‘Real’ conversations with James are few and far between – in fact, they barely exist at all. We’re just acting like we always have, hanging out, talking about things that don’t matter, running the Black Market, stealing food from the kitchens late at night, sneaking around the castle under James’s Invisibility Cloak and occasionally (very occasionally) working on homework. And though part of me is grateful that our friendship is the same as it always has been, another part of me wants to grab him by the shoulders, shake him and scream ‘I’m pregnant, James, nothing is normal anymore!’
We’ve also made no move in the direction of telling our parents about it, which makes me feel terrible every time I talk to Mum. I told her briefly that James and I are mates again, ignoring the unspoken questions in her eyes. Maybe she sensed there was something I didn’t want to discuss with her, and she left it alone, knowing I’d tell her eventually.
Maybe it’s to ease the guilt I’m feeling, maybe it’s just because I need his support, but I Floo to St Mungo’s where my brother is a trainee Healer, and make my way across to the student accomodation in the west wing.
“Excuse me. Where are you going?” a Healer stops me on the way.
“Visiting my brother.”
“And where is your brother?”
I gesture to the student accomodation. “He’s a trainee Healer.”
“What’s his name?”
“Aurelius Rutherford. Better known as Rory.”
The Healer pauses to think. “Tall, brown hair, about twenty-one?”
“Off you go then,” the Healer says reluctantly, as if he’d like to send me back to Hogwarts. But I’m family, and that’s more or less an all-access pass at St Mungo’s.
“Rory!” I call, rapping briefly on his door. “Wake up, get out of the shower, put some pants on, tear your eyeballs from your textbook, whatever you’re doing, I need to talk to you.”
Without waiting for a reply, I barge in.
“Afternoon, Cassia,” he says, sitting at his desk and not looking up from a frightening length of parchment. He has a bowl of instant noodles beside him, and every so often he’ll shove more into his mouth, chasing it down with a bottle of energy drink whose packaging suggests it was bought in a shady corner of Knockturn Alley.
“So what’s up?” he asks, taking a final mouthful of noodles and spinning round to face me.
“You’re what?” he splutters.
I’m about to reply with some smartass remark, but when I open my mouth a feeble whimper comes out. “I’m pregnant.”
He stands, running a hand through his hair and exhaling loudly. “God, Cass.”
Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Not gonna cry, not gonna cry, not gonna cry, oh Merlin, gonna cry.
“Who’s the father?” Rory asks quietly.
“I’m going to kill him.”
“It’s not his fault.”
“You’re my little sister.”
“Are you together?”
“Do you love him?”
“Bastard,” Rory spits, and I’m almost scared of him, gripping his wand so tightly his knuckles are turning white.
“Don’t hurt him,” I say quietly.
“Why not? He hurt you.”
“No, he didn’t.”
Rory turns to me. “I’ve seen you crying over him, Cass. For years I’ve seen you crying over him, when you think I don’t notice. And now you’re…you’re pregnant to him and he doesn’t have the decency to…to…” He trails off, throwing his hands in the air. “Don’t tell me he hasn’t hurt you.”
“It’s not his fault I’m in love with him!”
“And it’s not your fault either!”
“Stop yelling. Please.”
He sighs, sitting back down at his desk. “Have you been to see Madam Pomfrey?”
“It’s a good idea to get onto that right away. There’s a range of potions available for pregnant women, to assist development of the baby…Have you been feeling sick? Because there’s—”
“Rory,” I interrupt quietly.
“Don’t go all Healer on me. I just need my big brother.”
“Do Mum and Dad know?”
“Do you want me to be there when you tell them?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to tell them at all. I just want to curl up in my bed and pretend this isn’t happening.”
“How long have you known?”
“Three weeks? Four weeks? A month?”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“I’ve been burying my head in the sand, forgive me.”
Rory rolls his eyes. “You’ve always been good at that.”
“I’m a pro now.”
“You certainly are. You’ve known a month, and you haven’t done anything.”
“I have so done stuff. I told James, and Dom and Freddy, and you, and I saw the school counsellor.”
“You saw the school counsellor?”
“Yes. I now have issues. Don’t laugh, it’s not funny.”
“You now have issues,” he repeats with a smirk. “Because you didn’t before.”
“How’s the black market going?”
“In all seriousness, Cass, if you ever need me, I’m here. Like, you can stay with me if Mum and Dad hit the roof or something.”
I eye his floor, littered with unwashed clothes, empty bottles, food wrappers and scraps of parchment. “I think I’ll be fine. And even if I’m not, this place is a health hazard.”
“I’ll clean it after exams,” he says with a careless wave of his hand.
“You do that. I might leave, before I catch bubonic plague.”
“See you later, then,” he says, giving me a quick hug. “Owl me if you need to.”
I force myself to go see Madam Pomfrey, an exceedingly uncomfortable visit during which she gives me a checkover, a potion and a lecture. I then track down James to discuss what we’ve dubbed Operation Parent: the best way to go about telling them. It amazes me how, two months later, I’ve spent all this time with James and we still haven’t sorted out what’s going on with our relationship.
“I think we should tell them all at the same time,” James says. “Get it over with.”
“How are we going to get them all in the same place?”
“McGonagall’s talked to me, she says the school often holds parent meetings in this situation.”
“You’ve talked to McGonagall? McGonagall knows?”
“Pomfrey told McGonagall. She called me in yesterday.”
“How come she didn’t call me in?”
James shrugs. “Apparently it’s my fault.”
He says it off-handedly, but I know it’s upsetting him, and I don’t blame him. It’s just as much my fault as his, but he’s copping the blame for it.
“Remember what we agreed,” I point out. “Not your fault, not mine, just—”
“Shit luck,” James finishes. “Yeah, I know.”
“So, parent meeting then,” I say in a resigned voice. “When?”
“I don’t know. A Saturday. That way my parents aren’t working, we’re not in class and because we don’t have DADA on Mondays, it gives your mum seventy-two hours to calm down before we have to see her in class again.”
“I thought so too.”
“Are you scared?”
“Well, we have each other, at any rate,” James says.
“What do you even mean by that?”
He looks at me, puzzled. “We always have each other, you know that.”
“In what capacity?”
“Youre not making sense, Cassia.”
“Fine then,” I say, throwing caution to the wind. “Do you want me to spell it out for you? I want us to be more than friends. I’ve wanted that for years. I’m madly in love with you, James Potter.”
I can’t believe I just said that.
Apparently, neither can he.
“What did you just say?” he manages.
“I’m not repeating that.”
Apparently he heard me perfectly well . “Why haven’t you told me this earlier?”
“Why does it matter?”
“Because we could have gotten together in fourth year,” he grumbles. “And that would have saved me three years of pining after you like my namesake did for Lily Evans.”
“Three years pining for me?”
“And I spent three years pining for you.” I stop, allowing these revelations to sink in, and laugh helplessly. “Merlin, we’re idiots!”
“Massive idiots,” he agrees, grinning.
I’ve never felt like this before. I’m laughing, I’m crying, and it feels like my spirit is soaring. James loves me. He actually loves me. Nothing in the world could ever be wrong again. I feel like shouting from the rooftops, I’m so stupidly happy.
“Be my girlfriend?” James asks, cutting into my reverie.
He lets out a whoop, bounding over and kissing me. I’m pretty sure I just melted.