I do not own these characters as they are the work of the very brilliant JK Rowling
I never thought I would write a Harry Potter Fic. My muse would not leave me alone tonight, so I took a break from my book and put this to paper. I think I was feeling too melancholy for my own good.
She sat on the floor of the office, folding his belongings. It had been two days since his funeral and two days since the train had left. It had been two days since the last of her immediate responsibilities had been lifted and two days since she had eaten, even longer since she had slept. She had cried until all her muggle tissues were gone, and then she had gone through every clean kerchief she owned and now she was reduced to cleaning them with her wand in order to handle the outpouring of emotions.
She didn't know how she had managed to hold back her grief long enough to organize things. It had been easier when there was so much to do. Their world was forever changed now. He-who-must-not-be-named had triumphed, using his followers to destroy the one man they thought could not be beaten. His victory had given her this office and a promotion that most in her position might be proud to hold. She wanted nothing more than to find a way to undo it somehow.
"Minerva, how much longer will you weep?" came the soft and calm voice she longed to hear so much. For a moment, her heart leaped and her pulse raced before the realization hit her. It was just the portrait. Albus Dumbledore's countenance and voice were perfect in this likeness. His personality traits were flawless, right down to the quirky sense of humor and brilliant powers of deduction. But this was a mere echo of this man who had counted on her loyalty and unwavering support. It was an echo of the man she had loved for so long, though he had never known.
Minerva stood and shook the wrinkles from her tartan dressing gown, entertaining more echoes. Memories of the past had haunted her since his death. She was not new to grief – she knew this was normal. And still it seemed more intense than she had ever felt. She had lost friends and loved ones before. This was different – this was Albus and she wasn't sure how to go on without him. She had always known this day would come eventually, but there should have been more time. Now there was nothing left but fear and regret. The fear was hard enough – since Albus had always planned their resistance. But the regret was paralyzing. She had kept her silence for years. Why had she never once taken the risk in all of that time?
"I cannot answer that," she said at last. She did not know when the pain that had settled into her chest would subside. It was nothing Poppy could heal. It would simply have to let up on its own. Would it have been worse or better if the regret were not weighing on her mind? She didn't know the answer.
There had been numerous opportunities for her to tell him. She dropped hints here and there, looking for something to encourage her and maybe those encouragements had been there all along. There was an age difference between them that had seemed less important as the years went by. She had heard rumors that suggested he was seeing others – both female and male. She had never seen either in his company in all the years she'd lived at Hogwarts. She supposed that Albus had the talent to hide liaisons better than any other person in the world. It was one more reason she had been afraid to speak.
She had missed one of the best opportunities only this past Christmas. Hogwarts had been emptier than she could remember in years. All of the students and most of the staff had gone elsewhere. With the threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named so prevalent, time with family had seemed important. Christmas Morning had dawned with only Minerva, Albus, Hagrid, and Sybill Trelawny in house. Of course, the ever-present ghosts and the house elves were there, but in a castle the size of Hogwarts, one need not see these if they didn't want to. By mid-day, Hagrid had gone to the mountains to spend time with Grawp and Sybill had crawled into a bottle of Sherry. Minerva and Albus had spent the afternoon playing chess and laughing.
Minerva had left behind the tradition of getting him a book that year and tried for something to show him she desired a stronger relationship. A shop keeper had suggested a personal gift, recommending fancy silk boxers. Minerva simply couldn't bring herself to do something so bold. She had settled for silk pajamas and a warm and fuzzy robe. After a little wine, she had become brave enough to present him the gift. He had accepted it with a delighted laugh she had never expected.
"This is marvelous, Minerva," Albus had said. "People so often give me books. I cannot remember the last time I received a gift I was so excited to try."
She had sighed audibly with relief. "I was afraid you would hate it. I admit I almost got you another book instead."
They had laughed together about it. He had even suggested people would wonder at Minerva's knowledge of his nightwear to which she blushed uncharacteristically. Unable to decide what the signals meant, she had kept her silence and proceded to drink more wine in an attempt to build her courage. It had only resulted in a chaste kiss on a whiskery cheek before she headed back to Gryffindore tower. The following day she apologized and said she had indulged in a few too many holiday spirits. He had only winked at her the way he usually did when something was a secret. She spent months trying to decide what that meant. Now she would never know.
"Did you know this would happen?" she asked the portrait suddenly. It was something she had been wondering on and off for days. So many things had been put in order, the way someone with a terminal disease might do. Even the afore mentioned pajamas had been neatly folded and placed in a box, like most of his belongings, though that may simply have been a clever spell he had prepared in the event of his death.
"I was never much for divination," the portrait answered serenely.
"That's hardly an answer."
"Forgive me," he said with a bow of the head. This was still not an answer. Perhaps it was something Albus never intended to answer.
For a moment, she considered asking the portrait if he had known she loved him. But then privacy was never actually private in Hogwarts. The numerous portraits that kept the headmasters informed of the goings-on were always more alert than they appeared.
"How are we supposed to deal with all of this without you?"
"Harry knows what to do."
"Perhaps that is true with regard to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but…."
In true Dumbledore fashion, the portrait interrupted with, "Will you never call him Voldemort?"
She winced at the name but disregarded the question. "BUT, Harry does not know how to help me."
"You will be a fine headmistress. I always believed it to be so."
"That was not what I was concerned with either. I miss you, Albus. My friend is gone, never to return again. Death is hardest for those left behind. While he is on to his next "great adventure", I am left here to ache without him and only a shadow of him to talk to. I'm left to – to try to be strong when I feel so frail." Tears began to spill from her eyes again, though she had thought that surely there were no tears left in her body to spill.
"Do you honestly think that I will adventure that far without you? I've always counted on your loyal friendship. Surely you know that…"
"Know what?" she said abruptly. "Neither of us was ever brave enough to actually discuss something so common as feelings!"
"You should rest. Perhaps what you need is something to read. Why don't you get the forth book from the right on the third shelf down across from Professor Colbert."
She stared at the portrait a little surprised "That is very specific, Albus." She walked to the shelves and counted until she found the precise volume. It was an ancient looking book and huge, but when she opened it she found a journal. She retired to her bed with the journal to read, finding letter upon letter directed to her and another heart, unrequited.
R/R please. I hope you don't hate it.