This is a somewhat reworked (and hopefully improved) version of this story. If you have read the original version and are not inclined to start over from the story's beginning, have no fear: the plot is not substanially changed from the original, and you should have no trouble reading and enjoying the remaining chapters. If you do wish to read the reworked version in its entirety, I hope you enjoy it at least as much or more than the original version.
Thanks, as always, for your support, and happy reading!
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"
Minerva McGonagall's voice was 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." She tucked her wand away while Minerva sat up and straightened her clothing.
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—"
"This is not a joke!"
Poppy's face fell. "Oh, Minerva, I'm sorry. I thought you'd be happy about it." She hesitated before asking, "You didn't want this?"
"We … it wasn't planned."
Minerva looked into the early summer sun shining through the large window. The light falling across her prominent cheekbones threw her lower face into shadow, and Poppy couldn't see the set of Minerva's mouth. Poppy wondered what was happening behind the brown-flecked green eyes she'd always envied as they stared pensively out at a rare cloudless sky.
Minerva's mind had travelled back ten years.
When she and Albus had first decided to marry, he'd told her he wouldn't have any children. They made one too vulnerable, he'd said, and they both had enemies—or an enemy—who wouldn't hesitate to exploit any perceived weakness.
At the time, she'd thought she was relieved at not having to make a decision that would have changed her life in a way that not even marriage to one of the most powerful and famous mages in the world would do. Having a child with Albus now would transform their relationship from the open secret it had long been into a matter for public speculation and comment. 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.
Minerva had never considered herself the maternal type, and she had never had the baby-lust that seemed to afflict a few of her acquaintances while waiting for their own lives to arrange themselves in favour of procreation.
Nevertheless, there had been an evening shortly after she and Albus had returned from a week's honeymoon on the Continent when she'd experienced a momentary … not regret, precisely, but wistfulness for the life she would never have.
They'd been visiting her family at her father's home, and Minerva had been sitting on the library floor, playing with her niece, Morrigan. The toddler had fallen asleep in Minerva's lap, her chubby fingers reflexively grasping Minerva's in the throes of some dream. Minerva watched Morrigan's eyes darting back and forth under her black-lashed lids and kissed her ringleted head. It smelt of talc and the sweet smoke of the fireplace and freshly baked bread, and a wave of love for this tiny girl, her brother's child, blood of her blood, had shimmered through Minerva.
When Minerva's brother, Einar, had lifted his daughter out of her aunt's arms, and the drowsing head nestled into his shoulder, Minerva's eyes had unexpectedly filled.
Albus must have noticed, because when they went up to their room, he was unusually quiet. Instead of changing into his night things, he'd sat on the bed, looking at his feet.
"I'm sorry, Minerva," he'd said.
She thought she knew what he meant, but she also knew that he needed to say it.
"For saddling you with an old man who cannot give you children."
She realised she'd been so wrapped up in her own feelings that she'd forgotten that brilliant, powerful wizard that he was, Albus was just a man, with an ordinary man's regrets and insecurities, who needed occasional reassurance that he was worthy of love.
"Listen to me, Albus Dumbledore," she had said. "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 they'd buried the matter.
So she had continued to use the contraceptive charm her grandmother had taught her when she became a woman, and eventually the notion of that other possible life had receded into her mind, only re-emerging as a half-remembered dream on days when she found blood spotting her underwear, and a familiar ache surged and ebbed in her lower belly.
Those days had always come at irregular intervals, sometimes every month, sometimes every six or even eight weeks. Which was why, when Minerva appeared in the infirmary on a Thursday one week before the end of term, complaining of persistent nausea and fatigue, nearly a decade after her last conversation with Albus on the topic of babies, she was completely unprepared to hear Poppy tell her she was expecting one.
"Have you been using a contraceptive charm?" Poppy asked.
"One does forget sometimes."
Minerva gave her a withering look.
"I beg your pardon," Poppy said. "I meant that we mere mortals forget sometimes. Or don't pay enough attention when we cast it."
"I've been doing this charm every month since I was thirteen years old. I know how to cast it."
"I'm not saying you didn't do it right, Minerva. Sometimes, the charm just fails. No spell is perfect."
"I know that. I'm not some first-year with a new wand and no sense."
Poppy blew out an exasperated puff of air that lifted her dark-blonde fringe briefly from her forehead. "What do you want to do?"
Minerva sighed. "I don't know. Talk to Albus, I suppose."
"If you decide to end this pregnancy, I can put you in touch with a Healer I worked with at St Mungo's. He's very discreet."
"Gods. I haven't even had time to think about this yet."
"I know, love. But you'll have to decide soon. According to your estimate, your last period was around ten weeks ago, which would make you about eight weeks along." She put a reassuring hand on her friend's knee. "Talk to Albus. Whatever you decide, I'll support you."
"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.
By late Saturday afternoon, Minerva still had said nothing to Albus about the pregnancy. The flurry of activity that always accompanied the end of term had made for a convenient excuse, but N.E.W.T.s were now over, other exams marked, and scores entered into her notebook, so when he knocked on the door to her private quarters, she told herself firmly, Today. I'll tell him today.
"Come in," she called and closed the copy of the European Journal of Biological Transfiguration she had been thumbing through.
Albus appeared, chessboard in hand and a twinkle in his eyes. He set the chessboard on a table. "Are we alone?"
It had been their standard greeting for the past two years, ever since he had come into her rooms for one of their Saturday trysts and grabbed her, stopping her protesting mouth with a kiss. He'd had her blouse halfway open before he'd noticed a very embarrassed Filius Flitwick attempting to make a discreet exit. The small 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. After the incident, Filius hadn't been able to look at either of them for a week. Albus had found it funny.
"We are," Minerva said, 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.
She forced herself to speak without thinking about it.
His hand froze and his chest stilled mid-breath.
She shifted to her side, propping her head on her hand so she could look at his face.
He blinked several times and opened his mouth. Then he closed it again. Finally, he spoke.
"Given what we have just spent the last hour doing, I'm surprised you have to ask that," she said, forgetting that she had asked Poppy the same question not two days ago.
"You know what I mean."
"Poppy says the spell sometimes fails," she said, a little defensively. "I suppose we were just … unlucky."
When he said nothing else, she asked him the question she'd been avoiding asking herself.
"What do you want to do about it?"
"Do you want it?" he asked.
That's how he always dodged difficult questions, by turning them back on her.
But she wasn't a Gryffindor for nothing.
"Yes," she said.
His eyes searched hers, and she wondered what he was looking for.
"Then so do I," he said.
And it was decided.
Minerva released a breath she hadn't even known she was holding.
The ease with which he'd apparently accepted this rather abrupt change of plans made her wonder if his determination to remain childless had been quite so predestined as he had made it sound all those years ago.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I know this wasn't what we planned."
"It's done. And we will adjust."
They lay in silence. She could almost hear his mind churning away and wondered what thoughts were going through his busy head. Hers were like will-o'-the-wisps, darting this way and that, never alighting anywhere long enough to scrutinise.
"How far along?" he asked.
"About two months."
"And how are you feeling?"
"All right. A little tired, a bit of nausea, but otherwise not too bad," she said. "My breasts are sore."
"I shall have to take very good care of you," he murmured, moving over her and kissing each breast gently.