I've just updated it with some Spelling/Grammar fix. Please be patient with me.
It occurred to me some may appreciate trigger warnings, so I've put a bunch in the end notes incase they're needed.
Hermione went to her dorm and brought her bag down full of all her books and notes, and they commandeer an old dusty classroom, by the kitchens.
"Right we are going to go right back to basics and draw up a schedule. With a solid bass, everything will be much easier." She said, pulling out her books and some parchment.
"Thanks, there is still so much that doesn't make sense." Harry admitted, "It doesn't seem to matter how much I read, somethings just don't make sense, it's as if I'm just missing something." He continued absently picking at steam in Dudley's shirt, "I'm not stupid. I'm really smart. I may not have your 'magic memory,' I'll never be able to quote verbatim from a textbook I have to work to remember things. Just looking at a page, and reading it was not enough. I have to actually understand something and why it was so, to remember it. And there's just much just didn't make any sense. And I read! All our books, and any other ones that seem related, or any that just seem interesting! I spend more time hidden behind my bed curtains reading by wand light than I do sleeping. But It was as if I'm just not getting something. It was so frustrating Hermione. It's as if it was just out of my reach and I should be getting it. I'm now I'm not stupid but it shouldn't be that hard, but something is just..."
He let out a grunt of frustration and balled up his mostly blank parchment. Tossing it in the air he incinerating it with a jab of his wand.
"I didn't realise Harry," Hermione said concern colouring her tone.
"Having to balance genuinely not understanding completely, (no matter how hard I try, and no matter how much I read) with making sure grades were not too high while wanting to make sure I knew it and felt comfortable with it, is hard. Gods, Hermione, it's so hard. I'm so tired. How many times had I reviewed the essay's over and over again to get them perfect, and then only to have to scribble down a half-assed answer the second before with Ron, to make it seem like I was average and not caring... I'm so tired, it's getting too much. I just... why can't I do it? I love learning, but nothing makes sense. It's like shoving my head against a brick wall, and even if it does make sense I have to pretend it doesn't because it's not flipping safe. I'm never safe." He finished at a whisper, head on the desk, breathing hard.
He jumped when Hermione put a hand on his shoulder and he nearly fell out of his chair.
"Sorry, sorry, I forgot!" She exclaimed.
"it- it's fine," he said forcing himself to take a breath, his hands shook.
"Maybe after pretending all this time... maybe I am Stupid...just like they said..." He admitted lowly
"Oh Harry, no" Hermione said, moving slowly so as to telegraph her movement this time, she took his hand gently in her own, "you're not, I know we all must act like it but now you've said something so much makes sense, truly you're not. Something odd is going on. I'm sure of it. Maybe if we review the basics it will help."
He took a shuddering breath.
"there's more to being smart than books and O grades," she said giving his hand a gentle squeeze.
He nodded and took another shuddering breath. She was right, of course, he could beat anyone on street smarts, people smarts, real-world smarts. Lord knows he had spent enough time when it was only his understanding of people and being able to predict them that had kept him safe. Or not really safe but alive. He had spent enough time on the streets out in the real world to know what it was like, how to survive and what it took. None of his peers could say the same. They wouldn't last a night out on the streets, it took more than book smarts to manage that, to the Dursley's disappointment. But understanding the real world didn't necessarily make him the smartest and most intelligent in an academic setting, just that he was capable of stubbornly not dying yet...
He thunked his head down on the desk in front of him, balling up another bit of parchment that was his failing plan, or lack thereof.
'Start again with your first-year books,' he thought 'start with the basics get a solid foundation and work your way up. Frustrating however it may feel, taking the time to start at the start and really work it out, master the basics was the best, most surefire way to succeed in tackling the more advanced topics needed to surviving this blasted tournament.'
And anyway Hermione seemed to be on his side now. She said she would help, he wasn't alone, and Bill and Charlie would reply soon. And hopefully, Sirius, though it had taken ages last time.
Maybe he could stop playing dumb. If Hermione was on his side and not going to get jealous, and Ron had already abandoned him, what need did he have to play dumb, to blend into a sea of monotony?
But why did he have a niggling, heavy feeling in his gut that it wasn't safe...
"We'll go all the way back to the start, you'll see Harry," Hermione said cutting off his spiralling thoughts, "it will make sense. Do you want to revise the basic spells as well for first year onwards as well?"
"Er no? But maybe just a quick review later? I'm good at spells, with physical things, things I can do with my hands. The combination of muscle-memory paired with the verbal component suites me. I had to deliberately hold back so as not to draw attention in my spell casting. It was actually as fun as it was an irritation. It was fun to work out how to get it wrong and get away with the lie. Sometimes I practised minimising the incantation or silent incanting or near-silent incanting, so it that it genuinely took longer."
"Really? That's brilliant, that a useful skill harry. Silent casting is meant to be really advanced, as is minimal casting! We should defiantly keep working on it if you've already started! Will you teach me too?" Hermione clapped her hands in excitement, and continued like a train barreling downhill, "but for now we'll start with the theory. Did you read the Muggleborn guide to basic magical theory?"
"The what?" He said blankly.
"The Muggleborn guide to Magical Theory. It was in the Wizarding introduction book list we got given," she said eyes wide
"What introduction book list...?"
"You weren't given it? But there's so much in there that's so important!" She cried, pulling out books, and then a flourish and blots owl order catalogue.
"No wonder nothings making sense! You can borrow mine, for now, we'll work through it, but you might want your own. I know you like annotating your books, and I don't" she said.
"so there really is something missing? I'm not stupid?" He asked in shocked disbelieve.
"Oh, Merlin no harry!" She said as she pulled out a battered old book list.
"The books on the list covered the basics of magic, your magical core, health - how wizards and witches differ from muggles, meditation and the mind. It also covers the absolute basics in all our subjects here, that most wizard raised would learn as children. There's also a general one that goes into some of the subjects not taught here. The books also go over laws, jobs, services in the magical world, how society works and the government, it even looks at basic cultural history, the religion one was fascination. The social structure and rules are fascinating as well, it's not like the muggle world, it's a like going to a totally different country!"
"I think I better get a copy of these..." He said as it dawned on him, horrifyingly, how much he didn't know, how much had been... kept from him.
"How much is your budget?" She said pulling out the catalogue and order forms.
"Erm... I don't actually even know how much is in my vault, just that there's a lot... I think? At least it seemed that way when your short and never even had a single pence in your life... It has to last me through school and until I get a job" He said awkwardly, "I never really got a chance to ask, Hagrid was there, and then Mrs Weasley and then something always came up in that week I was in Diagon in our third year..."
"We'll right an owl to them, surely they'll have a statement or something, then we can figure out what you can afford. Didn't you get a proper introduction though? The Heads of Houses normally visit all the Muggleborns and explain everything" She said getting out a quill and ink, and drafting up the letter for him.
"No... my relatives knew but didn't bother explaining, they didn't want me to go. Hagrid made them, took me to Diagon Ally, we got mobbed. I didn't even know what the 'boy-who-lived was... then he took me back to the Dursley's and they locked my stuff up."
"Wow Harry. That's really odd, I don't want to jump to conclusions but it looks like you've been deliberately kept in the dark... But we'll sort it out. Look over that will you?" She said, passing over the letter she'd drafted.
Harry read the letter to Gringotts, but hesitated before signing his name, "This is going to sound super stupid, but did the info pack show you how to use quill because I still struggle. I don't want the Goblins to think I didn't make an effort or don't care, just because my writing is atrocious."
"Of course," she said kindly and started showing him how to do it.
And so they studied. Harry practised writing with a quill after Hermione had shown how to hold it properly, and the right angle.
"there's also a trick to how much ink you load it with, and how much you tap off against the ink well" she'd demonstrated, "and how often you need to re-cut them, and at what angle you cut" she'd continued, "there's a book in the list, that talks you through it, with examples and diagrams and exercises. It goes right through normal note taking script, nice cursive scripts, and even various different types of elegant and elaborate calligraphy."
Hermione started working through the basics with Harry and going over the most important aspects of the introduction pack. It was made abundantly clear by dinner time, that there was a lot that Harry didn't know. Not through lack of trying, however, almost as if it had been deliberately kept from him.
"Honestly there should be spares in the Library but I when I went to reference one last year, I'd left mine at home, Madam Pince said they didn't carry them anymore." She said letting out a huff of frustration.
They were so engrossed in studying Hermione's introduction texts that they worked right through lunch and most of dinner.
"Oh gosh," Hermione said looking at the time, we've missed lunch and the start of dinner! How did we not notice?"
"Huh? Oh, don't really notice being hungry anymore..." Harry trailed off
Hermione looked at him in askance, concerned.
"You don't notice the difference when it's a constant, that's all," he mumbled.
"But I thought, because you here, and foods not withheld here like your relatives..." Hermione said confused.
"Not like my relatives no..." said Harry slowly starting to put their books away.
"but... I'm sensing a but here..."
Harry sighed, "I don't want to complain or anything, it's not like I'm not getting three meals a day. Really I'm grateful, but between exercising and using magic all day, and food doing weird things in the great hall all the time. I spend more time hungry than not. I'm just tired all the time, it's sometimes hard to even think straight, I can't seem to concentrate on it, it slips away before I can even try and do something about it. I really just want some red meat or some greens, or some chocolate especially after quidditch practices but it never seems to be an option. There just never seems to be enough to go round. But it's fine don't worry doubt it. It's nothing"
"Harry that doesn't sound fine. Why don't you just put more on your plate though? There's always plenty of food on the tables. Ron certainly eats enough for about 4 people. And I've been raging at you for years to eat more."
"Remember back in our first year when I kept trying to have seconds or to have dessert? And it would vanish" he asked.
"That sounds... worrying Harry but I can't remem..." she trailed off and pinched her nose as if she had a headache.
"You okay?" Harry asked
"Yeah I just got a headache suddenly but it seems to have passed. What were you saying?"
"Hermione, are you okay? We were just talking about... you don't remember?" Harry said fear sparking in his gut.
"Of course, I think so... what were you saying?"
"I was talking about being hungry a lot, even here and food in the great hall acting weird. But just for me." Harry said again frowning at her in concern.
"Odd I could have sworn it had stopped... I can almost.. but I don't.." She rubbed her eyes, wincing
"are you okay?"
"It's just a bit hard to focus, it's just slipping..." She trailed off, "say it again."
"I think someones trying to manipulate what I can eat to keep me weak and unhealthy, to keep my pliable." He said flatly, trying and failing to keep the fear out of his voice.
"First year!" She said having a moment of clarity.
"Yeah, it started in our first year. I was skinny and starved when I got to Hogwarts. I was so excited about being able to have meals like the real kids and to have sweets but they made me sick. Even on the train,"
"Really? She cut in, "you never said-"
" Of course I didn't tell anyone, I wanted to be normal"
"I wasn't used to eating much so I was sick after the feast and realised I couldn't eat much or it made me sick. McGonagall noticed-"
"Professor McGonagall harry"
"No Hermione, Professor is a term of respect, and respect is earned, not blindly given. She hasn't earned it. Yes, she's smart and isn't a bad teacher compared to some, but she's let me down, time and time again. I asked her for help this morning she turned me away. Didn't even really listen. It's not the first time."
"but-" Hermione cut herself off, "it goes against everything I was taught, but I get I can understand where you're coming from."
"that's all I can ask, anyway she dragged me to Pomfrey, who muttered about having avoided this if I'd just come for the first year Muggleborn check in like he was meant too."
"We all got them," Hermione cut in, "we needed shots and medical history for future reference, did you not get one?"
"No, hadn't even heard about it and I said that so, I tried to ask McGonagall but she had left. So Pomfrey just said basically what you just said. She told me to come back on the weekend for it, and that it was weird that I'd missed out. She swishing her wand in a complicated pattern and then glared at it, mumbling, 'that man, I'll hang him by his whiskers' and something else I couldn't make out." Harry continued, "She gave me a potion, green and brown one, and said, 'here, take one teaspoon before every meal, it will help you eat again, its a nutrient potion too. Never thought I'd see the day, actually, need it here. It was designed for treating famine in third world countries... She said she'd talk to the elves for me, and to come back on Sunday for your shots and a proper check up.'"
"That doesn't sound too bad" Hermione commented
"It got worse." He said bluntly, "I'd been dreading it, I hate doctors, I was terrified that she would see..." He trailed off, "that she'd know about the Dursley's, people finding out just brought trouble before. But when I did go, she had no recollection of my visit at all. Told me to stop wasting her time, when I was clearly fine. I even asked about my shots, but she dismissed me. It did sew a seed of doubt though. Why didn't she remember it."
"mmhm," he agreed, "I finished the potion it helped loads. I noticed there was less put on my plate, and less rich foods around me, having been to see her. More bland ones, it helped, I wasn't bringing it back up as often as I had at the start. She said to have snacks in-between classes, nuts and fruit and things to make up for the tiny meals. I didn't notice at first but whenever I took something from the table for later and put it in my bag, it was never there when I went back for it. It kept vanishing."
"And the food kept vanishing off your plate! When you then tried to have seconds in the hall, to make up for it" Hermione said remembering.
"Yeah, not straight away but yeah. I'd almost managed to work my way up to managing all of my small meals in the hall, sometime around Christmas. I'd finally started putting on some weight. I was so pleased to finally have some padding on my bones, my stomach wasn't even that sunken anymore. It wasn't a lot but it helped. I was still hungry a lot though. So I figured if I couldn't eat between meals as she'd said, I could have seconds. I'd just have to learn to eat more in one go as everyone else did. But then the food started vanishing from my plate. I could put vegetables and meats and a small helping of food on my plate the first time, but never much or it would vanish, and only if I took the healthier options. But as soon as I went for seconds or deserts, it would vanish. I even asked Ron to put some on my plate, in case it was just me. But it vanished when I tried taking some from Ron's plate it vanished halfway to my mouth. I even plucked up the courage to ask McGonagall about it, but she got an odd look in her eye and said not to be silly."
"I really thought it had stopped..." She trailed off looking a bit dazed.
"Please don't forget again!" He pleaded taking her hands and looking at her straight in the eye, "please, I don't want to keep struggling on my own, please I need you in my corner!"
"I... I'm scared Harry, somethings going on. Somethings making me disregard it. Keep talking." Her voice shook.
"Well it didn't stop, I just learnt not to ask for more than it lets me. I'm used to being hungry all the time. Its all I've ever known. It was so novel that first train ride, to be able to have sweets and chocolate. It was so nice, and it tastes so good Hermione, I finally understood why Dudley liked it! And I'd been so pleased to finally manage to get some padding on my bones. I was still skinny as hell but was finally filling out a bit, almost normal looking. But I figured it's just how it is 'cause I'm a freak. Freaks don't get to eat, we don't get nice things. It won't even let me have gravy or anything like that, let alone treacle tart. It smells so good, I want to try it one day Hermione. It's as if someones keeping me on Dudley's fancy weight loss diet."
"That's ridiculous Harry! You're so skinny, the last thing you need is a weight loss diet. And you're not a freak!"
"I know. Gods I'm so boney I hate it, Hermione I want to be normal! I hate being so skinny! I'm cold all the time, and everything hurts when I fall over, there's no padding, I break at the drop of a hat and snap things. I've actually been trying to gain some weight, but between the tables here and the Dursley's I'm doomed to be a short skinny shit forever!"
"Oh Harry," she moaned out, "That is very odd harry, and very worrying. Why didn't I notice before"
"Why didn't we notice? We would have picked away at it as we did with The Stone. It's not like us. How did we not notice? Someone controlling you like that, keeping you hungry all the time, like your relatives... how did no-one notice."
"I've always been hungry, never been able to have a proper meal in my life... its nothing special. And it's not like the Dursley's, I got 3 meals a day. Mostly."
It's not like the Dursley's I'm not being starved, I get three meals a day, but its never enough. I'm always hungry and also trying to recover from whatever injury I have, or got over the summer of being starved. It's just. Don't worry about it, forget I said anything."
"That's not okay, now I think about it, yes you are fed, but now I think about it, it was never very much, and never overly nutritious, tiny portions and never any red meat, few green vegetables, like you said, and never any sweets, or even that wide a range of food. I never really noticed before. How I missed it. I don't know. It is it's really odd, and we never noticed, we let it slip aside, that's weird!"
"I don't know, every time I mentioned it people seemed to just forget. Like Pomfrey with the health check, she'd been muttering about whiskers or something but I don't know." Harry replied
"Harry you don't think..." She trailed off
Harry shrugged, wondering if she meant Dumbledore, but not wanting to say it, he had learnt that the walls had ears. How else would anyone know he had finally been starting to get to a healthy weight back in our first year. He'd been talking about it in front of the Fat Lady's portrait, and how nice it was to be able to have as much chocolate as he wanted. How he was sure if he wasn't careful he'd end up as big as a house. He'd been joking of course, but maybe the portraits had heard and told Dumbledore, or maybe it was McGonagall.
A sick feeling of dread coiled in his gut.
"Your right I guess, but every time I try and sort it, it slips away. It's made me really think that... but maybe... maybe something made us" he paused, thinking, "made us... not forget, like with Lockheart, but more make us forget it was important. Maybe it was made to slip our mind, and to be picked back our minds. It's not as if we didn't have more important things to do, like the stone, the basilisk."
"Why bother though, who is going to that much to control you through what you eat. Its a bit extreme, why bother, " Hermione asked thinking aloud, "and who..."
"We need to go-" Harry said suddenly cutting her off and looking around
"What?" Hermione said surprised.
"We've been alone all day, someone might come looking, or be keeping tabs on us, there are no portraits in this room, but I don't think it's safe to talk here..."
"Harry that's a bit.."
"It's not paranoia if someone really is out to get you..." He said flatly packing their books and things away, "please Hermione."
"Of course" she acquiesced after a moment.
Body image issues
Grownups being controlling manipulative assholes and neglectfully oblivious.
I worked really hard on this chapter I hope you liked it. I have another one, that i'll post tonight, I need to spell check it again before that one goes up.
I know it may seem odd or extreme but its necessary and will may sense later. I wanted to look at the abuse of, and manipulation of Harry from a slightly different direction from what's normally done in these things.
Yes Minerva is not the best teacher in this one, though it will be looked at again later. (Sorry Minerva lovers, I like her too, but this story needed less adults around able to help. It will be talked about later. She may get redeemed later but no promises.) A lot of grownups in a position of power over him have been outright neglectful, or are being maliciously controlling. I know it might seem extreme, definitely more so that in cannon, but that's the way the cookie's crumbling at the moment.
Also I'm not body shaming, Harrys just bitter and angry and venting, when he makes those comments.
There is a trainee service dog in the waiting room of my Dr's office as I write this. He's adorable and also hilarious. He's not terribly impressed at being left in the foyer while his human is with the doctor. I'm trying desperately not to laugh at his antics. Its not very conductive to writing 'anxious-mess/angry!Harry scenes. But gods it's put a smile on my face :)
Happy Reading people.