Sakuri: Wow, my second HP fic. Uhm yeah, still continuing 'Secret's In The Telling', in case you're worried, I just felt like a change.
Okay, a few notes on this story. Well, first of all, I've only used bits of Books Six and Seven, conveniently merged with my own version of what happened towards the end of Hogwarts. Don't worry, it'll all be explained as we go along. Also, it pretty much ignores the DH epilogue completely.
Anyway yeah, enjoy.
Title: Standing, Look To The End
Summary: Post-Hogwarts. No one was more surprised than Draco by his eventual profession as a successful Mind-Healer, but when Harry Potter becomes his latest high-profile patient, he finally has the shot at glory and revenge he's been waiting for. But is he in for more than he ever expected...? HPDM
Disclaimer: I own nothing and no one
Chapter 1: People In High Places
The year Draco left Hogwarts had not been a good one. For the rest of the wizarding world, it had been the cause for celebration that lasted almost another year, but for him...
The Boy Who Lived had lived to take down the Dark Lord at the end of his seventh school year, and had shot to a height of fame and adoration only associated with the late Headmaster Dumbledore and maybe even Merlin himself. The Prophet had been plastered with his picture almost front to cover, and the Minister – at that time, anyway – had been shouting his praises from the rooftops. The world had been aglow with love and light and victory, and Draco's life, unnoticed by the saviours surrounding him, was shattered.
Lucius had barely lasted five minutes when the war began in earnest at the very end of sixth year. His father, a wizard he'd spent the majority of his life in awe of, a man who'd become to him the epitome of Slytherin strength, had fallen without a fight, caught with a Killing Curse to the back, cast during a lucky Auror raid on a Death Eater meeting.
Even now, Draco found it difficult to believe that Lucius Malfoy had been snuffed out with so little effort. It should have taken more, surely, than some hastily recruited first-year Auror to take down the powerful man that had been his father. It was an insult, really.
Afterwards, the power of the Malfoy properties and vaults had gone to him. By then, luckily, he'd already turned seventeen and, since he had no official criminal record, had been eligible to receive the inheritance – after, of course, the Ministry had deducted suitable reparation payments for Lucius's crimes.
His mother, in the wake of her husband's death, had broken. Shattered. She'd denied totally that Lucius was gone, clinging to hope in a way Draco had found sickening to watch. He'd been terrified that the world, still holding on to its resentment of his family, would learn of her sudden weakness. Not only would it have destroyed what little remained of the Malfoy reputation – something that he simply couldn't have afforded, at the time – he'd also feared that, if the Prophet caught wind of her condition, she'd become a target to anyone bearing a grudge. Back then, vigilante justice was more of a problem than the Ministry had liked to admit.
With no other choice, he'd used a large portion of the dwindling Malfoy wealth and sent her away to France, safe in obscurity and the care of a private mediwitch. The public had drawn their own conclusions, deciding that Narcissa Malfoy simply hadn't been able to take the defeat she'd seen coming, and fled the country in fear, leaving her son to fend for himself.
Draco had allowed the rumours – still allowed them – since he found them preferable to the truth.
And so, with both his parents – his immortal parents – fallen, and him the only one left standing, he'd struggled under the weight of so much sudden responsibility. That time, in his memory, was a whirl of paperwork and contracts, panic and loneliness, and the overwhelming sensation of being in over his head. The Ministry had seized the Manor in an iron grip, making sure that nothing occurred within its walls that they hadn't sanctioned. If Draco so much as moved a paper weight, they'd known about it. So it had seemed, anyway.
His one-time fortune had declined even further as Scrimgoer sought to cripple him completely, inventing countless bogus fines that chipped away at his bank accounts. The Minister had been sick of Malfoy intervention in his politics, and had apparently taken it into his head to put an end to the matter. The sole reason he hadn't confiscated the Manor out from under Draco was because of the ancient pureblood wards that were keyed only to the Malfoy heir, and made it impossible for unwelcome individuals to enter or own the property.
Draco had forced himself through it all. He'd forced himself to swallow his pride but maintain his dignity every time he was interrogated by prejudiced Aurors. Forced himself to hold on to what was left of his money, even when he was so exhausted he wanted nothing more than to scream that he was only seventeen, for God's sake, and shouldn't there be someone to help him?! Forced himself not to follow in his mother's footsteps; not to break.
And then the real fighting had begun, and the problem of his continued existence had ceased mattering to the Minister, for a little while.
Potter and his friends had disappeared from the face of the Earth just before seventh year had begun, sending Scrimgoer and the Ministry into fits of panic that verged on hysteria. Draco remembered it well; he'd snatched the opportunity it presented to gather himself somewhat and decide which side he would choose once and for all.
To imitate his father would have been a mistake; he'd known that immediately. The Ministry would have destroyed him instantly if he'd displayed so much as a tendency towards the Dark Arts. As it was, they'd only left him alone because he'd become so unimportant.
But the thought of joining the Light...
Draco had known since about third year, when Granger had swung for him, that he was a coward. It wasn't something he liked about himself, but he acknowledged it. He was not a fighter, would never be one – further proven by his disastrous attempt to obey his father and kill Dumbledore. It had been up to Severus to rescue him then, sweeping him away from Hogwarts and the Aurors, who had never learned of his presence and intent that night.
But, if nothing else, the incident had proved to him that he would never be of any use in real battle. Yes, he was a good wizard – well above average, in fact, especially when it came to aspects such as creativity and the theoretical side of magic – but it was putting it all into practice that presented the problem.
This in mind, he knew he could never participate in the practical side of things, whichever side he worked for. Still, the side of the Light had more job opportunities for cowards.
Seventh year went by in a blur of depression for him. Occasionally, he would write to his mother, but had never received a coherent response, and so eventually gave up altogether. He'd stopped associating with his former friends, who were all well on their way to becoming the next generation of Death Eaters. Afraid that the Ministry would use anything they could to get at him, he hadn't been willing to take the risk. Lucius had always taught him that loyalty to the family came first – but with his entire family having disappeared, loyalty to himself was the next best thing. And so he'd withdrawn entirely, becoming more introspective than ever before. With Potter gone, there'd been no point in maintaining his previous reputation anyway; no one else had been worth the effort of starting arguments in the corridors, or any of the other childish plots and plans he'd invested so much energy into over the years.
His schoolwork had been a refuge. He'd buried himself in books and essays, spent classes listening attentively and making fastidious notes he would reread in the evenings. His grades had shot up amazingly, to the surprise of most of his Professors. At that time, he'd almost regretted Granger's absence, since he was sure he would have finally beaten her in their academic competition. Each half-term holiday he'd been granted permission to return to the Manor and check everything there was still running smoothly, but other than that he rarely left the sanctuary of the castle, avoiding even the school grounds when he could.
It was just a month before the final battle at Hogwarts when he'd received the letter informing him of his mother's death. The mediwitch he paid to look after her accredited it to the fact that she hadn't been eating for some time, hiding her meals rather than consume them, and in the end had simply succumb to the wasting exhaustion that such behaviour inevitably led to. Draco had thought, despondently, about taking the anger he'd felt out on the mediwitch – after all, wasn't it her job to make sure his mother had been eating healthily? – but eventually he'd decided against it. Whatever the medical report had said, Draco knew the truth. Narcissa Malfoy had died of grief, and there was nothing to be done for that.
He hadn't felt the same overpowering sense of bereavement as he had when Lucius was killed. Later, he understood that he'd already accepted his mother's loss when he'd moved her to France, as surely as if she'd been dead already. So the news meant much less to him than he'd always imagined. Merely a few more papers to sign, a funeral to arrange, a date to remember once a year, and the rest of the world remained oblivious. His life, mercilessly, went on.
When the final battle took Hogwarts, he hadn't taken part. Once again, his cowardice had surged to the fore, and he'd found himself all but frozen, paralysed, as the two sides clashed around him. He'd helped neither, busy concentrating on saving his own life, moving through the school like a shadow. Only once had he drawn notice; that of a Death Eater who'd recognised him and, having come to see him as a traitor in that last year, tried to kill him.
It had been Potter who saved him. Potter. The Saviour himself had witnessed his weakness, his hesitancy, his fear, and had had the audacity to play hero, just as he always did. At least Weasley had acted halfway normal, leaving him with a black eye before disappearing into the fray. It was twisted, that he'd been grateful for that.
And when it was all over, and he'd stood alone in the Great Hall with everyone else who'd survived, watching their tears of grief and joy, their reunions with friends and family, the beginning of their golden age, he'd closed his eyes and sunk onto a nearby bench, head in his hands. That was the moment when real life – life that didn't just consist of struggling with the debts his parents had left him, and hiding away in the depths of the castle – that was when it had begun. Alone but standing, he'd determined to meet it, while all the weaknesses, the shames, they would remain in the past, locked in his memory where no one else could ever access them.
And so he had.
Draco tapped his wand impatiently against his leg as he waited for the elevator to reach its destination of the third floor corridor. When the doors finally slid open with a ping, he stepped off amid a flurry of memos similar to those used in the Ministry and started forward with the trademark confidence he'd regained since his days at Hogwarts. He enjoyed the way the nurses and mediwitches dropped their eyes as he passed, often falling silent midsentence. No, he was not well-liked, but then he'd never hoped to be. Fear was better. Fear was power, as his father used to say.
Robes flaring behind him with his fast pace, he swept through the main ward of the floor, not bothering to glance at the patients and their visitors, heading into the offices that were concealed from public view. He knew that paperwork would be piling up on his desk after his weekend of freedom, and intended to get an early start on the tedious work.
Entering the behind-the-scenes section of the hospital, he passed the young secretary recently hired – the Patils' younger cousin, if he recalled correctly – and paused to check if he'd received any messages during his absence.
She dithered for a moment, hurriedly scrambling through a stack of scrawled notes on her desk, before handing him a rather tattered memo. "Uhm, yes, she called yesterday. Said it was important –"
"Hn." With the absent minded acknowledgment, he walked past her towards his own office. Awkwardly, he tried to manoeuvre the thick folder of case studies he carried under one arm while manipulating his wand to perform the motions of an unlocking charm directed at the door ahead of him, all without dropping the unread scrap of paper the secretary had just handed him.
An audible click told him he'd succeeded, and he pocketed the length of wood to reach out for the door handle instead.
"Here. Let me get that."
Surprised, he turned towards the owner of the feminine voice who had obviously been seated in the little waiting area – and very nearly dropped his folder. With difficulty, he controlled all outward reactions for the few seconds it took him to rein in his shock, and so, as a result, merely stared wordlessly as Hermione Granger helpfully held open his own door for him.
Still without saying anything, he glanced down at the memo he held and, sure enough, scribbled in untidy handwriting, were the words: Mrs Weasley to see you first thing Monday morning. Urgent
Well, it had to be, didn't it? In fact, he was almost sure that nothing short of the apocalypse would bring Granger – ahem, sorry, Weasley – to his door, and speaking in such a civil tone, forced as it was.
Perplexed, he raised his eyes to her again, not bothering to hide his cautious expression.
She looked back steadily with eyes that were almost pleading – but that couldn't be right, could it? "It's important, Malfoy."
He blinked, not quite moved to concern by the gravity of her voice, but certainly interested. Finally, with a slight shake of his head, he strode past her haughtily. "Fine. Get in here, Granger. It should be good to start the week with a laugh."
Draco Malfoy, Hermione thought as she took a seat opposite him, had not changed at all since Hogwarts. And with that revelation, she came close to leaving right then and there, without another word exchanged.
But no, she reminded herself. This was important, and surely there had to be some kind of reason that Malfoy had become so successful in the last few years. He was good at his job. Brilliant, if the rumours held true.
But really, she could practically hear the word 'mudblood' spinning around his head as he stared at her coldly from across the desk. How could someone so... so like Malfoy have ever become a Healer?! It defied all logic. The man in front of her showed all the signs of being the intolerant, self-centred, vindictive little git she'd always known and loathed. There was no way – no possible way – that the one-time Slytherin had learned empathy. Just looking at him, she knew it to be impossible. From the sneer he wore even now, to the way the other workers at St Mungo's had spoken of him, she knew with dead certainty that he was still an incurable bastard.
But that reputation...
Never let it be said that Hermione Weasley believed everything she heard. Even as talk of Malfoy's work as a ground-breaking Mind-Healer spread, with help from the Prophet's reports, she'd remained sceptical. And so, using one or two of her Ministry contacts, it hadn't been hard to find his personal files – and sure enough, there in black and white, she'd been able to read his professional history at her leisure, and had found it to be as impressive as the rumours whispered. Not only had he graduated Hogwarts with marks she wouldn't have thought him capable of, he'd almost immediately begun his apprenticeship at the wizarding hospital, and by twenty had been pronounced a qualified Healer. From there, he'd started his rise through the ranks until he'd achieved his current position: perhaps the most coveted – and certainly the most expensive – Healer in England.
In desperation, and having failed to find any flaws in the Slytherin's remarkable history, she'd finally found herself making the appointment for today, and hoping against hope that Malfoy had somehow managed a personality transplant.
"So come on, Granger, what's this about? Some of us have work to be getting on with..."
She sighed. Oh, this was not going to be easy. Clearing her throat, she clasped her hands tightly in her lap to stop them fidgeting, and regarded the blonde before her intently. "Harry's in trouble," she admitted in a rush, biting her lip.
Malfoy only looked amused, idly tucking a stray bang of hair behind one ear. "When isn't he? I can't remember picking up the Prophet since he joined the Aurors without having to read about the latest, greatest adventures of St Potter." Unimpressed, he busied himself glancing over the papers laid out before him, wondering how long it would take to go over them and hoping that secretary – what was her name? – would bring him coffee some time soon.
"This is different," she went on, missing or ignoring his disinterest. Unprompted, she launched into the story that had brought her here. "It's been happening for about a month now, but we didn't really think anything of it until recently. Harry's always had these moods where he just goes into himself... you know?"
"I assure you, I don't."
"But lately he's been downright antisocial. Starting arguments with everyone for no reason! He made another partner refuse to work with him the other week."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "The papers aren't reporting that."
Hermione shifted a little. "Well, they haven't caught wind of it yet. We've been trying to keep it quiet. Harry gets enough bad press –"
A cynical snort met that statement. "Are you kidding? Potter's been the Prophet's little darling for years, and that's unlikely to change any time soon."
She glared. "Well, alright, he used to get bad press. And stop interrupting!"
The blond made a show of looking at the watch he'd taken to wearing, obviously hinting that he had better things to be doing than hear about the temper tantrums of a spoilt idol. Merlin knew he dealt with enough diva-complexes with his usual clients.
"I'll stop interrupting if you come to the point. I meant it when I said I have work to do."
She took a deep breath before answering. "Harry was suspended last week for falling apart on the job. He used magic in full view of muggles – excessive magic, at that. I saw the street they'd been in at the time... They had to Obliviate the whole place." She shook her head in confused despair at the memory, before going on. "He nearly killed the wizard he was chasing down, and even hurt the Auror who was working with him at the time."
Despite himself, Draco found himself leaning forward. "We're still talking about Potter here? His temper was never that bad, surely..."
"Exactly! The Minister was furious. If it was anyone else, they'd have been fired by now. As it is, he's ordered him into therapy until he sorts himself out."
"Wait. If you're here for the reason I think you're here, you should know, Granger, I'm not a therapist. I'm a –"
She waved away his protest. "A Mind-Healer, I know. And, yes, I know the difference. Harry's getting therapy elsewhere, for the moment. But I want you to look at him, too. Just in case..."
He frowned. "In case what, Granger? You think he's really going off the rails? That is what I deal with, you know. People who are in much deeper trouble than overworked Aurors who need to cry over what their mothers did to them."
"It's not that I think he's 'going off the rails', as you so elegantly put it. I just..." She trailed off helplessly, shrugging. "It's just so out of character!"
"Hmm," Draco muttered in agreement, thinking it over as he leaned back in his chair. "What makes you think Potter would even agree to come see me?"
She looked down for a moment, before her resolve visibly hardened. "He doesn't have a choice. When he joined the Aurors, he signed over medical decisions to me, if he were ever unable to make them himself or in an... an unfit state of mind. This counts as the latter."
The Slytherin let a smirk pass over his features. "How interesting..." he murmured, almost to himself. Yes, though he would like to have denied it, he was growing more and more intrigued by the second. "I assume you're aware my fee is somewhat steeper than the... average Healer."
She nodded. "You just better be worth it. Does this mean you'll take him as a patient?"
"I'm thinking about it," he admitted, beginning to tap his fingertips on the surface of his desk. That was a lie, he knew privately. Draco had made up his mind upon hearing the description of Potter's little break down. In truth, he hadn't even considered refusal. There was no way he could let this opportunity slip by. Finally, a chance to be truly superior to the holier than thou bloody Saviour, and maybe even the possibility of freeing himself from the unwanted life-debt he owed the other man.
He was already planning out his first session as he watched Granger squirm, waiting for his response. Knowing Potter as he did, he wondered what tactics would be best to start out with, and if he could get away with throwing in a few taunts – just for old times' sake.
Nervous, she kept talking. "And of course, this is all confidential. It's been hell keeping this from the papers, so you better not ruin it now."
"I'll have you know my conduct is entirely professional," he retorted, a little offended. "I'm sworn to keep secret anything he tells me from now on, so don't imply otherwise."
She looked sheepish for a moment, before the import of his words hit her. "That's a yes, then?"
The blonde pulled out a book from his top drawer and began flipping through its pages, eventually stopping at a point which he examined with narrowed eyes. "Have him here this Wednesday at three. And do try to be punctual."
She rolled her eyes at his little jibe, but he didn't miss the relief that had entered her countenance as she rose from her chair. He scowled. As childish as it was, he didn't like being the cause of Granger's good mood.
"Now get out. I actually have things of more importance to be doing, believe it or not."
She glared and turned on her heel.
There. Much better.