Warning/s: Explicit sexual situations; character death
Disclaimer: All characters, settings and other elements from the Harry Potter franchise belong to J. K. Rowling.
The weekend before the fall term was to begin, they made the trip to Caithness to visit Minerva’s father. Thorfinn McGonagall met them at the entrance to Castle Isleif and immediately wrapped his broad arms around his daughter, practically lifting her off her feet.
“Minerva, my lass, this is a wonderful surprise! I didn’t expect to see ye until after Christmas! Hello, Albus, so good to see ye,” he said, shaking Albus’s hand.
“I’m sorry for the late notice, Da, we only just found the time to get away, and thought we’d make a quick stop to see you. I hope it’s not an inconvenience,” Minerva said as they walked into the house, Thorfinn’s arm firmly around her waist.
“Nonsense! I’m always pleased to see my girl and her handsome lad,” said Thorfinn. “Handsome lad” had been a running joke between Thorfinn and Albus since the time of the wedding; Thorfinn was only two years older than his daughter’s husband. “We’ll send your things to your room and have the house-elves unpack for ye. Are ye hungry?”
“Starving, Da, thanks,” Minerva answered.
Thorfinn raised his eyebrows in surprise. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard ye admit to it. Ye must be keeping her awfully busy, Albus,” he said in good humour.
“On the contrary, it’s Minerva who keeps me running about,” answered Albus.
“Of that, I have no doubt,” said Thorfinn. “Ye can go wash up, and I’ll have the house-elves lay out some dinner for us.”
“Thanks, Da, that would be lovely,” said Minerva.
After they had eaten a hearty meal, Thorfinn poured three glasses of Scapa single malt as they settled into worn leather armchairs by the fire in the library.
“So what is it ye came to tell me?” Thorfinn asked, a wry smile on his face.
“What do you mean?” Minerva asked.
“Come now, lass. I know ye didn’t come all the way up here just to pay a social call on your old Da—not right before the term starts, anyway. Out with it, now,” said Thorfinn.
Minerva glanced at Albus, who was intently examining the fascinating contents of his glass, trying not to smile. “We’re expecting,” she said.
Thorfinn clapped his big hands together, exclaiming, “That’s wonderful news! About ruddy time, too, I must say,” he said tossing a sideways glace at his son-in-law, who had got up to kiss the top of his wife’s head as she sat.
“I’m so glad you’re pleased, Da,” said Minerva.
“Pleased? Why wouldn’t I be pleased? Here I was, thinking I’d have only one grandchild to my name, and ye two come with a lovely surprise like this. Congratulations, Minerva, Albus,” he said, shaking Albus’s hand for the second time that evening. “Your brother will be thrilled,” he told Minerva, “and so will young Morrigan. She’ll finally have a wee cousin to fuss over.”
The three continued to talk for the next two hours until Minerva could no longer keep her eyes open.
“I think we’d better get you to bed, my dear,” said Albus. “You look as if you’re ready to drop.” He stood and took her hand. “Come on, I’ll take you up,” he said.
“It isn’t necessary, Albus, I’ll go up on my own. You two stay here and talk—I know you’re aching to continue your discussion about Siegfried and the dragon’s blood.” She kissed him and her father and left the two men alone.
Albus and Thorfinn chatted about the dragon’s blood, among other things, before there was a lull in the conversation.
Thorfinn broke the silence. “How is she, Albus?”
“She’s fine. She was a little sick in the beginning, but that seems to be past,” he answered.
“That’s fine, but I meant, is she scared?” asked Thorfinn.
“Yes. Of the birth,” answered Thorfinn.
“I don’t really know. You know Minerva; if she is, she hasn’t said.”
“I imagine she’s nervous about it—I would imagine every woman is,” Albus continued, wondering where Thorfinn was headed.
“Indeed. But not every woman has as much cause,” said Thorfinn, still frowning.
“What do you mean?” asked Albus, a slight prickling of alarm rising in his heart.
“She hasn’t told ye about her mother?”
“Only that she died shortly after Einar was born. What else is there?” Albus asked, the anxiety tightening around his heart.
“Albus, Minerva’s mother died from a complication of childbirth,” said Thorfinn, looking intently at his son-in-law.
“Yes—an infection, I thought. Sadly not uncommon in those days, but treatable now,” said Albus. “Please forgive me, Thorfinn. I hadn’t thought about how the news of Minerva’s pregnancy might bring back painful memories—” Albus began.
“No, no,” interrupted Thorfinn, “it isn’t that. I made my peace with Morrigan’s death years ago—if ever one can make peace with such a thing. It was the way she died. She had an infection, yes, but that was only the final insult. It probably wouldn’t have killed her—hell, it wouldn’t have happened at all—if she hadn’t ruptured her womb during the birth.”
Albus was speechless for a few moments. Then he asked, “Does Minerva know this?”
“Aye. I never believed in hiding things from my children. Besides, I daresay she can still remember the night of Einar’s birth, even all these years later. It was … difficult. Morrigan had been labouring for nigh on two days, and finally getting near the end when it happened. This is a big house, Albus, but you could hear her in every room, I’d wager. I know Minerva heard it; she asked me afterward why Mama was screaming so, and I couldn’t tell her it was because her mother’s womb had split nearly in half, could I? Not at four. But she asked me a few years later, and I told her the truth.
“Einar survived because he came not two minutes after it happened. I don’t know how Morrigan survived; the midwife was quick with her wits and her hands and her wand, I suppose. The bleeding stopped eventually, but Morrigan was so weak that she had no chance against the infection that set in. She never woke up. She never saw her son.” There were tears running down the large man’s weathered face, although his voice remained steady. Albus could see where his wife had got her stoicism.
“I am so very sorry, Thorfinn. I cannot imagine what that was like,” Albus said, putting a hand on the man’s shoulder.
“Och, it was a long time ago—almost forty years. And I had two beautiful children to raise. I didn’t do too badly, either, I think,” he said with pride, wiping his face with a tartan handkerchief.
“No. They are both extraordinary people,” agreed Albus.
“So that is why I’m asking ye if Minerva is scared. She must be, I think,” said Thorfinn.
“Thank you for telling me, Thorfinn. Minerva hasn’t said anything about it—not to me, at any rate. Possibly she’s told Poppy—her friend and the mediwitch who will deliver the baby,” said Albus. “I’ll talk to her.”
“Do that, Albus,” said Thorfinn.
After a moment Albus asked, “And you, Thorfinn? Are you scared?”
Thorfinn turned away from Albus to stare into the dying fire. “Yes. I’m scared for my girl. And for you. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy—watching your wife’s life drain away with her blood and nothing you can do. But I’m not going to let it get in the way of being happy for ye and Minerva. You can’t let fear rule ye,” he said.
“No,” said Albus. “You can’t.”
“I think I’ll head in. Good night, Albus,” said Thorfinn.
When Albus got to the bedroom, Minerva was already asleep. He got ready for bed and slipped in beside her. She stirred, and he whispered, “Shh. It’s only me, my love,” and kissed her cheek. She turned over and fell asleep again immediately. He lay back against the pillows, his thoughts churning. It was several hours before he slept.
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