Chapter One

Six years, four walls, no visitors


It was Harry Potter's first time at the hospital, at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Neville Longbottom had invited him along to visit his parents, who were getting better by the day since the final defeat of Voldemort. They recognized him quite often, more often than not actually, and were always grateful for their son's visits, especially when he brought friends to visit them.

Knowing that Neville wanted a few minutes alone with his parents, Harry had excused himself after a charming visit with the former Auror and his wife. Of course, St. Mungo's, like muggle hospitals, was a quiet, somewhat uncomfortable place, although a bit more airy than muggle institutions of its kind. Harry wandered about for a while, watching mediwitches and mediwizards walking to and fro, glancing down the hall from time to time for any sign of young Mister Longbottom.

As he walked down the hall, Harry happened to look into the window of a room. He stopped in his tracks, astonished. He had never expected to see anyone that he knew in the hospital, but here was someone. Seated upon a low, neatly made bed was a man in hospital robes with a sad, but somewhat stupid look on his rather handsome face, a face that Harry would never forget. It was Gilderoy Lockhart, the arrogant fraud of a professor from his second year at Hogwarts.

"What is he doing here?" Harry asked out loud.

"Excuse me?" asked a mediwitch, stopping as she heard his question.

Harry turned and asked her, "What is that man doing here?"

The woman looked a little sad as she said, "Oh, him. He is suffering from a Memory Charm gone wrong. Incurable, they say. He's being kept here for his own safety."

Doing a quick count of the years, Harry said, "But he's been in here for almost six years!"

"I believe so." she said, shaking her head and tutting sadly.

Harry looked through the little pane of glass and saw Gilderoy wipe his eyes on his sleeve. He was crying.

"Of course, he's crying." Harry thought. "They've kept him locked up in a little room for almost six years." Harry frowned. "Well, serves him right. He used memory charms on other people, didn't he?" "But did any of them wind up in the hospital ... permanently?" he thought, debating internally with himself. Harry sighed softly.

Turning back to the mediwitch, he asked, "Does he get many visitors?"

"Not a one that I can remember."

"Might I visit with him?"

"Well, technically only family members are allowed ..." she hesitated.

Harry hated to do it. He used his position and fame for very little. It wasn't a nice thing to do, but then ... six years without any visitors, even with the compassionate care provided by St. Mungo's, it had to be wretched.

Harry brushed his messy dark hair away from his forehead to reveal his scar and asked, "Please, just for a few minutes?"

The woman's eyes widened. She recognized the famous mark.

"Of ... course, Mister Potter. I am certain that an exception can be made in your case. And ... and take as long as you like." she stammered.

"Thank you. I really appreciate it." he said with smile and nod before opening the door and walking into the hospital room.

Gilderoy raised his head from his hands as Harry entered and closed the door softly behind himself. He looked rather surprised.

"Hello, are you new here?" asked Lockhart, wiping his eyes on his sleeve again.

"I'm just visiting." answered Harry, noticing small crow's feet that had formed around Lockhart's eyes. Six years was a long time. "You don't remember me do you?" he questioned.

"I don't remember much of anything. But ... you do seem familiar." said Gilderoy, staring at him intently. "Before I came here ... I was in a dark place with a red-headed boy. Then there was another boy and a girl ... and a bird. You remind me very much of the second boy."

He smiled and nodded, "Yeah, that was me. My name is Harry."

"They call me Gilderoy. Gilderoy Lockhart. You're all grown up now, aren't you?" asked Gilderoy, smiling and standing. His feet were bare against the stone floor.

"I am." said Harry. "And so are the other boy and the girl."

"Are they here too?" he asked, brightening further.

"Ah, no, they're not."

Gilderoy nodded and looked sadder, but understanding as he said, "I don't often have visitors, unless you count the hospital staff."

"I'm sorry."

"I suppose I wasn't a very nice person before I lost my memory. No friends. No family."

"You weren't ... that bad. You did some things that you ought not have, but ... who hasn't?"

"Did you know me well?" asked Gilderoy, stepping closer. Harry glanced at his hands and noticed they were chapped.

"Not really. You were one of my teachers." answered Harry. "If I may ask, what's wrong with your hands?"

Gilderoy looked at them and sighed, "Oh, well, I wash potion bottles sometimes. My hands just seem to do this. Too delicate, I suppose. They gave me some salve for them, but it doesn't smell so nice." Harry glanced at a sink in the corner and a green jar on the corner of it and then at Gilderoy's hands. They were very delicate. "Of course, it isn't that bad. It gives me something to do, you know."

"It must be very boring for you here."

"I don't know ... I get the feeling sometimes that my life wasn't all that exciting before, that I didn't like a lot of excitement. But it is ... it is very lonely here." Gilderoy admitted. His face twisted as he held back the tears and turned to wipe his eyes.

"I didn't mean to upset you. Perhaps I should go ..." said Harry, watching his shoulders shake.

"Please, don't. It may be years before anyone comes here again." Gilderoy managed.

Harry put a hesitant hand on Gilderoy's shoulder, trying to forget everything that he knew about the man that Lockhart himself had forgotten: the egotism, the fraud he had perpetrated, and the trouble he had caused Harry and Ron in their quest for the Chamber of Secrets. For a moment he could only see the handsome, but broken and suffering man before him, dressed in thin hospital robes and desperate for comfort and companionship, for anyone to keep the loneliness away. Harry slipped an around Gilderoy's waist, pulling him closer, and hushed him.

"Don't worry. I won't leave you." he said more fiercely than he meant to, feeling Lockhart's muscles relax beneath his touch.

"Thank you." Gilderoy sobbed quietly, placing his hand over the one Harry kept on his shoulder.

"I want ... I would like to take you with me ... because even after everything ... after all the stuff ... I don't think it's right for someone to always be ... alone. And I have to admit it. It is a lonely world out there too." said Harry, struggling to say the right words, to give voice to his feelings.

He knew a lot about loneliness too, after all, from his childhood in the cupboard under the stairs, always the outsider, always shunned. And since school and the war had both ended, he was living alone in a cottage in the country, struggling to keep up old friendships and to write his memoirs, which Hermione and Ron Weasley had insisted that he do.

"You would do that?" asked Gilderoy, removing Harry's arm from his waist and turning to face him again. He looked astonished.

"If the people here will let me."

Gilderoy smiled and pulled Harry into a very sudden and heartfelt embrace. For a moment Harry was caught off-guard. His heart pounded as he accepted the hug, warm tears, Gilderoy's tears, sliding down his neck.

"This is ... interesting." Harry thought as he smelled Gilderoy's hair. "This is heaven." He blushed slightly as he realized that he was taking advantage of the situation. "Poor man! Probably nobody's even so much as touched him since he got here." he thought, recognizing the terrible feeling of isolation, physical and emotional, that Gilderoy must have felt.

Harry stroked Gilderoy's back for a few moments until he regained control of his emotions and pulled away.

"Terribly sorry ..." he sniffed.

"Quite all right." said Harry. "I have to leave you for a little while. I need to talk to some people about you and your situation. But I shouldn't be long."

"I understand." said Gilderoy, wiping his eyes again. "I may have lost my memory, but I'm not stupid, you know." he added. Harry looked at him and tried not to laugh. An uncertain look came to Gilderoy's face. "Am I?" he asked.

"Um, not in so many words ... Excuse me."

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A/N: So how was it? Review and let me know.