I have spent many years of my life in opposition, and I rather like the role.
"You know my feelings, Bella." My mother murmured the next night- once I got up the guts to tell her about the letter- as I paced in the living room. She sat on the couch- Rory asleep in her arms- watching me with sad eyes.
I exhaled agitatedly, "I don't want to leave Rory."
I shook my head frustratedly, "I'm not going."
"I think you should."
"I know you do. But I can't just abandon my daughter, mum."
"Who says she'll be abandoned?" On the surface, she smiled but below it she sounded offended and slightly hurt.
"That- Mum, that isn't what I meant. I just- I can't-"
"I understand, sweetheart. But Rory will be fine without you for a few months, she'll be in good hands. And, in the long run, it's better for her if you finish school at Hogwarts. Get the best education possible so that you can give her the best life possible."
Why was she doing this to me? Why was she making this decision complicated? I was beginning to feel sorry that I'd even told her to begin with. But a voice in my head reminded me that she was no idiot. My mother missed nothing. She'd already known before I told her, it would've come up eventually. She'd figured it out the second I opened that blasted letter.
"I think you need some of the time you were robbed of, Bella. Time to be a teenager, to be free. You won't get these years back and it isn't the same with a baby in tow. You should go back to school and be a regular seventeen year old girl who's got boys, clothes, friends and makeup on the brain. Not diapers and sippy cups and push chairs. You shouldn't have to-"
"I made my decision a long time ago, mum. I chose to sleep with-" I fumbled over the name, unable to force it out. I breathed deeply and started over, "I chose to have Rory. I gave up all of that for something so much better. I don't want to waste my time thinking about makeup and boys. I'm perfectly fine with push chairs and sippy cups." Diapers weren't exactly my favorite. "I love my friends and they love Rory. It's not the same with a baby in tow, it's better. And I still get top marks, I-"
"I know you think that everything is fine the way it is. But I don't want you to regret this later, Bella." She held her hand out for silence, seeing I was about to interrupt. "Hogwarts is the best magical school in the world. There's so much they can teach you that I can't. So much you can do there without having to worry about feeding a soon-to-be toddler."
"But I would worry," I told her, "I'd worry my bloody head off and it would be hell. Complete torture. Because, not only would I not be able to see her but I'd be stuck in the place where-"
Neither of us had brought up the biggest point yet. But I wasn't too eager to get there so I stopped short, catching myself before the words spilled out.
Unfortunately, my mother the mind reader already knew what I'd been about to say.
After a moment of pregnant silence she mumured,"You might tell him, you know, Bella. Just let him know that he's got a daughter."
I let out a bitter laugh, harsh and callous to my own ears. "So he can tell everyone that I'm just some slag trying to pin him with a baby because I don't know who the real father is? No, I don't think so. Not going to happen."
"He wouldn't do that. James wouldn't let him."
"Well he certainly wouldn't be thrilled at the news, now would he? He'd react exactly the way I always expected."
"He might surprise you, love. People change."
"Not him. He has always been and will always be a-"
"Bella," she insisted, giving me a stern look. "He might not react the way you'd expect. Your father surprised me."
"Dad was mad about you," I told her and an odd pang resounded deep in my chest as I pointed out the distinct difference in our situations. "He was in love with the future mother of his child. Which means he was willing to do anything to keep you. Including marry you and start a family alot earlier than he probably would've normally."
"Mum, it's different, okay? Trust me," I avoided her eyes.
"I'm just saying that you can't predict everything, sweetheart."
"I'm not telling him anything." I stood my ground stubbornly, refusing to even consider the option of disclosing my secret.
Finally she gave up that argument, fully aware that we were getting nowhere. I wasn't budging as long as we were dwelling on this particular issue. Just like the last time we'd argued about this.
Instead, she returned to my one weakness.
"Finishing school at Hogwarts will help you, Arabella. You'll be able to have the independance you've always wanted and give Rory the best life you can give her. You may not get that if you finish at home and being a single mother is hard work, love."
I narrowed my eyes at her dubiously and crossed my arms over my chest. This wasn't fair. It should be illegal to make someone feel this guilty. But how could I not acknowledge the genuine truth? She was right. I knew she was right. The problem was, trying to accept what her correct analysis meant.
"And what about the thing Dumbledore wanted to dicuss in person? Aren't you the least bit curious? I would be."
"No, I'm not. " I lied easily but the truth was, I was dying. I wanted to know what Dumbledore could possibly want with me, what everyone there was like now, what would happen if I went back. The curiousity was driving me nearly insane.
If I went, I'd be miserable. But if I didn't go I'd be guilty, miserable and I'd always wonder. I'd always be curious.
"You don't have to decide tonight, sweetheart." She told me after a long moment of silence. "Sleep on it a little, then decide."
I sighed heavily, burdened by an invisble mountain perched on my shoulders. "I better take her up to bed," I murmured, evasively. I lifted Rory gently into my arms and carried her gingerly upstairs.
I knew I would not actually be sleeping on this issue. Firstly, because- under no circumstances- was I going back there. And secondly, because I was absolutely positive sleep would ignore me tonight.
I was right. The sandman was giving me the cold shoulder and the night dragged on like a never ending heat wave. Stifling me, suffocating my skin as a frenzy of thoughts whirled around my head, ricocheting off the walls like an unmanned AK-47. It was impossible to relax my tense muscles and close my eyes. Impossible to shut out everything and just stop thinking.
Around four in the morning, I caught myself making a mental list of all the wicked things that had plagued me lately. First I almost collided with my old best friends in Diagon Alley- with my daughter no less. Then, that wretched locket resurfaced. As if that wasn't quite enough to claim my sanity, my cousin decided to visit with his mother and we'd met for the first time in months. And lastly, that damn letter.
I swear, someone up there is having a really sick laugh at my expense and it's pissing me off. Hadn't I suffered enough? Didn't I deserve to be happy at all? Why wouldn't fate let me forget? Just when I thought I was over everything. Just when I'd finally forgotten. Why'd she have to bring it all back?
I tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable, until sometime before sunset when I drifted into an uneasy slumber.
"So, Dumbledore sent you that letter himself, huh?" Effie asked the next afternoon, plopping down on my bed as I got ready to go to the twins' house.
I turned to look at her in shock. "How did you-?"
"I heard you and mum arguing about it again last night."
Silence ensued. It hung between us like a heavy blanket in the air.
"So, are you coming back?" she finally asked. "To Hogwarts, I mean."
I sighed and stumbled over my words. "No- I dunno-I can't, Ef."
"Why not?" her voice was petulant but I couldn't look to see her expression as my cheeks flushed with guilt.
Guilt for what exactly, I had no idea but I was too sleep deprived to care all that much. I just concentrated on getting rid of the under-eye circles with the make up I'd bought in Diagon Alley.
"I just can't, okay, Effie?" I snapped hotly. "I can't be away from my daughter for months on end! I can't go back to that place and pretend nothing happened! I can't face my friends and lie to them some more- they deserve better! And I- I can't-" I couldn't say the last part but I didn't have to, she already knew.
"You wouldn't have to- I mean, I think you should tell him but it's not like you'd have to. You could just go back and try to ignore him. It's only one year, after that you'll never see him again and he'll never know that Aurora is actually his daughter."
She made it sound simple, but it wasn't. It couldn't be.
Because, as much as I hated him, I still felt guilty for not saying anything. And then I hated myself for feeling guilty. But no matter how hard I'd tried to shove the guilty concious and the looming what-if's away they always crept up on me again. I'd spent countless nights in the past year and a half, lying awake, wondering what would've happened, wondering if I was wrong.
And then, a mental image from long ago of what- or who- he'd done as soon as I'd broken it off would flash in my head and I'd feel better. Yes, I'd done the right thing by keeping it from him, he wasn't mature enough to be a father. He probably wouldn't have cared anyway and then, that fact would've always lingered in my mind when Rory got curious and began to ask questions. Easily convinced, I'd drift off to sleep and dream of my beautiful baby girl and the fantastic woman she'd one day be.
But this was different.
I knew that, if I saw him, the inner battle would rage on- not so easily solved. I would mull over it for unhealthy amounts of time and fret for hours. My stomach would be in knots and I'd lose too much weight from lose of appetite. I knew that I'd be tense and wary of everything I said. What if I slipped? What if someone figured it out? What if I fell for-?
No, I was not- under any circumstances- stepping foot in that ancient castle.
I sighed, heavily.
My sister missed having me at school. I'd known this since the day I'd left so abruptly. Effie wanted her big sister there, she wanted the old days of braiding hair in the Common Room and tackling each other in the corridors. I hated to hurt her, but I could not go back to how things used to be.
My voice was very quiet when I finally gave her my answer. "I can't, Ef. I just can't go back there."
"You've got the number, yeah?"
"And her potion? Because she still has to take it every night for another month or she'll get those wretched earaches again. Merlin knows we don't want that again!"
"Bella, we'll be fine," my mum sighed. "It isn't like I haven't done this before. I did raise you ya' know."
"Yeah and look how that turned out," I teased her, laughing nervously.
"Ha, ha. You're hilarious. Now go. Have fun with the gang. Don't worry so much, sweet."
Yeah, easy for her to say.
I sighed, "Alright. Give mummy a kiss," I said to Rory.
She'd only just learned how to give a kiss with her mouth closed so she was more then happy to practice, grinning madly when she did it right.
With one more wave I turned and got into my car. And as I backed out of the drive I thought about Hogwarts. If I could barely handle leaving her for a night at the twins' house how in Agrippa's name was I going to leave her to finish school?
Simple. I wasn't.
"I think you should," Adam announced when I told them of the letter and the conversations with my mother and sister.
Alicia delivered a swift smack to the back of his head.
"Ouch! What the bloody hell was that for?"
"For being an idiot." She told him simply. "That pig shagged some bint right after they broke up and thought nothing of it. Why the hell would she tell him? Why would she want Rory around someone like that? "
A halfhearted smile tugged at my lips. Leave it to Alicia to voice my arguement in three simple sentences. Merlin, I loved that girl.
"But, she is his daughter! If Mia got pregnant and had my child I'd bloody want to know it!" Adam countered.
"Whoa, since when am I getting pregnant?" Amelia interjected.
But Adam didn't get a chance to answer because Alicia had a retort. "Why tell him when they're both happier with him not knowing? He's free to shag every slag he can find and contract diseases, responsibility free and Rory and Bella are perfectly happy being a duet."
"But, if he wouldn't do anything about it, then what's the harm in just letting him know he's got a daughter?" Adam asked.
"Because he doesn't deserve to know."
"Seriously, I want to know how I had a kid in this conversation, Adam." Amelia said, they ignored her.
"Yes, he does."
"No, he doesn't."
"Yes, he does."
"No, he doesn't"
"Does, does, does."
"Doesn't, doesn't, doesn't."
"Ames," Adam appealed, "Wouldn't you want to know if you had a kid?"
"Alicia would tell me. Wouldn't you, Leese?"
Lici just glowered at them both. It looked like she was trying to decide who to murder first. That, or whether she wanted to do it quickly or make it slow and painful.
"Can we change the subject, please?" I interrupted, to save Ames from a very torturous death. "I really don't want to talk about this anymore." It bugged me that- if I was being unbiased- Adam's arguement made sense to me.
"What movie are we watching?" Aubrey asked quickly, do exactly as I'd asked. I wanted to hug her.
"Another one where they blow things up," Mia answered wryly.
Bree's face fell, "Can't we watch a chick flick for once?"
"NO." All three boys answered.
Ames popped the movie in and settled himself on the floor, leaning against Alicia's knees. She hit him, of course and scooted over so that he was next to her legs rather than on them.
It was as Aubrey dimmed the lights and the opening credits came up that Aidan, who had been very quiet next to me all evening said, "Do it for Rory, Bells."
I didn't sleep much that night either. I just laid in between Lici and Mia on fortress of covers we'd set up in her living room and debated the facts in my head. Just as I was about to fall over to one side resolutely, an argument for the other would sway me to uncertainty again.
Finally, after turning the vicious words around in my head for hours on end and balancing on the edge of that cliff called decision, I sunk into and exhausted dreamless sleep.
(Okay so, this is one of those filler chapters that's still sort of important. I couldn't very well skip the whole agonizing decision process , now could I? I should be updating this soon again -if all goes well- and also some of my other stories are scary close to getting updated too. So keep an eye out! But while you're waiting, tell me what you think in that little box below- who knows, maybe it'll make me write faster!
Love always, RED)
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