Chapter Forty-Four - Separation

March 1996

"Well, Minerva, I'm afraid this is the end of your friend Dumbledore," Fudge said maliciously.

"You think so, do you?" was the only response that she could think of.

"You'd better get those two off to bed," Fudge told her.

Minerva wanted nothing better than to get everyone out of Albus' office so that she could cast a Silencing Charm and let out a good scream. With a little more force than she intended, Minerva grabbed Potter and Edgecombe's shoulders and walked them to the door, shutting it behind them without even a word. She had never been more furious in her life.

Taking a deep breath and trying to remind herself that she did indeed have a heart condition and needed to remain calm, she turned and faced Fudge. "Am I correct in believing that I will be assuming Professor Dumbledore's duties?"

"Oh I don't think so, Minerva," Fudge said with a sneer. "I believe I already have a qualified candidate in mind."

"Dolores Umbridge," Minerva said weakly.

"Perhaps," smirked Fudge. "I'll send word tomorrow."

She watched Fudge Floo back to the Ministry in disbelief. She replayed the entire event in her head. Albus was no longer at Hogwarts. He was no longer Headmaster. And it was all because of Harry Potter.

Molly Weasley was going to have a field day with this. She had pressed again and again for Sirius to stop Harry from continuing with the group, this Dumbledore's Army. But not even she would have guessed that Albus would have taken the complete responsibility for the group's existence.

Albus. She had to talk to Albus. The various places where he might have gone ran through her mind. There were plenty of places that he could hide, numerous people who would take him in without question. Perhaps he might even stay at Grimmauld Place. Yes, that would make the most sense. As much as she wanted to go to him, she knew her place was here.

Minerva left the office to gather the staff to inform them of the change in leadership. But not before silencing the place and screaming until her throat felt hoarse.

April 1996

For an early April morning, Minerva found the weather delightfully warm. Perhaps she would walk longer than usual today. Her stress level certainly hadn't gone down since Albus was forced from Hogwarts. He had sent Fawkes with a note, telling the Order that he was safe, but that was all. She had no idea where he was. And it was killing her.

Minerva had no idea why this absence was different from all the others. How many times had Albus disappeared on one quest or another, sometimes without even telling her, before just appearing one day, as if nothing happened?

It had to be because this was a forced separation, as the others, while certainly not her choice, occurred because Albus had the freedom to do so.

"Professor McGonagall?" asked a gruff voice behind her.

Minerva turned around, not expecting to see anyone this close to the Forbidden Forest. To her surprise, it was Aberforth. "Have you any news?" she asked quietly.

He nodded just once. "I'll give you a free lunch at noon," he said shiftily, looking around as if he was afraid to be overheard.

"Thank you for the invitation," Minerva replied. "I will certainly be there."

Aberforth nodded and started walking towards Hogsmeade. Minerva glanced at her watch. It was only eight in the morning. Noon wouldn't be able to get here fast enough.

Though somehow she managed to whittle away the time. If it had been a weekday, the time would have gone quickly; there never seemed to be enough hours in the day to impart all of the knowledge she wanted her students to have. Weekends, however, seemed to pass at a slower pace. Most of the time she was grateful for this, but not today.

At precisely noon, Minerva walked into the Hog's Head. For some reason, she found herself disappointed that he wasn't there to greet her, even though she knew that was silly. Albus certainly couldn't just have a drink at the bar. Not when it seemed like the entire Ministry had been assigned to look for him.

She looked expectantly at Aberforth, who was now behind the bar. As he cleaned a glass with a dirty towel, he said, "Flower room."

Minerva looked him quizzically, not being able to decipher the meaning of the words. But then she relaxed, remembering how beautifully Albus transformed the room where they had married. It had been bulging with flowers. No wonder Aberforth would call it the flower room!

Eagerly, she went upstairs and knocked on the door of the flower room. It opened at once, and Minerva stepped inside. And there he was. Albus was standing at a window, watching as she entered the room.

The moment the door was closed behind her, they were in each other's arms. Minerva reveled in feeling his lips against hers once more. "Are you alright?" she asked when the parted.

"Never better," he responded with a playful smile. "Being in hiding has been good for me. I feel younger than I have in years."

"Albus," she said, trying to keep the exasperation out of her voice. The last thing she wanted was to be a nagging wife.

"You're worried about me," he said. The statement wasn't a question.

"I'm worried about the school," Minerva said, her voice full of frustration. "You, you, I know can take care of yourself. Hogwarts in the hands of Dolores Umbridge is a completely different worry."

He pinched the bridge of his nose with a sigh. It was as if all Minerva needed to do was say that hateful woman's name and all the life and joy was sucked out of a room.

"Severus informed me that Dolores requested Veritaserum from him. From that I can only assume that she used it on Harry," sighed Albus.

Minerva looked down at the floor, unsure what to think, that he had spoken to Snape since his exile and not her. It was just another reminder that – even though they were now husband and wife - that he would never open himself completely to her.

She remembered his promise to tell her the reason why the Potters wouldn't have trusted him as their Secret-Keeper so many years ago. Now was certainly not the time to ask, but she wondered he if would actually tell her. Or if it was just a convenient promise to keep her satisfied.

They spoke of the school, of all the mischief that the students were engaging in. The Weasley twins firecrackers. As much as Minerva disliked not having order in the school, she disliked Umbridge more, so the antics of the students weren't bothering her nearly as much as they should be. One of these days she might even help in a bit of debauchery. Might be good for her stress level.

Several hours passed before Minerva felt she needed to get back to the school. Albus told her that he would be staying the Hog's Head until it was safe for him to go back to Hogwarts. Without either of them saying it out loud, Minerva knew that even though they were a fifteen minute walk apart, they couldn't see much of each other. If Minerva was seen going into the Hog's Head too often, suspicions might arise.

With a heavy heart, Minerva left the Hog's Head, wondering how long it would be before they were together again.

June 1996

Minerva looked around her surroundings in alarm. She was in St. Mungo's. What had happened that would cause her to be back in St. Mungo's? Was it her heart again? Had something happened?

But then slowly images appeared. The House-elf that warned that Umbridge was about to go after Hagrid. Seeing the Stunning Spells around Hagrid's cabin. Seeing those same spells heading right towards her and not having enough time to defend herself.

Every single muscle in her body seemed to complain of soreness. Minerva reached over to the nightstand and fumbled for her glasses. Once on, she looked around, trying to get some idea of how long she might have been here. There were no clues.

There was a curtain around her bed, but she could tell by the clattering of voices in the room that she most likely had a roommate. Perhaps they would offer assistance.

Feeling a bit guilty for eavesdropping, Minerva listened to a witch complaining to her daughter about various household duties.

But when the topic changed, and she heard the words, "You-Know-Who" "Ministry of Magic" and "Sirius Black," Minerva could no longer stay ignorant.

"Excuse me!" she called out over the curtain.

A woman in her mid twenties pulled open the curtain between the beds. Minerva had to endure a bit of small talk before she could ask the questions she so desperately needed answers for, as both mother and daughter were former students.

Finally, they happily gave her the Saturday evening edition of The Sunday Prophet. Minerva was grateful that they closed the curtain again because she didn't think that she'd be able to contain her shock and dismay if the curtain was open.

After reading the first article, she had read enough and threw the paper towards the end of the bed. What could have possibly possessed Harry to go to the Ministry of Magic? And to bring five other students and put them in danger? She had half a mind to put him in detention until he graduated.

Several hours passed before someone from the Order, Remus Lupin, showed up to her hospital room to tell her exactly what had happened. There was a long pause when he informed her that Sirius Black had been killed. Perhaps he expected her to cry or to comment what a horrible waste it was. But she couldn't.

It was yet another example of how she had failed this year. Minerva knew that Harry was to get Occlumency lessons from Severus. She knew and she just assumed that they were occurring. Never once did she take him aside and ask.

A surge of anger rushed through her. This non-communication had to stop. While Harry never told anyone that the lessons had stopped, Snape never bothered to mention it either.

"The paper said that five students went with him," Minerva said, changing the subject completely. "I'm assuming that Weasley and Granger accompanied Potter. Who were the other three?"

"Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood."

"Luna?" Minerva asked quietly, thinking about her only grandchild. "Is she – are they all safe?"

"Hermione was hurt the worst, but she's in the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts and will be fine," Remus told her. "The rest were just a little dinged up."

"They're children," Minerva said softly. "Children."

"Harry's only a few years younger than my group of friends when we joined the Order," Remus countered.

"I was against that, too," she said, not meeting Remus' eye. "But Albus wouldn't hear any complaint against your lot."

Remus seemed to have nothing more to say. He stood up. "I have a message from the Headmaster. He told me to inform you that he apologizes for not telling you the news himself and that he'll see you tomorrow."

"Thank you, Remus." She watched him leave, and moments later a Healer entered the room, informing her that she would be discharged the next day.

July 1996

For all of their options to relocate the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, the Hog's Head made the most sense. They could slip in easily from either the front or back entrances and go back to the shabby banquet room. Numerous privacy spells ensured that they wouldn't be overheard.

This specific meeting never seemed to want to end. Albus hadn't shown up, like he promised to do, so Minerva was leading. And of course, this was the meeting where everyone wanted to discuss every little detail. Though the most pressing issue was arranging the transportation of Harry to the Burrow. But Albus wanted to do that himself, and without him here to settle everything, there was little they could do.

Once the meeting finally ended, Minerva left before anyone could stop her and ask more questions. She had to admit that she was slightly worried about Albus. He had said that he would specifically be here for the meeting tonight.

Snape was walking right ahead of her. As they exited, she was about to ask if they could walk back to Hogwarts together when he turned left instead of taking the right that would lead to Hogwarts. Curious, Minerva watched him walk to the end of the street and then make another left, down Netta's street. Perhaps he needed to discuss Death Eater business.

Minerva felt for Netta. She knew that You-Know-Who had sent her to the West Country to help with the destruction. Several people died because of the fire that had raged and Minerva knew that Netta felt personally responsible.

She wanted this war over for Netta. On the rare occasions Minerva saw Netta, the poor girl looked exhausted. The last time especially. Her eyes were blood-shot and there was even more grey streaked through her red hair.

More than anything, Minerva wanted the war over so that Netta could move back to Albania, where she had been content, if not happy, for so long. Then Minerva could visit over the summer and they might be able to become friends. She would like nothing better than to become Netta's friend.

There was so much work to do, Minerva thought as she walked back to Hogwarts. Since the battle at the Ministry, You-Know-Who had come out in force. Already there was the Muggle bridge incident and the West Country incident. Grimly Minerva thought that bad things always happened in threes, and truly didn't want to think what could be next.

Ahead of her, Minerva saw a figure lying on the ground, right near the start of the wards around Hogwarts. Picking up her skirts, Minerva ran as quickly as she could and only a few feet from the figure, she gasped.

Lying in front of her, unconscious, was Albus.

Author's Note: I know this is horrible place to end the story. But as stated in the beginning of the fic, I do not wish to continue this story because Dumbledore being gay is important. Representation is important and I don't want to write him in a straight relationship any longer when he is not straight. So I thank you for reading if you made it this far. I enjoyed this story immensely and only wish I finished it before JK told us the news about Dumbledore's sexuality.