Minerva sat in her office at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It had been a month since Albus Dumbledore's funeral, and she still couldn't believe that he was gone. It still felt odd to her, sitting in the chair which she had only occupied from time to time in his absence.
She glanced around the large office, it hurt to still see remnants of Albus here but she hadn't the heart to change the decor. Not just yet. Unwilling, her gaze passed over the portrait of Albus and a tear came to her eyes as he winked at her.
"Albus, why did you have to leave? Why did you trust Severus Snape? It cost you your life!"
Albus didn't answer her, but smiled in that annoyingly knowing way that had plagued her oft times over the years.
"Alright, Albus, you can keep your secret. For now."
Minerva turned away so that he wouldn't see the tears in her eyes. No one had known, but she and Albus had been a lot closer than simply associates at Hogwarts. They had been man and wife. She remembered the day he proposed like it was yesterday...
Minerva sat in her office at Hogwarts, getting ready for the new students who would be arriving in a little over a month. She had taken time to look at the picture that James and Lily had sent her of their son, Harry. Such a sweet little boy. Looked so much like James. All except for the eyes. The eyes were like Lily's.
She had often regretted not marrying and having a family of her own. She knew that Albus fancied her, and they had gone on a few 'dates' together but nothing else had come of it. Both of them were devoted to their work and well, it left precious little time for a social life.
"Good morning, Minerva," Albus' voice startled her out of her thoughts.
Looking up, she smiled at him. "Good morning, Albus."
Rounding the side of her desk, he glanced over her shoulder at the picture she held in her hand. "Ah yes, young Harry Potter. What a handsome lad. He'll be here at Hogwarts before we know it."
"Albus, he's not even a year old yet."
"Ah but with parents like that, magic is in his blood." Albus smiled at Minerva, then drew back a bit. Stroking his beard thoughtfully, he looked Minerva in the eyes. "I have been doing some thinking, Minerva."
Minerva's eyes grew wide in surprise for a moment, then she regained her composure. She started to speak but then he held up his hand, signalling for her to wait.
"I have thought about my life, and the direction it has gone. I love working here at Hogwarts but alas, I have discovered that something is missing."
Looking thoughtfully at the picture which Minerva still held in her hand, he smiled wistfully. "I know that I have the love and respect of those who work for me, and of many members of the wizarding world. But it's not the same as having someone who loves and cares about you."
Taking Minerva's hand he looked deeply into her eyes. "Minerva, I care for you very deeply, and love you with my whole heart." Getting down on one knee, he drew a ring box from his robes pocket and opened it, revealing a sapphire and diamond ring. "Minerva Anastasia McGonagall, would you give me the honour of allowing me to be your husband?"
A smile broke out on Minerva's face. "Yes, Albus, I will marry you!"
They had married two days later. Due to the state of the wizarding world, they had kept their nuptials private and their wedding feast was nothing more than the welcoming feast for the returning professors.
But that evening, in their quarters, they had danced to a magically recorded copy of John Lennon's "Grow Old With Me."
Grow old along with me The best is yet to be When our time has come We will be as one God bless our love God bless our love
Unbidden tears flowed freely down Minerva's cheeks as the memory became too hard to bear.
"Minerva, does the memory of our wedding day bring so much pain?" Albus' voice made Minerva look up.
"Albus, do you remember our wedding song?"
"Of course. Grow Old With Me, wasn't it?"
"Yes, Grow Old With Me. So why is it that you are in there and I'm out here?"
Albus sighed so deeply she could almost see the canvas buckling with the breath. "Minerva, I really wish that I could answer you. But you have trusted me in the past; I need to ask you to trust me now."
"I do trust you, Albus, and I still love you. I always have and I always will."
"Promise me something, Minerva. Promise me that you will open Hogwarts this year. The students need their education now more than ever."
"I will promise you that, Albus, but I honestly don't know if anyone will attend."
"Just send out the letters that Hogwarts is open for anyone who would like to attend. Oh, and don't forget. You will need a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."
"Yes, Albus, I know. Do you have any suggestions?" she asked, but he had mysteriously fallen asleep. "Well, I guess you wanted me to make that decision myself."
Minerva sat down to write out the letters, wrote a few out, and then put her head in her hands. "What's the use? What parent in their right mind is going to send their child to Hogwarts, even if it is one of the safest places in our world right now."
Remember your promise to me, Minerva.
Minerva's head jerked up to look at Albus' portrait, but he appeared to be still sleeping soundly.
"I must be hearing things," she said, but diligently started writing the letters again, mostly to the students and professors but one special one went to Remus Lupin, offering him the job as Defence Against the Dark Arts job.
"Alright, Albus. I have done what you asked. But I rather think that it was a waste of time," she said sadly. "How can anyone send their students here when the world is so much at war?"
The weeks until term passed quickly. The professors replied and arrived, but would they have students to teach? As the days passed, it seemed to be hopeless.
One day before the deadline, Minerva was back in her office speaking with Dumbledore's portrait. "See? I knew that no one would come."
"Minerva, there is still one day left before the deadline to respond. Don't give up hope."
Just then, an owl flew into the window. Hoping beyond all sensible reason, Minerva detached the parchment from the leg of the owl and read it.
Dear Headmistress McGonagall,
Thank you so much for opening Hogwarts again this year. There is no way you could keep me away.
See you on the 1st.
Another owl followed soon after. That owl's letter read:
Dear Headmistress McGonagall,
Dad and Mum told us that they would home school us if we wanted to stay home this year from Hogwarts, but we told them that we wanted to come. So count us in.
Padma and Parvati Patil
Owl after owl flew into her office, all saying the same thing. They wanted to return to Hogwarts. The owls kept on coming until almost supper time Taking out her wand, she cleared the mess of strewn feathers which had collected around the office and smiled at Dumbledore's portrait.
"See, Minnie? I told you that sending out those was a good idea."
"Yes, Albus. Our students have given us hope for the future."
Blowing a kiss to Albus' portrait, she smiled and left the office and walked down the corridor which lead to the Great Hall. She had wonderful news for the staff indeed.