Chapter 16 : Preparation
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I haven’t seen Aunt Artemis for a while, but go with Evie to drop off Katie and Eloise. Despite only having one herself, Aunt Artemis is pretty skilled when it comes to babies and children – she was only fifteen when Rory was born and apparently Mum would dump him on her all the time when she was home from Hogwarts – and as kids we would spend as much time with her as we did with Evie. Once Evie’s kids were born, Artemis helped with them too, until one day where she upped and left for Belgium to spend a year working as an au pair for a high-flying Ministry of Magic official there. Long story short, she was sent back to Britain in disgrace, three months pregnant and completely despondent. I still remember her coming home – I was too young to understand quite what had happened, but all my eight-year-old brain could comprehend was that Aunt Artemis wasn’t as happy or as fun or as smiley as she was before, and I decided at that point that Evie was my favourite aunty.
Looking back, I realise children are vicious, horrible things. Or maybe it was just me.
It’s a good thing we came slightly earlier than we needed to, because Artemis and Evie get to chatting and there’s no stopping those two when they’re chatting.
Nicostratus emerges to whisk Katie away as if to make sure Evie won’t be taking her home any time soon, and Eloise pouts a bit before trotting off to follow them. They’re cute kids, really.
I try to imagine Sophia at the same age. It’s not easy, considering I have no idea what she looks like, and…well…she’s a foetus and then she’ll be a baby and that is all my brain can process right now about her existence.
Maybe she’ll just stay a baby forever and I won’t have to worry about toilet training her or teaching her how to walk or talk or read and write and she’ll never refuse to eat her veggies or ask why I’m so much younger than all her friends’ mummies.
I wonder how feasible it is to lie to your own child about how old you are. It’d probably be easy. I could even sustain the fiction for a long time if I was as good a liar as Mum. But I don’t think I am.
“James, am I a good liar?”
“What?” he asks, startled. “Why?”
“Am I a good liar?”
“No, you’re crap,” he replies bluntly. “Well, you are around me anyway.”
“Maybe I can’t lie to you because there’s some subconscious urge to be honest with you about things or something.”
“Maybe I just know you too well.”
“Reckon I could lie to Sophia?”
“To Soph—oh. What, about Santa? Eating carrots makes you see in the dark? Vegetables are yummy?”
“About how old I am.”
“I don’t think she’d really care.”
“No, but her classmates’ mums would.”
“That is a very long time away,” James says firmly. “Maybe we can discuss it after she’s actually born.”
“Ready to go, you two?” Evie asks cheerfully. “We’re just Flooing directly to the Leaky Cauldron.”
Oh God I have to go out in public. I hadn’t exactly considered that.
“But I’m pregnant!” I protest.
There is a long silence. Artemis snickers.
“Yes,” Evie says eventually. “Yes, we know.”
“You look like a whale, it’s hardly escaped our notice,” James contributes.
I pull out my wand. “Say that again, James Potter.”
“Whales are lovely creatures—”
I turn his hair lime green. If people are going to stare, they might as well stare at both of us.
I complain often and loudly enough about having to walk around the house, what on earth possessed these people to make me walk the length of Diagon Alley? I waddle along several feet behind Evie and James, who seem to be immersed in some kind of baby-related conversation, and wish with all my might that Sophia was in a pram in front of me rather than in my womb. My feet hurt. My back hurts. This demon child is kicking me. It’s hot. My life sucks.
“Maybe we should wait for Cassia,” James suggests to Evie.
“Go on—” I gasp for air and pretend it was for dramatic effect – “Without me…”
“You heard the woman, let’s go,” James says. “Kidding, kidding,” he adds hastily, seeing I’ve drawn my wand again.
“Not too much further to go, Cassia,” Evie says encouragingly. In my experience, that statement is always a lie.
“I hate you both,” I inform them upon catching up.
Turns out Evie wasn’t actually lying, the baby place is just next door to the shop we’re standing outside. I hurry inside, leaving James and Evie scrambling to catch up.
“You can really move for someone so pregnant,” James calls after me.
My eyes have already alighted on the window display. “But pretty baby things!” I call back.
Evie lets me wander around the store for a few minutes, staring at everything, before calling my attention back to the task at hand. “Right. So you’re going to need some clothes first off, blankets, a carrier—”
“James, look at this!” I shout, cutting her off and fingering the fabric of a bright red suit. “It has the Gryffindor lion on it!”
James frowns. “She’ll spit up on it. And poop in it. And stuff.”
“How much is it?” Evie asks, ever the voice of reason.
I check the tag and pull a face. “Twelve Galleons.”
“No,” James decides.
“You’re right,” I agree sadly. “And besides, if she’s got the same hair colour as me, you don’t want to go near red.”
“Good morning,” an overly friendly witch calls, smiling brightly at us. “Getting ready for baby, are you?”
“No, I’m just window shopping with a Quaffle shoved up my shirt,” I respond, not even bothering to turn around as I shuffle through the suit things – what do you even call these, anyway? I don’t know the first thing about baby things, and I’m having one in six weeks.
“Do you know what you’re having yet?” Sunshine and Daisies continues.
“A baby, I would presume.”
“So you don’t know the sex. In that case it would be best—”
“It’s a girl. But your first question was rather ambiguous.”
“Cassia, stop smartarsing,” James whispers.
Sunshine and Daisies doesn’t seem to mind. “A wee girl, how lovely! Have you got a name for her yet?”
“Sophia Grace Potter,” James says.
Sunshine and Daisies goes silent at this point, staring at James as if she hadn’t noticed him before.
Oh Lord. Why couldn’t the stupid fool have kept his mouth shut? ‘Sophia Grace’ would have been fine. Even just ‘Sophia.’ Better still, it’s none of this woman’s business what my unborn daughter’s name is.
I’m beginning to realise motherhood will involve a lot of invasions of privacy.
“You’re the father, then?” Sunshine and Daisies continues, directing this question at James.
“Yes, I am.”
“You must be so proud,” she gushes, trying way too hard to disguise her Harry Potter’s son is a teen father! Scandal! reaction.
I shoot a glance at Evie, who nods and takes over the conversation with Sunshine and Daisies, steering her away from us.
I thought shopping for baby things would be fun, but the amount of stuff we need to buy, and the fact that James has to pay for it, freaks me out a bit. We go for the cheaper, simpler versions of everything (anything that’s been precharmed costs about three times as much as normal) and I figure if anything needs charming I can do it at home. I wasn’t a total failure at Charms, I just preferred working for myself and not the teachers.
There’s a heck of a lot of pink in our final purchases, something I mildly objected to because a) if baby has red hair pink will look awful and b) it’s just blatant sexism and we should be doing something different rather than mindlessly following the crowds. But James pointed out that all newborn babies look the same and the only way people will be able to tell if she’s a girl is if she’s wearing pink, and Evie told me that despite her best efforts, her daughters naturally gravitated towards pink anyway. When it became clear I was fighting a losing battle, I gave in and let James buy the pink.
Now I’m annoyed because I should have stood my ground and bought blue to make a statement. I’m not sure whether that statement would have been anti-sexism or anti-agreeing-with-James, but they’d probably be the same in a lot of people’s eyes anyway.
I’m thinking about this too much.
To my considerable surprise, I discover Rory hard at work when I come home, apparently blasting a hole in the wall of my room.
“Dearest brother,” I begin, leaning on the doorframe, “What in the name of Merlin are you doing?”
“Building you a little room for the baby,” he replies. “Should be finished in a sec. That way you don’t have to do nappy changes and things in your room, and she can sleep in here too.”
Sleep. Bed. Baby bed. We didn’t buy one at the baby shop because they were all ludicrously expensive – James and I decided instead to canvass all our male relatives to see if one of them could build one for us. I come from a family of academics who don’t know the meaning of manual labour, but luckily James has a few uncles and family friends who have their feet firmly on the ground. Mind you, I didn’t realise Rory was so handy with construction spells.
“When did you learn DIY?” I ask.
“From books,” he replies. “It’s actually really complex magic, there’s a lot of physics involved if you don’t buy the precharmed tools that builders use, and—”
Family of academics that don’t know the meaning of manual labour. Case in point. Not that I mind, if my daughter gets a bedroom out of it.
“Why are you being so nice to me?”
He gets to his feet, looking confused. “Coz you’re my sister?”
“You’re kinda going above and beyond the call of duty.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I’m practicing.”
“Practicing for what?” I ask dubiously. “A career in construction? Wouldn’t really suit you.”
Rory lowers his voice, stepping closer. “I could be a father myself in five years’ time, you know.”
“A what?” I splutter. For some reason I’m perfectly fine with the idea of myself becoming a parent at the age of seventeen in six weeks’ time, but my big brother being one in five years’ time? Preposterous!
Apparently he thinks the same way. “You’re hardly one to talk. Lillian and I have discussed it, that’s all.”
“Does that mean she knows you’re planning to propose?”
“Of course she does. I’ve loved her all my life, there was never any question about it. She just doesn’t know when.”
“That’s kinda cute.” But this talk of marriage and proposals has got my mind racing ahead – would James and I ever get married? Images of me in a gorgeous white gown, exchanging vows with a tux-clad James in the Potters’ sunny garden, spring to mind.
What am I thinking? It’s never sunny in Godric’s Hollow.
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