Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
The Mind Trap
November 8th, 2006
Hermione blinks, she's at St. Mungo's. Looking down, she notes that she's dressed in a uniform, one she's seen worn all around the hospital; a Healer's robes, no doubt. Hands feeling slightly empty, Hermione clenches her fists and unclenches them, walking steadily down the corridor.
She's feeling disoriented, but that's alright, someone probably played a trick on her and confunded her; Fred—a twinge she cannot explain at the thought of his name—and George, perhaps. The two biggest troublemakers she's ever had the pleasure to meet. Alright, signs. Signs.
Fourth Floor – Spell Damage Ward
Okay. Hermione takes a deep breath. She doesn't feel comfortable on this floor. The thought of emotionless, mindless bodies sitting atop stiff hospital mattresses behind shut doors brings a shiver up her spine. Just as she turned a corner, a witch in bright yellow robes and a clipboard clutched against her chest flits past, nearly knocking her down.
Frowning, Hermione was about to reprimand the witch for running in corridors when she hears her name being called. Twirling, Hermione faces the caller and struggles to keep a gasp in.
His jaw tightens, upset by her presence no doubt—arrogant, little bastard—it certainly wasn't her who called for his attention! "Granger," he manages to spit out.
"Healer Granger." Hermione tilts her chin up to the ceiling, refuses to back down to her childhood enemy's taunt. "What are you doing here, Malfoy?"
Eyebrows raised, Hermione tries to think of anyone Malfoy would know admitted in this specific ward, only to come up blank. "Who?"
"What's it to you?" he sneers and Hermione barely contains a growl. One would think that after graduating for years, one would forget about old school fights; guess not, when one's name is Draco Malfoy—pureblood extraordinaire.
"Well." Hermione sniffs disdainfully. "Be on your way then."
"I was just leaving."
Malfoy doesn't move, however. His left brow is quirked up, face smug, as if challenging her to be the first to leave. "Fine."
Nose flaring, Hermione tosses her hair back and walks back the way she came. She has no time to deal with childish arguments with Malfoy. After all, as a Healer, she has lots of responsibilities, and every second counts.
As she walks down the corridor, Hermione allows herself a tiny peek over her shoulder at the tall blond, and swore she saw him staring mournfully in her direction.
She wonders why as there's no one else in the corridor but her.
November 12th, 2006
"Look, Harry," Hermione exasperatedly says to her best friend, "I'm busy." She's in a room, stacking empty vials on a tray. There's an unoccupied bed in the middle of the stark white room, its sheets rumpled and Hermione abandons the vials to pet the creases away. "You can tell me about the Quidditch match later at the Burrow, or you can always not. I'm really not interested in Quidditch, Harry. You know that."
The creases stay, as if permanently stuck to the sheets, and Hermione clenches and unclenches her fists in the air in frustration. She abandons them and returns to her tray of empty vials.
"Hermione…" Harry's voice is soft and pleading.
"Harry, please, just leave. I can't concentrate."
By then, her hands are repeatedly clenched into fists and opened, and back again. Her legs pull her back to the bed where she, yet again, unsuccessfully straightens the sheets.
"I'll come visit you again tomorrow. Goodbye, Hermione." Hermione notes that her friend sounds resigned and tired, but she doesn't question it, she has more pressing matters to handle after all; namely, the sheets.
The door clicks shut behind Harry Potter as he leaves.
November 21st, 2006
Hermione's seen too many yellow robes, on both witches and wizards alike—what, is it a fashion trend she somehow missed? Granted, Hermione doesn't keep up to date with such trivial things, but the number of yellow robes floating about St. Mungo's was remarkable.
It doesn't help matters when she catches them—visitors—pushing around trolleys of potions and flying in and out of occupied rooms. And—oh how Hermione shakes in anger—whenever she stopped them in their path for obstructing Healers and disturbing the peace in the ward by barging into rooms, she simply got a sympathetic smile and a shake of their head before they dismiss her with, "Miss Granger."
Hermione makes a mental note to bring it up with the Head Healer during lunch break.
Striding down the corridor, passing by familiar doors, Hermione once again finds herself standing in front of none other than Draco Malfoy. Allowing her eyes to roam up and down his body, she observes that he's, thankfully, not wearing any of those horrendous yellow robes, but is wearing plain black ones. One passing by him might think he's in mourning if they didn't know Malfoy and his fetish for black clothing; honestly, Hermione reckons he doesn't own anything other than black, besides his Slytherin green robes from Hogwarts of course.
"Malfoy," she greets, trying to be civil, because he's a visitor and it's her job to aid and treat them with some civility, "I see you skipped out on the fashion trend as well."
"Pardon?" Malfoy asks, one brow raised so high it nearly joins his hairline.
"Yellow." Hermione wrinkles her nose. "They're all over St. Mungo's." She doesn't notice Malfoy slowing closing his eyes, picture perfect melancholic expression grazes his features, only to be replaced with one of obvious disgust. "Although, I'm surprised you didn't follow what seems to be the rest of the Wizarding World's taste in colour—with your circle being all snooty and whatnot."
"You expect me to dress in Hufflepuff colours?" he said, aghast.
Hermione rolls her eyes. Leave it to Malfoy to not forget Hogwart houses and his hatred for those other than Slytherin. "Well," she said, not wanting to remain around Malfoy for very much longer, "I'm sure you know your way."
"I was just leaving."
Hermione peeks over his shoulder, looking at the direction he came from, and back at his face. "You're going in the wrong direction then."
"No, I wasn't," he replied with a stoic gaze, but there was some, dare she say it…softness in his eyes. Confused, Hermione stands gaping at his back as he turns, leaving the way he came from.
By the time she came to her senses, Malfoy had disappeared from sight and Hermione shakes her head. The stuck up git was probably too proud to admit that she had pointed out his mistake.
November 21st, 2006
"I saw Malfoy today."
Harry stiffens and warily asks, "Draco?"
Hermione pauses from her pacing across the room, one of many in the hospital, and raises her eyebrows at the raven haired. "What other Malfoys do you know?" Her pacing resumes as she mutters under her breath about stupidity and lack of common sense.
There is a long pause before Harry replies, "I don't know. You could have been referring to Lucius or Narcissa Malfoy."
"Don't be ridiculous," Hermione scoffs, throwing her head back at the thought. "His parents are locked up in Azkaban, never to see light of day ever again. Who else could I have been talking about?" Suddenly, she stops mid-step. Snapping her head towards Harry, Hermione asks, "Malfoy, shouldn't he be in Azkaban? Am I, did he…?"
Harry shakes his head solemnly. "Hermione…Dra—Malfoy, he's on our side."
"He switched. He was our spy, Hermione. He's a good man."
"That's preposterous! Next thing you'll be telling me is that Lucius Malfoy is walking free."
"You're barking mad! Harry, what?"
"It's true, Hermione. The Malfoys…they're on our side."
Hermione shakes her head vigorously. Her hands frantically clenching and unclenching as she speeds back and forth across the small space. "I…I don't. Harry, I don't remember this. How…what…" As quickly as her panic erupted, it died when the rumpled sheets on the unoccupied bed caught her attention. "Oh, is everyone so incompetent around here? Such a small task…" Hermione mumbles under her breath as she tries to smooth the sheets with her hands.
Jumping slightly, Hermione places her hands on her chest and says, "Merlin, Harry! Don't scare me." Smiling, she steps towards her friend, who is sitting on a stool by the door. "Where's Ron?"
Harry blinks repeatedly, as if trying to get rid of building moisture, and shakes his head slightly. "He's on a mission with Dra—" a sudden stop "—he's on a mission. Auror business. It's just me and you today."
His smile doesn't quite reach his eyes.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Harry. I'm so busy, we'll have to meet up another time?" Hermione glances back to the unmade bed and sorrowfully towards her friend. "Perhaps with Ron?"
Harry nods, stands and looks unsure for a few seconds, before giving her another of those weird smiles—she doesn't quite understand why—and leaves.
Hermione remains in the stark white room, her hands clenching and unclenching. Once. Twice…
December 3rd, 2006
There's a man sitting by the window when she enters the room, uniform sticking uncomfortably against her knees. White blond hair glittering under the rays of sunlight, pale skin in striking contrast to the dark robes he donned, the man stares silently out the pane of glass. Hermione senses a tinge of melancholy in his expression. There's a cut above his right eye, and a bandage wrapped around his arm.
Hermione thinks he looks like a fallen angel: so beautiful, yet so battered.
He doesn't seem to notice her entrance, so she clears her throat. He turns immediately and his mouth falls open just the slightest, as if to speak, but no words come out, so they stare at each other.
Breaking the eye contact, Hermione glances at the closed door before surveying the rest of the room, cataloguing the small number of furniture and decorative accessories, which seem so personal and intimate to her, for some strange godforsaken reason, that filled it.
Returning her gaze to the young man, Hermione gently asks, "Are you waiting for someone?"
He doesn't seem too shocked by her inquisitiveness. His eyes drop to the ground before he turns to look out the window at the garden of St. Mungo's below. "Yes."
"Who are you waiting for?"
The blond turns back to look at her, grey eyes smothering her with the intensity of his gaze, and Hermione feels a curious tingling in his stomach.
Hermione raises her eyebrows in surprise, she certainly wasn't expecting an animal, having asked who instead of what. However, she remembers where she was and brushes it off. "I have a cat," Hermione says, smiling as she thinks of her dear Crookshanks lying on her bed back—home? The image doesn't appear quite clearly—waiting for her return from work. "He's half-Kneazle. Doesn't really get along with anyone other than me."
Hermione cocks her head to the left.
The man stands, and walks away from the window. He's limping slightly and Hermione opens her mouth to speak, but he cuts her off instead. "I have to go."
His uninjured arm lifts up, as if reaching to caress her face, but stops before making contact. Then he smiles, so tenderly. "It was nice meeting you." Somehow Hermione doesn't think it was their first meeting; there's something about the man. "I'll come back soon."
Then he's gone, nothing but a soft, tangy scent to prove he had ever been there.
Hermione fancies seeing long claw marks on a leg, and a wary hand reaching for a hissing orange cat. But the image vanishes as fast as it entered and all Hermione can see is his smile; that smile on his beautiful, battered face. Hermione feels her heart racing, and she finds herself liking that feeling quite a lot.
December 3rd, 2006
Black scruffy hair, bright green eyes hidden behind round glasses; a harried looking young man bursts through the door, startling Hermione from her perch on the half-made bed. She stifles a scream and places her hands over her chest.
"Sorry I'm late, I had—"
"Who are you? What are you doing here?" Hermione interrupts his bullet train of words.
The black haired male stops, his face stricken with terror. Hermione clenches and unclenches her hands; a calming mechanism, she finds. "I'm sorry, I must have the wrong room."
Hermione nods uncertainly, dismissing him.
She doesn't miss the mumbled words under his breath as he shuts the door behind him: "It's one of those days again. I can't…I don't get how he dealt with this."
December 24th, 2006
"What are you doing here, Malfoy?"
"It's Christmas Eve, Granger," he said, and that was that.
January 18th, 2007
She hears raised voices round the corner. Picking up the pace and grumbling under her breath about the inconsiderateness of people—a hospital! Lowered voices preferred, for Merlin's sake—Hermione barges into the scene.
"—still visiting her? For Godric's sake, you're getting—"
"—say it, Potter! I swear to Salazar, I will hex you. You're not the boss of me, I will do—"
"—said you'd stop, it's not fair to—"
"—never promised anything, especially not to you. Astoria can shove it up—"
Standing before her are two disgruntled men, bodies heaving from their shouting match—Harry and Malfoy.
"What is going on here?" Hermione sternly asks, placing her hands on her hips as glares at the two. Friend or foe, it didn't matter, because they were both in the wrong. "Harry?"
"Stay out of it, Granger," Malfoy interrupts. Hermione feels her patience level approaching snapping point. "This doesn't concern you."
She doesn't miss the fierce glance Harry sent in Malfoy's direction.
"You're disturbing the peace of St. Mungo's, so yes, Malfoy, as a Healer, this does concern me."
"Hermione," Harry says, stepping forwards with his arms in front of him. "Look, Dr—Malfoy and I are just having one of our disputes. It's common isn't it? We'll promise to be quieter, okay?"
"Harry, you're being weird." Hermione folds her arms across her chest. "If Malfoy's causing you any trouble, I can kick him out for you."
Malfoy snorts and turns away.
Harry sighs and runs his fingers through his hair. "Hermione, can you leave us alone, please?"
"Hermione. Trust me. Please."
She tightens her jaw and gives her friend a stiff nod. Harry seems to deflate in relief. They resume their argument as she walks away, not realising that she was still in hearing range. Hermione's a very inquisitive person, some called her a busybody, but really, she was only looking out for them! So she heightens her senses and eavesdrops on the two.
"—won't, Potter, I need this. I love her."
"You're only hurting yourself hanging onto her," Harry's voice is gentle, yet sad. "You have to move on, Draco." Why on Earth is Harry calling Malfoy by his first name? Hermione slows her pace, taking as long as she could before moving out of hearing range. "You're getting married, it's not fair to your wife."
"She's not my wife!" Malfoy snaps.
"You know what I mean." Then, quieter, so quiet that Hermione nearly missed it, Harry says, "She wouldn't want you to be like this."
"You don't know that, Potter."
Hermione reaches the end of the hallway. Confused, she spins around to survey her surroundings. Where is she? Hermione blinks, she's at St. Mungo's. Looking down, she notes that she's dressed in a uniform, one she's seen worn all around the hospital; a Healer's robes, no doubt. Hands feeling slightly empty, Hermione clenches her fists and unclenches them. Spotting Harry at the other end of the hallway, Hermione smiles.
Harry's head shoots to her direction, his expression showing his shock. His eyes darts to his left and that was when Hermione noticed someone else standing beside her friend—Draco Malfoy. Her smile drops down into a frown, a step away from scowling at the blond.
"What are you doing with Malfoy?"
"I—" Harry starts to explain, when Malfoy brushes past her and cuts: "I was just leaving."
Hermione stares at his leaving back before returning her attention to her raven haired friend. "What's that all about?" she asks.
Harry chews on his bottom lip and shakes his head. "Nothing. It's nothing."
January 30th, 2007
She dreams of burning buildings, wrenching sobs, choking screams, cold lifeless eyes, and…and, brushing fingertips, lingering kisses, tensing muscles under her palms, cool grey eyes…
Hermione wakes up with an emptiness inside of her.
February 14th, 2007
Hermione rubs her crust filled eyes as she wakes. A look at her surroundings and she curses under her breath.
Sleeping on the job! What on Earth was she thinking?
Hermione quickly jumps out of the bed—the idea of that particular furniture in the break room shook her up—and straightens her uniform. She gives up trying to tame her mane of hair; it never listened to her anyway. Hermione takes a few deep breaths, composing herself before returning to her work.
A gift-wrapped box on the table grabs her attention.
Happy Valentine's Day
Holding the card with the elegant script attached in her hand, Hermione wonders who it's addressed to. She shakes her head, at least someone will have a good Valentine's. Hermione places the card back on the table, a small smile on her face as she exits the room to return to her duties.
March 2nd, 2007
"Harry, do you know who Malfoy's been visiting?"
"No. No, I don't."
March 24th, 2007
She sees Malfoy leaning against a shut door, his palms digging into his eyes as his shoulders droop down in misery. Hermione lingers; he's blocking the entrance to her room—the break room.
She didn't mean to overhear, but she did, and surely she can't be faulted for that.
"Ten years," Malfoy chants, his voice cracking every few times. Hermione feels her heart break, even for an old school nemesis. Malfoy sounded so lost, she couldn't help but feel sorry for him.
When he finally leaves, Hermione walks into the room, past the area he vacated. She doesn't question the name plate hanging on the door with her name printed in bold on it: Hermione J. Granger.
April 5th, 2007
"Neville!" Hermione smiles, waving at her friend. "Are you here for your parents?"
Neville hesitates, smiling back with an uncertain wave of a hand. "Hermione?" he asks.
He approaches her less warily and full out beams, "Hello Hermione, how are you today?"
Hermione peeks at the corner of her eyes, scanning the corridor before replying, "Busy, as always. The number of yellow robes around St. Mungo's today has been astonishing. Is there a fashion trend that I missed?" Shaking her head, without waiting for Neville to answer her question, Hermione continues her rant, "Can you believe the nerve of those yellow robed visitors? They strut around behaving recklessly, barging in and out of patients' rooms, and had the audacity to wave me off when I tell them to stop!"
Her hands subconsciously repeat the motion of clenching and unclenching.
"Lack of manners, people nowadays. I have to bring this up to the Head Healer when my shift ends," Hermione says with a scowl on her face. Realisation downing upon her, she snaps her head up and smiles apologetically at Neville, who is looking somewhat troubled. "Oh Neville, I'm so sorry. I forgot myself for a moment."
"N-no, it's alright, Hermione," Neville shakily says. "It's not your fault, you can't help it, with the-" he stops, slapping a palm over his mouth.
"Nothing, I-" Neville's eyes shift from left to right and Hermione cocks her head in confusion. "Shall we, um, let's visit my parents, yes, shall we?"
"Okay." Hermione turns and makes her way down the corridor.
"Hermione?" Neville calls out from behind. She swirls around and sees him rubbing the back of his head. He then points in the opposite direction and says, "It's that way."
Hermione feels a sudden headache and reaches up to press her hands against her temple. She squeezes her eyes shut as she waits for the wave of nausea to pass by before saying, "Oh. I'm so terribly sorry, I don't know what got into me. Of course it's that way."
She feels faint, and particularly disoriented.
Neville only regretfully smiles and says, "It's not your fault, Hermione."
April 17th, 2007
She wakes up crying out a name in the dark.
But for the life of her, as she sits upright on the firm, hospital mattress, sheets draped over her thighs, Hermione cannot remember whose name it was.
April 29th, 2007
"Malfoy, don't you have other people to torment?"
"No, not at the moment," he answers, still staring unblinkingly at her, as if trying to memorise her, for reasons Hermione can never fathom.
She takes note of his appearance; unusually tousled hair, large eye bags, and dark rings framing his cool grey eyes. Hermione have never seen Malfoy look so haggard and resigned.
It doesn't suit him, she concludes.
May 22nd, 2007
Hermione pauses in her cleaning and stares straight ahead as she vanishes into the depths of her mind. The door swings open on her left and Hermione barely registers it.
"Hermione? What are you doing?" Harry's voice cuts through her thoughts and she shakes herself out of it, flitting back to her busy schedule; tidying up the room, stacking the vials neatly on the tray, and then pushing the trolley down to the office for restocking.
"My job, of course."
"No, I mean, before, when you were looking off into space."
Hermione pauses once more. "Harry, have you ever wondered how our life would be like if we took different paths?"
"What do you mean?"
Waving her hands in the air, Hermione explains, "I was just wondering where I'd be in life if I didn't choose to become a Healer, or for you, I suppose, if you didn't become an Auror."
"No." Harry avoids eye contact, looking rather uncomfortable. Hermione cringes, remembering her best friend's childhood experiences; the Dursleys, the war, Voldemort.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-"
"No, that's not what I'm thinking." Harry waves her off, but doesn't explain any further. Hermione watches him closely, as he rubs his eyes behind his glasses, shifts his weight from one leg to the other, and heaves a huge sigh. "Hermione, are...are you happy?"
She cocks her head to the side, pondering over Harry's strange behaviour. "Yes, of course. This is what I chose after all."
"No, you-" Harry cuts himself off. Hermione sees his eyes watering before he spins on his heels and says, his voice oddly trembling, "Ginny's waiting for me."
She is left alone staring at the door as it clicks shut behind him.
June 8th, 2007
Hermione is woken up by a hand on her cheek.
She feels the touch retreat as her eyelids flutter, before uncovering dark brown eyes to the world. There is a flash of blond on her right and Hermione turns in that direction to see a blond man with wide grey eyes staring right at her. There's a tightness to his jaw, as if waiting for a slur or insult to be hurled at him, for reasons Hermione cannot figure out.
"Hello," she says quietly.
"Hello," he parrots back, surveying her features for any clues to her thoughts.
"Who are you?"
His entire body seems to relax from her question; it wasn't till then that she realised he had been wound up so tight like a spring ready to burst before. "It's those days today," he mutters, "I suppose it's a good thing for me." The chuckles that follow are not any from joy; they had this darkness to it.
Hermione takes the time to look him over. He's dressed in pristine black robes, his hair gelled smoothly back, showcasing his handsome features, as though he's about to attend a ball, or even a wedding. The blond grasps her hands, cupping them in his own, thumb gently circling a patch of skin on the back of her hand.
"This, this is the last time," he breathes out, "Hermione-" he chokes and she wonders how he knows her name, for she doesn't know his.
"Are you okay?"
He shakes his head, tears forming in his eyes. "I'm fine. I'm fine. Hermione...I'm—my parents, they—I'm..." he trails off, before the tears stream down his cheeks with a wrenching sob, "I don't—I can't—I don't want to do this, Hermione. Please. Even if you don't know anything else, please know that if I could, I would not do this, not to you."
Hermione forces herself to remain silent as the blond cries into her hands. She doesn't understand what he's saying. But somehow, he knows her. So she listens, sitting as still as a statue, and as silent as the grave.
"This is the last time I can visit you," he says. "Potter's right, it's not Astoria's fault, she doesn't...she doesn't deserve this; a husband pining for another woman, a woman who doesn't remember their love. But Hermione, I'll...I'll never love her, please, please know this. I love you."
He finally looks up into her eyes, her inquisitive, gentle, and concerned eyes. Hermione sees the raw pain in his face, and her heart reaches out to the blond man sitting before her.
"I have to go. They're...they're waiting." Rising slowly, he glances down at their cupped hands, and back up at her. Very gradually, bit by bit, he leans forwards, hovering his lips just above her forehead. Hermione shuts her eyes, feeling his breath on her skin, waiting for something.
He doesn't close the distance between them, pulling back reluctantly, releasing her hands at the same time. With one final farewell in his eyes, he turns and makes his way towards the door, towards the exit that will drag him away from her life forever.
As he does so, Hermione feels a name forming on the tip of her tongue.
A/N: Please leave a review to tell me what you think. Thank you.
Edit (28/12/2014): Fixed spelling of St. Mungo's.