not my characters. they belong to the wonderful J.K. Rowling who I bow down to.

I had to write it. Only a ficlet. I ship my ship, despite the horrible news that Dumbledore is gay.

No Longer

"Miss McGonagall," she heard spoken from behind her shoulder. It was him, of course. The restraints of the teacher-student relationship no longer existed. No more late hours. No more sneaking about. No more playing coy. Dippit had no hold on their relationship; he had no way of controlling anything. It made her laugh in a sort of horrid, sad way inside her chest; it had ended five months before and there was no turning back. The right time had finally come--and it just wasn't possible. Still, he came.

She took a second to stare at the train, pulling into Hogwarts Station. She was leaving. Leaving it all. And she would not look back--not on her relationship, not even his face; for five months she had hurt and it was time to stop the pain.

Minerva turned towards the man. Dark blue robes; he always looked the best in blue, even down to his undergarments blue was always the right color. It contrasted well with his red hair, which was pulled back at the nape of his neck. He hadn't shaved the hair around his mouth yet--he had been saying since December that he was going to attempt a new style. Of course, she loved him with that little circle of red hair on his face, so it made no difference to her, other than it brought back some painful memories.

In those milliseconds that passed before she finally had the courage to say, "Hello Professor Dumbledore", Minerva was hit with one very distinct image of her holding his chin where the bristles were the longest--and him kissing her. Passionately. Carefully. Wantonly. And she kissed him back, despite the open door to his classroom, lit by two unattended candles.

"You must be very proud to be moving on," Professor Dumbledore nodded gently at Minerva. Ironic, wasn't it? She'd been trying to move on for months.

The girl swallowed gently, met him in the eyes. "I am," she said gently; more would have come from her mouth if she knew what to say--but there were no words; a regular occurrence as of late.

The man gave a warm smile. "Can I talk to you away from the rest of the students? I need to talk to you."

She should have said no, of course. But then again, she should have said no before the whole affair began. She never should have even given the slightest indication that she was interested in him--then he never would have kissed her. She should have left, shouldn't have come back to get her coat--then he never would have had a way to kiss her. She shouldn't have let him kiss her at all. She shouldn't have roamed the corridors as a cat to be with him--then they never would have felt guilty. She never should have said she loved him--then it wouldn't have been true.

Somehow the girl found herself walking to the side of the boarding area next to the man. Some sort of unknown pull caused her to do as he said--just as always. Minerva folded her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow at the man whose hands hung limply at his sides. "Well," she shrugged, "We're here." It wasn't a forced statement by any means; the girl just preferred to be abrupt, to not toil anymore with words on the man.

Albus nodded his head gently. "I'm not sure that I know how to say what it is that I want to say to you, Minerva." He looked at her sincerely, sadly almost. It never did to see him unhappy; he was always such a lively man. There had never been a day that she spent with him that he was not the light of all happiness; but she reminded herself, there were days long after that he made her want to cry out in sadness.

Standing her ground, Minerva looked right back at him and dared the man to be honest with her. "As eloquent as you profess to be, I find that you're rather good at being direct when it's necessary, Professor. Just say it."

His eyebrows slid down his face. "Call me Albus. You're no longer a student."

Never again could she call him that; it implied a relationship that she didn't ever want again. It reminded her of a thing that was slaughtered by guilt and stupidity. "I think you'll always be a professor to me. Albus somehow seems too personal"

"You know, Minerva," he put his arms on either of her shoulders, "we once were rather personal. I once was Albus to you."

Her chest tightened at this last statement. Indeed he was. And it was true, she loved the way that his name rolled off of her lips. "I know, Professor. But that was a long time ago."

"Not so very long. Just last November."

She found herself taking an excruciating long breath. It wasn't long at all--and yet, it was an eternity. Damn him. Again and again and again she saw herself in his arms. She saw the first time. Her first time. How it hurt. It was straight to the point; a silent affair; perhaps neither one of them wanted to think about the thousands of lines that they were crossing. The girl's body still felt him there every now and then--it hurt every time. Moonlight. His desk. Sweat. Confusion. Blood. Minerva felt a horrible, horrible pang in her chest brought on by nothing but his words.

"Indeed. It was half of a year ago. To some people, that's quite a long time."

A short silence. Albus was losing second by second his usual twinkle. Of course this didn't help Minerva at all; as much as she didn't want to be in love with him, she still loved him. The man blinked. "I meant what I said before, Minerva. That day that I dismissed you--I meant it when I said that I loved you. That I was forced to do it."

Minerva had thought long and hard about that day--after all, it was the day that her world fell apart. Indeed, he had said that he loved her. She believed him at that, which really was a feat, given her emotional state at the time. The girl hated him for loving her and then just letting her go. It was one of the most inhumane things she had ever heard of.

He said it in his office. A rather appropriate place, given where it all started. He sent an owl. Told her to meet him in his office after her last class. He was standing there, worried, quite possibly the guiltiest look he would ever have. And then he just said it. Told her that they had been stupid, careless; that he had felt guilty from the beginning and it was time to end it; that there was suspicion everywhere he turned and he could not risk either of their safeties. And she took it. Never had Minerva been more calm in her life; God, she hated herself.

And here it was that the unutterable sadness of loneliness came upon her. No longer strong, but weak as she had been in private for months; ready to let her voice crack at any moment: "I know."

Albus reached out softly, and put his hand at the side of her face. His fingers were warm and seemed to run from her pale cheeks to the end of her ear. "I meant everything I ever said to you, Minerva McGonagall." He waited for a response, but received none. Minerva knew that his love had been genuine. "All that you and I said in the dark, I meant it." His free hand's thumb absent-mindedly traced along her hairline, gathering strands of dark hair. "You know, I have never been thrown to anyone like I was with you. Only problem was that you were my student."

"I sometimes feel that fate was just toying with us," she whispered sadly. "That we talked ourselves into thinking that it was something tangible, to be together." It hurt to say it. It was true; for a while, she let herself think that they could live happily ever after.

"Forgive me, Minerva, but you're no longer my student. We're free to do as we please."

A horrible bubble seemed to grow in the back of her throat as she formulated what to say. She wanted to forget. "I think the time has passed, Professor Dumbledore." She said the word professor with a decisiveness that she wasn't sure she even possessed; it was like a knife, sharp and penetrating to them both.

The man nodded his head gently. "Minerva, it was never my intention to hurt you and I'll regret doing it for a very, very long time. Quite possibly the rest of my life."

She believed him, for what it was worth. She knew he would regret it as she regretted it. Thus, her one display of love to the man. She put her hand on that which was upon her cheek and moved it to hang at their waists. Her fingers slid through his in one sweet moment of remembrance. He used to lace their fingers together in those moments when the night was the quietest. After they made love. When no part of their bodies could possibly move, save for the fingers. And then he would just hold her there. Say that he loved her.

For the sake of remembrance--and the sake of closure--she said it very, very gently to him as her eyes filled with tears: "You were my first love and no one will ever take that away from me. I don't regret being hurt," a warm tear fell down her cheek; there was no hand to stop it. "I regret that I've had to keep my pain a secret. No one knows of my heartache but me--and I just can't continue like this. "

He nodded. Dry eyes. Deep and sorrowful, but dry nonetheless. He wore his heartbreak on his mouth which was curling in ways that she had never known upon his face. "Then," his usually strong voice cracked just a little, "I will write you. I've lost you as a lover, don't make me lose you as a friend."

She shook her head. It was over. It had to be. All of it. "I won't write back."

He bobbed his head slowly. Then he reached into his pocket with his free hand. He pulled out the silver locket--the very one that she had given back to him months before. A whisper was all that came from his mouth: "Take this back, then. It does not belong to me; it belongs to you." In the sun, the emeralds and diamonds glistened beautifully; it really was a beautiful trinket.

Somewhere in the distance, the train was sounding; it was about ready to leave and she was all that was left. She looked at the train, then at the man. Minerva shook her head. "You spent your money on it. Keep it." She glanced again at the train, then at Albus once more.

The man knew that she had to leave, just as she did. A forced smile crossed his face. "I hope someday that our paths cross again, Minerva McGonagall."

She squeezed his hand gently and a faint smile crossed her face as well. "Someday. Good-bye, Professor Dumbledore."

And she left for the train. He watched her pick up her bags and then run to the open door on the Hogwarts Express. It was a trip that she made without hesitation. She did not look back once, not until she was on the train, sitting with three sixth year graduates who knew nothing of her except that she spent her last few moments with Professor Dumbledore.

Minerva watched Albus, still standing there as the train left. A tear fell from her eyes. It was over.