Chapter 1 : Thin
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It’s the word I want to be, but it’s also the word I’m not.
It’s the word I write over and over in large, loopy letters across the margins of textbooks, edges of parchment, and even on the inside of my arm.
My cousins are the beautiful ones – pretty Dominique with her long blonde hair and waiflike figure, and lovely Lily with her emerald green eyes and legs that go for miles. I’m the ugly one, with messy red curls and boring brown eyes and all that fat.
Fat. That’s the word that describes me. The word that captures the horrible sight that is the combination my pudgy stomach, thunder thighs, and flabby arms. The word that stares me in the face every time I look in the mirror or step on the magical scale in our dormitory bathroom.
It’s all I can see, and it consumes me like fire.
It starts with little things, like restricting myself from dessert and running laps around the Quidditch pitch every morning. I record everything I eat, and I stand on the scale twice a day, waiting for the numbers to fall.
The fat doesn’t go away fast enough for me. I need more. I need to be thin.
It’s amazing how easy it is to get out of eating, to the point that most of my friends never question it. A combination of skipping meals to study, lying about kitchen trips, and conveniently moving food around on my plate serves to settle any suspicion that might be aroused.
My appetite starts to dwindle, and I am able to make it through the day on an apple and a few carrot sticks. I feel hungry sometimes, but I learn to ignore the sensation.
One day, though, it becomes too much, and I crack. Somehow I find myself in the middle of the kitchens, spooning mounds of chocolate ice cream into my mouth as the remains drip down my chin. When I reach the bottom of the bowl, I can only stare at the container and remind myself just how much I’ve eaten. The thought makes me nauseous. I run from the kitchens and into the closest girls’ bathroom.
When I reach the empty bathroom, I look at myself in the mirror – ice cream dripping down my chin and onto the oversized T-shirt I wear as pajamas. Waves of self-loathing hit me like a bomb, and I can’t help but think how stupid-stupid-stupid I am. All I want is to take it back, to magically make it go away, to stop the tears running down my face in pure hatred of what I’ve done. I glimpse the stall behind me in the mirror, and know what I have to do to fix this. But I can’t help wondering, when did it come to this? When did this become my life?
What's happening to me?
The ice-cream event only makes me hate the girl in the mirror more – she’s weak. So I start running harder, and more often. I find myself running laps around the Quidditch pitch until my vision fades at the edges, and then going back out again just a few hours later.
The pounds start to fall off, but it’s not enough. It’s never enough. Not when I can still pinch the fat in the mirror, or stare at the scale knowing the number looking back at me is nowhere near that of Dom or Lily.
I still wear my old clothes – they hang loosely and hide the fact that I’ve lost any weight. No one really notices the difference.
Even he doesn’t. Even Scorpius, my best friend of 6 years, doesn’t see anything at all. Or at least, I think he doesn’t.
After three months, he asks me why I don’t smile as much anymore. Of all the things he could notice about me, he notices that.
I roll my eyes and call him ridiculous, and mentally remind myself to pretend to be happy.
I’ll be happy when I’m thin. But I’m not. Not yet, at least.
For now, I’m still chubby, frumpy Rose Weasley, who no one could ever love.
So when he tells me he thinks I’m beautiful, I laugh in his face.
It’s the word that consumes my every waking moment. It’s the word that won’t leave my mind.
It’s the word that’s taken over my life.
My waking thoughts are focused entirely on a combination of strict calorie counting and running. The number on the scale is plummeting, but it doesn't come without other problems. My long, thick hair become brittle, and I have to wear it up in a ponytail so that hairs don't fall out while I'm studying. I get dizzy easily, especially when I'm running - or even just walking to class, for that matter.
The reflection finally starts to show what I want it to. Hipbones, collarbones, ribs, and spine all start to protrude, and I run my fingers over them lovingly. It’s a sign that I’ve changed so much from the fat, chubby girl I used to be.
At dinner one night, Lily asks me why I’m not eating. I tell her to mind her own business, the bitch. I don’t remember getting so moody, but suddenly I’m frustrated by everything. Well, everything that doesn’t have to do with the falling number on the scale.
But what would pretty, perfect Lily know about losing weight? Nothing. I use this to justify my lashing-out at her – she deserved it for acting like I was on the same level as her, who could eat like one of the boys and not gain a pound.
Then comes that horrible day in May.
It's one that starts off completely ordinary and ends the complete opposite.
I wake up, weigh myself, run, and make up an excuse to miss breakfast – today it’s that I didn’t write the conclusion to my Transfiguration essay. This time, I'm not lying; I fell asleep way earlier than intended last night. Tiredness has become standard, but this time I completely fell asleep on my essay – practically in the middle of writing a sentence.
The day feels quite normal to begin with: while I’m exhausted during class, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. I blame it on the stress of upcoming exams. In my first class after lunch, however, I start to feel strange - even more so than usual. Dizziness, like exhaustion, isn’t out of the ordinary, but it’s usually a feeling reserved for movement, not just sitting stationary in class.
When class ends, I rush out of the room – the History of Magic classroom is awfully stuffy, after all. That’s probably what it is. But when I get outside the classroom, nothing gets any better. Waves of dizziness hit me relentlessly, and I cling to the wall for support. As the students pass, no one pays me much attention, and the corridor empties quickly.
I feel a hand on my shoulder, and a question of “Rose, are you okay?”
There’s blackness closing in on my vision and I feel like I’m suffocating. I shake my head.
I’m not okay. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m not okay.
That’s the last thought that runs through my head before everything goes black.
When I wake up, I don’t know where I am.
The room is excessively white, and I’m hooked up to some sort of machine. It takes me only a moment after that – I’m in St. Mungo’s.
Who brought me here? I want to scream and yank the needles out of my arm and run out of the room, but my legs refuse to cooperate.
People flood in and out of the room for various reasons, and all make a variety of comments when they see I’m awake.
Eventually my parents come into the room, and all I can see on their faces is disappointment. Once again, I’ve failed to be good enough – I can’t even be good at being thin.
A Healer enters the room and explains that they think I have an eating disorder, and they want to fix me.
Fix me, as if I’m some toy that loses a wheel that can be screwed back on. Fix me, as if someone could cast Reparo and everything would be back to normal.
I’m not broken. I don’t think I’m broken. I don’t want to be broken.
Maybe I am broken.
I eventually fall asleep again, and when I wake up, there’s a different person in the room. It’s him.
Scorpius sits by my bed, holding my hand and telling me how sorry he is that he hadn’t noticed, that he didn’t do anything, that he’s a failure of a friend and that he loves me too much to let this happen to me.
I tell him it’s not his fault, it’s never been his fault.
I guess he didn’t know I was awake, because he starts and looks at me with wide eyes.
I look back at him, and notice that his eyes are shining. I ask him why he’s crying.
He tries to argue that he’s not crying, but when a tear slips down his cheek, he gives up.
“You don’t know what it was like, Rosie, to see you collapse. To watch Pomfrey Floo you to Mungo’s immediately because she couldn't do enough for you. To hear the doctors talk about how you almost – how you almost stopped living. To know I could have prevented it all.”
I tell him there wasn’t any preventing it – this was my life and my choice. I dug my own ditch and trapped myself inside.
There’s a pleading look in his eyes, when he tells me he couldn’t live without me. And that he wants me to fight this. If not for myself, then for him. Because he knows that while I may not believe in myself right now, he does.
I nod. If I’m going to do it for anyone, I’ll fight it for Scorpius. I want to make up for this – for doing something so extreme it makes my usually stoic best friend break down.
So when he tells me he thinks I’m beautiful, I can’t control the tears that run down my face.
It’s the word that’s threatening to tear me apart, but it’s the word I’m fighting against every day.
It took weeks in Mungo’s for the Healers to decide that I could be released from the hospital, and even now, I still have to go back there twice a week.
But I’m trying. I’m trying to fix things. There’s a voice in the back of my head telling me that this is wrong, that I’m taking steps in the wrong direction. I’m not going to be thin anymore.
That voice is getting quieter. I’m learning to shut it out, and remind myself what it feels like to be happy, to be proud of myself – really, truly proud of myself, not just proud of protruding bones.
It’s hard to start eating again. My body doesn’t like the idea at first – it’s not used to it, so it takes time before I can start eating real food instead of just the nutrient potions they give me at Mungo's. But I make it happen.
My family spends the summer trying to help me – however they can. My dad brings me random hard candies every day, and I learn to enjoy the sweet sugary taste again, without thinking about the calories involved. My mum sits out on the porch with me, talking about anything and everything. Hugo stops being an angsty fourteen-year-old long enough to come up to me and hug me at random points during the day.
I start to realise that maybe they weren’t disappointed in me that day at the hospital. Maybe they were scared. Just like Scorpius was.
As for Scorpius, he’s around almost every day too. He’s always full of weird stories about his family, or his summer job at my uncle’s joke shop. We spend excessive amounts of time at the park in my neighbourhood, just wandering around or sitting under some tree.
He fills me in on what I missed in the last month of school, and assures me I’ll catch up easily when I get back. I still spend tons of time reading course materials – I let my grades slip, and I want to make up for it in my last year.
At first, I mourn the loss of the sharp edges of my hipbones and collarbones, but I gradually start to see that maybe those things aren’t important. Maybe I’m more than a number on a scale.
I feel better too. My hair thickens - I never realised I could miss my wild, messy red curls, but I'm so happy when I can wear my hair down again. I have much more energy: suddenly I want to do things.
There are days, of course, when the nagging voice creeps up on me, telling me I’m getting fat and that I shouldn’t be eating, but it gets easier to ignore. I have other voices to fight back. I have my mum’s, my dad’s, my brother’s, my own. And, of course, Scorpius’s.
As I'm fighting for my recovery, I realise that this is something I never want to happen to anyone else. So I start writing about my experience, and how something like what I went through could be prevented. I submit these stories anonymously to whatever publications I can - the Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly, the Quibbler, anything.
When I get a copy of Witch Weekly with my article printed in it, I feel an overwhelming rush of joy. If I can help just one person, that's all that matters. That's one less person whose best friend has to hold their hand while they lie helpless in a hospital bed.
Scorpius hears about the article, and immediately asks me if I know anything about it. When I confess that I wrote it, he hugs me tightly and tells me I'm making a difference, and he's proud of me. I tell him I'm proud of myself too.
A week before Hogwarts starts up again, Scorpius and I go to Diagon Alley. My parents feel nervous about letting me out alone, but eventually consent, realizing that it’ll be just the same when I leave for school.
We spend the afternoon wandering through shops, both picking up supplies and cracking ourselves up with the oddest products we can find – a task that’s especially easy at Uncle George’s shop.
Later, we go to Fortescue’s. I order chocolate ice cream.
As I take the first bite, I push the associated memories and sinister voice far, far away, and instead focus on the flavours: rich, creamy, sweet, and delicious. I close my eyes and can’t help but let out a soft hum of content.
When I open my eyes again, Scorpius is sitting in front of me, a small smile clearly evident on his face as he looks at me.
“What?” I ask, feeling suddenly conscious of the fact that he’s been watching me all this time.
He tells me it’s just good to watch me enjoy myself again. And then he reaches across the table and wipes off a smudge of ice cream on the corner of my lip.
I can't help but realise that it’s been amazing to have a best friend so close to me through all of this.
So when he tells me he thinks I’m beautiful, I blush and thank him and try to tell myself that maybe he means it.
It’s the word that, finally, has released me.
On the train ride back to Hogwarts, I overhear a someone say that they read an article over the summer about eating disorders, and because of that, they were able to get their sister help. I squeal to Scorpius about it for at least an hour, because I know I've made at least one impact, and that's the best thing I could ask for.
After my first month back at school, the Healers at Mungo’s finally declare me recovered. Scorpius hugs me so tight I think I might suffocate, and my cousins plan a huge party to celebrate. They don’t tell anyone else the reason, though.
But no one questions it, because Hogwarts is always looking for an excuse to party.
And I use the party as an excuse to wear one of my new dresses.
During the summer, my mum and I went dress shopping, buying dresses that were too big for me at the time – dresses that would fit when I was cleared. And now, they finally do.
I choose a royal blue strapless dress and gold sandals, letting my hair fall in loose curls past my shoulders.
I stand in front of the mirror looking at myself, but I’ve stopped comparing myself to Lily or Dominique. They’re gorgeous, but I don't want that for myself anymore. I'm happy with the way I am.
My reflection is so different from the one I saw last in the Hogwarts mirror, but the change is good. This reflection has a future – a future filled with family, friends, love, and accomplishments. This reflection will get a job, get married, have children, make a difference, live.
The party is in full swing in the Gryffindor common room, meaning everyone is making noise, drinking Godric-knows-what, and generally having a good time. I feel disoriented for a few moments, but someone grabs my arm and pulls me into the commotion.
It’s Scorpius. Of course. He offers me a Butterbeer, and starts twirling me around, until Albus sticks his nose in and asks where Lily’s snuck off to. We tell him we don’t know, which is the honest truth, but we also want him to just go away and search for his sister elsewhere.
Eventually, Scorpius pulls me from the party and takes me down the stairs. I ask him where we’re going, and he replies that we’re going outside.
I tell him that idea’s ridiculous because it’s dark and past curfew, but I let him hold my hand and pull me through the Entrance Hall and out the big double doors.
I have to admit, the night is gorgeous. The sky is perfectly clear, and the stars are twinkling. I tell Scorpius this, expecting him to make some joke about my sappiness, but he doesn’t. Instead, he’s looking straight at me with an unreadable expression on his face.
He takes a deep breath and releases the hand that I forgot he was still holding. He sighs quickly before saying, “Look, Rose, I know that this isn’t the best time and I know that I probably shouldn’t be saying this because we’re best friends and all, but I can’t just not say it either.”
It’s a bit of a nervous rant, so the next words that come from his mouth throw me completely off guard.
“I love you.”
I look straight into his eyes, those eyes that have been with me through everything – watched me fall apart, try to put myself back together again, and eventually succeed. I know how I feel about him, without a doubt.
So I tell him.
The look on his face is bright enough to rival the entirety of the sky, and before I know it, he’s kissing me.
After he pulls back, he whispers that I really need to stop being so cheesy with the stars and the moonlight stuff. I laugh and let him wrap his arm around my waist as we walk around the grounds.
In this moment, everything feels right. I’ve fought against something horrible and insidious, and I have my life back now. And it’s a life I wouldn’t trade for the world.
So when he tells me he thinks I’m beautiful, I – for the first time – actually believe him.
A/N: This piece was written for Maelody's Awareness Challenge, and my chosen organization was the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). I would love to hear your input on this story, so please review! Thanks so much!
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