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Knowledge and Experience; Or Why I Should Know Better By Now by Ginny_RED_Potter
Chapter 1 : Birthdays
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 23


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DISCLAIMER;  I am not J.K. Rowling. *Sigh* It'd be lovely though, wouldn't it?(This story is a SEQUAL! If you haven't read the first you probably should.)(Okay, so I can think of about a million other things I should be giving my time to right now. Like other stories, extra curriculars and this very irratating thing called school. But I've been getting a lot of requests for this to be posted soon and I finally finished the first chapter. So I've posted it. So- without further ado, the long awaited sequal to Cause and Effect. Hopefully, you enjoy it! )





Knowledge and Experiance: Or Why I Should Know Better By Now 





Chapter 1~ Birthdays


It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

~This Is Spinal Tap

~

It wasn't the first time this month that I crept through the halls of my sleeping house with a small, potion-filled sippy cup in hand at such an ungodly hour. Hell, it wasn't even the first time this week. But the routine didn't bother me. I'd let go of my old hostility towards mornings long ago.

I yawned and rubbed my eyes drowsily as I reached the fifth door on the left, the one next to my own bedroom. I cracked it open and stuck my head into the small lavender room with the pale yellow curtains my best friend, Mia and I had picked out more than a year ago. It was comfortably cool on this summer night and smelled faintly of vanilla mixed in with that unique baby scent I'd come to love. Immediately, my eyes found the unique circular white crib with the matching net of sheer yellow fabric draped around it on the other side of the space and the tiny angelic child standing in it, holding onto the edge for support.

A tender smile broke acrossed my face as it always did when I saw my almost one year old daughter. She couldn't quite stand on her own just yet but it was clear that she would be well on her way to walking by summer's end. And, at this rate, her slurring baby speech would be nearly normal by Christmas. She already knew more words than any one year old should. She learned too quickly for my taste, I wanted her to stay little forever.

My mother attributed her sharpness to my tireless studying during my pregnancy for my daunting O.W.L. exams. Which isn't that wild of a theory considering I aced them. (Everything but Divination, that is. But who really needs that class anyway? Especially if you're planning to be a Healer.)


She smiled back but it quickly turned into an anguished grimace.

"Still bad, sweet?" I asked as my heart spasmed with pain. Her pain and my pain were one in the same. She was an extension of me after all, it was only natural that I felt it if she was hurting.

Rory nodded weakly, letting go of the crib and flopping back down on the soft blankets. Her eyebrows knit together and her small, full bottom lip jutted out in a heartshattering pout.

She'd had a vicious earache for two weeks now. Everytime I gave her a potion to take it away it would always come back and she'd wail in pain during the night.

The Healers said it was normal at this age and to just give her the muddy orange concotion- that they called a potion- whenever the pain flared but I resented these directions. There must be something more we could do for her. Something fool proof -to take the pain away permenantly. But they told me it would pass naturally.

So, I worried like crazy and tossed all hours of the night until I heard the beautific voice of my daughter- that familiar fleet of small, melodious bells- calling me in agony. I'd rush to her with soothing words and then fetch the cringe-worthy potion from the kitchen down stairs to make the ache vanish till morning.

"Here ya' go, sweetheart." I cooed to her comfortingly as I crossed the room and approached Rory's crib.

" 'Coo, Mummy," she murmured gratefully before bringing the cup to her lips and gulping it's contents down, like she was dying of thirst.

At first, when I'd given her the cup full of thick orange liquid she'd sniffed and given me an acerbic look. She'd been appalled- horrified, actually- that anyone expected her to drink such a vile liquid. And I couldn't really blame her- it looked like someone had already eaten it. The nasty cat-vomit colored substance couldn't possibly be very appetizing. But now, she knew it took away the throbbing in her ears-if only for a few hours- and she gulped the thick goo happily.

"You're welcome, love." I whispered back tenderly, wishing I had a more effective way to take away her pain. But I'd checked in all my school books and asked every Healer (even my old Healer, Naphtalie-who specialized in pregnancy and birth), finding only this inconsistant potion. There were only certain medicines that worked on babies and- of course- all of the good ones were too risky for anyone below fourteen months. Rory had only eleven under her belt.

She put the cup down and sighed in relief. A very small sigh.

"Better?"

She nodded gratefully, flashing me a stunning smile. Even so many months later-nearly a year!- I couldn't get used to her pretty face. Not just pretty, pretty was a heinous invective compared to her calibur of beauty. The symmetric shapes of her small features were breathtaking. Her perfectly feminine nose, her cleft chin, those adorable cheeks smattered with a faint pink blush, her skin was a perfect alabaster, those perfect lips- curved exactly right, not too full but no where near thin.

And, at last, those eyes. The windows into that sparkling soul of hers. Only one other person had eyes so purely blue, like the ocean- glittering crystal clear water dancing in the sunlight. And- in my opinion- Rory's were far superior. Even to his.

Maybe I was a tad biased but I couldn't possibly imagine anyone more exquisite than my Aurora.

"Sleep tight, Roribelle."

" 'Too, Mummy," she yawned adorably, her rosebud lips stretching into a small ovall. She laid her head down, smushing one side of her curls and the next moment she was fast asleep, all the pain gone from her porecelin face.

"Night, angel." I whispered, kissing her forehead softly.

Satisfied that she would sleep ache-free for the rest of the night, I stepped through the side door my mother had added magically- adjoining Rory's room to mine-trudged over to my own bed, pulled back the covers and sunk into it, letting sleep claim me until the sun rose.




By Friday her earache had disappeared on it's own, as the Healers had said it would (making me feel grudgingly grateful to them). And I awoke well rested for the first time in weeks. I could hear my mother in her shower, already awake and singing to herself.

I chuckled quietly. The mums were always the first ones up.

I stepped into my own bathroom and began to prepare for the big day.

A very big day indeed, I thought as my drowsiness washed away with the warm water. Realization began to sink in.

Exactly one year ago- today, I'd gone to a birthday party and ended up writhing in St. Mungo's. It'd been one year since my life had changed forever. My life's purpose shifted. Exactly one year ago, I met my beloved baby girl for the first time in person.

Rory's first birthday.

The thought took my breath away. How could my little raven-haired piece of heaven be one already? It didn't seem possible. But it was, appearantly. I'd been counting down on my calender for three months now. June seventh had finally arrived.

I was curling my hair into a fancy, twisted ponytail (by magic, of course) when I heard a familiar voice behind me croak, "It is so unfair that you get to use magic."

I turned to see my little sister, Effie, standing in the doorway. Her dark curls were in a disheveled bun and she had yet to change out of her pyjamas. Her face was sleepy and her eyes were glazed over, gazing at me disgruntly.

I flashed her a sunny grin. "The benefits of being homeschooled."

She groaned, flopping onto my bed.

"I can do your hair if you like. After your shower, of course."

She glared, "How the bloody hell do you get so much done before eight? It's not normal."

I shrugged, noncommitally.

It came with the territory of being a mother, I guessed. After so many sleepless nights (due to nonstop worrying), late night feedings, changings and an endless string of midnight lullubies, you kind of got used to being up at the crack of dawn. Effie wasn't there yet (thank Merlin), so I didn't even try to explain. She wouldn't understand anyway, not for a while at least.

"So, is there a particular reason you decided to hold the party the day after I came home from Hogwarts, exhausted and sleep deprived?"

I smiled tightly but shook my head. My stomach had lept into a free fall and a sickening knot tightened in my throat, almost choking me. My face drained of the radiant glow it possessed moments before. I knew she'd see right through me with ease.

Effie knew me too well.

Why she even had to ask the question was a mystery to me. She already knew what my motives were, maybe she just needed verbal conformation.

"Would the fact that you knew there was no way two certain blokes would be getting up today- until about six p.m. when they had to get ready for dates- have anything to do with it?"

I sighed, defeatedly.

But before I could answer a small familiar voice, more melodious than a world-class symphony, called out, "Mummy?"

I finished my hair quickly and swept from my room into the next.

"Happy Birthday, sweetheart!" I beamed as I saw my daughter sitting up drowsily in her crib.

She blinked and then smiled, whether for the birthday wishes or just me, I wasn't sure. But either way it was breath-taking.

"You ready for your party?" I asked her enthusiastically. I wanted her to know how special her birthday was.

She nodded and rubbed her eyes as I picked her up gently. With Rory on my hip, I plucked her party dress from her closet and carried her back into my room.

"An'nie Eppie!" She exclaimed happily when she saw my sister on my bed. She'd already been asleep when Effie had arrived home.

My sister's face lit up and she immediately rushed to take her neice from my arms and hug her tightly, spinning around once. Rory giggled and slapped her hands together in applause before Effie began showering her face with kisses.

I smiled at the sight of the two of them and a maternal wave of emotion rushed through me. I'd always been closer than close with my little sister and (before I'd gotten pregnant and opted for home schooling) at Hogwarts I'd mothered her constantly. And now, I was really a mother to someone and the trilling giggles of the two made a warmer than warm feeling shoot through my veins.

Did it get any better than this?

"Alright, sweets." I said to them, after several moments of the 'tickle-monster game'. "C'mon, time to get ready for the party. Ef, go take a shower and I'll do your hair when you get out. Rorybug, c'mere and we'll get you in your party dress."

"Yes, mum." Effie laughed rolling her eyes at me, like always. She handed me my radiant daughter and bounded from the room in a graceful fashion only Effie could manage to pull off this early in the morning.

I removed Rory's pyjamas and changed her diper. Then I grabbed the adorable dress Aubrey and Amelia had helped me pick out (while Alicia scoffed at the lacey frocks at the next rack) and slipped it over her head of curls. I snatched the matching socks from my end table and put them on her feet before finally adding the shiny black shoes my mother had picked up in Diagon Alley (they would help her balance improve appearantly- less wobbling, more standing and-hopefully- walking).

"There," I grinned at her, "all dressed. Now, what are we going to do about that hair?"

It amazed me how my daughter already had a mess of thick curls tumbling to the length of her chin when I'd been practically bald at one years old. But I knew I'd never be able to bear cutting her lovely locks, they were much too pretty to sheer away.

"B'ades!" Rory answered immediately. She'd just learned the word for her favorite hairstyle last week (Aubrey's doing, of course).

I smiled, she loved to have her hair braided. "French?"

She nodded with adorable enthusiasm, eyes bright with excitement.

"One or two?" I asked her as I grabbed my wand from my vanity.

She held up two fingers.

I laughed, "Alright. Sit very still, baby." I told her as I pointed my wand at her shiny curls. I thought the spell in my head and immediately her hair straightened (making it even longer) and began to gently weave into the two desired French braids on either side of her head.

I smiled, satisfied with my handy work. It thrilled me to have mastered the art of non-verbal spells. I was already halfway through my seventh year of school work and I'd yet to turn seventeen! But, with homeschooling, I'd made and effort to get ahead.

In four and a half months, I could start work as a Healer at St. Mungo's and begin to save money to buy a flat. Just a small one, nothing too fancy and not too far from here either because my mum would still be acting as babysitter. Just a place of our own. A place for Rory and me.

She clapped her hands again happily. She really liked clapping. All month-ever since Fabian taught her to- she'd been applauding the smallest accomplished task. I think that she just liked the sound it made when her tiny hands smacked together but it made her happy so I couldn't help but grin everytime she would burst into applause.

"Now it's mummy's turn to get dress." I told her, she applauded of course.

I went to my closet and quickly selected the soft pink summer dress I'd bought for the occasion. I slipped out of the sweats I'd been wearing all morning and into the silky ensemble, careful not to mess up my hair. Then, I crossed the room and stepped into the matching strappy sandals Aubrey had made me buy two weeks ago.

"Pi'ee, mummy," Rory clapped, beaming at me.

I laughed and took a playful bow. "Thank you, Ror. Now, breakfast time!" I exclaimed, swooping her into my arms again.

She burst into a very enthusiastic round of applause once more.


Minutes later I was reading the Daily Prophet at the table scanning it with tensed muscles as my mother cooked and my daughter munched on a piece of toast. It was becoming a routine. People vanishing, people dead. Muggles or wizards, it didn't matter. They'd pick off anyone who didn't see things their way. The Death Eaters and their leader got stronger everyday and everyone else got more and more panicked.

How could they not be? These days, it seemed no one was safe. Tons of families had been effected already and tons more had gone into hiding before the darkness could befall them. It was awful.

"Anyone we know?" Effie asked matter-of-factly, as she pecked Rory on the head, then sat acrossed from me.

"Effie," my mother winced, "must you be so callous about it?"

My sister shrugged as she pinched off a bit of toast and then looked at me expectantly.

I sighed, "No. No one today."

"Well, that's something at least." My mother sounded relieved. It was the same every morning, far too routine. Someone would get the courage to look at the Prophet with reports that grew gloomier with each day and another brave soul would venture to ask the dreaded question. What followed was entirely a matter of chance. Either we'd all breathe a sigh of relief or the air itself would grow heavy around us, a pregnant silence.

" 'Dan!"

I looked up at Rory's exclaimation to see Aidan Michaels entering the kitchen carrying a generous sized present wrapped in shiny turquoise paper. I knew I'd see my friend and not my brother Daniel because Rory couldn't say 'Aidan' yet and Daniel was 'Un' Dan' not just 'Dan'.

"Hiya," my tall, sandy haired friend greeted us. He gave me a peck on the cheek as he passed, hugged Effie and my mother and shook each of my brothers' hands- as well as my stepfather's.

Over the past year, Aidan and I had grown surprisingly close.

Like brother and sister, almost. So he was nearly a constant fixture at my house by now. He'd helped me during every earache and fever Rory came down with, quizzed me for hours into the night for school and kept me laughing when I was exhausted beyond coherency. When I cried due to wired hormones and sleep deprivation, he held me and murmured word of assurance. When I desperately needed a girl's night out with my best friend Mia and Alicia and Aubrey, he babysat.

He was one of my six Muggle friends, who had been with me through the epitomy of my dark age and helped brighten it for a time. And now we were closer than ever.

My daughter clapped at the sight of my best male friend, as always and held her arms out to him. This was obviously his cue to pick her up, immediately. So he set the present where my mother showed him outside on a table in the backyard and came back in to do what Rory wanted. No one could refuse her.

Rory seemed to attract people like a magnet. And everyone she met, she charmed. It was natural, though. With those heavenly baby blues and that winning grin of hers, who wouldn't adore her?

"Happy Birthday, Auroraborealis," he said to her when she was eye-to-eye with him.

I shot him a whithering look. I loathed that wretched nickname- as he very well knew. But leave it to Adam to get that from Aurora Alice. And trust Ames and Aidan to make it stick.

"Are you excited?" He asked her, ignoring me.

Rory nodded enthusiastically, though I'm pretty sure she had no idea what he was asking her.

"Well, guess what?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Because it's you birthday, guess what you get?" Again, he didn't wait for a response. "Extra piggyback rides!" He exclaimed and then he swooped her onto his shoulders and started capering through the house.

As Rory giggled, I rolled my eyes indulgently- an affectionate smile spread widely acrossed my lips.

"Kid at heart, isn't he?" Effie smirked.

"Aren't they all?" I asked shrewdly.

"Pretty much, it's like a requirement of the Y chromosone or something."

I laughed and nodded, "They're all Peter Pan!"

She rolled her eyes at me, "Too many bedtime stories?"

"Yeah."

"Aaaairrrrrr-rrry! Rrrrrorrrrr-ry! Eeeeeeef-fieeeee!" a familiar voice interrupted our laughter.

"In the kitchen, Lici!" I called back.

A moment later my sassy blonde friend poked her head in and beamed at us. "Cheers, everyone! Lovely morning, isn't it?"

Effie and Dan appraised her suspiciously from the green sash she'd used as a headband to the black flip flops she'd barely taken off all summer, except when we went swimming.

"What's got you so chipper?" Will's tone was as dubious as their looks. "You run over a small child on your way here or something?"

She just stuck her nose up at him and sniffed, "No."

But I elaborated, "Aubrey and Ames went on holiday with their family this week. They left this morning, Aubrey dropped off their present last night and wished Rory a happy birthday."

"Ah, I see," Will nodded. He, like everyone else on the planet, was well aware of Alicia's qualms with Ames Webb.

The two of them had been fighting constantly since primary school appearantly. It was that whole he-pulled-on-my-ponytail-she-put-paste-on-my-chair thing. Secretly, she was mad about him but refused to admit it. He, however, had absolutely no problem professing his feelings for her.

Everywhere.

In the park, in shops, at fancy restaurants, at greasy restaurants, at the theater and festivals. Any public place we went to, he'd ask her to go out with him. Any chance he got, he took. Mostly, he'd yell it at the top of his bloody lungs for everyone to hear. This made Rory giggle profusely, but it earned the eye-daggers from Alicia.

Once, at a restaurant we liked to haunt, he even went so far as to propose.
Needless to say this did not go over well with Lici and we haven't been allowed (by her) to go back since. Pity really. I miss their deserts desperately.

"Yeah, she's been like this all morning."

Adam and Amelia came trailing in after her- holding hands, of course. I'd been ecstatic when my best friend told me that she had finally snagged the love of her life from the clutches of all those ridiculous slags he normally dated. Mia had been mad about Adam for ages and the feeling was mutual, it turns out. He had a string meaningless flings for the sole purpose of trying to get over her. She was one of his best friends so he didn't want to mess it up.

But when Mia started to get distant and cold towards him about a month and a half ago (once his fling with Diana Fortsmith lasted over two weeks-breaking the record and scaring Mia because it no longer qualified as just a fling), he got even more worried. And -with a little nudge from Alicia (or you could call it a kick in the ass, either works just as well)- he broke it off with his latest hook up and approached her, reluctantly (a word rarely associated with Adam). Mia was so frustrated by that time that she snapped and blurted out the whole sodding story to him before he cut her off with a very passionate kiss.

And they've been attatched at the hip ever since.

Naturally, after their very long snogging session and a "deep, meaningful conversation" (yeah, I know, Adam being deep- hard to imagine isn't it?), Mia called Bree, Lici and me over to her house immediately for an hour of giggling and squealing ecstatically and an entire night of recounting and analysis of this brilliant developement.

Now, all that was left was for Alicia and Ames, Aubrey and Aidan to become couples and the group would be just as it should be.

And, despite my sisters implications, I would be perfectly happy being the only one of the group who was not paired off with a "delicious bloke". Who needed romance when you had the most beautiful and engaging baby girl in the universe? No, I'd be perfectly fine being the fifth wheel.

I'd given up on that kind of love a long time ago. There was no way I was going to put myself in the way of that kind of pain again. I'd learned my lesson the first time, thank you very much.

And, even then, I'd gotten beyond lucky. Because, honestly, I'd gotten the better end of the deal. The result- the gift- I recieved from that tumultuous rollercoaster ride some called a relationship, was Rory. So I was perfectly satisfied.

Maybe one day that would change and I'd fall in love. Maybe I would get married and Rory would get siblings and my world would shift yet again. But for now I was content just the way it was. The ache in my chest had dulled long ago and then been overshadowed by the extroidinary arrival of my daughter.

Sometimes though, on a rare occasion, I'd get a twinge when I saw a little family strolling in the park together, or a couple my age sharing a moment of sweetness. Occasionally when Auntie Carolyn mentioned "the boys" (as in plural) my insides would do a sickening sort of lurching thing that I'd never quite gotten used to. Or when Rory gazed up at me with those stunning baby blues, I'd get a flashback of sorts.

I knew it had only been a year and a half or so but it didn't feel like it. It felt like another era, eons ago, that I'd strolled down a deserted corridor and been snogged by the bane of my existance (and then realized that he actually fancied me and vice versa). Yet, I could still feel it. I could recall exactly the way his large, square hand felt around mine, warm and soothing. It was almost ridiculously simple to remember his scent, his laugh, his crooked smile.

And when I looked at Rory after such a flashback, I saw it.

That unmistakable resemblance. She was definitely his daughter. How could anyone believe the lie that we'd circulated when looking into those baby blues, spotting those dimples or patting the jet black curls? It seemed impossible that we'd fooled so many people into thinking that my stepdad, Tom was her father and my mother was hers as well. And even though many had said she was the spitting image of me, I had to disagree there too. She was too angelic to resemble me too closely, I just had the priviledge of being her mother.

What I did to deserve it though, remains a mystery.

As that little angel entered the room on Aidan's shoulders (giggling madly), Adam shuddered at the prospect of Alicia being so cheerful at this early hour. She, unlike myself, still clutched to her contempt for mornings on normal days- just like her contempt for Ames. But as the latter was gone, the former was greeted cheerfully.

"Does my being happy bug you, Adam?" Alicia asked, tone threateningly sweet.

His eyes narrowed suspiciously before my mother (with her impeccable timing) conjured up extra chairs for the tables and plate in front of them. They dropped the subject and settled for loading food onto their plates.

Magic was no surprise to my Muggle friends anymore. The girls had know for ages and the boys found out shortly after Rory was born (magical children tend to show their powers through sporatic outbursts and let's just say Adam wasn't feeding her quite fast enough one day). They thought nothing of this small household stuff anymore, just like my Muggle stepfather and brothers. It was just part of the daily routine-especially during the summer holiday, when they were over constantly.


It wasn't long after breakfast that my family started arriving. The grandmothers first, showering everyone with kisses (especially Rory) and immediately jumping in to help my mother and I set things up. Then my great aunts and uncles, came in the same general way; the aunts pitching in and the uncles went to talking about Quidditch as usual. Next was my favorite cousin, Molly with her husband, Arthur and three young sons; Billy, Charlie and Percy (who was a month and a half younger than Rory).

The boys and Rory played on a blanket in the yard- shortly joined by my other cousins; Ephriam, Eli and Ellie- where all the others watched them and the mothers and aunts busseled around the house with food and drinks. I handed Aidan a camera to so he could snap pictures- which I planned to develop in a special potion to make them mobile. And my friend diligently immortalized every happy moment he could see.

By one o'clock, the party was in full swing and I was helping my small daughter unwrap an array of gifts for her precious first birthday. Various treats from Honeyduke's destined to rot the few teeth she had, small books from Flourish and Blotts, several Muggle treasures and lots of little robes from Madame Malkin's.

When we were done we sang to her and cut the cake, giving her very own mini one which she dug into with her hands and face (per Adam's instructions). I was endlessly grateful that I was a witch and it only took a quick spell to clean her off once she was done.

A few hours later, the lavish family dinner was served and by eight-thirty- after hours of talking and laughing and watching my adorable daughter whirl around on her new toy broom (from "the boys" I preferred not to think about too hard)- my family was filing out of the house, giving goodbye hugs and kisses. Molly and Arthur were each carrying a baby boy as Billy skipped along after them and my Auntie Carolyn was making plates- laden with food for her crew at home- float in front of her.

Having successfully pulled off my daughter's very first birthday party without a hitch, I carried my drowsy baby upstairs. I gently removed her party dress, replacing it with a soft yellow onesie and placed her in her crib with a tender kiss to the forehead. I went into my room and changed into my pyjamas- a pair of stolen boxers and a T-shirt. Then I went back downstairs and sat next to my mother on the couch with a sigh. The house was completely empty, so quiet and peaceful.

"I know, sweet." She smiled with empathy on seeing my weary expression. I closed my eyes and laid my head on her shoulder as she draped her arm around mine, comfortingly. "Believe me, I remember your first birthday."

I smiled weakly.

"It was so strange to think that I had a one year old daughter at eighteen."

"And now you have a one year old granddaughter at thirty-three."

She laughed, musically. "Yes, that's true. And entirely your fault for making me a grandma so young." She teased.

"Well, you and daddy deserve a little credit."

She chuckled, "I guess."

I sighed again, "I can't believe she's one."

"Neither can I."

"Seems like yesterday that I was bringing her home."

I felt her nod and then she added, "goes by fast, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, it really does."



***

Two days later, we were with family again for another birthday party. My dad's side was having a party for the twins. Always an affair to remember.

First of all, when we arrived at my Gran's house she informed us that the birthday boys we going to be late.

"How can they be late for their own birthday party?" I laughed as I set Rory down in her highchair.

"They've been on a mission all week." my aunt Jill informed me.

Immediately, my chest tightened. Effie sighed heavily beside me.

None of us liked the idea of Gideon and Fabian in the heart of danger. Deliberately diving into the turmoil of this war and risking their lives. But they were both determined to fight for the cause, no arguements. Though, that didn't stop their mother, sister or Gran Airy from trying. They'd tried time and time again to get them to stop taking on missions but the flatly refused (obviously).

I didn't even try to persuade them, it was completel pointless. But I did tell them that if they got hurt or.... died, I'd bring them back to life just so I could kill them myself.

Not having Gideon and Fabian there for the first half hour was strange but I'd expected to feel this way today.

This year's party was particularly strange for me. Not only did it bring back memories but Effie introduced her long time boyfriend, Jacob McKinnon to everyone.

Once Gideon and Fabian arrived they had some laughs, interrogating him and pushing their limits to see Effie glower at them. But I was not as easy going as my cousins.

I liked Jake, really I did. He'd always been a pretty good kid when I'd known him at Hogwarts. But that was the problem.

He still went to Hogwarts.

And he only knew the public story, not the real one. He thought Rory was Effie's little sister, not her niece. And, now that Rory could say most names, I was on edge. What if he heard her call me 'mummy' and went back to Hogwarts with it. Would that be the way my old friends would find out about my new life? The rumor mill?

Effie had been my eyes and ears at Howarts after I left. She informed me about any gossip that might involve myself and if anyone had caught on. Only one person had and that was before I left.

Severus Snape was a slimy git with greasy black hair, who hated all things Gryffindor and was fascinated by the Dark Arts. At school we hated him and vice versa. So once he'd gotten a hold of my secret, I'd been absolutely certain that it was blown. All hope of concealment lost.

Yet, for some reason, according to Effie, even after I left he didn't reveal my most shocking secret. Not even to his worst enemies- who it would cause mountains of pain. Pain he would, no doubt, relish.

Why did he keep my secret for me? I have no idea. Maybe he actually had a heart or maybe he'd just decided to hedge his bets. Perhaps he was smarter than I thought and he was biding his time. Waiting for the opportune moment.

When that would be? I have no idea.

But the last thing I wanted was to be at the mercy of yet another Hogwarts student. No matter how trustworthy this one happened to be. Knowing my fears, Effie left the party as soon as the twins were done giving her boyfriend the Spanish Inquisition.

I breathed a sigh of relief as they disappeared in the fireplace and Molly chuckled beside me.

"Nervous, were we?"

I grimaced, "A bit."

She sighed heavily.

"Don't." I told her flatly, concentrating on the dish I was washing.

"I wasn't saying anything," Molly pursed her lips.

"Yes but you were thinking it."

"But I didn't say it."

I sighed and rolled my eyes but before I could reply my daughter let out a shrieking giggle behind me. We turned to see her on Fabian's shoulders.

"Oh Merlin's scraggly beard!" My Gran exclaimed, "Fabian, do be careful with her!"

"You drop my baby, I break your neck." I threatened, only half- jokingly.

Fabian simply grinned at me impishly and continued threw the house with Aurora's chin perched on his head.

I laughed but yelled, "I wasn't kidding, Fabian! Just because it's your birthday doesn't mean I won't cripple you!"


The party lasted well past dark- as they usually did- and by the time we sat listening to the latest Quiddtich game on the wireless, talking and laughing at old family stories we'd all heard a million and one times, Rory had fallen fast asleep on my lap.

I stroked her soft curls and rested my chin lightly on her head as I listened to the laughter of my loved ones. I smiled, but didn't speak or laugh aloud because I didn't want to jostle my daughter. If she knew she was missing a party, she'd fight her sleepy stupor to the death. And I knew she'd win too.

Stubborness and the love of partying were in her genetics. I would have to work to keep them in check once she got older but for now I just settled myself with making sure she stayed obliviously dreaming.

After another hour and a half of this, I decided not to push my luck though and took her home to her own bed.

As was my custom, I kissed her light as a butterfly's wings on the forehead and then slowly backed out of the room with a murmured, "G'night, my angel."

***




My birthday had never been particularly important to me before I'd gotten pregnant. And, once Aurora was born, they became even less of an event in my oppinion. What could possibly outshine my Rory? Nothing. It was utterly impossible.

So two weeks later, my right of passage went pretty unnoticed in my mind. I'd been an adult long before I turned seventeen anyway. Even before I had Rory my mother had called me an old soul, I'd grown up faster than most. Adulthood was nothing new to me. Now people would just recognize me as such, rather than waving it off.

I awoke like any other Saturday morning, peaked in on my daughter and then stepped into the shower. I dried my hair by magic, threw it in a ponytail and donned a pair of faded old jeans. Then, I woke my sleeping child and got her ready for the day. After breakfast, we were running errands. I'd been studying so much lately that there were an abomidable amount of things I'd neglected and today I was determined to catch up.

My mother had gotten me a car when I turned sixteen. I was responsible, believe it or not, despite the fact that I'd gotten pregnant at fifteen. And my mum trusted me to use the freedom well- which I did.

There was really no temptation to abuse it honestly. My mother had recognized for quite a while that I was no longer a child, she pretty much gave me freedom once Rory was born. I'd already had a baby, for Merlin's sake, what other trouble could I possibly get into? The car, I suppose, had been a symbol of that. Her trust. A surprising thing, all things considered. But I'd learned my lesson and she knew I was trustworthy enough for a car of my own. It was this smooth little silver number with a car seat in the back for Rory.

No one was up yet, except my mother who I could hear upstairs in her shower. I grabbed some breakfast-to-go for Rory and left a note saying where we were and when I expected us to be back on the dining room table.

"C'mon, sweet." I said, lifting the one year old from her crib. As always, she fit in my arms exactly, they'd been molded just for her. It sounds cheesy but it's absolutely true. The only explanation for how exact things were when she was in them. "Time to go out."

" 'Aaay!" she burst into enthusiastic applause. Would it never get old for her?

I buckled Rory in with a contented sigh and then walked around to the other side of the car. After finding a song I liked on the radio, I put the car in drive and backed out of onto the street.

Our first stop was the Muggle bank. The teller gave me the normal questioning look-speculating (as stranger always did) whether or not I was quite old enought o have a daughter- but smiled tenderly at Rory and gave her candy, like always, no one could resist those dimples. She beamed in her pushchair with the sucker in her mouth, as I shopped for various essentials I'd been lacking for a while in my bout of insane studying.

She loved going to the bank. It may very well rot her teeth one of these days but it kept her quitely content while I checked things off of my to-do list so I had no qualms at the moment.

When we were done with the Muggle errands, I dropped the car off at home and -finding no one around for some strange reason- left another note telling where we'd be. I went upstairs and got Rory into a set of purple robes she'd recieved for her birthday. Then, I threw a blue robe of my own on over my faded jeans and white band T-shirt. I fixed my hair back into another curly ponytail and re-did Rory's French braid as well. Then, feeling fresh again, I carried Rory downstairs to the fireplace.

She wrinkled her nose sourly, remembering the last time and the coughing fit the soot had caused.

"Just close your eyes and mouth," I told her. "It'll be over quicker than-"

"You realize you can just apparate now, right?"

I turned and saw my sister smirking in the door way.

"What?"

"Honestly," she exclaimed, "how in hell can you forget your own seventeenth birthday?!"

I felt the comprehension flicker on my face and then indifference as I shrugged. "It's juat a birthday and I haven't got time to get my apparition license today anyway."

"Just a birthday?" She looked incredulous, completely astonished that I could treat coming of age so cooly. "Airy, it's not just a birthday it's your seventeenth!"

This didn't really surprise me. Effie had been itching to turn seventeen for ages. Birthdays were a big thing for her.(I suppose it was a youngest thing or something.) One of the many differences between my bubbly baby sister and I- she cared about these thing, I let them pass without splendor.

She huffed exasperatedly as I shrugged again. But before she could scold me further about being so indifferent, I said, "Listen, I'm going to Diagon Alley to pick up a few things. I should be back by four or five so don't wait up for us, okay? Cheers!" And before she could reply, I stepped into the fireplace and yelled, "DIAGON ALLEY!"

I heard Rory whimper and felt her face tucked into my collarbone as we spun in circles. When it stopped, we were in the Owl Empourium. I let Rory look for a while, because she adored animals and then told her it was time to go.

She cried of course, I'd expected this. But, as I was not too keen on making a scene today, I used the time old method of bribery to avoid a tantrum. I promised to buy her some ice cream at Florean's if she behaved. Naturally, she quieted rather quickly and we continued out onto the crowded alley.

As we walked through the crowds my stomach swirled uneasily. As always, I ignored it and told myself no Hogwarts students would be here until August, at least. (During which I would avoid this place like the plague- just like I had the year before.) I was in no danger of being seen now.

And so what if I was? It was stupid of me to think that someone from my old school would immediately see the truth. They'd all been told the lie- why wouldn't they just assume I was running errands for my mother and took my little sister along with me? None of them had any reason to believe any different. Except....

I didn't let my mind wander that path. I'd been very thorough. Auntie Carolyn told me yesterday that the boys were attending the Quidditch World Cup (yes, I was practically bursting with envy). They'd be gone all weekend, we were free and clear. My secret was completely safe.

Yet, I still worried. I couldn't help it.

Maybe it's just a trait you inherit with motherhood. The curse of always worrying about things, especially the welfare of your child.

Yes, this worry was directly connected with Rory's well being. I'd convinced myself long ago that I'd kept my secret for his sake, but in the year that past I realized something that made me keep it that way. A secret.

Rory would not be thrown in the way of such immaturity. It was too dangerous. And there was no way in hell I was risking my daughter's innocence, emotional health or physical well-being. Not that she'd be intentionally hurt but the risk of her being scarred in any way-accident of not- was not one I was willing to take. I was going to make sure that anyone around her was a safe influence. And that meant that my secret was not going to be revealed anywhere in the near future.

I picked up the robes Molly had asked me to pick up for her ("The boys just grow like weeds these days." She'd laughed. "Only cuter," I amended.), got a few new ones for Effie and my mother. In the shop, Rory said my name a couple times but I wasn't all that worried about it. Madame Malkin's had too many Hogwarts students to remember what year I was supposed to be in, or even if I was supposed to be in one. So she just assumed I was old enough to have a one year old, not bothering to ask many questions.

"Mummy?"

"Hm?"

I looked up to see what Rory wanted when she didn't answer. She was pointing at Florean's, determinedly. She was not letting me forget. Yes, of course, this was my luck. I got the freakishly intelligent child who remembered everything.

"Yes, I know," I laughed. "One more stop, yeah?"

Her little eyebrows knit together and she huffed.

"A very quick stop," I promised.


I immersed myself in books at Flourish and Blotts, like always. I needed a new read. Rory was far too low-matinence and I read far too fast. She got impatient as I read the back of each book but it only made me smile. When she wasn't throwing a fit, her irritation was amusing to me.

I was lucky that my hearing and periphial vision were so good.

"No! Not the books! Anything but the book shop!" A girl groaned on the lower level of the shop.

Every muscle in my body tensed. My stomach went from vaguely nauseous to heaving, my heart jolted into high gear and my steady legs- the strong pillars that held me up through a year of craziness- were suddenly pudding. Wobbly, soft, farthest-thing-from-solid pudding.

"Oh, c'mon, you big baby," another, rather annoyed, voice said. "So dramatic! Ugh, I swear you're like five. Tops."
"No," a third laughed, "we just know you better than anyone in the world. And we are well aware of the fact that you can spend hours in this blasted shop."

I'd know those voices anywhere. I'd known them since I was eleven and the year I'd avoided them did not dim their familiarity. I could've picked them out of a sold-out Quidditch arena. I'd dreaded and dreamed of hearing them ever since I left them behind so abruptly. I imagined telling the owner's every detail of my now insane existance.

About my still relatively new motherhood and how hectic everything had become, how madly I loved my angelic daughter and how I accepted all of the events leading to her arrival. I wanted to gush about how strange it was being seventeen and mother to a one year old.

But everytime I imagined their reactions I cringed.

No. No matter how long I'd known them, they wouldn't understand this. It was the reason I hadn't told them to begin with, the reason I hadn't contacted them for over a year, the reason I now darted behind the nearest bookshelf with my daughter in tow- heart pounding. There was no way they would understand my new existance.

I mentally groped for ideas but came up empty handed. My only hope was that Lily would lead them to the back of the shop and I could slip away unnoticed.

If I succeeded, there was no way I was sticking around. I'd go straight home, to safety. I would call Mia, Lici, Bree and Aidan to calm my nerves and they would. Adam and Ames would tag along and be painfully honest, earning sharp thwacks from the other four. This would make me life and all would be right in my little world again. I would not let this one close call derail me.

As I'd hoped, Lily dragged Alice and Mary to the back of the shop, to the romance novels section. If I hadn't been so tense and terrified, I would've chuckled at the massive groans Alice and Mary let loose while being tugged by the firey redhead.

But I was too intent on making my escape. Undetected by the three girls I'd once been best friends with.

Rory, sensing my terror, didn't utter a word. She nuzzeled into me and waited for my pulse to slow. I crept down the stairs and made a mad dash to the door, leaving the books behind me.

Finally, as I hurried down the Alley- daughter in tow- I realized I'd stopped breathing.

With a large exhale, I relaxed only slightly. I wasn't totally clear but it was very likely that Lily wouldn't be done for a while. Even so, I didn't allow Rory to look at the owls this time. Instead, I hurried to the fireplace and grabbed the Floo Powder.

I barely registered my own voice shouting my address or the swirling and spinning. My own mind was reeling. I couldn't quite wrap my head aroudn the idea that I'd been that close to them. It seemed so unreal- surreal actually. But it seemed like my life before Rory was a dream now, like all those in it were purely fictional, my imagination. Yet, there they'd been. In the flesh, bringing all my old ghosts along with them.

But then, as I reentered my current reality, I was brought back to earth by a ringing, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY AIRY!" 


***
(Review please! ~RED)


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