Draco is just sitting down to lunch when he gets the call. He abandons his sandwich and jumps in the Floo to St Mungo’s. He’s met at the other end by an attendant and led through various corridors of the Spell Damage ward.
“What have you got?” asks Draco as he enters exam room four.
“Male, mid-30s, some kind of destruction curse to the back. Diagnostics show it’s nerve deep and spreading fast. Standard stasis charms aren’t touching it.”
“Stand back.” Draco draws his wand and steps forward.
He doesn’t think as he works, focusing solely on the magic in front of him and the person it’s working its way through. He quickly identifies it as a Tabes curse and spares half a second for a wince—there is no known counter-curse. He manages to halt the spread of the spell and, eventually, draw it back to the impact site. He uses the more intense Claudum stasis charm to lock the dark magic in place, giving them time to examine it further and explore what can be done.
When Draco steps back he feels a bead of sweat fall from his temple down the side of his face. He glances up at the clock—it’s been 45 minutes, but it feels like hours. He’s drained. He needs to eat his lunch, drink three litres of water, and shower.
As the hospital staff push forward to turn the patient over and make them more comfortable, Draco moves towards the door to leave. He only makes it one step before the strong jaw, slightly crooked nose, and broad, scarred forehead stop him in his tracks.
“The patient is Harry Potter?”
The patient is Harry Potter.
They keep Potter in a magically induced state of unconsciousness while Draco does further investigations and research into the curse that hit him. The Tabes curse is brutal, consuming everything in its path, absorbing what it can and leaving behind nothing but decay. To Draco’s knowledge, no one has ever survived coming into contact with the curse.
Draco tries not to think about the fact that it’s Potter beneath his wand when he’s casting diagnostic charms and examination spells. It’s easier to forget that Potter’s the patient when Draco’s at his desk, poring over his books and journals and making notes. It’s impossible to forget when Weasley and Granger-Weasley visit.
Draco doesn’t meet with them directly—he’s far too busy trying to find a way to heal their friend. But he’s eavesdropped on a couple of conversations they’ve had with the Mediwitches who care for Potter while he’s unconscious. They know Draco is Potter’s Healer, and they don’t kick up a fuss about it. Because they also know that Draco is an excellent Healer who knows the most about the dark arts of everyone outside of Azkaban.
Five days after Potter is brought in, they wake him up.
Potter’s friends are there, obviously. Along with a Mediwitch, whom Draco strategically places himself slightly behind, in case of vitriol.
Draco waves his wand swiftly, lifting the spell that’s keeping Potter unconscious. It doesn’t take long for Potter to come around. He groans and blinks up at the ceiling, before turning to look at his friends. He doesn’t have his glasses on, but the ginger hair must be obvious.
“Ron?” he says. “What happened this time?”
Draco just about succeeds in fighting an eye roll. This time. Of course Potter’s in and out of St Mungo’s like most people are in and out of their own kitchen for snacks.
“You were called out to a suspected burglary, do you remember?”
Potter nods and says, “A couple of blokes had broken into someone’s home.” He reaches out to the bedside for his glasses.
“By the time you got there one of the witnesses told us it had turned violent. One of the perpetrators hit you with a curse before they scarpered.”
“There were at least six people in the house—was everyone else okay?”
The huff that escapes Draco is entirely involuntary. Potter’s first concern would be for everyone but himself. Draco only wishes he could disparage Potter for it.
“Almost everyone was absolutely fine,” Weasley tells him. “Not even any minor injuries.”
“Almost?” Potter pushes.
Weasley’s face tightens, but his voice is gentle as he breaks the news. “One of the adults was hit with an AK, but it’s not your fault, Harry.”
Potter’s response is a single four-letter word.
“We’ve got people on it. Murder and landing Harry Potter in St Mungo’s with a curse? The Ministry is going at this hard, mate.”
Potter closes his eyes and shakes his head before finally asking, “What was the spell that hit me?”
At this, Weasley looks over at Draco, but it’s Granger-Weasley that gets there first.
“It was a Tabes curse, Harry.”
“Tabes…” repeats Potter, moving his arms and trying to pull himself up to a sitting position. “Never heard of it.”
“Not many people have,” Granger-Weasley tells him before also looking up at Draco expectantly.
Potter doesn’t notice. He’s too busy getting increasingly frustrated that he can’t get himself up.
“Why the hell won’t my legs move?” he asks the room at large.
Finally, Draco steps forward.
“That’ll be because the curse is still there, isolated, but impacting on your spine.”
Potter’s eyes, suddenly clear and alert, find Draco. Every member of the golden trio has him pinned and even Draco will admit it’s a little intimidating.
“Malfoy.” Potter’s voice is flat with no intonation.
“Healer Malfoy,” Draco replies automatically.
That earns him a furrowed brow from Potter.
“Why haven’t you removed the curse?” asks Granger-Weasley. She’s practically buzzing with repressed energy—it’s obvious she has a lot of questions to ask.
Draco takes a deep breath and speaks to Potter.
“There’s no known counter-curse, so we can’t simply cancel out the spell. The spell hit your spine at L1/2, near the waist—” Draco turns sideways, indicating the position on his own back. “—and is compressing on your nerves causing you some degree of paralysis—we’ll have to conduct further investigations now you’re awake to see how much. We could remove the spell, but doing so without a counter-curse would cause permanent dark magic damage to your spinal nerves, which would leave you permanently and irreversibly paralysed. So, we’ve left the curse in situ, safely contained, while we research and brainstorm other options.”
Potter is still looking at Draco, but his eyes have a glazed look about them. His mind is clearly elsewhere. Draco can’t blame him.
“Can the curse be safely contained indefinitely while we search for a fix?”
We. Granger-Weasley obviously isn’t going to leave this alone. Draco expected no less.
“There’s the rub,” says Draco, trying to ease them into the further issue. “The spell wasn’t simply a Tabes. It was modified and wrapped up with an enhanced Gemino spell. I cancelled the Gemino when Potter was first brought in, but it’s so tied up with the Tabes that it can’t be completely removed without also removing the entire curse—”
“Which will leave Harry permanently paralysed,” finishes Granger-Weasley.
Draco nods. “In the five days Potter’s been here the Gemino spell has already started reactivating and will begin spreading the Tabes within a few days. The Gemino will need monitoring and cancelling again at least once a week, but that’s only sustainable for so long. The more it’s interfered with, the—”
“The more resistant it will become.” Granger-Weasley sighs, all her questions seemingly answered for the time being. Though she has a small, determined frown and Draco just knows he’s going to be receiving an owl, or, Merlin-forbid, a visit from her once she’s had time to do her own research.
“Hang on,” says Potter, obviously tuning back in. “I’ve been here for five days?”
A further five days later Potter is released from St Mungo’s with confirmed total paralysis from L1/2 down, a shiny new wheelchair, and weekly appointments set up at Draco’s private office.
It is a fraught and awkward five days in which Draco and Potter are civil and polite to one another. Draco hates it. He answers and re-answers the same few questions Potter keeps asking. Yes, Draco has tried everything he can so far. No, it isn’t simply a case of reverse engineering the curse to find a fix. Yes, Draco is still researching and working on other options. No, there isn’t a ‘quick fix’ that will give Potter control of his legs while the curse remains.
The only thing that keeps Draco’s patience in check is the knowledge that if he were in Potter’s position he wouldn’t be handling it nearly as well. That and the one night Draco thinks he has a minor breakthrough and rushes to St Mungo’s at three o’clock in the morning to perform a certain examination spell on Potter’s lower back, only to hear quiet sobbing coming from his room. Draco leaves the spell till morning and refuses to think about what he hears.
Draco leaves arranging Potter’s release and booking his follow ups to his assistant, only sparing Potter 10 minutes to go over safety and self-care measures, expecting his parting words of, “Just don’t do anything stupid, Potter,” to be belligerently ignored.
Draco almost forgets about Potter’s first appointment. It is six minutes past four on Friday afternoon when he happens to take a break from his research and glance at his diary. He sees Potter’s name written in capitals at the four o’clock slot and launches up from his desk with a muttered, “Fuck.”
Dashing to the door, he pulls it open to see Potter in the small reception room. He’s in his wheelchair, tapping his fingers on the armrests, eyes moving constantly about the room.
“Potter,” says Draco, slightly out of breath from sprinting the short distance across his office. “Sorry to keep you, do come on in.”
He steps back, holding the door open as Potter wheels himself through.
“Park yourself wherever you’d like.” Draco motions vaguely to the room at large. “Let me just…”
Draco moves back to his desk to tidy his books and journal away, so Potter can have his full attention. When he looks up Potter has stopped his wheelchair across the desk from Draco. Sitting back in his own chair, Draco clasps his hands and rests his forearms on the desktop.
“So…” starts Draco.
“So,” repeats Potter.
Potter’s eyes continue to move, taking in Draco’s office, though it’s all just bookshelves and an examination couch.
“How are you—”
“Can we just get on with this?” interrupts Potter. Still looking anywhere but at Draco.
Draco gives a small nod. “Sure.” He points across the room. “I’ll need you on the couch. Let me know if you need help.”
Potter’s face hardens and his eyes narrow at Draco. Draco doesn’t react. Potter can get angry and sulk as much as he wants—all he has to do is ask for help, or not if he doesn’t need it. Draco isn’t the bad guy here. For once.
It takes a few minutes, and Draco tries not to watch, but Potter gets himself up on the examination couch.
“Lay on your front. It’ll just take me 10 to 15 minutes to briefly monitor the curse as a whole, and then check the reactivation status and re-cancel the Gemino aspect of it.”
Potter grunts, but does as he’s told.
As expected, there is no change in the curse. The Gemino has reactivated but is not yet far enough along to have started multiplying and spreading the curse. Draco cancels it, then monitors it for a few minutes to confirm it’s dormant again for the time being.
“All done,” Draco tells Potter. “Everything’s as expected. You can get down now.”
He wanders off to write his notes in Potter’s case file. A few minutes later his notes are complete and he slides Potter’s file back into his drawer. He looks up, ready to wave Potter off until next week, but finds him still on the couch. Potter is sitting up, looking down at his wheelchair, but not moving.
With the look Potter gave him not 20 minutes ago, Draco doesn’t think he should offer to help. But he can’t do nothing.
Potter’s head snaps up to his, looking a little lost. Like he might have forgotten he was even here.
“I— It’s—” Potter hesitates to speak.
Draco waits with his eyebrows raised expectantly.
“Getting down is… more difficult,” Potter admits. “Going legs first when…” A sigh. “When your legs don’t work.”
“Is this you letting me know you need help?” Draco asks, as gently as he can manage.
Head resolutely turned away from Draco, Potter gives a stiff nod.
Without a fuss, Draco crosses the room to Potter. He places the wheelchair parallel to the couch and keeps it steady with his foot as he snakes an arm around Potter’s waist, letting him lean his upper body weight on Draco. Together they make short work of getting Potter back in the seat.
With Potter settled, Draco moves to the door.
“See you next week, Potter,” he says as he holds the door open.
Potter pushes himself back across the room and pauses in the doorway to look up at Draco.
Draco doesn’t have time to process the single word before Potter is off, out of his office, through the reception room, and out the door.
By next week, Draco’s research has uncovered enough information that he has some questions for Potter. Potter, obviously, is not exactly forthcoming with answers.
“We know the paralysis is total, but have there been any instances of feeling, even fleetingly?”
Potter, sitting stiffly in his wheelchair across from Draco, shakes his head once.
“No pain, pins and needles, or even a slight itch?”
“No,” says Potter with feeling.
Draco nods. He can understand this must be difficult for Potter, but if it helps them find a solution, surely he knows it’s worth it.
“And similarly, the other way around, the paralysis hasn’t extended? No pins and needles, numbness, or unexplained skin abnormalities around or above the waist?”
“No, nothing.” Potter speaks down at his lap before dramatically throwing his head back. “Are we done with the questions yet? Can we get on with—” He gestures over to the examination couch.
“Have there been any other physical changes or symptoms? Even innocuous things you don’t think are linked could be relevant.” Draco ploughs on, even though Potter is already shaking his head. “Headaches, back pain, joint tenderness. It’s simpler if you tell me and we get it on record now than waiting for me to guess or until anything progresses further than we’d like.”
“I said no, okay?” And with that, Potter turns his chair sharply and moves quickly over to the couch. He doesn’t wait for Draco to catch up before pulling himself up and laying face down.
Draco sighs quietly, but let’s it go. He can’t bully information out of Potter. He can’t bully Potter at all, and he’d know, because he tried for several years at school. So Draco gets up and moves across to the couch, beginning the spells he needs to monitor the curse and reset the Gemino.
As he works, he thinks about how hard this must be for Potter. Not simply the curse and the paralysis, which are surely terrible enough, but having Draco—the bastard kid from school whose entire family tried to kill you and your loved ones—as the person best placed to help you. It not being ideal is rather an understatement.
It’s really no wonder Potter doesn’t want to talk to Draco.
He looks at the back of Potter’s head and wonders if this might be easier.
“How are you doing, generally?” asks Draco, carefully keeping his voice casual.
Potter lifts his head in apparent surprise. He also tenses. Draco can’t help but notice it, as he’s looking down at his back. So, not easier, then.
“Fine,” says Potter. “I’m doing fine.” He drops his head back to the couch and mumbles into his forearms. “All things, you know, considered.”
“Right.” Draco drops his arms and regrets even asking. “Of course. Well, we’re done here.” He steps back from the examination couch.
Potters sits up and Draco can feel his eyes on him, but Draco keeps his gaze averted until it lands on Potter’s wheelchair. Pulling his eyes up to meet Potter’s he raises his eyebrows in question. Potter’s nod is only slightly less stiff than it was last week.
They repeat the process. Draco steadies the wheelchair and loops his arm around Potter’s waist, allowing Potter to lean against him and manoeuvre himself into the seat.
Draco leaves Potter to sort himself out and goes back to his desk to write his notes. It doesn’t take him long. When he finishes and looks up, Potter is waiting on the other side of the desk. He’s biting his lip, looking pensive.
“Was there anything else, Potter?” asks Draco.
Potter opens his mouth to speak. Closes it again. A crease appears at his brow and he looks away.
“I’ll see you next week,” Potter eventually gets out.
And with that, Potter skilfully twists his chair 180 degrees and pushes himself towards the door. His wand is out and the door is open before he reaches it.
“Thanks, Malfoy,” is thrown over Potter’s shoulder as he passes through the door.
“Healer Malfoy,” Draco corrects automatically. But Potter is already gone.
The following Friday Draco is resigned to having little to no conversation with Potter as they just get on with what needs to be done. The whole thing is obviously hugely uncomfortable for Potter in a myriad of ways. He may as well not try to make it any worse.
So, when Draco opens the door for Potter he simply says, “Good afternoon,” and motions him towards the examination couch.
Potter says nothing, but he pauses briefly before making his way over. Draco busies himself pointlessly shuffling papers on his desk as Potter gets himself situated before approaching the couch himself.
Even in this odd position, Draco can tell something is bothering Potter. While last week he was tense, this week he is a ball of pent up nerves laid out on Draco’s couch. He doesn’t ask. Doesn’t want to see the twitching muscles tighten and recoil. Whether it’s something Draco should know about or not, Potter will only tell him if he wants to. So Draco says nothing. He performs the spells, helps Potter down from the couch, and moves back to his desk.
This time, when Draco finishes his notes, looks up, and sees Potter waiting, he doesn’t say anything.
Potter’s fingers are tapping on the arms of his wheelchair, teeth all but gnawing on his bottom lip. Still, Draco looks at him and remains silent.
Eventually, Potter grips his armrests, takes a deep breath, and speaks.
Just as quickly, Potter clamps his mouth shut. Draco folds his forearms on his desk and waits.
“You said—” Potter speaks calmly with his eyes closed. “—about physical changes and symptoms.”
“I did,” says Draco, when nothing else seems to be forthcoming. “Has there been a change?”
“Well, I dunno if it would be a change, but it’s… since this whole thing…” Potter sighs and picks up his finger tapping again.
“Whatever it is, you can tell me, and we’ll figure out whether it’s related to the curse or not, okay?”
“Right, yeah, simple.” Potter drops his head back to stare up at the ceiling. “Because yeah, the thing is I—” He stops, gripping the arms of his chair and screwing his eyes shut.
Several long, heavy minutes pass. Draco won’t rush him. Whatever Potter has to say is obviously difficult for him, but important enough he feels he needs to tell Draco. So whatever it is is worth the wait.
“I can’t—” Potter’s head falls forward, burying his face in his hands.
Draco wants to offer some sort of reassurance, but doesn’t know what to say. He gets no further than, “Potter—” before Potter’s head whips up and he looks Draco directly in the eye.
“I can’t get an erection, okay?”
Too many seconds pass. Seconds in which Draco is too stunned to muster a coherent response. His mouth opens—as do his eyes, too widely, he knows—but no words come out.
By the time Draco starts to utter some semblance of a sentence, “Well, that would—” Potter’s nervous energy is channelled into flight.
“Fuck, shut up, forget I said anything.” And Potter is already turning around and moving quickly on his wheels towards the door.
Draco is barely even on his feet by the time the door slams shut behind Potter and he’s left standing in the silence of his office, wondering if that could have gone any worse.
Potter is late.
After the fiasco that was his last appointment, Draco can’t exactly blame him. But considering why he has these appointments and what’s at stake if he fails to attend, Draco hopes Potter is only late. He hopes Potter isn’t such a stubborn bastard that he won’t show up at all.
Draco leaves the door to his office open. At 4:20pm on a Friday he’s unlikely to receive any other visitors, and he wants to know as soon as Potter arrives.
It is 4:40pm when Potter finally slinks into the reception room. Draco didn’t know it was even possible to slink in a wheelchair, but Potter manages it. He keeps his eyes on the book in front of him, but Draco’s focus is on Potter in the periphery of his vision.
Potter slips into Draco’s room, rolling himself right up to Draco’s desk. Still, Draco doesn’t look directly at him. In fact, he makes a point of turning a page in the book he isn’t really reading with an unnecessary flourish.
“Er, hi,” says Potter. As if he genuinely believes Draco doesn’t know he’s there.
Draco looks up at Potter but doesn’t return the greeting. Instead, Draco glances up at the clock then back to Potter.
“Ah, yeah. Sorry I’m late, I—” Potter hesitates. “Well, I had an excuse planned, but I was just embarrassed after last week.”
“Understandable,” says Draco with a nod. “I’m just glad you didn’t skip out completely. I would’ve been knocking on your door at home—these appointments are very important.”
“I know, I know. Really, I do. Hermione reminds me of that fact at least twice a week, somewhere between working, kids, and research.”
“That’s reassuring. With Granger-Weasley on your back about it, I can stop worrying about you not showing up.”
“You worry about me?” asks Potter with a small, droll smile.
“Professionally, yes. I have a perfect track record with previous patients, I would hate for you to ruin that by failing to attend a simple appointment and letting the curse continue to play merry with your spinal cord unchecked.”
“Right. Yes.” Potter’s smile disappeared as he sobered. “This is serious.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying.”
“I know.” Potter rubs at his eyes under his glasses. “It’s been really difficult since I was released from St Mungo’s. Since I woke up, really.”
“I’d be worried if you said it wasn’t difficult.”
“Worried… professionally?” The corners of Potter’s mouth twitch briefly before turning down again. “Sorry. Sorry for running away last week and sorry for generally being an awkward, unhelpful patient. You’ve been nothing but professional and—and haven’t treated me any different because of—” Potter gestures to his legs. “—this.”
“But,” interrupts Draco, “I am treating you differently.” Before Potter can get too annoyed, he clarifies. “I haven’t called you scarhead even once.”
As Draco had hoped, that gets a bark of laughter from Potter.
“Going back to serious, though, I’m sorry too. You caught me off guard last week, but I’m your Healer, and at the very least I shouldn’t have let you know you caught me off guard. At the very most, I should have already been aware that this would come up.”
Draco internally cringes at his word choice, but ploughs on, hoping Potter won’t notice.
“I looked into it, and it’s unfortunately very much a part of complete paralysis at L1/2. In hindsight it’s clearly a result of the curse and the resulting pressure on your spine, and I apologise for not being aware enough to anticipate it. I’m a dark arts specialist, not a neurosurgeon, but that’s not an excuse.”
Potter’s head is shaking before Draco is even finished.
“It’s fine, I get it. It’s not your fault. It’s a thing—another thing, on top of all the others. I’ll cope until we fix it.”
Draco bites his lip, but concedes a small nod.
“Shall we?” Draco extends an arm towards the examination couch, but doesn’t get up, giving Potter a few moments to get himself situated before heading over.
While he’s performing the requisite spells, and while Potter is in the best mood he has seen him in, Draco dares to make conversation. If he’s fishing for information at the same time, well, that’s just because Potter is one of the least forthcoming patients he’s ever worked with.
“How are you doing, generally?” Draco keeps his voice carefully casual. He’s asked this before, but he’s hopeful at getting a better answer this time.
Potter slowly shrugs one shoulder. Draco has to pause and close his eyes for a moment, begging Merlin for patience. He’s rewarded when Potter actually speaks.
“It’s hard. I mean, obviously it’s hard. I forget, sometimes. Try to get up, do something.” He sighs. “I get frustrated a lot. I live in a house with a lot of stairs, which I thought wouldn’t be that much of a problem—I can Apparate inside my own home…” Potter trails off.
“But?” Draco prompts, quietly.
“...But I’m not used to Apparating with a wheelchair, and half the time I leave it behind.”
Draco is finished with the spells, but makes no move to back away. He sees Potter’s fists clench where they rest on the couch by his head.
“It’s fucking—hard!” The last word is accompanied by the bang of a fist, muted on the couch’s padding. “The Ministry won’t let me work, not even desk duty! And my friends—Ron, Hermione, and the few others that have plucked up the nerve to visit the invalid—they want to help. I know they want to help. But—” Another sigh. “—but they mostly just make it worse. Bringing me meals or offering to make tea. Molly knitted me a bloody blanket to cover my legs. Like if I can’t see them the fact that they don’t work won’t matter?”
Draco rather thinks the blanket will be to keep his legs warm, because Potter won’t be able to feel when they get too cold. It’s actually quite sensible. Not verbalising this thought to Potter is also quite sensible.
After a few deep breaths, Potter seems to settle. His fists loosen and he leans up on his forearms.
“Are you done?” he asks, looking over his shoulder.
“Yep. Good to go.” Draco finally steps back to help Potter back into his wheelchair.
Once he’s back in his seat, Potter heads straight for the door. He pauses in the doorway, twisting at the waist to look at Draco.
“Sorry,” says Potter. “Again. For the…” He waves vaguely towards the examination couch. “...rant.”
“No need to apologise,” Draco tells him. “It sounded like you needed it.”
Potter gives a gentle nod. “Yeah. Yeah, I think I did.” He wheels himself out of Draco’s office and through the reception room. “See you next week,” Potter calls over his shoulder without stopping. “I’ll try to be on time!”
Draco shakes his head, but he’s smiling as he writes up his notes.
Next week, things are easier between them. Potter arrives on time, they smile and nod in greeting, and trade typically dull, safe small talk. It’s only when he is performing the usual spells, with Potter laying on the examination couch beneath him, that Draco’s notices something is off.
Potter is antsy.
The muscles in his shoulders twitch; he moves his head around, never resting it for more than a few seconds; his fingers rub and pinch at the material of the couch. It’s slowly driving Draco to distraction.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” cries Draco as soon as he’s finished the last spell. He immediately bites his tongue—quite literally—and can’t believe he’s being so uncouth. “Sorry,” he quickly follows up around the pain in his tongue. “I mean—”
“It’s fine,” interrupts Potter. “I know I’m—” He cuts himself off with a small frustrated huff. “Can we talk?” Potter gestures over to Draco’s desk.
Draco assists Potter back into his wheelchair and they relocate to the other side of the room.
As Potter sits, a ball of fraught energy across the desk from Draco, Draco himself starts to get a little antsy. He sits on his hands, forcing a calm openness to his face. He waits.
“I’m struggling,” admits Potter. His eyes are on his hands, which he’s wringing in his lap.
Draco immediately relaxes. This, he can deal with, and his autopilot takes over. “I’m glad you felt able to tell me. There’s no shame in admitting you need help. I can contact St Mungo’s—their physiotherapists will no doubt have magical aids that can help with—”
“No, no—not like that.” Potter shakes his head. “I mean, yeah, being paralysed is a pain in the arse—or rather, it isn’t, and spells to evacuate your bowels are fucking bizarre, let me tell you—but I’m, you know, managing. No. It’s. It’s the other thing.”
Draco feels himself freeze and works hard to get himself moving again. He blinks, he nods, he interlaces his fingers. He knows what’s Potter is referring to, of course he does, but still. To buy himself some time and to make absolutely sure…
“The, ah, the other thing?”
Potter begins to blush.
“The other thing. That I told you about a couple of weeks ago. Before beating a swift retreat?”
This is ridiculous. Draco is the professional here. Just because it’s Potter doesn’t mean they can’t have this conversation.
“The erectile dysfunction.” No beating around the bush, as it were. Draco’s voice doesn’t even waiver.
Potter’s blush grows darker.
“You’re struggling with it.”
“Do you want to… talk about it?” Draco is a little out of his depth here, and the idea of talking about this sort of thing with Potter, of all people, is rather awkward.
“The thing is… It’s…”
Of course Potter wants to talk about it, why else would he have brought it up? Draco puts on his listening face and hopes it’ll be enough, because unfortunately he has no real insight for Potter.
“If none of it is—” Potter makes a vague circular motion at his own crotch. “—working, why do I currently have the bluest balls I’ve ever had in my life?”
Draco simply hums and tries to look sympathetic. Luckily, Potter doesn’t seem to need Draco’s input.
“And look, okay, The Prophet may not get a lot of things about me correct, but I… I do enjoy sex. With people. Not often the same person. So, I can’t argue with them there. But no-one’s getting hurt. Well. Not unless we…”
Potter looks up at Draco before trailing off. Draco’s sympathetic look may have morphed into mild alarm, if the way Potter swallows and holds up his hands is any indication.
“Sorry, sorry. Too much. I just… I’m struggling. And I don’t know what to do.”
Draco takes a breath before speaking.
“This is... not my area of expertise.” At Draco’s words, Potter’s face falls. “There are Healers whose area it is, though,” he hastens to add. “I could refer you to one of the urological spell damage healers at St Mungo’s who—”
“No!” Potter cries, clearly distressed. “No. It was bad enough telling you. I can’t… I don’t want anyone else to know. I’ll manage. Celibacy never killed anyone, I’m sure.”
“Sure, of course.” Draco brushes it off, but he feels awful for not being able to help. “Just… think about it, okay?”
Potter nods as he turns his chair and makes for the door. “Yeah, all right, I will.”
As the door drifts closed behind Potter, Draco already knows he won’t think about it. He also knows he’s doing a shit job as Potter’s Healer. He’s been so focused on the curse—on managing it, researching it, trying to fucking fix it—that he’s almost completely neglected to take into account Potter’s mental health.
Sex might not be Draco’s area of expertise, but he’s going to have to do something to help Potter.
Between researching Potter’s curse, possible avenues of treatment, and potential cures; and researching erectile dysfunction, sex, and intimacy while paralysed, Draco has a pretty busy week. It’s a good job he currently has no other regular patients, else he may not have got any sleep.
He is fascinated by what he’s found. So much so, the awkwardness of talking about sex with Potter has already disappeared. Draco barely waits for Potter to get through the door before he’s eagerly babbling about it.
“I’ve been doing some research, and I think there’s hope. Possibly not the hope you want, but you need to broaden your horizons, both mentally and physically, and with some patience—”
“We can fix the curse?” Potter’s face is lit up with hope. He’s leaning so far forwards Draco is afraid he’s about to topple out of his wheelchair.
Draco realises his mistake immediately, of course.
“Oh… fuck.” Not very professional, but that’s the very least of Draco’s worries right this second. “No, no… I’m sorry. I’m not—I’m not talking about the curse.”
Potter’s elation turns to confusion. “Then what—? Oh, the… the other thing.”
“The erectile dysfunction.” Draco is so over pussyfooting around it. “If you can’t say it, you’ll never get past it.”
“Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself…” Potter mutters, dropping his head and rubbing his temples. “Really didn’t need to be thinking about Voldemort and my cock at the same time.”
“Excuse me?” Draco must have misheard him.
“Erectile dysfunction!” cries Potter brightly, lifting his head and smiling at Draco.
“Are you okay, Potter?”
“Not at all, please go on.”
Draco studies Potter for several seconds, but he simply smiles mildly back at him.
“Okay… Well, you asked last week, with your physical sexual function paralysed, how you could have, and I quote—” Draco glances down to check his notes. “—‘The bluest balls you’ve ever had in your life’.”
“You wrote that down?”
“They’re your medical notes, Potter, I write everything down. Don’t worry, I’m the only person who’ll see them—only person who can see them.” He holds a page up for Potter to see.
“Reads like a keyboard smash.”
“Exactly,” replies Draco, unsure exactly what a keyboard is. “Indecipherable to anyone but the person in charge of your case. So, me.”
“Now, regarding your blue balls.”
“Please stop talking about my balls.”
“Regarding your sexual frustration. You’re still experiencing it, despite the paralysis, because sex is mostly psychological. You’re not getting blue balls, you’re getting blue brain.”
“That doesn’t sound better.”
“But it is better, because you still have full use of your brain.” Draco bites his lip, lest some juvenile insult about Potter’s use—or lack thereof—of his brain make its way out of his mouth.
Potter looks doubtful. Draco doubles his restraint to not make a joke.
“As I said, it will involve broadening your horizons, trying new things, and having a very open mind. But you should still be able to experience sexual pleasure. Potentially even orgasm, given enough time, patience, and practise.”
“Okay,” says Potter even as he shakes his head. “How?”
“Experiment. But my research shows that massage, touch, and textures can all help.”
“Your research—You’ve tried this?” Potter almost sounds scandalised, and Draco might have been offended if he actually cared.
“Oh, no, my research was strictly academic. Books, journals, personal accounts. Nothing hands-on.”
“So it’s all theoretical.”
“For you, right now, sure. But there are people who have had success with less traditional forms of sexual pleasure and intimacy. Erogenous zones go beyond the crotch. Imagine someone kissing your neck, stroking your back, licking your nipples... Do none of those things excite you?”
Potter is a charming shade of red, but he’s looking intently at Draco as he nods. “They do, yeah.”
“So do more of that. Explore other parts of your body, not as a precursor to intercourse, but to fully engage in and seek pleasure from alone.”
“Yes, alone, right.” Potter clears his throat and looks away. “I’ll certainly give it a go. Shall we?” He points over to the examination couch.
“Yes, of course. Sorry. Didn’t mean to derail your whole appointment.”
Potter is quiet for the rest of their session. He only speaks to thank Draco for his help and advice, and to bid him farewell until next week.
Draco is also quiet as he sits at his desk writing up his notes. He carefully details his observations of the curse, how fast the Gemino aspect is reactivating in order to to spread the Tabes curse. He taps his fingers on the desktop a few times before flipping back and checking his notes from previous weeks’ observations.
The notes tell him nothing he didn’t already know. The Gemino is already growing resistant to the spells used to inhibit its actions. It is reactivating quicker, and will eventually be unable to be stopped, allowing it to start spreading the Tabes curse through Potter’s body. Time is running out for Draco to find a way to counter the entire curse, and the only alternative would leave Potter alive, but irrevocably paralysed.
Draco throws his notes in to the desk drawer, slamming it shut.
When Hermione Granger-Weasley shows up at Draco’s office first thing on Monday morning, he is shocked, but not surprised. He had expected her to send an owl, first.
She sits across from him in one of the guest chairs at his desk, one leg thrown over the other and a large folder on her lap. Granger-Weasley exudes efficiency, and the first words out of her mouth only confirm the notion.
“I haven’t found anything useful. What about you?”
“You’re here about Potter.”
“Of course I am,” she says with an air of impatience.
“How is he doing? Really?”
Granger-Weasley’s face is hard as she looks at Draco for several seconds, no doubt assessing his motives and how much time she can afford to waste on the niceties. For Draco, of course, this is more than just a polite enquiry.
“He’s fine,” she finally answers. “Frustrated, obviously. He’s still not used to being so limited in his mobility and capability, but he’s enjoying some new hobbies. He’s drawing and writing and knitting. Oh gosh, don’t tell him I told you about the knitting!” Granger-Weasley clamps a hand over her mouth.
Draco laughs. “I make no promises.”
“He’s generally coping pretty well, all things considered. Well enough to have stood up to Ron and Molly, telling them to stop bringing him food and fussing over him.” She screws up her face. “Wait, no, not stood up to. I meant—confront. He’s well enough to have confronted—”
“I’m pretty sure that won’t help,” interrupts Draco.
“What?” she looks up at Draco sharply.
“Correcting yourself like you’ve made a mistake. Potter won’t think you using the phrase ‘stood up to’ is in any way a dig or line at his expense. It’s a phrase, and I’m confident he wouldn’t even notice anything like that until you start backtracking and rephrasing. I mean, I understand. There’s been a couple of times my word choice has made me cringe, but I’ve tried not to make it any worse by drawing Potter’s attention to it or to my own discomfort. You know Potter—he’ll only end up feeling guilty about it.”
Granger-Weasley listens with her lips pursed. When Draco’s finished she nods slightly.
“I think you’re right,” she says. “I’ve tried to rephrase things a few times and Harry’s got flustered and gone off on a tangent about something else.” Now she shakes her head. “I thought I was doing the right thing, trying to be careful with my words. But you’re right—it bothers him more when I’m too careful.”
Draco shrugs. “He doesn’t want to be treated any differently. And he shouldn’t be treated any differently. He can’t walk, okay, but why do I apparently have to be the one to remind people—Potter himself included—that he still has full use of his brain?”
“Oh, I bet he loved hearing that from you,” says Granger-Weasley with a laugh.
Draco raises his eyebrows and hums.
“He’s frightened too, of course,” she continues. “More frightened than he’d ever actually admit, but he is.”
Draco looks down at the notes on his desk. His observations of the curse and the research that has lead him around in circles with no useful results. When he speaks, it’s to the table top.
“Maybe he should be frightened.”
“No.” Granger-Weasley’s words are firm. “No talking like that. Even if we don’t get anywhere with the research or how to cancel the curse, you said it can be removed.”
“It can, but it would leave Potter—”
“Permanently paralysed. But he’d still have full use of his brain, as you are apparently keen to point out. He’d be alive and safe and well.”
Draco tries to imagine how Potter would feel about the paralysis being irreversible. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the current alternative. Granger-Weasley said he’s coping, sticking up for himself against the people coddling him. He would be fine, surely.
Then Draco remembers their last meeting. Potter finding the courage to even say erectile dysfunction, and his obvious scepticism towards the information Draco had shared with him. He imagines Potter’s reaction to Draco telling him he’d never again be able to have sex the way he was used to.
Definitely not ideal.
“He would, wouldn’t he?” Granger-Weasley’s voice holds a note of concern.
“Would what?” asks Draco as he pulls himself back from his pondering.
“Harry would be alive and safe if the curse was removed? I said it and you looked… unsure. If there’s something else going on, you need to tell me. Harry’s given you consent to discuss his treatment with me.”
Draco hears Potter’s voice clearly in his mind. ‘The other thing’ and ‘I don’t want anyone else to know.’
“His treatment regarding the curse and researching for a cure, yes,” says Draco.
“Are you telling me there’s some other treatment going on?” pushes Granger-Weasley.
“I’m not telling you anything, is rather the point.” Draco clears his throat and tries to get them back on track. “Yes, Potter would be alive and well if we removed the curse. And that is looking like the only way forward, currently. I’ve sourced every book I’m aware of—and a few I wasn’t—that even mention the Tabes curse, and there is nothing that even hints towards a counter-curse. I expanded my research into curses in the same family—Diruere, Festuca—but still, nothing. Two weeks ago I began going over it all again from the beginning. I’m gaining no new insights so far. I’ll keep going. Obviously, I’ll keep going. But while we wait, the curse…”
“It’s getting stronger,” finishes Granger-Weasley. “The Gemino is becoming resistant to the spells keeping it at bay, like we knew it would.”
Draco can only nod.
“Does Harry know? How bad it’s getting?”
This time, Draco shakes his head. “I knew at the end of our last session that I need to tell him. But I know he won’t take it well, and I know he’ll blame me—which is fine. He’ll need to process, and he’ll need someone to blame.” He looks stoically over his desk at Granger-Weasley. “I can be that for him, but he will also need support.”
“Of course, yes. I’ll do it. Ron will do it. We’ll visit him after his appointment on Friday evening.”
Draco nods again. “Good. Okay.”
After seeing Granger-Weasley out, Draco collapses back into his desk chair and begins to prepare himself for Friday.
By Friday, Draco is not prepared. He doesn’t believe he ever could be. He knows he has to explain it to Potter after the usual examination and spells. There is a high probability of Potter getting upset and storming out, and it wouldn’t do for the spells to get missed in the process.
His heart is thumping by the time Potter arrives, but Draco is certain that on the exterior he looks as calm and collected as usual.
They barely say hello before Potter jumps in as though they were already in the middle of a conversation.
“Doesn’t work,” he declares, parking himself in front of Draco’s desk. “I dimmed the lights, played some music—really set the mood—but it was just like tickling yourself.”
“Sorry, what?” Draco is totally thrown by the unexpected topic.
“I tried… like you said. Experimenting. Stroked and caressed myself all over searching for erogenous zones, but it just felt weird.”
“I can imagine. Though I did rather mean it to be the sort of thing one tries with a partner.”
Potter frowns. “No, you said seek pleasure alone.”
“I meant—” Draco shakes his head. “—seek pleasure from those more simple acts of touch only. Without them being the prelude to more. Fully embrace them as the whole experience.”
“But… with someone?”
“Oh.” Potter’s brow wrinkled, as though he hadn’t even considered the possibility.
“Right, well, while you consider your options for a tryst, shall we move over to the examination couch?”
Draco isn’t sure Potter really hears him, as he still seems caught up in his own thoughts, but he drifts over the the couch all the same.
They go through the usual motions. The small talk, the spells, the getting Potter down. It seems to go much swifter than normal. Of course it would. The one day Draco wouldn’t mind the small talk dragging on a little while longer, delaying the inevitable.
“Can we talk a moment?” asks Draco before Potter can dash towards the door.
“Sure. What about? Got some more sexual advice for me?” Potter punctuates his question with a wiggle of his eyebrows.
“Yeah, ah, no.”
“About our weekend plans? I was thinking about going for a jog, myself.”
Draco looks over his desk at Potter. He notes the slight strain to his smile, the over-bright eyes, the attempts at humour. Potter already knows what’s coming. He knows, and he desperately doesn’t want to hear it.
“I’m sorry, Harry.”
“Wow, first name. It must be bad,” Potter continues to joke.
Draco can’t help the small frown that breaks through his mask of professionalism. “It is,” he murmurs.
Potter’s mouth is a flat, resigned line as he nods. “Yeah, I know.”
“How?” asks Draco. “Has something changed? Are you feeling pain at the impact site? I told you to tell me— It could be even worse than—”
“No, no, nothing like that.” Potter holds up his hands to placate Draco’s concerns. “Nothing feels any different. Not in terms of my body, anyway.”
“It’s been, what, over two months since I was hit? Two months you’ve been researching the curse and searching for a way to fix it. And we’ve barely spoken about what you’ve found. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that’s because you haven’t found anything worth talking about.”
Draco opens his mouth, but he really isn’t sure what to say. Potter doesn’t even seem to notice.
“Hermione’s been different this week, too. She’s only popped in to see me every other day and she seems more relaxed, not worrying over every little thing she says or does. It was when she said things could be worse because at least I still have the full use of my brain, that I really started to suspect something was up.”
A groan echoes around the room, and as Draco’s head falls into his hands he realises it’s coming from his own throat.
“Yeah. So. Hermione paid you a visit?”
Draco nods into his hands. “She’s also been researching the curse, as you’re aware.”
“She came to see me because she hasn’t found anything either. And obviously, she’s worried about you.”
“I get it, and I love her for it, but I don’t understand the concern. You’ll find something. You always do, right? You said you have a perfect track record with your previous cases.”
Draco drops his hands and looks up at Potter, brow furrowed.
“I do, but… you understand I haven’t been able to cure every patient, don’t you? I’ve helped them all. I’ve kept them alive and safe from the dark magic that was inflicted on them, but not all of them left my care the exact same people they used to be.”
“What do you mean?” Potter’s voice is quieter, more unsure.
Draco takes a deep breath, knowing he has to tread carefully.
“There was a young girl not long after I became an independent Healer. She’d picked up an enchanted watch. A strangulation curse began in her fingers, slow moving, but severely restricting blood flow as it spread to her palm and her wrist. There is no counter-curse. There was only ever one possible treatment.”
Potter audibly swallows.
“She’s an apprentice curse-breaker these days—took her experience and her trauma and channelled it into her career, only needs one arm to wield her wand, after all. She writes to me on occasion, sends me interesting trinkets from her travels.
“There was a chap who got hit with a cursed Bludger during a friendly Quidditch match while on holiday in Brazil. Knocked out his fine motor function. Forget not being able to walk—he couldn’t even pick up a spoon to eat cereal. We managed to eradicate the curse from his body, but it left irreversible damage behind. He can feed himself and play football with his kid in the park, but he’ll never be able to play Quidditch again.
“These are successful cases, Potter. These people survived and live perfectly normal, happy lives. You can too.”
Potter has his eyes closed and is shaking his head ever so slightly.
“That’s them. This is… I’ve always… You’ll find something. Hermione will find something.”
“We’ll keep looking, Potter, of course we will. But we don’t have forever. The Gemino is becoming resistant to the spells holding it back. We can’t keep the curse in stasis forever.”
“So you’ll find a solution before it becomes resistant. It’s always been okay before. Something has always come up, been found, been fixed. It’s me, I’ve got more dumb luck than a rabbit’s foot stuffed with eight leaved clovers.”
Draco’s eyebrows rise without his permission. He can’t believe Potter is trying to play some kind of, ‘I’m Harry Potter’ card to assure himself everything will be fine.
“Go home, Potter,” Draco tells him. “Talk to your friends.”
Potter looks Draco in the eye, desperation clear.
“You’ll find something!” he growls.
“I’ll try, but Potter—”
“You’ll find something!” Potter shouts over his shoulder as he speeds from the room.
While last week didn’t go as badly as Draco had feared, it certainly hadn’t gone well. So when Potter not only shows up on time, but smiles at Draco as he glides into the room, Draco is somewhat perturbed.
“Good afternoon,” says Draco as he watches Potter pull up at the desk.
“It is, isn’t it? Sun’s just going down, the sky’s all sorts of cool colours.”
“Are you all right, Potter?”
“Yes and no,” he says with a shrug.
“Yes and… no?” prods Draco.
“Well, the thing is, no one wants to have sex with a cripple.”
Draco doesn’t know what to say, but he definitely doesn’t want to ask Potter to repeat himself. He settles for blinking several times.
“I’ve been keeping the situation quiet from the press and the public, so I wasn’t going to go to my usual spots to pick someone up. Had to be Muggle. But the thing about Muggles is I don’t have the ‘Harry Potter’ thing working in my favour. That’s usually the exact reason I go to Muggle clubs, but it turns out when I’m just some random vaguely-attractive guy in a wheelchair, it’s really hard to pick someone up for casual sex.”
Okay, so they’re ignoring the other thing. The other, other thing. This other thing has apparently become the thing. Draco takes a moment to wonder at the fact that he’s somehow become Potter’s private sex educator, considering his own very limited experience, but he can’t exactly stop now.
“Even if you had found someone to take home—”
“Take me home,” interrupts Potter.
“Someone to take me home—I never take anyone back to mine.”
“Okay…” Draco almost wonders why it matters, then realises he doesn’t actually care. “Even if you had found someone to take you home, it wouldn’t have been your usual intercourse, would it? It’s new territory for you, different techniques and goals. Would that have gone well with a one night stand?”
“You said I should try it with someone else, what else was I supposed to do, ask Ron?”
Draco winces. Talking about sex with Potter has been enough to get used to without throwing Weasley into the mix. “Please don’t put that kind of image in my head.”
“As much as I very much do not recommend taking your best and married friend to bed, wouldn’t you rather actually know the person?”
“I know the people I sleep with,” protests Potter. “Always make sure to get their names beforehand.”
Draco closes his eyes and sighs.
“Not what I meant. This is a new and intimate experience you’re sharing with someone. Inviting them to explore your body and go on a journey together to find what works for you. What works you up, what draws you to the edge, what might be able to tip you over in a whole new way. Don’t you want to know more about that person than their name? Don’t you want to know what makes them laugh, how they take their tea, or what they look like in the morning?”
Potter is looking at him thoughtfully, so Draco carries on.
“I would. I’d want to know what their favourite song is, what they think about as they fall asleep, what toppings they like on their pizza. What’s physical intimacy without emotional intimacy?”
“How am I supposed to manage that?”
“I think it’s called dating, Potter. It might have been a while since I’ve had time to try it myself, but I hear it’s still quite popular.”
“Dating isn’t going to help my blue balls.”
“I thought we weren’t talking about your blue balls any more?”
“You aren’t talking about my blue balls. They’re my balls though, so I’ll talk about them as much as I want.”
“We’ve already established your blue balls are psychological, anyway, so technically not balls at all.”
“Point is, dating and getting to know someone isn’t going to get me laid and solve this sexual frustration thing.”
“It will, eventually. Just not as quickly as you’re used to.”
“It’s just so fucking frustrating. And it’s not fair. I can’t even literally take matters into my own hands.”
“Maybe try masturbation again, but not with your own hands.”
“What—” Potter, smirks and Draco already regrets his words. “—borrow Ron’s? And is it really masturbation when I can’t…” Potter closes a fist and makes a pumping motion.
“If the intent is to pleasure oneself sexually, I think the word works.”
“I wish my dick worked,” sighs Potter.
Draco rolls his eyes.
“Work with what you’ve got, Potter. Use feathers, silk, oils, ice. Whatever wakes your nerve endings up. Then keep going.”
“I can’t believe I’m getting masturbation tips from Draco Malfoy.”
It’s Draco’s turn to smirk. “You’ve no idea just how unbelievable it is.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Draco shakes his head, his smirk turning soft. “Doesn’t matter. Shall we get on with the other thing?”
Potter looks confused for a second before Draco tilts his head towards the examination couch.
“Oh, yeah, that. Sure. Yeah.”
The light-hearted jovial mood Potter’s abysmal sex life has created dries up as they go through the usual routine of the monitoring and stasis spells. The results are never going to get better, but Draco fears they are getting worse faster than he was anticipating.
As he’s helping Potter back into his wheelchair, Draco has to say something.
“Have you talked to your friends?”
“Sure,” says Potter easily. “I talk to them all the time. Yesterday, Luna and I were talking about the fact that, to your stomach, all potatoes are mashed potatoes.”
“About the curse, Potter. Have you talked to your friends about getting the curse removed and what your life will be like moving forward?”
Potter’s fake cheerfulness drops in an instant. “You’re talking like it’s a foregone conclusion.”
“You’re going to need to accept this, Potter. I might still be looking, but I’m only going over things I’ve already looked into in the slimmest chance I missed something. We’re fast running out of time.”
“You mean I’m running out of time.”
“We’re running out of time to be able to help you. Let me help you, Harry.”
“Oh no you don’t. No first names. That’s never a good sign. I’m leaving.”
“Harry,” Draco calls as Potter speeds off to the door.
“See you next week, Malfoy!” Potter pointedly cries as he leaves the room.
“Draco,” he whispers to his empty office.
By next week, they are back to pretending there isn’t a threatening deadline hanging over their heads. And of course, all Potter actually wants to talk about is sex.
“I can’t even tell if it was really working, because I kept thinking Now, what did Malfoy say I should try? And, no offence, but it was a bit weird thinking about you while I was stroking a feather over my nipples.”
Draco doesn’t laugh, but he can’t hide his smile.
“No offence taken at all.”
“But otherwise, you might be on to something. It was easier with the other items. I could almost imagine it was someone else. I’ve got a ways to go if it’s ever actually going to be enough to…” Potter gestures helplessly with an open palm.
“Climax?” suggests Draco.
“Is that even possible? It doesn’t feel like it.”
“It is possible, but it will likely take a lot of time, patience, experimentation, and trust. It’s also very likely to not be the kind of orgasm you’ve had previously.”
“Trust. You mean in another person?”
“If and when you decide to have sex with another person, yes.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.”
“Because you’re finding it difficult to find someone to sleep with?”
“I haven’t tried again since last time. What you said—about how the sex wouldn’t be what I’m usually looking for—it stuck with me. Because it won’t be what anyone else is looking for either. It was hard enough trying to score in a wheelchair, and that was before anyone knew I can’t even get it up. How am I supposed to find someone who wants to experiment with me and help me find a new orgasm?”
“I think we covered this last week, Potter. Dating. Remember?”
“So I date, I hit it off with someone, we’ve got so much to talk about it’s great. But then what if they can’t handle—can’t handle the weird sex? Don’t want to find out what turns me on? Just want to get their own rocks off? That’s so much time to invest in someone that it might not work out with.”
“Pinpointing the exact reason I’m still single, thanks for that, Potter. All that time I’ve spent dating and getting to know people. Totally wasted.”
“I’m sorry.” Potter drops his head into his hands. “I didn’t mean to—”
“It’s fine, I was mostly joking. It is a slog, but even if you get to know someone and it turns out later down the line it’s not going to work, it doesn’t mean everything you shared with them was pointless. Getting to know someone is the best part, really. Finding out what makes them tick and if you can tick in sync. Finding someone who understands you as well as you understand yourself, someone who helps you understand yourself a little more. It’s… no one I’ve ever dated was a waste of my time.”
“How? How do you find that—feel that? I don’t think I’ve ever had something like that, not even with friends.”
Draco takes a deep breath. He’s come out dozens of times over the years, and he’s happy with who he is. But that doesn’t make preparing to defend and validate himself to others any easier, especially against someone so obviously libidinous as Potter.
“Well,” he says, “I’m asexual, so building and appreciating a romantic connection with someone is really important to me.”
There is silence for several seconds.
“Asexual,” repeats Potter. “Is that like—”
“I don’t feel sexual attraction.”
Potter leans his head on his hand, contemplating. Draco lets him think.
“So,” he says eventually, “all this time you’ve been listening to me talk about sex and giving me advice about sex and you… don’t have sex yourself?”
“Pretty much.” Draco shrugs. “I will clarify, I have had sex, and would be open to having it again. I can enjoy sex, but I don’t need sex. I don’t desire sex. I don’t feel sexual attraction to others, or generally. I don’t masturbate—I don’t get, ah, blue balls.”
Potter throws his head back, mouth clamped shut, cheeks reddening. Draco hadn’t realised he’d be this pissed off about getting sexual advice from someone who doesn’t care about having any.
“You’re telling me,” Potter says with a seething whisper. “That I’ve got a dick that I want to use but can’t, and you’ve got a dick you can use but don’t want to?”
“If I was in a relationship with someone who wanted me to use it I would want to, but generally speaking… yes, I suppose so.”
Potter doesn’t reply. He takes several deep, long breaths. His head is still back, eyes staring up at the ceiling. When he speaks his voice is more measured, his entire demeanour a lot calmer.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped at you, or—or said those words at all. It was unfair and untrue.”
“I understand.” Draco waits for Potter to drop his head and look at him. “Thank you for apologising.”
They are silent for a while as the clock on the wall ticks away the time. Neither of them suggest moving to the examination couch. As awkward as this moment is, neither of them apparently want to start the other conversation.
Eventually, Potter breaks the silence.
“I can’t imagine knowing someone well enough, intimately enough, to be happy and content enough without sex.”
Draco furrows his brows. “That’s fine—you’re not asexual.”
Potter sighs. “Okay, yeah, but I guess I mean, whether sex is involved or not, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to connect with someone. To be with someone and know each other inside out. To have someone to share… everything with.”
“Why don’t you think you can have that?”
“Are you kidding? I hate the line, but—I’m Harry Potter. Everyone I meet already knows too much about me. How can I build a real relationship from that?”
“So people know some things about you—some things that happened to you. There is so much more they don’t know… they don’t know the best things. They don’t know what songs you sing in the shower, what silly little things make you smile, what particular odd foible is going to annoy the hell out of them.”
Potter is biting his lip, looking off to the side over Draco’s shoulder.
“You think I don’t have the same issue?” asks Draco. Potter’s focus slides back to his face. “Draco Malfoy, death eater turned specialist dark arts Healer? Tends to lead to a few less-than-flattering assumptions about the person I am now. But I’ve managed. I’ve met and connected with people. I’ve shared myself with them and built a connection. It is possible.”
“Didn’t you just say you were single? Obviously it’s working out great for you.” Potter winces immediately. “Sorry, sorry. I’m obviously a massive dickhead today.”
Draco shrugs. “It hasn’t worked out yet, but it will. I’m picky and not willing to settle.” He smiles at Potter, who gazes back uncertainly.
With a sigh, Draco deems it time.
“Come on, Potter, let’s get it over with. Up on the couch.”
Potter goes without complaint. He lays quietly, doesn’t fidget or make small talk. Draco lets him be as he gets on with the spells. When he’s finished, Potter doesn’t sit up straight away. He’s resting his head sideways on his hands, facing the wall when he speaks.
“How long do I have?”
Draco stills for a moment, wonders how blunt to be. He’s quiet for too long.
“How long until the stasis spells stop working, and the curse starts to spread?”
“A few weeks,” answers Draco honestly. “I thought it might have been a couple of months, but the Gemino is now growing exponentially more resilient every time we cast the spells, not gradually over time.”
“Okay,” Potter whispers to the wall.
“Okay?” Draco says quietly back.
“Okay.” Potter sits up and faces Draco. “We need to remove the curse. I’ll talk to Hermione and Ron. About my life and emotions and all that crap.”
Draco smiles tentatively. “Thank you.”
“What for? Finally listening to common sense?”
“For letting me help you.”
“I’m not doing this right now. I’ll talk to you next week. Now shut up and help me down.”
Draco does, but the small smile is on his face the entire time.
“Next week, Potter,” he affirms as Potter whizzes off towards the door.
“Sure, sure,” says Potter with a wave over his shoulder as he disappears.
They don’t talk about it next week. At least, not straight away. It’s still the other other thing, with the original other thing now apparently their main focus.
“Masturbation is getting better.”
Draco feigns an exasperated sigh as Potter gets straight into it without even saying hello. He almost longs for the time Potter couldn’t say ‘erectile dysfunction’. Almost.
“Still thinking about me?” asks Draco.
Draco tries not to note the fact that isn’t an answer.
“It’s not the same—it doesn’t really feel sexual or like I’m really masturbating. But it feels… nice. I feel something. I can tell it would be better with someone else. If I didn’t know where I’d be touched next, or if it was someone’s actual hands or mouth…” Potter shivers.
“Oh, it’s definitely working.” Draco attempts to keep the smugness from his voice. “You need to keep going.”
“Oh, I will.” Potter looks at him with a slight smile. “I don’t think it’s just physical, either. After all the things we’ve talked about, I think I’m starting to, I dunno… open up to the idea of opening up. Does that even make sense?”
Draco hums and nods in encouragement.
“The idea of not just someone’s hands or lips, but of… of someone. The idea of exploring this with them, of discovering new pleasure with them. Yeah… it’s… definitely working.”
Potter is grinning, and Draco can’t help but grin back.
“I’m pleased for you, Potter. I hope you find your someone.”
The wide smile on Potter’s face droops slightly, and while Draco understands his hesitancy, he knows Potter will be able to find someone. Not because he’s Harry Potter, but because he’s a funny, sarcastic, complex character, who’s going to make his someone stupidly happy.
And then Draco isn’t smiling any more, either.
“Let’s see how things look, shall we?” says Draco as he stands up from his desk.
Potter just nods and slides himself over to the examination couch, climbing into position.
As soon as Draco has finished the spells and helped Potter back into his chair, he pounces.
“Did you talk to your friends? What did they say? How are you feeling about moving forward to remove the curse?”
“Woah, okay, calm down, you’re keener than Hermione.” Potter holds up his hands to ward Draco off. “Yes, I spoke to Ron and Hermione. They are both very pleased that I’m going to go ahead with getting the curse removed. Their…” He pauses. Swallows thickly. Carries on again. “Their caring and positivity is really helping. Reminding me that this is a good thing, not the end of the world I feel like it is sometimes.”
“It’s making sure it’s not the end of the world.”
“I know. And I’m feeling good, but also fucking petrified. Once it’s done there’s no going back. I’ll never be an Auror again—I’ll have to find a new career. But what the hell else am I supposed to do? I’m the bad guy catcher.”
“Granger-Weasley mentioned you were writing. What about being an author?”
Potter’s eyes opened wide in alarm and he shook his head.
“Nope. No one wants to publish the stories of this sex-deprived hermit.”
Draco carefully does not ask for further details.
“What about knitting? I’m sure they’d be lines around the block for an original Harry Potter knitted blanket.”
“Hermione told you about the knitting?”
“Er…” Draco feigned innocence. “I am not at liberty to reveal that.”
Potter shakes his head, but he’s smiling.
“My point is, you can do whatever you want to. You’re not just a bad guy catcher.”
“I’m also a knitter.” Potter sighs. “It’s not just my job… it’s the what ifs. What if you find something. What if you figure it out. What if I go through with it and the next day you or Hermione suddenly have a bloody epiphany and it’s too late?”
“All perfectly reasonable things to worry about,” admits Draco. “But also not going to happen, I’m afraid.”
“I know that. I know that. But it doesn’t stop me thinking about it.” Potter rubs at his face before letting his hands fall to his lap and looking at Draco. “I do have a question, though.”
“How does it work? The… procedure, or whatever… to remove the curse? Does it take long? Is it painful? I need to prepare myself.”
“Nothing to prepare for, honestly. It’s quick and simple. You shouldn’t feel anything.” Draco pats the couch. “Get back up, I could do it for you now in a few minutes.”
Potter physically recoils.
“Oh, no. No no no.” He starts to wheel himself backwards and collides with a bookcase. It doesn’t stop him. “Quick and easy or not, I still need to prepare myself, thanks. Maybe next week.”
Now facing the right way, Potter’s almost at the door and moving fast.
“We don’t have much time left, Harry,” says Draco carefully.
“Next week then, sure. Bye, Malfoy!”
And Potter is gone.
They’ve been sitting across the desk from each other for almost 10 minutes. Other than a cursory greeting, neither of them has spoken. Potter is tapping his fingers on the arms of his wheelchair. Draco looks at Potter, keeping his smile small but unwavering.
“They caught the guy,” Potters says eventually.
“Well, the guys. The burglars—murderers. Took a lot of work, but they tracked them down, brought them in.”
“The guy who cursed you,” Draco says, understanding.
Potter nods, but his face is pinched.
“How’d you feel about that?” Draco nudges—he can tell there is something there.
“Good, I guess.” Potter shrugs.
They’re silent for another few moments. Draco gives Potter the time. Eventually, Potter sighs.
“It just… doesn’t matter, does it?”
“So, they caught them, they’ll be punished, they’ll hopefully never be able to hurt anyone again. That’s good. That’s great…”
“But… that doesn’t help me, does it?” Potter grips the arms of his wheelchair. “It’s stupid, and selfish, I know, but I can’t help it.”
“It’s okay to be angry, Potter. This happened to you, and it isn’t fair, and you’re allowed to be angry about it.”
Potter nods and they lapse into silence again.
He knows this is hard for Potter. Has been for every one of his patients, sitting in this room, or a room at St Mungo’s, or lying in their bed, waiting for Draco to heal them in a way they had never anticipated. Potter is no different.
At least, that’s what Draco tells himself.
“I can’t put it off any longer,” Potter says. “Even if you told me I had more time, I couldn’t take it. Hermione has been harassing me no end this week and asking why I didn’t get it done last week. And Ron’s worrying so much he’s not sleeping. He’s not told me that, but the bags under his eyes and his off-the-charts irritability sort of give it away.” The finger tapping on the arm rests increase in speed. “He’s worried I’ve left it too late. That you won’t be able to remove it all. That I’ve been too stubborn and it’s too late.”
“Weasley’s worried about that, is he?”
Potter bites his lip, looks away.
“Well, Weasley needn’t worry. If it was too late I wouldn’t have let you leave last week. Another week or two, then it’d be time to start worrying. But today? Today is fine.”
“Today,” Potter says, nodding his head several times. “Yep.”
Draco smiles, and he waits.
“Okay,” Potter finally says. He looks Draco in the eye. “Okay, let’s do it.”
Without waiting for Draco to reply, Potter moves to the examination couch and climbs up onto it. Draco wonders if Potter realises this is the last time he’ll have to do that, or if he’s got other, more anxious thoughts on his mind.
Potter lays down in his usual position, pulling up the back of his top before resting his forehead on the couch.
“I’m going to cast the usual spells—ensure everything is as we expect, cancel the Gemino so it can’t interfere—then instead of renewing the stasis spell, I’ll isolate and extract the entire curse. Doing so will leave the damage caused by the location of the curse touched with dark magic, and render it permanent. Do you understand, and are you happy for me to continue?”
Potter nods into the padding beneath his head. “Yes. I understand.” Potter’s breathing is heavy, but steady. “What will happen to the curse when you’ve removed it?”
“With no form to attach and work its way through, the magic will dissipate and vanish.”
Draco can see Potter nodding awkwardly again.
“Okay,” mutters Potter into the couch. He takes a deep breath. “Do it.”
Carefully, Draco smooths an open palm across Potter’s back, above the L1/2 impact site, where he knows Potter can feel it. He’s never touched Potter’s back like this before, and he doesn’t need to now, but he wants to offer Potter some comfort. To let Potter know that he is there, and that he’ll be okay.
A slight squeeze of his fingers to Potter’s back, and Draco begins to cast.
It’s all over in just a few minutes. All very anti-climatic, really. Draco drops his wand, leaving his hand pressed against the warmth of Potter’s back for a few more seconds before sliding it away.
Potter’s head lifts from the couch.
“Are you done?” His voice is quiet, but sure. Draco can tell Potter already feels better about his decision, now there is no going back.
“I’m done,” says Draco as he steps away.
Potter sits up, a small frown on his face. “I don’t feel any different.”
“Good!” Draco says with a relieved chuckle. “You shouldn’t. The curse isn’t in situ any more, but the damage it was causing to the impact site is still there. Essentially the physical impact the curse was causing remains, but the danger from the curse is gone. So on a basic level, nothing has changed for you.”
Potter holds his arm out, wordlessly waiting for Draco to help him back into his wheelchair. Like it’s automatic. Second nature. Like it’s not an issue at all. Draco smiles, because it isn’t.
“The only real change, I’m sure you’ll be glad about, is that you won’t have to have these weekly check ups any more.”
“I won’t?” Potter asks, before frowning with realisation and saying again, “I won’t.”
“No more curse means nothing to monitor and keep under control. You don’t need to be under my care at all. In fact, let me get your discharge papers.”
They make their way back over the Draco’s desk. Draco’s rummages in a drawer for a blank discharge sheet, barely registering Potter’s lost look. It can be overwhelming, coming to the end of treatment and being thrust back into the world without the support of medical professionals, but Potter still has his friends, and in fact—
“I recommend you see a physiotherapist and occupational therapist at St Mungo’s, see if there isn’t more they can do to help and support you going forward.”
Draco scribbles his notes on the discharge papers, practically illegible, as they should be. He signs his name and slides the form and quill over to Potter.
“But otherwise, sign here and consider yourself discharged from care.”
Wordlessly, Potter picks up the quill and signs.
“You’re a free man. How do you feel?”
“Not sure, to be honest.”
Draco smiles as he hands Potter his copy of the discharge sheet before filing the other into Potter’s case notes and closing the file for the final time. He slides it into his drawer for later archiving. When he looks up, Potter is looking at him intently.
“So,” says Potter, “I have one last question.”
Potter grins, and Draco regrets his response already.
“How many people have you slept with?”
“And was the sex rubbish, or just meh?”
“I thought you said one question?”
“They’re of a theme.”
“My lack of a sex life?”
“There’s really not much material here, Potter. It’s a waste of both our time.”
“Was the sex you’ve had a waste of time?”
Draco laughs. “Yes and no.”
They sit and discuss Draco’s scant sexual history for a few minutes, before moving on to Potter’s, which carries them considerably further. Then Potter asks about Draco’s romantic history, and this Draco enjoys talking about considerably more.
An hour and a half passes before either of them looks at the clock, but for once, Potter doesn’t seem in a hurry to dash from the room.
A week later, Draco is packing away his desk at 3:45pm, wondering if he can nip into The Copper Pumpkin for a swift pint and still have time to get home and get ready before having to meet Pansy for dinner.
He’s so lost in his thoughts about the first sip of beer he definitely doesn’t have time for, but will definitely have anyway, he doesn’t stop to think when he hears a knock at his office door.
“Come in!” he calls as he locks and wards his drawers.
The door opens, and Draco looks up to see Potter roll into the room. He does a double-take, and even stops to check his diary. Potter definitely doesn’t have an appointment.
“Hi, Malfoy. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine, but— You’re not my patient any more, Potter.”
Potter smiles. “I know. That’s exactly why I’m here.”
Draco feels his face crease in confusion. He lifts his shoulders and holds his hands out, palms up, in silent question.
“I thought I’d give the whole dating-and-getting-to-know-someone a go,” explains Potter, as if that actually explains anything.
“That’s great, Potter, I hope it goes well for you. But why are you here?”
“I’m asking you out, you prat.” Potter accompanies his words with a roll of his eyes.
For several seconds, Draco is taken aback and can’t process Potter’s words. He stumbles for a reply, before finally settling on one. He grins.
“You haven’t asked me out yet, actually.”
“Will you go out with me?”
“When?” Draco asks, feigning a casual disinterest before his genuine delight makes him sound a little too eager. “Where? Who’s paying?”
Potter laughs and his eyes light up. Draco wonders what songs he likes to sing in the shower.
“Yes, I’ll pay. The Copper Pumpkin isn’t far from here. They do amazing curly fries. As for when… well, the only commitment I had on Friday evenings got cancelled… so what about right now?”
Draco smiles. Pansy won’t mind if he cancels on her for a date. Of course, when she finds out the date is Potter, she’s likely to strangle him for details. But it’ll probably be worth it.
“My Friday evenings are conveniently free these days too,” says Draco. “So right now would be perfect.”
Potter turns his wheelchair and leaves Draco’s office like he has done so many times before. This time, Draco follows him.