Disclaimer: JKR's, not ours/mine.
A/N: I must admit, I'm rather disappointed by a lot the new AD/MM out there. It all seems like idealistic, OOC fluff, sadly. I don't feel like I've done a ton better, but... I tried. Put "Hands Clean" by Alanis Morissette on loop for 40 times and this is what happened. I think it's a good song for them, not perfect, but good. Set around 1955 or so.
Minerva ignored the knocking on her office door, both insistent and persistent as it was. She thought of his eyes, his eyes that seemed to see straight through anything, be it her or, it was likely, her door.
With that thought in mind she abandoned the chair behind her desk, choosing instead to take the few steps back to the corner where the castle's traditional stone met wood paneling and slide down the wall, tall tea mug in hand and woolen light-green blanket wrapped around her shoulders. A bit of tea slopped out of the mug as she hit the floor rather undignifiedly, landing partially on her robes and partially on the cold stone floor, a small brown, rapidly cooling puddle. She ignored it and pushed back wisps of hair from her pale, ever-so-slightly lined face and listlessly attempted to shove them back into the clip in the back of her hair, giving up immediately. Her hair dropped back into her face, her hand back to the mug, which was steaming less and less in the unreasonably cold room. She couldn't bring herself to bother lighting a fire.
It was stupid to even be sitting down here. She knew he couldn't really see through anything, knew he hadn't been able to see her at her desk (though, certainly, he knew she was there), and even if he could, she'd be no less visible here. If he had possessed the power, he'd have no problem also seeing through her desk.
The knocking had slowed to a- still persistent- steady beat. It penetrated her thoughts as annoyingly and efficiently as a mosquito would. Merlin, why wouldn't he go away? And why could she blame him for trying? She'd done the same, come back after one of their explosive (of course, almost always only on her side) arguments, more times than she felt comfortable putting a number to.
And he'd never refused to answer the door, said that small, annoying voice in the back of her head. The one that, regrettably, was always right. She hated herself for thinking of it, hated herself for just now thinking of it, hated herself for still not opening the study door, where his knocking continued.
Before she could stop the burning in her eyes, a group of teardrops escaped, running down her cheeks before landing with tiny plunks into her tea, which had almost stopped steaming and remained untouched. The knocking stopped, and a sharp, small sound resounded in its wake, followed by a small thud. She could picture him outside, one hand slapped against the door, the other on the knob, waiting for her word, and his forehead resting against the dark wood.
"Minerva...please," he pleaded, softly.
Most people would have been shocked to hear the tone coming from him, and she had been the first time. Now, however, it only reminded her how bad this one had been. She'd been mad at him before, furious, irate, even. She'd cried, she'd sobbed her bloody eyes out, she'd kicked walls, cursed vases, had cursed him, and in one instance she'd deeply regretted, taken it out on the students. She'd spent a day curled up in bed, she'd gotten drunk, she'd even quit once. Nothing ever helped when it came to their fights. Nothing could help, with both of their keen abilities to say exactly what hurt the other most. Still, never had she felt this badly. Never had she felt like dragging him out onto the grounds and dueling, much as she knew he'd win.
No, of course he wouldn't, she thought bitterly. He wouldn't see any value in winning, he'd just block the curses he could and dodge the ones he couldn't, not doing anything to fight back, until finally she would burn out, relent, collapse... damn him. DAMN him.
He sighed from the other side of the door, but didn't leave, seemingly reminding her he was still there. As if she could forget. The door wasn't even locked. She never locked her door, as he very well knew. Aside from the fact that even a first-year could easily unlock it using a charm, it was pointless everyone knew well enough to knock before entering, and she never did anything private in her office anyway. He just had too deep a sense of respect to simply turn the knob and walk in. Yet he wasn't going to leave, she knew that, and certainly she would never have, though he'd never made waiting longer than a few seconds necessary. He was so damn forgiving, accepting of all her flaws, never angry for more than a couple hours, if even that. He'd only come after her once, after their first fight, but had quickly learned from that to wait for her to come, wait until her temper cooled, a process that took her far longer. Somehow, though, he had known that this time she wasn't coming back. It had only been three days, now, and surely she'd stayed away for longer than that before... And yet she couldn't think of an instance. A very small part of her was disappointed in her weakened resilience when it came to him, but another, larger part of herself was busy thinking that he was right, she hadn't even begun to think about going back to him, not even in a flicker of a notion.
Still, she knew, she had to open that door. He wouldn't leave, and even if he was the type to leave, she'd never forgive herself otherwise. The question, now, was how to do it. Should she give her word, let him enter and find her here, see how miserable, how hurt she really was? He must already know, but it would be a nice reinforcement of the matter. Then again, her hatred of appearing weak applied to him as it did everyone else. Huddled in a corner was a little more than she could bear revealing, yet if it made him regret, even slightly.... On the other hand, she could stand up, open the door on her own, face him on even (well, he was over half a head taller than her, so not-exactly-even) ground-
Well, that cleared that up. She stood up quickly, the slightly scratchy blanket falling from her shoulders, even more of her hair falling out of its clip even as she brushed it forcefully behind her ears, and stormed across the small room before stopping just straight of the door and yanking it open.
He had either heard her or adjusted his position, for he did not stumble forward as she had cruelly hoped. Even though it was only a half-second before she began her tirade, she was able to take in his blue, beautifully, electrifying blue eyes filled with remorse, deepened shadows beneath them, and knew that in turn he was observing her tear-stained cheeks, dishevelled hair, equally shadowed eyes...
And then it started.
"Minerva what? What exactly were you planning to say? "I'm sorry, I couldn't tell you'? Like I haven't heard that seven-million damn times Albus, and like it ever gets any easier to trust you when you just bloody disappear like that, when you expect me to just act like it's perfectly normal while you're out doing Merlin-knows-what, and when you come back again I'm supposed to act like its perfectly fine, like nothing happened, while you give no details! It was a MONTH, Albus, a MONTH. Every day I lied, saying that you were working on an important project and had asked not to be disturbed, that you were doing a favor for the Ministry, writing an important letter, on holiday, visiting Aberforth, I can't even remember what the bloody hell else! I forged your signature on all the school forms, filled in for you at the governors' meetings, had to stand up to people who respect me hardly a sliver as much as they do you, and you come back and everything's supposed to be just dandy! You don't even act like you were gone, don't give a hint of where you were or what you were doing, why you had to be gone for so long, and right before term starts-"
She finally ran out of words and let out a small, angry sob, hands that had been gesticulating wildly suddenly clenched into fists at her side, so tightly that he was afraid for a moment her mug handle might crack as small amounts of tea spilled out due to her shaking hands as she fought not to lose control completely. He simply watched her for a moment, making sure she was done for the moment, before speaking.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't tell you," he whispered. The look she shot him was pure venom before she turned around, raising her hands up to her face. He waited for her to speak, and when she didn't, he continued. "Minerva, if there was any way, any way for me to do what I have to do and not hurt you, you know I would-"
"Would you, Albus? Would you?" she asked, turning around. She regretted the words even as she said them, seeing the hurt look on his face, but still continued. "Maybe I'm only being thick, but more than rarely I think you must enjoy this, coming and going all the time at your will, not needing to answer to or call upon anyone but yourself. Do you know what it's like, can you even imagine, walking into your office, holding two cups of tea or even your bloody hot chocolate, only to find it empty? And every time, every single time, every single damn time, I run to your rooms, hoping for some stupid reason that you're just asleep, that really you're still there, you haven't left without saying goodbye, when you're never just asleep, you're always gone, and half your stuff with you, every time-" her voice broke and she looked away. Dumbledore reached out as if to touch her, but thought better of it as she stiffened, instead reaching for the teacup, which she was only loosely holding, lightly brushing her fingers. However, when he attempted to prise it free she jerked it back, and this time a great deal of its contents sloshed onto the floor. Dumbledore withdrew his hand and Minerva glanced down at the tea, but did not attempt to do anything about it.
"Minerva, look at me." she hesitated a couple times, then finally settled for staring at his mouth. Knowing that he would probably pay hell for it, he again reached out his hand, as if to press her chin upwards. Before he even touched her, Minerva jerked her head up and finally met his eyes once more. "I don't like leaving anymore than you. What I do, the way I live... it isn't pleasant, and I hardly get any satisfaction out of it. But, Minerva-" don't look at me like that, you knew it was coming, he thought frustratedly, "it's necessary."
She shut her eyes, and he thought for a blessed moment that it was over, the worst of anything they'd ever gone through- and then she opened them again. "Oh, of course, in that case, if it's necessary," she hissed, nearly as mad as she'd been the night this started. "Necessary, that explains everything, don't worry about me anymore, I'll be just fine-"
"Minerva, that's not what I meant-"
"Right, clearly, how could I ever have been under that impression-"
"I mean, how could I have not seen it? Naturally it's necessary you disappear while everyone else worries and covers up, only having to care about yourself-" she was full-on ranting at this point, ignoring everything he said, each time he reached out, but he was past the point where he could watch her and wait for the explosion to settle.
"Minerva, it's not that simple-"
"Then help me understand!"
"If I told you when I was leaving, what I was doing, you wouldn't be able to lie half as well, if anyone with power ever found out how much you knew, you'd be in danger, and they'd be able to get it out of you-"
"Then at least you could tell me you were leaving, at least bother to inform me if you're doing anything dangerous! And when has that happened before? When has anything close to that even begun to happen-"
"Minerva- Minerva!" he interjected sharply, preventing another interruption, then, slowly, "I love you." He paused, then rubbed his forehead, thanking Merlin she had stopped, hoping now he could finish making his point... he dropped his hand and looked up, just in time to get a face-full of cold tea. He automatically closed his eyes and kept them that way for a moment, sputtering out a bit of the tea before half-heartedly wiping his face.
"As I have already informed you, that's not a catch all excuse, Albus," she said coldly, though quieter than before. When he opened his eyes he saw her back was to him again, though he could see her reflection in the dark window she stared out of, arms crossed tightly, mouth clenched shut, glasses now clutched with the finally empty mug. She could go like this for hours, he knew. The problem was, he couldn't.
"Do you actually want me to leave, then?" he demanded, normal patience gone, tea still dripping into his beard.
"Yes!" she responded vehemently, then, as he showed signs of turning around, "No...Yes...Merlin, I don't know!" She turned to face him and ran her hand back through her sleek hair, dislodging the clip and sending the last few locks tumbling down. It was, he realized, the only time he'd ever seen her with her hair down outside of his quarters. Several hairs clung to her fingers, and as she quickly shook them off Albus remembered with a small pang that her hair fell out when she was stressed. At last she again looked him square in the eyes, jaw foreword, and stated quite plainly, "I'm mad at you."
He simply stared at her for a moment, slightly shocked, before he answered, sarcasm finding its way out. "Yes, I about gathered that about when you threw tea on me-"
She held up a hand and glared pointedly. "I'm mad that all of this is always happening, that it has to be you, always you, that when you say you can't say anything you're right, and I'm mad that you're always right. I'm mad that we'll never be...normal, I'm mad that I'm always on the verge of losing you, I'm mad that I love you through all of it when I should hate you, that I don't think I could live without you, that I can't be happy when you're away, that I can't just trust you-" her voice broke, and tears were streaming down her face now, so many that she couldn't continue.
Albus pulled her into his arms, and this time she didn't do anything to fight it, choosing instead to sob into his shoulder, dropping the mug and her glasses, the former of which shattered, to wrap her arms tightly around his neck. He rested his chin gently on her head, stoking her hair gently.
"You're only human, Minerva." he said firmly. "It's stupid of me to expect so much of you-""No, it's not-" contradicted a voice muffled by his robes.
"Yes, it is," he repeated, in a voice that revoked any argument. "I understand if you...If you want..." he finally faltered.
"Want to what?" she asked, resurfacing and sniffing slightly before half smiling, half grimacing, "Break if off? There's not even a point, Albus. Do we even have a relationship? We fight, have brilliant make-up sex, and for a few days, maybe even months, we're happy, or as happy as you and I can be. We pretend its platonic to anyone else, we never talk about anything that matters, and then it starts all over again. What do you call that?" she queried. She was still close enough that she felt, rather than heard, him sigh, before he answered, truthfully.
"I don't know. But I wouldn't trade it for the world."
"Neither would I," she sighed, leaning into him and once more closing her eyes. He placed a finger beneath her chin, this time successfully making contact, and gently angled her head back so that he could kiss her, softly. She barely responded before resting her head back on his shoulder, clearly exhausted.
"I promise, next time I'll tell you when I leave," he murmured, sliding a hand over one of hers. She squeezed back, hard.
A/N: So... yeah. I rather hate how the last quarter or so changes, but overall I think I got them how I wanted to show them. Dumbledore would never truly trust her, no matter how close they were, and she would resent that, but still love him...