Disclaimer: The characters and settings in this story do not belong to me. All rights belong to JKRowling. No copyright infringment intended.
A/N: Set just before Dumbledore's death in HBP. And, if you're reading them, it could also come between my stories The Niffler's Trove and Ashes To Ashes.
Summary: Dumbledore & Snape alone know of the events of his planned death and he is looking for peace which he finds unexpectedly.
He had sat next to her at breakfast that morning. He had visited her in her classroom in the hour she had free of students. He made sure she stayed for dessert at lunchtime when normally she would tut at him, mutter something about his sweet tooth, and vanish to her rooms or to the staff room. And now as evening came and the time was drawing nearer, she was sitting opposite him in his office leaning over his enormous, very old, leather bound transfiguration book which was the only one of its kind. Minerva only ever worked in Dumbledore's office when she needed this book: The Transfiguration Mysteries of the Ancient Magical Worlds.
Dumbledore sat in his gilded chair and leant against its crimson cushioned back. He paid no attention to the open scrolls in front of him, which were covered in ink written in the smallest writing reaching to the far edges of the parchment. Instead he stared at the witch on the other side of his desk. Her deep green robes fell elegantly around her as she leant forwards; the broach that she had worn for years clasped her collar tightly at her neck. He had never asked who the broach that she had rarely parted with had been from. Maybe he would have discovered something new and hidden about her.
He raised his eyes to her face. It was such a striking face. Not conventionally beautiful, but it was where she held her fire and intelligence, which, to Dumbledore, are beautiful in themselves.
She was concentrating. Her sharp, blazing green eyes were moving swiftly over the foreign lettering and symbols inscribed on the large, yellowing, rough pages of the ancient book. Her frown was just visible as the book held her attention firmly in its grip. Minerva had aged gracefully. Her skin was smooth and held fewer wrinkles than other witches of her age. She had ceased wearing makeup years ago, which Dumbledore found rather refreshing because of the hideous witches he had seen coated in reds and blues or greens. He suppressed a chuckle at the memory of one in particular, not wanting to disturb the working witch opposite.
She was writing now, translating a paragraph of ancient text belonging to the Caledonii wizards of what is now modern Scotland, written long before muggles had put pen to paper. It was difficult language to grasp, and not only because it was before the modern Roman alphabet. Her quill was moving swiftly over her piece of parchment; she was translating much faster than Dumbledore knew he could.
"You've been staring at me for a long time, Albus."
Dumbledore's eyebrows lifted in surprise, but he smiled all the same. How she could have known that was beyond him. Minerva's eyes were still focused intently on the book, and she had spoken with her quill hovering over her scroll as she read the next sentence in preparation for its dissection. She began writing again and Dumbledore watched as the nib scratch against the parchment. He saw the last words: succumbing to the spirit of the animal.
Minerva raised her head as the silence lengthened. Her hand was still holding her quill, but now it rested on the top of her work.
Dumbledore gave a small smile over his half-moon spectacles and the light in his eyes danced with the firelight in his office. He gave no response to Minerva's statement; he had been staring at her; he did not need to offer her a reason. Minerva was not expecting one.
"Are you okay?" she asked him finally.
He smiled again before responding. "I have realised that one can labour for a lifetime to be at peace and never truly achieve it."
Minerva's brow creased as she thought about what he had said. "Maybe true peace is achieved after life. Maybe living is just a preface for what is to come."
"Your way of thinking is marvellously comforting, Minerva," Dumbledore told her. She frowned again.
"For heaven's sake, Albus, you're not at death's door," she said unsympathetically.
"No," he replied calmly, "but you never know what the future will bring."
"Are you saying you haven't found the peace you have been expecting?"
"Not 'expecting' necessarily," he replied. "More like waiting for."
Minerva looked at him thoroughly. His face showed neither sadness nor merriment, but a pensive sort of look that made even Dumbledore look more profound.
He stared back at her. She was becoming suspicious of his behaviour and he had to start treading carefully. All of a sudden, Minerva's glasses caught the light from the fire in the grate and reflected in her eyes, making them blaze at him. Her head moved an inch and it was gone. Dumbledore, on the other hand, was left with something close to a revelation. His stomach had suddenly tightened and his breath was trapped in his throat.
His face must have changed as well because Minerva raised an eyebrow at him and said, "Are you sure you're okay?"
Her suspicion turned to confusion, however, at his next words, spoken so softly and quietly that if she was not sitting as close as she was, she would have undoubtedly missed them.
"It's you," he whispered.
"What's me?" she asked.
It wasn't fair and Dumbledore knew it. The woman sitting opposite him was waiting for an answer and he couldn't possibly give her one. He had been silent too long already and she was beginning to look concerned.
"Albus?" she said gently. "What's me?"
Dumbledore lifted himself from his chair without answering. Everything was so confusing all of a sudden. He walked over to the blazing fire in the grate and stood over it with one hand on the chimneybreast, allowing the warmth to envelop him. His robes billowed with the heat as it swelled around him.
He heard her steps behind him, but did not turn. She moved around his frame to stand before him. Her back was to the fire so her face was in shadow but he could see the film of her eyes glistening in the half-light. She was close and he could feel more than hear her breath sweep over him.
He felt Minerva's arms reach up to him. She held his face in her hands and pulled gently down so that her lips could reach his forehead. His eyes closed and when she pulled softly away they remained closed. He heard her say, "Whatever it is that has made you uneasy, I want you to know that I have never felt more at peace than I am feeling in this moment."
Dumbledore smiled, his eyes still closed. He now felt the silent harmony that he had been seeking sing through his veins. For a moment's thought they remained standing as they were; then Dumbledore opened his eyes and lifted his hands to mirror hers. Her face was cold against his warmer fingers, but her skin was soft as he held her. His eyes grew moist and he bit back the tears. Little did she know that this was the last time she would see his face, the last time he would feel her skin against his, the last time he would look into the green pools of her eyes, the last time she would know his voice.
His head lowered and their lips met – the first and last time they would share a kiss.