Summary: Minerva is marrying the last person on earth Albus wants to see her with. But what choice does he have but to watch?
Disclaimer: Everything … JKR's … don't … own …
Author's Notes: For those who don't read summaries properly, or who have just followed a link or something, this is the first in three one-shots. The others are called "Can I Kiss You Again?" and "But We Can Still Kiss". The others are just as angsty but a bit fluffier as well.
You May Now Kiss the Bride
And if I love you
You would be the last to know
I won't send roses
And roses suit you so
- Mack & Mabel
"Albus, are you even listening to me?"
He jumped and looked up. Minerva frowned at him.
"What's the matter with you today, Albus? You've been distant since breakfast. Have I done something?" She slid onto his lap, taking his full attention.
Albus sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Sorry, Minerva. I was just distracted."
"No, tell me, Albus. Something's bugging you. I can't let it go, or I'll be worrying about it too and won't be able to enjoy my wedding day." Minerva smiled slightly, but it faded when she saw Albus wasn't smiling with her. "Albus, tell me what's wrong."
He shook his head. "Nothing."
"You liar." Minerva flicked his shoulder with a finger. "Tell me."
She hesitated. "Are you unhappy about all this?"
Albus looked up. "All what?"
"The marriage, Albus. Because it's not a contract yet … there's still time …"
He stared at her in shock. "Minerva!"
"You can't break it off – I – It's nothing to do with that! I'm happy for you, honestly I am!"
"So why do you look like a six-year-old whose pet Kneazle's just died?"
Albus sighed. "You know I just don't get on with your fiancé, Minerva, that's all." To be safe, he added, "It's nothing personal."
Minerva seemed almost disappointed and for one tiny moment Albus dared raise his hopes that she was trying to get out of the engagement … but he dismissed it as soon as it came. The night before she had come running into his quarters – he'd just got out the bath, it was lucky she hadn't come a couple of minutes earlier – and practically stifled him with a hug, gushing about how she wanted him to be the first to know and that she was so happy because she'd never thought anyone would want to marry her … Her face had been a picture of happiness and Albus had squashed the response he'd wanted desperately to make, which was "I'd rather you married me".
All breakfast she'd been chatting away happily about the wedding with the rest of the staff and Albus had sat in silence, trying to take it in. Up until now he'd been convinced – or rather, he'd forcibly convinced himself – that he was just going through a phase, and sooner or later he'd realise that he was being stupid: how could he ever hope for there to be anything romantic between them? But that moment when he'd realised he was going to lose her to another he'd known the truth. There would never be another like Minerva. And it was already too late.
If it had been anyone else she was marrying, Albus would have been able to force himself into being happy for her – after all, she was ecstatic, and it was catching – but he had a Very Bad Feeling about her choice of fiancé. He hadn't been happy when they started dating back in school, although back then he'd put it down to the fact that Minerva was his favourite pupil and he didn't like her boyfriend. But it was much more complicated now. Albus had tried repeatedly to break them up, but he feared trying too hard would reveal his own true feelings. If that happened he'd lose her friendship as well as any chance they might have had of a romantic relationship. He couldn't do that.
"So it's back to the old argument? Nothing else? You're sure, Albus?"
"I'm sure," he said, meeting her eyes and wondering why she couldn't see the real message in them. It seemed she couldn't, because she seemed satisfied with his answer.
"Albus, I've told you, Tom isn't how you think. He puts up a hard front because he's insecure. When we're alone it's like … like he's a different person."
"And you're sure you want to marry a man like that?"
"Why can't you just be happy for me, Albus?" Minerva pleaded. "We're friends, why can't you just accept that I've chosen Tom? I know he has his faults, but so does everyone. If I wait around for someone perfect I'll never be happy. Tom makes me happy."
"What about his dislike of Muggles?"
"I'm working on that," Minerva replied, although she didn't seem as sure as before. "Please Albus, don't make it hard for me. You're my best friend in the world."
"I'm happy for you," Albus assured her, squeezing her hand gently. She smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him. Albus breathed in her warm scent, losing himself in the embrace.
"Thank you," Minerva said finally, letting him go. "I was worried because you two don't get on, and, well … To be honest, Albus, I think he admires you. The way he talks sometimes … I know you don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, even if you won't tell me what they are, but he definitely admires your achievements and character."
Albus raised an eyebrow but didn't reply. Minerva sighed and stood up.
"I've got to go; I'm meeting Poppy in Diagon Alley. See you later, Albus." She gave him a swift kiss on the cheek and left the room, leaving Albus alone to absorb everything.
Time seemed to alternate between flying past in dollops and crawling by painfully slowly. Every day was painful for Albus as he had to watch an almost sickeningly happy Minerva rushing around making the wedding arrangements.
He was dreading the wedding but it was looming on the near horizon, coming closer every second. He had to endure awkward situations where she kept asking his opinion on things for the ceremony and he wished he could just be somewhere else.
The worst day was when Mrs McGonagall turned up at Minerva's invitation to help adjust the dress. It would have been all right if it wasn't for the fact that he'd promised Minerva he'd stay and help as well so she wouldn't be alone with her mother, who made a huge fuss over "her baby girl" and immensely embarrassing her.
At the end of the first week Albus collapsed on his bed, exhausted. The last seven days had been physically and even more emotionally exhausting. He had only been half-lying when he'd assured Minerva he was happy for her: he was glad she was settling down with someone she wanted to be with. But it still hurt like hell.
He wondered why Minerva had asked him to be there with her mother, instead of Poppy or one of her other close friends. In the end he came to the conclusion that Minerva could trust him not to tease her. This thought cheered him up slightly for a moment, but it was diminished quickly when he thought that if she had or had ever had a romantic interest in him, the last thing she would have wanted was for him to see her mother making a huge fuss over her as if she was still eleven years old.
He groaned and banged his head on his pillow. It didn't matter: either way, she was still engaged to Tom Riddle, not him.
For one fleeting moment he considered actually telling her of his feelings, but banished it immediately. He couldn't do that to her, not now.
"You look very handsome, dear."
Albus ignored the mirror, his eyes closed so he didn't have to see his reflection. He didn't want to face today at all, and he certainly didn't want to start the day with a reminder how old he was. He'd found his first grey hair only a few days ago (although it was more silver than grey). It was right at the front and his eyes were drawn to it every time he looked in the mirror.
He'd made a special effort especially for her. The robes he was wearing were the ones he usually reserved for important occasions. They were a beautiful midnight blue with fine gold trimming round the collar and cuffs, and Minerva had practically drooled over them and refused to let him leave the shop till he'd bought them.
He didn't know why he was doing this. Why did he want to cause himself more pain? He didn't have to watch. But he knew he wanted to go. Maybe seeing it happening would make it more real to him. He wanted to say goodbye.
Although he was preparing for a wedding, it felt more like he was about to go to a funeral.
"Are you going to look or are you just going to stand there like an idiot with your eyes closed?" the mirror said, irritated.
"Sorry," Albus muttered as he opened his eyes. As always, the first thing he saw was the grey hair, and then the rest of him. He had to admit he didn't look bad for his age, but the robes did make him look older. He sighed. It was too late to change now, and he'd picked them out specially. Minerva wouldn't mind how old he looked. It was just him that minded.
Albus picked up his camera, checking for the thousandth time that he had a new film. He wanted to get plenty of photos of Minerva in her dress. He knew it was mad, deliberately hurting himself more, but he couldn't bear not no.
The clock struck the hour, making him jump. He had to run if he wanted to see Minerva before she left.
"Minerva, he's not coming," an impatient voice drifted up from the Entrance Hall as Albus barrelled down the stairs. "We can't wait any longer."
"Minerva!" Albus gasped, skidding to a halt at the bottom of the stairs. She turned to see him, and his breath caught. She looked amazing.
"Sorry I'm late," he gasped, straightening up, camera in hand. "You look wonderful." He hoped the wistfulness wasn't as obvious as he thought.
"So do you," she replied, her eyes widening. "Oh Albus, you didn't have to dress up especially!"
"I wanted to; you deserve it." He held up the camera. "May I?"
"I'm sorry, we should be going," Mrs McGonagall started, but Minerva brushed her off.
"Just quickly, Albus."
He took two snaps of her standing both on her own and with her mother. Minerva managed to persuade Mrs McGonagall to take a quick one of the two of them and then they had to leave.
"I can't wait to see the pictures," Minerva smiled, giving Albus a quick peck on the cheek. "Look Albus, I'm really sorry about the invitation …"
"It's okay," he assured her quickly, meaning it. It would be easier this way.
"Well, if you're sure …" She obviously wasn't convinced, but Mrs McGonagall was conspicuously checking the time. "I have to go; bye, Albus."
"Good luck, Mina," he said softly, squeezing her hand.
"I don't need luck," she replied with confidence, "but thanks anyway."
Her mother frowned and opened her big mouth. "Weren't you saying just a moment ago that you needed all the luck you could get?"
"Mum!" For a moment Minerva's confidence slipped as she reprimanded her mother. Albus frowned lightly … Was Minerva having second thoughts? Was she less sure than she had made out?
He was still thinking those questions as the McGonagalls bade their last goodbyes and left. It took him several minutes still standing where they'd left him in the hall to remember he needed to leave fast.
Students in the grounds stared as he raced as fast as he could towards the edge of the Apparition barrier. He had a painful stitch by the time he reached the gates and Apparated blindly, hoping he didn't splinch himself in his carelessness.
He appeared just down the road from the small church Minerva and Tom had chosen. He'd already visited and laid down his plan. Not being invited, he couldn't enter, so he'd chosen a spot to watch the ceremony through the window at an angle where he couldn't be seen. Just to be sure, he cast an invisibility charm on himself. It would wear off before the end, but he wasn't intending to stay right till the end.
Albus watched, taking photograph after photograph as Minerva arrived with her mother, and still taking photos as the ceremony began.
No-one noticed him as he stood outside the church, just him and his camera. He couldn't take his eyes off Minerva. She seemed just like she'd been before: exited and happy. The look on her face hurt. This time though, it wasn't just because it wasn't Albus at the alter with her … it was because he didn't know how she really felt.
If she really loved Tom, and wanted to be with him, it would be easier … but now he wasn't so sure. He was woken from his thoughts by one sentence spoken inside the church.
"You may now kiss the bride."
"I wish," Albus whispered longingly, saying a silent goodbye as he turned and Disapparated.
TBC in Can I Kiss You Again?