Chapter 25 : ribs
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This dream isn't feeling sweet
We're reeling through the midnight streets
And I've never felt more alone
It feels so scary getting old
Ribs -- Lorde
Rainne takes a deep breath as she reaches the small door beside Glenmore Peakes’s portrait. She leans against the cold stone wall, standing between the painting and the doorway. Ignoring Peakes as he begins to tell the tale of his battle with the Sea Serpent of Cromer, she checks her watch. Five minutes early. She has been dreading today since McGonagall told her of it.
It’s been a week since she was found on the white tile floor in a pool of her own blood. She wants nothing more than to leave it behind, but it seems impossible. The professors give her looks of pity, walking on eggshells around her. She wishes they would just treat her like they would everyone else, like a normal person.
You’re as far from normal as anyone can get.
In an attempt to silence her thoughts, she hits her head against the wall, regretting it instantly. It’s still tender from the fall when she went unconscious. The searing pain in her skull seems to have been in vain, for she soon hears a cackle echoing through her mind.
You’re such a bloody idiot.
Rainne ignores the thought, checking her watch. Three more minutes.
She holds onto the strap of her purse tightly, knuckles white. Her head snaps up when she hears distant laughter somewhere down the corridor.
It’s you. They’re laughing at you. I bet they know everything. You’re the laughingstock of the entire school.
Rainne shuts her eyes tightly, her her nails digging into the palms of her hands.
“Shut up,” she says as quietly as she can.
What, you think I’m wrong? You’re a mental case! No wonder they’re sending you to a doctor again. Just you wait and see. He’ll know how crazy you are in an instant.
“Plenty of people got the letter,” Rainne whimpers.
Yes, that may be true. But you’re the only one that really needs it. They’re just sending everyone else to make you feel better. To make you feel normal. But you’re not normal. You never will be!
Rainne takes a slow, shaky breath. Before she can respond, she hears her name.
“Rainne?” the woman repeats, standing in the now open doorway. Rainne looks around, catching a glimpse of a third year hufflepuff walking away. She checks her watch. Eleven o’clock sharp, “Would you like to come in?” the woman says.
Rainne inhales deeply once more before nodding and following her inside. The blonde, middle aged witch gestures at a worn forest green sofa for Rainne to sit. Rainne obliges, dropping her purse beside her. The woman sits at her own matching armchair and reaches for a manila file. Rainne sees her name written in maroon ink on the top. The woman looks through it, licking her fingers before turning the pages. Her fuchsia nails shine under the candlelight as they slowly move through Rainne’s file. Though it’s morning, the room is poorly lit. A small window in the corner is the only source of sunlight, and the many candles floating in the room are a poor substitute. Rainne watches as the woman’s dark blue eyes slowly skim the pages until she finally tosses the file on her oak desk.
“Well,” the woman says pleasantly, folding her hands in her lap, “I am Dr. Bonham, but I would prefer you call me Ruth.”
Rainne stares at her. Is she supposed to respond? Dr. Bonham obviously knows her name. She must know everything about her, Rainne guesses. Her whole life must fit in that small manila file.
After an awkward pause, Bonham continues, “Our sessions will last an hour,” she says formally, “They will be every Sunday at eleven if that is convenient for you. I am flexible, so please let me know if you need to reschedule,” she smiles with her shiny white teeth. Rainne can’t help but be reminded of the bathroom floor.
“I understand you had an incident last week,” Bonham says carefully, eyeing her. Rainne nods again, “Would you like to talk about it?”
She shakes her head in response.
“Alright, is there anything you would like to talk about?” Bonham remains pleasant, patiently waiting for Rainne to respond. Her head shakes once more. No way is she going through this again. She just wants to sink into the couch until all that remains are her blood stained bracelets. She looks down at them, turning them over to hide the red blotches, “May I call you Rainne?” Bonham asks, “Or do you prefer Miss Pemberton?” Rainne shrugs. Does it matter? “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll stick with Rainne.”
Once again, she shrugs. Bonham sighs, realising how difficult it is going to be to get through to her. She stands up and walks over to her desk, standing behind it. For a moment, she merely stares at it. On one side, a precarious stack of folders identical to Rainne’s threatens to topple over any instant. Most seem relatively thin, but a few thick ones stand out. Rainne squints, trying to read the names, but she quickly averts her gaze when Bonham glances her way. A small ceramic pot holds lavender lisianthuses, and Rainne wonders how they manage to live so far from the tiny window in the opposite corner. Bonham, seeming to have come to a decision, crouches down to open the bottom drawer. She takes out a leather bound journal and returns to her arm chair.
“I understand how hard it is to talk to a stranger about yourself,” Bonham says, holding the journal in her hands, “And I want you to know that I am not going to push you. Hopefully you will feel comfortable enough to talk to me, but in your own time. Until you do, I would like you to keep a diary,” she hands it to Rainne, who holds it gingerly in her lap. It feels rough against her soft fingers. She flips through the blank pages, wondering if she will ever bring herself to write in it, “Hopefully it will help you put your thoughts into words.”
Rainne shuts the journal and holds it tightly in her hands. Will it?
“Unless you have anything you would like to speak with me about,” says Bonham, “You are free to go. I’ll see you next week.”
Rainne nods and shoves the journal in her purse. She quickly makes her way to the corridor, never even glancing behind her. She doesn’t want to see the look of pity she is sure she will find if she does. As she makes her way to the common room, she can’t help but smile. Term is almost over, and though she has exams to prepare for, she can’t wait to board the train and meet her grandfather at King’s Cross. She knows Christmas won’t be the same without her grandmother, but she hopes she can find a way to distract him from her absence. As she climbs through the portrait hole, the buzz of excited students meets her ears. The room is full of gryffindors getting in some last minute cramming before their upcoming exams.
“Rainne, over here!” Lily calls from a far corner. Rainne joins the sixth years, greeted by quick smiles before they all return to their coursework. Ben gives her a quick kiss, leaving one hand on her thigh while the other scribbles feverishly. Rainne places her hand on his, stroking it idly.
Lily sits barehanded on her other side, “I finished my essays ages ago,” she explains when Rainne looks at her, “I figured I’d help them out, poor souls. Such procrastinators. When will you lot ever learn?” she adds, smiling knowingly at the group. Carmen waves at her to shut up and Lily laughs, looking back at Rainne, “Have you finished all of your homework?”
Rainne nods, “I’ve been finished since last week,” she says. Lily grins.
“I love that at least one more of us has her head square on her shoulders. You could all learn from Rainne,” she says, earning a shush from Marlene, “Even Remus hasn’t finished his essay. Honestly…”
“Evans,” says Sirius, looking up. He glances at Rainne before looking back at Lily, “What in the bloody hell does this mean? Explain the effects of a love potion -well it makes you fall in love, doesn’t it?”
Lily laughs and leans over the coffee table to take a look at his essay, “I reckon they want more than that, Sirius,” she laughs, “Talk about how it changes the drinker’s behaviour overall.”
“Right,” says Sirius, pretending to understand, “...How exactly does it do that again?”
Lily rolls her eyes and finds the chapter on love potions in his textbook, “Read up, you know I won’t tell you the answer.”
Sirius grins, “It was worth a shot, wasn’t it?” he winks at Rainne before looking at the book. Lily shakes her head and sits back down.
“Have you finished all your Christmas shopping yet?” she asks Rainne.
“No, I was going to go this Saturday.”
“Oh, can I come? I’ve been putting it off, what with all the homework I’ve been doing,” she smirks at her friends, this time being ignored completely. Rainne nods.
“Sure, I’d like that.”
Lily grins. She can’t wait to spend time with Rainne.
After a long study session, the sixth year gryffindors head to the Great Hall for dinner. They had unanimously decided to skip lunch, quickly regretting it when the noise of rumbling stomachs filled the otherwise empty common room. Even Remus, who never passes up a chance to monitor Rainne’s eating habits, said they should stay and finish their essays. Though the last hours of their homework doing were filled mostly with complaints and whining about how great a good slab of steak would be right now, rather than questions for Lily, they all left with one less assignment to do. Well, all except for James, who halfway through became mesmerised by Lily’s hair and the way the sunlight hit it, forgetting his coursework altogether. He only has about half a foot left to write. With empty stomachs and ink stained fingertips, the group finally makes it to Gryffindor table, moaning in pleasure as the first bites of food reach their lips.
“The house elves really outdid themselves today,” says Carmen, biting into a forkful of shepherd’s pie.
The rest nod in agreement, their mouths too full for polite conversation. Rainne, a salad on her plate yet again, eats at her usual pace, earning a knowing look from Remus. She rolls her eyes and ignores him, though she decides to leave an empty plate today instead of enduring the hunger pains she know she’ll have otherwise. The rest of the group seems to be inhaling their food, and the magically refilling plates are almost too slow to keep up. They almost don’t notice the evening posts arrival, only raising their gaze when the Potter family owl snatches some food from James’s plate. He pats it on the head, maybe a bit too roughly, and takes the envelope from its leg.
“Thanks, Osric,” he says. The owl takes another bite of his food and flies off, leaving James to tear open the letter.
Eating slows as the group watches him curiously, awaiting to hear what it says. James reads it quickly, pushing his glasses up the brim of his nose when they slip down.
“Well, who’s it from?” asks Carmen impatiently.
James grins, looking up, “It’s from my parents. We’re having a ball the day after Christmas. You’re all invited!”
“I thought your parents said they would be too busy this year?” asks Marlene.
“Apparently the Death Eaters have calmed down a bit, so they don’t have such a workload,” James is beaming. In his mind, the ball is a perfect opportunity to sweep Lily off her feet. She is fully aware of this, of course, and tries to hide her dread.
Rainne is confused, something Ben becomes aware of immediately. He looks down at her and she meets his eyes.
“Ball?” she asks.
“Prongs’s parents have one every Christmas,” Ben explains while the rest of the girls gush over gowns and hair styles, “It’s just a chance for them to mingle with co workers, but we always cause a bit of mayhem as well,” he winks at her and grins. She tries to do the same, but it’s more of a grimace. Ben joins the conversations which has turned to dress robes in general, but Rainne is lost in thought. She’ll have to wear a gown to this ball. Her first fear is that she won’t be able to afford it, but her second is much more real. She won’t be able to wear her tattered bracelets to a ball. And who has ever heard of ball gowns with long sleeves?
Rainne begins to hyperventilate.
They’re going to find you out.
They’re going to ditch you when they find out what a freak you are.
You’re going to be all alone. Again.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Rainne says before running out of the Hall.
“What was that all about?”
Ben runs after her, catching a glimpse of her hair as she turns the corner and runs up the stairs.
“Rainne!” he calls. Her pace quickens, her vision blurred by the downpour of tears streaming down her cheeks.
All she has to do is make it to her dorm and she’ll be fine. She just needs to make it to her dorm. That’s all she has to do.
Ben has almost reached her when he stops dead in his tracks. He shouldn't have to chase her. She should want to crawl into his arms when she is distraught, not run away. She should want him to hold her. If that isn’t what she wants, he isn’t going to push her. He watches her turn the corner before returning to the Hall.
When she finally reaches her dorm, Rainne screams at the top of her lungs. She can’t go back to being alone, not after knowing what friendship feels like. She sits on her bed, slowing her breaths.
It’s no use.
Soon, she is screaming again. She grabs the nearest object, her purse, and throws it against the wall. It falls to the floor with a thud, the contents tumbling out. She huffs, making her way over to it and tidying up the mess. When she grabs the leather journal, she pauses.
“Hopefully it will help you put your thoughts into words.”
Rainne returns to her bed, grabbing ink and a quill and shutting the curtains around her.
She begins to write.
“What’s wrong?” asks Lily when Ben sits down across from her, “Did she say?”
“I dunno,” Ben shrugs in defeat, “I dunno where she went.”
Lily frowns, “Maybe she just needs some space,” she reasons. He nods.
Sirius wants to scream.
SHE DOESN’T NEED SPACE. SHE NEEDS SOMEONE TO BLOODY TALK TO, WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?
Instead, he grunts, pushing his plate away. The conversation returns to the ball, soon turning to the topic of dates. Carmen muses over her suitors, debating which one she should invite. Marlene asks them if the ravenclaw keeper would be interested, an idea James quickly turns down, muttering about traitors and sleeping with the enemy. Lily quickly announces she will be going stag, glaring at James when he giggles at the irony of her statement. Remus, always the peacekeeper, quickly returns the subject to Carmen’s suitors, telling everyone how he thinks Henry really is the best.
Through all of this, Sirius says nothing. The same sentence plays on a loop in his mind.
How can they not see it?
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