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Chapter 5: Coping Mechanisms
I convince myself I need to actually go to some classes today, and luckily for me I have Arithmancy last again, so I don’t have to deal with James’s horror-stricken face. I’m yet to decide whether it’s an improvement on the silence.
“Where have you been all day?” Dom asks. “And where’d you drag James off to? And what did you say? What did he say?”
If I tell her, I’m going to start blubbing in class. And as of now, I’ve decided it’s my mission to get through at least one lesson in one piece.
“I’ll tell you later,” I reply, and turn my attention to the pages of indecipherable squiggles in front of me. It’s strangely satisfying to see those squiggles turn into something that makes sense. That, and to actually be good at a subject notorious for its difficulty. I may skip classes, not do any work, run a black market for Firewhiskey and get pregnant at sixteen, but dammit, I can do Arithmancy.
Then I remember Mum telling me how she’d always dive head-first into her schoolwork in the event of an emotional crisis when she was at Hogwarts. Then again, she didn’t have to deal with an unexpected pregnancy at Hogwarts, did she?
Wait, no, she did. Never mind.
It doesn’t count, she was married at the time.
Oh Merlin, I have to tell her.
And it has to be now, when I’m closer to her than I’ve been before. She called me her favourite daughter. Even though she knows how many detentions I’ve had in the past month, how many points I lost for Gryffindor last year, how many times I was…inebriated last year (fifth year was an interesting one for me) and I get the impression she knows my nose isn’t entirely clean when it comes to the Black Market either.
But this…this is an entirely different situation entirely.
I make it through class, barging into Myrtle’s bathroom as soon as the bell rings and coming face to face with none other than James heading into the Chamber of Secrets.
“Erp,” I say, and retreat in the direction of my Favourite Cubicle.
“This is your mope space too, then?” he asks. His tone is surprisingly casual.
“Well, yeah. It has that atmosphere.”
He steps inside, continuing to talk to me from the doorway. “You’ve kept up to date with the orders, I see.”
I don’t bother to respond. The Black Market doesn’t matter.
“Well, see you round,” he says, still with that casual tone, and closes the doorway to the Chamber firmly behind him.
More confused than ever, I lock myself in my cubicle (I have supplies hidden in here. Butterbeer, chocolate, tissues, random notes Dom and I passed when we were in third year—for some reason they always make me smile) and try to process everything.
I, Cassia Nymphadora Catherine Rutherford, am pregnant to James Sirius Potter.
Pregnant pregnant pregnant pregnant pregnant.
With child. Expecting. Up the duff. Knocked up. Babies.
Nope, it’s still not sinking in.
I reach for the chocolate I’ve hidden in a secret compartment in the door. Who cares, I’m going to get fat anyway.
Holy SHIT I’m pregnant.
I need to talk to Mum.
I need to to talk to Dom.
I need to talk to Rory.
I need to talk to Madam Pomfrey.
I need to talk to Emilia.
And somewhere in there, I need to talk to James.
I need to sit here in my cubicle and cry my eyes out.
I never hear James leave the Chamber, but I assume he has because I’ve now missed dinner and there’s no way James would have missed dinner. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have missed dinner either, but I’m sitting in my favourite cubicle in Myrtle’s bathroom pregnant and these are not normal circumstances.
I emerge at what I assume is about half past seven.
“Cassia?” A voice comes from the Chamber. No way is he still in there.
James emerges, his hair looking scruffy and his eyes, if I’m not mistaken, ever so slightly red. He’s either been crying, or raiding his own stores of Firewhiskey. As unlikely as the former seems, I can’t smell any alcohol that would suggest the latter.
“D’you want to raid the kitchens?” he suggests. “We missed dinner.”
“Good idea.” I’m confused. He’s acting so…normal. Like we’ve always been. But I take advantage of this friendly normality. “Am I all red and blotchy?’
He peers at me. “A little bit.”
I go to the mirror, splash water on my face and scrutinise my reflection. It’s not too obvious. I should be fine. The last thing I need is a bunch of well-meaning people swarming around me and asking if I’m okay.
“Cassia,” James says quietly as we walk towards the kitchens. “I’m…sorry.”
He looks like he’s about to say more, then changes his mind and fixes his gaze determinedly on the floor. I wish I could read his mind. Maybe I could get Mum to teach me Legilimency.
I still have to tell her.
As usual, James gets me to keep watch (the house elves, however well meaning, always end up telling Mum if I’ve been in the kitchens, so it’s safer for me to just not go in there) while he goes in for food. I don’t even have to tell him what to get me anymore; we’ve done this so often.
“Bread roll,” he recites, dumping it into my hands, “Potato, chicken, chocolate pudding, cream to go with chocolate pudding. Common room?”
“Well, I dunno,” he says with a slight smile. “We could go back to the bathroom and commiserate some more.”
We gather by the fire in the common room, shooing juniors out of our normal places and lapsing into silence while we eat. Just having him around, being back to normal, is such a relief I nearly forget everything else. Nearly.
“You guys sorted your stuff out, then?” Freddy asks in passing.
“Sorta,” James replies.
“Oh yep,” he says, nodding to himself and wandering off.
“I’m going to tell him, you know,” James says quietly. “He’s my best mate. And my cousin.”
“Good. I’m telling Dom.”
“They would have told each other anyway,” he points out. “To be honest, I think it would be easier if we just told them both. Really casually. At lunch.”
“Don’t you think that’s making a bit too much light of the situation?”
“Of course,” he replies matter-of-factly. “But we need to, right? It’ll all be heavy from there on in.”
I know he’s talking about telling our parents, and I feel a twinge of nausea at the thought.
He looks over at me, raising his wand and muttering muffliato. “I wanted to ask you something.”
He clears his throat awkwardly. “Uh, the…baby. Are you…you know…keeping it?”
“I don’t know,” I whisper, and can feel myself start to shake at the thought of the decision before me. Keep my life, my future, normality, Hogwarts…or keep my own child, even though I can’t think of it as a child and I can’t imagine it ever being one. It’s been in there two weeks. It’s a bundle of cells. But it’s a baby and that freaks me out.
“We need to talk about this,” James says, putting a hand on my shoulder.
“Not tonight. I can’t…just let me process this. Please.”
I wish I could go back twenty-four hours, back when I was lying in bed thinking my biggest problem was James not talking to me. Ignorance really is bliss. Now, I can’t stop thinking about it. I stare at my reflection in the mirror in the bathroom and try to imagine myself eight, nine months pregnant.
No, Cassia, don’t do that.
I’ll never be normal again. I won’t be able to go back to Hogwarts for my seventh year. I’d have to do my NEWTs at home by correspondence like Mum did. I don’t know where I stand with James. I don’t want to raise a kid on my own and I don’t want him or her to be ferried between parents all the time. I’m sixteen. I’ll be seventeen by the time it’s born. I can’t look after a child, I’m the most irresponsible person I know. I run the Black Market at Hogwarts, for Merlin’s sake.
But there’s no way I could knowingly kill it.
I go in to see the school counsellor during my study period two days later, which scares me a little. I don’t want the stigma of being a Kid with Problems, but I’ll probably end up known as The Pregnant Girl anyway, so I might as well start my ostracisation early. And the counsellor has the added bonus of being someone who doesn’t know me. I figure it’s a win-win situation, and knock on her door.
“Hello, love,” the counsellor, who introduces herself as Jeanette, says warmly. “Sorry, your name’s, ah…” She shuffles through her papers…“Kaysha, is it? Kaysha Rutherford?”
“Cassia, actually,” I correct.
“Oh, terribly sorry, love…”
“Honestly, that’s probably the best thing you could have done.”
She nods understandingly. “It’s sometimes easier to talk to someone you don’t know. So what brings you here, Cassia?”
She nods. “Right, I see. How far along?”
“Like, two weeks.”
“Just found out, then? That must be tough. Have you told anyone?”
“Are you in any kind of relationship with him?”
“I honestly don’t know. He’s my best friend, we’ve been mates since we started at Hogwarts, but stuff just kinda…happened.” That sounds so awkward when I put it like that.
“Did you have any feelings for him?”
“I’m pretty much madly in love with him, yeah.” I don’t really want to talk about the business with James though; to be honest, I want to sort that out with him. I steer her in the general direction of what-do-I-do-my-life-is-over-how-do-I-tell-my-parents-and-most-importantly-should-I-keep-it.
“Well, it really has to be your decision, Cassia,” she tells me when I bring up the final point.
“I don’t want it to be my decision. I don’t want to take responsibility for something like this. I’ve never taken responsibility for anything in my life, don’t put a child’s life in my hands.”
“If you did keep it, there would be plenty of support available,” she tells me. “Madam Pomfrey’s seen many girls in your situation over the years and she can provide all the medical support you need. There’s the St Mungo’s Mums and Bubs club you can join after the baby’s born, and tutors who advertise in the Daily Prophet who can help you pass your exams – what year are you?”
“Sixth, so they can help you pass your NEWTs. And if you did decide to terminate, there will be counselling available as well.”
“To help me deal with the guilt of killing my own baby?” The more I think about it, the more abominable it sounds.
“There are a number of reasons why girls would choose to terminate. It comes down to the welfare of the mother and the baby.”
“I couldn’t justify it. Others might be able to, their circumstances might be different, but I can’t justify doing that.”
“You don’t need to make a decision now, Cassia. My door’s open if you need to talk this through more.”
“Thanks, but I can’t do the uncertainty thing. I need decisions, and I just made mine.”