Just admit it!
Summary: On a bright winter's day, Albus and Minerva get lost in the woods; and end up finding each other! A one shot fluffy piece with no reason in life other than to give readers a warm fuzzy and a few good laughs with festive cheer!
"Admit it, we're lost!"
A strange request it may seem, issued as it was from the direction of a seemingly inanimate, hibernating wicker brush. However, on a closer look, one could easily see that the brush was not, in fact, sentient. Rather, the forlorn request was issuing from one freezing, and more than slightly tired Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, towards her current walking companion.
"We are not lost." was the firm reply
"Yes we are, for goodness sake, just admit it!" Minerva exclaimed fervently, throwing her hands up in the air. Albus Dumbledore, hardly distinguishable beneath the many layers of scarves and hats that he wore, smiled good naturedly at her exasperated outburst.
"There is no need to admit anything, because we are not lost!" Albus replied calmly
Minerva glanced quickly about at the forest around them, taking in the long line of winding footprints that were just distinguishable through the muddy forest floor.
She could still remember Albus's enthusiasm as he had burst into her office that morning, eyes shining as he loudly proclaimed that the day was perfect for a walk in the woods, and he would have no other companion other than herself. She had shrugged on her warmest cloak, and oldest boots, pleased for the excuse to leave her work for a few moments. However, she was now rather regretting that rash decision – it was almost supper time, and there was no way of knowing where exactly they were on the immense grounds.
"Then why are we passing that same log that we passed twenty minutes ago?" Minerva gestured towards the log in question with a flippant flick of her wrist
Albus looked down at it, recognizing its distinguishable green slime markings as one he had turned to the left of some time back. Silently agreeing with her, but refusing to admit defeat, he feigned ignorance, and continued in a lofty voice.
"Clearly you are mistaken my dear – that is definitely not the same log."
"It has the same scratch marks on it that you were commenting about earlier." Minerva pointed out, calling his bluff.
"Many logs are used as scratching posts by the animals around here– I fail to see why this would make it a memorable identifying factor" Albus watched out of the corner of his eye as Minerva squared her shoulders, clearly trying to come up with a plausible response. She always seemed to realize when the game was on, and was readily up to the challenge
"You see Albus," Minerva explained patiently, using a tone that was usually reserved for small children "It is indeed the same log. Notice first the – what on earth is that noise?"
Minerva spun, looking wildly around in all directions. In the distance could be heard a ruckus of sound; melodic yet oddly grating in its tone. Albus moved to stand beside her, using his gloved hand to point towards a large flock of birds that were coming their way.
"Carolculuses!" Albus exclaimed "Migrating just in time for the festive season!"
"What?" Minerva asked bewildered, but Albus was already moving away from her, cupping his hands in front of his mouth as he issued a loud pitched call towards the mob.
Minerva watched enthralled as the birds veered off from the direction that they were currently flying, and moved towards where the two were currently standing, their wings flapping madly.
As the birds mulled around, Minerva could see that they were an odd mix of colors. It was as if a young child had got a hold of a box of markers and colored them liberally with no consideration towards the end result. A mismatch of turquoise, red, green, purple, and black, the birds made an odd picture as they landed on the snow covered branches around them, their coloring clashing horribly with Albus's multiple winter wear.
Albus motioned gleefully for Minerva to come towards him, his enthusiasm making him look much younger than his years – a habit of his that Minerva was well acquainted with.
"My brother and I always had a great time trying to get the flocks to come and nest in our yard." Albus said, not taking his eyes off the birds as he smiled. "Many a Christmas night have I sat out armed with bird food and flashlights to catch a glimpse of them, or hear their delightful songs."
"I must admit that I've heard of them – but never specifically heard them." Minerva remarked, watching as one bird, a large, fat, speckled variety, reared up its legs and began to sing. One by one, the other birds joined in, each taking up the same mass song. Minerva and Albus stood there for a time, simply enjoying the music, when presently Albus leaned over to whisper in her ear.
"A Carolculus is rather like a parrot – they repeat songs that they've heard others sing. Except, unlike parrots, they seem to enjoy Christmas carols the most, hence their name."
Minerva nodded her understanding, then paused momentarily before turning back to remark at him in an amused tone "Though they do seem to change them."
"Hmmm…?" Albus murmured questioningly, obviously enthralled by the spectacle.
"The words the Carolculuses sing – they aren't as….ummm…appropriate as the originals in the carols, wouldn't you say." Minerva remarked teasingly.
Albus listened for a while, and then colored slightly as the words registered in his mind. "Ah – yes, must be a new sub-species of some sort." Albus paused "I was hoping that you hadn't heard that… ummm….delectable phrase." he said carefully
"For your sake Albus, I'll pretend that I didn't hear that phrase." Minerva replied
The birds continued to squawk out a rather profane melody.
"Or that one." She remarked lightly
"Wouldn't have it any other way." Albus muttered not looking at her, obviously embarrassed by the words of his beloved birds.
"Didn't hear that one either – " Minerva said jokingly, but then stopped, trying her best not to burst out laughing at the sight of Albus waving his arms around madly, trying to rid the branches of the raucous birds.
"Be gone! Ye foul tarnishers of song! Befoulers of the ladies ears – be gone!"
Needless to say, Minerva lost her battle with the laughter.
After she had calmed down a bit, she managed to get out "What exactly are you implying that these birds are doing to me? Truly Albus, I'm not that innocent to be drastically affected by them"
"Minerva…" Albus said, puffing slightly from exertion towards the birds. "Please allow me to keep my naivety concerning your naivety."
"What's that supposed to mean – that I'm inexperienced in the vulgar ways of the world?" Minerva shook her head, surprised at his protective manner. "Sorry to shatter your illusion Albus, but I've been teaching, among other things, teenage children for the last 50 years. Not many things affect me these days."
"Oh my, the corruption of young woman's minds in this day and age!" Albus remarked, glancing mournfully at her face, as if in wonderment at the sate of the world.
"Young!" Minerva snorted "I fear that I'll be shattering many illusions this fair day."
Minerva looked Albus directly in the eye, gripping his shoulders in an actor's strong gesture. "Albus, I know that this may come as a shock to you, and might frighten you deeply…but…" she paused dramatically, then proclaimed gravely "I haven't been young for quite a while."
"Nonsense once again! Young you are, and young you shall ever be!"
"And what, pray tell, are you comparing my age to… STONEHENGE?" Minerva asked
"You are indeed young my dear." Albus replied. They had started to walk again, but Minerva stopped at this, and turned to face him.
"Really now?" she said mockingly
"Indeed – why will you not believe me? First you doubt my assurances that we are indeed not lost…" Minerva scoffed at this, and opened her mouth to say more when he held up his hand, forestalling her comment.
Minerva closed her mouth exasperatedly. Then with a glib ascending of her eyebrow, invited him to continue, a motion Albus acknowledged with a brief nod of his head.
"Now, as I was saying, first this doubt as to our location, then this doubt as to my correct assessment of your age. Are you getting enough sleep? Enough to eat? Because clearly your mind is being comprised in some manner."
Albus looked thoughtful, then remarked in a tone implying that she should be eternally grateful for his heartfelt offer: "I'm sure a dinner with me of some kind could help that problem quite nicely, however."
Minerva, however, was not amused. "Albus, don't you ever give up? I swear that you are the most difficult man in this entire world!" She gave the branch nearest to her a brief shake to emphasize her point. Unfortunately, however this neatly spoiled the intended affect by showering the two of them with clouds of snow and pine tree needles. Minerva heard a brief snort of laughter coming from her left, but chose to ignore it.
"And still you do not believe me!" Albus mockingly looked flabbergasted, continuing to play his part as the snow settled around them.
"No Albus," Minerva admitted, her tone lightly tinged with lightly with annoyance, both at him and her own stupidity. It was wintertime – snow settled on branches – how on earth could she have been so dense! "I'll admit wholeheartedly that I do not believe either your observation concerning my age, nor the fact that we are not, indeed, lost."
"Ah, so it all comes down to this now – "
Minerva shook her head wearily, unable to hide a smile at Albus' exaggerated dejected manner.
Suddenly, Albus glanced thoughtfully at her, taking in both her disheveled appearance, and the delightful affect the annoyance with the snow was having on her complexion. "If I were, for example, to be right on one account, would that immediately mean that you would accept my view on the other issue?" he asked
"Albus, what are you getting at?" Minerva said while trying, without much success, to rid her hair and cloak of the tree debris.
"Hear me out!" Albus cried out dramatically. Minerva looked expectantly at him as she stopped moving for a moment, her amused gaze evident on her face even though she was trying to give off an aura of seriousness.
"If I can convince you of the truth of my words for one subject…" Albus continued, "You must accept my conclusion concerning the other issue unconditionally."
"Since there is absolutely no way of you finding the means to convince me the truth of either, this seems to be a very safe bet for me for me to take." Minerva said logically, returning to her self appointed war against the pine needles which had settled in her hair.
"Indeed, I suppose that you could view this wager in that light." Albus commented nonchalantly, shaking his head slightly as he did so in order to remove the worst of the snow from his purple and blue hat.
Minerva bit her lip, then looked up at the sky as if asking for divine recommendation, making quite a show out of deliberating whether or not to accept. Albus followed her every move with his eyes, trying to appear aloof towards the entire situation, until he was startled out of his delightful thoughts on how well he was doing to get Minerva to loosen up by a:
"What's in it for me?"
"I beg your pardon?" Albus asked startled, eyes wide with innocence.
"I asked what was in it for me." Minerva repeated, "You seem to get a great deal out of this wager if you win, but I get seemingly nothing if you lose."
Albus looked sharply at her, "And – what would you like if you won?" he asked cautiously.
"Ah well…" Minerva dropped her gaze to her feet, suddenly appearing a bit embarrassed. He smiled inwardly when she flushed and started to stammer.
"Yes?" Albus prompted, interested in what had caused her abrupt change of demeanor.
"Why are you so suddenly interested in what would happen if you lost? You seemed quite sure of yourself a moment ago." Minerva shot back.
Albus raised his eyebrow at her this time, seeing this ploy to skirt around the issue for what it was, but deciding to play along…for the time being at least.
"My dear, I would hardly call a single question mass enthusiasm, but yes, indeed, you are correct." Albus conceded, "I have nothing to fear since I will undoubtedly be proved correct – " Minerva scoffed slightly at this, but Albus continued on, feigning his obliviousness to her disbelief. "But, I must admit that I am most curious as to what type of reward you'd choose for yourself, if you were indeed the successful party in this wager."
"What I want Albus?" Minerva said quietly, feeling the mood in the meadow change suddenly in response to the unspoken depths to her question. Looking at her sharply, Albus tried to gauge whether she had really meant to say what she did. Taking in the tightness in her shoulders, and the sadness in her eyes, he realized that Minerva was quite on edge with the sudden unspoken change in topic, and tried to remedy the problem.
"I do believe that that was indeed what I asked." Albus said looking directly at her. Then, he said in a lighthearted manner "-and do hurry up with your decision. My nose is getting rather cold, and I think that I hear those thrice-blasted birds on their way back here, and they don't sound like they're very happy with me." He looked wildly around him, scanning the sky exaggeratedly for said birds.
"You do seem to have that affect on people." Minerva commented sarcastically, feeling the serious mood lift, and sighing inwardly at her lucky escape from the awkward situation.
Albus grinned, then gave a nod of his head as if in thanks for her compliment, which caused Minerva to exasperatedly shake her head once again.
"Now, back to the issue at hand! Name your price, accept if you choose, but please make your mind up, before I grow much older and greyer than I already am." Albus said
"You're not old!" Minerva retorted.
"And neither are you" was the quick reply, accompanied with a knowing glint in Albus's eye.
"Oh no, not back to this again!" Minerva moaned, bringing her hands up to cover her eyes, as she turned away from him, staring at the intricate design on the palm of her mittens: Lace snowflakes with silver stripes on an orange background– a gift from Albus two years ago.
He had absentmindedly transfigured a pen into the hideous design after she had complained about the chill in the castle during a staff meeting between chattering teeth. Though Minerva was loathe to admit it, she treasured that gift – it was a simple connection between the two of them that she couldn't bear to part with. If Albus had noticed that she had kept the gift (which was extremely likely, being the sort of man that he is), he had yet to comment on them.
"I see no better issue to pursue this fine winter day." Albus replied, bringing her mind back to the present. Minerva had to agree with him – it was a glorious day.
The evergreen trees all around them were dusted with snow which glittered in the bright sun light, and wispy clouds were leisurely making their way across the sky. The ground, muddied slightly from the melting affect of the snow and their footprints, was a scattered mosaic of snow and muck from Minerva's escapade with the snow covered branches.
"Now please name your terms, then accept or reject the bet." Albus said.
"Albus, really I – "
"Name, accept or reject." he said softly.
"Albus, its too – "
"Name, accept or reject." he repeated, more loudly this time.
"Fine – a gorgeous, large, expensive exotic dinner, you're paying, and I accept!" Minerva cried loudly.
Albus paused for a moment, listening to her last shouted words echo around the once silent meadow, as Minerva turned away from him, embarrassed at her lack of control over the volume. He was suddenly thrown into thought, and started to pace around the clearing, pausing slightly in his gait as he began to speak again.
"Interesting." He remarked thoughtfully, "I must admit that now I hear your terms, I'm rather tempted to throw this entire wager in order to loose."
Minerva shot back at him "Trying to save grace now that you know you won't win – "
"However – " Albus cut in, silencing her, "Personal pride must be upheld at all costs in these types of situations." With that, he took a step towards her.
Minerva was startled, and took a small step backwards before Albus, with three quick strides, had closed the distance between them. He was looking down at her, noting her uneasiness, which caused him to frown. She looked up at him perplexed, then feeling the warmth radiating off his body, and gazing at the light dusting of snowflakes that adorned his beard, started to relax. This was the man that she trusted both her life and her heart to – she had no reason to fear.
"Did you really think you'd be able to get away this time?" Albus breathed
"What on earth do you mean Albus?" Minerva asked, cursing the way her voice cracked at the end of her sentence. Her eyes followed his hand as it reached up towards her face, her breath catching as her eyes flickered back to his intense gaze, and saw the depth of emotion shining there. Gently, Albus brushed away some of the some of the snow which had collected in her hood.
"What I mean, Minerva, is exactly what you want me to mean."
"And that is?" Minerva asked.
Albus smiled sadly, "I can't really tell you that, my dear, for it is, and always was, up to you to decide."
Minerva looked questioningly up at him, but abruptly Albus's eyes weren't on her face, but rather focused off on an object behind her, to the right. Minerva watched as his eyes lit up, and a delighted smile (one that she had often seen on the Weasley twins where they had discovered a new type of prank) spread across his face.
"Albus, what are you do – " Minerva tried to ask, but she was cut off as he caught hold of her gloved hand in a firm grip and started pulling her towards a small hill, walking away at a fast pace. Minerva kept her gaze on the ground trying her best not to trip on the protruding tree roots that entwined on the ground.
"Alb – "
"Do you remember our wager my dear?" Albus asked, not glancing back at her, but gazing firmly on the crest of the hill.
"I should hope so, since it was only a few minutes ago. Are you implying that I'm going senile Albus?" Minerva asked jokingly.
Albus stopped suddenly at her words, and looked back at her in the eye. "Never in a million years Minerva." He waited a moment, to make sure his words fully registered in her mind, then continued on, towing her boldly behind him, but at a less frantic pace.
"Albus, far be it for me to question you in any way…" Minerva asked in a mocking tone, " - but where on earth are we going?"
"Do you remember our wager?" Albus reiterated, ignoring her last question
"Yes, Albus, if I quote correctly, 'if you convince me either that we are not lost, or that I am not old, then I must accept the other assessment whether I like it or not…'. But why this sudden burst of activity and…"
She stopped suddenly as they crested the hill, and looked over where his hand was pointing. In distance, merrily puffing steam into the sky, could be seen the castle of Hogwarts. Turrets standing proud, majestically centered in the middle of the mass of green and white; a slight glint of sunlight reflecting off the lake nearby.
Glancing over at Albus, she decided not to comment on his 'I told you so' look.
"Well then." Minerva commented dryly
"Well indeed! This is undeniably useful!" Albus looked at her, and, seeing that she did not follow his train of thought, decided to elaborate
"Well, you see Minerva, I'd planned on showing you that we were not lost in an utterly sappy and romantic matter, by kissing you thoroughly, and pronouncing that we'd never be lost because we had each other." Minerva looked utterly flabbergasted at these words, but Albus continued on.
"However, with the lucky discovery of a known landmark, I can now show you the truth concerning our location without any messy and utterly embarrassing actions on my part."
Minerva was still speechless, but Albus continued on.
"So, I will now pronounce myself the winner of our little wager, and proceed to tell you thus."
He grabbed her shoulders in a gentle by firm grip, turning her so that she was directly in front of him. Placed gloved fingers under her chin, he paused briefly to stroke the side of her cheek, which was slightly sticky with tree sap, then gently lifted her face up so that their gazes were locked
"Now then," He said, stepping closer "You are not old. You are as young in your heart as you ever were, and you prove it to the world every day. You are my fountain of youth, and bring life to my world each time you step into it."
"You are a joy to behold, in every single way, and every moment that I have spent with you is a time that I cherish beyond belief. You may be my closest and oldest confident, but you are most assuredly not old." Minerva stared into his face, happiness spreading across her features as she heard the ring of truth resound in his words.
"Ah!" Albus commented mournfully, tone suddenly playful. "It seems that we were unable to do away with romantic blither after all!" Minerva smiled shakily up at him, then turned a serious look towards him.
"Well, since that romantic blither is already out in the open, I see no reason why you shouldn't continue with the rest of your grand plan." Minerva stated, her eyes begging him silently for a thing that she had not the courage to ask for out loud.
Albus started, looked sharply at her, then nodded respectfully to her remark "Indeed, for the first time this entire afternoon, I think that you are finally correct in an observation"
"Who would have thought?" Minerva asked good-naturedly,
He slowly pulled her closer, hands entwining about Minerva's waist, holding her tight as his lips lightly glanced across her own, the touch sending shivers to every part of her body, and her mind reeling. He pulled away slightly then, giving her room to move away if she wanted to. She shook her head slightly, gave him a lingering kiss on the cheek, then moved hesitantly over to kiss him on the mouth.
He waited a moment for Minerva to gain some confidence, then his lips turned searching, molding to hers with impossible sweetness, as his hands started to wander over her back, making their way up into her hair. Minerva leaned into him, her hands wrapping around his shoulders in an attempt for support against her rampant feelings.
Then his lips moved over, laying feathery light kisses against the corners of her mouth, and then down past her jawline, almost teasing in both their intensity and pressure. Pulling away, he looked at her, smiling widely as a shy blush covered her face, heightened by the light bite of the wind.
"I knew all along." he whispered in her ear, the look in his eyes telling her without a doubt that he was sincere.
While leaning in for another kiss, Albus threaded his hands through her hair, trying to cover her ears as inconspicuously as he could with his gloved hands, as in the distance the call of the Carolculus could be heard lilting on the air. It was all he could do to not join in singing along with them…
A/N (Insert witty caroling song here). Hope you enjoyed it! Ah! The profound plotlessness and extreme sappiness – could one ask for anything more? I tried to create a Carolulus song, but none of my rhymes ever seemed to capture the mood I wanted. If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear about them! Have a great festive season!