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Stagger by Solo
Chapter 3 : Promised a New Start
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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The first evening back is the worst. The door bangs continuously against the door as the girls fling it open, the sound ricocheting around the room like a gun shot, only to be lost and absorbed by the whirl of laughter and talk. Summer holidays are recounted; romances that flared like the sun which tanned their skin. Exotic locations thrown about like confetti; Jamaica, the Maldives. The most we'd managed was a trip to the seaside, hands sticky with ice lollies, sun that barely broke through the English clouds.

There was nothing to do but brush my teeth and then curl into a ball under my duvet, pulling the cover tight over my head. It barely did anything to block out the chattering. A silencing charm wasn't an option, a summer of ignoring the fact that magic existed had left me rusty, the risk of fire was too humiliating.

Eventually I drifted to sleep. The castles creaks and groans was the backing track to an uneasy sleep, as if it were mocking me.

*



An aching stomach wakes me before everyone else has a chance to stir. I change quickly, pulling on jeans and a hoodie over my pyjama top. It's a small rebellion, to ignore my robes. Though it's conventional to get changed now, it's not compulsory. Just irksome to teachers.

Breakfast is over lavish, an arrogant display of the successes of magic and enslavement. Chocolate drips from inside a crepe; bacon glistens with grease. Pulling a butter dish towards me, I quickly devour three slices of toast before Professor Layton heads my way, her heels clicking on the stone floor.

“Miss Harrington,” she greets me with a tight smile, a note of wariness in her eyes. “Welcome back. Here's your timetable.” Last year, there'd been no arguments over what subjects I'd be taking, any suggestion on my part had been met with a tight smile and a shake of the head. My OWL grades meant few teachers would deign themselves to having me in their class.

I take the pro-offered parchment and scan it quickly, noting with surprise that I'm permitted back to Transfiguration; annoyed that I am.

“Lesson two every Tuesday, Ms. Jenkins will be expecting you. Same room as last year.” A new counsellor. Interesting. The last one had been old and set in her ways, the hours spent cooped up in her office enough to bring on a claustrophobic attack. I nod, she nods, and then she hovers awkwardly for a moment. Her hand touches my shoulder for a minute, the briefest minute, and I start and she smiles at me almost sadly. “Be good.” Then she's click clacking away and I'm left frowning at my toast.

*



It was just my luck that today was Tuesday. I had a free period first, so made use of the vacant shower. My timetable was similar to last years. Potions, Ancient Runes, Transfiguration, Muggle Studies and Astronomy. The most normal of all subjects, by any account. The appearance of Transfiguration was a slight shock. Determined not to let it get to me so badly, I tried to let the worries wash off with the pounding water of the shower. The towel was fluffy and blue, soft on the skin, emblazoned with the Ravenclaw emblem.

I try to ease tiredness from my limbs, yawning widely as I pad through the dormitory. Only Roxanne remains, pulling her thick hair into an elaborate braid that fell down her back. Our eyes meet in her mirror, her lips turning at the corners, mine pressing into a scowl.

The robes feel heavy as I pull them on, the Asda shirt thin and flimsy against my skin. A far cry from the woven, expensive material other peoples were made from. My bra had to be a light colour so it wasn't so obvious. The knitted charcoal jumper was scratchy and shapeless, purchased from the second hand store with coupons the school gave me. My skirt was too small, had to be unzipped to fit around my waist. I'd grown and the skirt hadn't; it ended above my knee and was the subject of many pursed lips and disapproving frowns.

Tightening the tie around my neck, I look into my mirror. Make up was of no use to me; I have no one to impress. No desire to do so. My damp hair fell out the bun, but not in the carefully designed dishevelled way. I pulled a face, grabbed my wand (stupid damn stick) and leave the room, figuring it would take me a while to remember where the damn office was.

*



I turn up five minutes into lesson two, pressing the creaking door open. It requires a shoulder and a forceful shove; are the mentally fragile really up to such a task? The room I find myself in has been transformed. Instead of being the drab waiting room with a couple of chairs and dingy, torn posters, it's now a sensory attack. Bright pictures and wallpaper decorate every wall, even the ceiling. The orange carpet clashes with the purple wall. A plotted plant has been knocked over; a muddy set of footprints leads through a second, closed door.

The hard backed wooden chairs have been replaced with squishy, low armchairs that swallow me up as I perch precariously upon them. I feel like I'm being swallowed into the depths of sofa-ness and am struggling, hauling my arse from the chair's clutches when the door opens and out comes an elegant ginger girl. Her hair is halfway down her back, yet is full bodied with slight waves. Her green eyes meet mine and she rolls them, a half smile on her face. Her nose is a smudge, her whole face speckled with freckles. She moves gracefully towards me, stops in front of me.

“Hi,” she drawls, and it sounds mocking and oh so fake, sickly cloying. “Apparently, I need to make more friends.” She pauses for a beat, “I'm Rose Weasley. Anorexic.”

“Piper Harrington.” I say, and her grin widens. “Anger management.” Rose Weasley laughs and looks at me, emerald eyes ablaze.

“Good luck,” she's at the door, through it. “You're going to need it.”

*



I'm called through to Ms Jenkins' room ten minutes later. It's been decorated in a similar vein to that of the waiting room, as if someone had set off a grenade of rainbow paint in the middle and failed to clean up the chaos it had created.

Ms. Jenkins is sitting in a chair opposite a settee. Oh, the clichés! She waves a well manicured hand towards and it and, obediently, I sit down. My hands run over the cracks in the green leather.

“Piper,” she stops scrawling on the parchment on her knee, looks up. Readjusts her glasses. I look at her for a long moment, considering. She doesn't fit in my usual expectations for a counsellor. She's young, mid twenties or so. Blonde hair that looks expensively cut, falling around a fresh face. She smiles widely. I'm slightly disconcerted, thrown at the lack of a desk between us, at being surrounded by so much bloody colour.

“Tell me,” she glances down at her notes and up at me again. “Why are you here?”

I'm silent, blinking, as I try to think of an acceptable answer. “Surely Miss Roberts left some notes. She took a lot, anyway.”

Ms Jenkins smiles and I wonder about the Ms. Feminist? Widow? Married, unmarried? “I'd prefer to hear it from you. Why do you think you're here?”

I hate counsellors, I hate their smugness. I've decided I don't like Ms Jenkins and her progressive ways. But I sigh, because once upon a time I thought sitting in silence was the better option and the 'lack of cooperation' was far more damaging than satisfying. “I have anger management issues, I hate the magical world, I hate small spaces and restriction, I have issues with authority, this world is a dictatorship and any who vary from it's preordained, rightful place is squashed and forced into a counsellors office to be brainwashed and I suppose a small part of me hopes that this is all just a terrible nightmare and that I'll wake up soon enough. All of which, apparently, are grounds for long waffling chats about my feelings which go absolutely nowhere.”

Jenkins watches me carefully. Her long quill writes slowly, loopily, upon the parchment. She nods slowly. “And how does that make you feel?”

I blink and stare, my eyes widening as I just look at her. Really? Then she smirks and giggles – my freaking counsellor giggles, and waves one hand. I stare and blink a bit more.

The rest of the session doesn't go much better. It feels stilted and stiflingly awkward, yet she's oblivious to it all. We cover the basics in my notes, not really doing anything. No mention of thoughts or feelings or actions. Just chat about the journey here, my summer. I feel myself becoming more withdrawn; my answers becoming shorter. It's all just so pointless. It goes on for twenty five minutes, then she smiles at me and tilts her head towards the door and says, “until next time, Piper,” and I can escape, feeling thoroughly bemused at the whole meeting.

*



After my first lesson of the year (Ancient Runes, joy of all joys) I manage to escape, my mobile safely in the pocket of my robes. Due to the screwed up nature of the castle, signal can only be reached in three places. The most private is the Quidditch stands. It also means a huge climb, flight after flight of rickety, narrow stairs that any normal school would label a safety hazard. But not Hogwarts.

Calves burning, breath rasping my throat, I realise at the last moment that the stands aren't empty as they usually are. Instead they contain a couple of people. Glancing out to the pitch, I realise that there's a few people flying around, and someone on the floor, bellowing at them.


They don't turn to look at me, so I duly ignore them and traipse to the furthest point of the stands, pulling out my phone as I sit down. I turn it on and wait for it to spark into life, the screen lighting up, the device vibrating as new texts bombard it. Twelve in total. Emily seems to have commandeered Liam's phone again. I press her number and hold the phone to my ear with my shoulder, retrieving the packet of cigarettes from my pocket and lighting one up.

It takes two rings before the phone's snatched from its cradle. “Yeah?”

“Alfie,” I smile into the phone as I exhale a plume of smoke. “It's Piper. How're you?”

“Fine,” he grunts into the phone, then without covering the receiver bellows, “LIAM. IT'S PIPER.”

“Alf,” I grumble. “I hope you're doing your homework and everything, have you been to school?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he mumbles dismissively, and I don't take it to heart. Thinking of me at his age, a bundle of fury and confusion and hatred. “See ya soon.”

“Bye,” I say, then there's clunking as the phone changes hands.

“Hey, Piper,” Liam sounds quite relaxed, which is a good sign.

“How're you? How's mum?”

“I'm good, she's good.” A pause. “I went shopping today.” I could read between the lines. Mum hadn't got out of bed today. I'd barely been gone twenty four hours and already I wished I was at home, being someone of use.

“Make sure she eats something.” I hate how useless I am, how I'm having to instruct my fifteen year old brother to take care of our mother. How he's the head of a crumbling household, in charge of Emily and Amy and rebellious little Alfie. I take another drag on the cigarette, extinguish it, light another. Chat with Alfie for a while, instructions thinly veiled in pleasantries. Then he has to relinquish his hold on the phone and hand it to Emily, who blurts everything about her day at school, about her new teacher and the pasta collage she's going to make.

The line goes silent. “Miss you, Pipes.”

“I miss you too, baby. But I'm seeing you on Saturday.” Once ventured into sadness, it's hard to retrieve the conversation without tears being spilled. “Gotta go now, honey. Love you.”

“Love you more.”

I smile as I hang up, knowing it's not possible, dragging on the dregs of the cigarette and wishing, not for the first time, that life was less complicated.


***



AN: Well hello again! Another chapter, more Piper angst! How're you liking her? Any predictions as to what's in the future? I'd love to hear any opinions :)


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