Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, written purely for fun.

Author's Notes: For Cal on her wondrous fortieth birthday. You would think this is a little bit of a downer for someone's birthday, and I can't say that I understand where this story came from. It started out as a PWP, and became a story about the rehabilitation of Draco Malfoy. Regardless, this story is about life and atonement and friendship in the most unlikely places (sort of like LJ). So many women get depressed at their fortieth birthday and I say to you, Cal, celebrate life. It's fleeting and we don't know what is around the next corner. Kick up your heels. Throw confetti. Have that glass of champagne. Hugs.

They were in Charms, their sixth year, which Draco thought was going to be, hands down, the worst year of his life, except he hadn't foreseen the next year. His sixth year was a fucking picnic compared to the next, a lesson that carved itself on Draco's soul: things can get a lot worse. Ignorance wasn't exactly bliss in this case, but certainly comparative bliss.

He'd taken to sitting in the back of the room so that he could duck out the minute class was over. School had become meaningless on so many levels. The day Quidditch became nothing more than a stupid game was the day Draco knew he'd become an adult. It wasn't a realization associated with pride or possibly lots of Galleons. Or even cigars and the tacit acknowledgment that he could now have a glass of wine with dinner should he desire. No. Overwhelming nausea that lasted for months was more like it. Because the gloves were off. It wasn't about glory or pride. It was about survival.

After he'd broken Potter's nose in the train carriage, he'd more or less forgotten about him. For the first time in five years he really could give a flying fuck what Potter and his little cronies were doing. So it was with some surprise that he found himself staring at the back of Potter's neck. He hadn't had a haircut in quite a while, which Draco knew wasn't a nod to manhood so much as being an unkempt bugger. Potter was hunched over his parchment, his head forward, writing in that scrawl that pretended to be handwriting, and his hair had parted just the littlest bit. And there was a mole. A small mole, just to the side. Just about where his robe met his neck. One lone little mole.

Draco had the most overwhelming desire to kiss that mole. Put his mouth on it and suck gently, tasting and—

He gathered up his things and left the classroom.

"Can't make it next week."

Draco didn't bother to feign dismay; he reached for a packet of Players and lit up two; he handed one to his current fuck. It hadn't taken Draco very long to realize that if you were going to have a bit on the side, it might as well be with someone who shares your passion for smoking. It also hadn't taken him long to realize that if he were going to make picking up blokes in pubs a habit, he should do his trolling in Muggle pubs.

"Have to have this bloody mole on my neck removed. Doctor says it's pre-cancerous."


They didn't run in the same circles. Some of it was a Gryffindor thing, some of it was a Slytherin thing, and some of it was a paroled war criminals didn't consort with Aurors thing. He'd made a point of trying to re-establish himself in the wizarding community by writing lots of checks, plus endowing a chair at a French university for werewolf research. It mollified a number of people, only certifying in his mind that people were idiots if they thought cash mitigated one's stupidity. The Weasley brood, and ipso facto Potter, had seen it for what it was—guilt gold—and still cut him. Oh, they were polite, a nod here, a nod there, but it was stealth politesse. Let's treat him like some poor, very distant relative gone bad. Poor Draco Malfoy. Dear, dear. Trust him? Not on your life. That sort of polite.

But Draco kept writing checks and invitations to various events started trickling in over the years. They'd attend the smaller affairs, mostly for Scorpius' sake, and left the larger dos to Potter and his friends to hold court. Astoria hid her surprise (or had reached the point where she truly didn't care what in the hell he did anymore) that Draco had every intention of attending the War Memorial Ball that year, and that he wanted her to spend a small fortune on her dress robes. He wrote another whopping check for six full scholarships to Hogwarts. The personal "thank you" note from McGonagall was insurance enough that at the very least he'd get a polite reception.

Astoria's silly schoolgirl crush on Draco only lasted a few months post marriage vows. But by that point she was pregnant, and while they might not have anything to say to each other, they had plenty to say to and about Scorpius. By the time Scorpius was born, Draco's indifference was impossible to hide, although he never treated her with anything but the utmost respect. This indifference meant that while he had stomached begetting an heir, getting it up for the "spare" proved bloody impossible. Three months after Scorpius' birth, Draco pulled his first lunchtime fuck at a seedy pub in the Canary Wharf district, getting a blow job from a forty-ish Ministry drone with ink stains on the cuffs of his shirts.

Nevertheless, he and Astoria had fashioned a working marriage. He worked his arse off restoring the family fortunes, and the Greengrass' anti-Voldemort stance during the war meant that doors that would have stayed shut forever, no matter how much money he donated, were not necessarily open, but they weren't necessarily closed either. It helped that they were a photo opportunity waiting to happen. Her petite brunette was a perfect foil to Draco's lean blond, and it was unusual when they didn't cause a few heads to whip around when they entered a room.

Tonight was no different. Astoria knew how to dress and had gotten more mileage out of his grandmother's pearls than the previous two generations. Granted, for many years those earrings and magnificent three-roped extravaganza were the only jewelry left that hadn't been pawned to pay war reparations. No matter. It became her signature look, lemonade out of lemons, or oysters, he supposed. As usual, the photographers from the Prophet were having a field day snapping their picture. Draco had never taken a bad picture in his life. The humiliations of the past two decades might have meant years of sleepless nights, but the insouciance of his posture, the jut of his chin, even now, said to the camera, "Oh yes."

His smile, its usual chilly upturn, was even more practiced tonight because he was desperate to find Potter.

He'd spent every afternoon for the last three weeks at the library of some Muggle teaching hospital, researching cancer and moles. Wizards did not get cancer, so he had a very steep learning curve. But Draco was smart and his gift for Arithmancy meant that the most of the science wasn't too over his head. He was prepared to use a modified Imperius curse to gain access, but it was much easier than it should have been. Apparently, fucking all those Muggles had had an unforeseen benefit. Wearing a pair of jeans and some trainers, a grimy jumper he'd pick up in some Oxfam box, topped by a leather jacket and he could pass. Every now and then he'd take a break for a cuppa in the cafeteria and proposition a doctor or two so that they could examine the moles on his back. Not that he was worried about his moles—they were perfectly normal moles because they were wizard moles—but he wanted to hear what was abnormal, just to confirm what he'd picked up in textbooks and health journals.

Merlin, he hated Potter's Muggle mother.

Armed with a rather extensive layman's knowledge of cancerous moles, Draco scanned the ballroom, searching for—

There he was, by the punch, surrounded by his usual coterie of sycophants. Finnegan hadn't aged well. Not even forty, he had the paunch and fleshy face of an alcoholic. Weasley and that horrible wife of his were laughing at some nonsense Finnegan had been braying. While at Hogwarts that Irish lout always had a stupid joke for the telling; time hadn't changed that. Now he probably had an entire mental encyclopedia of tasteless jokes at his disposal. The she-Potter had a protective hand on Potter's arm. Draco could see why. Potter was already a little tight. Potter always got tanked at these affairs. Draco couldn't blame him. Given what Draco had seen over the course of one year at Chez Voldemort, he couldn't imagine being under that evil bastard's mental thumb for years. There wasn't enough Scotch in the whole of Britain to bleach out those memories. Draco passed in front of Potter on the way to the punch. They did that "nod" thing they had perfected over the years. It wasn't a cut so much as the briefest of acknowledgments.

Draco filled two punch cups for him and Astoria and then spilled the tiniest bit on the floor. He should have gone on the stage. He sent the two cups of punch flying, and even falling flat on his back he did with grace, but not before grabbing hold of Potter's robes and yanking him down with him. Luck was with him: Potter went splat, face first. Draco could only give a fleeting thought to the possibility that he'd broken Potter's nose again, before searching the back of Potter's neck for that—

Weasley's sister had done a marvelous job of cleaning up Potter. Ninety-nine percent of the time he looked fairly well turned out these days. Sometimes his tie would be a little askew, but all in all his hair was cut and his teeth looked like he saw a dentist on a regular basis. The nape of Potter's neck was exposed, no long unkempt thatch in the way.

Draco had seen so many pictures of cancerous moles in the past three weeks that he blinked a couple of times to make sure he wasn't seeing things, extrapolating or exaggerating or just plain hallucinating. Merlin, if only. Because that mole was angry and splotchy, with horrible twisted edges. A poster mole for cancer if he ever saw one.

As luck would have it, Weasley hauled Draco to his feet. Barely containing his fury, Weasley cast a few spells that mopped up the mess and then turned to Draco. Based on the supremely irritated scrunch to Weasley's forehead, he was about to tear strips off of Draco for his clumsiness when he stopped. "Malfoy, you are all right?"

Draco could only shake his head and then ran for the bathroom.

Right. What to do? He lay awake all night, his wand clutched in his hand, as if he could cast a spell that would reach Potter's house a hundred miles away in Ottery St. Catchpole, glide in through the gap in the open window, and scour that damned thing off of his neck. What was wrong with all of those people? His wife? His friends? Just looking at it made his stomach turn over. Didn't his wife kiss the back of his neck? If Draco had been married to Potter, strange thought that, but say they were married. He wouldn't let a day pass without pressing his lips to that spot. Clearly, his wife and friends were negligent pillocks. Of course, he couldn't discount the Potter factor. Stubborn bastard: he probably hadn't seen a Healer in years. He wasn't the whinging sort, Draco had to admit.

He'd write an anonymous note, with information on mole checks. He stopped smoking the second the owl flew out the window.

The next possible social event that he and Potter would cross paths was months away, and that thing was a fucking time bomb. Needs must, he'd manufacture an excuse to see if that ignoramus paid any attention to his note.

"Malfoy? Got your request for a meeting, and must say that, um, rather shocked to tell the truth."

"Well, it doesn't take much to shock you, Potter. Anyone speaking in full sentences already has a leg up. So what do you think of my idea? You're as rich as Croesus, I'm nearly as rich as Croesus, and it would benefit the school. We sponsor the Quidditch Olympics at Hogwarts. We devise tasks that aren't that onerous but fun; ones where the participants don't nearly get killed. That elder Weasley will be heartbroken, but I say we bag the dragons this go around. You and I will pay for it, and the proceeds go to Hogwarts." Potter's eyes narrowed, as if trying to devise what in the hell Draco was really trying to do. "It was Scorpius' idea," Draco lied. "He's rather passionate about Quidditch." At the mention of his son, Potter's face softened.

"He and Al are becoming friends." Potter didn't even bother to hide his incredulity.

"Yes, despite my best efforts, he's turned out to be a rather nice child. Anyway, deal?"

At this point, Draco got up and went to Potter's fake window. Potter tensed and reached for his wand.

"Nice view. Did you magick it yourself?" It was of the lake at Hogwarts in late spring; the rhododendrons were in bloom. "The only time of year that part of Scotland is even remotely habitable. The perfect place to put a school. Chop, chop, Potter. I don't have all day. Yay or nay?"

Potter had turned with him as he strolled toward the window, completely derailing Draco's plans to use the window as a ruse to see the back of his neck. Bugger, he should have requested they meet at the Leaky. Damn officious guard had confiscated his wand and now he couldn't do even the simplest of spells. Like knock Potter's coffee cup on the floor. Well, wizard robes with their trailing sleeves do have their pluses. Bypassing the edge of Potter's desk on his way back to his seat, he nudged over Potter's coffee cup with a determined finger.

He was pleased to learn that everyone, even the Aurors, had to check in their wands. Draco made a pretense of helping to clean up the coffee, all the while angling for a good look at the back of—

Merlin, it was still there. Red and black and just screaming carcinoma.

Draco was so distraught that he barely nodded when Potter said he'd do the charity tournament with him.

His indecision about what to do lasted only a day. Draco never procrastinated. There were certainly times when he'd wished he had second thoughts. Like waiting to pledge allegiance to an evil Dark Lord who put the "M" in megalomania. But he wasn't waiting one more day. Yes, it would be difficult to explain the mole thing. Perhaps he wouldn't have to go into details about how he had become somewhat of an expert on cancerous moles, or even why he noticed that Potter had a mole on the back of his neck. He didn't seem to have a thing for anyone else's moles. Which was a blessing, although the fact that he was obsessing on Potter's mole was disturbing on so many levels. He'd deal with it later.

The next morning he sent Potter another owl. This time he said it was urgent. Please visit him at the Manor that afternoon; they would have tea. Draco assumed that since he was Head Auror, Potter could come and go as he liked. Plus an express invitation from Draco Malfoy would prick Potter's curiosity. Luckily Astoria devoted Thursday afternoons to bridge, and even luckier it was Millicent's turn to host. Given Astoria's passion for bridge, nothing short of the third coming of Voldemort would have caused her to change her plans. He kissed her cheek and heaved a sigh of relief as she Flooed to the Bulstrode's.

Potter was late, but Draco expected that. He had requested Potter arrive at three, but told the house-elves that they wouldn't be sitting down until three thirty. Potter Flooed into the library at 3:26.

"Right on time," Draco drawled. With a snap of his fingers, a full cream tea appeared. "Sit. How do you take your tea?"

"With milk. Two sugars." Potter, wary, not bothering to hide his wand at the ready, stood there not quite sure what to do.

"Weasley waiting in the wings as back-up? Firecall him and tell him we are having Earl Grey, currant scones, fairycakes, and strawberries with cream. The strawberries are from the garden and are especially fine."

Potter stood there, curiosity besting his common sense, as Draco knew it would, then pulled out a cell phone. That must be Granger's work. Made sense for more efficient communication. As his father had been de facto Minister of Magic, as a boy Draco had spent a lot of time at the Ministry. He had a little private smile at what an uphill battle that must have been. Most wizards were firmly rooted in the seventeenth century and planned to stay there.

"Me. Seems okay. Just tea. Yeah, will do." Potter flipped the phone shut and sat down next to Draco, eyed the teapot, eyed Draco, and then must have decided everything was all right because he reached for a fairycake. Potter had quite the sweet tooth.

"Now that we've gotten the unpleasantries out of the way—two sugars, Potter, your dentist must love you—I'm going to say this flat out. I know you'll think I'm a total nutter, but frankly what do I have to lose? You already think I'm an immoral evil scourge on wizarding society. What's one more sobriquet? That mole."

This was going to be harder than he thought. Potter's eyes threatened to dislodge themselves from their sockets.

"What mole?"

"Yours. At the back of your neck."

Potter brought up a hand and gave it a rub.

"Yeah, have had it for years. Been bothering me lately—" and he reached up to rub it again.

"Leave it alone!"

At Draco's screech, Potter dropped his hand.


"You need to have that taken off. Immediately. Healers know bugger all about cancer. You're going to have to go to a Muggle doctor. Have it removed. I've taken the liberty of making you an appointment at Bart's for tomorrow morning. A friend of mine has agreed to see you." That blow job in the resident's lounge had yielded some lucky results. Not that he knew when he was fellating him that this fellow was a dermatologist.

Potter continued to stare at him.

"I have a passing interest in Muggle medicine and happened upon a few medical journals while at the library of Bart's. That mole is definitely pre-cancerous. Hopefully, we've caught it in time."

"Muggle medicine? Pre-cancerous? Malfoy?"

Draco sighed the sigh of sighs.

"Humor me. I'll double my contribution to the Quidditch Olympics thing. Just go with me. PLEASE!"

That sounded like begging, and how did his hands end up clutching Potter's hands? He let go.

"Please," he said in a small voice. When Potter didn't reply, he said, "I'll triple my contribution."

Potter let out a sigh of his own. "You know this is bloody weird."

Draco nodded.

"Can Ron come with us?"

Draco couldn't help but roll his eyes. "Yes. This isn't about me, you git. I'll meet you two at the entrance to Bart's. Your appointment is at 9:30, but let's pretend I'm telling you it's 9:00 so that you'll be on time for once in your bloody life."

"You're a nutter, Malfoy."

"For your sake, let's hope so."

Draco wished that he'd been wrong. When he was wrong, he was always phenomenally wrong. Draco didn't do anything by halves. But he wasn't wrong this time.

No one said a word when Draco used an Imperius curse to force Britain's top Muggle cancer surgeon to take Potter on as a patient, despite the fact he didn't have any medical records since he was ten years old. They carved a hunk out of Potter's neck and began putting him through this horrible medical regimen called chemo. The Healers were helpless. This was a distinctly Muggle health issue in a wizard's body. Granger started drafting legislation for a new Ministry department devoted to Muggle/Wizarding health issues. Potter's wife lost two stones. Weasley began clapping him on the back, which Draco took as a sign that he was now forgiven for maiming his brother. Draco spent an inordinate amount of time brewing anti-nausea potions. Potter lost his hair—huge chunks of it would fall to his pillows—as he lay there waiting for the medicine to seep into his veins; killing him but not. Draco collected it with every visit, the fine black strands tickling the palm of his hand.

He visited Potter on the days Potter had chemo. He hadn't asked for permission and no one had challenged him. The wife would do a couple of hours in the morning, Draco would do lunch, and then Weasley would leave off work early and come for the afternoon. Potter had one more month and then they'd keep charting his numbers. Draco, who spent every spare minute in the library researching cancer, became the liaison between the Potters, the Weasleys, and the medical team at Bart's.

Fall had come early and with it the brisk sort of wind that wound its way up your pant legs. Draco had Transfigured his handkerchief into another blanket and tucked it under Potter's sleeping form. He couldn't complain about the expertise here, but they tended to be stingy with the blankets. Potter was down to his Hogwarts weight, which was beyond skinny. With a discreet wave, Draco cast a strong Warming Charm.

Weasley wasn't due for another twenty minutes, and the nurse had just done her vitals check. Potter lay curled up on his side in a ball—as if to ward off invisible blows. Like he had done at some point during all the previous ten visits, Draco closed the curtains, leaned over, and put his mouth to the scar. The skin around it was red, puckered, and drawn tight. He sucked oh so gently, just enough to taste the salt on Potter's skin and the faint tang of chemicals. "Heal," he ordered in a whisper.

He was back in his chair when Weasley came in, a couple of Quidditch magazines in hand.

Draco put up a finger to his mouth. His other hand was entwined with Potter's. Weasley looked at the two of them holding hands and placed the magazines on the end of the bed. He pulled up a chair next to Draco and reached for Draco's other hand. Weasley's hand was strong and vibrant in his. Draco knew it was silly, pointless, this concept that they were channeling health and life into Potter, but it was no more silly than Draco Malfoy, pure-blood, spending three weeks in a medical library becoming the wizarding world's expert on cancerous moles in Muggles.

Potter woke up. "Hey guys."

Draco gave both hands a squeeze.

The sequel to this story is here: Heart of Glass