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Knotted Strings

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You've never been able to explain it; this inner magnetism between the two of you. You don't know if she feels it the way you do, but you don't think it matters much. She could be spitting hatred and vitriol at you and you still wouldn't be able to stay away.

It started when you were her student. You began to realize that on days when you weren't in her class, there was this tingling pain emanating from just behind the tough muscles of your heart. It felt as though there was a string attached to the tendons and veins holding your beating heart in place, and if you had to stay away from her for too long, it began to tug at itself until you laid eyes on her again.

You didn't understand this visceral response. She was your teacher. She was your mentor. She was a woman, of all things, and you'd never before thought of a woman like that. You still don't understand why this string behind your heart chose to attach its other end to her so tightly, but you've long since learned to accept it.

Now that you've left the classroom behind forever and she is no longer your professor, you fabricate ways to be in her presence. Once, you might have been able to use Order meetings as an excuse to soak in her brilliant presence, but with Voldemort dead and gone, there are no more meetings to hold.

So you begin to work in her field. You've always excelled in the subject, and the process of gaining your education gives you innumerable excuses to visit her, deep in the wilds of Scotland, where she reigns supreme over the school you all-too-recently left.

First, you tell her that your new Master is having you research the ways that Vertebrate creatures can be transfigured into Invertebrate ones, and the long-term effects of the transfiguration after they have been untransfigured back to their original form. While your textbooks and research materials have provided an excellent basis in Theory, you wondered if she could help you with the Practical aspect. You had been told, you lied, to be sure to have a good control of such transformations by the time you returned to him, but wanted to ensure that your grasp of the subject was complete without risking the life of a living creature by practicing in the presence of someone who could quickly fix anything you did incorrectly.

She agreed that it was a good idea, and offered her assistance in anything you needed over the course of your Apprenticeship. Of course, you never got it wrong. You never got anything wrong in any subject, but especially in this, the most important one of all.

Next, it was the ethical theory and practical applications behind changing an inanimate object into a living creature. Goblets into Rats, desks into Pigs, and to your never-ending amusement, balls of yarn into fluffy Kittens. Even in her presence, the string tugged uncomfortably when that particular subject caused her lips to twitch and her impossibly green eyes to glitter with the effort to not laugh. She was so beautiful with a bit of color in her cheeks.

Somewhere inside, you wondered if it was the idea of kittens frolicking around her quarters, or her own feline nature itching to play with the yarn which caused her such pleasure, but then the idea of her pleasure penetrated your concentration and you began to grow warm, face flushing bright red as you imagined her moaning your name, her long and graceful fingers tangled in your curly brown hair as you …

She'd interrupted your musings just as you were about to start panting, and you were equally thankful and annoyed for having to leave those thoughts behind before you acted on them.

The string pulls tightly as you think back to that day. It had been the first time you thought about the practical application of being with a woman the way everyone expected you to be with a man. It was something you'd heard about a little in the non-magical world, but you had seen no indications that it existed or was acceptable in the magical world.

After that meeting, you'd gone into research mode, interviewing some of your pure-blood friends, as it didn't seem like something that would be in any library books. Of course it happened from time to time, they'd all asserted, and there was no public shame anymore; it just wasn't talked about much, being something that was viewed as highly personal. Men who chose to be with other men or women who chose to be with other women were treated just the same as those who chose to be with someone of the opposite gender, and were afforded all the same rights.

The Wizarding world may be generations behind the Muggle one in some ways, but in at least this one area, they were years ahead. It was another reason you were happy to have finally been able to leave the world of your childhood behind, integrating seamlessly into the one to which you were introduced when you were eleven.

The following weekend had felt a bit like a betrayal, but you needed to know before continuing on your path of infatuation. There was a nightclub on one of the offshoots of Diagon Alley, and you'd gone, glamoured past the point of recognition; you were famous, after all, and you didn't want word to reach her before you were ready to confess yourself.

You didn't allow yourself to drink too much to remember what was to happen, but a tall woman across the room had caught your eye. Her hair was long and black with subtle streaks of dark purple glamoured in and it swayed sensually over her back and hips as she moved to the music. When she'd turned, you were equally relieved and disappointed that her eyes were the color of sapphires instead of the emeralds you longed for.

You'd taken her to a room over the Leaky Cauldron and learned how to play the female body. Every time she'd tried to reciprocate, the sharp tugging at your heart would increase, a burning sensation taking over, and you wouldn't allow it. Your tongue and your fingers might have gained some experience and knowledge that night, but the rest of you remained unsullied, waiting for her touch, although it may never come.

The next time you'd gone to see her, she'd stood in the door, looking amused, and you forgot the trumped-up reason you'd gone to see her. An eyebrow had arched sharply, silently asking why you were there. When you remained silent, searching those emerald pools for any idea of her inclinations, she'd sighed and stood to one side, allowing you to come in.

You'd shared a pot of tea and a selection of lightly-sweetened biscuits, talking late into the night. When you woke on her sofa the next morning, covered by a soft woolen tartan blanket, you were annoyed that you had fallen asleep and missed the way she'd doubtlessly sighed and covered you, leaving you to sleep before withdrawing to her bedroom to sleep herself.

You folded the blanket, neatly placing it on the sofa where you'd just been, and left without a word, the string tugging at your heart painfully, causing tears to flow with abandon.

The night of conversation without the pretense of help with your studies had been one of the best nights of your life. You knew you were hailed as the brightest witch of your age, but she had certainly been hailed the brightest of hers as well, and your intelligence was well-matched. The conversation between you flowed seamlessly between so many subjects that thinking about it afterward nearly made your head spin.

Even now, thoughts of that night cause a painful tug on your string. You need her in your life. Three years later, you'd grown closer as friends, and though you still made up reasons to go see her, you're sure she knows that you don't actually need her help. There have been a handful of conversations like that first one, each going so late into the night that you end up sleeping on her sofa, but you're always gone first thing the next morning, not wanting to disrupt her morning routine.

You hoard these memories as though they are diamonds or rubies, knowing that they are far more precious and valuable to you than the hard gemstones could ever be. She has never given any indication that she is aware of your growing feelings for her, although she has asked about your lack of romantic entanglements, expecting like the rest of the world that you and Ron would marry so you could pop out a couple kids, forsaking a career to stay home and raise them.

It was a dream from your third year that had quickly dissipated once you'd reached sixth year and much of his time had been spent with his tongue in Lavender's mouth. It had been a heartbreaking realization, followed quickly by the appearance of the knotted string behind your heart that pulled you toward your stoic head of house. It remains an impossible situation, but one with which you are learning to live. She may never return your feelings, and you may never choose to act on them, but being her friend is, for now, enough.

=======================HG/MM=======================

Several months pass, and you're reaching the end of your Apprenticeship, and thus reaching the end of your contrived excuses to go and visit the Headmistress in her castle. You apparate to the gates of the school, a touch to the gates' crest allowing you entrance by special dispensation. The string has been tugging at you insistently, prompting you to come up with a flimsy excuse to go and see her.

You enter the castle by pressing a hand to the hidden crest, again having been given special permission by the object of your unfailing affections, the doors swinging silently open and then closing behind you. The tugging becomes more adamant and you frown as you pick up the pace, finding that you can run much faster than you thought as you slide to a stop before the portrait that guards the entrance to her private chambers.

Without waiting for permission or a password, the portrait slides up to allow you access, a fact which scares you, and your heart begins to thump a quick staccato rhythm in your chest, the string almost physically tangible for the first time.

Something is wrong.

You see a lump on the floor, and your heart drops from your chest, all moisture fleeing from your mouth. You rush to her side, noticing her grey complexion and blue lips. Oh gods. You struggle to remember the CPR training your parents had insisted upon when you told them about the war and its dangers. You check for a pulse, your own heart nearly stopping when you don't find one, although her skin is still warm, so it hasn't been long stopped. You conjure up a small mirror and hold it in front of her mouth, but no breath fogs its shiny surface.

The training all comes back in a rush. You get her into position and begin compressions. Thirty times in quick succession, followed by two deep breaths into her lungs. You go back for another round of compressions, tears now flowing unheeded down your cheeks. Two more second-long breaths later, you think to grab your wand and send a Patronus to Poppy, telling her to get her arse to Minerva's rooms NOW. You check for a pulse and still find nothing. Panic begins to set in, but you work through it and begin another set of compressions, followed by two more breaths. There is still no response and your tears thicken and multiply. She cannot die before you tell her how you feel. She can't. Two rounds later, she finally gasps and her heart starts beating again.

Knowing there is nothing more you can do until the Mediwitch arrives, you bury your head on her stomach, soaking through her robes with your tears. A moment later, you hear the portrait slide up and Poppy runs into the room, barking orders at you.

You scramble backward, coming to rest against the end of the sofa, getting out of her way. You tell her that you got her heart beating and her breathing again, but that you didn't know what caused it, that she had been lying on the floor when you arrived.

She thanks you and begins waving her wand with a quick efficiency of movement, diagnostic spells soaking into her skin the way your tears had soaked her robes. A grim look passes over her face, and she reaches down to raise the long robes above prone knees. You gasp when you see the egg-sized lump protruding from her shin and the massive bruise surrounding it.

"Blood clot. Looks like a small piece worked its way to her heart and caused the cardiac arrest. Luckily enough, it's easy to take care of with a bit of magic. I only hope we caught it in time." Poppy's eyes raise to look into your scared ones. "You saved her life, Hermione. By the time anyone else would have found her, it would have been too late."

You swallow past the lump in your throat and manage to whisper, not realizing what you're saying. "I had to come. The damn string wouldn't leave me alone until I'd made up some excuse to be here."

You don't notice the shock registering on her face as you mention the string, but she shakes it off anyway, getting to work on the blood clot in Minerva's leg. Minutes later, the lump is gone, and Poppy is rubbing some bruise paste into the affected area. You watch as the bruises start to fade, smooth alabaster skin quickly replacing the purple-black hue that had overtaken it. You are still sitting with your back against the sofa, knees drawn up in front of you with your arms tightly wrapped around them, but your tears have begun to finally slow, confident that she would live under Poppy's care.

The Mediwitch asks for your help to get Minerva into her bed, and you scramble to your feet, eager to help. Before Poppy can begin to cast levitation charms on the woman's body, you lean down and pick up her frail frame, cradling her softly and carefully in your arms for the first time, and carry her through the door you've never been through before, stopping at her bedside and waiting as Poppy bustles through the doorway behind you, waving her wand to turn back the blankets, and you gently deposit your precious cargo onto its soft surface. Your hand unconsciously brushes a couple of loose pieces of hair from her face, tucking it back behind her ear by trailing along her temple with your fingertips. You are overcome with the urge to press a kiss to that temple, but you realize as you lower your head just an inch that Poppy is watching you curiously.

You blush lightly and reach for your wand, transfiguring her heavy robes into a comfortably modest cotton nightgown and pulling the thick blankets to cover her so she doesn't become chilled while she sleeps.

"I think we need to have a chat." Madam Pomfrey's words frighten you a bit, and you know that you have already shown too much of how you feel for this woman. Having already shown your cards, you shrug in her direction before giving in to your earlier urge to lean down to press a soft kiss against Minerva's temple, knowing you would never dare to do so if she was conscious. You mutter a couple of words, and the pins have been removed from her hair, the long black mass unwinding to fall across her pillows. You want desperately to bury your fingers and nose in it, but Poppy is still watching you, so you settle for the liberties you've already taken and place the hairpins on the bedside table.

Ensuring that she looked comfortable, you nod your head sharply toward the sitting room, and the two of you withdraw to it, leaving Minerva sleeping peacefully in her bed.

You flop into one of the tall wing-back chairs in front of the fire, the situation catching up with you and exhaustion washes over your bones. You see Poppy settle daintily into the chair opposite your own where Minerva normally sits during your visits, and the action illogically irks you. That is Minerva's chair.

"Hermione we need to talk about this."

"About what?" You say, flippantly, knowing exactly what she's talking about.

"Your obvious feelings for her."

"She is my friend, Poppy. There is nothing more to it." There can be nothing more to it. She is straight as a pin and you are anything but, and all that can exist is friendship.

"That may be, but you want more, don't you?"

You feel anger that she has so easily seen through you after years of fooling Minerva, and bitterness takes over your voice. "Does it really matter? She… I… There is only friendship."

Her head shakes slowly. "I forget sometimes that you were raised as a Muggle. You are so well integrated into the magical world, but Hermione, there are gaps in your knowledge, and these gaps will never be filled in a library."

"I am aware that my," you stumble over trying to find the right words, "situation – my feelings – are not terribly unusual in the Wizarding world, and that there are no legal or social impediments to such relationships. I asked around when I first started realizing what it was that I feel for her. It does not, however, change her own feelings on the subject, and she has never intimated to me any hint of desire to be more than friends, therefore, that is where we stand. Friends."

"To be as smart as you are, Hermione, you're clueless." You look at her and arch an eyebrow up questioningly, causing her to laugh quickly and quietly before continuing on. "I'm glad that you at least took the time to ask about that, but it's not what I was talking about. It's good you've done a bit of research. It tells me that you're serious about this and that it's not a passing fancy, which from what you said earlier, I already knew.

"As I said, children raised in a magical home by magical parents are normally taught about this through fairytales, myths, and legends that we pass down – very much in the manner of the book you received from Albus after his death. Wizarding children are raised on tales of the Deathly Hallows and the other stories contained in Beedle's anthology, but you and Harry were placed at a disadvantage in that hunt because you were not.

"It's not uncommon for Muggle-born witches and wizards to therefore fall into the same pattern you have, and just not know what's going on, whereas a child raised in the magical world would know immediately when the first symptom appeared."

You look at her, not knowing exactly what she is talking about, but are curious to find out.

"Oh, I know. You don't know to what I'm referring and it has you confused, but I am about to explain. You mentioned earlier that "the damn string" forced you to come here today. How is the string feeling now?"

Your eyes open wide, surprised that you had made reference to it, and shocked by her admission that it was real and not imagined. You concentrate on the string for a moment, feeling contentment stemming from it. "Safe. Warm. Content."

She nods. "Because you are close to her, and because you know now that she is safe. Had events conspired to keep you away and you hadn't been here to save her, it would be a much different story. You would be in unbearable pain, likely with physical ramifications of the string's forced removal: a cracked or smashed rib, internal bleeding, and sometimes a small puncture wound on your chest. That is what happens when one's heartstring is forcibly severed."

"Heartstring? I thought that was just something from Muggle poetry."

"It may well be, but the idea it stems from is quite real, especially in the magical world. Sometimes – and this is extremely rare, mind – sometimes there is a bond between two people which forms quite without their knowing. It is most often seen where there are nearly insurmountable differences between the two people whom destiny decides are made for each other, not having another way to persuade them of their compatibility.

"It's called a Heartstring Connection. In essence, destiny ties one of her threads to two hearts, one end to each heart. It is able to stretch as far as necessary to allow each person to live their own life, but until the two hearts are joined in love, there will be a feeling of discord and unease whenever they are parted.

"If one of the pair is born and matures before the other, they will always feel aloof toward other people, and are usually seen to be stoic and unemotional. They feel adrift, as though they know that they should be tied down to someone else and yet are not.

"Many things I have known and observed of Minerva over the years make much more sense now. We were at school together during the war with Grindelwald, and have known each other all our lives since then, and I can tell you for certain that she has never been attached to anyone romantically. Soon after term began in 1979, she came to me, complaining of a terrible pain that had pierced her chest. I could find no evidence of its existence, and so told her it was likely only indigestion, and suggested she stay away from her spiced biscuits for a few days. Now, I understand that it was this bond cementing when you were born, as your birthday is soon after term starts, is it not?"

You nod, staring blankly at her as you learn about the woman you've come to love.

"As I thought. Many times over your years at school, she would come to me complaining of similar pains, and especially on the night you became petrified by the Basilisk. I just never put it together because she never mentioned it feeling like a string as you did earlier."

"So she feels pain when I'm in danger?"

"Yes, and you feel pain when she's in danger."

"But I didn't always. I was worried for her when she took those Stunners during my OWL exams, but I didn't feel any kind of crippling pain or even anything like I felt today."

"How old were you when you took your OWLs?"

You think back for a moment. "Sixteen."

She nods. "You weren't yet of age. If that same attack had happened only a few months later, you would have been dropped to your knees, if not knocked unconscious."

The implications are startling. Had Minerva known all this time that you were bonded in such a manner? Your eyes close in shame. Had she known through this connection the night you'd spent with the other black-haired, blue-eyed woman? You remember that smug smirk and raised eyebrow when you'd shown up at her door, and are convinced that she knew something, if not everything. Oh gods.

However much embarrassment you may feel over that, it is quickly replaced with the realization that it means Minerva has feelings for you as well, and this realization is accompanied by the blood rushing from your head, leaving you feeling light-headed and giddy. She loves you as much as you love her. She has to have known her feelings long before you ever thought about your own.

Oh, the time you have both wasted.

You vow not to waste anymore of the precious substance that makes up life.

You talk with Poppy a little longer before she leaves for her supper, letting you know that you may call a House-Elf for some supper of your own. She suggests that you head on home after you eat, but you have no intentions of doing that. You do order up a plate and eat its contents quickly, washing it all down with a small glass of pumpkin juice, refilling the glass with conjured clear water and drinking it quickly.

You steel your spine and walk into Minerva's bedroom, checking to be sure that she's still sleeping peacefully. She is, and has barely moved since you left her here earlier. You are entranced by the softness that sleep brings to her features, and by the long spill of hair where you freed it over the pillows. Checking the time, you find that it's still a little early, but you're tired and refuse to leave her to wake alone, not knowing what happened to her.

You transfigure your blouse and trousers into soft cotton pajamas, thinking for a moment before hanging your outer robe on a convenient peg on the outside of her wardrobe door. You see another door and find your way into the bathroom, quickly taking care of business there as well before returning to the bedroom.

You climb into the large bed beside the woman you love, ensuring that you lie far enough away to keep from touching her in your sleep and causing her any pain or discomfort. You whisper Nox to kill the lights and tuck your wand under your appropriated pillow, and fall asleep with the most contented feeling you've ever felt from your knotted string.

=======================HG/MM=======================

You awake to a curious thrumming from your string. Your eyes drift open and fall on the deep green eyes of your paramour. You smile and see the crinkles forming at the corners as she smiles in return.

"Good morning." You say softly.

"Good morning."

"How are you feeling?" You see a flash of confusion on her face. She doesn't know what happened.

"I feel fine, as always. Should I not?"

You feel hot tears welling up in your eyes, threatening to spill over. "Minerva. You… for all intents and purposes, you died yesterday. I showed up on a whim and found you just in time to restart your heart and get you breathing again. Poppy said it was a blood clot in your leg and a piece broke off to lodge in your heart, stopping it. She disbursed the clot and got rid of the bruising, but you'll have to be careful for a couple of days."

You can see the fear and worry taking over her features, and you reach a hand over to cup her cheek. "You'll be fine. I made it in time."

Tears begin to spill over onto her cheeks, prompting your own to begin falling. Your hand moves from her cheek to run over her side and to her back, pulling her closer to you. You can feel her resist for a few seconds before she gives in and tucks herself into your chest as your hand begins to trace soft circles and swirls along her spine, comforting her. Your other hand reaches from where your arm is arched over her head, your own head pillowed on the bicep, and you start stroking your fingers through her silky smooth hair, going from the crown of her head down over her neck to the first curve of her spine over and over, whispering soft words of comfort into her ear, allowing her to cry out her grief.

Finally, she begins to calm down and pulls her head back to look deep into your eyes, faces only a couple of inches apart. Your hands still in their movements and the tension in the air ratchets up. Finally, she sniffles and whispers to you, "For once I'm glad of our connection, and I'm glad you made it in time. I wouldn't want you to feel that kind of pain."

"Don't you know, Minerva? I've been in pain for years, waiting for you to make a move, waiting for my chance with you. Why did you never say anything? You must have known why I kept coming to visit. Poppy never put it together, but I fail to see how you could have done the same if you feel what I feel when we're apart." You feel anger and hurt that she has left you to wallow in this state for so long when she could have made everything better.

"Oh, Hermione." She sighs. "I've waited my entire life for you. What was a couple more years to give you time to decide if I was what you truly wanted? I had to be sure you were ready. I planned to say something after you finish with your Mastery if you didn't work up the courage before then."

You are mollified by her words, and as she finishes speaking, her tongue darts out to moisten her lips. Your eyes are drawn to the point of contact, unconsciously mirroring the gesture, and you hear as her breath sharply draws in through her nose. You both move forward and your lips meet for the first time, softly, gently, the contact light as a feather. Her eyes flicker closed, followed by your own, and the light pressure grows, noses edging against each other as your mouths move in tandem, lips gaining pressure with every movement until you feel the tip of her tongue tickle your lower lip. Your eyes open and find that she is staring at you intently. You continue to stare at each other as the kiss deepens when her tongue finds its way between your parted lips and teeth. Someone groans at the increased contact, and you can't quite figure out which of you it is.

As your tongues caress each other, eyes flutter closed again and you both lose yourselves in the kiss. You feel the string between you almost vibrating with pleasure and contentment, and it sends jolts of desire to pool low in your belly, the deeper kiss beginning to stoke a bright, hot fire that rushes through your body, setting you alight. Her hands have found their way to your side and work underneath the cotton of your transfigured pajama top. They feel cool after the rush of burning desire, pebbling the skin underneath into goosebumps, and this time you know it is you who moans when those cool hands slide around to glide up your bare back, ice and fire rising together in their path.

Somewhere, instinctively, you know that today is not the day to fully explore, but as the kiss rages on, you bury one hand in the dark mass that has always driven you crazy, daily put up into the tight bun so that nobody is ever aware of just how sexy it makes your witch look. You smile lightly into the kiss at the thought of her being yours, knowing that it is now irrevocably true – the same way that you will be hers, now and forever.

You hear a grumble coming from her stomach, and laughter finally breaks the kiss off. Your hand trails down her arm, gently dislodging her hold on you and shivering at the loss of her touch as you sit up. "Breakfast then?"

Her lips twitch as she raises herself to sit. "Indeed."

You laugh at her again before calling for a House-Elf, asking for two breakfast trays. He returns with them momentarily, and you sit together for breakfast in bed. As the last bits of the food are being consumed, you notice her squirming.

"No need to be modest, Minerva. If you need to use the facilities, then go do it. I promise not to let the idea of you being human keep me from thinking about just how sexy you are." You tease her, waiting to see the blush spread across her cheeks.

There it is. She looks down nervously. "It's not that. Well, it is that, but not for the reasons you suppose. My leg is hurting and I'm unsure that I'll be able to make it."

You get serious quickly. "Let me see."

She pulls the blankets over and off, and her leg is revealed to your eyes for the first time since you placed her in the bed yesterday. The bruise is back with a vengeance, and it appears that there is another, much smaller lump lower down on her calf from where the big one had been.

Fear washes over you and you grab your wand, sending an urgent Patronus to Poppy, telling her she is needed as soon as possible. You are unsure as to the protocol on movement when it comes to clots, but her squirming is getting worse, and you are worried that she'll embarrass herself soon if you don't do something.

So you get up, round the bed, and swing her back up into your arms, carrying her into the bathroom and depositing her on the toilet. You tell her that you are not going to leave her alone until things can be checked out, so she might as well just get it over with. For modesty's sake, you do turn your back, and try not to concentrate on the noises coming from behind you. When you hear the sound of flushing, you turn and pick her back up, taking her back to bed. When she is safely back on its plush surface, you conjure up a shallow basin and halfway fill it with warm water, bringing some soap from the bathroom, and allow her to wash her hands, vanishing the basin and the dirty water when she's finished.

Just a minute later, you hear the portrait granting entrance to Poppy, and she bustles into the bedroom, missing half a step when she sees you both still in your sleepwear. She inquires as to the state of her patient, and when you show her what you found, a grim look takes over her face.

"This isn't a good sign. Have you tried standing?"

Minerva's cheeks turn a little red as you explain that you carried her to the toilet, not wanting to risk the clot breaking free and wreaking the same havoc as the day before.

She nods. "It's a good idea, but I need to see if she can stand unassisted before I proceed."

You hold Minerva's hand as she swings her legs over the edge of the bed and tries to stand. Her injured left leg is unable to bear her weight, and you catch her before she hits the floor, carefully lifting her back into the bed.

Poppy sighs. "This is definitely not a good sign, but it's nothing we can't take care of in time. First things first, however. Let's take care of this clot and we'll go from there. Hermione, if you don't mind, I need to be where you are."

You let go of her right hand with a quick squeeze, going around and settling onto the bed beside her, this time taking up her left hand, feeling the string hum at the renewed contact.

Poppy looks at the two of you with a soft look in her eyes before getting to work. There is a more complicated series of diagnostic spells today, and she begins to work on dissipating the smaller clot before handing you a tub of bruise paste, telling you to rub it into the affected area while she works on interpreting the diagnostics results. You move down and place Minerva's foot in your lap and do what Poppy tells you, watching as the bruises slowly fade to the flawless skin you love.

After all the bruising is gone, you continue to massage the muscles of her calf, thumbs brushing against the arch of her knee a couple of times, eliciting a hiss.

"Minerva, why is your heart beating so quickly?" Poppy looks down at you disapprovingly, slapping your hand away. "The bruises are gone, Hermione. Quit distracting my patient."

You both blush lightly at the rebuke, and you return to sit by her side, pulling her hand back tightly into yours, staring at the Mediwitch defiantly. She sighs and rolls her eyes before delving back into the spell results. Several minutes pass and finally the holographic imagery fades, the diagnosis complete.

"Well, I'm not sure why, but your blood is running a bit too thick, and that's what keeps causing the clots to form. It looks like the one yesterday cut off circulation to your lower leg and foot for a bit too long, and there's some damage there, which is why you couldn't stand. I'm going to put you on a daily blood-thinning potion, and recommend that you stay off your feet as much as possible while still doing some physical therapy to help restore your mobility. At least at first, you will need to be in a wheeled chair to get around. Staying in bed won't help as much as it will hurt, but you shouldn't attempt to walk on your own for a while."

She looks at you pointedly. "She will need help, Hermione, and this castle is not made for those who cannot walk."

You feel a twinge of anger through your string, knowing that it is coming from her.

"Just because you're my Healer, Poppy, doesn't mean you get to take over control of my life." She snaps out. "Whether or not I leave the school's premises is up to me and only me, and what happens between Hermione and me is between the two of us, and again, not up to you."

You think she's beautiful in her righteous anger, and you pull your clasped hands up, pressing a kiss to the back of hers, drawing her attention away from Poppy and over to you.

"Of course you're in charge." You press another kiss to her hand. "And of course, wherever you go while you recuperate – whether it's here or wherever – I will go if you'll have me. I wouldn't have anyone else taking care of you."

Her eyes soften as she looks at you. "I can't ask you to give up your life to look after me, Hermione."

"You aren't asking. I'm offering, and," you pause and cast a furtive glance at Poppy, who seems shocked by the turn of your conversation, deciding to go ahead with what you want to say despite her presence. She already knows about your Heartstring Connection anyway. "I would not be giving up anything, Minerva. You are my life, so if something was to happen to you, that's when my life would be over."

Her free hand reaches up to cup your cheek, and when she speaks, her voice is thick with emotion. "Then I accept. And as much as I hate to agree with Poppy on anything concerning time off from work or my health in general, if I'm to be confined to a chair for a time, I won't be able to continue living here. There are just no accommodations for such a contraption with all the moving staircases."

"Then where shall we go?" You are both studiously ignoring Poppy and her looks of shock and outrage.

"I own a cottage close to where I grew up. It has only one floor and only a few rooms, but it shall suffice."

"What about the school? Doesn't it need its Headmistress?"

"Filius can handle everything in my absence. It's nearly time for the summer holidays anyway. There isn't much left to do for this term, and the staff can do quite well without me for a while."

"I'm glad to know you think so highly of us." Poppy's indignant voice pierces the bubble you've been in for the last several minutes, and you both turn your heads toward her, Minerva's hand falling from your cheek back into her lap.

"As I was saying, a daily blood-thinning potion until we can figure out why your blood is so much thicker than it should be, exercise and physical therapy, but stay off your feet and in a wheel chair for a while. I'll keep an eye on you if you just let me know where you'll be, and I will arrange for a physical therapist." Her grey eyes flash. "Is that acceptable with you? Since I don't control your life, that is."

Your heart string thrums happily when Minerva chuckles at her remarks. "Yes, Poppy, yes. It's all perfectly acceptable. Whatever it takes to get me well and back on my feet."

"I'll send up your first dose of blood-thinning potion around lunch. It should be taken with food, and around the same time each day."

"Thank you, Poppy. I know I'm far from the best patient, but I shall do my best."

Poppy looks at you both cynically before taking her leave. You get both of you dressed in something more presentable than nightwear, she charms her hair back into its signature bun, and you carry her out to the sitting room and settle her into her chair by the fire, happy that you keep up with a good strength-building exercise regimen and enjoying the close contact that carrying her brings.

Comfortable and presentably dressed, Minerva sends for Filius, her Charms instructor and Deputy Headmaster, filling him in on what will need to happen over the next months. He seems surprised to see you standing behind Minerva's chair as he takes the one you normally occupy, but quickly gets over it as the old friends work out the logistics of her having to take a medical leave and what it will mean for him and the rest of the staff. He tells her he is happy to help out, but is sorry to hear that she is so unwell. His eyes flicker up to you again, but he says nothing to or about you, choosing the path of decorum.

You spend the next week at Hogwarts, making all the preparations for her leave. You contact your Master and let him know that the rest of your work will need to be done by correspondence so you can care an ill family member. He doesn't know you mean your … girlfriend? lover? partner? You don't know what to call her, but whatever title you choose to end up employing, you have still not lied to him. She is your family now.

You go back to your little flat and clear it of all your personal possessions. Books are carefully packed into boxes, shrunk, and placed in the expanded pocket of your beaded bag. The flat had come furnished, and you'd only added a couple of extra bookshelves, which you vanish, knowing they can always be conjured again if Minerva's cottage has need of them. Your clothes and toiletries are shrunk, packed into a small suitcase, which is then likewise shrunk and thrown into the bag with everything else. One last box is filled with framed photos and your memorabilia before following the same path as the rest of your possessions. You have a chat with your landlord and give the flat up, knowing you will never return to it.

You spend every night in bed with Minerva, the two of you cuddled together in the center of the large bed, and your string has never been more relaxed and happy. You go no further than kisses and wandering hands in deference to her recovery, but there is a certain feeling of intimacy that surpasses sex.

The week eventually ends, and the two of you make a quick, quiet escape from the castle, heading for her cottage. At the gates, you swing her up into your arms and she shrinks the chair, depositing it into her pocket before wrapping her arms firmly around your neck and apparating the two of you even further North than you have ever been.

The cottage sits on the raised bank of a loch, well-traveled dirt footpaths leading down and away toward a small village that you can see in the distance. There is a neglected vegetable garden on one side, filled with dead plants and weeds, but the view is picturesque and the hills are covered with purple heather, scenting the air nicely. The cottage itself doesn't look like much, whitewashed stucco with a wooden door and shuttered windows and what appeared to be a thatch roof.

Minerva tosses her chair and enlarges it, and you settle her down into it, spreading a thin lap-blanket over her legs. You tell her that the cottage is beautiful, but that nothing can compare to her own beauty, prompting her to blush lightly, which only serves to further accentuate her high cheekbones and shining eyes.

Inside the cottage is something that surely cannot be. There is a spacious living room, tastefully furnished, a separate room for the kitchen with an eat-in dining area, two large bedrooms, and a bathroom that would rival the prefect's bathroom at Hogwarts in both size and luxury.

"It's … bigger on the inside." You stutter out.

"Yes. I made it that way. I wanted a comfortable place to come when I needed to escape the pressures of the school, but I didn't want to enlarge it on the outside and ruin the effect the small cottage by the loch has. Wizarding tents use the same enchantments; I just made them somewhat more permanent."

"I think it's lovely and perfect. Just like you."

Another blush rises on her cheeks. "Hermione I am neither lovely nor perfect. I'm old, getting older, and embarking on a relationship with a much younger woman while trying to recuperate from some damnable disease that nearly killed me. I'm still not sure of the logic behind it all, to be honest, and I don't know that any of it will work, but I do know that I love you, and whatever time I have left, I want to spend with you."

You feel the string inside your chest growing and expanding and you walk over to kneel in front of her chair, taking her hands in your own. "I'm not sure there is logic behind it at all, but since when has logic ever made headway when it comes to love? It will work, Minerva, because you love me and I love you, and for the rest of our lives, I will never stop."

There is a loud thrumming sound, and you both gasp as the string connecting you finally settles into place with the dual admissions of love.

As it finishes snapping and settling, you stand and carry her to one of the bedrooms, where you finally allow yourselves the trusting comfort of full intimacy. You bring her quivering body over the edge several times, glad for the small amount of practice you'd had, as you are able to make her body positively sing. Finally, she has had enough and takes control, giving back to you what you've just given her in spades, the pleasure taking over and your mind disappearing in a haze of desire and satiation. Just when you think you can take no more, she settles against you and you both rock together, finding mutual satisfaction and screaming out your orgasms together before curling up together under the mussed blankets and giving in to sleep.

=======================HG/MM=======================

The late spring moves into early summer. Your days are spent with her. Three days a week, she has her physical therapy, and you take that time to work on your final lessons. Every day, no matter the weather – imperturbable charms are a lifesaver – you set out with her on a walk down to and through the village, pushing her chair along at a languid pace. Your nights are spent in bed, sometimes giving in to your desires, and sometimes simply falling asleep holding each other. It is a peaceful and happy time for both of you, settling into life as two bonded in love.

Between the potion regimen, the frequent walks you take, and the therapy she endures, she begins to get stronger. Mid-way through June, Poppy appears for one of her biweekly visits with a fresh two-week supply of the blood-thinning potion and says that she has talked to the therapist and they agree that Minerva is ready to begin trying to walk with a cane. She is told not to overdo things and to keep her chair around just in case, but she can start trying.

You are both elated at the news. Poppy still manages to look at you both disapprovingly, but she is the one who educated you on the nature of your bond, and so you stare back at her until she blushes lightly and gets back to the job she came to do. She doesn't know for sure just how intimate you two have become, and in your mind, that is just how it should be. It isn't something that's anyone business but yours and Minerva's.

You are tired of the judgmental looks, and when Poppy gets ready to leave, you pull her to one side, knowing Minerva can hear you, but wanting to say what needs to be said.

"Poppy, I'm going to say this only once, so I want you to listen well. You are the one who told me about the Heartstring Connection that we share. You know that we are deeply in love, and beyond that, our relationship is none of your business." She starts to open her mouth to interrupt, but a lightning flash appears in your eye, and she closes it.

"I don't know about Minerva, but I'm sick to death of you coming here and looking at us as though this is something illicit and forbidden. There is nothing wrong with our relationship, so stop it. I am here because I want to be here and because, if you recall, you suggested it. Come here, do your job, be her friend – and mine if you think you can stand the idea – and then go home. We do not require your approval to be who we are and to share what we share, but I will not put up with this blatant disapproval and disrespect any longer."

"Well said." You hear Minerva chime in from the other side of the room.

"I apologize to both of you. That was never my intention, and I do support your relationship. I simply let my own curiosity get in the way at times. I wanted to be sure that you're both happy with your situation and that you're settling together well. That's all. I'm sorry if it looked like something it wasn't."

You aren't sure whether to take her word as truth, but when you glance back at Minerva, you see acceptance on her face, and so you allow yourself to feel the same.

You thank her for her excellent work in healing Minerva and for the potions delivery, and with one last regretful look in your direction, she leaves.

The next week is filled with longer, slower walks as Minerva tries to adjust to walking with the cane. The months you've spent in the cottage with your daily strolls through the village have given the two of you a name. You chat with the locals while you walk, and you know there is some speculation amongst the gossipy contingent as to the nature of your relationship. Some think that she is your mother, some think you're just a close friend helping her convalesce, and others have the splendidly correct idea that you're lovers. Of course, you never address the rumor mill. As you told Poppy, it's nobody's business but your own.

Another week passes, and you find that you're both in need of some supplies from Diagon Alley. She wants to try to make the trip with only her cane, but you shrink her chair and bring it along anyway. She takes your arm and you Apparate both of you to the Magical part of London. She takes the landing a bit hard, and you notice her wincing after a few steps.

"Do you need the chair?" You ask gently. She nods, pain obvious on her face. You pull the chair out and enlarge it, helping her sit comfortably and spreading the thin blanket you keep with the chair over her lap and legs, tucking the cane into a special socket for it along the wicker back of the old-fashioned wheelchair.

Many of the shops aren't set up to allow her chair entry, so you dart in and out of each shop, picking up the items you need while she sits outside, soaking up the warmth of a southern summer sun. You come out of Scribbulus with a shrunken order of parchment, ink, and quills to find her in conversation with Professor Pomona Sprout and her new Apprentice, Neville Longbottom. Pomona and Neville tease you about being McGonagall's little gopher, and you laugh along with them, knowing that they actually know nothing about your relationship with their Headmistress. Only Poppy was truly aware of what was going on, and even she didn't know everything.

They walk with you, keeping Minerva company as you pop in and out of several more shops. When you've finished all your shopping, you wheel her back down to the Apparition point, and in a long-practiced gesture, you swing her up into your arms while she shrinks the chair. You can see the shock and surprise on Neville and Pomona's faces at the intimate position as Minerva's arms wrap tightly around your neck. Not addressing the situation at all, you both bid them farewell and apparate home.

Putting your purchases away as she rests in a comfortable chair by the fire, you discuss what happened with her leg that morning, and you both come to the conclusion that it was the jarring landing from apparition rather than any further complications, and you decide that for the foreseeable future, if you must travel, it will be with Minerva firmly in your arms rather than trying to stand.

=======================HG/MM=======================

Another month passes, and she is doing much better. She still has to use the cane, but can walk further and faster than she could at first, and rarely has to resort to the chair in the middle of your daily strolls anymore. Her increased physical abilities have transferred to your nightly activities as well, and you find yourselves succumbing to your passions nearly every night now. Your bond string never gives you any trouble since you became this close, but it is still always there, warm and comforting, just like Minerva.

You have just submitted your final assignment to your Transfiguration Master, and should be receiving your certification notice any day.

You suggest to her that you take a day trip to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts so she can check in and make sure that all the pre-term arrangements are being taken care of. There is only one month before the new term begins, and you know there must be a lot going on.

She agrees, and you lift her gently, apparating to Hogsmeade. You stroll through the magical village for an hour before making your way up the path to the school's gates, noticing that they open without a touch for their Headmistress. You make the trip up to her office slowly, but she doesn't appear to have many problems with the numerous stairs.

You are met at the Gargoyle entrance by Filius Flitwick, who again seems surprised to see you with Minerva, but he greets you warmly and the three of you enter her office to sit down for tea. The two friends discuss the pre-term arrangements, and both you and Minerva are pleased to discover that he has ably taken care of everything.

Everything is ready for her return a week before the start of term, and Filius doesn't react when you and Minerva start talking about plans to move the contents of the cottage back to the Head's Quarters, using plural pronouns like 'we' and 'us' and 'our'.

You decide to go for a walk around the school rather than waiting until you get back to the cottage. Filius joins you, and you enjoy convivial conversation as the three of you make your way through dusty corridors filled with unused classrooms and dormitories. Minerva begins to lean on you more and more, the longer you walk, and you start to offer to bring out her chair when your noses are hit with an awful stench. One of the abandoned classrooms in this third-floor corridor has become home to one of the Weasley Twins' portable swamps, and it is complete with alligators. You find yourself a little too close to the snappish ancient beasts, and your string makes its presence known as the alligator's teeth nearly bite your ankle off. You step away just in time, and notice that Minerva's hand is over her heart, just as yours is.

You see recognition flash in Flitwick's eyes, followed by love and affection and acceptance. The three of you work together, and soon the swamp is completely vanished. You remind yourself to have a long chat with George next time you see him.

Minerva was already feeling weak, and the effort of helping to vanish the swamp after the tug on your heartstrings is enough for her to ask for her chair. You settle her into it lovingly and push her along until you reach the grand staircases. You know Minerva is still not recovered enough to make it down three flights of stairs, so you follow your heart and your habits and swing her up into your arms. As a testament to how tired she is, she doesn't object and tucks her face into your neck, clinging tightly to you.

Filius shrinks the chair for you and carries it in his hand while you make your way down the stairs and out the front door. On the dirt path once again, he enlarges the chair and you settle her back into it. You thank him for his assistance and say your farewells, pushing her down to the gates. Once on the other side, you ask if she can stand for a minute, and she says she can. She stands from the chair, and you shrink it this time yourself, placing it in your own pocket before cradling her back up against your chest and apparating home.

When the new term begins, nobody bats an eye when you show up with Minerva and move into her quarters. At the last minute, the current Transfiguration teacher has to leave for a family emergency, and you take up the post. Over the next year, she makes a full recovery and is able to finally stop the blood-thinning potions. She no longer needs her cane, and is back to her spry, youthful self.

You hear the rumors circulating about the two of you, and you don't pay any of them any heed. You and she know what you share, and that's all that matters. Filius and Pomona, Poppy, and Neville all know the truth. Filius worked it out with the swamp incident and told Pomona, who agrees that you make a lovely couple. Neville figured it for himself after he saw how close you were in Diagon Alley that day, and Pomona confirmed it to him when he asked. Poppy, of course, knew all along. You are not terribly close with the rest of the staff, and therefore, their opinions don't matter. Filius, Pomona, and Poppy are Minerva's oldest friends, and Neville is one of yours, and you receive loving support from each of them.

You finally sit down with Harry, Ginny, and Ron one day close to Christmas and explain that you and Minerva are together, though you do not go into detail on the Heartstring Connection. They are supportive and happy for you, and agree to your terms to not tell anyone until it is time to do so.

The next June, when the term is over, the two of you retreat to your cottage and plan an exclusive event. Your closest friends and certain members of the Order are invited, and all the rumors are finally laid to rest when the small gathering turns out to be your wedding. You marry the love of your life with the scent of heather rolling off the hills, the splashing of the loch coming from behind the cottage, and the applause of your friends and adopted families sounding loudly around you. George brings some fairly tame fireworks and sets those off as she leans down to kiss you at the end of the ceremony.

There is another loud thrumming from your strings as the kiss breaks off and you look into each other's eyes lovingly, causing gasps from the congregated guests as they realize what the sound means. Ginny has to whisper the meaning to Harry, as he – like you – had been raised by Muggles.

The celebration goes on late into the night, and you finally kick the last few guests out so that you can carry your wife into the bedroom and ravish her delectable body as you tell her over and over how much you love her.

=======================HG/MM=======================

The years pass, and you remain as blissfully happy as you were the day you realized that your feelings were not one-sided after all. She has rough days with her leg from time to time, but you never mind swinging her into your arms and carrying her where she needs to go. You do it sometimes even when she doesn't need you to, because you enjoy the feeling of her comfortable weight in your arms.

You teach. She is the Headmistress. The Wizarding world enters a golden era of peace, prosperity, and growth, prompting more of those dusty unused classrooms and dormitories to be pressed into use, and more staff to be hired to ensure that no teacher is overburdened. You are happy and contented, and though potions and charms are available that would allow you to bear your wife's child, together you make the decision that parenthood is not for you, choosing instead to devote your lives to each other and to teaching the next generations of everyone else's children.

Harry and Ginny marry a year after you, and he rises through the ranks of the Auror department, eventually going as high as the Head of the entire Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Ginny plays for the Holyhead Harpies for several years before retiring to stay home and raise their three children. When the time comes and Harry is voted to the Minister's position, she switches roles yet again, flawlessly playing the part of a political trophy wife, knowing all the while that she is anything but a trophy. She and Harry are deeply in love, and the mundane details of the life of power and influence never intrude on this fact.

Ron works with George at his shop for a couple of years, but George and Angelina, along with Lee Jordan and his wife Alicia Spinnet, handle the shop's running with an ease that he never quite acquires. So he leaves and joins the Department of Mysteries as an Unspeakable. He is successful in his position there, but is found dead at age fifty, the victim of an accidental overdose of a volatile new headache potion.

Neville completes his Mastery with Pomona and takes over her teaching post when she retires. Much to the surprise of everyone except for you and Minerva and Neville, Filius soon follows his wife into retirement. The Charms post is soon filled by Susan Bones, a former researcher for the Department of Mysteries. She and Neville hit it off and marry two years later, keeping the former connection between the Charms and Herbology posts alive.

You have a long and full life, and are given sixty years with your wife before you wake one morning to find her missing from your bed, the string in your chest vibrating painfully for the first time since that long-ago day when you saved her life. You frantically search your quarters and finally find her stretched out on the bathroom floor, skin icy cold and unnaturally blue. You know from the feelings shaking off your heartstring that she is gone and there will be no saving her this time.

You start to send for Poppy before you remember that she is no longer there. Instead, you send for the new Healer. You feel as though your heart will never recover, and to an extent you are right. Two days later, she is interred next to your cottage, to which you had retreated every summer and every holiday possible during your long life together.

With a heavy, empty heart, you step into her post as Headmistress, eighty-two years old, which is only a few years older than she had been when she took it from Albus Dumbledore. You name, as your Deputy, the young Ravenclaw man who had stepped into the History post after Professor Binns had finally realized he was dead and moved on. You train him quickly and thoroughly, knowing from the searing pains in your chest that you do not have long.

You manage to live without her for ten years.

One day, you do not come down for breakfast and are later found by Neville and Susan, appearing to sleep peacefully in the bed you'd shared with her for so long. You are well-mourned by the entire magical population and are laid to rest next to her. The two of you touched so many lives, and are known in the History texts as the best leadership Hogwarts ever saw.

You don't know any of this, of course. When you went to sleep that night, you were taken to a vast white room and woke naked on the floor. You walk for a while before the whiteness begins to fade and shapes begin to form. You can hear the sound of water hitting a rocky shore and smell the scent of the heather from the hills. Your cottage forms in front of you, the whiteness melting away. She is standing in the doorway, her arms open, and for the first time since she left you, your heart is filled with joy and love again.

You run into her arms and bury your head in her chest. Her hands softly caress your back, fingers threading through your hair, and she speaks to you in that softly lilting voice that you've missed so much. "Where have you been? I feel like I've been waiting forever."

"It doesn't matter, love. I'm here now and I'll never have to leave you again." You stand up straight, tuck a loose piece of hair behind her ear, and lean up to kiss her with all the longing you've felt in the years without her.

For old time's sake, when you finally breathlessly break off the kiss, you swing her up into your arms and carry her to your bedroom. You spend eternity showing each other just how deep your love goes.

=======================HG/MM=======================