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Chapter 17: The Beginning of the End
I thought being pregnant sucked, but now I’m heading into the week Sophia’s due and I realise, really realise, that I’m staring down the barrel of something that will be far worse.
I have to give birth. Like, now. Well, not now. But in a few days’ time. There is no phrase in the English language that expresses a) how scared I am, and b) how much I wish I could somehow…I dunno. Back out. Decide nope, I don’t want to do this anymore, it’s too much, and I just blatantly refuse to push her out and we’re going to have to do something differently.
It can’t be too hard, we can do magic. Why in all the time that magic has existed, has nobody come up with a way to get babies out of the womb in a safe and painfree manner?
“There are plenty of potions available to ease the pain,” Mum informs me, cradling her cup of tea. “It won’t be as hard as you think.”
“I don’t believe you,” I say flatly.
“Good,” she replies matter-of-factly. “Because it’ll be worse.”
“Thanks, Mum,” I mutter. “What I really wanted to hear.”
“I’m just trying to prepare you.”
“Prepare me? Mum, nothing you can say is going to prepare me. That’s like saying ‘Hey, Cassia, I’m going to perform the Cruciatus Curse on you now, be prepared for pain.’”
“Oh, you haven’t even been through that, have you,” Mum muses.
“A lot of us in the war generation have a theory that giving birth is easier if you’ve been Crucio’d before,” Mum continues. “Not a bad theory – it happened to me, Hermione, Ginny, Luna…”
“You’re saying I should be Crucio’d before giving birth?” I cry, horrified.
“No. Just a bit of dark humour, that’s all. But, contrary to what many people who haven’t been Crucio’d will tell you, it’s worse than giving birth.”
“Oh, good,” I say sarcastically. “So it won’t be as bad as Dark magic capable of torturing someone into insanity. Now that is comforting.”
“Goes on a lot longer though,” Mum says thoughtfully.
“Go home, Mum.”
“I haven’t finished my tea yet.”
“Why do me and Emilia even exist?”
Mum gives me a quizzical look. “And what do you mean by that?”
“If giving birth is so bad, what on earth possessed you to have more than one kid?”
“You may not believe me now, but it will be worth it,” Mum continues. “It’ll be worth it after you’ve held her in your arms for just one second. That’s the thing about being a mother – everything is hard, but everything is worth it.”
“Even if you end up with a delinquent daughter who gets herself pregnant at sixteen?”
“I don’t think ‘delinquent’ is quite the right word,” she says. “And to answer your question, is there anything in the world that Sophia could do that would make you love her any less?”
“I dunno, maybe kill me during childbirth,” I say darkly. “I probably wouldn’t be as fond of her then.”
“You’ll be fine,” Mum says bracingly, getting to her feet. “Now, I should be off, I have a class straight after lunch—”
“You’re lying to me again.”
“You’ll be fine in the sense that you shouldn’t die during childbirth. Anything else, well…‘Fine’ is relative. Patronus message me if your waters break.”
I can just imagine my Patronus prancing (well, dophins don’t really prance, but that’s beside the point) into NEWT Defence Against the Dark Arts and my voice declaring, in front of all my peers, that my waters have just broken.
That’d go down a right treat.
I sigh, running my hand down my belly. “You know, Sophia, I can’t figure out whether I want you born by tonight or whether I just want to put off the whole thing indefinitely. You scare the shit out of me, did you know that? I’ve never even met you, you look like an alien in your scans, but you terrify me to no end and I’m a Gryffindor.”
When she doesn’t even have the courtesy to respond with a kick, I lug myself back to my cushy armchair. Maybe she’s asleep. I wish I could sleep, but it’s uncomfortable enough that I’m almost ready to go through the whole birth business just to get her out.
I still want to give birth about as much as I want my eyeballs gouged out with a rusty spoon.
My due date comes and goes and there’s no sign of Sophia wanting to enter the big bad world.
“I can’t blame you really, bub,” I tell her. “There’s pollution out here, and wars in the Middle East and poverty in Africa, and corruption and crime and violence and Slytherins, and evil old ladies who think it’s okay to pat a stranger’s tummy just because she’s pregnant, and your aunty Emilia, and apparently the Galleon’s particularly high against the Drachma at the moment…”
Oh my God did I just pee myself?
No, that would be…
HOLY MOTHER OF MERLIN.
“LILLIAN!” I bellow, knowing she’s the only other person in the house. “LILLIAN HERMIONE TOLLMARCH!”
“Have your waters broken?” Lillian calls from upstairs in a thoroughly unconcerned voice.
“Just relax, you’ve got plenty of time,” she replies, and I hear the distinctive noises of clothes being ironed.
Bloody like to see her relax if her waters have just broken. When she and Rory are panicking about their first kid I am gonna watch and laugh.
I waddle over to the Floo, pausing only to clean up my pants, and go to the Potters’.
“GINNY!” I yell the moment I arrive, “Ginny, my waters have just broken and I’m freaking out and my evil sister-in-law-to-be doesn’t even care and she’s ironing!”
“Come and sit down, Cassia,” Ginny says, with more of that infuriating calmness. “James should be home by about four…”
“It’s only ten in the morning!” I cry. “Shouldn’t you go and get him now?”
“There really is no need,” she assures me.
“Yes there is, I need someone to panic with me!”
“You really don’t.”
“Cassia, labour is a very long process. You probably won’t even have to go to Mungo’s until this evening…”
“Stop. Being. So. Reasonable.”
“Well, one of us has to be reasonable, and unless you want to take that job…” Ginny shrugs. “Honestly, love, just take a seat and relax. You don’t need to be rushing away anywhere.”
I pace back and forth around the room, unwilling to sit down. Why does labour have to be so long? Why hasn’t it even started yet? What if something’s going wrong—
“Ow,” I groan as a twinge of pain hits me. Ginny looks up, concerned, but in a few moments it’s passed and I breathe a sigh of relief.
“That was a contraction? It wasn’t too bad…”
“They start out easy,” she tells me.
One of these days, I would really like to hear something positive when I need it.
By one o’clock, Ginny Floos Mum (I point blank refuse to send a Patronus bearing any message regarding me and labour anywhere near Hogwarts) and she comes marching through the fireplace looking very determined and efficient and not like she wants me to sit down and have a cup of tea thank God.
“When did it happen, Cass?”
“Bout three hours ago.”
“You were meant to let me know immediately!”
“I was going to,” I say with a pointed stare at Ginny, “But some people didn’t think it was that urgent.”
“That was the whole point! I was meant to be here while you panicked!”
“Well, I’m sure not done panicking yet. Mum, how long is it going to take? Tell me I won’t be stuck here for days!”
“Not at all, we’ll take you to Mungo’s pretty soon.”
“That wasn’t really addressing my question – ow. God, what is she doing in there?”
“Should we go and fetch James?” Mum asks Ginny.
“Yes,” I say, answering for her. “Yes. Go get him. I don’t care if the baby’s not going to be born for another twenty-four hours, he can bloody sit here and wait it out.”
“He’ll panic, you know,” Ginny warns.
“Good!” Mum says, throwing her hands in the air. “Let him panic! Cassia shouldn’t have to do all the panicking, it’s his child too!”
I love my mum. Have I ever mentioned that?
Ginny glances at us. Mum and I glare back. She retreats through the Floo.
“Mum, I think you just kicked your best friend out of her own house.”
“I’m good like that. Once we get James here, we’ll take you up to St Mungo’s – you probably don’t need to go just yet, but you’ll feel a lot calmer once we’re there.”
You know it’s bad news when St Mungo’s is a calming place.
“You’re not as panicked as I thought you’d be,” Mum observes.
“I’m pretending this whole thing isn’t happening,” I inform her cheerfully. “Right now I’m lying on a tropical beach in New Zealand—”
“New Zealand doesn’t have tropical beaches.”
“You are not helping.”