Summary: Albus and Minerva are finally a couple and happily celebrating the Christmas holidays. But what happens when the discussions turn to celebrating the Imbolc holiday? Will they be able to reach a compromise? ADMM-Complete
It was an idyllic winter evening at Hogwarts. The grounds were covered in a stunning blanket of snow, and the dark clouds threatened to bring even more by morning. Dinner had been perfect. A thick hearty stew with crusty bread, cheese, and wine had been served at an intimate table for two in Minerva's sitting room. And the fire Albus created in the hearth was blazing, but not too warmly for either occupant as they sat by the window playing a friendly game of cribbage.
The past two weeks of the Christmas holidays had been sheer heaven for Albus and Minerva. Since it was their first major holiday since declaring their mutual love and desire for a deeper relationship, it had been especially romantic and heartwarming. Endless hours of cuddling were punctuated by soft kisses, whispered words of love, fireside dinners, and even the occasional stroll around the snow-covered grounds.
But, as with all grand and glorious things, the winter break was coming to a close, and both Albus and Minerva were beginning to feel a wee bit sad. It would be exciting to have the students filling the halls once more, but that also meant more hours poring over lesson plans, grading papers, and even supervising the occasional detention. For Albus, it meant the Ministry was back to work and the day-to-day operations of running Hogwarts would start imposing on their cherished time together.
As the two sat in a companionable silence and focused on their game, Albus began to think of all the firsts in their future. This would be his favorite New Year's Celebration to date, and he chuckled to himself as he thought of how many "new years" he'd ushered into being. First birthdays as a couple, first anniversaries, first Valentine's Day, May Day and then something skated across his mind.
"This will be our first Imbolc together, my dear," he said absently as he discarded another card from his hand. "I know we've made plans for New Year's but I'd like you to consider how you'd like to spend Candlemas Eve and Day."
Minerva placed her own card into the discard pile and sat back, as if weighing his words carefully. "I hadn't really given it any thought. I've been rather preoccupied with more entertaining and pleasurable events these past two weeks," she winked, her foot brushing playfully against his beneath the table.
He returned the gesture and grinned. "Then let me offer this suggestion to you. I always spend the evening with my brother, Aberforth, and I'm sure he'd not mind if you were there this year. I know he likes you, especially since you were so kind to his goat when she chewed up your favorite hat over the summer holidays." Albus couldn't suppress the chuckle as he remembered Minerva's shocked face upon finding Lizzy, Aberforth's favorite goat, with half of Minerva's straw hat hanging from her lips. "I do believe that was when I knew I had to do whatever it took to try to win your affections. Anyone who could be so kind and loving towards my brother and his goats and still promise to return with me the following week was the witch for me," he teased.
"Yes, well, you did buy me the new hat, so I'd say we were even. But Imbolc is usually spent with my family, when it's possible. Since we don't have an official celebration at Hogwarts, I either don't participate or I do so when it falls on a weekend and I can be away from the school for a few hours. Since it's on a weekend this year, can't we take a Portkey or Floo to my parents home and join my family in the celebration? After all, we spent Christmas with Aberforth and I missed the annual Christmas festivities with my family."
And so, the disagreement began. Minerva was adamant that they go to her parents' home where most of her extended family would be celebrating the ancient holiday, and Albus contended that his brother was all alone and they'd always enjoyed the celebrations together. Even when Minerva extended her invitation to Aberforth to join in her family's celebration, Albus had refused without even asking his brother, citing his outspoken desire not to leave his goats for any considerable period of time. So, for the next few weeks, it was a topic of much discussion, with neither party keen on giving in so quickly.
The students returned to school and soon Albus and Minerva found themselves working harder. They'd made a promise to try to have most of their daily work completed before the evening meal and afterwards, they would be able to spend a few stolen hours together. Occasionally, the topic of Imbolc would arise, but still no resolution to the problem. Albus was nearly at his wit's end and had tried every argument he could think of to convince Minerva. But her stubborn Scottish will had met his plausible and understandable reasons, denying him a victory each time.
As the weeks passed and the more they discussed the topic, one thing became crystal clear to each of them. They wanted to be together, regardless of their surroundings. So, as they sat curled up on the sofa in his private quarters one evening, Albus broached the idea once more, this time with confidence that he would finally win her over to his way of thinking.
His lips were soft against the column of her neck and his breath was warm, sending delicious shivers down Minerva's spine and curling her toes. She sighed softly as she relaxed in his arms, enjoying the tiny fires he was creating within her body and mind.
"Someone's feeling rather good this evening," she commented as her head lolled to one side to give him better access to her entire throat. Her own hands were busy roaming freely over his robe-covered body, seeking the opening so she could at least run her hands over his warm chest.
"Yes, well it's been a long day and I've missed you," was his reply before capturing her lips in a searing kiss. For the next few moments, all thoughts of conversations and troubles fled from their minds as their kisses grew more passionate and intense. When it became apparent that things were moving a bit too quickly and reaching a point of no return, they reluctantly pulled apart and cuddled on the sofa in front of the fire.
"Minerva, my dear," he started softly, his lips brushing lightly against her temple, "I think I have a solution to our Candlemas Eve dilemma. Please, hear me out and then give it some thought before you offer your thoughts. That's all I ask." She nodded that she would listen and honestly and carefully consider his proposal.
"We love each other and have made a commitment to each other, though nothing formal except in our hearts. More than anything, I want to spend every spare moment I have with you and while it would be lovely to meet the remainder of your family and share in the time-honored traditions, I don't believe that's the way we should go this year." When she opened her mouth to speak, he silenced her with a finger to her lips and a quick kiss. "Nor do I believe that spending the evening with my brother is the best option either." His heart quickened when he saw her smile as she realized he must have some other plan.
"So, if we're not spending the time with my family and we're not spending it with Aberforth and his goats, what do you have in mind? Believe me, I'm rather curious and you have my undivided attention," she said with a wink.
"Well, since I plan on building my life with you and hopefully you're feeling the same way," he teased, "I thought this might be a good time to start our own traditions. We could invite our respective families to join us in the future or we can alternate celebrating the major holidays with your side of the family and mine, but for now, let's make our own traditions this year, starting with Imbolc."
For a long moment, Minerva weighed his words, and she longer the thought about it, the more sense it made. She would love nothing better than to start a series of traditions, something they could create together and enjoy for many decades to come. Without any further hesitation, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly on the lips, pushing him along the sofa until he was lying prone beneath her. "I love it. I love you. I love the whole idea of starting our own traditions," she said in between quick but loving kisses all over his face. "Let's start planning…"
Albus was over beyond thrilled that Minerva had so readily agreed to his idea. He gave himself a mental kick for not thinking of the idea sooner and for having wasted so much time trying to persuade Minerva and she him. "I'm very glad you approve. I do have a few ideas about the day but I want this to be our day so we can plan it together."
The next few evenings were spent discussing various ideas for their small, intimate celebration of Imbolc, each expressing the things they loved most about the holiday and sharing their dislikes as well. When it was all said and done, they had managed to make a rather extensive list of ideas and divided them into sections… Albus taking one part and Minerva the other.
At long last, February 1 arrived and there was much to be done. Minerva had happily agreed to take care of the food and the Brideog while Albus enthusiastically accepted the rest of the responsibility. His mind had been working overtime in recent days, drafting various ideas for his portion of the evening and making sure everything was in place and his timing was perfect.
Minerva, too, had been busy. She had taken time to select a few very pretty stones from the shore of the lake and the house elves had been most helpful in getting the bits of straw that she required to create the Brideog doll. Colored bits of ribbon, some from various flower arrangements Albus had given her, adorned the doll as well and a very pretty reddish colored stone was placed over the doll's heart, a symbol of Minerva's love for Albus and her commitment to their love. Minerva thought it was the most beautiful Brideog doll she had ever made and would be most pleased to show it to Albus
Once she was satisfied with the doll, she turned her attention to her other task… the food. She wanted everything to be perfect for this evening and she agonized over every single detail. In the end, she decided to go with what she most enjoyed and trusted that Albus would appreciate her choices. With the help of the house elves, once more, she arranged for them to send up a picnic basket with her requested items and turned her attention towards preparing herself for their evening of celebration.
Albus looked around the room and surveyed his efforts, very pleased with what he saw. The furniture in his sitting room had been moved away from the fireplace, and a thick, white blanket had been spread in front of the hearth. As per tradition, Albus cleaned the fireplace and laid a fresh fire, which was casting a very romantic glow about the room, shadows dancing happily along the walls. Candles were everywhere, as well, creating an even more romantic atmosphere for the evening. True, tradition had called for one or two candles, but Albus never did anything by halves and once he'd started, he'd found it incredibly hard to contain himself.
There were also flowers scattered around the room and on the floor. Violets, wisteria, iris, and lots of heather mingled together to create a lovely indoor garden. Albus made sure to include a few roses into the arrangements as well as scattering rose petals around the hearth and on the blanket for added effect. Noting the time, he dashed into his bedroom to change his clothes and hopefully be ready when Minerva arrived.
Promptly at dusk, Minerva knocked on Albus' door and was greeted by a most welcoming sight. Albus was dressed in a striking shade of royal blue robes, which brought out and deepened the color of his eyes. Silver moons and stars on the fabric shimmered as the firelight and candlelight danced behind him, creating a sight that literally stole Minerva's breath.
"Guid eenin, my love," Minerva answered, when she'd managed to find her voice and come to her senses. Her Scottish brogue slipped easily from her tongue as she locked eyes with Albus and smiled.
"And a very guid eenin to you, my bonnie lass," he answered, bowing low and kissing her hand before drawing her into his rooms for a proper greeting. Once the door closed behind her, he took the basket from her hand and pressed his lips to hers, softly at first but with more passion as the seconds passed.
When the warm kiss ended, Albus rested his forehead against hers and grinned. "I thought dusk would never arrive. This has been a long day but a good one, I hope you'll agree." He kissed the tip of her nose then took a step back to admire her. "Gods above, don't you look amazing," he complimented, his voice catching in his throat.
Minerva had decided to wear a new set of robes she'd been saving for a special occasion with Albus. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that they would be perfect for this evening and for the celebration itself. She'd found these particular robes in a quaint little shop in London and, on a whim, had purchased them.
The material was silky to the touch and velvet in appearance, giving it a unique quality all its own. The owner of the shop had assured her that they were worth every Knut she was asking for them, and Minerva had to agree. Calling the robes a shade of emerald green would have been doing the fabric a disservice. Never before had Minerva seen such a rich color, nor did she ever think she could duplicate it.
Minerva felt her pulse quicken as Albus motioned for her to turn around slowly, giving him the full view of her attire. The robes clung to her hourglass figure, accentuating curves so often hidden behind her teaching robes.
How I long to explore and caress those same curves at length, Albus thought as she turned to face him once more. "You have to be a vision sent form heaven," he said softly, once more drawing her into his arms before leading her to the sitting room.
Minerva gasped with surprise and delight when she entered the room. It had a lovely romantic atmosphere, and it practically radiated warmth and love. Everything was perfect, even down to the smallest detail. He had truly outdone himself, and Minerva could only hope that her additions would enhance their enjoyment of the evening.
Soon, Albus and Minerva were settled on the blanket in front of the fire, and as Albus carefully unpacked the picnic basket, Minerva gently unwrapped the Brideog she'd prepared. "I hope you like her," Minerva said as she handed the doll to Albus. "I used a few stones from the lakeside and the ribbons all came from flowers you've sent me since we started courting." She leaned over and ran her finger across the red colored stone over the heart. "And this piece, this is very special. My Grandmother McGonagall gave it to me as a child one Imbolc Eve and she told me to keep it safe. When I asked her why, she said it represented my heart and my unending love and should be shared with the one I cherished most in the world, when the time was right." A few unshed tears had gathered in Minerva's eyes as she remembered her grandmother fondly. "I think she was speaking more of my heart than this tiny bit of glass but it made such an impression on me, that I kept it safe all these years." She turned her head to face Albus and cupped his cheek. "Now that I have you, I can finally share my bit of colored glass and know that Grandmother McGonagall would be very happy for me."
Albus was very touched by her story and leaned over to kiss away the tears of happiness and remembrance that slipped silently down Minerva's cheeks. "It's very beautiful and I'm sure she's smiling down on us this evening. Let's keep the Brideog and use her in our future celebrations. I can't think of anything more beautiful." Minerva happily agreed and placed the doll into the bed prepared especially for her by the hearth.
After the tears were dried and the Brideog doll in her place of honor, Minerva turned her attention back to the meal she had requested. It was tradition at their home to have a variety of foods from which everyone could choose, and this evening was no different. A loaf of whole grain bread, still warm from the oven, and fresh butter caused Minerva's mouth to water already. An assortment of cheeses and fruits were also there, along with the Fairy Nectar her mother had taught her how to make. That and the lemon pudding cake had been the two items Minerva had insisted upon doing herself, the rest she left up to the kitchen elves. Once everything was arranged, the two settled down for a quaint little picnic by the fire, happy to have the evening to themselves with no interruptions.
Hours later, as they lay on the makeshift bed by the fire, Minerva shifted her head and looked up into Albus' face only to find his dark blue eyes staring back at her. "Not going to sleep on me, are you?" she teased.
"How could I? Do you know how many nights I've dreamed of having you in my arms like this and being able to hold you all night long? Too many to count," he answered as she shook her head. "Besides, we have to be going soon. It will be dawn in a few hours and we'll need to get the bonfire going. We want to be settled before daybreak so we can look for those badgers and snakes," he chuckled.
She swatted chest playfully. "You aren't serious about looking for those, are you? I mean, the very idea of predicting the weather based on the actions of snakes and badgers… well it's just not very…oh what's the word I'm looking for…"
"Practical," he finished for her. "Too much like Divination for you, isn't it, my dear? Still, I wouldn't discount the process entirely. Our ancestors had to have a good reason for trusting in such acts of nature, and who are we to dismiss it offhand," he gently reminded her. "Regardless of whether or not you put stock in the outcome, I think you'll like what I planned for our outing. Won't you indulge me, at least this once? If you truly don't like it, then we can come up with something different for next year."
She stretched enough to kiss him on the lips. "Fair enough. I put myself in your very capable hands. I'd follow you anywhere."
In a small glade in the Forbidden Forest, Albus had prepared a quiet little haven, safe from the night creatures that roamed the forest freely and which might make even the bravest soul uncomfortable. He'd spoken with the centaurs and explained the need for a fire in the glade, and after he had assured them all would be well, they agreed to stay as far away as possible, causing no trouble for the couple.
Albus had gathered the necessary bits of wood and kindling to start the bonfire and had also Transfigured some additional flowers into a soft bed. He used a bit of soft wool to create a warm blanket to shield them from the night air, along with casting a few strong warming charms around the glade. He was taking no chances. The last thing he wanted was for Minerva to catch a cold from their outdoor adventure. A bottle of wine and two glasses were left there, as well, in anticipation of the couple.
"Are you sure it's safe to go into the forest at night?" Minerva had always held a healthy appreciation for the forest and the creatures that lived within.
"I won't let anything happen to you, ever, and I've taken extra precautions this evening," he said as he led her through some brush until they were standing at the edge of the small clearing.
Minerva stood in awe of the scene before her. It was something out of a fairy tale or a romance novel her friends were so fond of reading. "Albus, it's perfect. We can light the bonfire and curl up together to watch the sunrise. How in the world…" Words failed her so she did the only thing she could think of to show him her appreciation. Her arms wound around his neck, drawing him into a lengthy and very heated kiss.
"I take it you approve," he laughed when the kiss ended. Upon her approving nod, he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed, placing her gently in the center before turning her attention to the bonfire. When it was lit and going strong and steady, he joined her on the bed.
"Can't say I've ever spent a night quite like this one before, but it certainly beats the celebration we would have encountered with my family. I'm grateful you talked me into sharing this special night with you," Her words were soft and sweet to his ears while her hands began to toy with the buttons on his inner robe. "Albus, I love you and I don't think I want to wait any longer for you." She had managed to unfasten a few of his top buttons and slipped her hand inside, her fingertips dancing lightly across his skin causing his heart to pound in his chest.
"Are you sure," he asked, his voice cracking and his mouth dry already. "I'll wait as long as it takes. I am not pressuring you…"
She silenced him with a finger across his lips. "Maybe I want to pressure you," she answered, shifting her body into his side more closely and whispering a spell to unbutton the rest of his robes.
Albus needed no further encouragement or invitation to respond to her advances. And in the still of the night, they consummated their love, slowly, passionately, gently and with such tenderness.
Did the badger or the snake emerge and predict more winter or the upcoming of Spring? Was the morning overcast or sunny, signaling the upcoming shifts in the seasons? Minerva and Albus couldn't honestly tell. The world had slipped away and left two lovers in the glade, making a memory and starting a new tradition for years to come.
A/N: We hope you have enjoyed the story (our response to the Imbolc challenge on the ADMM board) and that it met all the criteria. And I'm sure it's fairly obvious, but just in case, "Guid eenin" is how to say "Good evening" in Scotland. The details of the challenge on the ADMM board were as follows:
For the Imbolc deadline, the primary focus of the challenge: the badger and the snake! The story must be set between 1957 and 1970. Use both a badger and a snake in the story (literally or metaphorically, but you must use the terms "badger" and "snake" in the story). Minerva and Albus can be anything from friendly colleagues, to best friends, to lovers at the beginning of the story, and they have a disagreement about something that may or may not be resolved by the end of the story. A tie-in with Imbolc would be nice (cf. "badger and snake"), but not necessary for meeting the challenge.