A/N:: This is somewhat inspired by a certain author that cannot let our ship sail, but it is even more inspired by the fans that will not let it sink. ;)

FanFic 100 Challenge #:: 003- Ends

This Is the Beginning

"She's not his type. He can't possibly love her."

"She's nothing more than his Deputy."

"Look at the way she hangs onto him. It's sickening."

"It's absurd that they're going through with this marriage. It will never last."

The bitter words come rushing through Minerva, and she grips the edge of the desk as if to steady herself from a heavy blow. For years she had actually secretly believed those words, even after she and Albus were married. She felt as though she was suffering from withdrawal of these horrible emotions as a recovering alcoholic would feel towards his substance. Whenever she thought she was finally free from her innermost fears, she was immediately overtaken again by the blackened dread that consumed her very heart.

"What is on your mind, my love?"

Minerva gazes down into Albus's worry-struck eyes. She winces from the aching hollowness that these feelings have left with her. She does not fully meet his eyes for fear he could see through her and know of her petty fears. Minerva does not trust herself to speak, so she shakes her head in reply. Albus's hand slips into hers, and a warm tingle runs up her spine, inexplicably chasing away some of her worry.

"Your hands are so cold," he says.

She wants to reply that her cold hands are nothing compared to what she feels inside, but she knows it would be nonsense words if she spoke it aloud. Albus stands and wraps his arms around her. Again, there is the warming tingle running up her spine.

"You're so far away."

His words do not come as if they are asking something of her, and she is thankful for his consideration. Minerva feels ashamed for allowing him to have this one-sided conversation, so she struggles to form her hidden voice.

She tells him everything.

She does not know why or how, but she is suddenly revealing to Albus every deathly, secret thought she has kept within about this over the years. As she speaks, he does not interrupt her, for he is hanging on her every word. He had always wondered if Minerva had felt this way, but he dismissed it as if he was only being arrogant, as this was not his intention. Albus had no idea that Minerva felt so deeply about this. It broke his heart to know that he had left her alone with all of these worries for so many years.

Minerva finishes speaking and discovers her whole body is shaking uncontrollably in Albus's arms.

"What do they know of this love?" he asks, his eyes glazing with the threat of tears. "I love you. I'm so sorry…"

His words fade away, and he curses himself for being so weak when Minerva needs him the most.

"Do you really love me?" Minerva asks.

Albus's heart shatters that she would ever have to question his love for her.

"Of course I love you. I always have, and I always will. You're everything to me."

Albus kisses Minerva softly, desperately wishing he could draw her pain from her and into him.

"Help me to know how to make it better," he says earnestly.

"Never let me go," she whispers.

Minerva wonders if he hears her until Albus pulls her closer into him.

"I can do that," Albus whispers in reply, a tear escaping down his cheek.

It is as if a small ray of light and hope is piercing the dread inside her. As Albus buries his head in her shoulder, a trickle of life emerges in the darkness of her heart. This is not the end of her struggles, she knows, but with Albus sharing her ache, there is hope, and there is a chance.

No, this is may not be the end, but even better, this is the beginning.