Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Probably a good thing.
Author Note: This is the first part of a two-part one-shot (can a one-shot have two parts?) that was written for a fic exchange. Each member of the fic exchange filled out a request (ie what we would & wouldn't like to read), then received another member's wishlist and tried to fill it to the best of our ability.
The links I've provided add nothing to the plot of the story, but they may add a bit of background and help visualization, for those of us who like that kind of thing :)
Thanks so very, very much to my betas, naatz and Caliope Amphora. Any mistakes remaining are solely my responsibility, and if you spot 'em, I'll love you forever.
Oh, and: among the three of us we've got a Canadian, a Brazilian, and an Israeli; nary a Brit to be found. So any Britpicks will be gratefully received :) :)
When did Harry Bloody Potter become so gorgeous? And shaggable? And so very, very clueless?
All right, that last wasn't a valid question, Draco admitted to himself. He'd always been clueless. But the gorgeous and shaggable parts hadn't been there at Hogwarts, Draco was sure of it. They hadn't even been there when he had first started working with Harry last year. Had they?
He blew out his breath in annoyance as Harry and the two clinic mediwitches continued their mindless chatter in the lunch room, conveniently placed right next to his cubicle. Normally he didn't mind the location - Trainee Healers were expected to settle for what office space they could get, and in a clinic this small he was lucky to get anything approaching privacy - but today he'd been trying to write up a report on a batch of defective Farsight Potion for an hour, and hearing the mediwizards avidly discussing last night's match between the Kenmare Kestrels and Montrose Magpies was not helping his concentration at all.
"No, I'm telling you, their Keeper's really good," Harry was saying. "He was just off because of that Bludger he took last match."
"Distracted by yer bonnie ex, he was," one of the women teased.
Harry chuckled. "You don't know Ginny. She's hell-bent on getting the Cup this year; if he let himself get distracted by her, he wouldn't live to see the next match. She's a fair player in the air, but trust me, she's not above playing dirty off the pitch to get what she wants."
The others laughed knowingly and Draco swore under his breath as he blotted the parchment. He tossed out his quill and replaced it with a new one, quickly cleaning the mess.
There was no reason for it, he thought. Harry's new shaggability, that is. He had grown up, of course, and gained some rather nice muscles, but he still had the same messy hair, same scar, same glasses, plus a very slight limp from a knee injury during the war. The atrocious clothing was gone, and there was nothing shudderable about his attire now, but it was still fairly uninspired. It seemed Girl Weasley had worked with him on wardrobe, but not gone much farther than unsquirmworthy before skipping off on him last year.
And Draco was making up far too many words. Not a good sign.
Maybe that's all it was. Maybe Draco was only interested because Harry was single again. And Draco saw him every day, and they worked together, and Draco's training was long and difficult, and he worked in a minuscule clinic on a tiny island in Shetland, and it was only natural that he would start having feelings for the only person he saw on a regular basis who wasn't sick, married, a hundred years old, or a sheep. Perfectly natural that those feelings would start to manifest themselves as embarrassing distraction during the day, and rather lurid dreams at night. And it was a good thing that Harry was clueless, because Draco sure as hell didn't want to damage their working relationship by revealing his inconvenient attraction to the man.
And thank Merlin the business with the Sorting Hat was a one-time thing only, because putting on that dratted thing right now would surely result in the "Only Malfoy Ever Sorted to Hufflepuff," which was not a title Draco had ever aspired to.
He blew his hair off his forehead. He had to finish this damned report before going home, where he belonged. In his own house, his own bedroom, sleeping in his own bed and not in the call room of the clinic the way he had for most of this week.
He wondered idly if Jessica had missed him at all this week. If she'd even noticed he wasn't there.
Of course she had. Cold and distant his wife might be, but she was neither blind nor stupid. She probably didn't care, though.
"Help!" an old woman stumbled out of the Floo, babbling about a splinched grandson, and Draco automatically tuned her out. Regular splinching, nothing life-threatening, a simple mediwizard job that wouldn't require his skills.
"No, it's all right, ma'am, let me get my bag and I'll be right behind you," Harry told the old woman reassuringly. "Happens all the time, he'll be fine." He quickly passed Draco's desk on his way to his own. "Draco, go home," he said absently. "You look like tripe warmed over and Jessica's probably forgotten your name by now."
"You won't need me?" Draco asked.
"For a leg-splinch? Please, I could teach you how to do one of these. In fact, I did teach you, just last month, didn't I?"
"Ha ha. Have fun, and don't forget to share with the rest of us if she gives you a fairyberry pie as thanks."
Harry chuckled, hurrying back to the distraught old woman and following her through to the Floo, and Draco did not turn to watch him leave because he wasn't that pathetic. Yet.
He ran his hand over his hair as the brief excitement died down and the Quidditch conversation picked up again. Lovely. He was no closer to finishing the report, which he really should before tomorrow, but his motivation to work had completely evaporated and he just wanted to leave. Which had nothing to do with wanting to return to his home and decorously falling-apart marriage, and much more to do with the fact it was past quitting time and Harry was most probably going to Apparate straight home after the splinch job.
Draco sighed and put away his report. Tomorrow was soon enough; his supervisor Helga knew how hard he'd been working lately. And hopefully, his darling wife would be off in London again so he could have a Butterbeer, read a good book, and go to sleep without having to deal with her. And without worrying that she'd overhear him talking in his sleep during one of his more... interesting dreams about Harry.
"Draco, did you ever see anything like this when you were at St. Mungo's?" Harry said the next day, resting a hip against Draco's desk and showing him a scroll.
"What is it?" Draco asked, not bothering to put down his Beast Ailment Potions text. "Another botched sheep laxative potion?"
"Curb your enthusiasm, this one's actually interesting. It's from the Sandsay Clinic in Orkney. They think it's a new curse and they can't figure it out."
Draco skimmed Harry's scroll, noting and immediately ignoring the scent of ginger biscuits that Harry seemed to always carry with him. "Patient says she doesn't feel any different?"
"No. She swears she's acting normally and there's nothing wrong with her, but everyone around her is suddenly scared to death of her."
Draco skimmed along farther, gave a low whistle. "Family refusing to be in the same room as her? Ooh, and they got Aurors in too."
"Nearly got her shipped to Azkaban before somebody pointed out she hadn't actually done anything wrong. Apparently the first Auror called in swore she was up to no good, but couldn't pin down what exactly she'd done. Thank god the back-up he called spotted the difficulty, or she'd be warming a cell right now. For no reason."
"And she's otherwise unaffected."
"Feels fine. Other than she can't understand why everybody around her is terrified of her."
"Hm. She's probably just premenstrual," Draco said, and ducked to avoid a flying gob of fairyberry pie.
"Brave man," Harry said dryly, and Draco chuckled.
"Brave or foolish," said Helga. "Good thing I know ye don't mean it, or that pudding would've burst into flame."
"You're just pissed because you ran out of your potion last month," Draco quipped.
"Shut your gob, brat," Helga said gruffly. "Ye're not done your training yet."
Draco smirked at her. "St. Mungo's doesn't appear to care," he said. "I've already been offered a post there when I'm done here."
"That'll thrill Jessica, I'm sure," commented Brian, the other Healer on staff. "More than good old Shetland, anyway. So, no ideas on it? Didn't see anything like it at St. Mungo's during your training?"
"No. Though I didn't spend a lot of time in the Spell Damage wards. You may want to owl them."
"Well, Sandsay's probably sending her there anyway, if they can't figure it out soon. They've been at it for three days with no improvement."
"Harry!" Pepper poked her head in. "Cauldron explosion at Clett Apothecary on Whalsey, you're up!"
"How long were you at St. Mungo's anyway?" asked Brian after Harry had left, taking his ginger biscuit smell with him.
"Ten months," Draco said. Must remember to buy ginger biscuits next time I go shopping, he caught himself thinking. Swiftly followed by You don't even like ginger biscuits and You hopeless twit.
"Jessica wants to move back to London, doesn't she?"
"Yeah, she does," Draco said absently, still studying the scroll from Sandsay and not thinking of ginger biscuits.
"I'd rather stay here."
"In Shetland?" Brian grimaced. "Whyever for?"
Draco shrugged. "It's a nice enough place. And I get to see a bigger variety of cases; at a larger clinic I'd have to specialize and only ever see one kind of problem."
"Yeah, fascinating variety; half our patients are animals," Brian shook his head, and Draco shrugged again. "God, why would anybody want to be here, when they could be there?"
Draco glanced at him and raised an eyebrow, and Brian had the grace to look a bit sheepish. It wasn't that nobody at Muckle Roe Clinic knew about him and his past; they just didn't always connect him to the name in the Prophet. Muckle Roe was remote enough that the entire Second Voldemort Rising had been little more than articles in the newspaper to them, and Draco's own role in it not particularly well known. Which was precisely why he had come here. Probably why Harry had come here too; even the Boy Who Lived Twice didn't attract much attention here, except as a Southerner.
Draco still found the irony of it amusing. Muckle Roe had seemed perfect, when he was looking for a place to finish his training. A small clinic with two Healers and three mediwizards, none of whom he knew, and a large but scattered wizarding population who mostly kept to themselves. Almost no contact with Muggles. Far, far away from Wiltshire and London. Hopefully nobody who knew much about him, for good or bad.
Then he'd arrived, and on his first day he'd met the people he was going to be working with fairly closely for the next three years. Chief Healer Helga Smith, Healer Brian Bulstrode (no relation to Millicent; he'd checked), Mediwizards Gwen Sigrudsdattir, Pepper Unst, and Harry...
"Potter," he'd said, keeping his voice even. "The staff list said Evans."
Lovely, he'd thought. Just perfect. And had been pleasantly surprised when Harry merely smiled wryly and said, "Mother's maiden name. I use it on official papers so nobody will track me down, but I still go by Potter in person." He'd held out his hand. "Hello, nice meeting you for the very first time ever."
Draco had laughed, taken off guard, and shaken his hand, and the others had looked at Harry with surprise.
"Ye ken the new lad, then?" Gwen had asked.
"Yeah, I know him. We were in the same year at Hogwarts."
"Not exactly," Harry chuckled, but didn't elaborate. "Welcome aboard, Malfoy. How far along are you in your training?"
"I still have three years to go. I didn't know you'd become a mediwizard."
"It's a living," Harry had said easily. "I've been here two years. Which gives me seniority over you, until you're done your training." He grinned. "At which point you can begin acting superior, and I'll probably start looking for another job."
Draco had smiled as the rest of the team welcomed him, evidently deciding that if Harry could tease him, the new lad must be all right. Yes, it had been almost eight years since Hogwarts, they'd been civil to each other the few times they'd been in contact since then, and Draco had been pardoned for his actions before the war and honoured for his work during the war, but it had still been rather generous of Harry to ease Draco's way into the clinic. Once, such magnanimousness would've galled Draco, infuriated him. He'd grown up enough since then to be grateful instead.
And he'd gradually gotten to know Harry as he was now: a competent, dedicated mediwizard, and a pleasant and decent man; nothing like the boorish, angry boy he'd once been. They'd worked well together, and Draco had slowly come to regard him with respect and friendship.
It was just too bloody bad that all this had coincided with him and Jessica cooling towards each other, so that eventually he'd found himself first intrigued, then interested, then inexorably straying into lovesick puppy mode around Harry. Even occasionally seeing him in his dreams. Happily he'd yet to toss off to thoughts of him, because he very carefully kept his thoughts on faceless people. Because the day he was wanking over thoughts of Harry Bloody Potter would be the day he checked himself into St. Mungo's and got to know Gilderoy Lockhart a little better.
Making a mental note to never think of tossing off and Gilderoy Lockhart in the same sentence again, Draco shuddered and buried himself once more in his textbook, trying with all his might to make sheep gestation potions hold his interest.
"Oh my g-"
"Stop - dinna come closer!"
"Brian, what th-"
Draco rushed into the Floo room, completely unprepared for the sight that greeted him. Harry, somewhat dusty from the Floo, was holding his wand before him. Ringed around him were Brian, Gwen and Pepper, all pointing their own wands at him menacingly.
"What the fuck?" Draco said.
"He's dangerous!" Pepper shouted frantically. "He - keep yer wand on him!"
Draco grabbed his wand and pointed it at Harry. What the hell? Polyjuice, Imperio, what the hell was going on in Middle of Nowhere, Muckle Roe?
"What did he do?" he asked the others, fighting down panic.
"What d'ye mean? We're not about to let him do anything!"
"Why are you holding your wands on him?"
The others spared him quick, incredulous stares. "What's the matter wi' ye?" said Gwen.
Draco blinked and turned to Harry. "All right, what happened?"
"N-nothing!" Harry burst out, deeply shaken. "I just got back from a splinch call in Orkney, I stepped out of the Floo and they went mental on me!"
Draco glanced at the others. "Is that what happened?"
"Look," said Brian agitatedly, "you can't let him fool you, he's dangerous-"
"How do you know that?"
"Look at him!" yelled Brian. "He'll Avada Kedavra us as soon as look at us!"
Draco put his wand down. "All right, tell me what I'm supposed to be seeing," he said, forcing his voice into a calmness he didn't feel. Bugger it all, they were supposed to be done with this shite. The war was over. He was supposed to be dealing with spot-removing charms gone wrong, not whatever the hell this was.
"He's dangerous! Canna ye feel it?" Pepper asked, her voice rising hysterically. Draco met Harry's eyes and saw only bafflement and fear.
"Did you do anything-"
"No! Bugger it, I told you, I just stepped out of the bloody Floo and they-" Harry waved his wand in the direction of the other three.
"Duina daar me, mellishon!" Gwen suddenly shouted at Harry, almost hysterical, lapsing into broad Shetlandic in her panic.
"I'm not threatening you, I was just-"
"Put down your wand," said Draco.
"Are you daft?" Harry said, incredulous. "They'll kill me!"
"No they won't. I won't let them." Draco thought as quickly as he could. "Listen," he said urgently to the others, bringing his wand back up. "I'm keeping my wand on him. He won't do anything. I need you to lower your wands, then he'll do the same, and then... then we can call some Aurors in. All right? They'll deal with him."
"Harry! Shut up!" Draco snapped. "Trust me, for god's sake. Lower your wand and they'll lower theirs."
Harry stared at him, swallowing nervously, then hesitantly lowered his wand a fraction - only to snap it back up when Gwen drew hers back for a hex.
"GWEN!" Draco shouted. "FREEZE! Everybody! Freeze!"
There was a brief moment of silence and he took a deep breath.
Right. Bloody hell, he had to call the Aurors. He'd been trained to do this for out-of-control patients, but he never thought he'd have to do it for his own colleagues. He took a deep breath and said the incantation, focusing on the spell as well as he could while trying to maintain the fragile peace in the room.
Bugger it all, if the Aurors got here and also went mental on him, they might be in a bigger mess than before. Trained Dark Wizard catchers, turning on Harry Potter for no particular reason other than 'knowing' he was dangerous.
Well, he'd deal with that if he had to. He just needed to keep everybody calm until then.
"Look. Please trust me. Everybody, put your wands down on the ground. Now. Then step away. I'll put him in a body-bind till the Aurors get here - to keep you bloody well safe, Harry," he snapped, "before your colleagues hex you down to a stain on the floor."
Harry's breathing was very rapid and he stared at Draco for a long moment before slowly putting his wand down on the ground.
"All right. Come on," Draco said shakily. "Everybody put your wands down. Harry, sit so you don't fall down when I do the bind. Everybody, let's just... let's just relax and wait for the Aurors to show up, shall we?"
And please, let's everybody just try not to hex one another, because it would be embarrassing as hell to have to get St. Mungo's to treat this cosy little rural medical family.
"I'm not putting my wand down!" Brian exclaimed. "The bastard can do wandless magic, you know that!"
"Right. Well then, don't put your wand down," Draco said soothingly, maintaining eye contact with Harry and willing him to go along. "Hold it on him, very, very steadily. If he tries any wandless magic, I'll need you to be ready to follow my lead, right? I can take him down, but I can't have you throwing your own hexes at him without me knowing what they are, or they might cancel each other out. All right?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the other three nodding grimly, and let out his breath in relief.
"What?" Draco exclaimed in dismay a few hours later. "Why me? And why there?"
"It's a cottage we use for quarantine cases," said Helga. "And you're the natural choice to try to treat this; ye aren't affected by it."
"But we don't even know why that is, I could start getting paranoid any moment and we'd be away from everybody else and-"
"Matter of fact, we do know why that is. That Sandsay case was transferred to St. Mungo's yesterday and they've been working on it." She took out a long scroll with the words "St. Mungo's Mysterious Dark Illnesses Research Division" across the top.
"Near as they can tell, it's potion-based," she began. "From a batch of Death Eater potions hidden somewhere in the Orkneys. Harry took that splinch call in Orkney today because their clinic was still backed up from trying to deal with their case of it from the other day and a new one yesterday. The Aurors've quarantined most of Orkney till they figure out how Harry came into contact with it and where the rest of the batch is." Helga pursed her lips. "The potion was probably designed to instill fear and submission in others, but it went a wee bit far with the fear."
Draco sighed. How many years since the war, and they were still dealing with its aftermath. In the Orkney and Shetland Islands, for Merlin's sake.
"St. Mungo's says the victim's Extrarius magical aura becomes 'falsely tinged with malice,'" read Helga. "It breaks past other people's mental shields just like Legilimens does, and scares holy hell out o' them. But a good Occlumens is immune. Enter Trainee Healer Draco Malfoy."
"And if my Occlumency cracks, we'll be in very deep shit. Alone. In a hut in the wilderness of Shetland, with me thinking he's about to kill me."
"Is that really why you're reluctant to do this?" Helga narrowed her eyes as Draco pressed his lips together. "Or do ye have another reason?"
"Look, the reason I don't want to is..." he trailed off, totally at a loss for what to say.
"...something pretty damned important, something important enough to make ye want to ignore a patient in need," Helga said coldly.
"Can't somebody else-"
"Nobody else trusts him. You're impervious to the curse. St. Mungo's is too busy dealing with their own cases, and I've a clinic to run."
"But - this isn't - no. This isn't Trainee Healer work."
"You're not an ordinary Trainee Healer. You can handle it."
And if you had any idea just how much this Trainee Healer wants to 'handle' this particular patient, you wouldn't be so eager to send them off alone together. For a brief, horrified moment, Draco wondered if he'd said that out loud, before he gave himself a small shake and set his jaw. "I'm not going to do it. I can't."
"Don't insult my intelligence. This has nothing to do with 'can't'. Your technical competence is above reproach. I think this is more like 'won't.'"
"All right," Draco said tightly. "I won't."
Helga appraised him coolly for a long moment, then leaned back in her chair and spoke slowly and thoughtfully. "I'm sure ye can understand that there were many people who doubted that someone with your... background and history would ever be able to put the needs of a patient ahead of his own. But so far ye've never given me cause to doubt my decision to take ye on as a Trainee."
Draco gritted his teeth. "But I will if I don't take on this assignment," he finished for her evenly.
Here they were, and he should have known this would come up sooner or later. Nights spent staying up with patients, or studying, or sleeping next to a critical patient's bed in case they woke up flashed before his eyes, and wilted under Helga's cool gaze.
"I won't say ye have to. I'll leave it to your conscience."
Draco clenched his jaw. "Do you know," he said, maintaining the same even tone, "my father used to do the same thing. Giving a choice without giving a choice."
Helga had the grace to drop her eyes and blush slightly at his mention of a man nobody at Muckle Roe Clinic had mentioned until now.
She cleared her throat. "Look, it's not just... not just proving your trustworthiness," she said, a little too loudly. "It's - this is a wonderful professional opportunity. Ye were a Slytherin, ambitious, weren't ye? The chance to solve this case is one I would think ye'd be happy to take. Particularly with Harry Potter as a patient."
If I were really that bloody ambitious, I wouldn't be here in Muckle Fucking Roe, would I? Draco wanted to hurl back at her. And if Harry wanted to be famous as a patient or as anything else, he probably wouldn't be here and using his mother's maiden name, would he?
And none of that would matter to Helga. All she saw was a patient in need, and a Trainee Healer who could help him, and whatever she needed to do to get that patient help, she would do. Consummate Healer. Would've made a good Slytherin, too.
And his own selfish reasons for not wanting to be around Harry probably wouldn't impress her in the least.
He nodded tightly. "Fine. Arrange it and I'll go." He left her office before he could say anything he would regret.
"Erm... where the hell are we?" was the first thing Harry asked as soon as the two rather skittish Aurors had signed him over to Draco's care and hastily Apparated away.
Draco frowned. "Did nobody tell you?"
"Nobody's said much since I stepped out of the Floo. Other than Get away, or Move and I'll kill you." Harry's smile was dry, but Draco could read the tension in his voice. "I suppose being convinced they're an inch away from death puts a bit of a damper on their conversational skills."
"Ah. Well, we're at the Muckle Roe quarantine cottage near Burki Taing. We're here until I solve this, or St. Mungo's does." Or until I go mental and leap into your lap in the middle of an examination. Best not say that last bit out loud though.
"Quarantine? I'm not contagious, am I?"
Draco's eyebrows drew together. "No. Did nobody even ask you if you wanted to be treated at the clinic or not?"
Harry shrugged. "No. I suppose it does make sense, though. I didn't particularly want to stay at the clinic either." He wandered over to the window. "I've been having the oddest flashbacks; it's almost like I'm back at school."
Draco looked at him in surprise. That was something that hadn't come up between them in the year that he'd been at the clinic. They chatted about patients, Quidditch, the news, and the truly vile curry house in Lerwick's Market Street. They had never broached the topic of Hogwarts.
Harry smiled grimly. "Let's see, in second year I was the Heir of Slytherin, in fourth I'd gotten into the Triwizard Tournament through foul play out of a pathological need for attention, and in fifth year I was a half-mad liar with delusions of grandeur. Yeah, I'd say I've got the role of wrongfully mistrusted down fairly well."
Draco didn't know what to say to that.
"So, do you have any ideas?" Harry asked.
"I have a lot of ideas. The two cases in St. Mungo's have the Healers baffled, but they've sent us their notes."
"Two? And they still haven't solved it?"
"No. But I don't think they were making it a big priority until this morning - you know there was that Felix Felicis gone bad, they've been working round the clock on that one for weeks, pulled all the good Healers into it. The patients with this aren't dying; they're just going through some discomfort."
Harry raised an eyebrow.
Draco backtracked hastily. "Damn. Sorry, I don't mean to minimize your problem," he said, and inwardly smacked himself. Oh now that didn't make him sound like a prat, giving Harry the standard rote comment to patients, which Harry had probably said a hundred times himself.
"And you will do your utmost to help me through this regardless of whether it's life-threatening or not, I know," Harry said impatiently. He waved that aside. "So, what ideas do you have?"
Draco shook his head. "Listen, you're here as a patient. Don't try to heal yourself."
"I know, a Healer who heals himself has a fool for a patient. I'm not a Healer, I'm a mediwizard."
"No it isn't. We're not trained to believe we're the final authority on medical care," Harry grinned at him. "So, do share. First off, do they even know what the hell this is?"
"Yeah, it's a bad batch of Death Eater potion," Draco said, noting with approval that his voice didn't betray, at all, the embarrassing flip his stomach always performed in reaction to Harry's grin these days. "Your Extrarius aura has a false tinge of malice."
"My what has a what?"
"Your Extrarius aura. The force of your... 'outward' magic, used for spells that affects other people's minds, like Legilimency. Yours has been tinged with malice, so that wizards and witches near you become convinced that you're out to harm them."
"So if I'm around Muggles, it's not a problem?"
"Shouldn't be. That's part of why they're not that worried about the cases at St. Mungo's right now; if the Healers can't cure it, the patients can just live in the Muggle world until its effects wear off."
"That's not much of a solution."
Draco shrugged. "The two cases they've got are both half-bloods. Shouldn't be that difficult for them."
Harry gave him an unreadable glance and went back to the scroll. "So my magical aura is 'tinged with malice'. God, it sounds like I'm being seduced by the Dark Side of the Force."
Harry shook his head. "Muggle thing, never mind. What have they tried so far?"
"Well, apparently St. Mungo's tried truthspell charms so that others could see she was telling the truth when she said she wasn't going to hurt them. That backfired; they started to think she was a master manipulator because she sounded so honest. They tried cheering charms for the people around her, which just made them very happy that she'd been taken into custody. Then they tried calming potions for everyone, but the only dose strong enough to knock out the paranoia made two of the subjects lose bladder control." Harry chuckled, and Draco skimmed through the rest of the scroll from St. Mungo's. "They've tried reverse Obliviates, implanting false memories to convince people of what a good person she is; no effect. They also tried some trust spells to wear down the aura of malice-"
"Trust spells? What are those?"
"Variation of an Unbreakable Vow, actually," Draco said, and felt himself unexpectedly blushing as Harry raised his eyebrows.
Damn. Few things unsettled him as much as reminders of his own past, and here was a big one, the memory of sixth year and Snape's Unbreakable Vow to his mother floating between him and Harry now, as tangible as a Hogwarts ghost and as difficult to ignore.
Bad enough he was out here because of his bloody past, because Helga had thrown it in his face. Bad enough that he was with somebody who had been there for so much of that past. Whoever directed his life had a miserable sense of humour, because that same person had gorgeous green eyes that were gazing at Draco steadily and distracting the hell out of him even as he struggled to keep his damned past firmly in the past, where it belonged.
He cleared his throat and pressed on. "An Unbreakable Vow basically sets up trust between the person making the Vow and the recipient of the Vow. It requires honesty from the caster, and that honesty is felt in the magical aura of the caster, and affects the magical aura of the person to whom the Vow is made."
"Right, yeah, I remember hearing that before. But how does this help now?"
"Well, basically, the casters - the Healers - have been trying to use a Trust Spell in the same way. They cast the spell and then divulge personal information, showing that they trust the recipient - the patient - to not use their information against them, to not act with malice against them. Hoping to wear down the false appearance of malice in the patient's aura."
"That... doesn't make much sense to me."
There was a time, too long ago, when watching Harry get confused would've made Draco positively cackle with glee. Now he found it endearing. Kill me now, he thought wistfully. "Well, most of the solutions don't make much sense, when you think about it. They're just trying whatever sounds like it might possibly work."
"And does it work?"
"No, not really. But at least it hasn't backfired, like almost everything else."
"So are you going to try to do that?"
"I think I'd like to try a couple of the potions first, with some changes."
"And if that doesn't work?"
"Then, we'll go to the Trust Spells."
"Why would they work for you and not for St. Mungo's?"
"For one, I don't think the variation of the Trust Spell they used was the right one. It's always tricky, using spells to fight potions and vice versa. And for another, none of the Healers know their patients, so I doubt it would require much trust to say anything to them. If I were to tell a random patient something like, oh, I don't know, I adore pink plaid, I don't think it would mean much. Telling you would involve a fair bit of trust."
"Pink plaid?" Harry snickered. "I'd take the mickey out of you for that."
"That doesn't make me eager to share. But you get the point."
"Erm... yeah, I suppose so. Though I would've thought a Trust Spell would be less likely to work if it was coming from you. I mean, you're not cringing away from me like everybody else."
"That's only because I'm an Occlumens. The important point is that the Trust Spell, along with actual trust, will wear down the malice emanating from your aura. I don't think it'll matter that I don't actually feel afraid of you."
Harry nodded, still a bit doubtful. "All right, if you say so. Whatever works."
"So, tomorrow potions. Hopefully that'll work. If not, the next day we'll go on to Trust Spells."
"Fair enough. I take it we're not going to do anything tonight?"
Draco automatically suppressed any reaction to Harry's innocent question and shook his head. "You may as well settle in and go to bed. I'll check that we've got everything we need for tomorrow, then I'll go to bed myself."
And please, let the potions work, thought Draco as Harry said goodnight and headed off to his room. Because even thinking of the kinds of things he could confess to Harry...
He sighed as he went to bed, the potions ingredients dutifully checked. This had been a terrible idea. He shouldn't have come here; he should've insisted Harry be sent to St. Mungo's. No matter what Helga said, she knew he was a dedicated Healer. He'd spent the last four years proving that, to himself and to everybody around him. To everybody who'd assumed he would end up a useless, idle rich boy, living on the tattered remnants of his family's wealth and power and trying to hang on to a way of life that had gone down in flames with Voldemort. To every single person who'd smiled to his face and congratulated him for his contribution to the war while making snide remarks behind his back about what Malfoy money could and couldn't buy. He had shown them, and he'd shown Helga, and letting her essentially bully him into this situation was...
This was pointless. He turned over in bed, blowing out his breath in frustration. He'd long ago learned to avoid this kind of brooding, because it never went anywhere.
Unfortunately, what he usually distracted himself with... might not be such a good idea right now. A good one off at the wrist would undoubtedly distract him and send him right off to sleep, but...
No, probably not a good idea. Not with Harry right here, separated by only a very thin wall, maybe even touching himself as well right now - AUGH! He very quickly blocked that thought off. He was not going down that path, or he'd go mental.
All right then. He quickly ran over his options. One: toss and turn through the night, trying not to think of Harry right next door. Unacceptable. Two: sleeping spell. Invariably left him groggy and cross the next day. Next: wank himself to sleep. Which probably wasn't wise either, but seemed rather more workable than the first two options.
So. How to do this without compromising whatever laughable smidgen of detachment he still had with respect to Harry. Let's see... the new Keeper for the Kestrels was quite fit. Male, though. Erm... there was that spokeswoman for SleekEasy, whom Jessica had introduced him to last month. Vapid and vacant, but quite lovely. With long black hair that... would probably look better if it was a little... messier...
All right, not the SleekEasy spokeswoman, then. Back to the Kestrels Keeper. Tall, stocky, graceful, large square hands that Draco could just imagine holding him, threading through his hair, coming to rest on the back of his neck...
He sighed and turned over, reaching down. Most nights he preferred to let arousing images build until he was itching to touch himself, but tonight he just wanted this over as soon as possible.
Most nights. Rather a sad statement, he reflected. Having a nightly masturbatory routine when he was married. When was the last time he and Jessica had bothered to touch each other?
Damn. Predictably, with thoughts of his wife, his vague arousal was dispelled. Better than saltpeter, Jessica was.
Right. Back to the... who was he supposedly fantasizing about?
Kestrels Keeper, right. Oh, bother that, he was in no mood to build a fantasy. He'd just have to go with nameless and faceless, and hope that none of the images would remind him of Harry.
Yes, hands touching him, gliding over his chest, pulling him in firmly, feeling a lean body against his - let's give that body breasts, breasts were an excellent idea - and he sighed, touching himself and imagining a mouth ghosting over his neck. Hands moving his head to the side, lips nibbling on his earlobe, a warm wet mouth slowly going lower... he sped up his own movements, imagining that mouth curving in a smile as it reached its destination, and bright green eyes looked up at him-
No. Not acceptable. He was in a very small house, with a colleague right next door; a colleague with whom he not only had to maintain a good working relationship, but for whom he also had to try to fix a condition that might very well require him to reveal rather personal things. Like, say, this.
He sat up. A shower. Tossing off in the shower was easy. No fantasy required, the physical stimulus of the water itself was pleasant enough to get him going. He picked up his towel and headed down the hall.
"Oh! Sorry-" Harry said as Draco stepped back to avoid being hit by the washroom door. "Sorry, I thought you were already asleep."
"W-what?" Draco stammered, totally off-balance from the sight of Harry's rosy cheeks, his freshly showered scent, his skin radiating heat and his green eyes a little unfocussed without glasses. "No. No, I was still awake. I was just, erm, going to..." stop talking, he told himself, and hoped that Harry's eyesight was bad enough that he wouldn't be able to see Draco's flustered blush.
Come to think of it, he knew Harry's eyesight was that bad. Helga had had him practice eyesight test charms on all his colleagues. Thank you, Helga. And Harry was talking.
"...still enough hot water in there," he was saying, a bit apologetically, and Draco wasn't wishing he could gaze at Harry's flat stomach, barely visible from under the towel Harry had thrown over his shoulder, pants riding low underneath. "Sorry, I didn't know if you showered in the morning or at night."
"Morn - erm, actually, both," Draco mumbled, closing the door behind him. And no, he was decidedly not going to wonder whether Harry had just used the shower for the same purpose he was about to.
"Why are we here, anyway?" Harry asked the next morning as they prepared a large batch of potions from St. Mungo's instructions. "I would've thought they'd transfer me to St. Mungo's."
"Helga considered it. Decided she'd rather keep you here."
"Why did you agree to it though? Don't you have exams next month?"
Because among my many other failings, I'm apparently also a masochistic idiot, Draco thought to himself as he gave the blue potion one final counterclockwise stir and firmly forced his eyes to stay on the cauldron and not on Harry's hands and arms, the sleeves of his casual green shirt pushed up to his elbows as he worked on the potions.
"Did she force you to?" Harry frowned as he started to slice a dried mandrake. "She's not allowed to do that. Trainee or not, you have a right to refuse to take on an extra assignment like this. Especially when you have exams coming up."
"She didn't... really force me to." Draco cleared his throat and poured the potion into a flask. "I'm here because... because I am who I am."
"Because I told Helga that I didn't want to, for reasons of my own, and she said she hadn't yet had a chance to regret taking me on as a Trainee before now..."
Harry's eyebrows drew together and he paused mid-slice. "But now she did? Why?"
"Because of who I am. Basically, I need to prove myself. Prove that I can put a patient's needs above my own. Despite my... history."
"Your - you mean-" Harry's eyes widened slightly. "Oh." His eyebrows drew together. "Wait, after a year at the clinic, all of a sudden this comes up?"
"You'd be surprised about when these things come up. Slice the mandrake thinner," he said, and started chopping dried Seena Leaf.
"It's happened before?" Harry asked, resuming his work.
"Of course it has," Draco said irritably.
"But you were given an Order of Merlin-"
"I was given a Dark Mark before that."
"You were sixteen!"
"You were fifteen when you led an attack on the Department of Mysteries and won."
Their knives cutting were the only sounds for a while. "That was a long time ago," Harry finally said quietly.
"Not long enough."
"So... she wants you to prove yourself," Harry said, his voice neutral. "And you're trying to do that."
"Which is stupid."
"Yeah, it is. Your record is clear. You're a good Healer, she should know that."
Draco let the warm glow from Harry's words sit for a brief moment before squashing it. "It's not Helga who's stupid," he said brusquely, adding Harry's sliced mandrake to one of the cauldrons and his chopped Seena Leaf to another. "I'm stupid for letting her get to me and ending up here."
"Because I can't prove myself. I can't - there is nothing I can do in this lifetime that'll mean I'm done proving myself. The Dark Mark will never come off, and no matter what I do, there will always be doubt. Until the day I die, somebody will want me to prove myself." And you can really stop babbling any time now, his brain suggested helpfully, and he firmly closed his mouth.
Harry was silent as they started to pour the remaining potions into their flasks. "So why are you here, then?" he finally asked.
"She also pointed out that I could advance my career by solving this."
Harry raised an eyebrow skeptically.
"No, I didn't think so either. If that's what was important to me, I wouldn't be in Muckle Roe, would I?"
"No, you wouldn't." Harry started to write labels for their potions as Draco cast cleaning spells on the cauldrons. "So... why are you here?" he repeated.
"I don't know," Draco shrugged irately. "Maybe to prove myself to me."
"And why didn't you want to be here?"
"That's private," he snapped, and Harry's eyebrows went up slightly. Draco cleared his throat awkwardly and finished the cleaning spells. "In any case, I shouldn't waste any confessions, just in case the potions don't work, right?"
"Right." Harry cleared his throat. "All right, so. I'm supposed to try all of these..." he pulled a face at the counter full of neatly labeled flasks. "And how will we know if they work?"
"I'm reading up on how to make your Extrarius aura visible." Draco ran his hand through his hair. "I wasn't supposed to have to learn that until near the end of my training, so it may take a while to get it right. Until I can figure it out, we'll just have to Floo back and forth to the clinic."
"Won't that be a bit disruptive for them?"
"They've sealed off the Floo room from the main clinic for now."
"Erm... I don't particularly want to try this with other people. It's a bit unnerving, having friends pointing their wands at me."
Draco chewed on his lip thoughtfully.
"Why not try magical beasts?" Harry suggested. "There are always owls and kneazles and other animals around the clinic."
"Good idea. All right, then, I'll try to decipher how exactly I'm supposed to make your Extrarius aura visible. You start in on those potions."
Harry grimaced as he looked at the long range of flasks emitting mostly foul vapours on the counter. "Lucky, lucky me."
"I take it bright pulsing purple is bad," Harry said the next day, a little cross-eyed as he tried to peer at his own aura.
"It's not good," Draco agreed. "St. Mungo's said it's normally supposed to be 'glowing softly, somewhere between blue to green.'"
"Not a lot of green here," Harry commented. "Funny, I really don't feel like I'm being hostile."
"You're not," Draco said automatically, concentrating on the aura. "It's just the potion, you know that."
"I really thought that last orange potion yesterday would help," Harry said. "It certainly made me feel different."
"Before or after you threw it up?"
"Right after I drank it. I thought maybe it had reversed the effect, because I really thought you were trying to kill me."
"So I take it we're starting confession time?" Harry said as Draco put his wand down and checked his notes.
"Let me set up the Trust Spell first," he said distractedly, reading over the scroll.
"I'm all aquiver now. D'you really like plaid?"
Draco gave him a quelling glare.
"Sorry. I probably shouldn't joke about it, should I?"
"I don't think it'll make that much difference," Draco admitted. "Might make this easier, even. Now hush for a moment."
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, reached for the mental space the scroll from St. Mungo's had suggested. "Confidotuom," he said carefully, and a light grew out of his wand, slowly enveloping Harry.
He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry for how I acted towards you in school."
"I had a lot to do with how people saw you back then. What you said, about people suspecting you of all those things. And I regret that, now."
Harry looked nonplussed. "That's your confession?"
"It seems a good place to start. And it's not that personal."
"Then why use it as a confession?"
"Because I have to start with something, to see if it helps at all to do the spell slightly differently. And I don't know how powerful the confessions are supposed to be, and I'd really rather not tell you all that much. No offence."
Draco ended the Confidotuom spell and waved his wand over Harry again, and the pulsing purple aura appeared around him.
Harry shook his head. "No change."
Draco squinted a bit, concentrating. "Not much... but it's very slightly less red-tinged. I think." He blew out his breath and jotted down a few notes.
"Are you really?" Harry asked.
"Really what?" Draco asked distractedly, trying to describe the very minute change he'd seen. Knowing that he'd need to keep very careful notes if he was to make any headway towards solving this.
"What?" Draco glanced up.
"Sorry about what you did at Hogwarts."
"I just said I was." Harry nodded, but looked somewhat skeptical. "Why would I lie about something like that?"
"No, it's not that I thought you were lying, just..." He paused. "I suppose I thought you'd think everything you did back then was justified. That maybe I was as much a wanker to you as you were to me."
"You were. I'm just sorry for what I did."
Draco went back to his notes.
"Erm... do you need me here for this?" Harry asked hesitantly after a moment.
"What? Oh - erm, no, I don't think so. You're free to wander off if you want."
"Will you be doing another one soon?"
"Not soon," Draco said, skimming his notes. "The St. Mungo's Healers recommended waiting a few hours between spells. Personally I don't think it's necessary, but I'm willing to go along with their recommendation for now."
"Good thing Helga sent us a chess set this morning, then."
"Yeah, good thing," Draco agreed, not looking up. Very good thing.
From bright pulsing reddish purple to... only slightly less bright pulsing reddish purple. The fact that there was a change was encouraging. The fact that the change had been almost imperceptible...
Draco suppressed a groan. The confession hadn't taken much out of him; it was the kind of thing that would've probably come out over a Butterbeer after a long shift at some point in their working relationship, if he didn't still have a smidgen of Malfoy pride left to cling to. Apologizing for a stupid adolescence was something probably about 95 per cent of adults - including Harry - should do at some point.
But the change had been so depressingly minuscule...
"All right, it looks like there was a minute change," he said a few hours later. "It's not much, but then again, the confession wasn't much either. So. Let's try again."
Harry smiled. "This is where I get to hear your secret fashion faux pas."
"No. Confidotuom. This is where you get to hear that I was the one who told Rita Skeeter half the stuff she wrote about in our fourth year."
Harry looked taken aback, then started to laugh.
"I already knew that."
"I knew. Hermione figured it out. She saw you talking to Skeeter in beetle form once, figured it out, and told Skeeter she'd be exposed as an unregistered Animagus if she didn't stop writing about me."
Draco sat back, stunned. Good god.
"Sorry," said Harry, still laughing. "God, your face..." He suddenly frowned. "So does that mean the confession has no power?"
"What? Oh! The confession. No, it should still work; I didn't know you knew, so I had to trust you in order to tell you." Draco waved his wand to end the Trust Spell and illuminate the aura. "Yeah, there it is. The colour's the same, but the emanation of malice isn't pulsing as intensely."
"Hm." Harry peered at his aura. "That's fascinating." He grinned at Draco. "So, my evil is only throbbing gently now. How very... un-reassuring."
You will not react to the word "throbbing," Draco told himself sternly as he occupied himself writing, making a deliberate blot with his quill in order to be able to busy himself cleaning it up.
"I don't think I like the term 'emanation of malice' though," said Harry thoughtfully. "I think I prefer Aura of Malevolence. Or Pulse of Wickedness. Could you call it my Pulse of Wickedness?"
Draco chuckled, still writing. "So you knew I talked to Skeeter," he said as he wrote. "That's how you caught her. I'd wondered about that. I thought Granger had maybe caught her going into Animagus form or something."
"No, not hardly."
"That's... that's interesting." Draco paused, then looked at Harry suspiciously.
"It's interesting to watch your face make the next connection," Harry smirked. "You just remembered that Skeeter wrote a very nice interview with me in the Quibbler in fifth year, didn't you?"
Draco nodded slowly.
"Yeah, well, we blackmailed her," Harry said, laughing again as Draco's eyebrows shot up.
"Good god. Fifteen years old and blackmailing journalists. Resourceful little tykes, weren't you?"
Draco shook his head and took out a fresh parchment, beginning a report to send to St. Mungo's.
Damn it, this wasn't fair. Somebody had a rotten sense of humour, sticking him into this situation where he was pretty much compelled to tell Harry all sorts of pathetic secrets of his own while at the same time sitting and wondering what he wasn't hearing from Harry. Harry Potter, whose known exploits were legendary but who had most probably done a great many other things that had never made it into the papers, and that most people would love to hear.
Not fair at all. Especially with this exasperating crush of his, which even on normal days made him wonder all sorts of things about Harry. What was he like outside the clinic, what had he really been like those years that they'd gone to school together without really knowing each other at all, what was his home like, what did he think or feel about all sorts of things... what was he thinking right now, as he gazed thoughtfully out the window across the table from Draco while Draco wrote his clinical observations...
And talking to him about personal things was playing hell on Draco's ability to stay detached and see him only as a patient or even as a co-worker. It was excruciating, and probably going to get much, much worse before this was over.
This was ridiculous. He had to figure out some way of making this livable.
Well, for one thing, he could try to figure out what kinds of things he could reveal that would require him to show trust in Harry, without making him feel so horribly off-balance and vulnerable or increase his totally inappropriate attraction.
All right, then, no more confessions about school. School was where they'd known each other before the clinic, where his confessions were more likely to result in exchanges that might disturb his already less than stable emotional control. He had plenty of things he didn't particularly want to share that had nothing to do with school, nothing to do with Slytherin-Gryffindor and House points and Quidditch rivalries, nothing to do with Harry whatsoever.
He should figure out exactly what he was going to say. And how much he would elaborate. And how he was going to make sure his emotions stayed within safe professional limits.
But first, he was going to finish off his report to St. Mungo's, make some flimsy excuse to leave the room, and quite possibly go take another shower.
"All right," Draco said the next day. "St. Mungo's thinks I'm on the right track with the variation of the Trust Spell I'm using, and in how I'm doing the confessions. By their calculation, another four or five will do it. Lucky, lucky me."
"What about by your calculation?"
"I'm very much hoping they're right on this, because by my figures..." he trailed off with a grimace.
Harry looked like he was about to apologize, but thought better of it. "So... erm, what do I get to hear next?"
"Confidotuom." Draco took a deep breath. "I haven't spoken to my father in years."
Harry blinked. Clearly he hadn't been expecting anything like that. "Oh. How... how many years?" he asked hesitantly.
"Since fifth year."
Harry's eyes widened. "Fifth - you mean, before he went to Azkaban?"
"Didn't you ever visit him there?"
"No. He wouldn't allow it. He let Mother see him, but not me. I think he didn't want me to see him in that place." He leaned back in his chair, clasped his hands together. "I wrote to him. I couldn't tell him what was going on with the... with the task I'd been given in sixth year - I knew they read all our letters - but I wrote to him that I hoped he'd get out some day. I told him what I was doing at school - school things, not the - the other thing." He stopped, reminding himself he'd decided to use this confession because it - mostly - didn't involve Hogwarts. "He never wrote back. He wrote to my mother; not to me. Mother said he didn't want to write to me about his cell being cold or the guards insulting him with impunity, and he had nothing else to write about." He smiled slightly. "I wouldn't have cared."
"And he's never changed his mind?"
"Never. I asked... after everything was over, I asked if I could see him. I didn't have Mother to speak through any more, didn't have her to tell me how he was, or let him know how I was doing, and as far as I know he didn't really have any other links to the outside world. Most of our family and friends were either in Azkaban or dead. I thought, maybe... everything was over and..." He shook his head. "He never answered any of my letters. I told him everything that had happened, told him why I'd made all the decisions I'd made, told him I just wanted to... to see him. I was a bloody hero of the war, on paper at least; he would've been able to visit in private, which he never got with Mother; there were always two guards and Aurors present." He sighed. "He never did."
"Did he give any explanation?"
"When was the last time you wrote to him?"
"Last year. I still write, every Christmas. Telling him what's going on in my life. I don't know whether he reads my letters or not."
There was a long moment of silence, then Draco picked up his wand to end the Trust Spell.
"Yeah, well, it's working," Draco said with a grimace as the aura lit up again.
Harry nodded. "What's wrong?"
"Working bloody slowly. At this rate, you may be able to go back to civilized society only if I confess to having indecently propositioned a pumpkin or something."
"Seriously, I'll have to make something up. Here, you wait here, I'll Floo back to my place and go hex a few of the Muggle brats at the day care next to my house, then I'll come back and confess to you about it."
Harry ran his hand through his hair ruefully. "I'm sorry."
"I am, you know. And I'm sorry... I'm sorry your father won't talk to you."
Draco looked up in surprise.
"Were you close before he... was arrested?" Draco looked at him quizzically. "I mean, I know he was your father and you always talked about all the things he bought for you, but were you - did you have a good relationship with him?"
"I thought I did," Draco said after a moment. "Yeah, I think so. He wasn't the most affectionate person in the world, but... he was a good father. Mostly." He cleared his throat. "I can look back now and see that he made a lot of mistakes. And a lot of what he taught me was pure rubbish, I know that now. But overall..." he shrugged. "I thought he was a good father. He made me feel I was important to him. That he cared about me..." he trailed off uncomfortably and bent back over his notes.
Harry gazed thoughtfully out the window. "I never... obviously, I didn't know that side of him. He always looked like he didn't like you very much, whenever I saw him with you."
Draco drew in his breath, stung, and Harry looked back at him, puzzled, then winced and clapped a hand over his mouth. "Oh, shite, that was tactless, wasn't it? I - I didn't mean it the way it came out. God." He closed his eyes and shook his head, blushing darkly. "That came out completely wrong. Bloody hell, you tell me you miss your father and I tell you he was a wanker who didn't like you anyway." He cleared his throat. "Fuck."
Draco bit his lip, torn between hurt, anger, and amusement at Harry's mortification. He kept his face expressionless as Harry put his elbows on the table and rested his forehead on his clasped hands.
"I really didn't mean it that way," Harry said apologetically, his voice muffled. "I mean - bloody hell, he probably always looked annoyed at you when I saw him because I was there. I didn't put him in a wonderful mood, I'm sure."
Draco shrugged, not particularly wanting to keep this conversation going, but not particularly wanting to pardon Harry's insensitive comment, either.
"Yeah. You're sorry. Apology accepted, let's move on, shall we?" he said brusquely, and Harry swallowed and nodded.
There was a long silence as he wrote his observations in the log and checked up on the latest scroll from St. Mungo's. Burying himself in the intellectual puzzle of trying to figure this out, see the differences between what he was doing and what they were doing at St. Mungo's, pleased with himself that the Healers there had implemented a few of his suggestions, to good effect. He looked up as Harry cleared his throat.
"Yes? You don't have to be here, you know."
"I know." Harry was still looking discomfited by his gaffe, and Draco finally took pity on him and gave him a small smile, indicating no hard feelings, before turning back to his work.
"I... I haven't talked to Ron in a long time either," Harry suddenly blurted, and Draco paused, his quill still poised over the parchment.
"You two had a falling out?"
"What do you mean?"
"We never... we never had a big fight. There wasn't an end to our friendship. We just sort of... drifted apart."
"During the war. Especially near the end." Harry ran his fingers through his hair. "I... I had to do a lot of stuff during the war. Before, and during. And... it wasn't any one thing, that drove us apart. We fought, a lot - he didn't agree with a lot of what I did, and I didn't tell him everything I was doing, and he hated that I kept secrets from him. Then the war ended, and there was all that publicity... and Ron didn't much like the fact that he hardly got any credit for any of what happened. Which wasn't fair, because he'd done a hell of a lot. Then he started to... embellish some of what he'd done. But no matter what he said, people still wanted to hear me talk about it, even though I didn't want to." He smiled bitterly. "It... gnawed at him, I think. We tried - well, I tried, to get past it, but it just... gnawed at him." Harry took a deep breath. "Then of course there was the whole nightmare with Hermione, with me staying friends with her after their divorce... and then Ginny." Harry sighed deeply. "He's never understood what's between me and Ginny, even when we were together. And now... I'm still friends with her, but Ron..."
"What did happen with Weasley? Ginny, that is?" Draco asked curiously.
Harry started to shake his head, then tilted it to the side and looked at him. "You know, this might make things a little less painful for you if I reciprocate."
"Won't it? I mean, you're spilling your guts to me; if I confide in you, won't that help the strength of your own confessions become a little stronger? Who knows, it might keep the Muggle kids near your house safe. Not to mention your vegetable garden."
"Then please don't, I'd love an excuse to put them out of my misery," Draco said dryly. "Besides, I've always wanted to get up close and personal with a potato." He thought for a moment, then started to shake his head. No, with the type of spell he was weaving it really wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference if Harry reciprocated or not.
Then again, it wouldn't hurt. And what the hell, this was painful enough for him; he might as well get something out of it.
"Yeah, that might help," he said slowly. "Tit for tat?"
"Right." Harry suddenly grinned. "And even if it doesn't help, somewhere inside you is a Slytherin who's happy to be getting something out of this deal, right?"
"That's a little cynical of you, isn't it?" Draco said disapprovingly. "So, you were about to tell me about Girl Weasley."
Harry laughed. "Unfortunately there's not that much to confess there. We just didn't work out. Good friend, but not really my type. Ron's never really understood that; he took it as a personal rejection of his whole family."
"Why wasn't she your type?"
"Oh god, a lot of reasons. At the end what clinched it was I fell for a friend of hers. She knew; I told her about it, and we were open and honest and all of that and in the end, she pointed out that the kind of attraction I felt for Robin was what I'd felt for her, way back in sixth year. She pointed out that what we had wasn't really all that different from what I had with other good friends. We didn't even live together, and it wasn't because she was away with her team all the time. All we really had was friendship, with sex as an afterthought. Almost by obligation. From both of us."
"So she left. Or rather, she stopped visiting me so often. And I stopped visiting her. She's dating her team's Keeper now."
"Yeah, I read that."
"It still hurts, though. Not what happened with Ginny; what happened with Ron. He was the first friend I ever had; somehow I thought we'd stay friends till we were old." Harry shrugged. "All right, it doesn't compare to losing your father. But it's the closest I can come. Losing somebody I thought of as a brother." He sighed. "Still do think of him that way. But he's still got four real brothers. I doubt he thinks of me much any more."
Draco nodded in sympathy.
"So that's my match-up for the confession about your father," said Harry. "And I think I reciprocated your confession about Rita Skeeter yesterday with one of my own, about blackmailing her." He leaned back. "As for your first confession, about being sorry you made things tough for me at Hogwarts, and while we're on the subject of Ron..." He grinned suddenly, eyes bright. "Here's one of my Hogwarts indiscretions: Ron and me went into your common room once."
"What? How'd you find it?"
"You showed us where it was."
"You followed me?"
"Under your famous Invisibility Cloak?"
"Oh, no, you led us right to it. Talking to us the whole time."
Draco frowned. "You've lost me."
"Second year, Christmas. You led us to your common room, let us in, and told us all sorts of things about the Chamber of Secrets."
Draco gaped. "I did not!"
"Oh, you did," Harry said, grinning widely. "Not only that, you told us that your family kept Dark objects in a secret vault under your drawing room."
"I did not!" he said, aghast. "What did you do, put me under Imperio?"
"Didn't have to. You told us of your own free will."
"Good lord. My father always wondered how the Aurors knew exactly where to look. D'you know they almost found his Necklace of Agony? He could've landed in Azkaban years early!"
Harry sobered a bit, but couldn't manage to keep the smile off his face.
"Go on, you tosser. Explain how the hell you did it, and how you learned to Obliviate so bloody well, because obviously I've no memory of it at all."
"Didn't need to Obliviate you. You thought we were Crabbe and Goyle."
Draco gaped again.
"You're very funny when you're flummoxed," Harry said cheerfully. "We Polyjuiced ourselves. Drugged Crabbe and Goyle, hid them away in a broom closet, became them, and waited for you to find us and lead us to your common room."
Draco sat back, stunned.
"Polyjuice?" he finally said weakly. "Second year - we were twelve! How the fuck did you get your hands on Polyjuice?"
"Hermione brewed it."
"Oh, god. No bloody wonder you won the war, with her on your side. Brewing Polyjuice at age twelve. God." He shook his head. "And Crabbe and Goyle never said anything. Probably didn't notice they'd been knocked out; they never used their brains much when they were conscious anyway. And of course I wouldn't have said anything to them, if I didn't notice there was anything off about them." He shook his head, laughed ruefully. "God, that's brilliant."
"We thought you knew about the Chamber of Secrets."
"Actually, we thought you were the Heir of Slytherin."
"Again, I wish. Well... I don't, any more. But I did back then."
"All right, you've now successfully made me rethink this as an interesting exercise in mutual blackmail material and not just an emotional Crucio. Good job, Harry."
"No problem." Harry stood up and stretched, and Draco swallowed hard as Harry's shirt untucked itself from his trousers and rolled up a bit, showing a peek of his stomach. "Well, we've got a few hours before the next one. D'you want to go take a walk and look at those cliffs at South Ham that are supposed to be so pretty?"
Yes! Walk! Cliffs! Pretty! Draco's stomach-dazed id gibbered automatically before he reined it and gave it a slap. "No thanks, I've seen them already," he said, pleased to hear his voice coming out casual instead of breathless. "There's a few more suggestions just in from St. Mungo's, and Brian sent some ideas I need to read through. You go ahead, though."
"I'll see you at lunch, then," Harry said, and walked out.
Draco put his head on the table for a moment, then sat up and wearily unrolled the scrolls from Brian.
Mutual confessions. Harry was right, the Slytherin in him was cheering at the prospect. The Trainee Healer, however, was popping up to tell him this was probably a very, very bad idea, emotionally and professionally.
And the part of him that kept sneaking glances at Harry's hands and shoulders and stomach and arse when Harry wasn't looking was torn between wanting to congratulate him for this turn of events, and wanting to throttle him. He did not need to feel even more of an emotional connection to Harry.
Well, he'd been on Healer mode for years now. Perhaps he should allow himself Slytherin mode once in a while too; there really was such a thing as overcompensating for his past. And as for the part of him that was thinking about Harry's arse right now...
... yeeah, this was a bad idea.
All right, then. No more really personal confessions. Nothing related to school or his family. And actually, maybe he really should go and do something obscene with a vegetable, just to get this over with as soon as humanly possible.
Cursing himself for ten different kinds of an idiot, Draco buried himself in Brian's scroll.
Author's note Re. the links below:
I got to know Shetland a bit while writing this story, so I decided to "see" where most of the action was taking place. Somewhere in there I found a website that offered a "virtual tour" of scenic Shetland that... well, let's just say it left me without much desire to see the place itself. It's detailed, it's very well organized, it's highly useful if you ever want to locate somebody in the Shetland Islands to within a metre or so... and it's almost completely unattractive in every conceivable way.
Intersections, guys. Intersections. That's what they show the most. Every blessed intersection in all the isles. And almost all the pictures taken on cloudy days. How... scenic.
I've been told Shetland is in reality a truly lovely place, and happily, I found a few pictures that seemed to back that up. But the bulk of the virtual tour site... myeah. Let's just leave it there.
Anyway. If you want to see for yourself, you can find this thrilling visual monotony at the following website:
www . originart oa / frame2 . html
(After you cut and paste the above address onto your browser's URL window, don't forget to remove all the spaces.)
Most of the action takes place in the North Central map, so if you go there you'll be able to see Muckle Roe in all its glory. You may even find all the places I linked to.
1. Muckle Roe Clinic, Muckle Roe, Southpund/Lee W
i9 . photobucket albums / a71 / AnnaFugazzi / I - 1MuckleRoeSouthpundLeeW . jpg
2. Muckle Roe Map
i9 . photobucket albums / a71 / AnnaFugazzi / I -2MuckleRoeMap . png
3. Shetland - Wikipedia map (hey, this is fanfic, not a college essay, and I'm not proud; I'll use Wikipedia if I have to.)
en . wikipedia wiki / Image3AWfmshetlandmap . png
4. Sandsay Clinic
www . jenks .demon . co . uk / orkneys . gif
5. Orkney (BTW, on the map, notice the set of islands northeast of Orkney? That's Shetland.)
en . wikipedia wiki / OrkneyIslands
6. Shetland - Wikipedia entry
en . wikipedia wiki / Shetland
7. Clett Apothecary, Whalsay-Symbister Skaw/Clate W
i9 . photobucket albums / a71 / AnnaFugazzi / I - 7Whalsay -SymbisterSkawClateJuncti . jpg
8. Shetlandic, Scots and Norn - the origins of Shetlandic.
myweb . tiscali . co . uk / wirhoose / but / zet / norn . htm
9. Quarantine House Beach View, Muckle Roe Burki Taing W
i9 . photobucket albums / a71 / AnnaFugazzi / I - 9MuckleRoeBurkiTaingW . jpg
10. Curry House, Lerwick Market Cross (69) W
i9 . photobucket albums / a71 / AnnaFugazzi / I - 10LerwickMarketCross69W . jpg
11. Cliffs, Muckle Roe South Ham N
i9 . photobucket albums / a71 / AnnaFugazzi / I - 11MuckleRoeSouthHamN . jpg