"I myself doodled absentmindedly on a copy of Theories of Transubstantial Transfiguration last year and next moment found the book beating me fiercely about the head" – Albus Dumbledore, Foreword of Quidditch Through the Ages.
Author: Tartan Lioness
Summary: Be careful when doodling in a book from the Hogwarts Library.
AN: Sorry about the awfulness of this fic. My muse has gone to Hawaii but I'm trying to bring her home. Please review; I'd appreciate some comments on this one. Not Beta'd.
Albus Dumbledore, said to be the greatest wizard of our time, sat in his chair behind his desk in his office at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and leafed through a copy of Theories of Transubstantial Transfiguration, which the librarian, Irma Pince, had given him to read after he complained about being bored. She had gently taken the book from its shelf and handed it to him as was it made of glass.
Now, Minerva McGonagall, his Deputy Headmistress and right hand, sat on the other side of his desk, looking through another letter from the highly incompetent Cornelius Fudge. Every once in a while a snort or hiss emitted from her but other than that, she was silent. And Albus was still bored, having read the book several times in the past.
So, he studied the woman in front of him, as he had many times in the many years they'd worked together. Twirling a quill between his long fingers, he noted how a few wisps of still-black hair had fallen out of the bun at the nape of her neck. Her eyes were fixed on the parchment in her hands, moving from side to side as she read the lines, her brows tensed in a frown.
Albus smiled crookedly. She had changed over the years, of course she had. She'd grown up, she'd grown older and more mature. Lines had appeared in her once smooth face but in his opinion, they only added to her character. She was still as beautiful as she had been when she graduated from Hogwarts so long ago.
An annoyed hiss and a throw of her head made the locks of hair dance and the light of the setting sun, steaming in through the window played on the black tresses and for a moment, Albus was mesmerised.
A sharp pain brought him out of his trance. Blinking confusedly a few times, he wondered what had happened. Minerva had looked up from the tiresome letter and was looking at him curiously as he once again felt something slam down on his head. Quickly, he looked up, only to just as quickly duck, as the book he had been sitting with just moments before came hurling down on him. He tried to cover his head with his arms but to no avail; the book found its way through his barriers and managed to distribute several more hits before Albus finally got a hold of it and was able to cast the Stupefy, all while swearing under his breath in a language Minerva didn't recognise. She wasn't paying much attention, though, for she was laughing harder than she had in a long time. When Albus finally relaxed and wiped his brow, glaring at the offensive book, he finally noticed that Minerva was holding on to the wooden frame of her straight-backed chair, trying not to fall off it. The laughter had made the blood rush to her face and she was nearly glowing and even more of her hair had come undone.
"Are you amused?" he asked in a mock-offended tone of voice. Not able to answer verbally, Minerva merely nodded, still laughing.
Albus chuckled. As Minerva calmed down, he noticed how the laughter seemed to have taken away a few years and for just a second she looked just like the seventh year Gryffindor he had seen leave Hogwarts, laughing and radiant.
"What in the world did you do to make the book react in such a way?" she asked mirthfully.
"I didn't do anything," he protested. Then he looked down at the book that lay on his desk, completely calm.
"You must have done something," Minerva reasoned. Albus opened the book where he had left a mark to prove his point. The writing and random doodling in the margin of the book stared back at him 'mockingly,' he thought.
Minerva shook her head and picked up the book.
"Writing in library books, Albus? Surely you must have known that Irma would never let that pass unpunished."
"I wasn't aware I had been writing in it, my dear. I guess I was further away than I thought," he responded thoughtfully, stroking his beard. When he looked at Minerva again, he realized that she was ash-grey in the face.
"Minerva, is something the matter?" he asked, concerned about the way her hands seemed to be shaking.
"I… I'm fine," she croaked hoarsely. 'He didn't mean anything by it,' she told herself, trying to calm down. 'He wasn't paying attention. It was an accident.' "Why… why don't I bring this down to Irma and let her take care of it?" she asked, holding the book tightly, almost protectively. Albus nodded absentmindedly and Minerva left.
Stopping right outside the library, Minerva opened the book again. With a resolute movement, she ripped out the part of the page that had been written on, leaving the doodled Sherbet Lemon. The book immediately came back to life, starting to attack her as it had Albus. She grabbed it quickly, struggling to keep it from charging at her. Then she pushed her way into the library, stuffing away the ripped-out piece of parchment. Irma appeared at once.
"What are you doing to that book, Minerva?" she asked sharply eyeing the tight grip Minerva kept around the book that was still trying to free itself.
"It's trying to bloody attack me," she replied, irritated by the librarian, whose eyes narrowed.
"What did you do to it?" she asked grumpily.
"I did nothing, the Headmaster wasn't paying attention and doodled on a page," replied Minerva with a barely noticeable stress on 'Headmaster'. She then handed Irma the book and stalked out of there.
When Minerva reached her chambers, she sat down on her bed calmly and pulled out the piece of parchment from her pocket. She smoothed out the wrinkles and caressed the words written on it in Albus' usual purple ink.
"Minerva Dumbledore," she read out loud. But the space between the two names was too big for it to have been on purpose. He had obviously merely written his own name and then hers. It meant nothing, she knew that. And yet, she pressed the wrinkled little piece of parchment to her chest as she went to bed.
When Minerva went to breakfast the next day, arm in arm with Albus as usual, she was unusually quiet.
Albus glanced at her several times during breakfast but he didn't say anything, as it was obvious that she was far away, in a world of her own. Her cheeks were red and she looked less pale than usual but her eyes were dull and clouded. Albus couldn't determine whether she was happy… or heartbroken.
After having picked at her food, Minerva rose gracefully, pulled her robes back into place and left the Great Hall along with a few students who had finished their breakfast as well, and were chatting animatedly.
Albus sat in his high chair, staring at Minerva's back as she left. He sighed lightly, wondering what could be on her mind this fine morning.
Minerva sat down on her straight-backed chair in her classroom, revelling in the sun that streamed in her window. She reached inside her robes and pulled a little piece of parchment out of her inner pocket. She unfolded it and read the words on it again, before putting it back in her pocket, close to her heart.
The first few students who had begun filling into the classroom, stopped abruptly as they saw their teacher clutching her hands to her chest.
"Good morning, Professor," a girl with red hair said softly, making Minerva aware of their presence. She opened her eyes and cleared her throat.
"Good morning, Miss Watson," she replied thickly, clearing her throat again.
The students found their seats and Minerva went on with teaching, her mind not on the subject but on her name and his written in that thin flourishing handwriting.
As her students left, she caught a few words from Ms. Watson.
"Old McGonagall's behaving oddly today," she whispered to her friends. "Wonder what's wrong with her?"
"Well, go ahead and ask. We promise to find your head after she bites it off and give it back to you," one of her friends, the one with the long mouse coloured hair, replied sarcastically and the others laughed.
Minerva sighed, scolding herself for not doing everything she could, for not being a hundred percent efficient, as usual – for letting this go to her head.
The day continued much in this way; no matter how much she tried to ignore the little note in her inner pocket, a little piece of her mind was always on it.
After dinner that evening, Minerva made her way down the hallways to Albus' office – a route she knew by heart and could walk with closed eyes. She knew she was early but she'd much rather be early than late. If there was anything Minerva despised, it was being late or when her friends or students were late.
As she stepped off the spiralling staircase and knocked softly on the massive wooden door, she thought about talking to Albus about the little note hidden in her inner pocket. Having not received an answer from the other side of the door, she figured that he was in his living room and couldn't hear her and opened the door to step in.
She was determined to talk to Albus about being more careful when doodling. If anyone other than her, someone less intelligent or rational had seen what he had written in that book, it could have proven to be a problem. If the board of governors thought there was anything dodgy, Minerva couldn't help her choice of word, going on between the headmaster of Hogwarts and herself, there would be a world of trouble waiting for them.
Albus' office was empty and she crossed it to the door which led to his private quarters. Once she stepped into his living room, she stopped. Albus was sitting in the chair in front of the fire, looking deep in thought. She studied him for a moment before clearing her throat. Albus looked up and noticed her at the door. He smiled, the pensive look gone from his face.
"Shall we, then?" he asked, gesturing to the chess board sitting on the coffee table. They set up the game and played in silence for a few moments.
"Albus," Minerva started, then hesitated. 'Minerva McGonagall, you're a grown and very capable woman! Now get your façade in order!' "Albus, I need to talk to you… about something serious."
"Yes, my dear?" He looked up from the chess board. She looked normal. As stoic and proud as always. But her hands were fidgeting.
"Albus, you really must be more careful when you doodle in public books, especially so when they're books that any fifth-year could get from the library."
He looked at her questioningly. Obviously this had to do with the incident the previous day but other than that, he was in the dark. Minerva sighed. Then she pulled a small piece of parchment out of her pocket and gave it to him.
"I ripped that out of the book you doodled in yesterday. I figured it'd be safer than letting it return to the library with such a statement in it."
Albus glanced down at the parchment in is hand and blanched. Minerva Dumbledore. He was no teenager, why in the world would he write the name of a woman next to his own last name? He shook his head.
"I… I must apologise, Minerva. This could have caused problems and it could also have damaged your reputation. I should have been paying attention."
"You should, yes. But really, Albus. Next time you decide to write random names in library books, would you put a bit more space in between them? That way it won't look like this did. If someone less, well pardon me for saying this, less rational had found this 'Minerva' and 'Dumbledore' written so closely together, they may have thought… well, that we were being indiscreet." 'And it would have saved me a bit of heartache, too.'
'Random names? What does she think… oh, dear.' He studied her for a while. Never had the urge to use legilimens on her been greater but it was just not something he could do to a friend, unless it was necessary. Instead he was left with trying to understand the quiet, understated sadness which seemed to have snuck into her features in the Muggle way.
He looked down at the parchment in his hand and frowned. "Minerva, is this actually from the book?"
"Yes," she said, looking up at him, once more looking as formidable as ever. "I ripped it out of the book before returning it."
"Did you get beat as well?" he smiled. She returned his smile with one of her own.
"It wasn't necessary, however," he said carefully. She frowned at him.
"What do you mean, Albus?"
"Well, my dear, you could easily have used a cleaning spell. Then you would have avoided being attacked by a book."
Minerva frowned. Why hadn't she thought of that? 'Am I a witch or not, goodness!'
"I… I didn't actually think of that," she gulped. It was true, she hadn't. 'But there was another reason, too, wasn't there?' A devilish voice that she figured was her own subconscious said. 'Yes, and I wanted to keep the memory forever, all right?!' she thought, irritated. 'I wanted to keep that sad little piece of parchment, ripped out of a book because the greatest wizard of all times decided to doodle our names a little too closely and I wanted to make believe that he meant it that way, that 'Minerva Dumbledore' would actually appeal to him in some way.'
Albus watched several emotions flash across her face, forlornness, irritation, mockery, sadness, as she quietly talked to herself. But it took a moment for him to process her words and figure out what they meant.
When she looked up at him, her Professor's Façade once again in place, he was looking at her curiously and the glint in his eyes spoke of happiness. She frowned. There was something else, too, something she couldn't quite place.
"Minerva," he began. "I hope you realise that what was written in that book was wrong in one sense."
"Yes, of course I realise," she said harshly. "That's why I came here, to tell you to be careful."
"Not that part, my dear. The distance between our names. The fact that it could in any way be interpreted as not meaning 'Minerva Dumbledore'. And of course the choice of book was not entirely fortunate but you took care of that quite efficiently."
Minerva's jaw fell open. 'Surely, he's not telling me that… that he cares for me? Right when I've spent so much energy telling myself it's a mistake, he tells me he… LOVES me?!'
"What…" she said, faltering. "What brought this on, Dumbledore? This confession?"
He frowned at her. "You did, dear. You said that you hoped that 'Minerva Dumbledore' would in some way have appealed to me, I was merely trying to tell you that it does."
"I didn't say that!" She looked horrified. Then her face softened. "I thought I thought it."
Albus chuckled. "You were talking to yourself. I thought you realised it."
"I… didn't. So we just admitted to having… certain… feelings… for each other… without even realising we were saying it?"
"It would appear that way, my dear," he chuckled. "But not 'certain feelings'… love. I can, of course, only speak for myself, but I love you."
Minerva stared at him. For several seconds she said nothing and Albus began to fidget.
"Minerva?" he prompted. When she still didn't say anything, he began to make amends.
"Albus," she interrupted him. She stood and walked over to him, reaching out to caress his cheek as she kneeled in front of him. Then she drew him into a soft kiss. When they parted, she smiled. "I love you, too."
AN2: Once again, sorry if it was really awful. I am trying to get into writing ADMM again.