Draco followed the feeling – the urge to move – it was laced over everything. It wasn’t difficult to find. Sam’s every experience, every sense, contained a sliver of the thought “I have to keep moving” – and it all had the same fingerprint, or footprint. Yes, footprint, because Draco could follow it, could follow it down, down, down, stretched thin, but strong, over a great distance, through... through something... not a curtain, more like water, more like mist and fog, and someplace where the light traveled differently, perhaps sound too...
And Draco pressed on, because the one thought, the feeling, would lead to more – would lead to answers...
It was like coming out of the darkness into a bright day, only worse – overwhelming, crushing, and more than Draco could fathom. He was in the subconscious, he could feel that much, he wasn’t being spared a thought, none of these thoughts were being had at the surface, accept the one – the one thought that had to permeate every part of this being - “I must keep moving” - it was bleeding everywhere, on every thought and feeling, not even just the being’s own, but those that he carefully filtered for another.
Draco was going to die. It was too much. Too much. And he couldn’t find a door. He knew he either had to shut a door or get a message through another, but there was so much here – even here – and then he heard it, felt it, in amongst the ceaseless churning of thought and knowledge, a single voice became clear, and Draco had been noticed-
Draco thought of speaking, but that was an act of the body, and Draco had no body here – there was only the being, the being and Draco, tucked into a corner, pushed up against a wall. Drowning. No, crushed – crushed under the multitude contained here.
But Draco wanted to ask, he needed to know... why... what... The pain was immense now. There was too much light. Too many thoughts. Too much, too much... but what were they fleeing from? Because it didn’t feel like a desire to move towards something but a need to move away...
And then before Draco could protest, he was being pushed out, up, up, through, stretched thin, through the filter, through the water, mist, fog, back, back, until he was once again in the darkness of his own mind – and it seemed such a calm thing, simple, so simple... a single cell where once he had been multitudes.
His senses came back to him slowly. Someone was chanting. Someone was cursing. His face felt sticky. His neck wet. He was cold. He had a headache that was slowly ebbing away in waves, waves, and waves, like water across pebbles on a beach, receding after a storm... had he been in a storm? No, he had been through, through, and through. He had been a great distance away, so far away, and he had been multitudes when he was never meant to be more than this, this pebble, this single cell.
There were fingers touching him – warm fingers on his temples – they rubbed cool waves into his head, slowly turning warm. They soothed. Magic. Every touch was healing, soothing, like the voice that chanted in an unknown language. Draco wanted to ask. He needed to find his voice, it was there, somewhere inside him, if he could remember how to use it.
“Is that Russian?” the question vibrated in his throat, such a simple thing, speaking.
The fingers paused. Draco frowned.
“нет,” came the answer, and then the fingers resumed, the chanting continued.
“Oh thank God,” the other voice in the room said – the one that had been cursing. Harry Potter.
Draco wondered what Harry had against Russian. Did the Dark Lord speak Russian? Karkaroff – Krum... no, Krum was Bulgarian.
“Bulgarian?” Draco said.
“не,” and Draco could hear the smile in the voice. The chanting did not begin again; instead the fingers dragged pleasantly through Draco’s hair, taking the last of the headache with them. Draco felt as though he could melt into the floor.
“Is he brain damaged!?” Harry asked.
“Not as much as you,” Draco replied, keeping his eyes closed as he enjoyed the floor.
“No,” the gentle voice answered on the end of a small laugh. Draco remembered Till, the Healer, with his soft voice and careful words.
“I think that’s up for debate,” Harry argued, angry – always so angry. “What the hell were you thinking?!”
What had he been thinking? He had been thinking that it wasn’t a transfer. It was a filter – a living filter. No, not a filter – a funnel. He had been thinking that the only way to prove it – the only way to confirm his hypothesis – was to use legilimency on Sam. He had thought about the consequences of doing so. He had thought of asking Harry to find a master Legilimens for the job, but then he had thought about trust. Draco did not trust Legilimens. Not after the Dark Lord. It took months of therapy before he could even attend his occlumency lessons for fear of the instructor. No, the only one Draco trusted with legilimency was himself and, therefore, he was the only one he trusted to perform legilimency on Sam Winchester.
He had known, had he suggested it to Harry, Harry would have protested – or, decided to be noble, and do it himself – which would be disastrous, because it required delicate work and Harry was a sledge hammer.
“I was thinking a lot of things, Potter,” Draco answered. “I’m much more intelligent than you are. Where’s Sam?”
“Here,” Sam answered.
Draco realized that he hadn’t opened his eyes yet. So, yes, his next task was to do that.
His eyelids felt stuck together, gritty – had he been crying? He blinked a few times as his eyes adjusted to the light. Till knelt above him, leaning into his line of sight like a fair gargoyle. Harry was standing a distance away, still angry, his wand in his hand as though they were all about to be attacked. Sam was still sitting on the couch, his body tense, but his eyes only full of concern and perhaps fear. Draco had to look past his own nose to see Sam, because apparently, Draco must have fainted – he was lying prone across the carpet in front of Sam. His feet still where they had been when he had been crouched in front of him to perform the spell.
“How do you feel?” Draco asked Sam.
Sam let out a startled laugh. “I think I should be asking you that.”
“I’m slightly concerned about my willingness to remain on this frankly disgusting carpeting,” Draco answered honestly. “But, tell me, do you have anywhere you have to go today, Sam?”
“Uh, I have to pick up the dog in about an hour,” Sam answered.
“And then?” Draco asked. “Do you feel the urge to keep moving?”
“No,” Sam said, eyes widening. “No. I know I... I did though? I know I did. It felt important for some reason, but I can’t remember why. But... I can’t now. I mean, the dog – if I’m really gonna take care of him, then he’ll need return vet visits – and De- Dean would be mad.”
“Dean would be mad if you kept moving?” Draco asked carefully. It didn't sit right in Draco mind though he didn't know why.
“There are no dogs allowed in the car,” Sam explained with a rueful smile. “And never take a joint from a guy named Don.”
“Sound advice,” Draco nodded.
Draco levered himself up on his elbows. Till’s hands shot out to hover without touching, and Harry and Sam both moved as if to help.
“I’m fine,” Draco scoffed, waving them off, as he pushed his way to sitting. Admittedly, he felt a little lightheaded. He pulled out his handkerchief in order to wipe the sticky sweat from his neck. “I fainted. Feel free to lord it over me in revenge for third-year, if you want Potter, but-“ Draco cut himself off as he looked down at his handkerchief.
“You didn’t faint, Draco,” Harry said. “You froze up, and then you started bleeding from... well... at first it was just your ears...“
“Then your eyes,” Sam finished.
Draco stared down at the blood soaked handkerchief, and then looked over at the dark stain on the carpet where his head had been a moment before. He looked up at Till.
“You suffered severe hemorrhaging,” Till explained, “and a sort of fever – a very bad sort of fever. Please don’t stand up. I need you to drink a blood replenishing potion, rest, and allow me to monitor your health a little longer.”
Draco looked back at the carpet. He really didn’t want to be sitting on the carpet anymore.
“Sam, help Draco to the sofa,” Harry ordered, and before Draco could process what was happening – what HAD happened – Sam was gently placing a hand across his back and taking all his weight, while pulling him off the carpet. He was not upright for more than a second, before he was being pushed into the sofa cushions. He was dizzy. He was a pebble on the waves.
“Drake, hey, hey,” Sam called. Draco opened eyes that he hadn’t realized he had closed, to find Sam pushing a potion bottle to his lips. “Hey, buddy, drink this, it’ll make you feel better.”
It was a blood replenishing potion. Draco recognized the taste. Till was beside him on the couch, reading numbers that appeared in the air between them. Harry was cleaning the blood out of the carpet. Draco smiled.
“Better,” Till said, it wasn’t a question, but Draco nodded.
“Where did you go?” Sam asked. “When you – when you froze up like that, Harry started asking what you were looking at, but I couldn’t... he said I should have been able to feel you in my head, but it was like you weren’t there at all.”
“I went through the funnel,” Draco tried to explain. “It wasn’t a transfer, it was... like a filter, sort of.”
“What?” Sam asked, confused, but Draco saw both Till and Harry turn their eyes to him.
“When you got your hell memories back, you got them back all at once, correct?” Draco asked. Sam nodded. “It was too much trauma to handle all at once. Your mind is... amazing, Sam, it really is. It should have just shut down completely, but instead it created this... avatar. It gave the trauma a body and a voice in order to attempt to... deal with it.”
“L-Lu....” Sam all but whispered and then couldn’t even finish the word.
“But it still nearly killed him,” Harry said.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Yes, but it should have killed him much earlier than that. He shouldn’t have been able to recover at all from the return of the memories, let alone buy himself months of time.”
“Okay,” Sam said, “but... did you... we took the hell memories out, I thought? I mean, I’m starting to remember them again now, but it didn’t feel like they were in there when you started. Is that-”
“It wasn’t the hell memories,” Draco said. “It was my fault for following the thought too far... for staying too long when I realized I couldn’t- it was too much for me. What Castiel did... you thought he transferred your madness to himself, but he didn’t.”
“But he was crazy after, just like-”
“No,” Draco interrupted again. “Just like you can’t split the soul – or shouldn’t, in any case – you also can’t transfer someone’s madness to another person. He didn’t take anything away, Sam, all he did was set up a filter – a sort of funnel – between your hell memories and you.”
“I still remember it,” Sam said.
“Yes, but the filter works in two ways,” Draco explained. “Either it only retrieves a memory that you request or it gives you your memories bit by bit, funneling them into something small. It takes a raging river and essentially puts it behind a dam that only allows a constant trickle to come through. All the memories are still there, you can see them, but what the filter allows you to do is to not drown in them. The only way you can drink an entire river is one cup at a time.”
“But the spell dies with the caster,” Till said softly.
“Yes,” Draco smiled. “And yet Sam isn’t relapsing – so what does that tell us about our caster?”
“He was faking being crazy?” Sam guessed; his brow furrowed as though he wasn’t sure if he found the idea ridiculous or offensive.
“The spell is permanent and not reliant on his continued survival,” Harry concluded, and then also looked confused and began to second guess himself. “Though, if that were the case, why did it seem as though there was an immediate transfer of madness.”
“He’s the funnel,” Till said slowly. “He’s an angel – he’s... still alive.”
“Ten points to Durmstrang,” Draco smiled slowly.
Sam’s eyes widened, as his breath caught. Harry stared at Draco dumbfounded.
“He sends his apologies,” Draco said. “He didn’t realize that his thoughts were... contaminating the water, I suppose... if we’re sticking to that metaphor.”
“You spoke to him?” Sam asked in wonder. “If he’s alive, why hasn’t he ever answered me? Where is he?! Does he know where Dean is? Why did he-”
“Sam,” Draco interrupted. “I didn’t- it wasn’t that kind of experience. It was... too overwhelming to even be there.”
“Be where?” Harry asked. “When you said you went through the funnel...”
Draco cringed, “no, I spoke incorrectly. It was more that I went inside the filter.”
Draco watched as realization dawned over Harry’s face. “Sam couldn’t feel you in his mind, because you were in Castiel’s.”
“Bloody hell,” Harry muttered. “You performed legilimency on an angel.”
Draco took a deep breath and nodded.
Sam was still looking at him desperately, craving answers that Draco couldn’t give – but it was now mitigated by a bit of amazed concern.
Draco closed his eyes and thought, tried to sparse the crushing weight of Castiel’s subconscious.
“He does it in the back of his head,” Draco began. “The filter is in his subconscious. I know... I know he was someplace that he finds... beautiful – uh, water...water on a shore, sunlight through trees. He... he feels he belongs there. And uh... Dean.”
“Dean is with him?” Sam asked, and Draco didn’t have to open his eyes, he could hear the crack in Sam’s voice clearly.
“Yes,” Draco answered, his head was beginning to ache again. “He felt... protective.”
“That’s enough,” Till’s voice cut through Draco’s concentration. He opened his eyes to see Sam scrub a hand over his face and then rise to his feet from where he had been kneeling next to Draco. Harry was still looking at him in concern, with questions unanswered. Till pressed another potion into Draco’s hands. In the air to the side of Draco, there was a floating image of Draco’s brain, with different parts lighting up.
“Drink, then you must rest a little,” Till said. Draco nodded, and drank the potion. He couldn’t recognize it by taste, but almost immediately he felt the headache begin to lift again as a sort of floating feeling came over him.
Across the room, he heard Sam say, “They must be in heaven.”
Draco liked that idea and wished he felt more confident that it was true – but what did he know? Sam would know better what lay beyond the veil than Draco did. All he knew was that he found comfort in knowing that Dean had a friend with him, wherever he was. He knew what it was to feel alone in the world, even when surrounded by people, and he would not wish it on anyone. Dean was dead, but it was Sam who was alone.
Till touched Draco’s shoulder and Draco found himself being gently pushed into a prone position across the sofa. Till put aside his wand and placed his fingers on Draco’s temples.
“I’ve never seen a Healer use their hands before,” Draco admitted; he couldn’t quite keep the amazement out of his voice.
“It is the old way,” Till murmured. Somewhere across the room Harry and Sam were still talking, but Draco couldn’t bring up the level of concentration needed to listen in. “Humans – majority of humans – heal faster if they are touched often. We are social animals.”
“Not in Britain,” Draco smiled.
“I’m not British,” Till replied, smiling back – the floating feeling expanded, taking Draco with it, and soon he was back to being a pebble on the shore as calm waves washed gently over him.