A/N: Written for a contest at the Hideaway. It is Albus' side of "A Secret Love." I hope you enjoy. A big thank you and amaretto coffee is due to jayejaye78 for checking this. If you haven't yet, head over to her fics and check them out. They are beautiful!

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, not even my car because someone stole it yesterday...and no, I'm not kidding. The song is Hello by Lionel Ritchie

Minerva was nearly ten minutes late. Had it been anyone else, Albus would have taken the time to enjoy a few extra lemon drops and perhaps a cup of cocoa; he would not have been worried. Had it been anyone else, he would not be pacing, but this was Minerva McGonagall. The same Minerva who had never been late to anything in all the years he had known her. He had no idea why she was late, but it could mean nothing good.

As the clock ticked and the minute hand moved once more, Albus stopped and turned to the mantle over his fireplace. There stood a picture of him and Minerva from last Christmas, only a few days after her arrival at Hogwarts.

From the moment she had returned to the halls of Hogwarts as a professor, Albus had known he was in trouble. Actually he had known he was in trouble since the end of her sixth year at a student. At some point during those last few months, Minerva had no longer needed an excuse to stop by his office and he had stopped giving her excuses to stay; it had just happened.

Student-teacher relationships of a romantic nature were frowned upon by the school and most of wizarding society, though they were not totally uncommon and were completely legal once the student was of age. Yet that was not the sort of relationship Albus had with Minerva, contrary to the many rumors that had circulated the halls her last two years and again, since her return. Albus considered Minerva a friend, knowing he would never allow himself to ask for more.

Over time Minerva had became his best friend. She was the one person who treated him no differently after that horrific duel with Grindlewald and Albus' unlikely victory. The one person who still teased him and refused to take his every notion as gospel, she kept his ego in check. She was the only one who still treated him like a man, not a god. He needed her, he couldn't afford to loose her through his foolishness and so he made a conscious decision to be her friend and only that.

I've been alone with you inside my mind

And in my dreams I've kissed your lips a thousand times

I sometimes see you pass outside my door

Hello, is it me you're looking for?

Unfortunately, while he could control his conscious self, his subconscious was a different matter. At night, in his dreams, he always found her and told her how he loved her, cherished her, that he would gladly give his life for hers. On good days, she would kiss him; feather light kisses along his neck. On the best of days her kisses were accompanied by breathy confessions of love and devotion. On his bad days she would refuse him, mock him, break his heart, and on the worst of days, well, he would rather not think of those.

Ironically it had been one of his bad days that had lead to the tradition of her birthday flowers. He had just awoken from a horrible dream, when a small tawny owl pecked at his window. It had been a letter from Minerva, who had just begun University the month before, on September first. Reading her long letter, he sensed her loneliness and wished there was something he could do to cheer her.

And so, Minerva's secret admirer had been born. Not that she did not already have one in Albus, and probably many more he did not know of. But this admirer would send her a bouquet of flowers and a note on her birthday.

Albus would always remember their first face to face conversation after he sent those flowers. They had met for tea so that Albus could give her his gift. She had seemed so happy as she told him of the flowers, and yet there was something else as well. It was almost as if she were searching him for the truth, a truth he would never reveal.

I can see it in your eyes

I can see it in your smile

You're all I've ever wanted and my arms are open wide

'Cause you know just what to say

And you know just what to do

And I want to tell you so much, I love you…

He had continued sending the flowers and the note, which never changed, no matter the bouquet, each year. Throughout her years at the university and her studies abroad, they had arrived without fail early in the morning each fourth of October; Fawkes had seen to that.

Throughout those years, Minerva had changed. She had grown up, become more confident, feistier, but his deepest secret, his most sacred truth remained constant. He still loved her. At times it seemed she knew this and accepted it, perhaps even returning his feelings. At other times he believed that was just his own wishful thinking.

Though he longed to take her in his arms and claim her as his own, it would never happen. Minerva was becoming even more perfect for him and though he wished he could tell her that, he could not let himself.

I long to see the sunlight in your hair

And tell you time and time again how much I care

Sometimes I feel my heart will overflow

Hello, I've just got to let you know

Minerva's return to Hogwarts had made Albus' feelings much harder to repress. Watching the fire highlight her beautiful face, bright eyes, and dark hair, made him wonder how she would look in morning's first light. As they played chess during long, dark winter evenings and took leisurely walks on bright, fine spring and summer afternoons, Albus knew his resolve was weakening.

He wished time and time again that he were younger, smarter, less famous with fewer enemies, anything that would allow him to court Minerva. At times he felt he would burst, mind, body and soul, with love for her.

Perhaps he should tell of his feelings, he often thought. Surely she would not throw away their long friendship because of a small confession of love. He often vented to Fawkes, who had long known of his feelings. Albus sometimes felt that Fawkes was urging him on, though he knew it was just his own wish for justification. Telling Minerva of his feelings went against everything he had been telling himself, and Fawkes, for years.

"Cause I wonder where you are

And I wonder what you do

Are you somewhere feeling lonely

Or is someone loving you?

Tell me how to win your heart

For I haven't got a clue

But let me start by saying, I love you…

For the eleventh year in a row, Albus had found himself writing his note for Minerva. This year he had selected Forget-Me-Nots and a single, perfect Burgundy Rose. As he arranged the flowers, Albus had wondered if this year would be the last of this. Minerva was young, beautiful, and intelligent. That she had remained single this long was a miracle in his eyes.

He knew one day Minerva would find someone to make her happy. He only wished it could be him. If only there was some way for him to win her heart for his own. Until then, his note would have to do. It was his only chance to tell her his secret, without revealing himself to her.

To my secret love,

May this new year in your life, so precious to me, be more wonderful than any you have experienced in the past, may it bring you happiness and may there be many more like it to come.

Folding the parchment, he had sealed the letter with a soft kiss before attaching it to the flowers. As Fawkes took the bouquet, Albus had wished once more that he could tell her of his love.

Hello, is it me you're looking for?

'Cause I wonder where you are

And I wonder what you do

And are you somewhere feeling lonely

Or is someone loving you?

Albus stopped his pacing as the old grandfather clock began to chime half past ten. He was positive Minerva had agreed to join him for a special birthday brunch in his rooms at ten o'clock. Her birthday had happened to fall on a Saturday this year and he had offered to treat her.

The house elves had prepared a feast of Minerva's favorite breakfast foods and a few of Albus' favorite deserts as well. He had seen to her tea himself, checking to be sure it was brewed perfectly. Flowers and candles completed the table and Albus had already placed her present, a Sapphire brooch, on her chair. All was ready, but Minerva was late.

As he was deciding what to do, there was a knock at the door. Though it was a single tap, not her usual trio of brisk knocks, Albus knew it was Minerva and that something was wrong.

He slowly opened the door, revealing Minerva. Tears were pouring down her pale cheeks. He barely noticed that she was still dressed in her nightgown, her robe only tied loosely around her, as he saw what she held in her hands. His flowers were slightly crumpled as if she had held them close to her chest and with them she held a single phoenix feather.

Fawkes' feather.

"You…" she said, sobbing out the word. "It's been you? All this time?"

Albus continued to stare at the feather. For once in his long life, he was at a complete loss for words, thoughts, actions, everything. He was lost.


He looked from the feather to her face, not quite meeting her eyes.

"Hello? Albus?" He did not answer, he could not, and so she continued. "I just have one question, but I will need you to answer this one. Is it me? Is it really me you were writing to, thinking of, looking for?"

With a small sigh, Albus closed his eyes, feeling his heart break as he spoke the word, "Yes."

Silence filled the room, only to be broken seconds later by Minerva's sobs. Albus instantly opened his eyes and saw her body shaking as she covered her face with her hands and the flowers.

"Minerva… Tabby… I'm so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you. I just thought that you would enjoy the flowers and… and the note. I thought you would never have to know that… that it was me. I'm so sorry."

"Stop, Albus, just… just stop." He could hear her temper rising. "You foolish man, how could you not have told me?"

"Min, I…"

"No, Albus. It's my turn." Minerva sat the flowers and feather down on the table next to her before moving closer to him.

Tell me how to win your heart

For I haven't got a clue

"For eleven years, I have received the most beautiful flowers and the most amazing note and for exactly that long I have dreamed, no prayed they were from you, Albus. I just…" She chocked back a sob as Albus looked at her in astonishment. "I just didn't know how to tell you. I tried, so many times, but you are so much better than I could ever hope for and I just…" This time she let the sob loose as Albus wrapped his arms around her.

But let me start by saying…

I love you

"Minerva, I love you and I have for years. You are too good for me; that is the reason I didn't tell you. I just didn't know how to win your heart."

She looked up from his chest, bright emerald eyes full of devotion and love. "You never had to win it, Albus; it is and always was yours."

As he leaned down to kiss her ruby lips, they said in unison, "I love you."