a/n: I hope this lives up to expectations. The last time I proofread it I was getting all teary. So if you're a bit of a hopeless romantic you have to read it very slowly and soak up the emotion of a whispered conversation. Please review, I'd love to hear what you think. (by the way. Rods stands for Random Outburst Disorder Syndrome. Means that you're prone to burst of the insane! Lol)
Minerva McGonagall was not easily dissuaded. Through all the affirmations of friendship and intimacy throughout the years, she had always entertained the smallest hope that there was a possibility that Albus might have returned her feelings. While there was always that small seed of hope, there was a reason to go on, the continue teaching, to continue fighting to Dark Lord, to continue living, and continue loving.
Despite the fact that her heart was tearing itself apart she didn't completely lose her composure. People had often called her cold and emotionless, and no longer speculated as to why she had never taken a lover. And despite the hardened exterior she presented to the world, nothing could be further from the truth. Her love for Albus was a passionate one that threatened to overwhelm her daily, and swamp her with an emotion that would brook no refusal. But she was his best friend, his closest confidant, and his first source of strength. She couldn't bear to weaken their partnership by admitting that he was the only man she had ever met that could make her heart light up, and a uncharacteristic twinkle appear in her own eyes. There was no way it was going to be her that took them to uncomfortable territory. It had been enough to know that one day, all that might change. Well, today was that day, but it wasn't quite the one she had been expecting.
Knowing that, in lieu of this new information, she could never come back to his rooms, she took a risk that was almost completely out of character. Leaping gracefully to the floor she transformed back into her human self, and a little shiver went down her spine at seeing him in such a vulnerable position. An unbearable feeling was welling up inside her and she was having trouble biting back the tears. Kneeling by his head she stroked his unbelievably soft hair and she has so often dreamed and placed a small kiss on his wrinkled cheek. "Albus, darling" she whispered into his ear, "I never expected you too." With that, she transformed again, and with a final intense look at her beloved, she left the room for the last time...
...And her heart died at the memory of his words.
Albus was still caught in his dream world. Minerva's wet nose in the crook of his elbow had launched him off on a different tangent and he fell into a new dream. The Dark Lord was summoning him through the mark on his forearm. The pain seared through him and his ruined nerves ruptured in an ecstasy of pain. The fact that he had never been a supporter of Voldemort, let alone been branded with the Dark Mark didn't seem to enter into his consciousness. He was being summoned, and if the pain would stop, he would answer.
"Albus, welcome" came the simpered welcome accompanied by a snide smile and the symbolic gesture of opened arms, welcoming home the prodigal son. "Its has been too long since we last parted, I'm glad you decided to join to party after such as extended leave of absence." There was a titter of laughter from the hooded death eaters ranks. It was obvious that it was expected, rather than stemming for a genuine amusement in the situation before them. For all, this was the final meeting of their master and his arch nemesis, although there was one in the audience whose loyalties lay in quite a different direction to his compatriots.
On some level, Dumbledore was aware that this meeting was merely the construction of his addled brain but, as always, his anger seemed to defy any rational thought, and to him this meeting was as real as any that had taken place in the real world. If he were able to defeat Tom in his dream then symbolically he would have to courage to take the final step in the final battle. However, this encounter was to fall rapidly beyond his control.
"Albus, your timing could really not have been better had I, indeed planned it myself!" The irony of this statement was not lost on the headmaster.
"Well, Tom – it seems as if you have something desperately important to tell me, otherwise I'm sure you would have been able to continue your chaos without my assistance." Albus' reply was flippant, he knew, but it was definitely the easiest way to creep under Voldemort's skin. Dumbledore had never felt the urge to cower before him, and Tom had never handled that particularly well.
Red eyes flashed with mirth and a smile played across his hideous face. "Indeed, Dumbledore, you seem to have gathered that exceptionally quickly. I'm quite positive that tonight's chaos would be incomplete without your participation, and thus you are here."
"Well whatever it is Tom, do you mind hurrying up about it, I assure you I have much more important things to be doing than participating in your chaos." Dumbledore was beginning to feel a slight sliver of concern deep in his stomach. Tom was acting as if he had some distinct advantage that he wanted Albus to be aware of, and he wanted it done personally. This was, undoubtedly, big news and not one bit of it good.
With an inconsequential and dismissive wave of his hand several Death Eaters scurried away and returned gingerly carrying a sack. Judging by their faces, as well as by the thrashing from within, it contained a collection of cobras, or an extremely angry lion. Neither thought was particularly comforting to Albus.
"I had Severus bring her here. Really you do give to much scope to that man. I'm surprised that you have not been aware of his allegiance before this. Or perhaps you are not as much in control at Hogwarts as you would like to think?"
Albus would have been thrilled to throw this back in Voldemort's face, but he needed Severus as a spy, and there was no reason to expose him at this point in time. If he had indeed brought someone from Hogwarts to Voldemort then he would have again shown his loyalty and would be able to continue to spy without much suspicion, at least until next time.
As soon as he completed this thought Albus started. Voldemort had someone from Hogwarts! This was most definitely a personal attack on him. Everyone at that castle meant more to him that he could say, especially...
"Well, if it isn't the delightful Minerva McGonagall!" Voldemort whispered, triumphant; venom dripping from every syllable.
It was like Tom had plunged his icy hand straight into Albus' ribcage and squeezed his heart until it burst. He could never forgive Severus this, he could never forgive himself. In an attempt to save her life, he was going to have to deny the very emotional fibres of his being, and hurt her irrevocably in the process. There was a look of pure terror in Minerva's eyes. This was every wizard's worse nightmare. And he was about to make it a lot worse. There could be no knight in shining armour for Minerva, for Tom would surely kill her. Perhaps if he could deny everything his heart was screaming then she would become less a tool of revenge upon him. The thought of Minerva being hurt simply because he loved her almost ruined him self-control. But he pulled himself together.
"So I see," can Albus' drawled reply, a millisecond too late to be perfect, but it could merely be passed off a simple surprise at seeing one of the Order in Voldemort's clutches. "Tell, me Tom did you merely bring me here to gloat that you had captured another just another bright light in the fight for good? Honestly, I don't think it's worth my time. You've killed eleven of my best people in the last month, and never a word. What's the occasion?"
There was a flicker of confusion on Voldemort's face. Evidently, this was not the reply he was expecting. He regained his composure within a moment and adopted a mocking sneer.
"You don't expect me to believe that pack of lies do you Dumbledore? You've always underestimated me; it's your greatest weakness. Don't think I don't know how important she is to you, as well as for the greater forces of good." So he had guessed. This game had suddenly become much more serious.
Forcing himself not to look at her, he let a tinge of venom enter his voice. "I'm not sure that I'm completely comfortable with what you are implying Tom. There seems that you seem to thing there is some sort of relationship between Ms McGonagall and myself" with an ever so delicate stress on the relationship part, Dumbledore ploughed on. "I assure you, nothing could be more repulsive to me,"
The small gasp that escaped Minerva's lips and the crushed look and hurt tears that crept into her eyes were missed by all except Albus, and he hoped that one day he would be able to explain that sometimes it hurts more to save to one you love, than to let them go willingly. And he was not willing to let her go.
"But she is important to you!" Tom questioned, an edge of hysteria creeping in. He was evidently beginning to believe that his sources were incorrect. There would be punishment tonight. Dumbledore could only hope it was not Severus. He would suffer enough for what he had done.
"Of course she's important to me you fool" Dumbledore snapped, "everyone you've ever killed has been important to me. This is not getting any funnier Tom, and we seem to be moving further away from the point"
"Well, that wasn't quite to response I was looking for. But nevertheless, reason enough for me to kill her anyway. Unless, of course, you can give me a reason not too!" the pause seemed infinitely long, and the choice he made now would affect the rest of his life.
"Actually Tom, I was rather disappointed in you. If, indeed you did manage to convince Severus to abduct someone from inside the Hogwarts' grounds, you seemed to have made the quite remarkable decision to choose merely my deputy, rather than the one person you have been trying to kill for nearly sixteen years. Perhaps it's you who's loosing their touch!"
Voldemort was fuming, his normally slitted eyes had narrowed further and his mouth had a hardened edge, only displayed when he was diabolically angry. His death eaters cowered in fear. After a moment he seemed to release it all, and with a sinister curve of his upper lip, drawled, "Well, if she is of only secondary importance there is no need for me to keep her as a hostage."
It was rumoured that Voldemort always laughed when he killed his victims. Until this point Albus had never been able to confirm the rumour. But as a disturbingly high pitch laugh mingled with echoes of a screamed "Avada Kedavra!" this was the furthest thing from his mind.
Albus saw the curse fly in slow motion. He sprinted towards his beloved, but his aging legs would not carry him fast enough. He saw Minerva try and shrink away from the jet of light streaming towards her but is hit her full in the chest. Sound roared in Albus' ears, and he was oblivious to everything else. A small involuntary gasp escaped her lips, and he was by her side.
"Albus, I wish..." and her voice trailed and was silent, guttered out like a candle, here at the end. There were a million things she wanted to say to him, to tell him that she understood and didn't mind; but at this moment there were no words. She died in his arms...
...And his heart died with her.