Title: Time and again
Rating: FMAO (For Mature Adults Only!)
Disclaimer: They don’t belong to me…. IF they did they would be having a whole lot more fun…. And Harry would have to go find another series to hang around in… but since they belong to J.K. Rowling…. I’ll send them back unharmed (happier… and unharmed.)
Summary: Uh… Uh… Albus and Minerva fight Grindelwald and then…
The land was smothered in blackness; only the muted beams of a thin new moon providing any break in the inky countryside. The air was filled with silence, no wind, and no buzz of insects, no croaking of frogs marring the seemingly peaceful night. Only a person with the vision of a cat could have seen the senseless wartime destruction that scorched the earth through the dim shadows.
Fortunately moving like a cat was something that Minerva McGonagall excelled at. Her animagus form traversed the rubble with ease, her green eyes glowing brilliantly in the dim light as she followed the scent of her prey.
Minerva spotted her quarry just where she suspected he would be, standing stiffly in a slight depression on the lonely hillside. His brilliant blue eyes peered into space, seeing nothing and everything at the same time.
She crouched in the still grass, her slowly swishing tail the only discernable movement. Her target never acknowledged her.
Finally Minerva pounced toward the broad back in front of her. In mid leap, her feline body stretched into the feminine form of a tall pale woman with dark hair and pleasing features. Her feet hit the ground just inches behind the man. Her arms snaked around his chest while her cheek fell to rest on his shoulder.
“You shouldn’t be out in the open like this. It’s too dangerous.” Minerva whispered.
In answer Albus shifted an arm back between them, wrapped it around Minerva’s waist and pulled her around until she was enveloped in his embrace.
“He won’t strike now. He’s like a spider in his lair… waiting for me to come to him… knowing that the time of our final confrontation is coming.”
“But his men...?”
Dumbledore shook his head slightly. “The
muggle war is winding down. The allied
armies will be in
“But he is still powerful…”
“Extremely… but his alliance with the Germans is in ruin. He only has two choices. Either he can make a bold strike to try and rejuvenate the war effort or he can fade quietly into the background and lay low while slowly rebuilding his power base. We can’t let that happen…”
“So you will fight him.” Minerva’s words were a statement rather than a question.
“We know approximately where he is. I plan to leave tomorrow, travel to where he is and then challenge him.”
Minerva’s arms tightened and she turned her face into Albus’ chest to mask her sorrow.
“Please understand, Minerva. I have to do this.”
Finally Minerva raised her eyes to meet Albus’. “I don’t understand… but I accept it.”
Albus nodded. “You go back to the house now. The others will miss you and you aren’t really dressed for a nighttime stroll through the countryside.” Something that Minerva quickly recognized as desire sparked in Albus’ eyes as he took in her attire. She wore only a straight black skirt that just covered her knees and a simple white peasant blouse with a low wide neckline. Her feet were bare
“I realized you weren’t in your bed…” Minerva blushed slightly. “You have little room to talk.” She laid her palm on Albus’ chest, her fingers burrowing through his beard to touch the bare skin beneath. She could tell by the drape of the fabric that he’d only bothered to fasten his one robe halfway up and his feet were also bare. “Alastor knows that I came to look for you.”
“We should both get back then. He’ll be looking for us…”
“I told him we wouldn’t be back tonight…” Minerva ignored the surprised look on Albus’ face as she took his hand in hers and moved down the hill. Albus followed meekly behind, knowing that Minerva was heading for the concealed entrance of one of their many supply bunkers.
A quietly muttered spell lowered the guards and let them enter and then Minerva was closing the door behind them, reinstating the spells and adding a few of her own to keep the world away for a few more hours.
Light sprang from the tip of Minerva’s wand and she used it to ignite a small lantern in the corner. Albus didn’t say a word as he watched Minerva spread a blanket and transform two rolls of bandages into pillows. When she was done she laid her wand carefully on the table next to the lantern and lifted her hands to the end of her thick braid. A quick tug stripped the tartan ribbon away and she swiftly began to undo the plait.
Before she was half done Albus was there, his fingers taking over the task, slowing down to stroke each inch of freed hair until finally her locks hung in a midnight sheet past Minerva’s waist.
“I love your hair.”
“And I love yours.” Minerva turned into Albus, her arms sliding around his shoulders so that she could wrap her fingers through his long auburn tresses. “Kiss me, Albus.”
Albus lowered his face to hers but at the last moment turned to the side so that his lips brushed her cheek.
“We can’t, Minerva…”
Minerva smiled sultrily. “We can and we will…”
“We agreed three years ago when we took this mission that our personal feelings… our desire for each other… would have to end until…”
“We agreed… and we’ve both lived up to our vow…” Minerva had worked her hand beneath Albus’ hair and into the neck of his robes, pushing them away as she fingered the planes of his shoulders. “…But tomorrow is the beginning of the end and we don’t know if… please give me tonight…”
“Oh, Tabby… I want you… but…” Albus felt his robes slide over his shoulders, stopping at his bent elbows.
“No buts…” Minerva took a step back. Only as her skirt flowed down her legs did Albus realize that Minerva had released the clasp. She stepped out of the puddle of fabric around her feet and onto the blanket, her fingers working over the buttons of her blouse. The bottom hem of the shirt covered her bottom, but just barely. As she turned Albus had a glimpse of her firm milky cheeks.
Minerva sank gracefully to the blanket, her shirt only half buttoned. Under Albus’ watchful gaze she dealt with the remaining buttons, shrugged out of the blouse and tossed it away, leaving her gloriously naked before him.
Albus dropped his arms and his robes joined her clothes on the ground as he sank down to the blanket beside Minerva. This time their lips met with no hesitation.
“Tabby… I don’t have… oh God… we can’t go all…” Albus tried to talk between kisses but Minerva wouldn’t let him.
“It’s okay… I’m safe…” Minerva lay back on the soft blanket, pulling Albus with her. “My cycle… finished… days ago.” The kisses were growing increasingly passionate.
“Mmm… nonethe… I’ll pull…” Albus groaned when Minerva hooked her leg over his hip, opening her core to his rampant arousal. “…out… I’ll pull out…”
With one last penetrating glance around the perimeter of the auror outpost, Alastor Moody sank into the shadows of the house, propping his back against the hard stone. He’d begin his next round in twenty minutes, he decided. He always changed his times in order to avoid any semblance of a pattern.
He idly wondered about Dumbledore and the McGonagall girl as he kept his eyes focused on the darkness. Albus had been Alastor’s friend for many years; one of the few he had. Moody didn’t give his trust lightly but Dumbledore had certainly earned it. So had McGonagall for that matter. Wary didn’t begin to describe his feelings about the young girl who had been assigned to his auror team due to her animagus skills. ‘Trained by Dumbledore’ the ministry officials had told him, ‘One of the best.’ But Moody made up his own mind… and the girl had proved her worth. Over the past three years she’d performed every tasked assigned to her without complaint. Her loyalty to the cause couldn’t be questioned.
Alastor smiled, the deep scars on his face making the movement appear sinister even though that wasn’t intended. He’d always suspected that what ran between Dumbledore and McGonagall went far deeper than loyalty. Her actions tonight were just another bit of evidence to the suspicious old auror. But Dumbledore was out there… somewhere… and if the girl could help him… in whatever way he needed help… then Alastor was all for it.
A curse sprang to Alastor’s lips as an explosion of golden light illuminated the horizon. A single note of music accompanied the sight, the purest tone of sound that Alastor had ever heard. The light and sound were gone before he could free his wand but seconds later a wave of almost invisible magic, stronger than any he had ever felt before hit him, knocking him back against the building. Its force continued in a pulsing fashion for several minutes before finally fading away, leaving the landscape completely dark once again.
Three hours had passed by the time that Alastor had completely searched the boundary for a break in the protective wards and found nothing. The sudden surge of magic hadn’t been repeated but Alastor wouldn’t be happy until he knew its source.
He’d just settled down in a chair leaning against the barn to think when a slight movement caught the corner of his eye. Alastor quickly jumped up, wand at the ready, but relaxed slightly when he recognized Albus Dumbledore approaching. He didn’t lower his wand but he did swallow the curse on his lips.
Alastor watched with undisguised interest as Albus came closer. A beam of moonlight managed to fight its way through the rolling clouds, allowing Moody to see clearly. His expression quickly changed from wary to stunned for, in his arms, Albus carried a sleeping Minerva. Her arms were wrapped around his neck and her head rested against his shoulder. The hair that was always caught in a tight bun or braid flowed freely down her back. A blanket was wrapped around her body but the loose corner flapping against Albus’ arm revealed a pale arm and shoulder. Alastor swallowed hard when he recognized the skirt and blouse draped over Albus’ right arm and realized that beneath the blanket the woman wore nothing.
As the couple came close, Alastor felt power radiating from them, magic as strong as he had ever felt. At three feet he would have sworn that he could actually see a golden aura clinging to them both.
Before Alastor could challenge them, Albus murmured the password and continued moving toward the door to the house.
Dawn was only an hour away when Alastor’s relief, Cecile Longbottom, came to take his place on guard duty. He cautioned her to remain constantly vigilant then headed into the house; a bit surprised at himself that he hadn’t mentioned the surge of magic that he’d experienced.
The smell of coffee brewing lured Alastor into the kitchen where he poured a large cup of the potent brew and sank into a hard chair by the table. He knew that he needed to grab a few hours sleep before the he and the other chosen few left to track Grindelwald but his mind couldn’t seem to let go of the phenomenon he’d witnessed earlier. He was so caught up in his musings that he didn’t realize he was no longer alone until Albus plunked his mug down on the table.
“You are lucky I didn’t hex you into next year,” Moody growled.
“In your dreams,” Albus replied in a friendly tone, not rising to his friends’ bait.
“So how long you been bedding her? I wouldn’t have known…”
“Alastor…” Albus warned.
“I knew you two were good friends but I’d never have guessed that you were tomcatting around her…”
“Alastor!” This time Moody caught the anger in Albus’ voice and shifted back in his chair to stare at his friend.
“Shit, Albus! You’re in love with her! My God, man! She’s young enough to be your granddaughter… your great-granddaughter!”
“Kindly keep your voice down, Alastor, or I shall be hexing you into next year. I may do so anyway if you ever speak of Minerva with any disrespect ever again. My relationship with Tab… Minerva isn’t for public discussion.”
Alastor glanced around the room. “Is she…” his eyes gestured upward.
“She is safely tucked in upstairs. No one will be the wiser… if you hold your tongue.” The look Albus gave Alastor made it clear that he had little choice.
Alastor held up his hands in mock supplication. “It’s your business… no one else’s… I told you, I never would have guessed… well, not that you were sleeping with her, at least... I’ve never seen you and Minerva stare at each other longingly, much less kiss or touch. But I can see that she makes you happy. It was written all over your face as you approached.”
“I can’t remember ever feeling like this. Even amidst all of the strife and chaos… Tabby is my touchstone…” Albus eyes grew soft for a moment then he remembered whom he was sitting next to. “Besides, you have little cause to argue. You aren’t that much younger than I am and I’ve noticed how you look at young Miss Pomfrey, one of my Tabby’s classmates, I might add…”
Alastor barked out a harsh laugh. “Point taken. But seriously Albus, just between the two of us, how long have you been sha… a couple?”
“I first noticed Minerva while she was still at Hogwarts. She was a brilliant transfiguration student but the summer after her fifth year… she blossomed from a gangly girl into a beautiful woman. She was difficult to resist.”
Alastor’s eyes grew wide, the nasty scar across his face causing his expression to seem menacing. “You… didn’t!”
“I said difficult, Alastor, not impossible. As much as I wanted… Minerva was my student. I would never take advantage… I knew that she had developed a school girl crush on me, which didn’t help but… After Minerva graduated I was involved in her animagus training. It was then that our secret feelings became something more.”
“When we were separately asked to become part of this special task force we decided that we had to put our personal feelings on hold as best we could.”
“You’ve been successful at that?”
“We’ve rarely touched in three years. Stealing kisses and hugs just made the longing even more painful. We managed a weekend away once.”
“In that little French village…” Pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place for Alastor.
“Yes… but tonight…” Albus shrugged his shoulders. “Tonight was… necessary.”
“Minerva knows the odds as well as we do.” Alastor said bluntly.
“Yes, she does. If we come out of this I’m going to ask her… I want you to promise me something, Alastor. If I don’t succeed… promise me that you will protect Minerva… get her to safety… and make sure that she goes on living…”
Albus knew that Alastor never made any promise lightly. “You have my word,” Moody finally nodded. “Once this is done I will see the two of you together.”
Neither man spoke for long moments, the bubbling of the coffeepot the only sound in the silent room. Finally Albus drained his cup and sat it down. “I’m going to see if I can sleep a bit…”
“You should be exhausted,” Alastor observed dryly as he deposited both of their mugs in the sink.
“I should be,” Albus agreed, “but I feel strangely exhilarated.”
‘Exhilarated…’ As they climbed the stairs Moody thought again about the strange magical surge he’d witnessed earlier. Knowing what he now knew he was convinced that somehow Albus and Minerva had generated the powerful spell.
When they reached Albus’ bedroom door he turned to bid his friend goodnight but Alastor shook his head. “You will sleep better with your Tabby in your arms. Go to her. No one will find out. I’ll make sure.”
Albus started to protest but his desire to hold Minerva for just a few more hours won out and with a grateful smile at Alastor he moved down the corridor and in the door of his lover’s small bedroom.
The search for Grindelwald took the group of five aurors four days but finally they felt assured of the location of his headquarters. Powerful wards guarded the seemingly burnt out castle but Albus was confident that he could weaken a spot enough to slip through unnoticed. He glanced up at the sinking sun then quickly went over the plan one last time with the group.
“Once I go through the shield I will become invisible. Minerva will already be in her feline form. I must caution each of you… don’t get overzealous. Give me a full twenty minutes before you move. We can’t alert the enemy too early.”
“At twenty minutes I activate the beacon to summon backup then we each go through the shield at two minute intervals. We’ll be right on the mark, Albus. Don’t worry about us.”
“I suspect that I won’t have time to worry about you, Alastor… any of you,” his eyes cut briefly to Minerva, “so please be cautious at all times.
A flood of emotion washed over Minerva and she struggled to hold it in check. Memories of waking up next to Albus three days ago, memories of the kisses they’d shared and the promises they had made in their last few hours alone invaded her thoughts. She fiercely pushed them back.
“Ready then?” Albus asked.
Minerva stepped forward and brushed a light kiss across Albus’ cheek. “For luck,” she said out loud, ‘and for love,’ she mouthed where only he could see. Before anyone could respond a purring tabby cat was rubbing against all of their ankles.
Albus pointed his wand at a vague spot in front of him and pulled all of his thoughts within, deepening his concentration. As he whispered the words of a nearly undetectable weakening spell a misty shimmer could be seen. Albus nodded and Tabby-Minerva leapt through. After sharing one last nod with Alastor, Albus entered as well.
The air was heavy with mystical fog generated by the multitude of spells that had been cast. Alastor could barely see his hand before him, much less any member of his team or the large multinational task force that had apparated in to help clean up the area. Everyone was on guard because they weren’t exactly sure what had happened within the schloss while it was being turned to rubble.
Alastor swore loudly as his foot hit an obstacle and he fell over a piece of collapsed wall. He was attempting to right himself when, out of the corner of his eye, he caught a faint shimmer of gold.
“Albus!” He screamed. “Minerva! Answer me, dammit!” He continued to call out both names as he crawled over the rubble toward the glow.
Alastor’s frantic cries attracted the attention of other searchers around them and by the time he had located the source of the light help was available to shift the rubble away.
Several muggle lanterns and glowing wands appeared to illuminate the darkness allowing Alastor to see whom he had found. “Albus! Wake up, man! Can you tell us what happened?”
There was hardly a visible spot on Albus that wasn’t black or blue. Blood seeped from several deep cuts around his face into his hair and beard. He was only half-conscious. A low moan escaped his lips at Alastor’s prodding.
“Dumbledore!” The commanding voice of Clive Jeffries, the assistant minister of magic from England, cut in. “What happened to Grindelwald?”
“Dead…” Albus managed to spit out between moans. His pallor was growing paler.
“We have to get him help or he’ll be dead too!” Alastor told the people around him harshly.
Jeffries quickly summoned the medical team but when they tried to move Alastor away Albus summoned all his strength and wrapped his fingers around his friend’s arm. Alastor bent closer, realizing that Albus’ lips were moving.
“We haven’t found her yet but I’m sure she’s outside somewhere… waiting…”
“NO!” Albus began to cough. “… here…”
“Min was here? But she was supposed to recon and then get out?”
“…here…” Albus said again. “…helped… stub…” Another coughing fit overtook Albus. This time blood appeared on his lips.
“We have to move him, Moody!” Jeffries ordered.
Alastor looked back to Albus who’s deep blue eyes were pleading, “… prom…ise…”
“I’ll find her and bring her to you, Albus. I swear!”
Albus sighed and closed his eyes, his grip on Alastor’s wrist loosening as he faded into oblivion.
Poppy Pomfrey, who had arrived early that morning with the backup med team, found Alastor still searching the destroyed building late in the afternoon of the following day. She called out his name as she picked her way over to him but he didn’t seem to hear her.
“Alastor!” He jerked up abruptly when she laid her hand on his shoulder. “We are leaving now. We’ve transported all of the wounded and the clean-up crew wants to get started. The local populace is beginning to get curious.”
“I can’t go! I made a promise to Albus. He told me that Minerva was here and I have to find her.”
“But you’ve been searching all day. You must have misunderstood Professor Dumbledore.”
Alastor threw off Poppy’s restraining hand. “I didn’t misunderstand. Besides, no one else has found Minerva. I won’t leave until she leaves with me… one way or another…”
Poppy caught her breath, “You don’t think… oh, Alastor… she can’t be!”
“I have to know… for his sake.” Alastor stared at Poppy. “You know, don’t you… about… them?”
She nodded. “Minerva is my best friend,” was her simple answer.
“And Albus is probably the closest thing that I have to one… help me, Poppy. Albus said that she was here… in this room… with both of them. Minerva would have stayed out of the way. She knew better than to distract Albus and she wouldn’t want to be anywhere near Grindelwald if possible. We found his body on that side of the room so… where the hell is she?”
Poppy closed her eyes and breathed deeply a few times then opened them and began to run her eyes slowly over the ruins, turning in place as she did so. “She would have stayed close to the wall… perhaps even in her feline form… She could be wedged between debris, unable to change back… or… look at what’s left of the walls, Alastor.”
“There isn’t much.”
“But there… see how the line scoops in? There must have been some sort of alcoves all along the walls. Archways for statues maybe…”
Alastor was already scrambling toward one corner of the room, his wand drawn and ready. With Poppy’s guidance he began to methodically clear the rubble near the first indention, levitating it toward the center of the room.
Another hour passed and the couple had moved to the second wall when they finally found Minerva beneath a slab of stone wedged into the recess. Although she appeared to be unconscious her eyes flickered slightly at the sound of Poppy’s voice.
“She’s dehydrated,” Poppy told a worried Alastor as she cast a quick diagnostic spell over her friend, “and she has some injuries… she’ll need several weeks to recover… but I think she will be okay. We need to get her back to the outpost so a certified healer can check her over. Can you ease her out… gently?”
Minerva moaned as Alastor pulled her from the tight space and lifted her into his arms. His mind briefly flashed back to the night when he’d seen Albus carry her back to the house.
“Albus is waiting for you. You’ll be together soon.” Alastor whispered to Minerva as he carried her to safety.
“How is she?” Alastor asked Poppy the second she exited Minerva’s tiny room at the outpost turned field hospital.
Poppy nodded. “The healer agrees with me. With a few weeks rest Minerva will be good as new. He did discover a broken ankle but the healing spell has mended it beautifully.”
Alastor breathed a sigh of relief. “Then we can arrange for her to join Albus… what?”
Poppy looked away, sadness in her eyes. “The ministry has taken complete responsibility for Dumbledore’s care. His condition is extremely serious.”
“He was taken by portkey to a private clinic in Switzerland. No one is being allowed to see him.”
“Is he really as bad as all that, Poppy?”
“I… I don’t know. But I do know that Professor Dumbledore is one of the most determined men I have ever met. He will survive. He has to…” her eyes glanced at the door next to her. “I don’t know what will happen to Min if he doesn’t.”
Alastor took Poppy’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “We’ll… she’ll still have us.” He told Poppy gruffly as he glanced around; making sure that no one else was listening.
Poppy gave the hand an answering squeeze. “They are sending both of us out late this afternoon. Minerva will have to stay in the hospital a day or two but after that I will take her to my apartment.”
“I’ve been ordered to stay with the clean-up crew for another month at least. There is so much work to be done… so much destruction… at least this blasted war is nearly over.”
“You are going after Grindelwald’s followers.” Poppy stated, knowing the answer in her heart.
“We are going to begin the search. I suspect that particular task will take years, but as soon as I’m back in London I will let you know.”
“Take care of yourself, Alastor.” Poppy impulsively leaned forward and kissed his scarred cheek, blushed scarlet and then disappeared through the door behind her.
‘Well… damn!’ Alastor thought, his hand coming up to cover the blessed cheek.
“Come on, Min. Wake up. You need to eat.” Poppy shook her friend’s shoulder for the second time.
“I’m not hungry,” Minerva muttered as she dragged the spare pillow over her head.
“You have to be. You haven’t eaten since yesterday. You haven’t done anything since yesterday except sleep.”
After a few muttered oaths Minerva finally threw the pillow away. “I’m not allowed to get out of bed. What else is there to do but sleep?” The frustration in her voice was obvious.
“I’ve brought you books, magazines… I’ve tried to spend the evenings with you… but… I guess that since you are sleeping so much your body needs it. But you also need food.”
“Have you heard anything?” Poppy knew the question was coming, as it did every time she woke Minerva up. But today she could smile.
“As a matter of fact…”
“What!?!? Tell me, Poppy!” Minerva bolted up from the mattress.
“I’ll tell you while you eat,” Poppy answered as she plopped the pillows up behind Minerva’s back.
“That’s blackmail,” Minerva complained but she lifted the spoon from the bowl of stew on the tray Poppy placed in front of her and took a bite.
“I’ve learned to use all the tricks at my disposal when dealing with a grumpy kitty cat,” Poppy laughed at Minerva’s scowl as she settled down in a chair by the bed and picked up her own bowl.
“I’m eating so start talking.”
“It isn’t much news but at least it is something. I overheard a conversation today between my supervisor and the head of the hospital. One of the wards is being customized for a very special patient. The great hero who defeated Grindelwald is being transferred to St. Mungo’s sometime next week.”
Minerva released a grateful sigh. “He’ll be so near… So he is getting better?”
“I… don’t know… but I would think that they wouldn’t risk transporting Albus if his condition hadn’t improved.”
“When can I go see him?”
Poppy hated to hurt Minerva but she had to tell her the entire story. “It isn’t possible yet. The ministry isn’t going to allow any visitors.”
Tears filled Minerva’s eyes. “But Albus will tell them… he’ll want to see me… won’t he?”
“Of course he will, darling. I suspect that Albus may still be unconscious. The Swiss healers probably put him in a deep sleeping trance to help him heal. His injuries were quite severe. Once he wakes up you will be the first person he asks for.”
A wavering smile touched Minerva’s lips at Poppy’s reassurance. “I wish I could be with him now… hold his hand… even if he didn’t know I was there…”
“You’ll be together soon, Min… nothing can keep you and Albus apart…”
‘Nothing except the bloody ministry,’ Minerva ranted to herself as she thought about her conversation with Poppy three weeks before. She had plenty of time to think while she sat in the Minister of Magic’s office for the fifth day in a row, hoping that she might get the chance to petition the government official for permission to see Albus.
The Minister’s assistant eyed the young woman with annoyance for at least the twentieth time that day. ‘Why won’t she accept that she isn’t going to speak to the Minister?’ he wondered. ‘She looks like she ought to be at home in bed recuperating anyway.’
At that moment, a familiar voice in the corridor caught Minerva’s attention and moments later Alastor Moody stomped into the office and tossed a rolled up piece of parchment on the desk.
“There’s the bloody damn report, you little weasel,” he scowled at the secretary. “Now I’m off to begin my leave.”
“The Minister has left the office for the day but I’ll be sure to place this on her desk for her review tomorrow morning.”
Moody turned to see a pale young woman slowly stand.
“Min?” He crossed to her side instantly. “What the hell has happened to you? Poppy told me she would look after you!”
“Believe me, she does. Poppy has done nothing but nag me…”
‘Without much success,’ Alastor noted as he took in the pallor of Minerva’s face and the rings around her eyes. She’d obviously lost weight as well.
“I was on my way to find you and Poppy. Come along with me to the auror office to get my things and I’ll escort you home.”
“Well… since I’ve just discovered that the minister has left for today…” Minerva turned back to the man behind the desk. “But I’ll be back again tomorrow morning,” she warned.
The young man rolled his eyes as Minerva took Alastor’s offered arm and headed out of the room.
Alastor quickly realized that he would have to slow his pace so that Minerva could keep up with him. “Are you recuperating well?”
Minerva rolled her eyes. “The healers say that I am fine. I… I would be better if I could see Albus.”
“See… why haven’t you seen him? Albus was transferred back to England weeks ago.”
“The ministry isn’t allowing anyone to visit him. They want to keep the press away… give him a chance to recuperate is the official word. I’ve tried everything…” Minerva’s voice caught, a hiccuping sob breaking through. “Why hasn’t he asked to see me?”
“That is ridiculous! I understand keeping the reporters out but Albus needs his friends and family now. He needs you.”
“And I need him. I know I would feel so much better if only they would let me see him.”
“So you’ve taken to haunting the Minister’s office?”
Minerva smiled wanly as they entered Alastor’s small work area. She sank gratefully into the chair he offered. “I don’t know of anything else to do and I have to do something.”
“Let me go talk to some people.” Alastor’s face made a horrible grimace, which Minerva knew was actually a beaming smile. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Almost an hour passed before Alastor returned having exhausted his extensive blue vocabulary. “I don’t understand what is wrong with these pompous pri…” his voice trailed off as he realized that Minerva was resting her head on his desk, fast asleep.
“And the healers say this is normal?” Alastor questioned Poppy quietly, both of them continually glancing from the small kitchen toward the figure sleeping on the sofa in the adjoining room. “Do you think she is okay?”
Poppy obviously didn’t want to doubt her teachers but she knew her friend better than they did and she knew something wasn’t right. “She sleeps constantly. She gets up and goes to the ministry and sits all day hoping that someone might give her permission to see Albus then she comes home and sleeps.”
“She’s lost weight.”
“She had lost more. For the first few weeks I could barely get her to stay awake long enough to eat. Since then her appetite has returned somewhat and some of the weight has returned.”
“And the mediwizard found nothing?”
“Her ankle has healed just fine. He thinks that perhaps all of the sleeping is part of her mental recovery process from all of the horror that she experienced. The healer suggested that perhaps Minerva might need to ‘talk’ to someone.”
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! The woman is depressed because she is being kept from the man she loves! Can’t you do anything, Poppy?”
“I have tried, Alastor. We’ve tried to sneak Minerva in to the hospital with no success. I’m not even allowed to see Albus. I’ve begged my supervisors but everyone is too afraid of the ministry.”
“We have to do something… I made a promise to Albus. I’ll talk to more people tomorrow… maybe even the minister if I can get by that little rodent of an assistant of hers…”
Poppy nodded, relieved that Alastor was home to help her. He would bring Albus and Minerva together. She believed that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
“Why don’t you stay for dinner?” She asked, shyly. “It isn’t fancy but there is plenty.”
“I’d… I’d like that,” Alastor agreed, suddenly seeming a bit flustered himself.
“Good. To pay for your meal you can go attempt to wake Minerva up.”
Alastor laughed. “You make it sound like a horrible chore.”
Poppy grinned as she rubbed her cheek. “Let’s just say that my friend has a hell of a right, okay?”
Chapter Three continued
Thanks to Poppy’s warning Alastor was able to avoid the punch that Minerva flung at him when he shook her shoulder and the trio soon settled down to eat. Alastor took advantage of their closeness to flirt shamelessly with Poppy but also to observe Minerva while he teased her. Although she smiled some and attempted to laugh in all the right places she obviously wasn’t the same woman that he’d worked with over the past three years. Some vital spark was missing. Alastor knew without a doubt that the cause of this was her separation from Albus.
Alastor made to leave once dinner was done but Minerva waved he and Poppy out of the small kitchen area, insisting on cleaning the area herself while Poppy and Alastor spent some quality time alone.
Normally very outspoken, Poppy seemed strangely shy when she and Alastor sat on the couch but he had her laughing and at ease within minutes. The laughter had faded into a serious snogging session; the couple wrapped in each other’s arms, when the sound of a breaking dish resounded from the kitchen area, followed by a loud thump.
Both Poppy and Alastor were on their feet and moving instantly. Poppy fell to her knees beside an unconscious Minerva while Alastor with a quick flick of his wand, cleaned away the shards of the broken plate.
Poppy cast a quick spell to determine if moving Minerva was safe then directed Alastor to lift her friend and carry her into her bedroom. Alastor gently laid Minerva down and then moved back to let Poppy work.
“Damned ministry officials,” he raged beneath his breath as watched Poppy work. “Somebody is going to bloody well hear me tomorrow…”
Poppy sighed and stepped back. “None of the simple spells that I cast show anything. I am going to have to persuade her to go back to St. Mungo’s tomorrow. God, I hate having to persuade Minerva.”
“You have no idea?” Alastor questioned. “Maybe all of the weight loss…”
Poppy shook her head. “If she were still losing weight… but she’s gaining every day now. She must have put on ten pounds these last few weeks, since she started keeping her food down again…”
“Keeping…” Alastor’s eyebrows flew up. “She wasn’t able to keep food down… she fainted tonight and she’s sleeping all the time… Poppy, I may not be a healer but I know what those symptoms normally add up to. Have you done a spell to check for pregnancy?”
“I… It takes two to make a baby, Alastor, and I know for a fact that Minerva and Professor Dumbledore agreed to put their personal lives on hold until such time that their mission was complete. I know from the condition that we found them both in that Dumbledore didn’t vanquish Grindelwald then have his way with Min.”
Alastor stifled a laugh at Poppy’s imagery. “You’re right… on both counts… but… they didn’t keep their agreement absolutely to the letter.”
“What do you mean?” Poppy asked, her voice holding both anger and curiosity.
“The night before we left to track Grindelwald… I think that they were together. Albus left the house to think and Min went after him. They didn’t return for hours and when they did Albus was carrying a sleeping Minerva. I’m fairly sure that they had… well… you know…”
“Even if they… Min wouldn’t have been careless.”
“They were hours away from leaving on a life or death mission, Poppy. I bet neither Albus nor Minerva thought about that… and if they did they probably didn’t give a damn. Sometimes… in order to face death… you have to experience the joy of life to its fullest.” Alastor paused for a moment and then spoke quietly, just one word, “Please?”
Poppy nodded and cast the appropriate spell. Barely a minute had passed before they knew the answer.
“Now listen to me you little weasel…”
“I believe, Mr. Moody,” Alastor started at the voice behind him and whirled around, “that the creature you are holding is in fact a ferret and not a weasel.” Minister of Magic Millicent Bagnold smiled at him with icy eyes. “Now if you would kindly return my assistant to his original form…”
Alastor dropped the slinky white ferret back in the seat of the chair and waved his wand while grumbling out the spell. The minister’s pale headed assistant quickly appeared, his robes rumpled and his hair mussed.
“Minister, I must protest my treatment at the hands of this ruffian…”
“I’ll take care of Mr. Moody, Niles. Alastor, apologize to my assistant…” Bagnold demanded.
Moody didn’t want to but the minister stared him down. “Oh, all right. I’m sorry that I turned you into a ferret, you slimy little weasel…”
“Mr. Moody! My office! Right now!” With a grand sweep of her elegant robes the minister disappeared through the door, leaving Alastor to stump along behind.
Once Alastor had closed the door securely behind him, Millicent Bagnold drew her wand and expertly invoked a silencing spell on the room. “Now, Alastor, I suggest you tell me what has raised your temper.” She moved to a discreet cupboard and pulled out two glasses and a bottle of firewhisky.
Alastor grinned sardonically at his former schoolmate. “I am sorry, Millie, but that pompous ass wouldn’t let me speak to you.”
“About this wall that the ministry has built around Albus Dumbledore! I need to see him, Millie… speak to him… he was a member of my team. They all want to know his condition.”
Millicent nodded in understanding. “I appreciate your concern, Alastor, but please try to understand the ministry’s position. Although Albus has regained consciousness and been able to tell us what happened he still has a wealth of information that we have to obtain. The healers don’t think that it is in Dumbledore’s best interests to have visitors at the moment and we are unwilling to jeopardize his health.”
“I’m sorry, Alastor, but until Niles tells me that the healers have given the okay, Dumbledore remains off limits.” She sat the bottle and a glass down in front of him.
Alastor recognized the tone in Bagnold’s voice and knew he would get no further. “You don’t understand, Millie… you don’t understand at all. Rest assured that Albus will not thank you for this.” Ignoring her offer of a drink, he gave a curt nod then turned and exited the office, pausing in the anteroom only to glare fiercely at Niles before storming off down the hall.
Alastor knocked on the door of Poppy’s flat, his heart heavy. He had hoped to have good news for Minerva but all of his efforts had yielded nothing. Poppy opened the door with a gentle smile and drew Alastor in, sensing his disappointment as much as reading it on his scarred face.
“I know that you tried,” she offered quietly as she led him to the sofa.
Alastor glanced around the small apartment. “Where is Minerva?”
Poppy sighed. “She’s sleeping again. Some men from the ministry came today and interviewed her about what happened.”
Alastor swore. “She was on my team. I should be the one to take her report. What the hell were they doing sending someone else? Who were they, Poppy?”
She gave him the names the men had given her and Alastor swore even louder. “I don’t like this… I don’t like it at all. Those fellows have nothing to do with the aurors. Is she all right?”
“They grilled her pretty hard. She was exhausted when they left. What are we going to do Alastor? Minerva can’t take much more. Her health is in danger.”
Alastor sighed, his mind working furiously. “Bagnold told me today that Albus is conscious and has given them his report. That means that he is much improved. He must have asked for Minerva. I can’t believe that those blasted healers wouldn’t let one person visit him. He has to be beside himself with worry.”
“Healers… no, Alastor. The healers have been arguing with the ministry in favor of letting friends and family see the Professor. Having visitors would greatly improve his frame of mind… but the ministry is adamant… no one is to see Dumbledore until they approve it. Those orders came direct from Minister Bagnold’s office.”
“But Millie told me…” Alastor’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t like the sound of this… I don’t like it at all…”
Poppy picked up on Alastor’s train of thought. “You think…”
“I think that it is time to fight fire with fire. I have an idea. Keep Minerva safe, Poppy. Try not to leave her alone if you don’t have to.” Alastor stood. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Alastor…” Poppy laid a hand on his sleeve. “Please be careful.”
“Always,” Alastor answered with a smile then impulsively drew Poppy to him and placed a single but passionate kiss on her lips before apparating away.
“You can’t hide from me all day, Aberforth Dumbledore!” Alastor roared into the large barn that he’d already searched three times. “Why don’t you just come talk to me and get it over with!”
Silence met his plea. “I’m not kidding, Aberforth. This is important!”
“Okay, pipe down, will you?” Alastor whirled to find Albus’ brother standing there. “You’re upsetting my goats.”
“I’m upsetting… why didn’t you answer me, man?”
“Because I thought you were one of those ministry idiots snooping around. Guess Albus sent you. It’s about time.”
“You know what happened to Albus?”
Aberforth nodded as he reached down absently to pet the goat butting at his leg. “Fellow down at pub reads me the Daily Prophet sometimes. I figured that Albus would send for me when he was up to company. You’re lucky I recognized you. I think you’ve added a few new scars to the bunch, Moody.”
Alastor rolled his eyes. “Now listen to me, you barmy old coot. I need your help…”
Albus stamped around his hospital room for at least the fifth time that morning. He was bored. He was beyond bored. He was bored and worried nearly out of his mind about Minerva and the rest of the team, but mostly about Minerva. He couldn’t understand why she hadn’t been to visit. In fact the only visitors that he’d had were high-ranking officials from the ministry. He understood when they told him they’d banned the press from him during his recovery period but why wouldn’t they answer his inquiries about fellow team members.
“Please let her be okay,” he whispered to the air for possibly the millionth time.
“Ah, still up, Professor?” The nurse bustled into the room. “Our strength is returning but we mustn’t overdo.” She quickly yanked the sheets straight and plumped the pillow. “We should get some rest now.”
“We don’t wish to get some rest. All ‘we’ do is rest all bloody day!”
“Professor Dumbledore, if we wan… you want to see your guest you must do as the healer ordered.”
“Guest?” Albus moved quickly toward the bed and climbed in. “By all means show them in.”
“Only for a few minutes.” The nurse cautioned. “And I’ll be here as well to make sure that you don’t overdo.”
Albus fought back a scowl. As much as the woman’s continued presence irritated him, he still wanted to see his visitor. But to his surprise instead of Minerva or Alastor his brother, Aberforth, walked into the room.
“Hello, brother! Glad to see you on the road to recovery.” Aberforth shook Albus’ hand heartily before settling into the chair beside the bed. He gave no notice of the nurse hovering in the background. “Been hearing your name a lot down at pub.”
“I… I should have sent word to you but…”
“It’s all right, Albus,” Aberforth put his hand on Albus arm and leaned forward, his voice comforting. “The important thing is that you succeeded without getting yourself killed.”
Albus thought he noticed his brother’s eyes narrow slightly when the nurse moved in closer but why… surely he had imagined it.
“Know you can’t talk about what you’ve been up to but what do they say about your injuries?” Aberforth asked. “I imagine you’ll need a place to recuperate. The family home is just as you left it.” Albus didn’t miss the slight emphasis on his brother’s last five words. He nodded, his puzzlement showing in his eyes.
At that moment a knock sounded on the door and the nurse moved to answer it.
“What’s that? Plump your pillow? I’ll be happy to.” Aberforth leaned forward his eyes cutting at the nurse and his lips pressed tightly together.
Albus thought he understood and cast a quick privacy spell around them, grateful that few people knew he was adept at wandless magic.
“Ministry won’t let anyone in to see you. It’s like you are being held hostage. They gave me a devil of a time, too. Had to threaten to go to the press… Alastor will be at the end of the hall tonight… Now isn’t that nice!” Aberforth popped the pillow one last time and leaned back, breaking the spell as the nurse approached her eyes suspicious.
“I think that is enough time for today.” She said.
“My brother hasn’t been here five minutes!” Albus protested.
“If you get upset the healers may not allow him back at all, Professor,” the nurse said coldly. “Perhaps you could come back in a few weeks, Mr. Dumbledore.”
“Sure, sure,” Aberforth answered jovially. “I need to get home anyway. Just found out that one of my favorite does is expecting and she’s having a rough go of it. You remember her, Albus… the one I call Tabkins?”
Aberforth turned to the nurse, moving so that his shoulder would momentarily block her view of Albus’ shocked face. “Right pretty doe she is… ebony hair and big green eyes. Of course, first chance I get I’m going to knock that randy old goat who caught her upside the head.”
By the time that the nurse managed to usher a very talkative Aberforth out of the room and turn back to her patient, Albus’ eyes were closed and his breathing had slowed.
“Very good,” the woman muttered and left the room, barring the door behind her.
The lights on the ward clicked off and Albus’ eyes flew open. ‘Now…’ he thought, ‘now I get out of this place. I’m coming to you, Minerva. Please hold on for me.’ The thought that Minerva was suffering was tearing Albus to pieces. Hadn’t Aberforth said that she was having ‘a rough go’ of it?
Albus concentrated on the room, trying to feel the magic holding him inside. The attempt took a great deal of effort and he had almost reached the limit of his considerable endurance when he found a tiny break. He probed it, made it a bit larger, and then slipped out of bed.
As Albus moved toward the door, he blended his own spell with the break that he had discovered. When he reached the door it opened to his touch.
The hallway was empty but Albus heard footsteps approaching. He mustered up the last of his strength, rendered himself invisible and quickly moved toward the end of the hall, praying that Alastor had found a way to be there as Aberforth promised.
Alastor had plastered himself to the wall by the stairwell, his simple masking spell easily detectable to Albus. He reached through the spell and placed his hand on Alastor’s shoulder then quickly clapped it over his mouth when Moody made to scream.
“It’s me, Alastor. We’ve got to move quickly.” Albus whispered. “They will miss me before long.”
“Can you make it down the steps? Once we are outside we can apparate.”
“I’ll make it,” he heard Albus’ voice answer, “but I don’t have my wand. I lost it…”
“And I found it.” Alastor grinned as he pulled Albus’ wand from his sleeve.
“So now I owe you twice.” An unseen hand picked up the wand and it disappeared.
“Later. Let’s go now.”
“Thank god!” Poppy whispered as first Alastor and then Dumbledore popped into her parlor. She quickly moved to help Alastor as he grabbed Albus and helped him to the sofa.
“Minerva?” he asked breathlessly as Poppy quickly checked him over.
“She’s asleep. I’ll go wake her as soon as I finish.” Poppy told Albus.
“Just a minute, Poppy. We’ll need to move quickly. If we stay here they will track me. Alastor, am I correct in thinking that you believe the ministry has more than just my health in mind by keeping me locked away?”
Alastor nodded. “Not all the ministry necessarily… but I believe there are some unfriendlys there… Keeping you away from the press I can understand but keeping you away from us… from Minerva…”
“I asked for her every day. All they would tell me is that she was alive…” Sadness washed over Albus for a moment but then his resolve strengthened. “I’m going to take Minerva to my family home. The wards I’ve placed over it make it unplottable.”
“But you still need medical care… both of you…” Poppy quickly interjected.
“Poppy, you could come check on us, couldn’t you? I’ll need Alastor’s help trying to discover what is happening at the ministry… the two of you could visit if I opened the wards to let you in.”
“Only if you promise that you will listen to what I say. If I decide that you need to return to the hospital or that you need to see a more qualified healer, you do so without saying a word.” Poppy’s voice brooked no argument.
Albus nodded his agreement then glanced down the short hallway. “Minerva… is she… tell me the truth, Poppy. Was she hurt badly?”
Poppy shook her head. “There is nothing wrong with Minerva that having you back with her won’t fix.”
“But Aberforth said…”
Alastor cleared his throat. “Well, uh… I guessed that the ministry couldn’t refuse to let your own brother see you… not with all those reporters hanging about… Did he tell you?”
“That I am an expectant father? Aberforth did manage to let me know in his own inimitable way. He also said that Minerva was having a hard time of it.”
“Of course she is, Albus. She’s extremely depressed because she misses you. That you will fix. But the other things… nausea and fainting are just a part of pregnancy. She is sleeping an extraordinary amount but that could be from both the pregnancy and the depression.”
“When did she find out?”
Poppy grinned. “Min find out? She was clueless. Alastor and I figured it out for her several days ago. We even debated about whether or not to tell her but…”
“Stubborn miss tabby cat got up insisting on returning to her daily vigil in Minister Bagnold’s office and she needed to rest… so Poppy clued her in.”
“How did she take the news?” Albus was obviously worried.
“She was surprised,” Poppy started.
“Stunned is more like it,” Alastor interjected.
“And she’s worried about your reaction…”
“But I think that beneath it all she’s rather excited…”
“Overjoyed is the word I’d use,” Alastor interrupted, “just like you, old man.”
Albus nodded, his eyes giving away his happiness. “We should go. I’m sure Aberforth will have lowered the wards on the fireplace so we can floo there.”
“But you can be traced that way. If the ministry arrives in the next few minutes they can recall the last destination.”
“Leave that to me,” Alastor interjected. “Poppy, go wake Min up.”
“No,” Albus said. “Leave her asleep. We don’t have time for a proper reunion now. We can have that at the manor. I’ll carry her.”
“Then I’ll get her from the bedroom and you tell Poppy how we get to your place.” Alastor stomped down the hall as Albus quickly explained to Poppy how to travel to Dumbledore manor. His voice caught in his throat as he watched Alastor return with a sleeping Minerva in his arms.
“Right then,” Alastor told Albus as he passed her over, “we’ll be watched for a few days, I’m sure so we won’t be out until the weekend at least. If you need us before then send that ruddy chicken that’s always popping up when you need him.”
Poppy threw a handful of floo powder into the fireplace. “Dumbledore Manor,” Albus announced in a firm voice then stepped backward into the fire with Minerva, smiling his gratitude to the couple left behind.
“Now what?” Poppy turned to Alastor.
Alastor grinned widely, a truly fearsome sight. “Now… we have some fun!”
Ten minutes later several officials from the Ministry of Magic backed up by three aurors not connected in any way with Alastor Moody stood in front of Poppy Pomfrey’s door.
“What do you suggest, sir?” The ranking auror asked Niles Davis, the assistant to the Minister of Magic. “Should we knock or should we remove the door?”
“Moody is too dangerous to give him any warning. Take the door down.”
“But… we don’t have the authority…” one of the lesser ministers started.
“I have the authority of Minister Bagnold herself!” Davis’ eyes flared. “Take the door down!”
A simple whispered spell caused the door to disappear entirely and the group flowed into the room, aurors with wands drawn at the fore. A quick glance around the parlour and kitchen revealed no one so Davis waved them down the hallway.
Moments later a decidedly feminine scream rent the air, followed quickly by a much deeper voice cussing up a blue streak. One of the aurors flew backwards down the hall to land at the minister’s feet, stunned by the force of the spell that was thrown at him.
“What in the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” Alastor burst through the door into the corridor after the man, his wand clutched tightly in one hand and the open waistband of his trousers in the other. He drew up at the sight of the tight cluster of ministers but didn’t lower his wand. “I’m waiting for an answer, weasel!”
Davis ran his eyes over Moody, taking in his bare chest and feet along with the dangerously low ride of his obviously hastily pulled on trousers. “We… um… Where is Albus Dumbledore?”
“What?” Alastor portrayed his shock well. “He’s locked up in the bloody hospital last I knew. Don’t tell me you’ve lost him!”
“Alastor?” All of the male eyes in the room turned at the sound of the husky feminine voice. Poppy appeared in the doorway, the sheer rumpled negligee she was barely wearing clearly visible for a moment before she pulled on a silky robe. “Who are these people?”
“The Ministry seems to have misplaced Albus Dumbledore and they came here looking for him.”
Poppy laughed in disbelief. “Here? Why would he be here? You must be joking with me, lov… Alastor.” She pulled the sash tight around her waist but didn’t appear to notice how the robe gaped at the top as she moved to Moody’s side.
Davis finally recovered his voice although his eyes kept darting back to Poppy’s exposed curves. “We have reason to believe that Professor Dumbledore was delusional and in his confused state he was trying to find one of his team members, Minerva McGonagall. Miss McGonagall is staying with you, Miss Pomfrey, isn’t that correct?”
“Yes and no. Minerva has been staying with me for the past few weeks but the healer decided that she was well enough to travel so Min left this morning to visit her family in Scotland.”
“Scotland… and how did she travel?”
“She went by floo, of course. It was much too early in her recovery to attempt apparating.”
“Check it.” Davis snapped his head sideways at the fireplace and two aurors quickly went to work, quietly casting the necessary spells.
Finally one of them looked at Davis and shook his head. “The time is a bit fuzzy but the last trip made from this fireplace terminated in Diagon Alley. It couldn’t have been more than an hour or so ago.”
“Can you explain this, Miss Pomfrey?”
“I can explain it,” Alastor told the man, “but I don’t really see why my dashing out for a couple of bottles of bubbly to set the mood with my girl is really any of your business.”
“There’s champagne cooling by the… in there, sir.” The auror waiting in the hall confirmed, his face bright red as he quickly averted his eyes from the rumpled bed.
Davis’ eyes narrowed suspiciously but he couldn’t justify his intrusion any longer. “If you hear from either Dumbledore or McGonagall you are ordered to report this to me personally.” He snapped at Alastor and Poppy as he departed with his men.
Once the door was closed Alastor secured it then grabbed Poppy in his arms and whirled her around. “You are a wonderful liar, Miss Pomfrey.”
“As are you, Mr. Moody,” she returned with a gleam in her eye.
Alastor’s smile grew as he realized how close he was holding her. “I can’t leave for a while yet. They’re sure to be watching.”
Poppy stepped back. “I’m sure that we can think of some way to pass the time,” she smiled sexily as the robe slid from her shoulders.
Albus shivered as he stepped from the empty fireplace into the chilly room. A watery beam of moonlight barely illuminated the sheet-draped furniture giving the space an eerie feel. Minerva cuddled closer into him and slept on.
A few moments later a faint glimmer of light could be seen through the partially open door, its beam growing larger as the sound of footsteps grew closer.
“Bout time you showed up. I was beginning to think you weren’t capable of breaking yourself out. See you found your lady, too.”
Albus smiled sweetly at the sleeping woman in his arms. “So I did. Thank you for opening up the house.”
Aberforth grinned. “Didn’t get enough done but there’s a warm fire in the master bedroom and plenty of food in the kitchen. Why don’t you...?” He looked at Minerva then jerked his head toward the stairs. “Both of you look exhausted.”
Albus nodded at his brother. “Thank you for your help, Aberforth. If you hadn’t come to tell me…”
“Just make sure that you look after Min. I’ve grown quite fond of her over the last few years.”
Albus laid Minerva in the large bed in the master bedroom and quickly darted into the adjoining bath for a quick shower. He cursed his hated hospital robes into oblivion then conjured a pair of loose purple boxers with golden snitches on them from his dresser down the hall in his childhood room.
Minerva was still sleeping peacefully when he reentered the room. Albus checked the fire then climbed into the bed and snuggled up next to her. Within a few minutes Minerva had wiggled around instinctively until she was curled against his side. With a pleased chuckle Albus wrapped his arms around her and gave in to his own exhaustion.
“No… oh please, no… don’t leave me… ALBUS!” The scream of his name brought Albus quickly to wakefulness only to find a still sleeping Minerva rocking in his arms.
“It’s okay, Min… I’m here.” He soothed as he rubbed her back but her agitation only increased.
“I didn’t plan it. I wasn’t trying to trap you, I swear. Please believe me, Albus. I love you so much.” She begged in her dream, her arms alternated pulling him closer and stretching out straight behind him as if she couldn’t feel him anymore.
“Tabby, I’m here. I’m right here, my love.” Albus hugged her tighter, his lips rubbing her temple. “Wake up, darling.”
Minerva came awake with a start, her eyes wide with fear as she pushed forcefully away from Albus, scooting toward the edge of the bed.
“Who are you? Where am I?” Her eyes took in the strange room, a touch of fear visible in the green orbs.
“It’s me, Tabby. It’s Albus. I’m here with you.”
“Albu…” Minerva’s lip trembled. “But you were in the hospital… I was at Poppy’s… I don’t understand.”
Albus held his arms up to her. “I’ll explain everything if you will let me.” Realizing that Minerva was still confused Albus dropped one arm and turned his outstretched hand palm up. After a moment’s hesitation Minerva took it. Albus raised her hand to his lips and carefully caressed the soft center with his lips, an action Minerva was sure to know.
With a loud cry of his name Minerva flew into Albus’ arms, her lips smashing into his. They shared a passionate kiss of reunion… and then another… and yet another. Finally Albus settled back against the headboard, Minerva cuddled against his chest.
“After the battle I have a vague recollection of speaking to Alastor. The next thing that I remember I was waking up in a hospital and everyone around me was speaking German. I must have faded in and out of consciousness for several days after that but finally representatives of the Ministry came and had me moved to St. Mungo’s. I was sure that you would be waiting there for me…”
“I tried…” Minerva started but Albus quickly shushed her. She was relieved to see no reproach in his eyes.
“As the weeks passed and I improved but received no visitors except ministry officials I began to grow a little suspicious. I asked for you several times… for Alastor and other members of our team as well… but no one would ever give me a straight answer. When Aberforth came in this morning I was beyond words… And when he managed to whisper to me that everyone was deliberately being kept from me I knew that I had to escape and get to you.”
“But your health…”
“I’m fine,” Albus quickly reassured Minerva. “I’ve been much better for a week. Poppy gave me a quick check-up tonight and she and Alastor are going to be dropping in as soon as it is safe for them to.”
“Safe? Why wouldn’t it be… the ministry?” Minerva suddenly realized.
“They will be looking for me. We are at Dumbledore Manor. I’m not surprised that you don’t recognize it. This room was my parents’ so you’ve never seen it but it was the only one that Aberforth had time to prepare. I rendered the house unplottable years ago so this is the safest place for us to rest and recuperate while Alastor attempts to discover what the hell is going on.”
“I was so scared…” Minerva’s voice caught in her throat. “I thought that monster was going to kill you… and then they wouldn’t let me see you…” She dissolved into tears.
Albus gathered Minerva against his chest and held her tightly. “I was scared too,” he whispered as she sobbed. “The last time I saw you was when you jumped in front of a curse that Grindelwald cast while I was dealing with one of his minions. I thought you were… and the ministry wouldn’t tell me anything… but I could still feel you…” Tears filled his eyes as well. “When Aberforth told me that you were alive I could have jumped for joy.”
He continued to murmur to her over the next ten minutes until finally Minerva cried herself out. “What else…” she hiccuped, “did Abe tell you?”
“In his own unusual style he told me about…” Albus hand drifted down to Minerva’s waist, his palm resting along the barely discernable swell of her belly.
Minerva’s tears returned. “I wanted to tell you myself. I didn’t plan…”
“Hush, Tabby. I heard you call out in your dream so I know what you are afraid of but please believe me… the thought never entered my mind. This baby… our baby is growing safe inside you because it was meant to be.”
“So you aren’t upset?” Minerva sniffed.
“Far from it. I love you, my Tabby. I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I always hoped that life would include children. But what about you? Are you happy about the baby? Is it too soon for you? You are so young…”
“Of course not! I love you too, Albus. I’m ecstatic about the baby. I just wish the timing had been a bit better.”
“Babies don’t have timers, love. They come when they are meant to.” He rubbed his palms over Minerva’s abdomen, pleased to hear her swift intake of breath. “I’ve missed you, Tabby.”
“And I’ve missed you… but… Albus… we… your injuries…” His touch was enflaming her senses.
Albus immediately stilled his hands but didn’t remove them. “Oh… I guess we shouldn’t… how long until the baby comes?”
Minerva chuckled, her eyes filled with mirth. “Me being pregnant doesn’t mean that we can’t make love.” Her laughter grew at the spark in Albus’ eyes. “Poppy told me that we can continue to be intimate right up until my water breaks as long as I am comfortable. But you’ve been hurt badly…”
Albus nodded. “I have been… but I am much improved. However… In order to spare my delicate health…” At this point he paused and grinned at her. “… I have an idea…”
Before Minerva could ask more about the idea Albus was nibbling at her lips, his tongue tracing the outline of her mouth before darting into the warm cavity and then back out again. His hands worked over her body, fingertips finding and caressing all of her special spots through the thin cotton of her sleeveless nightgown.
When Albus would have continued to tease, Minerva tightened her arms around him, her fingers clutching his hair as she deepened the kiss. Albus chuckled into her mouth as he responded in kind. Soon their tongues were engaged in a fierce battle for domination.
Suddenly Minerva’s world tipped as she felt her body moving. Albus pulled Minerva on top of him as he rolled to his back. He lay there a moment smiling at her then shook his head. “Almost right but… Hang on.”
Minerva gripped Albus’ shoulders as he sat up and piled pillows behind him then leaned back into the cushion. “Much better,” he sighed as he coaxed Minerva’s legs around until she straddled him, her nightgown barely covering her thighs.
“You mean…” Minerva blushed as Albus urged her hips down slightly, stopping only when her center was flush with his obvious arousal. She released her hold on Albus’ shoulders and slowly sat up, her fingers brushing his auburn beard to the side as they trailed down his bare chest. “…You want me to…” Her blush deepened but she wiggled her hips against Albus to make her meaning known. “That’s so naughty…” she whispered as she glanced around the room even though she knew there was no one else in the house.
Albus chuckled. “My sweet Tabby, you are still so young. There are many different ways to make love. You don’t always have to be beneath me.” Minerva’s head dropped her embarrassment obvious. Albus tucked a finger beneath her chin and lifted. “Don’t be shy with me, Tabby. The things that we do in private are not naughty as long as we are both comfortable… as long as we both enjoy ourselves. You must promise to tell me if you feel uncomfortable with anything.”
Minerva nodded against Albus’ finger. “I promise,” she whispered.
Albus smiled. “We don’t have to make love tonight if you aren’t ready yet. I’m happy just to hold you… to hold the two of you.” He hesitated a moment then spoke again. “Could I…?” Her eyes followed his hands to where he fingered the hem of her nightgown lying against her thigh.
With a gentle smile, Minerva lifted her arms and Albus quickly stripped away the garment, leaving her completely bare to his gaze. He tossed the gown away then brought his hands back to her face as he leaned up and tenderly kissed her lips.
“I must be… the luckiest… wizard alive…” Albus punctuated his words with nips and tugs at Minerva’s mouth.
“And I the luckiest… witch,” she answered in kind. She opened her mouth in invitation but to her surprise Albus broke the kiss instead of deepening it. He leaned back with a smile on his face, his hands drifting down her neck and over her collarbone to cup her breasts. Minerva’s eyes closed and her lips pressed together to stifle a moan as Albus fingered the stiff peaks.
“Does that hurt?” Albus noticed the look on Minerva’s face and quickly moved his fingers.
“No, love,” she told him. “It just… they’re a bit sensitive… another side effect of pregnancy. Please continue.”
“I didn’t know that,” Albus continued his ministrations albeit with a more delicate touch. “But then I’ve never been around a pregnant woman before. I suspect there are many things that I don’t know… but I’ll learn.”
“We both shall,” Minerva sighed happily as Albus traced the blue veins shining beneath her porcelain skin. “This is a new experience for me, too.” Her fingers brushed his cheeks. “Thank you, Albus.”
Albus’ hands slid lower, coming to rest with fingers splayed over her abdomen. “Thank you, Minerva.” He rubbed her skin gently with the pads of her fingers. “Hello, little one. I’m your papa. Right now you are safely snuggled up inside your mummy’s tummy and I want you to stay there all nice and warm until it is time for you to be born. Now, you may be curious about the world outside of your little nest but let me reassure you. Your mummy and I love each other very much and we both love you…”
Minerva slid her hands down to Albus’ forearms and held on, smiling at her lover as he continued to talk to her stomach. She listened intently until Albus began to discuss what curriculum the baby might want to pursue at Hogwarts then decided that she should stop him before he made their child the Minister of Magic.
“Hey…” she broke in, “… why don’t you save the teenage years for another night?” Her fingers flexed teasingly against Albus’ muscles and she wiggled her hips invitingly.
“Daddy has to go play with Mummy for a while now so you sleep well, little one,” Albus promptly replied to her belly then shifted his hands around to Minerva’s hips and pressed them down.
Minerva sighed as she rocked her center against the hard silk-covered ridge pressing into her damp flesh. She purred contentedly.
“So Mummy has decided that perhaps she isn’t quite so shy after all?” Albus questioned.
By way of an answer Minerva trailed her fingers over Albus’ chest to tweak his nipples. She smiled seductively at his answering groan.
“Well… I know how much you like to teach, Professor Dumbledore… and I do so enjoy learning…”
“You always were my best student.” Albus flexed his hips up as his fingers began to work magic on Minerva’s most sensitive places.
“Al…bus…” she protested as his right hand left her body, his left hand continuing to work the small of her back. Her own hands were maintaining their exploration of his chest as best she could while waves of pleasure washed over her entire body before centering between her thighs.
With one sharp tug from Albus’ fingers, the band holding Minerva’s messy braid in place broke and he soon had her hair smoothed into a shining black sheet hanging down her back and tickling the bottom of his thighs.
“Better,” he murmured, his hand returning to her body to comb through a different set of curls. “I love your hair.”
Minerva squirmed against Albus and was somewhat surprised when his head fell back, his fingers stilled, and an agonized groan sprang from his lips as his member leapt and jabbed into her core. Her hands slid over his abdomen and pushed his out of the way then tore at the button on his boxers.
“LIFT!” Minerva commanded as she rose to her knees. Albus complied instantly and felt his shorts slide over his hips and thighs. His erection sprang free, pointing proudly at the ceiling. Before he could recover from his previous surge of desire Minerva had wrapped her fingers around his arousal and begun to pump up and down.
He grasped her wrists to stop her. “It’s been too long,” he managed to gasp out. “Come…”
With a nod Minerva positioned herself then slowly lowered her hips, consuming Albus completely as her hips once again came to rest on his. Albus nodded as his hands came up to her waist. “That’s it…” he sighed when she moved again, setting a slow but satisfying rhythm.
Words weren’t necessary as they moved together, the leisurely pace gradually increasing as passion and the demands of their bodies grew. Albus retained enough presence of mind to tease her through her first release with his fingers; delighting when she screamed his name as she shattered and slumped against him. He kept up the motion of his fingers so that by the time Minerva could speak pleasure was teasing her again.
“Oh… Albus… I…” Minerva begged, not really knowing what she was begging for, but Albus understood. He wrapped his arms tightly around her and sat up, using his feet to push further back into the pillows. They packed down beneath him, holding him upright while he planted his feet against the mattress and began to thrust forcefully upward.
“Yes… there, Albus, there… oh god… that feels so… good, Albus… so good… more… please…”
Albus buried his face in Minerva’s neck, his lips working frantically at the tip of her collarbone while his hands steadied her hips against his driving strokes. A quick shift of his hips as he moved found the plumy head of his staff hitting just the right spot within Minerva’s sheath and she screamed again as she gripped his shoulders and came. Her warm juices released and flowed over him, lubricating his last few strokes before her heat and the clench of her muscles pulled him over the edge as well. He released his seed into her, hot white jets pulsing up and out, over and over, until finally they both fell back into the pillows, exhausted but replete.
“Tabby?” Albus watched Minerva across the chessboard, aware that her attention was focus somewhere far away from the game. “Minerva?” He said a bit more forcefully.
“Hmmm?” This time his voice penetrated and with a small shake of her head Minerva returned her attention Albus.
“It’s your move.”
“Oh… of course…” Minerva absently moved her rook straight into the path of Albus’ bishop, barely even looking at the board.
Albus sighed and stood then pulled Minerva up and into his arms. “What’s wrong, Tabby? You are obviously distracted. Are you tired of being cooped up with this batty old man?” His blue eyes twinkled.
Minerva couldn’t help but smile. “You aren’t batty or old and I could never tire of your company. I just…”
“You just what?”
“I was wondering… do the wards extend past the house?” She asked hesitantly.
Albus pulled her closer. “Have a touch of cabin fever? We have been locked up in this drafty old mausoleum for almost three weeks. The grounds are safe as long as we don’t wander past the boundary. Would you like to have a little outing this afternoon?”
Minerva gripped his forearms, a tiny sparkle coming to her eyes. “I don’t want to put you in any danger…”
“I wouldn’t have suggested the outing if I thought there was any chance of harm coming to you or our little one. I’ll just go take care of a few things while you find something to wear.”
This elicited a giggle from Minerva. Although Poppy had packed up most of her wardrobe and sent it by Fawkes, Minerva had had very little use for it thus far. She and Albus rarely left the bedroom and when they did venture down to the kitchen or the parlor a dressing gown was sufficient covering. “What about you? Are you going au naturale?” Her hands trailed down his naked chest to finger the waistband of his boxers.
“Hardly. We may be alone in the house but Aberforth and the goat brigade do still occupy the stables and the grounds.” Albus planted a quick kiss on her lips then grabbed his robes and headed toward the door. “I should be back in half an hour?”
“I’ll be ready.”
Albus paused in the doorway of the master bath and watched silently as Minerva twisted in front of the long mirror on the opposite wall, her hands pulling her emerald green robes tightly over her burgeoning stomach. He bit back a chuckle as she wrinkled her nose, readjusted her skirts and pulled them tight again.
“You look gorgeous.” Minerva jumped at the sound of Albus voice, just as his hands slid around her waist to caress her abdomen.
“I look fat.”
“You are glowing. You are gloriously pregnant. You are not fat.”
“Flatterer.” Minerva laughed as she turned in Albus’ arms and gave him a quick kiss.
“Perhaps… but never a liar. Are you ready, my dear?”
The weather was perfect, still a bit warm for September but autumn was definitely in the air. The couple walked hand in hand down the perfectly manicured front lawn – ‘mowed by goats’ Albus explained.
“There are some ruins of an old Norman abbey on a hill in the middle of the forest. Do you feel up to a trek through the woods and a bit of climbing?”
“That sounds wonderful!” Minerva’s entire body seemed to stretch as she took in a deep breath of fresh air. “How I wish…”
“I’ve heard about pregnant women having strange cravings, my dear, but I’ve never heard of one craving mice.” Albus observed, knowing instantly what Minerva wished for.
Minerva punched him playfully. “I just miss the freedom that running about as a cat afforded me. I am NOT craving mice.”
“You only have six months or so before you can transform again.” Worry was evident in Albus’ answer.
Minerva stopped dead in her tracks, both hands rising to her hips as she glared at him. “Albus Dumbledore, I do not regret getting pregnant and I do not resent our child simply because I am on transformation restriction so put that foolish notion out of your head this instant!”
Albus grinned ruefully. “I thought I was the mind reader here. I know that you are excited about our baby, love… I just… You are so young, Minerva. I don’t ever want you to feel like you missed out on life by…”
“By finding my true love at an early age? I haven’t missed out on anything, Albus. I have you.” She kissed him gently; pleased to feel his lips move against hers. “Now come on. You have some castle ruins to show me.”
Taking her hand, Albus continued to lead her toward the beginning of the forest a few hundred yards away. They were almost inside the woods when disaster struck.
Albus stepped up and over the large trunk of the fallen tree then turned back, extending his hand to Minerva just in time to see a large gray creature plow into her side. Minerva cried out as she toppled to the ground.
“What the…” Albus was at her side in an instant, wand drawn and pointed when his brother’s cry came.
“Don’t! She didn’t mean it! Don’t hurt Dotty, Albus!”
Albus focused on the creature standing a few yards away, head hung low. The female goat was obviously heavily pregnant and Albus could have sworn that she was ashamed for knocking Minerva down.
“Tabby,” he quickly turned his attention to the woman beside him as she pushed up on her elbows. “Are you hurt? I’ll send Fawkes for Poppy. Do you need to go to the hospital?” He dropped his wand and began to search for broken bones.
Minerva moved each limb gingerly at his direction. Once Albus was satisfied that her skeletal structure was intact he turned his attention to her stomach, his hand resting lightly on the bulge there.
“I’ll carry you back to the house and get Poppy…”
Minerva shook her head as she pushed into a sitting position, her hand coming to lie over his. “I didn’t fall that hard, Albus. My bottom took the brunt of the fall. Our little kitten is just fine.”
“No aches, no pains, I promise. I wouldn’t take any chances, Albus.” Minerva reassured him.
Aberforth skidded to a halt beside them and dropped to his knees. “She didn’t mean to knock you down, Min. Dotty is a very good goat. She’s just a bit more high-strung since she’s expecting. If you have to hex something hex me.”
Aberforth and Minerva had known each other for more than six years, ever since her first visit to Albus’ home. Therefore he was fully acquainted with the famous McGonagall temper and expected to find himself turned into a flobberworm or something equally disgusting very quickly. Head bowed and eyes closed; he waited for the curse to be cast.
When it didn’t come Aberforth carefully opened one eye and cocked his head to see Minerva gently rubbing Dotty’s nose.
“We mums to be have to stick together, don’t we?” She murmured to the friendly doe.
Aberforth grinned. “Speaking of which, I believe that I once threatened to knock a randy old goat upside the head.” His hand cuffed the side of Albus’ head, not with any real force but strong enough to knock him to his bottom. Something nowhere near merriment glittered in Albus’ blue eyes for just a moment but at the look on his brother’s face he began to laugh.
“So, Minnie, how are you feeling? How is my nephew doing?”
“Your niece is doing wonderfully,” Albus interrupted.
“And don’t call me Minnie or I will hex you,” Minerva finished.
Dotty tired at the sudden lack of attention and with a sniff at Aberforth turned and trotted back toward the barn.
“She’ll deliver before long,” Minerva observed absently.
Aberforth confirmed her statement with a nod. “It won’t be a week. What about you, Tabkins?” Aberforth reverted to his other pet name for Minerva, the one that she at least tolerated. “When will the Dumbledore herd increase?”
“Poppy thinks the beginning of February.”
“That’s less than six months away… very little time to get everything done…” Aberforth glared at his brother.
“Right now the most important thing is keeping Tabby and the baby safe and healthy. Which is why we are out for a walk.” Albus stood and helped Minerva to her feet, keeping a close eye for any signs of discomfort from her. “I think that we should leave the ruins for another time, love. Let’s head toward the pond. It should be lovely there today.”
“Why don’t you come up to the house for dinner on Sunday, Aberforth?” Minerva offered with a smile. “I’ll make your favorite pudding.”
Abe grinned, black holes showing where several of his teeth should have been. “I’ll be there. You two enjoy your walk. I’d better head back to the stable to check on Dotty.”
Minerva waited until Aberforth was out of earshot before speaking. “Albus… please don’t take this wrong but… I hope that our child doesn’t take after his uncle.”
Albus burst out laughing, tucked Minerva’s hand through his elbow and lead her toward the pond.
“Oh… what was the comment about knocking a randy old goat upside the head about and why did Aberforth hit you?”
“Umm…” Albus quickly debated the wisdom of telling Minerva that his brother had reduced her to goat status, or raised her to goat status as Aberforth would argue. Somehow he did think that she would be pleased with the comparison under the best of circumstances and what with the pregnancy hormones raging…
“It’s a childhood joke between Abe and I… nothing important…” He quickly stammered out.
Minerva cocked an eyebrow, her disbelief obvious but to Albus’ relief she didn’t pursue the subject any further.
“Come on, Tabby… just one more bite,” Albus coaxed as the piece of apple in his hand hovered just inches from Minerva’s lips.
“I couldn’t possibly…” Minerva started but then Albus took advantage of her open mouth to slip the wedge inside.
Minerva groaned loudly and fell on her back to the picnic blanket they were both stretched out on, chewing the sweet fruit with visible effort.
“No more,” she declared once she was done. “I’m stuffed!”
“Well… you have eaten a good lunch.” Albus conceded and with a sweep of his hand cleared the food away from the blanket. Two comfortable pillows appeared and Albus stacked them up then leaned back, one hand reaching out to beckon Minerva to his side. She scooted closer.
“You have put some weight back on.” Albus left hand fell to its customary place on Minerva’s stomach while his right arm curled around her back, holding her to him.
She glanced up at him sardonically. “I’m pregnant, remember? I’m supposed to gain weight.”
Albus kissed her lightly. “You were entirely too thin when you came here, baby or no. Besides, I like your curves.” His right hand slipped beneath her arm to palm her breast.
“Thank you for the picnic, Albus. It was a wonderful idea.”
“After the enjoyment you derived from our walk yesterday I wanted to give you the opportunity to be outdoors again. We’ll have a picnic everyday, weather permitting.”
Minerva lay her head against Albus’ chest so that he wouldn’t see the questions in her eyes. She knew that they couldn’t hide the world away forever. Sooner or later they would have to return. Only this morning Fawkes had brought Albus a message that she felt sure was a note from Hogwarts, asking when they could expect their transfiguration professor to return. But she knew that Albus would talk to her when he was ready.
While Minerva was thinking, Albus’ mind was racing as well. There was a very important conversation that he and Minerva hadn’t yet had… that he’d been afraid of broaching with her… but he felt that the time had come.
“Tabby…” he started, bringing Minerva out of her thoughts. “I need to ask you… I don’t want to upset you but we need to talk about what happened… during the battle.” He felt her tense in his arms. “Just this once and then we will put it behind us.”
Minerva nodded against his chest.
“Why didn’t you follow orders? Why did you stay in the castle when you were simply supposed to scout it out then leave?”
“I tried to leave, Albus… I didn’t want to leave you alone but I know the importance of following orders.”
Albus breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn’t wanted to believe that Minerva would willingly defy a direct command from her superior. “What happened?”
“After I led you to the grand ballroom where that monster was holed up I tried to leave the castle but every entrance was blocked. It was as if they knew we were there.”
“They did know, my love. Looking back I realize that it was a carefully laid trap that we fell in to. Grindelwald knew that I was coming and that he would have to face me. He’d been trying to kill me for years and that hadn’t worked. His men pulled back to let me in then made sure that I couldn’t leave.”
“I knew… when I couldn’t get out I turned back. If I was going to fall it was going to be at your side. By the time I returned you were already fighting Grindelwald.”
Albus blinked back a tear at Minerva’s admission. “Even though I entered the room under an invisibility spell he knew that I was there. He cast his first curse within seconds and I had no choice but to retaliate. He stood there… gloating… taunting me with the ways that he was going to torture you and the others just to make me suffer before he killed me. He had some of his men distract me and made a few good hits but… I kept thinking about you. I couldn’t let him hurt you. And then I saw you there…”
Minerva took up the story. “I kept to the corners and stayed in my cat form because I knew that my presence would distract you. Then I saw one of those bastards appear from a secret door to your side and cast his wand at you. I could let him hurt you so I transformed and hexed him then quickly returned to my feline form. I moved silently to his side to make sure he was out of it then… I remember looking up… and seeing Grindelwald’s face… and I knew… I didn’t stop to think, Albus. I just leapt.” Her breath caught at the memory of the pain she had suffered.
“I could have sworn… I thought I heard… and then you fell to the floor and I was so angry that I began firing every curse that I could think of at Grindelwald. I remember that the walls started to collapse… and then the ceiling… I saw him fall. I knew he was dead… and then I passed out.”
“I don’t remember much either but Alastor and Poppy found me in my human form so I must have crawled into an alcove and changed. Oh Albus… I was so scared for you! And when all those weeks went by and I didn’t hear from you… I thought…”
Minerva couldn’t finish the sentence but suddenly Albus knew what she didn’t say. He pulled them both to their knees then tugged her face up forcefully to look at him. “Don’t you ever think that I didn’t want you with me, Minerva McGonagall. I was asking for you… begging for you… I will always want you by my side.” Her kissed her fiercely.
“Tabby…” as the kiss tapered off Minerva became aware that Albus was fumbling about in the pocket of his robes. “I want to ask you… I love you… and I love our baby… and I was hoping that you might do me the great honor…” He finally pulled the small box free with a flourish and offered it to Minerva, snapping the lid back as he did so. “…of becoming my wife?” His voice was hesitant but hopeful.
The emerald and sapphire band gleamed in the sunlight as Minerva reached out a single finger and hesitantly touched it. “Albus… it’s beautiful… but…”
“I’m not asking because of the baby, Tabby. I left an order with a jeweler in Hogsmeade three years ago to make this ring just for you. Aberforth has been keeping it safe for me all these years…”
“All this time… why don’t you put the ring on my finger, Albus.” Minerva offered her hand to him. “I’d be overjoyed to marry you… proud to be your wife.”
Albus freed the ring from the box then carefully slid it on the finger that Minerva offered. When the ring was securely in place he lifted the hand to his mouth and kissed the slender fingers over and over.
“I’ll be a good husband, Tabby… a good father…” Albus wrapped his arms around Minerva’s waist.
“And I’ll be a good wife and mother…”
A sweet kiss followed their words and then they drew back, both of them grinning madly.
“As soon as it is safe for us to be seen I’ll speak to your father… What’s wrong, love?” Albus noticed that Minerva’s face had fallen.
“I… I love that you want to do things properly and talk with Father but… we don’t know how long it will take Alastor to discover who is working against you and… I’d rather be a bride before I become a mother.”
Albus laughed. “Little dumbles is growing every day isn’t he? So lets plan our bonding and then if things work out I’ll speak to your father. If not then afterward I will explain to him why we had to go ahead without his approval. I’m sure that he would rather you become a wife first as well.”
“What about our parents? Will we be able to invite them to the ceremony?”
“I don’t know… Let’s see what Alastor has to tell us the next time he and Poppy visit.”
Minerva nodded, content with Albus’ solution for now. She turned her head to gaze at the ring on her finger and was surprised to feel Albus’ lips at her neck.
“What are you doing?” She asked, more than a little surprised at her body’s sudden response to his touch. Desire in the bedroom was one thing but on a blanket beneath a tree where God and all the world… or Aberforth and all his goats… could see was something entirely different.
“What does it feel like I’m doing?” Albus chuckled as his lips slid lower, his tongue dipping into the hollow of her throat while his fingers worked on the buttons of her inner robes.
“But… not here… oooh…” Albus had succeeded in pushing the fabric away from Minerva’s chest and due to the gradual increase in her breast size she wasn’t wearing a bra. When the cool air struck her nipples they tightened even more. Minerva clenched Albus’ shoulders desperately as his lips trailed lower. “Let’s go inside, Albus… please…”
Albus wanted nothing more than to take Minerva then and there, to feel the breeze caress both of their bodies as they loved each other out in the open, but he heard the embarrassment in her voice and he had promised he would never do anything to make her uncomfortable. Regretfully he raised his head and pulled the edges of her robe together.
“To the house then, my dear.”
The wind whipped around the manor as the first autumn winds swept across the estate but the man and woman inside were safe and warm, locked in each other’s arms as they dreamed of a wonderful future together. That is until a clamorous knocking began.
“Albus,” Minerva murmured against his shoulder, still more than half asleep. “Someone is at the door.”
“Just the tree at the window, love. Go back to sleep.”
Soon the knocking stopped but not long after a heavy tread could be heard on the stairs. Both Albus and Minerva bolted upright, asleep no longer, and grabbed for their wands.
The person walking stopped just outside of their bedroom door and began knocking noisily once again. “ALBUS! MINERVA! ARE YOU AWAKE?!?!”
“Dammit, Aberforth! What the hell do you mean scaring us like that?” Albus jumped out of bed and stormed across the room, swinging the door wide open as he yelled at his brother.
“I could have just barged right on in but instead I thought I’d give you fair warning in case the two of you were up to something that you didn’t want me to see!” Aberforth yelled back. His eyes swept down his brother’s naked form. “Which you obviously were, I see…”
At Aberforth’s words, Minerva quickly yanked the sheet and blanket up over her naked chest and Albus called his dressing gown from across the room, both of them blushing furiously.
“Is something wrong, Abe?” Minerva asked while Albus struggled to thrust his sleeves into the recalcitrant robe.
“I was just going to let you know that Dotty is in labour. I thought you might want to see the little one being born. I’ve got to get back, though. She might need me.” Aberforth turned and stomped away.
Albus stopped trying to turn his sleeve right side out to stare after his brother, his robe hanging half-on and half off. “I will never understand him… Tabby, what are you doing?”
Minerva had jumped from the bed and was tugging her nightgown on. “Let’s go see, Albus. Please?”
Albus didn’t have the heart to say no so he pulled his oldest set of robes on while Minerva slipped on her dressing gown and slippers then he wrapped his warmest outer robes around Minerva.
They moved quickly across the back garden toward the stables, Albus holding Minerva close in an attempt to shelter her from the worst of the strong gusts. They slipped in the barn and Albus secured the door with both a bolt and a spell before leading Minerva down the stalls to the special birthing space that Aberforth maintained.
“Are you sure you want to see this, Tabby?” Albus didn’t look thrilled at the prospect.
The plaintive bleating of a goat could be heard just beyond the next wall. Minerva bit her bottom lip and then nodded resolutely. Albus led her into the stall.
“You’re just in time,” Aberforth told them. “I’ve seen the bubble.”
“See how high Dotty’s tail is arched? Watch…”
Minerva did as instructed and a few moments later a bubble did indeed appear to be trying to escape from the doe.
“Look close… can you see the feet?” Tiny hooves were indeed visible inside the semi-transparent sheath.
The bubble retracted a bit and then grew even larger every time Dotty pushed. After a few more minutes what seemed to be a tiny head appeared and then the bubble burst. A tiny baby goat slid into Aberforth’s waiting hands.
Minerva was surprised when Albus joined his brother, quickly but carefully cleaning mucous away from the baby’s nose while Aberforth held it up by its hind legs. Once they had cleaned the head up Aberforth laid the kid on a dry feed sack and placed it in front of its mother. Dotty quickly lowered her head and began to lick her offspring clean.
“You’ve done this before,” she observed wryly to Albus as he moved back to her side, cleaning his hands on an old towel.
“I’ve been pressed into service one or two times. Min… are you okay?” He saw how her hands were clenching against her belly.
“That was beautiful, Albus. I’m so glad that we saw it… can we go back to the house now?”
“Of course, dear.” With a last nod at Aberforth, Albus opened the stall and pulled Minerva outside. He didn’t seem surprised when she buried herself in his arms. “A bit much?”
Her dark head bobbed against his chest. “I don’t think I want to do this, Albus. I don’t like pain.” She wailed.
“No one likes pain, love. But you are stronger than you think and I will be with you every step of the way.”
Minerva raised her head to meet his gaze. “You will? You’ll stay with me?”
“If you want me there… woe to the person who tries to stand in my way.”
Minerva smiled, her eyes slightly watery. “Men… Fathers don’t normally stay…”
“Haven’t you learned by now that normal is one thing that I certainly am not?” Albus laughed as they walked slowly toward the stable door. They had just reached the exit when Aberforth’s head popped up over the stall.
“Sorry it’s been so long,” Alastor said as he stepped from the fireplace then moved to the side. Poppy appeared seconds later, taking Alastor’s proffered hand and joining the other couples in the room. “But since all other attempts to find you have failed we are once again being watched closer.”
Albus quickly reinstated the wards guarding the fireplace. “You are sure you weren’t tracked?”
Alastor looked at Albus sardonically. “I am an auror, you know… once of the best, if I do say so myself. We weren’t tracked.”
“We are glad to have you here. Aberforth and his goats only go so far as company…” Minerva told them as she and Poppy embraced.
“She’s tired of me already,” Albus said dramatically.
“I could never tire of you, you barmy old coot.” Minerva moved back to her lover’s side and gently kissed his cheek.
“I’m glad to hear that, my dear.” He looked up at the other couple. “It’s such a mild day that I thought we might go for a walk before lunch.”
Poppy cleared her throat. “Why don’t you and Alastor start out and Min and I will catch up with you later? We have a few things to do first.” Her eyes fell on Minerva’s protruding stomach.
“Wow!” Alastor observed. “Little bit is really growing, isn’t he?” At four months Minerva’s pregnancy was more than obvious, especially since she hadn’t been able to acquire any new robes. The fabric of the one she was wearing was stretched tight across her growing belly.
“That is what babies tend to do, Alastor. Now off with the both of you!” Poppy laughed as she waved the men out of the house.
“Please tell me that you have some information, Alastor.” Albus begged as they walked down the path toward the pond. “Not that I don’t adore having Minerva all to myself but I don’t like having to worry constantly about our safety.”
Alastor frowned. “Dammit, Albus, I wish I had this whole thing solved but… I know that something is going on in the ministry… I’d lay you odds I could name the people involved… but I don’t know what!”
“They are still looking for me?”
“Quietly but… yeah… select members of Bagnold’s personal guard are hunting you… and Minerva.”
“Minerva… but why?”
“My guess is that someone remembered you asking for her in the hospital so they checked on her and found that she never made it to her family’s home in Scotland. Poppy has reassured her parents quietly that she is safe but… they are concerned about her whereabouts as well.”
“This can’t continue, Alastor. I’m going to have to force the issue.”
“But how will you do that? You can’t put yourself in danger. Not with Minerva’s condition…”
“I’m going to have to contact Millicent and demand some answers.”
“Everything appears to be progressing nicely.” Poppy told Minerva as she laid her wand down and took a hands on approach, her fingers pressing against Minerva’s abdomen. “What about your sleep patterns?”
“They seem to have evened out. I tend to nap a bit in the afternoon but otherwise I only sleep at night.” Minerva answered, flinching slightly as the child inside her responded to Poppy’s prodding. “Please be careful. He’s sitting on my bladder.”
“That’s fairly common… both the napping and the bladder.” Poppy smiled. “I think that your body just needed an incredible amount of rest after everything you had been through. I’m sure that Albus takes very good care of you.”
“That he does,” Minerva confirmed.
“Getting plenty of exercise?”
“We go for a long walk by the pond or in the forest every afternoon.”
“And at night?” Poppy winked.
Minerva blushed at her friend’s forwardness. “Poppy Ophelia Pomfrey! I can’t believe you would ask me that!”
Poppy simply shrugged. “I don’t mind tell you that Alastor is fabulous in the bedroom.”
Minerva turned even redder. “That is so much more information than I needed to know about my superior.”
“I was surprised, too. Alastor was raised in the Victorian era you know. Before I met him I imagined everyone of that generation to be extremely stuffy. Albus falls in the same category but he must have something special. He did manage to get you pregnant after all.”
“POPPY!” All the blood in Minerva’s body seemed to be floating near the surface of her skin. She closed her eyes so that she couldn’t see her friend then whispered, “Albus is fabulous, too.”
“I knew it! You can get dressed now. So, is he a one position man or…” Poppy could feel Minerva’s glare heating her back as she cleaned the few instruments she had used and packed them away. When she finished she turned back to Minerva. “Well? My interest is purely medical. As your pregnancy progresses you may experience more discomfort in certain positions, but that can be worked around. Once your hormones kick in…”
“Aberforth says that I am already much more emotional than I normally am. When Dotty gave birth to her kids a few weeks ago I cried and cried. I still tear up when I see little Kitty and Cat.”
“He named them… after you, I suppose,” Poppy shook her head. “I don’t want to know… Emotions are one part of the hormone changes but there is another effect that should kick in just any time now.”
“Something else? What should I expect?”
“Sex… and lots of it.”
Minerva was pulling her dress over her head as Poppy spoke and her head popped out of the neckline, eyes wide.
“Many pregnant women experience a dramatic increase in their sex drive beginning in the fourth or fifth month. I’m glad to know that Albus isn’t one of those men who thinks that he shouldn’t touch you until he’s ready for another heir. It will make things much more pleasant for you.”
Minerva didn’t comment but Poppy was pleased to note the spark of interest in her friend’s eyes and the smile on her lips.
“By the way, are you going to tell me about that absolutely divine ring on your finger or am I supposed to pretend that I don’t notice it?”
“I’ve been making a few discrete inquiries using Fawkes but there is only so much that I can do without revealing my identity. We will have to apply to the ministry for a marriage license anyway.”
“So you wait a little while longer.”
“But how long? Until our child starts Hogwarts? We want to marry now and I mean to make it happen. If that means that I have a serious talk with Bagnold then that’s what I have to do.”
“But your safety…”
“You’ll be there with me. Don’t look so surprised, Alastor. I’m not an idiot. Of course I want you there to guard my back.”
“We want to get married as soon as possible but we can’t really make any plans as long as we are hiding out here. I don’t want a big wedding but I would like a set of robes that actually fit me.” Minerva grimaced.
Poppy smiled, having seen that Minerva was leaving several of the lower buttons of her inner gown undone to compensate for her stomach.
“What about your parents?”
“I hope that they will be here but their presence or absence won’t change anything.”
“What about Albus’ parents?”
“I hope that they will like me. Aberforth says that they will but… I suppose they will be excited about having a grandchild.”
“You’ve been with Albus for almost seven years and you’ve never met his parents?”
Minerva shook her head. “They retired to the Canary Islands over ten years ago but they couldn’t visit because of the war. Albus is going to send Fawkes with the wedding details as soon as we decide on them.”
“We’ll have to go shopping. Perhaps I could scout out Madame Malkin’s… pick several robes for you to chose from. Then you wouldn’t have to spend a great deal of time there.”
“I’m afraid that I’m going to need several sets of robes in various sizes to get me through the next several months. Thank goodness the ministry has been depositing my salary into Gringotts these last few years.”
Poppy glanced back at the grand façade of the house they had just exited. “I don’t think that money is going to be one of your worries. I always knew that the Dumbledores were well to do but this house… and that ring…”
“I would never ask Albus for money, Poppy!”
“Marriage is a sharing thing, Min. Money is part of that. Now I know that money isn’t your motivating reason but some people may think that it is… especially due to the difference in your ages.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Minerva scoffed.
“Yes, I suppose it is. Anyone can see how you and Albus feel simply by the way that you smile at each other,” Poppy agreed, not wanting to upset her friend further. “Where are you going to have the ceremony?”
“Here, I think. There are some lovely ruins in the woods… we thought about there… or perhaps by the pond. Aberforth is threatening to get bow ties for all of his goats to wear.”
“And your child is going to share genetic material with this man!” Poppy laughed. “Let’s hope that he doesn’t take after Uncle Aberforth in any way!”
“Tonight I’ll send Fawkes with a message for Millicent. I’ll send it late enough that she should be away from the office. That note will reassure her that I am not being held against my will, convey my anger at my hospital ‘imprisonment’, and ask for a meeting for us to discuss this face to face. Fawkes will wait for her reply. If she agrees then I will set the meeting time and place in a second message.”
“What about the kitty cat? Are you going to tell her?”
“I don’t have any choice, Alastor. Tell her or not tell her… Minerva will still know.”
“So she reads minds too?” Alastor laughed.
“Not minds in general… just mine. We always seem to know what the other is feeling. She would know that I was trying to keep something from her.”
“But if you tell her she will insist on coming as well.”
“I will attempt to dissuade her but… my tabby isn’t easily manipulated and I don’t intend to start married life by trying…”
“So you are going to marry her? It’s about time. I was afraid that I was going to have to kick your ass…”
“Aberforth has already knocked me upside the head so why not?” Albus laughed. “Speaking of the beautiful bride-to-be, here she comes. Perhaps I should ask about your intentions toward the lovely Miss Pomfrey, hmm?”
Alastor rolled his eyes at Albus. “Miss Pomfrey, who is indeed lovely, and I have only been together for a few months and we do not have a little one on the way so shut your trap.”
Albus laughed heartily as he moved toward Minerva and embraced her, kissing her gently, much to the amusement of Alastor and Poppy.
“And how is little Dumbles?” he asked, his hand sliding down to rub Minerva’s belly.
“Everything is fine. If you don’t believe me just ask the mediwitch…”
“I haven’t received the results of my certification exam,” Poppy quickly said. “Don’t jinx me!”
The entire group laughed at the thought of Poppy making anything but perfect marks on her exams. The woman was born to be a healer.
“You had better pass,” Minerva finally said. “After all, I want a fully qualified healer delivering my baby.”
Poppy’s eyes sparkled. “You want me… oh Min!” She squealed as she hugged her friend.
“Actually we have a few favours to ask both of you, above and beyond assisting with the delivery of our baby.” Albus looked at both Alastor and Poppy.
“Anything we can do to help, Albus.” Alastor stated matter-of-factly.
“First of all, Minerva and I are going to be getting married soon and we need witnesses for our ceremony. We were wondering if you two would do the honors?”
Poppy and Alastor looked at each other then back at the other couple. “We’d be honored!” Poppy burst out.
Alastor looked less sure. “What about Aberforth? He is your brother and I wouldn’t want to…”
“Aberforth is delighted not to be asked. This means that he doesn’t have to dress up for the ceremony.” Albus informed him.
“Aberforth isn’t going to wear dress robes?” Poppy asked, astounded. “But it’s a wedding!”
“Abe has agreed to take a bath before the ceremony. We decided that was probably the best we could do.” Minerva laughed, not at all put out by her future brother-in-law’s eccentricities.
“Then I’d be proud to stand as witness… and I promise to take a bath!”
“Sweetheart…” Albus stroked the sheet of dark hair thrown forward over Minerva’s right shoulder as she leaned back against his chest, allowing both his fingers and his thoughts to get lost in the silken tresses. Their favorite tree by the pond provided both shade and support for Albus’ back as he tightened his left arm beneath Minerva’s breasts.
“Tabby…” he tried again, then gasped when he felt Minerva’s bottom wiggle against him. His semi-erect member took a leap.
Minerva slid her head along his shoulder and down his forearm so that she could stare up at him, her gaze anticipating.
“I was… that is to say, I need to… you wouldn’t mind spending the afternoon with Aberforth next Thursday, would you? I just need to be gone for a few hours and I know how much you like to spend time with Dotty and your namesakes.”
Minerva rolled her eyes and smiled up at Albus. “What time do we leave?”
“Minerva,” Albus said firmly, letting her know that he was serious by his use of her real name. “I will not allow you to put yourself in danger needlessly.”
Minerva’s eyebrows cocked. “And you actually think that I would allow you to put yourself in danger alone? Really, Albus… how long have you known me?”
“But the baby,” his hand shifted slightly so his fingers could brush the noticeable incline, “… think about little Dumbles…”
“Our baby needs a mother and a father. If you are going to meet with Millicent Bagnold then I want to go with you.”
“But we are safer if our relationship and the baby’s existence remains a secret until all of this mess is cleared up.” Albus pleaded.
“I’ll hide in the closet.” Minerva countered.
Albus sighed. “What about… a compromise?”
Minerva eyed him warily. “I’m listening.”
“I’ve decided that the best place for the meeting is the Leaky Cauldron. I’ll send an owl to Millicent with the time and place just an hour before hand. Alastor will make arrangements for a private room but we should be relatively safe.”
“So I’ll hide under the bed instead.”
“I was thinking that perhaps you could use the time more productively.” Albus fingered the hem of her sleeve. “I know that you need some new robes with a bit of room for expanding… and I suspect that you would like something special to wear for our wedding ceremony…”
Even though Minerva knew what Albus was offering was out and out blackmail she felt herself weakening. She was tired of having to leave her few dresses half open and the problem was only going to get worse over the next few months.
“Poppy could go with you… and you’d only be a few hundred yards away from me so if anything happened you could be there in seconds. And maybe while you are out shopping you could pick up something… interesting… to wear on our wedding night… hmm?” Now Albus was the one waggling his eyebrows.
“You are incorrigible!” Minerva looped her arm around Albus’ neck and pulled him down so that she could reach his mouth.
Albus smacked Minerva’s lips loudly then licked his own. “Mmm… you taste wonderful!”
“You taste like lemons,” Minerva told him as she mimicked his actions. “Tell me again how you managed to store all those muggle sweets in your basement?”
“I hate to be deprived of tastes that I love… any taste…” The humour left Albus’ eyes to be replaced by desire.
As Albus’ eyes darkened Minerva felt her body begin to hum. She was amazed at the rapidness with which her longing grew. She pulled his mouth back to hers as she twisted in his arms. This kiss left no doubt at all about what she wanted but Albus was still surprised to find himself flat on his back with Minerva stretched out on top of him.
“Tabby?” Albus was amazed to find that Minerva’s eyes were equally dark. “Should we head inside?”
Suddenly Minerva understood what Poppy had been telling her about hormones the week before. She wanted Albus right this instant and she didn’t care if they were lying beneath a tree where Aberforth or any of his goats could wander up on them. Her hands tugged that the clasp of Albus’ robe.
“Tab… what’s gotten in to…” A moan cut off Albus’ words as Minerva succeeded in opening his robes and her mouth attacked his chest. “Sweetheart… have you forgotten we’re outside? Oh… God!” Albus robes were now open to his waist and Minerva’s tongue was licking over every inch of revealed skin. “That feels so…” A picture flashed in his mind; Minerva in her animagus form licking her fur. No wonder she was so good at this… she was an expert.
‘What the hell!’ Albus thought as his hands moved to tug Minerva’s outer robe off and release the button holding the top of her dress together at the back of her neck.
Somehow he managed to divest Minerva of her gown, due in large part to her wiggling down his body to taste more skin while he tugged the garment up and over her head. He felt her naked breasts bounce against his bare thighs as Minerva lapped at his navel and he realized that she’d managed to pull the one robe he wore completely open.
Albus nearly lost control when he felt Minerva’s warm breath curl around his now fully aroused member. Her hands caressed his length gently but firmly, the top thumb playing over the purpling head. Albus desperately wanted her to…
“No!” He managed to gasp out as he flung his arms to free them from the confines of his sleeves. He reached for Minerva’s shoulders; his fingertips just brushing across them when she did what he both wanted and feared; she touched him with her mouth. The sound of Albus’ cry echoed over the grounds as Minerva tasted him tentatively, her tongue gently tracing the damp opening at the top of his staff.
The pleasure was so intense that Albus actually whimpered, his fingers wrapping themselves in Minerva’s hair as he surged up into her warmth. She opened wide to take more of his length inside.
The urge to come almost overwhelmed Albus and he struggled to hold back as he yanked Minerva’s head away from him.
“I’m sorry, love,” he murmured to her when she cried out at the tug on her hair. “Come here…”
“But…” She looked back at his erection and licked her lips.
Albus quickly grasped her beneath the arms and pulled her back up so that they were face to face, then rolled them both to their sides and captured her lips in a steamy kiss.
“Where did you learn that?” Albus questioned quietly as he broke the kiss to nuzzle her neck, his hands working over her body’s pleasure spots.
Minerva groaned when he hit a particularly sensitive area just below her collarbone. “Ro… Hooch… she talks… lots. You didn’t like…”
“Oh, honey… I loved it. But do you realize what happens?” At the nod of Minerva’s head Albus made a mental note to find out more of what she and one of her best Hogwarts friends chatted about. “I want us to share right now…” His fingers slid down her abdomen to rub her mound through her cotton knickers.
“Albus… please…” Minerva pleaded as she ground her flesh against his palm.
“Why don’t we get rid of these?” Albus tugged gently at her panties.
Minerva growled her frustration as she pushed away from Albus, ripped her panties off then rolled back to him. She wound her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately as her right knee rose to hug his hip.
Albus didn’t need to position his member for entrance; Minerva’s squirming did it for him. Then he was sliding into her warmth, her body consuming him until he was buried to the hilt. He grasped her bottom and began to pulse slowly in and out.
“Harder!” She demanded between pressing love bites to his neck. Her nails scored his shoulders and her nipples drilled into his chest. “I need more!”
Minerva’s earlier actions, the first time she’d ever touched him with her mouth, had already shocked him but now he was floored. In all their time together she’d always let him set the pace but he had to admit, this new aggressive Minerva excited him in ways he’d never felt before.
Albus dug his fingertips into her firm cheeks and picked up the pace. Somehow Minerva managed to twist her calf around so that she had it locked around his bottom, using Albus’ body as leverage to help her meet his every thrust.
“Sweet… heavens…” Albus could feel the sweat building on his brow; smell the sweet scent of Minerva’s arousal drifting around him as the autumn breeze tickled their bare skin. “Tabby… love you… oh, how I love you…” He varied his movements, changing the speed and angle of his thrusts, shifting his hips from side to side and in a circular motion. Minerva’s sounds of pleasure grew louder.
When Albus hit the inner center of her pleasure, Minerva was ready. Her screams rent the air as she went rigid then began convulsing against Albus, her warm juices and grasping muscles coaxing him to join her. Blood was seeping from the pits her nails made in his back but Albus didn’t care. His body followed hers, his fluids pounding up and out to mingle with hers as their muscles tightened and slid across each other. For the first time in his one hundred or so years Albus experienced a second orgasm without completely recovering from his first.
They collapsed against each other; panting heavily and cuddling together as the wind slowly dried the perspiration on their skin. When he felt Minerva shiver slightly Albus shifted to his back, taking care to keep her close to him then grabbed his robe from the ground and pulled in haphazardly over them.
“You look so beautiful like this,” Albus whispered as he stared at Minerva’s face, exalting at the sated look in her eyes.
She pressed a kiss into his chest. “I’m sure that I look a mess… but you…” her fingers twirled in the auburn strands of his beard. “You look devastatingly handsome.”
“With this nose?” Albus barked. “Either you are blind or in love.”
“Actually,” Minerva glanced at the picnic basket where both pairs of their spectacles were safely tucked away; “I’m both.”
Their chuckles gradually faded into silence as the makeshift blanket warmed them and they slowly slid into slumber.
“Mmm…” Albus uttered in his drowsy state as he felt soft lips touch his cheek. He tightened his arms around Minerva and inhaled, the air heavy with her own special scent mixed with the lavender she always wore… and something else… something he’d smelled before… something like… GOAT BREATH!
Dotty seemed to jump three feet straight back at Albus’ shout.
Albus sat up, taking care not to dislodge his robe from his hips or Minerva’s body, glaring at the confused goat all the while. Another sound caught his attention and he turned toward the lake to find Aberforth sitting on a log, pissing himself laughing.
“You crazy idiot!” Albus shouted at him.
“I was wondering why Dotty’s kids had red hair!” Aberforth managed to blurt out before laughter consumed him again. “You should have seen your face…”
Albus was just at the point of hexing his brother when he felt a tug on the robe and looked down to see that Minerva had rolled over and was now glaring at his sibling as well.
The laughter slowly died away as Abe began to feel the weight of vivid emerald eyes pinning him down. “I… it was just a joke… I’m… sorry…”
Finally Minerva spoke, her voice icier than Albus had ever heard. “Go away, Aberforth Dumbledore and take Dotty with you. Albus and I are having a private moment here and you were not invited to observe.”
Aberforth stood and ran without making another sound.
Once he was out of sight Minerva rolled back and started to speak but then noticed Dotty still standing nearby.
“You too…” She told the doe.
Dotty trotted away obediently.
Albus sank back to the blanket. “You are… scary… truly frightening, my love.”
“Shut up and make love to me, Albus.”
“Anything you desire, Tabby, anything at all.”
“I don’t like this, Albus.” Alastor grumbled as he searched the small room that Albus had rented for the afternoon. The Leaky Cauldron didn’t seem the best place to Alastor to hold a secret meeting but Albus had pointed out that it was so well frequented that his enemies would be foolish to try to get to him. “And letting Min go out into Diagon Alley… she should have stayed away.”
“She refused to stay at home, Alastor, just as I knew she would. The only way that I could prevent her from being here right now was to encourage her to go shop for robes. Besides, she desperately needs them. Every bride wants to look pretty on her wedding day but Minerva wants to look pretty and have a gown that will actually close around little Dumbles.”
“Well, I don’t like it. The sooner we get this over with the better.”
“It appears that is exactly what is going to happen, Alastor. I think I hear Minister Bagnold’s tread on the stairs now.”
“This gown looks absolutely stunning on you, my dear,” the saleswitch at Madame Malkin’s told Minerva as she twisted in front of the mirror. “And these tapes here at the side will allow it to expand as you do.”
Minerva mentally calculated the cost of adding a third robe to her purchase against the amount of money she had removed from her vault at Gringotts.
“You need several changes of clothes, Min.” Poppy encouraged.
“I would suggest that you supplement your robe choices with a few skirts and blouses.” The clerk nodded at her assistant and the young girl scampered away to pull the required garments from their racks.
Minerva finally nodded her agreement. “I do have to have clothes to wear, after all.”
The saleswitch smiled, please with the transaction. “Would you like to wear this robe home?”
Minerva smiled. “That would be wonderful! But… I need one more outfit… something dressier…”
The clerk’s eyes gleamed at the prospect of an even larger sale. “Something for a special occasion?”
“Yes…” Minerva blushed slightly, “… my wedding.”
To her credit the woman didn’t lose her composure. “Of course. Is the happy day soon? What I mean to say is that we might need to move to gowns with more… give in the waist… if the wedding is more than a month or two away.”
“No… the ceremony will be soon… in the next few weeks.” Minerva was recovering from her initial bout of embarrassment and raised her head proudly. “I would like to look nice.”
“Every bride is beautiful but I am pleased to help you find a perfect gown as well. Have you thought about color?”
“Well, white is definitely out!” Poppy laughed.
Minerva glared at Poppy a moment, the corners of her mouth fighting the urge to smirk, then replied, “Perhaps something soft… a pale yellow, maybe?”
The clerk shook her head. “Not with your coloring. Perhaps blue… or green… but you don’t want to appear too springtime in the autumn.” Suddenly she snapped her fingers. “I think that I might have just the thing… it’s a new gown… one of a kind. I’ll get it.”
Minerva turned to Poppy as the shop assistant hurried away. “One of a kind… translation… another visit to Gringotts.”
“It won’t hurt to look at the dress, Min.”
“I can wear one of the other robes I’ve picked out. They are all very nice. That’s the practical thing to do.”
But before Minerva could tell the younger helper to finish her transaction the head saleswitch returned with the most beautiful garment that either woman had every seen.
The robe was winter white with a deep neckline and an empire waist. Both the sleeves and the skirt were full and flowing. The fabric was the finest silk that Minerva had ever touched.
“It’s beautiful,” she murmured as she carefully fingered the collar.
“It’s perfect, Minerva.” Poppy told her. “You simply have to try it on. I insist.”
“But… I know that it is more than I should spend.”
“Trying it on doesn’t mean that you have to buy it. Go on now.”
Minerva didn’t need much persuasion because she was dying to try the gown on herself. After another moment’s hesitation she took the garment and disappeared into the dressing room.
Poppy carefully motioned for the saleswitch to follow her as she moved away, keeping a careful eye on the door.
“We need to talk…”
The knock at the door was firm and commanding, obviously the rap of one with authority. At Albus’ nod Alastor carefully opened the door, shielding the widening gap with his body. He glanced as far as he could down the hallway in both directions.
“Oh, get over it, Alastor!” Millicent Bagnold rolled her eyes as she stepped forward and shoved Moody out of the way. She stepped over the threshold to find Albus seated in a chair at the far end of the room. Alastor quickly closed the door behind them while Albus simply stared at his old school mate.
“Dumbledore, you’re looking much improved from the last time that I saw you.”
“I would guess that to be the case since I was barely conscious at the time. However, I didn’t ask you here to exchange ‘war stories’.”
“I gathered as much. You should be honored that I hold you in such high regard, Dumbledore. I don’t answer just any summons… especially ones as imperious as yours. I would like to understand what the hell is going on. Why did you feel you had to leave St. Mungo’s and where have you been for the last two months?”
Albus’ eyes narrowed. He would almost swear that the minister was telling the truth. “I tend to view those events a bit differently, Minister. I think what happened was that I ‘escaped’ from my captivity and I’ve been evading my pursuers while recovering from my injuries.”
“You weren’t a captive, Albus. You know better than that! Unless that wall that fell on your head addled your brain!”
Albus shook his head. “I didn’t come here to fight with you, Minister. I am just stating the facts as I know them. I was asking to see my colleagues… my family. I was told… and other people were also told… that the Ministry mandated I not have any visitors. That decree came straight from your office.”
“I gave no such order.” Bagnold was growing angry. “The healers told me that any disruption could be detrimental to your health.”
“I never stated that you personally gave the order, Minister. But the fact remains… the edict did come from your office whether you gave it or not. If someone in the ministry wasn’t intent on keeping me away then why have squads been scouring the countryside looking for me for the last two months?”
“I authorized no searches. If you wanted to be alone then that was your choice. We wanted to give you a hero’s due… people admire you, Albus. They want to see you… hear you tell your story. What you did was truly fantastic. Your actions saved the entire wizarding world.”
Albus sighed and gestured to the chair across from him. “I didn’t do it to be turned into a hero, Millicent. I only did what had to be done. But to be cut off from Min… from Alastor and all the rest of our team, not to mention my brother, scoundrel that he is considered by some to be…”
Bagnold sat down and held out her hand to Albus. “I didn’t issue those orders, Albus, I swear.”
“Will you attempt to discover who did, Millie? I would like to come out of hiding and resume teaching. And there is something else…”
“Albus!” Alastor cautioned from the door, aghast at what he knew his friend was about to reveal.
Calm blue eyes stared back at the agitated man. “I trust Millicent, Alastor, and she has been a good friend to us both in the past. I would ask you to keep what I am about to tell you in the strictest confidence, Millie. In a few weeks time I am going to be marri…”
With a hearty roar Alastor yanked open the heavy wooden door and Nigel Davis fell forward to the floor, following the keyhole he had been attempting to listen at.
“The alterations shouldn’t take more than a few hours, Miss McGonagall. We’ll have all of your purchases ready then.”
“But are you absolutely sure of this total? It seems very low for everything that I bought.”
The clerk nodded. “I’ve checked it twice. May I remind you that several of the items were pulled off of our discount rack? Why pay full price when last years items are still in style and you won’t be needing them in another six months?”
“But the gown…”
“I spoke with Madame Malkin. The gown was designed for a special client who changed her mind at the last moment. The owner was glad to cut the price simply to have the gown taken off our hands.”
Luckily Minerva couldn’t see Poppy nodding her approval to the woman from behind Minerva’s back.
“Come on, Min. Pay the woman and let’s go grab an ice cream from Fortescue’s. I’m famished and I know that you must be as well.”
Niles Davis, assistant to the minister and first-class weasel, kissed the dusty floor of the Leaky Cauldron as Alastor Moody slammed the door behind him and quickly warded the room.
“Now, you little shit,” Moody prodded the weasel with his foot, his wand held at the ready, “how did you find us and what the hell are you doing here?”
“Alastor! Kindly leave my assistant alone!” Bagnold was on her feet and moving toward Davis. “Niles, I told you not to disturb me. Why are you here?” She helped the man to his feet.
Davis shot Alastor an evil look. “I just… I just wanted to make sure that you were safe. These two aren’t the most trustworthy…”
“Mr. Davis,” Millicent’s voice went cold. “Albus Dumbledore and Alastor Moody were schoolmates of mine. We have an eighty-year history together. I would trust them both with my life. I thought I made that clear to you earlier.”
“Earlier…” Albus jumped to his feet to confront Bagnold. “You told Davis about this meeting. Even after I asked you to keep it completely private. I took care to send the owl when I knew that you would be at home and not…” His voice trailed off as bright red color suffused Bagnold’s face. To her credit, she did not back down from Dumbledore’s angry glare.
“I was at home… but I am not a nun, Dumbledore. I wasn’t alone. However, I only told Niles that I was meeting with you, not the time and the place. Were you following me?” Her question was addressed to her lover.
This time it was Davis’ face that colored. “I told you that I…”
Bagnold shook her head, a sad look marring her handsome features. “Tell me the truth, Niles. That I am not an infant is obvious. I’m also smart enough to begin to get an inkling about your sudden interest in pursuing me. You were the one who issued the orders to keep Albus under lock and key in the hospital, weren’t you? You are the one who has been sending out search squads.”
Davis smiled appeasingly. “I only did it for you, Millie, darling. We had to discover all the details of Dumbledore’s confrontation with Grindelwald. We needed to control the press spin… have you stand next to him in his first photos.”
“For this you would have a man held hostage, kept from his friends… from his family… from the people he was asking to see?”
Niles’ eyes narrowed. “I did what was necessary, Minister.”
“I don’t like this one bit, Albus. I say we get the girls and get the hell out of here.” Moody growled.
Albus was about to agree when he saw something he didn’t like flash in Davis’ eyes, something that looked suspiciously like gloating. Suddenly a sick feeling washed over him. Something was wrong. He grabbed the younger man’s collar and flung him against the wall, anger and power radiating from him. “What have you done?!”
Minerva wrinkled her nose as she peered at the menu. “I don’t understand, Poppy. I normally adore chocolate ice cream but at the moment the thought of it absolutely sickens me.” She threw down the menu in disgust.
“So what flavour do you want today?” Poppy hid her grin behind her own menu.
“I do NOT want it…” Minerva glanced at the full tables near them and lowered her voice. “Little Dumbles wants it.”
“Ah… showing traits of his father already…” Poppy smiled as the young waitress approached. “I’d like a small bowl of vanilla topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and my friend will have a large bowl of the lemon sorbet.”
“With strawberry topping,” Minerva quickly added causing Poppy to wrinkle her nose in disgust.
The women ate their special treats – the war had limited many of the luxuries of the day – and talked quietly about Minerva’s upcoming wedding. Poppy had picked out a simple gown to wear in her role as Minerva’s witness so they discussed jewelry and how to wear their hair… all the little details that only the bride worries over.
“I only hope that Albus and Alastor can get this mess cleared up quickly. If we aren’t able to marry soon that lovely gown won’t hide LD either.” Minerva told Poppy as she licked the last bit of ice from her spoon and dropped it back into the empty bowl.
Poppy finished her ice cream at the same time and grabbed for her purse, fishing out the required number of sickles for the bill on the table. She waved Minerva’s offer of money away. “A little treat for the bride. Why don’t we go see what our men are up to? The meeting should be winding down. They can walk us back to the shop to pick up our purchases and then we’ll be closer to the apparating point.”
They had just stepped out onto the pavement when they heard someone call after them. Poppy, being closest to the door turned back and saw their waitress approaching with her handkerchief.
“It must have fallen out of my pocket when I was getting the money. I won’t be a second, Min.” She turned to confirm her statement with her friend and screamed as she saw a hooded figure grab Minerva from behind, clamp a hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming, and apparate away.
“TELL ME!” Albus bellowed again.
Davis’ lips folded together in a white line.
“Albus, let him go.” Millicent commanded for the third time but he still paid her no notice. This time she was determined. “Let him GO!” She grabbed Albus’ shoulder and yanked him back.
Albus didn’t release his hold so Davis came back with them. Millicent laid a hand on one of Albus’ wrists. “Please… let me speak to Niles.”
After a few moments, his inner struggle clearly visible on his face, Albus stepped back.
Niles shrugged his shoulders and straightened his robes then faced the woman who was both his employer and his lover.
“Niles… I’ve given you my trust… in more ways than one… please explain to me why you did this horrible thing to a man who may well have saved us all.”
“I did what was necessary for you, Millicent. I have to protect you. If I hadn’t then you might have been hurt…”
“Who would hurt me, Niles?”
Hurt flared in Millicent’s eyes but before she could respond the sound of heavy steps could be heard pounding up the nearby stairs.
“That’s Poppy!” All of Alastor’s wary watchfulness flew out the window as he yanked the door open.
Not knowing which room they were in, Poppy was running up and down the hall screaming Alastor’s name. When she saw his grizzled head appear out of the door she ran to his arms.
“Oh, Merlin! They took her! I tried… I didn’t know… Alastor, she’s gone!” Poppy’s words made little sense as Moody dragged her into the room.
Albus moved to Poppy’s side and grabbed her shoulders. He shook her sharply. “Take a deep breath, Poppy.” He commanded. “Now tell us what is wrong? Where is Minerva?”
Poppy dragged a breath in. “We were just leaving Fortescue’s. I turned back to the door for a moment and I heard a funny nose. I whirled around in time to see someone in black robes and a hood grab Min, cover her mouth and apparate away. We were very careful, Albus. How could they know we would be here?”
Albus swung around to glare at Davis, as did Alastor and Millicent. “It had to be you.”
“What have you done, Niles?”
“I had to…” Fear was visible in Davis’ eyes. “She was going to hurt you if I didn’t…”
“Who, Niles? Who was going to hurt me?”
“His… mother… Grindelwald’s mother.”
The room erupted. Poppy wailed, Alastor swore. Albus drew his arm, his intent to plant his fist in Niles’ face clear, but Millicent beat him to it. A sharp smack cracked through the room as her palm made contact with Niles’ cheek.
That done she turned to Alastor, her official face back on. “Get to the ministry. Order teams out to search for Minerva. Scour Diagon Alley. You have my full backing in this matter. Whatever it takes…”
Alastor nodded. “Come with me, Poppy. We need to interview you… try hard to see if you can remember any more details. Albus, I’ll leave word at the ministry.” At Albus’ nod the couple quickly headed out of the room and down the stairs toward the large fireplace on the first floor.
Once they were gone both Albus and Millicent advanced on Niles, forcing him across the room and down into the chair the Albus had vacated earlier. Millicent settled in the nearby chair while Albus simply stood and glowered at the man.
“Now, Niles,” Millicent began, in a tone that brooked no argument, “tell me how you came to know Grindelwald and his mother.”
“Ten years ago I went on vacation to Germany,” Niles began, then stopped, realizing just how much information he had revealed with that simple statement.
“Continue,” Albus commanded, “and quickly.”
Minerva moaned in pain as consciousness slowly returned. She shook her head, trying to clear away some of the cobwebs, then opened her eyes to find herself in a dark cold room. Although something about the feel of the room seemed familiar she couldn’t place it. She lifted her hand toward her aching head only to find something heavy dragging the limb down. The rattle that sounded at the movement told her that it was a chain and a few quick tugs let her know that she was on a very short tether.
“What happened?” She muttered as she tried to clear her head enough to remember. She had been with Poppy in Diagon Alley just leaving the ice cream parlour when… nothing.
‘Oh well,” she thought, ‘whoever did this should know that it is difficult to chain a tabby cat.’ She concentrated on her animagus form and was just beginning to feel the transformation begin when a sharp kick in her abdomen reminded her of the danger of that action.
She stopped the change immediately as her hands moved to cradle her burgeoning abdomen. “I’m sorry, little one.” She mouthed as she rubbed the spot where the baby was kicking in protest. How she wished Albus was here. He would certainly be able to feel these kicks.
“So you are awake,” a harsh voice cut through the darkness and Minerva instinctively pulled the edges of her new robes around her, masking the tiny life that she carried.
“Who are you and why have you done this to me?”
“Silence, girl. You are here because I wanted you to be… You are alive for that same reason. How long you remain that way is still to be determined.”
A single harsh beam of light cut through the darkness, illuminating Minerva as she lifted her hand to shade her eyes. As her pupils adjusted she could make out a small feminine figure standing in the doorway of her cell. The woman’s iron-gray hair was pulled back tightly from her face. Slowly Minerva realized that the woman was still speaking.
“…if you behave yourself I might give you something to eat… or not. Think about that for a little while. Oh… in case you are wondering… I’ve taken care of your wand.”
Minerva gasped. In the wizarding world intentionally damaging another person’s wand was viewed as a heinous crime. She hoped that the woman hadn’t destroyed hers. Before she could say anything more the door slammed with a loud clang.
“Hammersmith,” Millicent Bagnold spoke to the first auror she saw after entering the conference room, “take Mr. Davis into custody. Remove his wand and have his cell guarded at all times.”
The young auror nodded, drew his wand, and took over the custody of the man Albus had been guarding and led him away.
“Update, Mr. Moody.” Bagnold marched up to Alastor and demanded.
“We have a team in Diagon Alley tracking the apparation and a team is currently searching the weasel’s flat. I have three more teams standing by, ready to go out the moment that we get any further lead. I’ll need to interview Davis to see if we can get any more information out of him.”
“Be in my office in five minutes and we will discuss what he revealed to Professor Dumbledore and myself.” Bagnold swept from the room.
Poppy Pomfrey moved from her spot out of the way in a corner to Albus side and wrapped her arms around him. “We’ll find her, Albus. Alastor has been working like a madman.” She didn’t like the look in Albus eyes. In all the time she’d known Albus Dumbledore, first as a student and then as the lover of her best friend, she’d never known him to show fear.
Alastor finished directed two of his men on the security precautions for Niles Davis then turned to speak to Albus but before he could say anything another young man dashed in through the door and came straight for them.
“Report, Potter!” Alastor snapped.
“We didn’t find very much, sir… nothing to indicate why Davis might have been involved in a plot to kidnap Miss McGonagall. We did discover an address book. It took us a while to break the protection wards on it but the book contains the names of several suspected followers of Grindelwald. We also found out where Davis was born, where his family lives and where he likes to spend his free time.”
“Good job, Daniel.” Alastor clapped the young auror on the shoulder. “We’ll start sending teams out to investigate. Albus, let me get my men started then I’ll bring you up to speed while we walk to the Minister’s office.”
Albus nodded then turned his attention back to Poppy as Alastor walked off with his arm around Potter’s shoulder. “You can’t remember anything else, Poppy? No one following you during the afternoon or paying too much attention to Minerva?”
Poppy shook her head. “I wish I could. We only visited the bank then spent the rest of the afternoon at the robe shop. I could tell Minerva was tired so I suggested we treat ourselves to a bite of ice cream then head back to the Leaky Cauldron. We took a table near the back and kept our voices low.”
“Minerva had chocolate,” Albus observed with a sad smile.
“Actually… she had lemon. She said that little Dumbles didn’t have a taste for chocolate.”
A tear sprang unbidden to Albus eye. “Why would someone take her? I can’t lose her now, Poppy.”
“Minerva bought a beautiful gown today to wear to her wedding. I have every faith that you and Alastor will find her and that the wedding will take place.”
Albus clung to Poppy until Alastor returned to them.
Minerva had no concept of how much time had passed the next time the door opened. She’d curled up in her robes, trying desperately to keep warm and somehow it had worked. A soothing warmth had seeped through her and she’d fallen asleep, not waking until the sound of rasping hinges had alerted her to a visitor.
The beam of light once again cut through the gloom to illuminate her but this time Minerva saw her captor advance further into the cell.
“You can’t do anything, girl. Your chains won’t allow you to reach me or the open doorway. I’ve decided that I need to keep you alive… at least for a few days. That will give you more time to think about all the ways that I might kill you.” The crone dropped a tray on the ground near Minerva. “Eat.” She commanded as she backed out of the cell.
Minerva’s first impulse was to kick the tray away in defiance but once again her baby stirred. She pulled back the towel covering the food and was surprised to see that a generous portion of fresh bread and cheese lay beneath. After several careful sniffs, her feline senses detecting nothing wrong, she tentatively took a bite. Minerva sighed with appreciation as the food hit her empty stomach. The baby kicked gently and Minerva almost laughed, thinking that the little one was telling her that he had been hungry too.
“Dammit, Alastor! Another useless search! We are running out of options!” Albus’ use of profanity confirmed to Alastor what he already knew; his friend was becoming more and more agitated.
“Something will turn up, Albus. Maybe one of the other teams…”
“We’ve interrogated almost every person in the weasel’s address book. None of them will admit to knowing anything about his association with Grindelwald or Minerva’s disappearance. It’s been almost three days. She could be hurt… she could be…”
Alastor gripped Albus’ shoulder tightly. “She isn’t, Albus. If these searches don’t turn up something then we’ll move on to veritaserum. If that doesn’t work I’ll beat the information out of the little shit.”
“And if he doesn’t talk? He’ll be of little use to us then. We are going to have to do something else…”
Alastor grinned. “You have a plan, don’t you?”
“Don’t worry, little one,” Minerva whispered soothingly as she rubbed her belly. “Daddy is coming to rescue us. He’s out there right now… searching for us.” Minerva closed her eyes and focused all of her mental energies on Albus, trying to reach out to him in some way. She’d been doing this periodically for several days and even though she never felt anything back she had to believe that somehow Albus was receiving her message; someway he knew that she and the baby were still alive.
Her ears pricked up at the sound of footsteps in the hallway. She knew that her captor was approaching. Over the last two days the woman had taken to coming to her cell and sitting for long hours, never speaking, just watching. Minerva knew that the woman was trying to unnerve her and to be truthful she did to a certain extent but she didn’t let it show.
The woman dropped a small wooden stool on the floor a few feet away from Minerva and transfigured it into a comfortable arm chair then changed the small lantern she carried into a large freestanding lamp that illuminated the entire cell. Then she sat down and began to stare.
Minerva returned the stare for a moment then turned her face away, pushing her back up against the wall and gathering her robes around her. This time she completely ignored the woman.
Finally the crone could stand it no longer. “Look at me girl!” She prodded Minerva with her long cane. Minerva lifted her eyes, an indifferent cast in her green orbs.
This only seemed to infuriate the old hag even more. “Such insolence! Haven’t you noticed, girl? You are the captive here. You are completely in my power.”
“I don’t know you. I don’t know why you are holding me here. You may have my body restrained but you have no hold over my mind.” Minerva answered.
The woman looked incredulous. “I’ll have your chains tightened.” She threatened.
Minerva shrugged. “If you feel you have to. People will be searching for me. You won’t hold me long.”
“I could kill you this minute.”
“Then you would pay the consequences of that action.” Minerva answered, completely at ease. “But if you do decide to kill me, will you do me the courtesy of telling me who you are and why you are doing this before you do so?”
The woman cackled. “My name is Heorot. As to why… I am administering justice… an eye for an eye. You helped that bastard Dumbledore kill my son so I am going to kill you.”
It was Minerva’s turn to look stunned. “Son… You are Grindelwald’s mother?”
“My sweet Friedrich… He was such a sweet baby… such a dutiful son… a bit misguided but I could have made him see the error of his ways… but no… I never had a chance… you killed him.”
Minerva saw the woman’s love for her son and her despair at his loss etched all over her face. She thought about the child she carried in her womb and knew that even though she had yet to hold him in her arms she felt for him just as strongly.
“Your son was too far gone to see reason. He was corrupted by the dark power that he tapped in to. Don’t you think that people tried to reason with him?”
“But not me!” Heorot cried. “He would have listened to his mother!”
“I’m sure that you tried to raise your son to do good but all children reach a point where they have to choose their own path. You aren’t responsible for the evil that your son did.” Minerva tried to reason.
Heorot rose from the seat and moved with a speed that belied her age to tower over Minerva. “And what would you know about children? You, a mere stripling of a girl. You barely look to be out of your teens.”
“I’m twenty-five,” Minerva spat back as she sank further into the wall.
A gleam of understanding lit Heorot’s eyes as she stared at Minerva. Without warning she reached forward and yanked the edges of Minerva’s outer robes apart, revealing the obvious protrusion of her abdomen.
“So… you do know something of children, don’t you?” A bony hand reached out to prod Minerva’s belly. “It’s Dumbledore’s bastard, isn’t it? I can feel the magic even now. I wonder how the great Albus Dumbledore will feel when I deliver the bodies of his child and his whore to his doorstep.”
Niles Davis heard the clatter of dishes and the jangle of keys and moved into position. As the bolts slid back in the lock he tensed in readiness behind the heavy door. He watched the angle of the door very carefully. Once it reached the spot he had previously decided was perfect he pounced, throwing all of his weight against it.
The door flew back towards the facing, catching the guard between heavy iron and the metal stripping. He fell with a thud as Davis stepped back, releasing the pressure on the door. His wand fell from his fingers and rolled across the floor.
After a careful glance down the hallway, Niles quickly grabbed the fallen wand, levitated the unconscious guard and moved him into the cell then stole his outer robes. He tugged them on, placed a silencing charm on the guard then locked him inside the cell and moved toward the steps that would take him to the main entryway where he could safely apparate to freedom.
The apparent emptiness of the corridor gave him false courage and he moved forward quickly, never noticing the faint whisper of a breeze behind him.
Minerva knocked Heorot’s hand away and wrapped her arms protectively over her belly.
“Not so insolent now, girl, are you? Tell me… what does it feel like to welcome a murderer to your bed?”
“Albus didn’t murder your son. Grindelwald is the one who cast the killing curse.” Minerva was startled at her own words but even as she spoke them the memory of those awful words rang in her mind.
“Never! My Fritz wouldn’t do that… and if he had then Dumbledore would be the one who died.”
Minerva shook her head, her confusion obvious. “I don’t know why… the curse missed Albus. He struck in self defense.”
“Liar! Dumbledore killed my son and in return I’m going to kill his.” Heorot suddenly stepped back and turned toward the stairs. “Advance and show yourself!” She ordered.
A young man Minerva quickly recognized appeared in the doorway, arms outstretched and palms open. “Davis…” she hissed.
Heorot’s eyes narrowed. “I heard that you’d been taken into custody, Niles.”
“I was able to escape, mistress. I watched the guard’s patterns and took advantage of their weaknesses. I stole his wand and used it to apparate to your side for further instruction.”
“You could have been followed!” Heorot growled.
“I took precautions, my lady. I varied my route and backtracked several times. I moved swiftly. No one could have followed me.”
“Very well,” Heorot nodded. “Your arrival is fortuitous. You can take the girl’s body back to Dumbledore once I’ve killed her and hacked her bastard from her womb.”
Albus waited until Davis had disappeared down the dark stairwell before he activated his magical signal. Seconds later Alastor Moody appeared at his side, wand drawn. His eyes darted around the premises, questioned. Albus inclined his head toward the steps in answer as he laid his index finger against his lips.
When Moody would have moved immediately toward the entryway, Dumbledore stopped him.
“Give him a moment. We don’t want to catch him on the stairs.” Albus whispered so softly that Moody had to strain to hear.
Alastor nodded then watched as Albus carefully moved around the rubble filled room they were standing in. “How appropriate to bring the search back to this castle…” Moody could tell that Dumbledore was replaying his battle with Grindelwald in his mind.
“I could have sworn…”
Moody moved closer. “What is it, Albus?”
Albus shrugged. “I could have sworn that Grindelwald cast an unforgivable curse… that Tabby leapt up and took the brunt of the killing curse… but that’s impossible. My memory must be faulty. We should go now…”
The two men picked their way quietly through the debris to the top of the winding staircase and began their descent into the castle dungeons.
They were halfway down when a feminine scream rent the air.
“Minerva!” Albus yelled as he charged down the steps, no longer caring about making a surreptitious entrance
Moody noticed a faint golden glow fade into oblivion as he charged after Albus into the dank basement; their destination the shine of the lantern visible in the second cell.
All three occupants of the cell were on the floor, two lying on the cold damp stone and Minerva propped up against the corner walls. Albus moved immediately to her side while Alastor inspected the others.
“Tabby, please wake up, my heart,” Albus pulled her into his embrace. One hand moved over her chest and neck, checking her heart and breathing rate. “Come on, Minerva,” he told her with a bit more intensity. “Talk to me!”
After a few moments of this Minerva gasped and her eyes flickered open. “Albus! I knew you’d rescue me!” She buried her face in his beard as she wrapped her arms around him.
A whispered spell caused the chains to fall away as Albus’ hand continued to run over her body, checking for any injuries. “Are you hurt, Tabby? What about the baby?”
Minerva closed her eyes a moment in intense concentration. “We are both okay… I think. What happened? How did you stop her?”
Albus’ eyes narrowed. “We’ll talk about this later. We need to get you to a healer, just in case.”
He stood, cradling her in his arms as he did so. Minerva wrapped her arms around Albus’ neck and settled her cheek against his shoulder. As they turned the pose reminded Alastor of the way he’d seen them the night before their last mission.
Moody shrugged at Albus’ questioning grin. “Dead… both of them,” he muttered.
Albus nodded then apparated away, leaving Moody to deal with the clean-up team.
Aberforth Dumbledore and Millicent Bagnold sighed as Poppy Pomfrey began what seemed like her ninetieth return trip across the parlour carpet. The healer-in-training had been pacing off and on for hours as they waited for some word from Albus.
Finally Aberforth could take it no more. “I’ve got to go check on my goats,” he mumbled in explanation as he stood and moved toward the door.
Poppy rolled her eyes at his back, never losing her stride until a loud shout echoed through the entry hall. Both she and Millicent rushed into the hallway just in time to see Albus enter through the front door; an unconscious Minerva curled up in his arms.
“Dumbledore! Why in Merlin’s name didn’t you take her to St. Mungo’s? She needs proper care!”
Poppy didn’t even take the time to glare at the Minister as she ran up the stairs ahead of Albus. Bagnold followed behind, continuing her tirade all the while.
“What happened, Albus?” Poppy finally asked as she pulled back the bed covers.
“I don’t know.” Albus carefully lowered Minerva to the mattress. “She was unconscious when we arrived. She woke up for a few minutes but she seemed to be disoriented and then she faded away again. Her heartbeat and respiration were good.”
“Oh Lord, she’s been chained!” Poppy was holding up a slender wrist. The bruising that the manacles had caused was evident. She flicked her fingers at Albus, motioning him away from the bed.
“What about…?” Bagnold asked, a tinge of regret in her voice.
“I’m sorry, Millicent. Davis is dead as is Grindelwald’s mother.”
Millicent swallowed hard. “How?”
“I wish I knew. He couldn’t have been there more than a few seconds when Alastor and I followed but we found them both dead.”
“Could Niles… Is it possible that he might have had a change of heart? Perhaps he died trying to save Miss McGonagall’s life?”
Albus smiled sadly, not really believing Millicent’s theory but wanting her to have some comfort. “It’s very possible, Millie.”
“Perhaps you should take Miss McGonagall to St. Mungo’s, Albus. Especially since you don’t know what spells might have been used…”
Indecision flickered across Albus’ face. “Maybe… I don’t know… there are reasons…”
Millicent followed Albus’ eyes toward the woman and gasped at the gravid belly that was clearly obvious now that she was stretched out on the bed.
“Oh, Albus…” she sighed then turned to look at her long time friend. “This is what you were about to tell me in the Leaky Cauldron. You are going to be married. I couldn’t be happier for the two of you. Congratulations!” She embraced Albus, kissing both of his cheeks as she did so.
When Albus didn’t respond Millicent pulled back, eyeing him curiously. “What’s wrong?”
Albus sighed. “She could have died… that madwoman could have killed her… and it would have been because of me…”
“That’s ridiculous, Albus. Minerva was part of the team tracking Grindelwald. She would have been there despite your involvement.”
“But anyone… I’ve made a lot of enemies over my lifetime… my long lifetime… She’ll always be in danger… and our child…”
Millicent didn’t like the way that Albus’ mind was working and told him so. “Go to her. Be there when she wakes up. Think about what is important.” She pushed him toward the bed where Minerva was just beginning to stir.
Minerva smiled at the sound of Albus’ voice and turned into the fingers stroking her cheek as she slowly opened her eyes.
“If you are a dream I hope that I never wake up.” She whispered as she stared at him with love-filled eyes.
“I’m no dream. I’m right here beside you and you are safe at home in our bed.”
“The baby?” Minerva bolted up as her hand flew to her belly.
Albus’ hand quickly joined hers there. “Poppy has given you a thorough check-up. Everything is fine with both you and Little Dumbles. You may be just a touch dehydrated but other than that… You must have been treated reasonably well…”
Minerva knew that Albus wanted to hear about her captivity but she was grateful that he didn’t push any more. Instead he turned from where he was sitting on the bed, gathered her in his arms and leaned them both back against a stack of pillows. Minerva pressed deeper into his embrace, drawing comfort from his strength and his nearness.
Finally she began to speak.
“The last thing that I remember about being taken was standing outside Fortescue’s with Poppy and someone coming up behind me. I smelled something sickly sweet and the next thing that I remember is waking up in chains in that cell. I have no idea how long I was unconscious.”
“You were missing for almost five days. I was out of my mind…” Albus paused as a sob broke through his voice and he buried his face in Minerva’s hair. “What happened when you woke up?”
“The old woman would come to the cell and stare at me for hours. She wouldn’t speak or come near me, just sit and stare. Once a day she brought me bread, cheese and water. She finally spoke to me on the last day… talking about her son and how I helped to kill him. She approached me… I tried to keep my robes together but she saw… and she guessed that the baby might be yours. She told me that she could ‘feel the magic’.” Minerva’s arms closed instinctively over her belly, Albus’ arms quickly joining them as they both held their child protectively.
“She threatened little Dumbles?”
“She said that you used the unforgivable curse on her son. I told her that she was wrong, her son used it against you but somehow it went astray. Davis arrived then and she told him that he could... that she was...” Minerva began to shudder.
“It’s all right, my dear. I’m here. You don’t have to say any more.”
After a few moments Minerva regained her composure. “She told Davis that she was going to kill me and… hack the baby out… then he could deliver our bodies to your doorstep. She lifted her wand and started to speak but… there was something… I felt such powerful magic. The next thing I remember is you being there… and then waking up here. Did you cast the spell?”
Albus slowly shook his head. “I didn’t. Alastor and I were on the stairs when I heard you scream. I ran down and found you unconscious and the other two dead.”
Minerva looked troubled, as did Albus. “Then where did the magic come from? I didn’t have a wand. She took it from me… probably destroyed it.”
“Millicent wants to believe… Davis was her lover and she would like to think that perhaps he had a change of heart and sacrificed himself to save you.” Albus didn’t sound convinced.
“I didn’t hear him… but I don’t know of any other explanation.” Minerva shifted to look up at Albus. “There will be an investigation, won’t there? I’ll have to talk to the authorities.”
“The Minister has put Alastor in charge. He’ll take your story and as he was a witness… everything will be just fine. The important thing is that you are safe and back home.”
“Thank you for coming to rescue me, Albus. I could have been chained there… How did you find me?”
Albus smiled. “We allowed Davis to overpower his guard and escape then Alastor and I followed him. He thought he was being very crafty by apparating to so many different places but we had placed a tracking spell on him. One of my more brilliant ideas.”
Minerva couldn’t help but chuckle until a yawn cut off the sound. She cuddled back into Albus. “I’m sorry.”
“I’d be more surprised if you weren’t tired. I haven’t had a great deal of sleep in the last few days myself. Sleep my love. I’ll be right here beside you.”
Wulfric and Madelaine Dumbledore approached the door of their manor cautiously. The wards around the grounds were more than obvious even though they didn’t stop those with Dumbledore blood. They knew that if Albus had felt it necessary to place such strong guards around their land then opening the front door incautiously could lead to even more problems.
Squeaking hinges announced their arrival although no one rushed to greet them. Wands drawn, they stepped inside and, back to back, made their way through the foyer into the parlour.
“This place needs a thorough cleaning,” Madelaine muttered as she surveyed the thin coat of dust on top of the sheet-covered furniture.
“Abe doesn’t need much,” Wulfric bounced up and down on one of the uncovered couches. “He probably spends most of his time in the stables with the goats and Albus has his quarters at the school.”
“BAAAAA!” Both husband and wife jumped at the loud and plaintive cry. At that moment Dotty darted out from beneath a table and cantered across the room, followed by two black kids.
“Unhand my goats, you scurvy knaves!” A deep voice echoed from the kitchen, followed by the sound of running feet.
Madelaine scowled at her husband. “You had to read him those pirate stories!”
Aberforth burst into the room, wand drawn and face fierce but quickly dropped both when he saw his parents standing there.
“Mum! Dad! When did you get back?” Abe ran to embrace them both in turn.
“The travel ban was lifted a few weeks ago and we’ve missed both our boys terribly so we decided to head home. We just arrived a few minutes ago. How are you, son?” Wulfric asked. “How is your brother? Have you heard from him lately?”
Aberforth knew that his parents would be full of questions, having been cut off from England for the better part of six years. “I’m doing fine and so are the goats. I’m sorry that Dotty scared you. She and the kids came into the kitchen with me while I made tea and I guess they wandered off. Probably searching for Min…” His voice trailed off as he realized that his parents didn’t know about Albus’ ladylove. Poppy had stopped by the barns to catch him up and let him know that Albus and Minerva had returned but he hadn’t seen them yet, knowing that they needed their rest. He didn’t realize that his eyes had moved toward the upper floor until his mother moved toward the stairs.
“Aberforth! You have company upstairs! Is it a young lady? Oh how exciting! Let’s go meet her, Wulfric!”
Aberforth moved faster than he ever had in his life to cut his parents off at the bottom of the stairs. “Don’t go up there.”
“Don’t be silly, Abe. Move out of the way.” His father commanded.
“I’m serious, Dad. Please stay down here. You do NOT want to go up these stairs.”
“And why not?” Madelaine had crossed her arms and was glowering at her son.
“I… it’s a mess. I haven’t been up there in ages and I need to clean and dust first.” Aberforth said quickly.
“Nonsense! You are my son. I know your habits so I expect that a shovel would be more useful than a broom. You are hiding something…” Madelaine’s eyes began to glow. “Albus… is Albus here?”
Aberforth’s brief hesitation gave him away. Without another word his mother wrenched him away from the banister and ran up the steps.
“Good morning,” Minerva murmured sleepily as she nuzzled Albus’ neck through his beard.
“It’s more like good afternoon, my dear,” Albus answered lazily as he lay on his side close to Minerva, head propped up on bent elbow with his free hand drawing lazy patterns on her silk covered back.
“Afternoon?” Minerva cautiously opened one eye to inspect the pattern of sunlight across the carpeted floor.
“Late afternoon… we slept almost twenty-four hours. How are you feeling?” His hand wandered over the curve of her hip to lovingly caress the swell of her belly.
“I feel much better,” Minerva told Albus as she settled back into the mattress, her chest pressed firmly against his. “And you?”
“Very much improved as well. In fact…” his hand moved higher, sliding the drawstring neckline of the simple nightgown he’d changed her into open and slipping his hand beneath the fabric to cup a swollen breast. His fingers teased the puckering nipple lightly as he moved his face forward and captured Minerva’s lips with his own. Minerva moaned and slid her fingers across his bare chest and into his hair as Albus slowly worked the nightgown away from her shoulder and down her arm.
“ALBUS PERCIVAL WULFRIC BRIAN DUMBLEDORE!”
“I told you not to come up here!”
Albus and Minerva jerked away from each other, both stunned, as they stared at the trio standing in the doorway; Aberforth with his hands over his beet red face, an older silver headed woman with Albus’ blue eyes and a white-headed man with Albus’ distinctive features.
Minerva’s blush rivaled Aberforth’s as she tried to yank the sheet up over her naked shoulders but Albus hand remain entrenched beneath the sagging neck of her gown and impeded her process.
Madelaine turned and buried her head in her husband’s chest, shocked beyond words at finding her elder son sharing his parent’s bed with an unknown woman.
“Explain yourself, son!” Wulfric barked out.
Albus had finally comprehended what he was seeing and quickly yanked his hand free of Minerva’s clothing.
“How could you bring your tart to our bed?” Madelaine found her voice again.
“Mum! Shut up and let Albus explain before you completely swallow your foot.” Aberforth snapped.
Albus opened his mouth to speak but before he could he felt the lurch of Minerva’s shoulders and reached for her. His hand just missed her as she leapt from the bed, one hand holding her gown together and the other over her mouth as she raced toward the bathroom. Moments later the sound of retching could be heard.
“Albus,” his mother said disbelievingly, “that girl is… pregnant.” For Minerva’s condition had been very apparent as she ran across the room, the thin fabric of the gown sculpted across her belly.
“Accio robe!” Albus caught the garment as it flew toward him and carefully wrapped it around his body before standing up to confront his parents.
“Mother, father… I’m sorry that you arrived home at this particular moment but… I am a grown man… and I will not tolerate any unkind words said about or to my fiancée.”
“Why don’t I take the parents downstairs and try to explain things to them?” Aberforth offered. “You and Min can come down as soon as she is feeling better.”
Madelaine took a step toward the lavatory but Albus quickly moved to block her way. “I’m sorry, son,” she quickly offered. “I didn’t understand. But what do you know about caring for a pregnant woman? Let me go to her.”
Albus shook his head but his countenance softened slightly at his mother’s apology. “Tabby and I know a great deal about caring for each other. Go with Abe. We’ll be down soon.”
Once everyone had cleared the room Albus secured the door then headed after Minerva. He found her sitting on the floor hugging the toilet, her hair falling down around her. He quickly wet a cloth and ran water into a glass then gathered Minerva’s hair into one hand and rubbed her back soothingly with the other.
Finally Minerva’s shoulders stopped heaving and she slowly lifted her head, falling weakly back against Albus’ chest as he tenderly wiped her mouth.
“Rinse your mouth out, my dear,” he offered her the glass of water. “Is everything all right? Perhaps I should call Poppy…”
Minerva shook her head. “I don’t need Poppy. I just need a quick way out of here.”
Albus chuckled. “Your Gryffindor courage failing you, Miss McGonagall?” Minerva stiffened in his arms. “My parents behaved abominably but they were in shock. Please give them a second chance. I assure you that they will welcome you with open arms.”
“I don’t want you to force them to accept me, Albus.”
“My dear, my parents won’t be able to resist loving you. The fact that you are carrying their first grandchild will only be an added bonus.”
This time Minerva laughed but the sound was sad. “We’ve been living in a fantasy world for the last few months, Albus… at least until that horrible woman ruined it. Now we have to face the world. I know that Poppy has been quietly letting my parents know that I am safe and well but the time has come for them to learn the truth, too. I can only warn you that my father will try to kill you, either by running a claymore through your gullet or pickling your liver by challenging you to a drinking contest.”
“Everything will be fine, my love. I will explain things to your parents and I will deal with your father. Would you like to go back to bed for a little while?”
Once again Minerva shook her head. “Now that little Dumbles has settled down I’d rather get this scene over with… oh, bloody…” Minerva swore as Albus helped her to her feet. “My new robes,” she answered at his questioning glance. “I’m sure they aren’t repairable after days in that cell. They were the only ones I had that fit.”
“Not quite.” Albus led Minerva back into the bedroom and over to the large wardrobe. He opened the double doors to show Minerva a wide array of robes hanging there. The drawers to one side were filled with feminine undergarments, both lacy and practical. Minerva’s mouth fell open.
“Albus Dumbledore, what have you done?” She fingered a fabric bag, pulling it up just enough to see the color of the robes beneath. It was her wedding gown.
“I simply had Poppy talk with the saleswitch at Madame Malkin’s. You needed new robes to compensate for the baby’s growth and since I am partially responsible I decided to provide the necessary garments.”
“Albus,” Minerva was close to crying, both from happiness and a touch of anger. “I am fully capable of buying…”
“I know that, my dear. But this time I wanted to do it for you. I even ordered a few extra robes… perhaps you might wear one of my choosing today?”
Minerva couldn’t help but chuckle at the bright blue robe that Albus pulled from the closet. By his standards it was tame; only a few brightly coloured flowers bloomed and faded on the lower sleeves, but to Minerva it was much more expressive than anything she’d ever worn.
“I don’t…” she paused at the hopeful look on his face. “Think I can get in it by myself. Do you think you could help me?”
Albus smiled brilliantly as he helped Minerva out of her nightgown. He gladly assisted Minerva into the robe; she only had to caution him twice about his roaming hands as he did so. Finally she stood before the mirror eyeing herself critically. Albus moved behind her and slid his arms around her stomach.
“I’m growing,” she sighed as her hands move to lie on top of Albus’.
“That means that our baby is healthy…” Albus lowered his head to nuzzle her neck but Minerva saw the tear at the corner of his eye.
“Come on, daddy,” she stepped toward the door, tugging at his hand and smiling with a grimace. “Let’s go meet the parents.”
“Minerva…” Madelaine’s voice drifted up the stairs toward the descending couple. “Isn’t that the name of that young girl Albus used to write home about? The student who showed such promise in transfiguration? Oh, Merlin, don’t tell me that Albus got involved with one of his students?”
“Min was Albus’ student at the time but those letters were written almost ten years ago, mum. Min graduated in thirty-eight and I’d stake my goats that nothing ever happened between them while she was still a student. It was working together for the war effort that brought them together.”
Even though Minerva’s stomach was full of butterflies she couldn’t help but smile at Albus over his brother’s statement. Aberforth was right that there had been no improper behaviour between them but not touching physically hadn’t kept their souls from bonding, even though they hadn’t realized it then.
“What does it matter if Miss McGonagall was our son’s student years ago, Maddy? The relationship has obviously gone much deeper now. Can you believe that our little boy has finally gone and fallen in love? You’ve been hoping for this for seventy years!”
Albus took his father’s last statement as his cue to enter so he tightened his hold on Minerva’s waist and urged her forward. Just before he pushed the doors open he bent and gently kissed her. “Courage!” he whispered then pulled her along with him into the parlour.
Madeleine had been busy. The dust covers were folded neatly in one corner and a merry fire crackled in the grate. A tray of refreshments waited on the table near the sofa.
“Mother, father… I’d like for you to meet Minerva McGonagall. Minerva, these are my parents, Wulfric and Madeleine Dumbledore.”
Albus’ father smiled the same crooked grin as his son while he hugged Minerva and planted an enthusiastic kiss on her cheek. “I’m so pleased to meet you, my dear.”
When Wulfric stepped back Madeleine moved forward to take his place but instead of embracing Minerva she smiled warmly and offered her hand. “Come sit and have a cup of tea with me, my dear. I’ve had Bitsy bring some plain biscuits as well as some with just a hint of ginger. The ginger ones used to settle my stomach better than anything else when I was carrying Albus.”
Albus moved to follow them but his father caught his arms, holding him back. “Trust your mother,” he murmured. “Let her make things right.”
After a moment’s hesitation Albus nodded but he still took a few steps toward the back of the sofa, wanting Minerva to know that he was near in case she needed him.
Madeleine was the consummate hostess and Minerva quickly found herself settled on the sofa, a small pillow settled in the curve of her back and a cup of tea in her hands. She was still very uncomfortable around Albus’ mother but she could tell that the woman was making a concerted effort to be friendly.
“First of all, Minerva, I want to apologize to you for what I said upstairs. I was tired from our long journey and I was a bit shocked… I didn’t understand and I deeply regret it. You will find that mothers tend to always see their children as babies, even when they are approaching one hundred years old.”
Minerva nodded, trying to retain her composure though she could feel the heat rising in her face. “You have every right to be upset about what you saw… This is your home and…”
“And it has been your home for the last three months as well. Abe told us a bit about how you and Albus came to be staying here and the horrible ordeal that you’ve undergone in the last few days. Wulfric and I want to hear all about your adventures from both you and Albus when you are up to it but today perhaps we should concentrate on getting to know each other. Have you tried a biscuit?”
Minerva dutifully nibbled on the ginger biscuit and was surprised to find that her stomach didn’t lurch. In fact she began to feel a great deal better.
“This is wonderful. Thank you, Mrs. Dumbledore.”
“Please call me Madeleine, my dear.” She turned to look at the trio of men standing behind the sofa. “Why don’t you come sit and have tea with us? It will be much easier for you to hear our conversation over here.”
Albus jerked Aberforth away when his brother would have sat down on Minerva’s free side and quickly settled himself in. He missed his mother’s knowing smile when his hand rubbed over Minerva’s belly in habit while reaching for his tea but he couldn’t miss that special look that Minerva gave him, the one that made his insides melt.
“Why don’t you tell us something about yourself, Minerva?” Wulfric said. “McGonagall… seems that I was in school with a McGonagall… several years behind me… now what was his name?”
The group passed an agreeable afternoon getting to know Minerva and for her part, Minerva laughed heartily at the stories the Dumbledores told of both of their son’s childhood antics. The mood in the room remained light until Minerva excused herself to go to the ladies room.
Once she had departed Wulfric and Madeleine tore into their son immediately.
“How dare you get that absolutely charming young lady in trouble!”
“She’s definitely a beauty, son!” Wulfric started but at his wife’s shocked stare he continued, “But you should have been more responsible!”
“When is the wedding?” Madeleine finished.
“Next week.” Aberforth interjected. “Poppy told me when she brought Min’s new robes to the house a few days ago.”
“Next week?” Madeleine panicked. “But there is no time! We have to decorate, invite the guests, and arrange the food…”
“Mother!” Albus yelled to get Madeleine’s attention. “Tabby and I want a simple wedding. Alastor Moody and her best friend Poppy Pomfrey will stand as witnesses. The only other people we want there beside you and father will be Abe and Tabby’s family.”
“No buts. Even though the immediate danger has passed I still think that we should keep our bonding quiet. I’ve made many enemies and I don’t want Tabby to come to any harm because of her connection to me.” Albus worry was clearly visible on his face.
Madeleine threw her hands up in submission. ‘Too easy,’ Albus thought as he eyed his mother but she quickly distracted him.
“Albus, why do you call Minerva Tabby? Does the name have a special significance?”
Aberforth burst out laughing as Albus turned flashing blue eyes on him. “It isn’t a well known fact but Minerva is an animagus. Her form is a tabby cat.”
Wulfric nodded his approval. “An animagus, hmm? Your Min is obviously a very powerful witch. You will have strong intelligent children.”
“If we can get them into the world. Tabby hasn’t had an easy time of it with this pregnancy. She’s been very sick not to mention having fended off a dark wizard and witch plus having a broken ankle and the exhaustion associated with our work for the ministry. She needs peace and quiet.”
Madeleine stood and picked up the tray. “I’ll return this to the kitchen. You boys have a good chat.”
“Mother…” Albus warned.
Madeleine simply smiled at her son as she exited the room.
Once the door was closed behind her Madeleine deposited the tray on a hall table, knowing that Bitsy would come and dispose of it. She heard the click of the doorknob as the downstairs lavatory door opened and quickly moved to intercept Minerva. To her surprise she saw Minerva turn away from the parlor and head in the opposite direction.
Madeleine followed quietly, finally coming upon Minerva standing in front of a large wall of windows on the back sun porch. Her forehead was pressed against the cool glass as she stared out over the back garden; her hands rested lightly on her belly.
“Are you okay, my dear?” Madeleine asked. “I don’t mean to intrude but I was concerned.”
“I’m fine,” Minerva answered quietly, not lifting her head.
Madeleine laid a gentle hand on Minerva’s shoulder. “Come sit with me a moment.”
Minerva moved obediently after Madeleine, sitting beside her on a small sofa.
Once they were seated Madeleine’s eyes fell to Minerva’s stomach. “Are you sure that everything is all right? We could call a healer.”
“I’m just tired. The baby is fine, I’m sure of it. Would you… like to feel?” Minerva finished shyly.
Madeleine lifted her hand to Minerva’s stomach immediately and was delighted to feel her grandchild move. “He’s very active,” she observed.
Minerva nodded. “Albus hasn’t even felt the baby move yet. I first felt it, the big movements that I know he could feel too, while I was chained in the cell.”
“He’ll be delighted. My son is very much in love with you. That was obvious to me immediately… well, almost immediately. I really am sorry, Minerva.” Tears were forming in the corners of Madeleine’s eyes. “I was horrid earlier and I know that I don’t deserve your forgiveness but I want to ask again anyway. I think that we could be wonderful friends.”
“I want you to know something, Mrs. Dumbledore. I’m sure that your opinion of me must be quite low, allowing myself to become pregnant without the benefit of being bonded but I am not what you called me upstairs. I’ve only ever loved one man… been with one man… and that man is Albus. If the war hadn’t come… things might have been different. But I don’t regret loving him and I don’t regret our baby.”
Madeleine took a deep breath. “Minerva, I was four months pregnant on my wedding day.” She heard her soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s gasp. “I lost the baby. Very few people ever knew. I don’t condemn you at all. I am simply pleased that my son has finally found someone to love.”
After a moment Minerva smiled. “Then I think that we will be great friends, Mrs. Dumbledore.”
“Please, call me Maddy.”
A bitter wind blew through the valley that Dumbledore Manor sat in, but the man staring out over the lake never noticed the chill or the swirl of red and gold leaves dancing around his feet.
Aberforth was the first person to notice his brother standing by the lake, hands clasped behind his back, not moving at all. He glanced around looking for Minerva then realized that his mother must have once again insisted on her daughter-in-law taking an afternoon nap. He decided that Albus must be lonely and decided to cheer him up.
“What’s the matter, brother?” Aberforth slapped Albus on the shoulder as he moved to stand beside him. “Getting cold feet?”
Albus turned his head slowly to look at his brother, the answer evident.
“Holy shit, Albus! You must be crazy! One of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen is head over heels in love with you… not to mention carrying your child… and you want to walk away from her two days before the wedding? What the bloody hell is wrong with you? Are you high?”
“I almost wish I was,” Albus answered. “Anything to stop my brain from churning and churning... anything for just a moment’s peace.”
“Albie, I know that mum is driving you crazy and that scene with Minnie’s parent’s a few days ago didn’t help but Angus and Catronia have come around and mum is just being mum. You should be used to that by now.” Abe tried to reason with his brother.
“Angus made some valid arguments. If I allow Minerva to marry me she would be in constant danger. I am going to have to call off the wedding.”
Aberforth looked at Albus dumbfounded then smacked his palm against his forehead. “Oh gee, I’ll call off the wedding and Minerva will be safe from my enemies. Of course, she still has enemies of her own trekking about from her time as an auror… and then there is her reputation being torn into tatters because she is an unwed mother who was deserted by her child’s father… and what about your child, Albus? You participated in the conception but you are going to forego any involvement in the raising? Who are you and where the hell is my brother?”
“Do you think this is easy for me?” Albus yelled back at his brother, scaring Aberforth because he so seldom saw Albus angry. “Don’t you know that the thought of walking away from Tabby is tearing my heart out!”
“Then why do it? You are supposed to be the smart Dumbledore but right now you are acting like a damn fool!”
Aberforth knew of his brother’s great power; he was always careful never to set Albus off. He didn’t see Albus reach for his wand so he figured he was safe therefore he never saw Albus fist until it caught him squarely on his left eye. Abe hit the ground with a thunk but was quickly on his feet and returning the favour. The brothers battled blow for blow until both were bruised and bloody. Not even the sound of their mother’s angry voice stopped them.
Wulfric entered the fray, trying to work his own body between his two warring sons. A double punch to the chest and back quickly knocked him out of the fracas.
“Stop! Oh, Albus, please stop!” Minerva grabbed Albus’ drawn back elbow. Aberforth was already in mid punch and he threw all of his weight behind his arm, causing the jab to miss both Albus and Minerva. Unfortunately his momentum carried him forward and he landed on top of his father just as Wulfric was drawing to his knees. Both men returned to the dirt.
Albus stared at his father and brother for a moment then turned to Minerva. He didn’t say a word, simply pulling his arm away from her grasp then turning and walking toward the woods.
Minerva made her way slowly up the path leading to the ruined abbey, her hand rubbing the stitch in her side. When she finally reached the ruins she found Albus sitting in the middle on the ground, his face buried in his hands. She made her way through the quagmire of rocks and rubble until she was beside him then settled on a smooth slab of rock and waited for him to acknowledge her presence. That he was aware of her she had absolutely no doubt.
Finally Albus lifted his head and she could see that he had been crying.
“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked.
“No,” Albus shook his head, “but I have to anyway. Minerva… you know that I love you…”
Minerva’s eyes widened and Albus had the feeling that she knew what he was going to say.
“This situation with Heorot… it reminded me how dangerous it would be for you to be connected to me. I can’t bear the thought of putting you in danger. It’s been eating away at me for days.”
“I knew that something was troubling you. You haven’t touched me since... I thought it was because your parents arrived but it wasn’t. You’ve been planning this since you rescued me, haven’t you?” Minerva’s voice was like ice.
“Seeing you chained in that cell… lying there on the bed, bruised and bloodied…hurt… I can’t… Don’t you see that it is better if we don’t…?”
Minerva leapt up, her eyes flashing fire. “You’re a Gryffindor, Albus, not a coward! I can’t believe that I’m hearing this from you. If you don’t love me anymore… if you don’t want me anymore then have the guts to tell me straight out.”
“I do love you, Tabby… and god knows I want you… but I refuse to put you in a position where you might be harmed by being my wife…”
“You refuse! You bastard! I thought you were so courageous. I refuse to live my life based on what someone might do… something that may or may not happen at some unknown time. I’ve made a few enemies in my time as well, Albus. What happens if they come after you? What happens if I fall off of a broom tomorrow? Life is meant to be lived in the here and now.”
In spite of his resolve Albus was awed at Minerva’s fury. The fire flashing in her emerald eyes only made them more beautiful. He didn’t register her silence until she turned and started back toward the path.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
Minerva stopped. “I’m going to pack my things. Perhaps Poppy will let me stay with her until I can find a place of my own.”
“But… you don’t have to leave! You can’t! The baby…”
Albus just thought Minerva had been angry until that moment. “You really expected me to stay after you told me the wedding was off? That I’d consent to continue as your mistress when you don’t want me as your wife? I am more than just your damned brood mare, Albus Dumbledore!”
Albus could sense the hex on her lips even as her words sunk in and he realized exactly what he had done. He tensed in readiness but instead of casting the spell Minerva turned and flew down the path.
In that instant Albus was struck with such an overwhelming sense of loss that the pain of it drove him to his knees. The screaming of her name caught in his throat as he wrapped his arms around his middle and rocked back and forth.
“What have I done?” He sobbed over and over.
A chirp of an obviously pissed off nature reached his ears.
Albus looked up to see Fawkes perched on the rock where Minerva had been sitting, his eyes hard as he glared at Albus.
“I’ve been foolish, Fawkes… so foolish.”
Albus wouldn’t have believed that the phoenix could give him a ‘no shit’ look until that moment. Fawkes chirped again, irritated.
“But I have to protect her!”
Fawkes rose up on his talons, stretched his wings to their full length then began to beat them furiously at Albus while trilling madly.
“I should go after her… beg her forgiveness…”
Fawkes flew at Albus, grabbed his robes in sharp claws and flew toward the path, pulling Albus with him. Albus stumbled to his feet as he tried to keep up. Once he was moving in the right direction Fawkes released his hold and dropped back to follow, flying forward occasionally to peck Albus’ butt as an incentive to hurry up.
“Alastor is right!” Albus finally ventured to yell at his pursuer. “You are a ruddy chicken!”
Halfway down the trail Fawkes disappeared and Albus breathed a sigh of relief. He knew that Minerva couldn’t be too much further ahead of him.
Then he heard Fawkes once again only this time the call was one of distress. Albus went cold all over once again and took off through the forest at a breakneck pace screaming Minerva’s name.
He found her sitting on a rotting tree, one arm wrapped around the trunk next to her and the other clutching her abdomen. Her face was contorted in pain, her teeth gritted and tears streamed down her face.
“TABBY!” Albus skid to a halt and fell to his knees beside her. Minerva tried to push him away but the pain was too strong and she quickly gripped her belly again.
“I’m so sorry, Tabby. I’m an idiot. I love you so much. Please don’t leave me.” He muttered inanely as he gathered her into his arms, trying not to hurt her. “Hang on to me, love, and I’ll get you back to the house. Poppy will help the pain.”
“But the baby, Albus… our baby…” Minerva managed to gasp.
Albus caught her gaze and held it, his blue eyes calm and reassuring. “Our baby will be just fine, Tabby.”
At Albus’ signal Fawkes sailed down close enough so that Albus could reach his tail. In a flash all three disappeared.
Albus jumped when his ears caught the almost inaudible sound of the doorknob turning and he raced through the group consisting of his parents, Minerva’s parents, Alastor and Aberforth toward the door. Poppy’s face appeared just as he arrived but she wasn’t smiling.
“How is she?” Albus whispered fearfully.
Poppy glanced back at the now closed door. “She’s resting easier now. As to the baby… I just don’t know.”
“We can take her to St. Mungo’s. Fawkes can have us there in a heartbeat.”
“Albus,” Poppy interrupted, “whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I have already conferred with several of my professors. Moving her now might prove to be more harmful.”
Albus nodded, lifting his hand toward the door but Poppy cut him off.
“She doesn’t want to see you, Albus.”
“Right now I think it’s for the best. She doesn’t need to be upset any more. She was very specific that you not come in.”
Albus fell back against the opposite wall. “I need to see her, Poppy. I need to talk to her… tell her I’m sorry… that I was wrong…”
He could see the mixed emotions in Poppy’s eyes; worry for her friend, anger at him, and a desire to help make everything right. But worry won.
“I’m sorry, Albus… not now. I’ll let her know that you are here. She’s asked for, Mrs. McGonagall and for Mrs. Dumbledore as well.”
Albus felt that his world was ending as he watched the three women enter the bedroom and shut the door firmly behind them, closing him out.
Minerva stirred; letting out a long sigh as she slowly opened her eyes to a darkened room. She concentrated on her belly and realized for the first time since her horrible scene with Albus it didn’t hurt. The fingers resting on her belly moved and she was startled when they hit hard ridges. A careful examination of the bumps revealed them to be fingers. She turned her head to the side of the bed; her eyes now adjusted to the darkness and saw the top of an auburn head resting on the mattress beside her. At that point Minerva became aware that Albus was gripping her other hand tightly.
The baby kicked against his parent’s hands and Minerva smiled with relief at the movement. She knew instinctively that her baby was safe and healthy. But the same couldn’t be said of its father.
From what she could see Albus looked like hell. His hair was tangled and matted and his face was puffy and tearstained. The eyes that were closed in sleep were matted over and his face was lined with worry.
Minerva reached her hand over and gently stroked his hair as she tried to remember what Albus had been saying to her earlier through the haze of her pain. She thought she remembered that he had come to his senses but she couldn’t be sure.
Poppy bustled into the room at that moment, her lips tightening into a thin line when she saw Albus asleep at the edge of the bed. She would have removed him immediately but Minerva lifted her hand to halt her friend then brought her index finger to her lips.
“How are you feeling?” the healer whispered as her hands gently probed Minerva’s abdomen around Albus’ hand.
“Better,” Minerva answered. “The pain is gone. I feel like myself again, only very tired.”
Poppy pulled her wand. “I can’t believe this. Everything appears normal.”
Minerva smiled drowsily. “I just want to sleep right now.”
“Do you want me to...?” She gestured at Albus.
“I… let him stay.” Minerva finally decided.
“Min…” Poppy told her quietly, “I want you to know… Albus was so upset… when I first arrived and we didn’t know what was wrong… he begged me to save you. He really does love you.”
“I know, Poppy… I know.”
Poppy slipped out of the room quietly, leaving the two lovers alone. Minerva continued to stroke Albus’ hair and her belly until sleep began to overtake her again. She couldn’t fight back a large yawn and when she finally closed her mouth she saw dark blue eyes staring at her. She opened her mouth to speak but long tapered fingers gently touched her lips, keeping her silent.
“I’m a fool. Everything you said was true. I was letting my fear for you overrule my love. Please forgive me. Please marry me.”
“The baby…” Minerva whispered around his fingers.
“I want to marry you, Tabby. No matter what else may happen I need for you to be my wife.” Albus pulled his wand from his sleeve and held it out to Minerva. “If you don’t marry me you best just go ahead and hex me into oblivion right now.”
Minerva smiled gently as she took the wand then laid it carefully on the nightstand. “I guess I better marry you then. Oblivion is a bit drastic, don’t you think? Our child might like the chance to get to know his father.”
“Thank you, my dear,” Albus lifted Minerva’s palm to his mouth and kissed it.
“Come hold me, Albus,” Minerva shifted and patted the mattress beside her. Albus threw off his outer robe and climbed beneath the blankets, pulling Minerva close to him. They settled back against the pillows and both fell into a deep restful sleep.
“How’s she doing?” Alastor asked huskily as Poppy dropped her robes and slid beneath the covers beside him.
“Much better. The pain is gone and the baby doesn’t seem to be in distress any longer. It is the strangest thing. Earlier tonight I would have sworn that she was going to go into early labour but now everything is fine. I guess the little one just wanted his mummy and daddy to make up.”
“Daddy… They’ve worked things out then?” Alastor pulled Poppy closer, feeling only slightly guilty that they were sneaking around in the Dumbledore home. Mrs. Dumbledore had given them separate bedrooms, after all.
“I don’t know… but Albus was there. He must have snuck in after my last check and fallen asleep. His head was on the mattress and one hand was on Min’s belly. It’s funny. For a second or two when I first opened the door I could have sworn that I saw a spark of light of some sort… but when I blinked the room was fully dark.”
Poppy felt Alastor stiffen slightly beside her. “Exactly where was the light?” he questioned.
“Right over Minerva’s belly, I guess. I’m sure I imagined it though. What could have generated that sort of light? Alastor?” Poppy realized that she’d lost his attention. “Alastor? Where were you, love?”
Alastor kissed her lightly and patted her arm. “I was just thinking about something… It isn’t important now. Do you need to check on Minerva again?”
“I’ll leave her until morning unless she summons me but I don’t think she will.”
“Good,” Alastor answered, grinning lustily.
“You’ve certainly done an about face in the last few days.” Aberforth observed as he watched Albus check his new dress robes in the full-length mirror yet again.
Albus shrugged. “Don’t know who that fellow was… he was pretty demented though, wasn’t he? I, on the other hand, am marrying the most beautiful woman that I’ve ever known in less than an hour.”
Aberforth nodded, pleased at Albus’ new outlook. No one seemed to know exactly what had happened between Albus and Minerva between the time that Poppy had left her to sleep and the next morning when the couple had been found sleeping in the same bed. No further mention was made of Albus’ behaviour except for Minerva’s murmured comment to Aberforth about his black swollen eye.
The eye had faded to a mottled shade of purple and green and the swelling of Albus’ jaw was barely detectable due to Poppy’s excellent healing skills. The previous evening Alastor had pronounced firewhisky to be the perfect cure and the brothers, along with their father and the father of the bride, had joined the best man in a drinking marathon. Thankfully Poppy had taken pity on the group and provided hangover potions to each of them, but not until they had suffered through several movements of Beethoven’s Fifth, performed at high volume by Fawkes. It was only when Alastor threatened to spit Fawkes over the fire then serve the ‘ruddy chicken’ for dinner that Poppy had intervened.
“Did you take my note for Minerva to Poppy, Alastor?”
“For the third time today, YES!” Alastor rolled his eyes. “If this is what getting married is all about I’m never going to do it!”
“I give you a year,” Albus retorted.
“Six months, tops.” Aberforth offered.
A knock on the door stopped Alastor’s reply.
“Son? The priest who is performing the ceremony is here. This is Rohan.” Wulfric said as he stepped in, followed by a tall man with sallow skin and hollow cheeks dressed in long dark robes.
“I’m glad to meet you, sir. My name is Albus Dumbledore.”
“Very pleased to meet you as well, Albus,” The druid responded in a sonorous voice. He turned dark piercing eyes on the other occupants of the room. “And who has the privilege of being the happy bridegroom today?”
“That would be me,” Albus said at the same time that his father answered, “My son, Albus.”
The black eyes turned back to Albus and observed him from head to toe. After a moment he lifted his arms out towards Albus and closed his eyes while murmuring and incomprehensible incantation.
“Is something wrong?” Albus asked.
Rohan opened his eyes. “I can not join you today. You are already bonded.”
Albus’ eyes grew wide for a moment then he began to chuckle. “Okay, the joke is over. Which one of you put him up to this?” He glanced at Alastor and Aberforth but both of them were staring, blank-eyed.
“This is a joke… right?” Albus returned his attention to Rohan.
Rohan looked at Wulfric. “Your son Albus is to be married today?”
“Then I can not perform the ceremony. You may not be bonded twice at the same time.”
“But I’m not bonded,” Albus protested. “I’ve never been married before.”
Rohan sighed and lifted his arms to perform the spell again. When he lowered his limbs his expression hadn’t changed. “You are bonded. There is nothing that I can do unless you break that bond.”
“But…” Albus protested as the old druid turned toward the door. “I swear I’ve never been bonded. Minerva and I have to marry today. Everything is arranged. She can still fit in her gown!”
Rohan lifted an eyebrow at Albus’ last statement.
“My son and his intended are expecting a child,” Wulfric offered quietly, “a very exceptional child, we suspect.”
“Nonetheless… I can have no part in this. A joining can not take place when a bond still exists.”
No one had noticed Alastor slip out of the room until he returned with Minerva in tow, interrupting Albus’ repeated arguments and Rohan’s repeated denials.
“What’s wrong?” Minerva moved forward into the fight, understanding only that the druid was for whatever reason refusing to marry them.
“For some reason Rohan thinks that I’ve already been bonded but I haven’t, I swear. We’ll get this worked out in just a moment, my love.” Albus held her both of her hands in his as he spoke reassuringly.
Rohan’s eyes narrowed as he watched the couple together; the love with which they looked into each other’s eyes, the tender way his hand moved to caress the bulge of her abdomen over her dressing gown… and then he saw the thread... watched it grow as he probed its depths… and realized that it was unbreakable.
“I’m sorry… I didn’t realize… I understood that I was to perform a new bonding today, not a reaffirmation ceremony. Of course there will be no problem.”
His words startled the couple. “But we aren’t bonded yet,” Albus quickly offered at the suspicious look on his father and brother’s face.
Rohan smiled, the upward curve of his lips taking years from his face. “Am I to assume that you are the bride, my lady? This is good because I assure you that the two of you are indeed bonded.”
Both Albus and Minerva were stunned.
By this time the women and Minerva’s father were gathered around the door listening. At the druid’s words Catronia’s face fell. “How could you, Minerva? You know that your father and I have looked forward to this day since you were born!”
“But we didn’t!” Minerva declared. “Albus and I have felt joined for years but we have never had a formal ceremony!”
Rohan quickly sought to diffuse the brewing storm. “There have been cases when a formal ceremony wasn’t required. They are rare but… it has happened. May I?” he gestured to where Albus and Minerva’s fingers laced over her belly.
At Minerva’s nod of consent Rohan placed his hands beneath theirs, his fingers reaching up to touch each of their wrists while his thumbs touched each other.
Everyone in the room fell silent as the invisible force of magic grew. The air crackled as a hint of a golden aura formed around the three.
Finally Rohan pulled his hands back and nodded. “You were bonded as a family at the moment of your child’s conception. And you are right, Wulfric. Your grandchild is indeed exceptional.”
Druid magic was an ancient one, not fully understood and certainly not questioned. Albus smiled gently at Minerva as he cupped her cheek. “So you are already my wife… there is no backing out now.”
Minerva’s eyes shown back at her husband’s. “I guess it’s a good thing you changed your mind then…”
“However,” Rohan interrupted gently. “If you would like to have a formal ceremony there is nothing to block it since the tie is between the two participants.”
“It isn’t necessary,” Minerva whispered to Albus. “As long as we are joined I don’t need…”
Albus laid his index finger across her lips. “Why don’t you go put on that lovely gown that I’ve heard so much about and finish getting ready? Even though we aren’t making our marriage general knowledge I still want to wed you in front of our family and friends.”
Tears shimmered in Minerva’s eyes as she smiled brilliantly at Albus. She rose up to kiss him quickly, almost shyly, and then hurried from the room with her female entourage behind her.
Rohan smiled at the couple standing before him in the gazebo by the lake, their hands locked tightly and their smiles only for each other. “And now the time has come to seal your joining with a kiss.”
Albus didn’t have to be told twice. He bent slightly to capture Minerva’s lips tenderly, but the loving kiss quickly developed into something much stronger as hands released their hold so that arms could wrap around bodies, pulling the two closer together.
Alastor rolled his eyes at the assembled company that included Millicent Bagnold and Minerva’s brother Magnus in addition to the previous group. This action brought laughter from the crowd but still the kiss continued, only stopping when Albus jerked back abruptly and rubbed his stomach.
“He kicked me!”
Minerva colored prettily at the remark but everyone present knew that she was pregnant in spite of the artful cut of her robes so she quickly recovered.
“Shall we, Mrs. Dumbledore?” Albus offered his arm to his wife.
Madeleine and Catronia had worked late into the night preparing the area behind the sunroom for the small reception. A long table was laden with food, the centerpiece being a stunning three-tiered wedding cake with perfect miniatures of Albus and Minerva in their wedding finery on top. A small dance floor lay over the ground and the wizard wireless was set to provide dancing music.
“A toast to the happy couple,” Aberforth called as he headed toward the end of the table where he knew his father had stashed the firewhisky.
At his cry a house elf popped in with a tray of fluted glasses and a large bottle of champagne.
Wulfric lifted the bottle carefully. “We’ve been saving this bottle for years, Albus, for the day when one of our sons would marry. Today we would like to share it with all of you.”
“That must be a very large bottle,” Aberforth observed as Wulfric carefully popped the cork.
“We knew that Albus would want a smaller wedding and the odds of you marrying first weren’t very high.” Wulfric answered his younger son with a smile. “Although, to be honest, we were about to give up on Albus as well.”
“To the bridge and groom!” Alastor, in his role as best man, offered once everyone held a small glass of champagne. Everyone joined in the toast, glasses clinking merrily.
“You made a lovely bride, my daughter,” Catronia told. “Your father and I are very happy for you and for Albus. He loves you very much.”
Minerva smiled happily as she carefully stored her wedding robes in the closet. “He does,” she confirmed. “And I love him.”
“Obviously,” Catronia answered wryly. “At least I don’t have to explain what will happen on your wedding night to you. Thank god!”
Minerva stared at Catronia a moment as she blushed, grateful beyond words that she didn’t actually have to discuss sex with her mother. She was saved from a reply by a knock on the door letting her know that Albus was ready to go.
“Enjoy your honeymoon, my dear,” Catronia quickly embraced her daughter. “And don’t forget to owl me as soon as you return to the manor.”
Minerva agreed as she cast a shrinking charm on her small suitcase and put it in her pocket.
When they reached the front door Albus was waiting. Catronia slipped out as Albus pulled Minerva close and kissed her. “Think you can stand another week completely alone with me?”
“Always,” Minerva’s eyes glowed as she answered.
“Then let’s say our good-byes and disappear.”
As they stepped over the threshold into the front yard a shower of flower petals began to rain down over them. All of the guests were scooping up handfuls from the baskets held by Dotty, Kitty and Cat (all wearing bows on their heads) and throwing them into the air over Albus and Minerva. They laughingly called their farewells then Albus wrapped his arms and his outer robe around Minerva and swished his wand. In a flash they were gone.
“Albus?” Minerva drew her fingers lightly over the damp hair curling tightly across her husband’s chest, both their bodies still damp from exertion. “Are you asleep?”
Although the rise and fall of her husband’s chest was slow and rhythmic Minerva sensed that Albus was still awake so she waited patiently, her fingers continuing to trace nonsense patterns over his skin.
“You are far too perceptive, my love,” he finally answered. “You should be sleeping… and so should you!” His last comment was directed toward the rhythmic thumping where Minerva’s belly lay pressed against his side.
“I feel too fabulous to sleep,” she answered. And even though she was exhausted by the wonderful lovemaking that she and Albus had shared, she didn’t want to sleep and miss a minute of feeling this close to him.
“So, Mrs. Dumbledore, do you feel like a wife now?”
“Mostly,” Minerva replied after a moment.
Albus shifted a bit so he was facing her. “Mostly? Tell me in what ways you don’t feel like a wife?”
“Well, husbands and wives don’t keep secrets, right? They talk to each other about everything?”
“In good marriages they do. And we will most certainly have a good marriage.”
Minerva lifted her hand to stroke Albus’ beard. “Then why don’t you talk to me about what is bothering you? No… not that silly idea you had a few days ago. This is something deeper… and I think that it may have to do with a letter that Fawkes brought you a few weeks ago.”
Albus grinned slightly. “You really are amazing, Mrs. Dumbledore. Yes, that letter has been on my mind recently.”
“Hogwarts wants to know when you are going to be returning to your teaching position.”
Albus shook his head in amazement. “They would like me back at the beginning of the year. I know that Headmaster Dippet has been wonderful giving me such a long leave of absence.”
“What choice did he have, Albus? You were the wizard needed to track and defeat Grindelwald. But… you have been gone for a long time… and now, with the war over and your injuries healed, you are free to return.”
“Not exactly,” Albus’ hands slid to her belly. “There is one special event that should take place in the next term that I would hate to miss. Perhaps Armando would grant me the rest of the year…”
“But they want you back now.” Minerva could see the answer in Albus’ eyes. “Then we shall work it out. You are a teacher, Albus. The rest of the world may view you as a great hero, as the greatest living wizard… but deep in your own heart you enjoy sharing your knowledge with the students, interacting with them. It’s your life.”
“You are my life.” His simple statement almost made Minerva’s heart burst with the love she felt for her husband.
“We can work something out, I’m sure. You could floo home often… come for the weekends. Your parent’s and Abe would be there to help me with the baby.”
“But I want to be there.”
“And you will be there but I know that you have to teach.”
“I don’t want to be apart from you.”
“And I don’t want to be separated from you either.” Minerva smiled playfully. “Maybe you could conjure up some hidden rooms for us… or convince Armando Dippet to hire me to teach… but since transfiguration was my best subject and they already have the best transfiguration teacher in the world, that wouldn’t work. I could work in the kitchens…”
“Tabby… stop that.”
“I’m trained to be an auror, Albus. Are you willing for me to return to my job with the ministry after the baby is born?”
“NO! That is… I don’t want to stop you from doing anything you want to do… but it’s dangerous, Tabby… and I would rather our baby have a full time mother.”
“As would I. I recognize that my days of tracking down dark wizards are over.”
“And that makes you sad?”
“Of course it does. I wouldn’t trade what I have now with you and our baby but… I enjoyed my work.”
“Why don’t we stop by Hogwarts on our way home? We are going to have to make some decisions and some adjustments over the next few months so I think I should talk to Armando.”
“That will be nice,” Minerva pasted a smile on for Albus’ sake but deep inside she was dreading the end of their idyllic days together.
“This place never changes, does it?” Minerva’s eyes searched the stone corridors of the old castle that had been her home for seven years.
“You haven’t been gone that long, my dear.” Albus told her as he raised a hand at a group of students on another staircase who called out a greeting to him.
“Albus!” An old man appeared at the top of the stairs they were climbing. Minerva immediately recognized Professor Binns, her History of Magic teacher. “Wonderful to see you back! These halls have certainly missed you the last few years. And such a triumph! I’ll soon be teaching about you in my class!”
Albus laughed as he urged Minerva forward. She tugged the edges of her cloak together as she moved.
“Now that I am here I find that I’ve missed Hogwarts more than I realized,” Albus told Binns with a smile as he shook his colleague’s hand. “I’ve just dropped by for a word with Dippet. Oh, you remember Minerva McGonagall? Class of thirty-eight?”
“How lovely to see you again, Professor,” Minerva quickly interjected before Albus could say more.
“And you, Miss McGonagall. Made an auror, did you? Seems I heard a bit about your contribution to our war effort as well. An animagus… you’ve done your alma mater proud, young lady.”
Albus was staring at Minerva, puzzled. He thought she would be glad to be introduced as his wife but she had deliberately stopped him from doing so. “Well…” he told Binns, “We’d better be finding Armando…”
“He’s in his office. Saw him headed there myself not ten minutes ago. I’ve a class to teach anyway. Goblin wars for the first years… heady stuff!” With one last wave Binns took off toward his classroom.
“Poor little blighters,” Minerva muttered as she watched him go.
Albus chuckled. “Come now… he isn’t that bad…”
Minerva raised an eyebrow and stared at Albus sardonically. “Have you ever sat through one of his lectures?”
Albus laughed deeply as they continued up the stairs. Several groups of students hurried by, knowing that the next class bell would soon sound. But almost all of the older students paused at least a moment to greet ‘Professor Dumbledore’. Albus didn’t realize that Minerva was making note of each and every greeting.
Headmaster Armando Dippit was waiting by the entrance to his office as Albus and Minerva approached, having obviously been notified in some way of their coming. He greeted them both warmly and directed them inside where hot chocolate and tea were waiting by a crackling fire.
“May I take your cloak, Miss McGonagall?” Dippet offered as Minerva sank into a chair but she sweetly demurred.
With a nod Dippet turned his attention back toward Albus. “Well, Dumbledore, I hope you are here to tell me that you are ready to return. Mr. Oldfellow, the wizard who has been substituting for you is more than ready to return to his quiet retirement.”
“About that… I have missed teaching and I am looking forward to returning… but…”
“Albus…” Dippet cautioned, “please don’t give me bad news.”
“It isn’t bad news, Armando… actually it’s rather good news to my way of thinking. The fact is that I’m now a married man.”
Dippet beamed as he looked from Albus to Minerva. “Congratulations, my boy. Although what this beautiful lady sees in you, I’ll never understand…” he teased. “My very best wishes, Mrs. Dumbledore,” Armando gallantly brushed a kiss across her cheek. “I’ve had a feeling about the two of you for years… ever since your fifth year as a matter of fact. Oh…” he waved off both their protests, “I know neither of you acted on your feelings while Minerva was a student… and I was keeping a close eye, believe me… but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. I’m very happy for you. You have a wife to support now, Albus. You must return!”
“Well… I was hoping that perhaps next fall…”
Armando’s face fell. “Oldfellow told me just the other day that he didn’t intend to return after the Christmas holidays. I don’t know if I can find another temporary replacement… I was hoping that you would be ready to return after the holiday break.”
Albus was clearly torn. Finally he shook his head. “I just don’t see…”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Albus. You are needed here.” Minerva told her husband.
Albus crossed to her side and knelt beside her. “I need to be with you.”
“Surely we could work out something,” Dippet offered. “I would be glad to cover your house occasionally so that you could return home and the odd visit from your wife wouldn’t be remarked on…”
Albus locked eyes with Minerva and she nodded. “We aren’t making our marriage public knowledge, Armando. We’ve both made too many enemies.”
Dippet chuckled. “I doubt many witches or wizards would be willing to face either of you. The fact that you can protect yourselves is well known.”
Minerva let the edges of the cloak drop away as Albus moved his hand from the arm of the chair to her belly. “But it isn’t just us to protect anymore.”
To say that Dippet was surprised would be an understatement but he masked it quickly. “And you want to be with Minerva when the baby comes.”
“And to help out afterward…”
“Albus, your mother will be there as well as my mother…”
“But I’m the father. Tabby, I want to be there…”
“What if…” Dippet started thoughtfully, “I could make some arrangements… make things easier for you for the rest of the year… would you be willing to return?”
Albus didn’t look convinced but Minerva placed her hand over his and squeezed it lightly as she nodded. Finally Albus gave his consent.
Albus watched as the last of the students disappeared into the great hall then hurried toward the front entrance. By the time he made his way down the front stairs he was running. He raced through the gates and fell back against one of them, breathing heavily.
“So are you running to meet me or running away from me?” A thrill ran through Albus when he heard his wife’s husky voice. He raised his head to find her standing in front of him, green eyes shining from beneath the hood of the heavy cloak she wore.
“To you, my love. Definitely to you.” Albus straightened and pulled her as far into his arms as her round belly would let him.
“Mmm…” Minerva welcomed his light kiss. “That would be more believable if you hadn’t told Aberforth to avoid me at all costs.”
Albus blushed but he didn’t deny the words. “I only told him that you’ve been a bit emotional lately, the pregnancy at work… and that it might be best for him to stay out of your way as he can sometimes be a bit… much.”
“I should make you pay for that comment, Albus Dumbledore… but unfortunately I suspect that it is true.”
“You can make me pay anyway,” Albus whispered in his wife’s ear as he slid an arm around her back and urged her toward the castle.
They made it back to Albus’ quarters without being seen by anyone except the portraits and they were under strict orders from Headmaster Dippet to keep silent about Albus’ weekend visitor. Minerva even waved shyly to a few of them as they passed. Once they were safely locked away inside Albus’ tidy quarters Minerva shed her cloak and dashed to the fire.
“Cold?” Albus quickly fanned the flames.
“The wind was bitter at the manor… Albus?” Minerva noticed that her husband hadn’t heard what she was saying. His attention was completely focused on her belly.
“You’ve grown,” he told her as he stepped closer, his hands tracing the contours of her belly without actually touching it. “You’ve grown a lot!”
“It’s been over two weeks since you’ve seen me,” Minerva laughed. “Poppy told us that little Dumbles would double in size over the last two months. Think how much larger I’ll be in four more weeks.”
“You’ll explode.” Albus was, as always, in awe of the changes in Minerva’s body as their child grew larger. He finally touched her, jumping back when she shivered at that same moment.
“It’s okay,” she quickly reassured him. “It’s just a chill.”
“Shall I build the fire up higher?”
“Well,” Minerva took a step closer to him, her hands catching his. “I do have another idea of how you could warm me up.”
Albus simply grinned as Minerva led him to the bedroom.
“Oh lord! You are amazing, woman,” Albus gasped as Minerva rolled off of him and cuddled up to his side. “If my students could see me now,”
“You’d be dead because I would kill you myself,” Minerva finished.
Albus rolled his eyes at her as he continued his struggle to catch his breath. “I was only thinking that they would be amazed that their stodgy old professor had enough energy to keep up with a wife as lovely and active as you.”
“Good save, old man,” Minerva laughed.
Albus growled playfully as he turned his head to kiss her. “I mean every word of it and you know it.” He rolled to his side and flicked his wrist, bringing the sheet from the foot of the bed to his hand. He covered their legs and dropped the sheet just below the bottom slope of Minerva’s gravid stomach, then turned his attention to that protrusion.
“Hello, sweetheart. Daddy is here and he has missed you so much since Christmas. I can’t believe how much you’ve grown in the last two weeks.”
“Albus,” Minerva protested laughingly, “your beard tickles.”
Her husband looked up at her, grinned, then returned his attention to her belly. “Now, when you are Minister of Magic…”
Minerva could see Albus’ shoulders shaking as he struggled not to laugh. She rolled her eyes and settled back into the mound of pillows behind her back to listen as Albus took heed of her warning and spent the next fifteen minutes discussing the joys of sherbet lemons with her stomach. The rhythm of Albus’ voice soothed her and her eyelids fell as she listened to him talk and enjoyed the feeling of his beard against her taut belly, the brush of his lips across her skin as he spoke, the caress of his fingers…
A low moan escaped Minerva’s lips as her eyes flew open and her hips wiggled against the press of long digits between her legs. Deep blue eyes twinkled up at her.
“It has been two weeks,” Albus whispered as his fingers began a slow but steady movement.
“It’s been half an hour!” Minerva told him but she didn’t protest further and the Cheshire cat smile on her face told Albus that she was enjoying his ministrations. “All those articles in WQ that say wizards reach their sexual peak in their thirties. As randy as you are now I can’t even imagine what you must have been like then. Oooh!”
“And if the information published by Witches Weekly is correct about women peaking in their forties… you really will kill me.” One finger bent upward and began a steady assault on the blooming bud of her desire.
“But you’ll die happ… eeeee…. Oh, that is magnificent… “
From his vantage point Albus watched the ripples of Minerva’s stomach, the baby inside’s movement growing along with its mother’s excitement.
“Oh… oh my… Look, Tabby!” Albus’ fingers stilled as he watched his wife’s stomach with amazement.
Minerva moaned in protest at the sudden cessation of movement from his fingers, her eyes popping open and growing wide as she saw what Albus was seeing. For near the top of her abdomen, just before her belly began to slope toward her breasts, was the perfect imprint of a tiny foot. The pads of each little toe, the ball of the foot and the rounded heel were outlined in detail against her skin.
Albus pulled his hand up, his fingers hovering just above the embossed skin but not touching it. They watched in amazement as the tiny toes seemed to wiggle. Minerva nodded in answer to the question in Albus’ eyes. Their baby had moved and she could feel it.
“Oh, little one,” Albus breathed, “I can’t wait to meet you.”
Minerva carefully lifted her hand and laid her fingers just to the right of the footprint. Albus’ damp fingers mirrored her actions to the left. To their joy the baby didn’t move away from the change in pressure but seemed to be pushing even harder. They lightly traced the outline of the foot round and round, their fingers brushing over each other’s as they did so.
After several minutes the foot suddenly disappeared and as it did so Minerva gasped. Albus slid up beside her instantly.
“What’s wrong, love?”
“Albus… I need…”
“Poppy… do I need to call Poppy?”
Minerva shook her head frantically as she grasped his head and pulled him toward her. “You… I need you… Suddenly I’m on fire…” She kissed him hungrily as one hand slid down his abdomen to grasp his rapidly firming member. “Please…” Minerva gasped between fervid kisses.
Albus rolled to his back, his hand moving to Minerva’s hips to help her up but she shook her head. “I can’t…” He thought quickly. Their previous lovemaking had been quite vigorous and lately Minerva was often tired after being on top, but she couldn’t lie on her back comfortably for him to…
“This way, Tabby.” Albus hands gently guided her over to her side; her back spooned to his chest.
“How?” She gasped.
“Trust me,” he told her as he tugged a pillow free from the pile beneath them and tossed it in front of her thighs. He fit his body tightly against hers then placed his hand on the back of her leg and urged her to bend it up. When she did so he slipped the pillow beneath her knee to give her support then brought his hand back behind her and carefully pushed his now engorged staff down so that it rested between her parted legs.
“Darling… please!” She begged as his weight pushed against her cleft.
Somehow Albus had also managed to work his left arm beneath her so that his hand had free access to roam across the front of her body. He nuzzled her neck and she turned so that their lips could meet as one hand worked between her ruched peaks. The other hand worked his staff between her nether lips as his hips rocked to and fro.
They continued to kiss until Minerva’s neck grew tired and she had to lower her head. As she did so Albus finally gave in to the invitation her body was issuing and slowly slid inside her warmth. Minerva sighed contentedly as she drew her hand back to rest on his bare hip, the tightening of her fingers urging him to move
Albus kept his thrusts slow, this time taking care to enjoy the feel of Minerva’s warmth enclosing him, delighting in the squeeze of her muscles around his arousal as he filled her completely then withdrew almost entirely, only to begin the slow circuit once again.
At the same time Minerva’s fingers playing over his hip were beginning to get to him and from the satisfied smile he saw on her lips when he raised his head he guessed that she was aware of this. In retaliation he changed the angle of his thrusts, eliciting a low moan from her. As he continued his languid pace the room was soon filled with sounds of her pleasure.
“I love you, Minerva,” Albus whispered against her white shoulder.
“Mmm… too…” Minerva tried to answer back but Albus’ left hand had slid over her belly and lower to caress her mound, his thumb working its way into her nest of curls. She responded by sliding her fingers between them, the soft pads brushing over his swollen sacs every time he thrust.
The fire inside Minerva leapt out of control when Albus began to run his right hand up and down the side of her body, his fingers finding all of the special spots he’d learned made her crazy.
Her body told his what she needed and he responded accordingly, anxious to pleasure her as much as possible. She came with a gasp, a stiffening of her body, and fingernails digging into his thigh. Albus grasped Minerva’s hips tightly and continued to move, his long index finger stretching to continue his assault on her tight pearl. She soared even higher, a second orgasm rocking her body as she began to convulse against the man at her back.
A third climax and then a fourth bubbled through Minerva before Albus realized that she couldn’t take any more. He dropped his finger from her highly sensitized center and increased the pace of his thrusts, seeking and finding his own release before Minerva had completely recovered from hers.
A triumphant shout emerged from Albus as his sacs tightened and his fluids rushed up to mingle with Minerva’s. His head fell against her shoulder as he gasped for breath, auburn and ebony strands tangling together in imitation of the bodies they belonged to.
“Albus… Albus…” He finally found the strength to raise his head and realized that Minerva was speaking his name over and over with every exhaled breath. Tears streamed down her face. When he lifted his thumb to wipe them away her lids fluttered open to reveal eyes full of love. Albus smiled, the depth of his own feeling answering back within his blue orbs.
“Sleep,” he whispered against her ear as he settled back into the pillows and pulled her close against him. A flick of his wrist brought the sheet within reach again and he tucked it around both of them and then gave in to his own exhaustion.
Albus snuggled closer to the warm hollow in the center of his bed only to realize that the curvy body once occupying it was now gone. He opened his eyes grudgingly and grabbed his pocket watch from the bedside table to check the time.
‘The sun will be up soon,’ he thought, somewhat surprised that he had slept so long. He was more surprised to find himself alone in the bed. “Fawkes,” he questioned, knowing that the phoenix was resting on his perch nearby. “Where is Tabby?”
Fawkes trilled lightly then rose into the air and glided through the open door into the sitting area. Albus sniffed as he rose from the bed and shuffled his feet on the floor in search of his robe. When he found it he pulled it on and entered the sitting room.
“Minerva! What are you doing? Don’t you realize that the sun hasn’t even come up?”
Minerva’s head popped up from beneath Albus’ desk, a dust rag in the hand she had been using to clean the underside. A streak of grime slashed across her cheek as she grinned at her husband. “I’m sorry, love. Did I wake you? I was trying to be quiet.”
“Why are you even up?” Albus groused as he moved to her side and helped her lever her body up until she was standing beside him. “You need your rest.”
“I couldn’t lie in bed any longer. My back was beginning to hurt. I didn’t want to leave you, Albus, but it’s hard to stay in any position very long with all this added bulk.”
“But I missed you,” Albus sulked. “I haven’t been able to hold you in two weeks. It’s the first time we’ve been apart in so long…” His voice took on a wheedling quality as he brushed the dirt away from her cheek. “Won’t you come back to bed?”
Part of Minerva immediately wanted to snap at her husband, to tell him that he was behaving like a petulant child… but instead she gave in to his pleading and allowed him to lead her back to bed.
Before she was settled in his arms she knew she had made a mistake.
“Can’t you be still? I’m trying to sleep.”
Minerva sighed, biting back the retort that her hormones were demanding. As soon as Albus was asleep again she shifted her pillow into his arms and left the bed again.
“Good morning, my love,” Albus told Minerva as he climbed into the steaming hot shower behind her. She smiled in return, breathing a silent sigh of relief that he didn’t ask her how long she had been awake this time. Minerva had no desire to spend her one full day with Albus fighting.
“Umm… that feels nice… thank you,” She told him when he dumped shampoo into his hands then began to rub it through her long tresses. Being pregnant had certainly made it more difficult for her to do things she’d taken for granted before. She had begun to rely on magic for some of the simplest tasks, but Albus’ fingers felt so much nicer.
He bathed her thoroughly, taking a few moments to poke and prod her abdomen while he told the baby good morning, then rinsed himself off and dried them both. Once Minerva was tucked in a chair in front of a roaring fire, a warm blanket covering her from chest to foot, Albus called for breakfast.
“What would you like to do today?” He asked as they enjoyed their tea. “A trip to Hogsmeade? A walk around the lake?”
“What about the students?” Minerva asked. “They might be shocked to see you walking around with an obviously pregnant woman.”
Albus shrugged. “I doubt any of them would have the nerve to question me about you, even if they do notice. Teenagers are the most self-centered creatures in the universe. But maybe the weather is too cold for you to be outside. We could putter around the castle. I’m sure you would enjoy seeing some of your old haunts again.”
“I’m sure I could tolerate a little cold. I actually feel like walking and the weather looks nice albeit a bit chilly. Then this evening perhaps we could have a game or two of chess?”
Albus rolled his eyes. “You just enjoy beating me.”
“I would call it something more akin to a slaughter.” Minerva told him over the rim of her teacup.
The couple turned to stare into the green fire. The face of Armando Dippet stared back at them.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your time together but I’ve received several rather disturbing owls from the ministry and I thought that perhaps Albus could spare me a few moments to help draft the replies.”
“I’ll be…” Albus stopped, remembering that his wife was sitting beside him. “Minerva… I wouldn’t be gone long…”
She smiled in answer although it was tentative at best. “You go, Albus. I’ll just sit here and enjoy my tea while I wait for you.”
“Just give me a few minutes to get myself together and I’ll be down to your office.” Albus told Dippet. With a relieved smile and a polite nod to Minerva the headmaster disappeared. By the time she turned back to her husband he was gone as well.
Rays of sunlight bounced off the gleaming surface of Albus' desk as well as every other surface in his now spotless apartments… and still Minerva scrubbed. When the large grandfather clock stuck two she threw her rag down in frustration, a single tear rolling down her face. The baby kicked in sympathy.
“It’s okay, little one,” she rubbed the top of her belly soothingly, her other hand tucked behind her to support her aching back. “Daddy just has a great deal to do. He can’t spend every moment with us like he has been doing. He has to work now.” But was she trying to convince the baby or herself?
‘He didn’t have to stay gone so long… he could have let me know why…’ a little voice inside her kept prodding.
Minerva shook her head resolutely. “Come on, baby Dumbles. Mummy feels like taking a walk. She smoothed her hair back, scribbled a quick note to Albus, then grabbed her heavy cloak and left the room.
Albus swore to himself as he hurried back to his quarters, knowing that he was going to be on the receiving end of his very pregnant and very hormonal wife’s enflamed temper. Not that he didn’t deserve it, of course. He had completely lost track of the time while helping Armando deal with the letters he’d received and several other tasks that had come up in the course of their conversation.
“Tabby, sweet… I’m so sorry… Time just got away… but I’m completely yours now…” Albus slowed from a run to a fast walk to a complete stop in the middle of the sitting room… the silent sitting room… as he slowly realized that Minerva wasn’t there.
“Tabby?” he called again, berating himself mentally for leaving Minerva alone for most of the day. ‘Where would she have gone?’
He searched the room for several moments before he found her scrawled letter. ‘Gone for a walk. Back soon.’ He glanced out the window at the darkening sky and the first flakes of snow drifting to the ground. Minerva hadn’t timed the note so Albus had no idea when she had left or where she had gone.
“The lake!” It suddenly came to him. “She went to the lake thinking that I would meet her there when I finished. Fawkes!” The phoenix was beside him instantly. “Will you help me find Minerva? It will be dark soon.”
Fawkes waited until Albus donned his thickest robes and heavy boots before perching on his shoulder and remaining there as Albus took off toward the castle entrance.
“Hang on, baby, mummy is trying her best.” Minerva paused in her struggle to make her way back through the growing snow, leaning against a tree and taking a breath as another sharp pain cut through her back. “Your daddy is going to be disappointed but I think we are going to have to behave a little more sedately in the bedroom until you are born.”
After a few more deep breaths Minerva pushed off resolutely. She could see the castle turrets and knew that another few steps would bring her clear of the trees surrounding the lake. Then she only had to cross the lawn and she would be back within the warmth of the castle.
But the snow seemed to be deepening with every minute that passed. And she was so tired.
From out of nowhere Minerva heard the pure note of Fawkes song. The sound filled the air and flooded through her every fiber. The pain in her back faded and with new resolve Minerva took the final few steps needed to bring her back into the open.
“Tabby!” The snow was so thick that she could barely see Albus, even though he was wearing those garish lime green robes that she despised.
Luckily Minerva was wearing red robes that stood out like a rose against the white snow. With Fawkes helping him, Albus reached Minerva’s side a few minutes later. He hugged her tightly to him, blocking her body from the brunt of the storm with his own.
“Are you all right?” He asked.
“I’m fine,” she smiled wearily. “Just exhausted. I should have paid better attention to the skies.”
“Let’s get you back to the castle. You must be freezing.”
Minerva moved much quicker with Albus there to help and encourage her. They were within a few feet of the entrance stairs when Minerva gasped and stumbled. Albus quickly scooped her into his arms and ran up the steps.
“You can put me down, Albus,” Minerva told him once they were protected by thick stone walls. “I just had a back spasm.”
Albus lowered her feet carefully to the floor. “We could go to the infirmary. Perhaps Madame Comfit can help.”
“It is almost gone. I just want to go back to your quarters and have some hot tea.”
But instead of stopping by the fire when they reached the cozy quarters, Albus headed immediately toward the bedroom. Minerva found herself stripped and tucked between warm sheets, a steaming cup of cocoa in her hands, before she realized what was happening.
“The fire would have been fine,” she protested.
“You need a nap. Relax and let me pamper you a little.” Albus told her, determined to make up for not being there earlier. “I’m sorry you had to go on that walk by yourself, Tabby. I should have been here.”
“Yes, Albus, you should have…” she snapped out, then bit her bottom lip in regret. “But then I shouldn’t have gone out by myself either. What matters is that we are both here and safe now. My adventure took quite a lot out of me and I didn’t sleep well last night so I am going to try to nap a bit.”
Albus nodded and stood from his seat on the side of the bed but before he could go Minerva caught his hand. “Why don’t you join me?” She asked quietly.
Robes hastily thrown to the floor, Albus quickly climbed beneath the covers and spooned himself around Minerva’s body.
A low moan woke Albus from his nap along with a sharp kick against the hand resting against Minerva stomach.
“Tabby?” he questioned but received no response. ‘She’s still sleeping’ he realized. He saw a grimace pass over her sleeping features and her hand jerked toward her back. Understanding instantly that she was having another back spasm, Albus began to gently massage the aching area. Gradually Minerva’s features relaxed and she settled back into a peaceful sleep.
Still concerned about the effect Minerva’s struggle might have on her, Albus decided to call Poppy so he moved into the sitting room and knelt before the fire. Throwing a handful of floo powder into the flames, he called her name and gradually began to see the interior of her small flat… and something more.
Poppy shrieked when Albus’ head popped out of the fire, pushed Alastor off of her and grabbed the blanket on the back of the sofa to cover herself.
“Don’t you two ever stop?” Albus groused, although secretly he was amused. Time was closing in on the year that he had bet Alastor but the couple seemed to be growing closer and closer all the time.
Alastor simply growled as he pulled his robes closed.
“Is something wrong, Albus?” Poppy questioned while struggling to pull her clothes back on beneath the cover of the blanket.
“Not really… I just wanted to ask. Minerva seems to be acting… a bit strange.”
“In what way?”
“Well, I behaved like a complete ass this morning and she didn’t flay me with her tongue. I caught her cleaning my quarters and insisted that she come back to bed even though she didn’t want to. Her back hurt too much for her to lie down, she said.”
Poppy laughed. “She’s nesting, Albus. Pregnant women tend to go into cleaning mode, as their time to deliver grows closer. They want a clean safe environment to welcome their babies in to. As for not being angry with you, I know that she has missed you tremendously the last two weeks. I’m sure Min just didn’t want to spend all your time together fighting.”
“And I had to go get stuck in Dippet’s office all day.” Albus sighed. “Min finally gave up and went for a walk without me and got caught out in a sudden snow storm. I tucked her in bed and gave her hot cocoa. Should I do anything else?”
Poppy’s brows furrowed a bit. “Where is she now?”
“She’s sleeping. She went to sleep almost immediately and has barely stirred since… except for a back spasm. She’s been having a good bit of back pain today but…”
“But what?” Poppy demanded Albus answer, ignoring his slight blush.
“Well… we were a bit… vigorous last night… but careful,” he quickly added. “Oh… and we saw the most amazing thing. I was ki… talking to the baby and it pushed its tiny foot right up against the top of Tabby’s belly. We could see every little toe and the complete shape of his foot. It was so clear I could have taken toe prints.”
“Where did you say the imprint was?” Poppy asked, perhaps too casually.
“Up at the very top of Min’s belly. She could see it just as clearly as I could.”
“I wish that I had seen it too.” Poppy offered. “I haven’t seen Min in over a week. Why don’t I just pop in and make sure there aren’t any lasting effects from her stroll through the woods?”
Albus nodded. “You can’t floo through to here because of the guards but I’ll contact the Headmaster and ask if you can use his fire. Give me ten minutes and if I haven’t called back everything is okay.”
Poppy smiled sweetly until Albus face disappeared then she jumped from the sofa and threw her clothes on.
“What in the name of Merlin are you doing, woman?” Alastor asked, having thought that they would finish their previous activities before Poppy took off.
“I’m getting ready to go to Hogwarts,” Poppy told him as she pulled her medicine bag from the closet and began to check its contents.
“You’re only going for a short visit. You don’t need to take the entire flat!” Moody groused as summoned robes flew from the bedroom.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be there,” Poppy answered, ignoring his sour look, “I think that Min is in labour.”
“What? Albus didn’t say that.”
“Albus probably doesn’t realize and he doesn’t need to until I get there or he’ll be in a panic. Nesting usually occurs closer to the time of birth than Min is and the way he talked about her back hurting… if the baby’s foot was pushing against Min’s upper stomach then it may have turned into the birthing position. She may not be but just in case, I am going prepared.”
Twenty minutes later Poppy appeared in Dumbledore’s sitting room, happily chatting with Armando Dippet while Alastor Moody stomped sullenly along behind. Albus greeted them cheerfully, offering the men a warming glass of Old Ogden’s firewhisky while Poppy slipped into the bedroom to check on a still sleeping Minerva.
She reappeared a few moments later, perched on the arm of Alastor’s chair, stole his glass and downed half of it.
“Is everything all right?” Albus asked curiously.
“Min is fin. No ill effects from her afternoon stroll at all. She is still resting quietly, didn’t even know that I was there.” Poppy stood and moved to Albus side. “And in a few more hours you are going to be a very proud papa indeed.”
The half-filled whisky glass fell to the floor with a loud thunk as Albus stared at Poppy, his mouth open and his eyes glazed. The sound of rushing blood filled his ears.
“Albus… Albus! Can you hear me?” Poppy’s voice finally pierced the din inside of his head and Albus nodded. “I need to know if you want to move Minerva back to the manor or to a hospital or let her deliver her at Hogwarts.”
“I’m sure that Isadora Comfit would be please to make the infirmary available to you if you chose to stay here,” Armando offered.
“I don’t know… we always just assumed that the baby would be born at the manor. My mother has everything prepared…” Albus trailed off, his eyes glued to the closed door separating him from Minerva.
“Then you’d rather go back to the manor?” Poppy questioned again. “If we are going to move Minerva we are going to have to do it soon but if you’d rather stay here I see no reason to wake her up. I don’t really understand how she’s managing to sleep through the contractions but…”
As if she heard Poppy’s statement, Minerva screamed loudly from the bedroom. Poppy raced to the door, leading Albus only because he had to take time to stand up.
They found Minerva on her knees near the bottom of the bed, clutching the tall bedpost tightly. The scream faded away because she hurt too badly to draw another breath to sustain it. She looked up at Poppy and Albus with wounded eyes.
“It… hurts… so bad,” she managed to gasp.
“Put your arms around her belly, Albus,” Poppy directed. “Support her stomach. Min, we talked about focusing on a single point and breathing rhythmically. Try it.”
Minerva tried to do as Poppy suggested but the pain was cutting through her so badly she couldn’t keep her attention centered. Even the feel of Albus hands rubbing her belly sent shards of agony through her. She screamed again loudly when she felt a rush of warmth between her legs.
“Poppy!” Albus yelled, looking down at the damp pinkish stain on the bottom of Minerva’s nightgown.
The healer hurried back from where she was sorting through her medicine bag and swore softly. “At least the decision is made for us. Little Dumbles is going to make his first appearance at Hogwarts quite a bit earlier than most children.”
Minerva’s body seemed to sag with relief as the pain faded away. She lifted her head to look at Poppy.
“Yes, my dear, you are in labour. But there is absolutely nothing for you to worry about. Your baby may be a bit small but he will be just fine. Many babies are born a few weeks early. Albus, why don’t you lift Minerva so that I can fix the bed?”
Minerva wrapped her arms around Albus neck, her head drooping to his shoulder as he gently lifted her from the bed. “Would you like to put on something dry, sweetheart?” he murmured.
“I don’t have anything… I didn’t think I’d be needing nightgowns,” her voice lowered, her embarrassment obvious.
“What about one of my nightshirts? I like them roomy so it should be plenty big.”
“Thank you, Albus,” Minerva nodded, her forehead bumping against his jaw.
Once Poppy had placed a thick layer of padding on the bed and replaced the damp sheet she turned only to find that the couple had disappeared. She moved toward the lavatory and stopped in the doorway, watching with a smile as Albus carefully tugged the hem of a voluminous nightshirt over Minerva’s thighs. A damp washrag and towel lay nearby.
“That should feel better, my love,” he whispered as he slid an arm around her back.
A gentle kiss was his reward but then Minerva hunched forward, her hands clinging to Albus’ shoulders as another shard of pain racked her body.
“Hold on to me,” Albus urged as his long fingers rubbed the taut muscles of her lower back as they had done earlier. Thankfully, the pain seemed a bit easier and ran its course quicker this time.
“Back to bed with you,” Poppy called. Albus dutifully scooped Minerva into his arms and carried her to the bed while Poppy continued, “I need to check you and see how far you’ve dilated.”
“Most certainly!” A tiny witch in a nurse’s cap came bustling into the room, her hands full of linen and potions jars. “The headmaster called me. I hope you don’t mind. There are two very nervous men pacing the floor out there and an almost empty bottle of firewhisky. Why don’t you go join them, Professor?”
“I’d rather stay with my wife, Madame Comfit.”
“We’ll come and get you after the babe is born. Out with you now!”
Minerva grabbed Albus’ hand and gripped it for dear life. “NO!” She looked up at him with eyes full of fear. “You promised!”
Albus knelt by the bed, both of his hands closing around Minerva’s. “I did promise and I’m not going anywhere. I helped my wife make the child, Madame Comfit. I’m going to help her deliver it as well.”
The old woman glared at Albus, hands on her hips. “It just isn’t done. You agreed to this?” Her question was directed at Poppy.
“I did,” Poppy refused to back down. “I’ve fully instructed Professor Dumbledore on what to expect. His presence here will help keep his wife focused.”
“She should have her mother here, not her husband.”
Albus started. “Mother… should I call our parents, Tabby?”
“They will never forgive us if we don’t but… I don’t want you to leave me.”
Poppy looked up from where she was positioning Minerva’s feet. “Madame Comfit, would you mind terribly asking Mr. Moody to call both sets of parents?” She waited until the nurse had left the room before lifting the nightgown over Minerva’s knees.
“I’m glad that we didn’t attempt to move you anywhere, Min. It looks like you are going to be a mother very soon. Another half inch and you will be ready to push.”
“So soon?” Albus was shocked. He’d heard that deliveries normally took hours or even days.
“Min has probably been in labour for most of the day. Her body was just so exhausted that she was able to sleep through most of the pains. She’s really very lucky.”
Albus sat down on the bed beside Minerva and slipped his arm around her shoulders. “Little Dumbles is almost here, love. In a very short time we are going to be mummy and daddy!”
“Too late to back out now,” Minerva smiled weakly. “Nervous?”
“Only for you, Tabby. I want to tell you… before things get too crazy… I want to say thank you…”
“For the baby?”
“Of course for the baby… but mostly… thank you for your love.”
“I love you too, Al… bu…. AAAAAA!”
“Okay, kids… it’s time!”
Moody tromped back and forth across the already worn carpet in Albus’ sitting area, pausing and flinching at every anguished cry that came from the next room. ‘What the hell are they doing to Min?’ he wondered to himself, relieved when the scream finally faded. But he’d barely taken a step when the next scream began.
“Oh Lord!” Alastor whirled to find Angus and Catronia McGonagall emerging from the portrait hole, the Dumbledores close behind. “Why did we wait so long?” Catronia wailed as she shrugged out of her heavy outer clock.
“Because Headmaster Dippet had to lower the guards to allow us to floo to his office and then we had to walk here, my dear.” Angus told her while helping her with the cloak that had somehow become stuck over her arms.
“Where is Albus?” his mother demanded of Alastor. Moody just grunted and pointed toward the closed door.
“He’s in… HE CAN’T BE! It just isn’t done!” Catronia exclaimed. “We should go in, Madelaine. We can offer our assistance and send Albus out here.”
“Maybe I should offer to help too.” For the first time Alastor noticed that Aberforth had slipped into the room behind Armando Dippet. “I’ve got plenty of experience with birthings.”
“Aberforth Dumbledore, I can’t believe that you would make jokes at a time like this!” Madelaine turned on her younger son. “Why, right now your sister-in-law is…”
At that moment the lusty cry of a newborn baby rent the air.
“Oh well,” Aberforth shrugged his shoulders at Moody as the parents embraced happily. “Guess they managed without my expertise after all.”
Poppy cast one last spell over Minerva to help make her a bit more comfortable then nodded for the house elf standing by to take the remaining soiled laundry.
“I’ll just go out and let everyone know that you are fine.” She told the happy couple cuddling in the bed. Albus, his arms around Minerva and wrapped beneath hers to help support her precious package, looked up and nodded. “Will you try to hold them off for just a few minutes, Poppy?”
Poppy rolled her eyes. “I’ll do my best, Albus, but don’t count on more than a very few minutes knowing your mothers.” She exited quietly, leaving the new family alone.
Minerva dropped her head to Albus shoulder and sighed deeply. “Isn’t she beautiful, daddy?”
“She is the most beautiful creature that I’ve ever seen, next to her mother, of course.” Albus answered as he stared down at his daughter. The baby stared back at her father intently; the shape and green color of her eyes an exact match of her mothers. Albus would swear that he’d even been on the receiving end of that same look before. A thick layer of red fuzz covered her round head, suggesting that she would have her father’s auburn locks. “She looks just like you.”
“Well… thank Merlin that she got my nose,” Minerva chuckled.
Albus lifted his hand and softly stroked his daughter’s waving hand with his long index finger. With reflexes amazing for a newborn baby, she caught hold of the digit and held it tightly. Albus gasped. As much as he had loved his child before she was born, that love increased a thousand fold in that instant. He thought that his heart might burst… it was so full.
A single tear escaped the corner of Albus’ eye and drifted down his cheek, hovered on his jaw for a few moments then fell to Minerva’s temple.
“Why don’t you hold her?” Minerva offered.
“I… I don’t know how,” Albus stuttered. “She’s so tiny. I’ll break her.”
“If you think that I am going to be doing all of the holding until she gets bigger then you had best think again, Albus Dumbledore,” Minerva told her husband in a firm tone but her eyes were laughing. “Just support her head like Poppy showed us…” She carefully transferred the baby into the crook of Albus right arm then leaned back into his left shoulder and offered her fingers. Once again the baby grabbed them.
“Hello, my kitten. I’m your daddy and this is your mummy. We are very glad to finally meet you.”
A knock on the door heralded the end to their quiet time together. Albus grimaced slightly. “You are about to meet your grandparents. Now, I know that they will make funny looking faces and strange noises at you but you will just have to overlook that. They really are very nice.”
“Come in!” Minerva beckoned, her shoulders shaking as she struggled to contain her laughter.
Madelaine and Catronia rushed the bed immediately while Wulfric and Angus followed at a more sedate pace. Aberforth stuck his head around the door, his hand covering his eyes. “Is it safe?” He called.
“Get in here, Uncle Aberforth!” Albus demanded. “Meet the most perfect child ever born!”
Back in the outer room Poppy tugged on Alastor’s hand. “Come meet little Dumbles. She’s absolutely gorgeous.”
But Alastor resisted. “I… it’s a family moment…”
“And we are family. Come on!”
Realizing that he either had to give in or cause a scene Alastor grudgingly allowed Poppy to lead him into the bedroom and through the others to the side of the bed. He prepared himself to utter some nonsensical platitudes about the baby’s beauty but when he looked at the tiny one he was immediately enraptured with her. “She is… special…” Alastor didn’t know why that particular word was the one that he spoke but he immediately knew it to be true. In his mind’s eye he saw the flash of golden light and once again felt the surge of magic had marked the conception of this baby, of that he was sure.
“She she she… we can’t just keep calling our granddaughter she… Surely you’ve managed to think of a name by now?” Madelaine demanded suddenly.
“Well… first of all we had to find out if we were having a son or a daughter and then we wanted to see the baby… see what names suited her.” Minerva started.
“But yes,” Albus continued, “she does have a name. We thought long and hard about our choices… we wanted something that reflected her family heritage yet was uniquely hers. We wanted the name to mean something to us as well…”
“And we couldn’t think of a better choice than names that mirror how we feel about our daughter and each other…” Minerva interjected.
“So… in keeping with the tradition of her mother’s name, we chose another goddess, but Greek this time. Our daughter’s third name is Aphrodite.”
“McGonagall blood flows through her veins. I wish for my daughter to be proud of her ancestry so her second name is an old Celtic one, Grania.”
“I could ask for nothing more than that my daughter be blessed with the same intelligence and sweet spirit that her grandmother Dumbledore had.” Wulfric and Madelaine nodded, knowing how close Albus had been to Wulfric’s mother. “To that end we decided to give her one of grandmother’s names. We shall call our daughter Carys.”
“Carys,” Aberforth repeated with a tear in his eye. He had also been very fond of his grandmother.
“So her name is Carys Grania Aphrodite Dumbledore, a combination of good strong names, all meaning love.” The proud father finished as he turned his daughter so that she could be seen fully. She surveyed the room and all the people in it for a moment before screwing up her face and letting out a wail.
“What did I do?” Albus asked frantically. Minerva pushed the baby back securely against his chest. “She just missed your warmth.” But then the baby began to nuzzle against Albus’ robes.
“I think that perhaps a toast might be in order. Why don’t we retire to the sitting room and have one.” Both Catronia and Madelaine recognized the baby’s desire and quickly began to herd the men out. Soon the little family was alone again, only Poppy left in the room with them.
“What happened?” Albus questioned. “I would have thought that my mother wouldn’t leave this room for weeks, not until her grandchild did as well.”
“She didn’t want Minerva to be embarrassed,” Poppy explained. “I’m afraid that Carys is going to have to go back to her mother. What she wants right now is the one thing that her father can’t provide.”
“I will get my daughter anything she needs!” Albus protested indignantly.
Minerva giggled. “She’s hungry, Albus. She needs to suckle.”
Albus turned bright red as he quickly handed the baby over. “Should I leave?”
“That’s up to you, my love. It isn’t as if you’ve never seen my breasts before. But if you would like to join the toasting I understand.” Minerva loosened the front closure of her nightgown and began to draw the neck down.
“I’d rather stay here.” Albus’ statement earned him a brilliant smile from his wife.
With a bit of direction from Poppy and a supporting hand from Albus, Minerva soon had the baby settled comfortably at her breast.
“I’ll be joining the others for a bit of toasting myself,” Poppy offered. “It’s been a long day for me as well. Just give a shout if you need me.”
Albus settled back against the pillows and pulled Minerva’s back into his chest. He thought of the many different defining moments of his life, both good and bad. Then he stared down at his daughter tugging feistily at her mother’s breast, tiny fists hitting the milky white mounds as if to drive the life sustaining fluid out faster, and knew that no other moment either past or present, would ever match this one.