Disclaimer: At this point, I'm not even sure I own my own mind anymore. I promise to return all characters more or less intact.
Rating: T for now
Summary: There are just some things a woman shouldn't have to come home to, and some she should have all along.
AN: I have no idea where this came from. It's rather disturbing just what pops into my head these days. I have no clue where it's going, or if it will go. SO, any and all comments are welcome. I need idea's people. Tonight, I'm stuck on fire bad, tree pretty.
Albus looked up from the stack of papers in front of him as his door squeaked open and smiled. Minerva peered back at him, her eyes alight with excitement and a flush covering her cheeks. "Everything is taken care of for tomorrow Albus. Are you sure it isn't too much trouble?"
Albus laughed. "I told you before Minerva, no trouble at all. I think I still remember how to check on the students. Go, and when you finally get a chance," he added slyly, looking at her over his glasses, "say hello to Michael for me. We really should have dinner sometime. It's been far too long."
Minerva tried to scowl, but failed miserably as
he eyes only got brighter. "Albus " she exclaimed, pretending to be scandalized. "If I find the time I will," she promised him, causing Albus to laugh again.
"Albus," she said more seriously. "We really do appreciate this. I know how busy you are, and.."
But he cut her off, raising his hand and smiling gently. "Go Minerva. You haven't seen your husband in five months. What sort of a friend would I be if I didn't let you go. Enjoy the weekend, and I'll see you on Monday."
With another smile, she was gone, and Albus was alone with his papers once again. "Lucky sod," he mumbled to himself, a few portraits nodding in agreement.
The trip from Hogwarts to their summer home in Hogsmeade had never seemed longer. The road seemed to taunt her by growing longer with each additional step she took. But, with every step, her heart swelled and laughter threatened to bubble up and out into the cool April air.
Michael McGonagall, her friend, husband, and Ministry Potions master, had finally returned. The Ministry, despite his vehement protests, had sent Michael into a remote part of Cambodia just after Christmas, and she had only heard from him once, to say he had arrived in safety.
He hadn't been allowed any communication with the outside world once his research began, and Minerva watched the sky every day, waiting for news of his return, in any fashion. During those long months, she was sure to have gone insane if it weren't for Albus. The thought of her best friend caused Minerva to smile again, softly.
They had been friends since just after his return from the war. He had been the one to certify her in the animagus exam for the Ministry. After that, they had spoken rarely over the years, until the Ministry ball back in 1954.
Some of her co workers at the Ministry had dragged her along, knowing she would never go of her own volition. She had spent the first hour sitting in an isolated corner, staring out over the dancers in utter boredom, at least, until Albus plopped himself down beside her with that trademark twinkle.
It seemed he had been dragged along as well by a friend, but they had been separated. "Much to my luck," Albus had commented at the time. They chatted for hours about their respective lives and anything else that came to mind. They were both almost ashamedly well read, in both muggle and magical literature, and could debate even the most minute detail with ease.
It was almost midnight when Albus' mystery friend finally reappeared, coming to a stop behind Minerva. "So this is where you hid yourself Albus You know, it's rather unfair for you to leave me to those harpies while you chat with the most beautiful woman in the room."
Albus stood as Minerva turned, and her breath caught in her throat. "But you seemed to enjoy their company Michael. Who am I to intrude? But, you are quite right about the most beautiful woman. Michael McGonagall, this is Minerva Stewart. Minerva, this is one of my oldest friends, Michael. He's the ogre who dragged me away from my beloved lemon drops tonight."
Michael was just forty, tall with shoulder length black hair and the most arresting grey eyes she had ever seen. He and Albus had met just after his own graduation, and been almost inseparable since. "It's a pleasure to meet you Miss. McGonagall," Michael had said, bending low to kiss her outstretched hand.
"Minerva, please," she said breathlessly.
"Then I'm Michael." Neither noticed as Albus quietly moved away from the table, looking as if someone had just cancelled Christmas. Not long after that night Michael began to court Minerva, and she left the Ministry in order to pursue a teaching career. With Michael as a connection, Albus and Minerva had begun to spend more time together, the three meeting occasionally in Hogsmeade for drinks or dinner.
Finally, just before Christmas in 1956, the couples dreams came true. Minerva began teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts when the former professor was hexed to Argentina by a spell gone awry and he decided to retire there. Not two days later, Michael and Minerva became engaged. Albus had stood with his best friend during the ceremony and offered his best wishes as they left that evening.
It was with images of their wedding night dancing in her head that Minerva finally arrived at the small, but comfortable, cottage. Walking though the door, Minerva was about to call out, but she was surprised at the darkness of the living room. Minerva's smile returned as she heard movement coming from the bathroom and a trail of light found its way into the hallway, casting shadows along the wall.
Depositing her outer robes, shoes, and hat on a chair, Minerva quietly pushed open the bathroom door and stopped with her mouth hanging open. He wasn't alone. She simply stared as her husband grunted and another woman's hand came to rest on the glass doors. Sounds of passion filled the air, so neither of the other occupants noticed as Minerva backed out of the room, still silent, and left the house.
She walked back toward the castle, quietly, numbly, her hat, shoes, and robes forgotten. She paid no attention when her foot caught on a large stone in the road and she stumbled; she simply stood up again and continued on her way. She passed through the main doors, past the curious students and concerned colleagues, and into her private chambers, leaving a small trail of blood behind her with each step.
This is where Albus found her two hours later after being visited by several worried staff members. An afghan was wrapped around her knees as she stared into the fire, an empty pint of ice cream in reach and the Michael of their wedding photo now being pummeled with a bouquet of lilies.
"Minerva," he called, not wanting to startle her.
"Why are men such pigs Albus?" Albus' eyebrows shot up. She had only been gone half an hour before she returned. Surely, Michael couldn't have said something so quickly to cause this reaction.
He sat gingerly on the couch beside her, reaching for her smaller hand and rubbing it soothingly between his larger ones. To his surprise, she leaned against him, tucking her head into the crook of his neck, trying to soak up the calm he exuded. "What happened Min?"
She shook her head, content to enjoy the silence and comfort he gave. Explanations could come later, some time after she could understand what she had seen for herself. They had been married twelve years, twelves wondrous, blissful years, or so she had thought. Granted, they had their fair share of spats over the years, just like any couple, but this? It had happened so many time over the last twelve years. She would be walking through Hogsmeade, or London, or that one interesting summer in Istanbul, and she would see the smiles. She wasn't oblivious to the stares or invitations she had received, but her heart belonged to one man, and one alone. And, for reasons she couldn't begin to fathom, he had used it for Quidditch practice before allowing it to fall into the dirt.
Albus looked down at the witch in his arms, the woman who had stolen his heart without a moments hesitation. But, this wasn't the scenario he had envisioned. He watched the uneven rise and fall of her chest and felt her clutch at the front of his robes, the only outward signs of her internal struggle. With alarm, he noticed the state of her feet when they crawled out from beneath the afghan. She hadn't bothered to heal, or even wash them when she returned, and they were beginning to turn red. With a slight wave of his hand, the damage was undone, and a gentle sigh and squeeze on his arm was his reward.
His fingers ran through her hair, seeking to offer whatever comfort she would accept. They were colleagues, friends, but there were things Minerva generally wouldn't allow even him to see. And weak, was one of them.
When she was ready, he knew Minerva would tell him exactly what happened; it was only a matter of waiting, and Albus was a patient man. He only hoped, for Michael's sake, that he found out what the other man had done before coming across him. Albus already had several ideas on just how to make Michael sorry he had ever hurt his wife, each more unpleasant than the next.
If Albus hadn't been so wrapped up in the warm body pressed against his, or the grief that seemed to escape from her in waves, perhaps Albus would have noticed the small gold band that sat beside the empty ice cream carton. It wasn't until the stillness of the room was shattered with frantic knocking and the way Minerva tensed in his arms, that Albus truly understood just how bad the situation truly was.