Minerva found him sitting on the edge of the lake staring at the setting sun. She approached quietly and sat softly beside him. Albus didn't look at her and she didn't look at him. A part of Minerva found this new friendship of theirs unnerving, it hadn't been more than three years ago that she had been his student, now she was here as an adult, his teaching assistant, but it was still a struggle to know what to say.
Dumbledore took that decision away from her. "I am going to find Grindelwald tomorrow."
"Yes alone. Actually I'm not certain why I told you. I wasn't going to tell anyone." He admitted.
"You'll die." She whispered, pained.
"Perhaps, but I have to try." This time he did look at her. She was looking forlornly out at the water, her black hair pulled back in a low pony tail with a pink ribbon. She looked so young sitting there and he felt a pang of guilt in his heart. Her parents had died in her sixth year and he knew that it had become him she relied upon. Now he was leaving her, but she would survive, he reminded himself, Minerva was nothing if not strong. "I'm going to travel with the allied army tomorrow into Germany, then I will find Grindelwald."
Now she did look at him. She ran a critical eye over him. "You'll have to cut your hair and shave. Muggles aren't allowed to have beards or long hair in their armies."
He nodded, accepting the advice. "I'll do it in the morning I suppose."
"I…I could do it for you." Minerva offered. "I used to help my mother cut my little brothers' hair."
"Thank you." They sat in silence for a moment and a thought came unbidden to his mind and he spit it out before he could regret it. "Minerva, can I write to you?" She looked at him like he'd grown a second head. "I…well…you see…when, um, when the other guys write home, I won't have anyone to write too…so I was wondering, can I write you?"
She smiled, and a strange look settled in her eyes. "Of course you can." He smiled at her and then he realized what time it was and walked her inside.
The next morning she got up at dawn and watched from the doorway as he slipped out into the dark a bag on his back, his auburn hair newly cropped short, his beard gone, his glasses replaced with contacts, dressed in army greens. He waved as he disappeared down the path, and she waved back, clutching her handkerchief.
In his pocket he carried a picture of her and he pulled it out after she was out of sight and sighed as he looked down at it. "I'm doing this for you."
The letters started arriving the next day describing the men in his unit, telling her how much he missed her. She knew he wrote the endearments and sweet nothings because the army was reading his letters, but she pretended otherwise, and allowed herself to imagine that they were real.
She wrote back, talking about what were now her students, and England, and how worried about him she was. They went on like that for three months, each letter getting more and more sappy as they built on the lie they were living for his fellow soldiers and the government.
Then one Sunday she received her last letter. It had read:
I am very glad to hear that most of the students are behaving for you, and I am sorry that Mr. Malfoy has been giving you so many problems, I know the Headmaster will unfortunately be unable to do much, as the boy's father holds far to much over Armando's head, but rest assured I will deal with him when I return.
The closer we get to Germany the worse everything has gotten. We're now right outside and it's disgusting. Thanks to Hitler there is a permanent cloud over the country and the stench of death, rotting and burning in the air. I must confess the smell has gotten so bad that at our last stop in Dijon I went to every perfume store in the town and smelled every sent they had until I found the one you wore. Now, when the smell gets to bad I take out the perfume and spray my kerchief. It reminds me of you, and gives me the will to go that next step.
The boys all say to tell you hello. And now I must end here. We enter Germany today, so I won't be able to write you for quite a while, but I don't want you to worry. I will come home to you, you have my word.
I Love You, Angel of my life.
S'il tu plait crois ça et espérer que je rentrerai à toi, égal si tu ne crois rien autrement dans cette lettre.
One month later the war was over and the casualty lists were being posted as each unit returned home. Minerva made her way into London, subdued in a knee length navy blue skirt and cream blouse. She brushed past the crowds of cheering people to the most recent list posted and scanned it. Her heart began racing as she say he wasn't among the Missing. Instead, he was among the dead. Agony tore from her throat as she pressed a shaking hand to her mouth and began to cry in earnest.
A red headed boy hobbled over to her with the use of a wooden cane. "Minerva McGonagall?" She turned bleary, confused eyes to the stranger. "I'm sorry…you don't know me. My name is Davy Anderson. I served with Albus." She nodded unsure of what to say. Davy avoided her gaze and shifted his weight a bit. Clearly he didn't know what to say either. "He was the best of men. And uh….he wouldn't want you to be alone right now. A bunch of guys from the unit are at the pub across the way, saluting him and the others. I know they'd want you to join us. We all feel like we know you."
Minerva nodded, still unable to trust her voice. Davy held out his arm to her and she stared at it for a moment. "I can't." She choked out. "Just…just walk next to me okay?"
Davy eyed her with understanding sympathy. "Of course." So he walked next to her and held the door to the pub for her, but he was careful that his hands never brushed against her, even when he held out the chair for her. He introduced her to the men around her, all who offered hushed condolences, before asking if there was anything they could do for her.
She begged them to tell her stories. To tell her what he had been like with them. "Can't I tell you at some point?" Came a familiar voice from behind her. The entire unit looked up in disbelief and Minerva turned so fast she almost fell. Albus was leaning on a crutch and he had a few bandages on his head and arms, but he was alright.
The hand at her mouth couldn't hold back the choked cry of delight that escaped Minerva's throat. She ran to him and threw her arms around him. Neither one of them noticed the entire pub staring at them. He dropped his crutch as he pulled her tightly to him and pressed his lips to hers in a passionate kiss. He pulled away when he was breathless, but he didn't let go of her and Minerva simply snuggled closer. The whole pub burst into applause.
Davy pulled up an extra chair in between his and Minerva's and Albus joined them. They stayed for an hour or so, but when it started to get dark, Dumbledore stood and excused them. He used the crutch until they found a dark alleyway, then the crutch and the bandages went into a dumpster. "You're not hurt!" She sighed in relief.
"No. But in order to get away I either had to desert or die. And if they thought I had died and I miraculously returned from the dead, I'd have to have been injured right?" She nodded. "Let's go home."
They apparated to Hogsmeade and walked up the path to Hogwarts. Albus didn't want to get there when everyone was awake. He told her he'd had enough people fussing over him today. Minerva assumed that meant her too, so when the got to the corridor that led to her room, she began to say goodnight.
He didn't let her. He grabbed her hand and pulled her along towards his chambers. "I have some stuff for you." He explained. So she followed him and tried not to notice how he never let go of her hand. He opened his army bag on the couch in his chambers and began to pull things out. He rummaged through his clothes and pulled out three boxes and a glass bottle with a pale pink liquid in it.
The first thing he handed her was a white clothes-like box. She hesitantly took the lid off and gasped. She pulled out the crimson silk shawl with gold patterned roses intricately woven through. "It's beautiful."
There was a strange twinkle in his eye as she wrapped it around herself. She studied him, but before she could form a question, he shoved the second box into her hands. When she lifted the lid off of this one, a dozen tiny dark chocolate truffles stared back at her. "Chocolate!" She cried in delight. It was her favorite treat, and because of the war it had been in very low quantities, even in the wizarding world.
"It's Swiss. I apparated to Geneva on the way back to get it. It's kind of an 'I'm sorry you had to think I was dead' gift." He told her sheepishly. "This is the last thing." He handed her the bottle. "Now that I'm back in England I don't need it anymore."
She stared at the half full bottle of what was indeed her favorite perfume. Then wide eyes looked up at him. "You were serious?"
He took a step towards her, closing the gap between them. She could feel his breath on her face as he leaned closer. "About everything I wrote."
There were tears in her eyes for the third time that day. "Oh, Albus." He touched his lips to hers gently and stole and arm around her waist, keeping her close.
She set the bottle in her hands blindly on a side table and wrapped her arms around his neck. The kiss was not as passionate and heady as their kiss in the pub, this was more gentle, more loving, and seemed to speak of all the things they'd kept hidden from each other until the letters. "I missed you." He murmured against her lips as he pulled back to place feather light kisses on her jaw line.
"Welcome home." She whispered back.