Minerva Gaia McGonagall sighed. It had taken so much effort to keep everything in order after Albus had gone. It had taken so much effort to build up everything after the mess Tom Riddle had left behind. At least there was one little comfort now: he wouldn't ever be returning. He finally had been defeated. The Castle would be rebuilt in a relatively short time with aid of the survivors. Most would look just like it had been before terror, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself, had struck. A lot of horror among the Wizarding World had been lifted with the certainty that this time he had gone for good. And yet things would never be the same again.
McGonagall's fingers trailed over the edge of the desk that was now hers. She looked up at the portrait of Severus Snape, right under that of Albus Dumbledore. Most of the deceased Headmasters, like Snape, had left their frames to celebrate the end of suffering with the many other portraits all over the Castle. One wasn't. Albus Dumbledore looked at her over his famous half-moon spectacles.
She sighed, only then realizing how tired she actually was, before lowering her eyes. She was getting too old. Minerva almost unnoticeably shook her head. She didn't feel the desire to share words with him now. Albus didn't speak, as if sensing her thoughts. In the many decennia the two of them had known each other, they each had had quite some time to get to know each other through and through. They had gotten to read each other's thoughts without words even having to be involved anymore. They could pick up on one another's train of thoughts without any trouble. Their loyalty to one another had been unbreakable. And even though they were caged in different worlds now, that hadn't changed one bit.
Minerva tearfully bit down on her lip, thinking about the many innocent who had given their lives in this war. Teddy Lupin had lost both his mother and father, for instance. Minerva quietly shook her head again, thinking about what that young brilliant pupil of then had caused; about what this war initiated by his selfishness and nothing else had cost. Even though the battle had been won, there was still so much lost… so much lost beyond retrieving or mending. Oh, she recalled him well: one year younger than her, waltzing through the corridors of the Castle with that air that made many feel the urge to spit on him. She felt amazingly guilty right then, thinking about the fact she had escaped the horror from downstairs to be alone, whereas she could have offered her aid maybe here or there. While everyone was grieving for their lost ones down in the Great Hall, that wasn't her place to grieve. Her place to grieve was here. She just needed to know.
She again shook her head, as the silence between them lingered, and she looked up at him again. Life had always been a bit harder without him. She had met Dumbledore as a pupil, him being her Transfigurations professor. She had long looked up to him, which had maybe lead to her being just that tad better in his subject than any other… even though that didn't mean she hadn't gotten straight As nearly everywhere as well, but Divination. She smiled at the resemblance of herself in younger times with Ms. Granger. She too had learned most from books, reading until late every evening and spending twice as much time on her papers as everyone else. It had been him, Albus Dumbledore, who had learned her to use her wisdom in the field as well.
Her emerald green eyes wandered over the portraits to make sure everyone was gone. Dumbledore lightly smiled at that. "Why?" Minerva questioned just like that, nothing more.
Dumbledore's smile almost immediately vanished. He knew that this moment would come. And even though he would have anticipated it sooner, it didn't make him more ready to give her the answers she wanted and deserved to get. It hadn't made it any easier. He didn't answer. He would not give her any more information than she would request to hear. He didn't strive to make it more difficult. He just wanted her to understand everything as it was; not in the context of so much more unnecessary information.
"Why didn't you trust me?" Minerva questioned.
Albus sighed. He had gotten to know her well in the near sixty years they had known each other. He could have known what her very first question would be. Minerva had always been very trustworthy and loyal herself. She would rather die than disgrace the trust she had given upon and gotten from others. "It never was a matter of trust, Minerva."
Her eyes closed upon hearing him voice her name. Something in her being snapped at that. At that moment she really wished he was still alive, so that she could desperately hold onto his robes and if necessary shake the answers from his mouth. "Then of what was it a matter, Albus?" She questioned, voice soft and almost inaudible, which was odd for her.
"It wasn't a matter of trust, but one of the best for everyone. You were the only one who could keep the school and its pupils safe. I was afraid that maybe your loyalty to me would shake the one you have toward the school. I was afraid that if I let you know what was going on, you would have tried too much to save an old man as myself, instead of the many others who could be kept from harm's way if you gave up to me instead."
"You didn't trust me," Minerva said, voice breaking, as new tears found their way past the barrier she had built right after Albus' death, as she rapidly shook her head.
Dumbledore sighed. "Minerva," he whispered. "Without you to defend the school many more lives would have been lost to Lord Voldemort and his followers."
"And with you there would have been even lesser," Minerva answered, brow furrowing as she watched him slowly place his hand against the confines of his portrait. Something within his eyes showed sadness, and maybe regret over something as well. She couldn't rightly say. He was much harder to read than she ever was to him, it appeared. In the flash of the moment Minerva suddenly understood the meaning behind his movement and slowly she walked closer to the portrait. As she came to stand before him, she could notice tears shining in his eyes as well. Very slowly, feeling like an utter fool for giving in to what she thought to be right, she raised one hand, the mirror one of the one he had pushed against the portrait, and placed it upon Albus'. His fingers were significantly longer than hers.
As their hands touched, even through the layer of the portrait between them, shedding them from each other's world, a strange little connection came to live between their hands. A candidly inexplicable glow slowly spread from Minerva's hand all over her being, and she immediately wondered if he too could feel it. She didn't ask him.
"Do you understand why I didn't tell you?" Albus whispered, sounding regretful.
Minerva nodded, keeping her hand upon the portrait. "It doesn't make me miss you any less," she whispered.