A/N - This is a response to number #56 of the Anything Goes challenge at Potter Place from ages ago. The prompt I used was: "She wants to have a baby. She's interviewing potential fathers. Who is she? Why is she resorting to this method? What questions is she asking in order to choose a father for her unborn child? Who shows up? Who does she choose? What happens next? She can be anybody."
In case anyone visits multiple sites, this is a re-posting from Petulant Poetess/Ashwinder from a few years ago, so you may have seen this before. I've recently gotten into some new fandoms (that don't have their own dedicated sites that I know of) so I'm moving my works here to be more all-inclusive.
~~ ** Lady Tuesday ** ~~
Chapter One – A Dream of a Duo
No. She bit her lip and scribbled out the word.
There, that was better. Less … cheap. It made what she was doing seem less tawdry, somehow.
Seeking: An intelligent, capable wizard willing to donate—
No, that's not right at all. Again, her quill traced several lines over the final word. "Donate" just wasn't right; this wasn't a fundraiser or benefit luncheon, after all.
Seeking: An intelligent, capable wizard amenable to assisting a bright, independent, magically-formidable single witch—
Did that make her sound like a harridan? A militant lesbian? Or perhaps just desperate and pathetic? No help for it, she supposed, as it was more or less the truth in either case. … Except for the lesbian part.
Seeking: An intelligent, capable wizard amenable to assisting a bright, independent, magically-formidable single witch in the conception of a child.
Her quill paused for a long moment as she considered what to write next. She needed to get this correct, leaving the ad intriguing enough to get responses but assuring that there were no misconceptions as to what she wanted and what she expected.
Seeking: An intelligent, capable wizard amenable to assisting a bright, independent, magically-formidable single witch in the conception of a child. Insemination only: no sexual congress; non-negotiable. Dignity and discretion of utmost importance. Neither monetary nor emotional support needed for or during the birth and life of child. Further contact will be established following receipt of preliminary letter of interest. Address all inquiries by owl to Joy Bundle, Box #1086, Hogsmeade Village.
There. The penname she had decided upon was slightly ridiculous, but anonymity was key. She had no intention of revealing her identity to any of the candidates who showed interest, even the future 'father.' Arrangements had already been discussed with St. Mungo's as to retaining the necessary materials that could be donated without her present. She would simply report to the hospital within the days following the donation to be inseminated. It was all logically reasoned and well-planned. The whole ad – the whole situation – was well thought out; she had governed it entirely with her rather formidable mind. She paused just a moment before adding one last statement that revealed her soft heart.
Help a strong and kind woman finally have her heart's wish and her life's joy.
He laughed aloud, startling several of his colleagues, as he finished reading the small advertisement tucked away at the corner of the penultimate page of the Daily Prophet. Shaking his head, he folded the paper in half to better see the ad and propped it against his morning coffee. Amazing, he thought sardonically. People will advertise for anything these days. Even sperm, apparently. To his never-ending abhorrence, the magical population (and, he suspected, the Muggle one as well) seemed to have no qualms broadcasting their most private desires and activities in the most disgustingly public forums. The witch was advertising in the newspaper for a child, for Merlin's sake! Unless she was so grotesquely deformed that she couldn't be seen in public, he was reasonably certain that whoever this exceedingly uncreative witch was – Joy Bundle?! How much more plebeian could the woman be? – she must certainly have at least one male acquaintance that would be willing to sacrifice some sperm on the altar of friendship, loyalty, and loneliness. Though, he supposed the witch might get more responses if she were to offer carnal indulgences or, at the very least, money as a trade for the potential offspring. He shook his head again as he rose from the table, leaving his breakfast mostly uneaten. With far too much to do today, he couldn't afford to waste time lolloping about, considering the mating habits of some female dunderhead desperately seeking spawn.
She sighed as she sorted through the seemingly endless flood of post weighing down her dining room table. Her little cottage was normally neat as a pin – she couldn't think amidst too much clutter – but the entire room was covered in stacks of opened envelopes and unfurled rolls of parchment, piles of letters, and a tin bucket containing the scorched remains of several Howlers. That was something she certainly hadn't expected. Nonplussed when the first one arrived (she'd not had any recent disagreements with any of her friends, so she couldn't imagine why she'd be getting a Howler), she'd opened it immediately, out of sheer curiosity. It had been the last she'd actually bothered to open. The high-pitched wail of a witch she'd never even met filled her house, berating her about demeaning wizarding society by stooping so low as to not only raise a child alone but to cheapen marital relations by seeking to do so out of wedlock … or, for that matter, even out of monogamy. She had taken all of the harsh criticism with a surprising amount of good humor, given how ridiculous the argument was. Muggles raised children as single parents all the time; surely the wizarding world couldn't be so very different? Apparently it could. She'd known that the wizarding world was more rooted in tradition and older practices, but she hadn't counted on how desperately some people would cleave to them. She'd gotten no less than ten Howlers a day since that first one, but after that experience, she'd merely conjured a bucket that wouldn't catch fire and placed a few containment charms on and around it. Her owl knew enough to drop any Howlers in the bucket immediately and to avoid flying over it while exiting. She barely even noticed when the messages burst into flame and shrieked their contents; that noise-reduction charm she'd found had been as good as gold.
But she sighed heavily as she thumbed through the day's post and sorted it into appropriate piles. The first pile was the largest, and contained letters that were no more than thinly-veiled solicitations for sex, insisting that if she just gave them the chance, they were certain she'd be satisfied enough to continue trying 'the old-fashioned way.' Each and every one of those letters would receive a scathing Howler in response. The second pile was only slightly smaller and had been reserved for those that had been immediately rejected. Most of those were men who had answered reasonably earnestly, but just didn't appeal to her enough to be an automatic yes. She hadn't discarded any of them – fearing that there might not be any that appealed to her standards, and then where would she be? – but she had resolved quite firmly not to resort to those choices unless she found no suitable candidates. The third pile, containing the inquiries of men that she felt had enough potential to contact for further information, was woefully small. Only two letters. True, the advertisement had only been out a week, but she'd hoped that there would be more respectable inquiries than that. She'd thought she'd been enticing in the ad, not to mention that she'd quelled what she assumed would be the largest worries of men willing to donate sperm: there would be no bothersome requests of either money or emotional support and no required involvement in the life of the child. She would raise the child alone, simply needing help to make the child in the first place. So why had there been so few responses from genuinely interested, intelligent men? Sighing, she could only come to one conclusion: it had to be the lack of sex. Flipping a long lock out of her eyes, she loaded her quill with ink and began penning the first of what promised to be a long string of Howlers.
Seated at his desk, he flicked his wand towards the lamps lining the walls. The night had crept in while he was buried under the stack of work in front of him, and all of a sudden he found his eyes straining to read the parchment currently in front of his nose. He was getting far too old to be working in dim light; he would simply need to charm the lamps to light automatically when the sun began to set. Aging was a hellish process, and he certainly didn't care for the effects. True, he'd survived two wars, and at the forefront to boot, but where his age had never affected him before, now it slammed into him full force. The thirteen and a half years that had passed since the last war ended had seemed like thirty, and he hated that the old axiom occurred to him, but it suddenly rang far too true: you're not getting any younger. He set the parchment he'd been slaving over down on top of the pile of far too many others and gave it up as a bad job; he'd never get the rest done tonight. Rising from his desk, he stretched his lanky form and left his office to head towards home.
The castle was quiet these days. With the Christmas holidays just started, he had plenty of peace from the usual racket that clogged the corridors and seemed to bang down his doors. Now, his footsteps echoed loudly in the empty hallway. A wave of his hand released the wards on his chambers; he slipped inside gratefully. Essays could wait. He was going to sit in front of the fire with the good bottle of Ogden's that Minerva had given him last Christmas and dive happily into a wonderfully familiar novel that he'd been using as a stress reliever since youth. Picking up the book as he passed the bookshelf, he scowled down at the cover. It wasn't the book that earned his ire, but the state that the book was in. Each time he read it, he barely noticed its disrepair; he'd refused to get a new copy over the years, as this one was so well loved, having been dog-eared to his favorite passages and chapters, shoved into far too many knapsacks or underneath his pillow as a student. But now he really looked at the book: its cover was bent or torn in several places, the binding had been repaired with Spellotape far too many times, the author's name rubbed off by the presence and constant motion of his long fingers swiping across the cover as he read. He sighed as he opened the cover and checked the publication date. It was nearly forty years old now. Forty! He still remembered the day that he'd purchased it, just after his first year at Hogwarts, and yet, to the students who roamed the halls now, it would be a classic, an antique. Like him. He dropped heavily into his wingback.
He certainly felt antique these days. He'd spent most of his life teaching lessons he had to water down to children he despised, and what did he have to show for it? The only thing of value in his life was the Order of Merlin (Second Class; damn them for not giving the credit due to him because of his shady past), and that currently had pride of place on his mantle, flanked by a few awards he'd won for outstanding achievement in research of his field. But he didn't have anything, hadn't accomplished anything that would outlast him when he died. Which he so nearly had, thirteen and a half years ago. And who would have mourned him, had he died? He had no wife (that had been determined at school), few friends (and most of them were colleagues), no children …. He'd never even believed he'd wanted children, as he despised them so while teaching; but if he'd had a loving woman by his side, would things have been different? Would he still loathe them so? Perhaps not. Perhaps all he would have needed to care for children was the right witch. He took a long slug of the Firewhiskey. There was no sense in waxing maudlin about children now. Even should he have a sudden change of heart and decide to become nurturing, he had no woman in his life, and even if he did, all the women of his age were most likely unable to bear his child. Another extended gulp from his tumbler. His head dropped backward, heavy with drink, his blurry eyes staring up at the ceiling as he fingered the book still clutched in his left hand. No woman would have him, let alone agree to have his child, and even if she did, she'd have aged past child-bearing years.
And then slowly, slowly, as if the idea had crept into his head up from his stomach where the Firewhiskey sloshed about, his addled brain remembered the newspaper advert. A woman looking for a child. True, she was an anonymous woman looking to have and raise the child by herself, but still …. It would give him the chance to leave some sort of legacy, whatever it may be. And perhaps he could even persuade the woman to let him have a hand in his child's life, once it arrived, even if it was simply to meet the child once. Possessed of a sudden fervor to see the idea through, he staggered up from his chair and into the bathroom. His eyes watered and blurred for a moment, aggravated by the bright light shining from the mirror as he reached into the cabinet to retrieve a Sober-Up potion. It wasn't often that he became inebriated, but he detested being unprepared for the situation. He threw the potion down his throat and staggered back into the main room, where the day's Prophet still sat on his personal escritoire. Scanning the second-to-last page quickly, he found the advert and ripped it from the paper. Propping it up in front of him against his inkwell, he gazed at it a long moment before pulling out a sheet of his finest parchment and choosing a sharp nib for his quill. He paused, quill hovering over the ink, collecting his thoughts.
Help a strong and kind woman finally have her heart's wish and her life's joy, her last line had said. He was not kind, but he was strong and intelligent and capable, just as she had requested. And her wish coinciding with his nostalgia just seemed too serendipitous to be ignored. He began to write.
She nearly clawed her hair out in frustration as she went over the last carefully worded Howler. This particular wizard had made the (vastly incorrect) assumption that not only could she be persuaded into sexual intercourse to conceive the child but the fact that she wanted to have a baby meant that they could engage as often as they please and not be forced to use any protection of any kind. He seemed to think it some kind of carefree joyride! Tapping the parchment with her wand, she muttered the incantation that would activate the charm and contain her angry voice within. Her Howler would ensure that his ears would be ringing for at least twenty-four hours. She growled loudly and flicked her wand at the teapot sitting opposite her, fragrant steam pouring from the spout almost immediately. She had finally reached the end of the stack. Just when she had lifted her teacup to her lips, so looking forward to the blessed relief of the hot liquid, a loud tapping made the window behind her shudder. Typically, she kept the pane up so that Aida could zoom in and out as she pleased, but the pounding rain had induced her to close it. As soon as she lifted the window, Aida dashed inside with an annoyed shriek, the characteristic train-whistle sounding noise unique to her breed. Clutched between her feet was a tightly rolled letter on what appeared to be a single sheet of very elegant parchment. Patting down her ruffled and clearly indignant pet, she fed the Great Sooty Owl from the scraps left on her dinner plate, and cooed reassuring words and praise to her before releasing her to fly back to the village post office owlery. Native to Australia, Aida had been a souvenir of her parents' most recent trip; a sleek black owl with large, piercing eyes and a haunting call, Aida earned her name (that of an Egyptian princess from the opera ), but she also stood out quite a lot. Masking the presence of her owl was one of the main reasons she'd decided to by the cottage in Hogsmeade. Once Aida had flown off, she picked up the parchment the bird had left behind. A strange and inexplicable sense of anticipation gripping her, she opened the missive with shaking fingers and read.
Madam, (Presently, I refuse to address you as "Joy" as it is clearly not your actual name)
I am writing today in response to your advertisement in the Daily Prophet on Monday last. I must admit that at first I approached the request with no little amount of skepticism – wondering, quite understandably, what sort of woman would advertise for a baby? – but found myself increasingly intrigued by the concept the longer I considered it. So I address this letter to you as a statement of my own personal interest. As for presenting myself as a reasonable candidate for your consideration, I offer the following facts:
~ While I am above the societally normative age at which most people contemplate reproduction (being nearly fifty-two years of age), I am in demonstrably impeccable health and have all the wisdom that my age implies.
~ I am a veteran (from the 'front lines' as it were) of both of the long wars against the Dark Lord, at great risk to my health and both my mental and personal well-being. I believe this speaks well of my intelligence and capability as a wizard.
~ I am neither married nor emotionally involved with any other person, eliminating any potentially problematic social repercussions of fathering a child out of wedlock with an undisclosed mother.
These facts I present to you, Madam, for your consideration of my qualifications to father your future child. In the interest of ease and anonymity, I have also taken the liberty of hiring a box in Hogsmeade Central Post, so that we may converse easily and quickly. As I gained some little notoriety during the wars, I am certain you will understand my need for a nom de plume. This, I'm sure, also facilitates our correspondence with "dignity and discretion," as you requested in your advert. You may address any correspondence to me at box # 2134.
In anticipation of your prompt reply, I am
For a long while, she just stared at the letter; parts of it made her want to burst out laughing (the dry recitation of his 'qualifications' as a sperm donor), and parts of it made her want to slap him soundly (his neat dismissal of her penname, and his questioning her reasons and morals). And yet, something in the odd letter appealed to her. The slanted, spiky writing seemed somewhat familiar, but not as much as the wry, witty tone of voice. Something told her that she was acquainted with the writer, but she was certain that no one she knew would answer such an advert, especially not with an earnest interest. This had, after all, been part of the reason she decided to seek a donor in this manner. No one she knew would ever believe that she would do something this ostentatious or risky. It gave her the freedom to seek her life the way she chose, knowing that no one would stop her because no one would know it was her. After her pregnancy became apparent, she'd be branded some sort of "fallen woman," as they say, but she had dealt with worse names than that. If Hester Prynne could do it, so could she. She read through the letter again.
Well. Whoever wrote the odd if not straightforward epistle definitely deserved further conversation, if for no other reason than entertainment value. She pulled out the sheet of questions that she had prepared for this stage of the production, penning a short letter to accompany it. With a tiny smile and a quick flourish of her wand, then her quill, she folded the sheet and addressed it carefully: Mr. Tobias Reynard, box #2134, Hogsmeade Village.
This should be interesting.