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Chapter 18 : Settle Down
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And oh what a let down,
And I don't seem to be having any effect now
Falling all over the place.
Settle Down - The 1975
Not paying enough attention to where I was going, I felt myself bang into a someone suddenly. I jumped back, holding the 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.
I turned on the shower, the spray of water shocking me as it rushed out quickly. It beat down on the porcelain floor as I reached my hand out reluctantly, feeling the strikingly cold temperature of the water.
I left my hand under the stream until I felt it begin to warm, before grabbing the hem of my hoodie and tugging it over my head. I dumped the jumper onto the floor in a careless heap. I moved slowly, exhausted, my hands fumbling to undo the drawstring of my tracksuit bottoms. The small room was swirling with steam by the time I had stripped out of all my clothes. I took a step into the shower, the heat of the water unbelievably welcome as it washed over me, soothing my tired muscles.
So, it was official now. The secret was out. Everyone knew.
I felt like the iced water in my glass had been dumped over my head and drenched me from head to foot.
What was she doing here? Hadn’t she been expelled?
My eyes widened as I looked up at the girl before me. A tiny, ridiculous part of me, the non-Gryffindor part, was scared. Scared about what she might do. Of course the other side of me, the rational part, argued that we were in a crowded place. There was nothing she could do. But yet the look on her perfectly made-up face made it pretty obvious that she wasn’t here just to chat.
My heart thundered in my chest, my mind flashing back to an evening, not so long ago, when she had worn that exact same expression.
I felt a strong arm reach around my waist as James tugged me behind him. He stepped forward towards Chastity, a scowl on his face.
“What the fuck are you doing here?”
I jumped at the harsh growl of James’ voice. Never had I heard him speak so bluntly. And I had a faint feeling that if he ever spoke in that way to me, I would burst into tears.
Chastity obviously didn’t feel the same. She kicked out her hip, confidently resting her hand on her waist and pushing her chest out arrogantly and spoke proudly. “What? You’re not happy to see me?” She pouted her bottom lip. “And here I was thinking you’d want me here to help share the good news,” Her eyes fell down to my stomach pointedly.
A large breath escaped me in a gasp. No. She knew. How could she possibly know? I looked down at my stomach. This morning the bump had seemed so meagre, a small swell of flesh. Now, I felt like I had a quaffle shoved up my top.
My heartbeat picked up, my eyes shifting hurriedly around me. The people directly beside us weren’t really watching with much interest. The loud chatter still continued from the students outside our little bubble, entirely oblivious to what was happening a few mere metres from them.
“No, Chastity. Don’t even think about it.” James’s voice had not lost its frightening edge. He reached his right hand reaching back to grasp me, to make sure I was still there. I squeezed his hand in support, but it didn’t make him relax his protective stance in front of me.
Chastity flicked her long blonde hair over her shoulder and snorted. “Whatcha gonna do? Have McGonnagall expel me? OH, wait!” She threw her head back and laughed loudly, “you already did that!”
The crowd of students standing nearby looked over, curiosity etched on each of their faces.
James snarled, stepping forward. I pulled at his hand, urging him to not threaten her, but he didn’t budge. “You brought that on yourself,” He pointed a finger at her chest.
She slapped it away harshly. “It was a simple hex! I didn’t deserve to be expelled!”
“You were expelled because she was unconscious for days!”
Chastity’s face was slowly becoming darker. “That’s bullshit and you know it!”
I closed my eyes in embarrassment. I could feel dozens of eyes watching our stand-off intently, no doubt looking for gossip to spread around later. They were all vultures, every single one of them, only desperate to find out the next scandal. And they were about to get it.
Chastity went on, “The only reason it mattered was because she’s pregnant!”
Gasps echoed from around us before breaking into loud murmurs as the news was spread around to those who hadn’t heard. I could hear shouts of question and disbelief even from where I stood.
There was no misconception as to ‘she’ was either, as Chastity’s long, tanned, pink-nailed finger was pointed directly at me.
I didn’t even realise I was crying until I started snorting water up my nose.
I faced away from the shower spray, and sniffed harshly.
But the tears didn’t stop.
My body shuddered with sobs while the tears continued to flow. Everything was out in the open. Everybody knew I was pregnant, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out who the father was. Soon the gossip will have spread to all corners of the school.
I clutched one hand over my stomach and another over my mouth to hold in the gasps of air my lungs were trying to get to fuel my keening. I scrunched my eyes shut and slowly slid down to sit on the floor of the shower.
Everything I had been trying so hard to protect, the months I had spent covering the pregnancy up, it was all over now. I would now on be known as she school slut, not to mention Most Wanted Witch #1 in the eyes of every member of the female population of Hogwarts who wanted James to themselves.
I buried my face in my knees and cried. I was having a child. I can hardly protect myself, how am I meant to care for a whole other person? The tears mixed with the water from the shower as I kept crying. Even my mum couldn’t bear to look after me. She had always been somewhat cold, but I thought she would at least care enough to help me. Was that a glimpse into the future? Would I be a terrible mother too?
Rose’s voice was soft as she called out to me through the door. She tapped lightly on the dark wood. “You've been in there for a long time. Is everything alright?”
I snuffled pathetically against my knees, not having the energy to shout back to her. This all seemed very familiar. Not too long ago, Rose had stood outside this exact same bathroom and called out for me. It’s amazing how quickly these things can change.
She had been wonderful earlier, smuggling me out of the Three Broomsticks, beating her way through the crowd with me under her arm while Scorpius held back a muttering James. James kept repeating “never hit a girl, never hit a girl, never hit a girl,” over and over while Chastity looked at him as if he were insane. It would have been funny if it weren’t so tragic.
There was another light tap on the door. “Violet, please.”
I wrapped arms around my folded knees and stared blindly into space. I could still feel the tears running down my cheeks but I couldn’t find it in myself to wipe them away.
“Talk to me.”
I closed my eyes and lay my head down on the tops of my knees. The water was cooling down considerably but I didn’t want to get up.
“I’m going to come in.”
Everything was silent for a moment before she knocked again.
When I didn’t reply, I heard her sigh deeply. I could barely hear over the hum of the shower as she whispered alohamora.
I didn’t look up at the click of the door being opened or the sound of Rose taking a step into the room. The door closed softly behind her, and she took another step towards the shower.
She didn’t say anything, but I could hear her breathing as she reached in to turn off the freezing cold water coming from the shower head. My teeth chattered together as Rose grabbed my hands and gently pulled me up from the floor of the shower. My feet almost slipped on the wet ground, but Rose held on to me tightly.
It didn’t occur to me to be embarrassed of my nakedness while Rose grabbed a towel from one of the rails on the wall. She pulled it down and wrapped it around me securely, rubbing my arm quickly, trying to warm me up.
I sniffed away another tear and lowered my head to her shoulder. She rubbed my back soothingly as I cried quietly. I don’t know how long we stood there like that; her being the only thing keeping me standing.
Eventually, she led me from the bathroom and into our dorm. She deposited me on the bed and cast a quick drying spell on my hair. She brushed through it with a hairbrush, the muggle way, before she went to rummage around in her trunk.
She pulled out a pair of flannel pyjamas with bananas printed all over them, holding them up for me to see. I couldn’t help the small smile I cracked as she brought them over to me.
I stood up and Rose handed me the pair of pyjamas. I slipped the bottoms on quickly and shoved my arms through the sleeves of the top. I could only do up the first four buttons, but it was enough to cover me up, even if my belly did peek out a little bit.
Sweet Merlin, this had been a long day. And it was only the afternoon. I climbed into bed and was followed quickly after by Rose, who put one arm around me and held be tightly. I leaned against her shoulder and sniffed, wiping at my face. I felt like an idiot. A few months ago I would have been mortified to even let anyone see me crying, and now it seemed like the only thing I did was wail like a baby.
“I’m sick of feeling so weak all the time,” I whispered.
I could feel the soft rise and fall of Rose’s chest as she breathed in and out. She didn’t say anything, but rubbed my back slowly, soothing me like I was the baby. I closed my eyes and released all the air in my lungs in one loud whoosh. I didn’t feel strong, but I knew I had to be. For me. For James. For our baby.
When my eyes opened again, I was alone, curled up in a ball. The curtains around my bed had been pulled shut haphazardly around me, not fully closed, allowing a stream of dim light to seep through. Outside my bed, there were quiet whispers that became louder as I sat up in my bed and rubbed my eye. In my half-asleep state, I was blissfully unaware of the events of that afternoon. It didn’t take long for my memory to catch up with me.
“It’s not up for you to decide, Rose.” I knew James’ voice instantly.
I could hear faint snoring in the background. Judging by the silence of the room and the dimness of the light, it was safe to assume it was either extremely late or extremely early, depending on how you looked at it.
“She’s my best friend and I’m telling you now isn’t a good time.”
“Yeah, well, I’m her- her… boyfriend. I just need to see her, I don’t have to wake her up,” He sounded desperate, even in his whispering.
“You can see her in the morning, James. It’s late. She’s all ready been through enough today.”
I leaned forward to look out the gap in the drapes. I could see Rose standing to the side, her fiery hair pulled back in a messy bun. I could only see James from the back, his dark hair messy as he ran his hands through it.
“Please, Rose,” Not giving her time to turn him down again, I sat up on my knees and pulled back the curtains. They both turned to look at the sound, and as soon as James and I locked eyes, the relief on his face was obvious. I held back the curtain and indicated that it was alright for him to join me on the bed. I shrugged at Rose and and she tilted her head to the side.
“Okay. But not too late, do you understand?”
“Yes, Mum,” I said, rolling my eyes. James smiled at my poor attempt to lighten the mood with sarcasm as he climbed onto my bed. I tried to ease Rose’s worry with a forced smile. “Really, it’s alright.”
James nodded at his cousin as he pulled the curtain shut behind him. Quickly casting a muffliato charm, he sat down on the bed, crossing his legs beneath him. I chewed on my lip and looked down at my hands awkwardly. When I looked back up, we both stared at one another for a moment, neither one of us knowing quite what to say.
“So.” James began.
“So.” I repeated.
“I guess it’s all out in the open now then.” He noted, looking carefully into my eyes. I shrugged, pursing my lips. “I guess so.”
We fell back into an awkward silence. I racked my brain for something to say. Anything.
“How did Chastity know?”
James scratched his jaw. “Huh?”
I raised an eyebrow. I knew he had heard me.
“Chastity? Your psycho ex-girlfriend?” I said.
James snorted. “I know who she is.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “How did she know I was pregnant?” Subconsciously, my hand fell to my stomach. My fingers slid beneath the gaping fabric to the soft skin of my stomach, I rubbed them across my bulge lightly, thinking briefly about the small being inside, warm and nestled, completely oblivious to the drama it was creating.
James cleared his throat and looked to the side. “I told you before that after you had been hurt,” He still winced as he spoke, as if the word caused him physical pain, “that Rose and Lily had let it slip that you were pregnant. Well… Chastity was there to.”
“Oh,” I nodded. That seemed simple enough. I don’t know why I had the feeling that something big had happened after I had passed out. It all sounded very straightforward.
“So everyone knows?” I asked meekly, looking up at him from underneath my eyelashes.
He smiled sympathetically at me. “Yes, everyone knows. You and I are quite the school scandal at the moment.”
Butterflies erupted in my stomach at the thought of everyone discussing me. James, seeing my sudden anxiety, reached out for my hand.
“Hey, hey. It’s all good. This will all blow over soon enough. We just have to stick to the plan.”
He waved his other hand around in the air as he searched for his words. “You know, the couple thing. Show people that we’re in this together.” He squeezed my hand.
“Right. The plan.” I closed my eyes and shook my head, letting out a big breath. I was sick of moping over this. It was time to be positive.
“Well at least that’s one less secret to keep, right?” I I forced a grin onto my face. James matched my unwilling smile. “Yeah, I guess so.”
Finally giving into the drooping of my eyelids, I let go of his hand and climbed under my duvet. James, taking a hint, started to crawl off the bed to leave.
“Wait.” I said quickly. “You can stay the night, right? It’s late and… that’s what couples do, isn’t it?”
James gave me the first genuine smile I had seen in a while. He moved up to the top of the bed and slid under the covers with me.
“You’re right.” He lay down next to me and looked at me over the pillows. “That is what couples do”
A/N: So things are moving along, slowly but surely. With any luck the next chapter will be out soon! Thank you for sticking with this story, guys. Please leave a review! :)
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