Disclaimer: All characters belong to JKR.
"She was provoked! Karma would never do anything like that normally…"
"And how did I provoke the beast? By walking past it?"
Hermione Granger slowly closed and reopened her eyes as she listened to the man, Mr. Burberry, and the woman, Mrs. Gifford, argue. On the inside, she felt like yelling at the two people that this wasn't even her job, really, and that she had more important things to do. Outwardly, though, she was gracious and polite.
"Please, Mr. Burberry, Mrs. Gifford. I can see each of your sides clearly. What we need to do now is figure out what is going to happen with Karma."
The two stopped arguing and looked at Hermione, both of their faces portraying that they each thought she was on their side. "These pictures are rather … well, rather horrific, to say the least," she continued, with a quick and involuntary glance at the pictures of his mangled hand Mr. Burberry had provided her. "But if the creature was provoked, there is certainly no need to 'put it down,' as you say." Mr. Burberry opened his mouth to protest, but Hermione silenced him with a raised hand. "There is no way for me to know what truly happened, except for the illegal use of veritaserum. That being the case, the only resolution I can think of is to visit the animal in question."
Hermione was trying to remain professional, but she really didn't know if her resolution was a reasonable one. Her normal job was that of a creature's right's advisor – and she would normally work with part-human creatures, centaurs, merfolk and the like. Today, however, her partner, Lloyd Howell, was out sick, and she had had to take over his appointment with the angry people before her. Lloyd was usually in charge of injuries caused by animals, but not today.
She was drawing off of her past experience of animal injuries, the only experience being when she had witnessed Draco Malfoy provoking and being injured by Buckbeak the hippogriff. She vaguely remembered that, in that situation, there had been a trial and investigations into whether or not Buckbeak had been provoked. She couldn't hold a full trial, and she very much thought that Mr. Burberry had provoked the creature, as the animal in question was a mere Crup – very similar to a muggle dog, and not generally hostile. So she decided to go see the animal, to at least show to Mr. Burberry that she was investigating his side of things.
"Very well, I'll take you to her," Mrs. Gifford said.
Soon after that, they had all apparated in front of the residence of the crup in question. Mrs. Gifford went inside to get her.
"Ms. Granger, I know you are trying to be fair, but you must understand, that animal is a monster, and I did nothing more than walk in front of this house to provoke its attack."
"Mr. Burberry, I know your claims and I know Mrs. Gifford's. I will have to figure this out for myself. I know your injuries were rather … severe, but they are healed now, and I will not have an animal unfairly put down."
Mr. Burberry didn't respond, merely tightened his lips as though he thought it better to keep his thoughts to himself. Hermione was busy being grateful for this when she felt sharp teeth penetrate her calf. She screamed out in pain and dropped to the ground.
"Karma, Karma no!" Hermione heard Mrs. Gifford yelling.
"I told you! She's a monster!" Mr. Burberry was yelling.
Karma was still attacking Hermione's lower leg. The pain was immeasurable. She yanked out her wand and shouted, "Impedimenta!" The crup was blasted away from her leg, yipping.
Hermione felt light headed from all of the pain she was experiencing, but she still managed to recall a spell that encased the animal in a sphere-like cage suspended above the ground – in fact, she had seen Voldemort use this trick on his snake, Nagini, and had found it useful from time to time. "Mr. Burberry, I'll trust you to take this animal to the ministry – tell them wh- what happened… And the crup will be kept until my partner's return to work."
"Ms. Granger, are you…"
But before Mr. Burberry could finish his sentence, Hermione had apparated to St. Mungo's.
Hermione arrived at St. Mungo's piled in a heap on the ground. Her sudden appearance in the middle of the waiting room caused a shocked silence to ripple through the room, and then –
"This woman needs help!"
An assistant quickly ran towards Hermione and examined her bloodied and torn leg. Being unable to treat it himself, he used his wand to levitate her. "Out of my way!" he yelled, and with his wand pointed at Hermione, he ran down the hallways of St. Mungos, finally arriving in an empty room. He lowered Hermione's limp body onto a free bed.
Hermione was only vaguely aware of what was happening – her vision was going blurry, and she could feel that she was close to unconsciousness. When she heard the assistant call for a Malfoy, she thought she must be dreaming.
Draco Malfoy's shocked face was the last thing she saw before blacking out.
"Granger. Wake up, Granger."
Hermione recognized the voice, but was reluctant to open her eyes and confirm the recognition. She felt a hand on her shoulder shaking her.
Slowly, hesitantly, she opened her eyes, praying silently that the person shaking her awake wasn't the person she thought it was.
But it was.
Draco Malfoy, clad in green healer's robes, was standing beside her hospital bed.
She quickly closed her eyes.
"I saw that, Granger. I know you're awake."
She opened her eyes again, just as slowly as the first time.
"I am obligated as a healer to ask you how you're feeling."
Hermione had been prepared to be at the very least civil to Malfoy, but upon hearing his snarky tone, all of her previous hatred for him surfaced. "And I have the right as a patient to request a different healer. And I do."
"It's a little late now. I've already healed you."
Hermione had almost forgotten why she had come to St. Mungo's, but the memory of the crup attacking her rushed back into her mind now. She lifted her blankets and glanced down at her previously mangled leg. It was now as smooth and flawless as it had been before she'd been attacked. She glanced from her leg to Malfoy repeatedly.
"Well, uh, thanks," she said awkwardly.
"I don't even want to know what you had to do to provoke a crup to attack you like that."
Hermione's first thought was to wonder how Malfoy had known the injury was caused by a crup. Her second thought was to insult Malfoy mercilessly.
"How did you become a healer? I thought they had to be smart."
"They do have to be smart." He replied. He looked extremely agitated, but Hermione figured he didn't want to do anything too bad inside his place of work. "Anyway, you're fine, but by regulations you've got to stay the night. Crups can have diseases, and one may surface in your leg. I will be attending to you, so it would be most helpful if you would try not to get attacked by any other docile and gentle creatures. I don't want to have to heal you again."
"In the future, Malfoy," Hermione said savagely, "Don't. I'd rather die than be healed by you."
"I considered that option."
Hermione wanted to leap out of her bed and slap him, but she contained herself. "I would like a different healer, please."
"No, I think I like this arrangement," Malfoy said, and strolled to the door. "I'll be back in an hour to check on you."
"I can hardly wait."
"So who is that?" Simon Baker asked Draco as they walked to the hospital cafeteria together. "I mean, I heard you two going at it – you seem to really hate each other."
"We did – do. We're old school enemies."
"Ah. She was Potter's friend?" Draco nodded absentmindedly. "I don't remember her looking that good in the pictures the Prophet put up a couple years ago."
Draco didn't say anything. He was unwilling to admit it, but he had just been thinking along those lines – that indeed, Granger did look better than she had in their school years. Six years had passed, and those years had been kind to her. She had found some way to tame her hair, she had a nice figure, and her face wasn't exactly hard to look at. She wasn't beautiful, but she was far from ugly.
"You know, you really should get over your old school grudges," Simon said. "Especially with someone as pretty as her."
Draco didn't know why, but the idea didn't instantly cause him nausea.
Hermione sat in her bed, fuming. The talk with Malfoy had been extremely angering. He was still the same arrogant little prat he had been in school. She couldn't believe she had ever thought he would change after the war ended.
She remembered one conversation in particular that she had had with Harry and Ron – her arguing that Malfoy would be different now that Voldemort was dead, that he would feel remorse for all of the things he had done to them, that he was influenced by his father and would eventually apologize. Harry and Ron felt differently. They argued that Malfoy had been an asshole on his own, and that he felt no sorrow whatsoever for his school life. Hermione had been so sure that she was right, and it pained her to admit to herself that she hadn't been. She had been ready and willing to accept an apology from Malfoy and had fully expected it to come eventually. After their argument in her hospital room, she was certain he would never be sorry.
She decided that if she had to stay in the hospital overnight, she definitely would not be doing it with Malfoy "watching over" her. Standing up slowly in case her leg showed any after effects of being torn apart, she strode out of her room and went off to the customer service area. When she got there, she asked to speak to the head of the hospital.
"I'll send him to your room, madam, if you'll return there. What was your name?"
"Ms. Granger, he'll be up shortly."
Hermione had barely made it back to her room when a tall, white haired man walked in after her. For a startling moment she thought the man was Lucius Malfoy, and her heart skipped a beat, but it recovered when she saw that it wasn't.
"I am Herbert Astley, head of St. Mungos. You wanted to see me?"
Hermione sat down on the edge of her bed. "Yes, I did. I wanted to request a different healer."
"You could have simply told that to the one currently attending you."
"Well, I did. But it – didn't go over well. We're old rivals."
"I see. And who is your current healer?"
"Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."
There was a long pause. Astley scratched his chin. "Hmmm. Miss Granger, I know you don't want to hear this, but I recommend that you do not switch healers."
"What? Why? We hate each other."
"Be that as it may, Draco is the best healer we have on this staff. He is the best person to look after you, especially considering the high possibility of infections or diseases your case has shown…" The man was looking in a folder as he said this. Hermione assumed it was hers.
"What? High possibility? What do you…"
"You have been attacked by a crup, Miss Granger, and as I assume you know, they are not usually hostile. It is very likely that the crup that attacked you was infected with some sort of disease, and though no symptoms have yet been seen, it is the most possible explanation for the crup's behavior. It could be either a wizarding or muggle disease, and I assure you that Mr. Malfoy is the best learned in both types. He would notice any symptoms of diseases you had in an instant. I believe he is the best choice for you."
"Yes, but the thing is, even if he notices a symptom, that doesn't mean he'll treat it."
"If he values his job, which I am sure that he does, he will. You are, of course, welcome to switch healers, I am just giving you my thoughts."
Hermione did not want to have Malfoy as her healer, especially if he would have to consistently check up on her, but she was also very reluctant to downgrade to a less experienced and qualified healer. If it was true that Malfoy was the best, then she could hardly reason to herself that it was smart to give him the boot…
"Well, I suppose if he's the best."
"But I reserve the right to switch at any time!"
Hermione felt the need to argue with the man, but could think of nothing to say. "Well.. Fine."
"Get well soon, Miss Granger," Herbert said, and walked out.
"Mr. Malfoy, old enemy or not, I will not have you treating the patients of this institution badly. If there is ever any cause for a complaint, you have done something wrong."
Draco stayed silent. He hadn't thought that Granger would report him.
"She requested a different healer. I told her you were the best, and she seemed to change her mind. Give her reason to change it again, and she is the last patient you will have for a long time."
"Yes, Mr. Astley."
"You will treat her like you would any other patient. No one has ever complained about you before and she should have no reason to do so from here on. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Mr. Astley."
"And should I find out that you ignored a symptom, or mistreated her in any way…"
"Do you really think I'd risk my job like that?"
"No. And I'm glad you realize that to do so would risk your job."
"She provokes me, you know."
"She can say whatever she likes. She is not employed by me. I expect better of you, Draco."
Draco suppressed a sigh with great difficulty. "I understand, sir."
"Now go. I believe you have a patient to attend to."
Draco left the office in a horrible mood. How did Herbert expect him to be nice to Granger when she had just tattled on him and risked his job? He was furious, and yet he was expected to act polite and gentle to the woman he hated most in the world. He had a brief flashback to Professor McGonagall: "Being a healer won't be easy, Mr. Malfoy."
"I never expected it to be this hard," he muttered to himself before opening Hermione's door.