Disclaimer: All Harry Potter people, places, and things, (all Harry Potter nouns) belong to J. K. Rowlings. (This story takes place during Harry's sixth year.)

Chapter 7: Timing is everything.

Poppy fixed a few pillows and tried to make Minerva as comfortable as she could. "It is likely that you're going to be here a while. Is there anything in particular you would like me to get for you?"

Despite the growing pain, Minerva smiled. "I'd like you to bring Albus here immediately, but seeing as that would be a bit complicated, could you please bring Ro?"

The medwitch nodded. "Of course," she replied as she owled Rolanda.

Rolanda was at the infirmary door ten minutes after Poppy had sent the owl. "Okay Poppy, where's the fire?" she stated, slightly out of breath.

Minerva laughed at her friend's hasty appearance. "What on earth did Poppy tell you exactly?"

"She told me to get up here now," the flying instructor replied. Then comprehension dawned on her and she moved to sit with Minerva. "Oh Min, where is Albus?"

Minerva replied only after breathing through another contraction. "He was at a meeting with the Ministry of Magic the last time I checked. We sent Fawkes out with a portkey to find him."

Albus entered the pub, noticing the surly characters beginning their evening consumptions of ale. Though loud conversations and excited gestures dominated the place as he entered, the noise level died down as people stared at him curiously. He walked over to the burly gentleman tending the bar.

"Can I get ya somethin' to drink, sir?" the man asked.

Putting up his hand, Albus shook his head. "No, thank you. I am a bit lost though. Could you perhaps tell me where I am?"

The man eyed him incredulously. "Yer a wizard and ya don't know where ya are? Don't see many of yer kind 'round here. What happen'd, got off track with the apparatin'? Well, yer actually only a few miles away from Edinburgh."

Albus sighed heavily. "I try to get back to my Scottish wife and end up in Scotland," he said more to himself than the bar tender. "Thank you, I'll just go sit outside for a while."

He made his way to a bench and sank down into it, leaning against the back. It was only after he heard someone clear his throat that he realized he was not alone. He turned to his right and noticed a tall, stocky brown-haired man sitting on the other side of the bench, smoking from a long white pipe. The pipe reminded Albus of the one used by a leprechaun in a sketch that he had once seen in a book.

As he watched the man's smoke, he noticed that it came out in the shape of a dragon from time to time. The other man turned to face him and spoke. "Ya look a wee bit troubled, sir. Might I ask what brings a fellow like yerself so far out of yer way?"

Not knowing whether or not the stranger was a muggle, Albus answered carefully. "The mode of transportation I used broke down not too far away from here. I need to get back to my wife. She's due soon."

The other man nodded. "So yer sittin' here because yer attemptin' to figure out how to get back to wherever it was ya were off to? It's probably a good idea to sit and think for a minute. I don't know yer story, but I'm sure everthing'll turn out fine. M'name's Seamus McMurray."

The two shook hands as Albus spoke. "And I am Albus Dumbledore. Do you mind if I ask you how the smoke from your pipe looks like dragons?"

Seamus laughed heartily. "Ya can get smoke to do whatever ya want if ya use the right herbs and a little magic. Ya look like one of those magic sorts too. But if ya are one like me, why didn't ya know about the smoke? Wait, ya probably don't smoke. That would explain it."

"Do you live around here?" Albus inquired.

The other man nodded. "I live down that road over there, with m'wife Martha. Our children have grown up and left, so it's just us. Say, what's that colourful thing comin' this way?" Seamus asked looking into the night sky.

Albus saw it too and jumped up. The creature landed on his arm and he petted the bird as he turned back to Seamus. "This is Fawkes, my phoenix bird. It would seem," he paused and untied the parchment, revealing the letter and the portkey, "that my way back home as arrived. It was nice meeting you," he said politely.

Fawkes allowed Seamus to pet him. "Go on back to yer wife. And if ya should like to visit and bring her with ya, Martha and I are just down that road," he stated, pointing out the direction again.

"Thank you," Albus added as he turned the portkey.

He found himself in the infirmary and spotted Minerva surrounded by Rolanda and Poppy. The medwitch quickly headed over to him and dragged him toward Minerva. "I'm glad you're finally here. Now go sit with your wife."

Taking the chair on the other side of the bed, he sat down and took Minerva's hand in his. The he kissed her cheek. Her eyes met his and she spoke. "Where were you? Did the meeting really run that late? I worried that you had gotten lost."

"Actually the meeting ended some time ago, but when I tried to apparate here, I ended up outside of Edinburgh. It was fortunate that Fawkes found me," he explained. Then he leaned close to her and kissed her tenderly. "My dear Tabby, I won't leave you like that again, not when you need me. I promise."

She gripped his hand harder than she had meant to as another contraction hit. "I honestly don't mean to dislocate your fingers. But I am so very glad that you are here now."

"Enough talking, Minerva. You should be working on your breathing and pushing," Poppy instructed.

"Poppy, I have an idea: you trade places with me and then you can give me orders," she remarked through gritted teeth.

The medwitch placed her hands on her hips. "No need to be snippy, Minerva. I'm only trying to help."

"I know that, and I'm sorry," Minerva replied as she gripped Albus' hand again.

Another five hours later Poppy handed the newborn baby to an exhausted and nearly out of breath Minerva. "You have a healthy daughter, Minerva."

She and Albus smiled down at the red and wrinkly little human she held in her arms. "She's adorable, Min. Congratulations. Have you two decided on a name?" Rolanda asked, looking at the baby as well.

"Actually, Albus the name you suggested sounded suitable," she paused and handed the baby to Albus. "Gabriella Christine Dumbledore, say hello to your father."

When Albus held the infant Minerva noticed how his eyes sparkled at that moment. After a while he handed the baby back to his wife for a quick feeding. Rolanda was about to leave when Minerva put a hand out to stop her. "Would you like to hold the baby, Ro?"

The flying instructor grinned. "Yes, that would be lovely."

As Rolanda sat smiling down at the little girl, Severus sauntered into the infirmary. "Rolanda, have you been here all this time? I have been looking all over the castle for you. At 9:00 you wanted to talk to me about the November Quidditch game and…" he trailed off when he saw the others. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize- why doesn't anyone tell me these things?"

"I'm sorry, Severus. I should have owled you. Don't stand all the way over there though. Come closer and see their daughter," Rolanda persuaded.

As he walked toward them, he acknowledged and congratulated Albus and Minerva, but he could not dispel the picture of Rolanda holding the baby from his mind. Rolanda handed the baby back to Minerva and stood. Then Minerva let Severus hold the baby. He was astonished that the infant did not immediately cry when he held her. When she began to fuss slightly, Albus took her.

"I should be going. We'll leave the three of you alone now," Rolanda stated as she headed for the door, followed by Severus.

They walked, arms linked through the corridors and into the dungeons where his office was. Rolanda flopped down into a chair in front of his desk. "We could just discuss the Quidditch business at a later date," she suggested.

He nodded. "Though you are correct, your earlier suggestion of meeting tonight brought me to a decision about something I was debating whether or not to ask."

A smirk appeared on her face. "Now I'm intrigued. What are you hinting at?"

Walking back behind his desk, he pulled out a drawer and removed a black velvet box. He handed it to her and opened it, kneeling in front of her. The box contained a diamond ring on a white gold band with two emeralds. "I love you, Rolanda Hooch. I cannot believe that for me to realize it you had to come up and snog me. I want to be with you, cherish you, and I do enjoy your schemes. Will you marry me?"

Rolanda stared at him, wide-eyed for a minute. "I suppose there is something to that old story about catching the bride's flowers after all. I love you too, Severus Snape. You have this habit of being there when I need someone to help me, especially when my pride gets in the way. Yes." The ring now on her finger, she kissed him soundly and he deepened the kiss.

Albus had performed the sorting ceremony that year. At the Welcoming Feast in September, he had a few announcements to make. He stood and smiled at Minerva first, and then turned toward Severus and Rolanda, who both nodded. As he faced the school, he took one last glance over his shoulder toward his daughter, whom Minerva was holding, before speaking.

"It is my great pleasure to make announcements once again. This year I would like to introduce my daughter, Gabriella Christine Dumbledore," he paused as Minerva stood, holding the baby as the students clapped. He continued when she sat down. "Also, not only do we now have two Professors Dumbledore, but we also have two Professors Snape teaching this year." Rolanda and Severus both stood and gave polite nods to students, who were a bit shocked, but clapped eventually.

After the Feast, Albus and Minerva walked back to their rooms. She held their daughter closely to her as they strolled through the corridors. Sighing with contentment as the baby snuggled against her, she spoke. "It is so utterly refreshing this year not to have the dark wizard looming over us. Finally we can start a year off as it ought to be."

Not wanting to be so far away from them, he draped his arm over Minerva's shoulders and kissed her cheek. "Quite right, my dear."

As they entered their rooms, the baby began to fuss. "Tired of me already, are you? Well, I think I'll let Papa hold you for a while," she commented, handing the baby to Albus.

He took his daughter in his arms and smiled down at her, still amazed at how small and perfect she looked. She quieted down and looked at him, as if she could read his thoughts. Though Albus knew that she was only observing him, she at her small age had an expression causing her to seem as though she saw something more.

Soon Minerva and Albus put Gabriella to bed and curled up together on the couch with their arms around each other, listening to the crackling fire. "Are you happy, my love?" he asked her.

She moved to kiss him tenderly. "Very. A year ago I would never have considered any of this even possible." He would have said the same thing, but decided to kiss her passionately instead.

Toward the middle of October, Minerva had just put the baby down for an afternoon nap and picked up her essays to begin marking when she heard a knock at the door. She opened it to Rolanda and raised an eyebrow. "What brings you here today, Ro? You look pale; is everything alright?" Minerva inquired.

She gestured for Rolanda to sit on the couch while she resumed her place. Then she looked at her friend with interest as her face turned from white to red when she blushed. Rolanda glanced down at her hands nervously for an instant. "I just found out from Poppy that I won't be doing much flying for a while, though I will still be teaching the flying courses. I need someone else aside from Severus to help me referee the Quidditch games this year and I was hoping you'd like to help me," she managed.

Minerva smiled. "Of course I'll help you, but why won't you be flying?"

Rolanda leaned toward Minerva and whispered something into her ear. Then Minerva pulled her friend into a hug. "Congratulations, does Severus know yet?"

The other woman shook her head. "I just found out today and haven't had a chance to tell him. I would appreciate it if you'd keep this quiet for a while."

"May I at least tell Albus?" she inquired.

"Of course," Rolanda replied.

Once again after dinner, Albus and Minerva were curled up on the couch together, talking of various things. He eyed her curiously when she suddenly smiled from ear to ear. "You know something, my dear," he quickly assessed.

She nodded. "Ro and Severus are expecting a child. I suspect that the next few years will be quite interesting for all of us."

As time passed, two girls grew up as playmates. A week after Gabriella's sixth birthday, she and five-year-old Serena Lucille Snape crept down the corridor, looking for their intended targets. Gabriella had inherited her father's auburn hair that he had possessed in his younger days along with her mother's perceptive green eyes. Serena's hair was an obsidian black, as was her father's, and her eyes matched her mother's, being that mischievous amber colour.

"Rena, Are you sure that this is such a good idea?" Gabriella asked Serena.

Serena put her hands on her hips and shook her head. "Gabby, sometimes you're such a stick in the mud! It'll be fun," she guaranteed with a mischievous grin.

Her auburn-haired playmate finally conceded and the two waited in anticipation as Poppy entered the corridor. From their hiding place, the girls pulled a string and a stuffed animal in the form of a dragon descended from where they had placed it, gliding down right past Poppy's face. It startled her only for a moment and she crossed her arms.

"Serena Lucille Snape, I know you had something to do with this. First of all, it's not nice to scare people. Secondly, the dragon was not nearly realistic enough to do what you wanted it to. And lastly, Gabriella Christine Dumbledore, I know you helped her," the medwitch declared.

Later that afternoon, Poppy found Rolanda and Minerva drinking glasses of lemonade as they took a break from their lesson plans for the next school term. "Ladies," she began. They both faced her with a raised eyebrow. "Your daughters are reaching the age when they are curious about practical jokes. I would like to suggest that those two are cured of such habits before they start their schooling here."

She then placed the stuffed animal on the coffee table and left the room. The two women looked at each other and smirked. "It would seem that our daughters are taking after us, even before we have been given the opportunity to tell them of our old antics," Minerva stated.

Rolanda nodded. "I can already tell you what happened. My daughter planned it and yours helped while telling mine that it wasn't a good idea."

They both laughed. "We were quite a pair in our school days, weren't we? I wonder in which houses our daughters will find themselves."

Gabriella sat on the stool for the sorting ceremony, almost shaking with anticipation. At eleven, she could scarcely contain her excitement on finally attending Hogwarts. Her only regret was that Serena would have to wait until the following year. Gabriella held her breath as the hat was placed on her head.

"Hmm, this is interesting. I see a very bright, yet cautious girl who is also very perceptive. She has her mother's discipline, her father's insight, and a friend's loyalty. What's this? Ah good, there's a little mischief here too. Gryffindor!" the hat exclaimed.

The girl smiled at her mother and glanced over her shoulder at her father before joining the other first-years at the table. That evening, Albus found Minerva staring into the fireplace. He set what he had brought down on the coffee table and drew her to him for a warm embrace. "My dear, something is on your mind. Care to tell me what it is?" he inquired.

She grabbed his robes to be closer to him. "I miss her already. She hasn't even been away from us for an entire day and I can't stand it."

He leaned down and kissed her tenderly. "I miss her also, but you must allow her to grow up eventually."

As they made their way to the couch, she eyed the bottle suspiciously. "Albus Dumbledore, that had better not be anything alcoholic," she warned.

He chuckled and opened it. "Don't worry, my dear. This is genuine sparkling cider from Martinelli's."

"Are you suggesting that we toast then?" she surmised.

He pulled out two flute classes and nodded. "I am indeed."

Handing her a glass, he told her to go first. "To him who holds my heart, that he would never doubt my love for him."

The rims of the glasses clinked and he leaned close to her as he toasted. "To the lady whom I default to for advice, and to whom I have also given my heart to that we might have an even trade, that she knows I am always here."

After they downed their cider and he refilled the glasses, he kissed her lightly. She sighed with contentment and began another toast. "To the man who understands me more than I could have ever hoped for, may I always prove to be a loving helpmate that we should work together like two hands, needing the other to be complete."

He had begun to plant light kisses along her neck and stopped to meet her eyes. "To the woman who let me know that love had not passed me by, I thank you. My dear Tabby, you showed me that all I ever wanted was right in front of me the whole time," he told her almost in a whisper.

In that instant the sparkling cider was forgotten as she gently pressed her lips to his. He pulled her closer as he wrapped his arms around her waist and traced small circles on her back. Her arms encircled his neck as she also moved closer to kiss him passionately. He deepened the kiss and the two remained on the couch as the fire crackled with warm intensity, spreading its cozy warm glow throughout the room.

………………………………… Fin ………………………………………

(I truly enjoyed writing this story and I hope all of you had fun reading this tale. May we all find positive ways to deal with the surprises and lemons that life throws at us, turning them into lemon-meringue pie (opposed to lemonade); my thanks to TartanLioness, Quill of Minerva, Kidarock, esb, Leta McGotor, Lady Jolly, Emutet, Always Hopeful, MMrulz4eva, and Silver Sorceress for reviewing :D)