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Diagnosis

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Harry Potter was screwed.

The pounding behind his eyes intensified before he opened his eyes to the searing light of day. A powerful wave of nausea washed over him and he swallowed the bile rising from his belly. He groaned in contempt as his head rebelled, a steady pounding that never relented. He knew he shouldn’t have gone to the Leaky Cauldron.

It had been a celebratory little thing for himself, really. Harry had just wanted a bottle of Firewhiskey and then he would have gone home to get ready for his big day.

But, then, that gorgeous hair and flawless jawline had to ruin it.

The green-eyed man sat up, swiftly, the world spinning and he whined in the back of his throat, reaching blindly for his glasses. He shoved them onto his face and looked at the floor.

He whimpered, torn between arousal and confusion, as his gaze trailed up long legs, powerful thighs, a tapered waist that widened to a pair of delicious shoulders. The man was still there, with only a blanket covering that delectable arse. Harry tugged his own blanket tighter around his body as his cock twitched. He wondered how he could still get it up when he was feeling so fucking awful.

Harry’s head fell back against the dusty loveseat.

Harry hated one-night stands.

“This is so not my thing,” Harry whispered to himself.

“Obviously, it was your ‘thing’ last night.”

The older man rolled onto his back, uncaring for his modesty as he stretched his legs and his arms over his head, showing off his well-muscled abdomen. Harry shifted as a sharp ache raced up his spine. That man wasn’t little, and suddenly, Harry’s body wanted to remind him of that. He squeaked in pain.

“Oh Merlin...this is so humiliating,” Harry whispered to himself, mortification coloring his cheeks red.

The man stood up, stretching all of those tight muscles that Harry remembered, suddenly, bunching and tightening as he thrust into him over and over again, after bending him over the armchair. Harry shook his head and he slowly stood up, suddenly glad that he was all alone in the huge townhouse. If Sirius or Remus had been there, they would've never let him live it down.

“You have to leave. Grab your robes and get out,” Harry said, firmly.

“I thought that perhaps we could participate in a little...morning coitus,” the handsome man said, a smirking adorning his face. Harry swallowed hard.

That smirk was what had drawn Harry to the man in the first place. That and the Firewhiskey he had bought him. That smirk and the dark hair that curled at his name and his large hands. Largest hands that had left marks on Harry’s hips, marks that Harry was trying to forget existed. Merlin, the man was so tempting.

Tempus,” Harry said, instead, waving his wand. He winced when he saw the time and jumped up, shaking his head. “Yeah...you using the word ‘coitus’ and all is kinda sexy but, nope. I’m late for work. On the first day. Not good.”

Tom snorted, looking around the house, curiously. “Are we still in London?”

“Um...yes,” Harry said, looking around the room, awkwardly. “It’s...a wizarding home.”

“I can see that. Quite old. Definitely a pureblood home. Is this your home? Wait...are we in your parents’ home?” the man asked, delight on his face as he walked around the room, searching for portraits of ancestors or perhaps a tapestry. Harry pressed his hand over his eyes, groaning.

The man was naked and utterly shameless.

“No, we’re in my godfather’s house. It’s the...no. We’re not gonna do this. The awkward talking thing that makes it all more uncomfortable,” Harry curled his shoulders down tighter. “Now, I’m taking a shower and you’ll be out of my house by then. Right…so, goodbye...um...”

Harry flushed darker. He had forgotten the man’s name.

“Thought you’d remember my name, with how loud you were screaming it last night,” the man quipped with narrowed eyes.

Harry glared, pointing his wand at the man. “Okay. Sorry about that. I’m a bit of a right mess. Now, if you’re not out by the time I’m out of the shower, I call the Aurors. My dad’s an Auror, so that won’t be pleasant. For either of us. But, I’ll do it.”

Harry turned on his heel and ran towards the door, his blanket streaming behind him. He stopped in the doorway and looked over his shoulder. The man remained, his hands on his hips, still naked and smirking. Harry flushed darker and jabbed his wand at the man, threateningly, before he turned around and stomped down the hall and turned into the bathroom.

He let his blanket pool around his feet and he sighed as he listened for movement on the other side of the door. Harry could hear movement, and he only went to the shower when he heard the front door slam shut. Harry lifted his wand again.

Tempus,” he said again.

It was already nine-thirty.

Merlin, he was so late. He was screwed.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Each of you comes today hopeful, wanting in on the game. A month ago you were in school—whether Hogwarts or Beauxbatons or Durmstrang or even Ilvermorny—being taught to be witches and wizards. Today is the start of your training to be Healers. The years you spend here as a Healer trainee will be the best and worst of your life. You will be pushed to the breaking point. Look around you. Say hello to your competition.”

Harry looked around at the others, his eyes narrowed behind his round frames as he took them in. Some were more distinct looking than the others. One woman, in particular, looked particularly eager, her frizzy bush somewhat tamed back into a ponytail, lips peeled over teeth just a little too big for her mouth. Harry looked back to the Chief Healer.

“Eight of you will switch to an easier specialty—whether that means joining the bureaucracy at the Ministry or venturing into business practices. Five of you will crack under the pressure. Two of you will be asked to leave. This is your starting line. This is your arena. How well you play, that’s up to you,” Chief Healer Albus Dumbledore said with a grin on his wizened face. He ran his fingers through his overlong beard, tucked into the belt of his lime green robes. “Now, we shall part under a few choice words: Nitwit! Blubber! Odment! Tweak!”

Harry snorted even as the other Healer trainees laughed, awkwardly. The room was rampant with nerves, already smelling of stale sweat and hormones.

“Is he mad?” one man muttered. He was taller than all the rest, all long gangling limbs and freckles. He ran his hand through a thicket of red hair.

“Mad? He’s a genius. Greatest Healer this world’s ever seen,” Harry said, watching as the man puttered from the room, plucking a lemon drop from his pocket, as he watched them with twinkling blue eyes. “But, yeah, he’s stark-raving mad.”

The redheaded man looked surprised that Harry had responded and he grinned as the rest of the room spun into action, searching through their lockers for the hunter green robes that marked them as trainees, chattering and shouting over one another. The man extended his hand.

“Ronald Weasley. Just graduated from Hogwarts. Gryffindor,” he said with a grin.

Harry’s eyebrows rose. He smirked, taking Ron’s hand and pumping it up and down. “Same. Harry. I can see why we haven’t met. We ran in different circles. I was a Slytherin.”

“O-oh,” Ron stuttered. His brow furrowed but he didn’t snatch his hand away like Harry thought he would’ve. Ron grinned, sheepishly rubbing the back of his head. “Sorry. I...my sister’s told me to get my head out of my arse, you know. House loyalties don’t mean much out of Hogwarts anymore. You don’t seem like a Slytherin.”

“I’m not one really. The Hat thought I’d do well in Gryffindor or Slytherin. Wanted to put me in Gryffindor. Picked Slytherin to piss off dear Mum and Dad,” Harry laughed as they walked over to their own lockers, pulling out of their robes. Harry stripped, ignoring Ron’s stares at the hickeys that lined his collarbone. Quickly, he pulled his robes over his bare skin.

“That’s a very Gryffindor thing to do,” Ron said, appreciatively.

Harry threw back his head and laughed.

They continued to change, very little talk happening, but already an easy sense of camaraderie was settling. Harry even hoped that they’d be assigned to the same Healer.

“Turpin, Entwhistle, Cornfoot, Hopkins.”

“Smith, Abbott, Patil, and Runcorn, you’re with me.”

Harry looked up, wondering when his Healer would enter the room.

“I’m with the Hellcat. What about you?” Harry asked, curiously.

"I am too!" a voice chirped obnoxiously before Ron could respond. Harry glanced at the eager young woman from before, his eyes wide as he considered her.

“Um...hello,” Harry said, startled. He glanced at Ron from the corner of his eye but, the man already looked put off-kilter by the eager young woman as well.

"I'm Hermione Granger. I went to Hogwarts too. Ravenclaw, actually. Definitely not same circles but, I think I recognize you from NEWT classes. Can you believe that there are only four women in the program? How insane, right? Anyway, I'm with the Hellcat too," she babbled, excitedly, her lips curled into a smug little smile. Harry raised a single eyebrow and nodded at her.

“Cool,” he drawled, stopping himself from rolling his eyes.

“And you are?”Granger said, turning to look at Ron with less enthusiasm.

“Ron Weasley,” Ron said, staring at her with utter bewilderment. Harry hid his grin behind a hand as he looked through his bag for his parchment and quills.

“Pleasure,” Granger said, dismissively. “We better be off. I hear the Hellcat doesn’t like being kept waiting.”

Harry was barely paying Granger any mind as he cursed to himself. He had come up with only a small roll of parchment but no quill. He had been in a rush that moment, practically tripping down the stairs of Number 12 Grimmauld Place before he spun on his heel, Apparating to the defunct department store that stood as a facade for St. Mungo’s.

“Problem?” Ron asked.

“Yeah. I was...I was nearly late. Forgot a quill,” Harry muttered.

Granger’s eyes lit up. “Oh, I have a quill. Right—”

“Here ya go, mate. A spare Spell-Checking quill. From Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. My twin brothers own the joint. It’s on Diagon Alley,” Ron said, pride flushing his cheeks pink, making his freckles even starker. Harry grinned.

“Thanks, mate. That’s brilliant,” Harry said, plucking the bright neon blue quill from Ron’s offering hand. He tucked it behind his ear, basking in Granger’s slight disapproval.

“Why do you think they call her the Hellcat?” Ron asked, curiously.

“Maybe because she’s crazy?” Harry snorted, excitement rushing through his blood.

Granger’s brow furrowed. “Maybe it’s professional jealousy. She’s probably brilliant. She is brilliant. I’ve read about her and she’s done so much work, straddling both the Spell Damage field and Artifact Accident—”

“You’ve got a lot to say, don’t you?” Ron interrupted.

Granger scowled and Harry let out a sharp bark of laughter before he swallowed the rest. He refused to wither under the woman’s gaze.

She reminded him of his mother. He waved jauntily at her as he walked forward.

Harry staggered to a stop when he realized that only one other person remained in the room with them. Slowly, he looked towards the doorway.

The Hellcat was older than he thought she would be.

Healer Minerva McGonagall was a tall, severe woman, that looked far more intimidating than she should in her lime green robes. Her black hair was combed back into a tight bun at the nape of her neck. She had a long black hat atop her head, cocked to one side, that clashed remarkably with the brightness of her robes. Harry swallowed as the Spell Damage Healer stepped forward, eyes narrowed.

Granger had no such misgivings. She stepped forward, eyes bright.

“Hi, I’m Hermione Granger. I—”

Healer McGonagall crossed her arms over her chest.

“Granger, Weasley, Longbottom, and...Potter,” McGonagall stated, rather than asking.

Harry winced at his last name but nodded, ignoring the way Granger’s mouth dropped open. He glanced over his shoulder, searching for Longbottom. He watched a rather tall, round-faced blond stagger forward, his cheeks pink.

I have five rules. Memorize them,” McGonagall said, crisply. “Rule 1: No need to flatter me. I already hold little regard for you. That, likely, won’t change.” She waved her wand, Conjuring up four booklets. Harry took the pile from her hands, passing them off to the others, his attention never wavering. “Trauma protocol. Matrons will ‘Summon’ you. You’ll know when your wand emits bright sparks. Level of emergence will be dictated by color. That will be in your book. You answer every ‘Summon’ at a run. A run, that’s rule 2.”

Already she was walking away, and Harry followed after her, delighted. They emerged back into the entrance hall and reception area, filling with artificial light from the fake magical sun that shone through the fake glass windows. The furniture looked different from when Harry was a kid. No longer was it filled with rickety wooden chairs and outdated Witch Weekly’s. Now, everything was slick metals, shining like Galleons and Sickles. It was both beautiful and tacky.

“Your first shift starts now and lasts 48 hours,” McGonagall said, not bothering to turn to address them directly. Longbottom already looked flustered. Harry hoped that he lasted. He looked like a pleasant fellow. “You’re trainees, the bottom of the healer food chain. You will run diagnostic spells, brew potions, work every second and night until you drop and you won’t complain.”

She led them, briskly, through the busy hall, nodding at those that murmured her name in deference. She turned down a long twisting hallway and then turned sharply, pushing open a door to show a row of beds, all separated by curtains. They looked far too comfortable to be for patients, in Harry’s opinion, and he remembered long nights spent in rooms like these, waiting for his parents.

"On call rooms. Head Healers and Healer-In-Charges will most likely occupy them. My best advice is to sleep when you are able, where you are able. This leads me to rule 3: if I'm sleeping, don't wake me unless your patient is dying. Rule number 4: The dying patient better not be dead when I arrive. Not only would you have killed someone, you would have woken me for no reason. Are we clear?" McGonagall said, turning back to face them.

Longbottom raised a slow, trembling hand, and he wilted under the sharpness of McGonagall’s gaze.

“That was only four rules. You said there were five,” he muttered, nearly inaudible.

Suddenly, McGonagall’s wand erupted with a shower of red sparks and Granger made a soft squeal of excitement as Ron rocked forward, eyes wide.

“Rule number five: when I move, you move,” McGonagall said firmly and then she was walking so fast that she was nearly running. Granger began moving first and the three others fell in line, running after the two women.

Harry’s grin widened. So, this was what it meant to be a Healer.

They moved down the twisting hallway, back into the reception room and where there had been people milling about before, now there was absolute chaos. A team of Healers and Healer trainees, dressed in lime and hunter green robes all revolved around a floating gurney. The patient was rod straight, kept there by a Full Body-Bind Curse.

“What have I got?” McGonagall asked, sharply.

A Healer with hair chopped just under her ears stepped forward. “Ibdore Eavius. Duel go wrong over something stupid. Silly stuff. This one has a mess of lacerations and was ‘it with a Heart-Fragmenting Curse. We put ‘im under Full-Body Bind to keep ‘im still. Put ‘im and the curse in stasis but, you know, nasty buggers.”

“And his opponent?” McGonagall asked as she began walking, waving her wand and pulling the gurney along with her.

"She was the winner. She's being held in custody. Auror Black is handling it. Will want to swing by and talk to this one too," the Healer said.

Harry blanched at the name but kept himself steady. McGonagall nodded.

"Understood. I'll take it from here. This will be a nasty one," McGonagall muttered before she turned to look at her four trainees, eyes sharp. "Can anyone tell me how to treat a Heart-Fragmenting Curse?"

Harry opened his mouth but Granger’s hand shot up, immediately.

“Once stasis over the patient and the curse is placed, you must isolate the curse from the person’s magical core. Once the countercurse is said, the true healing begins. The hearts must be joined through a careful balance of magic and potions, and the dark magic remaining must be dispelled,” Granger recited firmly.

Harry looked over at Ron. Ron rolled his eyes, his lips pulling into a smirk.

“Very good, Granger,” McGonagall said. “Now, how does one dispel the dark magic?”

“Chocolate,” Harry blurted out, firmly.

“That sounds so implausi—” Granger started.

“Good, Potter. This way. We don’t have much time,” McGonagall said. Granger glared at him and Harry grinned at her. “McKinnon’s stasis charms were never very good.”

Longbottom and Ron followed McGonagall immediately. Granger looked over at Harry, her arms crossed and she huffed softly before beginning to walk.

“Problem, Granger?” Harry called.

“No. It’s just...chocolate. Ridiculous. That doesn’t make any sense,” she muttered, storming away.

“Why, because you haven’t read it in a book?” Harry asked after her, taking long strides to keep up. He was only a few inches taller than her, but she walked fast, her eyes trained on McGonagall’s back. “Yeah, I know your type. Read all the books ahead, didn’t you? Os on all your NEWTs. Not just the required ones.”

“Well, I wanted to be prepared. I can lend you my books if you don’t know the—” Granger said.

Harry jerked to a stop, glowering at her.

“Do you think I’m stupid?” Harry asked, his eyes narrowed on the bushy-haired woman.

The woman’s eyes widened and she shook her head, furiously.

“No, I don’t think you’re stupid at all. I mean you couldn’t be stupid if got into this program. And even so, your mother is—” Granger babbled and Harry threw up a hand to silence her. She trailed off, making a soft keening sound that made Harry feel embarrassed for her.

“Rule one: don’t ever mention my mother to me again,” Harry said, firmly, turning on his heel and running down the hall, weaving through the sea of Healers to catch up to Healer McGonagall and the others.

They turned into a room and Healer McGonagall Levitated the man onto a bed and looked around at him, her eyes running over the patient’s still form.

“Now, I will isolate the curse from the patient’s magical core and body. The curse operates in a way that it feeds off, continuously, from the victim’s magical core, and affects the blood. Why is this curse harder to counter compared to others?” McGonagall barked.

Ron's hand shot up first, and McGonagall turned to him with narrowed eyes. Ron opened his mouth and let out a soft squeak, bewilderment all over his face. Harry snorted into his hand.

“Um...it’s...well...it’s because it’s not independently power, isn’t it? The curse can’t be countered by the victim because it’ll be two parts of their own magic warring against one another? And spells affecting the body, leave marks, let alone the blood?” Ron said, his voice getting higher and higher with each word, his body tense with uncertainty.

McGonagall raised an eyebrow. “Are you asking me? Or telling me?”

“T-telling,” Ron stammered.

McGonagall nodded once. “Good. I’ll remind you all to take notes. To isolate the spell, we use a universal spell: Apomonóno.

Harry’s eyes widened as the body jerked, and the patient took a deep breath and released it through his nose, the slightest of black fumes emerging with the tiniest hint of white sparks.

“The nasal reaction will let you know that the spell was successful. Now, after this, one would typically search for the countercurse. This is not my first Heart-Fragmenting Curse. Ákrorogmón," McGonagall cast with the swift slash of her wand and the patient jerked again. Harry watched in interest as some of his pallor returned. Just as the countercurse took hold the door swung open with a crack, causing all four trainees to jump. McGonagall didn't flinch.

“What do we have, Healer McGonagall? Another dunderhead involved in something he shouldn’t be?”

“Absolutely, Healer Snape. A mass of idiots,” McGonagall drawled. “Trainees, this is Healer Severus Snape, Head of Potions and Plant Poisonings. You will, most likely, find yourself on his service from time to time.”

Severus Snape was just like Harry’s dad had described him. Tall, thin, and sallow with a hooked nose, and a terrible disposition. He had none of the bedside manner that Harry expected out of most Healers, and he seemed to have no patience for gree, as he was draped in the blackest of robes. He looked at each and every one of them with narrowed black eyes, hesitating over Harry for just a moment before his eyes narrowed at Longbottom.

“Let’s begin,” Snape drawled.

“Granger, you’re on potions. You’ll be working with Slughorn. Longbottom, patient work-up. Do some digging. See if we have any previous files. Write an owl to his family. Potter, revive the patient and get him some chocolate. He’s your responsibility now,” McGonagall, turning on his heel and walking towards the door. Harry grinned to himself as he looked around at the jealous faces; he had gotten the first patient.

“Um...Healer McGonagall? What about me?” Ron called.

McGonagall looked over her shoulder. “You get to work in Artifact Accidents,” she said, a hint of amusement in her eyes. Healer Snape swept out of the room after her, leaving the trainees to stare at each other. Ron groaned.

“Artifact Accidents. I get to stick my fingers in idiots,” he grumbled, storming from the room.

"G-gonna set started on the patient work-up," Longbottom muttered and Granger nodded, heartily, linking her arm through Longbottom's, to his intense surprise.

“File rooms are down by the potions labs. We’ll walk together,” Granger said, carefully not looking at Harry. Harry sighed, a hip cocked to the side and he lifted his wand as he was finally alone with his patient.

Rennervate.”

The man jerked awake, bug-eyed and overly alert. He looked up, his lips curled into a snarl before it dropped into a frown. His blonde fringe fell into his eyes and he shook his head again, tossing his hair to and fro.

“Where is she? Where is that little bitch?” he hissed.

"Mister Eavius, you're at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Illnesses. You were hit with a Heart-Fragmenting Curse but, we're working on reuniting your hearts," Harry said, carefully watching his words as his body thrummed with nerves.

"Buggering fuck, cock-sucking motherfucker...bloody fucking bitch," the man snarled, spitting out foul words that Harry's mother would cuff him around the ear for. Harry stared with wide eyes. "You look like a kid. Get me a proper Healer! I need a proper Healer! I've got some kid that doesn't even have the right type of robes and looks like he might vomit. Healer!"

Harry stared, wide-eyed at Ibdore Eavius.

Bugger. This was not his day.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Ron trudged over, slamming his tray down, overflowing with roast beef, casserole, black pudding, a hearty helping of mashed potatoes, and rounded out by custard tart and a large bottle of pumpkin juice. He looked at his meal and immediately dug in, even as Longbottom and Granger’s lips curled in disgust. He glanced up from his meal.

"What?" he demanded, spraying bits of mashed potatoes all over his own tray. Granger rolled his eyes and primly tucked into her roast chicken and greens, sipping delicately at her glass of water.

“48 hours, Granger. Forty-eight. You don’t eat now, when’s the next time you’re going to eat?” Ron demanded.

“I just spent hours trying to get patient history. Do you know how many files are in the basement? It’s a maze,” Longbottom groaned, eating his own sandwich and Ron pointed at Longbottom with his fork.

“You try dealing with a Hogwarts student that was throwing up slugs because of his backfiring wand,” Ron retorted and he smirked when Longbottom grimaced. Granger gave him a look of distaste. “I’m lucky that I still have an appetite.”

“There are vending machines all over the building, Ronald,” Granger retorted. “If you get hungry, you put in a galleon and ask it for a meal. It really isn’t that difficult.”

“Is that what those big boxes are? Do they have little house elves inside, cooking?” Ron asked, curiously as he continued to shovel down food, making a small mess around him.

“Of course not!” Granger squawked. She looked like she was gearing up for another rant before she reigned herself in and raised her hand, waving two other Healer trainees over. The slight Indian woman smiled broadly at the trainees while her blonde companion had a nasty curl to his lips. “Ron, Neville, this is Padma Patil and Zacharias Smith. They’re training under Pomona Sprout.”

"Who's Neville?" Ron asked through a bite of his food.

I’m Neville,” Longbottom snapped before he turned to Padma and Zacharias, a bright look in his eyes. “You’re training under the Pomona Sprout? She’s done the greatest work with plants that I’ve ever read about. She’s developing a vaccination for petrification. It’s unheard of.”

“She’s fantastic,” Padma confirmed with a smile.

Zacharias shrugged as he sat down next to Ron, right across from Granger and Padma. Ron frowned at the man as he elbowed him.

"She's alright, I guess. A bit round," Zacharias smirked. Ron snorted but withered under the collective disdain of the others at the table. "But, if you say so...I mean, you have to be kinda smart to be here at St. Mungo's. Especially after Dumbledore and Evans took over."

Granger’s eyes lit up. “Did you know that Harry is inbred?”

“Harry? Harry who?” Padma asked curiously. She munched quietly on her sandwich, her eyes darting between the other trainees.

“Harry Potter. Royally inbred. His father is Head Auror James Potter. Which makes his mother, Lily Evans," Granger said, jerking in her seat with excitement. Longbottom, Zacharias, and Padma all made quiet sounds of awe that made Granger nodded up and down like a bobblehead.

The Lily Evans,” Padma breathed.

Ron frowned.

“Who’s Lily Evans?” Ron demanded.

“The Evans method is why we’ve been able to Heal patients more effectively than ever before,” Zacharias snorted. “Where did you go to school?”

Before Ron could respond, Padma interjected, "She's a living legend. A Potions Mistress and Alchemist at the age of nineteen and then she revolutionized the field of Healing by twenty-three. The Evans method combined curse-breaking with potions. One day, she's going to create the panacea—the cure to all illnesses.."

“She’s won the Ground-Breaking Contribution to the International Alchemical Conference in Cairo and the Order of Merlin, First Class. Twice,” Granger hissed, excitedly. She leaned back in her chair, a satisfied smile on her face when Ron looked suitably impressed by the exploits of Lily Evans.

“Talk about parental pressure,” Longbottom sighed, almost with pity.

“Merlin, I would kill to have a mother like Lily Evans,” Granger said, under her breath. “I would kill to be Lily Evans.”

Ron opened his mouth to retort when he lurched, his big eyes trained on the approaching figure. All conversation about Lily Evans ceased as Harry approached the table, and tucked in with gusto, consuming his treacle tart first. When he finished, he looked up, green eyes blazing behind his frames.

“Ibdore Eavius is a pain in my ass. If I wasn’t planning to save lives, I’d end his with my bare hands,” Harry snarled, angrily. He paused when he realized that everyone was staring at him as if he were some kind of exhibit. His anger drained away and he tilted his head in confusion. “What?”

“Afternoon, idiots,” a voice barked. The trainees snapped to attention, staring up as Healer Snape swept into the dining hall, his eyes narrowed. “I should have known I would find you already slacking. This has been posted but, I thought I should share the good news personally.”

Harry winced at the ominous tone that Snape’s voice took as he towered over them.

“As you know, the first solo brewing is reserved for the intern that shows the most promise. As I shall be supervising in the first lab, this choice falls to me. I have selected Neville Longbottom for the brewing of the Midas Touch Syndrome potion. Congratulations,” Snape taunted, grabbing Longbottom by his shoulder and squeezing hard. Longbottom cringed under the force and curled into himself as Snape stormed away, his robes billowing around him.

“D-did he say me?” Longbottom whispered.

“Yes...he did,” Granger said in disbelief. Harry leaned forward, his eyes trained on Longbottom’s face.

“Congratulations, Neville,” Harry sighed. He bit his tongue, holding back the cutting words that he wanted to unleash. Longbottom was always going to be the weak link. No need to destroy him before he went and did that to himself.

They fell into a tense silence, carefully eating their food, their gazes switching between Harry’s face and Longbottom’s. The son of the greatest Healer that St. Mungo’s had ever seen versus the nobody that stuttered and blushed his way through his first day. Harry squirmed under their gazes, his irritation rising until he wanted to do nothing but snap at them.

“What were you saying about your patient, Harry?” Ron asked, breaking the strange tension at the table.

“Oh. Ibdore Eavius. What a pain. He cursed up a storm, wouldn’t allow me to treat his superficial wounds, and then tried to refuse to eat the chocolate. I had to try it first in case it was all an elaborate Legilimens trick that—” Harry fell silent as he felt his pocket heat up and he whipped out his wand, watching as red sparks showered all over his food, singing and burning the leftovers.

They watched in silence.

“T-that was red. That’s not good,” Granger stammered.

“Bugger,” Harry whispered. He threw himself out of his chair, nearly crashing into the floor before he took off at a run, his wand still showering out red sparks. “Out of my way! Out of my way! Merlin!”

He pushed through crowds of Healers, all waiting to get their lunch from the cafeteria ladies, ducking underneath floating trays and diving towards the stairs. The lift would take too long. He stormed down the stairs two flights and emerged onto the Spell Damage floor. He raced towards Ibdore Eavius’ room and frowned when he saw the crowd of matrons, all dressed in their spring green. They were whispering to each other, eager and excited.

“Excuse me, pardon me, that’s my patient,” Harry insisted, pushing through the crowd until he was at the foot of the bed. His jaw unhinged.

Half of Ibdore’s face was black, withered and rotting. His eye looked too big for its socket, bulging out obscenely. The blackness chased down half of his body, rotting and necrotic, smelling of old meat that had been left out too long. Harry’s stomach turned as he looked at the hair that decorated Ibdore’s pillow.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. Not in real life,” one matron whispered.

“What is it?” another murmured.

Harry swallowed hard, lifting the edge of Ibdore's blanket to look at his right foot. Pus swelled from underneath his crack, blackened toenails, the sole of his foot decorated with oozing black lesions. And Harry knew. He knew because, once upon a time, he had thought he was going to be an Auror and his father and godfather used to regale him with tales about the darkest and dangerous curses and missions they'd ever faced. This was a spell that his godfather had very nearly been killed by.

“He’s got the Hela-Wasting Curse,” Harry whispered. “Someone ‘Summon’ Healer McGonagall for me.”

Harry lurched once more before he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath to center himself as he realized the gruesome oversight. He turned away, quickly walking from the room, his hands balled into tight fists at his side.

“Harry?” a voice called.

He ignored Granger as he stalked down the hall and turned into the nearest loo, Granger right on his heel. Promptly, Harry turned to the waste bin and let his stomach unravel, bile and treacle tart stinking the loo up. He clutched his stomach and vomited again, his body trembling violently with the force of his illness. Then, he straightened, wiping the bile with the back of his hand and he looked in the mirror at the shock reflected in Granger's face.

“If you ever tell anyone…” Harry trailed off and then he bent forward, spitting bile into the sink and washing it down the drain.

Granger shook her head. “I won’t,” she whispered.

“Good. I’ve got to get back to my patient.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“I understand what you’re doing, Severus, but Longbottom nearly didn’t make the cut for this program. He only got an A on his Potions NEWT. He isn’t the trainee you want,” Minerva insisted as Severus swept around the brewing lab, collecting the necessary ingredients and settling out three cauldrons—one pewter, one brass, and one copper.

“If he only got an A on his NEWT, why is he here?” Severus retorted.

Minerva sighed, her arms crossed over her chest. “He got an Exceeding Outstanding on his Herbology NEWT. Albus felt the need to make an exception. Severus, I won’t allow you to torture this boy,” Minerva said, firmly.

Severus paused, turning to look at her with narrowed eyes. “Allow me?”

“Every year, you pick your trainee and your trainee suffers more than anyone else,” Minerva snarled, angrily, refusing to back down.

“Terrorize one and the others fall in line,” Severus snapped. “Isn’t that what you told me when you trained me?”

Minerva hesitated, then, and she grimaced when Severus looked at her, eyes bright with triumph. She sighed, relaxing her folded arms just so and she took a step forward, her lime green robes swirling around her.

“Severus, I understand. But, I can’t allow it. Longbottom is soft,” Minerva said, gently.

“Lily was soft once, too,” Severus reminded her.

Minerva scoffed. “Don’t compare the boy to Lily Evans. That’s absurd. Pick anyone else. What about Granger?”

“And insufferable know-it-all.”

“She got all Os on her NEWTs,” Minerva interjected and Severus’ lip curled back into a hateful sneer.

“That makes her even more insufferable. She’ll learn better through practical work with patients. Let her fail a few times. Then, we’ll see,” Severus said, pointedly and even Minerva had to nod in agreement with his words.

“And what about Weasley?” Minerva asked.

"There's nothing that stands out about him but his hair and his unfortunate freckles."

Minerva sighed. “You should’ve picked Potter.”

"Like hell, I'm picking Lily's son. He looks just like his father. He's probably just like his father. Arrogant, mediocre, a determined rule-breaker, attention-seeking, impertinent, and eager to ride the coattails of his mother,” Severus ranted. Even so, Minerva rolled her eyes as she looked at her former student pace through the lab, ranting and raving under his breath.

“They’ll know who he is because of his last name, Severus. And I have quite the feeling that it isn’t impertinence that lurks under Mr. Potter’s countenance but a healthy stew of inferiority,” Minerva said. Severus paused, staring at her with narrowed eyes but Minerva turned away, shaking her head.

She could try all she liked but, she knew Severus. He was as hard-headed as the day that he had joined the program with Lily. They had been the two that had changed the most and the least. Lily had risen to the occasion, a rare shooting star, while Severus, though brilliant in his own right, allowed his resentment to weigh him down. Minerva hoped that having Harry there, the spitting image of James but for his eyes, would shake the man awake; would make him realize that there was more to be done, more to discover, more to accomplish.

It had only awoken a sleeping dragon instead.

“Is he why Lily left?” Severus demanded.

“Lily left because there were other opportunities. She still strives to further the field rather than simply furthering her career,” Minerva said pointedly. Severus scoffed at her, brushing away the old insult and Minerva sighed, crossing her arms. “And she left because she’s a good mother.”

“Explain. Because when she explained, it sounded like nonsense,” Severus prompted as he pulled out the patient file, laying it out next to the knives and ingredients and cauldrons.

"Harry has a lot to live up to. I can't imagine what it would've been like to constantly be in your mother's shadow when she's standing right there, casting it. And Lily will do some good in France. She's creating a new teaching program, and her work would've brought her there anyway," Minerva said.

Severus hummed. “Lily’s always chased impossible dreams.”

“And she’ll achieve them. Now, back to your trainee—” Minerva said, her eyes sly and Severus rolled his eyes, turning on his heel. Minerva stepped forward only for her wand to tremble in her shoulder holster. She pulled it out and a shower of red sparks emerged from the tip, dying at her feet.

She looked up. Snape’s wand was spitting red sparks all over the hem of his robes.

Minerva’s eyes narrowed. “It’s Ibdore Eavius. Let’s go.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry didn't turn away from Ibdore Eavius as the door was thrown open and Healer McGonagall and Healer Snape entered the room. Granger backed into a corner, as watchful a sentry as a dementor. She hadn't left his side since he had thrown up in the loo. A hand reached out and wrenched him around, Snape's face a sickly pale.

“What. Did. You. Do?” Snape hissed, spittling marking Harry’s face.

Harry wrenched himself out of his hold. “I didn’t do anything. This isn’t my fault!” he shouted back, flexing his shoulder as it twinged from the force that Snape had exerted.

“So, half of the patient’s body spontaneously began to rot away?” Snape demanded.

“Clearly not, it’s the Hela-Wasting Curse,” Harry retorted.

“Do you think it is wise to test me?” Snape hissed, his voice suddenly low as a whisper. Harry didn’t back down, glaring up at the tall bat-like man, waiting for him to respond.

“This isn’t my fault. This is my teachers’ fault. You both missed the most basic test in the book," Harry spat, and he turned to look at Healer McGonagall. Her hand was pressed against her mouth as she took in the horror that had ravaged this man's body. "Healer McGonagall, no one did a diagnostics spell."

McGonagall flinched and even Snape’s face twitched with irritation—at Harry or himself, the trainee wasn’t sure.

“This isn’t anyone’s fault…” Granger tried to say, attempting to smooth it over.

"No, it's all of our faults. Not just mine," Harry said, firmly. He looked at them all, his arms crossed over his chest. "Before we came here, we took Healing classes at Hogwarts. You two are fully-trained Healers. And we took an oath. And we didn't uphold that. This man is suffering because none of us remembered to double check the work."

“And what do you propose we do, boy?” Snape hissed. “I...this is…no one survives the Hela-Wasting Curse. Especially not one that was powerful enough to spread so quickly.”

“We save a man,” Harry said, firmly, slamming his hands on the foot railings, looking the gruesome sight in the face. “That’s what we do.”

“This is beyond me,” McGonagall said, softly. She looked over at Snape. “Should we call Albus?”

“He’s a genius but, even he couldn’t do this. He’s a Mind Healer. This is blood borne. Magic borne. Dark-borne,” Snape said, and he looked over at McGonagall with a particular look on his face. It wasn’t the same disdain that he looked at Harry with, but one of irritation, disgust, and grudging respect.

“H-Healer McGonagall?” Granger asked.

“Tom, then. We’ll need to ‘Summon’ the Head of Spell Damage. Severus, ‘Summon’ Healer Riddle,” McGonagall said, sharply. Snape nodded once and he pulled his wand just as there was a rap on the doorframe.

Everyone looked up and Harry felt his entire life end, right then and there.

The tall, handsome man looked even better in Healer robes. His robes were emerald green, the color of House Slytherin, and his hair was neatly coiffed compared to the sex hair he’d been sporting when he left. He took a step forward, his burgundy eyes flashing as he regarded the Healers. His eyes finally fell on Harry, and his eyes lit up with amusement and anticipation.

“You ‘Summoned’?” Healer Tom Riddle drawled.

Harry was past screwed.

Harry was fucked.

Chapter Text

Harry was fucked.

“Trainees, this is Healer Tom Riddle, Head of Spell Damage. Harry, you’ll answer to him now,” McGonagall said, though she didn’t look too pleased about that.

Riddle swept into the room, his eyes barely glazing over Hermione who stared at him with awe. He paused when he looked at Harry, his lips slowly tilting into a smirk.

“Well, hello. You’re the trainee in charge of Mr. Eavius,” Riddle drawled.

“Yes,” Harry said, stiffly. “Harry. Harry Potter.”

Riddle’s nose wrinkled. “Merlin, are you Lily’s son?”

“And if I am?” Harry demanded.

“Well, you have my condolences,” Riddle sighed. He turned to look over at the bushy-haired young woman. “And you are?”

"Hermione Granger, sir. I've read your thesis, Healer Riddle. On the intersections of Dark magic and the Healing Arts, and may I say that you are—" Granger babbled.

Riddle lifted his chin. “A genius?”

“Please, Healer Riddle, must you encourage hero worship wherever you go?” Snape said, snarkily. Riddle looked over at his colleague, already bored.

“It’s not my fault that I’m included in the Hogwarts curriculum, Severus. I can put in a recommendation with Dippet for you, if you’d like,” Riddle taunted. McGonagall rolled her eyes and sighed.

“Enough with your pissing contest,” she warned. They both sneered at one another before turning to give their full attention to the oldest Healer in the room. “This is a Hela-Wasting Curse. It’s progressed fast. He was only brought in this morning. This is beyond me. You’re the expert in Dark curses, Tom.”

“I am,” Riddle said. He sounded delighted by that. He turned back to Harry, his eyes brightening with an idea. “I’d like to speak with Healer Potter about the patient. He’s been with him all day, and I think he’d have the insight I’m looking for. This way, Healer?”

Harry stiffened under the expectation of his colleague and trainers. None of them seemed to realize that he could not be left alone with Tom Riddle. Harry had very little self-control and he really didn’t think that he had the strength to not want to fuck the man.

So of course, he said, “Of course, Healer.”

He allowed Healer Riddle to escort him from the room and very carefully didn’t jump when he felt a broad hand pressed to the small of his back, guiding him out of the room and down a hallway. Harry jumped when Healer Riddle pushed open the door to a stairwell. Harry yelped and then turned on the man, his facial expression careful not to betray his nerves.

“Healer Riddle,” Harry said, staring pointedly at the spot over the man’s shoulder. It wasn’t easy when Riddle used all of his height and presence to tower over Harry, staring down at him with those pretty, pretty burgundy eyes.

“Healer Riddle? Last night, it was Tom,” the man teased.

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Well, I barely remember last night, so it’s irrelevant. We should pretend it never happened,” Harry snapped before biting his tongue. This man was his boss. His boss.

Riddle’s lips pulled into a wide shit-eating grin, graduating from that casual, devil-may-care smirk.

"So, you remember something happening? Would that be you sleeping with me last night? Or you throwing me out this morning?" Riddle asked and Harry's cheeks grew hotter as he remembered the spectacularly humiliating moment of the morning. "I'm rather fond of both memories."

“No. There will be no memories,” Harry warned. “I’m not the boy at the bar. You’re not the guy. This can’t exist. You understand that, right? You are my boss.”

Riddle put his hand on his chest as if he were hurt, though Harry could still read that amusement. He shuddered. Merlin, the man was so attractive that it made Harry want to cry. But, Harry also wanted to cry due to the humiliation. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“You took advantage of me and now you want to forget about it,” Riddle sighed, looking away.

“I did not take advantage of you!” Harry squawked.

Riddle snorted. “I was drunk, vulnerable and so good-looking that you just had to have me in your bed. And now, you’ll just throw me away like all the other—”

“Shut up,” Harry whined. “I was the one who was drunk and you are not that good looking.”

There was a long pause. Riddle said nothing, staring at Harry with two slowly rising eyebrows and spreading grin. Harry didn’t need to hear the word to know what Riddle was thinking.

Liar.

“Maybe not today,” Riddle allowed. “But, last night? I was the best looking man you’d ever seen. Your words not mind. You took advantage.”

“I didn’t take advantage. Now, is there anything you’d like to ask me about the patient. The one currently dying from the Hela-Wasting Curse,” Harry said, pointedly. Riddle looked over his shoulder and shrugged.

“Oh, yeah. No. No questions. I got the gist of it,” Riddle said.

“Y-you got this gist of it? You saw him maybe three minutes,” Harry accused and Riddle pursed his lips.

“Duel. Stupid. Hela-Wasting Curse. Stasis. No diagnostics spell. Stupid. I’m going to save the day. Did I summarize that right?” Riddle drawled. He seemed delighted that he had struck Harry speechless and he leaned forward, stepping into Harry’s personal space. “Want to take advantage again? Say Friday night?”

Harry’s lashes fluttered. “Ye…no! You’re the Head of Spell Damage. And I’m a trainee.”  Harry swallowed hard when Riddle looked down at his lips and then slowly trailed down to look at his entire body. “Stop looking at me like that!”

Riddle looked up at his face. “Like what?”

“Like you…” Harry lowered his voice and hissed, “Like you’ve seen me naked.”

“I have seen you naked. You have a...lovely body, Harry Potter,” Riddle whispered.

Harry clapped his hands against his face and stopped himself from screaming—in arousal or embarrassment, he wasn't sure just yet. Slowly, he looked through his fingers and snarled when he saw that Riddle was grinning.

“Healer Riddle. This is inappropriate. You are inappropriate. Has that ever occurred to you?” Harry snapped. He threw his hands down, shaking out his nerves and he looked up, a firm look on his face. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, a fellow trainee is about to perform his first brew for a very difficult potion and I’d like to see him screw it all up. Thank you very much.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry looked down into the potions lab, his lips pursed as he watched Longbottom shuffle in, too close on Snape’s heels. Snape turned to look at him, hissing something, probably delightfully spiteful, and Longbottom flushed pink. Ron fell into a seat on one side of him and Granger fell into the other, to Harry’s intense displeasure.

“He looks like a vomiter. He’s going to blow chunks. Bet you a Galleon,” Zacharias Smith said, snidely, to one of their fellow trainees.

Harry snorted into his hand.

“Bet you five Galleons that he blows us all up,” Ron added and he shook his head in displeasure as Snape apparently hissed some instructions at Longbottom.

The entire gallery burst into heckling laughter that was only silenced after Snape glared up at them through the glass, furious warnings in his black eyes. When his eyes fell on Harry, he looked even sourer than he had before, though Harry wasn't quite sure how that was possible. Snape turned back to Neville and snarled something else. Longbottom whipped out his medical potions book and settled it on the stand with trembling fingers.

"Ten Galleons says that he'll pull the whole damn thing off," Granger snapped. Everyone fell silent at her words and Harry raised a single eyebrow. Granger hadn't seemed the type to have a potty mouth. "That's one of us down there. The first of us. Where's your loyalty?"

There was a long moment of silence.

“Twenty Galleons says that he faints!” Harry called, breaking the tension.

There was another burst of laughter that fell quiet again when Neville stepped in front of the three cauldrons and picked up the golden cauldron, setting it on the burner. Neville lit the burner with his wand, and a burst of flames exploded around it. The entire gallery burst into heckling laughter that was silenced by Snape's narrowed eyes and gritted sneer.

“Oh Merlin, here it comes,” Ron whispered, excitedly, elbowing Harry in the side. Harry crossed his arms over his chest, grinning quietly.

“Healer Snape shouldn’t have him doing this anyway...the Midas Touch Syndrome potion is so difficult,” Granger whispered.

Harry smirked. So, Granger's words were for show, then. She had doubts about Longbottom's ability too. Harry would've doubted any trainee. Few knew how to make the Midas Touch Syndrome potion to perfection. It was a tricky disease, and so the cure was just as tricky, if not doubly so.

“Lay the base. That will be half a vial of dragon blood,” Snape said coldly.

Longbottom did as he said, his hand shaking so bad that he nearly tipped the entire vial of green blood in if Snape hadn’t grabbed his wrist tight, steading him but, inevitably, leaving a bruise. Longbottom swallowed and slowly pulled his hand back. He reached for the wide, flat spoon and began to stir, carefully doing three counterclockwise turns.

“So far, so good, Neville,” Granger whispered to herself.

“He’s going to botch this so badly,” Ron said. He pressed his hand to his face. “I can’t look.”

His fingers were still spread out so that he wouldn’t miss a single detail.

“Flobberworm mucus to thicken,” Snape barked.

Longbottom jumped and did as Snape commanded, going to the side and picking up the small bowl of mucus. He scooped it in, nearly missing. Some of the mucus dribble over the side and Longbottom reached out to scoop it in. He hissed as his fingers brushed against the hot metal and he brought it to his chest. Harry cringed at the amount of secondhand embarrassment.

“Where. Are. Your. Gloves? Imbecile,” Snape snarled, reaching under the table and throwing a pair of dragonscale gloves at Longbottom. Longbottom caught them and Harry wasn’t sure if his face was pink from the fumes or the humiliation.

Harry was no longer smiling, nor was anyone in the room.

“What is he doing?” Granger muttered under her breath. “He’s a teacher. This is hard enough and he’s got us all watching.”

Harry hated to agree with the annoying girl but, he did. Snape was bullying Longbottom, making him feel even more insecure than he was, brewing a high-level potion.

“Come on, Longbottom. You can do this,” Harry found himself whispering under his breath.

Longbottom was still nervous but, when Snape seemed to stop snarling biting comments in his ear, he did alright. He was good when he chopped the dittany and wormwood, measuring them out equally on the scales. He jumped when the potion emitted yellow smoke but, Harry knew that it was supposed to do that. The man was doing alright. Next, another counterclockwise stir. Gold shavings from the patient slowly turning into gold. Dragonfly thoraxes, crushed appropriately. The potion was turning paler, thickening into the paste that it was supposed to be.

Harry almost smile. He hated being wrong but, he was glad for once. Longbottom was doing alright.

And then, he wasn’t.

Longbottom looked around, going back and forth from his potions book to the cauldron, nervously. He traced his wand down, attempting to find one of the thirty steps he was on. Snape looked like he was losing his patience more and more with every passing second.

“The ground unicorn horn, dunderhead,” Snape snarled in his ear and Longbottom jumped violently as he grabbed the bag of chopped bloodroot instead, dumping it into the potion.

Longbottom’s face twisted in horror when he realized what he had done. Snape turned pale as stripped bone, staring at the potion before he grabbed Longbottom by the shoulder and ripped him back, swiftly casting a nonverbal Shield Charm. Ron’s fingers snapped shut and he pressed the heel of his palms into his eyes, blinding himself.

Harry couldn’t look away from the shit show.

The cauldron exploded in a mess of black fire and then curled in on itself as quickly as it had reacted violently. The golden cauldron was shrunken and shriveled, the melting gold slipping over the edge of the scorched counter. Longbottom stared.

“Get. Out,” Snape hissed, softly.

“W-what?” Longbottom whispered.

GET OUT!

And Longbottom ran. There was a long moment of silence that was suddenly interrupted by Smith whooping with laughter, screaming and giggling with the other trainees.

Ron, Granger, and Harry sat in silence, staring down at the mess.

Ron still hadn’t uncovered his eyes. “Is it over?” he whispered.

“I...Merlin,” Harry murmured.

Granger stood up, looking down at the two. “We need to find Neville.”

“No. Let him lick his wounds for a bit. We’ll go after dinner,” Harry decided.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Neville Longbottom wasn’t crying, per say, but it was a near thing.

He took his humiliation like an adult, wearing heavy on his shoulders.

“What are they calling me?” Neville sighed.

Harry swallowed the words that he wanted to say. Instead, he looked over at Ron and Granger for help. Granger bit her bottom lip and took one for the team.

“No one’s calling you anything,” Granger lied. She was a terrible liar. Her voice got high and reedy and nervous, and she didn’t make eye contact. Yeah, she was a terrible liar.

“Yeah. Not like, the Great Lump or whatever,” Ron said, shiftily.

Neville groaned, falling back on one of the spare beds in the back corner of one of the on-call rooms. He stared up at the ceiling, so pale that Harry could barely remember how pink he had turned when they had first met.

“They’re calling me the ‘Great Lump’? Fantastic,” Neville sighed, shaking his head.

“They weren’t talking about you,” Granger said in a rush. When Neville stared at her with narrowed eyes, she shrugged. “Would I lie to you?”

Neville snorted. “Yes.”

“It’s a rather shitty nickname. Smith came up with it. But, he’s a tosser anyway, Neville. You shouldn’t listen to him,” Harry said as firmly as possible. Neville turned his head to look at him and Harry stared back, without a hint of a lie in his eyes. “You did as well as expected.”

“You mean, you expected me to fail?” Neville demanded.

“I expected any of us to fail,” Harry snapped. “It was a hard potion. And Snape set you up to fail. He was bullying and berating you the entire time. He’s an arsehole and that’s no fault of yours.”

Harry looked over at Ron and Granger but, they both looked at him with a new light. Harry shifted uncomfortably. Granger looked less suspicious and less annoyed with him and that just wouldn’t do.

“Don’t worry, Lump. We’ll whip you into shape,” Harry teased. “Being the Great Lump is a state of mind.”

Neville groaned and Harry winced when Granger didn’t hesitate to punch him in the arm. She had a mean right hook and his bicep twinged with the pain. Ron burst into laughter but, Harry only had eyes for Neville. Neville was smiling.

“You’re all children,” Granger said, stiffly. “Well, I’m going to sleep. We aren’t even twenty-four hours in and I’m exhausted.”

She got up and trudged over to another empty bed. She collapsed on it, face first and curled in on herself. Ron looked over at her, impressed as she immediately went to sleep. He shrugged and turned to Harry.

“It takes me hours to fall asleep, mate. See you on the other side,” Ron said as he made his way to the sofa.

Harry waved weakly. “See you on the other side.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

"Bugger, my back is in knots," Ron groaned as he stretched over his head again. Harry winced as he heard what seemed like every bone in Ron's body pop and crack. Granger's nose wrinkled in disgust. "And I'm starving.”

“I’ve known you for a day and I’m getting the feeling that you’re always starving,” Granger muttered under her breath. Harry’s lips twitched in amusement before he reminded himself that he detested Granger on principle.

“You want to get breakfast after this? Bet we can get a full English one,” Harry said. Ron looked delighted at the prospect and his head bobbed up and down. Harry leaned back against the windowsill, drumming his fingers as he waited.

He wasn't sure what it was about. Probably a mid-first shift check-in. He wondered if they'd see Head Healer Dumbledore. Or maybe Healer McGonagall. Harry would loathe seeing Healer Snape. The idea made his teeth grind. It was too early to already be put in a bad mood.

And then, the door swung open and his bad mood settled in, anyway.

“Hello, trainees. I want to do something rare and exciting for once,” Riddle drawled as he paraded into the room.

Harry looked down at his lap, concentrating hard on nothing. Concentrating hard on anything that wasn’t Riddle’s smirk or his hair or his face or his eyes. He remembered doing something rare and exciting just yesterday morning. Harry swallowed.

"I'm asking runts for assistance. I have a patient named Ibdore Eavius. He was brought in yesterday after a duel gone awry and has suffered from a late onset Hela-Wasting Curse. He isn't responding to the countercurse and any attempts to slow down the wasting process only irritates the spell and slows down the joining of his hearts, created from a Heart-Fragmenting Curse. These curses are sentient and dangerous," Riddle said, looking at each and every one of them.

Harry shivered under his burgundy gaze, and he ignored Granger’s curious look, instead looking around at his competition. Smith and Patil exchanged excited looks, already whispering to each other possible ideas.

“I’m a very busy man, of course, and so, I want you all to do the research. Find out why this curse isn’t responding like the others. You’re tired. Busy. But, I don’t care,” Riddle said, firmly. He stopped pacing and turned to look at all of them, commanding their attention like a grand concertmaster. He was a swell of charisma, and everyone was hanging off his every word. “Whoever finds the answer will be on my service. You’ll do something trainees never do: enter the magical theatre and assist on an advanced curse-breaking, corrective procedure.”

Harry sat up straighter, his eyes wide. He glanced over at Ron and the man looked enraptured. He turned to Granger and she was staring right at him, her brown eyes boring into him, urging him to do something that he wasn’t sure of.

“You have less than 8 hours,” Riddle said and then he was walking out of the room, leaving the room of trainees in shock.

Harry watched as the trainees through themselves, reaching for the copies of the patient workup and charts. Harry turned to Ron but, the redhead already looked apologetic.

“Hey...Harry…” Ron drawled, his voice looping up high. He already sounded regretful, looking down at his grumbling stomach.

Harry pursed his lips. “I see.”

“We’re friends and all but...I need to get ahead and do the research if I want to get into Spell Damage. It’s the most competitive concentration. You understand, right?” Ron asked, pleading and Harry relented almost immediately, nodding and waving his hand.

“Yeah, yeah. I get it,” Harry sighed.

Ron’s smile brightened. “Also, if you have any tips about Eavius, since he was your patient—”

“Now, you’re reaching,” Harry warned.

Ron shrugged and darted away, his copy of the patient paperwork clutched to his chest. Harry sighed, leaning against the false window, staring at the door that Riddle had disappeared through. He barely noticed when he felt someone poke him in the shoulder. He looked down at Granger, raising a single eyebrow.

“I want to work with you,” Granger said, immediately.

"Didn't you just hear me? I'm not giving anyone any answers. I'm done with this case," Harry said, firmly, even though his heart ached at the idea of not assisting on a procedure like that. Even his mother had never assisted in a Hela-Wasting Curse case.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Yeah, I heard you. But, I don’t just want answers. I want to work with you,” Granger said, firmly. For once, she didn’t seem overeager. She seemed serious. “I think you’re really intelligent and I think you care about this case. And I need to be in that procedure.”

“You want to break into Spell Damage too?” Harry asked.

Granger shrugged. “I like all Healing magic but, I won’t say that it isn’t an amazing field. Most discoveries are made in the Spell Damage field. I think we’ll find the answer. If we do, we have a 50-50 chance of getting in on this procedure.”

“I’ll work with you,” Harry decided. “But, I want nothing to do with the procedure. I want nothing to do with Riddle.”

It felt like he was lying through his teeth.

Granger’s mouth dropped open. “Are you serious? It’s the biggest opportunity any of us will get for at least a year. What do you have against Riddle?”

Harry’s eyes narrowed.

“Look. If we find the answer, the procedure is yours. Do you want to work with me or not?”

Granger didn't ask again. She grinned and nodded.

“Deal. Let’s get food first.”


DIAGNOSIS


“So, he has no prior conditions. No dragon pox, no spattergroit. Nothing that might be artifact or creature related. Latent magical deficiency? Are you seriously not going to tell me why you won’t work with Riddle?” Granger asked. She barely looked up from her books as she dug into her breakfast. They were spread out over their table, stacks of books and papers surrounding them.

Harry looked at his breakfast spread. It was later in the day, so everything good had been taken and he was left with too crispy bacon, burnt toast, and soft-boiled eggs. What a treat.

“No,” he said, firmly. He dug into his food, ripping the toast into tiny bits and dipping it into the yolk. The toast tasted like ash on his tongue. Fucking perfect. “What about Davenport-Nosoi Syndrome?

Granger finished her bowl of oatmeal and exchanged it for another book. She tapped it with her wand and dragged the tip down as she skimmed the passage. “Plausible but, no. It would explain why he isn’t healing properly but, he would’ve been diagnosed by now. No unfocused eyes, no weak muscles, nothing that resembles Muggle asthma. It’s hard to miss a magical autoimmune disease. Just tell me.”

Harry swallowed the rest of his terrible toast as he searched through another paper. He frowned when he realized the language was familiar and promptly rolled his eyes when he saw the author of the paper.

Fucking Healer Lily Evans, Spell Damage and Potions Specialist.

“You can’t comment, make a face, or react in any way,” Harry said. Granger stared at him, blankly. “We had sex.”

Granger’s mouth parted and she took a deep breath through her nose as she searched Harry’s face for a lie. Harry stared back, just as blank.

“Is he a half-blood? Half-bloods can be susceptible to Muggle diseases too, sometimes. Depending on family history,” Granger said, her voice only slightly higher than normal. Harry rolled his eyes before her words registered.

“Wait...really? I had no idea,” Harry said, suddenly interested.

“Really? I mean, it was your...never mind,” Granger trailed off, looking back down at her books.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Okay, I realize now that my rule was unfair. I just found a paper with her name on it. She wrote a quarter of our syllabus at Hogwarts in the Healing class. But, I had no idea she’d do any genealogical work. It’s not her style. A little lowbrow for her. She likes to do highly stylized Healing magic that’ll bring her eternal glory or whatever.”

“Well...it was mostly Snape and Dumbledore but...she’s credited,” Granger said, nervously. She swallowed hard, leaning forward. “And most of your mother’s work has been incredibly important to furthering the field of Healing.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Harry drawled. He waved it off and sighed. Granger didn’t need to know that he used to consume all of his mother’s work when he was an impressionable thirteen-year-old. He didn’t think he could live down the embarrassment of it all. “Okay. There’s something we’re missing.”

“Was he good?” Granger blurted out. “I mean, was it any good? He looks like he’d be good.”

Harry looked up from his work, sharply, and promptly burst into laughter as Hermione’s cheeks pinked up. Hermione looked back down, shaking her head.

“We missed something,” Harry repeated, deciding to spare her. “We missed the diagnostics spell. What else could we have missed? What if we’re out of answers? What if no one comes up with anything?”

"What if she dies, you mean?" Granger said. She bit her lower lip and looked away. "Okay...this is going to sound awful, and I know, it's probably quite callous but...I really wanted to be in that procedure."

Harry snorted, shoving away his mediocre breakfast to look at the young woman. He wanted to keep hating her but...she made it hard. She was a braggy know-it-all but, she grew on a person.

"It just sucks because he's going to be a shitty person forever and be known as the man who lost in a duel in the middle of Diagon Alley, like an arsehole," Harry said, laughing softly. Granger gave a little chuckle herself. "He was a right cock, you know. Wouldn't even eat the damn chocolate. Just so damn difficult. I don't know how the E&T rallied him up. McGonagall said that that girl's stasis charms were great but—"

Harry trailed off, dropping the parchment from his hand and he looked over at Granger. Granger was ramrod straight, staring at him.

“What is it, Harry?” she asked in hushed tones.

“The stasis charms. What if...what if because McKinnon forgot the diagnostics charms, she just cast a universal stasis charm. And that...that magic would’ve messed with the way the two dark curses were weaved together?” Harry suggested.

And Granger’s eyes lit up. She was right there with him. “Because of course, magic calls to magic, so of course, the Heart-Fragmenting Curse and the Hela-Wasting Curse would interact. And you don’t need eye contact before casting the Hela-Wasting Curse. It’s unique in that way. Who says Eavius’ opponent didn’t have the time to cast it before she was subdued by the Aurors?”

Harry jumped up, gathering his books to his chest, his thoughts rushing through his head. He could barely get them out, they were going so fast, and his body thrummed with a kind of thrill that he’d never really felt before. Not even when he’d gone flying with his father for the first time.

“And then we took off the stasis charms. Which means, the Hela-Wasting Curse would’ve started to act later than intended. But, it’s internal before it’s external, you know. So that means...his hearts. There’s a reason his hearts aren’t binding like they’re supposed to be. There’s a reason his magic and body aren’t responding to countercurses or potions. Magic requires a working body but, more specifically, a working heart,” Harry said and Granger was picking up her books as they half-jogged from the cafeteria, babbling to each other in excitement.

Granger looked at him, her eyes far too bright and excited for the damaging conclusion that they had come to.

“His fragmented hearts are rotting.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Neville let out another groan and Ron looked up at him, finally pushed to the point past irritation. He sighed, slamming his book shut and crossing his arms to stare at the trainee from the across the table.

“Okay, are you just going to sigh the whole time? Because if so, can you go do that while you fill out patient paperwork? You’re distracting me,” Ron whined and Neville looked up at him with wide eyes. His cheeks flushed pink.

“Sorry...I didn’t even realize,” Neville apologized.

Ron shook his head. “No. It’s alright, mate. Come on. You messed up yesterday but, you have a chance to make up for it today. Look for the answer to the Hela case.”

Neville scoffed, shaking his head. He leaned forward to search for something in Ron’s face.

“You think I’m going to know anything about the Hela case. I don't even want to be in Spell Damage. I'm not interested," Neville said, his head falling to the table in front of him. Ron leaned towards him, his eyes wide with surprise.

“Really? Everyone wants to be in Spell Damage,” Ron said.

“Not me. I wanted to be in Potions and Plant Poisonings,” Neville whispered. “But, that’s over. Snape hates me and Lily Evans is teaching in France. There’s no one that can teach me potions at the caliber that I want to learn.”

“You can learn about plants!” Ron suggested, earnest and excited. “You said you really liked Pomona Sprout, right?”

“I’m at the top of the Herbology field,” Neville said, flatly.

Ron blinked. “Excuse me?”

“I did better than an Outstandings on my Herbology NEWT. It’s why I’m here. I only got an A in Potions but, the Herbology NEWT made up for it, I guess. My gran didn’t think I had what it took, and look...she was right,” Neville moped and he looked up at Ron with a sad look on his face, shaking his head.

“Old people always have too many opinions,” Ron said, firmly. “Don’t listen to her. What did your parents say?”

"They're supportive but, I know they wanted me to be an Auror. They're both Aurors. Well, my mum is a hit wizard and my dad is an Auror," Neville amended. He didn't seem to notice Ron's wide-eyed, jealous stare as he moped, ruminating in his own failures.

“Whoa. My Dad just works in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department. When someone fucks up, they get sent here and then the paperwork gets sent to my dad,” Ron said, squirming with envy, and Neville looked up, his eyes narrowed on the other man.

“At least you can brew Skele-Gro. When I took my Potions NEWT...nevermind,” Neville sighed, letting his head fall back down to the table.

Ron rolled his eyes and continued to search for the answer, vibrating with the possibility that he might find the answer to the Hela-Wasting Curse. Ron had wanted to be in Spell Damage since he knew what Healing was. It was glamorous and powerful, and only the best would qualify. Spell Damage Healers got all the glory. Lily Evans, case in point.

“What...are you doing?”

Neville froze as he heard the voice that he had dreamed about the night before float above them. Ron snapped his book shut so fast, he closed it on his fingers. He yelped, pulling his hand tight against his chest, wincing from the dull ache. Severus Snape looked down at them, utterly unamused.

“We’re...Healer Riddle said that the trainee who figures out the Hela-Wasting Curse patient can observe the procedure from inside the magical theatre,” Ron squeaked out. He cleared his throat and gruffly, continued, “We thought that we—”

“And why aren’t you brushing up on the antidote to the Midas Touch Syndrome, Longbottom?” Snape barked. He only had eyes for the blond young man who squirmed uncomfortably under his black gaze.

“I...I was…”

"Slacking. Very well. Come with me," Snape said, sharply, with all the loathing his body could muster. Neville jumped up immediately, cursing softly when he banged his knee against the table. Snape rolled his eyes. "We'll be practicing the brew again and again until you can make it perfectly. I will not tolerate nonsense in my lab."

“Have fun, Neville,” Ron said, saluting the man.

“You too, Weasley. You both have an hour to collect your belongings. You will be in the lab promptly.”

Ron groaned. There went his dreams of glory and participating in a procedure on his first day. Snape was a right pain in his arse. “Merlin’s saggy left testicle…”


DIAGNOSIS


 

They ran down the hallway, ducking around Healers in their lime green robes and the trainees in their hunter green.

“Move! Move! Move!” Harry shouted, shoving people out of the way, ignoring yelps and curses. He looked over at Granger but, she seemed just as singly determined as him. “Where do you think he is?”

“Right in front of us,” Granger barked, and Harry looked forward and saw Riddle himself, waiting for the lift while impatiently tapping his foot.

They skidded to a stop in front of him.

“Harry?” Riddle asked.

“The stasis charms!” Harry blurted out.

Granger nodded in agreement. "McGonagall said that McKinnon isn't good with stasis charms," she said. She seemed to realize that what they were saying still didn't make sense from the utterly unimpressed look on Riddle's face. "But...there was a stasis charm. And you don't have to have direct line of sight for the Hela-Wasting Curse. When McGonagall took off the stasis charm, she took it off the Hela-wasting Curse too, allowing it to do its work. But, she already tried to heal the Heart-Fragmenting Curse."

“Hurry up, Granger. The lift’s almost here and I’ve work to do,” Riddle snapped, irritated.

Granger swallowed. “Okay. So...the countercurse...all the work...doesn’t work if there’s no magic. No blood. No heart. The hearts are rotting. That’s why nothing is working. You have to bind his heart but, they’re rotting. So, it’s an internal procedure.”

She said it like it was gold, something precious. It was. There were very rarely internal procedures. Riddle seemed to realize what he was being handed too, from the look on his face. He hummed, his nostrils flaring.

“If what you’re saying is true, I’ll need to open his chest, address the rot with a spell, directly bind the hearts with potions and magic and then counter the Hela-Wasting Curse,” Riddle said, softly. “It’s near...impossible.”

“But, it’s plausible,” Harry said.

Riddle looked at him, sharply, his eyes searching him. Then, he nodded to himself. “I think you’re both correct. Harry, I’ll see you in the magical theatre.”

Without another word, he stepped into the opening lift and disappeared out of sight. Harry’s jaw unhinged and he slowly turned to look at Granger. She was staring at the space where Riddle had just been before slowly turning burning eyes onto Harry.

“Granger…” Harry started.

But, Granger was already thundering down the hallway.

Harry waited. On one hand, he was elated but, then, he had also told Granger that he didn’t want it. But, he did. He wanted it so badly that it hurt.

"Fuck me gently with a chainsaw," Harry hissed to himself and then cursed himself for acknowledging his mother's favorite Muggle film. He ran after Granger, running down the hallway and around the corner to their little section of the on-call room that they had commandeered for themselves.

Harry skidded to a stop and looked around. Longbottom and Ron sat on either side of her.

“I...we get you’re mad…but, Snape is expect—” Ron started.

Granger snarled, “I was the one that came to the conclusion. It should’ve been me.”

Harry winced as he lifted his wand and whispered, “Muffliato.”

He didn’t need anyone hearing the catastrophe that was about to happen.

His three colleagues looked up. Granger’s nostrils flared and her eyes narrowed.

“Don’t do me any favors. It’s fine,” Granger said, firmly.

Harry squirmed uncomfortably as Granger bit angrily into her granola bar, chewing on it rather obnoxiously. He felt almost...bad about it. No, he definitely bad about it all, especially when Hermione did most of the explaining. He just...came to the right conclusions after all of her hard research and theorizing.

“I’ll tell him I don’t want to do it. I’ll tell him to let you have it,” Harry said, his voice weak and Granger looked up at him, her brown eyes blazing with irritation.

"Don't come to me for absolution. You want to be a dragon, be a dragon," Granger said. Longbottom reached to her side, opening his mouth to speak again but, Granger looked up, not done yet. "And yes, you're a dragon. Except, it makes you feel bad."

“I’m not...I don’t…” Harry tried.

“No. Sod off, Harry. I didn’t get picked for the procedure for sleeping with my boss, and I didn’t get into this program because of my half-blood status and my famous mother,” Granger spat. Harry winced at every word and it took everything in body not to take a step back from the cutting poison in her words. “Some of us are just Mudbloods. Some of us have to earn what we get.”

Harry’s lips curled at her words and he shook his head. He refused to look at Longbottom or Ron. He refused their judgment.

“You know, fuck you, too, Granger. It’s not my fault that I’m more talented than you,” Harry hissed though he didn’t mean it. “Book smarts don’t translate in real life. Clearly.”

And he could see in Granger’s eyes that she hadn’t meant it either, that she had regretted it the moment that she had said them, and so did he. But, he was all pride and no courage, just like a Slytherin, as his father used to say before he had straightened him out. Harry swallowed and turned on his heel, storming away, his eyes burning.

He wiped away at his face, swallowing his irritation, as he made his way to Eavius’ room. He paused in the doorway when he heard a familiar voice.

“And why can’t I speak with the suspect?”

“Because he isn’t a suspect, Auror. He’s currently a patient. My patient. Who will stay in a magically-induced coma until I say so?” Riddle retorted.

“You enjoy making my job difficult for me, don’t you, Healer?”

“Absolutely.”

Harry swallowed his nerves and pushed through the door. Both Healer and Auror looked up, both looking pleased to see him for two very different reasons. Sirius Black grinned at Harry, pride thrumming through his face.

“Harry!” Sirius said, immediately turning away from Riddle and bounding up to Harry like the big, dopey dog that he spent half of his time as. He wrapped his arms around Harry and squeezed hard, pulling him off his feet. “How’s your first day? Have you seen Snivellus yet? How’s the house? Still dark and dusty and lonely?”

“Please...Sirius...I’m a work,” Harry grunted, squirming away. Sirius released him, rather abruptly, and Harry staggered back into the wall, pinned there by two laser stares.

“Are you on this case? It’s a good case to have on your face, right? Even if you have to work with this arsehole,” Sirius said, glancing over his shoulders with a sneer.

"This arsehole is allowing Healer Potter to participate in an advanced procedure," Riddle drawled. He moved forward, looking at the two of them curiously. "Healer Potter, how do you know Auror Black?"

“He’s my...godfather,” Harry whispered.

And then. The horror.

Wait...are we in your parents’ home?

No, we’re in my godfather’s house.

Slowly, Riddle’s lips pulled into a terrifying smile, full of glee and satisfaction. Sirius’ narrowed his eyes at the man, suspiciously.

“What are you grinning about, Riddle?” Sirius barked.

"Nothing, Auror. Nothing at all. I've just been having a very pleasant day. Well, really, it started with the other night but, my good luck has been driving me through the day. I feel like I've drunk a cauldron's worth of Felix Felicis," Riddle said, looking between Sirius and Harry with amusement and he let out a hissing laugh that shouldn't have been as attractive as it was.

Harry was attracted to it anyway.

“Healer Riddle…” Harry warned.

“Tell me, Auror Black, do you have a house in London?” Riddle taunted.

Sirius’ eyes narrowed. “What’s it to you—”

“Enough,” Harry barked. He turned to look at his godfather. “Sirius, please stop antagonizing my boss. Now, come on. I’ll explain to you why your suspect can’t be woken up yet.”

“Be done with that quickly. We’ve work to do,” Riddle called after him.

Quickly, Harry herded Sirius out of the room, shooting a glare over his shoulder at Riddle. Riddle grinned back at him, still thrilled by the notion that he fucked his enemy’s godson in his enemy’s house. Harry stuck his tongue out at the man and Riddle licked his lips, as if remembering something. Harry flushed and turned back around.

“Head on straight, Harry. You’re about to be in the theatre,” Harry hissed to himself. Not even in his mother or Snape or even Dumbledore had been in the magical theatre on their first day. “Get it together.”

“You said something, Harry?” Sirius asked.

Harry hadn’t even been whispering.

Harry sighed. “Never change, Sirius. Never change.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry swallowed as Riddle slowly adjusted his robes, watching through the window as the matron pushed the floating stone slab into the magical theatre. He looked ready, and that wasn't surprising. Riddle did all of this for a living. Harry was terrified.

"Why did you pick me?" Harry asked, softly.

Riddle hummed, never looking away from the prone body. "What?" he asked, pressing the tip of his wand to the middle of his plush bottom lip.

"Did you pick me for the procedure because I slept with you?" Harry demanded.

Riddle scoffed, shaking his head. "No. You're Eavius' Healer. You've been with him since he arrived. And on your very first day, you're helping to save his life. Granger is good but, she isn't his Healer. You deserve to see this to end. Don't let the fact that we had sex blind you. You earned this," Riddle said and without another word, he threw open the doors and entered the theatre.

Harry slowly trailed after him, still processing the older man's words. The older man that proclaimed that Harry had earned this. Not even Granger thought that he had earned this—his position in the program or the procedure.

Riddle did. Riddle believed that. 

Riddle circled the room, looking down at the patient lying on the long floating stone slab. He glanced up at the gallery and smirked. He looked over at Harry. Harry pressed himself tighter against the wall, watching carefully. Riddle waved him forward and slowly, Harry crept over to the side of the patient. Ibdore Eavius looked so still.

Unnaturally so.

“It’s a beautiful day to conquer death,” Riddle announced. He said it like it was ancient rite of passage, a tradition that repeated itself every time he entered the magical theater. “Let’s have some fun.”

Riddle raised his wand and flicked it once, lighting up everything in the room. Harry watched in awe as the man spun, pulling magic from the air, and letting it wash over everything, sterilizing everything the magic touched. The matron looked barely affected, as if this was something she experienced every time Riddle entered a magical theatre. Riddle stood to the side and looked over Eavius’ body at Harry, his eyes bright with excitement.

“We get to crack his chest open,” Riddle said, softly. The longer Harry looked at him, the more he couldn’t stop himself from smiling. The man looked like a little kid on Christmas, his fingers itching to do the work.

You get to crack his chest open,” Harry corrected.

Riddle shook his head. "Take up your wand. Carefully use the Severing Charm across this area," Riddle said, drawing a mark on the man's chest, leaving stripes of sparks to show Harry the path.

"M-me?" Harry whispered. Riddle nodded once. Harry swallowed his giddiness and pressed his wand tip against the skin, digging into the soft flesh. Softly, he said as he dragged his wand down Eavius' chest, "Diffindo.”

He watched as blood spilled on either side of the fresh flaps of flesh. The smell of blood hit Harry’s nose but, he was never bothered by such a thing. He almost liked it. It reminded him of Knuts and chocolate, oddly enough. Harry looked at the two sides of skin—one flushed and healthy, like normal skin. The other side was sickening and grey, a thick rotting slab of meat. Normal blood oozed from one size while the other flap of skin stunk like age and decay.

“Now, stand back and learn,” Riddle instructed.

Harry nodded, wiping the tip of his wand in the towel, washing it clean. He watched as Riddle slowly cast a spell, weaving it through the air and the skin gaped, revealing the blood and muscle and flesh, and finally Eavius' ribcage. Harry leaned forward and gasped when he saw the insides of the man's chest. Where one's heart should be, there were three little balls of muscle, each beating to different rhythms. Two were a healthy scarlet, wheezing and pumping blood. The third was sluggish and grey, open sores oozing black poisoning the man's insides.

“There it is,” Riddle breathed. He looked over at Harry. “We’ll isolate this heart in particular. It’s the only sick one. Apomonóno.

Harry watched as purple sparks erupted, trapping and wrapping and strangling the small little grey rotting chock of muscle. It sluggishly pumped out blackening blood.

“Now, the potion, right?” Harry asked, already reaching for the anti-rotting potion, a base of dittany and freely-given unicorn horn.

“Yes. We pour it right into the open cavity,” Riddle said, softly. He looked up at the gallery for just a moment before he glanced back down at Eavius’ body. “I would’ve liked to crack his ribcage open. Just to see what would happen. But, alas, he isn’t dead and we’ve got an audience.”

Harry looked over his shoulder and gaped. He shouldn't have been surprised by how many people had crammed into the fifteen-person gallery. Internal procedures were rare. Everyone would use it as a teaching moment.

Riddle poured the potion over and hummed. “Lovely. That’ll heal right up. Now, we can actually correct the Heart-Fragmenting Curse. Work smallest to largest in all Spell Damage cases. The smaller problems complicate the largest ones. Never vice versa,” Riddle said, and Harry didn’t want to admit it but, the man was a good teacher, taking his time to explain the way he proceeded.

“And the Heart-Fragmenting Curse is small?” Harry asked.

Riddle smirked. “Well...this is nothing to what you’re about to witness. Ákrorogmón,” he cast and Harry watched in awe as the three little muscles burped and bubbled out blood and magic at a pace, he’d never seen. In the little cavity, they drifted together and he watched as there was a bright flash and they were crushed together.

A heart. A normal, healthy heart.

“I love magic,” Harry whispered.

“As do I,” Riddle agreed. “Now, Harry, I need you to stand by the wall. Don’t move. Don’t even breathe.”

Harry frowned at him. “Why?”

“Because what I’m about to show you...is why I became a Healer,” Riddle leaned forward across Eavius’ both and murmured the words, a secret between the two of them. “I’m going to show you how to conquer death.”

Harry’s eyes brightened behind his glasses and he nodded, slowly backing away. He watched as Riddle rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. Slowly, the man cracked each knuckle and wiggled his fingers over the prone body. Harry only stopped when his back hit the wall.

And then, it began.

Harry couldn’t think of any one reason why he wanted to be a Healer. But, he could think of a thousand reasons why he should quit. It would be hard, living in his mother’s shadow. There were going to be lives in his hands. But...there was something more to it.

It was more than just a game.

There was no glory in easy. The battle was in Riddle’s words. A beautiful day to conquer death. Healing was about telling death to screw itself. There would come a moment when it was more than just a game. He would either take the step forward or turn around and walk away. He could quit, but the thing was, he loved the playing field.

Harry used to play Quidditch as a kid, in a little peewee team. Whenever he flew, whenever he won, he felt higher than ever.

Standing in that theatre, he felt that same high and he would chase that high for the rest of his life. Mere mortals couldn’t do that. Only Healers could. Only he could. And he would remember the blood and the bones and the long, agonizing fight to the top.

But, now he understood his mother. He understood her better than ever had before. This wasn’t about her, chasing her shadow. It was about chasing the high. The rush.

This would be how he became legendary.

Festa kroptugr. Lifdagar, lifdagar. Festa kroptugr. Lifdagar, lifdagar.

He said it like a nursery rhyme. Like a song, almost. Like a lullaby.

Harry watched in awe as the air in the room also seemed to be sucked out and into the Healer that stood before him, swirling his wand over the body. There was something about watching a man speak life into a person. It was awe-inspiring. It was magnificent. It made Harry ache inside. It was beautiful, to see the streams of red erupt from the end of the man’s wand, red stricken with white, pour into Ibdore Eavius’ body. To watch the magic strip away the sickness, as if the body had never been touched in the first place.

The hair on Harry’s arm stood on end. Riddle never looked away from his work, so single-mindedly focused.

Harry couldn’t look away either.

And then, it was over, Riddle’s spell-song tapering off.

There was only a wizard, now. A fully-Healed, healthy wizard, who was still so still under the stasis charms. Riddle continued his word, nonverbally knitting the man’s skin together with a drag of his wand and then a well-placed Tergeo to siphon up the blood.

Riddle took a step back, looking over his word, and then he nodded.

“Finished,” he murmured, and then he turned to look at the matron at the wall. “Have him transported to the temp ward. Our work is done.”

And he turned on his heel and left as if he hadn’t just done the most intense and amazing piece of magic that Harry had ever seen in his entire life. Harry stared wordlessly at Eavius and he winced when his eyes began to sting with tears.

Immediately, he ran through the doors, nearly crashing into the matron on his way out. He skidded to a stop when he saw Riddle going over a stack of parchment, already over the work he had just done, the life he had just saved.

“That was amazing,” Harry said, softly.

Riddle looked up, opening his mouth to say something snarky, no doubt. And then, he looked at Harry, really looked at him, and his face softened. His lips curled into the smallest smile and he nodded.

“Yes,” Riddle said, instead.

“It’s...at Hogwarts, we practiced on dummies. We read. A lot. And I thought I was going to know what it was going to feel like, standing there. In the theater. But, that was such a high,” Harry whispered, and he felt so raw and honest, like an open wound.

Riddle cleared his throat. “Yeah.”

“Yeah,” Harry whispered.

“I should go...speak with the family,” Riddle said.

He didn’t make a move away, simply staring down at Harry.

“You should. See you around,” Harry whispered.

Riddle nodded once and with one last look, he turned on his heel and strode down the hallway. Harry watched him, and when he thought about Riddle now, he didn't only think about the bruises on hips or the hickies on his collarbone. He thought about the way the man had commanded the magical theatre, like it was a stage.

Like he was a god.

Harry shook his head. His shift was over.

Time to go home.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“That was a good procedure,” Granger said as she settled down in the seat next to Harry. Harry looked up at her, unable to hold back his silly grin.

“Yeah,” he said, softly.

Granger rolled her eyes and she sat down next to him. “You don’t seem like the type to apologize,” she said, briskly.

“I’m not.”

“Neither am I,” Granger admitted. “I don’t like being wrong. I suspect you don’t like being wrong. So, we don’t have to do that thing where I say something, then you say something, and then there’s a moment.”

“Ew,” Harry said, his nose wrinkling.

Granger smirked. “You should get some sleep. You look terrible.”

“I look better than you, Hermione," Harry retorted. There was a long pause, the moment that they had adamantly been opposed to and Harry smiled anyway.

Hermione looked at him and smile, slowly standing up and she offered her hand.

“Come on, Harry. We’ll leave together,” Hermione said and Harry took her hand, allowing her to drag him up. They walked in a companionable silence to the trainee changing room.

Ron was already there, wearing a pair of corduroys and a button down, speaking excitedly to Neville. Neville’s face was flushed with pleasure, as if he had momentarily forgotten to be a perpetual nervous wreck. Harry grinned at the two.

“How was your shift?” Harry asked.

“Amazing,” Neville said, happily. “Snape...he’s a berk but...I brewed the Midas Touch Syndrome potion. I did it.”

"Didn't you bugger that up? I saw you," Harry said pointedly as he unbuttoned his robes and reached into his cupboard for his Muggle clothing. He pulled his jumper over his head and jumped up and down to pull up his too-tight jeans.

“Yeah. I did. But, then, Snape pulled Nev and me out of the contest and made us brew the potion for the past 12 hours!” Ron said, excitedly.

Hermione frowned. “Doesn’t that potion only take 3 hours?”

“We made four batches. We kept botching it,” Neville admitted.

“At least, you did it. I mean, no one knows so you’re still going to be called the Great Lump but…” Harry trailed off under Hermione’s withering look. “I mean, I’m going to sing your praises. Everyone will know that you conquered the great Midas Touch Syndrome potion.”

“No one’s going to believe you. But, we’ll support you anyway, Neville,” Hermione said pleasantly as she buttoned up her shirt. She looked over at Ron and frowned. “Stop ogling on me, you arse.”

“I wasn’t,” Ron said even as a blotchy flush spread across his pale cheeks.

Harry barked out a laugh, shaking his head. “Let’s go, Granger.”

“Thought it was ‘Hermione’ now,” Hermione teased as she slung her bag over her shoulder and bumped elbows with Harry as they walked out of the trainee room.

Harry opened his mouth to respond but the two staggered to a stop when they saw the Head Healer again, towering over Zacharias Smith, with a stern look on his face. Smith was shrinking under that electric gaze.

“Healer Smith, you mean to tell me that while you were running around attempting to solve another case, you allowed your patient to suffer? Seizures? Strokes? Blackouts? And you've no idea what it is," Dumbledore said. There was something about his voice that made even Harry's stomach twist into knots. He didn't seem like the type of man to ever be angry.

His disappointment was much, much worse.

“I...well, I...and she was…she’s already been treated, sir! On the Spell Damage floor!” Smith protested.

“And yet, she is still suffering,” Dumbledore finished.

“Maybe, it’s a pre-existing condition,” Harry found himself saying before he could stop himself. Smith and Dumbledore both turned to look at him, Smith glaring daggers.

“Harry…” Hermione hissed.

“It’s not a pre-existing condition. I did the work-up myself,” Smith said through clenched teeth.

Dumbledore raised a silver eyebrow. “Healer Smith, I find that your opinion on the matter may be skewed, seeing as you left a patient undiagnosed due to a petty contest. Do you understand why I feel this way?”

Smith swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.”

“What do you think is wrong the patient?” Dumbledore asked, curiously.

Harry cleared his throat, biting his bottom lip. "Even with a diagnostics spell, sometimes, it's hard to see what's happening, especially, if it's not Spell Damage. She was a Spell Damage patient but, I think there's something else happening. She's suffering as if she were a Muggle—strokes, blackouts, seizures. When you did the patient workup, did you ask her if she was a practitioner of any of the mind arts?" Harry asked, staring at Zacharias with narrowed eyes.

Smith’s lips curled into a sneer. “What?”

“They’re at the bottom of the questionnaire,” Hermione interjected, helpfully.

"If she's a practitioner of Legilimency, Occlumency, or has been Obliviated more than twice, she'd be an excellent candidate for Akhos-Lethe Syndrome. It wouldn't show up on a diagnostics spell because it's a Mind disease, and sometimes, you have to be looking for it," Harry said, firmly. He looked over at Dumbledore and the man had a twinkle in his electric blue eyes, almost hidden by the half-moon glasses perched on his crooked nose.

“How would you treat, Healer Potter?” Dumbledore asked.

“Potions to regulate the ‘strokes of genius’ that occur when a memory returns. Routine check-ups and regular usage of journals should ease the symptoms,” Harry said almost immediately. He didn’t ask or look unsure. He knew about this disease. He could almost remember his mother, when she was still a junior Healer, exploring her options, having a quick interest in Mind Healing.

It was always the incurable syndromes that had caught her interest.

“Do exactly as he says,” Dumbledore said firmly to Smith. “And after, tell your trainer I want you off this case.” He walked away from Smith.

Harry could feel Hermione vibrating with excitement as Dumbledore approached them.

“Healer Dumbledore,” Harry said, softly.

“I’d know you anywhere,” Dumbledore said with a small smile. Harry knew what to expect next. You look just like your father but, you have your mother’s eyes. “You’re the spitting image of your mother.”

Harry swallowed his surprise.

“Thank you, Healer,” Harry said, softly.

Dumbledore nodded and he winked at the two trainees. “Welcome to the game.”

Chapter Text

Harry stared up at the bulletin board. He made a move to hang up the simple sheet of parchment before pulling back again. He’d used his best penmanship, had even drafted it. And still, he hesitated. Every time he thought about hanging up the parchment declaring ‘ROOMMATES WANTED’, he came up with a thousand reasons why roommates were sincerely not wanted.

He didn’t need roommates.

He was living rent-free and walked around his home in his pants. It was amazing. It was freeing.

It was also incredibly lonely, now that Walburga’s portrait had finally been permanently silenced. Number 12 Grimmauld Place was dark and lonely and quiet, and going home to it every day reminded him of the never-ending pile of unanswered letters on his kitchen room table. He hadn’t even written his sister back, and he had no problem with her. But, her letter covered Lily’s.

“What are you doing?”

Harry jumped, spinning around and looking up at Ron with wide eyes. The redheaded man stared down his long nose, lazily nibbling at what was definitely his third granola bar of the morning. Harry hummed.

“Looking for roommates,” Harry decided and he turned back around, tacking the parchment up against the board. He turned back around and jumped when he saw the rest of his team flanking Ron, all three pairs of eyes on the board.

“Where did you say you lived again?” Hermione asked, curiously, sounding deceptively sweet.

Harry pursed his lips. “Central London. Islington,” he said, slowly.

“Hmm. Really?” Neville asked, his voice scooping upwards, still reading the fine print under the parchment. “And it’s a wizarding home?”

“It’s the Black ancestral home. It’s my godfather’s house. It’s big and too hard to clean by myself,” Harry said, flatly. “And I can’t pay for groceries on my shitty Healer trainee salary.”

Of course, there was the soul-crippling loneliness in the darkest house on the street but, Harry had only known these people for a month. He wasn’t going to show them how dark and twisty he really was.

“Interesting,” Ron murmured. He took a step forward, grinning with his mouth full of crooked teeth. Harry was already regretting everything. “You want roommates. I’ll be your roommate.”

“No,” Harry said, firmly.

“Why not?” Hermione demanded, her arms crossed. “Why did you put up an ad if you don’t want roommates?”

“I want roommates. I just don’t want you,” Harry said, pushing past them and sighing when they followed after him, like eager little puppies. Or his sister’s eager little friends who didn’t understand the words ‘I’m homosexual’.

“My mom still washes my robes, Harry. And kisses me on the cheek every day! It’s humiliating!” Ron whined and Harry snorted, looking over his shoulder as they walked towards McGonagall.

“Yeah, that’s plenty humiliating,” Harry admitted. “But, I don’t want to be near you all. I see you every single bloody day for hours at a time. You want to be roommates too?”

“I live with my gran, Harry. She expects me to massage her feet because I’m a ‘Healer’. Take pity,” Neville said, as flatly as possible. Harry burst into laughter, throwing his head back and chuckling. He didn’t notice the way Neville’s cheeks pinked up.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Harry sighed, shaking his head.

“I bake.” All three men turned to look at Hermione in disbelief. Hermione stared back, unbending and serious. “I’m a stress baker, well-organized, and I clean.”

“I can clean! My mom is a homemaker. I know cleaning charms. I’m good at cleaning,” Ron said, pushing around Hermione to get into Harry’s face. Hermione’s lips curled in annoyance and she shoved Ron back.

“I just...Harry, I can’t live with my gran anymore. It’s just...Harry,” Neville whined.

Harry groaned, shaking his head. “I just want strangers who I don’t have to talk to or be nice to. Oh, look who it is. It’s Healer McGonagall. How are you this morning, Healer?” Harry asked as he walked up to their trainer. She looked back at him, as unamused as she always seemed. Harry had seen her exactly one time since he had met her; she’d been talking to Dumbledore at the time.

“Fine, Potter,” she said, flatly. She turned to the trainees at large. “Longbottom, you’ve been requested on Sprout’s service. Go help her in the greenhouses. Bring earmuffs. You’ll be dealing with Mandrakes. Weasley, Emergency & Triage training. Granger, you get patient workups and manning the pharmacy desk until closing. Potter, you’re brewing with Slughorn today. Get your lunch and meet him down there in an hour.”

Longbottom’s face brightened immediately. Ron and Harry exchanged gleeful looks, snickering over the outrage on Hermione’s face. McGonagall shoved a small scroll into Harry’s hands and Harry glanced over it: Skele-Gro, Pepperup, Calming Draught, Sleeping Draught.

“Merlin’s beard, that sucks for you, doesn’t it, Hermione?” Ron laughed though he was silenced by a single glare from McGonagall. Hermione’s lips puckered up like she’s just eaten a lemon drop.

“I’m not above paperwork,” Hermione said, stiffly, lying through her teeth. “Everything’s a learning experience.”

“I’m glad you feel that way,” McGonagall said, blankly. “Why are you still standing here?”

The four spun into action and Harry jogged forward towards the lift. He was decent at Potions. He’d gotten an E, so at least he wouldn’t botch it as terrible as Neville. Smith and his cronies still called him the Great Lump, sometimes. Harry stepped over and waited in front of the lift, tapping his foot impatiently.

“Good morning.”

Harry stiffened. He’d know that voice anywhere. He didn’t turn around or respond, instead looking down at the running list of potions that he’d be brewing for the day.

“You know as an Englishman, I’m usually turned off by rudeness." Harry could hear the amusement in Riddle's words as if he didn't quite believe what he was saying himself. "But, with you, it's kinda hot."

Harry’s cheeks flushed. He let out a long breath when he stepped into the lift, pleased that it was filled with people. Until all of those people streamed out around him, crossing through the ground floor. He backed up against the wall as Riddle stalked in, his eyes narrowed and his lips spread into a thin smirk.

Harry swallowed hard, leaning against the side of the lift, staring straight ahead. It was hard to pretend that he didn’t feel those burgundy eyes staring holes into him.

The lift door closed and Riddle turned around, staring at the doors.

“I’m not going out with you,” Harry said, fighting his smile.

“Did I ask you to go out with me?” Riddle asked. And then he paused, glancing over his shoulder. “Do you want to go out with me?”

“Stop it,” Harry whined. “I’m not dating you and I’m definitely not sleeping with you. Ever again. You’re my boss.”

“Not directly. Yet. Are you thinking about Spell Damage? I think you’d be good,” Riddle said, leaning against the wall to look at Harry properly. Harry swallowed as Riddle’s eyes roved up and down. Harry looked stupid in his hunter green robes but, Riddle looked edible in emerald.

And damn him. He’d figured out Harry’s weakness—praise of his abilities. Damn Tom Riddle.

“You’re my teacher,” Harry said, weakly.

Riddle’s smirk widened into a grin. “That makes you hot, doesn’t it?”

“You’re sexually harassing me,” Harry said, immediately.

Riddle’s eyes widened with false innocence.

“I’m riding the lift!” he protested.

“I’m drawing a line. The line’s been drawn. No one crosses it. You don’t cross it. I don’t cross it. There’s a line,” Harry babbled, nervously fidgeting with the small parchment roll in his hands. He shoved it into his pocket, swallowing hard.

“So, you’re in danger of crossing this imaginary line, too, then?” Riddle asked.

Harry stared at Riddle. Riddle stared back.

“Fuck it,” Harry breathed.

And then he threw himself at Riddle, crowding the taller man against the lift wall and he strained his neck, pressing their lips together. Riddle immediately wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close and up. Harry whimpered as he raked his hands through that deliciously moussed hair, licking and sucking at thin lips.

He burned hotter than he ever had, his body burning wherever Riddle touched. Harry pushed against him harder, grinding tight against him, dragging one hand down his hair, over his neck, down Tom’s chest. Harry whined softly when he felt a large hand grab his arse and drag down his thigh. Riddle hauled him closer, pressing into the space between his legs.

Harry hissed.

His cock was hard.

The lift came to a stop and Harry threw himself back, wiping at his mouth, breathing so hard that he was never hyperventilating. The two men looked at one another and Riddle ran his hands through his hair.

“Nope,” Harry whispered, backing out slowly, never looking away.

Riddle smirked. “So, how’s that line looking, Harry?”

"You're an arse," Harry called behind him, running down the hall towards the potions labs. He swallowed when he heard the lift doors close again and he collapsed against the wall, tipping his head back.

Why did he do these things without thinking?


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione drummed her fingers against the countertop, sighing as the words started to blend together. She looked over the reports again, reading them twice before deciding to prescribe Miss Marietta Edgecombe bubotuber pus to combat her self-described ‘wicked acne’.

"Need three Antidotes for Common Poisons, two Calming Draughts, and burn-healing paste. Statum."

Hermione slowly rolled her eyes up to stare into Ron’s wide grin. Her eyes narrowed.

“I’m sorry, did you forget how to say the word ‘please’?” she said, her voice as wintery as she could possibly make it. Ron’s grin faltered, ever so slightly, but he continued to smirk at her, holding his shoulders back.

Hermione hated tall men like Ron. They liked to loom. Hermione hated looming.

“Aww, come on, Hermione. Don’t be angry. It’s not my fault you’re sitting at the pharmacy and I’m taking care of emergency cases,” Ron said, flexing his arms. Hermione rolled her eyes and sighed. She went to grab the potions that Ron had asked for, settling it in one of the baskets lined with cloth to keep the vials from cracking open.

“You know what, you’re an arse. No wonder Harry won’t let you move in,” Hermione barked, irritated and Ron scoffed.

“He won’t let any of us move in, Hermione. Why do you want to move in so bad anyway?” Ron demanded and Hermione rolled her eyes, crossing her arms.

“I live with my parents too. My Muggle parents who don’t really appreciate me waking up at all hours and getting in at all hours. They don’t really...get it,” Hermione said, simplifying her own personal problems. Really, her parents were thrilled that she was becoming a ‘doctor’, as they referred to her, but they didn’t really understand why she had to be a doctor in the magical world.

They complained that she was drifting farther and farther away, and constantly asked why she could be a dentist like them. Or a magical dentist. Or whatever.

“Well, Harry clearly doesn’t care about either of our problems, seeing as he’s being an arse about letting us move in. You know his godfather is Sirius Black? We could be living in the Black ancestral home. It’s huge. Living large...basically, rent-free since we’ll only have to clean and help with groceries,” Ron sighed, looking wide-eyed into the distance.

Hermione snorted. “Yeah, and we have to save all the Galleons we can. This pays nothing.”

“Once we’re specialists, we’ll be able to swim in Galleons,” Ron said, wistfully and Hermione nodded in agreement.

“Now, can you get out of my pharmacy? I have work to do and I want to finish it before lunch,” Hermione sighed. “Apparently, I have flat hunting to do.”

“I’d be willing to trade with you for the day,” Ron suggested.

Hermione brightened. “Really?”

Ron grinned. “No.”

“Sod off, Ronald.”

"You can have my case if you want, Matron Granger. And I need Skele-Gro," Smith drawled as he sauntered up to the counter. He slammed the bell just to be annoying and smirked across the counter at her.

“What did you just say? Did you just call me a ‘matron’?” Hermione hissed.

Smith smirked. “You’re a woman, you’re sitting at the pharmacy doing paperwork, and you’re bossy. If the white robes fit,” Smith said. He leaned forward, winking at her. “Now, if you’d like a real case, you can take mine. I have two broken legs in the Children’s Ward. You seem like you’d be a better fit and all. Being maternal and all.”

Ron took a step back, holding his basket tight to his chest as he looked from Hermione to the stupid idiot that had decided to antagonize Hermione.

“Did you just imply that I should be in the Children’s Ward because I have a uterus?" Hermione snarled, her voice low. Smith smirked, winking at her as he strutted up to the pharmacy desk, sliding over the request form. Ron looked just as offended, which Hermione did appreciate.

“Maybe you’ll get along better with the loony bitch in charge. She looks twelve and she’s got turnips hanging from ears and Butterbeer caps around her neck. Now, I need that Skele-Gro. Chop, chop, Matron Granger,” Smith said, clapping at her.

Hermione froze and slowly she drew her wand.

Avis,” she hissed and Smith scoffed when she conjured the little yellow birds in the air. They circled her head, chirping loudly.

“That the best you can—”

Oppugno.”

Smith shrieked as the yellow birds darted at him like arrows, turning into little balls of bright yellow fury. Hermione’s lips curled into a righteous grin as Smith screamed in pain, batting away the birds, making them explode into little yellow feathers. Ron’s mouth fell open as Smith ran back down the hall towards the lifts.

“I’ll send Ron with your Skele-Gro! Thank you for your patronage!” Hermione called, cheerfully. Smugly, she leaned back in her chair and turned her unamused eyes onto Ron. “Anything else, Ron?”

“You...are...scary,” Ron whispered.

Hermione’s lips curled into a smirk. “Thanks. Now, take your potions and fuck off.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry knocked on the doorframe, peering into the practice lab.

“Just a moment,” Horace Slughorn called as he peered into his cauldron. Harry took a moment to evaluate the older man.

Horace Slughorn was an immense, old man with a round, bald head and bright eyes. His belly was so large and round that his robes were stretched taut around it. His gooseberry colored eyes looked small in his round, squished face that was largely dominated by a bushy walrus-like mustache. Harry cleared his throat.

“Harry Potter, reporting for duty,” Harry called.

Slughorn looked up, his eyes wide. “O-ho! Harry Potter, as I live in breathe. Come in, dear boy,” Slughorn said and his eyes drank Harry in. Harry squirmed under the man’s judgment. He knew the look in his eyes.

Lust never looked good when it wasn’t returned.

“Hi, Healer Slughorn. It’s very nice to meet you,” Harry said, striding forward and holding out his hand over the cauldron. Slughorn took it, pumping it up and down and he squeezed rather hard. When he finally released Harry’s fingers, Harry flexed his hand, attempting to get the feeling back. “I saw the list of what we’re brewing today. Should be easy?”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Slughorn said, cheerfully. He waved Harry to his side, in front of an extra cauldron and burner. He looked over at Harry, slyly. “I’ve nearly finished the Sleeping Draught and Pepperup Potions. I’ll need you on the Cure for Boils and Skele-Gro. I would do it myself but...”

“Really simple,” Harry said, full of false cheer. He hesitated. “Why did you request me, then? If you could do it yourself?”

Slughorn made an exaggerated gasp, holding his hand to his round chest. “To meet you, of course.”

“To meet me?” Harry asked, suddenly uncertain, as he began to prep the ingredient for the Cure for Boils. He turned towards the ingredients stores and grabbed a small wooden basket to load his ingredients in.

Dried nettles, snake fangs, horned slugs, and porcupine quills. He laid them out gently before returning to his station.

“I know your mother,” Slughorn said, brightly. Harry’s reasonable mood fell dramatically. “Lily Evans. One of the brightest I ever taught. Vivacious, you know. Charming woman.”

Harry swallowed as he pulled out six snake fangs and dropped into the mortar. Rather aggressively, he began to grind with the pestle, attempting to drown out the irritation that was brewing in the pit of his stomach.

“I’m sure,” Harry allowed. He added four measures of the crushed fangs to his carefully simmering golden cauldron. At least, since he was using a gold cauldron, he could brew it all three times as fast and wouldn’t have to suffer.

Apparently, Slughorn was one of those—the type to wax and fawn about his dear mother.

Slughorn didn’t seem to notice. “Your mother is a Muggle-born, of course. I couldn’t believe it when I found out. I thought she was a pure-blood, she’s just so good,” Slughorn said and he looked up at Harry, cheekily. “I’m sure that you must have some of her raw, natural talent.”

Harry suppressed his snort as he glared down into his cauldron. “I sure hope so,” he murmured.

Slughorn didn’t sense his sarcasm. They continued to work in silence as Harry let the potion simmer. Harry began to work on the Skele-Gro potion in the pewter cauldron. He gathered the scarab beetles and the puffer-fish and began to get to work, chopping and grinding.

“She’s going to change the world, Harry, mark my words. Her work is going to revolutionize everything. When people think medicine, they’ll think Evans,” Slughorn said, firmly, as if he’d never stopped speaking. “And they should. She’s done so much. I hope you’ll be able to catch up.” He punctuated with a wink.

And Harry wasn’t sure what it was about those words that bothered him the most. He had heard many people speak about his mother. He had heard people sing her praises or curse her name. Even his friends had fawned over her until Harry’s glares had nipped that in the bud. But, there was something about this man with his infuriating condescension that made Harry snap.

“I’m not going to catch up,” Harry bit out. Slughorn looked at him in surprise as Harry threw in four horned slugs. He snatched it off the fire, added the porcupine quills, and began to stir clockwise. He waved his wand over the Curse for Boils potion, completing it in record time. He looked up at Slughorn. “I’m not going to just catch up. Healer Slughorn, I’m Harry Potter.”

As he said that he began to bottle the potion into the empty vials waiting on the counter.

“I-I know, dear boy,” Slughorn stammered.

"I don't think you do," Harry said firmly. "I'm Harry Potter, and I'm not going to just catch up. I'm going to be the greatest Healer this hospital has ever seen. That this world has ever seen. One day,  there's going to be a kid at Hogwarts or Beauxbatons or Ilvermorny who's going to take the Healing elective their seventh year, and my name will be at the top of the syllabus. My name will be listed over and over again. My mother's a legend. I'll be a god instead."

He gathered the filled vials into the little basket and ignored Slughorn’s sputtering.

“I’ll be taking these to the pharmacy. Do you need me, Healer?” Harry finished.

Slughorn swallowed and slowly shook his head. Harry nodded back and stormed out, flying to the lift, powered by his irritation. Every step he took farther and farther away from the irritating little man relieved some of Harry’s burning rage. He looked over at the bulletin on the wall, the one that was opposite every single lift on every floor and his eyes lit up with interest.

So, they weren’t shadowing McGonagall because she was operating. Wicked.

Harry felt his annoyance dissipate as he walked into the lift, went up a floor and then, went straight to the pharmacy. He snorted when he saw Hermione slowly falling asleep at the counter.

“So, not above paperwork?” Harry called.

Hermione jerked away, nearly sliding off her hand and slamming her chin. She huffed, rolling her eyes as Harry dropped the basket on the counter and she took it, going to place them on the shelves that they belonged.

“I finished all of my paperwork. Harry, I’m going to die here,” Hermione groaned. “I need to be doing magic. Healing people. Not...this.

“That sounds dangerously close to whining, Granger,” Harry warned.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Whatever. What are you doing here?”

“Slughorn is an Evans sycophant. I finished my potions and ran,” Harry said.

Hermione laughed softly as she finished shelving the potions and she turned back to Harry, her lips pursed.

“Well, feel free to take my spot at the pharmacy.”

“It’s closing soon anyway,” Harry said immediately. “Are you really going to flat hunt after your shift?”

“Well, seeing as my friend doesn’t want me to move in—”

“No, no. Don’t call me that!” Harry whined, clapping his hands over his ears. Hermione burst into a fresh round of laughter as she looked at him, completely incredulous.

“Don’t call you ‘friend’. You are so damaged,” Hermione giggled.

Harry stuck his tongue out at her.

“Come on. McGonagall is treating a patient with chronic Galatea Virus,” Harry said, tugging her from behind the pharmacy counter. Hermione frowned, glancing at the clock.

It was getting to closing time.

“You said ‘chronic’ Galatea Virus?” Hermione asked. Even as she asked, began to close up, casting down the magical ward charms and setting the Caterwauling Charm in place. Harry grinned at her, rocking back and forth. “McGonagall is a Spell Damage specialist. What is she doing, operating on a Magical Diseases patient?”

“They’re short-staffed. It’s always been a small department,” Harry said. “They don’t even have a proper head right now. Just some odd girl. Anyway, it’s chronic. That means she’ll be shaving. Let’s see if we can take a piece.”

“That’s a little gross,” Hermione said as she walked through the door and locked it properly. Harry bumped her in her side as they walked towards the lifts.

"But, bloody cool, right?" Harry asked pointedly. Hermione's lips twitched into a smile. Harry bounced into the lift and he pressed the second-floor button. He looked over at Hermione with wide eyes, wiggling his eyebrows mischievously. “This is going to be amazing.”

“You think every operation is amazing,” Hermione chided gently.

"So do you," he accused as they exited the lift, walking the halls towards the Magical Disease theatres. Harry pointed towards the first door and they slowly entered the gallery. He was pleasantly surprised to find it empty.

The theatre was less so.

The girl on the table couldn’t have been more than sixteen. His sister was probably a little older.

Her face was covered with crystals. They were stunning—a glacial mixture of purple and blue stalactites jutting from her face in different directions. McGonagall held her wand in one hand and an athame in the other. She was slowly carving away at the stalactites and then cauterizing it with magic, revealing beautiful satin brown skin.

“You said it’s chronic?” Hermione asked in wonder as they took their seats at the front of the gallery, leaning forward.

McGonagall paused in her work to look up into the gallery. Her eyes narrowed on Hermione and Harry and she opened her mouth to say something before she shook her head, seeming to have thought better about it. It was the closest thing to approval that either one would get.

“That’s what the board said. No cure for viruses yet. It looks pretty severe,” Harry said, slightly dismayed. If the virus wasn’t so terribly inconvenient, Harry would think that the Galatea Virus was actually rather pretty. Other Hogwarts students wouldn’t think so because children were mean but, Harry could appreciate a good magical virus.

“But, it’s definitely manageable. She probably comes every few months for a weekend treatment and then good as new. And doesn’t Galatea Virus have dormant stages?” Hermione asked.

“Yeah, I think so but, I don’t know hers. She might be seasonal. How would you prescribe, Healer Granger?” Harry asked, a wicked smile on his face as he turned to look at her.

Hermione pursed her lips in order to hide her amusement. “Quarterly visits to St. Mungo’s. Regular hydration spells to balance the amount of salt and water in her body. Low-sodium diet. Of course. Simple,” Hermione said in her best Healer voice.

Harry snorted. “You recited that from a book.”

“Doesn’t make it not right,” Hermione taunted.

Harry rolled his eyes and looked back into the theatre. He winced as he made eye contact with a pair of burgundy eyes. Riddle’s lips twitched into a slow smirk as he relaxed against the far wall, paying more attention to Harry than the procedure he was supposed to be taking part in.

“What is he doing here? He’s Spell Damage,” Harry hissed under his breath.

“You’re the one that said Magical Diseases is understaffed. Maybe, he’s back-up? Not that McGonagall needs back-up,” Hermione drawled. She paused. “Legality issues, maybe. She is underage.”

Harry swallowed when Riddle winked up at him and he finally tore his gaze away to look at McGonagall. Hermione's eyes narrowed at him.

“Don’t react,” Harry said, never taking his eyes off of McGonagall as she worked over the poor girl, pretending that he didn’t feel those eyes.

“Oh...Harry, you didn’t,” Hermione said.

“What? You don’t even know what I was going to say,” Harry whined.

Hermione snorted. “Really? I don’t? You say that every time you tell me about something Riddle did. And don’t pretend it’s not Riddle. You only started acting weird when you saw him.”

“What do you mean I say—” Harry argued.

“‘Don’t react. Riddle asked me out. But, I said no. You should be proud’. ‘Don’t react. I had a sex dream about Riddle’. ‘Don’t react but, I think Riddle’s trying to ask me out for drinks’. ‘Don’t react—” Hermione mocked, her voice taking on a low-pitched whine.

“Shut up! I don’t sound like that,” Harry retorted.

Hermione looked at him, uncannily resembling McGonagall. “You always sound like that. What am I not supposed to react to today, Harry?”

“I...kissed him. In the lift. It was really good,” Harry whispered.

Hermione gasped. “Harry!”

“I’m sorry. We haven’t been alone...and then we were and then he was being all hot and charming and...dammit, I’m weak,” Harry said, burying his face in his hands.

Hermione shook her head as she looked at the man that was quickly becoming one of her closest friends. She leaned back into her chair and watched as McGonagall cast another spell to hydrate the patient. The crystals jutting from her face was largely formed of salt, though purple they appeared.

“Why did you kiss him?” Hermione allowed.

Harry swallowed hard. “He’s just so...Hermione, he’s just so damn attractive. And he’s such a good Healer. Hermione...when I was in that magical theatre. If I wasn’t so inspired, I would’ve been hard,” Harry said, firmly, ignoring Hermione’s squeal of disgust, and the way her cheeks pinked up. She slowly turned to him, shaking her head.

“Harry. No more kissing our boss in lifts. It’s not a good idea,” she warned.

Harry slumped in his chair. “I know.

“You’re going to get fired,” she hissed.

Harry turned on her, eyes blazing. “I know, Hermione.”

“I don’t think you do,” Hermione snapped back. “You’re going to be one of the greatest Healers in history. Don’t screw it up for a man.”

Harry swallowed, nervously. “You really think that? That I’ll be great?”

Hermione’s eyes softened. “Of course, I do. You’re talented. You’re going to be the greatest. After me, of course,” Hermione added as an afterthought.

Harry snorted. “Shut up, Granger.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Marvelous procedure, Minerva,” Albus said as the trio watched the matron escort the young Hogwarts student from the theatre. Riddle followed after her, barking out post-procedure orders at the young matron.

“Thank you. She’ll be back though,” Minerva said, sounding rather regretful.

Albus hummed, nodding. “There isn’t a cure yet.”

“There probably won’t be a cure, ever,” Severus said under his breath, ignoring the looks from both of his older colleagues. His eyes drifted over towards the two trainees—Granger and Potter. His lips curled in irritation as they whispered to one another, eyes never leaving the patient floating away. “Don’t they have anything to do?”

“They’re trainees. They’re learning. Minerva, I’m glad to see that your trainees have such an interest in one of our smaller departments,” Albus said with a jovial smile.

Minerva gave a thin-lipped smile. “I’m sorry to say, Abus, but those two...Spell Damage. Mark my words.”

"Potter? Spell Damage? I would've marked him from Artifact Accidents," Severus said, bitingly and Albus' eyes narrowed at him, though he hadn't crossed the line into irritation just yet.

Serenely, the Head Healer said, “There are no lesser departments.”

Severus scoffed, not quite answering.

“Harry Potter wouldn’t be caught dead in Artifact Accidents,” Riddle said as he strode over, watching the two trainees walk off, his eyes narrowed on their backs. “He’ll be a Spell Damage specialist. A great one.”

“High praise from you, Tom. We’ll have to look out for both of them,” Albus said with a sharp little smile. He looked over at the younger man, the only one of equal height to him. “Thank you, Tom.”

“For what?” Severus sneered as he looked over at his professional rival. Riddle only stared back at him with cool amusement. He always had that condescending look in his burgundy eyes, as if he thought himself superior to Severus in some way.

“Albus asked me to participate in today’s procedure through observation. He had meetings with a few politicians from the Ministry, and as this could potentially be a liability case, someone had to be acting Head in the room,” Riddle drawled. He turned back to Minerva and Albus, affecting a more pleasant look on his face. “Minerva, I’ll have her placed in the Children’s Ward after she’s in the clear. Albus, I’ll have my drafted proposal to you in a few weeks.”

“Of course,” Albus said with a genial smile. The three Healers watched as Riddle sauntered away, unbearably smug.

Severus turned on Albus nearly immediately.

“When did you start considering Riddle as your successor?” Severus said through clenched teeth, looking up at the older man. Albus stared down at him, plainly. “I do more for this hospital than any other Healer.”

“Severus, I know you don’t care for Tom. But, you do only exactly as much as is necessary. You never take an extra step, you never give an extra minute. You’re comfortable and sometimes, too arrogant. It doesn’t impress me,” Albus said in that voice that was just as pleasant as it was deeply cutting. Severus winced under those sharp blue eyes.

“And Riddle isn’t arrogant?” Severus sneered.

Albus hummed. “I never said that. But, Tom continues to want to learn for learning’s sake. He is...hungry for the next discovery. You’ve only continued your work for the paycheck,” Albus said, firmly and Severus winced at the cutting assessment.

Still, he knew Albus was being kind. He was being kind enough not to mention that Severus had never wanted to be a Healer, not really, and it showed. He didn’t mention that he’d only come to St. Mungo’s, only done some of his research, because he’d follow Lily, his beacon, anywhere. Once, when they had both been drunk after the annual St. Mungo’s benefit, Albus asked him that dreadful question: After all this time?”

And Severus had said, Always.

"I can do research if that's what you want. I could make grand discoveries like Tom and Lily and—” Severus snarled out, angrily.

“Then, do that,” Albus interrupted. “Research, dedicate your time to your patients and the students, prove that you want it. Then, I’ll consider you in the running again. If you’ll excuse me.”

Albus nodded to Minerva again and with one last considering look at Severus, he walked away, as if he had not just shattered Severus’ image of his future.

Severus had always been so sure that he’d eventually be Head Healer. It was not something Lily had ever wanted. She could care less about bureaucrats and liability issues. She only wanted her work. Severus had thought Riddle the same but, now, it seemed that the man thought he could have his cake and eat it too. Severus wouldn’t let that happen.

Severus glanced over at Minerva who was watching him with a strangely interested expression.

“Do you…” Severus trailed off, wincing at the terribly childish question that he was about to ask. Minerva stared at him, expectant and bored. Severus sighed out his frustration, shaking his head. “Do you think I’m too confident?”

“I think you’re cocky. Arrogant. You have a God complex. And you need to teach, Severus, instead of caring about yourself and Lily Evans,” Minerva said, flatly, cutting through all of Severus’ bullshit in seconds, as she had always been good at doing. Almost as good as Lily.

Severus looked at her, stricken.

“I’m not—”

“Severus, I was your teacher, many years ago. I know what you’re capable of. And you’re not reaching your full potential. Tom and Lily? Well, they strive for greatness. Whether for knowledge or greatness’ sakes, it doesn’t matter, because they push,” Minerva said as she looked at her one of her best and favorite students. Her eyes softened as she regarded the man.

“And because they decide to do their little projects, that makes them more qualified for the position of Head Healer?” Severus demanded.

Minerva shook her head. “No, they’re more qualified because they care. Start caring.”

“I ca—”

“Don’t lie to me,” Minerva said, sharply. She drummed her fingers against the railing as they stood on the bridge that overlooked the entirety of the entrance hall. She sighed when she felt her wand vibrate and a fountain of yellow sparks erupted.

Not urgent but, definitely important. Her Galatea Virus patient needed to be hydrated again, and no doubt, the young matron had no idea how to do it.

“I’m not lying,” Severus said, stubbornly.

Minerva sighed. “Think about this, Severus. Think about why you became a Healer. No, we all know why you’re a Healer. Think about why, even now, when she’s gone and married and she has two kids—one of them being a Healer trainee—you’re still a Healer. Why are you still a Healer? Then, you’ll know if you care.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“What are you up to after this?” Hermione asked as they tried to finish up another massive round of discharge paperwork in the Emergency & Triage Center. “Shift’s almost done.”

Harry hummed. “Ordering takeout, probably. I don’t have any groceries,” Harry sighed and Hermione nodded. He waited for her to push about how she could help buy groceries if she moved in but, she didn’t say anything.

“My parents are taking me out to dinner,” she said. “We’re celebrating my first month of surviving training.”

Harry forced a smile on his face as he signed the bottom of the discharge papers, slapping them shut. He wondered what his parents would say if they all went out to dinner. Well, first, he’d be shocked to see them in the same country. His parents loved each other dearly but, they also adored their work, probably a little too much. When Harry had been a kid, his father and his godfather had been hit wizards, jetting off around the UK, and Europe, at large, to protect the population from Dark forces.

Once both Harry and his sister had been at Hogwarts, the roles had switched and Lily had started to attend more conferences while James had worked in the London-based Auror office. Neither had ever resented the other, preferring to be more excited about their work achievements, but Harry and his sister had sure as hell resented them.

“That’s great. Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a month,” Harry said, softly. Hermione gave a tiny smile, nodding in agreement. Harry looked down at his own paperwork, the words blurring together. Harry looked up. “You still want to move in, don’t you?”

Hermione nodded. “I do.”

“Why?” Harry barked.

“You shouldn’t be alone,” Hermione said, honestly. “I know you’d be happy to be alone. But, you shouldn’t be.”

Harry scoffed, looking down at his paperwork. Hermione didn’t know him half as well as she thought but, she was probably the person that knew him best. He wasn’t sure if it was sad or not that the person that knew him best was a girl that he’d quite literally met a month ago. He had no friends from Hogwarts. He hadn’t made friends easily.

His best friends were the three dumbasses that were trying to move into his Merlin-damned house.

I know you’d be happy to be alone. But you shouldn’t be.

Harry sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He could claim that but, it wasn’t because he thought he’d be happy alone. It was because he thought if he loved someone, and then it fell apart, he wouldn’t make it. It’d be easier to be alone. He didn’t want to need them. If he needed them, then what would happen if he lost them?

Losing people was like magical core damage. It was like dying, except dying ended.

“You give a lot of shits for someone who claims they don’t give a shit,” Harry said instead.

Hermione's eyes narrowed at him. "Who said I didn't give a shit?" she barked.

“I...didn’t expect you to give a shit,” Harry admitted.

“Well, get fucking used to it,” Hermione snapped, angrily. She slid the rest of the discharge papers to him. “And for being such an arse, you can finish my discharge papers. You don’t have to be alone, Harry. You choose it, so stop being such a berk, and let me give a shit.”

Harry swallowed hard, watching her storm away as her words echoed in his ears.

Let me give a shit.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Finally, finished, Harry let out a massive sigh and slid the paperwork towards the impatiently waiting matron. Harry nodded at her and stood, reaching over his head to crack his spine back into place. He walked away, finally done with his long day and hummed.

“Hello, Harry.”

Harry stood at the lift, biting his lower lip, pretending not to notice the man approaching his side.

“How was your day?” Riddle asked.

Harry bit his bottom lip. “I brewed with Horace Slughorn,” Harry admitted, his voice nearly a whisper, and Riddle scoffed. Harry glanced at the taller man from the corner of his eye. “What?”

"I'm sure he spent his time with you either hitting on you or waxing poetics about your mother. He's a sad, old man. But, he's friends with Albus," Riddle said as if that explained everything.

Harry shivered at how accurate the man’s words.

“Hm, yeah,” Harry whispered, careful not to look the man head-on.

The conversation lulled into a heavy, though not uncomfortable, silence.

“You want to know what I think?” Riddle asked as they stood side by side. They were too close, the back of their hands brushing against one another. Harry couldn’t find it in himself to move away. He stared straight ahead, waiting for the doors to slide open.

“What do you think, Healer?” Harry asked.

“I think that you want me and you’re too afraid to admit it. You don’t like admitting that you’re wrong to yourself,” Riddle taunted.

Harry hummed. “You’re entitled to your wrong opinion,” he decided. His lips curled into a small smile and he heard the sharp burst of laughter emerge from Riddle’s mouth before the man swallowed the rest of his amusement. “I’m taking the stairs.”

Harry turned away and walked towards the stairwell. He heard the words, “No self-control!” echo after him, and he just smiled harder.

As he ran down the stairs, two steps at a time, he felt the day drain away from him. He bound through the Entrance Hall and walked into the trainee changing room, where he saw a few trainees—including Smith and Patil—crowded around his parchment announcement. Harry slowly pushed his way to the front of the bulletin board and pulled it down. He ignored all of the groans of irritation.

“It’s only been up for a day!” Patil complained.

Harry shrugged. "Sorry, I've found roommates," he said as an explanation.

He heard Ron’s squawk.

“What do you mean? Already?” Ron demanded.

Hermione huffed as she pulled her shirt over her head and leaned in against the cupboards. “I didn’t even get a chance to present my ten-step plan to you. Harry, I really think you should consider—”

“I think he means us,” Neville interrupted. Ron and Hermione glanced over at Neville but, a shy smile was slowly spreading across Neville’s face. “You mean us, don’t you?”

Harry huffed. “Yeah, I guess. But, I’m not helping you move any of your crap,” he said. Before he could even finish, Ron was launching himself at Harry, wrapping him in a hug made of long arms and crushing affection. Harry whined, trying to pull away as Ron ruffled his hair. “Get off me!”

“This is going to be so awesome! We’ll get to spend even more time together. Wait, I get my own room, right?” Ron asked, though his arms only moved to around Harry’s neck, choking him. Harry shoved roughly at him, staggering away and rubbing at the column of my neck.

"You're a child! Yes, you get your own room. Move in on Saturday." Harry's eyes narrowed. "I'll have the chore chart set up by then."

Neville groaned. “What kind of state is Grimmauld Place in?” Neville asked.

Harry barked out a laugh. “I’m the first person to live in it ten years. Get ready to clean, assholes.”

Harry changed quickly, walking away from his friends even as they thanked him profusely, saying more and more absurd things the longer he let them. When he finally escaped them, he wandered over to the Apparition area and Disapparated on the spot, appearing on his doorstep. Harry pulled his key out from his jeans’ pocket and slowly entered the empty, dark Entrance Hall.

He barely paid any attention as he kicked off his shoes by the stairs and continued past them to the kitchen. He slid in and looked at the pile of letters waiting for him. He sat down in front of them, placing Lily’s to the side, hiding them under an old copy of The Daily Prophet. He sighed as he looked at his Dad’s letters and tore them open, reading them quickly.

Anecdotes about the Auror Office. Lunches with Padfoot and Moony. Questions about whether he was enjoying St. Mungo’s, whether he hated Snivellus yet, and if he had met Albus yet. They all made Harry smile. He promised that he’d respond later.

He looked at his sister's letter. He opened it quickly and grinned when he saw her customary greeting: Hey bro-bro. It was a long list of the current gossip at Hogwarts. Harry could somewhat recognize some names but, largely, he was only really interested in his sister's hilarious commentary. After a brief mention of her classes, it was only a list of questions. She wanted to know if it was as amazing as he'd hoped if he were making friends, if he was feeding himself.

Accio parchment and quill,” Harry called, waving his wand.

He watched as a piece of parchment and a self-inking quill zoomed towards him, fluttering gently to the kitchen table. He picked it up and smiled.

 

Hey sis,

 

You've just gotten back to Hogwarts and you're already writing me? You must miss me a lot. I miss you. I've been kinda shit lately, haven't I? I haven't answered any of your letters from this summer but, I'm going to answer this one. Because I can't be a shitty big brother. That would totally ruin my cool cred with all your crazy little friends.

 

Okay, so, St. Mungo’s is even better than Mum described. It’s...well, fantastic...

Chapter Text

 

They were loud.

They were so damn loud.

Harry groaned as he tossed and turned in his bed, pulling his pillow over his head. Even from a floor up, he could hear his three housemates laughing and joking in the kitchen, the clinking of dishes. Harry shut his eyes tight and groaned, attempting to will himself back to sleep.

A dish crashed into the kitchen and there was a loud yelp.

So, sleep was something that wasn’t going to happen,  then.

Harry groped his side table for his glasses and wand, jamming his glasses on his face and lazily casting a spell. “Tempus.”

As Harry caught sight of the time, he felt his heart stop. And then, he threw himself out of bed, falling to the ground with a loud thump. He whined and jumped up, running towards his wardrobe, sifting through it for an appropriate outfit. He yanked out an oversized jumper from an old conquest at Hogwarts and wrestled a pair of jeans onto his body. They were holey and nearly falling apart but, they would do.

Barefoot, he ran from the room, crashing down the stairs, and he threw himself into the kitchen.

His housemates all looked up at him, owl-eyed. There was a breakfast spread on the kitchen table. Toast with jams and butter, fluffy scrambled eggs—the only thing Ron could make—and muffins, probably courtesy of Hermione. Neville slowly took a bite out of his toast, his head tilted in confusion."

“Good morning to you too,” Hermione said.

"I'm late," Harry said as a greeting, reaching for a piece of toast off Neville's plate.

“Get your own food!” Neville protested.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Didn’t you hear me say I’m late? For once, thank Merlin, for your inconsiderate screaming.”

“It’s nearly noon,” Ron retorted.

Harry pretended that he didn’t hear the man, instead munching on the toast. It went down his throat dry and he coughed, lightly. He danced across the kitchen, rummaging through the cupboards for a mug.

“There’s tea, if you want,” Hermione called.

Harry’s lip curled. It was too early for tea. Tea wouldn’t wake him up or give him the will to go on. Coffee, it would be.

“No, thanks,” Harry said. “What were you all screaming about this morning?”

He didn’t see them all exchanged glances. Neville poked Ron in the shoulder and waved his hand towards Harry. Harry swallowed a mouthful of eggs and cleared his throat.

“We were thinking of throwing a housewarming party!” Ron declared.

Neville, Ron, and Hermione all started speaking over one another, eager in their agreement. Harry rolled his eyes as he banged on the magical coffee machine, trying to make it work. He sighed in relief as it began to spit out the black sludge that he needed to get through the day.

“It’s not a housewarming party if I was already living here,” Harry said, dryly. He picked up his drink and downed it, wincing as it scalded his tongue, setting it on fire but suddenly it felt numb.

Well, there went his taste buds.

“We weren’t living here. Everyone should see our new place,” Hermione said.

Harry scoffed. “This place is dark and sad and filthy.”

“Like your soul,” Neville muttered under his breath.

Harry drew his wand, pointing it. “What was that, Neville?”

“I mean...you’re not the only dark and twisty person in the house. I could be talking about anyone,” Neville said, slowly looking over at Hermione. Hermione scoffed, rolling her eyes.

“I am not—”

“Yes, you are,” Ron and Neville said together.

Harry pursed his lips. “Look. You want to throw a party? Fine. Just...don’t be arses about it. I’ve got to go.”

“Where are you going? We have work tonight!” Hermione called as Harry tossed his mug in the sink and grabbed his bag, slinging it over his shoulder.

“I know that. I have lunch with my godfather—our landlord—and my father,” Harry said, wincing as he thought about his dad.

“You...you’ve literally never spoken about your dad,” Hermione murmured.

“Yeah, you know how I don’t really like my mum? I don’t really fuck with my dad either. But, I’m going to be the adult. Look at that...we’re adults now!” Harry crowed, full of false enthusiasm as he backed out of the condition. He ignored their wide-eyed nervousness. “When did that happen?”

The three watched as Harry disappeared from the kitchen and just a few moments later, out of the house. They all looked at one another.

“Merlin, he’s a mess of mommy and daddy issues,” Ron said.

Hermione smacked him over the head with The Daily Prophet.

“Don’t let him hear you say that,” she warned. “Now, who are we inviting to this party?”

"I was thinking some of the younger matrons," Ron said, waggling his eyebrows at Neville. Neville flushed though his lips quirked up into a small smile. "Thank Merlin that Harry agreed. I've been telling people about this for a week and, there's this one fit blonde nurse that I'd like to...talk to."

Hermione gagged.

“Disgusting,” Hermione muttered. She shook it off and looked at all of them. “Jocks only. That means Spell Damage, E&T, Mind, and Creature-Induced.”

“We can’t just leave out Potions and Poison!” Neville squawked. He suddenly fell quieter and looked down. “And...I may have invited the Head of the Children’s Ward. She’s quirky but cool.”

“You invited the primary schoolers?” Hermione demanded. She groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. “You know what…we’ll just spread this word of mouth. Try to get some more alcohol. Now, we don’t have much time. We have a 6-hour shift today. Let’s get this shit together.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry paused outside of the cafe area and took a deep breath. He straightened his jumper and jacket in the cafe window's reflection and then nodded once. He stared at the outside area, and saw them, quietly talking to one another. Harry pasted a small smile on her face and he nodded at the host as we walked over to the small garden table.

Aurors Sirius Black and James Potter looked up, bright smiles spreading across their faces as Harry settled himself in the chair across from them.

“Harry! How are you?” Sirius asked, reaching across the table to clap Harry’s shoulder. He squeezed once, smiling softly.

Harry swallowed his nerves. “I’m good! It’s good to see you,” he smiled. Then, his gaze softened as he looked at his father for the time in months. “To see you both.”

“I’ve missed you, Harry,” James said, solemnly.

Harry’s smile widened somewhat and a rush of warmth spread through his entire body. Instead of figuring out how an emotionally adjusted person would respond, he awkwardly looked at the menu, searching for something cheap and filling. He paused over the bangers and mash. He winced when he felt eyes on him and slowly he looked up. They were both staring at him with wide eager smiles.

“What?” Harry muttered.

“Just...you’re a Healer,” James said, looking at his son in awe. “I’m so proud of you, Harry!”

“Thanks,” Harry said. “I’m not a Healer yet though. I’m just a trainee.”

“You’ve already assisted on a procedure! I know that you assisted on Riddle’s internal procedure on your first day. That’s a massive accomplishment!” Sirius cheered and Harry swallowed at the mention of Riddle.

“Yeah, I did. But, it could’ve easily been my friend Hermione too.”

James and Sirius exchanged long looks.

“You have friends?” James asked, softly. “Tell us about them.”

“Well...they’re my housemates too,” Harry allowed.

Sirius’ eyes widened. “So, you’re not living in that decrepit hole all by yourself? That’s good! That’s really good, Harry. Tell us about your friends.”

“They’re my team. Hermione Granger. She’s a Muggleborn. She’s incredible. Really smart and talented. A bit of an asshole sometimes, but all intelligent people are. She wants to be a Spell Damage specialist. Like me. And then, there’s Ron Weasley—” Harry said.

“I know the Weasleys! His dad works at the Ministry?” James asked.

Harry looked at him in surprise and he slowly nodded. “Yeah, he does. Ron wants to be Spell Damage but, I don’t know if that’ll be what he does. He’s got a lot of talent too but, I don’t think he really likes Spell Damage. I think he wants the glory. It’s the glamorous one. And then, there’s Neville Longbottom. You definitely know his parents.”

“Yeah. Alice and Frank,” Sirius said, firmly. Harry nodded in confirmation. “Alice is the hit wizard and Frank is an Auror. Both really talented. I’m surprised he didn’t go into the family business.”

Harry shifted uncomfortably.

“Well, I think he’s going to be great in his field. He exceeded the Outstandings grade on his Herbology NEWT,” Harry said, with a proud smile though he hadn’t even known Neville at the time. Both James and Sirius looked suitably impressed. “He’s going into Potions and Plants Poisonings.”

“Under Snivellus?” James demanded, his lips curling in disgust.

Harry actually laughed at the terrible nickname. “Yeah. You were right. He’s an arse. Merlin, I hate him. I don’t really work with him a lot, thank Merlin. But, Neville does. He was such a dick to him on the first day.”

“Not surprising. Snape is the most unpleasant arse that I’ve ever met in my life. Can’t understand how he’s friends with Lily,” Sirius muttered under his breath.

If either James or Sirius noticed Harry flinch at his mother’s name, they were kind enough not to mention it. Harry cleared his throat awkwardly.

“Your sister mentioned you wrote her back,” James said and Harry’s lips twitched into a smile as he thought about his gossipy little sister. She wasn’t really that little either but, still.

“Yeah, I did. I miss her,” Harry said, softly.

James hummed. “You should come home for Christmas, then. You haven’t been home for Christmas in...years, I think,” James said, and he sounded sad about it. Sadder than Harry had ever thought he’d be about the matter.

“I...it’s still only October. I’ll think about it. I’ll see what my housemates are doing,” Harry allowed.

“That’s all I ask,” James murmured. “You ready to order?”

Even as he asked, he waved down the waitress. She jotted down their orders with a quill and dashed off. Harry rocked back and forth in his seat, unsure of where it was safe to look. He had never felt so incredibly nervous in front of his family before.

“How’s working with Riddle?” Sirius asked.

Harry fought hard to keep his blush from overwhelming him.

"Uh...er...he's fine. Arrogant. Obnoxious. Insistent," Harry muttered, growing more and more irritated as he thought about Tom Riddle. He looked up, sheepish when he saw how amused his dad and godfather were. "But, I don't actually train with him that often. I'm McGonagall's trainee."

“Minerva! Merlin, Minerva trained Snape and Lily too, didn’t she?” Sirius asked, ignoring Harry’s flinch again. This time Harry didn’t think he was being kind. He just didn’t seem to notice. “Do they tell stories about the two of them? I wonder.”

“We don’t really talk about Mum at work,” Harry said, his voice cold.

Sirius’ eyes widened and he swallowed, finally noticing.

“Your mum has been writing you, you know. Are you going to respond to her?” James asked, quietly.

And there it was.

“Look. I don’t fucking know, okay?” Harry snarled, looking up at the two of them. “I have nothing to say to her.”

There was a long moment between the three of them, interrupted by the sudden appearance of their food. Harry dug into his bangers and mash with gusto, demolishing it with a fork and knife. He went about it methodically, like a procedure with his wand and athame. He pretended that he couldn’t feel their eyes on him.

“She wants to know you. About you. Your life,” James said, hesitantly.

He hadn’t touched his sandwich. Harry slammed his knife and fork down.

“Don’t pretend you…don’t pretend that I don’t have a reason. To not want to talk to her,” Harry said. He didn’t bother checking the time. “I have to go. I have work.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry wrestled himself into his hunter green robes and practically threw himself at McGonagall’s feet the moment he arrived at the hospital.

“Potter,” she drawled.

"Reporting for duty, Healer McGonagall!" Harry said, saluting her. McGonagall rolled her eyes but didn't say anything particularly scathing so he took it as a win. "What am I doing today? Brewing? Pharmacy? Paperwork?"

“None of the above. You’ve been requested,” McGonagall sighed.

Harry’s heart dropped into his belly. “By...not by Riddle? Please, not by Riddle,” Harry whispered to himself and McGonagall’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“I thought you’d enjoy working with Healer Riddle, seeing as your introduction to the program was an internal procedure with him. Is there a problem?” McGonagall asked, taking a step closer. Harry shivered under her gaze; it was like she could stare into his soul, and his soul was not something for public consumption.

“Um. No. I just...don’t feel like doing Spell Damage work today,” Harry squeaked.

McGonagall stared at him and rolled her eyes. Harry knew his lie was weak, but he wasn’t going to say shit to his teacher.

"Good. Because you've been called up to the Mind Healing Ward. Report to the Head Healer. He has work for you," McGonagall said before leaving, a clear dismissal.

Harry stared at her, slack-jawed.

Albus Dumbledore had requested to work with him.

The Head Healer of St. Mungo’s was legendary in his field. Mind Healing was one of the most mysterious parts of the Healing arts. It was notoriously difficult, requiring a balanced mind, and control that few possessed. One had to be well-versed in both Occlumency and Legilimency, and there was always a certain quality that one had to possess.

Of course, that meant Harry was not meant for that field in the least.

He was a human traffic accident.

“A-are you sure?” Harry called after her.

McGonagall paused, looking over her shoulder. “Potter, I have patients to check up on. Yes, I’m sure,” she barked.

Harry let out a deep breath that he hadn’t even known he was holding, in order to center himself. He turned back to the lifts and then froze when he saw a familiar pair of shoulders. Riddle was talking to someone—a girl that was nearly two feet shorter with long blonde hair that fell to her waist. Her lime green robes were quite shocking in comparison to the neon purple barrettes in her hair.

As if sensing him, Riddle began to turn away from his conversation. Harry turned on his heel immediately and knew that he would much rather take the stairs all the way up to the Mind Healing floor than wait in another lift with Riddle.

By the time he reached the top, Harry was so out of breath, his entire face was red. He wheezed, his chest rebelling against him. Harry doubled over, attempting to catch his breath, before he collected himself, standing up straight. He smoothed his hands over his robes, and strode forward through the hall and turned into the Head Healer’s office.

“Healer Dumbledore, you requested me?” Harry asked.

Albus Dumbledore’s office was as eccentric and extravagant as the man himself. There were shelves upon shelves, some crooked, piled upon with little silver instruments and knick-knacks. Books were piled up on the floor, overflowing from the stuffed bookshelves. It smelled like lemon drops and freshly brewed tea, and the whole of it made it hard for Harry not to smile.

“Ah, come in, my boy,” Dumbledore said, cheerfully. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

Harry faltered at the man’s question, slowly nodding as he went to sit in the chair before the desk. It was overstuffed and soft, and Harry practically sank into it.

“Sure. But, I thought we were doing Mind Healing today?” Harry said as a question. He leaned forward in his seat. “Splash of milk, no sugar.”

Dumbledore’s smile widened and he waved his wand. Harry’s eyebrows rose as the teapot and milk did Dumbledore’s bidding, falling into order. The teacup scuttled towards Harry before settling. Harry took a sip and grinned in satisfaction.

“Today will be an observation and education day,” Dumbledore said. “I’m afraid that I can’t allow you to engage in any Healing with any of the patients until I evaluate your Mind magical skills.”

Harry swallowed.

"I guess it's best to tell you now that I'm not very good at Occlumency or Legilimency. My dad tried to teach me Occlumency, but I'm too...volatile," Harry admitted and Dumbledore's smile widened as if he were charmed by the idea.

“As all youth are. But, this is a skill as any other skill that one cultivates during their Healing education. We will raise you up above inadequacy, this I promise. Tell me, my boy, how are you enjoying the program?” Dumbledore asked.

And Harry wondered why the man was asking. He didn’t seem to be going out of his way to ask the other trainees. So, that meant it definitely had something to do with Lily. His mood began to sour.

“Does it matter?” Harry asked, as a knee-jerk reaction. He cringed. “I’m sorry. I’m...I’m unnaturally defensive.”

Dumbledore didn’t seem upset. “That’s quite understandable with your mother being who she is.”

Harry paused.

“Excuse me?” he asked.

“I’m sure you wonder why I ask this of you specifically. And I would be remiss not to acknowledge that I ask this of you because you are Lily’s son. But, I do not think you quite understand my reasoning entirely. Your mother is a prominent figure in this hospital and the Healing world at large. I ask about your participation in the program because I would hate it if her shadow made it difficult for the Healers here to see you,” Dumbledore said, immediately.

Harry swallowed, fighting the smile that was attempting to work its way across his face. He took a sip of his tea. As he figured out what he was going to say, he ended up gulping down his tea, scalding his tongue.

“It’s...it’s going good,” Harry allowed. Dumbledore looked at him in such a way that it made Harry’s lips curl into a wide grin. “It’s better than good. It’s amazing, sir. I...my first day, I assisted in an internal procedure. And I felt…”

“Healing is a magic beyond all others,” Dumbledore allowed.

Harry found himself nodding eagerly.

“It really is,” Harry said, softly.

Dumbledore hummed. “Good. Now that we’ve had this lovely conversation, I’m afraid the time for work begins, especially if we’re to take part in the festivities,” Dumbledore said, cheerfully.

Harry blinked. "What?"

Dumbledore didn't seem to have heard him, instead bustling around his office, grabbing seemingly random pieces of parchment, stacking them together. Harry blinked rapidly as he stared down at the bright yellow silk slippers peeking out from under the hem of the man's robes. Dumbledore was definitely mad.

“Come, young Harry. We shall do rounds,” Dumbledore said, passing him the stack of parchments and striding towards the door. Harry stayed frozen in his seat for only another second before he hurried after the man, holding the parchment tight to his chest. “Be alert. Take notes. I’ll be very clear about the treatment for each. You seemed quite aware of afflictions of the mind last time we spoke.”

“I am. At least, as much as I can be. We learned about it, some, in school,” Harry stammered.

Dumbledore glanced back, regarding him over his half-moon lenses. “Good. I’d advise you to brush up on your studies. I’d like to keep you on my service for another two weeks. We’ll get your Occlumency to a passable level. It’s a helpful tool for all wizards.”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said, following the man to the Janus Thickey Ward.

Harry had never considered Mind Healing and he still wasn’t—not really. But, he was being taught by Albus Dumbledore.

“And after rounds, I’ll need you down on the E&T floor, searching for possible Mind patients.”

Harry’s excitement fell. So, Dumbledore needed a grunt. Great.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry huffed, already exhausted, and barely halfway through his shift. He looked through the next patient file. This one looked promising. Dennis Aldermaston, age 24, and seemed to be suffering from a rather stubborn Confundus Charm.

Dennis Aldermaston was definitely confused about something as he wandered around, bumping into random beds and matrons. A young matron tried to wrestle him back into bed, but he seemed to be arguing with her, convinced that he was actually a famous Quidditch player.

Harry’s lips quirked as the man snarled, “Do you know who I am?”

The matron threw up her hands, clearly exasperated. She took a step back, shaking her head.

“What do I even do with him? He’s been at it for twenty minutes,” she sighed, exhaustion rife through her face.

“Hi, Matron. I’ve got this. I’ll calm him down. Distract him. I’m going to run a diagnostics spell, see what I can find out. Then, you hit him with a stasis charm and then we can transfer him upstairs. Healer Dumbledore was looking for some mind patients and it seems like I’ve found an interesting one,” Harry said, observing his charts and paperwork while looking at the patient.

The Confundus Charm wasn’t performing like a typical Confundus Charm. He seemed to be genuinely convinced that he was a Quidditch player.

“Sure,” the matron sighed, pulling her wand.

“Hello, Mister Aldermaston. It’s such a pleasure to meet you,” Harry said, affecting an awe-inspired look. His voice swooped higher and the man turned on him, suddenly looking more dazed than before.

“Well, look at you,” Aldermaston drawled. He shot a sour look at the matron. “At least someone knows who I am.”

“Sure, Mister Aldermaston,” the matron muttered.

Harry swallowed his snickers as he took a step forward. “Of course, I know who you are. I’m Healer Potter, and you’re at St. Mungo’s. It looks like you took a Bludger to the head, sir. If you’ll just take a seat,” Harry said as pleasantly as he could.

“I will do anything you want me to,” Aldermaston drawled. Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Aldermaston settled on the gurney and laid back on it, stretching his arms over his head. He squirmed, a frown furrowing his brow. “Can you adjust my pillow? I’m uncomfortable.”

Harry’s teeth clenched and he glanced back at the matron. The matron rolled her eyes.

“Sure, Mister Aldermaston,” Harry said as pleasantly as he possible. He moved forward, leaning down to adjust the man’s pillow when suddenly a hand was pressed against the back of his head and the patient was kissing him.

Harry grunted as he felt a slobbering tongue swipe at his teeth and he jerked back, stumbling. Aldermaston grinned up at him, winking.

The matron’s mouth fell open. “What the—”

“Fuck this,” Harry growled, pulling his wand. “Akinisía.

Aldermaston’s eyes rolled into the back of his head as Harry put him into a rather forceful stasis.

“I’ll...transport him upstairs,” the matron decided, waving her wand and already the gurney was floating away.

Harry gagged, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand and silently debated the merits of casting an Aguamenti straight into his mouth. Fucking people didn’t know what fucking boundaries were. What an asshole.

And then, he felt him. Looming.

Harry groaned, turning around to face Riddle.

“You kiss patients now?” Riddle asked, his face warring between irritation and amusement

Harry flushed but, successfully, blew him off, rolling his eyes.

“What are you? Jealous?” Harry challenged, turning away from him and marking the patient down for evaluation by the Mind Healers. He was clearly hit by a Confundus Charm otherwise he wouldn’t have done something like that.

Harry paused. Re-evaluated.

Well, some people might have done that. He didn’t really know the man.

“I don’t get jealous,” Riddle protested.

Harry’s lips twitched. The man sounded jealous.

“We had sex. Once.”

“And we kissed in a lift,” Riddle retorted.

Harry huffed, rolling his eyes as he pressed his parchment and quill tight to his chest as he regarded the man, his eyes narrowed. “It wasn’t that good, you know,” Harry muttered.

Liar.

“Then, let me prove that it can be. Get dinner with me. Or a drink. Get a drink with me, Harry,” Riddle said, taking a step closer. Harry’s breath caught in his throat as Riddle was suddenly towering over him, looking down at him with those mesmerizing burgundy eyes.

“I...no. You’re my boss,” Harry said, helplessly.

Riddle raised an eyebrow. “I have it on good authority that you like having someone bossy in your bed.”

Harry swallowed and back around, pressing his parchments to his face in an attempt to hide the violent flush of blood to his cheeks. Riddle laughed softly, and even in his laughter sent a shudder of arousal down Harry’s spine along with a healthy sense of outrage. Harry turned back around, his green eyes narrowed.

“You think you’re charming,” Harry snapped.

“Oh, sweetheart, I know I’m charming,” Riddle retorted.

Harry swallowed. Sweetheart. Oh, he liked the sound of that. It was condescending and such an asshole thing to say, but Harry liked it.

Sweetheart.

“You’re not, you know,” Harry said as confidently as he could, forcing his embarrassment away. “You think you are but you’re not. You think you’re going to wear me down because you, what? Get off on the chase? You like to play games, Healer Riddle?”

Riddle raised an eyebrow, his smile slowly fading away. He took a step closer, looming over Harry. Harry was starting not to mind the man’s looming.

“I don’t play games, Harry Potter. And it’s not the chase. I like you,” Riddle said, softly, reaching up and letting his hand hover in the air. “You’re beautiful, you’re rude, and you’re talented.”

“Oh, I’m talented?” Harry asked.

Fuck, he was flirting back.

“Talent turns me on,” Riddle drawled. “It turns you on too. I can tell.”

“It does,” Harry allowed. He took a step back, his eyes narrowing. “But, I’m still not going out with you.”

Riddle let his hand drop, and his lips curled into a smirk. “You say that now.”

He walked away as if their interaction hadn’t ever happened. Harry bit his bottom lip, fighting away his smile.

He grinned anyway.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Okay. How many people are on the list?” Hermione asked, looking over Ron’s shoulder. Her eyes narrowed at the chicken scratch and she scoffed. “How can you do McGonagall’s post-procedure paperwork with handwriting like this?”

“I do drafts. Duh,” Ron said, sticking out his mashed potatoes covered tongue. Hermione made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat as she snatched the parchment and quill, and began to go over the list.

“Okay. You’ve invited half the hospital. Really, Ron? Really?” Hermione demanded.

Ron shrugged. “People kept coming up to me and asking. And it’s not like Grimmauld Place is small. We’ve got that little back garden too,” Ron pointed out. He reached out to take one of Hermione’s chips, but she sent a quick Stinging Charm that made him cry out and wince.

Hermione rolled her eyes and continued to go through the list. Ron had invited almost every department with the exception of the Artifact Accidenters, though that no surprise. Ron had been forced to work with them multiple times already, and he’d said they were all freaks.

“We don’t have enough alcohol for that many people,” Neville said as he wandered over, peering over Hermione’s shoulder. He went around the table and set down his food tray, staring at his two housemates. “We’ve only got three cases of Butterbeer in the house.”

“Harry has a bottle of Firewhiskey,” Ron supplied unhelpfully.

“Well…half a bottle of Firewhiskey,” Hermione corrected. The three exchanged long meaningful looks. None of them wanted to say it, but they all understood.

Harry wasn’t an alcoholic in the least, but he was a little fond of Firewhiskey.

"Okay. What if I circulate a bring your own alcohol policy?" Neville asked. He leaned forward, a curious look on his face. "The matrons can bring Gigglewater. Spell Damage brings Firewhiskey. Everyone else brings more Butterbeer and maybe some wizard's brew."

“Sounds like a plan. We can get that out word of mouth,” Hermione decided.

Neville hesitated. “Does Harry know how big this is?”

“I mean...if you want to tell him,” Ron said, unhelpfully gesturing to the approaching man.

Harry looked caught between giddiness and outrage. He fell into the seat next to Neville, letting his head fall on the man’s shoulder. Neville’s cheeks pinked up, but Harry didn’t even seem to notice. He leaned forward over the table, grabbing half of Hermione’s sandwich.

“What’s up?” Hermione asked, curiously.

“Hey! How come he can eat half of your sandwich, but I can’t have one chip?” Ron demanded.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Because I like him,” Hermione said. She turned back to Harry, raising a single eyebrow.

“Okay, so I came to work late—”

“Oh, yeah, how was lunch with your godfather and dad?” Neville asked curiously.

Harry rolled his eyes. “They try. I promised I’d think about spending Christmas with them. Definitely besides the point. As I was saying, I came to work late, so I couldn’t tell you all, but I worked with Albus Dumbledore today!”

Hermione gaped and Ron’s mouth unhinged, showing off the bits of food in his mouth. Harry’s nose wrinkled. Ron swallowed his food, quickly washing it down with pumpkin juice.

“You’re joking! How was it? What did you do?” Ron asked.

“Not much, right? I mean...are you skilled at Legilimency or Occlumency? Mind magic is such delicate work. It takes years,” Hermione murmured, her eyes bright with wonder at all of the possibilities. She brushed a bushy piece of hair down, patting it back into her bun.

“Well, really, I took notes. I’ll be on his service for the next two weeks! He wants to teach me passable Occlumency. He’s so cool. Definitely mad, but also very cool,” Harry said with a grin.

"That can't be what's got you so happy though. Are you excited about the party?" Ron asked.

Harry rolled his eyes. “For a housewarming? Not really.”

The three housemates exchanged nervous looks.

“Well, out with it, Harry,” Hermione said, pushing her unfinished plate of chips towards Harry. She ignored Ron’s longing look.

Harry bit his bottom lip. “Don’t react—”

“What now, Harry?” Hermione demanded, her eyes suddenly blazing.

“I said don’t react!”  Harry whined.

“Don’t react to what?” Neville asked curiously.

Hermione shook her head, only having eyes for Harry. “What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything. Just...just he’s charming. So, so charming,” Harry sighed, a faraway look entering his eyes. Neville looked away, shifting in his seat uncomfortably.

“Are you going to share with the class?” Ron snapped, a little put out.

Hermione and Harry seemed to realize where they were.

“Uh...later, Hermione,” Harry muttered. Hermione nodded once, though she still appeared unhappy. Ron and Neville pursed their lips, irritated. “Now, tell me about your days.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione grumbled under her breath as she went through her notes again. She turned back to the potion and furrowed her brow as she gradually added the last ingredient: aconite. Hermione shielded her eyes with one hand, as she went to wave her wand. She prepared for the explosion and let out a gasp of relief when a faint blue smoke floated from the potion.

She let out a long sigh and shook her head.

Tempus,” she murmured.

It was only nine. Sure, she would be late to her own party, but she was reasonably sure that Ron and Neville could handle it. Hermione packed up her books and left the potion lab after casting a stasis charm over her potion. As she walked up the stairs, she went through all of her notes, double checking her work.

When she entered the Healer trainee room, she grinned.

“You waited for me?” Hermione asked, grinning at Harry.

Harry rolled his eyes, looking away. “No. I just...didn’t want to leave yet,” Harry grumbled.

Hermione snorted. “You’re not as much of a curmudgeon as you pretend to be, Harry Potter. Now, tell me about what I’m not supposed to react to,” she said as she stowed her books in her cupboard and began to unbutton her robes and shouldering them off, leaving her only in a pair of tight trousers and her bra.

She paused looking at herself in the mirror, pinching at the soft bit of flesh around her middle. Hermione rolled her eyes and turned back to her cupboard.

“He asked me on a date again. And he said it’s not a game. Hermione, I...I would like to believe him,” Harry said hesitantly.

Hermione turned on her friend immediately, her eyes blazing as she pulled her t-shirt over her head.

“No, Harry. He’s charming, but you have to think big picture. This could ruin your career,” Hermione said insistently. She paused, taking her hair out of the bun and shaking it out, letting it frizz out wildly around her head, the curls bouncing every which way. She glanced in the mirror again and nodded approvingly.

“I still have so much to prove,” Harry murmured to himself. He shook himself, looking back over at Hermione, crossing his arms. “You look good for a housewarming party.”

“So do you,” Hermione retorted, gesturing to his too-tight jeans with tears and rips in the thighs and knees and the oversized sweater that he liked to wear to show off his collarbones.

“Should we grab snacks before we go home? Do you think Ron and Neville bought snacks?” he asked as they walked towards the Apparation spot together. Hermione’s brow slowly furrowed.

“Harry...how much do you know about this party?” she asked.

"Trainees, right? Wait...you guys didn't invite Smith, did you? I hate that guy," Harry grumbled.

Hermione swallowed. “Har—”

But, he was gone with a crack. Hermione cursed under her breath and followed him. She Disapparated and winced as she felt like she was being compressed into a straw and then pushed back out again on the front step of Grimmauld Place.

The door was open and the loud, thumping music was pouring out onto the street.

Hermione ran up the steps and inside, shutting the door behind her. She swallowed as she stood at Harry’s side, observing the monster that she had helped to create.

There were people everywhere. Up the stairs, in the hallways leading to the kitchen, to the two parlors and the living room. Everyone was talking over everyone else, barely hearing the music. There were two matrons giggling raucously as they drank their Gigglewater, and resisted being flirted with by a Spell Damage specialist that Hermione was sure wasn’t a trainee.

“Hermione. Who are all of these people in my house?” Harry roared, but his voice was lost in the din of all the noise. He seemed to be shouting something more, probably curse, but Hermione had to strain to hear him. “You know what! Forget it! Where’s the Firewhiskey?”

He’s stormed away, his cheek red with fury.

Hermione swallowed and then decided that she would feel bad about it later. Better to beg for forgiveness than ask permission. It was something that she was learning quickly, especially if she wanted to stay ahead of the game at St. Mungo’s.

“Hello, would you like a bottle of Butterbeer?”

Hermione blinked down at the sweet-looking young woman. She was quite short with long dirty blonde hair that flowed to her waist in waves. She possessed the largest set of eyes that Hermione had ever seen outside of a house elf, and she had a string of Butterbeer caps around her neck. She held out the bottle with a hopeful look on her face.

“Um. Sure. This is my house,” Hermione said, taking the open bottle. She didn’t drink it. “I’m Hermione Granger, Healer trainee. I haven’t seen you in the Healer trainee room.”

"That's because I'm not a trainee, silly," the girl laughed, taking a long sip of her beer. She gave a tiny belch but made no move to excuse herself. "I'm Luna Lovegood, Head of the Children's Ward! I specialize in Magical Bugs and Maladies."

Hermione’s eyes widened and she took a long drag of her Butterbeer. “You look twelve,” she blurted out and then flushed. “Wait, no. Sorry. I’ll be on your service soon and I don’t want you to hold that against me.”

Luna Lovegood’s smile widened broadly, to the point that Hermione shifted uncomfortably.

“That’s alright,” Luna said, dreamily. “I’m really not that much older than you. But, that’s a story for another time. I should go find Albus.”

Hermione blinked.

“Wait. Dumbledore is here?” Hermione demanded.

Luna nodded, eagerly. “And all the other Department Heads. We wouldn’t miss out on a party!” Luna giggled and she was off, disappearing into the crowd.

Hermione shivered, thrown by the strangest encounter of her life. And then it hit her. Her bosses were at her house. At her party. They were seeing their entire staff rage like they were a bunch of schoolchildren or randy teenagers. Hermione swallowed when a couple slammed against the wall next to her, furiously snogging, attempting to strip one another right there in the open. Hermione slowly traded the girl's Gigglewater for her Butterbeer. The snogging couple didn't miss a beat.

Hermione was definitely going to need something stronger.

She pushed through the crowd, taking a sip of the terribly sweet liquid. Then she chugged it, pushing through towards the kitchen. She stumbled into the kitchen and set her nearly empty bottle down on the counter. There was a much smaller group in the kitchen, all talking rather loudly to each other.

She paused. “Wait. You aren’t Healers,” she accused, raising her finger.

The group looked up and glanced at her. They looked her over, judgmentally. One of them laughed, coolly.

“Yeah. It’s because we’re junior Aurors. Duh,” she drawled before turning back to her little group.

Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose. What the fuck.

She finished off her Gigglewater in one go, chugging it, and promptly let out a long peal of laughter. One of the junior Aurors looked up, interested. She barely noticed him coming her way as she laughed it all out, hiccuping at the end.

“You’ve got a really cute laugh,” the man said.

Hermione jumped, her eyes wide. “Um. Me?” she asked.

The man’s smile widened. “Yeah, you.”

Hermione's lips curled into a grin and she looked him over. He was quite tall with a thicket of luscious blonde hair atop his head, perfectly coiffed. He had that smile; that ‘I know I'm great smile'. Hermione dubbed it an ‘uppity Auror smile' in her head. Though she'd only been at St. Mungo's for a month, she already knew how some Aurors could be up their arse about their job as if it were more important than hers.

“I’m Hermione Granger,” she said with a grin, holding out her hand. “I live here.”

The man took her hand and brought it to his lips. Hermione smothered a snort with her other hand.

"I'm Cormac McLaggen. A pleasure to meet you, Miss Granger."


DIAGNOSIS


 

Ron had not expected this. Not in the least.

He had thought that a few people would show up here and there, just coming through before proceeding to the pubs. After all, it was a Saturday night, but a lot of people would have a shift tomorrow. Except, it seemed like everyone that worked at the hospital was in his house, and then some. Everywhere he turned, Ron saw St. Mungo’s employees, junior Aurors, and a host of Ministry interns that he had no idea about.

“Neville...this is fucked. This is so fucking fucked. Harry’s going to bludgeon us with a Beaters bat,” Ron hissed. He turned, searching for Neville and he scoffed when he saw the other man pressed into a corner by a rather insistent Hannah Abbott.

They weren’t snogging just yet. Hannah was saying something excitedly to him and Neville just looked sort of overwhelmed, looking over Ron’s head, helplessly. Ron saluted him and sighed, turning around and clutching his wizard’s brew tighter to his chest. Someone should get some, he decided, if it wasn’t going to be him.

Ron cursed under his breath as he began to patrol around the party, waving his wand to keep certain doors locked. It wouldn’t do for Harry to get home to two people hooking up in his bed. That just wasn’t on and Ron didn’t really want to be evicted when he’d just finally moved out of his parents' house. He couldn't take any more of his mum's fussing.

Ron whipped around as a trio of girls scurried past, giggling and clutching a bottle of wizard’s brew tight between the three of them. Ron pulled his wand.

Accio bottle!” Ron snarled. The ale ripped itself right out of their hands landing clumsily in his free hand. He turned on the three girls. “Hey, how old are you three?”

“Seventeen,” snapped the boldest of them. “I’m Romilda Vane.”

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “Where are you from?”

Romilda Vane faltered. “E-excuse me?”

“What department?” Ron challenged, taking a step closer to them. The other two girls fought to get behind Romilda, whispering to each other frantically.

“U-um...Artifact Accidents?” Romilda said, slowly.

Ron scoffed. “Ha! You’re Hogwarts students, aren’t you? We didn’t invite any Accidenters because they’re off. So, tell me...should I give the Headmaster a firecall or will you three get out of my house of your own free will?” Ron demanded.

Romilda’s eyes narrowed. “At least give me back my brew,” Romilda demanded.

Ron scoffed. “Yeah, right. I’m not giving some underage girl any alcohol. Now, get out before I have a few junior Aurors arrest you for underage Apparating or however you got here. You know where the door is,” Ron challenged. His eyes narrowed.

“You heard the man.”

Ron’s eyes widened and he glanced at the woman that had joined his side. She was a pretty woman with short dark hair and a round face. Her arms were crossed under her rather ample breasts. Ron slowly looked her up and down. Well, damn.

“Yeah, yeah, we’re going,” Romilda muttered, shooting Ron an evil look. She stuck out her tongue and gave him the finger.

Ron returned it wholeheartedly and took a swig of her brew just to be an arsehole.

The woman that had joined him laughed, wildly. Ron turned to her, a little dazed like he'd been struck over the head.

“Hi. I’m Ron Weasley,” Ron said with a grin.

The woman looked up at him with sparkling eyes. “I’m Emmeline Vance. Creature-Induced Injuries. Nice going there. Real responsible.”

“Thanks. I try to set a good example for our future,” Ron said with a grin.

“Good on you. I’m going to get more Gigglewater. You should come find me later,” she said. Emmeline winked at him, disappearing down the hallway before Ron could even get another word out.

Ron opened and closed his mouth like a fish, dumbstruck. He watched the way her hips swayed as she moved. What a woman.

“Weasley!”

Ron paled at the familiar voice. Slowly, he turned to face his bosses.

Dumbledore grinned at him, waving happily, standing between McGonagall and Snape. Snape’s lips curled into a sneer as he finished his glass of what appeared to be Muggle bourbon.

“Um...yes...sir?” Ron squeaked.

“Do you have any more bourbon? And who are these hooligans in this house?” Snape demanded, his eyes narrowed.

“I don’t really—”

“This party is excellent, Mister Weasley!” Dumbledore said cheerfully. As if on cue, someone screamed and there was the sound of shattering glass followed by a large roar of laughter. “Really quite entertaining. I don’t think I’ve had this much fun in decades.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Healer Dumbledore. I just...I’m going to…” Ron turned on his heel, ready to flee. He froze when he was met with a much shorter—though far fiercer—man, with a Firewhiskey bottle clenched tight in his fist. “Harry!”

“Who the fuck are all these people in my house, Ron?” Harry snarled.

“What language,” McGonagall tutted.

Harry’s eyes widened when he realized who the three people behind Ron were. He pinched the bridge of his nose and threw his hand up.

“You know what...I’m not dealing with this. I’m just not. Ron, you clear this out. I want them all gone in the next twenty minute or so help me, Merlin, I will kill you,” Harry threatened. He glanced at his three bosses again, opened his mouth and then shut it when he couldn’t think of anything to say.

Instead, he took another swig of his Firewhiskey and stormed back down the stairs.

“Hey!”

“Bugger off!” Harry roared to the man he had just pushed as he stormed down the steps and turned down one of the more deserted hallways. He pushed through the backdoor into the freezing back garden.

Harry didn’t hate parties. He actually rather enjoyed it. It gave him an excuse to drink and dance like a loon. He did not like having a party sprung on him in his own home. He did not like having an enormous party in his house after a long day at work, with mostly people he didn't know. He also did not want to party with people that he worked for. Suddenly, Harry was reminded of Dumbledore's reference to ‘festivities'.

Wow. Fuck his housemates.

Harry sighed, closing his eyes as the music traveled outside and he took another sip of his Firewhiskey. Slowly, he moved his hips to the sound of the music, gyrating to the heavy bass. He let out a quiet laugh as he dipped low, rolling his hips in time. He punctuated with another swing from his bottle.

“Damn, Harry. If I knew you could move like that...well, I would’ve put you in a more challenging position the last time.”

Harry's eyes flashed open. He stared at the man leaning against the fence, an empty bottle of Firewhiskey hanging from his hand. Riddle looked unfairly attractive in a pair of black trousers that clung to his long, muscular legs, and a button-down that showed off his long neck and just the top of his chest. Harry wanted to lick him.

“How are you here? Why?” Harry whined, throwing his hand in the air. He paused in his outrage to take a swig of his Firewhiskey.

“It was all over the hospital,” Riddle drawled, snatching the bottle from Harry’s hand. He collapsed on the little garden bench, leaning back in his seat as he took a long pull and then passed it back to the younger man. “Thanks for not inviting me by the way. That felt good.”

“They said it was a housewarming party! I thought it was just gonna be, like, other trainees, but I saw Dumbledore and McGonagall and Snape. If my godfather found out, he'd have an aneurysm," Harry whined, throwing his head back against the back of the chair. Slowly, he slumped over, his head falling against Riddle's shoulder.

Riddle lifted his hand, pressing his fingers into Harry’s hair, slowly massaging his scalp. Harry let out a little moan.

“Well...you know how to fix that,” Riddle allowed. He scoffed as they looked back at raging party. They could see the mass of people through the windows, could hear the crashing of pot and plates and the screaming laughter. “I can’t believe you turned me down for this. This and a bottle of Firewhiskey.”

Harry slowly set his Firewhiskey to the side, rolling his head up to look at Riddle. Riddle was looking down at him with those dark burgundy eyes. Harry let out a soft whimper when Riddle’s fingers tightened in his hair, tugging lightly.

“I wish I didn’t,” Harry whispered, swallowing around the sudden knot in his throat.

“Hmm, you wish you didn’t?” Riddle rasped, lowering his face to Harry’s until their lips were only centimeters apart.

“You said no games...Tom,” Harry murmured, raising a hand to cup Riddle’s jaw. “I don’t like games.”

“Good.”

And then, Riddle’s hand fell to Harry’s thigh and he pulled until Harry was straddling his lap. Harry slung one arm over Riddle’s shoulder and moaned as the man’s hands roamed up the back of thighs to grab at his arse, yanking him down until their groins were pressed together. They never broke eye contact as Harry slowly began to rock in Riddle’s lap to the sound of the thumping bass.

Harry pressed his forehead to Riddle’s and he let out a shuddering moan as their cocks pressed against one another. He let his head fall against Riddle’s shoulder and raked his fingers down Riddle’s back, grinding down hard. Riddle’s hands tightened on his arse, slowly guiding him back and forth.

“Fuck, you’re so sexy. Merlin…” Riddle whispered. He reached up and yanked Harry’s head back by his hair, licking a line up from Harry’s exposed collarbone to his jaw. He leaned forward, biting hard at Harry’s bottom lip and pulled, watching it redden.

His cock twitched against Harry’s and Harry mewled again.

“I want you to fuck me. Need you to fuck me against a wall,” Harry gasped. Riddle groaned as he nipped at the column of Harry’s neck, sucking a mark into the soft pale skin. “Press me into a mattress and fuck me so hard I can’t walk. Don’t you want me?”

“Fuck, I want you. You want to show me how good you can be?” Riddle hissed as purple blossomed in the shape of his mouth. Harry keened softly as Riddle pressed a thumb to the fresh hickey. “I want to make you scream.

“How crude.”

The two froze. Harry’s face turned ashen at the voice. Slowly, he slid to the side and turned to look at Minerva McGonagall.

Her lips were pressed tight, pale in her fury. She glared at Riddle with so much rage that Harry was terrified that she was going to pull her wand on him immediately. But, just as fast as her rage had appeared, it was gone again, replaced with severe disapproval with a healthy dose of apathy.

“Minerva,” Riddle drawled like he wasn’t currently tenting his trousers.

“H-Healer McGonagall, it wasn’t...I was…” Harry stammered, looking down at his cock. He had been so hard that it had hurt just moments ago. Now, it was like all of the blood had rushed to his heart, making it beat double-time.

“Don’t mind me. It’s not like there aren’t a hundred people currently in your home, Potter, waiting to eavesdrop. If you’ll excuse me,” McGonagall hissed.

She Disapparated on the spot and Harry let out a breath that he didn’t know he was holding.

“Harry.”

“What?” Harry whispered, still staring at the spot McGonagall had been in.

"I still want to fuck you. Let me help you forget," Riddle purred, licking the shell of his ear. Harry shivered under his ministrations, but still, he didn't look away.

“Forget what?”

Everything.”

Harry keened and slowly he nodded. "Help me forget."

 

Chapter Text

He turned in his bed, burying closer to his pillows even as light filtered through his blinds. Harry groaned as sleep was chased away by the creeping light. His moan of displeasure turned into a whimper of content as he felt fingers run through his hair, rubbing at his scalp. Those fingers felt so familiar. So did the arm wrapped around him, keeping him pressed tight against a long hard body.

Harry blinked himself awake and squinted to make out burgundy eyes staring down at him.

“You’re so creepy,” Harry slurred. “Stop watching me sleep, Riddle.”

“I thought I told you. It’s Tom,” the man said. “Especially in bed.”

Harry whined as Tom rolled him onto his back. Harry’s legs spread unconsciously and Tom rolled his hips against him, their bare cocks rubbing against one another. Harry’s dick twitched with interest and he mewled, hooking one leg over Tom’s. Tom leaned down to brush his lips against Harry’s before switching directions, peppering his face with kisses.

“You’re gorgeous,” Tom whispered, staring down at him.

Harry’s lips parted and he took a deep shuddering breath.

“Shut up,” Harry snapped and he tugged Tom down, pressing their lips together.

He ignored the terrible morning breath—on both their parts—in favor of licking at Tom’s bottom lip, sucking on it greedily. He devoured the man on top of him because that was what Harry did. Harry sucked the people around him dry. Tom pulled back, staring down at him with narrowed eyes.

“You’re so fucked up,” he murmured.

Harry scoffed. “You like that though.”

“I like that you’re a rude brat,” Tom snapped. “There’s a difference.”

He leaned down to kiss Harry again but Harry turned his head.

"No...get up. I have to go to work," Harry murmured though he leaned up for a kiss anyway. Tom licked his lips but didn't deepen the kiss again, instead pulling back.

He slipped from the bed and Harry reached for his glasses, intent on admiring him. Tom looked good, naked and ruffled. His strong back was definitely a turn-on and Harry’s eyes trailed down to his arse, those well-sculpted thighs. The man pulled up his trousers and picked up his button-down from the floor. Tom grabbed his wand, waving it and his shirt buttoned itself

"Do you have a comb?" Tom asked. He paused as he looked at Harry and snorted. "Why am I even asking?"

Promptly, he walked towards the adjoining master bathroom. Harry scoffed, offended and stood from his bed, wrapping himself in his sheet.

“Oi! What’s that supposed to mean?” Harry demanded from the doorway. Tom rolled his eyes, already waving his wand and conjuring a comb into existence. The man looked at himself in the mirror, beginning to work the plastic teeth through his hair.

“You look perpetually fucked out, sweetheart. Don’t worry. It’s sexy,” Tom said, almost condescendingly.

Harry stuck up his middle finger as he entered the bathroom and slid up on the countertop, right next to Tom. He leaned back against the wall, swinging his legs as he watched Tom do his hair. The man's neck was peppered with bruises that trailed down his chest. Harry had matching bruises on the inside of his thighs. Tom slid his conjured comb through his hair.

“McGonagall saw us,” Harry murmured, “And we didn’t cast a Silencing Charm.”

“You are rather loud,” Tom said, consideringly. Harry glowered at him.

“I’m serious,” Harry hissed. “If...my housemates can’t find out. I mean, Hermione knows about the first time. But, no more. We can’t, Tom.”

“We already are,” Tom said, setting down his comb. He looked far more presentable than Harry did even on his best day. “Minerva won’t say anything.”

“How do you know?” Harry whispered. “I can’t lose my job.”

Tom moved just enough to stand between Harry’s legs. He grabbed the younger man’s thighs and tugged him forward until Harry’s legs were wrapped around Tom’s waist. Tom cupped Harry’s face, swiping his thumb over Harry’s bottom lip.

“First, because I know Minerva. I’m just going to get a dose of scathing apathy and a healthy serving of disapproval. Neither do I care for or about. You shouldn’t either. Second, you are not going to lose your job. You’re too good at what you do, sweetheart,” Tom said, he leaned down, kissing Harry’s jaw, that sensitive spot that Harry didn’t even know existed until he had met the man. Harry moaned, letting his head fall back against the wall. “Merlin, the noises you make.”

“You need...to get out,” Harry whispered. “You can’t Apparate into or out of the house.”

“I bet I could. I have it on good authority that I’m very powerful,” Tom said. His burgundy eyes flashed. “I know you find that attractive.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t want you tearing apart my wards and protective spells. I’m not fielding my father’s questions on that. Now, get out.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“So...did you sleep last night? I didn’t,” Ron grumbled into his cup of coffee. “Merlin, he’s loud.”

“I didn’t really expect that,” Neville said, softly. He looked down at his eggs thoughtfully.

Hermione clanged around the kitchen, nervously, banging pots and pans in the sink louder and harder than necessary. Both Neville and Ron awarded her strange looks, but she ignored them. She swallowed, looking up at the ceiling briefly. Harry couldn’t...he wouldn’t

“Do we know who’s up there? Who’s the guy?” Ron asked.

“One guy? Doing all that work…” Neville muttered under his breath. Hermione and Ron looked at him in surprise, but Neville stared back at them, baldly, and calmly sipped his tea.

“It wasn’t...it wasn’t that bad,” Hermione said, weakly.

“They were shagging for hours. Literal hours,” Ron groaned.

Hermione scoffed. “You should’ve thought to put up your own spells like I did around hour two,” Hermione snapped, irritated.

“You weren’t in your room around hour three,” Ron retorted. He paused, looking at her slyly. “Where were you? Actually...where were either of you? I didn’t see you all night.”

Neville’s cheeks flushed pink. “I was...I was hanging out with Hannah Abbott.”

“Hannah?” Hermione asked, delighted. She sat down at the kitchen table with her plate of toast and butter and took a sip of her coffee. “Oh, she’s lovely, Neville. Good for you.”

“Thanks. I think...I’m going to try to get lunch with her today. I was supposed to with Harry, but Hannah is sweet and she asked,” Neville said gently. He busied himself with breakfast, loudly scraping his fork over the china as a sign of a finished conversation.

“I snogged Emmeline Vance last night,” Ron said proudly. “She is so fit, it’s mad.”

“Vance?” Hermione asked, curiously. “She’s one of the leading Creature-Induced Injuries specialists. She’s a fully-fledged Healer!”

“Well, it’s not like she’s my boss. I’m not going into Creature-Induced Injuries. It’s no big deal,” Ron scoffed, shaking his head. He leaned back in his chair, looking slightly mournful that he’d already finished his entire breakfast. “Don’t know if I’ll snog her again. She’s just...she’s a cool person to talk to. Now, what about you, Hermione? Any a ‘fair male’ catch your eye. Your very stuck-up, high-maintenance eye?”

“Bite me,” Hermione barked. She pouted slowly and sighed, resigning herself. Ron could be annoying and Neville was staring her with those wide, expectant eyes that she couldn’t just ignore. “I met a junior Auror named...how did junior Aurors get into our party? How did any of our bosses get into our party? Department heads were here!”

Neville’s eyes widened.

“No way,” he breathed. “Who?”

“You didn’t see Dumbledore?” Ron asked, amused. “I mean, it was right horrifying when it happened. Snape was there and McGonagall and Dumbledore—”

“And Luna Lovegood,” Hermione interjected.

Neville’s eyes lit up. “I invited Luna! She’s really nice.”

“She’s...interesting,” Hermione allowed.

Ron shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. Did you pull?”

"Do you see a man, Ron?" Hermione deadpanned. "Where would I have hidden him? In the cupboard somewhere?"

Ron pouted. “Well, there’s no need to be rude.”

“Oh piss off,” Hermione retorted.

“And can we not talk about anyone pulling? I think only one person pulled last night,” Neville said, slowly looking up to the ceilings. His two housemates looked up two and they fell silent, wondering if they would hear any movement from upstairs.

“Jealous?” Hermione teased lightly. She didn’t expect Neville’s wince.

Tactlessly, Ron said, “Well, I am. Even if Harry was a total arse hole and didn’t Silence his room.”

Hermione opened her mouth to retort when the sound of a door slamming open echoed through the whole house. All three housemates looked at one another before they leaped up and scurried towards the door, pushing it open just so they could see down the long hallway to the front door.

Two sets of footsteps echoed as Harry escorted his guest down the stairs.

Hermione swallowed her gasp.

Riddle turned back to Harry as they approached the door and he looked down at Harry.

“About dinner—” Riddle whispered.

“Get out of my house before I call the Aurors on you,” Harry hissed, throwing open the door and shoving Riddle out of it. He slammed the door shut and fell back against it, his eyes closed. He pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a long sigh.

Hermione reeled backward, tugging Ron and Neville along.

They were silent until they heard a set of footsteps ascending the stairs again. Hermione finally allowed herself to look at her housemates.

Neville was shellshocked, his round face pale underneath the bright yellow thatch of his hair. Ron was pale underneath his freckles, but quickly, he ears turned red, then his cheeks and then it went down his neck, ugly and blotchy.

“That was…” Neville trailed off.

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “So, Healing isn’t his only skill.

“They can’t...he’s his boss! He’s all of our bosses!” Neville protested. He let his head drop into his hands and he shook his head, muttering to himself. “This can’t be happening.”

“Harry did get to assist in that internal procedure,” Ron hissed.

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “That was before all of this,” Hermione reminded him, though she neglected to tell him about Harry and Riddle’s previous history.

It didn’t seem to matter. Ron’s face was like stone. He had already made his mind up.

“If he’s not getting anything, why is he keeping it a secret? That’s suspicious,” Ron snapped.

“Maybe it just happened. Spontaneously. Last night was crazy,” Neville reminded him. Hermione cast him a grateful look, but Neville wasn’t paying her any attention.

The sound of footsteps sounded and the kitchen door swung open. Harry ran a hand through his messy hair, barely sparing them a glance.

“Hey. Is there any coffee left?” Harry asked.

Hermione paused, passing over the mug that she had made for him. “Here, you go,” Hermione said, softly. “You ready to go?”

“Sounded like you had the best sex of your life, last night,” Ron said, his voice cool. Harry looked up, eyes wide as he chugged down the half-cold coffee. “Who was the guy?”

“Um...no one important. Just some guy,” Harry said without missing a beat. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah. Let’s go.”


 DIAGNOSIS


 

Ron watched the pair of them, narrow-eyed. They were whispering to one another, their eyes darting around as if they were afraid of being spied on. They weren’t as secretive as they thought they were, and Ron certainly wasn’t as thick as they thought he was. He knew Harry and Hermione thought they were smarter than him, smarter than anyone, but Ron wasn’t an idiot.

Hermione had known who it was upstairs.

The others milled about, congratulating him on a good party, clapping him on the shoulder. Ron could only find it in himself to grunt in response.

“Nobody else knows. So, no one else saw them...right?” Neville asked, nervously.

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “It’d serve him right. He has no business sleeping with him. He’s the Head of a department,” Ron snarled under his breath.

Neville’s eyes widened. He swallowed, lifting his chin.

“Well...it’s his fault, isn’t it? Riddle’s, I mean. He’s the Head of a department. He should know better. Harry’s just an intern,” Neville said, firmly, and Ron scoffed as he looked at his roommate, shaking his head.

“Harry’s an adult. Don’t make excuses for him,” Ron said, snippily, tearing off his shirt and pulling on his hunter green robes. He couldn’t help but glare at their backs—the pair of them. He wondered if Hermione knew.

He wouldn't be surprised if she did. Though Ron and Harry had clicked the first day, Hermione and Harry had forged a friendship of their own that was very much based in the fact that they were both scarily competitive and ambitious, and dark and twisty. Harry with his mommy and daddy issues and Hermione had some sort of inferiority complex. Ron rolled his eyes.

They had problems?

They should try being the youngest of six brothers, all wildly successful.

"If you're done gossiping, I have your assignments for the day."

The four lingered for just a moment before they made their way to their trainer. Hermione and Harry exchanged loaded looks before they faced forward. Ron’s eyes narrowed as Harry’s cheeks were briefly pink as he looked anywhere but at McGonagall’s face. McGonagall’s eyes narrowed, but she didn’t say anything in particular.

“Good morning, Healer McGonagall. How are you this morning?” Hermione asked, looking as pleasant as possible.

Ron’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.

Hermione was rarely pleasant.

“Fine. I should be asking this question of you four. It was quite a...gathering that you organized last night. I’m sure you had your fun. Some more than others,” McGonagall said, lightly. She turned on her heel without another word and Harry made a choking sound that quickly developed into a cough.

“Harry?” Neville asked, concerned.

Harry cleared his throat. “Nothing. Might be coming down with something,” Harry said unsteadily.

McGonagall led them in the hallway, looking over the sheafs of parchment in her hand. She looked up over her glasses, her eyes sharp.

“Longbottom, you’re on Snape’s service today. Potions labs for you,” McGonagall decided. “Granger, you’ll be with me today. Now, you two. Riddle requested one of you. Weasley, you today. Potter, you’ll be on pharmacy duty.”

Harry groaned. Hermione smirked at all of them in victory even as Neville turned ashen at the thought of spending so much time with Snape. Ron's lip curled in both irritation and anticipation.

“Where’s Healer Riddle?” Ron asked.

“In his office. He doesn’t like when his trainees are late,” McGonagall said, sharply. She paused and looked at him for a long moment. “You’re late, Weasley.”

Ron cursed under his breath and took off at a run, bypassing the lifts entirely. He climbed up the stairs two steps at a time, and by the time he reached the Spell Damage floor, his chest hurt from his wheezing. He staggered towards Riddle’s office, and knocked on the door once before it swung open. Ron straightened.

Riddle was tall. Taller than Ron thought he was. But, really, when he thought about it, that made sense. Harry had stood on his toes to reach Riddle’s lips, and even still, Riddle had had to lean down just a tad. Ron’s lips curled into a sneer.

“And who are you?” Riddle drawled.

The man whose sleep you were interrupting, bastard.

“I’m the trainee that McGonagall sent up,” Ron said, attempting to sound as pleasant as he possibly could. Riddle’s expression told him that he sounded as annoyed and bitter as he thought he did.

Great.

You?” Riddle asked.

“Yeah, me,” Ron snapped, unable to help himself. “Were you expecting Harry?”

Riddle didn’t notice the pointed question.

“I thought she’d send Granger. Granger’s gonna make a decent Healer,” Riddle said, nodding to himself. It was as if he had forgotten that Ron had existed. “What’s your name?”

“Ronald Weasley,” Ron said, grinding his teeth.

Riddle hummed and turned back into his office, going towards his immaculate desk. Ron looked around. The room was so precise, very much like the man before him. The walls were plastered with awards. He was just as successful as Lily Evans, though Ron imagined that she was more well-known because she seemed to be a genuinely kind person. Riddle was a prick, through and through. Riddle tossed a heavy tome into Ron’s hands and then a short stack of parchment on top of it.

“Get reading for the countercurses and match it to the patients,” Riddle commanded.

“N-now?” Ron stammered, following Riddle out. “Should I just do it...here?”

Riddle glared. “Of course not. Walk and read. Now, let’s go. We have rounds.”

Ron swallowed as he started to sort through the parchments, stumbling after Riddle. At least he was being given something to do instead of just paperwork. He was actually going to participate in research. And sure, Riddle was a prick, but he was the leading prick of his field. Ron nearly tripped when Riddle came to a sudden stop.

Riddle rolled his eyes when Ron nearly collided with him. He paused, looking Ron over once.

“I requested a Spell Damage trainee.”

“I am a Spell Damage trainee,” Ron insisted.

Riddle hummed. “Really? I pegged you for an Artifact Accidenter.”

Ron swallowed his rage.

Actually, fuck this guy.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Neville swallowed hard, staring into the cauldron. It was intimidating. The man hovering over his shoulder like an overgrown bat was intimidating. The fumes in the room were making Neville nauseous and he could taste his breakfast on the back of his tongue.

Don’t choke, Great Lump.

Well, then. His inner-self sounded rather like a dick. And a little like Harry, if Neville was honest.

“Well, don’t just stand there, you dunderhead. Brew,” Snape hissed.

Neville jumped and scurried towards the apothecary stores, gathering the ingredients for a Potion for Dreamless Sleep. He held them in the little wire basket and went back to his cauldron. He moved at a snail's pace. He couldn't make another mistake. He didn't think that he could bear it. He read each instruction three times before he carried it out. Neville tried to ignore Snape's flickering temper as the man watched him with beady black eyes.

“What are you hoping to specialize in, Mister Longbottom?” Snape asked.

Neville winced at the disdain dripping from Snape’s voice.

“I…” he swallowed. “Potions and Plant Poisonings.”

Snape’s lips curled into a humorless smile. Neville looked back down at his cauldron, intent on keeping all of his energy on the potion.

“What makes you think that you are suitable for my department?” Snape demanded.

Neville swallowed. “I...I have two greenhouses. One is...a normal one. I used to sell ingredients to apothecaries in the summers while I was at Hogwarts. The second is...a poison garden.”

Snape paused.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s...it’s quite dangerous. I have over 100 magical and Muggle plants that are poisonous. Deadly, rather. And I quite enjoy them,” Neville admitted. Talking about plants always made him relax. Talking about his poison garden, even more so. He continued on, falling into the rhythm of stirring the ingredients in. “And I have quite a sizeable Devil’s Snare in my parents’ basement.”

“Interesting,” Snape drawled.

They fell into silence again and Neville felt far more relaxed.

Don’t choke, Great Lump.

Harry was in his head again. Harry. Neville had liked Harry. Might even have a tiny, little, minuscule crush on him. He couldn't really help it. Harry was so smart and sure, a little...rough, but he had a good heart. He was funny and biting, and talented. And currently sleeping with Tom Riddle.

Neville had never entertained the idea of possibly dating Harry. Harry was everything Neville wasn’t. Bitter, bold, and full of baggage—well, the baggage they had in common. But, Neville couldn’t compete with Tom Riddle. Tom Riddle was handsome, powerful, talented, and a Merlin-damned institution. So, maybe, Neville felt some ways about all of that, but he wasn’t angry. Not like Ron was.

ALL NON-ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL IS CALLED TO E&T. ALL NON-ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL.

The cool voice that boomed through the room made Neville jump. He almost dropped an extra fairy pellet, before he got a hold of himself. Snape cleared his throat.

“That’s you, Longbottom. I’ll finish the potion. Go,” Snape snapped.

Neville immediately jumped away, gathering his books close to his chest before he made his escape. Fuck Snape, that man was insane and terrifying and a shitty teacher to boot. If Neville wasn’t so terrified, he’d give the man’s back the finger. Neville ran to the lift and paused when he saw matrons and a few other Healer trainees running up the stairs. He spotted a trainee he recognized.

“Hey, Patil! Patil!” Neville called.

Padma Patil skidded to a stop, looking at him wild-eyed. “What is it?” she asked, impatiently.

“What’s going on?” Neville asked as he jogged to her side and matched her pace, storming up the stairs towards what seemed like the E&T floor.

“Six dementors were set loose through Diagon Alley. There was a stampede. We’re treating for dementor exposure, and possibly some physical injuries,” Padma said, her eyes bright with excitement.

Neville felt a hint of dismay that was overwhelmed with the excitement he felt. He was going to treat people. Like a real Healer.

“Awesome,” he breathed.

Padma grinned. “Very.

The two exited onto the Emergency & Triage floor. It was a battleground. There were mediwizards running through the floor, draped in black with their plague doctor masks hanging around their necks by ribbon. Scattered throughout the floor were Aurors in dark navy robes, some pale as snow, and others flushed red. Broken bones and noses and blood littered the floor, marked by the white and green robes of the matrons and the Healers.

Awesome.

“Hey, Neville. Isn’t this awesome?”

Neville turned, looking wide-eyed at his housemate. Ron was grinning at him, shaking his head as he looked out at the carnage. Neville winced when he saw the man that had been fucking Harry all last night standing just behind Ron. Merlin, the man was tall. He was tall and handsome, and of course, that was Harry’s type. Neville couldn’t stop himself from looking down at Riddle’s feet.

Big man. Big feet. Big...

He hated himself. Neville lived to torture himself.

“Longbottom, Weasley, go make yourselves useful. Feed the Aurors chocolate and ask about possible casualties—fatal or otherwise,” Riddle commanded. He looked over at Patil who was vibrating with anticipation. “You. Are you good at splints and bandages?”

“Of course,” Patil said, all arrogance before she realized who she was speaking to.

Riddle’s lips curled into a humorless smile. “Good. Let’s go.”

“But, I’m on service!” Ron protested as Patil flashed him a shit-eating smile and loped after Riddle, her wand already drawn. Riddle waved him away without even looking back at him.

“Fuck that guy,” Ron growled.

Neville sighed as he watched Riddle walk right past Harry, his hand flashing out to squeeze Harry’s hip as Harry passed an Auror half a bar of chocolate. Harry jumped, glaring at the man, though his eyes flashed with amusement. Neville looked away.

“Yeah. Fuck that guy.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione felt at ease amongst the chaos. She was always in her element when she was tossing orders around, and it was particularly thrilling as a trainee.

"That way! All incoming patients go that way! Aurors in recovery go that way!" Hermione shouted, pointing in two opposite directions as she manned the desk. She went under, pulling out another stack of chocolate bars and pushing them over in Smith's direction.

He looked too frazzled to even make a caustic remark. Hermione smirked.

Smith was never going to make it as a Healer.

“Granger!” McGonagall called as she approached the desk, serene as ever.

Hermione straightened. “Healer?” she asked.

McGonagall regarded for a moment that felt like a thousand years and half a second. Hermione had never really been intimidated before. She knew her worth and that she was smart—maybe a little too smart. But, McGonagall made her want to prove herself in a way that Hermione had never wanted to before. Hermione had never had to try very hard to be excellent before. She was just excellent. McGonagall's expectations were expectations that Hermione wanted to meet.

“You’re in control of the situation with the Healer trainees until I get back. Thirty minutes exactly. You directly report to Emmeline Vance as Head Healer of this operation. Keep up the work,” McGonagall said firmly.

Hermione swallowed her bliss, nodding happily. She bit her oversized teeth into her bottom lip, swallowing her squeal as she looked around at the E&T floor. She had always thrived in chaos.

“Well, hello, Miss Head Healer.”

“Not yet,” Hermione quipped. Her lips curled into tiny smile when she saw the junior Auror from last night. “Hello, Cormac.”

McLaggen winked at her. He probably thought he looked so roguish and unbearably charming. Hermione wasn't easily charmed. She thought it was more cute than anything, really. He was trying so hard to impress her. Hermione had never had many boyfriends—it came with being naturally more excellent than every other boy at Hogwarts—so, her standards weren’t very high, in all honesty.

He placed a styrofoam cup on the desk.

Hermione raised a single eyebrow.

“I was at Diagon Alley. Escorted a few civvies and happened to pass by a Muggle coffee shop,” McLaggen said, all swagger and no substance.

Not that Hermione minded. He was pretty.

“And you just...decided to stop for coffee?” she asked, even as she reached for the cup, bringing it to her lips. She took a long sip, never breaking eye contact. She stopped herself from wincing.

It was too sweet and rather watery.

“It’s just coffee,” McLaggen said and he winked at her as he slowly backed away, disappearing into the crowd.

Hermione snorted, looking down at her long list of things to do. A long list of things to do in thirty minutes—twenty-seven minutes, now.

Just coffee my ass.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Minerva! They have a delightful pudding selection today,” Albus said cheerfully as Minerva approached their usual table, setting down her carefully balanced and selected meal. She paused, glancing over at Albus’ tray.

It was piled high of the sweetest and saltiest things he could find. Pudding, lemon drops, and a rather hearty helping of brisket. Minerva shook her head, disapprovingly.

“Has anyone been Kissed?” Severus asked, curiously.

“Thankfully, no,” Minerva sighed.

“Who’s in charge?” Pomona asked, picking delicately at her salad, her eye narrowed at the evil little leaves. Minerva never understood why Pomona insisted on eating salads that she only really ever picked at, and never consumed.

“I told my student, Granger, that I’d be back in a half-hour,” Minerva explained. “She’s reporting to Vance.”

Albus’ eyes brightened. “Ah, yes, Miss Granger. Talented one. You’ve a whole team of talent.”

“Really?” Severus sneered. “Including Longbottom?”

The Head Healer’s eyes flashed with warning. “Yes. Even Mister Longbottom.”

“Your team threw quite the party I heard,” Pomona said with a glint of amusement in her eyes.

“Oh, it was quite wonderful.”

The older group of Healers looked up at their youngest member. Luna moved through the space with a dreamy sort of air. The serenity on her face was only belied by the sharpness of her eyes—the sharpness that had made her one of the best in her field.

“You went?” Pomona laughed.

“Oh, yes. With Albus and Severus and Minerva. And I thought I saw you there, Tom,” Luna said, softly as she settled down at the table, with only a glass of pumpkin juice. The entirety of the table turned to regard Tom.

Tom slowly looked up from his notes, his eyes narrowed.

“You must’ve been mistaken. I would never be at a party for a group of trainees,” Tom said, pointedly before he looked back down at his papers, muttering to himself under his breath. “Damned Aurors.”

“I thought I saw you there too,” Minerva interjected. Tom paused for just a moment though he didn’t look up this time. “I must have been mistaken as well. After all, what would you want with children?”

"I said, trainees. Not children. They're all adults," Tom snapped, his burgundy eyes blazing, finally meeting her gaze.

There was a long awkward moment when the two Spell Damage specialists simply glared at each other, infuriated. Luna reached over, grabbing a chip off of Severus’ plate and took a large bite, crunching through it and effectively breaking the silence. Severus snarled at her, but Luna only stared at him with big solemn eyes. She was never intimidated by Severus.

“Are you all on your way to finishing your proposals?” Albus asked genially. “I look forward to reading them.”

The Healers all glanced at one another—their competition.

“Now that Lily’s not here, one of us will finally have a chance at the grant, aye?” Pomona muttered bitterly under her breath. Severus opened his mouth to defend the woman in her absence, but fell silent at a well-placed eye roll from the Herbologists.

Luna began to regale them with a quick rundown of her research, somehow having to do with a creature called the Nargle, and its influence on children.

“And you’re working with Vance on this?” Albus asked, seriously.

Pomona leaned over to look at Minerva. “She knows they aren’t real, right?”

“I think she’s trying to prove they are,” Minerva muttered back around her spoonful of soup. She devoured her meal, knowing that she wouldn’t be eating again until the end of her shift. The conversation echoed around them and when she saw the dining hall begin to empty, she knew it was time to move.

“I’m needed on the E&T floor,” Minerva said as a goodbye.

The others nodded as the conversation once again circled back to Potter and company’s party. Tom stood up with her and nodded at the group. The two were silent only until they reached the quiet corridor beyond the dining hall.

“Minerva—” Tom began.

Minerva held up her finger, her eyes narrowed at him. “Tom, you’ve always believed yourself charming. In an arrogant, talented, neurotic way. But, if you think that I will stand aside as you cast favor on him—”

"You know I don't favor him, Minerva," Tom said, his eyes narrowed at the older woman. Minerva fell silent, her lips pressed into a thin line. She waved her hand, waiting for him to continue. "He's good. Talented. So, he gets what he deserves. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Minerva scoffed.

"Fine. But, if I see you favoring him even once, Tom, I’ll make sure he doesn’t see the inside of a theatre for a year and I don’t think Lily would appreciate hearing about this,” Minerva warned.

“Lily Evans doesn’t scare me,” Tom said, flatly.

McGonagall’s lips twitched. “She should.

"I don't favor him. He's not a child. And he's not your child. He’s got a mother. An absent one. Now, if you’d please send Weasley my way around 4, I have an emergency Spell Damage procedure to conduct. An Auror was a little too enthusiastic in attempting to help a mediwizard so I have a wizard sprouting bones from his face as we speak.”

Tom stormed away and Minerva stared at him. She let out a sigh.

So, it was more than just a fuck. Great.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“That was a rush,” Ron breathed as he leaned against the desk. Finally, the incident seemed to have calmed down, and most of the patients were treated. Only three were inpatients, one for a wayward bone-healing spell, another for Mind treatment, and a kid that Luna Lovegood wanted to keep for observation due to a rather violent reaction to dementors.

“It was amazing,” Neville admitted, his voice soft. His lips were curled into the tiniest smile.

Hermione looked up from her paperwork. “It was,” she agreed.

“Sorry you couldn’t be on the floor?” Ron asked with a smirk. “Like a real Healer?”

“No, I’m not,” Hermione said. Ron’s eyes widened at the admission. “I like being the control center.”

“So...you want to be a desk lady now?” Ron asked.

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “You’re so fucking stupid, Ron. No. I just liked being in control. Helping out where I can. I’m good at being bossy,” Hermione said, snorting to herself. Ron and Neville frowned at her. “Everyone in Ravenclaw used to call me bossy. Like it’s a bad thing. They said ‘bossy’ the same way someone might say ‘bitchy’.”

“Well, you are a little bitchy. But, aren’t we all?” Ron asked with a small smile.

Hermione’s smile widened.

“Sounds like something a proper Spell Damage specialist would say,” Neville said, full support on his face. Hermione laughed, nodding. “Speaking of Spell Damage specialist…”

The three looked over towards the Healer in question. Riddle was next to a matron, his face quite serious as she rattled off a list of things to him. He looked down at the stack of parchment that she had given him, running his finger over the words.

“He’s...so good,” Ron snarled. “Like, I was shadowing him today, and he would just look at a patient and before I could give him the countercurse, he’d know what to do. It makes almost hard to hate him.”

“You really hate him?” Hermione drawled as she finished organizing the charts for all of the outpatients. “Over the fact that he, apparently, fucks like a champ and likes to flirt with Harry?”

They stared at her open-mouthed as she flipped her book shut, Vanished the empty cup of coffee with a swish of her wand, and then pushed open the swinging door of her small enclosure.

Ron swallowed. “You knew.”

Neville’s eyes widened and the two men scurried off after the petite Healer trainee. Hermione rolled her eyes, flipping through her charts, as she stalked towards the trainee room, probably to change out of her sweat-soaked robes. “She knew?”

“I knew,” Hermione said, flatly. She looked up, her eyes narrowed. “It’s been happening forever.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Ron demanded.

Hermione scoffed. “It wasn’t my business, and it’s not yours either, Ronald.”

“Yeah, it’s my business if he keeps me awake all night, and then, is getting favors from him. Doesn’t it make you angry?” Ron snapped, his arms folding over his chest. Hermione came to a sudden stop and Neville nearly crashed into her back. Hermione turned on them, her eyebrows raised. They paused when there was a clearing of someone’s throat at the door.

“Riddle needs assistance in an emergency Spell Damage procedure,” McGonagall said. Harry stood at her shoulder, giving her large begging eyes.

"Healer...me. I told you, me. I’m not doing anything, I swear, and I’ve been handing out chocolate all—” Harry began.

Ron snorted. “Of course.”

McGonagall’s eyebrows rose as she looked between the two housemates. Harry frowned as he stepped around the woman, his arms crossed over his chest, defensively. Slowly, he stepped around McGonagall, his teeth bared at Ron.

“What’s your problem? You’ve been an arse all day,” Harry said, snarkily.

You’re my problem. Apparently, you can help Riddle in ways the rest of us can’t, Potter,” Ron snarled.

There was a long beat of silence where the team all looked at one another. McGonagall’s lips pressed into a thin line of fury. She raised a single finger, pointing at Ron, shaking her head.

“I was going to say he requested you, Weasley. Go. Potter, go back to handing out chocolate,” McGonagall snarled, with barely suppressed anger. Ron scoffed, rolling his eyes and stormed out of the trainee room.

Harry’s face was bright red, and he looked down, trembling slightly.

Hermione took a step towards him, her hand reaching out.

“Does anyone know where Harry Potter is? My son? I could use—”

“Harry?” Neville asked as Harry paled.

“That’s my dad. Oh fuck no,” Harry murmured. He cut back across to the other door, exiting the room just as James Potter came into the doorway, just behind McGonagall. McGonagall took a deep breath, centering herself before she turned around.

James Potter.

And just beyond him: Tom Riddle.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Harry.”

“Don’t ‘Harry’ me,” Harry retorted.

Tom rolled his eyes. “Harry,” he said again, his voice firm.

Harry stared up at the man for a long time, just looking at him. He was handsome. Every time Harry said that he wasn’t was a lie. Harry lied a lot. About how annoying he found Tom. About how he hated Tom’s dick—that was the worst lie because really he liked Tom's dick a lot. He liked Tom's dick, Tom's face, Tom's arrogance, Tom's ‘I'm-better-than-you' attitude, especially because Harry could be...kinda the same way.

"You can't...I like you," Harry spat as if it were a curse. Tom stared down at him, wide-eyed, and Harry swallowed all of his pride and irritation. He slowly deflated. "I like you."

“And I like you,” Tom allowed, slowly getting down on one knee. Harry pressed himself tighter into the corner of the room, turning his head away. Tom looked over his shoulder, flicking his wand. The lock clicked shut. “Why are you on the floor?”

“The world is too loud. My dad is here, my friend basically called me a whore, and I like you,” Harry whispered. He looked terrified. “And I don’t know what to do.”

“Is the world always too loud?” Tom murmured.

Harry winced. “Only when I’m disappointing it.”

“You put so much pressure on yourself. What happened to you?” Tom asked. Harry closed his eyes tight, shaking his head. Tom huffed, falling back and crossing his legs underneath him. “No. You have to tell me so I can help you. What happened to you? Does it have to do with Lily?”

“Fuck you,” Harry snarled, suddenly, his eyes bright and so wide that Riddle could see the whites of his eyes. “Don’t mention my mother.”

“So it does. She said something to you,” Tom decided.

And Harry deflated.

“She...I was supposed to be a Quidditch player. Or even an Auror. No one thought I’d want to be a Healer because it...it took my mother away when I was a kid. My parents were always so concerned with having it all that they never realized that they had to try harder. My sister and I resented my mom a lot. But...I resented her more,” Harry rasped, and he was rambling, not really getting to the point. He could see the vague irritation in those burgundy eyes and he let out a trembling gasp. “I...I told her I wanted to be a Healer.”

“And?” Tom murmured.

“She was shocked. And then she said…‘Really? I thought you wanted to be an Auror’. Which was odd because I’ve never wanted to be an Auror,” Harry said, and he let out a terrible little laugh. “And when I told her that I was getting Outstandings in everything and my head of House really thought that I’d be good, that’s when she looked at me. She smiled. And she said, ‘Harry, my dear, you have no business being a Healer. You wouldn’t survive it’. And I know what that means. That means: ‘You don’t have what it takes’.”

Tom stared at Harry for a long time and Harry stared back, unapologetic.

“Do you really need me to tell you that you’re good?” Tom asked.

Harry’s eyes narrowed and he took a deep breath. When he breathed out, he was no longer shaking. Slowly, he stood up, shaking his hands out. He cleared his throat.

“No. Because I am good. I’m good at my job,” Harry said, firmly. “And I still have a lot to learn, but I can be better than her.”

“Yes. You can.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Hey. Hey, Ron!”

Ron’s lips curled into a fearsome snarl as he spun around, ready to bite the head off of whoever was shouting at him. He paused when he was met with the no-nonsense expression on Emmeline Vance’s face. He deflated nearly immediately.

“Hm. Thought you would’ve been happier to see me,” she quipped, a wry smile tugging at her red painted lips.

“I...I’m on Riddle’s service today. It’s stressful, is all,” Ron sighed, shaking his head wearily.

Emmeline hummed, nodding in understanding. "Yeah, I get that. Riddle is super tough," Emmeline said, shaking her head. She smiled brightly at Ron. "Last night was really fun."

Ron turned a bright red at the reminder. Right. He had snogged her. And it had been amazing.

"Yeah...yeah, it was," Ron muttered.

Emmeline laughed, softly. “We should get drinks at the Leaky Cauldron some time. You and I.”

“Yeah sure. Absolutely. Of course. Like, when...I’m free…” Ron stammered. Emmeline laughed, holding up her hand and shaking her head. She rocked back and forth from the balls of her feet to her heels.

“We’ll talk about it later. I have a patient that needs to be treated,” Emmeline said, nodding.

Ron leaned forward, eyes wide. “Who?”

“It’s this kid,” Emmeline said, suddenly solemn. “I think...well...the Aurors are still here because they think the dementors getting loose in Diagon Alley was a ruse. That it was a distraction. This kid got mauled at Hogsmeade. By a werewolf, they think.”

“Fuck,” Ron breathed, shaking his head in disbelief. “That’s why Auror Potter is here.”

Emmeline blinked madly and she jumped. “He’s here? Already? Where?”

“Healer trainee room last time that I checked,” Ron said.

Emmeline nodded and began to run down the hallway, suddenly frazzled. “Thanks, Ron!”

“See you later, Emmeline,” Ron said, grinning.

Emmeline paused, chewing on bottom lip. “Em. Just call me Em,” she said and then she was fleeing down the hall, going back the way she’d come from.

“Are you done flirting?”

Ron jumped, spinning around and stared up at Riddle.

“I...sorry. I thought...I didn’t know you were going to ask for me. I thought you were going to ask for Harry,” Ron apologized, looking at his boss in earnest. Riddle looked unamused, his lips curled in rage. “I mean...you followed him after...what I said. I’m sorry about that, by the way. About you and—”

“I know what you said,” Riddle barked.

Ron’s teeth clicked shut and he nearly bit his tongue in his effort to shut the fuck up.

"You are on my service. That is why you are assisting with my procedure. Just as Harry assisted the first time because it was his patient. You are both here to learn. I don’t give special treatment. This is life and death. I choose accordingly: who I think will best suit my immediate needs and who needs to learn what I’m teaching,” Riddle snarled.

Ron nodded, his face flushing scarlet. “I...yeah. Yeah.”

“Weasley, do you understand that I’m your boss and not your peer?” Riddle asked, his voice so calm that it sent chills down Ron’s spine. He felt the dusting of red hair on his arms stand straight up, and he fidgeted under the weight of Riddle’s burgundy gaze.

“Y-yes,” he said, swallowing his suddenly swollen tongue. “Uh, yes, I understand.”

Riddle hummed as if he didn't quite believe Ron.

“And do you understand that as Head of Spell Damage, I have quite a lot of pride in my work and, also, perhaps control your future?” Riddle asked.

Ron paled. “Y-yes, sir. I understand.”

Riddle took a step closer and he was so tall. Taller than even Ron, who was the tallest in his entire family. He was so pale, that his freckles looked like tiny constellations. Riddle’s burgundy eyes looked nearly black with suppressed fury.

“If you ever imply that I allow my sexual life to interfere with my professional work, I will destroy your career and crucify you. Are we clear?”

Ron swallowed, nodding firmly.

“Yes, sir.”

Riddle drew back, taking a deep breath. “Good. Now, we have a patient to Heal. Let’s go.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione leaned over the desk, closing her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose. It was late. Nearly all of the other trainees had already headed home, including Harry, Ron, and Neville, but Hermione wanted to stay late. McGonagall had given her a job, an important one, and she wanted to make sure all of the information was logged correctly and in order. Finally, she was done with all of her work.

“You’re still here.”

Hermione looked up at McLaggen, her lips curled into a lazy smile.

“So are you,” Hermione said, softly.

McLaggen placed another paper cup in front of her, winking. Hermione took it and took a sip. She raised an eyebrow. Earl Grey without any sugar. Better. But, not yet. Hermione drank it anyway.

“Do you like it?” McLaggen asked.

Hermione smiled instead and drained the cup before setting it down. She walked from behind the desk and walked away. He would follow her. He did. She darted into the Healer trainee room and McLaggen followed after her, shutting the door behind him. He leaned back against it, reaching back and clicking the lock shut.

“Was it just tea?” Hermione asked.

McLaggen grinned, reaching forward and yanking her close. Hermione looped on arm around his neck and gave in. Their lips moved together, fast and sloppy—a damn mess in a perfect day. Hermione rutted against him, dragging her fingers through his hair, mussing it. She pulled back, stared at his kiss-swollen lips. She leaned back in, nipping at his bottom lip hard enough that a little swell of blood appeared.

She watched his tongue chase it away.

“No, it wasn’t,” McLaggen said. He reached forward, unbuttoning the front of her robes, letting them pool around her elbows. He ran his hands up her bare stomach, cupped her breasts through her bra and then reached down, settling his hands on her hips. “I want to fuck you.”

Hermione tilted her head, eyes wide. “Well. Fuck me.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry swallowed as he walked into the kitchen, his head held high. He pretended to ignore Neville and Ron sitting at the kitchen table, digging into Indian takeaway. Harry’s stomach grumbled, but he passed on, ignoring the heavenly scent of tikka masala in favor of pulling out the bread and cheese from the refrigerator.

“I thought you’d be asleep by now,” Neville said.

“Well, I’m not,” Harry mumbled. “I’m hungry.”

“Sit down. We have food for you,” Ron snapped. Harry’s eyes widened and he spun to look at his housemate with narrowed eyes.

“Oh, are you talking to me now? Going to call me a whore again in front of our teacher and friends?” Harry demanded.

Ron winced. “I…”

“‘I’,” Harry mocked, spitting the word like poison.

“I...I’m an arse. That was uncalled for,” Ron murmured.

Harry swallowed. “Yeah, it damn was,” he whispered, crossing his arms and glaring at Ron.

Ron sighed, shaking his head and he pushed over a little styrofoam plate piled high with Harry’s favorites. Harry stomped over and fell into his chair. He dug into his food with gusto, ignoring both Neville and Ron’s stares.

“So, you know,” Harry said after a few mouthfuls of spices and chicken and white rice.

“We know,” Neville confirmed.

Harry huffed, shaking his head at the mess before him.

“So, do you want the long, sordid version or the short version?” Harry asked.

“Short will do,” Ron said.

Harry dragged his fork in through his food a few times, his brow furrowed. He let out a huff and shook his head. “I started sleeping with a guy who turned out to be my boss. Last night was only the second time. We were drunk—”

“That’s not really an excuse though,” Ron said, shaking his head.

“Cut me some slack,” Harry muttered.

Ron shook his head, slamming down his fork. Harry looked up, an eyebrow raised, but Ron’s eyes blazed. He stared at Harry with a sternness that Harry had never expected out of him.

“No. You are a Potter. Your mother is Lily Evans. You grew up in a house like this. You walk into St. Mungo’s and no one doubts that you belong there. No. One," Ron snapped. Harry reared back, dropping his fork to the table with a clatter that sounded like an explosion in the silence. Ron deflated, leaning back in his chair as he picked his fork through his curry. "I...I'm the youngest of six brothers. We're poor and my parents broke their backs to get us all through Hogwarts. I only got my own wand when I turned fourteen because I broke mine. It cost my sister a new set of robes. I walk into a magical theatre, and the patients are terrified."

Harry’s eyes widened. “No…”

“You have their respect without even trying, Harry, so why would you waste that? On a few good cases?” Ron demanded.

Harry swallowed. He looked from Neville to Ron again. Neville stared dutifully down at his own tikka masala.

“It’s not about the cases,” Harry admitted.

“Then, what?” Ron demanded. Harry bit his lip and looked away. “Then, what? The sex? You’re willing to ruin your future over that.”

Harry stood suddenly, moving towards the stove. He grabbed at the edge of the stove and squeezing it. He moved to put the kettle on. He could feel their eyes on his back.

“You’re falling for him.”

Harry spun around, eyes wide as he stared at Neville. Neville stared at him, knowingly.

“I’m not!” Harry protested, squeaking.

“You are,” Ron whispered, in awe. “Man...that...that bloody sucks.”

“I fucking know!” Harry roared as he put the kettle on and pressed his hands to his face. He let out a terrible screech that he knew made Neville and Ron flinch.

“What the bloody hell is going on?”

Harry opened his eyes again as Hermione waltzed into the kitchen, her hair free from its usual bun and her clothes rather disheveled. His gaze zeroed in on the light bruise on her neck.

“Did you just have sex?” Harry demanded.

Hermione ignored him in favor of the takeaway. “Is the spicy lamb vindaloo mine?”

“Yeah. The naan in that, too,” Ron said, pushing it over to her. He looked her over, a single red eyebrow raised. “You had sex. With who? Don’t tell me one of our bosses. I don’t think I can take another.”

“Oh, so are we finished with all that?” Hermione drawled as she sat down and dug in. “Good.”

“We’ve moved on. Harry’s falling for Riddle even though he’s a dick and a half,” Neville said with a grin.

Harry let out another screech and then fell into his chair, staring down at his creamy food. He groaned.

“He has a dick and a half,” he said, conspiratorial. “It’s huge.

“No wonder his ego’s so big,” Ron muttered. He lifted an enormous piece of curry soaked chicken on his fork and pointed it at Harry. “I could give you a host of reasons why you shouldn’t like Riddle because he is an actual nightmare."

Harry groaned. “Please do.”

“Okay,” Ron agreed. He paused. “Don’t think we aren’t going to find out who you boinked, Hermione, because I will find out. Anyway, we’re focusing on Harry right now. First: he’s a piece of shit. He’s so arrogant and he treats everyone like the ground that he walks on. He thinks he’s the best fucking thing since, like, bangers and mash, and let me tell you, he’s not—”

 

 

Chapter Text

“I don’t really care for eggs.”

“I don’t really care for your preferences. So, we’re even, eh?”

"You've got a smart mouth. Do you know that, Potter?"

“You like it though.”

“I do.”

The three housemates looked at one another, wide-eyed as they listened to the blatant flirting happening behind the swinging kitchen door. Neville opened his mouth to say something, but Hermione and Ron made violent shushing motions, staring at him pointedly. Neville's cheeks pinked and he looked down, his mouth closing with a quiet click.

“Give us a kiss, sweetheart.”

“You’re a dick.”

“You like it though.”

“Fuck off.”

Hermione bit her bottom lip, holding in a squeal.

“What?” Ron hissed.

“They’re so cute,” Hermione murmured back.

Neville looked at her, slightly appalled. “They’re just insulting one another?”

“It’s cute,” Hermione snarled under her breath before she straightened, smoothing her jumper down and pushing the door open with purpose. Both Ron and Neville scrambled up from their crouched position, intent to appear like they hadn’t been eavesdropping for the past ten minutes.

Harry looked up from the stove, a small smile on his face. Riddle was leaning against the counter next to the stove, running a hand through his slightly mussed hair. Hermione imagined that they had just been kissing.

“Hello,” Hermione said, forcing casualness into her voice.

“Good morning,” Harry said with a small smile.

Riddle only nodded at the three, his eyes slightly wide, bewildered by their presence. The three housemates scurried to the kitchen table and began to mumble to one another, though they kept a single eye on the pair by the stove.

“Oh, we should stay at your flat tonight,” Harry said as he finished cooking the eggs and divided them up, a small serving on two different plates and then the rest piled high on the third plate. “Hermione, come get the eggs.”

Hermione jumped up, snatching the large plate of eggs and toast, thanking him with a loud, obnoxious smacking kiss on his cheek. Harry cringed, rubbing at the spittle. He noticed Tom’s amused stare and stuck his tongue out.

"You want to stay in my flat?" Riddle asked. "Hm."

“What? Do you not have one? Do you have a house, Tom? With a kitchen and a closet?” Harry teased. The two began to eat their eggs at the counter, unwilling to move away from one another.

“I like sleeping in Sirius Black’s home. It makes me feel good every time he comes to St. Mungo’s to be a pain in my arse,” Riddle drawled.

“Well, it’s been a month and I’ve never seen your flat. It’s like you live here and you don’t contribute, you know,” Harry snapped.

Riddle scoffed. “Do they pay rent?” he said, gesturing to the nosy housemates with his fork. The three young adults jumped, looking around wild-eyed before they looked down at their food again.

“No. They do chores and help pay for groceries. More than I can say for you, sir. You come here to fuck and eat,” Harry said, crassly and Riddle rolled his eyes at his words, scoffing to himself. Harry pursed his lips and raised a single eyebrow. He took a vicious bite out of his toast, never breaking eye contact with the older man.

“You like having your things around and sleeping in your own bed. That’s what you said,” Riddle retorted and Harry scoffed though he didn’t dispute Riddle’s words.

He had, of course, complained about all those things the first time Riddle had invited Harry to his flat to spend the night. But, now, Harry's curiosity was rearing its ugly head and Riddle hadn't issued a second invite.

“Yeah, I said that, but—”

“So, why are we still arguing about this?” Riddle retorted. He leaned forward, pressing a kiss to Harry’s pout, cupping the younger man’s jaw with a large spider-like hand. He pressed his plate down, cradling the man’s face fully. He pulled away, slowly, his lips curling into a pleased smirk as Harry’s eyelashes fluttered.

“You said you don’t care for eggs, but you’ve eaten them for the past seven days.”

Harry and Riddle jerked as if just realizing that they weren't alone. Neville winced when he realized that he had spoken out loud and his cheeks turned pink.

“What? That’s not true,” Riddle said, bewildered.

“You have,” Ron interjected.

Hermione scoffed. “Great. Just tell them all how we’ve been eavesdropping.”

"I hadn't actually realized that, Hermione, but thanks for letting me know. I'll be sure to put a Silencing Charm on my own kitchen door," Harry said, nastily. Hermione gave him a fake smile and turned back to her food. Harry looked back at Riddle. "See. They've noticed. It's weird. You've been here for a week. And we've been seeing each other for a month, and I haven't seen where you live."

Harry stared hard at his kinda-sorta-maybe-boyfriend. Riddle stared back, silently eating his eggs, an irritated look in his burgundy eyes. Harry couldn’t help the thrill that ran through him. Riddle was well and truly bothered by the realization that he had been at Grimmauld Place. Perhaps, that would mean an invite. Harry wouldn’t hold his breath, just yet, but he knew a few more well-placed barbs would do the trick.

“You know, speaking of my flat, I have to go—”

Riddle was interrupted by a horrible retching sound. The two looked up as Hermione jumped from her chair so fast that it tumbled backward and she vommed in the sink, right next to Harry. Harry jumped away from the sick clogging his drain, gingerly pulling Hermione's hair away from her face instead as the smell of stomach acid began to burn his nose. He looked over at Riddle, helplessly, but the man had already set his plate down and was slowly backing away towards the kitchen door.

“Tom,” Harry sighed.

“I need to go change. I’ll see you at the hospital, Harry,” Riddle said before disappearing through the door.

Harry huffed, shaking his head. He made to pull away when Hermione jerked, violently turning up the rest of her breakfast, and perhaps, even some of last night’s dinner.

"The eggs were dodgy at best, but...definitely not enough to spew chunks," Ron said, his nose wrinkled. Hermione jerked up, gasping and gagging on the taste in her mouth.

“My eggs weren’t dodgy!” Harry protested.

Neville hummed, the only one unaffected by the sudden presence of vomit and the smell of sick.

“They were a little off-color. Burnt and maybe a little too much oil. Of course, we don’t blame you. You were a bit...distracted,” Neville said, mirth in his bright eyes. Ron and Neville snickered and elbowed one another while Harry sneered.

“Wand,” Hermione groaned, her face pressed against the cool countertop next to the sink. Harry grabbed her wand from the kitchen table, dutifully putting it in her hand. Hermione straightened. “Evanesco.

The sick Vanished though the smell lingered on. Hermione groaned, standing fully up again, running her fingers through her curly mess of a head.

“Are you alright, though? Hermione, really,” Harry asked, mildly worried.

“I’m fine. I think it was the eggs. Just...odd. I don’t feel bad anymore. I’m fine,” Hermione said. Her lips curled. “But, now my mouth tastes like rot. I’m going to get myself together. Leave for the hospital at around half-past?”

“Sounds about right,” Ron said around a mouthful of toast, little specks of crumbs flying from his mouth.

Hermione sneered. “You’re a pig.”

“Takes one to know one,” Ron retorted immediately.

“Can you please not antagonize one another for once?” Neville asked even as he sipped his tea, slightly amused as he looked between the two.

"Ask garbage mouth," Ron smirked. Hermione stalked past him, breathing his acid vomit breath on his face. Ron gagged at the smell, shoving away from her. "You can be a fucking cunt, Hermione."

“Takes one to know one!” she shouted over her shoulder.

There was a long moment of silence as Harry regarded the two other men of the house. Ron gave him a slow smile.

“So...you and Riddle are doing well?” Ron asked.

Harry bit his bottom lip to keep himself from smiling. “I mean, I suppose.”

“Well, we can’t tell ourselves, you see. You’ve finally learned what a Muffling Charm is. We no longer have to suffer through your screaming,” Neville laughed, softly.

Harry scoffed. “Oh, whatever. It’s good. He’s good.”

“Well, I’m glad he’s good to you, then,” Ron said with a small smile.

Harry nodded, turning away, suddenly uncomfortable with the affection. He pretended to clean up after himself, all the while suppressing his grin.

Harry was glad too.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Fancy meeting you here,” Tom said, leaning against the wall next to the Apparition Zone.

Harry’s lips twitched.

“Fancy that,” he greeted, his eyes raking over the older man’s body. He unconsciously licked his lips—Tom looked so damn good in his dark emerald green robes.

"You make me want to vomit. Again," Hermione drawled as she hip-checked past Harry. Ron and Neville snorted. Hermione turned, walking backward as she went towards the lobby. "Don't take too long. McGonagall already hates the idea of you two. Don't give her any more reasons to snap at you."

“Yes, Mum,” Harry said, snarkily.

"Bugger off," Hermione snapped back, just as quickly, continuing towards the Healer trainee room. Harry scoffed, unable to help his grin as he stared at his three friends. He turned back to face Tom, and the man looked unbelievably fond for just a moment before he hid the honest emotion behind a mask of arrogance and bitchiness.

“I hardly know anything about you, you know,” Harry began.

Tom scoffed. “This again?” he asked.

“Yeah, this again,” Harry said, snappily as they walked into the main hospital together, taking the long way. They would walk along the long back corridors to get towards the main lobby area and the Healer trainee room.

“You know I’m from London. I like magic and I think your eggs are terrible,” Tom teased.

“Ugh, enough with the eggs. I get it. I’m not the best cook,” Harry said, unapologetically. “What about your friends?”

“I’m a Healer. I don’t have friends.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Everybody has friends.”

“You didn’t until, like, two months ago,” Tom retorted.

“Moot point,” Harry acknowledged. “I mean, who do you hang out with? What do you do on your days off?”

“You think I take days off?” Tom asked as he turned the corner.

“These are important questions!” Harry said, unable to fight his grin despite the rage he tried to inject in his voice. Tom snorted, shaking his head.

“Important to who?”

“To me, you arse. We shag every night. I think I deserve some details. And maybe I have more details than most, but really, Tom. I...I only know your name and your job,” Harry said, his voice going softer and he winced. Tom looked at him, incredulous by the vulnerability in Harry’s voice. Harry shook his head, pushing it all away. “And until I get any details, my pants are staying on.”

Tom froze, staring at Harry with wide eyes.

"Or you could just go with it? Be flexible. I know you can be flexible," Tom said, raising a hand towards Harry's cheek.

Harry’s wand was out in seconds, a mild Stinging Hex snapping across the back of Tom’s hand. Tom hissed, jerking back in pain.

“No. We’re at work,” Harry hissed. “And I’m not going to be flexible. I’m not flexible.”

Tom scoffed. “I have the distinct memory of your legs being on either side of your head last night.”

Harry responded by flipping the bird with bod hands as he entered the main lobby, scurrying towards the Healer trainee room.

“You’re on my service today, you brat!” Tom called after him.

Harry pretended not to hear him, half-running towards the trainee room. He cursed under his breath as he saw some of the other trainees already dressed and filing out after their teachers. McGonagall waited in the corner, tapping her foot impatiently.

“Glad that you could join us, Potter,” McGonagall said, sharply.

“Glad to be here, Healer McGonagall!” Harry said as cheerfully as possible as he pulled his jumper over his head and tossed it into his cupboard, pulling out his hunter green robes. Hermione was already dressed, carefully pulling her wild hair back into a bun.

Ron was attempting to Scourgify a food stain out of his robes and Neville was crawling on the floor, looking for a lost button.

At least, Harry wasn’t the only mess.

“While you four attempt to gather yourselves, I’ll tell you about your day,” McGonagall snapped. “I have a procedure—”

“Me! Me!” Neville said, jumping up from under a bench. In the process, he slammed his head against the edge and groaned. His hands flew up to the back of his head, rubbing at what would be a nasty lump.

“Not. You,” McGonagall said through gritted teeth. “Not any of you. As I was saying, I have a procedure today—all day. I have no time to babysit any of you through your sex lives and your medical mishaps. Now, Longbottom and Weasley, you’ve been requested by the Head Healer. Off you go.”

“Yes,” Ron hissed, pleased and he clapped Neville on the shoulder. “Let’s go, Nev. Off to do the important things. Have fun with the Accidenters, you two.”

Harry rolled his eyes as Ron and Neville scurried off.

“My head still hurts,” Neville muttered as they left.

The last Harry heard of either of them was Ron saying, “Don’t worry. We’ll stop at the pharmacy for Bruise-Healing Paste and then—”

The door swung shut.

“And us, Healer?” Harry asked.

“You two will come with me. You’re on Healer Riddle’s service today,” McGonagall said, and she grimaced at that, as she was prone to do whenever reminded of Harry and Tom’s ‘relationship, “but, his office is near today’s patient. I will be working concurrently with another esteemed Healer due to the age of the patient.”

"Age of the patient?" Hermione asked, shivering with curiosity and anticipation. McGonagall ignored her, leaving the room.

Harry linked arms with Hermione and tugged her along, following after their teacher with wide eyes. They walked towards the lift and entered it, surrounded by three Healers that nodded respectfully to the formidable Minerva McGonagall.

“Aren’t you two the trainees that through that rager a few weeks ago?” one of the Healers asked.

The two trainees exchanged looks and grinned.

“That would be us,” Hermione said with a grin.

McGonagall rolled her eyes and stepped out of the lift, looking pointedly at the trainees who followed after her like the lost ducklings that they were. Harry frowned when he saw that they were in the Children’s Ward.

“A kid?” Harry murmured.

Hermione grimaced. “I don’t do well with children.”

"Well, you're going to have to today," McGonagall snapped as they turned into an observation room. "This is the lead Healer on this case."

The Healer was young. She looked younger than Harry and Hermione, though, that was impossible, of course. She had long straggly dirty blonde hair that waved to her waist. Her eyebrows were very pale and her silvery eyes were nearly too large for her face. She was quite short, even shorter than Hermione, and there was a pair of Dirigible plum earrings dangling from her ears.

“I’m Luna Lovegood, the Head of the Children’s Ward. And I was in your house for that smashing party. This isn’t my area—I specialize in Magical Maladies and Bugs—but, I couldn’t pass this up!” Luna said, cheerfully. She took a step forward. “Hermione, it’s nice to see you again!”

“Nice to see you too, Healer Lovegood,” Hermione said, slightly unnerved by Luna’s dreamy cheer.

“Oh, no!” Luna laughed. “None of that! You may be on my service for the day, but ‘Luna’ will do. I have everyone call me Luna. Including our patient here. Meet Siobhan Templeton.”

The two trainees turned towards the young girl nestled in the bed, her two nervous parents hanging in the corner of the room, speaking softly to each other while glancing cautiously at Luna.

“You’re a Ravenclaw, aren’t you?” Hermione asked.

Siobhan smirked. “Yeah.”

“Hm. I can tell,” Harry said, softly.

He stared at the two antlers jutting from the top of her head, like the branches of a tree, leaning back against the wall. Harry knew what this was. The girl had attempted to become an Animagus and was now stuck in a partial transformation.

“You’re jealous, aren’t you?” Hermione hissed from the corner of his mouth.

Harry nodded. “So, so jealous.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Head Healer, it’s an honor to work with you,” Neville said as they entered the Mind Ward to see the Head Healer of St. Mungo’s engrossed with a little silver device that looked like a lighter, but couldn’t quite possibly be such a thing. “Your work in the field of Mind Healing is absolutely unprecedented, and though, it’s not my field, I just have to say—”

“Relax, Nev. No need to cream yourself over the man,” Ron muttered from the corner of his mouth.

Neville stuttered into silence, his cheeks turning rosy. Ron smiled winningly at Dumbledore, and the older man gave a benign smile to the pair of them.

“Ah, yes. Two of my favorite trainees!” Dumbledore crowed.

“Your favorites?” Neville squeaked, his flush turning into a dull red of both embarrassment and pleasure.

“You two throw quite the party,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling.

Ron flushed, dully, remembering the night vividly. It had been equal parts mess and fun, and he thought he’d never throw a party again. It had been so wild that even Ginny had heard whispers of it at Hogwarts. Apparently, Harry’s little sister had caught wind of the fact that Romilda Vane and her little sycophants had been thrown out of his house, and she had confronted the girls about it. It had been quite the scene, according to Ginny, who never really cared about drama.

“So, you requested us today?” Ron asked, leaning forward eagerly.

"Ah, yes," Dumbledore said, stowing the instrument away in his pocket and clapping his hands together happily. "Well, I thought today would be a three-person job. Today's patient is rather...unruly."

He led them towards the door.

They could hear her before they could see her.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...and the Dark—”

“Yes, Sybill! We get it! He’ll be marked as his equal. Merlin!”

The door swung open with a slam. The harried matron brushed her hair back from her forehead, shaking with frustration, a brown stain spreading on the front of her otherwise impeccable white robes. She looked up at Dumbledore with wide eyes.

“Head Healer, I just...can’t. She’s so frustrating! We were having tea and then she snatched my teacup from my hands, dumped the tea all over my robes and then told me I was marked by the Grim. And then, she started saying that silly little prophecy again! I can’t!” the matron shrieked, flying past Dumbledore, in quite the state.

Neville and Ron flinched. They knew that something like that wouldn’t have flown with Snape. No one would ever dare yell at Snape. They wondered about Dumbledore’s reaction.

Instead of flying into a rage, Dumbledore pulled a lemon drop out of his pocket and popped it into his mouth. He entered the room, his eyes quite jovial though he kept a solemn look on his face.

“Ah, Sybill. How are you today?” Dumbledore asked as he entered the room and gingerly sat on the edge of the bed, minding the tea sinking into the soft mattress.

‘Sybill’ was a thin woman draped in gauzy shawls. Her eyes looked like bug eyes, magnified by her enormous glasses frames, and she was sparkling, covered in sequins and glitter. Ron covered his eyes, just to shield them from the glare of her.

“Welcome,” Sybill breathed, her voice low and heavy with gravitas. “How nice to meet you in the physical world at last. My name is Professor Sybill Trelawney. I loathe being here. It is clouding my Inner Eye."

“Inner Eye?” Neville asked, his lips curling.

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Sybill, my dear, these are two trainees that will be looking to uncloud your Inner Eye, Ronald Weasley, and Neville Longbottom."

“I know who they are!” Trelawney shrieked. Both Ron and Neville jumped at the sound, though Dumbledore acted as if it did not bother him that her high-pitched voice had stabbed him in the ears. “You both went to Hogwarts. Hufflepuffs.”

“No. Gryffindors. We just...took Healing instead of Divination. You teach Divination, don’t you?” Ron asked, both amused and befuddled by the woman.

“Of course. It seems that you have a hint of the Inner Eye as well,” Trelawney said.

Ron smirked. No. He just wasn’t a complete moron.

“Professor Trelawney is here due to the violent tremors she finds herself in when she is...prophesying. This woman before you is a seer,” Dumbledore said, winking at the pair of them.

Sybill Trelawney didn’t seem to notice the man, instead murmuring to herself and clutching her teacup in between her long fingers, rocking back and forth.

“A...seer,” Ron said, looking at the insane-looking woman. He glanced over at Dumbledore who looked pleased by the woman’s presence.

“That’s why she’s here,” Dumbledore said, clapping his hands together again. He grinned even wider. “This will be fun, won’t it?”

“Fun,” Neville said, sounding almost lost.

And then, Sybill Trelawney promptly began to scream and foam at the mouth about something called a wrackspurt.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Have you tried to shave it down?” Hermione asked.

Luna giggled as she leaned against the wall, staring at Siobhan Templeton with the oddest look in her eyes. The Templeton parents looked rather unnerved, but Siobhan was smirking at the two Healers with a look like triumph in her eyes.

“That’s the first thing I tried,” Luna said, her voice high and full of laughter. “But, they keep growing back. This is very impressive, Miss Siobhan, by the way.”

“She grew antlers,” Hermione said, her voice flat.

Luna frowned over at Hermione. “Maybe not antlers. And yes, well, she’s nearly a whole Animagus. I think that’s cause for praise.”

“Don’t think her parents see it that way,” Hermione muttered under her breath. She ignored the irritated look Luna flashed her in favour of regarding Siobhan.

The young Ravenclaw looked positively smug. Hermione had no idea what she’d be so smug about something so stupid. She could’ve hurt herself, and here Luna was heaping praise upon praise on the girl, encouraging deviant behavior. Hermione wondered if she would have detention and house point reductions when she returned. Hermione hadn’t broken a single rule at Hogwarts, and here this girl was flaunting it off.

Not a proper Ravenclaw at all.

“What course of action should we take, Healer Lovegood?” Hermione asked.

“I’m not sure yet. Mister and Mrs. Templeton, I do have a question for you,” Luna said, her smile bright once more.

Mr. Templeton flinched and nodded. “A-anything, Healer. Is it...dangerous? Her antlers?”

“Oh!” Luna looked surprised by the question. “No. Not at all. They’re just antlers, of course. I was just...you know, it’s been so long since there was a magical creature Animagus, and with the permission of you two and your daughter, I’m sure the press would quite enthusiastic.”

“Magical creature?” Hermione asked, bewildered.

It was clearly a set of reindeer antlers.

“Yes. A Crumple-Horned Snorkack!” Luna giggled.

Siobhan’s smirk slipped away. She looked at Luna, incredulously. “Wait, no. Healer—I’m gonna be a reindeer.”

“That hasn’t been proven yet, Siobhan. And I think that I might be correct. With your permission, I’d like to contact the Quibbler,” Luna said, already pulling out a quill and writing something on her arm. Hermione peered closer. The young woman had notes scrawled up and down her arms, some of the ink so smudged that it was unreadable to Hermione.

“We...we try not to make decisions on Siobhan’s half. She’s nearly fifteen,” Mrs. Templeton said.

Siobhan still looked confused but she shrugged. "If I get to be in a magazine, sure."

“This is absurd!” Hermione blurted out.

Everyone in the room turned to her.

“Absurd?” Luna asked, unamused.

“First: those are clearly antler horns,” Hermione said. Before Luna could interrupt her, she carried on. “Second: the Quibbler’s rubbish. Everyone knows that.”

Luna’s smile became more forced.

“Excuse me. My father is the editor.”

Hermione turned bright red. Siobhan choked on her laughter behind a clenched fist.

“I’m...I’m so sorry, Healer Lovegood,” Hermione said.

Her stomach turned again and she staggered back, her hand flying up to her mouth, as her stomach rebelled and she tasted acid on the back of her tongue.

“If you’ll excuse Healer Granger, Templetons,” Luna said, apologetically. “Healer Granger, go and research partial Animagus transformations. I’m not sure if this requires a spell or a potion. I want the answer in three hours time. Don’t show your face until you have it.”

Hermione nodded, swallowing back the bile. She hated herself. The urge to vomit only grew.

“Yes, Healer Lovegood,” Hermione choked as she ran from the room and practically threw herself in the loo down the hallway. She promptly emptied her stomach in the bin. She wiped her mouth and rinsed it out with sink water.

She cursed herself. Nerves and embarrassment had never made her sick before, but that had been humiliating. Luna looked young, but Hermione had to remind herself that the woman was fully-trained Healer, unlike Hermione.

But, Lovegood was infuriating. Crumple-Horned Snorkack, Hermione’s arse.

The young trainee stormed out of the loo and up the stairs, in search of her fellow trainees. She wandered up to the Mind Floor and didn't have to look long. Ron and Neville were hovering near one of the many research libraries, a stack of books in both of their arms. They were speaking softly to each other. Neville noticed her first.

“Hey, Hermione!” he called, cheerfully, lifting his hand. Hermione winced, already whipping out her wand as the books tumbled out of his hands.

Arresto Momentum,” she called and the books slowed, falling with soft, nearly silent, thuds. Neville looked at her sheepishly and nodded his thanks. Ron rolled his eyes.

“What are you doing up here?” Ron asked.

Hermione flushed. She could still taste bile on her tongue and wished that she had Conjured some toothpaste or something.

“Luna Lovegood...sent me away.”

Ron balked. “Why?”

“I...insulted the Quibbler. And it just so happens that her father is...the editor,” Hermione said. She scoffed, shaking her head. “But, she’s ridiculous. She keeps saying that this partially-transformed Animagus girl is a Crumple-Horned Snorkack, and she has no idea what’s she doing. Her specialty is Magical Bugs & Maladies, anyway, so she has no business working with a Spell Damage victim. She’s a primary schooler.

Neville bit his lower lip.

“Well...there must be a reason she was assigned to the case, right?” Neville asked.

Hermione shook her head. “Impossible. Where’s Healer Dumbledore? I want to raise my concerns with him.” Ron snorted. Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “What?”

“You’re only running to Dumbledore because you embarrassed yourself by being a berk. Lovegood might be loony, but she’s a good Healer. Stop pretending you know better just because she’s a little weird and do what she asks of you,” Ron said, pointedly.

“I’m not—”

"You are," Ron interrupted. Neville looked at the two, his eyes wide. Ron looked down at Hermione, all lofty and all-knowing. Hermione glowered back, her wand clenched a little too tight in her little fist. "You're a know-it-all and you do sometimes know it all, Hermione, but maybe...and this might come as a shock...someone knows more than you. You’re not better than her because you’re a little more straight-laced. You’re not better than her because she happens to be a primary schooler. She’s the Head of the Children’s Ward.”

Hermione swallowed her pride.

“So, what are you saying?” she asked, breathing through her rage.

Ron gave her a surprisingly charming smile. "I'm saying...get over yourself, you crazy hag, and do your job. You're damn good at it."

Hermione fought against the smile that was slowly spreading across her face.

“Fuck off,” Hermione laughed as she pushed past them into the research library.

Ron nodded. “Gladly!”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Ugh. Hermione and Lovegood get a girl stuck in partial Animagus transformation and we have a man that’s just paralyzed for no reason,” Harry groaned as he looked down at the paralyzed patient. Once again, he waved his wand, casting the diagnostics charm. Nothing happened.

With their luck, it was someone stupid that had been hurt by an Artifact.

“They called Spell Damage for a reason,” Tom hummed, staring down at the man with a curious look on his face. He tapped the tip of his wand against his thin bottom lip. Harry swallowed.

He wanted to suck on that bottom lip. Tom looked at him from the corner of his eye, like he knew Harry’s every thought. Harry looked away just as quickly, though not fast enough not to notice Tom’s shit-eating smirk.

“So, what do you think this is?” Harry asked.

Tom shrugged. “No idea. I think it’s internal though,” Tom said. Before Harry could respond, Tom was already waving over a young matron. “I need a magical theatre readied for me within an hour.”

Harry squawked. “What?”

“Yes, sir,” the matron said before striding away to do Tom’s bidding.

Harry rounded on the older man. “You don’t even know what’s wrong with him.”

“I have a hypothesis. Scrofungulus,” Tom said as a team of two matrons came over, preparing to escort the patient to the magical theatre Tom had requested. Tom turned towards the pair of them. “I need all the necessary tools for an internal procedure.”

“Approval from the Head Healer?” one of the matrons asked, nervously.

“Well, this man is going to die within...say, the next twenty-three minutes,” Tom said, pulling out a pocket watch. The male matron jerked, his eyes wide. “I imagine that the Head Healer is either quite busy or fucking off to Honeydukes, seeing as it’s around noon. So, would you like to tell the patient’s family that we had to wait for approval or should I?”

“Right away, sir,” the matron muttered, waving his wand. The patient’s bed transformed into a floating gurney and Harry and Tom followed after it.

Harry blinked. “How do you know it’s Scrofungulus?” Harry demanded.

"He has a patch of fungus on the side of his neck," Tom said. "It's far enough along that it paralyzed him because it's reached the brain. Or at least, climbing up the spine to the brain.”

“And why are we dealing with it? You’re a Spell Damage specialist,” Harry snapped.

Tom nodded, his brow furrowed. “Well, yes, I am. But, that doesn’t make me incompetent in every other specialty. I just happen to like Spell Damage, and this seems interesting. Lovegood should be the one to handle it, but as you said, she’s busy with the Animagus child.”

Harry followed, bewildered by the way Tom did things. Tom took risks with people’s lives. He thrived when in the theatre, and so Harry had faith that he could accomplish what he said he could. But, Harry had always thought that following protocol was one of the most important things at St. Mungo’s. After all, not following protocol had nearly gotten a man killed on Harry’s very first day. And here Tom was, flaunting protocol and flipping it the bird.

“So, you’re going to open him up?” Harry asked, deciding that he’d learn from the crazy man.

Tom grinned. His eyes sparkled. “You know, I haven’t had the opportunity to open someone up in two years before you came along. And now, I’m opening someone twice in two months. Are you my good luck charm?” Tom teased.

Harry laughed. He winked. “Maybe.”

They took the lift to the magical theatre floor. Harry felt a rush through his body as he walked down the hallways that he had entered on only his second day of being a trainee. With every step, he felt a swell in his belly. He wasn’t sure if it was anxiety or excitement. As Tom entered, one of the matrons from before stepped forward, Levitating a tray to his side.

“Sir, your tools,” the matron said.

Tom rolled up his sleeves and nodded. Harry took a step forward. The patient was on his front, his face pressed into a special cushion that allowed him to sleep. His robe had been turned the other way, open and exposing his rather flabby arse and a rather hairy back.

“It’s a beautiful day to conquer death,” Tom announced. Harry blinked, eyes wide. “Let’s have some fun.”

“We shouldn’t be doing this,” Harry muttered.

Tom’s eyes narrowed. “Let’s have some fun,” he repeated, warningly. “Now, we’re going to open his back. I want to get a look at his spinal cord. Are you ready to siphon the blood to give me a good look?”

Harry sighed, nodding as he Levitated the tray of tools closer. He looked on guard.

“You’re cutting blind. For no reason. Do no harm,” Harry quoted at the man. Tom ignored him, already taking out his wand positioning it at the base of the patient’s neck.  “Whatever happened to being practical.”

Harry leaned forward as Tom dragged his wand down the man’s back, from the base of his neck down to the middle. He waved his wand, making silver instrument fly forward to pull the skin and muscle apart, and there it was. There were little vibrant neon purple mushrooms growing inside, along the wet bones, slick with red and silver. Harry swallowed as he recognized the bones.

“Wow. The spine,” Harry breathed.

Though gruesome to some, it was only magnificent to him. There was something hauntingly beautiful about seeing the literal spine of a living creature—a creature that still breathed. It was infected and ill, but it was still so fucking breathtaking. And here Harry was, preparing to banish the fungus with potions and magic.

It was humbling. It was invigorating.

Tom smirked. “There’s no ‘wow’ in practical.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione bit her bottom lip, holding her research close to her chest. She took another deep breath before she raised a fist, knocking on the door. She waited.

“Come in.”

Hermione opened the door and stepped into Luna’s office. It suited her, was Hermione’s immediate thought.

There were little knick-knacks all over the room—things that Hermione would’ve considered trash, but Luna had transformed into treasures. Luna had on a necklace of Butterbeer caps that she hadn’t had before. There were quills tucked in an empty Firewhiskey bottle and beads and sequins splattered on her walls, accompanying paintings of creatures that Hermione had never seen before. On the far wall were framed newspapers, it seemed. Luna hadn’t discriminated. The Daily Prophet, the Quibbler and Witch Weekly were on the wall, but each seemed to mention an outbreak of some type of magical disease or bug.

Luna looked up, a pair of pink glasses perched on her nose with bright yellow lenses. She looked particularly bug-eyed, blinking at Hermione.

“Oh, Hermione. Do you have any information?” Luna asked, softly.

Hermione nodded, biting her lower lip. She took a step forward, placing the documents on the desk. Luna gestured to the overstuffed electric blue leather chair. Hermione sat down, wincing as the leather creaked and whined under her weight.

“Healer Lovegood, I got everything I could on partial Animagus transformations. I brought the original sources, but also made notes to be referenced at your discretion. Everything is properly cited,” Hermione said, mechanically. Luna looked at her with a small grin.

“Thanks,” she murmured.

Hermione cleared her throat, awkwardly. "I...also tried to find information on possible magical creatures Animaguses. I took notes on that and brought the sources. I couldn’t find much on Crumple-Horned Snorkacks—most of it was actually your research—but, I found an article or two.”

She didn’t mention the extensive research she did on reindeer as well.

Luna’s small grin widened and warmed. Hermione felt a rush of pleasure as she washed with approval once more.

“I really appreciate this, Hermione,” Luna murmured. “And really, call me Luna. I’m really not that much older than you. I’m barely 20.”

“And you’re already Head of the Children’s Ward?” Hermione blurted out. “How?”

Luna shrugged. “Long story. Different story. Whole other story,” Luna said. She leaned forward, her eyes glittering. “You’re not used to apologizing. Or being wrong. Are you?”

“Uh. No, I’m not.”

“Being wrong is important in learning,” Luna said, sounding far wiser beyond her years. Hermione stared at her wide-eyed. “It’s my job to teach you. And the thing about Healing...is that maybe you know the answer. From books. But, there’s always a possibility that the textbook definition is wrong. And it’s not conducive to a patient’s health to dismiss that possibility.”

Hermione swallowed, suddenly humbled. She nodded, slowly.

“Okay,” she whispered.

Luna nodded. Her grin returned. “I Conjured a bin for you. At your discretion. Don’t need you puking all over my desk,” Luna laughed. “Why didn’t you take a pepper-up potion?”

“It didn’t work,” Hermione muttered.

Luna giggled. "That explains the bad mood. The only times a pepper-up potion doesn't work is a wicked hangover or morning sickness. You four are party animals, aren’t you?”

Hermione froze.

Morning sickness.

She counted back the days. She was late. Barely. By a day and a half. But, Hermione was meticulous. She prided herself on her meticulousness. She counted her cycle and she had been regular since she was fourteen. Hermione had demanded schedule and regularness, and her body had delivered as her mind did. Except, this time it didn’t.

Morning sickness.

She was exhausted. Stressed. Anxious. Morning sickness.

“Fuck,” she hissed.

She was so fucking stupid. Contraceptive spells were only 99.9% effective. Hermione was exceptional. It shouldn't be a shock that her eggs were too.

Luna’s brow furrowed. “Hermione?”

“Nothing,” Hermione said, immediately.

She paused. She should write McLaggen. Except, no. She hadn’t spoken to him in weeks and she wasn’t interested in his response or his opinion. Hermione knew what she was going to do. She knew before she had known.

“Are you sure, Hermione?” Luna asked.

Hermione looked up, forcing a determined look in her eyes.

“Everything’s fine. I’m thinking of possible ways of eliminating the antler-horns.”

Luna nodded in agreement. “I do too! I was thinking, we treat it like a regular wound. We shave it down and then, we can cauterize it. Like it’s a wound.”

Hermione forced the smirk on her face as Luna further explained her idea. Hermione took notes because she was Hermione Granger. She added her own ideas because she was Hermione Granger. She beamed from the pleasure Luna lauded on her because she was Hermione Granger. And she felt the utmost satisfaction and triumph when she took one of those fucking antlers as a trophy for her hard work after shaving them and cauterizing them.

She was fucking Hermione Granger, and no fucking zygote was going to stop her.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry frowned when he saw none of his housemates in the trainee room changing. He quickly stripped out of his own robes, looking over at Padma.

“Hey, Patil. Do you know where my team is?” he called.

Padma shimmied her jeans up her rather toned thighs and glanced over her shoulder.

“Hermione was sick in the loo and said that she wanted to go home and that the smell of the training room was making her ill. Ron and Neville went with her. They’re waiting for you in the Apparition Zone, I think,” Padma said, barely thinking over the message that she had nearly forgotten to give.

Harry nodded his thanks as he dressed quickly and flew out of the trainee room, taking the short way towards the Apparition Zone. He grinned when he saw his housemates leaning against the wall.

“How was the Mind Floor?” Harry greeted.

Neville and Ron turned towards him. “We had a seer. Or some crazy bat who thought she was a seer. We’re still on Dumbledore’s service tomorrow,” Ron sighed.

“Sounds both awesome and horrible,” Harry said.

“That about sums it up,” Neville said with a quiet snort.

Harry turned towards Hermione. “You’re suspiciously silent.”

Hermione looked up at him with tired eyes. There was something lurking there. Harry made a note to himself to ask her about it that night, in private.

“Luna Lovegood is both insane and brilliant. That is all,” Hermione said with a quiet chuckle.

Neville leaned forward, curious with a smile. “What changed your mind?”

Hermione launched into a long explanation of her own day that Harry nodded and paid half a mind to. There was something that wasn’t quite right about his friend. She seemed on edge, though that could be due to the fact that she had been violently ill multiple times that day. Harry knew that couldn’t be just his eggs.

Maybe she had eaten that rancid take-away as a midnight snack.

“Harry.”

Harry looked over his shoulder, pulling away from his conversation. He stared wide-eyed at Tom, his lips quirked into a lopsided smile.

“Healer?” Harry asked.

Tom pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes in frustration. Harry grinned. Tom threw out his other hand, long-suffering and annoyed.

“Come on. It’ll be easier if I Side-Along you,” Tom ground out.

Hermione finally smiled, a real one. "Will we expect you home tonight?" Hermione asked.

“Probably not,” Harry decided. “I know it’s my night to cook, but can I trade with you, Ron?”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Whatever. At least you won’t be screaming in my house, reminding me how you’re getting some and I’m not.”

“Green isn’t your colour, Ron,” Hermione taunted.

Harry laughed and he reached out, grabbing Tom’s hand. Tom tugged him close and then they Disapparated. Harry hated Apparating, feeling like he was being compressed and squeezed through a tight straw just to be spit out on the other side. He would’ve stumbled if Tom’s arms hadn’t tightened around him, righting him before he could find himself lopsided.

Harry stood on his toes, pressing his lips against Tom’s. The man returned the peck, almost absentmindedly. Harry pulled away laughing, softly. He looked around the flat. It didn’t seem very big, but it clean and bright.

“This is where you live,” Harry breathed, looking around with wide eyes.

It was exactly as he pictured it, and not at all how he pictured it. Everything was clean, white, and chrome. There was none of the oldness that permeated the walls of Grimmauld Place. None of the history. There was a thrum of magic through the air, but not the type of magic that built after years of existence.

Harry walked around the kitchen, dragging his fingers over the cold marble countertop, the chrome stovetop. Even the refrigerator was cold—like a Muggle refrigerator. He turned to look back at Tom, biting his lower lip.

“Yes,” Tom said, his voice cold.

The man looked uncertain for the first time since Harry had met him.

“Why didn’t you want me to see this?” Harry asked. “And don’t lie to me.”

Tom regarded Harry for a long time and then he looked away.

“My father was a wealthy Muggle, and my mother was the poor wench that dosed him with Amortentia because she was ugly and poor and practically a Squib. And they're both dead. Abandoned me to a Muggle orphanage," Tom said, a certain coldness in his voice when he spoke about his parents. Harry felt his face screw up. "I don't have what you have. I don't have a magical ancestral home or a legacy to be proud of. I can barely trace my lineage back nor do I really care to. My family was either Muggles or a mess of practically magic-less paupers. I have this. What I built and made with my own two hands. And I don’t give it away easily, Harry.”

Harry took a step towards him as if he were a spooked animal. Still, Tom didn’t look at him. Harry reached up, taking the man’s face in his hands and turning his face to look at him. Harry didn’t think Tom had ever told him the truth about anything. Not entirely. But, this...this was real.

“Listen to me, Tom,” Harry whispered. “It doesn’t matter. Not to me.”

“I have climbed my way up from the depths of hell,” Tom whispered like a confession. “And there’s so much more to do.”

Harry nodded. “Okay. And there’s more to climb. I’m sure. But, this is about you. And me. Let me climb with you. Let me be everything you’ve ever dreamed.”

And maybe it was an odd thing to ask. Maybe it was too much, too forward, for knowing someone only a few months. But, Harry would follow the man in front of him anywhere. This tall, talented, ambitious man.

Tom’s hands were on his waist, lifting him onto the counter, crowding close to him. The rubbed noses, their lips only breaths apart. They breathed the same air, reveling in their closeness. Harry threw his arms over Tom’s shoulders, rubbing the tension out of the back of his neck with his fingertips. Tom hummed. Harry could feel the vibrations against his lip.

“Fuck me,” Harry breathed.

And then Tom’s mouth was on his neck and Harry was tugging at the front of Tom’s emerald robes, unbuttoning them clumsily, missing a few buttons every time he worked down. Tom tried to lift him and pull him closer, but Harry resisted, capturing Tom’s mouth with his own. They kissed hungrily, greedily, devouring one another.

“Can’t exactly fuck you on this countertop. You don’t like the Conjured stuff,” Tom whispered against his lips.

“Can’t move. Wank me off,” Harry groaned.

Tom laughed, softly, his hands like firing brands as he dragged Harry's jumper over his head. Harry gasped when Tom kissed down his neck, his fingers plucking at Harry's sensitive nipples. Tom licked the tiny nubs, making Harry's hips jerk forward, searching for friction. Harry lifted his hips, shucking down his jeans to around his knees, pulling forth his cock and jerking gently. Harry hissed when Tom licked his own hand and then his fingers wrapped around Harry’s own. Slowly, they jerked Harry off together, and maybe, Harry was being greedy, but he needed this.

They needed this.

Tom pulled away from his neck after leaving a vivid purple bruise. Their noses brushed.

“You’re fucking insane.”

“I’m insane,” Harry laughed. He pressed a kiss to the skin between Tom’s top lip and his nose. “You’re an arrogant arse.”

“You’re fucked up,” Tom retorted, kissing the soft spot under Harry’s ear.

“You’re fucked up too. We’ll be fucked up together,” Harry murmured, licking the tip of Tom’s nose.

Tom threw back his head and let out a cackle. It was an oddity, something Harry would be sure to hold against the man. It wasn’t his low, seductive chuckle. That was a practiced sound. This laugh meant Tom was caught off guard. It was high and chilly and fucking weird and Harry adored the sound of it.

“Sweetheart, you’re too much,” Tom murmured when he calmed down.

Harry laughed gently, his eyes bright with mirth. There were so many things Harry wanted to say: you make me raw, you make me want, you make me want more—i love—but, it was too much. It was too much, just like Tom said. He would let that stand instead.

“You’re too much,” Harry laughed, moaning into Tom’s mouth as the man jerked him off.

He came with laughter in his eyes.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Hermione had given herself exactly ten days to process.

She was pregnant. She was pregnant with a baby that she didn’t want. Okay. Processed. She stepped out of her shower, wrapping her towel tight around her middle, her long hair already shrinking into tight frizzy curls as she wrapped her hair up in a microfiber cloth. She walked into her room, quickly dressed in her underclothes and pulling up a pair of denim jeans. She turned towards her mirror and slathered coconut and jojoba oils into her hair as she tamed her long hair into a plait at the back of her head.

Finally, she pulled her jumper over her head and grabbed her satchel.

She was pregnant. Okay.

Hermione was quiet as she crept out of her room, her trainers still in her hand to create the least amount of noise. She still had about twenty minutes before the boys woke up, and she would prefer not to be bombarded with an insane amount of questions. Hermione had wanted to tell Harry, however, for days, but every time, the words got stuck in her throat, and instead, she listened to him talk about Riddle.

Hermione winced. Harry had fallen fast for the older man, and she only hoped that it wouldn’t all crash and burn. She wasn’t super confident in that hope. There were no such things as ‘happily ever after's, after all.

She slipped on her trainers and was out the door in the next second. She only needed another moment to Disapparate with a crack. She hoped that she didn’t set off any alarms. When she appeared in the Apparation Zone, she immediately moved towards the stairs, checking over her shoulder every flight. She exited at the Children's Ward floor and took a sharp right away from the children.

Hopefully, the zygote wouldn’t ever be a child.

She walked up to the OB/GYN door and rapped sharply. There was a quiet call. She had made the earliest appointment possible, and then, had promised the scheduling matron Ogden’s finest to make it even earlier and as private as possible. The matron waved her through and Hermione walked into the private office, the matron following after her.

The matron was a middle-aged woman with a round face and a very self-righteous expression on her face. Hermione suppressed her grimace.

This would be fun.

“Welcome to the OB/GYN department. Were you able to find us well?” the matron asked.

“Yeah. It was fine,” Hermione said, distractedly.

She looked down at her nails, scratching her cuticles nervously.

“My scheduling matron told me that you’ve made this appointment to discuss options concerning an unwanted pregnancy. She said that you’re here for the Abortion Potion? Would I be correct?" the matron asked, her perky smile never changing.

Hermione looked up with sharp eyes. “Yes,” she bit out.

“Good. Now, let’s talk about the timeline here. Typically, you’re allowed an abortion up until the third month. Judging by the pre-survey, you’re only a month and some change in. I feel like a woman needs at least another month or so to really determine—”

Hermione had heard enough.

"I'm a Healer trainee, so I don't really have much time. Can you get me in on the 26th? I want this finished before December," Hermione said, keeping as much serenity in her voice as she possibly could. Inside, her stomach was roiling with displeasure, and her heart was beating too fast.

“There are other options besides termination,” the matron said, instead of answering Hermione’s question. Hermione’s expression soured. “Adoption. Keeping the baby. Think it over.”

“Can you get me in on the 26th or not?” Hermione said, her voice hard.

The matron jerked, surprised by the chilliness in Hermione’s voice.

“I, well, yes,” the matron stammered. “I know this is a difficult decision—”

“It’s not,” Hermione said, immediately. The matron’s eyes widened. “It’s really not. I know that I’m not made for motherhood. At least not yet. Maybe someday, but not yet. The father isn’t in the life and I know that I’m too young for this. I have too much to do, too much to learn. So, put me down for the 26th, please.”

Hermione stood up, gathering her satchel to her chest and turning on her heel.

“Wait!”

Hermione stopped in the doorway. She glanced over her shoulder at the matron, her eyes still determined and hard. The matron’s gaze was soft, but accepting now. Hermione allowed herself to react.

“Yes?” Hermione asked, softly.

“You’ll need an emergency contact. Someone has to accompany you due to the side effects of the Termination Potion. As a Healer trainee, are you aware of the side effects?” the matron asked.

Hermione nodded once. “Abdominal cramping, light vaginal bleeding, nausea and vomiting, sore breasts, and fatigue. I’ll bring someone.”

Fuck. Now, she had to figure out who to bring.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Neville crept up the steps, his chin tucked close to his chest. He eased the front door open. He didn’t want to wake the boys and Hermione. That would only invite interrogation, that he wasn’t ready to hear. Of course, that’s when Neville tripped, knocking down the obnoxious troll leg coat stand by the door. There was a rumbling and Neville watched wide-eyed as Harry ran down the stairs, barely in his dressing now, his wand raised and his glasses hanging from the other hand. The kitchen door swung open and Ron had a kettle in one hand and a wand in his other.

“Brilliant,” Neville muttered to himself. He swallowed his embarrassment. “You’re going to fend an intruder off with a kettle, Ron?”

Ron flushed, nastily. He stowed his wand away and gave Neville the finger. Harry rolled his eyes and huffed. He flew down the rest of the stairs, his dressing gown billowing behind him like a cloak. Neville followed Ron into the kitchen, ignoring the curious look on Harry’s face. Ron muttered to himself as he set the kettle back down on the stove and began to make the morning coffee. Neville collapsed at the table.

Last night’s clothes smelled stale. His nose wrinkled in disgust.

“So...you just got in.” Neville looked up. Harry was grinning at him. “Right?”

“Yeah,” Neville muttered, his cheeks turning pink.

Ron looked over his shoulder, a tired grin on his face. “Did you shag someone, Nev?” Ron demanded, bringing over three cups of black coffee. He set it in front of Neville and Harry. Ron looked around. “It’s Hermione’s turn to do breakfast, right?”

“No, I traded,” Harry said.

Neville frowned. “Why?”

Harry shrugged as he walked towards the refrigerator, looking through the shelves. “Don’t know why she asked,” he said. “We have to get groceries.”

“We will,” Ron said after a sip of coffee. His coffee always tasted like burnt tar, but at least it woke them up. “Now, Neville. Tell us who you were with? What’d you do? Was it good? How far?”

Neville rolled his eyes. “You really think I’m going to gossip about the girl I was with?”

“Okay, so it’s a girl,” Ron laughed. Neville frowned. “I know you like both. Who am I to assume?”

“That is...oddly tactful,” Neville acknowledged.

Ron gave him the finger.

“You’re a deep well, Ron,” Harry teased.

Neville snorted. “It was...Hannah Abbott. It was good. Great, even,” Neville murmured.

“Oh, Nev, were you a virgin?” Ron laughed.

Neville rolled his eyes. “No, you arse.”

“It would’ve been fine if you were,” Harry insisted. Ron gave him a look as Harry pulled out the eggs. Harry shrugged. “I’m trying to be supportive. Like Hermione would be.”

“Where is she?” Neville asked.

“She said she had an early morning appointment. It didn’t seem like something to ask about,” Harry said.

“Don’t you two talk about everything? Including Riddle’s dick?” Neville asked.

Harry shrugged. “She seemed serious about this. Now, continue talking about Hannah Abbott. How did that happen?”

“We started talking at the party and we just...we got along well,” Neville said. He hated himself when his immediate thought was that Harry would finally express his jealousy and claim that he felt the same way as Neville.

Of course, that didn’t happen.

“I’m happy for you, Neville!” Harry said with the sweetest smile. “That’s good. You should go out with her again. It’ll do you a world of good.”

“You’re only saying that because you’re being dicked down every other night and you've been in a strangely good mood, lately," Ron said.

Harry paused. “First...you are a vulgar man. Second, I’m not in a ‘good’ mood. I’m...everything has gone too right for me for too long. Something’s going to happen so I’m trying to make the best out of what I’ve got.”

“You’re so depressing,” Neville sighed. “You’re literally dampening my sex glow.

Harry cackled, shaking his head.

“Fuck off and shower. You smell like stale sex and St. Mungo’s musk,” Harry said. “Breakfast will be ready soon. Now, we’ve got an 8 AM shift. Let’s get moving.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry sensed Hermione’s approach. He looked up from Smith, Neville, and Ron’s odd conversation about the best aftershave. Hermione was gossiping quietly with Hannah Abbott and Padma Patil. As they approached, Harry elbowed Neville in the side and jerked his head towards Hannah. Neville flushed pink and Ron grinned, nastily.

“Well, look who it is,” Ron started even as Neville hushed him.

“Shut up, you complete arse,” Neville said behind clenched teeth. His lips curled into a smile as he watched the three approaching women. “Hello, Hannah.”

Hannah’s lips curled into a quiet smile. “Neville,” she said, softly.

“Budge over, Smith,” Harry commanded, shoving Smith down at least two spots. Smith squawked in protest, but Hannah and Hermione filled the spot that he had left unoccupied. Harry leaned forward, dropping his head onto Hermione’s shoulder. “Hello. You were off early. Everything all right?”

“I...we’ll talk about later tonight?” Hermione asked.

Harry nodded. “Sure,” he murmured back. He turned back to the group at large while stirring his spoon through his soup, his lips curled into a smile. “So, what are you three talking about?”

“The race is heating up,” Padma said with a grin.

“Heating up?” Ron asked, curiously.

“All of the top Healers of the hospital are putting forth project ideas. Everyone wants the Gorsemoor Grant,” Hannah said conspiratorially. She leaned forward. “Everything’s quite hushed. Especially, since everyone is on equal ground now that Lily Evans isn’t here.”

“She hasn’t won it in the last three years,” Harry pointed out, feeling rather smug about that.

“She didn’t submit last year, and the year before, it was given to a visiting Healer from the Congo. And the year before, she did win, but in conjunction with Severus—” Hermione rattled off.

Harry sighed, reaching for her chips. “Yes, yes. Stop. Please. I beg you,” Harry said with a small grin. Hermione snorted and rolled her eyes.

“Once again, sharing your chips with him, and not us,” Ron complained. “Also, where were you this morning?”

“None of your business,” Hermione retorted immediately as she helped herself to Harry’s soup.

“May I say, that I am immensely jealous of you four living in a house like that. I still share a flat with my sister and two other girls. Marietta Edgecombe and Cho Chang,” Padma complained. She leaned forward, eyes wide. “We have to share rooms.”

“I remember them,” Hermione said, her voice flat. “Neither of them were particularly kind.”

Padma nodded in understanding. "Then, you'll be pleased to know that Cho Chang works as a bartender while she goes for her Mastery in Transfiguration. I don't think that'll go well. And Marietta Edgecombe is Rita Skeeter’s bitch—I mean ‘assistant’—at the Daily Prophet. While you are training to be one of the best Healers in the world at the best hospital in the world,” Padma said with a grin.

Hermione paused. “Hmm...you know that does please me.”

Ron shook his head, a tiny smile on his face. “You scare me, woman.”

“Good,” Hermione retorted.

“Anyone know anything about to projects?” Smith asked.

“Healer Sprout has been bouncing ideas off me. Something about the mimbulus mimbletonia. I think she might be trying to use the Stinksap in something," Neville contributed. Hermione perked up as if a barrage of questions were just stirring up inside her brain. Neville lifted his hands, holding a speared sausage in one. "That's all I know. So, don't ask."

Hermione visibly deflated.

“I haven’t heard much, personally,” Hermione sighed.

Neville frowned. “Snape is proposing something too. That I’ve no idea about.”

“How do you even know he’s got a project, then?” Smith asked, nastily.

“He enjoys torturing me by way of potions making,” Neville said, flatly. Ron snorted at his words.

“Emmeline Vance has something too,” Ron contributed.

“Luna Lovegood,” Hannah called.

Harry huffed. “We can safely assume that everyone except Head Healer Dumbledore has a project in the works.”

And then Ron decided to be an idiot. “What about Riddle, Harry?”

There was a silence. Ron winced as if he realized what he had said, opened his mouth to apologize, and was quelled into silence by a rather furious glare from Hermione.

“Why would he know anything about Riddle?” Neville asked quickly.

“He’s always on his service, isn’t he?” Padma suggested. “Maybe he talks while he does procedures?”

She looked hopeful at the idea of gossip.

“Um...no. He just narrates everything and talks about how brilliant he is. That’s it. I think he thinks I’m a matron,” Harry said, laughing quietly. The table burst into laughter and both Harry and Hermione relaxed against one another.

Under the table, they linked pinkies while Hermione delivered a swift kick to Ron’s shin. Ron turned white with pain, his freckles like constellations on his cheeks.

That was too close.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Potter.”

Harry groaned, burying his face in his pillow as he tried to sink deeper into his nap.

“Potter. So help me, Merlin—”

Harry huffed, sitting up and throwing his pillow on the floor, dramatically. McGonagall looked back at him, unimpressed. Harry gave a sheepish smile that McGonagall rolled her eyes at.

“Yes, Healer?” Harry asked as sweet as sugar floss.

“You’ve been Summoned by the Head Healer. Let’s move,” McGonagall said.

Harry’s eyes lit up and he jumped up from the bed. McGonagall walked away before he could even right himself and so he ran after until he was practically trodding on her heels. McGonagall only gave him a single cold look that calmed Harry down immediately.

“What is it? Is it a procedure? Please tell me it’s a procedure,” Harry begged.

“It’s a secret until we get to Healer Riddle’s office,” McGonagall said.

Harry sighed and walked alongside her. He would pester her more though he knew he really wouldn’t get anything out of her even if he tried. In fact, she looked so tense, that he thought that if he asked another question unprompted, his balls would be ripped clean off. Harry liked his balls and he had it on good authority that Tom liked them too. They walked to the next level—the Spell Damage floor—and Harry already knew the way to Tom’s office.

He could get there with his eyes closed.

McGonagall didn't bother to knock, letting the door swing open. Harry just slipped inside as the door snapped closed behind the pair of them. Tom, Dumbledore, and surprisingly, Emmeline Vance were all crowded around Tom's desk, murmuring quietly to one another. Dumbledore looked up, his eyes sparkling though still quite serious.

“Mister Potter, I’m glad that you’ve come,” he said, softly.

“Head Healer, what is it that you need?” Harry asked, snapping to attention.

Dumbledore’s eyes sparkled with approval. “With your parents being who they are, I assume discretion is no stranger to you.”

“It isn’t,” Harry said.

"You are privy to things that occur in the Auror Office and the Ministry, at large, then?” Dumbledore asked.

“I...Head Healer, if you’re asking if my father has revealed secret government information to you, then I don’t think that I’m the trainee for this,” Harry said, firmly and Dumbledore’s lips curled into a small grin, nodding.

“Perfect. You’re perfect for this. Harry, come. This is a very delicate situation, and it seems that you will be the perfect trainee,” Dumbledore said. Harry felt McGonagall’s hand press between his shoulder blades and he walked forward, eyes narrowed on the pages.

“I can’t make these scars go away, Riddle. It’s too extensive. Deep,” Vance murmured.

“Will he transform?” Tom asked. He looked up, nodding once at Harry, and Harry nodded back.

Dumbledore cleared his throat and Vance looked up, worry in her eyes.

“Hello, Potter,” Vance greeted. “Today, we’re working on a VIP case brought exclusively to me and Riddle.”

“A creature-induced injury?” Harry asked.

Vance nodded. “This injury is so extensive that it requires three department Heads and Madame McGonagall. You will be at our beck and call for the next eight, or so, hours, if not longer. This procedure will be at least six hours long,” Vance said.

“Done,” Harry said immediately.

Tom’s lips curled into a smirk. “Eager, aren’t you?”

McGonagall scoffed and Harry kept his face as still as possible, willing himself not to flush.

“This way, then,” Vance said.

Harry nodded once at Tom and McGonagall before he departed, Vance already whispering the details into his ear. Dumbledore followed after them, leaving only Tom and McGonagall in the room. McGonagall sent Tom a warning look.

Tom smirked. “What?”

“You will cease your flirting. Immediately. Healer Dumbledore is present and he is not a fool,” McGonagall bit out.

Tom rolled his eyes. “You know that I’m not favouring him—”

“That’s not what this is about,” McGonagall hissed. She took a deep breath, shaking her head. “We have a patient to worry about.”

Tom nodded, acknowledging her words. He stood from behind his desk, gathering the files and they walked together in relative silence to the private gallery that they needed to ward. As they entered, they stared down through the glass at Harry, Dumbledore, Vance, and the patient. Harry was grimacing as he stared at their patient.

Alastor Moody was a mess of a man, bit and pieces of him missing, soaked in blood. The Dark magic that Tom would have to undo permeated the theatre, even reaching as far as the gallery. But, it was the vicious tears in his skin that worried them the most. The bite marks on his leg meant that it would be impossible to salvage, so that wasn't their main concern. It was the slashes across his stomach, deep enough to press and possibly puncture organs that Vance would take care of. Dumbledore would have to maintain the man's unstable mind.

“Is Head Auror Potter here?” Tom asked, coolly.

“I thought it would be best that he remain at the Ministry. Moody was deep undercover. The attack on Diagon Alley and the werewolf mauling of the Hogwarts child are linked to this," McGonagall said.

Tom nodded. “Good. Harry will need to focus. I need him to maintain the stasis charm while we break the curses,” Tom murmured.

“Do you think him capable?” McGonagall asked, worried.

This would be delicate work. Probably, some of the most delicate work in her career.

Tom looked grim, clearing his throat. "He'll have to be," he said, and then he turned, waving his wand through the gallery, blocking it off. McGonagall did the same, adding her own layer of charms.

When they were finished, they proceeded down the stairs, nodding to all that they saw. Tom cleared his throat as he stood before the magical theatre and he pushed open the doors, striding inside. He stopped himself from asking if Harry as all right as he took in the stricken look on his face. He stopped himself.

He wouldn’t coddle him. Harry would never be great if he coddled him.

"Harry, you'll be acting as both matron and assistant. Have you anesthetized the patient?" Tom asked, coolly. Harry jerked, as if surprised that he was Head Healer on the case.

"I will. Right away," Harry said, firmly. He drew his wand and then paused, looking to Vance. "Is there anything I should do differently for a victim of a werewolf?"

Vance looked at him, her shrewd eyes beaming with something like approval.

“No,” she said.

“Okay. Moudiasménos,” Harry drawled, a shower of blue sparks falling over Moody’s prone form. Moody tensed up, despite his stasis and then relaxed, his face going slack as all of his agony drained away.

“This is careful work. We will need you to maintain the stasis charm as Healer Dumbledore works through his mind, repairing damage, Healer Vance amputates his leg and heals his scars, and Healer McGonagall and I deal with the spell damage,” Tom said, carefully.

Harry nodded. “May I ask what happened to Auror Moody?”

Tom’s eyes narrowed. Grimly, he said, “He was tortured and mauled by a terrorist group that he was attempting to infiltrate. Now...it’s a beautiful day to conquer death. Let’s have some fun.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

"That was exhausting," Harry breathed, mentally and physically spent as the pair of them emerged from the magical theatre. Tom didn't say anything, only brushing the loose hairs from his sweaty forehead, and letting out a sigh.

“I’m famished,” Tom murmured.

Harry hummed. “We’ll order take away, tonight? How do you feel about chips?”

“I feel that I’ll eat anything after that,” Tom said. He looked up and down the corridor before he grabbed Harry by his wrist and tugged him. Harry let out a soft laugh as he crashed into Tom, looping an arm around his neck. “You were remarkable.”

“I kept a man anesthetized and sedated. You, on the other hand, were magnificent,” Harry murmured, leaning up and pressing a quick kiss to Tom’s chin. Tom laughed, lifting Harry’s hand to his mouth, pressing a kiss to his palm.

“Well, of course,” Tom preened. He took a step back, releasing Harry’s hand and clearing his throat. “By the entrance in twenty?”

“Sure,” Harry said, gently.

Tom nodded once, dipping his head and pressing a quick kiss to Harry’s lips before he disappeared down the hallway towards his office. Harry’s lips quirked into a small smile and he went to go the opposite way, lost in his own thoughts. It had been a spectacular procedure—both gory and informational. Vance had narrated the amputation, speaking quite frankly as she did her best to knit together the skin into viciously red scars. Dumbledore hadn’t spoken much, too deep into Moody’s mind.

McGonagall and Tom had been a revelation, their magic working effortlessly to heal the damaged nerves, fried by the Cruciatus Curse, and the dark magic that had descended upon the man, ravaging his body. Harry grinned, just thinking about it.

“Harry.”

Harry jerked to a spot, glancing over his shoulder. Dumbledore stood there, a flatness to his blue eyes as he regarded Harry.

“Head Healer, that was remarkable. How’s the patient?” Harry asked, still conscious not to name their VIP patient.

Dumbledore didn’t say anything immediately. “Harry, he’s the Head of a department. You’re a trainee.”

Harry froze. He took a step back, shaking his head, gnawing on his bottom lip. Dumbledore stared back at him, impassively.

“Fuck,” Harry whispered to himself. “You saw us.”

Dumbledore took a step forward. “I’m going to tell you what your mother would say if she were here,” Dumbledore said.

Harry's eyes narrowed, his lips curling into a small sneer.

“Are you really?” Harry snapped.

“Yes,” Dumbledore retorted, just as cold. “She would tell you that you’re making a mistake.”

Harry scoffed. “And I would tell her that it’s not.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Healer!” Minerva dipped her head and continued, pretending that she didn’t hear the young woman calling after her. Her eyes stung with exhaustion and her magic truly made her muscles ache, having exercised a stasis for so long. “Healer!”

Minerva swallowed her groan and turned on her heel.

"Yes. What is it, Granger?" McGonagall demanded. "I've just left a six-hour procedure. What. Is. It?"

She ground out each word, her eyes flashing dangerously. Granger winced, but she didn't relent, looking up at McGonagall with determined eyes.

“I...I’m concerned. About my specialty,” Granger said.

McGonagall sighed and continued walking. She snapped her fingers when Granger hesitated, and the trainee scurried after her towards one of the more deserted on-call rooms. McGonagall went to the far corner and began to erect wards to protect her sleeping space.

“It’s too soon for you to have a specialty,” McGonagall said. She sat on the edge of the bed and waved her wand, Conjuring up a small little settee for Granger to sit on. “You have a few more months of learning all of the specialties and basic training.”

“Well, yes,” Granger allowed. “But, everyone knows that the Head Healer selects people for the program based on what their perceived specialty will be. There’s no doubt that Neville with be Potions and Plants Poisonings. Or that Harry will be a Spell Damage specialist.”

Minerva nodded. She could concede that.

“But, you have concerns about your specialty,” Minerva summarized.

Granger sighed. "Well...yes. I feel...I'm not really learning about Spell Damage."

Minerva’s eyes widened. “Really?” she asked.

“Yes. I shadowed Healer Riddle last week and it was quite enlightening, but I feel...it’s a very creative field, isn’t it?” Granger asked. Minerva nodded once. “It requires a certain magical intuition that I am...not arrogant enough to say that I possess. I know that my strengths come from my knowledge of books. But, Spell Damage isn’t about that at all.”

“It’s not,” Minerva repeated, leaning forward. Suddenly, she was intrigued by her student’s imaginary plight.

Granger slumped on the settee, looking remarkably resigned. “I’m not a Spell Damage genius like Harry or Healer Riddle. I like to follow the rules. There are rules for a reason and all they do is break them.”

Minerva snorted. More than just rules surrounding their work, she knew.

“Then, perhaps Spell Damage isn’t for you,” Minerva said pointedly.

Granger looked scandalized at the notion.

Minerva threw back her and let out a harsh bark of laughter that made Granger jump.

“Healer, I have—”

“Granger, this impromptu therapy session is over. I’d like to pass out for the next eight hours, and you have paperwork to do,” Minerva said pointedly.

Granger frowned. “I do?”

“Yes. My follow-ups. Get to it.”

Granger groaned as she stood from the settee, squeezing the bridge of her nose.

“I walked right into that one.”

“You did. Now. Go away.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry stared straight ahead as he walked towards the lobby, tugging his jumper further down over his fingers. He looked around for Tom and frowned when he didn't see him immediately. He turned towards the waiting area and the tension fell out of his shoulders as he spotted the man slumped slightly in one of the chairs. Harry walked up to him, dropping a hand onto Tom's shoulder.

“Long day, wasn’t it, sweetheart?” Tom drawled. He made no move to stand.

“It was. But, we conquered death,” Harry said sweetly.

Tom laughed softly. “Perhaps, not yet.” He said it like he had a secret.

“Hmm, what’s that?” Harry asked, tugging the man up from his seat. “I have a bottle of wine I’ve hidden at your place and the number of a take-away place that says we did. We deserve it.”

Tom chuckled quietly again. “We need to talk,” he said.

Harry raised an eyebrow.

“Is this a Firewhiskey talk?” he asked.

“It might be,” Tom retorted.

Harry scoffed. “Then, maybe I don’t want to have that talk.”

And Harry waited for him to retort. Waited for that quick banter. Instead, the humor drained from Tom’s face and he was staring at something far away or perhaps something quite close. Harry tilted his head, confused smile still fixed on his face.

“Harry, I’m so sorry,” Tom said, his voice uncharacteristically soft. He leaned down, pressing a quick kiss to Harry’s lips. It was so fast, so light, Harry barely felt it.

Slowly, Harry's smile fell away, disappearing into nothingness. This was Tom, again. Except, it was the him that Harry had seen in his flat. This Tom was vulnerable and raw like he had been cracked open by the world and all his soft insides were exposed to the elements. It was humbling.

It was terrifying.

“Why are you sorry?” Harry whispered. Tom glanced over his shoulder and slowly, Harry turned.

And then he saw her.

She was stupidly beautiful—tall, statuesque, with heavy-lidded grey eyes, and her lips pressed into a purple pout. Her hair was black, a mess of curls piled on her hair. Her curls were different from Hermione’s. This woman’s hair was sleek, shiny, glistening with expensive product. Her robes were fitted to her every curl and she moved with a sense of purpose. As if she belonged in any space that she decided to occupy.

“Bellatrix,” Tom said, sounding far more subdued, though a nasty undertone rang through his voice. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, you’d know if you bothered to return my letters,” Bellatrix said, her voice husky and biting. She smelled like jasmine and cashmere. She turned to Harry, holding out her hand. “Hi. I’m Bellatrix Black.”

“Black?” Harry asked, softly, taking the woman’s hand. His godfather’s last name? But, Sirius had never mentioned any family, not that he would’ve bothered to. He hated his family.

Bellatrix smiled. It was dark and nasty and looked oddly like Sirius' smile when he was about to pull off an elaborate prank. "And you must be the whore who's been screwing my fiance.”

And Harry’s world shattered.

Chapter Text

Harry felt nothing.

Or rather he felt everything.

The inside of his chest felt concave and empty. He felt like if he reached into his chest and pulled out his heart, he wouldn’t feel anything. Pieces of him were missing. The door creaked open and he didn’t need to look up to see that it was Hermione. He heard her creep in, tiptoeing, placing something on the nightstand, before she slid onto the bed. She laid on her back next to him, staring up at his ceiling.

“Let’s play a game,” Hermione said.

Harry snorted. “Whose life is worst?” he asked.

Hermione hummed. “Oh, you don’t want to play that game with me. I’ll win.”

“Bet you won’t,” Harry said, softly. “Tom is engaged to a woman named ‘Bellatrix Black’. I checked the family tree downstairs. She’s my godfather’s cousin. I win.”

Hermione let out a long breath as if the air had been punched right out of her. She turned her head to look at him, but Harry didn't move. He only stared up at the ceiling, because if he looked at her, he'd burst into tears, and he didn't think he could cry. He hadn't cried.

“You didn’t win,” Hermione muttered.

Harry scoffed. “You didn’t hear me? My boyfriend is a lying, adulterous, piece of shit that I’m going to hurl straight into hell the next time I see him.”

“I’m pregnant.”

Harry slowly turned his head to look at her. He tried to smile at her joke, and then, he saw the grim set of her mouth.

“Shit,” he said softly. Slowly, he looked back at the ceiling.

“Shit,” she agreed. There was a long moment of silence. “It looks like we’re both having shitty days, then.”

“Agreed,” Harry murmured. There was a long moment of silence. “Who won?”

“Let’s call it a draw,” Hermione suggested.

Harry hummed in agreement.

"She's so beautiful," Harry whispered, his voice cracking. "So beautiful. And...I could see why he'd want to marry her. They would look beautiful together."

“You’re beautiful,” Hermione insisted. She sat up and pulled a jar from the nightstand. She opened it gently and slathered something shiny on her fingers before she began to work it through her hair. She began to twist her hair.

“Not like her,” Harry murmured.

“He doesn’t matter. She doesn’t matter. You do,” Hermione whispered. “I love you.”

And Harry finally let out a terrible sob. “I love you too. But...I wanted him to love me too.”

He buried his face in Hermione’s lap and trembled, crying out of rage and sorrow, and Hermione twisted her hair.


DIAGNOSIS


 

He arrived at the hospital earlier than usual. He didn’t have a procedure for another three hours, but his anger had been the root of his insomnia the night before. It would fuel him through the day, even as he worked to conquer death over and over again. But, first, he had a Healer to confront.

“What is she doing here?” Tom asked as he stormed into Albus’ office.

Albus looked up from his desk, staring over his half-moon glasses, a glimmer in his eye that Tom couldn’t understand. Albus’ mind was the one mind that Tom had never had access to and it had never ceased to infuriate him.

“You and I both know she’s the best in her field,” Albus said coolly.

“There aren’t any trauma cases here!” Tom spat. “If she wanted to be helpful, she should’ve been here when that shit happened in Diagon Alley. Or with our VIP patient.”

“She’s here now. She’ll be Moody’s Healer from now until he’s finished his physical therapy,” Albus said, flatly.

Tom trembled with his rage. “You can’t do that! He’s my patient!”

“Alas, I’m afraid I can,” Albus said gravely. “Bellatrix is still an employee of St. Mungo’s. She left for a research sabbatical, and now, she has returned. This is a professional move, Tom. This isn’t personal.”

“Bull. Shit,” Tom spat through clenched teeth.

“Furthermore, until further notice, Severus will be acting as Head Healer in times of my absence,” Albus continued.

Tom’s rage exceeded what he thought possible. He stood, dumbfounded.

“This is personal,” he whispered. “Is this because I’m fucking Harry Potter?”

Albus didn’t look surprised that he knew. Tom shouldn’t have been surprised either, and yet, he hated that he found that he was.

“There’s no need to be so crass,” Albus admonished.

“He’s not a fucking child, Albus. And he doesn’t need your protection,” Tom spat. “What Harry and I have is none of your fucking concern.”

“It is if it affects his performance—”

“And he’s the best fucking trainee that you have!” Tom roared, storming up until he towered over Albus. Albus remained seated, so ruthlessly calm as he stared up into Tom’s burning eyes. “He’s got more talent in his fucking pinky than the rest of them combined. So don’t you dare tell me that my personal relationship has affected anyone’s ‘performance’. I’m a good teacher. A good Healer. And the only one fucking with people’s ‘performances’ is you bringing that fucking cunt back to this hospital!”

There was a long moment of silence.

Albus leaned back. “If it reassures you, I didn’t ask her return. She returned of her own volition. She works here. Though she has slighted you, personally, she’s done nothing that would demand her termination.”

“And neither have I! And yet, I’m the one being punished. I do my job, unlike Snape. I teach, I Heal, I do everything I’m supposed to. It’s not enough for you?”

“Severus has been improving. He has taken Neville Longbottom—”

“He treats that boy like shit,” Tom scoffed. “And you know it. Fuck off, Albus. I know this is about your favoritism for Lily. You think you’re protecting him. I didn’t take advantage of him and you know it. So, don’t fucking punish me for your bleeding heart.”

He turned on his heel, determined to have the last word.

“I’m not punishing you, my boy,” Albus said, softly. “I just think that the next few weeks will be quite difficult for you. Your proposal is approaching and with your...personal issues…”

“I’m not your son,” Tom spat over his shoulder as he slammed the door open. He slammed it shut, falling back against it. He tilted his head back, taking a deep breath as a matron hurried past him, terrified from his outburst.

“Aw, baby boy. Breathe.”

Tom’s eyes flashed open and he pulled his wand, pressing the tip to the hollow of Bellatrix’s collarbone. She smiled at him.

“You cunt,” Tom murmured.

“I’m the cunt you’re going to marry.” She said it like a promise.

“You’re fucking crazy,” he hissed.

Bellatrix laughed. “You like me fucked up. You like all the people you take to bed crazy. Is he as crazy as me?”

“Don’t talk about him.”

"Oh, you're protective. He must be wild. Is he as good as me?" Bellatrix murmured, her breasts pressed against his chest, her lips brushing against the shell of his ear.

"I will Crucio you right here," he promised.

“Oh, baby, you promise?”

Tom shoved her back and she stumbled in her sky-high boots, laughing loud and terrible.

“That sabbatical you took wasn’t for research,” Tom snarled, his lips curling back. He could taste his rage on his tongue, as poignant as any snake’s venom. Bellatrix smiled back at him, taunting and saccharinely sweet.

“No?” she simpered.

“No. You took it because I caught you. You’re a cheating, lying, crazy bitch,” Tom snapped. “You fucked my best friend. In my office. In his office. On the E&T floor. In a magical theatre. In my bed.”

Bellatrix’s smile widened. “Watch yourself, love. Your little boy toy is a young thing, isn’t he?”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Tom demanded. “You stay away from him.”

“Just meet me for lunch, baby. We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

Bellatrix winked and sauntered down the hallway.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry stayed in the Apparation Zone. Everyone moved around him, the cracks deafening, but he didn't move just yet. He felt a hand in the crook of his arm. He looked over at Hermione and she stared straight ahead, her gaze cold. Harry looked to his right. Ron and Neville waited, dutifully, their arms crossed over their chests.

“Are you ready?” Hermione asked, softly.

Harry took another deep breath. “Yes.”

He was still numb.

And then, they moved. They strode through the halls of St. Mungo’s, a united front, a single organism. Hermione’s hand on Harry’s arm kept him anchored in the moment as they crossed the lobby. The fact that they stood four abreast forced people to move around them. On a regular day, Harry wouldn’t care.

On that particular day, he couldn’t possibly give less than flying fucking shit.

His eyes narrowed on the man waiting by the doorway of the trainee room, speaking in hushed tones with McGonagall. Riddle looked up, his eyes widening on Harry. He went to step around Healer McGonagall, but the woman’s face was white with fury. She drew her wand, spitting something nastily as Riddle, pressing the tip of her wand to the underside of his chin. McGonagall didn’t even seem to notice the looks she was gaining from some of the others.

“Harry,” Riddle began as Harry approached.

Harry blinked once and then he turned, walking into the trainee room, ignoring the man. The door swung behind them with a resounding thud.

And then, all of the trainees heard Riddle snarl, “Fuck you, Minerva.”

Harry’s fists clenched and he turned, already drawing his wand. Hermione grabbed him by the elbow and she shook her head once

“You heard how he just spoke to her,” Harry hissed.

“But, you can’t,” Hermione said, patient.

Ron bared his teeth. “Why not? He deserves to get his arse kicked,” Ron said, already rolling up his sleeves, ready for a brawl. At another time, Harry might’ve even smiled at Ron’s show of loyalty.

Now, all he could manage was a grimace.

“You can’t curse him. You’ll be kicked out of the program. Wait,” Hermione said.

Neville pulled his jumper over his head, leaving him in only an undershirt. “Wait for what?” he asked.

“Revenge is best when it is quiet and sudden and unexpected,” Hermione whispered, her eyes flashing dangerously. Ron and Neville exchanged looks and nodded at Hermione’s words.

They dressed silently. The other trainees gave them a wide berth, turned away by the grimness in their faces. Hermione stepped up to Harry, adjusting the collar of his hunter green robes. She turned to Ron, reached up and stood on her toes to wipe a smudge off his cheekbone, and then she brushed Neville’s hair from his forehead. She glanced in the mirror, nodded and then turned back to them.

"We have a job to do," Ron said, gruffly.

“And we’re going to do it brilliantly,” Neville added.

“Agreed,” Hermione said.

All three turned to Harry. Harry blinked very slowly.

“Let’s go do this shit,” Harry whispered.

They filed out of the trainee room and McGonagall stood by the door, almost in parade rest. She looked at all of them, something like pity in her eyes when her gaze finally settled on Harry. Harry stared back, unflinching, and he felt a twisted sense of satisfaction when the pity in McGonagall’s eyes drained away and was replaced with a steely sort of pride.

“Hello, trainees,” she greeted.

“Healer McGonagall,” Ron responded, softly.

"Granger, you'll be with me today. Weasley, you've been requested by Healer Vance after lunch. Until then, you'll be on pharmacy. Longbottom, Healer Sprout until lunch. After lunch, Healer Snape needs assistance in the labs," McGonagall stated. Neville deflated, looking annoyed, but he didn't complain.

“And me, Healer?” Harry asked.

McGonagall turned her head to look down the hallway. “Mediwizard Black has requested you.”

Slowly, Harry followed her gaze and he felt a flash of rage. Bellatrix Black walked down the hallway, draped in all black, her plague mask hanging from around her neck. Hermione breathed, a sharp intake of air, freezing by Harry’s side. Harry gave a frigid smile and Bellatrix smiled back, wide and hungry.

"Harry Potter," Bellatrix breathed. She towered over Harry in her five-inch heeled boots. The tips were pointed like knives.

“Mediwizard Black,” Harry said, demurely. He stared at her with blazing green eyes.

“We’re going to have fun today, aren’t we?” Bellatrix asked, she looped her arm through Harry’s yanking him close, her long talon nails digging into his arm through the thin sleeve of his robe.

“We are,” Harry beamed.

“Now, don’t worry your pretty head, Harry. I’m going to be tough you. You’re going to want to die. And that’s okay. I’m not singling you out. I promise. I treat every trainee this way. Not only the sluts that sleep with fiance.”

Harry forced his smile, freezing it on his face.

This was hell.

And he hoped Tom burned in it.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Ron finished scarfing down the last of his lunch as he spotted Emmeline by the double doors. She waited patiently, staring down at her files and checking things off with her quill. She was looked rather fit in her lime green robes, her lips painted red. Ron glanced over at Neville who looked like he was dreading his potion-making with Snape. Hermione and Harry were both subdued, eating silently.

“Well, I’m off. I’ll see you all. Home together?” Ron asked.

“Might be a little late. I’ll let you know,” Hermione said, quietly.

Neville looked up at him and nodded once. “Yeah, sure. I need to talk to you though. Before, then.”

“Sure. Let me just let Emmeline know,” Ron said. He stood up and tossed the remains of his lunch as he walked straight up to Emmeline. She beamed up at him.

“Ron,” she said with a grin.

“Hey, Em. Glad you requested me today,” Ron said with a grin.

Emmeline giggled, softly. “We’ll be in a procedure today. I need someone that I can talk to. I like to keep my procedures fun and light. Any music requests?”

“Weird Sisters?” Ron suggested.

Emmeline laughed louder. “I should’ve guessed. Your drunk request,” Emmeline said. Ron shrugged with a grin. “I’ve been having fun lately, you know.”

“Really?” Ron asked.

"Yeah. Getting drinks with you are the highlights of my week," Emmeline said, earnestly. "You're funny. Easy to talk to. And you don't care that I like the Leaky Cauldron, which is, arguably, the grimiest wizarding pub in the world."

“If you can’t taste the dirt on the glasses, is it really a one Knut beer?” Ron laughed. He paused. “Also, if you want to try a really dirty pub, we should go to the Hog’s Head in Hogsmeade. That will make your skin crawl.”

“I look forward to it!” Emmeline said, excitedly. “You ready to go?”

"In a moment. Sorry to ask, but my teammate, Neville Longbottom, wants to speak with me for a moment. Would that be cool?" Ron asked, already wincing and waiting for her to say no. Emmeline pulled out her pocket watch and tilted her head as she looked at the face. She slid it back into her robes.

“That’s fine. My procedure’s in an hour. If you can have your conversation with him while looking over these notes, to prep, that’d be great. See you in Theatre Four,” Emmeline said, passing her notes over to Ron. Ron took them, grinning gratefully. “Also, I want to hear more about any other greasy pubs we should try.”

“Sure, thing,” Ron laughed. He watched her walk away and turned around. He jumped when he realized that Neville was literally within a foot of him. “Merlin’s hairy ballsack! What the fuck, mate?”

"Sorry," Neville apologized. He was watching Emmeline curiously. "You go to pubs with Healer Vance? Is that where you go Friday nights?"

“Yeah. We snogged at our party, and then we started hanging out. And the more we hung out...the cooler she seemed,” Ron said.

Neville tilted his head. "Cooler? Are you into her? She's a Healer. You're a trainee."

“Yeah. I was...hesitant about that. Especially more so, now that the thing with Harry and...you-know-who is a mess. But, I don’t think it matters. I see her as a friend, I think,” Ron said with a shrug. “A really fit friend, but a friend.”

Neville raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think that she sees you as a friend, Ron.”

Ron shook his head. “Look, mate, what do you want to talk about?” he asked, gracelessly redirecting the conversation. Neville gave him a last uncertain look before sighing.

“I’m worried about Harry.”

“As you should be. Riddle is a fucking twat,” Ron snapped, his eyes narrowing.

Neville nodded in agreement. “Yeah. But, he’s...there’s…” Neville trailed off, looking away. “I want to help him somehow.”

Ron stared at him for a long time and then winced as if he had just realized something.

“You fancy him,” Ron said, softly.

Neville looked up, his eyes wide. His cheeks flushed pink and he shook his head. He revealed himself when he couldn’t help but look over his shoulder.

“I...I’m sorta with Hannah,” Neville said.

Ron stared at him. “You can fancy two people at once, Neville. You fancy him. But, it’s not going to happen. Ever.”

“No need to be an arse,” Neville snapped.

Ron sighed. “I’m not. It’s not going to happen. He hasn’t said it but he loved Riddle. He did. And he’s broken. Harry. He’s been broken for a long time, I think. And you would do him more good as his friend than anything else. Don’t tell him.”

He left Neville there, going to look over Emmeline’s notes. He didn’t need Neville’s reassurance to know that Neville would do as he said.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Apply Burn-Healing Paste and a bandage. You do know the bandage spell, don’t you?” Bellatrix drawled as she leaned against the wall, stroking along the long beak of her plague doctor mask.

“Yes,” Harry spat. “I don’t know why I would be Healing a dueling injury with burn-healing paste.”

Bellatrix huffed and pointed to the base of the patient’s neck.

"Do you see along there? The base of his neck is inflamed. That usually indicates Mind magic. The brainstem is up here," Bellatrix said, tracing her hand up. The patient hissed in pain and shot her an irritated look. She returned it with a fearsome baring of her teeth that made the patient docile once more. "The burn-healing paste in this instance isn't about the dermis...skin, if you will. It's metaphorical and it isn't. The brain is tricky and since I'm a mediwizard, I don't deal with Mind magic. But, we can assist by encouraging it to heal by itself. So, what we'll prescribe is this Gotu kola based paste that will be applied along here. But, we'll put it now and then seal it. Understood?"

“Yes, Healer,” Harry said, wide-eyed. He did as the woman bid, festering with rage.

Bellatrix was a fucking dick. That much was clear. She enjoyed mocking the fact that he knew so little about mediwizardry and E&T. She made snide comments about him being a slut, and even worse, she called him a lost little lamb. But, she was a good Healer, and a decent teacher when she wanted to be. She took her job seriously.

“You’ll want to come back for a follow-up in two weeks in the Mind Ward,” Bellatrix was saying to the patient. She paused to exam Harry’s work and hummed, looking at him with dark eyes. “Adequate. Perhaps there’s hope for you, Potter.”

“I’m not going to be a mediwizard,” Harry snarled.

Bellatrix laughed. “Clearly. You don’t have the aptitude. But, maybe a fine matron.”

Harry ground his teeth together as he pulled off his gloves with a clear snap and pressed the remaining burn paste into the patient's hands.

“My shift is finished. Do you need anything else from me, Healer?” Harry bit out, attempting to sound as pleasant as possible.

Bellatrix smirked. “No. Allow me to escort you to the trainee room, sweetheart.”

Harry snapped.

“Don’t. Call. Me. That,” he snarled, his nostrils flaring with fury.

Bellatrix’s eyes widened. She stared at Harry for a long moment as if she was staring at something far away. “What?”

“I respect you as a Healer. But, I’m tired of your shit,” Harry hissed. “Stop making fun of me. Stop patronizing me. Stop treating me like crap because your fiance, or whatever, decided he wanted me.

Bellatrix blinked.

“I see why now,” she muttered.

Harry turned on his heel and he hated how she followed him to the lift despite his swift snarling. He pressed the lift button a little more violently than he should. When it came, Bellatrix let out a huff of laughter as they stared into the elevator. Harry pressed his lips into a thin line to keep himself from crying.

Tom looked up from his papers, his eyes widening as he stared at the pair of them.

Bellatrix stepped forward, grinning “Tom, ba—”

“Harry,” Tom breathed.

Harry stepped into the lift and turn around, leaning against the wall as he tried to swallow the bile that was forcing its way up from his stomach.

“Harry, please, don’t ignore me. We have to talk,” Tom said quietly.

“We need to talk too, Tom. I noticed you avoided me at lunch,” Bellatrix tried.

Tom hissed. “Shut up, Bellatrix.”

Bellatrix made a wounded sound and Harry closed his eyes, shaking his head. When the lift open, he practically ran out even as Tom reached out, his fingertips brushing against the ends of Harry’s wild curls. The older man looked over at Bellatrix. She stared at his fingertips, a curious expression on her face. She seemed both wounded and trapped and full of fury. And then, she looked at him with those terrible eyes.

Tom walked away. He knew she would follow.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Are you ready to talk?” Bellatrix purred as she caught up with Tom as he strode to the cafeteria for dinner before a late night session intended on working out the finer details of his project proposal.

His appetite abandoned him nearly immediately and he cringed, turning on his heel, heading back to the lobby and towards the lifts.

“I missed you at lunch. I stopped by your office, but every time I touched the knob, it burned me,” Bellatrix pouted as she practically skipped after him.

“Good, then. My wards work,” Tom snapped.

Bellatrix huffed. “Tom, we need to talk.” She sounded far more serious now.

“Talk about this: me, walking away,” Tom spat, storming away.

He had one moment of perfect silence as he made his way down the hall, without anyone following him.

“Walking away? That’s all I get?” Bellatrix roared, stalking after Tom down the hallway. Tom dipped his head forward, trying to ignore her.

He hissed over his shoulder, “Calm down.”

“What? You’re not going to yell at me? Call me names? Are we past that?” Bellatrix demanded.

Tom spun on his heel. “You need someone to tell you how much of a bitch you are?”

“No! I need you to care!” Bellatrix snarled. She reached for Tom, but he jerked away, shaking his head. Bellatrix trembled, wrapping her arms around herself. “I slept with your best friend.”

“I’m aware,” Tom said, coldly.

“You don’t care that I slept with your best friend. You care that I ruined your pride. Your reputation. Your ego. From the moment I met you, I knew...I knew I would be third. After your work and your ego. But, I never thought that you wouldn’t care,” Bellatrix hissed, her voice cracking and she took a step closer, looking up at the taller man, trembling with her rage.

“You’re crazy,” Tom retorted.

Bellatrix let out a sharp, barking laugh as they stormed through the Healer’s corridor off the lobby.

“What do I have to do to get you care, Tom? Simper after you? Call you brilliant? Bang every night? Yes, I fucked Rodolphus! Yes, I destroyed your research when you threw me and my shit out of our house! I did that!" Bellatrix roared, uncaring now about who heard. "But, you that doesn't matter to you anymore because I don't ignore you in lifts and I'm not Harry bloody Potter!”

There was a sudden silence throughout the entire corridor.

Tom took a step back, his burgundy eyes wide as he took in the matrons and the trainees and the other Healers. And worst of all, Hermione and Harry stood in the trainee doorway, already dressed in their civilian clothes. Hermione looked caught between rage and horror. Harry’s bottom lip trembled and then he drew himself together, more tightly wound and colder than Tom had ever seen him.

He took a careful step forward, his breath a quiet gasping. He took another step. And then, he broke into a run.

“Harry!” Hermione shouted after him, making to run after him. Weasley grabbed her arm, jerking her back. Hermione tugged herself away, trembling with fury. “You both should be ashamed of yourselves! How dare you!”

She stormed off after Harry, her fury draining away for concern.

Tom closed his eyes and waited to drown. And then he walked away.

There was a conversation to be had.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry wasn’t surprised when Tom found him in the magical theatre where Harry had participated in his first internal procedure. Harry brushed his fingers over the floating slab, pretending that he hadn’t seen the man. Tom looked content to wait. That just made Harry angrier. Slowly, he looked up at Tom, making sure to keep the slab between them.

“You have a wife.”

“Fiance,” Tom corrected, his voice so very quiet.

Harry gave a slow, biting smile. “You have a fiance,” Harry drawled. He took a step closer. “You and your fiance embarrassed me. Made me out to be a whore at my workplace. How dare you?”

“She was shouting it. That wasn’t my fault!” Tom snapped back.

“You are a liar. You are a cheater. You are an arrogant piece of shit, and I can’t believe I wasted my time on you,” Harry hissed, stalking forward.

Tom’s eyes narrowed. “You’re being a child. You don’t know what she—”

“I don’t give a fuck what she did. There were two people in this relationship. You and me. At least, I thought there were. Three is a bit crowded, yeah?” Harry demanded and he slowly pulled his wand, pressing it to Tom’s sternum.

“Harry, I know—”

“You don’t know anything,” Harry retorted. “You should’ve told me! If you knew anything, you would know that I’m in this close to using all of those curses that my Auror father told me never to use and curse you into oblivion!

“She cheated on me,” Tom said, quietly.

Harry took a step back, his eyes wide.

“Did she?” Harry whispered.

“Yes.”

“But, you didn’t break up with her,” Harry said.

Tom nearly winced. “No.”

“I see,” Harry murmured. He tilted his head, staring at Tom. “You think that’s going to change anything. But, it's not. All this changes is the fact that my personal life is out at my workplace. All this changes is the fact that people think I've fucked my way into my procedures. I can’t be on your service anymore.”

“You’re the best Spell Damage trainee this program has spat out in a long time,” Tom said.

“I know,” Harry said. “But, that’s in doubt now, isn’t it?”

He gave a slow cool smile.

“Harry—”

“No. You lied to me. I can’t do this right now,” Harry said flatly. “My friend is waiting for me.”

Harry pushed away and looked up at the gallery. Hermione was watching. Harry left him there. He didn’t look back. He walked up the steps to the gallery and Hermione was standing in the gallery doorway, waiting for him.

“Are you okay, still?” Hermione asked.

Harry’s brow creased. “Why?”

“Because...I know it’s selfish. But, I need you,” Hermione said.

“Anything,” Harry said immediately.

Hermione’s bottom lip quivered. “I...I told you I was pregnant because I needed an emergency contact. Because of the side-effects. Anyway, I put your name down. You’re my person,” Hermione muttered, attempting to sound as cold as possible.

Harry’s eyes widened. “I am?”

“Yeah. Whatever,” Hermione said.

Harry's lips curled into a sad little smile and he threw his arms around her, hugging her tight. Hermione's arms came up slower but when she did hug him, he felt more like she was holding him together. He stopped himself from collapsing into her arms and pulled back just enough to see her face.

“Let’s go do this,” Harry whispered.

“Okay.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Why aren’t you inside?”

Hermione looked over at Ron and slowly lifted her cigarette back up to her lips. She took a long drag, letting the smoke fill all of her before she released it, blowing away the tension in her back. She winced, grunting softly when another round of cramps ripped out of her. She sat on the stone staircase railing, her back against the brick housefront, one leg tucked against her chest, the other straight out.

“I needed a smoke,” Hermione said quietly.

“What’s been up with you?” Ron asked.

Hermione huffed. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Bugger that. You’ve been off your game. What’s wrong?” Ron spat.

“None of your business.”

“You are my business," Ron snapped back. Hermione looked up at him, her eyes wide. Slowly, she passed the cigarette towards him and he snatched it, taking a long drag before passing it back. After he blew out the smoke, he turned to her. "You think you aren't? We live together. You're my friend. Of course, you're my business. So, what is it?"

“I took an Abortion Potion today.”

Ron’s eyes widened. “What? You were...and now you’re not,” Ron said with wide eyes.

“Now, I’m not,” Hermione said.

“Why? My mum...she said she hated the idea of that potion. Said it killed,” Ron said softly.

“The embryo wasn’t alive,” Hermione said fiercely. “It couldn’t sustain life on its own. It was a parasite. And I’m a Healer. I destroy parasites.”

“I wasn’t saying that about you. Just saying what my mum says,” Ron snapped back, just as irritated. He held his hand out and Hermione huffed, pulling a pack of cigarettes out of her back pocket and flicking it open with her thumb.

Ron drew one out, pulling out his wand. He lit the end and stowed his wand away.

“I don’t feel bad about it and I don’t regret it. The matron thought I would. Practically laughed in her face,” Hermione said, her lips twisted up into a terrible smile. “I’d be a horrible mother. I’d be Lily Evans. And I wouldn’t ever want to wish that on a child.”

“I think you’d be great,” Ron said fiercely.

Hermione stared at him with amused condescension. “You think too highly of me,” she said, softly. “If I ever have a daughter, I would name her ‘Rose’.”

“That’s a beautiful name,” Ron said, gently.

Hermione hummed. “I didn’t do this for shits and giggles. I didn’t do this for nothing. I’m going to be the best.”

And then she put out her cigarette and tossed the butt over the railing. She stood up, smoothing out her jumper and went to go inside. Ron’s fingers wrapped around hers and she stopped, looking up at him with wide eyes. Ron looked down at their hands, both wrapped around the knob, just as surprised as her.

“What?” Hermione asked.

“I came out here because he’s on the floor. Crying in the foyer. I need you to know that,” Ron said, quietly.

Hermione swallowed. “Okay.”

“We can stay out here for another minute.”

“Why would we wait?” Hermione asked.

And Ron looked at her with the softest eyes. “Because you’re crying,” Ron said, lifting his other hand to wipe away the tears from her cheeks.

“Oh. I didn’t realize,” Hermione said quietly. She wiped away her own tears, swallowing all of it up inside of her. “I’m not even sad. I’m angry. So, so angry.

“That’s okay. We’re here for you. And you’re angry. And I’m angry. And Neville’s angry. And Harry’s on the floor. Are you ready?” Ron asked.

Their hands were still wrapped together, resting on the knob.

“Yeah,” Hermione whispered.

They opened the door together. Hermione stepped through the door first, alone. Ron shut the door behind them, locking it quickly.

Hermione stared, impassively. Neville sat on the steps, looking down at the middle of their foyer, cringing away from the terrible sobs that wracked the body curled up on the cold wooden floor. Hermione took a step forward even as Ron winced as Harry let out a terrible sobbing scream. Hermione pushed away  the cramping agony and gracefully fell to her knees, taking Harry by the face.

“Enough,” she whispered, softly. “Enough.”

Harry whimpered as he looked up at her. Hermione dutifully wiped away the tears from his cheeks and paused when she realized that they were long dried. Hermione nodded and then she tugged Harry to his feet, standing up with him.

“I don’t...I can’t…” Harry’s voice broke. “It hurts. I’ve never...hurt like this.”

“That’s called heartbreak,” Neville said, quietly. Hermione and Harry looked at him as he stood on the steps. “It’s a bitch.”

Harry let out a watery laugh. “Yeah. It is.”

“Okay. This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to go to the parlor,” Hermione said. She looked at Ron and Neville. “You too. We’re going to do this together. As a family.”

“A family?” Ron asked.

“Yes,” Hermione said, fiercely. “We’re a family. This is your family, Harry Potter. And we are here. You are not alone. We are not alone. Do you understand me?”

“Y-yes,” Harry whispered.

Hermione marched him into the parlor and she drew her wand, waving it. The lights all slowly glowed on and the radio crackled as it turned on. Ron winced as a Weird Sisters song blasted through, cutting uncomfortably through somber mood. He moved to turn it off.

“No. Leave it,” Hermione said.

“Leave it?” Neville asked. “Don’t you think it’s a little...inappropriate?”

“Yes,” Hermione said. And then she began to jump up and down, shaking out her hands and let out a shriek that made Neville clap his hands to his ears and Harry jumped, shocked.

“What are you doing, you mad woman?” Ron snarled.

“Dancing it out! Screaming!” Hermione roared and she pumped her fist through the air, jumping and dancing and twisting and turning. Neville’s eyes widened and his lips tilted into a slow, quiet smile.

And then he walked up to Hermione and grabbed her hands. Hermione laughed as he turned her and dipped her. They two began to jump up and down, howling like a pair of banshees. Harry looked properly spooked, looking between the pair of them. Ron hesitantly stepped forward and then he grabbed both of Harry’s hands, swinging him around. Harry let out a startled noise that sounded like a strangled laugh. Ron grinned down at him as he whooped.

“DANCE IT OUT!” Ron shouted.

Harry bit his lip trying to fight a smile. And then he let out a loud scream, piercing and terrible and bright.

They danced all night.

Chapter Text

Side-Apparation was Ron’s least favorite way of Apparating, but his headache that morning had demanded it. He looked over at Hermione, slowly letting go of her arm.

“Thanks,” he grunted.

Hermione smirked. “Don’t mention it. I’ll do it enough for the both of us,” she teased.

Ron snorted. He groaned, his head pounding between his ears from lack of sleep and an excess of coffee that he had to drink to combat his exhaustion. Hermione had gone through the same ordeal and was suffering from side-effects from the Abortion Potion, and she was a chipper as ever. Merlin, Ron hated her.

“I need to get a potion from the pharmacy or something because...Merlin. This is worse than a hangover,” Ron muttered as they began to walk to the lobby. He glanced over his shoulder and frowned when neither Neville nor Harry came through. He shrugged, shaking his head. They’d show sooner or later—preferable sooner so McGonagall didn’t berate their asses to hell.

“Oh, don’t be such a baby, Ron,” Hermione snorted.

“I’m not being a—”

“Hey, Ron!”

Ron winced and Hermione squeaked as Emmeline Vance squirmed her way between the two of them. Hermione raised an eyebrow as Emmeline looped her arm through Ron’s and beamed up at him.

“How are you, Em?” Ron asked, his voice going nervously high.

“Well! I wanted to let you know our patient is doing great! If you want to check in on him, later, to see for yourself, it’d be okay,” Emmeline said, her grin never faltering. She paused, turning her sunny smile onto Hermione. Her smile grew even wider, looking almost like a grimace. “Good morning...Granger, isn’t it?”

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Good morning, Healer Vance,” Hermione said. She looked behind Emmeline’s head to shoot Ron a look and he shrugged, looking back at Emmeline.

“I’ll definitely check in. Anything else, Em?” he asked.

Emmeline raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know I was interrupting anything,” she teased.

"You weren't. We're just waiting for our housemates," Hermione said. Emmeline's head snapped around as if she hadn't expected Hermione to say anything.

She blinked and nodded. “Oh, of course. I’ll see you both later, I suppose. Later, Ron,” she finished and then she was flouncing away, her hair bouncing around her as her lime green robes flapped around her.

“Hmm,” Hermione hummed.

Ron flushed. “What?” he barked out, defensively.

“Did I say something, arsehole?" Hermione challenged, her eyes full of wicked humor. Ron's blush darkened and he was saved from responding as Neville jogged up to them, still stuffing files that he had taken home the night before into his satchel. "Neville, you're late."

“I am. I forgot these files. McGonagall would have my skin,” Neville said. He paused with a frown.

“What is it?” Hermione asked, curiously.

“Where’s Harry?” Neville asked. “He left before all of us, didn’t he?”

“No. I thought he was still upstairs…” Ron said.

Hermione bit her lower lip, and slowly pointed to the entrance. They all turned their intention to Harry.

“Um. There he is,” Hermione said.

“Oh...no…” Ron breathed.

Harry strode forward, painted into the tightest leather pants that any of them had ever seen. The V of his jumper was deep enough to expose his collarbone, showing off his skin. Harry’s lips were curled into a smirk as he strode forward, his clunky knee-high boots making his legs look even slimmer.

“Smile,” Neville snapped.

Hermione nodded, forcing a smile on. “Let’s go.”

The three joined Harry, surrounding him like a mob. Hermione hooked her arm through Harry’s. Harry looked down at her, smugness radiating from him.

“What are you doing?” Ron hissed.

Whore.

The slur made the three housemates freeze. Harry acted like he hadn’t heard it, continuing to stride forward. Hermione’s fists clenched and she took a step forward, her eyes on the matron that had dared to say anything. The matron flinched away towards her clique, turning her eyes away. Though no one looked at them, it wasn’t hard to tell that Harry was all anyone was talking about. Hermione glanced at her best friend.

Harry was reveling in it all.

“I’m what they want me to be,” Harry said with a vicious grin. “They want a homewrecking, broken whore? I’m the homewrecking, broken whore.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry strode into the trainee room, head held high. He pretended that the room didn’t fall silent when he entered. He glanced over at Padma and Smith. They were watching him, unabashedly, curiosity and irritation in their eyes.

“What?” he drawled.

“Someone’s waiting for you. By your cupboard,” Padma said, her voice stilted.

Harry tried to stop himself from stiffening. He clenched his teeth tight as he strode forward. He expected to see Tom, probably begging to speak with him again. Except, no, that wasn’t in Tom’s nature. Perhaps, it was Dumbledore, ready to sack him for shagging a superior. It couldn’t be McGonagall. They wouldn’t have phrased it like that.

The reality was so much worse than imagination.

“You’re not on my service today. What a pity,” Bellatrix drawled, leaning against the wall. Harry rolled his eyes, ignoring her in favor of pulling his jumper over his head. She began to drum her sharp nails against the nearby cupboard. “I requested you, but you’d already been snapped. Right. Up. Maybe you are as good as you say you are.”

“I am,” Harry snapped. He shook his head, chastising himself for even responding.

Bellatrix beamed, having won that round. "Well, then. I haven't seen much of yet, but clearly, someone else sees promise in you.”

“Including your fiance,” Ron grumbled his breath.

Both Harry and Bellatrix's head shot up and they swung two glowers at him. Ron turned a patchy pink that only emphasize his freckles and he stuck his head deeper into the cupboard. Bellatrix's playfulness melted away, leaving only nastiness.

“Yes, including my fiance,” Bellatrix bit out, sneering at Harry. “Yeah, he saw all kinds of things in you. Talent, ambition...his cock.

Harry swallowed, looking away. “Is there something you need, Mediwizard Black?”

Bellatrix huffed.

“It’s not fun bullying you if you don’t react,” Bellatrix pouted as she stared down at Harry.

Harry looked up at her. “Maybe that’s why I’m not reacting,” he said slowly.

Bellatrix huffed. “That’ll be all, Trainee Potter,” she snapped before she stormed out, letting the door swing closed behind her.

The trainee room burst into sound again, full of gossip. Harry deflated, his confidence from earlier deflating and he leaned back against his cupboard as he pulled him hunter green robes on, forlornly. Hermione frowned up at him, pressing her hand against his jaw, gently.

“Harry...she’s a bitch. Don’t let her get to you,” Hermione said, earnestly.

“It’s...fuck both of them. Honestly,” Neville added.

Harry gave a sad smile. “Yeah. Fuck both of them,” he whispered, his voice cracking. He wasn’t going to cry, he told himself. There wasn’t anything left to cry out.

He had danced it out all night, drowned in Firewhiskey, and then had pulled himself together. He had downed a Hangover Potion and then told himself that he was the best because he was the best. It was just the same as when he had pulled himself together after his confrontation with Lily. And maybe, he was a little more scarred, and a little more bitter, but he was walking and he was almost whole, and he would be okay.

He was going to be alright.

“Yeah. You’re going to be alright,” Ron promised.

Harry flinched. He hadn't realized he'd been speaking out loud. He shook himself, pressing a smirk to his face as he ruffled his hair.

“Okay, let’s go, then. We’re going to be alright.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Potter...Granger, you’re on my service today. Come along,” Emmeline Vance said cheerfully.

She started power walking down the hall before Harry and Hermione could even register what she was saying. The two walked after her, leaving a respectable distance between them so they could maintain some semblance of privacy.

“How are you holding up?” Hermione asked.

Harry shrugged, staring down at the papers on the case. It was quite barebones. And he hadn’t taken Care for Magical Creatures—at least, not after his sixth year. He had no idea what a Spectre was.

“I’ll be fine. I...I haven’t seen him,” Harry muttered.

“Do you really want to?” Hermione challenged.

Harry looked up from his papers. “I’ll let you know when I see him.”

“Granger! Hurry up!” Vance shouted over his shoulder. “Oh, you too, Potter!”

Hermione looked amused and she put more power into her walk. Harry glanced at her, but Hermione seemed deep in thought as they turned the next corridor on the Creature-Induced Injuries floor. Vance turned into a room and they followed, hovering in the doorway. Harry’s eyes widened when he saw.

“Oh,” he whispered.

Vance raised an eyebrow at him before she turned back to the patient. The patient was the color of parchment, so pale that they could see the blue of her veins, with vivid red bruises around her eyes and mouth. Her hands were wrapped in gossamer-like bandages, with long sharp talons jutting out like a creature. Harry supposed that she was a creature, now.

“Granger. Potter. This is Elizabeth Bath, and she is a Spectre,” Vance said, firmly. “Can either of you tell me what a Spectre is?”

Hermione’s hand punched through the air. Vance stared at Harry for thirty seconds too long before she turned to Hermione and nodded once.

“A Spectre is a creature created when a vampire drains a human almost until death and then given only a small amount of vampire blood. This means that the vampire venom necessary isn’t present during transformation, hindering the person,” Hermione rattled off as if she were reciting from a textbook.

Vance looked grudgingly impressed. “Good, Granger,” she said shortly before she turned to Elizabeth Bath. “How are you doing, Miss Bath?”

“Liza, Emmeline. It’s not like we haven’t been friends for years,” the Spectre corrected. Her voice was a creaky whisper, like the sound of paper rubbing against paper. Her red eyes were so dissimilar to Tom’s burgundy eyes. The Spectre’s eyes made Harry cringe.

“How are you doing, Elizabeth?” Vance asked warmly.

“Thirsty,” Elizabeth drawled in her whispery voice.

“Can either of you tell me what she’s thirsty for?” Vance asked.

“Uh, blood,” Harry volunteered, never tearing his eyes away from Elizabeth. The patient seemed to curl away from his gaze. Harry swallowed. “Oh, please don’t do that.”

“Do what?” Elizabeth rasped.

“Uh. That. I’m not staring at you because you’re…”

“Ugly?” Elizabeth challenged.

Harry shook his head. “No. You’re...extraordinary. I’ve never heard of anything like you,” Harry said, honestly.

Elizabeth’s eyes widened.

"Okay, so Elizabeth is recovering from her transformation. Prior to this transformation, she was a Muggle so she's struggling to adjust," Vance said, carefully. "She has daily appointments with Head Healer Dumbledore and is sustained by blood—both human and vampire. She is also going to be the subject of my project if she finds that agreeable."

Vance finished with a small grin.

Elizabeth shifted, shrugging slowly. “I mean...you’re my only friend here...so…”

“We lived in the same building,” Vance explained. “It’s how I found her. Now, you need to keep her as comfortable as possible, Potter. This is a very painful state and while I research a way to transform her fully into a vampire, it’ll take some time. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” Harry said, immediately.

“What can I do?” Hermione asked, curiously.

Vance blinked, eyes wide. “Oh...I have paperwork you can do after you familiarize Potter on the subjects of Spectres. Meet me in my office.”

Hermione grinned. “Sure.”

Vance nodded and then looked over at Elizabeth. She strode forward, grabbing her talon-like hand.

“Don’t worry, honey. You’ll be alright in their hands,” Vance assured her. Elizabeth nodded, like a skittish bunny and then Vance was brushing out of the room without a look back.

Harry glanced over at Hermione. Hermione was beaming.

“She hates me,” Hermione said, delighted.

Elizabeth snorted and both trainees’ heads snapped around to look at her. “Em doesn't hate anybody," she hissed. Then, she faltered. "She's just...dismissive."

“Hermione…” Harry said, warningly.

“Don’t worry about me. I’m looking forward to this,” Hermione laughed. She sat down at Elizabeth’s side and looked at her with wide eyes. “How are you adjusting to the wizarding world, Miss Bath?”

“It’s...a lot,” Elizabeth said, softly. “I can’t believe Em has been hiding all of this. Witches and wizards and vampires and giants and werewolves. There are werewolves right?”

Harry smiled, warmly. “I guess you’ll be teaching both of us, won’t you, Hermione?”

“I guess, I will,” Hermione said decidedly. “Now, let’s start with vampires and we’ll work our way through. You know what a vampire is, I assume, Miss Bath?”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Tom’s gaze was far away as Luna Lovegood wrapped up her project pitch on Nargles and its effect on children. It had been long and involved a few too many group activities—though Dumbledore seemed to appreciate that, unlike anyone else—but it had been clever, especially partnering with Vance and the Creature Induced-Injuries floor. At least, Vance was clever. It gave her two chances at the grant. Really, it should be considered cheating.

Only because Tom hadn’t come up with that idea himself.

Everyone was stiff competition and as ambitious as Tom himself. Vance had proposed transforming a Spectre into a fully-fledged vampire. McGonagall had wanted to research partially-transformed Animagi to evaluate if it had to do with a mental block or magical block. It had been a nice touch, involving Dumbledore’s specialty.

Snape’s project had been in pursuit of his and Lily’s common goal of the panacea, with dragon blood, this time. That would be intriguing if it were fully realized.

Even Sprout had come forth with an interesting idea, though Tom couldn’t quite recall what it was. Well, it must’ve been interesting if he even remembered that Sprout had proposed something at all.

Tom jerked, applauding carefully as Luna finished up with a flourishing curtsey.

"How positively fascinating! Thank you, everyone, for presenting. I look forward to reading each of your files in depth—” Dumbledore said, cheerfully.

Snape cleared his throat, interrupting. “What about Riddle?”

Everyone slowly turned their heads to glower at Tom. Tom leaned back in his chair, taking a sip of his tea, daring anyone else to comment. McGonagall’s lips curled into a sneer, but Tom wasn’t sure if that had to do with her heartbroken trainee or with his generally unpleasant disposition. He wouldn’t be shocked to know that it was both.

“Tom’s project was presented in private yesterday,” Dumbledore said, carefully.

“Why does he get a private session?” Snape demanded.

Tom scoffed. "Because my project needed at least six permit applications and needs not only Dumbledore's permission, but the Department of Mysteries'. If you'd like to make an Unbreakable Vow, I'd gladly tell you all about the fruits of my brilliance.”

Snape’s sallow cheeks burned a ruddy, revolting pink.

“That won’t be necessary,” he spat.

Tom smirked, rolling his eyes.

“If it helps, I didn’t want to be here, but Dumbledore insisted on grounds of moral support,” Tom said, cruelly. He leaned forward, eyes sharp. “Out of curiosity, did any of you feel particularly supported me?”

Only Luna raised her hand, smiling brightly.

“I did!”

“You’re daft,” Sprout muttered under her breath.

“At least I can remember her project. Nargles. Disgusting children. Effects. Was I right?” Tom retorted. Luna nodded, her beam never leaving her face. Tom stood up and look down at Dumbledore, anger still brewing in his burgundy eyes. “Dismissed?”

Dumbledore sighed, like the tired old man he was.

“Everyone is dismissed. You will receive my decision by the 24th of December,” Dumbledore said.

Tom nodded. What a wonderful Christmas gift that would be. He looked forward to it.

He didn't wait for any of the other Healers to move, half out of the door before Snape could stand. He already knew that Snape would probably complain to Dumbledore about Tom's ‘special treatment' even though he already had everything that Tom had except perhaps his looks. Tom had made one error in Dumbledore's eyes had practically disgraced himself. At least, now he knew that his work would win the grant because he deserved it, even after Bellatrix’s stupid bitch ass destroying his preliminary work.

The Department Head of Spell Damage paused as he walked up the hallway as he stared at the young man he'd wanted to see all day.

Harry.

He took a step forward, only stopping when a thin, tall body slid neatly in front of him.

“Turn around. Walk away,” McGonagall said, warningly.

Tom’s eyes narrowed as he peered over McGonagall’s shoulder at Harry. Harry hadn’t even seemed to notice him, head bent down as he scribbled out his notes, leaning against the window. He was so beautiful, even in those atrocious hunter green robes. That furrowed brow. Tom remembered that when Harry would bring home files, his quill tucked between his lips. Just as he thought that, Harry tapped the end of his quill against his lips.

Yes, Harry hadn’t changed so much since their falling out.

“From what?” Tom challenged.

“From my trainee,” McGonagall snapped.

Tom scoffed. “Well, I wasn’t.”

“Yes, you were,” McGonagall corrected. She crossed her arms and lifted her chin, powerful and challenging. She was Tom’s elder in that moment, instead of his subordinate. “Tom, you can’t do this. You don’t have the right. Not anymore.”

With those words, Tom deflated. He stared at McGonagall with flat eyes, devoid of emotion. It was enough to tell McGonagall about the mess of his mind.

“I just want to know if he’s okay,” Tom said, softly.

“No, he’s not,” McGonagall sighed. “He’s a Quidditch accident, bloody, broken bodies, and splintered brooms, and everyone is slowing down to watch the wreckage. He's doing the best he can by pretending that he embraces what they're saying, but you can't help him now. You'll only make it worse."

"What am I supposed to do, then?" he snarled, stealing another glance at Harry.

McGonagall took another step forward, her eyes narrowing behind her glasses.

“Go away. Leave him to heal. Without you.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“So, Hermione and I have a Spectre,” Harry announced as soon as the pair of them sat down at their unusual lunch table. Ron’s mouth popped open and he leaned forward.

“You’re joking.”

“No, we are not. She was a Muggle and is now a Spectre because of some arsehole vampire that couldn’t deal with the responsibility of an actual fledgling. Poor thing,” Hermione muttered as she rearranged her food on her tray, unhappy with how some of the food was touching. She was always a stickler for things like that.

“Wow. That’s mad, innit?” Ron murmured to himself. He looked over at Neville.

Neville shrugged. “I don’t know what a Spectre is.”

“Neither did I. She’s a sweetheart, though,” Harry said.

“I could sell tickets for people to see something like that,” Ron murmured to himself, shaking his head. “Do you know how much money I’d make?”

“Ron…” Harry warned.

Harry pretended not to notice them staring even though they sat at the same table as him. He reached for Hermione’s chips and she smacked his hand.

Ron looked delighted. “Yes…” he hissed, grinning.

“Wait. What? I can’t have your chips?” Harry asked, appalled.

“No. I want them today,” Hermione said.

Ron was practically bouncing in his chair. “Yes.

“You can’t just decide you want to eat your chips. We have an accord!” Harry snapped and Hermione looked at him, amused as she slowly lifted a chip to her mouth and took a bite out of it. Harry sneered. “Guess what? No take-away for you tonight.”

“It’s my night to order and I will gladly order take-away for you. You can even pick,” Ron laughed.

Harry rudely flipped him the bird. Neville rolled his eyes.

“You’re all children,” he grumbled as he looked through his Hogwarts Herbology notes.

Smith made a squawking noise and the four looked over at him.

“What, Smith?” Harry barked.

“You’re all...you can’t...he slept with Riddle!” Smith sputtered.

Hermione pursed her lips. “Yes, I think everyone knows that by now.”

“But, you’re not angry at him? For...sleeping with a superior?” Padma asked. She leaned forward, staring into Hermione’s eyes. “I mean...I thought you would be. I get you. You’re driven and you work hard and he just sleeps with a superior and gets the best procedures. Doesn’t that bother you?”

Harry rolled his eyes, even as Hermione, Ron, and Neville stiffened at the accusations.

“You don’t ‘get’ me at all,” Hermione snarled. “Harry’s just as driven and he works just as hard. He gets the best Spell Damage procedures because he’s the best Spell Damage trainee, Patil.”

“I thought you would’ve claimed that title,” Neville said with a grin.

Hermione whipped her head around to stare at Neville, her anger draining away. "Oh, actually, I meant to tell you all, but I've been reconsidering my specialty."

“Interesting. Why?” Ron asked, curiously.

“Well, I—”

“Enough. How are you not angry?” Smith demanded. “I’m annoyed.”

“Annoyed that my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard?” Harry asked. There was a long moment of silence when everyone just stared at him. Harry rolled his eyes and sighed. “Sorry...my godfather really likes Muggle music.”

“It’s not fair,” Smith snapped.

Harry leaned back, regarding Smith for a long moment.

“Life’s not fair. I’ve learned a lot about that in the past 72 hours, Smith. So. Get over yourself,” he spat and Smith flinched.

There was a long moment of awkward silence. Hermione looked between the two, caught between worry and amusement.

“Um...we’ve got work to do Smith?” Ron asked.

Smith swallowed. “You haven’t finished your lunch,” he pointed out.

“Mate, I’m trying to save you from certain death. Let’s go,” Ron said, pointedly. He stood up, pulling up his tray. He swooped down, pressing kisses to the middle of Harry and Neville’s heads. They squawked, swatting at him as he laughed. He hesitated over Hermione’s head before he did the same, pressing a quick kiss.

Hermione spun, landing her fist in Ron’s stomach. Ron grunted though he grinned through the pain.

“Get away from me, swine,” she hissed, grinning viciously.

“Later, hag,” Ron said as he sauntered away, Smith slinking after him.

Padma sighed. “I...I’m sorry for prying. That was really rude,” Padma murmured.

“It’s not fine, but I accept your apology,” Harry said, nearly immediately.

Padma gave a weak little smile and nodded, looking down at her plate. She glanced over at the Department Heads' table. Luna Lovegood was regaling them all with a tale, Emmeline Vance sitting just next to her. But, nobody seemed to be listening to her. They were all trying to sneak covert looks at Harry and company.

“They’re all children, aren’t they?” Hannah whispered, softly. She had noticed too.

Padma swallowed. It made her feel a little better. Not much. But, a little.

Harry finished his soup in silence. He stood up and glanced over at Hermione. “I’m going to head up to the library to read more about Spectres. Are you coming?” he asked.

Hermione started to nod before Neville shot her a look. She shook her head even as Harry stared at her, brow furrowed. "I'll catch up," Hermione said.

Harry shrugged. It was better to interrogate her later. He would get more out of her when it was just the two of them. He started walking towards the door, getting rid of his tray by the trash bins behind the doors. He jumped when he felt a hand fall on his shoulder and he spun around.

“Oh, Neville. I didn’t know you were leaving too,” Harry said.

Neville flushed. “I...was deciding if I was going to,” he muttered.

Harry’s brow furrowed. “Deciding? You didn’t want to hang out with Hannah more?” he asked.

“I...Hannah and I have a date tonight. It’s fine,” Neville said, pointedly. He gestured towards the door and Harry raised an eyebrow though he left as Neville bid. “I want to talk to you. Let’s do this in the stairwell.”

Harry forced a laugh. “Oooh, sounds illicit.”

Neville’s cheeks burned bright pink. “Please, Harry.”

"Oh, shit. Is it really illicit?" Harry asked, deadpanning as if he followed Neville into the stairwell. Neville looked up and down before he pressed his back against the door, keeping anyone from walking into the conversation.

Harry frowned. Neville was nervous, his cheeks still a splotchy pink and he wasn’t making eye contact. Every few moments he would open his mouth and then shut it with an audible, and rather painful-sounding, click.

“Neville...what’s going on?” Harry asked, slowly.

“I like you,” Neville blurted out. “And before you ask. I like you.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Oh. Neville, I…”

“But, it’s okay. I’ve been told it’s okay to have a crush on someone while being in a sorta relationship as I long as I don’t act on it. Or Ron said something like that. Anyway, I just wanted you to know,” Neville said, firmly. He watched Harry, waiting for his reaction, but Harry still seemed to be processing. He rocked from the balls of his feet to his heels and back again as Harry’s expressions shifted at least ten times.

“I...see…” Harry breathed, soft and fluttery.

Neville reared back. He’d heard something like this from Harry. Whenever Riddle had slept over and Harry flirted, smiling sweetly as he made them eggs. Riddle complained about them every day, and he dutifully ate them all, even though everyone knew that Harry was horrid at anything that wasn’t toast or a salad.

“Harry,” Neville warned.

“Neville,” Harry teased, playfully. He leaned forward, pressing a hand against Neville’s chest. “Ron wasn’t wrong you know. It’s okay to—”

“He wasn’t wrong,” Neville said, sharply. “But, that doesn’t make this okay.”

Harry breathed in sharply, his flirtatious expression freezing on his face. He didn’t move his gaze from Neville’s collarbone, his green eyes empty.

Neither noticed the man watching from one landing above.

“It’s not. Don’t you want me?” Harry whispered, his voice cracking.

Neither noticed the man disappearing.

“Flirting with me doesn’t suit you, Harry. You’re better than that,” Neville said, and he sounded so disappointed that Harry flinched away like he’d been burned, tearing his gaze away.

Harry let out a watery laugh. “I’m...I’m sorry. That was...inappropriate. I...oh, I don’t—”

“Please, Harry,” Neville whispered.

Harry fell silent. “Sorry,” he repeated.

"You're a Healer. Focus on being a Healer. I told you because I wanted you to know that you are worthy of affection and love and that you're not too broken. You're brilliant and beautiful and deserve so much better than the shit that's happening to you," Neville said, firmly. He looked at Harry, raising up his hand to bump his chin playfully. Harry's lips twitched into a small smile.

“Thanks...thanks, Neville.” And then, he flushed awkwardly, eyes narrowing. “We won’t ever speak of this again. Got it?”

Neville snorted. “Got it.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry looked down at his notes, keeping his basket of human blood and vampire blood close to his chest. Elizabeth would probably be awake now. Her room was kept dark so that she would be able to sleep anytime, but she seemed to get tired faster than a normal vampire would, and maintained pretty human-like levels of agility and speed if Vance's notes were correct. He had no doubt that they were.

“Hey.”

Harry looked up from his work and smiled over at Hermione. “Hey. I thought you’d be with Vance. Paperwork.”

“I finished it. She tried so hard not to be infuriated by it,” Hermione said with a grin. “I’ve been wondering...why she doesn’t like me. I think it has to do with Ron.”

“Ron?” Harry asked with a snort. “Really?”

“Yeah, I think she has feelings for him. But, that has nothing to do with me,” Hermione said with a shrug as they strolled down the ward corridor towards Elizabeth Bath’s room.

“Doesn’t it?” Harry asked, a teasing sing-song tone to his voice.

Hermione did a double take. “Excuse me?”

“You flirt with each other. A lot.”

“He calls me a mad woman and a hag!” Hermione protested.

Harry smirked. “And you call him a bastard and an arse. I bet you two would have the most glorious violent sex that I’ve—”

“Please!” Hermione squawked. She rounded on Harry, but suddenly, her expression shifted. She tilted her head, eyes narrowed in bewilderment. “What’s that noise?”

Harry frowned. He listened hard as well. It sounded like a swell of people, all arguing and talking over one another. Harry crept forward and a terribly sick feeling of dread rose from his belly. He stalked around the corner and swallowed hard when he saw the people overflowing from Elizabeth Bath’s room. Hermione gasped, softly, her eyes wide.

“Oh, Ron,” Hermione sighed, softly.

Harry stalked forward, rage replacing that dread as he shouldered his way past the trainees and Healers attempting to peek inside. Hannah Abbott and Padma Patil were both standing on either side of Elizabeth, shouting questions at her that the young Spectre shied away from, her red eyes wide with terror. She looked faint, ashen rather than just pale.

“I can accept two more, standing room. A Galleon each,” a familiarly snide voice said.

“That’s too much!”

“This ain’t a charity,” Ron drawled. “We’ve all got bills to pay.”

“What’s going on in here?” Harry shouted.

The entire room fell silent and turned to him. He felt the weight of their judgment as they realized who he was. Ron and Smith looked at one another, nervous suddenly. Harry’s eyes narrowed on the two of them and he pointed at them, slowly.

“His idea!” Smith said, pushing Ron forward.

"Well, it was a stray idea. You really brought it to fruition. So, really, it was all you. Congrats," Ron said, shoving at Smith.

“Enough! This isn’t a zoo!” Harry shouted. “Everyone out! Abbott, Patil, get away from my patient!”

He shoved himself through the bodies of trainees, matrons, and junior Healers that crowded the bed, pulling his wand on all of them as he settled himself at Elizabeth Bath’s side. She looked up at him with wide, shiny eyes, and he knew that if she could cry, she would be. He trembled with both sympathy and rage, the end of his wand shooting dangerous sparks.

“This woman is a patient! Who is sick and tired of being stared at!” Harry roared. He turned back to glower at all of them. “Out! Out!”

Slowly, they drained away. Ron looked frightened by Harry’s fury, which only made Harry angrier.

“You know you’re all a bunch of gossips! Why don’t you point and stare at me! ‘Look at Harry! Isn’t he sad and pathetic and heartbroken? Maybe he’s gone mad’. Maybe I have! But, leave Miss Bath alone,” Harry said. He spun on Ron and Smith, pointing at both of them again, shaking with rage. “You two should be ashamed of yourselves.”

He began to bodily shove the spectators out when they didn’t move fast enough for him, and when the room was finally drained of visitors, he turned back to Hermione who was silent by the door. He shoved the basket at her.

“Please just...please help Miss Bath with her meal. I need a moment,” Harry whispered.

Hermione nodded. “Of course, Harry.”

Harry shut the door behind him and collapsed against it, his hand over his eyes. He only let it fall away when he felt their presences lingering, all peering at him, waiting for him to blow. Harry looked up and was immediately caught in a burgundy gaze.

Tom stared at him, searching with concern on his face.

Harry’s lips curled into a sneer. “And what are you looking at?”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry huffed as he pressed his head into his cupboard and tried to stop himself from screaming. The day had been long and frustrating. Hermione had tried to placate the patient after the whole debacle of treating her like a zoo, but Elizabeth had rightfully complained to Vance, which got Harry a dressing down that he would be feeling for weeks. Really, Vance had placed a little too much blame on Hermione, but once again, Hermione had braved it like a champ, even basking in Vance’s rage. McGonagall had reprimanded Ron, though, so that had balanced out.

Ron would be on scut for a week, being her paperwork bitch, mostly, and then at the pharmacy for another. Apparently, Smith would be doing the same. At least, Smith complained about it. Ron had accepted his punishment gracefully, and Harry had a feeling that Hermione and he would be getting their favorite homemade recipe—a delightful roast chicken and mashed potatoes that Mrs. Weasley had taught to him.

Harry sighed, pulling his rather showy jumper over his head and he hated himself, suddenly. He had tried so hard to pretend that he didn’t care, and all day, he had fucking cared. Even his outfit choice showed how much he cared by pretending that he didn’t care. He was a fucking joke.

Harry pulled away from his cupboard, grabbing his bag and tossing it over his shoulder.

“I’ll meet you in the Apparation Zone,” Harry called over his shoulder.

Hermione hummed her agreement.

“I’ll see you later tonight. Going to dinner with Hannah,” Neville reminded him. Harry nodded and gave a short salute, a soft smile on his face. Neville smiled back, just as sweetly.

Harry huffed. Neville Longbottom had a crush on him. The idea made him grin. He’d never thought that someone sweet like Neville could like him. Harry attracted arrogant assholes that liked to stroke their own egos by fucking pretty boys like Harry—Riddle being a prime example of that. Neville liking him meant that Harry could attract nice boys. Sweet boys.

If he wanted to. When he wanted to. If. When.

Harry sighed, shaking his head. He took the deserted corridor that he always took. The shortcut. It would be better than being subjected to more stares. He knew that something else would pop up that would make everyone gossip about something else, that all he had to do was endure for a little while longer, but it was so hard. So hard.

“Harry.”

Harry jerked to a stop. He looked to his right.

He hadn’t noticed Tom standing there. Tom watched him, carefully, as if waiting for him to run. Well, then, Harry would surprise him.

He turned fully towards his ex-boyfriend. “Tom.”

“Can we talk?” Tom asked.

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Harry sneered.

Tom looked at him with narrowed eyes, irritated. His jaw was tight. Harry felt a spiteful flash of victory. He wanted Tom to feel even a fraction of what he was feeling.

“It was real to me, you know. Whatever it was. It was real. I wasn’t playing any games. You liked to accuse me of playing games. But, I like you. You’re rude, beautiful, bitter, and talented. And you make the most horrid eggs and your coffee tastes like tar. And your tea is watery and always too sweet. But, I had it anyway,” Tom said.

And Harry knew that meant something. Something deeper than he wanted to dissect just then. He couldn’t do it. He was tired. So, very tired.

“Tom...I can’t…” Harry whispered.

“I saw you flirting with Longbottom,” Tom said, softly. Harry’s back stiffened. “It was rather half-hearted if you ask—”

Harry snapped.

“You don’t get to call me a whore,” Harry snarled.

Tom’s eyes widened. “I’m…”

“When I met you, I thought I met the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I was done. So all the boys, and all the bars, and all the obvious mommy issues...who cared, because I was done,” Harry hissed, pressed to the brink of his patience. “I’m gluing myself back together now. I make no apologies for how I choose to repair what you broke. You don’t get to call me a whore.”

Tom stared at him for a long time, at a loss. And then, he gave a terribly sad smile.

“I would never call you a whore.”

Harry faltered, taking a step back.

“No. You wouldn’t,” he whispered. Harry closed his eyes, wrapping his arms around his middle, holding himself together.

Tom watched the man and then looked over his shoulder. Bellatrix waited by the end of the corridor, her coat wrapped around her as she watched them. He could read the look in her eyes. She’d always been easy to read, unlike Harry. She was aching. It was in the way her eyes darted around wildly, the way her hands trembled. And Tom wanted to be cruel. He wanted to be petty.

He looked back at Harry and took a step forward, pressing his hands to Harry’s cheeks. Harry’s eyes flashed open, full of pain. And Tom couldn’t kiss him. He couldn’t do that. So, instead, he pressed his lips to Harry’s forehead, his burgundy eyes fluttering shut as he felt Harry’s warm skin under his cheeks.

Tom pulled back and stepped away. Harry’s lips were still parted, pretty and soft and pink.

“Good night, Harry.” Tom swallowed. “I think...we both need time to think.”

“You need time to think,” Harry challenged.

Tom nodded. “I need time.”

And he walked past Harry. He looked at Bellatrix, and he could see the devastation curling in the shadows of his eyes. The words were on his tongues. He could shatter her.

He kept walking.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry leaned forward at the kitchen table, basking in the scent of slowly roasting chicken. He looked over at the counter. Hermione was sitting up on it, having a half-assed conversation as she went over a book that she had unearthed from the library: St. Mungo’s, A History. She already owned Hogwarts, A History, and she was practically squeaking her excitement. Ron looked like he wasn’t paying her any mind, making mashed potatoes, but Harry knew better.

He’d keep his thoughts to himself on that one. They’d figure it out.

“Boxing Day, yeah?” Harry called.

Hermione looked up from her book, grinning. “Yes. Of course. We’ll cook ourselves too. So, tell them to bring a wine or something.”

“Wait, we have to make the whole dinner?” Ron demanded.

“Yes. We’re the hosts. And it’ll be a lot because your family and my family and Neville’s parents and—”

“This sounds like more work than it should be. And you think I can tell my mum not to bring anything, you’re crazy. She does what she likes. She’ll probably tell me I’m too skinny even though I’ve gained at least a stone.

Harry looked back down at his letter.

 

Hey Dad,

 

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’m sorry that I haven’t been in touch. Training is a bit of a bitch. But, it’s getting better. I’m reaching my six-month milestone in January. I’ll be able to official pick a mentor and specialty when that happens. I won’t tell you what it is now. I’ll tell you over Christmas dinner.

Yes, about Christmas. I won’t be spending it at home with you and Mum and everyone. I’ve found more family, and I think you’d like them. Hermione Granger. Ron Weasley. Neville Longbottom. I think you’d like them a lot. But, their families are far, and they don’t have the best relationships either. So, I’ll be spending Christmas with them. However, we all invite you to a dinner on Boxing Day. Don’t worry about bringing but a nice Firewhiskey.

And my invite includes all of you. Mum, too. If she’ll be home. If she wants. I don’t know if she will.

I know, it seems rather sudden, but I feel very tired. I’ve been holding a lot in, and I’m just so tired of it all. Have you ever been so tired that you can’t even sleep?

Anyway, I look forward to your reply.

 

Harry

Chapter Text

“Happy almost Christmas.”

The four housemates stood in front of their sad, scrawny tree, welling with pride and a sort of dismay. It was a tiny little thing, easily dwarfed by even Hermione—the shortest of the group, with a few cheap baubles hanging from it, already chipped from its day-long wear. They hadn’t even been able to find a proper star so late. Instead, Ron had made a three-dimensional star out of parchment that was a little wrinkly and stained at the edges because Neville had spilled tea on it.

“This is so depressing,” Harry sighed, looking down at it.

Neville snorted. “Then, it fits our aesthetic,” he said.

"Too right," Ron agreed. He turned to his friends and crossed his arms. "Do we really have to go to work?"

“We’re lucky that we aren’t Patil, Abbott, and Smith. They have to work tomorrow on Christmas. Only a half-day, but still atrocious,” Hermione pointed out.

Ron nodded, sagely.

“I’d rather be at the hospital,” Harry said glumly.

Hermione hummed, nodding in agreement. Then, she paused, glancing over at Harry.

“You get pharmacy today, so no you don’t,” Hermione said.

Harry gaped. “Why am I on desk duty?” he demanded.

“Because you decided to go to a bar and get hungover last week instead of making dinner, so I covered for you,” Hermione said. She smirked at Harry’s outrage and pat his cheek. Harry sneered, smacking her hand away. “Don’t worry. You can have my chips for lunch.”

“Outstanding,” Harry said with a tiny smirk.

Neville tilted his head. “Imagine...our families are going to be here. And we’re going to cook terrible food for them and show them our tiny, stupid tree and…”

“They’re going to know we’re frauds,” Ron squawked. “My mother’s going to demand that I move back home.”

“No!” Harry said, stomping his foot. He turned on his friends, his eyes blazing. “No. We’re not frauds. We are dark and twisty and proud! We’re proud of our tiny little tree and our dark house and our fucked up lives.”

“I mean, you’re dark and twisty—” Ron began.

“No. We’re a family. We’re dark and twisty together or not at all,” Harry argued.

Hermione snorted. “No way that he’s not dark and twisty.”

“No way that you’re not dark and twisty,” Neville pointed out.

Ron rolled his eyes. “Okay. We get it. We’re all fucked up. Now, let’s get the fuck to work. I’m too tired for this shit.”

“It’s almost noon,” Hermione sighed as she led them towards the door, ready to Apparate.

"Yeah, well we just had an overnight shift. Excuse me for wanting to fucking die.

“Go right ahead,” Hermione said, smirking over her shoulder.

Neither noticed the gleeful looks that Neville and Harry exchanged.

Ron grinned. “Oh, you hag.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Tom cleared his throat, straightening his robes as he gathered himself. He fought to keep his smugness off his face as he knocked and then opened the door. He stepped into the office that he hadn't been in in months, and fell a wave of triumph rise up in him as he looked at Dumbledore and a familiar older man.

“Tom, my boy, come in,” Dumbledore said, beckoning him forward. He was beaming, his bright blue eyes sparkling with pride.

Tom cleared his throat, shutting it behind him and he walked forward, hand held out.

“Cygnus. It’s a pleasure to see you again,” Tom said, charmingly as he grasped Cygnus Black’s hand, giving it a firm shake. Cygnus never smiled—it wasn’t in his nature—but he seemed vaguely pleased, as he always did.

“Same to you, Healer Riddle. Please sit,” Cygnus urged. He sat down in the overstuffed leather armchair next to Dumbledore’s and waved at the smaller chair in front of the desk.

Tom sat down, hands clasped in his lap as he repressed the urge to vibrate in his seat. He glanced over at Dumbledore and the man was trying to hide his grin behind his vibrant crimson and emerald robes, but couldn’t quite manage it. Tom lifted his chin in triumph.

“Tom...I’m sure you know why we’ve requested your presence this afternoon,” Dumbledore said.

Tom raised an eyebrow. “I can imagine why.”

"Your proposal was...groundbreaking, in short," Cygnus began. "Though I am only a humble businessman, I have been on the Board of St. Mungo's for upwards 40 years, and I have very rarely seen anything on the level of your work. The only one that, perhaps, surpasses you, is Lily Evans herself."

Dumbledore nodded in agreement. Rather, ruefully, he admitted, "Tom, my boy, you rival me in all ways, and surpass me in others. You are truly in another class in your field."

Tom smirked, accepting the praise heaped upon him.

“You’ve submitted for the Gorsemoor Grant before,” Cygnus observed.

“I have,” Tom said, his lips curling into a sneer as he was reminded of his two prior rejections. If he really thought about it, he knew that neither of his proposals had been on the caliber of his current projects—both just seeds of inspiration that had cultivated into the grand idea that he had now.

“They were all fledgling ideas compared to this. And so, with that in mind, I am proud to present, on behalf of the Board and the Black family, the Gorsemoor Grant of 100,000 galleons,” Cygnus said and he slid over that glorious check, his name scrawled across the bottom.

Tom slowly reached for it, afraid that it would disappear before he could get his hands on it. Slowly, Tom looked over at Dumbledore.

“The Department of Mysteries really approved it?” Tom asked.

“On the basis that you have explicit and complete consent from participants, and that if there are any...casualties, you send the failed attempts to them,” Dumbledore allowed.

Tom’s eyes narrowed. “But, will I still have access to the bodies?”

“Absolutely. You’ll be given special access until the completion of your project,” Cygnus said, firmly. Tom nodded as he leaned back, snatching the check and holding it in hands.

“How many assistants am I allowed?” Tom asked.

He already knew how many he wanted.

"One," Dumbledore said, and now, he looked suspicious. "Your grant is provided for the main project. To pay an assistant overtime will have to come from department funds if you have a surplus."

"Of course, I have a surplus," Tom scoffed. He was good at finding money when he needed to, and he ran his department like a ship. Everyone used supplies sparingly, and there wasn't any need for flashiness unless it was his own showing off.

“Good, good,” Cygnus said. “We’ll send over the extra paperwork and final signatures from the Department of Mysteries, the Ministry of Magic research committee, and the Committee on Experimental Charms. You’ll file everything with the Office of Permits by December 31st.”

“Understood. Thank you so much for the opportunity, Cygnus,” Tom said, nodding once. He stood and stowed his check in his robes before holding his hand out towards Cygnus. The man took it, shaking it once.

Despite him not knowing it, Tom had dismissed the older man. Cygnus strode from the room, his back straight as a rod, and with a quality of misplaced smugness that only money could buy. Tom waited until the door clicked shut behind the Board member before he allowed all of that charm to melt away, leaving only chilliness in his eyes.

Dumbledore gave a small smile.

“I hope this means I am somewhat forgiven,” Dumbledore began.

Tom sneered. “I got this on my own merit. Don’t pretend that it was for anything else.”

To his surprise, the old man nodded and sighed, suddenly looking older than he usually did. It only made him look twice as ridiculous in his garish robes.

“You are right, Tom. Please...forgive an old man for his meddling,” Dumbledore said, quietly. “I was worried. For your welfare, primarily, make no mistake about it. You say that you are not my son, but I cannot help it if I see you as my child. I remember when you were just a child...when you first came to St. Mungo’s. You were only fourteen.”

“I broke my fucking arm in an ill-fought duel,” Tom retorted. “And you were the jackass that decided to treat me even though you’re a Mind Healer.

"And yet, I treated you because you were fascinating, even then. You told me that you knew you were special and that you were going to be the best Healer at St. Mungo's, even though I could tell you were terrified," Dumbledore chuckled. Tom sneered and immediately flipped the older man the bird. "I congratulate you, Tom. And I'm proud of you."

Tom shifted, suddenly uncomfortable with the older man’s praise. He brushed it away and shook his head, looking away even as Dumbledore continued to smile at him. He tried to sneer, but couldn’t quite muster the disdain that he wanted to.

“Whatever, old man,” Tom muttered before he turned away, stalking out before Dumbledore could say another encouraging or kind word. There was only so much emotion he could deal with from Dumbledore.

He shut the door behind him and pulled out the grant again, staring down at the check with trepidation and pride.

“Congrats.”

Tom looked up, eyes narrowed as he stared at the woman standing opposite from him. Bellatrix looked strangely subdued, her plague mask between her hands as she picked at the ribbon, fraying the ends. Her hair was slightly oily and there was a spot of dried blood on her cheek—so she had been there all night. It had probably been another Auror mission gone wrong. She was in charge of Auror Moody and anything else that had to do with the supposed terrorist group.

“Thank you,” Tom said, stiffly. “What do you want?”

“I’m not sure,” Bellatrix admitted. “My father was up here. I said hello. He was so very pleased to award the grant to you. He said…that I was good to marry a Healer of your caliber. That our children would be quite talented.”

“So, he doesn’t know what type of bitch you are, yet? Shocking,” Tom drawled, leaning back against Dumbledore’s door, stowing away his check with a raised eyebrow.

“I’ve never loved anyone like I love you, Tom Riddle,” Bellatrix said, quietly. She looked over at him, hoping for a reaction that would never come. “And I thought you loved me too.”

“I was fond of you,” Tom said, generously.

Bellatrix scoffed. “Yes. ‘Fond’. After all, I’ve seen what Tom Riddle looks like when he’s in love,” Bellatrix said, bitterly. She took a step forward, looking at him with narrowed eyes. “I know why you didn’t leave me.”

“Why?” Tom challenged.

“Because of this. You know you needed me. For your work. You still need me. My last name is on those checks. Daddy is on the Board, and...your work always mattered more than me,” Bellatrix said. She looked like she had cried all of her tears. Tom tilted his head. “We’re finished.”

“Good,” Tom spat.

Bellatrix held up her finger. “But, I’m not making this easy for you, lover. You want this grant, you can have it. I’ll make sure that you get everything you need for this stupid project. On one condition.”

“Name it.”

“You can’t have him.”

Tom paused. “What?” he whispered.

His mind had never been so quiet as he looked at his ex-fiance. She looked back at him, her gaze so carefully serious that he knew that she hadn’t been joking.

“You don’t get your happily ever after, Tom. Not if I don't. The evil villainess is slain. You get your project. You get the grant and you get the glory. But, you don't get the boy," Bellatrix whispered. She took another step towards him.

“You don’t get a say in that,” Tom snarled though his fingers started to shake.

“I do. I won’t bother him. I won’t even tease him. You get the grant. You get your glory. But you don’t get the boy.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Harry.”

Harry huffed. He hated being trapped at the pharmacy because it meant he couldn’t escape from unwanted conversations. There was literally no one he wanted to talk to less than Tom Marvolo Riddle. Harry pursed his lips.

“What is it, Tom?” Harry asked.

Tom’s burgundy eyes were bright with excitement. He was clutching a file close to his chest and he pressed it down to the counter. Harry glanced down in confusion and back up into Tom’s eyes.

“I won the Gorsemoor Grant,” Tom said. “I won!”

Harry let the sad smile spread across his lips. “Congratulations,” Harry murmured.

Tom swallowed.

"I...I won and you were the first person I wanted to tell," Tom said hesitantly.

And Harry froze. This was the first time that he had spoken to Tom in weeks that he hadn’t felt rage fill him. Instead, he remembered a night in a flat where he was sitting on a counter, and Tom had kissed a truth on his lips. He remembered nights spent in beds and mornings in his kitchen, cooking subpar eggs. He remembered a man that didn’t play games and liked him for all his faults instead of his merits.

He remembered a man that might love him too.

“I lied. I’m not out of this,” Harry whispered.

Tom’s eyes widened. “What?”

“I’m so in, it’s humiliating,” Harry muttered under his breath. He wrung his hands and looked back up at Tom, his eyes firm, set.

“Harry—” Tom started.

“Shut up, Tom,” Harry said, firmly. “Okay, here it is. Your choice, it’s simple, her or me.”

Harry would not be weak. He refused to be weak. He lifted his hand and took a step closer until they were only centimeters apart and he couldn’t look away from Tom’s strange brown eyes, so brown that they looked nearly burgundy.

“And I’m sure she’s great—no, she’s not. She’s a heinous cunt. But Tom, I love you. In a really, really big pretend-to-like-your-taste-in-music, let-you-finish-my-treacle-tart, sing-Celestina-Warbeck-in-the-middle-of-the-street way that makes me hate you...love you. So pick me. Choose me. Love me,” Harry said.

And he knew he sounded like he was begging, but he couldn’t think of any other way to communicate what he wanted to say. He couldn’t say what his hindbrain wanted to say, wanted him to scream—i want to own you, i want to wreck you, i want die by your hand—so he would settle for begging instead.

Harry took a step forward, his hands trembling as he brought them up to Tom’s face. Tom was staring at him with those bright burgundy eyes, full of emotions that Harry couldn’t read. It had always been so hard to read him.

“I want to kiss you,” Tom said, softly.

Harry hummed and then he brought Tom’s face down to his, their lips less than a centimeter apart. Harry’s eyes were still wide open, coming out of focus the harder he tried to stare into those burgundy eyes. Up close, they seemed even redder than they normally did.

“Then, kiss me.”

And Tom tilted his head just so, sealing their lips together. Harry melted into the kiss, sucking Tom’s bottom lip between his as he devoured the man. Tom’s hands fell on Harry’s waist and he kissed him hard. Harry felt like he was drowning as his fingers brushed down Tom’s jaw, down his neck, over his broad shoulders and he clung to him, his nails curling into him like claws. He jerked the man closer, only the pharmacy desk separating them, and anyone could pass by at any moment, but he couldn’t find it in himself to give a damn.

Tom’s kiss was desperate and aching, begging in a way that Harry didn’t think he’d ever begged. Tom didn’t have to beg. He was a proud man, and this kiss felt like someone on their knees, screaming.

And then, he knew. He knew what the man’s choice would be.

Harry pulled back to catch his breath and he let out a broken sound.

“Are you finished with her?” Harry whispered.

Tom nodded once. “We’re done.”

Harry nodded, closing his eyes slowly. “I’m an idiot.”

“Why?” Tom asked, quietly.

“For letting you do this to me. You’re...you make me so angry, you arse. But, you make me...Merlin, you make me feel alive,” Harry said, softly. He pulled back and took in a deep breath. It shuddered out, releasing all of his anger. He looked at him with a frown. “I won’t ever let you break me again.”

“I didn’t want to break you in the first place.”

“You’re not going to choose me,” Harry said with a tiny smile.

Tom’s eyes widened. “Why would you say that?” he asked, quietly.

"Oh, sweetheart, I know you," Harry whispered into the space between them. "I know you like my marrow. And I know I wouldn't choose you either if it were me in your place."

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Tom said, his voice hard.

Harry pressed his hand to Tom's cheek. "You won the grant, my mother is Lily Evans, and I live in the Black family home. I know who the check gets signed by. You won't choose me because she won't let you, and suddenly...I know how she feels."

“Harry,” Tom said, his voice full of warning.

“I’m going to be extraordinary, Tom Riddle,” Harry said like a promise. “And so will you. You built what you had on your own. With your own two hands. Because you had nothing. And you owe it to yourself to finish it. To finish the climb. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving you, but you’re going to have wait too. Because I’m going to be extraordinary.”

Tom took a step back and Harry saw it. He saw how he wrecked this man, and how this man pulled himself together in the blink of an eye.

“You are,” Tom agreed.

Harry leaned back, his breathing shaky. “And I know this...I know this logically. But, right now...I’m so angry with you. You can’t break me, but you infuriate me because you are a self-destructive bastard. So, I'm going to hate you for now. Let me hate you."

Tom nodded once. “Okay.”

He turned on his heel and didn’t look back.

Harry didn’t cry. He didn’t let himself feel his own sadness. Instead, he felt his rage.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry finally shut the pharmacy, locking it behind him with a fancy twist of his wand. He turned back around and smiled at Hermione. She grinned at him and offered her arm. He looped his arm through hers and pressed tight to her side as they walked towards the stairs, ready to eat dinner before they finished up the second half of their shift.

“You look...lighter,” Hermione said.

Harry laughed, soft and happy. “I am lighter. I talked to Tom.”

Hermione’s head whipped around, her long braid thumping loudly against her back as she turned. Harry snorted at the bewilderment that changed her face into something loud and dramatic. It was so unlike her that he had to let out another laugh.

“What? Wait? Are you two…” she started.

“Merlin, no. We...well, he got the grant,” Harry began.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Shocker,” she drawled.

“I know. But, he said...I was the first person he wanted to tell and it just all came out. I told him to pick me. And then, he kissed me, and I knew that he wouldn’t,” Harry confessed and he shook his head when Hermione gave him a look full of sympathy. “No. I’m...not sad anymore. I’m just angry.”

“You have a right to be,” Hermione spat. “How dare he come down to you and...and...Merlin, we’re going to fuck him up. I was right about revenge. I’ll come up with something.

"No. We won't be petty. We'll...rise above," Harry said, the picture of tranquility as they approached the lift. He let out a quiet huff and squirmed as they waited for the lift. He attempted to feel only calmness, though there was a pit in his stomach full of dread and rage.

“If that’s what you want,” Hermione said. She rocked back and forth, slowly turning to him. “Remember when I told you that I don’t think I’m going to specialize in Spell Damage.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “I do remember you saying that and then you literally never brought it up again. What are you even saying? It’s Spell Damage or die!”

“Maybe for you. But...it doesn’t feel right,” Hermione confessed as they stepped into the lift. Harry reached forward to press the button as he waited, listening to her reasoning. “I’m good, Harry. Spectacular, even. And I know that. But...I’m not like you. I’m book smart. I’ve put in all the work, and that’s not Spell Damage. Not really. That’s...intuition. That’s what you’ve got, and I’m not going to be in a field where I’m second-best. I’m just not.”

“But, you wouldn’t—” Harry began.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Shut your mouth, Harry Potter. I hear you talk about being the best enough to know that you mean it when you say you’re going to be the best. You mean to be better than Ron, Neville, and me, and don’t pretend that you don’t.

Harry grinned, sheepish.

“Well, I guess. You’re right.”

“Of course, I’m right,” Hermione said, self-important as always. They stepped out of the lift, crossing through the lobby to reach the doors to the next corridor. “Now, I was thinking about other departments. Definitely not the Children Ward because...ugh, children. But, perhaps, Magical Diseases and—”

There was a loud crack. Hermione barely registered it. Hermione was still chattering in his ear, but he couldn’t hear her.

Harry’s heart stopped.

Bellatrix was kneeling on top of a gurney, straddling a pillow, a head of blonde curls in her lap. Her face was splattered with dark blood, dripping down her face as she waved her wand madly, screaming out orders. Her plague doctor mask was barely hanging around her neck, falling behind her and she threw down her wand again.

“Her heart keeps stopping! The stasis won’t hold if her body keeps stopping!” Bellatrix roared. “Dammit! Astrapi!”

The body jolted in her grasp, a hand flopping over the side of the gurney as the body jerked with the sudden burst of lightning. Hermione gasped as she stared at the gurney.

“Mediwizard Black!” Luna Lovegood shouted as she ran through the lobby, her wand held aloft. “We have to move her!”

There were three more cracks and Harry took a step back as three familiar faces were held back as a flurry of mediwizards rushed forward, ready to assist Bellatrix.

“Not until I have a mouth guard! Someone get her a mouth guard!” Bellatrix snarled. “Dammit...it keeps...stopping. ASTRAPI! Get her information in the system now. We go when I say ‘go’. Not a goddamn moment before. I want her body and her magic stable before anyone gets her hands in her or there’ll only be a fucking corpse for a coroner.”

The mediwizards did as she commanded.

“Incoming patient—”

“Name—”

“Admitted for creature-induced injuries to the face, neck, abdomen, and organs.”

“Lavender Brown.”

He could only hear the rush of his own blood in his ears.

And then he was running, pushing through the crowd.

“Let me through! Let me through!” he roared, shoving people aside. He didn’t care that he practically threw Luna on the ground. Instead, he pushed through until he was right in front of her.

There was so much blood.

He screamed.

Harry.

Harry.

Someone was calling his name and he couldn’t stop screaming as he pressed his hands against the gouges in her chest, in her face, attempting to hold her together. Attempting to press her skin back together and he wept, salt mixing with iron, making it run down her body. He could see her ribs. He could see the organs that Bellatrix had attempted to push back into her body with her bare hands. He could see the muscles of her cheek, twisted around a massive black hole. He could see into her mouth, the place where her teeth met her gums.

They’d tried to rip her throat out.

“Who is she, Harry? Harry!”

Tom.

“Lavender, sweetheart...o-open your eyes,” Harry begged. He collapsed onto his knees, his fingers slipping off and creating handprints on the floor. He looked up, his eyes cutting towards James. “What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO?”

James stared at him, slack-mouthed. Tears streamed down his face as Sirius and Remus held him up, stopping him from collapsing inward.

Bellatrix hadn’t spared them a glance. “Okay! Go!” she shouted, and then the gurney was speeding away, and Tom sank to his knees next to him, running his hands over Harry’s face, pulling him away from his sister’s corpse. Hermione was calling his name, but he couldn’t hear.

He couldn’t hear.

Harry’s rage exploded and he pulled his wand, pointing it at the man.

“WHAT DID YOU DO?” he screamed. “WHAT DID YOU DO, JAMES?

James was trembling, stricken, looking at his daughter's body, speeding away, and then to his broken son, on the ground weeping. Sirius was whispering hurriedly in James' ear. James nodded and turned away, as Sirius dragged him away, after Luna Lovegood and Bellatrix and Lavender.

"Who is she, Harry?" Hermione whispered into his ears. Harry only let out a few blubbered words. "Tell me. Come on, Harry. Words. Use your words."

“M-my sister...my baby sister. A-and her name is Lavender Potter now,” Harry sobbed. He trembled, attempting to bring himself together. He turned and looked at Remus who was watching him, patiently.

“Breathe, Harry,” Tom hissed.

Harry hadn’t looked away from Remus, his nostrils flared. “What. Happened?” he spat.

“James’ work caught up with him. Breathe,” Remus said, softly.

Harry closed his eyes. Breathe. Remus had always told him to breathe. Whenever he’d been a screaming match with his mother or James, Remus had been there. Whenever he had broken down, weeping, Remus had been there. Breathe, Remus had said.

“Breathe,” Tom whispered in his ear.

And Harry took a breath.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry walked briskly. He didn’t run. No one stood in his way, pressed against the walls as Hermione and Tom flanked him as he stormed up the stairs to the Children’s Ward. Remus followed after them, keeping himself as calm as possible. They were too close to the full moon for him to be anything but calm. He did it out of necessity, just as Harry did.

Bellatrix was collapsed outside a door, mopping the blood off her face with one a rag.

Tergeo,” she whispered, siphoning it off her face with magic. She looked up when she heard them approaching. She lifted her chin, a stern look on her face. She had no eyes for Tom. “Potter.”

“Mediwizard Black,” Harry said, coolly.

“She’s stable. My stasis is strong. It won’t break unless I let her heart stop and I have no intention of doing so,” Bellatrix said. She took a step forward, eyes narrowing. “I know you were the trainee on my VIP case.”

“I was,” Harry allowed. He ignored the confused look on Hermione’s face.

“Then, I can tell you that this was directly a result of the work your father is currently doing. It happened near your family home. There are Aurors setting up wards, in case you intend to return. The only people present were your father, my cousin, Remus Lupin, and your sister. Your sister was the target. That’s all the information I currently have. Your father was my liaison with the Auror Office on this case. However, due to this development, I have acquired a new liaison: Auror Rufus Scrimgeour. Once I have further information, I will inform you and your family,” Bellatrix said.

“Thank you, Mediwizard Black,” Harry whispered.

Bellatrix lifted her chin. “I took an oath. No matter our personal issues, I wouldn’t break it.”

She stepped aside from the door, her plague doctor mask in hand as she walked briskly down the hallway, never looking back. Harry grabbed at the door frame, taking a deep breath as he tried to gather himself. He had to prepare himself.

“That was your sister?” Hermione finally asked.

“She’s...she’s adopted,” Harry hissed, struggling to breathe. “My mother didn’t want to be pregnant again after me. It would...hinder her from working. So, they adopted her when I was six. She was five. Half-blood. Dead parents. Fuck.”

“Harry…” Tom began.

Harry spun around, his eyes burning with tears and rage. “Tom, leave me alone.”

Tom’s eyes widened and then he glowered at Harry. “I was just—” he snarled.

“I don’t give a fuck. Leave. Me. Alone,” Harry spat before he spun back around, throwing the door open, letting it bang against the wall.

He stomped in, ignoring the wane shock on James’ face, and the terrible grief on Sirius’. His eyes shot over to Luna. She had three matrons at her side as they settled Lavender in the bed. She looked so tiny compared to the massive bed. She’d always been slight and short with long blonde curls. It was copper-colored now, covered in her own drying blood. The wounds were a livid red against her paper skin.

“Harry—” Sirius began.

Harry ignored him. “Luna, what’s going on? I want everything. Diagnosis, prognosis, treatment.”

Luna snapped to attention, immediately, looking at him with narrowed grey eyes.

“Absolutely,” she said, firmly. “Lavender Brown, 16 years old. Victim of creature-induced injuries. I have been told on a need to know basis that the wounds were induced by a werewolf. They were purposefully made so that she wouldn’t transform. Meant to maim, and eventually kill.”

Harry took in a sharp breath through his nose to stop himself from screaming. He knew that it would be werewolves. Moody had almost died from a werewolf attack. Then, there was the kid that had been mauled in Hogsmeade. The kid had died. He took another breath.

“Prognosis? Treatment?” he asked, again.

Luna shook her head. “I’m Magical Diseases. I can’t tell you that.”

Harry nodded once. “Okay. Thank you,” he whispered. He turned to James, then, his rage emerging once more. “What the fuck have you done?”

“He was doing his job,” Sirius snapped.

“His job almost got Lavender killed so excuse the fuck out of me if I’m angry,” Harry spat. “I know you two, you know. I know you. You got cocky. You got too close. And whoever the fuck did this knew who you were and you knew who he was, and he targeted her because she’s defenseless. So fuck you.”

“It was an accident,” Remus said, calmly. He joined Sirius’ side, lacing their fingers together and leaning into his side.

“Look at her,” Harry spat. He pointed to her body even though he couldn’t look. He couldn’t or he’d shatter. “Look. At. Her. She’s a living corpse. They tore her apart.

“I know! You don’t think I see that!” James shouted back. “I know that. I was the one who found her, you know! I found her broken and bleeding. They left her on our doorstep so that I’d know. So, that I’d know it was them!”

“The screaming isn’t good for her. It’ll cause distress and crack the stasis charm,” Hermione warned.

Neither Potter man heeded her words.

“If she dies, I will never forgive you!” Harry shouted. “She was the only one...she was the only one who gave a damn about this family! Who gave a damn!”

“You think I don’t care? You think that I don’t?” James snarled, pulling his wand on his own son.

Harry blinked and then looked down. He hadn’t realized that he had pulled his wand too.

“I know you don’t! You don’t give a shit about anything except yourself!”

“Ha! You’re the one who won’t show up for Christmas,” James sneered.

“Because you’re a shit father! And I’ve got a shit mother!”

“Enough,” Sirius barked. “We are family! We are one!”

Harry let out a terrible laugh, turning on Sirius. “This isn’t a family! This is a joke! We’re one big joke! Look at us...look at us. We’re damned,” Harry hissed.

He took another step forward until a hand wrapped around his wrist, yanking him around. He gasped when he stared down at Hermione. She looked up at him, stern-faced and she grabbed him by the cheeks pulling his forehead down to hers.

“We’re a family, Harry Potter,” Hermione hissed to him. “You and me and Ron and Neville and...and...Lavender, there. In the bed. We are your family. And we are here. You are not alone. You are never alone. Do you hear me?”

Harry let out one dry sob and fell against her. His knees buckled but Hermione didn’t let him fall.

“Who is she?” Harry heard Sirius whisper.

The three began speaking amongst themselves as Hermione stared at him.

“Do you hear me?” she snapped.

“Yes...I hear you,” he whispered.

“Good. Now...that’s enough. It’s enough, Harry,” Hermione murmured, stern but soft.

Harry nodded, taking a deep breath and leaned up, pressing his lips to her forehead before he pulled away, turning back to Luna.

“Luna!” Harry barked. Remus, James, and Sirius all fell silent, turning towards Harry. He was still clinging to the side of Lavender’s bed. Luna looked at him with solemn eyes. “You better...you better fix her. You better not let her die.”

“I am going to put my very best on this,” Luna said, sounding so very serious as she looked at Harry. She took a step forward, pressing a hand to his cheek. “Harry, we protect our own here.”

“Can’t let Lily Evans’ daughter die?” Harry sniffled.

Luna’s eyes narrowed. “No. We can’t let your sister die. You’re our own.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Draco Malfoy scurried after his boss, dragging her bag behind him. He glanced over at Astoria, but she didn’t seem half as frazzled as him. She held their teacher’s bag over one shoulder, looking through her urgent files, making notes that she would send back to France the moment that they settled. He looked at their boss who hadn’t even stopped to wait for them, single-mindedly storming through the lobby of St. Mungo’s Hospital.

He turned his gaze back to his boss’ back. The matrons and Healers were all watching her, unable to contain their excitement and awe. That had been Draco once. Smugly, he straightened his waistcoat as he followed after her.

Ça va?” he muttered in Astoria’s ear. How are you?

She barely looked up. “Pas mal. J’ai beaucoup à faire,” she hissed. Not bad. I have a lot to do. She looked up at the back of their boss, but she had continued her brisk path of destruction. “Elle a peur.She is scared.

Draco didn’t see their boss as scared. Just her presence seemed to make everyone press against the walls, terrified of being in her path as she stormed up to the Information Desk. The two matrons behind it had their backs to her, whispering to one another in English. Draco’s lips curled into a sneer. He hated English. It was so...confusing.

“The daughter—”

“In the—the trainee, Potter—”

Their boss glanced over her shoulder. “Dépêchez-vous,” she spat.

The two matrons jumped, spinning around. The older matron paled dramatically as she looked up at the tall, statuesque woman. She reached back, blindly, smacking at the younger matron and she immediately scurried to gather together papers.

“M-ma’am. You’re back early. W-we would’ve p-prepared if we knew,” the matron stammered.

Slowly, the woman pressed her red hair behind her ear. She lifted her chin, her lip curling in rage.

“Don’t care. Now tell me...where’s my daughter?”


DIAGNOSIS


 

He was nearly alone with her. Hermione had refused to leave his side even as James and Sirius had stepped out to debrief with Bellatrix and the Auror Office. Remus had gone to the cafeteria to get them dinner. But, Harry wasn’t hungry anymore. He couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her side. She looked so small.

You have to promise to take care of her, his mother had said when they brought her home. She’s not the much younger, but she’s your little sister.

And Harry...oh, Harry had taken that oath seriously. He always had, even when it had been so hard. He had tried his best, and sometimes, his best hadn’t been good enough. He hadn’t written her enough. He hadn’t even tried to visit, and now she was dying. And he knew that wasn’t what Luna had said, but he could feel it in her bones. She was dying. Someone had buried their hands inside her and attempted to tear her apart as a warning. Someone had made the decision to destroy her in the name of a vendetta.

Lavender. His sweet little sister. His little sister who was the biggest gossip in the world, who was brash and bright, and a damn Gryffindor, just like their parents. Damn, he could imagine it now. When they had found her, she hadn’t flinched probably. She wouldn’t have. Even if she was terrified of beetles and hated swimming because she thought she’d drown even though Sirius had taught them both how to swim, she had probably looked them in the eye and hissed, Do your worst.

It was in her nature. She would've bared her teeth and kept her eyes open through the entire thing. She'd probably only screamed towards the end because she was so damn brave. Harry had never had the slightest bit of courage that she had possessed.

“I don’t remember your sister,” Hermione said, quietly.

“Her name is Lavender Brown-Potter. They only use your first surname. Smart of her. No one wants to be compared to the master Healer or the Auror hero,” Harry said, unable to keep the spite out of his voice when he thought about his father. “What a Goddamn hero. Couldn’t even save his own daughter.”

“Harry...he’s hurting too. That’s his daughter. He’s destroying himself,” Hermione said, patiently. “And I know you can’t see it through your pain but...get some perspective. Not now because you’re hurting, but...come on.”

Harry ignored her wise words, instead leaning forward and sliding into the enormous bed next to Lavender, careful not to jostle her body too much. Hermione looked on the edge of telling him off but seemed to think better of it, leaning back in her chair.

“Oh...oh, Lav,” Harry whispered, stroking his fingers through her long blonde curls, kissing her hairline as he curled around her. He was mindful of the terrible wounds that curled down her broken cheek, her ravaged neck, across her chest, covered now by a hospital robe.

He closed his eyes, thinking back to when they were children. Lavender used to have terrible nightmares when she had first come home. Their mother used to sing. He thought she used to sing. He could almost hear her singing—a beautifully happy song that she would sing like a funeral march. But, he couldn’t be sure. Had she ever sang them to sleep?

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high

There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue.

And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

His voice cracked, sweet and terrible as he stroked his fingers through her hair, wishing that he had a hairbrush. Sometimes, when they were younger, he'd meet her in the Room of Requirement after curfew. He'd use the Invisibility Cloak, and she'd use the Marauder's Map. They would sit in the Room of Requirement and he'd brush her hair while she whispered gossip to him that he could use to his advantage whenever someone was a dick. They were a team that way. Once they were done gossiping, they'd laugh.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star

And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops

Away above the chimney tops.

That’s where you’ll find me.

In Harry’s darkest moment, when he reached rock bottom, and they were a little older—her fifteen and a prefect, him seventeen and a fucking delinquent—she would drag him out of a Gryffindor boy’s bed and take him to the Room of Requirement. She would throw him into a shower to wash the alcohol and cum out of his hair and let him sob into her robes.

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly

Birds fly over the rainbow.

Why, tell me, why can’t I?

And when some boy or girl broke her heart—because Lavender loved nothing more than a broken heart—he would sing this song to her while they sat behind their childhood home, at the edge of the forest. He would sit on the tree stump and she would sit in the grass and he would sing because though he didn't have the voice of angels, at least he didn't have a voice like a mermaid on land like she did. He would sing and sing until she smiled again.

If happy—” he began, and then a voice.

A voice familiar and horrifying and wonderful and terrible echoed softly through the room. And when Harry opened his eyes again, he could remember. She had sung to them. She had sung them to sleep every night until she had decided that they didn't need her when they had needed her most.

If happy little bluebirds fly

Beyond the rainbow.

Why, oh, why can’t I?

Harry and Hermione looked up at the doorway. Hermione gasped, taking a step back. She looked different from what Hermione had thought she would. She was much taller and leaner. Her hair was chopped, falling just past her chin and she wore it in a little bun at the nape of her neck, some tendrils framing her face. Her hair was darker than Hermione had imagined, the color of dried blood.

“Hi, Mum.”

Lily Evans took a step closer, her eyes never shifting from her children. “Hello, Harry.”

Chapter Text

“Hello, Harry.”

She took a step into the room, her eyes never drifting from his face. It felt like she was staring past his skin, past the muscle, straight into his soul. She had always had that type of the stare, the type of stare that could rip you apart and stare right into your core. The type of stare that could read your every move and pick all your faults out, one by one. Except, maybe she could only do that to him.

"Thank you for blessing us with your presence, Mom," Harry drawled, aggressive as ever when confronted with a predator. He shrugged Hermione's hand off his shoulder, already gearing up for a fight.

“My daughter was mauled. You didn’t think I’d come back as soon as possible?” Lily demanded, striding forward, her gaze caught on Lavender’s beautiful face. The tears in her skin hadn’t quite spared her but she was still beautiful to Harry.

“See I couldn’t be sure exactly what kind of injury would be enough for you to, you know, parent. I don’t remember broken arms ranking very high,” Harry retorted nastily.

Lily’s eyes narrowed and she stepped forward. “You were fourteen and the matron healed you immediately. No one told you to sneak out and fly in the Quidditch Pitch after curfew,” Lily snarled and she turned away from Harry, her eyes stuck on her daughter. Her gaze softened and Hermione jumped up from her seat, pressing into the corner of the room.

Lily nodded to her and settled into the vacated seat, grabbing Lavender's hand tight in her own.

“Dad and Sirius are debriefing with the Auror Office and the Mediwizard that saved her,” Harry said, quietly, putting aside his anger.

Lily looked up, her head tilted just so. “Who was it?”

“Bellatrix Black.”

“She’s good,” Lily allowed. “Very good.”

“She did good work,” Harry admitted softly. He put his head back down on the pillow next to Lavender’s face.

Lily sighed, staring at him. "You blame your father because his work is dangerous. You blame me for not being there."

“I do,” Harry whispered.

“That’s okay. That’s okay for now,” Lily said, quietly. She looked like she might reach for him, but seemed to think better of it, stiffening in her chair and squeezing Lavender’s hand. Then, she leaned forward as if to say something when the door flew open.

James flew into the room, going straight to Lily’s side. She tilted her chin up and pressed her lips to his in a quick greeting kiss.

“Hello, my love,” James whispered. His voice sounded hoarse and terribly sad.

“Hello, my love,” Lily whispered back as they always did when they reunited after a long separation. She looked up again as the door creaked open once more.

“Hello Potter, Auror Potter, Healer Evans,” Vance said as she briskly entered the room. All of her usual giddiness was missing. Harry wasn’t surprised. He supposed that all the joy was sucked out of you once you realized that your patient was the Lily Evans’ child. “I’ll be the primary Healer on Lavender’s case.”

“Emmeline?” Lily asked with a frown.

Vance held up her hand. “Healer Evans, I can assure you that I am the best in my field. I am currently Head of Creature-Induced Injuries and I will do everything in my power to make sure your child lives, and scarring is as minimal as possible."

“You can really do that?” James asked, almost afraid to hope.

Vance nodded. “Yes. I can. Her prognosis is good. If she makes it through the night, building her magical core and stamina, she’ll survive a procedure.”

Harry trembled. He jumped up from the bed, eyes wide. “Healer Vance, let me be on your service. Please,” he begged.

“You know the rules, Potter. No family members,” Vance said, warningly.

“Please, Healer Vance. She’s my...she’s my sister,” Harry said, his voice cracking.

Vance had a stern but kind look in her eyes. “I know that. Which is why you can’t be on this case. You’re not at your best, and we both know this isn’t your field. However, you may choose who assists me,” Vance allowed.

“Hermione,” Harry blurted out immediately. Hermione jerked to attention in the corner of the room. Harry looked over at her, wild-eyed. “She’s the best. You know it. I know it. She’s no-nonsense. She takes no prisoners. And she’ll be real with me.”

“Fine. Granger, you’re on my service,” Vance said. Hermione nodded once. Vance strode forward, tutting softly to herself as she finally surveyed the damage.

“She won’t survive this,” Lily said, her voice soft. “So much soft tissue damage. Organ punctures. And if she does...the amount of therapy...physical and mental...Merlin, my girl.”

“Don’t say shit like that, Mum!” Harry snarled, blinded by his tears.

“Healer Evans, I am quite sure that your daughter will make it. If we have anything to say about it,” Vance said, firmly. “As long as the stasis charm holds, she’ll be fine. However, I may need to perform an internal procedure. There’s so much damage, that I wouldn’t know where to start without opening her up. Do I have your permission, Healer Evans?”

“An internal procedure? But, that’s...Emmeline…” Lily whispered. “And with just a trainee?”

“Harry’s done them. I’ve watched. He can tell me everything to ensure your daughter’s safety. I know the organs inside and out. Trust Healer Vance. She can do this,” Hermione said, stepping forward immediately.

Lily's eyes widened as she looked at Harry and Hermione. Harry was staring at Lavender's face, a blank look in his eyes now.

“A last resort. Do you hear me, Emmeline? Last. Resort,” Lily said, coldly.

“Of course,” Vance said with a funny little nod of her head. She turned on her heel, beckoning sharply to Hermione. “Come now, Granger. There’s work to be done.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione stood in the office, pressed against the wall as Emmeline waved her wand, magically wiping all of the whiteboards in the room clean. The woman didn’t look nearly as confident as she had seemed only moments earlier. She was talking to herself, shaking out her hands and she took a deep breath before she stopped pacing right in the middle of her office.

“You wouldn’t have been my first choice,” Emmeline muttered under her breath.

Hermione nodded once. “I understand that. You don’t like me,” Hermione said.

Emmeline looked up sharply, her eyes wide. A slight flush appeared.

“It’s not...I mean…”

“I’m not bothered by it. Not many people like me. I’m pushy,  loud, and an insufferable know-it-all, and I have the audacity of being black while being all of those things,” Hermione said, laughing lightly.

Emmeline squeaked. “Wait, what? No, it has nothing to do with your skin,” Emmeline snarled.

Hermione hummed, leaning back against the wall, amused. Her lips curled into a close-mouthed smile. “Okay. Good. But, you didn’t deny any of the other things.”

“You’re very...sure of yourself. For a trainee,” Emmeline said, delicately.

“You don’t like me, but you’ve shown me professional courtesy, so I don’t mind,” Hermione said with a shrug. “When I was younger, I wanted everyone to like me. That’s not the real world. I don’t mind.”

"Okay. I just...you wouldn't be my first choice. Some people don't mesh. I don't think we do, but you were requested and so I'll do what I must. No matter my...personal reservations, you are good, Granger," Emmeline said.

Hermione nodded once. “Thank you.”

“My reputation is on the line here. I’m sure you understand that,” Emmeline said.

Hermione nodded again. She understood that perfectly well. This was a case that would make or break Emmeline Vance’s career. If Lavender Brown-Potter died on Emmeline’s watch, in her magical theatre, her future would be ruined. This was Lily Evans’ daughter. This was the daughter of, arguably, the greatest Healer alive. If she died…

"I am going to assist you in any way you need. Even if that means running to get you a tea or coffee," Hermione promised. Emmeline looked at her with wide eyes. "We are a team. You're point and I'm the support. I am here to learn from you. Because you are the Healer on this case.”

Emmeline took a deep breath and nodded once, gathering herself. When she looked at Hermione again, there was a glint of steel in her eyes and she reached for a dry-erase marker. She tossed it to Hermione. Hermione fumbled for a moment, tossing it up again, once, then twice before she grabbed a firm hold on it.

“Okay. Good. I trust that. Now, let’s get started,” Emmeline began and she walked up to the closest board, jotting out notes. “We’ve got a girl, 16, with claw wounds that almost severed her aorta and vocal cords. She’s half-dead and she might scar. She’s nearly in pieces. It’s our job to make her whole.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Lily watched him carefully from across the cafeteria table. Harry wasn’t exactly paying attention to her. He was looking down at a stack of files, his quill moving back and forth at a pace that made even Lily dizzy.

“What are you doing?” James asked quietly.

“I’m still, technically, at work,” Harry murmured.

“What service are you on?” Lily asked.

Harry paused, slowly looking up at her with bright eyes. “I’m not on a service. But, I’m going to be a Spell Damage specialist.”

Lily hummed, bewildered and impressed. “The big leagues.”

"I'm just big enough," Harry retorted snidely. Then, he seemed to catch himself and he let out a long sigh, breathing away the antagonization. He looked up, and he looked so tired. Lily recognized that exhaustion. Sometimes, she even missed it—the thrill of learning, the urge to be the best all the time. There was no motivation once you reached the top. "I was on pharmacy duty all day, so I was in the middle of studying. I closed the pharmacy and was going to dinner with a housemate, and then...well, Lavender was here."

“Your housemate. The girl? Hermione Granger, was it?” Lily asked.

James leaned forward. “The trainee you asked for?”

"Yeah. She's great," Harry said. His tone brooked no argument. James leaned back as if that satisfied him. He reluctantly pushed the limp greens around his plate with his fork. Harry went to look back down at his work, but Lily was still watching him. "What is it?"

“You did an internal procedure,” Lily said. She sounded bewildered.

“Yeah. What of it?” Harry sneered.

Lily leaned forward. “When? You’ve only been a trainee for five months.”

“My first day. There was a patient who was hit with a Heart-Fragmenting Curse and then, the Hela-Wasting Curse. The hearts weren’t binding properly because one of them had rotted in his chest. It was…” Harry’s voice softened as he thought back to that day. His first proper day at St. Mungo’s, and even that was marred—no, not marred—by a memory of Tom.

“Brilliant,” Lily said, staring at him as if he were a difficult Arithmancy problem. “Did you discover that on your own?”

“No. I had help. Hermione’s. That’s why I know she can do this,” Harry said.

“You talk about her a lot. She...more than a friend?” James asked.

Harry snorted. “Nope. Still strictly dick-ly.”

James groaned. “Merlin, Harry.”

Harry smirked, delightful in his pettiness. He tried to ignore Lily’s gaze, but he was forever trapped in it, put under a Magnifying Charm.

“Who was Head Healer on it?” Lily asked.

“Tom...Riddle,” Harry said, tacking on his last name.

Lily didn’t need to know his fucking sex life like everyone else in the damn hospital.

“He is arrogant.”

“He’s a dick,” James added.

Two things that Harry wouldn’t contest.

"He's a good teacher. He let me open up the patient," Harry said, his eyes bright and he leaned forward, a small smile playing on his lips. Lily's eyes narrowed on the move as if she could find the source of his distraction.

Before she could ask, she heard someone call, “Healer Evans.”

Harry looked up as a tall, thin pale man approached. He looked about Harry’s age, with a pointy chin, an equally pointy nose and hair so pale it looked nearly white. He had Luna’s coloring, but he was so much colder. Harry’s nose wrinkled.

“Ah, Draco. Come,” Lily called. The young man approached, standing at her side. “James, Harry, this is one of my students—Draco Malfoy.”

“Malfoy. Is Lucius Malfoy your father?” James asked.

Draco’s nose wrinkling. “Ah, oui. Yes, I mean. Ma mère et…”

“English, Draco,” Lily said, gently.

“I mean, my mother and father are separated. I do not see him quite so often now that I am grown,” Draco said.

James snorted. “Good on your mum. Narcissa, isn’t it?” James said, lifting his plastic cup up to him in a toast. Draco’s lips twitched and he nodded in agreement.

Harry frowned, wondering why that name was so damn familiar.

“I’m Harry Potter,” Harry said, attempting some semblance of politeness.

Draco turned towards him and raised a single pale eyebrow, all the displeasure in the world in that one facial twitch.

“Indeed,” Draco drawled.

Harry frowned. “Um, excuse me?”

“I was...expecting more from the great Lily Evans’ son.”

Harry reared back, surprised by the blatant rudeness. He glanced at James and Lily, wide-eyed, wondering if they had heard what he had. James shrugged, eyes wide, and Lily was watching, waiting for his reaction. As if it were some kind of weird test.

“How so?” Harry asked, his voice flat.

“You are short and do not seem very impressive,” Draco drawled. “What is your specialty?”

“Spell Damage,” Harry said through clenched teeth.

Draco hummed. “I would have...how you say..pegged you for an...Accidenter?” he said, as if unsure of his word choice.

Harry slammed his hands on the table, eyes narrowed. “Repeat what you said.”

“Can you not, ah, hear?” Draco challenged.

“Oh, no, I can. I just want to make sure that I heard you right so I don’t feel bad about punching you in your smug face, you pointy-faced git,” Harry hissed.

Draco frowned, his head tilted. “What is…‘git’?”

“It means that you’re unpleasant. Bonjour, mon neveu.”

Harry felt his heart stop. Narcissa. Narcissa Malfoy nee Black on the family tree. And that silvery line connected to…

“Oh fuck,” Harry breathed as he looked up at Bellatrix. She was already embracing Draco as he babbled to her in French, his thin lips curled into a smug little smirk. Harry sneered. “Of fucking course.”

“Harry, she saved your sister,” James chided.

“Oh and I fucking appreciate it. But, she’s a bitch. No offense, Mediwizard,” Harry spat.

Bellatrix smirked. "None taken, sweetheart.”

“What did I say about calling me that?” Harry snarled, his lips curled back into a sneer.

Bellatrix laughed, darkly, her breasts shaking with the force of her laugh.

“Harry, Harry, Harry, do you really want to get into this here? And now?”

Harry stood up, sharply, shaking his head. “I’ve got work to do.”

“As do we,” Lily said. She stood and made a sharp movement to Draco, and he stepped away from Bellatrix, the picture of professionalism again. “Draco, I must wrap up loose ends in France.”

Oui, Guérisseur,” Draco agreed.

“Alas, I do not come on purely familial motives. Auror Potter, there’s been an update on the VIP patient. Come, let us talk,” Bellatrix said. She paused, regarding Harry with a look. “Discretion, Potter.”

“I know,” Harry spat and he stormed away, shaking his head.

Somehow, he felt like he had failed Lily’s little test.


DIAGNOSIS


 

He cleared his throat, running his hands through greasy hair before he knocked on the door. It had been in his daily habits, for the first month or so, to do this exact routine, ready to vent about his day, before he remembered that she wasn’t there. Before he remembered that she had gone off to France to do whatever the hell it was instead of being in England, in St. Mungo’s (with him) where she belonged.

Severus didn’t have to remember this time. Now, he knew that she was behind the door, in her office as she always was. So, he knocked and then opened the door without waiting for her invitation.

She was just as beautiful as ever. Her hair was shorter. The last time he had seen her, it had gone past her shoulders in delicate waves. The crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes and the lines around her mouth had only been there when she was laughing. Now, she grimaced and for the first time, Severus felt his age and hers.

She hadn’t even noticed him enter.

“Lily,” he said, his voice gentle.

She still hadn’t noticed. She was standing by the glass wall that looked out towards the lobby, speaking in terribly fast French to two young people. A young woman had her head bent forward as she went through what looked like case files, and a young blonde man was scrawling how Lily’s dictations.

“Lily,” Severus repeated.

Lily jerked to a stop and spun to face him. Her eyes wide.

“Oh, Severus. Hello,” she said. Her lips curled into a small smile. “How are you, my friend?”

“I am well. I’d be better if you had visited under less pressing circumstances,” Severus said. Lily came to him, grabbing his hands in her own and she looked at him and sighed, nodding in agreement.

“I’d be better too. These are my students. Draco is writing instructions back to France for me,” Lily said with a tiny smile.

“Are you not returning?” Severus asked.

“How can I? My daughter is injured. Even if she...survives...she’ll need extensive PT. I need to be here for it,” Lily said.

Severus’ eyes widened. “Will you come back to St. Mungo’s?

Lily frowned, pained.

“No. I don’t expect so. Not yet, anyway.”

Severus jerked his hands away from her, shaking his head in disbelief. She looked at him, her lips pursed as if willing him not to explode. It hadn't worked when they were children and it certainly wouldn't not. Severus crossed his arms, defensive.

“Why not?”

“I have to focus on Lavender’s PT.”

“That’s not why. Is it because of your son?” Severus couldn’t help but spit out the word. He couldn’t help the disdain and irritation that itched at his skin as he thought about that bitter little boy that reminded him far too much of James fucking Potter.

“In part,” Lily allowed. “This is his workplace.”

“He’s an arrogant brat, Lily, just like his father. If you heard all of the things that he’s been up to—” Severus began, rage burning through him and Lily shook her head, rolling her eyes as she watched Severus with those knowing eyes. He hated those eyes as much as he loved them. She could always see right through him.

“I don’t care. Harry works here. He doesn’t need his mother hanging around. He’ll be good. Great, even, if he can get his head on straight. He did an internal procedure...Merlin, on his first day," Lily said, whispering to herself. She blinked, suddenly looking even more tired than before and she took a step forward. Severus flinched backward. "Now, Severus, I'm very tired, and I have a lot of work to do."

He knew a dismissal when he heard it. Outraged, he started, “But, Lily, I—”

“Severus, I don’t have time right now,” she said, her expression firm as she backed him out of the door. She slowly shut it in his face and the paused. The crack in the door only revealed a sliver of her face and one bright green eye. “I’ll speak to you later. I promise.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“You.”

You,” Tom mocked, sneering back at him. Harry sniffed, stomping past him and sliding the old case files back into their proper places on the library shelves. He turned back around to walk past the older man, but Tom’s hand flew up, blocking the aisle off. “You’ve got a lot of fucking nerve, Harry.”

“Fuck off, Tom,” Harry retorted.

Tom shook his head. “Your sister is dying downstairs and that’s all you have to say to me?”

“That’s exactly all I have to say to you. I don’t have...time for this bullshit when my sister is downstairs dying. So, what more is there? Do you need it in writing?” Harry demanded.

“You’re so full of shit,” Tom barked. Harry’s eyes widened at the man’s words, and he crossed his arms over his chest, defensive to the very end. “You complain about everything and you’re bitter because you like to be bitter. You like to wallow in your own fucking angst.”

“Wow. This coming from the man that puts his work before the love of his fucking life because you think you can only have one thing?” Harry demanded.

Tom scoffed, shaking his head.

“You’re making a lot of assumptions.”

“Oh, don’t give me that, Tom,” Harry drawled. “I’m...I’m so tired of being nice.”

“You’ve never been nice,” Tom said, his voice low. He took a step closer, his eyes raking over Harry’s body. And Harry knew that what he looked like—ill, exhausted, and he probably smelled antiseptic, both clean and dirty. Still, Tom looked at him as if he were beautiful.

He shivered.

“You followed me up here. I...I accepted your fucking choice. You chose your work. I asked one thing of you. Let me hate you,” Harry snarled.

Tom rolled his eyes. “You can hate me all you want, but you’re a Spell Damage trainee. We’re going to need to work together.”

“Not anytime soon. Not until my sister is...on the mend,” Harry said. He closed his eyes.

His sister on the mend. What a joke.

And then there was hand on his cheek. He looked up at Tom with wide eyes. Tom's eyes were serious as he rubbed his thumb over Harry's cheek in slow circular motions.

“Bellatrix is a good mediwizard. Her work isn’t shoddy and she did her very best on your sister in the field. Emmeline Vance is very good at what she does, sweetheart. She’s going to live,” Tom said, firmly. He took Harry’s face in his hands, bringing their foreheads together.

“I don’t know what I’d do if she died,” Harry said, quietly.

“You’d move on.” Harry jerked back, wounded, but Tom didn’t let him get far. “You’re a survivor. You would grieve and scream and shout and then you’d move on. But, it’s not going to come to that. She’s going to live. And if she doesn’t, you’ll move on.”

Tom leaned up, pressing a quick kiss to Harry’s forehead. Harry looked away, and he did something he hadn’t done in a long time—blush.

“Stop it,” Harry whispered.

Tom rolled his eyes and nodded, releasing him. “I know. I know. You may go back to hating me now.”

Harry peeled away and walked down the aisle, leaving Tom behind him. Harry jerked to a stop as he saw a slight blonde woman standing by the end of the aisle, staring at him with a curious look on her face. Harry’s eyes narrowed.

"Were you listening in on my conversation?" Harry demanded.

Qu'est-ce que ç'est?” she babbled in a bubble gum sweet voice. “Je ne sais pas parler englais.

Harry cringed. “Sorry. Nevermind. Do you need to go to the lobby?”

“Lo-bby?” she said, sounding out the word and shaking her head.

Harry nodded and walked away, his head bowed forward. He missed the way the bubblegum sweet girl's expression melted away, revealing impassivity. The young blonde woman straightened and strode out, her short heels clicking quietly as she pulled her cloak tighter around herself. She walked in the opposite direction of her boss' son, taking the back stairwell back to her office.

Astoria Greengrass didn’t have to go far to get to Lily’s office. She didn’t knock, swinging the door open and both Lily and Draco looked up, surprised by her appearance.

Astoria, où—” Draco began.

“English, Draco. We are in England now,” Astoria said, her accent thick and throaty. She turned to Lily, her eyes narrowed. “Healer Evans, I was upstairs in the library.”

“What is it?” Lily asked, immediately, turning away from the loose ends she was trying to tie up. Draco finished up his last letter, passing it to her. She didn’t even look down as she signed it and folded it neatly. She passed it back to Draco to seal.

“I saw something.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

"Come in," Emmeline called, frazzled. She pulled out her pocket watch and winced. It was nearly two in the morning on Christmas Day, and they hadn't made any ground. They kept going in circles, back to the wounds.

Hermione looked back at the board, at the light sketch of a female body. It was a simple outline in black. Red marked all of the wounds, green streaks circled superficial, and blue circled the critical points. It was a mess. Everything about it was a mess. She looked up even as her head fell forward, exhaustion weighing heavily over her.

The door creaked open and Hermione smiled gently when a head of red hair peeked through the crack.

“Hey, Ron,” Hermione said with a wave.

Emmeline stumbled over a stack of papers—old case files that they had looked through for precedent. There was none.

“Ron!” Emmeline squeaked. “What brings you here?”

“Hey, Em. We come bearing gifts,” Ron said. Hermione nearly collapsed in happiness as he pushed the door open and Neville paraded in with two enormous cups of coffee in his hand. A little magical kettle was hanging from Ron’s hands, a basket of tea bags in his other hand.

“You’re a lifesaver, Ron,” Emmeline said, gratefully taking the mug from Neville. “And you too, Longbottom.”

“You’re welcome,” Neville said with a little smile. He watched as Emmeline greedily gulped down her black coffee, uncaring how scalding it was. She didn’t complain once, only looking more rejuvenated the more she bathed her mouth in the bitter liquid.

Hermione hummed as she looked up at Ron. Ron held his hand out and passed her mug to her. She held it between her hands, shivering. Ron knelt down so that they were eye-level and he reached forward, bumping her chin up so that they were looking one another in the eye.

“Are you coming home, hag?” Ron asked, gently.

“I can’t. This is...this is his sister and he asked for me,” Hermione whispered. Her voice cracked as she finally let herself break down. “I can’t fail him. Not in this.”

“You won’t. You’re brilliant, Granger. You got this,” Ron said, reassuring.

Hermione gave a weak smile and nodded, taking a sip of the coffee. She paused, tilting her head. “Two spoonfuls of sugar, and a splash of half-and-half.”

"Yeah, that fake shit you like. I live with you. Of course, I know how you take your coffee," Ron scoffed. He was smiling though and Hermione's smile widened just a little bit. She laughed softly to herself, nodding. Ron looked up at Emmeline. She was watching, a cracked smile on her face. "How you doing, Em?"

"I'm...we're working hard. We're exhausted. We're going to crash," Emmeline said in stilted sentences. She looked deep in thought and she turned her gaze back to the board, shaking herself as she set her empty mug down.

"Sleep a REM cycle, get back up. You won't be able to think straight until you sleep," Neville said earnestly. Emmeline looked at him as if she had forgotten that he was there. "You just had a cup of coffee, but in a few hours. Around six, try to sleep until nine or so."

"Good idea," Emmeline whispered. She stood and crossed to the board, pointing out a wound. "Okay, so the carotid artery is sliced, but she's not dead. That was done...this was all intentional. That's easily done, but she scars. If she scars...the mental damage is going to be something awful. She'll be in constant pain too."

“So, we figure out how to keep it from scarring,” Hermione said, firmly. She faltered. “That’s impossible, though. Werewolves are creatures of Dark magic. Dark magic scars.”

“Magic scars. Period,” Ron interjected. The two women glanced at him, wide-eyed. “It takes a delicate hand to knit skin with magic. It takes an even finer hand to keep it from scarring. It almost ”

“So, we keep it from scarring,” Emmeline whispered. She shook herself, slapping her cheeks lightly and she stood, shaking her head. “But, that’s not...main concern is stopping her from dying. Scars are whistles and bells. We’ve got bandages holding her organs in. We’re keeping her alive on stasis. She’s going to need to eat soon, but her stomach is basically in shreds.”

"There are plants that she can absorb through her bloodstream if injected. It's all magical, so she won't need to process it like normal food," Neville added.

Both Emmeline and Hermione’s heads whipped around to stare at him and he flushed under their stare.

“Can you get us the plants? And a full report? And maybe teach us how to give it to her?” Emmeline asked, frantically.

“Absolutely,” Neville said firmly. “Not even a question. I’ll figure out what exactly to give her. Get me a report on her nutrient balance, and I’ll figure out what...and you two figure out everything else.”

“You two can do it. If anyone can, it’s you two,” Ron said with so much earnestness in his voice Hermione let out a quiet laugh. Ron grinned down at her. He tapped the top of her head and rubbed. It frizzed up and Hermione weakly slapped his hand away. “Do you want your coconut oil shit?”

“Yeah. Thanks, arse. Good night,” Hermione sighed.

“Good night, hag,” Ron smirked. He gave a little wave to Emmeline and his grin softened into something more polite. “Good night, Em.”

“Goodbye, Ron,” Emmeline said, her voice paper thin. The door closed behind the trainees and Emmeline turned back to Hermione. “What about creating a spell?”

“Spell creation takes too long. We’d need to get it approved, and she’s got three days. Max. Does Spell Damage know anything that combats Dark magic originating from werewolves?”

“Doubt it. What about…”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry knocked lightly on the cracked door. The matron that had been tending to Lavender’s wounds looked up from her work. Her stern gaze softened when she took in Harry’s expression and she beckoned him in.

“Um...hi. I’m Harry,” he whispered.

The matron sighed. “I know who you are, babe. I’m Demelza, the matron on your sister’s case. How can I help you?”

“I’m...I’m off work, but I don’t wanna go home,” Harry said. He winced and wrapped his arms around himself and looked at her with wide eyes. “I don’t...people will ask me questions if I go to an on-call room. And this is the Children Ward. No one...no one comes here.”

“You want to sleep here?” Demelza asked, gently.

Harry nodded, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. “Y-yes, please.”

And Demelza couldn’t be much older than him. Truly, she was probably younger. Matrons could start right out of Hogwarts, unlike Healers, who had to get a few extra NEWTs and some further testing under their belts. She opened the door further for him and then closed it behind him. She turned back and waved her wand, Conjuring a small little cot right next to Lavender’s bed.

“You’ve had a long day, Harry Potter,” Demelza said.

He nodded, letting out a quiet hiccup.

“It’s been a long life,” Harry whispered back. He walked past Lavender, running his fingers over her knuckles, and murmured, “Happy Christmas, sis.”

He closed his eyes and tried to imagine her voice.

Happy Christmas, bro-bro.

 Harry settled on the cot. He was too tired to cry. He folded his arms under his head and turned on his side so that if he lifted his head just so, he could see Lavender's hand and the end of her curls. Demelza pulled out a thin blanket from her stack and opened it, lieing it over him. "I don't want to go to sleep. What if she dies while I'm sleeping?"

“Get some sleep, Harry Potter. She’ll make it through the night. I promise.”

Harry yawned, his exhaustion finally settling over him. “First rule of being a Healer: don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

His eyelids felt like weights were attached and there was sand in the corner of his eyes.

“Lucky that I’m a matron then. Now, go to sleep.”

Harry yawned, and whispered to himself, “It’s a beautiful day to conquer death.”

And Harry did what he was told.

Chapter Text

“Lily.”

Albus’ eyes softened as Lily emerged from the room, shutting it quietly behind her. She looked at him with that same detachment that she regarded everyone with, but Albus remembered a younger Lily with all the fire that he saw in her son’s eyes. She couldn’t hide the exhaustion from him. She couldn’t hide the anger and grief from Albus, who has trained her.

“Albus, it’s good to see you,” Lily said with a tiny smile.

“Severus said he saw you briefly yesterday,” Albus began.

Lily sighed, shaking her head. "I had work to do and you know...Severus is...Severus. Sometimes, I feel like he wants my entire world to stop so I can accommodate him," Lily confessed in a soft whisper.

Albus smiled. So, Lily was still Lily. She would still confide in him. Good. Now, he just had to do her the same courtesy. His smile nearly dropped as he thought of Harry and Tom.

“He’ll understand. You have much to do,” Albus said. “You brought your students.”

“I couldn’t just leave them,” Lily said. “They’re my team.”

“Have they met...Harry?” Albus asked.

Lily snorted, nodding. “Yeah. Draco and Harry met. Harry was confrontational. Draco was rude. But, I’m not going to mediate that. He’s not a child.”

“No,” Albus admitted. “He isn’t. Harry is very much not a child.”

"But, he's my child," Lily whispered. She looked up at Albus as if she were expecting something from him as if she were waiting for him to confess his sins.

Albus kept up his genial smile.

“How is young Lavender?”

"They have to wake her up today. Are you on call?" Lily asked. "I...I know your Ward is good. They have to be. But, I only trust...you. With her mind. If she’s…”

Lily trailed off, taking a deep breath and nodded, collecting herself once more.

“I am here in any capacity that you need me to be, Lily.”

“Thank you, Albus. James and I are...eternally grateful. She has a good team behind her. Harry vouches for Vance and the trainee, Granger. Bellatrix is remarkable, as always,” Lily admitted, and she sounded bitter about that. Albus’ smile widened. Tom’s trio and Lily had never quite seen eye to eye. Ego always blinded. “He slept in there last night.”

“I’m not surprised,” Albus said.

“Neither am I,” Lily said quietly. “He is...angry. With me. He is right to be, I think. But, I don’t know how to...explain to him. What I am. How I am. I don’t know.”

“You can only tell him the truth,” Albus admitted, and even this, he wasn’t sure about.

He wasn't sure why Lily held Harry at arm's length. He wasn't sure why Lily winced at the idea of Harry working at St. Mungo's. He wasn't sure why she had appeared, begging for him to reject Harry, and when Albus had refused to do so, why she had begged to be put on a sabbatical instead. Albus wasn't sure why Lily was so terrified to see her son's talent.

“I can’t tell him what I did. What I asked you to do,” Lily said, quietly. “He will hate me. More than he does. I have given him a lot of reasons, Albus. I have. Fuck...I’m selfish.”

Albus frowned, heavily. “You can...well, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”

Lily looked away as if she could hear the lie Albus was trying to convince himself of.

She opened her mouth to respond again when they heard a commotion.

“Bella, Tom! How are—”

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE, YOU PIECE OF SHIT?”

Lily’s eyes widened and she took a hesitant step, peering down the corridor. Albus winced as he saw the trio. Bellatrix was fuming, already storming away with red sparks trailing after her. Lily gasped, throwing the door open and rushing back in as she realized that Bellatrix was on the floor for her daughter. Albus observed as Tom shoved the man’s chest, causing him to stumble back.

“Come on, man. Physical violence?” the man groaned as he brushed his robes off.

“Yeah, physical violence. What the fuck are you doing here, Rodolphus?” Tom hissed.

Rodolphus Lestrange grinned his roguish smile and winked.

“I’ve heard a lot of rumors, Tommy-boy. Fucking Evans’ kid? Nice,” Rodolphus grinned.

Albus frowned. Albus had forgotten how unnecessarily crass Rodolphus could be, and perhaps, he should’ve opened the man’s letter. At least, he would’ve been able to warn Tom. Still, Rodolphus had said something quite nasty about Harry, and Tom was fuming, his face ashen at his words.

So, Albus didn’t stop Tom’s fist from flying right into Rodolphus’ face.
He didn’t feel bad about it.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Okay, so...we know where to start, eh?” Emmeline asked, jittery from the amount of coffee in her system. Hermione had consumed the same amount but, Emmeline guessed that she processed it differently. Instead, Hermione was so still that if Emmeline touched her, she might shatter.

“We start on the organs attached to arteries. I work bottom up, you work bottom up down. We meet in the middle,” Hermione recited back to Emmeline. She tilted her head, looking at Emmeline with narrowed eyes. “How do we bind it?”

“I was looking through spellbooks. If we modify Reparo—” Emmeline began.

"Very risky." Hermione winced as if she realized what she had said. "I mean, maybe—"

“No, you’re right. Too risky. Not enough time,” Emmeline agreed. She gave Hermione a tiny smile and pulled her pocket watch free. Nearly noon. “We have to pull her out of stasis soon. If she’s stable enough.”

“Why?” Hermione asked curiously.

“To see if she can talk. Or be lucid. Or...we need to make sure there’s brain activity. If not, we call Dumbledore in early,” Emmeline said.

“Early?”

Emmeline nodded. “He needs to be there...after we finish up. To deal with the aftermath. The girl’s going to need therapy. Physical and mental. A shit ton of therapy, Merlin,” Emmeline muttered, shaking her head as she spoke to herself.

“She’s tough,” Hermione said.

Emmeline raised an eyebrow. “What makes you say that?”

“She went up against werewolves and lived. And if she’s anything like Harry, she’s tough as hell.”

Emmeline snorted.

“Can’t exactly disagree. The whole family is a bunch of badasses, aren’t they?” Emmeline asked with a tiny grin. “Fucking Lily Evans, James Potter, and now Harry and Lavender. Fucking badasses all around.”

“You swear a lot,” Hermione observed.

“Only when I’m stressed. And I think that’s Ron’s influence,” Emmeline said, watching Hermione carefully, all of the camaraderie from before hidden away, as if it all depended on Hermione’s response.

“You’re friends with him,” Hermione murmured. She looked at Emmeline with a tiny smile. “He’s a good guy. A bit of an arse, but a good guy. He says you’re the reason he’s gotten into grimy pubs.”

“He talks about me?” Emmeline whispered.

Hermione wanted to tell her the truth. No, Ron didn’t talk about her. Not much. Only in passing. Only when Neville, Hermione, and Harry asked if he wanted to go out with them. He never mentioned Emmeline any other time. There was too much to do, too much of their own shit happening in their heads and in their house to think about Ron’s friend. Friend? Girlfriend? Hermione wasn’t sure.

Hermione wanted to tell her the truth. But...but…

“Yeah, he talks about you,” Hermione said with a tiny smile.

Emmeline beamed, relaxing, and she looked back down at her work with a grin.

Hermione’s smile dropped.

Emmeline needed to focus on Lavender. Lavender was Harry’s sister, which made her family. And they took care of family in Hermione’s house. If Hermione had to lie to this woman, she fucking would, because she needed Emmeline to focus.

Hermione opened her mouth to suggest something else when a shower of sparks erupted from both Hermione and Emmeline’s wands. Emmeline blanched as they looked at the dark red sparks.

“Lavender. Fuck,” Emmeline hissed. She jumped up and was already running from the room.

Hermione was right on her heels, eyes wide as the bound down the hall and up the stairs. The lift would take too long and Hermione thanked every god that the Children Ward was only one floor up. They erupted on the floor and flew to the room.

Hermione looked inside. Dumbledore, Bellatrix, Riddle, and an unknown man were already in the room. Lily was in the corner, standing next to Harry, her hand wrapped around his wrist.

Harry didn’t even seem to notice, staring as Tom stepped back, standing at Dumbledore’s side as Bellatrix and the man got to work.

Harry couldn’t bear to look at Lavender as the blood sluggishly spilled down her body.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Bellatrix spat between clenched teeth as she used the Siphoning Charm to get a clear view of the wound that had opened up. Lavender’s throat.

Harry's eyes widened as he looked at the trio. Tom's fists were clenched tight against his side, and Harry took note of his bruised knuckles. The man already had a bruise blooming black on his jaw. The man ignored Bellatrix's questions, easily going towards Lavender's body, taking note of her wounds.

“Werewolf wounds. She’s in stasis and bleeding. Why didn’t you cauterize the wounds with silver, Bella?” the man asked immediately.

“Because cauterizing them scars her, you imbecile. Do you know who she is, Lestrange?” Tom barked.

The man grinned. “Does it matter?”

“That’s my daughter, Rodolphus,” Lily said, firmly.

And Harry’s eyes widened as he finally recognized who this man was.

Rodolphus Lestrange.

Tom’s ex-best friend. Bellatrix’s ex-lover. The reason that it had all fallen apart, and Harry wasn’t sure if it was possible to adore and hate someone all at once, but he felt both for the man before him. The man that had broken up Tom and Bellatrix, and the man that had taken them both apart with his own selfishness.

“Ah, I see. Want her nice and pretty and mentally stable when she sees herself,” Rodolphus jeered with a grin. Lily rolled her eyes, glaring over at him.

“No, I want her whole, Lestrange,” Emmeline barked. “She’s my patient, and I will stop the bleeding myself. I don’t want your wishy-washy work all over her. It’s all superficial bleeding right now. We’ll bandage her, change the dressings every few hours to keep it from scabbing over and healing.”

“Can it even do that?” Hermione asked.

Emmeline tilted her head. “Yes. Now, I’m going to ask all non-essential personnel to step out while I work on the patient. Family included.”

“You can’t do that,” Lily began immediately.

I’m the Healer on this case, Healer Evans. I know you’re quite famous and all, but I’m really going to need you to step out. Granger, get them out of her,” Emmeline said, immediately. She barely spared them another glance before she raised her wand to cleanse the wound. She moved her wand in smooth twirling motion. “Akestor.

Harry wasn’t allowed to see much else as Hermione approached, a mildly apologetic look on her face as she ushered everyone out.

“You’ll keep me updated?” Harry asked.

Hermione smiled. “Well, of course. Are you coming home tonight?”

“I don’t know yet,” Harry said softly. “I’ll let you know.”

“Sure thing. Also, do me a favor,” Hermione called as Harry backed out of the doorway. “Go see Ron and Neville. They’re worried.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Lily wasn't surprised when he showed up. He wasn't surprised that she wasn't surprised. Good. She'd need him to keep up. Lily leaned back in her chair as Riddle walked into the room as if it weren't strange for him to be in the Children Ward again. He'd been on his way to Lavender's room earlier, anyway. Lily's eyes narrowed.

She knew how much Riddle despised children.

“Tom, congratulations are in orders,” Lily said as a greeting.

"Your congratulations are well-received, Lily," Riddle drawled as he swaggered in as he owned the place. His eyes dragged over the room at a whole, passing over Lavender's still body as if she were barely a blip on his radar. He hesitated for a half-second on the messy cot by her bed. It was a half-second too long. Lily almost smiled.

Got you.

“I’ve heard many a-whispers, Tom, about your project. I daresay, even if I had decided to enter for the grant, I wouldn’t have gotten it,” Lily admitted. She was old enough—her ego sated enough—to admit that. Riddle was brilliant. That couldn’t be denied. Ever.

“No, you wouldn’t have. This is my life’s work. Culminating in one project. It’ll change the face of medicine as we know it,” Riddle observed, so cock-sure of himself.

What a fucking dick.

Lily nearly smiled. Sometimes, her inner voice reminded her of her foul-mouthed son.

Riddle continued, “How is your daughter?”

“She’s...well, she made it through the first night,” Lily said.

“Then, as long as she comes out of stasis, she’ll live. Presuming Vance knows what she’s doing,” Riddle said, callous as ever.

Lily nodded. “Harry said she’s good. He works here,” Lily said. She tilted her head, observing Riddle for a long time. “I’ve heard that you teach him. You’re his teacher.”

“Not precisely. McGonagall is his team leader. He’s just very talented,” Riddle said, carefully choosing his words. Lily resisted the urge to snort.

“He assisted on an internal procedure on his first day. He must be...talented,” Lily drawled.

Riddle was watching her now, staring right into her eyes, as if trying to tear her into pieces. There was something there. Before, there had been resentment and professional competitiveness. But, now there was something more. Something like rage and disgust and frighteningly, judgment.

“Your son is remarkable,” Riddle began. “Harry is...just good.”

And his voice went soft. So soft. Lily hadn’t heard Riddle’s voice do that before.

“I know. But, he seems...emotional. He’s always been an emotional boy. But, it never affected his ambitions. And yet, he seems...almost unfocused. He hasn’t been on anyone’s service since Lavender was admitted,” Lily said, coolly.

Riddle raised an eyebrow and his expression was cold again. “I imagine that’s what happens when your sister is dying.”

She lost control.

You’re what happened to him," Lily said, her voice sharp as barbed wire as she looked Riddle in the eye.

Riddle’s expression didn’t flicker, staring back at her with those flat burgundy eyes. Lily scoffed. Riddle was exactly Harry’s type too. Tall. Dark. Talented.

“You’re not here for my daughter or to greet me after my trip. Let’s not pretend. We’ve always been equals, Tom. And I respected you as a colleague though we’ve had our personal differences. But, you’re here for him,” Lily said, so cold that if Riddle were anyone else, he would’ve flinched from her wintery eyes. Lily crossed her arms, leaning back against the wall. She glanced over at her sleeping daughter, her scarred little girl.

“Healer Evans—” Tom began.

“You’re the Head of Spell Damage. No wonder he’s so unfocused,” Lily hissed, bitingly. “You know, Tom...I always knew. Men like you...are always threatened by those with potential to rival, if not surpass, them. You just want someone to admire you. And you don’t care about the damage you do to him along the way.”

“Your son is an adult,” Riddle retorted.

“And alas, he’s still my son,” Lily snarled.

Riddle's eyes narrowed. "Funny that. He doesn't talk about you. Actually, the only time we've had a meaningful conversation about you is when he told me your response to his endeavor to be a Healer. So, maybe...you’re what damaged him.”

Lily winced. She twitched at the triumph on Riddle's face and glared up at him. Slowly, she stood up and shoved her chair, allowing it to scrape across the ground.

“My relationship with my son is my own. Your relationship with my son is...well, non-existent.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Harry!”

“Harry!”

Harry collapsed against Ron and Neville as they rushed towards him, wrapping their arms around him. He hugged them back, pressing his eyes against Neville’s shoulder to stop them from burning with tears. He pulled back, an exhausted smile on his face.

“Hey, you two,” Harry rasped.

Ron sighed, relieved. “We were fucking worried about you, mate. How are you doing?” Ron asked.

“How do you think he’s doing?” Neville snapped, surprisingly nasty in his worry.

Harry’s eyebrows flew up.

“I’m...going to be fine,” Harry allowed. “Lavender just had a bit of a scare. Her wounds opened up. But, she’s being treated.”

“Good. That’s good. McGonagall gave you the time off until your sister is well,” Ron said with a smile. “I mean Neville and I are going to be working overtime to cover, but totally worth it.”

Harry felt his heart swell and he gave a real smile, then.

“You two are...the actual best,” Harry said with a grin.

Neville nodded. “We know,” he said. “Are you hungry?”

“Starving,” Harry said. He let them draw him deeper into the cafeteria. He was well-practiced with ignoring everyone’s stares now. To be honest, he felt better about the stares when it had all been about him fucking Tom. He could deal with everyone thinking he was a massive slut.

Now, the stares were full of pity.

The three grabbed their trays, heeping it full of carb-loaded foods. Harry got a plate of chips and a sandwich. Hermione wasn't there to steal from. He knew that the chips wouldn't taste as good if he wasn't filching them from her, but it was food. And he needed the energy.

They settled at a different table, ignoring Smith, Patil and Abbott’s curious stares.

“So, Healers on your sister’s case?” Neville asked.

“Bellatrix, of course. She brought her in. She was...nice, you know,” Harry began as he munched on one of his chips. Neville looked at him with so much surprise that Harry nearly choked with laughter. “Yeah, she was as nice as Bellatrix can be. She said she wasn’t going to ever break her oath.”

“So...she did the bare minimum?” Ron asked through a mouthful of mashed potatoes.

It was so normal that Harry almost...felt normal.

“Yeah, basically,” Harry admitted. “And Hermione and Vance, obviously. And...Rodolphus Lestrange showed up.”

“Who?” Neville asked.

“Tom’s ex-best friend. The one...who Bellatrix cheated with,” Harry said quietly.

Ron and Neville looked up immediately. Ron gaped.

“Shut the fuck up,” Ron hissed.

“I’m serious,” Harry said, nodding.

Neville shook his head, confused. “That’s...going to require further dissecting. Later on. How are you doing...with your mum here?”

Harry faltered. “We haven’t...had a real conversation? At least, not yet. We almost fought when she first showed up. But, Lavender comes first. I think that’s something we both can agree on.”

Ron leaned forward, curious about his friend’s mother when his eyes narrowed on something. Harry glanced over his shoulder and grimaced.

“Harry Potter,” Malfoy drawled in his this French accent, syrupy and annoying as fuck. “Shouldn’t you be working?”

“I’m on leave, Malfoy. Shouldn’t you be kissing Lily’s ass?” Harry snarled. He turned back around to face his friends.

“Won’t you introduce us, Potter?” Malfoy asked. “I will introduce you.”

Harry frowned, looking over his shoulder again. Malfoy wasn’t alone. Another figure stood next to him. She was just as pale as him, and if Harry was honest, he’d compare the two to Veela, if much colder and stranger. There was something about the woman though...she looked almost familiar, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

“Who are these pricks?” Ron muttered under his breath.

“The guy is Draco Malfoy. My mother’s student,” Harry snapped.

Malfoy preened as he sidled up to the table, looking down at Harry’s friends with distaste.

“And you are?” Malfoy drawled.

“Neville Longbottom.”

“Ron Weasley.”

Malfoy scoffed. “I’ve never ‘eard of either of you. At least, Potter has good...what is it, Astoria? Ah...breeding,” Malfoy said, full of spite and nastiness.

Neville winced and his hand flashed out, grabbing Ron’s shoulder and pushing him back as the man began to rise to his full height.

“Aren’t you going to introduce your colleague?” Neville asked, stiffly. Harry looked at him, proudly. Neville hadn’t even flinched at Malfoy’s barb.

“Astoria Greengrass. I am pleased to make your acquaintance,” the young woman said.

Harry froze. Her voice wasn’t as bubblegum sweet, but that sing-song in her voice was still clear as day. He knew her. He knew her.

She had watched Tom and him.

And Harry was terrified.

He turned to look at her and she was staring at him, amusement in the corner of her eyes.

“You do speak English then,” Harry said coldly.

“Far better than my counterpart,” Astoria said sweetly. Her accent wasn’t as pronounced now, tamer than Malfoy’s.

"But, of course, English does not matter when you have the talent to attract such attention from the Lily Evans. We were selected by her. Especially," Malfoy said with his prideful smirk.

Harry's lips curled as he looked at the pair of them. Astoria was watching him. She had seen...she had seen him and Tom. She was his mother's student, and Harry knew where her loyalties lied. He trembled.

What if his mother...what if Lily knew?

"Does that make you feel...special?" Harry hissed, spite poisoning his voice, twisting the expression on his face into something ugly. Astoria raised a single eyebrow while Draco reared back as if surprised by the depth of Harry's rage. "That she...chose you. You want to be chosen by a woman like that?”

“‘A woman like that?’” Astoria repeated, slowly.

“Lily Evans is fucked up,” Harry said, his voice dipping lower on those words.

“They say the same about you here,” Astoria observed.

And oh, Harry hated her. Maybe even more than he hated Malfoy because Astoria was cold. And calculating. And he could see why his mother had brought her into the fold. It was probably like staring at a reflection.

“She’s cold and absent and the only reason she has any time for you is because she’s too busy trying to save the damn world instead of her own kids. She’s a soulless automaton, so fucking controlled that she’s almost unfeeling. Yeah, maybe I am fucked up. But, she made me that way,” Harry hissed.

Astoria tilted her head, observing him quietly. “You should take responsibility for your own unhappiness instead of blaming everyone else. You should let yourself be happy.”

“I’d be happy if I didn’t have that for a mother,” Harry snarled.

Astoria blinked once, then twice. Harry looked across the table at his friends, but they weren't looking at him. Ron's cheeks were red and he looked anywhere but at Harry, awkwardly. Neville looked just above Harry's head in dismay.

Guérisseur Evans," Astoria said, cheerfully.

Harry froze when a hand landed on his shoulder. He looked up and winced.

Lily stared down at him, her expression impassive as she regarded him with his own eyes.

“Mum,” Harry began and then stopped.

He didn’t know what to say.

“They’ve brought your sister out of stasis and explained the situation to her. She is resting again,” Lily said carefully.

“Mum,” Harry repeated.

Lily closed her eyes and ran her fingers through his hair, rubbing his scalp as she might’ve when he was younger. Then, she opened her eyes again.

“We need to talk. Later,” Lily decided. “Not now.”

“Okay. Later,” Harry decided.

Lily let out a long sigh. “I’ll be in your sister’s room,” she said. She glanced at her students with narrowed eyes. “Stop antagonizing the people that work here. Don’t you have work to do?”

Oui, Guérisseur,” they both said in creepy unison.

Allez faire votre travail,” Lily snapped quickly.

The two sprung into action, walking away, their heads bent low as they conversed in quick spitting French. Lily took a deep breath and looked at her son’s friends.

“I look forward to meeting you both in the near future,” Lily said, pulling herself together once more, calm and controlled.

“Um...it would be our pleasure, Healer Evans,” Neville said.

Lily still hadn’t let go of Harry. Harry swallowed.

I’d be happy if I didn’t have that for a mother.

“I’ll see you in a bit, Mum,” Harry said. “We’ll talk.”

Lily nodded, finally letting go of him. “It’s been a long time coming, Harry.”

Harry didn’t disagree.


DIAGNOSIS


 

The first thing she noticed: everything was red and blue and green and then her eyes fluttered open and everything was violently white. It was so bright and white that her stomach turned and she would spew bile if there was anything inside of her.

The second thing she noticed: there was nothing inside of her. The middle of her felt endlessly hollow like she could reach in and feel nothing, which was impossible because she knew every single fucking organ in the human body, and she knew that there were few one could function without.

The last thing she noticed: the pain.

Fucking hell.

The agony.

She tried to scream, but there was no sound coming out. The agony was in her marrow. She could feel it cracking outward from her marrow, through the ivory of her bones, through her joints. It burned, not in the way fire did, but it burned all the same. She looked around, frantic and wild and tried to touch her hand to her throat, but when she did, she could only feel gauze.

A hoarse sound emerged.

“She can’t talk. Her vocal chords—”

“—temporary voice—”

“—Albus—”

She couldn't recognize those voices. She couldn't recognize anything except the agony and the blinding white, and she saw a girl—a pretty, black girl with large front teeth, and frizzy hair—who was leaning by her side, running her calloused fingertips over her forehead. She didn't know who she was. The girl. She didn't know who she was.

Where was she?

Why was she?

What was her name?

And why did it hurt?

“Hi, Lavender. I’m Hermione Granger. I think your brother has written about me in his letters,” the girl said with a kind, stern voice.

She blinked. Her brother...her brother…Harry.

The girl was still talking. "You've been in a very terrible accident. You can't talk right now because your vocal cords are damaged, but, Healer Dumbledore can give your thoughts voice, if that's something you want. Do you remember Healer Dumbledore?"

And the girl was stepping back, and she couldn’t see anything but the blinding white, and then, a flash of darkness—of fangs and the smell of copper (blood) and the feeling of her own skin being torn from her, of hands reaching inside of her and turning her inside out. She wanted to scream, but she couldn’t hear herself.

She wanted the girl back, but she couldn’t see her. Nothing but the terrifying white.

Another face. A face she recognized. No. Eyes she recognized. Bright blue eyes behind half-moon glasses. She nodded, frantically, whining, whimpering, but there was no real sound.

“Okay, Lavender. I’m going to give your thoughts a voice. All you need to do is imagine you’re saying it, and it’ll be there in the air,” Dumbledore said, and his wand was out and pressed to the middle of her forehead.

Something echoed in her head. A boom. Like an explosion. But, quieter. It felt like an explosion, but it was nearly silent, and then…

“Where am I? Who am I?”

She could hear herself. Her own voice, but her lips weren’t moving. It was like she couldn’t move, or it hurt too much to move.

“You’re Lavender Brown-Potter, daughter of Lily Evans and James Potter. You’ve been in an accident,” Dumbledore repeated.

Lavender. Her name was Lavender.

Okay.

“Albus. You’re Albus Dumbledore. Mum’s teacher. Am I at the hospital?”

“Yes. These are your Healers: Emmeline Vance and Hermione Granger. You’re at St. Mungo’s,” Albus said, gently. He used to calm her like this when she would wander around the hospital when she was a kid and get lost. He would speak to her in that gentle, grandfatherly voice that would make her smile through the tears.

Lavender couldn’t smile now, nor could she cry.

The wolves.

She remembers.

“Yes, the wolves,” the girl—Hermione—said. She was holding Lavender’s head. Lavender squeezed once, then twice.

“My brother does talk about you,” she said. “You’re his person.”

Hermione froze, staring down at her. “I...I am,” Hermione whispered.

“Good. He needs one,” Lavender decided. This was the right one. Hermione looked tough as balls, but like she could be soft sometimes. Harry needed someone tough to bring him out of his sadness. He needed someone to stroke his hair too. “It hurts really, really, really bad.”

"I know it does," another woman said. Healer Vance then. "You've been mauled. Werewolves targeted your abdomen, throat, and face."

Her face. Lavender’s face. And maybe, it was a little vain, but Lavender loved her face.

She looked just like her birth mum.

That’s what her Muggle grandmother always said. Her birth mum’s mother.

“Can you fix it?”

"We're going to do our very best. We've been keeping you nourished with the use of plants being injected into your bloodstream through needles and your wounds. But, your wounds are open. They've been open for...too long," Healer Vance said.

Lavender heard everything she didn’t want to say. You’re dying, is what she wanted to say. And Lavender could feel that. She could feel herself drifting away, the agony receding and then crashing back over her. Perhaps, she preferred the pain now. It let her know that she was alive.

“I told the wolf...to go fuck himself.”

He tried to tear her apart. Break her into pieces. And she refused to scream. Go fuck yourself.

Hermione grinned. “Good girl,” she commended.

“Where’s my dad? Where’s Sirius? And Remus? And Harry?”

“Your dad is at the Ministry. Harry is eating. I imagine Sirius and Remus are with your father as well,” Albus reported. “Your mother is getting her affairs in order.”

Lavender’s eyes widened.

“Mum is here?”

“Of course she is. She loves you,” Hermione said firmly.

Lavender rolled her eyes. She knew that. Lily just had a really hard time showing it. Lavender understood that—understood her. She could understand Lily because she was a bit of an outsider like Dad was. Harry would never understand. He could never understand. It would be like staring into a reflection—one didn't have to ‘understand' their own reflection. They only needed to know that it was their reflection. Harry wouldn't get it until he just knew.

“What happens now?”

“We’re going to put you back under so that you can gather your strength some more. You’ll need it,” Hermione said.

Lavender sighed. She rolled her head over to look at Hermione. She winced. Lavender could see the end of her blonde curls were copper. They had washed her hair but not all of the blood had come out so easily.

"Tell Harry I love him. Tell him that Mum loves him and Dad loves him and that he's not alone."

“You’re not going to die,” Hermione said firmly. Vance was waving her wand, carefully sliding the stasis charm into place.

Lavender finally smiled.

The white was fading away. It wasn’t so threateningly, violently white anymore. Now, the blues and greens were returning and the pain receded into a dull roar in the back of Lavender’s mind.

"My mum’s a Healer. I know the rules." Lavender’s mental voice began to slur as sleep threatened to overcome her. "Rule one: Don’t make promises you can’t keep."


DIAGNOSIS


 

James watched Sirius pace in front of his desk, muttering under his breath as he pinched the bridge of his nose. The Potter leaned back in his chair, letting out a sigh. Usually, that released all of his tension, but it had invaded every one of his senses. James wouldn’t relax until his little girl was pulled back together again.

“This was a hit,” Sirius repeated. “You know it. I know it. We all know it. We still don’t know why. Or who.”

James scoffed. “It’s not hard to guess who.”

Sirius hummed, nodding slowly.

It wasn’t.

Fenrir Greyback.

“Okay. Fenrir Greyback. But, we haven’t done shit to him. He leaves us alone. We leave him alone. That’s how it’s always been,” Sirius snarled. His hands clenched into fists at his side and he looked up at James, stopping his pacing. “James, I’m going to kill that fucking bastard.”

James burned with the same urge.

But, he hadn’t come to be the Head Auror on impulse, recklessness, and sheer dumb luck alone. That had been part of it—most of it, if he were being honest—but, he could wait. He could bide his time, though perhaps, the Ministry’s brand of justice wasn’t enough for Greyback’s crimes. No, they weren’t. But, he’d get his.

That James promised.

“We still don’t know why,” James said. He looked over at the board of information that he had been gathering for months. Most of that information had been gathered by Moody, while had infiltrated the adjacent packs. He wasn’t a wolf, so they’d been suspicious, but he had provided. He frowned as he thought on Moody. “Moody was close. That’s why he was hurt. But, Lavender has nothing to do with any of this. I’ve barely got anything to do with this case.”

“You’re Head Auror. You’re the most visible of all of us. You’ve been the poster boy of the DMLE since you graduated the Academy,” Sirius pointed out.

James snorted, nodding. “You’re right. But, if it’s about visibility...then he could’ve just attacked me. No, this was personal. This was something personal.”

James leaned forward, steepling his fingers as he thought about it. Even as he thought about the case, his mind wandered to the image of Lavender. Lavender's broken bleeding body, her back arched tight as a bow, her eyes rolling into back of her head in pain. She had been resting in a puddle of her own blood on the doorstep. And he was overwhelmed with another flood of rage.

What did you do, James?

James shivered. Harry’s question would haunt him until he found the answer. But, his voice...the look on his face...that would be the supporting star of James’ dreams for a long time. The star...well Lavender’s state spoke for itself, didn’t it?

“What are you thinking?” Sirius asked.

“I’m thinking about Harry,” James answered honestly.

Sirius winced. “Yeah. How do you...how do you think he’s doing with Lily?”

“I...I think I have to get back soon before they kill each other,” James said with a lazy glance. “They’re far too similar for their own good.”

"Shouldn't that mean that they'd get along better than you and him?" Sirius challenged.

James frowned. “You’d think that, wouldn’t you?”

Sirius shook his head and leaned forward.

“I don’t get it, James. This was a hit. This was personal. Like, I’d get it if you were Umbridge, but we don’t get involved in politics. We don’t discriminate. I mean, clearly. My partner is a werewolf. We don’t give a fuck about this—” Sirius complained.

They both stopped, looking at one another.

“Oh, fuck,” James whispered.

Sirius swallowed. “Umbridge.”

James nodded. “And...Remus. And me.

“And me,” Sirius murmured.

James looked over at Sirius and then at the board.

“And you.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“She was right,” Hermione repeated as they began to crash again. It was nearly seven and they still weren’t any closer than they had been a day and a half ago. Emmeline looked up from her notes, yawning stiffly behind her hand.

“Who was right?” Emmeline asked, sipping delicately at her third cup of tea.

Hermione frowned. “Lavender was right. Rule one: ‘Don’t make promises you can’t keep’.”

“You didn’t,” Emmeline said firmly.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “She’s going to die.”

“No, she’s not,” Emmeline retorted.

“You’re going to heal her,” Ron supplied unhelpfully as he sorted through Emmeline’s files.

He had come again to drop off food and more coffee and had found himself roped into organizing the disregarded ideas and the ‘maybe' pile. The ‘maybe' pile was much, much, much smaller than the ideas that Hermione and Emmeline had decided against.

Hermione sneered. “Are we really? Tell that to all the ideas we don’t have, Ron,” Hermione snapped.

Ron’s eyes hardened. “So, you’re going to give up?”

“Did I fucking say that?” Hermione retorted.

“You just as good as!” Ron roared.

He was on his feet and so was Hermione, glowering up at him. Neither noticed Emmeline’s eyes darting between the pair of them, taking in the animosity and charge between the pair of them. Hermione’s hands clenched into a fist.

“It’s not as easy as just mending a teapot. No quick Reparo will fix this. I can’t just sew her up like she’s a fucking tea in my robes!” Hermione shouted.

Emmeline dropped her teacup and it shattered on her desk. The brown liquid soaked right through her parchment. Ron and Hermione’s heads turned to look at her, the tension between them snapping easily.

“What is it, Em?” Ron asked, softly.

Emmeline trembled as she looked at Hermione. Slowly, she stood, walking up to her. She pressed her hands to Hermione’s cheek. Hermione’s lips curled.

“Why is your face so close to mine?” Hermione hissed.

“You can,” Emmeline whispered. “You can just sew her up. We can. Sew. Her. Up.

Hermione’s breath caught in her throat.

“We can sew her up,” Hermione whispered back. “It’s...that’s how Muggles do it. Muggles...we can sew her closed. We can...holy shit. Holy shit.”

Ron’s eyes widened.

“That’s...that sounds barbaric,” he muttered.

Emmeline shook her head, staring at Hermione in wonder, not even sparing Ron a glance. “No. No, it’s not. Muggles open with scalpels. They close with stitches. They graft. They...they’re brilliant. Hermione, you’re brilliant. We can sew her up,” Emmeline said and she pulled away, stumbling towards the board. “Bugger, where are the markers? Accio marker!”

A purple marker flew into her hand and Emmeline took it to the board. She pointed it at the figure’s throat, the drawings smudged overnight.

“The vocal cord will be easiest. It was just...torn a little. Sew it closed. The superficial wounds...the skin is mostly there. Anything that isn’t can be grown with a potion. Sew it closed, cut off the excess. We have to do it by hand, though. We can’t do it with magic. Magic would corrupt it. Try to take it too fast. This has to be slow. This has to be delicate,” Emmeline said firmly.

Hermione nodded, frantically excited as she looked at it.

“Yes. Yes. But, not all Muggle. Organs. The organs can’t be replaced or grown. You need to take them from something and we don’t have anything for that. We don’t have magical organs. And the sutures need to be strong. Powerful. Not anything normal. The magic will dissolve normal thread,” Hermione said.

Emmeline nodded. “Not only that. Werewolves wounds are cursed. Inherently. We need something to counteract that. We haven’t figured that out.”

 We need something...something that’ll help with the scarring and the Darkness,” Hermione said and she closed her eyes, thinking of all the thread that was made.

She thought back, thought about cleaning Grimmauld Place, and going through the many dressers, and finally wands and gowns. Beautiful gowns with silver threading falling from it. Broken wands with a single hair connecting them. But what...

“What are you thinking, hag?” Ron demanded, coming up to her, grabbing her by the shoulders.

Hermione’s eyes flashed open and her lips parted. A hoarse sound emerged.

“Come on, you hag. What is it?” Ron asked again.

Hermione hissed it out. “Unicorn hair. We sew her up with unicorn hair.”

Emmeline let out a whooping shriek as she spun around. Ron stared down at Hermione in wonder. His eyes blazed with something like triumph and more. His lips curled into a beatific smile.

“You’re fucking brilliant, you witch,” Ron hissed and then he was dipping his head, pressing his lips to hers and Hermione froze under his touch, her eyes wide.

Emmeline fell silent. Ron pulled back, sharply, looking down at Hermione in shock. Hermione raised one trembling hand to her mouth.

Her mouth burned. Everywhere burned. She was on fire. The skin on her thighs tingled and her fingertips felt numb. She'd never felt like that before. Hermione had never been kissed like that before, and she wished...she wished she had kissed back. Ron took a step backward, looking at Hermione in bewilderment.

“I...we have to work,” Hermione whispered. “We have to...learn how to sew. We have to...help Harry’s sister.”

“Yeah. You do,” Ron whispered back. His eyes flicked down to her lips again and then he turned on his heel, walking out of the office without another word.

Hermione forced herself to turn to look at Emmeline.

And Emmeline looked crushed. For just a moment, Hermione saw how heartbroken she was, how devastated, and then, another moment passed and Emmeline was staring at her with a coldness that nearly made Hermione flinch. But, Hermione didn’t flinch. She knew.

“We’re going to save this girl,” Emmeline said firmly.

Hermione nodded once, pushing away everything personal. She took a deep breath.

“We’re going to save this girl.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry stood by the door. He took a deep breath.

It was later.

He knew what Hermione would tell him. Enough. He couldn’t get hysterical. It would be just like him, but this was it. This was the confrontation—the moment—that Harry had been waiting for his entire life. His mother was behind that door, with father, probably, and she was waiting for him. She had said later. It was later.

He cracked the door and walked inside.

Lily sat behind her desk, James at her side, as always. Lily’s eyes snapped away from James to him and she gestured towards the chair across the desk. Harry walked towards it briskly and sat down. He looked at Lily patiently.

“It’s later. Let’s talk,” Harry said coldly.

Lily was hesitating. She looked over at James.

“We know that our relationship isn’t as...settled as it should be. There’s a lot of resentment in the air, and it...Lily and I, we made mistakes. A lot of them. Concerning you and Lavender. We worked too much. We thought...well, we treated you like mini adults instead of children, and that takes a toll. But...Harry, you hold a lot of resentment. And rage. Directed at us,” James said, breathing out heavily and he sounded old.

Harry had never heard his dad sound so damn old. Still, he didn’t respond, preferring to watch Lily.

“Directed at me,” Lily corrected. James looked down at her, surprised. “You’re angry with me. Resentful of me.”

“Yes,” Harry bit out because there was no point in lying.

She’d heard him earlier. She’d heard what he thought of her.

“You think I’m cold and unfeeling and a shitty mother,” Lily said. She leaned forward, her eyes narrowed. “And you thought you hurt my feelings.”

James froze. “Harry...you said that?” James asked, sounding so fucking wounded that Harry wanted to fucking cry and punch him in the face at the same time.

“I didn’t?” Harry asked.

Lily leaned back in her chair. “No. You didn’t. I know I’m a shitty mother.”

“Then, why don’t you fucking change?” Harry demanded.

“Why don’t you?” Lily asked, her voice cold. Harry’s eyes widened. “I made you my victim, Harry? You’re a victim of your own rage. It makes you unfocused. When you become a victim of your rage, you become common. You become ordinary.”

And that word grated. Ordinary.

Harry Potter was many things—angry, heartbroken, and bitter, in love and beloved, and all in between, but he was anything but fucking ordinary.

“You wanna know why I’m so unfocused? So ordinary?” Harry growled out as he looked at the redheaded woman with green eyes that stared at him in the reflection every morning. “You wanna know what happened to me? You! You happened to me!”

Lily’s eyes widened.

“Harry…” she began and she actually had the audacity to reach for him.

No,” Harry said, slapping her hand away. “My biggest problem is you. I want to please you. Part of me loves you just as much as I hate you. And I can’t handle this...I’m a human traffic accident.”

“And that’s my fault?” Lily hissed.

“Yes!” Harry roared. He laughed, bitterly shaking his head. “I can see why you chose Astoria over your own fucking kids. She’s just like you. Cold and mean and hateful.”

“What is that you want from me?” Lily demanded. “I never...you never tell me. You expect me to just know. Like I’m a Legilimens. Tell me! What do you want from me?”

"I want you to tell me you're proud of me. I want you to understand why I am angry and I want…" Harry stopped because he didn't know what he wanted.

He had spent so long being angry, he no longer knew.

Lily stared at him, waiting, and she looked away, just as stubborn as he was.

“Lily…” James began. “Harry isn’t asking for much. He is asking for his mother’s support. His mother’s love.”

Lily trembled. “Her name, her blessing…”

“Her love,” Harry bit out. And then, his voice softened. “Her love.”

Lily scoffed, turning away.

“He’s just like you,” James said, gently and Lily threw her hands up, her green eyes burning as bright as Harry’s did when he was getting ready to spit rage.

“You think I don’t know that?” Lily roared at James. Harry jumped, rocking back in his chair. “He is me! He is talented! He has the potential for greatness! They said all those things about me, too, James. All the fire, the fury, the drive. The pitiless ambition! I look into his eyes and I see myself. You expect me to love that?”

Harry’s face went slack.

He saw it there, too. All of that burning rage. Lily had always been like ice to him. Or diamonds. Even with her bright hair, she was controlled and together. She very rarely lost her temper. When she was angry with him—after Harry had done something to get her attention—she had treated him with indifference. Her indifference hurt more. But, this was something he could recognize. The bitterness and all that rage.

He could finally see why Dumbledore had said those words to him: You’re the spitting image of your mother.

“I pity you. I pity me. I pity you,” Harry murmured to himself as he looked at Lily. “You don’t love yourself, Mum?”

And she cracked, her shoulders sagging and rounding as she buried her face in her hands, trembling with the force of the sobs that she kept trapped in her chest. James looked at them, lost. Harry slid forward in his seat, his fingers wrapping around Lily's wrist, pulling one hand away from her face. Her lips were pressed into a firm line, twitching as if she were keeping everything in. Her eyes were glossy. Even then, she was so controlled.

She had snapped and then had reeled it in so fast that it was almost gone again.

"Harry James Potter…my firstborn. My flesh and blood," Lily whispered, forcing the words out as if it hurt. "I love you more than there are stars. I love you to the ever-expanding edges of the universe. But, I...you remind me far too much of myself to ever...it is hard sometimes. And it's not your fault. It is hard to see…”

She stopped, frustrated. Harry squirmed with that frustration.

“Why can’t you ever say what you mean?” Harry demanded. “You always...you always do this!”

Lily let out a shuddering breath. “It is hard, Harry, for me. Do you know what it was like...when I joined this profession? I was the only woman in my trainee class. And if I lost...control or got too...emotional...it was because I am a Muggleborn. Because I am a woman. Because...pick your reason. So, yes, it is hard for me to do anything but be in control. Can you please...let me get there?”

Harry swallowed, letting go of her wrist and nodding slowly. “Yes,” he whispered.

Lily turned her face away, looking up at James.

“You can do this, love,” James whispered to her.

Lily nodded, shaking out her shoulders as she turned to Harry. “I was absent. I work too much. I am...emotionally unavailable when I shouldn’t be. I am too ambitious. And I am confident in my abilities to the point of arrogance. When I was younger, I was reckless and I burned. You remind me of me, and that is hard to see, Harry. It is hard for me to see my son...my only son...make my mistakes.”

And Harry looked at her and knew that she knew. She knew about Tom.

“It wasn’t a mistake,” Harry whispered.

Lily's lips curled into sharp, bracing smile. "Wasn't it?" she whispered. "I've said things. Done things. Things I regret. But, there are other things that I don't regret either. Like when I said you wouldn't make it as a Healer. I won't ever regret that."

Harry’s rage returned with a vengeance and he turned at her, gnashing his teeth like an animal.

“Why?” he spat. “You told me that ‘I wouldn’t survive it’. That I didn’t have what it takes.

Lily stood up, suddenly, her chair scraping against the ground. Harry gaped, staring up at her, that fury from before returning just as fast as his had.

“How...dare you?" Lily hissed. "I told you that you wouldn't survive it because you won’t, Harry. Not because you don’t have what it takes. This profession—if it can—will burn the heart right out of you because when you’re faced with death like this...your heart becomes a problem. The problem is...is that you do have what it takes. You have talent. And when you have talent...you don’t disappear into obscurity like others. You are sanctified, and there is nothing human or living about being a saint. Being a saint is about being a martyr. So no I never wanted this for you. I never wanted you to become me.

Harry let out a hiss, and he got it. He saw it, then.

It was like looking at a reflection. And no one asked you to understand your reflection. Just see it. He could see what Dumbledore meant then more than anything else. It was the only thing that made sense.

You are the spitting image of your mother.

“That’s my choice,” Harry said quietly. Lily looked up at him with bright green eyes. “But, that’s my choice. This is...this is what I want. I want this. I want to be the best.”

“You ‘want’ this? This was never a choice,” Lily hissed. Harry’s eyes widened. “That’s what I’m saying. That’s what happens when you’re great. When you’re extraordinary. It’s never a choice. It’s expectation after expectation, and one day, you’ll burn out. You won’t survive. I didn’t.”

“I’ll be better than you,” Harry said firmly. Lily reared back, as if surprised. Harry didn’t falter. “I’ll be better than you, Mum. I love you, but...I’m not going to be you. I’m not going to sacrifice myself to the altar of Healing. But, I’ll be better anyway.”

Lily looked at him for a long moment where she didn’t say anything at all. And something shifted in her eyes as she looked at him. She reached across the desk and pressed her hand against cheek, sliding her hand up to bury her fingers in his hair and she took a deep, shuddering breath.

And Harry thought she might—just might—believe him.

Chapter Text

“This is unheard of.”

“This is brilliant,” Harry said calmly.

They stood side by side in the gallery, staring down into the magical theatre as Hermione and Vance prepared themselves for what would probably be one of their greatest accomplishments in their career. Harry looked at Hermione. She looked calm, her face totally still, but her hands were trembling. She clenched them into fists and took a deep breath.

“It is. It’s ingenious,” Lily said, her voice cool. She was so still that she was like a statue. Harry glanced at her from the corner of his eyes. She was still, but if he looked at her, really looked at her, he could see the worry and tension in her neck.

“She’s going to be fine, Mum,” Harry said quietly.

Lily hummed, rocking back and forth. “Okay. I wish it was me.”

“I wish it was me too,” Harry muttered.

Lily laughed quietly. "Neither of us would do a good job. It's not our specialty," Lily said. She glanced at Harry, slyly. "You wouldn't have the patience for it."

Harry snorted. “Fuck off. I’ve had a lot of patience. For you, especially.”

Lily sobered. Harry swallowed as he felt the playfulness slide away into something more somber.

“Thank you for being...patient with me,” Lily said quietly.

“You could’ve been angry with me. I talk a lot of shit about you,” Harry pointed out. He hesitated again. “A lot of shit.”

“I’m sure,” Lily murmured. “I’ve given you a lot of reason to...talk shit. I wasn’t there. A lot. I didn’t think that it would bother you, you know. That I wasn’t there. You had James and Sirius and Remus. I made sure...that you had a support system.”

Harry hummed.

"That's the funny thing. I guess I did have a support system. They were good to me. In their own way. But, I didn't care about pranks and Quidditch and shit like that. I wanted...I idolized you," Harry said, quietly. "I wanted to be just like you."

“Nobody should want to be just like me,” Lily said carefully.

“I was a kid. I didn’t know about that type of shit,” Harry retorted. “I looked for your validation. Your validation mattered to me.”

“I am proud of you," Lily sighed, looking back down as Hermione and Emmeline continued to prep, arranging the suture kits and the bundle of unicorn hair, next to the careful row of potion vials. "There was never a moment that I wasn't. And I'm not...great at showing emotion. I wasn't always, but I am now. That's...not easy to change."

“I get that,” Harry said quietly.

He wasn’t sure what else to say.

“Albus says I need therapy.”

Harry looked up sharply. “Excuse me?”

“I need therapy,” Lily repeated. “Albus Dumbledore says I need therapy. And you need therapy. Apparently, we all need therapy.”

“I don’t...disagree,” Harry said warily.

"He also says I shouldn't tell you something. The worst thing I've ever done. Worse than not being around. But, I'm going to tell you," Lily said as if gearing up for a fight. Her shoulders tensed and she took a deep breath, shaking out her hand. "I have to tell you because if I don’t...and you find out, we won’t be able to fix this. I’m going to tell you.”

She didn't sound so sure.

"Tell me then," Harry said, his voice suddenly hard.

"I'm sorry for a lot of things, Harry. I'm sorry that I wasn't around. I'm sorry that I thought that you wouldn't need me, when you did. I'm sorry that I can't articulate the emotion that you need to hear for me," Lily said, measuring each word carefully. And then, she turned to look at him with bright green eyes. "I asked him to reject you from this program and when he said no, I ran away. I'm sorry for that. I've never been sorrier for anything in my life."

Harry’s breath caught in his throat.

I’m sorry.

She’d never said that before.

“You need therapy,” Harry hissed softly.

Lily smiled sadly. “I do. And you’re not common. That was wrong of me to say,” Lily said quietly.

Harry took a deep breath, pushing down his aggression. He heard Hermione’s voice hissing in his ear: Enough.

“My anger is common. Everyone’s got something to be angry about. I take it out on people. That’s kinda fucked up. And you’re angry, and you keep it bottled up inside. Also, fucked up,” Harry muttered and Lily nodded in agreement. “I used to think you loved Lavender more. You were never as distant from her.”

“Lavender was easier. She’s like James. People that aren’t like us...are always easier,” Lily said.

“People that aren’t like us?” Harry asked.

Lily smirked. “People that can be satisfied. People like us...are never satisfied,” Lily said quietly. “I never told you that you were the best and that you had to be better because that’s what was told to me my entire life. I had to be the best. I had to be twice as good. Always. And, I never wanted that for you because it’s a lot of expectation on a kid. Too much. And then, I realized...you were like me, and you would form that expectation on your own. I realized that when you told me you were going to be a Healer.”

“How’d you know I’d be good?” Harry challenged.

Lily raised an eyebrow at him. "You think I don't know you, Harry? I know you. I know you like my bones. I know everything about you. I got all of your OWLs and NEWTs. Outstandings and Exceeding Expectations in everything but History of Magic and Divination. I heard about every one of your accomplishments. I have pictures of you and Lavender in my study. You don’t think Astoria and Draco knew who you were? They knew. Everyone knows. I adore you and your sister.”

Harry hesitated.

“Did you used to sing to us?” Harry asked quietly.

Lily froze, turning to look at him. “Yes,” she whispered. “I used to sing to you.”

“Why did you stop?” Harry asked.

“You asked me to.”

Harry twitched.

“When?” he demanded. “When did I ask you to stop?”

Lily looked back down at Lavender. “I went away. For a month. They needed me in Egypt for a case, and when I got back, you told me you didn’t need me to sing anymore for you and Lavender because you knew all the words and you’d taken care of her, just like you promised me. And I didn’t think…I thought you were just being independent. I didn’t think that it was because you thought I didn’t want you.”

“I don’t remember that,” Harry muttered. He looked up at her with suspicious eyes.

Lily smiled.

“I’ve done a lot of things, Harry, but I’ve never lied to you.”

That was true. Lily had never lied.

Harry went to respond, but Lily was smirking again.

“What?” Harry demanded. For some reason, his cheeks felt hot.

“Riddle?”

Harry squawked. “You can’t...what are you...I’m not...you can’t ask me about him! And you can’t ask him. Leave it alone, Mum.”

“He came to me,” Lily retorted. “Defended you good and proper. Basically told me to mind my business and that I was shit. Not wrong, but really, how charming.”

Harry snorted. “He’s got no right to talk to you about me.”

“Oh, I’ve heard all about that debacle. St. Mungo’s was always a cesspool of gossip,” Lily drawled. She rocked back and forth again. “He’s your type. Tall. Handsome. Ambitious.”

“What do you know about my type?” Harry retorted.

Lily sighed. “We’ve gone over this, Harry-love,” she said and Harry’s eyes widened.

“You haven’t called me that since I was a kid.”

“Am I still allowed to call you it? I won’t if you don’t want me to,” Lily said. She didn’t sound like it would bother her either way, but now, Harry knew her—they knew each other like their bones. It would bother the fuck out of her.

And Harry could be petty. He could be mean. But, he wouldn’t. He’d rise above.

“Sure,” Harry allowed.

He nearly gaped when Lily turned to him and beamed, wild and uncontrolled, before she pulled it back and looked impassive again.

“I know you, Harry-love. Theodore Nott?” Lily challenged.

Harry flushed. “Whatever,” he muttered.

“I never thought I’d see the day. Tom Riddle in love with something other than his own reflection,” Lily laughed to herself, shaking her head. She ignored Harry’s stiffening. “But, it’s not enough. Because he’s like us. Never satisfied.”

“He’s a lying asshole,” Harry hissed.

"You're a bit of an asshole yourself, Harry. You inherited that from your mother," Lily pointed out and Harry snorted. "Your assholery and your penchant for Firewhiskey."

"I stole your Firewhiskey. When I was sixteen. You were away again. Right after my birthday, that is. You went to...Indonesia, was it? So, you went away and I was upset because we fought right before about something dumb. Something stupid. I think I wanted to go party in Knockturn Alley. I screamed that you didn't have the right to parent me because you weren't there, and you told me that you were still my mum. So, I opened your twenty-year-old bottle of Firewhiskey and drank half and then dumped the rest out of my window just to be an arse. I had the biggest hangover on the face of the planet. I thought I would die."

Lily looked down at him. “That’s James-level bullshit.”

“Get off your bullshit,” Harry retorted.

“It’s hard when your bullshit is mountain high. You’ve only got a hill of bullshit,” Lily drawled. “Wait until you’re forty-something.”

“I’m not going to be like you. Emotionally stunted and shit,” Harry challenged.

Lily hummed. “No, you won’t. You’ve got people. Your person. Her,” Lily said softly, looking down at Hermione. “Hermione Granger.”

“Yes,” Harry whispered. “My person.”

“Severus used to be my person. Now, I’m my own person.”

“You should find a person. It’s good for you,” Harry said quietly.

Lily tilted her head as she looked down at the pair. “My person,” she whispered.

Hermione looked up at her person and his mother and trembled harder. Harry and Lily looked like they were having a civil conversation. Harry had even smiled at one point, so that was good.

That was all good and well and whatever-the-fuck, but Hermione was freaking out. She had white dragonskin gloves covering her palms and a needle in her right hand, with unicorn hair hanging off of it and she was freaking the fuck out.

“Granger,” Emmeline called and she sounded like she was down a tunnel.

Hermione looked down at Lavender’s body and a sharp inhale later, Vance’s hands were wrapped around her wrists, stopping her from shaking. Hermione looked up into Vance’s eyes. Vance looked back at her, calm and stern.

“Yes, Healer?” Hermione rasped.

"Listen to me, Hermione Granger. This...this right here. This is going to be the start of your career. You're going to be recognized for innovating a technique that will help make this world a better place. You have your place in medical history because of this," Vance said firmly.

Hermione nodded, slowly. “Okay.”

“Yes, okay. You need to understand something, Hermione,” Emmeline said. “You were made for this.”

Hermione froze.

You were made for this.

“I was made for this,” Hermione repeated.

“Yes.”

And Emmeline took a step back, looking around and she cleared her throat.

“Well, then. Let’s fuck some shit up and change the world?” Vance asked.

“Let’s change the fucking world,” Hermione agreed. She looked at Vance expectantly and Vance grinned. “What?”

“Hermione. I’m your teacher. Make the first stitch. Change the world,” Vance said, gesturing towards Lavender.

And Hermione stepped forward, wand in one hand and the needle in the other and she waved her wand once. The bandages dissolved, leaving open red wounds, flaps of skin there from the potions that they had smeared over Lavender’s body in preparation.

Hermione pressed the needle to the skin and began to sew, silver thread looping through Lavender’s skin, and Hermione Granger changed the world.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“This will be dangerous.”

“It’s dangerous, for sure,” Sirius agreed in a rushed whisper.

“We might die,” James muttered.

“We might.”

“If we fail, Lily is going to murder me,” James sighed, rocking back and forth in his little crouch at the edge of the clearing that Moody had laid in wait for months. He could hear them, growling and laughing and feasting by the fire. Even though it was a half-moon, they were still so utterly wolfish—Fenrir Greyback and his inner circle, Scabior and his Snatchers.

“Remus will murder me,” Sirius agreed. He paused. “But, for Moody. For the victims of the Diagon Alley attack. For Jimmy Peakes. For Lavender.”

For the ones that had died, for the maimed ones, for the traumatized, and for his daughter.

These people had been right to be angry, James thought. And he could almost understand them. Dolores Umbridge was a foul woman, constantly pushing her anti-werewolf agenda. It was gaining some traction in the Minister for Magic’s office and with the Wizengamot. They were protesting it. They felt ignored and attacked, and James understood that. He understood how he might have failed some. How he and Sirius both might have failed.

They were visible, James even more so as Head Auror. Sirius’ partner was a werewolf. They were both well-known, and still, they hadn’t spoken out against it. They had gone the route they always had—politics weren’t for them, even though James knew that as Head Auror, he would have to change it.

They had gotten personal—attacking James’ daughter because he was visible. And James hadn’t stepped up to defend them, so they thought it appropriate to torment him to attack him and get personal as he hadn’t with them.

Still, if they wanted a fight, James would give it to them.

He moved quick and fast, his wand flashing out. “Stupefy.”

One Snatcher toppled over, his leg kicking at the bonfire and sparks flew as the fire collapsed on itself, sending fire spiraling outward. Greyback and Scabior jumped up, turning and sneering, searching for the attackers.

Avada Kedavra!” Scabior shrieked, green light erupting.

James and Sirius exchanged glances. “Permission to use deadly force?” Sirius hissed.

And James wanted to say yes. He wanted to. Scabior and his Snatchers were complicit, at the very least, and active murders, at the most. But, only Greyback had definitely killed or hurt anyone, according to Moody’s intel. Only Greyback ripped apart a poor kid. Only Greyback tried to destroy his child.

“Greyback only,” James allowed.

Sirius smirked. He dashed out of the trees, James at his back, and it was a full duel from there.

For James, it was as easy as breathing. Duelling had always been where he had shined. The magic never erupted—that was never conducive to a good duel. No, the magic was just on the edge of boiling inside of him, always warm, always careful, and always ready. It rolled with every twist and twitch of his wrist, and erupted in fire and ice and bolts of purple lightning and red sparks and bangs of white light.

He could barely feel the impact of spells. He staggered when a Cutting Curse hit the meat of his thigh, but he didn’t falter with his own hex, downing another Snatcher. He flinched when he felt his leg crack and snap in two places, his mind going hazy with the pain before he snapped at himself, pushing through with adrenaline. He wondered if this was what Lily and Harry felt when they Healed. Did they feel the same rush he felt as he broke people? Did they feel the same rush as they mended broken things?

Sirius was embroiled in a duel with Scabior, already favoring his right leg. Probably a twisted ankle. James wouldn't worry too seriously about him. Instead, he focused his attention on Greyback, never losing sight of him.

“Greyback,” James taunted. “Never heard of civil disobedience? Protest with a fucking permit like a normal fucking person?”

Greyback bared his teeth, wet with blood and James sneered.

“Your daughter was delicious, Potter. Her blood was sweet. I licked her blood from my claws. I thought about biting her. But, no...she didn't deserve the gift. If she survived...I would’ve come back for her, though. She was such a sweet thing. Telling me to fuck off,” Greyback snarled and spat, creeping forward like a dog. “Should’ve fucked her. Telling me to fuck off.”

James couldn’t help himself. He grinned, cruel and terrible.

He could imagine her. Go fuck yourself, he could imagine her saying.

Good girl, Lavender.

James ducked when Greyback took a swipe at his head, his unnaturally long nails curling forward to resemble his terrible claws. He heard Sirius let out a guttural shout, but James kept his head level. He engaged. He ducked and weaved, shooting curse after spell. Greyback dodged them all, fast and terrible and this was the man that had tried to murder his daughter.

“Won’t you read me my rights, Potter? Arrest me?” Greyback challenged.

James sneered and didn’t bother responding, shooting out a Cutting Curse. The spell connected and Greyback roared with fury and agony as the curse drew from his left hip, up and across his body, blood exploding and spattering over James’ face. Somehow, Greyback twisted to look even more wolf-like, almost as if he were on the brink of transforming.

So, that wasn’t a rumor.

How fucking lovely.

Greyback roared, gnashing his fangs as he leaped forward, his teeth snapping around air as he went for James' shoulder. James didn't move fast enough, Greyback's claw-like hand snapping around his left hand and twisting. James grunted and blasted Greyback back in a flash of white light. His wrist twinged painfully, but at least, it wasn't his wand hand."How are you holding up, Sirius?" James called, not taking his eyes off of Greyback as the wolf licked his wounds, growling in the back of his throat.

“A-almost wrapped up. Y-you know I’ve taken out nearly twice as many as you,” Sirius shouted, and he sounded unsteady. James cursed his breath.

Time to wrap things up.

“Greyback is worth 10 points,” James barked, laughing meanly.

“You’re on!” Sirius called.

And James didn’t hesitate a second longer. He ran towards Greyback, surprising the man, and he ignored the way the wolf went for his leg, both hands wrapping tight around it, claws digging through his trousers and flesh. James heard a faint snap, but mostly he heard his own blood pounding in his ears and Lavender and Harry.

Go fuck yourself.

Greyback reared his head back, preparing to press his fangs into James’ thigh.

What did you do, James?

Avada Kedavra,” James said, coldly and he was momentarily blinded by a flash of green light before Greyback fell limp.

There was a moment of heat that overwhelmed James and he felt lightheaded for just a moment before everything snapped back into place, and he staggered. He looked around and Sirius was watching him, his hand clasped over his right shoulder, blood nearly black against his skin in the dimming firelight.

“S-Summon the mediwizards,” James stammered, his eyes rolling around his head as he gasped. “If you can.”

Pain always came slowly, creeping forward. It started at the tip of his toes.

Sirius keened in the back of his throat and despite his gushing shoulder, lifted his wand, shooting alarming black and red sparks into the air. And then, he collapsed, falling in a heap of himself, blood splattering over his neck and chin.

The last thing James thought he heard was a loud crack, and his vision began to swim. He thought he saw—if he was lucky, he wasn’t imagining it—the long black beak of a plague doctor’s mask. And then, everything went black for him

Bellatrix Black hissed as she looked around at the utter carnage. She looked over at Fenrir Greyback’s broken body, his blood a puddle beneath his lifeless body. The Snatchers were decimated, all bleeding and groaning in their own agony, unable to even twitch to save themselves.

“Holy shit, Potter,” Rodolphus breathed to himself. Ron blinked madly, looking over at Bellatrix, waiting for her orders.

Bellatrix shook her head. “Summon the Aurors.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

"Hermione!" Neville called, waving Hermione over as she looked around the cafeteria as if she were ready to bolt at any moment. She relaxed when she saw Neville sitting with Abbott, Smith, and Patil, and walked over with a giddy smile on her face.

Smith looked at her, grudgingly impressed. “Heard you helped heal Lily Evans’ daughter?”

"Not only helped heal but came up with a new treatment. Congratulations,” Patil said with a tiny smile. Smith scoffed, shaking his head, practically vibrating with his jealousy.

“It could’ve been anyone. Why you?” Smith demanded.

“Harry asked for me,” Hermione said with a smirk. She turned to Neville, and there was something hesitant in her eyes now. Neville’s eyebrows rose as he waited for her to speak. “Where...where’s Ron?”

“He’s on Bellatrix’s service. They’re out in the field,” Neville said. He leaned back in his chair as Hermione began to greedily devour her food. She looked a right mess, unwashed and greasy and there might still be little dots of blood that had been completely washed away from her chin, but she looked happier than Neville had ever seen her.

She looked up, a chip hanging out of her mouth. “What?” she demanded.

Neville’s nose crinkled as she talked with her mouth full.

“How was it?” Hannah blurted out.

Hermione swallowed her food and smiled. “It was...it was the best thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was...I felt like a Healer. Like a real Healer,” Hermione whispered like a secret and she shook her head, her lips curling into a wider grin.

“She really won’t scar?” Patil asked, ever the skeptic.

“We don’t expect it to scar like it would’ve if we had just cauterized and sealed it with silver. Unicorn hair is known for its restorative powers and it combats Dark magic. But, we’ll see how it goes,” Hermione said patiently.

Hannah tapped her hands on the table. “What’s Lily Evans like?”

Hermione hesitated. "I don't...I don't know yet. She watched. She and Harry watched."

“You performed with Lily Evans watching you?” Smith asked in disbelief. Something like respect crossed his face. “Damn, Granger.”

And Hermione smiled to herself, looking down at her plate, already half-devoured. She was gross and sweaty and so tired that she could fall over, yet she didn’t want to fall asleep. She was so buzzed, on a high. She had done a procedure. Vance had let her stitch Lavender closed, gently guiding her. They had worked together, like a team, and whenever Hermione was stuck, Vance hadn’t given her the answer. She had stared at Hermione and waited.

She believed that Hermione knew the answer and she had. Vance, despite their differences, had trusted her instincts.

Instincts.

Hermione had never felt instinctual about anything concerning Healing. She had done the readings, all of the research, and had applied it as necessary. But, that went out the window with Creature-Induced Injuries. She had had gut feelings, had been overwhelmed by the difference she was making.

Was this what addiction felt like?


DIAGNOSIS


 

Albus beamed at the tired young Healer that stood in front of his desk. She looked like she had recently showered, her hair still damp and making wet damp spots on the bright lime green robes that she had put on. She was bare-faced for once, without her obligatory red lips or heavy eyeliner. She looked far more resigned than she should.

“Congratulations, Emmeline. You have achieved so much in such a short time, and I commend you,” Albus said with a bright smile.

Emmeline nodded, blinking sleepily. “T-thank you, Head Healer,” she said as she yawned, her eyes squinting shut. She cleared her throat. “Excuse me.”

“No matter, my girl. You’ve done well for yourself. And I’m sure you’re exhausted. I only asked for you to commend you. You’ll be on the cover of every medical journal this quarter,” Albus said, excited and Emmeline leaned forward, seeming a little more awake.

“I-I’m sorry?” she stammered.

“You and your trainee devised a new way of treatment for Dark magic curse marks. After you write your paper, of course, you’ll be on every medical journal. The world will be your oyster, Emmeline,” Albus said.

He stared at her with a tiny smile. She looked bewildered and she ran a shaky hand through her wet hair.

“I...I can’t believe…” and she looked down. “I didn’t come here for all of that.”

Albus frowned. “What is it, Emmeline?”

“I came...to ask for a sabbatical in France,” Emmeline whispered. “That worked well enough for Healer Evans, right? And she’s...well, I imagine she’ll be here for some time. Someone must continue her work in developing a Healing education program there, right?”

Albus’ eyes widened in confusion and he shook his head, staring at her.

“Where is this coming from, Emmeline?” he asked curiously.

And Emmeline bit her bottom lip hard, struggling with her words. She was wringing her hands and gave a tired smile.

“Please, just think about it, sir. I’m going to...finish the paperwork and go home,” Emmeline said instead of answering his question. She looked away with a wry smile. “I could use the sabbatical to work on the paper. Just an incentive. Just...think about it, won’t you, Healer Dumbledore?”

Albus nodded sadly and he watched her leave.

DIAGNOSIS

Harry felt him sit down next to him rather than saw him. Tom’s arm stretched out across the back of the bench, casually, his fingers brushing against Harry’s wild hair. Despite himself, Harry relaxed back against him and let out a soft sigh.

“How are you?” Tom murmured.

“I’m just exhausted,” Harry said quietly. “My mother is exhausting. What’s happening to my sister. And you. Hating you is the most exhausting.”

Tom closed his eyes and brushed his fingers against the back of Harry’s neck again. Harry leaned back into the touch, drawing comfort from it, and slowly he turned his head. Tom’s breath caught in his throat like every time he looked into Harry’s eyes.

“I don’t want to do it anymore,” Harry whispered.

“Don’t want to do what?” Tom asked.

“I don’t want to hurt anymore. I’m so, so exhausted,” Harry confessed. He leaned into Tom’s touch, leaning against his side. “I’m tired of waiting for anyone’s validation but my own. I’m tired of being angry and sad all of the time.”

“What are you going to do about it, then, sweetheart?” Tom asked carefully.

Harry smiled.

“You love me, Tom Riddle. I know you do,” Harry said, staring at him with those beautiful green eyes. “But, not enough. And I deserve more than what you’re willing to give.”

Tom committed the man to memory. This beautiful man, full of scars and ambition. Brimming with talent. He had been intoxicated by his wit and sharp tongue when they had first met. And then, as he had gotten to know Harry Potter, in all his glory, he had been intrigued by his bitterness, mirroring his own. His rudeness.

“You’re fucked up,” Tom whispered.

Harry’s lips tilted into a terribly sad smile. “You’re fucked up. I don’t think we can be fucked up together. Happy birthday, Tom.”

And he leaned up, pressing a chaste kiss to Tom’s lips. He pulled out Tom’s arms and walked away, not looking back.

When Bellatrix had run, Tom had been full of rage. Ego bruised and trust broken.

He didn’t feel that now. Now, he only felt lost.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Summon the Aurors, Weasley,” Bellatrix repeated.

“H-how?” Ron stammered.

Rodolphus rolled his eyes. “As thus. Expecto Patronum,” he cast. A silvery wolf lept from the end of his wand, looking alert as ever. “Dissero Patronae. Centurion down. All enemies eliminated or incapacitated. Send back-up and clean-up.”

The wolf disappeared in a flash of light and Bellatrix huffed.

“What was that?” Ron asked as Bellatrix pressed her plague doctor mask to her face, rolling up her black sleeves as she knelt between James and Sirius’ body.

"It was the Patronus Charm and the Talking Patronus Charm. It's how we communicate. Mediwizards are usually the first on the scene, even before back-up. There are code names for specific figures in government. Potter is Centurion," Bellatrix explained. She looked up through her mask with suspicious black eyes. "Let's see if you're as talented as your little friend, Ronald Weasley. Cast the diagnostics charm on Potter."

Ron nodded, pushing away his mild confusion. It was easier when he had clear instructions. He would treat this like chess. There were strategies to this. It was his job to make sure that they made it back to St. Mungo’s stable and alive. That was the game. He was the knight.

He cast the diagnostics charm and didn’t flinch as the information washed over him. He looked over at Bellatrix, who waited for him, already twitching impatiently.

“Sprained wrist. Serious laceration to the thigh. Broken leg. Superficial cuts and scrapes. Magical exhaustion,” Ron listed out, clipped and hurried.

Bellatrix nodded. She even relaxed some, to Ron’s surprise. She seemed less tense, rolling back her shoulders as he scooted forward in the dirt.

“Good. All align with what I’d hoped to see,” Bellatrix said.

“What you’d hoped?” Ron asked.

Rodolphus hummed, nodding. “Nothing out of the ordinary. He won’t need to be checked into any special wards or need further treatment after we finish up with him and he goes through recovery. Black’s got a sprained ankle and a Cutting Curse to the shoulder that nicked the axillary artery. But, nothing that requires Spell Damage.”

Ron jumped when there was a sudden loud crack and he looked behind him. Aurors were appearing in their dark navy robes. There was two that really caught Ron’s attention—a young woman with vibrant pink hair and a tall black man with a shiny bald head and single gold hoop earring.

“Mediwizard Black?” the black man said in a deep voice.

“Here! With a trainee and Rodolphus Lestrange. We’ve got it. You take care of your prisoners or whatever,” Bellatrix snarled. Her mouth twisted under her plague doctor mask. “Fucking micromanagers.”

Ron still hadn’t torn his gaze away from the Aurors as they worked methodically on the crime scene. “What are they—” he began.

“You’re a Healer, not an Auror. Come closer, Weasley. You’re here to learn,” Bellatrix snarled under his breath. Ron did as he was instructed scooting closer and leaning forward. “Give me some light.”

Lumos,” Ron breathed, and the tip of his wand exploding in white. Bellatrix squinted for just a moment before she adjusted.

“Fuck Potter and his stupidity. If he had called for back-up. Fucking stupid taking on a terrorist cell with my idiot cousin,” Bellatrix hissed under her breath.

Ron raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment. Instead, he glanced back at

If he’d been hit with a curse, we’d only stabilize him and get him to Spell Damage, immediately,” Rodolphus said. He looked over at Bellatrix slyly. “We both know why you don’t want to go to Spell Damage?”

“Why the fuck are you even here?” Bellatrix snarled as she made quick work of James Potter’s stupidity and his sprained wrist. The man was nearly unconscious from the pain, wavering between darkness and the light as she splinted his wrist and moved to work on his leg.

Rodolphus barely looked up from the bandages that he was applying to Sirius Black’s legs. The man cursed under his breath as Bellatrix’s cousin lost control again, shifting from his Animagus form back to his human form. Rodolphus growled, fed up finally and he lifted his wand.

“Because this is my job? Akinisía,” Rodolphus retorted as he put Sirius in stasis and leaned back. He glanced over at Ron. “You. Weasley, do you know how to bandage a wound?”

“Uh yeah,” Ron squeaked.

“Good. Do it. Or your friend’s godfather bleeds out. Go,” Rodolphus commanded. “An artery was nicked. Apply the bandage. Give him this.”

Ron lept into action, pulling out his wand as he wracked his brain for the spell. “Anadeîn,” he cast and he watched as the white cloth plastered itself over the wound. He fumbled with the vial that Rodolphus had passed him, looking up, unsure.

“Pinch his nose, lift his head, and poured it down his throat so he doesn’t choke on it. It’s Blood-Replenishing Potion,” Bellatrix said without even looking up as she began to bind James’ broken leg, already having finished with the gash on his thigh. She tutted under her breath. “Potter’s leg is shattered in two places. Fuck.”

Ron did as Bellatrix commanded, lifting Sirius’ head in his lap, pinched his nose and dumped the potion down his throat.

“Good man,” Rodolphus said, thumping Ron on the shoulder. He looked around at the carnage and huffed under his breath as Aurors rushed to clean everything up, not paying them any mind. It was good that they were out of the way.

“Why did you even come back, Rodolphus? Nobody wants you here,” Bellatrix snapped. She continued under her breath, “Least of all me.”

“Why? Because you think you can win Tom back? Don’t waste your time, Bella,” Rodolphus taunted. Bellatrix stiffened, bending her head even farther forward as she straightened out James’ leg, wrapping it carefully and stabilizing it with magic. “From what I hear he’s found a new little hottie. Evans’ kid? I think I saw him. He looks...wild.”

“That’s my friend you’re talking about,” Ron snapped, irritated. Both Rodolphus and Bellatrix looked at him, surprised to still see him working. He had already put Sirius on a floating gurney, waiting for transport. “Can you do this little fight later, after we have both patients at St. Mungo’s?”

“Watch yourself, Weasley,” Bellatrix snapped, her cheeks blotchy with embarrassment. She waved her wand, conjuring a floating gurney and then pointed her wand at James. Slowly, she Levitated him onto the gurney and let out a sigh.

“Where do we transfer them, Mediwizard Black?” Ron asked gruffly.

“Ground Floor, E&T for now. We’ll transfer them to recovery if they go twelve hours without any complications,” Rodolphus said, straightening. Ron’s eyes narrowed.

“Didn’t ask you. I’m on Mediwizard Black’s service,” Ron said stiffly.

Bellatrix rolled her eyes. “Let’s go, Weasley.”

They Disapparated with a crack.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Lavender blinked herself awake.

The room was still violently white, painstakingly clean in a way that Lavender usually cringed from. But, the pain wasn’t as striking. Now, it was a dull throb, soothed by a cool balm that felt so powerful that her head went hazy with the amount of magic. Lavender let out a soft sigh.

“Lav? Lavender, are you awake?”

Lavender opened her mouth, as her vision swam. That voice. That voice belonged to Harry. Her Harry. Her stupid bro-bro.

“Ouch,” she hissed.

“She says ‘ouch’. She’s a medical marvel and she says ouch.”

A laugh. A familiar laugh.

Mum?” Lavender asked as everything came into sharp focus. She groaned, reaching a shaky hand up to her throat. Her throat felt sore—on fire, really—as if she had a really terrible bout of the flu.

Slowly, Lavender turned her head. Harry and Mum sat next to her, elation in their eyes. Mum looked different—shorter hair—and there was...the tension that she usually carried in every muscle of her body seemed to be gone. She looked relieved and she was smiling. Harry was beautiful as ever, beaming down at her with so much affection, Lavender felt like her heart could burst.

“We’re here, sis. We’re here,” Harry grinned.

Mum reached forward, brushing Lavender’s hair from her face.

“You’re so brave, Lavender. So very brave,” Mum whispered, trembling and then she let out a wretched sound that made both Harry and Lavender jump.

Harry looked at her, alarmed as that wretched sound escaped Mum’s mouth again. Mum’s head dropped to the bedside and she trembled, her sobs like a dying animal. Harry gaped down at her, blinking madly and then he looked at Lavender, unsure.

“Oh fuck, I thought you were going to die. I thought...I thought...fuck, fuck,” Mum gasped between her sobs and she reached up without looking up, her hands knotting in Harry’s sleeve. “I thought you were going to die.

“I’m not dead, Mum,” Lavender said quietly.

Mum looked up, her eyes fierce. “No, you aren’t. You aren’t. You’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay. Right, Lavender? Right, Harry-love?”

Harry swallowed. “Yeah. We’re going to be okay.”

Lavender snorted.

“What the fuck have I woken up to?”

“Watch your language,” Mum snapped immediately. She sagged forward, rubbing her hands over her face and then she shook her head. “I’m a shit mother, and I’m sorry about that, Lavender. I’ve been more shit to Harry, but I wasn’t there for you sometimes, either. So, I’m sorry. But, I’m going to do better. Because I can’t...fuck if you’d died...I would’ve died. I love you so much. I am...I love you so much. I hope you know that.”

“I love you too, Mum. I’ve always known that you love me,” Lavender said, frowning. She looked back at Harry again but he still looked bewildered. “What...how did...how did they fix me?”

And Harry slowly smiled, sweet and unsure. “My person. Well, she…she sewed you back together.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione took a deep breath and cursed under her breath.

Emmeline was missing. She had simply given her the chart and told her to finish it up. But, Hermione still vibrated with excitement. She took a deep breath as she pushed the door open, a bright smile on her face as she sauntered in. Lily Evans looked up, immediately, a serenity on her face that could only be a parent’s relief.

Harry looked up and Lavender looked over, her arms and cheek and throat glinting with the silver of unicorn hair.

“Welcome back, Lavender,” Hermione greeted.

Lavender grinned, tugging awkwardly at the stitches on her face. “It’s good to be back,” she said. “I’m sorry we couldn’t meet under better circumstances.”

“As am I,” Hermione returned honestly. She walked up to Harry and leaned down, pressing a quick kiss to his forehead. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Harry whispered back, nuzzling her cheek.

Hermione pulled back and looked down at Lavender. “Well, from what I can see, your wounds are going to heal up really nicely. You might scar. This was the first time performing this procedure, but if you do scar, it’s going to be minimal. Very, very minimal,” Hermione began. She flipped through her notes. “Are you feeling hungry?”

“Not yet, but I think I’ll be starving soon enough,” Lavender said honestly.

Hermione nodded. "Well, we're going to get you started on soft foods in a day or so, and then, you'll be out in a week. Then, we can figure out your PT schedule. Is there anyone, in particular, you want to do that with?"

“You, maybe?” Lavender asked.

Hermione blinked, momentarily surprised, before a small smile crossed her face. "I'm only a trainee, but I can make a list of people I'd recommend."

“Sure,” Lavender said.

“Dumbledore will be doing your other therapy. Is that okay?” Harry asked.

Lavender nodded. “Sure,” she said and she leaned forward, interested. “So...what exactly did you do to me?”

“We sewed your wounds closed. And your organs,” Hermione said calmly.

Lavender’s eyes widened. “How?”

“Unicorn hair,” Hermione said.

“You’re brilliant,” Harry said in awe as he looked up at her.

Hermione smirked. “I know,” she laughed jokingly. Then she hesitated again. “Are you coming home tonight?”

Harry suddenly looked hesitant as he looked at Lavender and then at Lily.

“Go home, Harry,” Lily said quietly.

“What if she needs me?” Harry asked. “Dad is in the hospital too.”

“What?” Lavender demanded, squawked.

Harry snorted. “Dad is a fucking idiot, as always. But...he got your attacker. Fenrir Greyback. He’s dead.”

Lavender sneered but said nothing.

“I’m going to be here, Harry,” Lily said, looking at the wall.

Harry frowned. “You have work in France.”

“Hmmm,” Lily hummed. “I’ll be here. I’m not going anywhere.”

Harry opened his mouth to say something else but seemed to think better of it. Then, he turned to Hermione.

“Yeah, I’m coming home. I’ll go home with you, yeah?” Harry asked.

Hermione smiled. “Okay,” she said. She turned back to Lavender. “I’m glad you’re doing well, Lavender. I’ll be in to check your progress in the morning.”

“Hermione.”

Hermione froze when she heard Lily call her name. She turned to look at her, and glanced at Harry. Harry was smiling at her, softly, at ease, and Hermione tried to relax when she was trapped in Lily's spiraling green eyes. They were different from Harry's eyes, though the same color. Lily's eyes were chilly and pointed.

“Yes, Healer?” Hermione asked, softly.

“You were amazing. Thank you for what you’ve done,” Lily said, firmly.

“Really?” Hermione whispered.

Lily nodded once. “What you did...was ingenious and resourceful and saved my daughter from unnecessary pain. Thank you,” Lily repeated.

“You’re...you’re welcome. Emmeline is...brilliant,” Hermione breathed, unable to help herself. She couldn’t stop herself from gushing. She trembled with her excitement. “I...I sewed you back together, Lavender. Your aortic tissue was...nearly destroyed. Your lungs punctured, and tears in your stomach. But, I held them in my hand and mended them. Wait. Sorry. Inappropriate.”

Lavender rolled her eyes. “My mother is Lily Evans. My brother is Harry Potter. You think I haven’t heard people gushing about Healing before?”

“Mum doesn’t gush,” Harry pointed out.

Lily’s eyes narrowed and Lavender just grinned.

"Anyway, I was holding you together with my bare hands, bringing you together," Hermione gasped and she bounced up and down. She could barely hold herself together, jittery with excitement. "And I got stuck sometimes. Unsure. But, Emmeline just looked at me and said: You know what to do. I felt alive for the first time in, I don’t know how long. It was like...like I had air in my lungs and—”

“She’s leaving.”

Hermione stopped, looking at Lily with wide eyes. Harry frowned.

“What?” Harry asked.

"I'm staying. Permanently," Lily said. She sighed. "Lavender has to go to physical therapy and regular therapy, and we have things to work through, Harry, so I’m staying. But, that means that Emmeline is going. To finish my work.”

Hermione trembled, shaking her head. "No," she hissed. "No. I can't let her leave."

Harry reached his hand out to her, frowning in concern.

She took a step back, shaking her head and then turned on her heel, running down the Children Ward, bolting right into the stairwell. She nearly collided with two matrons, clearly leaving for the day, but she didn’t stop to apologize. Instead, Hermione nearly vaulted down the steps, two stairs at a time as she rushed forward. She crashed into the Creature-Induced Injuries floor, gunning straight for Emmeline’s office.

Hermione threw the door open. She cursed when she found it empty, and then she turned, not even bothering to close the door. Instead, she took the stairs again, running straight for the lobby.

“Granger, where—” Smith began.

Hermione unapologetically shoved him out of the way, jumping the last five steps and feeling a pain radiating up from her shins. She didn’t stop.

Hermione ran harder than she ever had before, stumbling over her own feet. She saw Vance’s back and she felt her words escape.

“Healer Vance!” Hermione shouted. “Wait, wait. What do you want? More money? I’ll talk to Healer Dumbledore. I will. Harry...Harry Potter is my best friend. Lily Evans will do anything for him. She’ll put in a good word.”

Vance turned around, her eyes wide. She looked shockingly bare-faced without her red lipstick, and so utterly exhausted.

“No,” Vance said, shaking her head.

"You know, they can revamp the Creature-Induced Injuries unit. R-research money. You can work with Spectres and vampires and anything you want," Hermione begged and she reached forward, grabbing onto Vance's hands, trembling, mad and wild.

“It isn’t about that,” Vance whispered.

“Wait, wait, wait. No one’s ever believed in me like this. You believe in me more than I do. And I need that. I’m going to die here without that," Hermione begged, half-sobbing, her eyes blinded with passion and tears and Vance looked terrified of what she wanted to say.

Hermione was terrified of what she was saying but, she knew that every word, every breath was true. She wouldn't be able to survive. Not when she had reached inside of a girl and mended her soft bits. Not when she had held a beating heart in her hand and felt it grow stronger. Not when they had just made a girl's scars disappear. Cursed scars. She had done that.

Not when she finally—finally—understood what Harry had told her about Healing. When she understood what it was like to feel...infinite.

“Hermione, it’s more complicated than—”

“Tell me what you want and I will make it happen,” Hermione swore.

“I want Ron!” Vance shouted.

Hermione threw up her hands. “Fine! Done! Take him!”

She gasped, flinching backward. Her arms wrapped around her middle as Vance took a step back, just as terrified of Hermione’s words as Hermione was.

Hermione had always wanted to change the world. And the woman in front of her had helped make that happen. Hermione had wanted to be a Healer, and the first day, when she had been on those hunter green robes, she had felt like she was playing dress-up. But, when she had stepped in that theatre, she was no longer playing dress-up.

Those green robes were her own.

And Hermione hadn’t noticed. She hadn’t noticed the moment that being a Healer had changed her.

Hermione trembled. “Please...stay. I need you,” she said, her voice cracking.

And when Vance found her voice, she whispered, “Okay.

Chapter Text

Lily tilted her head, listening at the door as Harry's sweet and scratchy voice carried through the doorway. Lavender was awake and had demanded that he sing for her again. Lavender liked it when Harry sang. Lily liked it too. She remembered standing in the doorway as Harry sang Lavender to bed with all of the songs that Lily used to sing.

It was always Muggle songs.

Over the Rainbow or Here Comes the Sun. Harry’s favorite had always been Summertime or Ball & Chain or really anything by Janis Joplin. Lily remembered him stealing her old records and playing them in his room, the music floating out of his room through the window or filtering out from under the door.

But, Lavender’s favorite.

Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise.

Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies.

Lily grinned. In this, Lavender and she were similar—they were both Fleetwood Mac fans.

And if you don’t love now

You will never love me again.

I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain—”

“Never break the chain!” Lavender shrieked, erupting in laughter.

Lily allowed a smile as she heard Harry's cackling. She could imagine his whole body trembling with his laughter. Whenever Lavender and Harry were together they reverted to wriggly little children again.

“Is that our boy?”

Lily turned to look at James, her lips pursed in disapproval as she looked James over. He was heavily favoring his unbroken leg, his hand tight around the top of his cane. He was trying to hide his limp, but James had never been able to hide anything from her.

“Yeah. Both of our children,” Lily said patiently. She looked down at his leg, his wrapped wrist. “How are you?”

“Fine. Just like I was fine yesterday, Lils,” James sighed, sounding exhausted.

Lily snorted. “You’re an idiot.”

“I know,” James muttered. “But, I got him, didn’t I? I got them all.”

“You did,” Lily allowed. “You kept our children safe, in the end. That’s all that matters. Except, I almost lost my entire family in one night and I’m terrified of it happening again.”

James looked at her, alarmed. He glanced down the hallway. They were alone. So, that was why Lily was feeling so expressive in a place that wasn’t the privacy of their bedroom or her study. James pressed his hand against her cheek, rubbing his thumb over her cheekbone.

“What’s got you so worked up, Lils?”

“I can’t do this anymore,” Lily murmured. “Lavender is being discharged today. And I can’t...I’m not going back to France.”

James’ eyes widened.

“What do you mean?” he asked, quietly.

“I mean I’m not going back to France. We have to make...changes. I have to make changes. Lavender almost died. Harry was so angry and I didn’t know. I’m going to take care of Lavender. And I want to be...friends with my son,” Lily admitted gently.

James’ lips twitched into a smile. “I think he’d like that too. You think you two will be okay?”

“I think we’ll get there,” Lily sighed and leaned forward. She barely needed to tilt her head to press her lips to James’. She liked how they were both about the same height, nearly 178 centimeters tall. She couldn’t imagine how Harry had ended up shorter than them both—though not by much, she acknowledged. “Tell Lavender we’re getting ready to go. I need to speak with Albus.”

“Of course, love,” James said with a tiny smile.

Lily didn’t spare another glance backward as she walked down the hall and into the general population of St. Mungo’s. She was immune to the awe-inspired stares of Healers, trainees, and matrons alike. She had always been stared at—too tall, red hair, talented, Muggleborn, woman, Mudblood. Lily’s nose twitched as she thought about that word, spat at her like the vitriol it was.

Mudblood.

Lily pushed away poison and pressed the lift button again.

“Healer Evans.”

Lily looked next to her. Bellatrix Black was staring straight ahead, patient.

"I think...that we are at a point where first name basis may be more appropriate," Lily said, measuring her words out carefully. Bellatrix nodded once in acknowledgment of her words and leaned forward, pressing the button again. "You've saved my daughter and my husband in one week. Thank you."

“You’re welcome,” Bellatrix said roughly.

“You’re an impressive woman, Bellatrix Black,” Lily said, following Bellatrix into the lift. Bellatrix rolled her eyes, humming to herself.

“How so?”

“You’re still here. Your past caught up with you. Your ex-fiance’s future is my son. And you’re still here. I admire you,” Lily said, honestly.

Bellatrix stiffened. “Lily, let’s not talk about my personal life.”

“You were so adamant about doing so and taunting my son when you didn’t think I knew,” Lily said with a smile. It was pointed and dangerous. “Don’t make my son’s life difficult for him. I’ve done that enough for him.”

She said nothing else, smiling pleasantly until the lift opened on her floor. Lily stepped out with a final nod before she walked down the Mind Ward floor, in search of her mentor. She was pleased to find that he was in his office, penning another letter.

“Albus,” she said as a greeting.

“Ah, Lily, my girl. I’m only penning another letter about your daughter’s Healers,” Albus said good-naturedly. Lily nodded with a tiny smile.

“What is it now?” she asked.

“They’re asking that we send Emmeline Vance and her darling student off to a pro-werewolf rally. They’re in high demand, aren’t they?” Albus asked.

Lily nodded. “Even more so once the paper is published,” she admitted. “It’ll be in the Healing syllabus at Hogwarts for sure.”

“Ah, well. What can I do for you?” Albus asked, pushing his letter away to give her his whole attention. Lily took a hesitant step forward. Albus looked at her, a knowing glint in his blue eyes. He always knew, wherever she was concerned.

“I’m not asking for my job back. I know that you don’t have the budget for it,” Lily began.

“We would find money for you, Lily—” Albus interrupted.

Lily shook her head. “No. I’m not here to ask for my job yet. I don’t want to step on any toes,” she said and they both knew whose toes she didn’t want to tread on. “I’m just letting you know that I’ll be around, dealing with Lavender’s physical therapy. But, I don’t want my students to stop learning. I’d like to integrate Draco and Astoria into St. Mungo’s program.”

Albus’ eyes widened. So, he hadn’t been expecting that, then. It was nice to know she could still surprise her old mentor.

“I’m not sure we have the space for that. And after having you as a teacher, I fear only Tom Riddle could compare,” Albus said apologetically.

Lily’s face twisted at the mention of Riddle. “I think Riddle is already too involved with a trainee to take on two more.”

“Ah...you heard,” Albus said delicately.

“And you knew,” Lily accused. “You didn’t tell me?”

“I was notified that it was none of my business, and I’m not afraid to admit that Tom was quite right. Harry is an adult,” Albus reminded her.

Lily sniffed. “And Riddle is a pompous, arrogant arse.”

“I think they’re rather well-matched,” Albus said with a tiny smile. He ignored Lily’s scoff and nodded to himself, thinking over her proposal. “I suppose we can find room for them.”

“Have Severus look after until I can take them on again. I’ll be back. Lavender’s only got therapy until Easter, in March, and then, she can go back to Hogwarts. And by then, hopefully, Harry won’t mind me teaching here. But, only teaching,” Lily said pointedly.

Albus nodded, not even bothering to argue with her.

“I don’t mind the idea. However, you must be the one to ask Severus.”

Lily grimaced.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione rubbed her temples, irritated by the amount of talking happening in the trainee room. It ceased for just a moment when everyone looked at her and then began again, lower and even more pointed. She wondered if this was what Harry felt like when everyone had found out that he was fucking Riddle.

Je pense que—”

Je ne sais pas, Draco. Nous—”

Hermione sighed, tapping her foot as she stared at the pale giants hanging out in front of her cupboard. Draco deigned to look at her, rolling his eyes before he turned back to Astoria and began speaking in fast-paced French again. Hermione’s mouth dropped open and she glanced at Ron and Neville in disbelief. Ron ducked his head, awkwardly, but Neville was shaking his head, his lips pursed.

“Move,” Hermione barked. “Or you will be moved.”

Astoria’s eyebrows rose and she took a step back, suddenly uneasy. Draco followed her and Hermione nodded at them both as she rummaged through her cupboard, searching for her hunter green robes. She began to strip immediately and Draco gasped.

“You’re not going to change in the bathroom?” Draco demanded. “How uncouth!”

“Aren’t you French?” Hermione barked. “Don’t you have a reputation for this sort of thing?”

Ron snorted behind his hand, rolling his eyes.

"He is still a frigid Englishman where it counts," Astoria teased. Draco scowled at her but didn't respond as they moved to the corner to chat.

Ron and Neville sidled up to Hermione’s side as she pulled her robes on.

“What are they doing here?” Ron asked darkly.

Hermione frowned. “I’m not sure. Healer Evans probably turned them loose. Lavender’s being discharged today. I’m going to check in with Emmeline today.”

“Why are you hanging with Em? Actually, have you seen her? I've been trying to look for her, to ask if we're still on for our pub thing on Friday, but I can't seem to find her," Ron said patiently and Hermione crossed her arms, careful not to make eye contact with him. She caught Neville's eyes, and he was looking at her with a raised eyebrow.

Hermione’s cheeks went hot.

“I’m permanently on Healer Vance’s service,” Hermione said quietly.

Neville’s eyes widened. “Permanently? So, that means…”

"I'm going to specialize in Creature-Induced Injuries," Hermione said. She nearly collapsed in gratitude as Harry flew into the room, looking a tad less put together than usual, which wasn't saying much. "Oh, there you are!"

“Sorry, was wishing Lav well. Pass my robes?” Harry shouted as he wrestled out of his jumper. Hermione reached into his cupboard and tossed his robes just as Harry pulled his jumper over his head. He caught it after a weak fumble before tossing his jumper back to her. He paused, finally noticing Draco and Astoria. His nose wrinkled. “What are you two doing here? Don’t you have somewhere to be? Like up my mum’s arse?”

Ron snorted behind his hand. Draco sneered.

“We do what we are told. Unlike some trainees,” Draco said dismissively.

Harry huffed. “Why hasn’t she sent the two of you back to Paris?” he demanded, obnoxiously putting on a fake French accent. Draco’s scowl sent a vicious sort of pleasure through Harry as he stuffed his bag in his cupboard.

“Probably because we’re now students of this program,” Astoria said dryly.

“You’re joking,” Ron groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Why? Can’t take any more competition, Weasley?” Smith mocked from his cupboard. Ron flipped the bird at him and Smith rolled his eyes. He sauntered up to Draco, sticking out his poncy hand while running his other poncy hand through his poncy hair. “I’m Zacharias Smith. It’s a pleasure to finally meet other trainees of my caliber.”

“What caliber?” Neville muttered under his breath.

“It is good to finally meet people with proper manners,” Draco returned.

Astoria huffed. “Do not be obnoxious, Draco.”

“Too late,” Harry grumbled.

They pretended not hear one another, loudly slamming cupboards closed. Smith and Draco were already gossiping to one another, like old birds that had known each other their entire lives. Harry swallowed, trying not to listen in.

Oui, I do not understand this program, you see,” Draco was saying. “Perhaps, it is true. Some did get in because of their parental connections.

“Harry…” Hermione warned.

Harry spun, his wand out. “The fuck did you just say?”

Draco looked up, his eyes carefully wide with innocence. “Comment?

“Don’t play innocent, Malfoy. It’s not a good look on you. I didn’t get here because of some parental connection. I got here on pure talent, you arrogant prick,” Harry snarled. He stormed past the Frenchman, Hermione, Neville, and Ron following after him.

“What a fucking arse,” Ron spat. “Hermione, you should’ve let Harry hex him. I should’ve hexed him.”

"Then, you'd be in trouble. Come on. We've work to do," Hermione said primly, careful not to make eye contact with Ron as he hurried forward, pulling her bushy hair up to the top of her head in a shape vaguely resembling the leaves of a pineapple.

“Healer McGonagall. Please tell me I’m dealing with an internal procedure,” Harry begged as he spotted their mentor.

McGonagall raised a single eyebrow but seemed to think better than to ask.

“No, Potter. Today is your first skills lab,” McGonagall said. They all exchanged glances. They understood what a skills lab meant.

Hermione beamed. “Oh, really? Is it History of Healing?” she asked.

“Oh, is it poison training?” Neville blurted out.

“Bloody hell, I hope it’s E&T training,” Ron said. “I’m pretty bloody good at it. You know, Bellatrix isn’t that awful—”

"Please shut the fuck up," Harry barked. Ron looked put out and prepared to retort back, but Harry was already turning back to McGonagall. The woman looked grim. "Oh, please. Don't tell me…"

Harry closed his eyes. He prayed for anything else. The greenhouses. History of Healing. Artifact training. Hopefully, curses and its countercurses. He would rather stare at Tom teaching—which was always incredibly sexy. Shit, he’d even rather E&T with Bellatrix Black, the bitch.

“Report down to the potions lab.”

Anything but that. Fuck.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Welcome to your first skills lab. You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making.”

Harry hid his sneer behind his hand. Snape spoke in barely more than a whisper, but they caught every word. Even the way he breathed seemed malevolent, though Harry had to acknowledge that the Healer had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort. He glanced behind to the two potion stations on either side of him. Ron and Neville seemed confident enough—they had been working with Snape on and off for months. Astoria and Draco, on the other side of Hermione and his station, looked smug.

“As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you must hardly believe this is magic. Though you attended school, I doubt you truly understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses,” Snape intoned, looking at them with such doubt that Harry rolled his eyes. “I can teach you how to bottle health, brew bones, even stopper life.”

More silence followed the Healer’s speech. Harry and Hermione exchanged looks with raised eyebrows. Draco was leaning forward, his eyes bright with excitement.

“Now, before we begin, let us make sure you aren’t a host of idiots. Potter!” said Snape sharply. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

Harry’s mind went blank.

He had done well on his OWLs and NEWTs. True, he hated Potions in his time at Hogwarts, but he had done well. And suddenly, he could remember nothing. Harry glanced at Hermione. She was watching, her mouth wide open and her hand shot up in the air, attempting to save him. Harry looked over at Draco, panicked. The French man smirked at him, coolly raising a finger.

“That would be the mort-vivant de potion. The Draught of Living Death,” Draco said calmly.

“Thank you, Mr. Malfoy,” Snape said softly, his black eyes glittering. “Tut, tut. A famous mother clearly isn’t everything. What a shame for the ‘future of medicine’. Isn’t that what they call you?”

Harry’s cheeks burned.

"I momentarily forgot. It's a fourth-year potion," Harry said through gritted teeth. "And it isn't even a healing potion."

“Let’s try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?”

"The stomach of a goat," Harry spat. "Let's try something that a first-year Hogwarts student wouldn't know, shall we?"

Snape bared his teeth.

“Today, we will be brewing the simple Allergy elixir from memory. Your time begins now,” Snape snarled.

The room spun into action, and they ran, a pack of rabid animals. Hermione shoved Patil and Harry elbowed Smith out of the way as they reached for the cauldrons. There were only two copper cauldrons. Harry reached up but a hand shot over him, snatching one, nearly dropping it on his head. Harry spun around, his eyes narrowed.

Draco smirked and flounced away.

“Fuck,” Harry hissed. He turned back to grab the second one, but Hermione was already embroiled in a battle with Ron about it.

“Give me that copper cauldron this minute, Weasley,” Hermione barked.

“Not a chance, hag. Snape says that the better quality the cauldron, the better the brew,” Ron said snottily.

“Exactly. That’s why we need it,” Hermione said through clenched teeth.

Neville shrugged nervously. “Next time, Hermione. Grab that last brass one.”

Harry and Hermione turned and Hermione’s hand flew out like a claw full of talons. Her fingers wrapped around Hannah Abbott’s reaching wrist.

“Don’t even think about it, Abbott,” Hermione growled.

Abbott jerked back, alarmed, and Harry grinned viciously, plucking it from the shelf.

“Good luck with the shitty pewter cauldron,” he said, unnecessarily mean.

“Prat,” Abbott muttered under her breath as Hermione and Harry jerked towards the well-stocked shelves, searching through it.

Patil and Smith were already there, arguing softly.

“You need to grab the ginger root and bouncing spider juice,” Smith snapped.

Patil scoffed. “You’re an idiot, Smith. Those ingredients aren’t in Allergy Elixir.”

“They so are.”

“They so aren’t.”

"Excuse me, children. How about we let the Healers do their job?" Hermione asked primly. Harry grinned viciously at her. Good, so she wouldn't be holding him back during the skills lab. She wanted to win just as much.

Excellent.

“Oh, well we can’t all be published as a trainee,” Smith spat.

“No, we can’t,” Hermione said with a cool smile.

“Ugh, why are you being such a bitch?” Patil hissed.

Hermione leaned forward. “Because this is a skills lab. Our first one. He’s evaluating us to see who they’re going to drop from the program.”

The words hovered in the air between them before the four Healers-in-training spun into action. Hermione grabbed a small basket and the pair made quick work of gathering their ingredients. They paused as they finished it off, pulling down the 1-liter bottle of water. Hermione grabbed Harry's wrist, looking up at him.

“What?” Harry asked.

“We’re going to be fine,” Hermione said firmly. “You’re not going to be dropped from the program just because Snape is a prick. Riddle won’t let it happen. Your mum won’t let it happen. I won’t let it happen. You won’t let it happen. You deserve to be here.”

“Yeah,” Harry whispered. “Yeah.”

They walked back to their desk, setting the brass cauldron on top of the burner. Harry rearranged the ingredients. He placed the liter of water at the corner of the desk—the small bag of Billywig stings, the handful of Mandrake roots, the tiny phial of eucalyptus oil, the squeeze bottle of honey, the tiny pot of fairy wings, and the mason jar of eel eyes followed. Hermione pulled out their mortar and pestle.

“Start the base while I crush the ingredients,” Hermione commanded. She picked out three fairy wings and four dried Billywig stings and began to crush them into a fine powder.

Harry turned to the cauldron and poured the liter of water into it. He frowned, looking around for the Flobberworm mucus.

“There’s something we have to add to the base. To reduce the chances of it reacting badly,” Harry said.

Hermione frowned. “I’ve memorized the entire Healing Potion Index. That’s not true.”

“It is,” Harry insisted. Lily might’ve been a Potions Mistress, once upon a time. When he was a little kid, he had sometimes watched her brew until he lost interest, and she almost always added Flobberworm mucus.

Or was it bubotuber pus?

Fuck.

“Harry,” Hermione began in that tone of voice that still grated sometimes. Her ‘I know everything about Healing’ voice.

“Okay, whatever,” Harry muttered. “I can’t even remember which one it is anyway.”

He waved his wand and the burner came to life. Slowly, he turned his wand, bringing the flames up until they danced at the base. The water hissed softly. Harry took a step back and watched Hermione measure out two tablespoons of the powder she’d made. Harry continued, adding the eucalyptus oil. Hermione stirred it once clockwise.

“Add the honey,” she said. “Two tablespoons.”

“I know, Hermione. I’m going to be a Healer too,” he muttered under his breath as he did as she commanded.

Hermione lifted her hands in surrender. “I’m sorry. You tried to add something weird to the base of the potion.”

"Shut up," Harry snapped, waving his wand and bringing the heat up. It had to be a 110 degrees Celsius for at least thirty-five seconds. He looked over at Neville and Ron. They were whispering at one. Neville looked a little nervous as Snape moved around the room, akin to an enormous bat. Harry looked at the French invaders. They were moving efficiently, all tall and pale and fucking perfect.

“Harry! It’s been forty seconds,” Hermione snarled.

Harry jumped. “Fuck,” he whispered, abruptly pulling the fire down. Hermione was glowering at him, but she didn’t say anything else as she dropped the three remaining, unground fairy wings into the cauldron.

She stirred the mixture counter-clockwise four times.

"Okay, now we let it brew for twenty-seven minutes. Go put away the ingredients we don't need before you hurt yourself or, worst, fuck up our potion," Hermione said grimly.

“Love you too, Hermione,” Harry said with a false grin. He didn’t argue with her. He really did need to step away. He picked up the honey jar, the eucalyptus oil, and the pot of fairy wings.

As he moved towards the shelves, he heard Snape.

“Entwhistle, are you an imbecile? You’ve ruined it,” Snape snarled. As he swooped down on the pair, Turpin turned to Entwhistle, her teeth bared at her partner. “Tell me, do you know what you’re creating in adding the mandrake root too early?”

“N-no, Healer,” Entwhistle stammered.

“Does anyone know?” Snape snarled, turning to the group at large. Everyone ducked their heads, trying to hide from Snape’s all-seeing eyes. Harry’s heart faltered when he saw Snape’s gaze settle on Neville’s back. “Longbottom!”

Neville didn’t even look up. “Yes, Healer?” he asked as he began to prepare his own Mandrake root. He was slicing it crosswise, each piece about eight millimeters in width.

“What does one get when dropping in a whole Mandrake root too early into this potion?” Snape snarled.

“A botched poison that will make a patient’s eardrums rupture and lose their hearing,” Neville said immediately.

One could hear a pin drop.

Harry glanced at Hermione. Hermione was staring, her jaw dropped, her knife hovering over their Mandrake root.

“We’ll make a Healer out of you yet, Longbottom,” Snape said gruffly, sounding snide and almost triumphant.

Neville looked up, satisfaction in his eyes. When Snape turned around to Vanish Entwhistle and Turpin’s potion, Neville practically collapsed with relief. The two disgraced trainees trudged out with their heads hanging low.

Harry scurried back to Hermione’s side after shelving their leftover ingredients.

“Merlin, that was…” Harry hissed.

"I know," Hermione muttered. "Go, Neville."

"Go, Neville," Harry repeated in slight awe. He tilted his head, regarding Neville. "That was kinda hot.”

“Nope,” Hermione said immediately.

“What?” Harry whined.

“Leave Neville alone. He doesn’t need to be found dead in the alleyway outside. Riddle would murder him. And, anyway, he’s sorta with Abbott now,” Hermione said patiently.

Harry shrugged. “It was just a thought,” he sighed. “He said he liked me.”

“Neville likes things that aren’t good for him. Like being tortured by Snape, regularly,” Hermione reminded him.

“Touché.”

The pair waited as the potion slowly changed to a navy blue over the next twenty or so minutes. Harry tilted his head as the steam rose from the cauldron. It was slightly cauliflower blue in color.

“That’s not right,” Harry whispered.

“It’s because you kept the fire on too long,” Hermione sighed.

Harry groaned. “And there’s something missing. Fires don’t ruin potions like that. Not five extra seconds. I knew we should've added something in the beginning. It stops potions from reacting weirdly all the time if there's a tiny mistake."

“I’ve never heard of anything like that,” Hermione said as she added a sliced Mandrake root.

“My mum does it,” Harry said pointedly, dropping three eel eyes in the cauldron.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “I feel like she would’ve published something of that nature if it were true.”

“You are so frustrating,” Harry sighed.

“You can’t even remember what it was,” Hermione pointed out.

Harry responded with a rude hand gesture to Hermione’s amusement. He brought up the fire again and counted the seconds out loud, hissing them in Hermione’s ear. She stifled her laughter against her wrist, shutting up immediately when Snape glared at them.

They did as the rest of recipe called for—a counter-clockwise turn here, two tables of eucalyptus oil there, and a final three times clockwise. They let the potion brew again.

Hermione glanced at the clock. "Okay, twenty-two minutes."

They waited patiently, glancing around. Nearly everyone else seemed on the same stage. Neville was excitedly explaining the attributes of Mandrakes and Mandrake roots to a bored Ron. Smith and Patil were arguing sharply over their little pewter cauldron. Abbott and Runcorn seemed to be pointedly ignoring one another. Harry finally turned to look at his mother’s students. They were both watching him.

Draco looked fucking smug as always—and Merlin did Harry want to punch his pointy face. Astoria looked calm. She was watching him with those creepy fucking eyes.

Harry began to whittle away at the edge of the desk with the athame. Hermione shot him irritated glances that he ignored. He hadn’t seen Lily all day. He hadn’t seen James either. Neither of those things really set him on edge the same way as not seeing Tom. He hadn’t seen Tom in ages except for in passing. Perhaps down a corridor or going into the lift, but never any other time. It was a double-edged sword.

When Harry saw Tom, he felt his heart ache. He felt lost, and his stomach turned. But, not seeing Tom wasn’t great either. He thought about what the man was doing or, rather, who was doing. Harry thought about the fact that Tom must’ve been asking for someone else to assist on his work. Maybe another full-time, but there were few that could perform at the level Tom demanded. That meant it was probably another trainee.

Another trainee who was stealing his procedures.

Harry hadn't heard anything like that, but he was a paranoid bastard, and James' old Auror trainer was right about one thing—Constant vigilance.

He’d destroy anyone that was thinking about stealing his man and his procedures.

“Harry. Harry.”

“What?” Harry asked through gritted teeth.

“You’ve impaled the table,” Hermione said.

Harry looked down. The athame was buried halfway through the wood. Snape looked amused.

“What is going through your head right now?” Hermione whispered.

“Some bitch is stealing my Spell Damage procedures,” Harry hissed back.

Hermione looked alarmed. “What in the hell gave you that idea?”

“Tom hasn’t asked me to assist,” Harry snapped.

“Um...because you dumped him?”

Both Harry and Hermione looked up. Ron was standing next to their table.

“It was mutual,” Harry snapped.

“No break up is mutual,” Ron said, giving Hermione a meaningful look.

Hermione looked up at the ceiling as if it were the most interesting thing in the world.

“Well, this one was. This...this is worse than cheating. He’s picking someone that isn’t me for procedures,” Harry said dramatically.

“Or maybe he just doesn’t have any procedures that he needs assistance on? He is a capable Healer,” Hermione reminded him.

“Am I interrupting?”

Ron nearly threw himself back into his seat. Snape sneered.

“No, Healer,” Hermione said primly. She didn’t look away from Snape, intent on waiting him out. Snape finally stormed away and Hermione glared at Ron. “You’re gonna get us in trouble.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Whatever, hag.”

They stared at each other for a second too long. Harry was watching her in surprise.

“Um, what?” he asked.

“Look at that. The potion is done,” Hermione said, waving her wand over the cauldron. The burner turned off immediately and she summoned the phial, waiting to bottle it.

Snape was already going his rounds. He stopped at Neville and Ron and was muttering his notes. Neville looked both chagrined and proud, nodding as he accepted his faults. It was a shorter list than expected, clearly. Snape moved back towards Smith and Patil, nodding at their passable potion. He made his way up to Harry and Hermione’s.

“The color is off,” Snape said immediately. He glared at them. “The fire was too high.”

“Only for five seconds,” Harry said.

Snape looked at him for a long moment and raised his chin. “It’s passable.”

“I know,” Harry snapped.

“I know, sir,” Snape prompted.

“There’s no need to call me sir, Healer.”

Silence again. Ron smothered his crying laughter.

Snape gritted his teeth and stormed away. Hermione turned to Harry immediately.

“What are you doing?” she hissed angrily. “You’re going to be sent to Dumbledore for being disrespectful to a superior.”

“He’s being a dick. Also, he’s panting after my mother’s pussy so that won’t ever happen,” Harry whispered back.

“You’re disgusting.”

Harry ignored her, looking over as Snape approached the French assholes’ table.

“Perfection,” Snape said in his same bland tone of voice.

“How?” Ron blurted out.

Snape hummed. “Tell them how you achieved the perfect Allergy Elixir.”

“Like Potter, we also kept hire on too high for too long. However, adverse reactions of that nature can be counteracted. Guérisseur Evans has long instructed us that adding Flobberworm mucus can both thicken a potion and correct small mistakes of that nature,” Draco said with a tight smile that morphed into a smirk as he looked at Harry. “You would think her son would be appraised of this notion."

Before Harry could respond, Snape was turning back to the trainees at large.

“Place your potion a testing phial and label them. Place them on my desk and report to your lunch hour. You will receive further instructions from your team Healer,” Snape barked and then he was disappearing through the door.

Harry let his head fall onto the table with a thump.

“I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t—” Hermione started.

“No. My fault. I couldn’t remember if it was Flobberworm mucus or bubotuber pus,” Harry whispered as Hermione did Snape’s last task. Harry sat up again as Ron and Neville finished up and waited for them by the door.

“Good genes are not everything,” Draco drawled as he met Harry and Hermione at the door.

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “You know the French Revolution guys had the right idea. Decapitating poncy arseholes like you. You’ve got the perfect neck for it. A well-placed Cutting Curse would do the job. Diff—”

Draco squeaked and rushed off, Astoria rolling her eyes as she followed after him.

“Harry,” Neville sighed, looking at him judgingly.

Harry sneered. “I didn’t even have my wand out. Fucking prick.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry tried to pretend that he couldn’t hear them. He tried his very best, but every time he heard his hand come out of Smith’s mouth, he felt his spine snap straight.

“And then everyone found out that Potter was fucking Riddle, and that was why he was getting all of those procedures. Not because he has any talent. They were shouting about it right in the middle of everyone. It was so humiliating. And then, not long after that you and Astoria showed up with Lily Evans. I wonder if she knows what a slut her son is," Smith was saying as Draco, Astoria and he moved through the line. All three glanced back at Harry.

Harry’s jaw clenched and he gave a painfully sarcastic smile. They turned back around immediately.

“I could set him straight if you want. Hex him a new arsehole,” Ron offered.

“And give you a pleasure that is rightfully mine?” Harry asked with a vicious grin.

Ron grinned back.

“Nobody is even talking about you and Riddle anymore, Harry. And no one thinks you’re a slut,” Neville promised.

“Because they see me as a basket case after I flipped my shit on everyone. I’m that crazy mad slut that broke up the dream team. Whatever,” Harry huffed. He paused as he looked over at Ron and Neville sighed. He rocked back and forth, worried. He looked back at their table. Hermione was picking over her food, a serious look on her face. “I think I need to talk to Hermione.”

“Anything wrong?” Neville asked.

“Not sure yet,” Harry drawled, glancing back at his friend. He grabbed his subpar sandwich and turned back to the pair. Ron looked nervous.

“Uh...hope everything’s...good,” Ron said.

“You’re a fucking freak, Ron,” Harry said, his voice flat.

The pair broke into grins, watching each other, and Harry ducked away, making a beeline for Hermione’s table. He sat down across from her.

“Hey,” Hermione said softly.

“It’s just us today,” Harry said. Hermione looked up, eyes wide. “You seem off your game.”

“Really?” Hermione asked distractedly. “Not you? I mean you nearly botched our potion because you’re thinking about—”

“Hey, no. We’re not going to make this about me. It’s about you. What is going on with you?” Harry demanded. “You’re about to be published. You made medical history. You’ve got a badass mentor. You know what you’re doing in life. So, why are you acting like you don’t? You didn’t yell at me properly for fucking up. So, I know something’s off.”

Hermione pursed her lips. Harry smirked, triumphant. He had dissected her faster than she expected. He reached over and took a chip off her plate.

“So...Ron kissed me.”

Harry choked on a chip. He hacked heavily, his body trembling with the force of his coughs as Hermione reached over the table to thump him on his back until he coughed it up. Her nose wrinkled as she stared at the half-chewed lump of potato on Harry's tray.

“Excuse the fuck out of me?” Harry demanded. “When did this happen? Why was I not told immediately?”

“You were a little busy making up with your mum, dumping your ex-boyfriend, and holding yourself together after your sister was mauled,” Hermione deadpanned.

Harry hummed. “Fine. I’ll allow it.”

“Oh, you’ll allow it?” she asked, rolling her eyes.

“Stop changing the subject! You tell me about Ron and I’ll tell you about Tom,” Harry offered.

“Is there something more to tell about Tom?” Hermione challenged.

Harry rubbed the back of his neck, sheepishly. “I...I haven’t seen him, which means that someone else is getting my procedures!” he whined annoyingly.

Hermione grinned.

“Okay. I...so, we were in Emmeline’s office. Emmeline, Ron, and I. And we were figuring out what to do about Lavender. And it was like I had this mental block. But, then it disappeared and I knew that it had to be unicorn hair and he said ‘You’re fucking brilliant, you witch’, and he kissed me,” Hermione said, her smile fading away and her voice growing softer.

“You like him,” Harry breathed. “You like-like him. You fancy him.”

“Fuck off,” Hermione muttered.

Harry huffed. "Why aren't you buggering by now? Or at least gone out to dinner?"

“We live together,” Hermione pointed out. “It could end horribly.”

“Or it might not. You might get married and have a little house and you’ll be a Healing super couple and he might have your babies,” Harry cackled.

“Oh my God, you’re a child,” Hermione said through her laughter.

“No, you are. Because you two are being awkward arseholes,” Harry grinned. “What is your damage?”

“I...may have traded him away?” Hermione said, raising an eyebrow.

“What?”

“Emmeline was going to leave. To replace your mum in France. I couldn’t let that happen,” Hermione said firmly. “She’s...she’s my teacher. She’s the best. I want the best. I can’t let her leave. She made me feel...she made me feel alive, Harry. Would you give up Tom as your teacher?”

“Never,” Harry breathed, looking almost in awe. “So...what do you mean you traded him?”

“Emmeline...turns out she has feelings for Ron. Like deep feelings. And she thought it was ‘Ron and Emmeline’ but there’s me. And now she’s threatening to leave. I told her...I’d give her anything. And she wanted him,” Hermione whispered, her face twisted painfully. “But, she’s an amazing teacher and I want her. I need her.”

“Fuck, Hermione. You...wow,” Harry murmured in pained awe. “Okay. You can’t talk like this. I get you, but other people don’t. So you can’t talk like this. It’s like telling someone their baby is ugly. You know it. I know it. But you can’t tell them that. Because it makes you an arse.”

“But...you’re talking about Healing, right?” Hermione asked. “Wand to your head, you would choose Healing over Riddle, right?”

Harry blanched. “Uh...yeah, but you can’t talk about this. Because it makes you sound crazy,” Harry hesitated. “Do you feel bad?”

Hermione bit her bottom lip. “That’s why I’ve been off...I don’t know.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Knock, knock,” Lily said, pressing against the doorframe.

Severus looked up from his work, the ugly expression on his face melting away for something much kinder. Lily’s lips curled into a soft grin. There he was—it was rare for the Severus she knew as a little girl to emerge, but there he was. The kind, sweet boy that had always been on her side when Tuney was a bitch or one of her friends called her freak. The sweet boy that had always defended her from being called a ‘Mudblood’ by his bigoted housemates.

“Lily,” he said. A wry twist to his mouth. “Do you now have time for your oldest friend?”

Lily huffed, some of the tension she always carried on her shoulders melting away.

“I was a little preoccupied before, Severus,” Lily reminded him. She fell into the chair across from his, slumping back slightly. Severus always put her at ease. She trusted him almost as much as she trusted her husband.

“How is your adopted progeny?” Severus asked.

Lily smiled. “Settling in at home. She’ll be doing physical therapy on a rotation with Lovegood and Vance will check in on her in another week or so to make sure everything is healing well. She’s with James and Sirius.”

She waited patiently, but Severus’ large hooked nose wrinkled and he looked back down at his work. He was sneering. Lily felt her heart twinge. Her argument was on the tip of her tongue, but she didn’t say anything just yet. After all, she wanted something from him, and she didn’t want to start an argument. They always argued about the same things.

“The trainees had their first skills lab today. Your students did well,” Severus said calmly. He leaned back in his chair, an interesting expression on his face. “They knew our trick with the Flubberworm mucus.”

“Of course they do. Draco may have dreams of glamorous internal procedures, but he needs to know the basics,” Lily said firmly. She tilted her head, frowning lightly. “Astoria would be better suited for Mind Healing. I might ask Albus to have her on his service.”

Severus faltered at her words, but he pushed them aside for another time.

“Your son didn’t know.”

Lily sighed, looking ages older and feeling it too. “He wouldn’t.”

“And why is that? You have a potions lab in your home, do you not?” Severus asked.

“Come off it, Sev. I was a shitty mother. You think I passed down my Potions tips?” she demanded.

Severus scoffed. “You were busy. You didn’t intend to get pregnant with the boy, and you had a career to think about it,” Severus defended.

“Don’t make excuses for me,” Lily snarled. Severus reared back, surprised, and Lily’s expression grew cold as she distanced herself from the conversation. “I made mistakes. Terrible mistakes. It was a calculated risk and I calculated wrong. I thought I could have it all, and maybe some can, but I’m not one of them. I was considered for my own glory.”

Severus was silent for a long moment

“Your son is like you in that manner,” Severus said grudgingly. “He had the third best potion from the skills lab.”

“Good. Above the threshold. He’ll do well in the rest of them. He won’t be dropped from the program,” Lily said, feeling a little more than relieved. “When are the next skills lab?”

“No, he won’t be dropped, but I’m in the process of evaluating who will be. Albus will make final decisions after he looks over their files. After they announce their specialty, they’ll be individually evaluated by Department Heads. You don’t need to worry about your son. Riddle will—I’m sure—go easy on him,” Severus said, cruel as always.

“Severus…” Lily warned. She sighed, letting it go for now. “Severus, I’m staying. You know this.”

“Yes, of course. I did want to consult you about that. There are quite a few trainees vying to be on your service—”

“Actually...I’m not going to be working,” Lily corrected. Severus’ eyes widened. “That’s...well...I need someone to take on my students. Draco and Astoria. I believe that your teaching style is similar enough to mine that it won’t be too much of a disruption in their education.”

Lily watched Severus work through her words. His elation dimmed almost completely, and was replaced by pride at her flattery, and then finally acceptance. He looked up at her and nodded once. Sometimes, she hated how he looked at her. Like she had hung the moon. She averted her gaze again.

“Of course. Have you spoken with Albus about this yet?” Severus asked.

“Yes. He agreed with me,” Lily said. She gave him a grin, and he fell back in his chair, basking in the glow of it. “But...one thing.”

“Anything,” he said. He didn’t look like he meant to say that out loud.

"You didn't ask about James. It was a little rude," Lily snapped pointedly.

Severus groaned. "I knew that was going to come up. Waiting until I agreed to teach your students?"

“Of course,” Lily retorted. “No need to be a prick to my husband, Sev.”

“No need for your husband to be a prick, Lils," he said, snarkily. Lily's nose wrinkled. She hated that mocking caricature he made out of James' nickname for her almost as much as Severus hated being called ‘Sev’. “Now, tell me about your current research.”

“Okay: panacea. Phoenix tears,” Lily began. “But, in potion form.”

Severus leaned forward. “Intriguing. Phoenix tears are expensive. No one would be able to afford it,” he said, and Lily nodded aggressively.

“Yes, but synthetic phoenix tears.”

“Oh, doubly intriguing. Do go on.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Harry. Harry. Harry.”

Harry huffed, ignoring the man stalking him down the hallway. It was just like the beginning, with the man being so damned impatient and irritating. There was only so many bedroom eyes and covert glances that Harry could take in a fucking week. He’d thought that breaking up permanently with the man would’ve done the trick, but instead, they’d just reverted to this strange in-between state that—if Harry was being honest with himself—he didn’t mind.

Except, the man had been clearly professionally cheating on him.

“Harry, sweetheart, please don’t ignore me.”

Harry whipped around, his eyes narrowed as Tom came to a stop in front of him, only a few centimeters away.

“You’ve been professionally cheating on me,” Harry said sharply and then stormed away.

“What? Wait, Harry, what?” Tom asked, following after him and then cutting him off by the lifts.

“What do you want now, Tom?” Harry sighed.

“You said I was professionally cheating on you,” Tom pointed out.

Harry looked away. “I’m sorry, no I didn’t.”

“Really, Harry? This is what we’re doing?”

“We’re not doing anything,” Harry said, pursing his lip and looking away primly.

Tom smirked down at him. “Am I bothering you, Harry?”

“You’re stopping me from doing my work, so yes, you’re bothering me,” Harry retorted, one hand on his hip as he glared up at the man.

“So rude.” He sounded fucking delighted by it.

He looked at Harry with a fondness that made Harry shiver.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Harry said roughly.

Tom’s smile widened. “Like what?”

Harry shook his head, huffing under is breath. Tom was looking at him like he used to, like he was extraordinary, and beautiful and like he loved him.

He wouldn’t give voice to his thoughts. Not when it wasn’t enough.

"Was there a reason you were yelling at me?" Harry asked instead.

“I got the grant.”

“You told me that,” Harry said impatiently.

"And I need someone to assist with my project," Tom said. He leaned forward. "I choose you."

“No.”

Tom’s eyes opened wide and he looked down at Harry in utter shock.

“What do you mean ‘no’? I just offered you a chance at medical history!” Tom snapped, irritation dancing at the corner of his burgundy eyes. Harry crossed his arms, his lips pursed and eyes unimpressed.

“I didn’t ask for it,” Harry muttered.

Tom leaned forward, raising an eyebrow. “You’re okay with Granger making medical history before you? Because that’s what happened last week. She made medical history. Her name is going to be in print in all of the medical journals, along with Vance’s. She’s revolutionizing her field.”

Harry squirmed at Tom’s words. That burning sensation that he had been feeling since Lavender’s procedure was back. He’d been able to ignore it for the first few days, buried beneath his relief and the relatively new feeling of contentment, but now it was back. Every time he heard Hermione or Vance’s names and about what they had accomplished made him twitch. When he had heard from Lily that Hermione and Vance were already scheduling interviews for after the publication was finished, he had practically spilled his water all over himself like a fucking child. Lavender had laughed herself silly.

“I’m happy for her,” Harry said. That wasn’t a lie. He really was happy for Hermione.

Tom didn’t look like he believed him.

“But, you wish it was you, don’t you?” he asked. Tom’s eyes softened. “Harry, what I’m doing...it’s not going to be just learning how to sew someone up or to eliminate scarring. Harry, I’m going to conquer death.

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Conquer death? Really?”

“Yes, really,” Tom insisted.

“And what does your fiancee think about this? Working with me?” he demanded.

“I’m not with Bellatrix anymore, and you know it,” Tom said firmly.

“Do I?” Harry shot back.

“You do,” Tom hissed. “And I’m asking to work with you. Not date you. After all, you just said I was professionally cheating on you because—I’m going to make an assumption, here—I haven’t been asking you to come in on my procedures.”

Well, wasn’t that a blow to Harry’s ego? He worked to keep his hurt from his face, and he wasn’t sure if he succeeded or not. Tom’s expression didn’t change from his irritating smugness nor did Harry expect it to.

“Well, I’ll think about it,” Harry allowed.

Tom’s lips curled into a smirk and he nodded. “Good.”

“Tom...this is going to be weird. I know it will,” Harry said quietly.

“No, it won’t. I’ll prove to you that we can work together,” Tom insisted. Harry looked at him, doubtfully. Tom sighed. “I swear that we can. Now, I have an Auror that’s been hit with a Yaa Sang curse, and I need to pencil in his procedure. I’ll see you later, Harry.”

He turned on his heel without another word, sauntering off.

Harry swallowed and whispered after him, “Later, Tom.”

Harry sighed, collected himself, and then walked towards the lift. He had a curse to study.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione was waiting for the right moment to ambush the woman.

It had been happening lately. Emmeline Vance was quite noticeable—she was tall, pale, curvy, and her lips were always bright red. It was easy to spot her coming. It was probably easy to spot Hermione too with her enormous hair and her dark skin. So, it was easy for Emmeline to avoid her and easy for Hermione to fucking notice.

Hermione cornered her in her office.

Vance was a bit of a fool for that one if she thought something as petty as ‘personal boundaries’ would stop Hermione from talking to the woman.

“Healer Vance,” Hermione said briskly.

Vance looked caught as she gathered her files. “Ah...Granger...you’re supposed to be in the pharmacy today.”

“As I’ve been in every other fucking department in this hospital for the past week when I haven’t been checking up on our patient?” Hermione asked. She took a step forward, her eyes glinting. “At the risk of sounding like a crazy, jealous girlfriend, I know what you’ve been doing and I know why. You’ve been getting McGonagall to keep me away from you.”

“Ah...Granger, you know...it wasn’t for my benefit,” Vance said primly. “I thought you’d be embarrassed about what you...said.”

Hermione lifted her chin. “Well, I’m not.”

Vance looked thrown, her jaw dropping open. And then anger rushed across her face and she took a threatening step forward. Hermione held her ground, glaring back at the woman.

"You're not embarrassed by offering to trade Ron like a horse or a Chocolate Frogs card or a stale biscuit from last week's tea," Vance spat. "You really don’t deserve him.”

“I never claimed I did,” Hermione snapped back. Vance looked surprised by her words. Hermione used the momentum of the other woman’s silence. “Ron is a nice guy. Ron is a nice, good guy who doesn’t put up with my bullshit, and has an inferiority complex the size of my own. Ron is pigheaded and tactless and can be rude. But, he’s good. Probably too good for me. And what I did was thoughtless, but I’m not embarrassed. Not after what we did together.”

Vance's eyes had widened more and more over her speech, her perfectly arched eyebrows traveling higher and higher. "What we did together?" she repeated.

“You get it,” Hermione whispered. “I choose Healing over a guy.”

Vance glowered at her. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m not going to apologize for it. Especially to you. And Ron wouldn’t ask me to,” Hermione said firmly. She was so sure of that. Ron was an arrogant, pigheaded shithead, but he knew her, and she knew him, and he wouldn’t ever think less of her because of her choice, not that she meant to tell him anytime soon.

“We sewed a girl back together. That’s not better than love. Pure, honest love,” Vance said as if she were speaking to a child. “Healing is a job. You lose your job, you can find another one. But, if you lose your love...what do you have left?”

And Hermione knew then that Harry was right. To others, she must sound crazy. She must sound insane for loving the work she did with her own two hands, more than another person. Except...except…

“No. You misunderstand,” Hermione said firmly and Vance fell silent. “I choose my gift. Because that’s what I have. I have a gift. I choose my gift, and I want to be great. And I want to learn from you. I choose my gift. I choose myself.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Draco, I need you to fetch potions from the pharmacy,” Healer Sprout had said.

Draco looked over at his temporary teacher, deeply unimpressed with the dumpy woman. She stared back at him, just as bland. Her tone broke no argument. This was the education that he was giving up because Lily wanted to play caretaker. How fucking wonderful.

He was surrounded by idiots. Smith was sycophant in the making, Patil was an arrogant bitch—much like Astoria, but unlike Astoria, she didn’t have half the talent she thought she did—and Abbott was a quiet mouse. Astoria found them amusing, the way children were amusing.

Draco hated children.

“Why?” he asked childishly.

“Because my patients need their prescriptions before their discharged,” Sprout said, speaking to him slowly and enunciate every word.

“I do speak English. That is offensive,” Draco snapped.

“Draco, tu es irritant. S'il te plaît,” Astoria snarled, at her breaking point. Everyone seemed surprised to see her emote. Draco winced. Nearly immediately after her outburst, she looked impassive once more. “I am afraid we cannot fulfill your task. Guérisseur wants us to report to her soon.”

Sprout looked less annoyed when Astoria spoke. Draco took that for the old woman disliking men or rather younger people, in general, that clearly surpassed her in skill and looks. Or perhaps she was a xenophobe. Draco couldn't claim to know the woman and he hoped never had to.

Before Draco could make another comeback, Astoria was already dragging him away, berating him in fast-paced French. Instead of annoying Draco, he reveled in it. Astoria was always at her most beautiful when he was threatening her, and he had missed his native language more than he wanted to personally admit. His joy was torn away when he caught sight of Harry Potter. Draco jerked to a stop, pulling Astoria back next to him.

Regardes lui,” Draco murmured. Astoria hummed.

Harry was talking softly to a matron. She looked worried and was speaking to him fast and Harry nodded along to her words before they took off down the hallway, walking at a brisk pace. Draco took off immediately, ignoring Astoria’s words of discouragement. She was always telling Draco not to do things. It was always Draco, no. Sometimes, Draco wondered why it couldn’t be, Draco, yes. It should always be Draco, yes.

They followed the Potter and the matron down the flight of stairs, making sure to match their footsteps with the pair in front of them. Harry went down another flight of stairs but Astoria jerked him to a stop.

Il va au théâtre,” Astoria hissed.

Draco’s eyes widened the theatre. They rushed back up the stairs to the galleries and popped their head in each one until finally, they found the one that Harry had apparently wandered into. It wasn't unoccupied.

A young man—probably an Auror—was prone on the grey operating slab. Only his penis and testicles were draped, but the rest of him was wane. His chest was waxed clean.

Draco’s lips parted as he watched Harry step forward, sliding dragonhide gloves onto his hands. Riddle grinned over at him, nodding. Harry rolled his eyes and nodded back. They didn't need to share any other words.

“It’s a beautiful day to conquer death!” Riddle announced. He opened his mouth again.

“Let’s have some fun,” Harry interrupted.

And Riddle stared at him with this deep indiscernible emotion that Draco cringed away from. Riddle nodded once and pulled his wand. Harry did the same, tilting his head.

"Make the first cut. First, make the incision across the entire abdominal and chest area. Then, open the abdominal wall."

And Draco gasped as he realized that he was about to witness his first internal procedure. Harry raised his wand and as if he were practiced, he drew his wand over the skin, opening the patient’s abdomen from sternum to groin, and then another wave of his wand and the silver instruments were pulling skin and muscle apart. Draco looked down.

He could see the insides of a man. He could see a man’s small bowel, slippery with blood and pink looking. There were black tendrils running just underneath the thin membrane, as if pumping poison through the blood. He could further up, the man’s lungs working, laced with black. He thought if he could squint, he could see the man’s heart—a plump swell of flesh nestled between.

It was something that Draco had only ever seen in books and cadavers. Never something living. It was different from watching a moving picture. It was...beautiful and terrifying. Draco’s stomach turned. All that blood. Riddle was making quick of irrigating the area and using suction to clear the debris and excess blood away.

“Let’s get to work,” Harry said. “Yaa Sang does damage continuously until it’s all gone. It’s both parasite and curse.”

“You did your research,” Riddle teased.

Harry hummed. "As soon as I heard, I knew you'd call me."

And then Draco was witness to some of the greatest magic he’d ever seen. The pair of them were methodical in the curse’s destruction, cauterizing it as if it were an open wound. They siphoned black tendrils from the red organs, returning them to their former state, blasting away the curse with what looked like a strange variation of Incendio. Even from his hiding place, the hairs on Draco’s arm stood up.

“He’s…” Astoria breathed.

“He’s extraordinary.”

The two spun and looked at Lily. She was leaning against the doorframe, never looking away as Harry whipped his wand over his head as a bleeder spurted out. He captured the blood, redirecting it into a phial.

“You finish the heart when we get to it,” Riddle said.

Draco couldn’t help his sharp intake of breath.

Harry looked up, eyes narrowed at Riddle.

“You really want me on your project so badly you’ll risk a patient's life?” Harry demanded.

Riddle didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

Harry snorted. “You’re fucked up.”

Those words seemed to do something to Riddle. He stopped his work for only half a second before he continued on. Harry’s breath caught in his throat, and he looked at Riddle with something like adoration. Draco’s eyes widened. That same adoration was in Riddle’s burgundy eyes, tilting his lips into a soft smile.

“You’re fucked up,” Riddle whispered.

Harry winced.

“If the patient doesn’t die, I’ll work on your project,” Harry said. “Even with the work we’ve done, there’s a mortality rate of 83%.”

“We’re the 17%, sweetheart.”

Sweetheart.

And Draco knew all about the pair of them. He knew about the sordid love affair of Harry Potter and his teacher, Tom Riddle. He had heard about Harry Potter the whore, Harry Potter the bitch, Harry Potter the arse who thought that he deserved everything. He had heard it from more than one person—his aunt, Smith, and even Abbott hadn’t been able to help but cast doubt in her small little voice, talking about how suspicious it looked that he was getting all of the best procedures.

So, Draco had heard all of these things.

But, he hadn’t heard about Harry Potter the adored, because the man that watched him work adored him.

He hadn’t heard about Harry Potter the great, because Harry Potter was going to be great.

“Okay. Let’s do this. It’s in his heart, but it’s going to start spreading again where it thinks it can. It won’t go to the parts we’ve cauterized. That’s dangerous, that’s stupid, and this isn’t a stupid curse. So, that means it’s going to travel to his brain next. We can’t let that happen,” Harry said, taking a deep breath. He rolled back his shoulders and cracked his neck, tilting his head as he observed the man. “Be prepared to bring him back, okay?”

“What are you planning?” Riddle asked curiously.

“It’s like an organ right? The Yaa Sang. It’s a parasite as much of a curse. So, that implies it’s...living. Sorta. It’s living off his body. What can’t we live without?” Harry asked. He answered his own question. “Breath.”

Riddle grinned viciously. “Creative.”

“And we’re going to paralyze his lungs now,” Harry murmured for Riddle’s benefit. He pressed the tip of his wand to the trachea. “Petrificus.”

The lungs stilled, not a single breath. The man seemed to stiffen up. There was a moment where their wands flashed red sparks, and then they stopped as the man seemingly died.

“You’ve got four minutes before brain damage beings,” Riddle said. He waved his wand setting a timer. “Go.”

“So...I’m going to...suction it away,” Harry breathed softly. “Because now, it’s nothing but matter. Just errant magic. So I suction it away and cauterized where it touched. Right?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?” Riddle asked.

Harry looked up, wide-eyed. “If I’m wrong?”

“He dies. Or I save him. But, currently, you have three minutes and twenty-seven seconds.”

“Fuck.” And then Harry bent his head and began to work, his glasses slipping down his nose. Slowly, he moved his wand in smooth circles, jerking it back every time he finished a rotation, the same motion that one made when casting a Tergeo, but something else was happening. The black tendrils were slowly peeling away from the man’s still heart.

Draco’s jaw dropped.

“Lily...he’s incredible,” Astoria whispered.

Lily nodded, never looking away as Harry pulled death away from a man’s heart, wrestling the blackness as it writhed and screamed on the tip of his wand.

“How is he doing that?” Draco demanded. “That’s not the countercurse.”

Lily nodded, taking another step in. “No. It’s not.”

Harry ground his teeth, sweat pouring down from his forehead as he hissed out cauterizing spells each time a new tendril freed itself from the tender organ. With nothing to feed off of, the black tendrils of the curse were curling in on itself, crumbling away into nothingness. It couldn’t even be called a proper death.

“He’s...like you,” Draco said grudgingly. “Powerful.”

“He’s...more than me. I can’t take credit for talent like that,” Lily said. She looked fascinated. “That’s...that’s not like me at all. I’m methodical. I’m practiced and learned. That, my students, is called instinct.”

Draco looked back at the theatre and he flinched back from Riddle’s glare. He glanced back at Harry, but the other man was concentrated. Finally, the man was done, and the last of the Yaa Sang curse spat and hissed before disappearing into the ether. Riddle cleared his throat.

“Twelve seconds. Perfect,” Riddle said, waving his wand. He Banished the counter in one wave and waved his wand, muttering the counter curse to Harry’s paralysis spell in the next moment. “Astrapi.”

The man’s entire body jerked with the jolt, and Harry breathed a sigh of release when the heart began to pink up again, sputtered and then beat fresh blood. He peered at the body, looking for any other spots of black.

“I did it. I did it. I Healed him,” Harry whispered, joy flashing across his features, and suddenly, Draco saw what others might see in him, why though people hated him, they thought that he was beautiful and exciting and intriguing.

“You did your job. The job you love,” Riddle said pointedly.

Harry grinned. “Oh shut up. Let’s tidy him up and write his prescription. He’s going to be in a world of pain when he wakes up.”

“Oh, are you the Head Healer on this case now? You’re my boss?”

“I am now. After all, I Healed a heart.”

“I’ve could’ve done it too. Maybe not using the same methods, but probably faster.” Riddle was a petty man, wasn’t he?

“Yes, well, I did it, so shut up,” Harry said.

Draco and Astoria leaned forward, ready to see the procedure to its end, but Lily grabbed both of them by the shoulder, pulling them away from the glass.

“Come now. You’ve paperwork to fill out so that you’re fully integrated into the program. And we’ll need to find you both accommodations if you don’t want to stay at Malfoy Manor,” Lily said.

Perish the thought. Draco grimaced and with great difficulty tore himself away. He no longer mourned the fact that he would finish his education in England. Now, he felt a sense of buzzing excitement coursing through his body. There was something that tasted like humbling at the back of his tongue, and perhaps, that was the right word. Watching that had been extraordinary. It had been humbling.

Draco had witnessed greatness. And it was a greatness that would revolutionize the world.

 

Chapter Text

 

“So, why don’t you want to assist on Riddle’s project again?” Neville asked, unsure as Harry morosely buttered his slightly burnt toast.

“Because he’s afraid they’ll fuck,” Ron said around his mouth full of eggs.

Harry sneered, flipping the bird off at the man. He couldn’t really contest Ron’s words, though. He wasn’t exactly wrong.

“You’re a pig,” Hermione drawled. She turned to Harry. “So, you think he’s going to trip and accidentally end up balls deep inside of you?”

“Merlin, Hermione,” Neville squeaked, shaking his head.

Harry was still choking over his shitty eggs. Ron thumped him on the back and Harry regurgitated congealed eggs back onto his plate. Hermione’s nose wrinkled.

"I didn't...that's not…" Harry trailed off. "Well, yes."

“What you’re really worried about is that you’re gonna fuck him again. Just admit it,” Ron said and he took a swig of orange juice to hide his self-satisfied smile.

“I’d rather sit on a knife than sit on Tom’s dick again. You can quote me on that,” Harry snarled back.

Hermione’s nose wrinkled. “Now, you’re just lying.”

Harry’s head fell onto the kitchen table with a thump. “I am. Merlin, he’s brilliant, isn’t he? It’s just so...hot," Harry groaned. Neville's cheeks were still pink, and Harry really didn't understand how the other man wasn't used to their vulgarity by now, especially when Neville himself said some fucked up shit at the most inopportune moments. "And he promised me that we'd make medical history. Do you know what it would be like? To be published? To do something that my mum could never do?”

"Yes, I can imagine how that would be pretty amazing for you with your colossal inferiority complex," Neville said. "So, just...get over yourself and do it."

“Neville!” Ron barked. “Keep up! Harry can’t do it because he’s going to fuck Riddle again and lose any shred of dignity that he still possesses.”

“Merlin! Piss off, Ron!” Harry snarled.

Ron grinned, glancing at Hermione, as if for approval. She was laughing into her tea and didn't seem to notice the redheaded man watching her.

“How long do you think he’ll wait for your answer?” Neville asked.

“It’s been a week. Tom isn’t a patient man,” Harry sighed.

"Yeah, because he's a fuckboy," Ron said, helpfully.

Harry flipped him the bird.

"If you're going to do this, just come up with rules," Hermione said, buttering her toast with more gusto than necessary. Harry glanced at Ron. He looked fascinated, and Hermione was dipping her head the way she did when she was embarrassed.

They were fucking nerds. Fucking nerds in love.

 

“Rules?” Ron asked, intrigued.

"Rules for himself and rules for Riddle. So that they don't go back to...whatever they were before," Hermione said. She took a deep bite into her toast and stared over her plate at Harry, a single eyebrow raised.

“You can call him my boyfriend. He was my boyfriend,” Harry sighed.

“Using the word ‘boyfriend’ for Riddle is so weird,” Neville said.

Ron grunted in agreement.

“But, rules. What kind of rules?” Harry asked.

“One: don’t let him get you drunk and alone. Two: Don’t let him come here. And three: Don’t be his friend,” Hermione said.

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”

Hermione toasted her teacup to him. "You're going to end up in his bed and then, what will you do with yourself? Cry about it? You'll have been an equal participant. And you'll still be in love with him even though he chose his career over you. You'll be just another sorry notch in his bedpost. You'll be the ex that he thinks he can have under him whenever he bats his eyelashes, and that's not a good look. Now, you know your rules?"

Harry swallowed the last of his tea. “I know the rules.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry was staring down at his charts when he felt an overbearing, arrogant presence. He snorted, looking up, expecting Tom again. Since their Yaa Sang procedure a week ago, the man had been so annoying, always prodding and poking and wondering about Harry's answer. He frowned when a man he wasn’t expecting smirked at him, roguish in a charming sort of way.

“Hello. I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure of meeting just yet,” Rodolphus Lestrange purred.

Harry raised an eyebrow. "I know who you are," he said as he continued to organize the parchment files in a way that wouldn’t irritate McGonagall.

“You know, I haven’t even been away from London very long, and I’m already confounded by all of the rain. It makes me want to stay in bed all day,” Rodolphus murmured.

Harry snorted. “You’re not very subtle,” he retorted.

"Subtlety has never been my strong suit," Rodolphus said, following after him. He leaned down into Harry’s personal space again. “You ever go out with coworkers?”

“Okay. Let’s do this,” Harry sighed, pulling his wand and turning on Rodolphus. Rodolphus jerked back, eyes wide. "Listen, Rodolphus, I’m not interested in your games, okay? I’m just not. You and Bellatrix and Tom are...you need to work out your shit, but don’t try to involve me. I’m not doing it.”

Rodolphus stared at Harry in wonder. Harry’s eyes narrowed, wondering what was going through the irritating man’s tiny brain.

“I can see why he finds you attractive,” Rodolphus said, unraveling and he leaned back, all of that smoldering attractiveness gone in a second. “I’m not actually attracted to men, by the way. I just wanted to see what you’d do.”

“You’re a child,” Harry retorted.

Rodolphus shrugged. “I just wanted to meet the other dirty mistress in this tawdry love affair,” Rodolphus admitted and Harry had to stop himself from smiling. "You know Albus says that behind this rugged, confident exterior, I’m self-destructive and self-loathing to an almost pathological degree.”

Harry let out a bark of laughter. “Oh, so we do have a lot in common,” he said with a grin. This felt a lot like flirting. Harry had to stop that. Flirting with strange older men.

“You know what’s funny, Tom caught me in his bed with his fiance, with me quite literally balls deep inside of her, and he walked away. I mentioned you when I came back to work and he laid me out on the floor. Just food for thought.”

Harry’s cheeks burned. Rodolphus took another step forward.

“Harry!”

Harry felt relief flood through his body and he turned away from Rodolphus, grinning at the young woman that limped down the hall.

“Lavender! Where’s your cane?” Harry chastised as he walked up to meet her.

Lavender’s nose wrinkled. “I’m not an old man. I'm not Dad,” she said. She flounced her hair—it was shorter, the blood-stained ends clipped away—and smiled sweetly. “And it doesn’t match my outfit.”

"You're going to strain something," Harry said, ushering her away without another glance backward. Lavender looked up at him, curious.

“Who was that? And why is he glaring at him?” Lavender asked. Harry frowned and followed Lavender’s stare. He winced when he looked down the hall at Tom. The man’s eyes were narrowed on Rodolphus, burning with fury.

“It’s a long story,” Harry said.

“Well, I’m a patient and you’re a Healer. And I require your time,” Lavender said regally as he led her back to the physical therapy corridor around the corner. He escorted her back into her room and she sat down on the too soft sofa.

“Well, alright,” Harry hesitated. “I don’t know how much I should tell you.”

“I’ve washed cum out of your hair.”

Harry winced. Another reminder of one of his finest moments.

“Right. Well. That was Rodolphus Lestrange,” Harry sighed.

“That means nothing to me,” Lavender deadpanned.

Harry glared. “I’m getting there!” he snapped. “Anyway, Rodolphus Lestrange is Tom Riddle’s ex-best friend. Tom Riddle was the man—”

“Oh, I know who he is. He’s handsome,” Lavender said with a grin, fanning herself.

Harry’s expression soured.

“Yes, he’s very handsome.”

Lavender snorted. “Do you not like me saying that? Do you fancy him, Harry?” Lavender demanded.

“Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt,” Harry retorted. Lavender squealed and Harry cringed from the noise. “Tom is...we were together. For a time. And then I found out he had an ex-fiance and it became this whole thing, and Rodolphus slept with that ex-fiance on top of Tom’s desk and Hermione tried to sell Ron and Neville fancies me but is dating Hannah Abbott and Bellatrix is a cunt and Draco is a fucking pain in my arse and it’s just…”

Lavender’s eyes had steadily widened as Harry tried to explain his way through the drama that had erupted at St. Mungo’s since his arrival.

Lavender held up her hand, silencing him.

“Okay. Maybe start at the beginning,” Lavender.

Harry sighed, ruffled. “Yeah. The beginning. Okay, it started the night before my first day when I was just the boy at the bar and Tom...he was just the guy at the bar—”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Thanks...for having lunch with me.”

“Yeah. Of course.”

Harry stared at his mother for a long minute. He’d had exactly three words to say to her, and then, nothing else. His mind was totally blank and Lily was watching him expectantly. She lowered her spoon into her soup and slurped it off her spoon without ever breaking eye contact with him. Her eyes were terrifying, and it suddenly Harry was reminded that he had her eyes.

Were his eyes as terribly intrusive as hers?

Harry glanced over at his friends from the corner of his eye. Ron, Neville, and Hermione were all crammed at a table with Smith, Patil, Abbott, and the Frenchmen. They weren’t being very low—it looked like they had picked that table to have the best view of Harry and Lily.

Fucking nosy bitches.

“So...Lavender’s physical therapy is going well,” Lily said.

Harry stopped himself from letting out a sound of relief. Lavender was a good conversation topic. They had her in common.

“That’s good. How’s her therapy with Dumbledore?” Harry asked eagerly.

Lily faltered. “That’s...well that’s patient-Healer confidentiality, but I assume...well?”

She fell silent.

Well. Then. Okay.

“I suppose you’ve been around long enough to hear that I’m a whore,” Harry blurted out. And then, he blushed a deep red. He never blushed. “Oh…my…God. I can’t believe I just said that to my mother. What the fuck is wrong with me?”

Lily snorted into her soup.

“I...heard some complaints. Because you were sleeping with Riddle,” Lily said calmly.

“He was my boyfriend. We weren’t just...you have questions?” Harry asked softly.

Lily pursed her lips. “I seem to remember you telling me that I wasn’t allowed to ask about him. I have refrained from doing so. Is that particular embargo lifted?” she asked, and Harry wasn’t sure how she was able to communicate so much pettiness in so few words, but it was a skill that he wanted.

“I...three questions,” Harry decided.

“How did it start?” Lily asked.

“I got drunk before my first day. Found him in a bar. Took him home. Surprise: he’s my boss,” Harry said, flatly. Lily opened her mouth and then seemed to think better about her question.

“And you love him?” she asked.

"I do." Harry didn't hesitate with that answer.

Lily sighed. “Does he love you, Harry-love?” she murmured.

“Not enough,” Harry said, his voice cold. “Now, let’s move on to a conversation topic that won’t have me either in a fit of rage or a fit of tears in the cafeteria. Can we agree on that?”

“Yes,” Lily said clinically and she leaned back, cracking her knuckles. “Tomorrow is a big day.”

“It is,” Harry said.

Tomorrow was his declaration day.

“I suppose your specialty isn’t even a real question,” Lily said with a tiny smile. Harry looked at her in surprise. “Draco, Astoria, and I saw your Yaa Sang procedure. Stunning work.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, his voice soft.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it in my life. Your instincts are off the charts. Technique is a little sloppy, but that’s the point of a teaching programme. Technique can be taught. Raw talent, not so much,” Lily said.

And Harry swallowed as a lump formed in his throat. Lily sounded as detached as she always did, cool and collected, but he could hear the intent in her voice. She meant every word. She thought that he was talented. She thought that he was great, and it made his heart triple in his size. The twisty darkness inside of him melted away just the tiniest bit.

“I think Draco might have a little crush on you, to be honest,” Lily continued.

Harry’s happiness fell away and he sneered, glancing over at the Frenchman. Draco looked caught and he immediately turned to Astoria and began to babble in French.

“Ugh. Gross. I’d rather fuck a mountain troll.”

And then, Lily did something that Harry hadn’t seen her do in reaction to him in a long time—she laughed.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Neville always felt most at home kneeling in a patch of dirt with a pair of dragonhide gloves on his hands.

The St. Mungo’s greenhouses were lush and large. It felt nearly as much like home as his garden back at the Longbottom Estate or behind his mum and dad’s house. Neville had just started nursing a little magical garden in the backyard of Grimmauld Place, and it was flourishing as best as it could with so little room. But, here, in the St. Mungo's one of four greenhouses, Neville felt amazing.

He smiled to himself as he harvested sage and turmeric and calendula. All Muggle plants, which a lot of trainees and Healers discounted, but Neville knew better. He knew that even the Muggles had figure out some of the magical purposes of the herbs and had learned to harness it themselves. The door swung open and Healer Sprout looked up from her desk.

“There’s been a request,” Snape said, snarkily. Sprout looked unimpressed. Neville looked and his mouth dropped open as Lily Evans herself danced in after Snape. He was surprised to see that she was just a tad taller than Snape.

“It’s really a request, Pomona,” Lily said, pleasant even though she sounded so chilly that Neville wanted to shiver.

You’re the one that wants your daughter’s potion base to have Puffapods in them,” Snape sneered.

Lily scoffed, crossing her arms. “She’s a growing girl.”

“She’s nearly grown,” Snape returned.

“Really, Pomona, please. She’s allergic to Flobberworm mucus,” Lily said gently.

Pomona’s eyes softened. “Neville. Harvest a few Puffapod beans for Healer Evans.”

"Anything for Harry's sister," Neville said immediately, and he was shocked when Lily beamed at him. Snape sneered, but that moment would never be taken away from him. Lily Evans had grinned at him.

Neville moved further down the greenhouse, away from the non-magical herbs to the magical plants. Snape and Lily followed him, bickering quietly amongst themselves.

“They’re not ready,” Lily was saying.

“I think that I’ll decide—” Snape began pompously.

“I may be on leave, but I still know them better than you,” Lily warned.

She sighed to herself, looking exhausted, and Neville couldn't quite imagine the pressure it must be to be Lily Evans. Her daughter was still healing from a massive trauma, her husband too, and she was attempting to mend her broken relationship with her son. Neville winced as he thought about the terribly awkward lunch that she had had with Harry. Harry had looked pained until the tail end of it after Lily had burst into a fit of laughter that had silenced nearly the entire cafeteria.

“I’m their teacher now,” Snape said, and he sounded gentle. It was so strange.

He never sounded like that. Neville now understood why Harry always made jokes about how into Lily, Snape was. Neville shuddered.

He waved his wand, summoning a few glass jars. He knelt in front of the Puffapod bush. Pink seed-pods, the size of fists, bounced gently in the artificial wind that blew from the old rickety wood fans hanging above. Neville drew forth his wand. He knew he couldn’t touch them once he cracked the seed-pods open—it was one of the first lessons he’d learned as a budding Herbologist. Puffabod beans weren’t meant to be touched by hands or gloves either. The moment the beans inside touched something solid other than the seedpod, it would flower.

“You don’t know them like I do,” Lily said firmly. “Draco is acting out because of the change.”

“You speak of him as if he were a child,” Snape retorted.

“Snape, they’re all children. Every last one of them,” Lily snapped.

Neville pretended not to be affronted by the fact that he was being called a child. He was a grown man. He paid bills—well, really, he paid for the takeaway when it was his nights and groceries and Herbology supplies, but he still paid for them with his own meager salary, thank you very fucking much. Neville began to pluck a rather large seed-pod off the bush and stood, bringing it over to a harvesting desk.

Still Lily and Snape followed.

“And Astoria? She’s doing rather remarkably, isn’t she?” Snape asked.

“Well, she doesn’t have any friends here. She had a lot of friends in France,” Lily defended.

Snape sneered. “And you had many friends as a young woman Healer in a field dominated by men?”

“My ability to make friends didn’t have to do with the fact that I was just a woman. I just can’t make friends with anyone who isn’t an arse,” Lily sniped.

Snape's gaze softened. "You're also socially-inept."

"Touché."

Neville rapped a large seed-pod again the side of the wood and watched it neatly crack in half. Neville sighed as he got to work. This was like child’s play really. It was the type of mindless work that made Neville wonder why he wasn’t a Herbology professor until he remembered that this Puffapod was going to ease someone’s life or the fact that the herb and plant concoction that he had cooked up for Lavender had sustained her while she had waited for her procedure. Herbology professors didn’t get to ease someone’s pain.

Healers did.

Neville peered into the seed-pod and sighed in relief. Hundreds of little silver beans lined the leathery inside. SIlver beans were always the most versatile and reacted the least with potion ingredients. A much better stabilizer than Flobberworm mucus, in Neville’s opinion, but expensive. Lily and James could certainly afford it.

Mininium,” Neville cast over the rather large glass jar. The electric charge burst through immediately. It was a spell meant to make the beans cluster towards each other rather than against the glass of the jar. Then, he waved his wand again, Conjuring water and squirting it into the jar, to trick the seed-pods into believing that they were still in the seed-pod.

He took great care to harvest, using the Levitating Charm to lift three dozen of the silvery beans into the jar. Lily and Snape were still arguing about the Frenchmen, as Harry called them.

“What do you think, Mr. Longbottom?”

If Neville was any less experienced, he would’ve ruined it all and dropped the seeds. Instead, he only jumped and turned to look at Lily, not even looking anymore as he harvested the seeds. He’d done it dozens of times before, it was easy as breathing.

“J-just Neville.”

“Okay. What do you think?” Lily demanded.

“I don’t know...what...I…” Neville stammered.

Snape groaned. “Really? You’ll ask Longbottom? He’s barely passable as—”

“Shut up. I’m asking my son’s friend. He’s harvesting Puffapod seeds without even watching what he’s doing. Clearly, he’s more than passable,” Lily snapped. Her gaze didn’t soften but her voice did. “How are my students, Neville? Do they fit in well amongst their fellow trainees?”

Neville opened his mouth and the closed it. His cheeks turned pink.

“I’m not sure if I’m the best person to answer that,” Neville mumbled.

“See the boy admits it!” Snape snapped. “Do you doubt my skills as a teacher?”

“You’ve been teaching them for all of two weeks, Severus. Get a grip,” Lily griped before she turned back to Neville. “I think you are the best person. Please. Be honest.”

“Well…” Neville said. He swallowed his nerves and bulldozed on. Really, Lily was just an older and much scarier version of Harry. He could do this. “Draco is an antagonistic prick and Astoria’s kind of terrifying and condescending. They’ve made friends with Zacharias Smith who is an unlikable douchebag, so no one is really hanging out with them very often. Harry pretty much hates Draco, and Draco doesn’t help by baiting him all of the time. They’re rude to Hermione and talk behind some of the Healers’ backs and it’s just kinda...unflattering…”

Neville trailed off. He turned his gaze back to his task, quivering under Lily's unwavering gaze. He put the top on the unbreakable jar and then turned back to Snape, solemnly offering the jar to the Potions Master. Snape snatched it from him, irritated. Lily's expression was changing too fast for Neville to read and then it settled into something expressly unimpressed.

“I was right. They’re not ready,” Lily said coldly.

“Ready for what, ma’am?” Neville asked. He winced when Lily raised an eyebrow.

“ ‘Ma’am’. Merlin, Severus, am I really that old?” Lily asked.

“Wait! I mean, I just, you’re Lily Evans,” Neville blurted out. “Greatest Healer, like, ever, and one of my best friend’s...mum.”

Lily snorted. She nodded. “Thank you for the Puffapod seeds, Neville Longbottom. Thanks for letting me borrow him, Pomona,” Lily said. Sprout barely looked up from where she was nearly buried in the dirt next to the mandrakes. Lily glanced at Neville. “They’re not ready to announce their specialty. We’ll try it again in a few months. Thanks for letting me know about this, Neville. Good luck to you tomorrow.”

She swept from the greenhouse without another word, Snape sneering and snapping at her heels.

Neville couldn’t keep his tiny smile off his face.

Served Draco right for being an arse. He got what was coming to him.

Maybe he’d learn that Healing was a team sport.

Neville let out a sigh. Lily Evans—one of the best Healers alive—had just wished him luck.

The only thing that would've been better would be if Phyllida Spore, the author of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, had done the same.


DIAGNOSIS


 

D-Day. Friday. The big day. The day they’d been waiting for what felt like their whole lives.

Harry took a deep breath.

Time to get real.

Neville, Hermione, and Harry waited by the door, straining hard to listen through the wards that Dumbledore had put up had to be strong. Smith and Patil were already preening—Smith declaring as a Spell Damage specialist, though that would surely change, and Patil as a Magical Bugs and Diseases specialist. Abbott was nervous, reviewing her own charts in her head. She was probably wondering if she was going to be the trainee dismissed from the program.

Harry hoped she wouldn’t be, for Neville’s sake.

The door creaked open and Hermione straightened.

“Well?” Hermione demanded. Ron looked down at her impassively and Hermione made a wounded sound.

“Mate, that’s impossible,” Harry breathed, his eyes wide.

“No...it can’t be you. That’s statistically impossible! It should be Abbott or Turpin or Entwhistle. I did the maths!”

“Oi, that’s my girlfriend you’re talking about,” Neville interjected.

Hermione ignored him, her brow furrowed as she went over the maths again. “Ron, we’ll fix this! I’ll talk to Vance or-or, I’ll even beg Healer Evans, I—”

“Relax, hag. I’m in,” Ron said, his lips curling into a wide grin.

Hermione’s jaw dropped and then she shoved Ron roughly as he broke into vicious cackles.

"You irritating piece of shit!"

“I didn’t know you cared,” Ron said, trembling with his laughter. Harry relaxed and shook his head.

“You’re a right prat for that. Now, go on. Your specialty?” Harry demanded.

“Emergency & Triage. Guess who my teacher is?” Ron asked, raising an eyebrow. “Give you a hint. It rhymes with your ex’s ex.”

“Fucking Bellatrix,” Harry groaned.

“She’s a nutter, but she’s bloody brilliant,” Ron said. He looked over at the door. “Entwhistle is almost done. Then, it’s Abbott, I think.”

Hannah jumped at the sound of her name, and then she was muttering under her breath again, pacing. The door slammed open and everyone looked wide-eyed. Entwhistle looked ashen and Turpin rushed up to her teammate.

“What is it?” she demanded.

“Dumbledore asked me to leave,” Entwhistle said quietly.

There was a long moment of solemnity. They all remembered Dumbledore’s words from their first day—two of them would be asked to leave. Some of them would crack under the pressure. Some of them would switch to easier fields. Finally, everything seemed more real.

Harry’s stomach turned.

“No…” Cornfoot was saying. “That can’t be true.”

“It is. Apparently, my potions skills lab pushed me over the edge,” Entwhistle said sharply. His nose wrinkled, and he turned to Hannah. "You're up."

Hannah let out a half-sob before she spun. Neville reached out, grabbing her by the wrist to calm her down. He leaned forward to whisper something in her ear. As he murmured to her, Entwhistle stormed out, his trainee group following after him like lost ducks. Hannah staggered away from Neville and Dumbledore’s door shut softly behind her.

Harry was lost in his own head.

Harry had caused so many issues from day one. He had been the subject of gossip and the target of vitriol. The party, the rule-breaking, Tom. It would probably be better if Dumbledore got rid of him, if he were being honest. Truly, Harry sometimes felt like he was still a little kid, eager to prove himself. He wasn't a Healer. Not really. He was—

“Stop it,” Hermione hissed in his ear.

Harry looked at her, wide-eyed. “What?”

“Your imposter syndrome is showing,” Hermione said snippily.

"Is that, that thing where you think that you don't deserve what you've got because you can't comprehend your own accomplishments?" Ron asked. He tilted his head. "You do know you're brilliant, right, mate?"

“Yes, I know,” Harry snapped. He sounded like he was lying through his teeth.

“Do you?” Hermione challenged.

Harry opened his mouth to argue and Hermione silenced him with a look. Harry knew what that meant.

Shake it off.

“Yeah, I know,” he sighed, finally meaning what he said. “Just a momentary crisis. I’m fine. I’m fine.

“Really, Harry, you get yourself worked up over the oddest things. Dumbledore would be bloody mad to fire you,” Ron said encouragingly. He tilted his head and his brow furrowed. “I wonder what Bellatrix is going to be like as a teacher.”

“Awful,” Harry remarked immediately. Then, he hesitated, shaking his head. “Actually, she’s a great teacher. I learned a lot on her service. What made you pick E&T?”

“I saved your father, that’s what,” Ron said. “It was a rush, wasn’t it? I just...everything was like a game. Like a chess game. I’m bloody good at chess, I don’t know if you know.”

“I know,” Hermione ground out.

Harry grinned. Hermione had won exactly one game out of the hundreds that they had played.

“It’s pretty great. Better than Spell Damage. We all know that’s your specialty, Harry,” Ron said.

As Ron spoke, the door cracked open. Hannah looked in near tears, but she was smiling. Harry wasn’t sure who reached her first—Patil or Neville. They stood on either side of her, staring down at her.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Neville asked.

“Not you too, right? It can’t be,” Padma said, speaking over him.

"Not me," Hannah gasped in relief. Both sighed in relief. Even, Smith looked like he was relaxing, and Harry hadn't even realized how tense the man was until that tension had drained away. "He said...it was really close. Too close. I just have to do better. I declared Magical Bugs and Maladies, focusing on children. I'm working with Lovegood, probably. She's being sent the paperwork now."

Neville ran a hand through his hair. “Oh, good. Lovegood is a bit…”

“Loony,” Ron supplied, unhelpfully.

“Sure,” Neville said with a warning in his eyes. “But, she’s great. Honest.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Hannah said, nodding. “Fuck, I can’t believe it was so close. I have to do better.”

She sounded determined now.

Harry’s anxiety returned and he glanced at Ron. Ron was watching him, utterly relaxed, and suddenly, Harry realized what the man had been doing before—carefully dismantling all of Harry’s doubts and worries.

“Thanks,” Harry said with a small smile.

“You’re, like, family, or whatever,” Ron grumbled though he was grinning despite himself.

“Family,” Hermione barked, aggressive as ever.

Harry snorted into his hand and smothered his grin with his hand.

“Anyway, you’re the last one, Potter. Go forth,” Hannah said with a smile.

And Harry was the last one. Hermione had been easy. Creature-Induced Injuries, and Emmeline Vance as her mentor. Apparently, Hermione hadn’t even had to ask. Emmeline had already put the paperwork through to take her on at the soonest possible moment. Neville was Potions and Plant Poisoning, and shockingly and not shockingly, had chosen Pomona Sprout as his mentor. Clearly, his time with Snape hadn’t made him any fonder of the arsehole.

“Go forth and receive your destiny,” Neville said with a grin.

Harry flipped him off.

“We all know what he’s going to choose,” Smith said, obnoxious as ever. Before Harry could respond, he was already turning back to his team. “Wonder if Riddle will have time for him now that he’s got that grant. Doubt it. My grandmother—Hepzibah Smith, you know, she’s a donor—offered a small incentive to have Riddle train me, but he said he was too busy.”

“Well, I mean, your grandmother is just a donor, and his mother is Lily Evans, and after all, he’s...I hate to admit it, but probably going to be one of the best—” Padma was saying and then, the door shut behind Harry, and he was alone with the Head Healer of St. Mungo’s.

“Come, my boy, come. Sit down,” Albus Dumbledore said with a small smile. He pushed his half-moon glasses up his crooked nose, his bright blue eyes flickering knowingly behind the frames.

“Hello, Healer Dumbledore,” Harry said softly as he did as he was commanded.

He settled in the chair across from the man. Harry was sitting in the chair that his mother had sat in when she had declared her specialty—an unprecedented Spell Damage and Plants & Poisonings. Snape had declared his specialty in that chair. Vance. Lovegood. Bellatrix. Lestrange.

Tom.

“I must confess, Harry, that I have been waiting for this moment,” Albus said, almost apologetically.

“Really?” Harry asked, quietly. “Why?”

"You remind me of two former trainees that sat in that chair. Two talented trainees with bright futures and a choice," Albus said.

“A choice,” Harry repeated.

“Of course, I speak of your mother and young Tom Riddle. They both had choices, and they made their choices. They weren’t the wrong choices, but they weren’t the best, either. What will you choose?” Albus asked.

Dumbledore was speaking in circles and Harry wasn’t sure what his choices were at all. All he could think was that he was being dropped from the program.

“Are you firing me?” Harry whispered.

“Absolutely not,” Albus said immediately. And then, he tilted his head. “Unless you want me to.”

“Never,” Harry confessed.

Albus’ eyes brightened and he leaned forward. “Harry, why do you want to be a Healer?”

“I want to help people. I want to help people that were never helped. I want to change the world. I want to be great.”

“And if you’re never great?” Dumbledore challenged, just as fast. HIs smile disappeared. “If you’re never recognized for all of your accomplishments?”

Harry was at a loss.

That had never been a question for him. He'd been called brilliant from the moment that he had appeared at St. Mungo's. He was good at what he did. He had good instincts, and he loved his work. If he wasn't great, what was he, other than just another Healer who loved their job? Just another Healer who opened people up and took the bad things out and—

He took the bad things out.

“Then, I’m not great,” Harry said with a small smile. “But, I still beat death back and gave someone another day. I still changed someone’s life. I still saved someone. And I will never be satisfied. I’m going to change the world, and if no one ever knows it...well, I know it.”

And Dumbledore’s lips curled into a bright grin. “Congratulations on your specialty, Healer Potter.”

Harry beamed. “I haven’t even declared it.”

“Spell Damage. Trained by Tom Marvolo Riddle,” Dumbledore said. He spun the file in front of him around and Harry peered down at the flourishing signature that he could just make out to read Tom’s name. “Already approved.”

“Okay,” Harry laughed, throwing his head back. He stood up and Dumbledore did the same. Dumbledore reached forward, grabbing him by the shoulder.

“That was the better choice,” Dumbledore said softly. “I have confidence in you, Healer Potter. You’ll blow us all away if you’re given the chance. You and your merry band of friends.”

“My family,” Harry corrected gently.

Dumbledore looked wistful. “You four remind me so much of them.”

“Who?” Harry asked softly.

“One day, my boy, ask Tom about his own family. And ask him why he hasn’t forgiven them for their mistakes. If the answer is pride, bully him out of that,” Dumbledore commanded.

Harry snorted in laughter. “I don’t think anyone can bully Tom Riddle.”

“Then, love him despite it,” Dumbledore said.

Harry’s laughter cut out. “Healer…”

“I do not think...I should be asking this of you, but I can’t not ask you. Tom Riddle loved his family and they hurt him. I’ve known him since he was a child, Harry. And they were all he had. Show him how important they are, even in all of their mistakes. Be his family and remind him of his own.”

Harry’s gaze softened.

“Okay, Healer. Okay.”

Harry backed away from the man, not quite taking his eyes off of Dumbledore until he got to the door. He opened the door and then turned around. The room was silent, and the group of trainees that remained was torn between watching Harry and the other man that stood against the wall opposite Harry.

“And?” Tom Riddle asked.

“Hello, teacher,” Harry said with a wry smile. He took a step forward, ignoring Neville, Ron, and Hermione’s quiet hisses of approval. “Ask me again.”

“Ask you again?” Tom asked with a smirk on his handsome face. “What makes you think I haven’t changed my mind? Maybe I want to ask Smart, or Schmitt, or Smith, or whatever.”

Smith squawked in irritation.

Harry took another step forward. “Because you want the best. Ask me again.”

“Assist me on my project?” Tom asked.

"Why?" Harry challenged with a grin, practically vibrating with excitement.

“Thought you’d want to save some lives. Change the world and that rot,” Tom said casually.

Harry beamed. “Yeah, why not. It’s a beautiful day to conquer death. Let’s have some fun and shit.”

Tom barked out a laugh and then he started walking down the hallway.

Harry looked over at his family for just a moment. “I’ll catch up with you later.”

Neville grinned and nodded. Ron gave him a thumbs up. Hermione looked at him expectantly.

Harry pounded down the hallway after the taller man, falling into step with him.

“Alright, Tom. You’ve got me on your project. Let’s get down to the details.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Bellatrix watched them go, heads bent close together. Tom was walking nearly sideways for Merlin’s sake, his entire body angled towards the trainee that strutted out as if he didn’t realize how Tom trailed after him like a lost dog. It was actually rather embarrassing, Bellatrix thought. Tom had fallen so low, in her absence. She thought all of these things while her stomach turned with discomfort and nerves.

“Doesn’t it bother you?” he hissed in her ear.

Bellatrix didn’t jump. She had had Rodolphus’ whisper in her ear for a long time before they had both fucked off to wallow in self-pity.

“What?” she snapped.

“He never looked at you like that, did he? Like he’d follow you anywhere,” Rodolphus taunted and Bellatrix’s hands clenched into tight fists as she refused to look at him. She only watched the pair of them. They had stopped by the corridor entrance towards the Apparition Zone. “He’s in love with him.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Bellatrix snarled, snapping her head back to look at him—finally. “He can’t have him.”

Bellatrix cursed under her breath. She had given a little too much away.

“Oh, really?” Rodolphus murmured. “Was that the stipulation for his little grant? He can have his name in medical history, but he can’t have the boy? How delightfully petty of you, Bella.”

“What do you even want?” Bellatrix demanded, crossing her arms over her chest. She wasn’t sure if she was holding herself together or defending herself from Rodolphus’ pointed words, so easy to dig into her soft bits.

“I’m just making conversation, Bella,” Rodolphus muttered. “Do you think he’s really going to come crawling back to you, Bella? We’ve known Tom for a long time—since we were kids. You think he’s going to leave him?”

Bellatrix snarled. “I think you’re a fucking coward. Spit it out. Why did you really come back?” Bellatrix demanded.

“You know why,” Rodolphus retorted immediately. “I told you why.”

“My answer hasn’t changed. I don’t love you,” Bellatrix said flatly.

Rodolphus snorted, shaking his head. “Fine. Go on loving the man that can never love you. That won’t ever love you.”

“Coward,” she spat again, her voice cracking on the world.

Her eyes burned and she stared at him for a long time as she remembered the last words he had spoken to her. She had shown up in his flat, sobbing so hard that her entire body had trembled. He had held her while she had stumbled through the story, how Tom had burned all of her clothing, had Banished her key to the flat, had thrown her out of their home. It had taken him three days after catching them to do that. She had thought they would get past that.

Bellatrix had told him that she was going to give him time.

And she remembered Rodolphus’ last words: I will love you until the end of time.

She had flinched away from those terrible words and run away. He didn’t know that she’d come back the next day, looking for him, and he had disappeared too.

“And my answer hasn’t changed either,” he said, softly.

Bellatrix shook her head and walked away.

So did Rodolphus.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Hermione,” Ron said as the woman threw her bright green robes into her cupboard and prepared to make her way out of the building. Ron sighed as Hermione pretended she hadn’t heard him. He reached out, grabbing her wrist, and tugged her closer to his corner of the room. She looked at him, eyes wide like a spooked mooncalf. “Hermione, we need to talk.”

“Why can’t you let this go?” Hermione whispered, in a soft voice.

“Because I don’t want to and I don’t think you do either,” Ron retorted quietly. He glanced over his shoulder and was relieved to see Harry was already gone, probably running off with Riddle. “We need to talk about the—”

Ron,” Hermione whispered, trembling. She glanced over his shoulder and pointed. “Emmeline is waiting for you.”

Ron glanced over his shoulder and cursed. Emmeline stood in the doorway, a strange expression on her face. She was already wearing her coat. He had forgotten. It was Friday, their pub day. They were going to try another new pub that they had found at the mouth of Knockturn Alley the last week. The night was going to be on Emmeline as congratulations. Emmeline wasn’t even quite looking at him. Her eyes were on Hermione.

Ron looked back down at Hermione.

She was strange to look at—big frizzy hair, wide eyes, heavy eyebrows, big teeth. And still, she was so stunning. Ron had dated a little bit at Hogwarts, and he wondered how he had never noticed the pretty brown-skinned bookworm tucked into the corner of the Ravenclaw table.

“You can’t keep running away,” Ron snapped.

“I’m not running,” Hermione retorted, and there she was. That fierce, brilliant woman that he admired so much. He tilted his head.

“You run into your own head. But, I’m not letting this one go,” Ron said sharply and he pulled away from her, grabbing his coat out of his cupboard and departing without another word.

Hermione let out a sigh of relief and she shook herself, gathering her wits about her. She hadn’t expected Ron to confront her. Somehow, in all of her calculations of how her actions would play out, she had never even considered Ron trying to talk to her about it. Ron liked to laugh shit off, and make jokes. If he was unamused, he’d explode like a child. And yet, he had tried to talk to her like an adult. She hadn’t expected that.

“What was that about?”

Hermione looked up at Neville, caught.

“It was...nothing,” Hermione whispered.

“Was it about Ron kissing you?” Neville asked, his gaze unwavering.

Hermione’s eyes widened. “How do you know about that?”

“You think Harry and you are the only two people in our house that gossip?” Neville countered, his eyebrows rising. His lips twisted into a smile as Hermione scowled at him, crossing her arms over her chest and she huffed.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Hermione snapped.

“Is this about Emmeline? How she…likes him, and you’re her student? Or about to be, rather?” Neville asked hesitantly.

Hermione was careful not to look at him. “No. Nothing like that,” she said, lying through her teeth.

Neville was quiet for a long moment as if he were weighing his words. He was rocking back and forth, tilting his head and then he finally turned back to her.

“I know I’m not Harry, and I don’t really...get you, like he does, but you know I love you, right?” Neville asked and Hermione looked up at him. Neville was smiling down at her, his eyes kind and soft.

Against her better judgment, Hermione’s lips curled into a tiny smile.

“I know. You know I love you too?” Hermione asked quietly.

Neville shrugged. “I had a tiny suspicion. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell because you’re a fucking psycho.”

Hermione threw her head back and laughed, long and loud and bright. She didn’t even care that others were watching the pair of them. She shook her head.

“Alright, smart arse. Let’s go take away. I’m feeling Indian.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“I’m ready to get drunk,” Emmeline declared as they walked into The Fountain of Fair Fortune on Horizont Alley. It was a musty place that had surely seen better years, which only made it better for both Ron and Emmeline.

Emmeline got looks, as she tended to wherever she went. She was a fit woman, something that Ron really couldn’t forget. Not with her plump, always red lips, her curves, the way she laughed. So, yeah, she was fit, and sometimes, he wished that he could fancy her, the way he might’ve. But, then he remembered biting words and a pack of smokes and frizzy hair that always smelled like coconut and Indian take away and her laugh and her snarls and her brilliance, and he remembered that though Emmeline was fit and funny and sweet, she was no Hermione Granger.

He winced.

“Same. I want to forget my name,” Ron said firmly.

Emmeline grinned at him. “That’s what I’m talking about,” she said as she settled at the end of the bar. The bartender looked up from where he was lazily dusting a bottle of Firewhiskey. He didn’t look like he should be out of Hogwarts yet.

Merlin, he still had spots on his cheeks.

"To start...just a pint of beer for me, and...what do you want, Em?” Ron asked.

“My treat, Ron,” Emmeline said. She leaned forward on her barstool, waving her hand, giving the bartender a line of sight into her cleavage. “Your finest bottle of Firewhiskey!”

“Really?” Ron asked, surprised.

Emmeline grimaced. “Abso-fucking-lutely.”

"You weren't kidding about wanting to get drunk," Ron commented as the bartender waved his wand, sending their drinks flying down the bar. Ron caught both the pint and bottle and cursed when the pale amber of his beer slipped over the side, coating his hand.

Emmeline waved her wand, washing his hand free of the sticky foam and liquid.

“No, I was not,” Emmeline said and she tapped the top of the bottle and took a long pull.

Ron’s eyes widened more and more. He had only ever seen Harry drink Firewhiskey like it was water, and he and Neville had a hypothesis that Harry could only do it because his insides were made of dark twisty shit that allowed him to process it better than a normal person.

They nursed their drinks in relative silence. It was always a comfortable silence with Emmeline. They didn’t need to talk to fill the space between them with small talk. It was unnecessary. That was one thing that she had in common with Hermione.

Ron cursed into his half-finished pint.

He needed to stop. To stop thinking about...her.

Ron glanced at Emmeline. She was drinking twice as fast as him, and he wasn't sure if she'd even eaten lunch. Great.

“Can we get a basket of fish and chips?” Ron called.

“That’ll be twelve sickles,” the bartender said immediately.

Ron rolled his eyes and nodded and the bartender went into the backroom to get their food together.

“Fucking overpriced greasy pub food,” Ron muttered under his breath.

He knew he was probably going to get shitty food, but maybe, it’d soak up some of the alcohol. When the bartender came back with their food, he lifted the pitcher and topped off Ron’s beer for him and nodded at Emmeline.

“She alright?” the bartender asked. “She’s a third in and she’s drinking really fast.”

Emmeline was muttering to herself, her head bent over the mouth of the Firewhiskey bottle.

“Yeah. I think she’s just...having a bad day,” Ron said. He swallowed his nerves and turned fully to face his friends. “What is it, Em?”

“You know you deserve a nice girl, right, Ron?” Emmeline said. Her eyes were hazy with alcohol, but her voice was surprisingly clear, only a hint of a slur in her words.

“Um. Yes?” he said. He pushed the platter of fish and chips towards Emmeline.

She went for the fish first, as she always did. Emmeline washed it down with another gulp of Firewhiskey.

“You deserve someone kind and sweet and sweet—I’ve said that twice—and good and funny. A girl who likes shitty pubs and will eat the fish in the fish and chips and that is good at her job. A nice girl. You deserve a nice girl! Don't you want that?" Emmeline demanded and she sounded like she was pleading with him. Ron swallowed hard. He looked away and suddenly, he was reminded of that awfully telling look that Neville had given him.

I don’t think that she sees you as a friend, Ron, Neville’s voice echoed.

Ron reached for a chip.

“Hermione Granger is not nice.”

Ron dropped the chip back into the platter. He turned towards her and stared into her brandy eyes and nodded, slowly.

“No. She’s not,” he whispered.

“She is the exact opposite of everything I would’ve pictured for you. It would actually be funny if it wasn’t so...not funny,” Emmeline said, her voice shaking. Ron’s eyes widened and his hand reached out to tug the Firewhiskey from her hands. She snatched it away, taking a long burning sip. “I get it. She’s beautiful and talented and kinda amazing. And she’s right. I get her.”

“I think it’s time to get you home,” Ron said nervously, and this had never happened before.

Sure, Emmeline and he had gotten quite pissed before, and sometimes, it ended in a bit of snogging before Ron gathered the little sense that he had, but Emmeline had never ranted like that. Granted, Emmeline had always said that Firewhiskey was the worst for her, but he hadn’t even thought that it would turn her into this. He hadn’t thought it would push the conversation in the exact direction he didn’t want it going in.

“I get her so much, Ron,” Emmeline lamented, her head falling against the sticky, disgusting bar. She didn’t even seem to mind it much, and Ron’s nose wrinkled. “Her gift...herself...she chooses her gift, and she should because she’s brilliant, Ron, and I understand why you’re in love with her.”

“Excuse me?” Ron squeaked out. “I’m not in love with—”

“But she was willing to trade you,” Emmeline blurted out. And Ron’s heart stopped.

“What?”

"She was willing to trade you for me. I was going to leave. After we saved Lily's kid. And she...she...she said if I stayed, I could have you,” Emmeline said and she let out a terrible sob. “And I agreed to that.”

Ron blinked once. Then twice. He closed his eyes and finally pulled the Firewhiskey out of Emmeline’s grasp. He took a long drag from the bottle, using the burn to tether himself to the ground because he felt like he was floating. Then, he opened his eyes again and he looked down at Emmeline, brushing her mussed, falling curls from her face.

“Don’t you hate me?” Emmeline wept through her drunken tears.

“No. I don’t hate anyone,” Ron said quietly. “Just. Get up.”

He didn't wait for her to agree, only pulling her up to her feet. He reached into his pocket, tossing down a few too many Galleons. He looped an arm around Emmeline's waist and she stumbled, leaning against him heavily.

“Where are we going?” she asked drunkenly.

“I’m taking you home and then, I’m going home,” Ron said calmly because he didn’t know what else to be but calm.

"H-home? Back to her?" Emmeline sighed. She was soaking his shoulder in her tears and her lipstick was only a stain on her lips now.

And the idea struck his slightly drunken brain as a good one. He wondered what would happen if he showed up at Grimmauld Place. He wondered what would happen if he banged on Hermione’s door and demanded an explanation. And maybe, that was something he would’ve done as a kid, but he wasn’t a kid anymore. And Hermione...Hermione was a complicated woman, wasn’t she?

Well, Ron had gotten that from the beginning.

She was willing to trade you for me.

And suddenly, he wanted nothing more than his mother's roast chicken and his father's terrible jokes and broken Muggle things. He wanted to sleep in his hideously orange childhood bedroom under the noisy ghoul and see his brothers and sister, who might even be home for the weekend from Hogwarts.

“No. Tomorrow’s my off day,” Ron said, biting his bottom lip raw. “I’m going home.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Tom hesitated in front of the door of his flat. He glanced back over his shoulder at Harry. Harry stared back at him, raising a single eyebrow, his arms crossed over his chest.

“What?” Harry challenged. “I’ve seen your flat before, Tom.”

“Not...not like this. I haven’t...tidied up,” Tom began.

Harry’s nose wrinkled. “Did you just used the words ‘tidied up’?”

“You’re an irritating little shit,” Tom sighed, turning back to his door. He tapped the lock with the tip of his wand. The deadbolt clicked open and the heavy metal door slowly creaked inward. “Watch your step.”

“Watch my…” Harry trailed off.

His lips part and he took a deep inhale. The chrome coldness of the flat that Harry remembered was gone. It was still bright and a rather nice flat. But, now, it seemed lived in, in a way that Harry didn't quite remember. Parchment covered every available surface. Tom's handwriting was scrawled across napkins and in the margins of old Daily Prophets and on the Post-its on his fridge. Piles of research were scattered across the floor, from scrolls to old case files to books. Countless books. Every meter or so, there was a purposefully bare spot, as if Tom had made himself a pathway.

“I’ve been...preoccupied,” Tom allowed, his voice cool as he looked away.

Harry’s lips curled into a wide smile. “You think?” he teased softly. Tom looked at him, surprised. “This is brilliant. Tell me about the project, yeah?”

Tom’s burgundy eyes lit up and nodded, using the bare spots on the floor to make his way to the couch. He cleared it off, dumping the piles on the short coffee table, making a space for Harry. Harry followed his footsteps, though he had to jump from spot to spot. It was clearly a path made more for Tom's abnormally, freakishly long legs. Harry curled up against the sofa.

“Okay,” Tom said and he was grinning, like a boy. “I’m going to conquer death.”

“As you’ve said,” Harry said firmly. “How are you going to go about that?”

“I have an idea. A hypothesis, if you will. How much do you know about Dark magic?” Tom asked.

“I know that it’s the antithesis of Healing magic,” Harry retorted.

Tom rolled his eyes. “Is it?”

“Yes,” Harry said immediately. “Absolutely.”

“Really, you mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, sweetheart,” Tom said, staring at him with that arrogance that both irritated Harry and made him laugh.

“Oh, fuck off. If we’re going to work together, we need rules,” Harry said, shoving his shoulder.

Tom snorted.

“Rules?” Tom asked.

“Yeah, um, rules,” Harry stammered, tripping over his words. Tom raised a single eyebrow, unimpressed. “We need boundaries. You can’t...we can’t drink together. You can’t come to Grimmauld Place. And...and Hermione said we can't be friends, but I...well, I wanna be friends. So, yeah. We're going to go back to being just friends.”

“Where we ever?” Tom asked, his voice suddenly soft as he looked up at Harry from underneath his long, long eyelashes. He leaned forward, his eyes darting down to Harry’s lips and then back up again.

Harry’s voice caught in his throat. “No,” he whispered.

“Sweetheart—” Tom began.

No, Tom. You...you chose the grant. You didn’t choose me. So, no. We’re going to be friends,” Harry snapped and Tom looked at him for a long moment. He watched the burgundy glint to Tom’s eyes flicker, and slowly Tom leaned back, impressed.

“Fine. Friends, then,” Tom decided, respect in his eyes.

“Now, tell me what this is about,” Harry commanded loftily.

Tom's lips curled into a small smile. He looked young, like a boy caught doing something he really shouldn't be. It was frightfully charming, and Harry suddenly remembered why he had fallen in love with this man in the first fucking place. It did things to Harry—made his heart flutter like he was a fucking teen-aged girl. He paused. He couldn't ever imagine Hermione’s heart fluttering about, and she had been a teen-aged girl.

Fine, then. His heart fluttered like a prepubescent youth with his first crush.

“I had quite a fascination with Dark magic in my youth. It is a powerful branch of magic with great capability of destruction and innovation. When I became a Healer, I wanted to explore avenues of applying the principles and perhaps even magic of the Dark arts to the art of Healing,” Tom explained. He leaned forward.

“Using Dark magic to Heal?” Harry asked uncertainly. “How?”

"There are so many branches of the Dark Arts, Harry. There are dark curses, dark potions, dark creatures. Rituals. All intended to combat what Dark wizards fear most from their opponents—death," Tom said quietly. "I call it the Vol de Mort project."

The Vol de Mort project.

“What does that mean?” Harry asked.

“Flight from death.”

And Harry didn't exactly cringe away from it. Instead, he watched the man and scooted just a little bit closer, intrigued. Tom looked odd—like he was trying to stifle his excitement with his typical arrogance—and it made Harry smile. He smiled wide.

“So, we would be using Dark magic to find a way to reverse the effects of other Dark magic. We’re going to repurpose Dark magic to do the exact opposite of what it’s meant to do,” Harry said and he leaned back, laughing in disbelief. “You know what you’re saying right?”

“You think I’m mad,” Tom observed.

"I think you're fucking brilliant. This is breaking the first natural law of magic. This is dealing with life and death shit," Harry rasped, nearly vibrating in excitement.

Tom tilted his head and nodded, his lips curling into a tiny smile. “Yes. We’re going to learn all of that Dark magic and harness it to stop death in its tracks.”

And it wasn’t ever really a question. Harry loved his work. He loved magic and Healing. He loved doing the impossible and he loved exceeding expectations. He wanted to be great and Tom, though he had many faults, was great. Tom was his teacher, and if he thought he could do this, then...it didn’t matter. It had never really been a question at all.

Harry was in love with this brilliant man.

And Harry wanted to lean forward and press a kiss against Tom’s jaw, but he didn’t.

Instead, he grinned and asked, "When do we start?"

Tom waved his wand, sharply and a file flew into Harry’s lap, flipping over to show a glossy picture of a young woman. She was dressed in bright green Quidditch robes and leathers, a Firebolt clutched tightly in one hand. She looked rather nervous under their gazes until her eyes narrowed, and Harry saw the hidden steel.

“We start now. Our first case: Katie Bell.”

Chapter Text

Hermione sometimes hated Muggle London.

It was loud and fast—and the wizarding world was too—but this place never felt quite like home.

That was something that Wendell and Monika Granger didn’t quite understand. They never had, though they tried. It wasn’t their fault, not really. It wasn’t their fault that Hermione had been a know-it-all swot all through Hogwarts with no friends, and now, suddenly, she had found her place, her family. They tried. They really did, but couldn’t.

Hermione didn’t want to say it was because they were Muggles.

“So...Creature Induced Injuries, eh? What’s that like? Like treating pet bites?” Wendell asked curious and good-natured.

"Oooh, a vet, of sorts?" Monika asked.

But, it was because they were Muggles.

“I brought a werewolf-mauled girl back from the brink of death with unicorn hair and a sewing kit,” Hermione said, her voice flat.

Monika and Wendell looked at her as if they weren’t sure whether or not to believe her.

Hermione's father picked at his salad. Hermione glumly looked down at her own limp salad. She wished that she was back at Grimmauld Place, eating the leftovers from last night or ordering take away. Her parents would have a heart attack if they knew she had foregone the vegan diet that they had raised her on in favor of tikka masala and Harry's shitty eggs.

“So...how are your housemates? Henry and Roscoe and...Nelson?” Wendell guessed.

“Harry, Ron, and Neville. They’re...great,” Hermione said because she wasn’t sure how else to describe them.

Her boys.

“Any hospital gossip?” Monika asked brightly, leaning forward. “I know when I was in dentistry school, it was always about who is sleeping with and who is doing what illegal procedure on who?”

“Mum!” Hermione squeaked.

“Are you using lube, honey? I’m telling you lube is everything,” Monika said knowledgeably.

Hermione groaned, burying her face in her hands. “Can you not? Dad, please—”

“Your mother is asking viable questions, sweetheart,” Wendell said absently. He always let her mother get away with this shit.

Hermione’s only saving grace was that the batty woman hadn’t managed to meet her friends yet.

“Oh, these friends...have you had any of these friends’ penis in your mouth?” Monika asked sweetly.

Hermione’s head thudded to the table. “Harry is gay and madly in love with his boss! And Neville has a girlfriend!”

“And that...Roscoe...no, Ron, fellow?” Wendell asked curiously. “Is he a handsome sort?”

"Yes, he's very handsome, but I haven't had his penis in my mouth, Dad," Hermione hissed, her eyes wide with fury. She decided to shovel the chopped kale power salad into her mouth to stop herself from saying anything else she might regret.

Sometimes, Hermione wondered how she had turned on the way she had when she had the two of them for parents.

“Now, Hermione, you know if you can’t talk about sex, you shouldn’t be having it,” Monika chided.

“I can talk about sex well and fine. I just don’t want to talk about with my mum and dad in a public restaurant. Merlin,” Hermione hissed, shaking her head.

God, she hated kale.

“Really, you must have him over for dinner. We’ll make him spaghetti squash and tofu balls. Or your father will. Wendell’s balls are the best,” Monika said wolfishly.

“You make me want to commit suicide,” Hermione said flatly.

“No, don’t do that,” Wendell said quickly. He winked at her. “But, my balls really are the best.”

“You two are insufferable,” Hermione hissed, eating twice as fast. The faster she finished, the faster she could get out of there. “He’s...not...he doesn’t...my boss likes him.”

“So?” Monika snorted. “Does he like your boss?”

“No. He likes me,” Hermione muttered, unable to make eye contact. “But, he could like my boss.”

“But, if you like him and he likes you, who gives a shit about the boss?” Wendell asked curiously.

I give a shit about her,” Hermione snapped. “She’s brilliant and she’s my teacher. I begged her to be my teacher. I said she could have him if she would be—”

Hermione cut herself off.

Monika tutted to herself. “How archaic of you, Hermione. An interesting reversal of traditional gender-based transactions of sexuality, but, ultimately, not well done.”

Hermione huffed.

“I know. It was awful of me,” Hermione confessed softly.

“Yes, it was,” Wendell observed, but he had a twinkle in his eye. “But, you’ve never really given a shit about other people’s feelings when they got in the way of your goals. So, why do you care now?”

“Because Harry said it was crazy. That I was crazy,” Hermione said softly. “And I think he’s right. But...Ron deserves better.”

“Ron wouldn’t find better,” Monika said, her eyes glowing. “Brilliant witch like you? Top of your class, off to sew up werewolf girls and half-fish girls—”

“Mermaids, Mum, and not my job,” Hermione interjected though she couldn’t help her grin.

“God, you’ve got mermaids too!” Wendell marveled.

“Anyway, he wouldn’t find better,” Monika said. She hesitated. “Do you have magical STIs or just the regular ones? Also, contraception. How have you been doing with that?”

Hermione flushed, embarrassed.

If there was one thing that she should’ve picked up from her parents, it was that contraception was key. She was always the provider of condoms at Hogwarts despite the very little sex that she had been having at the time. And then, the one time she had decided not to use contraception, she had gotten pregnant.

How not very on.

“Hermione?” Wendell asked.

Hermione huffed. “I...it doesn’t matter now. The problem’s been taken care of,” she snapped. That phrase stopped them in their tracks. They wouldn’t ask anymore, never pry. They would weird and invasive in their pursuit of helpfulness, but whenever she uttered those words, they would step back.

She adored them for it.

“Very well. Send an owl to us every now and then. We’ll send you some more condoms. And think of an IUD, sweetheart, if you’re going to be exclusive. I’ve one in and it’s—”

“Mum, really?” Hermione asked.

Monika smirked. “You’re a bit of a handful, aren’t you, sweetheart? Now, aren’t you going to get your man?”

Hermione sighed, spooning the rest of her salad into her mouth

“I’ve got to go,” Hermione said sharply, standing up and nearly knocking her chair back.

Monika grinned, flashing her a thumbs up.

“Oh, now?” Wendell asked. He always seemed a little lost when the banter between Hermione and Monika really picked up.

“I’m going to find him,” Hermione said, hurriedly packing her things. She’d change into a robe before she went stalking Ron across the English countryside. Hermione paused, looking at her parents. “Also, I hate kale and I eat chicken now.”


 

DIAGNOSIS


 

Ron tramped back inside, his twin brothers and little sister on his heels. They had spent the entire morning degnoming the garden and now they were finally settling in for lunch. Ron’s back and arms ached from the work, but it felt familiar in a way that a lot hadn’t until then. He didn’t mind so much. As he looked around the Burrow, he felt more at peace than he had in a long time.

“After lunch, you want to do pick-up Quidditch?” Ginny asked, her eyes glowing. She had cut her hair since the last time he had seen her. It was still long on top, but cut close on the sides, and done artfully up into a coiff. She looked edgy.

She probably still had a string of boys and girls running after her, as she always had when they were both at Hogwarts at the same time. It had endlessly annoyed Ron at the time, but now, he was kinda proud that his sister could pull so easily.

And her hair probably annoyed the hell out of their mum.

“Sure. Us against the twins?” Ron asked.

“You’ll lose!” Fred shouted. Both Fred and George raced past Ron and Ginny, nearly bowling him over in pursuit of getting to the table.

“Will you two calm down? To imagine you’re of age! Entrepreneurs! Still, you act like schoolchildren!” Molly shrieked, and Ron grinned to himself. Molly liked to yell, but Ron thought that it was all in good fun. She thought they were funny too.

“Really, Mum, they run a joke shop. I don’t think they’ll ever learn to be adults,” Percy said primly from behind his paperwork. George snorted as he sat on one side of Percy and Fred draped himself across their older brother’s shoulders.

“Boring adults like Percy, you mean?” George teased.

“The horror!” Fred crowed.

Percy puffed up like a scorned peacock. “I’ll have you know that I am—”

“The ‘Junior Assistant to the Minister for Magic himself’,” Ginny said, mockingly. She smirked, sitting down across from, pressing into their father’s side. Arthur looked up from his tinkering and smiled at his youngest child, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “Yes, we know. You’ve told us.”

“A thousand times,” Ron added. “Say, when are you going to get promoted?”

Percy turned pink. “Well, you’re still only a trainee.”

“I’ve declared my specialty yesterday,” Ron said with a shrug. “Emergency & Triage. I’ll be training with Bellatrix Black.”

“Really?” Ginny squeaked. “She’s bloody brilliant, isn’t she?”

“Yeah. She is. How do you know about her?” Ron asked curiously.

“Because! I know she took a sabbatical and she served as the Healer for the Holyhead Harpies for the last half of the season. I heard it on the wireless. Gwenog Jones was nearly out after a gnarly fall and then, Black helped her out, and she was good as new!” Ginny babbled.

“Will someone help me get the lunch on the table? Ginny!” Molly called.

“You’ve got a wand! Use it!” Ginny shouted back.

“GINNY!”

“Just because I’m a bloody woman, I need to help you in the kitchen?” Ginny demanded.

Molly walked out from the kitchen, her hands on her plump waist, eyes narrowed at her daughter.

“I don’t give a damn what you’ve got between your legs. You’re not supposed to be here this weekend. You’re here because you got in trouble. Now, come help me with lunch,” Molly barked.

Ginny grumbled, stomping off to the kitchen, her eyes narrowed.

“What’s she in trouble for?” Ron asked curiously.

Arthur turned pink. Fred and George exchanged grins.

“She was caught shagging in Transfiguration classroom,” Fred snorted.

Ron’s mouth dropped open. “Shagging who?”

“Boys…” Arthur warned.

“I thought she was dating...what’s his name? Dean Thomas! From my year,” Ron said, snapping the boy’s name into remembrance.

“Yes, well, she broke up with him. She was caught with Helen Dawlish! The girl with the big...you know,” George said with a wink.

Ron barked out a laugh. “Good job, Gin!”

“THANKS!” Ginny roared from the kitchen.

“Not good,” Molly snapped as she waved her wand and the food followed after her through the air. Ginny carried a stack of plates in her own arms as she went to set the table. “It was embarrassing is what it was. No one should...you shouldn’t do…”

“Have sex before marriage?” Ginny said with a wolfish grin. “Too late, Mum.”

Molly turned red and shook her head. Ginny finished setting the table and sat down.

“You should really listen to Mum, Ginny,” Percy said, self-importantly. “Sex is only the most base aspect of a relationship. Communication, trust, and intimacy are even more important. Aubrey and I have really made some—”

“What Percy is trying to say is that he’s still a little virgin that’s jealous of his little sister’s game,” George interrupted.

Percy cursed under his breath, shaking his head.

“Harry could hear some of that,” Ron said, looking over at Percy. “Communication, trust, and intimacy. Bet he doesn’t know the meaning of those words.”

“Harry?” Ginny asked curiously.

“Harry Potter. My housemate,” Ron supplied helpfully. Now, his entire family was watching him, paying the utmost attention. They liked to pry at him with questions so when he was freely offering up information, it was like everyone couldn’t find something better to do like assemble the amazing sandwich meats their mother had laid out for them. “I live with Harry Potter, Neville Longbottom, and...Hermione Granger.”

Ginny’s eyes narrowed with suspicion.

“Oh, the Longbottoms! Frank and Alice are amazing, aren’t they?” Molly said sweetly.

“Oh, and the Potters. Never saw much of the mother, but James is great,” Arthur added, sounding perpetually in awe.

“And this Hermione Granger?” Fred asked, wiggling his eyebrows.

Ron’s ears turned pink. “She’s...nobody.”

“Doesn’t look like nobody?” George grinned.

“She really doesn’t sound like nobody. Who is she?” Percy asked.

Ron groaned. If even Percy was getting into it, there was no way he was going to get out of answering their invasive questions.

Just as Ron steeled himself for the inevitable. There was a knock at the door.

“I’ll get it!” Ginny roared.

“Merlin, Gin. Inside voice,” Arthur said with a wince.

Ginny bounded towards the door, going around the corner to throw open the door. Fred and George craned their head, trying to see who it was around the bend. There was an audible gasp. Then, soft murmuring. Ginny turned back into the sitting area, a shit-eating grin on her face.

“Ron...it’s for you,” she smirked.

Ron swallowed hard, wondering if Emmeline had fucking found him.

Except, it was a girl with dark, satin skin and overlarge front teeth, and her curls spiraling out around her head in a way that he never saw at work because she always wore it pulled back. He could already smell the coconut oil scent that followed her around.

Ron swallowed. “Hermione.”

“Ron.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Harry’s here!”

“Harry!”

Harry smiled to himself as he dusted the ashes off of him just in time for Lavender to fling herself at him, her cane clattering to the floor. Harry caught the girl and buried his nose in her hair. She smelled like ocean salt and lilacs—a lovely scent. Harry pulled back, holding Lavender by her shoulders as he beamed down at her.

“You look better. So much better,” he said.

Lavender posed, dramatically. “Your person does good work. You can barely tell that I was nearly ripped apart by werewolves and Snatchers!” she said cheerfully.

This was true. The only sign that the incident had happened was the razor-thin silvery lines that stretched across her skin, where the unicorn hair had sewn her together. He could only see it in certain lights—like now, when she was so close to the roaring fire in the fireplace.

Harry looked over Lavender’s head, his expression softening. James and Lily waited. James had his cane in hand. That looked like it was going to be a permanent thing, unlike Lavender’s cane. He was grinning, and Harry smiled back at the pair of them. Lily’s eyes lit up and in that light, it looked like she was beaming.

“Glad you could make it, son,” James said in greeting.

“Yeah. I said I’d come for lunch,” Harry said. He pulled away from Lavender, leaving only an arm around her shoulders. “What is for lunch?”

“Remus made a roast and Mum tried to help make the bread but it’s a little burnt,” Lavender said.

Lily looked put out. “Well, I’m not some sort of...Suzie Homemaker. I’m a Healer,” Lily snapped.

“And a damned good one,” James crowed, pressing a kiss to her cheek.

Lavender and Harry exchanged disgusted looks as they pushed past their parents, muttering to one another as they walked towards the kitchen.

“How’s Riddle?” Lavender hissed under her breath, taunting him.

“Shut up, you bint. Ixnay on the omtay,” Harry snapped back.

Lavender gave him a look and rolled her eyes. Harry rolled his eyes right back, twice as hard. They walked into the kitchen and Remus looked up at Harry, delighted. He was looked so young and happy. Every time Harry saw his second godfather, he was reminded of how much older he had looked when Harry was a kid. Remus’ wolfsbane hadn’t helped much with his entire werewolf transformation but the advancement of technology had seen an improved wolfsbane potion, courtesy of one Severus Snape.

Snape was a crotchety, bitter bastard—who was desperate for a married woman, no less—but he was a crotchety, bitter bastard with some use.

“Harry! It’s been too long since I last saw you when there wasn’t a dire emergency,” Remus said, wrapping his arms around Harry. Harry returned the hug, slightly chagrined.

“It has. Sorry about that,” Harry mumbled.

Remus pulled back just enough to look into Harry’s eyes. “You had your reasons,” he murmured softly, absolving Harry.

Harry smiled weakly. “I heard you made a roast?”

“And I picked up a treacle tart from the bakery in the village!” Sirius called, wrapping his arms around both Harry and Remus, hugging them hard.

Harry’s suspicions were realized. They were trying to butter him up so he didn’t storm out again.

“Cool. My favorite,” Harry acknowledged. Sirius beamed.

They settled into this strange moment of peace where they spoke of unimportant things as Remus and James helped set the table, sending plates and forks and knives flying to the table. Sirius and Lavender went to bring the roast out, and Harry poked fun at his mother’s sorry attempt at baking bread. It really wasn’t so terrible, but it was burnt, and Harry had always known Lily to be good at literally everything she’d ever done. It was nice to see that she couldn’t bake bread.

When they were all at the table, Harry immediately reached for Lavender’s plate and he was shocked when he saw Lily’s hand on the other edge.

“What?” Harry began.

Lily smiled tightly. “I just...I’ve gotten used to making her plate.”

“Oh, I’ve always…” Harry trailed off, frowning. His hold on the plate tightened.

Lavender looked between the two of them before she snatched her plate from them both.

“I’m not an invalid,” she said quickly, keeping her voice light as she spooned Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes onto her plate. “I can make my own plate of food.”

“Of course,” Lily said swiftly.

“Right,” Harry said only a half second later.

Lavender gave him a look and he shook away any awkwardness, affecting a bright smile again.

“I hear that you’ve declared your specialty,” Remus said with a soft smile.

“Yeah. Spell Damage specialist,” Harry said with a bright smile.

Lily leaned forward, her eyes glowing. “Remus, he’s gifted. Absolutely incredible. His instincts...just frankly brilliant,” she said in the same tone she had when she was on the brink of a medical breakthrough.

Pride flashed through Harry, making his stomach turn. He busied himself with stuffing some of the roast into his mouth.

“I’m sure. He’s powerful and smart. Like his parents,” Remus said with a soft smile.

“How’s your friend, Ron, doing? Saved me a leg, I hear,” James laughed.

“He’s doing well,” Harry said softly. “He just declared Emergency & Triage. Bellatrix Black is his teacher.”

Sirius grimaced. “Bad luck that. Bella is a bitch, and she’s even worse now after that whole thing with Riddle,” Sirius babbled. Lily, Harry, and Lavender winced. “Do you know what happened there? They seemed...as happy as two Slytherins—no offense—can be, and suddenly, she’s gone.”

"She cheated on him with Rodolphus Lestrange. He left her," Harry said, his voice cool.

Sirius and James exchanged glances.

“Wow...I didn’t...Bellatrix has been in love with Riddle for years. Since they were both firsties at Hogwarts, even,” Sirius said.

Harry mashed his roast potatoes under the tines of his fork.

“Yeah, well. He’s over her. Way, way over her,” Harry said firmly. “Tom is so, so over her it, isn't even fucking funny. So. So. Over. Her."

“You’re going to break the plate, Harry,” Lavender muttered from the corner of her mouth.

Harry’s eyes widened. He hadn’t realized how he was stabbing at his plate with his fork. He looked over at Lily, pleading. She seemed confused. Harry wasn’t surprised. He had never looked at her to save him from his father and godfather’s shared nonsense.

“What’s your favorite case so far?” Lily demanded immediately.

Not shocking that the only thing she could talk about was Healing. He’d take it.

“My first case, of course. Hela-Wasting Curse mixed with a Heart-Fragmenting Curse. Internal procedure on the first day and Tom let me make the cut. Absolutely brilliant,” Harry said cheerfully. He preened when his godfathers and father looked at him, impressed.

“I saw you two doing your Yaa Sang procedure. Some of your spellwork was sloppy,” Lily commented.

Harry winced. “I was doing it on the fly.”

“You misunderstand. I’m not...it’s meant to be a critique. You can do better. I commend your imagination,” Lily said stiffly.

Harry relaxed. He smiled. “Thanks. Tom...kinda said the same thing after.”

“How are you and Tom doing?” Lily asked. “I heard you two left together the other day.”

Harry snorted. “Who’s gossiping about me to my mother?” he demanded with a smile. “It’s not like that, Mum. First, he’s my teacher. He asked, apparently. Zacharias Smith was furious. Anyway, Tom was presenting his hypothesis. Mum, it was adorable. He’s got research everywhere and he writes all of his ideas out. It’s so messy. Usually, it looks sterile...unlived in. But, he was just so enthusiastic and it sounds...well he sounds fucking brilliant, as he always is, and you know how charming he can be. Anyway, I’ve...signed onto his project.”

Lily’s eyes widened. “You have? Oh, I'm nearly jealous. I have a feeling he's got something incredible up his—"

“Tom. You call him Tom. And you went home with him?” Sirius asked, his voice hoarse.

Harry’s heart dropped. He had forgotten that it wasn’t only the two of them at the lunch table.

Lily blanched. “Did they...not know about that?” she asked hesitantly.

“Mum, if you’re going to be included in the ‘Harry’s life is trash and here are his secrets’ club, you’ve gotta learn that Dad and Sirius never know about anything," Lavender chastised, her lips curled into a smile as she looked at James and Harry as if she were watching a rather exciting Quidditch match.

“I’m sorry—” Lily began.

“Nope. Don’t apologize,” Harry said, never looking away from James. “I’m not ashamed of him.”

“You knew? And you didn’t tell me?” James demanded, looking at his wife.

“First, I didn’t know you didn’t know. Second, Albus says that if I want to improve my relationship with Harry, I have to show him respect by keeping our conversations private,” Lily said, reciting her words from therapy. She looked rather proud of herself and Lavender gave her mum a covert thumbs up.

“You slept with your boss,” James said flatly.

“I slept with my boyfriend. He was my boyfriend and now, he’s not. It’s moot”

“He’s too old for you,” Sirius pointed out. “And you just said he’s your teacher!”

Remus looked up from his tea, his amber eyes hard. “Mind your business, Sirius,” he warned.

“Remus, he’s my godson! He is my business!”

“His sex-life isn’t,” Remus returned. “Sirius, I’m serious.”

“No, I’m Sirius.”

Sirius,” Remus warned with one more look before he gave Harry a soft look. “This conversation is over.”

“Thanks,” Harry breathed in relief.

“I say it’s not!” James said, slamming his fist on the table, his hazel eyes blazing with fury. “I should go to St. Mungo’s and give Riddle a piece of my mind!”

“Could you not?” Harry demanded. “I’m working with him on his project.”

“And that requires you to fall into his bed?” James snarled.

That’s none of your business!” Harry shrieked, jumping up to his feet.

“He’s going to leave you, you know. Just like he did to my cousin!” Sirius said.

There was a long moment of silence and Harry felt his eyes sting. Lily was staring at Sirius with wide eyes, and Remus looked appalled. Sirius looked as if he had immediately regretted his words. James only looked self-righteous.

Harry spun and stormed away from the room, making nonsensical screams as he went. There was only silence in his wake.

James flinched from the disapproval in Lily’s eyes.

“Good job, Dad. Now, you’ve done it,” Lavender huffed.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Come in, come in! You must Ronnie’s girlfriend!” Molly said cheerfully.

Hermione snorted behind her hand and then she squawked when Molly bustled up to her, enveloping her in an enormous hug and squeezed hard. Hermione’s eyes widened as she looked over Molly’s shoulder at Ron in alarm. Ron grinned triumphantly.

Ronnie, Hermione mouthed spitefully.

Ron’s good mood rapidly vanished.

“I’m Hermione. Hermione Granger,” Hermione said in greeting.

“And she’s not my girlfriend,” Ron pointed out unhelpfully.

Hermione rolled her eyes and suddenly, she seemed to realize how many Weasleys there really were in the room. She was hopelessly outnumbered.

“Not hard to believe that. She’s too fit to be with someone like you,” Fred called.

Both Fred and George devolved into a fit of giggles that was only smothered when Molly glared at them.

“Naturally,” Hermione said with a small grin. They looked surprised by the way she slid into the dynamic. They wouldn’t know that Hermione just loved to roast Ron. “I’m also too smart.”

“Right you are. This one is already going to be published,” Ron acknowledged as he led her towards the table, careful not to touch her. Hermione looked both put out and grateful, and he hated that he let her have it both ways.

Hermione always made him so weak for her.

“Let me introduce you. That’s my dad. Arthur Weasley,” Ron began, pointing towards the thin, tall balding man with fluffs of red hair as bright as his children’s. “My oldest brother, Bill, is off with his wife. She’s pregnant so they might pop by St. Mungo’s sometime soon. Then, there’s Charlie, but he’s in Romania. Dragon wrangling. That specky git is Percy.”

Percy stiffened, his chest puffing up. “That’s quite unnecessary, Ron—”

“Those two there are Fred and George—”

“I’m Fred.”

“No, I’m Fred.”

Ron groaned. “It doesn’t blood matter—”

“Watch your language!” Molly chastised loudly.

Hermione snorted behind her hand.

Ron’s ears turned pink and he huffed, rolling his eyes at Hermione. “Then, me. And the youngest. Icky little Gin-Gin,” Ron said, sneering though there was mischief in his eyes. Immediately, Hermione knew that ‘Gin-Gin’ was his favorite sibling.

"It's Ginny. Ginny Weasley. I think I remember you from Hogwarts," Ginny said. She was thin and boyish with red hair closely cropped to her head. "The Ravenclaw swot."

“That’s me,” Hermione said with a small smile.

“You live with Ron, then? Is he as much of a lazy pig wherever you live as he is here?” Ginny asked, mockingly. She let out a brash laugh when she dodged whatever jinx Ron sent her way and she stuck out her tongue. She didn’t let Hermione answer the question. “I’m on a break for the weekend. Can you tell me how Lavender Brown-Potter is? She hasn’t been responding to my owls.”

“What are you writing Harry’s sister for? I thought you were only friends with the Quidditch team and all your shag buddies,” Ron barked. He looked over at Hermione, pride in his eyes. “She’s Captain. And Chaser.”

“She’s nice, and I heard what happened to her. And she’s bloody fit, you know,” Ginny said with a grin. “Was wondering if she wanted a shoulder to cry on?”

“Merlin, Ginny…” Ron snorted, shaking his head.

He glanced at Hermione again, and she looked caught between amusement and slightly overwhelmed. The twins were already dragging her forward, intent on demanding to know everything about St. Mungo’s.

“Oi! Ask her about that party Ron threw at Grimmauld Place! Romilda Vance insists that she went but that can’t be true. Was it really that great?” Ginny asked, already abandoning her favorite brother to skid back into her seat. Hermione was being guided into Ron’s abandoned chair, Molly bustling around, muttering about how peaky Hermione was.

Even with being bombarded by questions, Hermione was methodically going through them, never giving any one person more attention than the other.

Ron smiled softly.

She fit right in.

“I’m a Muggleborn,” she was saying, “So I hadn’t quite realized the extent of the career I could have in the wizarding world. My parents are dentists—Muggle teeth Healers—and I’ve always thought to follow in their footsteps.”

Muggles, are they? Merlin, Ron, you really should've brought your girlfriend around sooner," Arthur said, brightly. He leaned forward--probably to ask all about eklectrity and plugs and the like, but it was too much.

Suddenly, it was all too much.

Ron's teeth grounded together and Hermione looked overwhelmed, like she wanted to throw up, like she had after she had taken that Abortion Potion and had to pick up Harry from the floor, like she had just before she had sewn a girl back together, just like before she had declared her speciality, like she had when he had kissed her  and—

“You need a smoke,” Ron said, cutting through the silence.

“A what?” Percy asked.

Hermione blinked, wide-eyed and slow.

“She needs a smoke. Hermione, come on. You can smoke outside,” Ron said, gently, as if coaxing a wild animal. He held out his hand. “We need a smoke.”

“What a ridiculous—” Molly began, but Ron wasn’t looking at her.

Hermione stood immediately and took two wide steps forward. She grabbed his hand, lacing her fingers with his.

“You disappeared yesterday,” she said, soft and accusatory.

“Let’s go smoke. Do you have a pack with you?” Ron asked.

Hermione blinked. “I’ve already had two today. I saw my parents,” Hermione confessed.

“We’ll have one more,” Ron said back, just as soft. He opened the door for her, letting her through and he glanced over his shoulder. “We’ll be back. We’re going to smoke in the garden.”

They stomped out into the garden. Hermione was barely watching where she was going, absentmindedly kicking a gnome out of the way as she fished through her robes. She looked far more frazzled than she normally did. Ron was watching her, arms crossed over his chest.

“This is where you’ve been? You just disappeared,” Hermione snapped. She softened, jerking out that damn pack of cigarettes from the inside of her robes. She lifted one cigarette to her lips, lit the end with her wand and took a drag. The tension seemed to melt away with the first hit of nicotine. “I...we were worried. Neville and I cooked dinner for you.”

“I needed to go home,” Ron said quietly. “How did you even find me?”

“You talk about the Burrow sometimes. And I just used a Point-Me spell and Apparated until I found you,” Hermione said. She sounded mildly ashamed.

“You could’ve gone to Harry’s.”

“I...didn’t even think about that,” Hermione said. She sounded surprised about that. She tilted her head, staring at him with a deep frown on her face. “Why haven’t you looked at me since I got here? Why...she told you.”

“Yeah. She told me,” Ron said. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be feeling. He was angry, maybe. He was hurt, definitely. He couldn’t look away from her. She took a long drag from her cigarette, blew it into the air like an angry dragon. “She was crying about how I deserved a nice girl.”

“You do,” Hermione said softly.

“That you’re not a nice girl.”

“I’m not,” Hermione scoffed. She turned her head away. “She really likes you. A lot. When we were working together, she asked if you talked about her. You’d look good together, you know. And I did something shitty. I’m not nice. Emmeline’s a good—”

“Shut up,” Ron said sharply. Hermione looked shocked and she reared back before her eyes hardened, and she snarled, ready to snap back. Ron didn’t give her the chance. “You two traded me. Don’t just...you both are arseholes, you know that?”

“Excuse me?” Hermione demanded.

“First, you’re both arseholes. Yeah, you traded me—even though all I did was fucking kiss you—but, she fucking agreed. So, no one here is nice. The only nice person here is me,” Ron snapped and he continued on, nowhere near finished. “And second, I’m not a child. I’m a grown man. Fucking ‘nice girl’? What the hell are you two on about?”

“I just—”

“Nope, not done,” Ron said, holding up a finger. “I don’t like nice girls. Never have. I don’t give a shit about a nice girl. Do you know why I play chess, Hermione? Because I like the challenge. And you’re a challenge. You’re talented and rude and mean and gorgeous and, Merlin, you’re a mess. You make me feel well-adjusted. But, then...you do things like dance around to make people happy and smoke because you’re so angry you want to cry and we’re a family. We’re your family. Merlin, you want us as a family. You’re all fucked up inside.”

“Fuck off,” Hermione barked and she tossed the end of her cigarette to the ground, crushing it beneath her heel before it could burn the dry grass in the Burrow’s yard.

“You think that Healing is going to make you feel. You think that a successful career is going to make you happy. You think you know things and nothing else matters; no one else matters,” Ron snapped, stalking towards her. Hermione’s eyes widened and she tilted her head, looking at him as if he were a difficult Arithmancy problem. “You don’t get to toss me aside. I won’t let you. You think I don’t know you? People matter. I matter. We matter.

And Ron knew at that moment that no one had ever told Hermione Granger anything like that before. No one had ever told her—be careful of the hearts you break in your path to success—because they hadn't ever thought there would be any hearts to break. It had always been about being the best, and the longer Ron looked at her, he wondered who had stolen pieces of this beautiful woman because she wasn't whole in the slightest.

But, neither was he.

“We matter,” she repeated softly, as if in wonder. “We matter.”

And then her hands were on his face and she was pulling his face down to hers. His neck protested, but he grabbed her by the waist and tugged her closer anyway. Hermione strained up on her toes and he sucked her bottom lip in between his. She let out a soft sound—nearly a whine, but not quite—as she ran her fingers through his hair and he dragged one hand up her spine, digging into the curls. She pulled back with a gasp, her eyes wide.

“I...you kiss good.”

Ron grinned down at her.

“Do I?” he teased gently.

Hermione only nodded, her lips slightly parted and swollen. “I’ll even excuse you touching my hair. Just...kiss me again. Please,” she said quietly.

And he did as she bid, kissing her again and again and again, flipping the bird at his fucking nosey siblings, while he did so.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Merlin, he’s such a fucking dickhead!” Harry snarled, walking back and forth by the edge of the wood. Lavender sat perched on their rock, staring at him as he paced. “Who does he think he fucking his?”

“Are you talking about Sirius or Dad?” Lavender asked patiently.

“Both,” Harry hissed as he spun to look at his sister. She was watching him with a raised eyebrow. “Tom is brilliant, Lavender. Just brilliant. They should be happy for me!”

“They should,” Lavender confirmed.

Harry harrumphed. “He’s tall, hot, ambitious, talented, and intelligent. He’s got money and a good job, and he’s got a massive dick, Lav. Like you wouldn’t believe. Like, have you ever just looked at a cock and been like… ‘God must really love me'? Because that was me. When I saw his cock. It was…”

“I really don’t want to hear you wax poetics about your ex-boyfriend’s cock,” Lavender said, her nose scrunched delicately.

Harry faltered. Ex-boyfriend.

“They don’t get...he’s already left me, you know.”

Lavender sighed. “Didn’t you say you broke up with him?”

“And Sirius just...he threw her in my fucking face. Like I don’t have to see her every day! Like I don’t think about her every fucking day and what she...what she took from me,” Harry snarled, his voice cracking and his hands slammed over his face. He let out a shout and fell into a low crouch. He didn’t move, his body trembling.

“What did she take from you?” a voice asked and long fingers were wrapping around his wrist, pulling his hands away from his face.

Harry squawked when he stared up at Lily. She didn't flinch away from his gaze, simply crouched in front of him, with those green, green eyes that tore into him.

“She gave him a choice. Me or the grant. He...he picked a grant over me,” Harry said, like he was in confession, like he needed to be absolved. “I love him, Mum. I love him so much that it hurts to breathe sometimes.”

“He’s like us,” Lily murmured. “Never satisfied.”

It wasn’t a comfort. Nor was it an explanation.

It just was.

“Fuck, Dad,” Harry said instead. “And fuck Sirius too. Fucking pricks.”

“Here, here,” Lavender called from her perch on the rock.

Harry burst into a round of watery cackles and Lily’s lips twitched. Harry’s eyes widened when Lily fell into the grass, sitting cross-legged in between her two children, looking back and forth.

“Remus is giving them a dressing down they’ll never forget,” Lily said. “I almost hate to miss it.”

“Ask Remus for the memory afterward. It’ll be a treat,” Lavender said with a grin.

They fell into a companionable silence, unlike one that Harry had ever experienced with them. Whenever they were together before, it always ended sort of like this—Harry, spitting with rage, and Lavender, on the rock, watching. Except, this time, Harry wasn't angry with Lily and she sat in the grass with him, tearing at the fresh blades, digging her fingernails into the dirt.

And then, Lily began to hum softly to herself. Harry stared over at her in wonder.

She didn’t even seem to notice, but Harry remembered. He remembered that song. He glanced over at Lavender and she was staring at him with the same look in her eyes as the time that she had wiped vomit from the corner of his mouth—amused and terribly sad.

Harry looked away and he scooted closer to Lily. Slowly, he reclined in the grass, pressing his head against her thigh. Lily looked down at him, surprised and her hand hovered over his hair nervously. And then, she settled her fingers in his air and began to sing softly.

Edelweiss, edelweiss.

Every morning you greet me.

Small and white, clean and bright.

You look happy to meet me.”

Chapter Text

Harry stripped out of his t-shirt, pulling his robes over his head as he got ready for the day. Hermione was leaning against her cupboard, already fully dressed, going through her notes with the air of someone that was too tightly wound and too stressed to even know what she was reading. Harry sighed as he looked at her.

“What are you reading?” he asked.

"Notes that Vance left me. I'm only going to be assigned one case, in particular, today, but she's assigned me all her rounds. I've been revising all night," Hermione hissed under her breath.

Harry snorted. “Merlin, if this is how you’re acting now, I can’t imagine how you were, studying for NEWTs.”

Hermione looked up, eyes narrowed. “It was a dark time. I saw very little light.”

"Merlin," Neville called from his conversation, his lips curled into a grin. "As opposed to now, in the dark and crusty house that is Grimmauld Place?"

“The dark and crusty house you’re living in, rent-free, you mean?” Harry asked icily.

Neville grinned. “Touché,” he laughed, turning back to Ron.

Harry leaned forward, eyes curious. “Hermy—”

“Excuse me?” Hermione barked without even looking up from her notes. She pulled a Self-Inking quill from behind her ear to cross something out. Harry saw a spot of black ink just beneath her ear. He grinned.

He wasn’t gonna tell her.

“Are we not at nickname status? You’re like...my sister,” Harry pressed.

Hermione slowly tore her eyes away from her paper, eyes narrowed. “We will never be nickname status. Nicknames are for people without full good names like Hermione,” she said coolly. “We’re above nickname status. We’re better than that.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Yeah, okay. Anyway, when was the last time you had sex?”

“Merlin, you sound like my parents,” Hermione blurted out.

"Is that something your parents ask you, hag?" Ron asked, peeking over her shoulder at her notes. Hermione shoved at him, chewing on her bottom lip in embarrassment.

Yes because they’re embarrassing sociopaths. Now, go away, Ronnie,” Hermione taunted. She looked over at Harry. “Ron’s mum calls him ‘Ronnie’. He, unlike us, is never above nickname status.”

“Wow, really, Hermy?” Ron taunted.

“I will hex you,” Hermione warned, pulling her wand. Ron danced out of the way, cackling to himself as he went back over to Neville, straddling the bench. Hermione’s eyes followed him, her lips pulled into a tiny smile.

Harry grinned, smugly. “You still like him? You wanna lick him and kiss him and fuck him. You want him to have your—”

“Harry!” Hermione complained.

Harry laughed, shaking his head. “Okay, but seriously, you need to be dicked down,” Harry remarked. Hermione’s lips curled into a sneer of distaste as his words. “You seem so...uptight lately. Do you wanna talk about it?”

“Absolutely not,” Hermione said firmly. Harry raised an eyebrow at her and seemed to be thinking about pushing her buttons. Hermione glowered at him. “Emmeline Vance isn’t an easy teacher. She’s demanding and harsh. I’m just...stressed.”

“Masturbate. Natural stress reliever,” Harry said plainly.

“How crass,” Draco called from across the room.

Harry sneered over his shoulder. “Mind your business, Malfoy.”

Draco leaned forward, probably to say something even more stupid, but Astoria grabbed him by the arm, dragging him back towards her. Harry turned his full attention back to Hermione, raising an eyebrow. She wasn't looking at him. Harry glanced over and Ron and Neville but they seemed embroiled in a deep conversation of their own.

“How’s Katie Bell?” Hermione asked.

Harry hummed. “She’s okay. I met her yesterday. She’s finally been transferred semi-permanently to St. Mungo’s. She...she looks bad,” Harry said, his voice soft.

Hermione nodded sagely. “And what does Riddle think?”

“He thinks she’s going to die,” Harry whispered.

Hermione didn’t look surprised. “It’s a trial, Harry. That means you keep trying until something works. Statistically, it won’t work on the first go around,” she said. She sounded gentle, but her words made Harry flinch and look away, anyway. She reached forward, patting his cheek and said nothing else as they got ready for the day.

“Well, it’s just me on her case today,” Harry said softly. “She better not die when it’s just me here.”

Some of the department heads were off to a Healing conference, which meant that generally, it was the trainees and some of the lower-ranked Healers that had inherited their cases.

“Are the trainees ready?”

Harry and Hermione exchanged looks at Dumbledore’s genial voice floated through the open door to the trainee’s changing room. The other trainees looked just as intrigued and they filed out and were met with the Head Healer. Dumbledore beamed at all of them as if they were remarkable when they were really just a bunch of shitty half-Healers.

“What’s this about?” Ron muttered in Harry’s ear as he and Neville made up the last of their little quartet.

“No idea,” Harry whispered back.

Dumbledore clapped his hands together. “Good, good! Everyone is here. Now, as you all know, quite a few of your mentors are attending the Calderon Healing Conference across the pond until tomorrow evening. In the meantime, the world doesn’t stop turning. Each of you will take on an assigned case or floor, and will act as a representation of your mentor.”

“Yeah Bellatrix will have my ass if I don’t do well,” Ron murmured.

Harry grimaced at the thought of that epic bitch.

“Vance would eviscerate me,” Hermione groaned.

“But, I believe to motivate, we will make this interesting,” Dumbledore continued. The whispering through the trainee cohort quieted, and they all looked at him, a sudden edge in the air.

“Interesting?” Harry muttered under his breath.

Dumbledore’s electric blue eyes fell on him as if he had heard him and he beamed, nodding.

“Yes, interesting! I will be turning this lucky turn of events into a day-long skills lab,” Dumbledore announced. He paused for excitement. Harry rolled his eyes. The man was really very dramatic. “I have determined that whoever conducts themselves with the most decorum, demonstrates the most sense, intelligence, and teamwork shall be rewarded the opportunity to assist me in a Mind Healing internal procedure.”

There was a brief moment of silence before the shrieks began. Hermione was practically salivating, her frenzied eyes bright with excitement. Her hands were clamped on Ron and Harry’s shoulders, squeezing so hard their entire arms might fall off.

“Mind Healing internal procedure? Those are done once a century!” Hermione snarled. “It’s mine.

“Yeah, fucking right. It’s mine!” Harry barked nastily.

They heard a haughty laugh behind them. “D’accord, mais…it is mine,” Malfoy declared pompously.

Dumbledore’s lips curled into a smile and he waved his wand. “Your assignments can be found on the parchment rolls in your cupboards. And go.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Well, hello, again, Miss Bell,” Harry said as cheerfully as possible as he entered the room.

Katie Bell was a young woman—a few years older than Harry for sure—with broad shoulders and a stern jaw. She was athletic. She looked like a Quidditch player, and according to her stats, she was going to be a very good one. He didn’t remember her from Hogwarts, but she, surely, must have been on the team. A Gryffindor, Harry decided. She had that brash, headstrong look about her—of course, Harry had the same look about him, but he was contrary enough to want to be placed in Slytherin despite all of his very Gryffindor-ish qualities.

“Healer Potter,” Katie said gruffly. “So, I suppose Healer Riddle really isn’t here?”

"No. It's just for me for a day or so. He'll be back soon," Harry said as he walked around her room. "How are you feeling today?"

“Just as shitty as yesterday,” Katie snapped.

Harry winced.

That was a valid statement. Katie’s case had been an Artifact Accidenter case that Tom had poached because of the unusual circumstances.

She had been at the Holyhead Harpies training camp, in line to be one of the new starting Chasers when the season began in a week or so. The Sports column of the Daily Prophet said that she was extraordinary—the female Viktor Krum and what not. And then, all of sudden, she had been getting fan mail and hate mail abundantly. It had come to a head when she'd received a rather lovely opal necklace that had turned out to be cursed.

Tom had fallen in love with the case instantly.

Harry had been a little miffed—so easy to fall in love with a Dark curse, but not with Harry, nope. Not with the man that had literally begged for him. But, Dark magic? Oh, yeah, sure.

“Is your face okay?” Katie asked.

Harry flinched. He hadn’t known he was making weird faces.

“Yeah. Sorry about that. Now, let’s take a look at what we’re facing today, shall we?” Harry asked. He waved his wand, casting the diagnostics charm and carefully didn’t wince at what he saw. Katie already looked resigned.

“Bad news, isn’t it?” Katie asked quietly.

“It’s not...great,” Harry allowed. 34% of her musculature was atrophying from the curse. Whatever it was, was complex and meant to kill all at once or as slowly as possible.

Apparently, Katie had only touched it. She had been thrown into the air, an imaginary air whipping around her as the curse took root. That had been all that was needed. It had burrowed itself deep inside of her muscles, feeding off of her. It was as if her body was eating itself. First the muscles, then the nervous system, and then, probably her organs.

Fuck.

Great day for Tom to decide to fuck off to a fucking medical conference.

“So, what does that mean?” Katie asked. “Will I be able to play again?”

Harry hummed. “That’s the plan.”

“I signed up for this study because you two promised me results,” Katie snapped. “I’m not seeing any results. Do you even know what this curse is?”

Harry let out another sighed and grabbed a chair, swinging it around so that he could straddle it, looking at Katie with a calmness he didn’t feel in the least.

"Look, Katie, let me explain a few things about curses. I do Spell Damage. All kinds of spells. Could be anything from transfiguration to charms gone wrong. Healer Riddle and I specialize in curses. Curses are terribly complex things. They’re practically living, sentient creatures, created by malevolence. Little bastards that are parasites and will do anything to live,” Harry said starkly.

Katie looked surprised by his description of a curse. Harry wasn’t surprised. Not many thought of magic as something living.

“Okay. But...will I play Quidditch?” Katie asked, her voice cracking.

Harry stared at her, unblinking. "I don't know. That's what I can honestly tell you. If we were doing this the normal way, no. This is a Dark curse. It leaves scars, usually on whatever part of the body the curse is attacking. I would say, you won't be able to build the muscle back. You'd have to use a walker or a cane for the rest of your life. But, because of this trial, I can tell you, happily, that I don’t know.”

“Happily?” Katie whispered.

“It’s good that I don’t know. Healer Riddle and I are doing something no one else has ever thought to do. Fighting Dark curses with Dark magic. Trying to reverse the damage. So, hold tight. All we can do is manage it for now, and then, we’ll take the next steps to reverse it. But, I need you to meet me here,” Harry said, holding out his hand to her. Katie looked at him nervously. “I need you to trust me and have hope. You can do that?”

Slowly, Katie lifted her trembling hand, reaching out to grab his fingers. "Yeah."

Almost immediately after, her hand collapsed, weak.

Despite that, Harry beamed. “Good. Let’s get started. We’re changing your dose of the pain potion. We added a bit more valerian to deal with the insomnia. We’re also going to see about getting you to PT, so if we can’t stop or reverse the atrophying, we can slow it down or even, hopefully, maintain your current muscle mass…”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“What the bloody hell is that mess on your tray? Where are the chips?” Harry demanded as he set down his tray in front of Hermione. He picked at the slightly cold pasta in front of him and sighed. It seemed like the house elves were having an off-day, though the chocolate biscuits he’d grabbed looked promising.

“My mum and dad wrote me a letter last night guilting me about the consumption of fried foods and cooked animal carcasses,” Hermione said dryly. She picked at the chickpea salad, looking quite sad about it. “I am appeasing the animal gods and my conscience with a salad.”

Harry blanched. "Excuse me? Please tell me this isn't permanent. How are we going to have Indian takeaway night if you don't eat spicy lamb vindaloo anymore?"

"Yeah, right. I'm going to write them back saying I take back my hatred for kale and have found spiritual balance in sustaining myself on only organic greenery to get them off my back until I have to visit with them again," Hermione snorted. She paused as she saw the weirded-out look that Harry was giving her. "Okay. My parents are weird. They're...hippie-ish"

“I thought they were dentists.”

"They're hippie dentists who eat only organic vegetation, have an herb garden, unironically, loved that I turned out to be a witch because it validated their folk medicine beliefs, and like to ask when was the last time I got dick was," Hermione said. She winced when she saw the Cheshire cat smile spread across Harry's face. "And no, you're never going to meet them."

“Oh, come on! Why not? You’ve met my family. My insane family,” Harry said. He sounded almost fond of them. Hermione’s eyes softened.

“Don’t care. You’ll meet them on my deathbed and not a moment before,” Hermione said, giggling under her breath. Harry’s eyes widened.

“You just giggled!”

“Fuck,” Hermione muttered. “No, I didn’t.”

“You did, I heard you!”

“Shut up, Harry,” Hermione snorted.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Look—ugh, Malfoy.”

Hermione looked up to see the young man that had approached their table while they were embroiled in conversation. She pursed her lips, already irritated.

“Malfoy, how can I help you?” Harry asked, a sweetly venomous smile on his face. Malfoy returned it.

“I was going to tell you that I just corrected the best Spell Damage case. I caught a fast-acting Heart-Fragment Curse with one of the Healers and—”

“Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt. Add a Hela-Wasting Curse. Now, that’s difficult, sweetheart,” Harry snapped.

Malfoy’s cheeks pinked up in embarrassment and frustration.

“I got a letter from your mother today. She has heard how well Astoria and I are adjusting. Does your mother ever tell you how proud she is?” Malfoy taunted.

Harry’s eyes narrowed and he slowly pulled his wand, shaking his head.

“Enough,” Hermione snapped. “You’ve both got mummy and daddy issues. We get it.”

Draco squawked, offended. “I do not—”

“Draco, enough,” Astoria said, her voice cold. There wasn’t any emotion in her eyes beside sheer boredom. Harry wondered, briefly, if she was always that bored. She was probably bored perpetually. She was probably bored by orgasms.

Pity for her.

“What do you want, Astoria?” Malfoy barked. “I was going to explain to Granger why I do not have—”

“You’ve been assigned to Emergency and Triage. Your break is over,” Astoria said coolly. She turned on her heel and walked away as if she hadn’t said anything in the first place.

Harry and Granger exchanged a look of glee. Malfoy looked properly cowed.

“Astoria! Quelle? Je n’ai pas fini—”

Je m’en fous, Draco,” Astoria said, coolly. From the way her eyes flashed, Harry caught the feeling that she was angry, but, of course, Astoria was a soulless automaton so he couldn’t be sure.

“Where are you going then?” Malfoy demanded.

“I am working with Luna Lovegood today. She is quite odd, but also, quite brilliant. I enjoy working with her and children,” Astoria said, voice flat.

Harry blinked, surprised. Malfoy scowled at Harry and then scowled at Astoria’s back, and then, flounced off, like the little brat that he was. Harry sighed, stretching his arms over his head as he stood up, looking over at Hermione. Hermione watched him, unimpressed.

“What?” Harry sighed.

“You’re going to have to live with him being here,” Hermione said pointedly.

“I am living with it. See: me, alive, with him, here,” Harry snapped back.

Hermione snorted. “You know what I mean. He’s going to be here indefinitely. Don’t let him aggravate you like that. He just likes the attention.”

Harry huffed, shrugging. “Whatever. Just...next time, I’m going to lay him on his arse,” Harry muttered under his breath. When he saw Hermione winding up to a full blown lecture, he clapped his hands over his ears. “La, la, la. I have a patient to look after!”

Hermione watched him scamper away, amusement on her face. She went back, finishing off her salad with gusto. It actually didn’t taste like rot, for once, but that was probably due to the massive amounts of creamy dressing that she had smothered the lettuce with. When Hermione was finished, she ran over the cases for the day that she still had to do rounds for; she had to check in with Elizabeth Bath, the Spectre, a dragonologist transferred from Romania who was still re-growing some of the salvageable skin on his back, and a few others.

As she went to dispose of her tray, she felt a heat against her back.

“Hey, how are you?” Ron whispered in her ear.

Hermione stiffened for a half-second before she relaxed against him. Carefully, she disposed of her bowl and tray.

“Fine. Why?” Hermione asked in lieu of answering.

She could practically feel Ron’s grin.

“I can’t ask after my mad girlfriend?” Ron teased.

Hermione snorted and she walked towards the door, ignoring Ron on her heels. She paused again.

“Is that what I am? Your mad girlfriend?” Hermione asked.

Ron laughed. “Yeah, that’s what you are. Well, I hope so. Aren’t you?”

“Sure, arsehole,” Hermione allowed. She bit her bottom lip as she finally looked at him. He looked obscenely good in his hunter green robes. She thought he might look even better in the official bright green Healer robes. “Are you busy, right now?”

"Not really. I still have twenty minutes left," Ron said.

“I have to go get the Spectre’s prescription. The pharmacy cupboard should be free,” Hermione said firmly.

Ron hummed. “Then, I’m free too.”

Hermione’s lips curled into a grin. “Great. Let’s...talk.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Merlin, this is good,” Ron groaned as kissed his way down Hermione’s neck. “This. Was. A. Good. Idea. Best talk we’ve ever had.”

He punctuated each word with a suck against Hermione's skin, her Healer robe having fallen to their feet already. Hermione moaned at the feeling of his teeth nipping at the sensitive skin of her collarbone. Her nails dragged over his back and she clung to him, hooking her leg around the back of his thigh, jerking him closer to the junction of her thighs. Ron seemed to get the message, rolling his hips against her.

“I…” she panted. “I only come up with good ideas.”

“Cause, you’re fucking brilliant,” Ron breathed into her neck as he sucked bruises into her skin. He pulled back to look her in her eye. “Will you let me go down on you?”

Hermione’s entire world stopped turning on its axis.

No one had ever asked her that question before.

And it’s not like she hadn’t had sex. She had had sex. Not often, of course. Her first time had been with a Muggle boy that lived down the street from her with a sweet smile and bright hazel eyes. And then, she had had sex every now and then. She had sucked cock and, on one memorable occasion, eaten ass, but no one had ever gone down on her.

“I…I…” Hermione stammered.

Ron grinned as if he knew. “I want to go on you.”

“In the broom cupboard?” she squawked.

“No. Soon. In your bed,” Ron said firmly. He looked her right in the eye, tilting her head up. “I really like to eat out pussy.”

I really like to eat out pussy.

I really like to eat out pussy.

I really like to eat out pussy.

“No man in the history of our species has ever said that,” Hermione said stupidly, because obviously, someone had before, but really, it was that no man had ever said that to her.

“Will you let me?” he asked.

“Merlin, kiss me,” Hermione stammered, pulling him down for a snog so that she didn’t have to answer. Ron grinned into her mouth as she devoured him, eagerly, her hands running through his hair, down his back.

Ron wrapped one arm around her waist, tugging her closer up his body, the other hand going towards her back. Hermione mewled into his mouth in surprise when he unclipped her bra with one hand, his hand stroking her bare back. Hermione pulled back to breathe, shoving his unbuttoned robes further down to reveal his chest. Merlin, he was pale.

He was...normal-looking, compared to McLaggen. McLaggen had been muscular to a fault, just like she expected from a junior Auror. But, Ron was gangly and pale with no muscle mass, and fuck, but when did she start finding that so damn sexy?

“I want to ride you until we die,” she said so seriously that Ron had to take a minute to process.

“That’s the fucking spirit.”

And then, he slammed her into the wall again, licking into her mouth and Hermione’s fingers raked red marks down his belly as she fumbled with the button of his pants. Just as she was about to reach her hand, into his pants, the door flew open with a slam. Hermione and Ron nearly threw themselves to the ground in an effort to separate.

Neville stood in the doorway, open-mouthed. He nearly dropped the little basket of potions—no doubt to restock the pharmacy. He looked between the two of them. He turned around once, exited, and then, re-entered, as if to make sure that he had walked into the right room.

The silence felt like a million years. Slowly—ever so slowly, as if she were trying not to spook a baby deer—Hermione reached behind her and clipped her bra back into place. Neville winced at the sound of the hooks sliding into place.

“Neville, mate…” Ron began.

Neville blinked. “Nope. Big nope.”

And he walked right back out, the door swinging shut behind him.

Hermione and Ron turned back to one another, and were interrupted once more by a flood of red sparks. Ron stepped back, looking down at his wand.

“Fuck, I’ve gotta go,” Ron muttered.

Panicked, Hermione asked, “What about Neville?”

“We can deal with Neville at home,” Ron said as he pulled his robe back over his shoulders. Hermione waved her wand, and all of his buttons came together in ten seconds. He leaned forward, giving her a quick peck on the lips. “Thanks.”

“Of course. Let’s talk later,” Hermione said.

“Talk?” Ron asked, with a wink as he pushed open the door.

"Ha ha," she said, not a single hint of amusement in her voice. "No, arsehole. Actually, talk."

He saluted briefly and then, he took off, sprinting.

Hermione sighed as she pulled her robes back on.

Merlin, Ron was annoying.

And she was besotted.


DIAGNOSIS


 

The Calderon Healing Conference was being held in New York City for the first time in fifteen years, and the British Healers were reminded once more about why that was. Tom sneered as he heard the crass, harsh New York accents filling the conference center.

It was quite nice with high glass ceilings, and it was located in Chelsea—another name that the uncouth Americans had stolen from the proper English—, but it was loud and crowded, and really, Tom wanted to be back in his very nice hotel suite that he had harassed Dumbledore into getting for him.

“Is there anything you’re looking forward to in particular?” Vance asked, looking through the pamphlet. She paused as she went down the list of speakers, and looked up at Tom with wide eyes. “Is Lily Evans really giving the keynote speech?”

“Why do you think Snape is here?” Tom snorted, gesturing vaguely to the man that was a few meters ahead of them, staring around, looking akin to a great, greasy bat for all the world to see. Snape seemed to feel their stares and he glowered over his shoulder.

As Snape stomped over to them, Tom saw the very woman that the man had been looking for appear behind him, tucking her dark red hair behind her ear. She looked winded by her International Portkey, and would probably be quite Portkey-lagged by the time she gave her presentation, but she looked every inch the bitch that she was. The longer that Tom looked at Lily, the more Harry seemed to both resemble her and be nothing like her at all.

He decided not to think too deeply about that.

“Sev! Vance.” Lily’s eyes narrowed on Tom. “Riddle.”

“Evans,” Tom returned just as nastily.

They stood in front of one another, glowering at each other with the vitriol that could only be found between two medical professional rivals that had found out that one was fucking the other’s son.

“Lily. Lily, would you like to attend lunch?” Snape asked.

Merlin, the man was like a fucking whining child.

“Snape, she’s never going to want you. Get over it,” Tom said coolly, never breaking eye contact with Lily. He expected that to make her at least twitch, but all he achieved was Snape’s embarrassed and enraged spluttering.

“This is...awkward,” Vance drawled. Both Tom and Lily turned to look at her, plainly. Vance flushed. “Isn’t...this awkward?”

“No, Vance. Why would this be awkward?” Lily asked, emotionless. Merlin, she was like stone. Tom didn’t know how she managed to give birth to the lovely, but overly emotional, creature that was Harry Potter.

“Because he...and your son…” Vance trailed away.

“Lily, I filed a complaint with Human Resources, if you’d like to know. I thought it entirely inappropriate. Riddle should be fired,” Snape said quite unhelpfully.

Lily blinked once. Then, twice.

“My son is an adult. He can do as he wishes,” Lily said. She said it like it was something that had been drilled into her by weeks of therapy. Good. Lily Evans needed therapy.

“But, Riddle—” Snape began.

Gave Harry Potter the best time of his life multiple times a night.

“You heard her. We’re both adults,” Tom said coolly. “It’s a non-issue.”

“Oh, yes. It is. Our only issue is that, apparently, I’ve damaged my son with my negligence and callousness,” Lily said and then, a terrifyingly brilliant smile spread across her face. “But, I’ve been told—by him—that our relationship can mend. I mean, it’s not as if I lied to him, humiliated him, and broke his heart.”

A beat of silence.

Tom grounded his teeth together. “Touche.”

Lily laughed, long and harsh. It was a grating sound.

“Come on, Sev. Let’s grab lunch,” she said and she strutted away, her little lapdog on her heels.

Vance cleared her throat.

“What?” Tom growled.

“Someone call the Aurors because I’ve just witnessed a murder,” Vance breathed, staring after Lily with a glint of awe in her eyes. She flushed when she seemed to realize what she said. “Oh. Uh. Sorry. I can go…”

“No,” Tom barked. “We’re getting tea. None of this swill they call coffee.”

If Lily got to have a posse, so did he.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Draco’s good mood fell flat the moment he saw a pair of redheaded freckled demons. They were both wailing, one covered in blood—which, good for Draco, not so good for the bloody man—and the other was clutching at him, dramatically, falling all over himself. Draco sighed as observed the matrons flurrying around them, attempting to get a Calming Draught down both of their throats. Draco immediately waved his wand, Summoning backup.

There was something familiar about the stocky twins, with their long noses and freckles.

Draco heard Weasley before he saw him.

Weasley rushed forward, straightening out his robes.

“What’re you Summoning me for, Malfoy? I’m on my break,” Weasley snapped.

Draco gave him a dull look. They were trainees. In France, they didn’t get breaks.

“I believe they belong to you,” Draco drawled, distaste in the curl of his thin lips.

Weasley looked towards where Draco was gesturing and he paled.

“Fred! George!” he shouted, dashing to their side. Draco followed after him. After all, E&T was his as much as it was Weasley’s, and if the case looked interesting, Draco would claim it. He saw the bloody man first. “Fred, what happened to George? Come on!”

"W-we...I-I...w-what?" Fred stammered, clinging to George's shoulder. He dropped his hand, the one full of blood-soaked gauze that had been pressed to George's head.

Draco’s eyes widened in wonder as he examined the injury. George Weasley was missing an ear, a bloody eerie mess left of it. Draco could practically feel the magic radiating from it—so that meant it couldn’t be grown back, only patched over. Oh, it would be a messy bit of work, and Draco was practically salivating at the idea of taking it on.

George Weasley moaned as he came to.

“H-how are you feeling?” Fred demanded.

“S-Saintlike,” George stammered, weak and pale under his freckles. “G-get it, Fred? I-I’m hole-y.”

Fred let out a weak laugh and George laughed too. Weasley was not laughing.

“What the fuck happened?” he barked.

Fred seemed to fall into hysterics again as he recounted the incident. “W-we were experimenting in the backroom! I-it was lunchtime, so the shop was closed. And something...calculations were wrong and he was too close to the explosion and it was all my fault! All my fault!”

Draco winced as his hysterics echoed through the E&T area. Soon Fred would be disrupting the other patients and cause everyone else to fall into a mess. Draco pushed Weasley out of the way and kneeled in front of Fred, pointing his wand at him.

“Look at me,” Draco barked. Fred stared around, wild-eyed, hyperventilating loudly. The more panicked he became, the more stressed George became, blood flowing easier than before. Weasley seemed shocked by it, too shocked to move. “Me. Look at me!”

“What?” Fred gasped through his panicked sobs.

Legilimens.”

Immediately, Fred fell silent, his eyes glazed over. He stared into Draco’s eyes, unmoving.

“What did you do?” Weasley demanded, furious.

“Don’t touch me,” Draco barked. He could feel Weasley’s hand hovering over her shoulder. “You’re letting your brother bleed out. Stop the bleeding.”

Weasley twitched once, and then, he flew into action. He cast the diagnostics charm.

“Yeah, magical wound to the right side of the cranium. Stress to the nervous system from the trauma,” Weasley rattled out.  He waved his wand, Summoning a fresh wrap of gauze and dittany to his side. “I’ll need to admit him. He won’t have an ear, but this will be quick.”

Weasley went to apply the dittany and Draco held up a hand.

“You can’t treat him. I’ll do it. Step away,” he said, his voice so calm that it rattled Weasley.

He still hadn’t broken eye contact with Fred, breathing slowly until Fred’s breathing even with his own.

“What do you mean? Why? And what are you doing to my brother, using Legilimency?”

"He was panicking. It put stress on your brother. I am keeping him calm. How is George?" Draco asked.

“He’s losing blood. Let me Heal him,” Ron snarled.

Draco hummed. “Okay. I need you to stand in front of Fred and talk very calmly and softly to him while I work on your brother.”

“What are you doing?” Weasley said, working himself up. “He’s bleeding.

“This is why we do not Heal family members. You’re working yourself up, and he’s awake to hear you," Draco murmured and then, he turned sharply, reaching out with a strong hand to grab George's chin, ignoring the blood-slicked skin. He looked deep into George's eyes, and whispered, "Dormio.

Immediately, George’s eyes snapped shut and he fell back. The change was immediate. The blood began to flow more sluggishly as George’s heart stopped working as fast, his entire musculature relaxing.

“Whoa...what?” Weasley rasped.

Draco looked back at Weasley, eyes narrowed. “Can you work on him now? Are you calm enough?”

“Y-yes,” Weasley said, still looking ruffled. “It was...a lot.”

“Heal him,” Draco said softly. “I won’t tell anyone that you did it.”

Weasley immediately began to work, applying dittany to the hellish wound. He looked up at Draco, mildly suspicious as he glanced from his brothers to Draco. Draco knew what he must look like—calmer than Weasley had ever seen. None of Draco’s usual neuroses or histrionics. Just an utter calm. Astoria had been shocked the first time too.

“What do you want in return?” Weasley snapped.

“We both get listed as Head Healer on this case,” Draco said coolly. “I did half the work.”

Weasley hummed. “What...what was it that you actually did? Or, rather, doing?”

“I am using Legilimency to keep your brothers calm. I used it on Fred to stop his panicking by suppressing his brain’s natural function for breathing and matching to my own. I used it on George to suppress his central nervous system.”

Weasley paused. “You mean he has no brain function, right now?” he snarled, working himself up again.

“Not...quite,” Draco said, taking a deep breath to stop himself from getting angry and setting everyone into a frenzy again. “It’s more of a trance. It’s easier on the body and the mind. Coma and stasis spells repress the magical core, killing the connection. That puts stress on the body. He was already under stress from the trauma and his brother's reaction. He might have gone into shock. I have stilled his mind. This is easier."

Weasley looked impressed. Draco suppressed his smugness for now. He could feel it later.

“How did you learn that? Lily?” Weasley asked.

Draco snorted. “No. There’s a reason I didn’t grow up with my father, Weasley. He was unkind. My memories of him are not fond. My mother used these techniques to calm me as a child,” Draco said. He paused, tilting his head as he recounted the words that had just emerged from his mouth. “Hm. Joining with two minds and suppressing them means I have to be in control of my body. It also makes it very difficult to lie.”

“I...I see,” Weasley whispered. He swallowed hard, and grudgingly muttered, “Thanks.”

Draco shook his head.

“We are Healers. This is what we do. I do not like you. I took an oath. An oath that I believe is sacred. I would not break it.”

Neither young man noticed a pair of impressed, electric blue eyes.


DIAGNOSIS


 

"The greenhouse is so awesome. It's warm and sunny and I feel like I'm in the middle of a forest. How have I never been here?" Harry asked as he reclined on the bench next to Neville, who was kneeling in the dirt, carefully replanting a Shrivelfig plant in new dragon dung compost.

“You’re too busy being glamorous and flashy in magical theatres,” Neville said with a tiny smile.

"Hey!" Harry whined.

Harry scrambled to lie on his side, looking down at Neville carefully. Neville was wearing a pair of thick dragonhide gloves and treated the plant with an amount of care that Harry had never put in when he had taken Herbology. Even the way Neville pruned was done with a deliberateness that Harry could only pull off in a magical theatre. Neville’s touch alone seemed to make the plant perk up. Neville paused and looked up, an odd smile on his face.

“What?” he asked.

“You’re just...you’re really good at that, aren’t you?” Harry asked in wonder.

Neville’s cheeks turned pink. “I’ve been told.”

“How did you realize you were good at it?” Harry asked.

Neville set his shears down and sat down cross-legged, ignored the dirt staining his robes.

“When I was a kid, my mum and dad worked,” Neville said.

“Like mine,” Harry said.

Neville frowned. "Well, maybe not that often, then. No, Mum is a hit wizard so she was only deployed when she needed to be, which wasn't really often. But, when she came back from wherever, she always brought home a new plant or seeds for me. I like to plant with my Gran. She lives in the family home and they have this enormous garden in the back. And I just...found out I had a bit of a green wand.”

“This seems like more than a green wand, Nev,” Harry said. The plant was bending towards him.

Neville shrugged, as if it weren’t a big deal. “I really like plants. They like me.”

Harry was silent for a long moment before he looked down at Neville again.

“Hey, Neville. Remember that thing I said we would never speak about again?” Harry asked softly.

Neville’s face did three things just then—he frowned, then flushed, splotchy and ugly, and then, his lips curled into an amused little smile.

“Yeah. Are we talking about that?”

“Well, no. I’m just...thanking you. For not talking about it. And not...doing anything,” Harry sighed. “Because guys...guys who aren’t good, guys who aren’t you, would have. They have. Before. To me. Seen me weak and slutty and then, I...I end up having my little sister wash dry cum out of my hair, because I’m a bit of a slut—”

“Don’t call yourself that,” Neville snapped.

Harry scoffed. “Whatever, Neville. I’m not going to hide what I was. It was only really bad my fifth year. Sucked cock like I was born for it or whatever. Then, I found Theo my sixth and half of seventh year, so I was...I wasn’t okay, but I was fine, or whatever. But, I’m just saying thanks. For being a good guy.”

“I’m your friend, Harry. Your family,” Neville sighed. “Of course.”

“Yeah, you are. You’re the best. You all are the best. You make me wanna be better and—” Harry explained, and then, before he could articulate all of the icky, twisting emotions that made him regurgitate his feelings, like a bloody Hufflepuff, an explosion of red sparks emerged from his wand and he paled. “Oh...oh, Katie.”

And then he hopped off the bench and took off running from the greenhouse, sprinting down the long hallway. Harry barely registered the pounding of footsteps behind him as he crashed into the stairwell, taking the steps up two at a time, his wand held outward. He flew out onto the Spell Damage floor.

"GET OUT OF MY WAY!" he roared as he slammed into a crowd of visitors who hopped out of the way, cursing and shouting before they realized who he was.

Harry’s heart stopped when he saw the crowd of matrons hovering by Katie Bell’s room and he pushed his way through the gathered witches and wizards. Katie was strapped down to the bed, seizing and thrashing against her magical restraints, foam bubbling from her lips. Her hair was floating above her, as if she were attempting to rise off the bed.

“What’s happening?” Harry barked.

The matron that seemed to have called him looked at him, wide-eyed. “We were checking her levels like you asked, on the hour, and suddenly, she started reacting poorly to the medication that Healer Riddle prescribed.”

“It’s not supposed to be long-acting,” Harry said firmly. He stepped forward, waving his wand and casting the diagnostics charm. He winced. The as of yet still unidentified curse was working its way through her nervous system, disrupting it painfully. He decided to anesthetize her. It wouldn’t last long, but it would be enough to get her down to the theatre. “Moudiasménos. Take her to the magical theatre. I’m opening her up. Please have her on her stomach.”

“What?” the matron asked, wide-eyed. “Did Healer Riddle authorize—”

"Do you see Healer Riddle here?" Harry snarled. He looked at the older matron—she was familiar. Suddenly, he recognized her as the matron that had been in the theatre the last two times that he had operated with Tom. "Matron. You're his theatre matron. What's your name?"

“Miriam Strout. We’ll prepare the theatre for you, immediately. Would you like me to assist?” Matron Strout asked.

“Absolutely. I’ll see you down there,” Harry said. He cast one more glance at Katie—her eyes were wide open, wide with terror and pain, and then, he exited the room, pushing past everyone. At least she wasn’t seizing anymore.

Neville was waiting in the hallway, wide-eyed. “What’s going on?” he whispered.

“I’m going to open her up. Tom and I haven’t developed a cure yet, so she’s on a treatment plan to manage symptoms. The curse was working her muscles, atrophying them painfully. Now, it’s frying her circulatory system. We don’t...we don’t know what the curse is. So, I have to open her blind,” Harry said as calmly as possible.

Neville's eyes grew rounder and rounder the longer Harry spoke. He looked over Harry's shoulder and watched as the matrons floated Katie out, briskly moving down the hallway towards the lift.

“That’s...that’s insanity, Harry,” Neville whispered.

“Oh, I know. I...I’m going to kill my patient. And Tom is going to hate me. This is wonderful,” Harry said with a false smile. “Excuse me.”

Neville reached out as Harry tried to walk past, snagging his wrist in a tight grip. “Nope. You’re not going to kill Katie Bell. You’re going to save her. Until Riddle comes back and no doubt comes up with something brilliant for whatever your project is,” Neville said firmly. “Because you’re brilliant. Merlin, I can’t believe you still have to be told.”

“I’ve never done this by myself. I’m brilliant when I have my teacher. But, I’m by myself. And no one knows her case, but me. So...it has to be me. It can only be me,” Harry said and he pulled away from Neville, walking down the hall.

He felt like he was floating as he thundered down the steps. Harry didn’t hear Neville following after him anymore.

Harry stopped outside of the theatre doors and pressed his hands against the door. He swallowed back his doubt.

“I’m Harry fucking Potter. I’m the best damn Healer here,” Harry whispered to himself. “You stand between this girl and death. Get your shit together.”

He closed his eyes for three seconds and then threw the doors open, wand out.

Matron Strout and the younger matron both waited by the patient who was well into her stasis charm.

“The patient is ready, sir,” the younger matron said.

Harry nodded. He felt that thrill, the rush that he always felt when he entered the theatre. So, it wasn't Tom's presence that made him feel like a live wire. That was the magic. The Healing.

Good to know.

Harry began the ceremony of it all.

“It’s a beautiful day—” and Harry stopped. He frowned, ignoring the expectant look on the matrons’ faces. He turned around, watching them with careful eyes. “That’s not going to be my thing.”

“I’m sorry, Healer?” Matron Strout asked, and wasn’t that a thrill?

She had called him Healer."I'm not going to have a catchphrase. Someone get me a radio!" Harry called out.

He rolled up his sleeves as the younger matron rushed out of the room to do as he commanded. Harry glanced up at the gallery. Neville stood, staring down at him, and Harry’s lips curled into a tiny smile when he saw Ron and Hermione standing on either side of him. Hermione nodded at him and she pressed her fist to the glass. Harry took a deep breath and lifted his fist above his head. Hermione nodded again and Harry turned back towards the doors as the matron rushed back in, holding an old radio to her chest.

“This is all I could find, Healer,” the matron said.

Harry nodded. “Of course. Thank you,” Harry said, and he took a deep breath as she settled it on the tray. He tapped his wand against it, slowly turning the knob to tune in to a Muggle oldie’s channel.

Loving you isn’t the right thing to do.

How can I ever change things that I feel?

If I could, baby, I’d give you my world.

How can I, when you won’t take it from me?”

Fleetwood Mac. Good. It felt like Lavender was here with him. Lily was here with him.

They’d expect nothing less than flawlessness.

You can go your own way.

He could deliver. He touched the tip of his wand to the base of her neck. One plan: contain the curse to a single point.

"Okay. Let's get started," Harry announced with a grin. "Diffindo!

Chapter Text

“It was amazing. I’ve never...it was...Tom,” Harry rasped, his voice cracking, as he vibrated with excitement. Tom was nodding, staring at him with the softest eyes that Harry had ever seen. Harry closed his eyes, shaking his head. “I saw the curse. It was like...pus on her muscles. And I gathered it and isolated it by drying it out. It’s at the base of her spine now. She can’t walk for now, but once we eradicate the curse, we can get her into physical therapy to correct that. And I did it by myself.”

Tom hummed, watching him carefully. “All by yourself,” he whispered.

Harry knew the man was probably slightly Portkey-lagged. It was late and Harry had just shown up to his home as soon as he was sure that the man was back from the conference because he needed to tell him all about the procedure. He had to tell him about Katie Bell and how it had felt to be in that theatre all alone. How it felt to ease her pain. Tom hadn’t even asked why he was there, simply opening the door wider to let him in.

But, the way Tom was staring at him was not like he was tired, exactly.

“What are you thinking?” Harry said, biting his bottom lip raw in his anxiety. Tom was staring at him as if he had never seen him before.

The older man reached forward, brushing his fingers through Harry’s hair.

“Just...you’re remarkable, darling.”

Darling.

That was new. Harry closed his eyes, looking away. When he opened them again, Tom was standing above him, and his hand was right in Harry’s face. Harry craned his neck to look up at the man. Tom was smiling at him. It was a real smile, not his arrogant smirks.

“What?” Harry whispered.

“Dance with me.”

And Harry knew this was against the rules. He knew that he would regret it, but instead, he let Tom wave his wand and the record player turned on. Harry swallowed, his lashes fluttering. The low, sensual funk beat didn’t sound like any of the vinyls that Harry had poached in his youth. It didn’t sound like anything that he would expect Tom to listen to either.

Harry looked at the hand and took it.

Tom pulled him off the floor and pulled Harry close, his other hand sliding to Harry's waist. Harry pressed his free hand to Tom's bicep and they slowly danced, staring at one another.

“What are we doing, Tom?” Harry asked, quietly.

“Dancing,” Tom murmured, just as soft, his voice nearly lost to the music. “Two friends dancing.”

“This is what friends do?” Harry whispered, his voice cracking.

Tom’s hand slid around his waist and pressed into the small of his back, pulling him closer. Harry gasped as they were pressed together again and his own hand drifted up, fingers twining into the curls at the nape of Tom's neck. He had always liked the small hairs there, loved to play with them. Harry loved Tom's hair in general. He remembered how Tom liked his hair being pulled, sometimes, when they were fucking, and Harry swallowed his whimper as they moved.

He hid his face in the taller man’s shoulder.

“I want you,” Harry confessed into the fabric covering Tom’s shoulder.

Tom’s hand tightened on the small of his back.

“I can’t have you,” Tom whispered into Harry’s hair.

“I won’t tell,” Harry said.

And he felt so small and terrible, clinging to this man that wanted him, but didn’t want him enough.

“Oh, sweetheart, you’re going to ruin me,” Tom said quietly.

Harry stared up at him with wide eyes. “I haven’t even done anything,” he said quietly. “I wasn’t the one—”

“I forget how young you are, sometimes,” Tom said and he laughed quietly into Harry’s hair. His lips trailed along Harry’s hairline, into his hair, the soft pressure of a kiss to the crown of Harry’s head and then he was tucking Harry’s head under his chin again.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Harry muttered against Tom’s shoulder.

“There are so many ways to ruin a person, darling.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.”

A flash of red hair appeared from beneath her sheets and Hermione’s fingers tightened in the sheets as she tried to control her shaking. Ron grinned at her, his lips still lick with wetness and he tilted his head.

“Just Ron is fine.”

Hermione groaned, knotting her fingers in his hair. She pushed him back down. Ron slithered down gladly, lapping at her folds. In another world, Hermione might have been embarrassed by how wet and swollen she was. She would’ve tried to muffle her cries of pleasure, but that was a world where she hadn’t cum twice in less than fifteen minutes.

That was a world that was behind her now.

Ron licked slow and carefully, as if she were a feast and Merlin, Hermione could just die. She squirmed, her thighs clamped tight on either side of Ron’s head and her back arched like a bow when he suddenly fucked his tongue into her, as deep as he could. Hermione keened, loud and high and the hand that wasn’t buried in Ron’s hair flew back, slamming into her headboard as she tried to find purchase.

“Merlin...so good...so good...only thing you’re good at…” Hermione panted, trying to ground herself again before she came so hard that she squirted on his tongue.

She had cum that way once and she didn’t want that to happen on his fucking face.

Ron looked up at her again, rolling his eyes.

“How can you be such a caustic hag when I have literally made you cum three times in the past half-hour?” Ron asked blandly.

Hermione snorted as she caught her breath. She whimpered when he turned his head to the side, sucking a mark into her inner thighs, worshipping her. She would feel that for days. Merlin, she wanted to feel it for days.

“You...you’ve only made me cum twice,” Hermione hissed.

Ron snorted. “My mistake. Just give me thirty more sec—”

“HERMIONE! HERMIONE, WHERE ARE YOU?”

They only had ten seconds to react. Ron was already out of the bed, his freckled arse flashing as he ran into her bathroom, throwing the door shut behind him just as Hermione jerked her duvet up to cover her naked body. The door flew open with a crash and Harry looked at her, wild-eyed and excited.

“H-hello, Harry,” Hermione said shakily, brushing one frizzy curl from her forehead.

Fuck, she’d have to wash her hair again.

Harry’s nose wrinkled. “It smells like sex in here. Have you been having sex?”

“Do you see anyone else in here?” Hermione drawled. Even as she said the words, she reached for her wand on the side table and winced when she felt two wands where there should only be one. Carefully, as she picked up her own wand, she knocked Ron’s to the floor, hoping that it would roll somewhere helpful, like under her bed.

She waved her wand, opening the windows to air out the sex stench.

“Have you been masturbating?” Harry asked. He paused, looking her up and down. “You look like you’ve just orgasmed. Good for you. Wait...did I interrupt your masturbation session?”

Hermione groaned, her head falling back into her pulls.

“Fucking hell, Harry, it wouldn’t really matter now, now would it?” Hermione demanded. “The mood is gone.”

And just when she’d been promised a third orgasm.

“Okay, good. I need you,” Harry said firmly. He made to sit on her bed and then cringed, thinking better of it. “But, I’m going to stand and make this short because I have a feeling that you’re naked under that blanket.”

“It’s a duvet. And I am.”

“Ew.”

Hermione groaned. “What do you want, Harry?”

“Oh, right. So...I was at Tom’s—”

“Wait. Why?” Hermione asked suspiciously. Then, she collapsed back against her pillows, groaning. “Don’t tell me you’re sleeping with him again.”

“I’m not!” Harry snarled. Then, he softened as he thought about the series of events that had sent him running from Tom’s flat and back to Grimmauld Place. “I was telling him about Katie Bell. And then, he...we danced and it...nevermind.”

Because suddenly, it felt secret and private, and not for anyone but himself and Tom.

“Why? Harry?” Hermione asked curiously.

“Nothing. It just feels...private,” Harry said softly. He backed away towards the door, fighting the smile that was threatening to spread over his face. He felt like a little boy with a crush—giddy and smiley and so light that he could float on air. “I’ll let you get back to your orgasming. Maybe that’ll help you unwind.”

Hermione flipped Harry the bird as the man backed out of the room. The door shut behind him, and Hermione didn’t have to wait long for her bathroom door to open. Ron was standing there, naked, and Hermione decided to objective him for just a little bit.

“Well, is that how you guys are in private?” Ron asked. “Gossip like a bunch of old maids?”

Hermione snorted in laughter and she shook her head. “Shut up. Get over here,” she said with a smile, holding out her hand.

Ron ran towards the bed, jumping down on it, ignoring her shrieks. He rolled on top of her, pinning her down under her covers, smiling down at her. Hermione tried not to smile back, but she couldn’t help it.

“You want me to finish down there?” Ron asked.

Hermione shook her head, slowly. “No. Just...kiss me.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“How are you feeling this morning?” Harry smirked as he danced into the kitchen, sitting down at the breakfast table as Hermione scrambled up a vegetable egg concoction that was always really quite good, though Harry loathed mushrooms with a passion.

“Well rested,” Hermione said primly.

Harry snorted and he sat down at the table, leaning back in the chair. “Ron and Neville aren’t up?”

“I am,” Ron called as he pushed the swinging door open. “Neville is shaving.”

“Neville has to shave?” Harry demanded.

“Yes? Because he’s a grown man?” Ron asked, frowning at Harry as he went to make toast. “How many pieces of toast do you want?”

“Three. And I don’t have to shave very often,” Harry said.

“Shocker.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You sound so shrill this morning, Harry. Please. What is wrong with you? You’ve always got some issue. What is wrong? It's five in the bloody morning. We have a forty-eight-hour shift that we start in forty-five minutes. What is the whining for?" Hermione asked, utterly exhausted as she spooned the food onto a platter and Ron waited for the toaster to go off.

Harry gaped, offended.

Nothing. I just—”

“Enough. Enough. Enough with the talking,” Hermione snapped.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I guess someone did have as many orgasms as she should have yesterday.”

Ron choked over the air for some inexplicable reason.

“No, I’m just very tired and very stressed, Harry,” Hermione hissed. “I have my first procedure with Vance tonight—”

“You’ve operated on my sister,” Harry pointed out.

Hermione huffed. “First official as her student. I don’t...I need her to know that I’m worth it,” Hermione said, her voice cracking.

“But, she can’t give you up. You already did the—you know,” Harry said, looking at Ron in a very suspicious way.

"I already know. She traded me. This conversation has been had," Ron said, his voice flat.

“Ron!” Hermione squawked.

“Wait. Really? Are you two...y’know?” Harry asked, too bright-eyed for five in the morning.

“Nope,” they said in an eerie unison.

Harry pursed his lips, suspicious, but before he could contest their words, the door swung open and Neville stumbled in, rubbing at his sleep-pink face. Almost blindly, he pushed past Ron, grabbed two pieces of toast and sat at the table, spooning the vegetable egg scramble onto his plate. Harry scoffed and did the same, getting into his food.

“That toast was mine,” Ron said with a scowl.

“Mine, now,” Neville muttered.

Hermione smirked as she finished pouring out four enormous travel cups of black coffee. She waved her wand and the travel cups zoomed into the possession of their respective owners.

"It's Black Cat Flu season. Get vaccinated," Harry warned through a mouthful of the scramble.

“Ugh, don’t talk with your mouth full,” Ron chastised.

Everyone paused to stare at him in disbelief. Harry slowly swallowed and huffed.

“Get vaccinated. Take your potions. Don’t be idiots. You will be quarantined in the attic, and that’s where Sirius stores the house elf heads,” Harry snapped.

“Yeah, yeah,” Neville muttered after a long sip of coffee.

Hermione frowned. “Your godfather has house elves? Slaves?” Hermione demanded.

Harry shrugged. “Purebloods. They’re freaks.”

“I resent that,” Ron and Neville chorused.

“You two are especially freaks," Hermione said playfully. She sat down at the table and smirked at them.

“How so?” Neville asked.

Hermione smirked. “For hanging out with us.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Ron yawned as he followed Rodolphus and Bellatrix through the hall, his coffee cup clutched tight against his chest. Four hours into his shift and he was already exhausted. It was only half-past ten and he wanted to collapse in an on-call room.

“He’s already learned the basics. Clinical training requires practical application, Rodolphus,” Bellatrix sneered, adjusting her plague doctor mask on the top of her head. Rodolphus had his own mask tucked under his arm.

“He took Healing at Hogwarts. We both know that it doesn’t focus nearly as much on Emergency & Triage as it should. It’s naturally skewed towards Spell Damage specialists and Mind Healing specialists—the two flashiest professions,” Rodolphus said snippily. “He should relearn the basics. From the very beginning.”

Bellatrix scoffed, shaking her head. “I’m not going to waste my time with that. He knows how the Bandage Spell. He knows how to cauterize a wound.”

“Doesn’t mean that he didn’t want to be a Spell Damage specialist when he got here,” Rodolphus said with a sneer. “E&T isn’t about being pretty. You use what you’ve got where and when you’ve got it. Weasley!”

Ron jumped, nearly spilling black coffee all over his hand.

“Yes, sir?” he asked, yawning into his chest. He tried to run a free hand through his hair before he realized his other hand was full of parchment files and he only succeeded in smacking himself in the forehead.

“What did you want to be before you declared E&T?” Rodolphus barked.

“Spell Damage. Then, I met Harry Potter and thought...why bother?” Ron admitted.

Bloody hell, he was honest when he was tired.

Rodolphus glanced at Bellatrix, knowingly. Bellatrix’s mood had only blackened at the reminder of her romantic rival.

“Harry Potter this and Harry Potter that. Can we maybe not talk about the Golden Boy?” Bellatrix snarled.

“Is that bitterness I sense? Are you bitter?” Rodolphus mocked.

Bellatrix growled, gnashing her teeth, before she turned back to Ron, expectant.

“Weasley, unknown patient arrives, age 24, lacerations to the back and thighs. What do you do?” Bellatrix said immediately.

“Diagnostics spell and—presuming the wounds weren’t made by Dark magic—bandage spell. If it’s a life-threatening laceration, cauterize, and move on,” Weasley said.

“Same thing for a werewolf victim,” Rodolphus barked.

“Same process. If bitten by a fully-transformed werewolf, apply a mixture of dittany and powdered silver to seal wound. Immediately order a prescription of the Lycanthropy Potion from the pharmacy after transfer is complete,” Ron said.

He smirked. These were pretty easy.

“Patient, male, age 12, dementor contact,” Bellatrix said snippily.

Ron scoffed. Easy. He’d just dealt with that.

“Chocolate will suffice.”

“Oh, he’s good. Not many know that one,” Rodolphus said. Bellatrix looked at him, haughty and irritated—an odd, if normal, look on her face. “Multiple casualties. Centurion is down. Broken hip, broken ankle. Hit wizards are down. What do you do?”

Now, they were both watching, waiting to see if he had learned anything from the first time he was out in the field.

“Immediately summon the Aurors as backup. Start on Centurion first. Diagnostics to check for arterial injuries. Stabilize him using the Lightning Spell, directly to the chest, right over the heart. If the heart doesn’t restart, begin manual compressions. If this doesn’t work, put more power into the spell,” Ron said. Bellatrix leaned forward to counter him and Ron lifted his coffee cup. “If that doesn’t work, I’d crack his chest. I know it’s not done, but I’ve read that a cardiac massage could restore circulation. Once that’s stable, I’d use a bandage spell to patch him close. Then, heal the most life-threatening injuries—setting his hip and ankle, binding them in bandages. Superficial marks can wait for someone else to make him pretty. Then, I’d move on.”

Rodolphus and Bellatrix were staring at him, wide-eyed.

“That was...hmm. Cardiac massage. I’ve never read about that,” Rodolphus muttered to himself.

“It’s a Muggle technique. My girlfriend is a Muggleborn. She has...Muggle books in the house,” Ron said calmly. Of course, he’d never tell Hermione that he was snooping through her book collection and that he was the one leaving grease marks on her pages.

What she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.

“I should’ve known. It sounds barbaric,” Bellatrix sneered.

“But, according to Weasley, it’s effective. I’d like to do more reading,” Rodolphus muttered under his breath. He looked at Ron, curiously. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for E&T, Weasley.”

“Yes...you’re very...methodical,” Bellatrix hissed. “I would’ve thought this field was a little too challenging for the likes of you.”

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “I like chess. It’s a bit like that.”

“A game?” Rodolphus asked. He sounded nearly appreciative.

"Sure. But, it's not a game of chance. Chess is a game of strategy. Who survives the longest and all that. Now, the first case for rounds, ma'am," Ron said, passing Bellatrix the first parchment file.

Bellatrix’s dark eyes had a spark of interest and her purple lips curled into a smile.

“Antonin Dolohov, 53, came in yesterday for a cardiac event exacerbated by continued abuse of...deadly nightshade,” Bellatrix hummed.

“He’s 53,” Weasley pointed out.

Bellatrix shrugged. “Ministry officials. The bureaucrats have to have their fun somehow.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Merlin, I think I’m going to die. Either from exhaustion or hunger,” Harry whimpered, collapsing on the on-call room bed. He ate the takeaway styrofoam platter of chips with a gusto that he had never quite displayed before.

That was more in Ron’s vein of behavior.

“No time for sleep,” Hermione said, looking up with exhaustion glossy brown eyes.

"Time for food though?" Ron asked as he danced through, dropping a takeaway box on her lap and then falling into Harry's bed, shoving him over so they could both happily recline on it. Harry's head dropped on Ron's shoulder and he yawned into his fellow trainee's hunter green clad shoulder. "How have your day's been?"

“Hectic!” Neville called as he walked in, his fourth cup of coffee clutched in hand. “I’m so exhausted!”

Harry winced. “Nev, why are you yelling? People are sleeping.”

Neville’s nose wrinkled and then he seemed to realize what was happening. He looked at his housemates, sheepish.

“I’ve been harvesting Mandrakes all day. I guess those earmuffs aren’t as good as they’re supposed to be,” Neville said apologetically. He fell down on the foot of Hermione’s bed and curled up at the end of it, glancing over at Hermione.

She was sitting at the head of the bed, cross-legged, colored parchment cards around her. Her eyes were darting around as she tried to memorize her scrawls on them.

"Are you revising for something?" Harry asked with a yawn.

“No,” Hermione said immediately.

Harry snorted. “Well, okay. What have you been up to, Ron?”

“Black and Lestrange have been arguing non-stop. About the stupidest things. Like they have differing opinions on how to train me, how the weather is, how they each take their tea. It’s ridiculous,” Ron sneered, shaking his head.

“And the patients?” Neville asked.

Ron shrugged. “Oh. That’s fine. We haven’t had any real emergency calls. It’s not really fun if someone’s not bleeding out in the middle of the street.”

Hermione scoffed.

“Charming.”

“Aren’t I?” Ron returned just as quickly.

Hermione looked up and grinned, shaking her head for a moment, before she looked back down at work. Harry waggled his eyebrows at Ron and Ron laughed, just elbowing him in his side.

“What about you, Harry?” Neville asked.

Harry hummed. “I’ve been running errands for Tom. I did all of his work-ups, followed up on his patients, and then, after a nap and lunch, I’m going to do research.”

“How long is your break? I’ve got to be back by two,” Ron said through a mouthful of a roast beef sandwich.

“I don’t know. Generally, he just lets me sleep and if he needs me, he Summons? I’m really tired so I’ll nap until three, I guess,” Harry said with a shrug.

“You’re bloody lucky that your boss wants to shag you,” Ron said.

Neville rolled his eyes. “Ron, really?”

“Well, he does. He’s still bloody obsessed with you,” Ron returned and Harry scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest, petulantly.

“Not enough if the Gorsemoor Grant matters more than me,” Harry said stiffly.

Ron barked out a laugh. “I’d trade you for the Gorsemoor Grant too, mate.”

Harry flipped him the bird.

“You’ve zero tact,” Hermione said without looking up from his flashcards.

"Oh, you're one to talk," Ron challenged. He leaped out of bed and sauntered over to Hermione's bedside. Hermione tried to swat him away, hoarding her flashcards closer to her body. "Oh...are you serious?”

Harry perked up. “What is it?”

"It's OWL notes! For Care of Magical Creatures," Ron barked out a laugh. "Why are you learning fifth-year material?"

Harry jumped up from the bed, moving to get a closer look. “And why is it all in my sister’s handwriting? Did you owl my sister asking for her OWL notes?”

“Didn’t you take Care of Magical Creatures?” Neville asked curiously.

Hermione made a haughty sound in the back of her throat. “I’ll have you know that I did not.”

All three of her housemates blanched.

“Are you serious? It was literally the easiest OWL. I didn’t even study and got an O,” Ron pointed out, eyes wide and mad. Hermione shoved him away and began to reorganize Lavender’s notes. She cleared her throat.

“I was too busy taking Arithmancy and Alchemy to fit Care into my schedule,” Hermione said primly.

“Literally how?” Harry asked, rolling his eyes. “I took Arithmancy too and my ex took Alchemy. It didn’t conflict with either of our classes.”

Neville leaned forward, wide-eyed. “Wait...are you just not good at Care?”

The three boys broke into a fresh round of laughter was immediately hushed in the on-call room. They all winced, trying to stifle their fits of giggles. Hermione stared at them all, affronted.

“I was fine. At the theory. It’s just the...practical that I...I don’t like animals. Merlin, shut up!”

“Hermione didn’t take Care because she was afraid of getting a Troll on her OWLs!” Ron blurted out between gasps of laughter. “Oh, I’m going to hold this against you forever, hag.”

“Oh my God. Fuck off. All of you. Shut up!” Hermione snarled. They continued to laugh. “For Merlin’s sake, this is a hospital, you dunces.

“We’re the dunces? You didn’t take Care because you don’t want to touch creatures.”

“Shut the fuck up, Harry.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry was nose deep in reading as he walked towards the lift, reaching vaguely for the button as he looked over the curse. He was reading about a variant on a Mummification Curse. It wasn’t exactly what Katie Bella had—at least, he didn’t think so—, but there were similarities. It made Harry think that Tom’s theory about the curse being multi-layered and personally crafted make more sense.

They'd know more once they got the opal necklace that had started it all in their possession. Now, they just had to get the paperwork through in the Auror Office, and Harry still had a few more waivers and contracts to sign with the Department of Mysteries. Harry frowned when his hand collided with flesh.

“Can’t keep your hands off of me?”

Harry blinked, nearly dropping his book to the ground.

“Oh. It’s you. Hello,” Harry stammered like a fucking idiot. Tom smirked back at him, and suddenly, Harry felt like he had when he had first had to adjust to the fact that he had slept with his boss for the very first time.

He had thirty-seven more hours with the man. Merlin, kill him.

“It’s me. In all my glory,” Tom smirked as if he hadn’t said something terribly romantic and telling just last night.

There are so many ways to ruin a person, darling.

“I was just going to, uh, find you,” Harry blurted out.

“Don’t you have work-ups? My work-ups?” Tom asked with a raised eyebrow.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I did that this morning. Haven’t you been to your office today?”

“Not at all. I’ve been with Miss Bell today, checking over your work,” Tom returned and he raised an eyebrow, watching Harry. Harry winced, suddenly nervous and he rocked back and forth as they waited for the lift.

“And...how did I do?”

“It was...fine. Your spellwork was messy, but ultimately, you did ease her pain. We need to work on that. The messiness,” Tom said firmly. He didn’t sound too worried about it.

And Harry knew that he had a problem with that. It wasn't the first time that had been brought to his attention. He was a trainee, so it was to be expected that he wouldn't have an edge of perfection that was crafted through years of practice. But, he felt a flare of embarrassment, suddenly. He was supposed to be good. He was supposed to be the best, but here he was, making rookie mistakes.

“Sorry about that. I’ll do better,” Harry rasped.

Tom frowned at him. “I know. Don’t worry about it. I fixed it,” Tom said as the lift finally arrived. “What are you reading?”

“A case study about a variant on a Mummification Curse. A lot of the same symptoms as Katie Bell. It made me think that your idea about the curse being layered had merit,” Harry said.

Tom snorted. “Of course it does. I’m me.”

“Your arrogance isn’t very attractive, you know,” Harry teased with a tiny smile.

Tom looked at him from the corner of his eye. “I have it on good authority that my arrogance is quite charming.”

“Oh, yeah? On whose authority?”

“Yours.”

“Bugger off,” Harry snapped.

“I’d rather—no, you’ve made it too easy,” Tom sighed, shaking his head. Harry rolled his eyes, attempting to hide his smile because really, Tom was quite charming. “There’s some paperwork you need to sign. My last liaison with the Department of Mysteries just retired recently. We’re getting a new one. He’s in my office, apparently.”

The doors to the lift opened on the Spell Damage floor and Tom waved his hand as an overdramatic after you. Harry rolled his eyes to hide how charmed he was by that. He came to a stop when he saw the tall, broad-shouldered young man that waited by the door.

“Theo?” Harry rasped.

Theodore Nott turned around and grinned. “Harry!” he cheered and he strode right up to Harry, grabbing him by his face and laying a smacking kiss on his lips, as they always playfully had whenever they saw one another after their amicable breakup.

“Uh…” Harry said as his brain short-wired.

“Who the fuck is this, Harry?” Tom asked, sounding unpleasantly amiable.

“Oh, right. I’m Unspeakable Theodore Nott, your new Department of Mysteries liaison,” Theodore said, walking forward, stretching out his hand. There was a long moment where Tom slowly looked down at Theodore’s hand and then looked back at him, his crazed smile twitching.

Theodore let his hand drop to his side, awkwardly.

“And how do you know Harry?” Tom repeated, still sounding so, so happy.

Harry bit his bottom lip. “Uh. This is Theo. My ex-boyfriend.”

“Ah. I see.” Tom didn’t sound like he saw anything at all. In fact, he sounded more irritated than Harry had ever heard him sound before. “Why don’t we go into my office?”

Tom opened the door with a twist of his wand and he waved Theodore and Harry through. Harry flushed when he felt the man’s broad hand against the small of his back. And then, that hand disappeared again and the door shut behind them.

“Harry, how’s the Healing life treating you?” Theodore asked as he went through his bag, pulling files out of his briefcase and laying them out on the desk in front of him, without even asking Tom. Harry winced at that.

“Um, well,” Harry said softly.

Theodore laughed. "I'm sure. You're only a trainee and already assisting on a project like this. Truly, Healer Riddle, this one was always the most talented at spellwork. He was my tutor for sixth year in Defense. It's how we got together," Theodore said with a laugh.

“He doesn’t want to hear about that,” Harry rushed.

Tom snorted. “Oh, I can assure you, I do.”

“No. You don’t,” Harry said through gritted teeth.

Theodore hadn't seemed to hear them. "Oh, Harry was a bit of a partier during our school days. He was always drinking or dancing or talking with boys. I'm surprised that I was able to keep him for so long. Before me, his longest relationship was what? Four days?"

"Wow, Theo, just make me sound like a whore," Harry said with a terribly false smile.

Theodore winced and took a step back as he took out an inkwell and a quill.

“Okay. This document is about secrecy until you’re able to accurately present your findings. This one is a permit for using Dark magic. And this one is a permit for coming and going to the Department of Mysteries, provided that you set up a bracket of time at least a week beforehand with an owl to me," Theodore said. Harry sighed, taking up the quill. "Just sign here. Initial there. Sign here. Two initials, there and there. Sign here."

Harry did as he was instructed and he froze when he felt Theodore’s hand on his back. Harry looked over his shoulder at Tom, but the older man’s gaze was zeroed in on Theodore’s hand.

“All done,” Harry said, voice high and squeaky as he stepped back, carefully pulling away from Theodore. “Say, mate, glad to see you’re doing well.”

Theodore frowned, mouthing the word, mate, because really, Harry had literally never referred to Theodore as that before.

“Of course. Say, Harry, are you seeing anyone?” Theodore asked.

Tom made a sharp noise in the back of his throat. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to punch someone in the face. Preferably Rodolphus. Pleasure meeting you, Unspeakable Nott.”

“Nice to meet you too!” Theodore called as Tom threw the door open with an unnecessary crash, and then, he turned back to Harry. “I’m not asking you because I want to date you.”

“Oh, thank Merlin,” Harry gasped out, and he saw Tom pause in the doorway, tension leaking out of his shoulders.

“It’s just, I’ve got a friend. Real fit. He’s got tons of money. His name is Bl—”

Tom stormed away, slamming the door shut behind him. Immediately, Harry punched Theodore in the shoulder.

“Merlin, you’re a fucking idiot! Are you trying to get killed?” Harry snarled.

“Ow! I forgot how hard you punched. What the bloody hell is wrong with you, you stupid bint?” Theodore snapped back, and, oh maybe that was why they broke up.

Maybe name-calling was foreplay for Ron and Hermione, but Harry certainly didn’t like being called ‘stupid’ and Theodore didn’t really appreciate it either.

"That's not just my boss, Theo. That's my fucking ex-boyfriend and neither of us is really over it yet!” Harry hissed.

“How was I supposed to know?” Theodore demanded. “And what are you doing dating your boss?”

"You could literally spot the tension from a million miles away, you dolt. You're bloody fucking oblivious. And for your information, I didn't know that he was my boss until after I slept with him for the first time, and then, when we started dating proper, all of a fucking sudden—look there—a wild fiance appears. And you've known me since we were eleven. If anyone of our year was going to date their boss, clearly, it would be me.”

Theodore’s eyes widened as he tried to process Harry’s slurred explanation. “Okay...we really need to have lunch more often.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“He looks upset. He used to come to us when he was upset,” Bellatrix sighed as she picked over her salad, staring at Tom. Rodolphus followed her gaze.

Tom did, in fact, look upset. His jaw was tight and his hands were clenched into tight fists as he stormed through the cafeteria, grabbing a sandwich and a bottle of water to go as his very light dinner. He didn’t even stop to mock Snape, which meant he was really upset.

“Well, now the sight of us makes him upset,” Rodolphus said calmly. “Because we were shitty friends.”

Bellatrix glowered at him. “I hate you,” she snarled, stabbing at her food.

“No, you don’t,” Rodolphus drawled. “I’m your only friend.”

Bellatrix scoffed under her breath. She couldn’t contest that. Rodolphus was her only friend. Suddenly, she longed for the days where it had been the three of them against the world. When she had first met Tom Riddle, she’d been taken with him, immediately and absolutely. He was a half-blood, but, he had, no doubt, proven himself to all of Slytherin house. He had been cute, and then, he’d grown into the handsome man he was.

It was Tom that had inspired Rodolphus and Bellatrix to follow after him into the Healing program—as if they had ever had any other choice. They would follow him anywhere.

He was like a flame, and they were two moths, gravitating towards his presence.

It was pathetic.

They were pathetic.

“I want it to be like when we were young,” Bellatrix said.

Rodolphus looked up. “Elaborate.”

“I miss when we would go to the Leaky Cauldron and drink Firewhiskey until three in the morning after a good procedure. I miss listening to the wireless and sharing our best cases. I miss sitting on the floor and eating takeaway while we listened to Tom complain about how stupid everyone else in the world is,” Bellatrix whispered.

Rodolphus watched her for a very long time and then, he went back to eating his sandwich. Normally, Bellatrix would be outraged, because it felt very much like he was ignoring her, but she knew Rodolphus well enough. He was thinking about how to respond. Suddenly, he put his sandwich back down and squinted at her.

“You don’t miss just the two of you?” Rodolphus asked.

It would be a lie to say that she didn't. She missed being in the same bed as Tom. She missed seeing him first thing in the morning. She missed bonding over a quick breakfast of tea and a croissant from the bakery downstairs from the flat. She missed the intimacy that sex allowed, the way he wouldn't break eye contact with her when he was inside of her.

But, she would tell Rodolphus. Because, then, he’d know that, sometimes, in her weakest moments, Bellatrix thought about whether Tom was the same with Harry Potter.

Bellatrix wondered if Tom had ever had morning sex with Harry Potter. She wondered if Tom had ever taken Harry to the bakery because he couldn’t stand eggs in the morning and that was Bellatrix’s favorite thing in the morning—she made excellent eggs. Bellatrix wondered if he fucked Harry slow or fast; Tom liked to fuck her fast and from behind, but sometimes, he’d fuck her on her back and would watch her, drink her in, gorge on her.

So, Bellatrix couldn’t say yes to Rodolphus’ question, because then, he’d know.

Like he always did.

“I miss how we all used to be,” Bellatrix said again. “I want him to forgive me. I miss him. I miss us.”

Rodolphus snorted, shaking his head. “Tom Riddle, forgive us? He still holds a grudge against your sister for saying that he was less handsome than Lucius Malfoy when we were twelve.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Bellatrix snarled.

Rodolphus looked at her, grim, and suddenly, Bellatrix was reminded that Rodolphus had lost someone too.

“Bella, you overestimate his ability to forgive.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Thank you, Lily, for taking some time out of your busy schedule for this meeting,” Albus said.

"Really, Albus, it's no problem. Lavender is still in physical therapy," Lily said, her voice dry, and she turned to the two other occupants of the office, an unnervingly cool look on her face. "Truly, it's an honor to meet both of you. Your dedication to Healing will not go unnoticed here at St. Mungo's."

Amos Diggory’s chest puffed up and Lily fought the urge to roll her eyes.

Albus said that people didn’t appreciate condescension, even if they were pompous for no real reason other than possessing a large sum of money—especially if they possessed a large sum of money. James had been like that when they were kids. Lily had promptly disabused him of any notion that he was any better than her.

“Of course. Truly, the reputation of yourself and your colleagues far surpass any possible doubts that we may have about our contributions to this hospital.”

Blaise Zabini was young for an investor—only a few years older than Lily’s son. But, he was the son of the infamous ‘Widow’. Twelve husbands had dropped dead in her wake before she herself had finally passed. It was still one of Sirius’ greatest regrets that he hadn’t busted her himself. Lily had no doubt that she had passed not only her charms to her son. He could probably brew a poison to rival any antidote that Severus or Lily could cook up themselves.

“Thank you. We greatly appreciate it,” Lily said with a gentle smile, carefully crafted more moments like then. To make her more approachable.

Diggory cleared his throat, irritated that all of the attention had been moved to his more handsome, younger counterpart.

“We should all grab lunch sometime this week. My treat,” Diggory declared.

Albus hummed. “I would love to take part, but alas, I must decline. I have a Mind Healing procedure to prepare for quite soon, and I’ll need to train up my assistant somewhat.”

“Come now, Albus. This would be a working lunch. After all, the charity gala is approaching,” Diggory said pointedly. “And Blaise and I have quite a host of friends that have expressed interest.”

Immediately, Lily’s mind drifted. Those funds would revamp the hospital. Even the sizeable amount that had been gifted that day would contribute to an improved Emergency & Triage center and perhaps a greenhouse used only to host rare plants.

“—to enlist Lily to help plan the annual Charity Gala,” Albus was saying.

Lily jerked, looking wide-eyed at Albus. “I’m sorry, Albus?”

Albus had that devilish spark in his lightning blue eyes.

“As you are currently on sabbatical, I thought, who better to assist the board and our new members than you? After all, I daresay you know this hospital better than nearly anyone,” Albus said pointedly and Lily scoffed.

She knew what he was trying to do.

He was trying to get out of planning the gala, as he did every single fucking year.

“Wouldn’t Riddle or McGonagall or Severus be more appropriate?” Lily asked primly. “As you said, I am on sabbatical.”

“I would be honored to work with the esteemed Healer Evans,” Blaise said, smiling charmingly. Lily fought the urge to sneer. What a smarmy little ass. “I would love to pick your brain about antidotes, and the like.”

Oh, she was sure he would.

"As you know, Tom is very much preoccupied with his project," Albus said firmly. "And, I'm sure that Lavender will adore helping her mother. If I remember correctly, Lavender has always been a bit of a social butterfly.”

Well, there was no denying that.

“Oh, please, Healer Evans, we would be delighted. As I said, our friends would adore attending something with your name attached,” Diggory said firmly. “We insist.”

Lily huffed under her breath. “Well, if you insist," she said snippily. She looked up, blank-eyed again, and gave that empty smile. "How about I escort you, gentlemen, out? We can discuss logistics for lunch."

Zabini hummed as he stood, smoothing down his velvet cloak. “Of course. Typically, I would send an owl or perhaps my house elf to make my appointments—”

“As would I,” Diggory interjected.

“But, as we are here in person, this would be more appropriate,” Zabini hummed.

Lily stood and escorted the two men out, shooting one more sneering glare over her shoulder. Albus just smiled innocently, as if he hadn’t purposely orchestrated her meeting the two obnoxious men just so that he could keep her busy. He would probably frame it as some ridiculous therapy exercise—interacting with people that she didn’t instinctually like, or some rot, like that.

"I am generally free in the afternoons. I could, however, be free between the hours of eleven and three, but lunch has to be over fifteen to three. My daughter finishes physical therapy around that time,” Lily said firmly, her tone giving no room for argument.

Diggory swallowed. “I heard about that terrible business. I do hope she’s doing well.”

“She’s fine,” Lily said flatly.

Truly, Lavender was doing great. But, it wasn’t any of this man’s business.

"My boy is actually going to be in Tom Riddle's trial, you know. He's a bit ill, and I wanted the best, and look, the very best," Diggory said as if it were a brag. Lily didn't want to point out that if Tom Riddle wanted him, he wasn't just ill—he was dying. Riddle liked the impossible cases. "The things that Tom Riddle has accomplished with a wand and a bit of imagination is quite astounding. In truth, he's why I've decided to make the sizeable donation to St. Mungo's."

Lily resisted the urge to snort.

The things that Tom Riddle has accomplished with his cock.

“Yes, we’re all quite proud,” Lily said brusquely as they stepped into the lift. “Now, lunch?”

“I have meetings all this week. Next week Tuesday?” Zabini asked.

Diggory hummed. “That works for me! Now, do you think I could possibly meeting Healer Riddle today? I would love to ask about his progress with his trials.”

Lily’s urge to roll her eyes was strong, but she resisted.

She doubted Riddle would give the man the time of day. And she doubted it was even legal for him to tell the many anything, anyway.

"I can ask," she said snippily as they exited on the ground floor. She walked up to the directory desk and the matron that sat there jumped. It was the same one that she had terrified when she had returned from France, asking after her daughter. "Hello, matron. Can you tell me where Riddle is? I have a pair of gentlemen that would love to meet him."

“I-I have, ma’am—”

“Where is he, then?” Diggory practically barked.

Zabini finally looked vaguely interested.

“M-Ma’am, I just saw him running down the hall with your son,” the matron said, and Zabini was definitely interested now. Lily supposed that not many knew that she had a son. “Running towards the Spell Damage floor. Nearly knocked down a family of four visiting. They had so many red sparks between the two of them. They were Summoned.”

Lily pressed her lips in a grim line. She knew what that meant.

“What does that mean?” Zabini asked curiously.

Their patient was dying.

Of course, Diggory didn’t need to know that.

“A patient was in need. I’m afraid you won’t be able to meet them today. Have a good day, gentlemen,” Lily said as sweetly as possible. It wasn’t very sweet at all. “My daughter is alone at home, and I’d like to start her dinner, and she’s an assignment to finish up.”

She didn’t wait for their goodbyes.


DIAGNOSIS


 

"Present the case, Granger," Emmeline said as she pulled her black dragonhide gloves up over her arms, her lips pressed into a thin line. Her lips were a bold slash of red. Not a single ringlet was out of place.

She didn’t look like she was going to exorcise venom from a man’s veins.

“Rolf Scamander, 30 years old, admitted for three rather vicious bites from an Akelarre snake in rural Spain after a magizoological expedition,” Hermione said primly.

She knew that Rolf had at first been admitted to the hospital in Paris—the one Lily had been teaching at—, but Emmeline’s expertise had made it clear that only she could treat him. After all, she specialized in all kinds of creature venoms—werewolf, vampire, and, apparently, snakes.

“And what are the symptoms of Akelarre venom?” Vance asked coolly.

"The venom could be considered Dark magic, with Akelarre's being specifically bred to kill. First, it drives the victim hysterical, gradually poisoning the blood. It overworks the liver and kidneys until there is multisystem organ failure. At the point of death, the organs will liquify and excrete from the corpse. This is what the Akelarre consumes," Hermione said.

She had drilled that into her brain all day.

Vance didn’t look particularly impressed. Hermione supposed that she should’ve taken her Care OWLs and NEWTs. She’d make sure to owl Lavender for more notes and perhaps, Madame Pince for book recommendations. The old librarian had always been quite helpful to Hermione in her pursuit of knowledge.

“And the treatment process today?” Vance asked.

Hermione cleared her throat. “We’ll be cutting open his wounds, bleeding him out while steadily pumping him with Blood Replenishing potions and the antidote. Any of the bowels that are compromised will be cut out. We already know that one of his kidneys has failed. We’ll remove it.”

“Good. I know this has been an ill-adjustment period for the both of us,” Vance began, looking over at Hermione, and it struck Hermione that this was the first time that they had made eye contact since Ron had run away from Vance.

“I don’t hold it against you. You telling Ron,” Hermione said firmly.

Vance’s lip curled but she didn’t say anything. “We’re going to find our rhythm. I’ll teach you who you need to be. I want you to be a good Healer. The best Healer. You’re going to go into a theatre and know exactly what to do and when to do it. That’s the kind of Healer I want you to be.”

She said nothing about compassion or kindness or an unrelenting passion.

As if she didn’t think Hermione capable of such things.

Sometimes, Hermione didn’t think she was capable of them either.

And then, she stepped into the theatre and saw him. She felt all of those things and one thing more—a terrible, terrible fear.

Vance moved past her, nodding at the matrons in greeting.

“Let’s change the fucking world, eh?” Vance asked she walked in.

The matrons grinned in agreement, nodding.

Hermione was frozen in the doorway.

Vance glanced over her shoulder, frowning. “Granger, come here. You can make the first cut.”

“I-I...I...what?” Hermione stammered, looking up.

She knew what she had to do. She had to lift her wand and think Diffindo, and yet, the thought of lifting her wand made her want to spew bile. Hermione took a step back.

Vance’s eyes narrowed. “Step out of my theatre until you can stop shaking.”

She wasn't exactly unkind, but she was firm. Hermione stumbled out, backward, nearly paralyzed by fear as she walked into the hallway and collapsed against the near wall. Her hands were shaking. She slid down against the wall.

Her hands were shaking.

Hermione wasn’t sure how long she was sitting there until she heard footsteps. She looked up, expecting an irritated Vance.

Minerva McGonagall stared back. “Are you crying, Granger? Healers don’t get to cry,” McGonagall said coolly. “Not even when a patient dies.”

She said it so calmly, as if it had happened a thousand times.

Hermione thought about it all the time. She hadn't had a patient die yet. It had been close, but they hadn’t done it yet, and every time she stepped into a theatre, she was terrified it would be that one. That one would die under her watch, in her care.

“How do you keep your edge, Healer? Because I’ve watched you and you’ve been doing this a long time and you’re clean, you’re focused, you are the job. Nothing gets to you. And the thing is, ma’am, I was like that. Until I got here. Until I actually started doing this job and now everything is, is fuzzy…” Hermione stammered, shaking her head. Her hands were shaking.

Her hands had never shaken before.

The only other time was the first time that she had found herself in the theatre at Emmeline Vance’s side. Then, Emmeline had calmed her with words promising glory. But, there was no glory now. That wasn’t Harry’s sister—a girl that Hermione had never met, but for all intents and purposes, was her sister, too. There were no stakes now.

Except, there were always stakes.

“That’s beside the point,” McGonagall said sharply.

“No, that is the point, Healer. I was the best. Top of my year. I made sure that I was twice as good...to get half as much as they have—" Hermione didn't know who 'they' were. Was it the purebloods? The half-bloods? The white people in her school? She didn't know, but she did know that her parents had to be twice as good and so did she. “And I had an edge. And I’ve lost it and I need it. I need it back. So, if you could just tell me, how you keep yours and how not to be affected, I know I could be a great Healer. So, if you could just give me the answers. I would really appreciate it.”

And she was tearing up, but she didn’t know why.

All she knew was that she needed a cigarette.

“Get up, Healer Granger, and breathe,” McGonagall barked.

“But…” Hermione started.

“No. That edge…” McGonagall said, trailing off. “I have the answers. But, I’m not going to tell you. I’m not going to be responsible for you becoming less human.”

Hermione was silent. She didn’t know what to think of that.

“Healer—”

“But, I will give you a word of advice,” Minerva McGonagall declared. “Breathe, Healer Granger. Don’t be crass. You’re sulking.”

Hermione’s eyes widened and she looked at the woman standing by the door. Minerva McGonagall looked older and younger than her years, wisdom lining her face. She was staring at Hermione as if she were looking at a memory in a Pensieve. Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but McGonagall shook her head.

“Women of your generation are graceless. It’s an affront to nature,” McGonagall chastised, tilting her head as she looked at Hermione. “Mediocre Healers will see you and feel themselves wilting in your shadow. Do not shrink to console them.”

“I—” Hermione began. McGonagall lifted her hand.

"Do not look for friends here. Few of these people have the capacity to understand you. The ones that do will find you. The others never will. If you're lucky, one day when you're old and shriveled like me, you'll find a young Healer with little regard for anything but their craft, and you'll train them like I will train you. Until then, read a good book," McGonagall said and she sounded so serious that Hermione felt as if her chest had been cracked open and McGonagall had reached inside of her to grab a stranglehold of her doubts.

“You’re going to train me? I have a teacher,” Hermione said quietly.

McGonagall pursed her lips. “Perhaps. I’m going to make sure you understand...understand why we do what we do. Now, get up. You have a procedure to continue. Your other teacher won’t wait for you much longer.”

Hermione scoffed. “Why would she wait for me at all? She doesn’t need me.”

“No. She doesn’t,” McGonagall declared. “But, I remember an Emmeline Vance about your age who nearly broke down the first time she was in theatre too. Nearly everyone does.”

“Harry didn’t. Did Lily Evans?” Hermione asked softly.

McGonagall hummed. “I think that they...are a breed made of ice and fury. I don’t place much hope in Divination or the art of inexact sciences, but...I do believe that there are some of us destined for such paths. They are of that breed.”

Hermione looked away, narrow-eyed. “I...see.”

“You have greatness in you, Granger. Don’t disappoint.”

Hermione looked up, wide-eyed, and she stared at the strong, wizened hand offered to her. She slowly reached up to grab McGonagall’s hand and the woman pulled her to her feet. McGonagall watched for a long moment before she turned her by her shoulders and pushed.

Hermione stumbled forward and then straightened, smoothing down her robes. She cleared her throat as she strode back to the double doors and threw them open. Vance was waiting, staring at her with a look of irritation and understanding.

“Granger. Are you ready?” Vance barked. “Or are you going to have another breakdown?”

“I apologize for my behavior, Healer Vance,” Hermione said, raw honesty in her voice. Vance looked surprised. “If you’d permit it, I’d like to stay in your theatre.”

“I’m not going to baby you after this. This is the job. Any amount of talent that you have means nothing if you can’t keep your head in this theatre. You understand me?” Vance barked, and her voice was harsh, but Hermione knew what she was trying to say.

“I understand. I am sorry. I’m ready,” Hermione insisted.

“Good. Come here. Make the first cut.”

Chapter Text

“What have we got?” Tom barked as the matrons bustled around Katie’s room. Unlike the family of visitors from before, the matrons moved out of his way as he cut through the room, wand held aloft. He didn’t wait for the matrons to speak, already waving his wand and casting the diagnostics charm.

“Tom?” Harry asked, nervously.

“She’s deteriorating. The curse is more malignant than we thought, dammit,” Tom hissed under his breath. Harry’s nostrils flared.

“We don’t have the necklace. We can’t ascertain what curse it is, what kind of curse, how many curses—”

“I’m well aware, thank you,” Tom said shortly. Harry’s lips curled at the dismissal. Tom looked at him, but didn’t apologize. Harry didn’t think he would. “You gathered the curse in the base of her spine. I went in and picked any of the raw strings that were left, gathered. But, it only settled there. The entire body is hospitable to the curse. It attached itself to her spinal cord. It’s her fucking nerves.”

Harry winced. It was exactly where they didn’t want it to be.

“And her muscles?” Harry asked.

“Atrophied, of course. It’s going to destroy her nervous system, and if she doesn’t die from that, she’ll die from the multisystem organ failure. Lose-lose situation,” Tom muttered under his breath. He was mumbling, probably working through everything.

“How do you know that?” Harry demanded.

Tom looked up at him. “It’s what I would do. If I had designed this curse.”

Harry flinched.

“What do we do, then? We can’t just let her...die,” he said, his voice breaking off.

Tom acted as if he didn’t seem to hear her. “All non-essential personnel that hasn’t signed multiple NDAs and permit licenses, step out of the room. Thank you,” Tom said without waiting for anyone to follow his orders. Of course, they did, scurrying from the room as if their lives depending on it. Tom bent over Katie, until their faces were inches apart, his eyes narrowed. He went to pull her eyelids open, looking into glossy non-seeing eyes.

“Tom...what are we—”

“Shh, Harry. She’s going to seize any moment. I need to see her eyes when she does. Now, be the lovely assistant you are, and get a bit so she doesn’t bite her tongue off,” Tom said without even looking at him.

Harry rolled his eyes but did as he was told. He waved his wand, Summoning the bit to his hand he gracelessly slid it between Katie’s teeth. As if on a timer, she began to seize, her pupils growing and retracting as her muscles strained against the restraints that she was kept in. Tom didn’t move away from her, only staring into Katie’s eyes. Her entire body was fighting against the restraints, her hair whipping around her head by an imaginary wind.

“Tom?” Harry whispered.

It was as if a spell was broken, and suddenly, Katie stopped seizing, collapsing back into the bed, her body exhausted.

“Ah. I see,” Tom murmured to himself. He straightened, looking over at Harry. “Her seizures aren’t just seizures.”

“You think?” Harry snapped, irritated.

Tom looked unamused. “It’s not caused by the curse either.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Excuse me?”

“It’s not caused by the curse. It’s being caused by her magic,” Tom explained. “Magic is meant to protect its host. It’s like an immune system. Her eyes would have reacted if was abnormal nerve activity. But, she was watching me. She’s lucid. Which means that her seizures are her body attempting to protect itself. But, the seizures aren’t helping her. They’re making her weaker.”

Harry’s eyes widened when he realized what Tom was getting at. “The curse is turning her magic against her. It’s making her magic attack her body. That’s what’s causing the damage.”

“Exactly,” Tom muttered. “It’s my hypothesis that her magic is feeding the curse and destroying it all at once. Except, her magic is becoming the curse. It’s a terrible vicious cycle. I suppose, in Muggles, it would do the same with their immune system. It would attack the host.”

“We can’t do anything. We could render her a Squib, but how does one even go about that?” Harry demanded. Tom didn’t say anything for a long time. Instead, he watched Katie Bell, curiously. Harry’s patience frayed farther. “Tom! We can’t just let her die.

Tom looked up at him but didn't say anything for a long time. There was something like pity in his eyes and it only sparked a spore of resentment in Harry. He sneered at the older man, and still, Tom didn't react, only watching him.

“No. We can’t,” Tom finally said.

“Then, what do we do?” Harry demanded.

“We start her on an actual treatment plan,” Tom declared. “Not just pain management. We’re going to administer antiviral potions. It’s acting like a disease. We’ll treat it like a disease.”

Harry swallowed.

Antiviral potions worked within the first twenty-four hours or not at all.

“Okay,” Harry whispered.

Tom nodded, reaching out and grabbing Harry’s shoulder. He squeezed once. “Come. We’ll consult Lovegood before she goes home so we can start her on something. Then, we’ll get a Potions & Plant Poisonings consult in the morning. There are a few Dark venoms that I think might target the curse and overwhelm it. Like parasites battling for dominance in a host. If we can find a venom that will properly consume the curse, maybe the venom can be treated.”

It sounded like a plan. A good plan. A Tom plan.

“Sounds like a good plan,” Harry muttered.

Tom preened. “It is. Now, come. Lovegood, and then, sleep. We’ll need it.”

It was a good plan. A great plan.

A plan that Harry was terrified wouldn’t work.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Good morning, Minerva. Severus. Thank you for joining me so early.”

Minerva looked at him, her expression grim, as she took a long sip of her black sugarless tea. She swept into the Head Healer's office, stepping past him, Severus storming in on her heels. They both sat in front of the man's desk. Albus was shockingly cheerful as he went around his office, fixing this and that, twisting and rearranging his varying knick-knacks.

“Albus. It’s seven in the morning. We’re here at dawn as if we were a pair of trainees. What is it that you Summoned us for?” Severus hissed, irritated.

Albus beamed. “I have it on good authority that you have a consult in about an hour,” Albus said pointedly. “Tom requested you.”

Minerva raised an eyebrow. “He must truly need assistance if he’s asked you for a consult,” Minerva muttered under her breath.

“Why wouldn’t he? I’m the best Potions Master in this hospital,” Severus sneered.

Minerva snorted, looking away, immune to Severus’ poisonous glare. “Really, Albus. My shift didn't start until noon prior to you calling this meeting. I'd like to get a few more hours of sleep before my scheduled procedures."

“Of course,” Albus allowed with a genial smile. “I summoned both of you this morning to discuss one of our young trainees.”

“Is this about Potter?” Severus snarled, his lips twisting into that ugly little smile of his. “Is he in—”

“What is your problem with Potter, Severus?” Minerva snapped.

No one said anything for a long moment. They all knew what his problem was.

Harry was a very visceral reminder of the what—or rather who—Severus didn’t have.

“It’s about your Mr. Malfoy, actually,” Albus said, his voice nearly cutting. Both Healers looked to him, sharply, and they saw that the amusement from before was gone. He would have no tolerance for pettiness. It was too early for such things.

“What about Malfoy?” Severus asked roughly.

“How is he performing? He and Miss Greengrass are the only two trainees that haven’t declared a specialty as of yet,” Albus prompted.

Minerva’s brow furrowed. “Albus, why am I here? I don’t teach—”

“Patience, please,” Albus said, giving her an apologetic look.

Minerva pursed her lips and nodded.

“Malfoy and Greengrass are both performing well. I had no doubt that they would. They were trained by Lily, of course,” Severus said. Minerva hid her irritation well. She had no idea how the man could take such pride in something that wasn’t his own accomplishment. “Greengrass has been gravitating towards Magical Diseases, lately. Malfoy has, of course, continued studying Spell Damage. I believe that he would do well.”

Albus looked oddly disappointed with Severus’ report.

“Their performance—Healing-wise—has been good, then,” Albus murmured, almost to himself. “Would you say they’ve been integrating socially?”

Severus blinked. “I don’t understand the question. What does that have to do with their abilities as Healers?”

And then, Albus looked to Minerva, a sparkle in his eyes once more.

“Minerva, have you noticed anything?” Albus asked.

“They’ve no friends besides one another,” Minerva said bluntly.

Severus scoffed. “They’re Healers. Healers don’t need friends.”

“And yet, you cling to Lily’s arse like a particularly stubborn hemorrhoid,” Minerva said nastily. There was a long moment of shock from both of the men. Minerva cleared her throat, regarding both of them with a look of disdain, after a long sip of tea. “I do apologize. I am operating on less than six hours of sleep. I watched Vance and Granger’s procedure last night. It lasted for quite some time.”

Severus turned an unfortunate motley of red and white, but he held his tongue.

“They’ve no friends, Severus,” Albus said gravely. “If they have no friends, they have no one to rely on or to trust in a situation that they cannot handle. There’s no basis for teamwork. If they can’t effectively work with others, they serve no purpose here. And so, I’ve decided on a change.”

“A change?” Severus asked.

“Yes. Draco Malfoy and Astoria Greengrass need a new teacher.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Morning, how’d you sleep?” Ron asked as he walked alongside Harry into the cafeteria. Harry mumbled something under his breath. Ron yawned and looked down at him, frowning. “What was that?”

"I didn't really get any sleep. Katie Bell's condition is deteriorating," Harry said softly. Ron's eyes widened at him. Harry looked up at him with a terribly sad smile. "I think she's going to die."

“I’m sorry about that, mate. Really, I am,” Ron said as earnest as possible.

It made Harry’s smile a little lighter, knowing that he had a friend like Ron. “Thanks. I can’t tell you about our treatment plan, but we’ll see how it turns out. I have a consult with Snape this morning. I hope he’s not a total jackass.”

“Oh, he might be. He’s brewing with me today.”

Ron and Harry turned as Neville approached, his arm carelessly thrown over Hannah’s shoulder, looking down at her with bright eyes. Hannah’s cheeks were bright pink and she shyly tucked a strand of wheat-colored hair behind her cheek. She looked far too happy in her hunter green robes at seven in the morning. Far, far too happy.

Ron and Harry exchanged looks.

“Where did you sleep last night?” Ron teased.

“With me,” Hannah declared. Ron gaped at her, shocked by her openness. Hannah only winked, looking far too proud of herself for her own good.

Harry grinned. “Nice, Neville. Didn’t think you had it in you.”

“I think he had it in her,” Ron said, with a big bawdy wink that made Hannah break out into loud, obnoxious laughter. Harry winced.

“Oh, shut up! You two are disgusting,” Hermione declared as she strode through the cafeteria doors, pushing past them. She looked immaculate, not a stray curl out of place.

“You look chipper,” Harry observed as he grabbed his tray after her and followed her to the breakfast station. “Eggs, bacon, and toast, please!”

“You just skipped me,” Hermione observed plainly.

“I already know you’re just going to get fruit and a croissant. Let’s not pretend we don’t know one another,” Harry said, his voice flat. Hermione grinned at him, reaching forward to tug one long messy black lock. Harry winced, swatting her hand away with more force than necessary. “How did your procedure go?”

“Rough, at first. Smooth sailing at the end,” Hermione said.

She waited patiently for Harry’s food to be served before they moved to the self-serve section. She carelessly ladled an assortment of fruit on her plate, a small hill high. Harry stole a grape with zero shame and grinned at her as she stared at him, forever impatience in the corner of her eyes. She huffed but shook her head, deciding not to put up a fuss.

Good choice.

“Good for you,” Harry said. “Come on. I have to eat fast. I have a consult with Snape this morning and I’ll have to mediate a conversation between him and Tom.”

Hermione grimaced. “I don’t envy you.”

“I don’t envy me either,” Harry muttered under his breath as he finally joined his friends at their usual table. He looked over at Neville’s plate—a respectable breakfast roll and a banana. Then, he glanced at Ron’s plate and grimaced.

“A full fry-up? You’re going to clog your arteries,” Hermione admonished.

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “I’ve been tortured by Bellatrix Black and Rodolphus Lestrange for over twenty-four hours at this point. If I want a full English breakfast, I’ll have a full English breakfast.”

Hermione let out a haughty sound and looked down at her own meal, eating it primly.

“How was your day yesterday?” she asked, turning to Neville.

“I was working with Mandrakes all day, so my ears are ringing. But, now, today, I’ll be working with Snape. Unfortunately,” Neville tacked on for their benefit. Hannah simpered over his shoulder, sympathetic. The others nodded at him, feeling his pain. Snape was an arse on a good day and a piece of shit on his worst. “I suppose I’ll see you down there. Can I ask what you’ll need?”

“No, you cannot, but I appreciate you trying to assist,” Harry said with a grin. “How is it, having Snape and Sprout as your teachers now?”

“Snape is still my teacher in an informal capacity, especially now that he’s taken on Malfoy and Greengrass, but he’s still a right arse. At least he doesn’t banish me from his labs, screaming like a banshee,” Neville muttered. He looked around at the table and sighed. “You know, if I were still a kid, he’d be my Boggart.”

“What do you think your Boggart would be now?” Hannah asked.

Neville snorted. “Oh, I’m not telling. Not in front of this lot. They’ll mock me.”

“Oh, we all know Hermione and Harry’s. Failure,” Ron said with a barking laugh.

Harry rolled his eyes. “I’ll have you know that I know my Boggart and it’s not ‘failure’.”

“Really? What is it?” Hannah asked curiously.

“A dementor. Had a run-in as a kid. Never got over it,” Harry said, openly volunteering the information.

“You’re afraid of fear itself,” Hermione said, sounding almost awed. “You’re a deep well, Harry Potter.”

“I try.”

“Good morning!”

The group of trainees looked up as Luna Lovegood bounced over. Harry blinked, suddenly seeing spots when he saw how violently bright her yellow and lime green robes were. Her blonde hair was piled high atop her head, showing off two false Galleons that weighed down her earlobes, nearly brushing against her shoulders. In her hands, she cradled a plate piled high of sugary powder white donuts.

“Uh. Good morning, Luna,” Neville said.

Luna smiled as she tilted her head, looking at them all with her all-seeing grey eyes.

“How is your patient doing, Harry?” Luna asked.

“Really good. Thanks for asking, Healer Lovegood—” Harry began.

Luna interrupted with, “Luna. Everyone calls me Luna.”

“She insists,” Hermione volunteered.

Luna looked around the table and then blinked as she looked at Ron. Slowly, she took a bite from a powder white donut, crusting her lips in sugar. “I know everyone at this table. I think I know you.”

“We’ve met, I think. At my house party? Well, Harry’s house. My party,” Ron said.

Luna blinked again. “Oh, yes. I was quite drunk. Harry’s house is very dark and frightening. It was lovely.”

Harry smothered his laugh against his palm. “Thank you.”

“Of course,” Luna said giggling. “Hannah, are you nearly done? A dragon pox outbreak hit a magical early childcare center. We’ve three six-year-olds covered in pox.”

“I’ll be done soon. Just having a quick breakfast with my boyfriend,” Hannah giggled, punctuating her words with a kiss to Neville’s pink cheek.

Harry and Hermione exchanged looks, rolling their eyes. So, that was definitely their first time fucking, then. Good to know. Harry supposed.

"Oh, well, it seems that your crush on Harry is no longer hindering you. That's good for you, Neville. You should be happy. Have a good day everyone," Luna said cheerfully.

There was a beat of silence where everyone turned to look at Neville—who was still turning bright red—and then, to Harry. Finally, they all looked at Hannah who looked down at her breakfast, stunned by the sudden turn of events.

“Wait. What?” Hannah asked, looking up, still incredulous. “You...you fancy him?”

“No!” Neville squawked. Hannah scoffed, disbelieving. “Wait. Well, I did. And then, I didn’t. So, I don’t. Hannah, no. I’ve got you. You’re all I need—”

Hannah clenched her jaw. “Are you sure?” she asked, her voice more shrill than normal. “He’s got a history of sleeping with taken men.”

“Wow. Thank you so much,” Harry said in disbelief. He turned to look at Ron, waiting to see if he would share in his irritation, but Ron was watching it, gleeful. Harry would get no sympathy from him. He turned to look at Hermione, but she seemed just as intrigued.

“Hannah, love, I swear—”

“You share a house with him, Neville!”

“But, I’m not shagging him!”

“But, you want to!”

Luna blinked. “Did I do something wrong?”

“Look, Hannah, he’s not even my type. You’ve seen my type. I like ‘em tall, arrogant, dark, and handsome. Neville isn’t it. Not that you aren’t cute and all, mate,” Harry added with a wink. He grinned at Hannah’s sound of outrage, and she jumped up, nearly knocking her tray to the ground as she stormed away.

“Not. Helping,” Neville said through clenched teeth. He scurried after his girlfriend.

“Wasn’t trying to! She called me a whore!” Harry called after him.

“For all intents and purposes, you’ve only shown that you’re a whore,” Ron pointed out.

Harry’s mouth dropped open. “Wow. Fuck you too, then.”

"Don't call him a whore. He's sexually explorative. And we don't slut-shame in this family," Hermione hissed.

“What the bloody hell is ‘slut-shaming’?” Ron demanded.

Harry’s attention had already faded as Hermione launched into a tirade about women and gender studies, and slut-shaming, and intersectionality, and a whole host of things that Harry thought might interest his mother, but didn’t really interest him at all. Instead, he looked down at his plate—did his friends really think he was a whore? Did they think everything with Tom was actually his fault? Was that everyone thought?

“Do you really still think that?” Harry asked, looking up sharply.

Hermione’s rant was cut short. She frowned.

“What?” Hermione asked quietly.

“Do you really think I’m a whore? Because I...I’ve done things that might make you think that,” Harry muttered.

Ron blinked. "Wait. Mate, no. I was joking. I don't give a fuck who you sleep with," Ron said firmly. "And you shouldn't either. I would never slut-shame you."

Hermione's eyes widened. "Wait, you know what slut-shaming is?"

“I’m not an idiot, Hermione. I can read context clues,” Ron muttered.

Hermione looked besotted. Harry was revolted.

If they weren’t going to get together, they had no right to look at one another like that—like they wanted to mash their bits together and make passionate love while calling each other terrible names.

“Suddenly, my appetite is gone. I’m going to try and gather my wits before I have to meet with Snape.

“Right. Lunch?” Hermione asked.

Harry shrugged. “Might be sleeping. Definitely dinner though. I’ll find you.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Hermione walked with purpose.

She always moved with purpose.

Currently, her purpose was to finish processing Rolf Scamander's prescription so that she could discharge him tomorrow. She looked at his charts again—he was doing well. Far better than Hermione had expected, in truth. It hadn't been what anyone would call a ‘textbook procedure'. She had only found a few cases about Akelarre venom, and really, just enough information to prove that they could remove the venom as one would do with other aggressive venoms.

If he had been found any later, he would’ve died.

Not that one would be able to tell with how cheerful Rolf Scamander was about the whole thing since he'd gotten a photograph of the rare snake. Really, priorities.

“Where are you stomping off to on this fine morning?”

Ron sidled up to her side, falling in step with her, a stack of files in his arms.

"It's nearly noon. And the pharmacy. I have a patient who needs his prescription processed so we can discharge him," Hermione said, without looking up from Scamander's papers. He was doing well. His heart rate was strong, his blood pressure was regular. The scarring was an unfortunate side effect, but not everyone warranted or could afford very expensive unicorn hair stitches.

"Look, I'm on my way there, too," Ron said with a grin. "I've got a patient, 53, and we thought he was addicted to deadly nightshade, but get this—he's addicted to Felix Felicis too. We found out this morning when he started having another cardiac event, and we made him tell us what else he was hooked on."

“Merlin, that’s a painful addiction,” Hermione said with a grimace. “But, really, if he was taking it, he should’ve known better. His provider should have known better too.”

Ron shrugged.

"They probably did, didn't care. We're thinking of getting a Mind Healing consult. Addiction is a disease after all. We think they'll be able to help. Therapy and all. Maybe provide him with the names of rehabs. But, for now, we're trying to wean him off," Ron said with a shrug. They turned the corner down the next corridor and went into the stairwell, bypassing the enormous crowd waiting by the lift.

“Do you know if anyone else is involved?” Hermione asked. “Felix Felicis is a controlled substance.”

“We’ve already Summoned the Aurors. Black isn’t pleased. She hates dealing with the Aurors on a good day,” Ron said. He grinned at her as he began to walk down two steps at a time, basking in Hermione’s pursed lips of disapproval. “It’s not my fault that your legs are so much shorter than mine.”

“Oh, shut up,” Hermione muttered. She scoffed, shaking her head. Aurors were in the building. She hadn't thought about McLaggen in months—not since the abortion—but she couldn’t help but think about him now. The sex had been mediocre at best. If she ever had kids, they would be conceived through mind-boggling sex. She’d make sure of it. “I hope they don’t see Harry. He’ll be in a right foul mood if he sees any Aurors he knows around.”

“Speaking of Harry...I wanted to talk to you about him,” Ron began.

He sounded almost nervous.

“Oh, Merlin. What about Harry?” Hermione sighed, shaking her head.

“You’re not ashamed of me, are you?” Ron asked, stopping on the landing.

Hermione nearly stumbled down the stairs. She took a deep breath and slowly descended the steps, stopping on the same landing as Ron. She reached for his hand, lacing their fingers together, and she smiled up at him.

“No. I could never be ashamed of you,” Hermione said, her voice soft. “Even if you’re a pig.”

“Right back at you. Even if you’re psychotic. Which you are.”

“Get to the point,” Hermione said, her voice hard again.

She still hadn’t let go of his hand as they began to walk again.

“Then, we need to tell Harry,” Ron said. Hermione looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. “Neville knows. Not that I’ve talked to him about it. I’ve tried, you know. But, he keeps saying that he’s traumatized, and I think, right now, he’s trying to salvage his relationship with his girlfriend.”

Hermione snorted. “Ugh, Hannah completely overreacted. He doesn’t fancy Harry anymore.”

“But, he did. And was dating Hannah while living with the guy he fancied. It’s fine to fancy two people at once, but it gets more complicated when you live with the one you’re not with,” Ron pointed out. “But, that’s not the point. I’m saying, we need to tell Harry. And by we, you.”

“Me? Why me?” Hermione demanded.

“Because. You understand one another. You’re the twisted twins,” Ron declared.

Hermione tried to fight the smile that was spreading across her face. “Is that what you and Neville call us?”

“It’s what everyone calls you two,” Ron said as he reached forward to pull the door open for them. Hermione led him through, tugging him along. “But, seriously. You have to tell him.”

Hermione sighed.

“Sure. He’s going to be so angry. I already told him I wasn’t seeing you. We told him that,” Hermione said to herself.

Ron hummed. “Yeah...well, you’ve still got to tell him.”

“Do I have a time limit?” Hermione asked.

“Yeah. How long do you think we can keep it from him without him being mad once we tell him? Well, however long you think that is...right before. I don’t want to hear him crowing about how ‘right’ he was.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Draco paced when he was nervous. He paced up and down the office corridor on the Mind Healing floor, his thoughts rushing through his head. Dumbledore had asked to meet them at 2:30. It was already 2:34. It was late. The Head Healer was late.

What if we get dismissed from the program?” Draco asked, his anxiety spilling from his mouth in a rush of French.

Astoria was frozen by the wall, staring at something far away. Slowly, she looked at him, blinking once, then twice. She shook her head, tucking a strand of hair behind her shoulder.

We won’t be. We were trained by Lily Evans herself. We have talent.

But, what if—

Astoria shook her head, reaching out to grab Draco’s hand in hers. She squeezed it tight, pulling him closer until she could press her forehead against his. Draco still underneath her touch, as he always did. They were the complete opposite of each other. If he was the hurricane, she was the eye of the storm, perfectly tranquil in his chaos.

No ‘what ifs’, Draco. It does you no good to work yourself up like this,” Astoria insisted. “What happens will happen. It will come to pass no matter how anxious you are.

Draco knew there was truth to her words, but they didn't help. It wouldn't help until he knew exactly what he was walking into it. Just as he made to knock on Dumbledore's door again, the door swung open, revealing the man in his sunny yellow and lime green robes—terribly bright and shocking and ugly, if Draco was being quite honest.

“I do apologize for keeping you waiting. Come in, please,” Dumbledore said, ushering them forward. Draco was frozen in his spot until Astoria swept past him, tugging him in after her. She guided him into his seat and sat next to him, her ankles crossed, hands folded in her lap. “Lemon drop?”

“No. Thank you,” Astoria said, her tone stilted.

So, she was just as put off as Draco was. She was just better at hiding her nerves.

Dumbledore sat behind his desk, popping a lemon drop into his own mouth. He hummed with satisfaction, his eyes crinkling with pleasure. Shuffling parchment on his desk, he didn’t seem to notice the anxiety of the two trainees sitting before him. Either he didn’t notice or he didn’t care. Suddenly, he looked up, as if he had just remembered what he was meant to be doing.

“How are you both adjusting to life at St. Mungo’s? I do hope you’re both happy,” Dumbledore said earnestly.

Draco and Astoria exchanged looks of bewilderment.

“We are adjusting well, Head Healer. How can we help you?” Astoria asked, voice clear and brisk and pointed. Dumbledore blinked, wide-eyed.

“Do you think that you have been benefiting from Severus’ teaching?” Dumbledore asked instead of answering Astoria’s question. Astoria looked thrown.

Draco grimaced.

They both knew the answer to that one. Severus Snape was a fine teacher and all. He was a good Healer. He knew what he was talking about. But, also, he asked far too many questions about Lily’s comings and goings while she was in France. He constantly wanted to know if she responded to their letters—which she always did as punctually as she could—and then, was quite angry when he saw that she had. All in all, it would’ve been worth it if I either of them wanted to go into Potions & Plants Poisonings.

Unfortunately, neither of them did.

“We have outgrown his particular skill set,” Draco said bluntly.

Astoria elbowed him in the side.

Dumbledore looked more amused than anything else.

“I thought so,” he said to himself. He brightened again. “Then, I believe it is time you both made a choice. What are your specialties?”

Astoria straightened. “Magical Bugs & Diseases,” she blurted out. “In the Children’s Ward.”

Draco blanched, looking over at her. “Children? You want to be around children?”

"They are interesting. Little incubators for evolving diseases. Resilient. Like soldiers. I like them," Astoria said, her voice stilted. She ignored Draco, then, leaning forward. Her hauntingly serious eyes stilled on Dumbledore's face. "I know that I may come off as cold. But, Luna Lovegood is the best. I want her as my teacher. I will work with Hannah Abbott, well. I can—”

“You don’t have to convince me,” Dumbledore said gently.

Astoria reared back like she'd been slapped. She faltered.

“I...I have been called cold. Some will not believe I can work with children. But, they are...the future. They are important,” Astoria implored. “They give hope.”

“And that’s why I will allow it,” Dumbledore said gently. “Your passion speaks for itself. I’ll rush through the paperwork. I believe you’re on Lovegood’s service, currently.”

“Yes. Luna likes me. Abbott does not like it,” Astoria said, preening now. She looked far more satisfied than she had since she had come to England.

Draco wondered how he had missed how much she was enjoying St. Mungo’s.

Dumbledore snorted and hummed. “You’ll need to try to work with her. As part of a team,” he said, sounding quite serious.

Astoria nodded. “I will.”

‘Try’ was not in Astoria’s vocabulary. Only ‘do’.

“And now, you, Mr. Malfoy,” Dumbledore began.

“Spell Damage,” Draco said immediately.

He’d be placed with McGonagall, he knew. In a perfect world, he’d get Riddle, but the man was currently being led by his cock by Harry Potter. So, in this non-perfect world, he’d get the next best Spell Damage specialist. He’d seen some of McGonagall’s work. She was no proper genius but—

“I think not.”

Draco’s mind went blank for a long moment.

Excusez-moi?” Draco blurted out. “Je veux—”

S’il vous plaît, Monsieur," Dumbledore said with a perfect accent. Draco jerked back and looked at him, wide-eyed. "Mr. Malfoy, I believe there's a better place for you. That better fits your skill set."

“I’ve always trained to be a Spell Damage specialist. There is no better place for me,” Draco said firmly.

“I think not,” Dumbledore corrected. “I observed you yesterday in the E&T department. You were working with Mr. Weasley.”

Draco froze and he bit his lower lip. Astoria glared at him from the corner of her eye.

What did you do?” she hissed out in rapid French, almost too fast for a native speaker to catch. “Were you using Legilimency again? You’re not licensed, Draco.

“He was,” Dumbledore said. They both looked at him again, surprised and suspicious. “Using Legilimency, I mean. Mr. Malfoy, you are quite talented. You held perfect control of the situation at hand, calming your fellow Healer while maintaining difficult spellwork. I commend you.”

“Thank you,” Draco muttered, looking down.

Dumbledore leaned forward. “It’s why I’d like you to consider joining the Mind Healing department as my student.”

Draco’s breath stopped once more and he looked up, wild-eyed. “Me?”

“Yes. You.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

Harry watched Hermione with the fascination of someone watching a dragon gorge itself on raw meat. Hermione rolled her eyes, opened her mouth to say something, and then thought better of it, stuffing the second half of her lemon poppy seed muffin into her mouth. She mumbled something around her breakfast food for dinner and then looked back down at her charts.

“You’re eating like Ron,” Harry observed.

Hermione glared up at him, wounded by the comparison. She swallowed hard, wincing in discomfort. “I am...stressed,” she snapped.

“Why?” Harry scoffed. “You said your procedure last night went well.”

“It...did. Vance and I are working on the paper. On unicorn stitches and scarring caused by Dark creatures. It’s a lot of work. I’ve been compiling previous cases for the literature review, but it’s so hard to find cases similar to your sister’s. When people are attacked by werewolves, they’re usually transformed,” Hermione snapped pointedly.

Of course, she was also stressed about the fact that she was going to need to tell Harry that she was currently shagging their close friend and that she was growing...feelings, but that was neither here nor there.

“That means you have to eat like a monster?” Harry teased.

Hermione huffed again.  “I’ve found a few cases that aren’t in English. But, I don’t know any translation spells. Sometimes, I miss the Hogwarts library.”

“I never miss Hogwarts,” Harry said, almost self-righteously, as he polished off his dinner.

Hermione frowned. “Why?”

“Regrettable choices. Regrettable boys. Regrettable friends. Or no friends. I had no friends,” Harry said blankly. “My only friends were my sister and my boyfriend at the time. I wasn’t likable.”

“You still aren’t.”

“Why, thank you,” Harry said with a grin.

“I didn’t have friends either,” Hermione pointed out. “Only books. Books were good to me.”

Harry hummed. “Yeah, and now, you have zero social skills.”

“I have friends now!” Hermione said briskly. “You have no social skills.”

“Now, I have a best friend who I tell everything to you,” Harry said and he beamed at her.

Hermione’s good mood faltered. “I...yeah, about that—”

Harry leaned forward, his brow creasing into a frown, when suddenly an explosion of red sparks erupted from the end of his holly wand. Harry jumped up and Hermione was caught between exasperation, worry, and relief.

“Go!” Hermione barked.

Harry didn’t need to be told a second time.

He took off out of the cafeteria, a stream of red sparks following after him. As per usual, he didn’t wait for the lift, deigning to take the stairs three at a time until he emerged on the Spell Damage floor, his heart pounding. He could hear the commotion from the separate corridor that all of Tom’s patients would end up as he treated them.

Harry approached Katie Bell’s room, worried.

“What’s going on?” Harry rasped, clinging to the doorway. His chest was burning and he stared as Katie Bell convulsed on the bed, her arms strapped down again. Bile rose in his throat as he saw the black veins straining in her neck, the bloody crescents in her palm from where she had clenched her hands into fists. Her glazed eyes stared absently at the ceiling, reflecting nothing but agony.

He didn’t need to hear Tom say it.

“The treatment plan isn’t working. Her magic is rebelling against itself again,” Tom said quietly, observing from the corner of the room.

“She’s in pain! Do something! Heal her!” Harry barked.

Tom looked at him, tilting his head. He watching Harry as if he’d never seen him before and suddenly, Harry felt an inexplicable rage for the man that he loved. He had been angry with Tom before, but he had never hated as much as he did in that single moment.

“I can’t. She’s been having this reaction every 6 hours when she gets the treatment potions. She has to get through the initial reaction before I can treat her,” Tom said carefully.

Harry blanched, shaking his head. He tried to step forward, but Tom raised his wand, shaking his head. Harry’s lips parted in shock and he blinked once.

“You’re going to raise your wand against me because you don’t want me to treat our patient?” Harry whispered.

Tom didn’t flinch. “You’re going to make it worse. Wait. I’m serious, Harry.”

Harry scowled, but marched forward, ignoring Tom’s wand. He reached forward, grabbing Katie Bell’s legs, and watched her as she convulsed, foam dripping from the corner of her mouth. Tom was okay with allowing her to seize, but Harry would allow her the dignity that she deserved. He walked around the bed and mopped up the foam and spittle, brushing strands of her hair from her face as the black veins in her neck strained so hard, that he was terrified they would snap.

Her eyes were bloodshot and lost and filled with terror.

And then, the symptoms seemed to recede and she collapsed on the bed, wheezing. Harry ran his hand down her arm and Katie's hand snapped out, grabbing his hand with a surprising amount of strength. Harry's eyes widened.

“Miss Bell...Katie, can you hear me?” Harry asked firmly.

Katie heaved and turned her to the side. Almost immediately, Tom was at her side, holding her up as she expelled the bare contents of her stomach into the bin he had Conjured. Harry very carefully didn’t cringe from the acidic smell of bile and potions. The faint smell of the Dark venom that had been in her body. She had emptied herself of anything that might help or harm her.

Except for the curse.

He glanced into the bin and winced.

Blood.

“Katie, I need to know that you can hear me,” Harry barked.

Katie moaned in exhaustion. In less than twenty-four hours, she had deteriorated at a much higher rate than she had before. She looked skeletal, her skin tight around her skull, cheeks hollowed. Her bright eyes had dulled, but she looked at Harry, never looking away.

“Will…” she began.

“Yes, Katie?” Harry whispered.

“You said...you said...you said that I’d fly...again.

Harry wanted to cry. He looked over at Tom, but he didn’t need to hear the man’s voice to know what he wanted to say.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Sometimes, Draco wasn’t sure what was happening but he knew, then, that really madness must mean genius in England. Because Albus Dumbledore was mad if he thought that Draco would be any help in an internal Mind Healing procedure at 10 pm, only 8 hours after being recruited for Mind Healing.

“Healer Dumbledore, I do not have any Mind Healing training at all,” Draco said quietly.

This was something he would admit freely. Lily had never had the aptitude for Mind Healing. She lacked the patience to deal with humanity. When she Healed, she could pretend that there weren't any emotions or feelings involved. It was the opposite of Mind Healing. It was messy and unpredictable, and you could never leave the theatre with a sense of accomplishment, because in the end, the progress made was all up to the patient.

“You are skilled in Legilimency and Occlumency,” Dumbledore said calmly as he reviewed his parchment.

Oui, mais—”

“And you feel. Deeply,” Dumbledore said, not unkindly. Draco looked at him with wide eyes. “In Mind Healing, that is all you can do. Care. Do you care, Healer Malfoy?”

“Yes. I took an oath—”

“But, do you care, Healer Malfoy?” Dumbledore demanded.

Draco bit his thin bottom lip and nodded. “Ah, yes.”

“Good. Then, present the case, Healer Malfoy,” Dumbledore commanded.

Draco nodded weakly. “Kingsley Shacklebolt, codename: Lancer, downed in the field by a Nightmare Curse,” Draco said calmly. “You think that it’s evolved into Walrider Syndrome, though.”

Dumbledore hummed to himself. “Explain to me how that came to be.”

“The Nightmare Curse is like a Boggart in spell terms. It causes an individual experience their worst fears, enduring their worst nightmares. It was used to torture Auror Shacklebolt during his mission until he was recovered last week. During his captivity, it morphed into Walrider Syndrome,” Draco said calmly.

“And Walrider Syndrome is?”

“Walrider Syndrome is much like those that are Obscurials. It causes an individual’s magic to act out in the individual’s defense as they sleep. This is typically caused by trauma, but the fact that Auror Shacklebolt was being tortured was enough,” Draco said.

Dumbledore grinned. “You said you didn’t know anything about Mind Healing.”

“Everyone knows that,” Draco protested.

“I daresay that they do not,” Dumbledore countered. “Now, my boy, we will treat this quite delicately. First, we will reach into his mind to find the seat of this trauma—in the amygdala.”

“Sir, I can not—” Draco began, and then his voice cut out in frustration. His brow furrowed as he looked over at Dumbledore, as if weighing his choices. Then, in French, he blurted out, “Sir, I don’t know enough about the brain. About Mind Healing. About—”

Patience,” Dumbledore insisted. “You will learn. You will observe why I believe that you are well-suited for this path. Now, come with me into the theatre.

Without another word, Dumbledore strode forward, all confidence, and reluctantly, Draco followed after him. Draco couldn’t quite contain his awe. He had only ever looked into a magical theatre. He’d never been inside one himself.

It was so very quiet, and still.

It felt as if it were his own corner of the world, and all of his anxieties and nerves had been silenced by something ancient and powerful. The man—Shacklebolt—was lying prone on the floating stone slab, his head just slightly elevated, and quite awake. A matron was arranging the instruments that Dumbledore would need and she nodded at Dumbledore before stepping back, giving him space to work. As Dumbledore went forward, Draco hovered by the door, unsure.

Come closer, my boy. You can’t see from there,” Dumbledore insisted.

Draco grunted and crept closer, uncertain. There was no room for bravado here. Dumbledore would see right through that. He stood at the old, wizened man’s side, staring at the shining brown head. Dumbledore was going to open a man’s skull. Draco had seen the brain in Hippocrates’ Anatomy and the odd cadaver or even floating in a jar. But, never a live brain.

“Hello, Auror Shacklebolt,” Dumbledore greeted, brightly.

Kingsley Shacklebolt looked like an Auror. He was a powerful-looking man, even in hospital robes, and he had the presence and calmness of a figure of authority. He quirked an eyebrow at Draco but didn't question the uncertainty on his face.

“It’s good to see you, Albus. I wish it were under better circumstances,” Kingsley said.

Draco nearly flushed. The man had a very nice voice. If Draco wasn’t as much about pussy as he currently he was, he would climb the man like a tree. But, of course, currently, he was dedicated to a queen among men, though Astoria rarely had time for him these days. Not that she really ever addressed the fact that he was clearly in love with her.

At least, he wasn’t a freak about it like Snape was.

“As do I. This is my student, Draco Malfoy,” Dumbledore said.

Kingsley’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Malfoy? Any relation to Lucius Malfoy?”

“Unfortunately,” Draco muttered. Kingsley’s eyes widened then, in surprise. “He’s my father.”

“I wasn’t aware that Lucius had a son. Is your mother Narcissa?” Kingsley asked.

"Yes. She got away. Thank Merlin," Draco mumbled and then, he looked at Dumbledore again, almost pleading. Dumbledore smiled and nodded.

“We’ll have you back in the field as soon as possible, Auror Shacklebolt. I do promise you,” Dumbledore said with all the confidence in the world.

“I believe you,” Kingsley said. A sly look entered his eye. “I don’t think your student does.”

Draco sputtered, his cheeks a bright pink.

“I just...I’ve never seen anything like this before! Will you be awake?” Draco asked.

“He doesn’t know my case, eh, Albus?” Kingsley laughed at Draco’s expense. “Or anything about what’s happening?”

“He knows your case. I’ve just...neglected to tell him specifics of the procedure,” Dumbledore said genially, as if the life of a patient didn’t depend on Draco knowing specifics.

“Healer Dumbledore...what does the Auror mean?” Draco demanded, probably shorter than he should be with the Head Healer of St. Mungo’s, but really, he thought the man deserved it.

“To access the amygdala, we will need to enter the temporal lobe. We must detect the damage. Walrider Syndrome leaves a mark. It is as simple as removing that mark. Like Banishing a ghost. A mark that hides,” Dumbledore said, quite calmly. “I need you to use Legilimency to trigger a nightmare. Instead of suppressing brain activity, I want you to increase it so that it triggers a fear response.”

“What does that do?” Draco asked.

“Nothing. It will simply allow me to know that the Walrider Syndrome is present and then, I can Banish it. This will end the symptoms for a time. In truth, this procedure will inform our treatment plan,” Dumbledore said quite calmly. Even as he spoke, he was dragging his wand over the left side of the man’s brain, from his temple, curving in front of his ear in a large misshapen-U.

Draco’s brow furrowed. “It cannot be so simple. After the mark is removed, it is over?”

“Of course not. We can remove the mark, but it won’t be over. That’s when the hard work begins. We’ll treat the trauma itself. Not just the symptoms,” Dumbledore said. His eyes brightened as he looked up at Draco, and his lips curled into a soft smile. “You care, Mr. Malfoy?”

Draco swallowed. He nodded. “I care.”

“Good. Cast the spell.”

And Draco went to stand in front of Kingsley Shacklebolt and slowly lifted his wand. Kingsley grinned at him, nodding.

“You’ll do fine,” Kingsley assured him. “This isn’t my first time on the end of a trainee’s wand.”

Draco huffed and swallowed hard, nodding.

“Okay. Legilimens.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Call it.”

Harry stared, his hands gripping the cold, cold feet. Her ankles were so thin. She was so stiff. Harry knew—logically—that that’s what happened when met with a dead person. He’d read about dead people. He’d seen one before, in a casket—when Lily’s mother had died. But, he had never seen one in a hospital bed.

Hospital beds were supposed to mean you were going to be saved.

They were supposed to mean that you were going to get better.

Katie Bell didn’t get better.

“What?” Harry whispered.

“Call time of death,” Tom repeated, her voice so calm that it shocked Harry out of his stillness. Harry spun to face Tom, his eyes blazing with fury.

“How can you be so callous? A woman just died. We just killed her!” Harry roared, slamming his fist into Tom’s chest. Tom grabbed his wrist before he could do it again, and Harry’s eyes widened when he realized what he’d just done. He flinched back, a hand clapping over his mouth as terrible sob ripped free from his mouth. “I-I’m s-sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

“I know,” Tom said, still so calm. And then, he said, “Time of death?”

Harry let out another sob. “5:23 am.”

“Good,” Tom said and then he hauled Harry from the room, tucking him close to his side. He stopped, looking to the matron that stood outside of the door. Miriam Strout stood as if she hadn’t heard Harry’s breakdown. “Matron Strout, if you could firecall the family and ask for them to wait in the lobby, I would greatly appreciate it.”

“Of course, Healer,” Matron Strout said before she marched away.

Harry fell against Tom, swallowing his sobs as Tom escorted him into his office, setting him down in the sofa against the wall. Tom kneeled in front of him, pressing his hands against Harry’s thighs, looking up at him with narrowed maroon eyes. Harry’s head fell forward and he let out another terrible sob, tears dripping down his nose and he shivered. He sounded as if he were dying, but he couldn’t...he couldn’t. Stop. Fucking. Crying.

“We killed her,” Harry sobbed.

Tom shook his head. “Sweetheart, we didn’t kill her. Sometimes, people just die. And there’s nothing we can do about it.”

“It’s our job to save her,” Harry moaned through his tears.

Tom smiled an empty smile, as if this was a lesson he had learned long ago.

“No. It’s our job to do everything that we possibly can. We try our fucking hardest. We take extreme measures. And we did. And if that doesn’t save her, then, we make her comfortable. That’s the job.”

“If we did everything we could, she would be alive,” Harry snapped.

“You sat on her chest and you did heart compressions for twenty minutes.”

Harry shook his head. “It wasn’t enough.”

“We aren’t God. No matter how much we want to be. I would know,” Tom said softly. He reached up, thumbing the tears from Harry’s face, and this smile seemed warmer and he leaned back on his haunches, humming.

Harry wiped away his tears, sniffling to himself, shaking.

“I’m sorry. I failed,” Harry whispered.

“We did fail.”

Harry looked up, sharp and wide-eyed.

Tom looked cross with himself. “But, tomorrow is another day. And there are more patients who we need to save. Someone’s mother. Someone’s kid. Someone’s husband. They need us to save them because they can’t save themselves. So, we learn from this, better ourselves, and we will be better, next time.”

“What if I’m not?” Harry asked, suddenly terrified.

“You will be.”

“How can you know that?” Harry said snippily.

“Because he was your one,” Tom said, sighing, looking up at the ceiling. “My one was a man named Gellert Grindelwald. Do you know who he is?”

Harry shook his head, slowly. “No.”

“He was Albus’ partner. He dabbled in things that he wasn’t equipped to dabble in. And he died on my table,” Tom said, sounding lost for a moment. For a moment, he sounded years younger, as young as he had when Gellert Grindelwald died on him. “He was my one. Katie Bell is your one. Every patient you treat, you’ll see Katie Bell’s face and remember that she was the one that died on your watch. She will haunt you. But, she will make you work harder, and she will make you better. Or she’ll make you quit. You’re not a quitter, Harry Potter. Are you?”

Harry shook his head again. “No.”

“Okay,” Tom announced, clapping his hands together. He waved his wand, and the sheet pulled up over Katie Bell’s face. “Your shift is over.”

“Now, what?” Harry asked.

Tom gave a dry, morbid smile. “Now, we try again.”

Chapter Text

“I’m going to do it.”

“Do it.”

“I’m going to do it.”

“I just said ‘do it’.”

“I’m going to march right up to him and give him this croissant and a cup of Earl Grey tea in a to-go cup,” Bellatrix Black announced, clutching both items tightly in her hands.

Rodolphus looked at her, bored. “Go for it.”

Bellatrix still didn’t move.

“He’s going to hate it. It’s not from the bakery near his flat. It’s from the dining hall here. Sure, it’s homemade, but it’s not the same. He’s going to taste that it’s not the same,” Bellatrix said, sounding crestfallen. She looked at Rodolphus, wide-eyed and helpless.

Rodolphus stared back at her, unimpressed. Slowly—so very slowly—he took a bite of his scone and then dropped the rest of it into the trash can, his lips curled. Bellatrix made a face of disgust at him and looked back over at the man of the hour.

Tom stood right next to the Information Desk, distractedly looking between the entrance—probably waiting for Harry-fucking-Potter—and the file in hand. He had a quill in his hand, the end of the feather pressed between plush pink lips. Merlin, Bellatrix missed those lips. She missed any lips. The last time that she had had satisfactory sex was...well, when she'd fucked Rodolphus, thus cheating on the perfect man with the perfect pink lips and perfect burgundy eyes. Sometimes, Bellatrix hated herself for giving up utter perfection for a tiny sliver of affection and attention. She and Tom would've made the most beautiful children.

“Don’t be a coward, Bella. Go,” Rodolphus snapped.

Bellatrix snapped into action. Briskly, she marched forward, her heels clicking against the floor, her chin held high. She could feel everyone's eyes on her. By now, they all knew the sordid, sordid tale of Tom Riddle, Bellatrix Black, and Harry-fucking-Potter, featuring Rodolphus Lestrange. They were all vultures, feeding on scraps of gossip.

Tom hadn’t looked up from his paper, though his lips were curled into a sneer. So, he knew it was her.

“Good morning, Tom,” Bellatrix said, coolly.

“Did you need something?” Tom drawled, refusing to look up. He looked a little paler than usual, up close, but that didn’t have to mean anything.

Tom never got sick anyway.

“No. Have you eaten breakfast?” Bellatrix asked and then hated herself.

If he said ‘yes’, she’d look fucking stupid, holding breakfast in her hand.

“I’m not eating breakfast with you.”

Bellatrix swallowed. “I wasn’t...it’s our breakfast. A croissant and a cup of Earl Grey tea,” Bellatrix said, throwing it out in front of her, nearly tossing it into his chest.

Tom looked up, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. “This is a clumsy attempt to poison me. Isn’t it?”

“No. It’s just tea and bread, Tom. Merlin, why are you so fucking suspicious?” Bellatrix demanded angrily and Tom raised an eyebrow.

“Probably because I found my best friend and fiance fucking in my bed.”

“Ugh, please, just take it,” Bellatrix snarled.

Tom hummed and took it from her gingerly as if touching her would give him hives. Bellatrix waited, rocking back and forth on her heels.

“I’m not going to thank you.”

Bellatrix scoffed and turned on her heel to storm away. She stopped when she heard a terrible wretching sound. She made eye contact with Rodolphus, but he was practically cackling, staring at something behind her. Bellatrix turned around as she heard another gagging sound and she winced when she saw Tom doubled over, croissant half-eaten and tea spilled on his shiny black shoes.

Tom jolted once, twice, and then vomited, a spew of yellow bile and pieces of croissant on the ground.

“Oh fuck. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck,” Bellatrix whispered under her breath.

Tom grabbed at his knees, his files on the ground beside him—thankfully untouched by bile. He breathed heavily, all eyes on him for a long moment. And then Tom straightened, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his robes, burgundy eyes blazing with utter fury.

“You poisoned me, you heinous bitch!” Tom roared. “I’ll kill you.”

“I didn’t! It was just a fucking croissant!” Bellatrix said as Tom crushed the remnants of the poor croissant under his vomit-covered shoe.

Rodolphus snorted as he stumbled forward, wand held aloft. He muttered the diagnostics charm.

“Mate, you’re not poisoned. You’re fucking ill.”

Tom punctuated his former best friend’s word with a well-timed upchuck.


DIAGNOSIS


 

Neville wanted to kill himself. Non-literally, of course.

He would be happy if he could quit being a Healer. Just for the day.

Graduating from Hogwarts was supposed to mean no more tests. Except, every day with Severus Snape felt like a fucking test, and Sprout seemed to have joined in on him. He chewed on the end of his quill as he finished off the short response about the eleven uses of dragon blood. It didn’t really look like a short response anymore. Neville knew Snape—he’d fail him on principle for lack of the tiniest detail and Neville couldn’t afford to fail a single skills lab. He wasn’t going to fail out of being a Healer and end up working that apothecary job that his Gran had tried to push him into.

Gran had said that he didn’t have the drive for Healing. His parents had disagreed with her, but Neville still heard her disparaging voice sometimes. The old biddy.

“There are twelve.”

Neville blinked, looking up sharply. He jumped violently, nearly spilling his inkwell all over his work.

Astoria Greengrass was standing just over his shoulder, peering steadily down at his parchment.

“W-what? You made no noise. Do you know that? What the fuck?” Neville breathed, his heart beating harshly in his chest.

Astoria tilted her head. “Non. Douze. Twelve ways. It can be used as an oven cleaner,” Astoria insisted. She waited for just a moment before she fell into the seat next to him, her legs crossed at the ankles. Neville turned to look at her, a deer in headlights. Astoria either didn’t care about his discomfort or simply didn’t notice. “And here, he wants you to divide the potion ingredients, but not by what they are exactly. In Potioneering, ingredients are divided into three categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary.”

“What?” Neville repeated, assaulted by the onslaught of information.

Astoria’s brow furrowed.

“It is too much...in English. You should learn French,” Astoria said sharply.

Neville blanched. “Okay, what—”

“Neville, sweetheart, how are you—what is she doing here?” Hannah asked, her eyes narrowing on Astoria with the sharpness of a dragon. “Luna is looking for you.”

“No, she is not,” Astoria said calmly. She looked back at Neville, that strange look in her eyes again. She tilted her head. “You are nicer than your companions.”

“What?”

Neville felt like the only word he knew was ‘what’.

“Ron Weasley makes caustic remarks at the expense of those around him in order to compensate for the inferiority he feels due to his family’s lack of wealth. Hermione Granger demonstrates signs of emotional stuntedness because of her notions of superiority. And Harry Potter uses sarcastic humor and sharp barbs to hide his non-existent self-esteem.”

Hannah’s jaw dropped. “Shit,” she hissed.

“But. Not you. You are kind. I like you,” Astoria said, her voice stilted. She said this all very clinically and then, carefully—very carefully—reached out to grab Neville’s hand in both of hers. She pulled him closer. “We should break out fast together.”

“Are you fucking serious?” Hannah grumbled. “You already stole my mentor, that case with the boy with a snout, and now, you want to steal my man? Neville, why are so many people trying to take you away from me?”

Neville neatly hid a smile behind his hand as he went over his paper and began to make the corrections that Astoria had insisted on.

“I am not trying to…‘steal your man’,” Astoria said carefully. “I already have one.”

“Oh. So, Draco and you are…” Neville muttered to himself. He was silenced by Hannah’s furious glare and he sat pin-straight again, staring at Astoria’s ear. Her eye contact was a little too much for him.

"We are something," Astoria said dismissively. "The Head Healer hypothesized that making human connections with other hospital personnel would allow me to flourish as a Healer. I am conducting the experiment, in order to prove his hypothesis true."

Neville’s brow furrowed as he tried to dissect her words. He gasped, eyes widened.

“Wait...are you trying to be...friends?” Neville asked, slowly.

Astoria’s eyes lit up and a terribly strange, unholy smile spread across her face. She definitely practiced that smile in the mirror. “Friends.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Good morning!” Harry said as cheerfully as possible as he walked into the patient’s room. He’d had a good morning. Ron and Neville had made breakfast, so it was a nice frittata and well-made coffee. He’d been well-rested and had only followed up on cases for the first two hours of his shift. For the past week, Harry and Tom had only had regular Spell Damage cases—none that were particularly mortal—and no one had died.

He glanced at Tom and blanched.

Tom Riddle looked like death incarnate. He was ashen in his dark green robes that smelled like they had been artificially cleaned with magic. His cheeks looked hollowed and there were dark smudges of exhaustion under his burgundy eyes.

“Are you alright?” Harry murmured, casting a look at the patient in the oversized bed.

"Present...ugh, present the case," Tom mumbled. He rubbed his throat gently, massaging it, and then, looked over at Harry again. He sneered at the worry in Harry's eyes.

Harry pursed his lips and turned to the patient. She was a mousy looking woman with wispy grey hair. “Mafalda Hopkirk, age 55—”

“47,” Mafalda corrected with a squeak.

Harry swallowed his grin. “My mistake. Diagnosis: rapidly deteriorating from a poorly done Withering Curse. Ms. Hopkirk is an assistant in the Office of Improper Use of Magic. I imagine that’s how you were hit with a Withering Curse, eh?”

Mafalda gave a weak smile and she nodded, leaning back and snuggling into her pillows. Harry felt a sense of sadness for her, glancing down at the woman. The Withering Curse was presenting more as an extremely accelerated Vanishing Disease. Her nails were all missing, leaving fleshy stubs, and he could see the way her teeth were beginning to erode. Harry hated fatal illnesses—it always ended up with the disease or curse eating away at the patient, turning them inside out and destroying everything that they were.

It was horrifying.

Harry tore his gaze away and looked over at Tom. He frowned.

Tom’s hand was pressed against his mouth for a long moment and he looked vaguely green, far from his usual composure. He swallowed long and hard before he stood up straight again. He reached into his cloak for something.

“Excuse me,” Tom murmured.

As he walked from the room, Harry saw a flash of something that might be a Pepper-Up Potion. The door clicked shut behind the man. Harry turned back to Mafalda and she looked concerned.

“Is he alright?” Mafalda asked. “He looks ill.”

“Healer Riddle is never ill,” Harry said with such conviction that he shocked himself. Yet, he vehemently believed his words. Tom was always on form. He seemed above human things like illness—probably an unhealthy way to view someone that Harry thought might very possibly be the love of his life. “Now, let’s talk through the Withering Curse. As you know—”

And the door swung open again and Tom stepped through, looking far better than he had in the last hour of Harry being in his presence.

“The Withering Curse is presenting as an accelerated Vanishing Disease. Your fingernails have disappeared. Your teeth will be next,” Tom said clinically. Mafalda looked horrified and she sputtered, attempting to interrupt. Tom paid her no mind. “Teeth can be replaced. This buys us time.”

“How so?” Mafalda asked.

"Vanishing Disease functions differently than most diseases. Most diseases travel through the blood and are constantly in your body. With Vanishing Disease, it targets an organ and then will go dormant for a period. Cartilage and bone are the hardest to Vanish. We will focus on finding a cure while it goes after your teeth," Tom said firmly.

Mafalda looked overwhelmed by the information. Harry forced a smile on his face and nodded, hoping that it was natural. Tom spoke so rigidly that he sometimes forgot about the humanity of his patients.

“What would be next?” Mafalda asked.

“Well...we can’t be sure. Every strain of Vanishing Disease is different and we’ve never really seen a Withering Curse performed on a person,” Harry said honestly. Mafalda looked a bit green. Harry rushed to finish his thought. “But, we’re doing as much research as possible. As you know, from the consent form, we have the full resources and backing of the Department of Mysteries. We’ll do all that is in our power to keep you alive, and then some.”

Harry glanced at Tom and hated himself for looking for approval. He didn't find it. Tom's brow was furrowed and he was beginning to look a little ill again. His skin looked almost waxy, except for his nose which seemed red. Almost unconsciously, he rubbed at it, and then looked up at Harry with narrowed eyes.

“We’ll be sending out for all of the information now. If you need anything, Ms. Hopkirk, there will be a matron here every fifteen minutes,” Tom announced.

Mafalda nodded. “Thank you, Healer Riddle.”

Tom nodded and stormed from the room, without the usual flare he had.

Harry’s eyes narrowed.

Something wasn’t right.


DIAGNOSIS


 

“He hated it,” Bellatrix moaned into her lunch, her stomach turning at even the thought of consuming it.

“I’m not sure if he hated the croissant or your face,” Rodolphus said with a roguish grin. Bellatrix promptly flipped the bird at him. His grin only grew wider. “He’s never going to want to talk to us again, you know. We fucked him over.”

“He was paying attention only to his work!” Bellatrix snarled. “He dismissed your accomplishments, dismissed me, locking himself away with those case studies and those files for hours and hours—”

“And we fucked him over,” Rodolphus reiterated, cutting her off.

Bellatrix stopped short and huffed. “It was stupid to think a croissant and Earl Grey tea would make up for it.”

"He's been that way all of his life, Bella. We both knew that. We knew that he was hyper-focused and neurotic. We knew we'd always be second," Rodolphus reminded her and Bellatrix pretended that it was a lie, looking away from Rodolphus with a quiet sneer.

“I wasn’t supposed to be second,” Bellatrix whispered. “Harry fucking Potter isn’t second.”

“Isn’t he?” Rodolphus asked, with a raised eyebrow. “Well...you made him second.”

“What was I supposed to do?” Bellatrix snapped back, her head snapping around. Rodolphus raised an eyebrow, waiting for her rage. Bellatrix wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of receiving it. “We fucked him over? He fucked me over, and he still got it all. He wasn’t going to leave me...high and dry for him. He wasn’t going to win and make me the villain.”

“No, you did that yourself,” Rodolphus retorted. Bellatrix’s shoulders slumped. “You’ve always been quick to make yourself the wicked fairy godmother, Bella.”

“Doesn’t it bother you?” Bellatrix asked, her voice cracking.

Rodolphus’ eyes narrowed. “Of course it does.”

“You act like it doesn’t,” she snapped back.

“You’re not the only one who lost their best friend. You’re just the only one that pretends that we didn’t do something wrong. We did something wrong,” Rodolphus snapped back, shutting her up effectively. His gaze didn’t soften when Bellatrix deflated in on herself again.

“I want to talk to him again. I miss him. I want him to love me again,” Bellatrix whispered. Then, she jerked, looking up at Rodolphus with wide eyes. And then, though she didn’t know why, she said, “But not the same way as before.”

Rodolphus didn’t say anything immediately.

“I fucked over my best friend,” Rodolphus muttered, shaking his head. He sounded more disappointed than surprised. Then, he looked up and gave a terribly sad smile. “I would do it again.”

Bellatrix flinched away as she always did. She always flinched away from sincerity.

She’d never flinched from Tom, hissed the lizard brain.

Fuck the lizard brain.

Bellatrix got up, shaking her head. "I have paperwork to do and a student to test. He needs to know all of the hit wizard and Aurors codenames and I want to throw him into a skills lab."

Rodolphus opened his mouth to say something, but a loud terrible sound interrupted them.

Bellatrix twitched when she heard the sound of vomiting. Everyone in the cafeteria spun to face the stupid trainee—Smith or something—as he spewed bile all over the floor, in an eerie comparison to Tom that morning. Lovegood was immediately at his side, her wand pull and pointed at him. Bellatrix watched her cast the diagnostics spell.

“Oh, hell,” Rodolphus murmured.

Lovegood straightened, looking far more alert than she usually did.

“Okay, this cafeteria is on lockdown,” Lovegood announced with an authority that no one dared challenge for just a moment.

And then, the rioting happened.

"What do you mean ‘lockdown'?" Snape snarled from his little corner of the room—little worm, Bellatrix sneered in her head. He was always so eager to either have Lily or Tom's attention and scorned them both in the next, too wrapped up in his own inferiority.

"I mean that this trainee has the Black Cat Flu. It's extremely contagious and has an incubation of at least three days. That means he was exposed to it, three days ago. And he's been coming here. Working around patients and around you," Luna said, her voice very hard and serious, as she looked around at all of them, "which means all of you are now exposed to the pathogen. This room is on lockdown.”

Bellatrix and Rodolphus exchanged heavy looks.

Rodolphus let his head fall to the table with a heavy thump. “Fuck.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“Are you bloody fucking shitting me?”

Ron stared at his girlfriend in wide-eyed amusement. Hermione looked particularly murderous after Smith’s undoing and Luna’s announcement. Neville winced at the terrible vulgar language that had spewed forth from Hermione’s mouth. It was most like her and still so very unlike her that it was enough to make Hannah jump.

"I know," Ron drawled. He could see her winding up for a rant. All that Hermione required of him when she worked herself up were nods, firm affirmations, and a few ‘of course's and a ‘you're right' to punctuate it all.

“How did you get sick with the Black Cat Flu? How does anyone still get sick with the Black Cat Flu? There’s a vaccine!” Hermione practically shrieked. Her fists were clenched so tight that her knuckles were going white. “We are Healers. And we’re quarantined so we can’t do that. What are we supposed to do about our patients? What if someone needs an emergency procedure? What if a matron misses a dosage of a Pain-Relieving Potion? What if—"

“I think everything will be fine,” Hannah interrupted.

Ron tutted. Big mistake.

“Hannah…” Neville began warningly.

Hannah acted as if she hadn’t heard him. “The matrons are highly trained and you’re not the only Healer who can do what you do. You’re pretty good, Granger, but you’re not God. They can have a few hours without you before things fall apart.”

Ron grinned.

Larger mistake.

Hermione turned her laser-sharp gaze on Hannah, slowly pulling her apart with her eyes alone. Hannah shifted under Hermione's stare, but she didn't falter. Instead, her chin jerked up, as if challenging Hermione to correct her. Hermione's eyes brightened. She'd always flourished under challenges.

“No,” Hermione corrected. “Smith is pretty good. Patil is pretty good. You’re pretty good. But, I’m great.”

Ron snorted into his hand. “Yeah, you are,” he muttered under his breath.

Hermione beamed at him as if she'd heard him anyway.

“You’re still a trainee, Granger,” Hannah snapped.

“And you’re barely a trainee, Abbott,” Hermione said, just as scathing.

Neville groaned and looked at Ron. “Please tell your girlfriend to stop bullying my girlfriend.”

“Girlfriend?” Hannah squeaked.

“Ron can’t tell me to do anything,” Hermione sneered. She looked at Ron with suspicion, her eyes narrowed. Ron stared back amused. She smelled more like coconut oil than usual. He’d watched her do her hair routine that morning, and she’d put more than usual, citing dryness, not that Ron had noticed. “You don’t think you can tell me what to do, do you?”

“I wouldn’t even try,” Ron said solemnly.

Hermione’s sneer melted away into a pleased smile. “Good,” she said, leaning over to press a kiss to his cheek.

“Oh, do we do that now?” Ron asked. “Does Harry know?”

Hermione winced. “Well, not yet…”

“Wait...how doesn’t Harry know?” Neville demanded. “You’re in each other’s personal space nearly constantly.”

“I’ve been...busy,” Hermione muttered.

That was technically not a lie.

"So, he doesn't know. How do you not tell your best friend that you have a boyfriend? I don't even work with my best friend and she knows all about Neville," Hannah beamed. Neville's lips curled into a sickly sweet smile, and they leaned forward, pressing their lips together in a quick peck.

Ron and Hermione exchanged horrified glances.

“We’re never going to do that. Or be that. It’s gross,” Ron said firmly.

“Then, we’re in agreement. None of that,” Hermione said sharply. Hannah scowled and shook her head as if she thought there was something wrong with them.

“You should tell Harry. Ron shouldn’t feel like you’re ashamed of him,” Hannah scolded.

“I don’t really feel that way,” Ron said, but Hannah continued as if she hadn’t heard him.

Looking very much like a lecturing professor, she said, “The basis of a healthy relationship is trust, communication, and honesty. You two want to grow together. You can’t grow together if you’re not honest in your daily life.”

Hermione rolled her eyes so hard, she nearly hurt herself.

“Okay,” she sighed. She waved her wand, muttering, “Tempus.”

"I have a potion simmering," Neville sighed. "It's going to explode in forty-seven minutes."

“I have a paper to be researching and outlining. And I was supposed to bring back lunch for Vance. She’ll be starving,” Hermione said, sounding very dismayed.

“You’re not her secretary,” Ron pointed out.

Hermione frowned at him. “I’ll be anything she needs.”

“Don’t tell me you’ve suddenly grown a conscience,” Ron teased, sounding utterly delighted by the concept. Hermione just stared back at him, blankly. “Are you trying to make it up to her that we’re together? Because she doesn’t know.”

Hermione reared back. “What do you mean she doesn’t know?”

Ron paled.

Hermione leaned forward, her eyes flashing, but before she could reprimand the man, Luna was standing atop a table once more, Astoria standing at her side, back ramrod straight. When Astoria noticed them, she looked directly at Neville and waved, that odd “friendly” smile on her face. Astoria reached up to tug on the hem of Luna’s long vibrant robes and pointed. Luna nodded and crooked her finger at Hannah.

“Well, that’s my cue,” Hannah said, bending forward to press another quick peck to Neville’s lips before she bounced off to her teacher. As soon as she joined Luna’s side, Astoria was speaking quickly to her, and Luna had her wand pointed at her throat.

Sonorous," Luna cast. Then, she looked at all of the Healers and the few visitors that had the un-luck of being trapped in with stir-crazy Healers. "Attention, Healers! I have formulated a plan to deal with this situation! My team and I will be handling this with the utmost care! My two trainees will go through staff records to determine who has been vaccinated! Until you've been cleared by me, you will not leave! That is my decision!”

There was a massive amount of uproar and irritation, everyone shouting questions, but Hermione only had eyes for Ron.

“Oh, fuck,” Ron muttered.

Hermione tilted her head and grinned.

“If I have to tell Harry...you have to tell Emmeline. Have fun with that.”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“The cafeteria is on lockdown,” Harry said, closing Tom’s door behind him quietly. He fiddled with his robes as he walked up to the man’s desk, rearranging the parchment into something resembling order. “I think someone has the Black Cat Flu and they’re afraid that it’ll spread to the patients. Lovegood thinks that it’s being transmitted through the food. Anway, they’re checking records to see who was vaccinated before they let anyone in or out.”

Tom didn’t say anything immediately.

“Hmm…”

“Tom, did you hear me?” Harry asked, finally looking up. He looked at Tom, eyes wide with surprise. Tom looked decrepit—even worse than he had that morning. His face was wan, and his hand was clenched tight around his quill as he scribbled on parchment. “What are you doing?”

"Writing…writing a strongly worded letter," Tom said, his voice slurring just slightly. Harry noticed the beads of sweat on his brow. "To...to the Auror office."

"About what?" Harry asked slowly as he went to the desk to look over the man's shoulder. He winced. The letter didn't have any of Tom's typically impeccable penmanship. It was a slanted mess with copious misspellings and stray ink blots.

“If the Auror office wasn’t…a mess of…bureaucracy than...we would’ve gotten the necklace. Could’ve helped Katie...Katie Bell,” Tom murmured, his lashes fluttering as he yawned into his sleeve. His head dipped for just a moment before he jerked up again. “Talk...to your father.”

“My father hates you, Tom,” Harry said with a tiny smile.

“Don’t...like him either,” Tom said like a petulant child. “Didn’t...do anything to him. Not...like...Black…”

Harry snorted. “He doesn’t like that you were inside of me and that I’m working for you.”

I liked being inside of you,” Tom whispered, his head drooping again.

It was oddly cute—with emphasis on the word odd.

Harry leaned forward, pressing the back of his hand to Tom's forehead. He jumped at the scalding heat of the pale, waxy skin. Tom flinched away from his touch, rubbing at his hairline, combing his fingers through—he groomed himself like an overgrown cat.

“You’re burning up. You’re sick, Tom,” Harry said quietly.

“No. I’m not. I...I just...was sick. On my shoes,” Tom muttered.

Harry’s eyes softened. “Tom...come on. You can’t be here. You’re going to get people sick,” Harry said coaxing, and Tom looked up, his burgundy eyes burning strangely crimson with his irritation and illness.

“I’m a Healer. I don’t get sick,” Tom said pompously.

Cute. Cute, cute, cute.

Merlin, Harry hated this man.

“You’re sick, Tom. You have to go home. You’re going to make your patients sick and weaken their immune systems,” Harry said softly and he began to pack up the files, ignoring Tom’s squawks of irritation. He slid the messy letter back into a file and made a reminder to himself to rewrite it and send it off to his father. James would much rather hear from him.

Harry hadn't had a real conversation with his father since James and Sirius had made arses of themselves. This would be a good enough way to break the ice. Or whatever.

“Hmmm,” Tom hummed. “I’m not sick.”

Harry rolled his eyes and cast the diagnostics charm. "In the most unsurprising news of the year, you are confirmed sick. I’m pretty sure you have the Black Cat Flu. You didn’t get vaccinated, did you?”

“I’m a Healer. I don’t get sick,” Tom repeated. He sounded a little more unsure this time.

Harry rolled his eyes and took Tom by his hand, pulling him out of his chair. Tom stumbled just a bit before righting himself, leaning heavily into Harry’s side.

“You can’t take care of yourself,” Harry chastised. “Come on. We’ll go to my house. You definitely have a fever. And you were sick earlier. Are you in pain?”

“I’m sore,” Tom snapped.

Harry snorted. “That’s charming. Snapping at the person who’s going to take care of you.”

Tom leered, his hazy burgundy eyes burning as he looked up and down at Harry. “You’ll be a very good matron. Very sexy.”

“No. None of that,” Harry chastised.

Tom’s gaze still made Harry feel naked. Tom always looked at him like he’d seen him naked.

Harry gathered the files close to his chest. He could do work back at Grimmauld Place while Tom rested. Tom was silent as Harry led him down the hallway and to the lift. The man’s head lolled back and he looked far less put-together. Harry could see how out of it he was, and he felt both pity and a hint of elation. Tom looked human. He was sick. He was normal. He was nothing but a man.

A man.

“Hold onto me,” Harry commanded as they entered the Apparition Zone. He squeaked when Tom’s arm wrapped around his waist and the taller man dragged him in, pressing Harry’s face against his neck. “I meant, like,...to my arm.”

“This is nicer.”

Harry prepared to argue and then shook his head, and focused on Apparating. The unpleasant feeling of Apparating occurred. Everything went black and Harry was being compressed. He couldn't breathe and his eyeballs were being forced back into his head. His eardrums popped terribly and then, he was on his doorstep.

Tom groaned, pushing Harry away, and then, he was promptly sick on the stoop. Harry winced as the mess spilled slightly down the first two steps, and the smell of sour bile wafted through the air. Tom fell back against the door, wiping at his mouth. Harry glanced down the deserted street—it was still a little before the Muggles got home. He pulled his wand.

Evanesco,” he muttered, and the sick Vanished. The smell still lingered. Harry looked back at Tom. The man wasn’t looking at him. He looked angry, almost, but also contrite. Harry’s lips curled in amusement. “Don’t be embarrassed.”

“I’m not embarrassed,” Tom retorted.

Harry laughed softly, going to unlock the door. “Okay,” he said gently. Tom stormed past him into the house, going straight up the stairs. Harry laughed to himself as he followed Tom to his bedroom. “Get in bed. I’ll get you potions.”

Tom was already stripping off his work robes,  leaving him shirtless, in just a pair of tight black pants. He turned around to inspect the sheets, and Harry allowed himself a moment of weakness. Tom was still so bloody fit, even after Harry had literally just seen him spew vomit all over his steps. His back muscles shifted as he tapped his wand against his pants, Transfiguring them into a pair of silky black sleep pants. Harry salivated. Merlin, those shoulders, his back, his waist...his fucking arse.

Tom turned around and Harry promptly looked at the ceiling.

“Were you ogling me?” Tom drawled, a hint of a smile in his voice.

“No. Because friends don’t ogle friends. And we can only be friends,” Harry snapped.

“Can we?” Tom taunted, taking a step forward.

“Yes,” said Harry, raising his wand, and looking at Tom again. “Now, get in the bed and wait there while I get your potions.”

“Yes, Healer,” Tom said salaciously and he chuckled when Harry spun on his heel and stomped away, hiding his pink cheeks.

Harry sighed as he placed the files on his bathroom sink counter as he went to go through his medicine cabinet. He pulled out a bottle of Fever-Reducing Potion, a Pain-Relieving Serum for the soreness, and a Pepper-up potion for the stomach issues. He gathered them in one hand and he went back into his bedroom. He tried to keep his palpable relief off his face when he saw that Tom had done what he was told and was waiting in bed, mostly under the covers.

“Why are you under the covers?”

“It’s cold,” Tom said, sounding dangerously close to whining.

Harry pressed his lips together to keep from grinning. “Drink your potions. Are you hungry?”

“If I eat, I’ll be sick in your bed,” Tom muttered as he took the potions from Harry and took them in quick succession, throwing them back as if they were shots. He didn’t even grimace at the terrible aftertaste from the Pain-Relieving Serum.

Harry giggled to himself as he watched Tom’s stone cold expression as steam erupt from Tom’s ears.

“Okay. Let me know if you’re hungry. What do you usually eat when you’re sick?” Harry asked.

Tom’s eyes narrowed and he pressed his hand to his mouth to mask a yawn. “I don’t get sick.”

“But, if you did?” Harry prompted patiently.

“I usually enjoyed biscuits and Earl Grey from a bakery downstairs from my flat,” Tom allowed, and he suddenly seemed far away in a way that had nothing to do with his illness. Harry’s brow furrowed as he wondered what Tom was reminiscing about and he felt something unpleasant settle in the base of his spine. And then, Tom was back with him again, looking as aware as the potions allowed him to look. “But, I think that I’d like eggs. When I wake up.”

Harry grinned. “I can do that.”

“Oh, and those files—”

“Tom, go to sleep,” Harry snapped. “I’ll rewrite the letters to the Auror Office. And I think contacting the Department of Mysteries would be prudent too. You just get better. We have a case to work on tomorrow.”

Tom hummed, annoyed but willing to rest. Harry grabbed the files from the bathroom and with one more cursory look at Tom, he walked out of his bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

Harry leaned back against the door and let out a long breath.

Tom was in his bed again. Shirtless and sexy and ill, but still so, so sexy.

Fuck.

Tom was in his bed. Which Harry couldn’t also sleep in.

Harry frowned. “Where am I going to sleep?”


DIAGNOSIS


 

“I fucking hate my job.”

Ron and Neville exchanged amused looks as they watched Hermione busy herself in the kitchen, slamming pots and pans into their places as she put up the dishes from that morning. Ron opened his mouth to tease her, but Neville’s eyes narrowed and he pointed at the takeaway with the tines of his fork. Obediently, Ron shoveled more Indian food into his mouth, though his eyes were bright with amusement.

“You really don’t,” Neville said, gently.

“I hate that people are Healers, but don’t get vaccinated. Are you serious? It was too hard to go down to the pharmacy and take a fucking potion?” Hermione grumbled under her breath.

Ron tilted his head. “I think it is. We’re busy people with important jobs. Be serious. We only got vaccinated because Harry nagged us.”

“Untrue. I am up to date on all my vaccinations,” Hermione said imperiously. She shook her head, huffing under her breath. “An entire day wasted in the cafeteria. A whole shift. What if we don’t get paid for it?”

“Well, we didn’t do any work,” Ron pointed out.

Neville shrugged. “We also don’t pay rent.”

“We pay for groceries!” Hermione protested. “And take away. And alcohol. It’s expensive.”

"This is true," Ron acknowledged as he finished off his plate. Hermione was just finishing up with the dishes and she sat back down at the table, exhausted. She scraped at her plate, shoveling food into her mouth. "You still have time to do work. You've books and case files on the floor in the bedroom."

“Do you guys share a room?” Neville asked wide-eyed.

“We switch back and forth,” Ron said.

Neville tilted his head. “How do you decide?”

“We fuck in whichever bed and then fall asleep,” Hermione sighed.

Neville turned pink and Ron snorted. Hermione was far more tired than she was presenting.

“How has Harry not caught you yet? You two don’t have boundaries.”

“Because I know how to use S