The silent game they played.
Every night, it was the same. Every night for nearly forty years, it was the same. They would sit across from each other in silence, a game between them. Black and white silhouettes gliding across the board. But there was more into the game than that. It was a connection a deep connection that both of them knew existed. A silent connection that could not be broken.
They sat in Albus' room. She had her tartan blanket draped over her legs and her hair always pulled back. Years ago, she'd have worn it down about her shoulders and she'd wrap herself in her blanket that she loved so dearly. She had never, even then, ventured to say anything for fear that she'd make a fool of herself and lose his respect.
He was older, much older now than he had been in the day, but nonetheless, he was older, twenty, thirty perhaps even forty years older. She didn't know and he would never tell. She didn't really want to know honestly.
Their games never lasted more than an hour or so and some one was usually around to see him leave or see him back in his room.
They did not chat about their days, they did not chat about other teachers or their students; they just played. They were both calm, quiet and composed. If something bothered either of them, it seemed enough just to sit in each other's presence and they were pacified. They did not talk school matters. That was reserved for other meetings. All commands to their chess pieces were spoken mentally and the pieces themselves moved in silence.
The pieces seemed almost to move around each other in a graceful dance. And that was what they were doing, dancing around each other. For forty years. Dancing.
Tonight, as most nights, something was bothering him. It had festered in his soul for forty years. Eating away at him. Every glance he took at her made his heart ache just a little bit until it weighed down on his chest. It pained him, tortured him, mentally... physically... He wanted her. He wanted not just the privilege, the honor of sitting in the same room with her, but her. He wanted to talk freely to her whenever they needed, touch her whenever he felt, comfort her when she needed it.
He wanted to kiss her full on in heated kisses, telling her how much she mattered to him, how much he needed her, how much these silly , silent games had meant to him all these long years. 365 Days for forty years. Without fail. That she would rather play a silly game of chess with him every night when surely, there must be other things that she could do other people to spend time with. Surely, when she was younger, she must have had beau after beau and yet, she dropped them all to play a silly game with her former teacher night after night.
Oh, and she did. She had many a puppy-eyed, love-struck boy tell her how pretty she was and how much they loved her to no avail. She had flirted and led them on, even gone out a few nights. But always, always, she made time for the Professor. She would only go out after or before her time with him. Or she wouldn't go at all. She would prefer to sit with him than any young man.
Tonight, her feminine grace and beauty was more pronounced than ever. She sat up straight, as usual, her hands folded gently in her lap. There was a gentle peace in her eyes tonight. The rest of the Wizarding World had been celebrating the defeat of the Dark Lord for a year now and there was harmony. It seemed not but a few nights ago when they had left a child on the doorstep of a family of Muggles.
He sighed, even that night they had played chess. It had been a mournful game and silent tears had flowed freely that night for the Potters, for the boy, for the Order and everyone who had died at his hands. He had longed to draw her into his arms and hold her 'til her shuddering stopped, but he knew he couldn't. If he did, the spell would be broken and his bottled emotions would be unveiled. She was too strong for him. She beat him that evening through her tears.
He remembered the night they had first played chess. She was still a student then, going through Auror training. She was the lone girl in the courses and very lonely indeed. Her best friend had married and gone off to a magical medical school to become a healer. She was working hard and it pleased him to see how hard she worked.
He came in one night to the common room to see her sitting alone in a dark corner of the room curled up in a chair with her tartan wrapped tightly around her sitting next to a chessboard, the pieces all set up, but no one sitting across from her. She was crying softly. Something touched him deep inside and he stood across the table from her clutching the wooden chair back. She sniffed and looked up at him and looked back down at the chessboard. Her eyes swam in hot tears. Her eyes and face were red and her raven black hair was slightly disheveled. She looked up at him again.
"Poppy and I used to play," she said gesturing vaguely at the board.
Wordlessly, he sat down and moved a pawn. She understood immediately and sat up, wiping the tears from her eyes. He produced a handkerchief which she took. She straightened herself and opened her mouth to command a pawn to move, but he gently put his hand over her mouth.
"Shh, concentrate on what you're doing Miss McGonagall, they'll move without bidding,"
She looked at him and back on the pawn contemplating it for a minute. She didn't think she could concentrate. It was hard enough to concentrate around him. Oh, what he must think of her! Sitting, crying her soul out. She felt so alone. Then he was there. Something seemed to fill her, comfort her. Just his presence. She had stared at the pawn and concentrated on commanding it to move. Finally, the pawn moved. Each move, he patiently waited as she slowly moved her piece. With each move, she felt her loneliness and pain dwindle. It was the longest game they ever played, reaching into the wee hours of the morning, but she no longer felt alone. There was someone there for her. He came the next night and it became easier for her with each move. And so it continued to the day.
He had his hardships, too, of course. Much more, in fact than her. The night that Armando died, he had lost the game terribly within minutes. Tears flowed heavily and she had been there to hand him tissues and to sit with him. With all the chatter about Dippet moving on to a better place and all the people who sat with him, talking, talking, talking, he wondered when they'd be quiet, all of them.
She had been there, quiet for him. She had touched him then. Just a gentle touch on the back, her palm pressed there, reassuring. He felt so weak, he could have kissed her, let his emotions go, but then what if she didn't return his love? What if she just saw him as a companion and not someone to love romantically? What if it was one-sided? It would turn something that could be genuine, beautiful, into something awkward, ugly. He would lose her forever. He cried harder and she gently hushed him, rubbing his back slowly.
She had even been there with him in Germany. She was the youngest member of the First Order. Not the Order of the Phoenix; that had come years later, but yes, the First Order. They took their chess set with them and played there. Oh, things played rough with them and games went often went unfinished. It was hard for them both. He hated to see her hurt and was protective. She hated to see him hurt and tried to keep him from harm. She was captured in a ploy to lure him in. It worked like a charm.
He fell blinded by love into their traps. Crucio. Crucio. Crucio. And cruel laughter rang out. She screamed and screamed watching them feeling his pain. But he would never know. He screamed the same and louder, writhing in agony. She struggled against her body bind just enough to knock the wand from the pocket of one of Grindelwalds' "Knights of Walpurgis'" robes. It clattered to the ground. With the screaming, no one could hear it but her. She tried to kick it to him, but he all he could see was the spotty red and black of his eye lids.
Soon, he had lost his voice with the screams. They lost interest with him. Grindelwald himself spit on him and turned to her, wand raised.
"Now," he had said, "We will see the girl suffer, no?"
"No!" he whispered hoarsely with a look of terror. But Grindelwald just smiled an eerie fanged grin and turned towards her. He raised a clawed hand and she screamed. Albus' crushed hand closed around something smooth. He killed the wizard before he could curse her. If she were anyone else, she thought to herself, he'd have done the same.
When the First Order found them in Grindlewald's fallen headquarters, they were playing chess amongst a dozen or so either bound or dead Knights. Minerva had propped him against a wall and covered him with a blanket. But they had played to keep him alive, to keep him conscious. She would have done it for anyone, he reasoned.
Later, she had played with him in St. Mungo's as he recovered his strength. He told her to go home. Why should she suffer with him? I got her into a mess. She could have been killed and he would have been to blame. He would have been the cause for her murder. Didn't she understand that?
And back at Hogwarts while he continued to deal with the after-effects, she was always there. He was weak, but he managed. They played, still in silent understanding. He would breakdown sometimes for no apparent reason and she would put her hand on his shoulder comforting him in his sorrow. Why? His mind often pondered amongst the anguish.
Why couldn't he understand that she loved him? She wished through all of his pain that she could do something other than put her hand on his shoulder. But he was often so vulnerable. She couldn't take advantage of his weakness to fulfill her longing. Then he would feel used and guilty. She couldn't do that to him. Not him, not her mentor, not the one that had taught her everything valuable about magic, love and life.
He had sat with her while she conquered her highest achievement in transfiguration. It was a painful one, learning to become an animagus. It took days, well a full week really to actually do the entire process not to mention months of studying and planning before that. That whole week was the biggest trial she had ever faced, every hour concentrating, drinking potions every half hour, casting complicated spells, expending her complete knowledge of Magic.
She had to learn the complete anatomy of the feline and human and in that week, she had to try hard, very hard on making every muscle, nerve and bone shrink and change, adding senses and parts that she lacked. He was always there, reassuring her. He spent many a long hour with her after school as she studied and tutoring her. He was there the week she decided she was ready. He woke her up to take potions and put her back to sleep after each pained transformation. They would play chess during their breaks to keep her mind off of the pain, give her some form of power back.
It was hard to see her suffer so. If only she knew how much he lover her. He stroked her hair when she was asleep, exhausted from the constant transformations. Again, he marveled at how strong she was. Even weak, she beat him nearly every game.
Finally, at the end of the week, she purred. It slipped from deep in her throat somewhere as they played. She closed her eyes and purred. He stared, transfixed with pride at her achievement and awe at her beauty. He wanted to feel her beautiful white throat, perfect and slender, feel the vibrations that she created. He was shocked at his own thoughts. He regained his composure and smiled.
"I see you've done it!" he laughed, "Many congratulations, Miss McGonagall," a pained look suddenly flashed through his eyes. He cleared his throat, "Shall we continue?" he said looking back at the board, his face growing very red. Her face fell as she looked at him.
Oh, she must have embarrassed him. Heat rose in her cheeks, too. She pulled her blanket tighter around her and looked back at the board. She would never purr again, in his presence, if it made him uncomfortable. And she never did. It was very hard for her sometimes, many times actually, it was hard. But she kept herself from doing it for his sake.
And him, he was shockingly handsome tonight. His silver hair was pulled carefully back and his beard looked lush and silky. His eyes deceived him. He was thinking about something, she knew. But he was always thinking. No, it was not his usual thoughts. He seemed at peace, happy really. His eyes twinkled and a smile played at the tips of his cheeks.
She looked at him as she played her move and then leaned back slowly. She cleared her throat, "What are you smiling about, Albus?"
The first words spoken at their meetings in many years.
She looked thoroughly shocked, "What a thing to say…"
"You were purring,"
Her face paled. She promised herself she'd never do that ever again. What had happened?
"I… I was?" she stammered. Her face grew red to the tips of her ears. She pushed her glasses up from the sides.
"Oh! I'm… I'm sorry! I didn't mean… I'm sorry!"
He frowned, "What are you sorry for?"
"I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
"What do you mean?" he said almost laughing. His eyes laughed for him
"Well… once you… I'm sorry,"
"Once I what? Oh don't stop… I rather liked it," he said smiling.
"Albus," she pleaded, "Don't make fun of me, I said I was sorry."
"Why are you sorry?" he said truly puzzled, "And why would I ever make fun of you? How could I ever make fun of you? I was being sincere Minerva, I rather liked it, I rather like… you"
Her face turned a deeper shade of red and the room went back to silence. She fixed her glasses again as they slipped down her nose. He adjusted his and looked at her. The pieces seemed to move slower.
The hours dragged on and on. The game seemed to last an eternity. She couldn't concentrate. She didn't look up. She couldn't look up. She gripped the arms of her chair. Why? Why had she done that? He never would have said anything if she hadn't. She'd broken the silence. She'd broken the spell. It couldn't be the same now. Never. Why had he said that? He was mocking her; she knew it, just to make her be quiet. He just played with her to make her feel better about her own miserable existence.
Oh, oh! What had he done? Why must he admire her so? He shouldn't have said anything. The silence that had been so pleasant before was now deafening, filled with horrifying suspense. She thought he didn't like it! Even worse, she thought he was laughing at her, using her for a cruel, mean joke. Oh, he never should have said anything! She just stayed out of politeness. Because he was an old, decrepit old man that she could never see as anything but a sort of grandfather.
The game was over.
Who had won didn't matter.
Never could they just be fond friends again.
"Minerva, Wait!" he said as she hurriedly put on her outer robes heading for the door. He knocked his knee against the table. The king tipped and clacked on the floor.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry for everything. You were so kind all these many long years, so kind to sit with me and be so encouraging… so… so… so… everything, even in the quiet. I'm sorry, you must think me just a silly old woman with so many problems that you have been so patient to be there for me. With your wisdom and knowledge, I must have been very dull company,"
"Minerva! Minerva wait!"
"Good bye, Albus, I'll see you at the next staff meeting." She said half-way out the door.
"Why not before then?" he said grabbing her hand tightly with both hands.
"Why would you do that?" she said tearfully looking at her hand in his. He pulled her, feebly struggling, back in to the room.
"Why not the rest of our lives? Look, I know I'm nothing but an old man, so many years older than you. I must have been the dull company. Just a lonely old man who waits every minute of the day just to sit near you. To lose a game of chess to a beautiful, smart, talented woman. Please, I know, I know, we are just companions. But perhaps you could find it in your heart to at least say that one day I could hope for it to be something else, something more. Please Minerva," he pleaded, his weight crushing her against the wall, his hot breath heavy against her ear.
She swallowed softly, searching his eyes for truth and sincerity and found hope. She reached up and stroked his hair, her eyes darting tearfully across his face, "Oh, Albus, it already is something more. Oh Albus, I've waited so long," she said rubbing her head against his cheek, "I've waited so long to tell you this. Ever since the night in the common room,"
"I love you," he whispered, cupping the back of her head, pressing her onto him, "I love you, I love you, I love you," his words flowing like the tears that streamed down his face into his beard.
"Oh Albus, If only you knew how much and how long I've loved you,"
"Minerva," he said gently pulling her head back, "Marry me, please say you'll marry me, I've waited so long for this,"
"So have I, Albus, how could I not marry you?" she said smiling though her tears.
His love for her bubbled and frothed over. He had to kiss her. Over and over again they kissed. He loosened her hair until it cascaded down her shoulders. He pressed heated kisses down her neck and covered her face with them. Her own lips sought his and everywhere they could touch on him. They embraced tightly and she prayed that this moment would never end and that that moment was not another dream that she had imagined so many times across the chessboard. He held her close and gently rubbed her back as he regained breath.
"I love you, Miss McGonagall, I'll love you forever," he said softly, stroking her hair.
And there was silence.
(I don't especially like my ending. Hmm...Well, I rather liked it, the story as a whole I mean, better than a lot of "chess" stories I've read. This story, by the way, is in no way connected to MMAD MMAD World or any other MMAD story I've written. It's Minerva and Albus the way that most think of them as... just FYI. Review children, make Jerry (the muse) happy!)