It took a bit more time I intended to make this chapter perfect, but finally it's ready.
Probably, it's a bit angsty. But despite of that, I hope you'll enjoy.
And again, I can't explain how grateful I am for the help of my beta – morgan72uk.
Part Two: Projections
It was near dawn when Minerva McGonagall woke up, suddenly. Her abrupt movement was caused by the uncertain feeling that crept inside her soul. She could feel something was wrong, something was missing – something, or someone, who had provided a long forgotten sense of security and comfort. She rolled over and searched for the source of the warmth she had been aware of all night. But she must have been alone for a long time, because the sheet on the other side of the bed was cold. He had left, she thought bitterly.
She rested her face on the cool fabric as she stared into the darkness – her eyes focused on the spot where she suspected the door to be, as if expecting his return. Her hand absentmindedly played with the corner of the pillow as she snuggled deeper into the sheets. She could smell his, their, dried sweat – a poor proof of their overnight activity.
A small smile appeared on her lips as she thought about what he had given to her that night. He had given himself. She had got a glimpse of his deep soul, and this provided her with the contentment of finally feeling close to him.
She let out a frustrated sigh and turned on her back. Where was he now? She thought sadly that at least John had always stayed with her after a passionate night. He had always showered her with kindness and she had appreciated his efforts. Even though he must have been aware that, despite their marriage, she would never love him as he had loved her. The fault had not been his, but hers.
Why she had agreed to marry him was beyond her understanding – a question which had been haunting her since the first moments of their life together. Sometimes, she tended to believe that she had been too enchanted by his charms. However, deep down she knew that the pressure of her parents' expectations had persuaded her to accept the proposal of the first man, who had made her feel more special than she had been taught to believe herself to be. Until his death she had never dealt with the possibility that her coldness could have caused him pain. It had reassured her that he had always seemed to be enough in love for both of them.
Suddenly, she sat up. She felt like she had been slapped across the face. There was one very significant difference between John and Albus, she realized, John had been her husband. She had just slept with a man who was not her husband – and who she was fairly sure had no interest in being anyone's husband. She had learnt many years ago that Albus Dumbledore did not need a woman in his life. She could not count the times she had witnessed him politely, but firmly rebuffing dear Emmeline Vance's approaches.
She climbed out of her bed and walked to the window. As she pulled the curtains apart the first rays of the sun caressed her naked body.
It was still very early, and a Saturday. There was no need to rush.
She folded her arms around her, caressing her forearm with her own hands, and kissing her own shoulder to evoke the sensation she had felt the previous night. She sighed, it was not the same – could not be the same.
She summoned her tartan dressing gown and walked into her sitting room. As she sat down in her favorite armchair, she winced in pain. She was a bit sore. Despite this, she started to smile as she thought about the reason for her current discomfort. She had just survived the most vigorous lovemaking of her life. And she was more than pleased.
She conjured a kettle of boiling water and the other items required to make a fine cup of morning tea. She put the leaves into her cup, poured the water and waited a minute before taking them out – her usual morning activity, which she would give up for nothing or no one.
She leaned back into her armchair and sipped her tea quite contently.
Her thoughts wandered back to her husband. She mused on how different they were – her new lover and her husband. It was difficult to categorize that difference, but she was sure about one important detail regarding the two relationships, the way she felt was very different.
John had always been a bit overprotective – especially after the delivery of their daughter. That had been a desperate moment of her life, she shuddered to think about it even now, many years after it had happened. She was sure she would never forget the torment she felt when she first saw her beautiful daughter, who never taken a first breath in this world. Her soul had been simply torn apart into million pieces.
And sweet John had been there, never saying a word, but keeping her alive. How she had loathed him because of it. He could never understand that she was not a person who needed to be protected. They had argued a lot. He was the reason she had never been a real member of the Order of the Phoenix. Despite having been a Hufflepuff he could not understand her loyalty towards Dumbledore. She had allowed herself to be ruled by a man once in her life – a mistake she did not intend to make again.
Then he had died – killed by the Dark Lord himself, before she had the chance to overcome her emotions. And to be honest she was not sure she had managed to do so, ever.
And Dumbledore? Quite the contrary. He had left her alone to decide, too many times to count. While he had been out, saving the world as she always described it mockingly to him, she was the one to keep Hogwarts going. However much she enjoyed the challenge, sometimes it was too much to bear without anyone there to keep her going.
She enjoyed her evenings with Dumbledore – they just weren't enough to fill her craving heart. So, she had learnt to bury her needs. And when she had finally composed herself, here she was, perturbed again.
But that was the way Albus Dumbledore had always affected her.
She started laughing. She had just realized what she wanted the most from him, was the same she hated in her husband's behavior. And Madame Pomfrey assured her she was sane?
Her laugh died on her lips as she heard the soft knocking on her door.
As she walked to the door she pulled the dressing gown tighter around her. She wanted her appearance to at least resemble the descent woman and professor she was. When she opened the door, she found someone standing there, someone she had not expected to turn up.
Her only son, Michael. Michael McKinnon.
He rushed inside and embraced her tightly.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake, you're all right." She was slightly taken aback by his affectionate behavior, but rather impressed. Her son recently had been very closed, especially with her – an intermezzo in their relationship which neither of them seemed able to explain.
"Whatever gave you the impression that I am not all right?" She asked, as she shut the door and led her son to the sofa to sit down. "And by the way, what are you doing here? Especially so early in the morning?"
McGonagall was aware that Michael surveyed her closely, his deep sigh betrayed him. But he seemed to be satisfied by her appearance, despite her hair being ruffled; a look he was not used to at all.
"Professor Dumbledore contacted me, he asked me to come as soon as possible. He told me something important had occurred concerning you, but nothing more. I thought…"
"Oh, did he?" She asked in the most neutral tone she could produce in the current situation. She knew Michael could tell, having seen her arched eyebrow and stiffened back, that she was angry. But the way her body responded was so natural to her, that she did not attempt to conceal it, even now, when she did not want her son to see her question the authority of Albus Dumbledore. "As you can see I am perfectly fine. Tea?" She inquired with the smallest hint of a smile, not waiting for the answer before she conjured another cup – the familiar, simple movements not giving her enough of distraction. Inside she was fuming, she could not imagine what made Dumbledore think he just could order her son to rush here for no apparent reason.
"Mother, what happened?" Michael asked. "He seemed really concerned. I could not help but to think you…" He was again interrupted, but this time it was by the door opening. The man who entered was wearing the most ridiculous purple dress robes she had ever seen on him – and with a matching purple hat, of course. McGonagall looked at him sharply, but Dumbledore paid no attention to her.
"Oh, Michael, my dear boy, it's splendid you are here." His cheerful voice made her much angrier with him than she had been before. She observed with narrowed eyes as they shook hands and Dumbledore patted Michael's back. Then he did the unexpected, he stepped next to her, bent down and kissed her on the cheek. "Good morning, my dear." She could see Michael's eyes widen with surprise, but after a moment he was grinning like an idiot. It was enough to make her jump up. She was not sure of his intentions, but to have her son involved was too much to bear.
"Well, good morning to you also, Professor Dumbledore." She said a bit more coolly she intended. He must have sensed her irritation, because he stepped closer again and took her hand in his.
"Minerva, my brother and Minister Bagnold will arrive soon. I hope you don't mind, I redirected the floo network into your sitting room." She hardly could find words.
"Minister Bagnold? And your brother?" She stuttered. "What are they doing coming here?"
"Dear, I think a change of attire is in order." He said, pulling out his wand and waving it a bit. When he finished she found herself dressed properly, from head to toe. The only problem was that she was wearing a creamy coloured dress robe.
"Albus, you know very well I don't wear anything like this…" she said in an irritated voice.
"Oh, yes, I seem to remember. But I do think today you could make an exception."
"And tell me, what is so special about this day, that I would be prepared to wear this?"
"Because today is our wedding day," he said matter-of-factly.
"Our… our what?" But he did not seem to hear her. He had already turned towards Michael, who obviously had no idea what to think about the events he was witnessing.
"Michael, dear boy, I wished you to come so I could ask for your blessing. You must know I only want the best for your mother." His sincerity was obvious, but McGonagall felt unsure how to react and it was apparent that Michael shared her confusion.
"Professor Dumbledore, please don't misunderstand me, but why do you want to marry my mother? She has never mentioned that you have the slightest interest in her." McGonagall did not let Dumbledore answer.
"Because he has never made it clear that he has!" She said angrily. Then she turned to Dumbledore. "Don't you think that this is a bit quick? At least you could have asked me first!" She was shouting now. "I refuse to be commanded like this! If you want to marry me you will wait…"
"I believe I have waited for long enough for you, Minerva." He said simply.
"What?" They both asked at once.
"What do you mean 'you've waited long enough', Albus?" McGonagall asked again, a bit unsure what his sentence could mean. Dumbledore sighed, murmured an apology, then took her hands again and led her to her bedroom. They settled down on the bed.
"Minerva, you of all people cannot believe that under normal circumstances I would start a courtship by seducing the woman I love. However much I enjoyed making love to you, it's just not the way I go about these things, I repeat, under normal circumstances. But tell me, how in Merlin's grace, could you be so oblivious?"
"What?" Dumbledore just sighed and continued his speech.
"Minerva, I don't know how to tell you this, without causing you pain, or making you uncomfortable." Dumbledore stood up and started to pace. His hands behind his back. "There is something between us I am not able to explain. Some kind of special bond. There's no reason you should be aware of this, especially since you are not skilled in Legilimency."
"Do my visions have something to do with this bond?" She asked quietly while looking at her hands intently.
"I think so." He said, then kneeling in front of her he reached to grasp her hands in his. "But I am not sure. Minerva, this whole thing started when…" He swallowed and gently rubbed her knuckles.
"When, Albus?" She asked reassuringly.
"After your daughter's birth."
"Leticia…" She gasped and closed her eyes. A flood of emotion shooting through her – as always when she was reminded in any form for her daughter.
"You were weak, vulnerable, but so beautiful and unreachable." He said softly. "You avoided everybody, even John. We hardly saw you, except at meals. But even from a distance I felt your pain and your struggle. I wanted so desperately to help you, to tell you that wasn't your fault. But it was not my place to do so."
"And I would have hated you even for trying it." McGonagall whispered.
"I don't remember the exact moment I realized that what I felt for you was more than respect for a colleague or friendship. I was fighting against the obvious – that I was drawn to you and berating myself for wanting another man's wife, but I could not help it. I knew it was hopeless, yet even then, somehow, I felt there must be a chance for us to be together one day."
"You cannot possibly mean you wished John's death." Asked McGonagall with wide eyes, finally looking directly at him.
"Of course, not!" He objected immediately. "It was just an instinct or," he paused for a minute. "Oh, I don't know." He sat down next to her and gathered her into his arms. McGonagall leaned into him and wrapped her arms around him, tightly. Indicating that she did not despise him for being human.
"Albus, it happened so long ago. Why now? Why not sooner?"
"I wanted to be sure you were ready to accept my feelings."
"And you think I am ready now?" She asked, but he did not respond. Instead he caressed her cheek. And slowly he bent his head to kiss her – gently, lovingly.
"You are so different today." He whispered. McGonagall covered his hand with her own – she wanted to laugh, but as her hand touched his, an intense pain shot through her body.
And there was a new vision. But it was not pleasant at all.
Dumbledore must have seen her struggle to control her breathing, because he gripped her shoulder tightly. But she could only see a white ceiling, and feel his presence behind her – gently rubbing her back with one hand and grasping her hand tightly with the other. She swallowed her scream as more intense pain shot through her.
After minutes spent with silent struggle, it was over. But she was weak, so weak she nearly fainted. She felt Dumbledore lift her and put her on the centre of the bed. He lay down beside her and caressed her cheek. She heard his worried voice, but it seemed to be far away.
"Minerva, Darling, Minerva. What happened? Should I call Madame Pomfrey?"
"No, I am all right, now." She whispered. "Just hold me for a moment, please." Dumbledore gathered her into his arms. She knew he was worried, he was trembling slightly. For a moment she wondered if he had seen the same vision, but he had not said anything. She spoke after a while. Somehow she could not understand that this man had been willing to sacrifice so many years of his life, just to be sure she loved him and was ready to be loved by him. "Albus, why didn't you find someone else? Why did you wait for me?" She heard his chuckle.
"Because I have been not able to envision anybody else…"
A soft knocking roused them. When Michael entered he seemed pleased to see them curled up together.
"Professor Dumbledore, Mother, Minister Bagnold has just arrived."
"Michael, you haven't given us your answer?" Dumbledore asked – a slight tremor in his voice, as he helped McGonagall to sit up.
"Professor," he started as he stepped closer to them. "You don't need my permission to marry my mother. But," he held up his hands to prevent Dumbledore's objection. He smiled again, realizing the greatest of wizards could be frightened by a simple answer. "I am sure you will provide a life for her that makes her as complete as she deserves." Dumbledore stood up and took a tentative step closer to Michael, he seemed a bit unsure, but Michael solved his problem – by embracing him. McGonagall was looking at them with pride shining in her eyes.
They went out to the sitting room, where Minister Bagnold and Aberforth Dumbledore were chatting jovially.
"Ah, there you are, Albus," Bagnold greeted Dumbledore. "And Professor McGonagall!" She said with a slight amusement in her voice, however she didn't seemed surprised at all.
"Millicent, I see you have made friends with my brother." He kissed her hand. "I hope he didn't attempt to seduce you…"
"Very funny, Albus." Stated Aberforth as he neared his brother. "You know very well, that's more your style than mine!"
"Your accusations hurt my feelings, dear brother of mine!" Dumbledore said as hugged his brother. When they parted, they were both grinning.
"So, let me see my future sister-in-law." Aberforth stepped to McGonagall and hugged her fiercely. "I knew he would hook you at last, Minerva." He said merrily. McGonagall just laughed, she was more than used to Aberforth Dumbledore's sometimes odd behavior. She never knew quite what to expect from him. Usually he was as reserved as his brother, but there were other times when he behaved as though he were everybody's best friend. However there was something different in his attitude to her. "You know, I really envy my brother." He whispered into her ears. When McGonagall looked at him, he seemed to be rather serious. "I have always been curious about you, dear Minerva." He said, then turned to his brother, leaving her totally dumbfounded. He could not possibly mean what he indicated by his sentence, she mused.
The ceremony was quick, she hardly noticed what was happening around her. By eight o'clock in the morning she was Mrs. Albus Dumbledore. The minister left shortly after the toast given by Aberforth – but not before a Fidelius had been performed on their marriage certificate.
Aberforth was preparing to leave, too, when the second vision hit her. She was sure her husband was aware what was happening, he stood behind her – supporting her as much as he could, trying to help her to regain her senses – never saying a word.
This one was more painful, than the last. She was gripping Albus' hand tightly, as he gently lowered her onto the floor. The last thing she saw before fainting was the horror on Michael's face and Aberforth, who was just standing with one leg lifted into the fireplace, stunned.
End of Part Two