"Comfort Measures"

Book 5—Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Missing Scenes

Summary: After Professor McGonagall is attacked the night Hagrid is fired, Professor Dumbledore risks exposure and goes to her at St. Mungo's.  Could it be that the relationship between Headmaster and Deputy Headmistress is closer and deeper than anyone at Hogwart's thinks?

            Minerva McGonagall couldn't remember most of what she had just been through.  All she knew was that it hurt.  Everything hurt.  It hurt to move, hurt to breathe, hurt to think.  It was hard to open her eyes and her chest felt like it was on fire.  On each of the places where the four stunning spells had landed, there was a scorching burn, and she had hit her head, jammed several joints, and obtained several bruises during the attack and subsequent fall.  As far as she knew, she had been carried back to the castle and taken directly to the hospital wing, where Madam Pomfrey had tended to her.  She lost consciousness after a few hours and the next thing she knew, she was here, at St. Mungo's, tucked snuggly into a bed behind a curtain much like the ones Madam Pomfrey kept in the hospital wing at Hogwart's. 

            Minerva looked around.  It must be night, she surmised as the moonlight was shining through the windows, throwing shadows against the walls of the room.  Her spectacles, shattered, lay on the bedside table, her hat and cloak lay on the table at the foot of her bed.  There appeared to be no one around.  There was not a sound in the hall for as far as she could hear. 

            Feeling weak, angry, fearful and alone, Minerva McGonagall, the often fearless, stubborn leader of Gryffindor House began to cry.  She took one more look around as if to make sure that no one was alone and then fully succumbed to the tears that flooded her eyes.  She felt like a failure.  Hagrid was depending on her.  All of her staff were depending on her, and she felt that she had let them down.  All of them.  Hagrid, Sibyll…oh, God, and Albus.  She could have handled letting any of the others down except him.  McGonagall let a sob escape her.  Too weak to roll over and hide her miserable state, she simply lay there, pulling the blanket over her face to dab at her eyes.  She cried so hard that she hardly noticed the cool draft coming from a nearby window and the shadow of a very quiet intruder. 

            "I'm so sorry!  Wherever you are, Hagrid, I'm so sorry!  I—I should have come to you sooner!  I c-could have been there s-sooner!" she sobbed, whimpering into the cool night air, "I only hope you can forgive me—all of y-you!  Oh, Sibyll, I know we didn't really g-get along well, b-but I w-wish I could have done more!"  The figure in the shadows tried hard to stifle its emotions.  The shadow began to approach McGonagall's bed, but stopped as she began to speak to the night again, this time, it would not be so easy to keep quiet.

            "Albus…Oh, Albus I must disappoint you so!  We've had ups and d-downs as a team before, b-but I can't b-believe that I've let you d-down this way!  Oh, I've never!" McGonagall wept, her chest heaving with pent up emotion.  The figure in the shadows shed tears of its own now, finally able to take no more of her self degradation. 

            Slowly, the dark figure walked up to the side of her bed and sat silently down on the chair that had been placed there.  Gently, a masculine hand slipped beneath the top edge of the covers and took one of Minerva's hands into his own.  She gasped a bit at this, as she hadn't realized that someone was watching.  When she looked up, she saw Professor Dumbledore's shining blue eyes staring back at her and instantly was torn between raging emotions.  On one hand, she was so happy to see him.  The one person that she could talk to that would understand her disappointment in herself.  But on the other hand, he was the last person on earth that she wanted to see, because she felt that she had not performed as she felt she should have. 

            "Minerva, please don't cry," he whispered, kissing her hand, "You were so brave that night!" McGonagall held a deep breath in an effort to marshal her tears but only caused pain as she stretched the fragile skin on her chest. 

            "My poor, Minerva.  Does it hurt terribly?" Albus asked, gently brushing an errant strand of hair from her face.  As he spoke, she found that she was overcome with emotion for him.  Was it just fulfillment of her need for company, or were they repressed feelings for him coming to the surface?  All these years of pretending that she didn't care for him, all this time forcing herself not to tingle with excitement when he held her hand.  Now he was smiling, leaning close to her face.  Lightly, he kissed her head.  He released her hand and cupped her face in both hands as he kissed her lips, softly, tenderly, just as she had dreamed he would. 

            "I imagine you are in a great deal of pain, so I won't stay long…" Albus began, but Minerva held his hand again.

            "Please, don't leave me," she whispered.  Albus froze.  Such a statement of weakness from the one person he expected to be the strongest.  It must have taken a great deal of courage for her to admit such a thing.  It also confirmed what Albus had been hoping for ever since he met her: she had feelings for him.  She hadn't pulled away when she saw him, she had accepted his kisses, it was all real. 

            "Would you help me with an experiment?  For the sake of healing spells, that is?" Albus whispered.  Minerva nodded to him.  Anything was worth a try.  Gingerly, Albus reached up and pulled the covers back a bit. 

            "Relax…" he whispered, "I promise, it won't take long."  He slowly began to unbutton the top buttons of her gauzy white gown, undoing them down to her diaphragm.  He could see her breathing beginning to increase and he looked again at her eyes and leaned over to kiss her again.  Lightly, he fingered the material, revealing only as much of her skin as he dared, as gooseflesh rose on her body as fast as he could expose it to the open air.  He hid a shudder from her.  The burns on her chest were terrible.  Albus murmured a spell and, lowering his face over her, he took a breath and gently blew it over the damaged skin.  Wherever his breath touched her, the skin healed, returning to its natural, rosy flesh color. 

            For Minerva, the feeling was amazing.  The prickling pain from the burn was literally evaporating into the moonlight and being replaced by an icy cool sensation followed by a warmth, the skin returning to its normal state.  It was exhilarating. 

            After one pass, Albus looked up at her and whispered, "Is that better?"  His eyes betrayed passion that McGonagall had never seen before.  Such an intimate treatment she would never have received from any healer in the world but him. She looked back at him, nearly driven to distraction by the sight of his blue eyes in the moonlight.  It was positively ethereal. 

            "Do it again…" 

            It was Albus' turn to feel that rush as Minerva reached to touch his face.  He leaned into her hand, holding it to his cheek and kissing it.  He performed the spell again and again, until all of her wounds had been healed.  He remained there until daybreak, kissing her once again before tucking the covers back up to her chin and turning to go.

            "Albus?" she murmured sleepily. 

            "Yes, Minerva?"

            "I love you, Albus.  I always have," she replied.  Briefly he returned to her bedside, tempted now to remain there, despite the risk of capture, to be beside her. 

            "I love you, too," he whispered into her ear, "Now rest.  I need my deputy headmistress back in place when I return." She smiled and nodded.  With this, he was gone into the fading night, racing the sun to some unknown hiding place.  Minerva was slightly saddened as she drifted back off to sleep, but she took heart in the fact that he would be waiting for her when she returned to Hogwart's, his precocious blue eyes and mischievous smile shining, and his arms open wide.  As Minerva drifted off to sleep, she breathed deeply, wondering how she ever managed without his love before. 

The End