And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Tom sat comfortably in Minerva's tiny living room, sipping on hot chocolate. Minerva sat in a chair next to him, close enough to touch, but not. He talked about school, keeping her updated on the goings on and made sure to complain about the Transfiguration stand-in so she would know, without his saying that her former lover was still missing. He treed gently here, careful not to push her too hard.
"Tom," she started suddenly, her green eyes bright for the first time in almost seven months.
"You're one of my very best friends. You come to see me every weekend with special permission from the Headmaster…you're the one constant in my life. You've held me cry over…him, heard terrible things and not thought less of me…"
He took her hand in his gently and rubbed soothing circles on her palm. "Yes?" he pressed tenderly.
"Why?" came her soft whisper.
"Oh, Minerva, I love you. You're the perfect match to me…to balance me out, keep me sane. You're my princess to recue, dark and shaded, but so loving and warm."
"Still? After everything? I'm damaged." She glanced up with damp eyes, searing for truthful answers.
"Always." His answer came without thought and he took her face in between his hands.
"Oh, Tom," she murmured as his lips took her own captive. She was lost in the fire of his embrace and her heart felt like it would beat out of her chest. When her hand strayed to his chest, he stopped it firmly.
"No, you will wait until you are truly mine. I won't have it any other way." His dark green eyes were hard, but his words seemed tender and so Minerva relaxed into his arms. He pulled her hair down deftly and twined his fingers through it, soothing her to sleep. "You will be mine, Minerva; forever."
When she woke, hours later, it was dark and her head was resting in his lap.
"I made you some coffee, my princess. Drink it. You'll come to Hogwarts tomorrow. I know your friends miss you."
"But…the Headmaster. I—"
Minerva felt no reason not to; except for his jealousy towards Albus, a relationship that never should have happened, he was kind and gentle with her. She drank the hot coffee slowly, savoring the flavor.
"Is it good?"
"Aye. It tastes like the kind my mother would drink…before she passed." Her smile, once again, lit up the room.
"I'd hoped so. Now, bid me goodbye. You will come tomorrow."
Minerva nodded her head, agreeing with his statement as a question, instead of the demand he had issued. Her hands reached back to her hair, deftly gathering it into a bundle, with the intention of pulling it up.
He pulled her tight against his chest and whispered in her ear. "Will you leave it down? For me? It's lovely." Her answer was lost as he took her lips again but, she knew that from now on, she would allow her raven hair to fall to her waist for his pleasure. After he left her flat, Minerva thought of her future, staring deeply into the grinds of her coffee, wondering what she could do with her life and willing it to give her the answers. She was working at a little bookshop in Hogsmeade to fill her time when she wasn't with Tom and her friends; she now had the express permission of the Headmaster to be at Hogwarts whenever she chose, procured for her by Tom when she mentioned how much she missed Pomona and Poppy. She knew that she didn't want her life, her skills that she had worked so hard for to go to waste.
At one time, Minerva contemplated apprenticing under Albus, becoming a Transfiguration Mistress of her own rights. With him gone, however, there weren't many opportunities like that available to her. There were no women she could apprentice for and all of the Masters she knew only took young men. Society expected her to marry and have children, meet her husband's needs…but who would want her now that she had given her innocence to another man, a man claimed to be the most powerful in the Wizarding World?
Tom filled her heart and, day by day, she could feel the hole left by Albus lessen. He respected her and treated her tenderly, though she could see that his anger was sometimes tightly wound. She felt like she helped soothe his hurt from his childhood with her understanding, like he was doing for her heartbreak, but she knew she hadn't fully given herself over to him. She felt like he would allow her to accomplish things, exceed society's expectations of her. Tom was bringing her new spells daily to learn, things she had never heard of, and always complimented her on how quickly she mastered them. He could be a powerful partner for her, challenging her in new ways. Could that be enough for her? Did she want children of her own? Would he? She supposed that she could not know that unless she committed herself to him; he had made that clear tonight.
Minerva stood, taking her coffee cup into the kitchen to rinse it out. Resting on the window ledge was a dried rose in a pale pink. She gazed at it for a second and then lifted her wand, incinerating it. She dusted the ashes down the drain and, as they fell away, whispered softly to herself, "Goodbye, my love. It is time for me to find my future and leave my past where it belongs."
"So, Minnie, you're coming to Hogsmeade again this weekend?"
Minerva blushed at Poppy's lightly veiled question. "Yes, I am. Tom invited me again and I enjoy being around him."
"Everybody is talking about Tom's older girlfriend and how serious you two may or may not be."
Minerva giggled softly, setting her china down. "If you're trying to get information for Pomona and yourself, just ask. You know I'll answer them. I have nothing to hide from the two of you."
"Are you official?"
"Quietly, yes. He comforted me about Albus, as he promised he would. We're fairly serious but we're taking things slowly. I'm scared of having my heart broken again."
"Minerva, I'm so happy for you. He seems to care for you greatly."
"He does, Poppy. He's my Prince Charming. He's so intelligent…he's always teaching me new charms. It's intoxicating."
"And Albus?" Poppy eyed her friend carefully, noting the sadness now obvious in her face.
"He still hasn't contacted me. I think it's beyond time for me to let go of him. I read him wrong and let him take advantage of me. Tom is different."
"I hope so. You deserve it." Poppy hugged her friend tightly. "Have a great afternoon. Floo me and tell me about it?"
"Of course," she smiled affectionately. She hugged her friend and walked her to the door. She knew Poppy would Apperate to Albus' flower garden to get back to school Memories flooded her mind as she remembered the pretty flowers and the pretty words that were said. She simply shook her head and moved on. She was content and happy…and completely ignorant of Tom's true planning.
"Tom!" Minerva exclaimed excitedly. She stood up to embrace him before she noticed the blonde boy standing beside him. "Mr. Malfoy."
"My lady," he answered, inclining his head respectfully.
"Where can I get one?" Poppy teased. Minerva looked unsure though, as Tom led her from the small table in Hog's Head, leaving Malfoy behind and heading back to Hogwarts.
"Why does he do that, Tom? It's odd."
"Its respectful .He will be one of the many helping me when I leave school to make the Wizarding World better. All this craziness…we can make it go away. You will help me, I hope."
"Yes," she murmured, enchanted.
"You are my lady, so they will call you such. They will protect us when people begin to dislike us because of good policies, as it always is. People fail to realize what is best for them." She nodded in agreement. "I will teach you spells…things you could've never learned on your own. You'll be the greatest witch you can be." Tom came to a stop outside the gates of the school. He took her warm hands in his cool ones and smiled her favorite smile. "Spend the rest of your life with me, Minerva. We'll change the world."
"Oh, Tom…I thought I had missed you…that I had missed this."
"Never." He slipped a ring on her finger, made of a dark metal, encasing a simple emerald in its setting with two tiny diamonds flanking it.
"It's lovely," she smiled almost shyly, slipping her arms around his trim waist and laying her head easily on his chest. He brushed her long ebony hair reverently, his eyes lighting with a possessive glint.
"Graduation night, you will be mine, in every way. Pomona and Poppy will have special permission to come and help you plan. The school won't be a good place for that."
She raised her head with a teasing smile and brushed his cool porcelain cheek with her hand. "Is there anyone you don't have wrapped around your finger, love?"
He raised his dark brown mischievously. "Hmm, I don't believe so." More seriously, he placed a soft kiss atop her head. "You're the only one who matters, Minerva. I can't imagine being happy without you."
"You'll never have to. I'll stay at your side as you've mine. We'll raise our family right. No orphanages, no abandonment; just love."
"A family," he murmured against her head. "You wish to have a family with me?"
""Please?" she breathed into his neck. "I want to do it right. Give a child everything we didn't have."
"You think I would make a good…a good father?"
"An amazing father, Tom."
He sighed softly. "I can deny you nothing, princess. If you want a family, I will do my best to comply." He cupped her face tenderly and drew her in for a kiss. "Make the wedding everything you dream."
Tom led her into the school, his hand resting in the small of her back. They walked in sync without thought, both contemplating the change in their relationship. Minerva's thoughts drifted to Albus for a brief moment, remembering how tenderly he'd held her, how he had seemed to truly give himself to her. She felt her hair being pulled lightly and dismissed the older man from her thoughts. He had left her behind without a second glance; she had waited and then devoted herself to Tom, to the plans that he was making. It was where she belonged.
"Milord, I'm sorry to intrude. You have a meeting starting shortly." Minerva started at Caligula's voice and realized Tom had led her to the Infirmary and to Poppy.
"Thank you." Tom turned his affectionate gaze back to his new fiancée. "Chat with your friends. I'll come back after my meeting to take you home."
"I'll be waiting." Minerva watched him go, strong and proud and felt content with her life's direction for the first time in a long time. "Poppy! You'll never believe it…"
Poppy met Minerva in the middle of the empty infirmary and hugged her, then led her to her personal quarters. "What will I never believe? Merlin, Min, you're positively glowing! What's going on?"
A light blush warmed her face and she smiled at her dear friend, happy tears in her eyes. "Tom's asked me to marry him."
"Oh, oh! Minerva, I—I'm so happy for you! We'll plan everything. It's going to be lovely. You're going to be lovely. Oh, I can't believe it!"
Amused at her friend's reaction, Minerva interrupted her thoughts with a soft question: "Poppy, will you give me away?"
Poppy's face lit up and she hugged Minerva again. "I'd be honored. Oh, I'm so happy for you! You deserve this."
"Deserve what? What did I miss?" Pomona called as she bounced into the room. "I passed Tom in the hallway and he told me you were here. Oh, Gods. He's asked you to marry him, hasn't he?" Minerva held up her hand with a grin and Pomona squealed, gripping her in an enthusiastic hug.
Minerva laughed when she was finally released and then looked at Pomona. "Will you be my maid of honor?"
"Of course! When is it? We need to start planning. Oh, Circe, this is exciting!"
"Dear friends, if I could but see you so happy."
"Let's get you married first and then we'll start looking for Pomona and me."
The girls giggled loudly, impulsively falling into a group hug. Minerva felt the hole in her heart shrink to a minimum as the contentment overflowed through it. How could she know that, as she planned her wedding to her dark prince, her first love, the cause of her heartache, was headed back to Hogwarts?