Delayed Celebration

"It appears I must attend to the Ministry tomorrow," Albus announced with a sigh. "Will you be willing to take care of everything here while I"m away?"

"Tomorrow?" Minerva asked.

Her heart sunk. She stared down at her papers, hoping to appear intent on her work.

"Of course, Albus," she replied, barely glancing up at him as she fumbled idly through the parchment in her hands.

He thanked her and began to drone on about the various duties that would be required of him, as well as the potential benefits of this if the Ministry would agree to his methods... Minerva, however, barely registered a word. Tomorrow, of all days! Why then? Sure, she had never put much stock in the importance of birthdays, at least when they were her own, and she had never actually enjoyed the awkward attention being placed on her, but at least Albus's presence had always managed to bring particular sweetness to an otherwise bitter and disappointing day. Still, she couldn't blame him for forgetting the significance of tomorrow's date; it wasn't as if she had made a point to remind him, after all. Perhaps it was better this way...

"I expect I'll return around midnight or later," Albus stated, sounding as if he were finally reaching the end of his one-sided diatribe.

Minerva only nodded, keeping her head low and her eyes focused on the same blurred paragraph she had read over ten minutes ago.

"I realize, obviously, that tomorrow is your birthday," Albus went on, "but..."

Minerva's head shot up.

"You do?"

He narrowed his eyes in confusion at her for a moment before giving a chuckle.

"Of course I do," he exclaimed. "What kind of husband would I be if I forgot my own wife's birthday?"

She shrugged slightly. She had heard warnings all her life that men were apparently incapable of remembering important occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, so she had assumed that this was simply something all husbands did.

"I assure you," he urged, "if there were a way I could avoid this..."

"I understand," she replied with what she hoped sounded like nonchalance. "Besides, birthdays are not particularly as special as people make them out to be."

"Ah, on the contrary, my dear!" he countered. "Your birthday is possibly the most important day of the year."

She raised an eyebrow at him but allowed him to explain.

"You see, your birthday celebrates the day you were born, and if you had never been born, Minerva... Well, I prefer not to think on such dreadful things."

Her lips curved into a small, yet somewhat sad, smile.

"Don't worry. I may not be here for your actual birthday, but this simply means we'll get to celebrate especially lavishly upon my return," he assured her with a wink.

When Minerva awoke early the next morning, Albus was indeed already gone; his side of the bed had by now lost its warmth. In his place was a small bouquet of assorted wildflowers resting against his pillow. She smiled to herself as she brought them close to breath in their sweet, earthy scent, knowing that, just as she preferred, Albus had picked them himself in the place of bringing her more impersonal store-bought flowers. The attached card, scrawled in Albus's own flowy handwriting, stirred the depths Minerva's heart, despite its simplicity and brevity:

Have a happy birthday, my love. I look forward to celebrating with you, both now and in our many years to come. Never forget how special you are; of course, if ever you do lose sight of this, I will always be here to remind you. – Albus

The End (?)

A/N: Honestly, if you like this, it wouldn't take very much to persuade me to write one more chapter for this story. Let me know either way.