Draco Malfoy sat opposite of Hippocrates Smethwyck, the esteemed wizard lounging in a very elaborate, cushioned desk chair as he reviewed the young wizard's academic application. Peering over his glasses at the twenty year old, he noted the man's nervous energy. It was a rarity, as the well known and well documented wizard was often seen in a stoic state.
"Mr. Malfoy," Hippocrates began. "While your academic record is exceptional, I would like you to know that I am hesitant to admit you into my college."
The blond nodded; it wasn't unusual for Draco to be rejected by those who were aware of his past. The wizarding world was fond of picking a group of people to hate, and the Death Eaters that survived the war trials were at the top of the list now. He couldn't be surprised that such an institute would like to reject him access.
"When I worked in the Dai Llewellyn Ward, Mr. Malfoy, I saw many of the awful things that the Death Eaters did to my people, before and after the great war. I'm not so sure it would be acceptable to allow a former follower of the Dark Lord to study such a sacred practice as healing."
St. Mungo's Magical Medical College for Esteemed Healers, located under the famous London hospital, was an esteemed post secondary institution. At first, all Draco knew was that it was winding to say the name of it, but with research he developed a desire to study there. Draco had read that Smethwyck had only been the college's headmaster for a couple of years, but he knew of the healer's earlier work.
"I understand your concern, sir. I'm sure you don't want the good name of St. Mungo's tarnished by my history." Draco was tired already, this same speech exhausted to many other wizards around England. "I wish only to help those that I may have caused pain to during my time as a Death Eater."
However, the statement was true, no matter how many times Draco had to repeat it. He did not enjoy the scrutiny he was put under day to day, but understood it. Though many of Potter's golden heroes had testified for him in court and helped him toward a clean record, the majority of the wizarding population could not look past his mark.
"I'm sure you've heard what people are saying these days," Hippocrates smirked. "That those who fell in line with the Dark Lord have got bad blood." The wizard laughed, pushing his glasses up.
"It's been brought up in conversations, yes," Draco answered. "I have done all I can to rebuild my life since the war's end. I have donated family money to the reconstruction of our world and am truly remorseful for my actions." Draco paused, thinking of his father in Azkaban and his lonely mother. Narcissa barely left the Manor, only for events she thought would better her reputation. "I would be grateful for the opportunity to outshine my previous deeds. It seems that healing is something I feel I would excell in."
His mark started to itch, the familiar phantom pain of its creator still there. Draco fought the urge to fiddle with his shirtsleeve and waited for the wizard to respond.
"I see," is all Smethwyck says before dismissing him.
Draco left the meeting with no hope that he'll be admitted, but an owl finds him two weeks later with a letter of acceptance, bad blood and all. Narcissa throws a grand party for him, inviting all that she can. She makes some excuse to donate to charity in his name. A way to better our family, she says, a broken record.
His mother mentions offhand at dinner the night before that the Golden Trio will be in attendance, and he holds back a grimace when she tells him that Miss Hermione Granger will be one of his classmates. It's a dreadful thought, the bushy know it all in close proximity for the next four years of his life.
Draco did indeed end up reading the special written on her that detailed her acceptance and career goals. She wanted to work at Hogwarts, focusing on the protection of the students' mental health, as there were many that were traumatized by the events of the war but never got the attention they needed. Those that were first years in his frightening seventh year would be gone by the time that she'd get there, but it was an admirable career.
Draco was unsure where he wanted to take his studies, but there was a definite interest in a career abroad. It was true that the wizarding world outside of England knew about the Dark Lord's terror, but he would be in less danger of being identified every second of every day.
It was a large college and Draco doubted the two would see each other often after their first year. He'd been on a tour the day of his meeting with Smethwyck and noted the archaic way it had looked. It wasn't older than Hogwarts, but the dates were close. The classrooms were large amphitheatres, with few small specialized rooms.
They had medical tables and cabinets, as expected, but as most of his world looked, it was outdated and in need of refurbishing. Draco wondered if everything was handed down from the hospital upstairs.
Draco purchased a private dormitory, not wanting the hassle of flooing back and forth from the Manor or dealing with a flat in busy London. Not living with his mother was ideal. He loved the woman dearly but she coddled him too much these days. He'd still have tea with her every Sunday, as was expected of a good son, but the lack of her would be refreshing.
He moved in the week before classes began, his small dormitory somewhat suffocating. Draco had no doubt that he'd get used to it as the year moved on, but the haughty stairs from his floormates didn't help to calm his nerves. He kept his mark covered at all times and his head down. He didn't want unneeded attention, but it was there nonetheless.
The first month of classes passed without incident; he had everything he needed and kept up with his studies. Unlike Hogwarts, he didn't have his two friends by his side every hour to keep him entertained. Instead, he spent most of his time in his dorm or in the extensive medical library attached to the college. It was above ground, however, and one had to traverse through many tunnels to reach it.
This factor lead to the dead silence that accompanied its stacks most often, Draco using the same table for his work each day. He caught glimpses of Granger every now and then, the library most likely her haven, but they never spoke.
On nights he couldn't sleep he'd go for walks in the hospital gardens, keeping his distance from patients that were out stretching their legs, nurses beside them. He recognized a few from the war but didn't focus too hard on them.
It hurt to think of what he'd done (despite how little it actually was). His mark itched at the sight of the war's victims.
Some nights he'd owl his mother back or send small letters to Ollivander, who he'd become surprisingly close with after the war.
After Potter had taken his wand at the Manor, it was sent back to Draco by owl. He soon found out that it no longer worked for him, and for months he'd go to Ollivander's, asking the old man what could be wrong. Every new wand refused to work for him and Ollivander had been deeply perplexed, helping Draco research what could have gone wrong when his wand was taken.
Discovering the switch in his wand hand had been an accident, one slow afternoon changing Draco's life. He'd been putting away hopeful wands that had all failed to choose him as a pair of children ran through the adjacent aisle, bumping the shelf forcefully. An avalanche of wands soon followed, crashing down onto Draco's back. He'd scooped up the wands that would need to be resorted into their boxes, and his left hand had grasped one.
It immediately caused unbearable pain in his arm, but he could not let go of the wand. For hours his body spurted magic that had been kept dormant inside the wizard since the end of the war. He'd almost wept that day, Draco's fear that he'd lost his magic extinguished.
It turned out to be an aspen wand with a core of coral, thirteen inches, from Mykew Gregorovitch's shop; the other wandmaker had left his stock to Ollivander in his will. Draco paid Ollivander four times the price of the wand and left the shop feeling renewed. He returned to Hogwarts and promptly finished his seventh year, after which he became Ollivander's assistant for a number of months.
Despite the events that had occurred at the Manor, where the old man had been locked in the Malfoys' cellar, Ollivander was very kind to Draco. Draco in turn helped him with the shop, as the older wizard was very fragile. Ollivander often sent him letters detailing the incompetency of his new assistants, which made Draco chuckle some days.
One evening, while walking through the gardens, Draco found himself spelling flowers open. He often did this to examine the plants, knowing that some of them were grown specifically for the hospital's potion stock. On his last flower, footsteps caught his attention.
"They don't grow properly if you open them at night, you know," a feminine voice told him, Hermione Granger coming to stand where he knelt. Peering up, he took in the sight of the frizzy witch. She had her hair up in a bun and a thick sweater with the letter H emblazoned on the front. A Molly Weasley special, no doubt. Despite the night's chill, she wore a pair of jean shorts. "You always were rubbish at herbology, Malfoy."
"Thank you for reminding me," he sighed, standing. "I seem to recall you almost failing the exam, Granger." She rolled her eyes at the comment, but there wasn't any malice in her gaze. He closed the flower, tucking his wand into its holster on his left arm. "I've been studying them. They've been giving them awful fertilizer lately and the anthers aren't pollinating properly. I've sent many notes to the head of the department."
The witch smirked and Draco noticed how different she looked in person. He'd seen her at various events and in the halls, but never up close, except for in pictures. They'd completed their seventh year at different intervals, but she'd been at the graduation ceremony, as McGonagall had wanted their generation to come together. The great feast had been in June, a year ago. Granger, naturally, had been valedictorian and Draco had intoxicatingly sat through her twenty minute speech about blood equality.
"The departments here are godawful. I know for a fact none of them have read any of my suggestions," she shared, frowning. Her eyes flicked briefly to his holster which concealed his mark.
Draco challenged her with a look, daring her to say something about his past. It wouldn't surprise him, honestly, with his bad blood.
"You shouldn't have to keep that covered," she said softly. The comment caught him off guard, but he didn't let her know that.
"Personal choice, Granger." It was odd, talking calmly with her after all the years of violent debates and slurs. "I'd rather nobody see it than to have them skin it off me." He laughed bitterly and she tucked a strand of hair away from her face, avoiding his eyes. He noticed her own arm was covered, a bandage where her famous scar should be. "You're one to talk," he told her, nodding toward it.
Lips pursed, she crossed her arms.
"It's a cursed wound, Malfoy, and happens to still be bleeding." Granger sounded annoyed and he chastised himself internally.
Draco knew well enough that his aunt's knife had been cursed when she'd dug it into Granger's arm, the memory of her screams imprinted in his psyche. The holster comment had spurred the inappropriate jibe and he regretted it immediately, knowing hers hadn't been ill mannered.
"I'm sorry," he responded softly.
Granger seemed perplexed by the apology, but thanked him. They were silent for a couple moments before Draco laughed suddenly.
"Anyway, you should go. Shouldn't be seen with me," Draco said.
"Oh because they all say I've got bad blood. Haven't you heard?" It was almost a joke, but Draco could tell that she didn't find it quite as funny as he did, stalking past him with a glare.
"We all do these days, Malfoy. It just depends who's pointing the fingers."
At the beginning of second term, Draco's put into a partnership with Granger. They're studying several types of magical healing rocks, as Draco calls them.
Geodes, Malfoy, geodes, Hermione admonishes more than once throughout the course of their research. She works fast and takes amazing notes, perfect penmanship and all, while he links relevant information to the specific illnesses they are combatting.
Their oral presentation, accompanied by slides and a sample of each geode (Draco went to every bazaar in England, he swears), goes quite smoothly, with only one tangent provided by Granger. Draco coins it a success and they get an O on everything. He drinks the weekend away while she no doubt continues researching magical healing rocks.
At Sunday tea he tells his mother all about it, the blonde witch smiling at every mention of girl-wonder.
Narcissa developed a strange connection to the trio after saving Potter's life. Considering all the charity banquets she held in their honour, the three were very grateful for the Malfoy matriarch. Potter spoke fondly of her in any interview that focused on the battle of Hogwarts. Granger came to every single one of Narcissa's non-trio focused events.
Weasley, after the death of his brother, stepped in Fred's place to help George develop several new divisions of Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Draco's mother invested a large share in its development and therefore got many kind gifts from the two businessmen. They were all surprisingly devoid of crude jokes, something Draco could not say for himself. His house elves often met the brunt end of stink bombs or coloured powders after opening his packages.
His personal elf, Higgles, had unfortunately been a number of colours the past two years. Draco was very kind, however, and never made any comment about it.
Narcissa asked him a number of questions about their assignment and its particulars, asking him to show her the geodes sometime. She'd seen them made into jewelry, but never seen a raw one up close. He agreed, after a slew of queries about his partner.
As tea ended, Narcissa called for Draco's elf, standing to admire the lavender she had recently planted in her flower strewn sun porch.
"Mistress!" Hig's small elf voice sounded her arrival as she popped to Narcissa's side immediately.
"Please pack up any remaining sweets and send them to Miss Hermione Granger on our behalf. Add a bottle of cabernet sauvignon as well." She thanked the elf, dismissing her. Draco rolled his eyes at his mother's actions but let her do so without protest. He'd tell Granger it was all his mother's idea, as she would most likely mention it the next time they saw each other.
Narcissa turned back to her son, offering a dazzling smile.
"Draco, dear, kindly invite Miss Granger over for tea when you see her."
"Mother," he began, but Narcissa's delicate hand stopped him.
"Draco," she said heavily. "This Manor caused Miss Granger too much grief during the war. I would like to show her that it is no longer the place of horrors that it once was. Something slightly more personal than a grand ball would be appropriate, don't you think?"
He knew it caused his mother pain to talk about Granger's torture. On the day of his father's trial, Narcissa burned the drawing room, magically sealing it off. Draco had done something similar to his father's old dining room. Eventually he had someone remodel it, but nothing original remained. Too many things had taken place in that room, on that table. He couldn't look at the head chair without seeing Lord Voldemort.
He'd burn the whole Manor if he could, but it wasn't his yet. His father was still alive in Azkaban, and until he died there, Draco couldn't do anything too substantial to his home.
"Of course, mother," he replied after some thought. "I will talk to Granger this week."
Granger took all the same classes as Draco and he saw her frequently, but since the completion of their assignment they were no longer required to associate with one another. Granger returned to sitting in her regular spot in every class. He didn't mind it, but it gave him less opportunities to talk to her about his mother's request.
He knew that by the end of the year each student had to declare their area of specialty (Draco had yet to pinpoint any), making it likely that he would see her less and less. If she chose to study abroad for a semester, he wouldn't see her for almost a year.
Draco had no desire to work at Mungo's, knowing too many people that came through the hospital. He was vastly more interested in international work. St. Mungo's was definitely the largest hospital in the wizarding world but their were many others around the world. If he chose a specific path he could most likely find a hospital somewhere that specialized in it.
He was currently in Medicinal Potions and Salves, listening to his professor prattle on. They were in a lecture hall three days out of the week doing theory, and then spent the other two in labs practicing. Draco had an hour long break after this class, and deemed that today would be an appropriate time to approach Granger.
At the end of the class, he looked down to see that she was taking her time packing up, and so he waited near the door. Draco imagined the exchange would be awkward for the both of them, but he didn't fancy lying to his mother. He'd like it much more if Granger declined on her own, rather than him making up a story this upcoming Sunday.
A number of students that milled past him sent Draco strange looks, but he gave them no mind. Eventually the witch made her way toward him and he sighed in preparation for a casual conversation with girl wonder. Catching her attention, he led her out of the classroom to a semi-secluded spot in the hall.
"Malfoy?" She asked, struggling to keep her book bag on her shoulder. "Is this about our assignment grade? I asked the Professor O'Meara what the percentage was and she gave us a 97."
"No, not at all," he began. "That's wonderful. Actually, I have something to ask you on behalf of my mother."
"Oh. She didn't mention anything in her note." She blushed slightly. "The gift was lovely, by the way, but I don't understand why she sent it." Granger paused to laugh at herself. "I don't even know what to drink the wine with.
"Fatty red meats, it's delicious. That's not what I needed to talk to about, though. Mother thought it improper to simply ask you by owl," Draco started, but he was promptly interrupted by a loud voice.
"Hermione? Everything alright?" A tall male student came up beside the pair, scowling at Draco. "What are you doing with him?"
Hermione looked slightly irritated and patted the other student's arm.
"I'm fine, Thomas. We're just talking." Thomas didn't look very convinced, and Hermione pushed him playfully. "I'll catch up with you in Herbs, I promise." Thankfully, he caught the dismissal and turned away, but Draco watched him turn back a couple of times. "Apologies. Thomas Collins, a friend. Tends to think I need a bodyguard. Actually, that's pretty much everyone, but that's not the point. What did you need to ask me?"
"Err, mother wanted to know if you'd join us for tea on Sunday. It's thanks for being an excellent partner this term." Granger looked momentarily stunned, but she caught herself as Draco continued. "She's a bit over the top, I know, but she's fond of you."
Hermione smiled briefly at the comment, fiddling with her hair.
"Well, thank you, Malfoy," she said nervously. "I, uh, accept?"
Biting the inside of his cheek, Draco wondered how he could get out of this Sunday's tea. He didn't hate Granger by any means, but he surely didn't want to spend a whole afternoon with her and his mother around the Manor.
"Wonderful," he replied tightly.
"Wow," she said, coming up behind him in the gardens the week after tea. "That was the strangest experience of my life. And I've been your aunt."
"Good evening to you as well, Granger," he bit out, straightening up on the bench he'd been peacefully occupying. She sat opposite him, folding her legs under herself. "Should I assume you are referring to tea with my mother?"
She rolled her eyes at him, resting her chin on a fist.
"What do you mean you've been my aunt?" Draco asked after a moment.
"Polyjuice. Long story, not important," she dismissed his question. She muttered a lumos charm, lighting the lamp behind them, letting Draco see her face clearly. "Yes, I was talking about your mother. Lovely lady, as you know, but a lot. Obviously her public personality is different from her private, but I didn't think she would be so, so much."
"Trust me Granger, you should see how she acts around Pansy. Dreadful. I can barely get a word in some days." Draco sneered. "At least she wasn't telling stories about you in your nappies. Merlin, I hadn't even heard some of them before."
Granger both paled and burst into laughter all in one minute, much to the annoyance of Draco.
"I especially enjoyed the one about your house elf rescuing you from her roses," Granger said, still chuckling.
"Yes I suppose you would."
It was painful, to say the least. Narcissa spent the entire time embarrassing her son, regaling Granger with tales of Draco's childhood mischief, all the while asking questions about her studies.
Despite his chagrin, he did learn some interesting things about her, like what she was planning to write her senior thesis about. The paper wouldn't be written for a couple more years, and while it was a sensitive subject for Granger, it was still quite an intriguing one.
There were no visible effects of the Cruciatus curse on Granger, but he'd spent enough time around her to know that she had been changed by her torture. When she'd raise her hand in lecture halls, he notice the peculiar shake of arm or how under pressure she exhibited several nervous ticks. Before their oral presentation he thought she was about to have an anxiety attack.
When their party had passed the door that previously guarded the drawing room, Draco saw Granger tense up, her breathing becoming uneven. Narcissa led her swiftly past it, though, and the witch returned to normal.
He knew what the Cruciatus could do to people, the story of Neville Longbottom's parents not one to be forgotten. Several of the students were submitted to it when the Carrow's reigned over Hogwarts; Draco suspected that must have been why Hermione was so interested in the students' minds at Hogwarts.
"It wasn't that bad," Granger said to him. "I'm sure it made your mother happy."
"It definitely did. She probably wants to send you more wine,"
"Merlin, I haven't even opened the first one. I'm too afraid to waist such a nice bottle." She laughed at herself for a moment. Growing silent, she eyed Draco hesitantly. "Would you like to split it sometime?"
"Oh, Granger, I'm sure one of your many suitors would be so charmed to hear those words," Draco teased. She gave him a sour look, crossing her arms with a huff. "Can't help that you're popular, Granger. Whatever happened to you and Weasley, anyway?"
"Tried it; too weird," she explained simply. "Ron's like a brother, same as Harry."
"Of course," Draco replied.
It was strange, the friendship the two of them developed in the last month of the year. They spent nearly every evening silently studying together in the library, Draco's table no longer his solitary post. Hermione brought snacks with her often, Draco joking that it was the only reason she was allowed near him. He usually got a biscuit thrown at him after comments like that.
They weren't paired together again after their presentation, so there were times when either would be absent from their nightly meetings, but it didn't bother either of them much. Hermione knew the library's inner workings better than her own name and helped in many last minute situations, which she would chastised him for.
She found out quickly that Draco made excellent Pepper-Up, which pushed the both of them through many a paper. In their last week of classes the two were either in class, asleep, or at the library all night. Hermione conjured ice more than once for her aching wrist (Draco made a couple lewd jokes that got him banned from her biscuits) and more than once had to scourgify knocked over ink bottles.
The librarian chuckled softly every time he saw the two of them enter.
One of Hermione's classes ended a few days early, leaving her free to join him in the hour he had open after Medicinal Potions and Salves for the rest of the week. She planned to quiz him while they ate, and Draco kissed his academic free lunch goodbye.
That said Wednesday, they were making their way to the college's dining hall, pushing past hurried students in the cramped halls when Thomas Collins approached the pair. Collins was much taller than Draco, and he gave the blond a looming glare. Several students jostled them, annoyed at the others for taking up the middle of the corridor.
"Hermione," he began, putting a hand on her arm, as she had a month ago. "Can I talk to you for a second? Uh, privately?"
"Draco and I were just on our way to eat, Thomas. You could walk with us and talk with me," she told him, flicking her gaze between the two males. "I don't think the hallway is the best place for a chat, though, so we should move."
"I was hoping to talk to you alone, please. It's about him." Collins sent another death glance toward Draco, who sighed heavily. He imagined the rest of the conversation would go by very painfully.
"Draco?" Hermione asked nervously. "What about him?"
"Hermione, I don't think you should be hanging out with Malfoy. At all."
She laughed, thinking it was a joke, but quickly noticed how serious her friend actually was.
"Why would you say that? We've spent time together all year." Hermione looked around her, noticing that some students were starting to stare at them. "Draco's perfectly safe.'
"You shouldn't lower yourself like this, Hermione," Collins began.
"Excuse me?" Was Hermione's curt interruption.
"Well, you know. He's a Death Eater. Just because he keeps his dark mark covered doesn't mean anything." Collins tried to pull Hermione aside but she shook his hand off forcefully, stepping in front of Draco partially.
Draco smartly kept quiet, letting Hermione deal with her imbecile.
"The Death Eaters, they've got bad blood, they're all evil. You of all people should know that, Hermione." Everybody around them was quiet all of a sudden, and Draco barely had time to react as Hermione pushed her books into his arms, promptly punching Collins in the face.
"Please, Thomas, say it one more time, I dare you," she seethed, shaking the pain out of her hand. "I of all people? The Mudblood? I know what it's like when asshole bigots like you focus on blood instead of character."
"Hermione, please," Draco tried to pull her away. She was standing over Collins, who was sitting on his ass, clutching his bleeding nose.
"No, Draco. This is ridiculous." She continued, her voice raised. "What do you think we should do, Thomas? Shun all the Death Eaters who are trying to move on and make better lives for themselves? Hunt them all down, take away everything from them? Kill them? Does that sound fucking familiar?"
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Collins cried, scooting away from the enraged witch.
Hermione turned away from him, taking her books back. She grabbed one of Draco's hands and dragged him away, students moving out of their way.
"Hermione," Draco hissed. "Where are we going?"
"I have a bottle of wine that needs drinking."
END PART ONE