The night was coolly invigorating inviting many couples and families to walk about. Minerva and Albus drifted down the sidewalk often times stopping to point out something interesting to the other. The conference would be ending tomorrow but tonight was theirs.
"Do you have any further surprises for me, my dear?" Albus teased. He held Minerva's hand fast in the crook of his arm. Ever since her uncharacteristic but not unwelcome display of affection, he had felt unbalanced. While she had refrained from further intimate displays, she had continued to make her feelings for him obvious - a whispered endearment, a squeeze of his hand, a loving look, a smile just for him. He had found himself anticipating anything she might do. If this is what it feels to be coddled and valued, it will not be difficult to grow accustomed to it.
He stole yet another glance at her. She had changed her appearance after they left the conference. Dressed in a light dress draping to the knee with a warm shawl over her shoulders and her hair loosened, she was far from the persona of the stern Transfiguration teacher and deputy. She seemed more carefree as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
"I daresay you are the master of surprises, Albus," Minerva replied. As they walked, Minerva found herself reveling in the new feelings of possessing and being possessed, of belonging. After she had kissed him, Albus had rarely wandered too far from her side. The rest of the day she had felt more than not his hand on the small of her back or resting lightly on her waist or shoulder, especially when she conversed with other men. I could get used to this. "Albus, why do we keep stopping? At this rate, it will be hours before we reach the hotel."
"I cannot seem to help myself from stopping and looking at you, my dear. For my generation, a flash of ankle was considered the height of flirtation," Albus explained. "I find your bared legs distracting and most inspiring."
Minerva laughed. Flirting with a man with wit, humor and daring, a man like Albus, was a delight. "Every woman has them. I am quite sure that women have used them to attract your attentions in the past. Do not bother denying it."
"That may well be, however, I feel the need to point out that yours are the only ones I am seriously considering."
Minerva sensed the sudden tension between them. "How ... how seriously?"
Albus paused their walk and turned to face her. He brought her hand to his lips and bestowed a kiss upon her skin. "Very seriously. For the first time in my life I am finding myself discontented with a casual relationship. But, know this, how things will go between us is entirely up to you. We have not discussed our -"
Minerva shushed him with two fingers laid across his lips. "Much as I seem to have been very forward today, that is a topic for which I would prefer some measure of privacy." She smiled. "I am eager to welcome you into my life, Albus, have no doubts on that, ever. Lifelong bachelor that you are are and set in your ways, are you prepared to take me into your life?"
Albus turned and they proceeded with their walk. There were no more stops, no more distractions. Their course was set. There was no turning back.
An hour later, Albus Dumbledore was experiencing the worst case of nerves in his life. Room service had brought up their dinner. Minerva had arranged a lovely table by the terrace overlooking the harbor side. The twinkling lights from bobbing boats and buildings reflected on the water served as a romantic counterpoint to the candles on their own table. Minerva was breathtaking in a fitted dress that made him very much aware of his masculinity. Everything was perfect. Everything that is but him. Overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation, he had dropped a goblet and even spilled their wine through the course of their meal.
"I have never seen you so clumsy, Albus, anything I can do for you?" Minerva sipped her wine. She looked at him innocently over the rim of her glass but her leg brushed with singular intent against his under the table.. "Or on you?"
Minerva McGonagall, femme fatale. No one will ever know how fortunate I am. "I want this to be special ... for both of us."
"It will be. I know it will be."
Minerva nearly laughed at the rare frown that came upon his face. "What if we're not ... not compatible? Can you still ... Do you, er, that is, do we need contraception charms?"
Minerva did laugh then. She sat down on her nervous swain'slap. "We are extremely compatible outside of the bedroom that I can only believe that we will be nearly perfect for each other inside. If not, we do have each other to practice upon until we get it right." She kissed him deeply pouring all her reassurance and love into the kiss. She ended the kiss. "I will take care of contraception."
Albus squeezed her waist. "Promise me you will let me know what you like."
"I won't have to tell you. You'll know." She traced the length of his nose and down across his lips. "Give me ten minutes will you."
Albus followed her with his eyes as she disappeared into the bedroom. A knock at the door interrupted his silent prayer of thanks to all the deities of the world for all his blessings. He opened the door to a refreshed and dignified George Henkel.
"Professor Dumbledore, Robert Warden entrusted delivery of this to me. I now relinquish my duty." George held out the package. "A pleasure to meet you, sir."
Albus took the package and was surprised at its weight. "Rather fitting that it was done tonight."
George misunderstood the comment and said. "Mr. Warden has enclosed a letter regarding some final details."
"I see, thank you." Albus rubbed his beard thoughtfully. "Mr. Henkel, will you be going back to England tonight?"
"Actually, I will stopping in New Delhi then Athens before reaching home ground again."
"Could you deliver a message for me?"
Albus ushered George. Albus found some parchment and scribbled a quick note. "Please deliver this to Hogwarts, attention Filius Flitwick by owl post. W- I will be staying here a few days longer. I do not want anyone at the school worrying."
"Understood, professor. Australia is beautiful country." George pocketed the note. "I'll take my leave of you then."
"Thank you, Mr. Henkel." Albus closed the door. He opened the book and quickly read Robert's letter.
He heard Minerva calling him from the bedroom. "Albus, I will catch a cold in here all by myself."
"On my way," Albus placed the book on the secretary desk in the sitting room. He took off his outer robe and draped it on the sofa. Humming softly, he closed the bedroom door behind him.
Albus watched her sleeping form one hand fingering her hair as if the very act would confirm that he had not dreamt the last few wonderful hours. Of two things he was most certain of. First, whatever the future had in store for them, fortune or ill, it did not matter. They would face anything together. Secondly, they were indeed utterly compatible in the bedroom. That had been proven most satisfactorily although he was quite open to more practice sessions.
As he lay on the cusp of sleep, his mind went to that which had started everything - his autobiography. There were a few things left unfinished but on the whole he was very happy with it. He planned to ask Minerva's advice on the remaining items. He wanted Minerva to shape the final book. After all, he reasoned, it was as much her story as it was his. With that thought, Albus pulled the covers over them and slept content with the world and the woman beside him.
Three months later, the autobiography of Albus Dumbledore was published to critical acclaim and commercial appeal. Everything about it was clear, simple and elegant exactly as Minerva had advised. The cover was of sumptuous leather upon which the title was engraved "A Life Lived". The pictures were kept to a minimum - a Dumbledore family portrait, a photo with the Flamels, one of a group of intelligence agents from the Grindelwald years amongst them a startlingly young Minerva McGonagall and a still whole Alastor Moody, a photo of the assembled Wizengamot, a photo of past members of the Order of the Phoenix and a group photo of the Hogwarts staff. The dedication, too, was to the point.
The significant woman in his life had objected to anything more wordy or flowery. Hundreds of rejected drafts fueled the fireplace in his study and delayed publication a week or two. In fact, Minerva had used every charm and feminine wile at her disposal to try to convince him to leave the dedication off entirelyciting her acute embarrassment as her primary rationale.. Though he did nothing to discourage her every attempt, in this instance, his mind and will was firm. So strong was his intent that he placed a contractual obligation upon the publisher to include the dedication unchanged in every printing thereafter no matter what his heirs, if he and Minerva were so blessed, could want to do.
And so it was that the autobiography had continually been revised, photos added or the cover design changed through many, many printings through the generations that followed. However, the dedication always remained thus:
To Minerva, the only star in my horizon, brilliant, beautiful and beloved.
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed the story. If you did or did not, please review and let me know.