A/N- Last chapter! Warning: if you're looking for action and battles, this won't satisfy. This chapter is mostly dialog and drama. The emotions are piling up in this one, and since it's Feb. 13, I blame Cupid. Also, please note that this is posted sans-beta, so any egregious errors are to also be blamed on Cupid. Blasted arrows!
(insert standard disclaimer)
Minerva McGonagall was impressive in many ways. Her stern demeanor, honed through decades of teaching, brought most people to heel. Additionally, her mastery of transfiguration commanded respect across Britain, and the world. Failing those two, she wielded her authority as Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with impressive precision. With regards to her dealings with Hogwarts, she prided herself on her impartial treatment of her students and how well most did under her tutelage.
That is not to say that there weren't students that she grew especially fond of. In some cases, it was lovable troublemakers; in other cases it was talented young witches and wizards who seemed unable to avoid trouble. As she walked into the hospital wing of Hogwarts, McGonagall considered one such wizard, Harry Potter. After the final battle, it was decided to keep Mr. Potter in an isolated room on the school grounds, in the hopes of hiding his condition from the general public. That had been a spirited discussion, she recalled.
"We can't let the world see what's happened to him," Ron Weasley sulked. "As much as I bloody hate to admit it, everyone looks up to him. To see him gone dark…"
"I can't believe it, but Won-Won is right," George agreed. "They'd make him Minister for killing the Dark Tosser. The leader of the light? Gone dark? Just thinking about it depresses me."
Hermione shook her head. "We can't hide something like this, there were too many witnesses."
Arthur nodded. "The muggles have a saying. 'Truth Will Out,' and it will come out."
"Then we tell them that he planned it- went in undercover to try and get Voldemort," Neville suggested. "He did call himself Janus, whatever that means."
"Roman god of beginnings and transition. Always shown with two faces." Hermione sighed. "I'm certain that he didn't plan this, but the story may buy us some time."
And with Hermione's tacit approval, the decision had been made. The word filtered out slowly, through friends and friends of friends, that Harry had acted in an undercover manner to get close enough to the Dark Lord to kill him. It was hinted that he'd been injured during the battle and was being cared for by the members of the Order of the Phoenix.
McGonagall stood at the door to Harry's observation room, steeling herself. She walked in to find Madam Pomfrey and Miss Granger studying the charts and papers before them.
"Has there been any change?" She asked.
Poppy shook her head. "Aside from a slight decrease in the ravings, none. This is beyond my skill, Headmistress. Mister Potter needs a mind healer."
Minerva nodded. "Please make the call, but be discreet." Pomfrey nodded and left the room. "Miss Granger?"
Hermione blinked and looked up. Her eyes were red and her face was sallow, ghostly. In the month since the battle, she had taken up residence in the hospital wing, commandeering a bed near Harry's isolation room. The stress seemed to be taking its toll; she hardly slept, only ate when forced to, and spent most of the time studying the charts and scouring books for anything that might help. "Good morning, Professor," she answered in a small voice.
Minerva knew that, of all of Harry's friends, none were more loyal to him than Hermione. Poppy had informed her of the arguments between her and Ron and the jealousy he displayed towards Harry. In one instance, Poppy had been forced to intervene and evict the arguing duo from the hospital wing. That was when Ron accused Hermione of choosing Harry of him.
"Miss Gr… Hermione," Minerva corrected herself, allowing a more relaxed and comforting tone to creep into her voice. "You need rest. You will be of no help if you don't see to your own welfare."
"I… I can't, Professor." Hermione sighed. "I've heard him in there. It's Harry, but… It isn't." A tear formed in one eye. "And the worst… When he's the worst… Professor, do you know what he says?"
McGonagall shook her head. "I haven't been present during an episode."
Hermione's eyes took on an even more haunted look. "He screams my name. Over and over. Says I did this. Threatens to kill me, then begs for me to kill him. Professor, I don't know what I did to do this, but I have to make it right!" She broke down, crying in desperate frustration.
Minerva opened her arms and embraced the young witch. "My dear, I seriously doubt that anything you have ever done could cause this. Isn't it more likely that the enemy somehow used Harry's love for his friends to their advantage? To try and break his defenses?"
Hermione sniffed and nodded. "I keep telling myself that, hoping that it's true, but even then, I can't stand to know that they used me to do this to him."
McGonagall nodded and reached over, gently closing the folders and organizing the paperwork. "Come, my dear. I am insisting that you spend two or three days away from here, for your own sake." Hermione only nodded, too exhausted to even argue. Minerva led her to Gryffindor Tower and up to her old room. She called for an elf and instructed her to take care of Hermione. "And I want you to rest here the entire time! If there is any change in Mister Potter, we will tell you. Do not test me on this- I will enforce it by whatever means necessary."
"Yes Professor," Hermione sighed, already sinking into her bed.
Minerva turned to the elf. "Vera, please see to her needs for two days, and supervise her activities. She is not to visit the hospital wing- I want her resting. If a calming or dreamless sleep potion is needed, contact me or Madam Pomfrey." The elf nodded and snapped her fingers, causing a bundle of knitting to appear in her hands. "Thank you, Vera."
"Of course, Headmistress," she replied.
When she returned to the infirmary, Poppy was back in the observation room. "A mind healer will be here tomorrow for evaluation," she told Minerva.
"Thank you, Poppy." McGonagall sighed. "Tell me about his ravings."
Madam Pomfrey cocked an eyebrow upwards. "Told you about them, did she?" Minerva nodded. "I believe it indicates how they broke his defenses."
"Broke his defenses? Do you mean Occlumency?"
"No, Headmistress. His Occlumency had to have been breached before this would be effective. I'm afraid I don't know much on the subject, so I would rather not speculate."
"I understand. Please give me the facts."
Pomfrey nodded. "Most of his ravings are nonsensical. However, the more distressful ones seem to involve his friends, and they have, for lack of a better word, a hierarchy to them. Those involving Mr. Longbottom and Miss Lovegood are little more than the usual ravings, only a fraction more understandable. The mention of the Weasley twins shows a higher distress level, and Miss Weasley causes an even greater amount of distress. Young Ronald causes the worst, amongst the Weasley name. Sadly, it is true that his worst episodes do revolve around Miss Granger."
"And in those, he vacillates between wanting to do harm and seeking harm to himself?"
Minerva sighed. "Thank you, Poppy. Please inform me when the healer arrives."
Mind Healer Thompson appeared to be a stiff, formal lady in her mid 40's, with honey brown hair pulled tight into a bun. She gave off an air of competence, but one could see the compassion in her eyes.
"I propose to begin with a gentle legilimency probe. It may be as you suspect, that the Dark Lord used legilimency and planted false memories, amongst other things, to drive the patient insane." She spoke calmly, professionally, but again her eyes flowed with concern.
"Thank you, Healer Thompson. Do you require anything?"
A small smile graced the woman's lips. "The patient's cooperation is always helpful. Is his magic restrained?" Pomfrey nodded. "Physically?" Another nod. "Very well. Please observe through the wall, for everyone's safety."
She walked into the isolation room, casually sitting in the chair that appeared. "Mister Potter, I am Healer Thompson. I would like to help you ease your mind."
"Janus," he growled, rising from the corner to stand near the healer. "And how are you gonna do that?"
She smiled warmly. "Mister Janus, I would like to view your mind."
Harry's lip curled in a silent snarl. "Sorry, lady. My mind's already been raped once. Don't fancy another round."
"Oh, everything I will do is passive, I won't leave even so much as a footprint in the snow," she assured him and locked her eyes with his. Neither blinked as Harry sat on the bed, no physical resistance evident in his movements. Their stare continued for nearly an hour, before Thompson finally blinked and shook her head.
"That wasn't so bad, was it?" She asked him.
Harry shook his head drunkenly. "Nah, 'sno probbem." He lay back and fell into a deep sleep as the woman stood and left the room.
Minerva transfigured the plain hospital chairs into more comfortable seating arrangements and the three talked.
"His mind has indeed been broken," the healer started. Her audience paled visibly. "But the good news is that it wasn't a thorough job. Whoever performed the attacks seems to have been clumsy, unfocused, and more intent on a quick resolution instead of a total reframing."
She entered what her audience recognized as a lecture mode. "You see, when done fully and correctly, a mind is first broken of all defenses; the second step is to sever all connections to the person's past; the third step is to destroy all vestiges of the individual's personality. At that point, the mind becomes like a blank slate, ready for a new everything. This is where the 'new' person is imprinted upon the mind, with new personality traits, new likes and dislikes, and even new associations- friends, lovers, and so on." She paused to take a breath. "When done correctly and thoroughly, you are left with a completely new individual occupying the body of the old individual. And yes, it has been done. We have several case studies that have accumulated over the years which help us understand the nature of the act."
"In those cases, any sort of recall is considered futile. For all intents and purposes, the 'old' person is dead and gone. Fortunately, such a complete job takes a considerable amount of time and energy- months if not years, and the witch or wizard performing the breaking must be exceedingly powerful and have a powerfully detailed image of the 'new' individual. Such people are indeed rare."
"So you believe the 'breaking,' as you called it, in this instance was nothing like these cases you mentioned?" Minerva clarified.
"Correct. Given the details I saw, I'd say that only a moderately skilled mind performed the breaking. I would also hazard to say that it was done within just a few days, maybe a week at most."
"Thank goodness for that," Poppy said. "What are the prospects for healing?"
Healer Thompson frowned and looked off into the distance. She considered the question for a full minute before replying. "Good. The difference between a total breaking and what we have here is the fact that the original individual is still there. Connections may have been broken or twisted, things like that, but Harry Potter is still in that room. If it were a total breaking, he would not be. The hardest part of the task will be the time involved in reconnecting the old associations and removing the imprinted, false memories and associations. It would be best if we had some of his support group available to corroborate the associations and connections, to help identify the false one from the true ones."
At this, Minerva smiled. "We have at least one, here in the castle. She has shown strong loyalty, courage and devotion to him for years."
"A lover? Is she the Hermione that starred in so many of his memories?"
McGonagall frowned slightly. "It is she, but I know of no intimacy between them beyond friendship, whatever feelings may have lurked unconfessed."
"That will be a tremendous help. When shall we begin?"
"We have ordered the girl to a few days of rest, as she has hardly left Mr. Potter's side for the last month."
"Very good. A rested assistant will be much more helpful than not. Perhaps on Thursday, then?"
Minerva and Poppy agreed. "I will supply you with transportation through my floo connection, Healer Thompson," McGonagall offered as they separated.
Hermione awoke to the smell of strong, black coffee. She sat up in bed, stretching the stiffness from her joints and cracking her jaw in a great yawn. The last few days had given her the rest she desperately needed, and allowed her the time to think. Her visits to the library were, surprisingly, short, as Vera blocked her access to any medical-related tomes. Hermione found herself curled up on the couch in front of the Gryffindor fireplace during most of her "rest" time. She had considered her life and where she had been, what she'd been through.
She knew that the one constant throughout the last seven-plus years of her life was the raven-haired boy… no- man, that currently resided in isolation downstairs. She'd taken the time to remember so many things, to relive so many moments with him in her mind. She truly felt that she loved Harry. She loved his loyalty, his strength, his character, and every little thing that made him who he was. It wasn't until the horcrux hunt that she began to see him really differently. The close contact from sharing that ruddy tent opened her eyes to Harry Potter, the person. Unguarded. Undisguised. She'd been so close to him all during school, but this level of closeness put truth to the face that she saw every day, proving that it wasn't a mask. To think that Ron had such access and responded so poorly so many times.
Hermione had also seen Harry as more than that during the hunt. She saw his drive, his determination, and his bloody noble self-sacrificing nature that eventually led to him sneaking off alone to face Voldemort. Hermione knew the stories that had been written about "The Boy Who Lived," but considered them all to be rubbish. Yet in her time on the hunt, she'd seen glimpses of the fictional Harry Potter- the hero that the world expected to save them. She saw how he shouldered that mantle and bore the weight of that responsibility, becoming the very hero their world needed.
Through it all, her feelings had grown, and she somehow transitioned from a platonic friendship to being romantically interested in him. Perhaps it was to be expected, with such intimate contact for a prolonged period of time, yet the same intimacy only intensified Ron's jealousy of Harry and drove a wedge between the trio. She'd never confessed her feelings to anyone. Such a secret led directly to the rows she had with Ron during the last month. He wanted her, that much was painfully obvious. Ron wanted her for himself, for reasons that made her shudder with revulsion. Ron confessed the scene that had played out with the locket, admitting his fear of always falling behind Harry. Another time he admitted that his ideal family was one eerily similar to the one he grew up in- with him as the breadwinner and his wife at home caring for their brood of children. Hermione wasn't afraid of a family, but she knew that she wouldn't spend her life as a homemaker. Such things were admirable, certainly, but she had dreams of a future that included more than staying at home, relying solely on the provisions her husband earned. Her parents had both been happily employed and still gave her a wonderful childhood full of love. That was the model that she aspired to, and Ron Weasley would never match such a model. The breakup had been painful. Ron had gone with an "all or nothing" mentality, declaring that if she didn't want him as a love, then she didn't get him as a friend either. Hermione only hoped that they could somehow save Harry and that she could at least salvage her relationship with him- no matter what direction it took.
Hermione thanked Vera for the breakfast and was finally allowed to return to the hospital wing. She knew that nothing had changed; otherwise they would have interrupted her hiatus. She was surprised to find a new face in the hospital wing, and was introduced to Mind Healer Thompson.
"Miss Granger, I will give you time with your friends to go over the details, but the important fact is that I believe we can correct the problems Mr. Potter is having. Will you help us?"
"Of course! Anything to help Harry!" Hermione sank into a chair in shocked elation. She listened intently as McGonagall, Pomfrey, and Healer Thompson went over the details that Thompson had already given to the others.
"So you want me to help identify the false memories?" Hermione asked.
Thompson nodded. "That, and then to help correct the twisted, broken associations with friends and family. These false memories are blanketing his true memories, and once we remove them it should be much easier to correct the broken connections."
"How can we do that? I have no skill in mental healing."
"I would like you to be a passenger in my legilimency probes."
Hermione blinked. "Is that even possible?"
"Very much so, my dear. However, it is a challenging and tiring experience, I must warn you."
"I'll do it," Hermione pledged. And so began a twice-weekly meeting with the Mind Healer and Harry, attempting to mend his broken mind. The first few sessions were difficult. Harry's mind fought the double-intrusion, but his occlumency and mental shields were weak after his kidnapping. Once past his barriers Hermione found a maelstrom of vile, disgusting and evil memories. She was forced to watch as Thompson replayed the false memories, including one of Hermione sexually abusing Harry; another had him doing the same to her.
"We believe that they used you heavily as a tool in the breaking," Thompson told her later. "This doesn't reflect badly on you," she added quickly. "But it shows how highly he holds you in regards. I seriously doubt that there is anyone who is closer to his heart than you, Miss Granger."
"But I was the tool they used in breaking his mind!" Hermione argued.
"If it weren't you, it would have been someone else. They fed off his love for you, and it will be that love that brings him back," the healer countered. "If any of this makes you uncomfortable, we can postpone your assistance until a later date."
"No! I want to help as much as I can!"
"Excellent. We are already making forward progress. I must warn you, though, that his true feelings for you will soon be revealed. I can't say whether they are platonic or romantic, but I believe that it will become evident. You should prepare yourself for either possibility as well as the knowledge that you learned of it in a manner different than one that you both may have chosen."
Hermione spent a long weekend steeling herself for that eventuality. She knew what she hoped she would learn, and feared the repercussions of learning either outcome. The next Tuesday, when the next appointment arrived, she received a shock. She walked into the observation room to find Healer Thompson already inside with Harry, talking amiably. When she joined them, both pairs of eyes focused on her.
With some difficulty, Harry looked at her. "I know what's coming. I don't want you to see it." His words cut her heart to the quick. She feared for the worst- that he truly hated her for her part in the legilimency.
"Harry…" she began.
"No, Hermione. There are some things that have to remain unknown," he answered, standing firm on his decision. Hermione bit her lip to choke back a tear and nodded, leaving.
McGonagall was waiting in the observation room. Wordlessly, she led Hermione to a comfortable chair and they watched the session begin. "Healer Thompson came yesterday to speak with him," she began. "She discussed what was coming, and it seems to have given him clarity. Miss Granger… Hermione…" she drew Hermione's eyes away from the unmoving pair in the iso room.
"He hates me," Hermione whispered dejectedly.
"Nonsense, Miss Granger!" McGonagall admonished. "He told Healer Thompson that he understood what was coming, and that there were things that he wanted to tell you himself, without you stumbling upon it in a mind probe." Minerva's visage softened. "Hermione, he wants to share these things, but on his terms, and not in this sterile, cold environment. Take heart in that."
Hermione nodded absently, her eyes glued on the healer and her patient while her mind raced in a million different directions.
"Consider it an encouraging prospect. One would doubt that he would feel that way for a mere friend," McGonagall patted Hermione's hand and left. For the next month, Hermione watched through the wall as Harry returned to sanity.
There were visitors. Healer Thompson encouraged short visits with certain people for Harry, and many more came and joined Hermione in her vigil. Ginny's visits were perhaps the most surprising.
"You've got it bad, girl," she told Hermione, who just shrugged dumbly. "I don't hate you for it, Hermione." She smiled wistfully. "It's hard not to, isn't it?"
"Not to what?"
Hermione managed a blush. "I don't know what you mean."
"No need to hide it, I have been right there before, hoping that he would see me, like me, and even love me. But the boy I loved isn't they boy in that room. I loved some weird mix of fantasy and fact, a blend of the storybook hero and the true hero." Ginny sighed. "You- you love that one," she tilted her head towards the iso room. "And only that one."
"Dean has been writing to me, and we've been seeing each other again," Ginny continued. "He's amazing. He's as sweet as anyone could be, and it seems like we hardly ever argue anymore. I think we both grew out of that." She quirked a smile. "We save our rows for something monumental, so that the make-up sex is just as earth-shaking."
Hermione rolled her eyes but admitted that she was enjoying the talk. "Ginny, thanks for coming. I needed this."
Ginny stood to leave. "I know hon. When he gets better, he'll come looking for you, and I know you'll be here waiting on him."
Harry stretched, his eyes roving over the plain room that had born witness to his return to sanity. He knew that one wall was see-through, allowing the healers to observe the room from the outside. "A lot like my mind, these days," he remarked to himself. The last two months had been painful in many ways. Healer Thompson hadn't been able to remove the false memories as she'd hoped, but they'd identified them and Harry had learned how false they were and how they'd been used to break his mind. He was certain that it had been Bellatrix that performed the deed; he seriously doubted that any of the other Death Eaters had the sexual creativity to construct many of the memories. It was partly the content and the actors in those memories that had caused him to request Hermione's absence. That and the fact that reviewing so much of his life in memories had shown him something very important about her, and he wanted her to find out on his own terms- not through some medical procedure. They'd spoken little since he'd sent her off, but he always felt her presence. On the days that the healer showed up, he knew Hermione was behind the wall, pouring her love through to him. On the off days, he always caught a hint of her presence at some point, sometimes for a few short minutes and sometimes for hours on end.
He'd gone for so long without touching his magic; he was shocked to discover that he could still feel hers. It wasn't like that for everyone- Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall gave no hints of their presence to his senses. But when she was nearby, he could tell it; it was in a vanilla & parchment scent to his nose and a warm feeling of safety in his heart.
Today, he was being released. The healer had been given full access to his mind, and after an exhaustive search had found no more hints of Janus, the evil two-faced demon Voldemort had tried to make him into. The door opened and Madam Pomfrey walked in, followed by Professor McGonagall. Harry was shocked when the door closed, leaving them alone, but nonetheless he could feel her nearby. McGonagall held out her hand, and extended his wand to him. His own arm warmed with the touch of the holly, and he smiled. "Lumos," he whispered, conjuring a small ball of light.
Poppy smiled at the spell. "Well Mister Potter, you have finally finished what I hope is your last stay in my infirmary. I do hope to see you again, although on much less stressful circumstances."
Harry smiled. "Thank you, Poppy. I owe you my life many times over."
"Nonsense, it was a joy to see you recover so many times," she joked. "Now, would you like to rejoin the world?"
"Very much so," Harry answered, leading the women through the door. Outside his room, the air was crisper, cooler, and somehow smelled even cleaner. Madam Pomfrey offered several instructions about recovery and he left. Harry looked around, almost confused by the lack of Hermione's presence, but he still felt it. He found that she wasn't in the library, or the kitchen or the Great Hall. Gryffindor Tower was equally empty, as were the classrooms. Eventually he wandered out to the quidditch pitch and found her sitting in the stands, a distant look in her eyes.
"Hermione Granger, relaxing on the quidditch pitch- now I've seen everything," he kidded as he sat beside her. She smiled but didn't say anything. They sat there in silence for a while before Harry spoke up. "What are you thinking about?"
"I don't know. Nothing. The future. You. Me. The past. Everything," she rambled.
Harry laughed softly. "Yep. 'Everything' pretty much covers it." Hermione rolled her eyes and pushed her shoulder against his. The sun had crested the sky and the shadows were lengthening. "Hermione, there's something I need to tell you."
She turned to look at him, curiously expectant. "Yes?"
"First, I'm sorry that I cut you off when I did." Her eyes clouded with a distant pain. "I shouldn't have, but I was afraid. Afraid of what was coming, afraid of letting you see something that I'd not even admitted to myself, and afraid of what you'd do when you saw that and all the dirty things Bella put up here," he tapped his temple. "At that point, there were times that I couldn't differentiate between her false memories and my own dreams. I would consider a thought or a memory, and I couldn't tell if it was hers or mine. Some of them were obvious- the really dirty, dark ones. But there were some that only flirted with 'dirty.' Some dreams didn't feel wrong, but I still feared that they were planted as well."
Harry sighed. "I knew that I needed to sort that out, and I was afraid that all of those scenes would scare you or hurt you. Some of them aren't pretty. To be honest, some of them are downright scary!" Harry tried a smile and a bit of levity. "I didn't even know it was possible to do that with a monkey!" Hermione looked at Harry with shock, and then burst out laughing.
Harry took her hand in his. "That is music to my ears."
"Yes. Your laughter, your voice, all of it." Harry gathered his breath and his courage as the sun began to dip below the horizon. "Hermione, I hid all of that, and I'm sorry for it. I was afraid, and I'm even more afraid now of losing you, but I have to open up. All of those dreams, the fake ones and the real ones, showed me something very important. They showed me what my priorities were. I realized what, and who was most important to me." He squeezed her hand as the sun continued its descent. "Hermione, I'm a seriously messed up bloke. Not just this mess recently, but all the way back as long as I can remember, I've been through the wringer. I don't know how I can be worth anything to anyone with all that baggage, but whatever I am; I want to be with you."
Her eyes began to water uncontrollably, dripping wet tears down her cheeks. "What are you saying, Harry?"
"I'm saying that I love you," he answered quietly as the last bit of the sun flashed out of view.
Hermione sniffed a very unladylike sniff and leaned in to him, pressing her lips against his tentatively. Harry opened his embrace, bringing her closer and encouraging the kiss. In the dusk, in the stands of the Hogwarts quidditch pitch, Harry Potter finally found his place in the world.
A/N of the postscript variety- There you go. Not a lot of action in this one, but I wanted to explore the idea of a brainwashing kind of story. I had inspiration from a book I read as a kid, "This is Your Life, Bhodi Li." In it, the main character is kidnapped and brainwashed into fighting for the bad guys. In the end it turns out that he either broke the brainwashing or only pretended to change sides in order to really stick it to the bad guys- I can't remember all the details. One character refers to him as a Janus, with two faces. Hence- my title and inspiration.
I tried to offer at least a semi-reasonable explanation for breaking up with the Weasleys, but in such a short story I don't know if I could really flesh that part out too much, or too believably, without going completely off the reservation with OOC. Not to say that it cant' be done- just that I don't know that I'm able to do it.
Constructive criticism is appreciated.