Title: Bloody But Unbowed
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Lucius/Narcissa (past Harry/others).
Warnings: DH Spoilers, but ignores epilogue. Profanity, sex, blood, and angst.
Summary: Nothing in Harry's life since the war has gone the way he expected. And now he's the mediwizard assigned to take care of Lucius Malfoy, of all people. But he's Harry; he grits his teeth and endures. He won't allow even Draco Malfoy's flirting, which he knows is just a joke, to disconcert him.
Author's Notes: This will probably be a medium-length chaptered fic, probably 8 or 10 chapters, but I won't rule out going longer. The title of this story comes from a line in William Ernest Henley's poem "Invictus":
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Bloody But Unbowed
Chapter One—The Patient Is a Person
"Potter! You're needed on the Spell Damage ward."
Harry had just opened his mouth to object that he already had more than his share of poisoning cases, but he shut it again when he realized that the person shoving the folder towards him was Healer Virgo Emptyweed. Harry bowed his head and took the file, sure the Healer could feel Harry's flinch of revulsion when their fingers touched. Emptyweed, of course, only contorted his pursed-up lips—like Umbridge's mouth on a bad day—into a further sour ball and turned away.
Harry looked down at the name on the file. The handwriting was little more than chicken-scratch; Harry sometimes thought no one who could actually write legibly was likely to be hired by the hospital, or at least not as a record-keeper. But over two years' experience in St. Mungo's, he'd learned to read it, and he stared as he realized what it actually said this time.
"Healer!" he shouted after Emptyweed. No doubt he hadn't managed to put the proper amount of respect in his voice and would get yet another reprimand, but at least he'd remembered to use the title.
Emptyweed turned around looking so pleased with himself that Harry shuddered. He was a tall man who'd gone completely bald years ago, perhaps because none of his hair wanted to remain close to the fermenting barrel of rottenness that was his brain. Now his large blue eyes peered out of the hollows of his face like those of a pig who had heard it was about to be slaughtered. Unlike the pig, he didn't have the good grace to collapse squealing. "Yes, Mediwizard Potter? Is there a problem?"
"If I'm not mistaken," Harry said, "the name on this file is Lucius Malfoy." He took a step closer to Emptyweed. They were the only ones in this corridor, and perhaps on the whole of the third floor, for all Harry knew. Emptyweed tended to work long hours because he wanted the credit that came of seeming like a dedicated public servant, and Harry tended to work long hours because Emptyweed made him.
"Yes, it is," said the Healer indifferently. He wasn't very good at hiding his glee, though, and Harry was glad of it; it had allowed him to avoid some of the more unpleasant consequences of Emptyweed's plans in the past. He had a feeling, like scalpels digging in under his heart, that he wouldn't be able to avoid this one. "What of it? He's been cursed with a Dark and extremely dangerous spell, and it wouldn't do to have the ordinary run of mediwizards and Healers near him. I would be deeply worried that they'd try to take revenge on him during his convalescence, or even not treat him very well, as they would believe he deserves his fate, whatever that may be. But I know your compassion and your courage, Mediwizard. I know you will do an exemplary job in treating Mr. Malfoy."
Harry stared at Emptyweed for long moments. The Healer looked back, a faint frown on his face, as though he couldn't imagine what objections Harry might have to his assignment, but the smug smile still threatening. When Harry still hesitated, he mouthed the words, "Potions scores."
He'd learned that little tidbit about Harry's score on his Potions NEWT—that it hadn't been high enough to let him become a Healer—the very day Harry had submitted his application to work at St. Mungo's. Unluckily enough, he'd been the one who had to approve that application. And he had been delighted with the notion of assigning Harry to work under him and continually reminding him just why he'd never achieve the Healer's coveted rank.
Harry could have given it up and gone somewhere else. The problem was, he genuinely enjoyed helping people and was fascinated by what little he'd been permitted to learn of advanced medical magic. And his Potions scores weren't high enough to give him employment as an Auror, either, the only other career he'd ever been interested in.
Better to put up with Emptyweed's idea of a joke, and even his claiming credit for the patients Harry helped to cure, than to sit on his arse and do nothing, or do only boring scutwork.
"Yes, sir," Harry said between gritted teeth, and turned for the stairs that led to the Spell Damage ward. Behind him, Emptyweed chuckled and strode away. Harry took a glance back, as always hoping to spot the Dark Mark on the man's left arm and learn the source of Emptyweed's enmity towards him.
As always, he was disappointed. Emptyweed wasn't a Death Eater; he just didn't like him, and that was the way it was.
Harry hesitated outside the room the folder said held Malfoy, and took a deep, calming breath. He was usually nervous when he went in to deal with patients who'd fought on the opposite side of the war, but he'd never had to work with someone who'd personally threatened his life.
Don't worry about that, said the voice of Healer Pontiff, the witch who trained all the new mediwizards and one of the few staff Harry genuinely liked because she had never let his name or his scar make a difference to her. Treat the patient as a person first. We see the human body in the most pathetic and disgusting conditions possible. We work without letting beauty or power or money make a difference to us. If you can't bring yourself to do this job, there is no one else who can.
Harry smiled a little. Certainly, if he wasn't the one to do this for Malfoy, it was unlikely that anyone else would. He lifted a hand and knocked, trying to imagine what would await him. Probably a scowling younger Malfoy, ready to complain about the abysmal quality of care in St. Mungo's, and a cold-faced Mrs. Malfoy, who would look as though the bad smell were coming from Harry—
But he couldn't picture Lucius. The folder was annoyingly vague about what the curse cast on him was, exactly. Of course, Emptyweed had the charming habit of leaving off details on his own reports, which in turn encouraged those who passed the files to him initially to be lazy.
Ready for anything from a second head to a smoking gut wound, Harry opened the door when a minute had passed and no one had responded to his knock. Probably they were too busy planning the deaths of Muggleborns to pay attention to such unimportant details.
Lucius Malfoy was lying on the bed in the center of the room, and he had a hand over his chest, wincing as blood seeped around his fingers. His wife stood next to his pillow, talking quietly and urgently. A quick glance around the pale blue room revealed no trace of their son, which Harry was privately grateful for.
"Mr. Malfoy?" Harry waited until his patient's gaze centered on him—more difficult than usual, since it was cloudy with pain. "I'm the mediwizard assigned to your case. Harry Potter."
"Mr. Potter." Malfoy's lips formed a brief, painful smile, and it had no trace of a sneer. Well, Harry thought after his initial surprise, the elder Malfoys were pathetically ineffective, not stupid. He must know that it wasn't in his best interest to alienate his caretaker thirty seconds into their first meeting. "We are together under more—auspicious circumstances than last time."
"Yes, we are," Harry murmured absently, taking a step towards the bed and casting a simple diagnostic spell, even as he used his eyes to judge the visible symptoms. Pallor, difficulty breathing or at least forming words, circles beneath the eyes that argued the curse's effects had continued for some time, a weak convulsive grasping movement in the fingers that might be pain or simple nervousness. The diagnostic spell manifested as a series of small silvery frogs that hopped on and over Malfoy's body. Malfoy stared at him. Harry shrugged. Since the magic got the job done, he wasn't prone to ask Healer Pontiff just why she taught it to them as a series of frogs. "What is the curse? Do you know who cast it, and do you know what must be done to reverse it?"
"Obviously we do not know the latter, or we would not have bothered coming here," said Mrs. Malfoy.
Harry looked at her briefly; the diagnostic spell would take most of a minute to work. She had no trace of softness or gentleness in her face now, such as he imagined had been there when Voldemort told her to check Harry's state of health in the Forbidden Forest. She was graceful and proud as any queen. "I meant no insult to your spellcasting skills," he said gently. "Sometimes the patient does know the cure for his condition, but is prevented from using it himself thanks to a lack of power or ingredients for a potion—"
"In this case, we don't know," Lucius said. "We do know who cast the curse, and he is now in Auror custody. But he destroyed the book from which he took the spell, and he cannot be legally forced to take Veritaserum, so he yet retains the secret to the cure. If he knows of it, which I doubt." He raised his hand from his chest. "As to the spell's effects, see for yourself."
Harry blinked. Beneath Lucius's hand was a single bleeding slit, long and narrow, as if cut into his flesh with a rapier. As Harry watched, it twitched and widened. The upper portion closed to a thin scar a moment later. The lower end stretched forwards until it touched Lucius's breastbone, then stopped.
"They open throughout your body?" Harry asked softly, holding out his hand as the silver frogs of the diagnostic spell reappeared and coalesced into one great frog, which leaped across the space between Lucius's bed and him. He caught it in his palm and it melted into a pool of clear water. Harry swallowed it and closed his eyes, listening to the cool voice speaking in his head and Lucius's information at the same instant.
Dark magic, highly sophisticated, certainly powered by blood. Hatred component. Buried malice component. Immediate attention needed to stabilize malice field. Long-term identification of survival: Not good.
"The wounds have been appearing since yesterday," Lucius said stiffly. "On my chest and my legs so far. They have always healed without leaving more than a scar behind, and the scar itself heals within an hour." Harry opened his eyes to see him tracing the puckered line of flesh on his chest. It was already becoming fainter, Harry thought, squinting at it. "You understand my reluctance to allow the curse to continue when it may open a wound through my heart at any second."
"Yes," Harry said, and lifted his wand, aiming it at the center of Lucius's body. It was important to protect his vital organs and his intestines first. "Defendo contra malitiam!"
The spell showed itself as a silvery whirlwind this time. Harry frowned and forced more power into it; it ought to be clearer than it was. Of course, he'd stayed up late last night, talking longer with Ron over Firewhiskey than was good for him. After a few moments of wobbling and swaying back and forth like a tower about to topple, the whirlwind turned transparent and draped itself like a sheet over Lucius. Harry immediately cast a nonverbal spell that would enhance his eyesight, and nodded in satisfaction as he saw the separate crystalline glows above the vital organs and intestines.
"I am accustomed to having warning before foreign magic is cast at me," said Lucius in a cool voice. Harry looked up, blinking, and saw that Narcissa had backed away a step and drawn her wand. "What was that?"
"The spell has a buried malice component," Harry explained as he cast the spell again, this time on Lucius's head. Lucius held remarkably still as the second crystal tent collapsed over his face, which Harry admired. The one drawback of the spells that stabilized malice fields was their tendency to startle patients. "It ensures that you'll go on getting sicker—in this case, the wounds will be worse than they would otherwise. It also picks up on your worst fear. Because you said the spell would open a cut through your heart eventually, it makes it all the more likely to happen."
"Ah," said Lucius as Harry moved on to protecting his legs. "That would make sense. This man believes I raped his daughter."
"Did you?" Harry asked in interest.
"Mr. Potter." Narcissa would have made an excellent candidate for speaking Parseltongue herself, judging by her hiss. "Cease your offensive and baseless insinuations against my husband this instant, or I will find someone genuinely competent to treat him."
Harry flicked her an amused glance as he stabilized the malice field above Lucius's arms. "You're welcome to try, but unlikely to find someone," he said. "The case was passed to Healer Emptyweed, since he's known to have a reputation for curing—ah—difficult patients. And he passed it on to me, because not even he wanted to touch it. At the moment, I'm probably the only mediwizard or Healer in hospital who will help you."
"And why would that be?" Lucius asked. Already his breathing was easier, as if knowing what the spells Harry had cast at him was all the cure he needed. "The entire Malfoy family was exonerated, and I have made charitable donations to St. Mungo's several times." He spoke as if decades had passed since the war, instead of only seven years.
Harry grinned at him. "Yes, but most of the Healers here have treated at least one patient that Death Eaters cursed, or lost a family member to them," he said. "Not enough time has passed for people to forget, and some of them think the donations were simply an attempt to buy your way back into the public's good opinion."
Once again Narcissa stiffened, but Lucius shook his head and laid his hand on her arm. His wife relaxed with a little huff. Harry was glad. He hated dealing with a patient's panicking relatives more than the patients themselves, no matter how hysterical. The relatives were well enough to demand reassurances rather than simply an end to the pain, and most of the time Harry didn't have reassurances to give them. He had learned not to look too far ahead or demand achievements of himself that he couldn't fulfill.
Nothing in his life had gone the way he planned after the war. By now he was supposed to be a successful Auror and married to Ginny, with at least one child and another on the way. And whilst Harry couldn't say that he regretted that not happening each and every day, he was still somewhat bewildered it hadn't happened. Sometimes he woke and wondered if he was really living his own life, or one he had rented by mistake.
"Well, I can see the advantages of that perspective," Lucius said, drawing Harry's attention back to the immediate present. "What do you believe you will need to restore me to health?"
"As many details on the crime as you can give me," Harry said simply. "The details the Aurors have collected from the prisoner will be useful as well, but I have contacts in the Ministry who can obtain them for me." Of all three of them, Hermione alone had gone on to work at the Ministry, and she had risen like a small but determined comet up the ranks of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. "Dark Arts references; those, I have."
"I may be able to help you with yet more of them, Mr. Potter." Lucius's eyelids had drooped, shielding his eyes as though he were dreaming.
"Lucius," Narcissa protested in another one of those hisses.
"That's generous of you," Harry replied. "If they're nothing that would be interdicted through owl post—no?" he added, as he saw Lucius's head shaking.
"So far as I know, it is not actually illegal to post them," Lucius said dryly. "However, Aurors watch the Manor still, for the same reasons as the Healers here generally have for not wanting to treat me. I think it would be better if Narcissa carried them to you. Or my son." He fixed Harry with a sharp stare, as though he expected him to flinch at the mention of Draco.
Harry looked back with a faint smile. No, his life was not what he had dreamed it would be, but he was damned if would allow anyone to shame or intimidate him over it. Everyone knew who his lovers had been and when he had broken up with them, and which people had taken a dislike to him in the years since the war; Draco Malfoy had not been in either category.
"By all means," he said easily. "I have a small cubicle on the second floor. If I'm not there, there's a secure trunk outside the door in which anything may be placed, though not so easily retrieved again."
Lucius nodded as though to say he was entirely unsurprised, and then began to describe what he knew of the effects of the spell and the circumstances of the casting. Harry flicked his hand and conjured a parchment. When he pulled the Replication Quill—a more honest version of the Quick-Quotes Quill—out of his robe pocket and placed it above the paper, it began to copy Lucius's words just as he spoke them.
Lucius had barely finished the story when the door banged open. Harry whirled around, his wand at the ready. It wouldn't be the first time someone had broken into the room of a "difficult" patient with the intent to make the problem still more difficult for the attending Healer or mediwizard.
Draco Malfoy stood there instead, his pale green robes swirling dramatically around him as he came to a stop in front of Harry and stared. Then his eyes went to his father and he strode past Harry as if he didn't exist, except for a quick flickering glare of loathing. He laid a hand on Lucius's shoulder. Harry tensed in spite of himself; the spells that stabilized the malice field would react badly if the person touching the patient wished him harm.
But evidently Malfoy wasn't intent on seeing his father die so he could take over the ancestral home and money just yet. In fact, his face was carved with lines of a pain that was genuine as far as Harry could tell. He whispered in a half-broken voice, "Father, what happened? I came as soon as I heard, but—what is this?" He was staring at the bloody line on Lucius's chest, which Harry thought must have expanded again under his eye. "Dark Arts?" His wand appeared in his hand. Harry spared an irritated thought for the Welcome Witch, who was obviously not making a good try at persuading visitors to leave their wands downstairs.
"A curse, my son," said Lucius, with exactly the same tone that Harry thought he would discuss breakfast. "Healer Potter here—"
"Mediwizard Potter," Harry said, with a small bow as apology for the interruption. Malfoy's eyes burned at him further, as if he saw a calculated insult in Harry's title. "I never achieved full Healer's rank."
"Why not?" Malfoy asked snidely. "Too busy running off to have adventures in the middle of treatments?"
"A lack of proper NEWT scores in Potions, actually," Harry said, and had to suppress a snort when Malfoy goggled at him. Honestly, has he never left Hogwarts behind? He turned to face Lucius again. "I have some ideas about how to handle the curse, and the stabilization spells should protect you from permanent damage for a few days before I have to renew them. But I'll be honest—"
"You seem to be nothing but," said Lucius, barely moving his lips.
Harry smiled agreeably. The patient is a person, Pontiff's voice chanted in his head. A stubborn person, in this case, but that didn't mean he owed him any less treatment. "A Healer would have access to more medical texts than I do," he said. "I may be able to find you someone who won't care about your reputation, Mr. Malfoy, and who can command the attendance of several mediwizards or mediwitches. Would you prefer that I do this?" He was thinking of Pontiff. Though she had become dangerously exhausted on the last "difficult" case Harry handed off to her, it had been for the best; the little girl's lungs had been infested with spiderwebs, and she had stopped breathing several times during the long and delicate procedure to remove them. Harry would have panicked. Pontiff, who had more confidence in the control of her magic, had poured her power steadily into the spell, and saved Melissa Small's life in the end.
"You said you were unsure that anyone in hospital would endeavor to treat me fully." Lucius's voice was without emphasis.
"Yes, sir, that's quite true." Harry sighed. "I trust my willingness to do so—"
"I don't," Malfoy said.
Harry ignored him. He wasn't the patient, he was just a concerned relative, and therefore prone to be hysterical and make silly threats. "But not necessarily my skill. You might be better off with someone who would become interested in the challenge even if he or she didn't like you personally."
He peered at Lucius keenly as he finished, but Lucius's face was cold and closed. At one point Narcissa leaned in as if she would whisper in his ear. Lucius reached up and clasped her wrist. Though Harry didn't think he squeezed that hard, her face went white and she retreated with a small nod to the edge of the bed.
At last, Lucius said, "I prefer that you work on me until we have seen your skill is insufficient to the task."
Harry bowed again. "Thank you for trusting me, sir. Allow me to revise these notes." He held up the parchment filled with Lucius's words. "I'll return tomorrow for the books you promised and to give you my preliminary diagnosis."
He turned away and walked from the room, certain the family would wish to meet in private so that Lucius could explain matters fully to his son and everyone could panic. A Healer would have had the authority to call in attendants so the patient would never be left entirely alone when the relatives departed, but Harry didn't. The best he could do was cast a few alarm spells that would let him know if anyone who wasn't a relative, Healer, or mediwizard approached the room, and bargain with one of the mediwitches not working under Emptyweed to make rounds to the room once or twice during the night.
To his surprise, Malfoy came out of the room just as he finished casting the last of the alarm spells. Harry lowered his wand. "Yes, Malfoy? Can I help you?"
Malfoy leaned closer to him. Harry stared at him in puzzlement for a moment, then snorted inelegantly as he tried to swallow his laughter. He was a few inches taller than Harry now, and was trying to use his height to intimidate. The technique was clumsier than Harry would have expected of someone his age. Yes, he really was still back in Hogwarts.
"If you don't cure my father," Malfoy whispered, "what that curse does to him will seem like nothing beside what my curse will do to you."
Harry put aside several pertinent observations about the inadvisability of threatening the man who probably held his father's life in his hands. "I look forwards to your demonstration of competence," he said gravely, and bowed to Malfoy just as he'd bowed to Lucius. "You can only have improved since last I saw you."
He turned away and walked down the corridor. The hex Malfoy sent after him in retaliation bounced off the reinforced back of Harry's robes. Emptyweed had been fond of setting "harmless" minor hexes and jinxes on Harry, but the robes bounced them back at the caster almost as effectively as a Shield Charm, whilst still letting healing charms and other helpful spells through. From the squalling sound that erupted behind him, Harry learned two things: Malfoy now probably had a stung hand, and he could give a stepped-on cat lessons in the voice department.
Harry grinned. Malfoy wasn't his patient, only a relative to be danced around and soothed whilst Harry got on with his real work. Harry could handle him.
He'd handled worse things, far worse things, during the last seven years. The disappointment over his job was only one of them. So far he'd had six serious relationships, and every single one of them had dissolved—the last violently enough that Harry didn't feel like dating much at the moment, and probably wouldn't for another month or so.
But that was the point, that month or so. He always stood up again and struggled on. He'd had to learn to fight battles on a smaller scale, that was all.
And to learn which ones I can't win, he thought, as he caught a glimpse of Emptyweed ahead of him. Malfoy is a minor annoyance compared to that learning process.