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Chapter 10 : Meditating
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The previous August.
As I rose slowly into consciousness, I felt like I had been asleep for days. I was lying square on my back and my limbs felt impossible heavy. I was cold. I could smell something citrusy, like some generic air freshener. My eyes fluttered open and I had to squint against the fluorescent lights directly above my head. Hospital lights.
Suddenly I was overcome by a flood of memories that seemed to spin through my head, making me dizzy. Memories of abandonment, of neglect and abuse and depression. Memories of hatred and loneliness. Memories of suicide and a lot of blood and then of nothing.
And I decided I was definitely still alive.
My head fell to the side and my eyes landed on a tall, slender, forty-something woman seated by my bed. Her blonde hair fell gracefully over her face, her eyes were closed, she was breathing deeply. Her mauve lips were parted slightly and her perfectly manicured hands were clasped gently in her lap. She was wearing a neat black suit and shiny court shoes. On a small table by my bed was a styrofoam coffee cup.
It was the details - the fingernails, the lipstick, the coffee, that made me want to cry. How could she appear so together when I had fallen apart?
I stared at the fluorescent lights until my eyes stung, then tried to go back to sleep.
“Where to?” James asks as we leave the common room at nine for patrol.
“North corridor?” I suggest, having basically memorised the timetable. He nods and we walk down a staircase and around to the right. There’s no one around as curfew is at eight thirty and Fred Weasley doesn’t throw parties on Wednesday nights.
The weather was really nice today but it’s fast getting cold - the evening wind blowing through the castle makes me pull my hands into the sleeves of my uniform jumper and I cross my arms tightly over my stomach as we walk.
“How was quidditch the other day?” I ask, ready to engage in conversation and not spend the next two hours in an uncomfortable silence. Not that I haven’t been there before - in past years when I was paired with James it was an incredibly awkward James Potter monologue. But, as James and I seem to be getting along quite well, all things considered, maybe a spot of conversation won’t go astray. Then again, maybe it will and I’ll regret ever thinking otherwise.
“It wasn’t too bad,” he replies. “The team is going to be almost exactly the same as last year, but there are a few good younger players.”
“Right,” I say. I’m not really a quidditch person. In fact, I’d be lying if I said I understood the sport in the slightest. “Who’s on the team, then?” I ask, trying not to sound too stupid.
“Me, Fred, Dom, Dart, Rosie, Ivy and Callie,” he reels off and I try to put a face to each name.
Ivy, that’s the fifth year with the sleek black hair and grey eyes. Callie, she’s tall, I think, with dark hair and really big brown eyes. She asked me for help with her potions homework once. And the rest of the team is related t James. Except Dart, who might as well be.
“Are you into quidditch?” James asks and I laugh nervously.
“Will you hate me if I say no?” I ask. He stops dead in his tracks, his mouth falling open. He looks at me as though he literally cannot comprehend what I just said.
“Are you… I mean, are you serious?” he asks, and I backtrack quickly.
“Well, it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just…” Oh god, what have I done? “I don’t know anything about it?” I finish lamely, my voice going up at the end.
“Oh,” he says, promptly resuming walking. “Well, that’s okay. You can’t not like quidditch, once you get to know it.”
He talks about this sport like it’s a person.
“Hmm,” I hum stupidly. We’re almost at the end of the corridor, approaching the Charms classrooms. Opposite is a broom cupboard, rumoured to be popular at this time of night. That is, the time of night when it’s dark and everyone is already in their common rooms. James steps forward and opens the door, and then there’s a shout and a mad scramble that emanate from the dark.
“Lorcan Scamander!” James laughs as he walks out of the cupboard, his hand on Lorcan Scamander’s shoulder and a blonde girl looking humiliated behind him. “Never would have picked it, mate, but good for you!” James laughs loudly again, clapping the fifth year on the back. Lorcan looks like he dearly wishes the earth would open up and swallow him whole, but alas, no such luck. I have to force my mouth into a straight line.
“Back to your dorms, both of you,” I say, barely suppressing a laugh and giving James a reproachful look. The two young ones hurry down the corridor like they’re scared for their lives. I enter the broom cupboard cautiously, looking around at the deceivingly large space, searching for any more students hiding behind mops and buckets.
“You should probably be more serious,” I call, continuing my search. “You’re the Head Boy. You have to be a good role model. Take your job seriously, and everything.” When I’ve checked the room thoroughly I turn to leave. And I walk straight into James’ impossibly solid chest. I can feel myself falling backwards and I’ve just started to think about how awesome a concussion would be right now, but James grabs my upper arms and helps me gain my balance.
“Thanks,” I breathe, slightly shaken.
“Don’t mention it,” he replies, but doesn’t let go of my arms. I glance away.
I avoid eye contact. It’s my thing and it’s that simple. Eye contact makes me incredibly uncomfortable, regardless of who is looking at me. My professors, the girls I used to dorm with, my mother, her husband. I feel like people can read my thoughts when they look into my eyes. And the last thing I need is people knowing what’s going on inside my head.
“What’s wrong?” James asks. I can hear the worry in his voice. He’s too close and it’s too dark and no good could possibly come of this situation.
“Nothing,” I mumble, but really, everything is wrong.
“You can tell me,” he says. I glance up briefly, thinking he’s probably sacrificed some pride to say that to me.
“You don’t know me,” I tell him again.
“Tell me.” I shake my head.
“I can’t tell you.” I frown at the floor between our feet.
“Why not?” he asks loudly, aggressively. “What’s your deal? Why are you so cold to everyone?” I flinch because he’s almost yelling in my face. The air is suddenly much colder.
“You don’t know the first thing about it,” I say slowly, my voice stiff. He rolls his eyes and steps back, finally letting go of my arms and muttering something under his breath. I catch the phrases ‘fucking’ and ‘no idea’ as he walks out of the broom cupboard.
What the actual fuck? What did I do to deserve that? I am not his friend; he is not entitled to know everything about me, and he doesn’t get to rip into me for keeping my shit to myself. And he sure as hell doesn’t get to speak to me like he knows everything. I walk numbly out of the broom cupboard and James looks somewhere over my shoulder as he speaks.
“We should keep patrolling.” All emotion is gone from his voice and I’m not sure if this makes me angry or confused.
“Okay,” I say, kind of shell shocked, and walk with him down the corridor. There’s about three feet between us now, and neither one of us speaks. I cross my arms tightly over my stomach and try to think straight.
Maybe it’s not his fault. He doesn’t really understand, so he can’t know the effect shit like what he just did has on me. But he must know some of it. After what happened on the first night of term, when he grabbed my wrist… he can’t be completely clueless. So why would he speak to me like that? Maybe I should just tell him. Maybe I can trust him enough to just tell him the basics. But I’m scared he’ll do one of two things. He’ll either overreact and treat me completely differently - walk around on eggshells and pussyfoot around me because he’ll think I’m fragile, or he’ll brush it off as nothing - trivialise the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t think I could ever get past that.
My internal battle continues for an hour. We don’t see any more people or exchange another word the entire time. I keep my arms crossed, feeling sort of violated and angry. I don’t really know who I’m angry at. By the time we’ve reached the common room I’ve reached a decision and I’m sticking with it. He steps aside to let me in but I don’t move. I keep my expression as blank as I can and take a deep breath, staring right between his eyes.
“I tried to kill myself in August. I don’t expect you to understand and I don’t expect you to care, just don’t talk to me like I don’t have reasons for being like this. And don’t talk to me like it’s nothing because… it isn’t nothing.” My voice falters only slightly toward the end and as soon as I’m done I step into the common room, walking quickly up to my dorm and closing to door too loudly behind me.
I find the sudden dark very calming, but the fire flickers to life almost as soon as I get to the bed. I kick off my shoes and sit upright with my back against the headboard, legs crossed, heart racing. I close my eyes and try to breathe. It’s the first time I’ve ever said it out loud. The words ‘I tried to kill myself’ have never left my mouth before. Having finally said it, I don’t know what to do. Of course, I was telling James, but it sort of feels like I was admitting it to myself, too. And that’s kind of scary, because obviously I’m not okay. I’m still not okay.
There’s a knock on the door and I don’t open my eyes because I’m still concentrating on my breathing. I could ignore it and suffer eternal awkwardness, or I could call him in, apologise, sort things out and hopefully return to the sort-of-but-not-really-friends thing we had going a few hours ago.
“Come in,” I call. I hear the door open and then footsteps over to my bed, which falls slightly as he sits down. I can smell his cologne.
“What are you doing?” he asks. His voice comes from directly in front of me and he sounds like he’s scared I’m going to blow up at him.
Hell, I’m scared I’m going to blow up at him.
“Meditating,” I say calmly. I wait for a response but none comes. I’m scared that I wasn’t coherent before and I’ve just confused him even more, and made an even bigger fool of myself. Finally I open my eyes and he’s sitting right there, mirroring my position. I can see the worry in his eyes and I don’t know what to say, so I remain silent. I stare at my hands and he stares at me, and neither of us speaks.
Should I say something? I should say something. I just told him the scariest thing about myself and now he’s sitting on my bed. This could potentially be very comical if it wasn’t such a messed up situation. Imagine that; James Potter, sitting on my bed. I could never have anticipated this. And now that it’s happening I can’t just tell him to piss off because with all of this good guy crap he probably wouldn’t go.
“Harmony, I’m really sorry,” he says, right in the middle of my internal monologue.
“Don’t be,” I reply quickly. Sympathy is another thing I find uncomfortable, unnecessary and altogether demoralising.
“No, I was a jerk. I didn’t really… I mean, I guess I suspected, but I didn’t want to believe it. You really didn’t need that. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” I assure him, glancing up briefly to show him that I mean it.
I’m the one who should be sorry, right? Maybe I should apologise, too. Something like ‘Look, James, I’m sorry for springing it on you like that. I understand that you must be incredibly uncomfortable right now and it’s entirely my fault that you’re in this position. How’s about we forget it all and go back to being strangers, yes?’
I couldn’t possibly be angry at him. I guess I never really was. The anger was more directed at myself. And the whole world. But maybe it’s all the same thing. Anyway, he’s doing that thing where he looks at me all caring, and I can’t sit here and fume any longer.
“You shouldn’t bottle it up,” he says and I sigh. I just want him to stop caring. “Talk to somebody,” he suggests. I shake my head. “Then just find some kind of outlet.” I look up sceptically.
“Such as?” I ask. It’s much easier to look at him knowing I won’t flip out any second.
“I don’t know. Painting, flying, knitting, gar-”
“Knitting?” I echo, raising my eyebrows.
“Works for some people,” he says, shrugging and shooting me that goofy grin of his.
“What do you do?” I ask him and he shrugs again as he says,
“You run?” I echo, confused as to why anyone would do such a thing willingly.
“Yeah, it’s calming,” he replies and I nod, still not understanding. “You should run with me!” he suddenly exclaims and I blanch.
“Oh, I don’t know if-”
“Yeah, tomorrow morning, run with me,” he insists and I run my hands through my hair.
“What time?” I ask reluctantly and he smiles even wider.
“Six thirty,” he tells me. “I’ll meet you in the common room,” he says happily, then leans forward and kisses my cheek before getting up and walking over to the door. “I’ll see you in the morning,” he says and I nod once before he leaves.
I don’t know why I agree to these things.
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