Title: Trust Them

Author: BryteTwilight

Rating: PG, for bits of stress, anxiety, depression, and fluff.

Summary: AD/MM. A stern professor takes a midnight stroll in worry, a not- so-stern professor loosens the knots in her stomach (and maybe her back, too ;-)!)

Disclaimer: As much as I love this pairing, I don't own 'em.

AN: If you're reading this give me a constructive crit NOW before I LOSE MY TEMPER! Seriously, though, I need to write better, so any bit of help is much appreciated :-) Also, many thanks to Laura, for pointing out my error! I feel stupid now.


Minerva McGonagall sighed, leaning against the window and staring out at the stars. She had said over and over that she did not believe in divination, but centaurs were often more gifted than humans at the guesswork, and looking at the sky confirmed what she had feared.

Mars was bright tonight. Danger was near.

She turned away from the depressing starscape, her brow heavily furrowed. Despite the late hour, she knew that sleep would be impossible. After exiting her quarters, she changed into her cat form and made her way down to the staff room.

The ceiling was much farther away and the floor much closer when Minerva reached the lounge. In a quick flash of light, the hall appeared to be back at its normal proportions and she opened the door, drawing her wand to light the fire.

Surprisingly, the room was already enveloped in a warm glow. Soft, comfortable-looking armchairs and poufs scattered the floor. A bulletin board was professionally tacked onto the wall and littered with all sorts of messages, from happy birthday wishes addressed to Professor Snape, to a warning from Professor Trelawney to walk Harry Potter from class to class, as he was in danger of death. Unfortunately, the warning, although now two years old, had a sticking charm on it and would not come down. No one had ever paid it any attention.

Other things were scattered about the room, as to make it a haven for teachers breaking between classes of boisterous students, but the only thing Professor McGonagall fully noticed was a man sitting in a scarlet red armchair near the fire. Long silver hair proved him old in body, but apparently not in mind, as he sported a long purple nightcap with golden tassels at the end.

Minerva's lips thinned, but she smiled just the same. "Albus Dumbledore!" She stamped her foot slightly. "What are you doing here at such an hour?" she questioned the Headmaster.

Professor Dumbledore glanced up at her, away from the book he was reading. A grin played across his face. "Thought you'd be up." He hurriedly restored the book to its shelf, with great speed for such an old man, and resumed his seat. "Would you like a bit of hot chocolate? I made some extra." He gestured to a cup on the wooden table beside him.

"Oh. . .thank you," Minerva replied, wondering how her friend, and colleague, knew she would be coming. She grabbed the cup and eased into the chair next to his, taking a sip. It wasn't ordinary cocoa, she mused. Too warming, almost like Butterbeer, but tasting natural.

For almost a full minute, they sat in silence, watching the flames dance in the hearth. Finally, Dumbledore spoke. "So, Minerva."

"Yes, Albus?"

"What's troubling you?"

She knew better than to be taken aback, for she knew that Dumbledore knew her much too well. "Nothing," she replied, hesitant to talk to anyone at the moment, not even the man she had been friends with for years.

"Of course. Forgive me." The silence took over for a few more moments.


"Yes, Albus?"

"What's wrong?" he insisted.

A small, sad smile broke her face. "Don't worry about me, it's not a big deal."

"Oh, but when you're so distressed that I notice before I see you, it is a very big deal indeed."

She let out a long sigh, collecting her thoughts. "I'm just worried, about the students. All of them. . .but especially. . .well, you know who. Those three."

Dumbledore let out a chuckle. "Yes, I do see what you mean. It's a bit like having the Marauders up and about again, except with so much more stress on our part. And that's saying something. Do you remember the start-of-term feast in their fifth year? My, what a scare those first years got!"

"Albus, I appreciate it, but I don't think distractions will help tonight," she muttered, flushing. With another sip, she bowed her head.

He winced, mentally slapping himself. "I apologize."

"It's all right. I'm sorry."

"Don't be, Minerva. I understand." He responded, in a more serious tone.

"I sometimes wonder what would have become of me if I hadn't began to teach." She glanced his way, and at staring into those deep, crystal-blue eyes, immediately wondered why she had doubted his trust for a moment. "I. . .I hadn't been doing so well, you know the story, and, well. . .the students helped me out of it. They kept me busy, they kept me stern, and tough. . .and they gave me a reason to live." Her voice cracked.

Dumbledore looked away, a knot forming in his throat at her words. He forced it down.

"I wish I could protect them, Albus," she choked. "I would do anything, anything at all, if I could be sure that they would sleep soundly, that when the castle awoke, every one of them would still be here." She laughed bitterly. "It sounds so stupid, so dramatic, saying it out loud, doesn't it? But sometimes, and you know better than me I'm sure, that that almost doesn't happen."

Dumbledore stood, abandoning his cup of cocoa and standing behind his fellow professor's chair. "I wish I could protect them for you," he whispered, resting a hand on her shoulder. "But, I did conjure the memory of the feast for a reason. That was back when the House Heads sat with their tables, remember?" She nodded.

"A Grim and a Yi, a dog and a stag, stormed in. Signs of death and destruction. Of course, as it was Sirius and James, that wasn't far off." Albus felt her shoulder shake beneath his hand. He wasn't sure if it were laughter or a sob in memory of her two former students, but he continued just the same. "The first years flocked to you at the sight of them, Minerva. Some were scared out of their wits, and although you knew perfectly well who it was and were planning their punishments, not to mention that you didn't believe a single bit of those omens, you calmed the students, you supported them. I know," he stopped her from interrupting. "That you say it was your job, as a teacher, as their leader. But, did you see any of the Slytherins crowding around Professor Vector? Or any Ravenclaws flocking to Professor Flitwick?"

"Don't mistake this as a go at Flitwick, but he's so short I doubt they saw him as much protection." She smiled wryly.

Dumbledore cocked his head to the side. "Well, that may be true. But, Minerva, they trusted you. As do your students now. I need not go into examples, as I'm sure you can find them on your own. But, the point is for you to trust them. Trust them to know how to save themselves if the need arises, trust them to help their friends in need. If taught the right thing, they can be trusted, and if they are taught by you, I do not doubt their virtues. We, as teachers, are the parents of this school. Trust them, Minerva, as they trust you."

Her shoulder shuttered again, this time in what Dumbledore was sure was a sob. Coming from anyone else so uptight, it would have been a shock.

"I wish I could do that. . .but. . .I care about them too much, and the way they go putting themselves in danger. . .and others. . .look at the way Potter and Weasley drag Miss Granger around. . ."

"Miss Granger follows them of her own accord, because she knows it's the right thing to do. She goes to help, and without her around, I don't doubt that the two of them would be dead."

Minerva sniffed and turned to face Dumbledore. "I know, you're right, I know. But like I said, I do care about them too much. . .and I don't think they know it."

"Then, show them," Dumbledore replied, slightly baffled.

"It's hard, for someone like me. Not just towards the students, but to anyone" she replied, looking away.

Dumbledore hesitated, but then lifted his left hand and placed it on her cheek. "Not just for you."

Her deep brown eyes met the pools of sparkling blue that were his. McGonagall rose to her feet, not breaking the gaze. She felt tears surge again in her eyes, and tried to push them back, but her effort was futile. She bowed her head.

Dumbledore drew her into his arms; she leaned her head against his chest. "I'm sorry," she murmured.

"It's all right," he replied quietly. They remained in that position for what seemed like eternity, the warm glow of the flames surging behind them.

Minerva was the first to speak, but did not break away. "Albus?"

"Yes, my dear Professor?"

"It's late, and classes will be starting in a few hours. . .we should leave."

He closed his eyes. "Yes, I suppose we should." He loosened his grip on her and extinguished the fire.

They left together, walking down the hall in silence until they reached their fork in roads: the Gryffindor tower. The two paused nervously, but Minerva, as usual, had a question in her mind.

"Um, Albus, if you don't mind me asking. . .what book were you reading when I came in? Not that it's of any importance," she added hastily. "You just put it away quickly, and I was wondering."

He shuffled on his feet a bit with a witty glimmer in his eye. "If you want to know, I think it was 'Ten Ways to Get a Girl,' he shook his head dramatically, looking pleased with himself. "I borrowed it from George Weasley during one of his more eventful detentions."

She laughed and gave him a playful shove. "You crazy old bat!" she exclaimed.

He laughed, giving her a quick kiss on the forehead. "I'm not so sure if you're qualified to say that."

She shook her head. "Goodnight, Headmaster."

"Goodnight, Professor."

Before slipping into bed, Minerva left herself a note to award twenty points to Mr. George Weasley.