It was a very good thing that this was a private breakfast meeting, because the look that Minerva was giving Albus now would have justifiably alarmed students and staff alike. As it was, her eyes had grown so wide that he idly wondered how they could possibly stay in their sockets. "What…how…?" she sputtered.
"He was working himself into a state about those who would try to wangle their way out of this," Albus began. "In particular, he was quite outdone with me, not only for asking him to reconsider a decree my words had inspired," here Albus paused to shake his head at the irony of it all before continuing, "but for never, in all my years of life, fathering any children myself, thus, and I quote, 'depriving the Wizarding World of my valuable genetic material', end quote."
"How deplorably…clinical," was Minerva's horrified assessment.
"Indeed," Albus concurred, "clinical and zealous. It was then that I realized that the only thing to do was offer myself up as an example, provided he extend the deadlines for everyone else."
"Who is the lucky lady?" Minerva asked, wondering why this question made her nervous.
"Lucky lady?" Albus looked puzzled.
"Surely you had someone in mind when you made your bargain with the Minister," Minerva reminded him none-too-patiently.
"Well yes, of course, but now that I've had time to calm down and think it through, I'm not at all certain that you'll agree," he admitted reluctantly, watching her very carefully as he did so.
"Why should my opinion matter?" Now it was Minerva's turn to be puzzled. "I assume you only plan to stay married until the decree is repealed, but even if you decided to stick with it, whom you marry is no business of mine."
"Unless you're the one I'd like to marry," Albus replied softly.
"Well, in that case, it would…" she broke off to stare at him, her eyes growing wide once again. "Are you serious?"
"Of course I'm serious." He leaned forward and took her hand. "Who else could I ask?"
Minerva was rather pleased at this turn of events, a reaction that surprised her. In order to hide her smile she asked, "What makes you so certain that the Minister would find me biologically appropriate?"
"You're only seventy-five," he reasoned, beginning to look a bit perturbed. "I naturally assumed that you'd still be..."
"Oh I am," she assured him. "Poppy informed me just last week that I'm 'not out of the woods yet', though to hear her talk sometimes you'd think I had one foot in the grave."
"There are times when she can barely contain her surprise at finding me alive." Albus chuckled, then grew serious. "May I take the fact that you haven't hexed me as a sign that you might be amenable to being my wife?"
"Yes Albus," she replied with chuckle of her own. "If you're determined to take the fall for the Wizarding world again, I may as well keep you company."
Albus squeezed her hand gratefully. "Thank you, Minerva."
"Now, how do you want to handle the details?" Minerva's manner became brisk in an effort regain her equilibrium. "We have one month, correct?"
Albus nodded. "Not much time to plan a wedding, I'm afraid."
"Nonsense," came Minerva's crisp response. "All we need is an official, two witnesses, and as short an interval as possible between the moment we fill out the paperwork and the actual ceremony."
"Why?" Albus wanted to know.
"You're the great Albus Dumbledore," she reminded him wryly. "The very second the paperwork is filed the Daily Prophet will be all over it. The last thing we want to do is give them time to mobilize."
"You're not entirely unknown yourself, Minerva," he pointed out good-naturedly.
"All the more reason to defer the onslaught as long as possible, don't you think?" she queried with a raised eyebrow.
"Agreed," conceded Albus. "Will the last Saturday of the month work for you?"
Minerva nodded. "That will give us enough time to give the situation some plausibility."
"I don't follow you," Albus admitted, brow creased in confusion.
"I refuse to give 'Minister' Weasley the satisfaction of thinking that this is anything but a legitimate marriage," Minerva asserted. "Therefore, you and I need to make it look as though something is happening between us. Nothing drastic or inappropriate, mind you…"
"No snogging in the corridors, then?" Albus interrupted with his patented twinkle.
Minerva rolled her eyes and continued. "I was thinking of something along the lines of holding hands as we enter a room together. That alone would start certain tongues wagging."
"You do realize that half the staff already thinks we're sleeping together, don't you?" Albus asked her with a grin.
"Yes, but the other half thinks I'm sleeping with Severus," she shot back with an answering grin.
"Speaking of your love life," Albus began.
"I wasn't aware that I had one," Minerva commented dryly.
"What do you call all those Friday and Saturday evening dinner dates?" a mystified Albus wanted to know.
"Pure torture," Minerva answered him adroitly. At his disbelieving look, she continued. "These so-called 'dates' fall into two categories. The first is the Gilderoy Lockhart type, who seeks to show the lonely spinster schoolteacher heroine the joys of a night with a real man." She shot a weary look at Albus, who was starting to chortle. "I'm not joking," she admonished him before resuming. "The second is the worshipful admirer who is deeply interested in what it must be like to work so closely alongside the great Albus Dumbledore." She paused for a moment. "You know, I haven't had a genuine romantic prospect for over ten years."
"That's about how long it has been for me as well," Albus confided. "The only difference is that my 'dates' either can't get past who I am, or can't accept my close relationship with you."
Minerva shook her head and sighed. "It would appear that we have each been a significant part of the other's problem."
Albus echoed her sigh. "I'm sorry, Minerva."
"There's nothing to be sorry for," she reassured him. "Neither of us can do anything about who you are, and if your ladies have such jealous streaks then you're well rid of them."
"What about the Gilderoy Lockharts?" Albus was curious.
"Casually mentioning my riding crop collection usually puts them off quite effectively," she reported gleefully. "If not, then telling them about the partially transfigured handcuffs does the trick."
They both had a good laugh at that, after which Albus wondered, "What would I do without you, Minerva?"
"You'd manage," she answered him lightly, "though probably not as seamlessly as you do with me around."
"There is a chance you'll be spared all this," he told her. "Amelia said last night that she'd already been flooded with petitions from same sex couples. And the number of same sex marriages already on the books is certainly not trivial. It is conceivable that we'll have a new Minister in a month."
"Well, until that happens, we'll just have to bide our time," Minerva observed philosophically.
"So, shall we walk into the Great Hall hand-in-hand for lunch today?"
"Absolutely," Minerva agreed with a smile. "Let the gossip begin!"
To be continued...