Title: Second Chances
Rating: FMAO (For Mature Adults Only)
Disclaimer: I don’t own them… I’m just borrowing them for a while… they belong to the wonderful writer J.K. Rowling… I just let them have fun…
Summary: Albus and Minerva…
Albus Dumbledore sighed as he stood before the portrait that would allow him entrance into his private quarters. The hour was late and he was tired but he still felt restless. ‘Maybe some cocoa’ he thought to himself. The chiming of the great clock told him that it was one in the morning and he didn’t want to bother the house elves so he turned toward the kitchen himself.
A gentle tickle of the pear in the large bowl of painted fruit allowed him entrance and he stepped into… CHAOS!
The large kitchen should have been dark at this time of night, fires banked and house elves sleeping but instead the room was brightly lit and elves were racing everywhere. A loud wail filled the room to the rafters but try as he might Albus wasn't able to pinpoint the source of the hullabaloo. He grabbed the arm of the nearest elf.
“Ditzy! What is going on?”
“We is trying, sir, to make Baby Allie stop crying, but is not working. Baby Allie is hungry and the keeper of the kitchen will not wake up! We is calling the nurse but she is not answering!”
“Keeper of the kitchen?” Albus wasn’t familiar with the title. Perhaps Headmaster Dippet had instituted a new position in the house elf hierarchy while he had been gone. “Who is the keeper of the kitchen?”
“She is sleeping, Professor Dumbledore, sir… She is not waking up.”
Albus shook his head as the crying grew louder. “She is sleeping but who is crying? Take me to her, Ditzy.”
Ditzy nodded and scampered away, Albus close behind trying to dodge running house elves. He was surprised to find the entrance to a short hallway tucked back in a dark corner of the kitchen. Albus was almost positive that it hadn’t been there before.
Light from a doorway filled the corridor so Albus moved to the entryway and paused. A tiny bed sat in the corner of the room in front of him. Several house elves were gathered around the bed poking and prodding at the figure sleeping there as they called out for their mistress to wake up. Albus pondered the woman a moment, knowing that something must be wrong if she was still sleeping through the din that the house elves were creating. He couldn’t see her features but as he stared at the long sheath of ebony hair that fanned over her face and upper body the back of his neck began to prickle.
Just as Albus stepped forward he realized that the source of the wailing was also in this room. He turned slowly to his left, his heart sinking. There, in the opposite corner, two elves were rocking a tiny cradle frantically as they crooned some nameless tune in an off key.
“Min…” He’d been searching for her for weeks and she’d been right here under his nose all along? Why hadn’t Dippet...? But then Albus remembered that he’d decided to conduct his search on his own time rather than tell anyone else and risk more embarrassment for Minerva.
He covered the distance to the side of the bed in two long strides, his arm sweeping away the mass of hair to reveal the familiar features of the woman he loved.
“Minerva!” He grasped her shoulders and shook her hard. “Wake up!” His command had no effect. He quickly touched her forehead and found no fever. But something was obviously wrong. What should he do?
Albus quickly made his decision and with a sharp nod to himself he pulled Minerva into his arms. “Bring the baby.” He told the elves then headed out of the kitchen with Minerva in his arms.
When Albus reached his rooms the elves already had the cradle installed in a corner of his bedroom. The wailing continued insistently. He lowered Minerva into his bed and covered her carefully, brushing back her hair from her face so that he could see her.
“Fawkes!” The phoenix appeared immediately, landing on the small desk where Albus was scrawling a note on a piece of parchment. “Take this to Poppy Pomfrey and bring her back here.”
The phoenix took the note in his beak and disappeared.
Albus knew that Poppy would arrive in just a few minutes, concern for her friend overriding any other obstacle. Not knowing what else to do he moved to the cradle and absently picked up the squirming wailing bundle within. To his surprise the crying stopped immediately.
The baby had finally found her fist and managed to shove three-fourths of it into her mouth. She sucked it furiously as she regarded the man holding her with serious emerald eyes. ‘Her mother’s eyes,’ Albus noted, “and you have your mother’s features as well… except…” He blinked his eyes in disbelief, for covering the baby’s head was a thick down of dark red curls.
Tiny fingers had threaded their way through Albus’ long beard so he quickly disentangled them then found that he was staring at the tiny hand spread out in his palm. The fingers were so long. Not that Minerva’s were short… her entire body was tall and lanky but neither of her other children had fingers as long as the little one that Albus was holding. His heart began to beat faster as the inkling of an idea began to form.
“Could it be?” He whispered to the child then turned back to stare at his bed. Granted the sheet and comforter weren’t form fitting but Minerva certainly didn’t look like a woman who had given birth to a child in the last few weeks as Ian had suggested.
Fawkes squawking on the opposite side of the door interrupted any further musings Albus may have had on the subject. Albus called out the password and the phoenix flew into the room, followed by a young witch with blonde hair and a worried look.
“Professor, have you found…” Poppy Pomfrey’s voice trailed off as she stared at her former professor holding a tiny baby and then her friend tucked into his bed.
“Indeed I have, Miss Pomfrey, and in the most unexpected of places… the Hogwarts’ kitchens. Apparently the child is hungry but Minerva won’t wake up. Our school nurse is off the campus this evening so I hoped that you…” His voice trailed off for Poppy had flung her cloak over a chair and had moved to the side of the bed, wand drawn. She immediately began casting spells.
“Ow…” Albus’ had loosened his gentle grip on the baby’s hand and she had once again twisted her fingers into his beard. She was still sucking heavily on her fist but the look on her face told Albus that it wasn’t going to satisfy her much longer.
“Is it serious?”
Poppy glared at him for a moment then returned to her spell casting. Albus began to pace back and forth in an effort to pacify the baby and keep out of the way.
“Professor Dumbledore?” Albus stopped when Ditzy tugged at his robes. “We is bringing the other things you is needing for baby Allie.”
“Other?” He turned to see a large pile of folded cotton cloths stacked near the cradle. “Oh… nappies… yes… well…” Albus stuttered, his horror obvious. He might be the greatest wizard of his age but he had absolutely no idea how to change a baby diaper.
“Professor?” Poppy called. Albus welcomed the distraction and hurried to the side of the bed. “May I?” She held her arms out for the baby.
Allie, for that is what Albus assumed her name was since Ditzy had called her that, didn’t appreciate being transferred. Her fingers gripped Albus’ beard tighter and her other fist popped out of her mouth, waving in anger as she began to scream. Albus jiggled her.
“I’m sorry,” he told Poppy. “She seems to have taken a liking to me.”
“I’d like to check her over while we talk. She appears healthy but…”
Albus looked down into the green eyes. “You are going to have to be good for a few more minutes, little miss. No fussing while your Aunt Poppy and I talk.”
This time the baby didn’t protest when Albus laid her on the side of the bed then sat down beside her. “What is wrong with Minerva?” He asked as Poppy began to work.
“For starters she hasn’t eaten in several days.”
“Ditzy?” Albus called the elf over. “Is this true? Has Minerva not been eating?”
The elf shrank back as he shook his head. “She is not eating. Ditzy try… others try… but she is busy, Miss Min say. She is stopping only to care for baby Allie.”
“How long has this been going on?”
Ditzy seemed to shrink even further. “Is going since Tuesday, Professor Dumbledore, sir.”
“Tues… five days? She hasn’t eaten in five days?”
“Nor slept, sir. She is not sleeping until this afternoon.”
Poppy nodded. “Min is completely exhausted. She’s probably more unconscious than asleep right now. Her body just shut down. But she’s going to have to wake up and feed the baby soon. Her breasts are too full of milk. In her weakened condition she could be very susceptible to a milk fever.”
“And Allie is hungry,” Albus laughed as the baby once again worked her fist back into her mouth and began to suck noisily on it.
“Extremely. No wonder she’s been pitching a fit. But other than an empty tummy Allie is perfectly healthy.”
“Minerva wouldn’t neglect her child.” Albus whispered softly, one long finger running carefully over the downy red curls.
Poppy sighed. “Rest is the best cure for Min. I suppose I could find a breast pump somewhere and we could see if Allie would take a bottle. I’ll need to send a note to the hospital and try to cover my shift tomorrow…”
Albus shook his head. “From what you say Minerva isn’t in any danger. I can… Allie will be able to… suck…” Albus made a vague gesture at Minerva’s chest, “if I hold her there, won’t she?”
For a moment Poppy was taken back by Albus’ question but she knew that he actually had the best solution. “What about…”
Poppy stopped but Albus suspected that he knew what she had been going to ask. ‘What about Allie’s father?’ Albus didn’t answer her.
“Miss Pomfrey… I need to ask you one more question.”
“How… how old is Allie?”
Poppy cast the appropriate spell. “Allie is fourte… three and a half months old.”
Dumbledore gasped as he looked away but Poppy saw how his hand tightened its hold on the corner poster of the bed.
“Are you all right, Professor Dumbledore?” She asked anxiously.
Albus’ shoulders were shaking but otherwise he had regained his composure when he turned back to face Poppy. “I’m fine, Miss Pomfrey. I know it’s late so Fawkes will take you home if you are ready. I can call the groundskeeper to escort you back to the gates.”
Poppy laughed merrily. “Wandering around the grounds after curfew was one of mine and Min’s specialties when we were students here, Professor. I’ll check back on Min tomorrow if I may? She’ll be here?”
Albus nodded as he pulled Allie back into his arms. “She’ll be here.”
Once Poppy was gone Albus kicked off his boots and shrugged out of all but the thin inner robe that he wore, all without ever putting Allie down. Then he pulled back the bedclothes and sat down on the edge. “Let’s hope this works, little one… or else your mum may hex your dad into oblivion… your papa… that’s who I am, Allie. I’m your papa.”
The little girl pulled her fist out of her mouth and whimpered.
“I’m your papa and you are hungry and don’t really care right now. I get the message. Now I’m not really experienced at this so you are going to have to help me out…” Albus continued to talk as he moved pillows and wiggled around until he was leaning back comfortably against them. Once this was done he worked an arm beneath Minerva and pulled her up against him. A little more maneuvering had her tucked securely beneath his left arm, her back resting against his chest.
“Here goes,” he told Allie, holding her securely in his right arm. His left hand tugged on the first button of Minerva’s nightgown then the second. After a few minutes he had her gown open far enough that the fabric would pull back from her breast. He carefully slid Allie across his chest and over Minerva’s until her mouth was level with her mother’s left nipple. To Albus’ delight the baby latched on immediately. Minerva didn’t even stir.
As Allie suckled and the minutes ticked away, Albus stared down with wonder at both the woman in his arms and the child he and the pillows were carefully supporting. “We have a child. We made this wonderful little baby together, Minerva,” he murmured. “Why didn’t you tell me? Do you regret what happened between us so much?” Even as he uttered the words, Albus knew they weren’t true. The Minerva McGonagall Gordon that he knew and loved wouldn’t have kept the truth from him, not knowing how he adored children… how much he longed for a child of his own.
“I’m going to try to make everything better, my love… for everyone. I swear.”
The only problem was that Albus wasn’t sure how to do that.
Fawkes appeared abruptly in the middle of the room and floated to land on the bed beside his familiar. Albus took the note from his beak and rubbed his head. “I’ll tip you in a bit, old boy, hmm?” Fawkes turned to stare at the muddle of people in Albus’ arms and lowered his head once then flew through the bedroom door into the sitting room and his perch. Albus flipped the parchment open with one hand.
The message was from Poppy Pomfrey and was short but simple. ‘Don’t forget to change sides!’
“Okay, little miss,” Albus shook his finger in warning at the baby lying in the cradle before him. “This time you are going to behave yourself. I promise that I will try to change the diaper faster if you promise not to wait until I get it removed to do your business.”
Allie gurgled at her father and then… she smiled. Albus grasped both sides of the cradle in shock as his little girl… giggled.
“Allie… you do like me!” At that moment Albus Dumbledore could have taken on the entire forces of Grindelwald and beaten them single-handedly, such was his feeling of invincibility.
This was the fifth diaper that Albus had changed in the fifteen hours since he’d brought Minerva and Allie to his quarters. The first experience had taken over half an hour and Allie hadn’t been in the least bit cooperative but with each successive change both father and daughter had improved their technique. This time the changing went off without a hitch.
“That’s my good girl,” Albus cooed as he quickly scrubbed his hands in a bowl of water. As he bent to pick Allie up, Ditzy appeared, gathered up the diaper and the bowl and disappeared again. “You’ve had such a good nap. Are you hungry again? I hope so.”
Even though Albus had taken advantage of Allie’s nap to shower and change he quickly shed his new robes and climbed back into the bed to continue the routine he’d begun so many hours ago. But when he climbed into bed this time Minerva instinctively shifted toward him. Allie nursed a bit, though not as long as Albus would have liked, and then Albus carried her into his sitting room.
Allie was fascinated by the vast variety of gadgets that Albus had scattered all over the room and he delighted in setting most of them off then watching Allie as she watched the toy. At one point she was laughing so loud that he almost missed the knock at his door.
“Come,” he called absently and added the password without thinking. At the sound of a clearing throat he turned to find Armando Dippet, the headmaster of Hogwarts, standing in his sitting room.
“I thought you were Miss Pomfrey…” he offered feebly.
“I don’t look good as a blonde,” Armando replied as he made himself comfortable on the sofa. “I suspected that I might find you here, young lady!” He held his hands out to Allie, his fingers wiggling, and she squealed.
Albus moved to the other end of the couch and placed the baby on the cushion between them then waited for Dippet to say something.
“I’m surprised it took you this long to find them,” Armando finally remarked.
“You knew I was looking for them and you didn’t tell me?”
“I suspected that you were looking for Minerva and I didn’t tell you because I made a promise to the lady. A promise I didn’t necessarily agree with, mind you, but a promise all the same.”
“Why is she here, Armando? What happened after she returned? Fee told me some of it and Ian still more but… none of it makes sense now. Why do Minerva’s children think that she ran off with a lover?”
“Mrs. Gordon is here because she needed a place to stay and she wanted to be close to her children. I thought… I supposed you would want her close by… especially in light of…” Armando gestured at Allie with the finger that she had a tight grip on. Allie laughed and squeezed harder. “I suspected… but seeing the two of you together…”
Albus felt his cheeks go hot. “It isn’t like that, Armando… I mean… I care for Minerva… I always have. We didn’t plan for this… for Allie… but… I’ve been back for two weeks now. Why didn’t Minerva come to me?”
“You will have to ask her that yourself, Albus. I just heard that Mrs. Gordon had taken ill and I wanted to check on her and on the little one.”
“Minerva is still sleeping. Miss Pomfrey says that she simply ran herself completely into the ground over the last few days. I don’t suppose you know why that happened?”
Armando smiled. “It appears that you and Mrs. Gordon have a great deal to talk about once she is feeling better. When she wakes would you please inform her that I need to speak with her when she has a moment or two to spare?”
As Dippet departed Albus pondered over everything that he had learned since stepping foot on Hogwarts grounds two weeks ago. “I hope your mummy wakes up soon, little one. I would really like some answers.”
Minerva fought against the tug of consciousness but in the end, consciousness succeeded in pulling her out of her deep slumber. Her eyes flickered briefly but what she saw made no sense to her at all so she closed her eyes and gave her head a little shake.
It was at this point that she became aware of a hard, definitely male, body pressed against her back. ‘That’s crazy,’ she scolded herself. ‘You are dreaming.’ But a tiny movement of her hips proved her wrong.
A scream rose up and tickled the back of Minerva’s throat as she jerked away from the warm form and twisted to see the man sharing her bed. At that same moment Albus realized that Minerva was awake and quickly stifled the scream the only way he could think of. He kissed her.
Although Minerva had seen little more than a blur of gray and red her scream died away. She knew these lips… had felt this touch. Before she could stop herself Minerva gave in to the kiss, her arms coming up to wrap around Albus’ neck.
But within seconds she was pulling away, her control returned. Albus didn’t protest but neither did he release her from his embrace. Instead he settled back against the pillows, still holding Minerva in his arms.
“Are these your rooms?” Minerva finally whispered.
“Why did you bring me here?”
“You were exhausted… unconscious. You needed someone to look after you.”
“Uncon… how long?”
“It’s been almost twenty four hours since I brought you here. I don’t know how long before that.”
“A day?” Minerva bolted up right, her eyes searching, but she quickly fell back down as the room began to spin.
“Carefully, Minerva. You’ve been asleep a very long time.”
“But Allie?” She asked without hesitation because she knew that if Albus had found her then he had found the baby as well.
“Allie and her daddy have been getting to know each other. I’ve even mastered the fine art of diaper changing. She had a bedtime snack a little while ago and she is now resting comfortably in the best that the Dumbledore suite has to offer.” Albus gestured off the side of the bed and when Minerva looked she could see the top of the cradle sticking up.
“So you know?”
our one wonderful night together produced the most perfect little girl that
I’ve ever seen? I asked your friend,
Miss Pomfrey, how old Allie was. The
idea of you coming back to
Albus felt the warmth of Minerva’s tears soak through the thin linen of his robe. “I’m so sorry, Minerva… sorry that you regret…”
Minerva’s head lifted again. “Oh no, Albus Dumbledore. I regret many things in my life but that night… being with you… no matter what happens I’ll never regret that.”
Her words were so vehement… so heart-felt… and brought such joy to his heart that Albus couldn’t help himself. Their first kiss had been gentle but this one was wild… hungry. When breathing finally became a necessity Albus pushed Minerva to the bed beside him and broke the oral connection, only to transfer his lips to the smooth curve of her throat. Minerva gasped in air, her expanding chest catching Albus’ attention. He slipped down the mattress as he brushed the open edges of her nightgown aside and ran his tongue over one tight nipple.
Minerva moaned and threaded her fingers through Albus’ hair, pulling him closer as she arched into his mouth. Albus responded by taking the entire tip into his warm cavern and sucking. Warm milk filled his mouth.
Albus jerked back in surprise as he swallowed, having not even thought about Minerva’s milk flowing for him. Minerva laughed softly at Albus’ stunned face. Her hand brushed his cheek, her thumb flicking away a tiny drop clinging to his lips.
“Did I hurt you?” He asked.
Minerva shook her head. “Not at all. Although it does feel different when Allie does it.”
Albus returned to the breast, his tongue laving up the tiny stream of milk that had escaped to run down the swell. He felt Minerva’s hands tremble against his head.
“Albus… please…” Minerva moaned when his mouth took her other breast in. Her legs parted, the top one sliding up and over Albus’ hip as she rocked against him. Minerva was on fire, her body craving Albus’ touch and from the hard evidence pressed against her center she knew he felt the same.
Albus’ fingers yanked at the back of Minerva’s gown, dragging the fabric up so that he could clutch at her bare bottom. The voice of reason began to ring in the back of his head, telling him to stop… reminding him that they needed to talk before they… his body tightened at the vision that sprang into his head and he muzzled the voice quickly.
But fate stepped in at that point. Allie woke up, screaming at both her wet diaper and her hunger.
Albus groaned as he and Minerva reluctantly disentangled themselves.
“You have horrendous timing, little one.” He told Allie as he took care of her diaper. She giggled, happy to have a dry bottom once again. “Now as for your other problem…”
Minerva held out her arms for Allie, anxious to see her daughter after sleeping so long. Albus settled in behind them just as he had been doing for the last day.
“So this is how you fed her?” Minerva chuckled as she settled back against Albus.
“Minerva,” Albus asked after a few minutes. “What happened on Tuesday?” He felt her stiffen in his embrace. “Why did you stop eating and resting?”
“I… It isn’t important. I won’t be so foolish again. Allie needs me.”
“All of your children need you, Minerva. We’ll explain things to them…”
Allie wailed, her fist flailing against her mother’s breast to show her discomfort at being disturbed. Minerva jiggled her comfortingly as she coaxed her into eating again.
Albus remained quiet until Allie was settled. “Why are you opposed to telling Ian and Fiona about us? What has happened in the past year?”
“You haven’t spoken to them?”
“Well… Fiona saw me arrive back and came running across the front lawn as soon as I stepped through the gates. She was so upset that most of her story came pouring out before she could stop it, but her words were disjointed. I went in search of Ian as soon as I got Fee calmed down.”
then you found out that his whore of a mother returned to
“I guess that the baby came as a bit of a surprise to him… to both of them… but I’ll explain… I’ll make Ian and Fee understand.”
“You can’t, Albus. Ian hates me and he’s controlling Fee right now. You are the only person that they have left. Ian trusts you. You are the only one who might be able to rescue him from Luc’s influence.”
“Luc? What does that bloody snake have to do with this? Minerva… why are you living in the Hogwarts’ kitchens? Why did you leave your cottage?”
“I don’t have a cottage… not anymore…”
“Perhaps you’d better tell me everything.”
sighed. “When I returned from
“Between us…” Albus finished. “When did you realize…?”
“That Allie was on the way? Not until the end of the summer. I knew that something wasn’t right but… I was worried about the children and worried about you and… I attributed my missed cycles to stress. I wasn’t sick at all… just a bit lightheaded occasionally. I began to suspect around the beginning of August and I knew for certain before the children left for Hogwarts. I should have told them then, I guess… but I kept hoping…”
Albus buried his face in Minerva’s hair, his lips gently kissing the top of her head. “You hoped I would be home soon. Merlin, how I wish that I had been…”
Minerva nodded beneath his touch. “As the days turned into weeks and Christmas break grew closer and closer I knew I didn’t have a choice any more. I didn’t get extremely large but… at seven months I couldn’t have hidden my belly from Ian and Fee forever. As it turned out, I didn’t have a chance to break the news to them gently. Luc told them first.”
“Luc? How the hell?”
“He came by the cottage one day… I’d let him visit a few times over the summer… He seemed genuinely upset by Daniel’s death and wanted to spend time with the children. Once they returned to Hogwarts I told him that he wasn’t welcome anywhere near the house anymore, but I guess he didn’t listen… I’d had to refuse him entry twice during the fall. It was one afternoon in early December when he found out... I guess I must have been napping because when I woke up he was standing over me. My outer robes were pulled apart and my belly was obvious.”
Albus managed to keep a calm face although inwardly he was seething. He knew of Luc’s desire for his brother’s wife and had a pretty good idea what Luc had in mind on that day.
“I threw him out immediately. Luc came to the school and saw Ian… told him that I had taken a lover and that I was pregnant. I hadn’t gained a lot of weight so he didn’t know how far along I was… he assumed I was less pregnant than I actually was. Ian was furious. He left the school without permission, flew home on a stolen broom and confronted me. I tried to explain but he wouldn’t listen to me. When he stormed out to return to Hogwarts I started to follow him but… I decided that perhaps I needed to give him some time to cool down. That was a mistake.”
“And Luc was there to stir the pot.”
Minerva nodded as she turned Allie in her arms so that she could nurse on the opposite side.
“But why are you at Hogwarts?”
“Albus… I’m tired…”
“I know you are, Minerva, but I need to understand what happened so that I know how to deal with it.”
“No!” Minerva’s voice was sharp once again. “This is my problem to deal with. You have to stay out of it. The children are going to need you once everything is said and done.”
“The children will have both of us… now tell me the rest.”
Minerva sighed then acquiesced. “I spent the holidays alone. Both Ian and Fee refused to return home and I was trying to keep my condition quiet so I couldn’t really get out and about. I wrote everyday and occasionally I would get a terse reply from Fee… I thought she might be thawing in her feelings…”
“About the middle of January heavy pounding on the door woke me in the middle of the night. I threw on my dressing gown and ran to answer it, thinking that something might have happened to one of the children but it was Luc… and several of his men. He’d used his connections to have all of my assets frozen. He claimed that I had been misusing my children’s inheritance.”
“Bloody hell! Their inheritance is yours! The money came from your grandmother and Luc damned well knows that.”
“Yes… but I didn’t know what he was doing so he was able to have a judge give him legal right to the cottage. He was suing for management of the joint vault Daniel and I had at Gringotts and all the contents therein. He threw me out.”
“Threw… right then? In the middle of the night?” Minerva could feel the anger emanating from Albus. His grip around her tightened protectively.
“I couldn’t believe what was happening… didn’t know what to do. I had the foresight to pick up my wand and I was tempted to fight but there were so many of them and I didn’t want to risk the baby. Then Luc came out into the snow after me. I ran… hid in the forest… but he came after me. He called out to me that unless I… I let him… unless I gave myself to him he would destroy both my child and me.”
“I stayed hidden and then apparated away as soon as I could. I didn’t know where to go but I knew I had to get as far away from Luc as I could. I guess I had some thought of trying to get to the children… to get to you…”
“I must remember to thank Armando for taking care of you.” Albus whispered.
“Actually the first person that you should probably thank is Hagrid. Your young assistant groundskeeper did deliver your daughter after all.”
“WHAT?” Albus shifted so that he could see Minerva’s face, waiting for her to utter the punch line. She didn’t.
“There was a snowstorm in progress when I arrived at the gate and I was only wearing a nightgown and robe, no shoes, no cloak. As I walked through the gates I had my first contraction. I had barely made it halfway up the lawn before my water broke. The snow was swirling around me and I couldn’t see the castle… I was in so cold… in so much pain… I saw a huge shadow… Then I was in Hagrid’s hut. He’d gotten me warm and he was heading to the school to find the nurse but everything was moving so fast… I knew that he wouldn’t get back in time… so Hagrid stayed and helped me deliver Allie.”
Albus closed his eyes, picturing his tiny newborn daughter cradled in Hagrid’s huge hands. He knew that Allie couldn’t have been in a safer place.
“And when the storm was past he brought Dippet to you?”
Minerva nodded. “The headmaster was very generous. He offered me a job and a suite… but I couldn’t let the children know I was here. It would have caused them embarrassment and Ian might have told Luc. If he had found out… he told the children that I’d run off with my baby’s father, you see… I needed time…”
“What happened Tuesday?” Having heard Minerva’s story, Albus returned to his original question. “Minerva?”
Minerva yawned where her head had fallen against his chest. “Please, Albus…” she murmured. He could hear the exhaustion in her voice. “Let me rest just a minute… my voice is tired.”
Albus summoned a glass of water from the loo and helped Minerva sip it but it was obvious that she was really fatigued. Allie had suckled her fill so Albus took her from her mother’s arms and tenderly covered Minerva with the sheet. “Rest now, my dear. We will talk when you wake again.”
“Albus…” Minerva called sleepily as he and Allie moved from the room. “Thank you…”
“Ah! A visit from my favourite little girl!” This time when Armando held his arms out to Allie she went to him gladly. Dippet settled into a wing chair and pulled a rattle from the cushions to amuse Allie with. “To what do I owe the pleasure? I take it that Mrs. Gordon is improving or you wouldn’t have left her.”
“Minerva does appear to be doing better and Miss Pomfrey assures me that she is on the mend. I understand that I owe both you and Hagrid a debt of gratitude for looking after my family, Armando.”
“I knew that you would want them here, safe from that damned brother-in-law of hers. How a man as nice as Daniel Gordon could end up with a brother like Luc is beyond me.”
“So you recognize the threat that Luc poses? Good. Then help me fight him. Tell me what Minerva won’t.”
Dippet looked distinctly uncomfortable. “What has she told you?”
“She told me about him dispossessing her and how he is manipulating the children. But whatever happened last Tuesday is weighing heavy on her mind. I can’t help her if she won’t confide in me but she just keeps saying that I can’t be involved because the children will need me…”
“You are asking me to break a confidence, Albus.”
“I’m asking you to help me protect Minerva and the children… all three of them. Two of them are your students, Armando… it’s your duty to help.”
“This really wasn’t just a casual dalliance for you, was it, Albus? You’re in love with Minerva Gordon.”
Slowly Albus nodded then leaned forward, his head coming to rest on his propped up hands. “I’ve loved her for years… from the first moment I met her. But she was so young and Daniel was much more suitable for her.”
“So you didn’t pursue her. You let her marry your friend without ever giving her an inkling of how you felt?”
“And she never would have known… not if Daniel hadn’t died. I was best man at their wedding, Armando. I am godfather to both Ian and Fiona. I’ve been friend to both of them for over fifteen years. Daniel’s will gives me legal responsibility for both children, along with their mother, of course. I had to go after that mad wizard, Armando. I couldn’t let him turn into another Grindelwald. But I didn’t know about Allie… about all the trouble Minerva was experiencing back here. I was stupid… never even thought that I might make her pregnant… I thought that I’d wait until enough time had passed. I’d return, pay court to Minerva, we’d marry with the children’s blessings and be a happy loving family.
“Wait…” Armando’s eyebrows knit thoughtfully. “What did you just say… Daniel left a will?”
“Of course. He wouldn’t have left on such a dangerous assignment for the ministry without making provision for his family. He stopped by on his way to the solicitor’s office to talk with me about the guardianship.”
“Praise be…” Armando sighed with relief. “That’s it then. You are the answer.”
Albus stared at Dippet expectantly.
“Last Tuesday Minerva found out that Luc has filed for full custody of the children and complete control of their finances on the grounds that she deserted them. The hearing is this Wednesday. Without a will from Daniel and in her present circumstances…”
“But Minerva didn’t desert them. All she has to do is go and tell the Wizengamot what Luc did… but Luc has done away with all of the proof, I am sure.”
“And if Minerva shows up in court she will have to admit the truth about Allie. An unwed witch with a baby… You know as well as I, that that fact might have serious repercussions in a custody battle… Luc will have enough of the members in his pocket to assure that. What I don’t understand is why he is so adamant about this. He’s never shown any interest in the children during their time at Hogwarts until this year.”
“Luc is guilty of one of the oldest sins, Armando… he has coveted his brother’s wife for years. Daniel recognized this long ago. But this… there must be more to it that I do not understand. Luc wouldn’t want to fight me head on and he knows that I would stand up for Minerva as well as the children…”
“What if he doesn’t know you are back, Albus? There hasn’t been any notice in the Daily Prophet. Your substitute teacher is going to finish out the year so you haven’t been in classes. A few of the students may have noticed you around but…”
“Ian knows I’m back. I’ve seen both he and Fiona. Ian is the one who told me Luc’s lies about his mother. He knew that I was going to be looking for Minerva, even if I had to travel back to the continent since that’s where he thought… That’s why Luc is in such a hurry to have this hearing! As long as I was out of the country he felt safe. Perhaps he even hoped that I wouldn’t come back. But since I did he had to get me out of the way for a little while to gain complete control. He told Ian that farcical story about Minerva having gone to the continent with her lover in hopes that I’d follow and not be here to find out about the hearing!”
“I think you’re right, Albus! Once the court has handed down a ruling they would be hesitant to reverse themselves, especially if Ian said he was happy with his uncle.”
“Minerva was damned either way… so what was she planning to do, Armando? And don’t tell me nothing because Minerva McGonagall Gordon is not a woman to sit back and let a snake like Luc Gordon take her children without a fight.”
“How should I know what she was planning?”
“Because my daughter knows you well enough that she went to you immediately and because that rattle in your chair tells me that Allie has obviously spent some time here. Exactly what were you and her mother doing?” Albus’ eyes were narrow.
“We… were practicing… dueling.”
“Dueling?” Albus replied incredulously. “Ah… Minerva planned to duel with Luc… even though she hasn’t done anything like that in twenty years she was going to duel with the man… Of all the harebrained schemes…”
“I did try to dissuade her but… the woman is quite stubborn. She’s also damned good, Albus. Minerva might not have beaten Luc but she’d have hurt him for sure.”
“And if she’s dead? What the hell good is hurting him?”
“Her children know that their uncle is the one who killed her. And you are still around to look after Ian and Fee as well as Allie.”
“I’ll look after them all now.”
“And make all of them targets instead of just Minerva… and possibly Allie as well. You’ve got to think things through, Albus. We have to find out exactly what Luc is up to and quickly.
“Well, Poppy? How am I?” Minerva tugged her nightgown closed and settled back against the pillows.
“All the sleep you had in the last two days has benefited you greatly, Min, but now you need to eat.”
“I’ve had some broth. I’ll eat more today at lunch, I promise. Could you… I need a strengthening potion, Poppy. I have to be well quickly.”
Poppy shook her head. “Too dangerous, especially with you breastfeeding. Rest and nourishment, that’s what you need.”
“Please, Poppy. I have to have my strength back by Wednesday. Allie… she’s going to have to start taking a bottle soon anyway.”
“What is so important about Wednesday?” Poppy sat down on the bed beside her friend, her concern obvious.
“I… If I tell you then you have to promise that you won’t tell anyone… especially not Albus…”
Albus knew from the look on Poppy’s face when she entered the sitting room that Minerva had confided at least partially in her friend. Now it was his turn to do the same.
“Min is going wonderfully. You’ve taken very good care of her. I’ve given her a potion to help her regain her strength so she should be as good as new in a day or two.” Poppy made straight for the exit as she spoke.
Albus’ exclamation brought Poppy up short.
“I have a very good idea what Minerva has been telling you, Miss Pomfrey. All about her plans to fight for her children… She refused to let me help… but I don’t intend to give her a choice. I’m asking you… as Minerva’s best friend… will you help me help Minerva in spite of her pigheaded stubbornness?”
“You are sure that you will be all right?” Albus asked Minerva for the fourth time in as many minutes. “I shouldn’t have to be gone long and Ditzy will be available to help you with Allie. Armando said he would be glad to come by and stay if you would like.” Albus knew he was being repetitive but he couldn’t help it. Minerva had spent an hour awake here and there on Sunday but today was the first day that she’d been up all day and he could see that she was tired. They’d spent the day together talking and playing with Allie but Minerva still refused to confide in him.
“I’ll be fine, Albus. Allie and I are used to being on our own.” Minerva regretted her words as soon as she said them because they obviously hurt Albus. “But I’m sure that Allie will miss her daddy while you are gone.”
Albus finished fastening his outer robes and moved to the side of the bed. “You be a good girl for mummy while I’m gone.” He told the baby squirming beside Minerva then kissed Allie gently on the forehead. “And you be good too, mummy.” Albus whispered as he raised his head. At the last minute he leaned forward and planted a warm kiss on Minerva’s lips as well.
Once she was sure that Albus was gone, Minerva threw back the covers and inched her way out of the bed, standing slowly while struggling to keep her balance. Once the room stopped spinning she made her way to the bell pull and called for Ditzy. The house elf appeared immediately.
“Could you bring me my robes, Ditzy? And then I’ll need your help with Allie’s things…”
Albus stayed beneath the cover of trees that he had apparated into, his invisibility spell firmly in place, and watched the house. Light blazed from every window, driving the darkness back and he could hear loud music blaring as well. From the loud masculine voices shouting above the din Albus could tell that the people inside were considerably inebriated. It was time.
Drawing his shield of invisibility securely around him, he stepped from beneath his leafy covering and quickly but quietly crossed the lawn. The door wasn’t latched so he gave it a brisk push and dashed into the room.
“Wot? Somebody shut the bloody door!” Albus nose wrinkled in distaste as Luc yelled at one of his cronies. He shuddered at the sight of the filthy room. Minerva had always been so meticulously clean and her house reflected that. But no longer. The front parlour was littered with empty bottles of firewhisky and old newspapers.
He flattened himself against the wall as someone entered from the hall beside him. The dark-headed young woman might have been pretty once but life had obviously not been very kind to her. She wore a man’s linen shirt and nothing else. The ogres around the poker table leered at her and pawed her body as she passed by them to sit in Luc’s lap.
‘Get on with it, Albus.’ He told himself in an effort to stop the urge to show himself and hex Luc into oblivion. Albus moved carefully down the hall until he reached the end… the master bedroom. He swallowed hard, not really wanting to think about Minerva sharing this room with Daniel, and entered. The portrait was there, exactly as Daniel had described it.
Twenty-year-old Minerva McGonagall smiled happily as she brushed at the lines of her skirt, and why shouldn’t she? It was her wedding day, after all. Her robes were pristine white and made of the finest silk. She carried a huge bouquet of lilies. “I’m sorry,” he whispered to the painting. Minerva jumped in surprise at the sound of a voice with no body attached to it but she wasn’t a speaking portrait so she couldn’t respond verbally. “I’m doing this for you… and for Daniel. He told me to come here.”
Albus lifted the portrait carefully and found the folded parchment attached to the back, just where Daniel had told him he’d hidden it. He quickly tucked the document into one of the many pockets in his robe then carefully repositioned the picture.
At that moment the bedroom door swung open and Luc entered, the slim brunette female Albus had seen earlier tossed across his shoulder. Luc dumped the woman on the bed, ripped her shirt open and fell on top of her.
Albus moved out of the room as fast as he could, the sounds of Luc’s cries ringing in his ears… cries of his sister-in-law’s name… along with a host of other foul words that Albus would never be caught dead using at all much less in reference to a woman he was bedding.
He had almost reached the exit when he drew up, documents lying on Daniel’s desk catching his eye…
Albus tore at the fastenings of his outer robe as he strode through the corridor toward his quarters. He felt dirty… filthy after even the minimal contact with Luc and his henchwizards. A hot shower was just the thing to help him feel clean again he decided as he threw the robe over a chair and moved into the bedroom.
The water was turned on and heating up when he realized that something was out of place… but what? He walked back to the bedroom, searching…
“MINERVA!” Albus roared. Everything was gone… Allie’s cradle, her diapers, her toys… everything. “Dammit, woman! I’ll…”
House elves scurried left and right when Professor Dumbledore came barreling through the kitchen entrance, his face purple with anger. Their actions told Albus that he was on the right track. “MINERVA MCGONAGALL! YOU BLOODY WELL BETTER GET YOUR SCRAWNY ASS OUT HERE RIGHT NOW!”
Minerva appeared immediately, her features set in a calm but determined façade. “Will you please lower your voice? I’ve just spent the last hour trying to get Allie to sleep.”
Albus spared a quick glance at the back hallway before stepping closer to Minerva. He grasped her forearms tightly, hauling her body up against his. “Why are you back down here in the kitchens?” Although his voice was quiet his fury was obvious.
“Because I’m better. This is where my duties lie. You were very kind to look after Allie and me but I don’t expect…”
“You don’t expect? YOU DON’T EXPECT?” Albus was shaking with anger. But he caught Minerva off guard when he dipped and caught her midsection. When he straightened she was hanging over his shoulder.
“Put me down, Albus Dumbledore!” He felt Minerva’s fist flailing at his back but he ignored them.
“Ditzy! Bring Allie and her things.” Albus told the elf then headed back out of the portrait hole, never acknowledging the screaming woman he was carrying.
Thankfully the hour was late and the students were all in bed but the Hogwarts portraits certainly got an eyeful as Professor Dumbledore stomped through the halls wearing only a short linen under robe and carrying a loudly protesting woman over his shoulder.
As Albus entered his bedroom, Ditzy placed the last clean diaper on the shelf they’d come to occupy over the last four days and then quickly disappeared. Allie still slept.
Minerva squealed when she felt Albus lift and toss her. She hit the mattress with a bounce then came up quickly on her elbows to glare at him. “How dare you!” She hissed at the man looming over her.
Albus went white, this scene too much like the one he’d witnessed just an hour before. He backed up, his face pale.
“I’m going to take a shower,” he announced, then muttered a quick spell. Minerva recognized his words and knew he was locking her in but she was more concerned about Albus’ sudden pasty white coloring and the sick look on his face. Before she could say anything he had retreated into the adjoining bathroom.
The warm water beating down on Albus face disguised the tears that flowed down his jaw but the clenched fists resting against the shower wall revealed his lingering anger. Despite this Minerva dropped her robes and stepped into the shower behind Albus. She laid her cheek against his back as her hands slipped around his chest.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured over the rushing water. “I didn’t know you would be so upset…”
turned and pulled Minerva into his arms, burying his face in her hair. “I thought you’d gone… that you’d left me… or
that Luc had found some way to get to you.
He’s sick, Minerva… he’s obsessed with you… but then so am I. I love you so much,
The use of Albus’ own special nickname for her touched Minerva deeply. “I don’t want to go, Albus. I’m right where I want to be. I just don’t want to be an obligation…” Minerva raised her head to look in Albus’ eyes. “I love you too, my phoenix…” she admitted.
Albus lifted Minerva until she was eye level then pressed her against the shower wall, his leg sliding between her thighs and his body pressing against hers to hold her in place. The heat of the shower was lost in the heat of their rising passion as their lips pressed together. Tongues dipped and parried in a duel of desire. Minerva’s hands traveled up and down Albus’ back, her left leg rising to wrap around his waist as she rocked her center against his thigh.
“Albus…” Minerva pleaded, “please?”
Albus wanted to… god, how he wanted to. He was so aroused that he was in pain and he could feel Minerva’s liquid heat just inches from his erection. Just a tiny shift to the right and he would be…
But the smallest doubt still lingered in the back of his mind… not that Minerva didn’t mean it when she said she loved him but… he knew that she hadn’t given up her plans to challenge Luc. He pulled away reluctantly, letting Minerva slide down the wall until her feet touched the bottom.
Minerva was panting heavily, her eyes showing her confusion as Albus left her. He brushed his lips across hers reassuringly then reached for the soap. She followed his every lead as Albus pulled her beneath the spray, turned her then began to run the bar across her back. The smell of sandalwood filled the tiny enclosure as Albus carefully washed every inch of Minerva’s pale body.
Once he was done with that he filled his palms with shampoo and gently washed Minerva’s long locks, scrubbing them over and over until the dirt and oil of her four days in bed was washed completely away.
The gentle massage of Albus’ fingers over Minerva’s skin kept her veins humming with desire but it also had the effect of relaxing Minerva to the point that she could barely stand. By the time that Albus had finished with her hair he was practically holding her up.
Wringing the last bit of excess water from Minerva’s hair, Albus lifted her out of the shower and wrapped a towel around her body. A quick spell dried her hair then Minerva felt Albus push her down onto a small chair. “I’ll be back in two seconds, dear.” He quickly jumped back in the now cold shower, soaped up, rinsed off and exited again. He used the same spell on his own hair then pulled Minerva to her feet and used the towel to dry her.
“You are so good at that,” Minerva’s voice was throaty as she commented on Albus’ gentle massage of her calves.
“And you are so tired,” Albus smiled up at her. He made a quick swipe over his own body with the towel then scooped Minerva up in his arms. “I think it’s time for you to get some rest.”
“But… I want…” Minerva tried to reach his lips but couldn’t manage more than a nuzzle to Albus’ neck.
“I want, too… But your rest is more important.” As badly as Albus wanted Minerva he wasn’t unhappy at the turn of events.
Ditzy had obviously been back while they showered for the bed had been changed and turned down and clean nightclothes for both of them lay across the foot of the bed. Minerva sighed as the soft cotton fabric slid over her body, and then Albus was lifting her and tucking her in to bed. After tugging on a clean pair of silk boxers he joined her there.
“Albus?” Minerva asked sleepily as she rolled into his side and snuggled against his shoulder.
“Hmm?” Albus was so distracted by the feel of Minerva’s body that he wasn’t paying that much attention to her words. His arm slipped around her shoulders and down her back.
“Do you really think I have a scrawny ass?”
Albus couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up and out of him. His hand slipped lower to squeeze a round cheek. “Your ass is absolute perfection, my dear. Now go to sleep!”
Albus heard the low crooning of a Gaelic song before he opened his eyes so he snuggled deeper into his pillow then dared to take a peek at the woman beside him. Minerva was propped up on several pillows cradling Allie in her arms while the baby nursed. She sang the sweet lullaby to her daughter while Allie gripped her mother’s index finger tightly and stared back. Albus didn’t think he’d ever seen a more beautiful sight in his life.
“I know you’re awake, Albus,” Minerva added to the words of her song.
chuckled as he rolled up on his elbow and opened his eyes. “You are too perceptive for your own good,
Allie released her mother’s breast and laughed out loud at her father as he began to play peekaboo over Minerva’s arm.
“You are a silly silly girl!” Minerva told Allie as the baby grabbed for Albus’ beard, “just like your daddy.”
“I am NOT a silly girl!” Albus replied with mock reproach. “I’m a silly BOY! That’s what I am, isn’t it, my angel?” He took Allie from her mother and swung her above his head. She squealed with glee. “So you are going to be a flyer, are you? Just like your mum? I bet you will love Quidditch just as much as she does!”
“She just loves being with you, Albus. I’m so glad… Promise me…”
“Anything, my dear.”
“Promise that you will always be there for Allie… and for Ian and Fee. They haven’t met their baby sister yet but I know that in time you can bring them all together.”
Albus slowly lowered the baby to his chest.
Minerva’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “It’s in my robe… oh, I see… I should be more careful not to get caught without it. I will be but… last night was something of an exception, don’t you think?”
In answer to her question, Albus rolled slightly and caught Minerva’s mouth in a gentle kiss. He held her lips captive long enough that she didn’t notice her robes being banished from the room. “Last night was an exception.”
“I’m sorry I fell asleep,” Minerva told him, almost shyly.
“I’m not. That just means that you will be more rested for tonight.” Desire flared in Albus’ eyes.
“Tonight… yes…” Albus could see Minerva’s mind working. He knew that she planned to leave the castle without his knowledge to attend court the next morning but she obviously wanted one more night with him as well. He was man enough to admit that he was flattered but… even though he didn’t want to fight with Minerva he knew it was inevitable.
“What shall we do until tonight?” Minerva asked, her fingers stroking his chest along the side Allie’s body.
‘It’s now or never,’ Albus decided. “I have the day all planned. First we’ll talk a little longer, then we are going to have a blazing argument.”
Albus continued as if he hadn’t heard Minerva. “Lunch will be a somewhat silent affair followed by another row this afternoon. Your friend Poppy will be arriving about four to help you prepare for the festivities. At five we report to Armando’s quarters where he will have a friend waiting who will perform our marriage ceremony. After cake and champagne, Poppy will take Allie to a guest suite to watch her for the night while we come back here and make mad passionate love all night long. What do you think?”
Minerva stared at Albus, dumbfounded, her mouth unable to form a response for several long minutes. Albus smiled then turned his attention back to Allie. Finally Minerva found her voice.
“It’s a lovely idea, Albus… but…”
“But what? And it’s more than an idea. The arrangements are already made. You said that you loved me, Minerva. Do you wish to take that back?”
“No! I do love you, Albus, with all my heart… but you must see why we can’t marry… at least not now… the children…”
“Ian and Fee adore me. I accept that they might have a bit of difficulty at first but I’ll make it clear to them that I’m not trying to take Daniel’s place. I’ll continue on as their loving uncle. The only difference will be that I’m married to their mother.”
“But Allie… you can’t tell them you’re her father…”
Albus quickly turned his head as Allie made a grab for his rather prominent nose. “Of course I can. I’ll make the children understand, Minerva… please trust me.”
“I want to, Albus, but… you didn’t hear the things that Ian said to me. He’s so angry.”
“Ian is being influenced too much by Luc. I intend to break that influence.”
Fear flashed in Minerva’s eyes. “No… Luc is too dangerous.”
“I can handle Luc.”
“You can’t challenge him, Albus. He has confederates everywhere… dangerous men. If he even suspected that you were Allie’s father he’d… I will take care of Luc.”
too dangerous for me but you are going to take him on? Luc won’t bother you or the children anymore
once we are married.” Albus moved to the edge of the bed and stood then placed
Allie in her cradle. “I don’t doubt your
ability in the least,
“And you think once we marry everything else will automatically fall into place? It won’t happen. I’m sorry, Albus but I can’t marry you.”
Albus smiled as he bent back over the bed, his face mere inches from Minerva’s. “My dearest love, I’m the one who’s sorry. Apparently I’ve given you the mistaken impression that you have a choice in the matter.”
Minerva sat sullenly in front of the mirror, her lower lip poked out in a childish pout. Poppy fought not to laugh as she ran a brush through her friends’ ebony tresses.
“You don’t have to go through with this if you don’t want to, you know.” Poppy told her.
“That’s what you think,” Minerva snapped back. “Albus Dumbledore has made it damned clear that I don’t have any choice!”
Poppy was finding Minerva’s words hard to believe. “You always have a choice, Min. If you don’t want to marry Albus… if you don’t love Albus… then walk away.”
“That’s the problem, Poppy,” a sob cracked Minerva’s words. “I do love Albus… I think that I’ve loved him for a very long time.”
“Then what is the problem? Albus’ love for you is obvious. He absolutely adores your baby daughter and he’s Ian and Fee’s godfather. Why shouldn’t the two of you get married?”
“Because I’ve got to stop Luc from hurting my children,” Minerva almost hissed. “I have to confront him before he apparates to the Ministry tomorrow and I know the chances of my coming out of that confrontation unscathed are almost nil.”
Poppy thought Minerva’s idea was foolhardy and had already told her so but she knew she couldn’t dissuade her. Minerva was a mother lioness protecting her cubs from harm. “Postpone the ceremony a few days, then. Fight the bastard, save your children then marry Professor Dumbledore and live happily ever after.”
“No… I’m going to marry Albus this afternoon even though I know that it is dreadfully unfair to him.”
“How did he convince you? Did he kiss you passionately? Smother you with diamonds?”
“He reminded me that if something should happen to me, purely hypothetically since he doesn’t know my plans, but if something should happen… he has no legal rights to Allie. Marrying me will give him those rights. If something should happen to me tomorrow I have to make sure that he and Allie can’t be separated.”
“And what about tonight, Minerva? Are you going to…” Poppy left the question hanging but her intent was obvious.
Minerva laughed ruefully. “Who knows? We’ve fought all damned day! That man is more stubborn than I am when he sets his mind to it.”
“Now that I’d like to see!” Poppy quickly bit back her smile when she saw Minerva’s glare. “Just kidding, or course. But they say that making up after a good fight can be fun.”
Minerva’s cheeks turned pink as she remembered Albus’ earlier words. “He said… Albus predicted this morning that we’d spend the day fighting…”
“And?” Poppy prompted.
“And the night… loving…”
“I always did like Professor Dumbledore.” Poppy stuck one last pin in the topknot of curls that she’d made by pulling the sides of Minerva’s hair up. “And you make a lovely bride, Min.”
Minerva spoke her vows clearly, her voice never trembling as she pledged her heart and her life to Albus Dumbledore. Albus returned those same vows with feeling, hoping all the while that Minerva would understand how much he loved her… how he wished this moment could have been different for them. She met his gaze without blinking as he slipped a heavy ring on her finger.
The official spoke the final words of the ceremony then knotted the enchanted chord around both of their wrists. ‘Until death us do part’ they spoke in unison as they clasped hands. The cord glowed bright red for a moment then sparked and disappeared. Even though the chord was gone the effect was still there. Albus and Minerva were bound together in love.
As the light faded Poppy stepped forward and transferred Allie to her mother’s arms. Albus put his arms around both mother and daughter as the priest spoke one last spell. White light rose from his fingers to encircle the family, cementing the bond that already existed in their hearts.
“We’ll do this again with Ian and Fee, I promise,” Albus whispered to Minerva as Armando Dippet approached them, hand outstretched.
“Congratulations, my dears! I know that the two of you will be happy together.”
“Thank you, Armando,” Albus draped his arm around Minerva’s shoulder possessively. “We will be… I know it!” He shook his superior’s hand heartily.
“I know you didn’t want a lot of fuss but we should have a small celebration. I’ve taken the liberty of having the house elves prepare a cake and chill some champagne…” Armando picked up a camera. “We must have a few pictures.”
Albus and Minerva posed for several shots with the priest and with Allie and Poppy before moving to the cake.
Minerva couldn’t help but smile with delight at the cake. Behind her Allie squealed as well. The house elves had placed models of a bride and groom on top of the confection then charmed them to look exactly like Albus and Minerva. The models alternated between kissing passionately and staring longingly into each other’s eyes. “How sappy,” Minerva muttered but everyone could tell that she was touched by the thoughtfulness of the bakers.
“Shall we cut the cake, my dear?” Albus picked up the knife and held his hand out to Minerva. She laid her hand over his and placed the blade.
“If you wouldn’t mind?” Albus asked the characters on the cake. Miniature Albus lifted his lips from miniature Minerva’s and gave big Albus an evil glare before escorting his lady to the opposite side of the cake and pulling her back into an embrace.
The blade slid easily through the moist cake and Minerva pulled out a thick slice then halved it. They each picked up a small piece, Minerva making sure that she got the one with more icing, and offered them to the other while Armando snapped away with the camera.
Minerva couldn’t resist… the temptation was just too much. When Albus bent to bite the cake his long crooked nose came just a little too close to the icing. Just a tiny lift of her hand left the sticky confection coating the end of Albus’ nose. She held her breath waiting for his response.
Albus smiled; as he looked cross-eyed at the icing hanging from the end of his nose then laughed and removed it with one long finger. He then offered the digit to Minerva. She pulled his finger into her mouth and cleaned it, the rough surface of her tongue cleaning every drop of sweet from it. Albus felt Minerva’s breath catch as he slowly slid the finger in and out of her mouth. He carefully took the cake she offered into his mouth then sucked her fingertips into his mouth to clean them as well.
“And now the champagne!” Armando prompted as he took yet another photo.
Albus smiled widely as he reached for the bottle but his gaze remained on his wife, his eyes holding a promise…
Minerva was once again in front of the bathroom mirror, her brush sliding through her long black hair as she stared at the contents of the flat box on the counter. Heat suffused her cheeks as she contemplated Poppy’s wedding gift. ‘How could she…’ was followed by ‘how could I…’ and the more Minerva looked the redder her cheeks grew.
The nightgown was tinted purple but the coloring did nothing to hide the sheerness of the fabric. Minerva’s only hope of adequate coverage was the plethora of tiny gold stars that had been embroidered randomly across the bodice of the garment. Finally, knowing that Albus was waiting, she laid down the brush, dropped the robes that she had on along with her undergarments then slipped the gown over her head.
The silky fabric clung to the curves of Minerva’s body as if it had been designed especially for her. She checked her reflection in the mirror and blushed. Tiny straps over her shoulders held the top in place but the neckline plunged deep. Both the top swell and cleavage of Minerva’s full bosom was revealed, the material barely rising high enough to cover her nipples, although the strategic placement of several stars helped to disguise them. A gold cord wrapped around her chest just beneath her breasts, accenting their abundance. Below the belt the skirt clung to her waist and hips before falling in a graceful drape to her feet.
Minerva couldn’t believe how the gown accented her body’s natural ripeness. She turned sideways, her hand lying on her abdomen, to survey her silhouette. She was looking for any imperfection but none was there. The physical labour that she’d been doing since Allie’s birth coupled with breast-feeding had helped burn away all of her excess weight.
A tiny pair of matching knickers came out of the box next. Minerva’s cheeks grew hot once again as she tugged the undergarment on and pulled it up. It wasn’t much in the way of coverage but at least it was better than nothing.
The robe was solid silk; Minerva was pleased to note. She tugged it on with a sigh of relief then swore when she realized the edges didn’t meet. ‘I am so going to hex you, Poppy Pomfrey!’ Minerva vowed silently as her hands traveled down the inner edges. The robe was cut on angles, she discovered. The fabric actually lapped at the waist, a matching sash provided to hold the borders together. But above and below the waist the garment angled back sharply. The bottom ended up eighteen inches apart, Minerva’s legs slowly revealed from hip to ankle beneath the see through gown. The top of the robe was made so that the edges curved up and around the outside of Minerva’s breasts, adding yet another accent to her chest.
‘I can’t wear this!’ Minerva’s courage deserted her and she reached for her other robes, only to find them gone. Further searching of the gift box revealed a note from Poppy.
I knew you’d chicken out so I made sure that you couldn’t!
“I’m going to make it through my fight with Luc just so I can pay you back!” Minerva muttered, irritated both at Poppy’s gift choice and that she had known Minerva’s reaction so well. “Well… I’ll show you!”
Albus knew that Minerva was hiding in the bathroom and he had a good idea of what the gift box that Poppy had given Minerva had contained but he had to admit he was getting a bit antsy. Their carefully planned dinner was getting cold, after all.
He had just decided to go check on Minerva when the bedroom door flew open and she walked confidently into the room.
Confidence quickly faded and a touch of embarrassment set in as Albus stared at Minerva, stunned at the sight. It wasn’t just the clothes, although Albus would be the first to admit that they enhanced Minerva’s assets marvelously. Minerva seemed confident… determined even… With sudden insight, Albus realized that he was in for an amazing night. But Minerva wouldn’t be disappointed either… of that he was sure.
“You look lovely, Willow.” Albus offered gently. He held out his hand to his wife.
Minerva raised one hand to his, the fingers of the other hand playing nervously with the ends of her sash.
“I don’t know why I’m so nervous. It isn’t like this is the first time we’ve… well… been close.”
Albus pulled Minerva close and lifted a hand to cup her cheek. “It is the very first time that I will make love to my wife and I intend on making it a night to remember.” He bent slightly and brushed his lips across Minerva’s. “First of all, why don’t we have some dinner?”
moved toward a set of doors that Minerva hadn’t noticed before, pulling her
along behind him. When they arrived, he
pushed them open to reveal a small balcony overlooking the
“I think Ditzy worked as hard on our dinner as he did on the wedding cake.” Albus made conversation as he held Minerva’s chair for her.
“Or on the figurines at least. They were getting quite friendly when I put them away.” Minerva said then blushed again. “You’ve gone to so much trouble, Albus. It wasn’t necessary.”
“I think it was,” Albus popped the cork from the champagne. “This is our wedding night. I want for us to remember this night for the rest of our lives.” Once the glasses were filled Albus picked his up and held it out to Minerva. “To us.”
“To us.” Minerva clinked her glass against his then they drank.
The meal started with thin slices of avocado lightly covered in a balsamic vinegar and pepper sauce. Conversation was a bit stilted at first but Albus began asking questions about Allie’s first few months and they easily slipped into their old patterns of talking about anything and everything.
Minerva couldn’t help but raise her eyebrows when the first course was followed by a tiny plate with four steamed oysters on it. Albus shrugged. “I left the menu completely up to Ditzy.” Minerva obviously didn’t believe him but she gamely swallowed two of the delicacies.
The main meal consisted of perfectly cooked beef tenderloin accompanied by steamed asparagus and carrots. Once again Minerva eyed Albus with disbelief.
“I swear!” Albus told her over the rim of his champagne flute.
“So it is just coincidence that every food we’ve been served has aphrodisiac properties?”
“I guess Ditzy just wanted to help us out a little… not that we need it, hmm?” Albus pulled his foot free of its slipper then stretched his toes out to rub along Minerva’s calf.
Minerva blinked her eyes and swallowed hard as heat built where Albus touched her. She lifted a spear of asparagus to her mouth, her tongue darting out to catch the drop of butter that clung to the tip by a slender thread. Albus managed to suppress the threatening groan that rose in his throat at Minerva’s action but not the surge in his nether regions as the picture altered slightly in his mind. He dug into the rare beef on his plate with gusto.
After the main course Albus stood and held out his hand to Minerva. “Dance with me, wife.” He coaxed.
Minerva rose as well, conscious of both the reaction of her body to the cool air and to her husband’s touch. Albus pulled her close as soft music filled the air from some unknown source. The dance that they performed couldn’t really be called a waltz. No name could be attached to the movements but they felt right to Albus and Minerva as they swayed together. Neither one of them made any overtly sexual moves but simply being so close to each other enflamed their senses.
The touching of their cheeks led to the tasting of lips and then to the riotous joining of tongues. Hands broke their hold to wrap around each other and then to roam over backs and hips.
In a move her feline counterpart would be proud of, Minerva hissed when Albus broke his hold and stepped away from her.
Minerva moved toward her chair but Albus didn’t release her hand. He whispered a quick spell and his chair stretched and fluffed up into a just large enough for two sofa. Albus sat down in the middle of the chair and pulled Minerva into his lap.
Ditzy popped unto the balcony and wheeled a teacart to the side of the sofa, moved the champagne glasses over then disappeared without the couple noticing him. Albus reached out and removed the cover from the dish; his eyes still locked with Minerva’s. He picked up a plump raspberry and brought it to Minerva’s lips.
Instead of taking the entire berry into her mouth Minerva bit into it. Sweet red juice seeped down Albus’ fingertips as Minerva pulled the berry in and chewed it slowly. When she swallowed Albus swallowed. His hand hadn’t moved so Minerva ran her tongue over the pads, slowly cleaning the sticky syrup away. Finally she sucked his index finger into her mouth.
“Behave,” Albus commanded softly but his voice held little conviction. Minerva could feel his body’s response pressing insistently into her bottom. She leaned toward the cart, making sure that Albus received a clear view of her cleavage as she did so. The strawberry that she plucked out of the bowl was dragged through the accompanying bowl of icing sugar before being offered to Albus. Once he had taken the berry she offered him the glass of champagne that she had picked up with her other hand. He sipped, his eyes growing wide at the explosion of flavours in his mouth.
“I thought you might like that,” Minerva told him.
“The second sweetest thing that I will taste tonight.”
Albus ignored Minerva’s blush and reached into the bowl again. His fingers found the fruit he was searching for and he pulled the plump ripe fig out to show to Minerva. She opened her mouth to take the fruit but Albus shook his head and smiled. While Minerva watched he carefully pulled the fig apart, his fingers taking special care not to bruise the delicate flesh. He tilted the fruit so that she could see the shape of the middle then ran his tongue deliberately over the center, the tip caressing the tender fig.
The dampness that had been growing between Minerva’s legs became a flood.
Minerva grabbed Albus’ face between her palms and attacked his mouth, her lips ravaging his as her tongue demanded entrance. Albus gladly opened for her and the sweet syrup bathed both of their mouths as their tongues laved each other.
“Albus,” Minerva gasped as the kiss broke. “Please make love to me.”
“I intend to, my love… but not just yet.” Albus flicked the loose strands of her hair over her shoulder and ran his tongue along the line of her neck.
“Bastard!” Minerva leaned her head back to afford Albus better access.
“The vows were finalized before my feet cleared the womb.”
Minerva couldn’t help it… she began to chuckle… and soon that chuckle grew into a laugh. She couldn’t believe how comfortable she felt with Albus. Even though she had once loved Daniel Gordon with all of her heart, her previous husband would never have attempted to make her laugh during foreplay. While her first husband had been a good lover he had never taken the time to simply look at her and touch her that Albus had done during their previous encounter and the one she was experiencing now.
“You’re being cruel.” Minerva told her husband as his nimble fingers deftly untied the bow of her sash and slipped the robe from her shoulders.
“This ensemble is cruel, my love. Your friend Miss Pomfrey has a wicked fashion sense. You know… while you were feeding Allie, she whispered something to me…”
“I hope you told her to find her own wizard…” Minerva panted as Albus dragged his lips over her bare collarbone following the line of a very thin scar.
“Very funny. I’m hopelessly monogamous, my dear.” Albus blew a puff of warm air over the hint of rose peeking above the neckline of Minerva’s gown. “Miss Pomfrey told me to make sure I tasted the stars.”
“Tasted the… That doesn’t make sense… Albus… what are you… oh…” Minerva bit down on her lip to keep from screaming out when Albus’ tongue touched the small star resting on top of her right nipple.
“Mmm… lemon!” Albus’ eyes twinkled as he glanced up at Minerva for a moment before returning to the task at hand.
“Ooooh… Albus…” Minerva’s view shifted as Albus pushed her onto her back on the arm of the loveseat so that he could more easily access the sprinkling of stars across the front of her nightgown. “I don’t know whether to kill Poppy… or thank her…”
“Thank her…” Albus found a particularly tasty star just below Minerva’s left breast. “Definitely thank her!”
By the time that Albus finally succeeded in cleaning every point of every star off of the gown’s bodice Minerva was almost out of her mind with desire. Her fingernails bit into his shoulders as she clung to him trying to draw him impossibly closer. Minerva’s breathing was coming in rapid pants and her eyes were shut tightly as she instinctively arched and rubbed against him.
“That’s it, my beautiful wife,” Albus murmured against
Minerva’s cheek as his lips traveled toward hers. “Spend for me.” He pressed his fingers into the fabric
covering the plump mound of her sex.
Minerva did as her husband commanded, his light touch the catalyst needed to push her off the precipice. Her body clenched and her breath caught… and then she was flying; overwhelming pleasure rocking her body and she screamed her husband’s name into his lips as they locked on to hers.
When reason returned, Minerva opened her eyes to a canopy of black velvet accented by twinkling stars. She quickly realized that she was still lying on the chair staring up at the night sky but Albus wasn’t there. She bolted upright to find Albus standing at the foot of opposite end of the chair watching her intently as he untied the knot of his robe and let it slide to the balcony floor.
“Just waiting for you to recuperate, my dear.” He told her softly as he knelt in front of the sofa clad only in a pair of green and purple striped silk boxers. Albus held out a hand to Minerva and smiled.
After staring at her new husband for just a moment longer, Minerva took his offered hand and turned in the cushion, lowering her legs and sliding one in front of Albus so that he ended up kneeling between them. She raised his hand to her lips and softly kissed the palm.
Albus shook his head although he was smiling as he did so. He swept his lengthy beard back over one shoulder then reached out both arms and pulled Minerva into them. “We have all night.”
“But…” Albus cut off Minerva’s words with a gentle kiss. She responded in kind. The newlyweds continued to kiss gently for long minutes, Albus resisting every attempt Minerva made to heat up the embrace.
His resolve nearly broke when he felt a slender but strong thigh slide across the side of his waist, purple fabric sliding back as the shapely calf of that leg rubbed across his bottom. Albus could feel the dampness of Minerva’s tiny knickers as she pressed her center against his lower abdomen. He opened his mouth to her probing tongue and allowed the kiss to deepen.
Minerva was so enthralled with the intensity of the kiss that she didn’t realize Albus was sliding the tiny straps of her gown down her arms until he pulled her arms away to free them completely. Cold air rushed over her heated torso causing her already peaked nipples to tighten into almost painful buds.
The heat of Albus’ body quickly warmed her as he pressed his naked chest against hers once again. Minerva’s arms stole around his neck as she kissed him hungrily. Her legs wrapped around his waist and hips, locking them intimately together as she rubbed sensuously against him. The juices from her core coated the front of his boxers.
But the heat of Albus’ body couldn’t protect them completely from the rapidly cooling air and before long his sensitive fingers found telltale goose bumps on Minerva’s otherwise smooth skin. He tried to pull back but Minerva’s arms and legs were still holding him tightly.
“You’re cold…” He told her.
“Then warm me…” she replied, her eyes flush with desire.
Albus slid his arms around Minerva’s bottom and grasped her tightly as he rocked to his feet then stood, carrying her with him. He moved quickly across the balcony and into the shelter of his rooms, sharing breathless kisses with his wife all the way.
Minerva was barely aware of the movement until she felt Albus tug at her legs. She protested throatily into his mouth but then realized that he was trying to remove her nightgown completely and twisted her hips obligingly. Albus lifted her free of the fabric and lay her back against the mattress before he broke the kiss.
“Dammit, Albus!” She swore as he slid away from her.
“Just a few more stars,
Minerva gasped loudly when she felt a puff of warm air penetrate the miniscule fabric wrapped around her hips seconds before Albus’ strong tongue attacked the flavoured stars there. “Albus…” she pleaded, her fingers catching in his hair. He lifted his head to meet her gaze. “You haven’t… I want you…”
“But… but… oh… oooooh…”
Since her body was already on fire and her capacity to speak fading, Minerva did as her husband bid and fell back into the mattress while he continued to taste the lemon flavoured stars on her knickers… stars already heavily inundated with her own essence.
Then she realized that her hips were being lifted, the tiny scrap of material dragged down her legs and disposed of over Albus’ shoulder as he bent back toward her. She opened her knees further to welcome him.
“I love the way you taste, my sweet
“Then taste me!” Minerva ordered, her hips arching away from the bed as his face moved closer.
“Here?” Albus asked and lightly brushed his lips over her pulsing center.
Minerva gasped, her fingers tightening in his long hair as her hips pulsed up.
Albus obliged by circling her engorged clitoris with his tongue. But even after only one previous encounter Albus had learned to read Minerva well and, knowing that she was close to peaking once again, he slid his lips over and down the outside of her fleshy nether lips to nibble at her inner thigh.
“Dammit, Albus!” Minerva swore in frustration.
“What do you want, Minerva?” Albus asked without raising his head.
“You know what I… bloody…” Minerva had to bit down on her lips to keep from swearing when Albus once again slid the lips that had been traveling steadily upward back down her other thigh.
“I want you to feel special,
“I do, Albus… I swear… I’ve never felt so…” Minerva’s words ended in a moan when Albus long nose brushed over her sensitized flesh.
“So what, my love? You’ve never felt so…?”
“Loved…” Minerva gasped out. “Desired.”
With a cry of triumph Albus plunged his lips into her center and sucked her tight bud inside the warm cavern of his mouth. At the same time, two long fingers slid easily between her folds and down the slope of her wet sheath.
“Oh, God… my
Stopping was the farthest thing from Albus’ mind. His tongue laved her clit, moving in perfect time with the fingers thrusting in and out of her body. “Never,” he promised around her sweet flesh.
Minerva’s fingers found Albus’ shoulders through the thick mane of his hair and gripped them tightly as her body bowed and let down its juices. She screamed her husband’s name as blissful oblivion gripped her once again.
Albus brought Minerva slowly back to earth, his tongue now tenderly laving her sensitive flesh while his hands soothed her damp body. Her hands fell from his shoulders to rest on the mattress as she fought to regain her breath.
When Minerva’s body was finally still, Albus rose and crawled up the mattress until their bodies were even then dropped to his side. He gently ran his index finger down her cheek. “Better?”
“Mmm…” Minerva practically purred as she snuggled into his side. Her fingers instinctively sought and found the turgid length of his desire that pressed into her mons.
The feel of Minerva’s hand grasping him, stroking him gently was more than Albus could handle. He grabbed her wrist and yanked it away while at the same time rolling them both. Albus loomed over her, his strong hands holding her hips as he surged forward and entered her with a single thrust. Albus swallowed Minerva’s gasp as he pressed her body back against the mattress with his, his mouth joining with hers almost savagely.
Minerva had found her release twice and expected nothing more than to help her husband to his so the sharp stab of desire that shot through her when Albus kissed her, when she tasted her own essence on his lips, astonished her. But her surprise was soon forgotten as Albus thrust heavily against her, over and over, building her passion to a fevered pitch once more. Her arms and legs rose to wrap around him. The light cover of gray and auburn curls on his chest teased her pointed nipples. His tongue danced with hers, imitating the movements of their bodies. And his hands… what hands her husband had. His long fingers stroked and teased her body, finding heretofore-unknown sensitive spots that drove her to the point of madness.
Albus shifted suddenly, levering himself up then lifting Minerva’s hips so that he could drive harder in and out of her. Minerva felt her lungs expel her breath.
“No!” She gasped. “Together…” but it was too late. Albus had pushed her to climax yet again.
When the earth stopped spinning, Minerva immediately became aware that Albus was still nestled within her body, his erection solid as iron. His eyes were squeezed shut and his brow furrowed in concentration.
“Albus?” Her palms tightened over his taut butt cheeks, one finger slipping between his legs to brush across his swollen sacs…
“Don’t!” He bit out, never opening his eyes. “Don’t touch me… just give me a minute…”
“I don’t understand.” Minerva’s voice revealed her confusion.
“Not yet… not until you… I’ll be back in control in a few moments…”
“Like hell…” Minerva was touched at Albus’ obvious concern for her pleasure but she wanted to reciprocate. Didn’t he understand that their wedding night should be about both of them? ‘If he doesn’t,’ she decided, ‘he’s going to.’
Seconds later Albus was flat on his back with Minerva sitting astride him; her body still impaled on his. He’d never realized how very strong she was until he tried to raise his torso and her strong hands kept him pinned to the mattress. Before he could exert himself further she was moving, her inner muscles gripping him tightly as she rode him hard.
Unable to hold back any longer, Albus gave in to the overwhelming demands of his body and dove headfirst into the waves of pleasure washing through him. His sacs tightened and released their life giving fluid up and into Minerva’s womb… and still she moved… Only when Albus had given her everything that he had to give did she cease rocking and collapse on top of him.
“You look like hell, old man,” the bathroom mirror told Albus as the wizard stared at the vial of energy potion that Poppy had provided him with. “But then there is that extra twinkle in your eye…”
Albus grinned at his reflection as he sat the vial on the counter and took a swallow of water instead. “Thank goodness I’m the only one who can hear you, you obnoxious hunk of silicone. Minerva would hex me into next week if she knew some of the things you say about her.”
The reflection laughed. “We are a very lucky man, Albus Dumbledore. That is one gorgeous witch… feisty… but in an arousing sort of way.”
“And I’ll thank you not to speak of ‘my’ wife that way.” Albus cautioned the mirror. “I didn’t marry her so that she could be an object of your lust. Too many more comments like that and I’ll have you moved to the dungeon.”
No further comments were forthcoming so Albus replaced his glass on the countertop and moved back into the bedroom, still contemplating whether or not he should take a dose of the vile concoction or let Minerva finally sleep. He paused just inside the doorway to stare at his lover… at his wife. The sight of her caused an ache to immediately swell in both his heart and his lower regions… who needed a potion anyway…
Minerva was sprawled naked in the center of the bed, arms and legs flung askew, sated and too exhausted to move. After hours of love making with very little rest in between she wanted nothing more than to sleep… or so she thought.
A somewhat callused palm touched the back of her thigh and traveled slowly up her body. Unbelievably she felt her exhaustion melt away.
“You should be careful,” she murmured without opening her eyes. “My husband might come home.”
That same hand came down with a light smack across her bottom cheeks, causing her to laugh. But her mirth quickly faded to be replaced by a much more overpowering emotion when she felt the mattress dip and two strong hands pull her hips back over her knees.
“Again?” She asked, half in disbelief, half in anticipation.
“Again.” Albus confirmed as his fingers dipped between her legs, pleased beyond words to find that she was already wet and ready for him. “I can’t seem to get enough of you… I’ll never get enough of you!” His free hand traced up her stomach to cup a heavy breast. “Never!”
Bending over and placing his lips on the point of her shoulder blade, Albus thrust deep into her moist sheath, filling her in a different but equally exciting way. Minerva cried out as the head of his erection slid over that special spot deep within. The last vestiges of her tiredness faded away and she thrust back, taking her husband in completely.
Albus worked frantically to bring Minerva’s desire to match his, one hand playing over her breasts while the fingers of the other teased and caressed her outer center… but he knew he wouldn’t last long. Minerva had previously shattered his hard won control and he couldn’t seem to find it again. Being her husband… being free to touch her, to kiss her, to do all the things that he had dreamed of doing to her for years… and knowing that she wanted him to do them… was his downfall.
Minerva clenched her inner muscles tightly around Albus. He gripped her hips just as tightly. She rose on her knees until his helmet was just barely trapped within her folds, paused there for just a moment, then slammed her hips back against his. Albus cried out her name as his senses completely overwhelmed him. Minerva answered in kind as she joined him, every muscle in her body giving out as she fell to the mattress, Albus quickly following.
They clung to each other, both trembling, as the aftershocks of their simultaneous release continued to roll through them in waves. Albus gathered Minerva close and smoothed her rumpled hair, his lips lightly nuzzling her damp skin as she drifted off to sleep in his arms.
“Oh… bloody… hell…” Minerva swore as her eyes fluttered open to let in bright sunlight. She pulled one arm back to push her torso up and swore again as her muscles protested vehemently. She tried to stretch the kinks out, much as her animagus form did, but any movement hurt.
Minerva yelped at the voice, turning sharply toward it, and then yelped again as tiny pinpricks of pain attacked her body. “Poppy! What the hell are you doing in my bedroom?”
“Trying to convince your daughter to scream loud enough to wake you up!” Poppy replied cheekily as she juggled Allie in her arms. “We ran out of bottles hours ago!”
“Hours…” Minerva jerked upright, one hand clawing at the light sheet covering her naked body to hold it in place. “What time is it?” Her deep green eyes filled with worry.
“In just a bit you’ll hear the clock strike nine. We would have let you sleep longer but…” Poppy lifted Allie higher in her arms; the baby’s mouth was working overtime on the fist she had shoved into it.
“Albus… where’s Albus?” Minerva’s eyes searched the room frantically as she tugged the sheet loose, wrapped it around her body then climbed out of the bed.
“Your husband left several hours ago. I don’t think he really wanted to leave you but… if it’s any consolation he was moving as slowly as you are. I’m sure that you must be more than ready to feed Allie…”
Minerva ignored the child that Poppy was holding out to her and ran toward the wardrobe. “Dammit, Poppy! I’ve missed the bastard at the house. I’ll have to try and cut him off before he reaches the ministry.” She grabbed a set of robes out of the closet. “You’ll have to cover for me with Albus… tell him I’ve gone to the kitchens or… just tell him anything to…”
The first strike of the bell from the clock tower dampened Minerva’s words. She turned back to Poppy with eyes full of fury. “Nine… the trial is beginning… No, dammit! I won’t lose my children!” The sheet fell to the floor as Minerva began yanking on her clothes.
“I can be there in five minutes… ten at the most. Maybe they haven’t started on time. Even if they do I should still be able to get into the hearing…”
“If I can get to the children before… speak to them for just a few moments…”
“WHAT?!?!” Poppy’s voice finally penetrated Minerva’s focused mind.
“Allie has to be fed.”
Minerva dropped her outer robe to the floor as she stood, staring at her infant daughter. Allie was obviously hungry, grunting at her mother around her mouthful of fist. Suddenly Minerva knew that her breasts were in dangerous need of emptying as well.
“I… the trial, Poppy… what do I do?” She asked helplessly.
“Feed Allie. She’s hungry and she needs her mummy.”
Allie chose that moment to pull her fist free and wave it at her mother. She whimpered pitifully, almost as if she was in league with her Aunt Poppy.
Minerva slumped helplessly then moved to the comfortable rocker Albus had installed in the room and sank into it. She undid the clasp of her gown and freed a swollen breast then took Allie from Poppy. The baby grabbed on immediately.
“Aaaaaah,” Minerva bit down on her lip while sucking air in.
“A little tender?”
“Shut up, Poppy.”
Poppy giggled merrily as Minerva scowled at her. “Oh, Min! There is nothing wrong with enjoying your wedding night. And if your husband was a little over exuberant then so much the better for you.”
“The events of my wedding night are none of your damned bus… how did you know Albus was so energetic?” Minerva’s shoulders straightened.
Poppy twittered again as she bent down to pick up the robe Minerva had dropped. “I just guessed. It isn’t a stretch you know. The two of you haven’t been together for over a year and the way you are moving this morning proves that your muscles received quite a workout.” She moved to the wardrobe and opened the door. “Besides, I can see the satisfaction in your eyes and the whisker burns on your… face.”
Every answer that Poppy gave was valid but Minerva didn’t believe her best friend for a minute. “Poppy!” She barked out in a tone that brooked no argument.
“So I gave him a little pepper up potion. I’m sure you weren’t complaining last night.”
“But… Albus didn’t think he could…” Minerva’s face fell. “I thought he wanted me…”
Poppy rolled her eyes. “Don’t be daft, Minerva. Of course Albus wanted you. And he probably wouldn’t have needed anything if he hadn’t been determined to exhaust you so you would oversleep… you evil cat!”
“I knew it!” Minerva exclaimed triumphantly, having succeeded in getting the information she wanted from Poppy.
“And it worked, didn’t it?” This time Poppy’s smile was pure evil. “With you having a hell of a good time in the process.”
Minerva was furious with Albus but almost as quickly as her ire rose she realized that she didn’t know why her husband had behaved in such a deceitful manner. “Where is Albus, Poppy?”
“Trust your husband, Min… he loves you so. There is nothing that Albus Dumbledore wouldn’t do for you… or your children.”
“He’s gone to confront Luc. I have to go after him… stop him… Luc will have men watching, Poppy. They’ll kill Albus.” Minerva pulled Allie away from her breast as she attempted to stand. The baby immediately started howling.
“Professor Dumbledore is aware of this. Don’t you think that he knows what a snake Luc Gordon is? He’s going to stop that bastard from taking your kids, Min. Now trust your husband, settle down and feed Allie.”
Minerva did as Poppy told her, flipping Allie in her arms before offering her a new breast, but she didn’t look happy. “I can’t just sit here and wait, Poppy. I have to know… I need to be there.”
“I know… so did your husband. He left something for you.” Poppy pulled a package out of the bottom of the cabinet beneath Albus’ robes. “I’ll stay here with Allie… but feed her first!”
An hour earlier…
Albus left the office of the Minister of Magic after checking both ends of the corridor for other people. The hallway was empty for the moment so he quickly muttered the incantation that would make him invisible to the naked eye and started toward the stairs which would take him to the courtroom. Along the way he carefully checked on each of the visitors in the Ministry building that he had identified as Luc’s henchmen.
As Albus moved he thought about the most appealing picture that his wife had made when he left their bed this morning… his wife… Albus couldn’t help the large smile that came to his lips at that thought. He knew that he would catch hell from Minerva when she realized that he’d intentionally loved her past the point of exhaustion in hopes that she would oversleep this morning. If he hadn’t been so worried that she wouldn’t give in to weariness again he would have woken her before he left and loved her again.
‘Time for that later, old man,’ his subconscious whispered, ‘once you take care of the danger to your family.’
Being invisible was a wonderful thing, Albus reflected. He moved easily through the throng of people, none of them having any idea that he was there. Finally only one guard stood between him and the entrance to the courtroom, but this was the guard who worried him the most. Albus didn’t doubt that he could get past the man unnoticed as he was hidden among the movement of the ministry employees. But when Minerva came through (for Albus had no doubt at all that she would be following him) the corridors would be much quieter, most of the workers having settled at their desks.
The fellow seemed innocuous enough at first glance. He was propped against the wall reading the current copy of The Daily Prophet. His eyes seldom strayed from the print but Albus could tell that the watcher was intensely alert. A twitch of his eye and a sharp jerk of his pupils when Albus passed a hand in front of Luc’s man were enough for Albus to quickly back away.
Albus was still pondering what to do when he heard a familiar voice and turned to see Luc approaching, two friends/bodyguards close behind. To the average onlooker no interaction at all took place between the group going through the arch and the fellow pausing in his reading to take a sip of coffee, but Albus caught the subtle arching of eyebrows and shaking of heads.
The coffee cup gave Albus an idea. He rummaged quietly in one deep pocket of his robes until he came up with a small blue vial. Moving to the watchman’s side and waiting until his attention was distracted, he dumped the contents of the vial into the cup.
‘Give that about twenty minutes and I know where you’ll be,’ Albus thought. ‘Hope you didn’t have curry for dinner.’
The courtroom was almost empty when Albus followed Luc and his cronies in but with less than half an hour before the hearing was to start he knew that it would soon begin to fill up. When Luc stopped halfway down the aisle and motioned his men in closer Albus moved in as well.
“The men know what to do, right? If Minerva dares show her face anywhere near here they are to capture her and take her back to the house. Make sure they disable her, though. My dear sister-in-law is quite talented with her wand.”
“What about the old man?” The uglier of the two men asked.
“Dumbledore hasn’t been seen around Hogwarts or Hogsmeade in days. I think he took the bait my nephew gave him and went off to the continent hunting ‘his dear friend’s trampy widow’… probably wants a go at her himself, the dirty old pervert… but just in case, I don’t want him making it into this room either. I don’t care what they have to do.”
As the younger man left to reinforce Luc’s orders to the carefully stationed guards the ugly man asked, “Is she really worth all this trouble, Luc? I mean… she’s just a dame. You’ve got dames by the dozen climbing all over you.”
Luc smiled… a smile that Albus found himself wanted desperately to wipe off the other man’s face. “Minerva McGonagall has always looked down her self-righteous moralistic nose at me. She needs to be taught that she’s no better than any other female… and I’m the man to do it. My dear departed brother was too soft on her… but I won’t make that mistake.” Luc took a deep breath; his face flushed red with emotion. “Once she’s been chained to my bed a few days she’ll be begging me to let her...”
The other fellow looked skeptical.
“She’ll never deny me again… never look down on me… she’ll know I’m twice the man that damned Dumbledore is… ten times the man my milksop brother ever thought of being…” Luc caught sight of the unsure look in his bodyguard’s eyes and quickly changed his tactics. “And then there is the money of course… her grandmother left her wealth beyond words. Once I get control of the brats and have Min locked up out of sight with everyone thinking she’s out whoring around on the continent… I’m bound to get legal control of the loot. Then those bloody goblins will have to let me in…”
“We could find uses for the boy…”
“He’ll be put to work soon enough… and little Fee too… give her a few more years and she may rival her mother in looks. Perhaps I’ll keep her for myself a while before I start selling her favours.”
“But… she’s your niece… your blood…”
Luc shrugged. “So Minerva says… I can’t imagine that Danny Boy kept her so satisfied in bed that she didn’t stray… The way that damned Dumbledore was always sniffing around her… I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t fucking her behind Dimwit Danny’s back… Hell, Danny was probably pimping her out himself…”
Only the arrival of the children at that very movement saved Luc from having Albus rip his tongue out then feed it back to him.
“Uncle Luc,” Ian called out brightly as he raced down the aisle toward the men. Albus quickly moved back, but not so far that he couldn’t hear what was being said. Fiona, he noted, didn’t seem quite so enthusiastic about being there. She stayed close to Headmaster Dippet as he escorted her in and barely spoke as she passed her uncle and brother.
“Fee’s just a little upset this morning, Uncle Luc. She doesn’t understand that this is best for us. She still thinks that tramp cares for us and will come back.”
“She is still your mother, Ian. She just couldn’t cope with your father’s death… she went a little crazy… she deserves our pity… not our hatred.” Luc told his nephew with a saintly air.
‘Why you smarmy little git!’ Albus subconscious screamed at Luc as he watched uncle and nephew move toward the front of the courtroom. Albus was so mad that his body was trembling but he struggled to channel his anger into the argument he would need for the coming confrontation… the most important confrontation of his life.
As people began to file into the room, Albus moved down front and took a seat in a chair immediately behind the table where the wizard representing the state sat. Armando Dippet sat with Fiona in the same spot behind the table where Luc and his representatives were gathering. Ian was still chattering excitedly to his uncle.
All too soon the committee of judges chosen to hear the case filed into the room and took their seats on the raised dais facing the tables. The committee chairman called the meeting to order.
Luc’s spokesman stood and laid down the ‘facts’ of Luc’s case… almost every one of them lies. Albus struggled to hold his temper, wanting for all of the facts to be placed on the table before he made his appearance.
The panel listened thoughtfully and then questioned the children. Ian was quick to sing his uncle’s praises but Fee less so. She simply answered any question put to her with the shortest answer possible. Albus knew his goddaughter well and could tell that she didn’t want to go with Luc but was hesitant to upset her brother.
Finally Luc stood to present his own case. He told the court of the close relationship he’d always had with his dear departed brother, Daniel. Albus sat and watched with amazement as Luc used his voice and body language to weave a heartwarming story of the wonderful family life that they had all shared. The only problem was that it was an out and out fairy tale. Albus knew full well that Daniel Gordon had never trusted his brother. Distrust had turned into out right loathing when Daniel had returned home to his young bride one night only to find Luc terrorizing Minerva. Albus had helped his friend strengthen the wards around the Gordon cottage after that incident.
‘Oh, he’s good.’ Albus thought as Luc moved on to his ‘dear sister-in-law’s scandalous conduct’ over the last year. Several of the women on the panel could be seen wiping tears away when Luc talked about how abandoned Ian and Fiona felt and how he was trying to help them feel loved and wanted. Albus could see the scandalized looks in the female members eyes when Luc revealed that Minerva Gordon had given birth to a baby almost a full year after her husband’s death, leaving no doubt as to the child’s questionable parentage.
“… And so, esteemed members of the panel, I hope that you see how hard the events of the last year have been on my poor niece and nephew. Their mother has chosen to abandon them for her lover and their bastard child. As their only living relative who cares anymore I just want to provide them with peace and stability. By granting me guardianship of the children and the possessions their mother left behind I can assure that they continue to grow up happy and healthy so that they can both be assets to the wizarding community.” Luc paused, turned back to beam at the children, and then resumed his seat with a smile on his face.
“Thank you for your thoughtful words, Mr. Gordon,” the chairman of the judiciary panel responded. “We shall certainly take them into consideration during our deliberations. Now if there is no one else to speak in this case I think we should retire…”
Recognizing that the time had come, Albus stood and removed the shield of invisibility from around his body. “I should like to speak.” He stated in a booming voice.
Everyone present in the room jumped. “Uncle Albus!” Fee’s sweet voice cut through the din to reach his ears and Albus was happy to note that she sounded pleased by his presence. Her uncle most certainly was not pleased.
Luc jumped to his feet and started toward Albus as he moved into the aisle. “You aren’t wanted here, Dumbledore!” He hissed. “Everything is done. I’ll look after my own.”
Albus continued past Luc as if he hadn’t heard him.
“We were just about to conclude the proceedings and retire to deliberate, Professor Dumbledore. While we welcome any information that might make our jobs easier I believe we have established a clear record of the abandonment of the minor children, Ian and Fiona Gordon.”
“If the panel could afford me a few moments of their time I’m sure I could add relevant information to these proceedings.” Albus offered in return. After a whispered conference the chairman agreed and invited Albus to present his case.
“If the court please, I would like to enter myself as an applicant for the guardianship of Ian and Fiona.”
“But you aren’t a blood relative, Professor,” the chairman said. “Why would you want to do this when their uncle is so obviously glad to assume the mantel of care?”
“I also share a special bond with Ian and Fee… a bond of my own choosing. I am godfather to both of them. We are bound as close as family. Perhaps it was because of this bond that Daniel Gordon named me as guardian of his children in his will.”
“That’s a lie!” Luc quickly interjected. “Daniel didn’t have the sense to leave a will!”
“On the contrary. Daniel Gordon stopped by Hogwarts to speak to me on his way to the legal advisor’s office. He told me his intentions, obtained my consent to be named executor of that will, and also revealed to me where he would be concealing his copy. When I returned home and learned what really happened I obtained the will and submitted it for probate. The Minister of Magic was kind enough to facilitate the matter and would be glad to testify to that fact if the panel would like.”
The chairman quickly demurred. “Professor, I assume that you brought a copy of this document with you?”
“Of course,” Albus politely moved toward the panel and handed a piece of parchment to the clerk. “I’m sure that you will find everything in order.”
The chairman quickly glanced through the legal document. “You are right, Professor Dumbledore. Everything is in perfect order. Since this document gives you legal right to the guardianship of the Gordon children, and you are exercising that right, this hearing is irrelevant. Mr. Gordon, if you wish to pursue the legal guardianship of your niece and nephew then you will have to file for a new hearing.”
“This is preposterous, your honor! Albus Dumbledore has no right to these children!” Luc’s façade was beginning to slip.
“Luc is absolutely right,” Albus surprised everyone in the room by interrupting Luc and agreeing with him. “No one has any right to these children as long as their mother is living.”
“But she deserted us!” Ian shouted out. “She didn’t want us.”
“Circumstances being what they were, your mother felt it was in your best interest to remove herself from you for a period of time to keep you safe. That period has past and she is very much looking forward to seeing you again.”
“And just where is this sainted mother of ours?” Albus didn’t care for the resemblance that Ian showed to his uncle at that moment.
“Your mother is at Hogwarts where she has been since she was forcibly removed from her home by your uncle several months ago.”
Albus saw a spark of hope in Fee’s eyes. “She’s been working there, living in the kitchens, in order to be close to both of you.”
“Your statement about Mrs. Gordon being forcibly removed from her home interests me, Professor,” the chairman interjected, “but first I would like to know why she felt it necessary to hide in the kitchens of Hogwarts?”
“I expect Mrs. Gordon can answer that question for you better than I but suffice it to say that she was afraid for her life and the lives of her children… including the baby that she was carrying at the time. However she is now under my protection. I should also add that Minerva Gordon is now Minerva Dumbledore… my wife.”
“That’s a lie!” Luc shouted, his face dark with anger. “You are just covering for the whore so that she can continue to hide her bastard child!”
Albus turned slowly to look at Luc, his face dark with ill-contained fury. “Understand this, Luc Gordon. Minerva is my wife. The child that she bore is my daughter. Her children are my stepchildren as well as my beloved godchildren. I will NOT tolerate any insult… any slander… any threat to any of them. They are all under my protection.”
Albus heard the gasps… the whispers from the gallery and from the panel… but his attention to Luc didn’t deviate. “Do not make the mistake of attacking any member of my family by word or by deed. You will regret it.”
Luc moved in closer. “Do you lust after her so much that you’re willing to give her bastard your name just to get her into your bed?” He hissed viciously. Albus heard Fee inhale sharply, having heard her uncle’s words.
“Do you lust after her so much that you call every woman that you take to your bed by her name?” Albus answered in a low tone that couldn’t be heard by anyone else.
Luc Gordon blanched.
The whispering had increased with Albus’ warning to Luc and it continued as the two men continued to face each other. The room was so entranced that no one noticed the back door open. Minerva slipped into the room and stood against the back wall clutching the invisibility cloak that Albus had left for her firmly around her. Her hand moved toward her wand.
The hair on the back of Albus’ neck began to prickle and he knew that Minerva had arrived. Breaking his gaze from Luc’s he glanced briefly toward the back of the room then turned back to the panel.
“Mr. Chairman.” When the committee didn’t quiet down Albus spoke a little louder. “Mr. Chairman!”
The man’s gaze snapped up. “Order!” He called out. “Professor Dumbledore still has the floor.” The buzzing came to a halt. “Please continue, Professor.”
“As I have stated, I believe that there is no need for this hearing. Custody of the children clearly belongs with their mother and with me. Charges have been filed this morning against Luc Gordon in regards to the theft of my wife’s property as well as other illegal acts but that is a hearing for another day. If the panel is in agreement I would like to take my family home. I would also ask that the panel grant a restraining spell against Luc Gordon which prohibits him from going anywhere near my wife and our three children.”
“This is preposterous, your honour!” Luc pounded the table in front of him to emphasize his words. “This man comes in here, makes a series of outrageous claims and offers absolutely no proof! He says that is my brother’s will but if it is genuine why didn’t his wife offer it for probate? As far as my brother’s home is concerned, I have a legal judgement allowing me to take control of it to safeguard it for his children. There is a great deal of money involved in their inheritance. Perhaps that is why Professor Dumbledore really wants custody of the children… perhaps he wants control of their money.”
“I don’t need the money… money that came to the marriage by right of Minerva, I might remind you.”
“But the money is in your control now, isn’t it? If… you really did marry my sister-in-law… you brought a copy of the will, where is a copy of your marriage license? Why didn’t you bring your new wife with you if she is so anxious to have her children back?” Luc sneered.
Minerva stepped away from the way, dropping the cloak as she did so. “Perhaps he did.” She said in a loud, clear voice as she walked confidently down the aisle toward the man smiling at her... her husband.
“Our daughter,” Albus punctuated the word ‘our’, “required her mother’s services this morning so arrangements were made for her to arrive ‘safely’ once the baby was settled.” He held out his arm and Minerva moved to his side. Out of the corner of his eye Albus saw Fee smile brilliantly. On the other hand Ian merely scowled, but Albus had seen surprise in the boy’s eyes at some of the things that had been revealed about his uncle.
“Mrs. Gor… pardon me, Mrs. Dumbledore,” the chairman of the panel addressed Minerva, “we are glad that you have made an appearance here today and I’m certain that the entire panel joins me in congratulating both of you on your recent marriage. I would like to ask some questions of you if you would agree.”
“Certainly,” Minerva answered graciously. She smiled at her children then turned to face the board.
“Is it true that you are now married to Professor Albus Dumbledore?”
“It is true. I brought the appropriate papers with me if you would care to examine them.”
The clerk took the papers from Minerva and passed them to the chairman who briefly read over them. Several of the members seated around him craned their necks attempting to read as well.
“Congratulations on your marriage, Professor and Mrs. Dumbledore,” the chairman finally nodded and passed the papers back. “Your… husband has also given us to understand that in spite of rumours circulating during his absence you have actually been employed at Hogwarts for the last several months?”
“I have. Headmaster Dippet sent a letter with me to that effect.” Once again Minerva delved into a pocket of her dark green robe and pulled out a piece of parchment. This too was briefly inspected.
“Is it your wish that the minor children, Ian Gordon and Fiona Gordon, remain in your custody?”
“Then we see no need to continue these proceedings. Their mother, Minerva Dumbledore, shall maintain the custody of the Gordon children…”
“NO!” Luc interjected again. “You can’t do that! What about her behaviour? What about her bastard child?"”
“Having a child without the benefit of wedlock, while certainly not encouraged, is not illegal by our laws, Mr. Gordon. Having disproven the charge of abandonment, nothing else about Mrs. Gor… Dumbledore’s behaviour has led us to believe that she is an unfit mother. Professor Dumbedore’s commitment to the children’s wellbeing is equally obvious. These proceedings are adjourned!”
“You can’t…” Luc continued to protest.
“The children remain with their mother, Gordon. There is nothing that you can do about it.” Albus interrupted as Minerva motioned for the children to join her.
Ian scuffed his foot against the floor as he took a single step. His reluctance was obvious. Fee, on the other hand, darted toward her mother happily. She had just passed her uncle when his arm snaked out, caught her around the waist and dragged her back against him.
“What!?” Fee exclaimed. She blinked her eyes and found her uncle’s wand pointing at her face. “Let me go, Uncle Luc!”
“Shut up!” Luc tightened his grip. He glanced around the room and found that at least twenty people had their wands pulled and aimed at him. “All it takes is one whispered spell… lower your wands!”
Albus watched Luc carefully, noting the crazed look in his eyes. He slowly lowered his wand to the table beside him and let go of it. “Minerva, put down your wand.”
He saw his wife clench her wand tighter.
“Willow…” Albus whispered. Minerva gasped in surprise when she heard his next words inside her head. “Trust me… don’t give him a reason to hurt Fee. Put down your wand.”
Finally trust in Albus triumphed over her own fear and Minerva did as he had asked.
“Luc… let Fee go.” Albus told him.
Luc shook his head. “You aren’t in control any more, Dumbledore. I am. Now my pretty little niece and I are going to leave this courtroom without being followed. If any of you attempt to pursue us I will kill her.”
Albus took a step forward. “Fee isn’t Minerva, Luc. Fee is your niece. She is your own flesh and blood.”
Luc laughed evilly. “She’s her mother’s daughter. She’s almost an identical copy… she’ll do.”
Albus knew what Luc meant and he hoped that Minerva didn’t. “Fee is only twelve, Luc. She’s still a child. If you let her go and promise never to bother us again I won’t hunt you down.” Albus Dumbledore, the kindly professor from Hogwarts was gone. In his place stood Albus Dumbledore, victor over Grindelwald and the greatest wizard of the age. “But if you don’t…” the implied threat was obvious.
Luc shook his head. “You can’t have them both, Dumbledore. This one is young enough to train… and while I like a bit of fight in my women… well… by the time I’m through she’ll understand what’s expected of her.”
Albus was almost sick at Luc’s implication. He started to speak again but Minerva stepped up.
“Do you really think that I would let you harm my daughter in any way?” Minerva’s voice was husky but calm. “There is absolutely no chance of you walking out of this room with her, not while I’m alive. Let her go.”
Luc blinked, almost as if he was seeing Minerva for the first time. “You can’t stop me. I will kill her if you try.”
“And what then, Luc? You kill me? You kill Ian? Do you really think that you stand a chance against everyone in this room? You may try, Luc, but rest assured that Albus will capture you before you strike more than once.”
“Your new ‘husband’ is a feeble old man, Minerva. How long do you think he can live on past glories? You’ll be finding a younger man to keep you satisfied in bed before the year is out if not sooner. I’ll even apply for the job myself,” Luc’s eyes raked Minerva’s body lustfully. “But in the mean time your daughter will have to do.”
Albus had been staring at Fee while Minerva kept Luc talking. He tried to reassure her with his eyes and his smile. Finally the corners of her mouth popped up feebly. ‘Be ready,’ Albus briefly entered her mind to whisper. Fee nodded almost imperceptibly.
“Daniel was your brother, Luc. He loved you. Don’t do this to his children.”
“Daniel didn’t give a damn about me. He was weak and gutless! He couldn’t even handle you so he ran away!”
Minerva’s features were growing tight with fury. “Daniel went on a mission for his country. He gave his life battling evil. He was a hero! Albus Dumbledore is a hero… and no where near feeble.” Her own grin was malevolent now. “You, Luc Gordon, are an insignificant sniveling little coward. You are nothing!”
“YOU BITCH!” Luc swung his wand away from Fee’s neck and leveled it at Minerva. An unforgivable curse rose to his lips.
At the same instant several things happened at once. Using wandless magic, Albus cast a paralyzing spell while pushing Minerva to the floor. Fiona lifted her leg and stomped down on her uncle’s foot… hard. And Ian, who up until now had stood just behind and to the side of his uncle silent and unmoving, grabbed Luc’s arm with all of his weight. His wand went flying.
Fiona wrenched free of Luc’s arm and ran to her mother. Three aurors swarmed over Luc’s petrified form, knocking him to the ground as they sought to completely disable him.
Albus helped an embracing Minerva and Fiona to their feet then stepped aside to give them a few seconds alone. He noticed Ian standing apart from everyone staring at his uncle as if he’d never seen him before. Albus moved to his side and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“You helped to save both your sister and your mother, Ian. I’m very proud of you.”
Albus felt the boy tremble but before he could speak further Ian jerked away from his touch and strode across the room to an empty corner where he leaned back against the wall and glared at everyone.
So Ian wasn’t quite ready to try and understand. Albus shrugged. He and Minerva would get through to the boy in time. He was sure of that. He moved back to his wife’s side.
“You did beautifully, sweetheart.” He told Fiona as he wrapped his arms around mother and daughter.
“I was so scared, Uncle Albus. Why would Uncle Luc act that way? Ian said that he wanted us to come live with him… he wanted to take care of us after mummy… oh mummy… I’m so sorry that I believed what he said. I didn’t want to but…”
“Shh…” Minerva shushed her daughter. “All of that is over and done with now. We can talk about it later. I think we should get you back to Hogwarts now.”
“Let me speak to Milguster for a moment then I’ll get Ian and we’ll go.”
Albus quickly crossed the room and had a few words with the chairman of the panel and a few of the more influential members. They were all appalled by what they had witnessed and promised a swift trial. Albus left them, confident that Luc wouldn’t be bothering his family again ever.
He crossed the floor to the corner where Ian stood, still glowering. “Come, Ian. It’s time to go home.”
Ian finally pushed away from the wall and stepped forward but when Albus laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder Ian quickly shrugged it away.
‘Oh well,’ Albus thought as he followed the boy, ‘baby steps…’
Ian stopped several feet from his mother, ignoring the pleading look in Fiona’s eyes to join them. Albus laid a hand across Ian’s shoulders as he came up behind him then motioned the ladies toward the stairs before them.
The aurors had completely subdued Luc and were leading him from the room. Minerva stopped and jerked Fiona back behind her as the captive was led past but with a surprising display of strength Luc shrugged his captors aside and leaned toward Minerva.
“This isn’t over, bitch… I’ll have you yet!”
Albus leapt forward to restrain Minerva but to his surprise instead of drawing her wand his wife drew back her fist… then planted it squarely in the center of Luc Gordon’s face. Blood gushed from his broken nose as the aurors once again restrained him, this time conjuring handcuffs and leg shackles to hold him more securely.
“Very nice right, my dear. I’ll have to remember that…” Albus complimented Minerva as they slowly left the ministry.
Fiona was glad to accompany Albus and Minerva to his quarters once they portkeyed to the Hogwarts grounds; indeed she didn’t seem to want to let go of her mother at all. Ian, on the other hand, had to be ordered to join them.
The cries of a hungry baby filled the air as they entered the suite and Poppy appeared at the bedroom door carrying Allie in her arms. The baby’s flailing fists could be seen above the blankets.
“Thank goodness you are back. Your little demon has been pitching a fit for half an hour.”
Minerva glanced back at her older children nervously. “This isn’t the way I would have liked for you to meet your baby sister but…” Her heels tapped quickly across the floor as she moved to take Allie. The baby quieted in her mother’s arms, perhaps sensing that the source of her lunch was near. “Come see…” she encouraged as she sat down in one of the wingback chairs near the fireplace.
Fiona immediately darted to her mother’s side and dropped to her knees beside the chair. Minerva laid the baby along her legs and pulled back the blankets so that Fee could see. “Allie, I’d like for you to meet your big sister, Fiona.”
Fee tentatively reached out a finger and touched Allie’s hand. The baby immediately grabbed hold and giggled as she pulled the finger toward her mouth.
“I think she likes me!” Fee squealed, risking a glance at her mother’s smiling face before returning her gaze to Allie.
“Ian, would you like to come and meet your new sister?” Albus asked the boy kindly.
Ian scuffed his foot along the floor as he shrugged. “No… she’s not my sister… not really… not like Fee is, I mean.”
Minerva looked at her son. “Yes, Ian. Allie is your sister. She may not share a father with you but you have the same mother… you have the same blood. I understand that you’re confused… it’s been a very confusing time for all of us. But we are still a family. You can’t let your uncle take that away from us. Please come see your sister.”
Ian grimaced and moved forward but his reluctance was obvious. He barely spared a glance at Allie before turning away. “I’m tired. I want to go back to my room.”
Albus and Minerva shared a glance, neither knowing the best thing to say or do. Finally Minerva spoke. “I really wish that you would stay here with us, Ian, but if you feel like you need some time to yourself we understand. Perhaps you could come back later this afternoon. I think that we all need to talk about what has happened over the last few months.”
“Yeah… sure…” Ian mumbled as he headed toward the door. He swung the door open and stepped through the opening. As he turned back to close the door he paused… watching. Albus had moved to stand behind Minerva and was leaning over her shoulder making silly faces at the bundle in her lap. Fee remained by the chair, completely enthralled with her baby sister. For a moment Ian started to return… to join the happy family picture… but then his pride got the better of him and he stalked away, the door slamming loudly behind him.
“Could I hold her, Mum?” Fee asked. “I’d be very careful.”
“Of course you can, dear… but I need to feed her first.”
“I could… oh!” Fee’s cheeks turned pink when she realized how Minerva was going to feed Allie.
“Besides… I’d like for Aunt Poppy to look at your arms and cheek before she leaves. That bas… man did grab you rather hard.”
“If I may?” Poppy raised her eyebrows at Albus, her head inclined toward his bedroom. Albus nodded.
Once Poppy had followed Fiona into the room and closed the door behind her Albus drew up the other chair next to Minerva and sat.
“All’s well that ends well?”
Minerva glared at her husband. “Don’t even try it, Professor Dumbledore! What in the bloody hell are you up to? I told you that I would handle that bastard!”
“By trying to catch him off guard and challenging him to a duel?” Albus could tell by the look on Minerva’s face that she was stunned that he knew her plan. “You are my wife, Minerva. I couldn’t let you do that. I’m not doubting that you possess the ability to have beaten Luc but you might have been hurt in the process.”
Minerva looked as if she wanted to argue but the words wouldn’t come. “Well… I wouldn’t have had to fight if you had told me about Daniel’s will!”
Albus nodded thoughtfully. “True… but I only recovered the will two days ago myself. I didn’t realize that you didn’t know about it until Armando said something and then I had to be sure that I could find it… that Daniel hadn’t moved it from the hiding place I knew about or that Luc hadn’t found it. That’s probably why he took possession of your house, you know… to try and find any documents that would hurt him and destroy them.”
“The will was in the house? You went there… he would have killed you if he’d caught you, Albus!”
“But he didn’t catch me. I’m very good at casting a complicated little invisibility spell. I walked in and out under his nose.”
“Two nights ago… that’s where you were… why you came back so angry.”
Albus looked away. “I was just upset because you had left my quarters.”
“No… it was something else… when you threw me on the bed you looked… sick. What happened to make you feel that way? I need to know, Albus.” Minerva lifted her hand and laid it on his arm. “Please…”
“It wasn’t pretty…”
“But I’d still like to know…”
Albus sighed. Minerva had always been too perceptive for her own good. “I don’t want you to go back there, Minerva. It isn’t your home any more. The house was filthy… empty bottles of firewhisky everywhere. Luc had let his men do anything they wanted and they did… anywhere they wanted. The stench was horrible. I’ll go back and get anything worth saving… he hadn’t damaged your wedding portrait yet when I was there. That’s where Daniel hid the will… on the back of that portrait.”
Minerva swallowed hard, her anger rising. She had always been so proud of her little home. “But what made you sick?”
“You don’t need details… it was seeing you… me throwing you on the bed like that… Luc had a woman in the house. She had long black hair and green eyes and he threw her on your bed…” Albus closed his eyes, attempting to block out the memory. “He called her by your name.”
To his surprise he felt Minerva’s hand slid along his arm to grasp his hand. “Luc Gordon is a twisted evil man, Albus. You are nothing like him.”
Albus squeezed her hand half-heartedly. “He has lusted after you for years… so have I.”
Minerva’s grip tightened. “You were attracted to me, Albus. I knew that… and I was attracted to you as well. But neither of us would have ever betrayed Daniel. You never did anything out of line. That’s the difference between you and Luc. He tried on more than one occasion to seduce me or rape me… to him they were one and the same.”
“Gordon attempted to use this situation to force you into his bed. Didn’t I do the exact same thing? The only difference is that I threw a marriage license in so that you had no choice but to stay with me.” Albus observed bitterly.
“That isn’t true and you damn well know it, Albus Dumbledore!” Allie released her mother’s nipple with an audible pop as Minerva yelled at her father, her green eyes watching both parents intently. Minerva swore, swung Allie around then bared her other breast so that the baby could continue nursing.
Once Allie was settled again Minerva turned back to her husband. “There are a great many differences in your motives and Luc’s. But first you must understand that if I hadn’t wanted to marry you then I would not have done so. You may be the great Albus Dumbledore but I make up my own mind. I am not easily manipulated, my husband.”
Albus finally looked at Minerva again, a dim twinkle in his eyes.
“Do you want my money, Albus?” Minerva asked.
“No, my dear. I believe that I have a sufficient amount of my own… more than enough to care for you and all of our children. Put yours in a trust for them if you like.”
“Do you view me as a possession?”
Albus chuckled. “As if any man could possess you. I view you as an intelligent, beautiful woman… but not as a possession.”
“Then why did you marry me, Albus? You didn’t have to. If bedding me was your primary motive I was more than willing, even without the benefit of a bond.”
“I married you because I love you.” Albus shifted in the chair so that he was facing Minerva and took her hand between both of his. “I love you and I wanted to try and take away some of the pain that my carelessness caused you this year.”
“Carelessness?” Minerva’s voice grew tight and she would have pulled her hand away but Albus tightened his grip.
“I don’t mean it that way… I adore Allie. She’s as beautiful as her mother and I’m so grateful that you chose to give her life… but if I’d known… I would have been here with you, Minerva… I’d have damned the gossips and asked you to marry me immediately. I was careless because I didn’t stay in touch with you… because I never thought to consider what the consequences of our actions that night might be… because you went through hell because of me.”
A tear appeared in the corner of Minerva’s eye. “I understood… really I did. You needed to bring Daniel’s murder to justice. I should have owled you… What happened between us that night was so special… but then you started going on about Daniel… about how you had to track his killer… I thought you might regret what we shared…”
“Never, Willow. I was afraid that I’d rushed you. I would never have been so forward if circumstances had been different. Making love with you was so wonderful… but I thought that I needed to finish things… to make sure that Daniel could rest in peace. He was my friend and I’m sorry that he died… but I didn’t want his memory standing between us for the rest of our lives.”
“And now it won’t. I can’t lie to you, Albus. The last year hasn’t been easy on me… but I survived. We’re married and we have a beautiful baby daughter.” Minerva smiled encouragingly at Albus. “Hopefully our lives are going to stabilize now.”
Albus returned the smile but then a cloud flickered across his face. “Umm… there is one more thing that I should confess…”
“The potion?” Minerva asked, one eyebrow cocked.
Albus’ cheeks coloured beneath his beard. “You… umm… you already know about that?”
“Never expect Poppy to keep a secret from me. She just can’t do it. Oh, she’ll try… but I always know when she’s hiding something from me.” Minerva dropped her gaze to stare at the baby in her arms. “Was it so necessary, Albus? Was the thought of making love to me so repugnant to you that you had to have help?”
“Is that what you think, Minerva? Do you really think that I need anything more than the sight of you smiling at me to want you? That the curve of your neck when you brush your hair isn’t enough to drive me crazy? That watching you holding our daughter to your breast doesn’t drive me wild with desire? Can you tell me that you honestly believe that?”
Minerva chewed her lower lip nervously as Albus brought a finger to her chin and tipped her face up. “Well… no… but… the potion…”
“Was an energy potion, nothing more. I didn’t even use the entire vial and I didn’t take any of it until I woke to leave for the ministry. I just had to make sure…”
A glint entered Minerva’s eye. “Make sure of what!?!?” She demanded.
“I… you had to be so exhausted that you overslept and I had to have enough energy to leave you in that bed and arrive at the ministry early.” He spat out very fast.
“Albus Dumbledore! You sneaky… I can’t believe you did that! That is the act of a Slytherin!”
“Desperate times deserve desperate measures, my dear. Besides, I didn’t do anything. I just had the potion on hand in case it was necessary… which it wasn’t, I would like to remind you…” Albus answered hopefully.
The opening of the bedroom door stopped Minerva’s reply. Poppy and Fiona emerged, both smiling. “Our girl had some pretty nasty bruises on her arms but I took care of them.” Poppy told them. “And now I think that all of you need to talk so I’ll be on my way. Min, call me when you get the chance.”
While Albus showed Poppy out Fiona sat down in the chair that Albus had just vacated and Minerva carefully shifted the now full baby to her big sister’s lap. “Now you have to hold her very carefully. Make sure that you support her head at all times.” Minerva instructed. Fiona took care to follow all of her mother’s instructions to the letter.
Albus couldn’t help but smile at the picture the trio presented. “All my girls together again,” he said merrily as he walked over to them and sat down on the floor at Minerva’s feet.
Fiona’s eyes moved from Minerva to Albus and back. She blushed slightly and quickly looked down at Allie.
“We have a lot to talk about,” Minerva began, sensing her daughter’s discomfort. “But I really feel that Ian should be here for most of it. What I… we would like to talk to you about is what happened in the courtroom today.”
Fiona shook her head. “That’s okay… I don’t want…”
“Fee,” Albus spoke his goddaughter’s name softly, “your uncle Luc isn’t well… in his mind, I mean. I think that maybe something snapped. He made some horrible threats… but please know that both your mother and I would never have let him take you out of there…”
“He wanted Ian and me to come live with him…” Fee looked up with tear filled eyes. “Is… that… what he wanted from me?”
“No, darling!” Minerva exclaimed, one arm sliding around Fee’s back. “He was confused. He thought…” At this point Minerva’s voice faltered. How did one explain to one’s twelve-year old daughter that her uncle wanted to have sex with her mother?
“Fiona,” Albus took over. “This is a very grown-up subject and I’m going to give you the best explanation that I can. You stop me at any time or ask any questions, okay?”
The girl nodded.
“This is your second year at Hogwarts and I know how students talk so I’m going to assume that you’ve at least heard about what goes on between a man and a woman… intimately, I mean.” Again Fee nodded, this time blushing and refusing to meet her mother’s eyes. “That type of relationship is best enjoyed with some one you love… and even better within an exclusive bond. Your mother and your father felt that way about each other and from their physical expressions of love came Ian and then you.”
At this point Albus shifted uncomfortably. “But sometimes a man may be attracted to a woman who isn’t attracted to him… or vice versa. What you heard your uncle say today… those things about your mother… and how much you resembled her…Your uncle Luc has been attracted to your mum almost from the moment that he met her. He tried on several occasions to put her in that position… even when she tried to stop him…”
“What your Uncle Albus is trying to say, Fee,” Albus smiled gratefully at his wife when she found her voice and took over, “is that Luc tried to force me to be intimate with him against my will.”
Fiona swallowed hard. “How… awful…” she whispered. “But daddy…”
“Your father knew… well, he suspected in the beginning… and then he caught his brother one day… many times when your father had to go out of town he would ask me to keep an eye on all of you to make sure that your uncle didn’t bother you.” Albus answered.
“I never knew that!” Minerva’s surprise was evident.
Albus chuckled. “You thought I was hanging around for your cooking?” This comment drew a laugh from Fiona as well.
“Fee, dear,” Minerva took her daughter’s free hand in her own. “No man ever has the right to force you to do something that you don’t want to do… especially anything of an… intimate… nature. What your uncle tried to do to you… to both of us… today was very wrong.”
“If any young man ever bothers you, you just come tell your Uncle Albus and I’ll take care of him.” Albus laid his hand over the other two and squeezed while he winked at Fee. “We’ll feed him some of your mother’s cooking!”
The afternoon came and went with no sign of Ian. After tucking both Allie and Fiona in for a nap Minerva paced back and forth in front of the fireplace until Albus thought he would go mad. He wanted to continue their private discussion that Fee’s return had interrupted but his wife couldn’t seem to think of anything except her son. He arranged for a quiet dinner in his rooms for the three of them and even sent the house elf to find Ian but still the boy didn’t come.
Once the meal was done Albus stood and told Minerva that he was going to look for Ian.
“No, Uncle Albus… let me go…” Fiona asked timidly.
“Fee… are you sure?” Albus answered, realizing that perhaps she was the logical one to go after all.
“I don’t think that is a very good idea,” Minerva said nervously. She didn’t want both of her teenagers missing.
“Fee knows the castle and she knows Ian’s favourite places. She’ll be fine,” Albus reassured his wife. “Try and persuade Ian to come back with you, Fee. We only want to talk to both of you. Search for half an hour and if you don’t find him come back, okay?”
“I didn’t want her to go!” Minerva exploded just as soon as Fiona had left the room. “What if he persuades her not to come back? You had no right? I’m their mother!”
Albus looked sad. “Yes… you are. I had no right to interfere at all. Do what you will with your children. I’ll confine my parenting to Allie.”
“Damn!” Minerva swore beneath her breath then turned toward her husband calling his name. She was just in time to see the bedroom door close softly but firmly behind him.
“Hiya,” Fiona offered tentatively as she plopped down beside Ian on the floor of the owlery. Around them the school owls cooed gently. “I thought I would find you here.”
“I’m surprised you were able to tear yourself away…” Ian offered bitterly.
“Uncle Luc was wrong about mummy, Idgy,” Fee instinctively fell back on the name she’d called Ian since she learned to speak. Her father had started it as a joke, using Ian’s initials, IDG for Ian Daniel Gordon, but it had stuck in baby Fee’s mind. “She didn’t desert us. He tried to run her off… he tried to… he wanted her to have to come to him… for everything, I guess… for money… to see us… to live in our house… He was cruel to her!”
“But he was kind to me! And he didn’t make everything up! She did have a bastard baby. Dad wasn’t even cold in his grave before Mum was warming herself in another man’s bed!”
“You don’t know that!”
“That baby is proof, Fee! It’s been a year! That baby is several months old…”
“But we don’t know when dad died. He’d been gone almost a year before Mum and Uncle Albus went looking for him.”
“But Mum didn’t know that he was dead. And what is going on with this marriage to Uncle Albus? Did she play on his sympathy to get him to marry her?”
“Mum told me… she said that Uncle Luc had tried to hurt her before… that dad knew about it and Uncle Albus said that when dad went away he got Uncle Albus to watch over all of us.”
“So Uncle Albus feels responsible? He shouldn’t. He’s too fine a man to give her bastard his name.”
Fee dropped her face into her hands. “Stop it, Idgy! Stop condemning mum before you talk to her? Did you even stop to listen when you went to confront her? I bet you just yelled at her and ran away! So she had a baby… everything else that horrid man told you was a lie! Please go and talk to mummy! Please, Idgy… for me?”
“But Fee… she’ll just lie…”
“No she won’t, Idgy. I know she won’t… and Uncle Albus has never lied to us, has he?
Daddy always told us that if anything ever happened to him and mummy to go to Uncle Albus. That’s what you need to do, Ian… I’ll be with you… I want answers too.” Fee held out her hand to her brother. “I need you there with me.”
Ian sighed then, after a long pause, slowly laid his hand in Fiona’s and squeezed her fingers. “I’ll go… and I’ll try to listen… but only if they tell the truth… and I make up my own mind… I can’t promise more than that.”
“That’s enough, Idgy… that’s enough.”
By some miracle Albus managed to ignore Minerva knocking at the door and calling his name but time was against him and eventually Allie woke up. He tried to appease her but her tummy was once again empty and he didn’t have the proper equipment to pacify her so eventually he had to open the door. When he did so he thrust the baby into Minerva’s arms the second she crossed the thresh hold and turned toward the bathroom, but a quickly muttered hex from Minerva slammed both of the room doors, effectively sealing him in with her.
With a sparsely muttered oath Albus stalked to the bed, sat down on the edge and folded his arms across his chest.
Minerva ignored her husband’s surly attitude as she settled into the rocking chair and unfastened her robes. Although he tried hard not to, she could tell that Albus was watching as she pulled both of her arms free of her under robe and pushed the material to her waist. Her bra was flung to the floor, landing somewhere in the vicinity of Albus’ feet.
“I must say,” Minerva began once Allie was settled and suckling, “that this isn’t the way I expected to spend the first day of my new marriage. It’s been interesting, to be sure… but more than a bit out of the ordinary.”
Albus sighed deeply and fell back into the mattress, his long legs still hanging off of the edge. “What did you expect?”
“Well… I don’t really know… I guess that roses and romance is a bit much when there is a psychopath trying to steal my children… not to mention that I have to go off every few hours to be milked.”
Albus rolled up on his elbow so that he was looking at Minerva.
“That was a joke, Albus. Damn, I can’t seem to say anything right.”
“If you keep that up the first word out of our daughter’s mouth is going to be blue.” Albus replied but he tempered his words with a bit of a smile.
“Look… I’m sorry for what I said earlier. I didn’t really mean it. I welcome your help with Ian and Fee. You’ve always been a strong male presence in their lives and with their father gone they will need you more than ever… not that Daniel was ever around that much to begin with. I guess I’ve just been the only parent for so long that I forgot how to share.” Minerva tried to explain.
Albus mulled that over for a moment. “Your explanation makes sense. But you have to realize that you can’t be of two minds about this. Either you want the children to see me as an authority figure in their private lives as much as their school lives or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways.”
“I know. I’ve been thinking about that while you’ve had me locked out.” Albus had the good manners to look slightly ashamed at this point. Minerva continued. “What do you want from this marriage, Albus?”
Albus sat up, his brow furrowed. “What do I want? What does any man want… love, companionship… you know…”
“No… I don’t. We’ve been friends for years, Albus… and now we are lovers as well… but this situation happened so quickly. Do you see our marriage as lasting until Allie is an adult? Or is it something longer… maybe even a lifetime? What is my role? The word wife can encompass so many tasks. Bedmate? Hostess? Brood mare?”
Albus pressed his lips together, then stood and moved over to the rocking chair where he dropped to his knees in front of Minerva. “I’ve never really thought about it in those terms… I guess that I always viewed you as my… partner… the other half of me which makes a whole us. We made a lifetime bond at our ceremony yesterday.” Albus’ eyes searched Minerva’s. “I didn’t make it lightly.”
Minerva tentatively reached her free hand out to Albus. He took it quickly. “I didn’t enter the bond lightly either, Albus. But I can’t help but wonder… if we hadn’t had Allie…”
“Then we might have courted a little bit longer before
being bonded. We would have had time to
ease Ian and Fee into the idea instead of dumping it in their laps as a fait
accompli. But I know that we would have
married. I’ve loved you for so long,
Minerva nodded and squeezed the strong hand holding hers. “Marriage is always hard work.”
“But it’s worth it to me,
“And to me,
“So we present a united front?” Albus wanted to be one hundred percent sure of his position.
“United we stand,” Minerva confirmed. “I want us to be a family, Albus… all of us. I want you and I to be partners in parenting… and in everything else.”
“Then a family we will be.”
When Albus answered the door he was relieved to see that Ian was with Fiona, even though his reluctance was obvious. He led both children into the sitting room where Minerva was waiting in her chair by the fire.
“Thank you for coming back, Ian.” She obviously wanted to hug her son, touch his hand… have some form of physical contact, but she knew it wouldn’t be welcome. “I think that we have a great deal to talk about.”
The children didn’t speak as they sat down next to each other on the sofa but both Albus and Minerva noticed that they were gripping each other’s hands tightly.
Minerva gripped the arms of her chair tightly. “There is so much… where should I begin?”
“You left us,” Ian began for his mother, “no… I understand that Uncle Luc lied… but you did leave us before… Did you really go looking for Dad?”
“You know that we both went, Ian.” Albus answered quietly.
“But why were you gone so long?” Suddenly Ian looked like a lost little boy. “I know that Fee and I were here at Hogwarts but we had no idea where you were and you didn’t even write toward the end… and then you come back and tell us that Dad is dead and we didn’t even know that he’d been in danger!”
“There were reasons for that, Ian… your age for one thing. Your dad didn’t want for you to worry about him while he was away… but I’m going to tell you the truth now.” Albus responded again.
“Albus?” Minerva cautioned but Albus reached out and patted her hand reassuringly then called a low stool over and sat down in front of Ian and Fee.
“There are some things that I’m not going to be able to tell you… not because I don’t want to but because of security reasons. You know that your dad worked for the ministry…
“Investigating allegations of misuse of magic. That’s why he was never at home.” Ian interrupted, his voice suspicious.
Albus gave Ian a hard glare and the boy quieted down. “What we believe happened, and this is mainly educated conjecture from what your Mum and I learned while searching for him, is that during that last case he was working on he stumbled across something much bigger. He had the opportunity to infiltrate the ranks of a powerful dark wizard and he took it, intending only to discover all the information that he could and then get away.”
“Daddy promised he would be back for my birthday,” Fiona piped up.
“And I believe that he fully intended to be, Fee. But this particular dark wizard held on to his followers tightly. He didn’t allow them to leave his service. Your father didn’t want to endanger his family so he stayed… and for a time he continued to pass valuable information to the ministry.”
“Did you know about this, Mother?” Ian asked.
Minerva nodded. “I didn’t know everything… but I knew enough. The ministry told me that your father was working on a very important case and he would be gone for an indeterminent amount of time. Occasionally they forwarded a message from him… but then the messages stopped.”
The chair she was sitting in suddenly became too small, so Minerva stood and began to pace as she continued to speak.
“I didn’t know what to do. Days went by… then weeks… and finally several months… The ministry wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me anything so I made the decision to discuss the situation with Albus.” Minerva smiled at her husband who then took up the story again.
“I knew that your father was deeply involved in his work but I had no idea that he’d been out of contact for so long. I knew that something had to be wrong so I spoke with some contacts at the Ministry. They told me that they were extremely worried about your father as well but were afraid that if he was still undercover sending in a team of aurors to rescue him would only end up getting him killed. Until they found out more about the situation they weren’t willing to take that chance. So I resolved to go and find Daniel myself.”
“And you, Mum?”
“Your Uncle Albus told me what he was going to do so that I could let him know if I did hear anything from your father. At that point I decided to join him.” Minerva looked sad. “Both of you were in school and sitting home waiting was just too difficult to stand any longer. Daniel was my husband. I wanted to help find him.”
“And as you children know,” Albus interrupted, “your
mother can be a stubborn mule! She
wouldn’t listen to me at all… threatened to go out on her own if I didn’t take
her with me. Finally I agreed that she
could accompany me on the first leg of the search… to your father’s last known
“I agreed to consider it!” Minerva responded tartly. “But it was several weeks before we actually
managed to find out anything and that tiny bit of information only pointed us
Albus noticed that a hint of a smile teased the corners of
Ian’s mouth as he listened to his mother.
Wanting to keep the boy convinced that they were being honest with him
he quickly continued. “In
Our search wasn’t easy and many times it was your mother
who picked up vital information while wandering through unsavory areas in her
tabby form. We’d been gone several
months by the time that Minerva finally overheard a name… Vargha. That name led us to
“Finally Albus and I managed to bump into the old fellow in the market one day. It turned out that he was looking for a housekeeper and groundskeeper. He took a liking to us and hired us to run his estate. We moved in the following day…”
“As husband and wife?” Ian asked archly.
“As brother and sister…” Minerva answered quietly. “That explanation kept us near each other yet explained our wish for separate rooms.”
“Several more months passed,” Albus picked up the story quickly, not wishing to get into a deep discussion about he and Minerva at the moment. “Winter had set in fully within a week of our being hired and I couldn’t do much work around the grounds so I spent a great deal of time working on the manor house. While I was doing some work in the basement I stumbled across a secret room containing valuable information that we needed to get to the ministry… the location of the group your father had infiltrated, names of other members… financial reports… At that point I tried once again to send your mother home… you can probably guess exactly how well that worked.”
“If we hadn’t advanced any further by the time that the end of the school year approached I would have returned home to spend the summer with the two of you,” Minerva smiled hopefully at her children, “but we still had time… We continued to investigate.”
“One beautiful morning when the sun was warm in the sky and the last vestiges of snow were melting away from the newly budding flowers, Vargha came to us and told us he was going to have a large house party. He needed for the house to be spotless, especially the primary guest suite and the large ball room.”
Minerva and Albus were now swapping the story back and forth between them seamlessly.
“The information I had uncovered led me to believe that this so called party was actually a meeting of the followers of this horrible wizard named Miggins.”
“Miggins?!?!” Both Ian and Fee giggled. “A dark wizard named Miggins? How stupid is that?”
Albus couldn’t help but agree. “Nonetheless, that was his name. A few weeks later we were ready to receive
the guests. I think that both
“We were both beginning to despair but we thought that we still had an opportunity to find out something…” Minerva’s voice slowly trailed off, her eyes clouded over as she became lost in the memory…
Flashback – 1 year previously…
Minerva pulled one last bottle of wine from the rack that Vargha had specified and handed it to her helper. “Make sure that the steward opens the bottles very carefully and that none of them have soured,” she instructed Janka, her day helper. “I am going to search for the next vintage that we will be needing while I am here.” The pretty young girl from the nearby village nodded and moved carefully toward the steps.
Minerva waited until the maid had exited at the top of the stairs before turning back to the seemingly empty room. “Albus?” she whispered tentatively.
She felt a strong grip close around her wrist and urge her deeper into the shadows of the wine racks. Minerva moved slowly, studying the bottles as she did so. Anyone who might happen to be watched would have no idea that she wasn’t searching for a particular vintage.
The hand remained on her arm as she moved into the very back corner of the wine cellar, hidden from any prying eyes. Finally Albus felt safe enough to materialize.
“What are you doing down here?” She hissed at him.
“I’m investigating. Miggins and several of his goons came down here a little while ago. There is something hidden beyond a magical barrier on the other side of the basement. Once they leave I’m going to see what.”
Minerva glanced around the small space. “You can’t, Albus! What if they catch you?”
“They won’t. Just try to warn people away from the basement for a while.”
“No! If you are going in then I am going in with you. We can cover more ground that way.”
“Dammit, Willow! It may just be a tiny little room!” Albus found it extremely difficult to yell quietly.
“How many wizards did you say went in? I suspect you will find many rooms beyond the barrier. Once the meal is ready to be served I will be free for a while. I’m coming with you.”
Albus glared at his female opponent but finally gave in. As much as he hated to admit it, Minerva was probably right and he would probably value her help. “All right… but at the first sign of trouble…”
Minerva grinned slightly in triumph. “I’ll meet you back here in one hour.”
After leaving the kitchen in the capable hands of Janka and Gisella, another young lady from the local village who was also an excellent cook, Minerva headed back to the basement. Even though Albus was invisible Minerva walked straight to the area where he was waiting for her.
“How did you know I was here?” He whispered as he materialized beside her.
“I don’t know… I just did… I could… feel you…” Minerva answered, turning her face away so Albus wouldn’t notice the flush of her skin.
“Is your absence covered?”
“I have about an hour before I will be missed.”
Albus nodded. “Remember, try not to disturb anything or leave any trace of our having been here. Be on guard for traps.” He whispered the words to a spell Minerva didn’t recognize, waited a moment then whispered a few more and then turned to her. “Stay close behind me until we see what we are up against.” Without further ado he stepped through the wall in front of them.
Minerva counted to fifteen then stepped forward as well. She hated the feeling of moving through seemingly solid matter but the wall wasn’t very wide so a second or two later she stepped through the opposite side behind Albus.
They were standing at the end of a long corridor that had over a dozen closed doors dotting its length. They moved carefully to the first one and Albus carefully turned the knob.
The open door revealed a large auditorium, rows of chairs lined up facing a central dais at one end. “They must have group meetings here,” Albus whispered.
‘Obviously!’ Minerva thought but didn’t say the word out loud. Apparently Albus was keeping close tabs on her thoughts because he gave her a sharp look.
The next few doors also revealed meeting rooms of various sizes. As they continued to move down the corridor Albus realized that time was slipping away. He debated for several seconds before finally asking Minerva if she wanted to split up.
“Of course! We’ll cover a lot more ground that way.” Minerva wanted to say that they should have been doing this from the beginning but she didn’t want to risk another pointed look from Albus.
“Your hair is coming down.” Albus tugged at a long strand of ebony hair that had escaped the tight bun Minerva wore in keeping with her housekeeper persona. Several hairpins popped out and the entire length came tumbling down. The look on her face caused Albus to smile. The brief flare of animosity between them was gone that quickly.
“It will just have to stay that way now,” Minerva muttered as she gathered up the scattered pins. “I’ll fix it later.”
“I like it this way,” Albus dared to smooth an errant black lock.
“We should go.” Minerva stepped back then turned to the nearest door on the opposite side of the hallway.
Two doors later Albus discovered a room with a map on the wall. Documents were scattered across a small meeting table in front of the map. His curiosity whetted he spared a quick glance across the hall to where Minerva was exiting an uninteresting room on her side. He inclined his head to let her know he was entering and she nodded.
On closer inspection
the map proved to be a detailed diagram of the
He lost track of time as he searched through the documents but a picture of Miggin’s intent quickly began to form. The cities glowing on the map had been targeted for major attacks… but when? Albus searched for the date frantically.
Suddenly a shrill feminine scream cut through the silence of the empty rooms. Albus jerked up, his eyes wide. He knew Minerva McGonagall well enough to know that she wouldn’t have screamed unless… he quickly muttered the few words necessary to turn him invisible and then placed several extra spells over that one to safeguard his presence. By the time that he reached the door and slipped into the hallway the heavy clatter of footsteps approaching could be heard.
The children were silent as they watched their mother stand and move to one of the room’s large windows. Although her stiff back was to the children they could see the reflection of her face in the window as she stared through the twilight at the grounds below. Fat tears were rolling slowly down her cheeks.
Albus cleared his throat slightly, drawing the children’s attention back to him so that Minerva could have time to compose herself. He didn’t really want to tell them the next part but they had both promised to be truthful.
“It seems that Miggins kept the bodies of followers who he’d killed for what he viewed as betrayal. New recruits were taken there and shown what would happen to them if they tried to change allegiance. It was the last room on the right side of the hallway… the last room that your mother entered. I would never have let her go in if I had known… but she quickly realized what the room was… and then she found your father’s body…”
“And she screamed…” Ian observed thoughtfully.
“She couldn’t help herself,” Albus quickly defended Minerva. “We didn’t have a hint as to the extent of Miggins depravity… we had no idea that all of those people had been killed. Miggins tagged the bodies with the dates and circumstances of their deaths. Apparently your father was caught trying to send out a message just a few weeks after the last time your mother heard from him. Miggins killed him then and there.” Albus didn’t elaborate further. There was no way he would ever tell the children of the detailed torture their father had undergone before he finally succumbed.
“What happened then?” Fiona asked, eyes wide. “Did you and mum run?”
“There wasn’t anywhere to go. I tried to talk to your mother but I couldn’t reach her in the state she was in… not without dropping my shield. I had a very difficult decision to make but in the end I decided that it was better for me to retain my freedom right then so that I could rescue your mother later. I pressed back against a far wall and watched as Miggins and his men entered the room, captured your mother and took her away.”
“It was the only thing you could have done, Uncle Albus.” Ian reassured his godfather.
“Perhaps… but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Once they left the area I went to work quickly. I knew that when Vargha had discovered your mother’s identity mine would be suspect as well. I returned to the other room and gathered what information I could then began to search for a place to hide.”
“But what about mum?”
Albus saw his wife turn back to the group. “I can tell them if you want,
Minerva took a deep breath then shook her head. “I can do it.”
“I don’t believe it!” Vargha exclaimed over and over in heavily accented English. “She’s my housekeeper! I’ve had no trouble out of her! I can’t believe she’s a spy!”
“She is much too pretty to be a spy,” Miggins commented as he reached out and pulled a swatch of ebony away from Minerva’s face.
Vargha stared as if noticing Minerva for the first time. “She does not look like this when I hire her. She looks older… not so…” he drew the silhouette of a curvy female with his hands. “Her hair is always pulled back tightly, making her look… severe…”
“Why did you want Vargha to think you were older, pretty witch?” Miggins said suavely. “Why did you always keep your hair bound and your figure hidden?”
Minerva stared at the short balding wizard in front of her through the eye that wasn’t swollen shut. She still couldn’t believe that this squat homely little wizard was considered to be a dangerous dark lord. “I am a housekeeper. My hair gets in my way if I don’t keep it bound. I wear comfortable clothes and aprons because of my work.”
“Your work… WHO ARE YOU SPYING FOR?” Miggins’ personality changed instantly, his face turning bright purple as he leaned in close to Minerva and yelled.
“I am not a spy,” Minerva stated for perhaps the tenth time in as many minutes.
“Then how did you know about the private rooms in the basement.”
“I knew nothing. I went down to retrieve the wine Master Vargha wanted for the next course at dinner and noticed the opening for the first time. I wasn’t familiar with the rooms so I went to investigate.”
“And when you walked into my special little room of memories you screamed…”
“I was frightened… I was not expecting to see a room full of dead bodies.” Minerva trembled at the memory of her husband…
“What were you expecting to see, Miss Stuart?” For that was the surname that Albus and Minerva had used.
“I was expecting to see dust.”
Vargha drew his hand back to hit Minerva again but as he swung his fist forward Miggins threw a hand up to block him as he laughed. “No… no more hitting… at least not for the moment…” He walked slowly around Minerva several times, his eyes appraising. “I might find other… uses for her… Can you feel her magic, Vargha?”
The older man nodded. “She is powerful, no?”
“Very powerful, I think.” Minerva flinched when Miggins’ hand slid over her body. She tried to push him away but her wrists were bound together behind her back, severely limiting her movements. She used her shoulders instead, swinging them around to knock the dark wizard’s arm away.
At Minerva’s sudden show of defiance Miggins snapped his fingers and two large and rather stupid looking wizards moved from their stations beside the door to grab her shoulders and hold her still. Once she was completely restrained Miggins cupped Minerva’s cheek gently. “And she has spirit too… well I’ll soon break you of that!” His hand moved lower, his fingers gripping the neckline of her robes. He yanked and the fabric gave, opening a wide gap to Minerva’s waist. Miggins took hold of the edges and ripped again, not letting up until the gown was completely split in two.
Minerva screamed as her body was bared to the eyes of every male in the room, only the white cotton of her knickers hiding her most intimate spot. A meaty hand quickly came over her mouth, cutting off the sound of her cries. Minerva bit down hard on the finger pressed against her lips and then her screams were mixed with the sounds of the swearing guard. In the melee no one noticed the door open slightly.
“Hold her!” Miggins ordered.
Both of the guards grabbed Minerva again and at Miggins’ direction, forced her down onto the bed in the room. Her legs were hanging over the edge so Minerva kicked at her captors wildly but they laughed as each of them grabbed a leg and pinned it against the side of the mattress.
Miggins approached, a gleam in his eye. “Very pretty, my dear…” his eyes stared at her breasts as he moved to stand between her legs. “More than adequate…”
Minerva turned her face away; refusing to respond to the man she was convinced was about to rape her. But to her surprise Miggins dropped to his knees in front of her, grabbed her hips and buried his nose deeply between her legs.
Minerva was stunned when she heard him… sniff her?
After a few seconds Miggins stood, once again smiling down at her. “Excellent, pretty witch. You will do nicely.” He turned toward the door. “She isn’t quite ready yet… another day or two at least… You can let her go now, gentlemen, but watch out that she doesn’t emasculate you when you do.”
Her captors released Minerva and quickly retreated to the door.
“I’ll be back to visit you in a few days.” Miggins threw out as he closed the door leaving Minerva alone in the room. The key in the lock turned and a heavy bolt slid into place to keep her there. Once the room was secure the bonds on her wrists faded away.
Tears threatened but Minerva resolutely brushed them away with one hand while gathering the edges of her robes together with the other.
“NO!” She told herself. “You will not cry!”
But she did… the harder Minerva tried to hold her emotions in check the more the tears flowed. Finally she threw herself face down across the mattress and gave in to her grief and fear. Great sobs tore from deep in her throat as her tears flooded the blankets beneath her.
The afternoon sky faded to twilight and still Minerva cried. She cried for the husband whose body she had seen in the secret room. She cried for their life together and what might have been. She cried for the children she had left behind and was afraid she would never see again.
Night had settled its velvet mantle over the sky when finally no more tears would come. A tiny magical fire in a protected lantern provided scant illumination but as Minerva’s swollen eyes slowly began to adjust they spotted a tiny scrap of white against the dark grey stone of the floor.
Minerva crawled to the edge of the bed and slipped onto the floor then rocked forward and grabbed the scrap. The piece of parchment wasn’t big at all, barely two inches on any side. She opened it with trembling fingers, another sob escaping her lips as she stared at the rough, obviously hastily drawn picture of a bird rising from a fire… a phoenix.
“Albus?” She whispered, but no answer came. ‘Of course not, silly,’ her subconscious told her, ‘he couldn’t get bolted in with you, now could he? He has to be free to plan if he’s going to get both of you out of here!’
Still… part of Minerva wished that Albus had stayed. She needed to be near him… needed him to comfort her… but knowing that he was still free… still nearby… did help.
Her eyes fell to the band of golden Celtic knots that she wore on the middle finger of her right hand. She’d moved her wedding band when she and Albus had come to work at the castle, wanting to avoid questions about her marital status but now that action seemed somehow symbolic.
“Oh, Daniel… I’m so sorry! I never wanted this…” Minerva climbed back into the bed and curled up in a ball as the tears began to flow again. Gradually exhaustion won out over crying and Minerva slipped into a deep sleep, the tiny message of hope that Albus had left for her clutched tightly in her hands.
Leaving Minerva alone in the tiny room that was to be her cell almost killed Albus but he knew that he needed to be free to effect their escape. When that bastard wizard dared to touch her Albus had almost lost his composure and attacked the man but then he noticed the lustful gleams in the other men’s eyes. He knew that he had to work quickly to get Minerva to safety. He owed that much to Daniel and to her. But how..?
Albus traveled through the castle and out into the back garden quickly. Once he had gained the cover of the forest beyond, he risked dropping his invisibility spell and attempting to apparate. Nothing happened so Albus knew that powerful anti-apparation wards had been placed over the entire property. He turned toward the outer boundary of Vargha’s property and walked toward it but an invisible barrier soon stopped him there as well.
Miggins had been very thorough. Albus knew that he was going to have to find a place for he and Minerva to safely hide until their pursuers dropped the wards so that they could apparate out. But Albus thought that he might have one up on the practitioners of dark magic. From what he’d seen over the past few months, Vargha had very little interest in any of his property. Albus was sure he knew the estate much better than anyone else did there and he would use that to his advantage.
After a few moments deep though he set off through the forest, moving silently toward his destination.
Minerva was still in a deep sleep when the rasping hinges of the heavy door woke her. She glanced out of the small window and noted from the position of the sun that it was already midday. Gathering her torn robes tightly about her, Minerva sat up in the bed and glared at the moving door.
A tiny girl was pushed roughly through the small opening, the dishes on the tray she carried rattling from the force of the shove.
“Get your job done, girl!” A deep rough voice sounded from outside the door. “I don’t have all day!” The door closed with a loud bang.
“Gisella!” Minerva scurried off the bed and moved toward her kitchen helper. The girl’s face was covered with bruises and the way that she held herself as she moved gingerly toward the small table told Minerva that the welts continued on beneath her clothing.
“Oh, Gisella! I’m so sorry. I didn’t know… I never meant for you to get hurt.”
Gisella tried to smile through swollen lips. “You did not know, Miss Stuart. My family needed the money and Janka’s as well… Now we’ve been told that we may be paid even more if we…” The blonde head dropped.
“If you what, Gisella?” Minerva carefully laid a comforting hand on the girl’s shoulder.
Gisella sat the tray down on the table then sank down on the mattress and looked up at Minerva with eyes full of tears. “If we conceive… The leader… he took me to his bed last night. Tonight he will come for Janka… we’ve seen his looks…”
“No…” Minerva protested, shaking her head. “I don’t understand… he actually wants you to get pregnant?”
Gisella nodded. “He has told me if one month passes and my courses come then he will force me to lie with him again. He said that he is building the most loyal army he can… by fathering the soldiers himself… I hope I conceived so I don’t have to… it was horrible!”
Minerva sat down beside the young girl and wrapped her arms around her as her anger at her captor grew. Why the child couldn’t be much older that Ian… “Was it… your first time?”
Gisella nodded against Minerva’s shoulder. “And my last… He was so… cruel… He stood behind me so I couldn’t see him… but I could feel him… he was so hairy… and his breath stank!” Gisella was trembling. “It hurt so badly! I don’t understand why any women would willingly do that… it was awful!”
“I know it seems that way right now, dear. But really… it can be quite… pleasant… when you are with someone you love… someone who loves you and wants to pleasure you as well…” Minerva laughed ironically as she realized that she could soon to be in the same situation as Gisella. “At least I’ll have a loving relationship to remember after my turn comes.”
“Your turn… no… you’re meant for something different… I heard…” Gisella suddenly pulled away from Minerva and stood. “I’ve got to go… someone will pick up your tray when they bring dinner.”
“Gisella!” Minerva grabbed the girl’s arm. “Please… what did you hear? I need to know!”
The girl glanced at the door fearfully. “I really shouldn’t say…”
“Please?” Minerva pled. “I would like to know what they have planned for me.”
“I’m not sure… There is to be a feast two nights from now… I overheard one of the men telling another one that the cruel wizard had a very powerful witch locked up… and that she was to be… sacrificed…”
Minerva’s lips thinned out as she struggled not to cry out at Gisella’s words. At the same time the heavy bolt could be heard sliding on the opposite side of the door. Gisella moved toward it.
“Giselle, one more thing…” Minerva quickly stopped the girl and whispered. “Have you seen Albus… my brother?”
Gisella shook her head; her eyes stuck on the door as it began to swing open.
“If you do… tell him what you have told me… please?”
Before Gisella could reply the guard at the door yelled out for her to hurry or risk being locked in with Minerva all afternoon. Gisella lifted her skirts and ran to the door. “I’m coming,” she gasped, but just before she disappeared she turned back to Minerva and dropped her chin slightly in a single nod.
After one last look and a satisfied nod Albus closed the rugged door behind him and stepped out into the forest. He’d taken care of shelter for he and Minerva. Now all he had to do was figure out some way to free her.
The snap of a branch a few feet away caught his attention and he quickly faded back into the cover of the thicket behind him and watched. A few minutes later a young woman that Albus recognized as one of the kitchen workers came in to view. She was carrying a small basket and wandering as if she had no particular destination in mind.
Gisella was humming a tune softly, the occasional word slipping in with the melody. To Albus’ surprise the word that he kept hearing over and over was… Albus. When he and Minerva had taken on the jobs of estate manager and house keeper they had given the names of Abe and Mary Stuart… so how did this girl suddenly know his real name? It couldn’t be a coincidence.
Albus stepped from behind the tree, his eyes scanning the surrounding area thoroughly. Gisella smiled.
“I hoped you would hear me.” She said softly.
“Mi… my sister sent you?”
Gisella held out the small basket. “I brought you some food. You must be hungry. It won’t be missed, I promise. I was very careful.”
Albus took the basket and examined it carefully. “Thank you. How is she?”
“I have not seen her today. I took her lunch tray in yesterday… but they decided that I spoke to her too much and I haven’t been allowed back. I told her something that I’d overheard and she asked me… she wanted me to tell you.”
“Then do so.”
Gisella once again repeated the tiny snippet of conversation she had overheard then waited expectantly… How could she know the fear that her words struck in his heart?
“This banquet is tomorrow? You’re sure?”
“Yes… the dark lord went to visit your… sister then came to the kitchen and told us to prepare the banquet for tomorrow evening. This is how I was able to get away… I am collecting mushrooms to make one of his favorite dishes.”
“Take your basket back. I believe that you will find what you need several hundred yards down the path there,” Albus pointed then unloaded the food from the basket into his pockets. “Thank you for taking this risk. If I do manage to get us free we will remember you.”
Gisella smiled once more as she took the basket. “Good luck to you, sir… and to your lady as well.” With one last nod of her head she took off down the trail.
Minerva had been pacing the floor most of the afternoon, convinced from the demeanor of the old woman who delivered her lunch tray that something was up. Was this the night of the feast that Gisella had heard about? Deep down inside, Minerva knew that it was.
The sun was slipping toward the horizon when the bolt slid back and the door swung open again. The old hag who had been bringing her meals for the last few days entered but instead of a tray she held a long garment bag.
“What is that?” Minerva asked, eyeing the package warily as the old woman laid it across the bed.
“Never you mind that now, girl. Come sit down over here.” She gestured toward the one chair in the room.
“I don’t wish to sit. Where is my dinner tray?” Minerva responded with more bravado than she actually felt.
The hag cackled. “You’ll be eating in the main hall tonight. Now come sit down!”
Minerva turned away, refusing to acknowledge the other woman any more. Moments later she was hit with the Imperious curse and her ability to resist was removed.
The activity in the great hall was picking up, severely hampering Albus’ movements as he put the final touches on some necessary props for his rescue plan. Finally most of the workers shifted to the area behind the head table. Albus took advantage of their absence to quickly finish up, taking great care not to make any noise that might draw attention to his invisible presence.
Once he was done he breathed a sigh of relief. Now all he had to do was wait for the right moment to trigger his plan. With that thought in mind he resolved to make his way up the staircase to the door to Minerva’s room and wait. He hoped to find some way to let her know of his presence so that she would be ready to move.
‘What a strange contraption!’ Albus watched with interest for a moment as several burly men put a large wooden structure together then the women covered it with a wide length of black velvet. The doorway that Albus preferred to use was just behind the structure so he waited until the workers were finished to ensure that it wouldn’t block his path. Once he had decided that there was plenty of room left he made his way toward Minerva’s rooms.
“Now just move along and do as you are told.” The hag pushed Minerva out of the door then motioned for the beefy guard to close it behind them. “You are to go into the hall and behave yourself.”
Minerva didn’t respond to the woman’s words as she moved down the hall but that was because she was using every ounce of strength that she possessed to fight the Iimperious curse that the hag had placed her under. The woman’s powers weren’t nearly a match for her own and Minerva could feel the curse bending beneath her mental onslaught.
The old woman must have sensed what Minerva was doing because she gave her a hard push, breaking Minerva’s concentration. She stumbled toward the wall, only managing to catch herself from hitting the wall face first at the last minute.
Minerva pushed herself back to the center of the corridor, her eyes scanning the seemingly empty space beside her. Had she really heard Albus’ voice or was it just wishful thinking? Her question was answered a second later when she felt the light brush of invisible fingertips across the back of her hand.
Albus struggled against the urge to hex the old hag and the brawny guard then run away with Minerva. As much as he would like to do this, he knew that they would never make it through the castle without being caught. No… his plan was better… he had to stick with it… but he continued to follow the group closely.
As the group moved through the corridors and down the stairs Albus began to watch Minerva very intently, noticing how she moved, how her hands were clenched at her side… and suddenly he realized that she must be under an Imperious curse. His Minerva would never walk that quietly and willingly.
A hush fell over the great hall when Minerva entered with her guardians close behind her. There must have been at least a hundred people sitting at the long tables and Minerva was extremely conscious that all of them were staring at her. She could feel their eyes roaming over her cloak covered body and shivered.
“How kind of you to join me, my pretty witch.” Miggins said loudly as Minerva approached the head table where he sat. He held his hand out to her as she rounded the end of the table and approached.
“Take it!” The hag hissed when Minerva didn’t immediately raise her hand to the dark lord’s. Minerva had no choice but to comply although the flow of her arm through the air was jerky as it rose to take Miggins’ fingers.
The sudden pressure of the male guard’s hands on Minerva’s shoulders forced her into the seat next to Miggins.
“Gently, Brutus,” he scolded the man. “I prefer her flesh to be unmarred… at least until I’m ready…” Miggins smiled evilly then waved Minerva’s attendants away. The old woman scowled but she muttered the necessary counter curse to free Minerva then left.
“Now if you promise to behave yourself I won’t place you under the curse again… at least not right now. Have something to eat. The fowl is divine. That young girl that you hired from the village is quite a good… cook.”
Minerva struggled not to drop her gaze. “What do you want with me? I’m not young and pretty.”
“You aren’t as young as most of the serving staff, that is true. However, you do yourself a disservice when you say that you aren’t pretty… although I don’t think pretty is a word I would use to describe you. You, my dear… are a classic beauty… ivory skin, hair as black as the night… slender delicate fingers. But… you are correct. For my purposes, I don’t give a damn if you are beautiful or not. It’s your power that I want.” Miggins eyes narrowed as he leaned in closer to Minerva. ‘Gisella was right,’ the thought swept through Minerva’s mind out of the blue. ‘He does have bad breath.’
“There are many witches who are much more powerful than I am.”
Miggins’ shook his head. “I don’t think so… at least not many that I can lay my hands on. I don’t think that you’ve tapped the full potential of your talent yet. Under my tutelage you will be brilliant, Mary Stuart.”
“I don’t wish to be brilliant! I just want to leave this place.”
“And so you will… with me by your side. From now on you stay with me always, Mary Stuart… until you come to accept the honors that will be given you for your sacrifice I must keep you near.”
There was that word again… sacrifice. Minerva spared a glance for the large block covered in black velvet behind her. It did look surprisingly like an altar. What did this ugly little man have in mind?
Albus’ words came back to her. ‘Be ready.’ Minerva knew that Albus would attempt to rescue her sometime during the evening’s events. She resolved to be prepared to fight at his side… to the death, if need be.
“Eat!” Miggins commanded again. “You’ll need your strength this evening.” He stared at Minerva sharply then inhaled deeply. A knowing smile leapt to his face. “The time will soon be here.” He said and then turned to speak to the man sitting on the opposite side of him.
Minerva took the time to stare out over the room, wondering if she knew anyone in the crowd. Miggins had called her Mary Stuart so her identity was obviously still safe but if anyone in the hall recognized her both she and Albus would be revealed.
At that moment Minerva’s eyes locked with those of a face that she recognized… but from where? She stared at the dark headed man, trying to place him. Hogwarts… that was it. He had been a first year when she was in her seventh. Recognition sparked in the man’s eyes at the very moment Minerva remembered his name… Tom Riddle.
Minerva dropped her gaze quickly and pushed back from the table as Riddle stood. She didn’t know what she was doing but she knew that when Tom reached the high table she was as good as dead. Perhaps she had some notion of escaping but Miggins was keeping too close an eye on her. He leapt to his feet and grabbed her around the waist before she could flee.
“It appears that my chosen one is anxious for the evening to continue.” He told the crowd as he held tightly to the struggling woman. Perhaps it is time…”
“Let me go!” Minerva screamed.
To her surprise the dark wizard did just that. He pushed her forward so that she fell against the velvet-covered altar while maintaining his hold on the cloak that covered her. The dark cloth slid away and the crowd gasped.
The old hag had stripped Minerva completely then covered her with a floral scented lotion before dressing her in a white gauzy gown that was more appropriate to a honeymooner’s bed chamber than an eating hall. Delicate gold sandals encased her narrow feet. Although the fabric covered her from head to toe, leaving only her arms and a good portion of her neck and cleavage bare, it was almost sheer. Those sitting at the head table were easily able to make out much more than the lines of her body.
Before Minerva could right herself Miggins was behind her, one hand pressing into her back to keep her pinned to the structure beneath her.
“She’s quite the feisty one, isn’t she?” He called to the crowd. “What fun I’ll have…”
His free hand slid over her hip causing Minerva to kick back against his leg. Miggins swore loudly and removed his hand from Minerva’s back.
She was able to roll over before he realized that she was moving and caught her once again. This time he was careful to keep her flailing legs pinned.
Miggins leaned low over Minerva, his odiferous breath washing through her nostrils. One of his hands pinned Minerva’s right arm to the velvet while his other elbow held the left. “So you want it rough, do you?”
A flash of light hit Minerva’s eyes, momentarily blinding her. When her vision cleared she saw that while Miggins held her left arm with his elbow his hand was not empty. His fingers gripped the hilt of a knife, the blade easily fifteen inches long. The polished steel was now poised point down right above her throat.
“I thought that might change your tune a bit.” Miggins features grew even uglier as he slowly lowered the knife toward her.
Fear glinted in Minerva’s eyes for the first time since her captivity began. Her eyes watched the blade move closer, her hands and feet falling still… her struggles forgotten as she waited to see what Miggins intended to do to her.
This was the opportunity that Albus had been waiting for from his position by the doorway. He took the four steps separating him from Minerva in less than a second, his hand digging deep into the sleeve of his robes. He drew the wand that he’d recovered from the makeshift mortuary in the basement out and pressed it into her hand.
Minerva understood. She pointed the wand at Miggins.
Even at the odd angle her aim was true. Minerva rolled to her left and off of the altar as Miggins slumped over, unconscious. She didn’t get away scott free, however. The tip of the knife caught her right shoulder as she moved, grazing the skin deeply enough to draw a thin line of blood. Minerva didn’t notice.
The crowd roared and advanced on the head table; the followers already there pulling their wands as they searched for Minerva.
“Get ready… head toward the door.” Minerva heard a familiar voice in her ear. She felt the air next to her stir and then suddenly loud explosions could be heard from all over the hall. Sounds of screaming and randomly thrown curses grew in intensity.
Minerva scrambled toward the door, her hand grabbing the knob at the exact moment that another hand grabbed her wrist.
Time froze for an instant as she stared into the evil gaze of Tom Riddle.
“Well, Miss McGonagall, it seems I have the upper hand…” Riddle’s face fell forward, his gut pushed back as if a fist had made contact with it. Before he could recover his chin jerked up and he fell to the floor.
Albus pushed Minerva through the door then slammed it closed and sealed it behind them. “Take hold of my hand and don’t let go. Be prepared to run for your life!” Minerva briefly wondered why Albus didn’t drop his invisibility spell and thought of asking him but then they were moving.
Minerva had worked in the manor house for several months but she had no idea where Albus was leading her. Somehow they found the kitchen and then Albus began dragging Minerva across the floor toward the outer door.
Gisella was smiling as they passed her but her brow furrowed and she ran after them, pressing a clean cloth into Minerva’s hand and patting her own shoulder. Minerva didn’t understand the girl but she didn’t have time to ask so she took the cloth and kept moving.
The cold night air hit Minerva like a blast from a freezer. She felt chill bumps pop up all over her arms but Albus was pulling her along so she didn’t stop or complain.
A stream of red light screamed through the air at them from one of the windows of the manor house. A yell of triumph went up when it hit not five feet from the still moving woman and her invisible companion.
Albus swore, realizing that the filmy white gauze of a dress that Minerva wore shone like a beacon on the dark lawn. He yanked her behind a tall bush, pulled his outer robe off and swung it around her shoulders. The dark garment immediately became visible but it covered Minerva’s gown completely.
“Not much further until we reach the forest.” He whispered.
Minerva was ready when Albus began moving again. She gripped his hand tightly as they slipped away from the bush and resumed their trek toward the lawn. Slamming doors told Albus that having been spotted; they were now being pursued in earnest. He angled his course toward the trees, not wanting to go in too near his hiding place.
“I see them! Over there!” Another stream of light, this one blue, lit up a bit of shrubbery on the opposite side of the lawn. A pigeon fluttered into the sky, only to be stunned by another zealous spell caster. This diversion allowed Albus and Minerva to safely reach the cover of the forest.
“Walk as lightly as you can,” Albus whispered.
“I can transform,” Minerva said as she prepared mentally.
“NO!” Albus answered abruptly. “No magic… he’ll track it.”
“But how do we get away?”
“We don’t… not yet. We have to hide until there is a break in the wards around the estate.”
Minerva wanted to ask more questions but Albus put her off. “Later. We need to get underground as quickly as possible. Come…”
They took a round about but well-worn path through the dense forest, finally passing what appeared to be a miniature version of the manor house.
“Guest house?” Minerva asked.
“Hunting lodge.” Albus answered. He led Minerva around the dark corner of the structure and checked the area carefully then took her hand again.
Finally they came to a rundown shack. “Hang on,” came Albus’ voice from the air and then Minerva was being lifted and carried into the shed. “Less disturbance in the dirt to cover up.” He whispered. Minerva didn’t mind. She felt safe being carried in Albus’ arms, safer than she’d felt in days.
Albus stopped near one corner of the messy shack and lowered Minerva’s feet, guiding them to rest on top of his. His other arm remained firmly locked around her waist as he drew his wand from that sleeve and pointed it toward the floor. The rotting wooden floor shimmered for a moment and then a portion of it disappeared.
“Down you go,” Albus told Minerva, moving both hands to her waist so that he could lift her off his feet and down into the dark space. Minerva’s hands clawed at his upper arms frantically, her fingers clutching his robes tightly.
“No… please, Albus! It’s dark…”
To say Albus was surprised to discover that Minerva had a phobia was an understatement but he quickly soothed her. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to fix the marks I made while crossing the room and then step down with you. Look, the cellar isn’t that deep. Your head will stick up over the boards. Just let me lift you into it and you can keep hold of my robes.”
Minerva glanced down into the cavern once more then nodded bravely, but Albus could still see the concern in her eyes. He sat her gently over into the cellar and released her waist. Her hands rode his arms all the way down to his hands. With an understanding smile Albus took both of her hands and wrapped the fingers around the hem of his robe.
“Just one more moment.”
Another softly whispered spell wiped his footprints away and then he stepped off into the cellar as well.
“I’m sorry about such cramped quarters but it was the best I could do. We’ll have to lie down. I managed to lift a blanket for the floor. It’s there at the end.” Albus spoke to Minerva in soft tones as he grabbed the blanket, spread it out then helped her sit down. “Oh…” he whispered another spell and a muggle lantern at one end of their hiding place flickered to life. “That’s better, now isn’t it?”
Light filled the room as Albus slid down on his side and replaced the missing flooring above their heads then held his arm out to Minerva. “Come here.”
Minerva never considered saying no since her head was bumping the flooring above her. She stretched the length of her body out next to Albus, her head coming to rest on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her.
“What now?” she whispered.
“Now… we wait.”
“For how long?”
“Until we can escape. I don’t know how long it will be but I promise you, the instant that we can leave this place, we will.”
“Magic… you used magic, Albus! You said they could track us…” her voice faded as Albus gently shushed her.
“I’ve been working on protective wards for us for days, slowly blending the magic in with theirs. The little bit I’ve done here tonight can’t be detected. I’ve also added a few subtle surprises…”
“I was recognized… they will discover who you are and hunt us down…”
Albus shifted slightly so that he and Minerva were facing each other. “Minerva… I will take care of you. I promise you that these people will not harm you or the children. I will hunt them down one by one if they attempt to do so… Do you trust me?”
“With my life.” Minerva answered without hesitation.
“I will get you out of here.” Albus said vehemently then settled back on the blanket. They lay in silence for quite sometime; both of them close to dozing off when Albus felt Minerva shiver.
“Oh, my dear,” a mental image of the brevity of Minerva’s clothing briefly appeared, causing Albus own body core temperature to rise. “You must be freezing. I’ll transfigure the robe into a heavier blanket… I can’t.”
“You can’t,” Minerva said at that same moment. They smiled gently at each other.
“I’ll pull the robe over both of us.” Albus told her as levelly as he could. “We can share our body heat.”
Minerva saw the slight blush that colored Albus cheeks above his beard but she pretended not to notice as she tugged one end of the robe free and threw it over Albus.
“What? Something is wet…and sticky…” Albus pulled his hand from beneath the robe and held it up to the light. It was bright red.
Before Minerva could frame a question Albus had pushed her to her back and ripped the robe away. “The bastard hurt you! Why didn’t you tell me?” He stared at the cut running along her collarbone, blood beginning to dry and crust along its edges.
Minerva glanced down. “I… didn’t know… I didn’t feel it…” She lifted a hand that still clutched the cloth that Gisella had handed her in the kitchen. “She kept patting her shoulder… she was trying to tell me…”
Albus took the cloth and pressed it tightly against the wound. “I need to take care of this…” He drew his wand.
Minerva caught his wrist and gently pushed it back down. “The bleeding has almost stopped, Albus. It isn’t bad enough to risk our capture.”
“I should have acted earlier…” Albus dropped his wand, his shoulders sagging in dismay.
“You acted at the first moment you possible could. We wouldn’t have gotten away otherwise. I admit that I was terrified up there… not knowing what that horrible little man intended to do with me…” Minerva shuddered. Albus noticed and quickly pulled her back into his arms then dragged the robe over both of them. He parted his legs and threw the top one over both of Minerva’s; his voluminous inner robes provided added warmth for her lower body.
“What did he want with me, Albus?” Minerva asked in a subdued voice once they were settled again. “At first I thought he was going to rape me… but then I saw the knife and when I looked in his eyes I knew he meant to kill me.”
Albus hesitated a moment before answering. “I thought so as well… I don’t know for certain what his motives were. I only heard what he said to you that first time…”
“You WERE there! I knew it! I found the scrap of parchment and I…” Minerva stopped speaking abruptly, her face going beet red.
“What is it? Are you hurt somewhere else?” Albus asked worriedly.
Minerva shook her head, her face dropping so that Albus could see. “You were there… you saw…”
Suddenly Albus understood. “And I very nearly cursed all of them for treating you so roughly. I’m so sorry that you had to undergo that humiliation.”
“You saw… ME!”
“I did… but I didn’t see much,” Albus was as embarrassed as Minerva but he stammered on. “His head was blocking…”
“Oh no!” Minerva tried to turn away but Albus wouldn’t let her.
“It was your fault… I know that you didn’t want… Dammit, Minerva! I am a man after all! I know that I shouldn’t have looked but I couldn’t help it… You are a beautiful woman and I couldn’t risk taking my eyes off of Miggins. I was about two seconds away from cursing him when he moved away from you. I’m sorry… please… forgive me?”
Minerva’s head moved
against Albus’ shoulder in what he took to be a nod. “Why don’t you try to rest,
“Tell me what you learned while I was imprisoned.”
“That should make for a pleasant bedtime story,” Albus chuckled but then did as she asked. Half an hour later Minerva knew everything that Albus did about Miggins, his followers and his plans along with how Albus had set up and ignited the series of explosions in the great hall.
“Now it’s your turn,
“I like it when you call me that,” Minerva shifted her head slightly so that her mouth wasn’t pressed against Albus’ shoulder. “I didn’t learn very much at all… only that he’s been forcing his attentions on the female servants.” She haltingly continued until she’d described what Miggins had said and done to Gisella and possibly Janka as well.
Albus could tell that Minerva was tiring by the end of her missive so he didn’t respond, just letting her drift off to sleep naturally. Once she relaxed in his arms, however, his brain went into over drive as he tried to put together a picture of their enemy. He was not pleased with what he came up with.
Finally three days of constant activity with only catnaps caught up with Albus and he dozed off as well.
“You must have been scared, mummy. I would have been!” Fee interrupted the story, her voice betraying her excitement.
“There were moments when I was a little afraid, yes… but I knew that your Uncle Albus was working to free me. We Gryffindors have to hold fast to our courage, don’t we?”
“What happened next, Uncle Albus?” Ian tried to bring everyone’s attention back to the story, not wanting to hear another dissertation on the traits of his house from one of its most staunch alumni, his mother.
“Next…” Albus began.
Acute hearing was a trait Minerva possessed in both her animagus and human forms so it was no surprise when she heard the rasp of rusty hinges followed by heavy footsteps on the floor above her. Realizing that she was awake, Albus quickly clamped his hand over her mouth. He drew her closer to him then reached out and extinguished the tiny flicker of lantern light.
Loud voices speaking in Hungarian could be heard above them; two male’s voices and they were arguing. Even though Minerva didn’t speak the language she knew that the men were talking about her and Albus or rather Abe and Mary Stuart. The tight clasp of Albus’ hands on her back confirmed her suspicions.
The men tromped all around the small shed before coming to stop right over them. Minerva gasped when she heard them slide gardening tools around. Metal scraped against metal as they tugged the trap door open.
The beat of Minerva’s heart doubled and a scream rose up in her throat. She felt Albus tighten his grip even more and then, just as the cry was about to escape, Albus pressed his closed mouth against hers. Minerva was so stunned that the sound faded away unuttered.
Lantern light filled the small cellar as Minerva clung to Albus desperately, convinced that in seconds she would be torn away from him and returned to the great hall to meet her fate. But to her great surprise, after several seconds of looking the men dropped the trap door back into place and stomped off, bickering with each other as they went.
Both Albus and Minerva pulled back from the press of their lips at the same time, each privately stunned at the jolt of electricity that had accompanied the touch. Minerva settled her head against Albus’ shoulder in the dark.
“How..?” She whispered.
“A concealing spell combined with an invisibility spell. All they saw was an empty cellar. Since the magic is interwoven with Miggin’s own wards his followers can’t detect it.”
“Very impressive, Professor Dumbledore.” Minerva murmured before going quiet once again.
They lay in silence for a long time; both lost in their own thoughts. Minerva dozed for a while and then Albus did, but they remained wary of a second search party so the lantern light remained off. Several hours passed and both were napping lightly when suddenly the very air around them began to spin as they were sucked into the whirl of portkey activation.
“That was bloody brilliant of you, Uncle Albus!” Ian was really into the tale now. “Turning his own magic against him!”
“I’m glad you approve,” Albus beamed back at the boy. “I had to do something and that was all I could think of.”
“I’m glad Uncle Albus sensed you were about to scream and clapped his hand over your mouth, mummy.” Fee told her. “You could have ruined everything.
Minerva shared a quick but knowing glance with Albus. There were some things that the children just didn’t need to know, after all. A detailed description of her dress and Miggin’s more salacious comments had also been left out. “I could have indeed. It was foolish of me but I’m glad that Albus was able to stop me.”
“And the portkey!” Ian turned the conversation back to the adventure. “Amazing!”
“That is one of the reasons that I always carry one of
Fawkes’ feathers on my person if I can.
“It was a bit odd to be portkeyed away when I didn’t expect it.” Minerva added.
“What happened then?”
“Where…?” Minerva pushed up to her elbows as soon as the world around her stopped spinning. She was immediately aware that they were no longer in the cramped cellar. The ground beneath her was covered with a soft carpet.
Albus was already on the move. Sitting up beside Minerva he drew his wand and pointed it at a dark shadow in the corner.
“Incendio!” Moments later a cheery and warming fire flickered in the large stone fireplace.
Albus glanced around the room approvingly. “Good… good… everything still in its place…”
“But where are we?” Minerva slowly pushed her torso up, clutching Albus’ robe to her as she did so. Even though the fire was now burning brightly the room was still cold.
“We are in a safe house left over from the war. The auror corps kept a few active to use during missions. Alastor Moody had mentioned that this one was still protected so I set a portkey to bring us here just as soon as the barrier dropped.”
“But…” Minerva still looked a bit stunned. “Won’t they know…?”
Albus nodded. “Miggins will know that we’ve escaped his net fairly quickly but he won’t be able to plot our path. You are safe here.”
Minerva breathed a sigh of relief as Albus stood and moved to the fireplace. He grabbed a kettle, moved to the sink in the small kitchen and filled it with water then placed it near the fireplace. “I’m going to send a quick message to the ministry, okay?” He told Minerva as he moved to the window and pushed the glass up.
“We could… apparate there…” Minerva still seemed to be slightly overwhelmed.
A silver dart shot out of the end of Albus’ wand then he closed the window. “We could…” he continued as he moved around the single room of the cottage gathering up things. “But I want to tend to your wound and get you warm first. Hopefully the authorities can move in quickly and capture Miggins before he gets away.”
Minerva nodded and clutched the robe tighter to her as she scooted a little closer to the fireplace. Albus noticed the gesture and with a few whispered words, pushed the flames higher. Soon the room began to warm noticeably. He checked the kettle, pleased to note that it was pleasantly hot. He poured a generous measure into the bowl that he’d found then moved back to Minerva’s side.
“Don’t you want to come sit in a chair, Minerva?”
She looked up at him and shook her head. “I want to stay close to the fire.”
Albus dropped to the floor beside her. “Let me…” he gently tugged the robe away and was relieved to see that the wound had completely crusted over.
Minerva watched in silence as Albus dipped a soft cloth in the warm water and wrung it out. He eyed her chest, trying to keep the look clinical. “I could work through the cut in the fabric but it would be easier if you slid the gown down your arm a bit. Could you uhm… hold it… you know… in place?”
Keeping her eyes locked on Albus’ face, Minerva absently slid her hand up the side of her body to cup her breast, her fingers spreading out to hold the cloth up. After a few moments hesitation Albus fumbled with the top clasp of the robe, a sparkling gem between her breasts, then freed it so that he had enough room to push it down from the shoulder. Minerva winced as the cloth pulled away from the dried blood that it had been stuck to.
“I’m sorry… just let me…”
A sigh escaped Minerva’s lips as Albus gently touched the cloth to the beginning of the cut and carefully massaged the dried blood loose. Once he had cleansed the area completely he picked up his wand and muttered a basic healing spell. The scab began to flake away as the broken flesh knit back together.
“Basic medic training during the war.” Albus told Minerva in reply to her raised eyebrow. “It isn’t perfect. I think that it will leave a scar unless you have it seen to when you return home.”
Although Albus didn’t catch what he’d said Minerva certainly did. Her eyes squeezed shut tightly but Albus didn’t notice because he’d returned to his task. The blood from her wound had slid down her chest. Her gown had absorbed a great deal of it but dried bits still clung to her skin from her collarbone down to the swell of her breast.
The soft cloth and the warm water easily washed the blood from Minerva’s skin. Albus moved lower and lower until he reached the barrier of the stained gown that she held against her breast. He eased a single cloth covered finger under the gown and down the inner swell to catch the last flakes of blood.
“Albus…” The tips of Minerva’s fingers touched his cheek, drawing his attention back to her face. “We’re safe… we’re really safe!”
His smile matched hers, his relief obvious because Minerva was herself again. He tossed the rag back into the bowl without looking back at it, unwilling to take his eyes off Minerva’s smile. “We’re safe.” He answered, his fingers sliding to her cheek in a mirror action.
The inches separating them disappeared as Minerva leaned slowly forward and Albus unknowingly matched her movement. Albus knew he shouldn’t… but what would one little kiss hurt? A brushing of lips… the touching of cheeks… Minerva seemed to need his touch and he could deny her nothing.
Albus was disabused of his notion of a gentle kiss the moment that Minerva’s lips touched his. Her arms came up to twine around his neck, her fingers clutching his hair as she captured his lips. Her tongue flicked against his mouth again and again, tracing the contours until the last shred of reason left in Albus fled and he opened to her.
The kiss grew more and more passionate with each passing moment. Hands began to roam beyond the confines of faces into more personal areas. One of Albus’ palms found the breast that had been revealed when Minerva lifted her arms to embrace him while Minerva’s fingers moved to Albus’ neck and down his chest. She deftly slid the fastenings of his light inner robe apart and pushed it off of his shoulders.
“Min…” Albus exhaled her name as their lips broke apart, his eyes questioning. “Are you sure…”
Minerva laid two fingers over Albus’ lips and nodded then lay back on the soft rug. Her open gown slid down both arms as she did so, completely exposing her chest to Albus’ eyes. Ebony hair spread out around her face in waves as she held her arms up to Albus. He went to her willingly, shrugging his arms free from his robes and tossing them away as he slid to his side and rolled into Minerva’s embrace.
No further words were spoken between the couple as their bodies took over communication. Albus had been hard since he’d gotten his first glimpse of the swell of Minerva’s breast. The feel of both firm globes pressed firmly against his chest, tightly budded nipples digging into his flesh, only intensified his erection. He massaged the curve of one gently for long minutes before moving his hand down the dip of her waist.
A sharp gasp passed from Minerva’s lips into Albus’ mouth as his fingers slid into the dark nest of curls at the juncture of her thighs. Her legs slid further apart, inviting his touch, as the tip of his index finger probed deeper.
Hot juices coated the tip of that finger, causing Albus to return a moan into Minerva’s mouth. Their mouths parted from each other but continued to rain kisses on other body parts within reach. Albus licked and sucked his way down Minerva’s neck while she attacked his shoulder. Carefully skirting the newly healed wound around her collarbone, Albus moved lower, needing desperately to taste the dusky buds that were teasing him. His finger slid lower as well, probing the inner recesses of her folds then testing the entrance to her slick sheath.
Minerva cried out when Albus gently laved the tip of her breast with his tongue, her back arching and her fingers digging into his head as she begged for more. Her body began to rock against the hard organ pressing into her thigh.
Without realizing how he got there, Albus found his lower body lying within the cradle of Minerva’s thighs, his erection pressed tightly against her plump mound. The dampness now seeping from her core brushed over his heavy sacs, coating them with her warmth. He shifted slightly as one hand slid between them. He rubbed the tip of his member back and forth through the outer lining of Minerva’s sheath, pausing and pressing over the outer cusp of her desire until she was moaning almost uncontrollably. After one last pass he stopped and pressed the cap forward, sliding an inch or more easily into her.
Albus had lifted his head to watch Minerva’s face so he couldn’t miss the look of discomfort that flashed across her features. He immediately stopped his forward push but before he could do anything else Minerva wrapped her legs around his hips and thighs and thrust her hips up.
Remaining still was impossible. Within moments their bodies had established a rhythm that most lovers worked years to discover. Release came quickly, first Minerva and then Albus. Afterwards they clung together, their bodies still intimately joined. But once wasn’t enough and all too soon they were moving in tandem yet again. They tiny cottage was filled with the sounds of their joy, the scents of their lovemaking as they lost themselves in each other a second time.
“Then… then we reached the safe house. I notified the authorities about Miggins,
your mother came back to
Albus knew before he opened his eyes that Minerva was already awake and watching him. For a moment he considered faking sleep for a while longer just to keep her in his arms but he knew that her feline senses would soon detect him. He briefly wondered how she would react; if she would regret their closeness the night before. ‘Better to find out now, old man’ his inner voice told him.
His hand rose up to
stroke her face as his eyes flicked open.
sadly. “Good morning, my
They fit together as if fashioned that way and Albus wanted to stay where they were forever but he knew that wasn’t possible. He’d dreamed, during the brief hours that they had slept, a horrifying nightmare where Miggins had discovered both of their identities and come after Minerva. Albus knew he couldn’t let that happen. He had to ensure that she was safe.
“When?” Minerva whispered.
Albus’ eyes narrowed as he wondered if and when Minerva had learned legilimens.
“I have to…”
In a repeat of the gesture that had sparked their joining the previous evening, Minerva lifted two fingers and laid them against Albus’ lips. “I understand.” But Albus wasn’t sure that she did.
enfolded her face between his hands.
“He’s a murderer,
Minerva’s eyes dropped. “I know.” She whispered.
“I want the children to know that their father’s murderer has been brought to justice.” Albus pressed on.
Minerva pulled out of Albus’ embrace and shivered at the loss of his warmth. Goosebumps appeared as the cold room air caressed her skin. “We should go.”
At Albus’ command a small pillow flew from an overstuffed armchair in a corner by the fire to his outstretched hand. He gently lifted Minerva’s head and placed the pillow beneath it then pulled his heavy outer robe over her naked body. “Stay here and keep warm.” He smiled lovingly as his fingers stroked her hair. “I’ll get us something to eat.”
The mention of food brought a rumble to Minerva’s stomach and as badly as she wanted to flee, she didn’t want to give up one minute of her time with Albus. Because she knew that when they parted that would be the end. She snuggled into the warmth of his robe and inhaled deeply, imprinting that unique scent that was Albus into her nostrils.
Albus pushed off of the floor slowly, his sore muscles telling him that perhaps he was a bit too old to be sleeping on the floor. Well… sleeping and some other things. He looked over at Minerva as he tugged on his thin inner robe, smiling as he remembered their lovemaking just a few hours ago.
Within minutes, the fire that had died in the night was once again roaring in the fireplace. Albus had filled the kettle and put it in the fire to heat and returned to Minerva’s side to rummage in the outer pockets of his robe. Minerva watched curiously as he pulled several cloth wrapped bundles free and took them with him when he moved back into the tiny kitchen.
When the kettle began to whistle Albus lifted it from the fire and added a generous measure of the boiling water to the bowl that already contained cold water. He refilled the kettle, sat it back over the fire and returned to Minerva’s side.
“We don’t have a bath but I thought you might feel better if you…” Albus cheeks were tinged with pink as he stuttered then simply went quiet as he pulled the bottom of his robe away from Minerva’s legs. Then, to Minerva’s utter surprise, he lifted the damp cloth and slipped it beneath the robe and in between her legs. Working thoroughly but gently, Albus washed away the remnants of their lovemaking that still clung to her skin. After rinsing the rag he returned it to her center and held it there, the warmth of the fabric seeping into her sore muscles and tissue.
“Thank you.” She whispered, amazed at the thoughtfulness of the gesture. Daniel would never have done anything so considerate.
‘I love you.’ The words sprang unbidden to Albus’ lips and he had to bite down to keep from speaking them out loud. He knew that the time wasn’t right. Minerva had only found out that she was a widow a few days ago. He smiled at her. “Let’s see about something for you to wear…”
Albus picked up the remnants of the gauzy gown Minerva had been clothed in and touched it with his wand. The fabric grew darker and stronger, morphing into a lovely gown of emerald green. A second spell transformed the flimsy gold sandals into stylish but sturdy ankle boots.
“Is something wrong? You can change them if you like…” Albus noticed a shadow dart across Minerva’s face as she stared at the robes he had transfigured for her.
“It’s nothing… I just wondered… why did you choose green?”
Albus’ brow furrowed. “I’ve always wanted to see you in green. It would accent your beautiful eyes. Is that a problem?”
“No… I’ve just never… Daniel didn’t like for me to wear green… not even my family tartan. He was extremely prejudiced against any reminder of Slytherin…”
“I never thought of it that way… but I don’t have that same prejudice… and I’d love to see you in green… but if you want to change it I understand. I’ll leave you to get dressed…” Albus stood then grabbed the once again whistling kettle before moving back into the kitchen.
Minerva surveyed the robe thoughtfully for a moment then reached a hand into one of Albus’ inner pockets and emerged with a large pocket-handkerchief. She quickly changed it into knickers then tugged them on. Even though Albus had cleansed away the outer signs of their intimacy she could still feel his presence within her and she didn’t want to mar the dress he had made for her.
By the time that Albus returned with a tray holding teacups and the assortment of meats and breads that Gisella had supplied him with, Minerva was dressed, the green skirt fanning out behind her as she sat on the floor. She inspected the tray with surprise and delight.
“What are your plans?” Minerva finally found the courage to ask between bites.
“I won’t really know until I get back to Vargha’s and find out what the authorities discovered when they arrived. Best case scenario, they captured Miggins, Vargha and a good number of his followers.”
“But you don’t expect that?”
Albus shook his head sadly. “No, I don’t. They would know that when the wards weakened we escaped. Even though the authorities were probably there within minutes, I suspect that Miggins ran immediately.”
“So you will track him…”
“We know so much
more now. The room that I was in when
you were discovered… he’s planning coordinated strikes against the wizarding
world in ten major cities… the death toll would be staggering if he succeeded…
I have to stop him,
“They will be expecting you… Since I was recognized they will be able to guess who my ‘brother’ was with little difficulty.”
“I always suspected that Tom Riddle would go this route. Everyone thought that he was such a wonderful student while at Hogwarts but there was something about him…”
“He was the young man who discovered the student who opened Slytherin’s chamber?”
Albus nodded, “Only I don’t believe that Hagrid was the guilty party at all. I never did. The very idea is ludicrous. I can’t prove that Riddle had something to do with that but I feel sure that he did.”
“Will you track him down?”
“If I have too… but Miggins is my primary target. If I can capture him I think the organization will fall apart.”
Minerva desperately wanted to ask ‘And then what?’ but her pride wouldn’t let her. She knew that Albus was doing what his conscience dictated and she had to have faith that he would return to her when his mission was done.
The couple lingered over the meal, discussing tracking methods and various spells that Albus might employ. He was relieved that Minerva didn’t suggest coming with him. He had thought that might be a possibility but after the adventures of the last few days he knew that he couldn’t allow it. Seeing her in danger had almost killed him.
Finally the time came when they knew they couldn’t delay any longer. Minerva took care of their breakfast remains while Albus refreshed his robes and extinguished the fire.
Minerva drew her wand then looked at Albus nervously. “Take care of yourself.” She told him, unsure of how to say goodbye.
Albus drew her into his arms and hugged her tightly. “If things were different I would be there with you to tell the children… I’ll be home before you miss me…” Minerva could have sworn that she heard an emotional hitch in Albus’ normally steady timbre. She lifted her head and kissed him fervently, pouring all of her emotion into the oral connection. Albus responded in kind, his arms wrapping around her as he embraced her tightly.
Then she broke the kiss, stepped back, and with one quickly uttered incantation, she was gone.
“What happened then, Uncle Albus?” Ian asked excitedly. “After mum left. Did you take off after the bast… murderer immediately?”
“I did. I apparated back to the manor and joined the investigative team there. Once I felt I had enough information to start searching I left.”
“Where did you go first?”
“I…” Albus glanced at Fee who was almost asleep sitting up. “I think that bit can wait for another day. No…” he quickly headed Ian’s protests off. “Tomorrow is a school day and your sister is dead on her feet. I will answer your questions… but another day…”
“Okay,” Ian grudgingly accepted Albus judgement. After all, Fee was beginning to lean toward his shoulder. “Come on, Fifi.” He punched her lightly in the arm.
“Would you like to stay here tonight, Fee?” Albus offered, shocking Minerva. “Both of you are welcome.”
“We’ll go back to the dormitory.” Ian decided for both of them.
While Fiona was hugging her mother Albus moved to Ian’s side. “Fee may have bad dreams about what happened at the hearing today… if she does…”
“I’ll come get mum.” Ian answered. “I promise. Thank you for being truthful with us, Uncle Albus.”
Albus shook the hand that Ian offered. “Sleep well, Ian… and thank you for listening.”
Fiona moved over to give Albus a goodnight hug, leaving Ian and Minerva standing and staring at each other. Once the hug was done Ian pushed Fee toward the door but as he passed his mother his arm came out and he gave her a quick half hug. “Night, Mum.” He whispered then bolted out the door behind his sister.
Minerva whirled around to face her husband and clapped her hands, her face beaming. “Did you see, Albus? Ian actually touched me!”
Her smile was infectious but Albus returned it gladly. “I saw. I think that he knew we were being straightforward tonight. Give the boy a little time. He’ll come around completely.”
“I have you to thank for all this,” Minerva flew at Albus, wrapping her arms around his neck and showering his face with butterfly kisses.
Albus laughed as he caught her face with his hands and planted a proper kiss on her upturned lips. “You have yourself to thank. No mother could have been willing to give up more than you to keep her children safe.”
Minerva’s glee faded a little. “I had to, Albus… Please try and understand… It isn’t that I didn’t trust you to help me, but I didn’t know about the will and I wanted the children to have you to turn to…”
“It’s over, Minerva.” Albus answered seriously. “But from now on I would like you to promise me something…”
“We have no more secrets from each other, please?”
Albus dropped his arm to Minerva’s waist and led her toward the bedroom door. “We’ve made good strides toward reconciliation with the children tonight, my love. I just hope that things continue to improve.”
The sound of gurgling greeted their ears as soon as they entered the bedroom. Together they moved to the cradle. Allie greeted them with a baby giggle, arms and legs flailing with excitement at seeing her parents.
“What are you doing awake, little miss?” Minerva asked as she leaned forward and lifted the baby into her arms.
“Let me guess, empty tummy or full nappy,” Albus raised his eyebrows at Allie.
“Both! Here… I think she’d like to play with her daddy for a while. Why don’t you clean her up and keep her occupied while I have a quick shower then I can feed her while you shower.”
Albus quickly agreed, eager to spend time with Allie. It was only after Minerva closed the bathroom door behind her that Albus realized just exactly what Allie’s diaper was full of.
“That little stunt you pulled earlier was decidedly evil, my love,” Albus told his wife as he emerged from the bathroom rubbing his long hair vigorously with a towel.
“I have no idea what you mean,” Minerva told him coquettishly as she snuggled beneath the blankets and watched. Albus grabbed a comb and ran it through his hair and beard until the tangles were gone then tugged on a pair of silky boxer shorts, deep blue this time, with orange paws appearing and disappearing across them.
“Tabby prints.” He told his wife when he saw her watching them. “Is Allie sleeping?”
Minerva nodded, her head inclined toward the cradle. “I think she’ll stay down most of the night now.” She waited until Albus had settled down in the bed beside her before she scooted up close to him.
“That’s good. We could both use a good night’s sleep.” Albus settled back into the pillows and held out his arm so that Minerva could settle against his side.
The feminine hand that had begun a downward stroke over Albus’ chest stopped. “Sleep?” She asked. “You don’t want to…”
“Make love?” Albus shifted slightly so that he could look into Minerva’s eyes. “Of course I do… but I think that we just need to sleep tonight. I’m not a sex maniac, Minerva.”
Laughter sparkled in Minerva’s eyes. “I know, my phoenix… I just thought…”
“We’ve had a long and stressful day,
Minerva glanced down the bed where the lengths of their bodies were laid out together. “Court me?” One dark eyebrow popped up.
“You know… make you want to marry me all over again… but don’t ask me to sleep on the sofa. I’ve gotten used to holding you in my arms at night and I find that I quite enjoy it.”
“As do I, my love,” Minerva whispered then cuddled up against her husband and promptly fell asleep.
The next two weeks passed in a flurry of activity but Albus made sure that Minerva and the children spent at least a little time together every day. The family would meet by the fire in Albus’ rooms every evening after dinner. Sometimes they would talk about general things, sometimes the adults would help the children with their homework but at least they were spending time together. Even though Ian would barely even look at Allie much less touch her, Minerva was more hopeful about the situation which in turn helped Albus implement his plan to court her.
His surprises ranged from the very simple to the extremely extravagant. One evening he appeared with a beautiful rose of the deepest red that Minerva had ever seen. Another evening he pampered her with a special bath followed by a massage administered by his own hands. Special treats to tempt her appetite were often followed by games of chess, an activity that Albus knew Minerva loved. One evening after Allie had gone to sleep Albus summoned Ditzy to watch the baby and took his wife on a moonlight stroll. They ended the evening in the very top of the astronomy tower, snogging each other senseless.
The only thing that they didn’t do during the two weeks was take that step over the line that Albus had drawn and make love. Every night Albus climbed into bed beside Minerva, pulled her into his arms and promptly fell asleep.
At first Minerva was slightly amused by her husband’s determination to keep their relationship chaste, but by the end of the first week her amusement had faded. As the second week wore on her night attire became more and more revealing but the only encouraging sign that she had received was the thick member pressing into her belly on the mornings that she woke before Albus. One morning she’d even tried to touch him but Albus had fled the bed before she could.
On Friday morning, soon after Albus left for breakfast in the great hall with his students, Minerva heard a voice hailing her from the fire.
“Poppy! How are you?” Minerva was delighted to see a familiar face. Even though she had continued with her duties overseeing the Hogwarts kitchens she avoided the students and other staff members as much as possible and missed adult contact.
“I’m wonderful! What about you? Getting tired of being cooped up in those stuffy rooms?”
“Albus’ rooms are very comfortable, Poppy Pomfrey, and you know that. What are you up to?”
“I have the day off and I thought that I would like to
spend it with my best friend and my newest goddaughter. Why don’t you pop down to
“I don’t know…” Minerva hesitated. “I’m not sure Albus would like that… he is only teaching a few classes so he could pop back in at any time…”
“Hogsmeade then. I’ll apparate up and meet you at the Three Broomsticks. You aren’t Albus’ prisoner, you know. He doesn’t keep you chained up, does he? Wait… If he does I don’t need to know… I’d be jealous. This is a very important occasion, Min. After years of waiting my dream man has finally asked me out!”
“Cornelius Fudge?” Minerva asked, trying not to let her mirth show in her voice.
“Minerva McGonagall… Dumbledore! You take that back!”
“Or I’ll tell your new husband about the time back in last year in school when we mooned the new transfiguration teacher!”
Minerva cocked an eyebrow. “Albus probably already knows about that, Poppy, being that he was the teacher. That wasn’t the last time that he saw my bare bottom.”
“Damn! Come on, Minerva! I’ve been crazy about Armando for years and…”
“Armando? You are going out with Headmaster Dippet?” Minerva was teasing Poppy because her friend’s decades long crush on Armando Dippet was a well-known fact.
“I talked with him several times while I was popping in and out of his fireplace to check on you and he finally asked me out. I need my best friend’s help to pick out the perfect gown. P-l-e-a-s-e, Min!”
Minerva sighed. She could never say no to Poppy when she whined. “I guess I could leave Albus a note. “There are actually a few things that I could use… personal items… but I’ll have to be quick… I can’t be gone all day…”
“So write the note and get ready. I’ll meet you in Hogsmeade in one hour.” Before Minerva could say anything more Poppy disappeared.
“Well, Allie… it appears that we are going to go shopping with your Aunt Poppy!” Minerva told her daughter as she picked her up. “Maybe we can get something… fun… for your daddy to play with…”
“Oh!” Poppy’s voice emerged from the fireplace once more. “Feed her before you come. I don’t want you having to hook her up in the middle of the lingerie section at Gladrags!”
The fire reverted to normal before Minerva could throw the hex that was rising to her lips.
Albus settled back into the pillows and tugged the sheet up over him while he wondered what was taking Minerva so long in the bathroom. Normally she was in bed waiting for him.
While he waited, Albus attempted to clear his mind of all but the purest thoughts about his wife. It helped to ease the agony that holding her every night was causing his frustrated senses.
The wooing was going well, he thought. He’d begun the day with a red rose left on his pillow so that his sleeping wife would see it the moment she woke up. Fawkes had been a busy phoenix throughout the day, popping up when Minerva least expected him to deliver love notes… silly notes, sappy notes, steamy notes… The last missive of the day had been accompanied by an antique emerald necklace that Albus had bought for her years ago, never intending to actually give it to his friend’s wife, but sensing that it would look exquisite on her.
When he arrived back in the suite after dinner Minerva had run to him and kissed him passionately. Desire had rushed through him like a tidal wave. The knowledge that Ian and Fee were close behind him was the only thing that stopped him from taking his wife then and there.
“It’s too early,” Albus shot down at his rapidly increasing groin, the memory of his wife’s kiss stirring the still glowing embers of his desire. He still had plans to continue his courting, those plans culminating in his presentation of an engagement ring, specially designed to complement the necklace, and a proper marriage proposal.
Albus had the setting all worked out in his mind. Once the children felt completely secure again he would speak to Ian, man to man, about marrying his mother. Then he would take Minerva on a picnic by the small brook that flowed through the meadow near his family home and present her with the ring. They would renew their vows with their children there to witness the happy occasion… and then Albus would feel free to love Minerva physically… if only he could hold out that long.
The squeak of the bathroom door opening drew Albus’ attention and all of his hopes flew out the window as he stared at Minerva emerging from the doorway. The faint candlelight illuminating the room only accented the curves of her slender body beneath the almost transparent nightgown that she wore. Albus swallowed hard as his lower half rose to attention.
Minerva extinguished the light in the toilet then walked across the room toward the bed. Albus would have sworn that he could hear the whisper of her bare thighs as they brushed against each other. As she drew closer the sharp contrast of coloring between her milky white skin and her dusky nipples grew even more apparent in the candlelight… her dusky puckered nipples, Albus noted absently. His eyes were drawn almost involuntarily to the dark triangle between her legs.
Stopping at the edge of the bed, Minerva raised her hand to her throat. “I’m a very lucky woman to have such a thoughtful husband.” Albus watched with fascination as her fingers played over the emeralds in the delicate necklace. She smiled seductively as her hand slipped lower, her thumb brushing over the tight tip of her breast. “A husband who deserves a very… very… big… thank you.”
While she had been speaking Minerva had slipped beneath the light sheet and stretched out next to Albus. She ended her sentence then captured his lips in a soul stirring kiss, her hunger for him more than apparent. Albus couldn’t help but respond.
And respond he did, in full force, when Minerva’s hand slipped beneath the loose waistband of his boxers to caress him.
Albus struggled to regain control of the situation but the slow glide of Minerva’s fingers up and down his length did little to help. His hand found her breast and fondled it through the thin nightgown, one long finger slipping through the tiny shoulder strap and tugging it down.
Albus fell back completely against the mattress, his body in torment as his wife continued to touch and tease. He had almost reached the point of complete capitulation when his rational side fought back just long enough for him to grab Minerva’s shoulders and roll her to her back. She protested loudly when he pinned her arms to her side.
“My sweet willow…” Albus murmured as his lips fell to her forehead. “Your thanks are most appreciated… but I think we should sleep now.”
The stiffening of the body beneath his was unmistakable but Albus ignored it as he returned to his back and attempted to gather Minerva into his arms. She pushed him away and crawled to the opposite edge of the bed.
“Come here, Minerva.” Albus told her, one arm outstretched. His wife didn’t reply but he saw her shoulders shaking and realized that she was crying. “Minerva… the time will come…”
Minerva flew from the bed and whirled to face Albus, eyes full of anger. “Stop lying! You did take that damned potion, didn’t you? That is the only way you were able to bring yourself to touch me on our wedding night! You don’t desire me at all!”
Before Albus could respond his wife’s shape blurred and condensed into that of a small grey tabby cat.
“Minerva!” He yelled, jumping out of bed as she darted from the room. “Come back here! Dammit, woman…” His foot caught in the sheet, tripping him up and slowing him down. By the time that he had freed himself he realized that he didn’t have time to grab a robe or he would lose Minerva entirely. “DITZY!” He bellowed. The house elf appeared immediately, bony fingers rubbing sleep from large round eyes. “Please watch Allie…” he managed to mutter then faded from sight.
Only through the intervention of providence did Albus just catch sight of the tip of a tabby tail rounding a corner as he hurried down the hallway in the direction that he thought Minerva had run. She was fast in her feline form and Albus was puffing by the time that he reached the kitchen portrait just as it swung closed. He paused to catch his breath, puzzling over why Minerva would choose to run to the kitchens and why had she run in the first place. He’d explained to her why he wanted for them to wait to make love… hadn’t he?
With a start Albus realized that perhaps he hadn’t explained it well enough. All he’d really told Minerva was that he wanted to court her. He hadn’t considered that she might be having any difficulty with the decision that he’d made. He cursed himself silently as he stuck his hand out and tickled the fruit. The portrait swung open.
Albus stepped into the dark kitchen, only the embers of the massive fireplace casting a dim light on house elves sleeping in various spots around the room. One pillow was empty, a piece of flannel lying across the end. For the first time Albus realized that he had woken Ditzy from a sound sleep and made a mental note to do something special for the elf in thanks for all the help with Allie.
He wound his way through the sleeping elves, his instincts telling him that Minerva had returned to that same tiny room where he had first found her. He was right. The sound of muted sobbing reached his ears several feet before he actually reached the closed door.
Taking a deep breath, Albus pushed his way into the room then shut the door quietly but firmly behind him. He reached for his wand and then realized once again that he was wearing nothing but his boxer shorts. ‘Time for a little wandless magic, old boy,’ he told himself then whispered placed a protective spell over the doorway and lit the single candle in the room while dropping his invisibility shield at the same time.
Minerva was curled up in the corner of the bed, her body huddled against the junction of the walls. She had returned to her human form. Her back was to Albus, her arms wrapped protectively around her waist as her shoulders shook. She didn’t seem to notice the candlelight.
“I think that you and I need to talk, wife.” He told her compassionately. “Really talk.”
Minerva shook her head, her face still lowered and covered by the silky blackness of her hair.
Albus slid a hand beneath her chin and lifted her face. “How could you ever think that I don’t want you, my love? You wake up every morning with the evidence of it pressing into you.”
“That’s a normal male reaction…” Minerva sniffled. “If you wanted me you would do something about it. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you about Allie but please don’t punish me anymore. If you want to break the bond I will. You don’t have to continue this charade. At least Daniel had the decency to sleep in a separate bed but you are always there… doing things to make me think you love me… and then never touching me!”
“Willow…” Albus tried to process her words but she kept talking.
“You probably think that Luc was right, that I am some kind of sex crazed maniac. I’m not, Albus, I swear. I just… it’s been so long and I love you so much. I’ll take the children and go away some where…”
“NO!” Those words were very easy for Albus to understand. “You will not leave me! Please, Minerva, please…”
Minerva shook her head. “I’m not strong enough, Albus… not to do this again. I don’t want you on these terms. You can see Allie whenever you want…”
“You are the strongest woman I’ve ever known, Minerva. You aren’t a quitter. Maybe I’m not that strong but I can’t let you walk away from me. You say you love me… is that the truth?” Albus’ eyes dared her to lie. To his immense relief he saw only honesty in her emerald orbs as she thrust her chin out and answered in the affirmative.
“Then you and I are going to have a very open and honest conversation, right now. Do you agree?”
Albus’ eyes were full of love and trust. Minerva agreed and then was surprised when Albus told her that he was going first. She hadn’t known that he had ever hidden any thing from her.
Before he started speaking Albus shifted both of them so that they were sitting facing each other. He took both of her slender hands in his larger ones and then he began to talk.
“I don’t really know when I fell in love with you. I admired you as a student. Your obvious intelligence and inquisitive nature brought you admiration from all your teachers. After graduation I was proud to help train you as an animagus. I remember one rainy afternoon we were working… you finally held your form for several minutes and you were so happy.”
“I remember,” Minerva whispered.
“You danced around the room…”
“And you grabbed my waist and danced with me…”
“And then we let go and both fell back on the sofa laughing… I looked over at you, your hair all mussed and your face glowing. I knew at that instant that I was in love with you… not falling… already there… The feeling wasn’t a stunning revelation… just an acknowledgement… it had already been a part of me so long… I wanted to tell you…”
“Albus… why didn’t you…” Minerva slid one of her hands over his. He squeezed it tightly.
“You were too young.
You deserved to experience life.
I thought that I’d wait a few years… I didn’t know if you could love an
old man like me, you see… And then one day my dear friend Daniel Gordon came by
to visit. It was obvious to me that he
was taken with you instantly. Your interest
in him was also plain. So I resolved to
keep my feelings locked away… You fell in love with Daniel and married
him. I was happy because you were happy,
“I never dreamed then…”
“You were a young bride. You were setting up a home, having babies. I loved seeing you pregnant, even though you were carrying Daniel’s children instead of mine. You seemed so perfect together. Daniel needed a stabilizing presence in his life and you needed someone to stir you up when you were being too single minded.”
“Single minded? Me!?!?” Minerva replied with mock anger.
“I was honored when you asked me to be godfather to Ian and Fee. I was so glad to be a part of your life in anyway that I could be. I tucked my feelings for you into a small corner of my heart and left them there, content to be a good friend to you and to Daniel. I sometimes wondered if he might have suspected that I had stronger feelings for you but if he did he never said anything. Still… I think he knew.”
“But he always asked you to watch over us.”
“Daniel didn’t trust Luc after he caught his brother trying to force himself on you… and he knew that in spite of all the precautions that he took, his work had the potential to endanger you and the children.”
“You… you knew!” Albus had truly stunned Minerva. “You knew what Daniel was…”
Albus nodded. “The Ministry’s top spy? Yes, I knew. As Daniel learned his craft, moved up the ranks… I kept my eye on him. I talked to him once before he made the final commitment… talked to him about you and the children and what his choices could mean to his family… He…” Albus paused then, not really sure of what to say next but Minerva picked up the sentence.
“He knew… but he didn’t care… not enough to give it up! Daniel loved the excitement… the thrill of the chase. ‘No one else can do what I can do, Min!’ he used to tell me. The children never knew that their father was a metamorphmagus. I’ve watched them so closely over the years to see if they inherited that trait… praying that they didn’t.”
“Daniel loved all of you,
“He did… I don’t doubt that… but sometimes love just isn’t enough, Albus. He adored his children but to them he was just a wonderful stranger they called father who showed up every few weeks or months and showered them with presents and attention… but all too soon he was gone again. But you weren’t… you were always there… any time I had a problem or the children needed something. I had a huge crush on you when you were my training instructor… but watching you with my children… seeing you attend almost every one of Ian’s junior Quidditch matches or suffer through yet another of Fiona’s piano recitals… Remember the year that she played the Chopin piece? It was much too difficult for her but she was determined to learn it because it was one of Uncle Albus’ favorites. She was devastated when she had to start over six bars into the piece… but then when it was over you picked her up and hugged her… told her you’d never heard the piece played better in your life. That was when I knew that I was in love with you, Albus Dumbledore… that very instant.”
“I felt so guilty! I was Daniel’s wife. I would never have cheated on him… I still loved him… but not the way that I loved you. Do you know how stunned I was to realize that?”
“Don’t you think I understand guilt, Minerva? I felt my share of it for loving my friend’s wife. But we would never have acted on it even if we had known how the other felt.” Albus faced Minerva’s raised eyebrows and disbelieving look. “Not while Daniel was alive.”
Minerva slipped off the bed and began to pace, her arms wrapping around her waist tightly once again. Somehow the story had turned from Albus to her. “Not long after that Daniel came home. He showed up with no warning late one afternoon, robes full of presents for the children and for me. He carried on with the children, listened to their chatter… I made dinner and we finally got the children tucked in bed then we went to our room.”
“Minerva… I don’t really want to hear…” Albus quieted when Minerva turned a piercing gaze on him.
“Daniel was all over me the moment we stepped through the door. He banished our robes and threw me on the bed and…” At this point Minerva dropped her gaze to the floor. “It was over in seconds and I wasn’t ready for it. He hurt me. He didn’t mean to, but he did. Once he was done he apologized but it lacked sincerity. And somehow at that moment I knew… To his credit, Daniel didn’t deny it. He’d been cheating on me for years… ‘Necessary in his line of work’ he said… ‘Knew you’d understand’… But I didn’t understand, Albus! I didn’t! I wanted a husband who wanted to make love with me, not one who saw me as one of many women there only to satisfy his needs! I couldn’t accept it!”
“We tried… but I couldn’t forget… We didn’t want to hurt the children so we stayed together. They never knew… Everything went on as before except that when Daniel and I went to our room at night he slept on a transfigured cot. We were never intimate again.”
“At least Daniel had the decency to sleep in a separate bed… that’s what you said a few minutes ago. Is that what you believe our marriage is, Minerva? Do you really believe that being with you is a duty? We don’t have sex… we make love.”
“But you don’t want to! At least not with me!”
“GRRR!” Albus wanted to scream but he managed to growl instead. He leapt to his feet and grabbed Minerva’s forearms, while fighting the desire to shake her.
“Dammit, woman! Haven’t you listened to a word I’ve been saying? I LOVE YOU! I have loved you for years. Making love with you is so… wonderful… so special… I don’t even know the words to begin to describe how fabulous it is. I want you every second of every day! I don’t want any other woman, ever. I haven’t for almost twenty years!”
“You…” Minerva’s jaw had dropped and she was having trouble working it… “You haven’t… not for twenty years… because of me?!?!”
“Because of my feelings for you, yes. There were women… occasionally, mostly near the beginning. You were married to Daniel and I was trying to get you out of my heart… it was foolish of me and unfair to the women. Finally I realized what I was doing and I stopped. I’m not a randy teen, my dear. I’ve grown old enough to know that sex for sex sake has little joy in it.”
“But you enjoy… you did without sex all those years…”
“I enjoy making love with you, Minerva. I intend to spend the rest of my life doing
just that. I just wanted for you and I to have a little time... I want the guilt to be gone for
both of us,
“It is, my phoenix… When we were together that first time I had no doubts… no guilt. Daniel was gone and we were alive… thanks to you we were safe. I wanted to be with you… but it was more than that… I had to be with you.” Minerva told him, her voice emphasizing the word ‘had’. “But once I returned home… there were the children… and then I found out I was pregnant. Everything got muddled. I didn’t seem to have the energy to concentrate on anything but protecting my children… and then you showed up and once again you saved us all.”
To Minerva’s surprise, Albus threw back his head and laughed. The sound hurt her feelings and she turned her back to him in a huff.
“I’m sorry, my love. I’m not laughing at you… I’m just laughing at your portrayal of me as some sort of… white knight riding in on a big white horse to save the day. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that you would have handled Luc Gordon in one way or another. I’ve never seen a woman so committed to her goal. I saw you fight with Miggins, as well. You are an amazing woman, Minerva McGonagall, and an amazing witch.”
Minerva turned and took a step forward and laid her hand
on Albus chest. “So, my
Albus blinked at the straightforward question. “No,” he answered after a moment. “My burden has been relieved. I laid it down the night we made love at the safe house. I admit that it returned the next morning, at least to some extent, but I needed for both of us to feel that the book was closed on Daniel so that we could have a chance together. I don’t want to live with doubts between us, Minerva.”
“Neither do I, Albus.”
“Then what do I have to do to convince you that you are the only woman I want by my side, in my bed and in my heart?”
Minerva lifted her chin and brushed her lips across her husband’s. “I think that perhaps your stubborn as a mule wife is finally convinced. Can you forgive me?”
By way of an answer, Albus caught her retreating lips and possessed them. Minerva immediately melted into his arms but then drew back.
“No,” she told her husband. “I accept your reasons for waiting to be intimate but… I’m only so strong. If you promise not to tease me then I promise not to try and seduce you again… not that it worked anyway…” Her fingers lifted the sheer white fabric of her flowing skirt as she smiled ruefully. “We should go back… Allie might wake…”
Albus laid two fingers across Minerva’s lips to quiet her then reached one long arm out and dragged the bedclothes back on the tiny cot. He sat down on the edge then held out a hand to Minerva. “Come here, wife.”
Minerva’s eyes began to sparkle as she realized her husband’s intentions. She took Albus’ hand and stepped toward the bed. When she reached the side Albus fluffed up the pillows, stretched out against them and tucked his feet beneath the blanket. As Minerva lay down beside her husband she felt the warmth of his skin against hers and realized that he’d banished her nightgown, leaving her completely bare.
“You didn’t like the nightgown? I spent the afternoon shopping with Poppy, trying to pick out the perfect thing to wear to seduce my husband. Poppy thought the faintly Victorian design of this one would appeal to you.”
“Miss Pomfrey’s sense of fashion let her down in this instance then, although I’m touched that you went to so much trouble. I’ve never had a woman buy special lingerie just for me.”
“Lingerie that you didn’t like.” Minerva cuddled against Albus’ side, suddenly not sure what was on his mind.
“It isn’t that I didn’t like it,
“Before what, Albus? You never have told me what happened during the year that you were gone… Only that Miggins would bother us no more.”
Albus tucked the blanket in securely around Minerva’s shoulders. “You can guess the basic pattern. I tracked Miggins and Vargha from base to base, always just missing them. The authorities were always close behind me so gradually his power base was being captured.”
“Tom Riddle?” Minerva didn’t understand why a cold shiver ran down her spine.
“Unfortunately, no. Tom seems to have become disgusted with Miggins’ methods and abandoned him soon after our encounter. Due to the pressure that I was exerting on the group his departure was much less final than Daniel’s.”
“Did he reveal my identity?”
“I don’t think so.
Miggins never made any move to return to
“The official story is that he attempted to escape into
the streets of
“And what aren’t you telling me?” Minerva asked.
“You know me well, my wife.”
“I should after all these years of friendship. No secrets, remember?”
“I’m not trying to keep this a secret from you… I just want to tell you in the best way possible. Have you been in contact with the two girls from your kitchen? You know… Gisella and… the other one…”
“Janka? Actually I have written and received several owls from both of the girls.”
“Did they conceive?”
“Gisella didn’t, thank goodness. After the horrid way that bastard hurt her I didn’t think she would recover… but she’s planning on bonding with a local boy. He knows what happened and he wants to marry her anyway. She informs me that her young man cares very much about her pleasure.”
“And the other girl?”
He could feel Minerva frown even though he couldn’t see her face. Her entire body went stiff for a moment. “Janka wasn’t so lucky. She gave birth to a son a few weeks before Allie was born. Her family has been very understanding and helpful and she loves her son but… she says there is something… unusual about him.”
“In what way?”
“The baby is very large for his age, probably why he was born so early. Janka also said that he has a great deal of grey hair along his spine and that his finger nails grow very fast and they are very tough.”
Albus sighed. “I was afraid of that.”
“What? Tell me, Albus. Is something wrong with young Fenrir?”
“I discovered something about Miggins while I was trailing him. It always puzzled me that such a short squatty man could have such a large following. He just didn’t seem the type to inspire people. He was powerful… but he didn’t have even a quarter of the magical strength of Grindelwald. So I began to look for other ways that he might be using to hold people’s interest.”
“And you found..?”
“I found out that Miggins was a werewolf. He kept most of his cohort’s loyalty by threatening to infect their families. He was hoping that all of the women he impregnated would give birth to children that would grow into werewolves and owe their loyalty to him. If they weren’t born that way he would change them as they grew older.”
Albus felt Minerva begin to tremble in his arms. “He… He was going to…”
“Miggins had been working on his plan for some time but most of his choices were limited to country girls with limited powers. He wanted to find a female with infinite talent and ability. His appearance didn’t exactly lend to his being able to woo a beautiful and powerful witch in the traditional manner… but then you fell into his lap.”
“But I’m not…”
“I think that you are much more powerful than you realize, my love. Your skills in transfiguration are beyond the master level and we both know you would have attempted and obtained several other higher levels if Ian hadn’t entered the mix so soon.”
“But how would a child of mine have been any different… powerful parents don’t necessarily make a powerful child…”
“True, however it does increase the odds. Your youth was also a strong factor, I think. There is one more thing… the night of the banquet there was a full moon. I discovered that the windows of the great hall had been opaqued, but a simple spell would open them to the full moon. I now believe that Miggins’ plan was to impregnate you in his wolf form in an attempt to conceive a highly intelligent child with the strength and senses of a wolf.”
Albus could tell that Minerva didn’t like what he was saying but he knew that she wanted to hear it… she wanted to understand.
“He would have killed me…”
“That is why he was going to take you in full view of his followers. The wizards sitting at the top table had instructions on how to stop him if he couldn’t control his killing instincts.”
“But how could he know… I might not have gotten pregnant.” But she had conceived that night, only with another man. Miggin’s must have known. “His wolf senses..?”
“Very astute, my love,” Albus told her. “That first day in your cell, he smelled you… he could tell that you were close to ovulating… that it would coincide with the full moon. He planned the banquet accordingly. I was foolish not to realize it then. If I had known… I would never have knowingly impregnated you under those circumstances…”
“But if that was truly his intention… why did he pull the knife? His eyes told me that he was going to use it.”
“He was… the spell that he was going to use to access your power… it was very old magic… a blood spell. He was going to mingle your blood with his as he ejaculated.”
After a few moments of silence Minerva whispered, “Thank you.”
“For saving me from… that. For giving me Allie instead of allowing that horrible creature to impregnate me.”
“You are very welcome, Willow,” Albus shifted so that they were face to face, the length of their bodies pressed together in the small bed, “but no thanks are necessary. I will always do my best to save you and as for Allie… well, I enjoyed that ‘giving’ immensely. In fact… what would you say to a repeat performance?” He circled his hips against hers, just in case she hadn’t noticed his burgeoning desire.
“What about waiting?” Minerva asked, knowing that Albus was more than aware of her body’s response to his closeness.
“I realized something while we were talking… we’ve been honest with each other… I think that we’ve both acknowledged our guilt… and I intend to spend the rest of our lives courting you. I still want the formal proposal and the ceremony with all of the children present but in my heart I’ve been married to you since the very first night we made love, Minerva McGonagall. And right now I would very much like to make love with my wife.”
Minerva furrowed her brows a moment. “Do you have something planned for tomorrow that you want me out of the way for?”
“Minx!” Albus swatted Minerva’s bottom playfully. She responded by winding her arms around his neck and kissing him… hard.
Albus pressed Minerva back against the cot as he rolled over her. “You are playing with fire, wife.” He broke the kiss to tell her, his long crooked nose pressed into hers.
“I’m already on fire, husband!” Albus felt her hands tugging at the waistband of his boxers. Seconds later the silk began to shift down over his hips. He lifted his legs slightly to help as he captured Minerva’s mouth again.
Once the silk reached his knees, Minerva’s hands would reach no further. Albus was about to assist her when he felt her legs shift. He sank deeper into the cradle of her thighs as her foot came over his upper leg and caught the shorts. She wiggled as she worked them down and off of him, the action lifting his swollen member into a frenzy. The amount of dampness that soon coated both her curls and his told him that Minerva felt the same.
With his underwear gone, Albus expected the movement to cease but it didn’t. He slid a hand down Minerva’s curves and laid it on her hip, squeezing lightly in an attempt to still her but that didn’t work either.
“Now, Albus,” she begged, pulling her mouth from his.
“I want to pleasure you,” he told her, his hand slipping between them to find her center.
“Pleasure us both,” her eyes pleaded with him in unison with her voice and her body. Albus quickly adjusted his thick member and drove into Minerva with one hard thrust. She screamed as her body arched up, her legs opening wider still. “More!” She demanded, her nails digging pits unto his muscular bottom.
The tightness of her sheath held Albus like a vise, the strength of the muscles creating a delicious friction as he pulled back slowly until just the plumy tip of his member was still caught within her warmth. There he stayed until Minerva was almost crying, her hips straining up; then he plowed her warmth again, driving in so hard that he could feel the brush of her womb against him.
Albus stopped and stared down at his wife lying beneath him. Her face was flushed, her nostrils flaring as she struggled to draw breath in. A fine sheen of dampness coated her skin.
“I love you, Minerva… Aeternus amor…”
“My eternal love… I love you, Albus.”
His eyes questioned, her chin nodded. And Albus moved… faster and harder with every thrust as his wife demanded. Minerva was no idle partner in their lovemaking. Her hands moved constantly, rubbing and twisting his flat nipples, tickling the curve of his belly, clutching his buttocks as she ran her nails across the minute ridges of his full sacs. Their previous encounters had been calm, tender… but this night they rode each other with abandon… a wild frenzy marking their joining. Screams of pleasure, both male and female filled the tiny room again and again until, at last, both were, for the moment, sated.
Minerva gave in to exhaustion almost immediately and Albus was close to following, only the thoughts of the infant sleeping upstairs keeping him awake for a few more moments. He found his shorts and pulled them on then tested his skill by wandlessly transforming the nightgown he had so disliked into a sturdy robe. Once he was dressed he wrapped a blanket pulled from the bed around Minerva and picked her up. When he reached the doorway of the small room he looked around it one last time and smiled.
“Thank you,” he whispered to the castle. “You’ve sheltered my family and I won’t forget that. I will always defend you to the best of my ability. But her place is with me now.” As he turned and walked down the short corridor to the main kitchen the opening behind him disappeared as the castle reabsorbed its space. When he reached the end he turned back only to find a solid wall where the entrance to Minerva’s room had been.
“Albus! Come here!”
Albus heard his wife call him as he stepped out of the shower. The tone in her voice concerned him so he grabbed a towel and flung it around him as he raced through the bedroom and into the sitting room.
Minerva was standing to one side of the room staring at an entry that hadn’t been there the previous evening. A short corridor led to two entryways.
“Where did that come from?” Minerva hugged Allie to her chest. “Is it dangerous?”
Albus chuckled. “I don’t think so. I think that the castle is accommodating my growing family.”
“The castle? I don’t understand.”
“The castle can change its configuration as needed… but only if it chooses to. The headmaster normally has the most luck at convincing it to change… your rooms in the kitchen, for example. Last night as we left those rooms I thanked the castle for sheltering you and Allie and told it that you would be staying with me from now on. I guess that it decided to adjust our quarters here so that Allie could have a room of her own and we could have a bit more privacy. Shall we go see?”
The door on the left of the hallway led to a moderately sized toilet. The counter was the perfect size to lay Allie on while changing diapers and the sink was long and shallow, just right for bathing a small baby. “See,” Albus told his wife, “the castle knows.”
The room across the hallway was perfect for a nursery. Large windows revealed a beautiful view of the lake with nearby mountain peaks visible in the background. Shelves covered half of one of the walls and the doors next to them revealed a large closet.
“This is wonderful! Allie will be very happy here!” Minerva beamed as she surveyed all of the tiny details of the room. “But… will the headmaster continue to let us stay? I know that he created my position to help me until you returned but…”
“There is nothing in the rules that says a teacher can’t have family here. As for your job… Armando remarked just the other day how much better the kitchens were running under your eye for detail. But I was thinking, my love…” Albus hesitated, wanting to phrase his idea carefully so that he didn’t upset Minerva.
Minerva bent and placed Allie on her stomach on the carpeted floor then returned to an upright position. “What were you thinking, husband?” She asked saucily.
Albus couldn’t help but grin. The dressing gown that Minerva had tied around her was gaping in front, only the pressure of her crossed arms beneath her bosom keeping it in place. Her eyes darted south for a moment then returned to his face, her grin matching his own. Albus suddenly became almost painfully aware of the tenting of the towel between them.
“Well… I’m constantly thinking that… but what I was thinking is that… if you wanted to, mind you… with Ian and Fee in school and the house elves around to help with Allie… perhaps you might want to continue your studies?”
Minerva’s eyes grew wide and Albus braced himself for her angry outburst but seconds later she threw her arms around his shoulders and began planting butterfly kisses over his lips and cheeks.
“Do you mean it?” She finally pulled back and asked.
“Of course, you were mere months away from completing your Grand Masters degree in transfiguration. I took the liberty of checking with the university. You can continue your studies here, with a one day a week visit to the campus. With your brilliant mind you should have your degree in no time. You can complete your transfiguration requirements; turn your charms secondary into a Masters degree… whatever you want to do… I’ll help any way I can… I can take care of Allie in the evenings while you and the children do your homework…”
“Oh, Albus!” Minerva kissed him soundly.
Albus’ fingers had grabbed the ends of the sash around Minerva’s waist and were just about to tug when baby giggles filled the air. They broke their kiss and turned their faces at the same time, cheeks coming together as they stared down at their daughter as she laughed up at them.
“Later,” Albus promised with one last hard kiss, “when we don’t have an audience. Now, little miss,” he secured his towel then dropped to the floor and pulled Allie up onto his knee, “what do you think of your room?”
Allie clapped her hands together and cooed, her eyes riveted to the large sunlight windows in front of her.
“Allie is old enough to sleep in here at night so I can move all her things while you are out today.” Albus could tell that Minerva was mentally placing each item in the room already.
“We have time to do that,” Albus answered, not completely ready to have Allie leave their room yet. “Why don’t we get the room ready first? We’ll need curtains and more furniture… a proper crib… more clothes… maybe a few more toys…”
Minerva lifted an eyebrow at her husband in response to the way that he drew out the word ‘few’ in relation to toys. “Don’t you dare go overboard, Albus Dumbledore! I will not have this child spoiled.”
“Allie is beginning to notice a lot more; she needs toys to help stimulate her intellect… and she doesn’t really have that many…”
“She needs toys for her daddy to play with is more likely.” Minerva answered sardonically. “But you are right… the room does need some things… and Allie is outgrowing the few gowns she has… I haven’t had much opportunity to buy for her.”
“Why don’t you come into Hogsmeade with us today?” Albus said suddenly. “You could shop while I’m supervising the students but we could have lunch together at the Three Broomsticks and I might be able to sneak into the toy shop this afternoon. I’ll arrange for a house elf to watch Allie if you don’t want to take her but I think she would enjoy the outing.”
“What about the students? We agreed that it was better to keep our relationship a secret, at least for the moment.”
“A mother shopping in Hogsmeade with her child is hardly an unusual sight. Besides, teenagers are notoriously short sighted. If it doesn’t impact them, they don’t notice.”
“I could look for some things for Allie’s room. I don’t think that moving her before the term ends is practical but if you are sure that Headmaster Dippet will allow us to live with you next year…”
“Armando would be heartbroken if he couldn’t see Allie every day. He’s completely enthralled with our girl.”
“Well, not completely, I hope… Poppy was rather hoping that he would become completely enthralled with her during their date last night.”
“Poppy Pomfrey… and the Headmaster!?!?!?”
“I wish I could go to Hogsmeade.” Fee sighed as she flopped down on one of the large couches in the common room.
“I know, Fee… but this year is almost over and next year you will be old enough. Maybe you could spend some time with mum… and her…”
“She has a name, Idgy… it’s Allie. You could be nicer to her you know. She really likes you.”
“She’s a baby, Fee. She likes everyone.” Ian’s face was scornful but there was a twinkle in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. He hurriedly tugged on his robe over his shirt and jeans. Most of the other Gryffindors had already left for the checkout point. If he didn’t hurry he’d be late. “Walk me downstairs?”
Fee nodded morosely but did as her brother asked. By the time that they reached the teacher check point the last group of older students had started down the long walkway toward the gates and Hogsmeade.
“I was wondering if you had changed your mind, Idg.” Albus smiled at his stepson as he banished the parchment he held. “Going to try to sneak away too, Fee?”
Fiona smiled. “I was just walking Idgy down. I thought I might spend the day with mum and Allie since…”
At that moment a group of second year girls walking by hailed Fiona. “We’ve been looking for you all morning. We are going to have a picnic down by the lake. The house elves have made us a wonderful basket! Come on!”
After a moment’s hesitation Fee looked at Albus and Ian. “Do you think mum would mind?”
“Your mum was planning to slip into Hogsmeade today and do a little shopping so go spend time with your friends.” Albus smiled. “Minerva should be back mid afternoon so why don’t you go to the picnic and then see her later?”
“Thank, Uncle Albus… I mean Professor Dumbledore!” Fee dashed off after her friends.
“What was that all about?” Minerva asked as she approached, Allie tucked carefully in a basket hanging on her mother’s arm.
“Fee is going on a picnic. You were the only student left on my list, Ian, so we are free to go. You can walk with us if you like.”
Ian glanced down at the basket and then at the two adults. “Uhm… okay… I guess…”
“It’s okay if you want to try and catch up with your friends,” Minerva told Ian gently.
“I will… in a bit… but I guess I could walk with you for a while.”
To his surprise Ian enjoyed the casual stroll toward the village with his parents. They talked about a variety of subjects including Ian’s goal to become an auror after completing his years at Hogwarts. And when they paused about halfway to town so that his mother could change the baby’s diaper Ian would have sworn that the baby actually smiled at him. Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all.
Before Ian realized it he had walked the entire distance to the village with his mother and uncle. They paused at the edge of town.
“I think we should separate here,” Minerva said. “Less questions.”
Ian nodded, thankful that his mother understood that he didn’t want all of his friends to see him walking with his head of house, then darted away to find his mates. Before he got too far he realized that he hadn’t heard the return time so he turned back, just in time to see his uncle kiss his mother’s cheek.
Anger flared inside him even though Ian would have been hard pressed to say why. He’d certainly seen Albus kiss Minerva in exactly the same manner many times over the years. Perhaps it was the possessive way that his uncle’s hand touched his mother’s waist… or that spark of… something… in Albus’ eyes when Minerva’s body briefly brushed his.
Hateful words sprang to his lips but Ian bit them back then turned and ran as fast as he could.
Minerva spent the morning puttering around several of the shops in the small village. More than an hour passed while she looked at various fabrics before finally choosing complimentary pieces in pastel colors to be made into curtains and a crib set for Allie’s new room. She stopped at the apothecary for a soothing teething ointment for Allie’s gums, knowing that the amount of chewing the baby had been doing signified that her first tooth was working its way in, and also picked up a few feminine necessities for herself. She saw several groups of students on the streets as she traveled but none inside the stores that she was frequenting.
She first noticed the hooded man in dark robes as she was leaving the apothecary but paid him little notice. Saturday was a popular shopping day with most of the denizens of the wizarding world. But he was there again when she entered Gladrags and he followed her to the children’s section.
“Can I help you, Mrs. Gordon?” The clerk asked pleasantly, although the expression on her face showed more than a little curiosity toward the baby that Minerva carried. Minerva, her attention still covertly focused on the man she was beginning to think was following her, didn’t notice.
“Yes, I need to buy some clothes for my children.” She muttered absently. Perhaps sensing her interest in him, the man moved away from the racks of children’s robes and out of sight.
Minerva laughed at herself inwardly for her suspicious nature then turned her full attention to the clerk. After picking out several new summer outfits for Ian and Fee, as well as some larger baby gowns for Allie (a few in glowing colors with wildly animated patterns to please her father) and arranging to have them sent to Hogwarts, Minerva realized that it was well past one. After paying the bill she picked up Allie and hurried out of the store, hoping that Albus hadn’t been waiting too long at the Hog’s Head for her.
She caught sight of the fluttering end of a black robe before it disappeared into an alleyway completely by chance and her steps slowed. Perhaps she hadn’t been imagining things after all. The streets were sparsely populated at this end of the village. She slipped her free hand into her sleeve and drew her wand before advancing slowly. The Hog’s Head was only a thirty or forty yards away. Surely she wouldn’t have any problems.
When a hand landed solidly on her shoulder, Minerva whirled, wand pointed, curse on her lips. Albus ducked in the nick of time as his wife’s spell splintered the bark of a tree behind him.
“Hey! What did I do? I’m not that late!” He protested.
Minerva immediately lowered her wand. “I’m sorry… I thought …”
Albus was concerned at the look in his wife’s eye. “What? Is something wrong?”
“No… well… I just kept seeing this same man everywhere I went today… for some reason I had the strange notion that he might be following me… I’m probably being silly.”
“Where did you last see him?”
“I saw… I saw the hem of a robe disappear into that alleyway,” she pointed. “It could have been anyone.”
Albus quickly drew his wand and advanced on the passageway. He carefully entered and checked it out thoroughly. “No one there,” he told Minerva when he reappeared, “at least not any more.”
“I’m probably just being paranoid.”
“You have every reason to be. Let’s go have some lunch and you can tell me about your suspicions.” Albus offered his arm to Minerva and led her toward the public house but before they reached the entrance he turned into a side street.
“I thought we were going…” Minerva pointed back up the lane.
“We are, but since we are trying to be discrete I thought we’d have a private lunch.” Albus lifted his hand and knocked a pattern on the side of the ancient building. The bricks quickly rearranged themselves into a doorway. “After you, my love.”
Minerva stepped into the dark room, her eyes quickly adjusting to the candlelight. A wooden table with a worn but clean white cloth on it stood in the center of the small chamber. The chamber was cleaner than any other place in the Hog’s Head that she’d ever seen and she told Albus as much.
“I have some pull with the barman.” Albus pulled a blanket from a stool in the corner and spread it on the floor then took Allie’s basket from Minerva. He talked gibberish to the baby as he picked her up and laid her on her stomach on the blanket.
“You can feed her after we eat if you need to. We have the room for the rest of the afternoon.”
“You must have a great deal of pull with the barman.” Minerva said.
“Well,” Albus answered as he moved to the inner door and knocked on it. “I did promise him that if he were accommodating this afternoon I would introduce him to his niece.” At that moment the door from the bar opened and a man entered… a man who, except for the untidy long grey hair bore a remarkable resemblance to Minerva’s husband.
“Minerva, this is my brother Aberforth. Abe, I’d like you to meet Minerva, my wife.”
The grumpy looking man eyed Minerva carefully for a moment then grinned. “I remember you. You used to come in here when you were a student… there were four of you… a short plump girl with brown hair, a tall trim beauty with blonde hair and a strange bird with yellow eyes and spiky hair… caused all sorts of furor among all my male customers.”
Minerva blushed. “Poppy, Pommi, Ro and I came here. It seemed so much more exciting than the Three Broomsticks. I never would have guessed that you were Professor Dumbledore’s brother but seeing you together the resemblance is so obvious…”
“I’m obviously the better looking one so…” Aberforth paused as something hit his ankle. He looked down to see Allie kicking her legs in the air and gumming her fist. “… And my niece must take after me… and her pretty mum.” Abe added as he bent down and caught Allie beneath her arms. He held her out in front of him and ran a careful eye over her. The baby appeared to be doing the same thing to him.
After a few moments of this Allie got tired and began to fuss, kicking her feet in the air. Aberforth laughed. “And she has a temper too! I’ve heard about the McGonagall disposition. You could be in for quite a time of it, brother.”
“I’ll take my chances,” Albus laughed as he plucked Allie into the safety of his arms. “How about lunch? You can play with the baby after we eat.”
Aberforth grumbled good-naturedly as he headed to the door. “Your luncheon will be served momentarily, you crooked nosed git!”
“Oh, Abe… Minerva thought someone might be following her earlier…”
“What did he look like?” Aberforth dropped his comedic demeanor immediately.
“I… I can’t really say. He was wearing a dark hooded robe. I might be imagining things but… he seemed to be every place that I was, even the children’s section at Gladrags… and he disappeared when he caught me watching him.”
“Wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out.” Aberforth told Albus. “I’ll have your food out in just a few minutes then go back out front and have a look around.”
Ian wandered through the crowd of students alone, his bad mood having left him unwilling to seek out his friends. When they’d spotted him from down the street and waved him over he’d pretended that he hadn’t seen them and turned in the opposite direction. He didn’t have a specific destination in mind but somehow he ended up near the Shrieking Shack. He stared at the dilapidated building; his mind replaying the kiss he’d witnessed over and over. Uncle Albus had only married his mother to protect her reputation… hadn’t he? The hand lying familiarly at her waist suggested different but Ian didn’t want to consider the reality of what that might mean.
The boy jumped when he heard his name and turned around. He saw nothing.
A section of dark tree trunk moved. Ian took a step toward it then stopped, realizing how unwise that was. His hand reached for his wand in his back pocket.
The man calling his name pulled back his hood to reveal his face. Ian knew him instantly. Alfie Leach was one of his uncle’s most trusted associates. He’d even been in the courtroom that day.
“Mr. Leach… what do you want? Why are you here?”
“Came to see you, boy… Got a message for you from your uncle.”
“Uncle Luc is in Azkaban. How could you have a message?”
“There are ways. Listen, your uncle said to tell you not to lose heart. He doesn’t intend to be in prison long. Escape plans are already being made.”
“But… no one escapes from a wizard’s prison… and Uncle Luc…” Ian paused as he suddenly recognized that his uncle must not have realized that Ian was the one who knocked his arm away while he was casting the curse against his mother. Suddenly Ian didn’t know what to do… and not knowing he did nothing but listen.
“I saw you with Dumbledore and your harlot of a mother earlier, boy. I could see your hatred. But you’ve got to mask it. Your uncle said to tell you to continue to play along with them… make it seem like you might come around to their way of thinking. That way they won’t be suspicious of you and you can help Luc once he gets out.”
“But… the courtroom… Uncle Luc said…”
“Dumbledore set him up, boy! You’re smart enough to recognize that. He had everything arranged. Luc didn’t stand a chance… But Luc will take care of that once he gets out… He’ll get Dumbledore, your mum and that little bastard as well…”
In his mind’s eye, Ian saw Allie smile at him… but then the image of Albus’ hand resting on his mum’s waist replaced it.
“… But you’ve got to play along. Luc needs more information. He’s got to be able to discredit your mum… make Dumbledore look like a trusting old fool. Do you understand?”
Ian nodded without speaking.
“Good… oh, one more thing,” Leach pulled something from his pocket and thrust it into Ian’s hands. “This is for the little brat. Give it to her… a present from her big brother,” Alfie spat on the ground. “Makes you look good in their eyes… just another sign that you are coming around… that you can be trusted.”
Ian stared at the stuffed lion, its head buried beneath its front paws as it slept, before shoving it into his pocket. “Sure… anything else?”
The sound of laughter rang through the air. Ian turned to look down the road and saw a group of his schoolmates approaching, all of them in high spirits. “You’d better… go…” but when he turned back Alfie had already disappeared.
“She’s a Dumbledore through and through, this one.” Aberforth announced as he tossed Allie into the air for about the hundredth time. “Just wait until Great Aunt Augusta meets her tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow!?!?” Albus’ eyes lost their twinkle, as they grew wide. “I completely forgot about Cousin Archibald’s wedding!”
“You have to be there, Albus… or the consequences will be severe.”
“What consequences?” Minerva asked, interrupting the by-play between the two brothers.
“You don’t want to know,” Albus told her. “My Aunt Augusta is just… you don’t want to know…”
“It’s a hoot, Min,” Aberforth had quickly warmed to his new sister-in-law, even to the point of shortening her name. “Aunt Augusta loves to use family events to throw unmarried witches at Albus. If he doesn’t show up Aunt Augie has been known to apparate in and drag him back by the ear.”
“That was you!” Albus interrupted indignantly. “She dragged me by my beard.” He turned to his wife. “Willow… my darling…”
Minerva arched an eyebrow. “Just ask, Albus. You don’t have to butter me up first.”
“But you’d look so nice in butter…”
“OKAY!” Aberforth interjected. “Baby in the room! Hell, brother in the room!”
Albus was sorely tempted to hex Aberforth but since his brother was holding his pride and joy he resisted. “So… what female have you conned into attending the wedding with you? Or are you ready to face Aunt Augusta all alone?”
Aberforth wrinkled his brows. “Huh?”
“I have a wife,” Albus laid a hand gently on Minerva’s shoulder. “I think that tomorrow would be the perfect time to introduce her to everyone. The wedding is going to be small, close family only… so if Minerva agrees to attend with me we will break the news of our marriage to Aunt Augusta then step back and let you explain why you showed up with one of your goats!”
“Once! One time and you people never let me forget it! It was a joke, dammit!” Aberforth yelled at his brother.
Minerva started to ask for clarification of this last conversation point but then decided that perhaps she didn’t need to know. She only hoped that Aberforth’s obvious eccentricity wasn’t hereditary. “Is this Aunt Augusta the… matron of your family?”
Albus and Aberforth stopped glowering at each other to look at Minerva. “Matron… that’s putting it nicely,” Aberforth intoned. “Tyrant is more like it.”
“Abe is right… but since we lost our mum Aunt Augusta does rule the roost. If you don’t want to attend I understand…” but Minerva could see the fear in Albus’ eyes.
“And have this woman drag my husband off to introduce him to other females? I wouldn’t dream of it! Of course we will attend… but perhaps we should leave Allie at home this time around? We don’t want to detract too much attention from the bride and groom and Albus Dumbledore showing up with a wife AND a baby is bound to do that.”
“I could watch her!” Aberforth volunteered immediately.
“I’ll have Poppy come over,” Minerva interjected quickly.
“To cozy up to Dippet on my couch? I’m sorry, my dear, but I don’t need that mental picture about my furniture and my daughter is too young to have to watch that… I have another idea… What about the children? Fee could watch Allie for a few hours. Idg might even help.”
Minerva considered Albus’ suggestion. “Do you think they are ready for that responsibility? Ian hasn’t really warmed up to Allie and Fee is so young…”
“She’s twelve, Minerva… and she’s very good with Allie. You’ve said so yourself. She was looking forward to spending some time with her sister this afternoon… I think she would be thrilled if we ask her. I’m sure that Ditzy would agree to be on standby in case anything happens.”
“Perhaps you are right. It isn’t as if help wouldn’t be nearby if Fee needed it…”
Albus stuck his long arms out just as Aberforth tossed Allie again and caught her. “What do you think, Allie? Would you like to spend some time with your big sister?”
Allie laced her hands through her father’s beard and pulled as she laughed.
“Ian! What are you doing out here by yourself?” Marty Bones said. “Didn’t you hear us calling you in town?”
“No…” Ian sputtered, his eyes still searching the dark forest before him. “I didn’t… I got a late start…”
“At least we caught up with you. Hey, you want to go see the shrieking shack?” Gideon Prewett said.
“EEEW! Why would anyone want to go up there?” Dandy (short for Dandelion) Weasley shuddered. “Let’s go back to town and get a cup of tea at Madame Puddifoot’s.”
“Dandy,” Gideon answered. “You are such a girl!”
“As a matter of fact, I am,” Dandy thrust her chest out proudly. “It’s about time you noticed, Gideon!”
Ian couldn’t help but laugh at the banter between his friends. “Why don’t we make it a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks?”
His friends quickly agreed and the group started back to town.
Fiona was so engrossed in her book that she didn’t hear the door to Albus’ quarters swing open so Allie’s cry of delight caught her off guard.
“Mum! I was waiting for you! Uncle Albus thought that you would be home earlier… is something wrong?” It was obvious to Fee that neither her mother nor her Uncle Albus was in a good mood.
“Nothing, Fee. Would you be a dear and take Allie into the bedroom and change her? She’s frightfully wet.” Minerva held the baby out and Fee took her gladly.
Once Fiona disappeared into the bedroom Albus sighed deeply.
“I am capable of looking after myself, Albus.” Minerva told him hotly.
“I don’t doubt it for a minute, but that doesn’t mean that I can stop worrying. I saw someone in a dark cloak in the edge of the dark forest.”
“I saw him as well. Look, I promise that I won’t put myself or Allie at risk unnecessarily but I refuse to live my life as a prisoner in this castle.”
Albus finally nodded. “Promise me also… if you do leave the castle… could you just let me know? I’m not trying to dog your every movement but I’d like to have a general idea of where you are.”
After an exasperated smile Minerva nodded. “I promise. Now let’s put the packages up.” She held out a hand to Albus and he gripped it tightly as they started toward the new nursery to empty their pockets of their shrunken purchases.
“What was Hogsmeade like, Idgy? Did you have lots of fun? Did you buy any new sweets at Honeydukes?” Fee lay on the plush carpet in front of the fire in Albus’ quarters, quizzing her brother about his day in the village. Allie lay on her stomach facing Fee, staring at her sister as she tried to squirm toward her.
Ian dropped his outer robe over the arm of the sofa, paying no attention to it when the garment slid to the floor. He dropped down in a wing chair and stared across the room to where Albus and Minerva were playing chess, his eyebrows furrowed at the obvious closeness between the couple.
“Honeydukes… didn’t make it there… What are you asking me for, anyway? You’ve been to Hogsmeade with mum lots of times before.”
“It’s different when you are a student going with your friends instead of your parents, Idg.” Albus intoned. “I remember how excited you were last year on your first visit.”
“Marty, Dandy, Gid and I were at the Shrieking Shack.” Ian offered grudgingly, trying to be a bit nicer to his sister.
Fee’s eyes grew wide. “Did you see any ghosts?”
Having been eavesdropping on the conversation between her two older children Minerva laughed. Knowing her son as well as she did she could see that the boy was about to have a fun time teasing his sister. Due to Fiona’s very impressionable nature nightmares would probably follow. “That old house… it’s an eyesore… but there is nothing haunted about it… that story has been circulating since I was in school.”
“That story has been around since my school days, which were considerably further back than your mother’s.” Albus added. “But you mustn’t discount the rumours, my dear. Sometimes old legends have more than a grain of truth in them… and even if they don’t… they may end up being useful one day.”
Minerva eyed her husband quizzically for a moment, commanded her white bishop to move and then smiled triumphantly as the black king bowed and yielded his sword. “Checkmate.” She exclaimed.
Albus slumped back in the chair with resignation, stretching his long legs out before him. “You are a cutthroat when it comes to chess, Minerva.”
“How did you get so good, Mum?” Ian asked. He’d always been fascinated by the game. “Dad would never play with mum, you know,” he told Albus. “He didn’t like being beaten and he never won against mum.”
“Your mother was born with a gift for chess… and I’m the poor sod who brought it out in her!”
“What do you mean, Uncle Albus?” Fiona sat up, intrigued by Albus’ statement.
“I actually made the mistake of teaching your mother how to play wizard’s chess when she was a student here.”
“Wow! That is so neat, Uncle Albus? Was mum a good student?”
“I beat him, don’t I?” Minerva asked archly.
“It took a few games before your mum got the hang of it. I tried to go easy on her in the beginning. I couldn’t find anyone else to give me a good competitive game and I recognized your mum’s intelligence and logical mind. She seemed truly interested in learning so I gave her lots of lessons.”
“You gave me three lessons, Professor Dumbledore. The third evening ended with my queen taking your king in sixteen moves. I don’t believe that you’ve won a game since then.”
“I’ve come close once or twice,
“In your dreams, oh greatest wizard of our time.” Minerva replied with a loving smirk on her face.
“Uncle Albus… can I ask you a question?” Fee said quietly, as if she was afraid the adults might get mad at her.
“Of course, Fee. You and Idg can always ask me anything.” Albus’ forehead wrinkled as he looked at the child, worry on his face at the solemness in her voice.
“I was wondering…
I’ve always heard you call mum
Albus laughed loudly from deep in his belly, his relief
obvious to his wife. “That is an easy
question to answer, Fee. You know that I
trained your mother to be an animagus…” The children nodded. “Your mum worked very hard to discover what
her form would be. Well… back in my
younger days I did a bit of traveling and I spent some time on the North
American continent. There is a plant in
the southern part of
“That’s so sweet!” Fee sighed, the story appealing to her feminine romantic streak. “So you and mum have been friends for a long time?”
“A very long time,” Minerva laid her hand across Albus’ on the chess table and squeezed it.
“Even when you were in school here?” Ian asked, eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
“Certainly!” Albus answered, his voice seemingly natural although he understood exactly where the boy’s mind was going. “Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites but your mum was at the top of every professor’s list. She was brilliant you know… the top student in every class… except divination, of course.”
“Bloody useless practice,” Minerva muttered beneath her breath. Everyone laughed. Minerva’s total dislike of that course of study was well known.
“All of the professors wanted your mum to become their apprentice. I was certain that I’d lost her to Professor Brodie in charms… but she sensed that she was meant to become an animagus, didn’t you, my dear?”
“It was hard not to know…”
“How did you know, mummy? How old were you? Is it inherited… could Ian or I be animagi too?” Fee was off with a flurry of questions.
Ian leaned forward to participate in the conversation, his own interest peaked. His mother had always avoided the topic of human transformation before but now she seemed interested in discussing it. With his new stepfather contributing humorous stories of his mother’s first attempts at the art they were soon all laughing loudly.
They were all talking and making merry so much that they didn’t notice how far Allie had scooted across the floor until she squealed with delight.
“What have you got there, Allie girl?” Albus asked as he rose in his chair.
“No! Uhm…” Ian reached down to pick take the object away from Allie but she had a firm grip on it.
Albus picked both Allie and the yawning stuffed lion up. “Where did this come from?” The lion batted his paw at Albus’ finger when he tried to prod it. “Ian?”
“I… uhm… I got it today… I thought it was cute and… uhm…” the boy was stammering, searching for words. Allie distracted all of them by squealing with glee when the lion’s tail wrapped around her finger.
“Ian…” Minerva had moved to her husband’s side and was staring at her son with undisguised pride. “Did you get the toy for Allie?”
“I… well… someone said she might like it.” He shoved his hands in the pockets of his robes and turned to stare at the fire, pink tingeing his cheeks.
“That was a very thoughtful thing to do, son.” He felt his mother’s hand on his shoulder and then the brush of her lips against his cheek. “Allie loves the toy. Thank you, Idg.”
His mother’s use of his pet name only made Ian’s cheeks flame hotter. She never called him that… well, almost never… He shrugged. “It’s nothing.”
Albus laid a hand on Minerva’s arm and, when she turned back to look at him, shook his head slightly. She understood and backed away.
“What a pretty little lion, Allie! What shall we name him?” Minerva cooed to the baby as Allie hugged the lion tightly.
“Leo!” Fiona said. “Let’s call him Leo!”
Allie just gurgled around the lion’s tail that was now caught between her lips.
“I think she’s teething,” Minerva said to no one in particular. “I’ve felt something hard while she’s nursing.”
“MUM!” Ian yelped then walked toward the fireplace, his face now candy apple red.
“I fed you the exact same way, young man.” Minerva retorted, an amused smile touching her lips. “You got three teeth in at once. Weaning began that very day!”
“Minerva,” Albus cautioned quietly, “teenage boys are only interested in the breasts on teenage girls… or pinup models… and they certainly don’t like to think about their mothers actually having them, much less what they might be used for…”
“It’s getting late…” Ian quickly grabbed his outer robe from the floor. “I’m going to bed, okay?”
“I’ll go with you.” Fee quickly moved around the room gathering up her robe and books along with various other feminine fripperies that had made their way out of her pockets. Albus smiled indulgently at his stepdaughter, pleased that she already felt so at home in his rooms. “So we’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow? Oh… Albus and I need to attend a wedding tomorrow but I don’t think taking Allie is such a good idea. We wondered if you might watch your sister for a while tomorrow afternoon, Fee.”
“Really? You trust me? I’d love to, mum!” Fee’s delight was obvious. “I’ll take such good care of her…”
“We know you will, love, and if you should need help, your Uncle Albus will have Ditzy on standby.”
“Allie!” Fee lifted her sister from Albus’ arms and cradled her carefully. “I’m going to baby sit you tomorrow.”
Ian had been steadily inching toward the door while Fee and Minerva cooed over the baby. He was just about to leave when Albus caught him. “I was wondering… I won’t ask you to spend the entire afternoon here with Fee and Allie but... if you have time… could you just stop by and check on them tomorrow? I think that it would please your mother.”
Leach’s words about seemingly warming up to the baby rang in Ian’s ears. After a moment’s hesitation the young man gave what approximated a nod.
“Thank you, Idgy… and thank you for Allie’s stuffed lion. She loves it. It was a very thoughtful gesture.”
Ian shrugged. “It was nothing. Come on, Fee…”
Minerva took the baby while Fee hugged her then ran to Albus and embraced him before racing after Ian. “I’ll see you tomorrow!” She called happily.
“Finally!” Albus sighed.
“Finally what?” Minerva asked over her shoulder as she headed toward the bedroom with Allie.
“Finally I have you all to myself… well, except for the ravenous lion eater there.” Albus said as he followed. “I find that I don’t like sharing your company all day.”
Minerva settled into the rocker near the crib and laid Allie on her lap. The baby lay contented, hugging her stuffed lion and chewing on one of the paws while Minerva loosened her robes.
“I’m hoping that she will soon be the ravenous milk drinker,” Minerva answered as she tugged at the lion. Allie’s face puckered and she began to cry. “I’m full…”
“I can see that,” Albus answered, a gleam in his eye. He watched with interest as Minerva finally managed to shift the toy away from Allie’s mouth so that she could raise the baby to her breast, then pointed to his growing lower regions… “So am I.”
“Are you okay, mummy? You look tired.” Fiona observed as she sat on the edge of the bathroom counter watching her mother prepare for the wedding.
“Ifwlfne…” Minerva tried to say, her mouth full of hairpins, her hands deftly twisting her hair up into a loose decorative topknot. She grabbed two and jabbed them into the black locks to secure them in place. The other pins quickly followed.
“There,” Minerva pronounced once her lips were empty. “What do you think?”
Fee had always loved her mother’s hair. As a young girl she had spent hours amusing herself by brushing the long locks while her mother read or took care of household matters and the fascination hadn’t faded. “Your hair looks wonderful, Mum… you look just like a Greek goddess.”
“Now now, Fee,” Albus cautioned as he popped into the small room with a freshly changed Allie. “Don’t get your mythology confused… you mother should look like a Roman goddess, which she does.”
Minerva smiled her thanks. “I’ll be ready in just a few more minutes, Albus. I think I need a touch of makeup. I haven’t spent enough time out of doors lately.”
“You look beautiful just as you are… but I want you to feel your best so whatever you think, my dear. I’ll just have a word with Armando before we go… Fee?” Albus offered Allie to her sister.
Fiona hopped off the counter and took both Allie and Leo in her arms and Albus departed. Leo eyed Fee sleepily for a moment before yawning and curling back up against Allie’s chest. One of his paws was caught in Allie’s toothless mouth as the baby gnawed it contentedly.
“She really likes Idgy’s present, doesn’t she, Mum?” Fiona observed. Minerva stopped putting on her makeup to smile at both of her daughters.
“She does. She cried when we tried to take it away from her last night. Leo had to sleep in Allie’s crib with her. What were you asking me earlier, dear?”
“Oh… I just wondered if you are feeling okay. Uncle Albus said that you had been sick before the hearing and your eyes look tired.”
“I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night… Allie…” Minerva added hastily by way of explanation, not wanting to explain to her twelve year old daughter that the real reason she looked tired was because her husband had made passionate love to her into the wee hours of the morning.
“Oh… I just thought…” Fee sighed as she jiggled Allie then started toward the door.
“Wait, Fee… what did you think? Come on… I’m your mum. You can talk to me about anything.”
“I was just wondering if maybe you were… going to have another baby.”
Minerva took a step back against the counter. “No… I’m not pregnant. Is that what you meant?”
Fiona nodded. “I’ve heard that being tired is one of the signs and… Uncle Albus likes children so much that I’m sure he’d like lots of his own…”
“Uncle Albus absolutely adores children and he’s already got ‘lots’ of his own.” Albus was once again smiling from the doorway. “Don’t you think three is a wonderful number? I do. That isn’t to say that your mum and I might not have more children… after all, the three that we have are so fantastic that why wouldn’t we want more?”
“And they’d be really yours… just like Allie,” Fiona’s head fell forward and Albus thought he saw the glimmering of a tear in the corner of her eye.
“Just like Allie… and you and Ian. Just because I’m not your biological father doesn’t mean that I don’t love you just as much as I love Allie. I always have, Fee. Do you think that is going to change?”
“Well…” Fee kicked the toe of her boot against the stone floor.
“Come with me, Fiona.” Albus told the girl. She obediently followed him out of the room.
Minerva dabbed the last touches of translucent powder onto her face and quickly followed them, arriving in the bedroom just in time to see Albus sit down in the rocker and draw both Fee and Allie into his lap. Then he opened a large book that he had called to him and began to turn the pages.
“Who is that, Fiona?”
“That’s mummy and daddy… and you…”
“At your parent’s wedding. Here we are on a picnic… and at a Quidditch match… and look at this one!”
“That’s a baby grabbing your nose…”
“That’s Ian Daniel Gordon grabbing my nose. He was fascinated by it… always trying to wrap his fingers around my nose and my glasses.”
Albus continued flipping through the pages of the photo album that he had kept of the children’s lives. Pictures of Ian gave way to pictures of Fee and then brother and sister together. Albus had some memento from almost every important event in the children’s lives and a few minor happenings that Fee had forgotten about.
“I guess I never thought about how often you were there, Uncle Albus, cause you always were.”
“That is why I’m showing you this album, Fee. I was there because I wanted to be… because I was honored to be asked by your parents to be your godfather… and Ian’s… I didn’t accept that honor lightly. I was there because I love both of you in your own right. I don’t want either you or Idgy to think that I’m ever trying to take your father’s place. Daniel was my good friend and I know how much you and Ian will always love your dad and honor his memory. I just want you to know that I’m still here for you… just like I always have been… and I still love both of you as if you were my own.”
Fiona was silent for a few moments, her brows knit in thought. Finally she gave a little nod. “I understand… I guess…”
“I don’t want to replace your father in your heart, Fee. But I feel comfortable in saying that Daniel knew how very much I loved all of you and he would be happy that I can be here for you when he no longer can be. You are my little girl too.”
“Uncle Albus!” Fee reproached him. “I’m not a little girl anymore. I’m a young lady! I’ll be a teenager in a few months!”
Albus feigned a sigh. “And then I shall have to have strong words with all the young wizards who come calling on you. They shall have to meet strict standards if they wish to court Fiona Athena Gordon!”
Fee laughed as she threw her one arm around Albus’ neck and hugged him, both Allie and Leo trapped between them. Minerva quickly stepped back into the lavatory to repair her tear-streaked make-up.
“What a lovely ceremony,” Minerva murmured to Albus as Archibald Dumbledore danced with his newly bonded wife for the first time.
“It was nice. You deserved something like this… something with all of your family and friends… not a rushed ceremony in hiding…” Albus frowned.
“Hush!” Minerva shot back. “I’m married to the most wonderful wizard in the world. I had all this once… I didn’t need it again. This isn’t what makes a bond work, Albus.”
“But… the children should have been there at least.”
“I’ll pull the cake toppers out of the drawer and let them reenact the wedding for Ian and Fee… if they’ve stopped misbehaving, that is.”
“Speaking of misbehaving…” Albus leaned over the back of Minerva’s shoulder to nibble at her ear. “We’ve made an appearance so we don’t we…”
“Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore!” A husky feminine voice with a shrill edge cut through their mood. The summoning tone was not to be missed.
“Oh dear,” Minerva murmured. “Aunt Augusta?”
“Aunt Augusta.” Albus confirmed. “And trust Aberforth to have disappeared. Oh well… I guess that we should get this over with…”
Minerva couldn’t help but smile at the way her husband dragged his feet as he moved slowly toward the massive chair where a regal looking old lady sat. The woman’s robes were purple velvet and obviously of good quality. She wore a matching purple and lavender witch’s hat and several pieces of large jewelry. Every finger on both hands had at least one ring on it. Her dyed red hair was styled in a mass of ringlets and a thick layer of makeup carefully covered the deep wrinkles on her face.
“Albus, my dear nephew!”
Muttering a silent curse at the brother who had ratted him out, Albus tugged Minerva up to his side from where she had been lingering behind his back. “Aunt Augusta, I would like to introduce you to Minerva… my wife.”
Not sure of what to do, Minerva dropped a polite curtsey while the old woman lifted a monocle and eyed her carefully. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Dumbledore.”
Albus opened his mouth to defend his new bride but Minerva squeezed his hand tightly, cautioning him to be quiet. She recognized a test when she heard one.
“No, Mrs. Dumbledore. I have sufficient funds of my own. I have no need for Albus’ money.”
“Did you marry him for his name then? He is a very well-known wizard, you know.”
“I have heard that, Mrs. Dumbledore, but no… I did not marry Albus for his fame or his name. In fact it is our intention to limit news of our marriage to family and close friends.”
“So… if you didn’t marry Albus for his money… and you
didn’t marry him for his fame… and you certainly wouldn’t have married him for
his looks with that long crooked nose… why did you marry him?”
“I married Albus…” Minerva began. Albus’ chest puffed with pride as he waited to hear his wife tell his family how much she loved him. “…Because he is absolutely insatiable in bed. You know what they say about men with long noses…” Minerva let her comment hang.
Aunt Augusta’s mouth fell open as her eyes bugged out. Silence reigned for several moments then the old woman began to cough so hard that several nieces and nephews ran forward to pound her on her back. Finally she waved them all away and, taking a deep breath, turned back to Minerva. “Well said, girl. No foolish declarations of love.”
“Oh, I love Albus, Mrs. Dumbledore. I love him to distraction. Why shouldn’t I? He’s the sweetest, gentlest, most intelligent man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He treats me like a queen.” Minerva turned her gaze to look up at Albus, her feelings for her husband obvious in her eyes. “I only hope that I may someday be worthy of his love.”
Albus shook his head as he stared at his wife. “I am the unworthy one. You are my queen, Willow… the queen of my heart.” He lifted her hand to his lips but instead of kissing the back he flipped it over and planted his mouth on her palm.
“I’ll… uhm…” Albus looked at his aunt for a moment and then back at Minerva, an apology in his eyes.
“Go… I’ll be fine.” Minerva reassured him.
Albus wasn’t so sure of that but he reluctantly kissed his
wife’s hand and then walked away. Just
before he stepped out of voice range he heard
“So… my nephew is pleasing between the sheets then?”
“That’s it, Allie! Catch the ball!” Fee clapped as the small rubber ball she had just rolled toward her sister slid between Allie’s arms. The baby lay on her stomach just two feet in front of Fiona, her head pushed up and watching her sister with interest. One fist held tightly to Leo’s tail and the other one tried to grasp at the ball. The sphere was too big for her fingers to grip but she did manage to bat it back toward Fiona.
“Oh, Allie!” Fee clapped her hands together and Allie’s legs began to kick as the baby giggled. “That’s wonderful!
Fiona and Allie played on the blanket in front of the fireplace for almost an hour before Allie made it clear that she was tired. Evidence of another discomfort reached Fee’s nose as she bent down to pick Allie up.
“You would have to do that before Mum and Uncle Albus got back, wouldn’t you?” She teased her baby sister as she carried her into the bedroom and laid her down in her crib. The diapers were nearby but Fee knew she would need a wet washcloth or two so she darted into the bathroom. By the time that she returned Allie was whimpering.
“I’ll have you clean and dry in just a minute, Allie.” Fiona was grateful that she’d changed so many diapers over the last few weeks but the moment she got the soiled nappy off she noticed that this time it was different. A fine red rash covered Allie’s midsection from stomach to knees. “Maybe you’ve got diaper rash,” Fee told Allie as she quickly cleaned her bottom and fastened a new diaper, “but I’d better call Madame Ffowkes and check anyway.”
“Not so fast, brother o’mine!” Albus grabbed the tail end of Aberforth’s robes as the younger Dumbledore burst out of the haystack and made a dash for the exit door. “Somehow I suspected I might find you in the barns.”
“I wasn’t doing anything, Albus! Just trying to hide from Aunt Augie.”
“Yes… Minerva and I were the victims of your clever little escape act! Well, it didn’t work. Aunt Augusta knew exactly what you were up to and sent me to find you.”
“Where’s Minerva?” Aberforth tried to distract his brother while he tugged at his captured robes.
“My brilliant wife was so witty and charming that
“I was just trying to create a diversion!”
“And you succeeded. From what I overheard as I was leaving I’ll probably never be able to attend a Dumbledore family function again. Meanwhile… did you do what I asked you to do?”
Aberforth nodded as Albus released him. “It took a bit of searching but I managed to find a few things that they overlooked when they cleaned out the place. And I use the term clean loosely. I have goats that wouldn’t live in that filth!”
“I knew it would be bad. I’ve discouraged Minerva from returning to her former home. Is anything salvageable?”
“Maybe some of the things in the kids’ rooms. They didn’t look too badly messed up. Here…” Aberforth began to pull folded bits of parchment from a pocket on the inside of his robe. Some of the pieces had singed edges. “Pulled those out of the fireplace but there might be enough on them to provide clues.”
Albus nodded as he glanced through the documents. “Luc Gordon was a very busy wizard, it seems. I’ll give these to Alastor Moody the next time he drops by the school. I would appreciate it if you pack up anything that might be worth saving… perhaps Ian might be up to going back to the house over the summer but I don’t think that Fee should be exposed to that.”
“There was something else… that portrait of Minnie… there was a small cut in it but it wasn’t too badly damaged. I took it back to the manor.”
Albus smiled his thanks at his brother. “I’ll make arrangements to have it repaired for her.”
“While I was taking it off of the wall something fell from behind it.”
Albus’ brows knit together. “But I already found the will.”
“This was wedged at the top… it has your name on it.”
Albus took the folded parchment that his brother offered and stared at it for long moments. His name was written in a heavy cramped handwriting that Albus was well acquainted with. It belonged to Daniel Gordon.
Aberforth recognized the change in his brother as the older wizard stared at the parchment in his hand.. “I’ll just… leave you alone for a bit, why don’t I? I need to get home and check on the goats…”
“If you don’t present yourself to Aunt Augusta in the next five minutes I will tell her that you are dying to meet her fourth cousin’s granddaughter and that you are even willing to leave the goats at home while you court her.”
“Grumpy old cow!” Aberforth scowled at Albus as he tromped out of the barn. The look was wasted. Albus never turned his gaze from the parchment.
After a few minutes he moved to a barrel and sat down on top of it as he carefully pried the wax seal on the letter apart. He pulled the folded edges apart and began to read.
If you are reading this letter then my skills have finally failed me. You tried to protect me… you tried to protect all of us… and I want you to know how much I appreciate that.
I guess that the purpose of this missive is to ask you to continue doing what you’ve always done. Watch over Minerva and the children for me, Albus. We both know what my brother wants and what he is capable of to get what he wants. I know that you won’t let him succeed.
I’ve known since the beginning that you were in love with Minerva. I even tried to avoid her for a while… at the start… but I couldn’t, Albus. I loved her too. I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am that I have hurt her…
A sudden flood of tears blurred Albus’ vision and he had to pause to remove his glasses and wipe his eyes. When he returned to the letter his eyes were drawn to the last paragraph.
Life is short, Albus. Don’t waste precious time mourning me. I died living the life that I chose to live. Minerva cares about you, perhaps more deeply than even she realizes. Tell her that you love her. Marry her. There is no other man that I know that I would be happier raising my children than you. Be happy together… or I shall return and haunt you both!
Albus folded the letter carefully and tucked it into a pocket as he stood and slowly made his way back toward the festivities.
Ian closed the large tome on divination in front of him with a bang that was loud enough to earn him an evil eye from Madame Pince, the librarian. His mother was right, he mused to himself. Divination was a completely useless course of study. He decided that he had enough information to bluff his way through a length of parchment so he gathered up his books and headed back to Gryffindor tower.
The portrait entrance to the common room was drawing closer but instead of giving the password and entering Ian found himself continuing onward. His half-hearted promise to his Uncle Albus the previous evening came back to him.
‘I’m here,’ he argued with himself. ‘There is no reason why I can’t check on Fee… she might need some help with her homework or something.’ The thought that Allie might smile at him again sprang unbidden to his mind but he quickly blocked it. He didn’t need for a baby to like him… that was so unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
The elegant woman in the portrait guarding the entrance to Albus’ rooms smiled fondly at Ian as he politely requested entrance. Both he and Fee had become regular visitors over the past few weeks and Albus had instructed the guardian to allow the children entry any time they requested it.
The painting swung away and Ian grasped the doorknob and pushed. As he stepped into the room he heard the roar of Allie’s cries.
“Fee?” Ian yelled, but he immediately knew that he couldn’t be heard above the din. He dropped his books as his eyes darted around the sitting room. Fee and Allie were no where in sight.
Ian hesitated at the door to the bedroom, part of him not really wanting to confirm his suspicions that his mother and uncle were sharing a bed, but the crying within spurred him forward.
“Ian!” Fee cried out with relief when her brother entered the room. She was sitting in the rocking chair holding Allie and trying to give her a bottle. The baby continually pushed the nipple away.
“What’s wrong with her?” Ian asked as he cautiously moved closer.
“I don’t know!” Fiona wailed. “I’ve changed her diaper and she doesn’t want a bottle. I wrapped her in a blanket because she was shivering but she keeps kicking it off. But she’s hot, Idgy! She’s burning up! And she’s got a rash…I think Allie is sick but…”
“Why didn’t you call someone?” Ian interrupted, more forcefully than he meant to. He dropped to his knees beside the chair and grabbed one of Allie’s feet. “She’s more than burning up! We need the nurse right now.” He stood and moved toward the fireplace.
“It doesn’t work! I tried to call her. I tried to pull the bell for Ditzy too but Ditzy doesn’t come!”
“You should have come and gotten me!”
“The door wouldn’t open! I tried, Idg, I swear.”
Ian’s mind was working on overload. Powerful magic was obviously at work here. “I’m here now, Fee. I got in just fine. Let’s go to the infirmary.”
The siblings made their way to the outer door, Allie clutched in Fee’s arms and Ian’s arm around Fee’s waist. As they approached the cracked door it seemed to inch its way back toward the framing. With less than an inch left Ian lunged for the door but it snapped closed before he could catch it. He grabbed the knob and tugged with all his might but the entrance wouldn’t budge.
“This is ridiculous! What is going on?”
Fee stood in the middle of the floor and cried while Ian ran around the suite, trying to access the floo network from every fireplace. Then he tugged all of the bell pulls in an attempt to summon a house elf. Finally he stopped in the middle of the room and screamed for Ditzy but the elf didn’t appear.
“What are we going to do, Ian? She’s getting warmer!” Fee walked back to the middle of the room where Ian stood.
Fee was crying almost as hard as Allie. Ian dropped his gaze to the baby. Her chubby cheeks were wet with tears. One hand flailed, striking at the air. The other hand clung to the stuffed lion he’d given her earlier. Thinking only to give Fee a few moments relief, Ian held out his hands. “Give her to me.”
Fiona relinquished the baby gladly. As Ian accepted the flailing bundle in his arms he had an idea. “Go try the door again, Fee.”
“But we just tried it!”
“I got in. There has to be a way out. Go try the door.”
Fee reluctantly moved to the door and turned the knob. Nothing happened.
Ian backed up toward the bedroom door. When he reached it he called out. “Try again.”
Once again Fee turned the knob with no result.
Finally Ian stepped completely in the bedroom. “Now!”
This time when Fiona turned the doorknob the door sprung open.
“Go!” Ian yelled. “Get the nurse and have her call Mum and Uncle Albus! Tell her about the door!”
Fiona obediently charged out of the room.
Ian absently jiggled Allie as he tried to piece together what was going on but her continued crying distracted him. Finally he looked down at her again and noticed that her face was bright red and her body was jerking slightly.
“Bloody hell!” Ian swore as he turned and raced to the bathroom. He quickly yanked the knob releasing cold water into the tub until it was at its maximum. He realized that the sides of the reservoir were too high for him to lay Allie down and keep a firm hold on her in the rapidly filling bathtub. No other solution came to him and he knew he had no time to waste so he yanked the stuffed lion from Allie’s grasp, dropped it to the floor and climbed into the tub.
Ian carefully lowered Allie onto his legs for support as the water grew deeper and deeper then began to strip away her robes. Once she was rid of everything except her diaper he pushed her beneath the cold water, taking care to keep one hand behind her head to keep her face clear. Gradually the crying slowed.
When Albus arrived back at the reception, Aunt Augusta still had Minerva seated at her side and Aberforth was no where to be seen. Albus shook his head, not believing that his brother would be so foolish as to ignore him. He moved forward but seconds before he reached his bride’s side Aberforth burst through the crowd and threw himself between Minerva and Augusta.
“I am here, oh honored aunt. I await thy bidding with baited breath.” He
exhaled the words in a flurry as he threw himself at
“Very good, Albus.”
At that moment the fireplace burst into a bright green flame and a head appeared. “ALBUS DUMBLEDORE!” The sonorous voice called out.
Holding tightly to Minerva’s hand, Albus maneuvered his way to the fire.
“Armando, what’s wrong?”
“You must return to Hogwarts immediately. Your daughter is very ill!”
The face disappeared as Albus grabbed a handful of floo
powder then passed the contained to Minerva.
They flooed away one after the other as
“DAUGHTER!?!?! WHAT DAUGHTER!?!?!”
Ten minutes later, when Nurse Ffowkes burst into the room, Ian was still in the same position. Allie lay across his knees, her entire body submerged. One hand kept a firm hold on the baby while the other repeatedly ran a damp cloth over her face then cooled it in the water before starting again.
“It will be okay, Allie… everything will be okay… Big brother won’t let anything happen to you…”
“Stay there for the moment,” Nurse Ffowkes told Ian as she quickly began casting diagnostic spells over Allie. Finally she nodded to him. “I think it’s safe to bring her out now… her temperature isn’t all that high anymore but I can see it has been. Very smart, Mr. Gordon, putting her in the cool water.”
Ian held Allie up and the nurse took the baby, wrapping her in a towel as she did so. “What is wrong with her?” he asked as he climbed out of the tub, his robes dripping wet. He didn’t notice.
“That I don’t know yet. I need to get her to the infirmary. Your sister is with Headmaster Dippet attempting to contact your parents. You can wait here for them.”
“I go with my sis… I go with Allie.” Ian said firmly. The set of his face told the school nurse that she would be in for a huge argument if she pursued her suggestion.
“Right then… let’s go.”
Minerva flew into the infirmary, the train of her robes flying behind her. Albus was about two steps behind. Both Ian and Fiona jumped from their chairs as their mother flew toward them. She wrapped her arms around both of them and hugged them fiercely.
“What happened?” She demanded as soon as she released them. “Allie seemed fine when we left? How could she get so sick so quickly? Are the two of you all right?”
“I don’t know, mummy!” Fee began to cry again. “She was fine and then she began to get a little fussy. I tried to feed her and I changed her but she just kept crying more and more. Then she began to get really hot. I tried to get help, I swear! But nothing worked! The fire wouldn’t work and the elves didn’t come! I couldn’t get out of the door!”
“That makes no sense!” Albus was clearly agitated.
“She’s telling the truth!” Ian quickly defended his sister. “The door opened for me to enter but we couldn’t leave!”
“I’m not blaming either of you,” Albus said in a calming tone. “Tell me what happened…”
Ian quickly related how he had found his sisters and what he had done before finally discovering how to free Fee to get help.
“It was a brilliant move… and well timed,” Armando Dippet interjected as he entered the waiting area from the infirmary. “Madame Ffowkes said that Ian’s idea to put Allie in the bath to cool her down may have saved her life. You can go in now.”
Minerva darted toward the door as Dippet jumped to the side. Albus took a step then pause and held his hands out to both children. “Are you coming?”
The children smiled gratefully and moved forward with Albus.
As they approached Minerva was lifting the baby into her arms while Madame Ffowkes looked on. Albus and the children crowded around her as Allie snuffled into her mother’s chest.
“She’s still warm!” Minerva said to the nurse. Three more hands immediately sought out a spot of Allie’s skin to feel.
Madame Ffowkes nodded. “Your daughter is still running a fever, although we have it under better control now, thanks to your son. I’ve run every test that I can think of and found out nothing… I hope that it meets with your approval but… I know that Miss Pomfrey of the St. Mungo’s staff is a personal friend of yours, Mrs. Dumbledore, so I took the liberty of calling her. She and several specialists should be arriving anytime now.”
“That’s fine, Madame Ffowkes.” Albus told the nurse. “Whatever we have to do to make Allie healthy again.”
“You hear that, Allie?” Ian leaned close and whispered. “Aunt Poppy is coming! She will make you all better.”
Allie sniffed again but she also managed a small smile for her brother.
After a few more minutes, Madame Ffowkes asked Minerva to place Allie back in the bed. She did so reluctantly but refused to leave her daughter’s side. Albus ushered the children back out to the waiting room with Armando following.
Once the door had been closed behind them Albus led the children to a cozy corner and changed the hard chairs until comfortable sofas. He waved the children and Armando into them.
“I don’t like the sound of this at all. I need to discover what happened today in my quarters. I know that you’ve already given me a rough sketch but I need for you to tell me again. Don’t leave out any detail that you can remember, no matter how unimportant you think it may be!”
Ian’s eyes flew open with a start. He hadn’t realized that he’d fallen asleep but he was stretched out across one of the sofas, a light blanket tucked in around him. A quick glance told him that Fee was sleeping soundly on the other couch. A single flickering candle provided the only light in the room.
‘It’s late,’ Ian said to himself. At that moment the clock in the huge tower near the infirmary began to chime. The bell sounded eleven times before stopping.
As the sound died away, Ian heard the low murmur of voices. He shifted carefully; not wanting to attract attention then stared across the room toward the window. The silhouettes of his mother and Uncle Albus could be clearly seen… no, not silhouettes… silhouette… for the two of them were standing so close together that they seemed to be one.
Albus’ arms were wrapped around Minerva’s waist and shoulders, holding her close. Ian could hear an occasional sniffle and knew that his mum was crying. Even though he couldn’t make out the words he could tell that Albus’ tone was low and soothing.
He’d been awake when his Aunt Poppy arrived with a veritable army of healers from St. Mungo’s. They’d quickly removed his loudly protesting mother from the room so that they could work. Headmaster Dippet had arranged for the kitchen elves to bring them dinner trays to the waiting area. Neither his mother or uncle had eaten anything, but they’d made sure that he and Fee ate when they’d caught them picking at their food.
His wandering attention riveted back on his mum when he saw Albus shift his head and brush a light kiss across her lips. Ian found himself wanting to scream out at Albus to stop… that only his father was allowed to kiss his mother that way… but he didn’t. His mind suddenly returned to the long conversation from earlier in the evening when he and Fee had recounted the events of the afternoon. With startling clarity he knew what must have happened.
Before he could decide if he was going to speak up the doors to the infirmary flew open and Poppy ran out, followed by a host of healers.
“We have it, Min! We know how to heal Allie!”
Minerva buried her head in Albus’ robes for just a moment; Ian knew she was blotting her tears against his shoulder. Then both of the adults followed Poppy into the ward.
“Idg? What’s wrong?” Fiona asked sleepily, the sound of the doors slamming open having woken her.
“They know what’s wrong with Allie. Come on.” He held out his hand to his sister and helped her up then they both walked quietly into the other room.
“It’s old magic… very complicated and very ingenious.” The head healer was telling Albus and Minerva. “Your daughter has been infected by a reperio abbas spell.”
“I’m not familiar…” Minerva started.
“It’s a spell designed to identify a person’s parent… to be more specific their sire.” Albus interrupted, his voice low and full of barely controlled anger. “Someone is using Allie… making her sick… in order to force you to reveal the identity of her father.”
“But who..? Oh, Merlin… Luc… that BASTARD!” Minerva’s balled up fists hit Albus’ chest once. He gripped them and held them there as he stared into Minerva’s eyes.
“The healers know what the spell is now so they can find out how to cure it. I will find out who did this to Allie… who put all my family through this torment… and I promise you that Luc… or whoever instigated this…I will make them pay.” He told his wife firmly.
“We are already working on the remedy.” The head healer from St. Mungo’s interjected. “Madame Ffowkes is working in tangent with our potions expert and your potions master to brew the correct mix. It should be ready in about ten minutes. There is also an incantation but… we need one more thing…”
“Anything,” Albus quickly offered. “Just tell me what you need and I’ll get it.”
“We need… the baby’s father. None of this works without both the father and the mother. I realize this might be awkward for you, Mrs. Dumbledore, considering the circumstances… but time is of the essence. We’ve managed to stave off the effects of the spell at the moment but we don’t have a great deal of time left before it will be out of control again.”
“How long?” Minerva asked.
“It’s only a guess of course but we’ve agreed that our absolute time limit is twenty-four hours.”
Both Albus and Minerva breathed a sigh of relief. “Then let’s do it as soon as the potion is done. We are ready… anything to save our daughter.” Albus told the healer.
“I’m sorry, Professor Dumbledore. Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. Madame Pomfrey told us that you’ve married Mrs. Gordon… taken responsibility for her children… but in this case that isn’t enough. In order for this restorative to work we must have the child’s natural father.”
“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. I am Allie’s father.”
“I understand that you are protective of your wife, Professor, but please… I assure you that the cure will not work unless we have the actual presence of the man who… physically participated with Mrs. Gor… Dumbledore… in the conception of the child.”
“With all due respect, sir… I, Albus Dumbledore, am Allie’s father. I am the man who was physically present…” Albus’ blue eyes were dark with anger and his voice was rising. “I am the man who made love to Minerva the night that child was conceived… the only man. Do you understand!?!?!”
Both Albus and Minerva whirled around at the anguished cry to find Ian standing in the doorway defiantly, fists clenched and tears streaming down his face. “My dad was your friend… you betrayed him! You are no better than Uncle Luc!”
“Ian… you don’t understand…” Albus started to say but Ian cut him off.
“What is there to understand? My dad trusted you and you bedded his wife! You bastard!” With that said Ian turned and ran from the room, the sound of his mother screaming his name ringing in his ears.
The sun was just beginning to cast its first rays of light across the horizon when Ian heard distinctively human movement in the owlery behind him.
“Go away, Fee!” He snarled. “I don’t want to talk to you.”
“First of all, I’m not Fee,” Albus replied. “And second, I’m afraid that you have little choice in the matter. But if you don’t want to talk you can listen while I do the talking.”
Ian turned from the view to stare at Albus for a moment, eyes full of hatred… and something else… before resuming his empty gaze out the window.
Albus sighed and moved to sit down beside Ian, close but not touching the boy.
“Your sister is very protective of you. It took me some time to coax her into telling me where you had run. Fee is worried about you, you know.”
Ian didn’t answer so Albus tried another tact.
“Wouldn’t you like to know about Allie?”
“Don’t care…” Ian finally mumbled.
“Yes… you’ve worked very hard to give that impression over the last few weeks but… I think that I’ve seen definite signs of a thaw lately. You did go and check on the girls yesterday…”
“You ordered me to!” Ian interposed defiantly.
“I asked you to… that is a big difference… and you sent Fee for help instead of going yourself.”
“She was a basket case. I couldn’t leave her in there alone with the screaming brat again!”
“You saved Allie’s life.”
“Really?” Ian quickly pasted the scowl that had slipped off of his face back on. “Nobody deserves to be sick like that…”
“You care about Allie, Ian… you love your little sister… why can’t you admit it?”
“Because she’s YOURS!” Ian turned to stare daggers at Albus.
“Yes, Allie is mine. I said as much that day in the courtroom. I’ve never denied being her father.”
“But… I thought…”
“What did you think? Once you confided in me all the time. Trust me now, Ian.” Albus quietly encouraged.
“Uncle Luc said that mum had taken a younger lover who was after our money… and she wasn’t pregnant when we left for school… at least I didn’t think… I thought you were just covering for her… protecting her like you’ve always done.”
Albus sighed. “Your Uncle Luc is not your friend, Ian… and he’s told you many untruths. In point of fact, very little of what he’s told you has any truth at all in it. Your mother is so tall that she’s never appeared very large, not during any of her pregnancies. Luc only saw that she was pregnant but he had no way of knowing how many months along she was so he guessed and filled in the rest with his own imagination. And yes, she was pregnant when you and Fee left for school… but she’d only just realized it herself. She didn’t know what to do… she didn’t know where I was… I’ll regret that for the rest of my life. If I had stayed in contact I may have been able to prevent this entire mess.”
“I thought that you’d only married mum to protect her from all the gossip… I thought that you were claiming Allie to give her a name… not that you actually were…”
Albus nodded. “Fiona never gave it a second thought. I suppose your mother and I assumed the same for you. Allie has my hair color… my hand shape… but you haven’t really been close enough to your sister to notice that have you?”
“She’s NOT my sister… not really… she doesn’t look like Fee and me… She isn’t my dad’s…”
“But she’s your mum’s… and I always thought that you and Fee considered me a part of the family as well…”
“You are… but… you slept with my mum, Uncle Albus!” The hatred in Ian’s voice had faded away to confusion. “You… touched her… that way… If my mum loved my dad how could she have… she’d just found out that he was dead and she let you…”
“Perhaps we are coming to the root of the matter now. I’m going to do my best to explain some things to you, Ian. They will be hard to understand… maybe you won’t fully comprehend them now… but someday I hope you will.”
“I don’t want to hear…”
“Right now you don’t get a choice in the matter. Your mother is sitting in the infirmary with your sister, both of them crying their eyes out with worry about you. You are going to listen to me and then you are going to go and at least let them know that you are okay.”
Ian nodded sullenly then returned his gaze to the half sun rising over the mountains in the distance.
“Don’t ever for one minute think that your mum and your dad didn’t love each other. They did and you are well aware that they did. I was showing Fee pictures from their wedding yesterday afternoon. They were so young and in love and happy… having you and Fee only increased their joy.”
“Life isn’t perfect, Ian. I know that you are mature enough to understand that I can’t tell you everything but… your dad’s job at the ministry was an extremely important one, especially in later years. He was gone from home so often… As much as he loved his wife and his children he felt a calling for what he did and he was uniquely suited to it. But he was away from Minerva so much that, over time, he and your mother grew apart.”
“So that makes it okay for her to cheat on him.”
“Your mother never cheated on your father. She isn’t that kind of woman, Ian. Deep down you know that.”
“But it was so soon…”
Albus pondered his next words, wondering just how much information the boy could take. “There were things that we didn’t elaborate on about our time at Vargha’s, Ian… not from any wish to deceive you but from a desire protect both you and Fee. Miggins had… specific plans… involving your mother. We were in a great deal more danger than we let on.”
“What kind of plans?” Ian asked suspiciously.
“You are a smart young man, Ian. Your mother possesses a classic beauty and, more important to Miggins, she is an extremely powerful witch. He wanted your mother’s power for the heir of the empire he was attempting to create.”
Ian swallowed hard. “He… wanted… was going to…”
“Yes, he was going to force your mother if necessary… and it most certainly would have been. She carries a scar from his knife along her collarbone as evidence of that.”
“But if things were so dangerous why did the two of you stop to…”
“I refuse to have an in depth discussion about the intimacy that your mother and I shared. Frankly, that is a very private thing between a man and woman… the details of which are none of your business. What I will say to you… and I know that it will be difficult for someone as young as you to understand… is that sometimes a moment can creep up on you. What happened between Minerva and I was a combination of many things… a celebration of our narrow escape over almost certain death… an unvoiced declaration of the love that we share… even a release of the grief that we both felt over the loss of your father.”
Ian harumphed. “That doesn’t make a lot of sense. You were declaring your love and grieving for my father at the same time?”
“I told you that it wouldn’t… but that is exactly what was happening. We were both shocked beyond words when we saw your father’s body, even though I think we both knew as time went on that that particular outcome was growing more and more likely.”
“And the love?” Ian asked bitterly.
“The love was unspoken… and it went unspoken until recently. Ian, I’ve been in love with your mother for a very long time… even before you were born. I never would have acted on my feelings as long as your father was alive and he knew that. He trusted me…”
“Wait… my father knew?”
“He did know… from the beginning. I think that in a boyish sort of way he was proud that someone he admired and respected felt that way about ‘his’ wife. But Daniel trusted my loyalty to him and your mother’s love for him. What your mother and I shared as friends was no threat to Daniel. He knew that. What your mother and I share now is no threat to what your parents shared. Nothing can ever change that. They loved each other. Part of your mother’s heart will always belong to Daniel.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
“Of course I am. Your mother’s love for your father, her love for you and Fee… all of that is part of who she is.”
“But now she has you and Allie…”
“Yes, having you and Fee to love taught your mother how to open her heart even more… she has more than enough love for all of us. This isn’t the way that I wanted things, Ian… I had no intention of getting your mother pregnant… the moment simply got out of hand. Had I known the outcome, even suspected that it might be possible, I would have returned immediately. But I didn’t know.”
“Why didn’t mother tell you?”
“We’ve talked about that… Minerva knew that I felt that tracking your father’s killer was a necessity, not only so that she and I could be free but so that all of us, you and Fee included, could have closure. I thought that once I accomplished that goal I would return, court your mother, ask for your and Fee’s approval then bond us all as a family. I still want that… I just hadn’t included Allie in my plans before I returned.”
“But you and mum are already bonded.”
“Yes… I wanted you and Fee there… but I didn’t trust your Uncle Luc and we had to move quickly. I hope that someday we can repeat the ceremony… sort of a renewal… and include you and Fee.”
“Maybe…” Ian finally said, grudgingly, “… someday.”
Albus resisted the urge to clap his hand down on his stepson’s shoulder. “You’ve acted like a man these last few minutes, Ian, listening to me rationally. I’m proud of you for it. I know that you’ve been given a lot of things to think about but please give them fair consideration. Your mother loves you so much. She doesn’t want to lose you.”
“I know…” Ian swiped surreptitiously at the tear forming in the corner of one eye. “She won’t lose me… she… ALLIE!?!? How is Allie?!”
A small but hopeful smile touched Albus’ lips at the concern in Ian’s voice. “Allie is going to be fine. The cure that the healers found worked perfectly. Luc is going to be very disappointed when Allie’s father doesn’t appear at the school gates begging for entrance.
“Allie’s father… OH! Uncle Albus!” Ian’s shoulders began to shake as he blurted out his secret without thinking. “It was me! It’s my fault that Allie got sick! I didn’t mean for it to happen, I swear! I didn’t know!”
“Ian!” Albus threw an arm around his stepson’s shoulder and pulled him closer. “It’s okay, son. Just tell me why you think this is your fault.”
Ian tried to pull away. “You’ll hate me… but I didn’t mean to, Uncle Albus… really I didn’t.”
Albus tightened his grip. “Ian… I know that deep down you care for your baby sister. I know that you would never intentionally cause her any harm. But we need to protect her… help me… tell me what you know…”
“It was the lion, Uncle Albus.”
“Leo? He was just a stuffed toy…”
“But I didn’t buy him! One of Uncle Luc’s men found me at the Shrieking Shack. He told me that he had a message for me. He said that Uncle Luc was planning to escape and that until he did; he wanted me to pretend like I was accepting your marriage to mum. That way when he got out I could give him information…”
“What kind of information?”
“I don’t know for sure… he said that Uncle Luc was going to try and discredit mum… and make you look like a fool for trusting her. Then Alfie gave me the stuffed lion and told me to give it to the baby… make it look like I was accepting her too…”
“The lion… somehow the spell was tied up in Leo.”
“I forgot about the lion… really… I didn’t intend to give it to her… but then it crawled out of my pocket and she liked it so much… It was nice that she liked something from me… I never thought that it might be dangerous.”
Albus was nodding intently. “That’s it, Ian. They used the lion to infect Allie. Luc wanted your mother to be forced to call Allie’s father in. He probably has men watching Hogsmeade and the gates. Once he found out who the father was he would use that information to discredit your mum. Apparently he didn’t believe my statement in the courtroom either.”
“And he didn’t realize that I’m the one who knocked his wand away. He still thinks that I am on his side… We can use that, can’t we, Uncle Albus? I can pass false information to Uncle Luc so that you can catch him and…”
“Wait… Ian… I am not going to allow you to place yourself in danger.”
“I’m already in danger, Uncle Albus! We all are as long as Luc can get to us. If you don’t let me help then Luc knows that I’m not on his side and I’m marked just like Mum and Fee and Allie… You are condemning us all! You have to let me help!”
Albus groaned, knowing that the boy had a point. “Your mother will kill me!”
“We’ll make her understand. She wants for all of us to be safe, right? So… what do we do about Allie’s father? Do you want to run in a ringer?”
Albus groaned again; the boy was much too enthusiastic about his idea… He just knew that Minerva was going to kill him.
And then a voice came from the doorway. “Why not me? I’m here and I was probably seen.” Ian looked up to find a strange man with a matted grey beard and familiar blue eyes looking at he and Albus with amusement in his eyes. “Sounds like great fun!”
Albus slapped a palm against his forehead as he shook his head. “Aberforth! Don’t encourage him!”
When they reached the infirmary Ian went immediately to his mother’s side, wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his face in her shoulder. Minerva embraced him back as tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. She smiled her thanks at Albus as Ian poured out his apologies against her robe.
“That’s a good looking family, Albus.” Aberforth told his brother quietly as Minerva and Ian moved over to a sofa and sat down. Fee was sleeping soundly in a nearby chair.
“I agree,” Aberforth glanced over at his brother and found Albus grinning madly at the tableau before him. “I don’t intend to take them for granted, Abe. I know that we’ve got a long way to go before the kids can completely accept their mum and me as a couple… but we are making progress.”
“I don’t think you have that long judging by the way I saw you and Ian interact.”
“You didn’t see him screaming at me just minutes before. What are you doing here, by the way? I thought that you were firmly trapped beneath Aunt Augusta’s claws again.”
“She was just pouncing for the kill when your boss popped up in the fireplace. I managed to escape once again in the hullabaloo. I would have been here earlier except I’ve been dodging Cousin Abernathy all night long. I’d expect a howler or ten in the morning post, by the way. Aunt Augusta was screaming to all hell about you having a daughter. We couldn’t decide if she was overjoyed to hear the news or furious that she hadn’t been told.”
“I’ll deal with Aunt Augusta later. Right now I think that I need to convince my little family to go to bed. We’ve been up all night.”
“That is an excellent idea!” Neither Albus nor Aberforth had noticed Madame Ffowkes approach until she spoke. “You may leave the little one here or you can take her back to your rooms with you as long as you promise to bring her back this afternoon for a checkup. I’ll leave it to you.”
“We’ll take Allie with us. She’ll sleep better in her crib and her mother will sleep better knowing that she is there. Come on, Abe. You can hide in my rooms. After running all night you are probably exhausted too.”
Aberforth watched Albus move to Minerva’s side and speak to her. He absently laid a hand on his wife’s shoulder and one on his stepson’s as he encouraged them to return to their rooms. Abe knew that Albus was fond of the Gordon children; he’d been bragging on both of them for years, but this was the first time that Abe had ever seen his brother interact with his new family. He couldn’t help but admire the loving way that Albus encouraged mother and son to rest.
Minerva refused to leave Allie’s side, as Albus had known she would, so he reassured her that Madame Ffowkes had given them leave to take the baby back to her own bed. While Minerva went into the infirmary to get the baby, Albus leaned over and carefully gathered the still sleeping Fee into his arms.
It wasn’t until she was approaching him that Minerva realized Aberforth was there.
“Aberforth!” She exclaimed with delight. “I thought for sure that Aunt Augusta would still be filling your social calendar. She has a never ending supply of females for you to meet.”
Aberforth rolled his eyes. “Then I thank my lucky stars that your last announcement rescued me yet again. I’m officially in hiding now. Albus has given me refuge for the moment. Besides, when I heard that the little kid wasn’t feeling well I had to check on her.” He waggled his fingers in Allie’s face. The baby smiled wanly.
“Allie is glad to see you, Abe. She’s just tired.”
“As we all are. Come on, Ian. Let’s see this motley looking crew to bed.”
The bed that Albus transfigured for his brother (previously a lumpy footstool) wasn’t the most comfortable one that Abe had ever slept in. Abe suspected that that was on purpose. Albus wasn’t thrilled with him encouraging Ian to become involved in any plot to bring down Luc Gordon. But Aberforth thought that the boy had every right to be involved and would have told him so if he hadn’t been afraid that the ensuing argument would wake Fiona.
Aberforth shifted for perhaps the hundredth time as he checked the clock once again. It was well after noon but they’d been in bed less than six hours so Abe settled back into the lumpy mattress and tried once again to find the sleep that had been eluding him.
Eventually lethargy began to overtake him. Aberforth was so close to sleep that he could have reached out and grabbed it when a sudden movement nearby jerked him back to full consciousness. He watched with interest as Ian slid from his bed (previously an arm chair) and walked toward the door of the bedroom. The boy raised his hand, fingers fisted and knocked once. Before he could tap again the poorly latched door swung open several inches.
Ian took a step into the room, his back stiffened and then he quickly retreated. Instead of heading back to the bed, he moved over to the large window on the far side of the room and climbed into the window seat.
After several minutes, Aberforth realized that the teen was sniffling. He threw back the blankets and went to join his new nephew.
As Aberforth sat down on the other end of the window seat Ian brushed the back of his hand over his eyes. Abe couldn’t help but notice the wet spot left behind.
“What’s the matter, Ian? Catch the grown-ups at a little bit of slap and tickle?”
Ian looked up at him with a puzzled look.
“You know… a little rumpy pumpy… buttering the crumpet…” Abe shook his head as the blank look on Ian’s face remained. Didn’t kids know anything these days? “You walked in on Albus banging your mum.”
The boy turned scarlet. “No… oh NO!” He finally managed to stutter out then dropped his face into his upturned palms.
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I don’t… I…”
“You don’t know about talking to this crazy old fellow that you just met a few hours ago? Can’t blame you for that one boy… smart that is… you can’t be too careful… but… We are family, you know… We both love that little girl to bits and she shares both of our blood. I’m not trying to force you to talk to me, mind you… just saying that I’m here if you need a partially unbiased ear.”
“Partially?” One eye appeared over the fingertips.
“Well… Albus is my big brother. He’s made my life miserable for years. And I think your mum is absolutely enchanting so… partially… What did you see that upset you so?”
“Nothing… just… they were asleep.”
“You saw your mum and Albus sleeping and that upset you…”
“They were in the same bed… they were… cuddled…”
Aberforth smiled. “A wonderful thing, cuddling…” he said wistfully. “Many married couples do it… and some single ones, too.”
“But she’s my mum! And he’s not…” Ian stopped speaking suddenly.
“Albus isn’t your dad. Is that the problem, Ian?”
The conflict the boy was feeling was obvious on his face and in his demeanor. “Uncle Albus explained everything… I’m trying to understand, really I am. But seeing them… like that…”
“Be thankful you didn’t catch them bonking,” Aberforth murmured below his breath.
“…It just confuses me…”
Aberforth took a moment to stare out the window toward the
“Ian… You and Albus only spoke a few hours ago. I doubt seriously that anyone expects you to simply be able to accept this entire situation and embrace it with open arms. It could take you months… years… A part of you may always have some difficulty with it.”
The boy looked up at his new uncle, his eyes filled with amazement. “How come you understand so well?”
Aberforth shrugged. “I just do… You wouldn’t imagine that goats could be so jealous of each other but they are… Your mum and Albus understand as well… I spent some time with them the other afternoon in Hogsmeade. They are both very concerned about trying to help you through this time but not put too much pressure on you.”
“They have been pretty good about not pushing…” Ian admitted grudgingly.
“And I suspect they will continue to be good about it. You have had to deal with a lot of life for someone of your tender years, Ian. No one ever adjusts to fate’s ups and downs instantly. Do you think that this has been easy for Albus and Minerva? Neither one of them would have hurt you or Fiona for all the world… but sometimes… when you stare death in the face… you have an overwhelming desire to celebrate life. They should have been more careful… but then we wouldn’t have that wonderful baby girl that we both obviously adore.”
“Uncle Albus said almost the same thing.”
“He can be a wise man on occasion, my brother… but watch him with the Bertie Botts Beans… he likes to pick out all the good flavours and give the nasty ones to others.”
This comment brought a half smile to Ian’s lips.
“Why don’t we try to get some more sleep, hmm? It was a long night, after all.” Aberforth yawned loudly as he stood and moved back toward the beds. Ian followed him absently, his mind working overtime. His mind was still full of the hateful image of his mother in bed with another man but Aberforth had given him a great deal to think about.
“NO! I absolutely forbid it! Ian will NOT be involved in this!” Minerva’s eyes flashed emerald fire at her husband and his brother. “I will not allow my baby anywhere near that maniac!”
“But Min!” Aberforth protested. “We’ve got it all worked out! I’ll drink a polyjuice potion and be you and…”
“With THAT walk?!?! You couldn’t pull me off in a million years. Don’t forget, this man knows me… He’s been watching me for half of my life…”
“I don’t know…” Aberforth lifted the backs of his hands up as if popping them underneath imaginary breasts. “I think I’d make a damn good woman.”
“That is more information than I needed to know, Aberforth. Feel free to try it at any time… but not with a donation from ME!” Minerva’s arms folded tightly across her chest as she continued to glare at her brother-in-law.
“You are probably right,” Abe conceded with a glance at his brother. “I’ve seen how he looks at you…”
“Don’t even go there, Aberforth,” Albus cautioned softly. The words drew his wife’s attention to him.
“Do you agree with this hair-brained scheme, Albus? Do you really think I’d consent to letting my son be deliberately placed in the line of fire?”
Albus shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably. “Willow… I don’t want Ian involved in this anymore than you do… but we have to stop whatever Luc is planning. If we know that beforehand we can be assured of a favorable outcome… I will warn the ministry, of course, but if Luc should succeed in breaking out… he will seek Ian out.”
“But he’s just a baby!”
Ian sighed. He and Aberforth had worked out their plan while the others took Allie back to the infirmary for her checkup. After dinner, while Minerva and Fee were giving Allie a bath, they’d sprung the idea on Albus. He’d been resistant also, but they had eventually made him see reason. However he refused to proceed without Minerva’s full approval. Thus far it hadn’t been given.
“I’m not a baby anymore, mum.” Ian finally contributed to the conversation. “I have to be involved. It’s the only way. Luc trusts me. I’m the person he is going to contact… ask for information… it has to be me.”
“Why does it have to be anyone? He hasn’t escaped. Tell the ministry. Have them move him to Azkaban.”
“What if he is released instead? Luc has powerful friends. That is how he managed to take your home away from you. I don’t want my family living under a cloud of danger… none of us do. He got to Allie from prison, Minerva. Do you really want him to try again?”
“This isn’t right. This is my fight. I’ll…”
“Luc Gordon attacked my family too, Mum. I am going to do this.” Ian didn’t yell, didn’t raise his voice at all, but his tone was firm.
Minerva watched with wonder as suddenly her little boy melted away before her eyes to be replaced with a mature young man.
“It is our fight, Ian.” Minerva held her hand out to her son and squeezed his tightly when he put it in her palm. “We’ll do it together.”
“Now wait a minute!” This time Albus protested. “I refuse to let you get involved in this,
Minerva turned to gaze at her husband defiantly. “You agree to endanger my fourteen year old son but refuse to let me? To quote something a wise man once said to me… ‘Apparently I’ve given you the mistaken impression that you have a choice in the matter’.”
Albus was taken back, unsure of what to say… so he didn’t say anything for the moment. Aberforth hastily stifled a giggle as he and Ian shared a knowing glance. Minerva’s knowing maternal eye turned to the conspirators and she cocked an eyebrow.
“Something you two would care to share with the rest of us?”
“We guessed that you would feel this way, Minnie, so we’ve worked out an alternative plan. It goes something like this…”
Three days later, the front page of The Daily Prophet announced the escape of Luc Gordon from one of the Ministry’s minimum-security prisons. The circumstances surrounding his escape were under investigation and the escapee’s whereabouts were unknown.
Ian was on edge. Almost a week had passed since Luc’s escape and still he had heard nothing. He held his breath every time the mail arrived, wondering if any of the owls brought messages for him. Each time they flew right by him. He stayed alert at all times, waiting for some form of contact but each day moved into the next with nothing out of the ordinary happening. Gradually the boy began to relax.
The following Saturday was the big showdown between Gryffindor and Slytherin… a playoff game for the Quidditch cup. The entire family was excited about the match, especially because Ian had just this year been chosen to be the alternate Gryffindor seeker. Although he’d trained with the team for the entire year he had yet to be called on to play… but due to an unfortunate accident in the potions lab the starting seeker was unable to fly so Ian was going to start the game.
Albus had risked censure to sneak the boy out after hours and help him practice his flying. Ian understood the nature of Albus’ risk and was properly grateful. Albus was simply pleased that his new relationship with his new stepson seemed to be progressing so well.
The day dawned bright and clear. Fluffy white clouds filled the sky but there wasn’t a drop of rain within them. The snitch was released and the quaffle thrown at exactly eleven a.m.
The golden snitch flew high into the sky and quickly disappeared into the blinding light of the sun. Ian sat high above the stadium on his broom, watching the play below him while keeping an eye out for the snitch. He began to sweat a bit when Slytherin scored fifty points while Gryffindor only answered with twenty. He was yelling out encouragement to his classmates when he saw a brief flash of gold whiz by the end of his nose. He was off in a flash, the Slytherin seeker left far behind.
The snitch moved as if bewitched. Ian would be just inches away from grabbing it when it would suddenly dash ahead or turn sharply. As soon as he managed to gain on it, the orb would race away again.
Ian was so intent on keeping up with his prize that he didn’t realize how far away from the pitch he had traveled until he caught sight of the Forbidden Forrest below. Out of nowhere a rider on a broomstick appeared beside him.
“Uncle Luc!” Ian caught sight of some sort of shimmering clock lying on his uncle’s broomstick and realized that he had been wearing an invisibility cloak. “You’re here!”
“Alfie told you I would be. Now report… we don’t have much time before you are missed.”
“Report? What do I report?”
“On your family, you do… nephew. Have you determined who the little bastard’s father is yet?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“Did you give the brat the cuddly toy? That spell was full proof. If the brat is breathing now then her father had to have been there within two days.”
“Allie got the toy.” The satisfied smirk on Luc’s face almost made Ian ill but he managed to keep his composure. “She was really sick right after that but I didn’t see anyone new around… only us.”
“There must have been some way. There was no other man around besides Dumbledolt?”
“No… well the Headmaster… some healers from St. Mungo’s… and Uncle Abe, of course.”
“Uncle Abe?” Luc’s eyes gleamed with interest.
“Uncle Aberforth… Uncle Albus’ brother.”
Luc released his hold on the handle of his broom and rubbed his palms together. “I never considered… Aberforth Dumbledirt… wouldn’t that make a splash in the Prophet…”
“I don’t understand…” Ian answered innocently.
“You don’t have to… I need further proof… Tell me, boy… when can I find Minerva alone with the brat? She must go out sometime…”
“Not really… She went to Hogsmeade once with Uncle Albus but she mostly stays inside the castle or on the school grounds.”
“The grounds could work… as long as we can keep Dumbly out of the way… I need for you to get in contact with me the next time that Minerva is going out. Send an owl to Leach.”
“But Uncle Luc… I still don’t understand. What do you want…?”
“Damn… the umpire is headed this way.” Luc grabbed the invisibility cloak and tugged it back over his body and broom. “I’m counting on you, Ian. We only have a few weeks before the school year ends. Make this happen.”
Ian felt the pulse in wind currents as a now invisible Luc sped away. He turned his broom around and headed back toward the Quidditch pitch, feeling greatly relieved now that Luc had finally contacted him. As he approached the waiting umpire a flash of gold whizzed by his face. With a loud whoop Ian dove after the snitch.
“That was a brilliant catch, Idg!” Albus slapped the boy on the back as his teammates and house members swarmed around them. Ian grinned up at his uncle jubilantly. He was just about to tell Albus about his encounter with Luc when Fee burst through the crowd and threw her arms around his neck.
“You were spectacular, Idgy!” Fiona was so excited that Ian allowed the hug for once. As he did so, Albus moved away.
“Professor Dumbledore!” Ian called desperately after his stepfather.
Albus turned and waved his hand. “Go celebrate with your housemates, Ian. I’ll be available later.”
“It certainly took the bastard long enough to make contact,” Aberforth groused from the sofa where he lay stretched out over all three cushions.
Minerva shot him a warning look as she bounced Allie on her lap. She had warned her brother-in-law to curb his colorful language while in the baby’s presence, remembering Albus’ earlier statement that Allie’s first words would be blue.
“Sorry, Min. I forgot. But it did take Gordon over a week… what was he doing during that time?”
“I haven’t received any word from Moody yet but I’m sure that he is still keeping a close eye out for Luc.”
“How could he help it with that crazy contraption of his?” Aberforth rocked his own eyes back and forth, up and down, in imitation of the magical replacement that Moody wore in place of his own defunct eye.
“Behave, Aberforth.” Albus commanded. “Alastor Moody is one of the best Aurors that the ministry has. He was the only one willing to listen to my warning about Gordon’s impending escape attempt. If others at the ministry had taken note then Luc would still be in prison and we wouldn’t be having this meeting. I find no levity in the fact that that madman is on the loose and intent on coming after my family.”
“But we still don’t know when Uncle Luc will strike!” Ian interjected.
“This is true. We just need to stay vigilant. Once the term ends, we will all retire to my home for the summer months. The location is not detectable so we should be safe there.”
“Albus,” Minerva sighed, “I can not continue to stay locked up in this castle! I need fresh air. Allie needs sunshine!”
“You had an outing yesterday.” Albus began but Minerva interrupted him.
“I would hardly call a few hours at a Quidditch match after weeks of staying indoors an acceptable outing! Even if my son did catch the snitch and secure the house cup for Gryffindor.” The tinge of maternal pride in Minerva’s last statement was evident and Ian beamed at his mother’s praise.
“Nonetheless, it is prudent for all of you to stay safe within the walls of the castle…”
“Allie wasn’t safe within these walls, Albus! That bastard still got to her! You put too much faith in these walls!” Minerva snapped back.
Albus’ face fell, guilt coating his features. “Yes… but the castle didn’t fail you, I did.” Before any of them could respond he turned and headed toward the door.
“Albus! Albus Dumbledore! You come back here!” Minerva ordered as if her husband was one of her children.
He paid her demands no mind, closing the door softly behind him as he went.
Minerva stared down into the chasm of clock gears churning below her and shuddered. The path across the expanse was a single beam, barely six inches wide. One wrong step and she’d be caught in the clock’s giant maw.
But her husband was hiding in the shadows of the platform on the other side and she was determined to reach him. She stiffened her spine as she concentrated. Moments later a nimble tabby cat ran agilely across the beam.
When she was safe on the opposite side Minerva stuck her feline nose into the air and sniffed then took off toward her husband. A scratching of claws and a terrified squeak distracted her for a moment, her feline senses taking over as she eyed the mouse hole, but Minerva quickly pulled her animagus form back in line.
The afternoon sun was less than an hour from disappearing beneath the horizon so there was little illumination in the loft. Albus wasn’t aware that he was no longer alone until the tabby jumped into his lap and purred as she rubbed her head against his chest.
Albus sighed deeply as his fingers brushed through the silky fur. Before the tips of his fingers reached the cat’s back, the fur was replaced by long ebony hair as his wife returned to her human form.
“I wanted to be alone,” he remarked absently, his eyes still glued to the mountain scene before him although his hand continued to stroke Minerva’s hair.
“You are married now. You gave up being alone.” Minerva answered, a lilt of laughter in her voice as she nuzzled her husband’s ear. “And what is this nonsense about you failing us? Where did you ever come up with that crazy idea?”
“It isn’t crazy,” Albus made a half hearted attempt to push Minerva away but she wouldn’t budge. “My family was attacked in the one place that I thought I could keep them safe.”
“There were extenuating circumstances, Albus. You blame yourself. Ian blames himself. No one else holds either of you responsible. Lay the blame where it belongs… at Luc’s feet.”
“I should have stopped him from escaping…”
“I should have stopped him at the hearing…”
“Stop that!” Albus commanded as Minerva countered his every argument.
“Only when you give up this foolish notion.”
“It isn’t foolish. If I had pushed harder… if I hadn’t worried so much about my reputation… someone at the ministry would have listened to me and then you and Ian wouldn’t be put in this position.”
“Poppycock! We are all in this position because of Luc…
Luc is the villain here,
Albus couldn’t help but smile as he shifted his gaze from the mountains to Minerva. “Poppycock?”
“I’m trying to give up profanity. Our daughter hears enough of it from her uncle.”
“I don’t want you to do this,
“I don’t really want to do it either, my love… but I have to. You’ll be nearby, though.”
“Right by your side. And this time we will have enough evidence to ensure Luc goes to Azkaban forever.” The determination in Albus’ voice was evident.
Minerva nodded her agreement against his neck as her lips returned to Albus’ skin. “So no more of this blame thing, agreed?”
“Agreed.” Albus rocked forward slightly, tilting Minerva off of his lap. She didn’t notice until she felt the hard boards of the loft floor pressing into her back and Albus stretched out over her, pressing into her front.
“Why Professor Dumbledore!” She teased softly as Albus’ nimble fingers tugged at the fastenings to her robe. “In the clock tower? In broad daylight? What if someone sees us?”
“No one ever comes up here.”
“Are you sure? Albus? I asked you if you were… sure… Al… bus… ooooh…”
“I can’t believe that you never climbed up the clock tower as a student to see the view.” Armando held Poppy Pomfrey’s hand carefully as he led her up the final narrow staircase to the clock tower loft. “We want to be out of here before the clock strikes the hour again. It gets very loud.”
“I seem to remember that students were banned from the tower,” Poppy made polite conversation as she followed the man she’d been having erotic dreams about since her school days.
“Ah… we did have to institute a ban for a while… too many students using the tower for… extracurricular studies…”
A faint blush colored Poppy’s cheeks. She nodded her understanding and let the subject drop, still slightly shy at the thought of mentioning sex to her former headmaster.
They stepped out onto the floor that lay around the top of the gear work of the massive timepiece beneath them. Armando held Poppy’s hand tighter and tugged slightly.
“The best view is from the other side. We have to cross a slender bridge but don’t look down. I’ll keep hold of you.”
At that moment a low moan rose and echoed through the high roofed chamber.
“What was that?” Poppy asked as her eyes darted around. “One of the ghosts?”
“Probably. Peeves has encouraged the Bloody Baron to annoy me beyond his usual measure lately… WHAT!?!?”
The second sound the filled the room was less of a moan and more of a cry… a distinctively feminine cry of pleasure. It was quickly followed by a third outcry.
“I can’t believe the students have the gall to attempt this in broad daylight. Well… I’ll put a stop to this at once!” Armando drew his wand. “LUMOS!”
Bright light raced from the tip of the wand to fill every corner of the room, driving murky shadows away.
“YOU THERE! STOP THAT!” Armando yelled at the couple on the opposite side of the gears. “I’ll have fifty points from both your houses!”
“Armando…” Poppy tugged on his sleeve. “Leave them be…”
“I’m the headmaster here, Poppy. I can’t allow this sort of behavior from the students or…”
The continued movements of the couple told Armando that they were ignoring his commands. He lowered the tip of his wand toward them, illuminating them even more clearly.
“Armando… please…” Poppy pulled at his hand insistently.
“I have to stop them, Poppy. What if they… get into trouble?”
“They already have, Armando. They named the trouble Allie. I really think that we should leave… they aren’t stopping and there are certain aspects about my best friend’s marriage that I don’t want first hand knowledge of…”
Finally Armando understood what Poppy had known immediately. The couple enjoying themselves weren’t students but instead staff members. His fair skin turned scarlet.
“I think we should go now.” He quickly extinguished his wand and dragged Poppy toward the stairwell.
They were half way down when screams of completion reached their ears.
Minerva tugged weakly at the back of her husband’s hair. “Albus?” She whispered. “Albus?”
“Mmm…” her husband hummed into the bare skin of her shoulder, his lips vibrating against the damp skin of her bare collarbone.
“Did you hear something?”
Albus pushed his upper body up with a grunt and searched the loft through one half-opened eye. “I don’t see anything…”
“Not now… before…”
“Before when we were… you know… I thought I heard… no… it’s silly.”
“What did you hear?” Albus pushed his face back into the curve of his wife’s neck and snuggled closer.
“It’s one of my worst school nightmares… Making out with a boy and being caught by headmaster Dippet.”
“Mmm… naughty school girl fantasies…”
“I said nightmares, Albus… Will you please stop that? I know I heard something… I swear it was Dippet’s voice!”
“They were only nightmares because you weren’t making out with your incredibly handsome and desirable transfigurations professor, were you?”
Minerva tried to squirm away from her husband’s questing mouth but his lips felt much too delicious against the swell of her breast. “Has anyone ever told you that you are a cheeky git?”
Albus raised his head, eyes blazing with triumph. “You DID dream about me!”
“You wish…” Minerva laughed.
Albus was undeterred. With most of Minerva’s body pinned beneath his, he had her trapped. He dropped his face until their noses were touching. “Admit it, Minerva McGonagall. When you were a student you had dreams about me.”
“Well… maybe one or two…” Minerva finally admitted with a chuckle.
“Were they erotic?” Albus demanded.
“They were, weren’t they?”
“You were my teacher, Albus.”
“A devastating handsome and charming teacher… his favorite student…”
“Albus! That is sick!”
Albus began to chuckle deeply. “It isn’t unusual for female students to
fantasize about their male professors,
“Not even you, my dear. That is one line I will not cross. Now tell me what you dreamed about me!”
“You are incorrigible!”
“I’m not your professor anymore. I can share your fantasies now. Did any of them involve us making love in the clock tower?”
Minerva arched an eyebrow as she stared severely at her husband. “Have you forgotten what kind of student I was? How devoted to my studies I was? At that point in my life my knowledge of male female intimacy was almost non existent.”
“I don’t recall it being in any textbook on the syllabus during your years at Hogwarts.” Albus agreed with a twinkle in his eye.
“Most of my dreams involving you consisted of an extra tutoring sessions, a touch of your hand against mine… perhaps your fingers brushing against my hair accidentally.”
“Not even a kiss?” Albus sniffed.
“Not even a kiss.” Minerva answered ruefully. Her manner then slipped from solemn to playful. “But, as you’ve pointed out, you aren’t my professor anymore so…” She let her sentence hang.
The subtle movement of her hips beneath his told Albus what she was intending to say. “And I do so love kissing my wife.” Then he did just that.
Aberforth grinned smugly when Albus and Minerva reentered the room several hours later. Ian, not really understanding the reason for the contented grin on his mother’s face or the hum on his stepfather’s lips, ran to them.
“Did you work things out? Can we move forward with the plan? Because Uncle Abe and I have been working on a great plan to lure Luc to the Hogs Head…”
“Ian!” Albus cut the boy off. “Your mother and I have been… negotiating…” He paused and shot a warning look at Aberforth who was silent but obviously struggling not to piss himself laughing. “We agree that we have to take action but there are certain conditions that your mother demands and I agree with.”
“If we have to…” Ian’s face fell. “Mum is a hard negotiator. I never win when… Uncle Abe!”
The three of them jumped as Aberforth hit the floor with a loud thump, a low moan that sounded suspiciously like suppressed laughter rising up from beneath the heap.
Allie’s loud squeal woke her parents from the sound sleep of exhausted passion that they had finally dropped in to. Both of them bolted upright, unsure of exactly what they had heard. The squeal sounded again.
Albus jumped naked from the bed, Minerva diving after him. When Albus grabbed the end of the cradle and gasped she stretched her torso out over the edge of his side of the bed to look into her daughter’s crib.
Allie kicked her legs high, her arms pumping the air in a baby gesture of triumph.
“Do you see that,
Minerva smiled brightly, both at her daughter’s accomplishment and at the joy that the natural progression of growing up had brought to her husband. “I’ve been expecting it. Fee was about this age the first time she rolled over.”
“But she’s still so young…”
“Our little one is almost six months old, Albus. She already enjoys sitting up. Soon she’ll be crawling.”
“Crawling?” Albus’ face fell. “Already? That means she’ll be walking soon… then school… Minerva? What will I do when boys want to come calling?”
“Oh my love,” Minerva couldn’t help but chuckle at her husband’s stricken face. “We have a bit of time before that happens.” She held her hand out and brushed her finger’s down Albus’ nearest arm. “Why don’t you change Allie’s diaper while I use the loo? We need to get up and moving… we are going on a picnic today, remember?”
“I still don’t like it. You’ll be too out in the open.” Albus grumbled.
“We are only going to the lake. All of the students left yesterday. You’ve been so busy at the Ministry lately. This is the perfect time for us to do something as a family.”
“I was trying to make sure that Luc Gordon will never bother us again… If Moody and that bumbling team of what he calls aurors can ever catch the villian!”
“Aberforth and the polyjuice potion is sounding better and better,” Albus responded as he quickly wrapped a clean diaper around Allie’s bottom.
Minerva simply arched one eyebrow as high as it would go, stared at her husband pointedly then swept away to the toilet.
The day was made for picnicking. Fluffy white cotton ball clouds filled the blue sky. The sun shone brightly, spreading the perfect amount of warmth onto the spring soil. Just a hint of a breeze blew from the east keeping the temperature at perfection.
Albus squeezed Minerva’s hand tightly and smiled at her as they watched Ian and Fee running ahead of them playing a rousing game of tag. Albus carried the baby’s basket in his free hand and a large picnic basket floated along behind them.
“See?” Minerva told Albus as they crossed the wide green lawn. “We are over halfway there and nothing has happened.”
As if on cue a large tawny-colored owl swooped down out of the sky. He did a loop before settling onto a nearby bush and holding out a leg to Albus.
After handing the basket to Minerva, Albus dislodged the parchment and rolled it open. He read it through once and then again before letting his hands fall.
“Is something wrong, Uncle Albus?” Fee asked, for the children had run back when they’d seen the owl land.
“A summons from the Ministry. Can’t they manage anything without me, dam…”
“Albus!” Minerva cut her husband off sharply. “What is it this time?”
“Reports of a possible Gordon sighting
Minerva sighed. “I suppose that you must go…” She didn’t look happy.
“I shouldn’t be gone that long. We could just delay the picnic an hour or so.” Albus’ reassuring smile faded slightly at the frowns on Ian and Fee’s faces. Minerva noticed them as well.
“If you aren’t going to be gone that long we’ll go ahead to the lake. The children can help me set things up and we’ll be all ready for you when you return.” Minerva tried to return the mood to a happy one.
“Minerva, I don’t really think that…” Albus started, his eyes narrowing as he looked at his wife.
Minerva laid a reassuring hand on his arm. “We’ll be fine. We won’t go any further than the lake.”
Albus still didn’t look happy but he gave Minerva a slight nod. “No further… you promise?”
“I’ll take care of Mum and the girls, Uncle Albus.” Ian volunteered.
Albus winked at his stepson. “Of course you will. Best be off then. I’ll be back before you know it.” He leaned forward and kissed Minerva briefly on the lips then gave one of Fee’s pigtails a yank. “Don’t eat all of the chocolate biscuits before I return.” He winked at Ian.
Minerva and the children stayed where they were, watching Albus turn and move across the lawn toward the entrance gates. Once he passed through the massive gates he turned and waved at the family one last time. Minerva lifted her fingers to her mouth and blew a kiss toward him.
“Bye, Uncle Albus!” Both children called as they jumped up and down, waving both arms in the air. With one last smile, Albus apparated away.
Minerva sighed as she stared at the spot where Albus had stood just moments before. “Come, children. Let’s get our blanket set up…We have plenty of treats to nibble on until Albus returns. Ditzy even made… I forgot to put Ditzy’s bundle in the basket!” She rolled her eyes in exasperation at herself. “We’ll have to go back to the castle after all.”
“I can go back for the surprise, Mum.” Fee quickly volunteered. “It’s on the table by the door, isn’t it? That way you don’t have to take both of the baskets back as well.”
Minerva glanced back at the castle, measuring the distance. “If you really don’t mind…”
“Not at all. You three go ahead. I’ll meet you at the lake in a few minutes.”
Ian kicked off his shoes and stepped into the cool water of the lake until the water covered his ankles. He tugged his rolled up trouser legs higher as he turned back to watch his mother as she leaned over Allie’s basket and muttered a few nonsense words before moving to the back corner of the blanket to unpack the picnic basket.
In the next second, a black blur shot from among the trees aiming straight for Minerva then she was flat on her back staring up into the angry features and the dangerous wand point of Luc Gordon.
“You just thought you’d gotten rid of me, you little bitch,” he spat furiously at her through lips thinned with anger.
A hint of fear briefly flashed in Minerva’s eyes before she blinked it away. If Luc Gordon had expected her to cower in fear he was going to be disappointed. In the blink of an eye Minerva had twisted and risen to her feet, her wand drawn in defense of herself and her children.
Ian stepped out of the water, his left hand reaching for the wand sticking out of his back pocket.
“Stay back!” Minerva barked as Luc’s eyes cut toward her son.
“Why do you continue to fight me, Minerva?” Luc took a step forward. “Haven’t you learned by now that I always get what I want?”
“Why won’t you leave me alone? I belong to Albus now. He’ll be back any minute.”
Luc barked out a maniacal laugh. “That old man? He isn’t strong enough to take what is mine. And you are mine, Minerva. Make no mistake about that. I worked too hard for you to give up. As for your ‘husband’ being back soon… don’t count on it! He’ll be off on a wild goose chase for hours.”
Minerva held her ground, keeping her eyes locked with his. “You sent Albus that note!”
“Of course. It was easy enough to find out that Dumbledoofus had that bumbling Moody trying to track me. I planted a few false clues and sent them on a wild goose chase. Then I came here to wait for you.” Luc grinned evilly. “You can thank your boy for passing along that piece of information. Good job, Ian.”
Minerva glanced at her son with dumbstruck eyes as he moved into her field of vision. “Ian? You…?”
The boy dropped his head and his wand hand in shame.
“What? You actually believed that he accepted your marriage to Dumbledick? That the thought of that nasty old man kissing you… touching you… wouldn’t make him sick to his stomach? Can old Albust even get it up, Minerva? You must be incredibly frustrated!”
“Shut up!” Minerva screamed at Luc. “Don’t talk about my husband that way!”
“Your husband!” Luc sneered. “Please… Dumbleduds only married you to give your little bastard a name… the name that she was entitled too… but her real father wouldn’t give her. Aberforth Dumbledore is a bit younger than his brother…I suppose he might have given you a better ride, hmm?”
“You are sick, Luc Gordon!” Minerva was shaking with rage.
“I’m possessive, Minerva. I don’t give up what I want. And for some inexplicable reason, I want you.”
“I don’t understand. I never encouraged your attentions.”
“You little tease… you were always flirting with me… smiling so lovingly at Daniel just to make me jealous…”
“You imagined those things. I loved Daniel. He was my husband.”
“You flirted with Dumbledrab too… You couldn’t possibly be interested in that decrepit old man but still you flirted… You wanted to drive me insane.”
“You’ve imagined all of this, Luc. I never wanted you. I loved Daniel and I love Albus.”
“Love him so much that you bore his brother’s bastard!” Luc sneered again. “I know it was the brother… He’s the only man who was around when the curse I placed took effect.”
“You have no idea what you are talking about.”
“I’ll show you exactly what I’m talking about. Ian, get the little bastard and bring it to me.”
Ian only took one step forward before his mother’s stupefy spell stopped him cold.
“That accomplishes nothing, Min.” Luc turned his wand toward the baby basket. Minerva moved her want to stop him but just as she was about to launch her curse a strong hand grabbed her wrist, squeezing the limb tightly. She felt the bone snap as a second hand clamped tightly over her mouth.
“Gently, Alfie,” Luc cautioned, a lecherous gleam in his eye. “I don’t want her hurt too badly. Now… let me get on with this… You really shouldn’t have crossed me, Minerva. I worked so hard to get Daniel out of the way and when I finally did you had the audacity to get pregnant by another man. I guess I’ll have to take care of that problem right now. Accio basket!”
Minerva bit down solidly on the fingers covering her mouth. Alfie yelped and released his hold on her, swearing loudly. She sank to the blanket, her head swimming with pain, her broken wrist hugged solidly to her body.
The sudden cry from his henchman distracted Luc so he didn’t notice Minerva grab her wand with her left hand and break his retrieving spell. But he quickly remembered the basket and turned just in time to see Minerva tuck her wand beneath her skirt. Three quick strides took him to her side, one large foot planted firmly on her good hand, pinning it to the blanket.
“You little bitch! I’ve tried to be gentle with you but you just won’t have it, will you?” He grasped her neck tightly with one hand, forcing her face up to look at him. “If you want it rough you only had to ask.” He noticed the dampness forming at the corners of her eyes. “And your tears won’t work with me!”
“You killed him!” Minerva spat out, the tears now streaming down her face. “You killed your own brother!”
Luc backhanded her across the face.
“Don’t be so dramatic, dear Minerva. You are mistaken. Kill my own flesh and blood? I wouldn’t do that. No… I didn’t kill Daniel. I only arranged for a ‘friend’ in the organization to disclose his identity to that odious little man. How could I know that dear Daniel would be hit with four unforgivable curses instantly!”
“You may not have spoken the curse but you are surely your brother’s murderer!”
“A mere technicality but an important one… and one that can’t be proven. Alfie, bring me the basket.”
The older man loped to the opposite corner of the blanket and picked up the long basket there. He hoisted it into his arms and carried it toward his boss.
“Leave the baby out of this, Luc. Allie has nothing to do with any of this.”
“Of course she does. You don’t think I’m going to let you keep your little bastard, do you? No matter which Dumbledum supplied the components for its conception, it has to go. You’re mine, Minerva. Your love and affection are only for my children.”
By this time Alfie had reached them with the basket so Luc looked up at him and commanded, “Open it.” Alfie dutifully balanced the basket on one arm while tugging open the blankets with the opposite hand.
“I’ll be quick, Minerva.” Luc told her as he drew his wand and pointed it. “My first inclination was to make your bastard suffer… torment her before I killed her… but perhaps…” A thoughtful look filled Luc’s eyes as he turned his upper body back to stare at his stupefied nephew. “How much more poetic will it be if your first born does it for me… You’ll never be able to look at your son again without knowing what he did.”
With a fiendish laugh Luc uttered the spell to free Ian from his paralyzed state then deliberately tucked his wand away in his sleeve.
“The moment you’ve been waiting for has come, Ian. Prove your loyalty to me. Kill the little bastard!”
Luc yanked the edges of the basket apart and stuck his hand in while Ian drew his wand and pointed it. The tiny body screamed as Luc’s hand closed around its neck and lifted. The now unsupported basket fell away revealing Luc’s hand stretched far out in front of him holding… a dangling house elf.
With a snap of his fingers Ditzy disappeared, just as he’d been instructed to do. Luc howled with fury and grabbed for his wand as he realized he’d been had. But the evil wizard’s time had run out. Spells flew through the air… more than Minerva could count… each of them hitting Luc solidly. He fell to the blanket, his body smoking and morphing as the different curses combined to work their magic.
Ian ran to his mother’s side, fell to his knees and embraced her with a loud cry. She clung to him as she watched the edge of the woods. Albus appeared first, his face a contrast of anger and concern as he flew to his family.
“Albus!” Minerva cried out his name as he landed beside her and pulled her into his arms. When Ian would have pulled back Albus widened his hold to include the boy as well.
“Great Expelliarmus spell, Ian!” Aberforth pounded Ian on his back. “Couldn’t have done it better myself.”
Minerva clung to Albus with her good hand and watched in amazement as the edge of the clearing came alive with bodies. She recognized Alastor Moody immediately and knew from the way that he was barking orders that many of the younger witches and wizards must be part of his auror team. But there were others… Armando Dippet, Poppy Pomfrey, and several other Hogwarts staff members soon joined the growing group. Poppy hurried to Minerva’s side.
“Let me take you back to the castle, Min. You’re hurt.” Poppy tried to help her friend to her feet but Minerva clung even tighter to her husband.
“No!” She refused.
“I won’t leave until you can come with me.” She told him determinedly.
Albus thought about arguing with his wife but quickly realized that it would be pointless. “At least let Poppy look at your wrist.”
As Minerva held her hand out for her friend to care for it Alastor Moody barked out. “What the hell is that? I’ve never seen a hex like that before!”
While the assembled group stood around watching, several large pustules quickly popped up on Gordon’s exposed skin. Within seconds the head had turned a bright yellow and then a full grown canary popped out.
“Who is responsible for this?” Alastor demanded once again.
“I guess that would be me, sir.” A timid voice answered from the edge of the forest. The adults turned and watched in amazement as Dandelion Weasley emerged from the foliage. Martin Bones and Gideon Prewett followed her.
“You did this, young lady?” Alastor asked, amazement evident in his tone. “This is an interesting hex… where did you learn it?”
“I sort of came up with it myself, sir.” Dandy didn’t quiver under the auror’s mangled visage.
“That’s very good magic. How old are you?”
“Dandy is fourteen. She’s in my class.” Albus and Minerva watched with interest as Ian quickly leapt in to defend his classmate, moving to stand protectively between Dandy and Alastor as she did so.
But Dandy would have none of this. She quickly stepped up to Ian’s side and continued to meet Moody’s gaze.
Slowly Alastor nodded. “Very good magic indeed, little one. Come see me after you graduate if you want a position with the aurors.”
“What are you doing here, Miss Weasley? What are all of you doing here?” Headmaster Dippet blustered as his gaze swept over Dandy, Marty and Gideon.
Gideon stepped forward. “We knew something was going on with Ian. Once we dragged the details out of him we decided to come back and help.”
“What did you think the three of you could do against a dark wizard?” Dippet asked.
“We knew that there would be others here… We just wanted to back up our friend… and our favorite professor.” Marty answered.
“This is highly irregular. Your parents must be frantic.”
Gideon shook his head. “My parents think I’m at Marty’s. His parents think that he’s with me. Dandy told her parents that she was staying at my house with my little sister, Molly.”
At Minerva’s urging Albus had helped her to her feet and moved them both closer to the headmaster and students. “Armando,” Albus interrupted when his superior would have spoken again, “I don’t agree with what the children did either, but their motives were admirable. Perhaps we could all return to the castle to give our statements and then discuss the matter further?”
After obtaining an agreeing nod from Alastor, Dippet agreed and departed for Hogwarts, Poppy and the children with him. The aurors finished binding Luc in such a way that he had no chance of skipping out. Once Albus was assured that the villain wouldn’t escape he carefully lifted Minerva into his arms, completely ignoring her protests. Aberforth trailed behind them toward the castle, chuckling all the way at Minerva’s thorough berating of her husband for his refusal to let her walk.
Upon their return to the castle Fee rushed them, convinced that something horrible had taken place down by the lake that she had been forbidden to go to. Alastor took the other students away to interview them, leaving Albus to calm down his stepdaughter while Poppy gave Minerva’s wrist a more thorough healing. A completely unharmed Allie lay on the bed at her mum’s side, kicking and cooing throughout the entire ordeal.
Finally Alastor had called an end to the interrogations declaring that he had more than enough information. Luc Gordon’s admissions by the lake combined with the damning documents that Albus had provided (giving his brother Aberforth all the credit for finding, of course) assured that the would be kidnapper and murderer would spend the rest of his days in Azkaban prison.
Armando took over responsibility for Dandy, Marty and Gideon, giving them a stern lecture about lying to their parents and their professors before settling them in Gryffindor tower then owling their parents. Once that task was completed he stopped by Albus’ quarters to check on the Dumbledore family.
The scene that greeted him brought a smile to his face and a warm glow to his heart. Minerva was in the middle of the large bed propped against a mound of pillows. Albus was seated beside her with Allie in his lap. The baby had one thumb securely in her mouth and was regarding her mother with wide eyes as Poppy put the finishing touches on a complicated spell to mend Minerva’s broken wrist. Ian was firmly planted on one of the bottom corners of the bed and Fee was sitting on the other.
“Armando!” Albus noticed the headmaster and waved him into the room. “Have you taken care of our extra helpers?”
“The students are settled in Gryffindor tower with several portraits keeping watch. I’ve just sent the owls off with letters to their parents.”
“I hope you weren’t too severe with them, headmaster,” Minerva said. “The students were only trying to help Ian after all.”
“We can’t condone this sort of behavior, Minerva,” was Dippet’s response, but they all noticed one corner of his mouth trying to turn up.
“Why don’t we leave the family to talk, Armando,” Poppy smoothly picked up her small healer’s kit and floated across the floor to take Dippet’s arm. “I’m sure they have lots to discuss. Min, I’ll floo back in tomorrow morning just to double check your wrist…” Poppy smiled coyly at her crush. “If you don’t mind me making use of your fireplace?”
A pink tinge touched Dippet’s skin. “Of course not, my dear. But if you’d rather stay the night… I’m sure we could make some… agreeable arrangements…”
Poppy’s response to Dippet’s question was cut off by the closing door behind the departing couple.
Albus looked at Ian.
Ian looked at Albus.
“EEEEEEW!” They shuddered in unison.
“Behave yourselves!” Minerva snapped then turned to Fee. “Ignore them, dear. Boys will be boys… even when they are supposed to be grown men. I think that your Aunt Poppy and Headmaster Dippet make a lovely couple.”
“Aunt Poppy and the headmaster?” Fee’s eyes grew wide. “EEEEEEEW!”
The three of them broke into riotous laughter and even Allie joined in with her own unique squeal. Soon Minerva couldn’t help but laugh as well.
“Oh…” Albus finally gasped, holding his wife and daughter in his arms, the older children both collapsed on the end of the bed. “… we all needed a good laugh.”
“After the day we’ve had…” Minerva agreed, settling back against Albus, but this time with a smile on her face. “Ian…”
“Mum?” Minerva’s son looked up at her from where he lay at the foot of the mattress.
“What you did today… I’m so very proud of you.”
Ian shrugged, his face tinged with pink. “It wasn’t anything…”
“It was everything, Ian.” Albus drew his arm away from Minerva then stood and moved to the end of the bed. “Your actions today showed great courage, great loyalty… and great love. Your mother and I both recognize that the last few years have been extremely hard on both you and Fee… and the added surprise of our marriage and Allie’s birth didn’t help. But both of you have shown great maturity the last few months. I know that choosing to remain with your mother and I rather than follow your Uncle wasn’t an easy decision but…”
Ian reached out a hand and laid it on Albus’ forearm. “It was the right decision, sir. Your feelings… your love… for mum is obvious… your affection for Fee and I has always been a very real part of our lives, from our earliest memories on. You’ve always been there… even when our father wasn’t…”
“Daniel loved both of you very much. I would never ask you to forget that… to put me in his place.”
Fee slid across the bed until she was beside Daniel. “Don’t you know that you have your own very special place, Uncle Albus? I told Ian that I don’t know why he was so opposed to you being married to Mum. You’ve always been a part of our family anyway.”
“And as bad as I hate my little sister being right… she is.” Ian admitted grudgingly. “We loved you as Uncle Albus and we love you as Papa Albus as well.”
Albus couldn’t contain himself any longer. He stretched out his long arms and gathered both children into them. Ian and Fiona returned the embrace with enthusiasm amidst much laughter and a few tears as well.
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