"Doctor, we just admitted someone Doctor Andrews thought you might want to see. His injuries are minor, but the tests we did for spell damage are off the charts, and he is…well, unstable doesn't really explain it effectively. Doctor Andrews thought it might be an interesting case for that paper you've been working on for the Journal."
"The man is a patient, not just an interesting case file for a paper, Susan." The rebuke was quiet, and the tone mild but the nurse still flinched.
"Sorry, Doctor Malfoy, I suppose it helps me to keep my objectivity when I don't think of the patients in such a personal way. It would be too much to handle otherwise, I think." He inclined his head in agreement with a sigh.
"I don't blame you, really. This job is difficult enough without getting too attached to everyone. When can I see him?"
"Anytime. Doctor Andrews patched him up easily, and then put him in the Spell Damage Ward, private room at that. He was coherent enough from what I heard but, well, you just have to see it, I think." He nodded and rose, levitating a muggle camcorder into his pocket while he grabbed several self-inking quills and a sheaf of parchment.
"That's fine, I'll head down, it's still a bit before tea, so I should be able to do a decent preliminary evaluation. Have his family been contacted?" She shook her head.
Sorry, he had no ID on him and wouldn't give us a name. Kept saying it didn't matter since we didn't really exist anyway." He raised an eyebrow, trying not to notice the becoming flush that hit the nurse's cheeks at the expression. It had been some time since he had made it a matter of public knowledge that he was not interested in women, perhaps she had been hired after that and simply hadn't been told. No matter, let the gossips catch her up later, preferably before she made a move that would be uncomfortable for them both.
He walked out the door to his office, leaving her to lock up or not as she so chose as he headed for the Spell Damage ward.
The aftermath of the war had not been kind to the Malfoy family. With his mother dead and Lucius waiting for trial in Azkaban where he would almost certainly receive the Kiss, Draco had found himself friendless, helpless and on the verge of arrest himself simply because of his last name. He had never taken the Mark, preferring instead to remain at Hogwarts, remaining as apolitical as he could. He had fought during the Final Battle, though he was sure that no one realized it, he had certainly never told anyone. He had followed Potter across the battlefield under a Disillusionment charm, watching the Chosen One's back since he would not allow any of the rest of the Golden Trio near him at the time. It was just as well, really, none of Potters so called friends would have had the balls to do what Draco did, sending cutting hexes and killing curses right and left, non verbal Unforgivables hitting unsuspecting Death Eaters in a hail that left a swath of dead and dying behind Potter that he heard later the Boy- Who-Just-Wouldn't-Fucking-Shut-Up was given credit for.
Hell, he was in such a state by then that Draco figured Potter believed he had fought his way to Voldemort himself. He looked half dead by the time he got there, and few others saw how the Dark Lord was really defeated. Once it was all over Draco had levitated him back to the main part of the battlefield, sure he would be found in minutes, and had gone looking for his godfather. It took him hours and Severus was nearly dead by the time he got there, he had only survived by Draco casting a curse that siphoned the life force out of one being into another. He supposed it didn't really count as a dark curse anymore when the energy that he siphoned was out of himself, not that it mattered.
He managed to get Severus back to Malfoy Manor and the house elves took over, their unique magic far more efficacious than conventional healing. While Severus healed Draco went to Gringotts and transferred all his families vaults out of England as his father had planned if the war ended up with them on the losing end, and when his godfather was well enough to travel they took an illegal international portkey and fled for the United States.
The United States happened to be the best thing that could have happened to either of them. The war had not touched there as it had in Europe, and while recognized in some of the more prestigious wizarding circles in places like New York and Los Angeles, the Malfoy family had been snobbish enough so that Lucius had never attempted to extend his influence there, and therefore Draco and Severus were able to quietly fade from public life.
Severus had no trouble establishing himself in a thriving potions business and was currently devoting himself mostly to research while several potioneers brewed the orders for his ever expanding mail order business. Draco, completely at loose ends, spent nearly a year attempting to play the dilettante rich playboy, but instead found that he was subject to horrible nightmares of the war and his previous life, and during the days he fell into an intense melancholy and depression that he could not withstand.
Completely randomly he looked for something to fill his days, and, in an effort to rid himself of Draco's presence for some uninterrupted research time Severus sent him to deliver an urgent potion to a wizarding hospital in Seattle. He got lost in the huge structure after delivering the potion and ended up walking into the emergency ward. It was a cacophony of noise and flashes of light, and as he was looking for the way out he came upon a bed where several young Healers seemed to be stumped by a case. He took one look at the aura around the patient, and the physical symptoms were obvious to anyone who had been through half of what he had. The woman had been hit with a prolonged session of the Cruciatus curse and was suffering the magical and neurological aftermath. As he watched one of the young people raised a wand and began to chant a general healing spell. In a flash Draco had knocked the wand out of the boys hand with a sneer that would have done his godfather proud.
"You utter dunderhead! Have you had so little training and contain such a low capacity for independent thought that you would try a random spell on an ailment that you obviously know nothing about? Tell me," he looked at the nametag, "Stephens. If you possibly know, what would the result be of treating a victim of the Cruciatus curse with that particular spell?"
"The, the, the patient would, um, go into magical shock from the draw on their reduced magical energy and the symptoms would magnify until permanent nerve damage occurred," the boy stuttered.
"Well, well, you aren't completely useless after all," Draco had snorted, his own wand beginning to weave a complex pattern over the prone woman. "Hold on, love, it will be better soon," he said quietly to the woman whimpering on the stretcher. "I know it hurts, trust me, I know better than you would believe, but it will end. Just give a minute or two more." He ended the sequence of wand motions with a special charm he had developed himself to help his mother when Lucius temper had been more than normally vicious. The woman gasped, and then her face relaxed in relief. He elbowed the other two interns aside as he ran his wand over her still form, making certain that no permanent damage had been done and began to turn just as an older Healer had run up.
"Who the hell are you and what do you think you were doing! You don't work here."
"And those dunderheaded fools probably shouldn't," he retorted. "Your precious little apprentices here nearly turned this woman into a vegetable by casting spells before they knew what was wrong with a patient. How the bloody hell do you manage to get to this point and not know what a Cruciatus looks like?"
"And how long have you been a Doctor?" the man asked quietly. Draco blinked.
"What? What on earth is a Doctor? A Healer, you mean? I'm no Healer, but you can't live in Britain through a war and not learn a few basics."
"That piece of spell work was quite a bit more than the basics, young man, don't try to pull the wool over these eyes. As for the rest of you," he cast an eye over the three interns who were, at this point, staring at their feet and attempting to sidle away. "Split up and each one of you attach yourself to an experienced physician and do not make a move without their consent. I will deal with all of you later. You," he nodded to Draco, "Why don't we get a cup of coffee," he smiled at the involuntary moue of disgust. "or tea, maybe, and talk."
Three years later Draco had become Doctor Malfoy, and now five years after that he was the foremost expert on spell damage in North America with a fellowship to the same Seattle hospital that had started him on the path originally. Tapping into Severus vast knowledge of potions they had developed ground breaking techniques to cure cases that would have been declared hopeless only a few years previously. It was Draco's hope that in a few years it might be possible for him to go back to Britain with a concrete plan to help people like Neville Longbottoms parents, and Minerva McGonagall, who had both been put into a state of catatonia by a combination of curses and hexes that to all appearances destroyed their minds. He had his own theories on that, but he did not wish to raise hope if there was none. Their loved ones had been through too much for that, and knowing what his reception was likely to be, he had to be able to deliver on whatever promise he made.
He found Andrews in the corridor looking for him, and they walked the rest of the way to the locked ward together.
"I think this might be a good test of the new procedure you've been working on with Snape and Ellis," he remarked, speaking of a four-pronged approach Draco had been researching using spells, potions, curse breaking and Muggle psychology. Jason Ellis was arguably one of the best curse breakers Draco had ever seen. He had done a huge amount of reconstruction work in Britain after the war, and had ended up in Seattle on sabbatical after a job in Africa had gone bad. They had met at a seminar on the merger of magical and Muggle techniques in healing and been fascinated by the implications each could have on the others work. After some months of research their conclusions had led to dragging Severus into the mix, and the results had been astounding.
"Any idea what happened to him?" Draco asked, curious. The other doctor shook his head.
"No clue. I can tell you the damage has been severe and ongoing, likely for years, incredible as it sounds. He's coherent, and lucid enough, but completely delusional. He seems to believe that he's in a hallucination and that none of us exist." He sighed. "Something else you need to know. He's English like you, and he's mentioned Voldemort. I think he believes he's still alive. I checked his arm for that mark you told us about, and there was nothing, but…" he shrugged.
"Merlin's bloody balls. " Draco ran a hand through his hair, and stopped for a moment. "This isn't what I was expecting. If it's that severe and that ongoing, well, there were few of us that experienced that. There might be a decent chance that he's someone I've met."
"I wondered if that might be the case, but even if it is, what are you going to do, it's not like you can just not treat him."
"I know. It's just," he shook his head. "It's complicated."
"I know, maybe more than you realize. You aren't the only one with a past, you know."
"I know. Nothing to do now but get to it, eh? Wish me luck."
"Luck is one thing I've never seen you need, Malfoy. Skill has always served you just fine, but if you think it'll help, good luck."
He watched through the door first, getting a sense of his patient. It was impossible to guess how old the man was with any accuracy. He assumed he was relatively young because there was no grey in the inky black hair. There were twigs, dead leaves, and other things that his fastidious nature didn't want to speculate about, however. The hair was matted and filthy, and the beard full and just as unkempt. Apparently the man was homeless, if the state of his grooming and his attire were anything to go by. He was dressed in layer on layer of ripped, stained and worn fabric as most homeless were in the Seattle winter, everything obviously coming from church charity bins, and that a long time ago at that. He wasn't moving now, simply lying on the bed staring at the ceiling through a curtain of hair. Every now and then his fingers would twitch as if trying to grasp a wand and his face would contort, but he didn't make a sound.
Draco knocked on the door, watching to see if the man was engaged enough with the world around him to notice. No luck. If he heard the knock he gave no sign, and after a minute Draco simply walked in.
"Hello," he said quietly. "I'm a Healer. I'd like to take a look at you if you don't mind, run some diagnostic spells. Would that be all right?" He used the English title since Andrews had mentioned that the man also English, hoping the familiarity would help him relax. He waited for the man to respond, and this time his patience was rewarded. The man's eyes slowly rose to his, and Draco sucked in a breath. No one had eyes like that, eyes the color of Avada Kedavra, eyes that could look into your soul and show you every evil you ever did. Eyes that made you want to do anything to make him smile at you. The eyes of Harry Potter.
"Dear Merlin," he breathed, and in response, Harry started to laugh. It was not a happy sound, or ironic, it was high and shrill and quite mad. He laughed and laughed, and Draco nearly flinched at the high, broken sound. Finally he ran out of breath and simply stared at Draco, his eyes roving over him like he couldn't look away.
"Harry, do you know who I am?" he asked quietly. Potter flinched, shaking his head slowly back and forth, not in a denial of the knowledge, more as a denial of the question itself.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No Malfoy's, not here, no one here. Am I here? Maybe not." His eyes flew to Draco's again, and this time they were hard, and angry and suspicious. "I know I'm mad, yes, that was certain quite some time ago, but that isn't the point, is it? No, the question is why did I put Malfoy into my head, yes, that's it, isn't it? So, answer me, why did I put you here? I don't mind talking to you, talking to your hallucinations is the last step into madness, you know. It was the last step, and when I stepped off it I was relieved. I thought it would all stop then, the nightmares, the uncontrolled magic. They had taken my wand by then, but that didn't really matter, did it? I didn't exactly need it by then, not anymore. But you know what, there is a secret." He leaned toward Draco, a conspiratorial expression on his face, and Draco leaned forward helplessly to hear. "The nightmares never go away. In fact, once you're truly mad they don't even wait for sleep any longer." He nodded once and leaned back and Draco felt a stinging in his eyes. Potter saw it and began to chuckle.
"You have nightmares too, don't you Malfoy? I thought you might. We all did, but the others went away eventually. No one would say but I think they gave them to me." He nodded. "Yes, that must be it. It was always my job to make everything better for everyone, so that must have been the last of it. That's a relief, really, because obviously that was enough, there wasn't anything else I could do once I finally went mad, was there?"
"Maybe you aren't as mad as you think you are."
Potter snorted in disbelief.
"I must have known you better than I thought, because that is exactly the sort of thing that I would expect you to say. Yes, tell me I'm not mad, try to get me to do something else, knowing that I'd muck it up because I'm mad, then use it to your advantage. That's just like you Malfoy. You know, you should have been hideous, it would have been more just, more fitting, as it were, but no. You had to be deceptive even in that, didn't you? So beautiful, absolutely shining, making everyone forget what you were with that smile, then you would make your move, and it was all the more deadly because it was unexpected. "
"Legend says Lucifer was the most beautiful of all Gods angels," Draco said quietly. "My mother told me that when she was explaining to me why she married my father. It was only later that I realized she meant it as a warning to me, too. People change, Potter, even me. Can you believe that?"
"I can believe whatever I want to, it's my madness," he said with perfect logic. Draco stifled a chuckle.
"You have a point there, I suppose. So, would you like to believe that I have changed? And regardless of all that, would you like me to see if I can undo some of the damage that the war has done to you? I know there is quite a bit of spell damage that could stand treating."
"Well, there's certainly not much else you can do to me except kill me, so why not? Maybe I can even figure out why I decided to bring you into my world and make you a Healer. The real Malfoy would have a ball with that, wouldn't he? He was always much better at casting Unforgivables than treating them."
"You'd be surprised. I learned the treatments for the Cruciatus when I was seven. My mother taught me so that she and I could treat one another when my father…" he broke off, shaking his head. Dammit, where was professionalism when he needed it? "Here, hold still and let me clean you up, first, yeah?" Potter shrugged and lay back, holding his arms out as if to say 'do your worst'. With a sigh Draco began a series of grooming charms he had started to learn since the day he could hold a wand. He clipped potters hair back to something resembling chin length, and used a shaving charm to rid him of the filthy beard. He had to cast a scourgify several times to get the worst of the grime off, then detangling charms to get the knots out of what was left of his hair. When he was done Potter looked almost normal, his hair waving down to his collarbones, and face shaved and relatively clean.
"Would you like a real shower and a change of clothes before we begin?" Potter contemplated for a moment, then nodded.
"I haven't had a shower in a very long time, I don't think. Do I smell?"
"Not anymore." Potter snorted.
"Now that is the Malfoy I thought I'd get. Yes, I'll shower, but I haven't any other clothes."
"I'll take care of that," Draco murmured. "And not hospital pajamas either, I can do better than that, I think." He transfigured the typical locked ward pajamas into a simple pair of khaki trousers and a polo shirt, and changed potters tattered boots into a pair of quite decent looking loafers. He levitated them into the bathroom, and took a seat finally in the chair that was bolted to the floor beside the bed.
Potter emerged some thirty minutes later, dressed and looking, Dear Gods, Draco thought, and purposely looked away. He looked like every shameful fantasy Draco had had since he was fifteen years old.
"You should lie down, it's easier for me to do the diagnostic spells," he said as calmly as he could manage. Harry lay down with another shrug and crossed his arms behind his head. Draco began with a series of what he and Ellis had termed 'show-me' spells that would light up in different colors and patterns that the caster could read to identify different hexes, jinxes and spells the patient had been subjected to. As soon as he cast it the room lit up in a kaleidoscope of interwoven colors and patterns that was dizzying to say the least. He sucked in a breath, and without even thinking conjured a Patronus.
"Jason, it's Draco, get here as soon as you can, yeah, I have a patient here I'm going to need your help with. Send a Patronus on to Severus when you get this, and tell him to bring anything he's got that he thinks could possibly work on every kind of damage he can think of except physical. I think this might be the real test of everything we've been working on for the past few years." He sent it on, and looked over to see Potter watching it.
"I never thought that you could cast a Patronus, that's powerful light magic," he observed. Draco bristled.
"I've always been able to. "
"A snake?" he shrugged.
"Not always. When I was young it was a Pegasus, my father raised them and when I rode them I felt like nothing could go wrong. It changed when I became a doctor, a Healer. Do you know the symbol of healing for Muggles?"
"The snake and staff?" He nodded.
"A serpent and a wand, I think. I believe the ancients knew better than we in the modern world. A serpent to symbolize the ability to shed ones outside and begin anew, and a wand for magic. Muggles think about it differently, of course, but that's what I think. "
"I used to be able to talk to snakes, you know." Draco nodded.
"I know. Can you not do it anymore?" He shrugged.
"Dunno, haven't tried. Why talk to something that probably doesn't exist?" That part had Draco truly puzzled.
"Harry, if this is all an hallucination, then where do you think you are?" He seemed to consider the question seriously, then shrugged.
"Not sure, really. The last thing that I remember that I am sure was real was Saint Mungos. Hermione and Ron brought me in after I had an episode. That's what they would call it when my magic would go haywire and destroy things, an "episode". They brought me to Saint Mungos and asked me for my wand. They said they didn't want anyone else to get hurt. I let them have it, I didn't care, it's not like I had needed it in a while anyway. It was a day or two after that when the nightmares started and they never stopped. I think Voldemort is dead, but sometimes I can't remember. Sometimes I think Hermione and Ron are dead, too, but I'm never sure if that's true or I just think it because I'm mad. I'm fairly certain I haven't seen them in years, but I don't know how long it's been, hell, I don't even know what the date is, and I know that should bother me, but it doesn't. Actually, I don't even know where I am, and that doesn't bother me either. I expect maybe I'm in a Saint Mungo's locked ward and all this is a dream I've had before, and will forget and have again like it's new over and over. I think this is the first time you were in it, though. Maybe that means I'm going even madder than I was."
"But you don't care."
"Not really. You're so much nicer than you were in school; maybe that's why I brought you here. I always wanted to see what you would be like when you weren't being a git."
"I didn't dare be anything besides what my father wanted. I tried, when we were young. When I failed to befriend you before school father was furious. And when you went with the Weasleys, well, I thought he might kill me that time. But Mother and Severus healed me."
"Your father beat you?" Draco nodded. Harry sighed. "The Dursleys beat me, too. Honestly I don't think they realized how badly they did it because I was able to heal pretty fast, but my uncle broke my ribs dozens of times over the years, and I think a lot of the time that they kept me locked either in the cupboard or in Dudleys second bedroom was because they were afraid someone in Little Whinging would see my face and call Child Service."
"How could they, you had Dumbledore to protect you." He was aware that his voice sounded bitter, but he couldn't help it. Harry snorted.
"He didn't know, he never checked. I tried to avoid going back there in summers, I begged him to let me stay with the Weasleys, or even stay at school, but he told me that I couldn't endanger anyone else and there were things that the Order had to do over summer and they couldn't be there to take care of me. He told me the wards there would protect me, and though it was unpleasant…. Unpleasant mind….that I needed to act like an adult and let everyone do what they needed to."
"So you didn't tell him what they did to you." He shook his head.
"Would he have believed me if I did or would he have claimed I was attention seeking like that article in the Prophet? There was no point. I knew what I was by then; I was the Orders weapon, I existed to fulfill the Prophecy. I think I was supposed to die in the Final Battle." His eyes clouded and he looked over at Draco in confusion.
"The Final Battle did happen, didn't it? I did kill him, I served my purpose, right, I don't have to try to fight him again, not like this. I can't do it like this, I can't think, I can't remember, so many spells are just gone…and I lost my wand. I'm not sure what happened to it, it was a bad wand anyway, it was the brother to His wand, how could anything good be cast from a wand like that?"
"It happened, and you beat him, Harry, you did. The war is long over, there's nothing you need to fight anymore, no one you have to save except yourself. You aren't in Saint Mungos, Harry; you're in the United States, a hospital in Seattle. I work here as a Healer, I have for several years now, and I'm going to help you. I'm going to make the real world come back for you."
"I don't care if the real world comes back anymore, really, you needn't bother, but it would be nice if it didn't have to hurt so damned much all the time. Maybe you can make some of the pain leave. If I could dream that you did that, maybe it really would, do you think that would work? Why am I asking you anyway, you'll just tell me what I want to hear since I dreamed you." He reached up suddenly and sifted his fingers through Draco's hair, and smiled. "I was right, does feel like Acromantula silk." Then he was asleep. Draco managed to make it out of the room and cast a silencing charm on himself before the tears fell.
"You look like shit." Draco looked up, and grimaced.
"I'm not surprised." He put his wand to his temple and withdrew a strand of memory, fairly chucking into the pensieve on the desk. "Look at that scan." He watched as Jason Ellis bent his red head into the surface and froze. He could have been a Weasley with the tall, gangly build and ginger coloring, Draco thought once again, but there was no one less English than Ellis. American all the way back to the founding he was descended from Irish stock that was diluted by everything else in the American melting pot. He was brash, rude, arrogant and had no respect at all for tradition, ancestry or wealth. Ellis had also been his best friend for nearly four years.
Ellis stayed in the pensieve for quite some time, emerging just as Severus apparated directly into the office. He was clad in robes, having flatly refused to pick up the Muggle form of dress that most American wizards preferred unless he was visiting a Muggle part of the city. He gave Ellis a curt nod and dipped his own face into the pensieve, having deduced by the expression on the two mens faces that he needed to get up to speed as soon as possible. He came out far faster than Ellis had, his expression frozen.
"There is only one person who could possibly have so much damage for so long, but I do not understand how it would have gone untreated."
"You would if you spoke to him. They took him, used him as a weapon, then discarded him when he became dangerous and inconvenient. He's quite mad now; he thinks he is probably in a locked ward in St. Mungos most of the time, and that all this is an hallucination, but he doesn't care, he's quite content to live in the dream as long as it's a reasonably pleasant one. He had no idea how long it has been since the Final Battle; in fact sometimes he isn't sure that the Battle really took place. I…" Ellis looked askance as his voice broke, then suddenly revelation broke onto his face.
"Potter…it's Harry Potter, isn't it?"
"Bravo, you figured out the incredibly obvious," Severus intoned dryly. Ellis shot him a glare.
"Maybe to you, but not all of us were around for your war, you know."
"Will you two please shut the fuck up?" There was a brittle quality to his voice that stopped the other two immediately.
"Sorry, Drake, I know this has to be hard for you," Ellis said quietly, his remorse evident. Severus merely sighed.
"I see you have yet to rid yourself of this, attachment, what a shame. You must realize that even if you do manage to cure him he will likely still despise you."
"It doesn't matter, does it? Not only would it be fundamentally wrong to leave him this way, you know I couldn't. If he still hates me then so be it. At least it will be him, not some broken doll that has his eyes." Ellis winced. This was not going to be a pleasant case, he could tell already.
Severus cast a soporific charm when they all entered Potters room, keeping the man asleep as long as they could as they worked. Ellis, who had never seen even a photo of the famous Harry Potter before was surprised. He was slight of build, almost to the point of painful thinness, and perhaps an inch below six feet. Shoulder length waving black hair framed features that were handsome without being almost pretty like Draco's aristocratic looks, though he could tell that Potters nose had been broken several times and healed improperly. There were dark circles under the mans eyes and even in sleep he frowned and shuddered, hands clutching and unclutching in distress.
"How bad was he when he got here?"
"Bad. He had apparently been living on the streets, probably for years. He was wearing rags, his hair and beard looked like they hadn't been cut for years, and he was beyond filthy. He was admitted when he was arrested for vagrancy and they tried to get him to move on, and realized he couldn't walk. Someone had broken both his legs, and given his face quite a pummeling, too. There was no apparent motive, just someone taking their anger out on someone who couldn't fight back. He'd been healed by the time I was told, and I convinced him to allow me to clean him up, and he consented to taking a shower. We talked for maybe a half hour and he allowed the diagnostic spells, then he fell asleep. He said he would like it if we were able to take care of some of the residual pain. He said that perhaps if he dreams that he allows us to treat him then perhaps his mind would take the pain away. "
"I will admit that even in his present state the argument has merit." Severus sounded much sobered by the recitation of the situation, and Draco could see the reluctant concern in his eyes. "Have you done anything beyond the grooming and diagnostic spells?"
"No, not in the state he was in. I wanted both of you to have a look before I started. He's such a mess and it's over such a long period of time that it seemed safer to have both of you here."
"Not a bad idea, I can see at least five curse threads around him, looks like they were designed to work on him over time, can't tell what they are just yet, just that they look like nasty little fuckers." Ellis was waving his wand in complex patterns, his eyes locked to the patterns and runes he cast. "Holy shit, Drake, whoever did this really hated this guy."
"Half of wizarding Britain wanted him dead almost as soon as he was born, it's no wonder. Even his Muggle family beat the hell out of him when they felt like it."
"Ridiculous, the old coot would have never allowed that," Severus sniffed.
"That's presupposing he knew or gave a damn, which he didn't. He never checked on Potter once, and when he asked not to go back there for summers Dumbledore basically told him to suck it up and get over it. He quit trying after that." Still skeptical, Severus cast a spell, looked, cancelled the spell and cast it again.
"You can cast that as many times as you like and it will still say the same thing and you know it. You can see where the bones have been knit over and over. You can see the scarring on the organs, too if you wanted to check for that. It's a wonder he lived to fight the Final Battle. Jason, I'd like to start with that new unraveling spell we developed. Once we do that I'm going to start working on the traces that are still left of the Cruciatus. That will be what's causing him the residual discomfort. Severus, I assume you brought the nerve regeneration potions?" A snort was all the answer he got, and an IV needle floated to Harry and the needle set itself in his arm.
The three wizards worked for several hours, exchanging a minimum of conversation, much of it in the working shorthand developed over years of close professional association. Finally Ellis called a halt, his face red and dripping perspiration from the effort of holding several complex spells for hours on end.
"We can't go any farther without getting sloppy, and I'm fairly sure that if we get sloppy and lose control of this then not only will we kill him, but likely we'll flatten most of the buildings within a quarter mile of here. I've never seen such a twist of stuff in my life. It's like his own magic would take the stuff thrown at him and nullify it as best it could, but it couldn't dispel the traces. I'm guessing that he didn't even realize he was hit with half of it, or if he knew he was hit he thought it was some minor schoolyard jinx. The thing of it is, if anyone had done a good, thorough physical on him he would've lit up like a Christmas tree. How the hell this got missed for so long goes beyond criminal. You saw it; a lot of this has to go back to his early to mid teen years. Don't you people believe in a yearly checkup?"
"Not when you're the Chosen One and you feel fine," Draco said quietly. "As long as he said he was okay and kept out of the way no one bothered. I think I got most of the worst pain hexes, and with the nerve regeneration, calming draughts, and pain potions on board he should be able to rest comfortably and be in a minimal amount of discomfort when he wakes up."
"Look at his face, he's stopped frowning." Severus took several additional bottles and dumped them into an IV bag of saline, letting the contents mingle into an even lavender color. He adjusted the flow off the bag and nodded.
"That should hold him for ten to twelve hours. We should use that time to get something to eat and then sleep before we begin the next step. I am fairly certain that the next treatment will be much more difficult than this one. These were the obvious jinxes and targeted treatment for a curse we know was used."
"It's going to take weeks, possibly longer, and that's only if you can reassign all the rest of your caseload, Draco."
"If we can pull it off at all."
"If we can you know what it means." He smiled for the first time.
"Yeah, it means we won. It also means that there might be a shot for people like the Longbottoms and McGonagall. It's everything we've worked towards for all these years."
"Redemption." Draco nodded.
"Quite possibly that as well, if such a thing is possible."
Harry awoke, at least he thought he had been sleeping, sometimes it was hard to tell the difference. But regardless of what it was he had been in the dark, and now the dark was light, and a room, and the smell of spice, and a pair of silver eyes.
"How are you feeling?" He thought about that one for a moment. There was something missing, he felt, something that was always there. He thought another minute then realized what it was.
"The pain is gone. It worked. I dreamed that you said you would fix it and it worked."
"It wasn't a dream, Harry, it happened last night. We talked and you asked me to help, and I did. I'm going to keep helping, too. I'm going to help you find the way out of this prison your mind has you locked in, too. Let's start with something simple, yeah? How about the day? It's Tuesday today. " Harry shrugged.
"That's nice. I'm hungry. Have you eaten breakfast?" Draco shifted uncomfortably, unwilling to admit that after Severus and Jason had left he used the time to reassign his caseload, and then gone back to sit with Harry until he awoke, falling into a fitful slumber in the uncomfortable chair.
"I'll get us both something, shall I? The canteen food is deplorable, I'm not sure it even classifies as food. What would you like?"
"A real English breakfast, I think. I can't remember when I had one last. Where did you say we were? The US? I've never been there, no wonder it doesn't make sense. I don't even know how to dream it properly."
"Well, hopefully you won't have to dream it for long then. Maybe we can fix it so you only dream at night when you sleep and even those dreams aren't frightening."
"Yes, my partners. You will meet them later today as we continue your treatments. Jason is a curse breaker, an American, and he looks like a bloody Weasley, but he's my best mate nonetheless. And Severus is here, too. He came with me after the war ended. We started over here in America, maybe you can too."
"Like your serpent patronus, just shed my skin and be different?"
"This is you, Potter, it certainly won't be as easy as all that, but that never seems to stop you, does it? Will you be all right here while I get our breakfast?" Harry nodded, and watched as he left the room.
There was a commotion at the door when Draco arrived back, a take away bag full of food in hand. There were three burly orderlies at Harry's door trying over and over to enter, only to be physically tossed back on their rear ends whenever they got too close, shouting orders to Harry to stand down, and reassurances to someone in the room.
"What the bloody fucking hell is going on here?!" Draco's shout sounded like it was amplified in the corridor and all three froze.
"The patient has Melinda in there and he won't let her go, and he's doing some sort of wandless magic to keep us out. Even the three of us together can't break whatever spell he's using."
"Of course you can't, he's Harry Bloody Potter, you idiots! I don't suppose you tried talking to him, hmm?" he pushed them out of the way with his own bit of wandless magic, setting them on their arses again, smirking in satisfaction at the low swearing in back of him. He looked in the room to see a nurse holding a needle and a wand petrified on the floor, Potter standing over her, a puzzled look on his face.
"Harry, I brought breakfast, are you still hungry?" He looked up, relief in his face.
"Draco! I didn't think you were coming back, I thought I sent you away and then she came and she's trying to torture me, and so I paralyzed her, and then those three started to try to get in…" he trailed off and scrubbed a hand over his face. "This is all quite confusing, you know. Why would I make people trying to get me? Why does this look like a locked ward when I'm quite certain that if I'm in one I don't want to stay there? Is that breakfast?" Caught off guard Draco nodded, and stepped in, finding that Harry's power did not toss him out on his rear.
"Why don't you take a shower and shave, and I'll clean your clothes, then when you get out we can have breakfast. I'll just put a stasis charm on all this and it will be perfect when you get out."
"I could use some coffee," he said, apropos of nothing. "Sirius liked coffee and got me to drinking it. Hermione too. Did you know that Sirius and Hermione were sleeping together right before he went into the veil? I told her she was being an idiot, that he was way too old for her, but she never listened, and better him than Snape, that was who she really wanted. That mental image alone is enough to make one mental. Maybe that was what pushed me over the edge, the thought of Snape fucking." The comment startled a laugh out of Draco and Harry gave him a sweet smile.
"You see what I mean, then."
"God, Potter, you're going to put me off my breakfast, that is my godfather we're talking about, you know. And Black with Granger? Well, I suppose I can see that one, after all, Black was quite the looker in his Hogwarts days, I've seen photos. He and my mother were related, you know, cousins. Still, didn't it bother him that she was your age?"
"As long as it had breasts, and was pretty I don't think much of anything bothered Sirius," he replied with a grin. "He was about as bad a man-whore as you, Malfoy."
"I was not a man-whore!" he protested, affronted. "Besides, breasts never were what did it for me, as if that wasn't blatantly obvious. At least I thought it was obvious."
"You mean you really are a poof? Are you sure? There were dozens of girls that claimed they'd slept with you."
"Well, I had to be sure, didn't I? And it wasn't dozens. Go take your shower and stop analyzing my former sex life for Merlin's sake! And for the record I resent the term poof. One can be perfectly masculine and still prefer the company of other men, thank you very fucking much."
"Anyone who spent as much time on personal grooming as you qualifies as a poof, Draco, don't kid yourself," Harry chuckled, and closed the bathroom door.
"He has a point, actually," Jason observed, strolling into the room, making Draco jump in shock. "So, I heard there was a little bit of a dust up here a few minutes ago. Seems settled now. Hell, if I didn't know better I'd think he was fine. And damned if he wasn't flirting with you, too."
"Bullshit. You're looking at the Boy-Who-Fucks-Only-Women there, unfortunately. He was never attached to anyone other than a female the entire time I knew him. Besides, even if he were he thinks I'm a fucking hallucination."
"What better, safer place to be honest with yourself than what you think is only inside your own mind? Besides, how would he know that much about you if he hadn't been paying attention all those years ago? You might have a shot if you want one, once he's cured."
"If he gets cured. And once he is he'll remember, and it will be just as it always was; he'll hate me, and I'll lash out, we'll fight and say things that can't be taken back…" he trailed off. "And when haven't I been the king of the fucked up personal relationships. That's why I don't have relationships, Jason. Fucking I can handle. It's easy, you fuck, you leave. I never was any good once the erections went down."
"That's a little more information than I was looking for at this hour of the morning, thanks so much. You're pretty Malfoy, but not pretty enough for me to picture that."
"Only because you prefer vaginas and udders. Been there, done that, no thanks."
"It's better that way, at least we don't compete for attention, you know? Good thing, too or I'd never get any action. It's not fair."
"I can't help that I'm beautiful. You should have seen my parents. Looked like Veelas, both of them."
Harry walked out a few minutes later toweling his hair, dressed only in his trousers, and went hunting in the take away bags. Draco tried not to notice Harry's bare chest, and being totally unsuccessful, did the next best thing and focused on what faults he could find.
"We're going to have to feed you up, Harry. I'm thin, and you make me look like a Bulstrode." Harry coughed at the unkind reference to the plumpness prevalent in that family, and gave Draco a reproachful look. "What?" he tried to look innocent and failed. "Oh, Harry, I wanted to introduce you to Jason Ellis, he's one of the colleagues I was telling you about earlier, do you remember?"
"You said he's a curse breaker," Harry said slowly. He gave Jason a once-over and nodded. "You were right, he does look like a Weasley."
"I am in the room, you know." Harry's eyes widened at the American accent and he shook his head in confusion.
"God, this is getting weirder by the minute."
"Maybe if you pretended it was real, instead of believing it was a dream it would make more sense," Draco offered quietly. Harry cocked an eyebrow in such a perfect imitation of Draco's own expression that Jason had to choke back a laugh.
"Yeah, and in what real world would a Malfoy be living in the United States working as a Healer with a best mate that looks exactly like a Weasley? And in what further world would said Malfoy look at me without either behaving like a prat or sending one of his goons to bloody me up a bit? Not to mention how the hell would I have got to the States in the first place?"
"Of that last I have no bloody clue, no one else seems to either, but knowing you you could probably have apparated here, though how you did it without splinching is beyond me. As for the rest, I told you; people can change, especially with the right motivation. It's amazing what enough guilt and horror will do for a person's character. You aren't the only one who had nightmares, Harry. You weren't the only one who did things in battle that made you want to claw your own eyeballs out rather than relive it. You weren't even the only one who lost people they cared about. Contrary to what you believed at the time I did have people I cared for. Unlike you, every single one of them save one died. And also unlike you, some of them died because I killed them. I killed them so that you could win, because killing them was the only way to keep you alive long enough to do what had to be done. It took years before I stopped seeing their faces in my dreams every time I closed my eyes." Jason stepped forward, intending to stop this exchange of pain before it could unbalance either of them any further, only to find he was frozen to the spot and he couldn't tell whose wandless magic was responsible.
"You're lying. You weren't even at the Final Battle; I would have seen you. Hell, you would've been beside your damned father throwing hexes at me."
"Except I wasn't beside him. If you'd cared to pay attention you'd have known I had gone with Dumbledore's side long since. My father might have been able to force me to get the Dark Mark, but he bloody well couldn't force me to believe he was right, not anymore, not after what he did to my mother, he and bloody Voldemort. They killed her in front of me as a traitor because she made Severus vow to protect me. That made it my fault that she died. I swore a wizard's oath that day that I would make sure you fulfilled your destiny if I had to die in the attempt. When you went after Voldemort at the Final Battle I was behind you under a Disillusionment Charm watching your back. I killed my friends, my fathers' friends, people I had known all my life just so you could get to Him and kill him. And when it was done I took you back to where your friends could find you, and I had to run because regardless of what I'd done and that I had joined the light I was still Lucius Malfoys son, and that alone would have earned me Azkaban for life, if not the Kiss." Both had risen by this time and wild magic crackled in the air.
"You went mad, Potter, you were lucky. Some of the rest of us had to live every single day for the past eight years with the perfectly lucid memories of everything that happened. I didn't have the luxury of insanity, much as I would have liked it. My father beat that escape out of me by the time I was out of leading strings."
"You were a spoiled, self indulgent prat whose father gave you everything!"
"Oh yes, you're right about that at least. My father gave me everything all right. My first beating, the taste of my first Crucio, my first broken bone, my first black eye, even my first bloody fucking!" He clapped a hand over his mouth as the last left, a look of sheer horror coming over his face. Jason sucked in a breath of mingled shock and pity for his friend. Potter simply looked stunned.
"I…I didn't know." He finally said, softly. Draco looked at the floor, tears finally trickling down his cheeks.
"No one knew. How could they? My father was incredibly influential, rich, on the board of governors for the school, and in Voldemorts inner circle of Death Eaters. There was no place I could go that he could not reach, no person I could confide in that he could not either pay off, intimidate or kill. It was punishment, you see. He said I brought shame on the Malfoy name. That was always the offence, bringing shame in some way, whether it was having a stain on the hem of my robes in public, speaking to the wrong person at a party, getting a lower mark than Granger who in his opinion was just a filthy mudblood or losing the snitch to you in Quidditch. He would have a list when I came home for holidays, every offence marked on a parchment, and he would make me recite them while the punishment was carried out. Most of the time it was simply a whipping, he had a carriage whip in his study he used. There were a set number of lashes for each type of offence and I would have to recite the offence then count the lashes as he laid them on. If I fainted he would reenervate me and start back from one. If I cried or begged him to stop it would start over from one. He used the Cruciatus on me for the first time when I was five. I had already begun my education, dancing, etiquette, family history, blood law, art, music, French, and magic. I mistakenly transfigured a precious vase into a bird, and he was furious. He left the curse on until I passed out, then he started kicking me. It took my mother and Severus together to get me out of the coma, and heal me. I almost died that day. I often wished I had. When he found out that I thought I preferred blokes he was livid. How could the Malfoy name continue if I was nothing but a bloody ponce? He said he would see to it that I never wanted to look at a man that way again, and he…well, he was as brutal as possible, and then he tossed me into the oubliette for three days before sending me back to Hogwarts like nothing happened."
"Fifth year." His head shot up at Harry's quiet words.
"How did you know that?"
"You came back from Easter hols looking like death had stared you in the face. Every noise made you jump, your temper was always on the boil, the younger students had a network to watch for you so they could hide. You didn't eat for days, and I think you came to class drunk or at least hung over from dreamless sleep potions more than once. Even Ron and Hermione remarked on it, they thought it was using dark magic that had finally started to catch up on you, but you didn't feel that way to me. Dark magic leaves a taint that I can always feel somehow. You just felt, wrong, afraid, so locked up inside yourself that not even magic escaped. I wondered what happened but I was the last person you would ever talk to. I always thought it was a shame, that you were possibly the only person who would ever really understand, and you hated me and everything I stood for."
"I never hated you, Harry. I resented you; I thought everything came so easily to you. People liked you, you had real friends, you seemed to have everything I didn't. All I ever had were possessions and a sentence to a life I didn't want."
"In the Final Battle I wondered why no one seemed to get close to me. I thought I was so insignificant that they didn't even notice me. When I looked in back of me I saw the bodies, and I didn't know if I did it, everything was so loud and confused, but there was no one else, and if I didn't do it then who did?"
Jason felt the body bind lift but didn't move. He cast a show-me on Harry, modified so it was only visible to him, and finally caught it, a hex that was like a memory charm and an insanity curse but not quite either one. Harry's natural memories were fighting it, making it stand out from the others, and Jason shifted behind Draco, starting to weave his wand in a pattern, unraveling the curse strand by strand. Harry clutched his head suddenly, a bolt of agony shooting through it.
"Oh Gods, I remember! I remember being carried off the field and in the great hall was nothing but bodies and I couldn't tell if they were alive or dead, and I wanted to help but I couldn't say the spells, I forgot what they were, and everything would go dark, then light, then dark again. It was like that for weeks. There were parties and parades and balls and I was told I had to go, that they expected me, it was my responsibility, but it hurt, so many people missing, and I wanted to forget, and when the dark came it was simple, easy to say it didn't happen, and then they didn't want me there anymore, I was unstable. Ron and Hermione tried to take care of me, but I nearly killed them, and they took me to St Mungos finally, but I didn't want to be there, I hated that place. I focused on the picture on an old postcard I'd see once and I apparated. I didn't know where the postcard was; only it wasn't there. I didn't splinch, but I was exhausted, there was no more magic after that, I was too tired so it left me, and that time when the dark came I didn't try to fight it anymore. I went to the dream, and it was so much easier." He looked up and around, eyes clear for the first time since Draco had encountered him again.
"I'm not in a locked ward in St. Mungos, am I? I really am in a hospital in the States, and you really are here, it's all real, isn't it?"
"Yes, Harry, it's real, it's all real." He shuddered.
"How long? How long since the Battle, Malfoy?"
"Almost nine years." Draco took a chance then and opened his arms, and Harry stepped into them without hesitation, and began to cry out far more than nine years of pain. And it didn't seem irresponsible or unprofessional at all for Draco to hold on just as tight as Harry and let his tears fall as well.
It did take weeks of daily treatments and exhausting sessions of practical magic use with a witch Draco hired to help Harry regain his skills as a wizard before he began to truly come back to himself. He and Draco did not speak of the past again, though he did consent to speaking with a muggle-born mind healer and allowed her to finally help him start to exorcise the inner demons that had been with him so long. A sort of professional friendship began to develop between the two, though Draco refused to allow things to go further than small talk and conversations about his progress. Harry could still see a great well of agony behind the veils in those incredible mercury eyes, though, and he worried. He thought perhaps he knew what part of that pain was, and why Draco hid it from him, he felt it as well, a pull between them that was nearly tangible.
For him it had started as a crush in Hogwarts as far back as fourth year when he began to realize that he would never feel for Ginny Weasley, or any other female, what he felt when he saw Malfoy, and sometimes Cedric Diggory and Oliver Wood. In sixth year when Oliver kissed him in the showers after a particularly vicious Quidditch match with Ravenclaw that had to be the most difficult win of the season, he finally knew what he had only begun to suspect. He and Oliver had sex in the showers that day, and it was hot and urgent and amazing and made him see stars. It could never be called a relationship, they didn't date or become a couple, but until Oliver graduated at the end of that year Harry learned all he wanted to know about how good sex could be. More than that he learned how to flirt and how to see the signs that another man was attracted to him, and Malfoy was definitely attracted. He'd had many a dream about the blond in school; the very straight blond who despised him, or so he had thought. Finding now that not only did Malfoy not despise him, but also that the blond was the furthest thing from straight, he could only contemplate how to break through that barrier of professionalism he had erected between them.
Was it perhaps that Draco didn't want to engage with someone who was under his care? That was part of it, he decided, but not all. Was it that he was afraid that Harry would slip back into the madness that had held him in chains for the past nine years? He didn't think so. While the descent had been gradual, the recovery was nigh on to miraculously rapid once the multitude of curses, hexes and jinxes had been cleaned form his system. Honestly, he thought now that if those had been attended as they happened he would have not come near to madness at all on his own. Yes, the past was painful, beyond painful in many cases, and he had issues to deal with, but he was at least as sane as he had been in school now. Maybe that was it, he thought. Malfoy had a real life here, one he had built carefully and slowly, a career he was good at, bloody brilliant at actually, and a life with friends and even what was left of his family. He had done everything he could to remove himself completely from his past, Harry could be nothing more than a reminder every day of everything he had lost. He wondered if he could stand to look at Draco, regardless of the physical attraction, if that were the case with him. He thought he could, but what did he know? He didn't have a life, and found that he was reluctant to attempt to reconnect with the people from his past as well.
Severus had been making noises lately about contacting Ron and Hermione and letting them know he was alive and somewhat alright, as had the mind healer, but he kept finding reasons not to do it. He wasn't sure why, even, other than he thought they had their own lives now, and he didn't have the right to force a place back into it. Perhaps Draco was not the only one who needed to shed his skin and become someone else.
He owled the local branch of Gringotts the next day and found that, without a will or a blood heir, his vaults had simply been sealed until a claim was filed upon them, as had the ones he had inherited from Sirius, and he was now technically wizarding aristocracy as the head of both the Noble House of Black and the Noble House of Potter, as his father had been a wealthy pureblood firstborn son as well. A simple excursion to the branch with Jason Ellis and a blood verification had proved his identity to the goblins there, and his vaults were transferred to the US. He thought perhaps he was one of the richest wizards in the world, a fact confirmed by the Head Goblin of the branch. Relieved, he paid his by now quite enormous hospital bill, and leased a flat, sending Draco and Severus owls to notify them that he had checked himself out of the hospital, and giving them his address and letting them know he would be available for the last of his sessions at their convenience.
He situated his flat in Muggle Seattle so he could take advantage of things like television and Internet service, but still heavily warded his flat, keying the wards to only admit Severus, Draco, Jason and Tricia, his mind healer. Then, realizing he had no real idea how to care for himself anymore he summoned Kreacher, on the off chance it would work and the elf was still alive. It did and he was, and after some fast-talking on Harry's part he managed to get the elf to provide decent, if reluctant, service.
Taking his newly minted Muggle identification, credit cards obtained somehow for him by the goblins that linked to his vault but were able to be used in the muggle world, Harry set about furnishing his new space, even going so far as to demand that Kreacher replace his old pillowcase tunic with a clean, new one in Egyptian cotton. He found the old elf stroking the fabric several times, and found that his meals improved and the flat fairly sparkled. He joined a gym, and began to work on improving the scrawniness of his physique. He still did not remember when or how his eyesight had been corrected, there were large gaps in his memory that he had been warned might not ever return, but he found that did not bother him like he might have thought it would. The present was what mattered, and he had to live it.
He invited the three of them over for a dinner party when he had the flat as he wanted it, a sort of celebration of his new independence. Severus brought a few extremely fine bottles of wine, Jason a loaf of bread and jar of salt that was used to perform a blessing ritual that was apparently a tradition in his family, and Draco a small photo album. Opening the cover he found that every photo had Sirius in it, all the way from infancy to probably seventh year at Hogwarts. Remus and his father were featured in several of the photos as well, with Peter Pettigrew at the fringes, looking at the other three with mixtures of adoration and jealousy.
"Where did you find these?" he asked quietly.
"They were in my mothers things. I told you they were cousins, and of an age, they naturally spent quite a bit of time together until mother married. Lucius didn't want her associating with blood traitors and muggle lovers after that and wouldn't allow her to speak to him or the rest of that group. I know you didn't have much record of your past, and I have too much I think sometimes, so there it is."
"Thank you Draco, it means everything to me to have something like this as a keepsake of him." He stepped forward to give the other man a hug of gratitude only to have Draco quickly step back, and extend a hand instead. Wounded, he took the proffered hand, unable to meet his eyes. Jason and Severus watched the exchange under the pretense of opening the wine to breathe, and Jason shook his head sadly.
"Damned fools. They need to just fuck and get it over with."
"For once I find myself in agreement with you, appallingly crude as your remark was," Severus said sourly. "Draco has harbored feelings for Potter for over a decade, and it seems it was likely mutual. Now is hardly the time to let whatever baggage remains between them get in the way."
"Do you even know what Draco's problem is?" Severus nodded.
"He is of the opinion that Potters regard for him is a symptom of his gratitude for saving his life, not any true feelings, not that a lack of feeling has ever troubled him in the past."
"He wasn't in love then," Jason said quietly. "I think he might be this time."
"Merlin's balls, if he insists upon this course I should have brought another bottle of wine."
"What's worse is that maybe another three sessions and I think the last of Potters spell damage will be completely repaired. Without that excuse to keep them seeing one another Draco will avoid him completely, and if I've learned anything about Potter, once he gets rejected he won't come looking for another taste of it, he does have that much self preservation."
"So it's this or nothing, hmm? Good, Draco could do better."
"Jesus Severus, get your head out of your ass and look at them. You're Draco's godfather, obviously you want him to be happy, so take a good look. Does it look like being apart does either one of them any good? And they do making a rather striking couple."
"And you would suggest what, precisely, a dose of amortentia in Potters cup? If you had noticed, the role of cupid is somewhat beyond me, and thank Merlin for it!" The conversation was abruptly cut off as the two joined them, Harry surreptitiously brushing a hand over his eyes before casting a glamour subtle enough that it would have impressed Severus if he hadn't watched it being cast. All it did was remove telltale sheen of tears, and a flush from his cheeks, leaving him seeming completely unperturbed.
Dinner had the potential to be a very stilted venture, but Potter surprised them all by being the perfect charming host, keeping the conversation light, and telling a few amusing anecdotes of his shopping excursions into the Muggle world.
"…and I looked at the thing, and I was quite certain that it was a large rat, and I mentioned to the woman that an old school friend of mine had a rat like it that he named Scabbers. Come to find out the horrid, hairless thing was apparently a dog, and she took a great amount of offence to my mistaking it, but Merlin's Bloody Bollocks you should have seen the damned thing!" Jason nearly choked on his wine, and Draco had his head propped on one hand on the table, trying to stifle his laughter before he got a cramp. Even Severus was unable to contain an amused snort.
"Gods, Potter, I hope you got the hell out of there and didn't actually expect the woman to serve you after that." Harry shrugged.
"Hideous dog or no she did have several pieces of artwork that I quite liked, and I wasn't about to leave them there simply because I put my foot in it over her pet. Actually, that piece right there over the fireplace is one of the ones I purchased in her gallery. She told me some new up and comer painted it, but honestly I couldn't be bothered to pay attention to who it was, I just liked it."
"You actually have better taste than I would have imagined," Draco mused, then flushed as Harry snorted. "Sorry, I didn't mean it to come out that way."
"This from the man who thought the only wardrobe colors that existed were black and blacker, and whose room was a study in house colors?"
"It was a dormitory, it's not as though we could redecorate, you know. And how the hell do you know what my room looked like anyway?"
"Well, I broke into the Slytherin dorms more than once to spy on you lot, obviously, and a few times I let Fred and George Weasley in to set some lovely pranks. I don't suppose you recall when someone enchanted every piece of furniture in your common room to say uncomplimentary things about the areses that were sitting on them?"
"That was you?!" Harry grinned.
"Well, the idea was Fred and Georges. I helped develop the charm, and we used my invisibility cloak to get in and set it. How long did it take you to reverse it?" He smirked.
"I managed to do my favorite chair in about a day, that's all I gave a damn about. I think the others took around three to finally straighten it all out."
"You mean you didn't help them?" He shrugged.
"The fact was, it really was funny, so I decided to enjoy it. You should have seen it, Harry, even time Zabini sat down on anything it started horrid limericks about the number of witches who had 'ridden his broomstick'. Pansy was so insulted she refused to go in there for a week. That peace and quiet alone made it worth it."
"The bathrooms in third year was Blaise, Millicent and I."
"The jinx that sent strawberry jam out of every tap? I thought McGonagall was going to have kittens over it. That was some pretty impressive spell work. We all thought it had to have been some of the older Ravenclaws. I think Dumbledore gained five pounds in the week it took to wear off. I caught him sneaking into the prefects loo with a loaf of bread more times than you would believe."
"If you think that's bad, you should have seen how many girls those Weasley twins dragged in there. I think there was more kinky shower fun in that week than in the whole rest of our years combined."
"Damn, I wish I'd thought of that," Harry mused. "But Oliver and I didn't get together till sixth year so…" Severus dropped his fork, and Draco goggled at Harry.
"You and Oliver Wood? In HOGWARTS? But you were seeing Cho Chang and the Weaselette." Harry grimaced.
"Cho was a fairly unpleasant experiment, and while I did try to date Ginny for a while I just didn't feel anything for her. I finally mostly figured out why by the end of fourth year, and by fifth I was trying to figure out how the hell to test the theory without getting myself beat to hell. It's not like I knew who was bent and who wasn't in that school. In sixth year Oliver took the guesswork out of the situation, and it clarified exactly why Ginny and I didn't work out. It really wasn't her, it was me. That was a damned good Quidditch year, especially after the games."
"Bloody hell." Draco sounded more than a little put out. "If I'd have known that then…" Harry snorted.
"If you'd known it then you would have told half the school, put up posters proclaiming me a ponce, and then tried to find some way to make it even more humiliating."
"Well, probably, but then I would have found an excuse to teach you that Wood was not the only game in school. He was good, don't get me wrong, but there was better out there." Harry paused with his fork halfway to his mouth.
"How would you know?" Draco merely smirked. "Bloody hell. He let you top?"
"Gentlemen, please!" Severus looked more than vaguely green, and threw his napkin down onto the table. "Your adolescent sexual escapades hold far less fascination for the rest of us than they do for you, please attempt to remember that."
"You're only saying that because you're sore that you didn't figure out that Hermione Granger fancied you before it was too late to take advantage of it," Harry said airily. Severus blinked.
"You are deluded Potter. Perhaps more sessions really are in order." Harry sighed.
"I am not. It's not like it's a guess on my part, she told me outright that she did, she simply didn't dare say anything for fear you would either hex her into the middle of next week, or expel her for making inappropriate advances."
"As if anyone would have believed that," Draco scoffed. Harry swatted him on the back of the head sharply.
"Don't be a prat. She had a right to her preferences."
"I had no idea the little swot ever…" he trailed off. "Not that it matters, she was correct in the assumption that I would not have welcomed her advances. Relations between students and faculty was strictly forbidden, and I would not have disregarded that rule regardless of my wishes in the matter."
"So if she weren't a student, would you?" Draco asked, curious. The dull flush in Severus cheeks spoke when he refused. "Huh, apparently you liked the fuzzy little bint, who would have thought?"
"Her intelligence was intriguing, and while it is more than obvious that neither of you would have noticed she developed generously in quite attractive ways."
"I noticed," Harry grinned. "I got stuck going bra shopping with her one weekend when Ginny and Luna both managed to get the flu. I told her it was a good thing she was buying some new things before stuff started popping out all over, and she used Ginny's bat bogey hex on me and called me an oblivious poof." Draco was snorting into his pudding again and Jason looked at the three of them in amazement.
"You know, it sounds like your school life was a hell of a lot more lively than mine. I considered getting Anna Samuelson to show me her boobs under the bleachers in sophomore year to be pretty amazing."
"It's the difference between boarding school and parochial school, I think," Draco offered. 'Remember, all of us were living under the same roof day in and day out, all wizards and witches, and all between the ages of eleven and eighteen. There were only a dozen adults to keep all of us in line, and there were probably nearly eight hundred of us at any given time. That gives a child a huge amount of freedom, much more than you lot that lived at home your entire childhood."
The adjourned to the living room soon after, leaving Kreacher to his duties, and enjoyed some of Draco's anecdotes about his more lighthearted cases, such as a man whose wife hexed him completely unable to lie, and a man who caught his wife cheating and spelled her female parts to grow spines if she did it again, and how she and her paramour were carried into the emergency area joined quite intimately and painfully. Severus even unbent enough to confess that an experimental potion gone wrong had resulted in a potion that was one of the newest rages in marital aids now, and he was actually getting more orders for it than any other potion he brewed and was considering setting some apprentices to researching other products so he could set up an entire line since the money poured in so fast for it.
"I could easily devote my time to pure research and see if I could make progress on some of the ideas I have had to table over the years for lack of time, I'm just not sure if I want my name to be associated more heavily with that sort of thing."
"Then just create a shell corporation and market under that," Jason said airily. "We do that all the time here in the US. That way it's marketed under the corporation name and you get to keep yours reserved for what you say is serious research."
"The idea has merit, that must be a record for you, Ellis, two ideas that were not totally dunderheaded in one evening." Jason snickered, and stood.
"Well, that being the case I think I'm going to quit while I'm ahead and head home. Much as I have enjoyed this I have an early morning appointment with a house in Vancouver where the sentient wards have started attacking the home owners; this is the fourth one this month, and it's always a pain in the ass."
"Yes, I must take my leave as well," Severus agreed, standing. "I have a meeting at eight with a representative of for a cooperative of wizard clinics on the east coast who are interested in a bulk purchasing agreement of some of the more common medical potions. They are going to negotiate heavily for a volume discount and I wish to be in full command of my faculties. I shall be at out next appointment." He nodded quite civilly and was gone before Harry or Draco could protest.
Draco cleared his throat and shrugged.
"Well, I guess that's my cue that the party is over, too, a shame since I thought we were having a really good time. I guess I'll say good night and see you in the morning."
"You don't need to, you know." Harry had a speculative look in his eyes that held more than a little heat, and Draco cursed inwardly as he felt his pulse speed up.
"I don't need to what?" Harry smiled, and walked over to the loveseat Draco had sprawled on after they were done with dinner, nudging the blond over with his hip so he could sit on the edge. Smiling slightly he caught Draco's chin in his hand and tilted the blonds face up.
"You don't have to say good night to see me in the morning. You could just stay." He brushed his thumb over Draco's bottom lip, and he almost groaned before he caught himself and started to struggle upright and away.
"Harry, I really think I should go, it's late and…"
"And you've been running scared of me for a couple of weeks now, and I'd like to know why. I can tell when a man is attracted to me, Draco, and I've made it more than obvious that it's mutual, so what exactly is the problem?"
"Look, I know you think you're interested in me, it's a pretty common reaction for patients to have with a doctor that assists them in getting over a serious condition, but trust me, it's the gratitude doing the talking. It would be completely inappropriate for me to take advantage of that kind of false attraction and put pressures on you that..umph," he broke off as Harry's lips clamped over his and took him in a kiss that completely obliterated any coherent thought in his head. Harry was demanding and assured, and a lot of other lovely adjectives that Draco was sure he could think of once his head worked again, but for the moment all he could do was hang on and let it happen. Harry's tongue explored and danced in his mouth, and he tasted of coffee and spice, and something that Draco was sure was just Harry and the combination was one he was sure he could be addicted to forever. He had no idea how much later it was when Harry slowed pulled back and smiled smugly.
"You know, for such a brilliant man, you can sometimes be utterly gormless. You have starred in so many wet dreams and wanks of mine ever since we were fifteen years old that the thought that this is anything but a natural progression is ridiculous. Now, if you can tell me honestly that you aren't interested I'll get up, wish you a good night, and we'll go back to that friendly professional act you have been putting on. However, there's no changing your mind later. I don't make a habit of making myself this vulnerable; you get it once, and that's it. Now which is it, stay or go?" Draco had never wanted a man as intensely as he wanted Harry Potter, and this Potter, this self confident, almost arrogant man who had dished out ultimatums like candy to him, Draco Malfoy, who despite his fall from social grace still knew he was easily one of the most attractive men in the Seattle area if not farther afield, he was damn near irresistible. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe not. Obviously the biggest part of Potters issues really had been magic related and not a sign of a weak or fragile mind since most of them disappeared with each curse and hex he was cured of; was he really that insecure that he didn't think Potter could want him for who he was?
He looked up to where Harry was watching him with a calm but guarded expression, and shook his head.
"I can't go, how could I when I've wanted this for so damn long?" Instead of the kiss he assumed he would get, he was surprised again as, with an absolutely predatory grin, Harry pulled him upright by the collar and fairly dragged him to the bedroom.
"I'll warn you now it's been a damned long time for me, I'm out of practice and I likely won't last long, but I guarantee I'll make it worth your while anyway," he said, dipping down for another kiss, his fingers already working on Draco's buttons. Unwilling to wait Draco waved a hand and vanished their clothing, hissing as their skin collided from chest to knees.
"Gods, you feel amazing," Harry groaned, sliding his hands over the blonds' body, worshipping every line and muscle. Draco attacked Harry's neck and shoulder with tongue and teeth, making small love bites, sucking his earlobe and then raking his fingers down Harry's back to grasp his firm buttocks. He was amazed at how much muscle and meat Harry had put back on in such a short time, while still thin there was already a cover of ropy muscle, and when fully filled out Draco suspected he would be breathtaking. He cried out the next minute as Harry's hand wrapped around his erection and started to pump, seeming to know instinctively exactly how Draco would do it himself, how fast to stroke, how hard to squeeze, how to pinch the head almost roughly every few strokes. He was on the brink in moments, grabbing Harry's hand to stop him, struggling for breath and control, but instead of simply staying still, the black haired man sank to his knees, and swirled his tongue around the head of Draco's cock before swallowing it whole, holding it firmly at the base with two fingers, effectively sealing off Draco's ability to come. The blonds' knees gave out and he landed on the edge of the bed with a thud, spreading his legs to give Harry room to kneel between them, unable to give any response but the occasional moan or sobbing gasp. Harry kept him on the brink, teasing him, stroking his testicles, tugging lightly on his pubic hair in a way that he would never have thought was erotic, but ended up making him insane. He was almost to the point of begging when Harry looked up at him, gave him a wink, and let go of the base of his cock just as he slid the entire length all the way into his throat and then swallowed around it, and somehow managed to make an almost vibrating purr at the same time. Draco exploded uncontrollably, feeling like he was shooting his very soul out of the tip of his cock, and he yelled aloud, back arching, every limb shuddering in monumental release.
He opened his eyes a few minutes later to find he was lying full on the bed, Harry beside him, watching his face.
"You know you're absolutely gorgeous when you come?" Draco managed a smirk.
"That's because I'm always gorgeous, you know that, Potter." Harry laughed aloud, a grin lighting his features.
"Some things don't change," he shrugged. "Although, somehow you managed to take me by surprise enough to get control, and that is something that never happens to me."
"I don't hear you complaining."
"Merlin, no. I've never had head like that in my life. However, I do think it's my turn, don't you?" His hand cupped Harry's still engorged member, then traced it with gentle fingers. Harry's eye fluttered shut, and he moaned softly, arching into Draco's touch. He simply explored and stroked and teased for long minutes, learning every inch of Harry and where he was most sensitive, and what made him respond. Somewhere in the middle he realized he was hard again, and smiled to himself. Harry was in for more than he realized, he thought with an inner grin. He was teasing Harry with gentle, random licks at the head and shaft of his cock when he slid one hand back, and rubbed a finger across his tight entrance. The reaction was all he could have hoped for as Harry moaned and tried to rub himself back across it. He massaged the flesh, smiling when Harry willingly drew his legs up and apart to grant easier access. A whisper of a spell coated his fingers with a smooth lubricant, and on the next pass he let one knuckle breach the tight ring of flesh.
"Oh gods, Draco, yes, more!" The blond smirked and twisted his hand, corkscrewing the finger deeper, listening to Harry pant and sigh, pulling out, then adding another on the next pass. After just a few minutes that had Harry panting and nearly to orgasm he realized that he wasn't going to be able to loosen him enough to keep this first time comfortable without other measures, and he muttered a charm that Blaise had taught him long ago. Harry jerked in surprise at the strange feeling as Draco moved up his body and positioned himself at Harry's entrance.
"Just needed to relax you a bit more, love, you're tight as a virgin," he said teasingly.
"And you're part bloody hippogriff," Harry retorted, groaning as Draco rubbed his tip across Harry's entrance. "Don't tease, you prat."
" But you make such lovely noises when I do," he chuckled, then pushed firmly, hissing as his tip breached the tight ring of muscle and was encased in heat. "Gods, Harry you feel amazing!" Harry held very still, even with the relaxing charm Dracos size was a bit intimidating, but he was determined to make it work. He shifted his hips urging the blond deeper, and he obliged, sliding forward firmly but gently until Harry was filled so full he was quite certain there was no way he could take any more, then, with a quick twist of his hips the tip of Dracos cock settled directly onto his prostate and he nearly shrieked.
"Such lovely noises," Draco murmured, drawing back only to make that amazing twisting thrust again, hitting that perfect spot with unerring accuracy. "And you're so hot and so damn tight I can barely move. Tell me if I hurt you, all right?"
"Screw that, just fuck me," Harry gritted, panting. "Hard, Malfoy, I'm not going to break."
"Oh, you would have to say that, wouldn't you?" the blond asked wryly, silver eyes flashing. "Gods, of all the things you could have said." He arched his back then, and threw his head back, and the next thrust was nothing like the first two. This one was hard and deep, and his pelvis hit Harry's with a smack, then reared back and drove home again. The rhythm he set was fast and deep and full, pounding deep, the muscles in his back and shoulders rolling and flexing in a way that practically hypnotized Harry as his cock sent spasms of bliss through Harry's whole body.
He felt it building, release straining at the base of his cock without he or Draco needing to touch it at all, and he clutched the blonds hips, yanking him deeper.
"OH Gods, Draco, it's there, it's now, I, bloody hell, I can't hold on…"
"Oh yes, come for me Harry," the blond groaned, his eyes locked onto Harry's unfocused ones. That sensuous growl was the last straw and Harry gushed over both their stomachs and chests, and the sight pushed Draco over the edge, and he flooded into Harry with a strangled cry.
Harry cast the wandless cleaning charm on them a few minutes later, Draco still too dazed to move, much less think. The spell caught his attention, though, and he forced his eyelids open.
"When did you get wandless magic?" he yawned. Harry smirked.
"I learned this one a long long time ago, for obvious reasons, it just took a bit of time to recall."
"Mmmm, did you set an alarm clock for us?"
"Yes dear," Harry teased at the sublimely domestic request, just before sleep claimed them both.
Alarm clock or no, a shared shower that ran far longer than necessary put them back in Draco's office a solid twenty minutes late, with both Jason and Severus waiting for them, Jason with a cup of coffee, and Severus his usual tea. Their side along apparition, and the state of their grooming caught a raised eyebrow from both men, and with a smirk Jason held out a hand to Severus who grudgingly dropped several galleons into it.
"You could have played hard to get for at least one more day," he groused to Draco, who blushed furiously. Harry simply grinned.
"That's what you get for betting on others peoples sex lives, which, by the way, is rather low brow for you, don't you think?"
"Too much association with Americans," he said blandly, ignoring the rude gesture Jason sent his way. "Shall we get started before the morning is completely gone?"
"I think we're done, and I mean really done, permanently. I've run every diagnostic spell I have and he's clear. Draco, Severus, what have you got?"
"Supposing there is no cure yet for dunderheadedness or foolish Gryffindor sensibilities, then I do admit that he seems to be cured."
"Severus really, that was snide even for you," but Draco was unable to keep a smirk out of his voice, even when Harry cuffed him on the back of the head.
"Hey, him I expect that from, you I would think would sweeten up just a little," Harry grinned. He cast his own diagnostic spells over himself, having learned the incantations and wand movements from the other three men long before during the course of his treatments. Everything looked clear, and better, he felt clear, as though someone had washed him and his magic clean and it was as pure as when he'd been an ickle firstie in Hogwarts. "You boys may need to sharpen up your quills, because I think you've managed to do what has been universally accepted to be impossible."
"And better yet we have a real live case to prove it by," Jason grinned. "So, you wanna be in some more history books, Harry?" The dark haired man grimaced, but shrugged in acceptance.
"At least this is for something that will help a lot of people. There are so many in locked wards all around the world, I have to wonder how many of them don't need to be."
"I've been working on a rough draft of my part for a few weeks now," Draco admitted. "I could tell almost as soon as we started that it was going to work, the only question was how long it was going to take. We came in several weeks earlier than my estimate, actually. I think I can be ready to go to print in a week, what about you lot?" Both the others admitted that they had been working on their portions of the article as well, having made similar assumptions. It was agreed that they would devote their time to going to print as fast as they could. Harry cleared his throat a moment later and the three looked up.
"Look, publishing all this in journals is all well and good, and you should definitely get the credit for creating the techniques, but I've been thinking about the practical application. You're going to need to have a way to teach other teams how to apply your work if it's to do any widespread good, yeah? Well, I know the hospital isn't going to devote any of its resources to it since it doesn't really profit them, so I'd like to endow a training center for any team from around the world to come and train in the procedures you have setup. And I've been doing some research of my own to that end. I have a preliminary set of figures and some possible locations put together. The way I figure it I can endow the startup, and fund it until it's in full swing, and then I'll see about drawing some other patrons into it. That was not only defray the costs, which unfortunately are going to be substantial, but it will publicize the fact that its out there. I want it to be free for any Healer, Potioneer or physician to attend with the supplies provided so even third world countries will be able to take advantage of it."
"Good Gods Harry, it's going to take a fortune to do something like that, are you mad? You'll send yourself into the poorhouse." Harry snorted.
"Not bloody likely. You're forgetting, Malfoy, not only did I inherit the Potter fortune from my father, I also became Head of the House of Black when Sirius died, along with all the rights and responsibilities that entails, and trust me now that I've been rediscovered those are popping out of the woodwork right and left."
"Potter, the Blacks were the second wealthiest of the pureblood houses; only the Malfoys were richer." Harry grinned.
"So it would seem. And the Potters were well up there on the list as well; no one knew it, though, because they weren't welcome in the pureblood circles because of their politics. The goblins tell me I am in a fair position to pull in as the wealthiest wizard in the world. They've assigned a personal goblin to my vaults to run the investment side since that was rather languishing for almost thirty years now. He has already made investments that are netting me more money per day than it will take to run this project. Besides, I know Malfoy here is still filthy rich, and I'm guessing, Severus, that you aren't too badly off yourself. Both of you could kick in on it, more to show your faith in it than because we need the money. It looks good on paper, though, or so Grabstake tells me."
"You've really put a lot of thought into this, haven't you?" Jason asked, impressed. "I thought you'd just been concentrating on getting yourself back mentally and physically."
"Yeah, well there are only so many hours I can spend in the gym or in therapy between sessions without going barking mad from sheer boredom, and shopping for the flat, while amusing, wasn't what I'd call a great use of time. I had to have something besides watching telly to fill the day, so there you have it. I will say, however, the Muggle Internet is fascinating enough that I've spent countless hours fiddling with it. Muggles are quite a bit odder than even my old family let on, you should see some of the things on there!"
"I tend to simply use it for research and there is this thing called an iPod that Jason insisted I purchase. It's like the WWN only it only plays what you put on it and there are no commercials." Harry pulled his iPhone out of his pocket with a grin.
"So I've heard. This one is a mobile phone as well. It did seem a bit silly at first to get a mobile considering that I really don't know much of anyone but you lot, but I'm going to have to get out there and pound pavement for the cause so I'll need a way to be contacted other than owl post."
"And I explained to him that we don't really use owls much around here," put in a nurse, poking her head around the door and giving Harry a wink. "How goes the pitch, handsome?" Draco bristled, then realized he was jealous and became all the more pissed for it.
"Wait a moment, you went behind our backs to plan all this?" Harry looked completely unrepentant and even cocked an eyebrow in an uncanny imitation of Draco's own cynical inquiry that had the nurse trying to stifle a giggle.
"It would hardly be a surprise if I consulted you on the details, now would it? So, what do you think?"
"I for one thinks it's a great idea," Jason grinned. "I can't wait to look over your prospectus. Do you have a timeline?"
"I estimate that we can be up and running within four months of the time you give me the all clear," he said promptly.
"I have to go to England first, well, we do, the three of us." Draco said suddenly. Jason shrugged assent, but Severus looked appalled.
Are you mad? We won't be back on British soil a day and they'll have us rotting in Azkaban. What on earth would possess you to even attempt such a foolish maneuver?"
"Frank and Alice Longbottom." Severus winced, and Draco nodded. "It was Aunt Bella who ruined them that way, it's my responsibility to repair it, if I can. I don't expect you to understand. If you wish I'll simply take what potions you have with me, and make the rest myself. I'm still a fair hand with a cauldron."
"I should let you do it, it's nothing but pure folly. Do you really think there is even a marginal chance they will let a Malfoy within a mile of the Longbottoms? You'll be lucky if you make it out of the international apparitions station."
"Well, since I don't intend on going back that way then it's rather moot, isn't it?" he said calmly. "I know the reception I will likely be met with, so I intend to reenter the country the Muggle way, on an airplane."
"Fascinating way to travel, had to do it myself sometimes when I went to an area where curses messed up the way magic functioned," Jason nodded. "You'll need a passport of course, Muggles are hell for paperwork."
"I already have it. I passed my citizenship exam a few months ago, applied and got a passport. Technically I'm an American now, with all the rights and disadvantages that entails. Britain didn't want me or my family anymore, so why not become a part of a place that accepts me and appreciates what I do?"
"I think it's brilliant," Harry said staunchly. "Good on you for making yourself a life you're happy with. Do me a favor, though, Drake, will you?" Draco wrinkled his nose at the annoying nickname but nodded. "Wait a few weeks before you go. I have some business to finish up, then I want to go with you. Frank and Alice have waited this long; a little longer won't hurt."
He agreed reluctantly, especially since both Severus and Jason had plans to make regarding their own businesses while they were gone.
Draco did not see or hear from Harry until the day they were supposed to fly out, when the man appeared at his flat with an overnight case, looking exhausted and fairly drug through a knothole backwards. Draco looked him up and down, appalled and immediately began running diagnostic tests with his wand. Scowling, Harry batted it aside and pulled Draco to him, kissing the other man deeply. Only when Draco had settled and was looking at Harry dazedly did he pull away.
"Sometimes you're such a mother hen, Draco," he teased, leading the blond out to the cab waiting to take them to the airport. "I had a hell of a lot to do before we took off on this excursion of yours, sorry if my appearance was that distressing."
"I was simply making sure you hadn't relapsed," he said defensively. "Gods, Harry you take off, I don't hear a thing for weeks then you show up looking like that, what could I think?"
"That you did a good job, I'm fine, and a slob?" Draco laughed despite himself and it broke the tension.
"Well, there is that I suppose, but what on earth were you doing that was so important that you couldn't even call?" Harry smiled.
"I was clearing up some issues that I should have dealt with a long time ago but couldn't because of the magical issues I was having at the time. It was an illuminating experience, but now it's done. I wanted to make sure there were no nasty surprises lurking around corners for us. I mean to keep you, Draco Malfoy, and you're high maintenance enough for that to take some planning."
"I am not high maintenance," he was protesting before the rest of Harry's words sunk in all the way, and he trailed off, more than a little shocked. He hadn't really thought of the future in regards to Harry, believing at least subconsciously that for Harry it was mostly a physical relationship and that once he tired of Draco that would be that. This implied far more emotion on Harry's part than he had dared to hope would ever exist. No, it wasn't a declaration of undying devotion, it was still far too early for that, but there was a chance, he thought, a chance that a true relationship might form in time. Harry was watching his face, a slight smirk on his own and Draco schooled his features, suddenly sure he had displayed a level of sappiness in his expression that was far beyond what his dignity should bear. His suspicion was intensified when his change of expression only deepened Harry's smirk, telling Draco he'd been busted and knew the expression for the mask it was.
"See, there you go, fishing for validation just by your facial expression," he teased, and Draco gave him an affronted glare. "I'm sure I shall have to tell you at least once an hour how wonderful you are or be treated to the famous Malfoy superciliousness, hmm?"
"I am never supercili…damnit Potter!" Draco trailed off, realizing he had fallen directly into Harry's verbal snare as the man began to chuckle richly. Realizing there was little he could say in his own defence at the moment he did the only thing he could think of, and grabbing Harry by the collar he proceeded to snog the hell out of the man, not stopping until Harry was panting and vacant eyed with a noticeable issue developing in his trousers. Draco smirked in triumph at that, and sat back in the seat of the cab, trying not to notice the drivers amused expression in the rear view mirror.
"I suppose," he said when Harry's eyes began to clear and he was adjusting his position so the bulge in his pants wasn't quite so obvious, "That I might like to keep you as well, but don't you think for a moment that excuses this little disappearing act you just pulled for weeks on me. I was, concerned."
"Worried sick," Harry corrected with a grin. Draco scowled.
"Bollocks. Malfoys are never worried sick over anything. We show a disciplined amount of concern." Harry's expression fairly shouted disbelief.
"Draco? Just admit you were worried and shut up." He glared, then sighed.
"Fine, I was worried. It's not unreasonable that I at least have an idea of where my lover is when he takes off on me, is it?" Harry smiled brilliantly.
"Now that you've acknowledged that, no. But I promise you will see why I was gone, and it will be worth it. I wouldn't do something like that without a good reason, love."
The flight from Seattle to Heathrow was mercifully a direct one, and Harry did not have to deal with the trauma of changing planes with Draco, who had declared that Muggles would have to be mad to fly in a little tin box full of flammable fluid over an ocean. Snape had managed to arrange to be on an earlier flight, and Harry understood why as Draco practically broke his hand on the takeoff and landing he squeezed so hard. Jason, who had no legal issues waiting for him in the UK, and could travel as he pleased, took an international portkey, and would be waiting for them in Grimmauld Place. Harry had sent Kreacher along ahead to prepare the place to be occupied again, and had even agreed to the old elf's request to allow some of his kin from other Houses who were overstaffed to be bound to the House of Black, and the House of Potter. He knew Kreacher was getting quite ancient and would not live forever, and all Hermione's crusading in school did not alter his reluctance to listen to an irate Draco who had to clean and cook for himself. Frankly, Harry had no desire to do so either, and so the arrangement worked for both of them.
They managed to pass customs quickly, and having sent the luggage along with Jason it took only minutes for them to crowd into a stall in a public loo and Apparate directly into the foyer of Grimmauld Place, avoiding any chance of being accosted while traveling in London. Draco was more than a bit leery of being seen, and still had not developed a firm plan on how to get into St. Mungos to work on the Longbottoms. Harry seemed completely unworried by this and far more concerned with how Draco would take the changes he had ordered to the old Black family home.
He had contacted an interior designer with a sterling reputation and after enduring the expected gushing over the fact that he was still alive, he told the woman what he wanted and left her to her own devices. She had sent him pensieve memories of the work as it progressed and he had been well pleased. She had done as he asked and managed to keep the beautiful dark woodwork, and the antiques, and stay true to the history of the old house while adding colors and fabrics to walls, furniture and windows that brightened the place and gave it the stately, well groomed ambiance of a home that was comfortable with its wealth without the need to flaunt it ostentatiously.
Draco's gaping grin was all the reassurance Harry needed that the changes met with his approval, and he set a finger under the blonds chin, pushing his jaw upward gently.
"You're catching flies, love," he chuckled, and Draco flushed.
"Sorry, but it's night and day from what I remember as a boy. It's really quite a lovely home now you've redone it. But why…" his words were interrupted by a high pitched squeal and suddenly a tiny house elf in a eye-shattering multi-colored striped pillowcase tunic had attached itself to Draco's legs, sobbing.
"Master Draco, Master Draco, Kreacher be saying you was coming home to England and Blinky's be waiting for the young master to come for so long! Blinky has missed young master so much! Blinky remembers how tiny young master was and how Blinky would be the only one who could make him stop crying when he had the colic, and Blinky would take care of young master when old master hurted him! Oh, master, Blinky was afraid she would die and old elf and never see young master again!" Draco's eyes were suspiciously bright as he patted the elf gently on the head, prying her off his trousers.
"Blinky how did you come to be here, of all places? I thought you were bound to Malfoy Manor."
"Blinky is bound to Master Draco, no matter where he lives, and so Blinky comes here when Kreacher says he needs help to do the work in young masters new home. Blinky will be so happy to serve young master again! And Winky and Treat and Crumb and Doily and others is here too! Master Harry Potter says that Kreacher is too old to work so hard anymore, and his new work is to make sure that we does what needs to be doing at Master Harry Potters houses, so we travels to all the houses so each one is perfect if Master Harry Potter or young master wishes to visit them."
"Gods, Harry, is this what you were doing for those weeks?" Harry grinned and shrugged.
"Part of it, yes, but I started this when we first talked about coming back here to treat the Longbottoms. I didn't want to stay here as it was, it was a dismal old place and there were too many memories attached to it. Sirius, Remus and Tonks…did you know Remus and Tonks started their romance here and lived here while Tonks was pregnant with Teddy? Now it's so different that there don't seem to be those ghosts in the corners anymore. And I had a team of curse breakers come in and clean all the boggarts, pixies, poltergeists and assorted dark things out of here as well. Did you know this place actually has its own Room of Requirement in the basement? The curse breakers found it as they were working. It was being used as a storage room for old broken furniture of all things."
"It's incredible," Draco marveled, his hand still stroking the little elf's head as she leaned on his knee, wide eyes staring up at him in adoration.
"I take it Blinky here was your nurse when you were a child?" Blinky nodded enthusiastically, beaming at Harry.
"Blinky was first best nurse to young master. Blinky taked care of young master until he went to Hogwarts, and even in summers Blinky was the only elf allowed in young masters private chambers. Blinky was young masters best, good elf!"
"Yes, you were," he smiled. "And for most of my life Blinky was quite possibly my only true friend. She was the only being I could talk to openly; she was the only one who knew what I and my life were truly like. She used to sneak into my room late at night once my father was sleeping and use elf healing magic on me when he got carried away with the whip or that damned cane." Tears rolled down Blinkys face as she nodded.
"Blinky would take young masters hurts away, but Blinky learned to be sneaky and Blinky would put special glamours on young master so it would look like he was hurt bad but he would be healed. If it looked like he was hurt too bad sometimes old master wouldn't hits him more." Harry marveled inwardly that he had not realized at the time that Draco was going through much the same thing with his father that Harry had to endure with his Uncle Vernon. No, Vernon hadn't had the Cruciatus to use on him, but the buckle of a belt and a hard fist caused plenty of agony. He squatted down to Blinkys level and took the tiny elf's hand in his own.
"You were the very best of elves for Master Draco, you took wonderful care of him," he said softly. "Thank you, Blinky. Now, if master Draco wishes you can travel with us if you would like so you can stay with him. He's very spoiled and demanding, you know, so it will be hard work keeping up with him."
"Well, I can't precisely argue that one, though I should," Draco said sourly. "But I would like it very much if Blinky could go with us where we go."
"We live amongst Muggles now, Blinky, so you must take care not to be seen by them," he admonished. "But you can come visit here whenever you like. I shouldn't want you to be lonely for company."
"Blinky will be very careful, young master, sir! Blinky will go now and turn down young masters bed, and make sure cook has the recipe for his favorite foods, and young masters clothes need to be put away…" she wandered off happily cataloging a list of chores to do, and Draco turned to Harry, yanking him close and pressing a heated kiss onto his mouth.
"You're entirely too good to me, and most everyone else around you, you know that, don't you?" Harry shrugged, caressing the blondes back gently.
"It costs me little and gives joy to many, why not do it? Now, lets have someone draw us a bath and get the travel grime off before Severus and Jason show up. I also have another visitor coming that I think will help a lot with getting you into the Longbottoms ward."
"Really! Who would that be?" Harry smiled.
"Hermione, actually. She's a Charms Mistress now and she's been doing a lot of work on special projects to develop new healing and diagnostic charms. There isn't much of anywhere she can't get into and with a couple glamours you three can go in as apprentices. Anyway, she'll be here around eight to talk about it."
"I daresay that was quite the reintroduction." Harry grimaced.
"She cried all over me, Draco, there was even snot involved, I'm sure of it. Had to scourgify my robes to get it all off. Apparently the Ministry had been on the verge of declaring me dead. The only reason they hadn't done it already is that the goblins at Gringotts have a longer "presumed dead" clause than the Ministry does. Seems they wanted the Black and Potter vaults to increase ministry coffers. The goblins said 'no' in a rather forceful manner." He smirked, and Draco thought for a moment that perhaps he was a bad influence, but since the golden boy looked so damned sexy when he did it, Draco was not going to complain.
Then he thought for a moment about the rest of what Potter had just said.
"Wait a second. You said Granger was going to be here. Does Severus know this?" Harry smiled beatifically and looked at the ceiling.
"I may have neglected to mention exactly who our contact in St. Mungos was, but he didn't ask either."
"But she knows he will be here?" Harry shook his head. "Funny, I seem to have forgotten to mention that part."
"Oh, well this should be interesting then. Still, you won't try to match make them, promise me? That sort of thing couldn't possibly end well." Harry looked appalled.
"Match make? Me? Merlin no, I'd be absolute shite at that, wouldn't I? I can however toss them together and see what all shakes out, and I intend to do just that. You saw how he reacted when we mentioned she used to fancy him. Hell, at the very least maybe he'll get laid before we head back to Washington." Draco grimaced.
"Thanks for that mental image. As if hetero sex wasn't bad enough, now I have the image of Granger and Severus going at it. I think I feel ill."
"Don't be such a ponce, Draco, honestly. Let's go shower and get ready for dinner before everyone gets here."
The four men were lounging around the fireplace in the library talking over what they had seen that had changed and reminiscing about London when Kreacher knocked on the door and informed them the remainder of their party had arrived. At Harry's nod he opened the door and Hermione stepped through, and Harry heard the sharp intake of breath from behind him as Severus saw her for the first time in nearly ten years.
He couldn't blame the man, he thought. If he were straight he might've had the same reaction himself. Hermione had filled out since Hogwarts, generous curves developing in all the right places, hair now hanging in smooth ringlets midway down her back. She wore just the right touch of makeup to highlight her unusual cinnamon colored eyes and plump up her full lips with a pink shimmer. Her muggle pencil skirt and blouse were exceptionally flattering even under the robes she wore open atop them, and sensible but attractive high heels clicked across the hardwood floors toward them.
Harry saw Jason's attention pique from the corner of his eye, and grinned inwardly. Nothing like a little friendly competition to make Severus jealous. He saw the younger man start to step forward but Hermione's gaze was sharp on Draco.
"Malfoy. It's been a long time." She said evenly. Draco flinched, nodding, and her gaze began to soften a bit.
"Miss Granger, I…" He floundered for a moment, then simply shook his head. "I'm sorry, Hermione, honestly." She looked at him squarely for several moments, then a brilliant smile broke over her face, and she pulled him into a hug, startling him completely.
"It's all over Draco, we're not children anymore, are we?" she said. "Harry's happy and well, and that's a good part in thanks to you. I think your penance was probably well served quite a long time ago."
"Not quite, but I'm working on it," he said easily, and smiled back. "Let me introduce you to the rest of the team. Of course, you remember Severus…" Her eyes widened as the tall man stepped out of the shadows, and bowed a bit formally over her hand. Her color rose dramatically, and Harry watched her throat work convulsively, trying and failing to create words.
"Miss Granger, speechless. This is indeed a remarkable day." Harry rolled his eyes and Draco winced and scowled at his godfather. Of all the times to start winding her up… But they were all surprised, none more so that the dark wizard in front of her, as a rich laugh escaped her throat, and she visibly relaxed.
"Proof positive that some things never change. How are you, should I still call you Professor?"
"I think Severus would do quite well. I have not been a professor in quite some time." She nodded.
"Severus then, and you must call me Hermione. It would figure that you would be part of this alleged crack team of experts that cured Harry. I cannot imagine you would tolerate being less than expert in whatever you undertake." Draco choked at the unintended double entendre and Harry kicked him. Their antics went entirely unnoticed by the pair who still had eyes only for one another.
"As I recall you had much the same drive yourself. It is a shame you decided to enter the Charms field instead of Potions." She shrugged.
"There were no Potions Masters of a sufficient quality available to take an apprentice when I left University, however, Filius took me on happily enough. We have made some smaller breakthroughs ourselves, actually. But I'm sure you're not interested in all that foolish wand-waving and silly incantations." Severus expression flickered in what could have been regret and was certainly partially acknowledgement of a barb well placed.
"I see your memory is as impressive as it ever was, though you yourself have changed a great deal. The years have been more than kind to you, Hermione, it is pleasant to see that you have lived up to the potential you showed as a student." She smiled, and Harry saw a tiny twist of something he couldn't identify in it, though he was sure there was a least a bit of pain.
"The years have been kind to you as well, Severus. Freedom and release from this place and the past it must represent seem to have lifted a great weight off your shoulders. You deserve that for all the years you gave in service to Dumbledore's 'Greater Good'."
"Yes, well," Draco cleared his throat and quickly introduced Jason, who wisely kept his mouth shut other than to offer a polite greeting. They kept the conversation light during an excellent dinner prepared by Kreacher, and Draco noted that Hermione did not make any demure about being served by a house elf. Perhaps she'd finally given in to the inevitable and acknowledged that house elves really did not all want to be free. He and Harry both watched she and Severus try to unobtrusively watch one another throughout the meal, and look away like teenagers when they caught one another's eyes. The interaction was not lost on Jason either, and he gave Harry and Draco several querying "WTF?" looks, to which the others just shook their heads in warning. Shrugging, Jason let it go at least for the moment and allowed Hermione to explain how they would accomplish their treatment of the Longbottoms.
It was actually remarkably simple. Draco and Severus would wear a glamour and Hermione would introduce them and Jason as American colleagues she had been corresponding with on the theory behind some of the interwoven curses that had been detected on the patients, who had come to make personal observations on the case. They would treat the two under that guise. If it worked then all would be well, if it did not, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. To distract the hospital staff, Harry would allow the media to get wind of his return on his way to "visit" with Hermione, preferably on the steps of the hospital itself. The media frenzy would distract everyone for weeks.
"Neville is teaching Herbology at Hogwarts now that Professor Sprout retired," she finished. "If this works I suggest you three visit him without the glamours to let him know." Draco shook his head.
"No, that wouldn't be wise. You and Harry can tell him, but Severus and I would likely be jailed in minutes regardless of why we were in the country. It's enough that it will be done, then we can start rolling it out to other groups."
"But that's not right! There should be no reason for the Ministry to want you to begin with, neither of you did anything wrong, and now with this, it's ridiculous!"
"Politics are always ridiculous, and an administration will always need someone to blame for something," Severus replied easily. "That was why Draco and I left the country originally, and we are doing quite well in America now. There is no need for us to return here except to accomplish Draco's wish for penance."
"I see." She nodded and smoothed her skirt down, rising. "Well, soonest begun, soonest done then. I shall arrange for you to come in around the end of the week, I do need to set the groundwork and get the approval. I will Floo you later, Harry.' She was out the door before anyone could protest, and after about a full minute Jason gave a long, low whistle.
"Now that is quite a woman," he said, admiring. "Smart, gorgeous, witty and I'll be she's a firecracker in bed once she gets going. I think I'm going to try to find out." Harry and Draco watched Severus right hand clench and unclench rhythmically and grinned at one another. Healthy competition, that was the thing to get Severus to make a move. They both knew that the likelihood of Hermione giving Jason the time of day was about a million to one, but there was no use in spoiling the game before it even started to take off.
"Well, that went a bit less than swimmingly. Really Severus, did you simply feel the need to crush her feelings within the space of an hour?" The dark haired wizard cast his godson a thunderous glare more reminiscent of their Hogwarts days than anything Draco had seen in many years."
"I did not crush her feelings, Draco, honestly must you be so melodramatic?"
"Actually, I have to agree with him on this one and I am not exactly what most people would call overly in touch with the feelings of others," Harry agreed with an apologetic shrug. "You had to have seen the way she looked at you, and you go and say there was absolutely no reason for you to come back to England."
"Absurd. It is also illogical. She did not exactly give me a reason to return, did she? She made no attempt to communicate that she had any regard for me. I think you are both simply delusional."
"Well, Draco might be, but since I heard it straight from her own mouth I don't think I can be counted into that lot. What would you have had her do? Run over to you in the final battle and declare her undying devotion? It isn't as though there was much opportunity. You and Draco buggered off as soon as the battle was over. Everyone thought you were dead."
"And I'm sure to most that was a relief." Draco sounded so bitter that Harry winced and wrapped an arm around the blond.
"They didn't know the real you, love. Either of you. I didn't either. I knew Severus was Dumbledore's man, but you were in so deep no one except Dumbledore himself knew about you. But about Hermione., Severus. It's not too late, you know. Let her get to know the real you, get to know her. She really is a wonderful, caring person. She was like a sister to me all through school, and she practically raised Ron, Merlin knows he needed a keeper."
"I thought she and Weasley were, involved." Draco wrinkled his nose in disgust.
"Her with Weaselby? That's a mental picture I never wanted, thanks. She is so far beyond that twat that it doesn't even bear thinking about."
"Their attempt at a relationship lasted about a day after their first snog, then Hermione regained her sanity and Ron moved on to girls with bigger breasts than brains. Wise choice on both their parts I think."
"Regardless, I am still old enough to be her father, and I know well that I am no prize. Let her find someone more…" he trailed off, unable to find the words to voice the thought without sounding too melancholy.
"More worthy of her, that's what you won't say, isn't it?" Draco demanded. "That's not fair to you or her. You are perfectly worthy of any witch, and she bloody well knows it. And you know bloody well the age difference isn't a factor. Bloody hell, Severus, you're what, twenty years older than she at the most? We're wizards for fucks sake, we live to be well into our second century normally, we can rather take the long view when it comes to age gaps. My grandfather was over a hundred when my father was born, his wife was nearly sixty. The mad old bastard would probably still be alive today if Father hadn't poisoned him so he could inherit. Funny how many pureblood families are lacking an older generation for just that reason. Damn, I should have thought of that before Father caused all that trouble." Harry and Severus both snorted at that.
"You know, you really aren't ugly, Severus, I noticed that a while back. If you'd let someone do something with your hair, and maybe dress in something less funereal…"
"You have to get some new clothes anyway, American wizards almost never wear robes and you will be masquerading as American Healers. And Draco is amazing at grooming charms, I'll bet he could even straighten your teeth out in a few minutes."
"Wouldn't even take that long. I've been trying to sneak up on him and do that charm since I was fifteen. He catches me every time. I think he doesn't want witches to notice him because it would complicate his life too much."
"I would appreciate it if you did not discuss me as though I were not in the room." Both men glanced back at him, then grinned.
"So it's decided then. Tomorrow we sojourn into Muggle London to shop and get Severus a makeover. Hermione is going to wet her knickers when she sees him. But for now, bloody hold still, godfather or I swear Harry will hex you." Harry's eyes widened.
"Me? He'd kill me."
"You're the only one of us who's already lived through the killing curse, twice at that, I think you have a better shot than I do."
"And I think half the time he could be bloody scarier than Voldemort. At least Voldemort had to threaten. Half the time in school all he had to do was look at me." An involuntary smile crossed Severus face at those memories and before he could turn it into a scowl Draco cast the charm and they both heard an audible crunching noise. Severus clapped a hand to his jaw, cursing fluidly, and Draco grinned.
"I know, hurts like hell, but it'll fade soon enough. You've had worse and for far less reason. I'd offer to straighten your nose out, but I think it's better the way it is. Has character instead of just size this way."
"This is ridiculous. You are assuming I'm even interested in the witch." Both men simply stared at him until a dull flush appeared on his cheeks. "Very well, I shall allow you this one, humiliating day, and then we will not discuss it again, is that understood?"
"We'll start with Armani," Draco stated confidently. "I've no idea why any other Muggles bother making suits when his are so vastly superior. Then to Gucci for shoes, Tiffany for cufflinks and possibly a watch, Americans seem to be obsessed with watches when a simple tempus would work, but who am I to judge? Then to Calvin Klein for some more casual things. Harry, you could use a bit of sprucing up as well, it should be a full day."
"What? Bloody hell, Draco, I don't need any more bloody clothes. I hate shopping for clothes; we could pop in to Quality Quidditch and see what new brooms are out, though. I haven't had a new broom in forever. And possibly some sugar quills. Those bring back memories." Nether noticed as Severus escaped into the library.
HPDMHPDMHPDM HPDMHPDMHPDM HPDMHPDMHPDM
"It is just hair, if you hate it you can grow it back. Just for pity's sake lets get it done!" Harry was about at the end of his patience. Shopping with Draco turned an odious chore into something resembling the seventh circle of hell in his opinion, and finally he had simply started changing outfits wandlessly in fitting rooms and buying whatever the blond picked out in an effort to have everything done with quicker. He was quite certain he would never wear most of it, he could barely put trousers and shirts together in a way that didn't clash, but his acquiescence seemed to please Draco, and that mattered a lot to him. Severus also gave up attempting to influence him once Draco forbade him buying everything in black, and simply bought what he was told as well. Harry had even been subjected to a Muggle hair stylist, and he had to admit that the man did a better barbering job than he'd ever had. His hair almost behaved now, not quite, but almost. Severus had put his foot down when Draco wanted to chop off most of his hair, however. He had hidden behind his hair for decades, and the thought of being bare faced before the world was more than a little daunting though he would never admit it. After listening to the two go at it tooth and nail for a solid twenty minutes, any input from himself being utterly ignored, Harry finally stood, walked behind the wizard, took a pair of scissors and cut off the ponytail the stylist had combed up, tossed it into Severus lap and stomped back into the lounge.
"There, now it's settled. Can we please get this done so we can have a bloody drink?"
"The only reason I did not hex you, Potter, is that we need you healthy to pull of this little charade. Rest assured…" Severus trailed off as Harry waved his ire away.
"For Merlin's sake, Severus, it was a bloody haircut, not the storming of the Bastille. I was tired, I'm sure you were as well, and you have to admit you do look vastly improved."
"Granger is going to wet her knickers when she sees him, and it will all be worth the thankless effort I have put it. I don't think he even needs a glamour anymore, he looks that different. Really Severus, had I known you would clean up this well I would have insisted long ago simply so I didn't have to look at you being a snarling old bat all the time."
"Despite being my godson you are still an insufferable ponce at times, Draco, do not give me a reason to become more annoyed than I already am."
"I think the waitress is mooning over you, Severus, that's passing unnerving," Harry piped in. "Not a bad looking bird either. Maybe you should practice your pickup lines on her."
"I do not have 'pickup lines', Potter. If I wish to engage a witch I will do so without coaching from the two of you. And let us not forget that Ms. Granger is far too intelligent not to recognize a pickup line when it is displayed in front of her. You two will kindly cease in any further meddling in my love life."
"Or lack thereof." A stinging hex caught Draco in the thigh and he barely refrained from yelping in pain, shooting a glare back at Severus.
HGSS HGSS HGSS HGSS HGSS HGSS HGSS HGSS HGSS HGSS
She was coming to dinner tonight to finalize the plans for their entry into St. Mungos the next morning, and for one of only a few times since the war Severus was nervous. She had become more lovely than he had remembered her, and to his opinion that was an accomplishment indeed, because he recalled quite clearly that it had seemed that she had left at the end of sixth year a child, and returned for the missed seventh year as a mature and beautiful woman, albeit with a few shadows in her eyes that spoke of the hardships she had endured in that lost year.
He had thought that Hogwarts was unusually quiet without her incessant chatter and her waving hand trying to answer every question. What he had meant and refused to acknowledge was that he had missed her. She was a terrible swot and really could be an insufferable little know-it-all, but Severus respected a certain amount of arrogance that came with far superior intelligence, and she had that intelligence in spades. He had fantasized more than once about what it would be like to hold a true conversation with her without the roles of student and professor constraining them, and wondered if she would have any insights or would simply parrot all of the knowledge she gained from her books. For him that incredibly innocent fantasy was more than almost any woman since Lily had inspired within him. He was an intensely private man even after all these years, and he did not go out of his way to make friends, though a very select circle of friendly acquaintances had grown up over his years in Seattle. The fact that both his godson, and worse Potter, had been able to sense his attraction to the witch even after so many years was highly disconcerting. The fact that they had forcibly subjected him to a makeover under the paltry excuse of making his identity harder to detect was not nearly so appalling to him as was the realization that he had allowed it in the secret hope that she would not find him as sorely lacking as he expected that he was.
Now, having dressed himself in clothing of his godsons choosing, his newly shorn hair washed with a shampoo that even he had to admit was a handy piece of brewing that seemed to be charmed to enhance the naturally positive traits in the users hair to make it the best it could naturally be, and shaved with an actual muggle razor, which strangely seemed to do a much finer job than a charm, or perhaps that was simply the aftereffects of the hot towel infused with herbals that they had used to soften his whiskers, he looked in the mirror in something akin to awe.
He had forgotten his own face, it seemed, or perhaps Draco had snuck some glamour charm on him, though his best detection spells could find nothing amiss. His hair now framed his face instead of concealing it, and the tooth straightening and whitening charms Draco had used on him corrected the crookedness never fixed in youth and vanished the stains made by years of tea, tobacco and various noxious healing and blood replenishing potions he had used over the years, leaving his smile as perfect as his godsons and Potters. The lines he had been so used to seeing seemed softer now, he doubted he could ever call them laugh lines, but they were no longer etched harshly into his face, and his eyes were no longer sunken and dark. He knew that was due to the lack of constant stress and torture that had been his lot back in the bad old days, and was amazed at how just being able to simply live without fear of death and torture had made the years fall away.
He had always been fit, though no one knew it with the voluminous robes he wore, he'd had to be to survive as a spy in Voldemort's camp. He had kept the physical training up even afterwards, refusing to let himself go as much from paranoia as vanity, one never knew when the next threat would appear, and when the old fighting and dueling skills would be needed to save his life again.
The shirt and trousers Draco had thrown onto the bed with an exasperated, "Bloody hell, Severus, just put the damned things on!" showcased that fitness far more than he was comfortable with. For Merlin's sake one could actually see the shape of his arse in the damned trousers and the flex of muscle in his shoulders and arms was clearly visible in the fitted, dove grey button up. At least Draco hadn't attempted to make him wear pink or lavender or some other horrendous color as he had Potter. He had seemed to sense that would simply not happen, and had stuck to greys, browns, and deep forest and olive greens. That was quite avant guard enough for him, thank you. Though, he thought he might agree to someday put on the deep midnight blue cloak that was the one thing he had chosen, not having a clue as to where he might ever wear something so formal, but Draco had been so childishly thrilled that he had actually had a preference in something that wasn't black that he insisted he purchase it immediately.
He fastened the watch around his wrist, thinking it would make sense to get used to the thing so he didn't look uncomfortable in it the next day, and straightened his posture to its usual imposing rigidity. Good gods, he was going to startle every time he caught himself in a mirror, he thought with sour humor. What had Potter said, something idiotic about him cleaning up to be some brooding Byronic figure? Dammit, the boy hadn't been far off the mark. He would have to school his face carefully. He almost believed if he smiled he might shock himself.
"Well, who would've thought there was a handsome man under all that mess, good show!" the mirror piped suddenly and he drew back, startled. Bloody talking mirrors, that was one thing he had not missed about pureblood homes in England.
"Kindly keep your opinions in your glass, infernal object." He snapped. The mirror sparkled in annoyance, and muttered something about ingratitude for compliments as he swept out of the room.
Harry was going along about something Quidditch related in the library when Draco's drink dropped from his hand and his mouth fell open in stupefied shock. Concerned, Harry waved a hand in front of the blonds' eyes, only to have his chin grabbed and forcibly pushed around. He felt his own jaw drop and used his hand to force it back into place before he looked as foolish as his lover, but couldn't keep from blinking owlishly at the sight before him.
"Severus? Bloody hell, is that really you or did you already put the glamours up? No, that's you…Merlin's hairy knobblies, when did you gain the capacity to be hot?" A dull flush stained his old professors cheeks and the glare he gave Harry was all Snape.
"Shut up, Potter. You and my godson conspired to do this," he motioned at his newly transformed self, "to me, you can bloody well keep your comments to yourself. She's going to laugh at me and I wouldn't blame her."
"She's not going to be able to take her eyes off you, and she's going to want to shag you into the middle of next week, and if it weren't so bloody weird I might not blame her a bit," Potter replied, then shuddered. "Bloody hell, that is weird." Severus lip curled in disgust at the mere thought of The-Man-Who-Was-A-Bloody-Ponce lusting over him and poured himself a large measure of Ogden's finest.
"That thought alone is enough to put me off my food, Potter. Kindly keep such sentiments to yourself in future.
"I knew I could work bloody miracles," Draco grinned. "You look positively handsome in a dark, broody, Byronic way, godfather. I predict Hermione is going to be so gob smacked that she rushes for the liquor cabinet just to steady her nerves enough to talk to you. This should be interesting." He looked to Harry just as the doorbell rang. "A hundred galleons says he'll have her knickers off inside a week."
"Three days," Potter replied smugly. "I know Hermione. Once she sees him he's done for." Scowling, Severus left the two to answer the door.
Her reaction was all he could've hoped for. Her smile of greeting froze on her face, and her pupils dilated in a way that only ever met one thing. Attempting to cover the smug grin on his face, Severus swept her hand up and pressed a chaste kiss to her knuckles, noting that her breath hitched when his lips touched her skin. Calculatingly, he let his hand linger far longer than was polite holding hers. She never noticed, and in fact seemed almost disappointed when he let it go. Interesting. Perhaps the two had not been complete dunderheads when they said she fancied him. She seemed to snap out of the tense silence a second later, and while her cheeks flamed, her composure returned.
"Severus, I see you've been shopping, kitting out for tomorrow, I suppose. You'll barely need a glamour, I almost didn't recognize you and I've known you for nearly twenty years. Muggle clothing suits you, so does the shorter hair. Harry, be a dear and pour me a drink, it's been quite the day today." She missed the triumphant look Draco shot at the two other men, and Harry's badly concealed chuckle, taking a fortifying swallow of liquor, relieved as the alcohol seemed to quiet the butterflies that had gone into overdrive as she saw Severus new look. He'd been dark, compelling and sensual in a completely unconscious way before, now he was sex on legs. She saw Draco's hand in the clothes and haircut, but how he wore those clothes, with catlike grace and rippling muscle, that was all innately him. She wasn't sure if they had done something to his teeth, he'd been so good at hiding behind his hair and never smiling that she couldn't recall what his teeth looked like, but she was sure no ones teeth were ever that perfect naturally. And those dark eyes seemed to bore a hole right into her soul even worse now that they were exposed. Intelligence and cunning fairly shone out of them, as did a considering logic that seemed to tell the world that it belonged to him and he would decide how best to exploit it. She avoided looking at his hands, knowing if she did everything would be all over her face, and knowing him he would mock her relentlessly for being foolish. It was his hands that had first caught her notice, their strength, their grace, the way his long fingers and precise movements seemed to scream class and sophistication. No, if she looked at his hands she would think about what they would feel like on her skin, or tunneling into her hair as he…stop. She clamped her thoughts off and forced herself to focus on the reason she was here tonight, which was certainly not to ogle her former professor and engage in rogue sexual fantasies.
"'Mione, you look a little stressed, have a seat." Harry took her hand and led her over to the settee, and she never noticed his fleeting look of concentration as he performed a handy piece of contact legilimency that would have enraged her if she'd noticed it at all, but she was far too caught up in controlling her thoughts to feel the feather light touch on the outermost surface of her thoughts, or to see the covert thumbs up sign he cast at Draco, who grinned in return. Severus merely rolled his eyes.
The planning session was a rather tense affair with Hermione and Severus shooting glances at one another, hoping each other wouldn't notice, Harry dreading the upcoming storm of press, and Draco worrying over whether his newly developed techniques could work on people who had been affected as long as Frank and Alice had been. Jason left early, once he had the time and place down he claimed he really had no need to stick around because there was no reason he could not roam the halls there as he chose since there were no legal issues with his presence. He had given Hermione a wink and a handshake, easily determining that he had no shot with her whatsoever, and even that had made Severus scowl in jealousy.
It was nearly ten when dinner was over and they decided to call it a night. Harry hugged Hermione in the library, giving Draco smouldering looks that were returned in force and with a moue of disgust Severus took the opportunity to walk Hermione to the door before he saw anything that would be burned into his retinas for eternity. Their plan having worked Harry cast a listening charm at the door and the two pressed their ears to it like adolescent children.
"Do you truly think that Draco's techniques have a hope of working for people who have problems as long lasting as the Longbottoms?" Hermione asked quietly. "I think it would crush him if it didn't work after he has put so much effort into developing the techniques. He's so different, Severus, both of you are, really. I've never seen you so content, or so relaxed."
"America gave both of us a chance to remake ourselves away from the prejudices and expectations of everyone who thought they knew us," he replied simply. "It was no more and no less than a completely new lease on life. We were what upbringing and the war had made us. Away from that we could be as we wished. I would not worry overmuch about Draco's sensitivity in these cases. He is a realist and knows that he cannot cure everyone. Even if this doesn't work for them it has worked for others and will continue to do so. It will be regrettable if there is a time or severity limit to its effectiveness, but this is something all Healers come to accept, you know this."
"Accept yes, get used to, no." She admitted. "I never become immune to failure, nor do I expect do Draco or yourself. You were never one to settle for less than perfection, Severus."
"That is true, and if this fails we will attempt to develop additional treatments to overcome it. This is not the end, regardless of outcome, Hermione. Even if it works there is refinement to be done, some procedures to be standardized, and Healers the world over to be educated. Has Harry told you of the foundation he has endowed to teach Healers this procedure and to assist in defraying the cost of the more rare potions ingredients?"
"No, though I'm not surprised. Still has a bit of a 'saving people thing', doesn't he? And there is the not inconsiderable fact that it would make Draco happy. There is a sentence I never believed would leave my lips. Harry and Malfoy, I would never have guessed that, though when I look at them it's so obviously perfect that I cannot imagine either of them without the other. I wonder if they realize how truly fortunate they are to have found each other."
Severus very gently cupped her cheek into his palm, watching her eyes drift shut.
"You look so sad, Hermione. Has there been no one you could imagine yourself with in such a manner in all these years?"
"I cannot settle for less than someone who understands me, someone who challenges me, and has no problem standing up to me and for me. Someone who respects me, and yet still sees me as a woman, not just a walking brain. It's a very tall order."
"No man who looks at you with his eyes open could ever fail to see what an incredible woman you have become. Brilliant and beautiful, you grew into every promise that was hinted at when you were still a child, and that had become manifest when you returned for your missed year."
"Why were you always so displeased with me, then? I could never do anything right in your eyes no matter how hard I worked."
"No, you could never get away with skating through at the level of others with me," he corrected with a small smile. "How could I judge the standard of your work at the standard of people so far beneath you? It would have been a horrible disservice to a brilliant mind. The only way to keep you truly trying, truly thinking, was to judge your work at the level of university not Hogwarts, and so I did. And even there you did not disappoint, but you were an astonishingly arrogant little know it all, and someone had to keep you at least a bit humble, or you would have become as annoying as I was in my youth."
"You were the only instructor I ever had who didn't pander to me like a little dog after a while. The only person I ever met who refused to back down in an argument just because it was me on the other side of it. Do you know how frustrating that is?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact," he chuckled. "Hermione, what would you do if I kissed you?" Her soft gasp of surprise and the flush that came to her cheeks was all the reply he needed. "I see," he murmured, just before his lips met hers.
"They're snogging!" Harry punched the air in triumph, his jubilant whisper making Draco grim in return.
"I knew old Severus had it in him yet," he mused. "Well, hopefully giving her the high hard one for a few nights will put him in a better temper, at least, though once we leave back for Seattle he'll likely mope about leaving her."
"Unless she comes with us." Draco's eyebrow crawled nearly into his hair it rose so high and he pulled Harry away from the door, heading upstairs.
"You are seriously suggesting they make a permanent go of things, are you? Really Harry, what are the odds of two people that arrogant not killing one another inside of a year?" They argued their way up the stairs, completely forgetting the couple still wrapped around each other in the foyer.
After what seemed an eternity Severus unwillingly separated himself from Hermione, tenderly brushing a stray curl back behind her ear. She was flushed and slack jawed with passion, and his rigid arousal was hammering at him to say to hell with everything, take her upstairs and spend the entire night making her shriek in pleasure. However, if he had learned anything in over twenty years of spying it was that facing risk while not at ones most alert best was a recipe for disaster, and he had no wish to face Azkaban because he would not wait to bed the woman he wanted.
He allowed his hands to cup and fondle her backside for a moment, his face nuzzling into her neck, teeth nipping at her earlobe until she moaned, then he slowly put her from him.
"We must be rested and prepared for tomorrow," he barely recognized his own voice, hoarse from lust, and refused to look into her face for a moment so he could regain a bit of control. When he looked up he could already see the insecurity forming in her eyes and wondered with brief fury how many other men had rejected her for no good reason for this to be such an obviously expected response. He grabbed her chin roughly, and yanked her mouth to his once more, putting as much fire into the hard kiss as he dared and still retain the ability to let her go, then looked hard into her eyes.
"This is not over, witch. Once we have seen this harebrained scheme through, and my godson has redeemed himself in his own eyes there will be time for more. Be certain you want this, Hermione, because once I have you in my bed there will be no turning back or changing your mind. I will have you, completely." He hissed the last word in his best menacing tone, and was gratified when her pupils dilated and he could actually smell the arousal pouring off her. It was a heady thing to realize she did lust for him as completely as he did for her, and as she apparated back to her home from the stoop, a dazed expression still on her face, fingers pressed to her lips, he allowed a rare full smile to grace his features. It was the last thing she saw before she spun away, and when she landed she lost her balance on her own front porch, landing hard on her bottom, cursing Severus Snape for shocking her so much. But gods, that smile! She had never seen him smile like that before, and the way it transformed his face from handsome to absolutely stunning was far more than she was ready for.
DMHPSSHG DMHPSSHG DMHPSSHG DMHPSSHG DMHPSSHG
The four men met at Grimmauld place at eight that morning, forcing down the breakfast Severus made, insisting again that preparedness meant no distractions from hunger or nerves. Honestly, he considered the risk to be minimal at best, but realized the cloak and dagger drama reassured Draco in some strange way. It was after all a hospital they were sneaking into, not a nest of murderers, and while not totally ineffective, security as such facilities was more designed to keep the Healers safe from dangerous patients than it was to keep unauthorized personnel from administering treatment to patients. Not to mention that with the final defeat of the Dark Lord the world had once again mostly retreated to its absurd belief in the basic good of people, and as such, security was a lax thing at best. Still, being seen by the wrong person was a risk, and having to leave before their work was done was a less than desirable outcome, and so they would be cautious. After Draco and Severus affixed their glamours, mostly to hide Draco's distinctive hair color and Severus memorable features they apparated to the public point with Jason, and casually began making their way to the entrance. Harry apparated in a moment later, and Severus wandlessly cast a charm that made a voice near the apparation point shout,
"By Merlin, it's Harry Potter! Look everyone, Harry Potter is back!" The response was overwhelming and instantaneous, and for a moment Severus almost felt a pang of sympathy at the resigned expression on Potters face. He had come slowly to the realization that Harry really was nothing like his horrid prat of a father, and did in fact hate the publicity that came along with fame that he did not think he had really earned. He was more like his mother than he realized, a great relief for Severus, who had come to a grudging respect and almost unwilling liking for the boy who had captured his godsons heart so completely. He Draco, and Jason had nearly reached the top of the steps when the first of the reporters apparated in, and the media frenzy was on. Most of the hospital security piled out the door in the next second, pushing them out of the way in their haste, never giving them a second glance as they set up a blockade in front of the doors to keep the crowds Harry's presence was drawing from interfering in hospital business. It was perfect.
Hermione was in the lobby waiting for them, and greeted Jason warmly, escorting all of them through the gathering crowd who never looked twice at them but scolded Hermione for not telling any of them that Harry Potter was back.
"He wanted to keep it quiet to avoid just this sort of thing," she told person after person. "He just wants to be left alone to be a normal person. Don't go running down there like a bunch of rabble, for pity's sake." And to a person everyone ignored that good advice and went to gawk at the Boy-Who-Lived-Again-And-Defeated-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
"Idiots," Hermione muttered under her breath as a gaggle of nurses primped as they headed down, each saying they were going to be the one He noticed and would ask out on a date.
"Horrid cows, don't even bloody remember that that orderly there would have a better chance with Harry than they would," Draco muttered, glaring at the women, then glaring at the handsome orderly harder. Jason chuckled.
"I don't think you have anything to worry about from handsome orderlies or even dreamy Healers, Drake, no need to try to AK them with your eyes. Never thought you'd be the jealous type."
"I am not jealous!" Hermione shushed them as she used a key to open the door to Frank and Alice's room, then locked it behind her again. At Jason's querying look, she shrugged.
"Any magic around them agitates them terribly, so we keep it to a minimum. They seem to have become used to the diagnostic spells, though, that at least is a relief. Do you mind if I stay and watch you work?"
"By all means," Severus nodded, dropping the glamour and unshrinking the substantial case of potions he had pocketed before leaving. "I think you will find the process fascinating." He was correct. Watching the three wizards weaving the complex diagnostic spells, pointing out different areas for concentration and magnifying certain other readings amazed her. She tried to memorize the incantations and wand movements for several diagnostic spells she did not recognize that she was sure were of their own design, and was overwhelmed with the additional detail they showed. It took over two hours of evaluation and careful planning before they agreed to begin. They started with Alice, whom they all agreed was the less serious case, and Severus poured a potion down her throat that he told her in passing was an extremely strong sedative and also had properties to suppress Alice's own magic. They had found that by suppressing the victims magic it allowed theirs to function far more efficiently. Harry had proven that as they'd had to give him near lethal doses to suppress his incredible talents enough to work on him at all at times.
After that they ignored her completely, concentrating totally on the work, and Hermione stayed in a corner where she found the best view and stayed completely still and silent, only her mind racing. It was true, they were using techniques she had never even seen postulated before, binding their own magic together to hold the snarled curses in place as Jason broke them one at a time to an order that was evident only to him, Draco casting charms to dissipate dark magic, stabilize physical systems, and heal any damage caused by the curse breaking, and Severus feeding his strength to them while monitoring progress and administering potions that were obviously his own creations that glowed in a rainbow of colors as they interacted with the charms and spells the other two were using. It was an incredibly complex ballet perfectly choreographed and amazing to watch.
She was surprised when she saw them carefully disengaging from Alice's sedated form and looked at a clock to see nearly five hours had passed. They looked exhausted to a man, and frustration was writ large on Draco's face.
"How did it go?" she finally asked quietly. It was Jason who answered her.
"Better than I expected, actually. I think if we can continue as long as we need to that there's a good chance she'll have her full mental faculties back again and even be able to walk. There is permanent damage to her magic, though. She'll be able to cast simple spells, but she won't ever be the witch she was again."
"That's wonderful news though! To be conscious and able to walk and talk, and get to know her son and grandchildren is amazing!"
"I should be able to get her magic back." She looked at Draco's miserable face, and pulled him into a hug, that, shockingly, he did not pull away from.
"That you can do anything at all is amazing, Draco. You were still an infant yourself when they were put in this state, the curses have had almost thirty years to work on her. I know if I were in her position I would be grateful just to be able to think again; to do any magic at all would be a miracle beyond anything I could imagine. Besides, how limited will her magic really be?"
"She could do housekeeping charms, accio's, anything basic," Jason said clinically. "But nothing like a Patronus charm or advanced transfigurations. Honestly, she should be able to lead a full, active life as long as she doesn't try to go back to Auror work again."
"Draco, if you don't consider this a success I am going to have to hex you," she sighed. "What you three are doing here is nothing less than working miracles. How much longer should this take, a month? Two?" Jason chuckled.
"Nowhere near that. We had Potter fixed in under three weeks, and while his damage wasn't as long term as theirs there was a hell of a lot worse snarl of curses on him and his own magic fought us tooth and nail half the time, even with Severus potions. I'd say we'll have her conscious in another two days at the most, and walking and trying basic spells in a week. The psychological side of this is yours. Once she can speak you'll have to see how long until she's ready to see her son. After lunch we'll start on Frank. It will be better for both of them if they recover at the same rate, I think. Cuts down the stress and worry. You said they have a kid?" She nodded.
"Neville was a schoolmate of ours. He teaches Herbology at Hogwarts now. He and his wife have three children of their own." Severus raised at eyebrow.
"Longbottom married? Amazing. Who did he find to agree to that?" She scowled.
"There is no reason to be rude, Severus. Neville is a good man, and quite a powerful wizard. He still is dismal in potions, but the things he can do with plants boggles the mind. In his spare time he breeds new, more powerful hybrids for potion making. You might do well to talk to him later and see what he has developed; it might make some of your potions more powerful. He married Luna Lovegood not a year after the final battle, and they had their first child less than a year after that. Luna is the editor for the Quibbler now, her father died in the battle. Its readership has grown stunningly and she has turned it more away from being, well, what it was, to a political gossip rag. I don't know where she gets her information but she has uncovered more corruption and graft than you would believe, and she names names and publishes copies of paperwork as proof. Politicians despise her, but the Aurors read the thing like a bible to launch internal investigations."
The three wizards were able to continue their work undisturbed for the next four days without even a breath of suspicion surrounding them. Harry never spoke of where he spent his days, though more than once he came home later than even they, and in a foul mood that even Draco could not tease him out of. On day five they all agreed it was time to lift the sedative off Frank and Alice and see if they were able to comprehend their surroundings and possibly speak. For this Hermione had them all change into St. Mungo's Healers robes which had not changed color in the past thirty years to provide a sense of familiarity to the pair who, as far as they could tell, had not processed anything since their attack.
Severus administered he antidote to the sedative they stood back as a group to watch. After several minutes, both began to stir, and they held their breath in suspense. Alice was the first to open her eyes, her gaze sleepy and confused as she looked around. Her eyes lit on the group in the St. Mungos robes and she relaxed a bit, verifying Hermione's hypothesis that it would be reassuring and with that one expression proving that she at least had some sort of cognitive ability left. She looked around again, and saw her husband one bed over, still not awake, and looked back sharply to them, and tried to speak, but all that came out was a rusty croak. Hermione moved quickly to pour a glass of water and helped the weak woman take several sips.
"Frank," she finally managed to croak out, then "Neville… my baby, where?"
"Neville is perfectly fine, and Frank should be waking up any minute," Hermione said reassuringly. Alice went limp with relief on the bed, and awkwardly raised a hand to pat Hermione's arm.
"Thank you. How long? So weak, was it bad this time?" Hermione paused, and seeing that Frank had not yet awoken sat down on the side of the bed.
"Alice, there are a few things I need to explain to you, and I need you to try to remain calm, alright?"
The next hours were a rollercoaster for Hermione and Draco and Severus. Jason, unable to speak much of the events the Longbottoms had missed over the years, was relegated to errand boy, fetching tea and sandwiches as the other three tried to explain what had happened to the two dazed ex-Aurors. There were the inevitable tears and grief, and exclamations of denial, but eventually they began to accept what had happened. It was Frank, who finally nodded, and taking his wife by one hand, gripped Draco's in the other, his eyes filling with tears.
"You gave us back our life, young man, you and your colleagues. I would never have believed I would see the day when I would shake the hand of a Malfoy and say thank you, but this is the day."
"I never said…" Draco started, only to have Frank snort.
"I may have been unconscious for a long time, but don't think I don't see Malfoy in you. You must be Lucius son, aren't you? You're nearly identical to him at that same age, at least in looks. But you are nothing like him, or that bastard Abraxas, I can tell that much looking in your eyes. You're a good man, I think. It's about time something decent came out of that family." Draco ducked his head and Hermione saw the glimmer of tears he didn't even try to hide.
"Thank you," he said quietly. "You have no idea how much your forgiveness means to me." Alice looked over then, her expression puzzled.
"There is nothing to forgive you for, Healer. You cannot be held accountable for the actions of your father and your aunt. You were no older than our son when this happened, just a baby yourself."
"The sins of the father," he shrugged. "I bear the Malfoy name and that name has brought nothing but dishonour and shame on it for generations. I'm the last Head of Family; it's my responsibility to restore the name. You understand, don't you? I know you didn't hold to many of the old traditions, but…" Frank was already nodding.
"But your family did. I understand. Its different for the Head of Family, I know that." He drew himself up as well as he was able and offered his hand again to Draco, who took it hesitantly. "As Head of Family for the Noble House of Longbottom, I tell you, there is no enmity between House Longbottom and House Malfoy, and any and all misdeeds have been honorably redressed." There was a soft golden glow of magic about the clasped hands as old blood magic registered the vow and the repayment of the debt. But when Draco made to pull away, Frank did not release his grip. "Furthermore," he went on instead. "House Malfoy will have the friendship and allegiance of House Longbottom for as long as House Malfoy continues in its new honorable ways." The flash of gold was brighter this time, and Draco sucked a shocked breath in, never having seen the House alliance bond performed before. It was a serious thing in pureblood circles, and for as long as he could remember no house wanted to be that closely affiliated with another, in case one fell out of favor. It was a declaration of trust and friendship that was shocking in its political significance, and Frank Longbottom had to know that.
"I think you have a long, hard road ahead as well as behind, young Malfoy. You can use all the friends you can get."
"Yes, sir, thank you," Draco nodded, his expression glowing as he looked to his godfather. Severus nodded from across the room, and allowed a brief smile to play across his mouth. It was sufficient, more than sufficient, he thought. Perhaps his godson's nightmares would finally begin to fade.
It was nearly another week before Frank and Alice felt as though they were caught up enough, strong enough and ready to face Neville for the first time. They wanted to be strong for him, for him to realize that they were back for good, they said. Hermione could only agree. His parents were and had always been Neville's only weak spot, and to have them returned to him would be the last piece of him fitted back into place. Frank was saddened that his mother had passed only a few months prior to his awakening, but Augusta Longbottom had borne her children late in life even for a witch, and was quite aged. She had been quite vocal in her readiness to go and join her husband for a few years, as she was vocal in everything, and her face when they found her dead in her bed one morning, had borne a contented smile.
Hermione Floo called Neville on Sunday, asking him to come through, that she had good news, but not to bring Luna and the children just yet. Puzzled, and worried despite her reassurances, he had stumbled through in seconds, his hands still covered in dirt from his greenhouse, and gardener's apron on. Hermione, unable to keep in happy tears, quickly scourgified his hands, and pushed him into the room, standing outside crying her eyes out as his shocked exclamation and his parents response floated out the door.
It was done. A week of talking, arguments, cajoling, and finally, what he hated most, a full out arrogant demand coupled with the leveraging of his status as saviour of the wizarding world, holder of the order of Merlin First Class, and just being Harry bloody Potter, who had never asked for anything in his life other than this, damn it; he had gotten what he wanted. He looked at the scrolls in his hands in triumph. Full pardons for both Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape, the Order of Merlin First Class that Severus had earned many times over for his work as a spy, and an Order of Merlin Second Class for Draco for his help keeping Harry alive in the Final Battle. The last had been the hardest to get, but Harry's own pensieve of the events, his memory having returned more and more as time went on, served to finally convince Kingsley Shacklebolt, the now Minister for Magic, that the Order was deserved.
Harry realized that when, not if, Frank and Alice Longbottom were cured, there would be a media frenzy that would eclipse even him, and if Draco and Severus were not protected they would find themselves hostages to the Ministry, working for the rest of their lives as punishment to cure every patient in England. That was not fair or right, and they had much larger things to accomplish than that. And so, once he had agreed to go to the Ministry and say where he had been for nearly the last ten years, he began to negotiate. Yes, it had cost him public appearances, and interviews and more pomp and circumstance, but Harry had become far more cynical and confident under Draco's excellent tutelage, and had realized that for everything they wanted from him he could get things he wanted in return. And so he had. Kingsley had not been happy to realize that the young and naïve Harry Potter had become a mature, confident and more than a little arrogant man, but at the end they had parted with laughter and mutual respect that was much more suited to the day. Harry thought that eventually they might become friends.
Neville had managed to keep the hospital from finding out about his parents as he and Luna and their children took advantage of the secrecy to get to know one another, and as time passed both Frank and Alice found they could remember flashes, and bits and pieces of Neville's visits over the years. It was a sad certainty that Alice would never regain full use of her magic, though she seemed to care very little as long as she had her son and grandchildren, and Frank would use a cane for the rest of his life after the damage Lucius had done to one of his legs while Bellatrix Crucioed him nearly to death. It would be some weeks yet before they could be released from the hospital, but eventually the family would be completely reunited. They would allow the staff at St. Mungos to find out about the cure tomorrow, and so Harry's triumph had not come a moment too soon.
He closed the door to Grimmauld Place, hearing Draco and Jason's voices arguing over whether Quidditch was superior to American football, Jason having predictably gone the side of football while Draco's love of Quidditch came through. When he entered the study, finding Severus there also, head predictably hidden behind a newspaper so he would not get dragged into the argument, he was more than satisfied.
"Oi, you two, enough of that noise, alright? Quidditch is more dangerous, faster, and the uniforms are nicer therefore, it wins. Agreed?" It was obvious Jason wanted to argue that, but since the relevance of sports really was mostly based on speed and danger he conceded with a grunt. "Good. Now, since both of you are here, I have gifts. Look lively, Severus." He tossed the wizard the scroll casually, and it was caught one handed without Severus looking up from his paper. Draco's he presented with a smile and a kiss, confusing the blond. At Harry's gesture he unrolled the scroll, starting as the medal inside fell into his lap. He picked it up, eyes going wide as he read the inscription, and cast it aside to scrabble at the parchment. Provoked by the sudden silence to look up from his paper, Severus saw Draco's reaction and frowned, setting the Prophet aside to quickly break the seal on his own scroll. He too was shocked by the medal that fell out, his soft exclamation of, "what the bloody hell..." fading as he read down through the scroll listing his pardon and restoration to full status as a war hero and citizen in good standing of the wizarding community of Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
"Potter, how did you?" Harry grinned and the smug expression was so reminiscent of Lily when she pulled one over on the Marauders, that his breath caught for a moment in bittersweet memory.
"They owed you and Draco, and I reminded them of that. Forcefully. I figured while you were off curing the sick and performing miracles I had better go behind you and clear up the old paperwork. Took a bit of time and I did have to promise to attend several deadly political events and give some interviews, but they did what I wanted in the end. It's no more than what you deserve, either of you. And when the press gets wind of this cure, well, I'm guessing you'll end up with another one each at least. So, now once the papers get wind of you there won't be any messy arrests or things of that nature. Actually, I suggest we give Luna the scoop on the whole story and let her put it in the Quibbler before anyone appears publicly. We'll be able to control how the papers handle it better that way. Once Luna's story has hit the Prophet can't very well come behind and claim its all an old death eater plot."
"Who are you and what have you done with my Harry?" Draco asked a moment later, and Severus barked a short laugh of agreement.
"Honestly, Potter, I didn't know you had it in you to be such the Slytherin." Harry shrugged.
"The sorting hat told me I'd do well in Slytherin, but I didn't believe it at the time. It's likely a good thing I was put in Gryffindor at first or I'd have spent all my time in school mooning over this blond prat and said to hell with saving the world. The thing is, thinking like a Slytherin comes a bit more naturally to me than I would have liked to admit a while ago. I can see the appeal now. Amazing how simple it is to get what you want, you know?"
"Yes, and now we want you to take your arse over to Hermione's and for Merlin's sake get laid," Draco grinned. "And Jason, bugger off please, Harry and I have celebrating to do." And without another word he pulled his lover up the stairs after him. Severus sighed, shaking his head.
"As soon as I believe they have reached a certain level of maturity they do something like that." Jason shrugged.
"I've gotten used to them, they're kind of funny most of the time. Drake has a point, though. Why are you sitting here with a newspaper when you could be celebrating with that gorgeous witch? You aren't getting any younger, and she's isn't getting any hotter the longer you sit here, you know."
"Actually, I cannot think of anyone else I would rather celebrate my freedom with," he admitted, a slow smile crossing his face. "Hopefully she will not be offended by the fact that I do not have an invitation."
"I have a feeling she won't mind at all." Jason smirked, and Severus apparated directly out of the study, past all the wards as if they simply didn't exist. For a wizard like, Jason decided, they probably may as well not have.
Hermione was already in pajamas ready to open a tin of soup for dinner when the knock came at her door. Puzzled, she opened it to see Severus Snape standing on her doorstep, fully dressed in a Muggle suit that she was fairly certain cost nearly as much as she made in a year, with an expression on his face that was at once jubilant and predatory.
"Severus? You look, well, happy doesn't quite do it, what's going on?" she asked, pulling him into the house, a smile trying to quirk her lips though she did not know quite why other than it was a response to his obviously buoyant mood. Instead of replying, he pressed a scroll into her hand, and took a seat on her couch while she read. After skimming the document for barely a minute her eyes widened and with a squeal of joy she launched herself into his arms, hugging him enthusiastically. Caught a bit unawares by the strength of her reaction to the news, his breath left in a whoosh, but he still fastened his arms solidly around her.
"Harry came dragging these back to Grimmauld just a few minutes ago," he said into her hair. "I could think of no one I would rather be with to celebrate the news." She tilted her head back in response to that quiet admission, her expression soft and vulnerable.
"I am so glad you came." He was kissing her in the next moment, and his hastily thrown together plan of a fine meal perhaps in Paris and a quiet evening in her company burned to dust in the flare of passion between them. They finally did have a meal later, gulping toast and tinned soup in her tiny kitchen before her cinnamon eyes met his again, and they raced back into her bedroom.
It was long past morning the next day when Severus and Hermione apparated straight into the study of Grimmauld Place, Draco simply looking up from his coffee long enough to grimace at Severus and mutter "showoff", before tipping a phial of Pepper-Up into his mouth. Harry wandered in looking as much the worse for wear a moment later, nodded to them both, and sank down on the couch with a groan.
"Hangover cure." Jason walked in, and handed out phials to Draco and Harry, then took a look at Severus and Hermione before not bothering to offer them one, but took two purple potions out of another pocket instead, and tossed them over with a grin. Hermione recognized the mild healing draught easily, and flushed scarlet, but drank it down willingly enough when she saw Severus doing the same. She knew she'd gotten a bit aggressive with her nails the night before, but considering he had literally shagged her raw it seemed fair payback. Not that she'd complained, Merlin no, she would happily keep a stock of purple potions by the bed simply for more nights like that. Even the purple only dealt with the discomfort, the sense that she'd been impaled on something like a beaters bat for most of the night remained. She smiled a secret smile, thinking that as well endowed and talented as Severus was, the comparison was quite possibly apt. He caught her smile and raised an eyebrow before giving in and rewarding her with a slow, sensual, toe-curling smile of his own. It promised all manner of dark, delicious things later, and she would have happily dragged him to the floor right then, but he turned back to the others, giving them a cursory glance.
"Luna Longbottom will be here in approximately an hour to conduct the interview Harry so cleverly thought of so that it can make a special evening edition of the Quibbler. Just the fact that she is publishing an evening edition will create enough of a commotion that the story will be widely read before the Prophet gets hold of it tomorrow Hermione and Luna both assured me, so I suggest you two get yourselves together while Jason, Hermione and I get some lunch together. I assume neither of you have eaten since last night?" The two grimaces he received were answer enough.
"Really, you two are impossible," Hermione took over and shooed them both upstairs. "Into a hot shower, both of you, and no shagging in the shower! You have thirty minutes to be done and dressed and back down here so you can eat. Draco, that means no primping your hair forever. Honestly, can some people never manage to celebrate without Firewhiskey? Go on!" Both men scampered up the stairs hastily, and within a minute she heard the shower turn on.
She found Severus in the kitchen a minute later chopping vegetables for a large chefs salad.
"I remember hearing both Harry and the Weasley boy many years ago saying you were "scary"," he said mildly, dumping the lettuce into a large bowl. "I begin to see what they meant." She shrugged.
"It made them do what they needed to, that was what counted." She caught a slice of tomato as he aimed it for the bowl and popped it in her mouth. "I'm starved."
"Then make yourself useful and put those loaves of bread into the oven to warm and set the table," he said, deftly avoiding her as she attempted to snatch a scrap of chicken before it hit the bowl.
"Bossy git," she teased, reaching around him, and snagging the chicken back before he could stop her. She squealed a moment later as, bending over to put the bread in the oven, she was smacked pertly on the rump.
"That was for name calling," he said loftily, "and because you do have a lovely backside. Now behave." Her contented laughter brightened the room, and, should he have admitted it, his heart as well.
The interview did go swimmingly well. Luna had previously paid a visit to her in-laws, and they had consented to allowing her to break their story as part and parcel of the entire interview. She had taken several photos of them up and walking about, and speaking to her as proof, and after the interview they would go back to the hospital for several more photos to be taken with Draco, Jason and Severus. It had taken longer for Frank and Alice to warm to Severus as he had truly been a Death Eater when they had last known him, but he had been brutally honest in his recounting of events and they had both been clearly able to see his remorse and had agreed he had paid his penance many times over in his years as a spy for the Order, and then in helping Draco develop the treatment that had given them their lives back.
They did not finish until nearly three, barely giving Luna time to get the special edition put together and printed for release at six. After that it was all a waiting game.
The first reporter bounced off the wards at Grimmauld Place at half six, apparently thinking perhaps the spells were not strong enough to keep him out. They had closed the Floo in preparation, which was wise since they kept hearing it flame up over and over as people tried to Floo in as well. The crowd kept growing outside, getting louder and louder until Harry keyed the wards to block sound as well.
"So, I guess eventually someone is going to have to go out there and talk to them all, right?" Severus looked up from his paper at Jason's nervous question.
"Not until tomorrow. We are to Floo directly to the solarium in St. Mungos where the Longbottoms will meet us, and we will have a press conference on the steps. Luna has already arranged it. No, tonight we simply wait for the frenzy to peak."
"And remind me why I have to be involved in all this? I hate reporters."
"You're part of the team, Jason, too late to back out now," Harry grinned. "I got sucked in too, and I didn't even do anything except get cured. Hermione is the one who gets out of it, lucky girl."
"Oh no. She will be there as well, witness, you know." Hermione glared at Severus, then sighed.
"And I let you all into their room. It's all in the story, none of us escapes. Just don't answer any question you don't like, Jason, and scowl if they get too impertinent. That seems to work well for Severus."
"Cheeky little swot." Draco heard the affection in his godfathers voice and gave his lover a wink. Harry nodded back, satisfied. Their work was done.
"Oh bloody hell, I suppose it was too much to hope for that that ruddy cow had retired!" Harry spotted Rita Skeeter's bleach blond head at the front of the crowd from behind the doors and groaned. Draco smiled in a most unpleasant way and exchanged a glance with Severus. They were going to enjoy this.
"I'll deal with her for you, Harry," he reassured, and while Harry was not at all sure that that would go well for Skeeter, he was fairly certain it would be most entertaining to watch.
Hermione was the one to take to the podium first, oddly, as the medical representative of the Longbottoms.
"I will warn every member of the press here that Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom are still in recovery. If there is one hint of this becoming too much for them the questions will end and that will be that, do I make myself clear?" there was a general rumble of discontent but the gathered reporters did agree to abide by the rules. Immediately a forest of hands went up to get in the first question. Already coached by Luna, Frank Longbottom pointed to the representative for Healers Monthly standing to the side.
"Mr. Longbottom, have the Healers given you a long term prognosis for recovery?" There was a mutter of boredom from the group, but Frank happily recounted the very few lingering side effects, and heaped praise upon the medical team who had accomplished something no one in the wizarding world thought possible.
"Doesn't being treated by Death Eaters bother you after they were the ones who put you there to begin with?" Severus didn't bat an eye, and Draco managed to control his expression though Harry felt him tense at his side.
"Severus Snape has not been a Death Eater for nearly thirty years, as you well know, and he holds an Order of Merlin First Class for his work for the Order both before and during the war," Mrs. Longbottom said tartly. "And Draco Malfoy while forced to get the Mark by his father, was instrumental in helping Harry Potter survive the Final Battle so he could defeat Voldemort. He earned an Order of Merlin for his efforts as well, as if any of you did not already know that. All we can say is that since we were treated and brought back from the edge of death by a team of Healers that have treated us with nothing but care and compassion. They have done everything they can to make sure we see a full recovery, and have become our friends in the process. We owe our lives to these men in a very real way, and they have our sincere gratitude for that."
The questions went on for more than an hour, with each reporter given a chance, most cowed enough to be moderately respectful, any who didn't stared down and their question disdainfully ignored. Finally, only Rita Skeeter remained. Sighing, Harry pointed to her, dread rising.
"Rumor has it that only the influence of The-Boy-Who-Lived kept Snape and Malfoy out of Azkaban and got them those Orders of Merlin, and that you lied for them because you are Malfoys lover and under his complete control. What is your response to that, Mr. Potter?" Harry grabbed Draco's wrist, forcing his wand arm down at his side, then running a finger gently over the back of his hand. Draco subsided unwillingly, and sighed. Harry, smiled at Skeeter, allowing several photos to be snapped before replying. He found that all his old nerves had melted away. He didn't care what the Prophet printed, what Skeeter or the public thought, or whether anyone cared whether he was gay or not. He had grown up, he thought, and now he was going to let everyone know it.
"You always have had the tendency to rely far more heavily on rumor and sensational supposition than fact, Rita," he chuckled. She flushed as a spiteful chuckle circled among the rest of the reporters, and glared at Harry.
"Is that a denial?" He shook his head.
"That was a statement of fact, though I acknowledge it was a tad off topic. I will address your points in order, will that do? First off, it was their innocence of any crime that kept Master Snape and Healer Malfoy out of Azkaban, not my influence. They earned those Orders of Merlin for their brave action just like everyone else, and I'm sure the Ministry would not appreciate your allusion that they can be persuaded to hand out pardons and Orders of Merlin on my say so. Secondly, Draco Malfoy is not my lover." He felt Draco stiffen in hurt and almost grinned. "He is no less than my soul mate, my other half and the man I shall love with all my heart in this life and the next." A hand slipped into his and squeezed so tightly he almost winced, but he squeezed back just as tightly. "As for control, there is no control in our relationship. We argue and make up and disagree and pout and shout and once in a while we even stop speaking for a day or so, I don't know of any couple that doesn't. He certainly doesn't control me and I would never want to control him. He is a brilliant Healer and a good man despite the disadvantages of his upbringing. He has spent the whole of his adult life researching and creating this treatment for sufferers of long term and severe spell damage. He and Severus and Jason cured me, they have cured Frank and Alice and they will begin to treat Minerva McGonagall as soon as her niece can be reached to give consent. They have begun work to open a training center for other teams to attend to learn these techniques so that more people can benefit. This training is being provided at no cost to the healer or hospital, Severus and Draco and Jason have all invested their own funds into this to make it possible."
"Now you stand there trying to make some sort of scandal, something illicit, something corrupt out of one of the most selfless acts any of us have seen. You have ignored their contributions to the war, and to the advancement of wizarding medicine. Instead of focusing on the return of his parents to a war hero like Neville Longbottom you try to bring up the horrors of the war again. You attempt to discredit me and my friends because of whom we chose to love and whom we chose to be our friends. This type of gutter reporting has been one of the reasons I stayed so far away from the press. You don't care about facts, you don't care about truth, and you sure as hell have no respect for journalistic integrity. I am ashamed for the Daily Prophet that they allow someone like you to subvert the process the way you do and continue to print your trash. I will never read another word of the Daily Prophet as long as they employ you and reporters like you, and I am embarrassed for the wizards and witches who hang on your every poisonous word and eat up the rubbish you call journalism. That is all." They turned as one group and reentered the hospital, the doors banging shut ominously with a bit of help from an old spell Severus used to use on his classroom door to intimidate first years. The entire crowd was silent, then an even worse melee broke out, and watching from behind the one-way glass of the doors, Harry and Draco watched Skeeter being hounded by questions from her fellow reporters.
"I think I might have been able to pull that bitches teeth long ago if only I had realized it," Harry said reflectively. "What a shame." He looked over to Draco to see the blond staring at him with an oddly intense expression.
"Did you mean it?" He asked. Harry gave him a puzzled look.
"Mean what? That I could have got the best of her ages ago? 'Course I meant it, I'm not dense."
"No, what you said about us. Did you mean that?" Harry stopped short and a flush crept into his cheeks.
"I know it might be a bit of too soon, Draco, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to put you on the spot like that."
"So you did, then, you meant it when you said all those things?" Harry nodded and suddenly found his arms full of trembling blond.
"Thank Merlin, thank Merlin," Draco was muttering over and over. "I thought it was just me, and I wanted to give you time, but how could I keep from telling you every day that there was no way that I could ever let you go? I knew you thought you loved me, but there's a difference, you know. There is the oh, yes, I love my boyfriend sort of love, then there is the I don't ever want to go a day the rest of my life without this man sort of love, and I didn't know, you see, which one you meant when you first said it." Laughing, Harry put a hand over his lovers' mouth until he finally stopped talking.
"I don't want to go a day the rest of my life without you, Draco. I want us to argue and make up and grow old and podgy together. I want to have children with you that have your hair and my nose; I'd start looking for a surrogate tomorrow if you wanted. I'd marry you if it were legal, and I don't care that it's not because either way you'll never get rid of me." Harry didn't notice the audience that had grown up around them at the speech, or Hermione dabbing her eyes quietly as Severus rubbed her back. "I love you, you dense prat, now do you understand?" Draco only nodded, and Hermione cast a silencing charm back around the crowd just as the applause started. No need to clue them in on what a spectacle they had made just yet.
"This is what we fought for." Severus looked over his shoulder as Frank Longbottom spoke quietly behind him. "A pureblood and a half-blood, and you do not see one person objecting. "