It was yet another day for Harry Potter, the 16 years old wizard, as he paced along the corridors of the ancient castle. Although his feet were focused on getting him to the dining hall, his head was in a completely different place. Last night he couldn't sleep at all, giving up the pointless lying in bed at around three o'clock in the morning and he has found himself in front of the fire in the common room, staring blankly into the dancing flames.
Fifteen years have passed since his parents have died. It has been five years since he had escaped the hell of living with his aunt and uncle at Privet Drive. He was searched for by the most dangerous wizard of today. Somehow, those thoughts never preoccupied him much – usually they would only pop up with a glance at a photo or during a skim over the newest issue of the Daily Prophet. But right now Harry couldn't get those thoughts out of his head – and there was even more.
The young Potter was never the one to care much about his appearance, with his round, seldom intact, glasses and unruly hair that even the best hairdresser could not tame. And that scar which he has learnt to live with. Since yesterday he couldn't stop thinking about the fact that everyone is judging, watching, calculating – what is going to be Potter's next move, who is his girlfriend, what kind of boxer shorts does he have on today? All of those questions, combined with the haunting faces of his parents, the Dark Lord, his two best friends and other people that were significant to him in one way or another blurred his vision to the point where he didn't realise his fingers were trailing over the blazing flame.
"Ouch." Harry whispered, and examined his fingers. Round, red spots covered the tips, and he has found that they did, for a split of a second, push away the feelings that were eating him up alive. It felt bad to be hurt, but it felt good to have an empty head. To see clearly. He could make out the individual faces on each of the mysterious paintings hung on the walls for that one split of a second. In that moment he recognised the slight difference in the hue of the red curtains and the red armchair that his friend Ron loved so much.
With every step he took he plotted what would be his excuse if someone notices the, now numerous, burns on his forearms. Nervously, he fidgeted with the sleeve of his jumper, feeling chilly despite the comforting, early autumn breeze, eyeing suspiciously any person that was passing him.
Harry was one of the first people in the Dining Hall. The only other guests were a group of Hufflepuff's second years and Draco Malfoy with his two side boys. Straightening his back and still pulling on the sleeve with his other hand, he closed the distance between the entrance and the table, sat down and looked at the ever-so-delicious food in front of him.
But today nothing looked delicious. Not the pumpkin juice, not the cereal, not the bread, not even the blueberry muffins he had at least twice a week. It all looked sort of bland and uninteresting to him. His stomach growled, but his mind was flashing him the image of Cedric's dead face, with those eyes opened wide like galleons, like they were about to pop out and follow him around till the end of his time. Slowly, he tried to reach out for a branch of green grapes, sprawled across the mountain of fruits like Zeus at Olympia, but something stopped him. He couldn't reach it. It was too far for him, he couldn't quite get a hold of it, the image of Diggory's eyes blocking his sight.
Helpless, he pushed himself up from the table and ran out of the Dining Hall, escorted by the few pairs of eyes that were present.
Tears welled up in his eyes and he had that funny feeling in his throat and stomach, the one where you know that you are about to cry, but you are holding yourself back. He wasn't going to cry. Harry hasn't got a reason to cry, Harry is stronger than that. Harry is courageous, brave and intelligent. Harry always puts others before himself. Harry is the perfect boy. The Boy Who Lived.
Minutes later he has found himself weeping on the floor of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, on his knees, bent over so much that his forehead nearly touched the wet floor. His pants were soaked, and so were his shoes and socks – Myrtle forgot to turn of the taps once again. But his tears only added to the endless pool of crystal clear liquid, like a waterfall of feelings that he has kept inside of his heart for all those years.
Harry knew he was not brave, he was not courageous, and he was not perfect. He was weak, he was scared and he has had enough of always playing the hero, of always standing up for others, risking his life for the good of the rest of the magical society. For once, he felt like he had to take care of himself, that he has to take control of his own life, that he has to be himself. His eyes were all puffy and red, his breath in the form of short gasps and his almost silent cries hoarse as if he was screaming at the top of his lungs.
It was either minutes or hours before the tears stopped rolling down his cheeks and he has found enough strength to straighten up and take everything in. He noticed Myrtle eyeing him secretly from behind the doors of one of the cabins. His glasses were floating on the small puddle created by the joint efforts of himself and the turned on taps – but at the moment, they could be one and the same.
Harry's thoughts and predictions have come true. No one has bothered looking for him. He examined the position of the Sun outside – at least two hours have passed since he left the dormitory. No one has had enough time for him in their everyday lives to even question where he might be, whether he is alright, whether he's dead or alive. But as soon as something bad happens, they're all over him. Hypocrites.
"Myrtle, I can see you, you know."
The girl floated over to him and squatted down. "Bad day, huh?"
"No, I'm absolutely fine." The sound of his stuffy nose being sniffed echoed around the bathroom.
"Yeah, I've been fine for the past twenty years or so, too." Myrtle shook her head and straightened herself up. "I don't know, dear Harry, what is troubling you, and I'm not going to ask you. But you must know that once you show yourself like this to other people, there is no way back."
"What do you mean?" He looked up at her, questioningly, trying to make out the features of her face through the fog of leftover tears.
"They will keep on asking you if you're alright, if you have slept, if you have eaten, and at some point those questions alone will make you unable to be alright, unable to sleep and unable to eat." The girl turned away, gazing outside the window. "The questions will drive you mad, they will haunt you, you will walk on your tippy-toes through life so that they don't notice anything suspicious about you. They will question everything, from where you are going to to why did you choose to have green tea instead of black this morning."
"But doesn't that just show that they care?" Harry rubbed his eyes with the sleeve of his jumper, only making them redder in the result.
Myrtle let out a sigh. "Yeah, at first they do. But then after days and days it becomes a routine, they just ask to ask, they don't expect to hear anything new, they go about their business as usual. They stop noticing the subtle changes in your behaviour, they just question everything. And you become insecure." The girl twirled around with her arms spread wide. "And then you end up living as a ghost in an abandoned girls' bathroom."
Potter couldn't help but chuckle hopelessly at the last point Myrtle has made. "Please, can we keep this situation a secret? With no offence to you, I really don't want my future to be based on haunting people while they're doing their number twos."
The girl only smiled gently and slowly turned towards the cabins, drifting away weightlessly. "Of course, Harry. But in return, you must visit me often. Promise?"