Title: A Determined Frame of Mind
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and her associates own these characters, not I. I am making no money from this story and am writing it solely for fun.
Summary: HPDM slash, sequel to A Reckless Frame of Mind. Draco and Harry now face the might of the Ministry in an attempt to discover who cast the Cassandra Curse on Harry. Add in Harry's trust problems, and it's a good thing Draco's confident.
Pairings: Harry/Draco; mentions of Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione.
Warnings: Violence, language, sex, quite a lot of psychology.
Notes: This really won't make sense if you haven't read A Reckless Frame of Mind. It picks up a few days after that story's final chapter.
Chapter One—Harry Is Uncooperative
"I'm sure I can think of a few more names if I just concentrate."
Draco leaned back in his chair and looked sternly at Harry. They were in one of the "alcoves" of the Manor, which could really function as a room in and of itself. The tall, narrow window looked out over the Manor's back gardens, which, tended by house-elves, bloomed steadily even in the lateness of the season. A table made of some smooth dark wood Draco's parents hadn't identified stood near the window, and Harry hunched over it with his back to the outside, writing steadily on a piece of parchment. Of course, Draco had already learned to recognize when Harry was writing words and when he was scribbling nonsense, so he knew the other man wasn't as productive as he'd been pretending.
The scribbling stopped. "Yes, you're probably right," Harry muttered. "I've reached the limit of the people inside the Ministry I think might be to blame for this." He looked up at Draco and offered a small smile on the edge of a grimace. "So now I should start thinking of people outside the Ministry. Clearly."
"Harry," Draco said again, and stood up.
Harry stood up, too, his eyes narrowed and his chin defiantly lifted. "Honestly, if you can think of places in relation to the Ministry other than 'outside' or 'inside,' you're cleverer than I am."
"Stop this," Draco ordered him quietly. They were near enough now that he could reach out and put his hands on Harry's shoulders, but he wouldn't do that yet. It would only exacerbate the problem. "I know you're trying to put off our discussion for the day, and it won't work."
Harry only lifted his chin further, and crossed his arms. Draco shook his head a little. Had he not known better, he would have said that Harry hadn't just spent thirteen months under a curse that caused everyone to disbelieve everything he said, and which had nearly killed him several times. The only physical reminders of his suicide attempt were the thick bandages on his wrists, which Draco changed each day. And he wouldn't have known, either, that he was the only one who had broken the spell personally and thus the only one who could understand and believe Harry; no one else would until they found the caster and forced him or her to remove the Cassandra Curse.
But just because he couldn't see other, physical reminders didn't mean that Harry wasn't hurting on the inside. And that was what Draco wanted to talk to him about, and what Harry kept putting off by trying to think of other people in the Ministry who could be the caster.
Well. When in doubt, make Harry Potter angry.
"I thought you trusted me," he said.
Harry snarled at him. "Don't start that again," he said. "Yes, I trust you, Draco. That doesn't mean I want you to poke all over the inside of my head. There's nothing wrong with the inside of my head."
"Oh, Harry," Draco said. "If only." He glanced at the bandaged wrists once, as if involuntarily, and then returned his gaze to Harry's face. He had to hide a grin when the green eyes narrowed further at him, until it seemed as if Harry were squinting into strong sunlight.
"I told you," said Harry, his voice rising slightly. "The only reason I tried to kill myself was because I needed a way to get away from the Ministry that would convince them I wasn't worth looking for when I vanished. They wouldn't want a crazy Auror back, would they?"
"No," Draco said. "But you also told me that you wouldn't have cared very much if you had died then."
"Ha, well, that was a mistake," Harry muttered.
"We need to talk about this," Draco told him, keeping his body still and his tone as calm as possible. "You spent so long under that curse without company or trust or, hell, someone touching you. That needs to be addressed."
"You're not a Mind-Healer," Harry muttered. "Just a Psyche-Diver."
"One who's seen your soul," Draco reminded him. "And because I'm a Psyche-Diver, I've had a lot of practice working with abnormal psychology."
"My psychology is not abnormal."
Draco gave him a freezing glare, because that was one way to make Harry shut up and do what he was supposed to be doing.
Muttering protests, Harry nonetheless turned and shuffled from the "alcove" to the dark and quiet room Draco had chosen for their talks. Draco followed, quite prepared to catch him should he try to dart down a side corridor and escape into the bowels of the Manor, which was what had happened yesterday.
This would be much easier if Harry Potter would stop being so Potter-like for a moment and cooperate.
Harry hunched his shoulders against the leather seat and wished there was a way to cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself and then dash out the door without Draco noticing. Imagining the look of drop-jawed astonishment on Draco's face was funny.
Of course, he wouldn't actually look like that. He would whip out his wand, Body-Bind Harry to the chair, and then lecture him.
Harry hated the talks, but he hated the lectures even more.
"I suggest we begin with what we almost talked about in there." Draco, damn him, looked comfortable as a cat in his elegant leather chair, his hair spreading in fine strands against the elaborately carved stone spindle just above the leather. "Why, when you claim to trust me, don't you want to talk this way?"
Harry pressed his fingers to his temples, and supposed he might as well tell the truth. Clearly, Draco wasn't going to leave him alone until he did.
"Because you've done enough," he said. "Broken the Curse—for you—and given me shelter here. I don't want to be helpless, and that's what these talks make me feel like, as if I can't do anything but act shattered and lie around waiting to be healed. It's bad enough that I have to hide in the Manor and be under a glamour if I ever go out in public. I'm fighting to get my footing back, so we can approach each other on equal ground—so I can actually contribute something to the hunt for the caster. And you're surprised that I don't want you helping me with these talks, even if you can?"
A flaying bitterness had crept into his voice, but Harry didn't care. If Draco was insulted, perhaps he would back off and stop insisting on these little "talks."
Draco said nothing for long moments. Harry peered between his fingers. Has he given up?
He realized he wouldn't be that lucky when he saw the stubborn set to Draco's jaw. This was Draco Malfoy, who wouldn't leave well enough alone and insisted on kicking his way into Harry's soul after his best friends had given up on him as hopeless. Of course he would think that any explanation was just an excuse.
"It's not shameful to need help," Draco said.
"Ha," Harry said. "You've gloated over those people you were able to help by Diving into their souls, you know you have."
"That's not shameful, either," Draco said, with a small smile. "But abandoning that argument for the moment, don't you think you should accept my help? Otherwise, something might go wrong when we start hunting the Curse's caster. You could pull away from me at the wrong moment because you distrust me, or pursue some dangerous course without consulting me, and then—"
"I wouldn't do that," Harry said crossly.
"You still won't talk to me about basic, elementary things," Draco said. "Until just now, that is. And you've refused every attempt I made to touch you since we came to the Manor."
"Because I don't want you to do that," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "You shouldn't have to, you know?"
There was another reason, but he was keeping it to himself. If he was embarrassed about needing Draco's help to escape from St. Mungo's, he was even more embarrassed by his reactions when Draco touched him in hospital. His skin had soaked up the slightest brush of fingers like water, and he was only left hungrier every time Draco departed the room. That was natural, of course, since he hadn't had many people touch him so gently in a year, but still. Embarrassing.
"We can't have you jumping at every single sound and slight brush of an arm when we go to the Ministry," Draco said. A faint gleam entered his eyes that made Harry frown; he'd seen it, but he couldn't remember where, and Draco leaned forwards before he could recall it. "Besides, have you considered that I might like touching you?"
Harry felt his mouth fall slightly open. He shook his head, shut his jaw with a snap, and said, "I fail to see what you would get out of it."
"Touching someone as beautiful as you are has its own compensations." Draco had deepened his voice to a purring tone.
"Come off it, Malfoy." Harry rose to his feet. "I decide to bare my heart to you, and you decide to mock me?"
Draco laughed aloud; he couldn't help himself. Harry scowled and eyed him as if he thought Draco would make some comment on the state of his robes next.
"That's something else you could stand to hear more of, then," he said. "Compliments."
Harry only shook his head at him. Draco frowned now. "When you refuse to believe me," he said, "that's when you retard your healing, Harry. More than at any other time, certainly."
"I don't want—" Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath, blowing it out again through this lips as if he hoped that it would take his anger with it. It didn't work; he opened his eyes, and they still shimmered with fury. Draco could have told him it wouldn't. The best ways to get rid of tension were talking and fucking, and the people who recommended breathing exercises were the kind who rarely took advantage of either. "I don't want to feel beholden to you," he said. "Any more than I already do, I mean. I know I owe you debts. But could you please not make me feel as if I ought to be bowing at you feet for it?"
Draco opened his mouth to reply, then shut it again. This is new. "I didn't know I was doing that. Explain, please."
"When you look at me like I'm the prey and you're the predator," Harry muttered, "or like you're going to get some great reward out of touching me and listening to me, it—it makes me feel like I'm supposed to grateful that you're doing it." He hissed again, this time driving his breath through clenched teeth. "Look, like I said, I know that I'm supposed to be grateful to you. But let me address my gratitude in my own way, all right? I'll make it up to you. But let me choose how to make it up."
Draco gave a tiny shake of his head. Never let it be said that Harry Potter doesn't have pride and want to stand on his own two feet.
"And how would you choose to make it up?" he asked.
"I don't know yet." Harry looked at him with eyes that were more open and more searching than Draco had seen since the first day he brought him home. "But let me choose. I'm sure I'll find a way."
Draco narrowed his eyes. He honestly hadn't considered letting Harry heal at his own peace, because—because, well, being Harry Potter and like that, he would put it off and put it off until he managed to grow some kind of skin over his mental wounds, and that would result in his acting unpredictably at the worst moments.
Well, perhaps Draco could let him try. Either he would fail almost at once and be a little more humble the next time Draco offered help, or he would succeed for a time and then fail, and his pride would be the better for a greater fall.
Draco would be close at his side at all times; he had no intention of letting Harry out of his sight, or out of the Manor at all until they'd practiced answers for everything that could go wrong at least twice. He could catch Harry if he made a mistake, or soften it, so that it wouldn't kill them.
And in the meantime, he could work in subtler ways than touching or talking to soften Harry's resistance, and make him see that Draco wasn't such a bad bloke after all.
He shrugged at last, and gave Harry a faint smile. "All right," he said. "If you can tell me who in the Ministry you think we should question first."
"Umbridge," Harry said with no hesitation. "She hates me, and she didn't hesitate to use Dark magic objects on me at Hogwarts—"
"Dark magic objects?" Draco frowned. He remembered the woman trying to cast the Cruciatus Curse on Harry, but he hadn't heard any rumors that she'd had Harry try to clean out a Snapping Toilet or the like, which was the most dangerous magical artifact he could conceive of Umbridge possessing.
Harry rolled his eyes and held out his right hand. Draco caught it, telling himself he was a bit pathetic for how good it made him feel to touch Harry, and bowed his head so that he could study the white words visible in faint lines on the skin.
I must not tell lies.
Draco stepped hastily back, though he didn't let go of Harry's hand. "Blood Quill," he said.
"Yes." Harry shrugged, as if the name of the object didn't matter to him, and tried to pull his hand away. Draco obliged, but only after he'd let his fingers explore the rough lines of the palm and the softer skin on the back enough to satisfy him. Harry blushed and looked away as he explained. "That was why I thought of her, since she made these words when I insisted on saying Voldemort was back. She might find it amusing to cast a spell that would force me to tell the truth while everyone else heard it as lies."
Draco cocked his head, sucking thoughtfully at the inside of his cheek. He had to admit, it was more of a clue than anything else they'd come up with, and from what he remembered of Umbridge, she was just the sort of witch to hold a grudge across years and decades until she came up with the perfect punishment.
"I think we should start with Lila Ambernight," he said.
Harry blinked at him.
"The Auror who came to question me on your disappearance," Draco said. Honestly, can he not keep a fact in his mind that doesn't involve Quidditch or suicide? "She was far too smug. She peered at me as if she thought that I'd had something to do with your disappearance. If nothing else, going after her is self-defense. We have to find out what she knows, and soon."
"I think Umbridge is the better choice." Harry folded his arms and all but stuck his nose in the air. Draco felt a frisson of laughter tickle the back of his throat. Didn't Harry know that was the kind of gesture he should be performing?
The thought of Harry picking up his mannerisms…Draco couldn't decide if it was more horrifying or endearing.
"Care to explain why?" Draco asked. "Or will we just charge into her horrible office full of pink jumpers and kittens and start overturning enchanted china plates in a search for a book of Dark magic?"
"Not a bad idea," said Harry, but a grin pulled at the edges of his mouth and let Draco know he was joking. "But we have something on her. We know she hates me. I worked with Lila for a few months, and she never exhibited anything but indifference for me. We were pulled off the last case we worked on together because we just—ignored each other, and nothing got done."
"At least I stir up more of a reaction in you than that," said Draco, feeling a small stab of pride that he could do so. "But it's not Lila I'm worried about, so much as someone she may report to. I told you before that she strikes me as the sort who could be dangerous in someone else's service, if she's not ambitious after her own goals."
Harry sighed. "But we have actual evidence against Umbridge."
"Hatred and words scratched into your skin from years ago are not evidence." Draco held his tongue on what else he'd have liked to say about those scars. He wasn't sure he had the right. He had been a member of Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad when Harry got the damn things, after all.
And he was trying to let Harry guide the pace of his own healing. Really, he was.
"But she's always been horrible," said Harry. "And if there's one thing I know about Lila, it's that she wouldn't use Dark magic. Dark magic killed a relative of hers—a sister, I think."
"It would have been useful to know about this earlier," Draco said, making his voice sharp, in case that would have some effect. It didn't seem to; Harry just looked at him and shrugged, as much to say that he was telling him now, so why was Draco so upset? Draco bit his lip and sighed. "But she could work for someone who does wield Dark magic, Harry, and she might never know it. How many people in the Ministry had no idea that the Dark Lord's followers were commanding some of them during the war?"
"I say we begin with Lila."
"And I say we begin with both," Harry unexpectedly consented and argued both at once. "We'll set traps for Lila and Umbridge on the same day. That's easy enough, isn't it? The first journey is just for reconnaissance, anyway, and we won't actually learn anything important on it."
Draco inclined his head, reluctantly impressed. When Harry wanted to, he could be diplomatic. That was useful to know.
"We'll begin with both," he conceded. "I've set up a cover story for you—spread about tales that I had a Bulgarian cousin coming to stay with me for a few days, and that's why I haven't gone to St. Mungo's. You'll go under a glamour." He grinned. "Think you can stand to look like a Malfoy for a few hours?"
"Long enough to get my life back," said Harry. "I want my friends to believe me again, and Ginny, even if she's chosen someone else."
Draco pricked his ears—he had not heard that Harry had lost his fiancée for good—but Harry was carrying blithely on, ignoring the actual interesting news. "And I have you to thank for it. Yes, I can stand to wear your name." He caught Draco's eye and gave him a weak smile. "And even look like you, though that's a great hardship, I'm sure."
Draco would actually hate to cast the glamour to cover up Harry's hair and eyes, though he wouldn't tell him that. He liked looking at him just as he was.
But that would nudge the conversation in a direction Harry had made it quite clear he was not ready to go. Draco left it to his daydreams, and began to speak of more productive things—their schedule once they got inside the Ministry, for example.
Harry was grateful when Draco left him alone. He made his way to the bedroom—well, it was more a wing—that Draco had given him, and spent some time staring out the window at a fountain that dominated this corner of the gardens. The fountain showed a young woman with a fairy's fairness of face, but the size of a normal human, coyly tipping a shell over her shoulder to scatter the water into the basin below. The whole of it was carved of some blue stone, and Harry was sure that one piece of that the size of a tablespoon or a fingernail was worth more than he made in a year.
He closed his eyes. The sunlight outside often wasn't real to him, still; part of him thought he was back in St. Mungo's even now, doomed to rot in the Janus Thickey ward.
As he had said, he knew it was due to Draco that he wasn't.
And that was another reason he didn't want to get too close to him, one that he wouldn't confess aloud for fear of putting it into the right words. He was starved for affection. Harry knew that. There was too great a chance that he would latch onto the first person to come his way, the only person in the world who could actually hear him, and insist on making Draco the center of all his emotional drama, his one anchor.
It couldn't happen. Harry knew what would happen the moment the curse was broken and Draco had the acclaim he'd been dreaming of. He'd move on to something else, or go back to Psyche-Diving, and Harry would be left alone, terribly alone, in a world where even his oldest friendships were not the same.
He had to retain himself alone and apart as much as possible. Then he would be able to grow scars and scabs over his wounds, and in time he would be able to resume something like his normal life.
Harry wanted the facsimile of that, false though it might be, more than he wanted to open his eyes some morning and find himself utterly dependent on Draco Malfoy.