Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction using characters and elements from the world of Harry Potter, created and trademarked by JK Rowling. I do not claim ownership over any Harry Potter characters or the Harry Potter world. This story is for entertainment purposes only, and is not claiming to be any part of the Harry Potter canon. Thank you to JK Rowling for letting me play with the characters and not suing me for writing them into a new situation.
Warnings/Additional Disclaimer: This story sort of implies that it's dealing with mental health. The subject content is extremely mild, and is dealt with very lightly, and this note is probably going to seem completely unnecessary to most of you by the time you get to the end of the story. This note is just in case.
This story is not meant to be taken as any kind of psychological advice or commentary on how to cope with or understand PTSD, night terrors, sleep disorders, depression, or anxiety of any kind. Any representation of the symptoms of the disorders, representation of the disorders themselves, and representation of the treatments of the disorders that you might be able to discern in the story… may all be completely inaccurate, and not intended to reflect any particular disorder (or mental injury). It is also not meant to belittle or make light of anyone suffering from any kind of mental or emotional disorder. I am not a mental health professional. The characters in the story are not mental health professionals. I fully understand that this is a bit of a crack-fic premise, and may require considerable suspension of disbelief.
Draco walked into the office on Friday morning the same way he did every Friday morning. There was a partners' meeting first thing, and so he came prepared with all of his notes in his briefcase and a Quick Quotes quill, just in case. He rarely needed it, since it was just Blaise and Pansy, but sometimes it was helpful when they were trying to sound out new ideas or discussing staff changes.
The three friends had gone into business together, and Napster, their controversial brain child, was just finishing up its first year. Against all the odds and the extremely negative press, they had actually thrived in the post-war environment and were even considering expanding their facilities.
It had begun with a chance remark by Justin Finch-Fletchley when Pansy and he had begun a serious relationship.
Prior to her dating the Hufflepuff, she had relied heavily on Blaise and Draco for meeting her emotional needs from the trauma of the war. As best friends, they kept her breakdowns quiet, but it wasn't unusual to have her Flooing to the flat of one or the other and throwing herself into their arms. Sometimes she just needed a hug. More often than not, the night terrors that were brought on by the war resulted in her needing to spend the night in their room, or sometimes their bed, just so she wouldn't be alone.
When she tearfully explained the unusual arrangement to her then-boyfriend-but-now-fiancé Justin, he'd taken it all in stride. Since it clearly caused him a moment of concern, Draco and Blaise were quick to assure him that the comfort they gave to their friend had always been purely platonic. Draco was the first to tell him that they would be glad when those duties were turned over entirely to him.
Justin had gamely quipped, "Well, Hufflepuffs always like a good hug."
Then they'd joked about it until Pansy had stopped crying and had started smiling, the love that was beaming from her eyes as she looked on her Badger Boy making the other two Slytherins decidedly uncomfortable. She'd thanked Draco and Blaise for being such good friends, and then laughed and said, "It's too bad we can't market safe naptimes. I can't be the only one after the war who suffers like this and can't get any relief, or even some restful sleep."
And Justin had chimed in, "You could call it Napster!" Then he'd proceeded to laugh hysterically at his own joke, which none of the Slytherins understood. Apparently it was a Muggle reference.
A year later, Napster was a reality. Despite opposition from the conservative Wizarding community, they'd gotten their permits to open a facility that marketed a safe place to nap...and a friend to nap with.
The newspapers and gossip rags had been rife with dirty jokes about the true purpose of their business, but they'd silenced them all with iron-clad legal agreements and an extremely professional business model.
Clients made appointments in three-hour increments and were provided a secure room to have a nap along with a warm body to sleep next to. The Napster workers leaned heavily on former Hufflepuffs, as Justin had spoken true when he'd stated that Hufflepuffs might as well be named Hugglepuffs. Each worker was Polyjuiced to prevent their identity from being compromised. The Polyjuice Potion had been especially developed for their company, and the recipe was proprietary. It lasted just over three hours, and was safe to use regularly. The workers referred to the different identities as 'avatars' and all of the avatars were unassuming, friendly-looking men and women of various ages, to give clients a range of preference.
The rules were very strict. The client was there for a safe nap and the soothing comfort of a human presence. The avatars provided this, within the client's comfort level—and nothing more. Any type of inappropriate touching, sexual activity, or violence was strictly forbidden, and all clothing must remain on at all times. Hugging, of course, was often part of the job. But chatting about personal lives or giving away any information that could compromise the avatar's identity were grounds for being fired and then sued.
Avatars were also not allowed to sleep on duty. The client slept; the avatars kept watch. Sometimes it was quite a boring job. But each of the workers had been magically bound to the job requirements, and there were spells on all of the rooms that actually made it impossible for them to break those rules.
Napster prided itself on being a haven for the broken souls who came out of the war, and valued its integrity in all things. Their client list was confidential, their employee list was confidential, the sessions were all confidential, and so the gossip eventually died down as there was no evidence to give proof to any of the rumors that they were in business for a nefarious purpose.
They'd had such success that now, nearly a year later, they were close to finalizing the plans to purchase a new facility. The Friday partners' meeting consisted almost entirely of Pansy updating them on the negotiations for the buildings they were looking at, and taking suggestions on layout and interior decorating.
Pansy was the one in charge of anticipating and meeting the needs of the client, to provide the best experience. Blaise handled marketing and legal affairs. And Draco managed the employees and the complicated scheduling and matching of clients to avatars.
After the Friday meeting, he walked into the command center and, with Blaise beside him, he reviewed the appointment board. There were several new clients, their applications included on the board. Repeat customers were listed with their preferences and previous Napster history.
There was one name on the board, in particular, that stood out to Draco. It had the same time slot every Friday. The preferences list was short, but the history was long as it showed a different avatar for every session.
As they stood there, Draco quietly adjusted the board indicating a new avatar for the client and marking it as having already been assigned.
Blaise watched him do it, and not for the first time, Draco saw the disapproval on his face.
"You sure you want to keep taking this client, Malfoy?" he groused, low enough that none of the others in the room could hear him. "You know the rules."
"I made the rules, Zabini," Draco responded acidly, "and I'm not breaking any of them."
Blaise sniffed and rolled his eyes before walking off to his office, while Draco turned his attention back to the rest of the board.
Draco was sitting on the bed when Hermione Granger walked in.
He was always in the same position, which was standard for most of the avatars. Leaning up against the headboard, he was reading from a book in his lap. Since it wasn't possible for an avatar to sleep on duty, they often made the most of their time by reading or studying once their client slept.
She glanced at him, as she always did, to note the appearance of the avatar. Her face didn't show any surprise, as she was used to having a new one for each of her sessions.
There was a couch in the room, because some clients preferred sleeping on a couch, but Hermione always used it to lay out her jacket. She also set her shoes carefully in front of it, and then walked in her socks over to the bed.
"Hello," she greeted him, the same way she always did.
Draco, Polyjuiced today as a slightly pudgy man in the middle of his third decade, put his bookmark into the book and set it on the nightstand.
"Hello," he answered, "welcome back to Napster, Miss Granger." The greeting was standard. Some clients liked a little bit more talk to put them at ease, but Hermione just nodded at him, as she'd heard it many times before.
She didn't get under the covers, she never did. But she laid down on the bed, and he settled down next to her. It was important that the client always indicated how close they were to lay next to each other, either by action or by expressly stating it. As he settled his head onto the pillow, she rolled into his side, her body lined up next to his, and she flung an arm across his waist.
Her hair smelled light and just a bit floral. He assumed it was a shampoo that she used, as it was very familiar to him by now. The feel of her head on his shoulder was also familiar. And so was the shaking of her body as she quietly started to cry.
He placed his arm around her and loosely held her while her tears dripped onto his shirt. Sometimes he rubbed soothing circles on her back. Sometimes he stroked the arm that was wrapped around his waist. Sometimes he rubbed his cheek against the top of her head.
Fridays, he knew, were the day she went to St. Mungo's to see her parents and make the latest attempts to restore their memories. Some weeks she had more success than others, but she always seemed to need to cry afterwards, and she came to Napster to do it. Occasionally, she mentioned what had gone wrong, and Draco gave noncommittal phrases of comfort and commiseration.
When she finally cried herself out, her breathing evened out in sleep and her hand came to rest on his chest. Draco spent the next two hours staring at the familiar sight of the top of her head. Like always, he would tell Blaise that he'd spent the entire time reading the latest Quidditch reports.
A/N: I wrote this story over a year ago, and for some reason, I just could not get it to the point of publishing. Most of the people who read it greatly disliked it, and I kept questioning what/if I should rewrite. I went round and round for months and that just kept stretching out longer and longer, and I'd forget about it, and then something would bring it back up again. And then life got busy, and my beta got busy, but I finally just decided to publish it because I like it. And if you don't, then I'm sorry, but thanks for giving it a shot.
Alpha/consulting credits go to: Athenaa, RayAlexander, Elle-Malfoy-Black, DarkDaisies...and I feel like there's some more that I missed, because I must have shown this story to several people in the long 15 months since I wrote it. They all had strong opinions, and if all they do is make me think hard about my story, that's still a hugely valuable service. Also, to my reader lun27, thanks for reminding me that the name of the service that originally inspired this idea is called "Professional Cuddling," you can look it up. If I missed your name, please let me know, and I will add it in.
Beta credit: My wonderful cheerleader and editor, brandinm05. She knows just when to cut things and when to keep them.
As always, S&R: CRW (CONSTRUCTIVE REVIEWS WELCOME) means that I am open to all reviews as long as they are not abusive. That would include positive feedback, negative opinions and constructive criticism.