Draco furrowed a brow as Malfoy Manor's bell rang for the third time in a half-hour, something that concerned him greatly. Why were all of his friends suddenly arriving at the massive house, one that had never deserved the name home? This time, it was Hermione. In the two years since the war, it had taken the most effort to gain her trust, and he could see it wavering as she entered the site where she had once been tortured. "Draco, what is this invitation about? You know I hate this place."
Draco had been wondering about the invitations that were in his writing, yet that he had not once seen. Who could know his writing so well, and why would he amass the five of them there? Draco's eyes suddenly went wide. "Hermione, get" Draco was cut off with a Stupify from behind.
They woke to screaming, everything blurring into a haze of red-tinted pain.
"Healer Hawkins, we've got another one!" Trainee Healer Woolsey walked into the ward, leading a wide-eyed Hermione Granger, escorted by her employer, Severus Snape. "She's got the same symptoms as Mister Malfoy. Which bed do you want her in?"
A brunette American witch, in the green robes of a Healer, turned to the party. "Put her next to the window. I'll be right with the two of you. Please fill out a complete list of symptoms with Woolsey, here, while you wait."
Severus had a sour expression, though what caused his displeasure was anyone's guess. Woolsey leaned close to the Healer's ear as they passed, whispering, "They're war heroes, ma'am."
The Healer's response made Severus smile, "Everyone that's come into this ward today is a war hero, Woolsey. What do you expect me to do, abandon the one I'm currently diagnosing to fawn over the newcomer?" Severus and Hermione passed Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, and Neville Longbottom on their way to the bed beside the window. It was not a long wait, despite the woman's words. When Healer Hawkins finally approached them, Severus was startled at how young she was, looking no older than Hermione. "I'm Healer Gwendolyn Hawkins, and you can call me Gwendolyn. Hermione Granger, yes? Good, at least my little Trainee got something right." Hermione laughed, stopping sooner than she usually would have due to the pain. "And you, sir, are?"
"Potions Master Severus Snape. Hermione is my Apprentice."
"Okay, let's see. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, and a lapse in your memory of last night. Oh, that is different. Abdominal pain." Gwendolyn prodded Hermione's abdomen with her wand. The color of fog that shrouded the point of Gwendolyn's wand could only be described as putrid, and Gwendolyn's face drained of color, leaving her tan complexion looking strangely gray. "Woolsey, do an SAC on everyone in the ward," she called out.
Severus folded his hands together. "I've never heard of an SAC, Healer."
Gwendolyn's smile was precarious. "It's a fairly new spell, discovered three years ago in the Amazon. We are just starting to implement it. Now, I have a few things to ask Hermione, and I'm afraid our little talk needs to be confidential." Gwendolyn watched out of the corner of her eye as Severus went over to speak with Draco. Only when they were successfully engaged in conversation did she focus all of her attention on Hermione. "So, darling, do you have any spaces in your memory beyond the events of last night?" At Hermione's whisper to the negative, Gwendolyn continued. "Has anything untoward happened to you in the last week that you can remember?"
Hermione's question was direct, despite its upsetting nature. "I was defiled last night, wasn't I?"
Color returned to Gwendolyn's cheeks in a rush. "Yes, you were."
"Thank Merlin I can't remember it, then."
"Hello, Uncle Severus."
Severus raised an eyebrow at Draco. "No need to sound petulant, Draco."
Draco laughed. "Something happened in my house last night, Severus, and all I know is that I did not send out those invitations, and I woke up this morning in debilitating pain. I think I'm entitled to be a little angry."
A loud gasp from across the room drew their gazes to where Gwendolyn sat with Hermione. "Do you think it had anything to do with the remaining Death Eaters?" Severus asked coldly, his only concern for the safety of those in the room.
"Who else would have been able to copy my handwriting so well? Who else would have known alternate entrances into the Manor? I should've moved into a flat in London like you said." Draco's stormy gray eyes followed the Trainee Healer around the ward, a tired quality to them.
"It was not your fault Draco. You could not have stopped last nights events." However, Severus had a haunted look to him that told Draco that Severus knew very well what had likely happened the night before.
"Hawkins!" Gwendolyn did her best not to flinch at the superior tone in her boss's voice.
Tucking in a sheet on one of the patient's bed, Gwendolyn turned to answer the her boss. "Yes, sir?"
His answer was low, so as to give the pretense that he did not wish the patients to hear. "I know you have only been here for a month, but at St. Mungo's we honor war heroes. If I hear so much as a whisper that you have not done everything in your power to fix them up, you'll wish you had never left the bloody states."
Gwendolyn's hands clenched instinctively as the Healer-in-Charge retreated with a self-satisfied smile and a whispered, "Mudblood." Gwendolyn snarled at his back. The bastard.
"Hawkins!" Not that Draco Malfoy was any better. She hated this stupid obsession with blood. Gwendolyn had been one of the finest Healers in the United States, and here all they saw were her magicless parents.
Fluffing Draco's pillow a little more violently than necessary, Gwendolyn's thoughts turned to Hermione Granger. The woman was a war hero, for Hecate's sake, and encountered the same difficulties on a daily basis.
"Hawkins!" Gwendolyn had to remind herself that it is not appropriate to throttle one's patients before she answered Draco's call. That tone of condescension was going to be the death of him, most preferably at her hands. "I need assistance in getting to the washroom."
Gwendolyn's voice was polite only from years of practice. "Woolsey, would you please help Mr. Malfoy to the water closet?" She had spent hours every day, using every Mind healing trick she knew to get someone, anyone, to recall what had happened to them so that she could better proceed in Healing their bodies, secure in the knowledge that her spells would not cause some deadly combination with the underlying curses. This was what she got in return: threats from her boss and patronization from her patients. If she hadn't known how much her mother needed her, Gwendolyn would have moved back to the States to live with her father.
Severus made a point to visit his godson and his apprentice daily, and Gwendolyn could tell that he knew more about what had happened to her patients than he was saying. He at least treated her with respect, even if he denied her crucial information. Seeing his genuine worry for Draco and Hermione, Gwendolyn could not help but think that perhaps he had a good reason.
It was during one such visit that Gwendolyn went running for the bed by the window after Hermione's exclaimed, "Oh, Merlin." Hermione looked ashen, and Gwendolyn summoned a porcelain pot just in time for Hermione to heave into it.
"What did you do?" Gwendolyn's tone was accusing of Severus, who looked positively awful.
"We were just reminiscing about the days I taught her in a dungeon." Severus's large hand brushed Hermione's hair back, away from her face.
Gwendolyn's eyes widened. "You caused a verbal recognition to bring up the memory. Hermione, are you alright?"
Silent tears poured down the woman's cheek, and her expression was distant. Severus shook with what could only have been guilt, and he pulled Hermione into a hug, his slender frame providing her with an anchor. Slowly, Hermione returned to the present, her tears slowing. Finally, there was a hiccup. "That bloody bastard," Hermione whispered, pressing her face into the protection of Severus's robes. "Oh, Severus, I hate him."
It took nearly two hours to get the story from Hermione, who was strangely coherent for a woman who had experienced it. Gwendolyn barely managed to record the monstrosity without snapping the quill in half, and understood the reason Hermione had sent Severus away. It was a tale of the torture and ravishment of five young adults, with the use of one particularly nasty and rare curse, and it left Gwendolyn in a haze of fury. No wonder Draco was so hostile, if his father would do something so low and inhumane. Gwendolyn excused herself to the linens closet, where she took a good five minutes to compose herself.
"Hawkins! What were you doing in the linens closet?"
Gwendolyn whipped around and kept her temper in check. "I was taking a moment to calm myself, Healer Murray."
With malicious thoughts toward the pretense the cad held about himself like a cloak, and even more vindictive ones for the men that had brought misfortune upon her patients, Gwendolyn schooled her lips into a pleasant smile and returned to her ward. Here, in her dominion, her primary instinct was a maternal one, to protect and to mend. Not even her ire could change that. Gwendolyn checked on the young wizards and witches, soothing them with her calming presence. Gwendolyn's eyes wandered back to Hermione, who stared out the window with the determination of a huntress. She was a fighter, down to the last. Gwendolyn knew that, given any liberty, she would have the same expression, with just a bit more murderous rage.
Once Hermione had told Gwendolyn her story, she was quiet. Within a day, Gwendolyn could no longer tell herself that Hermione needed to remain at St. Mungo's. What would do her the best would be to go back to her normal life, something Gwendolyn only conceded to because Hermione had regained her memories. There was a tense silence to the air when Severus showed up the day following Hermione's revelation, and it caused Gwendolyn sadness. It was the least she could do to break it. "Severus, we can release Hermione tomorrow."
Severus raised a concerned eyebrow. "Is that . . . is she healthy enough?"
This brought a snort from Hermione. "I am just fine, Severus."
"Hermione, you need to stay with someone for a while, and an escort to work would be a good idea. You'll also need to meet with me once a week. Beyond that, Severus, the hospital environment will do nothing for her."
Gwendolyn left them to speak about Hermione's options, and to tend to the other patients. Harry Potter played cards with Ginny Weasely, and Longbottom had been assisted across the hall to visit his parents. Draco, however, was just staring at the book in his hands.
"Healer Hawkins, could I have some water?"
There was no doubt in Gwendolyn's mind that he remembered now.
A/N: I'm ALIVE! Although it is a fine summer day and I'm supposed to be studying Portuguese right now . . . Yeah . . . that's not working out. Anyway, this is a re-write (of a sort) of When I Saw Him, or as I like to call it, WISH. This is one of two possible backgrounds for my SSHG short stories, this one coming from Severus and Gwendolyn. Draco and Hermione prefer the other, as-yet-unwritten, one. You all have Sarah Crawford to thank for this, as she was the one who suggested I rewrite WISH. There's six parts, all less than 2,000 words, and I'll update daily.