The cabin on the moors was as dusty as the last time. He opened a window to get some fresh air while he waited. There’d been no confirmation that the memo had been received, but Harry knew its recipient would come. He didn’t want to examine the feeling too closely, as though if he did, a teenage version of himself would spring up and punch him in the jaw. But then, for all his triumphs as a teenager, he knew better than anyone how much of an idiot he had been when it came to certain things.
There was a popping noise from outside. Harry mentally braced himself and turned towards the door.
“Potter,” Malfoy greeted, as he walked in.
“Malfoy,” Harry returned. “Thank you for coming.”
“You’re welcome,” Malfoy replied. “To what do I owe this summons?”
“It’s about the Winchesters,” Harry began.
“I gathered as much,” Malfoy said. “Do you ever miss the old days, when we could meet up in school hallways and you could accuse me of working for the Dark Lord and I could make fun of your terrible childhood? Now, it’s only ever about the Winchesters, isn’t it? What’s happened to us, Harry? We used to take such interest in each other’s lives!”
“You’re not funny, Malfoy,” Harry rolled his eyes.
“I disagree, as usual,” Draco smiled. “Now, out with it – what horrible news do you have about our American friends?”
“Dean’s dead,” Harry said. Of all things, Draco smiled, but it was fleeting and forced.
“Of course,” Draco said. He turned on his heel and paced to the window. “Of course, he is,” Draco repeated. Then he turned back and looked at Harry, brittle smile gone. “So, do you have a heartfelt letter for me to read about how he died a hero – no, you don’t, if you did, we’d be doing this at the Cauldron, wouldn’t we? Somewhere public where I couldn’t make a scene, not that I would, mind you – I’m above that, and quite frankly I always hated that damn nickname he gave me anyway. No, there’s more to it, isn’t there? Of course there’s more.”
“I think there’s something wrong with Sam,” Harry explained, “and I need your help in determining what.”
“Well, his brother’s dead for one,” Draco said, gesturing as though the evidence was exhibited in the room.
“Why could you possibly need my help, Potter?” Draco asked, pacing in the narrow space. “Do you need to break into the Department of Mysteries again? Look up some files? I doubt it. So, what is it?”
“Legilimency,” Harry answered. Draco stopped on a dime and turned towards him immediately.
“I know you studied it after the war,” Harry pressed. “It was in your probation reports.”
“My probation reports,” Draco repeated back, shaking his head, and then glared at Harry. “If you read my reports, then you know I studied occlumency. It was part of my therapy and thus allowed. Legilimency was forbidden.”
“Exactly,” Harry said. “But in order to truly master occlumency, one has to study legilimency too. And you wanted to master it, I know you did. You wouldn’t have been satisfied with anything less. You found a teacher that was willing to teach you the basics of legilimency without reporting it, but where the ruse fell apart was the extra time needed for lessons. You were a lot of things at Hogwarts, Malfoy, but a bad student was not one of them. I know you studied it, Draco, and the lie was flimsy at best-”
“He lived in my house!” Malfoy shouted. “For over a year! Do you have any idea-”
“I have every idea!” Harry yelled back. “He was in my head too! Why do you think I let you get away with it!”
They stood seething at each other, and Harry was struck by the familiarity of it all. Only this time, there’d be no teacher to break them up, no friends to jump into the fray.
Malfoy turned away first, clenching his fists at his sides and stalking back over to the window, turning his back on Harry.
“Scorpius doesn’t even remember him,” Malfoy said. “It’s been years.”
“I didn’t realize your compassion was limited to the length of your son’s attention span,” Harry snapped, and then bit his lip, because he knew he had just crossed a line. Harry had given Draco upsetting news, put him on the defensive by bringing up legilimency, while also reminding him of the most traumatic years of his life – Draco had every reason to vent his anger at Harry – Harry, on the other hand, needed to be the calmer of the two. He needed to not rise to the bait or they’d end up in Moaning Murtle’s bathroom all over again.
Malfoy turned to stare at him. “Do you even understand the depths of my hatred for you?”
“I think that’s the only thing I understand about you, Malfoy,” Harry answered with a sigh.
Draco shook his head, but when he spoke, his voice was calmer. “I find that oddly comforting.”
Harry shrugged, unsure of what to say. He knew he should apologize for his behaviour, but he also knew that Draco would never apologize for his. The silence dragged for an uncomfortable amount of time.
When Malfoy finally spoke, his tone was firm. “Tell me what’s wrong with Sam.” And it was as though the entire conversation thus far had been a non sequitur. Harry chose not to question it.
Till had expected to hear from Harry within 24 hours. Instead, when he went into work the next morning, he received a memo stating that his request for a two day absence had been approved, starting the next day. When he opened his filing cabinet, there was a little yellow sticky-note that had a time and a set of coordinates written on it. Till carefully folded and pocketed the note then went about his day – which seemed longer than usual, now that all Till could think about was what might happen the next day.
That evening, Till gathered every book that he could find about the mind, brain, and mind-healing, read as much as he could, and then slipped them all into his standard field travel bag. He placed both the travel bag and his healer kit by the door, ready to go, and then had to make himself a cup of special tea in order to feel drowsy enough to sleep.
At precisely the designated time, Till apparated to the coordinates provided and found himself outside of a small cabin. Harry was already standing there waiting for him, and so, surprisingly was Draco Malfoy.
“Till! Excellent,” Harry greeted. “Now we can get going. Malfoy, this is Till Ljung, whom I’ve told you about. Till, this is Draco Malfoy, who might be a bit of a surprise for you.”
Draco Malfoy nodded at Till, but didn’t move to step forward and shake hands, nor change his expression away from indifference. Till nodded back. Malfoy was obviously the Legilimens. Till didn’t know what to do with this information, how to even begin to comprehend it.
“Thank you for coming,” Till found himself saying. Malfoy raised an eyebrow.
“Are you not going to comment on the illegality of me knowing legilimency?” Malfoy asked.
“All information learned on a trip involving the Winchesters is never to be spoken of again, except to Harry or with Harry’s permission,” Till recited. “Once this trip is over, Mr. Malfoy, I will no longer know you nor will I know that you are Legilimens. Officially.”
“I told you,” Harry said to Malfoy. Malfoy rolled his eyes.
“I’m not a Legilimens by any means – I have a basic understanding and very little practice,” Malfoy went on to explain, his tone less challenging and more conversational. Then, with an unkind smirk towards Harry, he all but sneered, “But Potter is so pathetic when he begs...“
Till could see Harry’s jaw clench as he glared. Malfoy huffed a small laugh, focusing back on Till, and his tone changed back yet again, to something that might actually resemble kindness. “... and Sam Winchester is a friend.”
Till nodded. He was not sure what to make of the very strange dynamics between his boss and the former Death Eater. Till had always believed that only Harry’s most trusted inner circle knew about the Winchesters, and yet, Draco Malfoy was claiming – honestly – that he knew Sam as well.
“On that note, we should be going,” Harry said, and pulled a paperweight out of his pocket. “On the count of three...”
Till and Malfoy both stepped forward, and touched a finger to the paperweight as it began to glow. While Harry counted down, Till braced himself for yet another nauseating transatlantic trip.
It was as uncomfortable as he remembered.
They landed behind a building which they leaned up against until the nausea passed. Harry eventually gave them a nod; he was, of course, the first to recover. Malfoy straightened and brushed off his suit, as though just leaning against the wall had somehow sullied him. Till gave Harry a nod, even though he still felt dizzy, and then followed him as he led them around towards the front of the building.
It was a small motel, about 20 rooms, it seemed. Only about five of the little doorways had cars parked outside of them.
Till nearly ran into Harry’s back when Harry suddenly stopped walking.
Before Till could ask, Malfoy was speaking, “Eloquent as always, Potter. I take it Sam hasn’t switched vehicles since the last time I saw him, which would mean-”
“I’ll check with the office,” Harry cut Malfoy off. “Maybe he’s just popped off somewhere and will be right back.”
Harry walked off without waiting for a response, leaving Till and Malfoy to wait in uncomfortable silence.
“Did you attend Durmstrang?” Malfoy finally broke the silence. Till glanced at him, but Malfoy hadn’t taken his eyes off of Harry.
“Yes,” Till answered. He too, kept his eyes on Harry, watching him enter the office – then catching sight of him through the window as he talked to the man behind the counter.
“You weren’t at the Tri-Wizard tournament that year,” Malfoy stated.
“I was finished school by then,” Till confirmed. Inside the building, Harry was running a hand through his already messy hair. Not good news.
“Was it a good school?” Malfoy asked, and then continued before Till could answer. “I used to wish that I had gone there instead.”
Till wasn’t quite sure how to answer. He thought of how he had loved his classes. He thought of the late nights in the library, of learning herbology and potions and thinking of all the possibilities of a future in the field of Healing... but there had also been the relentless bullying. His sister had tried to protect him as best she could, but often having his sister defend him just made it worse.
“It was good and bad,” Till settled on. “Like any school. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.”
Harry was leaving the office.
“It couldn’t have been as bad as Hogwarts,” Malfoy shook his head, as though Till’s answer had disappointed him. “I can’t even count the number of times I nearly died.”
Till took his eyes off Harry then, who was still just out of hearing range. He caught Malfoy’s eyes.
“Neither can I,” Till said. Malfoy furrowed his brow. Till shrugged. “Different battles.”
“He’s left,” Harry announced, cutting off any possible response from Malfoy. Till was thankful, unsure of what he should and shouldn’t reveal, unsure of the extent of Malfoy’s legilimency skills. “Sometime yesterday, apparently,” Harry added.
Harry kept walking past them, back around the corner of the building to the spot where they had arrived.
“If you expect me to take another nauseating trip back to England-” Malfoy started to say.
“I’m going to call him,” Harry cut him off with a glare. “If that doesn’t work, I can track the car. I just- I told him not to drive.”
“And you told me that he seems to have a compulsive need to do so,” Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Really, Potter, next time either remove the distributor cap or at least have the intelligence not to be surprised.”
Harry pulled out his com-mirror. “Shut-up, Malfoy.” He then paused, and looked back at Malfoy in confusion. “How do you know about distributor caps?”
Malfoy rolled his eyes, “Scorpius likes cars. Now find Sam before you waste more of our time.”
Sam answered after the third call of his name.
“Harry? Sorry – I’m sorry-” Sam started.
“I told you to stay-”
“I know, I’m sorry, but I had to – and then he just came out of nowhere. I didn’t see him,” Sam continued, clearly distraught.
“Sam, did you hit someone?” Harry asked, paling. Till clutched his healer kit a little tighter. He glanced at Malfoy to find that his brow had furrowed.
“A dog. I hit a dog,” Sam answered, and they all breathed a sigh of relief, though Harry swallowed his the quickest.
“Where are you?” Harry asked, as he pulled the paperweight from his pocket and tossed it to Till.
Sam gave them his location – Kermit, Texas, and the name of the motel, and then the approximate coordinates according to the GPS on his mobile. Till redid the portkey spell, while Sam returned to talking about the dog – how he drove it to the vet, and it was supposed to be okay, but that now the vet was forcing Sam to take the dog – then Till gave Harry the nod that the spellwork was complete.
“Okay, we’ll be there in just a minute, Sam,” Harry said. “See you soon.”
“Okay,” came the response. Harry snapped the mirror closed and ran a hand through his hair.
“It sounds as though, at the bare minimum, we should try to put an end to the compulsive behaviour,” Malfoy offered.
“Maybe the dog will help with that,” Harry said. “He’ll have to at least stay in one area so that he can take it for regular veterinary appointments until it heals – it could be enough to get him to stop driving long distances.”
“Or, he’ll end up driving long distances with a distracting animal in the car,” Malfoy countered. “I hardly think it’s responsible to force a dog on someone who may be a bit unhinged.”
Harry sighed. “I wish I could disagree, but we might as well be optimistic about this.”
“Dogs can be used to help calm those distressed by post-trauma stress,” Till offered.
“And what a wonderful world it would be, if a broken dog solved all our problems,” Malfoy rolled his eyes. “But somehow, I doubt that’s the case, and we’re certainly not solving anything by standing miles away and ruminating on possibilities. Shall we go?”
Harry just gave a sharp nod and held his hand out to touch the paperweight. Malfoy stepped closer in order to join them.
The second trip was shorter, less nauseating, but it still deposited them in front of a small motel not unlike the one they had just left. Though this one had its buildings set out like a small community unto itself. It was still early enough in the morning that no one was outside to see three wizards appear out of nowhere. They quickly spotted the correct door. Harry taking point, as usual, and knocking.
Sam answered swiftly and Till realised that this was the first time he was visiting when Sam was conscious for his arrival. All things considered, Till still felt it was an improvement – though Sam looked haggard. He was in sleep pants and a t-shirt. Till realized that Harry’s morning call must have woken him up.
“Hey,” Sam greeted Harry, then he glanced back to where Till and Malfoy stood. “Hey, Draco! And uh, Till, right? Hi!” Sam’s expression then fell, and he turned his attention solely to Malfoy. “Did- did Harry tell you about... Dean... uh, that, he’s...”
“Yes,” Malfoy answered. “I’m sorry for your loss, Sam.”
Sam bit his lip and nodded, looking down and away.
“Can we come in, Sam?” Harry interjected.
“Oh, yeah, ‘course,” Sam said. He took a deep breath and stepped back from the threshold, leaving room for the wizards to file in. “What are you guys doing here, anyway? Not that I’m not, uh, glad to see you or anything, but...” Sam gestured towards Till, “...I’m not dying, and...” Sam then gestured to Malfoy, “Dean’s... not here.” Sam’s finished in a whisper, then took another breath and smiled a brittle smile. “Is there something I can help you with?”
Till filed away the information that Sam treated Malfoy as though he were primarily Dean’s friend instead of his own. He really didn’t know what to make of this information. How it fit into his idea of who Malfoy was or who the Winchesters were. They seemed very unlikely friends – Hunters and a former dark wizard. Even the way Malfoy stood in the room, as though he were standing in squalor, was the complete opposite of Sam Winchester, who had his bare toes digging into the motel’s shag carpet in comfort.
“Actually, yes,” Harry answered. “Till’s been studying the mind, and he was wondering if he might be able to get more information on what Castiel did to cure you of your ailments all those months ago.”
Till kept his expression schooled and offered Sam a small smile when he looked over in surprise. It wasn’t the truth, but it was close to it, and Till figured that Harry must know better on how to talk with Sam.
Malfoy, on the other hand, rolled his eyes. “That’s Harry’s excuse,” he said. “I’m here because I wanted to offer my condolences for your loss and to make sure that you were alright, Sam.”
“Thanks, Draco,” Sam smiled softly. “Uh, I don’t know how much help I’ll be, Till. I mean, I don’t really know what he did? I was a little out of it at the time, and it kind of messed him up, so we never did find out what exactly it was.”
Till nodded, “I understand, but – I was thinking, maybe, if I could see the memories...? Maybe, there will be clues?”
“See the-“ Sam started, brow furrowed.
“I brought my pensieve,” Harry interrupted. “It’s up to you, of course, but if you were willing to let us-”
“Pensieve, that’s... the memory bowl, right?” Sam asked.
Till nodded. “We would only need a few memories. Maybe, from before you were cured, so we could see the symptoms. Then, what you remember of the cure, and then after?”
Sam seemed unsure and Till worried that the whole trip would be for nothing.
“Would I have to come with you?” Sam asked. “Into the bowl?”
“Not if you don’t want to,” Harry answered. Sam still seemed reluctant, but he nodded.
“Okay, yeah, um, how do I?” Sam gestured to his head.
“Draco will help you,” Harry answered. “He can explain how it will work while Till and I set up.”
Harry motioned Till over to the kitchen counter, while Malfoy pulled Sam over to the couch, already beginning his explanation of how memory extraction worked. Till set down his healer kit and his own bag and helped Harry pull the pensieve and small carrying case full of glass vials out of Harry’s shoulder bag and arrange everything on the kitchen counter.
Harry selected three vials and then he and Till walked back over to where Malfoy and Sam sat on the couch.
“How old is he now?” Sam was asking.
“Scorpius just turned seven,” Malfoy answered with a smile.
“Seven, wow,” Sam smiled.
“He still remembers you.”
“He does?” Sam asked, disbelieving. “He was so little.”
“Well, I must admit, you have become a bit vague in his memory – a bit like a fairy tale,” Malfoy said, there was a softness in his tone, that Till believed came from talking about his son.
Sam laughed a little. “A good one, I hope.”
“Only the best for my son,” Malfoy answered, then finally acknowledged Harry and Till. “Ah, the vials, excellent. If you’re ready, Sam, we can get started.”
Sam nodded, seeming to brace himself.
“Now, just like we talked about,” Malfoy said, pulling his wand from the inside pocket of his jacket. “To begin, I just need you to remember one or two examples of your mental state when it was at its worst. Try to hold them in the forefront of your thought, and then give me a nod when you’re ready.”
Sam closed his eyes for a moment, and then nodded. He kept his eyes closed as Malfoy touched the tip of his wand to Sam’s temple and slowly extracted the first memory – long and blue, twisting into curls as Malfoy dropped it into the vial.
“Very good,” Malfoy said, handing the vial to Harry, who immediately moved across the room with it and placed it by the pensieve. “Now,” Malfoy continued. “Try to remember as much as you can about whatever it was that Castiel did to help you.”
Again, Sam nodded after a moment of silence and Malfoy pulled another memory from his head. This one looked more ethereal: thin and fragile.
“One more,” Malfoy said, after passing the fragile memory to Harry. “What was it like after? Just one or two memories that would paint us a picture.”
Sam frowned, but then nodded again after a moment, and Malfoy extracted the last memory. Once again, handing if off to Harry.
“All done,” Malfoy declared. “You did very well, Sam.”
Sam opened his eyes, smiled softly, and then sought out Till’s gaze. “I hope it helps.”
Till smiled and answered, “Thank you,” because he wasn’t sure if “me too” would really be an appropriate response.
“What should I do while you guys are...” Sam gestured to the pensieve.
“Just carry on about your day,” Harry answered.
“Okay,” Sam said. He stood, looking decidedly uncomfortable. “I’m going to go... um, shower.” He smiled tightly, and then walked past them to disappear into the bathroom. A moment later they heard the water come on.
They didn’t speak as Harry poured the memory vials, in order, into the pensieve. Till felt both excited and vaguely terrified at what they were about to experience.