Chapter 4 : Do I Dare
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“You’re much too thin to starve yourself.” I see the raven haired boy standing behind her, forearms resting on the rail of the stands, his shoulders tensing, the muscles twisting at my words. He doesn’t turn; continues peering out onto the pitch. I hear him mutter quietly. Meanwhile the ginger’s eyes pin me to my seat, green shifting from emerald to forest to pastel, changing as she grins.
“No,” I remind her, “angry.”
Rose glances over her shoulder, then pulls the lit cigarette from between my fingers and takes a drag. Her lips leave a smudge of red upon its tip. The smoke curling from between her ruby lips is far more elegant than I ever look, wreathing above her head in the devils halo. “Isn’t everyone.”
I don’t do magical folk. Frowning, I snatch the cigarette back. Her eyes don’t open, a smirk graces her face. A long silence. “My cousin hates you.”
I grunt uninterestedly, dragging on the cigarette. Exhaling with force. “A lot of people do.”
Rose’s eyes slide open, her pupils dilating quickly. “I don’t,” her smile is warm. The boy watching the quidditch practice turns, a dark look on his face.
“Rose.” It sounds like a warning, his eyes flashing as he looks at my cigarette, the girl. She smiles sweetly at him.
“Ally, darling,” it sounds like a purr. She looks at me; an ivory hand reaches out and touches my chin. Without meaning to I tilt my head back, watch as her face grows clearer. Don’t understand as her lips touch mine, cool, soft, the briefest contact before she giggles. “See you around, Angry Piper,” she whispers, then lets the boy take her arm and lead her away.
The rest of the day passes with the painstaking slowness that only Hogwarts manages to create. The only thing of note is when Roxanne Weasley places her bag next to mine in Potions and graces a nearby stool with her arse. I barely glance at her; won’t give her the satisfaction. I feel the joint gaze of Rose and Roxanne’s eyes throughout the whole class, hear Rose’s quiet laugh and Roxanne’s curiosity.
I’m sitting on the cold, stone floor of the Astronomy tower (surely they could invest in some rugs, at the very least?) frowning into a telescope when James Potter stalks in, followed by the rest of the Gryffindor gang. The constellations are all blurry, so I twist the viewfinders, huffing an impatient sigh as the picture spins from vaguely recognisable to a pixelated mess. Then there’s no picture at all, just darkness, and I jerk back from the hunk of metal, frowning in confusion. Only to look up and realise James Potter has his hand over the end of the telescope and that’s what I can see.
I raise an eyebrow, aware of the fact that the class has gone silent (even Professor Astron, but then she’d always struck me as a staff room gossiper) and all eyes are upon us.
“You,” his voice is a low growl, rumbling. Threatening, I suppose. His eyes are like tunnels.
“Me?” I feign surprise, staring back. Someone laughs loudly. I think it’s Roxanne.
“Stay away from my cousin.” It takes me a moment, to think of all his cousins that I knew of (two out of a potential God knows how many) before I settle on the most recent addition to the list. I think of Albert’s hand on the crook of Rose’s elbow and I fit all the pieces together.
I look up at James Potter, at his squared shoulders and eyes cold as flint and smile as sweetly as Rose did, knowing it had an edge of menace and promise to it. “Sure thing,” a tilt of the head, words oozing with sugar, “sweetheart.”
My mother told me not to smoke, but I did. I had a feeling James had just done exactly the same thing.
“How’s your week been?”
Pressing my lips together, I shift in my seat as though I’m actually really considering my answer. “Fine.”
“Did you enjoy seeing your family?” I’m on guard almost immediately, but roll my shoulders, rub at a mark on the sleeve of my shirt. Feign nonchalance so she doesn’t know she’s hit home.
“Yeah, it was nice.” The weekend home from the mad house (mad mansion?) had been just as hectic. Fretting over everything was my style, and I swear Emily was already behind on her reading. Had sat with her for hours to get it perfect. Bribed Alfie into doing his homework, cooked them proper meals and made sure the fridge was stocked until next time.
Said goodbye with a warning flashing in my eyes; mum, keep your shit together.
Ms Jenkins has arched one perfectly plucked eyebrow at me and smiles. “Rose has told me about you.” I’m not sure what to say, what she’s told. Did she say she randomly kissed me? “You two should be friends. I feel like you block people out.”
I snort. “Of course. I hate them all.”
“Wizards are people too.” I flick some lint off my cuff, heave a sigh. She doesn’t move, just sits there in all her blonde glory and smiles faintly.
“Imagine,” I say, looking up. “That you move to America. Or France. Or Germany. And you don’t really like the culture. People are weird, they do things differently. You’d just move back home. But no, I’m trapped, and I can’t move home, and I’ve left my whole family behind. And I’d rather be there than here, but I can’t be, and damnit, I hate Germany!” The room is darker, it’s colder. A breeze makes the door shake in it’s frame. My fists clench as Ms Jenkins smiles.
“How very eloquent.” Her voice is dry and I don’t know what to make of it. Heave in a deep breath to try and avoid deciphering too much from the cryptic woman. Let it out slowly, as though it were cigarette smoke, imagining it leaking towards the ceiling. Forcing all my anger out. The air in the room stills. The door stops rattling. “It doesn’t sound like the Germans like you much, anyway.”
I cut a look to her. “Aren’t you supposed to be all supportive and shit?”
“No,” her quill flickers as she taps it, once, on her clipboard. “I’m supposed to be realistic. What’s the point in feeding you lies?”
I sit back and study her, considering. “Do you tell Rose she’ll feel better if she eats properly?” A pause. Ms Jenkins studies me for a while. I can practically see the cogs turning in her mind.
“No. I tell her she’ll be healthier. That she’ll live.”
I hum noncommittally. Ms Jenkins continues studying me. Scribbles something upon the parchment before her. “Okay, Piper. I think we’re done here.”
Rose is sitting with her legs crossed at the ankle as I emerge from Ms Jenkins’ office. I’m not ever surprised to see her. She beams up at me and rises elegantly from the chair, matching me stride for stride as I make my way purposefully through Hogwarts halls to the main door and out into the grounds. We’re silent as I pull out the packet of cigarettes and a lighter, flicking it a few times before a spark jumps up.
“My cousins don’t like you.” I sigh as I exhale the smoke, shrug a shoulder. Rose smiles. “I don’t think they like me much, either.”
I look sideways at her, inhale smoke right deep into my lungs. Squint into the sun as we draw to a standstill and then drop onto the bank of the lake. “That’s nice,” I grumble mildly, wondering why she’s still here. “You have a therapist, you know.”
Rose laughs, and her teeth flash, pearly white. “I do,” she agrees. Then, “I miss Roberts. She was simple.”
“Hmm,” I inhale once more, tipping back onto my forearms and blowing smoke towards the sun. I pull up the sleeves of my flimsy shirt; let the sun rays touch my skin. It’s a novel concept, sun in Scotland. Guaranteed not to last long. Rose draws her legs up to her chest and rests her chin on her bony knees.
We stay for what feels like an age. Then the grounds begin to empty, Rose watching them, a little reproach creeping into her gaze.
“Dinner,” she says eventually. I look at her. A frown pinches her brow, her freckled nose wrinkled.
I get up from the ground and walk away, knowing that she can’t bring herself to follow me, wondering if I should be doing something about that.
The hours crawl by. It takes a lot of willpower, but I manage to find myself in the library, pulling dusty books off shelves and attempting assignments. Underlining titles twice with my biro and ruler, chewing on the end of the plastic pens. I always pick the same table; one that can’t be seen by the librarian (making snacks possible if you were quiet enough) and most importantly, from the door. It was set aside from the rest of the cluster of tables, close enough to see out the window during the drier moments of the day, but far enough that it wasn’t first choice and thus was usually empty.
Gnawing on the biro and wishing it was a cigarette, I sigh heavily, tapping my finger on the parchment before me. Explain the principles of Re-Materialism. The chair across from my scrapes along the wooden floor loudly as someone pulls it up. Looking up, I see a blonde boy with high cheekbones that scream aristocracy. He nods at me, and I frown at him, but lose interest as he simply pulls out some parchment and a quill.
His quill is annoying as it scratches across the page, but it’s something I quickly tune out, the silence not awkward, not companionly, simply there.
I do a double take when I see him the next day, then dump my bag on the table and join him. His eyes flicker up for a moment in acknowledgement, then he keeps on working. Sometimes his foot taps against the floor, when his brow pinches and he chews on his lower lip in deep concentration. Sometimes he simply sits and stares at books, as if the information was going to diffuse into his brain.
The fourth time he speaks. “Does definitely have an ‘a’?” he asks me, head tilting as he considers me. His voice is lower than I expected, a melody to the words. He pushes a lock of silver blonde hair from his eyes as he waits.
“No. ‘E’,” I turn the page of my book, he nods, and we settle into the silence once more.
A/N: Love it? Hate it? Indifferent? Chocolate Easter bunnies who say anything, anything at all!
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