Thank you again for all the reviews!
This is the last chapter of A Reckless Frame of Mind. There will indeed be a sequel that continues the story, to be called A Determined Frame of Mind, which will probably be up within a week's time. That story will be longer than this one and have a much different plot, as Harry and Draco attempt to discover who cast the Cassandra Curse.
For now, enjoy Chapter 13!
Harry nearly fled when he recognized the sensation of traveling by Portkey, but the swirl of colors died out of sight at once, and he realized that he stood in some sort of wide, airy room, very different from anything at St. Mungo's. Calming his wild, yammering thoughts that said Draco had betrayed him, he stared in several directions.
It must be Malfoy Manor, but somehow Harry had never envisioned Malfoy Manor containing any rooms like this. There was a fireplace and a long table in the middle, essential components for conducting wizard business, but the walls were done in a pale blue calmer than any color the hospital used to soothe its patients. It was on the edge of the color of the sea, if Harry looked at it right. The windows took up the eastern and western walls of the room, arched panes that made Harry think of being in the middle of a greenhouse, and gazed on a grassy parkland with scattered trees and flowing water in the distance. The view made Harry's breathing and heartbeat slow even further.
A pair of dark wooden doors stood open at either end of the room, but at the moment, Harry didn't feel much like exploring. He collapsed into a comfortable chair near the cold fireplace and drank in the sight of the sun.
Draco knew the Aurors were frustrated with him. It was no large clue that told him so, only the sight of set faces becoming more and more set, fingers hovering on the edge of an impatient drumming rhythm, teeth grinding softly, as if that would make him less likely to notice the grinding.
Draco folded his hands one on top of each other in the small room where they'd brought him—one usually occupied by a senior Healer counseling family members on bearing their grief—and smiled.
The tallest Auror, who had blond hair and had interrogated him fruitlessly so far, cursed abruptly and turned away. "Lila, you take over," he snapped at the small woman who had accompanied him.
Lila, who had dark hair from which a red highlight now and then sparked, slid into the chair across from Draco. She had dark eyes which reflected no more emotion than a turtle's, and Draco knew from the calm smile she gave him that she was dangerous. He didn't flinch or betray any sign of discomfort. After all, he was dangerous, too, and considerably more so than a woman who had consented to serve at the Ministry, bastion of deception and corruption.
He kept his shoulders straight, his face attentive. Lila might work for Harry's enemy, or be a means of getting information back to him, even if she didn't know it. For Harry's sake, his performance had to be perfect.
"Mr. Malfoy," she began.
"Psyche-Diver," Draco corrected her politely. He would insist on his proper title, and if they thought him fussy and over-formal for doing so, well, that didn't matter. One's foes carrying away false assumptions about one was always a plus.
"Psyche-Diver Malfoy." Lila didn't show her anger as her partner would have. Her smile was tranquil and didn't bare her teeth. "You claim that Mr. Potter had just come to you when he panicked and Apparated?"
Draco nodded. "I'd told him a nonsense story about believing what he said, even though he's spent the past year and his entire stay in St. Mungo's lying. He claimed to trust me. He even embraced me. And then, just as I thought that I'd managed to secure him and I could signal the others to move in, he vanished."
"You do know that wandless Apparition is considered impossible?" Lila's expression did not vary as she spoke the words, did not show a trace of condescension or fury.
"Don't tell me that Harry Potter can't do the impossible when he wants." Draco gave his head a little shake as he held her eyes. "You didn't see the way he tore through the hospital's strongest wards just a few minutes earlier."
"We felt the traces of magic. I think that I know what Mr. Potter can do, yes." Lila leaned forwards to stare at his face, and still didn't turn a hair. "And now his wand is gone."
Draco grimaced. "Yes. I can only think that, when he realized he could Apparate inside St. Mungo's and that we were all staring like idiots at the place he'd been, he went downstairs, took his wand from the cage, and disappeared again to—who knows where. I suppose the Ministry has to regard him as a fugitive now?"
Lila's smile was more clipped than before. "That's for Minister Scrimgeour to determine, and not you, Psyche-Diver."
"Of course." Draco raised one hand, then let it fall. "Forgive me. It's simply frustrating to know that a patient I spent so much time coaxing to return to health, one nearly there, is gone now."
"From the story you told on the steps," Lila murmured, "are you really all that displeased he's gone? You spoke as if you wanted to help him escape, according to the witnesses we questioned."
"I told you," Draco said, letting a trace of his own anger through—which was hard when he wanted to laugh aloud with delight—"I told him that story to get him close to me. He wanted to believe that someone was on his side."
"According to another witness," Lila said, "there was a swirl of color on the stairs, as if Potter had taken a Portkey."
"He had a Portkey in this hospital, where he desperately didn't want to be," Draco said with flat incredulity. "And he didn't use it."
"This witness suggested that you might have given it to him."
Draco rolled his eyes and handed his wand across the table. "Cast Priori Incantatem on it if you like," he said. "You won't find that the last spell I used was to make a Portkey."
Lila picked up the wand, face so still he had no idea what she thought, and waved her own wand above it. Sure enough, the grasping hand representative of a Summoning Charm uncurled from the hawthorn wand's tip and then faded. She raised her eyebrows, and Draco shrugged. "I thought he might still be somewhere nearby, and I tried to summon him. Stupid idea."
Of course, he had actually Summoned Harry's wand from the floating cage behind the desk, but since even the witch who usually welcomed guests to St. Mungo's had been away from her post, joining the hunt for Harry Potter, no one had heard what he shouted after his Accio.
"Hmmm," said Lila, and returned the wand to him. Draco accepted it gratefully. Never taking her eyes off him, the Auror then cast the Summoning Charm. "Accio Harry Potter's wand!"
The wand didn't fly to her, though Draco felt it wriggle in the pocket of the trousers that he wore under his robes. Rather difficult for it to go to her when he was sitting on it, Draco thought, as he gave the witch an apologetic smile and a shrug.
"I do not know that we have the right to retain you here any longer, Psyche-Diver," Lila said, rising gracefully to her feet.
Damn right you don't, Draco thought, but he did his best to keep his face in the same careful, polite mask from before.
"If you uncover any information on Potter's whereabouts, I trust that you will let myself or Barnaby know?" Lila paused with her hand on the door of the room, her eyes trained backwards, as if she thought that Draco would change his expression and rub his hands together gleefully the moment she turned away.
"Of course," said Draco. "I'm always glad to help the Ministry." He pasted on a bright, false smile that he knew would not seem false to someone like Lila, who probably thought that everyone who worked outside the Ministry would kill for a job inside it. She gave him a smile like winter fog and drifted away like it, too, leaving Draco to sigh and massage his face, as if Harry's escape had wearied him.
Touching his face was an excuse to cover the grin that still threatened to burst out of him.
Just a few more people to lie to, and then I can go home to the Manor and explain things to Harry.
Harry had honestly lost track of time, despite having the moving sun to give him a better idea of the hours than he'd had when locked in St. Mungo's. He'd just stared and stared out the window, and sometimes drifted into sleep, and sometimes awakened with a start, imagining that he heard Ron or Hermione's voice calling for him, or Ginny teasing him for sleeping so late.
I don't have those things. I'll never have them again.
That revelation made him rise to his feet and pace back and forth. Why had he come here? Malfoy had spoken as if Harry stood a chance of regaining what he'd lost, but how could that be, when they still hadn't broken the Cassandra Curse for anyone else? Thousands of wizards and witches worked in the Ministry, and many of them had reasons to wish Harry harm—probably many that he'd never heard of and could never guess. Some people took every loss in the war personally, and thought that it had been his duty to save everybody, despite the impossibility of that. If someone had chosen this particular Dark Arts spell as a form of vengeance, how would he ever know?
"There you are! I thought the Portkey had brought you to this room, but I wasn't sure."
Harry spun around, one hand raised defensively. He was still tired, but the nap in the chair had somewhat restored him. He couldn't cast the same kind of magic he could if he had a wand, but he could make Malfoy sorry he'd been born if he tried to hurt him.
Something banged off his palm and rolled on the floor. Harry stared at it in confusion, and then recognized his wand. He stooped to pick it up and turned it over in his hands, blinking at it.
"You could say that you're grateful, you know." Malfoy folded his arms and grinned at him. The grin was narrow and more private than the smile he'd given Harry on the stairs at St. Mungo's, when he had seemed to sincerely rejoice in Harry's partial freedom from the curse. Now he looked—conniving.
And what else did you expect a Malfoy to be? Harry thought, even as he ran his fingers over his wand in delight. He fought down the first responses that rose to his lips, though, reminding himself of two things: Malfoy had helped him, despite a lack of any real reason to do so, and now that he had his wand back, he could still go to the Muggle world if he wanted.
"Why?" he asked, quietly.
"I thought we went through this back in hospital." Malfoy strode past Harry to take one of the other chairs, putting his hand out as he passed and brushing Harry's elbow in a proprietary manner. Harry was too startled to object. "You did say that you'd trust me, and you agreed to come with me."
"I was a bit out of my mind with fear just then." Harry turned to face him, spinning his wand. As long as he kept one end pointed towards Malfoy, he could relieve his feelings of being trapped here. "Talk to me again. Tell me why I should accept your offer of—complicity, instead of striking out on my own. With the plans I had in place, no one would ever find me if I didn't want them to."
Draco spent a moment looking keenly into Harry's face, and not just to read the emotions there. It was a positive pleasure to watch his small gestures and habitual expressions unhindered by the Cassandra Curse. Draco had not realized how much the blasted spell influenced his perceptions of Harry, exaggerating any potential malice and making him seem slower and stupider whenever possible.
Seen this way, and ignoring the jagged line of the scar on his brow, Harry Potter was a damn handsome man. That he held his head as if he were unaware of that only made it more striking. His stare was frank. His lips were tight-set, as if he were holding in profanity or a bark of outraged laughter. And Draco could see, though perhaps only because he had been in Harry's soul, the strength that had supported him, pulled him, driven him this far through the most severe trial of his life.
The soul-connection between them had subsided to a soft, steady pulse, nearly mistakable for part of the normal heartbeat. Perhaps because one of them wasn't trying to run from it and resist it, Draco thought idly.
"Someone would find you eventually," Draco said quietly. "I told you, you have an enemy. Someone cast that curse on you. Someone transferred you to the Janus Thickey ward. And who was summoned to St. Mungo's when you escaped?"
"Ron and Hermione, I'd imagine." Harry's face shuttered. He'd resigned himself to the loss of his friends, Draco supposed, but it still chafed. He probably thought that he should have broken through the curse earlier, knowing his noble, self-tormenting Gryffindor nature.
"No," Draco said. "Aurors. I never did get last names, but there was a Barnaby who strikes me as incompetent and a Lila who strikes me as dangerous."
Harry lifted his upper lip to bare his teeth, not seeming to realize he was making the gesture even as he did it. "Lila Ambernight?"
"No last names, I said."
His tone of irritation wasn't enough to rouse Harry from his abstraction; he began to pace slowly back and forth. Draco rapped his fingers on the arm of the chair. He didn't like it when he wasn't the center of Harry's attention.
"I worked with her once," Harry said slowly. "For only half a year, because our temperaments weren't right to allow us to continue as partners. She's a cold fish. Sure that she knows what's right according to the Ministry rules, and determined to obey them."
"She was a Slytherin, then?"
"Don't be stupider than you can help, Malfoy." Harry rubbed a hand along his arm. "No, I don't think she was. Hufflepuff, actually, if I'm recalling her file correctly. She wants to obey the rules for their own sake. Their justice doesn't matter. I can see her reporting information on me to someone higher up in the Ministry. It wouldn't matter to her why they wanted it. Someone more powerful than she is requested it. They had a right to do so, just because of who they are."
Draco wasn't certain he agreed—he thought Lila was more dangerous than that, and no one so dangerous would be content to remain a tiny fish forever—but neither did he think Lila was the one who had cast the Cassandra Curse. He changed the subject. "And you're still set on taking off on your own?"
Harry stopped walking and stared at the far wall, breathing as if he had to gather his strength. Then he turned back to Draco, his face calm and blank. "You said that you had something to gain from helping me. What was it?"
"Respect," said Draco, knowing that he could not hide this from Harry, no matter what else happened. "Heroism. Your attention. My own self-respect. There's never been a patient I couldn't Heal and help."
"But you've helped me," Harry said, his brow contracting. "I never would have got out of St. Mungo's without you. Let me go now."
Draco laughed softly. "Have you become so dead to hope that you're incapable of grasping it when it hovers in front of you, a low, bright star?" He held his hand out on the arm of the chair again, palm up. "With my further help, you can find out your enemy's name. You can make him pay for trying to exile you from the wizarding world without your consent. You can regain your friends. No, I doubt they're the same people you knew, any more than you're the same Harry Potter they knew a year ago, but you'll have them." He leaned forwards. "And you're willing to give all that up because of—fear? Pre-made plans you like too much to destroy? Now who's acting the Hufflepuff and living in compliance with traditions and rules that he doesn't actually need to obey, Harry?"
Harry. The name plucked and pulled at Harry's insides. No one had called him that in too long. He'd been "Potter" to most of the people at the Ministry, "Mr. Potter" to the mediwitches and Healers who bothered to address him. Ron and Hermione and Ginny still used "Harry," of course, but in tones of longing and weariness and contempt. Malfoy spoke as he would to another wizard, person-to-person, face-to-face.
And he saw him. Had made extra effort to see Harry, in fact, what with all the diving into his soul.
Harry recalled the thoughts he'd had while under the influence of panic and fatigue in the staircase at St. Mungo's. He had surrendered then and grasped Malfoy's hand because trust was the harder course. It was a stupid reason to make this his new road, of course. Why not go to the Muggle world, change his face, and not live as Harry Potter? It would be lonely, yes, but it would also be his own choice. He wasn't looking forwards to having his life directed and managed the way it was sure to be if he stayed in the Manor.
His life always seemed to be calling him forwards on new roads. It had changed drastically when he was a year old, when he was eleven, when he was eighteen and had finally seen Voldemort's body wisping away into dust in front of him. And then the Cassandra Curse had unsettled him violently again just a year ago. This would be the fifth switchback, the fifth step into a new existence that might or might not end with him dead.
He couldn't take it just because it was new; two of the major changes in his life had been for the worse. But on the other hand, he couldn't reject it just because Malfoy was the one offering it and might profit from it.
"How would this work?" he asked stiffly.
Malfoy's jaw relaxed, and he leaned forwards still further, until Harry half-hoped he would pitch out of the chair onto his smug face. His hands were flapping in animated motions, though, which helped shape and sculpt his words until Harry, God help him, was seeing some hope in them, too.
"You'll stay here," Draco said, pleased to note that Harry had given up some of his wild wariness and appeared to be actually listening. "It's the best solution, since at the moment they think you're on some wild cross-country flight. They won't be looking for you to stop in one place in Wiltshire. Together, we'll work on combing through the Ministry, searching out people who have a certain amount of enmity to you, and eliminating them as suspects."
"That's a long list," Harry muttered.
"I wasn't planning on this being a short task," Draco said, raising a reprimanding eyebrow. "I want to get you your life back, and my own good deeds noticed and acknowledged."
"In that order?"
Draco felt a ball of anticipatory warmth roll up and down the sides of his stomach. Harry would not be easy to work with, but that didn't matter. In fact, Draco was glad of it, because the more difficulty they had, the closer Harry evidently was to getting his old personality back. "Yes," he said. "I am still a Psyche-Diver. Helping you recover is part of my job, and thus part of what will get me noticed and acknowledged."
Harry didn't spout some shrill nonsense about ambition being repugnant; he just nodded, as if he were thinking it through. "You won't tell anyone about my presence here, then?"
"No." Draco snorted in amusement as he thought of the likely expressions on the faces of the Weasleys if he approached them with news of Harry being alive, sane, and in his custody. "The Cassandra Curse is still working for everyone else, and even your best friends might feel that you should be in St. Mungo's instead of with me, because they distrust me so much. And I don't know anyone I would trust with news of this magnitude, let alone anyone who would go uninfluenced."
Harry's face changed. Draco knew the source of that change, though it was subtle: the green eyes darting back and forth, the tip of Harry's tongue appearing briefly between his lips.
And he had to find words equal to answering the fear behind Harry's expression.
"Yes, Harry, you do have to depend on me," he said, softly but firmly. Let him hear everything I say clearly. I have not lied to him. I will not start now. "I'm the only one who can help you. But though I might mock and humiliate you—it's just my way—I won't betray you. I won't rest until we find out who cast this curse and force them to reverse it. I won't use my power over you to your disadvantage." He stood and moved closer, until they stood exactly as far apart as they had on the stairs at St. Mungo's. "And that isn't just fear of your magic, either. I respect you too much for that, believe it or not. Let me show you how I can help you before you trust fully, if you want. You won't regret it."
And he reached out again and slid his hands into place on Harry's jaw and the back of his neck. He didn't realize until they landed how much he'd been longing to do it. He closed his eyes and let the heavy warmth of close contact seep into his bones.
And, once again, he waited.
Harry felt as if he had unexpectedly taken a step forwards and found himself reeling down off a dizzy cliff.
A free choice. I am free to make it. Malfoy—Draco—won't force me. I can Apparate from here and be gone, after all.
But still Draco offered the gift of his words, and his help, and his not-inconsiderable cunning, and his hands.
Harry closed his eyes, striving to attain some cool, objective place above his situation, from which he could choose with impunity. But still his head pounded as if all the blood were rushing to it at once, and his breath came sharp and short. He raised his hands, clasping Draco's wrists, not sure until it happened whether he'd draw him close or push him away.
He drew him close, and rested his marked forehead against Draco's clear one.
"If you're that determined," he whispered, "count me in."
Draco did not stamp his foot and howl like a demon, because such things were against Malfoy dignity.
He did offer Harry a small smile, which he knew Harry would probably miss this close, and turn his head to whisper into his ear. Harry shivered absently at the gesture. Draco had no intentions of missing anything like that, no matter how small.
"You have no clue," he whispered, "how determined I can be. You always did bring out the stubbornness in me."
Harry stepped nearer instead of answering, so that their breaths mingled. Draco kept his hands in their somewhat awkward posture instead of shifting them to an embrace. It felt—right—for what they were. The hug on the steps in St. Mungo's had been born of desperation, and every other embrace, he'd begun. Harry had initiated this level of contact and nothing else. Draco would keep it like that.
"What are we waiting for, then?" Harry's words were soft, urgent, close, but the future they lit in Draco's mind was wide and dazzling. "Let's start."