The last thing Minerva McGonagall ever expected was to become a mother. But when she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, her life with Albus changes in ways beyond anything they might have predicted.
Minerva McGonagall’s voice was an octave higher than Poppy Pomfrey had heard it go in ages.
“Are you sure?”
“Oh, very much so,” said Poppy, grinning from her perch at the end of the exam table. “I’ve never been wrong yet.” She tucked her wand away while Minerva sat up and straightened her clothing.
Poppy smiled. If only she had a Sickle for every time a dismayed sixth- or seventh-year asked her that, she’d be rich as the Malfoys.
She said, “Well, there’s the staff-room floor, oh, and Albus’s desk, of course, and your bed—that’s traditional—and—”
“This is not a joke!”
Poppy’s face fell. “Oh, Minerva, I’m sorry. I thought you’d be happy about it.” She hesitated before asking, “You didn’t want this?”
“We . . . it wasn’t planned.”
Minerva looked into the early summer sun shining through the large window. The light falling across her prominent cheekbones threw her lower face into shadow, and Poppy couldn’t see the set of Minerva’s mouth. Poppy wondered what was happening behind the brown-flecked green eyes she’d always envied as they stared pensively out at a rare cloudless sky.
Minerva’s mind had travelled back ten years.
When she and Albus had first decided to marry, he’d told her he wouldn’t have any children. They made one too vulnerable, he’d said, and they both had enemies—or an enemy—who wouldn’t hesitate to exploit any perceived weakness.
At the time, she’d thought she was relieved at not having to make a decision that would have changed her life in a way that not even marriage to one of the most powerful and famous mages in the world would do. Having a child with Albus now would transform their relationship from the open secret it had long been into a matter for public speculation and comment. Then there was her career—and there was no question that it would be her career—which would inevitably suffer from the demands of parenthood.
Minerva had never considered herself the maternal type, and she had never had the baby-lust that a few of her acquaintances seemed to suffer from while waiting for their own lives to arrange themselves in favour of procreation.
Nevertheless, there had been an evening shortly after she and Albus had returned from a week’s honeymoon on the Continent when she’d experienced a momentary . . . not regret, precisely, but wistfulness for the life she would never have.
They’d been visiting her family at her father’s home, and Minerva had been sitting on the library floor, playing with her niece, Morrigan. The toddler had fallen asleep in Minerva’s lap, her chubby fingers reflexively grasping Minerva’s in the throes of some dream. Minerva watched Morrigan’s eyes darting to and fro under her black-lashed lids and kissed her ringleted head. It smelt of talc and the sweet smoke of the fireplace and freshly baked bread, and a wave of love for this tiny girl, her brother’s child, blood of her blood, had shimmered through Minerva.
When Minerva’s brother, Einar, had lifted his daughter out of her aunt’s arms, and the drowsing head nestled into his shoulder, Minerva’s eyes had unexpectedly filled.
Albus must have noticed, because when they went up to their room, he was unusually quiet. Instead of changing into his night things, he’d sat on the bed, looking at his feet.
“I’m sorry, Minerva,” he’d said.
She thought she knew what he meant, but she also knew that he needed to say it.
“For saddling you with an old man who cannot give you children.”
She realised she’d been so wrapped up in her own feelings that she’d forgotten that brilliant, powerful wizard that he was, Albus was just a man, with an ordinary man’s regrets and insecurities, who needed occasional reassurance that he was worthy of love.
“Listen to me, Albus Dumbledore,” she had said. “I didn’t marry you for your valuable sperm, you know. I love you and want to spend the rest of my days with you, whether we share them with an entire Quidditch team of mewling brats or none. I’m happy just to be with you, day in, day out, doing what we do; anything else is sauce to the meat.”
Then she had kissed him, and they’d buried the matter.
So she had continued to use the contraceptive charm her grandmother had taught her when she became a woman, and eventually the notion of that other possible life had receded into her mind, only re-emerging as a half-remembered dream on days when she found blood spotting her underwear, and a familiar ache surged and ebbed in her lower belly.
Those days had always come at irregular intervals, sometimes every month, sometimes every six or even eight weeks. Which was why, when Minerva appeared in the infirmary on a Thursday one week before the end of term, complaining of persistent nausea and fatigue, nearly a decade after her last conversation with Albus on the topic of babies, she was completely unprepared to hear Poppy tell her she was expecting one.
“Have you been using a contraceptive charm?” Poppy asked.
“One does forget sometimes.”
Minerva gave her a withering look.
“I beg your pardon,” Poppy said. “I meant that we mere mortals forget sometimes. Or don’t pay enough attention when we cast it.”
“I’ve been doing this charm every month since I was thirteen years old. I know how to cast it.”
“I’m not saying you didn’t do it right, Minerva. I don’t know why this has happened now. Sometimes, the charm just fails. No spell is perfect, you know.”
“I know that. I’m not some first-year with a new wand and no sense.”
Poppy blew out an exasperated puff of air that lifted her dark-blonde fringe briefly from her forehead. “What do you want to do?”
Minerva sighed. “I don’t know. Talk to Albus, I suppose.”
“If you decide to end this pregnancy, I can put you in touch with a Healer I worked with at St Mungo’s. He’s very discreet.”
“Gods. I haven’t even had time to think about this yet.”
“I know, love. But you’ll have to decide soon. According to your estimate, your last period was around ten weeks ago, which would make you about two months along.” She put a reassuring hand on her friend’s knee. “Talk to Albus. Whatever you decide, I’ll support you.”
“Thank you, Poppy. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m just a bit . . .”
“Pregnant,” Poppy finished, and the two women shared a grim laugh.
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