She had been working here as a Healer for a month, not needing any training, as she'd had plenty of experience having to heal Harry, Ron and many others during the war. She winced as she heard a crash of what was probably a tray of food being thrown onto the ground. Sighing inwardly, she strode towards the ward of her newest patient. She froze at the entrance. No, it couldn't be...
"Healer Granger?" The nervous voice of her assistant shook her from her trance.
"Granger." She mentally braced herself for the familiar onslaught of insults. Silence ensued, however, and she reminded herself that he was probably too weak to start one of their usual verbal battles now. He was paler than usual and was almost skeletally thin.
Weak. That was what he was. Too weak to express his true opinions, both in the past and now. He couldn't do a single thing right - he even had to bungle up the simple matter of killing himself. He mentally cursed himself for not having informed the staff earlier that he did not want to be disturbed. If not, there wouldn't have been any idiots interrupting him.
And now, this was to be his punishment. To face the one he had loved secretly all these years while knowing that she hated him and that she would never be his. He saw no point in continuing to be hostile to her, at least, since Voldemort was finally dead. He was tired, so tired of putting up façades.
She leafed through his medical records. "Malfoy. We have removed all the traces of the potion we can, but you need to rest to let your body recover from the damage that has already been done." She was glad that her voice did not betray the nervousness she felt. He was the one who had been insulting her throughout their life in Hogwarts, after all. Not that she wasn't perfectly capable of throwing them back insults in his face too. It was just that she wasn't supposed to now, since he was her patient. She had to remember to remain professional no matter what he said or did.
He glanced at her and nodded, as if to acknowledge her words. Surprised at his lack of response, the words tumbled out before she could stop them.
"Why did you do it?"
She immediately cringed, mumbling incoherent apologies and backing out of the room. His voice stopped her.
"Because I have nothing else to live for."
She remembered the article in the iProphet/i about both his parents having died in the war.
"Oh…then how...how about Parkin-Pansy? I thought you two..."
"I never loved her."
Without thinking about what she was doing, she crossed back to his side, leaned forward, and dropped a kiss on his forehead after brushing his hair off it. "Rest well."
His eyes widened, but she left the room before he could say anything. He fell into a deep sleep. As much as he would have liked to think over what had just happened, he was just too exhausted to continue resisting his heavy eyelids.
The next morning, she returned to find him thrashing on the bed.
"No, NO! Don't, I will, I will, My Lord...just...just, please. Don't hurt them. I'll do whatever you ask..."
"Malfoy. Malfoy!" She shook him. "Draco?"
At that, his eyes flew open, darting wildly around the room until he focused on her.
"It's time for your potion." She watched him gulp it down, making a mental note to add in the potion for Dreamless Sleep too, in his next dose. Before she left, she repeated what she had done the previous day, watching the tense lines on his face smooth out.
She pondered over it as she finished up her paperwork that night. Her actions were utterly out of character for her, especially since they were towards him, of all people. Yet, he struck her now as vulnerable, just like a lost little boy who was starved for affection. He couldn't have had much from his parents, judging by the way he had reacted to her gestures. Or maybe he was just shocked, too, at the fact that it was her doing it? Logically, she had to admit he could have changed, especially since he had been civil so far, but he could just be acting to get into her good books so she wouldn't poison him or something.
Back to the point now, she remembered what Harry had told her about that night, how he had hesitated to kill Dumbledore. Could it be because he had been forced into it, threatened by the deaths of his parents otherwise? He couldn't be lying in his sleep, after all.
He shook his head. He couldn't stand it anymore. He had to clear his head. If not, he would go mad thinking about it otherwise, telling himself that there was a chance she could love him back.
In addition to the kiss on his forehead that first night, which he had regarded as simply a moment of impulse on her part, for the past two days, she had actually smiled at him. The first time, he had been too shocked to respond, but he had managed to return it with some sort of weak grimace he hoped passed for a smile. His unused muscles had practically creaked when he did that.
He doubted she would ever be able to forgive his treatment of her in the past. If nothing else, she was compassionate and she probably just pitied him, seeing him in this state. He had not been having any of his usual nightmares after the first night, meaning that she had probably realised and given him the Dreamless Sleep potion, too. He was surprised that she had not questioned him about it, but grateful, as he had no wish to relive all those memories again. Well, blast all the damn rules. He was going up to the rooftop to think; hopefully the fresh air would help.
She was on her afternoon rounds when she noticed his room was empty. Could he have…Merlin! She was supposed to be the smartest witch in their year! How could she have forgotten about such a simple thing? As far as she knew, there were no wards on the room, which meant he could go wherever he wanted. Or even if there had been, he probably would have broken them down easily. He was a powerful wizard. She remembered seeing him in the final battle, unwillingly but silently admiring at the speed and accuracy of the spells he flung.
"On the other hand, St Mungo's doesn't usually get many suicidal wizards..." She thought grimly as she broke into a run.
He was standing at the edge and staring up into the cloudless blue sky when he heard her behind him. She was panting heavily as he turned to face her.
"I was just thinking."
A wave of relief seemed to crash over her as she saw the unmistakable honesty in his eyes. At that, she realised that the fear which had coursed through her as she raced up was more than that of a Healer for her patient. As if he could read her mind, he held out a hand to stop her as she was about to take a step forward.
He had to clear it up once and for all. He would rather die than have her be with him because she pitied him. He put all the venom he could muster into his words.
"Look. I just wanted to tell you, I never meant any of the insults back then at Hogwarts. Don't tell me it's alright, because I know it isn't, and I know I don't deserve your forgiveness. And whatever it is you're trying to do, you can stop now because I don't need your pity." That should have done it. She should slap him and call him names now, and by the next day request another Healer to take her place.
She lifted his chin, forcing him to meet her gaze. It was odd, but though his tone was similar to the one he had always used on her in the past - bitter, mocking - she could see how hard he struggled to hold back his pain as he choked out those words. The words, she suspected, which were meant to drive her away.
She wouldn't leave him, though. No matter what, she couldn't now. It was as if she finally had some clarity what the real Draco was like. She had never bothered to look deeper in the past, convinced he was a total prat who would never change. Not now...she silently forgave him for all the words he had hurt her with but hadn't meant. Her mum had told her from a young age to forgive and forget, after all.
"No, I care."
"Of course you do. That's your job," he stated dully.
She didn't know how to explain, and so decided, what better way was there than to show him? Actions spoke louder than words, after all. Even if he rejected her, she would ensure that he wouldn't harm himself again, at least. She reminded herself that she was a Gryffindor, then leaned forward and kissed him. It was hesitant, but she put all that she felt into it.
He stiffened at first, but started kissing her back once he felt her passion. After so many years of acting, he knew that she could never fake that, no matter how hard she tried. Ignoring the fact that he was messing up her bun, he wound his fingers into her hair and felt her smile as he murmured "I love you" against her lips. He had a reason to live, after all.