Title: On Fingers Broken Long Ago
Characters/Pairings: Harry/Draco, mentions past Harry/Ginny, past Draco/Luna, Ron/Pansy, a slew of supporting characters.
Warning(s): disregards epilogue, adult language
Word Count: ~8200
Disclaimer: I make no profit from nor do I claim any ownership of the characters and situations discussed in this story; they belong to JK Rowling and Co. The title is taken from a song by Rilo Kiley.
Summary: After a ten year absence, Harry returns to his old life in England to find Draco Malfoy at the center of it. A tale of rekindling old flames, unlikely inter-House alliances, angry Hufflepuffs, and medical mysteries ensues.
Notes: Meep, new fandom! Very scary! This is a monster of a story that has taken over my summer; expect regular updates since it's about 90% written already. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much I enjoyed writing it, and please let me know what you think.
"May I ask you a question, Mr. Potter?"
Harry frowns a tiny bit, shifting in his chair under the woman's intense, slightly bemused gaze. It seems to him that she has done nothing but ask him questions so far, not that he minds; this is an interview, of sorts, even though it hadn't started out as one. He had wandered into St. Mungo's earlier that morning meaning only to casually ask the Welcome Witch about volunteer positions, Hermione's latest lecture still ringing in his ears.
He hadn't been prepared to be dragged off by the squealing witch, thrust into a small office in a hallway perpendicular to the front lobby, and subsequently introduced to Lenore Coalfleet, Head of Human Resources and Director of Volunteer Services. It was all a bit rude, actually, and he'd been silly, really, to expect anything different. Another Hermione lecture echoes in his head as he lets himself consider his own stupidity for a moment; Harry Potter cannot do much in public Wizarding England anymore without it turning into a Big Deal, even after a ten year absence.
As Harry resigns himself to the interview and not being able to get out of this politely anymore, Ms. Coalfleet takes his silence and slightly confused expression as acquiescence and lets out a deep, preparatory breath. And Harry knows what the question is going to be: Why are you back, Harry? Why did you leave? Why haven't you returned to the Ministry? He's coming up with polite ways of saying 'fuck off', and really he's gotten quite good at that since his return home, and so he almost misses the question.
"What made you consider St. Mungo's?"
He starts a bit, blinking at her, because it's a perfectly reasonable question: not nosy, or badgering, or accusatory, the way almost all of the other questions had always been asked. And then he has to scramble a bit, because he hasn't prepared an answer for reasonable, and because 'Hermione told me to' isn't going to cut it.
"Well," Harry stalls, 'well' being the 30-year-old substitute for 'er'. "I've always been, ah, interested in magical healing." He doesn't let on that the interest really only extends to far too many trips to the Hospital Wing back in the day, and not much else.
Ms. Coalfleet's arched eyebrow and slightly pursed lips suggest that she knows this, though, and so he shuts his mouth before he can dig his bluffing hole any deeper. She is a tall, powerful-looking woman with broad shoulders and flinty eyes, and he mentally sorts her into Slytherin before he can help himself. Hermione squawks yet another indignant lecture in his head about stereotyping, and he decides right then and there that he must find his own place, ASAP, because borrowing her guest room has done unfair things to his conscience.
"Really," she says primly, one word managing to convey amazing depths of skepticism and derision. Harry winces a bit, but manages a firm nod anyway, and it's not like he even wants to do this, anyway, he's only been home for three weeks now, he's not even bored yet, why is he here again?
"Your previous experiences do not really suggest this, Mr. Potter. Most of your work has been in law enforcement, with a reputable but rather tumultuous history of apprehending criminals. I'm not sure that you'll find St. Mungo's a good fit for you."
His hackles rise for a split second before he realizes that there is still no accusation in her voice; she is not saying 'get thee back to the Aurors, sir', nor is she asking him why he left. She's systematically destroying his defensive inner 14-year-old with reason and logic, and he wonders if Hermione had called ahead and coached her.
"Well," he says again, letting a small, presumably charming smile tilt his lips. Her expression doesn't even flicker, and he's mildly impressed; older women have done a lot more in the face of that same smile. He thinks for a moment, and tries for hopeful. "I've been thinking lately that it's time for a change."
There, that's a fair, age appropriate interpretation of a 'midlife crisis'. When he explained his midlife crisis woes to Molly Weasley, she had laughed at him and told him that 30 was much too young for a midlife crisis. "You're just a bit lost, dear, but you're nowhere near the middle yet," she had told him wisely, and he'd repeated this to Hermione when she had growled at him to get his arse off her couch and find something productive to do with his life. Again.
Ms. Coalfleet does not look impressed, however; she simply lets out another deep breath and he mentally concedes defeat without feeling too disheartened by it. Really, there is nothing wrong with Hermione's couch, even though Crookshanks is shedding and it smells like homework all the time.
The woman surprises him by standing up abruptly; it takes him a minute to shoot to his feet and he fumbles for a bit, wondering if he's meant to have a rejection handshake here. But she surprises him once again by smiling a little at him, slightly begrudging but still firm. "We are a different brand of hero here, Mr. Potter." She pauses, and then she seems to try and force the smile into something sweeter; it looks faintly painful. "Perhaps you will learn something from us."
It takes a second for him to realize what that means—okay, well then, he's got a job, well not a paying job, but somewhere to go when he's bored, at least, and maybe this will finally get Hermione off his back—and he can't help but grin a little and say, "Perhaps." Her mouth tightens, and he is flooded with the memories of the worst of Professor McGonagall's disapproval, the loathsome depths of Snape's condescension.
"Well," she says, totally stealing his line, picking up her wand from her desk and waving it at the door. It clicks open and the sounds of the front lobby flood the space again, reminding him that he is not at Hogwarts anymore. Acting like a prat who doesn't give a shit here isn't going to get points taken away, it's just going to make everyone think he's a prat who doesn't give a shit. Since the Wizarding world already thinks he's an ungrateful brat, a damaged and tragic war hero, a spy sent from a vampire cult, and a shamed, burnt out Auror that couldn't cut it anymore, he doesn't really want to add anything else to the pile.
"Walk with me, Mr. Potter," Ms. Coalfleet commands. "I know just where to put you." And as she smirks smoothly, he congratulates himself mentally on a job well done in Sorting her; no one but a Slytherin could ever pull off that smirk quite so evilly.
They make their way back out towards the lobby, passing the Welcome Witch again. She squeals when Harry shoots her a quick smile and waves excitedly at him, nearly knocking the glasses from the nose of the old man asking her a question. Ms. Coalfleet leads him briskly towards the emergency area, past a huge sign that says Triage and a long, winding line full of complaining witches and wizards. Bypassing all of the Healers scurrying about in lime green, she points her wand at one of the two lifts and gives it a firm swish.
"Volunteers initially commit to 200 hours of service," she tells him matter-of-factly. It sounds like a very long time but he knows logically that it isn't all that much; he curses Hermione mentally anyway. The lift chimes and opens, several lime green blurs whipping out and making his head spin a bit. Ms. Coalfleet smirks some more. "Since you've expressed such an interest in our hospital, however, I'm sure you'll choose to extend your hours further."
She steps into the lift and ushers Harry in, waving her wand swiftly so that the doors close on yet another harried, lime green blur. "Maybe," he says as cheerfully as he can muster.
"I don't normally assign my volunteers to this floor," Ms. Coalfleet continues, ignoring him. Harry looks at the glowing listing of floors and departments, trying desperately to remember which one Ginny works on, and failing completely. He realizes that this is why it's such a bad idea to skim letters as opposed to reading them. "But I imagine that someone with your fortitude and your, ah, enthusiasm, may find the atmosphere suitable. They are understaffed and overworked, and they can use the help. Do you like children, Mr. Potter?"
Before he can answer in the affirmative, the lift chimes and a luminous 2 lights up in front of him, the words Magical Bugs and Diseases flashing next to it. He thinks it sounds familiar and crosses his fingers, but as they leave the lift and head through a short hallway, he doesn't see Ginny and deflates.
The floor itself is quiet, and he remembers her mentioning that they are understaffed. Two Healers are speaking quietly to each other as they walk towards the lift; Harry notices that they aren't wearing lime green robes but robes that are a pale, powder blue, a much more pleasing color. Each Healer has a small, odd-looking fuzzy thing floating by their ear. They are round and look a bit like tiny birds, though instead of feathers they have puffy fur, and have no discernible beaks. He frowns at them, wondering if they are some kind of hospital vermin or something, but Ms. Coalfleet is speaking again, and so he doesn't ask.
"There are three wards: one for elderly patients, one for adults, and one for children. The children's ward is one of the busiest in the hospital, so I imagine that's where you'll be spending most of your time. The Healer-in-Charge runs all of the wards collectively; he's also the youngest Healer-in-Charge in St. Mungo's history. I believe he's about your age, Mr. Potter."
Harry musters up an interested look at that, but really he's still searching Ginny out. He scans the surrounding area as she leads him to a nearly empty nurse's station. The only occupant is a blond man in lime green robes who is sitting in a chair with his feet propped up on a desk, reading a magazine in his lap. As he idly turns a page and flicks his hair out of his face, Harry recognizes him and feels his stomach drop a bit.
"Mr. Potter, this is Mediwizard Zacharias Smith," Ms. Coalfleet tells him, and Zacharias quickly looks up and squints at them. His eyes widen but he doesn't move from his position, simply looks them up and down slowly before turning back to his magazine.
"We knew each other at Hogwarts," Zacharias says dismissively, and he sounds as if he's trying to act bored. Harry rolls his eyes.
"Nice to see you again," he tries, and Smith grins but doesn't look up.
"Mediwizard Smith is one of only two Mediwizards that work on this floor," Ms. Coalfleet continues. "As I mentioned, this department is rather understaffed at the moment. Therefore, we highly appreciate his work with us, even if he can be a bit difficult to work with."
Zacharias snorts, and looks up again, still grinning. "I'm difficult to work with?" He nods towards Harry. "So does the boss know he's here?"
Ms. Coalfleet's mouth tightens again, and she ignores the question. "Where is Nurse Weasley?"
Harry feels a jolt of happiness shoot through him for the first time that day since he had woken up and discovered that Hermione had refilled his stash of his favorite cereal. "Ginny?"
But they both ignore him; Zacharias' grin stretches to clown proportions and he suddenly looks gleeful. "Oh, Merlin, he doesn't know, does he? This is brilliant. Welcome to Bugs, Harry, you have made this a marvelous day for me."
"Zacharias, please. Do try to act like a professional, for once in your life." Ms. Coalfleet sounds both amused and exasperated, and while she looks at Zacharias as though he's a particularly loathsome insect, she seems perfectly calm about his disrespectfulness. Almost resigned to it, and Harry wonders just how badly they need him on this floor; a prat like Zach wouldn't last ten minutes working for him.
"Who needs professionalism when there's a bloodbath to look forward to in a little while? Right here, at Station One—oh, I can't believe I didn't bring my camera! Why didn't you tell me, Lenore?"
"Bloodbath?" Harry repeats, looking between the two of them in confusion.
"I'm going to ask you again," Ms. Coalfleet tries, firm and calm. "Where is Nurse Weas—"
Before Harry can place the shout, a short, redheaded blur has thrown itself into his arms, knocking his glasses askew. He laughs when he recognizes the feel of Ginny's body fitting against his, and he wraps his arms around her and squeezes tightly.
"Hey there, Gin."
"Oh, perfect," Zacharias continues, looking even more gleeful. "Keep hugging her, it's perfect, he's going to be even madder."
"Look, what are you on about?" Harry snaps, losing his patience as Ginny steps back from him. He stops paying attention to Smith, though, when Ginny beams at him, and he is hit with a rush of warmth so big and good he can't believe he's gone so long without it.
"I'm so glad you're here, Harry! Hermione told me she was gonna suggest this to you, and I thought it'd be a great way for you to get back out there again, you know, think about your options and such." Her face is bright and open, if a little tired, and she looks wonderful in soft pink robes and a sensible ponytail. She looks content, and even though he's known from what he's read (er…skimmed) from her letters that she's happy, it's much better to see it in reality. Harry smiles at her, knows it looks a little ridiculous, but doesn't care. Even when Smith laughs at him some more.
"Oh, Ginny, please, where is he? He has got to see this!"
Ginny's face changes, her eyes quickly narrowing, and she turns from Harry to glare at Smith. "Stuff it, Smith, honestly, it's too early for your crap. And you'd better transfigure those robes if don't want Draco to tear you a new one again."
Zacharias says something nasty back, and they start going back and forth, but Harry's brain seems to have frozen at the word 'Draco' and he can't seem to make it start up again. He says, "Malfoy?" faintly but nobody hears him except for Coalfleet, who has that evil Slytherin smirk again.
She opens her mouth to say something, but then she doesn't need to, because a drawling voice he'll never be unable to place is carrying over from around the corner that Ginny had come from.
"Smith, get those feet off Weasley's desk, this is not your sitting room. And transfigure those robes the proper color before I strip them from you and expose the floor to your no doubt garish underthings. And—" And then Malfoy freezes the way Harry has, his mouth still open but unable to spit out anymore orders. He stands stock still, clutching a few rolls of parchment in one hand and clenching the other in a fist at his side, posture stiff and shocked and body locked in a way that doesn't make it any less appealing.
As a slow burn suddenly starts making its way through Harry's insides, his mind starts to melt a bit, and the first thought he can discern is fuck, he looks good. He's in the same powder blue as the other two Healers he had seen, though he has a large silver badge on the right breast of his robe that he hadn't seen before. He has a fuzzy bird thing hovering by his ear, too, and if he could tear his eyes away for a minute, he would notice that Ginny and Zacharias also have them and he would wonder. But he can't take his eyes away yet, because it's Draco Malfoy, just standing right there, looking impeccably blond and poised and fit, and after ten years of not feeling his heart jump like this, it's impossible to just get over feeling it again.
And then his face is on fire the same way his stomach is and maybe his lungs are burning, too, and it's slightly difficult to breathe and he thinks he may actually murder Hermione.
"Well," Harry says helplessly, and Malfoy swallows and says nothing. The three others standing by them are staring as well, and Zacharias' sudden cackle is what brings Harry swiftly back to Earth.
"Best. Day. Ever."
"Shut up, Zach," Ginny snaps, and then she's smiling timidly and stepping in between Harry and Malfoy. "Draco, isn't it wonderful? Harry's going to be volunteering with us!'
"Volunteering—?" Malfoy's face suddenly twists into an exaggerated grimace of betrayal, and he's shooting a wounded look to Coalfleet, who now looks unabashedly amused. "Lenore, no!"
The woman shrugs negligently, folding her arms over her chest. Harry adds her to the murder list. "Draco, please. You were just in my office yesterday, bemoaning the 'atrocious amount of neglect and abuse that your department puts up with' from the hospital. I fail to see how you have any reason to protest this."
"But—" Malfoy starts, and Harry knows from entirely too much experience that he's about to launch into fully-fledged whine session. Then he shocks Harry by pulling up short and sighing heavily, contorting his face into a mask of grim acceptance, and he looks reluctantly back at Harry, who feels his own face heat up yet again.
"Welcome to Magical Bugs and Diseases, Potter," he spits out, and Harry is so dumbfounded he can only nod. Malfoy sighs again, shakes his head, and then looks at Zacharias.
"Get up. Transfigure your robes, get into the Derwent Ward, and do a complete stat check. Now."
Zacharias frowns but finally sits upright, glaring at Malfoy. "It's barely half ten, Vanessa probably made the rounds twenty minutes ago—"
"Do it or it's your job, Smith, now go. And for Merlin's sake—" And in a second, Malfoy's wand is out and pointing at Smith. A half a second and Smith is wearing the same blue as Malfoy, scowling down at his robes and then throwing himself out of his chair.
"Fine. Bloody fascist wanker, I hope Potter pummels you—"
"I didn't ask for running commentary, just do your sodding job, please."
"It's not my job to do stats, I'm not a bloody nurse!"
"Ginny," Malfoy drawls, ignoring the rest of Smith's angry muttering as he stalks away. "Kindly show Potter around the floor. I'm suddenly in desperate need of a cup of coffee and a noose, alone in my office. Disturb me only if necessary; I'll be back for rounds by noon, so warn the Trainees. And for Merlin's sake, only let Smith near my office if you want him to return lacking vital organs."
Ginny grins; it looks lovely and evil, and Harry looks between the two of them quickly and suspiciously. "Ah, so I'll be sending him right along, then."
Malfoy manages a weak smile and then fixes it on Coalfleet. "Lenore, just—"
"You may thank me, Draco, I know you are positively bubbling over with gratitude."
"I—I can't even—" With yet another loud sigh, he throws his hands up, inclines his head towards the two women, and then stalks off after Smith in a whirl of blue.
"Well," Harry says again, his tongue finally deciding to work. Ginny lets out a few small giggles, covering her mouth with her hand and looking at Harry apologetically. "What?" he pouts, frowning at her; she giggles some more and shares a conspiratorial look with Coalfleet.
"Nothing, it's just—two minutes in your presence and he's already regressed to an eleven-year-old. I'm surprised he didn't stamp his foot."
"Healer Malfoy is in charge of this floor, Mr. Potter," Coalfleet adds, and Harry loses all illusions of politeness and glares at her. Whether he wants it or not, he's in this now.
"Yeah, I got that, thanks."
"Don't worry about it, Harry," Ginny says brightly. "He's really all bark and no—well, okay, he's a little bite. Er—maybe more than a little bite. But still. It's been a very long time, and you'll see he's actually quite fun to work with. And hang out with, as well, which you would know if you actually came out with us all one of these days. And you sort of got on when you did your NEWTs at Hogwarts, didn't you?"
It takes him a minute to realize that she doesn't know, and it makes sense, really. She had never yelled at him about it in a letter, and neither Hermione nor Ron or anybody he'd kept in vague touch with had ever mentioned it. And they would have—Harry Potter spending 18 months having a whole bunch of angry sex with Draco Malfoy is sort of something you bring up during tea.
Considering that now they're all some sort of happy, inter-House unity club who meet for dinner and go pub hopping together on the weekends, it's odd to Harry that Malfoy had never said anything. Then he thinks that maybe Malfoy's just ashamed of it, the way Harry had once been, and he gives a Hermione lecture to his stupid heart for being hurt at the thought.
It's good that no one knows, Harry rationalizes. Less complicated, fewer questions, especially since they're all friends. Pansy Parkinson would probably order a Hit Wizard after him, and it wouldn't do to be dodging assassins sent by Ron's fiancé.
It shouldn't be difficult, Harry decides. It will be made easier by the fact that no one knows. And who cares, really, that he knows that Malfoy's a biter, or that he has a crescent moon-shaped birthmark on the back of his right knee, or that he never, ever shuts up during sex unless he loses control completely, and even then he has to give his two more Sickles worth in the aftermath? None of these things will make it difficult to work with him. Harry has wonderful self-control. He's past that phase of his life, anyway—the Malfoy phase, not the gay phase.
It's over. It's simple.
Powder blue isn't even Malfoy's color, Harry concludes, and he gives Ginny and Coalfleet each their own broad, firm grin.
"We got on fine. This will be wonderful." They both look at him as if he's nutters, and as Zacharias Smith suddenly comes racing around the corner again, sporting rabbit ears and muttering to himself about foul, tyrannical ferrets, he thinks that Coalfleet was totally wrong about him not fitting in here.
Harry thinks he's going to fit in great.
Of course, it's easy enough that first day, because Harry barely even sees Malfoy.
Despite the fact that Ginny insists that Malfoy works harder than anybody else here, he's like a ghost on the floor that first day, retreating into his office every chance he gets. Ginny shows him the offices of the senior Healers and then Malfoy's, and Harry can't help but feel a small swell of pride when he reads the shiny plaque on the door: Draco Malfoy, Healer-in-Charge, Magical Bugs and Diseases. The last time he had seen Malfoy, he had just started Healing school and was having a tough go of it. There was a lot of residual distrust and hate for the Malfoy name after the war, despite the family's exoneration, and Harry is glad to see that Draco has worked his way above it.
Zacharias, trailing them for no for other reason than that he just does not want to do his job, intones, "He wanted to put 'Master and Commander of the Universe', too, but it wouldn't fit."
Harry decides he really doesn't like Zacharias Smith, like, he actively dislikes him, almost in pre-NEWT year Malfoy amounts. He thinks for a minute about what that dislike turned into and decides that Zacharias Smith is not really worth the energy to dislike, not the way Malfoy was. So he ignores him.
Ginny seems to think the same thing, and obviously has more experience with it, because she just scoffs at him and tells him to bugger off. When Zacharias continues to make scathing remarks about the Healers Ginny points out to Harry, she turns to him and threatens to add a bunny tail to the ears that haven't gone away yet.
"You'll be a huge hit with the kids in Derwent," Ginny promises, and Smith pouts and finally leaves them alone.
As Ginny introduces him to various nurses and Healers, Harry promptly forgets each and every name and instead broods about Malfoy. He had known, by way of Hermione and later Ron, that Malfoy had made it as a Healer, but he had never been able to figure out a way to subtly ask about it. Now he's trying to figure out how to get Ginny talking more about it without being obvious. At the same time he's wondering how he's supposed to make everyone realize that he is fine, just fine with this arrangement when Malfoy isn't even around to be fine with.
"So he just stays in there all day?" Harry asks, and Ginny stops her rather boring speech about the Dilys Derwent Ward's archiving system and frowns at him.
"Of course he doesn't. Honestly, Harry, if you're picking on Draco already…"
"I'm not! He's not even here to pick on!"
"Don't worry," Ginny soothes, suddenly raising her voice. "He'll be out here terrifying the Trainees during rounds soon enough."
A little ways down the hall, a fresh-faced Trainee Healer squeaks and hops off the counter of Station One, where Zacharias has reclaimed his magazine and is chuckling to himself. The Trainee looks around quickly, as if Malfoy is going to swoop in from around any corner at any time, and as soon as he relaxes, Zacharias barks out in what is admittedly a perfect Malfoy drawl: "Sparrow! Fix those robes and check on 213-A!"
The Trainee bolts, red-faced and wide-eyed, and Zacharias gives Harry and Ginny a smug little bow in his seat and turns back to his magazine. Harry just snorts, but to his surprise Ginny is grinning widely. "Sparrow isn't made of tough enough stuff for this floor," she says solemnly, shaking her head and ruining the effect by continuing to grin. "He'll be up in the Thickey Ward before Zach and Draco are through with him." She suddenly sniffs, and it's such a Malfoy move that he feels his heart skip a little beat. "This floor has too many Hufflepuffs."
Zach blows her a kiss without looking up, and Ginny huffs and tugs Harry away.
They pass idly by patient rooms, heading through each ward swiftly. Blue-robed Healers pass in and out and Harry starts recognizing them slowly as having already been introduced to him, though the only Healer he can name is Michael Corner, and only because of Hogwarts.
"Not a lot of staff, huh?" he asks, and Ginny sighs sadly and shakes her head.
"It's one of the things Draco fights with the board for all the time—but no one wants on this floor. Healers tend to be stupid glory hounds who go for the high profile departments, like Spell Damage and Creatures. Apparently helping sick kids and administering Forget-Me-Nots to old folks isn't exciting enough." She frowns, mouth set and grim, and then seems to forcibly brighten. "No matter, though. We're small, and we work okay like that."
She gestures at the third nurse's station, which is decidedly more busy than the one Zacharias has claimed. "The wards are all pretty fluid—some Healers, like Tabitha and Michael, technically specialize in one ward over the other, but they see patients throughout all three. The nurses are the same, and I'm the Charge Nurse, so I'm the boss of all of them." She gives him another smug Malfoy look and he smiles brightly at her.
"That's brilliant, Ginny! I'm proud of you!"
"Well, yes, I've only mentioned that in about half a dozen letters, but I'm glad it's finally made it through." He screws up his best sheepish, I'm adorable you can't be mad expression and it, predictably, does nothing. She glares imperiously at him and Harry pouts some more. "I'm also the boss of you, and I'm going to take a certain pleasure in putting you to work on my floor." She folds her arms across her chest and narrows her eyes at him. "Maybe I'm not quite over you tossing me aside to run away to North America."
Ginny's quiet just long enough to make Harry nervous, and he shuffles his feet about and starts, "Gin…" before he realizes she's fighting a grin. She punches him on the arm and cackles, something he decides is definitely an evil Magical Bugs and Diseases thing, then tugs him along again.
"Merlin, Harry, did you leave your sense of humor in Toronto? You'll not last long on this floor without it, you'll wind up upstairs with Sparrow."
"I've missed you, Ginny," Harry sighs besottedly, and Ginny flashes him a brilliant smile that reminds exactly why he loves her so much.
"Of course you have."
As she leads him down yet another hallway, another Healer races by them, swearing and prodding at the fuzzy bird thing by his ear. "Rounds!" he hisses frantically at Ginny, and he disappears around the corner without a look back. Ginny cackles again.
"My favorite bit of the morning. Too bad I have to teach you the archives."
"The what?" Harry snaps distractedly, lost in the image of Malfoy stalking around the ward some more and making Trainees wet themselves. He really would like to see rounds.
"The archives, of course. The best place to put an able-bodied volunteer like yourself." She stops them in front of a door and gestures at the placard that reads Bugs: Archives and then swings the door open.
He's not prepared to see what must be millions upon millions of piles of parchment scrolls, nor is he prepared for a few to tumble out and pile at his feet. Ginny seems totally unsurprised but he staggers back from the sheer vastness of it, wall to wall and floor to ceiling of the room just buried in parchment. He's wondering if he's meant to actually enter the room as Ginny starts explaining.
"Awful, isn't it? Draco can't even look at this room, it makes him absolutely insane. If he could burn it all, he would, and I'd help. But this is a century's worth of patient records, plus the current admits, and no one ever has the time or the patience to sort through it all. We Accio any records we need to the nurses' stations, and Draco's pretty good at getting the Wrackspurts to find what he needs in here—"
Ginny glares at him. "You are a terror to work with, aren't you? How on Earth did Ron ever do it? Never mind, he's just as bad. Yes. Wrackspurts, I explained them before." She points to the fuzzy bird thing near her ear; as if aware that it's being talked about, the thing buzzes softly and seems to purr. Harry waves at it tentatively. "This is how the staff on this floor communicates; they use them in Spell Damage, too. Draco and Luna charmed them so that everybody could see them, and we use them instead of auditory Charms and alarms."
"Draco and Luna?"
She lets out a frustrated little scream. "Yes. You know, since you're back in England, you really should try and be less ignorant about the people you claim are still your friends. Luna works in Spell Damage; she's a Mind Healer." Harry nods, remembering a letter or two explaining that at some point. "She and Draco dated."
"You really did become illiterate in Canada, didn't you? I wrote you—"
"I certainly would've remembered that, Ginny, come on now—"
"Well maybe it was in one of the letters you threw out without reading!"
"What? How could you know—"
"You just told me now, didn't you?"
He's opening his mouth to shoot a defensive retort back when he realizes what he's doing: he's standing in the middle of a hospital ward, in front of the place where parchment goes to die, having an escalating shouting match with his ex-girlfriend over practically nothing. Well, not nothing—he can tell that while this argument may be about Draco and Luna for him, it certainly isn't for her, and he frowns and leans towards her, touching her elbow gently. She grits her teeth together and looks away.
"Ginny. You're angry. You're still angry at me for leaving."
"It's not what you think," Ginny answers tightly, still refusing to look at him. "I'm not—obviously, I'm over you. It's not that. It's just—you just left. You barely even said goodbye. And that would've been fine, even, but then it was like you forgot about us all, everyone except for precious Ron and Hermione, like the rest of us didn't even matter. Like we were rubbish. I understood that you weren't in love with me that way—I don't think I was anymore, either. But we were friends before we were anything else, and you at least owed me some sodding letters, didn't you?"
Harry can't answer right away because he knows she's right. He can't explain this away, either, couldn't do it for Ron or Hermione or anyone who's talked about it. It's not something that's simple or easy to talk about—he wants very badly to have a simple answer, a simple reason for acting like a total jerk to them, but he doesn't. And he can't explain now about Canada, about finding purpose and cutting ties and then coming home desperate for a home again. He doesn't have words for any of that.
"I know," he offers gently, slightly desperate. "I know, of course, I just—it's complicated, Ginny. I'm sorry. I'd explain it better if I could."
She finally looks at him, eyes brimming with hurt and anger and a bit of pity, too. He remembers how she was his last ditch attempt at normal, and yet how it was all tainted by his annoyingly insistent thing for Draco. What would have happened, he wonders, if he had never let that first fistfight in NEWT year turn into a kiss? Would he and Ginny be married now? Have kids? He had loved her, once, and the right way, the passionate way, and he doesn't know if he would have kept loving her that way if he hadn't tasted any other kind of desire.
He's loved a few others since, and of course desired others since, and now he can't get Malfoy out of his head again, and he doesn't quite know what that means. But he does know that he regrets hurting Ginny, in any of the various ways he has, and he decides that part of coming back will be fixing that.
"I'm sorry," Harry says again, firmly and sincerely. Ginny bites her lip and nods slowly, still peering at him closely. But after another moment she lets a small smile light up her freckled face, and she punches him lightly on the arm, and he knows then that it's okay for now.
"Right. Good. Prove it, then." She draws her wand and floats the pile of scrolls at his feet and dumps them into his arms. "Start filing. Go through them all and sort by year, then affliction, then name. I'd cast a Dust-Repelling Charm, too; Draco won't have you sneezing on his floor." She grins mischievously at him, and Harry realizes this is the fully mature, grown-up version of her Bat-Bogey Hex revenge. "Have fun, and I'll come get you when it's time for lunch."
Harry tries for another I'm adorable look; she laughs at him and turns away.
"Welcome back, Harry," Ginny tells him delightedly, and then she rounds a corner and he's left to dive in on his own.
For the 15 minutes or so he had spared to actually imagine what it would be like to volunteer at St. Mungo's, Harry hadn't imagined battling extremely aggressive dust bunnies and squinting at enough turn-of-the-century writing to kill his eyes even more completely.
He'd imagined, well…okay, so he hadn't really imagined what it would be like. He'd had no intention at all of volunteering at St. Mungo's, really. But even if he had imagined it, he wouldn't have imagined this. And he would've shot Hermione with a Silencing spell before she could finish suggesting it to him.
When Ginny retrieves him for lunch, he is covered in dust (he had always been totally rubbish at household spells, Dust Repelling included, and he's never regretted it so much as he regrets it now) and knows entirely too much about the magical stomach-rotting sickness of the early 1900's. Ginny laughs unabashedly at him, and he glares at her, a glare which multiplies when Zacharias Smith sticks his stupid, unwanted head in over her shoulder.
"Ah, the Chosen One returns," he remarks, grinning widely. His rabbit ears are gone, and his robes are lime green again, something Harry hopes Malfoy will destroy him for, for whatever reason. "Is it good to be back, Potter?"
"Sod off," Harry grumbles, stepping into the small path free of scrolls he had carved for himself and getting out of the tiny, overcrowded room. He looks to Ginny hopefully. "Lunch time, then?"
"Yup," she says, and then addresses the Wrackspurt buzzing around her head. "Retrieve Cassius Crumb's patient file, please."
Harry watches as the tiny creature shoots into the room over his shoulder, blurring into nothing more than a brownish shape as it zooms from pile to pile. It hovers over the pile that Harry had been working on, seeming to peer at it curiously, before it knocks it over and then zooms out towards another. Harry lets out a small, dismayed sound of frustration that has Ginny and Zacharias chuckling again, but then the creature is diving into another, closer pile and then zooming back towards them. Harry ducks to avoid getting smacked in the face by a scroll that drops into Ginny's outstretched palm.
"Thanks, Crunkle," she says to the Wrackspurt, and it purrs contentedly at her and takes its place by her ear again. She hands the scroll to Smith and makes a shooing gesture at him. "There, now get out of here before Draco notices you sneaking off. I'll not cover for you again."
"Love you too, Gin," he smarms at her, and with a last wink to Harry he Disapparates with a loud crack, making Ginny scowl.
"Showoff," she gripes, starting down the hallway with Harry at her side. Upon his questioning glance, she explains, "Oh, he's the only one allowed to Apparate on this floor. Well, he and the other Mediwitch, Brigid. But she's never around anyway." She waves her wand idly at him and casts a scourgify that banishes all the dust and makes him jump.
"One of Draco's new rules. He said it was too chaotic with everyone Apparating in and out all the time, constantly popping in on patients with no respect for their privacy. He was right, basically. Mediwizards are only allowed because they're always called on in emergencies."
"Bet Malfoy came up with lots of new rules."
Ginny shrugs, unconcerned with the derision in his voice. "Yeah, but he made things better. I was wearing magenta before he changed the robe colors, ugh. And of course all that lime green was giving us all headaches. Plus the Wrackspurts sure as hell beat sonorus. Don't you, little guy?" She smiles sweetly at her Wrackspurt and cuddles him into a hand.
Harry makes a small noise of confusion when they bypass the lifts to head into another hallway, but then they're standing outside of Malfoy's office again and he changes the noise to one of protest. "Er, Ginny…"
"Quiet. Stop being ridiculous; you are a grown man and he is good friends with all of your friends. If you really came back because you missed all of us, then you'll have to learn to get along with him. He's part of the package."
He shuts up and lets her knock, ignoring the small part of his head that's crowing triumphantly at the idea of getting to bait and/or flirt with Malfoy. A drawled, "Enter," has Ginny rolling her eyes and shoving the door open, and Harry gets his first view of Malfoy's office.
It's considerably large, larger than Harry's office had been at the Toronto DMLE, though he supposes it's because he never ranked as high. It's painted in a dove gray that reminds him of Malfoy's eyes, a comparison that makes his in-denial inner cynic admonish him, and is all light wood and bright natural light from the big window. Pale blue curtains and a white leather couch make it even more inviting, and it is nothing like the imposing, stately space Harry had imagined. He wonders how Malfoy manages to terrify anybody with an office like this.
Ginny claps her hands loudly to force Malfoy to look up from the paperwork on his desk, and he sneers at her as soon as he spots Harry. "What?" he snaps rudely, and Harry gets annoyed immediately.
"Lunch. Now. Tabby's out there watching the floor, Brigid's around here somewhere—"
"With a patient."
"Liar. I know they asked for him in Emergency, Ginny, you shouldn't cover for him." He looks back down at his paperwork, nose twitching in annoyance. Harry notices that he has made a point of not looking at him again; somehow, this is both amusing and irritating.
"I didn't lie, he is with a patient. Downstairs in Emergency." Ginny leans forward over Malfoy's desk, blocking his light completely and placing two hands over whatever he's writing on. "Come on, it's chicken salad day upstairs. You know you're excited."
"Sod off. I'm not hungry."
"I will not, Draco Malfoy. And I'm not exactly giving you a choice here." She grins and jerks her head at Harry. "I'll get my ex-Auror friend over here to use force if necessary."
Harry tries to stamp down the immediate flood of images of himself being forceful with Malfoy, he really does. Very nearly succeeds, too. By the way Malfoy seems to pink up a bit, Harry deduces that he's just about as successful.
Malfoy looks up again, flicks his eyes over to Harry, scowls, and then stands up. Harry's stomach twists with both anxiety and excitement, and he meets Malfoy's scowl with a fierce look of determination. The other man seems to consider him for a moment, before he looks at Ginny with a cool mask of indifference. "I'm having lunch in Spell Damage."
Ginny blanches and reels back, suddenly matching Malfoy's scowl. "You are not, you just pulled that out of your arse."
"I am too." He makes a face, and Harry smirks as he recognizes Malfoy's look of self-chastisement. "You can ask Luna."
"Luna can join us." The thought of that makes Harry a bit ill, actually, because he's not sure how he'll be able to handle seeing Luna and Draco interact, knowing that they've dated. But he doesn't have to worry about it because Malfoy's shaking his head and crossing his arms over his chest.
"She's busy. It'll be a working lunch in her office." When Ginny continues to look angry, he adds forcibly, "A private lunch. For Healers."
Ginny's wand moves so fast that Harry doesn't realize that she's hexed Malfoy until he yelps out a wounded, "OW! Ginny!" and rubs at his shoulder, where she must have sent a quick Stinging Hex. She just glares defiantly at him before turning on her heel and stalking towards Harry.
"That'll be a hex a day until you start acting your age again," she spits darkly over her shoulder. "Come on, Harry, let's go have a private lunch, for non-Healers." Harry smirks again quickly at Malfoy before following her out.
"Honestly," she fumes, reminding Harry of a younger, self-righteous Molly Weasley. "Private lunch for Healers. What an arsehole, I don't know why I even bother."
"I don't know, either."
"Me? What did I do?"
"You could've helped, instead of skulking about and making faces at him! You're just as bad as he is, you just hide it better."
Harry sulks, then, listening as Ginny continues ranting and they make their way into the lift and up to the top floor of the hospital.
They buy lunch in the staff café, right off the visitor's tea room and gift shop, and take their chicken salad sandwiches out onto the roof, where they sit on benches under umbrellas and Harry prods Ginny for more information on the Luna and Draco situation.
"So do they eat together often, then?"
"I suppose," Ginny grumbles, as if admitting something awful. "I don't like it, though. I mean, she's one of my best friends, but I don't think she's good for him. It worries me when they act all cozy again."
The bite of sandwich in his mouth tastes sour at the thought of Malfoy and Luna being cozy together, and he does some more internal Hermione-lecturing. "Well, how long did they date?"
Harry chokes; three years is quite a long time, much longer than he's ever managed with anyone. In fact, Draco is still his longest relationship, even though he hardly calls it that. "That's—wow. I can't see that at all."
"It doesn't make sense anymore, but at the time, well, it did. I'm sure you know about the big Lovegood-Malfoy merger, yes?" She scoffs at Harry's blank, curious blinks. "Of course not. Well, Luna's father was in a bit of trouble with the Quibbler a few years after the war, and I guess as an apology of sorts, or more likely, to stretch out the redeemed Malfoy image, Lucius bought the paper and kept Xenophilius as a partner. They're the best of friends, now, and the Quibbler has been crushing the Prophet in terms of readership for a few years now. I think the start of Luna and Draco had a lot to do with that, though I don't think it stayed that way." Her expression turns wistful and a bit sad. "They were good together, for a while, though you wouldn't think so."
"So what happened?"
She seems to get even sadder, staring down at her sandwich remorsefully. "Oh, you know. Sometimes, these things just don't work out." She peers at him and gestures between the two of them. "Obviously."
"Better as friends?" Harry suggests, fully aware that he's not going to get the whole story out of her, as much as he wants it. Ginny nods and brightens.
"Sort of. But let's talk about something else now. Tell me about Toronto. Do they really all live in igloos? Zach said that but I'm sure it can't be true."
They pass their lunch breaks with idle talk of Canada and Harry's quest to find himself. Ginny pries effortlessly and shamelessly into his love life, and Harry answers her questions with some reluctance, all the while wishing he could steer the conversation back to Malfoy. When she asks Harry if he had, indeed, 'found himself', he shrugs and grins sloppily and says, "Well, I'm right here, aren't I?"
She seems to consider that, matching his grin and nodding. "I'm glad."
He doesn't mention the whole 30-year-old equivalent of a midlife crisis thing. It doesn't seem like such a crisis right now, sitting on a sunny roof with a pretty girl and a good sandwich. Maybe just a bit of a fleeting panic.
After lunch, he reluctantly trudges back to the archives room, passing by Station One and seeing Ginny spot a huge bouquet of white roses sitting on her desk. Zacharias is sitting on the counter above the desk, scribbling idly on a patient chart that's floating in midair in front of him, and he beams at Ginny as she nears. "Obviously, they're from me," he tells her, and Ginny rolls her eyes but softens as she reads the note with them. The last Harry sees of her, she's heading towards Malfoy's office, and he figures she'll probably forgive him.
He wonders if they'll all be having lunch together tomorrow. Tries not to foolishly hope for it.