Draco Malfoy, Psyche-Diver for St. Mungo’s for the past five years, often learned of his patients first through files, and this particular one he’d met through the Hogwarts Express, but he still wanted to see him in the flesh if at all possible.
It appeared that such a thing was possible. His patient had been brought to St. Mungo’s two days ago, and installed in the Nereus Norby Ward on the fourth floor, the ward in which victims of unidentifiable spell damage languished. Of course, they knew perfectly well what spell he’d used to try and end his own life, but they didn’t know what spell had made him do it. And they were certain it was magic; why would a wizard as celebrated as Harry Potter try to commit suicide otherwise?
Draco shook the words out of his head when the rest of the file tried to intrude. He wouldn’t let the determinations of others prejudice his conclusions. He would observe, learn as much as he could from his own eyes and senses, and decide on his own program of treatment from there.
Potter’s room, as did most of the others on this ward, contained a hidden window through which a Healer could watch and which was invisible to the patient. Draco touched the window with his wand, murmured the charm that would make it transparent, and then cast a few privacy spells around himself. It was vital that he not be interrupted as he conducted his investigation.
The only things he saw at first were an abandoned chair in the corner and a small table with some kind of game set up on it—Wizard’s Chess, he realized when he focused his eyes on the pieces. He turned his head, carefully altering the angle of his body so that he could look around. The room was entirely of a soft, pale blue color, the shade that research Healers had found the most soothing to potentially violent patients. In the far corner were a bed and a small door that led to a private loo. Draco curled his lip for a moment—nothing but the best for Harry Potter—but then he shook his head. Necessary as some dislike for the subject was for the best Psyche-Diving, he didn’t want his old ideas to overwhelm the new ones.
Potter lay on the bed, his hands crossed on his chest, staring up at the ceiling. Thick bandages encircled his wrists, protected by the shimmer of wards to ensure he couldn’t pry them off. His glasses had wards, too—to make sure he couldn’t break them and use the lenses to cut himself, Draco knew. In fact, when Draco relaxed and concentrated, letting the guards that usually shielded his sight fall, spells blazed absolutely everywhere in the room, linked to alarms that would let the Healers know if Potter so much as thought about doing violence to himself, or made a sudden, slashing movement that might herald a bit of wandless magic.
Draco gazed at the magic until he understood the precautions that the other Healers had thought necessary. Then he lifted his head and focused his eyes on Potter’s face.
Potter looked weary but wary, his head now and then turning when footsteps passed outside his door. Draco could feel himself smiling very slightly. The Healers had used sound-muffling charms, but evidently Potter’s magic was powerful enough to permit him to hear through them.
The lightning bolt scar shone under his fringe as it had always done; Draco would have recognized it at the distance of a dozen paces. Potter’s hair had not been cut recently, and when he shifted, he reached up with what seemed an instinctive movement and carefully patted it into place over the scar. Draco drew a sharp breath, but then forbade himself to draw any conclusions from that simple gesture, and continued simply to watch.
Potter leaned his head back on the pillow again and closed his eyes. That let Draco study the shape he was in without being distracted by the intense green of his gaze, for which he was duly grateful. Potter looked well-cared-for, at least. He was not as slender at twenty-seven as he’d been at eighteen, but who was? He had more muscle than Draco was used to seeing on Aurors, probably indicating that he spent much more of his time fighting and running and dueling than they did. And that conclusion was correct, Draco knew, because he had seen Potter’s name incessantly in the Prophet for the last two-and-a-half years. He always asked for the most dangerous assignments, and he was always given them, and he always completed them.
His face had new creases, but Draco could not tell how many of them came from sun, wind, weather, and the like, and how many from worry. He breathed slowly and steadily, indicating no problems with his lungs. Now and then a hand lifted and toyed with his glasses, but Draco thought of that as a nervous habit, nothing terribly significant. He also bit his lip and huffed to himself, but it was impossible to gauge his thoughts just from that.
All in all, he did not behave like a man Draco would have expected to commit suicide.
But there could be no doubt that Potter had tried to take his own life, and had just barely been stopped in time. And there could be no doubt that what Draco saw might not necessarily be what was there.
For the first time since leaving his office, he let the words of the file glide back into his mind.
Other Psychological Problems: The patient has been a pathological liar for over a year, not telling the truth for no apparent reason other than delight in lying. Appeals from friends and family to stop the deceptions have not worked. The subject’s personal relationships have crumbled around him, but he does not appear concerned. He has conducted or attempted to conduct many forms of research into the Dark Arts, as well, but his recognition factor has made it difficult for him to keep this research anonymous. The Ministry would like him rehabilitated of both the lying and the suicidal thoughts if at all possible.
Draco let himself give another smile. He had never claimed to like Harry Potter, and he despised the Ministry that had spent most of the nine years since the war trying to claim it had never happened, that nothing had changed, and silencing or binding or bribing its most virulent opponents. When Potter had become an Auror, one of the thugs who had been responsible for Lucius’s imprisonment and his mother’s self-defensive exile, Draco had sneered, thought it a matching of like to like, and given it little more consideration.
But there was something wrong here, something off. Potter was supposedly under a curse that caused him to desire death, but no one could find a trace of it. He supposedly loved his friends, but his constant lying had driven them away from him. He did not behave like someone in the throes of despair, but what, if not despair, could have driven him to do what he did?
Draco turned and strode back to his office with a swirl of his cloak. He was rather looking forwards to this. One thing that still remained to him, after all his years out of Hogwarts, was his curiosity.
Draco’s office was in the very back of St. Mungo’s; the hospital did not like to admit that its Psyche-Divers existed, even when those same professionals were responsible for restoring the sanity and souls of dozens of people. But he couldn’t complain, really. He had a large window that overlooked an enchanted view of Malfoy Manor’s grounds, complete with hedges clipped in the form of magical creatures, and under the ordinary, bland appearance of his office blazed wards and paintings of his ancestors and a Slytherin banner that he had always thought he would get rid of someday, but hadn’t yet managed to convince himself to take down.
Draco settled back in his comfortable seat, which he could Transfigure, with a tap of his wand, from a rocking chair to an armchair. At the moment, it was a cross between the two, and began to gently rock under him of its own free will as he leaned back under a shelf containing mostly books that he’d written himself.
Come to think of it, that was probably another reason St. Mungo’s was so uneasy about Psyche-Diving, other than its combining Legilimency and a dash of the Dark Arts: Draco had played an intricate part in the creation of the profession.
He forced away pride and went back to scanning the contents of Potter’s file. There was disturbingly little, really, because all the attempts of the Healers to find out what had made him suicidal had failed. Asked about it, Potter had only laughed and responded with obvious lies. Draco did find it interesting, and a touch frustrating, that the lies themselves were not recorded. He would have liked to hear for himself just how untruthful Potter’s words were.
So. Harry Potter, twenty-seven years old, an Auror for the past six of them, since he’d completed three years of training. Technically, he shouldn’t have been able to become one at all, since he hadn’t completed his schooling, but no one was going to say no to the boy who’d defeated the Dark Lord. And that was another example of the Ministry’s absorbing what was useful to it, Draco thought clinically. Anyone who really thought that Minister Scrimgeour would have permitted the Boy-Who-Lived to become a focus of opposition to him needed a session with the Mind-Healers.
He had been engaged to Ginny Weasley—Draco sneered automatically—but that relationship had fallen apart through his lying. Likewise, the rest of the Weasleys, listed as “surrogate family” in Potter’s file, had distanced themselves from him. They had tried a year of tearful remonstrations, countercurses, and keeping Potter away from locations he frequently visited, in hopes that the spell that affected him was somehow linked to one of them. But nothing had worked. Potter reportedly laughed when asked about the efforts of his family, and lied about his regard for them.
The Ministry had continued to send him on assignments, though without a partner, since Potter could not be trusted. But he was so damned brilliant, and knew so much about Dark Arts without ever casting the spells himself, that they hadn’t had a choice. It seemed they’d even been willing to turn a blind eye to his research into the Dark Arts, at least until he actually used the magic.
The same consideration was not extended to me. Draco tasted acid on his lips. He’d had to carve a place for himself, to prove he could be useful, while Potter was simply assumed to be, and used that way long after he’d proven what an arse he was.
And then, earlier this week, Potter had conjured a pair of hinged iron jaws and set them on his wrists in a corridor near his own office. His friend Weasley had discovered him in time to stop the bleeding and heal the ragged wounds on the veins, but there had been no doubt that Potter couldn’t continue his work now. He was on temporary leave from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement until the Mind-Healers could figure out what was wrong with him.
Draco gave a little smile and leaned back in his chair, tapping the file against his fingers.
They hadn’t sent Potter to the Mind-Healers. They’d sent him to Draco. And Draco knew why.
Psyche-Diving, as he’d conceived of and mostly created it, was far more than just repairing the physical damage to a brain or finding countercurses for insanity, the two most typical tasks for a Mind-Healer. Draco, or another practitioner, would use Legilimency, and then a few simple Dark spells, to actually enter the mind of a patient, sending their own souls and sanity into entwinement, manipulation, and mastery of the other. It was the only way to break some of the nastier curses, to figure out the more irrational kinds of irrationality and destroy those preoccupations in the minds that had them, and to discover what trauma might have created horrible memories in the first place.
Nevertheless, Draco knew that some of his fellow Healers hated and distrusted him. They saw Psyche-Diving as forcing someone into health, while they coaxed and persuaded. And it didn’t help that Psyche-Diving worked best when the Diver had somewhat of a dislike to the patient, or at least was someone that patient would never have associated with in his right mind.
It made absolute and utter sense that Potter had been given to Draco, considering their past. He’d never had such a personal subject before. He’d taken a positive delight in the Mudbloods he’d healed from their mental suffering since the war, because he could hate them in peace and yet have the perfect excuse to make others shut their mouths about his beliefs. He was helping them, after all.
But there had been no one like Potter, and certainly no one with the strange complex of undetectable curses that he appeared to have suffered. And that was not even saying what Potter’s own hatred of Draco, and the mental connection he’d once been rumored to have with the Dark Lord, might do when Draco entered his mind.
Ordinarily, he waited a few days and tried to collect more facts about his patients before he Dived. But Potter’s file was thin, and when he flicked through the interviews the Healers had conducted with his family and friends, he uncovered only the same bewilderment and fury that had shown up in the summaries. They didn’t know what had made Potter change. They didn’t know when he might have become desperate or despairing enough to kill himself. They didn’t know why he lied, and why he wouldn’t simply break down and ask for help if he was suffering.
Draco thought he knew the answer to that last, at least. Potter was too proud. He would have thought he could defeat the curses on his own. He wouldn’t want someone else to see him at that level of weakness—not Potter the Hero, Potter the Grand Auror.
Draco grinned out the window. He loved proud patients. They were inevitably the ones most humbled when he became a part of their minds, the ones convinced no one could understand them who had to acknowledge that he could, and the ones who cringed when he looked at them afterwards. He knew all their most humiliating secrets, and he could tell. Just knowing he held that power, even if he never used it, was a torment to them.
And now he had the chance to repay not only old schoolboy insults but his family’s suffering at Potter’s hands, and make his reputation as the one who had Healed the savior of the wizarding world, and prove his usefulness to the Ministry.
There was nothing about this situation that did not lend itself to his victory.
He would begin his Dive tomorrow.