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Chapter 11: Not a Quitter (generally speaking)
So I really should be studying right now because I have exams in less than two weeks but I really suck at that kind of thing so instead I'm here... doing this...
Enjoy this one. X
Summer before sixth year.
My summer was crap, as usual. I spent most of my time outside - taking long walks and going shopping in the city, and my nights locked away in my room, studying and reading. Some days I hung out with my neighbour, Marcus. There was one seriously bad patch, though, and I chose to remedy it by leaving the house at midnight with a bottle of vodka and a deck of cigarettes. I pulled on a hoodie and stepped into my flip-flops and walked quickly down the street. I didn’t really have a plan, but eventually I ended up in a park on the outskirts of my neighbourhood. It was lit only dimly from the streetlights and was completely deserted so I found a table, kicked off my shoes and climbed atop the cold steel. I had one goal - to get as wasted as possible, as quickly as possible.
An hour later I glanced up to see a group of five or six young men approaching me. I smiled when I recognised my neighbour, Marcus, and called out for him to join me. Marcus was a pretty normal seventeen year old and so were most of his friends. Of course it never really occurred to me that anyone could be stranger than me - often sporting a black eye or bruised cheekbone on the rare occasions that I saw anyone my age. And, on top of that, usually when I saw these guys it was the middle of the night and I was completely drunk. So maybe they weren’t so normal. They did have several piercings and tattoos between them, and once, after a particularly bad day, Marcus’ friend Jake pierced my ears. Thinking about it now, they’re not as normal as most of the people at Hogwarts are.
Marcus frowned at me, dampening my mood only slightly.
“What are you doing here?” he asked and I shrugged.
“Drowning my sorrows in alcohol?” I supplied, and he took the half-empty bottle away from me. I scowled at him but lit a cigarette and took a long drag.
“What are you doing here?” I asked the group, who were standing a few feet away, their hands deep in their pockets. No one answered so I kept on smoking, staring absentmindedly across the park at the streetlights.
“Can you give us a minute?” Marcus quietly asked his friends, who shrugged and shuffled off across the grass, talking amongst themselves. Marcus sat beside me and took a cigarette but kept his eyes on me as he lit up. After a while he lifted his hand and ran his finger lightly over the bruise that was forming on my left cheekbone. I flinched and he dropped his hand.
“It’s David again, right?” he asked. I shrugged.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” was my immediate response. We sat in silence for a few minutes. Then he jumped to his feet and pulled me with him.
“Come on,” he said, holding my hand and dragging me along.
“Where are we going?” I asked stupidly, letting him lead me.
I put my foot down.
“I’m not going home,” I said loudly, attracting the attention of the other guys.
“Harmony, you can’t stay here-”
“Why not?” He opened his mouth as if to say, ‘because it’s not safe’, but closed it again. I smiled smugly, returning to the table and stumbling to get on top of it.
“Does your mum know that you’re here?” he asked, sitting back down beside me.
“The more appropriate question is, does my mum care that I’m here,” I corrected him. “And the answer would be no.”
It was silent for a while and I looked over at the others who were sitting beneath a tree on the other side of the expanse of grass. I had vaguely recognised a few of them but Jake wasn’t there.
“Do you ever think about leaving?” Marcus’ voice cut through the silence. “You could just pack up your stuff and run away.” I shook my head.
“I need to finish school. I just have to get through the next two years.”
“And then what?”
“And then I leave,” I said solemnly. “And never come back.” I added the last bit quietly and he nodded, thinking hard.
“I should have told someone,” he suddenly said and I frowned, confused.
“When I realised what he does to you, I should have told someone,” he said quietly, not looking at me.
“I’m glad you didn’t,” I said simply but he shook his head.
“If I’d told someone, it would have stopped. You wouldn’t have had to deal with it for so long.”
“And I would have been shipped off to some weird old muggle family and I would never have been able to go back to Hogwarts,” I rebutted.
“At least you would have been safe,” he muttered, rubbing his forehead tiredly. He looked like he was seriously fatigued by this conversation. “Next time you decide to leave your house in the middle of the night, knock on my window, okay?” I nodded, ruffling his dark hair affectionately.
“Okay.” I smiled, then took the bottle from his grasp and tipped a large mouthful down my throat.
“And don’t diss muggles. Most of us are alright, you know.”
I spent the next hour and a half talking with Marcus and his friends, and then Marcus walked me home. We stopped on the sidewalk outside my house.
“I meant it when I told you to let me know next time. Don’t go out by yourself. Especially when you’re drunk,” he said and again I nodded.
“Okay. ‘Night, Marcus,” I said, and pulled him in for a hug before stumbling up the front steps and inside, then up the staircase to my bedroom.
I pull my hair into a high ponytail and look at my reflection in the mirror. God, this is so weird. I don’t think I’ve ever worn these trainers. Bloody hell, I don’t even remember these trainers. I don’t run. I am not a runner. I make my way warily down into the common room, a small part of me hoping that James has forgotten and isn’t expecting me. No such luck.
“Morning,” he greets me cheerily and I force a smile onto my face.
“Yeah,” I reply lamely. He’s wearing a dark red Gryffindor quidditch t-shirt and black shorts that show off his long, muscular, tanned legs spectacularly. I shake my head clear of distracting thoughts and focus on his face. The distracting thoughts come back. Gah.
“So, er, running,” I say. He walks over to the door. I follow.
“Yep. We’ll start at the front doors and go around the other side of the quidditch pitch, then past the greenhouses and back up,” he says as we walk down to ground level. I feel the blood draining from my face.
“That sounds like an awfully long way,” I mutter, mostly to myself, but he just laughs.
“It’s not, really,” he says easily. Who is he kidding? That’s like… several miles. “Right, so, just follow me, I guess,” he says, then takes off and I hastily follow, determined to keep up.
This isn’t so bad. I mean, there’s a nice breeze and it’s a slight decline and I’m keeping pace with James. So far, so good. Sky is blue, grass is green, sun is rising. Cool. Okay, that’s starting to hurt a little bit. Ignore it, keep running. I am not giving up my pride just because it feels like someone just struck a match inside my lungs. Okay, airway constricting. Doesn’t matter, who needs airways? Just keep up with James.
I follow him around the outside of the quidditch pitch and realise for the first time just how big it is. Like, it’s legitimately enormous and maybe he could have warned me that a prerequisite for this running business is being able to breathe when your trachea refuses to take in oxygen. Forget fresh morning air and perfect green grass, I can hardly see past the fact that my legs are aching from top to bottom and I can’t breathe. By the time we’re half way I feel like I might throw up a vital organ. My lungs literally feel like they are on fire. I’m about ten metres behind James, positively gasping for air, but not giving up.
I’m not a quitter. I don’t quit. Okay, maybe I quit sometimes. Often enough, in fact, to land myself in the psych ward at Mungo’s for a week. But there is an explanation for that. A pretty good explanation, actually. So, generally speaking, I am not a quitter. And I am not about to let James have this over me forever.
We’re nearly there. Another five hundred metres and a really freaking steep hill. It’s practically a mountain. But whatever, it’s nothing, I can totally do this. I summon all the strength I have left in me, which really isn’t all that much, and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, which actually sounds a lot easier than it is and shouldn’t be demeaned. After what seems like hours I arrive back at the front doors and lean forward with my hands on my knees, coughing and spluttering like a dying woman.
“Er, are you alright? James asks, sounding terribly concerned.
“Oh, yeah. Splendid,” I reply between coughs, grimacing up at him. He’s hardly even panting.
“Well you don’t look so good,” he says. I force myself to stand upright, although my breaths are dangerously wheezy and shallow. My hands are on my hips and my whole torso rises and falls as I try to suck in the precious oxygen.
“Did you even run that just now?” I ask, waving my arms around in the direction from which we’ve just come. He looks at me like he’s concerned for my sanity. “Gah!” I yell in frustration and his eyebrows just travel further up his beautiful face. Oh god, I’ve lost it. I move to walk up the stone steps into the castle, my hands on the wall for support.
“You really don’t look so good,” James says, following me closely.
“I’m fine,” I insist, although there are these funny black spots in front of my eyes that are making it quite difficult to see. “I just need to sit down for a bit.” I try to sit with my back against the wall but it ends up more like falling than anything else, and James grabs me around the waist before I hit the ground. I squint up at him and he frowns at me as though I might actually be a dying woman. It’s possible, I guess. Better not rule it out in case I drop dead in the next six seconds.
“I’ll just, ah…” I say awkwardly, standing up straight and trying to ignore the pain in every morsel of my being. “Water,” I blurt out, turning quickly and entering the Hall which is, of course, empty at this hour. I sit at the closest end of the Gryffindor table and sip some water, tentatively calculating the damage. My entire body hurts and I still can’t breathe properly. James sits opposite me, not showing the slightest sign of having just run a freaking marathon.
“So that was… fun,” I say after a while and James lets out a bark of laughter but doesn’t otherwise respond. Probably for the best. I don’t think I could deal with his condescension right now. “I’m going to shower,” I say, standing up and wincing at the pain in my chest. “I’ll see you in class.”
With that I walk as quickly as I can, all things considered, up to my room and stand under the hot water for a solid fifteen minutes before finally building up the mental and physical strength to move again. When I do eventually arrive at my first class I’m five minutes late as a result of having to do everything twice as slowly, so I slide into a seat in the back corner of the room. James, who just so happens to be sitting in front of me, turns and raises an eyebrow but I just shake my head slightly and get my books out. I give McGonagall an apologetic look when she eyes me disapprovingly.
Transfig. There’s something I understand. Unlike running. And James Potter.
“Miss Kyle,” McGonagall says as I’m packing up my books at the end of class. I glance up and she waves me over to her desk.
“Yes, professor?” I ask, employing my best student voice.
“I would appreciate punctuality in the future,” she says, her voice stone cold and strict.
“I won’t be late again.” She raises her head and looks at me, a flash of emotion crossing her face before she lowers her gaze to the desk. Odd.
“Good. You may go.” I turn and walk slowly out of the classroom, thinking that she was about to say something personal to me, but held back.
“Hi!” I start and turn to see James walking alongside me, obviously no worse off after that torture session this morning.
“I don’t understand,” I say and he raises an eyebrow. “How can running be calming?” I ask and he still looks mildly confused.
“Well, it gives me time to think things over,” he says simply, shrugging. I shake my head, bewildered and intrigued by what the famous James Potter needs to think over. Suddenly he grabs my arm and stops me. I turn to him, raising my eyebrows. He leans down a bit and his voice drops.
“Listen, Harmony,” he starts. I struggle to hold eye contact. “If you ever want to talk, or… not talk, I’m here, yeah?” His face is completely serious and his bright green eyes are so sincere. I nod mutely. He gives me a small smile, then stands up straight and I feel like the whole atmosphere has just lightened a few degrees. “So, same time tomorrow?”he asks, and now I’m the one who’s confused.
“Running, tomorrow,” he tells me as though it’s obvious. I groan and he smiles, pulling me along the corridor to our next class. “It gets easier, you know.” Huh. If it gets easier, maybe tomorrow won’t be so bad.
“Okay,” I say after a short deliberation. “Same time tomorrow.”
So, uh, yeah. That's that, then. I really hope you liked it and PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LEAVE ME A REVIEW. They actually mean the world to me and they're what provide the motivation to write. Not that I should be writing right now because OH MY GOD EXAMS. They're going to kill me, I swear. Some more reviews would be great, nonetheless. X