Disclaimer: I don't own anything dealing with Harry Potter and I don't think I will.
A/N: I wish to say thank you to those of you who reviewed. Thanks a lot.
Chapter Eleven: Proposals and Challenges…
Minerva was sitting in her room, brushing out her long black hair and thinking about the events which had transpired that night. She could not see how tonight could have gone any worse. Well, at least her father was focusing all of his anger on someone who deserved it instead of her poor Albus. She sighed again when she thought of her beloved. This weekend had not been easy for him by any means. So, Minerva made herself a promise. If Albus survived this weekend, she would make sure that he was treated like the man he was. Well, that was assuming he did survive this weekend. She jumped slightly when she heard a knock on her bedroom door.
"Come in," she said, wishing her voice could have been a little bit stronger. The door opened and she was very happy when she saw the very man of her affections walk sheepishly through the door.
"Am I interrupting anything, my dear?" he asked. She smiled and shook her head.
"No, Albus, you're not disturbing anything," she said as she placed her hairbrush on the table in front of her mirror.
Albus closed the door and looked around. Minerva's rooms were emerald green with the McGonagall crest hanging over the fireplace mantel. Other than the color, everything was just like the other rooms. Well, not everything. He smiled when he noticed that her bed was one decorated in red and gold. He should have known. Then, his eyes settled on Minerva as she stood by the seat she had just vacated and shifted nervously. He chuckled.
"You look so nervous, my dear," he said as he made his way towards her. "Have you done something wrong that might land you in detention, Miss McGonagall?" Minerva looked at him with what, in Albus' opinion, was the cutest blush he had ever seen come across her face before.
"I suppose I am just waiting," she admitted. "And wondering why?"
"Waiting?" he asked as he drew closer. "Waiting for what?" He was now standing before her. He placed his hand upon her cheek. "What were you wondering?" She looked up at him and offered him a weak smile.
"Waiting for you to give up on me. Wondering why on earth you are still here and not packing your things and leaving me a note explaining why you can't do this?"
"Do what?" he asked as he lowered his face towards hers.
"Well, um…" Minerva's mind became fuzzy as she inhaled the scent that was uniquely Albus. "You know… oh… um…"
"I do?" Albus asked innocently before he kissed her softly. He smiled when he heard her sigh before he deepened the kiss further. Minerva wrapped her arms happily around his neck and smiled as the kiss continued. When they pulled back, she rested her head against his chest and he rested his chin upon her head.
"I don't deserve you," she whispered.
"No, Min," he said. "It is I who do not deserve you." He pulled back and looked at her. He laughed. "And nothing you say can change my mind. And this weekend must have shown you that I would go through anything to win you over." Minerva smiled.
"You don't need to win me over," she replied. "You have done that once already. No need to be redundant." They laughed.
"Minerva? Can I ask you something?" he asked. Minerva nodded.
"Anything, love," she replied. Albus studied her for a second before he pulled back, reached into his pocket, and got down on one knee. Minerva barely had time to register what was going one before he showed her the most beautiful ruby ring with a diamond on either side.
"Now, I know most men have something brilliant to say to the woman they love, but I have tried to think of something and I simply could not think of a single thing that could describe what I feel for you. I could go on for hours about how I feel for you and what I think of your great intellect, your wonderful laughter, and your beauty, which I believe to be absolute. I could go on for days, perhaps. But while I thought of what I would say, I discovered one thing and that the best thing to do is to be simple and honest. I know you respond best when one says what one has to say simply and quickly. So, Minerva… Would you do me the immense pleasure of becoming my wife?" Albus barely had time to finish the question when Minerva threw herself into his arms, nearly toppling him to the floor. Albus chuckled. "Is that a yes then?" She pulled back, tears in her eyes.
"Yes, yes, an absolute yes," she cried. Albus placed the ring on her finger and kissed her hard on the lips. They were interrupted by a knock on the door. Minerva stood up and laughed through her tears, wiping them away. Albus stood as well.
"Come in," she called out. The door opened and Hera popped her head in.
"Everything alright in here?" she asked. She smiled when she saw Albus.
"Yes, mother," said Minerva. "Everything is wonderful, in fact. Guess what?" She raised her left hand and pointed at her newly adorned finger. "I'm engaged." A wide smile spread across Hera's face.
"Oh, that is marvelous, my dear!" she exclaimed. She went up to Minerva and gave her a huge hug, then did the same to Albus. She then took their hands and joined them together. "I hope you two will be happy for the rest of your life." Then, she jumped as though she had just remembered. She frowned. "I hate to destroy this moment of happiness, but…" She hesitated.
"But what? Mother, what have you not told me?" Minerva looked nervously at her mother. Hera looked worried for the first time all weekend and Albus didn't like it.
"Honey, Ian is here," she said. Minerva straightened up.
"What is he doing here?" she asked. "I thought he knew that I didn't want to see him ever again." Hera looked sorrowfully at Minerva. Tears formed in her eyes and Albus felt his heart jump to his throat. What was going on?
"I-I-I am so sorry, Minnie dear, but…" Minerva cried out when she saw her mother fall to her knees and her shoulders begin to shake. She was sobbing. Minerva dropped to her knees as well and held onto her mother, fear sounding in her voice when she next spoke.
"Please, mother, tell me what has happened?" she cried out. "You're scaring me." Hera looked up into Minerva's eyes and grabbed onto her daughter's shoulders.
"Min, he has called for an Urgino…" Minerva gasped and fell against her mother.
"Nooo!" she cried. Albus didn't know what to do. What was an Urgino? He had never heard of it before. But whatever it was, it could not be good. When they had settled down somewhat, Minerva looked at her mother and, wiping away a tear, looked at her mother. "Why?" Hera stared at her daughter.
"He claims he wants to marry you. Oh, it's a power trip, I suppose." She wiped away her tears.
"What is an Ugino?" Albus asked, feeling utterly confused and, therefore, utterly hopeless. Minerva looked at Albus from her spot on the floor.
"It is what my witches and wizards did centuries ago. When two men love the same woman, or wish to marry the same woman, since love is not always in the equation, then something needs to be done. When one of the men challenges another to the Ugino, he is challenging him. And it is not just any sort of challenge. One does not survive." Minerva paused as she tried not to cry. "The challenger also takes hostage one member of the woman's family to ensure that the second man accepts. If the second man does not accept, the family member is tortured until dead." Albus let out a sob of pain He felt his heart ache with what would happen. "It has not been used since eighteen hundred and seventy three in my family because my relatives decided it was too cruel." Albus had to stop himself from rolling his eyes.
"And… And who, pray tell, is the hostage?" he asked, dreading the answer. Hera's chin trembled as she attempted not to burst into tears once again.
"He has taken two," she said. She blew into her handkerchief. She looked at Minerva. "T'ari and Aires." Minerva looked at her mother and rose slowly to her feet, not once taking her eyes from the woman still sitting.
"What?" she asked, her voice no more than a whisper. Hera nodded.
"They were taken to the center of the McGonagall maze." Minerva felt as though a great weight were resting upon her chest. Her breath came in short rasps and she shook her head disbelievingly.
"No," she breathed. Albus only barely had time to catch her before she fainted.
"Minerva," he said, tears falling from his eyes. He picked her up and placed her upon her bed before grabbing her hand and clutching it to his chest. Tears fell from his eyes. He was lamenting for all involved. Hera stood up and went to the other side of the bed.
"Albus, I beg of you to help us," she said, staring at him with tears streaking down her face. "We need you. Minerva needs you, T'ari needs you, I need you; and Aires needs you. Please," she said hurrying around the bed and standing by his side. She grabbed his hand. "Please help us. I know you and Aires have not gotten along this weekend, but we all need you right now." Albus looked at her. They stared in silence before he hugged her.
"I promise, Hera," he said. "I will help." He pulled back and looked at her. "I will take up this challenge and I will succeed." He looked at Minerva. "I will succeed and continue as planned. I will be your son-in-law because my love for your daughter far surpasses anything Ian can claim to possess for her." He kissed Minerva's hand. "When do I take up this challenge?" Hera looked out the window. The sun was half hidden by a distant mountain.
"He said sundown. So I would say another half hour, perhaps." Albus nodded, never taking his eyes off of his beloved Minerva.
"I accept his challenge full heartedly and I will save T'ari and Aires. They do not deserve to be treated such." Hera placed a hand upon his arm.
"I know you will," she replied. "I wish you the best of luck, Albus. The McGonagall Maze is not the easiest thing to master. You need to find the center, where T'ari and Aires are held. If he wins, he decides both their fates. You then need to get them out of there while attempting to not lose your own life because it is not just Ian you need to defeat. Even if you reach the center first and save my husband and granddaughter and defeat Ian, you must get out. Kitty is still in there." Albus quirked a brow at the last statement.
"Kitty?" he asked. Hera nodded.
"The lion," she replied. "Even though we no longer use the maze for the Urgino, I am sure Minerva has told you about the use during Grindlewald's reign." He nodded. "The lions were kept there as a precaution. Well, one day, Minerva walked in without knowing what she was doing. She was three years old when she found the new baby lion. She named the lion kitty because she thought it looked like a giant kitten." If the situation had not been so grave, Albus might have laughed. He looked at Minerva before he leant over and kissed her lightly upon the lips.
"Rest now, my love," he said, smoothing back her hair. "I will save you before your tears have time to dry." With that, he stood and, not saying another word to Hera, went to his room. He needed to prepare himself for the fight.
On the way to his room, he met Mercury and Hermes, also with tears in their eyes. They looked at each other. Finally, Albus looked Mercury right in the eye. His pain was that of both a father and a son.
"I swear on my life that T'ari will know no harm and Aires will be the same as he always has been." Mercury nodded, not trusting his voice, and Hermes smiled meekly.
"Let us hope so," he replied. Albus nodded.
"It will be so or let the gods strike me down where I stand." Without another word, he hurried to his room. He didn't have much time and he needed to think. He hoped he could follow through on his promise. Oh how he hoped he would follow through.
A/N2: Okay, so we must stop there. Any objections? Read long and prosper. Always Hopeful