Not my characters. They belong to the fabulous J.K. Rowling.
A very subtle sequel to "A Long Road".
Please enjoy the first chapter of a story that has been brewing in my head for months now. There will be many many more.
A Private Affair
Chapter One: Hensley Manor
The music was soft, jazzy. It penetrated the room, making the entire ballroom of Hensley Manor feel soft, easy and sensual. In the corner, a young woman sang along with her band. It was a swank event. Everyone was having a grand time.
Minerva wore red, crimson red—the color of love and sometimes hatred. It highlighted the gentle white of her skin and the deep rouge of her lips. Against her dark hair, there seemed to be a fire, built of deep flames and smoke. She knew she was beautiful.
A clean glass of red wine met her lips. She let it slip down her throat gently and then cradled the glass with her right hand. It was a party. A very particular party, meant for ministry officials and those who had made a name for themselves. This was not the first year she had been invited of her own accord—it was the third. At the tender age of twenty-five, this was something to be very proud of. Besides the odd date of some of the younger men, she was possibly the youngest female in the room—and this fact did not escape anyone's attention.
"Professor," a voice came from behind her. She knew the man immediately, though it was not the murmur of the man she expected.
Minerva turned around slowly with a gentle smile on her face. Fifty-odd years-old and he looked not a day older than forty—Merlin knows how he kept himself looking so young. Whether it was potions or simply good genes, she didn't know. He was short and on the plumper side, but a good looking man nonetheless. "I was wondering if I'd see anyone I knew," she smiled. "You'll be glad to know that I've decided to use your last article in my syllabus."
He exaggerated a frown, "Mine? Why would you want to use my ground-breaking research?" he smiled, his teeth just ever so slightly off center.
"Oh hush," she giggled. "Don't get too cocky. That's a damn good way to make enemies and here would be a good place to do it."
The man shrugged, his perfectly well tailored gray robes shifting down past his fingertips. "I don't need them to change how the study of magic is approached."
"But you do need them to be published," she raised an eyebrow, followed by a small sip of her wine. He was flirting with her, of course. Minerva didn't mind. After all, what were parties of that magnitude for? It was all in good fun, though; a game for an older man. "Are you here with anyone?"
He nodded. "As a matter of fact, I am and she's quite remarkable. She works in the ministry just like the rest of them here, but I won't hold that against her," he grinned. "Agnes Burnham is her name. She's only thirty-six and Merlin knows what she sees in me, but uh, she said all right when I asked her here. She's on the dance floor at the moment," he pointed, "with Albus Dumbledore."
The woman turned towards the center of the giant ballroom. "She's lovely," Minerva blinked. "I see you're both wearing gray."
He tapped his nose, "Silver. Yes, we went and chose our robes together. Is there anything as cute as that? Imagine. We've been dating for almost eight months, now."
"Congratulations," she smiled. "I'm glad to find that you're so happy, Berthold."
"Thank you," he nodded. "And what of you, Minerva? Are you here with anyone in particular? You certainly look gorgeous tonight."
She shook her head gently, "I am here on my own."
"What, no date for you? You've got to be the most eligible twenty-something year-olds I've ever met and you don't have a date to the biggest night of the ministry? I can't believe that you didn't receive any offers."
Minerva took a slow slip from her glass, never taking her eyes off the man dancing with Agnes Burnham. "Oh I had plenty of offers. I merely declined them all," she smiled and looked at him coolly. "People think that because I live at the castle now that I don't have any sort of love life."
"So there is a someone?"
Her head snapped up quickly out of the relaxed daze she was in to look at the man. "Let's be honest, Berthold. I've never dated much and I'm just as happy with a good book as with a man. Hogwarts suits me."
He chuckled, "You always did like the work."
Those on the dance floor stopped dancing, seeing as how the band stopped playing. Some clapped, some dispersed. The pair of Albus Dumbledore and Agnes Burnham approached Minerva and Berthold. Agnes went straight to Berthold's arms while Albus stood in front of them, leaving some distance between him and Minerva.
"Is this treasure yours, Berthold?" Albus smiled after sticking a hand out for Berthold to shake.
"Indeed she is."
"She's absolutely enchanting. You should keep her." He looked at Minerva for that last bit, though no one but she could have noticed. His attention turned back towards the pair, "I can see what a pair you two must make: you're brilliant and she's a delight."
"Well thank you," Berthold smiled. "She is a delight. And she makes me happy," he said with a gentle air, as if he was speaking only to his girl. He looked up at Albus, "You should find someone for yourself, you know."
Albus shook his head. "I'm happy where I am. Women just complicate the situation. I'd rather just spend the time and energy on the school."
He pursed his lips to the side. "That's too bad. You and Minerva, both, seem to share the same opinion. Is that what the school is, what it does to people? Make them forget how to have fun and make love?"
"Sh!" Agnes giggled, "How many drinks have you had, Bert?" She had a deep, somewhat seductive voice, which did not suit her blonde hair and blue eyes. Minerva would have expected something higher, more melodious. The two of them began giggling. Indeed, Berthold had had several drinks.
"Just three or four."
"I think you need some water," she whispered. She looked at Minerva and Albus and nodded, "I'll take him to get some water. We wouldn't want him to get too much in his system tonight. Tomorrow is a big day!" she glowed. "It's been lovely, meeting you."
"Have a good night," Albus nodded.
And they left, curiously radiating a deep happiness that could only be construed as love, or maybe lust. They were quite happy. Minerva was glad for her friend. He deserved to find happiness.
Minerva and Albus looked at one another with curious expressions on their faces. Had anyone looked close enough, they may have found similar appearances to those of Agnes and Berthold. The woman took another sip from her glass, staring closely at the man, hiding her facial expression. He fancied her—his blue eyes told her so and his body language confirmed it. He took a step towards her, and then put out a hand. She put her glass of wine in his; he placed it on the nearest table. "You're dancing with me, Professor. And that's that," he instructed.
A smile played at her lips as she gave him her hand. She whispered back seductively, "I wouldn't dream of arguing with you, Headmaster."
He led her. He always led her. Right to the outskirts opposite of where they were standing, he led her and took one of her hands, placing his other hand on her waist. She draped an arm on his shoulder, sliding her fingers on the back of his neck. This was where she had wanted to be all night, in his arms. His hands seemed to say the same thing back. He craved her touch and scent just as much as she craved his.
The music was soft, the sort of thing that was forged by lovers to withstand time. It was all strings.
He was wearing black with a rose pinned to his breast and his hair was tied back with a matching red ribbon. Black wasn't his color, but it was a formal event, so no one could have thought anything of it. The man was tall, handsome and charming—he was the man she loved.
His blue eyes stared at hers and a knowing smile crossed his lips. "You look lovely tonight, Professor."
Minerva bit her lip gently to avoid blushing—not that she succeeded. "Thank you, Headmaster." He squeezed her hip gently and she blinked softly as a familiar urge hit her system. Her eyelashes flew in the air as she spoke in a low register to the man, "I must say your choice in clothing isn't nearly as festive as it tends to be at these sorts of things."
"Well the reasoning for that is simple," he leaned in to her ear, "my date says that she prefers to avoid attention, which is an interesting statement, given the sex appeal she seems to be radiating tonight. She's been turning nearly everyone's head."
"Oh really?" she raised an eyebrow. "Who's your date?"
Albus smiled softly, "I would tell you, except I swore to her that I wouldn't."
Her lips parted as she smiled, knowing well that red was spreading across the entirety of her face. This was silly, she realized, but part of her really enjoyed the game that they were playing.
"You must really love her," she whispered gently so only he could hear.
The man nodded his head and winked discretely, "Your face is red, Professor. Are you feeling warm?"
She swallowed gently and glanced out the door that led to the balcony. "I am a bit warm. Maybe I'll go outside for a breath of fresh air."
"Ah," he nodded and raised an eyebrow. "But you'll wait until this song is over, I hope?" his warm, charming voice wafted through the air.
She cleared her throat when she realized her mouth was open, as slight as it was. "No, I wouldn't dream of deserting good company." The two of them smiled, aware of the secret that they shared. She didn't want to leave him—she was far too in love to want to leave the man. And what's more was that he felt nothing but the deepest affection and esteem for her. They were lovers in disguise.
"Tell me, Professor, how have you enjoyed your first two weeks at Hogwarts?" he asked kindly.
Her lips pouted gently and then returned to a smile. "I've enjoyed myself immensely. The staff is wonderful—thank you for your syllabi, by the way. I'm afraid that I've had to rearrange things for my style of approach, but it was nice for you to give me a place to start." Her fingers absent-mindedly played with his right ear; his eyes closed for a second too long in response to her touch. "I've noticed that you've taken to dropping in on occasion during classes. How do you think I'm doing?"
His blue eyes twinkled gently, "Well, Miss McGonagall, I think that I made the right decision in hiring you. Many of the students seem quite uh, taken with your techniques."
She let out a small chuckle, "You mean I'm distracting to some of the students? I've already confiscated eight notes. Eight," she rolled her eyes. The man started laughing. "It's not funny, Albus Dumbledore! I feel like half the bloody student population is drooling over me and the fact that I'm strict only spurns them on, like it's something they fantasize about."
His face was red from the laughter that he was desperately trying to keep under control—not that he was doing well. He spun her out from his chest as a means of avoiding her challenging gaze. In spite of herself, she smiled as she curled into the man he brought her in an extra half spin, making her back touch his chest with his arm cross the whole of her abdomen. "It's not funny," she whispered now that she was close enough to do so.
"Ah, but it is," he breathed. "I'm only glad that I know I don't have to worry about that sort of thing with you, you being in a committed relationship. I don't know how I'd handle the dreaded student-teacher affair."
"Oh har-har," she smiled. "I forced that out of my system a long time ago. Seven years now, I believe. And if I'm not mistaken, it wasn't for naught."
He uncurled her half a turn to put them back in a waltzing position. "No," he shook his head, "I don't believe it was."
The music stopped playing, though the two of them did not break immediately. They had one last moment, looking at one another without veiling their deep affection. And then they each clapped along with the rest of the crowd. Minerva nodded her head gently, "I'll go and get some air. I imagine that I'll be out there for quite a while."
"Go," he grinned tenderly. "I think I may have another dance or two before I make myself scarce, if you can abide by that?"
"I hope you enjoy yourself," she whispered. "I'll be in the garden."
She smiled a triumphant, witting smile as she broke from the man's warm, engaging presence and walked towards the balcony. She stopped on the edge of the banister, looking over the sunflowers that filled the land. Sunflowers and brick were all that lived down there, but she had some wonderful memories amongst those elements. She continued descending on the marble stairs that curved into the garden.
There weren't many people in the area, except perhaps for the odd pair of lovers who had found themselves a spot amongst the greenery. She walked past them leisurely, hoping to avoid attention both for herself and for them. Minerva had not realized in the year before just how romantic this garden was. Who would have thought that a weed like the sunflower could provide such seclusion?
She found a low-lying head and cupped it with her hand.
Minerva could recall with perfect detail the kiss that they shared in the garden and the way that he held her, coaxed her, moved her only last year. He knew how to kiss, that was for certain. And he knew how to set the mood; he chose his spot. This spot, which was conveniently open and waiting for them. The moonlight was not the same as the year before—it had been much earlier in the evening last year when they found one another. No, the shadows were less pronounced this time: the clock bordered on one.
The woman sat on a stone bench and looked at the sky. She could see stars, millions of them. If they were in the city, such a thing would never be possible, but in the Welsh countryside, not being able to see them would be a crime. Lovely, that's what it was.
"Minerva?" a gentle voice called from the brick path.
Her head flipped down. "Gwen?" her eyes grew large at the sight of a former classmate and fellow Gryffindor. Immediately she stood up and rushed over to hug the closest thing she had to a best friend while in school.
"How are you?" Minerva smiled. She was genuinely happy to be seeing Gwenella Paige, who had earned quite a bit of fame for herself, simply by doing what she was good at: dating. She had been featured in multiple magazines, having had relationships with musicians, mostly, though there were some extremely public affairs with some top officials of the Dutch and German Ministries of Magic. It was no surprise that she could catch the eye of any man.
She was lovely. An oblong face with dimples, her hair was light, though not quite blond. She had brown eyes and a short upper lip; her teeth were straight. Tonight, she was wearing pink and it suited her; her skin was not pale. "I'm doing well. Currently looking for a man, of all things," she giggled. "Said he'd meet me out here, but he didn't have the common sense to tell me precisely where."
Gwen had perhaps had something to drink, but that sort of talk was exactly how she had always carried on. It was always about the boys. "How are you fairing?" she asked Minerva. "It's been what, three years?"
Minerva nodded her head. "Something of that nature. I'm doing well. I'm teaching at Hogwarts, now. Transfiguration."
"Oh!" her face lit up. "Still brilliant, I see. How is Professor Dumbledore?"
Caught off guard by the question, she blinked curiously and took a step back. "Professor Dumbledore is now Headmaster Dumbledore, and he's doing," she swallowed, "well. Why do you ask?"
She shrugged, "I was just curious. You know, I always thought you had a soft spot for him, the way that you spent so much time with him outside of class. Did nothing ever amount, there?"
Minerva cleared her throat, realizing her mouth to be hanging open. She swallowed. "We are very good friends and happy to be so."
A very wide grin fell on Gwenella's face and a spark flitted into her eyes. She knew. She could tell. She had been in love enough times to see it on another woman's face. More than that, Minerva couldn't lie point-blank and it showed. The woman brought her head close to Minerva's and she began speaking a low whisper, "You're screwing Albus Dumbledore?"
Minerva shook her head, at a loss for what else to do or say.
"You are!" she jumped up and down excitedly. "You are fucking Albus Dumbledore!" she giggled.
The dark haired woman grabbed the other by the arm and led her to the bench, sitting her down. She brought her free hand to her mouth and touched her finger to her lips. Gwenella stiffened and clasped her lips together. This was not meant to be public knowledge.
Minerva took in a deep breath, figuring that the whole truth may as well be told before Gwen had the opportunity to fill in the blanks on her own. She whispered matter-of-factly to her nosey friend, "Albus and I have been seeing each other for a year now. We are very happy without anyone knowing, but seeing as how you've managed to guess it, all I can do is ask you to keep it a secret. Unless of course you'd like me to erase your memory of it," she raised an eyebrow. "I am absolutely not joking."
Gwenella swallowed, "Why the secret?"
That was easy to answer, though not easy to articulate. She looked up at the sky with all of its stars and then back down at a girl who she believed was her friend. Minerva smiled sadly, "It would be scandalous for everyone to find out that I'm in a relationship with the headmaster. He did not put me on staff because I am having an affair with him, but because I deserve it." She reflected for a short second, "I'm afraid that the world would misconstrue the situation, however, if they found out. Self preservation, Gwen."
The woman nodded her head slowly, processing the information, "Well, sure," she blinked, "that makes sense. A year?" she stared at Minerva incredulously.
Minerva bowed her head once and brought it up again. "Please don't share this information with anyone. Least of all whoever it is you're meeting out here."
"No," she shook her head. "I won't. You have my word." Her eyes were sincere, as if she among all people would understand the importance of a secret, though Minerva knew otherwise. Gwenella Paige could not keep a secret in school and made publicity her means of income now that she was older. It was a mistake, believing Gwen, but Minerva hadn't the heart to just wipe her memory. Perhaps all she had to do was trust in the woman—then all would turn out for the best.
Minerva faked a smile, "Thank you, Gwen." Before her old friend had a chance to ask any more questions, the woman changed the subject quickly: "Who is it that you're meeting, anyhow?"
"One of the Black boys. Aethston. He's interested in the Dark Arts, which of course interests me," she raised an eyebrow and shifted her body, perhaps at the thought of the man, which of course made Minerva cringe just a little. She had no love for people that slept around; there was nothing as sickening as that. Love was not a game.
Gwenella's gaze shifted beyond her fellow female before a comment could be made. Minerva felt the presence of a new figure behind her. Gwen let her know just who it was, though she knew by some sort of instinct already. "Hello Professor Dumbledore. Lovely night, isn't it?"
"Uh, yes," he nodded, ever so slightly confused both by the statement and the darkness of the area.
Minerva turned to face him and his puzzled look went away. He no doubt found who he was looking for and suddenly the face of the second woman must have clicked in his mind, for he needed no second introduction to one of his former students. "How are you, Miss Paige?"
A knowing smile came on her face as Albus walked up next to Minerva, though the space between them was kept relatively large. "I am doing quite well, Professor. I'm waiting quite patiently for a man at the moment and Minerva was so kind to keep me company. It seems to me that the person she's been waiting for has just arrived."
Minerva cleared her throat uncomfortably.
The quizzical look came back on the man's face, "Well we did agree to go back to the castle together, out of convenience."
"I'll bet," she raised an eyebrow. "I'll leave you to it, then," she sat up from the bench. "I'm off to find Aethston Black. Have a nice evening." She leaned forward and hugged Minerva, who was at odds whether or not to respond, though she did in the end. Gwen looked at Minerva, then Albus again, "Good night." And she swayed, rather than walked, down the path. The two were silent until she was out of earshot.
Albus stared at Minerva, as if waiting for her to explain. Teachers were good at that expression; Albus was particularly adept, being equipped with penetrating eyes. The woman shrugged, "She guessed." A short, terrified laugh escaped her lips as she shook her head, "I couldn't deny it. I made her swear to secrecy—do you think I should have wiped her memory?"
The man shook his head, "No. Neither one of us would feel right about doing that. Besides, there's nothing for her to gain in telling anyone."
Minerva nodded her head. He was right. He always was right. She did not necessarily feel better. "Okay," she whispered before taking a step towards him and grasping his hands in her own. They fit hers well. She would push it out of her mind. Right now, she was with the man that she always wanted and there would be no use in worrying about a woman who couldn't keep a secret. Minerva raised an eyebrow as she took in the scent surrounding the man, "Who else, may I ask, received the honor of dancing with Albus Dumbledore tonight? You smell like strawberries."
"Wouldn't you like to know?" he teased. He raised an eyebrow when she glared at him, "Are you jealous?"
She shook her head from side to side, being slightly in denial. "I have no reason to be jealous. I'm just curious."
The man chuckled, taking her hands and placing them behind her back. He leaned into her ear, "If you must know, I danced with the Minister's wife and Edith Smith, who is to be Edith Beltham in a month. You've no need to worry. I only have eyes for you."
A wide, unintentional smile came across her mouth. He was right; she was a little bit jealous, though she had no fear that he would be taken from her. He had waited for her and she had waited for him. She had no reason to think she would have to fight for him, not against another woman. Minerva decided to accept it, for she knew he had nothing to hide. "Thank you for telling me," she whispered. "I'm silly. Shall we go home?"
"Indeed we should," he smiled. "You're too beautiful for your own good tonight. I'd like to take advantage."
She raised an eyebrow, "It's a school night, Albus."
"Well then we'll have to be quick, won't we?" he whispered before kissing her gently on the lips.
The woman giggled under his touch and they were gone.
They walked next to one another as they passed through the doors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They refrained from words, having already agreed that anything they said could be overheard by both ghosts and paintings; they were not safe. To any passerby, had there been one, they would have seen two professors, walking determinedly towards a fixed destination: Minerva's office. They walked down the corridor together.
Minerva turned the knob.
Albus followed her inside, closing the door behind him. He watched casually as she rummaged through her stash of books, searching meticulously for one article in particular. A smile played at his lips: he was being crafty. "I don't need it right this second, Minerva," he breathed.
She turned to face him, her face flustered. He loved that look on her face. "If I don't get it now, I'll forget, Albus." She didn't wait for an answer, but rather, turned towards another shelf.
He smiled, making sure to note every detail of her: the moonlight on her skin, the red in her cheeks, the certain wild, frantic nature with which she attacked life. Beautiful, that's what she was. She knew it, too; she was a humble girl, but she knew when she drove him mad with desire.
The man slid his hands around her slim waist and her wild movements seemed to stiffen, then relax. He felt her inhale beneath his fingertips. A smiled played on his lips as he kissed her neck, sucking gently on the firm, pale flesh. She couldn't say no once he got so far. "Albus?" she breathed.
"Turn around," he whispered gently.
She did. She turned slowly, then ran both arms up his chest and over his shoulders. Her smile was beautiful, her love apparent.
"Good," he grinned.
He took his right hand and lifted her chin before leaning down to kiss her moist lips. He didn't dare allow himself to press too hard, though he may have wanted to. He felt her arms tighten around his neck, begging him to lean in closer, but he didn't. There was something delicate about the situation. "Minerva," he blinked, fully aware of what he intended to say and dreading the answer, ever so slightly, "I wonder if you would be willing to marry me?"
She loosened her grip on the man and stared at him, open mouthed. The woman swallowed, "What?"
Albus cleared his throat as he grabbed the rose at his breast. The second it touched his hand, it was transfigured into a very simple ring. When he looked at the woman again, a tear was falling down her face. "Will you marry me?" he whispered.
Minerva breathed in her tears and nodded her head. "Yes, yes I will," she sniffed.
He slid the ring onto the appropriate finger, then looked into her deep green eyes. He had seen love in her eyes many times, but this was something completely different. This was forever—a promise that he told himself he would make, should they ever find their way back to one another again. It perhaps was a future too hopeful for her to expect. But he was giving it to her, because she deserved it. And he loved her. He loved her more than anything else.
The man leaned down to kiss her; she pushed herself up. Her hot tongue flooded into his mouth to meet his own with amorous intentions. They intertwined, wantonly, hungrily, heatedly as his hands trailed down her magnificent figure, beginning with her breasts, then her waist, ending between her legs. Her breathing became louder, more desperate. He scrunched up her robes, bit by bit until they were at her thighs and he could feel her burning skin. His hands cupped her buttocks and lifted her onto the desk. Her legs were welcomed as they wrapped around his waist and pulled his pelvis up to hers. He felt the heat radiating between them.
A satisfied groan escaped her mouth as their lips broke apart. Her hands shifted his robes off of his shoulders, which he allowed to fall to the floor. Fingers shaking with excitement, he attempted to unbutton the only thing keeping his chest covered. The woman let out a short laugh and kissed him quickly on the mouth.
"I'll do it," she whispered, though she could not hide the pleasure in her voice.
Please R&R. I adore you all.