Chapter 1 : Sick
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Have you ever known someone who was absolutely perfect? Someone everyone wanted to be with, someone everyone wanted to be like? Have you ever envied the girl with the most friends, the richest parents, the most closely knit family? The one the whole world watches, the one always discussed?
Have you ever considered what being that girl must be like?
When I was born, a surge of magazines and newspapers published articles about me. The Wizarding Wireless shamelessly broadcasted every detail, however trivial, they could find, ranging from the knitted afghan my nana had made as a gift to the type of nappies my parents used with me. They also discussed the relationship between fathers and daughters, one that, while something special, always reaches a tumultuous zenith around the age of sixteen, the time where the daughter has become fully static in the opinion that she is ready for the world and the father has taken the stance that she isn’t ready for any of it. The commentators analyzed the possible ways I could fail my father: I could be daft, I could hate Quidditch, I could develop an addiction to any number of dangerous substances, I could get myself knocked up, I could achieve the most mediocre of grades in Defense Against the Dark Arts.
I could be anything but what they had expected me to be.
People have always been under the impression that my mother and I are the same; despite our looks and the way we smile when we’ve been caught in an unacceptable situation, we lack much in common. They say we’re both spunky, snarky, which is true, and yet for different reasons. She grew up fighting against the sorts of prejudices I’ve never had to face: a poor family considered to be blood traitors, a supporter of people thought to be attention-seekers or lunatics, the reign of a Dark wizard bent on destroying every last shard of happiness she knew. My mother had to be tough, had to be smart, had to stand her ground. I’ve just spent too much time with my older brothers.
I was expected to be a Quidditch star, to stun the crowds like my parents had done. So I set out early to master the position of Chasing, determined to make my family proud. I whittled away hours and hours having my brothers or my cousins toss Quaffles at me, swerving, diving, dodging.
I was expected to be intelligent. So whenever I wasn’t working on the pitch, I was sitting by the fireside in the common room, quill to parchment, nose in a textbook, studying and practicing spells that were not meant for my age group, knowing I had to be above average.
I was expected to be funny. When an awkward or ironic moment came up, it was on my shoulders to arch one eyebrow and give a good quip, allowing only the slightest smirk to cross my features to show that, yes, I had a sense of humor and found myself witty. I had to ease the tension in a room; people waited for me to do it.
I was expected to be tough, strong, independent. Everyone looked for my tenacity to shine through at the moments where I seemed weakest, where nothing seemed like it would work out. They waited for my argument of hope, of persistence, for me to show them how to act.
I was expected to be pretty, beautiful even. I had to be like my mother: I was labeled as a tomboy with a passion for all things dirty or with more than four legs, but upon a certain age, the transformation was to take place. I was to enlist the daily use of a brush, to learn the difference between a wooden wand and a mascara wand, to wear miniskirts.
I was expected to be a flirt, to bat my lashes and tilt my head, playing up on the boy’s personal preference: shy, sassy, silly. I had to be shameless in some instances and still know when to hold my own and refuse to sink to a particular level.
I was sick of expectations.
It was one evening during the summer preceding my sixth year that my father inadvertently confirmed the expectations placed upon me. He and my mother had left for a Ministry function my mother had complained about the whole week, and I had the house to myself. Bored with being beaten for the twenty-second time by my computer at Solitude, I wandered downstairs and switched on the wireless, hoping for something entertaining. After a rather painful end to “The Goblet of Fiery Love” by Arianasha Littleton, the clichéd vocalist who manages to over sing every note, someone began to speak. I recognized the deep voice as that of Jerry Kraft, the man who had been the radio announcer for as long as I could remember.
“Beautiful, powerful song, isn’t it?” he asked.
“No,” I answered, opening the refrigerator to search for something worth heating up.
“You know, it’s been reported that Lily Potter sings often,” he added. I rolled my eyes. “An inside source has said that she’s been known to belt out a ballad in the bathroom in the mornings. Who knew? In other news relating to Harry Potter’s only daughter, a close friend of the vivacious redhead has come forward with upsetting information. She reports that Lily Potter has, over the past year, developed anorexia, assumedly from the stress of her O.W.L.s.”
I turned to stare at the wireless disbelievingly, closing the refrigerator door with a resounding clunk. Who the hell had any right to make something up like that? Something so many people could dispute? All they had to do would be to ask my boyfriend; he’d probably wet himself laughing at the notion of me not eating.
“No report yet on how Harry Potter is dealing with this crisis,” Jerry continued, and then, nonchalantly, he segued into an advertisement for Madam Malkin’s, and I was left speechless in the kitchen. I don’t know how long I stood, torn between fury and tears, before the telephone rang. Jumping, I reached over and glanced at the phone. When I saw that it was a call from my aunt Audrey, I dropped it and climbed the stairs to my room once more. Audrey had always told my parents that she thought I’d develop an eating disorder, as that was what she told everyone. I didn’t have any desire to listen to her analyze me.
Closing my bedroom door and staring out my open window, I could see the stars beginning to come out. My heart was beating half of a beat faster than it had been a minute ago, and I felt dizzy. I leaned against the door, sliding down to sit on the floor and rest my forehead on my knees. This was bad. This was terrible. This was cataclysmic.
They were too close to the truth.
Anorexia had never been a consideration, at least in my mind. It was too easily noticed, too easily detected. When someone ignores the steaming shepherd’s pie sitting right in front of their place at a long, crowded table stationed in the center of a cavernous room filled with other students, many of whom are gossip-happy girls, people are bound to draw conclusions. I was smarter than that. I was impossibly discreet. No one knew my most intimate secret, not even the people who knew the nearly everything about me.
It was not only my most intimate secret; it was also my only true secret. My boyfriend was aware of every other aspect of my personality, my hobbies, my life. He knew about my phobia of moths, my aversion to shoes, my desire to stand on the Great Wall of China and shout, “Dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow, dishonor on your whole family!” My mother had comforted me countless times when I was afraid that he didn’t love me, couldn’t love me, that I’d never find a boy who wanted me for me and not for my family. She had held me in her arms when I cried, told me she loved me, told me I was wonderful, beautiful, amazing. And yet neither of them had any clue.
It had started out harmlessly. My family had gathered together at the Burrow for our traditional Back-to-School dinner, and, as usual, Nana had chased the whole lot of us around the yard with plates laden with thick, sugary cake. When we returned home, I crawled under my covers, exhausted, and rolled over onto my side to view the stars from my bed. I glanced at a moonlit photo on my bedside table of my mother and me taken the previous summer. She stood with her hair piled back into a carelessly formed bun, curls spilling out in the simplest form of elegance. Mine was held by an elastic band I’d found between the sofa cushions the week before. Her loosely flattering top showed off the figure I lacked in James’s old Grumpy Trolls: Rock All Night one. My eyes fixated themselves to the picture, and I felt my stomach churning, suddenly disgusted with myself. That was who I was supposed to be, that beautiful woman next to me. But instead I was a thirteen-year-old in an oversized shirt, tangled in a mess of red hair and freshly-laundered sheets.
I slid out from under their crisp shelter and stumbled into my bathroom, leaving the light off and dropping to my knees in front of the toilet. It was easier than I had expected, making myself vomit. I’d always hated tummy bugs more than anything else; throwing up was what I couldn’t stand. Yet, as I knelt on the cold tile floor by the dim light of a quarter moon, the act held little repulsion for me. It was simply being done, and I had no concern.
When I had finished, I stood, intending to return to my bed and fall asleep. Then my heart faltered; I heard someone outside my bedroom door.
“Lily?” It was my mother’s voice, sounding tired. “Are you sick?”
I called back in what I hoped sounded like a sleepy tone, “No, why?” While I did so, I slipped back toward my bed, hardly daring to breathe. The sheets rustled as I slid in, their fabric cool against my hot skin.
She replied, “I thought I heard someone being sick. You’re alright?”
“I just had to use the bathroom,” I told her, praying she’d leave, praying she wouldn’t catch me in the act of something as utterly taboo as a bulimic episode. “I’m going back to bed now. I feel fine.”
My door opened; my mother entered, crossing the room and placing a hand on my forehead, looking suspicious and knackered in one. “You’re warm, love,” she commented, pushing a knot of hair from my face. “If you’re ill, I can—”
“Mum,” I interrupted, twisting myself out from under her hand, ignoring its cooling, soothing touch, “I’m fine; my room’s just a bit hot, is all. You’re tired. Go to bed.” I squeezed my eyes shut, unable to meet her gaze, and burrowed my head into the lavender scent of my pillowcase.
Sighing, she kissed my head and stood up. “Fine, honey. Come get me if you need anything.” She left the room, hesitating for only a moment at the door, before pulling it shut behind her. I let out my breath. Fooling people was not that hard. I had just tricked my mother, the one my father refers to as the human lie detector.
It became alarmingly effortless to make myself sick and then deny it. Within the first month of my third year at Hogwarts, I found myself crouched on a lavatory floor multiple times, body shaking, muscles sore. Yet, within minutes, I could walk into class and sit next to my best friends, and they would pick up on nothing wrong. I was spectacular at it.
I rarely showed any symptoms of bulimia more than once a week. Usually, I only forced myself to vomit two or three times a month, more often during the summer or Christmas holidays. I hadn’t ever considered myself to be out of control. I still didn’t. Even as I knelt before the toilet that night, repeating Jerry Kraft’s words in my mind, I felt that I had no addiction, no need to do it. I made the choice each time, and that was it. A stand-alone decision.
The phone rang while I was hunched over, retching, and I paid it no mind. Aunt Audrey called several times in impressively rapid succession when she had intentions of speaking to someone. She was the last person on earth I wanted to talk to at that moment.
There was no one who would understand, no one who wouldn’t completely boil over with anger or inflict self-guilt upon himself for my actions. No one would be able to listen objectively, to imagine life from my eyes, and I couldn’t take the chance of trying to explain. No one had knowledge of how close Jerry Kraft’s absurd headline came to hitting the mark. People wouldn’t believe that Lily Potter could be so weak, so vulnerable, so helpless.
Sometimes I couldn’t believe it either.
But then I’d remember the night before my third year, curled up in my white sheets, determined to be beautiful, determined to be loved. I had no control over countless aspects of my life, and here was one I did. The thought repulsed me, it did, but the action didn’t. Without thinking, I could do it. My impulses guided me to do what I knew was wrong, knew was irreversibly damaging.
When my parents came in from their party, I was perusing the new issue of SeventeenWitch, my phone pressed against my ear, recounting for my boyfriend the story of the two-year-old I’d babysat the night previously and how she’d nearly lit her house on fire. He was laughing as my father kissed the top of my head; my mother reached over and plucked a handful of popcorn from the bowl I had made.
“Have you had a good night, princess?” my father asked me, smiling, while my mother initiated a battle between two kernels she’d selected accidentally.
I met his eyes and returned the expression, flipping a page to glance at a swimsuit advertisement and popping another piece of popcorn into my mouth. “Of course, Daddy.”
“Just as I’d expected,” he said, turning to go change out of his robes. Internally, I sighed as I watched him leave. I wanted him to see, wanted him to know. I was torn, conflicted. Part of me knew something was wrong, knew I needed guidance, but the other part needed the control, the power. I didn’t know which would win out.
I was sick of expectations, and I was sick of being sick.
A/N: Was it too conflicting? Too confusing? I don’t know, so please review and share a little insight (hey, I wrote a story with that title, haha). Also, I could not help myself with the reference to Mulan, so kudos to you if you caught it.