A/N: Not DH-compliant. Disregards DH. Please note that this story is completed, but it was begun and outlined before DH. It also presumes the 1840 birth year for Dumbledore that was considered accurate until the autumn of 2007, when the JKR website made AD a Wizard of the Month.

My author's notes often contain information that the reader may find useful or interesting, so you might want to look at those and skim them as you read. There is also more information on my profile page about the story.

I hope you enjoy the story!

Full Summary: Much more than a Romance! Drama, humour, adventure, and even some mystery. A little fluffy, occasionally humorous, sometimes sad, but essentially happy, ADMM friendship-to-romance story. Minerva and Albus have developed a friendship, then Minerva returns to Hogwarts to teach. A series of misunderstandings between Minerva and Albus leads to embarrassing moments, injured feelings, regret, then to final resolution. Not DH-compliant. Completely disregards DH. Complete.
Genres: Romance, Drama, Humor, Adventure, Suspense.
Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, and Poppy Pomfrey, with appearances by Hagrid, Tom Riddle, Grindelwald, Slughorn, Grubbly-Plank, Kettleburn, and other canon characters.


I: Minerva's Grievance

If Minerva had been a different sort of woman, she might have regretted her choice of words as soon as they were out of her mouth. If she were yet another sort of woman, those words would never have reached her lips. And yet a different sort of woman altogether would never have even thought such words. As it was, Minerva McGonagall rarely resorted to uncouth language, but she was quite capable of it at that time, and when she used it, she made it a policy not to regret it. Although there were occasions on which she regretted using them in front of a particular audience, she never regretted her choice of words. In this instance, however, she immediately regretted not having noticed the wizard who had just passed through the door behind her. Soon after, she, uncharacteristically, came to regret even her choice of words. What became of that regret is the most interesting part of our tale, but that shall have to wait.

The conversation had started out as just a bit of a gripe session between friends. Minerva had flounced into Poppy's office at a quarter to ten that morning, a look of exasperation on her face.

"I'll tell you, Poppy," declared the irate witch, "I'm getting sick of this. Is he never going to be punctual for our meetings? He doesn't seem to have this problem with his other appointments. He always has time for old Sluggy, even without an appointment, and he's never late for meetings with Gertrude! He doesn't seem to respect me at all."

"Well, Min, you know that he is trying to overcome the perception that he's prejudiced against the Slytherins, after having been Head of Gryffindor House for so long, so of course he's going to make time for Slughorn. And Gertie is his deputy. She's been here for donkey's years. They have an established relationship."

"Don't call me 'Min'! You know how I hate that. I understand about Horace and Gertrude, honestly, I do. But this morning we had an appointment to go over the NEWT-level Transfiguration curriculum – his idea, not mine! – and I spent all yesterday afternoon and evening reviewing, writing up notes on any changes I was suggesting or areas where I was unclear about the most effective pedagogic method – not that there are many changes, since I don't want to experiment too much until I see how the curriculum works for me as it stands. And I did have questions about the incoming seventh-years, since I didn't teach them last term. This was not an insignificant meeting about the best source for buttons or beetles, or some such! And do you know what happened, Poppy, do you?"

Poppy shook her head and encouraged her friend. "Tell me, Min - Minerva! Something must have happened to get you so worked up!"

"I got there at eight-fifty-seven, and gave the password to the gargoyle. I know I was a few minutes early, but I thought that by the time those stairs got me up to his office, it would be nine o'clock. Nothing happened. So I gave the password again. The only thing different this time was that the gargoyle had the temerity to leer at me!"

"Well, Minerva, you have to admit that the gargoyle pretty much leers at everyone. That's the way gargoyles are."

"Whose side are you on, Poppy Pomfrey? The gargoyle gave me a . . . a deeper leer than usual. Then it sat back, crossed its scrawny little arms, and closed its eyes!"

Poppy was caught somewhere between amusement and sympathy. Afraid she would laugh, she just nodded with what she hoped was an understanding smile.

"Well, I then announced to the gargoyle that I had an appointment at nine o'clock with the Headmaster, and repeated the password. The gargoyle only opened one eye. I thought perhaps I had the wrong password, but Albus gave it to me himself yesterday after lunch. He told me he was changing it for the summer, and I was quite sure that he had clearly said 'pixie sticks.' It was at that point in my reflections that I realized he must not have changed the password as he had said he would, so I decided I should use the previous password, 'candyfloss.' Guess what happened then?"

Poppy had no idea, and said so.

"The gargoyle opened both eyes, looked up at me, and it seemed the door was beginning to scrape open, but then it stopped. At that point, Gertrude showed up, greeted me, asked me if I knew the new password, then, without waiting for my answer, said 'pixie sticks'! And the gargoyle opened the door for her!"

"No!" Poppy sat back in her chair, confused.

"As you can imagine, I was somewhat flummoxed by this turn of events. Gertrude mounted the moving stairs, and called behind her that if I wanted to come up, I should hurry before the door closed. I leapt in and stepped up a few feet to stand behind her. I told her I had tried the new password myself just a moment before, and it hadn't worked. I was beginning to wonder whether Albus had instructed the gargoyle not to grant me entrance – not that I told Gertrude that. Fortunately, Gertrude clarified that Albus always sets his passwords to change at a specific time. He can even be out of the castle, and the password will change if he Spells it in advance."

"Well, that's quite clever. I don't think Headmaster Dippet used such a spell," Poppy mused, smiling at her friend.

"Well, clever is as clever does, Poppy," replied Minerva stiffly. "Apparently, he had set the spell to activate at nine o'clock, just the time of our meeting."

"Well, I can see how all of that could be a bit annoying, Minerva, but surely you're not so upset over such a small matter."

"Oh, you haven't heard what really bothers me, Poppy. That, that, that wizard! That wizard, when we got to his office, was not even present! Gertrude entered, called out for him, and instructed me to have a seat. She then went into his private rooms to find him." Minerva rose from her chair and began to pace the matron's small office, agitation in every step.

"Well, I don't see anything particularly odd about that, Min - Minerva. I mean, Gertie's his Deputy, asking you to have a seat while she went to find him –"

Minerva sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes – something Poppy didn't think she'd seen her do since Minerva was in her sixth year and a certain Professor of Transfiguration had smiled gently and told her that such dramatics are amusing in a child, and then had said nothing more.

Minerva returned to her chair, obviously restraining herself from throwing herself into it petulantly. "Poppy! I was up there last week for another meeting for which he was late – that one was on the first- and second-year curricula, and so entirely superfluous! – and I tried to look for him in his rooms, which, as you know, are up those spiral brass stairs. I took a half dozen steps and those stairs turned into a slide and dumped me on the floor, where I landed like some gormless first-year Gryffindor wizard. And there at the top of the stairs stood Albus, looking down at me, laughing. Of course, he did come down to see if I had bruised anything other than my pride, but he told me then that the stairs to his private quarters are Charmed to do that when anyone steps on them without his invitation. So you can see why I wondered about the gargoyle after it let Gertrude in with the same password that I'd tried just a few moments before."

"Ah, now I see." Poppy looked at her friend thoughtfully. Minerva sat stiffly in one of the hard wooden guest chairs that were standard issue in all Hogwarts' offices. How different, Poppy thought, from the man about whom she was complaining.

A/N: The ffnet version was originally my "draft" version, and I sometimes posted sections of chapters as separate chapters on ffnet, but then I combined them in the final, "polished" version that appears on the moderated archives which I post to. This means that it may appear that the ffnet version is longer than the ones posted elsewhere, since, for example, the first seven chapters on ffnet are actually the first two chapters of the final version. The content, however, is essentially the same. On the other hand, some of the much later chapters have occasionally been bowdlerised in order to maintain the T-rating here, and are posted in full elsewhere. Wherever a chapter has been edited for language or explicit content, there is a notice at the head of that chapter.

If you look at the ToC/Chapter Outline on my blog or my LJ, you can see the chapter equivalencies, and you can also see the story's larger divisions into 19 parts. The ToC does contain spoilers, though, so be forewarned!

I hope you continue to read and enjoy. Although the story is complete, I do continue to respond to reviews, so if you have a question, feel free to review or PM me, and if you are logged in or leave an email address in the email field, I'll try to answer it! You can also check my blog or my LJ, where I have info posted about the story and characters. Have fun!