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A Terrible, Wonderful Life

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=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

There are things that Magical children take for granted growing up. They get to know for certain that creatures like Unicorns, Dragons, Mermaids, Centaurs, Phoenixes, Goblins, and Elves are real. In some cases, they might even get to see these wondrous Magical creatures, even before they reach their eleventh year and are sent to Hogwarts or Beauxbatons or Durmstrang or any of the other institutes set aside for Magical Education around the world.

They get to break their toys with impunity, knowing that when they take the pieces to their parents with tear-filled eyes, a simple Reparo charm will have it fixed in a jiffy.

They get to fly, first on toy broomsticks, then later on real ones that will take them as high into the sky as they wish – with their parents’ permission, of course.

They are read Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales from such books as The Tales of Beedle the Bard, unknowing that they’re hearing and enjoying very real pieces of Magical history while they do.

If they become ill, Healers dressed in gaily colored robes dispense a series of spells and potions, which may not taste spectacular, but almost always instantly cures the ailment instead of making a cranky child continue to suffer.

They get to travel almost instantaneously via the Floo Network, Portkeys, and if their parents are skilled enough to take them along, through Apparation. No long lines to get on a bus or a train or a plane or a ship, no depressively boring road trips, stuck in a car for hours or days on end – not for these lucky Magical children.

Collectively, these things all make for a grand way for a child to grow up. After all, there is Magic in the world, and Magic is a panacea which cures all ills.

However, some people who eventually come into the Magical world are not brought up this way. Some children, born to Muggle parents – those who do not have the ability to perform magic – are brought up believing that some magnificent creatures only exist in a world of myths and legends and tall tales. They must learn to treat their toys more carefully, because if it breaks, there’s a possibility that it will not be able to be repaired or replaced, and they are not given the knowledge of broomsticks that do anything other than clean their floors.

Their Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales are deemed the same as the magnificently magical creatures – myth, legend, and tall tales. There is some store set in the possibility of magic, but it is always dismissed as a flight of fancy or the deranged rantings of someone either drunk or mentally unstable.

When these children become ill, the treatments are not so easy, and some children do not pull through even a simple cold, which can be easily cured in the Magical world with a Pepper-Up Potion.

When they travel, they are mostly doomed to those long lines and endless time spent bickering with their siblings as they are trapped together in close proximity for far too long to keep them busy and the boredom inevitably sets in.

Despite all these drawbacks to growing up in the Muggle world, however, there are some things that the Muggle-borns of the world receive in their upbringing that the Pure-bloods and Half-bloods do not.

One of these is the cinema. Movies. Television. A pastime deemed by some to be the downfall of the human race, rotting brains and causing some children to disintegrate into no better than a beast, able to do nothing more than sit on a couch and click a button with their finger while they drool and wither away from lack of sunshine and Vitamin D.

When done properly though, a moving, talking picture can be a truly magical thing, even in such a mundane world as where these Muggles live. They tell stories on a visual level, and some bring families together as treasured tales and create memories that live on well into adulthood and beyond.

It is from one of these cherished movies that a family tradition began.

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

When Abigail Reilly was born in Edinburgh in 1943, she didn’t have a magical bone in her body, but she was beloved by her parents. Her father was a Structural Engineer and her mother stayed home to raise Abigail, and later, her brother and sister as well. They weren’t rich, but they weren’t poor, either, sitting near the top of the middle-class.

When Abigail was three, there was a new film released in the local cinema, and just after Christmas, her father took his family – himself, his daughter, and his expectant wife – to see it. This was when Muggle films still mostly had no colors other than black, white, and a million different shades of silver, but it was no less captivating for missing the bright reds and blues and yellows that the populace would later become accustomed to seeing on the screen.

It was a movie about a man who, after a series of very unfortunate events, wished that he had never been born. In an effort to make the man realize just how important he was, the angels granted his wish, showing him how much darker the lives of all those around him would have been had he never been around. In the end, he slipped back into his own time stream, granting the apprentice angel his wings and reclaiming his life with new fervor and happiness. The movie was called “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and it completely entranced young Abigail.

As she grew up, she made a point to see the film every year around Christmas, forcing her father to take the entire family to see it together, even after a job promotion took them from Edinburgh further south to London. When she was a teenager, her father bought a television, and the yearly feat was made that much easier. The film was shown at least once every Christmas season on one of the national channels, and the family could curl up in the comfort of their own home to tune in for their tradition, popping their own corn and gathering up together under warm blankets to watch poor George Bailey go through his trials and tribulations as the snow fell outside.

When she went away to University, and later to a college of Dentistry, she continued her tradition of going home on whatever night the film was aired, feeling a strange compulsion to keep the family together, even if only for the one night.

Then, when she was in her final year of education, it happened. Somehow, the night of airing got mixed up, and for the first time since she was three years old, their family missed watching it. Later on, in Abigail’s mind, this missed viewing of the film became responsible for the series of events which happened next. That March, her mother took ill, and without the magical repertoire of spells and potions of which they were yet unaware, she soon succumbed to the illness and passed away.

Staggering from the blow, Abigail withdrew from her family for a while. Sullen and angry, she went about finishing her degree. It was during this time that she met Gerald Granger, also about to complete his course in Dentistry. They formed a tentative friendship, and she slowly began to come out of her grief-state.

She didn’t reconnect well with her family, however. By Halloween, her father had also become ill with a different disease, one they were calling cancer, and he didn’t have much time left, the treatments available proving ineffective. Her brother and sister scattered, not wanting to stick around and watch their other parent die so soon after the first, and yet still blamed Abigail for leaving the way she had earlier.

In the last week of November, her father lost his fight, and Abigail was left an orphan, alone, nearly friendless, and separated from her siblings, who didn’t even bother to come for the funeral. Long after everyone else had left the cemetery, she stood in the falling snow, tear tracks turned to ice on her cheeks, and she screamed at the sky, wondering how things had fallen apart so quickly.

She sank quickly back into a deeper despair than she had after her mother had died, feeling a new sympathy for her old friend George Bailey. Close to Christmas, she was out for a walk and passed by a cinema that was showing the film. Shrugging and thinking it couldn’t hurt, she paid for a ticket and went in to watch it alone. She was surprised to meet her friend, Gerald, inside, also there to see the movie by himself, and they decided to sit together to enjoy the tale.

They went for tea after the movie, and the friendship began to truly burgeon and grow that night. By June, she was becoming happier with her new boyfriend, and her sister had finally written her a letter, apologizing for the way she’d acted and making overtures to visitation discussion.

On Christmas Eve that year, in remembrance of their first unofficial date, Gerald and Abigail went to the same cinema and again sat to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” together. As the house lights came back up after the closing title screen, a nervous Gerald knelt in the aisle leading out of the theater and proposed marriage to her.

Of course, she accepted. In an ironic twist of fate, much like George and Mary, Gerald and Abigail were married in a rainstorm in early May of 1970. Every year, on Christmas Eve, or as close as they could manage it, they returned to the little cinema to watch what he, at least, had come to refer to as their movie. She, of course, knew that it was her movie.

Over the next nine years, they tried and failed to start their family, but the Dental practice they opened together took off, and they did well for themselves. They bought a slightly run-down house in a decent neighborhood that was on the rise, and slowly they turned it into a comfortable home. In those years, not only did Abigail Reilly Granger reconnect with her sister, but she also found her brother, by that time married with a couple children, and made up with him as well. The only sad part left in her life was the empty nursery upstairs, especially when she saw her nieces and nephews running around in the back garden when they were over for a visit.

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

When Hermione Granger was born, her parents hailed her as a miracle. For nine years, they had tried and failed to have a child, and finally, they were presented with their perfect specimen of a daughter with a thick spread of brown curls on her head and the deepest, most expressive brown eyes they had ever seen. Already in their late thirties, the couple counted themselves incredibly lucky, and promised themselves and each other that no matter what else happened in their lives, they would give the perfect pink bundle a wonderful childhood, filled with love and laughter.

In addition, Abigail promised that they would never again have a Christmas without her movie.

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

Hermione never revealed to her boys why she never stayed at school over the Christmas holiday, because they already thought she was half-way around the bend, and she didn’t want to give them extra ammunition.

The reason was simple: her mother said she could put up with a lot from the Magical world and its theft of her only daughter, but the one thing on which she absolutely would not compromise was their yearly viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Hermione loved the old film. They’d never had a Christmas together that they didn’t watch it at least once. When she’d been young, they’d gone to a seedy cinema that showed it every year, but when it had finally shut down, her father had gone out and bought a video player and a copy of the movie so they could watch it whenever they wanted at home.

In her Fourth Year, when she’d asked to stay for the Yule Ball, they had acquiesced, but with one stipulation: her father, remembering what she’d said about Muggle electronics not working in the Castle, went out and purchased an old movie reel and a small projector, which he had modified to work by a hand crank. Hermione had asked Professors Flitwick and McGonagall if there was any way to magically power the device by charming the hand crank to turn at the correct speed until she cancelled the spell.

The two Professors had worked together, understanding family traditions and the need to perpetuate them, and used the same charms which made Gramophones and Magical Wireless Radios work in the vicinity of the Castle on the projector so that it would run at the proper speed to make the film reels and audio recording turn at the proper speed to play the movie in sync.

And so, at the appointed time on Christmas Eve, the night before the magical Yule Ball was to take place, Hermione settled into a conjured sofa with a thick quilt and a bowl of popcorn, provided by the House-Elves – although Hermione wasn’t privy to that tidbit of information – to watch the movie at the same time her parents were watching it back home. Professor McGonagall had allowed her the use of an empty classroom for her makeshift theater, for which she was truly grateful.

She was about to start the movie when she heard the sound of a throat clearing behind her. She turned to see McGonagall standing in the doorway, a wistful look on her face.


“Miss Granger. I wondered if I might join you.” Her hands were uncharacteristically fidgeting. “I’ve always loved this film and it’s been years since I’ve been able to see it.”

“Of course! This is the sort of movie you shouldn’t watch alone anyway.” She beamed up at her favorite teacher, who smiled in return before crossing the dark room and conjuring a straight-backed wooden chair to sit in. “Oh, no, Professor, please sit with me. The sofa you provided is ever so much more comfortable than your chair appears to be.” She lifted the quilt, indicating the empty space next to her. “Please?”

Minerva sighed and vanished the chair she’d just conjured, moving to sit beside Hermione. “If you insist, Miss Granger.”

“I do.” As soon as Minerva was settled in and the quilt was draped over both of them, Hermione again reached to activate the charms on the projector, a happy smile taking over her face as the title cards appeared on the temporarily smoothed stone wall. “This is so much nicer than watching on the telly at home. Everything’s so big and clear.” There was wonder in her voice as she spoke quietly.

“I have only seen it on the larger screens at the cinema, but I expect it would be better than the small television screens I’ve seen when making home visits.” Minerva spoke in a hushed tone. Even though they weren’t actually in a cinema, the large room had the feel of one, and a lifetime of practice was hard to overcome.

The title screens faded, and the movie started in earnest, stopping their conversation before it really began. By the time a soggy George was dancing with Mary to Buffalo Gals, Minerva had conjured a plush footstool and propped her feet up, relaxing further back into her corner of the small sofa. She was glad to have the quilt, as it was cold in the room without a fire lit to help keep things warm. She could light one, of course, but she thought the firelight would fade the images on the wall, so she just snuggled deeper into the quilt’s warmth as the movie played on.

George found himself saving Clarence on the bridge just as Hermione’s head shifted to the right and came to rest on Minerva’s shoulder. Minerva blinked rapidly, looked over carefully, and saw Hermione, sleeping soundly against her side, looking positively angelic in the dimly flickering light of the movie projector. Her lashes were dark against her cheeks, and her wild hair was wreathing her head like a halo. Minerva maneuvered around gently, trying to make the girl more comfortable without waking her.

About the time George was clamoring over Zuzu’s flower petals being back in his pocket, Minerva dropped off as well, her cheek coming to rest on the top of Hermione’s head. The movie finished playing, and the two women slept on, oblivious. A pair of twinkling blue eyes, attached to a very old body containing a very young mind, watched as they snuggled deeper into each other, seeking warmth in the cold room while they slept. “How interesting,” he mumbled, another twinkle flashing in his eye.

As neither of them were able to cancel the charm on the projector, it reached the end of the reel, stopped to rewind the film, and started over. Worried that it would disturb the rest of two who didn’t sleep enough on any given night, he cancelled it himself, stopping the movie and plunging the room into cold darkness. With a soft smile peeking through his long beard, the old man again pointed his wand, this time at the fireplace Minerva hadn’t wanted to light earlier, and it burst into cheerfully crackling flame, blanketing the room in heat and soft light.

He removed Minerva’s eyeglasses, carefully folding them and setting them on the projector table before leaving instructions with a house elf that they weren’t to be discovered by anyone as they slept, but to help them return to their rooms safely if they did wake of their own volition. As he left the room, sealing the door against intruders, he whispered into the night, “Happy Christmas.”

Early the next morning, when dawn’s light was just beginning to filter through the high windows in the disused classroom, Hermione began to stir, feeling safe and content and warm, but … was the warmth coming from underneath her? And was it … purring??

Her eyes shot open and were met with the sight of Bottle-green robes pulled tightly around the torso of … her eyes opened wider, was that … No, no, no I did not fall asleep on Professor McGonagall! But … she fell asleep, too. No longer feeling quite so mortified to have woken up with, she blushed to realize, her arms wrapped tightly around her professor’s waist. She quickly but carefully extracted her arms, feeling her right hand prickle as it began reawakening. Massaging the tingling muscles, she took the rare moment to inspect a softer, sleeping Minerva McGonagall.

There were a few wrinkles at the edges of her eyes and mouth, evidence that the stern woman did, in fact, know how to smile and had done so at length over the course of her life. Her hair was still as dark as coal, and was draping her face in soft strands, having come loose from her signature bun while they slept. It made her look more human, more fragile, and Hermione’s fingers itched to smooth the hair away, but she dared not touch her lest she awaken.

Another quiet purr erupted from the sleeping woman’s chest, and Hermione smiled. She’d known about Minerva’s Animagus form, but hadn’t known it had lasting effects on her human body as well. She idly wondered if there were other effects.

Minerva’s normally loose-fitting robes had twisted in her sleep, and were fitted against her body, giving Hermione a new look at more than her face. Flushing brightly, she realized she could see the barest outline of a full breast as it moved with her deep breaths. For the first time, she could see just how slim her teacher was, and her breath hitched in deep realization. The dynamo, the powerhouse she saw in class really was as breakable and fallible as the rest of them, and possibly more so.

Had this woman ever known love like George and Mary Bailey in the movie? Like her parents, Gerald and Abigail? Her stomach flipped and her eyes moved up to the thin lips, parted slightly for ease of breathing while asleep. Again her fingers were itching to touch the delicate-looking woman in front of her. The itch from her fingers moved up her arm and down, through the racing heart and flipped stomach, causing her breaths to speed up and a new heat to begin building low in her belly, above where her thighs met.


She was attracted to her teacher in a way that she could never be. This glimpse into the woman behind the Professor had proven there was something there for her, and even at fifteen, she knew what it meant. But whatever was there for her could never be there for the older woman, for the teacher, for she was surely still a child in those impossibly green eyes.

Softly, quietly, she got up, making sure not to disturb Minerva, and was on her way to the common room, trying to get to her dorm before everyone else woke and realized she hadn’t been there all night. She stopped at the door, though, and whispered back to the otherwise empty room, “Happy Christmas… Minerva.”

That night, dressed and dolled up by Lavender and Parvati, she attended the Yule Ball on the arm of Durmstrang’s Champion, Viktor Krum, and tried not to notice how beautiful and graceful the new object of her burgeoning affection was as she danced with the Headmaster. She let go and allowed herself to enjoy the party and the attention she was getting from the Quidditch player who’d brought her.

But at the end of the night, with Viktor back on his ship, and with Ron angry at her for going with someone else when he’d never bothered to ask her, she drew the curtains on her four-poster and cried. Not for Viktor, and not for Ron, though that had hurt. No, she cried for herself. She’d always been the strange girl at her Muggle school, causing impossible things to happen, and she’d had few friends. Here, she was mostly accepted, apart from those who believed in blood purity and all that rot, but that was nonsense anyway, and she was out to prove that to each and every one of them. But then she had to become the oddity again. Attracted to a woman; attracted to a teacher! Why couldn’t anything ever be easy?

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

Over the next year, many things changed for Hermione Granger. A Dark Lord rose from the dead, a boy who might have become a friend in time took the serpentine man’s place in the grave, and the boy who was her closest friend in the world took on so much more responsibility than he should ever have had to. Her heart broke itself apart daily for him, and there was seemingly nothing she could do to help him.

She was set to go skiing with her parents over the upcoming holiday, but as much as she wanted to spend time with them, skiing wasn’t really an activity she was into, and all her thoughts of Christmas seemed to be wrapped around memories of the last one. It was difficult sometimes to remember to refer to the object of her affections as Professor McGonagall when she spoke aloud, for her internal voice had left the title behind months before in favor of her name: Minerva.

She had slowly come to grips with her feelings as time had passed. Indeed, they had grown, as had she. It had taken months of arguments with herself and copious amounts of research at the library over her summer holidays to realize that homosexuality wasn’t quite as unnatural as she’d thought, and then suddenly, her reactions to Krum’s overtures and the tension between herself and Ron had finally started to make sense. They had each wanted something from her that she didn’t want in return. Oh, she’d longed to feel something for Viktor, but while she’d been curious about him before Christmas, afterward, there was just nothing there, which even he’d realized. There were no hard feelings, and they still exchanged letters, but only as friends.

Meanwhile, every time she was in Transfiguration, every time she had to speak with Professor McGonagall about the latest round of stupidity Umbridge was bringing about, her hands would shake, it would become harder to breathe, and her heart would race in her chest. One would think it would have begun to fade after a year with no signs of reciprocity, but it was only growing stronger.

And how on earth could there be reciprocity anyway? Hermione didn’t know exactly how old Minerva was, but she’d been there at least long enough to have taught Harry’s parents, and even Arthur and Molly had once been her students, so there had to be at least forty years between them. Hermione was still only sixteen. She was still subject to the Trace and prohibited from doing magic outside school. She was still fighting her raging adolescent hormones and growing, both in height and in magical power and ability. She was still yet a child under the woman’s constant care. There was no hope for more, and there never would be, especially when Hermione tossed in the fact that they were both female, and she didn’t think Minerva leaned that way.

Thus, when the opportunity came to skip skiing came, she felt horrible for being so happy. After all, Mr. Weasley had been badly injured! But at the same time, she was ecstatic, because not only did she get to spend another holiday with Harry and Sirius and the Weasleys, there was that ever-present chance of more time with Minerva at Order headquarters.

Before she left the castle for London, she approached her frazzled teacher and asked if it was at all possible that her projector from last year could be brought to Grimmauld Place and have it still work.

Minerva couldn’t see any reason why not, and advised her to check with Sirius to find an appropriately sized room to set it up.

Sirius was happy to set up a room for her, only asking that others be allowed to come in and watch with her if they wanted. He’d once enjoyed taking his friends and conquests out to see a movie, and though he couldn’t remember having seen the film in question, cabin fever had really begun to settle in, and he wanted to experience this one she was so adamant on watching. Hermione gladly agreed to the stipulation, and that was how the entire household was found out in the back garden in the early darkness of Christmas Eve. There were thick quilts laced with warming and impervious charms, squashy comfortable chairs and sofas to cuddle into, and a magically expanded white bedsheet stretched across the back of the house serving as a screen.

Molly had relaxed for the evening’s festivities as well, and had popped copious amounts of popcorn, passed around in large bowls. There was a large pot of hot tea, another of hot chocolate, and smaller bowls filled with various candies and other snacks, and the adults laced their drinks with firewhiskey, adding to the relaxed and jovial atmosphere.

To Hermione’s immense relief and surprise, Minerva did stop in for a minute and decided to stay for the showing, that same small, wistful smile appearing on her face as she watched everyone setting up. Hermione’s tummy had flipped with the rare smile, and her heart had begun thudding harder in her chest.

I need to get over this! I cannot be attracted to Minerva bloody McGonagall! She could never feel the same! How did this happen? Oh, gods, this can’t be happening. This is so impossible, Hermione. Snap out of it! Damn, damn, damn! Her breaths were speeding up, and she was on the verge of a panic attack. She’d been setting up the projector when Minerva had appeared, and as her panic built, her knees failed, sending her arse-first into the nearest sofa, landing on the neatly folded quilt Molly and Sirius had distributed to each seat earlier.

A lilting burr brought her out of her panic attack. “Is everything alright, Miss Granger?”

Her gaze shot upward, and Minerva’s body and those Holly-green eyes were leeching an aura of composure and strength, bolstering Hermione’s resolve to prevent her feelings of attraction from becoming known. “Yes, Professor.” She managed to smile, putting the older woman more at ease.

“It seems all the other seats have been filled. May I impose on you again as I did last year?” Narrow lips were twitching, remembering how much of an imposition they had both been on each other. It had been a surprise to wake alone on the sofa, only to realize by her position and the fleeing warmth that not only had Miss Granger fallen asleep on her, she had done the same in return, and they’d slept cuddled together until morning. She was still vaguely embarrassed by the situation, but thought making light of it might just put a real smile back on the face of the young woman who had become her favorite student.

Hermione’s face flushed with color and heat at the reminder. “Of course you’re welcome to sit with me, Professor. I’ll try my best not to fall asleep on you this year.”

“And I shall attempt the same.”

Hermione stood back up and finished the preparations on the projector as Minerva took the other side of the sofa as her own, long graceful fingers spreading the warmed quilt over her legs, the material fluttering at the edges as she snapped it sharply up and down to ensure equal distribution for both herself and Hermione. The projector ready, she turned, checking to be sure everyone was ready for the movie to begin.

There were several single seats set out, and they were, as Minerva had indicated, all filled. There were a few short sofas as well, also all taken. Remus and Sirius were sharing one, the two old friends still enjoying every minute they got together after so many years had been stolen away, Fred and George were in another, red heads angled together as they whispered and gestured to each other, probably planning their next Wheezes’ product or some kind of Christmas morning prank on the other residents of Grimmauld Place. The last sofa, other than the one Hermione and Minerva were about to share, was taken up by Molly, sipping at a cup of spiked tea with one hand, the other draped around Ginny, who was tucked into her mum’s side.

Harry and Ron were throwing popcorn at each other, each trying to catch the fluffy kernels in their mouths. Harry was catching more than Ron, but both were doing well, not wasting very many pieces. It was nice to see Harry smiling and laughing after the sullen attitude he’d had following his vision of Arthur being attacked.

The few other Order members who had elected to sit and watch the film were occupied in pleasant conversation with each other, and Tonks was staring wistfully at Remus and Sirius as they sat and laughed together, possibly reminiscing over past Christmases spent with James and Peter, and later with Lily as well.

After a quick glance at her watch to confirm the time, Hermione cleared her throat and announced that the movie was about to begin. Minerva pulled the quilt over, and Hermione settled in beside her, appreciating the subtle warming charms that had been woven into the material. She pointed her wand at the projector, and the reels began turning, the ringing of the bell on the screen bringing the last few stragglers to attention.

The opening strains of Buffalo Gals brought a soft smile to her face, remembering all the years she’d watched the film with her parents. They were happy memories, happy times, and despite the fact that she hadn’t wanted to go skiing at all, she found that she was missing her parents terribly.

The warmth of the woman next to her was comforting, though, and the nip in the air kept her awake. Just as the movie was ending, snow began falling softly. It had been a little late before they’d started, and Hermione checked her watch to find that it was just past midnight. “It’s Christmas morning. Christmas snow,” she whispered, voice full of awe. Unable to stop herself, she threw the blanket off her lap and jumped up, throwing her arms out to the side as she spun around and around in the falling snow.

Harry and the rest of the Weasleys, joined by Tonks, Sirius, and Remus, were running and laughing behind her, and Molly was left alone on her sofa, relaxed and smiling at the antics of the children and the remaining Marauders, love for her family written clearly in her every mannerism. She could be overly protective and very strict, but no one could ever say the Weasley Matriarch didn’t love her family with everything she was.

Minerva, still sitting on the sofa, watched as this newly unencumbered Hermione turned in circles, the snow drifting into the untamed curls and onto her eyelashes where they rested against her cheeks, eyes shut and a look of absolute joy overtaking her face. Blinking, she noticed how this girl who was under her care was blossoming into a beautiful young woman. When had that happened? As if it was happening in slow motion, the image began to burn itself into her retinas, racing up through the optical nerve and slipped into the firing neurons to etch itself into her permanent memory.

For years, people had wondered what happy memory fuelled her powerful Patronus, and the answer had always been the same: it had been an image of a dirty, disheveled Albus Dumbledore, stumbling his way into a field hospital tent to tell her that he had finally done it, that Grindelwald had finally been defeated and the war was over. There had been lingering sadness in his blue eyes for what he’d had to do to his oldest friend and strongest enemy, but there was also a strong conviction that what he did was right and “For the Greater Good.”

That memory had become a symbol for her, marking the beginning of the happiest time in her life. There had been peace and rebuilding, and soon after, the job at Hogwarts had opened up, and her career change fulfilled her in ways she’d never begun to imagine.

However, in the years yet to come, when people asked the same question, they received a lie for an answer. She told the same story she always had, but her Patronus was thereafter fuelled by this image of Hermione Granger, happy in the midst of war, spinning lazily with arms lifted to the sky as the snow fell early on Christmas morning. **

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

Another year passed, filled with more overwhelming sadness. Sirius was gone, and the world felt as though it would never be right again. Gryffindor tower felt empty and quiet with the Twins no longer in school.

Hermione spent that Christmas at home with her parents, and while it was incredibly comforting to be home and watching the movie with them, she found herself missing Minerva and Harry and Ron and the peaceful serenity that had surrounded her the year before as Christmas Eve had given way to Christmas Morning.

Something felt off as George Bailey’s story unfolded. She was sitting alone in the comfortable wingback chair that her mum said had come from her grandmother, and yet she could almost feel the softness and warmth of Minerva at her side, keenly aware of its absence.

She was overcome with the idea that it was very bad indeed to pass a Christmas without having watched her movie with Minerva.

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

Dumbledore was dead. It was nearly time to return to school for her final year, but Hermione wouldn’t get the chance. There were Horcruxes to find, and there was no way they would be able to do what they needed to from within the stone walls of Hogwarts. Hermione mourned her lost educational opportunities, but knew that this search – this almost holy quest – was absolutely necessary and worth more than her education.

She had been looking forward to her last year as Minerva’s student, and that was the worst part about having to go. She wouldn’t have any reason to contact the woman after this year if they were successful, and if they weren’t … well, that didn’t bear thinking about.

She had made all her preparations, but for the last. She gathered up her things, packed everything away into plastic bins and then dropped them into her bottomless bag, and set about making over her bedroom. The white walls were charmed to a pale beige color, the paint on all her white furniture transfigured to a nice varnish over the plain wood, and the fabrics all changed from the white and pastels she’d never bothered to update from her childhood since she was so rarely home were changed to dark browns and jewel-toned reds and blues and greens. Her once-homey and comfortable bedroom was now a perfectly generic guest room. The bathroom got a similar treatment, and as she walked through her home for the last time, every memento that would remind her parents that they’d ever had a daughter was either packed into her bag or transfigured and charmed and changed so no one would ever guess that a child had ever lived in this house.

Finally, she reached the den where her parents were sitting and watching the evening news. She first entered her father’s mind, and sifted through his memories, altering every memory so that she wasn’t there, but keeping everything else. Gerald Granger was slowly turned into Wendell Wilkins under Hermione’s wand, and tears were streaming from her face as she told him goodbye.

And then it was time to do the same to her mother. Abigail Reilly Granger was slowly changed as well, memories of reuniting with her brother and sister removed to lessen the impact of their change and subsequent leaving of the country. Her longing for a child and the satisfaction that had come from finally having one was changed as well. Monica Wilkins had wanted a child, but at the time when she was supposed to have been overjoyed by the birth of her precious daughter, she instead finally accepted that it would never happen. She instead found fulfillment in other ways.

She inserted a strong compulsion charm that would get them out of England and down to Australia, but one thing she couldn’t bear to remove, fearing for the worst if she did, was Monica’s need to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas without fail. It was important to her, and it had become incredibly important to Hermione as well.

All evidence of her existence removed, Hermione slipped from the Wilkins’ home, and made her way to a small storage facility, crying all the while. She had rented a small unit and paid for it for the next two years in advance, doing so under the assumed name of Mary Bailey, and she packed away all the plastic bins that held her stuffed toys, her extra clothes, the few family photos she’d kept unaltered, and the other things she’d taken from her home but didn’t need to bring on the Horcrux hunt.

She sealed the room up tight, magically repelling all pests and putting subtle notice-me-not charms to help prevent thieves from wanting to break in, and turned on the spot, disapparating away to The Burrow, where she was set to meet up with the Weasleys before they went to pick up Harry from Little Whinging.

That Christmas found Hermione and Harry in Godric’s Hollow, narrowly escaping Nagini. For the first time in her life, Hermione had a year without watching the film at all. Huddled in her cold bed that night, she delved into her memories and brought up perfect images of the Christmases from Fourth and Fifth years. She could feel warmth, safety, and comfort of being surrounded by Minerva’s scent. She remembered waking up and hearing Minerva purr, and thinking just how wonderful that was. She could see and hear the movie playing behind Grimmauld Place, and she was again surrounded by that aura of strength and composure that had so soothed her.

Maybe, just maybe, she thought, this would be enough. Perhaps the memories of the movie and Minerva together would stanch the flow of badness that had been going on since she’d missed watching with Minerva last year.

She could hope, at least.

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

Mad-Eye Moody. Hedwig. Ted Tonks. Dobby. Fred Weasley. Remus Lupin. Nymphadora Tonks Lupin. Colin Creevey. Severus Snape. There were other casualties, too many of them, and Hermione even spared a moment to be sad about Peter Pettigrew, because although he had been the downfall of Harry’s parents and the reason poor Sirius had spent twelve years in prison, he had once been their friend, and with Remus taken during the Battle of Hogwarts, the Marauders were officially no more.

Her heart hurt for all those lost, even months after the war had finally ended.

She had spent the summer helping rebuild Hogwarts and guiltily relishing in being back in such frequent contact with Minerva. Several nights a week had found them secreted away in Minerva’s sitting room, drinking tea or coffee spiked with rum or whiskey to help deal with the emotional trauma of war, the guilt of having survived when so many others had not, and the hard work they were putting into the repairs. It took a lot of physical labor as well as magical expenditure to get things back the way they once were, and at the end of the day, they were exhausted.

Sometimes they spoke, the topics ranging from magical theory to their personal pasts, and sometimes they just sat without the need for words at all. They would just sit next to each other on Minerva’s sofa, soaking in each other’s warmth while sipping at their hot beverages. The silence was always comforting; never awkward.

Over the course of the summer, Hermione could feel the attraction growing and morphing into something more, but she kept it to herself, still believing that her feelings could never be returned, and hoping they would pass. She’d felt immensely guilty about the impromptu snog she’d had with Ron during the battle, but when they discussed it later, both had realized there was no spark behind it and they wouldn’t let it affect their friendship. He was now seeing Lavender Brown again, who seemed to have grown up overnight after being attacked by Fenrir Greyback in the battle.

With three weeks left to the start of term, all the repairs were finished and the castle was once again ready for full habitation. Letters had been written and sent out to every eligible student, letting them know things were right on schedule, and the new round of firsties got their letters just as though the war had never happened. After assisting with visits to the families of all the Muggle-born students, explaining just what the letter meant and what was going on, Hermione packed up her things and disappeared to Australia to try and find her parents.

She expected to find them in Sydney or Melbourne, or even Perth or Brisbane, but they weren’t there. Using Harry’s cloak, silencing spells, and knowledge of Muggle surveillance equipment and how to temporarily confuse it, she snuck into the Immigration offices in Canberra and found that Wendell and Monica Wilkins had come into the country at Sydney before moving on to Newcastle.

In Newcastle, Hermione watched them for a few days, wanting to be sure they were okay before reversing her memory modifications. Wendell had turned into quite the beach bum, visiting the beach every evening after the Dental practice closed to surf, even in the late winter. She was surprised at this, because while Gerald Granger had always been fit, he’d never shown any interest in actual sports apart from watching the occasional football or rugby game on the telly. He looked happy and healthy, more so than she’d ever seen him.

Monica, on the other hand, seemed more sullen and withdrawn. She’d lost weight she couldn’t really afford to lose, and was spending most of her time away from work reading trashy fiction novels and working on embroidery. There were samplers and other, far more complex, pieces hung on the walls of their bungalow. Sneaking in while they were working one day, she was shocked to see a near-perfect portrait of herself hanging in the hall. Had she left a hole in the memory charms? She needed to remove them posthaste to ensure there was no lasting damage.

She waited until they were asleep that night, knowing the relaxation of sleep would help her get their memories back more easily. Again, she started with her father, sliding in and finding the markers she had left for herself. The reversal process was over quickly, and she began sifting through her mother’s mind next.

Wincing, she found the small hole she’d left open with her markers, and though it took a little extra time, she was able to put everything back where it belonged, restoring Monica Wilkins to Abigail Granger.

Removing her enchantments took more out of her than applying them had, and she stumbled her way down the hall to their guest room, collapsing into the bed and falling asleep immediately.

Things were tense between Hermione, Gerald, and Abigail for a few days, but after hearing her account of what had happened over the last year, and after Hermione showed them photographs of the smoldering and blackened ruins of their house, they accepted that she’d done the right thing.

They decided to stay in Australia for the time being. Gerald didn’t want to give up his new surfing habit, and Abigail wanted to get past the abuse she’d put her body through and try to get healthier herself before returning to England. They gave her the power to begin overseeing the repair of their house, saying that if they did decide to come back, they would have somewhere to live, but if they decided to stay, they could sell it and recoup some of the monetary loss.

Two weeks after leaving Britain, Hermione returned, and another week later, she was back at Hogwarts to complete her education. Some others had returned as well, but Harry had already begun his Auror training, not bothering to take his NEWTs, as Kingsley gave him the job without his having to bother. Ron was staying with George, and Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes was set to reopen soon, under the joint management of George and Ron.

The Wizarding World was picking itself back up by its bootstraps, and things were moving on. The last of the Death Eaters were in Azkaban, and the remaining sympathizers forced themselves to accept that change was inevitable, setting aside generations of ingrained thoughts and feelings.

As for Hermione, she accepted that she was head over heels in love with Minerva and that even though the woman could never feel the same, it didn’t change the fact that they were friends, and that would have to be good enough.

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

Months passed, and it was time for Christmas. Hermione’s parents were still in Australia, but had resumed correspondence with Abigail’s brother and sister, who were flying down for a holiday visit. Things were still a bit stilted between the three of them, and Hermione had decided to just stay at Hogwarts over the break, hoping that she could bring the goodness of life back by spending Christmas Eve watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Minerva. She knew from her mother’s history that it didn’t necessarily have to be watched on Christmas Eve, but that had become her new tradition with Minerva, and thinking about watching it any other evening just felt wrong.

She had long since found the old projector her father had sent her when she asked to stay for the Yule Ball. It had been damaged with the castle – Minerva had brought it back with her from Grimmauld Place – but a few well-placed and well-used Reparo charms brought it back to full working order. The movie reel had been scratched in a few places, but the same round of charms restored it to perfect condition.

The disused classroom where they’d first sat and watched the movie together had been cleaned up with the rest of the castle over the summer, and Hermione took the projector there to set everything up beforehand. She smoothed the textured stone of the walls just as Minerva and Filius had done, and she cleared an area of desks, making room for a slightly larger and more comfortable sofa than they’d had either time before.

Everything was set. She just needed to get the last minute snacks arranged with the House Elves and ask Minerva if she would come.

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

As the students left for the Holidays, Minerva was looking over the list of those who’d chosen to stay. The list was much shorter than it had ever been before, which wasn’t surprising given that this was the first Christmas after the war, and people wanted their families together to help banish the dark and heavy memories of the previous year.

She was surprised to see Hermione’s name on the list, thinking she would have gone to be with her family, but was internally pleased, thinking she might get more private time with her.

The woman she had seen grow up had become special to her in a way she hadn’t thought would be possible again. She knew her feelings were inappropriate, as Hermione was yet a student under her care, and she didn’t think Hermione had leanings toward anything other than men, but even without that, they were still friends, and she enjoyed spending time with her. And really, wasn’t friendship enough?

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

The morning of Christmas Eve, over breakfast in the Great Hall, Hermione asked if Minerva would like to join her for their annual film-watching tradition. Of course, she accepted the invitation, happy to help form a way that would tie them together, at least for Christmas every year.

At Lunch, there was a new brightness to Hermione. She seemed lighter, less afraid, and more open to those around her. Minerva couldn’t help but notice, and those inappropriate feelings reared their head, causing an uncomfortable warmth to spread through her body. Gods but she loved this woman. But was it worth the friendship if the feelings weren’t reciprocated?

Hermione spent the afternoon and evening primping in a way that would have made Lavender and Parvati proud if they’d chosen to come back and could see her. She languished in a long, hot bath and used nearly a whole bottle of Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion, taming her hair to soft, lush curls that rippled down her back. A minimum amount of high-quality makeup highlighted the sherry color in her eyes and brought out the subtle green flecks within. Her full lips were colored with a deep shade of burgundy, which served to show the blinding white teeth of which her Dentist parents would have been proud.

She wore a long-sleeved, scoop-necked velvet dress the same shade as her lipstick that came down to her ankles. It was modest in that it didn’t show too much skin, but the way it was fitted to her body made her look incredibly sexy and alluring, which was her goal. After all, she’d never know if the possibility existed if all she ever wore around Minerva was her school uniform.

At nine o’clock, she was waiting nervously in the empty classroom, sitting atop one of the desks, arms braced against its surface as she watched her feet dangle loosely beneath her. An indrawn hiss of breath caught her attention, and her gaze was drawn to the doorway where an obviously shaken Minerva McGonagall was standing, one hand pressed against her chest, eyes wide and breaths shallow. Did this mean what she wanted it to mean?

“Minerva?” She stood and took a single step forward.

“Hermione. You,” she paused to inhale sharply, “You look lovely, dear.”

“As do you.” She replied truthfully. Minerva was wearing a long woolen robe in Myrtle green, high-necked with long sleeves that came out to a point over the back of her hands, and more modest than the dress Hermione was wearing, but it flattered her figure perfectly. Her bun was looser than normal, a few soft strands left free to frame her face, and the overall effect was enough to nearly put Hermione in a similar stunned state as Minerva.

“Shall we sit?” Hermione asked, gesturing at the sofa. “The movie’s ready to go whenever you are.”

“I… of course.” Minerva regained the use of her limbs and crossed the room in a few quick strides, sinking gratefully into the sofa’s soft cushions.

Hermione’s wand shook in her hand as she turned on the projector, but she quickly regrouped, sitting and settling in next to Minerva as the bell tolled and the beginning strains of Buffalo Gals rang through the empty room.

It was time to test her theory.

Her right hand snuck over, slowly getting closer to where Minerva’s left was resting between them. As George Bailey’s friends were praying for his safety, asking God and the angels for their help, their fingers met, and Hermione twined them together, holding her breath to see how Minerva would react. She almost wept in relief when the older woman squeezed back, more firmly intertwining their fingers.

Minerva was surprised to feel the questing fingers on her hand, because she hadn’t wanted to read too much into Hermione’s breathtaking appearance, but hope flared brightly in her chest. They sat through the rest of George’s childhood without daring to move, but about the time Violet had reduced George and his friends to dribbling idiots, Hermione dragged up her courage again and scooted closer, nestling her head against Minerva’s shoulder. She was stiff for a moment, but when there were no recriminations for her bold action, she relaxed, pressing herself more firmly against where their arms lay between them.

About the time George and his father were discussing the future of the Building and Loan, Minerva couldn’t stand it anymore. She lifted their joined hands and pressed a tender kiss to the back of Hermione’s hand, and whispered, “What are you doing, Hermione? Where are you going with this?”

Hermione lifted her head and turned to face Minerva, surprised to see tears falling softly down her cheeks. “I thought perhaps we were heading for something or somewhere that tears won’t be necessary.”

“This isn’t some game to you, is it? Because I have to tell you that I’ve no time for games, Hermione, and indeed no interest in them.” ***

“No. No games. Just an honest interest in seeing where things go.”

“You’re still a student.”

“I haven’t been your student for a year and a half, Minerva.”

“There will be gossip and rumors.”

“There’s always been gossip and rumors about me, ever since the bushy-headed, buck-toothed Mudblood made friends with Harry Potter. I don’t give a fig about gossip and rumors. Will they bother you?”

“I … no. I’m past that stage of my life, but people will question your grades.”

“Let them. I’ll still be smarter than anyone else in the room, except for perhaps you, and those who know me know my grades are my own, no matter what happens between us personally.”

“I’m old, Hermione. Far too old for someone as young and lovely as you.”

“Name one person my age with whom I could hold the kind of conversations we have, and then tell me I would be happy with someone who isn’t on my same level. Age is only a number, Minerva, and even if there was someone my age who had all of that, they would still be missing an integral ingredient: you. I,” she stumbled over the words. Should she tell her? Would it backfire this early? No, it was time. “I love you and not anyone else, and so why does it matter how old you are or how old I am?”

The tears that had been trickling down Minerva’s cheeks thickened and multiplied at Hermione’s words, making it difficult to speak. “Love?” was all she could manage.

“Yes, Minerva. Love. I love you. I’m in love with you. I’m so in love with you that it hurts when I’m forced away from you. I don’t expect you to feel the same yet, but a girl can hope, can’t she?”

“You silly, stupid fool. How could I not love you?” Minerva’s words came back with a vengeance and the tears dried up. “You are … you are everything I could have ever wanted to find in a partner and more. Merlin, I’ve been killing myself thinking it could never be, and all the while…”

“All the while, I was doing the same.” The silence stretched between them before being broken by Hermione’s tentative voice. “So … you love me, then?”

Minerva’s free hand rose and she turned to face Hermione, her hand reaching to caress her cheek. “Haven’t I just said so?”

“Technically, you called me a fool and…” Hermione’s cheeky diatribe was interrupted as Minerva leaned forward and captured her burgundy-painted lips with her own makeup-free ones. The contact lasted only a second or two before she pulled back and murmured, “Yes, Hermione. I love you.”

“Good.” Their lips met again, moving softly together. Their bodies melted together as the kiss deepened and went on, and the movie played unwatched in the background.

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

In the early dawn of Christmas morning, Hermione woke and smiled, remembering the previous night’s revelations and what had come after. She sat up and stretched languidly, working out the kinks that sleeping on the sofa had wrought in her muscles.

“Too early. Sleep, ‘Mione.” Minerva’s voice was soft and muffled with sleep, and Hermione thought she’d never heard anything more adorable.

“Happy Christmas, Minerva. I love you.”

One Holly-green eye peered out from behind its lid. “Too early,” she whined. “Sleep?”

“Nope. It’s Christmas morning and it’s snowing outside, and there are presents to open.”

“Bother.” Arms reached up lazily, tugging her back down to rest against Minerva’s chest, words coming out with a soft purr. “Love you, too. Happy Christmas. Sleep sounds nicer than presents though.”

“You forgot the snow. If you get up now, I promise you an excellent gift.”

The other eye popped open. “Snow’s cold. The bed’s warm, especially with you. Must I get up now to receive this gift? You’re enough for me.”

“Yep, you have to get up now or the present will be gone, as will I.”


An hour later, Hermione finally dragged Minerva out of their sofa bed, and applied heating charms to their clothes before leading the still-sleepy witch out into the courtyard, thickly covered with the still-falling Christmas snow. The cold seemed to shock her awake finally, and she watched as Hermione marched out into the sunshine and snow and threw her arms out, spinning in lazy circles just as she had three years earlier.

Minerva couldn’t help but step out and join in the Christmas fun, copying Hermione’s slow twirls, eyes closed and face turned up to soak in the early morning sun. They turned themselves in spirals for several long minutes before their hands brushed together, and Minerva gripped tightly to Hermione’s, pulling them together and turning their carefree whirls into a slow waltz, leading the woman she loved in a dance as old as time, lips coming together now and then in short pecks as they swayed to and fro.

In years to come, they were happy, remembering the ease with which they danced in the Christmas morning snow, kissing as they stepped and moved, and repeating the tradition every year. Christmas Eve was for the movie, always played in the same abandoned classroom, and Christmas Morning was their dance in the snow.

When asked, later in life, for a phrase to describe how they felt about each other and the life they’d built with each other, they would smile at each other as though there was a secret to the universe that only they knew, and reply, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

And it was.

=========WONDERFUL LIFE=========

** Image taken from Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan. 
“And this is how I see you, in the snow on Christmas morning. Love and happiness surround you as you throw your arms up to the sky. I keep this moment by and by.”

*** Line shamelessly stolen (and slightly modified) from Boardwalk Empire 1x05.
Margaret: Mr. Thompson. Was there something you wanted?
Nucky: I have no time for games, Margaret; no interest in them.
Margaret: …Margaret?
Nucky: *swoops in and kisses her breathless*