Summary: Life is short, even for a 150-year-old wizard. Albus and Minerva, convinced the other never felt the same way, hid their feelings from each other until it was nearing too late. But a revelation about Albus' past and Minerva's determination for them not to be separated by death causes a decision to give them both a second chance at life.
Disclaimer: See first chapter
Author's Notes: I just worked out I made a mistake last chapter – half the time Harry was sixteen and half the time he was seventeen. This is the real fact: he has just turned seventeen. I kept forgetting I was writing a year after OotP ended when I was typing the chapter up.
Last Chapter: Harry grabbed his shoulders. As he did so, with a gasp of pain, Dumbledore's knees buckled and he fell forwards, hitting his head on the bench and collapsing backwards. Harry knelt down beside him. "Professor!"
Dumbledore didn't seem to be breathing.
Chapter Two: Alive
There was a lone jar of piccalilli on the bench-top. Harry picked it up and looked at the label. The expiry date was two years previously. He opened it, sniffed it, and stuck a finger in it. It tasted all right. There was only a little bit left anyway.
Harry put it back and looked around. The new flat was made up of a kitchen/living room, small study with two desks crammed in, bedroom, box room (that was what the estate agent called it, anyway – at the moment it was living up to its name with a single box of Ron's old things and a second of family photos waiting patiently to be unpacked in it) and bathroom. It wasn't much, but it was home. Their new home.
Opening the fridge, Harry saw that Hermione had carried out her promise of stocking the place with food ready for he and Ron to move in. There was a note on the table saying that she wasn't sure what they wanted in the freezer so she just put in a tub of ice-cream, a box of fish-fingers and some ice packs. Harry wasn't really hungry but he hadn't eaten since breakfast and he wanted something to do, so he cut two slices of bread – it was cold from being in the fridge, Harry knew he'd forgotten something, he'd buy a bread bin next time he was out – emptied the rest of the piccalilli onto one slice and added a slice of ham and several of fresh tomato. He took a bite. It wasn't a bad combination. Wandering out of the room, he saw food didn't seem to be the only thing Hermione had prepared either – a bookshelf had appeared in the now-magically-expanded study filled with all their set books for school, plus, Harry noticed, the newest edition of Hogwarts: a History and some Muggle classic literature he'd heard of but never read.
Harry circled the flat three times before sitting down on the bed, unsure what to do with himself. After Dumbledore had collapsed, he'd yelled on instinct for an ambulance and Petunia, the only Dursley in the house, dialled 999. That was where her usefulness ended: after that she just hovered in the doorway, apparently panicking, while Harry, after failing to find a pulse, went through the process he'd learnt in First Aid back at primary school. Funnily enough, he hadn't panicked at all. He'd stayed calm right till the ambulance came and took him to the hospital. He'd stayed calm while he wrote to Professor McGonagall asking her to come quickly, not knowing who else to contact. He'd stayed calm until the doctors told them that he was stable. Then fear set in. He'd had to leave the hospital because he couldn't stand the atmosphere. Not wanting to go back to Privet Drive, he went to the new flat.
What if Dumbledore was dying?
Harry didn't know a lot about medicine and so on, apart from the First Aid thing, but he did know that when an old person – Dumbledore was hardly what you would call young – started having heart attacks all over the place it meant you shouldn't get your hopes up they would be around for your NEWT results.
The bedcovers had been smoothed out since his birthday. Harry lay down on Ron's side. There was still a trace of Ron's sweet scent on the pillow. For a while he just lay still, breathing it in. It was the next best thing to seeing Ron himself; which was not a good idea, as at that moment Ron was probably breaking the news to his parents now about their commitment. Harry closed his eyes and filled his head with thoughts about the last time they'd seen each other. It had only been three days but it felt like eternity already. A small grin spread across his face. Ron always had a way of relieving tension, even when he wasn't physically there.
The phone rang.
For two rings, Harry stayed where he was, lost in dreamland. Then it occurred to him that it could be Ron on the phone (the Burrow now had its own line, thanks to Arthur and Hermione combined) and he jumped up. Then he remembered he left the flat number with Professor McGonagall at the hospital and rushed into the kitchen to grab the receiver.
Professor McGonagall called him by his first name. That was either a very good sign or a very bad sign.
"It's me, Professor." Harry plunged straight into the question. "How is he?"
"Awake, now," Professor McGonagall answered and Harry sank into a chair, relief washing over him. He could hear from her tone that things were better, not worse. "The doctors said you saved his life."
Harry shrugged, even though she couldn't see him. "I did what anyone would do."
"Maybe, maybe not. You know …" there was a pause and when she spoke again, it was in a quieter voice, "Lots of wizards are very ignorant when it comes to First Aid. Maybe we should have classes at Hogwarts."
"Good idea. So, apart from awake, what's he like?"
"A little tired." Professor McGonagall sighed. "Well, very tired. Obviously. But he's alive. And he wants to thank you."
"Don't worry, I'll come over." Harry was already reaching for a coat.
"You do that. Maybe you can convince him that he's not perfectly fine, as he keeps telling me." Harry could almost see the eye roll and chuckled.
"I'll tell him." Harry paused. "What … what do the doctors say about … you know, the future?"
Professor McGonagall didn't have to ask what he meant.
"Albus … he's …" Harry heard her swallow. "He's not as young as he used to be. Harry, just come over. He wants to see you."
Harry nodded, forgetting again that he was on the phone. "Okay. Tell him I'm on my way. Bye, Professor."
He hung up.
Albus hated hospitals. Especially Muggle ones. Enduring foul potions was one thing; having tubes sticking out of you was another. But he wasn't complaining. As everyone kept telling him, he was lucky to be alive.
Minerva sidled back into the ward, apparently having finished her phone call. He smiled and tried to sit up properly. She was by his side in a second, pushing him back down. "Oh, no, you don't."
"Minerva, really, I -"
"Don't say it." The words 'I'm fine' died in his mouth at the look on her face. "That's what I said last year, remember, and you know how that turned out."
Albus sighed. He remembered, when Minerva was convinced that the only thing wrong with her was the Stunners; that the Healers were just being careful, keeping her in St Mungo's so long; that she would be perfectly fine …
It was ironic, Albus thought, that merely months after the Healers' diagnosis, this had happened. At least Minerva wouldn't be dying on her own.
Oh stop it, he scolded himself. It's just a scare, I'm not dying … yet … But he couldn't suppress the feeling that he was wrong.
"Is Harry coming?" he spoke out loud instead.
Minerva nodded. "He said to tell you he's on his way. He didn't say whether …" She glanced around, "Muggle or magical, so he could be here any time."
Albus surveyed her as she spoke. Minerva was definitely paler than usual. Perhaps it was just the shock, but it might not be. "Are you all right, Mina?" he asked quietly. "You don't look very well."
"Can you blame me?" she exclaimed. "I get a note from Harry saying he's broken his leg, in a Muggle hospital, can I come and help him, and I turn up to find out you collapsed in his kitchen and he lied in the note because he didn't want to scare me!" Minerva sat down in the visitors' chair, her head in her hands. "And you expect me to be perfectly fine after that, do you?"
"No." Albus reached out and peeled her hands away from her face. "I'm just worried about you. The cancer's been getting worse recently, hasn't it? I can see it in your eyes."
Minerva's mouth twitched. "Trust you to be worrying about my health when you're the one laying here looking like some Muggle experiment with all those tubes."
"You don't have to rub it in. I know I look like an octopus."
Minerva laughed. It was strained, but at least it was a laugh. "I think 'octopus' is pushing it, but you do look funny."
"Am I interrupting something?" a familiar voice enquired in amusement.
"Harry!" Albus tried to sit up again but Minerva pushed him back down. "Will you stop doing that?"
"I will stop doing that when you stop trying to sit up. Just rest."
"You sound like Poppy."
"I'll tell her you said that!"
"Good, then I can tell her who stole her last box of Skiving Snackboxes."
Minerva's mouth fell open. "Albus!"
Harry chuckled at their banter, but it was a weak chuckle. "You two sound like a couple of five-year-olds. Grow up!"
Albus grimaced. "I hated being five."
"Oh, shush," Minerva chided. "You got everything you wanted when you were five, you spoiled brat."
Albus stuck his tongue out. "I was not spoiled."
"Aberforth always said you were a spoiled brat when you were little."
"He would," Albus grumbled. "Just because I was the younger one."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "I always thought you were older than your brother."
Albus shook his head. "Nope. He's three years older than me and lived with rose-tinted glasses permanently glued to his eyes. Till he left Hogwarts, then he suddenly decided to be a pessimist instead. Never found out why he changed his mind." He tried in vain to stifle a yawn and failed. Minerva glared at him.
"Rest, you. Now. You can thank Harry properly later."
"It's okay," Harry said quickly. "Really, I did what anyone else would have done – anyone else who knows First Aid -"
"Stop being modest," Minerva smiled. "And you, Albus, get some rest. Harry and I will be near if you need anything."
"Do I get a say in the matter?"
"Of course not." Minerva kissed his forehead. "See you later."
Albus sighed and closed his eyes. He was more tired than he would admit; he just hated making Minerva anxious, especially now. He suddenly realised what she'd done and cracked one eye open to check she and Harry had left the ward before gently touching the place where she'd kissed him. A silly grin spread over his face. He'd won the bet. Sort of.
Aberforth. Albus frowned. Perhaps on his deathbed he would tell Aberforth straight about what it was really like to be a Dumbledore. The look on his face might give him one last laugh before he croaked.
Spoiled brat. Honestly. Some people really were blind.
Next chapter: More ADMM, the outcome of Ron's confession, Hermione appears, and possibly Aberforth. Also the chapter will be longer this time.
adge9631: Um … maybe … You'll have to wait and see …
ImSoMMAD: Don't let him do what? Die? I'm not letting him do anything. If he dies it's because I did it. But I'm not saying he's going to die. Just that I'm not telling you whether he's going to or not. (You'll find out the answer soon, though. But I promise whether he dies or not, the fic will have a happy ending.) Tiny, weeny bit of MMAD in here – more in the next chapter. Promise. Which summary? The one in or outside the story? Which bit?
Thanks also to Carrieba, itberice and Ringwarriorkayla 1607 for reviewing!