A/N: What can I say? I love Dramione. Please read and review!
I own nothing.
It was odd, Hermione decided. How things were supposed to end versus how they actually ended. There had been no big fight that culminated in a slamming door. There had been to yelling or screaming. There had just been a conversation. A conversation that lasted long into the night, and then into the morning. And it ended with silent tears streaming down both of their faces, and a goodbye.
And that was that. How unceremoniously non-dramatic. Not that Hermione had ever been much for drama. Still, the end of her relationship with Ron seemed to merit at least a bit of it.
That was over two months ago now, but Hermione still felt far from normal. They'd been together since they were 17. Today was her 23rd birthday. She wasn't sure how long it was supposed to take to get over someone you'd been with for six years, but she had a hunch she was nowhere close.
The Department of Magical Corrections was on the fourth floor – closer to the dungeons than most departments, but then there was also more of a chance that you'd need the dungeons. Hermione had been working as a psychologist there for four years – mainly uncovering what made criminals tick, and how to best rehabilitate them and return them to society. Most of the time it was a very rewarding job. Every so often, of course, there was the stray patient who reverted to their old ways and ended up back in Lorsgaard, a prison for lesser criminals whose deeds did not merit Azkaban. They got their fair share of prisoners from Azkaban as well, but they were almost always lost causes. It pained Hermione to see it, but that place ruined people. And yes, she supposed some prisoners deserved to be ruined. But not all of them.
Hermione enjoyed her job, and over the past few months it had become the best way to distract herself from the fact that her personal life had fallen to shambles. She got to work early and usually stayed late, poring over case files and doing additional research into the backgrounds of her patients and potential forms of treatment. Today, she imagined, would be no different.
The shouts of her coworkers made Hermione jump a mile as soon as she opened the door.
"Oh," she said, smiling in spite of herself at the cupcakes on the table, "You shouldn't have!"
"It was Niall's idea," Forsythia remarked, nodding to the sandy-haired psychologist Hermione often worked with, "I just organized it."
"Thank you both so much."
Hermione knew her coworkers had noticed the change in her behavior over the past few months, and this honest effort to cheer her up on her birthday made her extremely glad she worked with them.
The Department of Magical Corrections – at least the part specializing in criminal psychology and rehabilitation – was small. It consisted only of Hermione, Niall, and Forsythia. A larger branch existed independently of the Ministry, where most criminals were sent. However, those in whom the Ministry had particular interest were always taken to the offices within their walls. Hermione liked it that way. Her mind thrived on figuring out the minds of others, particularly those who had done something that directly hurt their blossoming government.
Hermione's interest in psychology had been accidental. It started simply with the constant question of "How?" How could The War have happened? How could some people believe what they believed and act the way they acted? How could they murder innocent people? If there was one thing Hermione could never stand, it was a question she couldn't answer. So she set out to answer it, and eventually found herself making a business of figuring out the minds of those who had done wrong. She was good at it, too. Talking with criminals could be difficult, but Hermione's logical mind kept her from becoming too emotionally distressed. And, at the age of 23, she was the youngest criminal psychologist and rehabilitator to ever work within the Ministry offices.
Indulging in a cupcake with Forsythia and Niall, Hermione took a look at her schedule for the day. There were a few new patients, but mostly the regulars she had been seeing for the past four weeks. They came through in cycles, the ones "important" enough to be looked at by the Ministry, and once it was deemed appropriate they were usually sent to another facility.
Today, however, there was name on the list that made Hermione choke on her cupcake.
"You all right?" Niall asked.
"Yes," Hermione choked out, taking a drink of water, "Yes, I'm fine. It's just … this new patient we have. Draco Malfoy?"
"Oh my," Forsythia whispered. She was sitting at her desk, dealing with the filing, but wherever she was it could be counted on that she was listening to the nearest conversation.
"How stupid of me, I'd forgotten," Niall shook his head, "You went to school with him, didn't you? I'll take him, then. No need for you to deal with someone you've known. Could present a conflict of interest at any rate …"
Niall prattled on, as he was prone to do. He was only just thirty, but had a slight pompous streak that made him act, at times, as though he was fifty years old and the most accomplished psychologist on earth.
"Niall," Hermione said. When he didn't stop talking, she spoke a little more forcefully, "Niall."
"What? Sorry, did you say something?"
"I want him," Hermione said, surprised at the determination in her own voice.
"Malfoy. I want him to remain my patient."
"But surely you don't mean-"
"Niall, I can handle him. Please. There will be no conflict of interest. You know my level of professionalism."
Niall looked as though he was almost convinced, so Hermione did something that she knew was unfair. It had been her growing suspicion for awhile that Niall was rather fond of her, and she took an opportunity to test the theory.
She went over to his desk and leaned over it, close enough that she knew he could smell the soft vanilla and jasmine of her perfume.
"Please," she said again, more quietly, "If there are any problems, I'll tell you, and you can take him over immediately."
Niall looked at her for a moment, and Hermione vaguely wondered if he had processed what she'd just said, or if he was too busy staring.
"What? Oh. Well, yes. I suppose that would be all right. But you need to tell me if there are any issues at all. He's an important case, obviously. We need to make sure this goes right. Do I have your word?"
Hermione extended her hand, "You have my word."
They shook on it, and Hermione went back to her desk to review the case file of Draco Malfoy. She knew it might be a bad idea to take him on as her patient. It was stupid to risk a breach of professionalism in the name of curiosity. But she had always wondered about the boy who was sent to Azkaban amidst such controversy, the youngest prisoner to ever be ordered there. She had wondered about the boy who used to tease her so mercilessly in school, coldness and prejudice in his eyes. She had wondered about what it must have been like to live within the walls of a Death Eater lair as a mere child. She had wondered if he could have been different, if only his circumstances had been changed.
She had always wondered, and now she would know.
A/N: So, what do you think? Pretty soon we'll find out what happens when Hermione and Draco are face to face for the first time since The War. What has six years in Azkaban done to him?