Hermione glanced up from the book that she was currently engrossed in to check the small clock that was hanging on the wall.
In the morning.
Although she hadn’t felt tired before, a wave of exhaustion suddenly swept through her brain. Where she had felt quick before, she currently felt sluggish. It took the remainder of her energy to rise from her chair and take the five steps to her bed, where she promptly curled up on top of the covers.
She awoke the next morning to the grating peal of her alarm clock.
Automatically, Hermione sat up and wiped the grit from her eye. She realized with a note of amusement that she was still dressed from the day before. She must have been too tired to undress. She dashed a hand out to silence the noisy alarm and stood up from her bed.
Quietly, so as not to disturb her roommates, Hermione peeled off the very wrinkled robes and replaced them with a fresh set. She collected several books from her desk, placed them in her bag, and slipped out of the dormitory.
The Common Room was completely deserted. House Elves must have stopped by earlier in the morning to clean, as the usual litter of torn paper and empty ink bottles was gone. No other student had yet to disturb the rather unnatural cleanliness of the room.
Hermione, though, did not stop; she continued walking out of the portrait hole and down the corridors until she reached the Great Hall. The doors were still shut; she was too early for breakfast. With an impatient sigh, Hermione checked her watch. There was another eight minutes until breakfast began.
The wait didn’t last as long as Hermione expected and the doors opened promptly, right on schedule. As she made her way to the Gryffindor table, she realized that she was the only person in the Hall. It didn’t really matter, though. It was like this every day – she was always the first for breakfast.
Once she was settled at the table – bag underneath her chair and book next to her plate – Hermione reached to pour herself a goblet of pumpkin juice. The carafe must have slipped, though, because the juice missed the goblet and splashed onto her plate, narrowly missing her book.
“Damn it,” Hermione muttered as she reached for her wand. Quickly, she Vanished the mess and managed to succeed in getting the juice into the goblet.
Methodically, she buttered a piece of toast and took a bite while opening her book to where she’d left off only hours before. Although she was only in her third year, she was reading an Arithmancy book designed for students who were in their fifth year. It was absolutely fascinating to read such things and Hermione had always felt a bit of selfish pride whenever she impressed her professors with her rather extreme knowledge.
Hermione rested her head on her left hand as she continued to read and feed herself bites of the toast in her right hand. It was very comfortable to lean on her hand like that…
Hermione was startled by another hand suddenly shaking her shoulder. She had fallen asleep at breakfast!
“Come on, Hermione, wake up,” a voice said gently.
Hermione blinked slowly and raised her head to see the kind face of Penelope Clearwater – the Head Girl – staring at her in concern.
“I’m okay,” Hermione mumbled while attempting to clear her head.
“No, I don’t think you are.” Penelope’s voice was still gentle, but it had a threat beneath it.
She began what sounded like a prepared speech to Hermione’s tired ears. “You can’t keep treating yourself like this, Hermione. It’s not healthy. I’ve caught you down here almost every morning before everyone else comes to breakfast, looking as though you haven’t slept in a week.”
Hermione lowered her head, unwilling to meet Penelope in the eye. It hurt to hear the truth, even though there was still no one else in the Hall to hear it.
“Look at me, Hermione,” Penelope demanded quietly.
Reluctantly, Hermione met her eyes.
“This has to stop. Now. You’re never going to be able to do anything if you don’t get adequate rest.”
Deep in her heart, Hermione knew that Penelope was right. If she continued to drive herself so hard, she would only cause damage.
“Alright,” Hermione acquiesced. Penelope looked relieved.
“Good. Let’s get you back to bed, then.”
Penelope helped Hermione gather her things and escorted her up to the Gryffindor Tower. Although she felt the small sting of defeat, Hermione knew that she really didn’t have to be first in every little thing. She only needed to be first in things that mattered and breakfast was certainly not one of those.