Albus Dumbledore made his way from his office to his Deputy's. No matter what she said, he knew she was not going to be doing much sleeping tonight; at least not until she talked to someone. Without even knocking, he entered her chambers to find her sitting at her dresser.
Minerva McGonagall hardly even noticed him enter. She just stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her long dark hair lay on her shoulder; her brush in hand. McGonagall seemed to be staring herself down.
"Minerva, we need to talk." Dumbledore took a seat on her sofa, giving her room. At first, she just stared at her reflection, not even responding. Nearly ten minutes later, she finally started to speak.
"He called me Minerva." She turned to face him, rising from her chair.
"I know, Harry told me." Dumbledore wanted so bad to comfort her, but he knew it would be out of line. She needed space right now. It surprised him though when she came and sat beside him.
"I cannot see Tom in him any longer, but I heard it in his voice tonight. I think I took him by surprise, but why didn't he kill me?" Finally losing all control, McGonagall leaned on his shoulder and cried. Dumbledore wrapped his comforting arms around her. Perhaps he was wrong- maybe she did need someone. Kissing her on the temple, he let her cry her heart out. After a few moments, she spoke again.
"All those years ago, I really believed he was worth it; that he could be loved. Now, seeing who he had become, I do not even think he could feel love. He told me, when we split, he would get me one day, one day when he ruled the world. But he had me alone tonight- why didn't he kill me then?" For once Dumbledore did not have an answer. He himself was asking the same question. They sat in silence for a while; just what both of them needed.
Lord Voldemort shut himself in his room at the Riddle Manor. It could not have been her. Dumbledore had always kept her on a short, tight leash; never letting her near him. His threat to "get her" must have been fresh on her mind because she did not try to fight. The girl he knew in school never backed down.
When he became Voldemort and left school, he did his best to put those seven years behind him- even if it meant the people too. This had been working until tonight, when she stepped in. Maybe it was her voice; the way she said his name. He never liked his Muggle name, but the way she spoke, he never wanted to change it. It was either that or her eyes. That determined, hard stare that had made her his girl- the only one strong enough to hang on to his crazy ride. The only one.
Voldemort slammed his fist against the door. He had to get her out of his mind- it was ruining his name and everything he had worked for. He had to concentrate on breaking Dumbledore and then killing Harry Potter. Once they were out of the way, the world would be his. Even the Ministry could not stop him- Dumbledore and Potter were their only hope. Potter would be no trouble to kill as long as Dumbledore was gone, but the headmaster had proved to be more challenging. The only way to get him out of the way was to slowly break him down. There was only one way to do that; get an inside man.
Summoning Wormtail he sent for Severus Snape. It was time to test his true loyalties. The potions master came into the room with his head held high, a quality Voldemort had always liked about him. Most of his followers quivered and cowered at his feet, but Snape held his ground, but with respect. Snape bowed and kissed the hem of his master's robes.
"How can I be of assistance, my lord?"
"I need to know what holds Dumbledore together. You are still his right-hand man, are you not?"
"Of course master. I have told you before, he lives for the school and its students. The people keep him going." Snape looked directly in Voldemort's eyes. Voldemort usually took advantage of this and read their minds, but Snape had always blocked him, but not today.
"Tell me everything Severus. Open your mind- what are you hiding from me?" For a moment, he thought he would break but he did not.
"Master, there is nothing left to tell you. He lives for the wizarding community and to stop you. This is all I know. In all the years I have been around him-"
"You should have picked up more than that! Maybe this will help refresh your memory. Crucio!" Voldemort thrust out his wand yelling the curse. Snape hit the ground, but never made sound.
"Tough are we? I should have no reason to doubt you Snape, but I feel you are hiding something. Crucio!" This time Snape let his guard down, and bits and pieces of memories surfaced in his mind. Voldemort read him like a book. Holding the unforgivable curse longer that usual had its effects. What he saw surprised him. It was a distant memory, very shaky and blurred but it proved something unexpected. Albus Dumbledore was in love, in love with the woman that had shaken Voldemort that very night. Minerva McGonagall.
"Master...I beg you!"
"Who do you belong to? Me or Albus Dumbledore! Make your choice- right here, right now." Anger spread through his body. The only reason Snape would hide this from him would be to protect Dumbledore. There was no denying it now. "Where is Dumbledore to save you now? I do not like traitors." Their eyes met for a moment and Voldemort read Snape's mind loud and clear. I am Dumbledore's man. But before he could curse him into hell, there was a sharp crack and Snape disappeared.
"Albus!" Snape came stumbling into the office taking no notice to the wide-awake Harry on the sofa. Dumbledore immediately rushed to his side just as he collapsed.
"Severus, what is it?" Dumbledore's blue eyes held a dark air to them.
"He-he found out. My cover is blown." Coughing, he tried to say more but the curse had caused quite a bit of damage. "Wh-where is-" Snape gasped in pain again. At least one of his ribs had to be broken. "Minerva- he knows."
"She is in her office, I would assume. Why? Is she in danger?" Dumbledore took one more look at Snape and then turned to Harry. "Harry, I need you to go fetch Madame Pomfrey." Snape’s eye's flickered toward his least favorite student, but was in too much pain to protest. Harry had a feeling that he would not be allowed to speak of this again. Rushing out of the room, he sprinted down to the Hospital Wing.
"What is going on?! Mr. Potter, what are you doing here?" The ever-busy nurse looked at Harry more in surprise, rather that anger.
"Professor Snape is hurt. He is in Dum- Professor Dumbledore's office. They need you immediately." Madame Pomfrey wasted no time gather needed items together and taking off to the headmaster's office. Enter the room; she was by Snape's side instantly performing spells Harry had never heard of before.
McGonagall was already there and as soon as Madame Pomfrey took over Snape, Dumbledore and she started into a deep conversation, leaving Harry to stand alone. It was not long until Madame Pomfrey had Dumbledore helping her move Snape back downstairs.
"Potter, you need to get some sleep. It has been a long day."
"Professor, I really don't want-" McGonagall shot him a look and he stopped in mid-sentence. Instead, he nodded and made his way back to his 'bed'. Realizing how tired he really was, he pulled up the blanket and tried to catch some sleep. He dozed off for about an hour, but was awakened to sharp, arguing voices.
"Albus, you can not just skirt around this." Dumbledore must have gotten back from the Hospital Wing.
"Minerva, as long as you are safe, it does not matter." Harry kept his back to them so they would not notice he was awake.
"But what if something happens? You have to promise me you will not do anything stupid!" He could tell McGonagall was trying to keep her voice down, but it was not going very well. Dumbledore must have made a face, because she said, "Do not look at me like that. I know how your heart gets in the way of your mind sometimes. And from what Severus said that is exactly what Voldemort wants. For you to make some reckless move to be noble."
"Minerva, don't do this."
"Don't do what? Tell the truth? You do this with Harry. Do not try to deny it. Every time he is in danger, you blame yourself and beat yourself up over it." The silence that followed told Harry she had struck home. After a couple of moments, McGonagall spoke again, this time with a soft, soothing voice. "I just do not want you to loose everything you have worked for just because of me."
For once Dumbledore did not argue with her. When Harry thought about it, it made perfect sense. He knew he was guilty of doing the same thing. He rolled over just slightly so he could see his professors. Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk and McGonagall was standing with her hands on the back of a chair. Neither had noticed his movements.
"Nothing is going to happen to you, my dear."
"You were not there; you did not hear him. And now that he knows about us..." McGonagall trailed off. Harry was beginning to feel this was not a conversation he was supposed to overhear.
“Minerva, he is not out to kill you.”
“You were not there- you did not hear what was said. You should have seen the look in his eyes. Albus, I can not run from it any longer.” Harry finally realized he had missed something. Voldemort and McGonagall had not exchanged words other than their names last night.
“My dear, if he was out to kill you, he would have done so when you were least protected and vulnerable. He is not out to kill you. There must be something we have missed.” Dumbledore rose from his seat and moved toward McGonagall, but she backed away towards the door.
“I have to go. Think about what I said Albus.” But before she could leave, Dumbledore grapped her by the arm.
"Minerva, don't do this. We talked about this along time ago. Don't walk out on me, us, now." The look that passed from McGonagall to Dumbledore was one of compassion, heartache, and a hint of desire. Harry had never even thought there was anything between the two, but now it was clearer than ever. He did not even think Ron's parents looked at each other that way. No words ever passed between them and the two pulled together.
"I love you," whispered McGonagall as she pulled away and walked out the door.
"Forever my dear, forever."
A/N: Well...what did you think? Don't worry the rest of the trio is in the next chapter...until next time then...bye!! (And dont forget to review!! :D)