A/N: This was written for The Sickness Challenge on the HPFC. I got anorexia, and I have experienced in personally in a friend. It stems from the idea of 'not being good enough', and I thought that could work pretty well with the children of Harry Potter, couldn't it? This isn't my best piece around, but I do like it, and I hope you do too! Please leave a review, please! I don't own Harry Potter or anything recognizable featured in this story.
"you thin yourself down too much; everyone can see your heart beat and your soul itch."
She finds it hard to watch him sometimes. Especially when he's standing in front of mirrors.
Right now, that's what he's doing. She stands at the glass that reaches the ceiling from the floor, and his expression is an angry one – she doesn't like to see it much.
'You're disgusting. You know that?' he says, but only in his head, pushing it back so far, so deep, because Lily can't hear it.
Ugly, dirty words aren't allowed to touch his pretty flower of a sister. As an older brother, it's his job to protect her – protect her from dragons and Acromantulas and criminals and most of all, dirty words.
The reflection in the mirror mimics his disgust, his frustration, and his contempt. The light hanging above their heads is a lonely one.
"Al, it's dinnertime."
His eyes float unsteadily towards her, then back to his frame, shifting back and forth on a narrow pair of feet.
"I'm not hungry."
Skin stretches across his ribs, cheekbones and shoulder blades, the same colour as winter frost or whipped cream.
"Are you sure?"
His fingers ghost across ribs that are just dying to poke through his skin. His breath hitches softly, and she appears next to him in the mirror, handing him his shirt. He puts it on quietly, though he can't hide his thoughts; his vacant eyes drift towards her face.
It was strange to see something so sweet and whole, juxtaposed with his ill mentality, and as he starves so gently, their resemblances grow more noticeable; it sounds odd to him, yet it's true.
"I'm sure, Lil."
Alongside the wafting smell of lunch, the mawkish, cloying tune of rich piano fills the house.
Sonata No. 8 in C Minor. Albus likes Muggle music, so much that playing the same song for an hour and a half can't even attempt to bore him.
He pushes his hands a little harder, making them go a little faster, his joints aching a little stronger. Footsteps down the hall, battering on the creaky wooden floor, and he must drown them out.
"Albus, you've been playing that all day. Why don't you spend some time with the rest of us?" asks James, sounding impatient. Rose stands behind him, somewhat wary.
His fingers dance across the keyboard, and he ignores the two in the archway. The notes ring out sharper as he presses them, caressing the ivory keys. When he reaches the end of the music, he goes again, and again, his fingertips no longer caressing the white of the keys, but striking it, clouting it, and yearning to harm it.
Rose watches his fingers hurt the keys, still like a statue, but James, on the other hand, comes forward, his socks sliding across the wooden floor.
He slaps his younger brother's hands away from the piano, closing the case over the keys. He has a pale hand gripped tightly in his own, and he looks down. Albus' skin is not nearly enough to completely blanket the veins beneath them, and he lets go quickly – frightful for a moment that he might crush the bird-like bones underneath.
"Give it a rest, Al. Okay? You're fine – you don't need to practice any longer."
"Maybe I could go for just a few more minutes; I've really got to work on this piece –"
"No. It's perfect. Now please, get away from the piano? You've drilled the music into our skulls."
He's quiet for a moment, and the two look at him carefully.
Sometimes, he breaks.
It's twenty minutes past seven and families usually finish dinner around then – well, at least, Harry Potter's delightful cookie-cutter family should be. Albus isn't though, because he had never begun eating dinner; leaving the kitchen with a glass of water and feeling pleasantly satisfied. He can feel their eyes on him, burning and skinning him so only his core is visible - it's uncomfortable, and his bed isn't, so the answer is clear.
The voice is small and slightly tinny, leaking through the cracks in the door. With his face hidden underneath a pillow, there's no evident desire to sit up or respond.
"Albus? Are you – can I come in?" No response, he's tired. "I can hear you breathing, Al."
She looks through the merest crack in the doorway, and it's evident that he fascinates her in a way that people should never fascinate others. She's began to see the way his eyes are invading his skeletal face, his jagged and brittle frame. She's began to see her brother change and become unfamiliar, something filthy assaulting his body like enemy soldiers on the battlefront.
"Is the house really that quiet?" he asks, his voice droning almost, hammering the seemingly warm atmosphere to pieces.
Silence syncopates to their heartbeats before she answers.
"It is now." she says, and instead of coming in as what seemed to be an original intention, she carries down the hall. It makes him wonder if she had even planned to come in, or if she had just wanted to check if he was really alive.
She finds him and she doesn't like it – the image of her brother, tarnished.
'Aren't big brothers supposed to be immaculate and strong?'
He's lying bare on the striped mattress, not having put on proper sheets. It's nearing the end of summer holidays and for the worst of reasons she's excited to leave what was once a home. He's loose with alcohol, and a lot of alcohol.
"Albus, get up."
His skin smells like grime needing of soap. She tugs on his arm, trying to get him to stir. With only alcohol in his stomach, the smell of his breath is enough to make her cry.
James was staying at a friend's house, and parents worked late. She liked time with Al – they were like best friends. They were best friends. That's how it always was.
Being alone. It was never really a problem, but maybe things had begun to change, little by little.
She really wished that Mum and Dad weren't working late tonight, because mothers and fathers always know what to do – always meaning usually nowadays.
Things were already changing, a lot by a lot.
Tension branches through the air with undeniable austerity. There are no words, only glances.
"Slow down, you're not an animal." Albus hisses, his eyes set on James. His eyes had been locked on his older brother, shovelling away food without the slightest bit of apprehension.
It went completely quiet for a moment.
"Albus, please just eat the meal in front of you." said Ginny, looking at him for a moment, then looking away and back to her husband. It seems they're lost, too.
James sets down his fork, clearly unwilling to take his words.
"At least I actually eat." he says, not making any effort to tone down his comment. He heard his father's sharp intake of breath, and Lily merely watched her brothers. "There! I said it – those unspeakable three words – and I damn well cleared the room with it, didn't I?
Albus' grip on his knees becomes tighter and tighter until the bones in his fingers are so taut they're in danger of snapping in two.
"That's enough, the both of you." said Harry, his voice rising slightly, possibly more stern than any of his children had ever seen him.
"I don't know what's gotten into you lately." said Ginny, her voice lowered to almost a whisper, and Albus took note of the fact she didn't use the keyword 'both'. Albus wrinkled his nose, his hands still uncomfortably tight on his knees.
"You know James, if you keep that up, you're going to end up overweight – unproductive – and I'm going to laugh at you when you're like that, and I'm perfectly healthy."
It was evident that James' composure began to dwindle. He stood up immediately, knocking over the chair as he did so.
"You're not healthy," he snarled, his breath shaky, "You're killing yourself, and I hope you've started to realize you're not the only person getting hurt."
"Stop it! Both of you!" shouted Lily, standing up. James storms out of the room, and pausing for a moment, Lily looks torn – that is, before she follows James out of the room.
Albus sat quietly for a moment, looking down at his hands, fingertips pressed so hard blood had begun to rise from the surface of his skin.
He felt a warm hand on his shoulder, his mother's.
"Albus, please –"
"I don't want to talk about it and you're not going to make me."
It's been a couple weeks since it all started to fall apart – not in tiny pieces, but in big chunks.
Harry loses patience and confronts his son, leaving the safety of denial behind. He tells him straight out that he clearly has an eating disorder and he needs help.
All he does is glare at his father.
"It's none of your fucking business, okay? Just leave me alone, Dad. It's not like you'd understand."
After few, idle seconds, he begins to regret his choice of words. Harry looks down, slightly uncomfortable and unknowing of the right words, because of course, the last thing he wants to do is hurt his son.
Albus looks down at the ground too, because he feels overcome and damaged and ripped apart into a million little pieces. Just as unaware of what to do.
He apologizes for his words and his actions in a couple hours, before the sun sets. Sitting in the cold living room, he takes a deep breath while staring at the ground, and lets himself admit the truth.
'You're a compulsive, overanalyzing perfectionist.'
They both nod and think the same things because there's nothing else to do or think.
"You need to talk to me."
He watched his son intently, who was twiddling his fingers, hunched over, his spine poking from the thin cotton of his t-shirt like tiny blue mountains.
"I'm not the brightest student, I haven't got a lot of friends, I'm always fucking things up, I just can't do anything."
Before Harry could reply with anything, though, Albus smiled.
"But I will be able to, one day. Then I can be your son. Then you can be proud of me."
"Albus, you're my son, and I love you very much – more than I can put into words. I am proud of you."
And he doesn't know what to say after that, but it seems the silence is better.
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