A/N - thanks to everyone who has reviewed this story. It's been fun to write and I am glad that people have enjoyed reading it.
A moment ago the room had been full of people and the noise of their chatter, the sense of expectation they exuded, had been on the way to giving him a headache. Now, miraculously the Headmaster's study was quiet and almost empty. The evening was drawing to a close, a soft summer breeze drifted in through the open windows and without all the people the room was becoming cooler again. He was feeling much calmer now.
He didn't care how she had done it; it was enough that Minerva had known exactly what he needed – and made sure that he got it. "Thank you," she smiled at him from across the room.
"I thought a few moments of quiet would help." She'd been right about that and she was also right in her awareness that the other thing he needed was her. He was pleased, but not surprised when she made her way across the room, slid into his arms and rested her head against his chest.
"Do I want to know what you said or did to persuade everyone to leave?" He enquired quietly.
"I used my teacher's voice – amazing how effective it is."
"And did they move obediently like frightened first years?"
"Some of them did, although I am afraid that most of the Board of Governors resembled sulky fifth years."
"I suspected as much." They laughed quietly together and then lapsed into a comfortable silence. After the last few hectic months the opportunity to spend a few moments alone together was too precious to be squandered.
It was early September, the first day of the new school year. The first start of term feast that he would preside over as Headmaster was mere hours away.
Albus couldn't help reflecting on how much change they had both experienced in the last few months. Minerva had changed, although she probably would not want to admit it. Happiness had brought – not relaxation exactly, but she was certainly less tense, some of her sharp edges had smoothed over and the hurried briskness had left her – to be replaced by what he liked to think of as feline grace.
He wasn't going to attribute the whole of that change to their marriage, because some of her joy came from the knowledge that she would be teaching a subject she loved and at facing the challenge of becoming Head of Gryffindor. He knew that she harboured a few nerves about stepping into his shoes, but he was certain that the role would suit her, that she would make it her own.
And they were happy – a fact that perhaps had surprised them both. Maybe struggling so hard over the last year had prepared them, so they had come to the relationship with a clearer sense of both themselves and each other.
Challenges faced them still; there would be another war – he was becoming more and more certain of that. But there was someone to fight beside him, someone to trust with his hopes and fears. It would be very different to fight when there was someone whose happiness mattered to him, whose safety was threatened by their relationship. But he knew better than to suggest that Minerva remained on the sidelines, waiting in safety. After all, when the worst happened he would need her. Her logical mind and robust common sense were a counterpoint to his own more whimsical, esoteric intelligence.
Sometimes Minerva found it very difficult to believe that they had been married for over a year. Sometimes it was difficult to remember that this had come about because the Governors were worried about having an unmarried Headmaster and she had been determined not to allow their ridiculous pronouncement deny the school the Headmaster it deserved and needed. Sometimes it was difficult to remember the woman she had been then.
She knew that she was different and that Albus was allowing her the time and the space to adjust to the change. It was one of the things she loved most about him, although it was often infuriating to be married to someone so insightful and perceptive. She suspected the difference in her would only be apparent to those who knew her well. She didn't expect it to manifest itself in a reduction of the large amounts of homework she gave or in a lessening of the high expectations she had of her students.
The school holidays had passed quickly – too quickly. They had managed to slip away together, but not for as long as either of them would have liked. Of course not everyone got the chance to combine a honeymoon and first wedding anniversary in the same trip. Especially while at the same time pretending that their joint absence from the school was entirely coincidental.
She knew that their lives were never going to be simple, that their marriage would have to remain a secret for all the reasons it had needed to be one originally. While they no longer had to pretend that their relationship was genuine, she was very conscious of the fact that now they had to make sure they didn't reveal their feelings for one another. Still, they had help in keeping the secret.
She smiled at the memory of waking up with Albus the morning after they had renewed their vows and discovering a new doorway in the rooms of the Head of Gryffindor; one that led to the Headmaster's bedroom. They had been trying to decide what to do about their living arrangements and she had been concerned about his reluctance to move into his new abode – but the castle had made the decision for them.
Despite Armando's death and his fears of a coming war, Albus was happy. It was surprising how important it was to her that this was the case, and to know that she had contributed to his happiness was something that made her happy in return.
From experience she knew they could remain here, like this, for a long time; together and yet separate, changed but not lessened, stronger for their partnership and not diminished by it. But there was still a lot to do and some of it had to be done today. Gently she stepped back from him and when she looked up she could see his amusement.
"I suppose you are going to tell me that duty calls, Professor McGonagall?"
"Indeed I am Headmaster – the first years won't sort themselves."
"Perhaps I should try to find a way to accomplish that, then we could spend the evening here?"
"I don't think that would be at all appropriate."
"You're right – unfortunately." He glanced at the large pile of papers on his desk. "I wrote a speech you know, although at the moment I can't seem to recall what I've done with it."
"Albus, I doubt you'll need it."
"It was a very good speech." He looked around as though he expected it to appear out of thin air and, of course he could summon it, although she wasn't sure that would help. There were probably lots of bits of paper that he had written the beginnings of speeches on.
"Nevertheless. I suspect you know exactly what you need to say."
As it turned out Minerva was right. With the Sorting over and the school assembled before him it was easy to find the words, to welcome the students, to explain the changes in the teaching staff and remind them that the aptly named Forbidden Forest was, indeed, forbidden.
Weeks later, Minerva found the speech in the pocket of one of his robes. Having read it she handed it over to him, agreeing that it was very good and suggesting that he keep it in a safe place so he could use it at next years welcome feast. Unfortunately, quite soon after that she complained of a headache, which led to her husband offering to unfasten the tight bun she wore her hair in, which led – as it frequently did - to other things. As a consequence the speech was quite forgotten, but neither of them noticed.