~:~:~:~:~

PART I

"In the long run, the power of kindness can redeem

beyond the power of force to destroy."

― John A. MacAulay

~:~:~:~:~

"Apprentice?"

"Skirmish. Hit with something that keeps making the wound re-open," The blonde girl clutching the chart supplies, "He's lost a lot of blood but they were able to stabilize him. It wasn't pretty."

He had been going through the files in his office, looking through profiles in preparation for morning rounds, maybe contemplating a cup of coffee or that luscious chocolate cake that the old lady behind the canteen till favours to bring out on Wednesdays... maybe both.

It is his first day back in the morning shift, having rotated as the resident night-shift healer for the past month, and he was in the middle of Patient McIntosh's profile when a magically enhanced voice, meant to be heard in all the Hospital rooms as loud and clear as if the person was right beside you, snapped him out of his musings.

"Healer Malfoy to room 507. Healer Malfoy to room 507..."

He had promptly closed the folder he was holding and waved it on its previous place on the stacks, made sure to remove the non-existent creases in his green robes with dark green trimmings, and hurried off to the room in question.

"I can see that," says Draco wryly, examining the spots of dried blood on the patient's pale face, which looked odd without the round spectacles that Draco remembers from when they were younger.

"Yes," she continues, leaning against the wall, "Gave the healers downstairs quite a start."

Draco frowns. The patient still looks too pale, his breathing is still a little too fast and shallow, and his filthy red and brown robes and the blood that makes portions of his hair stick together or stick up make him a sight to behold.

"Couldn't they have at least cleaned him up a little?"

"Oh, they have," she chuckles grimly.

Draco sighs as he tries to cover up the slight grimace on his face. He waves his wand over the motionless body. If this was better, he couldn't dare imagine just exactly how he looked like when he was dragged in here. He motions his wand in circles until he has siphoned off the remaining blood from the boy's face. Then he mutters a cleaning spell to remove the flecks of grime and dirt that makes his exposed skin look like a collage of dots and lines.

"There," Draco mutters when he is satisfied with his work, "That wasn't so hard was it? Pity, how they call themselves Healers but they can't even do such menial tasks properly."

His Apprentice snorts. "The Healers didn't want to touch him. They looked terrified— like they might damage him more if they laid a wand on him a second more than they absolutely had to... No, after they sorted him out, they wanted to give all the menial work to the mediwitches..."

Draco feels a rather looming end to that statement. He raises an eyebrow at the way she purses her lips. "But?"

She pretends to busy herself with the chart in her hand.

"Abbott?"

Her cheeks flush. "I couldn't leave him to the mercy of overly ecstatic mediwitches, Draco!"

"What did you do?" Draco asks slowly. He thinks he'd rather not know exactly what the girl did, but a part of him, the hugely dominant Healer-training-an-out-of-sorts-Apprentice part, thinks that he really needs to know.

"You didn't see the looks on their faces. They would have eaten him up alive!"

"Abbott—" says Draco a warning in his voice.

"Even you wouldn't have let him suffer in such a horrid manner!"

"Really, Apprentice Abbott, what have you—"

"I took him, alright?" Abbott sputters, "I couldn't leave him to just anyone."

Draco takes a deep breath. "You... took him?"

The girl looks at him imploringly, not quite unlike the times she would do as Draco looks at her condescendingly for a rash decision or two— decisions that could have exploded on both their faces had he not been there to quickly avert it.

Draco closes his eyes and lets out a long, deep-suffering sigh. "Apprentice Abbott," he mutters as he pinches the bridge of his nose in an effort to somehow quell the growing sense of panic in his stomach, "Please tell me that you did not just steal Harry Potter from the Emergency ward."

"I didn't!" Abbott answers in a spectacularly indignant tone. Draco thinks she might have been about to stomp her foot, but only barely managed to restrain herself. "I did all the necessary paperwork, and I took him out of there without any form of deception whatsoever."

Draco looks at her for a long minute, twirling his wand in his hand. The panic inside his stomach was in no way abated by the words necessary paperwork as it should have been. Patients could not be released or transferred without a certified Healer's signature on the paperwork, no matter if it was filled meticulously and to the dot, or not. "Who signed the transfer papers then?" he asks, a bad sense of foreboding stirring in the back of his mind.

Abbott's look of indignation cleared, only to be replaced by a sheepish smile. "Healer... er, Heathers."

"He gave you Potter's case? Willingly?"

"Yes," she nods, shifting from one foot to another, "He actually looked quite eager to—" then her eyes grow wide, and Draco has to stop himself from laughing because he was certain that whatever sound that would escape his mouth right now would sound nothing but distressed. "Oh. Oh."

He lets out the breath he did not know he was even holding, the sense of foreboding crashing all around him in a deep sense of dread and irritation. "Yes. Oh," Draco agrees, a grim expression on his face. Healer Garrick sodding Heathers.

"Oh, Draco, I'm so sorry, I didn't even think... Harry was just so... I'm sorry."

Draco closes his eyes. Tries to call on much of his learned patience with the girl. "What's the foremost rule you learned in your training, Apprentice?"

"Er... Save the patient?"

Draco stops himself from rolling his eyes. "The other rule, Abbott."

Hannah pauses, then says warily, "Never let matters of personal interest or bouts of emotion cloud your professional judgment."

"And what did you just do?"

"I— I'm sorry," Abbott mutters, eyes dropping to the floor, before she falls uncharacteristically silent.

He eyes the short girl for a long time. He cannot decide whether he is more amused or exasperated or, Merlin forbid, guilty for having placed that particular expression on her face. He does feel rather fascinated though. If that's all it took for reducing his Apprentice to silence, then he should have figured it out sooner. Then again, he supposes, having a silent, awkward Apprentice really wouldn't be of any help to him— especially not now when he, apparently, has something to prove.

"Alright."

Abbott blinks, her eyes betraying her surprise, "Did you just— Alright?"

"Yes, Abbott. No need to look so shocked."

"I just... I thought you'd... argue more," she finishes weakly.

It's not as if I have much of a choice in the matter, Draco thinks. Sodding Heathers. He reaches for Potter's chart, eyes skimming over choice words that could possibly help him solve this case.

Abbott shuffles closer, deeming his temper far enough from tipping over that it was safe for her to revert to her usual enthusiasm. "Can't we just wake him?"

"We could," Draco answers, eyes narrowing on a poorly constructed pertinent that screams out trainee, in the back of his mind. "But I'd rather leave him to wake on his own."

"And how long would that take, do you wager?"

"Be patient, Apprentice," Draco mutters in an amused tone as he fixes his attention back to the slumbering boy (well, man, really) that was now his patient, "You'll get your chance to play with him soon."

Abbott rolls her eyes, but can't quite keep the splash of colour off her cheeks. "I give him a day or two," she offers, before starting towards the door, "Rounds in a few, Healer Malfoy."

~:~:~:~:~

His Apprentice was wrong.

Two days have passed, and Potter still hasn't woken up. Some of his colleagues have been by to visit and so have some of the other Weasleys, and Draco swears he has seen enough freckled red heads in the past few days to last him a lifetime.

He expects raised voices when Potter's... family gets the news that he is to be the Golden boy's Healer— even a few underhanded whispering and violent fists. But he is a little ways off-shocked when all he receives from them are a few nods and inquiries on Potter's health.

It is a whole other issue, though, when the girl-Weasley comes with the Golden Boy's sidekicks, eyes all narrowed, fingers twitching as if to grab her wand.

It doesn't surprise him in the least, if he was being honest. The feud between their families is almost legendary and he would be kidding himself if he thinks that the death of one psychopathic Dark Lord coupled with a 'cleared of all charges' from the Wizengamot will be enough a bridge to cross over their issues. Or something like that.

Of course, he doesn't want to be friends with the freckled red heads. Salazar, he doesn't think he could handle that. But they aren't in school anymore and Draco knows better now.

"Why are you his Healer?" Weasley (Weaselbee, to him, still) asks with an ugly expression of distaste on his face. He doesn't really do much to rile him. Still, he can't help resist the urge to roll his eyes at the stubborn prat.

"It was either that or let him bleed to death," Draco answers, not entirely truthful but not exactly lying either, "I'd imagine you wouldn't want the latter, would you?"

Weasley sputters, and Draco isn't all that surprised when he just stays silent and possibly fuming. He doesn't know. He doesn't care to look again. What does surprise Draco though, is Granger's admonishing look, and a muttered "Ronald, Ginny," in warning. She turns to him, eyes narrowed, distrustful yet speculative, "No one wanted to take him? Is that what you're saying?"

Not for the lack of trying, Draco thinks. Because he did try to shift Potter's care to another Healer, even after assuring Abbott that he was quite alright with the assignment. Some of his fellow Healers had been more forthcoming than the rest but as soon as they heard wind that 'the Potter case' didn't land on Draco's hand by chance, heard that Healer Heathers had him on there specifically... well. Whatever chances Draco had to be relieved of Potter went soaring straight out the window. Or straight into Heathers' beefy hands.

Not that it ever left there, Draco thinks bitterly.

He doesn't bother to correct Granger, though, thinking that it would cause unnecessary glee on the three Gryffindors if they were ever to know that Draco didn't want this as much as they didn't want him to have it. Of course they would find it amusing— that Draco was forced into this and was stuck with Potter even if he fought tooth and nail not to be. Draco would, if their situations were reversed.

"It wasn't so much as no one wanted take him as it was that they wanted to risk their necks in the event that they couldn't save him."

"And you would?"

Abruptly, he remembers red-hot tongues of fire lashing out, eating everything in its path. He remembers thoughts of dying and of pain, the bolts of exhaustion as he tries to outrun the wild, flickering embers. He remembers that when he's just about to lose hope, to let the fatigue take over, and to just let the flames engulf him, a lone hand stretches out from above him, urging him to reach out and grab on. And when he does grab hold of the strong hand he just about cries with relief and gratitude.

Draco clears his throat, and answers. "It's my job."

Granger's eyes narrow even further at that but Draco doesn't squirm under her gaze. No, he most definitely does not. She seems to consider him, seems to search for something, scrutinizing, weighing something in her head. Finally, Granger nods. "Harry will appreciate this, either way," she says. Then she fixes her attention back to her best friend and this leaves Draco just a little bit bowled over.

All in all, it is an oddly interesting visit which ends with a few When is he going to wake up? and a particularly amusing He's not dead, idiot. I'm pretty sure Harry doesn't appreciate being manhandled like that. Not that the statement itself was particularly amusing, nor did Draco even allow Weasley to manhandle his patient when he was in such a delicate condition, but the backhand that Weaselbee receives from Granger— that just about made his day. Even with the Weaselette glaring daggers at him.

Draco is positive that Potter is alright, but as the fourth day draws to a close, he can't help but feel a trickle of anxiety. Just a bit. Perfectly normal for a Healer. He is even almost certain that Potter is aware that Draco is his Healer and is purposefully taking his time in waking up just to spite him. The bastard.

Still, Draco waves his wand and does all the needed spells to take Potter's vitals. Worries soothed for the moment by the relatively stable outcome of his spells, Draco makes to leave, thinking of how Gunther will be squawking for his supper as soon as he hears the rustle of his owner's coat.

A throaty cough makes him stop in his tracks.

He turns, heart practically leaping out of his chest as he sees Potter struggling to get up. "Don't!" Draco exclaims as he rushes to Potter's side.

Potter startles and looks up, eyes squinting in an effort to make out who is in the room with him. Even in the hazy fog of sleep, he is still able to look both defensive and threatening all at once. "Who's that?"

Draco reaches for the repaired glasses on the drawer and hands them to his patient. "Here."

Potter blinks, surprise evident as he looks at Draco's face. "Malfoy?"

"Stay put," Draco orders, one hand forcing Potter to lie down while the other retrieves his wand.

"Where am I?" Potter asks, voice weak from the long sleep but still demanding.

"The shrieking shack."

Potter glares. Or at least tries to.

"I'm kidding. Goodness, where do you think you are? You're in the hospital."

Potter's eyes flicker— a quick sweep of his surroundings. Apparently satisfied with what he sees there, he visibly relaxes. The tension leaves his neck as his head thumps back against his pillow. "I'm in St. Mungo's?"

"Yes."

Potter glances around again, now his eyes are searching, "My wand?"

"It will be returned to you at the moment of your release."

"What? Why can't I have it back now?" Potter asks, evidently uneasy.

"I'm afraid it's standard protocol. A patient isn't allowed his or her wand for the duration of their stay in the hospital."

Potter begins to rise and immediately and Draco's hand shoots out. He grasps Potter's shoulder, keeping him from any sudden motion. "Stop moving, Potter."

Potter looks as if he will argue but then he winces as he tries to twist his arm out of Draco's reach. He falls back to the pillow with a resigned sigh and Draco slackens his grip. "Alright... I'm in the hospital. And you're here. Why are you...," Harry blinks, taking in the lime-green robes as if only now registering their existence, and his eyes widen slightly, "Are you my Healer?"

"No, I'm a stripper. Happy birthday," Draco sighs at the blank look he receives, "Can you open your robes, please?"

"I didn't know you were a Healer."

"There's a lot you don't know about me, isn't there? Robes please, Potter."

Potter continues to stare. Then a small smile stretches his cracked lips as he finally unfastens his robes. "A Healer. You're a Healer."

Draco looks at him weirdly. No matter the years that have passed, the dolt is still as odd as ever. "I think I may need to consider permanent spell damage."

Potter scoffs. "Magnificent to see you too, Malfoy."

Draco ignores this and waves his wand, watching as different colours envelope Potter's body.

"Why are you turning me into a Christmas tree?"

"Just a couple of diagnostic spells. Stay put, will you?" Draco mutters, his eyes not straying from the Gryffindor's chest as a particularly violent shade of purple flashes before his eyes. The light is diffuse at first, before it narrows into a thin line and envelopes the gash that trails from the right side of his chest all the way down to his hips. He frowns. "Potter," Draco puts on his I'm-a-Healer-so-I-demand-respect face, "Do you have any idea why they brought you here?"

Of course Potter ignores the look completely.

"Oh, I'm pretty certain that it's nothing more than a courtesy visit. It's not like I'm injured or anything," Potter answers wryly.

"My Apprentice said you were in a skirmish," Draco offers, ignoring the dry humour, "Can you tell me what you remember from the incident?"

Potter scratches his head and winces. "Er, I remember sending up a shield charm for Ron... That left my flank open, that was stupid," Potter trails off, muttering. Draco clears his throat and Potter blinks, "Er, right. My flank was open and Ron just warned me, but—"

"Weaselbee warned you? So he saw that someone was going to attack you? Why didn't he do anything?"

"His hands were pretty full at the moment. Otherwise I wouldn't have had to cast for him, would I?" Potter snaps, eyes flashing, "And don't call him that."

Draco's eye twitches and he has to remind himself that Potter is his patient— his very injured patient— and that he is not at Hogwarts, "Go on."

"Like I said," Potter sighs, "Ron warned me but I didn't turn around in time. I got hit and I was... well. I got hit by something. I suppose. A spell. I don't know what kind, just... a spell."

"Articulate little thing you are, aren't you?" Draco muses.

"Sarcastic little thing you are, aren't you?" Potter counters, almost sneering and no, that look does not become him at all.

Draco tries to ignore the statement and the flash of green eyes. Potter's eyes have always been too green. He inspects his wand, just for something to do, before finally stowing it away in his robes. "Be that as it may, you're stuck with me until we sort this all out," he points out.

"Unfortunately," Potter mutters.

"You'll find a lot of people who are willing to contest that," he admits that that's a bit of an exaggeration, but Potter doesn't need to know that, "But I'm not here to argue with you, Potter, no matter how appealing that may be. For now, at least, the cut is still closed and—"

"Why wouldn't it be?" Potter glances down, slightly startled— as if sensing the presence of the cut for the first time since waking up.

Draco bites his tongue and breathes in deeply. He thinks that Potter is lucky to be his patient because he really wouldn't be this forthcoming otherwise. But then he supposes, he wouldn't have had to be in this mess and continuously test his restraint if Potter wasn't under his care at all. Suddenly he doubts if accepting the case, albeit very grudgingly, had been the right thing to do.

Then again, when it comes to Harry Potter, when does Draco ever do the right thing?

"See, Potter, a simple cut would have been simple enough to heal. Even you could have healed that with your eyes closed. Or maybe not," Draco adds as an afterthought, ignoring the way Potter scowls, "A regular cursed cut would have been harder, but still it would have been manageable."

Potter's frown deepens. "Are you saying that you can't heal me?"

"No. Of course not."

"No, you can't heal me, or no, you're not saying that?" he asks, now a little impatient.

Draco has to stop himself from rolling his eyes. "I'm saying that you're under my care because that's not a regular cursed cut. Whoever cursed you didn't do it properly."

"That doesn't answer my question," Potter points out, but doesn't probe the issue any further. Draco thinks he wouldn't have been able to answer him honestly, either way. Potter's hand moves to hover over the nasty looking gash, but when the movement causes him to grimace, he seems to think twice about touching it. "Is that bad?" he frowns, "That I wasn't, er, cursed properly?"

"Fortunately for you, that your opponent was an incompetent git with an aim of a drunk donkey was lucky. Otherwise you'd have been dead within minutes."

Potter's eyes move back to his, a curious sort of amusement making the dull look disappear, and Draco immediately looks away. He pretends to examine the cut with narrowed eyes. He almost misses the way Potter's lips twitches. "Drunk donkey?"

Draco frowns. "That's all you got from everything I said, wasn't it?"

"Dying is an occupational hazard," Potter shrugs. "So what's the problem, then?"

Draco forgets himself for a moment and stares.

It is easy to forget how this troublesome, careless man is the saviour of the wizarding world. But then he would act so cavalier, talking about death— his own death— so breezily and somehow Draco is reminded again. This man has faced death, over and over again, and he is not afraid to die. Draco knows a part of him will always be awed by that, but Potter doesn't need to know that. Draco clears his throat.

"That cut should not have had the capacity to heal, Potter. It appears that the spell that hit you was a dark spell that was designed with the sole purpose of making your enemy bleed to death," Draco explains.

Potter's mumbles something under his breath, something that Draco doesn't quite catch. But from the way Potter's face has paled and with the way his green eyes have suddenly latched on Draco's chest, Draco thinks that he knows just what is running through the Chosen One's mind at the moment.

A desolate lavatory. Curses and anger and helplessness. And blood— lots of blood— staining robes and linoleum and hands and memories. Draco's chest seems to tingle. He can't help but wonder whether this is his retribution after all those years but he erases the thought as soon as it plants itself in his mind. Potter wasn't the only one at fault that night, and that was ages ago. It shouldn't matter now.

Draco shakes his head a little, clearing the last of the bitter thoughts away, and continues, "Like I told you, it wasn't cast properly. So we were able to close the wound for the meantime."

"For the meantime?"

Draco nods. "The spell has to be re-applied a few hours or so, but it's doing the job so," Draco shrugs, "The problem, Potter, is how we're going to keep it shut," Potter's frown deepens as he weighs this in his mind. Draco wonders whether the silence echoed comprehension or befuddlement. He asks.

"Of course, I understand," Potter answers, bristling just a bit, "I'd appreciate you to stop belittling my intellectual ability, Malfoy."

Draco shrugs. "Very well. As for now I'd advise you to refrain from unnecessary movements to decrease the risk of the cut re-opening. The bleeding will be harder to contain the next time around," He waves his wand with just a slight flourish, and Potter's robes fold neatly over his chest. "I'll be back later. Try not to bleed to death while I'm gone."

"Can't make promises, I'm afraid."

"Potter," Draco warns.

"I'll try not to soak the sheets," Potter mutters wryly.

"Fan-fucking-tastic," Draco mutters as he leaves the room, wondering whether Potter really can keep himself together for more than a few minutes.

~:~:~:~:~

The alarm rings in Draco's office a few hours later just as he was writing a report on Patient Kardiff. He looks to the wall of room numbers under his care and tries not to roll his eyes as he sees the 507 blinking in painfully bright, neon green.

Why am I not surprised?

He instantly jumps to his feet and rushes to Potter's room, his wand in one hand and a string of profanities on his lips.

"Potter, I told you not to—" He pauses on the doorway, lets another soft "fuck" leave his lips and rushes forward.

Just what the hell did Potter do?

The Auror lies crumpled on the ground, a fast and steady stream of blood pooling around his body. The wound has re-opened. He is already turning pale, his hand is already growing cold, and if the cut isn't shut in a few, the Golden Boy might go into shock. And die. And Draco's arse will be fried.

He kneels next to Potter's body, opens his robes with a flick of his wand, and tries not to cringe at the thought of blood staining his favourite pair of trousers. Draco's wand movements are brisk— performing spell after spell like it is second nature to him as he tries to quell the bleeding. Where the fuck is Abbo—

"Harry, are—"

"What took you so long?" Draco grits out, "Stasis, now."

Abbott complies, kneels next to Draco and holds the spell with a steady hand as Draco waves and jabs and flicks his wand. They both watch as the wound seals again— as the skin stretch, then pull together, some invisible element holding the previously open gap, close.

"Release," Draco mutters, and Abbott lets out a deep breath as she drops the spell.

She siphons the spilled blood on the floor and does an acceptable cleaning spell on Potter's robes. Her wrist flicks and Potter is robed again, without any trace of what happened aside from his too pale face, and cracked glasses.

"What happened?"

Draco's eyes narrows. "We'll find out in a moment. But first, get him some blood replenishing potion will you?"

"I'm on it."

He puts a hand on Potter's chest, feeling the faint beating of his heart. He waves his wand, the faint red glow flash through Potter's robes over his heart, and the violent shade of purple he saw earlier on the cut now glows in an almost eerie black. The cut is still fresh and the curse is thriving on it. He needs to figure out how to dissipate the blasted thing, and soon. And he needs Potter to wake up or... he shakes his head and points his wand over the motionless boy's heart and murmurs, "Enervate."

Draco lets out a deep breath as Potter stirs. "What did I say about— stay put for a little while, Potter— about bleeding to death while I was gone?"

"Didn't," Potter argues, his voice hoarse, "And I didn't soak the sheets either."

Draco mutters. "Yes, you soaked my trousers instead."

Potter snorts. Winces. And Draco is unable to stop his face from heating up.

"Oh, how mature of you," Draco mutters, "Goodness, stay still, will you?" he warns as he starts to levitate his patient onto the bed.

"Wasn't saying anything," Potter murmurs.

Draco hears the amusement in the boy's tone and sighs. "What were you even doing out of bed?"

Potter has the audacity to roll his eyes. "Oh, you know. I just fancied a little stroll."

"You know full well that you are in no condition to get out of bed," says Draco in the most patient tone he could muster. He hates using that tone. He feels like a tolerant mother talking to her child. "You should have summoned a mediwitch, or wizard, if you were in need of anything."

"I'm fine," Potter mutters, eyes sliding to a close.

"Not bloody likely," Draco frowns. He waves his wand and fixes the crack on Potter's glasses before tapping it slightly, "Don't go to sleep. You need a blood replenishing potion."

Potter grunts, but his eyes remain closed.

Draco's eyes narrows. He has dealt with difficult patients before— has an interesting variety of them and he is able to see them through— but this is Harry Potter. Potter his old school rival with a penchant for tugging his strings and breaking his patience, and patient or not, he has always, always, been a pain in the arse, and Potter being indisposed, even mildly, does nothing to change that. Makes it worse, maybe.

Draco curses under his breath, wondering just what Abbott is doing, taking so long just to retrieve a bloody potion. Just as he is thinking about the odds of the cut re-opening if he was to pinch Potter's arm just to keep him awake, the door slams open, and reveals a very frazzled and disgruntled Hannah Abbott.

"Sorry," says Abbott, handing Draco one vial and placing a second on the bedside drawer, "There was a... disturbance."

"Should I ask?"

"No."

"Right," says Draco, turning his attention to Potter who fails to veil the curiosity in his eyes as he gazes at the two of them. He looks a little surprised but when his gaze remains on Abbott and her own lime-green robes with lighter green trimmings, and a pleasant little smile tugs his lips upward, which Abbott answers with her own. Draco clears his throat. "Here you are then. Be sure to drink every drop."

Draco blinks in surprise as Potter nods, and takes the vial without question. Well, there. He doesn't have to be so difficult does he?

Potter tips the contents of the vial down his throat and sports a grimace. Sputtering and coughing, the sleep in his eyes dims just a little. "I'm not very fond of that potion," he remarks, voice slightly raspy.

Draco finds himself nodding absently. Already the potion is taking its effect— Potter's face is slowly flushing with colour, his lips is losing its paleness, and if Draco cares to touch him, he is sure that his hand will meet a slow, suffusing warmth that will later fill Potter's entire body.

"Vitals are stable, Healer," Abbott advises, ending her wand movements with a flourish.

"Another dose before supper would suffice, I'd wager," Draco murmurs, "So long as he doesn't do anything stupid to make the cut re-open."

"I'm sure he wouldn't, would you Harry?" says Hannah, in a voice that makes Draco want to roll his eyes.

Potter smiles at her, eyes shining even with the haze of threatening sleep, "'Course not."

Draco suppresses the mild spur of irritation that makes its way to his chest. SoPotter can be all docile and friendly to his Apprentice but he couldn't extend the same courtesy to his Healer? Suddenly he remembers why he hated Potter when they were younger. Saint Potter, who thought he was too good for anyone. Too good for Draco. Too good to become his friend. Too good to breathe the same air as him. The arrogant, big-headed, little—

"...Healer?"

Draco blinks. Abbott is looking at him, inquisitively.

Draco's ears tingle. "I beg your pardon?"

Abbott's lips twitch. "I said it's about time for the afternoon rounds, Healer Malfoy."

Draco nods stiffly, his ears still slightly pink. "Yes, of course. Come on, then." He pauses, hesitating, then says to Potter as an afterthought, "I'll check on you later."

Potter merely lets his eyes close and nods.

He frowns and heads for the door without waiting for Abbott. He knows that she will follow. The door clicks to a shut behind him, but not before he hears his Apprentice mutter something to Potter, voice light and amused, and Potter's answering, sleep-laced but undeniably friendly, chuckle.

Draco grits his teeth and stomps off. Stupid, fucking, Harry bloody Potter.

~:~:~:~:~

Draco stops short on the doorway as his eyes rest on the long, red hair. He frowns as he watches small hands softly brush away black hair from the scarred forehead. And then he feels a surge of annoyance as he hears a "Wake up, please" in hushed, soft tones.

He clears his throat. "You'll wake him up if you keep that up."

Ginger hair flies as her head twists to look at him. Brown eyes betray irritation. A cool mask trying to hide displeasure. "Isn't that what we want to happen, Malfoy? For Harry to wake up? Or am I missing something here?"

Draco narrows his eyes at her implication, but ignores it all the same. "He already woke up." And he supposes he would be awake now because of the sheer volume of Girl-Weasley's voice were it not due to the dose of blood replenishing potion Draco forced on him again earlier in the morning.

He sees her fingers tighten around Potter's hand. He moves closer to the head of his bed.

"He woke up?"

Draco nods stiffly. "Yes."

"And you didn't bother telling us?"

Draco breathes out and wills his patience to see this encounter through. He comes just a bit closer, enough to make the Weaselette eye him with distaste that he blatantly savours and then disregards, and starts his inspection. "Telling you would have been particularly difficult, seeing as you were not here," Weaselette, "I did, however, inform Granger and Weasley. As for them not telling you— that is out of my hands."

Girl-Weasley narrows her eyes suspiciously. Draco carries on with his inspection, ignoring the way her sharp eyes survey him. Then, to his surprise, she visibly relaxes and lets her gaze fall on the sleeping man in front of them.

"Thank Merlin," she exclaims, then softly, "Stop making me worry, you git."

Draco gives his wand a flourish and starts to check on Potter's vitals. He ignores the startled brown eyes as colours envelope his patient's body.

"How is he, then?"

He tries not to frown as, yet again, the gash in Potter's chest lights up in a dark shade of indigo. "He's stable."

He feels the tension in the air as the Weaselette draws a deep breath and her eyes snap to him, "But?"

"He's stable, but the wound is not. We've yet to find a way to close it up permanently."

"Permanently? It opened up again?"

"...Yes."

"When?"

"A few hours after he woke up."

He answers what he can. He notes how the displeasure in Girl-Weasley's face is starting to falter and is a little surprised when, after telling her how Potter almost bled himself to death, she rolls her eyes, and gives Potter's slumbering form a long suffering sigh, "Harry, you prat. You really have a death wish don't you?" She looks back at him. "How long will it take, then? Shutting the cursed thing?"

Draco hesitates. "It would help if we actually know what curse hit him. I've been looking into possible—"

"You've been looking?"

"Yes," Draco starts, suddenly defensive at the girl's tone, "It's not as easy as it sounds you know, Weasele— Weasley."

She raises an eyebrow at his almost-slip of the tongue but surprisingly says nothing. "No, of course it's not easy," she agrees and frowns in distaste, "What I meant was that, why are you doing it alone?"

Draco blinks. Startled.

Her frown deepens. "Don't you have anyone to help you?"

"My Apprentices are helping me, of course," he bristles.

"And how many Apprentices do you have?"

Draco purses his lips for a moment before jutting out his chin and answers, "Two," willing the Weaselette to not even think of antagonizing him.

"Just the three of you? Malfoy, that'd take ages."

"If you're implying that we're not good enough for you then I suggest—"

"Shut up. You misunderstand me. You may be great at your job at any other circumstances, but with just the three of you..."

Draco's wand arm wavers. He is not pleased at being cut off so rudely; well, he is not pleased at being told to 'shut up' by a little Weasel and she would have heard a mouthful from him if she didn't just... Was that a compliment? He feels the world tilt slightly.

"Have you even asked anyone for help? I know Hermione would be thrilled to—"

"We don't need help," he snaps, realizing he has zoned out and has allowed himself to be talked over (no matter if she did compliment him or not). And that was not acceptable. Not at all.

It doesn't help that she has unknowingly struck a nerve. A strong pang of loss resounds over his body as sudden thoughts of kind, murky brown eyes and tufted, greying hair swims around his mind.

Healer Fornswith. He'd know what to do.

His mentor was a curious bloke, slightly whimsical, but he had always, always been there for Draco no matter the odds of having an ex-Death Eater as his Apprentice.

"Are you really letting your pride stand in the way of your work? Shouldn't Harry come first?"

Draco gives his wand a final wave and looks at the girl, pensively. He is silent for a few seconds, observing. "Why are you doing this?"

She shrugs, but the look in her eyes is far from being cavalier. It is firm and determined and makes her look just a bit more intimidating, and Draco is reminded of a particularly nasty bat-bogey hex. "I want Harry to get better. We all do. If it means working alongside you, then have at it."

He pauses, considering her words. It is true that with just him and Abbott and Pensley, Merlin knows how long before that wound is shut permanently. But working with a Weasley (well, Weasleys, really) and possibly Granger... he doesn't know if it will end up in a blood bath or in one brilliant plan that will mercifully rid him of Potter sooner.

Never let matters of personal interest or bouts of emotion cloud your professional judgment.

He eyes Potter's sleeping frame, notes that he is looking entirely too pale again. Making a mental note to bring some blood replenishing potion before gets off from duty, he gestures for the Weaselette to follow him out the leans against the frame and crosses his arms.

"Though we have yet to identify the spell, the analysis on Potter showed that it was designed to cut deeply into the body and resist any attempts at sealing. The wound is shut, for the moment, because the regular sealing charm is being re-casted over a span of a few hours, but any sudden, forceful movements on Potter's part will cause the bleeding to start again. And the more he makes the cut re-open, the harder it will be to contain the next time around."

"Good luck with that," she mutters under her breath.

Draco smiles grimly. "Potter doesn't seem to be able to wrap his head around the idea of self-preservation very well. Therefore, though the wound is shut, his condition is critically at risk if he continues to disregard the necessary precautions I've been trying to drill into his mind."

The girl is shaking her head slightly. "No one's been able to get through that stubborn skull of his. Ever. I doubt you'd somehow miraculously get to him," she coughs, "No offense."

Draco inclines his head, "None taken."

She huffs, casting a disgruntled look on the door to Potter's room, as if willing it to cross the solid wall and smack Boy Wonder on the head. "Well, we're fucked."

Draco thinks he just about fails to hide the slight twitch of his lips. "Not quite yet. Not until I say so."

She raises her eyebrows at him; eyes scrutinizing the lime green robes, narrowing at the dark green trimmings, hovering over the emblem of a crossed wand and bone over his chest, before coming to rest on his face. Draco suddenly feels as if she could see right through him— through every crack and ripple that his usually stoic face cannot cover. And maybe, just maybe, Draco is starting to understand what could have possibly drawn Potter to this slight witch with no other ostentatiously overt features other than the strong, warm, determined brown eyes that now pierce Draco's cold, hard grey ones.

To Draco's immense surprise, she nods. "Not until you say so."

~:~:~:~:~

Draco sighs as he plops down on his favourite chair, craning his neck this way and that. It has been a long day. He's just about to close his eyes when—

Poof! "Rrrrawk, rawwwwk."

Gunther hobbles and fastens his eyes on Draco.

"Rawk, rawk, rawwwk."

"Demanding little thing, aren't you?" Draco murmurs.

"Raaaaaawk!" saysGunther as he nibbles slightly on his trousers to get his point across.

"You're not the only one who's hungry, you know."

Nibble, nibble. Nudge.

Draco breathes out. He is tired out of his wits, but Gunther shouldn't have to suffer his bad mood. "Alright, alright, I'm getting up. Bloody bird."

He reaches for the topmost cupboard and sets on his task; he opens the can of food and pours it into Gunther's bowl. He then sets the bowl on the floor and lets Gunther gobble up his icky, mashed-up, atrocious looking thing in content silence.

Draco sighs. Again.

The day is not much different than that of his usual but he feels the weary drain slither into his bones, and it is all he can do not to plop his head on the table and just retire there for the night.

He is exhausted, mentally and physically. He has done more stasis charms than he cares to count which always leaves him just a bit out of sorts, and his... talk with Potter's girlfriend, although relatively (and surprisingly) civil, doesn't help the tension that has been coiling his muscles and straining his nerves the past few days. He is grudgingly grateful for her offer, and to some extent, it is a relief that Granger is also in it to help. Not that he'd admit that to anyone.

It was the right thing to do as a Healer, to acquiesce, for his patient's speedy recovery. But the Malfoy in him, the one with childhood jealousy and schoolboy prejudice really can't help but doubt if it was the sane thing to do. The Slytherin in him considers it as a sign of weakness, accepting the hand that was offered to him— a hand that is tarnished and impure, a hand of a blood traitor...

Gunther rawks at his meal appreciatively while he clacks on the floor.

Draco shuts his eyes. No, he thinks. Those times are over. Those times are behind 's important now is doing his job properly and upholding the honour of his profession. What's important now is the life of his patient.

Draco snorts.

Fucking Potter. Fucking wound. Fucking drunk donkey.

He opens his eyes blearily and groans. There is still work to be done and he can't sleep yet, no matter that he is ready to collapse on the cold floor and convert Gunther into his personal headrest. Trust that it would be Harry Potter that makes him miserable, still.

Fighting the urge to close his eyes again, Draco gets up and grabs a sandwich from his refrigerator. Casting a decent warming charm on it, he takes a bite of the sticky, gooey mess, and eyes it distastefully. Whatever gets me through the night, he thinks, biting back a grimace as he takes another mouthful. Giving Gunther a light pat on the head, he makes his way out of the kitchen.

Just imagining the amount of books that he has to rifle through, through the night, makes him even more exhausted. The soft mattress upstairs is practically calling his name, tempting him with its warmth and promise of a good, long sleep, but he resists.

He trudges to his study and waves his wand at the unlit fireplace, sending tendrils of flame shooting up the wooden base, and making it light the room up wonderfully. He eyes the numerous shelves containing an assortment of books— massive volumes, tiny paperbacks, colorful spines— looking for titles that may provide some idea as to what curse hit Potter, and what spell can be used to reverse it. Although he has some hazy idea on the collection of curses that could have debilitated Boy Wonder, he knows he cannot risk performing a counter-curse that might aggravate his condition, or worse, make the wound open up completely.

Of course, it would make it immensely easier for him to do his job if Weasley and his incompetent group of Aurors manage to catch the fiend and worm out what spell he used, but when has Weasley ever really made it a point to make Draco's life a little easier? If it were anyone else but his best friend who has managed to stumble under Draco's care, the freckled faced git would be jumping up and down and laughing belligerently at the state of Draco's distress.

Draco is on his own.

No, Draco thinks. For once, since Healer Fornswith's demise, he isn't alone.

Even though a couple of gingers, a bushy haired know-it-all and two Apprentices who are at times, well in over their heads, make up an unlikely set, they are still there, and they will still be of help to Draco whenever the circumstance calls for it. Of course, it isn't Draco they are helping. They are helping Potter, and Draco has to berate himself for even meandering into that dangerous place in his mind for even a second.

Fingerrunning along the collection of books, he takes down The Complete Anthology of Counter-curses and Spell Reversals: A Healer's Companion and places it on his table, beside the half-eaten sandwich. He's in the process of deliberating whether taking down The Dark Arts: Its Sorrows and Sensibilities is worth his time when a loud poof alerts him of Gunther's arrival.

"Rawk."

Draco hums in agreement. The sandwich does look disgusting.

The pitter patter of Gunther's steps follow him as he brings more books down to consult and, without even looking at the bird, Draco can feel the impatience coming off him in waves.

"I'm not forcing you to stay with me, you know," Draco mutters at one particularly loud whoosh of its relatively useless wings.

"Rrrrawk."

"You're free to leave. Really."

"Rrawk rawk rrrawwwk."

"Why are you complaining? You're not the one who's going to have to go through all of them," Draco points out.

"Raaaawk Rawk!"

Draco frowns in thought. "Hmm. Yes, that as well."

Gunther flaps his wings, hobbles slightly, and plops down in front of the fireplace with a loud, resigned thump.

Draco eyes the big, hopeless lump with a grave expression before setting down the pile in his arms beside the other books he has managed to haul, and settling himself behind his desk. "Don't say I didn't give you a chance to escape," he says firmly.

Cursing scars and green eyes and untidy black hair, he opens Curses: Deep, Dark, and Dangerous, and resolves himself to the long night he had ahead of him.