It was good to be back at home in her little house in the Scottish Countryside. In the dusk, the hills that rolled outside of her home like a green sea looked nearly black rather than their rich green. Heather sprung up covering the rich green with a sea of flowers. Minervra McGonnagal moved out of her cat form and back into that of a human woman. She enjoyed the romps she took in the rolling hills in her cat form. There was something invigorating in exploring the world from an entirely different vantage point that always made her feel a little younger than her years.

The sturdy little cottage had been aired out from the long months of unuse and now had been returned to the neat and tidy space that she liked it to be. Her grandfather's tartan still hang in its protective case over the fireplace. Her furniture was comfortable, if not a little overly plump. It was just enough space for her, if not a little large. She was not exactly the type of person who took up much space.

There was a loud crack in her kitchen and Minervra whipped out her wand and moved carefully towards the kitchen. No one should have been in her house. There were so few people that knew it's exact coordinates and no one should have been visiting, especially not inside the house to start. In these days you could never be too careful.

She turned the corner and the woman standing in the small but sunny room was all too familiar. She sighed and sagged, just a little, as relief flooded her. "Oh Dorcas. You gave me a start. I didn't expect to see you so soon. It's not often that I see you more than once every few years."

The shorter woman turned in her bright blue robes and smiled. "My work was done for the time being and I thought I might stop by and visit a friend." Brown eyes examined the room as Minerva stood and drank in the sight of the other woman. "Another school year is over for you, hmm Min? Never did want to leave did you?"

Her spine stiffened at what she knew to be the oncoming onslaught. "There are children who need to be taught and I am quite capable of it."

"You could be doing so many other things."

"I enjoy what I'm doing," she reminded her friend briskly, setting the sturdy red teapot on the stove. "And what of you Dory? Tired of being brilliant?"

"Never."

"You're becoming reckless."

"What do you know of recklessness Min?" Dorcas scoffed, her rosy face blooming into a smile, taking a seat at the table in the cozy. "It's been years since you've done anything of the sort."

She found her jaw tensing as she went about making up a plate for them to eat with their tea. Recklessnes had rarely been her pleasure and she needed no reminder that it was something that had long been considered a failing of hers. Especially not in times of this nature. "Your name is getting noticed Dory. It's a dangerous time for that."

"Now you're just being selfish," Dorcas chastised.

"I am not."

"You are so. Now isn't the time to be shy or hesitant," Dorcas reminded her, brim full of confidence. "It is a time for action Min, you know that."

"That does not mean you have to be so bloody loud about it," she hissed back. "Your name has been splashed all over the papers, carried everywhere. Best Witch of our Age," she said with a scoff.

"You don't agree?"

"You're one of," Minervra agreed, lifting the warm, whistling pot from the stove, "but you don't think You Know Who will take notice?"

Dorcas shrugged, giving off the air of a woman barely out of school rather than the woman past her 40th birthday that she was. "He was going to have to take notice of me either way."

"You're so…" infuriating stuck on her tongue and would not come out. Dorcas' visit was not the time for a row, at least not so soon. "This is not the time to be so wild with your ways Dorcas. It's a dangerous age. I worry so for the students that we are sending out into this world. It will not be easy."

"We grew up in a time of war ourselves, Min, lest you forget."

"It was a different war," she reminded her friend, carefully pouring the tea into her delicate, flowered cups that her grandmother had passed to her. "That was Grindewold on the continent, this is far more subversive. You Know Who has a far deeper entrenchment here in England. It is our blood that will be spilt first and most fiercely. It's not just about power over muggles either, which was wrong, but this is about eliminating muggleborns and half borns as well. It would half our population, not to mention those who will die in the resistance."

"You are selfish," Dorcas accused, surprised. "If it defeats him…"

"What if he can't be defeated?" Minerva interjected, voicing one of her chief worries about Tom Riddle's rise to power.

The look that Dorcas sent her was one that one might bestow on a particularly silly and petulant child. "Everyone can be defeated."

Minervra shifted uncomfortably while she sipped her tea. "He worries Albus. He's always so blasted confident but I can feel it. Tom Riddle is going to be a greater danger than Grindewold ever was, you can be assured of that."

"Doesn't it feel odd, calling him Albus?"

She narrowed her eyes at her friend from behind her glasses. "You're changing the subject."

Undettered, Dorcas continued. "Doesn't it?"

"Not anymore," she said, setting down the plate at the table tucked in her cozy. "I've been here nearly twenty years."

"You are old."

"I am not old," she insisted, looking down her pointed nose, "And if I was it would only mean you are too."

Silence fell between them as they continued drinking their tea in the cozy kitchen. Minerva couldn't help but think how nice it was to have a contemporary who wasn't a colleague, whom she didn't have to put on a brave face with. Dorcas was always good for sitting and debating various subjects as well.

"Are you ever sorry that you never got married, had children?"

"I have a legion of children," she reminded her friend, talking of the students she cared for during the majority of the year. "And have cared for several more before this set to boot. And they are all old enough to comprehend higher thought, or at least," she amended, "most of them are. There are a few that I'm not sure have ever understood a word anyone has said, let alone grasped the higher concepts of theory."

She sipped at her tea and pondered the real question. Looking Dorcas dead in the eyes she answered, "But no, I'm not sorry. At least I'm not half as sorry as my mother is."

"I've missed you Min," Dory said, reaching her hand across to cover Minerva's. The old familiar tingle shot through her body at the contact and the look that was being sent her way. "You should have come with me."

Carefully, protectively, she slipped her hand out from underneath Dory's. "And spent the past thirty years running amok with you?" she asked skeptically while taking another sip of her tea. "I'm not suited to it."

"You were once."

She sighed and stared at the tea in her cup. If she believed in the messy and obtuse practice of divination she might have drained her cup to examine the leaves, but you could make next to anything out of tea leaves. "I wanted to be, desperately, but I wasn't happy with that way of life. It's why I left."

"Here I thought I was the problem."

She looked up at Dory, whose eyes were now downcast to the table. Odd how the years colored your perceptions and you never realized what other's thought. Now it was her turn to reach across and take her friend's hand in her own. She carefully toyed with the fingers that she now held in her hand. They were shorter than her own, and a little plumper but still the lovely hands she'd known.

Minerva caught Dory's eye and gave her hand a squeeze. "If you had been the problem, Dory, you wouldn't have been visiting these twenty some odd years."

Still holding the warm fingers tightly, she glanced down at the table again. "The lives we each want are not what the other wants."

At a derisive snort from her friend she looked up. "I know you think what I'm doing is a horrid waste of my talents. I spent a good eight years out in the world, playing with you, working for various individuals who needed transfiguration help, but I've always loved the pure practice of transfiguration, the methods behind it. I am doing what I love, whether you believe it to be the truth or not."

Dory's other hand came up to hold hers. "You have so much to show the world."

"And I have shown every witch or wizard who has passed through Hogwarts for twenty years," she reminded Dorcas crisply. "And if they have any talent whatsoever at transfiguration, I had something to do with it. This i is /i my way of changing the course of history."

"Perhaps you have a point."

Minerva's lips turned up at the corners, turning her mouth into a smug smile. "I usually do."

Dory rolled her eyes and Minerva felt they had crossed through some sort of wall that had perhaps been there longer than she'd known. "The free quidditch games can't hurt."

She smiled at her friend. Her love of quidditch was "One of my greatest weaknesses remains the same."

Dory looked in her cup, as if trying to read the tea leaves, and ran a finger around the edge of the cup. "I've heard Hooch has taken up the position of flying teacher."

Minerva started at the tone, and watched Dorca's manner before narrowing her eyes. "You're fishing for answers," Minerva reminded her testily. "Why not just ask the question?"

"Because it would be silly to ask for a list of lovers from the past twenty or so years."

"It would," Minerva agreed.

"I wouldn't expect you to wait for me, for our little summer dalliances when we get to them."

Or really, when Dorcas managed to come up from whatever jobs she was busy taking. But Minerva felt now was not the time to bring that up lest Dory reminded her that she chose to go, once again. Instead she merely said, "And I wouldn't expect it of you either."

Dory set her cup down and narrowed her won eyes at Minerva. "Does she mean anything to you?"

"Xiomara is a very good friend of mine."

"Never anything more?" Dorcas pressed further.

Looking to be done with this invasive line of questioning, Minerva set to clearing the table, removing both of their cups. "Jealousy never suited you," she insisted, giving Dory a spare glance before setting the cups down in the sink. As she washed up she asked, "How many women have there been in your travels?"

Rather than answer the question, Dory just said, "I wish we could go back to being schoolgirls."

Minerva set the cups out to dry and turned back to look at Dorcas. "That time has long since passed. We're not young and living in the dorms anymore."

As if she could recreate the old days, Dorcas leaned in and pressed her lips to Minerva's. It was hard not to feel like a school girl when Dory was all but in her lap wishing them back in time. It was warm and comforting and everything that Minerva missed about Dorcas. Her arms banded around her friend and she lifted the other woman to get a closer hold.

There was a tug on her robes as Dorcas put her feet back on the floor and started to walk backwards towards the bedroom. Without thinking she followed. She loved the way Dorcas smelled, and the curves of her body and the softness of her short blond hair.

Once they crossed the threshold of her bedroom, Minerva broke away to get some air. She looked down at the woman she'd wanted since girlhood and sentimentally moved a bit of the hair behind Dory's ear. She felt her heart tear, just a little as she thought about what she had to say. "This has to be the last time Dory."

Brown eyes narrowed behind heavy lids. "Is it Hooch?"

This time, Minerva laughed. "No. She's been with Drusilla Elsby, her former chaser, for years."

Dorcas ever perceptive, continued, "There is someone, though."

"Yes," she admitted, though it pained her to say so. It was likely she should have ended this years ago, before it ever had to come to this point.

"I see."

The tenseness was horrible, but Minerva just stared back at her, working to keep her practiced air of calm. "So you do."

"Should I leave?"

"No, it's not…" She wrapped her arms around Dorcas again. "We've not made any promises yet."

The knowing brown eyes still stared up at her. "But you want to."

"Yes. But I…want this, with both of us knowing…" i it's goodbye /i . It was weak and most likely wrong but she couldn't seem to make herself care. She had hoped, more like a coward than the Gryffindor she was, that when Dorcas came back at least another year would have passed, rather than just one, and she would have been able to say no.

Instead she was weak enough to need one last time.

Dorcas seemed to understand what she didn't say and nodded. "Alright then," she agreed, and leaned up and pressed her lips to Minerva's once again.

The touch was like the starting whistle at a quidditch match. Minerva responded to it like a shot and cupped Dory's rounded cheeks with her hands and deepened the kiss. She felt her own, long dark hair fall down her back as the pins were pulled free and she took that as an invitation to undo the buttons that kept Dory's robes on.

Her hands cruised over the soft, curvaceous flesh and wished, just a tad, that she wasn't all angles like she was. But Dory never seemed to mind.

It was soft and sweet and as heartbreaking as it was beautiful. The days of experimentation with one another were long since gone by. It was intimate and perfect. Fumbling hands and giggling breaths had no place here, but rather sweet sighs and practiced touch. Everything that hadn't been said was said somehow in the movement of two longtime lovers. Hellos, goodbyes and memories all shared in those long moments under the covers.

When everything was said and felt and all were left complete, they simply lay entwined, listening to the world outside. Moonlight shone through the window

A hand roamed over her backside, up her shoulder and cupped her angular face. She looked down and met the eyes that looked up at her with a shine of tears gathering. "I will miss you Min."

She closed her own slender fingers over the softer ones on her face. "We will remain friends at least, won't we? I'd hate to lose you entirely."

"Yes, but I'll miss this."

Not wanting to think of what would happen in the morning, Minerva banded her arms around the other woman tighter and put her chin on Dory's head. There was a possibility there wouldn't be any contact after this moment and she didn't want to know. "Mmm."

"I can't convince you to come away with me?"

She stroked her long fingers over her lover's face. If she could have gone and stayed happy, she would have been. "I'm sorry Dory, but no."

"It was worth a shot."

She tightened her arms once again. "Stay the night," she murmured into Dory's ear, not quite ready to let go just yet.

"Of course."

When she woke though, Minerva was alone. The other side of the bed was rumpled and barely cold. It was unsurprising, and she didn't know why it was. Dorcas had always hated staying past her welcome and long goodbyes. Whenever their trysts were over, Minerva rarely saw her go. There was however always a letter.

The crisp parchment envelope sat on the bedside table with Dorcas' familiar hand, exactly where it always was.

Dear Min,

I cannot say that I blame you. I have been heartily surprised these past twenty some odd years that you did not cast me aside and cut me off. I know you always wanted more than this. That we have both spent years wishing things were different and you're right they're not going to change. We both deserve more than this limbo in which we've been existing all this time. It has been quite the ride with you and me. You must know that I have loved you more dearly than anyone else in my life.

I hope whoever she is, she makes you happy. You deserve to be happy, Minerva. I wish I were the cause of it, but alas such things are not to be. I promise to keep fighting the good fight and if I am noticeable that only means I am only doing things correctly. I want you to remember to keep up your end of the fight. Keep instilling your brilliance and righteousness and respect for rules into those students and perhaps it will make a greater difference than I tend to assume. You've always been more brilliant than I; it's a shame that it's hidden from most of the world.

Don't be afraid love, we've lived through great periods of darkness before and we shall weather this storm just as surely. I will gladly dance with you whenever it is you decide you're too old to educate the future of the wizarding world and make whoever this other girl is jealous. I hope you will feel comfortable enough to confide in me about her one day.

Yours always,
Dory.

Minerva read the letter a few times over, ran her fingers over the words. She might have asked for it to end but this was a sense of finality she hadn't been quite prepared for, especially when she didn't get a chance to say goodbye herself.

Perhaps it was better this way though. Without seeing Dorcas face to face she did not have the chance to change her mind. She folded the letter back up and slid it back inside the envelope. Padding across the hardwood floor she opened the door to her small closet Crouching, she lifted the bundle of letters tied by a ribbon into her lap. Untying the ribbon, she carefully lined this letter up with the others and retied the ribbons.

The stack was quite hefty by now. Thirty years of letters amounted to a large series of letters. She was tempted to give into temptation and go through them all, read through the past thirty or so years of their relationship. But instead she placed it back inside the box in the back of the closet and closed the lid on the box.

It was to be put away, and left there like any old memory. A tear slipped down her face and she carefully wiped it away. She had done what she had needed to do for herself and for all of them, really. As much as she would have liked to, she couldn't hold on to the past forever, especially when she found something that could, if she let it, mean more than anyone else had, but Dory. She could have cut it off for Dory, but cutting off what might become as vital as an arm for something that was now nothing more than a shadow would have been ridiculous.

Minerva straightened and carefully closed the door. She stripped the bedsheets to be cleaned and remade it with fresh sheets and set about to getting herself a bite to eat before going out and roaming the countryside again.