This is it everybody, the end. I want to say thanks for all the reviews and great commentary I've gotten over the last couple of weeks. It's been amazing. I hope you enjoy the ending.
Minerva wrapped the cloak tightly around her as she enjoyed the light crunching of gravel under her boots. Even after time, it still seemed all so surreal. One year; it had been one year since the divorce was final, one year of freedom and regret, one year of shame and enlightenment.
It hadn't taken long after their separation became public knowledge that the rumors and whispers finally reached her ears, and they had burned. For weeks, well meaning friends, and strangers, expressed their pleasure in her decision. Unfortunately, most also mentioned several of his liaisons in their explanations. Minerva had stopped counting at 36 women over the last twelve years, and she knew there had been more.
Now, looking back, she couldn't believe how blind she had been. The whispers and looks in the village finally made sense, the sympathetic glances from his colleagues made her blood boil. It seemed only two people didn't know, and they were the two who should have.
Minerva reached th outer edges of the village, and as seemed to happen more often than not anymore, conversation stilled before again building as whispers began. She did her best to ignore them as she walked, but it had been difficult. She had entered the village the morning after she kicked that toad out of her rooms, her life. The had village stopped and stared as she struggled to make it into Flourish and Blotts. She hadn't entered the small community again for almost three full months after that instance.
She moved past the shops, past the small homes that lined the road on her way once again to the book store, but she stopped beside one derelict cottage. A sad smile appeared on her face as she looked at the once beautiful building. She hadn't fought him when Michael requested the cottage. She hadn't wanted anything from him; she certainly didn't want his makeshift brothel, so she had readily agreed. In one month's time, all doubt Minerva ever held about karma was erased.
It seemed that after his little 'mishap' Michael was not as attractive to his many paramours. In fact, it was rumored even the dogs would run in fright as he walked across a street, their tails firmly planted between their legs. It was only a matter of days before his cottage was put up for sale, and Michael could no longer be seen skulking through the shops.
His most recent tryst, a Cambodian girl named Mai, hadn't been totally honest in their introductions, and it cost him dearly. The girl, for she had only just turned sixteen, apparently had an overprotective father, a very large overprotective father. When he found out about the foreigner who deflowered his precious little girl, the man immediately contacted the Ministry.
Michael was forced to pay restitution to the family, he lost his position within the government, and he was now no longer to apparate outside the country without registering with the Ministry as to his whereabouts. Failure to follow these procedures, it was hissed in alleyways, would result in immediate imprisonment. Michael was now ruined in society, and Minerva hadn't been unhappy to lose track of him.
Reaching out, Minerva gently wrapped her fingers around the single lily was bloosomed along the picket fence, stroking the soft petal before releasing it again. Minerva amused herself with images of Michael begging in the streets, or better yet, busting tables in some unsavory bar. He always hated manual labor, and had looked down his nose on more than one waiter during their time together.
Before long, she found herself curled up in an overstuffed chair in Flourish and Blotts, the latest Transfiguration publication capturing all of her attention. The morning, and most of the afternoon passed in a blur before Minerva snapped the book shut. It would certain have to join her collection; there was one theory in particular she couldn't wait to begin researching further when she returned to the castle.
She had just reached the end of the shelves and was about to turn the corner, when she heard the usual whispers and rustling of robes in the next isle. Minerva could just make out the tops of two heads in the gap above the row of books, but she could hear them perfectly. "Are you sure it was her?" The shorter of the two women whispered. Her flyaway grey hair kept falling in her eyes, and the woman constantly batted it away.
"Of course I'm sure," the other hissed, her far to red lipstick smudging on her teeth. "I don't understand it. I've lost any faith I had in men. The woman in blind as a bat, but he chases after her like a love sick puppy. It's disgusting."
"How can you be sure? They've been friends for years, perhaps it's no more than that."
The taller woman snorted. "There's no mistaken Luzensia. They were walking through the village not two weeks ago, and I'm surprised she didn't trod all over his tongue. I just don't understand how or why. What could he possibly see in her? She didn't even know her husband was gallivanting behind her back. Now, she has one of the best looking men in the country pining away for her, and still she doesn't notice. I doubt she would see the broad side of a building if she walked into it." Both women laughed, and Minerva could feel her heart contract as they sauntered away, unaware they had been overheard.
Absentmindedly, Minerva made her way to the cashier and paid for her book before walking out into the cooling air. The sun was still bright, but the day was beginning to fade. Minerva never noticed; there was only one thing occupying her mind. Albus.
When Michael left, she had felt guilty. Yes, she had lost a husband, but by standing with her, Albus had lost a dear friend. The first few days afterward had been awkward for them, each unaware of what to say, what could be said. Quickly enough, though, the tension dissipated, and things were almost normal.
Thoughts of her friend filled Minerva with that odd warmth she could never understand and her thoughts seemed to calm, even as her heart sped up its rhythm. By unspoken agreement, neither ever mentioned that night, or its effects, again, much to their relief. He simply held her hand as they played chess to soothe her, dragged her out into London when she would have holed herself up in the tower. In short, he had pulled her though.
As time passed, her dreams changed from those of Michael's sneering face, to a pair of summery blue eyes. More often than not anymore, she awoke each morning with a smile and a sigh escaping her lips, humming as she made her way into the shower.
Despite the thoughts of the two betties to the contrary, Minerva wasn't completely oblivious. She had heard Michael's accusations, his reasoning. At the time, she had believed it to be nothing more than an attempt to hurt, to belittle, her best friend. But, over the last few months, she had caught his eyes once too often, seen his hands flex as she passed. His hand lingered along her back unconsciously and his breath ticked her ear as he whispered during balls and assemblies.
There was too much happening, spinning, in her over active mind to do him any justice. So, she had feigned ignorance, preferring to sort out her own feelings before confronting his. There was only one problem, and they had dropped it unceremoniously in her lap and to her attention. She had been stringing him along for a year, toying with his emotions in order to preserve her own. It had to end.
Leaning against a lone tree, Minerva closed her eyes to the fresh moonlight and let her mind drift.
A soothing, rich, voice whispered words of comfort in her ear as twinkling blue eyes stared down at her with what she acknowledged as love. She could almost feel the heat from his hands as they rested along her shoulders. Something deep within her snapped, her eyes flying open and her mouth opening slightly in surprise.
In the blink of an eye that was still far too short, Minerva found herself perched outside his chamber door. The courage that infused her on her journey back began to waiver ever so slightly. Shaking her head and squaring her shoulders, Minerva reached forward and knocked on the door.
In a moment, a bleary eyes Albus opened the door in nothing but a crumped sleeping gown and tiger slippers. He perked up immediately as he noticed the identity of his late night caller, stepping aside to allow her entrance. "Minerva? Not that I'm upset to see you, but it's after midnight. Is everything all right?"
Reaching out, Minerva took the candle out his hand, letting her fingers brush his. She placed it on the table beside them before looking back at him. Albus' brows furrowed in confusion. "Minerva?"
She smiled up at him impishly, only a hint of nerves touching her eyes. Without a word, Minerva wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down, capturing his lips with her own. She moved slowly, amused by his shock and hesitation. It wasn't ever day a woman could surprise Albus Dumbledore.
When her tongue began tracing lazily against his lips, seeking entrance, it was Minerva's turn to be surprised. With a animalistic growl, Albus pulled her to him, welcoming her assault. She didn't fight as he took control, relishing the feel of his hands as they fisted themselves in her hair and his tongue caressed her own slowly, fanning a fire she hadn't realized had started. Neither noticed as he lifted her from the ground and her legs wrapped tightly around his trim waist. A deep groan at the contract was the only reaction.
Too soon, they were forced apart, their chest s heaving in an attempt to breath. Albus' face was flushed, and his beard was askew from her hands trailing through it. "Minerva, what.." he manage to chock out.
"Shh," she said, silencing him with a gentle kiss. "I seem to have misplaced my white knight. I don't suppose you've seen him, have you?" She got her answer as the candle was extinguished and he carried her quickly into the bedroom.