"Do you not feel the draft? It's frigid in here!" This rather irritable outburst was exuberant; her voice was like the waves cascading in ripples across the sea. The old man opposite her smiles as he thinks this. She shall never know.
"Minerva, the chill is unnoticeable if one happens to drink hot chocolate. I remember a time when you claimed to enjoy the beverage…" He pauses here, taking an experimental sip from his mug, testing the temperature with a quick flick of his tongue.
Minerva snorts as soon as the words are in the air. She shakes her head in an attempt to contradict the outlandish notion. "Albus, you need your memory checked," she leans nearer to the firelight, in order to obtain more warmth from the flaming hearth. "I have never said such a thing."
Albus looks back at her, transfixed for a moment as the fires' shadows cast an ebony halo throughout her pulled-back tresses. Her hair was lush and a shameless declaration of night. "Then why, pray tell, do I recall so completely a time when you once said it?"
His inquiry caressed her soul, and she softly closes her eyes. His voice was like a lullaby. Quiet, soothing, appealing… "That," she begins indignantly, a trace of mockery in her speech, "was to silence your complaints."
"Minerva, I am surprised at you."
Her lips twist, fighting against the inevitable smile that procured from thin air. "And why is that?" Ah, the bait. She had taken the bait.
Dumbledore frowned a moment, taking a final sip from his mug before placing it on the table astride him. "No one in living memory has insulted the sacred lines of Dumbledore- the famous hot chocolate we make, no less!" He aimlessly wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and Minerva eyed the action intensely. Yes, his hot chocolate was irresistible, as was the sudden concept of transfiguring into one of his sleeves…
Minerva pursed her lips. "You are not famous for your hot chocolate. I thought we had made this clear."
Albus's sapphire eyes sparkled as brightly as the blazing fire. "Clear as mud, I am certain."
"Mud is not clear."
Albus snickered. "Have you ever held mud between your fingers, Minerva? It is most certainly clear, once one does examine it in the correct way."
"It still is not clear." Minerva's voice lost no authority, though both edges of her mouth twitched.
"And what is clear, my dear?" He challenged.
Albus shook his head. "And this is where imagination comes in. Suppose the water was engrossed in bacteria?"
"A purification spell could never hurt," Minerva replied, more brashly than before, "after all, we are not Muggles."
"True, true…" A profound look on his face, Albus conjured another cup of his hot chocolate from thin air before beginning the entire process a second time. Slowly, taste… Smack lips. Extend tongue delicately. Withdraw at once. Too hot. --It had saved him the displeasure of a burned tongue for the past eleven years.
The silence enveloped the two; Minerva sipped her simple peppermint tea, pulling her tartan blanket more loosely around her in order to allow the fire to warm her instead. Albus sipped his hot chocolate, wondering if he should find some marshmallows to add to his hot-chocolate ritual.
The question almost went unheard. Albus glanced almost at once to Minerva, but her gaze was away from him, towards the fire. It was not impossible that he had imagined her calling him. However, he replied as she opened her mouth a second time, her profile still turned to him.
Minerva sighed, and Albus wished that he had received that breath, expelled from her lungs… Shaking his head quickly, he considered prodding her for her question. It appeared that it was an uncomfortable topic, or one in which she was unsure of herself. Despite this, Albus forced himself to remain silent. She would tell him if she needed to; no matter how long it took her to gather herself, he would wait.
"How will the boy grow up here?"
Albus did not need to question about whom she was talking. The answer itself glowed in her own emerald eyes. "Harry will grow up quite happily here… As far as my knowledge can stretch, I believe he has made a few friends already."
Minerva suddenly turned towards him, her eyes blazing with an emotion he could not put a finger on. Anger? Irritability? Exasperation? Ah, yes, that was it…
"You speak of him as if you know him. Albus, you nor I know who the boy is besides his name. I can point him out in a crowd, but that does not mean he is content within it."
Albus looked longingly back to his cup of hot chocolate. He did not desire to reveal anything to her. No, not tonight. It was too soon, too early. She would never think the same of him again. His decision to leave Harry with his Muggle relatives had had merit, had even seemed the best option at the time of Voldemort's eminent downfall, but where his happiness was concerned, perhaps Albus had given it a bit of a dismissive attitude. However, in hindsight, it was most likely the worst choice he had ever made. Harry would never be happy in his life. Until Voldemort's reign was over, his soul would never have any peace.
"Minerva, I am sure that he will come around…" Albus winced at his half-truth, wishing beyond wishes that it were a whole-truth. "He hasn't been a child since he entered here a few hours before. Already he is knowledgeable, and able to stand up for himself. Is that not all what matters?"
"Albus, you said so yourself that if one cannot find happiness, it is a life not worth living." Her voice was quiet, though Albus could hear the anguish lacing her words. This discussion was not about Harry at all, but her and her own emotional state. No, she was not happy. He longed to change that.
"I do recall mentioning something of the sort," he nodded, fishing around for the right words, "yet, why are you bringing the matter of his happiness up?"
Minerva quickly shook her head, causing her hair to shine at every angle. "It's nothing Albus…" she muttered, turning back to her cup of tea and away from the fire.
"It is not simply 'nothing', my dear…" he trailed off, and Minerva chanced a glance at him, except she gasped softly. He had stood and moved towards her, now kneeled in front of her chair.
Catching her breath, she retorted sharply, "It is too 'nothing'. You needn't worry yourself over it…"
"I do need to worry myself over it if it concerns your happiness, my dear." Albus's voice had grown quiet, as calming as a sweet summer's gale. "I like to have my best friend the happiest…"
Minerva's eyes flickered over to his own, but she lacked the courage to utter another word.
"Why are you unhappy, my dearest Minerva?" Albus asked softly, bringing a wandering hand to her cheek, and caressing it briefly.
She still remained silent, concentrating on how his hands felt, how secure and lighthearted she felt beneath his touch. Inhaling sharply a second time, she whispered, "My emotions do not matter…Nothing need matter to anyone other than myself…The children come first… That is the way it has always been, Albus…"
Albus shook his head slowly. "They have always mattered to me, my dear." His vexatious, wandering hand strayed to her chin, and he lightly tapped his index finger there. Minerva's eyes leisurely traveled to meet his for the briefest of moments, and he caught glimpse of the fear etched there before it flashed into nonchalance.
Further, his hand roamed, drifting to meet her lips; she stared at him in surprise, raising her eyebrows at the contact. With not a word, he withdrew his hand, and cradled the back of her head. Posing his inquiry in his eyes, Minerva's eyebrows raised higher, and he fully viewed the shock laced with acceptance in her normally impassive façade.
Slowly, carefully, he brought her face to his, and he smiled as her eyes fluttered closed. He kissed her briefly, but lovingly, before retracting his treacherous lips. His eyes twinkled as her lips remained puckered for a second as he left her hanging before she opened her eyes, but he did not do this without courtesy.
"Minerva," he began, toying with the bun that clasped her hair firmly in that despicable bun, "I have loved you for the good part of twenty years. I kept my distance, yet, I see now that this was not the best of ideas… How you have felt about everything has meant so very much to me. I now ask you permission to care for you, to love you, to adore you in every way that I've abstained from projecting fully…"
Minerva sighed resignedly, looking away from him. Confused, Albus opened his mouth to say something, but she beat him to it. "Albus, why do you ask me? There's no need to. I would have accepted it long ago… I love you too." Her voice was quiet, but no longer did anguish weave between her spoken words.
There were no more words to speak as he mutely pulled her to him again, somehow meandering to a couch, and weaving his skilled fingers through her tresses again as her lips ensnared his again in a second kiss, but one which held so different meaning. It was the kiss of love, which was naturally, full of happiness.
A/N: Not too cheesey of an ending, was it? xD I wrote this a few months ago, and then ended it poorly because I lacked inspiration. -sighs- Oh well. I beg of you to review. ;D