Competition?

A/N: My response to the 11th round of the challenge tag. A new female, your character, joins the Order and shows interest in Albus. She must be quite persistant in her attempts to claim him. How does Minerva react, does she put her in her place?

Minerva McGonagall was not the sort to have trouble sleeping. Like the feline she could turn into, she could curl up and go to sleep without too much trouble. Tonight, however, sleep eluded her. No matter what she tried, she couldn't sleep. Finally, she gave up and admitted that she was worried. Not about Harry or Voldemort, but about Albus. She was worried that he loved another woman.

The woman in question was an American witch named Lynda Smythe who'd arrived that summer to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts and join the Order. Small, slender, and petite with curly blonde hair and warm brown eyes, Minerva had to admit that the woman was attractive. She certainly turned heads whenever she entered a room and not all male, either.

At Order meetings, Lynda and Minerva usually sat on either side of Albus and, more than once, Minerva had had to wait for Albus and Lynda to finish discussing something before she could speak with him. The two were very affectionate, though kisses were restricted to cheeks, foreheads, and backs of hands. In short, Minerva felt threatened by the other woman, even though she had no claim to Albus' heart. She loved him, but had not told him. The thought of Albus loving another woman chilled Minerva to the bone.

Deciding sleep wasn't going to be coming any time soon, Minerva got up and pulled on her dressing gown before heading down to the kitchens. Since it was the summer holidays, she didn't bother with her hairnet. Upon reaching the picture hiding the entrance to the kitchens, Minerva saw that it was already open. As she approached, two voices floated towards her. One she recognized right away as Albus' voice. She'd recognize it anywhere. The other took her a moment, but she recognized it as belonging to Lynda.

"...really, Papa, you can be so thick sometimes!" Minerva's eyebrows rose at this. Papa? Is she his daughter?

"What do you mean by that, Lynda?" Albus asked, his voice sounding amused.

"She loves you, I'm sure of it!" Lynda responded, sounding very confident. Who is she talking about?

"How can you be sure? You've only known her a couple months. I've known her for years," Albus countered, but Minerva could hear the hope in his voice. Does he mean Poppy?

Lynda laughed. "Papa, she sits next to you at every Order meeting and was willing to stand by you when Fudge and Umbridge were ready to send you to Azkaban. Doesn't that tell you anything?" Minerva's eyes widened. They're talking about me?

"That she's very loyal to me," Albus' answer sounded automatic. No, because I love you, you old coot!

A very gusty sigh followed. "No, Papa, because she loves you." After a long silence, Albus spoke, but his voice was too soft for Minerva to hear. "Yes, Papa, she does."

"You don't know, though," Albus pointed out. "I can't take that chance."

The sound of footsteps warned Minerva that someone was approaching the door and she quickly moved away. The door opened and she watched as Albus walked away down the corridor. A little dazed, she slipped into the kitchen and found Lynda seated at a small table, a mug in front of her, most likely containing hot cocoa. "Hello, Minerva, what brings you down here?"

"I couldn't sleep," Minerva replied, wondering if she should tell the other woman that she'd heard part of the conversation.

Lynda laughed. "That makes three of us: you, me, and Albus."

"Shouldn't that be Papa?" Minerva asked, deciding to throw caution to the wind. She wanted answers.

Lynda looked startled. "How much of that conversation did you hear?"

"Enough to gather some clues," Minerva rejoined as she sat down across from Lynda with a cup of tea and some ginger newts.

Lynda propped her chin on one hand. "Such as?"

"That Albus is your father," Minerva answered, smiling slightly, "and that you're convinced that I love him."

Lynda gave her a challenging look. "Well?"

"Well what?" Minerva asked, serenely taking a bite from one of the biscuits.

Lynda rolled her eyes. "Am I correct? About you loving Papa?"

"Yes, you are correct," Minerva confirmed, smiling gently at the other woman.

Lynda whooped, jumping up to do a victory dance. She's probably older than I am, but acts like she's younger. "I knew it! I knew it! Yes!"

"Lynda, how old are you?" Minerva asked, arching an eyebrow.

Lynda immediately stopped, looking sheepish. "Fifty-one."

"That young?" Minerva asked, surprised.

The younger woman nodded, looking confused. "Mum died when she was giving birth to me and my grandparents insisted on raising me, claiming that Papa's sudden fame wouldn't be healthy for me."

"Fifty-one," Minerva muttered, doing some rapid calculations. "You were born when Albus defeated Grindelwald?"

Lynda nodded again. "Yeah, Grandma and Grandpa took me to America and raised me there. Papa would visit when he could, but it wasn't enough. I eventually blew up at him, accusing him of caring more about his students at Hogwarts than me and things like that. He denied it, but I refused to believe him. This summer, he sent me an owl, requesting that I come teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. I agreed, only on the condition that he would let me join the Order and help out."

"I have one question," Minerva commented after absorbing the information.

Lynda grinned. "Does Papa love you?"

"Yes, that's it exactly," Minerva agreed, relieved that she wouldn't have to ask.

Lynda laughed. "Oh, yeah. His love for you was one of the things that I hated. I felt he was betraying Mom by loving someone else." She suddenly blushed, turning away.

"It's all right, Lynda. I don't hold it against you," Minerva assured the younger woman.

Lynda shook her head. "It's not that." She took a deep breath before turning to face Minerva again. "I...hated you without meeting you." Minerva blinked, sitting back. "I hated you because Papa loved you, because you'd taken Mom's place in his heart." Lynda sighed. "Then I met you and realized that you hadn't taken Mom's place. He still loves her, but she's only a memory." Lynda leaned forward, her brown eyes intense. "Minerva, he needs you. He needs your love and support. Papa said you were Sorted into Gryffindor. Don't you have the courage to tell him that you love him?"

o0o0o

A few weeks later, Lynda had managed to lock Albus and Minerva into a broom cupboard at Hogwarts and somehow relieved each of them of their wands. "Lynda! Let us out of here!"

"Not until you tell him!" Lynda shouted back.

Albus touched Minerva's shoulder and she jumped, nearly falling over. "My dear, what does she mean by that?"

"She wants me to tell you something very important," Minerva informed him, deciding she might as well, since it was obvious that Lynda wasn't going to let them out.

She could almost see his eyebrow rise, despite the fact that the room was pitch black. "Oh? What might this be?"

Here goes... "I love you, Albus." After a short silence, Minerva began to wonder if Lynda had lied to her.

There was a snap and a small light appeared above them. "What was that again?"

"I love you, Albus." It was easier to get out now that she'd said it once.

"Lynda didn't make you say it?" Albus asked, his eyes boring into hers.

Minerva shook her head. "No, I've loved you for years now."

"And I have loved you for years as well," Albus murmured, raising a hand to cup her cheek.

Minerva leaned into the caress, her heart leaping for joy. "You really mean it, Albus? Lynda didn't tell you to?"

"She only ordered me to tell you what I already knew," Albus explained, just before he kissed her.

Maybe Lynda coming to England wasn't such a bad thing, Minerva thought hazily as she returned his kiss.

Finite