Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any related characters or ideas.
Full Summary: Draco works in the dementia ward at St. Mungo's, and he loves his job, but he doesn't feel comfortable anywhere else. Recurring tremors in his hands make it hard for him to do things, and he's too embarrassed to let anyone see. So when his schoolboy crush, Hermione Granger, suddenly reappears in his life, all he can do is push her away.
A/N: Written for what you must know by now is my favorite fest, dramione remix, for the prompt Donnie/Gretchen from Donnie Darko. That was a few months ago, but I just got around to cross-posting now. Stands complete as-is, but I would like to continue it someday. Perhaps I will.
Thank you to my beta, the ravishing raa! Fast worker, enthusiastic cheerleader, brilliant editor!
Far Be It From Me
Why do boys destroy?
Why do they say such things, such awful things, such cruel and burning boy things? They must think it does something. They must not think at all.
A teenage boy is not himself. He is a conduit, a tuning fork. He exists to vibrate at a particular frequency.
Draco is vibrating more noticeably than most boys, though: sometimes so much that he can't even hold a glass of water. Where once his vibration was psychological, it has now become physical. The tremors in his hands are the worst thing, because they give him away the most. People always notice. In public, he keeps his hands in his pockets. In private, he holds his glass with both hands, carefully lifting it to his mouth for each little drink. It is hard every time.
His mother makes him eat breakfast with her a few times a week, and she watches his hands like a child watches a very ugly person—knowing she must not look, and must not be caught looking, but all the same looking as much as she can. Discreetly, she imagines, but quite obviously to the person being observed. Narcissa times her breaths by his hands, he can hear her, in their quiet breakfast nook. Some mornings, he can pick up his fork and knife and eat just like normal. Other times, his silver clatters against the plate and makes his ears ring, and his yolks break. And his mother tries to pretend that she is not looking.
Draco's counselor thinks that the tremors represent his anger, because she thinks that Draco should be feeling angrier than he is. But it is like he's used it all up. Like he felt so angry, so inappropriately, for so long, that he has spent his lifetime allotment of anger and now must offer due space to other kinds of emotions. He should be angry at his father, she says, or at least he could be, if he wanted to. It's good that Draco has forgiven his father, she says, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get to be angry. If he wants. Draco hates his counselor when she says these things, with a quiet sort of icy hate that doesn't go anywhere or do anything, just covers him up like snow. Other times, he thinks she's all right. She is nice to him at least. It isn't the worst way to kill an hour. It's a good excuse to leave his house. But everyone at the Ministry knows why he's there, so he feels their eyes even inside her office. She always says it's private, that it's a safe space, but he feels like an actor on stage. He's never felt less like himself anywhere else.
At St Mungo's, in the dementia ward, he feels much more normal. Probably if he told her that, his counselor would think it was weird. It is weird, but he likes it there. He started just on Tuesdays because he had to—he'd selected it for his community service hours—but after a few weeks, he'd asked if he could come in more often. Now, he works full time and is on track to become a mediwizard's assistant. His mother thinks he should be a mediwizard himself, but he'd have to go back and finish up his last year of school. She doesn't like that he's just going to be an assistant, but he doesn't care. Sometimes, with a flash of bitterness, he wants to remind her that she was okay with him becoming a Death Eater. Is mediwizard's assistant so much lower in her eyes?
It is 6:30 A.M., still dark outside, and he is getting the medication cart ready for morning rounds. His hands begin to shake, so he stops and places them flat on the counter, fingers wide apart. He closes his eyes and begins to count to ten slowly, clearing his mind to an inky black slate. When he is finished, he lifts his hands, and they are calm enough to finish rationing the potions. There is Calming Draught for Mr Ryeburn, who has tremors just like Draco, but who screams and yells also. Invigoration Draught for Hilda S. and Ms Menkel, or they won't get out of bed all day. Memory and Wit-Sharpening Potions for Mr Bridges, because his daughter is bringing his grandson today, and everyone is hoping he'll recognize them both. Some Vitamix and Ache-away for everybody, to ease movement and keep strength up.
His hands shake again on the handle of the cart, but as long as he's not spilling anyone's medicine, he doesn't mind when that happens here. The witches and wizards have all been alive over 150 years—they've seen much worse, and they've all got their own problems. Between the group of them, small though it is, they hold over a millennium of human experience. Draco's thin hands and their wayward movements mean nothing on such a grand scale.
The last witch he sees each morning is his favorite: Ms Wisteria Banister. She is sure that she can travel through time at will, and she always tells him all about her trips. She thinks that Draco could travel through time, too, but it is only possible at night. If he ever wants to, she says, he can sneak back in to visit her after evening rounds and accompany her on one of her journeys. He makes fun of her behind her back, but some nights, when he is by himself and unable to sleep, he considers her offer quite seriously.
He knocks on the frame of her open door, with nothing left on his cart except her doses of Vitamix and Ache-away. Ms. Banister is awake already, sitting on the edge of her bed. When she sees him, her face splits into a dazzling grin. "Draco," she says, "you missed a good one last night. Really good one, I wish you could've been there."
"Oh?" he says, as he wheels the cart over to her bedside. "Future or past?"
She looks around before she talks, making sure no busybodies have sidled up to hear, and lowers her voice. "The future."
Draco raises his eyebrows. "The future? How far?"
Ms Banister hugs herself with rapture. "It must've been at least a century, if not more. You should see the brooms they'll have. Oh, I wish you'd have been there. You'd have loved those brooms."
"I wouldn't mind a new broom," he says. "They come up with anything else good by then?"
She leans forward and gestures for him to do the same, and he obliges. When their noses are almost touching, she tells him the juiciest part: "Doxies... are extinct."
"Serves them right," he says, and they both laugh.
"I thought the very same thing."
The following day, Draco goes to see Dr Dormer. His appointment is at 10:00 A.M. each time, which is helpful, because it allows him to walk through the Ministry when there are very few other people around. Today, though, he sees someone he knows, and it is someone he both does and doesn't want to see.
He knows her from behind, from all the way down the hall, because he's spent a lot of time looking at her from a number of angles, before quickly looking away. He's only ever told one person what this woman means to him, a long time ago when he was drunk on stolen Firewhisky in the fifth year dorms, after Goyle passed out. The person he told was Vincent Crabbe, and he is dead now anyway. So, if Crabbe kept the secret, and Draco thinks he did, nobody ever has to know that the woman down the hall is the object of his most ardent schoolboy infatuation, Hermione Granger.
But, oh, she was the girl. For a long time, she was the only girl he could see. It started when she slapped him across the face in third year, a move that turned him on surely more than she'd intended. Although sometimes, Draco liked to fancy that this had been her intent. That she found it just as sexy as he did, and that she thought about him, too. Sometimes he could've sworn she was looking at him across the Great Hall or the Potions classroom, but then he'd wonder if it was just because she'd caught him staring. It's true, what they say about boys pulling pigtails just for one reason. It's all true, what they say about boys.
He only got over her in sixth year, when other things were occupying his mind. But even now, every time he sees her, a little shock runs through his body, and he is overcome by fascination and shame. He jams his hands into his pockets and hangs his head low. Hermione turns half-way toward him, but he doesn't meet her eyes. He walks past her, wondering what she's doing in this part of the building; she works in the Department of Magical Education, so her office wouldn't be anywhere near here.
He walks past her into the doctor's office, closing the door behind him.
Dr Dormer looks at him and smiles benignly. "Good morning, Draco," she says.
"Morning." He takes a seat in the middle of the loveseat, across the room from the armchair where she sits with her legs crossed, holding his chart. He manages a small smile as well, then looks away. He finds it difficult to make eye contact at these sessions, especially because of Dr Dormer's particular eyes. They are very blue, wide, and intense, partially because she is so thin. You can see all the bones below her skin, and her eyes are set deep. The precision of her gaze amplifies the feeling of playing a role before an audience. She has mentioned it before, the fact that he doesn't meet her eyes, and has suggested that it may imply an aversion to forming new connections, after so many of his closest ties have been severed, through death or through betrayal. That sounds reasonable enough to Draco, and he's afraid it would offend her if he told her that, actually, he is afraid of her stinging big eyes.
On the top of her stack of papers will be the mood chart, which they fill out at the beginning of each appointment. This is Draco's favourite part because the questions are multiple choice, rather than fill-in-the-blank. It is much easier.
Readying her quill, she asks: "How would you rate your mood this week, overall?" On her paper, there is a line with two marks on either end, representing the space between the lowest low and the highest high.
Draco's week has been about average. "In the middle," he says. "It's been fine."
Dr Dormer draws a vertical dash across the line, right in the centre, and frowns. "How about your stress level?"
"Middle," he says, without thinking about it.
She repeats the motion on the second line down the page, still frowning. Those first two questions are the same for every patient, and then the next three are the ones that Draco chose at his first session. "How's your motivation? Are you getting out and doing things?" she asks next, for this was one of the things that Draco decided to track.
He thinks about it briefly, but he does this mainly so that she will see him thinking and know that he is taking this whole thing seriously. If he doesn't take his counseling seriously this time, they'll shove him off on another doctor and start it all over, like they did before. Draco has done much better with Dormer than the last one, but he also thinks she's smarter than the other bloke, so that doesn't hurt. "It was pretty good—I didn't stay home all week. Say, three-quarters of the way along."
She nods and places the dash as instructed. "And how are things at the hospital?"
"Good," he says. Nothing has gone wrong that doesn't go wrong every week. "Three-quarters."
Next is the fifth and final question. "How are the tremors?"
Draco takes his hands out of his pockets and holds them above his lap, looking at them. At the moment, they are still. "Sometimes good, other times bad. Middle."
Dr Dormer makes the last mark, then studies the paper. "Thank you, Draco," she says. "Now, there's something I'd like to show you. There's a reason we answer the same questions every week, do you understand?"
"Yes," he says.
"And this is our fifth week together, so we can begin to discern patterns."
"And here is the pattern we've got so far." She taps the page with the tip of her wand, then pulls it away slowly, and a sticky line of light stretches up like chewing gum on the bottom of a shoe. The line stretches thin as she tugs it. Next, it snaps away and tacks itself onto her wand tip, a little glowing sphere. She taps the air, and it sprawls out in four directions to form a bright rectangle a few metres across. On the rectangle are four horizontal lines, each a different color, at varying heights. Three of the lines are right next to each other at the midpoint, and the other two are the same, except three-quarters of the way up. When Draco sees this graph, he realises that he isn't doing a very good job of taking this seriously—not even the multiple choice part, which he'd thought was in the bag. "Do you see?"
"Yes," he says. He feels irritable, like his performance in here is being critiqued. And why shouldn't it be? He is a flat line. Every week, he's had her put the little dashes in the exact same places, without even knowing he was doing it. "But how much is really going to change in five weeks?"
Dr Dormer flicks her wand, and the graph vanishes. "I didn't show you that to imply that you've done something wrong, Draco. You haven't."
"Then why did you?" he bites out. He can feel it happen, like drawing the curtains: his face has closed itself off, and his eyes are sharp specks of flint. His whole body feels tight and stern.
"Let's take a step back," she says, "and assess: what is the threat?"
Draco deflates as he casts his eyes around the sunny office, reminding himself that she is right. He hates that she is right. "No threat."
"Right, no threat." She folds her hands in her lap, atop her wand, and leans back in her chair. "We can relax here. Your body knows how to protect itself, because there was a time when you had to be on the defensive all the time. But not anymore."
No, not anymore. His hands are shaking so hard you can see the vibration through the fabric of his robes, making little black waves. Dr Dormer probably sees it, but she doesn't comment. It seems like the more he tries to relax the rest of his body, the more his hands rebel. It's got so he's afraid to hold his wand half the time; this kind of muscle control issue is accidental magic waiting to happen.
"I think it's clear that we haven't made much progress, Draco," she says. Her words are harsh, but her tone is gentle. She must've learned that trick in counseling school. She gives him space to speak, but he doesn't try to argue. "So, that means that it's time to try something new, if you're willing to give it a try. I have two options for you to consider today—or you can choose neither." He knows that's not really an option, because it would look like he wasn't trying. He can't afford to look like he's not trying, or this will never end, just like his own personal hell. He nods his head. "We can try a medication, or we can try hypnotherapy."
"You want to hypnotise me?" he asks. That doesn't feel like something a doctor should be doing. "Like, make me cluck like a chicken?"
Dr Dormer smiles. "No, not like that. This isn't a parlour trick. I would just attempt to put you into a deep state of relaxation, in the hopes that it might allow you to be a bit more honest: both with me and with yourself."
Draco doesn't want that at all. What do they want from me? he thinks. I'm showing up and talking. Now it has to be true?
Back when he was seeing the first doctor, Draco had understood this mandatory counseling sentence to mean that he must 1) show up and 2) remain in the doctor's presence for the full hour of the session. He had done those things, but he had also refused to say a single word. After a few sessions of that, they made him start all over with Dr Dormer, so he found out that he must 3) appear to cooperate. But now, they want more. They want him to be honest. If they knew what that meant, they wouldn't want it anymore.
"And the other option is medication," he says. They've tried to give him medication before, and he's always dodged the idea. Mostly because he knows these people want to change who he is, so he can't trust them to give him medicine to any other end.
"Correct. I know you haven't been warm to it in the past, but I want you to know that we're not talking about dragon tranquilisers. Nothing drastic at all, in fact. We just want to try to alleviate your anxiety a bit. It could have an immediate effect on the tremors."
"I know," he says. He doesn't believe her. "Let's say I choose hypnosis. Do we have to do it right now?"
"Of course not, if you don't feel like you're ready. We can talk about it today and try it next session, if that works better for you. Or we can scrap the whole idea—it's up to you."
Draco stares out the window, which doesn't have much of a view, and goes over his options. As he considers it, it occurs to him that medication and hypnosis would have more or less the same result, except the medication would affect him all the time, whereas hypnosis would be temporary. The third option, which isn't really an option, is to drag this out until they make him start over again. "I'll try it next week," he says.
Dr Dormer smiles widely, and it makes him feel relieved. He's doing what they want. This might all be over soon. "Excellent," she says. "Then let's talk about what this is and how it works. First, know that I won't be using any magic on you. The state of mind we'll be aiming for is something totally natural. You won't be compelled to do anything you don't want to do, nor can I force you to tell me anything you don't want to admit. The goal is just to help you feel calmer, in your body and your mind. How does that all sound?"
Draco takes a moment to stare into space, offering the impression that he is giving this some in-depth consideration. "That sounds fine," he says.
"Good. And if you think of any questions throughout the week, be sure to write them down, and we'll take some time to discuss them before we begin the therapy."
"There's one more thing I'd like to discuss," she says. "You've mentioned in the past that you've thought of becoming a mediwizard, but that you'd need to complete your N.E.W.T.s first."
Draco has mentioned that, even though it isn't true. Sometimes he likes to tell Dr Dormer things that make him sound like he is trying and has goals. Like he is doing something with his life, and it matters what happens to him. So he took his mother's idea and acted like it was his. "Sure," he says. "That's something I've thought about."
Dr Dormer smiles in an apprehensive sort of way, narrowing her eyes at the same time. She is afraid of how he'll react to the next thing she says. "Now, I'm not sure how you'll feel about this, but I've decided it wouldn't be fair not to mention it. One of my friends and colleagues in the Ministry is working with a continuing education program for adults."
"That's nice," he says warily. This conversation isn't going anywhere good.
"Yes, I think it's lovely. So far, the program is aimed at older Hogwarts graduates who wish to change careers later in life. At this time, the conditions of your parole do not allow you to enroll."
This would be for the same reason he wasn't allowed to return to Hogwarts: basically, Draco isn't allowed to participate in society until he completes his counseling and community service. They're supposed to monitor him much more closely than they actually do at St Mungo's, in fact, but the dementia ward is so understaffed that they started leaving him alone as soon as he showed the slightest inclination to do a good job. He thinks it's a backwards system, since they say they're all about reintegration and rehabilitation, but it gives him a handy excuse not to be around people too much. "That's too bad," he says, relieved.
Dr Dormer holds up her finger. "But! As a personal favour to me, my colleague has agreed to provide some one-on-one tutoring sessions that would allow you to start the program's curriculum now and finish more quickly. The only reason I hesitate to extend you the opportunity is that this colleague of mine... well, you have a history with her."
"Who is it?" He knows, though. In fact, this answers his question from before, of what she was doing down here.
"Hermione Granger," she says. He feels himself cringe hearing the name, but not for the reason Dr Dormer probably thinks. It's more complicated than that. It was always more complicated than people thought.
"I think she's the one who'd prefer not to work with me," he says. He wouldn't blame her, either. Draco keeps thinking lately that he deserves whatever he gets, and no one's lining up to dispute it.
"Actually, she's already agreed. I told her of your future goals, and I mentioned how much work you've already done at St Mungo's, and she was duly impressed." Dr Dormer said this as though Draco would be pleased she'd done all this for him, and any normal fellow would have been, but all it did was open a pit in his stomach. He doesn't want anyone running round talking about him and his nonexistent future, especially not to his boyhood dream girl. Draco has been counting on society not wanting him back, but it turns out they can't make up their mind. His parole's going to be up eventually, and if they want him there, they'll cut him down to size and make him fit.
"Oh," he says, with ice in his throat. "That's nice of her."
"It is nice, but I want you to understand that it's also because of your behavior. You've really made the most of your time in the past year." Every so often, the power of his doctor's eyes is so great and terrible that he just has to look. He does so now and becomes transfixed. "Please tell me you understand that, Draco. I don't think you give yourself enough credit."
He looks into her eyes and feels the vast darkness in his stomach begin to recede. She does mean well, he thinks. "Thank you," he says. He looks down at his shoes. "When do I start?"
"You would spent an hour working with Hermione at 9 A.M. on Wednesdays, and then you'd come see me. I thought it'd be easiest that way, since you take today off work anyway."
"That's fine," he says, without looking up. "Are we done for today?"
"Yes, we are. I think you did really well this time, Draco, I really do."
Before he leaves, she conjures a card with directions to the room where he'll be meeting Hermione the following week. As he walks out of the Ministry, his schoolboy heart threatens to beat right out of his chest.