AN: In St. Mungo's as Minerva's recovering from her attack, set towards the end of Order of the Phoenix obviously.

"Minerva, I got here as soon as I could."

"Albus," she greeted wearily, rolling over on her hospital bed to face the doorway. Albus stood there, looking younger and happier than he had in a long time. Clearly his exile had suited him. His eyes were twinkling down at her, and she once again wished that he was her actual father, and then remembered how much pain killer potion she was on and tried to make her mind follow more conventional thought lines.

"Minerva, you look positively awful," he said cheerfully, and came to sit beside her on her bed. He patted her head gently and stroked her hair away from her face.

"Don't flatter me, Albus." She grimaced as she tried to sit up.

"No, no, don't try to sit up. The healer told me your ribs aren't healing as well as he'd hoped," he gently pushed her back down and she happily cuddled back down under her blankets.

"Good to know I'm finally succumbing to old age. What's your secret?"

He winked at her over his half-moon spectacles, "I think you know that's a chapter in my memoirs you won't get to see for hopefully a very long time."

"How is…how is Hogwarts?" She asked tiredly.

"I should rather be asking you the same question," he replied.

She snorted, "Do you want me to rest or do you want me to rant about that wretched old…wretched old tea cozy?"

Dumbledore chuckled and patted her on the head again,

"Well that I can answer to. The 'tea cozy' had quite the scare in the Forbidden Forest and has been quite altered since. She has returned to the Ministry with her tail between her legs."

"Haha," she laughed contentedly, "Tea cozy with a tail between its legs."

"I see someone's been enjoying their pain killer potion."

She nodded, "When I was a child and I had appendicitis and I had the surgery they gave me morphine after. This is way better than that."

"One of the many advantages to being a witch my dear Minerva."

She nodded. She had never regretted leaving behind her Muggle upbringing, and had not been in Muggle society since her father's funeral, now many years ago. But the memories were still fond to recall, especially the toys she had grown up with, the playgrounds, the elementary school years.

"Severus wanted to be here," Dumbledore said quietly, bringing her joy-trip through memory lane to a screeching halt.

"What?" Minerva asked. Her head was filled with cotton balls but she thought Dumbledore had said Severus had wanted to come see her, and the thought made her smile.

"Severus said that he wanted to come but that you might not want him here."

Her smile died on her lips.

"Is this true Minerva?"

She shrugged sadly, and Dumbledore thought she looked for all the world like a sad teenager lost in love, no different from one of the students.

"Did something happen between you?"

She laughed bitterly, "You could say that. Once Umbridge took over, and I couldn't control myself…he didn't want anything to do with me. And then…it's not important. Nothing that you should concern yourself with."

Dumbledore scrutinized her stalwart expression for a moment more and then sighed and clapped his hands, "Well, whatever it was he certainly seemed sorry about it. And gathering your expression he rightly should be I would imagine. I should get back to the castle. We are going to ceremoniously take down all those ridiculous educational decrees."

"Wish I could be there," she said so wistfully that Dumbledore laughed out loud.

"You'll be right as rain by tomorrow the healer tells me."

"Right as rain, haha," she laughed again.

"All right, I think that's my cue to leave," Dumbledore said, leaned down and kissed her on the head, "Poppy and Pomona will be over tomorrow afternoon to bring you home."

She nodded, her eyes drifting closed. She tried to replay childhood scenes in her mind, but now all she could think of was Snape. The Snape from years ago, sullen, resentful, and utterly adorable and vulnerable. She wondered where he had gone. And where the woman who had seduced him had gone. She missed her too.

There she stood, like nothing had happened. She was limping, walking stiffly with a cane, carrying that blasted ancient carpet bag of hers, and daring, as usual to undermine his authority with the students. And he had never been gladder to see the infuriating woman in his whole life. He could hardly form a reasonable thought besides, 'thank God', and 'she's all right', and now she was sending Crabbe and Goyle off with her carpetbag, and Harry and Draco were wandering away in opposite directions, and now it was just the two of them in the corridor. And he was like a schoolboy again. He had already tried to apologize a hundred times for what he had done to her a few months before, and he knew the apologies meant nothing to her. It wasn't that he wasn't sorry, he was, of course he was sorry. He was a thousand times sorry. But he just knew that an apology could never make it right, and so they always sounded false even to his own ears. But here she was; here was his chance to say it again.

"Severus," she said kindly, "How are you?"

"I'm…I'm sorry," he said.

"I know," she said, again in that irritatingly kind and compassionate voice, "I knew you were sorry even as it was happening. And I've realized I can't forgive you. It's simply not in my nature. But I will try to forget, and we can be friends again."

She held out her bony hand, her facial expression dead calm, her eyes steady, watching his, calculating his reaction, just as he was calculating hers. Cautious as always, he hesitantly he took her hand and shook it. Dying to make her offer of her hand mean something, dying to make their touch reminiscent somehow, dying to make her love him again. But his face remained as impassive as ever. She felt anger surge against him when she saw that he was unmoved as always, even now. He released her hand coldly and stepped back.

"There," she said, "I'm going to unpack. I'll see you at the feast." She nodded to him and turned to go, as stately as a cat, even with her cane.

"Damn it," he muttered. He had lost his only friend…pretty much his only friend ever. And there would be no forgiveness for him. But he already knew that. He'd known that since he'd stepped through Hogwarts' door sixteen years ago and decided to fight against the Dark Lord. And more importantly, he'd known that since Lily Evans died. And now he'd pushed away the only woman who had ever made him forget that he was damned.