This story actually started in psychology class a while ago while we were going through the motivation unit. Our teacher was talking about eating disorders and had pretty much neglected to talk about the fact that boys could get eating disorders as well. I dunno... I guess I got pretty irritated about it. I did some additional research, and then started writing this. Hope you enjoy it!
It didn't start with anything major.
Just an offhand comment, really. A joke. Harry had tripped slightly at the top of a staircase, and Ron had reached out to try and help his friend regain his balance. But instead of pulling Harry back, the both of them had taken a short tumble down the stairs; landing in a messy heap at the bottom of the Gryffindor common room, with Hermione chuckling at the them from her spot on the couch. The other Gryffindors had a good laugh at the two's expense, until they were both forced to acquaint to laughter.
Ron had made a comment about how they wouldn't have fallen if "Harry hadn't been so heavy!" The green eyed boy had not taken the comment very seriously at all, laughing until someone else piped in, "Yeah! Harry's much pudgier than he was as a first year! Watch out, we might need to put him as a beater instead!"
That night after dinner, Harry went immediately to the boys' restroom, resting both hands on the edge of a sink and stared at his own reflection. For some reason, that comment had gotten to him. He had never before thought of himself weight-wise, only that Hermione and Ron used to try and get him to eat more all the time, and now they didn't. His oversized clothing had always made him look smaller and thinner than he was, hanging off his form like draperies. But what if underneath those clothing hid someone who soon wouldn't be able to continue as a seeker because of the weight?
Looking into the mirror that night, Harry began to first have his doubts about his appearance. But he deemed himself satisfactory, knowing that he was of average weight, if not a little underweight for his height and age. But he would still havr to watch what he ate. Only for the sake of Quidditch, of course. He wasn't exactly trying to lose weight, but instead trying to train himself for the game. It had nothing at all to do with the comment about being pudgy, even if his cheeks were a bit chubby…
And for the next week, Harry made himself wake up early in the morning to take a run around the Quidditch field, and by the end of the week he was doing laps around Hogwarts. He focused more on the fruits and vegetables part of his diet, staying away from the large dairy products and the sausages, eating healthier then he ever remembered eating.
By the end of the week, although Harry didn't look very different, he felt a lot more energetic. The change of foods had been good, and Hermione soon noticed and approved, saying that she might follow his example and also encouraged Ron to do so. Ron had only laughed and nudged the dark haired boy, mock explaining about how they were supposed to gang up against Hermione, not with her.
Harry felt more alert with all the exercise he was getting. He felt stronger, faster, and a lot better about himself. He actually had an easier time studying, and everyone around him started noticing his subtle changes. There would be passing comments whether in class or passing periods about how he was looking great, and smiles of approval from the professors when he answered another question correct due to his studying. Even potions couldn't deter Harry, as his grades were slowly improving. Professor Snape had stopped asking Harry unreasonable questions when Harry started answering those questions correctly.
By mid-October, Harry decided that this control of his life was something he really liked. As the Boy-Who-Lived, he didn't have much control over his future, and Harry decided he adored this control he had. It was like flying, being able to decide which direction in the air he wanted to go.
But that comment still nagged at him.
So he decided to venture a shot at it, as embarrassing as it was.
"Hermione," he asked seriously once on a study session with her in the library when Ron was out teaching Neville better strategies in Wizard's chess. He had set down his quill to let Hermione know that he wanted an answer before they went back to homework. "Am I… pudgy?"
While Hermione had only been paying partial attention before, she now looked up at her best friend in shock. She blinked at him for nearly a minute, making Harry squirm in his seat. She finally set her quill down on her parchment and folded her hands on top of his, and said in a serious voice. "I'm taking that this isn't a joke, which scares me. Where did you get the idea that you're pudgy, Harry?"
He leaned away from her slightly, unnerved by her seriousness and concern. "Nowhere. It's just an honest question, Herm. Not a suicide note." He shook his head suddenly. "Know what? Forget I asked."
"You're not pudgy, Harry. You're extremely skinny and I think you should eat more. You're a growing boy, after all."
But Harry didn't believe that. At sixteen and standing at 168 centimeters, he wasn't likely to grow any taller. And the vehemence Hermione had put in those words made Harry think that they were forced, that she said that only because she was his best friend.
So in accordance to eating healthily, Harry decided that yes, he needed to go on a diet.
"You're turning down chocolate?" Ron had exclaimed when they were up in the dorms. The redhead looked disturbed, as if his world had suddenly tilted off axis. "Mate… we live on chocolate, remember? You love chocolate."
And Harry had patiently explained to Ron that he needed to stay in shape for Quidditch.
"And who on Earth told you that you had to give up chocolate?" Ron asked, bewildered at even the thought. "You want to get in shape? Chocolate is the food to do it!"
Ron wouldn't understand. Being a seeker meant that Harry had to be small and lithe, not pudgy. Besides, if cutting some things out of his diet had been so great to his life, cutting out more should be even greater. The feeling of control he would get would be incredible, and things would be perfect once he was thinner. He would stop once he wasn't so pudgy. It wasn't like he was going to stop eating or anything. He was just further giving up fatty foods and eating smaller portions, that's all. He would exercise as well so that he could keep up well in shape. It was healthy.
The end of October found Harry before the mirror again, this time in the Prefects' bathroom. He stared into the mirror with bright green eyes, his dark hair dripping into his face and a towel wrapped around his hips. He was a little more tired lately with the extra exercise, but Harry found his morning runs more stimulating if he forced himself to keep going until he could find his second wind. It had happened once when the raven-haired boy kept himself going far past his body's limit, and it had felt wonderful. Like a sudden blast of energy, like being plugged into an outlet. All his tiredness had gone at that moment, and he felt as if he didn't even need to breathe anymore.
And now each morning he strove to reach that point again, to gain that temporary euphoria that was natural and oh-so-stimulating. But it was hard. And trying made Harry more tired than before, even with the healthy foods he ate. A bunch of grapes at breakfast, half a lettuce and tomato sandwich at lunch, a large glass of pumpkin juice for snack, and a healthy sized salad with lemon water for dinner. It was actually more than some adults ate on days.
But standing before that mirror, it was just too much, He pinched the back of his upper arm and nearly winced at the amount of fat he picked up. His cheeks were still as round as ever, and the mass on his legs hadn't gone down a single bit. His diet just wasn't working. In fact, it seemed to almost be doing the reverse, making him a bit more like Dudley in his mind's eyes .
He hated it. He didn't want to look anything like his cousin- He didn't want to be any way associated with the Dursleys in his mind.
More drastic measures had to be taken.
"I really think that you should eat more, Harry."
Hermione's concerned voice barely broke through the hazy cloud that was Harry's mind as he continued his daily ritual at dinner: Stir the baby carrots around his plate exactly fourteen times… spear one with his fork, bite off half of it, and chew thirty times before swallowing. It would be the same if it were some other vegetable or fruit he was having that day. Harry rarely ate meat or dairy products anymore, ignoring the food or pushing it to the side if Ron or Hermione tried to pile it on his plate. Eventually they stopped trying to get him to eat it, knowing that he would ignore their attempts.
Making sure to chew the exact number of times, Harry swallowed, feeling the mashed food go down his throat thickly, adding that extra weight in his stomach. "My eating habits are just fine, Hermione. I don't understand why you're so worried."
"I think it's either you eat more or we take you to Madam Pomfrey." Ron added quietly, not wanting Harry to brush them off, but at the same time not wanting the boy to explode at them in anger as he often did when prodded about his eating and being sent to the infirmary for it. He didn't want Harry to be upset.
Unfortunately, Harry was upset by the threat that he heard in Ron's voice. His eyes lifted sharply from his food to the boy beside him, glaring for all he was worth. His hand had stopped its rhythmic counter-clockwise stirring as his face visibly grew darker. Ron stilled, not wanting to provoke Harry into a fight when he knew the younger boy wasn't himself at moments like those.
"Is that supposed to be a threat?" Harry asked heatedly, his hand clenching around his fork tightly. His left hand was still in a splint from when he had gotten into a fight two days ago with Malfoy, and Madam Pomfrey had refused to heal their wounds by magic so that they would have to suffer the consequences for fighting.
It was just that Harry was so easy to anger lately….
"It's not a threat." Hermione cut in before Harry could blow up. "It's just that we're really worried about you… but you know that. We're just worried that… well…" she faltered for a little bit, eyes darting to Ron and wondering if it was too early to tell him, "we're worried that you might be in the early stages of anorexia nervosa."
Harry turned and stared at Hermione like she had suddenly sprouted another head, his eyebrows lifting in confusion. "Anorexia? You think I have anorexia?"
"Not have." The Gryffindor girl mended quickly. "In the beginning stages of."
"Hermione." Harry cut in. "I'm a boy. And I eat- "
"Anorexia isn't limited only to girls, Harry." Hermione snapped irritably. "Boys can get it just as easily as girls can. Just because more girls get it than boys doesn't make the make males immune. It's not defined as people who refuse to eat, either. It's people who believe they are fat- "
"I don't believe that I'm fat!" Harry spat vehemently. He was about to dish out more spiteful words before Ron put a restraining hand on Harry's arm, turning the attention of the furious Boy-Who-Lived to the redhead. Watching Ron's tight features, Harry boggled. "You… you both really think that I'm sick, don't you? You really think I have this whacked up eating disorder and that I'm going to stop eating altogether?"
His voice was so shocked that Hermione consented, "Maybe we're wrong. Maybe I've been reading the symptoms wrong. But I'd rather be wrong about this with proof that I was wrong, and not be unknowingly correct." Ron was quiet as she pleaded, "Please, Harry. Just indulge us on this. It's only because we're worried about you that we want you to eat or see Madam Pomfrey."
Harry shook his head, still shocked. "Madam Pomfrey would hate me if I had to go to her again before the year's out. But if you really need me to convince you that I don't have anorexia, then I'll eat more."
Hermione gave a relieved smile as Ron let out a breath of air at their easy victory.
"We're glad, Harry."
November passed by quickly after that, and Harry's mood swings disappeared as he started eating more to appease his friends. But even thought things looked like they were getting back to normal, (as normal as it got in Harry's life anyway) he still couldn't help feeling antsy about the food he was consuming. It wasn't all about the diet anymore. It was also about his control, and his fear of becoming anything like Dudley. Eating how his friends wanted meant giving up on that control over his own life, and submitting to becoming someone he didn't want to be. While he had first thought that he could do anything to see his friends happy, Harry soon found that voluntarily giving up control was a lot harder than he first expected. It wasn't long before he became withdrawn again. It was hard to eat like that. Each bite of chocolate tasted much too sweet for his stomach to handle, each bite of food like cardboard and each sip of soup like drinking oil. He dreaded mealtimes and hated smiling reassuringly for his friends before he gave up on that precious control over the limit that entered his mouth.
He gave up his methodological way of eating because the precision had freaked Ron out, and dutifully ate the seconds that Hermione scooped on his plate. But it just didn't feel right to be eating like that. All his control belonged to his friends, and Harry nearly despised them for that, even though it was he who gave up the control in the first place. But he had to prove to them that he didn't have an eating problem. It was his pride on the line, and he could afford to give up his momentary control for his pride. Once he had proven to them that their fears were unfounded, then he could take up that control over his life again.
In the meanwhile, he would just have to continue feeling miserable.
As November passed into December, Harry became unable to run in the mornings anymore due to the build-up of snow that had gathered outside. He had tried to run the first few days but found that if was just too hard to move when the snow went up to his shins. Besides, his own breaths of air were fogging up his glasses, and he had to wipe the lends with his gloves ever few seconds.
So Harry was limited to stretching in the mornings, not even able to run up and down the stairs for fear of waking someone. And with every morning of his lessoned activity, he could feel himself getting heavier. It was one thing when Hermione fed him more, but it was quite another thing if he had to eat that much and not be able to run it off. He hated mirrors now, because he hated having to see the pudgy reflection that would stare back at him with such panicked green eyes and those round cheeks and chubby arms. If he stared hard and long enough, that image would morph into watery blue eyes and dry, short blonde hair. Before long, he looked more like his cousin than Dudley did. Harry's appearance was even more unkempt now that he was trying so hard not to look into a mirror.
It was the first Saturday of December when Harry finally couldn't take it anymore. Hadn't his friends persisted on feeding him for long enough? Harry could feel the bile rising in his throat with each bite of food, and his stomach protesting weakly as Hermione piled honeyed ham onto his plate, smiling and talking with Ron as she made sure that Harry was eating a healthy dose of all the food groups. The dark haired boy just couldn't take it anymore. This was the first time that she had forced meat on his plate for a long while, especially something with so much calories, because she had wanted Harry's eating habits to slowly go back to normal. And after having such a fresh vegetarian diet for so long, the sweet smell of the tenderly cooked ham made him cover his nose and mouth with his hands, his eyes tearing over. His already upset stomach clenched suddenly and Harry stood up and raced away, hands still covered his nose and mouth, ignoring the Gryffindors' cries of concern.
He barely made it to the closest restroom before letting loose the contents of his stomach into the sink, hands white-knuckled from gripping the cold porcelain sides so tightly. He heaved until there was nothing but his dry cough and spit. The smell was almost enough to sent him heaving again, and he turned on the facet quickly, filling the palms of his hand with water and using that to rinse his mouth of the disgusting taste that accompanied his sickness. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and shut his eyes tightly, knowing that he just couldn't take this anymore. His throat felt raw and sore… but his stomach was strangely calm now, no unpleasant nausea waiting to assail him. Now that the contents of his stomach had washed down the drain and the smell was slowly fading, Harry felt better than he had for the entire past month. It was almost a relief to breathe without the constricting feeling in his stomach.
A hand touched his shoulder tentatively, and Harry tilted his head sideways with hooded eyes to see Ron standing over him, practically radiating concern. The redhead looked slightly out of breath, as if he had been running around searching for Harry. His worried blue eyes were starting to make Harry mad, reminding him that yes, he had gone through all this because of his friends. He had forced himself into this because of their worry. The only reason he was suffering like this was because he felt the need to placate their concern- still did, in fact.
"I'm fine." He said, trying to hide the shaking of his hands by clenching them into fists. He did feel much better, but he didn't want to tell Ron that throwing up made him feel good. "I don't think I can eat the ham, though."
"Hermione's waiting outside." Ron informed him hesitantly. "she feels bad for trying to make you eat. We didn't know…"
Harry washed his hands before turning off the water. "I didn't know either. Don't worry about it. I just don't think I'll be eating anymore today, though. I feel sick." He lied.
"I'll talk to Hermione then. We don't want this to happen again, do we?" Ron joked weakly.
"No." Harry replied. "We don't."
The next day Harry ate more at dinner without Hermione's encouragement, then excused himself and went to that same bathroom at that same sink, and promptly threw up everything he ate.
It was nearing Christmas holidays when Harry felt too tired to go to class. He had developed bags underneath his eyes despite the plentiful sleep that he got each night, and had a pale pallor that rivaled, if not exceeded, Malfoy's despite the fact that he used to have a golden tan. But he still woke up every morning and plastered a smile on his face, Ron and Hermione never suspecting anything after Harry applied a magical lotion under his eyes. They suspected that Harry was having nightmares at night, which would constitute for why he was so tired during the day, and why Harry never talked to them about his dreams. He tried to improve his grades, and practice more magic in general. He wanted things to be as it was when he first started with this control issue- he wanted things to improve. He wanted things to be as it once was.
But it shamed Harry to think that he was throwing up his dinners. He hadn't given much thought to it at first, as it served its duty to rid the contents of his stomach. But each day that he did it only increased his need for this… purging. He constantly remembered how Hermione had accused him of being anorexic, but now he ate so much. He couldn't stop eating. Two weeks ago the Gryffindors stared as Harry piled food onto his plate, unable to satisfy the gnawing hunger deep within. He had looked up and found himself under the gaze of his classmates, some sickened and others shocked. They had never seen Harry eat that much in one setting before.
Afterwards, he felt so ashamed he left immediately for the restroom, unable to bear the weight of those eyes any longer. He ate normally after that, sometimes going down to the kitchens and asking the house elves for a snack that he could take up to the dorms.
Not that he gained much weight from that. Harry made sure that almost all the food he consumed wouldn't be allowed to digest. It was a daily ritual, to eat and then get rid of the food. It wasn't as if he was getting alarmingly thin, and Harry was glad for getting rid of excess weight on his body. A seeker shouldn't be… fat, after all. All he was doing would be worth it after a while, even if he was feeling too tired to go to class. He had wanted to go down to the infirmary for a pick-me-up on more than one occasion, but didn't want the questions that he knew Madame Pomphrey would ask. So instead, Harry made sure to stack up on Potions during their last trip to Hogsmede before the Christmas holidays.
Yes, he was ashamed that he couldn't tell his friends about his situation, but they would worry again. And they wouldn't allow him to cleanse himself of all that harmful foods. And he couldn't allow himself to get any rounder. He had to act normally, or else Ron and Hermione would worry.
Which was why Harry was sitting on his Firebolt about fifty feet in the air on a December day, cold and tired enough to fall asleep on his broom. He was wrapped up in many layers of clothing, but he could still see his fingers trembling in the frigid weather. He couldn't wear his thick gloves while playing Quidditch because it lessoned the friction of his grip, and he could be in danger of falling when flying at high speeds.
But he was so cold… and he just wanted to be in his warm bed, sleeping…
"C'mon, Harry!" Hermione cheered from the stands, "You need to catch the snitch… you really shouldn't be outside in this weather."
Well, he knew that. His throbbing fingers had already told him that. His empty stomach was also bugging him, but it wasn't so bad as the cold. He felt suddenly lightheaded, and all of a sudden really, really resented flying.
"Hey, are you alright, Harry?" Ginny had flown up next to him, abandoning the other chasers down in the field for a moment. "You're really pale… Maybe you should rest for a moment on the ground. It's more stable than being in the air."
"I'm fine." Harry brushed off the concern. "Just a bit cold, that's all."
Ginny gave him a doubting look, seeing the many layers he had on, but got the point that he wanted to be left alone. She flew off wearily with a last glance over her shoulder and saw him close his eyes tiredly. He looked like death warmed over, despite knowing that he hadn't had reoccurring dreams of Voldemort.
Harry closed him eyes involuntarily, his lids feeling too tired and his body barely able to hold on to his broom. He felt as if he was being drained of energy as each second went by, and he just wanted to leave the field.
His eyes snapped open to see a bewildered Ron in the air just a few meters away from himself, looking just a little bit behind him. Harry strained his neck to look behind him, not attempting to command his Firebolt to move. His eyes widened as he saw the Golden Snitch hovering just a few meters behind him, emitting that subtle humming he used to be able to follow anywhere. Seeing it remain so docile in the air, Harry jerked the broom and made to chase after it, his tiredness nearly forgotten, but replaced by a wave of nausea. He wavered for a moment before he dove forward, his vision blurring.
The last thing he heard was the concerned shouts of his teammates mixing in with the soothing hum as his hands fell slack and his eyes rested for just a moment…
Harry woke up to hands shaking him roughly, and he immediately tried to bat those hands away despite how tired his arms felt. He didn't know why, but his ribs hurt so much… and the area around his chest was just so sore… He knew it would hurt even more if he fully woke, and with that in mind, tried his best to find his way into unconsciousness once more.
"Oh no, you don't!" came harsh words from the edge of his mind. "You're going to wake up and give up some answers, and you're going to do it now! Ennervate!"
Green eyes opened wide as pain assailed him in a physical form. He gasped for air and grimaced at how sore he felt. Bright colors swirled before his eyes as he suddenly registered the cold he had nearly forgotten about while unconscious.
Snow. He was lying in the snow outside in the Quidditch field. Why?
People's faces swarmed before his vision, and he recognized the Gryffindor Quidditch robes along with Hermione's hair.
"Glasses?" He asked tentatively when he felt the nervousness and anger that radiated from the brown-haired girl. His voice came out at a slight slur, not unexpected considering how tired he felt…
"Beyond repair." Hermione replied bitterly, anger quite evident in her tone. "I doubt you'll ever be able to use them again even with all the spells in the world. And you're lucky you aren't the same way!"
Harry winced at the volume and pitch her voice had gotten.
"If Ron hadn't caught you… oh Merlin… You fell, Harry! What were you doing flying so high if you weren't feeling well? Of all the reckless, foolhardy-"
A gentle probing at his side took Harry's mind off Hermione's angry tirade as pain made him hiss quietly. The dark-haired Gryffindor tried to focus his fuzzy vision on the figure at his side, making out the short, bright red hair.
"I think his ribs are cracked, 'Mione." Ron said to the angry girl, his own voice deceptively calm.
That paused the tirade, but didn't stop Hermione from delivering a scathing glare at Harry. "We have to take him to Madame Pomfrey then. But it's better that you caught him and cracked his ribs than to have him dead!"
Harry felt a sense of weightlessness as someone considerately put a levitation spell on him so that his injuries might not be jarred further. He tried to send a grateful glance to Ron's direction for stopping Hermione's angry words, but didn't get exactly what he expected back from the boy.
"Don't think you'll get off that easily, Harry." Ron's voice was still calm. "You should know that she's not done yet. I'll yell at you once she's finished."
Harry managed to convince Madam Pomfrey that he had a touch of the flu and had been feeling under the weather recently so that she wouldn't do any further examinations on him. She had healed his ribs and properly scolded him for being outside in the cold weather when he knew he was sick, as well as made him drink a flu potion and advised him to eat more in his state.
Nobody had really questioned the incident, although Hermione had been furious at him for days afterward, making Harry feel even more miserable. Luckily, after a thorough yelling spree, Ron had forgiven Harry's thoughtlessness and had stuck by him even as Hermione had refused to talk to him. Harry blamed his lack of appetite on the flu and had been able to get away with several days of barely eating anything. He had been lucky- his exhaustion, inability to keep warm, and his unfocused state could all he blamed on the simple flu. As Christmas approached, Harry took to wearing multiple layers of clothing to keep warm, forgoing the heating charms most people put on their robes. This kept everyone from seeing his gaunt form, wasting away from the inability to keep a meal down. Harry had stopped thinking about what he was doing, knowing by now that he had resigned himself to this situation. He knew it was a problem, but he just didn't want to deal with it.
Harry focused more on his Quidditch to ensure that an incident like that wouldn't happen again. His friends were all concerned every time he mounted a broom, as if he would continue to faint and fall just because of that one time. He was irritated due to that, but didn't comment as he knew he would lose his temper over it. It was hard enough trying to pretend to be normal- he didn't want to worry about his temper as well.
And as the students boarded the Hogwarts Express to go back home for the holidays, Harry stayed behind and assured Ron and Hermione that he would be alright spending Christmas alone. They had already given up so many Christmases with their families for him, and he didn't want their concern on Christmas. He just wanted to forget he was anyone at all.
And Christmas came and went with little incident. Harry stayed in the Gryffindor common room most of the time, with few people ever seeing him outside. He had sent off all his presents and received some in return, without real acknowledgement of the holiday. Most of his time had been spent looking out at the snow, but staying so close to the fire that he was almost burned. There had been no other Gryffindor that had stayed this year, as everyone went to some kind of home, terrified that Voldemort would attack their families for some reason- or just because they were Gryffindors. That gave Harry enough time to catch up on all the studying he had missed due to his exhaustion, and rest enough to feel a bit energized by the time the other students came back.
But January only sprung a surprise at the boy. While Hermione had finally forgiven him over the vacation and the three of them were back on comfortable speaking terms again, Harry found that he just didn't as much to talk about as before. He had gotten used to the quiet during the holiday, and felt uncomfortable around places of noise. He didn't much enjoy listening to a rambunctious crowd of Gryffindors playing Exploding Snap in the common room anymore, now preferring the calm of the boys' dormitory.
And when Quidditch started up again, along with physical examinations, Harry started to get a little nervous. Although the examinations were not a thorough thing, just a brief height and weight chart, as well as blood pressure and health, it was still something that could prove to be… eventful.
The examinations was done magically every year, so that the team barely had to spare a minute or so before getting back to their practice. It also meant a chart for Madame Pomfrey to collect every year. Harry spent a few History of Magic classes frantically wondering how he was going to get out of doing the exams. Physical examinations had always made him uncomfortable year after year as the Mediwitch would 'tsk' over him afterwards. It was pretty common information that Harry was unusually malnourished, although he didn't let that get to him. While he wasn't the tallest boy in class (that title went to Ron quite easily), he wasn't exactly short per say. And though he didn't weigh himself on a regular basis, Harry calculated his weight to be around eight stones. (1)
That was not a good thing according to the physical exams. It was something that had to be remedied.
Neville Longbottom was not the most graceful boy in Gryffindor tower. In fact, he was far, far from it. Still slightly cherubic even at sixteen years of age, Neville was sweet and clumsy to the point that his friends would roll their eyes at him every time something went wrong. He was not the bravest person, nor anyone with really special attributes, really.
But Neville was good at noticing things that other people didn't. He proved that in first year when he tried to stop the Gryffindor Trio from going off on an adventure that could have cost them their lives and a million house points. He noticed when there was something wrong with Ginny Weasley, although he couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong with her in his second year. He had always been an attentive and supportive friend, whose true colors shone brightly last year in the Department of Mysteries.
It was during that year when he had developed an unspoken agreement with all those who had gone to rescue Sirius to watch out for Harry. They had agreed not to interfere with anything, but to keep an eye out if something was… off about him.
An agreement like that was hard to maintain, though, as there were at all times something off with Harry. Especially this year, even though Voldemort had been so quiet, probably seething over the fact that the prophecy had slipped out of his grasp. Harry had been too quiet the entire year, a far cry from his loud and angry composure last year… Although he still had that temper, the dark-haired boy was much more introverted now. It wasn't hard to tell that he was keeping secrets from his friends.
"Maybe he's trying to hide an affair with Malfoy."
Neville shook his head at the offhand statement, wondering why exactly he had asked Luna Lovegood to accompany him to the Quidditch practice when Hermione had asked him to go in her stead- she was studying for her Runes class and needed time to practice her incantations.
Luna's serene expression made her look altogether too pleasant, and Neville couldn't tell if she had been joking or not.
"If he's trying to hide an affair, I think he'd be more likely to sneak out rather than staying in the dorms all the time. Besides, if what you're saying is true, then he wouldn't be ignoring Malfoy like he has for this entire year."
"True." Luna looked slightly put out. "Perhaps this hasn't really been Harry we've seen this year, then. Maybe it's someone else in Polyjuice Potion, and Harry's actually locked up in some Death Eater concentration camp."
Neville turned slightly ill. "I don't think so, Luna. Besides, that's a horrid thought!"
Luna shrugged. "It's possible."
The Gryffindor boy fell silent as he watched Madame Pomfrey approach the team, listened as the team members groaned with frustration at having to stop their practice, and the nurse huffed indignantly.
But Neville's attention was more on Harry, who looked quite calm about the nurse approaching. Too calm, actually.
The boy took a glance towards the strange Ravenclaw girl sitting beside him in the stands beside him. She was looking down a few seats in front of them, eyes locked firmly with something on the ground.
"What is it?" The chubby boy's imagination had already gone wild- maybe Luna had seen a portkey in the stands, or maybe a forgotten potion, or a bunch of galleons that someone had left by accident.
"Did you take your toad out here with you?"
He blinked. "Trevor? No… why?"
She pointed to where she had previously been staring. "Because there's a toad here that looks very lost."
Neville followed her view and saw that, yes indeed, Trevor had somehow gotten out of the Gryffindor tower. How that he always manage to do that…?
He must have hitched a ride in those horrendously big robes that Neville owned. It happened often enough, after all.
Taking one last glance at the Gryffindor team, Neville walked the few steps and swept Trevor up before he could hop away, and turned to look at the blonde girl, "Can you watch Harry alone for a bit? I won't take long… just going to put Trevor back into my room. He always seems to escape at the most indecent times…" He didn't exactly wait for a response before descending the stairs for the stands, careful not to hold the toad too tight as to suffocate him, but not loose enough for him to get away, either.
By the time he got off the stands, Neville could see that most of the Gryffindor team were back in the skies, and Madam Pomfrey was checking off the last of the students for their health. He risked a glance in the skies to see that Harry wasn't there, but wasn't altogether too worried about it, since Luna was still keeping watch from the stands. The green-eyed boy was probably flying at obscure heights, anyway.
He was just about to step behinds the stands when he heard a soft rustle, and immediately tensed up, wand out and ready. Trevor was quickly shoved into one of his many robe pockets with a soft protest, but otherwise didn't try to escape. Neville leaned back against the Gryffindor stands, eyeing the grass suspiciously. He had his wand poised near his neck, ready to spin around and fire off a spell at whoever was nearby. Probably Slytherins. But lately, the Slytherins were almost as dangerous as their Death Eater parents themselves.
Another soft rustle behind the stands, and Neville dared a peek to see if it was someone he knew that was there. He was more than shocked to find Harry crouching in the grass, face hidden in shadows as he went through his Quidditch robe pockets. The boy seemed expressionless as he slowly rummaged through his clothing, and pulled out a few large stones.
Neville barely dared to breathe as he watched Harry, eyes widening with each rock or heavy item that was pulled out of Harry's pockets. What was he doing? Harry was placing the items in a neat order behind the stands, in a way that if someone had not been looking for it, they might have thought it to be nothing more than rocks that perhaps some creatures from the Magical Creatures class had deposited there.
There were a couple more rustles and Harry managed to pull out a thin, but large water bottle and a heavy looking book that looked like something Hermione would read for leisure. When all of it was out, Harry stood up again, looking very tired and weary, before turning and walking back into the Quidditch pitch, never noticing that someone had been watching him.
Neville just watched Harry walk back, confused. What in the world was going on?
Harry sighed in relief when he got back into the changing rooms. He had dreaded throughout practice that Madam Pomfrey would sudden call him down from the skies and tell him there was some error in his examinations. As it was, she has 'tsk'ed at him like normal and informed him that he was still slightly underweight and should do his best to bring his weight up.
Luckily, Ron had then made a joke about Harry giving up chocolate to eat healthier, and the nurse gave the Seeker a surprised look that soon turned into a nod of approval. He might look too thin… but healthy foods aren't bad, right? His body just needed some time to adjust to them, that's all. He wasn't eating things that were so heavy to his system anymore.
Harry also hoped that no one would notice a pile of his things behind the Gryffindor stands. He had seen Neville and Luna watching the practice, (no doubt because Hermione couldn't find the time to be there) but they had been talking to each other when he had left, so maybe they hadn't seen him for those few minutes.
It had been difficult to hide those things in his robes, seeing as the Seeker of the team usually had the slimmest and tight-fitting uniform for wind resistance. He had brought his largest cloak out as an excuse about the cold weather, and luckily, no one had really questioned him about that.
He changed quickly without really waiting for the others, deciding to forego a shower since it was still much too cold, wanting a long bath in the prefects' bathroom later. Gathering his things, he headed towards the Gryffindor tower, intent on getting some studying done for his Transfiguration test, as he had a hard time studying lately. Maybe a nap as well, now that he thought about it… it would be good to rest before a test… right?
The next few days passed slowly for Harry and his friends. Ron and Hermione had once again started to worry about the amount of rest that the dark-haired boy now needed per day. It seemed almost like he was constantly sleeping, either that or studying to catch up with the other students in class. Harry's grades had dropped noticeably, and everyone had started worrying because they could tell that the boy was trying hard in class.
Neville had never reported the strange incident he saw in the Quidditch field to Hermione, instead choosing to mull over it for a few days. He just couldn't remember why the action that Harry took had sprung a light in his head, and he couldn't remember what the light was about.
But even without the notification, Hermione was starting to do a bit of research on her own. She couldn't possibly stick with the anorexia theory even thought Harry only seemed to eat periodically. He ate more than enough without prompting when he did eat, and she knew he had food stored in the Gryffindor dorms for snacks.
But the most accurate description she could come up with was a bad childhood… frequent mood swings, hording food, being antisocial… those were symptoms of so many different illnesses; almost like flu symptoms could lead up to so many different and more dangerous diseases. All the symptoms that Harry had could either be that he still had a eating disorder, that he was mentally unbalanced, depressed, going through a certain antisocial stage in his life, trying to be someone he's not, and a violent childhood.
She realized that she needed more information before she could make an accurate assumption. It was certainly too early for her to make judgment just yet, and she didn't want to anger Harry even more with what she said. Honestly! That boy had more of a temper than Ron did!
So in the next few days as studies for the end of year exams got to be more intense, Hermione kept an eye on Harry's behavior despite knowing that she was worrying too much. She had talked to Ron about the possibility of Harry being mentally disturbed, and Ron had actually given her ideas some serious thought.
"He's had a bad year." Ron had said, referring to everything that happened in fifth year. They had been sitting in the Gryffindor common room playing a game of chess while Harry had been resting, and Ron was thinking about what Hermione was saying so seriously that even his chess skills were not on par. "He needs time to deal with everything that happened. Maybe this is just a result of that?"
"But what if he can't deal with everything that happened?" Hermione had pressed on worriedly, refusing to give up her argument. "He'll need us there to support him. He's just been so distant this year… I thought we weren't supposed to hide things from each other."
"Give him time." Ron had said. "I'll help you with the research, if you want. If there is something wrong, Harry will talk to us about it when he's ready. Then we'll be ready to help him."
Ron had been so supportive, so calm and collected that Hermione wondered what in the world happened to the best friend that she knew, the redhead whom acted before reasonable thought could be comprehended, and was so quick to anger. This year made everything seem surreal. Harry's distance and Ron's collected thoughts. It made Hermione reel to realize that so much had changed without her noticing. Had she really been that caught up in her studies that she didn't see how drastically her best friends had changed?
Turning to Neville, who (bless his soul) had stayed the ever loyal friend, she confided to him about her worries and coached him about different signs that he should be looking for because Harry might not be so tense around him. It was hard to get decent conversation out of Harry these days, but Neville had always been a calm and unobtrusive friend to Harry.
Hermione could tell that something was bothering Neville, though, like there was something he was debating on telling her about. And as much as she wanted to ask him about it, she also knew that Neville would not take kindly to her intruding on his thoughts. It seemed to be a year of 'don't ask, don't tell'.
By the time February rolled around, Hermione had gone from a concerned friend to an extremely worried, fussing mother figure at Harry's side. She knew that he hated it, knew that she was nothing but an annoyance to him at that time, but just couldn't help it. She had grown scared for him, seeing how pale and drawn his skin had been whenever his sleeves pulled up. Harry always had a light tan, from either being in the Quidditch pitch for far too long or just liking the outside better than being cooped up anywhere.
It was several weeks later between Hermione was able to catch Harry rubbing furiously at his face, and wincing slightly from pain. She immediately latched onto that like a dog on a bone, and demanded that he go see Madam Pomfrey when Harry had reluctantly admitted that his face and throat hurt. Predictably, Harry's response had been… quite angry.
They had gotten into an argument until they finally compromised on Hermione checking Harry over, but no one else. She had been worried to find swollen salivary glands, but Harry had waved it off as being sick again. He said that she was overreacting to everything, and that Ron seemed to be more accepting of the things he did, which was saying a lot.
"There is something wrong with you, Harry." Hermione had snapped back when he said that, now more than a little irritated that he would keep brushing her off. She had been worried sick over him all of sixth year, and he just brushed her aside like… like a fly! "I know that you're supposed to talk to us on your own, but I just-"
"Us? Who's us?" Harry had responded, eyes narrowed as he looked at her. "As far as I know, you're the only one who will not leave me alone about this. Everyone else knows that I'm fine except you. Why do you have to keep hounding me about my health? I can take care of myself! There is nothing wrong with me!"
"You're moody all the time, have a shorter temper than you had last year, secretive, and now more vindictive than Malfoy when someone does something you don't like. You horde food in your dorm, disappear without saying anything after dinner, and then no one can find you in the dorms until late at night. You're constantly sick now, and antisocial, always tired and sleeping, and can't even keep up in classes now. These are all signs that point to something being wrong, Harry. And maybe you don't see it, but everyone is worried about you- it's just that no one's willing to try your temper these days."
If possible, Harry's usually expressive eyes grew colder. Even his angry expression disappeared to leave Hermione desperate for a way to get through to her best friend. Harry appeared apathetic to everything she had just said, despite the emotion that she had willed into her voice during her tirade. He stood there in the hall that they had been arguing in, covered with layers of clothing underneath his school robes, still as a statue.
"We want you to tell us what you're feeling." Hermione pleaded with him. "But you don't talk to us. And I'm afraid that if I wait like everyone else, something bad will happen."
Harry fixed cold, green eyes on her, visibly fighting an internal battle. After a long moment of waiting, he turned away, saying shortly, "I'm going for a run outside."
Hermione was not willing to let him go. "It's still too cold outside for you to go out. You already exercise too much- especially in such bad weather."
Harry whirled around to face her again. "Why must you nag at everything I do? You're not my mother, Hermione!" Then with a final glare, he ran down the hall away from her.
Seeing him run past a corner, Hermione felt a sense of foreboding that almost made her physically sick.
Neville hadn't been feeling all too well that day, but that was all Dean's fault. The dark skinned Gryffindor had wanted to teach a bunch of bored boys how to play football… who came up with the stupid idea to use their head to hit the ball, anyway?
After being kicked out of the game for constantly catching the black and white ball with his hands and often getting hit over the head with the ball by accident, Neville decided that he didn't want to learn that muggle game. Watching Quidditch was better than playing a muggle sport anytime. And tending the small garden that he had been given by Professor Sprout was better than sports in general.
Of course he was biased. People who were good at sports would not agree with him.
He had stopped by the lavatories to freshen up, and had been in one of the stalls when he heard angry footsteps stomp in. One glance at the scruffy blue trainers underneath the stalls told Neville that it was Harry who had stormed in like an angry God, out to take revenge on the people.
Seeing the feet stop before a sink, Neville was about to push his way out and call out to Harry to see what was the matter before he was stopped by the harshness of choking sounds. He chubby Gryffindor boy froze when he heard the sounds of dry heaves, the sickening smell of stomach acid only in the air for a few moments before Harry whispered a cleansing charm to clear the smell, and probably the taste.
"Stupid Hermione," Neville heard the forlorn whisper. "Why does she always have to bug into people's problems? What if some problems should never come to light?"
There was a terrible sigh before Harry turned on the faucet and the sound of rushing water filled the echoing restroom. Neville's mind was racing furiously as he finally connected the things that had been happening- Harry throwing up as if it was an ordinary occurrence, hiding heavy objects in his cloak when he had to take the physical examination… And what had Hermione told him just days ago? That Harry had been in the beginning stages of anorexia in the beginning of the year, and that he had been in vehement denial about it.
With a solid idea of what was happening beginning to construct in his head, Neville heard as Harry left the restroom and finally peeked out, and saw that he was once again alone. He was pretty sure he knew what was happening, but wanted to check with Hermione just to be sure. Besides, she would always know what to do.
The dark haired boy winced and rolled over when his bed curtains were lifted and he was exposed to the early morning sun. It was far too early in the morning for anyone to be up, and Harry himself could barely bring himself to move at all. The night sleep did not do anything for his aching muscles, that was for sure. And he was warm at the moment. He could never seem to get warm while out of his bed, so Harry wasn't about to get up when he didn't have to.
"Come on, Harry… it's time to wake up. We want to get this over with before class starts, you know."
Harry burrowed deeper into his blankets as a small gust of wind flew past him from the people shifting around his bed. "S'too cold…"
There was a temporary silence before a heating charm was whispered and Harry immediately felt a little better about having his head out of the blankets. But it still wasn't like he was going to wake up completely just because of that. He was still too tired to even make whoever it was that woke him up go away.
"Harry…!" An exasperated sigh.
Who was that? Oh, yes. Ron. No one else could perfect that irritated, yet suppressing 'do-what-I-say-NOW-before-I-get-angry' tone. Knowing that it was Ron and that he was about to do something drastic like pull the covers off Harry altogether, the small Gryffindor boy squinted open one eye to see the blurry image of his friend hovering over him.
There was an amused snort. "His Highness has graced us with his attention! Now all he has to do is open both eyes!" There was a large bounce as Ron jumped onto the bed, making Harry squawk in protest and scramble away so that he wouldn't get trampled on. All of a sudden he was wide awake and sitting up, affronted.
After seeing the large grin on Ron's face as the redhead settled himself in a comfortable place against the headboard with his legs crossed and still in pajamas, Harry had to chuckle. That was certainly… an interesting way to wake up.
Finally finding the energy to get up himself, Harry grabbed the nearest pillow and swatted Ron with it. "It's too early in the morning to wake me up, you git!"
Ron ducked under the pillow and laughed at Harry's childish antics. "I'm supposed to be the one who says that, considering how many times you and 'Mione woke me up in the past few years…"
"That was only because you would be late for class!"
The both of them settled down after a little while, still chuckling as they exchanged small verbal attacks at each other. It was comfortable, and something that they had been doing for years on end. Harry found that he was extremely glad to partake in it again, since they usually didn't have the time for nonsense like that anymore.
"But why'd you wake me up so early, really?" Harry had asked after a few minutes of comfortable silence. He was leaning against the headboard as well, legs drawn up to his chest and his arms dangling off his knees. Ron had taken to lounging around at the end of the bed, still sitting cross-legged and picking at the bedcovers.
Ron's previous expressions sobered, and grew slightly worried. "You know you can talk to me and Hermione about anything, right?"
Harry blinked. Oh no. Was this going to be another lecture on his health and keeping secrets from his friends? "Of course."
The redhead looked at him for a moment, as if debating whether the answer was sincere or not. He seemed to accept the answer after a few moments, although Harry wasn't sure if he believed it or not.
"I wanted to leave this to Hermione, since she's the girl and supposed to be better at the talking thing better than I am. I know that I'm usually the one who loses his temper and gets us all into trouble. But I also think I've left this to Hermione for long enough, and she's more than a trifle vexed at you right now despite how worried she is."
Harry wrapped his arms around his knees. "What are you talking about?"
Ron's shoulders seemed to hunch up a little, taking his time to think up a answer. "You might take this badly, but… we've been looking out for you the past few months, Harry. We wanted to be unobtrusive as possible, so we just let you make your own decisions without interfering. Hermione was the one who felt that if left to your own devices, you'd never get over this period in your life. What period it is right now, I don't know… if you're still depressed about Sirius's death, if you're just going through a stage of depression, or if you just want to be left alone this year. You've certainly gave us enough 'hints' that you didn't want us hanging around all the time.
"We would have given you all year to go through issues by yourself, but both Neville and Hermione have connected some information that… well, you would not have wanted us to know."
The redheaded boy fell silent for a moment, watching the other closely for a reaction. Harry gave no outward expression, keeping his face devoid of all emotion. Inside, the boy cringed at the thought that his friends had been watching him all year. He didn't want to bother his friends anymore, and the more he wanted that, the more he did the opposite.
"Tiredness, excessive cold, hording food, inability to concentrate, being antisocial, mood swings, unusual calluses on the hands, swollen jaw, eating excessively at times and barely anything at others." Ron hesitated for a moment, "And… Neville saw you throwing up-"
"I was sick!" Harry protested quickly, sounding slightly panicked. "I felt sick and I threw up! Didn't Hermione tell you that I was sick? I had a sore throat, and didn't feel like eating much because it was hard to keep the food down-"
"Harry." Ron interrupted. "You're a horrible liar."
The dark haired boy decided to shut up.
"It took us some time to figure it out. Maybe we weren't as observant as we thought we were. Maybe we were just in denial about it since we wanted to believe that you were okay." The redhead took on a contemplating expression. "Maybe we were too preoccupied with our own growing up that we didn't notice anything other than ourselves. Whatever the reason, we don't want it to continue any longer."
Harry wanted to protest that there was nothing wrong with him. He wanted to refute all of Ron's accusations, and say that they were looking into the subject matter too much. He wanted to yell at his best friend about how he was fine and they should stop spying on him. He wanted to be harsh and self-centered and arrogant.
Harry stayed quiet.
Ron was staring at him as if trying to figure him out. It took a few moments before he dared to speak, "You might not believe us, but our research all lead to the same thing. Harry… you have a disorder called Bulimic Anorexia. It's a eating disorder that's a combination of both anorexia and bulimia." Seeing that Harry was about to protest, Ron raised up both hands to halt him. "Just listen for a moment. This disorder is dangerous and has to be treated straight away. It upsets the chemical balances in your body so that you can't tell when you're full or not. Because of long periods of starvation and then throwing up whenever you do eat, your body is trying to save itself by not telling you when you are full. After a while, your throat just can't handle throwing up food anymore and your stomach would be so full that it just might rupture."
Ron took a deep breath. "I went through at least three books on what could happen if Bulimic Anorexia isn't treated, and it's not pretty to say the least. I don't want any of that happening to you, Harry. Hermione doesn't want any of that to happen to you… nobody does."
The long silence afterward signaled the end of Ron's speech, and Harry hugged his knees tighter. There were sounds of murmuring from the other beds, telling the two that the other boys were about to wake up.
"Did you tell Madam Pomfrey anything?" Harry asked meekly.
The taller Gryffindor shook his head slowly. "Hermione wanted to, but I persuaded her otherwise. I think that you would want to tell her instead of being brought to the infirmary by someone else."
Harry turned his gaze downward. He sighed and asked quietly, "Just when did you get so thoughtful, Ronald Weasley?"
Ron smiled faintly. "Don't know. Maybe when you and Hermione both started acting immature… and I realized that I had to be the level headed one. Wasn't easy, I can tell you. Don't know how the two of you deal with me all the time."
There was a startled yelp from nearby when Seamus rolled out of bed and hit the floor. It started a literary of curses that woke both Dean and Neville up, making the former yell at the Irish boy and the latter throwing a pillow at him.
"Just think about talking to Madam Pomfrey." Ron said. "If not for yourself, then for me and Hermione." Then he slipped out of Harry's bed and disappeared within his own curtains to change into his school robes.
That morning Harry made himself stare in the mirror. He looked long and hard at his own image, at the chubby cheeks and the body that was so wasted away from nearly half a year of denied food. The skin of his bare arms looked like they were wrapped around only a bone, and his features were pale and emancipated.
He felt hideously fat.
This frightened him. A distant and more logical part of his brain told him that he was dangerously thin, just as Hermione had tried to tell him. But looking at the image of himself, seeing those swollen cheeks and the remaining thickness of his arms and legs almost made him cry. Half of year of work to try and lose weight, and he was still so fat. He hadn't tried hard enough… he had listened to his friends too much, that was why he just couldn't be satisfied with himself.
Harry knew beyond a doubt that he couldn't stand being this fat anymore. He would do anything, anything to change this. He hated feeling so inadequate and bloated.
Snagging an oversized robe, Harry burst out the doors of the lavatory and hurried down the halls of Hogwarts, bypassing the Great Hall completely, not even sparing a glance to all the students eating breakfast there, including two who were waiting for him anxiously.
He pushed open the heavy doors that were in the way of his goal. Everything had to be done quickly before he lost his nerve. He couldn't stand feeling the way he did. The shame of having his friends know what was happening to him coupled with the self-dissatisfaction was just too much. They knew too much- so much more than he himself knew.
"Mr. Potter, what in the world-!" The school nurse gaped at him when he pushed down his hood, revealing tired eyes and pale, pale skin.
"Madam Pomfrey," Harry began quickly, swallowing heavily as to not lose his nerve. He felt as if there were tennis balls stuck in his throat, its fuzziness getting caught in the sore linings near his vocal cords. "I need you to do a full examination on me… and I'd like to know about eating disorders… and the treatments."
1. Harry's height and weight put together in American terms ^^;; would be around 5'7. He's a little taller than 5'7, so he's kind of short. But I'm being realistic in his shortness- not 5'2 'cause he's not Asian. ^^;;;;; And 1 stone would equal to about 14 pounds, so 8 stone would be a little over a hundred pounds (appx 112lb). That means he's REALLY underweight already. Especially considering he's a guy. I have a male friend who's a bit taller than me and 135lbs, and he's REALLY skinny. And if he's reading this right now... *shakes fist at him*
Some people might say that there's something wrong here- most Bulimics are average or above average weight. That's not true in this case. Harry started with anorexia, and 50% of anorexics often develope bulimia. In cases like that (Bulimic Anorexics) the person already had a low body weight to start with, and often can not gain much weight even with binge eating because of periods of self-starvation that still prevails. You won't believe how little information there are on Bulimic Anorexics. =_=
This story has finally been beta'd! *beams* By me, of course, and a few friends in school who looked over it and made corrections after I printed them out and (almost) had them at gunpoint. For those people who have asked for this to either be continued or redone so that it's more realistic (I must agree- it was too hard to cover this is a one-shot), I just might be doing a sequel to this. Don't expect to see it anytime soon, though! ^^;; I'm not even sure if I can do it... I'll have to go through this research again. 'Cause, no, I've never been through either anorexia or bulimia, nor have I had any friends who had. I realize that it might make me pretty detached to the subject, since all I know is how horrible it is to feel that you're too fat.
So thanks to everyone for all their reviews and encouragement with this story! ^__^ Many kisses to all of you who were shocked, sympathetic, amazed, or disgusted. It's always good to have such a wide array of reactions to know that this story doesn't suck after all. ^_^;;
Anorexia Nervosa in Males:
The UK's Guide to Bulimia:
Bulimia: Signs and Effects:
Bulimia Nervosa in Males:
I'm not going to list all the books I read through while in the library. ^^;; But hopefully this story is entirely accurate to the illnesses, especially all the symptoms.