When I was younger, I used to have nightmares. I’d wake every night at 3am, drenched in cold sweat, clinging to my mother and sobbing into her shoulder, mumbling incoherently. It worried them, sure, but they never took me to a doctor, never asked anything deeper than the standard ‘are you okay, sweetie?’ before hushing me back to sleep… They blamed it on books and television, the scary stories about global warming and the impending apocalypse, and Grandpa Weasley’s strange obsession with muggle taxidermy, the array of stuffed bears and foxes and wolves that prowled the Burrow’s garage at night. They never once thought the monster in my dreams slept across the hall.
I was ten when they got scared. When concern hit them like a brick wall. Albus was sick, some stomach bug he’d caught from a friend, and my mother was taking care of him when I woke, startled, shuddering, crying out at the feeling of demons crawling out of my ears and slinking into the corners of my room. My father rushed in, a sleepy, fumbling, bumbling mess of a man, a hush on his lips that was drowned out by the new bout of screams that burst out of my already raw throat. I scrabbled backwards, grabbing a book from the sideboard and throwing it at him, the sharp corner grazing his forehead and making him curse in shock. More things were thrown. Snow globes, my untouched glass of milk, toys, the bedside lamp, everything. All of it in an attempt to keep him away…
“Lily!” He eventually roared, making me freeze, arm angled awkwardly and mouth agape. His voice softened as my mother rushed in, 5 minutes too late. “It’s me, your dad… Sweetie you’re awake!”
“That’s what you always say!” I croaked back, dropping whatever I’d been clutching at. I turned wide imploring eyes to my mother, then, pleading with her to understand what I was really saying. “Mum, that’s what he always says!”
She simply stared at me as I cried, confusion marring her pretty face. She didn’t know what to do; my father didn’t know what to do… Nobody knew what to do with lonely little Lily. So they left her.
6 years on, the dreams don’t scare me anymore. That’s a lie. They grew with me. Fears adapting with age, and by default the demons did too. Every day I wake, eyes streaming, heart pounding, lungs gasping, scream tamed and trapped in the hollow of my chest. A raging hurricane rattling away to no avail inside an old glass jar. Everyday I close my eyes again and breathe, feeling my heartbeat adopt its natural rhythm again. Everyday I think that if I live to see tomorrow morning, I’ll only need two more miracles to be a saint. I stare blankly at the cold white ceiling, begging for an imperfection to appear, waiting for something that I can latch onto, feed, fuel. Anything, any little thing, that can make me feel human. But nothing shows, and I’m a monster for yet another day.
It was with leaden legs that I dragged myself into the canteen for breakfast. Bleary, bloodshot eyes scanning the room for a familiar face. I spotted Hailey and Zach sat together, heads bowed and muttering quietly between themselves. Privately. Lovingly. I shook my head, dispelling the thoughts, and grabbed myself a tray with a premade breakfast on it, choosing a corner table with only one chair. Where the other would’ve been sat a messy wire frame, melted plastic stiffened half way to the floor. They looked like raindrops that had been denied their final resting place, and had grown bitter and black with the years gone by. I absent mindedly wondered why the ward hadn’t simply fixed it with magic, removed the molten mess and replaced it with a squeaky clean model of perfection that the rest of the tables had. Maybe it’s supposed to show that not everything can be fixed by waving a wand. Or maybe that beneath everything beautiful is a black, seething, ugly mess of pure destruction. Just like you. Before I realized what I’d done, the plastic fork was embedded in the back of my hand, the pain chasing it into the back of my head, cackling as it went. I quickly pulled the fork out, wincing as I did. I flexed my fingers, watching four beads of blood blossom to the surface, unmoving, and unwavering in their stand. Even they were perfect in their own fucked up way.
“Shit, Lily, what did you do?” Cheyenne placed her tray next to mine, grabbing my hand before I could stop her.
“What’re you sitting on?” I asked, ignoring the way she dabbed at me with a napkin.
“A chair. What’re you sitting on?” She grinned, albeit a little uneasily.
“But it’s not a chair. It was all nasty and burnt and melted. Did you fix it? Do you have your wand on you or something?”
“No I don’t. Nothing in the ward’s ever been burnt down. Are you okay, Lily? Do you want me to get a nurse or Dr. Moon?”
I snatched my hand back from her, eyes narrowing slightly, conspiratorial whispers ricocheting around my head. “No. I’m fine.”
“I said I’m fine, so will you just leave me alone! You’re just going to turn on me any second anyway like you did with Florence yesterday, so fuck off already and stop pretending!” I yelled, glaring at her icily. “I neither need nor want your help, and besides, you are in no position to help anyone.”
She stared at me levelly, silence had descended over the canteen, and everything was still. Everyone was breathing one collective breath, waiting for something or someone to snap. But it didn’t, at least not yet anyway. “I’m not letting you suffer alone.”
“I’m not suffering. I’m coping perfectly well.”
“Then you’re not coping at all.”
And she was right.
Ring a ring o’ rosies, a pocket full of posies, atishoo atishoo, they all fall down. Ring a ring o’ rosies, a pocket full of posies, atishoo atishoo, they all fall down. Ring a ring o’ rosies, ring a ring o’ rosies, ring a ring o’ rosies, you’ll all fall down, you’ll all fall down, you’ll all fall down. I bit down harder on my lower lip, tasting the sharp metallic tang of blood. It’d been going on for about 5 minutes now like a broken record in the back of my head, and it was slowly driving me crazy. Well, crazier than I already was. What I was sure was a hysterical laugh burst out of my lips then, and once it started, I couldn’t seem to stop it. That was how the nurse found me, with bright red bloodied lips, laughing hysterically on my bed, and every so often muttering a line from an old children’s rhyme. And that was how my parents found me too.
“Lily?” My mother’s soft tone had me craning my neck to see around the nurse who was tending to my lip. I cracked a grin, wide and bloody and all pearly teeth, wincing at the sting of the stretch and the tutting of the nurse. My mother gasped a little, pressing a hand to her trembling lips. She had a habit of doing that, I noticed.
“Hey mum. How’re you?” Be cordial. Be nice. Be everything you’re normally not.
“We’re…” She glanced at my father, who was looking anywhere but the room I was sitting in. His skin was almost grey, stretched taut like parchment. She grimaced. “Okay, darling. We’re okay. How are you?”
“Not bad. Still crazy. Not as many suicidal urges though.”
There was an awkward silence, both parents staring at me in surprise. The only sound being the shuffling of the nurse’s shoes as finished.
“Too soon, I guess. Um, why’re you here?”
“Dr Moon said she has your diagnosis. We need to see how long you’ll be… staying for.”
“Committed, mum.” I said, standing and thanking the nurse with a small nod. “How long I’ll be committed for. I’m not stupid.”
“Right.” She muttered. “Right. Of course.”
I walked up to her, a smaller smile on my face, and enveloped her in a hug. “It’s good to see you though. Even if it’s not for the best of reasons…” It was over quickly. Before she could even return it I had moved past them both, gesturing for them to follow me. The thought of touching them made my skin crawl, and actually doing it made me feel like I was being burnt by hot irons at every point of contact. I shuddered, focusing instead on leading them to Dr Moon’s office.
“So, what’s it like here? Made any friends?” My fathers voice was tentative, cautious. In all honesty I was surprised he was talking to me directly.
I shrugged, not turning to look at him. “It’s alright I suppose. Better than the adult psych ward at any rate. That place is sterile and white and just horrible. It’s not like the movies either. No straight jackets or crazy Doctors giving patients the wrong meds for a laugh. And yeah I have, not many though. Hailey Zabini, she was in my year at school, Cheyenne Smith and Zach Dobbs. And there’s Florence, but I don’t really like her that much. She’s a bit of a bitch. But beggars can’t be choosers, right?” I rambled on, choosing not to turn to look at them, choosing to ignore the stares of the other patients, choosing to focus only on the winding corridor leading to Dr Moon’s office. “But they’re not real friends. They’re just people to get me through this. Hailey said at the beginning that if you don’t socialize, you end up crazier than you were when you’re admitted so that’s why I’m talking to them. So I don’t get worse.” I nodded a few times in quick succession. “Right.” I said, stopping outside of Dr Moon’s office. “Here we are.” I gestured, and my mother stepped forward and rapped her knuckles gently against the wooden door. It swung open, and Dr Moon greeted them with a wide smile on her face, ushering us into the spacious room. It smelt of green tea and honeysuckle. It smelt pure and detoxed. I didn’t like it.
“Welcome, welcome! I’m so glad you could make it.” She gestured to the 3 seats in front of her desk and we sat, my mother fidgeting, my fathers hands clasped tightly in his lap, and me staring blankly at her as she took a seat and smiled at the three of us. “So, do we all know why we’re here?”
“You’ve got my diagnosis.” I said after a few seconds of silence.
“Yes. I do. And you’ll be glad to know that you can be helped.”
I shuffled forward slightly, hands shaking a little as I gripped my knees. “Tell me.”
“From the questions I’ve asked you, what I’ve been told, your description of your symptoms and experiences, I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and you have a Borderline Personality Disorder. Both of which can be treated with psychotherapy, and antidepressants. We will, however, be keeping you here for a minimum of six months so we can introduce you to your treatments in a safe, secure and stable environment. We’ll re-evaluate you after that to see how you’re progressing and how we’ll proceed from there. Do you have any questions?”
The silence that followed was surprisingly comforting. It let reality sink in.
It was true. It was now a clinically proven fact. Lily Potter, was indeed, crazy.