you dance with me?”
Minerva’s frown reminded Hermione very much of her lessons in Transfiguration, but then the Headmistress’ expression relaxed. “We should quickly put the spell behind us…,” she said weakly. “We really should.”
“You would never dance with me then,” Hermione pleaded. “During our fourth year, at the Yule Ball and also at the dance lessons before, you danced with many students, male and female, but never with me.” She tried in vain to keep the bitterness and hurt from her voice.
“Yes, I know.“ Minerva sounded sad and tired. “I… You were so beautiful… I… just couldn’t dance with you…“ She stared into the dark starry sky and was silent for a while. “Alright then,” she said eventually. “One dance. And no more excuses after that.“
They reluctantly stood up from the garden swing and Minerva sent it back to their rightful owners. With another spell, she put her hair back into a bun while Hermione tried to remove Minerva’s lipstick from her mouth. They both needed a little help from their wands, until they were decently dressed enough to go back into the party tent. Soon, the beats of the music were audible again and also the loud voices of the guests who tried to talk to each other in spite of the noise.
Ron noticed Hermione’s presence immediately, and Ginny and Harry sent her a quizzical look, too. “They are your friends,” Minerva whispered to her. “Without their help, you wouldn’t have traveled anywhere. Don’t you think you owe them an explanation?”
“Would that be okay for you?“ Hermione didn’t expect Minerva to give her time for that, but when the Headmistress wordlessly joined Kingsley Shacklebolt, Hermione wriggled herself through the crowd of dancing couples.
“You’ve been gone for a long while,” Ron greeted her with noticeable jealousy. “What did you talk about?”
Hermione lowered her head, hoping he wouldn’t read in her face what they had done aside from talking. “We needed to discuss a few things we had seen on our journey,” she explained. “And we decided that another memory charm is the only possible way to deal with it.”
“I don’t get it.“ Ron rolled his eyes. “So the whole trip was useless.“
“I’m sorry, I underestimated the consequences.“ Hermione’s gaze fell on to Harry and Ginny who would have a beautiful daughter in a few years, a witty girl who would be friends with her own daughter. “You don’t only see the things you’ve wanted to know. You see all kinds of things that will happen in the future.”
Ron started to say something but then seemed to have decided against it. He apparently understood what Hermione tried to say. “Tell me only one thing then,” he whispered into her ear. “Who is the person you will spend your future with? Tell me his name.”
“I can’t, Ron.“ Hermione pushed her index finger in his chest. “All I can say is that I’m glad you are my friend. And I will always be grateful for your help. I couldn’t have done this without you and I know I can always count on you.”
“Of course you can.“ Ron wrapped his long arm around her shoulders. “It’s just not fair that you know more than I do.“
“Not for much longer, I can assure you.“
“How stupid is that.“ Ron pulled a face. “We could have lost our jobs and our freedom. All of this just for the next memory charm.”
“Are you fighting again, or did you just make up?” Ginny asked when she and Harry joined them. “It was hard to say from our table.”
Ron crossed his arms in front of his chest. “She will fall for somebody else. I knew it.”
“Really?“ Surprisingly enough, Ginny didn’t ask any further questions. “Come on, let’s dance again,“ she said instead, turning to her husband.
“Are you crazy?“ Harry put on a painful face. “Can’t you dance with someone else?”
“Hey, I just married you!“ Ginny laughed cheerfully. “But if you don’t want to, I’ll ask Ron.”
“No way!“ Ron jumped backwards in horror. “I’m your brother!“
“Men…” Ginny sighed and linked arms with Hermione. “Will you dance with me then?” she asked her best friend, leading her to the dance floor. “When I practiced for the Yule Ball back then, I always had to be the man,“ she grinned. “I’m actually very good.”
“I don’t doubt that for a second.“ Hermione smiled, pulling Ginny’s arm on around her waist. She trusted her best friend completely. Right now, the band was playing a Viennese waltz and Ginny started dancing past the other dancing couples like a little tornado. Even an excellent dancer like Neville, who almost seemed to take-off with Luna in his arms, darted an appreciative glance at them. “Thank you for not asking me any questions,” Hermione said after Ginny had led her into a sweeping twist. “It’s not that simple, you know.”
Ginny danced with her past Professor Slughorn and Professor Sprout, who had danced together the entire evening. “I’m your best friend,” she said. “And I’m not blind. Unlike some other members of my family.“
“Is that so?“ Hermione turned scarlet, glad that Ginny was busy trying to maneuver them past Hagrid and Olympe Maxime, while all the other couples quickly sought shelter. They eventually slowed down when the music was fading and Ginny took a bow in front of Hermione. Suddenly Minerva stood next to them. “May I steal your partner for the next dance?” she asked Ginny with a polite nod.
“Of course.“ Ginny gave Minerva an unusually cordial smile and left her friend to the Headmistress. Promptly, the first notes of a tango were audible.
“What a coincidence,“ Hermione chuckled as she laid her hand on Minerva’s shoulder. “You didn’t accidentally…”
“No magic. Just simple muggle style.“ Minerva wrapped her arm around Hermione’s waist and took the promenade position. “I politely asked the band to play a tango.”
“Very smart.“ Hermione secretly told her wildly beating heart to stay in her chest. She had longed for this dance since forever.
The tango was fast and snappy, exactly like Hermione had pictured it. Minerva had to pull her very close to her body to be able to precisely lead her. Together with other couples, they strode across the dance floor, did spins, rock turns, side steps, promenades and swivels, and Hermione felt a little dizzy when Minerva’s leg slid so intimately between hers. Their moves clearly belonged to the dance, so nobody saw what they were doing – or feeling - except for Ron, who stared at the dance floor with an open mouth, and probably Ginny, who tactfully looked the other way.
“The bride looks really pretty,” Minerva said, leading Hermione into a swivel. “But, as always, you’re the most beautiful woman in the room.”
Hermione didn’t have time to accept the compliment because Minerva suddenly changed direction and walked with her across the dance floor, then changed direction again and Hermione had to abruptly turn around her head. “Wow…” Hermione’s cheeks were already burning and she was sweating everywhere.
“You wanted a tango.“ Minerva led her into another promenade.
“Yes, but I didn’t expect it to be like sex,“ Hermione whispered out of breath.
Minerva laughed quietly into her ear. “Don’t you think a woman of my age has had enough sex for today?” She gave Hermione a second to breathe, initiating several open reverse turns.
“That’s where you are wrong. It will never be enough with you.” Hermione smiled when the shudder running through Minerva’s body spread to her own. There were so many things they could look forward to.
“Are people looking at us?“ Minerva asked straight-faced.
“No, we’re just dancing, aren’t we?“ Hermione let her gaze wander over the other guests, wondering why everybody seemed to be so self-absorbed. Was it just a coincidence or intentional? “Only Ron is staring at us, and Ginny has her own thoughts on the matter.”
Minerva turned her head slightly to look over at Ginny. For a brief moment, their gazes met, then Minerva turned to Hermione again. “Molly’s daughter has always been a smart girl.”
They stopped talking for the rest of the dance, they just swept over the dance floor as if this could stop time and Hermione felt as if she was floating. What they had to do in a few minutes was inevitable. Yet, whatever would happen tomorrow, they had laid a trace, outside and inside, which couldn’t be wiped away anymore.
“Thank you,“ Hermione whispered as the tune faded away. Without a word, Minerva left the dance floor and Hermione followed her to the exit of the tent. Once again, they walked to the empty edge of the garden and then stood in front of each other like in a duel.
When Hermione looked into Minerva’s usually so composed face, she saw so many emotions that it almost made her cry. Her body was still burning from the dance and from the garden swing and she wondered how she would explain all this tomorrow. Just to be on the safe side, she quickly felt for the piece of parchment under her dress, noticing that Minerva involuntarily did the same. One day the future would be their present.
Hermione ignored the burning pain in her chest and as if pulled by an invisible thread, she and Minerva both raised their wands.