Disclaimer: Harry Potter items, characters, and ideas were not my original ideas nor do they belong to me. They are all J.K. Rowling's ideas! She is pretty awesome for that.
A/N: I am extreeeeemely sorry for the long delay. My only excuse is one word: homework. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this fifth and final chapter of "Albus Fever"! Really, really sorry for the wait. Really. Okay. I'll let you read now.
"Albus...," Minerva began, faltering a bit. She reminded herself that this had to be done, just like her grading or her lesson plans. This was even more urgent and important than either of those. Turning back was not an option. She had been waiting much too long to tell Albus; she could not retract in fear now.
Dumbledore gazed intently at Minerva. After several moments in which she did not continue, he said, "What is it, Minerva?" His pale blue eyes stared into her emerald green ones, waiting for an answer but searching for one at the same time.
Quickly and silently reassuring herself, Minerva tried again.
"Albus, I-- " She stopped short once more, closed her eyes, and hoped for strength.
Why is this so difficult? she thought, frustrated. Minerva McGonagall was a strong, determined, and courageous woman, a marvelous model for the Gryffindor House. This seemingly should have been no problem for her, but it was. It was one of the hardest things she'd ever done.
That phenomenon actually made perfect sense. Admitting one's love is not an easy task for anybody, especially when the love is for a dear friend. As the relationship with the person becomes closer, the difficulty of confessing increases. The fear of rejection also increases, only because the other person resides in a special place in the heart. A confession of love is quite a major step, indeed, for anybody. This explains Minerva's feelings, and obviously they didn't make things easier for her.
"Minerva? What is it, Minerva?" Albus asked, looking questioningly at her. Concern was evident in his twinkling blue eyes. When she still did not respond, he drew himself closer to her body and placed a hand on her forehead. "Is it the fever, dear? Perhaps I should help you into bed?"
Minerva immediately shook her head.
Only the fever for you, Albus, she thought. I have Albus fever.
"It's not that, don't worry. I... I just have to talk to you about something," she said. Now there really was no turning back. To say that she had some different topic to discuss would be a lie, and Minerva McGonagall didn't want to lie to Albus about something this important. She didn't want to lie to Albus at all. She trusted him, and it was only fair that he could trust her.
"Are you sure, Minerva?" Albus persisted. He was a little skeptical that she only had to say something. "You aren't well today, and I know you haven't been resting quite enough. It's all right to be tired, Minerva, and if you are, you should rest." It was obvious that he was worried about her.
"Albus, I'm sure," she said firmly. Albus was being overly concerned, and, although it was very thoughtful of him, frankly it was making her a bit nervous. She didn't want him to be constantly worried about her the entire time she was trying to finally admit her love for him.
"If you're tired, we can talk about whatever it is you need to discuss later," Albus continued.
"No, Albus," Minerva said sternly so he would listen. She cast him a quick glare that told him that she was serious. "I have to talk to you now. This is important."
Dumbledore was slightly taken aback by the return of her severe authoritative voice. He wasn't exactly expecting her to use it, especially since she hadn't all day. Finally he nodded.
"All right, Minerva. I'm all ears," he said, giving her his full attention. Whatever she wanted to say, she must have really wanted to say it.
Like I want to say I love her, he suddenly thought, scattering all his other musings. He was actually slightly startled by his own sudden thought. However, he could not dwell on this right now. He had to listen to Minerva.
"You're listening, right, Albus?" Minerva asked, noticing his distracted expression. She couldn't imagine going through her entire confession with him not evening paying attention!
"Of course, Minerva. Now tell me, what is it you have to say?"
"Well, Albus... there's something I've wanted to tell you for quite a while," Minerva said slowly, gradually gaining more confidence. She actually still wasn't exactly sure how she'd word this, but she hoped once she started it would get easier. "It's very important that I discuss this with you, and I've known that. For some reason, though... I've been putting it off. It's true that I do not approve of procrastination, but... for this, I just couldn't seem to help it." She dropped her gaze down to her hands in her lap, feeling a wild mixture of emotions: shame that she'd waited so long, worry that she couldn't figure out what to say, hope that he would love her in return (once she finally confessed), and sheer terror that he'd reject her. It wasn't the most comfortable set of emotions. "...So I do hope you are paying close attention."
"Undividedly," he said solemnly. He patted her knee and urged gently, "Go on."
Minerva smiled a little and nodded, more to herself than to Dumbledore.
"Anyway... you've been taking care of me all day, and I am extremely glad that you have. Earlier today you said that I would do the same for you, and that's true. I would make the same decision as you did for me, and not just because I am your Deputy Headmistress. There is no one else with whom I'd rather spend my entire day. I care about you very much, Albus, more than I can properly describe. I... hope you can say the same for me."
She looked into his pools of blue that were staring intently back at her. He was certainly listening, which was a good thing, considering she was being more wordy than necessary. In short, she was rambling. Perhaps it was because she was incredibly nervous, and no amount of speech-planning could have helped her there.
I really hope you can say you love me, she thought, just as Albus responded to her words.
"Without question," Albus said. "I care an incredible amount for you, dear. Surely you know that." His eyes glistened magnificently, and for some reason he was wearing a goofy grin. He looked like he was having a personal battle with his mouth, the fight to keep it from opening again.
Minerva put on a great smile, in spite of her nerves. She felt positively blissful whenever Albus spoke to her as he did just now. This new surge of cheerful emotions inspired her to share with Albus exactly how he was making her feel. Perhaps she was trying to give herself more time before the moment of her paramount confession, but, no matter what, she would be spilling her heart and soul out to the man.
"You mean so much to me," she said. "No matter what, you are always there for me. I can talk to you about anything at any time, and you listen. I am extremely thankful for that. You never fail to make me feel appreciated, Albus... perhaps even loved." Why she added the last bit, she didn't know.
Minerva observed Albus closely. He seemed to be reacting strangely to what she just said. The war between his mouth and the rest of him was getting intense. All day, he had been slipping with his words, and now he looked as if he were trying to discipline himself better. After some strange lip contortions, he spoke:
"Of course I lo- appreciate you. I cherish every second spent with you."
"I'm glad. I feel the same way about you, Albus."
"But do you love me, too?" Albus suddenly thought aloud. He quickly clamped his mouth shut, and his eyes widened as his eyebrows shot up into near-disappearance in his white hair.
"Wh-what?" Minerva stammered, clearly taken by surprise.
Did he just say 'love me, too she wondered hopefully.
Dumbledore was at a loss for words. He uttered various noises of thought, including "erm" at least six times. The normally intelligent and brave man had no idea what to do. Was he supposed to repeat what he just asked? He settled for looking absolutely silly.
Minerva knew she had heard correctly and realized that Albus had saved her from saying her whole prolix confession. The entire conversation sped up extraordinarily with just one blurted question from Albus.
It was a concise response, but, knowing the gravity of the earlier question, it was quite a meaningful thing to say.
Albus looked back at her with praying blue eyes. He thought he had made a foolish blunder, but it seemed that it was not a mistake at all.
'Yes,' she had said. That must have been the answer to his sudden question. It was the response to his spoken thoughts. It had to be. What else could 'yes' possibly mean?
"Yes, I love you," Minerva verified for him. Tears shone in her eyes. She had done it. She admitted her love, after many long years of masking her true emotions. It wasn't exactly how she planned it, but perhaps this wasn't something one could or should plan. She continued, with much effort, considering she was choked up a bit:
"I hope by 'too' you mean that you also love me."
Albus nodded dumbly. He couldn't speak. Thus, he grasped her hands and pulled her close. Embracing her tenderly, he finally managed to say, "I love you with all that I am, Minerva. Words cannot describe."
The next thing Minerva knew was that his lips were on hers. Nothing could have told Minerva how exhilarated she would feel once she and Albus finally kissed. She was euphoric; the feeling was so amazing. She responded by deepening the kiss, never wanting to part. Albus Dumbledore was the most incredible man living or not, the only man she could ever love. She had finally been able to give her love to him, and he returned with love for her. A better feeling was not possible to have.
"Albus, I love you," Minerva exclaimed breathlessly when they finally came back for air.
"And I, you," Albus replied. He was thrilled that Minerva loved him, too. It was crazy; just knowing that Minerva loved him, he knew life would only get better for the both of them. He was so elated that he could share his love with Minerva. This was the best feeling in the world.
"I hope I don't get you sick," Minerva whispered with a hint of apology in her tone.
"No matter," Albus said, bringing his lips to hers again. They did not part for quite some time, and when they finally did, both were gasping for breath. "Happy Valentine's Day, Minerva."
"Happy Valentine's Day to you, too, Albus."
And this time, she kissed him.
A/N: Well, that's it! The end! I really hope you enjoyed reading this. Thank you all for reading, and extra thanks to those who reviewed!