The patients of St Mungo's

Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny encounter some patients, including Gilderoy Lockhart and Neville's parents

Extract from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by J.K. Rowling

But as he stepped on to the landing he came to an abrupt halt, staring at the small window set into the double doors that marked the start of a corridor signposted SPELL DAMAGE. A man was peering out at them all with his nose pressed against the glass. He had wavy blond hair, bright blue eyes and a broad vacant smile that revealed dazzlingly white teeth.

‘Blimey!’ said Ron, also staring at the man.

‘Oh, my goodness,’ said Hermione suddenly, sounding breathless. ‘Professor Lockhart!’

Their ex-Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher pushed open the doors and moved towards them, wearing a long lilac dressing gown.

‘Well, hello there!’ he said. ‘I expect you’d like my autograph, would you?’

‘Hasn’t changed much, has he?’ Harry muttered to Ginny, who grinned.

‘Er – how are you, Professor?’ said Ron, sounding slightly guilty.

It had been Ron’s malfunctioning wand that had damaged Professor Lockhart’s memory so badly that he had landed in St Mungo’s in the first place, though as Lockhart had been attempting to permanently wipe Harry and Ron’s memories at the time, Harry’s sympathy was limited.

‘I’m very well indeed, thank you!’ said Lockhart exuberantly, pulling a rather battered peacock-feather quill from his pocket. ‘Now, how many autographs would you like? I can do joined-up writing now, you know!’

‘Er – we don’t want any at the moment, thanks,’ said Ron, raising his eyebrows at Harry, who asked, ‘Professor, should you be wandering around the corridors? Shouldn’t you be in a ward?’

The smile faded slowly from Lockhart’s face. For a few moments he gazed intently at Harry, then he said, ‘Haven’t we met?’

‘Er ... yeah, we have,’ said Harry. ‘You used to teach us at Hogwarts, remember?’

‘Teach?’ repeated Lockhart, looking faintly unsettled. ‘Me? Did I?’

And then the smile reappeared upon his face so suddenly it was rather alarming.

'Taught you everything you know, I expect, did I? Well, how about those autographs, then? Shall we say a round dozen, you can give them to all your little friends then and nobody will be left out!’

But just then a head poked out of a door at the far end of the corridor and a voice called, ‘Gilderoy, you naughty boy, where have you wandered off to?’

A motherly-looking Healer wearing a tinsel wreath in her hair came bustling up the corridor, smiling warmly at Harry and the others.

‘Oh, Gilderoy, you’ve got visitors! How lovely, and on Christmas Day, too! Do you know, he never gets visitors, poor lamb, and I can’t think why, he’s such a sweetie, aren’t you?’

‘We’re doing autographs!’ Gilderoy told the Healer with another glittering smile. ‘They want loads of them, won’t take no for an answer! I just hope we’ve got enough photographs!’

‘Listen to him,’ said the Healer, taking Lockhart’s arm and beaming fondly at him as though he were a precocious two-year-old. ‘He was rather well known a few years ago; we very much hope that this liking for giving autographs is a sign that his memory might be starting to come back. Will you step this way? He’s in a closed ward, you know, he must have slipped out while I was bringing in the Christmas presents, the door’s usually kept locked ... not that he’s dangerous! But,’ she lowered her voice to a whisper, ‘he’s a bit of a danger to himself, bless him ... doesn’t know who he is, you see, wanders off and can’t remember how to get back ... it is nice of you to have come to see him.’

‘Er,’ said Ron, gesturing uselessly at the floor above, ‘actually, we were just – er –’

But the Healer was smiling expectantly at them, and Ron’s feeble mutter of ‘going to have a cup of tea’ trailed away into nothingness. They looked at each other helplessly, then followed Lockhart and his Healer along the corridor.

‘Let’s not stay long,’ Ron said quietly.

The Healer pointed her wand at the door of the Janus Thickey Ward and muttered, ‘Alohomora.’ The door swung open and she led the way inside, keeping a firm grasp on Gilderoy’s arm until she had settled him into an armchair beside his bed.

‘This is our long-term residents’ ward,’ she informed Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny in a low voice. ‘For permanent spell damage, you know. Of course, with intensive remedial potions and charms and a bit of luck, we can produce some improvement. Gilderoy does seem to be getting back some sense of himself; and we’ve seen a real improvement in Mr Bode, he seems to be regaining the power of speech very well, though he isn’t speaking any language we recognise yet. Well, I must finish giving out the Christmas presents, I’ll leave you all to chat.’

Harry looked around. The ward bore unmistakeable signs of being a permanent home to its residents. They had many more personal effects around their beds than in Mr Weasley’s ward; the wall around Gilderoy’s headboard, for instance, was papered with pictures of himself, all beaming toothily and waving at the new arrivals. He had autographed many of them to himself in disjointed, childish writing. The moment he had been deposited in his chair by the Healer, Gilderoy pulled a fresh stack of photographs towards him, seized a quill and started signing them all feverishly.

‘You can put them in envelopes,’ he said to Ginny, throwing the signed pictures into her lap one by one as he finished them. ‘I am not forgotten, you know, no, I still receive a very great deal of fan mail ... Gladys Gudgeon writes weekly ... I just wish I knew why ...’ He paused, looking faintly puzzled, then beamed again and returned to his signing with renewed vigour. ‘I suspect it is simply my good looks ...’

A sallow-skinned, mournful-looking wizard lay in the bed opposite staring at the ceiling; he was mumbling to himself and seemed quite unaware of anything around him. Two beds along was a woman whose entire head was covered in fur; Harry remembered something similar happening to Hermione during their second year, although fortunately the damage, in her case, had not been permanent. At the far end of the ward flowery curtains had been drawn around two beds to give the occupants and their visitors some privacy.

‘Here you are, Agnes,’ said the Healer brightly to the furry-faced woman, handing her a small pile of Christmas presents. ‘See, not forgotten, are you? And your son’s sent an owl to say he’s visiting tonight, so that’s nice, isn’t it?’

Agnes gave several loud barks.

'And look, Broderick, you’ve been sent a pot plant and a lovely calendar with a different fancy Hippogriff for each month; they’ll brighten things up, won’t they?’ said the Healer, bustling along to the mumbling man, setting a rather ugly plant with long, swaying tentacles on the bedside cabinet and fixing the calendar to the wall with her wand. ‘And – oh, Mrs Longbottom, are you leaving already?’

Harry’s head spun round. The curtains had been drawn back from the two beds at the end of the ward and two visitors were walking back down the aisle between the beds: a formidable-looking old witch wearing a long green dress, a moth-eaten fox fur and a pointed hat decorated with what was unmistakeably a stuffed vulture and, trailing behind her looking thoroughly depressed – Neville.

With a sudden rush of understanding, Harry realised who the people in the end beds must be. He cast around wildly for some means of distracting the others so that Neville could leave the ward unnoticed and unquestioned, but Ron had also looked up at the sound of the name ‘Longbottom’, and before Harry could stop him had called out, ‘Neville!’

Neville jumped and cowered as though a bullet had narrowly missed him.

‘It’s us, Neville!’ said Ron brightly, getting to his feet. ‘Have you seen –? Lockhart’s here! Who’ve you been visiting?’

‘Friends of yours, Neville, dear?’ said Neville’s grandmother graciously, bearing down upon them all.

Neville looked as though he would rather be anywhere in the world but here. A dull purple flush was creeping up his plump face and he was not making eye contact with any of them.

‘Ah, yes,’ said his grandmother, peering at Harry and sticking out a shrivelled, clawlike hand for him to shake. ‘Yes, yes, I know who you are, of course. Neville speaks most highly of you.’

‘Er – thanks,’ said Harry, shaking hands. Neville did not look at him, but stared at his own feet, the colour deepening in his face all the while.

‘And you two are clearly Weasleys,’ Mrs Longbottom continued, proffering her hand regally to Ron and Ginny in turn. ‘Yes, I know your parents – not well, of course – but fine people, fine people ... and you must be Hermione Granger?’

Hermione looked rather startled that Mrs Longbottom knew her name, but shook hands all the same.

‘Yes, Neville’s told me all about you. Helped him out of a few sticky spots, haven’t you? He’s a good boy,’ she said, casting a sternly appraising look down her rather bony nose at Neville, ‘but he hasn’t got his father’s talent, I’m afraid to say.’ And she jerked her head in the direction of the two beds at the end of the ward, so that the stuffed vulture on her hat trembled alarmingly.

‘What?’ said Ron, looking amazed. (Harry wanted to stamp on Ron’s foot, but that sort of thing is much harder to bring off unno- ticed when you’re wearing jeans rather than robes.) ‘Is that your dad down the end, Neville?’

‘What’s this?’ said Mrs Longbottom sharply. ‘Haven’t you told your friends about your parents, Neville?’

Neville took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling and shook his head. Harry could not remember ever feeling sorrier for anyone, but he could not think of any way of helping Neville out of the situation.

‘Well, it’s nothing to be ashamed of!’ said Mrs Longbottom angrily. ‘You should be proud, Neville, proud! They didn’t give their health and their sanity so their only son would be ashamed of them, you know!’

‘I’m not ashamed,’ said Neville, very faintly, still looking anywhere but at Harry and the others. Ron was now standing on tiptoe to look over at the inhabitants of the two beds.

‘Well, you’ve got a funny way of showing it!’ said Mrs Longbottom. ‘My son and his wife,’ she said, turning haughtily to Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny, ‘were tortured into insanity by You-Know-Who’s followers.’

Hermione and Ginny both clapped their hands over their mouths. Ron stopped craning his neck to catch a glimpse of Neville’s parents and looked mortified.

‘They were Aurors, you know, and very well respected within the wizarding community,’ Mrs Longbottom went on. ‘Highly gifted, the pair of them. I – yes, Alice dear, what is it?’

Neville’s mother had come edging down the ward in her nightdress. She no longer had the plump, happy-looking face Harry had seen in Moody’s old photograph of the original Order of the Phoenix. Her face was thin and worn now, her eyes seemed overlarge and her hair, which had turned white, was wispy and dead-looking. She did not seem to want to speak, or perhaps she was not able to, but she made timid motions towards Neville, holding something in her outstretched hand.

‘Again?’ said Mrs Longbottom, sounding slightly weary. ‘Very well, Alice dear, very well – Neville, take it, whatever it is.’

But Neville had already stretched out his hand, into which his mother dropped an empty Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum wrapper.

‘Very nice, dear,’ said Neville’s grandmother in a falsely cheery voice, patting his mother on the shoulder.

But Neville said quietly, ‘Thanks, Mum.’

His mother tottered away, back up the ward, humming to herself. Neville looked around at the others, his expression defiant, as though daring them to laugh, but Harry did not think he’d ever found anything less funny in his life.

‘Well, we’d better get back,’ sighed Mrs Longbottom, drawing on long green gloves. ‘Very nice to have met you all. Neville, put that wrapper in the bin, she must have given you enough of them to paper your bedroom by now.’

But as they left, Harry was sure he saw Neville slip the sweet wrapper into his pocket.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By J.K. Rowling