I own nothing but the plot!

Minerva's Doubts

The students of Hogwarts had just left aboard the Hogwarts Express because Hogwarts had been closed for the remainder of the school year. The attack by the Death Eaters and the fall of Albus Dumbledore had terrified the Magical World to its core. Families of Hogwarts students had owled and requested the children be sent home so they were. Minerva had tried to keep the school open but it seemed an impossible task.

Albus Dumbledore had always known what to do in any situation. He had a way to deal with the troublemakers and comfort those that needed it. He would have known what to do to protect Hogwarts and its students. He would have eased the parents' fears and protected the children like the fierce Gryffindor he was. He would never wallow in self-pity like Minerva was presently doing.

Every since Harry told her of Albus Dumbledore's death, she seemed to doubt everything she did. She couldn't seem to do anything right. She doubted every single decision she made. Never in all of her years had she ever had a problem with making decisions but lately she did. To be perfectly honest, she had a problem doing anything and everything, without Albus she couldn't do anything right!

Minerva didn't understand why this seemed to be happening to her. She and Albus was nothing more than friends, best friends but nothing more. She desired more but never acted on it, she couldn't bear to loose his friendship if things didn't work out, and ultimately she had pushed her desires away. Maybe she had underestimated her feelings for him. She had loved him from afar but never allowed herself to get too close. She loved him but was she in love with him? Was he her soul mate?

She shook her head hoping to rid herself of such thoughts. It was too late now. She would never declare her love for him and never know how he felt about her. She stood up from her desk and marched down the hall to her rooms. She had to collect her belongings before she could leave for her secluded cottage in Scotland.

Scotland's weather had been cold and rainy. The fog was thick and made it impossible to see too far ahead. Minerva loved it. She relished in the seclusion of her cottage and the weather didn't allow for too many visitors. She hadn't seen anyone and didn't really want to. She was fine doing the simple things in life and it suited her.

After she secured her home with protection spells and charms, she had put away her wand. She didn't need magic here, she didn't need anything here. She had traded her heavy dark green robes and strict bun to a brighter green dress and long flowing locks. She never wanted to go back to her pathetic existence again. She didn't want to teach children she hadn't given birth to nor did she want to be around magic. She had had enough! There would be no more Order of the Phoenix, no more transforming into a tabby cat and no more fighting Death Eaters for her, she was finished.

For months Minerva had lived a simple life and she loved it. She woke up early to watch the sunrise. She ate breakfast, washed dishes, and walked. When she returned she would eat lunch, wash dishes, and read some sort of book. After dinner she would wash dishes and work in her flower gardens. Sometimes she would just sit on her porch swing, reflect on her life and cry. Hogwarts had been the only other home she had known and without Albus Dumbledore there it was no longer home to her, so she was content in her little cottage in Scotland.

Unbeknownst to Minerva, there was a cloaked figure that had been watching her for several weeks. He watched her go through the motions of everyday life but knew she was doing just that, going through the motions. She just existed. There was no joy in her life, no happiness and absolutely no magic. She had given it all up but the question was why?

Minerva was one of the most powerful witches of the century but she had just given it up. She had left Hogwarts, the Order of the Phoenix, and the Magical Community behind her. Friends and officials at the Ministry of Magic had all tried to contact her but she had ignored all the owls and since she did no magic they couldn't track her down. Some of them were concerned that Death Eaters had murdered her, but he never believed it.

She was much too cautious to fall into a trap orchestrated by Death Eaters. She was one of the best aurors in Ministry history she couldn't have been bested by anyone. She was too smart for that. He reckoned she had chosen to hide herself away. He had recalled a time decades ago when she had told him of her grandmother's hidden cottage in Scotland. As he recalled she had spent most summers with her grandmother and he thought that would be the perfect place for her to hide. When he arrived and observed her, he was confused by her rejection of magic. He could understand her fear and sadness but couldn't fathom why she rejected magic.

One late evening Minerva was sitting on the swing with her feet tucked under her. She had a tartan blanket wrapped around her and her long hair was swaying in the breeze. She was crying once again. He was not surprised to see her cry, he had seen it before, but it still broke his heart. He couldn't bear to see her so heartbroken. He didn't know the reason behind the sadness but he didn't really care at this time. He just wanted to comfort her and that was exactly what he intended to do.

He slowly made his way to her, careful not to make any noise. When he reached the front steps he studied her face. There were more wrinkles and he couldn't help but wonder what had caused them. Refocusing he cleared his throat which startled Minerva and caused her to search for the source of the noise. "Who's there?" she asked.

The figure lifted the invisibility cloak and laid it on the porch railing. He walked up the steps slowly to her. She visibly paled and her breath went ragged as she saw Albus Dumbledore standing there on her porch, very much alive. Her eyes must be failing her or maybe she was dreaming or maybe this was some trick by Death Eaters. Albus Dumbledore was dead; she had seen his mangled body and been at his burial. There was no way he could be here!

Albus waited for Minerva to say something but she remained silent. After moments of long silence he couldn't take it anymore. In a soft whisper he said her name. That's when she snapped out of her reasoning. She had to know if this was really Albus and not some imposter. "Albus where and when did we meet?" she asked.

He recognized her ploy to determine if this was some elaborate plot or if he was really there. He smiled and answered, "At Hogwarts during your sixth year. If I remember correctly you informed me I was teaching transfiguration the hard way."

"Well you were. What's your pet name for me?"

"Tabby," he answered easily.

"When did I tell you about my parent's cottage?"

He smiled at that question. She was so bound to determine if he was really Albus she had asked a trick question. "Ah Minerva, a trick question but I'll answer anyways. You didn't. You didn't live with your parents you lived with your uncle and his family. This cottage belonged to your grandmother and you visited her during the summer months. I don't remember exactly when you told me but I do know it was during our weekly chess game."

She nodded as tears trailed down her cheeks. "Why?" she asked.

He knew what she was referring to, why he had faked his own death, and dreaded answering. He moved to sit beside her and clasped her hand in his. He then started, "The prophecy clearly states that Harry must be the one to face Voldemort in the final battle. With me there protecting him, Harry would never be ready to face him. He needs to learn that sometimes he will need to depend on his own self. It was my hope he would find his inner strength if I was no longer around. I only wanted to prepare him for his destiny."

He stopped for a moment and Minerva thought he might not tell her everything. Her concerns were unfounded as he continued, "I also grew suspicious of Severus Snape. He began to lurk more than usual so I watched him closely. When I learnt of the Unbreakable Vow he took I knew he couldn't be trusted. I began to research spells and found some ancient spells that would allow me to fake my own death. Well I did have my brother's help with that one but that's the reason I did it."

They sat in silence while Minerva struggled to process all of this. He would have thought that this had all been a dream, which he would wake up from soon if she hadn't been holding his hand and squeezing lightly. She was real, her heart was breaking and it was because of him. "Who knows you're alive?"

"Just my brother and you."

"Why did you come here?"

Taken back by her question he just stared at her. He recovered then answered honestly, "I had heard you hadn't been seen since you left Hogwarts and that you weren't answering your owls, I grew concerned. I knew you could protect yourself but I had to know if you were safe so I came looking for you. I couldn't bear the thought of something happening to you."

"Why would you be concerned if something happened to me?" she asked hesitantly.

This was not the Minerva he was use to. Where was all of this second guessing and self-doubt coming from? He studied her features in the soft moonlight and then asked, "You don't know?" She shook her head no and waited for his answer. "You are my very best friend and I love you. Actually Minerva I am in love with you."

There it was, the answer to her question, he was in love with her. She wanted to tell him of her love for him but her voice had failed her. She swallowed hard and allowed her tears to come in full force. She grabbed his face between her hands and pulled him towards her so his lips could meet hers in their first kiss. He responded immediately and she melted into his embrace. Neither wanted the kiss to end but the need for air grew too strong. Minerva abruptly stood and allowed her tartan blanket to fall to the porch. She held out her hand to him. "Come with me," she whispered hoarsely.

He nodded and clutched her hand. She led him inside the cottage and up the stairs to her bedroom. She turned to face him and whispered two words that tugged at his heartstrings, "Love me."

His heart skipped a beat and heat filled his body. When he declared his love for her, he hadn't imagined things would take this turn but he wasn't going to complain. He looked into her kissable green eyes that shined with her love for him and knew he could deny her nothing. He drew her near while whispering, "Always."

Hours later after they had made the most passionate yet gentle love either had known they lay spooned together with her back to his chest. One of his arms was wrapped around her waist idly tracing patterns on her skin and the other propped up his head. "Minerva, why did you run from the Magical Community?"

She turned around so she could face him and pressed a kiss to his cheek before she answered. "After you went away, nothing was right. I couldn't make decisions and if I did I second-guessed myself. I didn't seem to be able to do anything right. I doubted everything. The only thing I seem to be able to do was think about you and how much I missed you."

She snuggled closer to him and planted a kiss on his lips. "I was so angry at myself for not telling you how I felt about you. I kept wondering how you felt about me. I loved you so much and depended on you, it hurt to be at Hogwarts without you. I figured I wasn't useful anymore and I just left. I didn't want to be around anyone so I ignored the owls. I lost faith in my magic and put away my wand because I couldn't bring you back. What good was it if it couldn't bring me the one person I needed most?"

"We will just have to see if we can rebuild your trust in magic and rid you of all those doubts."

Minerva smiled at him warmly and listened when he spoke. "I have a little confession to make. I have been watching you for the last few weeks. I watched you dig in your flowerbeds and when you took you daily walk I walked along side of you. When you cried you shattered my heart into a million pieces, I wanted to wrap you up in my arms and never let go."

She cried at his confession and pulled him closer. "What's stopping you," she whispered.

His eyes widened then he smiled. "Absolutely nothing," he answered.

"Love me always?"

"Yes. I'll never leave you again."

"Good," she whispered and then pulled him to her. Her lips sought his out and connected. Their passion quickly surged and they gave in to it.

Over the next few months, they removed all of Minerva's doubts. She picked up her wand again and her magic was flawless. The best part of those months was their secret wedding. They had used an ancient binding spell which unites in every way. When death came to one of them, the other would die also. It was the way Minerva wanted it. She insisted that she had already lived through his death once and refused to do so again. In the end, Albus had given in. He figured it didn't matter how long they lived but how well they lived.