Chapter 3

Despite being fully sated and particularly well-rested (or perhaps, rather, because of it), Minerva had found it quite difficult to pry herself out of bed that morning when her well-meaning husband had insisted on them rising for the day at the crack of dawn so that they could prepare for their picnic to celebrate her belated birthday. By the time Minerva managed to get out of bed, Albus was already fully dressed and ready to go. Though he was noticeably eager, he was patient with her as he waited. His heart stirred as he watched her brush her long, silky hair and put it up in its customary bun. He longed to request that she leave her hair down for the day, but knowing that she would adamantly refuse, he refrained from mentioning it and instead took delight in the fact that at least the bun was indeed softer today than usual. Perhaps he could persuade her to leave it down for his birthday, he mused with a grin.

"I'm ready," she said, wondering at the playful smile blossoming on his face but deciding not to question it.

"You look beautiful," he told her, taking her hands into his own.

Albus did not miss the tiny flicker of doubt that sparked for just a moment in her eyes. He had always found that there was something so heartbreaking about a person who could not see her own beauty; the case was particularly true for Minerva.

"You are beautiful," he assured her.

She pursed her lips together lightly, but Albus's heart warmed to see that it was with a smile. She linked her arm with his so they could begin their journey.

Minerva found it difficult not to complain when Albus insisted that they only Apparate so far and then walk the rest of the distance to their destination. In an effort to remain cooperative and grateful, she resolved herself to keep quiet about her frustrations over the steep climb and unkept weeds that made it increasingly arduous to see the prudence in Albus's plan, but when her foot tangled in a wild vine, causing her to trip and almost fall to the ground, her already frayed patience finally gave way.

"Why didn't we just Apparate the entire way?" Minerva seethed. "We are capable of magic, for Merlin's sake! There is no reason we should be hiking through this wilderness when we could have been there over ten minutes ago!"

Albus stopped in his tracks and sighed somewhat sadly.

"I had hoped you would enjoy the scenery," he said, gesturing around them.

"Sure, what lovely weeds, Albus! When I plunge to my death because of them, I hope you can still pause to enjoy the 'scenery'!"

"You're missing the beauty of it," he replied calmly, hoping to keep from feeding the fire of her fury even more. "Look around you. Pay attention..."

She opened her mouth to complain but instead decided to heed his suggestion. She took a deep, cleansing breath as a gentle breeze tugged at her outer robes. She conceded, though only to herself, that she had possibly been overly quick to dismiss the beauty in the lush greens of the grass and trees, the eloquent melodies of various songbirds nesting overhead, and the pure, bright blue of the morning sky, unmatched in color except by Albus's own sapphire orbs...

Minerva merely nodded, reluctant to admit her mistake after making such a scene, but Albus knew she understood.

After they had walked for only a minute or two more, he stepped before her and happily declared "We're here." His smile was small but bright as he took her hand and led her to the open space where he had already prepared their picnic. She could not help but laugh softly at the large array of colorful balloons hovering around their picnic blanket.

They sat down together, and for a moment, a slight fear rose in Minerva as she was reminded of all the work-related duties she should probably be doing instead, but when Albus placed his hand back in hers and kissed it tenderly, her fears were chased away just as quickly as they had arrived.

"It's lovely here," she said, keeping her voice quiet as if careful not to disturb the moment.

"I wandered here once on accident," he explained, adopting the same hushed tone, "and I knew that the only thing that could make it more perfect would be having you here with me... I was right, you know."

Minerva dropped her head to hide the blush that nipped at her cheeks. He smoothed his thumb over her heated flesh, delighting in the way her features seemed to soften.

"Are you hungry?" he asked, reaching for the picnic basket he had prepared.

She nodded and helped him to spread the food containers out before them.

They conversed easily as they ate and, of course, sipped champagne. A drowsy lull fell upon them like a warm, heavy blanket. Minerva sighed happily as she sank onto her back and stared up at the vast blue sky. She couldn't remember the last time she had lain carefree on the ground, but here in this moment, with Albus right beside her, not even her birthday, which usually served as a reminder of how old she was becoming, could erase the youthful spirit that filled her. She closed her eyes and allowed her thoughts to be swept away by the soft breeze cooled from the rushing river nearby.

Darkness cast overhead, and Minerva opened her eyes to Albus blocking the sun as he leaned over her.

"Mind if I join you?" he asked with a chuckle.


He crushed his lips against hers before rolling over to rest at his side.

"Promise me we'll come back again soon."

"We're not leaving yet," he reminded her, smoothing her hair lovingly.

"You know what I mean," she replied with a grin.

He nodded. Indeed, it was if they were missing the peaceful surroundings already, as if the magic there was already beginning to slip through their fingers.

"We'll just have to have a reason to celebrate here again soon," he suggested, winking at her.

"I'm sure we'll think of something," she said, laughing as he nuzzled into the curve of her neck.

"Oh, I'm certain we will..." he replied before placing a kiss on her jaw. "Happy birthday, my love."

The End