A horrific sense of calm seemed to settle over the office. My mother and father seemed stuck to their seats, clinging to each other like they were the ones that needed comforting. Needed help and support and some sense of stability in their oh so hectic lives. I bit the inside of my cheek. Well, they had just been told that their daughter was crazy. And the shock on their faces meant that they really hadn’t seen it coming. I would’ve snorted, if it didn’t hurt so much that they thought I was faking or exaggerating or something along those lines.
“Well, mother, father, lovely to see you.” I started, standing and smoothing down my shirt, eyes anywhere but them. “But I need to, you know, get on with getting better. And I’m sure Dr Moon is very busy.”
They both blinked up at me, obviously confused and slightly surprised by what I was doing. Which, essentially, was ejecting them from the office so I didn’t have to look at them anymore. My mother nodded jerkily, rising and pulling me into a hug. I didn’t do hugs often or willingly. Never had. They hadn’t been too big a thing in my household when I was younger, which was surprising because the Weasley’s were supposed to be the biggest, bestest, kindest pureblood family ever, and my father was supposed to be nothing like his guardians had been; was supposed to be giving his children what he’d never had. But those traits had been surprisingly absent during my childhood. I wondered if maybe by the time I came along, they weren’t seen as important, or at least not as important as they had once been. So I stiffened immediately, giving her a small pat on the back before she released me, staring at me with red eyes and a mournful expression on her face, like she’d just been told I was dying, not that I’d have to spend a minimum of sixth months in a mental ward. And then my father was pulling me into a hug and I wanted to scream, my hands curled at my sides and I bit down hard on my cheek again and I willed myself not to push him away because this was what I wanted, wasn’t it? I wanted recognition and love and everything everybody else got from him. But you’re only getting it because of me. Shut up. You know it’s true Lily. He’s only doing this because I’m in the back of your head. And he stepped back, taking my mothers hand, and giving me a look that told me it was right. And I hated them both for it.
They left after about a minute of staring. My mother ducked her head, choking out a sob, and turned, pulling my father with her. I tried not to visibly relax when they’d left, and thought I’d been successful, except Dr Moon was taking notes when I turned and I was pretty sure they were all about me.
“Um, is there anything else you needed?” I asked, fingers picking at the seam on the side of my jeans.
“No, Lily. Everything’s sorted. Your treatment will start in about a week, is that okay?” I nodded. “Good. That gives you time to get properly comfortable, make a few more friends. Think of this place as less of a prison.” I gave her a small nod; eyebrows raised and turning on my heel. “Oh and Lily?” I turned my head.
“Please keep the fact you saw the Malfoy’s here to yourself?” Her head was ducked again, writing something in a print like hand. “They’re afraid of admitting the person who needs help because of their family history. Worried that they’ll suffer in here like they do on the outside.” She glanced up, a steely glint in her eye. “And I wouldn’t want any rumors spread about the place putting them off and letting that hurt continue.”
I scoffed a little then, glaring, before practically marching out of the door, calling over my shoulder. “Just because I’m crazy, doesn’t mean I’m cruel.”
The little laugh she gave wafted down the corridor behind me, and I did my best to ignore the way it sounded almost taunting.
“So, how did it go?” Hailey asked, tucking her legs under her as I flopped onto the sofa.
“Okay. Major Depressive Disorder and a Borderline Personality Disorder. Treated with psychotherapy and antidepressant. Minimum admittance time of six months.” I shrugged, hugging a pillow to my chest.
“Could be worse. Could’ve been something that meant permanent admittance and constant supervision.” She said softly, and I nodded a little. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Did I act happy about the fact it was treatable? Did I cry because I was stuck here for six months and would probably be on medication for the rest of my life? Did I rejoice because at least I wasn’t stuck in the castle? I paused. “What about school?”
Hailey blinked at me. “What about it?”
“Do they have lessons here to keep you up to date?”
She shook her head a little. “No. The main focus here is getting better, not ensuring you maintain passing grades. You can do independent study if you want; they’ve got a library here after all. But they won’t make you do anything.”
I nodded. “That’s good. I’m pretty sure having to write tons of essays to make up for lost time would make me even crazier.” A silence settled over us. One that made my skin crawl and left me with this need to fidget or to just get up and run. “How do you do it?” I asked, just to break the silence.
It came out an almost laugh. The kind of thing that your voice does when you want to cry but you can’t. “Act normal after being told you’re anything but?”
She looked down at her hands, picking at her nails, and she took her time answering. Her voice was slow, and measured, and oh so careful. Like she thought if she spoke too fast, or too brashly… I’d break in two. “I think you learn to live with it. I think it haunts you, morning noon and night. I think it lingers at the edge of every thought you have. I think… I think after a while, your crazy just becomes your new normal. If you don’t learn to live with it, it learns to live through you.”
The silence we lapsed into after that wasn’t horrible. Wasn’t awkward or prickly or the kind that made me want to be anywhere else. It was the kind of silence you find safety in. The kind that wraps you up and ensures you that you are going to be okay, because someone else has done what you have. Someone else has gotten through this. Has made it out alive.
We sat in silence until Alex loped in, dragging a cart of what looked like paint behind him. I blinked, and turned to look at Hailey, who had a grin forming on her face.
“Paint therapy.” She said, nose wrinkling a little in a downright adorable way.
“I thought art therapy was down the hall?”
She shook her head. “This is different. Much better. We only get it once every two weeks.” I glanced back at Alex, who was chucking scrubs onto the floor, and my eyes widened.
We stared at each other, and before I knew it I was grinning and vaulting over the back of the sofa, laughing as I grabbed an oversized bottom and top, tugging them on, and worming my way into the almost vibrating crowd of teenagers that surrounded Alex.
“Okay kids, you all know what today is.” There was a light cheering from the group, and Hailey popped up beside me, tugging her hair into a ponytail. “For the newbies, welcome.” He flashed a grin in my direction, and I nodded my head in return. “We hope you enjoy. The basic rules are, no going outside of the room with the paint. Everything in here is protected with spells so it won’t do any permanent damage. The rest of the ward, however, is not. So you go out there with this, and anything you get paint on, you will have to clean up or replace. But that’s it. Come and pick your colour, and wait for the countdown.” The crowd surged forward, grabbing various tins and tubes and spreading out around the room.
“Stick with me for the first few minutes, okay?” Hailey said, snagging a pot of purple gloss and handing it to me, before choosing a garish sunflower yellow for herself and hurrying back towards the sofa. She toppled it, and tucked herself behind it, nodding for me to join her. “This is base. We wait for the whistle, and then we go. Literally aim for everybody who isn’t me. We’re a team, okay?” I nodded, hugging the tin to my chest. “If you’re in trouble, I’ll come for you, and if I’m in trouble and you’re around, I’ll expect you to come for me.” I nodded again, more excitedly, and held out my pinky. She blinked at it, before grinning and hooking her own finger around it. “Team?”
“Team.” I beamed at her, heart thudding in my chest.
“Alright! Everybody ready?” Alex’s yell echoed around the room. “Three! Two! One! Go!”
And suddenly the room was full of war cries and screeches and laughter, and paint was spattering onto the floor in front of our feet, and Hailey was yelling and scrabbling forward, and I was close behind her, immediately painted black and blue. Streaks of sunflower yellow sliced through my horizon, purple spilled over my hands and coated the faces and arms and torsos of everybody I passed, and I was laughing. Laughing hard and honest and true and it felt like I hadn’t done that in ages. The fact of the matter was I hadn’t done it in ages. Hailey was being cornered by Zach and Cheyenne, and I surged forward, heaving the tub so it sloshed over their heads and down their necks, and I laughed as they turned on me, faces scrunched and shouting out, spattering me with their reds and greens that tickled my skin and matted my hair. And then we called a treuce and we charged on the group that beat Hailey and Zach at table football the other week, and drenched the girl that nicked the remote from Cheyenne and put on some shitty soap instead of the documentary about badgers, and soon we were all collapsed in a paint covered heap, the entire ward, wheezing and laughing and congratulating each other on technique. And it felt like a home. Like a truly fucked up but entirely happy home. And I loved it.
I was traipsing to the shower at about 10 when I saw her, hovering ouside of Dr Moons office. It was Mrs Malfoy, hair tied up sloppily, and looking so beaten, so defeated, that I had to say something.
“Excuse me?” She jumped, and turned her wide, bloodshot eyes on me. “Are you okay?”
She blinked a few times, before nodding a little. Then stopping, and shaking her head instead, face crumpling a little. “I don’t know what to do.” It came out a terrified whisper, a plea, really. And she sat heavily in the chair opposite the office door.
“What’s happened?” I asked, crouching in front of her.
“It’s my son. He needs help. He’s… Hurting. He’s hurting all the time and we need to do something, but Draco’s afraid of what’ll happen to him if we put him in the system.”
My eyes widened a little, but I nodded slowly. “Scorpius, right?”
She nodded, “How do you know him?”
“He was a friend of my brother, Al. They worked on a few projects together. I saw him in the library sometimes, and the kitchens. We were friends too, I guess, before I was admitted. We’d chat about small things before we went back to our commomrooms or classes or to studying.” I smiled softly at her. “He’s lovely. I’m sorry he’s hurting.”
She sniffed lightly, before her eyes near lit up. “Can you do me a favour, Lily?”
“Can you tell that to my husband?”
My brow furrowed a little. “Tell him what, exactly?”
“That you don’t hate Scor for what his name holds. That you think he’s kind. That you’re his friend.”
“Sure, if you think it’ll help.”
She beamed tearily at me and clutched my hand, standing and pulling me towards the office. I could hear heated voices through the door, and was about to ask if we should knock when she pushed it open, tugging me inside.
“Can’t you send someone to the manor?” Mr Malfoy was stood, palms flat on the desk, near bellowing at Dr Moon. “Can’t you do something more than say to admit him?”
“No, Mr Malfoy, I can’t.” Her voice was soothing, calm, and her eyebrows twitched up a little at the sight of Mrs Malfoy and I, my hand near clutched to her chest. “Lily, what a lovely surprise. What can I do for you?”
Mr Malfoy turned on us, face twisting in what looked like a mixture of shock, pain and embarrassment, before his gaze settled on his wife.
“What’re you doing, Astoria?” It was bone weary, tired, and defeated. “Why did you bring her in here?”
“She’s got something to tell you.” She barely hid her excitement, and she turned wide imploring eyes on me. My stomach twisted a little. She looked so hopeful, so dependent. I swallowed thickly, before turning back to Mr Malfoy.
“Scorpius. He needs help, right?” There was a slight tick in his jaw. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him.” I said quickly. “Mrs Malfoy hasn’t told me anything. But she’s scared for him. She’s really worried, and she thinks here is the best place for him. It’s… It’s good here. It’s nice.” No it’s not. They make you forget. They’re getting into your head Lily. My heart stuttered. “They’re helping me get better too.” No they’re not, Lily. I’m still here. “And I’m not treated differently because of who my dad is.” Tell that to your one friend; the daughter of Death Eater scum she is too. “And I was friends with Scorpius before I came here.” Mr Malfoy’s brows shot up a little.
I nodded quickly. “Yeah. We’d study together in the library, and I’d run into him in the kitchens sometimes and we’d talk. He’s really nice, lovely and kind and he’d always take time out to help me with things, even though I was in a different house and year and he had no reason to be nice to me. And I don’t want him to hurt any more than you do.” He slumped back in his chair, and Mrs Malfoy squeezed my hand. I took it as a sign of victory, on her part. “If you do admit him… I’ll do my best to look out for him. I’ll make sure he’s safe here, Mr Malfoy. I promise.” He gave me a small smile, and a nod of thanks, and Mrs Malfoy rushed over to him, hugging him tightly and crying softly into his shoulder. Dr Moon gave me a small wink, and I slipped out of the room, shutting the door softly and carrying on towards the shower.
“What a promise, Lily.” It was quiet, lilting, drifting down the corridor towards me and curling into my ears. Light glinting off of glasses, a faded lighting bolt shaped scar, jade eyes that burned in the harsh sterile light. “Saying you’ll keep him safe when you can’t even do that for yourself.” And maybe he was right.