Hermione Granger adjusted the buttons on her white blouse and smoothed down her starched white skirt. She was twenty-three years old and had been working in St. Mungo’s for three years. Only a week ago, however, she had been reassigned to the Tammy Blee Institution for the Mentally Disturbed (or, as her boyfriend Ron had taken to calling it, the loony bin). She was honestly a little nervous about her new post, since she had never really had that much interaction with mentally disturbed people, but she took comfort in the fact that her superiors felt that it was the right place for her.
She walked quickly through the halls to her first patient, a young woman named Miranda. According to the patient’s profile, she had a serious case of schizophrenia, as well as a hint of agoraphobia. Sure enough, when Hermione entered the room, Miranda was seated on her floor in deep conversation with an unseen being. “Hello, Miranda,” said Hermione, as brightly as she could.
Miranda looked up at her with heavy eyes. “See,” she muttered out of the corner of her mouth. “They sent a new one. Always a new one. They could have sent a pretty one, but see how big her hair is?”
Hermione clenched her jaw to hold back her frustration. She had been warned about Miranda’s rudeness. “Who are you talking to?” she asked, as though genuinely interested.
“She wants to know. She wants to know,” said Miranda excitedly to her “friend.” “Should we tell her?” Hermione assumed that the “friend” agreed, since Miranda bobbed her head excitedly. “Rupert is my oldest and most dearest friend.”
“Rupert, is it?” said Hermione, writing the name down in her notepad.
“Yes, but he doesn’t agree with me. He thinks that your large hair is pleasant,” said Miranda, glaring at the air next to her.
“Well, you’ll have to thank Rupert for me, then,” said Hermione kindly. Maybe Miranda wasn’t as horrible as she seemed. “But I’m here to give you your medication, Miranda.”
The girl shook her head vehemently. “No, Rupert doesn’t like it,” she said angrily. “He has to hide whenever I take it.”
Hermione resisted the urge to sigh. There was no way to force Miranda into taking her medication, but she had been told by the other nurses that it could take hours to convince her. This makes perfect sense, she thought. Push the hardest patients on the newbies. Being Hermione, though, there was no way that she could give up.
“Rupert is probably in need of a nap, isn’t he?” she asked. She knew that they were not supposed to condone the behavior of the patients who had delusions, but right now she needed to meet her other patients.
“What is your name?” asked Miranda suspiciously, her clear blue eyes narrowing.
“Hermione,” repeated Miranda, looking to where Rupert supposedly was. “You’re smart, Hermione. Rupert says that he is tired, Hermione.”
“Then you’d better take your medication,” said Hermione, holding out a glass of water and the little green pills with trembling hands.
Miranda took them and swallowed them without another word. She smiled at Hermione and said, “I like you, Hermione. You’re not nasty.”
“Thank you,” said Hermione, returning her smile. “It was lovely to meet you, Miranda, but I have to go meet the others now.”
“Yes,” said Miranda, settling herself in a chair. “Yes, you must. Goodbye.”
Hermione showed herself out of the room and closed the door behind her. She sighed heavily, glad to have finished with her first patient of the day. This post was going to be a lot more difficult than she thought. She got through five more patients, with problems ranging from amnesia to Ganser syndrome to cyclothymia, before she finally took a break.
The receptionist at the front of the hospital poured her a cup of tea. “You look beat,” she said, passing it to her.
“I just can’t believe how tiring this work is, Gloria,” said Hermione tiredly, taking a sip of the hot beverage. “I mean, at Mungo’s, I was always on my feet, but that was more to help the doctors with spellwork. This is dealing with people’s minds.”
“Yeah, it’s too bad none of that can be mixed with a little spell, huh?” said Gloria. “The patients seem to like you so far, though. Sean went to go check up on Miranda earlier and said that she wouldn’t shut up about you.” She smiled wryly. “Apparently, neither will Rupert, so if you ever need an imaginary husband-“
Hermione chuckled slightly. “Oh, I think I’m just fine with my boyfriend, Ronald,” she said merrily. Then her face became serious. “Does it ever get easier, Gloria?” she asked.
“Easier? No, I suppose not,” said Gloria truthfully. “It’s draining work, after all. You grow to love them, though. They’re real people in there. They may not be able to control everything about themselves, but they’re real people, and they’ve really got something to offer. They’ll touch you, that’s for sure.”
Hermione smiled to herself. Gloria was certainly right. She knew that she just had to get used to these people to be able to see their wonderful personalities. “Well, I better get on to the next one,” she said, looking down at the list, before gasping suddenly. “I don’t believe it.”
“What?” asked Gloria interestedly, looking over her counter-top.
“This next patient,” said Hermione, not taking her eyes off of the paper.
"What about him?" asked Gloria, trying to take a peek.
Hermione glanced up at her. If Gloria knew that she knew him...she would lose the patient, and her curiosity would never have let her do that. Thinking quickly, Hermione said, "We spent ages covering this condition in Mediwizard training." She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly, but her heart was beating out a frantic rhythm. "It'll be interesting to see it in real life."
"Huh," said Gloria, not sounding entirely convinced.
To avoid further questions, Hermione set her mug on the counter. "I better be going!" she said hurridly. "I'll see you later!"
Hermione nodded and, her mouth set in a firm line, started back down the hallway. She waved to Miranda as she passed and saw that she was now contentedly reading a novel on her bed instead of talking to invisible people. The happy smile that was returned was still not enough to stop Hermione’s quivering legs.
All too soon, she reached her next patient’s door. She knocked and heard the familiar drawl respond, “Come in.”
Draco Malfoy, or, at least, someone who looked like him, was seated on the pristinely white bed, with his blond head resting against the wall behind him. The window above him was open a crack, and it let in an icy breeze from the lake outside. As soon as his registered who he was seeing, a look of shock passed over his face.
“G-Granger?” he stuttered, unable to mask his emotions for the time being. “What’re you-“
“I’m here to bring you your medication, Draco,” said Hermione as casually as she could.
His eyes narrowed. “I don’t need that stuff,” he said. “It’s by mistake that I’ve been put here.”
“That’s not what your papers say,” said Hermione, setting a glass of water and his blue tablets on the bedside table.
“Oh, that’s not what my papers say?” he sneered, and Hermione was uncomfortable at how familiar this expression was. “And what do my papers say, Granger?”
“Post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said firmly.
Draco let out a harsh laugh. “Is that what they’re calling it?” he asked nastily. “Lot of fancy words, if you ask me.”
“They also say that you haven’t been cooperating with your therapy,” said Hermione, more sternly than she meant to.
Draco raised an eyebrow at her and turned to look out the window. Hermione felt frustration bubbling up inside of her. He was a nuisance to her at school, and he was going to become an ever bigger nuisance at her work. He looked almost exactly the same as he had at Hogwarts. He had the same white-blond hair, same graceful body, and the same piercingly gray eyes. “I can’t leave until you take your pills,” said Hermione firmly.
He turned back to her and sneered again. “Why don’t you make me, Mudblood?”
It was going to be Hogwarts all over again.
"I really can, if I have to," she said calmly.
Draco took a step towards her, his hands balled into fists. "Go on, then," he said angrily. "Why don't you?"
“You can't threaten me," she said, trying to control her frustration. "If you continue to menace me, I will be forced to take action." Draco didn't move a muscle, but she saw a bit of fear come into his eyes. "I could call for a sedative or restraints," she continued. "A padded room is a bit drastic, but if need be-"
"All right!" snapped Draco. "Just give them to me."
He swallowed them in one mighty gulp and, although he was obviously sorely tempted to chuck the cup at her, he set it on his nightstand.
“I’ll be back tomorrow to take you out on recess,” said Hermione, thankful to be leaving.
“Yeah, whatever,” grumbled Draco, turning back out the window.
Later that night, Hermione sat by the fire reading a medical book while Ron snored loudly in the other room of their apartment. She was turned to the page on “post-traumatic stress disorder.” ”Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened,” she read, before moving on to the symptoms.
She felt a wave of pity for Draco Malfoy as she read about the flashbacks and intense fear that this disorder caused. Surely, something truly terrible had happened to him since she had last seen him. Maybe she should-
“Hey, ‘Mione, are you coming to bed or not?” grunted Ron from the bedroom.
“In a minute,” she said, hurriedly shutting her book. She really didn’t need Ron to find out that she was working with their oldest enemy. She knew that he wouldn’t understand; Ron wasn’t always that forgiving.
Even if he is our enemy, she thought, reflecting on the unpleasantness of his disease. He needs help, and I have to be the one to give it to him.
The next day, Hermione returned to her new job with a more cheerful attitude. She managed to convince Miranda to take her medication in under twenty minutes, and she even talked Agatha, a patient with severe anorexia nervosa, into eating a whole bowl of pineapple. At long last, she had to return to Draco’s room. It was his day of the week for his outdoor recess, and she had hoped to find him ready to go.
When she entered the room, however, she found him sitting sullenly on his bed. “All right,” she said, clapping her hands together and making him flinch. “You’re going to take your medication while I get your clothes together.”
“What if I-“
“I still have that sedative!” Hermione reminded him, meeting his eyes in a silent challenge.
She turned her back to him and heard him gulp down the water as she pulled his scarf, gloves, and coat from his closet. “Do you have your shoes?” she asked, glancing at his bare feet.
“They’re underneath my bed,” he said, smirking at her.
Hermione rolled her eyes and reached underneath the bed for the big boots. She then waited for Draco to bundle himself up and led him out the door. He turned to Hermione and glared at her. “Well, let’s go then.”
They headed outside into the crisp autumn air, and Hermione steered him towards the path around the lake. “You’re not going to push me in, are you?” he asked her nastily.
“No, I’m afraid that it’s more than my job at stake if I do that,” said Hermione, through gritted teeth.
“Maybe I’ll just throw myself in just to get you into trouble,” he said, looking out at the vast, greenish colored lake.
“Any suicide attempts must be reported,” said Hermione sternly.
“I was just kidding,” he said bitterly.
“You’re in a patient in a mental institution,” she responded. “I have to take everything you say seriously.”
“Hey, Granger,” he said, with a malicious smile. “I’m thinking that I’m going to rape you.”
“That’s not funny,” she said. “I’m serious. I will report you.”
“Lighten up, you stupid Mudblood,” he said. “I’m the one who’s supposed to be depressed.”
“Don’t call me that,” said Hermione.
“What?” said Draco, with a smirk. “Mudblood?”
“Don’t!” she repeated, this time more angrily.
“Mudblood,” taunted Draco.
“I said ‘don’t!’” she cried, grabbing his arm.
Suddenly, Draco’s eyes glazed over slightly, and he began to whimper. “I didn’t want to kill anybody,” he groaned. “Don’t look at it! Just don’t touch it! It still hurts!”
“Draco, what’s the matter?” Hermione asked, alarmed.
“Please, stop,” he continued, falling out her grasp and onto the grass.
He curled up into a ball and continued to moan and roll about on the ground.
Hermione spotted another nurse up on the hill. “Please, run, and get someone!” she shouted, hoping that they would hear her. She couldn’t leave Draco rolling about so close to the lake, but the nurse hadn’t heard her.
She did the only thing that felt right. She kneeled next to him and tried to calm him down. “It’s okay,” she cooed. “It’s okay.”
She continued to repeat this mantra as Draco began to calm down. She stroked his blond hair as the attack began to subside, and his eyes began to focus in on her. When he seemed to have recovered, he knocked her hand aside and shakily rose from the ground.
He could not look at her, probably out of embarrassment, but Hermione was not judging him. “Recess is over if you want it to be,” she said softly.
He nodded, still facing the lake, and let her lead him back to his room.
As the days went by, things got easier for Hermione to deal with. Miranda responded better to her than she had with any other nurse and was taking her medication when asked. Hermione had fallen into a comfortable routine with all of her patients and was beginning to respond to them more as a person than as a nurse.
Except with Draco.
Neither of them had mentioned his flashback, and Hermione had since figured out that he hadn’t taken his medication that day. Since then, she assumed that he hadn’t tried to fool her, since another attack hadn’t occurred. She often brought knitting along with her on days when she had “interaction time” with him.
Although the hospital believed that interaction with the nurses and doctors was important for the patients, Hermione knew that there wasn’t a chance in hell that would happen with Draco. Since the incident by the lake, he hadn’t said so much as three words to her.
After a couple of weeks, she had spent so much time knitting when she was supposed to be speaking with him that she had finished a hat. It was a dark forest green and just perfect for the oncoming winter. The day she finished, she tapped him gently on the shoulder as he sat looking out the window and handed him the hat. “Tomorrow is recess,” she said, before leaving him alone.
The next day, she found him all ready to go outside and was pleased to find that he was wearing the newly knitted hat. Perhaps today is the day when I’ll be able to break him open, she thought hopefully.
They moved out to the lawn, now covered with frosty snow, and, although Hermione had been taking him on the path around the institution, Draco started to head down towards the frozen lake. Interested in his decision, Hermione followed without question. “I won’t have another one, Granger,” he muttered. “You don’t have to worry.”
“I’m not,” she replied. “I’ve been watching you take your medication every day.”
He smiled ruefully and responded, “I hate to say it, but you are a pretty good nurse.”
“It’s what I wanted to do, but it’s not an easy job,” she admitted.
“Well, it certainly can’t be if you have to deal with mental cases like me,” said Draco bitterly.
“You’re not a mental case,” said Hermione. “You wouldn’t have to be here if you would only talk. One of the most important healing methods for your…condition is talking about what happened.”
He laughed, but his face held no humor. “If I talked about what happened to that stupid doctor, they’ll throw me in Azkaban,” he said darkly.
“I won’t throw you in Azkaban,” she said quietly.
He looked up at her, his gray eyes flashing a warning. “Why should I talk to you?” he sneered.
“Because, really, I’m all that you have,” said Hermione bluntly. “Unless you want to stay in this institution as long as you live, I suggest that you focus on getting better.”
He glared at her but seemed to see the truth in her words. “It was years ago,” he began, looking awkward as he tried to tell his tale. “I don’t know why it’s happening now.”
“That’s how the disorder can work,” she said gently. “It tends to happen years after the event.”
Draco nodded his head as he continued, “The Dark Lord wanted me to finish Dumbledore. I didn’t want to do it. They gave me the Dark Mark on my arm.” Hermione realized that grabbing his arm all those weeks ago had probably set off an attack.
“He tortured me when I failed,” he continued, his eyes becoming clouded. “You can never imagine what it is to be tormented by a wizard that powerful. It is not merely a Crutiatus Curse. It’s unforgettable agony. Your bones actually scream.”
“I’ve been put under the Crutiatus Curse,” said Hermione, shuddering at the thought.
“But never like this,” said Draco, shaking his head. “You can’t even imagine it.” His gaze shifted from her to the frozen lake. “But that’s not the worst of it. The next task he gave me was to find out where you lot were by way of…the former Minister of Magic.”
“You were the Death Eater who killed Rufus Scrimgeour,” said Hermione, realization dawning on her.
“I didn’t mean to,” he cried, his face showing how desperately he needed that understood. “I thought that he was strong enough to take another bout of the Curse. I didn’t think that it would kill him.”
Hermione couldn’t look at him right now. It was no wonder that he was mentally ill. He had seen and done things that she couldn’t even imagine, and she had gone through quite a lot herself. “Then what happened?” she asked, almost afraid to know.
“I went back to the Dark Lord, and he was terribly angry,” continued Draco, hiding his face. “It was the most terrifying moment of my life. I think it was then that I started to replay things in my head. The expression on the Minister’s face when the light went out in his eyes was all I saw when the Dark Lord turned his wand on me. I thought I would go mad. I wanted to go mad.” He let out a laugh that was more like a cough. “I guess I got my wish.”
Hermione was silent for a moment. “You’ve let it all out now,” she said quietly. “You’ll get better now.”
“No, I won’t!” protested Draco. “You don’t understand, you filthy…”
“Filthy what?” asked Hermione, raising an eyebrow. “Mudblood?”
“I guess,” he mumbled.
“What is it you need?” she asked him quietly.
There was a moment of silence. The only sound was the harsh winter wind that whipped around them and brought a ruddy color to their cheeks. Finally, he had an answer. “Forgiveness,” he admitted.
Hermione smiled softly and placed a gloved hand on his shoulder. “Draco Malfoy,” she said, looking deeply into his stormy gray eyes. “I forgive you.”
As the months went by, Draco began to get better. The recovering side of him seemed to be so much different than the Draco Malfoy had known for years. He was cheerful and helpful with the other patients when they had group therapy. He participated in his sessions and always looked forward to his visits with Hermione. The nightmares that he had and the flashbacks had come to a complete stop, and Draco looked towards the day when he would be released from the institution.
Finally, in the sunny mid- April of the next year, the doctor signed the document that would release Draco from his imprisonment. He was packing his few belongings together when Hermione came into his room. “You heard the news?” he said, grinning at her. “I’m not a mental case anymore.”
“Of course I heard,” she said, smiling back at him. “I had to cross you off the list.”
“It’ll be a bit sad, won’t it?” he said, throwing his bag on his back. “I’ll miss our daily visits.”
“We can still have them,” said Hermione quickly. “Maybe not as often, but once a week at least. Any more than that and Ronald will have a fit.”
Draco rolled his eyes and said, not without a bit of his old sneer, “And we couldn’t have that.”
Hermione laughed and said, “Are you ready to go?”
He turned his head and looked around the room one last time before walking towards her. He extended his hand and said, “Friends?”
With a large smile, Hermione grasped it and shook it gently. “Friends.”