A/N: Bit of a short chapter but after a year and a half at least it's better than nothing! Check out the trailer that I've made for this story here: /watch?v=BBo4wJ9Y4ns (copy and paste after the normal youtube url).
23rd October 1998. Tuesday.
Hermione set down her quill on the desk in front of her, sighing heavily. She rested her head in her hands, wondering wistfully if she had made the right decision after all. She scanned the words on the parchment in front of her.
I'd be happy to. Tell your mother thank you very much.
It was probably the shortest letter she'd ever written, and yet it had taken so much deliberation and consideration that she had spent far longer than was appropriate in writing it. Even now, she was reluctant to send it. Was it really the right thing to do? It had been immediately obvious to her on reading Ron's letter that he was not keen on her accepting Mrs Weasley's invitation in the slightest. Was she really accepting only to spite him? Was she really that type of girl?
Aela is that type of girl.
Hermione's eyes flew open, although she had no memory of having closed them. Where had that thought come from? She had surprised herself, not only because she was not normally someone to have such thoughts, but also because – although she certainly had her suspicions – she had no real idea what type of girl Aela was at all.
13th November 1998. Tuesday.
Over the course of the next three weeks, Hermione only ran into Aela a handful of times and even then did not stop for long to chat. She had much more important things to be doing, like exercising. Her exercise routine had expanded with time; now she not only completed a couple of hours before she went to bed, she also got out of bed earlier on a morning so she could run up and down the dormitory staircase for an hour. She wished she could go swimming in the Great Lake as she had heard that swimming was good exercise for the whole body, but the winter was fast approaching and it was now too cold outside.
Not just outside, Hermione was cold around the clock, it seemed. No matter how many layers she wrapped herself in, she could still feel the goosebumps rising on her arms. When she removed her gloves, her fingernails were an unhealthy shade of blue. She usually covered them up with nail varnish. Her hands had acquired a slight tremble whenever she tried to do even the simplest of tasks; she had lost count of the number of times she had managed to spill coffee – black, no sugar – down herself as a result.
That particular Tuesday night, Hermione sat, as always, in the library, trying to concentrate on her latest Transfiguration homework. She was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate, of late. She pulled her flask of coffee close to her chest and pulled the lid off so that the steam would warm her face, even though she already had a scarf pulled up over her mouth and nose.
Without warning, Draco Malfoy slumped into the chair next to her, making her jump.
"Will you not sneak up on me like that?" Hermione snapped, her voice faint and muffled. At Draco's amused look, she reluctantly pulled the scarf down from her face so that he could hear her speak. "I mean it, stop scaring me like that."
Draco smirked. "Sorry, Granger. But in my defence, you were expecting me."
Hermione couldn't deny that. Weekday evenings they could often be found huddled together in the library poring over books and parchment. Draco had long since learned not to poke fun at Hermione's inexplicable number of layers since the time she had retaliated by Transfiguring one of his dragonskin gloves into a miniature dragon. The burn on Draco's hand was still healing.
"Oh," Draco said suddenly, apparently remembering something and reaching into his pocket to retrieve it. "Brought us a little snack. I bought it in Hogsmeade at the weekend and forgot I had it."
He placed the chocolate bar on the desk beside Hermione's hand, and she eyed it nervously. He pulled another one out of his pocket for himself and sunk his teeth into it without hesitation. Hermione watched him as if observing some bizarre ritual. How could he just do that? How could he eat that without planning for it, and working out how many extra squats he'd have to do to make up for it? She was filled with envy at his carelessness.
"I'm not hungry," Hermione mumbled, pushing the chocolate bar away from her with excessive force.
Draco frowned. "Come on, Granger. It's only a chocolate bar."
Hermione looked at him, considering. Would one chocolate bar really be so bad? She ran through her day's intake quickly: half a slice of toast, no butter, for breakfast; a bowl of carrots and peas for lunch and for dinner, nothing. But she knew the chocolate bar contained more calories than any one meal she'd eaten for weeks. It simply would not do.
"No thanks," she said in faux nonchalance, looking back down at her essay. He said nothing, but flicked the chocolate bar on the table. It came spinning across the table and bumped her hand. She glared at him.
"Don't make me force feed you," Draco said in a mock threatening voice. She couldn't help but smile, if only a little.
"I'd like to see you try," she retorted with a grin, but was horrified when he appeared to take that to heart and began unwrapping the chocolate bar he had presented her. "No no," she began to say, but had to clamp her mouth shut to keep him from putting a square of chocolate into her mouth.
"I'm not moving until you eat it," Draco said, nudging her lips with the chocolate. She remained steadfast. He tried another tactic; the hand with the chocolate fell away from her mouth and he sighed, putting on his best fake hurt expression. "We've had word that my father will probably get the Dementor's Kiss."
Hermione's mouth dropped open in shock. "I –" she started to say, but couldn't manage anymore because Draco used the opportunity to shove the piece of chocolate directly into her mouth. She swallowed quickly, trying not to choke, looking at him in utter horror. He looked extremely satisfied with himself. She tried to ignore the taste of the chocolate on her tongue and looked longingly at the rest of the bar lying on the table. Horrified, she saw herself reaching for it and unwrapping it like a woman possessed. It was as if she was not in control of her own hands as they pushed chocolate into her open mouth piece by piece until she could fit no more. Draco watched her, startled.
After a minute, Hermione swallowed the final piece and looked at her hands, smeared with chocolate. The wrapper lay empty on the table. Her stomach stretched uncomfortably even though it was only a small bar. Sickened with herself, she felt tears spring to her eyes. How could she be so stupid, so weak?
She blinked away her tears hurriedly, thankful that Draco had gone to put the empty wrappers in the bin. When he got back, she had composed herself. "I'm just going to use the bathroom," she smiled politely. He nodded, wondering why she had just behaved like that. Draco watched her go, utterly bemused.
Hermione had never been as grateful as she was when she saw that the girls' bathroom was empty. Tears were swimming in her eyes again as one thought ran repeatedly through her mind: getridofitgetridofit.
She locked herself in one of the cubicles and fell to her knees, pushing the toilet seat up as she did so. Tears fell down her face as she stuck her fingers down her throat for the first time in her life.
By the time she was finished, she was fairly confident that all the chocolate was gone from her system. Even so, she resolved to do an extra half an hour of exercise to make up for any she had not managed to remove.
She stood, flushing away her sins and opening the cubicle door before she stopped in horror.
Aela stood, checking her hair in the mirror above one of the sinks. She saw Hermione over her shoulder and turned around, smiling. "Hey sweetie," she said disconcertingly.
Hermione didn't know what to say. "How long have you been in here?" she managed eventually. She tucked her hair behind her ear nervously.
"Long enough," Aela shrugged, and Hermione's heart sank.
"Please don't tell anyone," Hermione whispered, pleading.
Aela smiled again. "Oh, I won't." Hermione sighed with relief. "After all," Aela continued, "I do it too."
Draco looked up as Hermione returned after a short while. Her eyes were slightly red and puffy, he noticed with concern. "Are you all right?"
"Oh yes, I'm fine," Hermione smiled faintly. Her voice was hoarse. She pulled her jumper sleeves down over her hands so that he would not see the marks on her knuckles, left by her teeth as she made herself throw up.
Draco didn't push the matter and returned to working on his essay. Hermione pretended she was reading a book but in reality her mind was a mess. Had she really just done that? She had heard of girls in her year doing that sort of thing before but somehow that had seemed so trivial at the time… what Hermione had just experienced was in no way trivial. She never wanted to put herself through that again, and so the solution was simple: don't eat.
A shimmer of blonde hair to her left caught her attention. She saw Aela turning the corner, and it did not escape her notice that she was grinning wickedly.
A/N: Bit short, I know, but I hope that wasn't too sucky after all this time! I know we've jumped fairly far ahead in time but I thought it necessary to get the ball rolling a bit more :)