Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to J.K. Rowling.

This is a short story I wrote for a Live Journal community called 30-Minute Fics, which is moderated by scattered logic, pandora nervosa, and shadowycat. The idea is as follows:

"A new challenge will be posted each Sunday afternoon by the moderators. This can be a short premise, a word or phrase, or a picture. Once you have thirty free minutes, set your timer and write! No fair using something already written, now - the thirty minutes is for plotting, writing, and editing."

Challenge 44 The Forbidden Forest Challenge

"For this challenge, your entire tale must take place within the boundaries of the Forbidden Forest. You can use any character or characters, any activities, any reason for being there, and whether they can leave or not…is up to you."

Forest Revelations

In an ancient oak, in a dark forest, sat a woman whom those of narrow mind would say was too old to climb trees. In one hand she held a wand, bright light shining from its tip; in the other hand was a quill that was moving with smooth, sure strokes across the simple sketch pad in her lap. Her eyes, behind square spectacles, were closed as she drew, and her expression was serene, as if she were touching some very deep place in her soul. After a time, her hand ceased its motion and she opened her eyes to see what she had wrought. What she saw made her chuckle, then sigh.

Under the same oak, out of the woman's line of sight, stood a man whom those of narrow mind would only see as old. Those of a more fanciful nature, noting the silvery beard and the flowing robes, might be tempted to believe that Merlin had escaped from his prison at last. Indeed, the way the man gazed longingly at the woman in the branches of the great oak was probably the way Merlin had looked at Nimue. However, the name that came from his lips was that of another legendary lady. "Minerva?"

The woman looked up, startled. "Albus?"

He moved forward, so she could see him. "Down here, Minerva," he said. "Are you all right?"

She nodded briskly. "Of course I am," she assured him. "What made you think otherwise?"

"I was on my way to your rooms to bring you your birthday presents, when I saw you making a beeline for the forest," he answered. "You do not usually come here without a reason, nor have I ever known you to venture here alone. I was concerned."

"You're quite right," she replied. "I don't usually come here without a reason but, once a year, on my birthday, I do come here, alone, to this very spot." After pausing a moment to gather her thoughts, she went on. "Ever since I could I climb trees, I've always found them to be very calming, relaxing places," she explained. "When I was a little girl, I would draw all sorts of things while sitting in a large oak tree near my family home. Nothing of any artistic merit," she hastened to add, "mostly expressions of my inner world."

Albus nodded his understanding. "I used to do the same thing," he told her. "Only, in my case, I would play an ashiko drum, rather than sketch upon a pad of paper."

Minerva smiled at that, then continued. "When I grew up, I found that whenever I felt I needed direction, or something was bothering me but I couldn't put my finger on what it was, all I had to do was find a comfortable tree to roost in, close my eyes, and sketch. Whatever I drew always held the answer."

"This is a bit reminiscent of Automatic Writing," Albus remarked with his patented twinkle, "which skirts dangerously close to Divination. Is Sibyll aware of this?"

"Really Albus," Minerva retorted sharply, "I am not seeking answers from 'the Beyond', but from my own mind, and…"

"I know, Minerva, I know," he assured her, raising both hands in surrender. "I simply couldn't resist teasing you just a little. Forgive me?"

She gave a little nod, and smiled ruefully. "It does sound a bit odd, spoken aloud."

Albus shook his head. "Not at all," he stated. "I wish more people would take the time for deep introspection. Have you found what you needed, or did I thoughtlessly interrupt your process?"

Wordlessly, Minerva made her graceful way to the ground, handing Albus the completed sketch as she did so. He looked at it thoughtfully for a few moments, before turning his questioning gaze to her face. "Am I your direction, or your problem?" he asked quietly.

"Both," she replied succinctly.

"Why?"

"Because of this," she abruptly closed the gap between them and kissed him soundly.

Surprised as he was, it took Albus only half a heartbeat to respond, as he wound his arms tightly around her. When they at last came up for air, he remarked "If I had known you could kiss like that, I would have told you how I felt months ago!"

"If I had known you could kiss like that, I wouldn't have waited until my birthday to learn my own mind," came Minerva's breathless response. Then she realized, "Months ago, Albus?"

Albus nodded, tenderly stroking her cheek. "Of all the women I have known in my life, you are by far the most oblivious to flirting."

Minerva stared at him. "You've been flirting with me?"

"To the point where Filius has started a betting pool," he answered with a grin, "and Severus has asked me to '…get on with it or put us out of our misery.'"

"Good heavens," she was blushing furiously. "I had no idea."

"Obviously," he agreed, "which is why I was on my way to your rooms this evening."

"That's right," she remembered with a smile, "you said something about presents."

The twinkle was working overtime now. "What would you say to a bottle of the finest single malt scotch, the last of the summer strawberries, and a massage?"

"I would say you were planning to seduce me," she observed with a twinkle of her own.

"Only with your permission, of course," he replied solemnly.

"Only if there is whipped cream to go with the strawberries," she was grinning from ear to ear now.

"Naturally," he leaned down to kiss her again.

"And Albus," she whispered against his lips, "bring the drum."