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Knowledge and Experience; Or Why I Should Know Better By Now by Ginny_RED_Potter
Chapter 9 : The Return of Arabella Haze
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 35


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Chapter 9 ~ The Return of Arabella Haze


Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. 

~Eleanor Roosevelt



***


Immediately, I darted back into the compartment.

After two years I still recognized that sinfully seductive voice like I'd heard it only yesterday. And, for the first time since the train pulled away from King's Cross, I felt my heart in my formerly hollow chest. It was rather pathetic that it was pounding against the walls of it as the voice came closer.

I'd hoped to avoid the father of my only child forever. It was the reason I'd spent every holiday for the past two years with my father's side of the family (with Rory in tow). After he'd moved in with my cousin and was now 'part of the family' (ew, by the way) I knew he would be attending every holiday party my mother's family had.

But I'd known when I'd chosen to come back to Hogwarts, the minute I sent that letter to Dumbledore, that avoiding the infamous Sirius Orion Black would be next to impossible now. Though, I'll admit, I wasn't quite ready yet. I'd hoped that I'd have until tomorrow to prepare. That I'd at least be able to ride the bloody train without having to deal with anymore trauma.

I should've known better.

Agrippa forbid my luck work for me for once.

But now, it was inevitable, and I found myself actually wanting to hear that voice again. Crazy as it was, I couldn't help it. I honestly wanted to hear that deep (pulse-quickening, spine-tingling, knee-weakening, heart-melting) voice that I'd lived without for nearly two years.

I'd been prepared for this kind of reaction.

But, contrary to what you'd believe by it, I was not in love with Sirius Black anymore.

Those feelings that had led me to a very early pregnancy no longer existed. They'd been snuffed out a long time ago and I was determined not to light that flame again. I just wanted to hear him because, physically, I was still attracted to him. I couldn't help that my body was idiotic enough to follow it's more animal insticts. But that didn't mean i was in love with the git.

And then he appeared in the doorway next to my cousin and I momentarily lost my breath. The full effect of that face that I hadn't seen for two years hit me like a wrecking ball. I realized exactly how inaccurate and fuzzy my memory had been. He wasn't as beautiful as I'd remembered, he was better.

For the past year and three months I'd only seen bit of that heavenly face in the form of a giggling baby girl. But Rory wore the Black beauty in her own way so it was beyond strange to see the face she'd inherited it all from after so long- I was frozen where I sat next to Alice.

My head screamed for me to run, immediately. But I couldn't move. My legs, it would seem, had stopped working.

My body refused my brain and my brain refused my heart.

My brain demanded that I flee as quickly as possible, but my heart- surfing an illogical and generally insane wave of nostalgia- ached to throw myself at him. It was a vicious and somewhat psycotic circle.

Against my heart, my brain triumphed (thank Merlin). 

But my body was a different- far more tenacious- case. It refused to obey orders and get the hell out of that compartment before I did something really drastic like my brain was screaming for it to.

"There you are, mate," he clapped James on the back.

He hadn't seen me yet! It wasn't too late, I could still run and hide in a compartment full of first years somewhere- he'd never look there. Or I could go find my sister and chew her out for sending James my way (and inadvertantly causing my earlier-than-expected-meeting with the father of my child).

"I wondered where you'd gone off to. Moony and Wormtail said you'd gone to see Ef and she told me you went this way."

Scratch that, I was going to go wring her neck for purposely sending hell my way.

She was a dead girl walking. If I survived this train ride, she was not going to survive to her seventeenth birthday. And once I brutally murdered her, I'd figure out some way to bring her back just so I could murder her again. Good intentions or not, my little sister was going to pay.

I was picturing all the ways I could fatally injur my sister and deciding which one I was going to use, when Sirius turn towards us and spoke again.

"Well, hello ladies how are..." He trailed off because his eyes had just found me.

To say that he look shocked might be a bit of an understatement.

Alright, it would be a colossal understatement.

He looked- well, not like he'd seen a ghost- more like he'd seen a person who'd died and chosen to not come back. Maybe that's how he'd thought of me for the past two years. That's sort of how I'd thought of him, he hadn't really existed in my world for the past two year, he was just a shadow- a hollow echo in the background.

I racked my brain for something- ANYTHING- to say. But all I could come up with was 'hi' and I was not about to voice that one. After falling in love with him, getting pregnant, breaking up with him, falling out of love with him, disappearing, having his baby and not writing or seeing him for a year and a half (in that order), I couldn't honestly just begin with 'hi', could I?

So after several minutes of tense silence my mouth- exasperated with my sluggish reaction- took on a life of its own and repeated what I always used to say when Sirius stared at me too intensly.

"Blimey, take a picture already, Black."

Ugh! Take a picture? What are you, twelve? I mentally kicked myself. Especially since I'm sure I hadn't managed to put the even a fourth of the amount of sarcasm into it that I wanted. But, at this point, I was lucky I even managed to get enough air in my lungs to send the words out at all!

He didn't respond because, before he managed to recover himself, the nice old witch with the trolley came around and peaked into our compartment. I'd always liked her.

I fixed my gaze on the cart of sweets as if I was internally debating on what to buy. I did my very best to ignore the intense blue gaze piercing the side of my face, still frozen with shock. I could feel them like fire on the side of my face but I didn't dare meet his eye. Because I knew that if I looked into them I wasn't going to be seeing the prat that took my virginity, I was going to see the baby girl that made my life worth living. And then I would start crying- not something I wanted at the moment.

Alice and Mary were watching me closely as well (though they had the sense to at least pretend to be buying sweets), trying to gauge my reaction or figure out what I was thinking, I suppose. Their eyes flickered back and forth between Sirius and I, eagerly. But if they were expecting some rekindled flame of passionate love they were going to be sorely disappointed. There wasn't a chance in hell that I was going to fall for a narcissistic, womanizing ass like him again. I'd learned my lesson the first time, thank you very much.

Lily, on the other hand, seemed too overwhelmed with her own dramatic boy problems to worry much about mine at the moment. Instead she rummaged in her bag for two Knuts to pay for her Bertie's Botts. But James beat her to it, paying two galleons for Lily, himself and some sweets he'd bought his astonished best mate.

This was probably a good thing because I was pretty sure Sirius was going into shock and would need some chocolate in a minute- and Remus had yet to arrive (though I'm sure he and Peter were well on there way- all they had to do was ask my sister, as she was in danger of putting the Daily Prophet out of business this morning).

With a resigned sigh, Lily let him (that was new). I recognized the sigh as the one she'd always used when she was bracing for the inevitable question. But it didn't come.

He didn't ask it.

James had mentioned this in his last letter, I still had it at the bottom of my trunk. My cousin had matured marginally over the summer. He'd had to.

His dad had gotten ill not long after Rory was born and it was steadily getting worse, so for the past few months James had to run things and help his mother alot. Auntie Carolyn put on a good show while she was out and about but I knew that, behind the scenes, she was suffering more than she let on. James was her support beam, her rock, her crutch. A sobering thing for a teenage boy. So he, I'd noticed simply from his letters, didn't sweat the small things anymore.

In his last letter (the one currently at the bottom of my trunk with another note that would never again see the light of day) had told me how he was going to give Lily Evans her space this year. He still loved her, that hadn't changed. But he was trying a new approach, back off and she might come to her senses. He was testing the phrase 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' - which I new for a fact was not true.

"So," my cousin began once the cart was gone, handing me a treacle tart (surprising, as they were his favorite and he rarely shared- an only child thing). He seemed to barely notice the tense reunion going on between his best mate and his favorite cousin- too aware of Lily sitting next to him, I suppose. "Ef, also told me you got pictures of Rory."

Sirius tensed at her name- for Merlin knows what reason- and my blood  literally froze, like ice in my veins. My stomach protested as the bite of treacle tart I'd just taken slid down my esophogas.

It was one thing for my friends to be fool by those rosy cheeks and dimples (both of which she gotten from me, by the way). That they hadn't pieced it all together by now- especially when they saw those blazing blues- was a miracle in itself. That they believed the pathetic cover story and thought those beautiful eyes, thick long lashes and jet black curls belonged to someone in my mother's or Tom's family was astonishing.

It was a whole other issue to show James and the original owner of those cobalt blues, himself. Fear spread through me with panicking speed. Showing them would be suicide, I was sure of it. But flat out denying them would most certainly raise suspision. There was no possible way they wouldn't figure it out, that James hadn't so far baffled me (but I supposed he was too occupied with winning over Lily and taking care of his parents to ponder his little cousins real parentage- something that should be a given after all).

The timing of everything was just too conspicuous. That night, my behavior afterwards, then the break up and my hasty departure, Rory's age, her name, and my return. It was just so obvious. How could anyone not figure it out? Even though Rory was born early, any idiot could figure that into the equation.

In any case, I wasn't ready to face the gallows just yet, so I did immediate evasive maneuvers. I thought about something tedious and unpleasant (the marathons of spy movies Adam made us sit through) and groaned.

"Can I dig them out tomorrow, James? I just put them away. And you just saw her a few weeks ago!"

"Yeah for about a second and a half before you took her off!" he reminded me.

"She was sick! Would you rath-"

"She's adorable!" Mary gushed, interrupting me. She knew how I got when James tested me. He was never serious- just lookine to get a rise out of me- but I always was.

James pretended to bristle indignantly. " 'Course she is. She's related to me."

And Black, I added mentally- though grudgingly all the same. But on the outside- away from the twisted workings of my mind, I replied with a roll of my hazel eyes and a sarcastic, "So is Great Auntie Criptel but she's not so lovely, now is she?"

James's face soured at this and I smirked, sticking out my tongue like my one year old daughter always did to little Percy. It was beyond childish but I felt myself settling back into another version of me. Slightly immature with a tendacy for very sarcastic sarcasm and a lot of tenacity clouding her rationality.

Before James could retaliate with some equally childish gesture, the door slid open again. All of us looked to see Remus and Peter grinning in shock, eyes fixed on me.

"Hiya, Peter, Remmy," I forced a chipper tone and an artificial grin.

"Bella?" he gaped.

"Last I checked."

"Merlin!" He grinned hugely. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Well it's good to see you too," I answered with more sarcasm than really nessecary.

"It is good to see you," he grinned. "But why are you here?"

"Going to school. What else?"

He exchanged the same 'she never changes' look with James that my friends had earlier. But I had! I completely had! Couldn't they see?

Yes, I have, you bumbling idiots! I wanted to scream.

Couldn't they all see that my hair was shorter, my boobs were bigger and I had the sophistication that came with growing up? Couldn't they tell I'd gotten over trivial things like prickheaded boys and zits popping up at inconvenient times? That I was the responsible mother of a one year old and had to have plans and skills for my future?

Appearantly not.

I stood to give Remus a friendly hug and then he- to my dismay- sat down next to me. I began to really panic. (Internally, though, of course.)

The Marauders were making themselves comfortable. In my compartment.

Why couldn't that evil being up there who had it out for me just shoot me and get things over with? It would be so much simpler than all this torture.

Because there was no way I wanted to sit here for the entire train ride directly acrossed from Sirius Black. I remembered how horrifically long it took to get to Hogwarts and I was positive that if the oblivious father of my one and only baby was in the compartment with me it was just going to be longer. Not only longer but hell.

Pure, unadulterated, fiery hell.

I tried to swallow, but the knot in my throat was too big. I felt shaky and hated myself for it. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I contain myself? I was irritated at how nervous and jumpy I was and even more annoyed with the fact that Sirius was still staring at me.

Intently.

Too intently for my liking.

It was just as I was planning an elaborate escape from this compartment - involving tweezers, a rope and pair of Alicia's football cleats that I think might've accidentally made it into my trunk- Lily sighed and gave me an easy out.

"Well, I suppose I should go get changed into my robes and go start the prefect meeting."

"Me too," I chimed in quickly, grabbing my badge. They all stared at me, everyone but James and Remus looked surprised (though in Sirius's case it seemed that his face had frozen that way since he'd seen me).

"You're a prefect?" Lily voiced the confusion.

"Yep. Shocker, eh? I think Dumbledore might've had a bad reaction to one of Slughorn's potions or something."

"He certainly has made some interesting choices this year," Remus grinned wickedly, seeming anything but bitter about not getting Head Boy. He seemed almost thrilled.

James shot him a whithering look but pulled out this Head Boy badge with a heavy sigh.

"Funny," Lily commented dryly, not sounding the least bit amused. She sighed, "Remus, c'mon. We don't have time for stupid jokes."

"S'not a joke, Lils," James murmured. He sounded like he'd rather be sinking into an ocean of devil's snare than tell her this one truth.

Her emerald eyes narrowed to slits, "Right. And one of those future Death Eaters in there," she nudged her head at the wall separating us and the next compartment, "is secretly in love with me. You're hilarious, Potter. Now give Remus back his Head Boy badge."

''Um, Lily?" Remus interjected reluctantly, "I'm not Head Boy. Really, swear to Merlin, I'm not. James is, which is why Bella's a prefect, I s'pose."

I nodded in agreement.

Lily's face, like Sirius's, seemed to freeze in shock. It took her several moments to break the very tense silence with a jumble of incoherent syllables.

"C'mon," I said gently (in my maternal voice). "Let's go get changed."

I took her arm and pulled her from the compartment as gingerly as I could manage in my haste to get away from the butt-faced, miscreant who was still too shocked at my return to speak.

"I-I," Lily spluttered as we changed. "He- Head Boy- I- Dumbledore and-" she still seemed incapable of forming complete sentences.

"I know, Lils," I said sypathetically. "I think he's off his rocker too."

"P-Potter can't be Head Boy! He just can't!" She exclaimed in distress, seeming to recall her knowledge of the English language at my words. "It's completely MENTAL! He's- he's... Urrrrgah!"

I didn't answer this time, too overwhelmed by the strange sensation of donning Hogwarts robes again, but she passed all need for another human to converse with in mere seconds. Instead she started muttering nearly inaudible things under her breath (probably plotting James's untimely death by the sound of it, though I couldn't really tell).

She muttered disgruntly all the way to the Prefects' compartment. But, just before we entered, she assumed the face of fake composure I'd often adopted during my last few months at Hogwarts and took a deep breath.

"Don't worry," I told her. "It won't be as bad as you think."

She looked more than skeptical but chose not to reply. Instead, she slid the compartment door aside and pulled me into the compartment with her.

It took a moment but once they realized who the girl with Lily Evans was every face (save James and Remus's, of course) betrayed a look of scandalized shock. Several of the boys blinked rapidly as if to dispell the illusion they were sure I was and nearly every girl's face became furious once they figured out I was no figment of the imagination. I couldn't imagine why.

I tried to be inconspicuous as I sat next to Remus but I doubt I managed it. My nervous cousin and irritated mate took the floor and it seemed that the Prefects (girls especially) were itching to leave the compartment and relay the latest gossip (James Potter and Lily Evans as Heads, Sirius Black's fiery ex returns, etc.) because not one of them seemed to be listening very intently.

I tried to pay attention as rules were recited and patrol schedules were passed out but my mind was otherwise occupied. I couldn't help but think of Rory and how confused she was going to be when I didn't come back soon and how Effie was going to die once we got to Hogsmeade Station and how at this very moment Sirius Black was probably having a post-astonishment shag to deal with the trauma of my return. I couldn't help but wince at the particular mental image this thought brought to mind.

As I pulled myself from the disturbing memories of another era in my life, I realized that the meeting was ending.

"So, after your patrols, enjoy the rest of the ride. And be sure to keep the Saturday after next free."

"Don't forget to tell the people in your year what the password for your Common Room is either." James added, earning a very irritated glare from Lily.

The rest of the Prefects filed out of the compartment and headed in opposite directions to go patrol and pass on the new information they were privy to. I held in a groan as I realized I may very well be a topic of gossip to certain sets. Ugh, that was just what I needed.

"Well," James began as the last of them made their way down the train. "I s'pose Moony and I'd better find Wormtail and Padfoot."

"Potter, I swear to Merlin, if you pull a single prank today I'm going to stick you in a meat-grinder, on the slowest setting feet-first and then cut your head off and feed it to the giant squid."

"Which one?" I couldn't help but smirk.

James shot me a scathing look before saying, "We're not planning any jokes for today, Evans. Promise."

She didn't look convinced but said, "Fine."

And before anything else bordering hostile could be said, Remus pulled my cousin from the compartment.

"Ugh! Shit, shit, shit!" She stomped her foot in frustration or anger while I watched in endless amusement.

It was funny to watch my friend agonize over a trivial problem of her own making. Strange to think that, once upon a time, I'd had the same problem. But, fortunately for Lily, my cousin was endlessly more worthy than his half-witted, sex-addicted best mate.

"Curse all you like," I told her in a bored voice. "But that won't change the fact that you're Head Girl and he- for Merlin knows what reason- is Head Boy."

"Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck!"

"Colorful."

"Ugh!"

"C'mon, let's go back and see what Alice and Mary are up to," I suggested.


We found Mary coming out of an empty compartment near the middle of the train. The compartment we'd just seen a rather forlorn looking Daniel Fletcher escaping from mere moments before.

The two of us looked at her with skeptical eyes, amused smirks and a single eyebrow raised in question.

"What?" she shrugged, a little too innocently.

Having Rory as a daughter, it seemed, had enhanced my bullshit-detecting skills. I could tell by someone's face, voice and body language whether they were up to something or not. (You had to with a one year old like mine related to two out of four Marauders and Gideon and Fabian- also trained in the arts of mischief by the trouble twins themselves.)

And Mary Macdonald was most certainly up to something.

She crossed her arms defensively over her chest, "I broke up with him, alright?"

"What was wrong with this one?" I asked, a smirk making it's way onto my lips.

I was also very good at keeping my true thoughts off of my facial features. I knew that no one would be able to tell that something in my friend's tone and tense shoulder muscles was nagging at my intuition. From the outside not a single soul would be able to see that the warning sirens were blaring in my head.

"He kissed like a lizard."

"So why'd you keep him around over the holiday?" Lily asked.

She shrugged but a wickedly crooked smile spread acrossed her full lips. "His older brothers were bloody gorgeous."

"Mary!" we exclaimed in identically scandalized tones.

She laughed, "What? They were!"

Shaking my head but laughing still, I said, "C'mon we'd better go find Alice."


***




When we got to back to our compartment there wasn't a Marauder in sight (thank Merlin). I breathed a sigh of relief and took a seat in front of Alice, who promptly began to braid my hair.

It was beyond strange how easily I could fit right back into my old habits. How easily I just slipped back into my old group of friends, like I hadn't ignored their letters and spent the last two years having and then raising a baby girl.

"Where'd the boys go?" Lily asked in what she thought was a subtle manner.

I smirked, unable to hold it back. When would she just give in and admit she fancied my cousin already?

"What?"

"Nothing," I chuckled. "I'm picturing all the ways I'm going to murder my sister when I see her."

"For sending your ex to our compartment without warning?"

Trust Alice to be spot on.

"Pretty much." And then, seeing Mary's smirk, I added. "It's not like I care all that much it's just, as it's my first day back, I would've prefered to avoid all potentially awkward situations."

"Mmmhmm." They didn't seem to believe my blase explanation but I didn't care at the moment. Alice's braiding was lulling me into an easy stupor. And, relaxed as I was, for once I listened to the little methodical voice in the back of my head.


They'll see that you're over him. Give it time.

Every girl goes through that ridiculous bad boy phase and regrets it afterward. It's like a right of passage for females to fall for a guy that is ultimately bad for her in the long run. But more than likely it ends like mine did. Bad boys don't care who they hurt and therefore the relationship doesn't last. The only upside to make that whole ordeal worth my time was Rory. Not many girls get their reason for life out of the dreaded bad boy phase.

That's exactly- I figured out sometime after the fact- what Sirius had been. My bad boy phase.

Keyword there being phase.

Meaning that-eventually- you come to your senses, realize you're being a bint and get over it. It passes and you go on with your life, leaving the bad boy behind you.

The only downside to my particular case is that, not matter how hard I try, the ridiculous, immature bloke I fell for when I was fifteen will never be truly left behind in the dust (on the count of my giving birth to his child and all).

But, one thing I was sure of, I had left my feelings for him behind me. And, soon enough, my friends would see that.


***


We came to a stop faster than I'd expected. I remembered the trip between Hogsmeade Station and King's Cross as much longer (though the fact that I wasn't a total emotional wreck this time might've had something to do with it).

With a chorus of sighs, the four of us began gathering our luggage.

My hair had been braided and re-braided until Alice was satisfied, Lily had fastened my prefect's badge til she was content with it's subtle placement and Mary had loosened my tie- conviced it looked much more casual, relaxed and 'seventh year' than the standard tight knot.

It didn't make me feel relaxed though. The knot in my throat refused to go away, my pulse was crashing in my ears and despite the obvious presence of my heart, my chest felt hollow. With a deep breath I followed Alice from the comfort and safety (once the Marauders no longer occupied it) of or little compartment and out onto the busseling station.

The train's shrieks were almost drowned out by the excited babble of hundreds of Hogwarts students and the shouts of the school's gameskeeper as he rounded up the petrified first years.

I inhaled the unique smell of the moist Hogmeade air and a new array of memories flashed in my head. I push one in particular out- still unsure if I'd even truely seen him appear from under that damn cloak or if I'd simply imagined it in my unstable state so long ago.

I mentally prayed that I wouldn't run into anyone else I didn't want to see (like Gianna Stiles or Kelly Sprout) and that I wouldn't cross paths with any Marauders for the remainder of the evening. If I had to ride in a carriage with them I was going to throw up I was positive.

Luckily though, we ended up snagging a ride in a carriage with Effie and her friends (who all greeted me cheerfully without surprise). During which, I took the chance to shoot my sister a very meaningful look and mouth 'You.'  I jabbed a subtly accusing finger at her, 'Dead. Girl. Walking'.

She simply grinned in the face of my threat and waggled her eyebrows, adding a cheesy wink for good measure.

I glowered at her all the way up to the castle doors.

After all this time, the entrance and Great Hall, still make me gasp in awe. Especially since I hadn't admired it in so incredibly long. The thousands of floating candles and grand ceiling reflecting the starry, moonless night above were a wonder all on there own and the atmosphere arounf me was truely electric.

I was so inspired, I barely noticed the scandalized gawking of those near me. Nor did I honestly care at the moment because, after the long stressful journey here, I was parched. Seriously, the knot in my throat was killing me and I was dying for a drink of any kind.

We sat in the exact spot we had before I left and the little first years were led in trembling and taking in the scene with darting eyes. One by one, they sat on the stool and the hat determined where they'd spend the next seven years. Once the sorting commenced and the Headmaster's speech began and my stomach did a queasy flip. The reason for this would be the pair of eyes I felt burning into the side of my head.

Despite my better judgement, I tilted it ever so slightly to check who was watching me so intently (though I already knew) in my periphial vision. To my great dismay, I saw Sirius, sitting with my cousin not even three people away, blue eyes boring into me with an unfathomable expression.

What is he thinking? I wondered. And then I was wondering why I was wondering about the (more likely than not) vile things passing through the mind of my oblivious ex-boyfriend. What did it matter if he was watching me?

I turned my head back to the Headmaster, fixing my gaze on him, only to be reminded of that horrid letter that had started this whole thing. What could he possibly want to discuss with me? And when exactly would we be discussing it?

A frustrated huff escaped me and Alice gave me a curious look.

But I continued to pretend to listen to Dumbledore until, at last he clapped his hands and said cheerfully, "Tuck in!"

I quickly snatched the pumpkin juice, poured it into my goblet and gulped it down like I'd been stranded in a desert for the past several months or something. I didn't touch the food though. My appetite was erratic and it rarely bothered me anymore (as a mother) to go without a meal. I knew that (having left Rory on the platform and run into her father for the first time since my third month of pregnancy) eating wasn't a good idea at the present time. Not if I wanted to survive the rest of the night without throwing up.

So I simply chatted and laughed with my old friends and ignored the eyes burning into me. I didn't allow myself another peek of him, because I knew it would be pointless to try and tell what the dolt was thinking. But why was he still staring? Was he suspicious of me yet or just staring in my general direction for the hell of it? Was he even staring at me or was I just in the way of some new poor defenseless girl he had his eye on this week?

Whatever the case, it was frustrating and I tried to ignore him as best I could. My friends continued to fill me in on everything I'd missed. Which couples broken up since I'd left (half of which I hadn't even known were together because of how out of it all I'd been those last few months), which couples were going strong, what the older student who we'd been close to had gone on to do and every other semi-insignificant detail they could call to mind.

They didn't saying anything about my lack of appetite. Either they didn't notice or because they just figured I wasn't hungry. Or maybe they remembered my unreliable eating habits from that hectic fifth year and concluded that I was still just as scattered. In any case, I was glad they didn't ask because there was no way for me to possibly explain that I was silently grieving for having left my baby. And I didn't want to lie to them, I was doing enough of that already.

So, with a safely empty stomach, I waited for the feast to commence and then went to preform my Prefect duties. I found myself repeating every word I'd been told during my own tour of the castle as a first year, simply because I was too tired to be witty or original in any way.

We got to the Common Room and my breath hitched a little. I beat the last memory I had from this room back with all my might but it didn't seem to work. I still shuddered at the flashbacks that invaded my defenseless mind and hurried towards my dorm as Remus directed the first years to theirs', anxious to sink into the comfort of the bed I'd missed so dearly in my nearly two years away.

I'd beat Lily and Mary back to the room and Alice seemed to be sleeping (though I had a feeling she was actually still awake, just pretending). Quickly, I slipped out of my heavy uniform and traded it for silky pyjamas Aubrey had bought me last Christmas, ripped my hat off and threw my unruly locks up into a very disheveled bun. Then, I laid down, drained from what I was pretty sure had been the most stressful day of my life so far. Okay, so maybe my one of pregnancy days might still have that title, but this one was definitely in the top ten.

But, of course, the minute I sunk my head into the fluffy pillow, I was suddenly wide awake. And remained so for several hours. My head spun with not only every event of one of the top five strangest days of my life but every event for the past two years. Everything.

I not only broke that vow I'd made on the Express so long ago (again), I shattered it. I relieved every single lie I'd been told during that joke of a relationship, every single time I'd mistaken infatuation for passionate love, every tear I'd shed before my daughter came into the world and everytime I'd looked at her in complete and utter awe.

Tears slid down the sides of my face but I didn't pay them any attention. Instead, I stared at the ceiling, seeing nothing but the memories I'd repressed right alongside those I held dear.

I have no idea when my memories became dreams, or if they even did. But before I knew it, the sun had risen and it was time for the day to begin again. I had a feeling this one was going to be almost as stressful as- if not more stressful than- yesterday.



***


Word of my return traveled like wild fire through the school (as juicy gossip always did). And it would be an understatement to say that it was not recieved particularly well by the majority of the female (even some of the male) population at Hogwarts.

The morning classes began calmly but in the corridor, I overheard two older Hufflepuff harpies (whose names I've forgotten in my two years away) giving a small second year girl (who was surprisingly in Gryffindor) all the dirty details on the returned seveneth generating all of the not-so-subtle whispers.

"Who is she?" the little blonde asked the older one (who looked like her sister). With confusion on her apple-cheeked face as she played with her braid absentmindedly.

The taller brunette girl with too much eye makeup answered, "Arabella Haze."

The older sister elaborated, "James potter's cousin. Remember, I told you-?"

"The one who dated Siri?"

I winced at that hideous atrocity they called a nickname. Seriously, how hard was it to say 'Siri-us'?!

But another part of me was less disgusted with that as she was with the fact that that was all I was known for. Dating the most immature wanker to ever walk the earth. I felt the familliar shame regarding this subject turn my stomach. Why, oh why had I fallen for that prickhead to begin with?

That ambush of a kiss. A sardonice voice inside my head reminded me.

Ugh. I shoved the memory of it away so I could listen to what the tall brunette was saying, "... Only girl he ever actually called his girlfriend."

I didn't miss the bitter edge to her words. With smirk, I turned from them so they wouldn't catch me looking. I wondered when she'd tried, unsucessfully, to coax the G word from those terribly skilled lips.

"Got to her head though, didn't it?" the other scoffed, equally bitter (another victim of him, I suppose).

"What d'ya mean?" her little sister asked curiously.

"Well," she answered, voice bubbling with scandal. I imagined how her eyes would glitter with wicked excitement as she retold the commonly believed (and ultimately inaccurate) tale of my down fall. "Bella and Siri were hot and heavy for a while, yeah? Rumor has it they even said the L word-"

"Or, at least," the brunette sneered with malice, "one of them did."

The implication was clear as day.

I wanted to hex her.

To send her a million Bat Bogey hexes and then jinx her with the worst, most disgusting and painful boils I could conjur. I'd become highly skilled at hexing in the past year, despite having to keep up with a baby, because the magical world had a dark cloud over it and I needed to be able to defend myself (and Rory as well). Not only that, but home school had allowed me to work as hard on the things I desired to learn as I wanted so my magic was top notch.

I peeked with my corner vision as they continued.

"Anyway," the sister continued, shooting her friend an annoyed look for interrupting. "After a while, Siri got bored-"

"As he always does," the brunette added, appearantly unable to control herself.

"-And he broke it off-"

"But Bella couldn't handle that," the brunette added, with evidant glee.

"What'd she do?" the second year asked eagerly.

I didn't blame her.

However innaccurate, the commonly believed story was still quite juicy. I briefly imagined, with both a smirk and a shutter, what they'd say if they knew how things had really transpired.

"Well," Her sister's face twisted a bit but her voice remained animated with the drama of the events she was telling. "First she sort of closed up, like a turtle. She got real sulky and quiet for a week or so."

"Then she acted out," the brunette bitch sounded like she was about to wet herself in her excitement.

"Acted out?" the little blonde sounded slightly more cautious now, appearantly aware of the malicious nature of her sister's friend.

"Put herself in the way of Bludgers and shit so Siri would saver her," she sneered in respone.

I nearly exploded at this heinous falsehood. I had no problem with Sirius taking credit for the breakup nor with those mindless hags getting the order of events screwed up as to when exactly I'd started acting strange. But I was not okay with this one.

My blood boiled dangerously. Forget hexing, I wanted to strangle the bitch with my bare hands.

"Did he?"

"Well, I guess not," her sister told her, voice far from sypathetic. "Because she landed herself in the hospital wing."

"Madame Pomfrey was furious," tall brunette wench bubbled.

"Yeah, she was," the blonde agreed.

"What'd she try then?"

It was at this that I had to resist the madly tempting impulse to whirl on them and set the record straight. Tell them Sirius was the one who'd said the L word first, that I ditched him and that the only reason that bloody ball hit me was because the moron was too busy staring at me bewilderedly to see it coming. But, incredibly, I held my tongue and listened.

"Well," the sister's voice was getting nearly as giddy as her idiot friend's. "She got really depressed and quiet again and quit Quidditch-"

"Guess seeing him was just too much for her after that humiliation." The brunette interrupted again.

"Or they made her." The blonde smirked, adding a seemingly blase shrug. "Anyway, not long after that her mum started having issues with her pregnancy and Bella jumped at the chance to leave and go take care of her."

"Didn't tell anyone either. When it happened, she and her sister-"

"Effie?" the blonde asked, voice indicating a flicker of recognition.

"Yes, Effie," her sister nodded. "They rushed to St. Mungo's to see their mum and, when Effie returned Arabella wasn't with her. She came to collect her things a few days later, appearantly, but no one saw her."

"Didn't even write to her friends," the brunette added to damage my reputation further. 

Ha! I could do better than that! How 'bout a teenage pregnancy with your beloved "Siri's" baby, eh?

 "She just disappeared."

"And now she's back?"

"And now she's back."


*** 


(So, there's Chapter 9, most of which I've had written since I was working on the beginning of Cause & Effect. I really hope you liked it! Don't forget to tell me favorite parts or lines or just general opinions of it in the review box below!

Love, 
RED)


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