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Chapter 10: This Went Downhill Quickly
It takes much longer than I thought it would for the news of my pregnancy to break out of the Potter-Weasley circle and into wider Hogwarts, and it’s two weeks after Operation Parent before one of the other, non-Weasley girls in my dorm, Rachel Gleeson, brings it up.
“Cassia, are you pregnant?”
“Okay then,” she says agreeably, reaching for her socks. “And the father’s James, right?”
“Sucks to be you,” she says sympathetically. “Is that why your mum’s been breathing fire for the last couple of weeks?”
“That explains it,” Summer Wilkinson says with a huff. “I’ve lost twenty points in DADA in the last week alone, and I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“She’s hating on us Gryffindors,” Rachel agrees with a nod.
“How are you guys so casual about this?” I ask.
“We knew it’d happen,” Summer replies. “Well, we knew that if anyone was going to – well, put it this way, you were our most likely suspect for a teen pregnancy.”
I glare at them. “You know I was a virgin up until three months ago, right?”
“Were you?” Rachel asks, more than a hint of surprise in her voice.
“It’s great to know you think so much of me.”
“Well, it’s just…you’re the rebel. You sell Firewhiskey to third-years and blow up staircases.”
“That doesn’t mean I go round shagging everything that moves,” I point out.
“Fair point,” Rachel concedes.
“But you are pregnant,” Summer adds.
“I’m aware. And for the record, the staircase thing was two years ago.”
I get called into Professor Longbottom’s office a few days later. God. Someone else knows.
“Miss Rutherford,” he says, gesturing to one of the chairs along the wall. He sits at his desk, steepling his fingers, and stares at them intently.
“Professor McGonagall informed me of your…condition.” Longbottom pauses. “I hate to be the one to do this, but as your Head of House…” he trails off, glances out the window, and continues. “You’re aware of the school’s policy towards…relations between students.”
“Yeah.” What’s going to happen? Do I lose two hundred points from Gryffindor or something? I nearly laugh at the absurdity of it. This goes far beyond house points, I don’t need Longbottom to tell me that.
“Miss Rutherford, the school cannot support the needs of pregnant students.”
My eyes widen. “Are you expelling me?”
He shifts uncomfortably. “We’re not expelling you. We’re not going to snap your wand in half and forbid you from further education. But I’m afraid…” He pauses, coughs, and glances at his calendar. “The Easter holidays are coming up in a few weeks. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you not to return to Hogwarts afterwards.”
I feel completely and totally numb. This can’t be happening. I thought I would just leave in June as usual, not come back for my seventh year. Just quietly drop out, like a number of people do anyway.
I’m being asked to leave.
“I’m sorry,” Longbottom says, and the look on his face tells me he actually is. “But it’s school policy…you can still sit your NEWTs by correspondence, your mother, I believe, did that. You’re a bright student, you can do it…”
He looks over at me, sees my eyes filling with tears, and makes his excuses.
Five minutes later, Mum enters the room. She stands in the doorway, not looking at me. Her tone is businesslike.
“The school will be discreet. Other students and staff will simply be told you’ve chosen to drop out. Given your behavioural record, it should come as no surprise to them.”
“I expect you to continue studying for your NEWTs. It took me six months, having been to seventh year. I expect it will take you one to two years.”
“I will be remaining at Hogwarts during the Easter holidays,” she continues, still not looking at me. “Professor Clearwater is going away with her family, and won’t be able to step in as Head of Ravenclaw for those students who remain behind. Your aunt Evelina has agreed to call in on a regular basis to look after you.”
“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” I whisper, hearing the pleading in my voice. Please, Mum, just talk to me.
She glances at me, her gaze cool. “I don’t want to hear your excuses, Cassia.”
Without another word, she turns and leaves the room.
“I’ve been kicked out of Hogwarts,” I tell James.
“What? They can’t do that!”
“They can. Apparently they’re not equipped to deal with the needs of pregnant students.”
“That’s bullshit. What about Madam Pomfrey?”
“They’re just making excuses,” James says angrily. “They want to make an example out of you, as if there aren’t a hundred other girls in this school—”
“Let it go,” I say, cutting him off. “It’s only two months I’d be losing anyway, I was always going to drop out after sixth year.”
“I’m leaving too.”
“No you’re fucking not. If one of us has the chance to actually go to seventh year—”
“What good is seventh year?” he asks. “Look at my dad, he didn’t go to seventh year, he’s Head Auror now!”
“Different circumstances, James, your dad defeated Voldemort!”
“What would I do with NEWTs?” he asks. “I don’t have a clue what I want to do when I leave Hogwarts, you know that. I’ve never had any idea. And I’m not abandoning you just to go back to Hogwarts and get a bunch of qualifications I don’t know what to do with.”
“And what happens when you do know what you want to do with your life? You won’t be able to get in. Hardly any careers take students who’ve left with only OWLs.”
“Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes does. I’ll work there next year.”
I open my mouth to protest, but James cuts me off. “Cass, neither of us has ever really thought we’d see Hogwarts through. We never really thought we’d get NEWTs. Even without the baby, I don’t think either of us would have had a complete overhaul of our attitudes to school over the summer holidays.”
“I wanted to at least get Arithmancy.”
“You still can.”
“Not without a teacher. Honestly, if you had any idea how much Professor Vector walks me through some of that stuff—”
“Dom told me you’re top of class.”
“With Vector’s help.”
“Are you saying you want to stay at Hogwarts?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t want to be forced out. I wish I still had the option. Even if I didn’t take it. Does that make sense?”
“Of course. But if it makes you feel any better, I have the choice, and I’m choosing to drop out and work and support you.”
“You don’t have to—”
“Hence why I said I have the choice. Remember what my dad said? Parents should never leave their kids.”
I don’t know what to say to that. He seems so mature, so responsible, and I’ve just been moping around crying and wishing this wasn’t happening. “I love you,” I mumble.
He smiles and kisses me. “I love you too.”
I don’t know how many people in the school know, or how quickly the news is travelling, but when I’m walking to classes or sitting in the Great Hall it feels like everyone is staring at me, that every whisper is about me or my pregnancy. I’m grateful that it’s not showing yet, and I don’t think it will until after I leave, but that makes no difference if people know anyway.
After their initial matter-of-fact responses, Summer and Rachel are acting increasingly awkward around me. And by ‘awkward’ I mean they’ll act perfectly normal to my face, but I’ve joined them in the dorm or at the Gryffindor table numerous times to have them quickly cut off what conversation they were having and start a new one. I tell them it’s ridiculously obvious what they’re doing. They act like they don’t know what I’m talking about.
Emilia’s no less awkward than she was at first, either. I get the feeling she and her friends are avoiding the topic like nobody’s business, and I don’t really blame them, considering Albus is in her group as well. Even little Lily Potter isn’t as forthcoming with conversation as she used to be, which is a bit of a kick in the guts for me because I always saw her as like a little sister.
That said, though, Dom and Freddy are legends. Our group conversations are blissfully normal, but outside that Dom’s made herself my confidante and Official Sounding Board for everything that’s bothering me, and Freddy’s made himself James’s. Dom, it appears, has an untapped and uncanny ability to listen to and sympathise with my complaints about nausea and morning sickness, weight gain, oh-merlin-I-feel-like-a-Pygmy-Puff and everything else that might be wrong with me. I’m going to miss her when I leave. She tells me she’s going to hijack Longbottom’s Floo at midnight once school goes back for what she’s now calling her ‘Daily Dose of Misery’ from me.
On the last day of term, Dom takes me on what she calls a ‘Farewell Tour’ of Hogwarts, which drives home the fact that I’m never coming back here again. With that in mind, I cry when we walk past the staircase I blew up, past the Room of Requirement, through the Great Hall, across the Quidditch pitch and even on the shores of the Great Lake. James and I always intended on finding the Giant Squid and charming him bright yellow on our last day of school.
“You’re such a sook,” she admonishes, passing me tissues as we sit side-by-side on boulders looking out across the lake. “You’re crying more than your baby will.”
“My baby will be the happiest thing in the history of wizardkind,” I sniffle, “Just to spite me.”
“In other words, your baby will be awesome.”
“Of course it’s going to be awesome. It doesn’t have a choice. Look who its parents are.”
“Love, I hate to break it to you, but James is not awesome.”
“You only say that because he’s related to you.”
James, Dom, Freddy and I get a compartment by ourselves on the train home, which gives me free rein to stare out the window and reflect on the fact that this is my last ever trip on the Hogwarts Express.
I already cried when we left Hogsmeade Station and I watched the castle disappear from view, which left Dom rolling her eyes and James with his arm around me, trying to cheer me up with Chocolate Frogs. The fact that it was jumping around the carriage and was kind of…alive, put me off. I nearly threw up. Nearly, but not quite, and Freddy muttered something about sharing a carriage with The Pregnant Girl which caused Dom to hit him on the head with her wand and turn his hair purple.
Throughout the journey we’ve had random strangers walking past, pointing inside at me and whispering things. I yanked the door open at one point, yelled, “What the fuck do you want?” and they crowded away, one of them saying, “Told you she’s pregnant, it’s the hormones, see.”
Dad’s waiting for me and Emilia when the train arrives at King’s Cross. Wishing to delay the inevitable, I stick close to James as we get off the train. His parents are standing there, along with Albus and Lily, but he lingers beside me, each of us unwilling to leave the other.
“I’ll Floo,” he says eventually. “I’ll Floo, as soon as I can.”
“It doesn’t feel right, does it,” he says. A statement, not a question. “To just…go back to our parents. To be apart. Not now.”
Ginny approaches us. “All ready, James?” she asks, a little too quickly, a little too loudly.
“Yeah,” he mutters.
She glances at me. “You well, Cassia?”
I feel awful, but I’m not about to tell her that. “Fine.”
She nods, walking away, and James trails after her. “I’ll be round tomorrow,” he mouths, and the Potters disappear through the barrier.
Dad’s even more awkward than I expected. We walk in silence through the station, Dad making occasional attempts at conversation, asking us how school’s going.
“Well, it’s not like it matters,” I say, interrupting Emilia’s commentary on her Charms class. “I’m dropping out, aren’t I?”
“Yes,” Dad says. “Quite. We’ll Apparate from here, girls.”
A thought strikes me. “Is it safe for me to Apparate?”
“Because if there’s any risk, I’m not going.”
“I don’t know.” Dad glances around, checking for Muggles in the dingy little alleyway we’re standing in, rummages around in his pockets and pulls out a long quill. “Portus.”
It immediately glows blue and we grab it, arriving in the middle of Godric’s Hollow. Dad stows the quill back in his pocket, striding through the gate of our house and unlocking the door with a wave of his wand.
I make a beeline for my room, dumping my trunk on the floor and closing the door behind me. I lie on my bed, taking in the red curtains drifting in the breeze from my open window, the piles of clothes and bits of parchment strewn across the floor – there’s a half-finished Arithmancy sheet that never made it back to Vector – and the Gryffindor paraphernalia on my walls, along with photos of my friends and family.
The last time I was in here was the Christmas holidays.
How can things change so much in four months?