Disclaimer: J.K.Rowling

Dedication: Of course to all those of you who always review my stories so frequently, thank you all, and to Mr. Hoffmann

Author's note: This is again a very fluffy story, I tend to write fluffy stories I guess *lol*. I hope you'll like the story and please review! Uhm, for those wondering where the title comes from, it's taken from the movie "Curtain Call" with Maggie Smith and Michael Caine.

With A Whirl Of Joy And The Embrace Of Melancholy

The Great Hall was packed with joyously chatting students, laughter could be heard everywhere and proud teachers smiled at their protégées.

It was the last evening in Hogwarts for Harry and his class of 98. They had just received their leaving certificates and were proudly showing them to the younger members of their houses.

The heads of the houses smiled at their students and congratulated each other to the great results their students had gotten in their final exams.

Minerva was overly proud and spend half the evening teasing her colleague Severus Snape about the fact that it was a Gryffindor who scored highest, and that there was only one Slytherin who got onto the list of the ten best students of the year.

Minerva walked over to her Gryffindors to congratulate Hermione to her excellent report again and then sat down to talk with her students for a while.

When the feast was finished, the students were sent to their common rooms to be able to celebrate their last night in Hogwarts properly. No teacher would control what they did tonight, they were free to celebrate as long as they wanted to, with as much candy and butter beer as they wanted to. Minerva had lovingly decorated the Gryffindor common room and would stop by later.

It had become a habit for her to wander through Hogwarts at this last school day before the great summer holiday, before the seventh years would leave Hogwarts forever and a new class of students would arrive.

Hogwarts lay perfectly still in front of her as she wandered the halls and thought back to many experiences she had had with the class of 98 in these halls. She thought of all the trouble, all the pranks, all the laughter and all those tears that had been shed and a strange sort of melancholy began settle upon her.

The last station of her walk was her transfiguration classroom. She sat down behind her desk and looked at the empty seats in front her. She tried to remember all those students that had been at Hogwarts and had learned their transfiguration skills from her: Lily and James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Arthur and Molly Weasley, all the Weasley children, Neville Longbottom, she would definitely never forget Neville, Harry, Hermione, Lee Jordan, Draco Malfoy and his father, to name some students she was glad had left, Peter Pettigrew, Severus Snape and so many more.

She tried to remember their faces as young students, tried to remember the way they had tried to transfigure their first stud into a beetle. She thought of all the students she had grown to like more than she probably should have, students she had had a motherly relationship to. In this years' final class were some students she would miss deeply.

She was surprised to feel tears filling her eyes, she had gotten carried away with her memories and emotions. She blinked a few times, but instead of vanishing, the tears now ran down her cheeks. She wiped at them, but new ones followed.

"Here you are, I've been searching for you." She suddenly heard a voice and looked up sharply, directly into the twinkling blue eyes of Albus Dumbledore.

His smile vanished when he saw her tears though and he quickly walked up to her desk: "Minerva, what's wrong?" She tried to smile and shook her head: "Nothing's wrong, I am just… ." Her voice trailed off, she wasn't sure how to explain it to him. He handed her a handkerchief and was relieved to see her stop crying, but the worried look never left his face. They were quiet for a while, Albus still standing next to her desk.

"Did you ever want to have children?" Her question hit him off guard: "I… yes, yes I wanted to have children." She nodded. "I wanted to have children, too," she answered plainly and fell silent again.

Albus got himself a chair and sat down next to her: "What held you back then?" he asked gently. She looked into his eyes for a moment, before she settled her gaze upon the empty seats in front of her again. "Hogwarts."

She smiled lost in thought: "When I came here to teach, I was so young and thought life would wait for me forever. I was ambitious and teaching was so much fun, I loved my work and the children. I was in no need to hurry, years passed by, but I still thought I had enough time left. One day though, I may have been forty, I woke up and realized that there wasn't so much time left for starting a family as I thought there would be. I began to look around for possible men, but you can't fall in love on command, can you?

Finally I had to realize that I've actually been in love with a man for several years already, but he was out of reach, I knew that our love would never have a chance, but I couldn't bring myself to search for someone else either.

Now look at me Albus, I am eighty years old and it's too late. At days like today, when I have to say goodbye to students my heart went out to, I've even grown to love, then I get reminded of the fact that they'll never return and I'll never have children of my own. There will never be children returning to Hogwarts calling me mum or granny.

I know I should be professional enough not to let feelings get involved, but Albus, I see them growing up, they arrive here as children and leave as adults.

I care for them, comfort them, when they are sad, I educate them just like a parent does. Even though no one expects this from me, I am a very emotional person and I miss my students terribly. I see them leaving, starting a life of their own and all I get is a Christmas card now and then, but it doesn't seem to matter, because new students come I can care about… until they also leave Hogwarts.

Harry, Hermione, Ron, they are so exited about starting a new life and I am happy for them and I am blessed to have met them, and to have met people like the Weasley twins, but it's a fact that they'll never be my own children or grandchildren. I am just a teacher for them, the strict old McGonagall, and that's fine, that's the way it should be, and I can cope with it throughout the year, but this day, this last day of a school year usually is the time I get reminded of all this, in some years more and in some less, but I get reminded of my loss and my missed chances and it hurts, Albus."

He had listened quietly and now reached for her hand to give it a gentle squeeze. He wanted to tell her how well he understood, how he had the same thoughts and feelings now and then, but all he was able to think about was her statement at the beginning, a statement that had stung, even though she couldn't know it had. He hesitantly looked up to meet her eyes: "May I ask you a question, dear?" She nodded. "Who was the man you were in love with, who was the fool who didn't realize you loved him?"

She didn't answer his question, simply continued to look into his eyes and he suddenly understood: "Gods Minerva, why have you never said a word?"

She broke eye contact and stared at her hands: "It would have been impropriate, wouldn't it? With you being headmaster and me deputy headmistress it would certainly have caused us a lot of problems. Besides I didn't want to jeopardize our friendship, you never gave me a reason to believe you were in love with me… ." She suddenly looked up sharply: "I am sorry Albus, I shouldn't have said something, just… just forget I did." She wanted to get up and leave, but he held her back: "I won't ignore what you said, I waited too long for you to say it in the first place." With that he kissed a very surprised Minerva tenderly on her lips.

"Albus, what is that supposed to mean?" He smiled gently: "My dear Minerva, that means that I love you, too, and always have. I guess I am not good in showing my feelings then?" She laughed softly: "No, I think you're not." They both got up and Albus pulled her close to him. "I love you." he whispered and she smiled happily at him in return.

He quickly kissed her again, a little longer and more passionate this time. "Do you feel better now, my love?" The smile returned to her face: "Definitely."

They stayed like that, in each other's arms, for a while, before she reluctantly pulled back: "I think I should go to see my Gryffindors now. They said something of a surprise and I don't trust them too much with surprises." Albus had to laugh: "All right, we'll go and take a look whether the Gryffindor tower still stands. I wanted to see Harry, before he is going to leave tomorrow anyway."

The common room was a mess. When Minerva stepped through the portrait whole, a chocolate frog jumped at her in the vain attempt to flee from his killer, impersonated by Ginny Weasley, shyly asking her professor for the frog. Minerva handed it to her smiling gently.

She surveyed the scene: Neville looked as if he had again fallen for the canary cream trick, at least he had some yellow feathers left on his head. Bertie Bott's Beans were spread over the floor, as were empty butter beer bottles. Music came from the back of the Common Room at such a high volume, Minerva feared for her hearing. Some of the girls were dancing, while the boys were playing Snape explodes. Some seventh year students were looking at what appeared to be a photo album, but when she stepped closer, they quickly hid it behind the sofa.

"Professor McGonagall, we almost thought you wouldn't come." Minerva shook her head: "How long do you know me, Potter? I wouldn't want to miss your farewell party." Harry and the other seventh years smiled. Minerva tried to catch a glimpse of the album, but couldn't, so she smiled at Harry, who had long ago outgrown her: "Mr. Potter, you said something about a surprise, I am curious to know what it is."

Harry and the others grinned and Hermione bent down to get the album out from under the sofa, while someone else turned the music off.

"My dear Professor McGonagall." Hermione started and by now all Gryffindors had gathered around them and were watching closely. Minerva and Albus had sat down on one of the other sofas and were listening to Hermione. "All those years we were here, you were like a mother to us. You made sure that we were all right, and you saved us from Professor Snape time after time again. You always made sure we knew that you stood behind us and supported us, without being unfair to other houses." "Even though the Slytherin would have deserved it." Ron added grudgingly and everyone laughed.

"With this gift we want to thank you for the past seven years, for being there for us, when we needed you, for ignoring us breaking the rules sometimes, so that we could have our fun, for every advice you gave us and even for all those long hours of homework, so that we would learn how to use Transfiguration without blowing ourselves up. Thank you for your patience, your support, your love, and your affection for Quidditch." Minerva laughed along at that last remark, even though she had a hard time holding back her tears. Hermione handed her the album and Minerva tenderly opened it. On the first page was a photo of all Gryffindors outside of Hogwarts near the lake. Following on the other pages were photos of every Seventh year Gryffindor. Each student had a page for him- or herself and under the photograph were written some information about the student, even though most of the page was still white. Ron stepped forward and explained: "This isn't just a simple photo album, it's bewitched, every time something happens in our lives the album will know and add the information on the bottom of the page. In that way you'll always know who of us is going to university or is getting married or about to get children. You'll always know what we're doing.

Come to think of that," Ron said thoughtfully "that's somewhat scary." Everyone laughed again.

"But the best thing about he album is, that you can communicate with us through it. Everyone of us has his own album and when you want to talk to someone of us, all you have to is open up the album at the student's page you want to talk to and say "Connecto". In that way you can keep in touch with us all." Parvati Patil added.

Minerva ran her hand tenderly over the album, a single tear had managed to escape and ran down her cheek. It was again Dumbledore who handed her a handkerchief. She smiled at him, wiped at her eyes and then smiled at her students as well: "I want to thank you, all of you. I can't even begin to tell you how much this gift means to me. You are all very special to me. You don't have to thank me, I have to thank you for the past seven years. I will miss you all terribly, but I am sure that everyone of you has a great future in front of him, and be assured that I will check how you're doing.

Even though you are leaving Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore and I will always be here for you, you can always come back to Hogwarts if you are in need of help or are in search of an advice. I can't think of something else to say, other than that I will miss you." The female students had tears in their eyes, while the boys looked just as touched.

Minerva and Albus stayed for another hour talking with the students about their future plans, their best experiences in Hogwarts and about all those pranks the two teachers never knew of. The music had been turned on again and the melancholic mood had vanished, and been replaced by laughter and chatter again.    

"You helped them with the album, didn't you?" Minerva asked, when she and Dumbledore were on their way back to their own rooms later. He smiled sheepishly at her: "Yes, a little, but the idea was entirely theirs, I only helped them performing the spells." Minerva looked down at the album again and smiled: "Thank you." He put an arm around her waist and pulled her to him.

"Albus." she urged "we're standing in the middle of the corridor." "I know" he grinned "but who do you think is going to see us and who is going to care?" She leaned her head on his shoulder: "Do you think there will ever be students like Harry, Ron and Hermione again?" He smiled down at her: "You know there will be, my dear, after all I am sure they will all have children one day and I can't wait for the next Weasley boy to come to Hogwarts." "Oh I can wait, believe me, I've had enough to do with those twins."

He chuckled softly and she joined him. They walked on in pleasant silence, each one of them lost in his own thoughts, till she took his hand and smiled at him again: "So I supposed this will never be a sad day for me again." He rose an eyebrow: "Aren't you going to miss your future students?" "Of course, I will, but then again I will be busy celebrating my anniversary with you." He bend down to kiss her on the forehead: "I hope so, my love." And together they walked off towards new adventures with new students and a life that wasn't so empty anymore….

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Ok, just a quick note how I came to think of the story: My former Latin teacher, about the best teacher in the world, has to retire this summer (he is 65, no way he can stay at the school any longer). Usually I'd be happy for him, but his wife and son died four years ago, so he has nothing to return to now. All he has left are teaching and his students, who adore him, really, we all do.

I have to think of him a lot lately and how it will be for him without teaching, all alone and I somehow imagined it to be similar for Minerva. I know that Mr. Hoffmann loves all his students, you just feel it and teachers like him are so rare, so you know where the idea of a lonely Minerva with only her students left comes from…

So I'll go feeling sorry for my teacher now and you're going to review, please *lol*