Chapter 6 : The First Step
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You can never really live anyone else's life, not even your child's. The influence you exert is through your own life, and what you've become yourself.
When I got home everyone was still alseep. It was Saturday so this did not surprise me. My mum deserved a lie-in once in a while and the rest of the family sure as hell wasn't getting up if neither of us were there to wake them.
The house was quiet, unnaturally hushed.
The air itself seemed solemn, as if it was acknowledging my decision already. The pensive walls seemed to have known I'd choose this path in the end and were surveying me with their ultimate wisdom, whether approving or not I had no idea. I felt like I was floating through the empty halls, my body was on autopilot.
I drifted into the familiar pastel room where my daughter was fast asleep. An ancient sadness engulfed me as I sat in the rocking chair I'd lulled her to sleep in as a newborn. Humming sweet melodies I remembered from my own childhood until she was wrapped in a peaceful slumber.
This morning, I simply rocked myself and watched her as she dreamed. My little angel with smushed black curls and soft, cream and roses, baby cheeks. Her bottom lip jutted out in a pout and a crease appeared between those expressing eyebrows, like she was dreaming of something mildly unpleasant.
I knew it was ridiculous and overprotective, but the thought of Rory having a nightmare disturbed me and I felt myself mirror her expression from the lip to the crease. I almost laughed as a warm liquid seemed to flood in my heart. It was nice to be reminded that she- this lovely little piece of heaven- really was an extention of me.
It was so strange to think that there was a time when I didn't even like babies all that much. A time when I considered myself the farthest thing from maternal that was humanly possible. When kids meant snot bubbles and unruly random fits of magic and screeching at the top of their spoiled lungs.
It was beyond weird to remember when I thought my life wouldn't involve children (save for the ten Effie and Jacob are bound to have when they're older) until I was at least thirty with a stable job and a mature, responsible husband. The time when I buried my nose in books, worked my ass off at Quidditch practice so we'd beat Slytherin in a match, giggled and gossiped carelessly with my three best friends late at night in our dorm and quarreled with insufferable boys who had nothing on their mind but shags and Bludgers.
But it was even more bizarre to think about going back to that life. I was so incredibly different now. It was impossible to think of even returning to a fraction of how I used to be. It all seemed so ridiculous, so trivial.
On the other hand, I could see myself going back. For Rory. As an example so that she wouldn't hit the terrible teens (just as bad as the terrible twos in my oppinion) and decide it was okay to quit school like mummy did. Even though I didn't actually quit, I still didn't want to plant the idea of homeschooling in her pretty little head because there was no way in hell I was going to become a teacher. Even to my Rory.
I could see myself graduating from Hogwarts and having a big party here with my Muggle friends and my entire family. I could nearly taste the satisfaction and pride I'd get when I became a Healer and the thrill that buying my own flat for Rory and me would bring. I could see my life settling into a comfortable pattern of work, motherhood and the A-listers. I could picture sending my baby off to Hogwarts one day and cryings a little as I waved goodbye and then-on holidays- having her friends over as constant presences in our house. It was easy to picture Rory one day babysitting Ames and Alicia's trouble-making spawn as well as Aubrey and Aidan's shy sweethearts and Adam and Amelia's rowdy lot while we went out to dinner or for drinks.
And I wanted that life. Bad. I wanted to be independant. I wanted to be a happy, well-adjusted young and single mother. I wanted to be best friends with my vibrant young daughter- closer than close, like my mother and I were. I wanted to be that contented and proud of what I'd overcome, what I'd accomplished. I wanted it so bad I could taste the simple sweetness of it on my tongue.
I sighed into the thick knowledgable silence and pushed lightly off the floor again. The chair creaked soothingly as it cradled me- an adult in every way- speaking words of comfort like it was talking to the child it was meant to calm.
"Oh, my Rory," I murmured to the sleeping mini-goddess. "What am I going to do?"
It was a pointless question, for more than one reason. The first and most obvious being that she was sleeping, the second was that she was an innocent one year old who had no idea about the innerturmoil her mother was currently battling and third was because I already knew my choice- even if I wanted to deny it- I'd made my decision subconciously the second I found that God damn locket.
I sent the answering letter off with my owl an hour later, taking the first step towards my already sealed fate. Stomach twisting, heart pounding; I watched as she flew away, soaring through the sky to the place I'd avoided for so long. When she disappeared, not even a tiny speck in the sky, I collapsed into one of the dining room chairs and hid my face in my hands. What the hell had I just done?
"REALLY?" Effie squeals when I tell her later that night.
I clutch Rory a little closer to my chest than nessecary and nod. A pang sounds off in my chest when I see how happy this revelation has made my baby sister and my throat is thick with emotion. I'd hurt her by leaving. I'd suspected as much, but it was worse to have proof.
It's when I almost tear up that I suspect I'm going through a belated bout of Postpartum depression. Maybe I was cracking under the weight of what I'd just signed up for, going mad from stress. Or maybe it was just a super bad case of PMS. In any case, my emotions were suddenly a rollercoaster ride again. I'd already snapped- more than once- at both step brothers, cried over a burn I'd recieved from the toaster, gotten nauseaous watching a forensics show on television and I don't even want to talk about what happened when Dumbledore replied. It all reminded me vividly of when I was mid-pregnancy. Ready to poke everyone's eyes out with the sharpest quill I owned one moment and fawn over them with hugs and kisses and batches of chocolate chip cookies the next. Completely mental.
"Oh my God!" She tackled me in a hug.
"Effie! Ger' offff 'ee! I j'ss go' 'O'ee oo 'leepa! 'Er gon' 'ake 'er up!" I grumbled.
"I'm sorry!" she said, not sounding the least bit apologetic. "I'm just so happy to get my big sister back!"
"I never left," I muttered, half annoyed and half heartbroken that she felt like I'd been lost at all. I wasn't lost, just... different.
"I know, I know." She waved this away dismissively in her euphoria. "But it's not the same without you and letters are not my idea of ideal communication. I'd rather be able to shout in the corridors and randomly tackle you when I get the urge."
I sighed. It was kind of nice to know that, no matter what, somethings never changed and Effie Haze would always remain- Effie Haze, bubbly, beautiful and brilliant. Annoyingly cheerful at times and never quite mastering the practical art of tact.
"I guess I'll have to go to Diagon Alley again." My tone added the groan. I was still recovering from my close call last time, how the hell would I survive going now? More importantly, how would I survive this year?
The words; 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger', flashed in my head. I wasn't so sure that this wouldn't kill me too be honest. What with being away from Rory, not seeing the A-list practically every single day, being among my old ghosts (who, it turns out, stil live and breathe) and keeping the secret from them it was very likely Rory was going to become an orphan at the tender age of one.
"Eeee!" My sister shrieked, "I'm so excited!" and with that, she dashed off to her room to write some lovey-dovey rubbish to Jake.
I groaned and got up with a heavy sigh to go and tuck my daughter safely in her bed. Enjoy it while it lasts, a maliciously smug voice in my head said. Come September you'll be too busy doing essays to tuck anyone in.
And, for the millionth time today, I was seriously second guessing my decision. What the bloody fucking hell had I done?!
I told my mother later that night.
All she did was hug me tightly and say, "I'm proud of you, love. You made the right decision."
I wish more than anything that I could agree with her but the thought makes me sick to my stomach. Why does every complicated situation have to belong to me? What did I do in a past life that made this one such a mind-numbing rollercoaster?
I went upstairs and took a shower, trying to relax. It helped a little, the warm water was calming as it massaged my scalp and ran down my spine. I tried not to think about anything, concentrating on the sound of the rushing water and the slowing on my pulse. It worked for a while. But, all too soon, my skin became a wrinkled prune and I had to get out.
Instead of returning to the outside world, where my decision loomed over me- hanging above my head like a guillotine, I stayed in my bedroom. As always, I kept an ear out for sounds of my sleeping daughter but she made none. Eventually, I drifted into an uneasy slumber.
...."You know what I wish?" I said as Sirius and I lounged under our favorite tree by the lake. I was beyond comfortable where I rested my head on his rock hard stomach -nearly being lulled to sleep by the rise and fall of his breathing.
It was a glorious October day, the kind where the chill of autumn had yet to invade and everyone was cheerful. The Hogwarts grounds were the height of beauty and a cool breeze caressed every tree branch lovingly. I basked in the warm sun, soaking up as much vitamin D as possible before the weather could change.
He chuckled, "What do you wish?"
"I wish we could stay like this forever," I admitted with a contented sigh. I closed my eyes and savored the moment.
"Me too," he agreed, equally content.
"Mmm..." I think I drifted in and out of sleep for a while. Especially when Sirius started to play with my hair.
After a while he chuckled softly.
"You just look so innocent when you sleep, that's all."
"I am innocent and I wasn't sleeping. " I smiled, opening my eyes and sitting up to gaze into his.
He scoffed skeptically, whether at the first part of my statement or the last I don't know.
But I smacked his chest, "What's that s'posed to mean?"
"Nothing," he laughed giving me a tender kiss. "Just the thought of anyone related to James being innocent is funny- least of all you. The girl who hexed me every chance she got for about three years."
I laughed wickedly, "True. But could you blame me? You were the one who always provoked the hexing."
He laughed but kept arguing, "I did not!"
"You did too."
"You think our daughter's gonna be as stubborn as you?" He asked out of the blue, his eyes dance in the sunlight with an emotion I couldn't name. Amused? Maybe.
"Since when are we having a daughter?"
He laughed, "Since about second year when you learned the Bat Bogey hex and used it on Snivellus when he-"
"-missed James and hit me instead with that Leg-locker curse?"
"Yeah, and I decided I wanted a daughter just like you. Tenacity and all."
"Well can she have your eyes then? They'd look much cuter on a girl" I teased.
"Ouch!" He laughed, clutching his chest in mock pain. "That one hurt!"
I grinned and gave him a kiss as an apology, melting into his embrace.
When we broke apart he answered, "I want her to have your eyes but I'll settle for the dimples."
"Only if she gets your curls."
"Fine but she's got to get your laugh too. And the long eyelashes."
"What happens if we get a boy?"
"Well! I want a girl before a boy."
"But you do want a boy eventually, right? Every bloke wants a son."
"Yes, one perfect girl and two boys."
I rolled my eyes at this. Weren't girls supposed to plan these things? "Have you picked out the names too?" Heavy sarcasm.
"Well yeah, sort of," he flashed that crooked grin as if he knew how it affected me.
"Alright, let's hear 'em."
"Well, for boys I was thinking Leo James and Sirius jr."
Another eye roll as I asked, "And for this perfect little girl?"
"I was thinking either Cleo, Bella jr." I scoffed but he ignored me. "Or Rory."
"Rory?" I wrinkled my nose at him, reclaiming his stomach as a pillow.
"Yeah, what's wrong with Rory?" He asked defensively.
"I dunno, it just doesn't sound like a girl's name."
"It is too a girl's name!" He insisted indignantly. "And I'll have you know that I-"
"Alright, alright!" I hastily interrupted what promised to be a very long rant, " But it sort of sounds like a lion."
"That's the point." He sighed, "We're both Lions. Gryffindor. So why shouldn't we name our little lioness Rory?"
"What if she's not in Gryffindor?"
"We'll disown her."
"Siruis!" I smacked him again.
"Kidding!" He laughed, "She's got to be in Gryffindor if she's our daughter! Where else would she be?"
I sighed, not arguing. "Rory it is then." ...
I woke in a cold sweat, hyper-alert. There was none of the normal disorientation and no drowsy stupor to fight off. I listened for my daughter, wondering if her call had awoken me but it was entirely silent. I looked at my clock. It was five in the morning.
The next morning I decided to spend the day with my friends. I would have to tell them I was leaving eventually and I opted for sooner rather than later.
"I knew you would," Mia and Bree say in unison when I broke the news.
"You couldn't possibly," I told them, managing a laugh. "I didn't even know myself until an hour before I sent the damn letter."
Alicia looked unhappy. "You're leaving." She stated the obivous when she was annoyed or upset.
"For Rory," I amended with a sad smile.
"You're still leaving. And you know that she's going to miss you loads."
"That's why I only accepted Dumbledore's offer the condition that I'd be allowed regular visits back home to see her. Which means you as well."
"How the hell do you plan on getting here?" she demanded. "Didn't you say it was somewhere in Scotland?"
It surprised me that she remembered this but I answered without bringing it up. "Yes, but we've got this lovely little thing called Floo Powder to get us from place to place. Also, if I wanted, I could apparate home from the wizard village nearby. But I'll probably just use the Floo Network."
"Right and he agreed? This Dumbledore bloke?"
"Yes," I answered. "It won't be often- once a month, at most- because I can't just disappear all the time without raising suspision. But it's something. And James is Head Boy so he'll probably plan loads of trips to the villiage. So, while everyone else is in Hogsmeade I can sneak away."
Alicia exhaled testily but pressed me no more.
I caught Adam's eye and he grinned- happy with my decision for Merlin knows what reason (I wasn't sure I wanted to find out). Aidan smiled- half forlorn, half proud- as well and even Ames looked like he approved.
Again, I found myself wondering why I was doing this when I had that lovely option of homeschooling.
And, as if on cue, Rory walked into the room.
I was going to miss milestones.
The thought was pure agony and all that filled my mind after putting my recently moble one year old to bed that night.
My family and friends were ecstatic as Rory wobbled her way around the house all day long. We beckoned her over to us at every chance and they would laugh and coo, praising her wonderful new skill. Obviously loving the attention, my daughter had been all smiles all day. She even clapped a few times (though, I thought she'd finally grown out of that phase).
But all I could think was that, I wasn't going to be here for those little moments. I was going to miss her develop and grow, her own personality shining through more and more each day. And I wouldn't be there.
What would I miss? How was I going to survive this when the simple idea of the seperation was unbearable? Would she wonder why I'd left? Would she think she was at fault? Would she resent me for leaving? Would she miss me? Would it hurt her that I wasn't there? How could this decision be right if it would hurt her? And the most terrifying question of all, would she forget me? Was she old enough to remember who her mother was, even after months of seperation?
I watched my young daughter sleep that night -sitting in the same old rocking chair as before- with tears streaming down my face, regretting my decision more than ever. But I'd already stepped off the cliff and now I was falling, waiting for the bottom of the well again. And I was sure that the bottom of that well was more commonly known as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
(Okay, so there is chapter 6.... It's important to see her freaking out this way but , again, I know it's kind of a filler as well. (One of the reasons I gave you a bit of a Sirius teaser. lol) The next chapter won't be though! So keep and eye out for the next chapter and review this one please!
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