The Three-Part Quest
Part 1: The journey begins
It was a warm summer afternoon. Most of the wizarding world was out and about, relishing the weather. But two unfortunate people were stuck alone in white-washed walls, where the curtains were drawn tightly against the sun's blinding rays.
"Did you have to go near that Dragon? Didn't that trainer warn you about infections?"
"We could have gone to Switzerland, but no ... dragons it is!"
"Stupid, monstrous, filthy creatures."
Narcissa Malfoy coolly flipped through the newspaper, ignoring her husband, who was pacing up and down the room. He was agitated, reasonably so, at the current situation. They had been peacefully vacationing in Romania - the sixteenth stop on their tour of the continent - when Narcissa had suddenly come down with a bout of Dragon Pox.
Since Lucius' father had tragically died from a virulent case of Dragon Pox, there was no choice but to drop all plans and find the best care.
So here she was now, sitting in a hospital bed at St. Mungo's looking ever-so-poised, despite being covered in red sores.
"... bloody press hounding us about the War ... the reason we left England on vacation ... avoid these nutters ..."
Lucius continued pacing around.
Narcissa tuned him out, as she often did, focusing instead on the article she had come across not so long ago. It was the very reason they were back in England, instead of choosing to visit any of the other excellent healers around the world. It was the main reason for her quest.
HERMIONE GRANGER, WAR HERO, ADVANCES SEARCH FOR DRAGON POX CURE
Hermione Granger, best friend to Harry Potter and War Hero, has been working in conjunction with St. Mungo's for the past five years. At the mere age of 25 she has already established herself as a renowned Healer, and also as a brilliant researcher.
Using samples provided by 'The Dragon Domes' farm run by Charlie Weasley, brother to Ron Weasley, she has been searching for a better cure to Dragon Pox. The previous cures to this virulent disease had only a 20% success rate and reacted painfully with the sores characteristic of this ailment.
But Granger has devised a new cure, that has an astounding 75% success rate, which uses the healing property of phoenix tears ... (cont'd on page 3)...
Narcissa hastily folded the article and smiled up at the hesitant face of Hermione Granger.
It was strange to think that this was the same petite girl who had fought furiously in the war. She looked so mature now.
In person, she looked almost identical to the photo in the article: professional, with her curly hair secured in a bun and wearing white crisp robes. The only difference was that the proud smile in the photo was replaced by a hesitant one in person.
"Ah, Healer Granger. I'm so happy to see you!"
Hermione's brows shot up at the brilliant smile emanating from Narcissa's lips.
"I would say likewise, but you seem rather under the weather," she replied with a frown.
Shooting a wary glance at Lucius, who seemed to be holding himself back from muttering one of his usual comments, Hermione approached Narcissa. Instantly, her shyness at facing her former rivals disappeared. At the sight of the ugly sores on Narcissa's body, she quickly became serious.
"When did you start getting these?"
"Just a week ago," Narcissa explained. "When we were visiting some Dragon enclosures in Romania."
"Did you touch any of the dragons?" Hermione was scribbling down some notes.
"Ah ... yes."
"WHAT!" Lucius thundered. He glanced sharply at his wife who was looking suddenly sheepish.
"Not now, Lu-"
"-Yes, now! I thought you just touched one of the gates. Why did you go near them? You need to take care -"
"I know, I know. But this is not the time-"
"- then when is? Didn't I tell you Romania was a mistake? Didn't I?-"
Hermione froze in her spot.
That droll voice had come from somewhere behind her, and it was painfully familiar.
Please not him.
Nothimnothimnothim ... oh fuck.
Sidestepping around her, Draco strolled up to his mother's bedside, placing a hand on her frail shoulder before turning to give Hermione a slow smirk. He had grown taller in the past eight years, and the soft boyish curves in his face had sharpened into mature angles.
"Well Granger, are you going to just stand there or do something useful?"
Hermione's entire face flushed in embarrassment.
"Draco!" Narcissa admonished.
"It's okay, Mrs. Malfoy," Hermione said sweetly. "He's been afflicted with rudeness since birth."
Lucius coughed uncomfortably, strangling a laugh.
"Too true, Healer Granger," Narcissa sighed.
"Oh please, call me Hermione."
Draco's eyes widened at the sudden camaraderie between the women, and looked to see that his father was also eying the two of them suspiciously. Since when did mother socialize with people outside her elite circle, Draco wondered, and that too with a notoriously Gryffindor muggleborn.
"Draco, why don't you go fetch me my cashmere robes?" Narcissa waved her son off distractedly.
"Err ... okay."
"You too Lucius."
"What?" he looked down at his wife, bewildered. "Why both of us?"
But he swallowed the question at his wife's insistent glare. Both the Malfoy men obediently slunk out of the hospital room, much to Hermione's amusement. Though it didn't last very long at the sight of Narcissa's smug smirk.
Something was very odd here.
Realizing she was being watched, Narcissa smiled innocently.
"Please continue, Hermione."
"Do you know why Mum wanted us to leave?"
"You didn't ask her?"
"Son, there are many lessons I have learned in my life -"
"The most important is: never fight your wife's whims."
After finally being able to tend to Mrs. Malfoy without either of the men hovering about her, Hermione carefully inspected the elder woman's skin.
She was quite surprised that the woman was so complacent and pleasant. When the Healer-assistants had informed her who her new patient was, she had decided to run away and refer her to another Healer. But she could not, in good conscience, turn away a sick person.
Pureblood prat or not.
But Narcissa was actually taking everything in stride. For someone who was usually uptight about her appearance, she didn't care that she was covered in ugly sores.
"So ... I hear you normally work in the pediatric ward?"
"Yes," Hermione beamed. "I love working with children, but my research with Dragon Pox has brought me in touch with several adult patients as well."
"But you prefer the children ...?" Narcissa completed the unspoken thought.
The brunette nodded. "I was - am - an only child. And being around that energy is infectious."
Narcissa nodded pensively. "I'd imagine you would want several children."
"Oh yes, that is, if I find the right person."
"That won't be a problem."
"What was that?"
Draco and Lucius, with the cashmere robes in hand, arrived back in the hospital room to find Narcissa and Hermione amiably chatting.
At the sight of them, Hermione cleared her throat and stood up. But instead of focusing on her, Draco noticed something on the bedside table, which the two women had been pouring over just a few minutes earlier.
"Are those my baby pictures?"
It took only one look at that gleeful smile on Granger's face to know the answer.
Draco emitted a long and loud groan.
"Oh hush Draco," his mother waved at him. "It's just a little girl talk."
He blanched. Girl talk? ... His mother, the woman who had dined with Death Eaters and was formerly Bellatrix Lestrange's sister, did not do girl talk.
"Yes. It was very illuminating," Hermione added maliciously.
Draco sent her a smoldering glare.
Lucius tapped his cane impatiently. Realizing that they were in a hospital and not back in the classroom, fighting, Hermione and Draco quietened.
"Well, the good news is that Mrs. Malfoy's case is completely curable," Hermione informed them. "However, since this cure is still relatively new, I would advise that she remain at St. Mungo's for two weeks so I can properly observe her recovery."
"As you must already know, Dragon Pox is not transmitted between humans through the air or touch. However any foods or drinks - anything in contact with bodily fluids - must be carefully inspected. We have already constructed wards to prevent such a contact from occurring."
Draco folded his arms, and looked at her coolly.
"Is that all?"
"... y-yes," she was disappointed to find her voice quiver. "And visiting hours will be over soon."
Nodding, Lucius bent down to quietly discuss something with his wife before striding out of the room without a single glance at Hermione. However, Draco blatantly perused her form before turning to wrap the robes around his mother's shoulders.
"Take care mother," Draco said affectionately. "We will be back tomorrow."
With a sneer, he shoved past Hermione on his way out.
Narcissa glared at her insufferable son. She had lied to the most tyrannical Dark Lord to ever reign upon England and had lived to tell the tale; she would not let a small thing like her son's petty pride get in the way of her quest.
She watched as he disappeared from sight, without a single apology.
She dejectedly gathered her potions and other various healing ingredients while the older woman watched her studiously.
"Don't worry about him," said Narcissa.
Not knowing what to say without hurting her feelings, and feeling foolish for still being so easily ruffled by Malfoy's taunts, Hermione simply stayed silent.
"He's really a nice man on the inside."
She gave a noncommittal grunt.
Narcissa bit her lip. Seeing that the young pretty Healer was efficiently dabbing a potion on her sores without really paying attention to her words, it was obvious that her protests would do no good in the face of seven years of animosity.
Several minutes ticked by, when she spoke again.
"I've tried hard to keep this a secret -"
" - Merlin knows, it can't be easy for others to understand."
She continued applying the potion, but Narcissa could tell she was now alert.
"It is frowned upon in our family to openly speak about such things. But I cannot hold my silence any longer."
Narcissa cleared her throat.
"You see ... Draco is suicidal."
Hermione gaped as Narcissa twiddled her thumbs innocently.
"It's true. Ever since that disastrous sixth-year, he has been utterly depressed with all the stress placed upon his shoulders. After all, what boy should have to choose between the lives of his parents and the life of his headmaster?"
She simply opened and shut her mouth several times.
She hadn't known that about Malfoy. She had always assumed that he had attempted to kill Dumbledore out of a need for personal glory, in hopes of becoming Voldemort's right-hand man. But he was only being a loving son.
"I tried so hard to save him from that fate. But, alas! He was doomed."
Her breath hitched, and Hermione patted her hand soothingly.
"I didn't know ... "
"It's okay," Narcissa murmured. "Draco is proud and refuses to show any weakness. But the fact is, he has been in doldrums for almost seven years."
"Oh my ..."
Hermione had forgotten all about the potion was now listening keenly.
"Lucius and I have tried in vain to cheer him up by taking him on tours around the world -"
Narcissa shrugged sadly.
"- I thought it was working. But on one night in Tuscany, I caught Draco standing on the edge of our villa's terrace, ready to leap to his death!"
"Oh no!" Hermione clapped a hand over her mouth.
Narcissa bowed her head, shaking her head dramatically.
"He's been so distraught over his past actions, most particularly over his poor treatment of you and your friends."
Her brows raised.
"But, like his father, he chooses to cover these feelings up with rude comments. So I beg you, don't be bothered by his actions or words. On the inside, he's just a broken little boy ... so sad ... Oh, Hermione, I just don't know what to do!"
To her utter horror, Narcissa broke into sobs.
Hermione plucked out some tissues and offered them to her, all the while rubbing her back in gentle circles.
There was silence for several minutes as she attempted to digest all of this new information. Suddenly she felt guilty for retorting back to Draco, and responding to his jibes, when it was now obvious that it was just a cry for help.
What sort of a Healer was she!
She should have her license stripped!
"I love my son, Hermione, but I can't see him alone and irritable all the time ..."
It was so sad.
She, Harry, and Ron had adjusted so well after the War. She never expected that there would be others facing a different fate. Just as the newspapers and Ministry were lavishing praise onto them for being war heroes, other people, like Malfoy, were being rejected for their forced association with the Dark Lord.
She, too, had judged him for it.
"But please," Narcissa begged, in between sniffles, "don't mention any of this to him."
"Yes, of course," Hermione agreed quickly. "Suicidal patients are usually the most sensitive. The issue must be brought up delicately."
She was lost in her thoughts for a while, wondering on how to handle a suicidal Draco.
"Oh Hermione, I knew you would be perfect for him ..."
" ... I mean ... no other Healer could better take care of her patients."
"Right," said Hermione, resolutely. "Leave it to me, Mrs. Malfoy. You just lay back and take your potions."
She bustled around with the medicines, the wheels in her mind already turning.
Narcissa, taking Hermione's advice, laid back on the cool pillows and smiled to herself.
She fell asleep with a smirk on her face.
AN: Two more parts to come.