The boy was a mess, that much was clear to Astoria right from the start. His hair looked like it hadn’t seen a brush in weeks, he had dirt on his chin and most importantly he had one big old bluish-greenish spot right around his left eye, which appeared to have been swollen shut. Yes, he was a mess, but a handsome mess. His right eye showed a deep blue color – Astoria had always been a sucker for blue eyes – and his hair were blond and would probably be lovely to look at and soft to touch once they were combed. Not that it mattered. Of course, it didn’t, she was a professional nurse after all and not in any way desperate for company in her lonely bed. No, no, she wasn’t. Still she couldn’t help but stare at the boy, or rather the man, in front of. His face seemed oddly familiar.
„What sort of mess have you gotten yourself into?“, asked Astoria, not caring if she sounded harsh. She had a ten hour shift behind her, with all sorts of cases from someone who’d somehow hexed himself the head of a pig to someone who had stuck his wand up his ass, because he „wanted to know what it felt like“. So excuse her, if didn’t have the best manners anymore, but if that man couldn’t take her additute, he could as well leave. Or even better take her underpaid job for a while, so she could at least get some sleep.
„I got beat up and cursed“, the man said, his voice sounded oddly monotone, as if this wasn’t a rare occurrence. „I would’ve resolved the curse myself, but I can’t feel my right arm because of it. It’s my wand arm.“
Astoria nodded, she looked at the boy and suddenly all anger and exhaustion she had felt previously disappeared. In front of her sat a sad man who desperately needed help and Astoria would do anything in her power to provide it, even if it meant working overtime and missing out of a few hours of precious, much-needed sleep.
„We’ll get you fixed up in no time“, she said and smiled. The man didn’t react, but a bit of this cloudy sadness in his eyes disappeared.
„I’m Astoria, by the way. Astoria Greengrass.“
And suddenly she knew why he looked so familiar and she also knew quite possibly who had beaten him up this badly.
So, Draco Malfoy, Astoria thought to herself. What a surprise. She had excused herself to the storage room to get some supplies, but really it meant she needed some time to think. Astoria hadn’t seen Draco in several years, not since he had graduated from school two years before her. Not that she had seen him very often during her Hogwarts years, in the common room, of course, but he’d always been that handsome older boy that hung out with his sister sometimes, but kept to himself in general. Astoria remembered that Draco had always tried to play tough during his school years, making himself known as the school bully, that you better didn’t annoy. She never bought it. Astoria was quite good at observing and reading people (the Sorting Hat had nearly put her into Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw after all) and she noticed how Draco's hands always seemed to be shaking or how his eyes were puffy as if he’d been crying himself to sleep. She wasn’t surprised when people told her after the Hogwarts battle that he had long considered to join Voldemort's ranks once again.
„So now we’re ready“, Astoria announced cheerily when she reentered the room, her arms full of bandages, cremes and other supplies.
„Does the curse spread?“
Draco shook his head. „No, it’s just my arm.“
„Very well, then let’s start with your eye. That looks the worst.“
„No, it’s okay“, Draco blocked off. „You really don’t have to. It’s fine if you fix my arm, then I can go.“
„Definitely not! You’re here and I will fix you!“
„Please…. I, I don’t want…“, he sighed and looked down at the floor. „I deserved it, okay? I deserved it.“
Astoria hesitated for a moment. There he was again, that sad little boy she remembered from the common room, who would squeeze up in a corner, his noise always in a book. She dropped her hands.
„Look, whatever this is. This self-guilt trip your on and whatever it caused it, I’m not part of it. After I patched you up you can punch yourself in the eye all you want, okay? I don’t care. But as long as your here, under my supervision you will get patched up, did I make myself clear? Plus if I don’t it’ll be your fault if I lose my job.“
And then it happened: Draco smiled, it was his first genuine smile this whole time.
„I’m all yours, Nurse Astoria“, he whispered.
Astoria wished he hadn’t had such a sexy, raspy voice when he whispered, she wished her skin wasn’t this fair because she was very much aware of the fact that right now her face was as red as a tomato. And most of all, she wished in front of her sat someone else, not handsome, mysterious Draco Malfoy, clearly in need of rescuing and her childhood crush. Ugh, fate had no mercy whatsoever.
It took her longer than anticipated to fix Draco’s eye. There was a lot of face-touching involved, which Astoria normally would’ve liked, except when the guy she was touching grimaced at her every move.
„So what made you think you deserved this bruise?“, Astoria asked when she had finally managed to put on a magic creme that would reduce the swelling.
Draco clenched his jaw. „You know what I did during the Second Wizarding War. You know that I – that I worked for … him. Don’t tell me you don’t think I deserved this. I know you’d be lying.“
Astoria shrugged. „Everyone makes mistakes. You were young, you were confused and your family was involved.“
„That is no excuse!“
Astoria shook her head. „It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation.“
Draco stayed silent and Astoria watched him let that sink in. It’s been years, Draco, she wanted to say, years and years. Why do you still blame yourself? But it was so easy to blame yourself, forgiving yourself was much harder.
„Let me see your arm“, Astoria said finally, breaking the silence.
Draco looked up at her and grinned mischievous. „Well you’ll have to undress me for that.“
Oh, Merlin’s beard! Why was she helping him again? Oh right, her salary. Yep, this was definitely the only reason.
„So, what did you do after graduation?“, Astoria asked Draco while she examined his kind of blackish arm. Mainly she asked this to distract herself from his bare chest. When had he become so muscular? She remembered during their childhood that he had been a rather skinny boy.
Draco shrugged. „I studied Magic Law and went on into the family business.“
„A lawyer, huh? Wow, what do you think of me then as a petty nurse?“
She had meant it as a joke, but Draco moved himself away from her hands, forcing Astoria to look up in a confused manner.
„Don’t make yourself smaller than you are, Astoria. Being a nurse is astonishing,few people can do what you do“, Draco said, his voice low.
For the second time during his appointment blood rushed to get cheeks and Astoria quickly looked down and hid her read face behind a curtain of blond hair.
„And just for the record. I think you’re awesome. I’ve always thought that“, Draco added.
Astoria doubted that this was true. She had been just the little, weird and too-quiet sister of his friend Daphne, who had always known how to tell the meanest and most hurtful stories about Astoria. She doubted he had thought anything but „She’s weird“ or „she’s the one that once puked in her dinner bowl“ when they’d been younger, if he had even thought anything at all. But saying it was a nice gesture, even if it was a complete lie, and Astoria could appreciate that.
„Thanks, Draco“, she said.
They sat in silence for a bit, Astoria working on his arm, but she still noticed he chewed on his lips as if he was thinking about something very hard.
„Can I ask you something?“, Draco said finally.
„Where – where were you during the battle of Hogwarts? I remember your sister was there, fighting for… him, but you weren’t.“
Astoria sighed. „As I said we’ve all made mistakes, especially during that war. We can’t all be Harry Potter, can we?“
She hesitated. She didn’t like telling that story, it wasn’t one of her proudest moments. But this was Draco Malfoy, who desperately needed something to hold on to.
„I was underage at that time, which doesn’t explain anything, many underage students had fought and died that night, but I was one of those who cowerdly left the castle while I knew everything Voldemort was doing was wrong. While my parents were pure-blooded and proud of their heritage, the were also very liberal towards muggleborns and always took pride in raising me and my sister the same way. They weren’t part of the Order, but I’ve always known that if a battle were to begin, they’d jump into action and so would I, whether I was underage or not.“
Astoria cut off a bandage, just to have something to do.
„Then we found out Daphne had joined the Death Eaters. My parents were devastated, they couldn’t understand what had happened. So when the Battle of Hogwarts happened, my sister fought at Voldemort’s side and neither me nor my parents could bear the thought of standing face to face with her on different sides. I’ve never had the best relationship with Daphne, but she was still my sister, she was family. What if I’d have to kill her? So I fled to my parents house and together we hid until the battle was over. Later I learned how many had died and I’ve always wondered how many lives I could’ve saved if I had fought and hadn’t run away from my sister, I’ve always been quite good at charms I could’ve taken out a few Death Eaters. So I went to medical school to at least try to make up for those lives.“
Astoria fell silent for just a second.
„Maybe I could’ve saved Daphne’s life too“, she added in a whisper.
Draco stayed silent after that for a while and Astoria was grateful for it, as she worked on his arm lost in thought.
It was true that she and her sister had never been particularly close. Daphne had had sort of a bad temper right from when she used to be a little girl and she had made it very clear what she thought of having a little sister early on. Astoria quickly learned to not interfere when her sister was playing a game especially after she went to Hogwarts and her classmates came to visit her regularly. She became something of a lonely child, not that she ever complained, and learned to observe her surroundings carefully. Astoria knew before anyone else that grandpa wasn’t feeling well, she noticed later on that her sister grew awfully silent during family dinners and she was anything but surprised when her parents told her a year after her death that they would get divorced. Astoria knew how to read the subtle, little signs that others overlooked thanks to her sister. Maybe she should’ve been grateful for that but sometimes it was hard to be grateful when she could still remember herself as a little girl on the Hogwarts Express looking up to her big sister with a lost expression and being told: „Move over, dumbass. You’re taking up the space.“
Still, for all her faults Daphne hadn’t deserved death. She had been a young girl, seeking some way to prove herself as so many did and had listened to the wrong people.
„I saw your sister at the battle“, Draco said suddenly, „she hated fighting for him.“
Astoria sighed. „You don’t have to make up stories to make me feel better, Draco.“
„No, it’s true. It was right after I left the Room of Requirements when I passed her. She hid under a pillar and asked me 'What are we doing, Draco?'. I remember, because I was asking myself the exact same thing.“
Astoria didn’t respond. She could here in his voice that he wasn’t lying.
„Do you – do you think you can ever forgive her for what she did?“
Astoria looked up from her work and her gaze met the desperate blue eyes of a sensetive young man who had been through way too much in his early life. And she knew that somehow this question was do much more important than the sad, short life of her sister. It held so much more weight. It held a life.
„I already did.“
Astoria was done with Draco only a minute later.
„There, all fixed up“, she said and smiled. „Now go and I don’t want to see you in here again. Understood?“
Draco grinned cheekily and saluted at her. „Aye, aye, Nurse Astoria. Your wish is my command.“
Astoria tried to ignore how her heartbeat sped up a few paces at that grin.
Draco turned towards the door when he suddenly hesitated and turned back around.
„This is awkward“, he began, „but would you mind going out to dinner with me sometime?“
He tried to run his hand through his hair while he said that but stopped when his fingers got all tangling up in his messy locks.
Astoria grinned. „Only if you comb your hair until then.“
Draco smiled back. „Got it.“