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Chapter 8: Operation Parent
“What’s up with you two?” Dom asks suspiciously as we walk into the common room sporting matching huge grins.
“Nothing much,” James says innocently. “Just chatting to my girlfriend.”
“Finally!” she shrieks.
“Whaddya mean, finally?” I demand, but I’m pretty sure I know exactly what she’s talking about.
“Finally, as in, you finally got together, six years and an unexpected pregnancy later.”
“Six years is an exaggeration,” James says. “What do eleven year olds know about girls?”
“You know what I mean,” Dom says, waving her hand dismissively. “Where’s Freddy? We need to share this news.”
“With the Ravenclaws, last I saw him.” James shrugs. “He’ll find out sooner or later.”
We join Dom on our usual couches by the fire. James casually throws an arm around me and I snuggle up to him, feeling overwhelmingly content. We talk about Quidditch, the Black Market and school in general, but I’m not really paying attention to the conversation. Every so often I catch James’ eye and he gives me a light kiss.
“You guys are gross,” Dom decides.
“Cassia’s already pregnant, and this is gross?” James asks skeptically.
“I wasn’t in the same room. Besides, you guys are meant to be arguing and insulting each other and being fun, and now you’re all mushy and sappy and making goo-goo eyes at each other. It’s not right.”
“You wouldn’t believe how right it is,” James says absently, playing with my hair.
“Good for you. I’m going to leave now.”
We exchange glances as Dom picks herself up and joins a group of seventh-years on the other side of the room. “So are those two together then?” one of the girls asks Dom.
“As of about five minutes ago, as I understand it,” Dom replies, and though I can’t see her I know she’s rolling her eyes at this point.
“She’s just jealous,” James whispers conspiratorially.
“Jealous? Who’s she got her eye on, then?”
“No idea,” he says, shrugging carelessly. “But who wouldn’t be jealous? We have the perfect fairytale romance going here.”
“Yeah,” I agree, patting my stomach. “Apart from this.”
“Cassia,” he says in a serious tone, and I sit up to face him, wondering what’s gotten him worried now. “I want you to know that…no matter what happens with this child, no matter what you think or you want, there’s one thing I will not let you do, under any circumstances.”
I look at him, alarmed. “What?”
“We are not naming our child after dead people.”
I burst out laughing.
“It’s not funny,” he says with a frown. “I’m James Sirius Potter, for God’s sake. That’s not a name, that’s a walking talking memorial.”
“You have to explain this to the girl called Cassia Nymphadora Catherine?” I ask pointedly, ticking off my names on my fingers. “Cassia is my dad’s name with the N chopped off, Nymphadora after Nymphadora Lupin, who is dead, and Catherine after Dad’s grandmother, who is also dead.”
“So no dead people in his name, then,” James concludes, nodding at my stomach.
“Who says it’s a boy?”
“Me,” he says matter-of-factly.
I roll my eyes, but talking about the baby has made me feel strangely better about carrying it, and it’s from this vague sense of acceptance that I say it.
“We should tell our parents. This weekend.”
He buries his face in the cushion behind him. “They’re gonna kill me,” he mumbles into the fabric. “My dad’s head Auror and everything.”
“Tough shit, my mum’s a Death Eater,” I point out unsympathetically, “I think I have more to be worried about than you.”
“She’s not going to want to kill you.”
“She’s not about to kill you, either. Not in front of your dad.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he says darkly. “They’ll probably do a deal. ‘Professor Rutherford, if you could kill my son for us, I won’t send you to Azkaban for it.’”
“Stop being melodramatic,” I tell him, taking his hand. “Now get up, we have to talk to McGonagall.”
I feel physically sick before we meet McGonagall in her office on Saturday morning, and throw up twice after breakfast. I blame the nerves, but logic is telling me it might have something to do with the baby as well.
“What’s up with you?” Molly Weasley asks, wrinkling her nose as she comes into the bathroom.
“Dunno,” I lie.
“You could be pregnant,” she says with a grin.
She likes doing that to me, Molly. And Dom, for that matter. Every time one of us is sick for any reason, she jokingly suggests we’re pregnant. Apparently because we skip classes and run an underground Firewhiskey operation, it also means we’ve been doing the dirty since about third year, which is about as far from the truth as I can imagine. Dom’s still a virgin, and I was until James.
Not that I’m in any position to get in a huff about that now, because she’s right. I am pregnant.
“You look like death warmed up, Cass,” she informs me cheerfully now.
She’s right about that too, I notice when I look in the mirror. I mean, I’m usually pretty pale anyway – blame Mum’s genes, I blame them for everything – but now I look more like Moaning Myrtle. If Moaning Myrtle had a mop of flaming red hair, that is.
“And you look like a hedgehog,” I tell Molly. “An orange hedgehog.”
I’m allowed to call Molly’s hair orange, because it is, and mine’s red. Here’s the rule of thumb: Weasleys have orange hair. Rutherfords have red hair (apart from Emilia, hers is more coppery orange) and Little Lily Potter has this amazing dark red that makes me think of cherries.
I wonder briefly what Little Lily Potter will think about becoming an aunty at the tender age of twelve. Or will she be thirteen by then? Does she even know where babies come from?
Dom pokes her head into the bathroom. “Cass, James is waiting for you in the common room. Morning Mols, you look like an orange hedgehog.”
See why I love this girl. Taking a deep, fortifying breath, I leave the bathroom and accompany Dom down the stairs.
“We’re telling the parents,” I explain quietly.
She widens her eyes. “It was great knowing you, Cass.”
We make a point of being slightly early for The Meeting, but when we get there McGonagall’s already there, looking stern behind her desk, and so is Mum. She’s leaning against the wall beside McGonagall’s desk, and at first glance she appears casual. Except for the fact that her icy blue gaze doesn’t leave James and I as we walk in and shuffle to one side, eyes firmly fixed on the floor. Still watching us, she addresses McGonagall quietly.
“What’s this about, Minerva?”
“We will let the students do the talking,” McGonagall replies, “Once your husband and the Potters arrive.” She’s doing the same thing as Mum, talking to her but looking at us, and it strikes me how similar they are. I mean, they effectively have the same name and everything.
The Floo turns green and James squeezes my hand, though I get the feeling it’s more for his comfort than mine. Out of the fire strides a tall, commanding wizard, fixing a pair of stern hazel eyes on me as he crosses the room.
I forget how intimidating Dad can be, especially when I’m in trouble.
The fire turns green again and Harry Potter comes out, raising his eyebrows at James. “What is it this time?”
Out of everyone in the room, Harry looks the most relaxed. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before; our parents have been called in a number of times over the last six years because of the stupid things we’ve done, but my mum’s scarily perceptive, and I get the feeling from the silent way she’s observing me that she knows it’s bigger than blowing up a staircase, which is what we did in fourth year.
“Is your wife on her way, Mr Potter?” McGonagall asks.
“She’ll be here any moment,” Harry assures her, and sure enough Ginny arrives, looking furious.
“James Sirius Potter, what in the name of Merlin have you done now?”
James flinches. It’s my turn to squeeze his hand.
There’s a long silence, during which Mum glances from me to James to our clasped hands. Something flickers across her face and she steps forward, eyes fixed on mine.
“Tell me you’re not,” she says quietly.
I swallow hard, but it feels like something’s stuck in my throat.
“Athena…” Dad murmurs.
“Tell me,” she repeats, and to my horror there’s a quiver in her voice and her eyes are beginning to glitter with tears.
“Mum,” I manage, but she doesn’t respond, just sweeps from the room without a word.
The Potters exchange glances.
“You’re pregnant, aren’t you, Cassia?” Ginny asks.
I can’t bring myself to nod, but James looks his mother in the eye. “Yes. She is. And it’s mine.”
Ginny gasps, looking from James to me and wheeling around to face Harry. She looks like she wants to say something, to yell at us or cry, but instead she hurries from the room after Mum.
The silence that follows nearly kills me. Dad’s fidgeting with his wand, pacing up and down the room, while Harry’s just standing in place, looking numb.
“Dad?” James asks weakly.
Harry seems to snap awake at that, stepping forward. A thousand emotions seem to cross his face, and he looks like he’s struggling with his words as he puts a hand on James’ shoulder.
“You love her, James?” he asks, nodding at me.
“You know I do.”
“You’ll stay with her?”
“Stay with the baby?”
“No matter what?”
James nods, and Harry exhales heavily. “Good. Parents should never leave their kids—”
“Unless they have to,” James finishes. “I know, Dad.”
Harry nods, fidgeting in place before gesturing to the door. “I should—your mother…”
He makes his escape, and now it’s just me, James, McGonagall and Dad left in the room.
He still hasn’t said anything. He’s still pacing.
Then he stops pacing, and walks over to James.
“You’ve taken my daughter from me, Potter.”
I can’t help myself. “Lay off him, Dad. It’s not his fault and we all bloody know you prefer Emilia anyway.”
“You’re my daughter, Cassia!”
“Oh, well observed,” I spit. “Ten points to Slytherin.”
“Don’t talk to me like that.”
“You’re a hypocrite.” I’m walking on thin ice, but I don’t care.
“You got Mum pregnant when she was at Hogwarts!”
“That was different and you know it. She was eighteen and we were legally married.”
“Oh, whoop-de-fuck!” I shout, throwing my hands in the air. “Because one year and a signed bit of paper makes all the fucking difference, doesn’t it? I bet Grandad Selwyn didn’t see it like that!”
He flinches slightly, and I take advantage of it. “Bet you copped some crap about it. Bet you dealt with the stigma of being a teenage father too. Bet you didn’t get as much support as you would have liked—or needed. And now I bet you can’t wait to see all that happen to James – or to me, for that matter.”
“Cass,” James says quietly, “You don’t need to stick up for me.”
“You’re right,” Dad says, looking intently at James. “She doesn’t need to stick up for you. You need to stick up for her. Because these next few months are going to be the toughest she’s ever faced, and you’ll be the only person she’ll want to help her get through. There’ll be times when she wonders why she gets out of bed in the morning. There’ll be times when she can’t take it anymore. You’ll watch her fall apart, and it’ll break your heart because you love her. But you’ll be the one to carry her, because she needs you by her side, no matter what she might say otherwise. And I hope to Merlin you’re man enough to handle it.” His gaze slides to me. “You’re right, Cassia. I have been there.”
Without a backward glance, he strides into the Floo.