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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.

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