After the memory-restoring procedure, Minerva McGonagall was declared to be out of any physical danger. To ease the healing process, and keep her in a familiar environment while she coped with the influx of memories, St. Mungo's transferred her to the care of Matron Poppy Pomfrey at Hogwarts. Poppy had visited her friend in St. Mungo's on a daily basis. "Annabelle" had no memories of Poppy, but she continued to provide her comfort and reassurance to the bewildered woman in isolation.

Now that Minerva's memories were, theoretically, back in place, and she was back at Hogwarts, Poppy's felt more and more confident in Minerva's full recovery. As yet, the patient had not woken from the potion-induced sleep from her memory procedure. The stern professor remained in a slumber so deep, it gave her an air of extreme vulnerability. Despite the fact that it was summer, and not a single student was in the school, Poppy kept a curtain up around Minerva, as if to protect her in this unguarded state. And the Headmaster stood unwavering watchdog over her sleep.

Albus refused to leave her side. Poppy found it a bit odd, to be sure. Of course, Dumbledore had exhibited an unusual guilt over the entire kidnapping. Poppy knew that Albus and Minerva were only friends. However, as one of Minerva's closest friends and confidants, she knew there was the potential for more. The Scottish schoolmarm professed to merely "admire his academic achievements and magical prowess". Poppy knew this was far from the full story. Minerva lit up every time Albus came into a room. There was more than admiration and respect in her voice, there was pining. At nearly every meal, Poppy would catch Minerva mooning over Albus (in her own, reserved way; and more than once, she swore she had seen Albus wistfully brush hands with her. While Poppy would have loved to play match-maker, she knew Minerva was a private soul. Professor McGonagall would do things in her own time or not at all.

And so it was Poppy found herself approaching the curtains around Minerva's bed, only to hear the following monologue:

"Minerva, please, come back to me." The whisper, though soft, as clearly Dumbledore's, "I cannot bear the thought of going another day without you at my side. Every moment without your stern glance, your crisp green eyes, and your musical lilt tears me in half. Only a fool would have waited this long to tell you, so I must be the greatest fool of all. But, my dear, if you come back, I will tell you every day, every night how much I care for you. Just please, please return to me."

Poppy quietly returned to her office. When she came back to check on her patient an hour later, she found the Headmaster in his customary place seated next to the bed, his head resting on the sheets. Minerva's hand lay over his cheek. Poppy had to wipe tears from her eyes as she performed the routine diagnostics.

/*\/*\/*\

Albus stirred as the hand that had been limp on his face began to twitch. Instantly, he sat up and caught the moving hand in his own. Minerva's head was moving ever-so-slightly now. Albus stood and called for Poppy. When he turned around, Minerva's eyes were staring back at him. At first, they seemed lost and confused.

"Where?" She tried to speak, but her voice was raspy and dry. Albus nearly fell over himself trying to conjure a glass, when Poppy sailed in with a cup already full of water. She helped Minerva sit up, and handed her the cup.

"You're back at Hogwarts, dear." She informed while running through her usual check list of spells. "And you are still physically in order. Now, what's my name?"

Minerva took a long moment to think. Albus couldn't tell if she was puzzled by the question, or genuinely could not remember the matron's name, "Poppy? Why are you asking me questions like that? Am I all right? What happened?"

Poppy put a hand on her shoulder to calm her, "Steady there. You're fine. Do you remember your name?"

"Minerva Deirdre McGonagall. I was born February 24th, 19… well, you know how old I am…" She trailed off as she eyed Albus. She was definitely back to her old self.

Poppy had one final question, "What is the last thing you remember?"

"I was on holiday, and Filius was about to visit. I sent him an owl, and…" She paled, "Oh. Oh, my…" And with that, she sank back into the pillows. Albus and Poppy both reached for her. "No! Please, don't touch me… I need to be alone…" With that, the woman rolled onto her side, away from the outstretched hands of her friends. Albus turned to Poppy for guidance.

"All right, but I'll be just in my office if you need anything." Albus followed the healer out of the curtains.

He tried his best to keep himself occupied. Minerva made it very clear that she did not want to be disturbed. He started writing a letter to a dignitary, but was forced to start over three times, after his letter ran off into nonsensical meanderings. Finally, he gave it up. Lesson plans proved just as pointless. He nearly had the first years scheduled to take NEWT level courses, before the knock on the door broke his concentration.

"Enter," Albus burst, glad for the distraction. He had to keep himself from running over to the door like an over-excited dog.

Poppy emerged, her face bearing a mixture of relief and apprehension. "Minerva would like to see you." She announced. Albus dashed after her, resisting the urge to pepper her with questions. It would not do to seem too eager.

Slowly, he glided over to the curtain around Minerva's bed, and stepped through. Minerva lay back, staring up at the ceiling, she did not turn when he entered. Albus immediately noted the raw, swollen red state of her normally pale, austere eyes.

"So many terrible things, Albus." She whispered. "All the things they taught me, what they wanted me to do. I cannot think of a single moment without feeling immense shame."

"Minerva, you didn't let them. When we found you, you were trying to run away." He reached for her arm, and then remembered her earlier outburst. He contented himself with sitting back in the chair. "You rejected their doctrine and were trying to flee."

"The things they taught me, Albus." Minerva interrupted, "I should have known, right away. I should have fled much sooner… All those weeks…"

This time, Albus did reach for her hand, "What you did was enough. You are safe now. No one else could have done more."

"A man died because of me, Albus. A promising young fighter, from what I've learned." She drew a shaky breath, "Died, because I didn't see those monsters for what they were."

"Minerva, you cannot blame yourself. You were kidnapped, transformed into someone other than yourself, and forced to their will." Albus squeezed her limp hand, "There is no shame in what happened."

"And you," Minerva snapped her head over to look at him now, and Albus laid her hand back down on the bed. He could not bring himself to pull his hand away. "You came to my rescue." She had a confused look in her eyes, but the rest of her face was blank.

"I… It…It was my duty to see the safety of my Deputy." He carefully responded.

"Oh, Albus, don't lie to me." Her voice had dropped in volume again, and tears were forming at the corners of her eyes. "I remember everything you told me. And I know exactly how you feel… rather… how you felt."

It was Albus' turn to wear the confused expression.

"Minerva…"

"No, Albus, I need to know one thing." She sat up now, turning to face him. She closed her eyes, as if somewhat dizzy, when she finally reached an upright position. She opened her eyes to continue, "Do you still love me? Even after everything that's happened, and all that I did, do you still love me?" Her eyes were diving into the depths of his soul.

Albus was speechless for a moment, "Minerva, I love you more than ever. I underestimated how precious you are to me. I will never do that again." He sat next to her on the bed, and wrapped his arms around her.

Minerva clung to Albus, and he heard her whisper, "Tell me again, Albus."

"I love you, Minerva McGonagall." He murmured over the top of her head.

"Never stop telling me." She pleaded.

They were married six months later.