Disclaimer: All Harry Potter people, places, and things, (all Harry Potter nouns) belong to J. K. Rowlings. (This story takes place during Harry's sixth year.)
Too Many Burdens
Chapter 1: Lake Champlain
The annual Halloween party had its usual excitement and surprises as Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall chaperoned the students. A new surprise was the mild chaos a new pet of Hagrid's caused. He had rescued a young hippogriff and brought him to Hogwarts. On his way to his hut, he stopped by the party to inform Albus, but a few noises startled the creature and a few problems ensued. After a while, Albus and Minerva realized that there services would not be needed and decided to leave. Having escaped the Halloween party with graceful ease, they came back to Albus' study and flopped on the couch, nearly exhausted, her seated on the left and him on the right. The fireplace crackled with life to combat the cold outside, but the room was as stuffy as an attic.
"Thank you for a delightful evening," Minerva commented.
Albus grinned. "You're welcome, but it would not have been an evening without your good company. I must admit that it has been quite some time since I have had the pleasure of dancing, especially with someone so light on her feet."
She eyed him wryly. "You always know exactly what to say," she paused as she spotted the unopened bottle he had set down on the center of the coffee table, surrounded magically by two flute glasses. "What's that, and why did Hagrid give it to you?"
He chuckled. "You are observant as always. That, my dear, is a bottle of sparkling cider. Hagrid handed it to me as compensation for the ruckus his new pet caused before the party," he replied, unbending the metal lid of the bottle with the can opener. He poured two glasses and handed one to her. "To the wonderful lady sitting next to me who keeps me in my place, may she continue to remind me where I stand," he began as their glasses clinked.
She smiled graciously and lifted her glass as the embers from the fire began to dance together. "To the man sitting next to me that knows me like no one else; may I find a few ways to surprise him now and then," she said as the rims of their glasses brushed softly again.
He refilled their glasses and continued. "To Aphrodite's better; may she be willing to listen to the waxing poetics of an old coot."
Minerva laughed heartily as they toasted. "Oh come now! I'm just me and we both know it. To Father Time over here who's going blind; may Aphrodite find his glasses."
This time Albus laughed as he refilled their glasses. "If we're toasting, we might as well go down making a time of it. To the goddess of wisdom who beats me at chess, may she someday see the queen that she really is." Their glasses kissed again and the fire sparked with excitement.
She giggled. "Are you hoping I'll let you win the next game. And I hate to tell you, but this is the worst sparkling cider I've ever tasted. Why did Hagrid give it to you again? Did he say he was cleaning his house?"
"He gave it to me as compensation, and you just giggled," he told her.
A rosy blush spread across her cheeks. "So I did. And I think this stuff has fermented, but it's my turn to toast again. To him who always makes me smile, may I someday be able to put words to thoughts," she finished as they clinked glasses again. She paused and looked directly at him. "Do I look as foggy to you as you do to me?"
He rubbed his eyes for a moment. "I think we're both just tired. You left your glasses on the end table when you came in," he remarked. Glasses empty again, they set them down on the coffee table.
The truth was that her head felt as if it had spent the last hour under water. The room itself had begun to remind her of a fishbowl. Then their hands touched and each saw something in the other's eyes, something not entirely expected, but acknowledged. He took her right hand in his and whispered, "I never did tell you how truly glad I am to have you back from St. Mungo's. And your beauty would make a certain Greek deity blush indefinitely."
He kissed her hand, but then began to trail kisses up her arm, ignoring the emerald robes, until he reached her collar. He kissed the base of her neck, then the spot on her neck by her jaw, and finally his lips captured hers in a tender. She was not pulling away from him either as the kiss grew more intense. They parted when out of breath and pulled back for a moment. She had wanted him to kiss her like he just had for years, but she realized that something was drastically out of place. She raised an eyebrow and looked at him strangely.
"What did we just do?" she asked in a shaky tone.
"Do you mean literally or figuratively?" he added.
She rolled her eyes. "Something's out of step. We are not ourselves at the moment and…" she trailed off when she realized that his attention had drifted back to the bottle.
"Minerva, I thought the school had been ordering sparkling cider made by Martinelli's lately," he stated.
"It is," she responded.
"This one's from Lake Champlain," he explained.
She raised an eyebrow incredulously. "Lake Champlain? Let me see that," she paused and examined the bottle as best she could. Her eyes widened as the realization struck her and she set the bottle down on the table immediately. Oh Merlin, we're both incredibly drunk! I have to leave before I loose control and tell him everything! But then again he might not remember, no, I have to go. "This is Champaign! You and I drank two thirds of a bottle of Champaign!" she exclaimed.
"That would probably account for a few things," he commented with a chuckle.
Suddenly she stood, but then she steadied herself against the back of the couch as a wave of dizziness passed through her. "I- I should go. We both have to work tomorrow and the sooner we sleep this off, the better," she stated quickly as she frantically scanned the area for the handbag she had brought with her that evening.
He gently took her hand and touched her face so she would look at him, steadying her. "Slow down; your handbag is by the door," he told her calmly. Their eyes met briefly and he whispered, "What are you afraid of?"
She could still smell lemon drops and turned her head away to look at anything aside from him. Her gaze fell on the pictures of the past headmasters. "I'm not afraid of anything," she remarked with a hint of defiance.
Stepping forward, she was caught off guard when he abruptly pulled her into another tender kiss. "Goodnight," he said in a quiet voice.
She gathered what she could of her wits and whispered, "Albus, neither one of is thinking clearly right now. Both of us need to recognize this and part ways. Goodnight." Then she broke away and tried to find her handbag. Picking up the black handbag, she began to look anxiously for her glasses, staggering over toward the far end of the room, pausing at an end table.
He touched her shoulder and as she turned to face him, he brushed a loose strand of hair from her eyes. "I can bring those by tomorrow. In fact, I have extra blankets and I don't mind if you want to stay on my couch," he offered. She was amazed that he could be so rational, and yet definitely tipsy.
She looked up at him with her back being against the wall, and was about to agree when he slid one arm around her waist, the other around her neck, and kissed her again, ardently, lovingly holding her close to him. She placed her hands on his shoulders, responding to his kiss. When they broke apart, he did not release her but looked directly into her eyes. "Stay."
He can't be seriously asking me this! He must think he's dreaming, probably won't even remember this later. Oh Merlin, he doesn't know what this is doing to me. All I know is that I can't stop this much longer. Everything was too fuzzy for her to reason adequately anymore and she was tired of always suppressing her feelings for him. Taking a deep breath, she spoke. "No. We both have our duties tomorrow, yours as Headmaster and mine as Transfiguration professor," she tried to reason, more with herself than with him.
"That's what alarm clocks are for," he countered as they slowly inched along the wall, neither paying attention to the fact that they were moving.
"We'll have headaches the size of Wales," she mentioned wryly.
"It doesn't matter and I have an anti-hangover potion," he stated.
"Tomorrow is another day," she attempted to persuade as their foreheads met.
"We may not have tomorrow. We don't have forever and you understand this as well as I do," he told her.
What on earth is he asking me? He's too drunk to realize what is going on. One of us has got to be strong and obviously he doesn't know what he's asking. "Then what do we have?" she asked breathlessly as their eyes met again.
"We have now. With Voldemort still on the loose, who knows when or how we will meet our ends. Now is all I can give you and now is all that we need. But I understand if now is not what you want, or-" he was cut off as she slipped her arms around his neck to pull him down to her to kiss him passionately.
I can't fight it anymore, especially when he's right without knowing it, she reasoned. He responded and they stood for a few minutes, kissing desperately, as if their world would disappear within the hour and one of them would be gone from the other. She had lost count of how many times she had imagined kissing him like that. To be kissing him for real, even though he might not realize it, was more than she had ever hoped for. Managing to free a hand, he pushed open the door to his room.
When she first heard the alarm clock, she thought it was only in her head until she opened her eyes to a brightly coloured room with an alarm clock resembling a purple dragon, having digital numbers on the side. She rubbed her eyes, acknowledging the pounding headache. Where am I and why does the décor in here have to have so many bright colours? I do not care to see orange and yellow contrasting purple at 6:00 in the morning. Wait a minute, whose room am I in? Wherever this is, the person can't decorate to save his life, she surmised.
A stirring on the other side of the bed caused her to turn. She gasped suddenly as she realized whose room she was in. Pulling the sheets around her, she watched as he slowly woke. His eyes blinked open and he smiled politely. "Good morning, Minerva," he said before sitting up. Upon sitting, he noticed their robes on the floor as well as a headache. Comprehension dawned on him and he met her wide-eyed stare with one of his own.
She mustered up the courage to speak first. "It would seem that I did not exactly leave last night as I had intended."
"Oh Merlin, Minerva, I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am that I lost my head," he expressed, not facing her.
The two quickly gathered their clothing and used magic to redress themselves. "It is not your fault alone. I should have simply walked out."
"I'm swearing off alcoholic drinks from this moment on," he told her somberly.
She nodded in agreement. "As am I, but-"
Now dressed, as she faced him she was prepared to tell him that she had not minded the events of the previous evening until he interrupted her. "Minerva, I am so sorry that I lost control. That should never have happened and I do not blame you if you would rather not speak to me for the rest of our natural lives."
She slowly walked over to him and lightly placed her hand on his shoulder. "Albus, you are my dearest friend and there is no way in this world that I would ever stop speaking to you. Both of us lost control and truth be told, I think it was Hagrid's fault for giving you Champaign and telling you it was sparkling cider."
A small smile crept onto his face. "You are quite right, my dear, as always. We will not speak of this again and it would probably be best of you headed back to your rooms in your animagus form," he recommended.
Sighing, she nodded slowly and they said their goodbyes. Alone in her own rooms later that morning, she brushed the tangles from her graying ebony-black hair after she had taken her morning shower. He didn't give me the chance to tell him. He wants things back to the way they were and to pretend that last night didn't happen. Obviously he only wants a friendship and I am making a mistake to carry on as I have. I just wish I could have told him, she thought to herself as a few tears slid down her cheeks.