Warning/s: Explicit sexual situations; character death
Disclaimer: All characters, settings and other elements from the Harry Potter franchise belong to J. K. Rowling.
Poppy Pomfrey waved the wand over her friend’s bare abdomen, a satisfied smile on her face.
“Everything seems fine. Heart rate is good and steady. Do you mind?” she asked, holding her hands over Minerva’s burgeoning belly.
“Of course, go ahead,” said Minerva.
Poppy placed her palms gently on Minerva’s abdomen, delicately probing here and there.
“Good,” said Poppy. “Uterus feels firm and appears the right size for twenty-four weeks. Any contractions? Bleeding?”
“No, nothing like that.”
“Are you feeling the baby kick and move?”
“Yes,” Minerva said, laughing and patting her belly for emphasis.
She had felt the baby kick for the first time two weeks ago. Sitting by the fire and sipping a cup of tea with the review copy of a colleague’s article for Transfiguration Today, she had been surprised by a sudden punch about three inches below her navel. It had come from inside her. Then there was another one. She laughed out loud. It didn’t hurt at all; in fact, it was rather pleasant, she thought. She was about to Floo-call Albus to tell him about it when she decided against it.
“Let’s just be the two of us for a bit,” she had said to the child inside her. It was like having a delicious secret that might be spoiled in the sharing.
She had told Albus the following evening, and he had sat in her quarters with a hand on her belly for half an hour before he felt it. His eyes had widened in surprise, and Minerva thought he looked like a child himself in that moment.
As she held her hand out to Minerva to help her sit up, Poppy asked, “Do you want to know the sex?”
“Do you know it?” Minerva asked. She and Albus had decided they would wait until the birth, but she wasn’t sure how she felt about Poppy knowing something important about their child that she herself didn’t.
“No, but I could find out. It’s an easy spell.”
“No, thank you. We’d like to be surprised,” said Minerva. Poppy grinned at her.
As Minerva pulled up her skirt and buttoned her blouse, Poppy said, “We should talk about how you want to manage your labour.”
“I rather thought the baby would manage it for me,” said Minerva.
Poppy knew this was Minerva’s way of avoiding a conversation she didn’t particularly want to have.
“Is there anything you want to know about it? I mean, that you don’t already know,” Poppy asked.
Uncharacteristically, Minerva had not gone to the library to pore over books about childbirth. She knew, intellectually, that she was probably just avoiding dealing with her fears—another unusual thing for Minerva—and that it probably had to do with her mother’s death, but she didn’t care to examine it too closely. She was too happy.
“I don’t know, Poppy,” Minerva said with a sigh. “How long will it take—the labour, I mean?” She vaguely remembered the day and two nights her mother had been sequestered in the bedroom with the midwife and her father—hours in which Minerva had been prevented from seeing her mother. She remembered listening to the moans through the door and her father coming out later, looking worried and exhausted, then catching sight of Minerva.
“Try not to worry, lass,” he had said. “It just takes time to bring a baby into the world. Time, and a lot of hard work.”
Of course, that was before the moans had graduated to screams.
“It’s hard to say how long,” said Poppy. “First labours average between twelve and eighteen hours, more or less, but it can vary a great deal.”
“And exactly how much is this twelve to eighteen hours, more or less, going to hurt?”
“It varies,” said Poppy.
“Poppy …” said Minerva, warning in her voice.
“Well, Minerva, I’ve never done it myself, so I don’t have any first-hand experience, but from what I’ve seen, it will hurt anywhere from a lot to … well, a lot.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Minerva glumly.
“But there are potions I can give you to help with the pain if you want. They may not be completely effective, and there are situations in which they shouldn’t be used, but they’re generally safe, and most women find them quite helpful,” said Poppy.
“That’s good to hear.” Minerva was beginning to wonder just what she had got into.
“I’ve also seen women get good pain relief with firm back massage,” Poppy said. “So tell Albus to start training.”
“I’ll do that,” said Minerva, rubbing her back, which was already starting to feel the effects of a baby pressing down on her lower spine and the extra weight she was carrying in front.
“You should also warn him that you’re likely to call him all sorts of rude names once things really get going,” Poppy added.
“As long as my wand isn’t within my reach, Albus should come out of this relatively unscathed,” said Minerva.
“You jest, but I did see an incident when I was at St Mungo’s—a witch in labour managed to hex her husband in a very personal spot. I won’t tell you what she turned it into, but let’s just say he had trouble getting trousers to fit for a long time afterwards,” said Poppy. “That’s why they started confiscating wands on admission.”
The two women laughed at the unfortunate husband’s predicament for a moment, then Minerva turned serious.
“Poppy, what if something goes wrong?”
“Then we get you to St Mungo’s as fast as possible,” said Poppy. “They have more skill and resources than I do here, and I’ve seen them work miracles in some of the worst situations. I’m not going to lie to you, Minerva. Things do happen in childbirth …” She lowered her voice a measure. “Things like what happened to your mother. There are no guarantees. But the really catastrophic things are rare, thank Merlin.”
Minerva was silent for a moment, then asked quietly, “Poppy, do you think she would have lived? If she had been at St Mungo’s?”
“It’s hard to say, Minerva, without having been there. Possibly. They might have recognised what was happening earlier and been able to intervene. But I’m not sure what the state of the art was back then. The Blood-Replenishing Potions were just being developed, and there was nothing effective for the kind of massive infection your mother developed. As it was, it was too far to take her in time, from what you’ve told me.”
After a few moments looking at her friend’s contemplative face, Poppy added, “Minerva, if you think you’d rather deliver at St Mungo’s, I won’t be at all hurt.”
“No, Poppy. I want to be here, with you. I know you can get me to St Mungo’s quickly if anything goes wrong. We’re not all the way up in Caithness, and it isn’t 1929.”
Poppy patted Minerva’s hand. “No. Besides, if anything happened to you or the baby, Albus would never forgive me,” she said with a smile.
“Nor me,” said Minerva. She stood, fastening her skirt. “Thank you, Poppy.”
“It’s my pleasure. Try not to worry.”
“I will, Poppy.”
When Minerva had gone, Poppy thought to herself, It must be hard to have to play the marble statue all the time.
Marble looked smooth and cold, Poppy knew, but it warmed quickly to the hand. It also cracked.
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