Chapter 31 : The Child Is Gone
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It's been a long journey, 4 years! When I set out to write this, I was scared of the reception it would get, I would never have dreamt it would end up 30 Chapters long and thats not includng the Prologue and Epilogue.
It was only at the end of last year that I really felt I was in a good enough place to be abe to write this chapter properly, so I picked up my pen and did... and then the computer crashed... But now it's here
I only have the Epilogue to write and then that's it. Finis! Although I will be going through and editing the story, especially the first half, it was written SO long ago and my writing style has refined alot since then.
I'm so proud of this little baby. I want to give all of you readers a HUGE THANK YOU, without you and your support I would never have had the inspiration and determination to continue, you've all given me so many kind words over the whole story!
So without further ado, here we go - HAPPY READING!
And I ran my hand over a strange inversion
As the darkness turns into the dawn
The child is gone
The world hangs in a cloud. Thoughts swirl and tangle like leaves blowing in the wind. I open my eyes to white. Nothing but white. It hurts my eyes so I close them again. I slip back into darkness...
Food, fat, drip, weight. Feeding tube. I tear it out frantically. No, no, no. They will not, they cannot. I try to sit up. Who knows how long it’s been pumping fat inside me? Who knows what damage it has done? My head spins drastically. I swing my feet over the side of the bed. I try to stand up, but I fall. I yelp, my hands splaying in front of me to catch me. Someone is rushing toward me. I try to swat them away. They cannot put that
back in me. I struggle, I cry, I try to push them away. And then one of them pulls out a needle. I feel a sting in my arm. And then everything fades once more...
A basket. It started with a basket. I can’t seem to grasp the details. Wine? Yes, there was wine... And pain, in my ankle. In my arm... Everything was... unbearable... Blond hair... blue eyes...Malfoy... Malfoy saying... No... He couldn’t... The entrance hall... Anger... They were accusing me of... Ginny... Ginny! She told them! And then... And then what?
It was her fault wasn’t it? She was eating food that they could be eating... They were starving because of her...
Her stomach ached, oh it ached, and her back ached, no it seared. Her whole midriff was on fire. Why did it hurt so much? Her period had never hurt this much. It was unbearable, she felt like... She was dying. Surely she was dying. It hurt so much she wished she WAS dying! And then she couldn’t handle the pain any longer and she fell off her chair, in front of the whole class, and passed out.
‘Where am I?’ I manage to choke out, my voice is raspy. There is no reply. ‘Hello?’ I rasp again.
I hear voices not too far away. They say something like. ‘She’s awake.’ There are footsteps and I open my eyes. Everything is unfocused. ‘Where am I?’
I see the blurry outline of a blonde haired woman. When she speaks, she has a beautiful calm voice.
It barely registers. St. Mungo’s? So I’m in hospital. The Janus Thickey ward? That’s where they put Lockhart isn’t it? But that doesn’t make sense.
‘You had a heart attack. Temporary memory loss and confusion is a side effect of the potion you’ve been given.’
The Halloween feast has been brought up to the Gryffindor Dormitory. Her heart is still racing. She lied to a teacher. She lied to all of them. She lied! Straight to their faces! They knocked out a troll! And now, now they were talking to her... There was so much food. What must the feast have been like? Her new friends are stuffing their faces. She should eat slowly. Don’t want to make them think she is a pig...
But they were underweight for different reasons. They hadn’t
to lose weight. One patient had gotten himself lost in the Sahara desert looking for rare potion ingredients, one man had a worm like creature in his stomach that had eaten almost everything he’d put in his mouth for weeks, another had some sort of magical malady and she looked like a twig.
They didn’t know why I was in here... That I’d gotten this way from sheer determination... I don’t think they would have been able to comprehend anyway...
How could it be that when I looked at my fellow patients, I saw grossly bony, withered bodies, thighs that looked like sticks and ribs that poked out- and they frightened me- and when I looked at myself I saw fat?
But to everyone else, I was skinnier than the man lost in the desert for a month...
When they first described to me, the treatment I would be receiving, when I heard they needed to fatten me up... I was scared... I thought I would fight back at first. I thought I’d stop them at any cost to make me put on weight. I thought I’d kick and scream to stop them ruining the good work I had done. Or that I would meekly comply until they let me go and then when I was released I would be free to go back to my old habits, undo the damage they would have done, just lose it all again.
Tell them I was fine, there was nothing wrong with me.
Except now that I had the care I needed... I could no longer deny what I had...
The thing that scared me the most... My body had failed me. I had had a heart attack!
And me, clever smart Hermione, had gotten so caught up in the world of starvation that I hadn’t even really thought to research the long term effects of my abuse.
If I didn’t do something... I would die...
Nearly Headless Nick laughed so hard his head flopped off, dangling gruesomely on the inch or so of ghostly muscle that kept it attached to his neck.
She pushed her plate away from herself. She refused to eat the slave food. Those poor little creatures, slaving away all day to make the whole school every single meal... And she’d been unknowingly taking advantage of them for years. Every single day, three meals a day, she’d eaten food cooked by servants! They didn’t get paid anything, they didn’t even get gratitude! How could the entire Wizarding community take advantage of the poor little elves!
She sat up in her seat proudly. In her mind she chanted. ‘I have self control!’…
Those first few weeks, I struggled, boy did I struggle. When they put my first full meal in front of me, I panicked. I felt anxious, I was shaking and I had butterflies. I could barely lift the food to my mouth without shaking so much that it fell off the fork.
For the first time in months I was going to put a decent amount of food inside me and not have the option of throwing it up...
But I managed. Just as I had managed to refuse my body’s hunger, to ignore the pains, to deny myself fuel for so long, I used the same determination to deny the
My doctor approved but knew not to push me too far. To make sure I took it slow. Unlike my own attempts to help myself, where I went mad for the food and then hated myself after, they monitored me and made sure I didn’t gorge myself, just as much as they made sure I didn’t deny myself. They only gave me fruit for dinner after that first meal.
And I believed her.
But I couldn’t focus on that. I had to focus on letting the doctors help me.
I spoke to my psychiatrist, Susan , about this... She said the suicidal thoughts came from not eating, from depletion in serotonin, the happy hormone in our bodies, from sheer exhaustion, she said the starving came from depression and probably spawned from my already obsessive nature. I liked to keep things, neat, orderly, managed and under control.
So when I’d described to her how I felt like a drug addict, that I needed that gnawing hunger inside me, fuelling me like a roaring fire that burnt all and left nothing, she said that I was addicted to the chemicals my body was releasing in response to the hunger pains and all the other pains resulting from not eating.
She’d said something like, ‘You’re brain is like a horse and cart, you can’t let it get too carried away or the horses will break free and you’ll be tumbling along the road at top speed, ready to crash at any moment.’
I thought I’d been dealing, I thought I’d handled it fine. I thought we’d all come through fairly unscratched. Psychically yes, but psychologically maybe not so much. It had been shorter than we’d thought it would be, it had all happened in the span of a few weeks… It had happened so fast and so many people had died. I’d SEEN so many of them die. I’d been tortured by Bellatrix…
I dreamt flashes of it all the time, dreams I forgot upon waking. They had me at Stonehedge, Bellatrix employing Umbridge’s tactics… holding me at wand point while I was forced to scrawl Mudblood across parchment over and over again while my chest seared over and over again. And then when I didn’t crack, didn’t tell her where Harry and Ron where, she’d performed Crucio on me until I felt like I was bleeding tears…
The moment I thought Harry had really died, I’ll never recover from that, I’ve been filled with fear that he really will die ever since then. I’d lost him once, what was to stop me losing him twice? I can’t explain what it felt like. Only that it was the most hopeless moment of my life. ..
She told me how brave I was, and that it was a shame that no one thought to offer any of us counselling after all of it. That she had in fact read the Prophets article, but they’d beaten around the bush, hadn’t described the gory details that I was telling her now.
I’d burst out crying. ‘That’s not true, because I’ve given in to something so stupid and meaningless after all of that! I helped defeat the Dark Lord and yet I can’t even defeat this stupid urge not to eat for Christs sake!' I was desperate, I felt like I would never smile again.
And then in the midst of my tears I remembered something I’d forgotten moments after it had happened, I’d forgotten because the Order had shown up, the memory had been swept away and overwritten by the battle, by my own pain and exhaustion, by Harry sacrificing himself, and Neville slaying Nagini and then Harry duelling Voldemort…
And then my attention snapped back to Bellatrix when Voldemorts voice commanded. ‘It appears the filthy Mudblood isn’t giving anything away, perhaps we should free her of an appendage to loosen her voice. ‘
My eyes had expanded in sheer terror.
His voice had cracked and broken in desperation as he addressed his aunt. ‘No! You can’t. I won’t let you.’
And then the air around us crackled and fizzed and the Order began to Apparate all around us, and I got swept up in the fight… The Death Eaters spread out to fight, Voldemort disappeared and then Ron arrived, shoving Malfoy aside and handing me my wand which he must have grappled off Lucius Malfoy….
‘He,’ I gasped, ‘Draco Malfoy, he tried to save my life…’ And then it all came tumbling out. All of it. I told her everything…
Mum and Dad were an exception one time only. They didn’t understand.
The only thing they really got was when the nurse said I was severely stressed. They hugged me anyway and told me they loved me and were proud of me. The moment they left, I cried and cried until I fell asleep.
They didn’t send me a letter. Instead they sent me a photo album full of photos of all of us, newspaper clippings that Mum must have given them showing things like me in primary school grinning proudly while holding a public speaking award or as part of our local choir. They had even included funny little letters and pictures that Harry or Ron must have kept that we’d written in class throughout our years at Hogwarts.
There we were, first year to fifth, still smiling despite all we’d been through. They had even included the huge article we’d reluctantly agreed to be interviewed for with the Daily Prophet in the weeks after the downfall of Voldemort.
We’d shared so many memories. Gotten out of so many scrapes.
And then they’d put in pictures from this year. They started out normally. There was a lovely one of me hugging Crookshanks and laughing while Ron’s gobstones exploded all over him. And then there was one of us sitting by the lake, I had my books out diligently studying, while Ron and Ginny mucked about. Harry must have taken the photo.
I smiled less. I got noticeably skinnier. I was scowling in a few photos. In one or two, my usual study was replaced by me scribbling in my food diary (although the boys wouldn’t have known this). The last few, I could hardly recognise myself. My face was gaunt and pale and unhappy.
What had happened to smiling, clever me?
After my head had started to clear, I realised just how much my education had suffered and when the doctors saw how stressed this made me they had Hogwarts send in my study. In my mind I was relieved because it meant I could still do my exams, that I could still salvage the year, I could go to school normally again with all of my friends. The doctors were relieved that it gave me something to do and focus on.
I had times when I felt so desperate and alone and everything was so grey and monochrome, times when I felt like there was no point to anything, when I wished I could crawl under the covers and sleep forever, when my emotions and my reasonable mind were in separate worlds, when food was no longer the enemy, the world was, I had nothing left to control and now my world was left to chaos.
And I hated myself for reasonably knowing that it was worth fighting but still struggling so damn much. And I worried about people worrying about me and then I’d worry about my worry and it would escalate until I had to hide under my covers and pray that the monsters would go away.
However the sun still rose every morning and the bluebirds still flitted by my window, every single day at St. Mungo’s a new life was born. I was still alive, miraculously, and I still WANTED to get better, no matter how much I struggled.
And then I’d look at the photo album my friends had given me. I’d remember what things were like before and see how much things had changed, I’d wish and wish for them to go back to the way they were, exactly the way they had been.
I closed my eyes and wished and wished I could go back to how I used to be, back to old familiar, bossy, ordered and driven me.
It wasn’t going to happen, things weren’t going to go back to “normal”.
Maybe I’ll come out the other side stronger. I’d be something new, something forged from the battles and pains of anorexia, someone who had battled with demons almost too strong to fight. The urge to starve would never fully go away, but I could learn to keep it at bay. I’d come out with scars. However if I beat this, then all those scars would be nothing but that- scars. Scars to remind me how I had been but no longer am, to show me how strong I’d been, to prove that I’d persevered past the point when I thought I could persevere.
And then this image began to form of what “new” me would be like. She’d be just like old me, but with tougher skin, better coping strategies, someone who didn’t always need to be in control ALL the time. She’d be healthy, have healthy body image, she’d work hard but not so hard that she’d suffer in other areas like her relationships, she’d be smiling, she’d take time to smell the metaphorical and the actual roses, she’d make jokes again…
She suggested that maybe there wasn’t one big huge thing wrong that I needed to face, but that the way I was now was just an accumulation of things, trauma, witnessing violence, self-doubt, the need to succeed even if it’s detrimental to me and especially having such a fast brilliant mind but struggling with how to work WITH it, that I AM my mind but I’m also my body and my spirit, I get so focused in the mental world that I sometimes disregard other things.
She gave me strategies; she tried to teach me to be mindful of my emotions, not to ignore them but to acknowledge them and to let them out in a safe way, instead of bottling them until they detonated. She suggested things like painting, music, poems, outside activity etc. Things I guess I already knew but where just too hard to face in my state.
I was quite sceptical at first but seeing as I had not much else to do in hospital, I took her advice and it did help. I know that ultimately, she didn’t “fix” me, she just listened and was the outside voice that helped me unravel knots in my own mind, she just found and showed me the end of the piece of string so to speak, and I did the rest myself. I worked – still am- working hard to help myself.
Now they think I’m ready to face my problems. I still get relapses, if I let myself get hungry; I am tempted to let it go further. There are certain foods I won’t be able to face for a long time. I still get nervous sometimes before I eat. I still can’t see myself in the mirror the way other people see me.
But whenever I think this, I look at the second last picture in the photo album my friends gave me. It was the photo Colin had taken of me by the lake, the photo in which I’d mistaken myself for a ghoul. Even I couldn’t look at that photo without cringing. I was nothing, I was emaciated, I was a skeleton…
And the scariest thing was that I hadn’t seen it. It’s taken me six months of intensive treatment to see how sick I had been.
Looking back now, I understand better why I did it all. Back then, six months ago, when I was admitted, I could never have imagined myself here today, 2 kilograms over the minimum weight for my height, by my own doing. I would have thought myself a fat pig. Except now, looking back, I can hardly recognise the person I’d become during that time. I had been in a dark, dark place.
All the starving, the cutting, the despair, I guess ultimately, it was my way of coping, even if it was a bad method. I needed to learn better ways. Although I never realised, it was also a call for help, it let myself and others know that I did have other demons to fight, that it was real and that it was really awful. I needed my family and friends and even the professionals to show me that I had to fight the real demons...
I knew that Harry, Ron, Neville, Ginny, Mum, Dad, Fred, George, Bill, Charlie, Mrs Weasley, Mr Weasley, even Dumbledore, maybe even…….and everyone else who supported me, they all loved me and believed in me and that helped me love and believe in myself.
I’m still in a dark place but it’s not quite so dark anymore and it’s getting brighter with every passing day.
All I know is that I never want to go back there again.
AU: READ IT? REVIEW IT!
Only the epilogue left....