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Mistaken Identity by MischiefManaged311

Format: Novella
Chapters: 12
Word Count: 23,414

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language

Genres: General
Characters: Draco, Harry, Hermione, OC, Ron, Snape

First Published: 04/05/2005
Last Chapter: 11/21/2005
Last Updated: 11/21/2005

This story used to be called I'm Not Rupert. Due to legalities I have changed names and created original characters. AU. Ron awakens to find that everything at Hogwarts has changed; there are people he doesn't recognize that continually boss him around, and the people he does recognize seem different somehow. Chaos ensues, leaving Ron feeling utterly alone and confused.

Chapter 1: All Wrong
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a/n: All the names you do not recognize are characters I have created to represent the actors in the Harry Potter films. All the names are fictional and not representative of real people.

Ron woke up to a giant ruckus. He bolted out of his bed in the hospital wing to investigate and found a crowd of people wandering around inside the dark room, all looking like they had some important mission to do. It made no sense to Ron. Who are all these people? And what are they doing at my school?

Certainly these people looked much too old to be attending a wizard school. Most of them did not even look like wizards at all…A vast majority of them were wearing Muggle clothes and looked like they had never held a wand in their life. Some of them sat in flimsy chairs that had their names on the back, and sipped drinks with words printed on the side that Ron had never heard of before. What the hell is Coca-Cola?

Just then, Ron recognized some younger-looking people he was sure he knew. Thank god, it’s Harry and Hermione. Certainly they know what’s going on, and they must know these people too, since they’re standing around talking to them. He saw a dark-haired man he was sure was Professor Snape sitting in a chair with the name “Aaron Richardson” on the back. What on earth is Snape doing in someone else’s chair? And who is Aaron Richardson? Maybe a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?

He squinted to read other names on chairs close to Snape’s and found a blonde boy he knew sitting in a chair that said Travis Fredricks. Ok, either Draco is confused or he was just too lazy to go find his own chair.

Ron watched Harry and Hermione walk over to Draco and take their seats beside him in chairs labeled “David Radtke” and “Amy Watkins.” Wow everyone around here is really nutters, and someone has made a huge mistake with the chairs. I hope someone got fired for that. As he watched his school friends sitting together and laughing, he wondered how Harry and Hermione were getting along so well with Draco. Have I missed something?

And there was an empty chair beside them, bearing the name “Russell Green.” Who the hell is Russell Green? Have they gotten another friend and replaced me? He could be a new student, I guess… but none of this makes sense!

Just then, Ron was suddenly aware of all the strangers in the hospital wing.

“Cut, cut! What are you doing? You’re still supposed to be asleep! We haven’t even finished the scene yet!” A man reprimanded Ron for doing something bad, although Ron was clueless as to what it was.

“Alright everybody, from the top! Take two! Russell, back in bed!”

Ron noticed that the man had been calling him Russell, which was certainly not his name. They must think I’m someone else. Ron began to correct the bossy adult when an impatient man silenced him. Ron also found it odd that wizards would be using Muggle recording devices, and for what purpose they served at Hogwarts he knew not.

He looked around the room and noticed something was odd about it. It looked different somehow-- not normal. It was not at all the way he remembered it to be. Maybe these people are remodeling Hogwarts? He highly doubted it, but it was the best explanation he could come up with for the moment.

Ron tried to cut off his brain from the swirling questions about what was going on, but just as he got relaxed enough to sleep he heard the same man yell importantly, “Three… Two… One… Action!”

Ron panicked at these words, envisioning some horrible new spell that had just been created that would bring about his demise. He jumped out of bed and lunged for his wand and screamed, “Expelliarmus!”

Nothing happened.

Well, not nothing. The men and women standing in the hospital wing (he realized there had to have been at least twenty) looked exasperated, and a few laughed. Ron noticed Madame Pomfrey was one of the giggling women. Why is she laughing at me?

Ron tried again. “Expelliarmus! Wingardium Leviosa! Lumos! Stupefy!” He tried a list of charms and spells he knew quite well, but nothing was happening. Have I lost all my magic? Is this a nightmare?

“Ok, playtime’s over, Russell. Come on, we need to get back to work if we want to get this thing finished by midnight.” A few people in the background chuckled.

Why is this guy calling me Russell? I think he’s confused; I’m not Russell. I’m Ron --just Ron.

Maybe I should just play along until I can find Dumbledore. He’ll be able to explain everything.

“Get back into bed so we can finish the scene. You remember your lines right?”

Lines? What lines? I’m not in trouble, am I? I don’t remember being assigned any lines! Oh blimey, what did I do?

“Yes, I remember,” the redheaded boy lied.

“Take three.”

“…And action!”

Ron was back in bed, keeping as still as he could hoping that they’d think he was asleep and let him rest.

“Russell, that’s your cue.” The man lowered the giant black machine and cocked his hip out as he waited for Ron, looking thoroughly annoyed.

“I’m NOT Russell! Please stop calling me that! I’m Ron! My name is RON!” His face was red with frustration, and it scared him that nobody knew who he really was.

“Accio broom!” But it didn’t work. Why isn’t my broom coming?

Hot tears welled up in his blue eyes and he stormed out of the hospital wing, determined to get to the bottom of all this. As Ron ran, he knew his body should be aching (after all, he had to have been in the hospital wing for some reason) but it wasn’t. How odd.

Ron’s sudden outburst startled the other people, and they just watched him run off the set.

“Do you think he’s gone mad?” inquired a woman with a clipboard.

“Poor bloke, guess the stress of filming is taking its toll,” responded the man with the recording device.

“Maybe someone should go check on him,” suggested the woman.

Ron sprinted to the one place where he could hide and get away from it all: the Room of Requirement. As he ran, he noticed Hogwarts looked strange, and not at all as he remembered it. The rooms looked like half of them had simply disappeared, while others were missing entirely. This place wasn’t Hogwarts at all… So why did it look like it?

Ron ran around from set to set, looking for the Room of Requirement. He passed rooms he was sure he’d never seen at Hogwarts, like the “green room.” As he sprinted down a long hallway, Ron almost knocked over a couple of people coming out small rooms with filled with lots of clothes.

When Ron found where the Room of Requirement should have been, it was not at all what he was looking for. The room had been deactivated somehow, and Ron’s pulse raced as he came to the conclusion that everything he knew was wrong. Ron leaned against the wall and slid down to the floor, tears streaming freely down his face.

Where am I? Somebody please help me….

Chapter 2: His Two Best Friends
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a/n: All the names you do not recognize are characters I have created to represent the actors in the Harry Potter films. All the names are fictional and not representative of real people.

“We’ve got a situation here, Dave. I think you should come with me.” Alonzo Cardoza’s voice was a higher pitch than normal, reflecting his worries.

“What’s going on? Is everything ok?” David asked the man.

“Not exactly. It’s Russell. He kind of freaked out on us during the hospital wing take. Don’t know what got into him. He’s huddled in the hallway crying, and he won’t talk to anyone. Keeps asking for ‘Harry.’ I think maybe you should go see to him.”

David had a confused and rather skeptical look on his face. He’d had practical jokes played on him before on the set, and this sounded exactly like something they would try to pull on him again, so he was wary about being gullible enough to believe any of it. All the same, David was curious to see what the commotion was about. He closed the door to his dressing room, leaving behind his script with his make-up only half finished.

Alonzo led David to the place where Russell sat, and they saw a crowd of people huddled around cooing and trying to comfort the panicked boy. If anything, they probably only made him more frightened. David kindly asked the spectators to give them time, then knelt down beside his scared co-star and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Russ, mate, you all right?” David’s voice was soft and comforting, yet didn’t receive a pleasant reaction; Ron only bawled harder.

He looked up into David’s face, tears streaming all the way down to his neck and choked out, “You called me that, too! Why? Please don’t call me Russell—my name is Ron! Come on Harry, I’m Ron!” His sobs grew more violent and desperate than ever. David’s heart wrenched in anguish at seeing his friend so hurt, so he did the only thing he thought could work: he played along.

“You’re right, Ron. I’m sorry. Do you want to tell me what happened?”

Ron nodded his head, but was crying so furiously that he could hardly breathe, let alone talk. David draped his arm over Ron’s shoulders, but Ron felt he needed more than that and grabbed David into a powerful hug. The boys stayed sitting in the hall for what felt like hours until Ron had calmed down. He then started asking David questions upon questions about who all the people were at Hogwarts and what they were doing there. He asked why they called him Russell, and why nothing seemed right. David decided to break the news slowly.

“Maybe they think you’re someone else. You know, like mistaken identity. Or maybe, you really are Russell and you just don’t remember because you’ve gotten yourself so wrapped up in your character, Ron. Sometimes actors get so involved that they actually feel like their characters sometimes.”

“What are you talking about? I’ve always been Ron. There’s no way I could be someone else; it just doesn’t make sense! And another thing—why was I in the Hospital Wing? I’m not hurt at all!” Ron was sounding frantic because he had so many questions still left unanswered.

“We’re filming for the Prisoner of Azkaban. Remember the scene where the ‘grim’ bit you to get at Scabbers; well there’s a hospital scene after that because your leg was so badly mangled. That’s why you were in the Hospital Wing.”

“What!? Filming? What’s that? Harry, that thing with Scabbers and the grim happened years ago! Why would I still be in the hospital? And you know the grim isn’t really a grim—it’s Sirius. I think you’re confused, mate. I need to find my girlfriend… She’ll know what’s going on.” With that, Ron stood up and began to walk down to the opposite end of the hallway.

David was feeling like he was in way over his head. “Girlfriend? Who—“ Ron angrily turned back to interrupt David.

“Hermione! You know, bushy brown hair, big front teeth, always got her nose in a book? Hermione—our best friend! Hermione who always outdoes EVERYONE on their homework? Hermione the perfect daughter and perfect student? Hermione—MY GIRLFRIEND!” Ron stormed off at a fast trot, and then broke into a run as he barged into every room in the hallway looking for her. David heard shrieks coming from the girls’ dressing rooms and let out a nervous chuckle before charging after him.

“Hermione! There you are! Please…I’ve been looking all over for you—“ Ron panted and struggled to talk.

“Russell! What are you doing in here? I’m half-naked! Please give me a moment…”

“My name IS NOT RUSSELL! How many times do I have to tell everyone!?” Ron became so flustered and frustrated that despite how much he wanted to appear brave and strong in front of his girlfriend, he felt his strength give way and collapsed on the floor into hysterical sobs. Amy rushed to his side, forgetting her robe costume was completely unbuttoned above her waist.

“Oh goodness! What’s the matter? What’s happened to you?” She rubbed his back and tried to calm him enough to get some answers.

“I don’t know… Nobody knows who I am, not even my own girlfriend! There are strangers all around Hogwarts, and even our school looks different! I’m so scared…” Amy’s face went white upon hearing these words. She knew immediately what had happened: Russell had gone mad. His reality had been completely taken over by the character he portrayed.

She held the crying boy in her lap and stroked his long red hair until his exhaustion caught up with him and he fell asleep. Amy pondered what could possibly be done to help him, but was extremely discouraged when she thought of nothing.

David entered a while later with Russell’s parents. He explained the situation with them, and insisted that they didn’t worry about their son because everything would soon be fine. Of course, a parent’s worst nightmare is that something awful would happen to their children, so needless to say the Greens didn’t take the news too well.

Ron was still sleeping snuggled next to Amy, whose shirt was still unbuttoned. Mr. and Mrs. Green gave her disapproving looks and she immediately gathered it together. David came to her aid and told them, “Amy’s been here with him most of the day. Hasn’t moved a muscle, in fact. Since Russell thinks he’s Ron, that means he still thinks Amy is Hermione, and is therefore his girlfriend. She was kind enough to do her best to soothe him.” The Greens’ faces softened considerably.

Mrs. Green still looked stricken with grief as she looked down at her sleeping son. “My baby… How can this have happened?”

Mr. Green walked over and gently picked up Russell, holding him like a child. “Thank you, Amy. Russell is so lucky to have a friend like you.” She smiled weakly back at him.

“And you, David. Thank you so much for notifying us. You’re a good man, and what a blessing it is for my son to have someone care for him so much.” Mrs. Green nodded in agreement, but couldn’t add any of her own words of thanks because of her emotional state. They left the dressing room and closed the door quietly behind them.

Hermione was still in shock from the whole thing, and her gaze fixed at a spot on the wall. David neared her and offered a hand to help her up. “Are you ok?”

Amy’s stiff muscles screamed at her as she stood. She shook her head deliberately. “No…I’m so worried about him, David.” She threw her arms around his neck as tears streamed down her face.

“I know. We all are.” He hugged her and did his best to assure her that everything would be ok.

“What’s going to happen when he wakes up? Will he know who his parents are? Will he know his house? Oh, he’s going to be so scared…” Her tears flowed harder as she could think of no solution to this very real problem.

“We can go see him tomorrow. How’s that? I’m pretty sure he’ll be needing our company.” David lightly scratched her back and twirled her hair to calm her, just as Travis Fredricks entered.

“You putting the moves on my woman, Dave?” Travis laughed, conveying his joking demeanor. He then realized his girlfriend was crying.

“Amy, baby, what’s wrong? David, what’d you do to her?” Travis’s face was a mix of emotions, concern for his girlfriend and confusion as to what had caused her to be upset.

“No, honey, David didn’t do anything. You mean you haven’t heard what’s happened to Russell?” She pulled away from David and Travis wrapped his arms around her waist.

“I failed to receive that memo. Somebody want to fill me in?”

“Something awful has happened, but we don’t know exactly what it is or how it happened. Just all of a sudden he didn’t remember who he was anymore. He—he thinks he’s Ron. He hasn’t listened to anyone; he was just in here with me for a very long time, sleeping. He was so scared…” The tears that had begun to subside started flowing again.

“Oh my god…” Travis couldn’t believe it. He had always liked Russell, and while they hadn’t been best friends or anything, they had always gotten along fairly well.

David told Travis about his encounter with him in the hallway, and about going to get his parents. “We’re going to go visit him tomorrow, as we doubt he’ll be in for work.”

“I’m going, too.”

“Sweetheart, you can’t. Remember he thinks he’s Ron, therefore he still thinks you’re Draco, and Draco and Ron are not friends. Do you know how much it would mess with his mind if you showed up at his house?”

“I guess you’re right.” He gave a sideways look at David, and then continued, “Is anyone else going with you?”

“What? You don’t trust me? Travis, this is no time to be jealous; we need to be thinking of Russell, here. And besides, I love you.” She gave Travis a quick peck on the cheek that made his pale face go pink, and was glad she hadn’t reminded him that Russell would also think she was still his girlfriend.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.” He turned to David, who accepted his friendly handshake. “Good luck, tomorrow.”

Chapter 3: Home and Hospital
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“Mummy, what’s wrong with Russy?” the youngest Green daughter asked. Annie was only five, but she knew something was terribly wrong since she had never seen Russell cry before.

“He’s sick, dear. But don’t worry, bubby will be just fine.” Her words were reassuring, but her tone contradicted everything she had just promised.

In addition to fretting over her eldest son, Mrs. Green also had three other children to look after. The stress was almost unbearable for her, and her anxiety kept her checking on Russell about every five minutes. While she did this, Mr. Green took the opportunity to have a talk with his other children to explain what was going on.

Mr. Green took the children to his study and closed the door. They all sat in a circle around him and were perfectly silent, knowing that something bad had just happened. Delilah, being eleven, was old enough to understand the gravity of the situation.

“Dad, has Russ gone mad?” she asked, concerned.

“Now, Delilah, please don’t say such things. While it is true that something has happened to Russell, we can’t really be sure what it is right now, so don’t jump to any conclusions.” Ian Green’s brow furrowed at his eldest daughter, whom he suspected was looking a bit too far into the situation. She was old enough to know what was going on, but his other two children certainly weren’t. Ian made a note to talk to her separately after the doctor had come.

”So what happened to him, then?” Alexander Green, a boy of seven who looked like a miniature Russell, asked his father.

“The only thing we know is what David has told us. We know that Russell was in the middle of filming today-“

“For his job?” interrupted little Annie.

“Yes, that’s right sweetie, for his job. According to David, he had been doing a hospital scene when all of a sudden he didn’t remember who he really was. David found him crying in a hallway and tried to talk to him, but he got scared and angry then ran away. After that, apparently Russell went to find his friend and co-worker, Amy-“

“The one who plays Hermione?” Alexander asked with a gleam in his eye.

“Yes, the one who plays Hermione.”

“She’s pretty!” he exclaimed.

“Would you shut up about Amy? Dad’s trying to tell us what happened to Russ!” Delilah scolded impatiently.

“Delilah! Don’t talk to your brother that way. Now apologize,” Ian reprimanded.

“Sorry,” she said sullenly, “I just want to hear what happened. I’m worried; that's all.”

Ian’s harsh expression grew softer. “I know, dear. We’re all worried. But don’t you mind, it will all be ok,” he said assuredly. When none of the children felt the need to add their two-cents’ worth, he continued.

“Now Mommy is upstairs with Russell, and I will be up there as soon as the doctor gets here. Alex and Annie, can you be big kids today and listen to Delilah while Mommy and Daddy take care of your brother?”

Both children nodded their heads. “Good. I knew I could count on you. Delilah, you’re in charge. Just try to keep them entertained and out of trouble until your mother and I figure out what to do.”

“Ok, Dad. When will we be able to see him?” she implored.

Just then the doorbell rang and gave Ian Green a start. “Later… That’ll be the doctor. Remember what I said, kids.”

He left his three youngest children behind in the study and greeted the Dr. Nigel Sanford at the door. “Hello, Nigel. I’m so glad you could make it on such short notice. Can I take your coat for you?”

“Thank you, Ian. How’s he doing?” Dr. Sanford inquired while removing his coat.

“I’m not really sure. I’ve been talking to the little ones mostly, and Bianca’s been with Russell in his room. I haven’t heard any news so I’d be willing to bet he’s still sleeping. Any idea why that is, doctor?”

“Well I’m sure the trauma he’s experienced just drained him of all his energy. He’s probably in a mild state of shock, the body’s physical reaction to adverse environmental conditions,” Dr. Sanford stated with all seriousness. Ian just nodded as the two made their way up the stairs.

Ian knocked lightly on Russell’s bedroom door and opened it cautiously. “Bianca, Dr. Sanford is here…”

“Oh, thank God!” said the teary-eyed mother as she beckoned her husband to her side. Dr. Sanford set down his medical bag and took out his thermometer and stethoscope. He placed the handheld thermometer in Russell’s ear and waited for the digital read-out.

“Temperature’s normal.”

He then began to position the stethoscope in various positions on Russell’s chest, listening intently for any irregularities.

“All fine.”

Mr. and Mrs. Green were relieved to hear that his vital signs were functioning correctly, but at the same time confused about what his condition was.

“It’s got to be a chemical imbalance. The only way we can check that is to draw blood. You’ll need to get him to the hospital and-”

“The hospital? Please can’t you do it here? I’d really rather not move him… What if he gets hurt?”

“Bianca, Russell will be perfectly safe at a hospital. You’ll need to take him in anyways for some tests, so the sooner you get him there the better.” Dr. Sanford hated to be so uncompromising, but he knew it was for the best.

“Can’t you just make an exception this once?” Her voice became frantic and rose in pitch as the tears started streaming. “We’re s-s-so s-scared, and the l-l-little o-ones…We c-can’t l-l-leave them!” She gripped her husband’s arm so tightly that it lost color below the elbow.

“Calm down, Mrs. Green. Just breathe; everything’s going to be fine. We’ll get Russell taken care of. If we’re going to do this, Ian, I’ll need your help.”

Ian nodded his head and held the tourniquet Dr. Sanford gave him. After preparing the sterilized needle and sample tube, he rolled up the left sleeve of Russell’s t-shirt and took the tourniquet from Ian to wrap tightly around Russell’s upper arm.

“Ok, Ian. I need you told hold this very tight in place. This is to increase the pressure of the veins in his arm so they will swell with blood, making it easier to extract.” Mr. Green had gone somewhat pale, but knew what he had to do.

The doctor poked at Russell’s forearm looking for a big enough vein, then signaled he was ready.

“Bianca, dear, you may want to close your eyes.” She turned her head and rested it behind her husband’s shoulder, but didn’t remove her hand from its resting place on Russell’s right arm.

The doctor began, “Russell, if you can hear me, this is Doctor Sanford. I want to let you know that I will be taking some blood. You will feel a small sting and then it will be over. One…Two…Three.”

Dr. Sanford expertly thrust the needle into Russell’s vein, and in an instant the comatose boy began screaming and flailing his arms about. The needle was ripped from his skin and blood began to trickle out of the small hole in his arm. The doctor took a blow to the face and backed up to avoid another.


“Russell, it’s me, Mum. You’re ok, the doctor was just taking some-”


Mr. Green swished at the air trying to grab a hold of his son’s flying limbs. He hoped he’d be able to keep him still long enough to explain what was going on. Eventually the doctor had to aid Ian, but while they got him to be still, they had no luck with his volume.

“LET ME GO!!!!! AHHHHH!!!”

The doctor released his grip only when Mrs. Green took his place, and searched his bag frantically for some sedatives. Taking a rather large dose, he plunged the needle into Russell’s bleeding arm and emptied the shot. Russell screamed at the pain and fright, but less than thirty seconds later, he was out cold.

Mrs. Green was crying again, and even Mr. Green had a hard time keeping himself under control. With pity in his eyes, Dr. Sanford addressed the frightened parents.

“I’m afraid there’s no other alternative. You’ll have to take him to the hospital. They can do bloodworm and other tests there.” He fished his wallet out of his back pocket, and searched it for a business card. “I want you to go see Dr. Sandra Curtis. She was a friend of mine at medical school and an excellent practitioner. She’ll take care of your boy.”

Mrs. Green leaned on her husband for support as they followed the doctor down the stairs. Dr. Sanford laid a sympathetic hand on Mr. Green’s shoulder and assured, “Ian, if you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask.” He took his coat off the hanger and waved goodbye as he stepped out.

The three younger children ran out of the study to badger their parents for answers.

“Is Russy fixed now?” Annie asked while tugging on her mother’s dress.

“Not exactly, darling,” Mr. Green answered. “We’re going to the hospital. Go grab some books and toys to play with; we’ll be there for a while.”

“He’s awake. Would you like to go in and see him?” the nurse asked sweetly.

Mr. and Mrs. Green looked at each other with anticipation, both thinking the same thing: he was awake and not screaming?

“Of course. Is he all right? I mean, he hasn’t…hurt anyone has he? Did he scream?” The expression on Mr. Green’s face was one of anticipation and anxiousness.

“No, no screaming. The sedatives are still in his system and have kept him very calm and passive.”

Mrs. Green stretched her stiff muscles as she stood up, holding Annie who had been asleep in her lap. Delilah closed her history textbook and walked with beside her mother, who followed behind the nurse and Mr. Green. Alexander reached up to grab his dad’s hand as they peered into the room where Russell was staying.

“It’s ok; you can go in.” The five of them entered the room after the nurse and took places surrounding his bedside.

He looked at them with indifference. “Do I know you?”

However bad it was for their son to not recognize them, both Bianca and Ian Green agreed that his docile questions were a hell of a lot better than his hysterical, frightened screams.

“Russ, honey, it’s Mum and Dad. And you remember your sisters, Delilah and Annie, and your little brother, Alex, don’t you?”

A far-off laugh escaped the bed-ridden boy’s mouth as he answered, “Russ? My name’s not Russ. It’s Ron. And you’re not my family… This is a really funny joke, but where are my real parents?”

Mrs. Green was perplexed and looked to the nurse for help. The nurse gave her a look that said, “just play along,” so she went with it.

“Yes, well…Ron… Your ‘real’ parents were unable to make it… So they asked their closest relatives to look after you. That’s us.” She glanced at the nurse to see how she was doing and received a nod.

“When are they coming back? And what about my brothers and my sister? Where are they?” He didn’t actually sound very upset (due to the affect of the drugs), he just seemed more interested than anything.

“They’re not coming either. They can’t,” added Mr. Green.

“Why not? Did You Know Who get them?” Russell’s eyes widened with fear and sadness as he looked upon the strangers. The Greens had no idea how to answer.

“Well, not exactly. They’re still alive, but you can’t live with them anymore…because it’s not safe. Voldemort is stronger, and so your family has been separated. But don’t worry…Ron. We’re your new family, and we’ll take care of you.” Delilah was familiar with the Harry Potter books, and it was a good thing, too, because her parents had absolutely no clue. She also knew that she just couldn’t tell him his ‘family’ was dead, just in case he was ever able to return to work and happened to see the actors that played the roles of his family members.

Tears started to stream down Russell’s face as he asked, “And who are you?”

“I’m your sister, Delilah,” she said, smiling. She reached down and held Russell’s hand, and he squeezed it in return.

“Oh,” was all he managed before being swept away with another bout of exhaustion.

In the family waiting room, a tall, slender woman of about forty years old approached the family.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Sandra Curtis, chief neurologist. I’ll be working with your son.”

“Very nice to meet you. So, do you know what’s wrong with him?” Ian Green asked, hoping to finally get some answers.

“That’s what I need to talk to you about, Mr. Green. Russell’s blood test came back neutral, so we’re going to need to do a CAT scan and possibly an MRI to check for abnormalities in his brain. Here’s some information, if you’re interested,” she said as she offered them brochures.

“So what, we just bring him back tomorrow?” Mrs. Green asked doubtfully.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Green, but we’ll have to keep him here overnight. There are, however, twenty-four hour visitation hours, so feel free to stay as long as you like. I will discuss the details of his tests with you tomorrow. If you have any question, please call me.” Dr. Curtis left the family waiting room to return to her other patients, and Mrs. Green began to cry again.

“Well, I guess we should get the kids back home. They’ve got school tomorrow…” said Mr. Green.

“Oh no they haven’t! Not when their brother is in such a state as this! No, we’re all staying here tonight. Let’s go home and get blankets and pillows; we’ll all sleep here in the-”

He wrapped an empathic arm around his wife and pulled her into a hug. “Now, honey, I know you’re upset, but we can’t sleep here. Why don’t we take it in shifts, that way one of us will be here at all times.”


“And the kids don’t have to go to school tomorrow. So, who’s staying?”

Mrs. Green looked longingly down the hallway in the direction of her son’s room. Mr. Green gave her a slight smile and answered his own question, “I’ll get the kids, and we’ll go say goodnight to Russ- err… ‘Ron.’ We’ll be back first thing in the morning. Is there anything I can get you, love?”

She shook her head.

“I hate to leave you here…”

“It’s ok, Ian. I’ll be fine. We’ve got three other children to think about,” she said logically.

“Call me with any new developments?”

“Of course. Goodnight, dear.”

Annie and Alex were asleep within minutes of hitting the seats of their dad’s SUV. Delilah stayed up to help her father carry the younger kids up to bed, and lay in bed with her eyes wide-open for hours. Neither parent slept a wink that night.

Chapter 4: Tests
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David pressed the “End” button on his cell phone and carefully folded it shut before placing it in the back pocket of his sandblast-washed jeans. He examined the many anxious faces that lingered around the lounge, all hoping to hear some news about the unfortunate plight of their co-star.

“That was Mr. Green. Said Russ is to have some tests done on his brain. A CAT scan, I think, and a brainwave monitor or something…” he said, trying to remember exactly the terminology Russell’s dad has used.

The onlookers were supremely interested and worried about the severity of their friend’s condition. David felt it natural that all the rest of the kids would be concerned (especially since they were about the same age as Russ and began to inquire if it could happen to them too), but was uneasy upon seeing how the adults reacted. Adults weren’t scared of anything, right?

Aaron inhaled deeply and ran his hands roughly through his dyed-black hair and then tied it back into a crude ponytail. His only son was grown and now lived in New York, so after working with the Harry Potter cast for so long, he came to regard them as family. Russell in particular had always been one of Aaron’s favorites because of his delightful sense of humor, and his malady certainly took its toll on the older actor.

Aaron looked as if he wanted to say something, but he kept quiet. His intense gaze begged David for more information, but it was Travis who spoke first.

“Wow. That sounds really serious. Do they know if he’s going to be all right?”

David had absolutely no idea what to say. He wanted to assure everyone that their friend would be perfectly fine, but even he had his doubts. “Err, I don’t know. He said he’d call me again when they find out the results.”

Amy wrung her hands for so long that if her skin hadn’t been attached, she surely would have worn it all off. Travis poured her another cup of coffee so at least she had something to do besides rub her hands raw. David wanted to do something to help calm her, but his brain was just as tired and wearisome as theirs. He didn’t think anything he could have said would make the situation any better.

“Can we go see him?” Amy asked softly. “I really want to get out of here. I can’t possibly think of filming at a time like this, especially when everything around the set reminds me of him…” She glanced around the lounge and fixed her gaze on the Prisoner of Azkaban promotional poster, which Russell had used to play one of his many pranks. She reminisced at Russell’s smiling face, though was still disturbed seeing the faces of her and David switched on each other’s bodies. At first she was embarrassed at the poster and had wanted it fixed, but now it seemed almost a tribute to her friend’s spirit. He was such a lively, fun-loving guy…

Her heartbreaking frown prompted David to remind her, “I think eventually we’ll be able to go see him, but I’m not exactly sure when. He’ll be out of it for a while after the tests, so it might be a few days.”

“Do you think he’ll ever come back to work?” Travis questioned.

David became frustrated with all the questions. Why does everybody think I have all the bloody answers? Yet he couldn’t leave Travis hanging; he at least had to try.

“Only time will tell. We’re not even sure if he’ll be able to function in the real world again. I guess we’ll find out after his tests. Why do you ask?” David really didn’t want to discuss it anymore, but it seemed that Travis needed to talk.

“Well, you two get to go see him, and I don’t. Most likely he’ll still think I’m Malfoy so I won’t be able to express any level of concern for him at all, which means no visits to the hospital. The only way I’d get to see him is if he came back to work,” he explained.

“Oh. You’re right…” David suddenly felt even more sorry for Travis than he did for Amy because at least she could go and visit their friend.

An awkward silence filled the room as each occupant drifted to his or her own contemplations of the matter. As much as David had previously wished he didn’t have to talk about it anymore, the noiseless void of the room seemed much worse in comparison. David played in his mind, trying to think of something to say, when he was reminded of Aaron’s presence at the sound of his deep voice.

“Then it goes to say that I am in the same position as Travis. I guess Russ would probably have a fit if ‘Professor Snape’ showed up at the hospital.” A quiet chuckle escaped his lips, contradictory of his cheerless expression. “Send my regards to his parents when you see them, will you Dave?”

“I will, however long that may be.”

Russ laid down on a cold, stiff body support and heard it rumble and buzz as it began to move. His eyes were closed, but he felt the vibrations of movement all through his body. He felt a slight chill through the room, as the thin hospital gown he was wearing didn’t cover much. The intimidating machine normally would have sent Russ into a fit, but the calming medications that had been forced down his throat made him uncharacteristically aloof.

Mr. and Mrs. Green watched through the glass window as the machine slid their son’s head into the scanning device. The doctors in the control room explained exactly what was going on through the whole process, but they might as well not have even bothered because none of it made any sense to the couple. Ian peered over one doctor’s shoulder to look at the complex controls and the screen that began to blink with a jumble of incoming data.

“This won’t hurt him, will it?” asked Mrs. Green fearfully.

“Not in the least. It’s a perfectly safe procedure,” Dr. Curtis answered.

Mr. Green embraced his wife around the shoulder as they continued to watch their son. How much longer would they have to endure this torture?

Once it was all over and the nurses had returned Russ to his room, Dr. Curtis beckoned the parents to her office so she could discuss treatment options. After all the tests and examinations had given no useful leads, there really wasn’t any other choice…

The Green’s three youngest children waited in the family room while their grandparents kept watch. ‘Granny’ and ‘Grandaddy’ Green had taken the earliest flight available out of their retirement haven in Northern Ireland to be with their family in this hectic time.

“Mum! Dad! How’d it go? What happened?” Delilah wasted no time bombarding her parents with questions as they joined Ian’s parents on the large couch.

“The tests went fine, but the doctors didn’t find anything significantly abnormal with his brain. In fact, his brain is fully functional and healthy which is a relief. Dr. Curtis suggested that we take him to a psychologist for some counseling. The only thing we can do now is hope,” her mother replied.

Mr. Green bent down to kiss his youngest daughter on the head and excused himself to make a phone call, and Grandaddy Green went to spend some time by his eldest grandson’s bedside.

“What else did she say, Mum?” Alexander asked.

Mrs. Green furrowed her brow, deliberating how much she wanted to disclose to her fledgling children. After nearly developing a twitch in her left eye, she decided that since they were all going to have to live with Russell’s condition, they might as well know the truth.

“Russell is going to need a lot more help than we originally hoped would be necessary. He’s still very confused about who he is, so for the time being we’ve been instructed to play along until the doctor has a chance to help him reconstruct his memory.”

“You mean we have to keep calling him Ron? That’s silly,” Annie giggled as she playfully patted down her grandmother’s poofy curls.

“Yes, we’ll call him Ron. And we also have to pretend that we know he is a wizard. See, Russ thinks that he has magic, so if we want him to stay calm without having to be medicated, we’ve got to pretend like everything is the way he knows it.”

Alexander laughed at the thought of his big brother having magical abilities, but imagined it to be quite fun. “Then I’m a wizard, too!”

Mrs. Green smiled at her son, realizing just how much he looked up to his older brother and wanted to be exactly like him.

“When Russ…I mean, Ron…gets home, we’re going to play magic! He’s going to teach me how to do spells and make animals talk and turn things into gold and hide all my candy from Annie…” he rambled excitedly.

His mother’s smile faded as she listened to his fantastic plans. She hadn’t finished telling the group everything that Russell’s treatment entailed, though she now couldn’t bear the heartache this news would cause. Her four children were actually very close friends, despite the never-ending bickering and occasional sibling rivalry. They would be devastated to be separated from their brother, their hero.

She hesitated as long as she could and then drew her son into her lap and hugged him. “Honey, Russell won’t be coming home with us for a while. The doctor says he needs to live in a special place that will help him get better, but we’ll be able to visit him all the time.”

Alexander dropped his toy train; it landed with a crash on the floor and went rolling underneath the couch. Annie didn’t really understand that her big brother wouldn’t be living with her anymore, so she looked puzzled at Alexander and continued playing with her doll. Delilah’s eyes filled with water as she snuggled herself between her mum and grandmother on the couch. Her throat constricted and she could hardly breathe as the two women hugged her, yet she was determined not to cry.

David got home after a long day at the set and noticed two missed calls on his cell phone. He dialed his mailbox number and heard the voice of none other than Ian Green.

“Hello, David, this is Ian. We’ve just spent all day at the hospital with Russ. His CAT scan went well but they couldn’t find anything that might have caused his condition so they referred us to a psychologist, Dr. Alena Miles. She and some other therapists have a special home for teenagers with psychological disorders, so Russ is going to stay there for a while until we can figure all this out. I know-” Beep.

“Hello, Dave, it’s me again, Ian Green. Sorry, your phone cut me off. Anyway, I was saying that I know you and Amy want to visit him, but I’m not sure exactly how long it will be before you will be allowed. Deerfield Home has some rules about visitors, as it can interfere with the therapy, but I’ll let you know when I find out more details. If you have any questions about all this feel free to call. I’ll be in touch. Goodbye.”

Chapter 5: Deerfield Home
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The drugs had worn off enough to where Russell was actually aware of the happenings around him. He was now able to bathe and dress himself without assistance and was slowly getting used to the idea of having a “new” family. He rather liked his siblings, especially Delilah because she seemed to understand him so well, and his new parents were good people. They came to visit him often and brought him sweets (he found that Muggle sweets weren’t as interesting as Chocolate Frogs, but they were still acceptable. In fact he grew quite fond of the Milky Way bar).

Two days after the tests, Russell remained in the hospital for the follow-up treatment. His parents broke the news slowly that he would not be returning home with them. Russell had taken it surprisingly well, considering everything he had been through (the anti-anxiety drugs he’d been taking no doubt helped with his nerves), but was still apprehensive about going away to a new place and living with strangers. It was only after Delilah had told him it would be like the first time he went to Hogwarts that he stopped being so nervous. Yes, it was just like going away to school, only without all of his friends. Where were Harry and Hermione? He’d have to remember to ask someone.

After drying himself off with his towel, he slipped into the Muggle clothes his mum had brought from home. He never remembered owning a pair of jeans that color, but his mum insisted they were his. And, after taking a look at himself in the mirror, he found that while he didn’t dislike the light blue sweater, he suddenly missed his favorite red one with the giant “R” on the front. Maybe he’d ask him mum if he could have his Christmas present a little early this year.

A knock sounded on the door of Russell’s hospital room, and he raced to open it while shaking the dripping hair out of his face. Annie rushed in and grabbed her brother around the waist. The rest of the family followed and chattered happily, greeting the smiling boy.

“All ready to go then?” Mr. Green asked his son.

“Err yeah, Dad.”

As they pulled up to the gorgeous Victorian two-story, Russell gaped in amazement. He’d never seen a house so beautiful in his entire life. He imagined some very elegant, proper family to live there, one of high status and noble, pureblood lineage. This house was nothing like the Burrow, yet it still seemed as warm and inviting. Whoever lived there was certainly lucky.

“Ok munchkins, we’re home,” Mr. Green called back.

Whoa, Russell thought.Wicked.

Mrs. Green instructed her children to go play in the back yard while she and her husband started to pack Russell’s belongings. She hated to be sending him away but knew it was the only hope of getting her son back to normal.

Alexander wanted to play “cops and robbers,” but Russell had a better idea and taught him how to play “Aurors and Death Eaters.” He was a little disappointed that his younger brother didn’t know any of the proper spells but then reminded himself that Alex wasn’t yet of age to go to school, so it was understandable that his knowledge of magic would be lacking. No matter, he’d just have to educate him.

“First we’ve got to find wands,” Russell said as he crawled around the yard underneath the trees. He picked up two pine twigs from the ground, a longer one for himself and a shorter one for his brother, and scraped the needles off with his nails. He then took his “wand” and tapped it on the tree trunk, listening and watching closely.

“Knew it. Dragon heartstring,” he said and then proceeded to do the same with the shorter stick. “And unicorn tail-hair. Excellent.”

He handed Alex his new wand and proceeded to demonstrate the proper swish-and-flick motions he would need to cast spells correctly. Alex thought it was silly but remembered what his parents had said about playing along with his brother’s whims.

“Ok, here’s what happens: you’re a Death Eater trying to break into the Department of Mysteries, and I’m a famous and powerful Auror. I’m going to come save the world and start a duel with you. Ready?”

Alex laughed and scampered off to do…whatever it was he was supposed to be doing. Russ hid and watched Alex’s horrible attempt at acting evil; he decided his little brother would need some work.

Russell jumped out from behind a tree and startled his unguarded brother with an enthusiastic, “Expelliarmus!

Alex yelped and stumbled backwards. His arms flailed and his wand went flying out of his hands, landing in the grass nearly ten feet away. He stood up and brushed the grass and twigs from his sweater while noticing the satisfied look on his brother’s face. Alex’s bum hurt considerably when he landed on it, but he had to admit playing with his brother was fun in spite of the pain.

Russell prided himself for casting such a perfectly aimed disarming charm and was ready for another go. This time he’d teach Alex the shield charm so the novice would have a fair chance at defending himself. Just as Russell was beginning his instruction, Mrs. Green stepped out onto the patio and called out, “Come on in, boys! It’s almost time to go!”

Alex took off at a run, but Russell stopped him before he got too far. “Hey mate, you forgot your wand!” he said while running to pick it up. “You’ve got to be more careful with this thing. Like old Mad-Eye says: ‘constant vigilance!’ Never let it out of your sight!’

Alex suppressed a giggle but took the stick from his towering brother with utmost seriousness. “Um, yeah Ron, sorry. I’ll take good care of it from now on.”

“It’s ok, Alex. Just remember, it’s all about safety.” Russell pocketed his own wand and headed into the house, suddenly wishing he had more time to play. He found that having a younger brother was really fun and wished he could have spent more time with him.

Russell had gotten used to the Muggle system of transportation but was nonetheless impatient with the inefficiency. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t just use the Floo Network to get…wherever it was that they were going. Or better yet, he could have just flown. His Cleensweep 11 had since gone missing, but the broom he found in the hallway closet would have worked just fine if it weren’t for his mum insisting the skies were no longer safe.

The car trip really wasn’t too bad, though. Russell had his sisters and brother to entertain him as he told them about Hogwarts. He figured Delilah would be especially interested since she was almost of age to go to school. A mere thirty minutes later, the family arrived at a small junction in the road marked with a sign that said “Welcome to Deerfield Home.”

The long, winding driveway was abounded by dense trees that, though not terribly spooky, still gave Russell the eerie feeling that he was back in the Forbidden Forest. He wondered if any magical creatures lay in wait just behind the treelike and imagined that Hagrid’s cottage would go well in a place like that.

They pulled to a stop in the circular driveway, and the gravel crunched underneath their shoes as they stepped out of the car. Mr. Green went to the back to unload his son’s trunk while the kids explored the front porch of Deerfield Home.

“Honey, what’s this doing here?” he asked, referring to the broom.

“He seemed to think he needed it, and I didn’t fight him. I just hope he doesn’t try to fly it out of a second-story window or anything,” Mrs. Green replied with a nervous laugh.

Mr. Green shrugged. “I’m sure he’ll be fine. They’ll keep a close eye on him here.”

Russell examined the ivy-covered, red brick walls of the elegant nineteenth century manor. The fresh, spring scent from the red and purple flowers that lined the beds in front of the building radiated through the air. He bent down to pick one of the small purple flowers and tucked it behind Annie’s ear, who beamed up at him.

Russell thought he saw a blur of dark brown hair pass through one of the open windows on the third floor, but when he looked back again it was gone. The family made their way to the door and prepared themselves for what they would find inside. Ian turned the intricately welded metal handle and was instantly greeted by a young, dark-haired woman who sat at a low desk. She looked busy writing something but put down whatever it was that she was doing to welcome the guests.

“Good afternoon. You must be the Greens. My name is Christina and I’m the manager here at Deerfield Home.” Her round, dark brown eyes flashed congenially at the family.

“Ian Green,” he said, extending his hand. “Pleasure to meet you. This is my wife, Bianca, and my children Annie, Alex, Delilah, and—”

Russell jumped in and introduces himself as “Ron,” smiling at the good-looking female before him.

“Well we’re so glad you’re here to stay with us, Ron. Everyone has been anticipating your arrival,” she said cheerfully.

“Who’s we?”

Christina smiled. “The other Deerfield residents, Ron. They’ve been looking forward to having a new friend around. Well, most of them anyways. You’ll get a chance to meet some of them later, but right now why don’t I show you to your room?”

She led them through a door on the opposite wall and up wide, particularly steep staircase at the end of the hall. Most of the family grew short of breath, but Russell thought it was a lot like training for Quidditch. Once on the third floor, Christina turned a couple of corners and led them down a number of identical-looking hallways until stopping in front of a door near a second staircase.

If the number on the door had been properly attached it would have said “311”, but the three hung by just one screw and dangled down, making it look like “E11.”

“Sorry about that number, Ron. We’ll get that fixed straightaway.”

He nodded and smiled at her, and though he heard her mutter something under her breath that sounded like, “These kids…”

He noticed that Christina used a key to unlock the door, but then gave him nothing for his own use to lock the door. When he asked her about it, she explained that the residents were not allowed their own keys to their rooms because of the risk that they would lock themselves in and be a danger to themselves or other residents. Russell thought it odd and became fearful of the prospect that other people would have the ability to lock and unlock his room without him knowing.

The room was smaller than his back at home, but was actually quite accommodating. He figured it to be about the same size as his hospital room, but without the benefit of his own bathroom.

“Where are the bathrooms?” he asked, concerned.

“They’re just down the hall. I’ll be up in a bit to show you around, but I’ll leave you to get settled and spend a few moments with your family.” Christina then turned to Mr. and Mrs. Green and said, “We’ll be keeping in touch, and please feel free to call me whenever you like if you ever have any questions. And don’t worry, Ron will do fabulously here.”

Her high heels clicked on the hardwood floor and she closed the door behind her, leaving Russell and his family to examine the room and begin the process of saying goodbye. Mrs. Green first eyed the window and looked nervously at her husband, but he shook his head and pointed at the locks, which eased her considerably. Delilah, who had been uncharacteristically quiet for most of the day, sat on the bed and tested its comfort.

“Not bad,” she said. “It’s a pretty nice room, actually. Nice colors, soft bed… I think you’ll like it here, Ron.” Delilah sounded as if she was trying to convince herself as much as her older brother.

Russell sat down beside her and agreed about the state of the bed. Annie climbed into his lap and tried to get him to brush her doll’s hair, and Alex took his wand and started to poke her with it.

“Hey, be careful with that, Alex. Accidental magic can be very unpredictable.”

Mrs. Green laughed softly but then turned into light gasps as she began to cry.

Russell crossed the room to hug her and asked, “What’s wrong, Mum? Why are you crying?”

“Oh…Ron, honey, I’m just going to miss you, that’s all. I can’t bear being away from my children.”

“Don’t cry, Mum. Remember, if you want to talk to me, you can always just send an owl. Besides, you get to come visit right?” Russell looked at his dad to confirm.

“Yes, that’s right,” Mr. Green assured. “We’ll come visit all the time.”

“See, Mum? It’ll be ok. As soon as all the Death Eaters are rounded up and sent to Azkaban then it’ll be safe for me to come home. I’m sure it won’t be too long, even. The Order is really getting very powerful. I don’t expect it to take more than a few weeks. Then Harry and Hermione can come visit me, too.”

Mr. and Mrs. Green exchanged looks but figured now was not the best time to get into it.

“Ok, kids. It’s best we get going.”

Each of the three children lined up to get their hugs from their big brother. Delilah didn’t speak to make sure she wouldn’t cry, and Alex made Russell promise to teach him more magic when he got home. Annie squeezed her brother’s waist as hard as she could and then ran back to put her doll on Russell’s bed.

“You can have her, Ron. So you don’t get scared.”

“Thanks, Annie. I promise I’ll take good care of her for you.”

His parents then made to say their goodbyes, each hugging him and telling him how much they loved him. They promised they’d come back and visit the next day and hugged him again.

Chapter 6: Nicki
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Russell sat on his bed, bouncing up and down to test it again. He took his little sister’s doll in his hands and thought of how much it reminded him of Hermione. Despite Annie’s constant efforts at brushing the doll’s hair, it somehow always seemed to become tangled, thus making it big and bushy just like Hermione’s.

He looked up from the doll’s plastered smile and out the open door to his room when an unhappy looking nurse pushing a medicine trolley creaked slowly by. Russell had a terrible feeling he would be seeing her often in the future. Still watching blankly down the hallway, he saw the top of a girl’s head peak around the corner and tiptoe quickly to the other side of the hall, where she opened and entered a room.

He had no idea who she was, or even if he had just imagined her being there, until he kept watching and saw her again. This time the lanky girl in a flowing black cloak looked both ways down the hallway and skittered stealthily past a few more rooms, including his. Russell wondered who she was hiding from and was about to follow her to find out when she doubled back and poked her head into his room.

“Stay quiet,” the girl commanded “or she’ll hear us.”

“Err, might I ask who you are?”


Russell was intrigued to learn what this strange new girl was on about but obeyed her orders. He moved closer to where she was peering out the door and whispered, “Who are you hiding from?”

The girl stuck her hand in her pocket and replied, “That old bat, Barrington. She’s a Death Eater, I tell you, and that’s not medicine she’s pushing around in that trolley. She’s trying to poison us, she is. Slowly, she’ll kill us all off.”

Russell gasped as he listened to the girl talk of Death Eaters. She knew about the magical world! He had so much to ask her…

“Thank Merlin, you know! I can’t believe it, a witch! I’m Ron Weasley. It’s nice to meet you, err…”

“Nicki. The name’s Nicki. No last names, you never know who could turn spy,” she said, squinting her eyes and giving him a look over as if to detect whether or not she could trust him.

“Pleased to meet you, Nicki. Did you go to Hogwarts? I’m afraid I don’t remember seeing you there.”

“Shhh! She’s coming back! Nox!” Nicki whispered as she flipped off the light-switch in Russell’s room.

“Oooh, I’d like to hex that horrid traitor into next week!” she exclaimed vengefully while taking her wand from her pocket.

Nurse Barrington continued on down the hallway as Nicki and Russell crouched down behind his door.

“Are—“ Russell began before Nicki jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow.

“Quiet. She could still be lurking.”

He tried again, more softly this time, “Are there anymore Death Eaters at Deerfield?”

She shifted around on her knees and stared as hard as she could at him, trying to make out where his eyes were in the dark.

“Not any that can get loose, but you can never be too careful. Barrington watches all the time, constantly looming and threatening our existence, though it is the higher-up she listens to. Takes orders to keep us in line, ‘medicates’ us to lose our thoughts, our memories, forget who we are and where we come from. She sedates us, controls us. Woman’s a genius really, liquefying the Imperious Curse as she does,” Nicki explained. “If she ever offers you a clear orange liquid, don’t take it. You’ll never know what hit you.”

“Ok, I’ll remember that,” Russell said, making a mental note. “And by higher-up, you don’t mean Christina, do you?”

“Oh, no. I highly doubt she’s with them, though anything is possible. Plus, she’d be one on our side. Too smart, you know, and Muggleborn. She’s so Muggleborn, in fact, that she pretends to not even know the wizarding world exists. No, the higher-up Barrington answers to is none other than You-Know-Who, himself.”

“Voldemort,” Russell said.

“You dare speak the Dark Lord’s name? You’re with him, aren’t you!?” Nicki accused as she turned her wand on him, nearly poking him in the eye.

“What? NO! I’m not, really! It’s just, my friend, Harry Potter, always calls him by name, and—“

“You know Harry Potter!?” Nicki clutched Russell’s shoulders and dug her sharp nails into him out of sheer excitement.

“Err, yeah, he’s my school chum, though I haven’t seen him in quite a while. Must be on a mission for Dumbledore or something. I should be with him, but these people in funny uniforms keep stopping me from going back to Hogwarts or letting me do anything magic-related. Even had to sneak my wand in.”

“Oh my! You mean you’re THE Ron Weasley?? The famous side-kick…or, I mean…you know, the famous boy who’s done so much to stop the advance of You-Know-Who’s assailment!”

“The same,” Russell answered, feeling himself blush. He knew he’d never get away from being in Harry’s shadow, but at least he was given some credit.

“Well, I’ve got to go. Almost dinner time and Barrington will be by with my ‘medicine’ soon. See you around, Ron. Lumos!” Nicki said and flipped on the lights. She looked down the hallway for signs of the Death Eater nurse and scampered off on tiptoes down the hallway.

Russell went back to sit on his bed, his head swimming with everything that had gone on that day. This place is weird, he thought, but at least someone else here understands about magic.

A light knock rapped on the wooden door and big brown eyes peered through the tiny window hole.

“Ron, are you there?” came Christina’s soft, friendly voice.

She can’t be a Death Eater. There’s no way.

“Yes, I’m here.”

She walked in and asked, “So you’ve got all settled then? Ready for some dinner?”

Russell nodded his head feverishly. Boy was he ever ready to eat. He followed the tanned lady down the staircase near his room and emerged on the first floor in what he could only compare to the Great Hall back at Hogwarts. But really, the only thing that was comparable was the fact that other kids like himself sat around ten different tables with plates of food, because other than that, the room looked nothing like Hogwarts. It wasn’t bad, but it had a slightly homelier feel that the stately dining hall of Hogwarts. It was definitely smaller and smelled of sterilizing cleaner and potpourri.

Many of the residents didn’t bother to take a second look in Russell’s direction once they had seen him enter, and a few didn’t look up from their plates at all. Russell noted that two people who had taken interest sat at a table on the far side of the room. Nicki waved and pointed to an empty chair across from her at the table, and the blonde boy beside her stared blankly at him. Christina took her leave of Russell, telling him that she’d come back after dinner to show him around, and let him take a seat with Nicki and the blonde boy.

Russell greeted the two and sat down, watching as Nicki buttered a roll by dipping it into the butter dish. He titled his eyebrow at her but she gave him a rather contemptuous look as if to say, “You should know they don’t let us use any sharp utensils here…not even butter knives.” But, just as quickly as her annoyance struck, it faded as she saw the elated smile that adorned his face when a kitchen lady sat a plate, piled high with food, down in front of him. Russell began to tear into his roast chicken breast, letting his hunger get the best of him.

“Ron, this is Clarence,” she introduced, referring to the blonde boy at their table. Clarence nodded but didn’t say anything. He didn’t even smile.

“Err, hi, Clarence. Nice ter meet you,” Russell said, trying to hide the food in his mouth. After swallowing, he decided he should make polite conversation with the boy; after all, they would be living in the same building and he might as well attempt to make friends. “So, how long have you been here, Clarence?”

Clarence looked at Russell seriously, studied him without blinking—almost as if he was counting the freckles on Russell’s nose, and nodded again a few more times. Russell wondered if he’d said anything wrong, and made up his mind to ask Nicki about him later. All throughout dinner, Russell and Nicki talked while Clarence joined their conversation with intermittent nods. Nicki mostly just answered Russell’s questions about Deerfield and pointed out some of the other residents in the dining hall. Some looked like people he might like to get to know (like the curly-haired, constantly smiling Leah McQuain), and others looked like he might ought to stay away from (like Barnaby Steel, who wore a constantly sour expression). But, on the whole, the other residents did seem quite friendly, albeit a little strange.

The food was good, though it could have been better—nothing compared to his mother’s cooking—but dinner was a pleasant experience that he hoped would set the tone for the rest of his stay here at Deerfield Home. Christina came to get him when he was done eating, and Nicki and Clarence left the dining hall together. He suddenly remembered that he didn’t know how to find Nicki and hoped it wouldn’t be too hard to locate her. Maybe he’d see her tiptoeing around the hallway after his tour…

Christina led him all around the first floor: the dining hall he had already seen as well as the lobby, but in addition, several rooms lined one narrow hallway that he had never seen before. He could only compare them to classrooms, though there were no individual student desks; rather, half the rooms were filled with couches and comfy chairs all set up in a circle, and the others had large tables made to seat about twenty people. The rooms with the large tables, Christina explained, were the Arts and Crafts and Learning rooms, and the rooms that looked more inviting were the Group Therapy rooms.

At the end of the hallway, Russell found the place he’d most likely find his girlfriend if she’d ever come to live here: the library (or as Christina called it, the Exploration Room). The room was small, and had nowhere near the amount of books that Hogwarts contained, but to him it seemed all the better and much less intimidating. Maybe he’d actually start to read for fun…Oh, wouldn’t Hermione be proud?

Just across from the library, Russell noticed a staircase that only went down, presumably to a basement.

“What’s down there?” he questioned. “More classrooms?”

“No, Ron. The basement is confidential and off-limits to residents. You are never to go down there, no matter what anybody may tell you. Do you understand?”

Russell nodded but made a note about the basement. He was sure that whatever was down there was nothing he couldn’t handle, especially after all that he, Harry, and Hermione had faced during the war.

“Ok,” he agreed.

Their tour ended, and Christina escorted him back to his room on the third floor. He opened the door and commanded, “Lumos!” while flipping on the light switch as he had seen Nicki do earlier that day. Oh yeah…Where is Nicki?

“Right here,” came a voice at the door.

“Wicked! Are you a Legilimens?” Russell gaped.

“No, you were talking out loud. How was the tour?”

“It was fine. Those couches in the Group Therapy room look really nice.”

“Did she show you everything?” asked Nicki skeptically.

“Yeah,” he answered. “Well, everything except the basement, but we’re not allowed down there so it doesn’t really matter.”

“You know why, don’t you?”

“Why what?” Russell said, only mildly interested as he took the broom from his closet and examined its rough handle. Even his Cleensweep looked better than this old thing.

“Why we’re not allowed in the basement, of course,” she said knowingly.

Russell gave her a puzzled look.

“Because it’s off-limits?”

Nicki shook her head slowly and said, “Death Eaters.”

Chapter 7: Surprise Visit
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Several light taps sounded on Russell’s door. At first he thought he’d just imagined them, or at least hoped he did, and rolled over in his bed to ignore them. Whoever was interrupting his sleep would just have to come back at a decent hour. He heard the tinkling of keys and the clicking of the lock on his door, but he still couldn’t force himself to get motivated.

“Ron, are you awake?” Christina asked timidly.

Russell kept his eyes closed and tried his best to pretend he really were asleep, but Christina had other ideas in mind.

“Normally activities don’t start until nine-thirty, but I’m getting you up early today because you’ve got a couple of visitors waiting for you in the lobby,” she said sweetly, knowing that would break his façade.

Violently turning around to face her, Russell could hardly contain the excitement he felt as he bolted out of bed, grabbed some clothes from his closet, and charged out the door on his way to the community bathrooms. Once she had regained her balance, Christina smiled at his enthusiasm while watching him race down the hall.

It was early enough that most of the other residents were still sleeping, so Russell didn’t have to fight for any of the showers. In a record time of five minutes, he had showered, dried himself off (with the exception of his hair) and put on his clothes. He took the stairs two at a time and galloped to the lobby where he knew exactly who he would find.

“Harry! Hermione!” Russell shouted, as he threw open the door.

The two other teenagers startled when he burst through, as they had been casually inspecting the room around them. Russell bounded over to them, grabbed Amy in a hug, and planted a giant kiss right on her lips. Somewhat taken aback, she threw David a look that said, “I told you so”, but all he did was smile at her and shrug his shoulders.

“Good morning, Ron,” Amy greeted.

“How ya been, mate?” David asked, while extending his arm out for a handshake. Russell obviously hadn’t seen it, or had and just disregarded it, as he pulled David in for a forceful, manly hug.

“Better, now that you two are here! Actually, it hasn’t been so bad, but blimey have I missed the both of you!”

“We’ve missed you, too, Ron,” Amy answered, making Russell’s grin grow ever wider.

“You have no idea how long I’ve waited to see you two! I’ve got so much to tell you. There’s a witch living here, too, and news about Death Eaters…” he said excitedly. Russell hardly took his eyes off either of them, and they tried not to laugh.

“Say, how did you two get here? I know Hermione doesn’t fly… Did you Apparate illegally?” he asked in a whisper.

“My parents drove us,” David answered without thinking.

Russell looked completely horrified. “But, Harry, your…your parents are dead,” Russell said sadly. He’s barking mad.

“Oh, no… I meant Hermione’s parents drove us. Yeah, ‘cause they’re Muggles, you know, and they have a car…” David stumbled all over his words as he tried to recover. He remembered what everyone had said about playing along, but he’d not been thinking when he’d answered.

“Cool. So I guess your holidays have been going well? Harry, mate, how are the Dursleys treating you?”

“Err, not too bad, considering,” David answered, thankful that he remembered this time.

“Well, hey, I want to show you around,” Russell offered.

“Ok, but just for a moment. We’ve got to be getting back to wor—back home. My mum’s been redecorating the house and needs me back to help her, and the Dursleys… Well, you know, they were reluctant to let Harry come see you in the first place.”

Russell nodded his head in understanding and led them out of the lobby. He took them around to all the rooms that Christina had showed him, explaining the purpose as well as he could, though as he’d never had any classes his scope was quite limited.

“This is the library, ‘Mione,” Russell said, waiting for Amy’s reaction. “I haven’t had time to read much yet, but I fully intend to.”

Amy remembered her character and smiled, then replied with her best Hermione impression, “It’s about time you realized the value of a good library, Ron. I’d have to say, I’m very proud that you’ve decided to give the literary world its due credit. You can learn a lot from books, you know.”

“Yeah, well I never needed to, before. I always had you around to tell me everything,” Russell grinned.

The three exited the library and Russell stopped abruptly, causing David to run right into his back and nearly trip himself.

“That’s where they are,” Russell said seriously. “The Death Eaters are down there, locked up, I suppose. Nicki said none of them could get out, so I guess they’ve got tight security all around.”

David and Amy examined the staircase that led to the basement, which looked anything but heavily guarded. They assumed Russell was twisting around the facts in order to fit with what he knew of his fantasy world.

“Err, who’s Nicki, mate?” David asked, trying to change the subject. The last thing he wanted was a conversation about Death Eaters and Voldemort, because while he knew all the lines to his movies, he’d only read a few of the books and was nothing of a fanatic. He just knew that if the subject kept heading in the same direction that he’d miss some important plot details and end up putting Russell through further distress. He needed for Russ to think everything was normal—well, as normal as it could be with him in a mental home.

“Oh, she’s the witch I told you about. The one who lives here. She’s the one who told me about Barrington, and about the other Death Eaters in the basement. A little strange, she is, but nice,” Russell answered. He then looked down at Amy, who cocked her eyebrow and pretended to take offence (after all, she was playing the part of Hermione).

“Oh, she’s nice, is she?”

“Err, yes, she’s nice, but she’s not you,” he assured, grabbing her around the shoulders in a half-hug.

David laughed, wondering to himself how Amy had managed to keep a straight face about the whole thing. This is all so bloody weird.

“Well, let’s get on up to my room, then. I want to show you before you have to go.”

They followed him as he marched up the stairs two at a time, and Amy had to struggle to keep up with the taller boys. Russell reached his door and stopped just in front.

“E11?” David laughed.

“Yeah, they still have to fix that,” he said while taking a stick out of his pocket. “Alohamora,” Russell said while turning the doorknob. “Lumos.”

Amy and David exchanged glances and held back for a second while Russell entered his room.

“He can’t really do magic, can he?” Amy asked.

“Of course not. Magic isn’t real, Amy,” David assured. “The door must not have been locked in the first place. And I’m pretty sure I saw him flip the light switch when he said ‘Lumos.’”

“Well, he must think magic is real, or else…”

“Hey, are you two coming in, or what?” Russell’s voice sounded from inside the room.

They quickly ducked in the door and examined the quaint little room with the un-made bed.

“Not much to see, really, but it’s not too bad. At least I have my own room, you know.”

Amy continued to inspect the room while Russell opened his closet to show David something.

“Hey, it’s…your broom,” David said, pointing out the obvious.

“Yeah, couldn’t find my Cleensweep, so Mum let me bring this one in its place. Said we’d find mine after I got home.”

“Your mum?” Amy inquired. If she hadn’t been mistaken, she was sure Russell still thought his parents to be “Molly and Arthur Weasley” and was sure that they hadn’t paid him a visit.

“Yeah, the lady who was at the hospital with me. She and the other people said they were my new family until all of this was sorted out, so I’ve just started calling her Mum to make it easier. I have a little brother and two little sisters, too. The littlest one, Annie, gave me that,” Russell said, while pointing to the doll that had been pushed up against the wall on his bed. David had taken a seat on the edge of the bed and made to reach for the doll to look at it more closely.

“Oh…” Amy said.

“Want to see it? Accio doll!” Russell exclaimed.

Thinking as quickly as he could, David took the doll he had just grasped and threw it to Russell. Unfortunately, his aiming was quite a bit off, and the doll hit Russell smack on the head. Amy suppressed a laugh, but Russell obviously didn’t hear it. He bent down to pick the doll up off the floor.

“Guess I don’t know my own strength,” he said, while rubbing the spot on his forehead where the doll had made contact.

Again, Amy had a hard time to keep from laughing, and watching David’s amused expression didn’t do much in the way of helping. He shrugged her shoulders at her, trying to telepathically tell her that they had to do whatever was necessary to make him think his “magic” worked.

“Well, this place seems pretty nice, Ron. It looks as if you’re getting along here.”

“Yeah, it’s not Hogwarts, but it’s suitable. I’m just a bit afraid of that nurse, is all. She’s liquefied the Imperius Curse, you know. Nicki told me. Other than her, though, it’s a pretty nice place. I might go check out those Death Eaters in the basement, to be safe, but I might not even need to.”

David widened his eyes with worry. “Err, I don’t think you should go down there, mate. It could be dangerous.”

“Since when were you one to follow rules, Harry? Especially when it came to dark wizards?”

David didn’t have an answer for him, as he had no idea how to respond. We’re not going to talk about this…

“Just be careful, ok?”

“I’m always careful.”

Amy looked at her watch and realized how long they had made David’s parents wait out in their car. So they’d be a little late to the set…

“Listen, Ron, we’ve really got to run. It was great seeing you again,” Amy said while approaching the redhead for a hug.

“Yeah, you too. Please come back to visit soon,” he answered, while kissing her on the head.

“Maybe we won’t need to, if they let you out of here in a timely manner,” David hoped. Oh, how he hoped he wouldn’t have to come back. This place made him feel more than a little uncomfortable.

“Let’s hope, eh? Come on, I’ll walk to you the lobby.”

“Here’s your doll, Ron.

”Here’s your doll. See you, Ron,” Amy said while reaching up to kiss him on the cheek.

Chapter 8: Arts and Crafts
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“You’re late, Ron. Where have you been?” Nicki asked.

She was tearing pieces of paper into strips and adding them to the piles that already lay on the table, and each pile was separated according to color.

“Blimey, woman, you’re starting to sound like Hermione,” Russell answered.

Nicki clapped her hands excitedly. “I am?”

“If you keep nagging about being late, then yes.”

Russell eyed the piles of paper laid out on the table, wondering what Nicki was going to do with such rubbish.

“No one’s ever compared me to a character before… Ooh, this is fantastic! So, Ron, where were you, anyway?” she rambled, while making her strips of paper even narrower by tearing them in half.

“Harry and Hermione came by to visit,” he said proudly.

Nicki’s eyes widened two-fold and she gripped the edge of the table with both hands. Astonished, she asked, “They did!?”

“Yeah, just to see me,” he bragged. “But they’re gone now.”

“The real Harry Potter was here… My, my, my—how extraordinary! Did you happen to ask him if he knew anything about the Death Eaters in the basement? I know he’s got more contact with the Order than the lot of us, so I reckon he’s happened upon a bit of information, perhaps? You know, they’ve been here a lot longer than I have. Nobody ever talks about them, either. It’s like they don’t even exist…” Nicki rambled.

The entire time she talked, the strips of paper became smaller and smaller. Russell thought she just wasn’t paying attention to what she was supposed to be doing, because she’d never be able to use the paper now.

“Well, no, not really. He actually told me I should stay out of the basement. Said it might be dangerous.”

Nicki tilted her head to the side as she said, “Hmm, that’s quite out of character for Harry; he usually loves dangerous stuff like that—especially with his hero-complex. I doubt the moderators would allow such OOC-ness…”

Nicki laughed heartily at her joke, but Russell failed to see what was so funny.

“Look! Finished!” she exclaimed, while marveling at her bits of paper.

Russell also failed to see the purpose for the confetti-sized bits, as it looked to him like trash. Then, in one sweeping motion, Nicki pushed each pile of shredded paper off the edge of the desk and into the bin she had positioned underneath.

Well, that was pointless… Russell thought.

Nicki peered down into the bin to admire the array of colors all mixed around like a kaleidoscope. She beckoned Russell to take a look with her. At first, he didn’t see what she found so interesting, but the more he looked, the more the liked the way the colors meshed.

“Err, cool, I guess.”

Suddenly, Nicki shouted in his ear, “Christina! I’m finished! Come look!”

The dark-haired manager made her way around the room towards the two residents.

Nicki pointed into the bin and repeated, “Look! I’m finished. It’s pretty.”

“Isn’t she the manager?” Russell asked.

“Ooh, lovely art work, Nicki!” Christina beamed. She gave Nicki a yellow smiley sticker; Nicki took great pride in placing it on her shirt for everyone to see.

“Yeah, but she’s our Arts and Crafts teacher, too. She gives stickers.”

“And where is your artwork, Ron?” Christina asked, noticing that there was nothing on the table in front of him.

“Oh, I haven’t… I’m not much of an artist,” he answered.

“You don’t have to be an artist to make art, Ron. Just like you don’t have to be an author to write, you don’t have to be a musician to make music, and you don’t have to be a dancer to dance,” Christina smiled.

However, Christina’s attempt to encourage Russell only made him more confused. Her entire spiel made no sense whatsoever. By definition, anyone who did art was an artist, just like anyone who wrote was an author, just like anyone who made music was a musician, and just like anyone who danced was a dancer. Surely she must have known this.

What Russell had meant by “not being much of an artist” was not that he couldn’t make art, but that he couldn’t make art very well. Christina obviously missed his meaning and interpreted it as something…Well, he didn’t know exactly what to call it other than mad. Russell had noticed that the people at Deerfield Home did seem a bit peculiar, and Christina was proving to be no exception.

“So, what kind of art do we do?” Russell asked, not having the slightest idea where to begin.

“Well, you see how Nicki did her collage of colors in the trash bin—that was very artistic. Leah over there is tracing the lines on her hand with a blue marker… Clarence is pasting the pages of some of his favorite books to his spot on the table… Alison is making small figurine people out of modeling clay… The possibilities are endless. Remember, art is about creativity; do what you feel.” Christina stressed the last word with a particularly whimsical air.

Russell looked around the room at all the weird things his fellow residents were doing. How could all of this be considered art? He decided not to ask, as the answer would probably just confuse him more.

“Err, ok. I’m sure I’ll find something to do.”

“Perfect. Well, I’m going to go help William with his self-portrait, if—“

“Wait, Christina! Can I go to the library, since I’ve already finished my art?” Nicki asked, before Christina had a chance to walk off.

“We’ll have library time later, Nicki. You know that.”

“But I can’t wait two whole days!”

“Nicki, you need to calm down. One, two, three…. Breathe…”

Russell watched the exchange in bewilderment. Nicki really didn’t seem all that hyper, but Christina still pretended she needed to do some sort of calming exercise.

“Better?” Christina asked.


“Now, you don’t want me to call Nurse Barrington, do you?”

Nicki immediately swallowed her words. It seemed that a trip to the library, no matter how satisfying, was never worth a confrontation with Barrington. Christina nodded her head knowingly and walked away in the direction of a boy Russell presumed to be William.

“What was that all about?” Russell asked.

“She knows Barrington has it in for me. I suppose that’s how they keep me ‘in line.’ You know—that’s a dirty, rotten trick, that is. Maybe she’s not on our side, after all. She probably knows all about magic. I bet she’s even ganged up with Barrington. Oooh, that evil wench…”

“She’s very nice, though. A little weird lately, but nice.”

“Lots of people are nice, Ron, but it doesn’t mean they’re good. People are fake. You can think you know someone, but really have no idea who they are. That’s the mystery of human nature. You only know what they let you know—what they tell you and show you. Everything you know could be wrong.”

Now it was official: everyone Russell knew at Deerfield Home were complete nutters. Even the one witch he’d met seemed to be a bit off her rocker. There was no way Russell could misjudge people as much as Nicki had said it was possible to misjudge.

She was exaggerating, he reasoned, and most likely for her sheer enjoyment. She did like to talk, so maybe it was the sound of her own voice that kept her yakking and expanding her wild stories and philosophical rants.

“Yeah, whatever,” Russell replied. “This art rubbish is a waste of time. Let’s go place chess.”

“How very in-character of you, Ron. But I don’t know how to play chess,” Nicki answered.

“I can teach you. It’s really easy.”

“That’s all right. I’ve got a better idea…” A mischievous glimmer in her eyes was extremely reminiscent of someone he knew—two people, actually. Yes, he’d seen that same light in Fred and George’s eyes countless times before.

Fred and George? Russell questioned, surprised that he had thought of them so randomly. It was true that, as of late, Russell had been entirely preoccupied with life at Deerfield, Harry and Hermione, and his “new family.” But whatever had become of his twin brothers? Yes, he knew what he’d been told about why he had been separated from his family, but why hadn’t he heard from any them? And it wasn’t just his troublemaker brothers—what about his other brothers? His sister? His parents? Surely they would have at least written by now…

Russell’s thoughts were interrupted when Nicki lightly flicked him on the forehead.

“Hey! I asked you a question!”

Rubbing the smarting spot on his head, he answered. “What was that for, Nicki?”

“Got your attention, didn’t I?”

“You could have gone about it a bit differently, though,” he countered, still rubbing his forehead to make her feel guilty about “hurting” him.

“Oh, no. There was no other way. But we’re wasting time arguing over nothing,” she said. “I asked you if you had your—“ Nicki stopped abruptly and lowered her head. In a much quieter voice she continued, “If you had your wand?”

“Of course. Never without it,” Russell replied, while starting to remove the scraggly stick from his pocket.

“NO!” Nicky shouted. “Put that back!”

He immediately fumbled his wand back into his pocket.

“What are you thinking, Ron? Don’t EVER show anyone your wand! Do you want them to know?”

“Err, no…”

“Typical boy. Just never thinking.”

Russell had started to express his offense, but Nicki was clearly uninterested as she had turned away from him and was now beckoning Christina’s attention.

“Is it all right if Ron and I go to the Learning room early today? I want to show him some stuff,” Nicki said. She wasn’t altogether lying, but she wasn’t telling the whole truth, either.

“Of course you can. Just promise me you’ll stay there, and the rest of your class will meet you there when it’s time for the Learning class to start.”

Without answering, Nicki stood up from her chair and dragged Russell along behind her by way of his shirtsleeve. She released him once they had gotten into the hallway, as her tiptoeing seemed to also require the use of sweeping hand motions. Russell followed her example and walked quietly along behind her, but stopped when they passed the room with a “Learning” sign over it.

“Isn’t that where we’re going?” Russell asked.

“Oh, no, Ron. We changed our minds,” Nicki said, as if this fact should have been obvious.

What? he thought. He didn’t remember changing his mind to not go to the Learning room. Then again, he hadn’t remembered making up his mind to go there in the first place, either. But rather than question her now, Russell simply decided to trust whatever she was up to, even if his gut feeling told him it would probably break a number of rules.

Russell saw the library at the end of the hall, and instantly knew where she was going. She had asked Christina to there earlier, so it made sense. He made his way to the small room lined with books, but was called back by Nicki, who remained standing a few feet behind him.

“No, this way, Ron.”

She had her shoulders square with the narrow staircase that led down to the basement.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

“But Nicki, we can’t go down there. It’s off-limits.” Russell said fearfully.

“Just because we shouldn’t do something doesn’t mean we can’t.”

Russell sighed apprehensively as he realized that Nicki was more like Fred and George than he’d ever thought.

Chapter 9: The Death Eaters
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Chapter 9

The staircase creaked underneath their feet, and the musty scent of the basement grew ever stronger as they descended. A single light bulb hung on a chain and lit only a portion of the narrow stairs, and Russell stumbled down a step. The noise echoed off the graying walls, as Russell gasped and caught himself on the railing.

“Shh! Ron, be quiet! Do you want to give us away!?” Nicki asked in a harsh whisper.

“Sorry,” Russell whispered back. “It was the step.”

Russell and Nicki continued their way down, both making sure to watch their feet so to avoid another mishap. The bottom of the staircase ended in a white door with a small, square window only just big enough to peek through. Attempting to open the door, Russell realized it was locked.

“It’s locked,” he said. “And it must be sealed with an Imperturbable Charm, because I can’t hear anything behind it.”

“Really, Ron, after all your time with Harry and Hermione, I’d think you’d be a bit better at solving problems like this,” Nicki teased. She positioned herself in front of the door, effectively shoving Russell out of the way, while producing a large key ring from her pocket. They clattered together lightly until she chose a jagged, silver key.

“Where did you get those?” Russell asked incredulously.

“Stole them, of course. No, I take that back. I borrowed them.”

“From who?”

Nicki just looked at him, rolled her eyes, and inserted the key. “Alohamora.” The lock clicked open. “Let’s go,” she said.

Just behind the door was another hallway. Russell had no idea where it led, but as he looked down to the end, he didn’t see another doorway. All the doors he saw were on the sides of the hallway, and they all looked the same.

“What is this place?” Russell asked, in wonderment.

“I told you. It’s where they keep them. Now stop talking. You don’t want to wake any of them if they’re sleeping.”

Walking past the first door, Russell took a peak through a small window, identical to the one on the stairwell door. Inside, he saw the most frightening thing he’d ever seen in his life. A boy, even younger than Russell, lay on a bed with his arms restrained to his sides by brown leather straps; his ankles were also bound with the same kind of straps. Only the boy’s head was free to move, though he didn’t seem to want to. The way he stared up at the ceiling would have made Russell think him dead, if not for the way his chest rose and fell as he breathed.

“Merlin, Nicki!” Russell exclaimed. “Who is that?”

“A Death Eater, of course.”

“He’s just a little kid!”

“You-Know-Who is impartial, Ron.”

“But why would they keep him tied up like that? And why here? Why not Azkaban where they keep all the rest of the Death Eaters?”

“Do you really think they’d send children to that place?”

“Err… Well, I never thought about it before.”

“Yeah. Nobody thought about it. They never thought they’d need to, did they? Well, eventually they caught on, and that’s why they made this place. Nobody’s supposed to know about it. That’s why the doors and windows are soundproofed—to keep even people like us from knowing.”

“You mean Imperturbed?”

“Yeah, same thing.”

Nicki shook her head sadly while she looked through the tiny window. “It’s really a shame they have to keep them here, though. They are only kids, after all.”

“So why do they do it?” Russell asked.

“They’re dangerous. Not only to other people, but also to themselves. They’re not ‘right’, Ron.”

Russell tore his eyes away from the boys’ door and moved down the hallway a bit to the next door. He peered in just as he had in the last window. This time, it was a girl.

“Her too?”

“Yes. All of them.”

The girl wore a very thin gown that was raveling at the hems, where she had part of it bunched up in her hand, twirling it senseless. At first she sat in a chair that faced one of the side walls and slowly rocked her body back and forth. It appeared her mouth was moving, though Russell couldn’t hear her through the thick door and soundproofed glass window. Then, as if she had sensed Russell’s presence, she turned her head and locked her eyes on the window. Russell gasped at her pale face, he watched her in amazement, but she looked away just as quickly as she’d seen him.

Russell was a little concerned if this behavior was normal, so he told Nicki, “She saw me.”

Nicki responded, “Who, her? Nah, there’s no way she saw you. She never looks out the window. Has no clue what’s going on, that one. Always been a day late and a pound short, if you know what I mean.”

“Err, no, not exactly.”

“She’s nutters. Completely mad. I sometimes hear Christina and Barrington talk about them… I never believed it till I saw them all for myself.

“Hey look, she got up. She’s walking.”

The girl that had been swaying in her chair stood and began making circles around the white, padded room. She ran her hands along the soft, squashy walls, and almost made Russell dizzy as she walked round and round. When she reached one of the corners where Russell and Nicki couldn’t see her, they began to wonder when she didn’t pass the window again.

“Uh-oh… Maybe she Disapparated,” Ron guessed.

“That’s impossible, Ron. No one can Disapparate from Deerfield. It’s kind of like Hogwarts. She’s still in there somewhere,” Nicki answered as she pressed her cheek against the glass, trying to see farther into the room.

Russell tried also, and screamed in horror when the girl’s face suddenly popped up in front of the window with flashing eyes and a giant, scary smile. She laughed as Russell stumbled backwards and nearly brought Nicki down on top of him.

“Blimey!” Russell exclaimed, while running to the door at the end of the hallway. “Let’s get out of here!”

Nicki laughed, in spite of her racing heart. She couldn’t let Russell know the girl had scared her, too; she had to be brave like Hermione would have been. As Russell raced up the stairs, Nicki called to him, “Wait!”

She caught up with him and laid a hand on his shoulder. “See, that’s why the basement is off-limits.”

“Why did you take me down there, then?” Russell panted.

In her head, Nicki thought about being brave like Hermione. That was a big reason why she wanted to take Russell down there. But she answered, “I just wanted you to know what was down there. I think we’re the only two people in all of Deerfield home that know about them—besides the authorities, that is. I just thought you should know.”

Russell looked at her incredulously.

“And besides, it keeps life interesting, doesn’t it? It’s always fun to have a little adventure now and then. When you’ve been here as long as I have, you begin need some excitement and entertainment,” she said sadly. “That’s why I’m glad you’re here. You’re the only one who understands about all this stuff.”

He nodded his head slowly, feeling more than a little sorry for his new friend. He even felt sorry for the Death Eaters that were locked in the basement. They didn’t look like they got to have much fun at all.

“I see what you mean.”

“Yes, got to keep life interesting. The imagination is a powerful thing, Ron. Very powerful. That’s what keeps life interesting.” Nicki didn’t look at him again, but continued to climb the stairs up to the main floor of Deerfield, and stopped just at the top stair. “Always look both ways before crossing the hallway,” she instructed, sounding more like she was repeating some instructional video than talking.

“Err, ok.”

“All right. Back to class.”

Chapter 10: Noble Intentions
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Russell sat through the entire Learning class but only vaguely heard Christina’s voice as she taught a lesson on spelling and punctuation usage. He’d never had to take stupid classes like these at Hogwarts, so he reasoned that he probably didn’t need them, anyway. What occupied Russell’s thoughts more than anything was seeing those kids down in the basement, all locked up and alone. Nicki had said they were Death Eaters, and while he had no reason not to trust the peculiar girl, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for the kids.

Lunch came and Russell still wasn’t feeling any more cheerful. He normally ate everything on his plate, but today he’d quite lost his appetite. It only got worse when he saw nurse Barrington pushing her cart around the lunchroom, doling out meds to every resident that had to take them with meals. She still scared him a bit, but at least he didn’t see her with any of the orange liquid Nicki had warned him about on his first day.

“What’s the matter with you?” Nicki asked pointedly.

Russell was moving around a lump of mashed potatoes with his fork and didn’t look up from his plate to reply, “Err, nothing.”

“Liar,” Nicki accused.

“Hey, where’s Clarence?” Russell had suddenly realized that their mute friend was absent.

“Don’t change the subject, Ron. What’s wrong?”

“It’s just…those kids…I miss my family.” His reply came as a shock even to himself because, even though he just talked about missing his family to get around telling Nicki about feeling sorry for the Death Eaters, he realized he truly meant it. He missed his parents and his brother and sisters. Now he felt worse than ever.

“Oh… Well, why don’t you call them?” the brown-haired girl suggested.

“On the fellytone? I don’t know how to use—”

“YOU DON’T!? What, were you born in a barn or something?”

“No, a Burrow, and only Muggles use felly-”

“Telephones, Ron. Sat it with me: “teh-leh-fones.”

“Teh-leh-fones,” he repeated. “Teh-leh-… Well whatever, I don’t know how to use it. And how do you know, anyway? You’re a witch.”

“Nicki looked at Russell like he had a frog growing on the end of his nose. “Riiiight, exactly. But I do live in the Muggle world, see, so umm, you kind of pick up on that sort of stuff after a while.”

“Russell nodded his head. “That makes sense. Can you show me how?”

“ “Do you know your parents’ phone number?”

“ “I need a number?”

“ “Well, of course. How else would you know who you’re calling?”

“The redhead widened his eyes, seeming to understand where Nicki was getting at. “How about five? Is that a good number?”

“Nicki had to use every ounce of restraint she owned to keep from laughing. Her poor friend was so clueless that it was amusing. Then she reasoned for a bit, and reminded herself that this boy was a “wizard” after all, so he didn’t really understand the concept of communication by telephone.

“ “How about you just try writing to them? You do know your home address, right?”

“ “Address? Yeah, the Burrow… Is there an owl anywhere around here that I can borrow?”

“Nicki bit her lip. There were no owls—or any animal, for that matter—at Deerfield Home. Well, maybe there were mice here and there, but certainly not any owls that knew how to carry wizards’ mail. For a moment, Nicki considered just telling Russell to forget about it, but then she had a better idea.

“ “Tell Christina you want to write a letter to your family. She’ll take care of it for you.”

“Russell considered the letter. What exactly would he tell his parents? Would he tell them that he met another magical resident? What about the Death Eaters in the basement? No, no…that would just worry them. He had to tell them that everyone was very nice and treated him well (this is the point where he also decided to leave out nurse Barrington, as she was still rather frightening).

“Just minutes after the two friends’ conversation, the intimidating nurse with the medicine trolley approached their table. Nurse Barrington set down a paper cup with two pills in it and handed Nicki a note and then smiled, though Russell thought it looked more like a sneer. Nicki reluctantly took her medication and held out her tongue for Barrington to inspect that indeed she had swallowed it. Russell craned his neck to see what was written on the note.

“Ten o’clock, it says. Wants me to meet in her office.”

“WHAT!?” Russell shouted. “By yourself? She’s a Death Eater, Nicki! It’s a trap!”

“Oh, Ron, I can look after myself,” Nicki insisted.

“Russell shook his head. “No. I’m going with your for back-up. No way could you take on a Death Eater of her size and viciousness.”

“She’s not that bad.”

“How can you say that? Of course she is! She’s a De-” But Russell stopped mid-sentence as his eyes met with nurse Barrington’s from across the room. She smiled at him—an evil smile, as Russell had interpreted. “She’s got that crazy look in her eye that people get when they’re about to kill… Barrington’s got it in for me, now.”

“Nicki cleared her plate and headed out the door, nearly leaving Russell by himself. He badgered her the whole way down the corridor about going with her to see Barrington that night, but Nicki would hear none of it. He finally gave up trying to convince her, but he had a little plan of his own that night, so it wouldn’t be too hard to conveniently drop in to check on his new friend.

“Christina had locked room number 311 from the outside, but the fork Russell had nicked from the lunchroom was a perfect tool to pry the little bugger open. Nine-thirty pm was the curfew for residents at Deerfield, yet somehow Nicki was ordered to attend a “secret meeting” with nurse Barrington at ten pm. Russell knew this could not be about something good.

“He discarded the bent fork in the waste bin along his way through the winding corridors towards the nurse’s office. He stealthily ducked behind the brick pillars, slinking around the shadows to avoid being caught by the night watch. If he was found out of bed, he knew he’d get it for sure.

“Russell came to a stop just outside the wooden door marked with a sign that read: “N. Barrington”. The door was closed but he distinctly heard two women’s voices inside: one he clearly recognized as his belonging to his friend, Nicki, and the other to the supposed Death Eater nurse. So far everything seemed to be calm. There were no shouting or cursing or loud crashing noises. It seemed almost as if the two were chatting like friends would do, with no ill will toward the other whatsoever. Puzzled as Russell was, he was relieved that Nicki was safe (at least for the moment, anyway) and was handling Barrington like an expert. He reasoned that she must know how to deal with all the Deerfield staff, given the amount of time she had lived there, and decided to continue on with his mission.

“The image of the Death Eater children locked in the basement of Deerfield Home had plagued his mind all day, and he couldn’t wait even twenty-four hours before doing something about it. Death Eater or no Death Eater, a child was no to be kept in depressing solitude forever. The keys he’d sneakily borrowed from Nicki rattled in his pocket as he made his way down the creaking staircase as he tried to stay as far away from the dingy gray walls as he could. Several keys rejected the lock until one finally clicked into place and, with a whispered “Alohamora”, Russell opened the door.

“Darkness permeated the room; the only visible light was the emergency light in the far corner. He looked through the windows at the children and saw that most of them were still awake. He tested several keys on each lock before succeeding. The first girl had simply stayed where she was when her door was opened, while the first boy bolted out and ran up the stairs faster than Russell even had time to warn him about Barrington. The second boy hollered as loud as his lungs would allow, swearing at the stupid boy to shut his door so the demons couldn’t get in. The noise was so incredible that Russell panicked about being caught; he dropped the keys at the bottom of the stairs and ran. Scared though he was, anger also ran rampant through his veins at his failed attempt to free the kids. He knew they’d be apprehended and put right back into the misery they came from.

“Panting, Russell ducked behind the nearest corner to gather his thoughts and formulate his next plan. However, before he could come up with anything, he heard screaming voices echo through the hallway and the distinct sounds of a scuffle. Someone was fighting, and someone was running. And they were coming back his way.

“Thinking quickly, Russell headed down a connecting corridor and ran through, what seemed, almost five endless corridors after another. There seemed no place to turn; all of the classrooms and offices were locked for the night—except one. Russell knew Barrington would have heard the screaming and running, so he took a risk—hoping that she wouldn’t still be in her office—and dived into the empty room.

“Everything inside was very orderly. Labels adorned every shelf and file. No spot of dust was visible on any piece of furniture. Russell made a note to himself not to touch anything, for Barrington surely would notice, but something caught his eye. A vertical, tan-colored file cabinet was situated behind Barrington’s desk and the four cabinets were divided by alphabet. Russell knew these had to be files for each of the residents, and his curiosity struck him to know what his said. He bent down to the very bottom cabinet, the one that read “T-Z”, and gave it a glance over for “Weasley”. To his disappointment and bewilderment, no such folder existed.

Then, remembering a conversation between the doctors and his parents at the hospital, he decided to check in the first cabinet under “G” for “Green”. Strange as it felt to be looking under someone else’s last name, Russell had a feeling he’d find what he was looking for this time. As he fingered his way along the manila folders, he stopped short of the “G’s” and his blood froze. There, labeled in heavy black marker, was a folder bearing the name “Barrington, Nicki”.

Chapter 11: The Truth
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Chapter 11 – The Truth

“BLOODY HELL!” Russell screamed. His mind raced with question after question, but no answers ever came to him. He stared, jaw-agape, at the name on the file before him.

Nicki Barrington? he thought. Nurse Barrington is her mum?

Russell’s pulse raced and heat emanated from his face. No, there was no way… None of it made any sense! How could Nurse Barrington, a Death Eater, be Nicki’s mother? And Nicki was the one who had warned him about the sketchy nurse in the first place!

He reached out a trembling hand for the folder and clumsily removed it from the cabinet, consequently sending no fewer than eight loose sheets of documents floating around the room. He gathered them quickly without regards to wrinkling any of them and frantically searched for an answer amid the jumble of unpronounceable jargon. All of this stuff made less sense than Nicki’s undeniable surname. What exactly was “paranoid type schizophrenia” and what did it have to do with her? Was that why Nicki was at Deerfield Home?

But why hadn’t she been cured? And that still didn’t explain why her mother, a supposed Death Eater, was also at Deerfield. Maybe Nurse Barrington wasn’t a Death Eater at all… And if she wasn’t a Death Eater, then maybe the kids in the basement weren’t either!

Russell longed to open more of the file cabinets and read everything he could find, even though he didn’t understand half of what he was learning. He began the search for his own folder when he heard voices in the hallway. A quick leap over the nurse’s desk gave him a prime hiding spot, or so he thought.

He hugged his knees to his chest, the folder crushed in his grip, as he remained perfectly still underneath the desk. The lights flipped on and two gasps filled the room.

“Oh, my!”

“Mum, the files!”

Suddenly Russell felt like he might faint. In his panicked rush, he’d forgotten to close the file drawer!

“How could I have left the door unlocked?” Nurse Barrington cried as she rushed over to the file cabinet to check for missing folders “This information is confidential! I could lose my job! Who could have done this?”

“Probably the same person who let the Isolation kids out,” Nicki commented seriously. “He was acting really strange today.”

“Who, dear?”

Russell’s head felt dizzy, but he held out a hope that maybe Nicki could save him from being nabbed by the Death Eater….but it was her mother! Bugger! thought Russell. Maybe she’s on their side! Merlin, help me.

“Russell,” she said confidently.

He nearly dropped the folder again with a mixture of shock and confusion. Nicki hadn’t said his name. Well, she hadn’t said the name she’d been calling him all this time—she’d used the name his new family had called him in the beginning, the name that Harry and Hermione had called him before. How did Nicki know that was his name if she never used it? And was that even his real name at all? Russell’s eyes watered and his throat constricted from trying to keep his sobs silent. His brain shouted with wordless desperation, I

“Russell?” Nurse Barrington asked. “The red-haired boy?”

Nicki must have nodded in response, for the nurse spoke again. “How do you know?”

“He seemed fairly distraught after we visited the kids in the Isolation Unit. That kid is pretty rash, too, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised for him to try something like that. It’s in his nature.” Nicki talked with an air of supreme authority, as if she were the end all and be all of knowledge on her friend, Russell.

“Well, maybe I should run up to his room—“

“No need, Mum. He’s under the desk.”

Russell’s heart stopped instantly and then began pounding harder. This couldn’t be happening… Getting caught in an act of mischief never happened. He always made it out safe. He and Harry had cheated death, escaped monsters, and outsmarted teachers, so how could it be possible that his downfall would be at the hands of a nurse and her mental daughter? He hugged his knees tighter still, wondering how his friend could rat him out to a Death Eater. But…was Nicki one of them, too?

“It’s all right, Russell. You can come out,” Nicki said. “I know you’re there because I can hear you crying.” She walked around to the opposite side of the desk and kneeled down, peering into the shadows for the crying boy. The nurse made her way back as well, but Nicki waved her off.

“Are you ok, Russ?”

Russell gulped hard and looked up at his friend for the first time. “Why do you call me that? You know my name is Ron. You know who I am.”

“Nicki, honey,” came the nurse’s voice, “let me talk to him for a bit. Why don’t you go back to your room?”

“Can’t I stay? Please?” she begged.

“It’s late, dear.”

“I’ll be quiet, I promise.”

“What Russell and I need to talk about is confidential. You can’t be here,” Nurse Barrington explained.

“I’ll stay in the hall! Please, I just want to talk to him after…”

Finally the nurse relented and Nicki slipped out the door. Russell reluctantly crawled out from underneath the desk took a seat on a wooden chair opposite; he wiped his wet cheeks and watched nervously, waiting for his demise. He had half a mind to pull his wand out, just in case, but the way the nurse smiled somehow seemed to make her less intimidating. She held out her hand, asking for Russell to give her the crumpled file.

After a moment of the nurse smoothing out the crumpled papers and making strange faces to herself, she said, “Well, well, I’d have imagined you’d be looking for your own file, not my daughter’s.”

Russell opened his mouth to speak but the words caught in his throat. “I…” His hands shook as he imagined what kind of punishment he’d receive for such an offense.

“Don’t you worry yourself, Russell. Normally we can be harsh on rule-breakers, but your case is a bit different, I think. Nobody explained to you that these files are off-limits to residents.”

A heavy sigh escaped Russell’s lips. This woman wasn’t about to tear him limb from limb or curse him with any horrible spells. He’d even begun to doubt whether she was a real Death Eater like Nicki had said. Real Death Eaters wouldn’t be so nice.

“It’s understandable that you would be searching for some answers about Deerfield and your peers that live here,” the nurse continued.

Well, now that she mentioned it, Russell realized he did want some answers. It really wasn’t his purpose for being in her office to begin with, but since he was here and she was offering to tell him, his inquisitive side grew more and more anxious. Maybe Nurse Barrington didn’t know the real reason he was there was that he was trying to hide after letting those kids out of the basement. Or maybe she did? If that was the case, then her not bringing up the subject of his misconduct was also a very un-Death-Eater-like thing to do.

“Err, I guess so,” Russell answered, finally finding his voice.

“Ok. As Nicki is my daughter, and you are her friend, I know she wouldn’t mind me telling you why she is here at Deerfield Home. About a year ago, Nicki developed a kind of delusional disorder known as schizophrenia. Her condition steadily grew worse as she spent more and more time on the computer.”

Russell meant to ask what a computer was, but this was all so fascinating that he couldn’t interrupt.

“She began to lose touch with reality, becoming so obsessed with her volunteer job on a fan page of her favorite book series that her mental state eventually digressed into full on paranoid type schizophrenia. These things she read over and over again became ingrained in her mind after the never-ending hours she used to spend “moderating” stories on this fan site. She worked very hard and did an excellent job at what she did, but somehow the characters started to become real, and that imaginary world she played in became her own little reality.”

Russell had no idea what all of this meant. He was fascinated still to learn more and sat on the edge of his chair, waiting for everything to make sense.

“We tried every kind of therapy and counseling there was, but nothing seemed to fully bring her back. Now she goes through stages, sometimes believing she lives in that fantasy world and sometimes returning to her pre-moderator self. When it became clear that Nicki would never be fully normal again, I started to play along with her every now and then. Kids need to have fun, after all. She wanted me to play the role of a ‘Death Eater’ and I didn’t see too much harm in that,” the nurse chuckled.

“Oh…wow,” Russell replied.

“Yes, ‘wow’ indeed. I have worked here at Deerfield for nearly ten years, so when Nicki’s condition deteriorated enough, this was the obvious last resort. It has worked out quite well, though, since I get to see my daughter so much. She’s really improved since she’s been here.”

When he’d gathered his thoughts and sorted out all the swimming questions, he decided he first wanted clarification on what the nurse meant by ‘the role of a Death Eater’.

Nurse Barrington smiled again. “Dear, you know that Death Eaters aren’t real. That stuff about witches and wizards is all make-believe,” she said. “Oh, but…maybe you don’t know, do you?”

Russell’s eyes were wide as they stared at the woman who had just told him that Death Eaters and wizards—and consequently magic—weren’t real. This had to be a mistake. “What do you mean? Of course it’s all real! I know it’s real because I’m a wiz-” He stopped mid-word. “You don’t mean…? I’m not a wizard?”

“I’m afraid not, Russ.”

“But Nicki knows I’m… She knew my name is Ron.” Then he furrowed his brow in confusion. “Except she didn’t call me Ron just now…”

“Remember me telling you how Nicki was sometimes caught in her own imagination? I’m positive that she just included you in her little game. Tonight, some residents of the Isolation Unit were found wandering the hallway. Nicki liked to refer to these kids as Death Eaters because it made her life a bit more exciting, but deep inside her real mind she knew that these kids were a danger to themselves and others, which is why they are kept by themselves. When they got out tonight, Nicki knew the problems that could arise and was forcefully jerked back to the normal reality, which is why she called you ‘Russell’ instead of ‘Ron’.”

“So I’m…I’m not Ron, then?”

“No, dear. Your name is, in fact, Russell Green.” Nurse Barrington then rose to retrieve Russell’s file from the drawer and gave it to him. She must have known exactly what he was thinking at that moment, because as his eyes fixated themselves on the words ‘dissociative amnesia’ she began to clarify.

“You have what’s called a dissociative amnesia, Russell. It means that you are unable to remember personal information about yourself and consequently don’t know who you really are. Your case is quite unusual, as we’ve never had a patient with dissociative amnesia who also seemed to think they were someone else. I’m afraid they missed the mark on the diagnosis; they probably should have included a bit of identity disorder as well. That would explain how you convinced yourself that you were Ron Weasley instead of Russell Green.”

“But…I still feel like Ron. Maybe I could feel like Russell, too, even though I don’t really know anything about him, but how can I be two people?”

The nurse nodded her head slowly and folded her hands on the desktop. “This might make you even more confused than you already are, but in a sense you are two people. The book series that Nicki became so obsessed with is the same series for which you are an actor in the films based on those books. Your real name is Russell, and your character’s name is Ron. That’s how Nicki ‘knew’ who you were, and that’s how she knew you would play along with her game.”

Russell was dumbstruck. It didn’t matter that he didn’t know or remember what films were, but just the fact that he actually was two different people astounded him. This was some kind of breakthrough, and he wondered if anyone else in the world ever heard of such crazy ideas.

“So, I am Ron, then? Sort of?”

“Umm…sort of. Not really.”

“So then I’m Russell.”

“Yes. You are Russell and you pretend to be Ron.”

“Oh,” he said, rubbing his temples. All this information was making his head hurt and he decided he’d just wait to sort it all out later.

“You had better get on to bed, there. It’s quite late.”

He nodded. “Yeah. Can I talk to Nicki before I go?”

“Of course, you can, just make sure you stay from the basement,” the nurse grinned.

Chapter 12: Returning
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Chapter 12 – Returning

Russell took in his newfound knowledge suffered through his throbbing brain that tried to process it all as he walked out into the hallway to find Nicki. The brunette girl was sitting just outside the doorframe, quite obviously leaning in to eavesdrop on the previous conversation between her mother and her friend.

“Hi, Nicki,” Russell greeted flatly.

Nicki stood up by pushing against the floor and sliding her back up the wall. She didn’t nearly reach the height of her friend but at least standing she was a bit closer to his level.

“Hi, Russell,” Nicki returned.

“Yeah, Russell. Not Ron. I know that now.” Though he said it steadily, there was still a glimmer of disbelief and astonishment in his voice. “Your mum told me everything.”

Just then Nicki spun quickly on her right foot and started down the hallway. Russell had opened his mouth so ask where she was going when he stopped by her order of, “Follow me.” His long strides helped him catch up with ease.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

“To show you what Mum was talking about. I know she told you most everything because I heard through the door, but I still don’t think you quite get it,” Nicki answered authoritatively.

She made a last-minute sharp turn down the main hallway, leaving Russell to figure it out on his own that she’d left him without warning. He caught up to her again and they walked down the new hallway, passing the Learning Room and the Arts and Crafts Room and the Group Therapy Rooms along the way. Near the end of the hallway Russell saw the staircase that led down to the Isolation Unit in the basement. It had only been a little over an hour since he’d let all those kids out, but for some reason it seemed like ages ago. The night had been so eventful that Russell could hardly wrap his head around the fact that only a day had passed instead of a week.

“What happened to the kids?” Russell asked sadly. “Are they…back in their rooms?”

“Yeah, we found ‘em all before they got too far. It would have been a disaster if anyone had gotten outside of Deerfield. They were put down there for a reason, Russ. They aren’t safe in the real world. They could hurt themselves.”

Russell slowed his pace considerably. “Oh yeah. I didn’t think about that. I just didn’t think it was right for them to be kept down there just because they were Death Eaters. I mean, I didn’t think they were happy down there.”

“Well as Mum told you earlier, there are no such thing as real Death Eaters. I thought you knew it was just a game.”

“And I thought you were the only one who believed me. Guess I was wrong.”

Nicki shrugged her shoulders. “Things happen.”

Then she continued her way to the room at the end of the hallway: the Exploration Room. Russell wondered what on earth they would find in the library that Nicki wanted to show him so bad that it couldn’t even wait until tomorrow. She opened the door and flipped on the light without even uttering the spell like she had always done. Everything had changed so drastically in such a short time that Russell’s head was still spinning. He thought about asking her how she was able to suddenly stop acting like she was a witch, even though Nurse Barrington had explained it already, but decided it wasn’t worth the confusion just to hear the same story from her point of view.

The room was lined on every wall with wooden bookshelves, several of them empty and covered in dust. Instead of the traditional organization of books, this library seemed to be arranged by some inventive system the residents had created. Instead of the normal genres of books, this library seemed to organize books based on what the readers thought of them. On left wall, the shelves nearest the small window in the corner were categorized by a label that read, “Boring Books.” This section was by far the dustiest of all. Another section of shelves on the front wall had slightly less dirty build-up, which Russell attributed to their label, “Interesting Books.” On the right and back walls were two more categories of books labeled “Funny Books” and “The Best Books,” which had accumulated practically no dust had all.

Russell had half a mind to look in the Boring Books section to see if they had a copy of Hogwarts, A History or not, since Hermione would certainly be interested to know if her favorite book were available beyond the walls of their school. He knew his girlfriend would have rearranged Deerfield Home’s entire library and completely eliminated the Boring Books category by moving them all somewhere like the Interesting Books shelves, or possibly created her own category called Intellectually Stimulating Books.

But wait, Russell thought, if I’m Russell and not Ron, that would mean Hermione isn’t… Then Hermione isn’t Hermione either! And that would mean she isn’t my girlfriend…

He thought back to all those years at Hogwarts with his friends, all the memories they shared of both good times and bad. If what Nurse Barrington had said is true, and Death Eaters aren’t really real, then that would mean Voldemort wasn’t real either. If he was Russell and not Ron, that would mean his girlfriend was not Hermione (did he have a girlfriend at all?) and his best friend wasn’t Harry. So who were the people he had come to know during all those years at Hogwarts…if in fact there was a Hogwarts? Russell’s eyes glazed over as the questions raced through his mind. He completely tuned out the outside world in favor of his musing mind until he was startled back to reality when Nicki hurled a book that hit him square in the chest.

“What the…? What was that for?” he asked while rubbing his chest where a corner of the book had stabbed him.

“Sorry, it slipped. Would you bring it back to me, please?” Nicki asked sweetly. She was sitting in the back right corner in a paisley patterned, high-back reading chair with her legs crossed and propped up on a small coffee table.

Russell grudgingly got the book and took a seat opposite her on the other side of the table. “Here,” he said, holding it out for her.

“Read it,” Nicki insisted.

Russell looked skeptically at the book’s width and scoffed.

“Go on.”

He rolled his eyes and looked more closely at the cover this time and read aloud, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” Even as the words came out of his mouth, Russell was confused. He knew he had read them right but something seemed strange about this book. He could imagine that someday someone would have written a book about his friend Harry because of all the marvelous things he had done over the years, but this appeared to Russell to be more of a story of his first year at school, rather than a documentary sort he would expect.

“What is this?” he asked.

“It’s a book, Russ.”

“Well yeah, but…”

“Tell me something you remember from your first year at Hogwarts,” Nicki said. “Anything at all.”

“I remember the first day I met Harry. We met on the platform and then sat together on the Hogwarts Express.”

Then Nicki held out her hand for the book, skimmed through the pages, and found the exact page and chapter of the ‘memory’ Russell had described. She held the book open for him and told him to read a couple of pages. He hadn’t skimmed very far at all before looking up with a bewildered expression plastered on his face.

“I don’t get it. How did someone know all this to be able to write it in a book? Nobody could have known everything that happened like that…”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It never really happened, Russ. An author wrote it. She made it up. She made you up, in a sense.”

Russell pinched his arm to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.

“No, you’re real. Russell is real. Ron isn’t. These are the books Mum was telling you about.”

“But if someone made all this up, why do I feel like I remember it all?” Russell said as he flipped through more of the pages, recognizing scene after scene as if he’d actually been there and done it himself.

“Mum told you that too, but she didn’t do a great job explaining it, in my opinion. Do you know what an actor is?”

He raised his left eyebrow at her to answer.

“People in the real world—“

“You mean Muggles?”

People in the real world,” Nicki continued, slightly annoyed as Russell’s interruption, “make and watch films. Films are like stories set on a television screen.” It didn’t matter that Russell seemed to not know what a television was either, because Nicki kept right on. “Sometimes the films are based on real events and sometimes they’re not. The people in the films, or movies and some people call them, are called actors. They act like different people to fill the role of whatever character is needed in that particular film.”

Russell nodded his head just barely to show that he was at least semi-following what Nicki was telling him. His interest had even prompted him to lean forward in his chair and focus his direct attention on the girl opposite him.

“You are an actor, Russell. You play the role of Ron Weasley in the film version of these books.” Nicki motioned to the one he held in his hand and the rest of the series that sat in an orderly line on the side bookshelf. “You feel like you remember being Ron because in a sense you were Ron. You remember things about being Ron because you spent years making the films and years acting as someone else, bringing to life the actions and memories that otherwise could have only been found in books.”

If finally seemed as though Russell understood; he raised himself up straight and re-examined the book he held in his hands. “So first there were the books and I was just Russell. Then some people started to make films and I became Ron, but only as an actor, and was still Russell at the same time.” He said the last sentence more like a question, just to make sure he understood all this correctly.

Nicki nodded and smiled pleasantly. “Exactly.”

“So that means that Harry and Hermione aren’t…?”

“Nope. They’re actors, same as you. Well Amy is an actress—what we call a girl actor—and David is an actor. Travis is the actor who plays Draco, and from what I hear, you two are fairly good friends even off the film sets.”

“Wow,” Russell said. He had a hard time believing he could be friends with anyone like Draco, but he had to remind himself that these actor people weren’t necessarily like the characters they portrayed. “Things are really different than I thought.”

Nicki smiled sympathetically and reached out her hand for his knee. “You’ll get used to it. It’ll be fine, I promise.”

“So what now? I don’t have a best friend, I don’t have a girlfriend, and I have a family that I don’t even really remember further back than last week… What do I do?”

“You go home, I guess,” she answered sadly. “You don’t remember much of your family but you will, and you’ll make new memories. You still have a job making movies and you’ll always have friends.”

Russell took Nicki’s small hand and covered it with his. “Yeah, I know. Thanks,” he smiled.

Ian and Bianca Green had been thrilled to the point of tears when they received a phone call the next morning that their son was ready to go home. They expressed their shock that he had recovered so quickly but weren’t complaining in the least. The three youngest Green children were taken out of school for the day so they could all go as a family to take Russell home. Alexander brought the stick that his Russell had dubbed his wand along with him for the ride; he was going to show his big brother he’d been practicing.

They arrived at ten in the morning and found Russell and all his belongings already packed and waiting for them in the front lobby. His mother had to fight the tears of joy she felt while his younger siblings all crushed him in a group hug. Mr. Green skipped the formal father-son handshake and went straight for a hug as well as soon as his swarming children were finished.

While Mr. Green loaded his son’s things in the family car, Russell took a seat on a couch in the lobby and pulled his baby sister Annie into his lap. He pulled out the doll that she had left for him on the first day. “Thanks for lending me your doll, Annie. I promise I took good care of her. Just ask her and see!” he smiled.

Annie beamed and bent down to whisper in her doll’s ear, then held the doll up to her own for an answer. Her bright smile faded at first and then turned into a warm glow as she looked up at her brother.

“She said she wants you to keep her. I think you should listen to her, Russy.”

He laughed to himself but agreed for his sister’s sake. Mr. Green had come back inside to tell them all it was time to go.

“Are we ready, then?” he asked.

Russell looked around one more time and replied by nodding. “Yeah, I guess so.” He carried Annie and her doll outside, crunching the gravel driveway under his feet and talking to Alex about his wand as they headed for the car.

Just as the family was about to load up, Delilah nudged Russ in the side and motioned to the front door of Deerfield Home. “Someone’s come to see you off,” she winked.

He put Annie in the car and then ran back to the doorway where Nicki stood waiting for him. “Just came to say goodbye,” she said softly.

“Why don’t you come with us?” Russell asked hopefully.

Nicki shook her head. “I belong here, Russ, with my mum. You can always visit though…” she trailed off and smiled.

Russell stepped forward and hugged the girl he’d befriended at his short stay at Deerfield. He knew friends like that didn’t happen every day and he was sad to be leaving her behind. “Thanks for everything.”

She nodded and hugged him one last time before stepping back inside the doorway.

“See you soon!” Russell called back from the car.

“See you.” She waved and then closed the door in front of her.

His family was anxious to hear all about everything that had happened during his stay and asked question after question about what it was like. He told them everything—conveniently omitting the part where he stole the nurse’s keys and let out the kids in the Isolation Unit—and they “ooh-ed” and “ahh-ed” at his stories until they arrived home to the house he remembered.


A/N: This story is dedicated to my pal Nicki (dracolover81) for her friendship and ability to make me laugh. It’s been a long time running—yes, nine months—but I finally finished. Someone should throw me a party. I expect cake. Chocolate. With sprinkles. :D Comments are highly appreciated. Thanks one last time to everyone who’s read and reviewed and put up with me this whole time. Ta, MM311