Moments Worth Fighting For
by Bil!

PG – General – AD, MM – Oneshot
Summary: He loves to watch her teach. AD&MM friendship.
Disclaimer: All hail JKR.

Warning: Dumbledore-friendly zone. Don't like, don't read.

A/N: Half-Blood Prince? What's that? ...I have made no attempt to make this HBP or DH compliant, so I don't care if it isn't. Could really be set anywhere between the first and second Voldemort wars, but I thought of it as happening within a couple of years of Harry's first year. Can be considered romance or friendship, whatever floats your boat.

He loves to watch her teach. It's something of a guilty pleasure, since a Headmaster really oughtn't watch his Transfiguration professor except during her annual review, but it is nevertheless a true pleasure. Albus was never one to believe in fate or destiny, hence his great scepticism over divination which even the existence of real life prophecies can't quite eliminate; he would rather believe it is in each person's power to create his own life of his own free will (and, yes, his own mistakes as well). But sometimes he can forget that when he watches Minerva teach, because it is easy to believe that this is exactly where she was born to be.

It's there in the way she controls a class with her voice, in the way she can lecture while picking up on the details of three separate surreptitious conversations, in the way she not merely has eyes in the back of her head but also a near-clairvoyant ability to stop trouble before it has even begun. But mostly it's in her.

Some women, when they are excited, their voices rise in pitch. Not Minerva. As she becomes passionate her voice deepens, her brogue thickens. He's seen (heard) it many a time, in 'discussions' (her euphemistic term for their arguments), in joy, in anger. And he sees it here in the classroom, the way her voice drops as she warms to her topic and becomes rich with undertones of enthusiasm. The thrill that draws out her 'r's as a student suddenly grasps a tricky concept and sets to work with a will. The delight that strengthens her Scottish lilt when a student asks, genuinely interested, an intelligent question or receives back an essay with a well-deserved 'A'.

The set-backs, the frustrations, the hard work... They're all very real, and Minerva is hardly the only teacher Albus has quietly consoled with a glass of something strong and wholly forbidden to students. But for Minerva the triumphs are worth the failures, and she loves what she does. That is why Albus loves to watch her teach.

The last of the students stampede off to lunch and Albus smiles, waits a moment to ensure none will return to retrieve some misplaced belonging, then drops his disillusionment and steps forward to where Minerva sits at her desk, piling up assignment scrolls. She doesn't hear his step, intent on her work, and for a moment he just observes her fondly. Then he speaks her name.

She jumps and looks up sharply, then relaxes and smiles at him. "Albus," she says, the remnants of satisfaction roughening her voice still. "I thought you would have left with the students."

"One day," he tells her, standing beside her desk and looking down at her with a smile, "I shall convince you to tell me how you alone of my acquaintance can see through my cloaking spells."

She taps her nose with the tip of her quill, her smile turning secretive and cat-smug. "One day," she says lightly, "I may even tell you the truth."

He laughs. It is the reason he allows himself the indulgence of watching her teach: because she knows he is there. Could she not detect him he could not do it – he knows his own power, knows how easy it would be to become sure it gives him rights beyond anyone else's. The same weaknesses that allowed Tom Riddle to become Voldemort are also there within Albus himself and though he was lucky enough to avoid poor Tom's destructive childhood, the adulation of the masses in his adulthood could so easily allow him to turn towards that slippery slope.

So this power welling up within him should only be used when he is observed. That is why he will never truly press her to tell him how she detects him, even though it is a weakness that should be fixed and could one day destroy him; the flaw is too precious a thing to be rid of, because it marks him as human. And if Minerva could no longer detect him he could no longer watch her teach and Albus will gladly court future disaster for the continuation of this foolish but beloved pleasure.

"You make me human," he tells her softly.

She smiles at him and a hundred thousand tiny moments of friendship – sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible, but never in doubt – lurk in that smile. "That is why today is not the day I tell you. Besides, that is quite fair since you remind me what it is to be young."

"I? Minerva, I am by far the oldest person in this school."

"And being surrounded by so much youth and energy has an alarming tendency to make me feel old and jaded in comparison – particularly when I am giving the Weasley twins their third detention in a week." He nodded a little; she was the children's disciplinarian, not their friend. Whatever she might wish. "But when you come sneaking into my classroom for no reason other than because you can..."

"You mistake, Minerva," he says, lightly but truthfully. "There is another reason entirely and that reason is you."

She rolls her eyes and he loves that there is one person who thinks he is an idiot and not 'the greatest wizard of modern times'. "I'll alert the Daily Prophet and let them know the Headmaster of Hogwarts has become a stalker," she says dryly.

"My dear Minerva, I am shocked, deeply shocked, that you could accuse me of such a thing!" She arches an eyebrow, lips thinning in her attempt to keep from smiling. "It is hardly 'stalking' when you know very well I am there."

The eyebrow rises even higher in such thinly-veiled incredulity that he chuckles. "If that is your only argument, Albus, then you are making a very poor defence."

He holds out a hand to her, sincere and earnest in a vulnerability he seldom allows himself except around her. "Tell me to stop, Minerva, and I shall do so."

Taking his hand, she lets him gently tug her to her feet and clasps his hand between hers, smiling at him. "Did I wish you to stop, Albus, you would already know it."

Of that he has little doubt. Minerva has no compunction in letting him know when she is displeased. Or when he is wrong. He smiles. "I don't know what I would do without you, my dear."

"No," she agrees. "I don't know what you would do without me either."

He laughs and tucks her hand into his arm so he can lead her to the door. "I hope I never need find out. I would be lost without you, Minerva."

"Flattery," she informs him tartly, "will get you nowhere."

The warmth of her skin penetrates his robes, and he thinks that these are the moments worth fighting for, when all is just as it should be. "Will it get me a charming companion at lunch?"

A cat-smug smile coils in the corners of her mouth. "Perhaps."

They stroll the corridor on a wave of laughing, chattering children, conversations rolling around them in a groundswell of sound. Albus leans closer to her. "Are we still on for chess this evening?"

Her voice deepens as she smiles. "Of course."

Albus smiles back, content.