Chapter 17 : Animal
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I feel the chemicals kickin' in
It's getting heavy
And I wanna run and hide
Neon Trees - Animal
"I don't know how I didn't notice before." Ruby's tone was thoughtful as she paced the floor of our dorm around me in a circle.
I fought the urge to squirm under her scrutinising stare. Her eyebrows were raised in contemplation as she studied me intently.
"I mean, I knew you were getting kind of chubby," Rubbing her chin, deep in thought, she spoke once again. "But I just figured you had been going a little heavy on the fried chicken."
Rose gasped. "Ruby."
I closed my eyes in embarrassment. After weeks of hiding myself under heavy layers and large robes while around my friends, they were all getting a good look at my newly swollen stomach. It still wasn't easily noticeable over my clothes if you didn't know what you were looking for, but bared to my friends in no more than a tank top, there was no denying it.
Alex sat up on her knees from her bed. "Well I think she looks gorgeous." This obviously ardent false display of reassurance didn't fool me, but I smiled happily back at her all the same.
Ruby scrunched up her nose. "I never said she didn't, you twit." She chucked a pillow at Alex and resumed her circling around me. "Look on the bright side." She said brightly. "Your tits are massive!"
Warmth flooded my face as I buried my face in my hands. The three girls laughed in amusement as I stalked off back to my bed and grabbed my large woolly cardigan. "Har har har," I mimicked sarcastically, shoving my arms through the knitted sleeves and wrapping the material around myself, concealing my body.
Ruby jumped onto my bed and lay back against my pillow. "Oh, relax. It's something to be proud of." She cupped her hand over her own chest and motioned vulgarly. "If you've got it, flaunt it."
Sure my cheeks were now permanently stained red, I pulled my hair out of its ponytail and brushed it down to cover my face. The other girls chortled in amusement while I lifted up the covers of my bed and slid in between the sheets. Ruby remained on top of my bed, but scooted to over to the side so we could both fit.
Alex and Ruby soon followed after, plonking themselves down on the end of my bed, Alex lying on her side with her hand supporting her head, and Rose sitting with her legs crossed underneath her.
Alex stretched an arm out to touch the material of the curtain that hung from one of the four posters of my bed. "What I don't understand is why you didn't just tell us all sooner," she said, running the fabric between her fingers.
I shifted uncomfortably. "I didn't even tell James for a long time," I explained, carefully adjusting the pillows behind my back.
"Why not?" Ruby looked at me from the side, and I shrugged casually. "I was kind of afraid."
She nodded in understanding. "I get it. At least I can learn from your mistakes now, and lead a life of celibacy," She could barely keep a straight face as she talked and soon enough burst into fits of laughter.
"Yeah, right." Alex said with a sarcastic eye roll.
I fought off a smile and lay my head back on the pillow. "Do you know how far along you are?" Alex asked with a curious expression.
I placed a hand over my concealed stomach and patted gently. "Yep. The Healer said I was almost sixteen weeks." A sudden light bulb seemed to light in my head. "Oh!" I jumped up out from under my covers and scurried around to my trunk at the foot of the bed.
"What are you doing?" Rose asked, laughing at my enthusiasm. I waved her off with my left hand as I tugged my satchel out from the mess of my belongings.
Wrapping it up in my arms, I retreated to the bed as Ruby lifted the covers for me to get back in. Placing the satchel on my knee, I began to rifle through it. "Here we are!" I exclaimed, extracting the envelope of small photographs.
Dumping my bag on the floor, I held the envelope between both hands. Looking up at my friends, I pulled out the first photograph in the pack. "Look."
All the girls squashed together to get a glimpse of the picture I was showing them. They all let out gasps of awe and sighs of delight when they realised what I was showing them wasn't really a photograph at all, but a sonogram.
I twisted around to get another look at the baby I had already memorised. The picture oscillated to show the baby moving around lazily. "Is it sucking its thumb?" Ruby asked in surprise, pointing at the sonogram.
"Yes," I noted proudly.
"That's so cute!" Alex squealed, sitting up on her knees to get a closer look at the vague outline.
I looked to Rose, who I saw had a hand placed over her heart and another covering her mouth as tears glimmered in her eyes. "Are you alright?" I asked in disbelief.
She nodded silently, the movement encouraging the tear to escape and roll down her cheek. "I'm fine," she sniffled, wiping her eye with her sleeve. "But I just realised that since James is the father, it means that I'm related to the baby, too."
Rolling my eyes, I shook my head. "You would have been anyway, you silly goose. You know you were already family to me." Rose hiccuped and reached forward to bundle me into a huge hug. I patted her back and she burrowed her face into my hair.
"Get off me, you old sap," I joked. Rose gave me a watery grin as she released her arms from around my body. "Can I keep it?" She asked quietly, pointing to the picture in my hand. Silently nodding, I passed it to her.
"I asked the Healer to make lots of copies. Even Ginny got a few." I explained, picking the envelope up from my lap. "James has one and so do I," I said, gesturing to the envelope. "These are all spares."
Alex leaned forward. "In that case, can I have one as well?" She examined her copy gladly once I handed it to her.
"One for me, too." Ruby reached for the pack. The three of us stared at her in shock. Ruby had always made it clear that she disliked all children, in any shape or form.
"What?!" She huffed, "The little bastard's cute, okay?"
She ignored my disapproving glare as she snatched the picture from my hand and tucked it into her pocket nonchalantly and began examining her nails.
"Are you and James going to go to Hogsmeade together tomorrow?" I glanced up to Rose's voice. I immediately fought off the knot of guilt in my stomach. "Of course," I forced a smile, "James thinks it would be the best time to... Announce our relationship. Publicly." I cringed inwardly when I thought of the performance we would have to put on. Things were awkward enough after telling our friends this evening, now we had to convince the whole school.
"I'm glad," Rose smiled, patting me on the shoulder. "I'm so happy there are no more secrets between us."
I scratched my nose and leaned back. "Yeah. Me too."
Trying to get to sleep that night was oddly difficult.
I spent the night tossing and turning, falling into fitful spurts of sleep before finally giving up at around five in the morning when I hauled myself out of bed.
It was difficult sleeping without James. There was no point trying to deny it. It had only been one night since I had shared the bed with him, but somehow I still expected to find his warm body next to me when I rolled over during the night.
Without him there, the bed felt strangely empty. I was missing the comforting feeling of curling up beside him and feeling his arm around me.
Itís thoughts like that that will get me in trouble. I have to think of James as a friend.
Just a friend.
When the time came for us to go to Hogsmeade, I was already exhausted. I avoided the mirror as much as possible, knowing I would find a pale hag with dark circles under her eyes staring back at me.
Once again, I had to borrow clothes from Alex. Her dark grey hoodie was perfectly large, gladly hiding my secret. I wore my own jeans, but i had to keep the top button open to allow room for me to breathe.
James and I had to do a awesome-ass job of convincing people we were deeply in love, because I don't think I have much time left before its entirely obvious I just haven't just been slacking on my exercise and everyone discovers what's truly going on under my baggy clothes.
"You ready?" Rose asked, tapping me on the shoulder and distracting me from daydreaming.
I took a deep breath. "Yep," I said, popping the P.
The two of us walked down to the common room. I spotted James almost instantly. He and Scorpius stood side by side, chatting quietly. Although no one had confirmed it out loud, the four of us were going on a double-date of sorts. I knew I would need Rose's support desperately to get through this trip, even if she didn't.
As soon as she spotted them, Rose immediately ran to Scorpius and tucked herself under his arm. He chuckled happily and pressed his lips to the top of her head. I was more hesitant, carefully making my way through scattered groups of students littering the common room slowly.
When I reached the three of them, I kept a few feet away from James, uncomfortably looking at the ground and fidgeting.
I felt his warm grip surround my hands, effectively stopping my twisting them together nervously. I looked up and saw he had a grin on his face. "Hello," he smiled softly.
Here come the butterflies.
"Hi," I breathed, returning his squeeze on my hand.
I looked down and watched his strong fingers wrap around my small, pale ones as he swung our joined hands back and forth.
Giggling, I looked back up and found myself closer to him then I remembered being before. His eyes were inches from mine and I was once again consumed by their colour. Not quite brown, not quite green.
"You ready to go?" He asked casually, releasing my hands and wrapping an arm around me.
My brain still not cooperating with my mouth, I nodded mutely.
The four of us began walking together to Hogsmeade. James oozed confidence, laughing amicably with Scorpius and Rose. I was less carefree, constantly surveying the crowd of students, who I saw had already started noticing James' grip on me.
By the time we reached the village, almost everyone was watching us, their eyes trained on our joined hands. I kept my eyes on the ground, watching my runner-clad feet step one in front of the other over the cobbled stones. I wondered briefly if I could just take off running, then and there, just break away from this huge mess and just keep running until I went somewhere no one knew me.
I kept walking at a steady pace, breathing evenly, trying to ignore the stares I could feel on me.
"You alright?" I heard James murmur. I kept my eyes low. "Everyone is staring at us," I said under my breath.
"Not everyone," he consoled me, "that group of second years over by Honeydukes aren't... Oh wait... never mind. They just looked."
I elbowed him in the ribs. "Not funny," I scolded, glaring at him and fighting off the urge to let go of his hand.
He rubbed the part of his stomach I had jabbed. "You have some sharp elbows there, Violet."
I scowled at him and he burst out into laughter. "Relax," he said, "Nobody really cares. They'll get bored soon enough."
"Great," I muttered sarcastically. At least I had something to look forward to.
"Three Broomsticks?" Rose asked, leading us towards the old pub after waiting for our positive response. I followed after her willingly, still entirely aware of the looks James and I were getting.
As soon as we stepped through the door, I was hit with the familiar warm smell of smoke and wood. The atmosphere was as friendly as ever, the soft murmur of conversation and clinking of glasses filling the room with their inviting sound.
I heard James chuckle from behind me. We shared a look and I knew we both had the same thought.
"Memories, huh?" He said, following after Rose to a booth to the side of the room. I pursed my lips in return and nodded, letting him lead me forward by the hand.
We all slid into the booth, Rose first, then Scorpius, followed bu James. I sat in after him, easily sliding on the worn leather in my soft tracksuit bottoms.
Almost immediately, James wrapped his arm around me. I could see the attention we were drawing, and I hated it. I ducked my head down to hide my face and escape momentarily from the inquisitive looks coming from the other Hogwarts students grouped around the pub.
I almost gasped in surprise when I felt James breath suddenly on the side of my neck as he softly ran his nose along my jaw in a seemingly sweet motion. But of course I knew better. "Act natural, Violet." He whispered, directly into my ear.
To an outsider, I'm sure like we looked like a loved-up couple murmuring sweet nothing into each others ears. The ever-present disappointment kicked up again when I remembered that this wasn't the case.
I nodded, taking in a deep breath. I pulled away from James, with a big smile on my face. "Would you like a drink, James?" I asked happily, playing the part of the adoring girlfriend. He smiled at my effort.
"I can get the drinks for us," he suggested, tenderly reaching forward to stroke my cheek. I was instantly reminded of the day of the scan, when James had brushed his thumb lightly over my tears in almost the exact same way. Except that time, it wasn't just for show.
James pushed a piece of my hair back as he spoke again. "What would you like, love?"
I was instantly struck dumb by the term of endearment. I almost physically swooned as the small word left his mouth.
Seriously, Violet? You are such a loser. You're rejoicing over one word. four letters! You are drooling over four meaningless letters!
My face fell as I realised just how correct the little voice inside my head was. That word was utterly meaningless to James. He was using it as part of the act. The show we were performing for an oblivious audience. It's not real.
It's not real.
"No- no. I'll get them." I said quickly, pulling away entirely from James' grasp and walking quickly away from the table.
It's not real.
I was already weaving my way through the other students before I realised I had never asked what drinks they wanted. Frustrated and adamant I wouldn't go back to the table and James' false displays of affection, I kept moving towards the counter.
It's not real. It's not real.
I found a clear spot at the wooden bar and leaned across the counter top, gesturing to Madam Rosmerta that I was there and ready to order whenever she was. I started tapping out a quick rhythm on the surface before me, distractedly staring up at the clock on the wall behind the bar. I remembered Ruby that night, proudly snatching it down and holding it up triumphantly.
It was hard to believe that that was only a matter of weeks ago. It seemed like a lifetime had passed since then. It was strange to think that it was not that long ago that my biggest concern was whether or not the boy I had a crush on liked me back and if I would be able to complete my History of Magic essay on time.
So much had changed since then. So many responsibilities faced up to, so many lies formulated. I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to pretend to date James... So why it was weighing so heavily on me now?
I guess I never realised how difficult it would be to hear him say such sweet things, to offer such gentle caresses, and to know they were all lies. He would never like me as I did him.
When I felt a warm hand touch my back I snapped my head back to see James had joined my side at the bar. "You forgot to ask what our orders were," he said with a grin. But underneath his joking exterior I could see he was truly concerned for me. As a good friend should be.
A good friend.
I shrugged, "sorry, I was thirsty." I forced a giggle for the people surrounding us, acting as though they weren't listening intently to our conversation. I saw one of the young members of James' fan club sidle up beside us, casually facing the opposite way, as if that would change the fact I could see she had a hand cupped to her ear to hear what we were saying.
James drew his arm around my waist and leaned forward on the counter with his other elbow. We stood in uncomfortable silence, waiting for Madam Rosmerta to come take our drink order. She came over soon enough and got to work on pulling three butterbeers and pouring a cold glass of water for me.
After paying, I began taking small sips of my water as James and I started walking back to our table, him levitating the three mugs of butterbeer in the air as he followed me.
Not paying enough attention to where I was going, I felt myself bang into a someone suddenly. I jumped back, holding my hand with the glass out in front of me. A bit of my water spilled over the rim of my glass and splashed onto the floor. I glanced up in surprise, an apology already on my lips, just as the someone spoke up.
"Avoiding alcohol, I see, Violet."
My stomach dropped when I heard the sound of my name spoken in a horrid nasally voice.
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