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Knowledge and Experience; Or Why I Should Know Better By Now by Ginny_RED_Potter
Chapter 8 : The Strange and Familiar Hogwarts Express
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 31


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Chapter 8~ The Strange and Familiar Hogwarts Express

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

~Nelson Mandela


~



I wanted to drive myself to the station, I needed to be alone. But my mother said that it was better if we all just went in the same car. That it was ridiculous for me to drive myself and have to leave my car there. It was but I still wanted to do it. I still wanted to hyperventilate and freak out by myself in the comfort and familiarity of my own car, I wanted to have the option of whipping a U-turn and driving as far away from King's Cross as humanly possible. Not that I would have but I simply wanted the option.
Instead though, my mother drove us to the station. I fidgeted in the passenger's seat as Effie played with Rory in the back. Our trunk was magically expanded to make all of our things fit and the back seat had been stretched as well- for times when my stepbrothers and stepfather were in the car.

But they were Muggles and they didn't have to leave for school until tomorrow. They didn't have a magic castle where rooms appeared out of nowhere and filled themselves with seductive candles and rose petals and stupid boys that say they love you. They didn't have Quidditch and butterbeer to pump your adrenaline and make your impeccable judgement fuzzy around the edges. And they didn't have long agonizing train rides to endure while trying to avoid pretty much everyone and the astonishing temptation to test your hexing skills or jump out onto the tracks below.

That, and they probably wouldn't be able to cross the threshold onto the platform anyway.

The platform.

My stomach rolled as I thought about running through that solid brick wall. Not only because of what surely awaited me on the other side, but also because you had to be sort of relaxed to get through in one piece. And I was most certainly not relaxed this morning.

I glanced at the thin, elegant silver watch I'd gotten for my seventeenth birthday. It was ten thirty-five. I forced myself to take a deep breath trying not to dwell on the fact that I'd be leaving for Hogwarts in less than an hour. I tuned back into the game going on in the back seat that my sister was teaching my daughter. It was "I spy" and it was going dreadfully, seeing as Rory could barely even say "spy".

I tried to relax and let my lips curve into the smile my brain was telling them to. Who knew when I'd see Rory again. I'd be lucky to see her in a month- if this train ride didn't kill me first. Did I honestly want her last memories of me to be full of my lately erratic moods, tense muscles and mournful eyes?

I gulped, this was even harder than I'd anticipated. Could a person stay alive if their heart stopped beating? I had a feeling that's what was going to happen. I shuddered, remembering the first time my heart had shattered, the time before Rory when my chest had been painfully hollow. That time my reasoning was flawed, I was stupid and naive to be so broken over such a trivial thing. This time my heartbreak would not be trivial, this time the pain would be a thousand times worse. Seperation from my daughter would be agony. I was sure I wouldn't survive it.

How could I? She was my whole world. My sunrise and my sunset. My Aurora.

And how was I supposed to keep my sanity around my cousin and his nitwit mates? How was I supposed to keep my secret from my friends? How was I going to lie to them again? How was I going to sit in a class room every single sodding day with-? I didn't even let myself finish the thought. Instead, I seriously considered doing a Charlie's Angel roll out of the car.

If my mother hadn't been driving so fast I would've but once she slowed down I hesitated. I had a very impressionable one year old in the back seat, what kind of example would my nose-dive be setting? Would she conclude in later years that- because of my previous decisions and this one- it was perfectly alright to run away from everything? No. I was not setting that example for my daughter. I would go and face my fears. No more running.

I forced myself to chant a mantra; You're doing this for Rory. You're doing this for Rory. You're doing this for Rory. You're doing this for- The car stopped and I was snapped out of my reverie. We were sitting in front of King's Cross station.

With a deep breath my mother asked, "You ready, love?"

I opened the door, "Not even a little bit."



***



It was strangely surreal to run at that brick wall again onto Platform nine and three quarters. Despite the fact that I was a legal adult and mother of a one year old, I felt strangely like a first year, unsure what awaited me on the other side. I shut my eyes, pushed my cart forward and passed through the barrier with unexpected ease- considering how nervous I was.

Noise immediately blasted my ears. I don't know why I was surprised but I was. The nearly two years away had been enough to make everything fresh and foreign. I'd avoided this place for so long, refusing to go and pick up Effie when she came home from the holidays, it was beyond wierd to be here now- with my daughter on my mother's hip directly behind me.

All around me people were shouting in greeting, laughing in reunion and panicking over forgotten items. Owls hooted and flapped their great wings in anticipation, cats mewed loudly and slinked among the forest of legs, and toads slipped through the hands of their master's with ribbets of freedom. Little children whined about not being able to go with their siblings, mothers gave last minute warnings and reminders and teenagers struggled to get free before they were pulled into sappy hugs and kisses.

Exactly how I remembered it.

The familiar scarlet train whistled with impatience, steam billowed from the front, as people gathered around to say goodbye. As the same time the my heart lifted, my stomach plunged.

I looked back at my mother and daughter. Her striking blue eyes were wide and laughing, looking in adoration and awe at the throngs of people busseling around her, the small blue bow that I'd place in her mess of black curls to match her little perrywinkle robes held tight and dimples appeared in her cheeks as she beamed.

"It'll be alright, Airy." My mother assured me.

I attempted a laugh and joked feebly, "I dunno. If Dumbledore's flipped enough to give a teenage mother the prefect spot and James Head Boy we're all in trouble." It was a mystery I'd been mulling over all week because, with the headmaster's reply, came a shiny silver badge that I'd seen my best friend Lily wear with pride so many times....

"She must've been made Head Girl" Effie shrugged as I gaped and traced the P with my fingers.

"But that- why wouldn't-?" I was speechless groping for answers.

"Remus must not be the Head Boy."  She looked just as confused as I felt.

"No way," I shook my head. Remus not Head Boy? Impossible. I mentally ran through the list of prefects in my year but no one was more qualified than Remus.

An hour later, Auntie Carolyn had sent a letter to mum and I knew why the Gryffindor Prefect spot was open. 

James was Head Boy. Yes,
my cousin James. 

Agrippa help us all....

Effie hugged me tight, ignoring the pathetic joke and whispered in my ear "Just stick to the story. You'll be grand, Airy."

I attempted a smile.

My younger sister kissed my cheek and then our mother's and Rory's. Then, with one last look at me she squeezed my hand briefly and was off to find her friends.

With a gulp I muttered, "I'll be right back." I went and found an empty compartment, set my things down and then hopped off the train to say a last goodbye to my mother and daughter.

She was standing on her own now, and after kissing my mum I picked her up, tears springing to my eyes, a giant not in my throat.

"Mummy," she cooed, it had been hervery first word and it tugged at my heartstrings to hear her say it for me now. I didn't even care if anyone heard, it was the sweetest sound in the world.

"Roribelle," I pressed my forehead to her own tiny one and tried to blink away the tears before they could spill onto my cheeks. My stomach twisted painfully, my heart wretched in my throat and my breath was shallow. My legs wobbled unstably and my arms felt weak as they clutched Rory tighter. I tried to swallow but it didn't work very well, the siliva couldn't seem to get around the knot in my thorat so it just kind of stayed there, feeling slimey. The fat tears in my eyes finally sloped over my lis and poured down my cheeks. I quickly wiped them away with my free hand.

I had two resons for this, the first being that I was standing in the middle of Platform nine and three quarters where anyone could see. Anyone. And the other was that I didn't want Rory's last memory of me (for a while at least) to be of me balling my bloody eyes out like I desperately wanted too. I'd wait until the train sped off to start blubbering, for now I had to be strong for my baby.

I gulped again, trying to unknot and deslime my throat, then inhaled. "You be good, yeah?" I told my one year old. "Mummy has to go away for a bit. But I'll come back as soon as I can. Be good for Granny, alright? For mummy," My voice broke three times. "I- I love you, Aurora."

" 'Ove 'oo, mummy."

I held back a sob, swallowing it and forcing myself to breathe evenly. I was afraid I was going to fall apart. Any second now and I'd be curled in the fetal position, sobbing loudly and ripping my hair out like a madwoman.

"Gimme a kiss," I whispered, terrified to speak any louder- worried that it would come out as a horrendous wail.

She obediantly wrapped her small chubby arms around my neck and batted her eye lashes against my cheek and I did the same to her- Butterfly kisses, her favorite. She giggled as my lashes tickled her and then pecked my lips with her own.

" 'Ome back 'oon, mummy."

The knot grew and tightened in my throat, I didn't know what to say to that. So, I simply told her, "I love you."

The train gave another shriek of impatience, eager for my doom. I shakily handed Rory to my mother, barely registering the kiss she placed on my forehead and the words of wisdom and comfort she murmured. Then, I boarded the Hogwarts Express.

I ran to the window and waved to Rory letting the tears spill over now, she wasn't close enough to see them. I waved, blew kisses and feasted my eyes on my blue-eyed angel until I could no longer see her.

Contrary to my earlier decision, I didn't let my sobs out once the train sped towards the country. Instead, I wiped my tears away quickly and started to pray that no one would come and sit with me. I prayed that no one would notice or recognize me yet. I prayed to be alone for the duration of the ride.

"Lily, this one has room!"

My luck was nonexistant. Seriously, I had none whatsoever.

My entire body tensed, muscles siezed up, eyes squeezed tight. I didn't turn from the window to look and see who the voice just outside of my compartment belonged to, I already knew. I praye dharder than ever that they'd reconsider and find another compartment. Leave the strange, mysterious loner be and move on.

But, of course, they didn't.

I hadn't really expected them to because, as I stated before, I have absolutely no luck.

I heard the door slide open and my old friend, Mary Macdonald's voice said, "Excuse me? Do you mind if we join you? Everywhere else is full or just completely repulsive."

Exhaling heavily, I turned very slowly yo face her and peeked open one eye.

She look nearly the same as she had the last time I'd seen her. But her features were slightly less round and her hair was longer and straightened. On either side of her were Alice, who seemed to have grown a bit and spiked her short hair, and Lily, who'd grown out her bangs to match ther rest of her shiny red locks.

I braced myself as looks of shock froze on their faces and Alice gasped, "Arabella?"

I gulped and slowly- reluctantly- nodded, the knot tightening once more and my stomach doing summersaults.

And then they came. Three ear-splitting, blood-curdling, hair-raising, goosebump-giving shrieks of delight. And each of them tackeld me excitedly.

"Ouch," My flat tone was muffled by the three bodies on top of me. And, strangely enough, I couldn't help but laugh. I was just so insanely glad to see them.



***


After they'd gotten over the initial shock and excitement, the bombardment of questions came. As I'd expected it would. But I'd been over the story so many times in my head over the past few weeks that the lies came almost easily.

"Where have you been?" Mary asked.

"Mum was having trouble with her pregnancy and I had to go home to help her."

"Why couldn't your stepdad do it?" Alice inquired, eyebrow raised.

"Well, in case you didn't know already," I managed an amused and sarcastic tone (don't ask me how). "Pregnant women tend to eat a lot and you've got to have this thing called money if you're going to buy food. And in order to get money, someone's got to work."

They rolled their eyes at my satire and exchanged looks as if to say 'Some things never change.'
But this wasn't entirely true. The past couple of weeks had made me realize just how much I had changed. From my maturity level to my breast size, I was a different Arabella Haze than I had been two years ago. I'd been care free and careless and never afraid to speak the truth.
 
Come to think of it, I'd been a lot like Alicia before I'd gotten pregnant. 

Now, having given birth, my chest had gone from semi-flat to rather generous in size. I worried constantly and I always thought before I spoke because, who knew what Rory would remember and repeat?

"Why didn't you write?" Mary pouted.

"I had no time," I lied once more.

The truth was, I hadn't written because I hadn't known what to say. What would I have told them? I'd been so confused, ashamed and down right petrified that I had no idea how to compose a normal sounding letter. Not that I hadn't tried but it never sounded right. Then Rory came and there really was no time to write letters to old friends.

"Why didn't you come back when the baby was born? Lily asked me, confused. I didn't blame her. Hadn't I written, in that last hasty note, that I'd be back once the baby was safely delivered?

"I felt guilty leaving mum. She's been a bit week," I lied. "Having the baby took a lot out of her." My cheeks felt hot as I finished, knowing that this was the only reason my mother hadn't made me come back here for sixth year. Having Rory had put on a lot of strain but not on my mother. For several months after my daughter was born I'd been considerably weaker than normal. It had been one of my main arguements last year when we had rowed. If I could hardly carry my baby up the steps more than a few times a day how the hell was I going to manuever my way around a giant castle? But Naphtalie- the healer who'd helped deliver Rory- had soon brewed a potion and by December I was back to normal so I didn't have that arguement anymore.


"Why'd you come back now?" Alice asked.

I almost cringed, she was mad at me no doubt. Now that I was back I'd have to make it up to her somehow. And sadness engulfed me as I thought about the secret I was still keeping from her.

But two years of repressing unpleasant thoughts helped me answer, "Mum wanted me to finish seventh year with my friends." Not a lie.

"What'd you do for school before?" Lily asked, tone concerned, forehead creased with worry.

"Mum taught me." Again, not a lie. "She insisted, even though we had Rory to take care of, "I rolled my eyes for their benefit.

"Rory?" Alice raised an eyebrow at me.

I smiled sadly and held back tears as I pictured her little face. Swallowing so my voice wasn't husky with emotion, I said, "it's short for Aurora."

"Wasn't that your favorite name?" Lily and Alice asked, remembering how I'd always planned to name my first girl, Aurora. Dammit. They were to sharp for their own good sometimes, I'd forgotten that about them.

I nodded, trying to stay calm. "Mum let me name her."

"Do you have pictures? We only got to see Effie's after she was born."

I nodded again. I'd known I would miss my daughter terribly so I'd brought an album of my more inconspicuous photos to dull the ache a little. A very little, but still. I pulled the leather bound book with flower embroidery from my trunk and handed it too them.

They aawwed at the one of me holding her a few days after her early birth- the day we'd gotten home from the hospital. And laughed at the picture of Rory, Effie and I smilign and waving happily later that fall. They rolled their eyes and teased me when they saw the picture Aidan had taken of me reading her a book and then laughed once more at her cake-covered face on her first birthday. When they got to the one with the A-listers (including me) and Rory, they, of course, asked who they were and I went into the explanation of running into my old friend Mia and meeting the rest of the gang. I felt a pang in my chest at the flash of sadness in Alice's eyes- yes, I was going to have to make this up to her. And as they turned the page they awwed again at Rory kissing my cheek and the other of Effie and I kissing hers.

"She's adorable!" Mary cooed.

"Precious," Alice agreed.

"She's gorgeous!" Lily concluded in the most un-Lily-ish squeal.

"Thanks," I grinned, heart pounding in my chest. Did they really believe me? Didn't they see his laughing blue eyes? His mischievious grin? Those long lashes? That slightly haughty, unconciously graceful air around her? Appearantly not.

With a dreadful feeling I realized something, none of them had studied him the way I had. Ugh, my stomach did a sickening turn.

"So, what've you lot been up to?" I asked curiously, desperate for a subject change. I was positively itching to steer the subject of conversation from me.

It worked because, with that, they were off. Like rapid fire they began filling me in on everything. All the goings on of the past year and ten months. I learned about every boyfriend Mary had had (as well as the current ones), Lily had made Head Girl- as I'd suspected (though I didn't dare tell her James was Head Boy), Alice was dating Frank Longbottom (finally), Mary's brother had gotten married and she was going to be an aunt (I felt another slight pang of guilt at the mention of babies for not telling them the I was in fact a mother) and Lily's sister had gotten engaged earlier that week.

"He's repulsive," She grimaced. "Mum's making her put me in the wedding but frankly, I'd much rather not. There is no way I could possibly condone this and still sleep at night," she shuddered, "I can't believe I get that overgrown tub of lard as a brother-in-law. She could do so much better."

"Really?" Mary asked, looking slightly amused. " 'Cause to me it sounds like they deserve each other."

"Yeah, they seem pretty perfect for each other to me." I commented.

Alice nodded vehemently. "Yeah, the cow and the dung beetle. A match made in heaven."

We all hated Lily's older sister, Petunia. She was blonde and stupid and her face was reminiscent of a horse. That, and she was awful to Lily- they were polar opposites. Having spent the summer before third year at Lily's we knew exactly what the bint was like.

It was strange how easily I fell back into this banter. It was foreign but familiar, an oxymoron in every sense of the word. I was I was so used to the "A-list" and having Rory on my hip that I'd nearly forgotten what it was like to sit in a compartment chatting with Alice, Mary and Lily, nearly worry-free. It felt like that whole riding-a-bicycle mentality. You never really forgot.

"Be nice," Lily chided, but I saw that she was smiling.

"So, does the whole unwilling-bridesmaid require a dress?" I grinned.

"Oh! Don't even get me started on the dress! Ugh!" She ranted, "Petunia's is all frill- ew- and the dresses for her bridesmaids are going to be teal. TEAL! The color of GANG GREEN!" She threw her hands up in an outraged what-the-hell gesture.

I laughed, marveling that I still could, seeing as I'd left my heart back on the platform with a little blue bow in her hair.

"I'm sure you'll be-" I stopped, abruptly. My pulse sprinted full force because in the middle of my sentence the compartment door had slid open again and a sinking feeling struck my stomach.

"I wondered why you hadn't come to see me yet."

We all looked up to see the owner of that wretchedly familiar voice leaning casually in the doorframe with a cocky smirk on his lips. All at once, my stomach did a mad flip of happiness into a tormenting plundge of doom.

He grinned wider at my expression, "Wotcher, Airy."

"James!" I launched myself at my cousin- pulse getting more frantic with each second that passed. It was only a matter of time now, I knew. Because where there was James there was-

"Oi, Prongs!" 

***

( I know!  That was beyond mean but hey, it was an update which is more than I can say for some of my other stories. Particularly, Like Father Like Daughter and Swept Under. On the first, I've hit the Everest of all writer's block mountains and on the second I just want to get it perfect before I post! So keep an eye out for an update on that one in particular. As for this one, I should be studying for finals at this moment but I took a ridiculously long break to get this up and now I'll be going back to my own personal hell {studying}. So, until finals are over {Friday, in case you were wondering} I won't be updating. Wish me luck! 
RED)


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