A tower of strength

Molly Prewitt, a dumpy Fifth Year Griffyndor was eating lunch with her boyfriend, Arthur Weasley.

"Just some buttered toast and tea please, I don't feel so good…" she said, her face a peculiar shade of green.

"What's the matter?" Arthur asked, his mouth full of chicken pie.

"I have my interview with McGonagall this afternoon after Herbology…" she closed her eyes and shuddered by the idea of the formidable Head of House.

After finishing his bite, Arthur nodded in agreement. "She is pretty harsh and stern, as if she doesn't sleep well and has her mind elsewhere, on other matters than teaching as it seems. Just like she did in our second year. She really snapped at those Slytherins then." The thought of Malfoy getting detention for putting a Transfigured beetle down a girl's robes put a big smile on his face.

"I remember it very well, I just hope she won't be too hard on me, or think I am silly. I don't wat her saying: No education after Hogwarts, Miss Prewitt?! Aren't you a bit young to decide what you want out of life? You only want… what you just told me!" Molly's imitation of professor McGonagall was scarily near the real thing.

Arthur kissed his girlfriend on the cheek. "Don't worry. She'll listen to your side of the matter – she may be strict, but she is also fair. Well, she has always been anyway."

Molly placed her head on Arthur's shoulder, not caring about the other students, including her brothers who were catcalling.

After lunch, Molly went to Herbology and tried not to think about her interview. She didn't succeed.

Albus Dumbledore, ever observant, had heard part of the conversation between the young lovers and turned to his Deputy.

"Some of your cubs seem to think you are tired and edgy…" His eyes twinkled with vigour and he smiled beamingly. His voice was a mere whisper.

"How extraordinarily perceptive of them!" she remarked and smiled back at him.

Dumbledore left the table, looking around once, seeing Minerva McGonagall in a whispered conversation with Pomona Sprout.

Pomona Sprout was worried about little Molly Prewitt. Normally the girl was far above avarage, but today terra cotta pots seemed to drop everywhere she walked and she forgot to put on her earmufs before digging up the skreeching little mandragoras. Luckily Arthur Weasley was by her side all the time and mended the pieces of broken earthenware and hastily covered his girlfriend's ears.

"Miss Prewitt, a quick word!" Professor Sprout addressed Molly and the girl felt a blush appearing on her cheeks. As she approached her Herbology professor, she felt a little calmer because it seemed there wasn't to be punishment. A tiny smile lingered on the professor's mouth.

"What is the matter Molly?" she asked, almost tenderly.

"I am so nervous for my advice interview with Professor McGonagall, professor." The girl nearly trembled. "She seems so irritable, that I am afraid to tell her what I want to do after school."

Molly felt better now she had told another professor, an adult, somebody who would support her now she needed it.

Pomona proved to be the Hufflepuff she was.

"Don't worry, Molly," she started, "Professor McGonagall has a lot on her plate at the moment, that is why she seems a bit… off… these days. She will listen to you and give you the best advice she can. There is nothing she hasn't heard before, well, unless you want to become the first witch to fly to the moon on a broomstick. Oh, and even then she will try to keep herself composed." She winked at the girl.

Molly laughed. "Thank you!" she said and not for the first time, Pomona Sprout felt this was a girl who had things under controle and knew where she was headed.

After her talk with Pomona, Minerva had followed Albus and almost caught up with him in the hallway near his office.

"Wait for me! I am not as fast as I once was, you see!" she called at him, only a little irritated.

He waited for her, smiling and together they went up the rotating stairs to his office. They crossed the room together, passing the desk with the little silver trinkets and the portrait of Dilys Derwent tapped her finger against the frame to get Minerva's attention.

"How are you doing, my dear?" Dilys asked.

Minerva looked at the former Headmistress and sighed. "This is the last time, Dilys, it really is… I am getting to old for this, I don't seem to have the energy I had before."

Dilys nodded in understanding. "Keep in mind that this period will pass very soon. Try to enjoy it, my dear. You can always ask the Pomfrey girl for some vivifying potions." The voice of Mrs Derwent was calm and sympathetic.

"Thank you, Dilys." Minerva turned to the tall mirror at the end of the room, near the window.

Resembling the Mirror of Erised, it had quite a different purpose. She placed her hand flatly on the cool glass and the mirror went completely translucent. Her hand fell through and Minerva stepped after it, inside a large hallway.

She had stepped into the hall so many times, it didn't seem very special anymore. From the moment Albus was made Headmaster, they had moved their living quarters from the Gryffindor tower to the Headmaster's office, which had been very accomadating, providing a large Masterbedroom and several other rooms, There was an en-suite bathroom that was not only very large with a splendid bath, but in the colours that suited her best: blues and greens. She always felt very relaxed when she went to take a bath there.

She found Albus on the soft sofa in the sitting room and she fell down beside him. She lifted the concealments charms and sighed deeply.

"Do you think I have time to just sit here for a few minutes?" she asked him, feeling drained. She loved teaching, but today she wished the summer holiday would start… like… yesterday. She leaned heavily on Albus and closed her eyes for a few seconds.

"Feel better, darling?" Albus asked, putting his arm around her shoulder and rocking her gently.

"Yes, on the whole, but no matter how many concealment charms you put on yourself, you keep holding your breath." She kissed him on the cheek.

"Well, you look beautiful, so I keep wondering why you put them on yourself, they are pulling energy from you, you know." Albus smelled her scent, different now than normally.

"That is very sweet of you, my darling, but it is also a lie. I think the students would be rather alarmed if I came to class looking like I really do."

A faint cry came from not too far away and Minerva got up from the sofa. "I have a feeling Zandy will be here in three seconds." She said and rose her hand, silently counting to three and counting them out with her fingers.

Indeed after the three seconds, a house-elf came in, looking like a 1890's nursery maid, complete with apron and cap and very quietly said:

"Sir, the baby is hungry."

Albus laughed loudly and answered: "I suspect you need the Mistress for that, my dear Zandy!"

Minerva smiled and shook her head at the impertinent joke. "I am coming, Zandy, we can't leave our precious hungry, now, can we?"

She stroked Albus long auburn hair. It was already graying and she thought how distinguished he would look with his hair all silver and long.

"I'll be back in time for my interview with Molly Prewitt."

Albus got up from the sofa as well and escorted his wife to the nursery, where little Catriona Dumbledore was screaming at the top of her voice.

Quickly Minerva changed her teaching robes into a more comfortable dress and went to the baby's crib. She made the soft shushing sounds mothers all over the world, Muggle and wizards alike make to comfort their children, and lifted the baby out of the crib. Holding the tiny body close to her, Minerva walked to the wicker rocker in the corner of the room. Zandy handed Minerva a soft cloth, little Vera who had detected what was going on and sensed her mother's familiar smell, quieted down.

Albus stood in the doorway and looked at his wife and daughter. He felt very happy and proud.

The wonder of nature was much more powerful than any form of magic.

Molly stood in the hall, across the door from the Transfiguration classroom. She had checked the door, but it had been locked and she found it pretty impertinent to go in after using one of the many spells she knew. Living with pranking twin brothers would teach you how to get out of a locked closet. So she waited patiently and decided to sit against the wall.

A few floors above her, Minerva was in a bit of a frazzle. Not only did Vera take her time, she also had the habit of falling asleep while nursing. Finally, Minerva lifted the soft little bundle to burp and placed her in her crib. She had gotten a little nervous, afraid that she would be late for the appointment with a student. Minerva almost ran out of the room, forgetting everything but to say: "I have every faith in you Zandy!"

As she left through the mirror, she could hear Albus with the others. They were probably playing a game Albus would have made up on the spot and she was very thankful for a husband who hadn't lost the child within himself.

Truth of the matter was that Minerva did indeed trust Zandy, but she also felt like a bad mother. She would have liked to spend more time with her baby. This period would be over so soon, like Dilys said and she would have missed it if she wasn't careful. Albus could say she had witnesed it before, but every child is different. At eight weeks old, Vera was precious, lovely and had the softest skin she had ever felt against her cheeks. Holding her baby made her feel at the right place. Like this was what she was meant to do. Still, there was her teaching, her duties as Head of House, her duties as Deputy Headmistress. Thankfully Pomona helped her with the Head of House things and Albus really took care of everything else, so she could put her energy into teaching and to the little tasks, such as advicing Molly Prewitt on her choices after Hogwarts.

Suddenly Molly heard hurried footsteps in the hall around the corner and she got up from the floor. She rubbed her bum, for even though it was summer, the halls in the castle were still draughty and the floors cold. When she saw Professor McGonagall, she was a little taken aback. The normally slender witch looked quite a bit plumper and there were black circles under her eyes. She didn't look unhappy though, but nonetheless, Molly wondered what had happened between lunch and this moment.

"Miss Prewitt…" the teacher's voice sounded tired as well.

"Professor…" Molly follwed her into the classroom and took a seat across the desk. She checked out Minerva, careful not to get caught. Professor McGonagall usually wore emerald or black teaching robes, closed to the neck and they were always immaculate, even after pranks Gideon and Fabian played on her. What she wore now showed a lot of cleavage and was bright blue – in fact, it was a colour that would suit the headmaster's fancies! Also, there was a little white cloth on the shoulder…

Minerva followed Molly's eyes and yanked the cloth away, she pulled Molly's file from a chest behind her, opened it and started the feared conversation.

"Miss Prewitt… I see you do very well in Herbology. Also in Defense Against the Dark Arts…"

"With brothers like mine, you have little choice…" Molly mumbled. When she looked up, she saw McGonagall smiled. Molly felt a little more relaxed now the professor seemed so… human.

"Also very good grades in Potions. You do alright in Transfiguration." Here McGonagall looked at Molly in mild amusement. "The rest looks fine too. Well, except Divination. I believe you and I have that in common."

"Yes Professor. Thank you."

"So… have you given any thought as to what you want to do after Hogwarts?" Again a smile.

Molly shifted uncomfortably in her chair.

"Yes… well… ehm… yes… actually… ehm… yes…" Oh how was she going to tell? Professor McGonagall waited patiently, she saw. She took a deep breath and thought of Godric Gryffindor.

"Well, Professor, after school, I would like to marry Arthur and have a family."

There. She had dropped the bomb.

Molly braced herself, expecting to be screamed at, she had already cringed to take the blow. She closed her eyes to isolate herself. However, nothing came.

Silence.

Slowly, Molly opened her eyes. McGonagall was writing in her file.

"Miss Prewitt…"

"Yes, Professor?" she spoke very timidly.

"I think you best keep Potions and Herbology. Transfiguration as well, but you will need to step up to the plate, because you know with these grades I cannot accept you in my class next year."

Molly looked incredulous.

"I expected you were going to yell at me."

"Why Miss Prewitt! I never yell at my pupils! I must say your choice isn't often heard these days, but who am I to stop you? I suppose you have thought long and hard about this decision."

"I have." She really had and she was really sure that she wanted to have a family and take care of them.

"Then I am not the one to deny you the joys of being a wife and mother, Molly.

There is a chance you will have to defend yourself to your classmates, but keep in mind that your choice is honourable and will most likely make you very, very happy."

Molly couldn't tell if it had been the soft glow in McGonagall's eyes, or the sincerity in her words, but suddenly she realized that her Head of House was a wife and mother too.

Minerva was aware of the effect she had on Molly Prewitt. Her secret of loving a man and raising his children in the castle was no longer just for her close friends. Pomona and Filius with their small family, excisting of the two of them and Filius' dog, Poppy who had been there to help her birth her children and who had two children of her own, fathered by the famous auror Alastor Moody (oh, how I love Author's Universe!). She wondered how the young girl would react if she knew the goings on in the castle.

"Well Miss Prewitt, it looks like we have everything sorted."

"Seems so, Professor."

Minerva smiled and cleared away the file, quill and ink with the single flick of her wand.

"Professor, would you mind if I asked you a question?"

Now it was Minerva who braced herself, hoping it would not be about the finer details of her family-life.

"Can you do wandless magic?"

"At the moment, not very well I must admit, but when I am in good condition, yes. Well, not as good as the Headmaster, naturally, but I am a fair hand at countercursing."

Minerva saw her answer impressed Molly.

"You see, your wand is merely an extention of yourself, an object designed to help you channel your gift. One day, you will see that if your thought is powerful enough, you can do certain spells without your wand. "

"Could you teach me?" Molly asked eagerly. Obviously, the girl wanting to leave school was not ready to stop learning.

"When I am feeling better, I would very much like to, Molly."

Minerva saw that her sincere words were appreciated, but she wasn't prepared for the next question Molly threw at her.

"Are you ill, Professor?" There was concern in the girls voice, something Minerva had never encountered before. It threw her off balance and before she knew it, she had answered:

"Oh no, I just had a baby."

The moment the words had left her mouth she could slap herself. Her options were few, obliviate Molly? She couldn't. But what was she to do now? Having Molly know that she was married and did have children had been quite enough and dangerous as it was.

"How wonderful…" Molly sighed. Her facial expression changed.

"Aren't you awfully tired, Professor? Do you need any help?"

"No thank you, Molly. That is very kind, but I have wonderful help." Minerva answered, thinking of Albus, Zandy, Pomona and Filius, Poppy and Alastor.

"Well, I think I have told you everything you needed to know." Minerva said to Molly, adding 'and then some' in her mind.

"If you ever have any questions, don't hesitate to ask them."

Molly nodded and got up from her seat. As she was making her way to the door, Minerva got up too.

Minerva put Molly's file back in the archive and closed the drawers of her desk. When she turned around, Molly was still at the door.

"Professor?" she asked.

Minerva smiled. "Yes?"

"Is it worth it? Having a baby and raising it. Are you happy about having a child and having to put your career on hold?"

Minerva blinked. Was it worth it?

Carrying a child in your womb for nearly ten months, the excruciating pain of labour, holding it in your arms, feeling the overwhelming love for such a tiny human being.

Feeding it in the middle of the night, answering to the cries and sobs. Seeing them grow up and accidentally performing their first bits of magic on her husband and uncles by setting their beards on fire.

Kiss and make better scraped knees, teaching them how to read and to do basic counting. To feel their hugs and to kiss them before they would go to sleep.

To be woken in the middle of the night of frightened cries and telling that there really isn't a boogeyman under the bed. Being interrupted in the midst of passion by a knock on the door and a tiny voice telling she is unable to sleep.

"Yes." Minerva said simply.

Molly looked at her Head of House and felt secure in her choice and supported by one of the most important persons in her life so far. She knew choosing Arthur and having a family was the right thing for her to do and it wouldn't mean she was stupid, unintelligent or out of her mind. It didn't mean she wouldn't make a contribution to society. She could still be a powerful witch.

Minerva looked at Molly and knew that although the young girl was making a difficult choice, it would certainly not mean that the wizarding world wouldn't hear from her ever again. Molly was powerful, she could feel her magic from the distance.

The two women smiled at each other, knowing that even though the age difference and the difference in status, they were connected.

Molly left and found Arthur, Gideon and Fabian in the Common Room.

"How did it go?" Arthur asked.

"Oh alright." Molly said, smiling on the inside.

A few days later, an owl brought her a note in the recognisable handwriting of the Deputy Headmistress.

"Dear Molly,

Your wandless magic lessons will start in four weeks from now. This will be a Thursday. I have checked your schedule and you have a free period after Potions. Meet me in my chambers then.

Best wishes,

Minerva McGonagall"

Quickly Molly put away the note and ate her toast with relish, looking forward to that day she would get special lessons in a special kind of magic.