April stretches into May and I stretch the elastic in my pajama pants until there’s no elasticity left in them. I normally wear Muggle clothes in the holidays (to annoy my traditionalist parents) but the battle to get into my jeans got depressing weeks ago, so I’m living in robes. I feel fat, and gross, and I’m sick of my own house. I’ll be seventeen soon so at least I’ll be able to use magic while my parents aren’t home, but there’s not a lot to look forward to. I can’t Apparate – I’ve done my research and apparently inexperienced Apparators are prone to Splinching themselves, which in the case of pregnant witches can result in the Splinching of the unborn child, so I’ll be stuck with the Floo Network for the forseeable future.
I feel stupidly lonely, even though Dom and James send me owls every day and Evelina pops in every few days with her brood of demon children who would put me off reproducing for life if I wasn’t already pregnant. Rory’s been over a couple of times, but he’s busier than ever studying for his final exams. So I’ve taken to sprawling on the couch talking to the baby, cheerfully telling it how it’s ruined my life and it better be the coolest damn baby on the planet to make up for it, and if it’s not in Gryffindor in twelve years’ time there will be hell to pay. You wouldn’t think it, but voicing such thoughts makes me quite fond of it. You know, thinking of it as a child with a life and a future ahead of it rather than an unknown entity that makes me sick, sore, fat and ostracised. Yeah.
I imagine the weirdest things. Like what his or her first magic will be (Given who its parents are, it’ll probably be breaking something) or taking him or her to Diagon Alley for the first time, or seeing him or her off on the Hogwarts Express for the first time…I’m getting ahead of myself. Baby doesn’t have a name yet, baby doesn’t even have a sex yet. Baby will probably be a Squib, just to spite me.
This particular scenario ended up with me Flooing to the Potters’ (Why didn’t I think about that when I was so bored?) and bellowing “WHAT IF IT’S A SQUIB?” to an alarmed Ginny.
“You’ll still love it,” Ginny says calmly.
“But – it’ll have to live in the Muggle world – I don’t know anything about the Muggle world – what kind of life would it be—”
“Cassia,” Ginny says, grasping my shoulders and steering me onto a nearby armchair, “Do you know the percentage of Squibs born to magical parents?”
“Less than one percent. Significantly less than one percent. And that reduces by half if a mother is under twenty-five. Tea?”
“Please,” I mumble. “How’s James?”
“Scared shitless,” Ginny replies matter-of-factly. “He’s owling me every day, asking if you’re okay and if there’s anything wrong with you that you don’t want to tell him. I’m almost tempted to let him come home, Neville says he’s far too distracted to concentrate on schoolwork…”
“Since when has he ever concentrated on schoolwork?” I ask.
“He hasn’t,” Ginny replies matter-of-factly, “But he doesn’t want to be there, and that’s new.”
“Great,” I grumble. “I’ll be able to tell our child that neither of his or her parents finished sixth year at Hogwarts.”
“I didn’t finish sixth year either,” Ginny points out.
“Yeah, but you still did seventh.” I stir my tea broodingly. “I don’t even know why I care, it’s not like I have any idea what I’ll do as a career.”
“You will by the time baby’s old enough for you to go to work,” Ginny says. “And for the record, I said I was almost tempted to let James come home. I’m not actually going to let him.”
By mid-May I’m bored enough to go for endless walks around Godric’s Hollow, trying to ignore the stares of the Muggles who have obviously reached the conclusion that pregnant + teenager = delinquent, and hurry away from me as quickly as possible. I contemplate putting on airs and graces and telling them I’m twenty, but I have Mum’s eternal-youth genes that make me look several years younger than I actually am anyway – one lady asked me if I would turn fourteen before the baby was born.
My seventeenth birthday passes without much fanfare. Mum and Emilia are still at school, but Dad takes the afternoon off work and cooks up a roast, inviting Rory, the Corners and the Potters. I must admit, I’m touched, especially considering how awkward he’s been about the whole pregnancy thing. He gives me a watch – “Gold for Gryffindor,” – and Ginny gives me a beautiful necklace with a purple pendant in it, which James bought me but didn’t trust his owl to deliver on time.
I spend the day performing pointless magic around the house, simply because I can.
After everyone’s left, Dad sits me down and takes the watch in his hands. “Do you know what this is?”
“It’s a watch.”
He flips it over, removing the back with a tap of his wand and tipping out a small, deep blue stone from inside it. “Look closer?”
I peer at it, and can just make out what appears to be an engraved Ravenclaw crest.
“Rowena Ravenclaw had this made in honour of her daughter after she ran away,” Dad explains. “Helena never returned, but she gave the stone to her son’s daughter. It’s been passed down, mother to daughter, for a thousand years. It’s a symbol of a mother’s eternal love and devotion to her daughter. Athe—your mother told me to put it inside your watch.”
I stare at the stone, the shape of it blurring as my eyes fill with unexpected tears.
“She still loves you, Cassia,” Dad says quietly. “She always will. No matter what you do.”
Hogwarts finishes a week after Rory’s graduation, but Mum and Emilia are Flooing home for the weekend to go to the ceremony. I don’t want to go – it’s a public event and I’ve never felt more self-conscious than now, with an obvious bump poking through my robes, but between them Rory, Evelina, Dom and Ginny convince me to.
I assumed they would be arriving after classes finish on Friday, so I’m surprised to see the Floo glow green at eleven in the morning. I get to my feet, hand reaching for my wand as the figure steps out of the fireplace.
“Erp,” I manage awkwardly upon seeing Mum.
She has tears glittering in her eyes as she opens her arms. “Cassia?”
The floodgates open as I run across the room and fling myself into her arms. “Mum!”
“I’m sorry too.”
“Don’t be sorry.”
“But I am!”
“Okay, I forgive you!”
“I forgive you too.”
“Just promise me one thing,” Mum says, stepping back. “Be a better mum than me, hey?”
“I told you I forgive you!”
“I wasn’t there when you needed me,” she says, pulling me close again.
“You’re here now. Better late than never.”
She squeezes me tight, and I make choking noises to indicate the fact I’m slowly dying. She steps back, and gives me a long up-and-down look.
“How far along are you?”
“Uhm.” I do a quick calculation. “Five months?”
“Past the halfway point then.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. “Thank Merlin,” I say emphatically.
“You don’t look all that big,” she continues.
I grin. “You, mother, are my favourite person in the whole wide world. Everyone else has been saying how fat I am.”
Mum frowns. “I hope Evie hasn’t, she was huge with Max.”
“She hasn’t,” I assure her, “But Rory and James—”
“And Evie’s demon children—”
“…And I think I look like a Quaffle.”
“Honey, you’re going to get a lot bigger than you are now,” Mum says calmly.