Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
"One man's insanity is another man's genius; someday the world will recognize the genius in my insanity."
Joyce Carol Oates
"What is one of the leading health problems in America today?" the researcher, a Dr. Tom Riddle, asked, pacing around the stage. "Besides, obesity, of course," he said wryly, eliciting a few snickers from the fidgety audience. This was the very last presentation in the mental health symposium and was led by a little known name in the scientific community, so most of the audience members were dying to get home.
Hermione sighed, slouching down in her seat. Honestly, the way this presentation was going, she might as well slink out now before the others tried to.
"Well? Anyone?" he snapped, a bit impatient now.
"Mental illness," Hermione called out, wishing to end the audience's torture.
His eyes locked onto hers, and for the first time since this day had begun, Hermione found herself really paying attention. There was just something about those eyes that made her think that maybe, he actually had something important to say.
"Exactly," he said. "One in four Americans will suffer from a mental illness in any given year, costing the government about 300 billion dollars. Traditional methods of curing mental illnesses, including counseling and psychotherapy," his lip curled as he showed exactly what he thought of those methods, "are often ineffective and do not truly get rid of mental illness. Now, what would you say if I told you there was a way to cure mental illness effectively and permanently?" he finished, pausing for dramatic effect.
Along with some of the other audience members, Hermione sat up, finally intrigued by his words. What exactly was he promising?
With a flourish (he seemed to enjoy being dramatic), the man whipped a cloth off his display board and proudly displayed the results of his research.
"This new drug has been proven to not only completely reduce all psychotic symptoms, but also to prevent their return. It has the same application as current anti-psychotic drugs and works in much the same way, by blocking D2 dopamine and 5-HT2A serotonin receptors in the brain. However, what it makes it so much more effective is that it also blocks other categories of dopamine and serotonin receptors, including . . ."
Hermione furiously scribbled notes throughout his entire lecture as the entire audience listened rapt. His new drug had enormous implications for the entire psychiatric community, and nobody wanted to miss a single word.
Predictably, Dr. Riddle was besieged with questions after his conclusion, most of them congratulations or desperate attempts to poke holes in his research. Just as the Q&A session was winding down, Hermione's hand shot in the air.
"Yes, Miss, uh-?" he asked, glancing over in her direction.
"Granger, Dr. Granger, and Dr. Riddle, are you aware of any potential side effects in your new drug?"
"Of course there are side effects, Miss Granger," he drawled, emphasizing the miss condescendingly and refusing to call her doctor. "However, they are no worse than other anti-psychotic drugs currently on the market right now, and the drug has already passed all Phase 1 and Phase 2 testing by the FDA." He turned to address the murmur going through the crowd. "Yes, you heard me right. After," she noted that he said after and not if, "it passes Phase 3, it will be on the market, in potentially as little as a few years," he declared with all the pomp and smugness of a new president delivering a speech on a successful piece of legislation.
Turning to go, he made his way out through the back of the stage. Hermione hurriedly collected her things and dashed out the door in an effort to follow him. Just managing to catch the edge of the door, she stumbled through and yelled after him.
"Dr. Riddle! Do you have a moment?" she panted.
"Yes, Miss Granger?" he asked, somewhat exasperatedly.
"I just had a few more questions about the side effects of your new drug. Surely the effects of blocking more than one type of receptor could lead to exponentially greater side effects! Current anti-psychotic drugs already cause enough side effects to lead most people to refuse prescriptions; obviously, side effects are a concern as well," Hermione argued.
"As I stated before, it has already passed FDA clinical testing," he said through gritted teeth. "Unless you have any real objections to make—"
"I'm not finished yet. It's already been proven that anti-psychotic drugs can cause catatonia in patients. And this is only through blocking D2 receptors! What do you think will happen when you block more dopamine receptors throughout the brain?" Hermione contended.
He raised an eyebrow. "And what exactly did you think the purpose of this drug was, then, Miss Granger?"
She stood there completely speechless for one of the first times in her life. "You mean to say that you meant for this to occur?"
"Of course I did; did you think I was that unintelligent as to not realize that would happen?" he snapped. "I said this drug would cure mental illness permanently. What did you think I meant?"
"But-but the FDA—"
"Oh, come now, Miss Granger, surely you're not that naïve." Smirking at her look of betrayal and bewilderment, he corrected himself. "I suppose you thought the justice system put criminals behind bars rather than letting wealthy, guilty-as-sin murderers walk free and that Santa Claus really existed," he sneered. "The FDA requires money, just like everyone else in this world, and this drug will make them piles of it. They were only too happy to overlook the side effects."
"They're people, Dr. Riddle, actual people! They have personalities and quirks and stories and lives, all of which you'll take away from them! You'll condemn them to live in a coma for the rest of their lives, unable to experience anything!" she shouted, her chest heaving.
"I fail to see how that is my problem," he said coldly. "Their mental illness will be completely eradicated. They will be able to lead normal, functioning lives with their families. What more could they ask for?"
"At the expense of their souls," she whispered. "Maybe they're not mentally ill anymore, but they're not normal either. They're a shell, a shadow."
"Their souls?" he snickered. "You really are too precious. Needless to say, all of your objections, although on morally higher ground, are completely useless. Try it," he encouraged spitefully when she opened her mouth to argue. "Go on, I dare you. Go to the FDA. Tell them about the problem with my drug. See what they say. Take it to the news for all I care. You know exactly what they'll say." Feeling shell-shocked, Hermione could only watch as he got into his car victoriously and drove away.
The worst part was she knew he was right. Mental illness made you a pariah. It was something to be abhorred, forever associated with twisted serial killers butchering innocent children, emotionless psychopaths never comprehending basic feelings of love and happiness, and deranged lunatics viciously beating anybody who came near.
Nobody would even care that the people taking this drug would become robots. It was better that way, easier to shove them away in a dark corner to be forgotten and pitied.
Humming quietly to herself, Hermione moved through the psych ward, making sure everything was in order and all the patients were content. The patients crowded around her like children around their mother begging for a scrap of attention. Smiling slightly, she chatted with Ernie, a schizophrenic patient ("You have to be careful, Dr. Granger. They've hidden cameras and microphones in the garden outside. They're always watching," he whispered surreptitiously. "I'll watch out," she promised.), cooed appreciatively when a young autistic patient, Charlie, handed her an elaborately folded paper dragon ("It's so lifelike, Charlie! Fantastic!" she beamed, making to hand it back with the vast collection next to his bed. He shook his head and pushed it at her, before running away. Sighing, she yelled after him, "Thank you very much!" and stowed it in her pocket.), and pretended to be frightened of Bellatrix, a bipolar patient, dressed in a witch costume ("Hahaha," she cackled wildly, made up very convincingly in green makeup and a black wig complete with a broomstick and ripped black robes. "Very nice job, Bellatrix," she remarked. "But it's not even Halloween yet!" "It's never too early to prepare, and I have to make everybody else's costumes as well," she sniffed, glaring about her.)
As she prepared to head out, she turned back and looked at her patients one more time. She wished some of Dr. Riddle's most strident supporters (and the man himself) could see them like this, laughing and playing with one another. All of this would be taken away from them once they took Dr. Riddle's drug. Briefly, she wondered if they would even remember her once they were on the drug. What would it feel like to be trapped in a catatonic state, unable to act of your own accord?
"I thought you might work someplace like this," a voice behind her remarked snidely. "So predictable, aren't you?"
She whirled around. "What are you doing here?"
"Why I'm here to conduct Phase 3 of the clinical trials," he said innocently.
"What—but—" she stuttered, horrified by this new prospect. Spotting the hospital director behind Dr. Riddle, she called out to him, "Surely we're not going to be the first to test out this new drug!"
"Of course we are, my dear!" the director, Dr. Fudge, answered. "I must say, I'm really quite flattered that you chose our humble little hospital for your clinical testing. Why, I believe we may even get our own page in the history book once this is all over, don't you think, Tom?"
"There's no need to be modest," Dr. Riddle—Tom, she thought viciously, he didn't deserve the respect of his title—replied demurely. "This hospital is one of the largest and most well run in the nation. I never would have considered another one." Hermione had to hold back her disgust. He was the perfect blend of respectfully flattering and confidently assertive, and Dr. Fudge was eating it up.
Desperately hoping for a way to change his mind, she followed after them. "But, Dr. Fudge, aren't you worried about the drug's consequences? It could leave our patients in a permanent catatonic state!"
"Don't trouble yourself about it, my dear," he said, dismissing her objection with a wave of his hand. "Tom here knows exactly what he's doing. This drug won't harm our patients at all, you'll see."
Snorting rudely, she pointed towards the window to her ward. "Don't you see these patients as people? If you give them this drug, you're taking away all of that! They'll be mindless vegetables going through the motions of life! Who are you to decide to do that to them without their consent?"
"Oh, now really, Dr. Granger, please control yourself. You know the rules about forming attachments to your patients. If you continue in this manner, I may have to remove you from your duties for a few days to let you cool down," Dr. Fudge admonished. "However, I know you are a fair and impartial judge and will not let your biases control you. This is why I'm assigning you the job of helping Dr. Riddle here conduct his trial. As head of largest psychiatric unit in the hospital, I'm sure your expertise will greatly benefit Tom. I'll let you two get acquainted while I tidy up some business," he finished, looking entirely too pleased with himself.
Hermione and Tom stared each other down as if they were predators circling each other, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.
Finally, he broke the silence. "I doubt I'll require any assistance from you. In fact, why don't you get busy staying out of my way," he sneered, turning away and striding down the hall.
I will not yell unprofessional and inappropriate things after him. I will not run after him and beat him to death with my clipboard. I will not shove him in a broom closet and lock the door, Hermione thought, seething with fury.
She had to endure this arrogant bastard, though. Her mind was already whirring, brainstorming ideas to make sure his drug never saw the light of day.
Hermione huffed, crossing her arms and turning her back towards him. "Why are you so idiotically stubborn?" she hissed through gritted teeth.
"In case you hadn't noticed, you are being just as stubborn as I am right now. It is your job right now to assist me, so do as I say and don't question me," he retorted icily.
Whirling around, she yelled, "Do not force me to do your dirty work for you, Tom! I don't even think this medicine should be available, much less tested on my patients, so don't presume to tell me what I should or shouldn't be doing."
"And yet, I'm technically your superior, so I demand that you distribute the drugs," he fired back, glaring at her.
"Aren't you afraid I'll mess up because I'm not as perfect as you?" she asked sarcastically.
He smirked. "Even someone as stupid as you can't mess up a task as simple as handing out pills to patients."
Flushing, she replied, "Regardless, Tom, I'm not doing it. Tattle to Fudge all you want; maybe he'll do us both a favor and remove me from your trial."
"Besides, what's your problem anyway? If it's as easy as you say it is, what's stopping you from doing it yourself?"
"It's none of your business, all right?" he growled, refusing to meet her eyes. "Why can't you just do it?"
"Because I don't want to," she said petulantly, tossing her head. "And you can't make me."
"Real mature," he snorted.
"Nothing about this situation is mature," she snapped. "Suck it up and distribute the pills yourself—unless you want to give me a good answer about why you won't do it."
His mouth opened and closed, making him look like a fish out of water. Finally, he whipped his head up and met her eyes. "Damn you," he muttered.
She smirked. "So, tell me, what's your deal? Watch too many horror movies with creepy insane asylum patients? Afraid you'll look in their eyes and see yourself—"
"My father's in one of these," he interrupted suddenly, looking away from her.
"What?" she breathed, now unsure of her questioning.
"My mother was just like you, a nurse in an asylum out in the middle of nowhere, and that's where she fell in love," here his mouth twisted like he'd swallowed a lemon, "with my father. He was one of the patients there, and he was completely crazy. Schizophrenic, manic-depressive, the whole deal. She couldn't help herself, though, and, well, they started up a relationship. When the administration found out, she was fired of course and turned out onto the streets. She gave birth to me in an orphanage and died shortly afterwards. I doubt my father even knows I exist if he's still alive."
For once, she had absolutely nothing to say to him. "I'm sorry," she whispered, feeling like a complete jerk.
"I don't want your pity!" he snarled angrily. "Just give out those damned pills, all right?"
"My parents are crazy, too," she blurted out.
"What the hell—"
"I mean both of them are bipolar. There's a history of mental illness in my family, and that's why I always wanted to work somewhere like this. Because one day I could be in one of these, and I want the people that work here to see me as a person, you know, and not just think of me as that crazy old lady in the corner," she said in a rush.
"Why are you telling me this?" he murmured, somewhat bewildered.
"You told me why you're the way you are, so I told you why I'm the way I am."
Both of them stared at each other for a long beat.
"Truce?" he said, smiling slightly and holding his hands up in a gesture of peace.
"Fine," she agreed, shaking his hand. "I still don't agree with your drug, though."
"That's all right," he grinned. "There's nothing you can do about it anyway."
Curiosity killed the cat, Hermione thought ruefully as she hesitated with her fingers over the keyboard. But satisfaction brought it back, her devilish side needled.
She just couldn't let Tom's story go. So many questions were unanswered; what had happened to his father was the chief one. Now here she sat, in front of her computer, wondering whether it would be a gross invasion of his privacy if she researched his father.
Screw it, she thought impulsively, starting to type his father's name into a search engine. I'll just see what I can find. No need to tell Tom about it.
She soon wished she hadn't given in to her inner demon.
The Pendleton Record, May 7, 1986
Scandal erupted earlier this week with the discovery that Merope Gaunt, a nurse at the Mark T. Warner Insane Asylum, has been feeding one of the patients, Tom Riddle, a drug known to raise libido, apparently so she could take advantage of him. She has been promptly dismissed and investigations are being undertaken to identify the true scope of her transgressions. Meanwhile, Tom Riddle's family has moved him to another mental hospital nearby to "better take care of him," a close friend says . . .
Coquille Valley Sentinel, November 29, 2004
Nurses at the Coquille Mental Hospital are shocked at the recent suicide of one of their patients, Tom Riddle. "His son had just visited him, and he was so excited to meet him. He'd been planning the visit for weeks, ever since his son contacted him. I'd never seen him so happy," one of the nurses reported. Apparently, soon after his son visited him, he became depressed and was able to discover a gun one of the security guards carelessly left unattended. He then shot himself in the head. "I feel so guilty right now," his son, Tom Riddle Jr., confessed. "The police told me he committed suicide not fifteen minutes after I left. I should have known, should have done something to prevent it." A memorial service will be held Sunday . . .
There followed a picture of a solemn and stoically grieving Tom next to a casket being lowered into the ground.
"I doubt my father even knows I exist if he's still alive." Why did he lie about this? What was the point of telling her he'd never known his father? It gave her an uneasy feeling, and the police investigation didn't help either. After only a week of investigation, the police had determined that Rubeus Hagrid, one of the security guards, had left his gun unattended although he'd never shown this kind of carelessness before. However, Tom said he had noticed Mr. Hagrid drinking something out of a brown paper bag, and the man had tested positive for alcohol consumption after the incident. The only person who seemed to believe in Mr. Hagrid's innocence was Dr. Dumbledore, the head of the mental hospital. Unfortunately, the evidence was enough for the police. Only Dr. Dumbledore's voucher for Mr. Hagrid kept him out of jail.
The case was seemingly clear-cut, yet she couldn't shake the feeling that something was fishy. Tom's lie didn't help matters either. A tiny detail niggled at the back of her mind, and she just couldn't reach it. Frowning, she went over the newspaper articles and police logs again.
And, there it was, page 26 of the interview with Tom:
"I noticed that Mr. Hagrid was asleep at the guard desk, but I didn't want to wake him. God, if only I had . . ."
But Hagrid had claimed that he had seen Tom leave. How could Tom have left while Hagrid was awake but claim to see him sleeping at the guard desk unless he'd come back later . . .
And what reason would he have to come back?
Her head snapped up as she reasoned it out.
It was all so clear now. Tom had killed his father and then blamed it on the security guard.
That was why he'd been able to see the sleeping security guard—he'd come back to kill his father.
That was why he couldn't tell her that his father was dead—he didn't want her finding out that he himself had killed him.
She shuddered as she lifted a trembling hand to her forehead.
He was even more dangerous than she thought.
"You lied to me!" she yelled, stomping into his temporary office, unfortunately located next to hers. He looked up, surprised and confused.
"I'm sorry I don't know what you're talking about—" he responded, quirking an eyebrow at her.
"Your little sob story last week," she seethed. "You left out a lot of important details, such as, oh I don't know, how you killed your father!"
Suddenly, he looked the picture of concern, getting up and examining her closely.
"What are you doing?" she snarled, pulling back from him.
"Hermione, are you sure you're all right? I haven't the faintest idea what you mean. Perhaps it's time you checked yourself into this hospital—" he mocked.
"This isn't a joke!" she shouted. "I know you did it, and I'll tell Fudge; even he can't ignore something like this—"
"You'll do no such thing," he said, his voice suddenly hard as iron. "You don't even have a shred of evidence to back up your wild accusations, just your gut feeling. Unfortunately, they don't accept those in a court of law or in your boss's office, so I'm afraid you'll keep your delusions to yourself unless you want to be committed to a mental hospital."
"What—you wouldn't—" she gasped.
"There isn't much I wouldn't do," he sneered, "as I sense you've found out. Now, why don't you run along and distribute those pills. Accept the fact that there's nothing you can do to save your precious little psychos. You'll be happier once you do."
Gritting her teeth, she snapped out sarcastically, "Yes, sir," and then dashed from the room.
As soon as she'd escaped the office, she pounded her fist into the wall, really wishing it was his stupidly perfect face she was pounding into mush. God, if only there was a way she could stop him . . .
Suddenly, her eyes widened and she put her hand to her mouth. Grinning to herself, she headed down the hall with a new spring in her step.
She had a lot of work to do.
"Now I'll be taking you on a tour of the mental hospital, Inspector," Tom droned on. "You'll notice that all of the patients are behaving—" He stopped unable to believe his eyes. Hermione covered her smirk with her hands.
All of the patients were going off the wall.
Bellatrix was running around with a pair of scissors trying to convince Ernie to take off his clothes and try on a new costume she'd made out of the room's curtains, Ernie was busy demolishing the lights in the room to find the hidden bugs planted by the government, and Charlie was rocking back and forth in a corner of the room, surrounded by his paper dragons.
The inspector turned to Tom. "You were saying?" he asked, gesturing to the obviously not well-behaving patients.
"I-I don't understand," he stuttered. "They were perfectly fine yesterday, not like this at all."
"Well, I apologize, Dr. Riddle, but the rules are the rules. You'll have to redo these clinical trials and resubmit your drug's application to the FDA," the inspector stated, making a mark on his clipboard.
Tom nodded mechanically, still staring at the patients. The inspector patted him on his back and then left.
Hermione snickered, savoring his humiliation. She began walking away when Tom's head suddenly snapped up and he stared directly at her.
"You," he snarled, pinning her against the wall. "You did this! What the hell did you do, you stupid little—"
"I did absolutely nothing you can prove, Dr. Riddle," she hissed, appropriating his words for her benefit. "So if you'll kindly let me go—"
Clenching his fists as if he wanted to punch her, he glared at her. Taking a few deep breaths, he just as abruptly broke away from her and stomped out of the hall.
Letting out a breath she hadn't known she was holding, she slumped against the wall.
She'd finally done it.
"You really are quite devious, aren't you?" Tom marveled from the doorway of her office.
Bewildered that he was still here, she pasted on her best innocent-little-girl expression. "I'm sure I don't know what you're referring to, Dr. Riddle."
"You switched out the drugs for a placebo, didn't you?" he continued, not even bothering to respond to her denial. He shook his head appreciatively. "I should never have let you distribute the pills yourself. I never thought moral little you would have it in you, though. I underestimated you, Dr. Granger." His expression turned flinty. "I won't do so again." He turned to leave.
"Wait!" Hermione called after him, slightly astonished at his sudden mood change. "Aren't you upset about your drug? With the inspector's review, you may never get another clinical trial again."
He smirked. "I have other plans now." As he walked out the door, he said over his shoulder, "We'll meet again, Hermione."
She shivered; she should be jumping for joy right now. She was never going to see him again.
So why did she feel like this was just beginning?
A/N: There will be two parts to this, with the next part coming next week. Please review!