From the Case Files of Dr. Dumbledore.
The Case of Harry P., Week 1:
A new patient today, a seventeen year old boy suffering from vivid hallucinations and paranoia, with gradual onset of symptoms since the age of eleven. His parents, Lily and James P., have been seriously concerned about Harry's mental health for some time, and they have consulted a series of specialists before being referred to me.
Harry P. is a perfectly ordinary looking boy, except for his striking green eyes and an unusual jagged scar on his forehead. My first impression was that he is rather sweet, but terribly troubled. I do not have the immediate sense that he is a threat to anyone but himself. He is a ferociously intelligent child, who was doing very well in school as long as he was able to attend. For the last few years, however, his parents have kept him home, due to his deepening illness, where he immerses himself in his beloved books. Harry is extremely well read, fluent in several ancient languages, and endowed with a particularly rich imagination.
Harry seems unable to separate his hallucinations from reality, but his hallucinations are extraordinary lucid and internally coherent. He has created a fantasy world, which to him appears quite real, about his imagined life as a wizard at a school he calls "Hogwarts". In my experience, this kind of mental escape into a fantasy world is usually caused by a deeply traumatic event, which has so affected the patient that he is unwilling and unable to deal with the reality in which that event took place. The parents were unable to identify a particular traumatic event that could have triggered Harry's flight into madness. I will have to dig deeper; there is some dark secret in Harry's past somewhere.
I always insist that the family accompany the patient during the first consultation, so I can get a better sense of the patient's background. Lily and James P. arrived with Harry and his charming six year old brother Dudley. His mother Lily is a strikingly beautiful woman, with long red hair and the same intense green eyes as Harry. She seemed quite distraught, and pleaded with me to find a way to heal her son. The boy's father, James, was more composed, but also deeply concerned about Harry. James P. looks a great deal like Harry, except for the eye color. The little brother, Dudley, is, quite frankly, one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen. He is dark-haired like his father and brother, but with curly hair like his mother. He was a little shy when first meeting me, and insisted on sitting on his mother's lap, but after a while, he warmed up to me and came over to check if my beard is real (apparently, he had had an unfortunate experience with a Santa Claus whose beard turned out to be something of a disappointment). When he discovered that my beard was real, he was most pleased.
I could not help but notice during this pleasant interchange that Harry appeared desperately jealous of his little brother. This is of course not uncommon in a child who has had his loving parents to himself for years before a younger sibling comes along. Harry's jealousy toward his brother is woven into his hallucinations in the most intriguing manner.
Harry believes that his parents are dead, killed by an evil wizard he refers to as "Voldemort". In his mind, he is now living with an abusive family called the "Dursleys", who keep him imprisoned in a closet.
His delusions about life with the imaginary Dursleys are quite intriguing. Although he believes, on some level, that Lily and James are dead, the Dursleys are clearly representations of his parents, distorted through his intense jealousy of little Dudley. He is angry with his parents for doting on the winsome little Dudley, and he is distorting his sweet mother Lily into the abusive Petunia (I noted, of course, that he chooses to keep the flower name to signal her real identity, but substitutes a plainer flower), and his caring father James becomes the intimidating Vernon. Characteristically, the fantasy versions of his parents neglect and abuse him, while doting on their monstrous "real" son Dudley.
I will record his hallucinations about his life at Hogwarts in some detail, since it seems to me that this is where the key to Harry's illness lies. There is usually nothing random or arbitrary about a person's hallucinations; just like dreams, hallucinations are made up of elements of a person's experiences, emotions, fears, and dreams. Harry's dream world is a mirror of the real world, and somewhere in his fantastic visions lies a clue to the terrible secret that Harry has tried to forget. But hallucinations, like dreams, are composed in a language of strange symbols and hidden meanings.
A dark wizard named Voldemort kills Harry's parents, James and Lily, and attempts to kill the infant Harry as well. For some reason, Harry survives the killing curse, but is left orphaned in care of the Dursleys. After suffering years of abuse at the Dursleys, Harry discovers that he is a wizard. A friendly giant by the name of Hagrid hands him an invitation to attend Hogwarts, a school for magic. At Hogwarts, he makes friends with the loyal Ron and the brilliant Hermione, Ron's twin brothers Fred and George, and several other children. He attends classes, including Potions with the unpleasant Professor Snape, and Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall, finds himself at odds with the arrogant student Draco Malfoy, and excels in a magical sport called Quidditch, played on flying broomsticks. Harry plays the position of "Seeker", whose responsibility it is to catch a golden ball he calls the "Snitch". Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover that the legendary alchemical Philosopher's Stone, believed to grant eternal life, is hidden at Hogwarts, and they suspect Snape of attempting to steal it. After passing a series of challenges, including finding the one true key among many false ones, getting past a three-headed dog, and crossing a chessboard with living and homicidal pieces, Harry enters an underground room where he discovers that Snape was not the one trying to steal the Philosopher's Stone, but rather another teacher, the shy professor Quirinus Quirrell. In a most disturbing scene Harry describes most vividly, Quirrell reveals that he he two faces, one of them belonging to Voldemort, who is seeking eternal life through the stone. Quirrell attempts to kill Harry, but fails to do so, because Harry is protected by his mother's love for him.
Much to my amusement, I found myself inserted into Harry's delusions as a benign headmaster. I believe this is a good sign; he is letting me into his world.
One of the first things to note is that in his delusions about life at "Hogwarts", Harry himself seems to be split into two characters: The male Harry and the female Hermione. Harry is profoundly intelligent, but in his hallucinations, he seems to have separated himself from his intellectual side; he perceives this aspect of his personality as separate and also, interestingly, as female. The Ron character is loosely based, his parents confirmed, on Harry's best friend Shawn.
The game of Quidditch, in which Harry imagines himself as Seeker is most interesting. He is seeking for something, but what? A secret, an answer...Perhaps the elusive snitch represents the very key to unlock the strange secrets of Harry's mind. Quidditch… What lies behind this curious name? The word is reminiscent of the Quiddity of the medieval philosophers, the essence or reality of things as they are. Perhaps some still lucid part of Harry's mind is seeking the truth, the truth about that dreadful event that his subconscious represents as the dark figure of Voldemort.
Something happened to Harry, something that scarred him. His scar (which his parents tell me was caused by a fall when he was a baby), figures prominently in the story in a symbolic way: It marks him, sets him apart. It symbolizes past suffering, as well as a connection to the fearful figure of Lord Voldemort. But what does Voldemort represent? Something that terrifies Harry, but what?
Voldemort is, intriguingly, represented by the two-faced Quirrell, so aptly named after Quirinus, a form of the two-faced Roman god Janus. Why does he have two faces? Because, I suspect, Harry's subconscious is trying to tell me that something is not quite what it seems to be. Or someone...
But one thing puzzles me. I can make sense, in a way, of most parts of his story; the characters and events are symbolic of Harry's own tormented inner state. Hagrid is a benign helper figure, as is McGonagall (named, one assumes, after my charming secretary at the front desk), Draco ("the dragon") represents adversity, the benevolent tricksters Fred and George symbolize an intelligent mind's revolt against conventionality. But I must confess that the character of Snape makes no sense to me. He is neither good nor evil, or perhaps both good and evil. Harry believes that Snape wants to kill him, and yet, as it turns out, Snape was saving his life. Who, or what, does Snape represent? Perhaps this enigmatic figure holds the key to the dark secret that Harry's subconscious is so desperately trying to hide behind the illusory walls of Hogwarts.