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A/N: Just as a quick note, this story does contain spoilers from my WIP, Blurring the Lines. You don't need to have read it to understand this, but just in case you recognised some characters, that's why :)
I love that moment when you first wake up, your mind still drifting along the surface of your dream. You can hear voices, the shuffling of people around you, but it’s almost not real. Reality eludes you. You can hear people say things that they never actually said. Right now I’m hearing some disembodied voice saying, “Cassia, you’re already ten minutes late for Potions,” when I know for a fact that my alarm hasn’t gone off yet.
Wait a second.
Reality hits me like a train, along with the memory of a semi-conscious curse in the direction of said alarm clock at some uncivilised hour of this morning. “Fuck,” I yelp, leaping out of bed and scrabbling for my clothes. My best friend, Dominique Weasley, who I identify as the owner of the disembodied voice, lazily passes me socks, underwear, shirt, skirt, tie, jersey, robes and toast before bundling me out the door. I realise halfway down Gryffindor Tower that I haven’t any shoes, and rather than letting me go and retrieve them, Dom instead Summons them and bounces impatiently from foot to foot while I put them on.
“Why didn’t you wake me earlier?” I whine as she drags me through the school.
“I tried,” she replies matter-of-factly. “Merlin, what were you doing last night?”
She shoves me through the door to our Potions classroom. A look of almost alarm crosses James Potter’s face and my stomach drops like a stone when I realise what I was doing last night.
I hurry into my seat at the back of the class, eyes fixated on Professor Rochester in an attempt to ignore the Potter across the aisle from me.
He’s still in my damn peripheral vision.
Safe in the knowledge that Rochester isn’t one of those dinosaur teachers who confiscates notes students pass in class and reads them out, I pull out a small bit of parchment and a quill and scrawl a message to Dom.
Me. James. Last night. Yeah.
Her eyes widen, staring at me, the note, and then at James. My peripheral vision creeps sideways.
He glances at Dom, at me, at the bit of parchment, raises his eyebrows slightly, and scrawls a note to Freddy Weasley beside him.
Freddy stares at the note, at me, and then at James. I turn away almost immediately, but my peripheral vision catches the boys high fiving underneath their desks.
Fuck. I sink in my seat, knowing my face is going as red as my hair, and try valiantly to pay attention to what Rochester is saying.
I give up, feeling myself spiralling into a deep, dramatic depression. At interval, I decide, I’ll join Moaning Myrtle in her bathroom and we’ll exchange woes. I’ll be one of the Bathroom Girls, who sit in Myrtle’s bathroom exchanging woes with her. Dead parents, dead siblings, divorced parents, low self-esteem have nothing on me. I slept with my best friend.
I know I said earlier that Dom was my best friend, but that’s only because every girl must have an obligatory female best friend. James is my real best friend. Was. He’s not anymore. It’s a well-known, undisputable fact that sex ruins friendships.
And now I’ve gone and lost my best friend. Which wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t madly in love with him at the same time.
I can feel myself choking up. James can’t stand girls crying over him. Be staunch, Cassia.
Staunch. Think manly thoughts.
An image of shirtless James pops, unbidden, into my head.
Not the thought I was looking for.
“Cassia Rutherford,” Rochester barks, and I fight the urge to curse him to the ground. Go away.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Not in the slightest, Professor,” I reply matter-of-factly. Mum always taught me not to lie. Actually, that in itself is a lie, it was Dad. And he’s the Slytherin. The irony never escapes me.
There are a few titters of appreciation at my honesty, before the class resumes its glazed over expression and I go back to my crisis of epic proportions.
“What do we have next?” I ask casually.
“Defence,” Dom replies.
This day couldn’t get worse. No, Cassia, you’re tempting fate. This day could get worse. It probably will. In fact, it definitely will.
I’m using reverse psychology on fate itself. I should have been in Ravenclaw.
No, this is why I’m not in Ravenclaw.
Well, actually, the reason I’m not in Ravenclaw is because Ravenclaws are too smart to go sleeping with their best friends.
I’m too hedonistic to be in Ravenclaw. There, that fits.
My eyes catch James’s on their bored wander around the classroom, and I sink further into my seat, amusing myself with correcting the grammar of my desk’s graffiti.
My attempt to skulk into Defence Against the Dark Arts unnoticed fails.
“Cassia,” Mum says firmly, beckoning me back to the front of the classroom.
“Athena.” First name basis goes two ways.
“Where’s your essay?”
“I haven’t brought it into existence yet.”
“And why haven’t you brought it into existence yet?”
“Because, mother dearest, I really don’t give a flying fuck about Unforgivable Curses.”
“Is that so?”
That’s Mum’s Dangerous Phrase. She levels a gaze at me that could freeze Fiendfyre before slowly turning around to face the class.
“Is that the case with anyone else? Does anyone else not give a flying fuck about Unforgivable Curses? Who else hasn’t written an essay?
The class sits in fearful silence, apart from one hand which is slowly raised.
James Sirius Fucking Potter.
“James Potter, I should have known,” Mum says coolly. “Outside, both of you.”
I feel physically sick as I trail weakly behind her. Mum’s a Legilimens. I’m not just saying that. It’s not ‘mother’s instinct,’ it’s real Legilimency. I’m shitting myself. Figuratively.
“You two have made it abundantly clear you have no intention of ever putting effort into my class,” Mum says flatly. “This is sixth year. You’re not juniors anymore, and I’m not going to waste my time with students who have no interest in learning. You do not return to my class until you prove to me you’re mature enough to be there. And Cassia, I want to see you at lunch. Goodbye.”
“What do we do now, Professor?” James asks meekly.
She looks at him. “I don’t care, Potter. But if you’re at all capable of intelligent thought, I suggest you start with that essay.”
I stare miserably at the closed door in front of me. Kicked out of DADA, Mum’s furious at me, and now I’m stuck with James, and James alone for an hour.
Way to go, Cassia.
We go back to Gryffindor Tower, mainly because I know there’ll be seniors there on study periods and we won’t have to talk about What Happened Last Night.
The common room is empty. The universe hates me.
We write, side by side at our usual table, in determined silence. I don’t look at him. He doesn’t look at me.
I wish I could say something.
“Cassia,” he says, and my heart skips a beat and begins pounding.
“Yeah?” I ask, trying to sound casual. My palms are suddenly sweaty.
“When was the Imperius made Unforgivable?”
Fuck you. Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyou. “1709.”
“James,” I blurt, having no idea what to say next.
I flounder, wishing I could take it back. I don’t know what to say to him. I don’t know how to word the turmoil that’s going around in my mind. Do you regret it? Are we still friends? What happened? How did it happen? Are you attracted to me? Is it even a big deal to you?
Do you love me?
“Was the Cruciatus used in the last wizarding war?”
“Um, I know it was used here. Dark Arts. Your mum would know, wouldn’t she?”
I shake my head. “Too personal to put in an essay, she never even talks about her seventh year, not even to us. I don’t need to give her another reason to be upset with me.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen her that angry before,” James mutters, looking at me out the corner of his eye. “Do you think she knows?”
“Legilimency requires a spell. She left her wand in the classroom.”
We lapse into silence again, the air thick with unspoken words.
“What’s going on, Cassia?” Mum asks, flicking her wand to close the door behind me.
I shrug. “Stuff.”
“Stuff,” Mum repeats, raises her eyebrows. “Care to define this ‘stuff?’”
“Not particularly.” I pass her the essay, a peace offering.
She puts it on the desk behind her, not bothering to look at it. “I want to see another essay from you tomorrow. The importance of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Three thousand words. References to the Second Wizarding War. You know my story.”
I look at her, confused.
“I can’t make you care about Defence, Cassia. But maybe if you and James sat down and thought about what what the Dark Arts did to us and our world, you might realise why it matters. Tell James I expect the same from him as well, if you want to come back to class.”
I nod, preparing to make my escape.
“I haven’t dismissed you yet.”
I turn back to her. “Yeah?”
I shuffle closer and she hops off her desk and hugs me. “Whatever it is that’s troubling you, I hope you know you can talk to me. Don’t think for a moment I don’t notice when you’re upset.”
And just like that, I start blubbering into her hair telling her everything about James. Well, all about the I’m-madly-in-love-with-him-stuck-in-the-friend-zone-don’t-know-how-he-feels-don’t-want-to-ask thing, not the sex thing. No matter how close you are to your mum, there are limits to what you’re going to tell her.
“I wish I could tell you everything’s going to be okay,” Mum says eventually. “But you’re too old to fall for that line, and I’m too cynical to feed it to you.”
I love my mum. Always so positive.
“Then lie to me!” I wail.
“Okay. Any moment now, James is going to come bursting through the door, confess his undying love for you and propose. You’ll get married and live happily ever after and give me heaps of grandchildren. Happy?”
“You suck at lying,” I sniffle.
“On the contrary, I’m bloody good at it. You believed in Santa until you were twelve years old.”
“Think what you will. But anyway, Cassia, I do think you’re in with a chance. You’re his best friend, so you’re automatically the number one girl in his life.”
“Apart from his sister.”
Mum waves her hand dismissively. “Siblings don’t count.”
“By that logic, I’m your favourite daughter.”
“You are anyway,” she says matter-of-factly. “You didn’t hear that from me, though.”
“You told me I’m a nightmare.”
“You are, and you know it. A beautiful nightmare.”
“Just coz I look like you.”
“Not at all. Are you ready to face the world again?”
She summons them, along with a small bottle of some potion. “Dab this around your eyes, it gets rid of the blotchiness.”
I do so. “Mirror.”
I don’t even look like I’ve been crying, I note with some satisfaction.
“Yeah?” I turn, expecting some last word of wisdom.
“Remember that essay.”
I only have twenty minutes left of lunch, which Dom informs me will be spent wandering along the shores of the Great Lake telling her all the gory details.
“Must I?” I protest.
“Yes,” she says, seizing my arm and marching me down to said lake. She’s been dragging me round a lot today.
“So how did it happen?” she asks conversationally.
“What, were you drunk?”
“No.” Completely sober, that’s half the problem. At least if I was drunk I would have an excuse.
“Then you know.”
“I’ve blocked it from my memory. Too traumatic.”
“Traumatic?” Dom repeats. “He didn’t…force you, did he?”
“No,” I say vehemently. “Merlin, no. He wouldn’t do that.”
“Then what was so traumatic about it?”
“Dom, I saw James naked. Need I say more?”
Never mind it wasn’t actually that bad a sight. What Dom doesn’t know can’t hurt her.
“But how was it?” Dom presses.
“I am not discussing this with you,” I say firmly.
“That means you enjoyed it.”
“I thought that was the point.”
“Seriously, though? James? Didn’t see that one coming.”
I can’t help but feel a little glum that not even my best friends are aware that I’ve been madly in love with the guy for the better part of three years. In fact, the only person who does know is twelve-year-old Lily Potter after we had a heart-to-heart on the floor of Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. I was there to support her, not drowning in my own sorrows. For the record, I tend to avoid Myrtle’s floor. Most of the people who end up there are referred to the guidance counsellor as quickly as possible.
Merlin, that was only three weeks ago. And now I’ve gone The Whole Way with him and nothing about our relationship has changed. Apart from maybe the fact that he’s not talking to me.
If he regretted it, he wouldn’t have high-fived Freddy.
Why the hell did he high-five Freddy? Am I some kind of conquest to him? ‘Guess what, I got Cassia last night?’
Was it because he lost his virginity? I don’t know. I don’t know whether he did or not. He’s never told me. Best friends for six years and I don’t even know that.
He’s never had a girlfriend before, not that that means anything. Half of Hogwarts would give their right arms to get into his pants.
I did, and I still have my right arm. Ten points to Cassia.
I think Dom’s been talking for the last ten minutes, but I have no idea what she’s been saying.
“Excuse me for a second,” I say politely before running back into the castle and finding myself on the floor of Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.
“Cassia, can we talk?” James asks, his words threatening to send me into cardiac arrest.
“Yes. Please. Definitely.”
“Room of Requirement?” he asks, unneccessarily pointing down the stairs and raising his eyebrows.
I nod, trotting to join him as he descends the stairs two at a time. Despite my apprehension at what he’s going to say, I can’t help but be excited about spending time with him. Just us. Talking. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll say he feels the same. Maybe What Happened Last Night won’t be the end of our friendship, but the beginning of something more.
We walk into the Room of Requirement, a cosy-looking room with a fireplace and a fluffy rug that I park my bum on. James sits beside me, thinks better of it and swivels around to face me. Our knees are touching.
“What did you want to say?” I ask hesitantly.
He frowns, his brow furrowing. “I’m not sure.”
Then he leans forward and kisses me, and fireworks are going off in my head. Suddenly, talking doesn’t matter anymore. I pull him closer, kissing him like my life depends on it.
That could not have happened again. No way.
I pull my socks on with a force that accompanies my words, ignoring the logic that tells me I wouldn’t be getting dressed if it hadn’t happened again.
Shut up, brain. Go die.
James is silent beside me, buttoning his shirt and avoiding my eyes.
I know I need to say something. Talk to him. But even as I open my mouth, my courage fails me. Why the hell was I put in Gryffindor? I should be a Hufflepuff.
I finish getting dressed and turn around to face him, preparing to demand answers or explanations. He looks up, raising his eyebrows. I’ve seen that face a thousand times before, it’s his “Okay, talk” face. He looks too normal, too unperturbed by what’s just happened. As if there’s nothing out of the ordinary about screwing your best friend on the floor of the Room of Requirement. Twice.
I pull the door open and run down the corridors like Voldemort himself is after me.
“What’s up with you?” Dom asks, looking startled as I fly past her on my way to our dorm.
“Fucking happened again,” I mutter, pausing to realise how true that is on more than one level before continuing on my mission. James and I run the Hogwarts black market; I have fifty Galleons worth of Firewhiskey under my bed and I have every intention of consuming it.
I’m glad the dorm is empty when I get there, and I’m leaning over the edge of my bed, rummaging around underneath it with feet flying in the air when Dom unceremoniously seizes my ankles and pulls me back.
“Ow! Violence!” I protest.
“Don’t go drinking all the stock,” she says, as if reading my mind. I’m a lot more paranoid about Legilimency than most people. Maybe it comes from Mum threatening me with it every time I kept something from her while I was growing up.
She waves her wand and the door slams shut. “So, you’re saying that you and James did it again?”
“Oh, quit with the euphemisms and call it what it is,” I say grumpily. “Are you seventeen or twelve? Yes, we had mad raging sex on the floor of the Room of Requirement. Can I drink now?”
“Unfortunately, I’m not.”
“Yes. Again. It was just so mindblowingly awesome I had to go back for more.”
Dom wrinkles her nose. “Tell me that’s sarcastic.”
“Of course.” Well, sarcastic enough.
“How did this even happen, Cass?”
“It just did.”
“With James? I mean, I know stuff sometimes…happens…but James, honestly? Twice?”
“You know what, just shut it,” I say angrily. “You act so grossed out because it’s James, because he’s your cousin and you expect me to see him the same way you do. I don’t. I see him in a way you would never understand.”
“Do you love him?” she asks quietly.
“Yes.” Holy mother of Merlin, that’s a relief to get off my chest.
She allows herself approximately three seconds of silence to process this, before clapping her hands and leaning forward earnestly. “Right,” she says, ticking things off on her fingers. “You love James. You slept with James. Twice.”
“We’ve established this.”
“You haven’t talked about it?”
“We tried,” I say sardonically, “But it ended in fornication.”
“No more fornication ‘till you talk,” she says firmly.
“You make it sound so easy. Talking, I mean.” I don’t really want Dom thinking I’ve turned into some kind of sex-crazed lunatic.
She shrugs. “Your problem for falling in love with James.”
“Aren’t you just the best friend ever.”
“At least I’m not screwing you in the Room of Requirement.”
“Touche.” I lapse into a glum silence.
“Was going to ask you what happened in DADA today,” Dom continues casually. “You guys didn’t come back.”
“Shit!” I yelp, leaping to my feet. “Essay!”
She looks at me quizzically.
“I have to write Mum an essay,” I jabber, “Otherwise I won’t be allowed back into DADA and it has to be three thousand words and I forgot to tell James—”
“Since when do you care about homework?”
“Since it’s my mum and I won’t want her angrier at me than she has to,” I explain patiently. Normally I don’t care about that either, but the favourite daughter thing is still in my mind and I have a strange urge to redeem myself.
“Suit yourself. Where are you going?”
“To find James.”
“No fornication,” she calls after me.
James looks slightly nervous when he sees me charging through the common room towards him.
“Essay!” I wail, drawing a number of strange looks and throwing parchment and a quill on the table beside him.
“Mum’s set us another one. Forgot about it. Due tomorrow.”
“Are we caring about this then?” he asks. There’s no sarcasm in his voice either; he’s actually asking for a consensus on whether we bother to do it.
“Considering I ran in here in my jammies with arms flailing, yes, we’re caring about it.”
“Okay,” he says agreeably, patting the chair beside him. “What’s the topic?”
I take a seat. “The importance of DADA. In relation to the evilness of the Dark Arts, in relation to the war, in relation to our parents.”
James’s eyebrows shoot up into his hair. That’s not his “Okay, talk” face, those eyebrows are lower. This is his “Wait a minute what did you just say?” face.
“In relation to our parents?” he repeats. “Like, your parents?”
“Well, you’re talking about yours, obviously.”
“Your mum wants you to write an essay about her in the war? I thought you’re not allowed to even mention it.”
“She wants us to realise the importance of Defence.”
“Oh. Right. How long is it meant to be?”
“Three thousand words.”
“Three thousand?” James repeats incredulously. “It’s already past midnight…I might go get some of that Muggle stuff.”
He disappears, during which time I write three paragraphs, and returns with two shiny metal cans of something called Red Bull.
“You’ve written heaps,” he says incredulously.
“I am the daughter of a Hogwarts Dux and a Head of Ravenclaw, I can write essays.”
“True. Red Bull?” he asks, offering me one of the cans. I eye it dubiously.
“It’s safe. Doesn’t contaminate your magic or some nonsense. I’ve had it heaps.”
I shrug and take it. What with sitting here acting all normal with my best friend who I slept with twice and having to write a three thousand word essay at one in the morning which drags all my family’s skeletons out of the closet, I need something, and Dom’s guarding the Firewhiskey.
Two hours later, essays finished, we shuffle off to bed. I can’t help but realise we spent the entire time in companiable silence or amiable chatter. Just like old times.
And we also didn’t address the elephant in the room.
I punch my pillow several times. Stupid boys. Stupid Potters. I hate them. No, I don’t. Boys smell, but they’re generally fun to be around. Potters aren’t all bad. Look at Lily, she’s the sweetest little thing I’ve ever seen. I want to adopt her as my sister. Maybe James can have Emilia.
I growl into my pillow, and Dom sleepily pokes me in the side. I roll over to face her, wondering what amazingly supportive thing she’ll come out with.
“Shuddup I’m try’na sleep,” she mumbles.
I need to lower my expectations of people.
Mum lets James and I back into DADA, and I resolve to put more effort into it.
“Who are you and what have you done with Cassia Rutherford?” James hisses after I answer the third question in class.
“Blame the Red Bull,” I reply, and smirk as he looks alarmed and peers into the half-empty can he has sitting on his desk.
Things seem almost perfectly normal again. James and I sit with Dom and Freddy at interval and lunch, as usual. We talk about Quidditch. The others exchange family gossip. I feel slightly left out of this process, but considering the circumstances, I think it’s a good thing I’m not related to the extensive Weasley-Potter family.
James pulls me aside and asks if we can talk. In the Room of Requirement. And despite knowing full well what happened last time, I agree. Note: Reason why I wasn’t sorted into Ravenclaw.
“Cassia,” he says once we’re ensconced in the cosy room, and oh Merlin, I actually think he’s going to talk to me.
He kisses me. And despite my best intentions, I give in. It just feels right, standing here, wrapped in his arms. I’ve been dreaming about these moments since I was third year. Maybe…maybe he does love me.
But when I feel his hands fiddling with the clasp of my bra, something inside me snaps.
“No,” I say, pulling back.
“No,” I repeat vehemently. “What the hell gives you the right to pretend like everything’s okay, like nothing’s changed, and then bring me in here to—to use me?”
“I’m not your whore, James Potter!”
I stay just long enough to see the stunned look on his face before running as fast as I can out of the room, down the stairs and into Myrtle’s bathroom.
I’m shaking. I don’t know what’s going on. I feel sick. Used. He doesn’t love me. I was just an easy shag to him—easy because I’m so obviously, pathetically in love with him.
I draw my knees up to my face and howl.
“Are you okay?” A fourth year Hufflepuff with a smile wider than the sun enters the bathroom. I forgot. The Guardian Angels. A bunch of kindhearted Hufflepuffs who have taken it upon themselves to patrol Myrtle’s bathroom, preying on the vulnerable and depressed for their special brand of Hufflepuff cheeriness and comfort.
“What’s happened?” she asks gently.
“What kind of shit?”
“Get lost. Can’t I wallow in my own self-pity in peace?”
“I know you’re angry,” she begins, crouching beside me, “But—”
“Move before I curse your face off.”
“It’s not me you’re angry at.”
Merlin help me, I’m going to punch her.
“Emma Lattimer, leave my daughter alone,” a cool voice says from the doorway. “You’re fifteen years old, not a qualified counsellor, and have no place doing what you’re doing. Ten points from Hufflepuff, and get out.”
Did I mention I love my mum?
“Yes, Professor. Sorry, Professor.” The girl flees, and I look at Mum with tear-filled, grateful eyes.
She waves her wand, closing the door of the bathroom, calls Myrtle a lesbian, which sends her floating away at an impressive pace, and sits on the floor beside me.
“Talk if you need to,” she says simply.
“I hate him!” I cry. “I fucking hate him, Mum!”
“I never liked him much anyway.”
“He’s a prick!”
“An absolute prick,” she agrees, nodding.
“But I can’t stop loving him!” I wail.
“Isn’t love a bitch.”
“And he acts like everything’s so fucking normal—”
“When it’s obviously not.”
“One in the morning…essays…normal…Red Bull…fucking normal…classes…normal…fucking Room of Requirement…I hate him!”
I sniffle loudly and look at her. “Are you allowed to talk about your students like that?”
“Technically, you haven’t named anyone. Technically, I don’t know who you’re talking about. It could be anyone. I’m a mother before I’m a teacher, Cassie.”
As long as I’ve known her (all my life) Mum’s never let ‘personal issues’ impact her teaching. Honestly, this is the woman who timed my birth to take place after end-of-year exams so her students wouldn’t be disadvantaged by her absence. But apparently, seeing me curled up on the floor of Myrtle’s bathroom has tainted her judgement slightly.
“Ten points from Gryffindor, Potter!” she barks when he whispers something to Freddy. “Potter! Do you want to be in this class or not?” when he stares vacantly out a window. “Detention, Potter!” when he doodles in the margin of his textbook.
“Fucking Death Eater,” James mutters angrily.
As long as I live, I never want to see that look on my mother’s face again. She goes deathly pale, staring at James with an icy intensity that makes my insides squirm.
“What did you just say?” she asks, her voice dangerously low.
James stands. “The scars never go away, do they?”
“Get. Out. Of. My. Class.”
He walks out. Mum’s shaking, and I get out of my seat, quickly ushering her out the door and into a nearby empty classroom. Tea. Floo. I throw some powder into the fire, sticking my head in and directing it to Dad’s office at the Ministry.
“Cassia? What’s going on?”
“Someone called Mum a Death Eater. Get your arse here, please.” I pull my head back out and turn back to Mum. “Dad’s on his way.”
“That’s not necessary,” she says immediately. “I can handle it.”
“Mum. You’re a hero. You have an Order of Merlin, First Class. Nobody gives a flying fuck about the Dark Mark.”
“Cassia,” she says tiredly, “You weren’t there.”
Dad emerges from the Floo, and I march out to find James.
“What the hell was that about?” I demand, seizing his wrist and spinning him around to face me.
“I was going to ask you the same thing!” he says angrily. “What did you tell your mum that she has a personal vendetta against me?”
“I didn’t tell her anything!”
“Like hell. Did you tell her…what was it…that I treat you like my whore?”
“Is that what you’ve been telling people, Cass?”
“No! She doesn’t know about that…stuff.”
“So what did you tell her?”
“I was upset. She guessed it was about you. That’s all.”
“Because you couldn’t have talked to me about it.”
“I tried! It’s not my fault you came onto me every time you said we’d talk about it!”
“And you were really resisting, weren’t you?”
I open my mouth, not sure what to say next, but James cuts me off.
“No, Cassia. I don’t want to hear it.”
“You just yelled at me for not talking to you!”
“That was before. Just leave me alone, Cassia, before I curse you into oblivion.”
He storms off, leaving me standing in the middle of the corridor, swiping at the tears on my face and feeling more alone than I ever have before.
I can’t go and sit with the group at interval and lunch, and instead make my way to the library. It’s not my favourite place in the world, but I know one person who’s sure to be there. What can I say? Dom’s with the group, Mum’s in an emotionally fragile state, I can’t stand the awkward sympathy of the other girls in my dorm, and I’m desperate.
I approach the group of fourth-year Slytherins sitting at one of the tables in the corner. They’ve all made friends with the librarian – I’ve never even bothered to learn her name – and can get away with murder in here. Scorpius Malfoy is charming parchment darts to fly at the heads of unsuspecting second years.
“Emilia?” I ask, hoping that she’ll pick up on my misery without me having to express it in front of her friends. Luckily for me, she inherited the Athena Rutherford brand of empathy, muttering something about family stuff, excusing herself from the group and slinging an arm around my shoulders. Dammit, she’s nearly taller than me.
“What’s up, sis?”
I love how she doesn’t even question my logic in coming to her. She is last on my list of confidantes, and I’m last on hers. Maybe she’s entertained fleeting thoughts of sisterly bonds as well.
“Shit,” I reply briefly. “Muffliato.”
“Means nobody else can listen in on the conversation. Learned it from James.”
“Handy,” she observes. “So, tell me about this shit.”
“It’s pretty shitty.”
“I can imagine.”
“Fought with James. Quite badly.”
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”
“Have you tried talking to him?”
“Considering his last words to me were ‘Leave me alone, Cassia, before I curse you into oblivion,’ I’m not keen to try.”
“He said that? Merlin, what did you do to him?”
“That’s between me and him.”
“Just let him cool off a bit,” she suggests.
“I know that much. But until he cools off, I have to deal with him avoiding me like the plague, and that’s kind of painful.”
I feel strangely awkward, not sure what to say next. I mean, I’m not really looking for advice, and if I was, I wouldn’t seek it from my fourteen-year-old sister. I should have snuck out and visited my brother. It’s probably too late to do that now.
I really should have talked to my brother. He and his girlfriend, Lillian, were best friends since they were babies. They must have gone through the awkward-attraction phase. They got together.
“Talked to Rory?” Emilia asks, reading my mind.
“I will later on. Send him an owl or something.”
“I mean, I know it was different with him and Lillian coz they’re all in love and whatever, but he’d probably get what you’re going through. To a point anyway.”
Oh Emilia, there is so much you don’t know. “That’s what I was thinking.”
She nods. “So anyway, you’re okay? Not going to go cry on Myrtle’s floor or anything?”
“Of course not.”
“Good. I should be getting back to them…” she points in the direction of her Slytherin corner and trails off.
“Yeah, okay. Go.”
She looks like she wants to say something more, but ends up just patting me awkwardly on the shoulder and walking off.
I need friends.
“What’s up with you and James?” Dom asks when I slide into my seat beside her in Arithmancy. James doesn’t take it, and I can’t describe how relieved I am to not deal with him giving me the cold shoulder all lesson.
“Had a falling out,” I reply briefly.
“I gathered that much,” she says impatiently. “That’s what James said.”
“What did James say?”
“Just that you guys had a fight. Was it about…you know?”
“The sex thing? Yeah. That, and some other stuff. So he pretty much hates me right now.” Don’t cry, Cassia. Don’t you dare.
“I’m sure he doesn’t.”
“Did you see any evidence to the contrary?”
“Well…” Dom flounders. “Well, he was angry.”
“What did he say?”
“It’s not my place to say,” she says awkwardly.
“You’re my best friend!”
“And he’s my cousin.”
“Just tell me what he said.”
“Just that you guys had a fight, and…he didn’t want to see you or talk to you so could we – me and Freddy – please keep you away from him. So, uh, don’t go near him.”
I can feel my eyes filling with tears, my throat choking up. I’ve ruined everything.
“Cass?” Dom says quietly. “You’ll work it out. I’m sure you will. Just…give him time. Professor?” she calls, waving her hand. “Cassia’s feeling really sick, can I take her to the hospital wing please?”
I shoot her a grateful look as she helps me gather my stuff and get out of the classroom.
“Where do you want to go?” she asks.
“Common room, I need to wallow in self-pity.”
“Sounds good,” she agrees. She accompanies me to the portrait hole before heading back to class.
“Get the notes for me?” I ask. I don’t normally bother, but Arithmancy is the one subject I really care about, and I have no desire to fail it.
It would be just my luck if James was in the common room, but luckily for me he’s safely ensconsed in Muggle Studies and I won’t have to see him, probably until dinner. I mope around the common room, make myself tea, attempt to study for my other subjects, give up, and question the meaning of life. I’m pretty sure it isn’t to mope around common rooms trying to kill time, and that’s more or less as far as I get before I abandon that line of thought. It’s getting too depressing in my state of mind.
I join in some seventh-years on their study period discussing Quidditch. I’m a Beater, I can talk Quidditch. Pity James is captain of the team. Maybe he’ll cancel practices to avoid me. Maybe he’ll kick me off the team.
I write a letter to my brother, taking it up to the Owlery when I determine it’s safe enough to be seen out of class, and contemplate what to do next.
When it comes down to it, there’s not a lot for a sixteen-year-old witch to do in a thousand year old castle after school when her friends have abandoned her and she can’t be arsed doing schoolwork.
To be honest, I can’t see the point of it. NEWTs aren’t until the end of seventh year. I’m halfway through sixth. We don’t have exams this year. Call me lazy, but I don’t intend to do much work until about a month before the exams themselves. And I’ll get solid Exceeds Expectations, maybe an Outstanding or two. Most people hate me for it, but it’s not my fault that two of the smartest people of the war generation decided to get married and have me.
I have two options, as I see it. One, I could study. Get the notes I’ve missed from Dom, catch up on a bunch of essays I owe various professors from September onwards, and confuse everyone around me. Two, I could raid the Firewhiskey stash in my room, drown my sorrows, risk getting expelled, and in the process assure everyone around me that I haven’t changed in the slightest.
Neither of these hold much appeal, if I’m honest. Maybe I’ll go do the rounds for the Black Market, I think James has been too busy angsting it out to stay on top of the orders. My decision made, I summon the parchment with the orders written on it, gather the required bottles of Firewhiskey and Butterbeer (Butterbeer tends to be a favourite with bratty first and second years, who think they’re being oh so rebellious getting it smuggled in) and head out the door, having cleverly disguised my stash as a pile of overdue library books.
I deliver the goods, ticking off names as I go before sending the parchment back to where it lives in the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. James learned the required Parseltongue from his dad years ago, and it serves as a good base for our operations.
I can’t help but feel smug as I walk back to Gryffindor Tower. Four hours after the mother of all bust-ups with my best friend/secret love of my life and I’ve just cleared two weeks worth of alcohol orders. Suck on that, James Potter. I’m not going to mope over you.
A week of James-silence stretches into two and I feel shittier than shit. I’ve been absorbed into the seventh-year group after explaining the bare bones of the situation to them – ‘Not talking to one of the group. Can’t go back to group’ – and try to ignore the fact that James is ignoring me. Dom says it’s ridiculous, but she’s never told me to go talk to him. I guess that means James is still telling her to keep me away from him.
Mum’s being incredibly nice to me. Well, nice in her unique way, which means giving me three times as much homework to do in case I ‘need the distraction.’ To her credit, though, she doesn’t mind if I don’t do it. I wish the rest of my teachers were like that. I also wish she was my Head of House, because then she’d have more authority to get other teachers off my back.
As the days turn into weeks and the James situation doesn’t give me anything new to think about, however, something else begins to nag at me, increasing in intensity until I’m lying awake, heart pounding, at three in the morning.
We didn’t use contraception.
And no matter how much I try to dispel my fears with logic – most women have to try for ages before they get pregnant, I’m just being paranoid, surely – I can’t help but freak out. And it doesn’t help that my family has a record of being…fertile. Mum was unplanned, Rory was unplanned, and when you add Murphy’s Law into the equation, I’m royally screwed.
I feel sick at the thought, and before my imagination can take over I tell myself firmly it’s from nerves. I can’t be pregnant. No way.
But at the same time, I need to know for sure. Just for peace of mind, so I can stop myself panicking. But how? Surely there’s a spell that would work. Homenum revelio? I think I remember Mum saying foetus Rory showed up when a Death Eater used it around her.
The other option is to go to Madam Pomfrey, but the thought just scares me too much.
Come on Cassia, you were sorted into Gryffindor for a reason.
To be honest, I would rather find out myself. Find a spell, be the first to find out. That way, if it was negative, I wouldn’t have to deal with members of staff unneccessarily knowing I’ve had sexual relations.
I take myself off to the restricted section of the library. Mum gave me and my siblings permanent passes to the restricted section once we hit third year, as a protest against censorship. Glancing around me several times, I start poring over all the books, pulling out a small, pale pink book obviously designed to appeal to emotionally fragile teen girls with the words “So you think you might be PREGNANT?” emblazoned in large, friendly letters on the cover.
I flick through all the introduction so-we-recognise-this-may-be-a-very-scary-time-in-your-life mumbo jumbo and skip to the business. Here we go. Spell.
I snuck in here, risked pulling out this ridiculous book and being seen with it, all to be presented with Homenum Revelio. I could have found that in the damn Standard Book of Spells, Grade 7. Come to think of it, the description of the spell in that particular publication did mention it can be used to detect the presence of unborn babies.
Fleeing the library, I lock myself in my favourite cubicle in Myrtle’s bathroom (I can’t believe I just put favourite, cubicle, Myrtle and bathroom in the same sentence) and thank Merlin I can do nonverbal spells.
I have no idea what to expect from this spell. I probably won’t even be able to figure out how to interpret what it does. But there are two beams of light leading out from my wand, one directly to my heart – that must be me – and one into my stomach.
I must have cast it wrong.
I cast it three times. I try to remember the words on how the spell works. Detects human heartbeats. A glowing line will appear from the caster’s wand to the hearts of any other humans present in the room.
Oh Merlin. Oh, fuck. This can’t be happening. This is not happening. No way is this happening.
The rational thing would be to sit in the bathroom until I’ve processed it all, emerge calmly, clear all my absences from class with Mum, and systematically go around telling the most important people.
I’m not a rational person.
I storm through the castle and out into the quadrangle where James is sitting beside Dom and Freddy. When I’m a few metres away I see James turn to Dom. “I thought you told her—”
“Get up, James Potter.”
He actually looks frightened of me. Maybe I inherited more than just my mum’s appearance. Maybe I have the Athena Rutherford Look of Death and I’m pointing it at him right now.
“Come with me. Now.”
He knows better than to try and ask me questions until I drag him into the Room of Requirement. The place looks more like an interrogation room in Azkaban. What can I say, I was the one that requested it.
He sits. And unleashes his tirade.
“I tell you to stay away from me. I tell you I don’t want anything to do with you. And you still drag me in here on your will because you want to have a go at me. I’ve had enough, Cassia. I intended to talk to you. I did. But I needed time. I thought you’d be mature enough to respect that, but obviously not. I’m not – ”
“I’m pregnant,” I say coolly.
“I found out ten minutes ago. And believe me, Potter, if that wasn’t the case, there’s no way I would be talking to you now. I hope that appeases you.”
Potter does not look appeased. He looks shell-shocked. But, I reflect, at least he’s not yelling at me.
“Right,” I say, and I can hear my voice cracking slightly, “Now is not the time to talk about this. As I said before, I only found out ten minutes ago, and I need a few hours to bawl my eyes out in private and convince myself not to jump off the top of Astronomy Tower. I’ll talk to you later.”
A/N: 'Large, friendly letters on the cover' is taken from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
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.”
“Can we talk?” I ask James. We’re sitting in the common room pretending to do our Transfiguration homework, working under the logic that if we get it out, write a heading and leave it in front of our faces for a while, it counts as an honest attempt.
I glance around. The common room is barely half full. “Yeah. Muffliato.”
“Have you…decided yet?”
“Yes. I’m keeping it. And destroying my entire life in the process.”
“It won’t destroy your life,” he says uncomfortably.
I just look at him.
“It’s not your fault. Just shit luck.” Insensitive maybe, considering I’m talking about the existence of my own child, but it will never know.
“Shit luck,” he repeats.
“Not the best choice of words?”
“Eloquence was never your strong point.”
I shrug. And because eloquence is not my strong point, and I’m talking to James again and it’s a relatively serious thread of conversation that I’m not going to waste, I blurt, “James, what the hell’s going on with us?”
He shrugs. “Don’t ask me.”
I look at him incredulously. “You don’t know?”
“Well, do you?”
“I rest my case.”
“Can we try and reach a consensus on this?” I suggest desperately.
“We can try.”
He’s not going to be very forthcoming with information, I can see that now. Damn Potters. And I am not dragging it out of him. Too much effort.
“You gonna say anything?” I prompt.
He thinks for a moment. “Nope.”
“But you said—”
“Ah,” he says, holding up a hand to stop me. “You brought it up, you want the consensus, you start.”
I sigh. “We slept together, James. Twice.”
“Yes, we did.”
“There was a question implied in that statement.”
“I chose to ignore it.”
I hate this boy so much. “What did it mean to you?”
“If I told you that, I’d have to kill you.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Me, and your unborn child.”
“Exactly. Don’t make me a baby killer, Cass.”
I’ve come to the conclusion I was an ostrich in my past life. Not that I believe in reincarnation, but if I did, I would most firmly believe I was an ostrich, because ever since that last weird conversation with James I’ve done nothing but bury my head in the sand.
That was three weeks ago. And in that time I haven’t seen Madam Pomfrey, haven’t told Dom, haven’t told either of my siblings, and certainly haven’t told my parents. James is reluctant to bring it up again; I think he’s entertaining the vain hope that I was somehow mistaken, realised my mistake and am letting the whole incident blow over.
My daily Homenum revelios in the bathroom dispel that notion, however.
“So I think we need to think about telling our parents at some point,” I say casually to James, and he promptly chokes on his pumpkin juice and sprays it over the table.
“Timing!” he manages, recovering enough to clean up his mess and drag me out of the Great Hall. “At breakfast, Cassia, really?” he asks, looking annoyed.
“Your reactions are the best.”
He rolls his eyes. “Glad you’re taking this so seriously.”
“You’re the one who said we need to lighten up about this.”
“Not about telling the parents. Have you met my mother?”
I can almost feel the colour draining from my face when I picture Ginny Potter finding out her son impregnated someone.
“Exactly,” he says, seeing the look on my face.
“Look, I’m not keen on doing this either. But we have to.”
“I’m not ready to do this,” he says, looking almost desperate. I feel a wave of guilt for putting him in this situation. It’s not his fault.
Yeah, but it’s not mine either.
Just shit luck.
“When will you?”
“I don’t know. Can we at least start with Freddy and Dom? I don’t want to launch straight into the parent thing.”
“What, like work our way up?” It makes sense, when I think about it. Maybe if I vocalise the words ‘I’m pregnant’ enough times, they’ll stop terrifying me.
“Yeah. They’re our best friends, they should be the first to know.”
Apart from Jeanette the school counsellor. “Okay. We’ll tell Dom and Freddy.”
James glances at me as we join Dom and Freddy in the quadrangle at interval. “Now?” he whispers.
“Sure.” I shouldn’t feel nervous. It’s Dom and Freddy. And besides, they already know me and James…you know. Now I’m the one using euphemisms.
“So Cassia’s pregnant,” James says almost offhandedly, dumping his bag on the grass. Wow. Way to just put it out there.
Dom peers up at him. “Whatever, James.”
“It’s true, right, Cass?”
There’s a hint of a smile on his face, one that I can’t help but return. It feels like some kind of inside joke, though I can’t for the life of me explain why. We’re just telling our best friends that I’m pregnant, and I get the giggles. James has taken a seat on the grass, chuckling to himself.
This is quite possibly the most inappropriate time I’ve ever chosen to laugh, but seeing their confused faces sets me off again. I collapse next to James, and slowly Dom and Freddy are laughing too, saying things like “You guys are such idiots,” and “You couldn’t even keep a straight face.”
“The funny thing is,” James hoots, “You guys actually think we’re joking.”
“Wait a minute,” Dom says.
“I’m not that gullible,” Freddy says indignantly. “As if you two would…” He trails off, looking from James to me and back again with wide eyes. “Holy shit, you did too.”
“This is elaborate,” Dom says. “I’m impressed. How much did you engineer for this one? The fight, was that all staged as well?”
“I knew they wouldn’t believe us,” James says.
“The laughing didn’t help,” I agree.
“Did you guys actually have sex, or was that part of the joke?” Dom asks.
“That would have actually made an amazing April Fools,” I say. “James, imagine if we’d thought of that for April Fools.”
“Should have done it last year,” he agrees.
Dom and Freddy exchange glances.
“I’m actually pregnant,” I tell them.
“Whatever, Cass,” Dom says. But she doesn’t sound so certain.
“And I’m actually dead,” James adds.
“I’m deader than you are,” I point out.
“Because I have to give birth to the damn thing.”
Dom stares at me. “You’re actually pregnant.”
“Yes. Yes, I am.”
“Holy shit,” she articulates. This was more the reaction I was looking for.
“What are you gonna do?” Freddy blurts.
“I don’t know, but immigration seems like a good idea. Preferably to Australia.”
“I hear New Zealand’s lovely this time of year,” James says.
“Fantastic, I’ll immigrate to New Zealand.”
“Are there even wizards in New Zealand?” Freddy asks curiously.
“They have a Quidditch team,” James says.
“Of course you would know that.”
This conversation has taken an interesting turn.
“Bro,” Freddy says to James, “You know Professor Rutherford’s gonna kill you, right?”
James goes pale.
“She knows Dark magic,” Freddy continues.
“Oh, shuddup,” I interrupt. Normally I would find the whole Mum-knows-Dark-magic thing funny, but there is the slight danger that she might actually use it in this situation.
“So, wow,” Dom says, filling the ensuing silence. “You’re pregnant. Dude.”
“I’m aware,” I say dryly.
“You guys are being overwhelmingly supportive,” James mutters.
“We could be worse,” Dom points out.
“And you could also be better.”
“Hey man, what do you expect?” Freddy asks, annoyed. “We only just found out about this—how long have you guys known, anyway?”
“And you didn’t say anything?”
“Head. Buried. Sand,” I explain briefly.
There’s a long, uncomfortable silence.
“So, uh, what’s up with you two then?” Freddy asks awkwardly.
“Well, we’re having a baby,” I explain patiently.
“No, I mean, like, are you two together?”
“No,” we reply simultaneously. I can’t help but wonder if James hates saying that as much as I do. Who am I kidding, I’ve wasted three years of my life being in love with him and I’m over it. I can’t do it anymore.
‘Real’ conversations with James are few and far between – in fact, they barely exist at all. We’re just acting like we always have, hanging out, talking about things that don’t matter, running the Black Market, stealing food from the kitchens late at night, sneaking around the castle under James’s Invisibility Cloak and occasionally (very occasionally) working on homework. And though part of me is grateful that our friendship is the same as it always has been, another part of me wants to grab him by the shoulders, shake him and scream ‘I’m pregnant, James, nothing is normal anymore!’
We’ve also made no move in the direction of telling our parents about it, which makes me feel terrible every time I talk to Mum. I told her briefly that James and I are mates again, ignoring the unspoken questions in her eyes. Maybe she sensed there was something I didn’t want to discuss with her, and she left it alone, knowing I’d tell her eventually.
Maybe it’s to ease the guilt I’m feeling, maybe it’s just because I need his support, but I Floo to St Mungo’s where my brother is a trainee Healer, and make my way across to the student accomodation in the west wing.
“Excuse me. Where are you going?” a Healer stops me on the way.
“Visiting my brother.”
“And where is your brother?”
I gesture to the student accomodation. “He’s a trainee Healer.”
“What’s his name?”
“Aurelius Rutherford. Better known as Rory.”
The Healer pauses to think. “Tall, brown hair, about twenty-one?”
“Off you go then,” the Healer says reluctantly, as if he’d like to send me back to Hogwarts. But I’m family, and that’s more or less an all-access pass at St Mungo’s.
“Rory!” I call, rapping briefly on his door. “Wake up, get out of the shower, put some pants on, tear your eyeballs from your textbook, whatever you’re doing, I need to talk to you.”
Without waiting for a reply, I barge in.
“Afternoon, Cassia,” he says, sitting at his desk and not looking up from a frightening length of parchment. He has a bowl of instant noodles beside him, and every so often he’ll shove more into his mouth, chasing it down with a bottle of energy drink whose packaging suggests it was bought in a shady corner of Knockturn Alley.
“So what’s up?” he asks, taking a final mouthful of noodles and spinning round to face me.
“You’re what?” he splutters.
I’m about to reply with some smartass remark, but when I open my mouth a feeble whimper comes out. “I’m pregnant.”
He stands, running a hand through his hair and exhaling loudly. “God, Cass.”
Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Not gonna cry, not gonna cry, not gonna cry, oh Merlin, gonna cry.
“Who’s the father?” Rory asks quietly.
“I’m going to kill him.”
“It’s not his fault.”
“You’re my little sister.”
“Are you together?”
“Do you love him?”
“Bastard,” Rory spits, and I’m almost scared of him, gripping his wand so tightly his knuckles are turning white.
“Don’t hurt him,” I say quietly.
“Why not? He hurt you.”
“No, he didn’t.”
Rory turns to me. “I’ve seen you crying over him, Cass. For years I’ve seen you crying over him, when you think I don’t notice. And now you’re…you’re pregnant to him and he doesn’t have the decency to…to…” He trails off, throwing his hands in the air. “Don’t tell me he hasn’t hurt you.”
“It’s not his fault I’m in love with him!”
“And it’s not your fault either!”
“Stop yelling. Please.”
He sighs, sitting back down at his desk. “Have you been to see Madam Pomfrey?”
“It’s a good idea to get onto that right away. There’s a range of potions available for pregnant women, to assist development of the baby…Have you been feeling sick? Because there’s—”
“Rory,” I interrupt quietly.
“Don’t go all Healer on me. I just need my big brother.”
“Do Mum and Dad know?”
“Do you want me to be there when you tell them?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to tell them at all. I just want to curl up in my bed and pretend this isn’t happening.”
“How long have you known?”
“Three weeks? Four weeks? A month?”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“I’ve been burying my head in the sand, forgive me.”
Rory rolls his eyes. “You’ve always been good at that.”
“I’m a pro now.”
“You certainly are. You’ve known a month, and you haven’t done anything.”
“I have so done stuff. I told James, and Dom and Freddy, and you, and I saw the school counsellor.”
“You saw the school counsellor?”
“Yes. I now have issues. Don’t laugh, it’s not funny.”
“You now have issues,” he repeats with a smirk. “Because you didn’t before.”
“How’s the black market going?”
“In all seriousness, Cass, if you ever need me, I’m here. Like, you can stay with me if Mum and Dad hit the roof or something.”
I eye his floor, littered with unwashed clothes, empty bottles, food wrappers and scraps of parchment. “I think I’ll be fine. And even if I’m not, this place is a health hazard.”
“I’ll clean it after exams,” he says with a careless wave of his hand.
“You do that. I might leave, before I catch bubonic plague.”
“See you later, then,” he says, giving me a quick hug. “Owl me if you need to.”
I force myself to go see Madam Pomfrey, an exceedingly uncomfortable visit during which she gives me a checkover, a potion and a lecture. I then track down James to discuss what we’ve dubbed Operation Parent: the best way to go about telling them. It amazes me how, two months later, I’ve spent all this time with James and we still haven’t sorted out what’s going on with our relationship.
“I think we should tell them all at the same time,” James says. “Get it over with.”
“How are we going to get them all in the same place?”
“McGonagall’s talked to me, she says the school often holds parent meetings in this situation.”
“You’ve talked to McGonagall? McGonagall knows?”
“Pomfrey told McGonagall. She called me in yesterday.”
“How come she didn’t call me in?”
James shrugs. “Apparently it’s my fault.”
He says it off-handedly, but I know it’s upsetting him, and I don’t blame him. It’s just as much my fault as his, but he’s copping the blame for it.
“Remember what we agreed,” I point out. “Not your fault, not mine, just—”
“Shit luck,” James finishes. “Yeah, I know.”
“So, parent meeting then,” I say in a resigned voice. “When?”
“I don’t know. A Saturday. That way my parents aren’t working, we’re not in class and because we don’t have DADA on Mondays, it gives your mum seventy-two hours to calm down before we have to see her in class again.”
“I thought so too.”
“Are you scared?”
“Well, we have each other, at any rate,” James says.
“What do you even mean by that?”
He looks at me, puzzled. “We always have each other, you know that.”
“In what capacity?”
“Youre not making sense, Cassia.”
“Fine then,” I say, throwing caution to the wind. “Do you want me to spell it out for you? I want us to be more than friends. I’ve wanted that for years. I’m madly in love with you, James Potter.”
I can’t believe I just said that.
Apparently, neither can he.
“What did you just say?” he manages.
“I’m not repeating that.”
Apparently he heard me perfectly well . “Why haven’t you told me this earlier?”
“Why does it matter?”
“Because we could have gotten together in fourth year,” he grumbles. “And that would have saved me three years of pining after you like my namesake did for Lily Evans.”
“Three years pining for me?”
“And I spent three years pining for you.” I stop, allowing these revelations to sink in, and laugh helplessly. “Merlin, we’re idiots!”
“Massive idiots,” he agrees, grinning.
I’ve never felt like this before. I’m laughing, I’m crying, and it feels like my spirit is soaring. James loves me. He actually loves me. Nothing in the world could ever be wrong again. I feel like shouting from the rooftops, I’m so stupidly happy.
“Be my girlfriend?” James asks, cutting into my reverie.
He lets out a whoop, bounding over and kissing me. I’m pretty sure I just melted.
“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.
“Thank Merlin,” Emilia says, nearly running into me as I’m walking back to Gryffindor Tower. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
“Why?” I ask suspiciously.
“Because Mum’s upset. Like, really upset. Like, I’ve never seen her that bad before. And when I tried talking to her, she just said your name. I assume she wants to talk to you.”
“Emilia,” I say, figuring this day can’t get any worse, “Have you considered that I’m the reason she’s upset?”
“It crossed my mind, but none of the shit you do could make her react like that.”
“What about getting pregnant?”
Her eyes widen. “Are you serious?”
“Oh, jeez. Wow. Um. Right. That’s…wow. I don’t…wow. Okay. That would explain it. Um. So you slept with…right. Uh. Who?”
“I thought so. Well, I didn’t think…well, if it was anyone…um. You and James…wow. Uh. And you’re…um. Right. Okay. That’s fine. Uh, I might go Floo Dad…come talk to Mum…See ya, Cass.”
She more or less bolts down the corridor.
Well, that went well.
“It won’t be as bad as Dad made it out to be,” I tell James, breaking the silence as we sit in our corner of the common room, Muffliato duly cast.
“No, it’ll be worse,” James responds, staring at the carpet. “Like he said, your parents were married, and two years older than we are now.”
“Yes,” I agree, “And they were also at war, under Voldemort’s regime, in the Order of the Phoenix, and Mum was infiltrating the Death Eaters.”
“Good point,” he says eventually. “Cass…how are you coping? Like, actually?”
I know exactly what’s brought this on. “James, when I start questioning why I get out of bed in the morning, I’ll let you know.”
“Your dad scares the living shit out of me.”
“My dad is not the scary one in the family.”
“You know what I mean. What he said.”
“I know. But between you and me, I’m tougher than he thinks.”
As I sort-of anticipated, the next time I see Mum is in DADA on Tuesday. Since Saturday, Albus has found out, and with Albus and Emilia in the know, naturally Rose Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy have heard as well, because that little knot of fourth-year Slytherins is tighter than our own sixth-year Gryffindor one. As I understand it, the news is now spreading like wildfire through the entire Weasley-Potter clan. I, on the other hand, only have one cousin at Hogwarts, the first-year Ravenclaw Max Corner, and the school-wide gossip network apparently doesn’t extend to first-year Ravenclaws. Mercifully, it also hasn’t appeared to reach Little Lily Potter either, and James informs me he intends on telling her himself. Really carefully. Really awkwardly.
Mum doesn’t say anything to either of us in DADA, and if she wasn’t forty years old and the head of Ravenclaw I would assume she was avoiding us out of spite. As it happens, though, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know what to say.
I’m living in the hope that she just needs time to process it all before she wakes up and realises she’s still my mother and I still need her, but as each day passes I grow more and more despondent. Dad was wrong; I need Mum just as much as I need James, maybe more.
I assume the extended family has been informed of my predicament, and I notice the Corner family owl flying into the Great Hall one morning at breakfast. Max watches its progress, looking surprised when the owl drops a fat envelope onto the table in front of me and flies away without leaving anything for him.
It’s from my aunt Evelina, Dad’s younger sister. I only have two aunts, but even if I had two hundred Aunty Evie would still be my favourite. She’s lovely. I hope she doesn’t hate me as well.
Your father told me about your situation. Both he and your mother are understandably upset, but I know you know that anyway and it’s not something you want to hear. I have tried to kick some sense into Cassian and make him go to Hogwarts and talk to you, but he says he still needs time to process it all. I imagine Athena’s the same. Don’t take it personally, they’re your parents and I know they love you, but it’s a shock for any parent.
I hope James is treating you well. I know you’re very fond of each other and that, at least, is something to be thankful for. Whatever you’re struggling with, he’s probably going through the same thing. Except morning sickness, I’m afraid that’s your battle to fight. Though there are potions available to ease that, and I’m sure your brother, as a Healer, will have a ready knowledge of what they are and how to make them.
If you need anything, even just a cup of tea and a chat, I’m always here. Send me an owl anytime, or even Floo over from Hogwarts.
I fold up the letter, slipping it into my robes and smiling. Definitely favourite aunt.
James asks me to come with him when he tells Lily, something I’m not looking forward to. Parents are one thing, but twelve-year-olds are notoriously squeamish about sex. I can’t imagine how I would have reacted if Rory had gotten Lillian pregnant while they were still at Hogwarts.
“Hey Lils,” James says, approaching her with her group of second-year friends in the common room. “Can we talk?”
She looks at him, surprised. “Sure,” she says agreeably, trotting out of the portrait hole and waiting expectantly on the other side.
“Muffliato,” James says, which strikes me as a slightly useless precaution, because half of Hogwarts probably knows already.
“I know what this is about,” Lily declares, taking us both by surprise.
“Yeah,” she says confidently. “You two are together, right? But you want to keep it quiet.”
“Well, uh,” James says awkwardly, “We are together, but that’s not—”
“I knew it!” Lily says happily. “I told you, didn’t I, Cass? A couple of months ago when we talked, I told you he liked you back!”
James shoots me a look which says explain later and turns back to Lily. “Actually, Lily, there’s something else. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone about it, unless they’re family.”
She looks at us, puzzled. “You didn’t blow something up, did you?”
“Er, no. The thing is…uh, Lil, you know how babies are made, right?”
Lily pulls a face. “I’m twelve, not five.”
“Right. Because, um, Cassia’s pregnant.”
There’s another long silence. James looks like he wants to run away. Or die. Or both.
Finally, Lily speaks. “You guys had sex?”
“Um, yeah, we did.”
“Thanks,” James says, looking irritated. “Real mature.”
“She’s twelve, what do you expect?” I ask.
Lily’s still staring at us, apparently torn between horror, disgust, and morbid fascination. “How many times?”
“Lily!” James says, going even redder.
“Okay, okay,” she says, holding up her hands in surrender. “Just so you know, that is really, really, really gross.”
“Thanks for calling my baby gross,” I say pointedly.
“I’m not calling the baby gross,” Lily explains patiently, “I’m calling the way it got there gross.”
“I think this conversation is over,” James decides, staring at the floor. “If you need me, I’ll be in the Room of Requirement.” He flees.
A/N: I apologise for my lack of review responses as I've been super busy with exams, but I do read each one of them and they really do make my day, so keep them coming! :)
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?
James Floos over the next afternoon while Dad’s at work and Emilia’s at Rose’s house.
“How’s it going?” he asks.
“Boring,” I reply. “I have no schoolwork to do and I’m home alone, and I can’t even do magic because I’m home alone and I’m not seventeen yet.”
He pulls a face of sympathy. “What do you want to do?”
“Well, I don’t really have a lot of options.”
James ambles over to my family’s rather extensive library, raises his wand and Summons a few random books. “We could look at baby names.” He comes over, showing me the books – baby name books, I didn’t even know we had those – and opens up an ancient tome entitled ‘Names For Wizards.’ He leaves me with ‘Names For Witches.’
“Let’s lay some ground rules first,” I suggest as he takes a seat.
“No dead people,” he says firmly.
“No dead people,” I echo. “Let’s just say no naming after anyone.”
“What about middle names?” James asks. “I mean, what else are you meant to do for those?”
“Okay. Middle names can be after someone. But no dead people.”
“And nothing too pretentious,” I add. “So no Aeschylus or Arcadia or Augustina or anything ridiculous like that.”
“So, something normal,” James summarises. “Normal, and not after dead people.”
“Yeah,” I agree, nodding.
With this sorted, we settle down to pore over the books.
Over the weekend, Rory comes home to talk to me.
“Why do I always panic when people say they need to talk to me?” I grumble. “Oh yeah, last time that happened, I got kicked out of Hogwarts.”
“Which is grossly unfair, if you ask me,” Rory says. “I mean, I understand why, but it should have been your choice, you were going to leave anyway. How’ve you been?”
“Eh, all right.”
“Been feeling sick? Any aches or pains?”
“Yes, but I won’t bore you with the details.”
“You know I’m graduating in June?”
“Oh, right, you are too.”
“I’ll be a fully trained Healer. And I won’t be living at Mungo’s anymore.”
“Where are you going with this?”
“I’m moving in with Lillian once I graduate,” he says slowly, “And I was thinking you could come live with us.”
“You guys need your own space.”
“We’ll have our own space,” he says wryly, “It’s called our bedroom.”
“Still, you don’t want a pregnant chick in your house. I’m high maintenance and hormonal.”
“I think I’ll be the judge on who I want in my house, and my little sister falls into that category. Besides,” he says, holding up a hand to silence me, “You’ve always been high maintenance and hormonal.”
“What’s wrong with staying here?”
“You’re due in what, October? Mum and Emilia will be back at Hogwarts, Dad works all day six days a week. We don’t want you home alone if something happens. And, as I pointed out earlier, I’ll be a fully qualified Healer by June.”
“Well, that’s all well and good,” I say, “But what about Lillian? I don’t think she’d really want me around.”
“I’ve talked to her. We figured we’d need someone else around anyway, I’ll be working night shifts and other ridiculous hours and she hates being alone in a house. Might as well be you.”
“I don’t have a job. I won’t be able to pay rent.”
“Dad’ll cover your share.”
“Has he said that?”
“No, but he will. You know he will. Stop looking for excuses, Cass, you’re moving in with us.”
“Where’s your flat?”
“London. Close to Mungo’s and not far from Diagon Alley either.”
“All right. So we’re moving in in June?”
“Yep, as soon as I’ve graduated.” He gives me an appraising look. “You’re starting to show, Cass.”
I pull my robes around me. “Am not!”
“Are too.” He grins. “Fatty.”
He does so, giving me a cheery wave as he disappears out the door. Immediately I walk into the Floo, emerging in the Potters’ kitchen. “James!”
“What is it, what’s wrong?” he asks, hurrying into the room.
“I’m getting fat!”
He raises his eyebrows. “You came to my house yelling bloody murder to tell me that?”
“I’m getting really fat.”
He rolls his eyes. “And?”
I scowl at him. “You’re meant to disagree, you prat. You’re meant to be all ‘Oh, Cassia, you’re not getting fat at all, you’re just as wonderfully stunning and beautiful as ever.’”
“Well, you are,” he says, looking me up and down.
“I am what?”
“Just as wonderfully stunning and beautiful as ever.”
“Really?” I ask, smiling.
“Yes. You’re also getting fat.”
“I hate you, Potter.”
“Don’t mind him,” Ginny advises me, walking into the kitchen and squeezing my shoulders. “He still has a lot to learn about women. You look radiant, Cassia.”
I’ve decided I love Ginny. After she got over the initial shock, she’s been nothing short of amazing to me, giving me tea, cake and advice whenever I come round. Which, I admit, is increasingly often because Ginny makes good cakes and gives good advice.
Honestly, if we hadn’t decided against commemorative names and the baby’s a girl, I would have called her Ginny Evelina or Evelina Ginny, and then she’d grow up pissed at me because she doesn’t have an identity of her own and these women she’s named after don’t mean anything to her. I’m Cassia Nymphadora Catherine, I know what I’m talking about.
The Easter holidays pass entirely too quickly, and I’m faced with the prospect of sitting around an empty house all day with nothing to do, knowing full well that all my friends are back at Hogwarts having an awesome time without me. And the idea of sharing an evening meal with Dad every night without Emilia there to diffuse some of the awkwardness (she’s Dad’s favourite, they talk a lot) doesn’t hold a lot of appeal. Granted, I have spent the holidays trying to antagonise them in subtle ways (eg. Talk about pregnancy-induced discomfort in loud voice. Talk about baby in loud voice. Wear head-to-toe red and gold and walk around saying ‘Ten points from Slytherin’) but still, it’s going to be awkward.
Luckily for me, after two days of this mind-numbing boredom, Evelina shows up through the Floo, closely followed by her three youngest offspring, who are too young to be at Hogwarts.
“Morning, Cassia!” she calls merrily, and I peer over my breakfast. I’m still in my pajamas, because really, what better opportunity to spend all morning in your pajamas?
“Morning, Cassia!” one of the children echoes, waving cheerfully at me, and this simple greeting seems to alert the other demon children to my presence. They charge towards me.
“Katie!” Evelina barks. “Aidan! Eloise!”
Eloise, a little blonde fairy child of about six, cocks her head and looks at me. “Mum-my, Cassia looks fat. Is she going to have a baby?”
I take back the fairy child thing. She is the spawn of Voldemort.
“Yes, she is,” Evelina says, giving me a sorry-my-daughter-is-so-offensive look.
“Oh. When is the baby coming?”
“Not for a long time, Ellie darling.”
“It takes nine months for a baby to be born,” Katie informs me, nodding her head importantly. “I read it in a book.”
“Do you know where babies come from?” Aidan asks, and I splutter on my pumpkin juice.
“That’s enough,” Evelina tells her son firmly. “Or I’ll put a Silencing Charm on you, don’t think that I won’t.”
“I wasn’t asking her,” Aidan explains, pointing at me. “She obviously knows. I was asking Katie.”
“Katie’s eight, you’re not telling her.” Evelina narrows her eyes. “How did you find out?”
“Max told me.”
“Max is getting a Howler tomorrow morning at breakfast,” Evelina mutters.
“Oooooh,” the kids chorus.
“So Cassia,” Aidan says, leaning an elbow on the table in a gesture and tone far too casual for an eleven-year-old-kid, “Who’s the father?”
“Don’t be rude,” Evelina admonishes.
“Just a question,” Aidan says defensively.
This kid is also the spawn of Voldemort. “James Potter,” I say, figuring I might as well answer his question.
“No way! But he’s like, Harry Potter’s son!”
“Yes,” I say patiently.
“So that—” he points at the bulge in my stomach—“Is Harry Potter’s grandkid!”
Harry Potter’s grandkid. Not like, my child or anything. Just Harry Potter’s grandkid. I’ve decided I don’t like Aidan.
“I hope you get Sorted into Slytherin,” I tell the kid.
“Nah,” he says in that cocky voice. “I’m too awesome to be in Slytherin.”
“Well, I sure don’t want you besmirching the name of my house.”
“Gryffindor?” he asks, raising an eyebrow. “Don’t worry, I’d rather go to Beauxbatons than be in Gryffindor.”
My hand twitches towards my wand.
“Ravenclaw’s where it’s at,” Aidan continues, nodding. “Wit beyond measure is a man’s greatest treasure. It’s the most – what’s the word, Mum?”
“Discerning, dear,” Evelina says absently.
“Discerning house,” Aidan says triumphantly. “You have to be something to get into Ravenclaw.”
“Ravenclaw’s full of nerds and weirdos.”
Evelina gives me a Look at this point, and I vaguely recall that she was actually a Ravenclaw back in the day and house pride isn’t something that ever goes away, no matter how many years you’ve been out of Hogwarts.
“Uh, nice nerds and weirdos,” I say meekly.
April stretches into May and I stretch the elastic in my pajama pants until there’s no elasticity left in them. I normally wear Muggle clothes in the holidays (to annoy my traditionalist parents) but the battle to get into my jeans got depressing weeks ago, so I’m living in robes. I feel fat, and gross, and I’m sick of my own house. I’ll be seventeen soon so at least I’ll be able to use magic while my parents aren’t home, but there’s not a lot to look forward to. I can’t Apparate – I’ve done my research and apparently inexperienced Apparators are prone to Splinching themselves, which in the case of pregnant witches can result in the Splinching of the unborn child, so I’ll be stuck with the Floo Network for the forseeable future.
I feel stupidly lonely, even though Dom and James send me owls every day and Evelina pops in every few days with her brood of demon children who would put me off reproducing for life if I wasn’t already pregnant. Rory’s been over a couple of times, but he’s busier than ever studying for his final exams. So I’ve taken to sprawling on the couch talking to the baby, cheerfully telling it how it’s ruined my life and it better be the coolest damn baby on the planet to make up for it, and if it’s not in Gryffindor in twelve years’ time there will be hell to pay. You wouldn’t think it, but voicing such thoughts makes me quite fond of it. You know, thinking of it as a child with a life and a future ahead of it rather than an unknown entity that makes me sick, sore, fat and ostracised. Yeah.
I imagine the weirdest things. Like what his or her first magic will be (Given who its parents are, it’ll probably be breaking something) or taking him or her to Diagon Alley for the first time, or seeing him or her off on the Hogwarts Express for the first time…I’m getting ahead of myself. Baby doesn’t have a name yet, baby doesn’t even have a sex yet. Baby will probably be a Squib, just to spite me.
This particular scenario ended up with me Flooing to the Potters’ (Why didn’t I think about that when I was so bored?) and bellowing “WHAT IF IT’S A SQUIB?” to an alarmed Ginny.
“You’ll still love it,” Ginny says calmly.
“But – it’ll have to live in the Muggle world – I don’t know anything about the Muggle world – what kind of life would it be—”
“Cassia,” Ginny says, grasping my shoulders and steering me onto a nearby armchair, “Do you know the percentage of Squibs born to magical parents?”
“Less than one percent. Significantly less than one percent. And that reduces by half if a mother is under twenty-five. Tea?”
“Please,” I mumble. “How’s James?”
“Scared shitless,” Ginny replies matter-of-factly. “He’s owling me every day, asking if you’re okay and if there’s anything wrong with you that you don’t want to tell him. I’m almost tempted to let him come home, Neville says he’s far too distracted to concentrate on schoolwork…”
“Since when has he ever concentrated on schoolwork?” I ask.
“He hasn’t,” Ginny replies matter-of-factly, “But he doesn’t want to be there, and that’s new.”
“Great,” I grumble. “I’ll be able to tell our child that neither of his or her parents finished sixth year at Hogwarts.”
“I didn’t finish sixth year either,” Ginny points out.
“Yeah, but you still did seventh.” I stir my tea broodingly. “I don’t even know why I care, it’s not like I have any idea what I’ll do as a career.”
“You will by the time baby’s old enough for you to go to work,” Ginny says. “And for the record, I said I was almost tempted to let James come home. I’m not actually going to let him.”
By mid-May I’m bored enough to go for endless walks around Godric’s Hollow, trying to ignore the stares of the Muggles who have obviously reached the conclusion that pregnant + teenager = delinquent, and hurry away from me as quickly as possible. I contemplate putting on airs and graces and telling them I’m twenty, but I have Mum’s eternal-youth genes that make me look several years younger than I actually am anyway – one lady asked me if I would turn fourteen before the baby was born.
My seventeenth birthday passes without much fanfare. Mum and Emilia are still at school, but Dad takes the afternoon off work and cooks up a roast, inviting Rory, the Corners and the Potters. I must admit, I’m touched, especially considering how awkward he’s been about the whole pregnancy thing. He gives me a watch – “Gold for Gryffindor,” – and Ginny gives me a beautiful necklace with a purple pendant in it, which James bought me but didn’t trust his owl to deliver on time.
I spend the day performing pointless magic around the house, simply because I can.
After everyone’s left, Dad sits me down and takes the watch in his hands. “Do you know what this is?”
“It’s a watch.”
He flips it over, removing the back with a tap of his wand and tipping out a small, deep blue stone from inside it. “Look closer?”
I peer at it, and can just make out what appears to be an engraved Ravenclaw crest.
“Rowena Ravenclaw had this made in honour of her daughter after she ran away,” Dad explains. “Helena never returned, but she gave the stone to her son’s daughter. It’s been passed down, mother to daughter, for a thousand years. It’s a symbol of a mother’s eternal love and devotion to her daughter. Athe—your mother told me to put it inside your watch.”
I stare at the stone, the shape of it blurring as my eyes fill with unexpected tears.
“She still loves you, Cassia,” Dad says quietly. “She always will. No matter what you do.”
Hogwarts finishes a week after Rory’s graduation, but Mum and Emilia are Flooing home for the weekend to go to the ceremony. I don’t want to go – it’s a public event and I’ve never felt more self-conscious than now, with an obvious bump poking through my robes, but between them Rory, Evelina, Dom and Ginny convince me to.
I assumed they would be arriving after classes finish on Friday, so I’m surprised to see the Floo glow green at eleven in the morning. I get to my feet, hand reaching for my wand as the figure steps out of the fireplace.
“Erp,” I manage awkwardly upon seeing Mum.
She has tears glittering in her eyes as she opens her arms. “Cassia?”
The floodgates open as I run across the room and fling myself into her arms. “Mum!”
“I’m sorry too.”
“Don’t be sorry.”
“But I am!”
“Okay, I forgive you!”
“I forgive you too.”
“Just promise me one thing,” Mum says, stepping back. “Be a better mum than me, hey?”
“I told you I forgive you!”
“I wasn’t there when you needed me,” she says, pulling me close again.
“You’re here now. Better late than never.”
She squeezes me tight, and I make choking noises to indicate the fact I’m slowly dying. She steps back, and gives me a long up-and-down look.
“How far along are you?”
“Uhm.” I do a quick calculation. “Five months?”
“Past the halfway point then.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. “Thank Merlin,” I say emphatically.
“You don’t look all that big,” she continues.
I grin. “You, mother, are my favourite person in the whole wide world. Everyone else has been saying how fat I am.”
Mum frowns. “I hope Evie hasn’t, she was huge with Max.”
“She hasn’t,” I assure her, “But Rory and James—”
“And Evie’s demon children—”
“…And I think I look like a Quaffle.”
“Honey, you’re going to get a lot bigger than you are now,” Mum says calmly.
Rory moves into his flat a week after graduation, but with Mum at home for the summer and me getting along with Mum, I decide not to move out until the term at Hogwarts begins again. I have no idea what’s going to happen after the baby’s born – I can’t imagine setting up house at Rory’s forever. Especially now that he’s muttering things about gold, silver, gemstones and Lillian’s favourite colours and places and I take that to mean he’s thinking about proposing to her.
I don’t see as much of James as I would have liked, because he’s found himself a holiday job at Quality Quidditch Supplies and is working nine till five five days a week. But Dom and Freddy make a point of coming to see me quite often, especially Dom. I can’t think of much to do at home, though. What did I spend my summer holidays doing before this? Oh, that’s right. Going round to James’ or Dom’s or Freddy’s and playing improvised games of Quidditch, or going on expeditions into whichever Muggle city or town was the closest – Freddy’s family lives in London, so that was always the best – or wandering through Diagon or Knockturn Alley. In short, everything that I either can’t do anymore or don’t want to do anymore. Especially with James working all the time and me getting fatter and more sore and uncomfortable by the day.
Growing up sucks. Growing up prematurely sucks even more. I realise with a certain sense of horror that I have more in common with Auntie Evie, Ginny and even Mum than I do with my friends. Even Dom can only stand so much pregnancy and baby talk, and she certainly can’t empathise.
Is this what life’s going to be like from now on? And what if I can’t look after the baby? What if I really fail as a parent, what if I do something wrong and it gets sick or hurt or dies because of me? What if I can’t bond with it? Post natal depression runs in my family too – Mum had it with Rory and Nana had it with Mum. Neither of them talk about it – Mum only told me because she wanted me to be aware of the risk. Which is of course one more jolly happy thing I have to consider.
I try reading some of the parenting books in my family’s extensive library, but that only serves to make me panic more. So many things can go wrong, how on earth does anyone make it through childhood? What chance does my baby have, with an irresponsible seventeen year old for a mother?
“What are you most worried about?” Mum asks, sitting me down with a cup of tea and an I’m-not-moving-till-you-tell-me look on her face.
“That I’ll fail. That I’ll hurt it without realising. That I’ll do something stupid, or wrong, or just not do anything at all, and the baby will suffer.”
“Which, believe me, is a perfectly normal reaction for any first-time mother.”
“But I’m seventeen. I’m seventeen, and I’m irresponsible and immature and I can’t look after anything if I tried. You know me, Mum. I just do stupid things all the time, and I’m not ready to look after a baby.”
“I think you’re being too hard on yourself. You’re a bright girl, and you’re handling this extremely well.”
“It’s just an act.”
“And you think I can’t see through your acts?” Mum settled herself on the couch and sighed. “You know, when I had Rory, I should have been in a better place than you are. I was young, yes, but I was still two years older than you are now, and I was married to your father. The war was over, we had a house, and your father had his job at the Ministry. But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready when I found out I was pregnant, I wasn’t ready when he was born, I wasn’t ready for a very long time. All I could think about was myself. How Rory held me back. How I was stuck in the house all day. How alone I was. Even when I realised I needed help, it was because I didn’t want to be a bad mother, and I didn’t want to feel awful all the time. But you know, even now, your biggest worries are for your baby. That’s how it should be, and that’s how I know you’re going to be a good mother.”
James manages to get a Thursday off work, and comes with me to a scan at Mungo’s. I don’t have them very often, with Rory able to detect whether anything’s wrong with the baby without a scan, but I’m actually really looking forward to seeing the baby, and I think James is too. He’s alternating between nervous and excited the whole way to the maternity unit at Mungo’s.
I’ve been to Mungo’s for this once before, and the Healer from last time, Anna, is back again, explaining that she’s actually been assigned to me and will be there for the birth. I must say I’m relieved – much as I love my brother, I don’t really want him there for it.
“So you’ve been seeing Aurelius Rutherford for regular check ups?” Anna asks, matter-of-factly rolling up my shirt and running some strange apparatus over my belly.
“Well, yeah, he’s my brother.”
“Brother!” Anna says, peering at my face. “Oh, yes, you’ve got the same eyes. That must be handy, having him around. I don’t know him well, but I’ve only heard good things from the professors that trained him. If you just look up at the screen, you’ll see the baby.”
I can’t decipher much from the splodges and random shapes on the screen. “Looks lovely,” I manage, glancing at James, who nods vigorously.
“That’s the head,” Anna explains, pointing it out, “And those are its hands—”
“It’s sucking its thumb!” I say excitedly. “Look, James, I think it’s sucking its thumb!”
“You’re right!” James says in wonder, staring from screen to belly to screen again. “Wow.”
“Would you like to know the sex of the baby?”
“Yes,” I say immediately. “I don’t want to keep calling it ‘it.’” Realising I’ve forgotten something important, I quickly turn to James. “Is that okay?”
“Yeah, fine,” James replies, still staring at the screen. “I want to know everything about it.”
“It’s a girl,” Anna informs us.
I don’t really know how to react. I didn’t have a preference – whether the baby was a boy or girl didn’t seem to matter – but now that I know I just feel this overwhelming sense of wonder. The baby’s not just some unknown entity anymore. She’s a person.
I spend the next two days buried nose deep in books, searching for baby name inspiration. Something normal, something pretty, something meaningful, something that will suit her as a baby and a child and a woman – Oh God she’s actually going to be a real person – and I have sheets of parchment with names scrawled on it, ranging from the very normal to the very obscure.
“Are you studying?” Mum asks me with some wonder, seeing me surrounded by books and parchment.
“What do you think of Ayaka?” I ask in response. “It’s Japanese. Means colourful flower or something like that…you know what, that’s a stupid meaning.”
“Baby names?” Mum asks.
“Yeah. How on earth did you pick mine – oh wait, no. Nevermind. Ooh. Clara. Clara’s pretty, don’t you think?”
“What does it mean?”
“Clear and bright…Meh, there are worse meanings out there.” I note it down.
“Shouldn’t you be consulting James?”
“He’s doing the exact same thing as I am, at his house,” I reply. “We’ll compare lists tomorrow.”
“You know, there’s no hurry,” Mum points out.
“I want to name her. I was so excited a couple of days ago to actually have the pronoun she, but now she needs a name. Hmm…Jessica?”
“She’s your child,” Mum replies in response, getting up and heading for the door.
There’s something about that sentence that stops me. Even in the offhand, it’s-up-to-you-what-you-name-her way Mum said it, I don’t think anybody else has ever said anything that drives it home so much to me. I’m not just pregnant. I’m going to be a mother. A mother to this little baby girl that I won’t even see until October and who has already – I don’t even know how to describe what she’s done to my life. And she’s just a foetus.
What’s she going to do to me once she’s born?
“I need to talk to you,” James informs me quietly, cutting me off in the middle of a spiel about the comparative merits of Annabel and Melody.
“Now is not a good time to break up with me, James Potter,” I say, responding instinctively to that all-too ominous phrase.
“I wasn’t – why would you even think that?”
“Because you said, and I quote, ‘I need to talk to you.’ Which is, in my experience, an indication of something really, really bad that nobody wants to hear. And that’s the second worst thing my brain can think of right now.”
“What’s the first?” James asks, seemingly a little hurt that him dumping me isn’t the worst thing I can think of.
I stare at him. “Oh, you know, something like, ‘Cassia, I’m sorry, but there’s something wrong with the baby.’”
James looks horrified. “There isn’t anything wrong, is there?”
“No. But at least the look on your face at the suggestion of that tells me your priorities are in the right place. What did you want to talk to me about?”
“I’m not going back to Hogwarts.”
“Yes you bloody are. What do you think of Adelita? It’s Spanish, and I know we said nothing too pretentious or unusual, but it’s pretty, don’t you think?”
“You’re not listening to me.”
“I am listening to you. I just reject what you’re trying to tell me.”
“Just hear me out, will you?”
“Fine. But don’t expect me to change my mind.”
“You’re not my mother,” James responds, annoyed.
“No, I’m just the mother of your unborn daughter, that’s all. And it would be really great if one of her parents actually finished school!”
“I am thinking of her, you know. If I wasn’t, I would go back to Hogwarts. Finish seventh year without a care in the world. And probably without any purpose, either.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “You were never planning to go to seventh year anyway.”
“Yes, I was. Cassia, stop acting like it’s only your life that’s been turned upside down and you’re the only one making sacrifices. You act like I’m just doing the bare minimum here and you know what? Most blokes in my situation would have run a mile. And I’m working eight hour days and saving every Sickle I make to go to you and the baby. A little bit of appreciation once in a while would be really fucking great.”
He stands abruptly to his feet and walks out the door. In the silence that follows, all I can hear is the crack of his Apparition.
Fantastic. That’s really fucking fantastic.
It’s three days before I see James again. In that time I’ve gone back and forth, back and forth in my mind, swinging from oh-God-I-can’t-live-without-him to you-know-what-I-am-a-strong-independent-woman-and-I-can-raise-this-baby-on-my-own-if-I-have-to, and then I sit down and actually think about it – I know, right, Cassia Rutherford thinking – and realise that James actually had a point and he has been really, really good about the whole thing and I should grow up and talk to him about it, and if I’m really thinking about the baby like I claim to be, I need to actually have her father alongside me. That and I’m, you know, in love with the guy and all, and three days with him angry at me is three days too long in my book.
He’ll be at work at the moment. But I’m sure he won’t mind if his pregnant girlfriend who he’s currently fighting with comes waddling in during peak hours.
I vaguely recall listing off reasons why I wasn’t sorted into Ravenclaw earlier in the year, and can safely add another to the list as I go waddling into Quality Quidditch Supplies at one in the afternoon.
Ever since he found out I was pregnant, though, James has lost his ability to hold a real grudge against me for any length of time. He’s high on a shelf mounting a broom to the wall, and the moment he sees me he jumps to the ground at such a speed I’m wondering how he survived without breaking any limbs.
“Are you okay?” he asks breathlessly.
“I’m fine,” I say quickly. “The baby’s fine. But I need to talk to you.”
He throws a glance over his shoulder at his boss, who merely jerks his head in the direction of the door. Looking grateful, and slightly annoyed at me for scaring him, he leads me outside. “Okay, what’s this about?”
“Erm.” I’m not good at this kind of thing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done it before. But there’s a first time for everything and if we’re going to be raising a child together this probably won’t be the first time I’ll have to apologise to James. “Um, I just wanted to say…you were right. You know. About you and stuff. Um, you’re doing a really awesome job with this baby thing and I don’t actually know what I’d do without you and I know you’re more responsible than I give you credit for and I’m sorry and I’m ready to hear you out. You know, about leaving Hogwarts.”
James runs a hand through his hair. “I’ve known you six years and you’ve never done this before.”
“I know. It’s…weird.”
“God help us, I think we might be growing up.”
“Well, I knew you were anyway.”
James holds up his hands in surrender. “Whoa, slow down with the compliments, I can only take so many. You know Hogwarts offers correspondence courses by the Ministry, right? That’s what you were planning to do.”
“Yeah, only in a few subjects though.”
“Yeah. I’m going to do all my seventh year course by correspondence, in the same time as everyone else. Well. Almost. I’ll probably sit my NEWTs a couple of months later, and I’ll drop a couple of the horrible useless subjects. And Mr Guyand has promised me near-full time hours during the year.”
“You’ve really thought about this.”
“I can do that sometimes. There’s more, if you wanted to hear it.”
“I’ve been talking to your brother,” he begins. “Did you know he’s planning to propose to Lillian?”
“I’d gathered that much, yeah.”
“Well, I know you probably wouldn’t want to be hanging around them once they’re all married and stuff, so I was thinking…you know, by then, depending on when it is…I’d have a bit of money saved up and maybe we could rent a flat together?”
“Yes,” I say immediately. “Yes. Definitely. Yes.”
“We could do it sooner,” he continues, “But it’d be best, I think, at least in the early stages, if you have Rory on hand to help out if something goes wrong. You know, he’d be much more useful than me. I’ll still be around, though,” he adds quickly. “There’s usually a drop off at work between the Hogwarts term starting and Christmas anyway, so I’ll take some time off and be round at yours heaps.”
I nod firmly, swallowing the words of gross lovey-dovey sentiment that threaten to come out of my mouth. “Glad we’ve got that sorted.”
“Yeah, me too,” he agrees, and leans in for a kiss.
A/N: Good news, my dear readers! The muse has been working overtime on this particular story, which has resulted in the rather fast updates you've been enjoying. I have a nice clear outline of what's happening next (believe me, that's not my usual style) so, barring any unforeseen events, this trend should continue for a wee while yet :) As always, please let me know what you think in a review!
It’s the weirdest thing in the world to watch Mum and Emilia go off to Hogwarts on September first without me. I’ve heard so much about the fabled seventh year, and truth be told, I was almost looking forward to it. Now I’ll never get the opportunity to graduate properly from Hogwarts. Though I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll be spending this year at home with baby and I couldn’t really imagine it any other way anymore, I find myself missing Hogwarts and the idea of Hogwarts more than ever, knowing my friends and sister and everyone I know is on the Hogwarts Express right now. Aidan Corner is off to Hogwarts for the first time as well – I still really want to see that kid in Slytherin, the slimy little –
“Cassia?” My brother’s voice comes from the Floo. “Have you packed up all your stuff?”
Oh, yeah. I’m leaving home today. As if baby and not going to Hogwarts wasn’t enough of a reminder that my childhood is well and truly over.
“Um, yeah,” I lied.
“You haven’t done anything, have you?”
Rory sighs, appearing in my doorway. “Got your trunk packed?”
“Um, yeah, I think so.”
“Haven’t forgotten anything?”
“Probably.” I wave a careless hand. “I can always come back and get whatever I’ve forgotten.”
“That’s true.” Rory steps into my room, seizing my trunk and lugging it down the stairs. I feel slightly bad for making him carry it, before reminding myself that I am very pregnant and yeah I should have people doing things for me because that’s what happens when you’re pregnant.
“Not long to go now, right?” Rory calls up the stairs.
“Allow seven, first babies are often late.”
I groan. “She better not be late, I want her out.”
Having sent my trunk on its way through the Floo, Rory comes back up the stairs to help me. I hate the thought of using the Floo – actually, I hate the thought of moving at all. Wizarding transport systems were not designed with pregnant women in mind. I’ll probably fall over, and I really, really don’t want to fall over.
Rory steers me into the fireplace and clambers in behind me. “Feet apart, you keep your balance better.”
“You think I’m going to fall over, don’t you?” I ask in a slightly huffy voice.
“Well, you did all the time before you were pregnant, and I don’t really want to risk it.”
Rory reaches for the Floo Powder, tosses it onto the floor, and shouts “The Lost City of Catlantis!”
The what? Momentarily sidetracked from the perils of the Floo Network, I try to work out if I heard him correctly.
“Rory,” I begin the moment we arrive in his fireplace, “What did you say when you threw the powder down?”
“It’s um…the name we gave it for the Floo Network,” he says evasively. “I don’t like people being able to overhear our address when we’re using it in public, it’s not Unplottable.”
“It sounded like you called it the Lost City of Catlantis.”
“Well, we have a few cats.”
“I didn’t know you even had one cat.”
“They’re recent acquisitions. Lillian likes animals and the landlady won’t let us have dogs, so…”
I narrow my eyes. “How many cats are we talking?”
“Just four? Rory, just is not a word you use when you say you own four cats.”
“It’s not that many. Once you get to know them on an individual basis…”
There are sounds of life coming from the kitchen, and Lillian emerges cradling a fat tortoiseshell cat. “Morning, Cassia,” she says cheerfully. “How are you?”
“I feel like a blimp,” I inform her, mirroring her cheerfulness.
“Well, there are worse things to feel like, I suppose. This is Juliet, by the way.”
“Uh…nice to meet you?” I offer, mentally striking Juliet off the possible baby name list. Good thing it wasn’t high on my list of favourites.
Juliet meows in protest, evidently sick of being held for so long, and Lillian reluctantly sets her down on the floor. “We have three other cats,” Lillian explains.
“Yeah, Rory told me.”
“I’ll go see if I can find them.”
“It’s really okay—”
Lillian's already bustled off to find the elusive cats, and Rory takesthe opportunity to take my trunk and show me to my room.
“Don’t tell me it’s upstairs.”
“It’s not upstairs.”
“Don’t tell me there are stairs between me and the kitchen and or bathroom.”
“Nope. Well, the bathroom was upstairs but I did a bit of DIY and gave you an ensuite.”
“No wonder you were in Ravenclaw.”
Lillian arrives in the doorway, a cat tucked under each arm and a black and white kitten weaving between her legs. “Othello,” she announces, dropping a fat black cat onto the ground, “Macbeth,” and a smaller ginger cat is unceremoniously dumped on the floor, “And Ophelia,” gesturing to the kitten.
“I’m sensing a theme here.”
Mercifully, Lillian then shooed the cats and Rory out of my room. “I’ll leave you to settle in. If you need any help unpacking, just give us a yell.”
I was meaning to unpack, but I got sidetracked, as I am wont to do, by Names for Witches. It’s about three hundred years old but no hand has scribbled on it quite like I have, or leafed through its pages so many times. I settle into the most comfortable position I can and scan the names once again.
This is so hard. There are plenty of names that sound pretty or have nice meanings, but none of them jump out at me as the perfect name. I could just go to my extensive list, close my eyes and pick the first two names I point at, but some part of me is insisting that when I find the right name for my baby I’ll know it immediately and that will be the end of the searching.
Maybe I’m overly idealistic. And I’m forgetting that minor factor that James needs to like the name as well. I sigh, closing the book, and absently fiddle with the clasp of my watch. I do that a lot. Or tip the Ravenclaw stone out, just to stare at it. The symbol of a mother’s eternal love and devotion to her daughter – it means so much more now that I know the baby’s a girl. I’ll be passing this down to her on her seventeenth birthday.
She better not be pregnant then, or there will be hell to pay.
I might as well get started on my parental hypocrisy early. Do as I say, not as I do, that’ll be the message I’ll indoctrinate her with while she’s growing up.
I’m sitting here, turning the stone over in my hand and thinking about my family’s connection to Ravenclaw. That heritage is important, yeah, but the whole philosophy of Ravenclaw doesn’t sit right with me for some reason. Wit and intelligence and learning stuff is great, yeah. But all the knowledge and intelligence in the world is useless if you don’t have the wisdom to know what to do with it—
Wait a minute.
Wait a minute.
I tear through Names for Witches until I find the page I glanced over at three in the morning the other day and didn’t really take in but something must have stuck in my subconscious.
Yes yes yes yes yes.
I leap to my feet (okay, that’s a lie, I sort of stumbled and staggered) and bolt (waddle) through the house to the Floo Network.
“Seekers’ Garden!” I yell, throwing a handful of Floo Powder into the fireplace and hastily remembering to brace myself for the uncomfortable journey.
I arrive at the Potters’ in a cloud of ash and unused Floo Powder. “I’m fine, everything’s fine!” I call as a greeting before James can break his neck running to see what’s wrong.
“I’m glad you’re here,” James begins in a breathless voice. “Because I found a name for the baby—”
Oh no. I sense an argument coming on.
“Well, sort of, not her actual name, I mean, it is her actual name, but her middle name, you know, because I think it sounds better as a middle name, and honestly Cass I don’t care what you come up with for her first name, you can call her Boudicca for all I care as long as she has this middle name—”
“Well that’s good,” I say, cutting him off, “Because I have her first name and I don’t care what her middle name is as long as you let me name her—”
“I was kind of joking earlier though, I don’t really want you to call her Boudicca—”
“I wasn’t going to call her Boudicca, where on earth did you get that from? But I really hope you agree with me on—”
“Just as long as her middle name’s—”
“Potter,” I finish, and stare at James in shock.
“Sophia Grace Potter,” James repeats slowly. “Not…Rutherford?”
“She’s your child too.”
“Right. Yeah. Wow.” James stares at my stomach for a long moment. “So she’s…wow. Sophia Grace Potter. I can’t stop saying it.”
“You don’t want to wear it out before she’s even born.”
“I don’t think we could wear it out.”
“You’re right, we couldn’t.” I place a hand on my stomach, marvelling at the sensation of her kicking me. Normally I would get sick of it pretty quickly (she kicks a lot, and the novelty wore off a while ago) but like when we found out she was a girl, she seems that little bit more real and a little bit more alive.
“It makes it seem so much more real, right?” James asks, reading my mind. “It’s like…we’re not just the girl who got pregnant at Hogwarts and the guy who got her that way. We’re parents. Sophia’s parents.”
With six weeks to go, baby named and an unexpected day off for James after Mr Guyand had to disappear to Scotland for a family funeral, we decide it’s time to do some shopping for all the very expensive, very special stuff Sophia will need once she arrives. I figure it’s probably a good idea to take someone else with us, preferably a woman who knows what she’s doing when it comes to baby things, and recruit Aunty Evie for the job. There’s a bit of toing and froing while she figures out where to dump her children before she decides on my mum’s sister Artemis, who has a terribly named son, Nicostratus, the same age as Katie.
I haven’t seen Aunt Artemis for a while, but go with Evie to drop off Katie and Eloise. Despite only having one herself, Aunt Artemis is pretty skilled when it comes to babies and children – she was only fifteen when Rory was born and apparently Mum would dump him on her all the time when she was home from Hogwarts – and as kids we would spend as much time with her as we did with Evie. Once Evie’s kids were born, Artemis helped with them too, until one day where she upped and left for Belgium to spend a year working as an au pair for a high-flying Ministry of Magic official there. Long story short, she was sent back to Britain in disgrace, three months pregnant and completely despondent. I still remember her coming home – I was too young to understand quite what had happened, but all my eight-year-old brain could comprehend was that Aunt Artemis wasn’t as happy or as fun or as smiley as she was before, and I decided at that point that Evie was my favourite aunty.
Looking back, I realise children are vicious, horrible things. Or maybe it was just me.
It’s a good thing we came slightly earlier than we needed to, because Artemis and Evie get to chatting and there’s no stopping those two when they’re chatting.
Nicostratus emerges to whisk Katie away as if to make sure Evie won’t be taking her home any time soon, and Eloise pouts a bit before trotting off to follow them. They’re cute kids, really.
I try to imagine Sophia at the same age. It’s not easy, considering I have no idea what she looks like, and…well…she’s a foetus and then she’ll be a baby and that is all my brain can process right now about her existence.
Maybe she’ll just stay a baby forever and I won’t have to worry about toilet training her or teaching her how to walk or talk or read and write and she’ll never refuse to eat her veggies or ask why I’m so much younger than all her friends’ mummies.
I wonder how feasible it is to lie to your own child about how old you are. It’d probably be easy. I could even sustain the fiction for a long time if I was as good a liar as Mum. But I don’t think I am.
“James, am I a good liar?”
“What?” he asks, startled. “Why?”
“Am I a good liar?”
“No, you’re crap,” he replies bluntly. “Well, you are around me anyway.”
“Maybe I can’t lie to you because there’s some subconscious urge to be honest with you about things or something.”
“Maybe I just know you too well.”
“Reckon I could lie to Sophia?”
“To Soph—oh. What, about Santa? Eating carrots makes you see in the dark? Vegetables are yummy?”
“About how old I am.”
“I don’t think she’d really care.”
“No, but her classmates’ mums would.”
“That is a very long time away,” James says firmly. “Maybe we can discuss it after she’s actually born.”
“Ready to go, you two?” Evie asks cheerfully. “We’re just Flooing directly to the Leaky Cauldron.”
Oh God I have to go out in public. I hadn’t exactly considered that.
“But I’m pregnant!” I protest.
There is a long silence. Artemis snickers.
“Yes,” Evie says eventually. “Yes, we know.”
“You look like a whale, it’s hardly escaped our notice,” James contributes.
I pull out my wand. “Say that again, James Potter.”
“Whales are lovely creatures—”
I turn his hair lime green. If people are going to stare, they might as well stare at both of us.
I complain often and loudly enough about having to walk around the house, what on earth possessed these people to make me walk the length of Diagon Alley? I waddle along several feet behind Evie and James, who seem to be immersed in some kind of baby-related conversation, and wish with all my might that Sophia was in a pram in front of me rather than in my womb. My feet hurt. My back hurts. This demon child is kicking me. It’s hot. My life sucks.
“Maybe we should wait for Cassia,” James suggests to Evie.
“Go on—” I gasp for air and pretend it was for dramatic effect – “Without me…”
“You heard the woman, let’s go,” James says. “Kidding, kidding,” he adds hastily, seeing I’ve drawn my wand again.
“Not too much further to go, Cassia,” Evie says encouragingly. In my experience, that statement is always a lie.
“I hate you both,” I inform them upon catching up.
Turns out Evie wasn’t actually lying, the baby place is just next door to the shop we’re standing outside. I hurry inside, leaving James and Evie scrambling to catch up.
“You can really move for someone so pregnant,” James calls after me.
My eyes have already alighted on the window display. “But pretty baby things!” I call back.
Evie lets me wander around the store for a few minutes, staring at everything, before calling my attention back to the task at hand. “Right. So you’re going to need some clothes first off, blankets, a carrier—”
“James, look at this!” I shout, cutting her off and fingering the fabric of a bright red suit. “It has the Gryffindor lion on it!”
James frowns. “She’ll spit up on it. And poop in it. And stuff.”
“How much is it?” Evie asks, ever the voice of reason.
I check the tag and pull a face. “Twelve Galleons.”
“No,” James decides.
“You’re right,” I agree sadly. “And besides, if she’s got the same hair colour as me, you don’t want to go near red.”
“Good morning,” an overly friendly witch calls, smiling brightly at us. “Getting ready for baby, are you?”
“No, I’m just window shopping with a Quaffle shoved up my shirt,” I respond, not even bothering to turn around as I shuffle through the suit things – what do you even call these, anyway? I don’t know the first thing about baby things, and I’m having one in six weeks.
“Do you know what you’re having yet?” Sunshine and Daisies continues.
“A baby, I would presume.”
“So you don’t know the sex. In that case it would be best—”
“It’s a girl. But your first question was rather ambiguous.”
“Cassia, stop smartarsing,” James whispers.
Sunshine and Daisies doesn’t seem to mind. “A wee girl, how lovely! Have you got a name for her yet?”
“Sophia Grace Potter,” James says.
Sunshine and Daisies goes silent at this point, staring at James as if she hadn’t noticed him before.
Oh Lord. Why couldn’t the stupid fool have kept his mouth shut? ‘Sophia Grace’ would have been fine. Even just ‘Sophia.’ Better still, it’s none of this woman’s business what my unborn daughter’s name is.
I’m beginning to realise motherhood will involve a lot of invasions of privacy.
“You’re the father, then?” Sunshine and Daisies continues, directing this question at James.
“Yes, I am.”
“You must be so proud,” she gushes, trying way too hard to disguise her Harry Potter’s son is a teen father! Scandal! reaction.
I shoot a glance at Evie, who nods and takes over the conversation with Sunshine and Daisies, steering her away from us.
I thought shopping for baby things would be fun, but the amount of stuff we need to buy, and the fact that James has to pay for it, freaks me out a bit. We go for the cheaper, simpler versions of everything (anything that’s been precharmed costs about three times as much as normal) and I figure if anything needs charming I can do it at home. I wasn’t a total failure at Charms, I just preferred working for myself and not the teachers.
There’s a heck of a lot of pink in our final purchases, something I mildly objected to because a) if baby has red hair pink will look awful and b) it’s just blatant sexism and we should be doing something different rather than mindlessly following the crowds. But James pointed out that all newborn babies look the same and the only way people will be able to tell if she’s a girl is if she’s wearing pink, and Evie told me that despite her best efforts, her daughters naturally gravitated towards pink anyway. When it became clear I was fighting a losing battle, I gave in and let James buy the pink.
Now I’m annoyed because I should have stood my ground and bought blue to make a statement. I’m not sure whether that statement would have been anti-sexism or anti-agreeing-with-James, but they’d probably be the same in a lot of people’s eyes anyway.
I’m thinking about this too much.
To my considerable surprise, I discover Rory hard at work when I come home, apparently blasting a hole in the wall of my room.
“Dearest brother,” I begin, leaning on the doorframe, “What in the name of Merlin are you doing?”
“Building you a little room for the baby,” he replies. “Should be finished in a sec. That way you don’t have to do nappy changes and things in your room, and she can sleep in here too.”
Sleep. Bed. Baby bed. We didn’t buy one at the baby shop because they were all ludicrously expensive – James and I decided instead to canvass all our male relatives to see if one of them could build one for us. I come from a family of academics who don’t know the meaning of manual labour, but luckily James has a few uncles and family friends who have their feet firmly on the ground. Mind you, I didn’t realise Rory was so handy with construction spells.
“When did you learn DIY?” I ask.
“From books,” he replies. “It’s actually really complex magic, there’s a lot of physics involved if you don’t buy the precharmed tools that builders use, and—”
Family of academics that don’t know the meaning of manual labour. Case in point. Not that I mind, if my daughter gets a bedroom out of it.
“Why are you being so nice to me?”
He gets to his feet, looking confused. “Coz you’re my sister?”
“You’re kinda going above and beyond the call of duty.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I’m practicing.”
“Practicing for what?” I ask dubiously. “A career in construction? Wouldn’t really suit you.”
Rory lowers his voice, stepping closer. “I could be a father myself in five years’ time, you know.”
“A what?” I splutter. For some reason I’m perfectly fine with the idea of myself becoming a parent at the age of seventeen in six weeks’ time, but my big brother being one in five years’ time? Preposterous!
Apparently he thinks the same way. “You’re hardly one to talk. Lillian and I have discussed it, that’s all.”
“Does that mean she knows you’re planning to propose?”
“Of course she does. I’ve loved her all my life, there was never any question about it. She just doesn’t know when.”
“That’s kinda cute.” But this talk of marriage and proposals has got my mind racing ahead – would James and I ever get married? Images of me in a gorgeous white gown, exchanging vows with a tux-clad James in the Potters’ sunny garden, spring to mind.
What am I thinking? It’s never sunny in Godric’s Hollow.
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.”
I know James is going to be freaking out when he gets here, and I’m picturing the look on his face of startled confusion when he sees me casually standing in the doorway as if nothing’s wrong. I smile to myself – how many times have I made him panic unneccessarily now? I almost feel mean.
But just as the Floo delivers the Potters back to the house, my body decides it’s time for a particularly painful contraction, and James charges into the room while I’m doubled over and gasping for air.
“Cassia!” He rushes to my side, raising his arms as if to hug me before thinking better of it and instead hovering awkwardly beside me. “Mum, we have to get her to Mungo’s, now!”
Our mums exchange glances. “I think it’s time,” Mum says. “Even if it’s just to keep the kids from worrying.”
The kids? The kids? We’re about to become parents ourselves, we’re not kids!
“Whatever the hell you’re doing, hurry up!” I yell.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Ginny decides. “Cassia, we’re going to take you to Mungo’s now—”
“I’m right here, I heard the whole bloody conversation!”
“Right. Athena, if you take Cassia and James and I will be right behind—”
“Nuh-uh,” I say firmly, grabbing James’ wrist. “He comes with me. This is your kid too, Potter, and I’ll be damned if I’m suffering alone.”
I march determinedly into the Floo, holding my belly with one hand and my boyfriend with the other, ready to get this thing over with.
I don’t know what I expected at Mungo’s – maybe that I’d get there and there’d be something special in the air that would mean I’d be ready to give birth in five minutes, but I’ve been here for hours and I hate my life and everything in it. I’ve never been in so much pain before in my life – it feels like Sophia is systematically shredding my insides, and Anna, my Healer, informs me that there’s still a long way to go. I’m pretty sure I’ve broken up with James seventeen times since we’ve been here – it gives me something to count other than minutes between contractions – and yelled variations on the theme of ‘get your fucking arse back in here right now, James Potter, you will not walk away that easily’ eighteen times, so I take it that means we’re together for the moment.
I kicked Ginny out of the room about two hours in, but she didn’t seem too offended and it gives James someone to talk to when I kick him out, so everything’s just hunky dory. My mum, on the other hand, has been in this room the entire time I have, not even leaving to fix her fingers after I accidently broke them holding her hand during a really bad contraction. She healed them herself, conjured me a stress ball instead, and politely told Anna that she didn’t really give a fuck about the ‘no magic in the maternity ward’ rule and if anyone had a problem with it they could take it up with her in a duel.
I love my mum. But I hate everything else.
My eyes catch hold of James hovering anxiously in the doorway. “You!” I bellow. “You arsehole. You fucking prick. I would not be here if it wasn’t for you, fucking horny bastard—”
“I’ll wait outside,” he says, and flees.
“Who the fuck put you in Gryffindor?” I yell after him. “Cowardly little shit!”
“It’s nearly time,” Anna informs me.
“Time?” I repeat hopefully. “You mean I get this damn thing out of me now?”
Anna frowns. She doesn’t bat an eyelid at the abuse I shout at James, but apparently it’s unacceptable to refer to the source of your pain and suffering as a ‘damn thing.’ I don’t care. I’m beyond caring. What is killing me right now is a Damn Thing that is all James Fucking Potter’s Fault and maybe once it’s out of me I’ll think of it as a baby but if I think of it as Sophia now she will have the most miserable upbringing in existence, so help me God.
“Yes,” Anna confirms. “Nearly time to push.”
I remember James outside, trying to decide whether the smidgen of love I still have for the bastard is enough to let him in again, amidst my overwhelming manic hatred.
“James fucking Potter!” I yell, making my decision. “Get your arse—ow!”
“In here now!” Mum yells, finishing my sentence for me.
James comes in rather cautiously, and I almost feel sorry for him.
That sympathy is gone by the next contraction.
Mum pulls James aside. “Potter, she’s going to start pushing soon. And no matter what abuse she screams at you, you are not leaving her until that child is safely in her arms, you understand?”
“I want to stay,” he says firmly.
“How very noble of you,” I mutter, glaring at him. “Staying doesn’t involve any pain, does it? Hold my hand, James, I want to break your fingers.”
James stares at me, then glances over to Mum.
“She’s done it to me already,” Mum says with a shrug. “She’s not actually going to make a conscious effort.”
Anna informs me it’s time to push, and James reaches for my hand. I can’t tell if it’s an instinctive move or a conscious decision to let me break his fingers, but for once I’m actually glad he’s here as I start pushing.
I’m dead. I’m dead and either heaven doesn’t exist or it’s a really shitty reproduction of the maternity ward at St Mungo’s.
“It’s a girl!” I hear a faraway voice that sounds like Anna’s announcing.
Something rouses me. “We know, you told us that weeks ago.”
There’s no response, only a bundle of something being placed in my arms, and I look down and oh Merlin it’s her.
She looks slightly less alienlike than in her scans, but she’s red and wrinkled and has an unbelievably massive head, but apparently my eyes and brain aren’t connected very well because something else is telling me she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I stare at her for as long as I can, and there are voices babbling in the background and people probably talking to me, but they seem so far away and it’s like she’s the only other person in the world. She has black hair – not much of it, but it’s black – and blue eyes, but I was told that most babies have blue eyes at birth so that doesn’t really tell much.
“Cassia?” Anna’s voice cuts through my reverie. “Would you like to feed her?”
Her words bring me back to reality with a bump. “I…don’t know how.”
“You’ll need to undo your top first,” she says patiently.
I fumble with the buttons, trying to undo them while holding Sophia at the same time – I’m so terrified I’ll drop her, or hurt her in some way - when James speaks.
“Here, I’ll take her for a sec.”
I’d almost forgotten about him, and hesitate, not wanting let go of her when she’s only just arrived. But James is her dad, and with some reluctance I pass her over.
I feel weirdly exposed, sitting there with my top undone, until I remember that all the people in this room just watched me give birth. I take the baby back off James, holding her up to my chest, and look at Anna. “So what now?”
“She should latch on. It’s instinctive…just hold her up a wee bit higher, remember to watch her head…”
It should be instinctive for me too, shouldn’t it? But I can’t hold her right – it feels clumsy and awkward, and she’s not latching on…
“It takes a bit of practice,” Mum says. “You’ll get the hang of it soon.”
“What if I don’t? It’s not working…Mum, she’s crying…”
“Just relax, you’re doing fine.”
My arms are hurting from holding her – surely there’s a better way of doing this? Everything hurts, I’ve never been more tired in my life, and she’s crying and I can’t fix it because I’m doing something wrong and I don’t know what it is—
“You’ve got it!” Mum says, and I look down and she’s right, Sophia’s feeding.
I feel like a real mother now. Not just some pregnant kid, but a real mum and I can feed my baby and maybe I won’t be a complete failure as a parent. I gaze down at her, marvelling at her. She’s a part of me. I made her, I carried her, I gave birth to her, and now I’m everything she has in the world and I don’t know if that fills me more with excitement or wonder or terror. She’s mine. Sophia Grace Potter – my daughter, my baby. And I’m her mother.
It’s the most amazing thing in the world.
As I’d anticipated, the entire Weasley-Potter clan was wanting to have a gawk at Sophia within hours after she was born, so I put in place a very firm rule: Only grandparents were allowed to visit while we were in hospital, and only grandparents, aunties and uncles were allowed to visit in the first week of us being home. Grandparents, aunties and uncles meaning Sophia’s, not ours, though Aunty Evelina in particular was very keen on breaking that rule.
I can barely remember the first week. It was a blur of exhaustion, confusion and learning and struggling through everything. James spent that week camping on the floor of my room and dragging himself off to work half-dead every morning, insisting that he wanted to be around when baby woke up at all hours of the night, but when Mr Guyand found him fast asleep in the storeroom of Quality Quidditch Supplies one afternoon, he decided to at least sleep at home. He still comes round the moment he finishes work and stays until about midnight. We bathe her together while he’s around, but with the exception of feeding her and when she’s asleep, I let James take care of her so they have a chance to bond. He impressed me enough with his maturity while I was pregnant, but since Sophia’s birth she’s more or less become his whole world, and he beams with pride every time someone refers to him as her dad.
I can’t believe we ever referred to her as ‘shit luck.’ She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us.
That doesn’t mean the last two weeks have been easy, though, even without the sleepless nights. Dom and Freddy managed to get out of Hogwarts for a few hours the other day to come and see us, but it really made me realise how little we have in common now. Our careless days wreaking havoc at Hogwarts seems like a lifetime ago. They’re busy battling seventh year, something we’ll never get to experience, and we’re looking after a newborn baby, something I’ve quickly realised only other parents can actually relate to. Everything revolves around Sophia now, and I find it hard to feign interest in the social dramas and goings-on of our classmates at Hogwarts.
I don’t know if Dom’s noticed that or not, but our friendship is what I miss most about life before Sophia. Six years is a long time to be friends, let alone best friends, but no matter what, Dom and I would always have something to talk about. I wouldn’t trade Sophia for anything, but I never thought she’d come at the expense of my friendship with Dom.
Much as it’s handy having Rory around all the time (I have a tendency to panic about what’s normal and what’s not, and he’s invaluable ) I’m already beginning to feel like I’m encroaching on his and Lillian’s space. They got engaged the other day, but they couldn’t celebrate here because Sophia was sleeping. They were woken up during the night every time she cried, until I had the bright idea to soundproof my room. Though they always assure me that they’re fine having me around and they love Sophia, I’m still really looking forward to getting out of their hair and moving in with James.
Mum had to go back to Hogwarts as soon as I left the hospital, but she tries to come round every couple of days during the lunch hour to see me. Ginny’s also been around a lot, and between them they’ve taught me all the important stuff, like how to change Sophia’s nappy, how to bathe her, burp her, put her to sleep and everything else that seems so simple until you try it.
She’s looking a lot less red and wrinkled these days, which means visitors’ obligatory “Aw, she’s beautiful” comments seem a little more sincere. I still don’t know what her eye colour is, but I’m hoping for my green considering she has James’ hair. She has a little birthmark just above her knee which, after much deliberation, James and I decided is shaped like a poppy.
Though we weren’t planning on it before she was born, James and I decided to announce Sophia’s birth in the Daily Prophet – even if it did open up a can of scandal-related worms, it’s about Sophia, and we want to be able to show her the notice when she’s older. It was in the Prophet last Thursday:
James Potter and Cassia Rutherford are proud to announce the birth of their first child, Sophia Grace Potter, at 1.19am on October 17, weighing 7lb.3oz. Special thanks to midwife Anna Pitchell.
Pretty simple and straightforward, but I think it caused a ripple through the wizarding world that measured on the Richter scale. Apparently everyone was talking about it at the Ministry – Dad says he had countless people coming up to him congratulating him on becoming a grandfather and commenting that they’d always thought I was “only sixteen or seventeen, I wonder where I got that from?”
Dad wisely kept quiet on that.
The Lupins come around later in the afternoon, just before James comes back from work. I know the Lupins pretty well – Victoire is Dom’s sister, and both she and Teddy were best friends with Rory and Lillian. And the best thing – Victoire is nearly three months pregnant with their first baby, so she laps up any information I can give her about babies, and hovers over my shoulder while I’m looking after Sophia – I never met anyone so fascinated with changing nappies before, but it’s kind of cool that she’s around and I can tell her a few things, it means I don’t feel as inexperienced as I am.
“Poor Dom,” Victoire comments now, idly stroking her belly. “First best friend, now sister. She’ll never be able to escape the babies.”
“Maybe it’s a good thing. The more she knows, the more she can relate to us.”
“I’m glad you went before me, Cass,” Victoire informs me bluntly. “I know we’re not really friends as such, but you have no idea how comforting it is to know someone who’s going through the same thing.”
“Yeah, well, I’m glad I’m not the only one.”
Lillian arrives home from work, calling a greeting on the way to the kitchen and emerging approximately thirty seconds later with a pot of tea. I need her to teach me how to make tea in thirty seconds.
I join in the chatter between Lillian and Victoire for a bit, but when Lillian starts talking about how romantic and sweet Rory is, I make my excuses and vamoose. Luckily for me Sophia’s crying, which is the best excuse out there.
I bet she’s a mind reader too. She knew I needed rescuing and summoned me.
The next day, I get a letter from an unfamiliar owl and sealed with the ghastly shade of pink belonging to Witch Weekly.
Oh dear. I should have known this would happen. I’m willing to bet my firstborn son it’s someone asking for an interview on Sophia’s scandalous birth and my scandalous pregnancy as a result of my scandalous liason with one James Potter.
(See what I did there? I don’t have a firstborn son and I never will, because my firstborn is a girl, and even if I do have a son he’s not going to be the firstborn, is he?)
Then I remember that Nana Rutherford was editor of Witch Weekly for about thirty years and even though she’s retired now, she still has enough clout there that they wouldn’t dream of writing anything scandalous about me.
Which begs the question of why on Earth Witch Weekly is writing to me.
Dear Cassia Rutherford,
Congratulations on the recent birth of your daughter. Witch Weekly is currently looking for a new mother to write a weekly column for the magazine on the ups and downs of parenting. We are aware that your age is controversial, which is all the more reason for us to approach you. Your experiences as a teen mother will prove of special interest to our readers and may assist in dispelling some of the stigma attached to teen motherhood. Witch Weekly is prepared to offer you a starting rate of forty Galleons per column, which is likely to increase to fifty in the future. Though we appreciate that this would require publicity that you may not be comfortable with, we believe you would be the ideal candidate to present a column with character and humour, and hope you will give consideration to our offer.
Edith Catcher, Editor.
Well, that was unexpected.
But as far as jobs go, this one wouldn’t be too bad. It won’t take up much time, I won’t have to go anywhere, and they’ll pay me.
But then again, do I really want my business – and my daughter’s business – read by all the bored, gossipy witches in Britain?
Cassia they’re handing you a cushy job on a platter.
I do like writing. This could work.
Maybe I should talk to James first.
That’s a good idea, Cassia.
James comes round at ten past four, and I greet him with the letter and the news that Sophia’s asleep.
“They want you to write a column?”
“Forty Galleons a week, that’s really not bad.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Do you want to?”
“But everyone will know everything.”
“Not everything, only what I tell them. ’Sides, it’ll keep the media off our back.”
“Yeah, I got another owl from Famous Wizard the other day.”
“And it’s not like there’d be any other jobs around that’d let me stay home, look after Sophia and study for my NEWTs at the same time.”
“You are a good writer.”
“You reckon? Thanks.”
“You never know. It could lead into a career.”
“I can’t imagine what kind of career at Witch Weekly I’d actually enjoy. But maybe something else…”
“Daily Prophet, maybe?”
“Now that’s an idea.” Already my mind’s racing ahead of me. I could do the Weekly column for a few years, then once Sophia’s old enough to go to school – we’ll send her to Muggle school, of course – I could maybe look for a job in the Prophet. That’d be fun. That’d be really fun. Yes.
It seems weird to be thinking about my future again, I’ve gotten so used to measuring my life in terms of pregnancy and Sophia’s immediate future. But it’s exciting.
And now that I have an idea where I’m going, I can concentrate entirely on raising Sophia. Nine months ago I thought she meant the end of my life as I knew it. Now I’m realising she’s just the beginning.
A/N: Nearly at the end, folks - just the epilogue to go now. Please let me know what you think in a review, and thanks for reading! :)
“Mummy!” Sophia squeals, her black curls bouncing as she races ahead as fast as her little legs will carry her. “Mummy, push me on the swings!”
I quicken my pace to catch up with her, but she’s already on the aforementioned swing, pumping her legs and wriggling to try and get the swing moving. “Hurry up, Mummy, you’re too slow!”
It’s because I’m getting old. I’m nearly twenty-one, for goodness’ sake. That’s scary.
I’m about to tell Sophia to stop wriggling, when I realise she’s somehow got the swing moving on her own.
“Mummy, look at me go!” she says gleefully. “I’m moving the swing all by myself!”
You are not, Sophia Potter. All you’re doing is twisting in your seat, that’s not going to make you go up and down. It’s the wind. But I don’t tell her that.
Wait a minute.
There’s not that much wind.
Either my three-year-old daughter has found a loophole in the laws of physics, or –
“James Potter!” I yell.
He doesn’t emerge, as I expected, from under his Invisibility Cloak behind Sophia – he’s still walking towards us.
“Did you charm the swing?” he asks. “She should be moving in circles, the way she’s twisting around.”
“I thought you were invisible and pushing her.”
He turns to me with a frown. “You don’t think she’s—”
“No way. Mine wasn’t till I was six.”
“Mine was at seven. That sort of thing’s hereditary, right?”
“I think so. I’ve never actually asked.”
He stares at Sophia for a long moment. “How do you tell?”
“I don’t think she even knows she’s doing it.”
“Cass, if she can do magic now, our house is doomed.”
“It might just be the wind,” I say feebly.
“I’m sure she’s too young,” James says, brow furrowed.
“James, your dad beat the most powerful Dark Lord of all time when he was one.”
“Yeah, but he didn’t actually do anything.”
“What about Albus and Lily? How old were they?”
“Dunno about Albus. Lily was five or six, I think. Hey Soph!” James calls suddenly.
“What?” she shouts back.
“How are you swinging that swing?”
“I’m strong!” she declares. “I’m big and strong!”
“She’s not that big and strong,” James mutters. “Hey Soph, come hold Daddy’s wand?”
Sophia’s eyes widen, and she leaps from the swing and barrels towards him. “Am I big enough to hold your wand now?”
“Maybe. We’ll see what happens.” He hands it over, and Sophia stares at it in wonder before running off, waving it excitedly. At one moment, a shower of sparks erupts from the end of the wand, and James and I stare at each other in amazement.
“Mummy!” Sophia yells at the top of her lungs. “Daddy! Did you see what I did? Did you see what I did, Daddy? I did magic! Mummy, I did magic! Mummy, can I get a wand now? Can I go to Hogwarts?”
“You can’t get a wand until you’re eleven, Soph,” I tell her.
She frowns. “But that’s…one…two…three…Mummy, that’s ages away!”
She’s right, it is ages away. I can see it now: seven years of incessant Hogwarts-related whining, stretching out towards the bleak horizon.
Luckily, I know how to distract her. “You know what’s not ages away, Soph?”
“What?” she asks.
“Your little brother or sister.”
“You said it wouldn’t be born till next winter! That is ages away!”
There’s no winning with this child.
If Sophia can do magic now, I am definitely in no hurry to share my house with her and a new baby at the same time. I almost wish it was ages away, except for the fact that I don’t like being pregnant.
“There’s something else for you to look forward to,” James says.
Sophia turns her dubious face towards him. “I bet you’re lying. I bet it’s ages away.”
“Your mummy and I are getting married.”
Wait a minute.
That’s news to me.
“James,” I begin, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
“I figured this would be the funnest way to propose,” he replies matter-of-factly. “Soph, I need to talk to Mummy for a minute, can you do something fun and not hurt yourself please?”
We’re such responsible parents.
“Can I go play with Patrick?”
Patrick? I glance in the direction Sophia’s pointing and sure enough, the Lupins with their son Patrick are just entering the park. That was lucky timing.
Sophia bolts off to join them, and James leads me to the little bridge that spans the creek at the far end of the park, taking both my hands in his.
“Cassia,” he begins, taking a deep breath. “I know this isn’t much of a surprise because you’ve probably been expecting this for a while and I did make that random trip to see your dad that I wasn’t very good at lying about, but I love you. I’ve loved you since I was fourteen and I love you more now than I ever thought was possible, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want us to grow old together and I want you by my side for everything I do. Cassia Rutherford, will you marry me?”
“Well, you’ve already told our daughter we’re getting married, so I can’t exactly say no, can I?”
“Don’t look so worried, you idiot. You didn’t even need to ask.” I pause, realising there’s a more traditional line that people tend to use in this situation. “So yes, James Potter, I will marry you.”
“Well that’s good, because I bought a ring, and I don’t think it would suit me.” From his pocket he pulls out a small box and opens it. Inside is nestled a silver ring, with a beautiful purple stone inside it. I slip it onto my finger, marvelling at the way it glistens in the sunlight. It’s perfect. It’s amazing. I’m engaged.
And pregnant, and with a three year old daughter. Screw the natural order of things.
“By the way," I tell him firmly, "We’re getting married in your parents’ garden, on a sunny day, and you’re wearing a tux.”
“Good luck with that,” he says with a snort. “It’s never sunny in Godric’s Hollow.”
A/N: Well, my dearest readers, that's it. The end. It's been a long journey, full of writers block and extremely sporadic updates, but if you've stuck with me, and Cassia, till the bitter end, I thank you. Your reviews have been fantastic and inspired me to write even when I had no idea where this story was going. Thank you to all of you, and I hope to see you again :)