Title: Because Potter Is Allergic to Poppies
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Profanity, a bit of violence, some sex, even more flangst, and tons of Hapless!Draco. Ignores the epilogue.
Summary: Auror Harry Potter is in hospital being treated for a curse when someone tries to kill him. Obviously it is up to bored, trapped Apprentice Healer Draco, who was only admitted to the Healer Program in the first place to do the menial work, to find out who did it. Because then they will promote him. No, it's for no other reason, thanks.
Author's Notes: This is a fairly light story, despite the murder attempt part, and will likely have five or six chapters.
Because Potter Is Allergic to Poppies
Part One—Poppies and Patients
"Apprentice Healer Malfoy, I need you to change Mrs. Fallon's dressings."
"Apprentice Healer Malfoy, why hasn't the rubbish been removed from Jerry Hastings's room yet?"
"Apprentice Healer Malfoy, you have to…"
"Apprentice Healer Malfoy!"
That was the chorus that rang in Draco's ears all day long, to the point that he was sleepwalking because he had dreams that people were calling him that and he had to answer.
Not that it matters, he told himself fiercely as he emptied Hastings's rubbish into the common bin that waited at the end of each ward. He had to hold his nose as he did so. Hastings had been struck with the Mucus-Vomiting Curse, and the cloths that had been thrown away were shades of green Draco had never wanted to know existed. It doesn't matter what they call me and how they try to get on my nerves and make me quit. I'm not going to. They'll see that it doesn't matter, that all their entreaties can't change my mind.
But sometimes it didn't feel like that. Sometimes it felt as though people had just forgotten that he was there and what purpose he had originally entered for—to become a full Healer and know everything about the wizarding body—and assumed he had wanted to be a glorified errand boy.
In fact, Draco had wanted a profession that would enable him to get out of England and travel anywhere he wished. Becoming a Healer had sounded perfect. What wizarding community couldn't use Healers? He had pictured himself leaning against a terrace with grapes above his head, while admiring former patients held out goblets of wine to him and he gave advice on rare and exciting diseases or curses now and then, when he wished to.
The Ministry had taken his family's money, but they couldn't take his dreams.
Instead, he had stayed an Apprentice Healer for three years, long after the slowest of the people he had entered the program with had been accepted as journeymagi. The administration of St. Mungo's hadn't forgotten his past, and they would never allow him to rise while memories of the war still lingered.
In one sense, Draco could see the justice of that. Even if he became a full Healer, it was unlikely that some patients would ever accept his care—one reason he had wanted to go abroad.
In another sense, he wished the people preaching "tolerance and acceptance" since the war would take their propaganda and shove it up their arses if they didn't actually believe it. In practice, "tolerance and acceptance" meant embracing Muggleborns who had done desperate things to survive during the war and reassuring them that they wouldn't be tried as criminals. No one had nearly as much sympathy for former followers of the Dark Lord.
Draco had sent a letter detailing the desperate things he'd had to do to survive to the Daily Prophet when they were printing stories of "war heroes" who hid in cellars and ate rubbish. They'd sent a Howler in return. Draco could still feel the sting of the scorn in Healer Mallow's eyes when the Howler hovered in the middle of their class on treating botched potions, showering abuse on him.
He had told Draco not to do that again. Draco had responded that he hadn't asked to have a Howler sent to him, and didn't Healer Mallow know how Howlers worked?
That might have been the beginning of his career as a servant, incidentally.
The Ministry took his family's fortune. Oh, they said it was for reparations, but Draco didn't notice any Muggleborns the money was supposedly destined for living any better. The Ministry officials who collected it had larger office a few months later, though.
Draco had known for a long time that the Ministry was corrupt and could be bought. But he had never counted on being on the other side of that.
His parents had emigrated to Iceland just ahead of the officials who would have tried them. So Draco was seized in their place, but even his most zealous enemies had had to admit there wasn't much evidence for the "crimes" he'd committed.
"Apprentice Healer Malfoy, you're needed in the Spell Damage Ward!"
Draco ran, jolted out of his thoughts. Opportunities to help in the Spell Damage Ward were relatively rare; it was practically Healer Mallow's private preserve, and he had retained his dislike for Draco.
Of course, Draco probably knew more about treating the results of certain wrong spells than anyone on that ward except Healer Mallow himself. He'd been in the rooms constantly during the long, delicate, tricky times that a spell's magic needed to be unwoven and pulled out of a patient's body, with nothing to do but observe. The higher-ranked Apprentice Healers and journeymagi were the ones entrusted with the actual important tasks.
Draco knew he could prove himself, if they would only allow him to do so.
But now wasn't the time to whinge about that. Draco passed the doors of the Spell Damage Ward and had no trouble spotting the way to the patient's room, since the chattering crowd spilled out into the corridor. He pushed through them with liberal application of his elbows and return of insult for insult, and then jerked to a halt, staring.
The patient on the bed in front of him was Harry Potter.
Granted, it was sort of hard to recognize him while he was flopping all over the place, each limb appearing to have a will of its own. But Draco had looked at the eyes and the scar first, he always did, and that was what he recognized. He came cautiously towards the bed, wondering what had happened, and whether Healer Mallow wanted him for an important task. His chest started to swell as he imagined helping to save the Savior's life—
"Apprentice!" Mallow roared. "Hold his arm down!"
Draco scowled, but sprang to his task as Potter's elbow nearly smacked the Healer in the face. The arm resisted him, and Draco noticed the spongy texture to the skin. Then, even as he held it, he felt the sponginess become stoniness.
"The Marble Walking Curse, sir?" he asked Mallow.
Mallow scowled at him, but he didn't have time to say anything. He was too busy sticking his wand down Potter's throat and chanting the spell that would create a passage there which he could more easily pour the life-saving potion through. The Marble Walking Curse turned the entire body gradually to stone, and once the process began, patients couldn't swallow.
Draco turned his eyes away from the grotesque widening of Potter's mouth, which he had seen several times before, and examined the Savior. There was a wound on his face, a nasty cut that ran the length of his jaw to surface near his right ear, but no one was attending to it. Draco could understand why. If they lost the battle against the curse, then it would become nothing more than an interesting seam on a statue.
Potter's eyes kept opening and closing, and he kept whistling like a teakettle. Draco wondered how in the world he could, with Mallow's wand down his throat. Mallow was shouting over his shoulder for someone to bring him the correct potion, and Draco had to practically sit on Potter's arm to keep it still.
He did glance up as the potion was handed in. It was in the squat, flask-like type of vial that Mallow preferred, and it was bright green with flecks of gold floating in it—
Draco straightened and stared. "Sir!" he shouted a moment later.
"Not now, Apprentice," Mallow said, and he spoke Draco's title with more emphasis than he had to, because that was just the kind of bastard he was. He seized the flask and tipped it so that the lip rested against the widened tunnel in Potter's throat. The liquid started to creep down.
Not sure of what else to do except the most extreme, because it wasn't as if someone would listen to him, Draco batted at the flask. It flew out of Mallow's delicate grip and hit the far wall, spraying potion every which way.
Immediately every sound in the room stopped, all the shouting and all the chaos, except the whistle from Potter's throat and the thump and flap of his arms and legs as he struggled. Even that was slowing down, Draco knew, because the Marble Walking Curse was having its effect.
Mallow turned on his heel to stare at Draco. Full Healers had pissed themselves over less than the look he was giving Draco now. "I want you to explain why you did that," he said quietly, "and condemned a hero to death. Before I strip you of your Apprentice title and send you out of this hospital."
Draco contained the impulse to snap back that apparently doing that was more important than saving someone's life, and retorted, "Because that wasn't the right potion, sir. The Stone Response potion is dark red with blue flecks. This was green with golden."
Mallow whirled around on his heel much more quickly this time and stared at the splatters of liquid on the wall and floor as if daring Draco to be right. Draco looked with him, knowing he was right, and felt a surge of nasty vindication when he saw Mallow's outstretched hand falter.
Then Potter's limb fell still under him, and alarm replaced all other emotions. "Sir!" Draco said quickly.
Mallow held up his wand and bellowed, "Accio Stone Response potion!"
Draco winced. The Summoning Charm was almost never used in hospital, because of the chance of summoning a potion or special artifact just being used at that moment for someone who desperately needed it. But he tended to agree with Mallow's obvious split-second decision that there was no one who needed the potion at the moment more than Potter.
The wall actually split around the flask that hurtled towards Mallow then. Draco blinked. He hadn't realized the Healer was so powerful.
Something to think about in the future, if I intend to irritate him further.
Mallow uncorked the flask in one smooth movement and spun around on his heel again, plunging the vial straight down Potter's throat like a champion. Draco stroked the hardening arm beneath his fingers and prayed that the potion would be on time. He hadn't seen Potter in years, didn't owe the git anything but a pair of pathetic life-debts, and yet thought the world would change a little, and not for the better, with him gone.
Mallow knew his work. The passage in Potter's throat spasmed, and then the arm beneath Draco's fingers softened again. He looked down and saw the poisonous, fungus-white shade that signaled the approach of the marble retreating. He sighed aloud in relief and glanced over at Mallow, wondering whether he would blame Draco for this.
He found Mallow's eyes locked on him instead. "You recognized the potion when I didn't," Mallow said, in a tone that could turn dangerous in an instant.
Draco decided that the best thing to do was stick to the truth. The entire room, and probably some of the audience in the corridor as well, had seen what really happened. Mallow wouldn't be able to bury this or twist facts. "Yes, Healer," he said.
"You only had a moment to notice it," Mallow said, in the tone of someone building up to an accusation.
Draco reminded himself, again, that there were witnesses. Most of them didn't like him, but he didn't think they would lie for Mallow's sake, either. The Healer wasn't that popular. "Yes, sir," he said, for some variety.
"You managed anyway." Mallow twisted his thumb around the shaft of his wand and watched Draco for a moment longer. Then, abruptly, he gave a regal nod and turned away again. "Auror Potter shall know of your swift action. It saved his life."
Draco blinked. His fantasy when he first came into the room, that he would somehow manage to save Potter's life, had been fulfilled after all. He felt a bit dazed. "Thank you, Healer," he said, which was luckily the proper response as well as the only one he had strength for right now.
Mallow was already demanding to know who had brought the wrong potion. Draco suspected that he wouldn't get an answer. No one would want to admit to such a catastrophic mistake. On the other hand, there were only a limited number of people Mallow would have trusted with access to his supply cupboard, so that narrowed down the number of suspects. The guilty one would be found and uncovered eventually.
Then Draco paused.
The potion that he'd flung against the wall didn't look anything like the Stone Response potion. It wouldn't have been easy to mix them up. Certainly none of the Apprentice Healers or journeymagi whom Mallow trusted with access to his cupboard would have done so. He always picked people who were level-headed and good in a crisis, with good observational skills.
On the other hand, they hadn't had a crisis like this before, where the Chosen One might have died in front of them. Draco had felt the excitement and tension in the room, and he hadn't been part of the core response team. Someone could have grabbed the wrong potion in a fit of nervousness and then not taken the time to look at it again as they ran madly along the corridors.
He didn't really believe that, Draco told himself. Maybe he was paranoid after all the attempts, both subtle and not, to sabotage him since he started training here. Maybe the fact that Potter had been cursed in the first place had made him start looking for shadows and attempts on Potter's life that weren't there.
But he still wondered what the potion had been, and when Mallow dismissed him, in the same absent way he would dismiss a dog who had done a favorite trick, Draco made sure to take a good look at the spilled potion, memorize its colors, and get a sniff of its scent, which was like sour honeysuckle. The potion wasn't one he recognized, in itself unusual.
He was going to look up that particular potion, the minute he had a little free time, and see how it interacted with the Marble Walking Curse.
I knew it.
Draco lowered the book onto the table in front of him and smiled at it. He was alone in the Apprentices' Library, a grand name for what was really just a collection of books that the older Healers and journeymagi didn't need at the moment. He was supposed to be cleaning beds on the second floor, but he had finished early and then slipped away before anyone else could drag him into some other task. If they found him here, he could always claim that he was improving himself with education.
The book in front of him was called A Hundred Rare Potions, and the picture of the deep green potion with gold flecks in front of him matched, in every detail, the one that Healer Mallow had almost poured down Potter's throat yesterday. Draco had flicked through the book until he found it by image, having no idea of the name, and the text printed beneath the picture had told him everything he suspected was true.
The Wilder's Growth Potion is highly dangerous and volatile and should be used only on those who are suffering from too long trapped in the Animagus form, as it pulls the human mind back from the animal and refocuses it on the language, memories, and habits that make us most human. In other cases, it will attack the body in search of the remnants of the Animagus transformation, and shut the body down by swift heart attack when it does not find them. It is particularly dangerous to use on patients suffering from other potions or spells that induce bodily change, such as Fleischer's Flesh-to-Wood Draught, the Tree Imitation potion, or the Marble Walking Curse.
Draco nodded. It sounded as though the potion would induce swift death in any case, but it would have been especially fast, with no way to prevent it, if Healer Mallow had succeeded in giving it to Potter.
Now, of course, he had to wonder how the person who had tried to poison Potter had known about the Marble Walking Curse so soon after Potter was brought into hospital. The same person had to know that the potion was in Healer Mallow's cupboard.
The person Mallow had sent in search of the potion would have qualified on both counts, but what were the chances that that randomly chosen Apprentice or journeymage would have hated Potter enough to concoct a plan to murder him on the fly? If this had been prepared far in advance, it was still difficult to see how the murderer could have known that Mallow would be the one to treat Potter or that he would choose them to send in search of the potion.
Draco shook his head. Yes, it was a puzzle, but he thought he could disentangle it. He felt somewhat responsible for Potter, now that he'd saved his life and paid back a life-debt (he wondered if Potter knew that yet).
And if he could manage this, they wouldn't have much choice about giving him journeymage status.
Draco was humming when he went to put the book away, which might be why he didn't hear the other Apprentice Healer come up behind him until she said, "Healer Mallow wants you, Apprentice Healer Malfoy."
Draco turned around and raised an eyebrow. Apprentice Healer Varden was one of the few people in hospital he felt superior to, because she had come in puffed-up and convinced she knew everything from merely reading books, and had learned quickly that she knew almost nothing. She was glaring at him with an expression of sullen resentment now that didn't hurt his superiority complex, either. "Do you know what about?"
"You've been assigned some special task, that's all I know," Varden said, and hurried away, no doubt to go back to her important business of pillow-fluffing.
Doubtless, she didn't realize how good the news of a special task sounded to Draco, or she wouldn't have delivered it, Draco thought, striding towards Mallow's office. This could be the first sign of a promotion, come at last!
"What are you doing here, Malfoy?"
Draco let the door fall shut behind him and studied Potter for a minute. The cut across his face which Draco had noted when he was holding his arm down had been healed, but he still looked stiff and pale, and the hand he reached out as if he would pick up his wand from a table where nothing but his glasses lay shook.
Draco studied and noted all those minute details because they would be necessary for his task, he told himself defensively. Not because he was trying to stall and put off the moment when he would have to tell Potter the truth.
"I asked you a question." Potter's mouth was drawn up with disdain, his eyes so dark with it that Draco was sure he could have hurled lightning bolts from them if he was feeling a bit better.
"I'm your immediate caretaker," Draco said, and carried the tray he held towards the bed. It contained tea for Potter, which included several thick slices of red meat. Draco knew that such nourishment was important after the Marble Walking Curse, which didn't make it easier to pass patients who were on blander diets right now and see their envious glances.
"What?" Potter was actually spluttering, something that cheered Draco up a bit. "Healer Mallow was seeing to me! He has before!"
That at least explained one part of the puzzle, Draco thought as he moved Potter's glasses and put the tray down on the table. Potter had probably been assigned to Healer Mallow the instant he was brought in because of the prior association. Someone else could have known that, if they'd checked the hospital records well enough.
"He knows that I saved your life," Draco said quietly. "I assume that means he trusted me enough to give me this duty." Or wanted to see if I would fail. Healer Mallow was the kind of complex man who tended to give people double-edged tasks like that. He hadn't cared enough about Draco to do it to him before, but Draco had eyes.
Potter, oddly, sagged back against the pillows and stared at him for long enough that Draco dared to meet his gaze. He found it even darker than he had remembered, and Potter's forehead now had long lines that cut across the old scar when he frowned.
"You did save my life," Potter said. "Thank you." And then, in the next breath, "But you're probably going to tell me that trying to give me the wrong potion wasn't a murder attempt."
Draco would have dropped the tray if he'd had only his hands to support it, so he was glad for the strengthening surface of the table beneath it. "Er, why would I do that?" he asked, to get over the shock of Potter's stream of thought traveling so close to his own. Potter had changed; somewhere along the line, he'd grown a brain. Draco wondered if it had hurt.
"Because Healer Mallow did." Potter smiled grimly. "He explained that the mix-up of the potions had been an honest mistake. He assigned an Apprentice Healer named Sabian to bring him the right potion, and he said he's a young man and easily excitable. He grabbed the wrong one and didn't dare wait because he knew that it was a matter of life and death."
Draco vowed to himself that he would remember Sabian's name. He was a new Apprentice , and so not one that Draco had seen much of, because he spent far more time in class than in the mundane chores that occupied Draco's time. "That doesn't sound like a murder attempt," he said, to spur Potter on further.
No matter how Potter had changed, Draco was still good enough to do that. Potter turned to face him, eyes brighter than before.
"The wrong potion contained poppy seeds," Potter said. "I'm allergic to poppies."
Draco considered him skeptically. "But if the potion would have killed you anyway when it was administered in combination with that curse, why would the poppy seeds matter?"
Potter gave him a smile that made Draco bristle, because it was the exact same kind of all-knowing, wise smile Healer Mallow used too often. Potter, though, wasn't as good as Mallow at noticing the signs of growing insubordination. He said simply, "They wanted to make completely sure. The same way that the Marble Walking Curse wasn't the only one cast on me." He raised a finger and traced the healing cut on his face. "This one was cast after. I have an enemy who likes to make doubly sure of his attempts working. This isn't the first time he's tried to kill me."
Draco blinked. "So this enemy is also clever and quick enough to have learned about what kinds of potions Mallow had and who he would send in search of them?"
"I know he can do certain kinds of magic at a distance," Potter said. "That might include Legilimency and the Imperius Curse. He could have fathomed Healer Mallow's intentions and then corrupted the mind of the boy he sent in search of the potion."
"You can't do Legilimency at a distance," Draco said. He probably shouldn't have argued, but this was a subject he knew something about. "It requires eye contact. The Ministry spent years practicing during the various wars with the Dark Lord to try and find a way to read his mind without facing him. Nothing worked."
"And, of course, because the Ministry didn't find any way, that means there must be none." Potter sneered at him.
"Private researchers have worked on it, too," Draco said coldly. "The hospital, for that matter. It doesn't work. There have been experiments with potions, spells, passive magic of the kind that newborns have when they come into the world and that even Squibs can demonstrate if all they need is a lucky chance to save their own lives. Wandlore. Life-debts. Everything everyone could think of, because Legilimency would be so useful as a distance art. Nothing works."
As he watched Potter's face change, he remembered why he ought not to have said anything. Someone could be listening at the door—Draco wouldn't put it past Mallow to assign spies so Draco didn't accidentally kill the Wizarding World's Savior—and wonder why a lowly Apprentice Healer knew so much about those things. Given the Malfoy family's reputation for Dark Arts, it wouldn't take a quick mind to make the connection.
Draco winced and waited for Potter to say something. It could be an accusation about Draco being a Dark wizard, or a demand for another Healer. Either way, he had just screwed himself out of a chance at a promotion.
"I see," Potter said instead. "Thank you for telling me." He leaned back against the pillow, never taking his eyes from Draco's face. "I'll have some of that food now."
Draco slathered butter on the scones and handed the plate across, utterly bewildered. He would have let Potter do his own buttering, but his hand shook too much. Potter seemed to know that, because he grimaced and sighed but bit in obediently, the butter dripping along the corners of his mouth. Draco leaned back against the wall and contemplated him.
What had just happened? Had Potter been mature, sensible, and intelligent for once? Merlin forbid.
Potter finished the scones and gestured for something else. Draco held out a banana, and Potter sighed again. "Something I can peel on my own," he said.
"Right," Draco said. "Sorry." He reached for some of the meat instead, and Potter accepted them with a grunt and started eating. He ate like a soldier, Draco thought as he watched, like the Death Eaters he had seen eating during the war. It didn't matter much if he liked the food, but it was a meal and he wasn't going to waste it.
A shame, Draco thought. In the right setting, when he was around friends, Potter probably relaxed, laughed, smiled, and ate his food with more relish and better manners than he was displaying now. He might even be attractive.
Draco felt as if he'd swallowed a pound of iron. He shook his head so hard that Potter looked at him curiously, and turned to the door. Surely someone would come to relieve him soon? Surely Mallow didn't mean him to be Potter's only attendant? He would go mad if he was.
"I'd like you to help me, Malfoy."
Draco glanced up, blinking. Madness or not, he did have a job to do. He nodded and started to reach for his wand to cast the Lightness Charm that would help Potter to walk. "You need to visit the loo? Sure. I—"
"No." Draco hadn't heard so much flat and incredulous rejection from Potter since their Hogwarts days. Of course, he hadn't seen him since then, either, so that wasn't really a surprise, Draco thought wryly. "I can make it there on my own. I mean that I'd like you to be my eyes in hospital. I can't really move from his bed, and it would look suspicious if I tried. Watch for someone trying to kill me. Gather information for me. The longer I remain here, the more I might tempt my enemy into trying again."
Draco stared at him. "That sounds like excellent reason to leave as soon as possible."
Potter sighed. He did that a lot, Draco thought. "No. I want him to do that. He might reveal himself. He's been getting more careless. And if he thinks that I'm weak and not recovering well, that might be another reason for him to let his guard down. But I can't play that role and spy out everything I need to at the same time."
Draco frowned. "I'm only an Apprentice Healer, Potter, and most of the people here don't like me. There's no reason for them to talk to me."
"You still know a lot more about the hospital routine than I do," Potter said firmly. "And you saved my life. That guarantees you a reason to be concerned about me, yeah? You're my attendant. No one will question that you come to my room all the time and talk with me. It's perfect."
Draco opened his mouth to argue again—
And then stopped.
What was he doing? This was his chance for promotion—a different one than he'd envisioned, sure, but still. And it was exciting, and it meant that Potter would take notice of him, maybe urge his promotion, maybe recommend him as a Healer to other people.
Besides, Draco thought he could resist possibly going mad around Potter if he had a driving purpose.
He nodded. "Very well, Potter. It's an alliance."
Potter's smile, he knew, would stay with him. And he did look quite handsome with darker eyes.
Not that that influenced Draco's decision in any way. Of course not.