Albus Dumbledore stood in front of the Mirror of Erised and watched his reflection expectantly. The crisp night air, lustrous with the pale glow of the moonlight, seemed to blanket the room in a blue-gray hue. Albus stroked his beard and read the mirror's inscription to himself, as if searching for an answer.
As on numerous occasions, he stared presently into the image that still beguiled him, still perplexed him with the illusion of his deepest desire. At his left stood a tall, slim, dark-haired witch in green robes. She tilted her head on his shoulder and her emerald eyes caught light, sending a chill down Albus's spine although the room was warm and the air was still.
Albus's eyes fell upon a golden band on a finger of the woman's left hand. She grinned at him, and he could not help but to smile back. Ideas on how to get this woman in front of the Mirror of Erised swam in Albus's brain. He knew he loved her, but he feared she did not feel the same way.
"Minerva, will you pass me the eggs?"
Before he could take the plate of scrambled eggs from her hands he found himself staring at her, admiring her beauty.
"Oh. Right. Thank you."
Minerva sent him a confused look but shook her head before Albus could give an explanation. He knew this meant she understood he needed time alone to think. They knew each other well, not because of the many years of being Headmaster and Deputy but because of the mutual connection they shared. They were friends. Best friends.
"Minerva, I was wondering if you would accompany me this afternoon after dinner. There is something I wish to show you."
Minerva gave a half smile and nodded, but before she could ask what he had in mind, Albus was to his feet and headed in the opposite direction.
"Albus, are you sure you know where you're going?"
Minerva had been expecting possibly a long stroll outside, but they had not even left the castle. Albus stopped and turned to her.
His blue eyes twinkled in a way that made her forget she had any doubts at all.
"Just a little further."
The back corridors had become more unfamiliar to Minerva with each step. Finally they reached the door that Albus had come to recognize almost as well as his own chambers. He pushed the door open and stepped inside, pausing until he felt Minerva's presence over his shoulder.
Minerva's optimistic countenance fell when her eyes met the dusky gloom of the room. Her heart sunk. This was not at all the bliss and romance she had expected to be welcomed with during an evening alone with Albus.
Albus motioned towards the mirror, ushering Minerva ahead of himself.
"This," he said, "is the Mirror of Erised."
Albus gleamed. Minerva could not understand why he had placed so much pride in an old, dusty mirror, but she decided to be happy for him nevertheless.
"It's very nice," she said, faking a smile.
"You haven't seen the best part."
Albus motioned again towards the mirror but this time to an inscription above the glass. Minerva tilted her head in an attempt to understand the words.
"Here, read it this way."
Albus traced his finger in the air, scanning right to left. He read aloud slowly.
"I show you not your face but your heart's desire."
Minerva's eyes lit up in understanding.
"Go on, stand here."
Albus positioned Minerva a few feet in front of the mirror and stepped away, leaving her to her own reflection. She blinked, and Albus was beside her again, but his presence did not feel as close as it had been. She turned her head and allowed her eyes to abandon the mirror for enough time to realize that Albus was indeed no longer beside her but watching from several feet away.
Minerva turned her attention back to the mirror. Albus's reflection slipped his arm around her waist. She could not believe her eyes. It was true she loved him, but she honestly believed that she had kept her feelings so bottled up inside even the Mirror of Erised would fail to see the truth.
"What do you see?" he called to her.
Minerva's mouth gaped open. She could not tell him the truth. He would not, could not understand the love she felt for hi. She would have to lie.
"I... I'm with the Order. We have defeated You-Know-Who."
It was a good lie, she thought, because had it not been for Albus, this truly would have been the image she had seen.
Minerva took a few steps back, tearing her eyes from the fantasy she had waited so long to witness.
"Fascinating, is it not?"
"Yes," she replied, almost inaudibly.
Walking back to a more familiar wing of the castle, Minerva struck up the courage to ask the question that had been haunting her.
"Albus, what do you see when you look into the Mirror of Erised?"
"Ah. I believe, Minerva, that we share somewhat of a common desire. You see, our hearts are consumed with nothing more than the need, the desire for love and peace. Am I correct?"
Albus's eyes twinkled again, but this time Minerva felt them upon her soul. She nodded and secretly wished Albus knew just how correct he had been.
"Severus, do you know where I can find Albus?"
Minerva had not seen Albus since breakfast. She had been looking forward to spending time with him before he had to leave for a mission for the Order the following day.
"Professor Dumbledore was called upon to assist in an emergency with the Ministry. Surely he told you this?" Severus sneered.
"I assumed he had told you. He left only a few seconds ago."
In a flash, Minerva was running as fast as her feet could carry her towards the doors of the Great Hall. Too many thoughts, worries, and emotions were racing through her mind. She could never recall how she knew he would be there, almost waiting for her, it seemed.
"Albus!" she called to him, the sound of her voice echoing off the stone walls.
Minerva slowed her pace as she approached him, half from the fear that her knees may fail her, half from the need to bring back her sense of dignity. Their eyes met, revealing the new misty veil in Minerva's eyes. Albus pulled her into a warm embrace.
"Albus, there's something I must tell you."
Minerva gazed into his bright blue eyes, somehow finding courage she never knew possible.
"It was you... It was you I saw in the Mirror of Erised. You're my deepest desire. I-"
A single tear escaped onto Minerva's cheek. The rest were held back by the warmth of Albus's mouth against hers. He released, and she felt herself become weak again. He steadied her against himself and smiled.
"And you are mine."
Four words, but Minerva understood.
"I love you."
Minerva watched him leave. Albus would have no excuses for the Ministry as to why he was late, but he would finally rest easily knowing that he no longer had any regrets.