Warning/s: Explicit sexual situations; character death
Disclaimer: All characters, settings and other elements from the Harry Potter franchise belong to J. K. Rowling.
Poppy stood in the corridor outside the room, clutching a handkerchief. She had broken down the moment she got out of the room, and it had taken a few minutes to get herself under control again. She had just seen the mediwitch emerge from the room with some parchment and what looked like a camera when she heard a voice she recognised as the rude Healer’s growing closer as he walked down the corridor, talking to a colleague. The pair stopped at a desk a few feet from where Poppy was standing.
“ … shame, though. Can you just imagine the kind of magic that kid would have had? With parents like those? I didn’t really see much of him at school, but her! She scared the bogeys out of me back then. Gave me quite a shock to see her on the table when I got in there, I can tell you. Never would’ve believed it, though, if I hadn’t seen it for myself.”
“You think they’re really married? I never heard it,” said the colleague.
“Oh, I reckon so. He gave it for the records, and it would be easy to check. ’Course that’s no guarantee he’s really the father. Be just like him to marry her if she were up the duff with someone else’s bastard …”
Poppy whirled around to snarl at the Healer, brandishing her wand dangerously. “I would hold my filthy tongue if I were you. Even if I don’t manage to hex your bollocks so far up your arse that it’ll take every long-fingered Healer in this building to retrieve them for you, Dumbledore will make sure you find yourself scraping Kneazle guts off the bottom of the Knight Bus for a living when he finds out you’re gossiping about a patient that happens to be his wife.”
The Healer paled visibly. “Sorry,” he managed to mumble before he and the colleague scurried off down the corridor.
Poppy sagged against the desk. She thought briefly about trying to find Jean-Baptiste but quickly rejected the idea, as appealing as it was. She needed to be here and to focus on Minerva.
Healer Pye had moved into a corner of the treatment room while Minerva and Albus cried. He pretended to be busy with his charts and phials until he heard her sobbing ebb. He turned back to the couple, saying, “We’re going to move you to a ward shortly, Mrs Dumbledore. You’ll be more comfortable there, and we can keep a better eye on you. Can you tell me how you’re feeling? Are you having any pain?”
Minerva looked around for something to wipe her eyes on, and Pye handed her a clean towel. “I’m sore. I feel a little nauseated.”
Pye nodded his understanding. “I’ll get you something for the pain. The nausea should get better in a few hours as you get your strength back. Do you feel at all light-headed?”
“A bit, I suppose,” she answered listlessly.
Pye removed his wand from his pocket and waved it slowly across her torso. “Just checking your vital signs. It’s routine,” he said to reassure them.
In truth, he was still concerned about her—very concerned. She was still bleeding more than he liked, and her blood pressure was low and her pulse high, both indicators of hypovolemic shock. If she was indeed in the early stages of DIC, he would have to be very cautious. Treating it was always a precarious balancing act. She needed greater blood volume, but the strongest Blood-Replenishing Potions could, conversely, tip her over the edge into fulminant DIC by introducing fresh clotting factors that might encourage the formation of tiny blood clots in her organs. If these became widespread, organ failure and death were a likely result. Moreover, the clots themselves could cause a subsequent depletion of essential platelets and clotting factors, leading to uncontrolled haemorrhaging.
When Minerva had been moved to a room on the fourth floor—private, in deference to Albus Dumbledore’s position—Poppy peeked her head in.
Minerva was sleeping, Albus sitting in a chair pushed next to her bedside. He looked up as Poppy approached.
“How is she?” Poppy asked.
“As well as can be expected. She’s exhausted.” He stood and gestured for Poppy to move into the corner of the room so as not to disturb the sleeping woman.
“And how are you, Albus?” Poppy asked, taking his large hand between her small ones.
“I don’t know. It’s all hard to take in,” he said. “Poppy, I want to thank you for everything you did.”
“Oh, Albus. I’m just so sorry it wasn’t enough.”
He shook his head. “No, you did everything possible. I heard the Healer tell you so.”
Poppy blanched, realising he had heard the conversation she had had with Healer Pye.
“Can you tell me, Poppy … how sick is she?”
Once again, it took all Poppy’s strength to be honest with him. “Pye thinks she might be developing DIC.”
“What is that?”
“Disseminated intravascular coagulation. It’s a condition that sometimes results from heavy bleeding. It’s a problem with the balance of clotting factors in the blood. It can be very serious,” she said.
Seeing him look back at Minerva, she added, “Pye seems very good, and he’s watching her very closely. She’s in the best possible hands.”
He just stood there, watching Minerva sleep.
“Would you like me to get you something to eat?” Poppy asked after a minute. She knew he would never leave Minerva’s bedside.
“No, thank you.”
She hesitated to speak, afraid to overstep her bounds, but the man seemed, for the first time since she had known him, to be unable to think. “I should go back to Hogwarts for a little bit. The others will be wondering—I’m sure they’re very worried.”
He didn’t look at her. “Yes.”
“Albus, what would you like me to tell them?”
Now he looked at her. “The truth.”
Poppy nodded. “I’ll be back later this evening to check on you both. Is there anything you’d like me to bring?”
“No, thank you.”
As she turned, he called her back, “Wait, Poppy. Would you be so kind as to bring me the book that is on my desk? Filius will be able to let you into my office; he’s acting Head when Minerva and I are away from Hogwarts.”
When she Flooed back to Hogwarts, she immediately sent messages to all the staff, asking them to attend an emergency meeting in half an hour.
By the time she arrived in the staff room, everyone was already assembled and obviously quite anxious for news. The moment she opened the door, she was assaulted by questions about Minerva’s condition and that of the baby.
“Will everyone please just quiet down and let me speak? I only want to tell this once.”
When the murmurs had died away, she took a breath and began. “I wish—I truly wish—I had better news. I’m sorry to have to tell you that Minerva has lost her baby.”
There were gasps and murmurs of “Oh, no!”
She waited for the initial hubbub to quiet, then continued: “She suffered a major complication of pregnancy, and she is very sick. The Headmaster is, of course, with her, and I would anticipate him being away from the school for at least some days. He informs me that you, Filius, are acting Head during his and Minerva’s absence.” Flitwick nodded.
“I plan to return to St Mungo’s every few hours to check on Minerva. Please know that she is in very good hands, and I know she and Albus appreciate your good wishes.”
Flitwick spoke up. “Thank you for informing us, Poppy. I’m very sorry that things have turned out as they have; I know you provided the very best care you could under the circumstances.”
Poppy bowed her head in thanks.
Filius said, “One thing we should decide now is what to tell the students. It’s certain that Minerva’s sudden illness is the topic of discussion in every House, given that she was originally taken ill in the classroom.”
“Gods, I had forgotten!” said Poppy. “What is your opinion, Filius?”
“Do you have a sense of what Minerva and Albus would like to tell them?”
“No,” said Poppy. “None of them were aware of her pregnancy, as far as I know.”
“But the Starsgaard girl surely knows now,” said Filius, “as she was in the infirmary when you were first treating Minerva.”
“True,” said Poppy. “I expect the Kneazle’s out of the bag, then. I don’t see Nigella as a gossip, but this kind of thing is probably too juicy to resist. I will ask Albus what his preference is when I go back to St Mungo’s. If you don’t mind, Filius, I can stop by your quarters when I get back so you can prepare something for tomorrow.”
The quicker of the staff noticed Poppy’s omission of Minerva from the decision-making and realised it meant her condition was likely worse than Madam Pomfrey was letting on.
“Oh, Filius,” she added as the group started to file sombrely out, “do you think you could let me into Albus’s office? He asked me to bring him something.”
When Poppy returned to St Mungo’s, she found Albus still sitting quietly by Minerva’s bedside. She handed him the book.
“Thank you, Poppy. Did you tell the staff?”
“Yes. They asked me to convey their condolences and their love to you and Minerva.”
“Filius was wondering what you would like us to tell the students. It’s likely that some of them know about Minerva’s pregnancy now, but I don’t want to say anything without your permission.”
Albus sighed deeply. Having the students find out about the pregnancy, and consequently their marriage, in this fashion would add insult to grievous injury and would make Minerva extremely uncomfortable. Provided, of course, she survived to feel uncomfortable, he could not help adding to himself. He slammed the door shut hard on that thought.
“Perhaps it would be best to tell them only the basic facts—that Minerva has suddenly become quite ill and that we will be away from the school for some time. Minerva can decide what more to tell them when she returns. Or I will.”
His last words raised a squeezing pain in Poppy’s chest. “All right, Albus.” She privately thought it inadvisable to allow the inevitable gossip to flourish until the Headmaster could return to quell it, but she was not about to argue with him about it now.
She slipped out of the room and went to hunt down Healer Pye. She found him coming out of another room and asked, “Mr Pye, do you have a moment?”
“Of course, Madam Pomfrey. I expect you want to know how Mrs Dumbledore is getting on?”
“Yes, please. Has there been any change?”
“Nothing significant,” he said, sighing. “She’s still bleeding more than most post-partum patients, but her blood values are holding constant. Nothing to do, really, but watch and wait. I know that’s very hard, but it’s the best thing we can do right now. If we intervene too aggressively, it might make things worse.”
“I understand, Mr Pye. Thank you. I need to return to Hogwarts tonight, but would you mind having someone Floo-call me if there’s any change in Mrs Dumbledore’s condition?”
When she got back to the school, she went immediately to Filius Flitwick’s chambers and knocked quietly on the door. When he let her in, she told him what Albus had said, and he frowned. He obviously shared her opinion of the announcement he was going to be asked to make.
“Well, Poppy, we must abide by Albus’s wishes in this. How is Minerva?”
“About the same, no better, no worse.”
“Poor Albus. He must be beside himself.”
“I think he’s still in shock. I’m a little worried about him as well.”
“He’ll muddle through,” said Filius. “Unless, of course …” He let the thought dangle unsaid. The unthinkable was also unspeakable.
Albus sat at Minerva’s bedside watching the steady rise and fall of her chest as she slept. He suspected the pain potion she had been given also had something in it to help her sleep. He knew she needed the rest, and he was glad for her to get a respite from the awful grief that was consuming her, but he was afraid as she slept so deeply that he would never hear her voice or see the brown-flecked green of her open eyes again. So he kept vigil, as if the act of watching her breathe could ensure that it would keep occurring.
In the middle of the night, Healer Pye came back into the room. He was surprised to find Dumbledore in the same position in which he had left him hours ago.
“I need to examine her and run a few tests. It will take just a few minutes,” he said quietly.
Dumbledore said nothing.
Pye crossed to the foot of the bed and lifted the covers. Albus couldn’t see what the man was doing, nor did he want to. Minerva didn’t wake, but she stirred a bit as Pye used his wand to change the now blood-soaked pad underneath his patient for a clean one. He quickly Banished the soiled pad to a counter across the room. He would need to use it to estimate her blood loss. He replaced the covers and went to the side of her bed, passing his wand slowly back and forth over the sleeping woman’s torso.
When he used his wand to measure the volume of blood from the pad, he realised she was in trouble, even without looking at the results of the other tests he had just done. The additional five hundred millilitres of blood she had lost over the past few hours, when added to the significant blood loss that had accompanied the delivery—not to mention what she had lost before getting to him—was setting up a dangerous situation. He quickly looked over the blood values he had measured with his wand, and they confirmed the ugly clinical picture. The woman needed blood, but more importantly, she needed to stop bleeding.
Pye left the room swiftly without speaking to Dumbledore. He ran down the corridor until he found his colleague Cressida Burgess making notes outside a patient’s room. She was St Mungo’s most knowledgeable Healer in the field of haematology, and he desperately needed her expertise if he wanted to save his patient.
“Cressida, I have a post-partum patient—she had a full abruption, massive blood loss. She’s still bleeding and it looks like she’s developed DIC.” He quickly waved his wand to show his colleague the results of the latest tests he had made.
Healer Burgess frowned and asked, “What have you given her so far?”
“Ninety millilitres of Replenishing Potion Number Seven. I didn’t dare to give anything stronger, but it’s looking like I’m going to have to. What do you think?” he asked.
“Before you do that, you might want to consider removing the uterus,” she answered.
Pye was shocked. Removing an organ was almost unheard of in wizarding medicine; it was considered a barbaric practice best left to Muggle butchers with their sharp knives.
Burgess understood his hesitation. “Look, Galeneus, your options are limited. You’ve got a patient who is bleeding to death, slowly but surely. If you overload her with fresh clotting factor from a strong potion, you’re going to thrombose her and shut down her other organs. If you remove the uterus, you remove the source of the bleed and eliminate a source of procoagulant release into her bloodstream. If you’re lucky, she survives the procedure, and you can safely replace her volume and red cells with a stronger potion.”
Pye let out a breath. “Will you help me? I haven’t removed an organ since my internship days.”
“Of course. If you can get the patient consented and prepped, I’ll meet you in, say twenty minutes?”
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