Chapter 13 : Reality
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I don’t see as much of James as I would have liked, because he’s found himself a holiday job at Quality Quidditch Supplies and is working nine till five five days a week. But Dom and Freddy make a point of coming to see me quite often, especially Dom. I can’t think of much to do at home, though. What did I spend my summer holidays doing before this? Oh, that’s right. Going round to James’ or Dom’s or Freddy’s and playing improvised games of Quidditch, or going on expeditions into whichever Muggle city or town was the closest – Freddy’s family lives in London, so that was always the best – or wandering through Diagon or Knockturn Alley. In short, everything that I either can’t do anymore or don’t want to do anymore. Especially with James working all the time and me getting fatter and more sore and uncomfortable by the day.
Growing up sucks. Growing up prematurely sucks even more. I realise with a certain sense of horror that I have more in common with Auntie Evie, Ginny and even Mum than I do with my friends. Even Dom can only stand so much pregnancy and baby talk, and she certainly can’t empathise.
Is this what life’s going to be like from now on? And what if I can’t look after the baby? What if I really fail as a parent, what if I do something wrong and it gets sick or hurt or dies because of me? What if I can’t bond with it? Post natal depression runs in my family too – Mum had it with Rory and Nana had it with Mum. Neither of them talk about it – Mum only told me because she wanted me to be aware of the risk. Which is of course one more jolly happy thing I have to consider.
I try reading some of the parenting books in my family’s extensive library, but that only serves to make me panic more. So many things can go wrong, how on earth does anyone make it through childhood? What chance does my baby have, with an irresponsible seventeen year old for a mother?
“What are you most worried about?” Mum asks, sitting me down with a cup of tea and an I’m-not-moving-till-you-tell-me look on her face.
“That I’ll fail. That I’ll hurt it without realising. That I’ll do something stupid, or wrong, or just not do anything at all, and the baby will suffer.”
“Which, believe me, is a perfectly normal reaction for any first-time mother.”
“But I’m seventeen. I’m seventeen, and I’m irresponsible and immature and I can’t look after anything if I tried. You know me, Mum. I just do stupid things all the time, and I’m not ready to look after a baby.”
“I think you’re being too hard on yourself. You’re a bright girl, and you’re handling this extremely well.”
“It’s just an act.”
“And you think I can’t see through your acts?” Mum settled herself on the couch and sighed. “You know, when I had Rory, I should have been in a better place than you are. I was young, yes, but I was still two years older than you are now, and I was married to your father. The war was over, we had a house, and your father had his job at the Ministry. But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready when I found out I was pregnant, I wasn’t ready when he was born, I wasn’t ready for a very long time. All I could think about was myself. How Rory held me back. How I was stuck in the house all day. How alone I was. Even when I realised I needed help, it was because I didn’t want to be a bad mother, and I didn’t want to feel awful all the time. But you know, even now, your biggest worries are for your baby. That’s how it should be, and that’s how I know you’re going to be a good mother.”
James manages to get a Thursday off work, and comes with me to a scan at Mungo’s. I don’t have them very often, with Rory able to detect whether anything’s wrong with the baby without a scan, but I’m actually really looking forward to seeing the baby, and I think James is too. He’s alternating between nervous and excited the whole way to the maternity unit at Mungo’s.
I’ve been to Mungo’s for this once before, and the Healer from last time, Anna, is back again, explaining that she’s actually been assigned to me and will be there for the birth. I must say I’m relieved – much as I love my brother, I don’t really want him there for it.
“So you’ve been seeing Aurelius Rutherford for regular check ups?” Anna asks, matter-of-factly rolling up my shirt and running some strange apparatus over my belly.
“Well, yeah, he’s my brother.”
“Brother!” Anna says, peering at my face. “Oh, yes, you’ve got the same eyes. That must be handy, having him around. I don’t know him well, but I’ve only heard good things from the professors that trained him. If you just look up at the screen, you’ll see the baby.”
I can’t decipher much from the splodges and random shapes on the screen. “Looks lovely,” I manage, glancing at James, who nods vigorously.
“That’s the head,” Anna explains, pointing it out, “And those are its hands—”
“It’s sucking its thumb!” I say excitedly. “Look, James, I think it’s sucking its thumb!”
“You’re right!” James says in wonder, staring from screen to belly to screen again. “Wow.”
“Would you like to know the sex of the baby?”
“Yes,” I say immediately. “I don’t want to keep calling it ‘it.’” Realising I’ve forgotten something important, I quickly turn to James. “Is that okay?”
“Yeah, fine,” James replies, still staring at the screen. “I want to know everything about it.”
“It’s a girl,” Anna informs us.
I don’t really know how to react. I didn’t have a preference – whether the baby was a boy or girl didn’t seem to matter – but now that I know I just feel this overwhelming sense of wonder. The baby’s not just some unknown entity anymore. She’s a person.
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