They sat side by side on a small divan in Minerva's sitting room. Albus never having embarked on a formal courtship was at a loss as to what was expected, how to proceed.
"Albus, do you know any poems?" Minerva suggested.
"Well, I did learn a few when I was young. It is remarkable what one retains in memory." Albus began to recite a nautical verse.
Minerva cleared her throat audibly. "Do you know any romantic verses?"
Albus colored slightly then paused as he scanned his memory for any romantic fragments about love and courtship. "Yes, I think I may have one that would be quite fitting."
Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.
As if by their own accord, Albus' hands took possession of hers. His grasp was light yet still her hands felt the masculine strength of his form.
Come, as thou cam'st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
And smile on thy new world, and be
As kind to others as to me!
Albus paused in his recitation. He fidgeted on the seat. He crossed one leg over the other but that did little to ease his growing discomfort. "This will not do, not at all."
"What will not do?"
"This arrangement." Without further elaboration, Dumbledore stood up and withdrew his wand from within his robes. With a quick flick of his wrist, two armchairs floated to the middle of the room just in front of the fireplace. "There, much better. Have a seat, Minerva."
Minerva looked at the armchairs and was puzzled. The chairs sat back to back. "Albus, should not the chairs be facing each other?"
"No. Please take that seat and I shall take the other." Dumbledore settled himself comfortably in his chair. He breathed deeply letting the tension of the last hour seep from his bones. He could do nothing yet about his aroused state but at the very least he need not subject Minerva to his desires, just yet. He could hear Minerva settling herself in her armchair behind him.
"Well, now what?" Minerva asked. A current of amusement ran underneath her casual tone.
"Now I can think straight. I believe I was on the third -"
"You couldn't think before?" She interrupted.
"Do you not yet realize that within my sight, you provide for my mind a path to distraction and immoderate thoughts?"
"I see. If I have caused you any discomfort, do forgive me." Had Albus seen the barely-there smile that formed upon her lips at his confession, he might have thought to leave sooner rather than later.
"The weakness is entirely mine." Albus cleared his throat and began the third stanza. Albus heard the armchair behind him squeak in mild protest.
Or, as thou never cam'st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth,
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say, My love why sufferest thou?
"Minerva, you're dousing the fire?" From the periphery of his sight, Albus watched the flames subside to glowing embers.
Her chair squeaked again. He could tell that she was standing up as her next words came from behind and above him. "I find that my chill has left me, my dear Albus."
Albus took a moment to catch his breath. His lips silently formed her words again 'my dear Albus'. It was for him very like a caress upon his soul. The rustling of robes, hers not his, returned his mind to the present. "Where did I leave off?"
"Parched, I believe," came her reply. Two flutes of red wine floated in their general direction from the sideboard. "As the poet has been so giving, so must I reciprocate."
Albus caught his glass easily. He held the glass aloft admiring the deep russet of the wine. He felt rather than saw Minerva behind him. In one elegant hand, her wine glass clinked against his. So intent was he on observing her slender hand close up, that he did not feel the strand of loosened hair that brushed against his right shoulder nor did he take note of the admiring, loving glances sweeping across his own profile.
"If I had known the rewards I could have anticipated, I would have begun this wooing earlier." Albus drank a good swallow of his wine. The wine triggered a warming sensation he felt to his fingertips. "Forgive me, I should have made my intentions known before ... before I left. We have wasted so much time."
Her response seemed a long time in coming. His ears strained to hear her reply. He heard her deep intake of breath. "The past is just that past. Your intentions are now plain and I ... I need to tell you -"
"I realize that my intentions must come as a surprise. Please take all the time you need to consider my suit." Albus took another swallow. I will be patient. I will wait until she is ready and not before. Patience is a virtue. Patience is a - A sudden touch across his neck derailed his thoughts. Was that her fingers just then? She knows not what she does to me. Control, you must control.
"Thank you for that, Albus, but time is not an issue. You see there are other considerations." Minerva's voice became tinged with the Scottish lilt that his ears found so pleasing.
"What other considerations?" His grip tightened imperceptibly on the wine glass. "Will your family object to me? I am a good deal older than you. I am not a rich man but -"
"You are rich in honor, courtesy and courage. My happiness does not rest on material wealth." Minerva chuckled. Her hand weaved its way through his still auburn hair. "There will be no other for me, no other in your place."
With a sigh, he leaned his head back. "What have I done to deserve you?"
As he reclined fully, he found himself looking up at a Minerva he had never seen before. Her eyes were intent. Her heated gaze reached deep to the core of his being searching for an answering flame to match her own. His fingers lost their purchase on his glass. Its shattering crack against the stone floor went unheard.
Albus stared back - blue eyes to green. His lips and throat were dry. He ran his tongue across his lips. By that simple act did Minerva surrender herself completely to the primal drive consuming her senses. Her mouth silently formed the syllables of his name, once then twice. At that very moment, Albus became conscious of feeling what she felt. It was as if he were the one left gasping, the one overwhelmed by twin pulses of fervent desire and sharp need. For several minutes they did nothing but savor the feelings ricocheting between them.
Compelled to sudden action, Albus broke eye contact first. On her knees with eager almost predatory eyes, Minerva followed his movements. He stood up and moved to her side. Wordlessly, his fingers entangled themselves in her lustrous hair. Her face tilted up to his his. He smiled as delight flashed in her eyes.
In times past, his blood had thrummed in his veins whenever a wrong had to be righted, but now he was waging a far different battle and he was not certain which outcome he favored. I must touch her. What could one kiss hurt? Just the one then I will stop and leave.
Gently, he cupped her face. Her hands grasped his forearms. As he lowered his face to hers, he felt her fingers press hard against his arms. Their bodies leaned into the other. Their eyes closed. Their lips met.
As their kiss grew more passionate, her arms slipped to his broad shoulders and wound their way about his neck. Wanting to feel her lenght against his, he encircled her waist with his arms then drew her easily off the chair. Chest to chest, thigh to thigh, they gloried in their mutual awareness. He nuzzled her neck, planting wet kisses as he went. At times, here and there, he whispered the last stanza of the poem.
Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
Minerva rested her head against his chest. His arms tighthened around her unwilling to let her go just yet.
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.
She could hear his rapid heartbeat and feel the deep breaths he took. "I must go now, Minerva."
With herculean effort, he stepped away from her embrace. "I will come back tomorrow. This was only the first day and tomorrow we should -"
His words faded into a ragged whisper. Before him, Minerva had let her robes slide off her shoulders and to the floor. Albus could not help follow the progress of her robes down her slim body. To his eyes were revealed a satiny, light green night gown cut just above her knee. The gown hid enough and revealed far too much - the long column of her neck, the gentle swell of her breasts against the clinging fabric, her shapely legs bared to his view.
"The day never forestalls the coming of night, does it? The night must come. The day must yield. It is as nature planned it to be." She closed the distance between them. "Stay."
Albus swallowed nervously. He averted his eyes. "Minerva! I ... I do not need some ... some reward for ... nor do I expect any. I should not have kissed you. I accept full blame."
"I see I need make my intentions very plain." Minerva touched his cheek then with both hands drew his face downwards. She held his gaze. Her voice descended to a sultry whisper. "I long for you, Albus. Stay."
His hands clenched into fists by his side. His instincts threatened his tenuous control. "Tomorrow, I will owl your parents to ask for their blessing. We can be married in a fortnight if you like. Until then, we should not do anything rash."
Albus began to back away. Minerva clasped his arm in a firm grip. Upon her touch, he felt a tidal wave of feeling wash over him - affection, lust, acceptance, need. His knees felt close to buckling so strong were the emotions assailing him.
Minerva let go of his arm then breathed deeply. When she spoke, her tone was devoid of the teasing sultriness that had come close to shredding his resolve. Her voice was firm with an underlying sense of urgency. "You have heard of the phenomenon of how some animagi are affected by the animal instincts of their forms?"
"It is a theory that an animagi experiences -" The blush that colored her cheeks silenced his further comment. He became aware of the unnatural heat radiating from her arms to his and the unusual brightness of her eyes. "It is not a theory for you, is it?"
Minerva, suffused by equal measure of desire and shame, could only nod her head. A portentous silence stretched between them as both sought to master their individual emotional storms. Should I have told him? Why doesn't he say something.
After an eternity, Minerva picked up her robes and covered herself. "I have been forward and offended you. I am more sorry than you could ever know."
No more sorry than I.Albus straightened himself. "You have done nothing wrong, Minerva. You could not help acting upon a natural impulse. I can only imagine the strain you must be under."
"Please, please leave, Albus."
"What of your condition?"
"It will subside after a few days." Minerva replied.
"If it presents such a ... a discomfort, perhaps another man would be willing to -"
Albus never finished his sentence as Minerva's hand shot out and landed a hard slap on his cheek. With stormy eyes she railed at him. "How dare you?! You ignorant, self-important cretin! Get out! Get OUT!"
Around Albus several objects began to whirl in the air. He ducked barely in time as a chair whisked over his head followed by a large vase. With alacrity, he backed away from the furious witch. Dodging madly across the room he reached the door. Something heavy crashed against the door just as he was closing it shut behind him. He sagged against the door trying to catch his breath. I am never getting married, ever.
Albus was close to his quarters when he spied the headmaster heading his way. "Albus, what are you doing here?"
"My visit was cut short." Albus replied evenly.
"Indeed? I thought Minerva had specified a few days. Perhaps I misheard."
The headmaster abruptly found himself pinned by the throat against the wall by one very upset deputy headmaster. "You knew and never said a word! You sent me to her as ... as some sacrifice to appease her ... her carnal apetites!"
"Carnal? Sacrifice?" Dippet sputtered.
"Having one such as yourself for a friend, what need have I for enemies?" Albus let the headmaster go.
"You left her be?! How could you?"
Through gritted teeth, Albus said, "It was not easy. I cannot believe that you would condone such goings on here."
"Condone? Of course not!" Dippet replied with a healthy dose of indignation.
Not caring that they were in a hallway prone to be overheard by anyone passing by, Albus released all the frustration and anger he had bottled up inside. "How could you have led me to believe that ... that she had tender feelings for me?"
"She admitted her feelings to me and -"
Albus cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Feelings engendered by a primitive connection to her animagi form. Were she not being influenced by that connection, I doubt that she would feel anything for me."
Dippet looked on in shock at his friend. Quickly, he drew his wand and pointed it at Albus. "Petrificus totalis."
The headmaster clucked under his breath as he walked around the immobile form of one Albus Dumbledore. "Albus, I truly believe that you have been cursed one too many times. Your brain has ceased to function normally."
Albus' eyes gazed malevolently at the shorter wizard. Retribution will be swift and merciless, Armando. You have my word on that.
"Let me explain the situation in words that you will understand." Dippet stopped his slow circuit. "You are an utter idiot. I can only guess at what you said to her. Did you lose your temper? Blink once for yes and twice for no."
Unable to do anything else in the interim, Albus decided to humor the man. There would be time enough later to make him rue the high-handed treatment he was meting out. Albus blinked twice.
"Did she offer herself to you?"
A long blink.
"Need I describe to a grown man such as yourself those times when it is opportune to throw civility out the door?!" Dippet ignored the death glare Albus had aimed at him. "When a woman such as Minerva deigns to even look in a man's direction, said man should pray once for his good fortune, then grab hold and never let go."
"Tell me you did not rebuff her thereby heaping insult upon her dignity, battering her pride and shaming her further still?"
Two blinks then another.
"I take that to mean that you did not intend to insult her but such were your words and actions perceived. Am I right?"
"I see things clear now. I take back my previous opinion of you, Albus, you are not an idiot. You are instead an imbecile!" Dippet sighed. "There is only solution to this dilemma." Dippet levitated Albus behind him as he approached Minerva's door. Albus frantically blinked twice repeatedly but to no avail.
Dippet cast a reveal spell upon Minerva's door. "It seems that she has warded her door against you, actually against any man, wait, any male of any species. She must be truly angry."
Dippet looked at the door and then at Albus. "In some way, my friend, you need repair this sad affair."
Dumbledore blinked twice with ferocious intensity and rapid frequency. Whether his response was in regards to their friendship or the need for repairs, Dippet did not know nor acknowledge. Dippet muttered. "How am I going to get you inside?"
Dumbledore's eyelids began to flutter incessantly.
"Do not argue with me, Albus." Dippet looked up at his paralyzed deputy. "You are the reason she is in this condition and perforce you must be the one to give her succor."
Dumbledore's eyes widened.
Dippet grinned. "Ah, she did not get that far in her explanation before you made your exit, did she?"
"The condition, the heat, is triggered when an animagi, a female one, meets the male who is her match. Minerva was unaware of this event occurring. She began to notice her symptoms this past summer. Her mother quickly realized what the symptoms meant as females in their family apparently endure the cycle with some regularity."
Dumbledore's eyes looked close to bursting.
"Minerva told her mother about you. For that reason, her mother began spreading the news of the wedding, as surely, a wedding would follow the cycle's end." Dippet clasped his hands behind his back. "Minerva thought you indifferent to her. Your behavior since the beginning of the school year reinforced this belief. She was not planning to inform you of her condition. It was only after I discovered it, did she entertain the notion of revealing it to you."
Albus' eyes were closed, tight shut. Dippet uttered "Finite incantatem!"
Albus fell limply to his knees. He said hoarsely, "Calling me an imbecile is a compliment."
After a minute, Albus stood up and made to knock on Minerva's door. His hand never touched the door. He was flung bodily away from the door.
"The cycle has begun it seems," Dippet said quietly. "And without you."
"What should I do? I need to apologize." Dumbledore began to pace and talk to himself. After a few minutes, he exclaimed, "Wait, she may have warded the door but perhaps not the windows!"
"Albus, if you are contemplating -" Dumbledore rushed off before the headmaster could finish saying anything. Dippet followed at a much more sedate pace.
The headmaster found Albus conjuring a large cushion underneath Minerva's window in the tower. "In the event, she throws me out and I am unconscious, this will insure I have a soft fall."
"I am not leaving her presence until she hears me out. I have wronged her grievously." Albus replied.
Dippet noted the look of sheer determination in Albus' eyes. "Well, I shall leave you to it then. I trust that this matter will be resolved?"
"I will have her forgiveness. Whatsoever she demands of me, is hers." Albus vowed.
With that said, Albus levitated himself higher and higher. Dippet watched his ascent until Albus was on level with her window. Her window opened at a wave of Albus' wand. As soon as he saw Albus safely inside her rooms, he returned to the castle.
Albus stepped over the window sill into an empty sitting room. His eyes scanned the room. A heavy bureau lay propped against the door, a solid bar to any intruder. Scattered about were shards of pottery and glass, the remnant victims of Minerva's wrath. He heard a low moan. It came from a door to his left. Cautiously, he moved towards it. He heard Minerva moan once more, louder and more desperate.
He opened the door a crack. Candles, dozens of them, bathed the inner room in soft pastel glows. His eyes adjusted to the dimness. His eyes moved about Minerva's bedroom. He saw her on her bed, writhing under a thin blanket. His own excitement rose the longer he watched her.
Shortly he berated himself severely. You are not a voyeur. You are here to apologize nothing more. He opened the door and stepped inside. He slowly approached the bed fighting to keep his resolve and not be hypnotized by the beguiling view. She was female incarnate and that very femaleness called out to him like a siren song.
He kneeled by her bed close but careful not to touch her. He called to her. "Minerva, Minerva."
"Hmm." Her eyes remained closed.
He touched her hand to let her know of his presence. Her skin was hot to the touch but also soft and irresistibly smooth. His fingers lingered upwards from her hand, past her wrist to her elbow. Minerva moaned and moved closer to his side of the bed. As she did so, her blanket shifted revealing her unclothed state.
I should not be here. Not with her like this.His mind accepted this but his hand did not. His hand moved upward pausing on her shoulder.
Her eyes opened. "Albus?"
"Yes, Minerva." With his left hand, he smoothed a wayward strand of hair tucking it back behind her ear. She was about to say something but he quieted her lips with a finger. "I'm sorry, Minerva, for everything. I should have realized you were not the kind of woman to play games with a man and -"
Minerva playfully licked his finger. Albus groaned. "You do not make it easy to apologize. I am truly sorry, truly. Do you forgive me?"
In answer, she kissed his finger then said the one word that erased the months of uncertainty and indifference that had lain between them. "Stay."
Outside, it was fast approaching dusk. The sun, a thin ribbon of light over the horizon, bid adieu and good night. Darkness descended slowly. The crescent moon took its rightful place in the sky and the stars hid their brilliance no more.
Inside the darkened bedroom, Albus Dumbledore enfolded his future wife in his arms for the first time. Thereafter on their anniversary, Minerva always heard the words 'I love you' fall from her husband's lips three times as dusk settled over the world.
A/N: The poem is called Longing by Matthew Arnold circa 1860. To those of you who agitated for a sequel, I lay my insomnia entirely on your shoulders. I did not want to disappoint anyone let alone ruin anyone's virtue. If you liked the story or didn't like it, please review. I wrestled with different approaches before settling on what you just read. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.