Warning/s: Explicit sexual situations; character death
Disclaimer: All characters, settings and other elements from the Harry Potter franchise belong to J. K. Rowling.
Author’s Notes: This is the fourth instalment of my series chronicling the life of Minerva McGonagall.
The poem in chapter two is Thomas Lovell Beddoes’s “Song of the Stygian Naiades” (1835).
The poem in chapter thirteen is “Maud” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1855).
Come Autumn, sae pensive in yellow and grey,
And soothe me wi’ tidings o’ Nature’s decay!
The dark, dreary Winter and wild-driving snaw
Alane can delight me - now Nanie’s awa.
~ Robert Burns, “My Nanie’s Awa” (1794)
“Pregnant?” said Minerva McGonagall, her voice 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.”
“But how?” Minerva asked in disbelief.
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—”
“Poppy, this is not a joke!” Minerva said.
Seeing her friend’s face, Poppy stopped. “Oh, Minerva, I’m sorry! I thought you’d be happy about it. Isn’t this what you wanted?” She helped Minerva sit up and handed her a sheet to cover her lower body.
A pensive Minerva answered, “I did … we did, but then when it turned out we couldn’t, I suppose I resigned myself to it.”
When she and Albus had first made the decision to try to have a child, they were both tentative and uncertain. Although the wizarding world had been relatively peaceful for years, with no sign of Tom Riddle, parenthood would be a bold step for the normally cautious couple. It would bring many changes, they both knew: first, it would transform their relationship from the open secret it had long been a matter for public speculation and comment. Minerva was a private person, but she recognised that Albus’s fame and her academic celebrity made gossip a certainty when their marriage became widely known. 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. But the biggest—and unspoken—fear was the fact that parenthood made one exquisitely vulnerable. But their trepidation had eventually melted into anticipation, then to excitement.
When six months had passed with no sign of pregnancy, Minerva had consulted Poppy. The tests Poppy had run indicated that while Minerva was fertile, Albus was not. It was likely his age, Poppy had told them. It happened that way with men sometimes, she said. There were potions he could take, but they were not guaranteed to work and had risks both for Albus and for any baby he might father with their help.
When they had got back to her quarters after receiving the news, he was uncharacteristically quiet. As he held her, he had whispered, “I’m sorry, Minerva.”
“For what?” she asked, knowing what he meant, but also knowing that he needed to say it.
“For saddling you with an old man who cannot give you children,” he said.
She had felt ashamed then, realising that she had been thinking only of her own feelings. She sometimes forgot that, extraordinary wizard though he was, he was also a man—one who had just taken a blow to his manhood and needed her reassurance.
“Listen to me, Albus Dumbledore,” she had said. “If things had been reversed—if I had been the one unable to have children—would you feel saddled with me? 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 for the first time in memory, they slept in the same bed without making love.
So the couple had decided to let things be. Minerva was disappointed, of course, but not devastated, and eventually the idea receded into her mind like a faded scar that only reminds the bearer of the injury when it’s looked at in bright light. She wasn’t sure what Albus felt.
That was why, when she appeared in the infirmary more than a year later complaining of persistent nausea and fatigue, she was completely unprepared to hear Poppy tell her that she had fallen pregnant.
“Have you been using a contraceptive charm?” asked Poppy.
“No. When you said it was impossible, I just didn’t bother anymore.”
“If you recall, Minerva, I only said it was unlikely that Albus could make you pregnant—not impossible,” Poppy reminded her.
“I know. I’m not blaming you, Poppy.”
After a minute, Poppy asked, “What are you going to do?”
Minerva sighed. “I don’t know. Talk to Albus, I suppose.”
“If you decide you want to end this pregnancy, I can refer to you a Healer I worked with at St Mungo’s. He’s good and very discreet,” Poppy said.
“Gods, Poppy, I haven’t even had time to think about all this yet.”
“I know, love,” said Poppy. “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. Talk to Albus. Whatever you decide, I’ll support you,” she added.
“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.
“Come in,” she called and closed the copy of Transfiguration Today she had been thumbing through.
Albus stepped into her sitting room, chessboard in hand and a characteristic twinkle in his eyes. He set the chessboard down on a table and asked, “Are we alone?”
It had been their standard greeting for the past two years, ever since Albus had come into her rooms for one of their Saturday trysts, grabbed her, stopping her protesting mouth with a kiss, and had her blouse halfway open before he noticed a very embarrassed Filius Flitwick attempting to make a rapid and discreet exit. The tiny Charms professor, who had been obscured by the tall back of a chair, had shown up at Minerva’s quarters unexpectedly, hoping to discuss a Transfiguration article she had written. He hadn’t been able to look at either of them for a week. Albus had thought it was funny.
“We are,” answered Minerva, approaching her husband and putting her hands on his chest as he leant in to kiss her. When he slid his lips to her neck and his hands to cup her breasts, she forgot what she had planned to say to him.
Later, after they had made love, they lay in her bed, her head on his shoulder, his hand stroking her hair gently. She forced herself to speak without thinking about it. “I’m pregnant.”
She felt his hand stop mid-stoke and his chest still mid-breath. “What?”
She shifted to her side, propping her head on her hand so she could look at his face. “I’m pregnant.”
“How?” he asked.
“Given what we have just spent the past hour doing, I’m surprised you have to ask that,” she said, forgetting that she had asked Poppy Pomfrey exactly the same question not three days ago.
“You know what I mean, Minerva,” he said.
“Poppy said it wasn’t impossible, just improbable,” she said, a little defensive. “I suppose we just got lucky.”
When he didn’t speak, she asked the question that had been burning in her mind for three days: “Do you want it?”
“Do you?” That’s how he always dodged difficult questions: by turning them back on her.
But she wasn’t a Gryffindor for nothing. “Yes.”
“Then so do I,” he said, and it was decided. “How long?” he asked.
“About two months.”
“And how are you feeling?” Now that they had got the Thestral quickly out of the room, they could concentrate on other questions.
“All right. A bit tired, a bit sick, but not too bad,” she answered. “My breasts are sore,” she added.
“Well, I shall have to take very good care of you,” he murmured, kissing each breast gently at the nipple.
“You’re off to a fine start,” she purred as he kissed his way down her still-flat belly. Words began to fail her as he moved lower, gently parting her thighs so he could show her how much he loved her.