As long as I’ve known her (all my life) Mum’s never let ‘personal issues’ impact her teaching. Honestly, this is the woman who timed my birth to take place after end-of-year exams so her students wouldn’t be disadvantaged by her absence. But apparently, seeing me curled up on the floor of Myrtle’s bathroom has tainted her judgement slightly.
“Ten points from Gryffindor, Potter!” she barks when he whispers something to Freddy. “Potter! Do you want to be in this class or not?” when he stares vacantly out a window. “Detention, Potter!” when he doodles in the margin of his textbook.
“Fucking Death Eater,” James mutters angrily.
As long as I live, I never want to see that look on my mother’s face again. She goes deathly pale, staring at James with an icy intensity that makes my insides squirm.
“What did you just say?” she asks, her voice dangerously low.
James stands. “The scars never go away, do they?”
“Get. Out. Of. My. Class.”
He walks out. Mum’s shaking, and I get out of my seat, quickly ushering her out the door and into a nearby empty classroom. Tea. Floo. I throw some powder into the fire, sticking my head in and directing it to Dad’s office at the Ministry.
“Cassia? What’s going on?”
“Someone called Mum a Death Eater. Get your arse here, please.” I pull my head back out and turn back to Mum. “Dad’s on his way.”
“That’s not necessary,” she says immediately. “I can handle it.”
“Mum. You’re a hero. You have an Order of Merlin, First Class. Nobody gives a flying fuck about the Dark Mark.”
“Cassia,” she says tiredly, “You weren’t there.”
Dad emerges from the Floo, and I march out to find James.
“What the hell was that about?” I demand, seizing his wrist and spinning him around to face me.
“I was going to ask you the same thing!” he says angrily. “What did you tell your mum that she has a personal vendetta against me?”
“I didn’t tell her anything!”
“Like hell. Did you tell her…what was it…that I treat you like my whore?”
“Is that what you’ve been telling people, Cass?”
“No! She doesn’t know about that…stuff.”
“So what did you tell her?”
“I was upset. She guessed it was about you. That’s all.”
“Because you couldn’t have talked to me about it.”
“I tried! It’s not my fault you came onto me every time you said we’d talk about it!”
“And you were really resisting, weren’t you?”
I open my mouth, not sure what to say next, but James cuts me off.
“No, Cassia. I don’t want to hear it.”
“You just yelled at me for not talking to you!”
“That was before. Just leave me alone, Cassia, before I curse you into oblivion.”
He storms off, leaving me standing in the middle of the corridor, swiping at the tears on my face and feeling more alone than I ever have before.
I can’t go and sit with the group at interval and lunch, and instead make my way to the library. It’s not my favourite place in the world, but I know one person who’s sure to be there. What can I say? Dom’s with the group, Mum’s in an emotionally fragile state, I can’t stand the awkward sympathy of the other girls in my dorm, and I’m desperate.
I approach the group of fourth-year Slytherins sitting at one of the tables in the corner. They’ve all made friends with the librarian – I’ve never even bothered to learn her name – and can get away with murder in here. Scorpius Malfoy is charming parchment darts to fly at the heads of unsuspecting second years.
“Emilia?” I ask, hoping that she’ll pick up on my misery without me having to express it in front of her friends. Luckily for me, she inherited the Athena Rutherford brand of empathy, muttering something about family stuff, excusing herself from the group and slinging an arm around my shoulders. Dammit, she’s nearly taller than me.
“What’s up, sis?”
I love how she doesn’t even question my logic in coming to her. She is last on my list of confidantes, and I’m last on hers. Maybe she’s entertained fleeting thoughts of sisterly bonds as well.
“Shit,” I reply briefly. “Muffliato.”
“Means nobody else can listen in on the conversation. Learned it from James.”
“Handy,” she observes. “So, tell me about this shit.”
“It’s pretty shitty.”
“I can imagine.”
“Fought with James. Quite badly.”
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”
“Have you tried talking to him?”
“Considering his last words to me were ‘Leave me alone, Cassia, before I curse you into oblivion,’ I’m not keen to try.”
“He said that? Merlin, what did you do to him?”
“That’s between me and him.”
“Just let him cool off a bit,” she suggests.
“I know that much. But until he cools off, I have to deal with him avoiding me like the plague, and that’s kind of painful.”
I feel strangely awkward, not sure what to say next. I mean, I’m not really looking for advice, and if I was, I wouldn’t seek it from my fourteen-year-old sister. I should have snuck out and visited my brother. It’s probably too late to do that now.
I really should have talked to my brother. He and his girlfriend, Lillian, were best friends since they were babies. They must have gone through the awkward-attraction phase. They got together.
“Talked to Rory?” Emilia asks, reading my mind.
“I will later on. Send him an owl or something.”
“I mean, I know it was different with him and Lillian coz they’re all in love and whatever, but he’d probably get what you’re going through. To a point anyway.”
Oh Emilia, there is so much you don’t know. “That’s what I was thinking.”
She nods. “So anyway, you’re okay? Not going to go cry on Myrtle’s floor or anything?”
“Of course not.”
“Good. I should be getting back to them…” she points in the direction of her Slytherin corner and trails off.
“Yeah, okay. Go.”
She looks like she wants to say something more, but ends up just patting me awkwardly on the shoulder and walking off.
I need friends.
“What’s up with you and James?” Dom asks when I slide into my seat beside her in Arithmancy. James doesn’t take it, and I can’t describe how relieved I am to not deal with him giving me the cold shoulder all lesson.
“Had a falling out,” I reply briefly.
“I gathered that much,” she says impatiently. “That’s what James said.”
“What did James say?”
“Just that you guys had a fight. Was it about…you know?”
“The sex thing? Yeah. That, and some other stuff. So he pretty much hates me right now.” Don’t cry, Cassia. Don’t you dare.
“I’m sure he doesn’t.”
“Did you see any evidence to the contrary?”
“Well…” Dom flounders. “Well, he was angry.”
“What did he say?”
“It’s not my place to say,” she says awkwardly.
“You’re my best friend!”
“And he’s my cousin.”
“Just tell me what he said.”
“Just that you guys had a fight, and…he didn’t want to see you or talk to you so could we – me and Freddy – please keep you away from him. So, uh, don’t go near him.”
I can feel my eyes filling with tears, my throat choking up. I’ve ruined everything.
“Cass?” Dom says quietly. “You’ll work it out. I’m sure you will. Just…give him time. Professor?” she calls, waving her hand. “Cassia’s feeling really sick, can I take her to the hospital wing please?”
I shoot her a grateful look as she helps me gather my stuff and get out of the classroom.
“Where do you want to go?” she asks.
“Common room, I need to wallow in self-pity.”
“Sounds good,” she agrees. She accompanies me to the portrait hole before heading back to class.
“Get the notes for me?” I ask. I don’t normally bother, but Arithmancy is the one subject I really care about, and I have no desire to fail it.
It would be just my luck if James was in the common room, but luckily for me he’s safely ensconsed in Muggle Studies and I won’t have to see him, probably until dinner. I mope around the common room, make myself tea, attempt to study for my other subjects, give up, and question the meaning of life. I’m pretty sure it isn’t to mope around common rooms trying to kill time, and that’s more or less as far as I get before I abandon that line of thought. It’s getting too depressing in my state of mind.
I join in some seventh-years on their study period discussing Quidditch. I’m a Beater, I can talk Quidditch. Pity James is captain of the team. Maybe he’ll cancel practices to avoid me. Maybe he’ll kick me off the team.
I write a letter to my brother, taking it up to the Owlery when I determine it’s safe enough to be seen out of class, and contemplate what to do next.
When it comes down to it, there’s not a lot for a sixteen-year-old witch to do in a thousand year old castle after school when her friends have abandoned her and she can’t be arsed doing schoolwork.
To be honest, I can’t see the point of it. NEWTs aren’t until the end of seventh year. I’m halfway through sixth. We don’t have exams this year. Call me lazy, but I don’t intend to do much work until about a month before the exams themselves. And I’ll get solid Exceeds Expectations, maybe an Outstanding or two. Most people hate me for it, but it’s not my fault that two of the smartest people of the war generation decided to get married and have me.
I have two options, as I see it. One, I could study. Get the notes I’ve missed from Dom, catch up on a bunch of essays I owe various professors from September onwards, and confuse everyone around me. Two, I could raid the Firewhiskey stash in my room, drown my sorrows, risk getting expelled, and in the process assure everyone around me that I haven’t changed in the slightest.
Neither of these hold much appeal, if I’m honest. Maybe I’ll go do the rounds for the Black Market, I think James has been too busy angsting it out to stay on top of the orders. My decision made, I summon the parchment with the orders written on it, gather the required bottles of Firewhiskey and Butterbeer (Butterbeer tends to be a favourite with bratty first and second years, who think they’re being oh so rebellious getting it smuggled in) and head out the door, having cleverly disguised my stash as a pile of overdue library books.
I deliver the goods, ticking off names as I go before sending the parchment back to where it lives in the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. James learned the required Parseltongue from his dad years ago, and it serves as a good base for our operations.
I can’t help but feel smug as I walk back to Gryffindor Tower. Four hours after the mother of all bust-ups with my best friend/secret love of my life and I’ve just cleared two weeks worth of alcohol orders. Suck on that, James Potter. I’m not going to mope over you.
A week of James-silence stretches into two and I feel shittier than shit. I’ve been absorbed into the seventh-year group after explaining the bare bones of the situation to them – ‘Not talking to one of the group. Can’t go back to group’ – and try to ignore the fact that James is ignoring me. Dom says it’s ridiculous, but she’s never told me to go talk to him. I guess that means James is still telling her to keep me away from him.
Mum’s being incredibly nice to me. Well, nice in her unique way, which means giving me three times as much homework to do in case I ‘need the distraction.’ To her credit, though, she doesn’t mind if I don’t do it. I wish the rest of my teachers were like that. I also wish she was my Head of House, because then she’d have more authority to get other teachers off my back.
As the days turn into weeks and the James situation doesn’t give me anything new to think about, however, something else begins to nag at me, increasing in intensity until I’m lying awake, heart pounding, at three in the morning.
We didn’t use contraception.
And no matter how much I try to dispel my fears with logic – most women have to try for ages before they get pregnant, I’m just being paranoid, surely – I can’t help but freak out. And it doesn’t help that my family has a record of being…fertile. Mum was unplanned, Rory was unplanned, and when you add Murphy’s Law into the equation, I’m royally screwed.
I feel sick at the thought, and before my imagination can take over I tell myself firmly it’s from nerves. I can’t be pregnant. No way.
But at the same time, I need to know for sure. Just for peace of mind, so I can stop myself panicking. But how? Surely there’s a spell that would work. Homenum revelio? I think I remember Mum saying foetus Rory showed up when a Death Eater used it around her.
The other option is to go to Madam Pomfrey, but the thought just scares me too much.
Come on Cassia, you were sorted into Gryffindor for a reason.
To be honest, I would rather find out myself. Find a spell, be the first to find out. That way, if it was negative, I wouldn’t have to deal with members of staff unneccessarily knowing I’ve had sexual relations.
I take myself off to the restricted section of the library. Mum gave me and my siblings permanent passes to the restricted section once we hit third year, as a protest against censorship. Glancing around me several times, I start poring over all the books, pulling out a small, pale pink book obviously designed to appeal to emotionally fragile teen girls with the words “So you think you might be PREGNANT?” emblazoned in large, friendly letters on the cover.
I flick through all the introduction so-we-recognise-this-may-be-a-very-scary-time-in-your-life mumbo jumbo and skip to the business. Here we go. Spell.
I snuck in here, risked pulling out this ridiculous book and being seen with it, all to be presented with Homenum Revelio. I could have found that in the damn Standard Book of Spells, Grade 7. Come to think of it, the description of the spell in that particular publication did mention it can be used to detect the presence of unborn babies.
Fleeing the library, I lock myself in my favourite cubicle in Myrtle’s bathroom (I can’t believe I just put favourite, cubicle, Myrtle and bathroom in the same sentence) and thank Merlin I can do nonverbal spells.
I have no idea what to expect from this spell. I probably won’t even be able to figure out how to interpret what it does. But there are two beams of light leading out from my wand, one directly to my heart – that must be me – and one into my stomach.
I must have cast it wrong.
I cast it three times. I try to remember the words on how the spell works. Detects human heartbeats. A glowing line will appear from the caster’s wand to the hearts of any other humans present in the room.
Oh Merlin. Oh, fuck. This can’t be happening. This is not happening. No way is this happening.
The rational thing would be to sit in the bathroom until I’ve processed it all, emerge calmly, clear all my absences from class with Mum, and systematically go around telling the most important people.
I’m not a rational person.
I storm through the castle and out into the quadrangle where James is sitting beside Dom and Freddy. When I’m a few metres away I see James turn to Dom. “I thought you told her—”
“Get up, James Potter.”
He actually looks frightened of me. Maybe I inherited more than just my mum’s appearance. Maybe I have the Athena Rutherford Look of Death and I’m pointing it at him right now.
“Come with me. Now.”
He knows better than to try and ask me questions until I drag him into the Room of Requirement. The place looks more like an interrogation room in Azkaban. What can I say, I was the one that requested it.
He sits. And unleashes his tirade.
“I tell you to stay away from me. I tell you I don’t want anything to do with you. And you still drag me in here on your will because you want to have a go at me. I’ve had enough, Cassia. I intended to talk to you. I did. But I needed time. I thought you’d be mature enough to respect that, but obviously not. I’m not – ”
“I’m pregnant,” I say coolly.
“I found out ten minutes ago. And believe me, Potter, if that wasn’t the case, there’s no way I would be talking to you now. I hope that appeases you.”
Potter does not look appeased. He looks shell-shocked. But, I reflect, at least he’s not yelling at me.
“Right,” I say, and I can hear my voice cracking slightly, “Now is not the time to talk about this. As I said before, I only found out ten minutes ago, and I need a few hours to bawl my eyes out in private and convince myself not to jump off the top of Astronomy Tower. I’ll talk to you later.”
A/N: 'Large, friendly letters on the cover' is taken from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.