You are not Fred…
George sucked in a sharp breath at the sudden sting that burned on the back of his hand. He jerked his hand away from the spray of the warm water and shook it out, frowning slightly at the few red droplets that landed against the shower wall. He brought his hand up to his face and watched the small amount of blood seep from the words that were etched onto the back of his hand.
Curling his fingers into a fist he slammed it against the wall, tilting his head forward as the warm water hit his head, ran down his neck, and trickled down the length of his body. He didn't know how it was possible that Umbridge was still around. She was a monster! Everyone knew it but because the Ministry was filled with a bunch of cowardly gits there was nothing they could do about it. So he and the rest of the school had to suffer at her hands while she tried to make Hogwarts better.
George brushed his matted hair off of his forehead and stepped loser to the shower head. He reached out and grasped the handle of the faucet to make the water warmer but it wouldn't budge. Frowning George blinked rapidly and peered closer. The handle was pointing over to the H.
"That's not possible," George muttered. He wiped at his eyes and looked harder but the vision in front of him didn't change. He glanced down at his skin and saw that it had turned red in the pales that the water pressure had hit but he hardly felt a thing. He was shivering too much.
He brought his hands up to rub at his arms, shifting the warm water but to no avail. That did not work either. George might as well have stood underneath a shower head that spouted out ice cubes. He moved forward to grab at his soap when a sudden wave of dizziness washed over him and he had to put a hand on the wall to steady himself. His other hand went to his head which began to pound. He let out a breath and brought it back in slowly, repeating the process until the dizziness went away but it was quickly replaced by a strong feeling of hunger.
Not that he could do anything about it. For the past couple of weeks anything he tried to eat his stomach would reject on its own. He didn't have to stick his fingers down his throat or eat a Puking Pastille any longer. His body was doing his dirty work for him. It was just too easy.
Grumbling, George reached out for the knob and turned it to the off position. No point in torturing myself. Stepping out he grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist. He had begun to reach for another towel to wrap around his shoulders when it felt as if he were hit by the Aresto Momentum spell. It felt like an eternity had passed before his fingers brushed against the rough fabric of the towel. He pressed his lips together and concentrated on curling his fingers into the towel but he couldn't muster up enough energy to do so.
His focus then immediately switched to his line of vision that had begun to tilt. It took a few seconds for him to realize that he was falling over. A few seconds too late. He had moved his hands to break his fall but his body wasn't working right. The fall itself seemed to take a lifetime. Seconds felt like minutes as the stone ground loomed closer and closer.
And then all at once a sharp pain engulfed his left arm and shoulder and his cheek met the cold stone floor. His breath was knocked out of him in one blow. He struggled to get into a kneeling position but his body wasn't working with him. He felt as if his energy was slowly being sapped from his body and no matter how hard he tried to move it felt as if his muscles were being replaced with the heaviest metal.
He took in one more shuddering breath before he lost consciousness.
"Is he alright?"
"He looks like a ghost. He's so pale."
"I think he's coming to."
"Someone stick a sock under his nose. Lee, volunteer yours. That thing is lethal."
"We want to wake him, not kill him."
"That fall is enough to kill him, I reckon."
"Alright, that's enough! Give him some room! I thought I only said one visitor…"
"Fred doesn't go anywhere without a crowd," George croaked out as he tried to open his eyes. It felt as if there were weights resting on his eyelids. It took him a couple of tries for him to open his eyes fully but once he did he had to slam them shut again from the bright light that was pouring into this vision. "Someone turn off the sun."
That earned him a few laughs, nervous laughter he noticed. Sighing he tried to open his eyes again and this time was able to keep them open for a few seconds, blinking rapidly to get them to adjust to the light. He began to move but stopped when his head began to pound.
"Merlin," he grumbled.
"Well what do you expect falling around here?" Madam Pomfrey asked sharply while shoving something underneath his nose. "Drink up, Mr. Weasley."
"Wha' izzit?" George mumbled.
"Something important that you need to drink," Madam Pomfrey responded, using the same tone as before.
Releasing a breath through his nose George lifted his hands above the blankets, with a little bit of difficulty, and took the cup that was in her hands. He couldn't take a sip until his hands stopped shaking, which took a few moments. He swallowed the lump in his throat and brought the cup up to his mouth. He managed to swallow the liquid that quenched his thirst but lacked in taste and leaned back against the pillows once more.
"Wha' happened?" George rasped.
"Lee found you passed in the showers," Alicia replied. "You hit your head pretty hard."
"Of course with how thick their skulls are it shouldn't make that much of a difference," Angelina laughed. The others chuckled slightly but it was tense. Fred was the only one who didn't laugh. In fact he didn't say a word; he just sat back and watched George closely, as if trying to look through him. George shivered and pulled his blankets up to his neck and curled up into a ball. "How're you feeling now, George?"
"'M fine, I guess," George responded. "A little cold. You think with a castle being around for so long they'd heat the place," he tried to joke. Again the only laughter that moved around the room was tense. "Geeze, mates, who died?"
"Don't," Fred said sharply. George turned his head only to flinch at the way Fred was looking at him. Not once in his life has he ever seen such anger reflected in eyes that he looked at over the years, sharing silent conversations, amused glances, and identical sentiments. Fred was usually never angry with anyone but now George could feel the anger right down to his own toes and it struck his heart in a way that pained him more than his head was doing at the moment. "If you don't mind…" he addressed, turning to his friends.
With a few "no, it's alright", "We understand", and "feel better, George" the group left the room. Katie lingered by the door, looking right at George in a peculiar way. It made him shift in his bed and shift his gaze to one of the windows across the room from him. He let out a breath that he wasn't realizing he was holding as soon as the door had closed.
"What's gotten your knickers in such a twist?" George asked while tugging at a thread on his blankets. "Did Lee put a dungbomb in your tea again?"
"I'm in no mood for jokes, George," Fred said sternly. George gave him a look as if he had grown another head. Fred not being in the mood for a joke? That was unheard of! Like the idea of Pansy Parkinson being nice, those things just didn't happen. "Don't give me that look."
"Geeze, Fred, did someone ask Angelina out before you could?" He asked.
"Stop it," Fred snapped. "You know what this is about. There's something wrong with you."
George tensed and glared at his twin. "There's nothing wrong with me," he growled. "I'm fine! Like I always am whenever you get mental like this."
"You're not fine," Fred insisted. "George, you're…small."
"That's not something any guy likes to hear," he deadpanned.
"Stop joking around. Madam Pomfrey says you're…you're, ah…a-knee-mee-ic," Fred said slowly, his face scrunching up slightly as he tried to come up with the word. George echoed the face that Fred was making at the foreign word.
"What in the world is that? Some type of food?" George asked.
"Anemia is a muggle condition," Madam Pomfrey commented as she returned from her office. Her arms were crossed tight over her chest and her lips were pressed into a straight line so much so that the skin around it started to turn white.
"A muggle condition?" George repeated. He looked at his arms and turned them over. "But I feel fine."
"But you have been tearing your body apart, Mr. Weasley," Madam Pomfrey said sharply. "While a few muggle ailments are seen in our world we have to be trained to recognize the signs of them to be able to treat our patients, or our students in this case, properly. In your case anemia is not your only concern. I have been come to many a time lately with concern from your peers that you have not been eating properly. And, as you remember, this is not your first time coming here with that accusation."
"I'm sorry but I don't get what any of this has to do with me. I'm fine," George stressed.
"You're anemic, Mr. Weasley. Your red blood cell count is low. Have you noticed a change in energy? Any headaches? Numbness in your hands or feet? Or how about dizziness?" Madam Pomfrey asked.
George was about to open his mouth and say no to all of her questions until she got to the last one. His mouth shut and he thought back. He did feel dizzy right before he fell and passed out but he probably moved too quickly. Not from…a-macadamia or whatever it was that he supposedly had.
"It's also what is causing you to shiver," Madam Pomfrey continued. "Your body temperature is too low. But this didn't occur overnight. Mr. Weasley, we have reasons to believe that you have an eating disorder. Do you think that could be true?"
"No," George denied immediately.
"Your cooperation would make this a lot easier, Mr. Weasley."
"There is nothing wrong with me!" George bellowed.
"Don't listen to him," Fred said, addressing the older woman. "He hides food around the room. Sometimes he doesn't eat a lot and sometimes when he does he eats a lot. He goes to the bathroom a lot too and once he was sick and—"
"And you said it yourself, I was sick, that's all," George interrupted him. "I had an upset stomach."
Fred shook his head. "It's not random, Madam Pomfrey. We…we were making a potion once and it exploded in our faces. I think something in it…did something to us. Whatever he does I can feel. I think it's some weird side effect on us. Whenever he stubs his toe or burns his hand from a wand backfire it happens to me too. Sometimes…sometimes I get this weird feeling as if…" His words trailed off when he saw the way George was looking at him.
George's eyes were wide and he was slowly shaking his head. Fred paused and bit down on his lip, locking eyes with his brother. It made Fred's heart lurch to see how sunken in George's face was, how deep his eyes were sitting in their sockets, how pale his skin had become and how much his cheek bones were sticking out.
It was almost as if he resembled the walking dead.
"Sometimes I get this feeling as if something is being shoved down my throat and it triggers my gag reflex," Fred continued, his words shaky. "I think George is doing something to himself…to make himself sick."
Silence hung in the air. Both Fred and Madam Pomfrey had turned to look at George and George looked back at them as if he were a deer caught in headlights. His eyes were wide and his lips were parted slightly, as if he were about to make a comment to diffuse the situation or change the subject but nothing came out of his mouth except for his heavy breathing.
The next few hours went by in a blur, as if everything around George was moving in fast motion and he was the lone person going at normal speed. Fred and Madam Pomfrey went off to talk about something. In that moment George tried to escape but the Hospital Win was guarded by some of the suits of armor to keep him inside. Later Ginny and Ron came to visit him, Ginny chewed him out but Ron stayed silent, only speaking up once by calling George a "git" and an "idiot" for doing what he did to himself. He couldn't remember, there was a lot of shouting going on, not only from them but from his mother as well that everything sounded to same to him.
He wasn't allowed to say a word. He could only keep his mouth shut and sit and take all of the accusations, the sad words, the stares. The stares were the worst part. Everyone that came to see him would do a double take and then scan his body, making faces but not outright saying whatever it was that was on their minds. McGonagall even stuttered a little bit as she tried to come to terms with George's predicament, giving him looks that made him want to curl up into a ball and hide in a hole.
He just wanted to disappear from the world at the moment from the prying eyes and the looks of pity and the whispers. He didn't have to leave the Hospital Wing to know that he was being talked about in the halls. No one's business was a secret around the school. Everyone knew everyone's business.
And now they knew who George was.
He sighed. That was what he wanted, for others to know the difference between him and Fred. But he didn't want this.
"George, you need to eat something."
George sighed and poked his fork at the pudding which sat perfectly in the bowl. Anytime he poked at it the dessert he would make a face when it jiggled. He pressed his lips together. He didn't see the pudding anymore, he saw his own stomach, bouncing, jiggling, shaking…
Shaking his head he pushed the food away. "I don't want it," he rasped. "I don't want it."
"George you have to eat," Katie repeated, pushing the food back at him. "We want you to be healthy."
"You're not." Katie shifted in her chair and leaned forward, taking George's hand into her own. Her breath got caught in her throat s she felt his bones though his thin skin. The corners of her mouth turned down and her shoulders dropped. His hands used to be soft to the touch but now they were cold. Too cold. "It's not healthy to not eat."
"I feel fine," George rebuffed.
Katie's shoulders lifted and dropped along with her sigh. "We're not the bad guys here. We want to help you get better. And the only way you can do that is if you eat something." His fingers tapped against the bowl but he didn't make an effort to lift the spoon to his mouth. Even if he did he wasn't so sure his brain would transmit a message for him to open his mouth. The voices in his head were beginning to overpower his brain. The ones that continually told him to stick to his plan and everything would be fine.
He sighed as he heard voices grow louder outside of the Hospital Wing and then grow fainter as the people passed by. He could practically hear the wind rushing in his ears, feel the broom handle vibrating in his hands, and see the blur of colors flying past his face. The sights and sounds of freedom were at his fingertips but he was still stuck.
Maybe if I convinced them that I'm alright I can finally leave this place.
He suddenly grabbed the bowl, picked up the spoon, and shoved the dessert into his mouth. The sweet taste sat on his tongue and overwhelmed his senses. His throat slammed shut and he began to dry heave.
"George?" Katie asked in alarm. "George, are you alright?" She stood and leaned over him, rubbing his back as he continued to make retching sounds. "Are you choking?"
George shook his head and, through tear covered eyes, grabbed the bowl of pudding and spat the dessert back into it. He faintly heard Katie making a groaning sound in disgust as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He swiped his tongue against his skin multiple times to be sure that he got the disgustingly sweet flavor off of his tongue.
"That's awful," he rasped.
"It's just chocolate pudding," Katie told him, her voice quieter than her normal, bubbly and loud tone. "It's your favorite."
"It's…it's rancid. It's too sweet," George mumbled as he shook his head. "It'd only make me—" He stopped and pressed his lips together.
"What?" Katie asked.
George sighed and fell back against the pillows. "Nothing," he responded.
Katie's eyebrows came together as she studied him. The pillows had puffed up around his head and seemed to be swallowing him into the middle. It still scare her to see him like this, so small and frail but any time she had tried to comment on it he'd stop her and change the subject. She bit her lip and made noises of beginning sentences that she let die. How was she going to come up with something that wouldn't anger him?
She sighed herself. It was way past that now, thinking he'd get angry. Hell, she was angry that he'd do this to himself so it was fine time he hear how he was affecting the others.
"No," she said firmly, looking him in the way. "It'd only make you what?"
"It's not nothing, George!" She snapped. "Look at you! You're lying in the Hospital Wing, as small as a twig, looking like he's one step away from death! You're practically a skeleton! And look!" She grabbed his wrist and wraped her forefinger and thumb around it. "You're so small!"
"Good!" George shot back. "That's what I want!"
"You want to die?"
George growled. "No! I want to be…different."
"You're only killing yourself by doing this to your body! Can't you see that?" Hot tears began to spill down Katie's cheeks and she wiped them away with the back of her hand.
"No, Katie! Because all I see is fat!" George exploded, sitting up so he could get closer to her face. "No matter what I do all I see is a large pile of goo that's trailing after Fred. And even then people still got me wrong. Now people know I'm George. That's all I wanted. For people to realize that I'm not Fred. So they won't confuse us again."
"At the risk of your own health?" Katie threw her arms into the air. "George, I can garauntee you no one saw you as one person around here. They always talk about the Weasley Twins. They know who you are."
George nodded. "They definitely do now and now I can be sure they won't ever get us mixed up again. I'm not Fred."
"You're right," Katie sighed. "You're George. My best friend. The guy who taught me the art of pulling a good trick, of which Oliver still isn't too fond of. The guy who helped me get onto the Quidditch team. The guy who always protected me from Flint. George Weasley is the sweetest, funniest, most kind person I've ever met and I'm not too keen on losing you just yet." She stood and gathered her jacket. "I have some homework to finish, please…just eat one thing. For me. That's all I want."
She hesitated for a moment but leaned forward and quickly kissed his forehead. George swore he caught a glimpse of a blush on her cheeks but she had turned and rushed away from him before he was sure.
Katie gathered her jacket closer to her chest and briskly walked to the doors, keeping her eyes straight ahead. She had barely made it out the door when it swung open. She let out a little shriek when she bumped into Fred. He stumbled a bit from the shock and then grinned when he looked at her.
"Heyyyy, it's Bell! Bell, Bell, beautiful Bell," Fred slurred and laughed in her face. Katie wrinkled her nose and waved a hand in front of her face. "Aww, Bell, don't be like that," he continued and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, his hand clutching a bottle of Firewhiskey tight.
Katie stepped away from him and looked at him and then over her shoulder to George who had an unreadable expression on his face. "I think you two really need each other," she whispered and side stepped him to hurry off.
"Bah! Who needs her?" Fred asked while waving his hand. He managed to make his way over to George's bed without falling but landed ungracefully in the chair. "You and me…all we need is each other, alright? We don't need anyone else. Yeah? 'Cause I'm here for you, Georgie Porgie. Although…I kinda failed you with this whole eating thing…but I'm here for you now. I promise."
"Yeah," George stretched his words while nodding. He took in his brother's disheveled hair, bloodshot eyes, and off-kilter smile. He sighed and put his face in his hands while shaking his head.
Fred wouldn't be like this if it weren't for me. I…I did this to him. Fred,please forgive me.
"Fred," George mumbled while lifting his head. Fred tilted his head to one side and then quickly corrected himself before falling over sideways.
George took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. "I…I need help," he uttered, his words shaking. Not just his words but his body began to shake as well.
Fred blinked a few times before laughing with glee. "Right you do, George, right you do! And Imma help you. But first!" He held his finger in George's face. "We need to get rid of the toad!"
"Merlin, what a long day," Fred sighed as he trudged up the stairs of their new home. He couldn't stop the smile that came to his face at the very thought that they owned it. It was theirs. They could come and go whenever they wanted and finally live their dreams. And after a day filled with excitement and chaos since they woke up that morning all he wanted to do was sleep.
"Mhm," George mumbled in response, slowly following Fred up the stairs. "Did you see the toad's face?"
"I won't be able to get it out of my mind," Fred laughed gleefully. "Man, what an exit, huh? I'll bet that one goes down in history books. Fireworks. We might be up there with the Marauders now."
"One can only hope or else that was all for nothing."
Fred opened the door to their flat above their shop and started to look around as George immediately crashed on the couch.
"That's a good idea," Fred said as he stood above his brother, looking down on him. "Getting some sleep. You'll need it. Things are going to change, starting tomorrow. I'm going to get you all the help you need, okay?" He bit down on his lip as his eyes swept over George's sunken-in cheek bones. "I'll get something to eat. You can have some of it once you wake up," he said suddenly and then moved towards the door.
George shifted on the couch, bringing a cushion underneath his head. "Fred?" He called out without opening his eyes.
Fred hesitated by the door. "Yeah?"
It took a moment for George to reply. "Thanks," he uttered.
George couldn't see the smile that Fred directed at the door but he heard Fred's soft sigh. "Anytime, George," Fred replied earnestly with a touch of affection. "Anytime."
A small smile formed on George's face before his muscles relaxed and he drifted off to sleep.
A/N, (A long one as well but it's really important):
Well, this is it. It took me a couple of years (May 2008 – Februrary 2013 so a little more than four years) but we (I the writer, you the readers (I see this as a joint effort)) finally reached the end of The Only Difference. I want to take the time to thank you all for reading this story, the silent readers and the reviewing ones. If it weren't for you all reviewing and PMing me about this story, your interest in it, some questions, and just talking to me in general I wouldn't be able to finish this story.
It went above and beyond my expectations. The only thing I wanted to do while going into this story was to do two things: 1) Go a bit deeper into George's or Fred's mind to see if there was ever a downside to being a twin and 2) Show that girls are not the only ones with eating disorders/distorted views of themselves.
Being a multiple myself it does get hard sometimes to be one. And I thought that it mustn't always be easy for Fred and George as well. I knew that they enjoyed it, even used it to their advantage against their mother, but I wanted to see where my mind would take me if I changed the dynamic a bit. It took me a while to decide between Fred and George to do this to until I thought George would be the perfect candidate because, in the Barty Crouch situation in book four, while brief it seemed as if George was a bit more sensitive than Fred was so I decided to run with that. As I can see Fred is the more popular of the twins (that, however, is up to debate), so I added in the idea that George would feel a bit inadequate compared to him.
That's where the eating disorder comes in. At first I was going to have him self-mutilate as his response to frustrations over Fred which was why there was a warning at first but the longer I went on with the story the more I knew it wouldn't be important if I added it in (which is why I took it out of the summary) and focused on his ED. I wanted there to be an actual physical difference between them, so in George's mind they would be different, even though it was at the cost of his life.
Having it be a male with an ED was simply to show, as I stated above, that it doesn't only happen to girls, contrary to popular belief. While it is talked about as "manorexia", assuming a male has that type of ED, it is possible and it is also dangerous for them as well. It's dangerous for everyone.
In the beginning I didn't know if I wanted to show George getting help as well or not until I decided it was more effective, and fit my plan better to end it with George finally admitting a problem. Him getting help and going throug recovery isn't the point, the fact that he was a male with an eating disorder and most didn't know what to do was the point. There isn't always a happy ending when it comes to EDs and I felt like if I made one then it wouldn't be as realistic as I could possibly make it. Whether you think George becomes healthy again is up to you, whether you think it takes a long time for him to recover or if he relapses multiple times it's up to you. My goal was to show the gradual descent into the practice and the final revelation that something is indeed wrong.
Also, I know some of you may feel that a few plots were dropped, namely the love (straight line? Arrow?) that was going on between George, Katie, Angelina, and Fred. The reason being that while it was included to show normalcy in a teenager's life (well, somewhat normalcy) that's not the point. The point is anything that one found important before, trivial teen things, are small in comparison to things such as an eating disorder and the sudden drop in and drop out of that idea was a summarization of that. I hope you all at least accept my choice to end it where I did and how I did.
I encourage anyone was has an ED to seek help. Your body is supposed to run on food, it can't run properly without it. Society has a distorted view of what is "beautiful" or "pretty" or "good looking" but you all were made the way you were for a reason. You're all beautiful in your own ways, please don't change it to fit a box that doesn't exist and please don't compare yourself to others. We're all different for a reason.
On a different note, not to downplay my last paragraph, I'm toying with the idea of doing a sequel where it shows Fred slowly turning to alcohol to cope with his brother and the eating disorder. It may not come out for a while, if at all, but I'll let you all know.
And with that I bid adieu to The Only Difference. Thank you for sticking by me these past four years and I hope I told a good story, and an enlightening one, to you all. Until we meet again!
Review Response to Guest, 3/1/13: I appreciate you taking the time to review this story and give your opinion. I do understand why you say he seems to act like a girl. Being a female it was a bit hard for me to try not to put girlish tendencies into George. This is my first time tackling the male side of things when it comes to eating disorders so I feel like I did my best considering. There is always room for improvement, I know.